Sunday, October 27, 2013

God's Pleasure - October 27, 2013


Psalm 41:11 - By this I know that You are pleased with me, because my enemy does not shout in triumph over me.

Next time you are at your local bookstore, take a moment to do a quick comparison. First, check out how many books are devoted to religion. There will undoubtedly be a section on Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and of course, Christianity. All these so-called "religious" books will probably take up a few shelves of retail space. Next, check out the psychology and "self-help" section. It is staggering how much space is devoted to self-diagnosis and cure! Shelf after shelf of titles ranging from self-realization to theories on Transactional Analysis and the latest Gestalt therapy boil down to a very simple yet naive assumption -- "I'm okay, and you're okay" if we simply "find" ourselves. The truth of the matter is this ... we're not "okay" otherwise the plethora of self-help titles provided by the secular book market would be providing solutions rather than merely cataloging more ISBN titles. The reality is that the vast majority of people have feelings of guilt and shame from lives devoid of anyone or anything that might successfully remove these gnawing realities from their respective souls. Their childhood religions often gave them feelings of shame as they tried to live a good, moral life, but in so doing, they most often failed miserably. They could not live the life they felt God required which in turn produced shame. Rather than seeking out a spiritual solution to their guilt and remorse, they chose instead to blame God for setting a standard so high that they nor anyone else could attain. They turned their back on God and all religion, not knowing that a Savior had already fulfilled the Law for them and had died to set them free. Rather than accepting this eternal relationship, they chose instead the road of "self-help" which is a broad highway consisting of merely the enlightenment that one blind man might provide for another.

I often speculate how differently people's perspective would be of God if they truly understood His Nature. Then again, most folks would need to read the Word of God with "eyes to see and ears to hear" rather than seeking out the worldly pontifications of puffed up professors. If these "seekers" would but read God's Word with an open heart, they would find out that God is ecstatically in love with the human race. In our opening scripture, David uses the Hebrew word chaphets (khaw-fates') to describe God's pleasure with those who call upon His Name. The implication of its origin and meaning is to have "intense pleasure or strong desire toward". David's epiphany as a warrior-king was knowing the intense pleasure the Father has for those whose ... enemy does not shout in triumph over [them]. This was a situational reality (one battle to the next) in David's day because Christ had not yet come to bring the total victory to believers. Of course today, believers in Jesus Christ can be in a place of constant victory because of the finished work of the cross. The sad reality is that the vast majority of people who have disdained God for being too judgmental and demanding have not been listening to God. They have mistaken the voice of their Heavenly Father for that of the father of lies. Satan, through his continual bombardment of the human soul, seeks to convince mankind they will always be defeated and there is no use coming to God. He continues his lie, telling God's greatest treasure that they are doomed because God has forsaken them. Therefore, they must seek out their own salvation because the God they seek (he tells them deceitfully) will never be there to provide for those He has "orphaned". This could not be more untrue. In reality, the scripture is quite clear that our Heavenly Father loved the world SO much that He chose to crush His own Son on our behalf (Isaiah 53:10; John 3:16). Unfortunately, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the those who will not believe (II Corinthians 4:4), stating there is no victory over shame and guilt but only through one's own self-discovery. The only remedy for this deception is to understand our victory in Jesus Christ and our standing in God's pleasure as sons and daughters of the Most High.

