Collateral Damage

It’s almost Easter again (2013) and the Cross gets the headlines in churches and news-blogs. Most of us relegate crucifixion to the Gospels, but what about today? Men will be crucified on Good Friday in the Philippines as a sign of desperate devotion (one woman joins the parade of the crucified – her fifteenth time – hoping for a miracle for her sister.) The cross as execution tool is still used against Christians (and other betrayers) in the Muslim world. Egypt, Iraq, Indonesia and other nations have had recent crucifixions to punish the infidels.

For some, this is collateral damage to show the world that Islam rules. Or in the case of the Filipino devotees, a way to display a profane dedication to their God’s holy demands. For many, it’s a religious sideshow. For this Christ-follower, it breaks the heart.

The message of the Cross is simple, liberating, life-altering, and resolves the soul’s deepest cravings… for those who believe. For those who deny or oppose, it is a foolish thing for anyone to think God would take on the pain of the Cross for a barely worthless person. Such an idea would trip up the rationale of anyone with the sense the world gave him or her.

In some ways, the collateral damage that hurts the most is the sacrifice willingly made by the Son of God. (Maybe we should, at least around Easter, feel the pain of what God allowed in the crucifixion.)But beyond the Cross (and really for the Cross) Christ-followers have been willing to sacrifice themselves to show the message of the Cross to generations of cultures. Some have been willing participants of collateral damage, crucified or otherwise executed for the Message… a part of the legacy of getting the Good News to the world.

Collateral means parallel or alongside of, a good picture of what we as Christ-followers do in sharing the Good News with others through our lives, prayers, resources, gifts and talents… and of course, our words. But collateral also means payment or bond or guarantee (as in bail money).

The sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is the bond paid forward and offered to be received by faith. And the sacrifice you and I make to take this Message that is so offensive to some in hopes they will received the gift? We may or may not be a part of the collateral damage, but it’s worth the risk and the reward.

With a view to the Cross,

Rick

Advertisements

Simon’s Second Call

When Jesus began his ministry, he asked some guys to travel with him to help him out, watch and learn from him. Simon was one of them. A fisherman and small business owner, he had franchised out to his friends, James and John, a part of the enterprise. Business, like the waves of the Tiberian Sea, had its ups and down. But it was a living, and he would do this the rest of his life. That’s the way careers were.

Then Jesus asked for his boat’s use, to preach from, of all things! Sure, as long as it doesn’t interfere too much in his day. It had been a long night, and the fish were too deep to catch. The teaching was good, not wishy-washy or dry like the others. He seemed to know God. And knew how to tell about it. Jesus knew about spiritual stuff, for certain.

But fishing was Simon’s business. Not that it was a big deal, but Jesus asked him to put the nets out again, during the worst part of the day for fishing, and get them mucked up again. At the time, he didn’t think it was important, but  after that morning, Jesus went from being a good teacher and rabbi to becoming the Redeemer and Lord. The fish were so abundant in that first draw that the boys could barely get them in; in fact, it was a miracle the nets didn’t break before making shore.

Sales would be good all day with this catch, but business was the last thing on Simon’s mind… and James’ and John’s, too. They were standing before one who could only be the Lord God, hearts wide open. And Simon knew what had mucked up his own heart. So did Jesus.

And he still asked Simon to travel with him, in spite of his attitude, his temper, his pride, and his tendency to believe nobody does what he does better, and all the other stuff that had darkened his heart.

Jesus called Simon to catch people bound for death without God so they could really live, and he left the business of catching live fish and watching them die on the sand and pebbles.

He asked Simon to follow him a second time. His old business partner, John, heard the exchange. When Jesus was hours away from his Great Work on the cross, he told Simon he could follow him later. This was a call to martyrdom, to leave earth and follow him to eternity.

There are a lot of “comes” in the Bible. I learned about these from one of the most focused men I’ve ever known. “Come and see” turns into “come and follow” and then “come and remain.” From the position of “remaining in Christ,” we bear much fruit as we both “come and go out.” It’s all wrapped up in the call to die…so we can live.

It’s a process of growth. Each time we give up, and we gain even more. David Putman says our Christian lives are a mix of “living,” “loving,” and “leaving.” We leave behind the things that keep us from doing and becoming what God has on his agenda. Someone at Urbana 09 said we should live our lives so that we will be forgotten. That way, only Jesus will be remembered.

This second call of Simon was one of decreasing, of dying to self, and dying for Christ. Yes, it does happen. In the world every day, says one human rights watch group, over 200 Christians die for his or her faith.

Everyday, we can follow Christ. Live with him, love him, leave behind what keeps us from him, and heed his call to point others to Him instead of us.

If you want to do further study on Luke 5 and the Simon’s call to catch men and women for Jesus, click on this study link.  Everything Changes Luke 5 If you are interested in David Putman’s book, it’s called “Breaking the Discipleship Code.” I recommend it.

Learning to live,

Rick

Real Treasures

So we’re driving back from Dallas and another long Sunday in the Inner City (really, we capitalized these words, as in Inner City Baptist Church) and Erwin begins explaining a message he had been working on. Yes, we had been in ministry activity all day long — Erwin is a little intense when it comes to Scripture.

“We give God our worst,” was the core truth of the message.  Wait a minute — we strive for excellence, we give Him our best when we serve Him. We love Him with the best we have. At least, that seemed to be the message I had gotten in church, and now in seminary, all my life.

But the principle that we give God our worst stuck in my mind. I didn’t agree with it, and I still wrestle with it since God is worthy of our best.

My relationship with God is an exchange. He give me His treasure and I give Him mine. His treasure is an eternity in friendship with Him, a relationship through His Son Jesus.

But what have I treasured. Wrongs done to me. Sinful habits. Envious thoughts. Places my heart and mind have lingered around, and at times jumped into full-on.  My treasures are the worst part of me because they are worth more than the greatest treasure God has given. I have placed great value on the very things that deflate the value I place on God’s mercy and favor.

My treasures are tangible. I can see them, touch them, befriend them, and place high worth to them. But they are so temporary, and really gone within seconds of the value I had place on them. Nothing left but the bad memory, the hurt friendship, the guilt.

Hosea said of Israel, “They are mud-spattered from head to toe with the residue of sin.” One writer has said that God has given us access to all He has created. We have access to His gifts, to use for His glory and to enjoy. He created it, we benefit from it.

And we give Him back the one thing that is solely ours through our creative powers alone — our sin. Everything else we do, live for, create, give purpose to, is a gift from the Great Giver. Except the sin we created by our own purpose.

The Great News is, He invites us to exchange gifts. We give Him the sin we created; He gives us mercy, favor, relationship, unfailing love. He gives us His best.

We give Him our worst.

Exchange gifts with the Great Giver when you pray today.

It’s the season!

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 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

Fire Proof Day 10 – Fires of Affection

Day Ten – Fires of Affection
Regarding Zion, I can’t keep my mouth shut, regarding Jerusalem, I can’t hold my tongue, Until her righteousness blazes down like the sun and her salvation flames up like a torch. Foreign countries will see your righteousness, and world leaders your glory. You’ll get a brand-new name straight from the mouth of God. You’ll be a stunning crown in the palm of God’s hand, a jeweled gold cup held high in the hand of your God. No more will anyone call you Rejected, and your country will no more be called Ruined. You’ll be called Hephzibah (My Delight), and your land Beulah (Married), Because God delights in you and your land will be like a wedding celebration. For as a young man marries his virgin bride, so your builder marries you, And as a bridegroom is happy in his bride, so your God is happy with you. Isaiah 62:1-5

Isaiah’s fire from the early days only got hotter and more compelling as he served and walked with God. In this passage, he cannot contain what God has shown him. Righteousness is a deep sun-fire. Salvation flares up like a torch all around the land. The results of such an uncontainable holy fire? Nations will recognize that God is in the land from the lowliest servant to the leaders of the world!
There have been times in history when God’s fire fell in ways that the culture was changed and the nations and rulers took notice. During the early local revivals and the places this fire spread, newspapers would publish daily reports of how the revival was spreading and affecting their culture. Nations and leaders were often transformed during these revivals.
Notice what happens to God’s people in the above verses when this revival fire falls. God changes what we are called – no longer are we called what the Enemy spent years drilling into our minds we were called. God transforms what we are worth – no longer a broken clay pot meant for the trash bin, but a treasured cup and crown designed for royalty. God changes what we are destined for – no longer rejected, separated, good for nothing and joyless. Now we are His delight. We are not just invited to the wedding – we are in the center of His ravishing gaze.
Face it: this kind of love and affection from God the Mighty Creator makes us nervous. I mean, He really has better things to do than meet me and pour out His passionate affection on me. Today, your discipline practice is to read through as much of the Song of Songs as you can stand. Read it as a love song to a lover. More importantly, read it as a love song from the God of all Power, to you. Underline what he feels for you, and read it back to Him as an expression of love from you to Him. The fires of His affection are directed to you and wouldn’t that be a shame to miss out on.

All For Him – Rick

Newer entries »