Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Miracle of the Mundane - June 26, 2016

Matthew 13:58 - And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

Reading the Gospels, it is relatively easy to chide the disciples when they seem to have a lapse of faith that Jesus Christ could deliver on His miracles. It always baffled me to read Mark chapter 6 and the feeding of the five-thousand, and then later to read of the disciples lack of faith in Mark chapter 8 in feeding the four-thousand. I mean, after all, hadn't they learned anything by the feeding of the five-thousand? Or, was something otherwise happening that we have overlooked? The same can be said for Lazurus' resurrection from the dead in John the 11th chapter. Martha and Mary seemed unbelieving that Jesus could be speaking of bringing back their brother from the dead. Surely they had heard of Jairus' daughter whom He had raised from the dead, or the widow's son from Nain when he touched the coffin and the boy was given back to his mother alive. Did they have a lapse of memory? Or had they simply become too familiar with the Lord as their friend the healer and had forgotten that he was also the raiser of the dead? As we shall see, what is not said within the scriptures can often times be as powerful as what is.

To read the Gospels, one would think that it was a non-stop road show of signs and wonders -- that the disciples were constantly being brought into an awareness of Jesus' mighty power as He performed miracle after miracle. If that was the case, I believe we would have much different reactions from the disciples rather than disbelief such as Jesus' ability to feed the hungry or raise the dead. Just as important as the days of miracles were the days of the mundane. As I stated, I believe it is just as important what the Gospel writers don't tell us as to what they do. The scripture never mentions the lives of Peter, Andrew, James, and John when they toiled away in their mundane lives as fisherman. Even after they were called by the Lord, there is no mention of the days when it was just hour after hour of walking from city to city. And then, how about the times when the power for Jesus to heal was not readily present? You might say, "Well, Jesus would always heal if there were someone in need!" Don't be so sure. The scripture in Luke 5:17 states that the "the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing." This statement validates what is also not said which is that there were obviously times when the power of the Lord was NOT present to perform healing. My hunch is that it was more often than we are sometimes led to believe by the rapid pace of the Gospel's narratives.

While we may look with disbelief at the disciples unbelief, it is important to realize the juxtaposition of His miracles with the days of the mundane. The days are not mentioned when the disciples told Jesus to send the crowds away to buy food for themselves in the local environs. How else would they have had the the "chutzpah" (guts) to tell Jesus in Mark 6:36 to send the crowds away to buy themselves food? Obviously they had seen the scenario play out time after time where Jesus did not feed them. These were the days of the mundane -- hearing the parables and the teachings of Jesus and then just going their own way. Of utmost importance is that Jesus will not be put into that proverbial box of expected action. He is not a genie or a Santa Claus that can be expected to move and react to the masses whims. He is God Almighty and He operates both out of love and compassion but also out of faith of those around Him as He sees best in His infinite wisdom to move.

It is quite easy and presumptuous of us to believe that God will act on our behalf with miraculous rapidity if we will but only ask. Those of us who have been "sensualized" by the world look for the instant gratification of "non-stop" miraculous Christianity. Many of us who have been delivered from drugs or alcohol had been so conditioned by the instant relief and euphoria they offered. Once free, we had to learn how to go through life without needing the daily intoxication of what these substances could give us. In the same way, God does not want us to take His Son for granted, but to walk with Him whether our love for Him feels mundane or exhilarating. In the midst of Martha and Mary's friendship with Jesus, they forgot that not only was He their friend and healer but that He was also the One who raised the dead. Are we limiting God by not seeing Him as He truly is in the mundane days? Has He become merely a friend that is somewhat boring and "everyday" and we have been surprised when the miracle happens? The Lord wants us all to wait expectantly for Him. For only as we rejoice in the miracle of the mundane, then truly we will not be surprised when the signs and wonders in our respective lives appear.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fathering On Purpose - June 19, 2016

Colossians 3:21 - Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.

Anyone who has been to Israel to see the holy places has certainly visited Jerusalem. On our trip to the Holy Land in 2011, my wife and I spent a week in in an apartment in Jerusalem, very close to the King David Hotel. Down King David Street where it intersects with Hebron Road was a prayer room named Succat Hallel (Hebrew for Tabernacle of Praise). Since then, it has moved to Ein Rogel Street, but it is still a 24/7 prayer ministry dedicated to raising up prayer intercessors for the restoration of Jerusalem and the salvation of Israel. During my morning run, I would stop and sit in the prayer room as the musicians ministered to the Lord. Through the east-facing windows the walls of Jerusalem would be drenched in the early morning sun. However, the valley between the prayer room and the enormous walls would also be awash in the morning light. This is the valley of Ben-hinnom, or Hinnom as mentioned in the Old Testament---the sight of unspeakable atrocities to children. For whenever Israel backslid into their apostasies, the worship of idols such as Baal, Ashtoreth, and Moloch came to the forefront in Israel's culture. They rejected Yahweh, the Lord God Almighty and made their children "pass through the fire" in the valley of Hinnom. While this began in the days of Solomon, it grew more in acceptability during the time of one Solomon's descendants, King Manasseh.

In II Chronicles chapter 33, we are introduced to Manasseh, son of good King Hezekiah. As good as Hezekiah's reign, his son sought to be diametrically wicked. Among Manasseh's most detestable sins was his worship of Moloch. We read the following where he sacrificed his offspring in the fires of Hinnom, with no apparent pity toward his own: "He made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom; and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger." (II Chronicles 33:6) Through all his wickedness, he never sought the Lord. At least not until he was taken by hooks into captivity by the king of Assyria. (In the Jewish Talmud, one can read a story how the king placed Manasseh in a copper barrel and began roasting him!) We know from scripture that Manasseh cried out to the Lord and was delivered. In II Chronicles 33:12-13 we read: "When he was in distress, he entreated the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God." The verses following these tell about Manasseh's "revival" and how he sought to do right the remaining years of his life.

Both in the prayer room those days we stayed in Jerusalem and on subsequent trips to Israel, I have meditated on Manasseh and others like him in scripture who sacrificed their children in the fires of Hinnom. It seems inconceivable to us in our modern world to do such things to our own prodigy. However, how many of us who are fathers or who father children have sacrificed our children in more subtle ways? In sundry fashion, I failed my children when they were growing up, being often more concerned about my sobriety and staying sober rather than getting them to church and raising them among other believers. Today, they are products of this subtle abuse. If they do know the Lord, they are far from Him as they walk in a way which seems best to them. My neglect of keeping them centered on the things of God has led to their present-day apostasy. However, like Manasseh, we who have failed our children in the past can only look toward the future. While many of us have inadvertently offered our children up to Moloch by our lack of care and concern in their regard, we can now only look to the future concerning their redemption. The Lord spoke to Jeremiah the prophet an important lesson for all of us as fathers to consider: "The LORD said, 'Surely I will set you free for purposes of good ...'" (Jeremiah 15:11). While Jeremiah was set free from a literal prison, how many of us were set free from a spiritual prison? In both instances, the Lord tells us we can no longer serve ourselves, but we must serve "purposes of good." For those of us who are fathers, this means giving ourselves to prayer for our beloved children. And, when possible, devoting the necessary time to them in order to show them they are important. Just as God desires our time, so do our loved ones. It is the one thing, if done consistently, which will show them our love.

I will never forget the emotions I felt the first time I looked over the valley of Ben-hinnom in Jerusalem. I still carry that emotion as I pray for my children, desiring their full redemption to God. However long it takes, it matters not. I am devoted to "pray them through" until they come into a full understanding of God's incredible love for them. Sacrifices to Moloch have not occurred outside of Jerusalem for millennia. However, unless we as fathers commit to the redemption and restoration of our children, we continue to sacrifice their spirits to this evil demon. May we cry out, day and night, for our children's redemption. Only then, will we be fathering on purpose and seeking good for those whom we love most.

Heavenly Father, teach us as fathers to love as You do. Cause us to father on purpose and commit to seeing our children on fire for You and not on fire for another god through our neglect. May You give us wisdom how to pray and act in this regard. Thank You for Your love for both us and our offspring. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Deliverance - June 12, 2016

Matthew 8:29 - And they cried out, saying, " What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?"

Back in 2008 our family was on "holiday" to London, One day, Rebecca and I were returning to our apartment via the "Tube" (the London Underground Subway). She found a seat and I sat diagonally across from her as we carried on a conversation. Seated diagonally to my left and facing me, there was a young man that I didn't give much notice to -- at first. As my wife and I continued chatting, the bizarre behavior of the young man became more and more apparent. I turned to look at him at one point and he started cursing at me, telling me "Yank, go home!!" I cut off my conversation with Rebecca and turned back in my seat to try to find out what was troubling this soul. I started out by telling him that Jesus Christ could and would help him, if he would but trust in Him. He swore at me some more and started kicking the empty seat next to me, the one he was facing. He was obviously very agitated at the name of Jesus and my promise that I would pray for him. He kept kicking the seat saying, "You have a devil" and "You're a devil". This went on for a bit longer as I continued to tell him that Jesus loved him. He finally ended up getting off at a stop as we continued on to our destination.

In today's world, it is not a popular notion to believe in demons and the Devil. People with anti-social behavior in our modern world are generally diagnosed as sociopaths, to a lower or higher degree of sickness. Those with more apparent madness or insanity are generally diagnosed as schizophrenic or even psychopathic. I do not profess to be a doctor, however I do know behavior that I have witnessed at various times fitting in one or two categories -- mental illness or spiritual sickness. With the former, there are the aforementioned labels. With spiritual sickness, there is the implication that a deeper, more sinister force is at work -- a force that will affect some people's lives in moderate ways while with other it seems as if they are truly "possessed" by another dark personality. For some, it is truly unnerving to believe that there are random spirits of devilish design that seek to control and ultimately destroy their apparent victims. It is much more comfortable in our educated society to believe that such wild, erratic and dark behavior is merely a physiological or psychological malfunction that can be treated by medication, therapy, and rehabilitation. The stark fact is, however, that we know very little about mental illness even with our broad medical knowledge. Yet, Jesus knew exactly the cause and the remedy when He encountered these sort of persons. Probably the most famous scripture regarding Jesus' dealing with the demon-possessed is in Luke 8:26-39. The man was possessed with "Legion", a name spoken by the demons because they were many. Interestingly, they begged Jesus not to send them back to the abyss (or Hades as some translations infer), but to send them into the nearby herd of swine. Jesus does what they ask and the pigs perish, but the man is totally delivered -- a true demonstration of the power of God!

The church has struggled through apparent times of powerlessness the past two-thousand years. Throughout the centuries, Holy Ghost power has ebbed and flowed as societies have either needed it and cried out for it or they have discounted it, turning to the world for its answers. Today, God has moved in powerful ways to set the oppressed free on the Asian, African, and South American continents. He has moved powerfully because there is no equivocation or argument that people are "demonically possessed" and are in need of deliverance. These cultures believe it, and are thereby seeing more people set free from their afflictions than so-called western societies. Are these mislead and superstitious? Should they be relying on western medicines and therapies or practicing what God has said in Mark 16:17?: These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, ... . Remember, Jesus is either who He said He was or He is a liar. Either we believe all that He says to us through His scripture or we discount it all. There is no picking and choosing.

Personally, I believe I came up short in my London encounter. I would have desired to be able to look that young man in the eye and to rebuke the demons out of his life in the name of Jesus, for I truly believe that the man was demon oppressed. Sadly, I am a believer that lacks belief on many days of my Christian walk. My future hope for myself and others is that God would begin to raise up those who would not equivocate with evil when confronted by it, but to stand against it with the power of Jesus Christ. It is good and fine to tell a demoniac about the love of Jesus Christ. It is a far better thing to be able to GIVE them the love of Jesus by breaking the bonds over their heart and life. My friends, are you as struck by your lack of power in the face of evil as I was on that day? Have you poured out your heart to your Savior and asked Him not to leave you any longer as an orphan that's bereft of His life-changing unction toward others? Until we do, it will be status quo. We can rationalize the demonically oppressed as those merely needing mental health and therapy. Jesus was clear and unapologetic about those needing liberation from their devilish oppressors. When we open our eyes and believe that there truly is evil that seeks to bind every human life and separate them from the love of God, then we can draw upon the Grace of the Lord in prayer to become the men and women of God that He desires.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Temple Building, Part II - June 5, 2016

I Chronicles 29:1 - Then King David said to the entire assembly, "My son Solomon, whom alone God has chosen, is still young and inexperienced and the work is great; for the temple is not for man, but for the LORD God."


David knew through years of acquired wisdom that building the temple would not be an easy task. Not only would it be a monumental job, but it would take a resoluteness and determination of vision that could only come by divine impartation. Most of all, he recognized the liability of youthfulness and inexperience in his son. David realized that failure was a possibility if Solomon did not have a heart of wisdom to finish the work at hand for the Lord's sake! David knew that it would be much easier to compromise the building of the temple and make it according to man's designs. However, the old king also knew that it was in the heart of God to build the temple according to the Lord Jehovah's desire. None of his father's speech and desires were lost on Solomon, for we find that he indeed sought the Lord in humility for the spirit of wisdom to lead him during his early reign (see Solomon's prayer in II Chronicles 1:8-13).

Those of us who know the Lord have a similar task at hand. We have all embarked on a similar mission of temple-building and yet, if we are honest, we are not quite certain what this temple of the Holy Ghost should look like. Many of us have been conditioned by years of teaching that a "holy" person will resemble something like this -- someone who reads their bible daily, someone that prays, someone that tithes, or someone who does lots of service work. These all can truly be aspects of someone that has allowed the Holy Spirit a place of residence in their heart, but it begs the question: Has the Holy Spirit been the "general contractor" of His dwelling place within, or have sub-contractors compromised the construction by pride and ineptitude? I hear so much chatter these days about being "spirit-filled" or "spirit-led" yet I see believer's lives devoid of the beauty of the Lord from within. There is a lack of the resplendent grandeur of the Lord's temple that shines forth in the soul of a sanctified believer that makes all their works truly faith-inspired. Instead, way too often, there is the soul-weary expression on a pilgrim's face that tells me they are "trudging along for Jesus", yet they are very much doing so in their own power. There is nothing captivating or beautiful in these type of "religious" expressions. They rather smack of self-indulgence and self-knowledge which are ultimately works of the flesh.

The apostle Paul knew and understood David's sentiments when he spoke to the Corinthians. In I Corinthians 6:19, Paul asks the church of Corinth a simplistic question that they should have realized if they were truly Christ's: ... do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? To understand that we are not our own, as Paul knew, comes from a deep sense of who we were and who we now ARE in Christ. Even as Solomon understood that he was just a mere child trying to lead the people of Israel, he knew that without God's understanding and wisdom that he would be a failure. Not only would he fail at building the temple according to the will of God, but he would fail in his commission to the kingdom of Israel. His humility and sense of his "human-ness" gave Solomon the needed understanding to fulfill all that the Lord desired. Even so with us. We must get out of the way and let Him have His way in our lives, or we will be plagued by constant disappointment and general dissatisfaction regarding what He is doing in our respective "building projects". We must understand that only as He is given full reign to do and to build as He desires, only then will we have true peace and success in this lifetime. We are not our own -- how much less everything we attempt to do for the Lord unless it is first rooted and grounded in Him? There will be no true sanctification until this happens -- only a shadow or a passing vapor of the real thing. In reality, there will be no true substance in the heart of the believer until He is given full building rights within our hearts.

I have personally visited many beautiful religious edifices in this country and also in western and eastern Europe. The cathedrals, mosques, and synagogues all have one thing in common -- they are grand expressions of man's desire to create a connecting point of beauty between earth and heaven. They desire to reconcile man's heart with the heart of God in a spacious environment allowing a close encounter of the divine kind. Often, man has sought to substitute these grand meeting places with the meeting place of the heart where God truly desires to dwell. This is not to say that one cannot experience God in one of these grand structures, but it is a pity if that is the basis of meeting Him. He desires a relationship to meet us long before we come together to meet him in a grand setting. Only as we truly give ourselves to Him, will he take ownership of the temple within and will then build to suit His desires. Only then will the true temple of the Lord be a place where He lives, He works, and He manifests Himself in all His glory through the beauty of His temple. Only when we know we are not our own and that He is the true owner, can an eternal building rise up within us. May God be glorified as the Master Builder within us all!

Lord, you are the owner of the land of our hearts. You own the building materials and all that goes in to building Your temple within. We give you full access to build as You see fit. We give you the keys to our temple and hereby give you total rights to come and go forth through us as You will. Use these temples, Lord. Sanctify them for Your glory. In Jesus Name.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick