Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit - Self-control - October 25, 2015

Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Many would agree that our society is plagued by a lack of self-control. One only has to tune into the local news to hear about the latest shooting, stabbing, or abuse victim. Often, once the perpetrator has been brought to justice we hear how they somehow had "just lost control". Situations like these are often exacerbated by the use of drugs or alcohol which unlock the chains that are keeping a person's demons from taking over and reeking havoc. However, lack of self-control is as old as sin itself and was even Solomon's partner in his undoing as a godly king (Ecclesiastes 2:1). There's a particular reason that self-control is the last fruit of the Spirit listed by Paul the Apostle in the fifth chapter of Galatians. Without self-control the other fruit are constrained, so to speak, especially if the deeds of the flesh are allowed to usurp the Divine Nature. We should think of self-control as the "watchman" that ensures the old selfish sin nature stays dead (Romans 6:66:11) and buried so that the Holy Spirit has free reign in our hearts to cultivate the other eight fruits, uninhibited. Self-control exists always in this lifetime to arbitrate between the life that we once lived as a sinner and that which the Lord desires we grow in as a believer.

Of all the fruit of the Spirit, self-control is the determining fruit that actually allows us to see the Lord in this life and the life to come. For without sanctification, or the manifestation of His fruits of the Spirit "no man will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). In the book of Acts, Paul spoke to Felix regarding the Roman governor's eternal security. Acts 24:25 states: But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, "Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you." In this scripture, self-control is sandwiched between righteousness and judgment and for good reason. It is one thing to know the righteousness of God in Christ and it is another to live it out daily through constant acts of self-control. Paul stated in I Corinthians 15:31 ... I die daily. The apostle knew the importance of buffeting his outward man so that the inner man might be manifest. By living a self-controlled life, Paul knew that he was allowing the righteousness of the Lord to reign supreme thereby preparing himself for judgment not only in this life but in the one to come. Living the crucified life with the Lord Jesus means judging oneself in this lifetime and not waiting for the awful and terrible day of the Lord's judgments on the last day. By allowing the resurrected Lord to take the reins of our hearts, is to allow Him the rightful control and to focus us on finishing our respective races.

It is no secret that Paul must have been a lover of sports. In several passages he uses sports metaphor to convey a particular message. In I Corinthians 9:25 the apostle by the Holy Spirit states: Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. In the previous verse, Paul uses the example of a runner while making the point as to "run in such a way as to win". It is one thing to say that we desire to live a crucified life to our passions and desires and it's another to live out this discipline day after day. Ancient Grecian as well as today's athletes must lay aside their former lives of selfishness and wanton living and buffet their bodies with a new set of habits that will allow them to reach their goal. There is no substitution for a daily, rigorous routine that is marked by training meant to establish regular habits in accordance with their goal. In the same way, God requires of each of us who call Him Lord to daily turn over our will and life to Him -- that we would allow Him to coach and mentor us to that place of victory. Roger Bannister, the British running sensation of the 1950s was the first to break the four-minute mile. In Helsinki at the 1952 Olympic games, Bannister finished a disappointing fourth in the1500m. After the devastation of his failure, Bannister spent two months deciding whether to give up running. He finally decided on his new goal: To be the first man to run a mile in under four minutes. The following is a brief excerpt from a June 2002 interview with Bannister regarding how he developed consistent habits tempered through self-control which inevitably allowed him to reach his goal:


In those days, I didn't train very much. We didn't really know how to train in modern terms. There was this thing called "burning yourself out." I didn't want to burn myself out at 18, and I had a notion that if I looked after myself, trained carefully, I would go on improving, not by training two to three hours a day, but by training three quarters of an hour a day. It seemed to me logical that you could go on improving, and you didn't have to spend all day running.
This young athlete intuitively knew that overtraining could be as counterproductive as undertraining. So, he controlled his impulse to do neither but instead to discipline himself for a tempered approach. It took Bannister two years and several failures, but he finally hit pay dirt on May 6, 1954 at Oxford University. The audience waited with bated breath as Norris McWhirter finally announced Bannister's time of 3:59:4. The crowd erupted in joy!


There is a certain elation that we all experience as we develop new habits and we finally reach a point in our lives where these new character traits testify of the fruit of self-control as the Holy Spirit intended. In the beginning, it is hard and laborious. We may struggle but if we are patient we will reap the peaceful fruit of righteousness by allowing the fruit of self-control to be manifested. Just because self-control is the last of the nine fruits, it does not diminish its importance. Instead, it is the fruit that will ultimately allow righteousness to manifest through the other eight fruits. While the our planet continues to teeter on the brink of insanity, and as humans struggle to keep "under control" in an increasingly uncontrollable world it is comforting to know that our God has given us all the ability to live controlled by His Spirit. We only have to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and the fruits of His Life as freely given through a self-controlled man or woman given wholly to God.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit - Gentleness - October 18, 2015

Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

When reading scripture about the life of David, it's not difficult to view the mightiest king of Israel as a "man's man". David became an aggressive warrior through years of warring -- from his early days of slaying Goliath, to engaging and conquering multiple enemies under his commander Joab. When David wanted to build the Lord a house for His Presence, the Lord stated that his son Solomon would build the house of the Lord, for David had too much blood on his hands (I Chronicles 22:6-10). While many kings and commanders in ancient Israel did truly great things, there were none as great as David. As no other ruler in Israel, we are allowed to see King David's life through the eyes of his own soul. Through the many psalms written by David, we can see how this warrior king was propelled to greatness. In Psalm 18 we read of David who was finally at peace with all his enemies round about about him, including Saul. The relentless pursuit of the former king and the consolidation of the kingdom of Israel was a daunting feat, fraught with much bloodshed along the way. However, David makes a startling statement in verse 18: You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great. Consider this, beloved; that in order for the newly crowned king to have achieved the near impossible, that is rising from a lowly shepherd to become the ruler of Israel, that there had to be a steadying influence over David's heart. Otherwise, his own blood-guiltiness would have caused him to implode. That calming and patient influence was the gentleness of God. For as David experienced the Lord leading and guiding him through the mayhem of war, in the same way he was able to be gentle and loving while pouring his heart out to God through the Psalms. This in turn, caused him to be loved by his people as he united the nation. His greatness was rooted in the fact that he had learned gentleness from his Heavenly Father. David was merely giving back what he had so abundantly received.

David's gentle spirit coupled with his warring, kingly outcome can be validated through Jesus' own words. In Matthew 5:5 our Savior stated: Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. For King David, the only sure way to bring peace was through war. A good offense is oftentimes the best defense as is customarily the case, especially in Middle Eastern cultures. Yet, we know that David possessed a dual nature that seemed brutal on the one hand but gentle on the other. Jesus confirms that David inherited his portion of the earth by juxtaposing his war-like mentality with the gentleness of God which made him great. Gentleness HAS to be demonstrated from a place of strength otherwise it is weakness devoid of any real power. A more recent example of strength through gentleness is Dr. Martin Luther King. While King never used violence, he was still strong in his position and therefore could afford to show gentleness in his dealings with all men, regardless whether they agreed with his stance or not. Therefore, gentleness through strength is not necessarily the use of military power or force, but it is using the wisdom that God gives to reinforce one's position. The apostle James stated: Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom (James 3:13). Ironically, King Solomon alluded to this place of strength through wisdom. He states in Ecclesiastes 3:8 that there is a time for war and a time for peace. As his father found greatness coupled with gentleness through much warring, Solomon found the same gentle strength through peace and the "gentleness of wisdom".

Jesus will always be the quintessential example of someone possessing greatness while demonstrating sublime gentleness. Of course, since he was the gentlest man to ever live, He did indeed inherit the earth as previously stated. The example is there for us all to follow. A few chapters later in the book of Matthew, Jesus is imploring those who would seek to follow His example. In Matthew 11:29 the Lord promises us that if we will indeed take up His yoke that we would have the opportunity to learn from Him. He said that in so doing, we would find that he is "gentle and humble of heart". Jesus never had an agenda other than doing the will of His Father, which ultimately was to redeem humankind. Through this selfless life, we see the greatest man who ever lived with a strength unparalleled. Through His wisdom, He conquered all His enemies in the greatness of His humility and gentleness. The same can be said for our other examples, yet there are differences. Two of the aforementioned characters epitomize strength though gentleness. Both Solomon and our more contemporary Dr. King lived lives of peace, demonstrating the greatness of their wisdom by the gentle strength they exuded. Yet, there is an incompleteness to their destinies even through their peaceful legacies. It is not happenstance that Jesus is referred to numerous times in scripture as the "Son of David". While Jesus lived "gentleness in strength" better than anyone, there is a day when the Lord of Lords will come back to set things straight on this earth. Even as David not only conquered his foes and vanquished them to a place of subservient obedience, so Jesus Christ is coming back to vanquish those whom He conquered on the cross at Calvary at His second appearing. The greatness of His strength will be manifest as he ruthlessly deals out retribution to His enemies, yet gives comfort and compassion to those who have waited on Him day and night for His returning.

While the Lord tarries, how should we live in the fruit of the Spirit known as gentleness? We should look to our examples, who learned that wisdom in strength is not self-serving. David laid down his life for the nation of Israel and became their greatest king through his tender heart toward God and his people; Solomon prayed to the Most High not for riches and glory but wisdom to lead the nation of Israel; Dr. King laid down his life in peaceful protest; and finally, our Lord gave everything that He might redeem a people through the strength of wisdom demonstrated in gentleness. Beloved, that is our heritage. To not live as a self-serving church, but to lay down our lives before those who might hate and revile us. Our commission is to love these with a love borne from wisdom -- a life that is "yoked" with the Lord's and with his gentle, humble heart.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the strength in wisdom that You give us from a gentle, humble heart. Thank you for Your gentleness and the examples that you have shown us both in Your Word and through others that have gone before. Help us to be a loving people in the gentleness of wisdom. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit - Faithfulness - October 11, 2015


Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Everywhere we turn in our current world-climate we see breach of faith. One cease-fire leads to one side or the other pulling the trigger and igniting the situation afresh. United Nations sanctions are snubbed as rogue nations state "good will" and right intentions in the beginning, and then turn around and openly defy the agreed upon edicts. Large corporations have destroyed the public trust by mismanagement and greed. Closer to home (so to speak) the institution of marriage is under siege both from those who would seek to destroy the God-given mandate between a man and a woman (Matthew 19:4-6) and those within said marriages who seem intent on breaking covenant with their spouses through their unfaithful behaviors. An 11 year old study states ... About 24 percent of men and 14 percent of women have had sex outside their marriages, according to a Dec. 21, 1998 report in USA Today on a national study by the University of California, San Francisco. While I am uncertain whether these statistics have changed remarkably in the past 11 years, I can state with reasonable assurance that they have not improved demonstrably. Rather than faithfulness on a wholesale level, we are seeing an unparalleled rise in anxiety and fear, which indeed is the opposite of faith or faithfulness. The scripture states in Luke 21:25-27 that in the end time, men's heart will fail them due to fear. In a world that is teetering on the brink of broken promises, lies, infidelity, and unfaithfulness there is still One who can be trusted as the Father of Faith. As He is the One that can always be trusted, His great desire is to produce within His beloved the same faithfulness that comes directly by living intent on believing and trusting Him for all.

God has always been faithful. It is impossible for Him to be otherwise. The scripture states that faithfulness actually surrounds the Lord Most High: O Lord God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You (Psalm 89:8). Demonstrative of His nature is His behavior -- the faithfulness He typifies day after day. His faithfulness is written with unseen words that cry out through His creation (Psalm 19:1,2) as all nature speaks of the glory of God. The sun, moon, and stars are constant in their respective fixations within the heavenlies and the seasons know their times of appearing and waning. God is faithful in all things. In the same respect, He requires the same faithfulness from those He calls His own. Even as He has called us to be ... holy as He is holy, He requires His beloved to emulate all of His nature. Faithfulness is no exception.

In ancient Palestine lived a man turned prophet named Hosea. God spoke to this holy man in what might appear to some in a dubious manner. In Hosea 1:2 He tells the prophet to take a wife that is a harlot because the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel had committed flagrant harlotry against the Lord their God. Hosea's new wife, Gomer, bore Hosea two children and the Lord commanded they be named symbolically to epitomize Israel's unfaithfulness (See Hosea 1). The second chapter of Hosea is all about how Israel, as well as Gomer, is unfaithful to God and Hosea, respectively. The Lord allows the prophet to experience the grief of a faithless bride, demonstrating just a small measure of what the Father in heaven experiences through faithless Israel as they play the harlot with their innumerable idols. Ultimately, Gomer apparently leaves Hosea permanently and returns to her harlotry because Hosea is instructed in Hosea 3:1 to join himself with an adulteress. This is Hosea's second and last symbolic marriage. While the status of the seer's second marriage is never clearly delineated, it is very clear the message the Lord was attempting to send to Israel through His prophet -- that the Lord God was a faithful, true husband to His betrothed and He expected the same faithfulness in return. Though He was angry and hurt by Israel's unfaithfulness, yet He promised a complete healing and a restoration of their conjoined love. Hosea 14:4 states: I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, For my anger has turned away from them.

No matter how faithless Israel behaved toward the Lord, or for that matter, how the church of today might resist His wooing and lovingkindness, His faithfulness will never wane. Not only are the gifts and the callings irrevocable (Romans 11:29), but his faithfulness never expires! Psalm 100:5 states: For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. As long as we are alive, God's faithfulness will always surround us. Solomon acknowledged that with the living there is always hope: For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion (Ecclesiastes 9:4). It is such a tragic loss of God's eternal, watchful gaze and His tender coaxing once a person dies without accepting Christ as their Savior. Isaiah clearly stated that faithfulness was only for the living -- once we have passed through the veil there is no longer any hope to change our eternal status. Contemporary to Hosea, he stated in the 38th chapter, verse 18 of the book of Isaiah: For Sheol cannot thank You, death cannot praise You; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness. While the Lord desires that all be saved and come into the knowledge of His salvation, tragically the scripture states that few will accept His faithful gift of eternal love. For those who turn and receive the Eternal Christ into their hearts, these are the ones who can once again begin the restorative journey back to the heart of God and learn of His faithfulness in all things. Psalm 37:3 states that first we must trust in the Lord, secondly that we do good, and then finally to cultivate faithfulness. Infidelity and faithlessness are deeds of the flesh that took years to "fine tune" in our sin natures. In the same, way God wishes us to grow in the garden of His Divine Nature the faithfulness that surrounds His beloved. By cultivating the soil, or literally to dig into to who we really are, this allows God's watering to accomplish its desired result. Let not any whom He has called hide from themselves and allow their ground to turn "fallow", but may all rigorously confront their true nature and allow the Spirit to have His way.

Some would say there is little difference between the apostasy we see today compared to ancient Israel. Others would say it is much more pronounced today with the preponderance of not only false religions but also the idols of greed, lust, and the sin of Sodom -- careless ease with no thought for the Lord and those around them (Ezekiel 16:49). With the rise of unfaithfulness as seen in the media and entertainment, in the same regard the Lord Jesus Christ is raising up a Bride that has sown righteousness and cultivated lives of faithfulness. While infidelity continues to demonstrably pronounce itself in marriages, corporations, and national and international detente', Jesus Christ is calling together a people that have a deep sense of their own belonging in the very bosom of the Lord. These will possess a fidelity that is Divinely empowered and passionately engendered for the Lover of their souls -- a faithfulness that will not be compromised for it is rooted in the faithfulness of God's very nature.

Heavenly Father, we thank you that you surround those who are Yours with Your faithfulness. Our striving would be in vain without Your divine help. Open the eyes of our understanding to see You in all Your faithfulness toward us who believe. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Fruit of the Spirit - Goodness - October 4, 2015

Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.


If questioned about the goodness of God, most people who believe in Him would say that God is a good God. However, if you continue to query them on how good God truly is then you might hear some vacillation. While most folks see God as a loving, good Creator they still may question some of His dealings with humankind and our world as a whole. They don't understand how a "good" God could allow pain and suffering in the world. As we discussed in The Fruit of the Spirit - Love, it has never been God's desire for humankind to be plagued by sin and sorrow -- this was a choice made long ago by the first man and woman. We inherited from them that choice through our sin natures. We perpetuate sin and sorrow in this world by our fallen state from His grace. However, even in the midst of all that tries human's souls, His grace is demonstrated over and over again by His love and goodness that draws us toward His presence. Oh, what a glorious redemption it is that He continues to woo and to draw all those whom He has called to be his beloved!

Of course, there will always be those who believe that the Heavenly Father is a mean tyrant that dealt them and everyone else a bad hand by even allowing them to be born. Amazingly and benevolently, God Almighty continues to allow these hearts that spurn Him to continue to beat. Even as millions and millions curse God daily, shaking an angry fist toward heaven, the air of life continues to fill their lungs as they enjoy the goodness of life that God continues to bestow. God loves all and as Jesus Christ stated in the gospels: ... He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). While God is good and His goodness is poured out on all humankind, there are special relationships that He has with those He calls His own where His goodness is a continual and eternal outpouring of His Divine Nature. While there are many ways that the Eternal Yahweh reveals Himself and His goodness to those who know Him, let's look at three verses and the modus operandi of how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reveals, enriches, and follows them who love and fear God. For truly, those who seek Him will find Him and know the fullness of His goodness.

God's Goodness Revealed to the Righteous
Exodus 33:19 - And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion."
Moses was the friend of God (Exodus 33:11). The relationship between close friends is a unique one even as that of Moses with the Most High. God knew that his friend Moses could be trusted with the knowledge of seeing and experiencing the goodness of His Nature. One might say, "I could never have the type of relationship that God had with this ancient patriarch!". By stating or believing this is to call God a liar if that is indeed the type of relationship He is calling you to. God said that He would decide with whom He would be gracious to and show compassion. It is not ours to limit God and His desire to reveal Himself to us. Embodied within His goodness is the revelation of His name and what that means. While Yahweh is the most widely used Hebrew name ascribed to the the Maker, He is also manifest in "attribute names" -- much like "goodness" is an attribute of the Lord. As God is all things creative and restorative, He manifests these through His name. Below are just a few manifestations of His name in attributes:
  • Jehovah-Jireh -- "The Lord will Provide" in all instances (Genesis 22:14)
  • Jehovah-Rophe -- "The Lord Who Heals" implies spiritual, emotional as well as physical healing (Jeremiah 30:17)
  • Jehovah-Nissi -- "The Lord Our Banner" is the God who fights for us (Exodus 17:15
  • Jehovah-M'Kaddesh -- "The Lord Who Sanctifies" is He who makes us holy (Leviticus 20:8)
  • Jehovah-Shalom -- "The Lord Our Peace" is being in right relationship with both God and man (Judges 6:24)
God's Goodness Enriches the Righteous
Psalm 31:19 - How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You, which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, before the sons of men!
An everlasting, inexhaustible supply of everything that is good about God is laid aside for the believer. It is a treasure house or a bank account, if you will, that can never be overdrawn. The "shock and awe" of God's good Nature is the ticket to unlocking these storehouses of continual riches. Solomon stated that ... the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). Living a holy and upright life before the Lord and reverencing Him as the Almighty is the beginning of a successful treasure hunt of everlasting worth. Wisdom is undoubtedly the key to unlocking the storehouses of God's goodness. The scripture is very clear that this is not for some day in the "sweet by and by". No, beloved, this is for NOW as David writes specifically that this will be manifested ... before the sons of men! As we draw upon the goodness of God, may we provoke others to jealousy as they see the inexhaustible supply of goodness that the Lord continues to bestow. Then, we may say with the Psalmist to those who would be moved with desire for the Lord: O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalm 34:8).

God's Goodness Pursues the Righteous
Psalm 23:6 - Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
The remarkable thing about His goodness is not only is it always available to those who love and seek His presence, but it is working and active in our lives even when we don't realize it. The statement that goodness and lovingkindness is following or doggedly pursuing the righteous has the implication that it will overtake us on those days where we may stumble or become confused regarding where the path of life has brought us. It is comforting to know that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and that He always has His goodness "tailing" us, as it were, because He cannot deny the Spirit which He has put within us (II Timothy 2:13). He watches our every step and sends help in the form of all of His goodness to help in the day of trouble if we will but continue to call upon Him. Even as many have been abused and jailed by rogue governments, we have a "Heavenly Diplomat" that will rescue us no matter how unsavory a situation we fall into. He has the resources to extradite us from any situation that the enemy may conjure against us.

While most will admit that "God is good", few will experience the depths of what God's goodness truly entails. Most acknowledge a God of goodness yet live as if He were the God of continual retribution, just waiting to smash them if they make the slightest error. The Heavenly Father desires for us all to enter that place of friendship and trust with Him. He desires to not only reveal all of His wonderful goodness, but to also give us an everlasting storehouse to draw upon. And, even in those times when we become blind-sided by the world or the snares of the evil one, we can rest assured that our Heavenly Father through the Lord Jesus Christ is pursuing us and WILL overtake us with His love and goodness. We have been given the key to unlock the wonderful treasures of all his goodness if we will but surrender all our "supposed" treasures to Him. What He gives in return is the eternal and everlasting gift of His Nature -- a Nature so full of goodness that will never come to an end!

Heavenly Father, show us all your goodness as we surrender to You. Enrich us daily with the good things of Your nature, and pursue us and overtake us with your love and goodness now and forever. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick