Sunday, September 25, 2016

Radical Obedience - September 25, 2016

Mark 9:7 - Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, " This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!"

Barefoot running is the most radical thing I have ever done in my life on a consistent basis. What started as a "fun" thing to do has turned into something much more. It has become a point of obedience from the Lord. To be honest, I might not be doing what I am doing with BF running if it weren't for the Lord taking over this ministry. The past few years I have been content to just run and not make a big deal out of it. However, He keeps wanting to throw me into situations where I have the opportunity to be obedient to Him. Several years ago, I ran in an event with several thousand people in attendance. As the race wove through neighborhoods, there I was busily handing out flyers and information on the Free Wheelchair Mission. People were surprised and shocked when I would run into their front yards and hand them a piece of literature. To be truthful, I felt somewhat embarrassed both during and after the race for doing so, but I knew that it was a point of obedience for me.

The word "radical" has its origins from the Middle Ages. Derived from the word rādīcālis it literally means "having roots". The implication of "radical obedience" means a type of obedience that is rooted in the very fundamentals of obedience to God's holy commands. For truly as the root IS, so IS the tree. (No where is this stated clearer than John the Baptist's admonition regarding the axe being laid to the root [Matthew 3:10]). In the same way that a tree "having roots" is descriptive of radical obedience, adversely the roots can be just as radical toward toward selfishness and disobedience resulting in the displeasure and judgment of the Father.

Radical obedience does not come without both a price and a reward. The price is most people not understanding what you are up to and judging you accordingly. The reward is a transfiguration only the Lord can cause. This is sanctification, pure and simple. In the Old Testament, prophets were often told to do seemingly absurd things such as walk barefoot and naked (Isaiah 20), wear an oxen yoke around their necks (Jeremiah 27), or marry a harlot knowing that she would be unfaithful (Hosea 1) just to name a few. God is noticeably silent regarding the prophets and their obedience. There is a stark lack of commentary from the Lord regarding their following the Lord's commands. No where in the Old Testament have I found where God says to the prophets "Good job for being obedient and looking like a fool so I could get my point across". Radical obedience seldom has God's demonstrative commentary attached. However, we do find certain other notables in the Old Testament that don't lack God's testimony of favor. These are men that walked with God and gained His favor through obedience that spanned their lifetimes, not necessarily just through a time of prophetic calling. Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6). Moses was the friend of God and the most humble man on earth (Numbers 12:3). David was a man after God's own heart (I Samuel 16:7). These were men who knew the Lord through faith and righteousness through years of walking with Him in radical obedience.

To the degree that we know the Lord through faith and righteousness, will be the degree that we are walking in obedience to His word. Just because we are working out our salvation through obeying His promptings and through His written word, this does not necessarily mean that we are always going to be receiving an "Atta boy or girl" from the Lord. The instances of the audible voice of God commending His Son in the New Testament scriptures are very few. Probably, the greatest commentary to radical obedience was given on the Mount of Transfiguration when God the Father said "This is my beloved Son, listen to Him!" Not only do we hear the Father stating that Jesus was the perfect embodiment of Himself by his proclamation of His love for Him (for He saw no sin in His Son, but a life being lived in purity), but we hear the commandment of the Father to LISTEN TO HIM! This is the Divine Testimony that the Father concurred that Jesus His Son was LIVING a radically obedient life and that ALL should heed what He says. In the Father's summation, it could not be any better or purer!

While we may never hear the audible voice of God, we will surely experience His peace and His still, small voice as we turn toward Him in all instances of our respective lives. Those of us who have served the Lord for a while know how easy it is to grieve His Spirit away and feel absent of His presence. However, when we begin to turn back to the Lord with an attitude of extravagant or radical obedience, then we begin to sense the Lord rejoicing in us and over us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Thank you for your wonderful example of obedience. May we learn the secret of abiding in your love and life that we would truly be pleasing to the Father in all things. In Christ's name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Barefoot Rick

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Perseverance Through Love - September 18, 2016

Romans 5:3-5 - And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Most of us have never experienced what the apostle Paul speaks of in this scripture. God has not put many of us in situations where we are literally suffering for the sake of Christ as the Roman Christians suffered. Even today, most that are able to read this devotional are in countries that allow and actually celebrate freedom of belief and religion. However, there are many who don't have computers let alone electricity who are in violent, Christ-hating regions where their very testimony is an act of extraordinary faith. Nonetheless, God meets us where we are and gives to us the measure that we need in our present circumstances. These in distant countries exult in their tribulations, knowing they bring about proven character. Circumspectly, those of us who do not know or understand true Godly tribulation may still understand with measure what it means to persevere through our day to day trials. God has us all exactly where we are to be at this exact moment. Therefore, we must take every opportunity the Lord gives us to practice the instances of character building the Lord brings our way.

Before knowing the Lord Jesus, I ran away from and quit everything of significance that I ever started in life. I quit high school to join the Navy. I quit the Navy to be out on my own and to go to college. Quitting college after one semester, I quit innumerable jobs and relationships for many years until I came to the end of myself and I just couldn't run away from life anymore. I was physically, mentally, and spiritually bankrupt. Once I re-committed my life to the Lord, I began to understand the importance of finishing what I had started. Enrolling and attending college, I gained more and more confidence as the semesters began piling up with high marks. The perseverance that I learned in college in my late 30s and early 40s were things most learned as youths and teenagers. Nonetheless, those were the days when I "grew up" and started acting like a man. The disciplines that I learned in those first few years of sobriety and re-commitment to the Lord carried over when I took up running once again in 1998. Sure, I had trained and ran a marathon a few years earlier. However, this was different than when I started running 8 years earlier. This was a commitment to a lifestyle -- a "life hobby" as my brother so appropriately called it.

Self-imposed tribulation as I experienced is never the ideal way to learn one's lessons and to "grow up". However, self-imposed discipline is CHOSEN and embraced to develop various physical as well as mental and spiritual attributes. I bore up under the pain through my own failings before Christ, and now I am continually learning how to deal with pain through disciplines that lead to success after success. Rather than look at our tribulations or trials as a catalyst to develop perseverance and ultimately proven character, hope, and love, we too often look at these perceived hindrances as nuisances and bothers. "Well, I'm just a little annoyed today" one might say with disdain and a gloomy countenance. Or, one might conversely say "I have the opportunity to be shaped more like my Lord through this ordeal". Perspective is the key. When running up hills during marathons I love shouting out "Hills are our FRIENDS!" Other runners look at me like I'm nuts (usually those who are walking UP the hill), but some nod in approval. They know that hills really show what a runner is truly made of -- they are to be conquered and not acquiesced to.

Winning attitudes toward life's respective "hills" aren't automatic on our proverbial "race days". Nothing has taught me more about tenacity and perseverance than running on a daily basis -- some days trudging away when no one but myself and God are there to acknowledge it. This simple commitment is a constant reminder to me of the lost soul that I was for so many years -- how doing something consistently reconfirms to me the mercy of the Lord to bring me out of a life of dogged failure and disappointment. My former self-imposed life of tribulation created the willingness in me to do something different which ultimately began molding the "character" I am today. Metaphorically speaking, when we finally get tired of running away from God, we can begin to run toward Him and to embrace the obstacles along the way as those which will save us and not enslave us to hopelessness and despair. This is only possible as we trust in the Lord and rejoice when the hard times come. Most assuredly, they will because He loves us too much to leave us as we are and desires us to be perfected through perseverance in His love.

Your Barefoot Servant,


Sunday, September 11, 2016

It is Well With My Soul - September 11, 2016

Job 1:21b - ... The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.

A few years ago, a friend of mine wrote to me, describing an encounter he had with a man and his family. According to my friend, this man is angry with God because of seemingly unjust calamities that have plagued their household. Last year, they lost their four month old to SIDS, a negligent driver caused an accident that totaled their car, their house burned down and he recently broke his leg as a sub-contractor. He wants to know what else God wants from him. They're presently living in a motel. My friend and his wife listened and gave little advice. He said they felt like Job's friends with little ability to console. I wrote my friend back stating, "Yeah, what do you say to a guy who has gone through all that?". I told him that I would pray for the family, that they would ultimately understand God's love even when it seems that He has forgotten them.

Later in the day I was reflecting on this situation and I started humming and singing "It is Well With My Soul". I first thought, this is a curious thing to be singing this particular song while meditating on the woes of these unfortunate folks. Then, I remembered. It as if God allowed me to sing that song to be transported back to the time when I originally read the circumstances behind the writing of that powerful hymn. The following is from Wikipedia regarding the man behind the lyrics:

It Is Well with My Soul is a very influential hymn penned by hymnist Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss.

This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the S.S. Ville Du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business. While crossing the At­lan­tic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with another ship, and all four of Spafford's daugh­ters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone." Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

Many times misconceptions can form in the minds of those who do not know the Lord. Some churches have fostered the delusion that once a person accepts Christ into their lives, they will have continual prosperity and no harm will befall them. If it does, it is because they have allowed Satan to come and rob them. A simple rebuke of the evil one is all that it should take to get the blessings flowing once again, they would say. This is not the case, in most instances. True, God does give to those who give their lives to Him. However, there can be those times of misunderstanding and confusion when the Lord begins to move contrary to what we consider the "blessed life". Look at Job. The man Job was a righteous soul, yet God had allowed his family and life to be ruined for no apparent reason. Was God making sport of him? Was he creating some "grand game" in the heavenlies so that He could get His chuckles at Job's expense? God forbid! Instead, He was proving to all that Job was a man of character and integrity. In the end, he would be more prosperous and closer to God BECAUSE of the calamities.

So what do you tell someone who does not know God, or if they do, they are so wrapped up in anger that they can't see any purpose in their dire predicaments? Nothing. Unless you have lived through similar heartaches and disappointments, you don't have counsel that will comfort someone when they encounter supreme loss. The best to do is to listen thoughtfully. However, there is an exception. If one understands and feels the heart of the Father for that individual, then yes, words of consolation will be received. These are truly words of life that have been grown in the garden of the Father's heart and are full of compassion and love. Horatio Spafford understood. God gave the man and his wife more children and he went on to create a mission to the poor in Jerusalem because of the heart that the Father gifted him with after his traumatic ordeal. It is all about perception, my friends. We can take on the bitter heart of an isolated soul that is angry for God dealing us a bad hand in life. Conversely, there is an opportunity to take and embrace our losses and watch our Heavenly Father turn them into mighty gains. As the old adage suggests: We all have the opportunity to grow bitter or better. Can you say with the hymnist today ... It is well, with my soul?

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.
It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.

Your Barefoot Servant,


Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Mind of Christ - September 4, 2016

II Samuel 7:1-3 - Now it came about when the king lived in his house, and the LORD had given him rest on every side from all his enemies, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within tent curtains." Nathan said to the king, "Go, do all that is in your mind, for the LORD is with you."

This was no small thing that the Lord God of Israel said through Nathan the prophet to King David. It may seem to the carnal mind that the Lord was giving David a proverbial "blank check" to do whatever he so desired in building a house for the Almighty. However, before one enters into a sanctified life like David lived before the Lord, one must look at the context of II Samuel chapter seven and David's life leading up to this point. Verse one points out, first of all, that the Lord God had given David rest on EVERY SIDE from ALL his enemies. How can such a thing happen? Bottom line: The life of David to this point was a life of obedience that leaned heavily on the understanding of God and that not of himself.

The first book of Samuel is all about David coming to this point of radical obedience. In this book of the Bible, God raises David up from the lowly shepherd who first defeats Goliath, then later to a powerful warrior that leads an army on the cusp of ruling all Israel. Many instances are described where David would seek the Lord to determine if he should go up against a band of Philistines, Arameans, or Midianites. Often the Lord would say, "Go up, for I have given them into your hands." On other occasions, the Lord would speak to David in more specifics. II Samuel 5:23 states: When David inquired of the LORD, He said, "You shall not go directly up; circle around behind them and come at them in front of the balsam trees." David learned through constant conversation with the Most High how to understand Him and to follow Him to the utmost detail. Years and years of constant inquiry for the mind and knowledge of God had given David the "edge" over his enemies. Fortunately, David knew not to equivocate but to obey once he truly heard His voice. Before long, David's mind and the mind of the Lord became one. It is evident when Nathan the prophet prophesies to David that God was on the same proverbial page as the king and that he should do all that was in his mind regarding the house of the Lord.

In the New Testament, Paul writes about understanding being "one" with the mind of God. In I Corinthians chapter 2, the apostle testifies between the differences of the carnal and spiritual man and their respective reliance on either the flesh or God. Paul speaks in verse 14 that the revelations the Lord would speak to the mind and heart of a man are foolishness in the eyes of the world. In verse 15, he speaks regarding spiritual appraisal of the things spoken by the Lord and how only a spiritual or sanctified person can hear this wisdom. In verse 16, he goes on to quote Isaiah 40:13 stating: For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? The rhetorical question does not require an answer. However, Paul does say something rather astounding in the closing remark of the verse: But we have the mind of Christ. Glory to God! Paul has just told us that we too can have the same intimate relationship with the thoughts of God that King David shared with the Almighty. He is saying that if we are in Christ and are walking in His Spirit and are being sanctified through obedience, then we too can know the mind of God and hear the voice of the Lord saying to us, "Do all that is in your mind, for I am with you."

Without a doubt, there will be times when those of us who believe in Jesus Christ will "feel" like we are not hearing the voice of the Lord. If we are giving our lives to Him daily and are walking in obedience, His voice will be heard once again in our minds and hearts. The assurance is ours through the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. Truly, He said that if we have accepted Him then we are seated with Him in heavenly places and that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing, including the mind of Christ (Ephesians 1:3. Just keep on believing, knowing that He desires us to persevere through times when we don't "feel" like we are hearing Him, and simply believe and take steps in our obedience to Him. In due time, the veil will be lifted and we will hear once again with clarity to do all that is within our mind and heart because we are walking in the Spirit with Him.

Your Barefoot Servant,