Locating God

I grew up learning that God is “up” and you-know-who is “down.” The psalmist says the Lord rides on the clouds; he chooses to dwell in the mountains. The ancients in the Old Testament looked to the mountains to where God lived. In fact, ancient cultures looked to the mountains as the place of the gods. Mountains were awesome, insurmountable, and only God could reign over something so spectacularly frightful. Or God dwells in the highest heavens, the clouds, or the sky; again, insurmountable, unapproachable, and no one but God can be up there.

Social theorist Joseph Campbell asserts that all people and cultures develop myths to handle the unexplainable, especially the nature and location of God. The mountains, the highest hills, the clouds were all completely off limits to humans. No one dare go there! But now, the myths are debunked (we’ve climbed mountains, surpassed the clouds, entered space, seen the galaxies) and, therefore, the “myth of God” is finally put to rest.

The writers of the Old Testament got it right. Yes, God lives beyond where I would dare go without a guide — he resides inside me where contradictions often rule, every turn may reveal treachery, and each cave or corner, darkness. God chooses to live within those who trust, love, and serve Him, even though the mistiness of wrong choices and the faint odor of damaged goods lingers. The grandest expression of the location of God? “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The God of the clouds compressed to the locality of my inner self. He chooses to live here, inside me.

To the heights and depths,

Rick

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Blurt it out

When I read the Gospel narratives, I sometimes superimpose Hollywood and years of how it’s been read publicly like a voice-over as I read. Sort of King James-ish, solemn, no jokes allowed. It can get stale when I read it through the wrong filters.

Jesus and the original “diversity awareness group” showed up at Caesarea Philippi – definitely off the usual path, north of their usual journey. I can guess that, after a long journey, the usual jabs and jest were tossed around. “Thomas, you doubted we’d ever arrive, eh?” “John, James, your mother couldn’t have made a better path for her son’s success, could she?” “Pete, anyone ever tell you, you rock?”

Then, Jesus asks: “What is the street saying about me?” A pause. “Some say you’re John come back from the dead to get back at Herod.” “Yeah, and I heard someone say you must be Elijah returned.” “Or… or, at the least, one of the prophets.” “Yeah, like Jeremiah… I like Jeremiah…I always listen to what he said.” “Yeah, John, so’s your mother.”

“But, what about you. Who do you say I am?” A longer pause. Simon, quiet all this time, for a change, blurts out what’s been bursting inside him since that day on the fishing boat. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Not a savior; The Savior. Not a son; but The Son of God.

Oh yeah, he got it right. May we blurt out what God has dropped into our hearts in worship and in witness. When we get the basics right, the rest falls into place.

Another blurt,

Rick

Changed by Simple Choices

I talked to a couple a few weeks ago, and they found our church because of a traffic snag. It was one of those events – car show, fun run, softball tourney, etc. – that sent cars all over the beach roads to get north or south. We do church right in the middle of the action, so they turned left to go right, and there we were. They worship with us now.

What matters most often is the result of simple choices. I’m not just talking about personal randomness like what dropped into these guys’ lives. The simple choices of how to spend a few minutes, or who to call just to say I’m thinking about you, or whether to turn left or right at the juncture of a dilemma, can literally transform your life.

I saw this today in Jesus’ life once again. And if anyone didn’t do randomness, He didn’t! But it sure seemed like it sometimes in Scripture; that is, until we got the rest of the story. (Ask the lonely guy at the Pool of Siloam how, out of all the sick, he was healed, if randomness figured into the plan. Or the lady with the issues who touched Jesus’ robe in the midst of her own traffic jam, if she was healed randomly. It may look random, but Jesus chooses very personally who to touch. But, I’m off topic…sorry.)

Mark writes his account of what we’ve come to call The Transfiguration (Mark 9). If you’ve read it before, and I asked you “why did he go up the mountain?” what would be your likely answer? To meet with Mose and company? To be Transfigured? To give a glimpse of His glory to the three disciples with Him?

From Mark’s pen, it was the result of a simple choice. The intro goes like this: “Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone.”

He wanted to rest, pray, get away from the noisy crowds, and have some alone time with His best friends and His Father. He knew that, being quiet for a time settles things deep down inside. It can clear the fog and cause the main things to rise to the top of the list, above the “not-so-main-things.” And it did just that – the Transfiguration account is all about the Father’s plan coming about through Jesus! It’s about the Father’s voice and the Father’s glory being seen in His Son! (Not to mention the very important cameos from Moses and Elijah to affirm the the mission!)

Simple choices just don’t get enough credit, but choosing wisely instead of poorly, or thoughtfully over impulsively, can cause us to land right into those important crossroads in our lives. There is a “default” perspective at times in the thought processes of follower’s of Christ. It starts with something like, “It must be God since I want to do it” and ends with “OK, it will somehow work out in the end” when the results skew a different direction. It’s almost a baptized fatalism that can rule our choices.

Take your choices before the Father, and make your choices based on His wisdom and His mission in your life. And, of course, it’s always a good choice to get away with your Father for some alone time with Him! Doing this as a simple daily choice will lead to your own personal transformation, and who knows? You likely will find yourself standing right in front of a far greater adventure than you could have chosen on your own!

On the Journey – Rick

Gifts and Spincasters

Maybe its the season with all the giving and getting that Christmas calls for, that leads me to think on gifts and ownership. We give a present to someone we love with a lot of thought and expectation. Or we write a check or roll up some bills to drop in the offering on Sundays. Or more commonly, we give our time to someone or something we value, again rolled up in a tidy amount that we can afford like an offering.

So who owns all this stuff, this money, this time and energy we give away? When I was a little kid, my dad owned a fishing business. So, I grew up surrounded by the “hurry up and wait” people (and all their stuff) who hang out on piers and docks. Fishing is one of those, engage every sense possible, sports. Sounds of the waters lapping against the pier. Feel of the bait sliding onto the hook. I still get a rush at the first smell of the salty air from the ocean!

When I want to fish, my dad points to the corner of the shop where all of his rental and personal rods and reels hang on the wall. Simple one-button reels and five foot “starter poles,” all the way to open-faced reels and spincasters with strong line and nine foot rods.

For years, I would always pick a little Zebco, one-button job. That satisfied me. I could bait it, drop the line in the water, and wait for the little fish to grab the goods.

But, my dad owned it all. And he was waiting for me to take the good stuff and use it for what it was designed for — to catch the big ones! (Years later, I got hooked on the good stuff and even caught a big one once or twice!)

God owns it all, and he sometimes sees us playing around with the “one-button job” while all along waiting for us to take up the good stuff He has promised us, use the awesome talents and gifts He has “hung on the wall” of our lives, and go after what He has designed us for and called us to.

He points us to it all the possibilities, but we grab the Zebco “starter pole.”

(I know this whole illustration has a whole disciple-making side — we need to grow up and learn to use what He’s offered us. Sometimes, we need to ask someone to help us use the spincaster. And we need to, by faith, take steps of using what He’s given us.)

Back to ownership. God really owns it all. Since He’s the Father, we look to where He points and to what He promises and offers us. It’s all there. We have access. We can use the gifts, the money, the time for what it was designed for. A full life invested for His glory. It all flows past so quickly, like the water through the gaps of the pier deck after a cloud-burst. So grab the spincaster and find the deep waters, and go for the big things God has waiting for you.

Going for the Big One! — Rick

“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Ephesians 4:1

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.”

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 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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