Cleansing Fire (Day 5) – Plows, Stones & Sowing

Day Five – Plows, Stones and Sowing
Listen to me now.
Give me your closest attention.
Do farmers plow and plow and do nothing but plow?
Or harrow and harrow and do nothing but harrow?
After they’ve prepared the ground, don’t they plant?
Don’t they scatter dill and spread cumin,
Plant wheat and barley in the fields
and raspberries along the borders?
They know exactly what to do and when to do it.
Their God is their teacher. Isaiah 28:23-26

Let’s change the metaphor this time, from fire to farming. Have you watched the local farmers working their fields in the spring? Some are plowing land that was cultivated as recently as last year. Some are plowing fields that have lain fallow for a long time. Others are claiming new land for fields and turning soil that hasn’t been farmed before. There is one element that is consistent in all three of these kinds of fields: rocks, rocks, and more rocks. The fallow and unfarmed fields have more rocks; but the recently tended fields give up their share of stones, too. It amazes me that rocks seem to rise up from beneath the topsoil to cause problems, even in a field that has been plowed recently. But they have to be discovered and removed if the field is to produce what it ought to and holds potential to produce.
Jesus compares our lives to soil in a parable, and one of the hindrances to receiving the seed (the truth of God) from the farmer (the Father) is the rock beneath the soil. You and I will go through seasons of plowing, planting, producing – and again plowing, planting, producing. The plowing may hurt, and rocks that have been under the surface may come up – but God has a plan for removing those rocks, those hindrances. It’s called repentance & forgiveness. The steps are simple: admit, submit, and know. Admit the rock, or the sin, is there and you can’t move it yourself. Submit to His touch and forgiveness as He removes it. Know that, when you ASK for forgiveness, He always forgives. He promises. Don’t forget to journal what He is saying to you.

All For Him – Rick

Cleansing Fire (Day 4) – Cleaning & Refining

Day Four – Cleaning and Refining Fire
But John intervened: “I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.” Luke 3:16-17

Try to imagine this picture at the river shore. John, a forceful character if there ever was one (and maybe even a “driver” of sorts), is preaching and baptizing everyday. His message is clear. In brief: The Messiah is just a few steps behind me; the Kingdom of the Messiah is bursting onto the scene; believe the truth, turn from the wrong path, and give God His rightful place as Lord.
No one alive in John’s day had seen or heard someone like John (there had not been a real live prophet in Israel for 400 years.) Could John be “the One?” Is he the Messiah?
John may have been strong, but he knew he couldn’t change anyone from the inside out. It takes God to do that.  Read his words again. The Holy Spirit within you is a cleansing, purifying fire; and He – God, the Holy Spirit – longs to transform you.  He can burn the dross, the waste, the refuse, the stuff that has no value in our lives because it devalues you and me; and He can refine you so you’ll be more of who God created you to be. Give the cleansing fire room to work, since it is God’s method of creating space in our lives for His Spirit to work in and through us.
One writer compares our lives to a house, with different rooms and doors that are either open or shut to God’s presence. Each room represents a part of our lives, and each room either has a “Welcome” sign for Jesus or a “Do Not Enter” sign hung on the knob.  This has been the first of two “fasting days” in our fifteen days. Take extra time out of your day to spend with Him in His Word and in Prayer. Picture the elements of your life as a house. Is your den (spare time room) or your kitchen (friendships) cleaned up and straightened? How is each closet of your mind? What about your game room or movie room? Has God been speaking to you about a room that needs His touch, His cleansing and loving touch?  Take that room to Him and let His light reveal what needs to be transformed and cleaned up, and allow His cleansing fire clean it. Choose a friend to tell how He is transforming this room in your life. It may be that, during the retreat, He was very clear about a room that needs “Welcome” hung on the door. He waits for the door to open.

All For Him – Rick

Cleansing Fire (Day 3) – Big Tests & Pop Quizzes

Day Three – Big Tests & Pop Quizzes
Suddenly King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm and said, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound hand and foot, into the fire?” “That’s right, O king,” they said.
“But look!” he said. “I see four men, walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed! And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods!” Nebuchadnezzar went to the door of the roaring furnace and called in, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the High God, come out here!” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire. All the important people, the government leaders and king’s counselors, gathered around to examine them and discovered that the fire hadn’t so much as touched the three men—not a hair singed, not a scorch mark on their clothes, not even the smell of fire on them! Daniel 3:24-27

There are some incredible miracles and stories of how God showed up for His chosen people in the Bible, but if they were ranked according to the “WOW” factor – this one would be near the top! These three young men took God’s plan and made it their lifestyle, and when the BIG TEST came, the daily choices they made to trust and honor God (the little “pop quizzes” that come our way each day) had laid the right foundation to stand firm when facing the furnace. And who meets them in the fire? Some say an angel (the appearance of an angel was so “other-than-earthly” that people often thought they were gods.) Many scholars say, however, that this is an “epiphany,” or a pre-Bethlehem appearance of Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus met them in the middle of their biggest test!
For us, everyday has its tests or little pop quizzes; but occasionally the BIG TEST comes, when we have to choose to say “Its God’s way, all the way.” Stand firm in faith during the daily tests, and let the truth of God be the banner over your life that says to the watching world that Jesus is Lord. And when the bigger trials come, you can have the attitude these three guys had before facing their trial: “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.” (3:17-18) Thank God for test and trial, because it is in the trials that the watching world sees real faith and authentic Christianity. The fire is hot, but Jesus is visible in you when you stand in faith. Journal your thoughts from this.
Note: Tomorrow, Day Four is a “Fast Day.” If you are already practicing regular fasting, keep it up as it keeps you close in to Him. If this is new to you, choose to skip breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner tomorrow. Give Him the extra time with extra Bible reading, study, prayer, and worship. Make notes on your day in your journal.

All For Him – Rick

Cleansing Fire (Day 2) – God of Purpose & Plan

Day Two – The God of Purpose and Plan
You’ll see all this and burst with joy —you’ll feel ten feet tall— As it becomes apparent that God is on your side and against his enemies. For God arrives like wildfire and his chariots like a tornado, A furious outburst of anger, a rebuke fierce and fiery. For it’s by fire that God brings judgment, a death sentence on the human race. Many, oh so many, are under God’s sentence of death. Isaiah 66:14-16

Of all the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah understood the big picture of God’s plan more than any. In our passage today it is clear that God has a people called and chosen for Himself, and He will protect them from the enemy. Verse 16 states that fire represents God’s judgment on those who are aligned against Him. He also reminds us that there are many who stand under this fire of judgment today, and we can almost hear in His voice His grief for those far and separated from Him. Now compare these verses with the following from later in this passage: “I know everything they’ve ever done or thought. I’m going to come and then gather everyone—all nations, all languages. They’ll come and see my glory. I’ll set up a station at the center. I’ll send the survivors of judgment all over the world: Spain and Africa, Turkey and Greece, and the far-off islands that have never heard of me, who know nothing of what I’ve done nor who I am. I’ll send them out as missionaries to preach my glory among the nations. They’ll return with all your long-lost brothers and sisters from all over the world. They’ll bring them back and offer them in living worship to God. Isaiah 66:18-20
Ask God for many “long-lost brothers and sisters” to come to Him through our work, and through your testimony of his “glory” and of what he has done and who he is. Decide now what adjustment in your time management can help your life give more room for these verses that express the plan of God for the world? Make a note to yourself to adjust your calendar to fit your new plan.

All For Him – Rick

Cleansing Fire (Day 1) – Facing the Truth

Facing Truth
1-4 When the people realized that Moses was taking forever in coming down off the mountain, they rallied around Aaron and said, “Do something. Make gods for us who will lead us. That Moses, the man who got us out of Egypt—who knows what’s happened to him?” So Aaron told them, “Take off the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters and bring them to me.” They all did it; they removed the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from their hands and cast it in the form of a calf, shaping it with an engraving tool.
21 Moses said to Aaron, “What on Earth did these people ever do to you that you involved them in this huge sin?” 22-23 Aaron said, “Master, don’t be angry. You know this people and how set on evil they are. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will lead us. This Moses, the man who brought us out of Egypt, we don’t know what’s happened to him.’ 24 “So I said, ‘Who has gold?’ And they took off their jewelry and gave it to me. I threw it in the fire and out came this calf.” Exodus 32

Think about the timeline this story follows. Moses goes with Joshua up the mountain to meet God. It takes longer than the people thought, and they grumble. Aaron is in charge, and to appease the people he calls for the ingredients for a self-made god. The gold piles up, the fires blaze, and out pops a calf-idol. Read verse 4 and verse 24 and see how Aaron “adjusts” his words so he could pass the blame to the people. Can you reconcile what happened in verse four and what Aaron says happened in verse 24? (It echoes back to the Garden – “It was the woman that you gave me, she made me eat the fruit…”)
How does this relate to us? God calls us to both follow the Truth, and live in truth. Being truthful means not “adjusting the story” to make ourselves look good. We all can do this at times, if we are careless with our words. One writer has said, “the truth is always our ally.” How are you letting truth be your ally? What one most important area comes to mind that facing the truth is the best thing you can start doing? Ask God for wisdom, strength, and the right counsel to let truth be your ally in the area He shows you. If you have a journal, make notes from your devotions these next fifteen days. If not, your application is to find or buy a journal or diary.

All For Him,

Six Part Harmony

One of the biggest struggles full time ministers and missionaries face is keeping a balance between all the roles or aspects of life. When I think of a normal (if there is such a person) missionary, this person works, leads, serves publicly, serves privately, is a student, a friend, a family member, and often also a spouse and a parent. Some ministry or missions teams may even includes people from practically every stage of life – young single, single again, older single, newlyweds, couples with no kids, couples with very young children, couples with many children (almost), couples with teenagers, couples with adult children, and maybe more.

So how do diverse team-members with all these roles and characteristics keep balance in our lives? It takes some effort, but the rewards and success are worth the work. Staying balanced is a lot like bringing harmony together. Each part of the music is different and must be in the just the right place at just the right level to make the music perfect. We might not get harmony in our lives perfectly; but we can work on each aspect of this beautiful gift of the Christian walk and ministry and, with God’s leadership, make it sing!

Centuries ago, the world looked at the stars, the planets, and everything above the earth and said they were situated within spheres. When these spheres moved, the mystics said, they created God’s harmony. I would like to present to you a model –  la SFERA – for getting balance into your life. (Disclaimer: this writer needs work on the whole balance and harmony issue more than anyone!)

Click on the link below to see the model, and comment on what makes each area of your life sphere work well. I will add verses and practical tools to each of the six areas in the near future.


As always,