Day One: Painter – Unlimited Beauty, Unlimited Palette

Piero lived in the 1400’s  and spent nearly every day at a desk writing contracts and signing off on legal documents in an obscure village outside of the city of Florence. He would not even have made the history books except that, instead of retiring to his home after work,  he spent his nights with a peasant girl named Catarina. She gave birth to a baby that she and Piero named Leonardo. The village was called Vinci.

Leonardo da Vinci was given a general education in math and science in his early years. But, Piero came into a fortunate position with the di Medici family and connected his son with the best training possible through mentoring. He became the apprentice of a goldsmith of fame called Verrochio (meaning “true eye,” necessary for a master artist.) Leonardo was mentored in the arts and sciences, as well as the broad sweep of techniques in sculpting, casting, and painting. He soon surpassed his teachers, and began creating new ways to span rivers, irrigate fields, and do battle. But is passion was painting.

Mark 2:13-14 records that, “Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. 14As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me and be my disciple,’ Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.”

A businessman with plenty of means like Levi (called Matthew in most places) would be content, satisfied with his good fortune. But, Levi was wondering, searching, and waiting for what would fill his inner emptiness. We know this by what he did soon after meeting Jesus.

Read Mark 2:15-18 Why did Levi think having a party with Jesus mattered to his friends? What did he hope to accomplish? How do  you think Jesus responded to this type of party?

We likely didn’t get a personal verbal invite from Jesus of Nazareth like Levi did. But, like his friends who got the party invite from their tax-collector friend, he uses those who know him to introduce others to Jesus. If you are his follower, someone introduced you to Jesus. He speaks to each of us through the compassionate invitation of others.

Out of the Comfort Zone:

1. Consider your place at the party table. Who invited you? Send him/her a letter or email. Better yet, make a phone call. If that’s not possible, journal a letter you would want to write to him/her.

2. At church this Sunday, be intentional about bringing people to the party table. Look for a person, couple or family who needs a personal invite into your life in Christ. Ask them to lunch or schedule a time to meet, just for the benefit of “hang out time.”

3. Find a neighbor in your circle of people who needs a party. If it’s someone who needs your forgiveness, extend it. If it’s someone who is hurting or without something, provide it. Do something for someone that builds a bridge you can send a party invitation across.

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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

How Many Miracles?

When Jesus took the short-cut across water, He really didn’t expect the delay of a series of miracles. He planned to “pass them by” after a lengthy time of prayer, according to one of the Gospel writers (even though here Matthew says He came toward them.)

How many miracles surprise us in this passage: the miracle of Jesus walking on water (creating substance under his feet or creating a gravitational miracle, the miracle of faith for Peter to step out of the boat, then Peter’s miracle of walking on the water, and the subsequent repentance, forgiveness and rescue; and we can’t forget the calming of the storm.

Here are some “take-aways” I can walk away with, too:
1. Miracles happen when we are aligned on the same course with the God of miracles. The disciples were on course.
2. Miracles happen when we need miracles. They were on course, but they were struggling.
3. Miracles happen when we ask for one. Peter asked; Jesus answered. He could have said, don’t be an idiot, Peter, people don’t walk on water!
4. Miracles happen on His word. The firmness of the statement “Yes, come,” was the substance just under the waters that Peter walked on.
5. Miracles happen when we repent. The timeliest rescue is when we are going down for the last time.
6. Miracles happen in the midst of relationships. Does a miracle make a story if no one is around to share in it? Jesus got in the boat, and His Presence alone stopped the storm.

How many miracles does it take when I step out of the safety net around me? Let’s see – one so far, and looking for the next!

Staying on course,
Rick

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

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

Looking for God

It was 1986, and it was another Sunday morning. My role at the church I serve in San Antonio was as pastor of discipleship and evangelism. We had begun a Hispanic church on half of our campus, and had recently begun a small group program in homes around the neighborhoods. And God was showing up in the homes in refreshing ways. One of our “nights of worship” with all the small groups together lasted long into the evening (long, especially for Baptists on a Friday night.)

The Sunday morning in question had been a better-than-normal crowd. The message was good for the moment, but I can’t remember it. The worship was very normal (and very forgettable) for a Baptist church with a choir loft and organ. The invitation was short; the results escape me. What was memorable happened as I was gathering my Bible and notebook together at the end of the service. In fact, I will never forget the words nor the look on the faces of the young Latino couple who found me at the front of the church.

“I have heard we can find God here.” The couple looked really out-of-place among the stained glass and maple woodwork. And at the same time, they looked like perfect candidates for the altar we were standing beside. The sunlight magnified the dust particles in the hazy air of the empty sanctuary these two had invaded, with hopes of finding God.

I said, “Yes, I can help you find God right here.” We prayed.

Skip forward to tonight. My pastor at the Beach led a membership class tonight for about a dozen people. I was there because I help with small groups and disciple-making. He talked about values, the history of our church, and told stories of how God has been working and how He has led us to this point.

Then he shared what kind of church he envisions us becoming. The top of his list didn’t include large numbers, huge buildings, a publishing house or film department (that seems the rage lately.)

He looked out the front door to the streets, the beach, the road to the local schools, the bars, the strip clubs, restaurants, malls, and the hideouts for the street people who live here. “I want the people who don’t know God to know that, if they can just get to our church, if they can just get here, they will find people who will love them, and they’ll find the love of God.”

He was the prophet tonight. There are people who come looking for God. The word is out. Hope…help…healing… wholeness…the love of God is here. God wants the place where church meets to be a place that people who may not look like they belong in church can look for God. Like the latino couple, they can risk the question, “Can I find God here?”

“…so he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

Finishers Going to the Nations!

I invite you to listen to these two finishers who decided to take the steps into missions. Gary Barto worked with phones systems all his life and serves with OM-Ships; Sandra and Hal Henson took the “empty nest” nudge into missions and now serves in OM’s team in Chile!

OMNItube · Finishers.

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.

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.

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