Sunday, August 28, 2016

The King's Kindness - August 28, 2016

II Samuel 9:1-8 - Then David said, "Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, (that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David; and the king said to him, "Are you (Ziba?" And he said, "I am your servant." The king said, "Is there not yet anyone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?" And Ziba said to the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan who is crippled in both feet." So the king said to him, "Where is he?" And Ziba said to the king, "Behold, he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar." Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar. Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, "Mephibosheth." And he said, "Here is your servant!" David said to him, "Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly." Again he prostrated himself and said, "What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?"

The story of Mephibosheth (pronounced Mah-fib-o-sheth) is a remarkable one. We are introduced to this son of Jonathan, grandson of Saul in II Samuel 4:4:

Now Jonathan, Saul's son, had a son crippled in his feet He was five years old when the report of Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled. And it happened that in her hurry to flee, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.

This is the first mention, but as we read in the opening scripture, it is not the last. We can only assume that Mephibosheth probably led a life of privilege as the king's grandson until that fateful day. The lad was too young to realize the implications that were transpiring all around him. At five years old, it would be hard to grasp the idea that your father and grandfather were both dead, and the kingdom that you would one day rule was being given to another. One might conjecture that his father, Jonathan, had more than once told his young son of his valiant friend, David. However, on this day, a two-edged sword of fear undoubtedly struck the servants of Saul's household. One, that the Philistines might overrun the house of Saul and murder everybody within, or two, that David might do the same since it was evident that God was giving him the kingdom. As this fear seized Saul's servants, the nurse ran with the lad and he fell thereby causing the accident which made him a cripple for life.

Several years later, we find David inquiring whether anyone is left of his friend Jonathan's household, that he might show mercy toward? Most likely, when Mephibosheth was notified that King David wanted to see him he thought, "Now, he is going to kill me and be done with the house of Saul!" It was undoubtedly a tense and worrisome journey to Jerusalem to appear before the King. When Mephibosheth is brought in to David's presence, David immediately puts the young man at ease by telling him to fear not, that he desires to show him kindness for the sake of his father Jonathan. Then, Mephibosheth says something remarkable: What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me? David goes on to comfort the young man and to restore to him the fortunes of his family, and to give him a seat at the king's table for the rest of his life.

This is a wonderful metaphor regarding the life of a sinner in the hands of a merciful God. In truth, Adam was our "nurse" that caused our "falling" into sin. Every man, woman, and child is a cripple without Jesus Christ, whether they know it or not. Many continue throughout life until death not knowing or caring that they are crippled by sin. They have no understanding that their heritage began long ago as sons and daughters of the Most High, but because of Original Sin and its consequences, they have been reduced to crippled paupers. I started this writing by stating this is a remarkable story. It is remarkable in that Mephibosheth is an archetype of those of us who have come to the end of ourselves -- who see that we are spiritually and morally bankrupt and are cripples that have no ability to walk in newness of life by our own accord. King David, the archetypal Christ, is portrayed as the one who extends mercy to one that has acknowledged their own unworthiness to receive anything of goodness from the hand of the King. Jesus Christ is the one who extends the scepter of life to us, as David did to Mephibosheth, restoring us to our rightful place as heirs of the Most High God.

It is quite easy to take for granted what the Lord Jesus did for us on the cross, transforming our lame spiritual legs with the ability to walk in newness of life. I have often meditated on this fact while out on one of runs. That God has given me the ability to run and enjoy the gift of my legs to carry me about is a wonderful thing. I have often related it to the wonderful gift of salvation how both are not to be taken for granted. Then, I think about the tens of millions throughout the world that are crippled and in need of a means of mobility other than dragging themselves through daily life. Just possibly, if they can experience the kindness and generosity of others through organizations like The Free Wheelchair Mission, then maybe they will see Jesus Christ in those who have made it possible for them to experience mobility for the first time in their lives. We too, like King David, have the ability to extend the "scepter of life" to the crippled throughout the world. It just takes caring enough to say, "Yes, I want to change someone's life forever by giving what I can to restore a life and to show the Living God through a simple act of kindness like giving."

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Restful Return - August 21, 2016

Psalm 116:7 - Return to your rest, O my soul, For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.

Occasionally, when out running I will step on something in just the right way and in just the right place that it sends a pang of pain through my entire body. Yes, even barefoot runners such as myself that have ran thousands of miles barefoot will still experience stepping on something from time to time that is ... well, unpleasant and painful. When I was just starting out in my barefoot running pilgrimage, it was of greater consequence stepping on a sharp rock because I dwelt on the pain longer and then tightened up with fear that I would land on another. Of course, when one is tense then the journey becomes more about getting it over with rather than enjoying the run. Bottom line: One cannot successfully run barefoot by tensing up every time one steps on something unpleasant. The outcome would result in being tied up like a bundle of nerves and tensed up beyond the point of relaxation, which after all, is what barefoot running should be about.

Oh what a joy to run carefree, when one does experience something unpleasant to forget about it as quick as it happens! This becomes easier and easier the longer I run barefoot. The same can be said regarding a maturing Christian and how he or she reacts to what life may throw their way. Even as I quiet the "sole" of my foot after a stone bruise by reminding myself to relax, in the same way we as believers should remind ourselves to constantly "Return to your rest, O my soul". Even if our body cries out in pain after stepping on something uncomfortable, it is natural to experience the pain but not to have to dwell on it. The key is to minimize the discomfort by dwelling on "the joy set before me" of running carefree. In the same way, God allows us to return to our place of rest, or our "center" which will always be the resting place of the Most High. Whether we call it resting in the Everlasting Arms, or being sheltered under the Wings of His Love, these are images of resting places that truly allow us to return to our center, the place of greatest attraction for the believer.

Let me explain further about the place of greatest attraction. The place of greatest attraction for anything on earth is the center of the earth. For, if you drop something it will always fall or be attracted to the earth's center by the law of gravity. In the same way, a believer is enveloped with the Love of Christ which enables them to return to the "center" of our spiritual existence, which is Christ is us, the hope of glory. We will always fall toward our "holy center" if we don't allow anything to impede us. Just as an outside force may interrupt the law of gravity by grabbing an object before it falls to earth, so we must be diligent not to allow an impedance to interrupt our return to our spiritual rest in the Beloved.

Jeanne Marie Bouvier de la Motte Guyon (or Madame Guyon for short) understood the importance of re-centering ones self in respect to her Maker. This 17th century Christian wrote the following in her book "A Short and Easy Method of Prayer".

As soon as anything is turned towards its centre, it is precipitated towards it with extreme rapidity, unless it be withheld by some invincible obstacle. A stone held in the hand is no sooner disengaged than by its own weight it falls to the earth as to its centre; so also water and fire, when unobstructed, flow incessantly towards their centre. Now, when the soul by its efforts to recollect itself, is brought into the influence of the central tendency, it falls gradually, without any other force than the weight of love, into its proper centre; and the more passive and tranquil it remains, and the freer from self-motion, the more rapidly it advances, because the energy of the central attractive virtue is unobstructed, and has full liberty for action.

Madame Guyon later acknowledges that distractions will come and go and that these are part of life. The difference is how we react to them. The quicker we can return to that place of rest and instinctively "fall" towards our center, the more we can enjoy that constant fellowship of the Divine Life that dwells within the spiritual core of each believer that has confessed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. As I stated, the imagery is individual whether one visualizes themselves falling into the arms of Jesus, or whether one sees themselves resting in the Mighty Wings of the Most High. The most important thing is to understand that we have that place of refuge that we can "fall" to when the struggles of life come upon us. Even as this barefoot runner must remind his "soles" to return to their rest after an unpleasant experience, so we MUST practice returning to our "center" and that glorious place of rest that He has promised to all who would but believe.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Don't Hesitate - August 14, 2016

1 Kings 18:21 - Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." But the people did not answer him a word.

For whatever reason, those who begin running barefoot will often try to subsidize their running with shoes. I did this for a brief time when I first started barefoot running, but in time I realized that shoes or sandals or whatever I chose to run in besides my bare feet would only keep my feet from evolving and changing to adapt to constant barefoot running. Many might hesitate, not being sure of the outcome if they would totally give themselves to this "new" way of running. In other words, they have no clear idea or vision of the outcome. To hesitate often times means one is unsure and lacks true understanding of the end result. Sometimes, hesitation can be good in that it allows us to think clearly through a situation before blundering in to a bad decision. Often however, it is a character flaw that can be powered by fear of the unknown.

Hesitation is usually the direct result of a lack of vision, or if you like, the inability to see things beyond the present to their eventual conclusion. This is an accurate appraisal of the children of Israel as they stood before the prophet Elijah. They had lost the vision of who God truly was in their lives. They had a clouded understanding of who it was that had delivered their nation from calamity time and time again. In the same regard, If we truly understand who and what the Lord Jesus Christ is and how He sacrificed all so that we could have all, then we would either fall on our faces and worship Him for His great gift, or we would turn away and deliberately choose to live our own way. Even as in 900 B.C. Israel, it is true for us today -- we have the choice to worship the Almighty or any number of "Baals" or idols in our own lives. How does one get to this "clouded" perspective of who the true God is and what He has done and continues to do for us? The problem with most Christians is that we have never had a true vision of the Lord Jesus.. We accept the Lord into our hearts and thank God for the gift of salvation and then continue living our lives the way we see fit. We don't understand, as in the case of the woman who came to Jesus with the alabaster vial of perfume, how one could "waste" themselves on the Lord (Luke 7:37-47). Many would find it inconceivable to give up an hour of their day to read the Word of God, let alone an hour kneeling before the Lord in prayer, listening intently for His voice and His direction. No, these things are foreign to most believers because they have been wooed by the world and the many distractions that would seek to suck up their time.

When I came back to Christ in 1992 and put the "plug in the jug", I had exhausted myself between the opinion of the world and the opinion of God. I was beat to a pulp, knowing then that my running from God was futile and that I either needed to die to God and continue on my destructive course, or die to sin and destroy it once and for all in my life. It took years of backsliding to figure out that my life was rudderless and on a course of ultimate destruction. Until I had that vision of who I was, who the Lord is, and the life He desired me to live, then I was lost in my own interpretation of what I believed to be right. Once the epiphany came -- that truly I was a man that was undone and without hope outside of Jesus Christ then I realized that no longer could I halt or hesitate in my devotion to the One who saved my soul.

Today, it would be an act of betrayal and treason to the Most High to allow the world with all its seductions to woo me into a place of compromise. Double-mindedness, as created by a love for the world apart from Jesus Christ, causes a steady flow of distractions to eventually consume the worldly-minded believer. Believers that have watered down their faith with inordinate "loves" become paralyzed with indecision because their "decider" has been muffled or totally busted from misuse and neglect. It is once again time to get before the Lord and confess ...

My God, I have strayed and my resolve is unresolved because I have compromised my affections with the world. I have hesitated between worshipping You and the "idols" that distract and that I do so dearly love. But now, O Lord, I confess before you that my life is nothing without You. Therefore, take my life once again and fix my "decider" -- let me once again be strong in the Will of the Lord to fight the good fight of my Savior, Jesus Christ. In His Mighty Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Narrow Path - August 7, 2016

Matthew 7:13-14 - Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

There is nothing like a heavily painted center stripe on a road that is somewhat rough to a barefoot runner. Paint has the tendency to fill in the pits and pocks of an abused road surface. Barefoot runners will normally gravitate towards these type surfaces because of their predictable smoothness and also because of their white or yellow opaqueness which allows one to spot rocks, glass, or any other foreign object with great ease.

Ah, that life would afford us the ease of a heavily painted line that is clearly marked, giving direction for all to follow! Of course, there is such a way yet most don't heed the written Word of the Lord. Most look at the scriptures as archaic, symbolic writings that have little meaning for the present day, but of course nothing could be further from the truth. I can deduce that "most" can or will not find the way because Jesus said that "few" find the true path to eternal life. This week's verse is a cold, stark reality that there is a way that all men should follow, yet only the minority will find it. Proverbs tells us that there there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is destruction (Proverbs 14:12). All of the world's intellect and so-called wisdom will lead a person to hell as decisively as open defiance to the Almighty. I say that the former is a greater treason to the Most High because those who rely on the wisdom or the Sophism of this world have sought to define salvation other than by the blood that Jesus Christ shed on Calvary's Cross for you and me. At least with outright rebellion and defiance to the Lord, one has delineated a clear position with respect to the free gift of salvation. The other is being an accomplice of the slapping and spitting toward our Savior and the public mockery of stating through our actions that his crucifixion was not necessary. Those who would argue that there are many "roads of salvation" would defy everything the scripture says about the Lord. Jesus stated in John 8:24 that unless a person believes He is the Messiah, they will die in their sins. There is truly no other way under heaven and on earth to be saved from the wrath to come.

Christians are often defined as "narrow-minded" individuals that don't have the wherewithal to think for themselves. In the eyes of the sophists of this world, these Neanderthal, knuckle-dragging simpletons don't have the ability to think logically and rationally. The Lord gave a resounding declaration of these so called simpletons in the Sermon on the Mount or what I like to call His "State of the Kingdom on Earth" address. The Lord said more in the first few verses of the Beatitudes than in all the so-called collective wisdom of the world. In verses 11 and 12 of Matthew chapter 5, the Lord validates those who are truly traveling the "narrow way" for His name's sake: "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; ... ." Jesus qualifies in these two verses the "narrow mindedness" of the scripture that infuriate those around us if we are truly living and speaking the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Friends, let me ask this poignant question. When was the last time you were insulted, or cussed at, or slandered for the name of Christ? I will further challenge us with this: If we are not taking up our cross daily, and taking verbal abuse, or slander, or whispering behind our backs, or outright persecution then we have fallen short of the glory of God. We cannot be passive in this "passion play" that the Lord desires all of us to be players. We shall either be those who publicly hold Jesus up for shame by our mockery of not taking the narrow path that He has shown, or we will bear the marks of Jesus scorn. True discipleship will always be walking in His footsteps. Are we all ready, this day, to pick up our crosses and follow Him up that narrow way to Life Everlasting? May all who have ears to hear the voice of our Lord, hear and follow.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick