Sunday, August 25, 2013

Aluminum Cans - August 25, 2013

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Aluminum Cans" delivered to the homeless at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on August 22, 2013.

Aluminum Cans - August 22, 2013

Titus 3:5 - He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.

How many of us have ever given much thought to the aluminum can from which we enjoy a cold beverage? As with many things that are commonplace, most of us would take it for granted. Nonetheless, aluminum has become the standard for can making since the early 1960s when Alcoa patented their two piece design. While we may take it for granted, it certainly revolutionized the canning industry. As a youngster, I can remember my father opening a can of beer with a "church key" can opener. Of course this was a steel can and the predecessor to the aluminum can that would be fitted with pop tops. It did not take long for the steel can for soda pop and beer to totally disappear when the aluminum container became popularized. Today, steel can beverages are generally sold as novelties with aluminum cans commanding 99% of the market share.

Many of us through the years have found it convenient and responsible to recycle aluminum cans. There are a variety of reasons why redeeming aluminum is something most folks should consider. Some do it for conscience sake, others to make ends meet. Because of the varied reasons, every year since the 1960s, recyclable aluminum accounts for the most widely reclaimable item globally. Approximately 80 billion aluminum canned beverages are consumed annually. However, less than a third are recycled.
In many ways, aluminum cans are a wonderful metaphor for the human race. The can itself is basic and very much the same before its contents are added and its labeling applied. It generally takes 28 empty aluminum cans to make one pound, which equals 0.57 ounces per can. So, the dimensions and weight of a can is generic to its redeemable value. Of course, aluminum prices fluctuate as with any precious metal. Generally, a pound of aluminum cans go for around fifty cents. So, a safe estimate would be somewhere around two cents a can. (This is only an estimate for subsequent illustrations.) So, if we are comparing human beings to aluminum cans, we can make the comparison that generally we are made up of the same stuff, respectively. Skin color or any other genetic characteristic doesn't matter regarding the "container," as neither does the labeling on an aluminum can regarding its capacity to hold the liquid therein.

For the sake of illustration, I would divide the human race into four different analogous representations of four different beverages currently packaged in aluminum cans. They are as follows:
  • Diet Soda - These are the folks who look really good on the outside, but have no substance inside whatsoever regarding the things of God. They are totally uninterested in anything that does not involve them in their present world. Many of these are atheists and agnostics. Just like many diet sodas, they have no calories (spiritual power) and no sodium (Jesus said we must be the salt of the earth). Subsequently, they often lack taste as diet soda. The "taste" they often leave is an aftertaste of unreality in regards to anything spiritual.
    However, diet soda people can also be religious. They look good on the outside but they function from a place of non-reality. They have a form of godliness but deny its power (II Timothy 3:5).
    SOLUTION: Empty oneself of apathy or religiosity, respectively. Through this humility, accept God's gracious gift of salvation and be filled with His Spirit.
  • Soda - These are people who are who they are. They do not try to dress themselves up in any other fashion then what they suggest. They are basically good folks who might go to church on Easter and Christmas. They believe that if they are basically good throughout their lives, then they will get into heaven. As with regular soda, they are full of sugar and goodness that tastes good, but is still of no true value. Similarly, their good intentions and acts of kindness do not position them for heaven. They have deceived themselves that their "sweetness" will give them a good standing with God. However, we know from the Proverbs that there is a way that seems right to a man, yet that way is the road to hell and death (Proverbs 16:25).
    SOLUTION: Empty oneself of supposed goodness and accept that no one is good except Jesus alone (Romans 3:10). Through this humility, accept God's gracious gift of salvation and be filled with His Spirit.
  • Near Beer - These sort of people have just enough of the world in them and enough of what they think is goodness to often keep them from the Kingdom of God. Like near beer which has one half of one percent of alcohol, they believe they can still flirt with the world, and yet have favor with God. They vicariously live on the precipice of sin yet think they enjoy a spiritual relationship with God. After all, "One little sin isn't going to hurt?" Through this false comfort, they set themselves up to be eternally separated from God. They want to think they will make it to heaven yet live as they desire here on earth. In this regard, we see in scripture how they also profess to become wise, and yet become fools (Romans 1:22). God has turned them over in their thinking to believe their knowledge of God can save them in disregard to the relationship God's Son desires with them.
    SOLUTION: Empty oneself of self-delusion and accept God's wisdom and His plan of salvation. Through this humility, accept God's gracious gift of salvation and be filled with His Spirit.
  • Beer - In many ways, it is often better for a person to be symbolized as a can of beer than the other three. Someone who symbolizes a beer can is often a blatant sinner. They may or may not believe in God. Yet, Jesus tells us that He prefers we are either passionate for Him or blatant sinners because then He can speak to our hearts (Revelation 3:15-16). If we are lukewarm diet soda, soda, or near beer then it is often much harder for Him to get our attention. I, like some of you, were symbolic of a can of beer. We had to see how God wanted to empty us of ourselves and change our "label" on the outside for His glory. As our lead verse states, it was nothing we did but His great grace to bring us to the end of ourselves.
    SOLUTION: Empty oneself, confessing our sin and graciously receiving God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. 
Through this humility, accept God's gracious gift of salvation and be filled with His Spirit.
In all the above instances, every person is redeemable no matter what particular aluminum can they symbolize. It makes no difference to the redemption center where we might bring our cans whether they are beer, near bear, soda, or diet soda cans. They are all worth the same. How much more is this illustration applicable to human beings? Unfortunately, just like the billions of canned beverages consumed annually, only a portion of these empty cans are redeemed. Jesus Christ died for the sins of all mankind. However, whether redemption actually takes place is whether we allow ourselves to first be emptied of ourselves and then redeemed. May we all allow the Great Redeemer to have His way with each and every one of us.

