Refined By The Fire

Where is God in our trials? When we call, Jesus runs to our cry. He is able to help us because He knows exactly what our cries sound like. Aren’t you glad He does?! 

While we are in these difficult times, you might find yourself asking a question I have asked, “Okay, God, I believe You are doing something, but what exactly are You doing?” 

I can’t tell you specifically what God is doing in your life, because your story is unique and special. But I can tell you that during the hard, painful chapters of our lives, God is accomplishing at least five things in all of us.

  1. God is opening our eyes to new paradigms

We will learn lessons in these fiery trials that we couldn’t possibly learn any other way. 

  1. God is building empathy in us which we didn’t have before

One dictionary defines empathy as “the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.” It’s only because of our trials that we no longer have to imagine what someone else is feeling, but instead we know exactly what they’re feeling and how we can help. 

  1. God is growing our patience 

It’s been said that patience is the “mother of all other virtues.” Paul said that “these troubles produce patience” (Romans 5:3). As God grows your patience, He will also help you to grow all of the other Christlike virtues. 

  1. God is refining His character in us 

Paul went on to add that not only does trouble produce patience, but “patience produces character” (Romans 5:4). During the times of difficulty and uncertainty, we become more aware of deficiencies in our character. 

  1. God is building in us an unshakable hope in His future grace 

Hope is not wishful thinking; it’s well-founded believing! 

I want to circle back to that word refining because I think that best sums up what God is doing in our painful times. Romans 8 tells us—The Spirit Himself thus testifies together with our own spirit, assuring us that we are children of God. And if we are His children, then we are His heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ—sharing His inheritance with Him; only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory. But what of that? For I consider that the sufferings of this present time—this present life—are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us! (Romans 8:15-18) 

So where’s God in this time of fire? He is overseeing our trial as a Perfect Refiner. Do you know how the silversmith knows he has purified the impurities from the silver ore? The silver is pure when he can see his own reflection in the silver! 

In the heat of your trial, God is close to you. He knows the perfect temperature and the precise time that it will take to allow His face to be seen in you! 

Sometimes you will see what God is doing through your furnace time, sometimes you won’t. But don’t ever bail out! God IS working! He is giving you a new perspective, a deeper empathy, more patience, an unshakable hope, and most of all—He is removing the impurities that will allow His face to be seen more clearly in you! 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn where God is in our darkest times. And if you didn’t catch the previous messages in this series, please check out The God That Runs To You and How Long Will This Last?

Be Ready

…430 years, to the very day… (Exodus 12:41). 

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of a sober mind so that you may pray. (1 Peter 4:7)

The Old Testament picture of slavery in Egypt is a picture of slavery to sin, with the Passover being the moment of salvation. 

But it is also a picture of the times in which we now live—people rely on their gods, not listening to the Word of God; a time that people live pleasing themselves, “living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry”; a time that the Judge is approaching and people are ignorant or apathetic about His arrival (see 1 Peter 4:1-6). 

The application of the blood of the sacrificial Passover lamb is a one-time choice (salvation), but the remembrance and lifestyle application is a series of ongoing, daily, even moment-by-moment choices. 

People will think it strange that Christians don’t join them in their worldly-focused lifestyle, but we must be alert and sober and prayerful. The Day is coming when God will fulfill everything “to the very day”—and no one can buy or bargain another moment. 

When God’s clock strikes, we must be ready! 

If you, dear Christian, are ready for The Day of the Lord’s appearing, then I plead with you to also be actively telling others to be ready to meet their King as well. May they be able to meet the very day with rejoicing because their beloved Savior has arrived, not with quaking fear because the All-Righteous Judge has arrived.

4 + 4 Strategies To Eliminate Distractions To Your Prayer Time

There’s a quote that has been the theme for this series on prayer: “Prayer pursues joy in fruitful fellowship with Jesus, knowing that God is glorified when we bear fruit in answer to prayer. Why do God’s children so often fail to have consistent habits of happy, fruitful prayer? Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the reasons is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to.” —John Piper 

And unless I’m badly mistaken, the most obvious thing we need to plan to eliminate is distractions. 

Some people say they can juggle a lot of things at once. “I’m a really good multitasker,” they say. But science says differently. MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller concluded that our brains are “not wired to multitask well…. When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.” What is that cognitive cost? “Multitasking can drop IQ as much as 15 points, essentially turning you into the cognitive equivalent of an 8-year-old” (Inc. Magazine). 

If the devil can make you think you can multitask prayer with other things, he has seriously inhibited the effectiveness of your prayers. 

Jesus was not a multitasker—but He was singularly focused on His Father’s plan. And yet He accomplished more in His three years of public ministry than anyone else in history! 

Here are 4 strategies to help you get ready to pray:

  1. Try to have your prayer time in the same place and at the same time. Your brain likes routine and it will help you zero-in during your scheduled prayer times. 
  2. Silence your cell phone or other noisy distractions. 
  3. Keep a notepad handy for random thoughts that pop into your head. Writing them down will keep your brain from switching back-and-forth to them.
  4. Focus on listening, not on talking—Eugene Peterson said, “Prayer is first of all a means of listening. Prayer is an act of attention.” 

When we get right down to it, prayer is spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:10-18). In the context of warfare, the word strategy means the maneuvering that takes place prior to the battle. The devil is a masterful tactician, and he will do everything he can to keep you distracted. 

That’s why three times Peter tells us to be clear-minded and singularly-focused in our thoughts SO THAT we can pray without the hindrances of distractions (1 Peter 1:13-14; 4:7; 5:8-9). And Paul tells us to take all our thoughts captive, so that no un-Christlike thoughts are inhibiting our prayer time (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). 

Here are 4 strategies to help you stay focused in prayer:

  1. A—adoration. Enter into God’s presence with a Psalm or worship music. 
  2. C—confession. Deal with unconfessed sin, unforgiveness, or relationship strife as quickly as possible (Psalm 66:18; Matthew 5:21-24). 
  3. T—thanksgiving. Paul counseled us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition WITH thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).  
  4. S—supplication. Intercede for your brothers and sisters in the battles they are facing (James 5:16; Job 42:10; Ephesians 6:18).  

Remember—

Prayer isn’t preparation for the battle; prayer IS the battle! Let’s not be distracted from that!

What’s In A Name?

Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son… (Genesis 29:32). 

Jesus said that ALL the Scripture pointed to Him (John 5:39). That means even the various names of people in the Scripture give us some insight into the nature of Jesus. 

Consider Jacob and his sons, who become the fathers of the tribes of the nation of Israel. Jacob the deceiver is transformed into Israel the guileless, and the names of his sons point to what Jesus does to transform all of us into His righteous brothers and sisters. 

[Check out the links posted below to read all the Scripture references.]

Reuben—God sees my misery and sends His Son (Genesis 29:32; John 3:16). 

Simeon—God sent His Son when I was unlovable (Genesis 29:33; Romans 5:6-8). 

Levi—after I am saved from my sins, I am joined to God (Genesis 29:34; Ephesians 2:1-5).

Judah—my salvation brings praise to God (Genesis 29:35; John 15:8).

Dan—God has vindicated me in Jesus (Genesis 30:6; John 8:11).

Naphtali—Christ’s righteousness has given me victory over my struggles (Genesis 30:8; Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 15:54-56). 

Gad—God’s favor now advances toward me like an unstoppable troop (Genesis 30:11; Romans 8:31-39). 

Asher—I am now able to enjoy God’s happiness (Genesis 30:13; Matthew 25:21, 34). 

Issachar—God IS my reward (Genesis 30:18; Revelation 3:20-21).

Zebulun—my Husband (Jesus) honors me (Genesis 30:20; Ephesians 5:22-23; Hebrews 2:11).

Joseph—God has taken away my disgrace and added His blessing (Genesis 30:24; Romans 8:1, 32).

Manasseh—God has made me forget my past (Genesis 41:51; Psalm 103:12).

Ephraim—God has made me abundantly fruitful (Genesis 41:52; 1 Peter 2:9-10).

Benjamin—I am God’s son (Genesis 35:18; Ephesians 2:6)! 

God has done ALL this—and more!—through Jesus! 

When you read the Bible, don’t rush through it. Slow down. Meditate on it. Soak in it. And then see how the Holy Spirit will illuminate truth to you. 

[Please check out the Bible references I’ve listed above for yourself. All of the Genesis references are here, and all of the other references are here.]

God’s Blessing On A Good Attitude

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered… (Genesis 39:2).

This idea is repeated throughout Joseph’s life:

  • the Lord gave him success in everything he did (v. 3) 
  • the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph (v. 5)
  • the Lord was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the warden (v. 21)
  • the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did (v. 23)

For 11 years as a slave in Potiphar’s house and 2 years as a prisoner in jail, God not only blessed Joseph but He also blessed those around Joseph because of Joseph. 

This wouldn’t have happened if Joseph had been bitter over his situation. 

He didn’t demonstrate a bad attitude, but an outstanding work ethic. 

He didn’t look for opportunities to subvert and scheme, but he submitted and served. 

These principles are echoed in the New Testament as well:

  • Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16)
  • Slaves, obey your masters with respect (Ephesians 6:5)
  • Work well whether your boss is watching you or not (Colossians 3:22-23) 
  • Whatever you do, do it for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  • Live such good lives that others may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us (1 Peter 2:12-20)

[check out all of these verses by clicking here] 

This attitude is one that receives both God’s blessing and man’s favor. When we steward this blessing and favor well, we bring even more glory to God! 

Whether as a slave, a prisoner, or a prime minister, God blessed Joseph and He blessed those around Joseph because of Joseph’s attitude. Can the same be said of our lives?

How Foreigners Pray

I am a foreigner and stranger among you… (Genesis 23:4). 

Abraham and Peter remind us that God-fearing people are foreigners; they are not citizens of Earth. Christians are respectful of the people, laws, and customs of the land in which they sojourn, but they know that this land is not their home. 

Abraham wanted his son to have a wife who was of the same mindset—not attached to the place of sojourning but looking forward to Heaven. Abraham knew how an earthly–focused wife (like Lot’s wife) could distract her husband, so he sent his servant on a mission to find a heavenly-minded, godly woman for his son Isaac.

This servant was a godly leader in his own right. He was loyal and loving to Abraham’s family. Abraham gave him two simple boundaries: don’t take a wife from Canaan, and don’t take Isaac back to Mesopotamia (the land from which God had called Abraham). 

Notice how this godly leader undertook his mission:

  • He prayed a very specific prayer for success (24:12–14)
  • After praying, he “watched closely” (v. 21) to see how God would answer his prayer
  • He praised God when it appeared that his prayer has been answered (vv. 26, 27, 46)
  • He shared his answer to prayer with others to get confirmation (v. 50)
  • He quickly followed through with what God had provided (v. 56)

A mark of a godly leader is one who bathes his activities in prayer.

When God calls us to live in a certain way, it is fitting that He will answer our prayers that align with that way of living. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He told us to “ask for anything in My name.” 

This is part 42 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Poetry Saturday—Want Of Understanding

The wretch in me is not a scheming or
mendacious, violent spirit; nor is he
the sort to kill, or other treachery
indulge to gain a another’s vineyard for
himself. He does not with his neighbor’s wife
conspire for fleeting pleasure, or to buy
prestige or safeguard pride, some little lie
compose. He does not plot against the life
of those who scorn, spite, torment, or betray
him; and he holds no grudges, has no need
of vain revenge, avoids self-serving greed,
and keeps content within his given way.
   No, he is worse than all of the above,
   who honors not the wife he’s sworn to love. —T. M. Moore (1 Peter 3:7)
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