Like David in this psalm, we must understand the lie of the devil regarding his supposed victory and triumph over us. Only then will we understand our position in Christ to fully acknowledge the Father's pleasure in our individual lives. As mentioned, David understood that God was there to save when He cried out to Him. Many times in the Psalms we see King David pouring out his heart for God's deliverance. As with all Old Testament saints, there was a continual need to invoke God's deliverance through faith while they looked forward to the promise of the coming Savior who would give all mankind the total victory (Hebrews 11:13). Even as the Law could not justify any Old Testament believers such as Abraham, Moses, or David they all looked forward to the day when the Law would be fulfilled in the Person of the Messiah. Those who believed God in faith (read Hebrews chapter 11) knew that one day constant victory would be the heritage of everyone who believed in God. Whether they truly understood the full implications or not, they were all looking forward to life either in this world or the one to come of life victorious. That's why it is so important to transpose David's words in Psalm 41:11 for our lives today. If one has accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior then they have come into agreement with His victory on the cross over Satan and all evil that would ever seek to beset us (Colossians 2:15). This agreement affords us, most importantly, a positional understanding that we truly are ... more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Romans 8:37). This is true whether we believe it or not and will be for eternity. That is why God is pleased with us! Those of us who know Christ and have accepted Him have come into a place of continual victory and God knows it, and the devil knows it, and we should know it. When we don't believe it in particular instances and we allow Satan to tell us otherwise, it does not belie the fact that God still loves us and is pleased with us because His Son dwells within us. How can God not love us and be pleased with us if His very Son lives within? He rejoiced over His chosen with joy and gladness in the Old Testament (Zephaniah 3:17). How much more does He love us now since we are victorious in His Son (Romans 8:37-39).

Beloved, God has taken away all shame and guilt by placing the sin of the world on His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. As the Savior of mankind bled, died, and was raised into newness of life, those also of us who have accepted His life have likewise embraced His victory. No longer do we need to live life on our own; there is no need to self-diagnose or self-actualize our inner healing or our state of well-being. In order for us to be pleased with ourselves we must first recognize that He is pleased beyond measure with all those who know Him as Father. He has truly defeated ALL our enemies, both real and imagined whether we acknowledge this reality or not. His pleasure for us will never cease even if we sometimes fail to recognize it, for He cannot deny Himself who so faithfully dwells within (II Timothy 2:13). However, once we truly know Him who forever triumphed over Satan, that is when we begin to walk in our true inheritance. May we all understand that we have not merely won a battle that will make us feel good about ourselves for a while, but we have won the war through the Eternal Son of David who will rule and reign forever.

Heavenly Father, may we know that You are pleased with your sons and daughters, because Your Son dwells within us. Through His abiding in our earthly vessels, we know that we have the victory everyday until eternity. Help us never to look beyond your passionate love and pleasure for us all to feel complete. For only in You is life and life abundantly. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fullness of Joy - October 20, 2013

Psalm 16:11 - You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

King Solomon states in Ecclesiastes 7:8 that the end of a matter is better than its beginning. The implication is that there are many unknowns in the beginning but all is revealed at closure. For example, when a woman learns of her pregnancy (especially if it is her first), she may feel a mixed bag of emotions. While there is excitement there is also trepidation regarding all the particulars of her pregnancy. She will often carry these emotions up until her delivery day. However, with proper medical advice and pre-natal care, she patiently progresses through each trimester until the end of her pregnancy is at hand. Unfortunately, many women throughout the world will not have the opportunity of proper nourishment and medical care during this critical time of their baby's development. Some will be born sickly while some mothers will tragically miscarry before that expected day. However, for many who are blessed with healthy pregnancies, the big day will one day finally arrive! Through the birthing of her child, she is able to see and hold the treasure she has so faithfully carried for nine months. As a father, I've experienced and shared in that joy that a mother most certainly experiences. (However, even as a joyous father, I'm sure I can't truly comprehend the joy of a mother as she brings forth this incredible gift!)

The unbridled happiness of bringing this new human being into the world produces a joy that is not uncharacteristic to that which we experience when we are brought into God's presence by our drawing near unto Him. Every believer that calls upon the Name of the Lord should desire His fullness of joy. In Psalm 16:11, David explains how we too must allow the Holy Spirit to "mother" us from the point of conception in the womb of regeneration (e.g. to be born again), to a place of living a joyous, Spirit-filled life that bears fruit for the Father. The first of three steps as outlined in this verse is to acknowledge that God has made known to all who call upon His name "the path of life". Without knowing, understanding, and walking this path we will never know what it means to experience true joy. Solomon states also in Proverbs 10:17 that ... He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who ignores reproof goes astray. This upward journey for the upright of heart (Proverbs 15:24) comes by giving ourselves to God's wisdom through humble acceptance of His commandments. Jesus stated if any wished to follow Him they must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). It is a simple plan but not always an easy path to follow, for Christ states earlier in Matthew 7:14 that the path is narrow to Life and there are few who find it. However, if we are diligent to keep His commands then we will experience His friendship as we walk this upward path (John 15:4). And, it should not be an arduous journey, beloved. Along the road with Jesus there will be joy as we obey His command of taking up our cross. I venture to say if there is not, then we have taken up the burden of legalism and the Law which has never and will never perfect anyone. We must experience His joy along the way or we have certainly strayed from HIS path.

As we experience the joy of walking this path of life with our Savior, we must be careful to grieve not the Holy Spirit along the way by succumbing to worldly pleasures. Jesus has promised us that in God's right hand ... there are pleasures forever. Daniel and his young Jewish counterpart denied themselves the delicacies of this world (Daniel 1:8-21) for the delicacies of God -- His wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. In doing so, they experienced the fullness of God by keeping their spirits and souls in tune with the purposes of God. The Heavenly Father was delighted to reveal His wisdom to these young men because they had given themselves to God and denied their flesh. Would Jehovah have revealed His wisdom to Daniel to interpret dreams if he hadn't denied himself? Most certainly God would have spoken to him (for God cannot deny Himself [II Timothy 2:13]), however, the young man's spiritual senses might not have had the sharpness to understand and receive with the same clarity (Daniel 2:19-45). It's not by works, but by faith working through our submitted actions that God will do for us just as He did for Daniel if we will but pursue Him passionately in faith.

If we do not desire a life that is given to the pursuit of living in His presence and longing for His unspeakable joy, then possibly we have somehow experienced a miscarriage of faith along the way. If our hearts as believers are not turned toward Him in all out love, then we may need to test ourselves to see if we have truly been brought through the womb of the new birth (II Corinthians 13:5; John 3:3). Are we experiencing His joy? Are we living for His pleasures that He so freely gives instead of those of the world? To live constantly in His presence on this side of eternity is very possible if we hunger enough for Him (for one example, see the online book The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence). It will take a passion and desire to remain on the path of life, experiencing His joy while indulging only in the pleasures and delicacies that He offers. While this path may look arduous and daunting in the beginning, we soon experience the words of Jesus if we will but diligently keep to the narrow road before us ... that truly His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Beloved, that we would all find Him on this path called "Life" and that we would find seasons of joy and pleasure in Him that would turn into a constant abiding in His presence. Oh, what a God we serve!

Heavenly Father, a glorious path is laid out for all who would call upon Your Name -- a path of life that is adorned with joy and pleasures from Your right hand. Help us to walk this joyous road with Jesus our Savior. For only in Him, will we find our way. In Jesus' Name, the Name above all others, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Peace Beyond Comprehension - October 13, 2013

Philippians 4:7 - And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Have you ever been in the midst of a turbulent or tumultuous situation and the Spirit of the Lord seemed to brood over your heart and life with the care of a loving mother? Circumstances may be screaming at you to react in a carnal, worldly manner yet there is such a placidness within your being that you feel that Jesus has lifted His holy hand and spoken, "Peace, be still" to the storm raging all around. This is the peace that Paul describes in this passage. It is a peace that defies any logical natural explanation, but is so simple in its spiritual definition that many often overlook how to enter into this glorious abiding. The peace given by God is born out of a position of death to self which ultimately results in the peaceful fruit of righteousness. The apostle gives us a direct path to this place of peace through the preceding verses. The key to perfect peace is indeed a life given to worship -- a three-legged stool of praisehumility, and trust which allows us to be seated with Him through all aspects of this earthly life. While some might relate worship to an act of adoration and praise toward the Creator, it is much more as Paul relates both in his letter to Philippians and also to the church at Rome.

Paul urges the believers at Rome in the twelfth chapter and first verse of the book of Romans ... to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1). According to this scripture, the apostle implies that a life of worship entails a surrendering of one's self on God's altar -- a living sacrifice that He can use to glorify Himself through on this earth. In the book of Philippians, Paul defines a yielded life of a believer that has presented their entire being to God as a worshiper. In verse 4, Paul states: Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4). His emphasis by repeating himself is God's way of telling us that this is EXTREMELY important in order to live a life as men and women of peace. This is the defining catalyst of a worship-filled believer that is living to serve the Father. Without thanksgiving and praise, the Holy Spirit within is hamstrung to fulfill His ministry through us. He delights to rejoice in the Father and the Son and is functioning in His God-vocation in the heart of a believer when we allow Him to do so (John 15:26). Therefore, we empower the Holy Spirit to equip us through praise and adoration to fulfill Paul's additional admonitions that will complete us as spirit-filled worshippers.

In Philippians 4:5, Paul tells us to let our gentleness or meekness be known to all men. A gentle, humble spirit is molded and crafted by a heart of thanksgiving and an understanding of what the Lord has done on our behalf. By consecrating ourselves as a living sacrifice to continually offer up thanksgiving to Him, we find that the alabaster box of ointment within us all as believers (Luke 7:37) begins to exude the very fragrance of Christ to others (II Corinthians 2:14-16). No more are we decaying from within by the putrefaction of sin but we are allowing the aroma of Christ -- His gentleness and humility -- to waft out His life-giving breath to those desirous of His Person. Finally, a life given to praise and thanksgiving and to humility and meekness must be adorned with complete trust of God and His ability to meet all our needs. Paul states in verse 6: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6). This "three-legged stool" that Paul has constructed of praise and humility is incomplete without the trust or faith that God will meet us in every area of our lives. As we trust Him with hearts of prayer birthed in thanksgiving, He meets us in every circumstance causing us to be well-seated on this seat of worship that we have allowed Him to create in our lives.

As we are seated securely on our "three-legged stool of worship", God does a remarkable thing. He gives us a peace that is both immeasurable and incomprehensible. Peace is the very fruit or direct product of a life of worship. It is the absence of complaint, murmuring, anxiety, or turmoil of any type. It is a life that is seated in worship and alive on God's altar of sacrifice and yet is never consumed for God continues to restore and resurrect His life within us continually. It is a life filled with an eternal knowing that He is to be adored, He is to be imitated in His humility, and He is to be trusted in all things. This ultimately gives us a God-given position in this turbulent, chaotic world that is unexplainable to those who know not the Risen Lord or the power of worship. Oh, that we would all find that place of praise, humility, and trust that would bring us into that perfect peace that defies all comprehension. Only then will a peace-starved world find a true and lasting peace to be secured only in the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!

Holy Father, we invite you to build within us a seat of worship, a three-legged stool of praise, humility, and trust that will bring us to that perfect place of peace. Cause us to find this resting place in You so that we can invite others to find this place of restful abiding. Thank You Lord, for enabling and helping us. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Joyous Authority - October 6, 2013


Luke 10:19 - I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

When the seventy returned from their commission to the cities where their Lord would soon preach the Gospel, they were overjoyed with the results. The scripture tells us in Luke 10:17 that they returned with joy stating that even the demons were subject to them in Jesus' Name. Quite possibly, this group of disciples went forth with the desire to minister in their Lord's Name, yet did not come into the true realization of their ministry until they stepped out in faith. Once they began to minister in the Name of Jesus, they were both surprised and delighted that even the demons were subject to them in the Lord's mighty Name. To experience this epiphany, they merely had to obey Jesus as He sent them out to perform the miracles of God with the same authority that He received from His Father in heaven.

