Sunday, June 29, 2014

God's Freedom - June 29, 2014

Galatians 5:1 - It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Much is spoken regarding our individual freedoms in western civilization. Probably no other day is quite like America's Independence Day, when we celebrate both our country's liberty from tyranny and our own individual emancipation from oppressive government. Even our songs herald this great land as the "Home of the Free and the Brave". However, day by day we see these freedoms being encroached upon by secular socialist agendas that would seek to drown us in a sea of government restraints. Taxation is at its highest level in most states of the Union, while fringe groups who insist upon their "rights" infringe upon the moral majority's rights to live as godly, respectable citizens. Never before in the history of this nation have we seen the rights of the godless upheld in such a demonstrative manner, while the lives of the innocent continue to be exploited through mass murder. As the greatest genocide ever perpetrated on American soil continues (nearing the 50 million mark of murdered babies since Roe v Wade), homosexuals continue to chip away at the American fabric by insisting on the same familial rights as heterosexuals. God weeps as the devil rejoices over making a mockery of the Almighty's design for humans on planet earth, and particularly in the United States. We have fallen from the height of arrogance in believing that tolerance towards the ungodly is granting them individual freedoms. As we succumb to the desires of those who mock and jeer at a holy God, we only share in their sin. The fall of America continues while we don't even know we are falling. The ultimate impact, however, will be heard around the world.

Slavery comes in various ways and forms. The national disgrace of this country's pre-civil war was slavery. Today, there is a more subtle bondage. The sad reality is that man will always try to enslave or he will be enslaved by others, outside of the grace of God. Only through humble submission to the Lord God will someone find a place of sonship, rather than slavery. As Paul told the Galatians, the whole reason that Christ set humankind free was so they could experience true freedom. While atheists spout continually the need for the separation of church and state (which, by the way, is NOT in the Constitution but was penned in a letter expressing an opinion by Thomas Jefferson to John Adams in 1814), they don't comprehend that true freedom ONLY comes through the unity created by a strong church that influences the tenants of government. A nation is never greater than what we are collectively. If we continue to force the issues of supposed individual liberties in this nation, we will soon see its demise. More than self actualization of liberties, we desperately need individual revival -- an understanding of who God is and what He desires to free within us all. Only as we come into relationship with Jesus Christ, one soul at a time, will this country once again know the freedom that it touts. As long as self-serving agenda-seeking splinter groups are allowed to function as the voice of America, we will continue to see the downward spiral of wickedness and depravity that is overtaking this nation.

Outward, individual freedom can only come from the inside as God has His way with a man, woman, or child. To the degree that we are free inside from the tyranny of sin is the degree that we can be free in all areas of our lives. To attempt to impose freedom, whether it is Socialism on the left or Fascism on the right, is attempting to legislate morality. It will never work, from either side of the proverbial sphere. What will work, however, is men and women sold out to Christ and not subjecting themselves to the bondage of idealism. Man's vision will always be full of corruption and self-serving, but God's vision and desires for humankind will be full of moral restraint that is born in heaven. It will be guidance through the Holy Spirit that will be full of love and compassion toward others, but at the same time not bending to any that would seek to usurp God's perfect plan. Even as the Galatians were led astray by a spirit of legalism, believing they could DO something for their salvation, we must be careful in this great nation to not attempt to save ourselves. Conservatives, as well as liberals, are subject to massive failure without the Spirit of God upon their lives. We have seen both parties in this country succumb to ungodliness as they rejected God's leading. We must have revival! We must cry for it even as Rachel cried for offspring, saying that she despised living unless God would grant her request (Genesis 30:1). That, beloved, should be our attitude as believers. We should desire that at all costs we would know the freedom of God within, so that we can collectively change our nation as an army of the Lord that will not be denied. Passing legislation to thwart an onslaught of godliness is commendable, but it is only a Band-Aid on gangrene that will eventually kill us. What we desperately need is a body of believers that will first reconcile within their souls their own freedoms and liberties granted to them by Jesus Christ. Then, we need to rise up and invoke His freedom by a wide-spread revival within this glorious land. Only as we see and understand through His glorious revelation (Ephesians 1:17-19), will we be able to "be fruitful and to multiply" His freedom to a nation.

As stated, slavery comes in many forms, both inward and outward. The Galatians were deluded into thinking that working hard for their salvation meant they would secure it. Paul was quick to point out that true freedom comes ONLY in trusting the Savior's completed work. Are we ready to stand up for Jesus in this perilous time? Are we ready to declare the freedom of the Lord to a nation that is quickly despairing of life? The abundant liberty is only for those who wish to give up their own self-seeking and follow Him that gave them true freedom. It is up to us this day -- shall we continue to give ourselves to "me" or shall we give ourselves to "Thee"? There will be no lasting freedom without making the right choice, in this land we call the "Home of the Free and the Brave". God help us to be free through our courage to give ourselves unreservedly to Him.

O Lord, "Our Country 'tis of Thee", even as the song states. But we have fallen so far from You, Lord. Give us hearts of fire that yearn after You. Then, help us to take these hearts aflame and to awaken a country that is on the precipice of destruction. Give us hearts of freedom that we can awaken the hearts of others and cause a great revival that will indeed change not only the government but the very fabric of our society. Help us, Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Fear of the Lord, Part III - June 22, 2014


Proverbs 9:10 - The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Children are often our greatest examples of how to approach God. The wide-eyed wonder of a child when they are learning about their world warms the hearts of parents and grandparents. Our grandson continues to bring joy to our lives as he is full of discovery with an overarching sense of innocence. His fascination with something as innocuous as a long blade of grass or a beetle in the garden makes us "old folks" appreciate his awe-struck expressions during these times of discovery. There is somehow a reverence for life that adults seem to lose as we learn to take our surroundings for granted. Not so with children. It is though the Spirit of God is leading and guiding them with eyes grateful for what they behold. As we look on the young ones the Lord has blessed us with, it is not hard to see they have a wisdom of innocence probably much like Adam and Eve's innocence in the Garden. Even as the first man and woman walked with God in Paradise, they too must have possessed eyes full of wonder toward their Creator and His creation.

While it is impossible to regain that place of innocence that our original father and mother possessed in the Garden, it is possible to live in the righteousness of wisdom as imparted by the Godhead. For us, it can truly be "Paradise Regained" through the wonder that the Almighty desires to impart to our souls. However, to arrive at this place where we become the receivers of wisdom, we must first walk in the fear of the Lord. As previously discussed in Part I and Part II, the fear of the Lord keeps us from evil and allows us to join hands with our Father while learning from Him. When we fear Him and walk with Him in reverence, we reestablish that Parent/child relationship that allows us to once again become as children thereby relearning all the things we thought we knew. For example, a jaded view of mankind that we might have possessed in our unregenerate life becomes one of hopefulness after we are born again. We begin to look at the plight of humankind with the love of the Savior, desiring that the scales would be removed from their eyes much in the same way that happened to ours. As born again children of the Most High, we are more accepting of others' failures, yet at the same time we have a mature attitude toward iniquity. We become unyielding to compromise our stated position if others desire to remain in their sin. Thus, we possess not only the wisdom of innocence that Adam and Eve lived in, but we also are clothed in the wisdom of righteousness which is able to judge with love and equity in all situations.

As Proverbs 9:10 tells us, the fear of the Lord is only the beginning of wisdom. To continue to cultivate God's wisdom and knowledge and to bring it to a place of maturity, one must live in the fear of the Lord. Without it, wisdom cannot and will not flourish. Solomon discovered this more poignantly than most as he proceeded to give himself to folly in later years. There came a time in the sovereign's life that he no longer trusted in God. One might conjecture that the king became bored with God's discovery and therefore sought to stimulate himself in sinful ways (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). The wide-eyed wonder that only God's wisdom can give was lost as Solomon once again revisited Eden. Rather than choosing the Tree of Life full of the wisdom of God he chose instead the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. A careful reading of the book of Ecclesiastes shows that this did not bode well for the once wise ruler. His insistence to explore the depths of depravity led to moral bankruptcy resulting in hopelessness (Ecclesiastes 2:12-17). His once enlightened state became one of a broken down skeptic of all that he once held dear. However, Solomon's lost paradise would be regained in the end when he once again acknowledged God. In Ecclesiastes 12:13 we read: The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. With his wisdom reinstated by the mercy of God, Solomon declared that the fear of the Lord is the wisest thing a person can do in this lifetime. It is both the beginning and the end of wisdom itself.

Jesus answered and said to him (Nicodemus), "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) Nearly 900 years after the death of Solomon, Jesus Himself proclaimed a similar wisdom to the Pharisee Nicodemus as he visited Him by night. Like Solomon, Jesus stated that unless we humble ourselves to God and accept Him as our righteousness and as our wisdom, we will never become sons of the Most High God. Unless we declare by our submission to Him that we know nothing in our own so-called knowledge, then we can never begin to know the wisdom of God. The Father desires to take everyone of us by the hand, leading us and guiding us and giving us His eyes to see as He sees. Just as a toddler views his or her world with wonder and amazement, the Lord God desires for us to see the life he has given us with that same spiritual clarity. It takes a bowing of the heart and an admission that we know not as we should, and an acknowledgement that He knows best. That, beloved, is how we fear the Lord. And, that is how we can live and grow in His wisdom both in this life and in the one to come. May we all live continually in the loving fear of our Great and Loving King, longing for His continued revelation to both our hearts and minds!

Heavenly Father, thank you for the fear of the Lord for it truly is the beginning of wisdom -- a wisdom that allows us to experience the depths of Your love toward all who would but believe. Help us to know You more and more as we put our hand in Yours as the children we are. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Fear of the Lord, Part II - June 15, 2014


Psalm 19:9a - The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever ...

When most of us hear the word "fear" it frequently brings up a negative connotation. This is often the case because fear drives less than desirable consequences as its result. We might think of all the lost opportunities because of a lack of confidence and faith in ourselves. Or, we might remember the times when we compromised ourselves because of what others were thinking about us. Then, there was that occasion when the boss told the off-color joke and we laughed along with everyone else, knowing the moment we were doing so that we had grieved the Spirit of the Lord. Or, the time when we didn't speak up to defend someone who was falsely accused when we knew they were not at fault. When we live beneath the standard which the Lord has given us to live out, we can feel defiled or "dirty" within our respective souls. However, when we conversely live uncompromisingly we experience a purity and cleanness of life that is unparalleled by worldly standards. Purity is not our goal or even so-called clean living -- our goal is to abide in Christ and to allow His life to exude from us. If we seek consecration and eventual sanctification as the end-all, then we have made it our god rather than Jesus Christ. Consequently, cleanness created by a walk with the Lord is merely a result of a life yielded to God in the fear of the Lord. Once we have accepted the Lord and the work of His blood, we find that fearing God rather than man provides the catalyst to live an uncensored existence before the Almighty.

Fear is a God-given emotion much the same as any of our other emotions. Humankind has an innate need to fear much the same as the need to love. If man cannot satisfy this basic need through the fear and reverence of God, he will seek it out in other ways. And, most of these ways are a type of regulated fear where the person still feels they possess some control. Billions of dollars are spent annually on the horror entertainment industry. Horror films, haunted tours, or Halloween itself with its plethora of haunted venues are geared to evoke fear. However, most people who study the phenomena of fear tell us that the payoff is not the shock and awe of the fright but the relief that comes afterward when we regain control. However, there is a Catch-22 with this type of scare. Fear of this sort is fleshly and of this world and will always lead to dejection of heart. However, the fear of the Lord and that which is born from the wonder and awe of the revelation of God always leads to further love and an uplifting of the soul and spirit to the Lord. While the fear of the Lord leads to continual and ongoing life, the fear instilled through this world leads to continual and prolonged death. (Imagine what those in hell are experiencing as their horror story is without end and continually frightening beyond earthly comprehension!)

The Apostle John contrasts the fear that is born from this earth and that which is born from above in his first letter. In I John 4:18 he writes about how one cannot mix love with fear that is born from this world -- it is an impossibility. Just as transplant patients often run the risk of their body rejecting a foreign organ, so also love will always reject fleshly fear because it is not born from above. However, love's counterpart, hate, will always embrace fear because it originates from its father the devil. It was born in hell and that is why there is always a feeling of "dirty" guilt attached to the outcome. John writes that perfect love casts out all fear. So, what remains? The fear of the Lord is then perfected in love and the holiness of the Most High (II Corinthians 7:1). We know that John was speaking of an absence of fleshly fear, for we are told that Jesus Christ lived continually in the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2-3). Just like Jesus, we are given the opportunity through His life to live free of guilt and shame that is born in fear and punishment. That is the purpose of the blood of Jesus Christ -- it washes us clean from sin (I John 1:7). But what keeps us cleansed is first our understanding of the work of Calvary, and then second the fear of the Lord which continues to draw upon Christ's gift. Our greatest joy should be to abide in the Savior who gives us all the power to live in purity on this earth. May our lives be consumed with this pursuit, beloved, for without it we may one day tremble before Him in terror if we have failed to do so while upon this earth.

As previously stated, we all have the need to fear. However, our flesh through the devil has corrupted this God-given attribute and brought guilt and punishment as the reward for its suffering. However, Jesus Christ paid the price for us all -- through His pain and suffering -- to share in the wisdom and insight of His Father. He allows us to see with spiritual eyes the wonder and the majesty of God thereby granting us the cleansing power of His blood. This humility born through Christ's sacrifice gives everyone the gift of cleansing, to be purified in the fear of the Lord. While the world will persist to defile and prepare themselves for their eternal home by functioning in a place of fear, those chosen of God will continue to cleanse themselves through the fear of the Lord. And, ultimately, the redeemed shall stand in His presence one day as a bride prepared for her Groom. Beloved, may we continue to equip ourselves by perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord. Only then, will we be "clean" and pure for that marvelous day when we will be consummated in matrimony with the Lover of our Souls. Come Lord, Jesus, come!

Heavenly Father, thank you for the blood that has cleansed us from all sin. And, thank you that the fear of the Lord that continues to cleanse us for both this life and the one to come. May we be consecrated, sanctified, and ultimately glorified for your pleasure. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Fear of the Lord, Part I - June 8, 2014


Proverbs 8:13 - The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.

What does it mean to hate evil? Much of the world has lost the ability to discern this most basic, God-given knowledge. Sadly, when we hear of some debating whether Muslim extremists blowing up innocent people are evil terrorists or "freedom fighters" then there is cause for alarm regarding basic discernment. This is just one example in a world racked with evil. Unfortunately, the majority of mankind has likewise diminished the definition of wickedness to the point where it is unidentifiable. And, if you can't put a tag on it and call something what it is, then you surely can't hate it. Conversely, by ignoring evil in all its forms, the world has inadvertently embraced it and loved it. Modern society accepts all lifestyles without placing judgment on any. To do so, in their mind, would perpetuate a world of intolerance. Instead, it has created a world of relativity minus any absolutes which is a passive yet powerful strategy of the enemy to entrap the souls of humankind. Unless there is a violent reaction to evil in this world, it is impossible for collective mankind to draw near to God. Those who would go to church on Sunday and fulfill all their worldly desires the rest of the week are wasting both their time and God's. What He seeks is a people that would fear Him in all of His splendor and omnipotent power, for in so doing it expresses a love for his majesty. As we come to the Father through Jesus Christ, then we will begin to hate sin that separates all men from eternal salvation. We will grow in hatred toward iniquity by simply growing closer to God, much in the same way that the majority of the world grows closer to the evil they love and inevitably to the one who hates their souls with an eternal hatred.

Some might say, "God is not to be feared for He is a God of love". Often, these are folks that somehow equate a God of judgment as related by their Sunday pastor. They have never known God, so they seek to justify their own shortcomings by stating that God is some mushy, feel-good deity that is only interested in wrapping His big powerful arms of love around all humankind. However, the Father would not be a loving God if He betrayed His nature and compromised who He is. They fail to realize that without the judgment of God there can be no mercy. These juxtapose one another making their counterpart possible. What these naysayers are really stating is they have never experienced the mercy of God and all they know is the guilt of their own soul, which they rightly equate to God's anger. And, probably for good reason as these have probably never submitted themselves to God to allow His Majesty to have His way in their lives. Therefore, they could not know that God is an awesome God, full of power and might, that upholds them by the word of His mouth (Colossians 1:17). When we begin to grasp God's totality and our own insignificance, we start to see and understand the Holy One for who He is. Another way to state this is that we come into agreement with the character of the Sovereign Lord. Once we see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for who they are, we can begin to stand in agreement regarding those He loves and that which He hates. Most of us have undoubtedly heard the expression "Hate the sin but love the sinner". The catalyst for this is the fear of the Lord, for He tells us that this is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). It catapults us into a new dimension of understanding because we begin to see with His eyes and feel with His heart. Likewise, fools are educated in folly by their continual dismissal of the fear of the Lord and accepting His life. As their foolish hearts become more darkened to the truth (Romans 1:21), they earn lower degrees of depravity until they graduate with dishonor to hell itself.

The standard, or the plumb line if you will, whether we truly fear the Lord is quite straightforward according to the second part of our lead verse. Solomon mentions pride and arrogance, the evil way and the perverted mouth as those which the Lord hates (Proverbs 8:13). The first two, pride and arrogance, are the condition of the unregenerate heart. The evil way is the outworking of the same (Proverbs 1:16), and the perverted mouth speaks from what fills the heart (Matthew 12:34). Just as the mouth speaks and testifies of God leading a soul to salvation (Romans 10:10), so also it confirms what is in a wicked heart leading to destruction. Are our lives filled with pride and arrogance? If so, we will be manifesting "evil ways" of anger, lust, deceit, hatred toward men, gossip, or any other lawless expression against God's holy way. Beyond that, we will be testifying of these evil ways by our arrogant speech that disregards God's order. However, if we are fearing the Lord and walking in His ways, we will be testifying of His goodness and love. Both our behavior and speech will markedly hate evil by our love for the Lord.

Beloved, if we are truly hating evil in our lives and the world at large, then we are fearing God. And, with that fear there is no judgment because the one who seeks to bring a charge against God's elect has been cast down (Revelation 12:10). Mercy will always triumph over judgment if we will but yield (James 2:13). Once we understand from a place of humility who God is, and what He truly loves and hates, then we too will share in His passion. The determiner will be whether we dare to give ourselves to Him, fearing Him as the all-powerful One that holds the universe in His hands. In all of His splendor and awesome wonder, He still desires to share His life with you and me. We must only answer one question: Whom shall we fear? Shall we fear God out of respect and love, thereby hating sin? Or, shall we fear and bow down to the world and embrace evil? Friends, we shall either fear Him with love in this lifetime, or fear Him in the one to come as vessels of wrath. The choice is ours this day.

Heavenly Father, help us to loathe evil by loving You. Help us to draw near to You, thereby driving evil far from our hearts and our lips. Give us the desire to fear You, to love You, and to worship You always. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Leading Others to Jesus - June 1, 2014

Mark 7:33a - Jesus took him aside from the crowd ...

So often, Jesus' dealings with people were enigmatic to say the least. The dynamic of conflict seemed to generally be the rule when the Lord taught and healed. When Jesus instructed the people, He often brought tension by stating the way the Pharisees instructed and then disavowing it by the way of God. Many instances support this, however Jesus does a rapid succession in the Sermon on the Mount that countermands in short order what most thought a righteous man was in Jesus' day (see Matthew 5:21; Matthew 5:27; Matthew 5:33; Matthew 5:43). Healing was no different in ancient Palestine, both from Christ's and the religious order's perspective. Most healing in Christ's time was done by priests in a temple setting or by those that would go to the home of those sick. Usually sums of money were paid in order to buy favor and to thereby expect a healing. When Christ healed in a synagogue, it usually brought the ire of the religious folk because Jesus made a point to heal (non gratis) on the Sabbath. However, we also see Jesus moving in the miraculous outside the confines of the institutional religious setting. These were usually marked by a lack of confrontation by the Pharisees, but also a freedom and simplicity as Jesus was able to move unrestrained as others would follow His bidding.

In two separate instances in the book of Mark, we see Jesus dealing with a deaf and blind man, respectively. What is so remarkable about these two encounters is how Jesus chooses to administer God's healing.
  • Mark 7:33-35 - Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, 'Ephphatha!' that is, "Be opened!" And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly.

  • Mark 8:23-25 - Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, "Do you see anything?" And he looked up and said, "I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around." Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly.
One might read these scriptures and get side-tracked how Jesus Christ healed the deaf and dumb man and the blind man. We might think this is rather unorthodox how the Lord uses His own saliva as the catalyst for these men's healings. While this is extraordinary in itself, it is quite easy to miss how these men came to their place of respective healing. In both cases, Mark tells us that Jesus led them away from the clamor of the crowd. Why is this significant? Because Jesus wants us to know that his salvation is personal. It is not an uncompassionate act of "hocus pocus" on a wholesale manner. No, it is much different than that. It is the Living God taking a man by the hand or leading another who cannot hear or speak to a place of solitude in order for Him to administer His love as He sees fit. The healings of these two individuals is momentous, to be sure. But how they came to a place of healing is of much greater importance. It was from nothing they had done, but from the care of others. If we read the prelude to both healings, it mentions that others brought these men to Jesus for healing. These were obviously those who cared a great deal about these men and desired to see them healed. Through their faith and desire to see these men healed, they led them to the Great Physician who was more than able to administer His love and grace and to ultimately restore them to perfect health.

Too often we might forget that Jesus is still in the business of restoring lives. It is quite easy to believe that if we have brought someone to the Lord in prayer that we need not do it again. However, those who have "prayed through" and have known when God has lifted a burden for someone that has been on their heart, know when a release comes and their prayer subject has been placed in the hand of Jesus. This is a glorious understanding when an intercessor knows that their prayers have allowed those they have prayed for to be released to the Lord's care. Then, comes that phone call or that email confirming indeed that the Lord has taken that soul by the hand and has led them to that quiet place where He has ministered His grace. Beloved, I am assured that whenever God moves upon a man, woman, or child in a special way it's because others have spent the time praying for this to happen. Just as they brought the infirmed to Jesus in His day, so we must also continue to bring those that are spiritually lost or physically stricken to the Lord Jesus Himself. There is no other way that they will get there. And if we don't bring them, they will not know the wonderful touch of His hand.

Has Jesus ever taken you aside from the crowd of religious folk to create in you something new and living? If He has you will never be the same! And, if He has it is without a doubt a result of the intercession of others that have prepared the way for God to come take you by the hand to experience that wonderful encounter. No one comes to Christ on their own accord, whether it is salvation or healing or whatever. It is always through the burdens of others as they have borne the prayers to bring these close to the Savior. Are we bringing others to Jesus? They will never get the chance to be led aside by our wonderful Lord if we do not bring them before Him in petition and prayers. But once we do, we shall see the wonderful works of God demonstrated time and time again. God's ways are not our ways -- He will continue to save and to heal in what we often consider enigmatic manners. However, He will always do so in a loving, caring, compassionate manner that will only be manifested as we give Him the opportunity through our leading of others to the Lord.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the example that Your Son gave us to lead others to Him. You are desirous to save and to heal. Allow us the privilege to draw others to Your Throne of Grace that they too might know Your consummate salvation for body, soul, and spirit. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick