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?

10 Quotes From “Cultivation Of Christian Character”

J. Oswald Sanders has given us a short but powerfully effective book for developing more Christlikeness in each and every Christian. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“In a word, spiritual maturity is Christlikeness.” 

“Christ set the standard in everything. He was never petulant, always calm; never rebellious, always obedient; never fearful, always courageous; never vacillating, always resolute; never pessimistic, always cheerful; never subtle, always sincere; never grasping, always generous; never acting from expediency, always from principle. He is the pattern of spiritual maturity.” 

“So then our spiritual maturity or immaturity is seen in the manner in which we react to the changing circumstances of life. … It has to be learned. Is it not striking that it is recorded of Christ that ‘though He were a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:8-9)? He alone was fully mature. The rest of us are ‘going on to maturity.’ In all of us there are some expressions of our personality in which we react immaturely instead of as mature men of God.” 

“The highest manifestation of spiritual maturity is love. We are only as mature as we are mature in love.” 

“God forbid that we should ever cease to love the gospel in its simplicity, but we must not be content to stay there. We must go on to appreciate increasingly the gospel in its profundity.” 

“There is a place for a constructive contending for the faith. The church has degenerated sadly since Pentecostal days and the servant of the Lord has an important part to play in its revival.” 

“It is possible to get to heaven without living a consecrated life, but the journey there will be barren and disappointing, since consecration is the doorway to undreamed-of joy. Neglect it, fail to seek it, and life will be greatly impoverished. Welcome it, and life becomes inexpressibly enriched.” 

“When we dedicate our lives to God, He consecrate us to His service. We dedicate our lives to Him that He may work His will in us. He consecrates us to Himself that He might make us holy.” 

“It has been suggested that in consecration we bring our lives to God as a blank sheet of paper with our names signed at the bottom. Confident of His love, we invite Him to fill in the details as He will.” 

“It is a life separated to the glory of God. Inherent in the word ‘consecration’ is the idea of separateness. There must of necessity be separation from sin if there is to be separation to God. … The consecrated Christian hates evil, but he has a passion for the right and for the glory of God and Christ. He tests all his actions by the one standard, ‘Is this for the glory of God?’ He will do anything, suffer anything, if only God is glorified. Nothing is too costly to give to the Master.” 

Cultivation Of Christian Character (book review)

I’ve always enjoyed reading J. Oswald Sanders. Let me rephrase that: I enjoy the new insights on God’s Word that Sanders’ books have given me, but the confrontation of the Holy Spirit that comes while reading these books can be quite painful at times. Cultivation Of Christian Character is no exception! 

In his opening words, Sanders explains the purpose of “this little volume” (as he calls it)—

“The genuine disciple of Christ earnestly desires a closer walk with God and a greater conformity to Christ. If these are absent, there is reason to doubt the genuineness of the discipleship. But many true lovers of the Lord are beset with a sense of inadequacy and failure in living the Christian life as it ought to be lived. They are very conscious with Paul that they have not already attained, neither are already perfect, but they yearn to know Christ better and to serve Him more worthily.” 

There you have it in a nutshell: If you yearn to be more Christlike, and yet at the same time struggle with how far you still have to go to see the fruits of Christlikeness in your life, this is the book for you. 

The chapters are short enough to read in just a few minutes. But the thought processes and the heart-searching that these short chapters will stimulate will undoubtedly take a long time to assimilate into your daily life. At least, this is the case for me. 

None of J. Oswald Sanders’ books are long books, but all of his books live long inside of me. Dive into Cultivation of Christian Character with an attitude of ready submission to the Holy Spirit, and then watch the amazing fruitfulness and Christlikeness that will begin to blossom from your life. 

I am a Moody Publishers book reviewer. 

7 More Quotes From “Start With The Heart”

Dr. Kathy Koch has given parents—and anyone else who works with children—a marvelously helpful resource in her latest book Start With The Heart. Be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“God created you and your children with five core, basic needs that must be met. These needs are interrelated. The health of one influences the others:

  • Security—who can I trust?
  • Identity—who am I?
  • Belonging—who wants me?
  • Purpose—why am I alive?
  • Competence—what do I do well?” 

“Children who know their purpose will often choose to look for peers with similar goals and interests. They will want to hang out with people who affirm them and their purpose and be willing to end relationships that are not joyful and purposeful.” 

“When you parent so your children believe three things, their hearts will be impacted and they will be motivated to succeed. This translates into less stress and anxiety and more peace. … Children who believe these things don’t want to be average. They are willing to work for more. … Children’s character will be more Christlike. They’ll want to be more others-centered than self-centered. They’ll be compassionate, brave and able to stand up for themselves and others. 

  1. I have value. Children who do know they have value are often motivated intrinsically, from the inside. They internally recognize what is good for them and respond accordingly.
  2. Learning matters. When children believe they have worth, they are more likely to value learning. … Children who value learning will exhibit many positive character traits, including teachability. This will be true even when they are not convinced that your requests or planned activities are relevant. They’ll pay attention anyway because they know they matter and learning matters. These beliefs strengthen children’s purpose and give rise to competence.
  3. My future can be bright.” 

“Which is better: ‘Be on time!’ or ‘Don’t be late!’? Do you hear the difference? Which one is positive? ‘Be on time’ communicates ‘I believe you’re capable of this.’ It’s more hopeful. It’s about what you want your children to do. ‘Don’t be late’ reminds them of how they’ve frustrated you.” 

“Carol Dweck…has consistently found that children praised for using effort tackled more challenging tasks than those praised just for ability or for the quality of their work.” 

“Sometimes have children tell you what they think they did before you offer your opinions. If they are relatively accurate, affirm them specifically. When they’re not, have the conversation.” 

“Working to provide feedback that can be described with the following attributes will serve you and your children well—specific, believable, helpful, and thoughtful.” 

You can also check out the first set of quotes I shared from Start With The Heart by clicking here.

The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon (book review)

For a man who preached up to 10 times per week for nearly 40 years, you would think that people knew all about Charles Spurgeon’s personal life. Although he frequently used some small personal examples in his sermons, he still kept much of his personal life personal. In reading Spurgeon’s Autobiography, I expected to get an inside look, but that was not what I found. 

Like his sermons, Spurgeon’s Autobiography was fascinating. Like his sermons, his recollections of his past are thoroughly steeped in Scripture. I love this! This shows us that this Prince of Preachers didn’t just put on a performance when he stepped into his pulpit, nor did he simply teach Christian principles for others to apply only to their lives; instead, we see a man who truly patterned his life after the Bible. 

I also love the honesty in Spurgeon’s stories. He tells of his struggles before and after his conversion. He talks openly of his disagreements with some “church” people that didn’t behave very Christ-like. He discusses his battles with depression, and with those who were outright critics of his ministry. In other words, Spurgeon reveals himself without putting himself on some sort of pedestal. 

Charles Spurgeon’s sermons are always a delight to read, but I think you will find in his Autobiography a living sermon that we can all emulate. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Evidence Of Christian Maturity

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Evidence Of Christian Maturity

     One of the first evidences that anyone is a child of God is that he hates with a perfect hatred and seeks to live a holy, Christlike life. … 

     I bless God that I have learned to have very little respect for the vision of the man with the measuring line. When I see an angel with it, I am glad enough; but when I see a man with it, I tell him that he must give me a warrant from God and show me how he is to know the elect by any other method than that laid down by our Lord Jesus Christ: “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). … 

     He who truly grows in grace does not say, “Dear me! I can feel that I am growing; bless the Lord! Let’s sing a hymn. ‘I’m a-growing! I’m a-growing!’” I have often felt that I was growing smaller; I think that is very probable, and a good thing, too. If we are very great in our own estimation, it is because we have a number of cancers, or foul gatherings, that need to be lanced, so as to let out the bad matter that causes us to boast of our bigness. 

From The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon 

Some Dos and Don’ts for Christian growth:

Do—hate those things that keep you from God’s presence
Do—seek to be conformed to the image of Jesus

Don’t—look at other people as your measuring line
Do—make sure your life is fruitful according to God’s standards

Don’t—brag about your growth
Do—humbly thank God for your growth
Do—be quick to repent of un-Christlike things the Holy Spirit reveals to you

Am I Getting Passing Grades?

The Apostle Paul tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). This implies that there is an ongoing process of evaluation and renewal. This starts when I give up my way of doing things (v. 1), and then the remainder of that 12th chapter is a checklist of changes in behavior that come about because of the renewing of our minds. 

We need a regular report card on—
Seeing myself in the right light of faith
Knowing and using my God-given gifts 
Loving without hypocrisy
Avoiding evil
Promoting good
Loving others like brothers and sisters
Not fighting for my way
Being diligent in my work
Being diligent in my spiritual health
Serving God
Rejoicing even in difficulties 
Growing in patience
Praying regularly
Hospitably serving others
Blessing my enemies
Being appropriately empathetic 
Finding common ground
Remaining humble
Repaying good for evil
Not trying to get even
Being a peacemaker
Overcoming evil with good

Holy Spirit, I need Your honest evaluation. Show me my deficits, and then help me hear Your loving voice that guides me in the changes I need to make. I want Jesus to be seen in my life. Amen! 

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