Heavenly Father, thank you for redeeming us through Your Son. Allow us all to humbly empty ourselves or ourselves. Then, fill us to overflowing with Your Spirit and allow us to live for Your glory. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



The Bare Soul Archives

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hide and Seek - August 18, 2013

Colossians 2:3 - [Christ] in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

It is often painful for new believers to one day experience the seeming absence of the Lord in their lives. Everyday, up to this point had been filled with His closeness and His presence. There had been a rich fellowship between the child of God and their Creator. On that particular day when the Lord seemed to vanish out of their heart and mind, it left the believer gasping for spiritual air. They had been blind-sided by something that had never occurred to them -- that their sweet fellowship would end. The irony of this situation is that God has never been closer to the believer than at this time, and He is desirous to show His child the deeper meaning of the purpose of this seeming isolation.

God never withdraws his presence without reason. Once we have deliberated that it is not sin and that we are walking in obedience to Him, then it is our privilege and honor to seek Him out once again. God will often withdraw in order to see how much we desire Him and how far we will go to seek His presence. God knows that if He leaves us in a state of sublime love and fellowship with Him that we will never grow beyond this depth of love and will most likely begin to take for granted what love we know in Him. He has given each of us the desire, along with the tools, to become "treasure hunters" of the divine order. There is nothing God wants more than when we "feel" isolated from Him but to "dig" for the treasures of His Son. Simple prayers such as in Colossians 1:9 allow us to "mine out" the true riches: "... to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding ...". I challenge all who are reading this and who are feeling isolated from God to pray Colossians 1:9-10 several times daily for a month. I assure you, God will open up a truer understanding of who He is and His divine will for those who seek Him. I cannot promise that you will have greater comprehension of God's wisdom in how He plays a game of hide and seek with us. However, I will say that there will more peace and joy around understanding that it is God's way of dealing with those He loves.

There is not a book in the entire Bible that better illustrates this coming and going, this ebbing and flowing of the bride and the bridegroom's love then the Song of Solomon. Although this book is the story of Solomon and his Shulammite bride, it is clearly the celebration in metaphor of Christ and his bride, the church. This short poetic book of eight chapters embodies the heart of the Lover, the Lord Jesus Christ, as He woos his bride in a series of comings and goings that culminates in a secure and lasting relationship that is enthralled in mutual love. At one point, the bride (the church) becomes complacent when the bridegroom (Christ) is seeking her fellowship (Song of Solomon 5:1-9). She refuses to arise from her bed when he is calling. To her horror, she next finds that her lover has departed and she must then seek him out. In her seeking, she encounters the watchmen (symbolic of the Holy Spirit) who actually buffet her and appear to abuse her. However, when one truly understands the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer, we know that He is the one who disciplines us "as sons" (Hebrews 12:6) and wounds us faithfully as "friends" (Proverbs 27:6); (Job 5:17-18).

As believers, we must never be alarmed if the Lord is hiding His presence from us. As long as we know we are doing His will, then it should be accepted and embraced just as when we are basking in His presence and sensing His fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). The Lord will continually draw us near, for a season, and then retreat where we feel isolated and without His constant presence. Rejoice, when that happens my beloved! It is your Father in heaven, who having carefully selected and called you, has begun the beautification process that will create an eternal bride for His Son. Count yourself worthy that He has first shown His love to you and then has "seemingly" withdrawn it. Know, then, that you are truly blessed of the Lord!

Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that you are making us beautiful in spirit, soul, and body to become Your Son's Holy Bride. We totally surrender to You Lord, as You continue to show Yourself through your presence and more importantly Your "seeming" lack of presence in our lives. For only as you hide and we seek, do we learn the depths of Your Son's greatest treasure -- His love for us! In Jesus Christ's precious name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



The Bare Soul Archives


"Hide and Seek" was originally published on November 23, 2008

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Faith By Obedience - August 11, 2013

Luke 17:5-10 - The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" And the Lord said, "If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you. Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat'? But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink'? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done."

This particular passage can be confusing unless one knows what the Lord is driving at. The apostles initially asked the Lord Jesus: "Increase our faith!" Jesus explains to them that they don't lack faith but only the wisdom and the understanding to apply it. The Lord uses an extreme, unbelievable example of commanding a mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea. What He is really getting at is His desire to show us how to listen and obey what the Heavenly Father is speaking so that we will be able to discern the most simple commands as well as what might be the most seemingly outlandish commands which He would give us.

At first glance, it would appear that Jesus has launched into a whole new topic when he begins relating the analogy of the servant and his master. However, understand that the Lord is detailing a particular way to relate to His Father, in order for the disciples to "increase their faith". One might say that there is no mention of faith in this passage except in the apostles plea to Jesus. What IS mentioned is the relationship between a servant and his master and how they interact. Jesus points out that a servant does not look out for his own interests first, but those of his master. The master does not say to the servant, "Come immediately and sit down and eat". Instead, the servant is taught day in and out that his purpose on this earth is first to satisfy the needs and desires of his master. Jesus' example gives explicit directions from the master to first "Prepare something for me to eat, and then properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink". Finally, after the needs of the master are fulfilled, then the servant can satisfy his own needs. Day after day the servant hears his master's commands. He listens for his voice and learns more and more about his master as the months and years go by. The servant learns the small nuances in his meal preparation that please his master. He learns how to serve his master in just the way that his master would desire. Within time, there is an unspoken fellowship of love and respect between the servant and his master. This only comes through time -- by listening and then obeying. The master in turn does not need to thank his servant. However, the servant knows the joy of his master and merely comments, "We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we have ought to have done".

Jesus knew that His apostles didn't need more faith. What they needed was to continue to listen and to obey what Jesus was teaching them about His Father. They needed ears to hear and hearts to believe when Jesus gave them a command. Whether it was their unquestioning trudging along after Jesus as He went from city to city, or His direction when feeding the multitudes, or even simple commands such as how to prepare for the Passover, his disciples were learning how to HEAR and to OBEY. They didn't need more faith -- they were learning that faith is the offspring of its mother obedience. What they were lacking was the assurance that they were incubating rich veins of faith in the deep caverns of their hearts through their habitual walking and talking with their Lord through loving obedience.

The dilemma for many of us when we feel that we have no faith is that we have not been walking with our Lord in an attitude of obedient surrender. If we had been walking in obedience to His still, small voice than we would hear and obey when He spoke. The situation might call for a laying on of hands and prayer for the healing of a loved one, or to offer a word of encouragement and love to one that is at the end of their rope. Or, possibly to even to do something as outlandish as to tell a tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea. The opportunity the Lord offers and the response to His voice will not matter because we have been following Him both explicitly and intimately. Only with this kind of relationship, will true faith be manifest through obedient love.

Father, give us hearts of obedience so that we might grow in faith. Help us to know that we can move mountains only if we have truly known the Mountain Mover of men's souls. Teach us to hear and obey, that Your faith would abound to those whom You desire to touch. In Jesus Christ's precious name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



The Bare Soul Archives


"Faith By Obedience" was originally published on October 26, 2008

Sunday, August 4, 2013

His Mercy - August 4, 2013

Luke 18:9-14 - And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Jesus' desire is that we never forget where we came from, regarding our sin. Many of us can relate to the tax collector in Luke 18 and his feeling of utter shame and bankruptcy as he cried out to God for mercy. Conversely, we hear a different message from the Pharisee -- one of self-righteousness and judgment against his fellow man. The scripture tells us nothing of this particular Pharisee up until this point in time. Possibly he began as a true seeker after God, yet through time he became arrogant and conceited regarding his so-called relationship with God. As he became more and more consumed in his own self-interest of an outwardly righteous life, more and more he died within, divorcing himself from any relationship that he might have started with God in days gone by. Today, this Pharisee might be any one in the church that seeks to set themselves above their brother or sister in so-called spirituality. Not only has their self-righteousness driven them away from God but it has also isolated them from any understanding of loving their spiritual siblings. As stated in I John 4:20, it is impossible to love God and to hate your brother. In the instance of the Pharisee and the tax-collector, the former had long ago lost any affection toward the latter thereby nullifying any relationship with the Father.

Jesus told parables for very clear reasons and purposes. His desire was for the hearers to relate themselves to the particular circumstances of the life lesson. In this case, He is beckoning for the hearer to either take one or two positions -- to understand that they are related to either the Pharisee or the tax-gatherer. God is telling us that it is good to be related to one or the other. It is actually a travesty if one can not relate themselves to either. (As Jesus stated in Revelations 3:16, He wished that the church at Laodicea were either hot or cold but because of their indifference that they were in peril of God's rejection.) If one identifies themselves as one that has been self-righteous and judgmental of others, then there is the grace and mercy of God that he extends to all that would but humble themselves. That is the first step toward understanding that we all truly are no better than a tax-gatherer.

However, for those who might not believe or understand that they are plagued by self-righteous destruction, here are a couple of clues that should work as a litmus test to determine whether one regards themselves as "righteous":
1) God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. -- The Pharisee (or the self-righteous church-goer) prays to God, masquerading their contempt for others with thanksgiving that he or she is not like "other" people. They can easily mask their inner disdain and hatred for others in "religious" contexts. Rather than "praying the Word" over others in secrecy, the hypocrite would choose to "pray their gossip" over others! They justify this sort of behavior by their "concern" for the church body and its need to "get right with God". 
2)  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. -- Outward forms of so-called spirituality give carnal license for others to be hateful of those they judge. After all, fasting and giving tithes gives a so-called believer the "right" to talk about others since they are such a integral part of the church. In their reasoning, if "Aunt Betty" is cooking for every social that is on the church calendar, doesn't that give her the right to voice her opinion? With an attitude of concern about the "sinner", of course!
It's interesting to note that those who truly know they are wrong and needing God's mercy confer with no one nor judge anyone. They don't go to the self-righteous and make their case with them, seeking pardon. They don't even have the confidence to lift their eyes toward heaven, but they cry out to God saying, "Have mercy on me, O God, a sinner!". Without fail, this person will go up to their house justified as they pour out their hearts to God, where those who self-righteously attest to their own goodness have only deceived themselves. These await nothing but loneliness and eternal isolation, the very things they have created for themselves here on earth. Jesus states that whoever shall humble themselves shall be exalted and whomever exalts themselves will be humbled. These are our choices, in the time that we have here with one another, which will decide how we will live or die throughout eternity.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



The Bare Soul Archives

"His Mercy" was originally published on October 11, 2008