Thursday, July 31, 2008

Burn the Ships #2

Yesterday we talked about how Hernando Cortez and his troops landed on the shores of Mexico and when his men began to complain because of fear and fatigue, he told them to "burn the ships." (If you haven't read yesterday's blog, please do so by CLICKING HERE. )

I came across a blog by Lee Kemp that really inspired me. Please allow me to share some thoughts with you from his blog concerning Cortez. I hope it "spurs you on" as much as it did me.

For Cortez, the answer was easy. It was all or nothing! A Complete and Total Commitment. Here's how Cortez got the "buy in" from the rest of his men. He took away the option of failure. It was conquer and be hero's and enjoy the spoils of victory…or DIE! When Cortez and his men arrived on the shores of the Yucatan he rallied the men for one final pep talk before leading his men into battle, and utters these three words that changed the course of history. "Burn the Ships".

He met with resistance from his men. "Burn the ships," he repeated. He then uttered these words "if we are going home, we are going home in their ships". With that, Cortez and his men burned their own ships, and by burning their own ships, the commitment level of the men was raised to a whole new level. A level much higher than any of the men, including Cortez, could have ever imagined.

Amazingly, the men conquered the Aztecs and had succeeded in something where others had been unsuccessful for six centuries. With the victory Cortez and his men took the treasure. Why did they win? They had no escape. No fall back position. They had no choice! It was "succeed or die". Their ships were burned. They had no way to get back. Their backs were to the wall.

To "really succeed" you must have an attitude much like that of Cortez and his men. Cortez and his men did not have a "crutch" or "fall back position". They frankly didn't have any options. It was simply "succeed or DIE". Pretty strong position, isn't it? How would you like to be engaged in fighting someone with that level of motivation and commitment?

This is the level of motivation and commitment you must have. The "BURN YOUR SHIP" level of motivation and commitment. Take away your crutches and excuses and burn the ships that are keeping you from achieving your goals. Identity the ships in your life that are keeping you from accomplishing dreams. I hope that we will begin to think and speak, when we come up against an obstacle in our lives… "Burn the ships" to remind us of the commitment that we must have to be successful and accomplish anything great for God!
You see, whatever prevents you from achieving your goals and dreams are ships that must be burned. Not dismantled, or run ashore…but burned and destroyed.

If we know that our ships are still out there, when things get tough we instinctively head for our ships so we can escape. It's just human nature. The path of least resistance. This level of thinking and commitment sees sacrifice as a positive thing, not something weird or impossible, but something to be cherished and fought for. Cortez didn't allow himself or his men to have the option of going back to Spain. By removing this option, Cortez and his men were forced to focus on how they could make the mission successful.
And so it is with you. How can you make the missions in your life successful?

This is really a story about commitment. Commitment is the foundation of success. Not a single accomplishment is ever achieved without it. By focusing on commitment, we seal our future. Are you ready to "burn the SHIPS?" Are you ready to really accomplish something big for God? Then it's time to step out by faith! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Burn the SHIPS

In the Spring of 1519, the conquistador, Hernando Cortez and his troops landed on the shores of Mexico. He commanded 11 ships, more than 500 soldiers, 100 sailors, and 16 horses. When they began, they were men on a mission, searching for the untold riches that were rumored to be hidden deep in the Mexican landscape. Precious jewels, gold, and silver were calling their name. The prospect of gaining enormous wealth was enough to encourage many to sign up for this risky endeavor. They were excited. They were going to be rich!

But by the time they actually landed on the shores of Mexico, the attitude had shifted, and there was a problem. Some who began the journey with energy and excitement were now grumbling and longing to return home. Cortez did all he could to motivate the troops and remind them of the riches that were ahead of them. But some continued to long for home, and they fixed their gaze on the ships anchored in the harbor. Some were longing for the life they used to have. And the morale of Cortez's troops continued to weaken. If things continued this way, the mission would fail before it even began. Cortez needed to act, and he needed to act quickly.

"Burn the ships," he commanded his men.

"Do what?" they surely asked.

"Burn them. Burn the ships. We've come this far and we're not turning back."

And upon his command, the men set their ships ablaze. And they watched any connection to their past lives literally go up in smoke as the fires consumed the vessels. They had eliminated any options. There was nowhere to run. They were forced to embrace the new lives they had chosen. Instead of longing for the past, their focus became the mission at hand. When things became difficult and their opponents seemed too overwhelming, they couldn't turn around and run away. There was nowhere to run. Moving forward was their only choice. Instead of re-treading old paths, they were forced to create a new path - one that would lead to victory. It was a defining moment in the lives of Cortez and his men.

As Christians, we have signed up for a similar mission. We have been given the option of following Jesus wherever he leads, or longing for the life we have left behind. A few months ago I read a book by Mark Batterson entitled, Chase the Lion. This book discusses how God can use the obstacles in our lives as a means to accomplish amazing things. Towards the end of the account of David's reign, found in 2 Samuel,there's a quick explanation of the exploits of a man named Benaiah, the chief of David's bodyguard. He fought two Moabites at one time. Armed only with a club, he took on an Egyptian giant who had a spear. He chased a lion into a pit on a snowy day. You might be like me and think, "Snow? Isn't the Middle East pretty much desert? Isn't it hot and dry?" When we think of the region, we don't really think of it as being snowy - even in the winter. Apparently, snow is quite common in the hill country of the region. It's not very deep snow, however that doesn't mean it's not slick. And there are some winters where they don't get any snow at all. The mountains, of course, are covered with snow most of the year. This snow becomes the source for much of the water in the region

Benaiah had a choice when he encountered these obstacles. No one would blame him when he added up the odds he faced when the two Moabite warriors showed up. 2-on-1 is not favorable odds. He could have waited for reinforcements to arrive. Or he could have run.

No one would have blamed him when he assessed the situation with the Egyptian giant. A spear has a much larger range than a mere club. Benaiah could have retreated and waited until he had the high ground or had a more sophisticated weapon.

And when the lion fell into that pit on a snowy day, common sense says to just walk away. Instead, he chased the lion into the pit. And despite the odds, despite the fact that each event looked like lost causes, Benaiah emerged victorious.

In the same spirit of Benaiah, God is calling us to be Lion Chasers. The lions that we face could be the very obstacle that God will use to bring Himself glory through your life. That means He wants us to take some risks - to step out on faith and watch how God will work. He wants us to leave the comfort of the old life we knew before beginning a relationship with Him and blaze new trails, forging a new path. That's one of the keys to being a Lion Chaser - stop repeating the past and start creating the future.

I believe that God is calling His people to "burn the ships" of your past. For some, these ships represent your comfort zone. It is so easy to just coast through life, living to "arrive safely at death." That is not what God has called us to be or do. Just like Jesus did to Simon Peter, in the middle of a storm, He is doing the same to us… He is asking us to"GET OUT OF THE BOAT", take a step of faith. It is easy to talk of faith, but God is calling His children to walk out faith! To do that, you have to do some things that a few would think is CRAZY. When Cortez instructed his men to "burn the ships," I am certain some thought he was a nut case! I truly believe that some of us will go to our grave with REGRETS if we do not make a decision to "burn the ships!" Step out by faith…go against the odds…as the Lord leads you, and you just might be surprised at what God has in store for you. I would like to share with you the "Lions Chasers Manifesto" from In a pit with a lion on a snowy day":

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Grab life by the mane. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshipping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze a new trail. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away.

Lion chasers face fears. Do not run from fears. Do not bow before them. Do not submit to them. Our fears are ultimately as powerless as the false gods they represent. Fear the Lord--nothing else. Worship the Lord and no one else. Worship the Lord who is able. Worship the Lord who is worthy. Worship the Lord…and follow where ever He leads…regardless of the cost! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Four Types of Love

Please allow me to share with you a thought that I read from Rick Renner's Sparkling Gems from the Greek. I hope it ministers to you as much as it did to me. Let's look at the Four types of love.

When the New Testament was being written, there were four primary Greek words to describe the concept of "love": 1) eros, 2) stergo, 3) phileo, and 4) agape. These four words conveyed four very different types of love. I want to talk to you today about these four different types of love; then I'll tell you which of these four is the type of love the Holy Spirit wants to produce in your life.

The first word for "love" in the list given above is the Greek word eros, which is the Greek term for sexual love and where we get the word erotic. In Greek culture, this word referred to sensual, carnal impulses to satisfy or gratify the sexual desires of the flesh. It shares a common root with the word erao, which means to ask, to beg, or to demand. This confirms that eros is not a giving type of love; rather, it denotes a sexual demand. It is not a love that seeks to give or to please someone else, but a carnal love that seeks the fulfillment of its own desires.

It is very interesting that this word never appears once in the New Testament, not even in the context of sex in marriage. Even in Greek culture, the word eros represented a carnal, raw, base, low level craving, yearning, ache, or appetite for sexual fulfillment. This type of "love" is so flesh-based and so far removed from the level of love that God expects of believers that it is never included in New Testament language.

In the New Testament, regardless of whether the context is friendship, brotherhood, or romance, all believers are urged to continually operate from the perspective of agape love, which is a love more focused on giving than it is on receiving. Because the word eros primarily describes a selfsatisfying, self-gratifying, self-seeking, self- pleasing type of sexual appetite found mainly among unbelievers or those who are focused on themselves, it is not the type of love that believers should aspire to in their marital lives.

The second word for "love" mentioned in the list above is the Greek word stergo. The word stergo primarily pictures the love that exists between parents and children or the love that exists between members of a family. One scholar has noted that on occasion, the word stergo portrayed the love of a nation for its ruler or even the love of a dog for its master. Consequently, the real idea of the word stergo is that of devotion.

Although the word stergo does appear in the New Testament, it is very rarely used. We find it used in a negative sense in Second Timothy 3:3, where the King James Version translates it "without natural affection." This suggests a time that will develop in the last days when strong family ties and devotion to one's family will deteriorate. By using this word in a negative sense, the apostle Paul warns that one of the principal signs of the last times will be the deterioration of the family and of traditional family values.

The third word for "love" is the Greek word phileo, which describes affection — such as the affection felt between a boyfriend and girlfriend or the affability shared between two friends. It carries the idea of two or more people who feel compatible, well-matched, well-suited, and complementary to each other. Although this word describes the attributes of friendship, it is not representative of the highest form of love, which is agape. Other words derived from the word phileo are numerous. Here are a few of them:

  • philadelphia: a compound of phileo and adelphos, the Greek word for a brother. When these two words are compounded together, it means brotherly love.
  • philodonos: a compound of phileo and edone, the Greek word for pleasure. When compounded together, it means one who is a lover of pleasure.
  • philoxenos: a compound of phileo and xenos, the Greek word for strangers or foreigners. When compounded together in this form, it carries the idea of one who loves to be hospitable.
  • philoxenia: similar to the word above, which means one who loves strangers. However, the word philoxenia places more emphasis on love for the person in need of hospitality.
  • philanthropia: a compound of phileo and anthropos, the Greek word for mankind. Compounded together, it means one who loves or who is kind to mankind.
  • philarguros: a compound of phileo and arguros, which is the Greek word for silver. Compounded together, it means one who is covetous or one who loves money.
  • philosophia: a compound of phileo and sophos, which is the famous Greek word for wisdom. When these two words are compounded together into one, it becomes the word philosophy, which is a love of wisdom.

The fourth word for "love" is the word chiefly used in the New Testament to depict the love of God. This is the Greek word agape —: and it is this word that Paul uses in Galatians 5:22 when he writes, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love." This is what I call high-level love, for there is no higher, finer, or more excellent love than agape love.

In fact, the word agape is so filled with deep emotion and meaning that it is one of the most difficult words to translate in the New Testament. Trying to explain this word has baffled translators for centuries.

Agape occurs when an individual sees, recognizes, understands, or appreciates the value of an object or a person, causing the viewer to behold this object or person in great esteem, awe, admiration, wonder, and sincere appreciation. Such great respect is awakened in the heart of the observer for the object or person he is beholding that he is compelled to love it. In fact, his love for that person or object is so strong that it is irresistible.

In the New Testament, perhaps the best example of agape is found in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." In the phrase, "For God so loved the world," the word "love" is the word agape.

This means when God looked upon the human race, He stood in awe of mankind, even though man was lost in sin. God admired man; He wondered at man; He held mankind in the highest appreciation. Even though mankind was held captive by Satan at that moment, God looked upon the world and saw His own image in man. The human race was so precious to God and He loved man so deeply that His heart was stirred to reach out and do something to save him. In other words, God's love drove Him to action.

You see, agape is a love that loves so profoundly that it knows no limits or boundaries in how far, wide, high, and deep it will go to show that love to its recipient. If necessary, agape love will even sacrifice itself for the sake of that object or person it so deeply cherishes. Agape is the highest form of love — a self-sacrificial type of love that moves the lover to action. In contrast:

  • Eros is a self-seeking love.
  • Stergo is limited only to one's family.
  • Phileo is based on mutual satisfaction and can feel disappointed.

Agape is a love that has no strings attached. It isn't looking for what it can get, but for what it can give. Its awe of the one who is loved is so deep that it is compelled to shower love upon that object or person regardless of the response. This is the profound love God has for the human race, for He loved man when he was still lost in sin with no ability to love Him back. God simply loved mankind without any thought or expectation of receiving love in return.

When you love with such a pure love that you expect nothing back in return, it is impossible for you to feel hurt or let down by the response of the recipients of your love. You don't love them for the purpose of getting something in return; you shower them with love simply because you love them. This kind of love is much higher than eros love that is based on selfishness; stergo love that is restricted by limitations; or phileo love that is rooted in mutual satisfaction. These three types of love are what I call low-level love, but agape is high-level love. It is a love that has no strings attached, a love that loves simply and purely — the God- kind of love. With God's help, let's strive to walk in this kind of love today! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Monday, July 21, 2008

Refusing to “war after the flesh”

This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. I want to apologize for my lack of posting the past three weeks. I was in Ecuador for two weeks, then tried to get caught up last week, and never did. I am committed to posting this week. For those of you who read regularly, thank you for your understanding. I would like to share with you today some thoughts concerning one of my favorite verses, 2 Corinthians 10:3. I will also use the thoughts of one of my favorite authors Rick Renner (Sparkling Gems from the Greek).

As a child of God, it is important for you to remember that you have been delivered from Satan's power through the victorious, redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Make sure you keep that wonderful truth in mind the next time you have to deal with the devil's attack on your life. And don't try to defeat a spiritual enemy with fleshly weapons and techniques because fleshly weapons are for fighting fleshly adversaries; they were never intended to defeat a spiritual foe. Spiritual adversaries must be fought with spiritual weapons!

Paul makes this point in Second Corinthians 10:3 when he says, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh." The word "walk" in this verse is taken from the Greek word peripateo. This is a compound of the word peri, which means around, and pateo, which means to walk. When these two words are compounded together, the new word means to walk around or to habitually live and carry on in one general territory. It is the picture of a person who has walked in one general path for so long that he can now almost walk that path blindfolded. He knows that area well because he has habitually lived and functioned there.
By using the word peripateo in Second Corinthians 10:3, Paul is making a very strong statement about his humanity. He's saying, "Nearly everything I do, I do in the flesh. I eat in the flesh; I sleep in the flesh; I think in the flesh; I study in the flesh. My life is primarily lived in this earthly realm." Although he was a spiritual man, he still lived in a body made of flesh.

Paul knew that he was locked into his fleshly body and couldn't get out of it — nor could he trade it for another! I'm sure he would have taken that option if it had been available because he had been brutally beaten and terribly abused during the course of his ministry. His physical body permanently bore the scars, marks, wounds, and disfigurement of those beatings (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-25 and Galatians 6:17). Having a body free of scars and disfiguring wounds would have seemed like a terrific prospect to Paul!

In addition to the beatings he had endured, Paul was naturally a man of small stature. In fact, the name Paul means "little one." Although he was an intellectual giant who was highly educated, cultured, and even skillful in the political arena before he came to Christ, he did not have a striking physical appearance. Even historians record that he was a small and unimposing man.

It seems that the appearance of Paul's body was even an issue in the Corinthian church. Those who were against his ministry and wanted to eliminate him used his physical appearance as a reason to discredit him. In response to this, Paul wrote and said: "...In presence [I] am base among you..." (2 Corinthians 10:1). Because his adversaries were judging him according to the flesh, he asked them: "Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?." (2 Corinthians 10:7). Finally, Paul actually quoted what they were saying about him: "For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak." (2 Corinthians 10:10).

Notice that Paul never argues with them about the condition of his body. In fact, it seems that he agrees with them, even stating, "I am base among you." But whereas some may have judged him according to the flesh, Paul's confidence was not in the flesh but in the spirit. That is why he told them, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh" (2 Corinthians 10:3).

I think this message is important because we live in a day when people tend to judge themselves by the appearance of their bodies. If they are skinny, they feel good about themselves. But if they gain just a little weight, they are tempted to think that they are ugly and disgusting. Because of modern movies and advertisements, people are continually inundated with thousands of subliminal messages that say, "If you're not skinny and youthful-looking, you don't rate!"

Amazingly, even believers get caught up in judging themselves by their outward appearance. Although it's true that we should do what we can to stay in good shape physically, there are millions of people who are in great physical shape but couldn't win a spiritual battle if their lives depended on it!

You see, physical muscles make you look great in the natural, but mere flesh and blood has no effect on the devil or the spiritual realm. Spiritual battles are not to be fought or won with flesh, because the flesh is no match for spiritual foes. This disadvantage of the flesh is the reason God has supplied spiritual weapons for the believer.

Paul was aware of the weakness and futility of his flesh. He knew that when it came to dealing with the devil, he had to turn his attention to the realm of the Spirit where supernatural assistance was available and spiritual weapons existed for him to use against the devil. He knew his greatest weapons did not lie in his mind, his talents, or his flesh, but in spiritual weapons that exist in the realm of God's Spirit.

In Acts 19, a group of exorcists, whom the Bible identifies as the seven sons of a man named Sceva, attempted to cast an evil spirit out of a demon-possessed man. But when they commanded the evil spirit to come out of that man, the spirit answered them: ".Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?" (Acts 19:14,15).

Think of it! That evil spirit knew who Jesus was and who Paul was! Even though Paul lived in a small body that had been mercilessly beaten and abused, he was so powerful in the spiritual realm that hell knew his name! Perhaps the limitations of Paul's flesh turned out to be to his advantage! Because he couldn't lean on his flesh, he had to learn how to function in the realm of the Spirit — and that's the reason the evil spirits knew who he was!

That's exactly what you need to do as well. Yes, you may live in a fleshly body that has all kinds of limitations, but you can go forth with spiritual weapons to do warfare in the Spirit! Regardless of what you look like in the natural realm, you can be a holy terror to the devil in the spiritual realm. So reach out and take the loin belt of truth, the shoes of peace, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. When you're clothed in the whole armor of God, you can win the victory over the kingdom of darkness every time! Blessings!

Pastor Rusty

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pictures from Ecuador

Just a little over 48 hours ago, I arrived home with a team from our church. We had spent the past two weeks in the great country of Ecuador. We had the privilege of working on the one and only Assemblies of God campgrounds in Ecuador. We worked hard, but it was so rewarding. I will tell you more about it in the days to come, but today I would like to share some pictures with you:

My fifteen year old son, Jordan, excited about flying from Miami to Ecuador:

An Iguana at a park close to our hotel:

Fighting RAZORBACKS (notice my Arkansas State shirt. Sorry fellow Razorback fans)

House/store outside of Ayangue, Ecuador:

A view from our Hotel out over the Pacific Ocean:

This is my son Jordan laying tile. He and I laid tile together the entire trip. Wonderful memories…

A float in a parade at Montanita, Ecuador:

My wife and I on a boat preparing for whale watching:

A beautiful sunset view from our hotel:

Me preaching with an interpreter, who is Missionary Phil Barbers Administrative Assistant, Sandra. A great lady!

One of the loving children of Ecuador:

I took this picture at just the right moment. A whale leaping out of the water:

I will share more tomorrow! Blessings.

Pastor Rusty