Sunday, July 4, 2021

Barn Story Four: Confession

One night in the barn people started confessing.  There was no request that had gone forth for confession; no teaching emphasis on the subject; no testimony highlighting it; and no pressure. It simply began to flow.

The First One:  I feel I must confess that it has been years since I have practiced the Presence of the Lord with others

Another:  I need to confess I'm using foul language again after years of it being gone

Another:  I need to confess the same thing

Another:  I confess that I am full of pride

Another:  I confess that I am full of anxiety

Another:  I confess that I struggle with fear all the time

Another:  I confess I'm angry at God

And more.

Confession does not inform God of anything.  He already knows and is ready to extend grace and forgiveness.  But public confession informs ourselves and others that we are ready to deal openly and honestly with those things that hinder us from loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. When we speak and name our sins, we take the final step in owning their existence.  We are acknowledging that though they are real, we are resolved to no longer remain comfortable with them being present.  Because the curse of sin is broken, we will fully avail ourselves to the power of God at work in us to be victorious.

The forgiveness of sin that God grants us is not dependent on public confession.  But when we confess openly to a group of brothers and sisters in Christ, there is an "All In" quality to our confession that is not present in personal confession.  Public declaration invites others to love us, pray for us, and keep us accountable - three gifts that we desperately need.  Personal confession triggers forgiveness from God, but it does not trigger fellowship with others.  It actually keeps us in spiritual isolation.

The opposite of community is not being alone.  It's being with others but remaining silent.  The benefits and transformative power of God in community is experienced in transparency not guardedness.  This is why someone can be around people but still feel isolated or lonely.

The rustic barn in which we gather every Wednesday evening has become a safe space for confession.  It does not happen every week but often.  If you study revivals, one of the common elements is an intense awareness of unrighteousness with subsequent confession.  Who knows all that God is going to unfold and display as we faithfully practice His Presence together weekly in the barn?  But this one thing is known:  Confession is a precursor for all kinds of new demonstrations of the Spirit of the Living God.

Ex nihilo,


R.J. Rhoden 


If you want to pray with us in the barn, contact me at 804.239.0032 or robertrhoden1970@gmail.com.    


Sunday, June 20, 2021

He's Just My Dad

For some he is your pastor or interim pastor or leader or author or colleague, but for me he's just my dad.  Sometimes the word just is not used in a complimentary way.  It implies that something or someone is less than - He took a bite of the juicy red apple and said, "It's just ok.  Not the sweetest I've ever had."

But there is another way to use just.  It can be used to focus on the essence - She searched for the right religious experience and finally discovered the answer:  It's just Jesus!

So to be clear, he's just my dad is about essence not less than.  Here's how:

  • He taught me how to throw and catch a baseball
  • He taught me how to swim:  reach, pull and kick
  • He was always the scorekeeper at my little league games
  • He taught me how to mow the grass (something neither of us enjoy or do anymore)
  • He had "the talks" with me about the birds and the bees
  • He showed me how to tie the Windsor knot when I stopped using clip-on neckties
  • He introduced me to mixing my grits with over-easy eggs and other culinary combinations
  • He was a Dallas Cowboys fan in the 70's and 80's so I was too 
  • He taught me to drive (I actually had to unlearn a couple things to pass the driving test)
  • He told me stories from his childhood
  • He told me to be on time
  • He showed me how to balance a checkbook
  • He taught me the principle of compounding interest
  • He always said, "Give to God first."
  • He modeled that it is ok to cry.
  • And most importantly, he, in word and deed, has imparted to me the greatest lesson of all:  A life built on the foundation of Jesus - the author and perfecter of our faith.
There are good dads, and there are bad dads.  There are great dads, and there are no dads.  There are confused dads, and there are regretful dads.  There are dads still with us, and dads that have gone on to eternity.  I don't know which one you are thinking of today, but I do know this: we all need a dad.  Not to run our lives but to do life with us - to model and to show and to teach and to impart.

All the complexity surrounding fatherhood in our times makes it impossible for this day to feel the same for everyone.  But there is one Truth that can unite us:  We all share a heavenly Father whose love covers every situation with an unmatched ability to bring about redemption, hope, and peace. I pray that all of us would know and receive that gift from Him on this day. 

I want to know my heavenly Father in a deeper way.  I want to be the kind of father that speaks life and blessing into my kids' lives.  And I am proud and delighted that so many of you know my dad in other ways, but I am beyond grateful that he's just my dad.

Ex nihilo,


R.J. Rhoden


Monday, June 14, 2021

Repeat Them In Our Day

Lord, I have heard of your fame and your deeds, and I am in awe of you, Lord.  Repeat them in our day. Make them known in our day.  In wrath remember mercy. ~Habakkuk 3:2

Towards the end of the prophet's conversation with God, he asks something of God that all of us have either asked or thought at one time or another.  Let me break it down for you:

  • A Plea to God
    • What I've Heard
      • Your Fame
      • Your Deeds
    • My Response
      • Awe
    • My Ask
      • Do it again
      • Make it known again
    • But, Please
      • Be merciful
1. What I've Heard:  We hear all kinds of things daily - good and bad things; true and false things; revised and deconstructed things; political and non-political things; filthy and wholesome things; sacred and pagan things; and clear and confusing things.

We live in a day where diligent work is needed in order to hear of all God's fame and deeds of old.  Yes, we have much access to Scripture, but we are constantly subjected to some leaders of the Church who are discarding - even denouncing significant parts of Scripture that don't fit their contemporary, secular narrative.  

The prophet pushed out the voices of destruction and confusion and ushered in the Voice that is above every other voice.  He was a discerning hearer of the things of God.  It was a discipline.  It was a joy.  And he is challenging us to do the same.

2. My Response:  Awe is not angst or paralyzing fear.  It's the opposite.  It's a condition that floods our souls with the greatest of hope, the greatest of respect, and the greatest sense of duty.  Awe does not inflict legalistic lists or self-condemnation.  It brings about worshipful acts of obedience and an awareness that we are received and loved despite our unworthiness.  Awe compels us to the Father's Heart and constantly reminds us that He desires to dwell with us.  And that is "the awe" that is the prophet's response to the fame and deeds of God.

3. My Ask:  Repeat them in our day!  Repeat them in our day! Repeat them in our day!  And make it known again.  The prophet's ask to God has the feel, both grammatically and contextually, of a yearning - a repetitive longing and crying out to the Lord with a sense of urgency.  Arise, oh Lord.  We are in desperate need of you to show up again in a profoundly powerful way.  Heal.  Deliver.  Save.  Fill.  Set free.  Protect.  Awaken.  Refresh.  Transform.  Convict.  Do what only you can do so that we can be the people you desire us to be.

4. But, Please:  Finally, the prophet does not have a romantic notion of what he is asking.  He is well aware of the historical acts of wrath and vengeance by our Lord.  And so he concludes with a plea to God to remember His mercy.  God is merciful and kind and is slow to anger.  "Don't forget that, Lord," I can envision the prophet saying.  A day of wrath and judgement is coming, but we are still in the age of the Church - the age of the Body of Christ where opportunity abounds for those that are in darkness to come into the light; for those that are lukewarm to become fire hot again; for those who have bought into shallow, self-help Christianity to enter spiritual maturity and depth; and for those who are praying big prayers to see the power and presence of the Lord manifested in a might way.

Repeat them in our day, Oh Lord!


Ex nihilo,


R.J. Rhoden  

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Barn Story Three: The New Altar

In the summer of 1987, as a young 17 year old hungering for more of God, I knelt at an altar bench in a small prayer room in the Chapel at University of Richmond and experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

From 1988 - 1992 I often found myself experiencing more of God as I positioned myself at the altar in the chapel at Bethany Bible College in Santa Cruz, CA.  Those times at the altar came at the end of chapel services, during the day, or even late into the evening.

From 1992 - 2005 the sanctuary at West End Assembly of God became another altar for me.  Frequently, I would go and sit to ponder and pray.  Sometimes I would walk the sanctuary or kneel at the front.  God would always meet me in that space.

From 2005 - 2015 the little church building at the corner of Park and Meadow in the historic Fan District of Richmond, VA became my new altar.  The old floor would creak as I walked in that space.  It was a place of refuge with the Lord, renewal in the Lord, and re-baptisms of the Spirit - all needed for fresh strength, power, and focus for the day.  It was in that space that I also began anointing with oil and praying over chairs, instruments, door posts, and the pulpit.  I wanted there to be a lingering residue of God's Presence there.

From 2015 - 2019, for the first time ever in years of ministry, I had a huge office.  It was actually too big.  But I made it my new altar.  I would walk in it; pray in it; not answer the phone in it; study God's Word in it; rest in it; and dream God-sized hopes in it.  

Today, the barn off Route 250 has become my new altar as well as an altar for all who gather on Wednesday evenings to pray and worship together.

God can help you find an altar anywhere.  An altar is a sacred space where you mute the crazy voices of life and listen to only One Voice.  His Voice.  The only Voice that knows everything about you and yet still desires to speak life, hope and goodness into you.

Altars are spaces that we travel to.  We walk to or drive to. Sometimes we run to.  They are spaces where we externally and internally surrender ourselves unto Him.

Altars are spaces where we delve deep into the abiding Presence of the Lord.  We cry out.  We experience healing or strength to walk in a season of struggle.  Altars are places that we never forget because our lives are altered at altars.

I now have the joy of traveling often on weekends to minister in different churches.  I love the ministry of Ascent College and Potomac School of Ministry and am so appreciative of the opportunity.  On the drive back to Richmond, as I ponder all the ministry that has taken place on that given day, I inevitably plan my next trip to the barn - to the new altar in Goochland, VA that God has provided.  To the new space where His Presence is re-baptizing people in the Spirit, renewing hope in the discouraged, and reminding us to continue practicing the presence of the Lord.

The barn is the new altar - a phrase I never thought would be spoken from my mouth!

Ex nihilo,


R.J. Rhoden

Join us every Wednesday night at 6:30pm to pray in the barn.  For more information you can contact me at 804.239.0032 or robertrhoden1970@gmail.com.


Monday, May 31, 2021

20 Freedom Shout Outs: A Two Minute Read

On this 2021 Memorial Day my heart is bursting with gratitude and thoughts regarding freedom.  So here are my 20 freedom shout outs for this day:

  1. Humbled to be free from the curse of sin
  2. Motivated to freely share about life in Christ
  3. Grateful for those men and women who sacrificed so much for the freedom I enjoy
  4. Praying for leaders that will be protectors not destroyers of that freedom
  5. Abiding in the freedom I have in Christ
  6. Interceding for brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are not free from suffering
  7. Writing about freedom
  8. Challenged to utilize my freedom in Christ for the pursuit of righteousness not cheap grace
  9. Pondering new opportunities that come from freedom 
  10. Hoping the Church will continue to use its freedom to dream and pray big
  11. Indebted to those mentors who have modeled freedom for me
  12. Reaffirming my responsibility to teach freedom to my daughter and son
  13. Remembering that freedom lost Today on my watch can lead to bondage Tomorrow for others
  14. Supporting men and women who are seeking freedom from the chains of addiction
  15. Longing to see freedom of the press restored for all view points and the end to censorship
  16. Fighting to regain the freedom to live out my religious beliefs in the public square
  17. Peacefully conversing with others about the importance of freedom
  18. Enjoying the freedom to be in relationship with diverse family, friends, and colleagues
  19. Wondering if our freedom will continue to erode
  20. Curious to know your freedom shout outs
Reply with your freedom shout outs and share with others!

Ex nihilo,


R.J. Rhoden

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Barn Story Two: Airports and Yokes

Since I know very little about airports and yokes, I was surprised to discover one day that God wanted to use them both as prophetic metaphors in the barn.  The Spirit of God has a way of refreshing our minds with new ideas and concepts as well as renewing our understanding of His ability to connect the dots in a timely manner.  Here is how it happened.

While celebrating the 2020 Christmas/New Year's season with my in-laws, I woke up one morning reflecting on Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30:  Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  In that moment I was compelled by the Holy Spirit to not only preach from this text on the first Sunday of 2021 but to also draw attention to it during a time of prayer in the barn.

Later that same day I found myself in a conversation with my father-in-law about the construction of airports.  I cannot for the life of me remember how we arrived at the topic.  I now know it was the gentle wind of the Spirit, but at the time it was puzzling.

Me:  How do they build airports?

Father-In-Law:  First, they study the wind to determine patterns of airflow.  Runways need to be placed in alignment with head and tailwinds because crosswinds are particularly dangerous during take off and landing.  Then they construct the airport building in relation to the runways.

Not immediately but some time later as I was thinking about the conversation, the Holy Spirit guided me to a prophetic word.  I sensed that God was saying to the Church:  It is time to study the new patterns of airflow of the wind of my Spirit.  You are still trying to take off and land on old runways that are no longer in alignment with my Spirit.  It is time to tear up old runways and establish new ones.  Your frustration and lack of success is due to fighting crosswinds not incompetency.  Furthermore, you have turned some of the old runways into idols.  You preserve them out of fear and pride though they have lost their usefulness.  And, you have hastily put down some new runways to suit your own desires rather than mine.

Fast-forward to Sunday January 10, 2021.

A small group of us gathered to pray in the barn.  I brought a devotional from Matthew's text on the yoke of Christ and then combined it with the prophetic word connected to airports.  Again, even as the words were coming out of my mouth, I wasn't quite sure why I was feeling so led to share what seemed to be two very different themes.

But then I noticed a couple looking back and forth at one another with big smiles.  I wondered if I had said something funny.  As they began to explain their smiles, I simply sat back and watched the orchestrated purpose of the Holy Spirit.

Couple:  On our drive here today we prayed that God would provide an immediate connection that he (the husband) could relate to.  And he is a pilot!!!  When you started to talking about airports, we were in wonderful shock.  

Husband:  And did you know that the cockpit of an airplane is referred to as the yoke?  

Me:  (Stunned) No I didn't.

More in depth conversation ensued as well as a time of collective responding and praying from those in attendance.  That moment in the barn was beautiful, convicting, passionate, and Spirit-led.  We worship the God who takes two seemingly different themes and connects them with a clarity and timeliness that leaves us in awe of Him.  And He gives us moments that are so filled with His Presence that we can never again be satisfied in gatherings that are nothing more than an imitation of the real thing.

Trusting God when you share what He is stirring in your heart is a thrilling and humbling experience.  I have failed at it many times but got it right in January 2021.  My prayer is that more moments like this will unfold as we gather to pray in the barn.  It is building my faith and many others as well.  It will also build yours.

So bring to the barn the doubter and skeptic, the broken and sick, the on-fire-for-more-of-the-Presence-of-the-Holy-Spirit and tired, the ministry leader who needs refreshing and anyone who is curious as to what God is doing in a barn in Goochland, VA.

Ex nihilo,


R.J. Rhoden

For more info on praying in the barn with us on Wednesdays at 6:30pm, contact me at 804.239.0032 or robertrhoden1970@gmail.com.  

 


Thursday, May 20, 2021

Fear Masquerading As Wisdom and The Secular Tsunami

Many followers of Jesus are walking in fear but calling it wisdom.  The difference is subtle and often undetectable at first.  But there is a line that clearly differentiates wisdom from fear.  We were created to be people of wisdom not fear.  The former is life-giving; the latter is life-taking.  The drift from wisdom to fear creeps along at a slow deceptive pace. Most of us fail to recognize it's movement.  But it is happening. 

So what is the difference?

Wisdom                                     Fear

1. Brings peace                          1. Brings more fear

2. Brings unity                          2. Brings division

3. Trusts God                            3. Lacks trust

4. Walks in hope                      4. Walks in despair

5. Certain                                   5. Uncertain

6. Acknowledges risk              6. Wants no risk

7. Safety is a consideration    7. Safety is an idol

8. God supreme                       8. God suppressed 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were faced with a choice:  Walk with Godly wisdom and trust or walk in fear.  They chose the way that I like to refer to as obedient wisdom.  That is, they refused to bow down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.  Their decision was based on courage not naivete; humility not hubris; maturity not ignorant zeal.  Though thoughtfully aware of the consequences, they resisted the temptation to embrace the God-Will-Understand-Fear syndrome that has become rampant today in the Church.  It goes a little something like this:

Imaginary Conversation between them:  What should we do?  If we don't bow down, we will be killed.  But if we bow down, we will be denouncing our faith.  Maybe we can stand in our hearts but kneel physically?  Surely God does not expect us to be willing to die?  

Here is what is not imaginary:  They refused to allow themselves to drift from wisdom to fear.  They rejected the temptation to do mental gymnastics - seeking justification for the presence of fear in their lives.  Instead, they replied with this astounding declaration of faith:  O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

I'm crying as I quote these brave men.  Am I capable of such faith?  Am I willing to thoughtfully reject the secular tsunami crashing in on the Church knowing full well that there will be consequences? Will wisdom or fear reign my life?  Your life?

Father, give us a fresh baptism of wisdom.  Give us the strength and faith to trust you no matter the outcome.  Deliver us from the bondage of fear that we have allowed into our lives.  Forgive us for allowing fear to hinder our Kingdom-work.  You are our King.  No other.  May safety be a consideration but not an idol.  For we are motivated and empowered by your Spirit not human ingenuity or philosophies.  Guide us in the way of wisdom, righteousness, and mission.  May our supreme desire be to bring glory to Your Name in all the earth.  Remove our masks of fear. 

Ex nihilo,


R.J. Rhoden