Sunday, October 30, 2016

Eternal Growth - October 30, 2016


Psalm 89:2 - For I have said, "Loving-kindness will be built up forever; In the heavens You will establish Your faithfulness."

The longer I run barefoot, the more I learn about my form and ability. It would be foolish to believe that I will not continue to improve if I keep at it (as I do) on a daily basis. However, it only makes sense that if I don't practice, that I will eventually lose what has been given to me regarding this knowledge. As I relate this to other parts of my life, I know that the Lord Jesus wants me to continue to grow and mature in all areas of my Christian walk with Him. Furthermore, I believe that He wants me to continue to grow even after this temporal life.

The implications of the scripture selection for this week are astounding and incomprehensible to the human mind. To understand God in the finite way that we know Him is to understand (at least conceptually) that He is eternal and without limitations. Even as we grow in skills, abilities and more importantly love and affection upon this earth, why would it be such a stretch to believe that we will continue to grow in eternity? Even as God is eternal and unfathomable, the aforementioned verse implies that there will be a continual building of God's nature and character in all of us. God is Love, as I John 4:8 tells us. How wonderful to know that God's love and mercy is eternal and without limit! How exciting to know that we will be continually growing in His wonderful presence in the Lord's fruits as stated in Galatians 5:22-23 -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. The wonderful thing about the second part of the scripture implies that God will be faithful to establish this eternal happening in Glory.

I find it interesting in the Old Testament that God told Moses to identify the cherubim that covered the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant. Respectively, they were named Mercy (or Loving-kindness) and Justice. The scripture reference in Psalm 89 states that there will not be a need for a continual building of justice in eternity. Once humankind is judged either at the Judgment Seat of Christ (for believers) or the Great White Throne judgment (for unbelievers) then justice will be complete. However, for God's elect there awaits a continual growth of His nature toward us who believe.

Mind you, it won't mean that we will not be perfect and without blemish when we enter His presence on that glorious day. However, it does mean that our affections toward Him and others will continue to grow, even in eternity. Let me use an onion as example. When one peels away the first layer, we understand that this is a part of the onion. The character or the nature of the onion will never change. It will always be an onion. It will never be anything less or more. However, consider that we are God's "eternal onions" with layer upon layer of perfection and beauty just waiting for proverbial "peeling back". Glory Hallelujah! The very thought of it should excite any believer, knowing that eternity will be a continual growing experience into more of the presence and character of the Lord.

Just as on this earth, we will continue to improve and grow in our respective natures -- whether they be good or evil. My friends, there will not be a "graduation" of sorts that we have finally arrived in heaven someday and that nothing will change for eternity. No, it won't be a time when we will be blissfully sitting on clouds strumming harps in a state of eternal perfection. It will be glorious opportunity to continue to grow in the Lord and to serve Him and others even as we do on earth. Remember the line in the Lord's Prayer? Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. The implication is the Lord wants dynamic change on earth to mirror what is happening in heaven. Life on earth, my friends, is merely a dress-rehearsal for the continued, eternal growth that our heavenly home will afford to those who believe.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Word Brings Life - October 23, 2016

1 Peter 1:23 - For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

It's always refreshing to see someone "get it". This is definitely true with barefoot running as one begins to reap the benefits of learning ball/heel, or if you like mid-foot strike technique. The minimal impact incurred running barefoot versus running with shoes is remarkable in most new convert's minds as they begin their barefoot running journey. Or, for those of you who are not runners, when you understand why someone like myself or others would run barefoot in the first place. Of course, most readers know that in my case, necessity (bad knees) became the mother of invention. For the uninformed, it is quite easy for someone to shout from a car window "Hey, get some shoes on ..." not understanding the method behind the seeming madness.

We all have moments of clarity when the lights literally come on regarding life's situations. We think we understand, but when the epiphany comes we will never again look at the situation quite the same way. We may have possessed an intellectual understanding of something, but once we experience the truth and the reality it all becomes brilliantly clear. I can vividly remember the birth of my children, especially my first child and son, Benaiah. Even though it was nearly 23 years ago, the image and joy of that moment is still transfixed into my memory. When Benaiah's head popped out and he came into this world, I was overcome with joy and love for my newborn son. I wept uncontrollably, hearing his cry as he breathed air for the first time. One could never have related to me how I would feel at that precise moment in time. I witnessed the miracle of birth and it captivated my spirit, soul, and body to the point where I was overcome with emotion. (Note: Today is my second son, Samson's 21st birthday. Happy birthday son!)

The joyousness of the moment of birth in the heart of a father is shown over and over again in the scripture as the Father of Lights draws us to a place of accepting His Son as our Personal Savior -- to be literally changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite examples of this is when Jesus is talking to the crowds regarding the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7) and He declares that there is joy in heaven when someone repents and experiences the new birth. I believe that there is a joyous outburst of the Trinity along with all the saints and the angels in heaven when someone truly turns to God. However, I believe becoming a true son or daughter of God goes much deeper than merely uttering a few words as "every head is bowed and all eyes are closed". Even Paul understood this as he addressed King Agrippa in Acts 26:27-28. Agrippa told Paul that ... In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian. Agrippa's thought patterns had changed and he may well have been on his way to conversion, but conversion is not salvation. Converted thinking may lead to salvation, but is not salvation in and of itself. The knowledge and converted mind must take up residence 18 inches below the head in the heart. When the Word lives in the heart then someone like Agrippa can say as Isaiah said ... "Woe as me, I am a man of unclean lips" and later that "... our own righteousness is as filthy rags". To be born again is not merely hearing the Word of God and making a decision to follow Jesus Christ. It is much more than that. It is a deep understanding that the Risen Son died for us, and that He has invited us to be identified with His death that we might walk in His Life! (Romans 6:4). This does not come by just reading a scripture and making a decision. It comes by seeing that we are wretched sinners that have violated our existence on this earth by being creatures of sin that have transgressed against a Holy God!

True understanding is only limited by our experience. If we have never "walked in someone else's shoes" (or bare feet!) we can never say equivocally that we understand their experience. Others may look on with admiration at a Christian's life and think they live admirably and respectively in this world of ours. Yet, they may never understand that as Paul stated, "It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me" unless they too become born again by the power of the Living Word. Those who have truly experienced the life changing power of God and know the reality of the Risen Lord wag their heads when folks commend them on their respectable lives. They know that the reality of their understanding only came through the Living Word which demonstrably changed their life from the inside-out. Only His Word can bring this type of life altering change. May heaven rejoice, this day, over many who would not only hear the word, but allow it to live through them.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Beyond Ourselves - October 16, 2016

Jeremiah 15:11- The LORD said, "Surely I will set you free for purposes of good; Surely I will cause the enemy to make supplication to you in a time of disaster and a time of distress."

As many of you know, barefoot running literally set me free back in 2003 from achy joints and the possibility of knee surgery. As time passed, I have realized that not everyone has "ears to hear" what I purport about my running recovery. That's okay. I realize barefoot running is not for everyone. However, I have realized that God has given me an extraordinary gift that garners some attention. It is my responsibility as a believer to "decrease so He can increase". It is with joy that I try to give back through my witness and charity work to those around me, both in person and through cyberspace.

Everyone that knows the Lord Jesus Christ and has trusted in His grace has been set free from their respective lives of sin. God does not merely set us free to lounge in His pleasure, drinking in the fellowship of His love and goodness. Each and everyone of us who know the Lord have been set free to help to set others free. It is our responsibility to be faithful to Jesus' admonition to go forth and make disciples of all nations. That literally means to make others like myself! Around 400 years ago, John Donne the Jacobean Poet/Preacher stated "...No man is an island, entire of itself ..." Certainly Jeremiah felt this affinity toward the nation of Israel. He identified with it -- he wept for it as God moved through him with His own aching heart. Jeremiah 15 is atypical of the "weeping prophet's" dilemma of standing in the gap between God and the nation of Israel. The prophet has been shut up in prison by evil King Manasseh and the Lord is pronouncing the king's and his rebellious nation's doom. In verse 10, Jeremiah cries out to God and says, "Woe to the mother who bore me" and began his complaint to God for even being borne to such a grievous task. God quickly stops Jeremiah and states that He has a higher, nobler call for the prophet rather than languishing in a prison. The Lord stated that He would set Jeremiah "... free for purposes of good." Beyond that, God stated that Jeremiah's enemies (the ruling class of Israel) would humble themselves to the prophet when Jerusalem was besieged from without by the Assyrians.

While most of us have not spent time languishing behind bars, many of us have spent years enslaved to sin and its dire consequences. While my selfishness was fortified by alcohol addiction, others suffer just as debilitating "prisons" in their own lives. Jesus said, "If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed". Following this freedom comes the very ambassadorship that Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 5:20 where we have the privilege of representing our Lord and helping others be free from a similar "prison". I take my "ambassadorship" very circumspectly to the men at the local mission where I volunteer. I continue to build friendships with these men because they know that I too have come from a similar background of homelessness aggravated by addiction. When I share the Word with these men once a month in chapel, they understand and relate. Truly, if I were a Japanese ambassador for our country, I would not be as comfortable with an interpreter as I would be knowing the language and communicating directly. Truly, I know these men's "language" when it comes to the heartaches of what sin produces in its many manifestations. Even as in Jeremiah's time when the rulers came to him and released him from prison and sought his advice regarding Israel's onslaught, so even today those who are truly set free from sin will experience those who once were hostile to the Gospel actually coming, asking, "What shall we do to be saved?"

Then, there are those who are so duped by the enemy that they haven't a clue that they are still in their own prisons of sin. There are countless folks who have attempted to turn this scripture around and try to do "good" through lives of giving and helping others to balm their conscience and to gain their salvation. While there are numerous noble works of charity being accomplished by millions throughout the world, it all means nothing in the light of eternity if they do not know the Lord. Jesus said in John 8:24 "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He [the Messiah], you will die in your sins." Jesus Christ offers a way out of our prison pits of hopelessness. THEN, He will equip us to do good.

For those of us who know the Lord, let us ask this question of ourselves: "What is our personal message to a dying world around us? Is our ambassadorship being received in a noticeable way? Are others understanding that our lives were once sin-stained and without hope until we came and laid them at the feet of Jesus? Friends, he has commissioned all of us to GO and to be His ambassadors to a dying world. We were not saved to be safe and content, but to pour out our lives even as Christ poured out His. If we are not giving, we are truly dying inside. What are the "purposes of good" that God wants you to accomplish today? If we have not experienced and known that He has truly set us free from the dungeon of sin and despair it is unlikely we will feel much compelled to be a thankful people ready to do His will. May we all understand that He brought us all out of treacherous rebellion to Him and into a place where we can lead others to His pastures of delight!

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Remember! - October 9, 2016

Revelations 2:4-5a - But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first;

I have taken a few spills when running, but probably far less since I started my barefoot running journey. As I have said in some of my earlier writings, eye/foot coordination becomes a highly developed skill when running sans shoes. It has to be, otherwise the consequences might be dire. Occasionally, however, I will still fall from this place of "grace" when my feet don't do exactly what I expect of them. I have probably stubbed one of my toes only 2 or 3 times since running barefoot. When I do, it is a shock back to reality that I am only human when it comes to proper foot placement. I was keenly aware of this once when I whacked a curb with my left foot, not bringing it up high enough to clear. The black toenail was a reminder for the next several weeks of my error.

Sometimes we need reminders not to make the same mistakes whether the result is a stubbed toe or wounding our relationship with Jesus. As believers, we can lose form and spiritual technique long before the proverbial "black toenail" manifests. Subtle divergences off the spiritual path will always be the greatest enemy of the vigilant pilgrim, and compromise will often seek to be the substitute for the diligent soul. It is quite easy to get lackadaisical in our spiritual "form" as we begin to take our walk with the Lord for granted. At times, it may be general laziness or contentment with where we are with God. Then, it can also be a general disassociation with godly things and a new fascination with the things of the world. One might defend their position in this regard and state that they are as busy as ever for Jesus and are stalwart in their devotion. However, it is one thing to be busy with the things of the Lord and quite another to be ministering along side of Him.

When Jesus initially swept us off our feet and we felt such closeness and love, we would do anything for Him and would shun all suspects seeking to interfere with our intimate relationship. We did not need any reminders of His love, peace, and joy. Conversely, when we venture away from God's love and embrace our own way then we are faced with the barrenness of a fruitless life. As the bride states in Song of Solomon 2:16, "My beloved is mine, and I am his". However, before this in verse 15 the bride says to the bridegroom, "Catch the foxes for us, The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, While our vineyards are in blossom." The bride is aware and mindful that enough "little foxes" can destroy an entire vineyard if they are left to eat the grape blossoms. The same thing is true of developing "spiritual fruit" within our lives. We must be vigilant to protect what the Lord has given us to tend and to bring forth His fruit in due season.

However, what is the outcome if one day we "wake up" and find that that our proverbial vineyard has been destroyed? What if the "little foxes" of sin have taken over, little by little, until one day we realize that they have destroyed much of the relationship that we have with the Lord? From this point of clarity we can DO the following:

  • Remember or realize where we have fallen.
  • Repent of our failings and ask God to forgive us.
  • Restore our affections to Jesus through His grace.
  • Rejoice in the Lord and give Him thanks!

The Divine Memory of the Almighty is always there for us to draw upon to remind us of who we were, who we are (in Christ), and who He desires us to be. His reminders are not those of condescending rebukes when we fall from a place of grace, but those of loving memorials to His loving-kindness and mercy. He will most certainly set us once again on the path of righteousness and then with loving direction will correct us with His subtle reminders to cultivate our spiritual "form" and to tend to the way that He has laid out. The most important thing is to remember from whence we have fallen and to quickly ask for His grace to be once again restored!


Heavenly Father, we give ourselves afresh to You. Keep us in Your grace, steadfast in our affection to You. For You are the One that keeps us mindful of the way in which we should go. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Barefoot Rick

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Our Hiding Place - October 2, 2016

Psalm 32:7 - You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.

I am so grateful to the Almighty for my life. My days are full of His presence, which makes times with those I love even more special. I am a fortunate man to be so blessed. I am equally grateful for the gift of running that He allows me to enjoy. For me, barefoot running allows me a feeling of closeness with my God and the ability to share my experiences with others through this unusual gift. It is as if God has given me two instruments of worship -- my bare feet -- that allow me the privilege of entering into His presence through a "secret door" where only I know the way. It is like a personalized place that seems to be full of His presence and His joy! (He will never have to say to me "Remove your shoes, for the place where you tread is holy".) I know that when I kick off my daily runs that the Lord Jesus will be there to run and pray and worship and praise with me, all along the way. Although I am out on busy roads and sidewalks during my runs, I feel hidden away and quite isolated with my Lord. It is a wonderful thing to be able to run, uninhibited, and to drink in His presence.

Have you ever considered what are the "spiritual tools" that the Lord has given you that allow you quick access to His presence? Some have told me that they have a special "hiding place" where they go and seek the Lord. This may be a small room or closet within their house that feels secure and welcoming to the Holy Spirit as He descends in a time of communion. Others have told me that they feel and sense this hiding place in the midst of a great woods or a pastoral setting. Guys often tell me that they feel the closeness of God while hunting or fishing where they are surrounded by God's beauty in nature. It really does not matter where we meet God, but that we meet Him! There needs to be a sense of longing and urgency to get to that special place with the Lord as often as possible. This can literally be our very own chapel of devotion. While some meet God on Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings in a church setting, others know that there is so much more if they will but take the time to find their own hiding place with God where they can worship Him with abandon. The remarkable thing about worship is that if it is true, Godly worship then it will lead us to thanksgiving and praise of the Eternal One! Worship is the very soil that praise will grow and flourish. Think about this the next time you are drawn into His presence in a place of worship. Thank Him for drawing you and praise Him unabashedly. It will truly be life changing.

No matter what we may be experiencing when coming to a place of worship can be made "right-sized" by our attitude to the Lord. Psalm 32:7 is a remarkable verse in that it does not say that the Lord gives us hiding places from trouble, but that we must be hidden with Him from all life's turmoil. Paul stated this profoundly in Colossians 3:3 "For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." This does not imply that we have to necessarily hide ourselves away in a cubby hole or a closet or to even be lost in the beauty of nature (or even a barefoot run!) It truly states that as New Testament believers that we can KNOW that we have died with Christ on Calvary's tree and that we are now alive with Christ in God. Not only are we sharers of Christ's life but we are "hidden" in Christ where the enemy or our souls can not touch us if we choose to remain within our Fortress of Love. Christ does give us stalwart protection to isolate us from the world, but also to identify us in His life behind the strong walls of His powerful life to make us true disciples.

There is a hiding place for all who would but believe in Him. Physical things such as running, or nature, or whatever location are only shadows of eternal things, and the animate tools he gives us should ultimately lead to the spiritual hiding place of the Most High. If we are only finding this place, arbitrarily and sporadically, at our respective churches then we have horribly missed the mark. God is calling us to places of worship all day long. He desires to hide us away in His presence through simple acts of worship that will lead ultimately to praise and thanksgiving. A lost and dying world is looking and longing to see true examples of those that are lost in His presence, simply hidden in Christ Jesus and living a life that is sanctified and holy for the Lord.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick