Italy Missions Speaks for Itself…

Enjoy a really creative video from our crack videographer, Eder Ibarra, who is serving with his wife, Denisse, in Italy. They are missionaries from Mexico to the people of Italy.

YouTube – OM Italia – Sounds.

Fire Proof Day 11 – Fires of Calling

Day Eleven – Fires of Calling
Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up. Exodus 3:1-2

Moses was a committed shepherd, and had been for decades under the wife’s dad’s family business. There was likely a lot of time to think in the backcountry while watching the sheep graze. For Moses, those thoughts may have included remembering how he was raised: in the palace, surrounded by the riches of Pharaoh’s own family, bound for royalty. Instead, he was in the wilderness, smelling like sheep, and bound for serving his father-in-law. He was learning the humble lessons of the desert.
I suspect that an occasional brush fire in the wilderness was normal, but this one was different.  The fire blazed bright, the bush was totally inundated with fire,  yet not really consumed, and God got his attention. And Moses’ agenda was replaced by God’s agenda.
For some followers of God, it takes a lot to get our attention. Moses had his “burning bush,” Paul had his “Damascus Road.” We each most likely experience a “turning point” moment when God speaks and redirects us. It may not be as dramatic as Paul’s or Moses’, but it scares and excites us at the same time, nevertheless.
The Bible tells us that we are to “live by faith, and not by sight.” What does this mean in relation to what Moses experienced?  He certainly saw God’s presence in the bush. He heard a definite voice calling him. All in a moment. Then he lived by faith that God would do what He said He would. (Granted: he did see some awesome evidence of God’s making good on His promise and calling!)

Where has God met you recently and clearly? What has God said to you in your Quiet Time or through Scripture? Who has He put, in an undeniable way, on your mind to serve or share with? In the context of our Life’s Calling, He often calls us to specific tasks to meet specific needs or to make specific issues your own. Write some notes on what God has on His agenda for you to do. Now, it is up to you to “live by faith” based on what God has said.
Note: Tomorrow, Day Twelve 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

Fire Proof Day Twelve – The Wrong Kind of Fire

Day Twelve – The Wrong Kind of Fire

That same day Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, took their censers, put hot coals and incense in them, and offered “strange” fire to God—something God had not commanded. Fire blazed out from God and consumed them—they died in God’s presence. After the death of Aaron’s two sons—they died when they came before God with strange fire—God spoke to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron not to enter into the Holy of Holies, barging inside the curtain that’s before the Atonement-Cover on the Chest whenever he feels like it, lest he die, because I am present in the Cloud over the Atonement-Cover. Leviticus 10:1-2, 16:1-2

Some passages simply stretch our understanding of who God really is! For instance, why was Cain’s veggie offering unacceptable, yet Abel’s sacrifice pleased God? Grain offerings were clearly a part of the acceptable Old Testament practice according to later verses. And what about the two guys who tried to steady the Ark of the Covenant as they traveled along the road, and God took their lives? We almost want to cry out, God can you explain some of these things a little more clearly?

Aaron’s two sons (and by implication, Aaron) had been loose with the worship commands. In Aaron’s case, he had become too casual in his relationship with the Lord. In his sons’ case, they had not just been casual, but had chosen to come to God by a completely different path from the way God had given His people. They brought incense from a common fire (fires of offering always start with the fire God gave them from heaven at the altar), they took the place of the high priest in offering it (one man alone and chosen was to provide the incense sacrifice), and they ventured into the Holiest of Places (the curtain to the Ark’s place was closed to all but one.)

The lesson is clear: we come to God by the Way God provides. But look at the last part of verse 16 for one more “How could that be?” verse. The God of All Power, I Am That I Am, Creator of the Universe and Beyond, yes God… is in the cloud over the atonement-cover. Think about this: He is not distant, but He has drawn near. He is not silent, but He has spoken. He is bigger than the universe, but He is fully present in a cloud in the Tent of Meeting. And most importantly, He chooses to meet us at the Cover of Atonement (Mercy Seat is its name in another translation.) The New Testament identifies this Mercy Seat with the fully accomplished work of mercy by Jesus on the Cross.

Today is another “fasting day” and you may choose to skip one, two or three meals. Take extra time today outside of your Quiet Time to read up on the Mercy Seat. (Hebrews is a good place to look.) What was it? Why is this important to God’s people? What happened there? Where does it show up in the New Testament? Think about His mercy. Thank Him for the mercy He has shown you personally. Let this day cause you to be aware of His awesome, consuming, beyond understanding, super abundant merciful presence when you worship Him.

All For Him – Rick

Fire Proof Day 13 – Fire Altars, & Fire Alters

Day Thirteen – Fire Altars & Fire Alters
Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. Colossians 3:9-11

Today, read Colossians 3:9-11 in context with the rest of the chapter. Everyday brings a fresh set of choices. God has given His followers a lifestyle that has both clear boundaries and plenty of room to grow and roam and experience life. The “don’t’s” of our faith-life are all there to make life and relationships work right.  The “do’s” are there to replace man-made restrictions to freedom in Christ. The dividing labels listed in our verses today keep people apart, demean and belittle others, and tell them they are excluded and will never measure up.

In fact, the central point of the Gospel is that none of us measure up when we use God’s standard. We all are people of grace, needing His and each other’s forgiveness and space to grow.
God’s plan redefines how we measure one another. It is no longer the label, the heritage, the “bloodline” of our families, our education, our jobs, or the name of our church.  It is the simple truth that we are forgiven by the God who provided the Savior and Forgiver.  That causes us to give plenty of room for those who aren’t quite like us, or worship like us, or dress like us… or, well, you get the picture.
Read Colossians 3:1-17 again. But this time, read it in first person. Use your name; use, I and me; and use the word “choose” when the verse indicates a choice to be made. Everyday brings a fresh set of choices.

All For Him – Rick

Fire Proof Day 14 – Glory Fires

Day Fourteen – Glory Fires
When Solomon finished praying, a bolt of lightning out of heaven struck the Whole-Burnt-Offering and sacrifices and the Glory of God filled The Temple. The Glory was so dense that the priests couldn’t get in—God so filled The Temple that there was no room for the priests! When all Israel saw the fire fall from heaven and the Glory of God fill The Temple, they fell on their knees, bowed their heads, and worshiped, thanking God:Yes-God is good! His love never quits! 2 Chronicles 7:1-3

Has God’s fire begun to burn more brightly in your heart through our devotions on fire? Has it rekindled and brought a renewed warmth and light to your life? Has your time in God’s Word brought fresh fire to your time with Him and His truth?
Solomon, upon the dedication of the temple he built for God in Jerusalem, prayed and worshiped the Lord. Read the previous chapter in 2 Chronicles to see what he prayed. Today, especially look at the results of his prayer.  God answered his prayer far beyond his imagination, in a way that brought great glory and fame to the Lord’s name in Jerusalem.
For today, read these verses in the context of the surrounding verses, and then journal the three step study. What do these verses say (see the facts)? What did these verses mean to Solomon and the people (see the meanings)? What do these verses mean to us today (see the relevance)? Invite God in His incredible greatness into your experience today!

All For Him – Rick

Fire Proof Day 15 – Close to the Fire

Day Fifteen – Close to the Fire
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is “a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28

The same God who came near in the Old Testament Place of Holiness is near you today.  We don’t always feel Him; we don’t always blaze for Him. But His promise is true and secure.  He is not “an indifferent bystander.”
God has an end in sight for each of us – to be made holy, complete, and “like Him” in all ways. We are “in process” and that process is at times a cleansing process, at other times a connecting process, and at still other times a consuming process.
He says that He will complete that process, that work He has begun in you and me. And the awesome truth is this: He sees us as a finished product.  He sees the beginning and before, and He sees the ending and beyond. He looks on us with the sight of omniscience.
We see with faith. But we can trust that He is not finished with each of us. He will complete it.  That gives us hope for ourselves, and grace toward each other. Our Fifteen Day Fire Proof Devotional experiment comes to a close with this entry. As you conclude this devotion series, write down what you believe He is burning in your heart. What has He been speaking to you about doing, changing, adopting, re-imagining, or laying at His feet as a sacrifice. Then, put in your calendar system (whatever you use to manage your days) a reminder to look back at this devotion in three, six, or twelve months. You will be surprised at the work God is doing in you!

All For Him – Rick

Fire Proof Day Six – Fire Connection

Day Six – Fire Connection

They moved on from Succoth and then camped at Etham at the edge of the wilderness. God went ahead of them in a Pillar of Cloud during the day to guide them on the way, and at night in a Pillar of Fire to give them light; thus they could travel both day and night. The Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night never left the people. Exodus 13:20-22

When God led his chosen people away from the Egyptian slaveholders, He protected them by sending a fiery column. This pillar of fire stood between His people and their enemies. As they traveled further toward their destiny in the Promised Land, God continued to send the pillar of fire.

Instead of protecting them from an imminent enemy as it did from the Egyptian army, however, the fire provided three things: 1) it guided them as they traveled through the dark of night, 2) it gave them light to live by, and 3) it reminded the people that He was with them.
God sends His fire to cleanse and purify, and in these verses He sends His fire to connect Himself with His people. The New Testament tells us that the Holy Spirit connects us to God’s family. For us today, the fire of the Holy Spirit serves to give wisdom, direction, and light to live by. When we are surrounded by darkness, or can’t find our way out of an unclear situation, the fire of His presence shows us the way out. And the kindled flame of God’s Spirit within is the Presence that reminds us “he will never leave us or forsake us.” If it is dark in some places where you are, ask God to send the fire of wisdom and direction.

Practice worship today by singing aloud to Him, even if it seems you are in a dark place. A common refrain as a result of God’s deliverance in the Old Testament was: “For the Lord is good, and His mercy endures forever.” Worship Him, and He will meet you.

All For Him – Rick

Fire Proof Day Seven – Show & Tell

Day Seven – Show & Tell

Meanwhile keep the fire on the Altar burning; it must not go out. Replenish the wood for the fire every morning, arrange the Whole-Burnt-Offering on it, and burn the fat of the Peace-Offering on top of it all. Keep the fire burning on the Altar continuously. It must not go out. Leviticus 6:12-13

Fire was an ever-present part of the life of the people of God. The temple fire especially was important, as sacrifices of various kinds were burned at the altars. Also, when a battle was won, the gold and silver from the plunder had to pass through these fires to be shown acceptable and clean. Remember that a community’s fire during these days also held a central place that the people rallied around and depended on.

Twice in these verses, God tells His people to never let the fire go out. The temple fire was always to be tended and cleaned, refueled by the different priests, and stoked to full flame each day.
For us today, the fires of sacrifice have already been satisfied. We don’t have to burn “whole-burnt-offerings” or “peace offerings” over and over day after day – Jesus gave Himself completely to save us completely and He has made peace between us and the Father in heaven. There is another fire that we need to maintain and fan to full flame and never allow to go out. It is the fire of disciple- making, and each day we are responsible for passing along the flame of God’s Good News to the next generation of Jesus followers.
Can you see how important your life is in passing along this flame? You and I may keep busy in the work of ministry but, if we don’t pour our lives into others we will not accomplish His most important command – make disciples of all nations.
What was Paul’s practical response (read Philippians 4:9)? Who is the young man or woman you meet with to show and tell him or her how to walk with Jesus?

All For Him – Rick

Fire Proof Day Eight – Faith Fire

Day Eight – Faith Fire

Back and forth they talked. “Didn’t we feel on fire as he conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?” Luke 24:32

After you read this verse, go back to Luke 24 and read it in context. These two Jesus followers were unique to this story. Who were they? When did they say yes to Jesus as the Messiah for their lives? Did Jesus heal one when he was let down through the roof of a house? Was one a former demoniac who used to cut himself in the graveyard? Did they follow Jesus because John the Baptizer had told them Jesus would baptize them with fire?
One thing is for certain. Their physical eyes had convinced them that who Jesus claimed to be was finished – it was all over at His grave! But as they listened to the risen Messiah explain things once again, the fire of faith connected all the dots for them. They now knew it wasn’t all over – it really was just beginning.
Faith fire comes when we read God’s Word and believe that life can really be like Jesus designed it to be: full of joy, a walk of mercy, spiritual hunger quenched, relationships of unconditional love, a life of high impact and purpose.

Journal your hopes in Christ today.

All For Him – Rick

Fire Proof Day Nine – Fire of Mercy/Fire of Calling

Day Nine – Fire of Mercy and Calling

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:5-8

Isaiah’s calling started with fire. He recognized his unworthiness and unfitness, and the Lord sent a fire of mercy and forgiveness. Because he had experienced this fire, he was able to say YES to God’s next words. One who has been given a great gift like unconditional love and mercy, truly has something to tell others.
For this time of devotion, I want you to revisit your calling. When did you first sense that, because God had forgiven you, your life would never be the same? When did you know you had to serve Him with all you had inside you? What was it that drew you to use your gifts and passions and talents to make Jesus famous in our day? If you have never written this down, write it in your journal or blog and give this story to someone who has not heard it. Your story is a part of His story, and that’s worth telling!

All For Him – Rick

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