Sunday, October 26, 2014

Waiting Upon the Lord, Part II - October 26, 2014

Isaiah 40:31 - Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

What does it mean to wait upon the Lord? For many this might imply inactivity or even a pious solemnity typified by a cloistered monk. These assumptions are far from what Isaiah meant when he penned the words of our lead verse through the leading of the Holy Spirit. While this passage is one of the most quoted Old Testament scriptures, one must read it in context with the previous verses that lead up to this climactic end of the chapter. In so doing, one will understand the writer's intent. In the preceding verses, Isaiah attempts to reason with wayward Israel regarding the strength of Yahweh compared to that of feeble man. The prophet knows that God's people have lost their understanding regarding God's omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence. Throughout chapter 40, Isaiah attempts to teach Israel, once again, the great God who has called their nation His own.

In Isaiah 40:12, the prophet first declares: Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales? The seer has seen with God's eyes and knows that the Lord is everywhere and and that He is omnipresent in all of His creation. Isaiah, like his predecessor David, knew that there was no place one can flee from God's presence (Psalm 139:7-8). As in ancient Israel, many today believe that God is not concerned with the minutia of a solitary life -- that God has more important things to do than to concern Himself with an individual's thoughts, attitudes, or actions. Isaiah might tell us, as he might have told his congregation, that to think in this regard is to limit God and his omnipresence within His own creation. The limitlessness of God allows Him to be in earnest concerning every molecule of the universe. His eternality commends His ability to master everything in our time-bound space.

In the next two verses, Isaiah lays out in God's defense His eternal knowledge. In Isaiah 40:13-14 he states: Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding? The Lord as speaking through the prophet tells us that there were none before Yahweh and there will be none after. His knowledge, wisdom, and understanding is inscrutable and without human definition. God has put within the heart of man to know that there is an eternity, yet man's feeble attempts to explain it with a finite mind creates an enigmatic dilemma of trying to discern something he has never experienced (Ecclesiastes 3:11). And, that is the wisdom of God. For as time-bound creatures we should be in awe of a Creator that holds everything together by His word (Colossians 1:17). As David wrote: Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it (Psalm 139:6).

Finally, Isaiah speaks about God's awesome power or His omnipotence. In verse 14 he states: Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. The prophet might very well have said to his people as well as us today: "If God can lift the islands like fine dust, then why would he not lift the burdens that we carry day to day needlessly?" The Lord wants to shoulder our anxieties and trials because He is not only all-powerful but he is also all-seeing and all-knowing regarding every circumstance we are going through. Through these and subsequent verses leading up to verse 31, Isaiah has laid the groundwork to say that it is foolish to attempt to save oneself from life's calamities. The sin that would so easily beset us is something that Christ carried to the cross in His body to crucify forever. Through Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection we have become partakers of the divine nature and the power thereof. Isaiah has set us up for the glorious revelation, proclaiming: Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

Beloved, God has laid out His defense in Isaiah the 40th chapter, proclaiming to us His rest if we will but wait for Him and His strength. He has proved to us by His words that he is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent in all His ways. Does it not seem ridiculous to trust in our own self and our own powers to deliver when He is ever-present to intercede on our behalf? He has promised us that if we would but wait on His deliverance, that He would imbue us with strength and power to soar above our problems on eagle wings. He has vowed that if we trust in Him, that He will give us legs to run the race before us without faltering. And, he has covenanted with His people to always walk with them with a promise of reaching our eternal destination. This is the God whom we serve -- The Almighty who will give us His divine strength if we will but only wait on Him.

Lord God Almighty, we thank you that You are the One who holds the universe in Your hand. So why should we not allow You to hold our lives in Your hand also? We yield to You and wait for You to work in our hearts the way that You will. We thank You and bless You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Waiting Upon the Lord, Part I - October 19, 2014

Psalm 27:14 - Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.

Waiting is not easy for most folks. As time-bound creatures, human beings understand that our waking (and sleeping) hours are not limitless. There is only so much that we can pack into any particular 24-hour period. So when someone or some thing "intrudes" into our already hectic schedule, it becomes easy to get impatient with the interruption. Many of us grit our teeth and more or less tolerate the inconvenience rather than accepting it as possibly a lesson in patience. The very act of impatience often testifies that we are fearful of losing something that we can never hang on to in the first place. In the case of lost time, it is more likely the crux of the problem referring to it as such. It is only lost if we believe it is. If, however, we have entrusted our time to the Lord, then nothing is ever lost or misplaced. As Paul states, we have made the most of our time by surrendering it all to the Lord (Ephesians 5:16).

Once we possess the attitude that all our time belongs to Him, then waiting for traffic or in the check-out line becomes a moot point. It doesn't matter what we are doing if we are centered in Christ. However, this attitude that spills over into our everyday life has its origin in the inner man. It starts by cultivating a view of eternity that swallows up time, because time no longer is a guiding factor. When one learns the "secret" of waiting upon the Lord, then all that we do takes on a peaceful, confident dynamic. Many scriptures allow us a glimpse into the life that tarries after God. Some teach us actually how to become an eternal watchman, waiting upon God as a servant with His Master. King David reveals both instruction and encouragement in our lead verse. This is what I like to call a "sandwich scripture" because the bread or the long-term sustenance is on the top and the bottom and the meat or the substance is in the middle. Whenever God says something, we are of course to pay attention. When the Lord reveals His word to us TWICE in the space of a single verse, then the matter is of utmost importance and should be heeded with diligent obedience. In Psalm 27:14, David through the unction of the Holy Spirit tells us to "wait for the Lord" at the beginning of this verse, but then he repeats Himself stating, "Yes, wait for the Lord". Why does He repeat Himself? The importance of waiting upon God is revealed in two commands that are sandwiched between His double admonition to tarry.

Without a mindset to wait upon God, it is impossible to "Be strong" and to "let your heart take courage". Surrendering rights to react in a defensive way or to vindicate ourselves in any matter is the only way to gain this point of power. Imagine for a moment a man who was falsely accused of something he said that others regarded as malicious and slanderous. For this man to react and to defend himself would send a direct message to God that he did not need the Sovereign's deliverance, but that he instead trusted in his own justification. In a very real way, this man had tied God's hands from supporting him, thereby making God impotent rather than omnipotent in his regard. Instead, this man must learn that in order to live with power from on high he must die to the power down below -- namely of the flesh and more precisely, self-assertion. However, once a man, woman, or child learns to die to the impulse to control the situation but rather to turn it over into God's hands, then a new and powerful dynamic unfolds. By the act of waiting on the Lord, he finds the lust to deliver oneself has abated. Rather, the heart is strengthened to look not toward the problem but toward the Solution for this and subsequent testings which it will certainly encounter. Through this strength, the heart is then allowed to take courage. The fortitude of the heart through its initial strengthening and then through victory after victory allows the heart to grasp onto or to "take" courage, building upon a foundation of strength.

Waiting upon the Lord is profoundly simple to those with childlike trust, but is equally difficult for those practiced in their own salvation. For those who have surrendered to Him, these know that there is salvation in no other except for the Lord (Psalm 37:39). Waiting is a form of death -- it is succumbing to another force that we have allowed to control our lives until some sort of deliverance is achieved on our behalf. Whether it be in traffic, or at the grocery store, or wherever or for whatever we wait, we are still surrendering ourselves to someone or something that we believe will inevitably change our circumstances on our behalf. If we as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ would practice waiting for Him and Him ONLY to deliver us, then we would experience a new freedom from anxiety and strife. Imagine if we waited on God with an expectancy that our time, our reputation, or any and everything about us belonged to Him? Beloved, we would be caught up in eternity with Him and the things of this earth would pale in view of His management of our surrendered state. Oh, for lives that would wait only upon the Lord! Yielded lives such as these, my friends, would be lives full of His presence and absent of the impatience that this world so generously throws our way each day. May we all learn the secret of waiting only for God. For as we wait upon Him, only then will we find both strength for today and courage for tomorrow.

Father, help us to wait upon You and You only. For only as we surrender do we find true victory. Only as we wait for Your salvation can we experience true freedom. We ask for Your grace and Your mercy to bow our hearts in humility to You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jesus the Messiah - October 12, 2014


Matthew 23:39 - "For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'"

As the adage goes, familiarity often breeds contempt. Ask those who are hosting in early December, how they might feel when their visitors are still house guests in early January. As Solomon stated, The end of a matter is better than its beginning ... (Ecclesiastes 7:8). In the case of the aforementioned illustration, this is undoubtedly true in many cases. However, the end of something can also bring regret that particular opportunities were not seized, or worse yet, lost altogether. Jesus' woes to the Pharisees regarding their stiff-necked resistance to the Gospel was a manifesto of their eternal doom. Hopefully, a few heeded the warnings. Unfortunately, we can surmise that collectively they remained hard-hearted toward Christ's rebuke. The religious order of that day had undoubtedly taken for granted the Person that none should discount or dismiss. And by their ultimate denial of Christ's Messianic personage, they received a promise yet to be fulfilled from the Lord regarding their rejection. Until the Jewish people could receive Jesus as the Messiah, they would not see Him. Until they could say in all humility, "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord", their hope of salvation was hopeless.

While Christ's pronouncements were directed primarily toward the Pharisees, his indictment also rang true for many of those in Jerusalem who were either Pharisaic followers or who were guilty by indifference. Many of those who were looking for a messiah that would ultimately restore the state of Israel and its former glory were undoubtedly dismally disappointed in this "Son of David" who had made his triumphant entry only days before. They wanted a savior that fit into their own lives, irrespective of what God desired or sought on their behalf. When Jesus didn't fit their expectations, many undoubtedly fell in behind the religious order, dismissing the true Savior as another messianic-wannabe. Jesus was quick to point out to all in his heartfelt cry for Jerusalem that they would not see him until they had eyes to see their folly (Matthew 23:37-39). His heart broke over their obstinacies, yet He would never force compliance. By their freewill, He knew that someday the Jewish remnant would cry out with passionate hearts of love, embracing His return with the same zeal as the rest of His end-time Bride. As Paul states in the book of Romans, an end time remnant will be saved (Romans 9:27). However, this won't happen until the fullness of the Gentiles (or the ingathering of the nations) occurs (Romans 11:25). The Gentile church has a remarkable opportunity of "seeing" the truth before the end. It is all about seeing Christ through an acknowledgement that He is the Savior of all mankind.

Jesus told the Jews in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew that they wouldn't see Him until they possessed the humility to do so. Comparably, those who are of the Gentile nations (who is anyone that isn't a Jew), have the privilege of seeing Jesus NOW through the spirit of humility and trust. Many who aren't Jews fall into the same category as their Semitic counterparts by looking for a messiah that will fit into their belief system. Some might say, "Jesus demands too much ... He is too narrow-minded and doesn't give me the power of self-expression. I want a god that will let me be me!" Unfortunately, the devil made this same claim upon the God-head, touting his prideful independence and rejecting humility before the Most High. Every other religion in the world is based on this demonic lie of self-assertion through self-awareness. It's all about actualizing their own "god potential". Jesus rejected this mind and heart-set with the Pharisees and He continues to do so today with everything that would raise itself up against the wisdom of His salvation. This "narrow-mindedness", as labeled by some, is the kindness and mercy of God that leads many into His saving grace (Romans 2:4). Rejecting Christ and the "narrow way", is denying one's blindness and the inability to see Him for who He is. Christ will never be what our sinful natures desire to see, but He will always be the changeless Savior that will restore our sight to see and understand His great salvation if we will only heed His grace.

As Jesus dealt with the stiff-necked Jewry in ancient Palestine, He likewise deals with those in our present age who refuse His grace. Conversely, those who will humble themselves, confessing that the "messiah" they've been seeking is a self-centered counterfeit of the true Messiah, to these Christ has promised to give them eye salve to spiritually see (Revelation 3:18) and a heart to repent. While we still have breath and before His second coming, we all have the opportunity to say, "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord". By saying this, we lay down our rights of assuming what our Savior should resemble. We give Him the liberty according to His irrefutable Law to be the Messiah according to His loving will. May we all see Jesus as we bless Him for who He is, as we wait expectantly for His great appearing.

Lord Jesus, thank You that You are the Messiah. Thank You that whomever will come to You with humility and contriteness, You will grant eternal life. Help all these who don't know You to acknowledge that You are indeed the Savior of mankind and that You desire none to perish. Help those of us who know You to continue to submit to You as our Eternal Savior, knowing that Your return is imminent. Give us all eyes to see the Blessed One in all of His glory. In Your Name, Yeshua, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Divine Repentance - October 5, 2014

Isaiah 30:15 - For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, "In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength. ..."

Do you recall the joy of your salvation? Do you remember when God lifted the burden of sin from your life. How glorious was that day! The sky looked bluer, the grass greener, and no one could dampen your spirit, for your love-struck heart ascended to God with every breath. And the catalyst for this joyous reunion with God was a total abandonment to Him through humility, or to say it biblically, we repented of our past life and received Christ into our hearts. We turned to God with all our heart and the light of His love. In return, He filled us with the joy of His presence (Psalm 16:11). As the weeks, months, and years slipped by, many experienced a different dynamic occurring when humbling oneself over sins committed. Many times there was an unmistakable absence of the closeness of God after we confessed our sin to Him and desired to move back into His presence. I believe this is why believers often get disillusioned with God and their faith, and many backslide and forsake the Almighty. They feel the Lord has let them down -- that somehow they are doing what's expected of them and He is not delivering by filling their heart once again with His joy.

Simply put, if we are not experiencing the closeness of God then there is a problem on the receiving end, not the giving. And, the scripture is clear that those who come to God must come with humility -- that He desires to cleanse us from all unrighteousness as stated in I John 1:7: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. However, verse seven precedes this repentance verse, which is an important lesson of faith that must accompany humility. I John 1:7 tells us ... if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. This scripture implies that the "Light" is critical to fullness of relationship with our Lord. We may love walking in the light of his love when all is going well, but when we sin, many turn toward the darkness because somehow they feel unworthy to enter His presence with faith and humility. This is precisely what the devil desires -- that we believe God's redemption is conditional regarding how we feel about ourselves rather than what Jesus tells us. Our Lord's promise in Matthew 11:28 is that He will give us rest in His presence. We simply must "come to Him". Our state of coming only requires faith that He will do what He says.

Some might say, this is easier said than done. However, coming to Christ in times of repentance will depend largely on how we come to Him on a daily basis. Are we developing a loving relationship with Him when things are going well? Are we spending time in meditation, gazing into the face of Jesus? Are we spending time in His word and ruminating on His love promises to us? If we will do some simple things to maintain our relationship with Him, then we will not experience our soul withdrawing from Him in false humility. If true contrition is not coupled with faith, then it is sorrow that only leads to darkness and death concerning our relationship with Him. If, however, faith is married with humility and love, knowing that He will never cast us away, then we will come into His presence with confidence that we are forgiven as we bring our sin to the light. Paul states in II Corinthians 7:10: For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. God's will is certainly for us to be sorrowful over our sin. However, His greatest desire and will is that we would appropriate the limitless grace that He provides through the death and resurrection of His Beloved Son.
We should ALWAYS turn toward the light of His love, whether in good times or bad. There is no exception. Only as we practice coming to Him everyday, no matter our state, only then will we possess the faith to come to Him in our greatest trials. Repentance of sin should never be without a joyful conclusion, otherwise it is a false repentance that will merely result in more separation from our Savior. Just as we experienced the lightness of load when we initially came to Him and gave Him our hearts, so should we experience His joy after every failing. We must simply keep "coming to Him" no matter how we might feel. We must turn our affections toward Him and believe that His love is incomprehensible and without measure for His beloved. May we all come continually to His light, trusting His word that He has truly paid the cost for our sorrow by becoming the Man of Sorrows (Isaiah 53:3) for our sin. He only desires to restore to us the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:12), if we will but come!

Heavenly Father, thank You for the privilege of living continually in the light of Your love. Even when we fail, O Lord, You woo us back to the light so that we can once again fellowship in Your love. Help us to know that repentance without joy is a lie from the pit of hell. Keep us continually coming to Your light so that we might experience life abundantly. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick