Sunday, March 27, 2016

Looking for Jesus - March 27, 2016


Matthew 28:5 - The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified."

Many today claim they are seekers after truth. Of these, some will say they are looking for something to believe in. Others might say that they've looked in churches or synagogues and they just can't find God. For these and all hoping to encounter truth, finding God and His Son the Lord Jesus Christ may be as simple as not where they look but how. Has the heart been tenderized so that humility fuels the search? Or, is it an intellectual endeavor that seeks persuasion of the mind before a so-called rational decision can be made? Looking for Jesus will generally result in a jaded outcome if powered by the mind. However, an honest search for Him through the heart will always result in finding Him and His Father above (Jeremiah 29:13). Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus gave their love not just to a "good" man nor to a woman's son, but to their Lord and Savior. Through this awakening of His true identity, they would find Him to be so much more after his crucifixion than they could possibly understand before that fateful day.

Matthew 28:1-15 juxtaposes presumably two or more Roman guards and two Israeli women in mourning. The scene in the garden that morning might have been as simple as one guard coming to relieve another at first watch. The women coming to the tomb would have been of no particular significance to those who might have beheld them in the early dawn light. However, the extraordinary exchange after a sudden earthquake undoubtedly made the guards take notice, not only of the supernatural manifestation taking place, but also the honor the angel bestowed on these women. Matthew 28:4 tells us that the guards shook with fear when they beheld the angel. However, the heavenly being had not come to speak to them but to the lowly, mournful women. God's word through this angelic being is first one of calming to those grieving the loss of their Lord, and most poignantly to not be afraid. The scripture is very clear that the angel spoke to the women exclusively, and not to the soldiers. Fear was an appropriate response for the guards and one they should have embraced in a long term manner. They would have been much better off had they seized the moment for its true significance, as we shall see. However, the angel first comforted and then consoled by revealing to Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus that God knew why they were at the tomb. That even in their extreme loss and seeming desperation, they had still sought out the love of their lives though their longing seemed hopeless. They had quite literally thrown off any expectation other than spending time mourning their loss over the broken body of their crucified Lord. But then the miraculous transpired! The angel announced that indeed Christ had risen and that He would meet them in Galilee (Matthew 28:6-7). As stated in the following verse (Matthew 28:8), the women held on to their fear with obvious reverence over what was happening while also the scripture tells us that they had great joy! What a marvelous turn of events as they hurried off to report these things to the disciples!

However, what of the guards? What was their response to being witnesses of the greatest event ever to happen to humankind? While the scripture is not clear, other than they were fearful at the sight of the angel, we can surmise their state of mind and heart by their final decisions regarding their angelic visitation. While Matthew 28:4 is the only verse describing the soldier's reaction at the tomb, their report and responses to the Jewish hierarchy is most telling. Matthew 28:11 tells us that the guards merely reported "all that had happened" to the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council). The events that follow are not surprising in light of the denial of the Pharisee rulers of Jesus' divinity. Instead of seeking and looking for Jesus themselves since they had first-hand information that He had indeed risen, they chose instead to gloss over it and deny this momentous event. They rationalized with their minds the consequences of admitting their wrong in crucifying the Savior of the world, and decided that the best thing to do would be to act like it never happened. Sadly, we read that the guards also joined in the Jew's complicity by taking a bribe and agreeing to say that they had fallen asleep while His body was stolen away in the night (Matthew 28:13-15). Having witnessed an empty tomb and an angelic proclamation, they disavowed their own integrity and sought Him not. They could have just as easily forsaken their post and followed the women to Galilee, but it was not to be. They had reasoned with their minds and allowed their covetous hearts to remain hard rather than allowing God to tenderize their hearts in the moment.

We all know people like the Roman guards. Many of us were once like them. Some of us may yet be. God has more than once encountered such as these in a supernatural, spiritual manner and yet their hearts remain hard to God's patient wooing. Many have dutifully shown up at church, week after week, and have listened to countless sermons on the resurrected power of Jesus and have left unchanged. They, like the soldiers, have not been looking for Jesus with their hearts but have been casual observers while God is in their very midst. All around them, God is saving, healing, encouraging, loving others yet they overlook the divine and the supernatural God because they are so self-absorbed in their own rationalizations. Their minds have allowed them to disseminate and "report" on what they have seen in a carnal manner, telling themselves that God may be moving in others but He can't or won't in their lives. As their minds and intellect report to their own Pharisaical heart, this hardened corrupt beast full of the nature of sin will blaspheme and deny the resurrection power of Jesus Christ every time. The unyielded heart will always be at enmity toward God. It is no wonder the Pharisees and the Roman guards did what they did in Christ time, just as there is little doubt what those will do who don't look for Jesus with all their heart. They are doomed to be casual observers as the soldiers, selling their souls for an opportunity to appease those in power over their lives. Beloved, if you are one of these that only knows Jesus from a far -- if you are one that can "report" on what God has said about Him yet you have not pursued Him, there is still time to change. Don't be like those who sought the approval of men but rather look for Jesus until you find Him. Decide right here and now, that life lived without the fullness and joy that only Jesus Christ can give is a wasted life -- it's nothing more than a sold out life to sin and eternal damnation. For only as we look for Jesus shall we find Him, and only as we search with our whole heart will we encounter the greatest, deepest, fullest relationship known to humankind. Blessed be His Name forever!

Lord Jesus, we all must come to the tomb of despair to look for You as the risen Lord. Let us not come with the evil beast of intellect, but let us come with open, tender hearts. There we will encounter the blessed assurance of Your resurrection. Lord, give us eyes to see as we look toward You and Your mighty saving power. In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Seeing Jesus - March 20, 2016

John 12:20-21 - Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."

Seeing something whereas just hearing about it can totally change one's perspective. Most of us have undoubtedly heard the analogy of attempting to explain the Gospel to someone that doesn't have "ears to hear or eyes to see" -- that it is like trying to describe a sunset to a person that was born blind. Hearing about it is totally inadequate to the visual experience. While we can truly experience sensory delights through our hearing such as a loving voice of a mother or a melodic cantata performed by an accomplished ensemble, the visual experience coupled with the auditory enhances the experience ten-fold.

No other malady in the New Testament drew more derision as did blindness. In John 9:1-3, Jesus' disciples question Him regarding being born without sight. The disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him." Later in this chapter (John 9:34), we find the Pharisees mocking this man who received his sight from Jesus saying, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?" There was a clear understanding from these texts that those born blind were considered as outcasts from the grace of God and excluded from His love. Undoubtedly, that is why John the Apostle dedicated an entire chapter to this important life lesson regarding who was truly blind and who truly could see. Jesus told the Pharisees that were following Him, at the end of this chapter (John 9:41), that ... "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains." However, there is an important distinction to make regarding who truly sees and who doesn't.

In Isaiah 6:1, the prophet had a vision that would forever change his life. "In the year of King Uzziah's death, I [Isaiah] saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple." The first words out of the prophets mouth were not, "Wow, this is incredible, God! I need to go tell that corrupt and rebellious nation Israel what an awesome and glorious God you are because I have truly seen who You are. Maybe I should start a TV ministry or write a book?" No, the first thing that Isaiah dealt with was his own understanding of his utter sinfulness: "Then I said, Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." (Isaiah 6:5) A few verses later, we hear from the prophet again when he volunteers for the prophetic ministry that the Lord God has destined for Isaiah. A true vision of who God is will inevitably change the beholder, for God will never reveal Himself to someone who is not ready for the revelation and for the calling to follow. (Even Jonah, although he at first resisted, heeded the calling after the revelation of who God wanted him to fulfill to the city of Nineveh [see the Book of Jonah]).

Seeing God or Jesus is paramount in order to become truly His in this lifetime. Many will be in heaven who have never truly experienced seeing God as Isaiah did, or as those who walked with Jesus in His lifetime. However, even as the Greeks who desired to see Him (as stated in the opening scripture), we should all desire to see Jesus in this lifetime for that is the thing that will truly change us for the life to come. God is overjoyed when a sinner comes to salvation and embraces the justification that His Son bought for the entire world by His shed blood. Luke 15:7-10 states that there is joy in heaven over one sinner that turns to the Lord and accepts His free gift of salvation. Beloved, there is so much more than merely accepting His wonderful gift and hoping that this takes care of our "fire insurance" premiums! There is so much more than merely escaping hell and waiting for Glory in the "sweet by and by"! The writer of Hebrews tells us to ... "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14) Sanctification or "to be set apart for His purposes" is not implicit of just the life to come, but is available to us all here on earth. There is opportunity for us all, through obedience to His Spirit, to be set apart for His pleasure while we wait for His appearing (whether we die or see Him in the sky!). We should all desire to give ourselves totally to Him in this lifetime, not only to partake of His nature (see the fruits of the spirit, Galatians 5:22,23) but for no other reason than He is worthy of our love and adoration because He gave us everything -- that is, the death of His Son for our redemption. Our utmost desire should be that of those who sought Jesus in ancient Jerusalem, "Lord, we desire to see you!" Only as we truly see Him will our lives be changed and readied for Glory in the "sweet here and now"!

Lord Jesus, we want to see you ... to be changed by You in Your magnificent presence. Even as Isaiah was changed in a moment of revelation, give us the "spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of You". Enlighten the eyes of our hearts that we may truly behold your majesty. Then, send us forth to change the world for which you died. In your glorious Name, Amen!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Hide and Seek - March 13, 2016

Colossians 2:3 - [Christ] in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

It is often painful for new believers to one day experience the seeming absence of the Lord in their lives. Everyday, up to this point had been filled with His closeness and His presence. There had been a rich fellowship between the child of God and their Creator. On that particular day when the Lord seemed to vanish out of their heart and mind, it left the believer gasping for spiritual air. They had been blind-sided by something that had never occurred to them -- that their sweet fellowship would end. The irony of this situation is that God has never been closer to the believer than at this time, and He is desirous to show His child the deeper meaning of the purpose of this seeming isolation.

God never withdraws his presence without reason. Once we have deliberated that it is not sin and that we are walking in obedience to Him, then it is our privilege and honor to seek Him out once again. God will often withdraw in order to see how much we desire Him and how far we will go to seek His presence. God knows that if He leaves us in a state of sublime love and fellowship with Him that we will never grow beyond this depth of love and will most likely begin to take for granted what love we know in Him. He has given each of us the desire, along with the tools, to become "treasure hunters" of the divine order. There is nothing God wants more than when we "feel" isolated from Him but to "dig" for the treasures of His Son. Simple prayers such as in Colossians 1:9 allow us to "mine out" the true riches: "... to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding ...". I challenge all who are reading this and who are feeling isolated from God to pray Colossians 1:9-10 several times daily for a month. I assure you, God will open up a truer understanding of who He is and His divine will for those who seek Him. I cannot promise that you will have greater comprehension of God's wisdom in how He plays a game of hide and seek with us. However, I will say that there will more peace and joy around understanding that it is God's way of dealing with those He loves.

There is not a book in the entire Bible that better illustrates this coming and going, this ebbing and flowing of the bride and the bridegroom's love then the Song of Solomon. Although this book is the story of Solomon and his Shulammite bride, it is clearly the celebration in metaphor of Christ and his bride, the church. This short poetic book of eight chapters embodies the heart of the Lover, the Lord Jesus Christ, as He woos his bride in a series of comings and goings that culminates in a secure and lasting relationship that is enthralled in mutual love. At one point, the bride (the church) becomes complacent when the bridegroom (Christ) is seeking her fellowship (Song of Solomon 5:1-9). She refuses to arise from her bed when he is calling. To her horror, she next finds that her lover has departed and she must then seek him out. In her seeking, she encounters the watchmen (symbolic of the Holy Spirit) who actually buffet her and appear to abuse her. However, when one truly understands the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer, we know that He is the one who disciplines us "as sons" (Hebrews 12:6) and wounds us faithfully as "friends" (Proverbs 27:6); (Job 5:17-18).

As believers, we must never be alarmed if the Lord is hiding His presence from us. As long as we know we are doing His will, then it should be accepted and embraced just as when we are basking in His presence and sensing His fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). The Lord will continually draw us near, for a season, and then retreat where we feel isolated and without His constant presence. Rejoice, when that happens my beloved! It is your Father in heaven, who having carefully selected and called you, has begun the beautification process that will create an eternal bride for His Son. Count yourself worthy that He has first shown His love to you and then has "seemingly" withdrawn it. Know, then, that you are truly blessed of the Lord!

Heavenly Father, we are so thankful that you are making us beautiful in spirit, soul, and body to become Your Son's Holy Bride. We totally surrender to You Lord, as You continue to show Yourself through your presence and more importantly Your "seeming" lack of presence in our lives. For only as you hide and we seek, do we learn the depths of Your Son's greatest treasure -- His love for us! In Jesus Christ's precious name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lasting Impressions - March 6, 2016

Deuteronomy 11:18 - You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.

When something is touched, it is never the same. We may touch hundreds or thousands of things throughout a normal day. The change might be as slight as our fingerprint, or it might be much more profound. When we touch people, either literally or figuratively, we always leave an impression. Whether it is sub-conscious or consciously overt, we are continually changing those around us by our presence, by our words, and by our deeds. When we touch those we encounter with our words, we are either building them up or pulling them down. There is really no neutrality in what we say, for as Solomon states through the Holy Spirit in Proverbs 18:21 "Death and life are in the power of the tongue ...". There really isn't gray area in our speech -- either we are bringing healing or harm to those lives we speak into. Something that may appear neutral in our minds will always be perceived as positive or negative in either the conscious or the sub-conscious of the hearer. To explain it at a spiritual level; if our words are not born of the Spirit of God then they are born of our flesh.

God's words always bring life. Even when we may think that God is harsh and critical it is only our perception as tainted through our own flesh. If he wounds, it is only to ultimately heal. The Greek word "rhema", meaning the spoken word of God is literally a Divine Utterance that is given to provide specific direction to any given situation that an individual or an entire nation might need to hear. When God speaks, people listen, right? The Bible is full of examples including every prophet in the Old Testament that spoke forth the message of God. These are dramatic examples that might give the appearance that God only speaks in demonstrative ways to an "ancient people". In reality, God speaks daily to humans in our contemporary times and with the same clarity that He did to the patriarchs. We just need ears to hear.One example might be when a man or woman learns of their sin and its remedy. In John 16:8, Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit into the world to convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment. When conviction comes to a human life (which in itself is a gift from God), there is a stirring from this first impression that the Lord God through His Holy Spirit has begun to work in this soul. From this time forward, it is a matter of Divine Course that God will continue to impress on a man or woman's soul regarding their sin until there is a decision one way or the other. If the subject initially rejects the prodding of the Lord, He will continue to convict or "convince" this person of their need of Him. (Of course, there does come a time when the Holy Spirit can be "grieved away" from any further confrontation toward a human heart.) For those who surrender to the conviction of the Lord and who agree that they are indeed a sinner in need of salvation, then the Spirit can begin to have His way with this respective soul.

When a mortal accepts the grace of redemption and puts on immortality, the expression of the Divine Life should be manifested by the working of sanctification. To be "set apart for God's purposes" or to be sanctified is not the action or the responsibility of the believer. Sanctification, just like justification is merely something that only the Holy Spirit can perform in the human soul. Just as a person initially surrenders and obeys to His first impressions of sin's conviction, thereby resulting in salvation, so must we continue to surrender daily to the voice of the Lord as He woos us away from our own self-centered lives. The result is a glorious salvation -- our sanctification -- the opportunity to draw closer to Him every day. There is NO other fuel for this daily journey than obedience and surrender. Jesus said that "... if you love Me you will keep My words [commandments]" (John 14:23). Beloved, let us all follow His impressions to first love Him above all things. This manner of abandonment to the Person of the Lord Jesus will ultimately lead to His Divine Life expressed through our lives of obedience.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you speak to us daily. Thank you that you are leading us by Your impressions through the Holy Spirit. Continue to make and break us daily from our own ways and allow your Divine Life to be expressed in ours. In Jesus Christ's Precious Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick