Sunday, July 27, 2014

Intercessory Praise, Part III - July 27, 2014

Psalm 51:12-13 - Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.

David's life was one steeped in prayer and praise. Jewish history ascribes 73 of the 150 psalms to this King of Israel. These are a rich library of his many conversations with the Lord Jehovah including melodic prayers of petition, supplication, and intercession. David's tender soul resonates in the poetic verses of one psalm as he rejoices in God's victory, and then in another he is in the depths of despair. Although David arguably ruled the most powerful Middle Eastern nation in 1000 B.C., the humanity he displayed in his writings becomes something very real to most of us who can relate with the everyday struggles that beset mankind. His brutal honesty is probably not equaled elsewhere in his writings as it is in Psalm 51 where he pleads for God's forgiveness after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan exposes his king to the injustice he has created by first sinning with this married woman and then having her husband put to death by proxy (II Samuel 11). In this psalm, David seeks forgiveness for himself, but also for what he has done to the trust between God, himself, and those of his kingdom.

In the first nine verses of Psalm 51, David outlines his defense to the Lord which is a case for mercy. He knows that he has sinned and asks the Lord to forgive him for his iniquity. Psalm 51:10-13 becomes David's request to God for complete emancipation from sin's effect which will ultimately lead to God's glorification. In verse 10 he first implores his Maker for a clean heart, to disown any remnants of the sin that he once harbored. Also, the penitent king asks that God renew a steadfast spirit within, to enable him to remain focused on his fidelity toward God. In verse 11, he does not assume that just because his spirit is right that God will desire fellowship with him. He specifically states: Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Finally, in verse 12 we see that David understands that forgiveness without restoration is moot if he is to rule effectively as king. He knew better than anyone that in God's presence there was fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11) which would give him the strength and the ability to stay focused to turn from future sin. At the beginning of verse 13, we see the remarkable conjunction "then". At this juncture, David knows that if the Lord grants his request he would once again be in that position to intercede for others through the testimony of his life as an intercessory worshipper. He would be restored in the eyes of his nation to lead them as one who had failed but was now a living example of God's redemption. The King of Israel would no longer be a hypocrite in their eyes but someone who praised God for delivering him from the pit of sin and despair. His praise to God would once again resonate between earth and heaven for his kingdom.

Chronological to Psalm 51, King David's next psalm was probably written shortly after the Bathsheba affair. The overall theme of Psalm 32 is one of reflection concerning the mercy of God for his sin and forgiveness. This is particularly evidenced in the first seven verses. David opens the psalm with a declaration of God's love and redeeming grace, stating: How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! (Psalm 32:1-2) In the next five verses, he tells how hard it was to conceal his sin. However, once he confessed it he was filled once again with the presence of the Lord. Once again, God had become David's hiding place (Psalm 32:7) as he had been so many times in the past. One might assume that the king had forgotten how close the Lord was to him as he hid him from Saul's wrath when he pursued young David. Now, he could once again find God in that secret place of "hiding" that kept him safe from the onslaught of the enemy's lies. For surely, the devil came to him and told David that his sin really wasn't forgiven and that he didn't deserve to be king. The restored king could turn from Satan's accusations and look in the face of his Redeemer with great joy of redemption and say: You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah. (Psalm 32:7) What follows in verses eight through eleven is a vivid example of David's restored position as an intercessory praise and worshipper. He instructs the wicked to not be as he was but to be set free by obeying God in all things. To continue in wickedness, he states, is to continue in sorrow; but the righteous, David says, are "surrounded" by lovingkindness. His intercessory worship for others comes to a crescendo as he ends this psalm with the high praises of God: Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart. (Psalm 32:11)

Beloved, if we call Jesus Christ our Lord then we should recognize that we are made of the same stuff as David. The only thing that sets us apart from this ancient king is our ability to arrest our sin through humility and ask forgiveness as he did. If we walk in the light as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with God and man and the Lord is faithful to forgive and cleanse us (I John 1:7). The devil would desire that we hide our sin as David, because then we will not be effective as intercessory worshippers. If we can't praise God for his deliverance in our lives and others, then the devil has won the victory. If, however, we can lift up the Name of Jesus in thanksgiving and praise for not only our salvation but for others, then we put the enemy to flight. Everyone of us who call ourselves Christians have this responsibility, to praise God for the finished work of Calvary with hearts that are free from sin. Through that applied revelation, we will see the power of the evil one crushed and the high praises of God accomplishing great things all around us. May the Lord do so in all of us this day as we submit to Him!

Lord Jesus, thank you for the redemptive power of Your blood that makes us mighty to do intercessory battle. May the high praises of God be on our lips as we set the captive free through the intercessory praise You have ordained for all of us who call You Lord. In Your Name Most Holy Jesus Christ, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Intercessory Praise, Part II - July 20, 2014

Job 42:10 - The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold.

Most of us have heard the expression "desperate times call for desperate measures". From the very underbelly of a dire situation can often spring the greatest triumphs. It can be a heart-wrenching moment when we hear about someone's tremendous loss. For example, how tragic it is when we hear a news report of an entire family losing all their children to a house fire. Horatio Spafford comes to mind as a modern man's illustration of extreme loss while Job is certainly the quintessential biblical example. Spafford and his wife lost a son in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. A short two years later, Spafford sent his wife and daughters on ahead of him to Europe. They were to meet up shortly after his arrival to help with evangelistic efforts on the continent. Tragically, the S.S. Ville Du Havre sank after striking another vessel at sea. His wife telegrammed her husband after her rescue saying, "Saved Alone". Later, when the ship he had booked passage came near to the spot where his daughters lie on the ocean floor, he penned the words of the famous hymn, It Is Well With My Soul. In this place of extreme loss, Spafford was able to praise His Creator regardless what life had dealt. By him penning these most poignant verses, he inadvertently became a witness and most importantly one who intercedes on behalf of many. By his example, countless Christians have been strengthened in their faith by Spafford as he stood between heaven and earth and praised the Almighty. He quite literally stood as an intercessory worshipper between God and man (for more see The Bare Soul - It is Well With My Soul - June 1, 2008).

Horatio Spafford had probably read of God's dealings with Job many times before that fateful day. Though millennia separated these two men, both experienced tremendous loss but likewise magnificent grace to deal with their given situations. Those familiar with the story know that Job was a God-fearing man that Satan demanded permission from God to tempt. Satan believed that any man, including Job, would forfeit their relationship with God to save their own skin. Job chapters one and two tell of how the devil caused great calamity to overtake the patriarch's household, first by destroying his children and his possessions and then by inflicting Job with severe bodily afflictions. From the subsequent chapters we read of Job's metamorphosis as a God-fearing worshipper to a man filled with the wisdom and revelation of His Maker. At one point, Job makes the declaration: Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him. (Job 13:15) Though his worship and praise of His Creator was unfaltering, he still questioned God's wisdom in allowing someone like himself who walked uprightly to be subjected to what appeared to be a cruel outcome. Only when Job truly heard and saw God (see Job chapters 38 through 41), did he understand that God is so much bigger than his feeble attempts to understand Him. In this instance, as well as countless others, God must merely be trusted without complaint or argument regarding His dealings with mankind. God's sovereignty and man's inability to understand God's ways is poignantly expressed in the following:
Job 42:1-6 - Then Job answered the LORD and said, "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes."
 After Job humbled himself appropriately before God, the Lord's attention then turned toward Job's friends (Job 42:7-9). Because of his newly gained perspective through worship and praise, Job was then able to be the instrument that God used to heal his friends. Job learned to be an intercessor by coming into a right relationship with God and thereby understanding the Almighty's omnipotent and omniscient power through his worship and praise. This was the catalyst to Job's own spiritual, physical, and material healing which therefore empowered him to pray for his friends restoration. Job obviously knew God before his calamities. Job 29 is all about his glorious past and how he was regarded as a man of God that delivered justice for those less fortunate. However, Job 42 is where we see a broken and contrite man who learns to pray for God's restoration rather than using his own abilities. We see a man equipped with the humility of God who is able to intercede for his friends through a heart of worship and praise to God.

Nowhere in scripture are we given such an intimate look of a man (of like character as us) who is transformed from a God-fearing believer to a man full of the wisdom and revelation of God. Job became that one who was not only a "good" man but a man who shared in the secret counsel of the Lord. By the epiphany of God's revelation through intercessory praise and worship, his prayers for his friends led to Job receiving back two-fold of what he formerly possessed (Job 42:10). Beloved, God has given us this portrait of Job not for good storytelling or nice poetry. He has allowed us to see that merely being a nominal Christian that loves God and does what is right is not near enough. The Lord is desirous that we would sit before him daily, crying out to Him for understanding until He would give us that same wisdom and revelation as Job. Through tremendous loss, God was able to take men like Horatio Spafford and the patriarch Job and transform them through what seemed like unbearable circumstances. Likewise, if we allow God to have His way with us, we will see that the world is much bigger than ourselves or our family's well-being. We will see God for who He is, praising and worshipping Him no longer for what He can do but for who He is. This wisdom will duly reveal Christ's mind and heart for those that so desperately need Him. Once we learn the secret of intercession, that it is an attitude first of worship and praise, then we can effectively bring others close to the Lord for His glory despite our experiences.

Lord Jesus, reveal to us Your wisdom and insight that we might intercede for others with hearts of praise and worship toward You, and hearts on fire for the souls of others. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Intercessory Praise, Part I - July 13, 2014


II Chronicles 20:22 - When they began singing and praising, the LORD set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed.

What happens when a believer lives their life in all the light and revelation that the Lord has given, and then all of a sudden it seems like all hell comes against them? The inevitable result will always be fear. However, the type of fear will determine the outcome. If we fear the circumstances and shrink back in unbelief, then our predicaments will own us and defeat us. But, if we turn our faith to the Lord to fear Him and reverence Him for the outcome, then we have tapped into the springs of praise that will eliminate our enemies one by one. Jehoshaphat's life and subsequent defining battle with the enemies of Judah is a striking example regarding how the Lord can turn insurmountable difficulties into victories. Through this poignant encounter, the king learned the secret of how intercessory praise commands success through a rightly related king and kingdom to the Most High God.

II Chronicles chapters 17-19 gives an overview of the life of Jehoshaphat as he ruled and reigned in 8th century B.C. Israel. In II Chronicles 17:3-6, we see that the king sought the Lord God and strived to follow all the commandments of God. He expected no less from Judah, as he tore down the houses of worship of the Canaanite gods Baal and Ashtoreth. Not only was he a moral and spiritual crusader for his people, but other kingdoms saw that the favor of God was upon Israel so they would in turn bring tribute and gifts to the king in Jerusalem (II Chronicles 17:10-11). As a result, Jehoshaphat and the Judeans lived in relative peace until they heard the bad omen of a "great multitude" coming against them out of the land of Aram (II Chronicles 20:2). Naturally, the king was afraid when he heard this news (II Chronicles 20:3). At this point, the king could have done several things. He could have tried to make peace with the Ammonites and the Moabites, thereby sending them tribute and trying to appease them. He might have sent emissaries to Egypt or to the Philistines to try to hire an army to fight for Judah. Or, he might have decided to muster as many Judeans as possible and to go out against his foes, hoping for the best. He did none of these. Jehoshaphat instead did what would seem absurd to other kings of his time and turned to the Lord God in prayer and fasting (II Chronicles 20:3-13). The welfare of his people were at stake and so the king deliberately involved all the people to join him as they cried to the Lord for a solution to their dilemma. And, through the prophet Jahaziel, their answer came. The message from the Lord was not one of brilliant maneuvers or battle strategy to overcome their enemy by military force, but it was a simple yet terrifying prospect of "standing, and seeing the salvation of God" (II Chronicles 20:17). The next day, Judah went out to "battle" against their foes. Apparently, Jehoshaphat received some added direction from the Lord as he stationed the singers and musicians in front of their army to worship the Lord. If this wasn't sheer madness in the eyes of the rest of the world, the king then declared that they were to rejoice before the Lord saying "Give thanks to the LORD, for His lovingkindness is everlasting." (II Chronicles 20:21) Not only was he leaving his frontal attack defenseless, he was also giving away his position. However, the most remarkable thing occurred because of the king's obedience. We are told that the sons of Ammon and the sons of Moab destroyed themselves until there was not a single survivor (II Chronicles 20:22-24). Because of this remarkable victory, II Chronicles 20:30 tells us that for the rest of Jehoshaphat's reign his kingdom was at peace.

As it was in 8th century B.C. Israel, so it is today in the 21st century A.D. God is still looking for those whom He can show Himself strong on their behalf (II Chronicles 16:9). We don't need to be a king in order for God to show us a great deliverance. We only need to be, first and foremost, rightly related to Him. When we come to the Lord and we lay down our lives of sin, He then partners with us to destroy those "houses of Baal" in our hearts -- temples of self worship, greed, malice, envy, sloth, etc. When we become rightly related to God, then He allows us to help build His kingdom within the influence He gives us. We might see some helped by the ministry we give them, while others may be coming to the knowledge of the Lord through His grace in our lives. As our favor with God and man is on the rise, there is another who takes notice. The enemy of our soul will often acquiesce to our new found favor with God, but only for a season. He may even try to tell us that we're doing "really good" so that he can make us stumble in pride. But if that doesn't work, then he will inevitably send what seems like a multitude against us to defeat our standing in God and to try to destroy our credibility in God's kingdom. At this critical juncture, we will undoubtedly fear much like King Jehoshaphat. But that is okay, as long as we turn our fear to the Lord and reverence Him for how he is going to orchestrate His victory in this matter. As we have grown in God, the outcome of this battle not only affects us, but those whom we love and minister to. It has truly become an intercessory battle as we "stand in the gap" for the kingdom of God all around us. We have matured to not only be concerned with our welfare but that of others. Whether we are praying for God to heal a cancerous growth in a beloved sister in the Lord, or for a brother who is being audited by the IRS, we have learned to look beyond ourselves to praise God for the victory in the midst of the battle. We have learned that it is not our might or our strength or often anything on earth that can help in a given situation, other than the grace of God. We believe that saying to the problem "Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting" is the only sensible solution to a world that believes we've gone mad for our assurance to do so.

To live a life of intercessory praise means we have first moved beyond simply praising God for His outcome in our lives and we've moved to a higher plain of doing so for others. If we are practicing this, we have taken on the very character of our Lord and Savior as He intercedes daily for us (Romans 8:34). Beloved, God wants us to first trust in Him for all our needs, and then to trust Him for all those whom He has given us within the "holy fiefdoms" He has entrusted to us. Whether it is our families or entire congregations, God desires that we entrust to Him the outcome of every situation with an attitude of praise. As we learn to intercede effectively for others, He will continue to expand our hearts and influence over His kingdom here on earth. That, my friends, is the way to create heaven on earth -- by thanking Him and praising Him for the victory while the battle looms ever present and menacing. It is then, that we will see the greatest miracles in our weakness as we give thanks to Him for His strength.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of intercessory praise. Only as we confess our weakness, do we allow You to be strong. Through this strength, help us -- along with those You have entrusted to us that they might encounter Your triumph in the midst of what seems like overwhelming odds. Thank you that we are always victorious in You. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick



Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Prayer of Praise - July 6, 2014


Luke 18:11-14 - 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.

Many have considered this passage a model prayer for penitent sinners. Herein we see two diametrically different personalities -- one haughty and self-righteous -- the other humble and contrite as they both receive their respective rewards. While the Pharisee bolsters his ego with an empty commendation as the result of his religiosity, we are told the tax collector receives the gift of justification from God. This man, according to Christ, came into relationship with the Lord through his repentance, knowing that the atonement of Christ had lifted the burden of sin from his heart forever. While this certainly is an ideal example for how a person comes to the Lord, it should not necessarily be the prayer to perfect holiness or to mature a saint in sanctification. To be sure, if we sin after we have accepted the Lord as our Savior, we should ask for forgiveness and He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (I John 1:9). However, I am convinced that the devil would like nothing better than to first inflict condemnation over a sin in the believer's life, and then make that poor hapless soul to wallow in this sad state as they cry out for mercy. Of course, Jesus Christ has forever given us mercy and not condemnation through His redemption. His justification deflated the power of sin in our lives, stripping away all power once held over us by the enemy of our souls. Our God wants us to merely confess our sin and then turn to Him in a prayer of praise, acknowledging the completed work of the blood of His Son on Calvary's cross.

This "woe is me" theology runs rampant in many churches today, especially those who center on holiness teaching. As before mentioned, we should always confess our sins when we commit them. However, I believe the universal Church lacks a deeper understanding of our true position in Christ, otherwise there would be much more praise over our deliverance from both our sin nature and individual sins then what's currently the case. The enemy has made many believers think and act like the tax gatherer on a continual basis. Some might say, "Oh, that my life was filled with the presence of God ... oh, that I had more love and joy in my life. It must be because I still have sin in my life!" This may be the case and if it is true then that person should repent and set their life right with God. More often, however, I believe the true sin in a Christian's life is not individual sins that continue to crop up but a foundation of unbelief. They have either lost the understanding through the enemy's deception, or they have never really possessed a strong conviction of Christ living in them. As we see from our lead scripture, Jesus was dealing with eternal salvation. However, once we are saved and redeemed it is inappropriate for us to approach His Throne of Grace with anything but assurance that He has cleansed us from all sin (Hebrews 4:16). There is nothing more gratifying to the devil then for us to yield to groveling before the Majesty on High who has amply supplied all the mercy and grace we shall ever need. We see an excellent example of how Jesus corrects this erroneous thinking in the story of the prodigal son. When the son was still a long way off, the Father ran to him and embraced him (Luke 15:20). The son then stated: Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. (Luke 15:21) You see, this young man had a very wrong understanding of his father and his love and grace. What we read next is exactly the heart of the Heavenly Father toward His children. There was no further discussion, but the son was restored IMMEDIATELY to his place of sonship (Luke 15:22-24). We see and hear no discussion from the son saying, "No father, for I am truly unworthy and I must continue to ask for your forgiveness". There was none of that because the son accepted his father's mercy. How much more should we as sons and daughters of our gracious Heavenly Father accept His instantaneous forgiveness?

Many believer's think that by laboring through daily repentance over their carnality and by looking for some "breakthrough" that results in indescribable joy is the end all in the pursuit of sanctification. If that happens in our daily prayer either for ourselves, others, or our nation then rejoice! It is a gift of God! However, if it doesn't there is no reason to believe that God has not answered our prayers and likewise gifted us with the same splendid results as if we did "feel" His presence. Remember, we walk by faith and not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). The devil continues to defraud the church with this lie that we have to call down heaven on earth. Beloved, the kingdom of God is in our midst! Everything has already been given to us pertaining to life and godliness (II Peter 1:3). We must merely have eyes to see it! That's why Paul continually prayed in his apostolic prayers that the eyes of the churches would be enlightened to all that had already been given to them (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:17-19; Colossians 1:9-12; Ephesians 4:14-19; Philippians 1:9-11). I believe Paul's intent was to say that believers need to be doing a lot more accepting of what Christ has already done for them rather than continual beseeching for what they already possess. How it must grieve the Father's heart to hear His children continually crying out for something that He has already given. It truly is as simple as thanking Him for eyes to see and for hearts that are continually open to His divine revelation and wisdom. To go on asking without thanking Him for what He has already given is rude and disrespectful to the bounty He has so lavishly provided.

So what should be our attitude to God in prayer? I believe that the Lord has given us WAY more than we could ever express in thanksgiving to Him. And, if we continue to accept in faith what He gives us then we allow Him to reveal more in us. But this is not the end all. With revelation comes responsibility. Even as the father "gave" to his prodigal son, we too must continue to give away what He has so graciously bestowed in us. Then, it is full circle of receiving by faith, praising in faith, and then finally giving through faith. The circle becomes an ever-widening sphere as we receive more and more through His delightful revelation and we in turn praise him in prayer and then give it others. This, beloved, is God's plan for mankind. Not that we would be forever waiting for sanctification, but living and moving in it through His divine grace already bestowed upon you and me. Let us all learn to live in what He has completed through His Son's death. Our justification is already secure through our repentance. And, our sanctification is likewise accomplished through our acceptance of the finished work of our Savior. May God open our eyes and hearts to see and understand the depth of His love for us.

Holy Father, we delight to know You through the revelation of Your Son within us. Continue to manifest Yourself in us and through us, for we know that it is impossible to please You but through faith. Help us to walk hand in hand with You, our loving Father, accepting all from You and praising You for the bounty of Your love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick