An Argument for Higher Education

College is the place you go to learn to pronounce things. Flaubert (Flo-bear), Post-modernity (post-moe-dear-nit-tea), etc. It’s important to sound important; and academic to be in academia (Akku-dame-yah).

That’s why I didn’t do well with Italian. I never sounded like I was intelligent, academic, or important. Most of my Italian pulled smiles and nods from Italians, at least until I turned around. Then it was guffaws.

Example: When I hear “bagna cauda” (a culturally-rich, hot dipping sauce rich in garlic), I hear “hot bathroom” (bagno=bathroom; caldo=hot). An Italian friend asked me: “tu piace la bagna cauda?”  I had a ten minutes conversation in Italian about how I love a warm bathroom and a hot bath.  He smiled and nodded. From across the room, I heard guffaws from several Italians.

Learning to hear and repeat (pronounce) is important. This is why we think the news reports from Stephen Colbert (C0e-bare) is incredibly funny. And G.W. Bush. And Al Gore. All educated savants (Saw-vaws). Our vocabulary (and lexicon) are richer and more expansive.

So, I say: Keep the halls of high education open. And keep attending college. We need more people who look smart. And here’s to hot bathrooms!

Riccardo

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The Greatest Act of Worship

Have you even wondered how the beauty of goodness and the ugly of evil can exist in such close proximity? Just inside the entrance to the Sistine Chapel, covering the wall is Michaelangelo’s “Judgement Day” fresco. He depicts heaven, Jesus enthroned, worship and redemption graphically juxtaposed with hell’s fires, anguish, hopelessness and evil. The light of heaven is above; the darkness of hell is below. And pulling toward the dark those who long for good are the demons of hell. He had insight!

I see this juxtaposition of goodness and evil every day around me (and unfortunately, the battle of this inside me, too.) In Matthew 26 you can read about the greatest act of evil happening right alongside the greatest act of worship.

The Pharisees plot Jesus’ death. They do so in a politically correct way, of course, by trying to avoid Passover — a sort of Jesus-gate collusion.

While they look for a breakthrough to this “Nazarene problem, Jesus experiences the greatest act of worship possible. He is with his disciples dining at the house of a man he likely healed of leprosy, and “the woman” brings the alabaster jar in and breaks and pours out this expensive gift in adoration onto his feet.

The writer of this account uses two key “transition words” that indicate these two events were happening side-by-side – different locations, down the street from each other, but at the same time. How revealing!

When I break open and pour out what I am before the Lord, the fragrance is sweet – not because of the good I have done or am, but because of the good He has poured in. And when this happens, the aroma can overwhelm the place I’m in and draw others to the Source of this perfume. No matter the evil “down the street” or the pull the enemy has to tempt us toward the darkness, the fragrance of God’s grace and the goodness through a life poured out for Him is greater!

As you and I seek the Father, live by the Spirit, and pursue the Son’s command to follow Him and build disciples of all nations, keep pouring out the good He has poured into you.

Broken and splashed – Rick

What I Have Learned About Prayer in 40 Years…

What I Have Learned About Prayer in 40 Years…
And Still Wish I Could Get Right!
Rick Harrell
appuntivita.wordpress.com

1. Mix it up. Don’t get into a routine that can grow stale. Try new things in your devotionals to bring new energy to your prayer time. For a whole year, each of my daily devotion times involved reading through the Psalms and learning about worship and trust. He expanded my heart for Him that year.

2.  Try online resources for devotionals. I currently use StudyLight.org and go to the devotional section and choose two of these as a part of my day’s start – my two choices currently are “Word for Today” and “My Utmost for His Highest.” My Utmost is in book form in a modern translation, and may be out there in Italian, too, since I am writing this from Italy and you may even be Italian.

3. Pick a special place to have your devotions and prayer.
It may be a chair in a certain part of the house, or a corner of your balcony. I have a friend who has a real closet area, with a window, a stool and small table. He is on his knees more, though. Have your Bible and journal/prayer notebook waiting on you each morning.

4. Make appointments in your diary for time with God. Give Him priority… that means He gets first spot.

5. Always, always, always, start your Bible reading with prayer. We need His help to discover and uncover truth. Put yourself in the story, and picture the people and places. Listen with your imagination to the background noises. Ask God to talk to you and show you what He wants you to take away and apply. Remember to say: “God, this is supernatural in front of my eyes; and I need your Spirit to help me understand it and what I should do in response to it.”

6. If you want to learn how to pray, go on a “treasure hunt.” Read through the letters of Paul and write down the things he prayed for others. Then read through the prayers of Jesus. Most of them were short (“Be healed.” “Come out.” “Be calm.” “Be still.”) Look at the authority He prayed with. Pray like him when you pray for others. “God, calm the storm in his life.” God, make her whole.”)

7. Understand your day’s rhythms. When are you most full of energy and can give your best to God’s call to prayer? Try to fit your time to this – if it’s morning, make it happen then. Don’t give God your yawns! And if you have trouble focusing, keep a list of things you will take care of that come to mind while you pray. Get them off your mind and onto the paper, so you can return to praying.

8. Understand your emotional rhythms. You are uniquely you! Some days of the week or month and even some seasons of the year are just not your best “I really feel great about praying” times or days. Do it anyway. God isn’t dependent on your feelings each time you pray. He really isn’t limited to you getting emotional (even though He wants to engage your passions.) He loves to answer when we are not “feeling it.” So, quit the excuses of “I don’t feel it” and PRAY! Faith in God, His Word, His Promises, His nature, His will – these are fuel of what our prayer life runs on.

9. Some days are time-limited. Make these shorter times count. Worship, read and pray in faith. Don’t try to work up an emotional high before praying since you will frustrate yourself, frustrate God, and probably still not pray in faith.

10. Some days are time-gifted.
You sometimes have “open windows of prayer” when you can take extended times to worship, pray, fall in love with Jesus, journal your heart out onto paper or your digital blog. Look forward to those days, and ask God what he wants to teach you about His heart. Be obedient when He speaks. These times can often change the course of your life or the lives of others. (One time, about an hour into my prayer time, God spoke to me about lifting my hands to Him in worship. I was outside at the time, and I told Him I didn’t worship like that. He clearly said, “If you don’t, you will stop right here in your growth in worship.” My hands went up so quick it was funny. Now, lifting hands to a loving Daddy is a natural response to His love.)

11. Organize your prayer life by circles. This may be my biggest struggle to keep up with, other than the simple let’s just do it attitude I need to have toward prayer. It helps to remember that “praying always” or “praying continually” for someone doesn’t mean you have him or her on your lips all day and all night. Praying continually means that you have a consistent time of praying for them
•    Your most immediate circle should be daily, and include those God has put in your life for an ongoing purpose. (My wife, my three kids; my spiritual leaders – missions, pastor, Bible study; my work leaders – boss, those I work immediate with most of the time; those I am discipling, usually two or three guys; those I am reaching out to, usually three or four people I am trying to strengthen bridges of trust and compassion to them that the Gospel can travel more freely over.) Sounds like a lot on the first list that happens each day – but really only about 10-12 people.
•    My next list is the once a week list. This is usually broken down into Monday-Saturday, and I cover extended family, church members who have needs and ask for prayer, missions partners whom we support, our government/schools/military/economy/culture – that it would all work together to create a spiritual climate open to the Gospel, the persecuted church, extended list of lost or hurting people.
•    My final list is those “one-time” prayer requests that come my way. I pray for them right there with the person, or pray for the need when I get home. But I don’t own this one as my “burden” to pray for regularly. I do pray for these occasionally, and I check in with the person to see how God is answering and to let them know I am continuing to pray (not continuously, but continuing…)

12. Move prayer needs around. Journaling helps me keep up with names, needs, answers to prayer, praise reports. Just because a person or a need is on a certain day or list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t “bump the priority up” when God says so.

13. Begin and end each prayer time in worship and thanksgiving.
As a part of the beautiful conversation God has begun with us, make worship and adoration an essential part of your prayer time. Sometimes, it may be your whole prayer time. Other times worship is the prelude to praying in faith, and thanksgiving is the consummate finale.

14. Use the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer as your extended prayer day pattern.
An hour or more can go by quickly when you take these words Jesus gave us, and you use them as the “diving board” to jump into the deep end of the pool in prayer. I can share more about this if you’d like. I keep an outline of an hour’s prayer time in my Bible most of the time.

15. My favorite Prayer Verses? Ephesians – the whole book. Incredible insight into our position in Christ, the battle we are in, and how to stand faithfully to the end in prayer.

Prone to Pray,

Rick

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

Telling the Greatest Story Through Art

Can the Arts take a significant place in global missions through OM? Field and area leaders from Europe invested a day discovering how professional artists are effectively declaring the Gospel through the Arts on the mission field.

Leaders from Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Central Europe and the Ships took part in the OM Arts Forum in Mosbach, Germany on November 23, 2009. The participants explores how the Arts can be integral to the mission of reaching the world for Christ and how artists can be effective colleagues and team members at the OM field level.

OM Arts Director Bill Drake led the forum and defined the vision and growth plans for the newly formed OM Arts International.

Drake addressed how an OM field can embrace Arts Ministry as a part of the field’s direction, how to best communicate Arts in the field’s vision, and how the field can lead, care for, and release the professional artist to fulfill their missions calling.

Consultant and Arts in mission catalyst Colin Harbinson led the forum participants through a Bible study of Bezalel, the artist chosen and called to work with Moses to create the tent and elements of worship commissioned by God on Mount Sinai.

Harbinson reminded forum participants that Bezalel was called and filled with the Spirit for the work of creating art for God’s glory.

Artists who are called to missions can be released to create art with excellence in the context of the OM field. Harbinson encouraged the need for professional artists in missions and warned that “art done poorly communicates poorly.”

Quoting writer A.W. Tozer, Harbinson affirmed that, “Christians are obligated to excellence because God is supremely excellent.”

OM Arts will work with field leaders to identify artists who are ready to serve in missions and help the fields and the artists to prepare to establish unique arts teams.

A leadership training seminar for artists preparing for missions will take place in Rome, Italy in conjunction with Transform 2010 in July. For more information about the training seminar or about OM Arts, contact info@arts.om.org.

Street-level Missions

What’s the best thing for short-term missions leaders to do after four days of training, planning, and meetings?

Go on a mission trip, of course!

Twenty-five Global Challenge leaders from Europe and the Mediterranean region plunged into the middle of what has been called the largest daily open-air market in Europe to share Christ with Italians, and immigrants from the Balkans, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Porta Palazzo’s market fills nearly a square kilometer of piazzas and side streets with furniture, clothes, fish, vegetables, flowers, home appliances, shoes, cheese, jewelry, pirated movies… and most importantly, thousands of immigrants.

The team set up a market tent each day with several tables filled with Bibles, booklets, DVDs addressing faith in Christ, as well as boxes of winter clothes. Hundreds of internationals and Italians received Bibles and a chance to hear about the Good News of Christ personally from a team member.

Jill McAfee, a worship leader from the USA described, “Some people from our team would stay at the tent and talk to people who came by.  Others went out to talk to people.  One group came with me to different locations where we just sang and worshipped.  It was very cool.”

“I enjoyed watching people on our team, who normally wouldn’t be able to share freely, having the chance to share openly about Jesus.  It was beautiful. The atmosphere was different…freer even.” McAfee explained.

The outreaches were organized by OM-Italy and local churches and the team was joined by META (an Italian evangelism organization) and members from several evangelical churches in Turin.

Language barriers can be a problem at times on short-term trips, but this team came prepared with skills in French, Arabic, Italian and several other languages.

Tim Barlett, a Global Challenge leader in the Balkans, said, “One of the greatest thing was to have so many varieties of languages ready and available to talk with the people who visited the booth.”

For six days, the market is set up for normal trade and it closes down Sunday. However, the sidewalk fills with a different kind of market for Sunday as Arabic music fills the air and various items are displayed on sheets of cloth or cardboard.

The Sunday vendors, mostly men, visited the outreach tent and openly discussed the claims of Christ with the team members.

One employee from a Turin museum argued by declaring aloud to the team, “Convince me! Convince me!” Team member and Italian Field Leader Eliseo Guadagno recalls “I just kept coming back to the Cross and to his personal need for forgiveness in Christ.”

Not long after this discussion, one Italian man asked Guadagno, “Who won?” Short-term missions leaders would say that, after the tent was packed and the few Bibles and booklets remaining were boxed and loaded into the van: “Christ, and His Kingdom won.”

One Person’s Perspective on the Outreach to Porta Palazzo

Below is a report from someone who is serving in the Middle East living the Christian life among friends and serving the culture in Arabic. To hear her tell the story in person was moving!

AM I IN ITALY OR NORTH AFRICA? – Italy
One OMer recalls her experience reaching out to people in a crowded Italian market:

“We were dropped off at the market place, and I stood in amazement at the great number of North Africans there. We were still busy unpacking the books when one Gospel of Luke was already picked up! I smiled and greeted people in Arabic. They would stop and turn back, surprised, and then would take almost anything I offered them. We had good talks with some people; others just wanted the books and DVD’s. Others were not interested at all. It was an emotional time because people were so open to hear and know more. Many walked away with a Gospel of Luke!

“Torino is truly a mixture of immigrants. At times I was sad to see how desperate people were for drugs, and yet we were right there so eager to offer them eternal hope. Later, we walked around in groups to intercede for these people in the biggest market in Europe.”

Please pray that OM Italy is able to reach Italians and immigrants with God’s love. Pray that those who received the literature would read it and desire to learn more about Jesus.

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 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

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