In our opening scripture, Jesus doesn't say that He will give us authority to timidly tip-toe around the enemy of our souls with fear and intimidation. He doesn't say that we should create some sort of detente' with the power of hell, establishing a sort of quasi-truce with respect to one another. He DOES say that He HAS GIVEN all power by His jurisdiction to tread or to literally trample upon demonic strongholds of serpents and scorpions. There is no possibility of negotiation or diplomacy with the enemy of mankind. Nothing is to move us to the right or to the left from our walk with the Lord and the ministry He has called us all to fulfill. We are to trudge confidently and with determined resolution a straight path, not concerning ourselves with what might be ready to strike at our heels, for it has no power over our lives. In ancient Palestine, serpents and scorpions were a source of constant fear and continual vigilance to protect both human and livestock from their deadly poison. A variety of snakes such as puff adders, pit vipers, and cobras were a constant plague to farmers and shepherds. Of the various Middle Eastern scorpions, many possess more venomous toxicity then those in any other area of the world. So, when Jesus proclaimed that His authority commanded the ability to trample the most notorious and nefarious creatures afoot, He was comparing these loathsome reptiles and arachnids to demonic principalities. Our ability to exercise God's authority over the so-called powers of hell renders them powerless in comparison to the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe (Ephesians 1:19).

To first comprehend and then to walk in the authority that the Lord has given to all who call upon His Name, is to begin to experience the joy of the Lord and the strength of that position. Even as the seventy "returned with joy", so we too can live in a place of joyous victory once we begin to walk as the Lord has ordained for us all as believers. The Holy Spirit is present in our respective lives to fulfill His great commission through us. He is a joyous being that rejoices in the vanquishing of Satan as we move with faith and power against our ancient foe. To be in God's presence is to understand the fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). To know His authority and to walk in it, trampling upon all the power of the evil one, is joyous authority. It is a place of victorious understanding that God has already won the battle and He rejoices with us over the defeat of our enemy (Zephaniah 3:17). And a remarkable phenomenon occurs once we begin to live in this new found authority. The joy we experience from the presence of the Most High God gives us a spiritual strength that defies explanation. We will find that our spiritual confidence and boldness to minister the Lord Jesus will take on a new power and resoluteness. The joy of living in His authority will energize our lives and strengthen us to live for Christ in a whole new way (Nehemiah 8:10). Quite literally, it will propel us into a new dimension of Christian living that we never dreamed possible.

So, how does one get to this higher existence in Christ? How does one begin to live in His authority to trample upon all the power of the evil one without injury? The answer is simple but it's not necessarily easy -- we must believe! One might say that they have sought God on this very point and yet He failed them. I would counter that they did not believe until the breakthrough or the epiphany flooded their life with this truth. God is not a respecter of persons. He has given us the same authority as He did to the seventy, but we must believe. Like the disciples He sent forth, it will take a walk of faith to begin to materialize before the realization of the reality becomes a part of our lives. Satan fears that we would even start to make movement towards this end. He trembles when a believer begins to agree with God's word that he has Jesus' authority on this earth. When believers start stepping out in faith and speaking life and hope into a dying world, it causes the demons to run for cover in anguish. Conversely, those who set out with the power of God have Holy Spirit joy as their strength. What would this world look like tomorrow if today every saint (true believer in God) would speak boldly the Gospel to the lost, lay hands on the sick and trust that God would heal them, or pray over those demonically oppressed? We would see a world turned upside down for Jesus in short order.

If joy is the evidence of being in God's presence (Psalm 16:11), then we should all desire a continual dwelling place close to His bosom. As the seventy demonstrated, joy came by exercising Jesus' authority to a devil-ridden world. In like manner, the Holy Spirit desires to bear witness to Jesus Christ's victory over sin and the devil by continual shouts of joys through the accomplished work of Calvary. He can only do this as we submit to the joyous authority established for us through Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. What could be simpler? To walk with joyous confidence, trampling down all devils and demons as one would not give a thought to crushing serpents and scorpions with the steps of our feet! He has given all who know the Risen Lord this authority. It is our responsibility to then exercise this authority with the joy that comes from abiding with Him.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for Jesus' authority to live as our Savior lived when He walked this earth. Anything less than this is an affront to what Jesus and the Holy Spirit accomplished. Lord, help us to believe that we are "authorized" to command hell to do the bidding of heaven -- that we are empowered with the authority of Jesus to trample down all the power of the evil one in our respective lives. Thank you Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick