Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Rock That Is Higher Than I

From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I (Psalms 61:3 NASB).

God Never Promised Us A Rose Garden
            Many are told that when they come to faith in Christ they will experience love, joy, and peace; which is so very true.  But we fail to mention that these byproducts of the Christian faith are often couched between hardship, suffering, and struggle.  God seems to be more concerned with our character than our comfort.  In the normal Christian experience, struggle is the name of the game.

The Treacherous Terrain
            In our scriptural reference, David finds himself fainthearted and overwhelmed by the isolation and trials of his spiritual voyage.  Like the Psalmist, our spiritual odyssey can be likened to our journey up a mountain with a rocky and uncertain terrain.  With the length of the trek, and the unsure footing, we become fatigued.  We reach up for one more rock above us, but our hands start to slip off the rock and we realize our strength is not sufficient to pull us up.  One last time we call out, “help Lord”, as we extend our hand.  It seems as if an arm comes down from behind the rock and latches on to our forearm and our hand onto His, and He pulls us to the cleft of the rock.  And one more time we realize that when our strength has failed, God’s grace has prevailed.

The Ongoing Journey
            We breathe a sigh of relief and for a time bask in His presence.  About the time our wounds from the journey are healed and we feel pretty secure in our rocky refuge, we turn and look up the mountain.  We understand that we must either continue up the mountain or descend back to the lowlands.  There is no such thing as the status quo in the Kingdom of God.  We are either moving toward Him or away from Him.  So we continue our ascent up the mountain, experiencing one impregnable rock after another; never being able to scale any cliff in our own strength, but only with God’s help. 
              As we go from one rocky crest to another, we discover that we get a clearer view of the glory of God.  This motivates us onward.  We still get weary from time to time.  We ask the Lord, “how many rocks must I climb”?  We answer our own question as we realize that it will be as many as it takes to get to the top.  It will be at the mountaintop where we will fully experience the real Rock (the Lord Jesus) who is higher than I.
Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing


Friday, April 5, 2013

What It Means To Be Blessed

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3 NASB).

            Jesus in the Sermon On the Mount laid out for us what it means to be truly blessed.  The very first virtue mentioned in the Beatitudes (the beautiful attitudes) is poverty of spirit.  Humility is always the door to being truly blessed. 
            The prevailing opinion of the world is that happiness comes from being rich, great, or honorable in this life.  Happiness stems from external circumstances.  In contrast, blessedness comes from being poor in spirit, which originates from within.   The commentator Matthew Henry wrote; “The foundation of all other graces is humility.  Those who want to build high must begin low.”  Being poor in spirit is to realize that God is great and we are not.  He is righteous and we are sinful and in need of His grace.  And that it is all about Him and not us.  Yes, God does give us spiritual riches, but they are bestowed and not earned.  The Apostle Paul was rich in spiritual endowment, surpassing most others in gifts and graces, yet he was poor in spirit.  In I Corinthians 15:9 he says;  “For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle...”.  Or in Ephesians 3:8 Paul describes himself as “the least of all the saints”.  This great man of God, the most prolific writer of New Testament text, viewed himself as the least among the great and the lowest among the least.  In our spiritual journey, the closer we come to God, the greater He becomes to us, and the less we become to ourselves.  To the extent that we recognize the bankruptcy of our self-sufficiency and our total dependency on Him, is the degree to which God can confer upon us all spiritual blessings.  As William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, once said, “The way up is always down.”

Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing



Monday, April 1, 2013

Sweetness Out Of The Strong

“Out of the eater came something to eat,
And out of the strong came something sweet” (Judges 14:14 NASB). 

            The reference above comes from a riddle that Samson proposes to some Philistine companions at his wedding feast.  This riddle can be applied in many ways to God’s providence, where He works good out of evil.
            Samson found honey in the carcass of the lion, which he had slain.  God often works in situations that are wrong in themselves, such as Samson marrying a Philistine women, and uses it for His good.  Samson’s parents resisted his marriage to a heathen women, and rightly so.  But the Bible records in v 4; However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines.  As the commentator Matthew Henry writes; “when what threatens their destruction turns to their advantage.  When their enemies are made useful to them, and human wrath turns to God’s praise.”  In times like these we can say, “meat comes out of the eater, and sweetness out of the strong.”
            God sometimes places us in situations where He uses flawed individuals or dubious circumstances to accomplish His purpose.  In a desire not to be tainted by the world, we can back away from God’s providential provision for His church.   Have you heard of the church that was given a large sum of money by an individual who had been know for his unrighteous behavior.  Many of the brethren were saying that is was tainted money.  An old deacon pipes up; “there is no such thing as tainted money.  The only thing tainted about money is that there taint enough of it.”  I realize you cannot make an absolute about this type of reasoning.  On many occasions we should disassociate ourselves from this type of provision. I am suggesting, based on this story about Samson, we sometimes need to look past the outward appearance and discern the overall purpose of God.  It is not inconceivable that God wants to take wealth of the nations, and give it to the children of light.  Only those who are wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10”16 NKJV) will know when to take and when to give back.
Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places”  YWAM Publishing