Surviving the Fire

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness. Malachi 3:3, NIV

I heard this story over 25 years ago, and it has always stuck with me. There was a Sunday school teacher who was going to teach on this passage from Malachi, and decided to do a little first hand research. There was a silver refiner nearby, so she went down to his shop to find out how the process worked.

When she got there, she found the refiner peering intently into a large vat that was suspended over a fire.  She explained the reason for her visit, but was a little put off by his actions. Instead of looking up, he simply continued to peer into the vat of silver while at the same time working with a hand operated bellows. Finally he spoke, still not even looking up to see to whom he was talking to, and explained something of the refining process. He said, "I'm burning off the impurities  from the silver. If the fire is not hot enough, the impurities will remain. If it gets too hot, it will ruin the silver."

The teacher thought, "So that's it". When Malachi described God as a refiner, he was showing what God does as He removes our impurities. He gets the fire just hot enough to remove the bad things from our lives,  while at the same time making sure that it doesn't get too hot for us to stand." Satisfied that she had learned the lesson of the refiner, she thanked the man, who still had never looked up from his work, and started to leave. As she turned to go the refiner said, almost as an afterthought, "I have to keep my eyes on the silver at all times to know the exact moment that it is ready. I know it's ready when I can see my reflection".

There is a lot in that, when you think about it. God truly does allow us to go through many things in this life - not to harm us, but to perfect us for His service. Sometimes the fire seems awfully hot, but we need not worry as He will never take His eyes from us. And, of course, the most important part is that we will not be ready until the Master can see His reflection in us. Do you think that others can see God and Christ reflected in our lives? Probably, we all still have a bit more fire to go through before we are ready.

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. II Chronicles 16:9, NIV


Standing For the Right, II

The right thing to do never requires any subterfuge; it is always simple and direct. Calvin Cooliidge

Once you have realized that God expects you to stand for the right thing, you must then acknowledge that you can, in fact, know what the right thing is. People act as if they agree with what the Bible says about sexual immorality, but still support adultery, fornication and homosexual behavior. They think that you can be against abortion, but vote for someone who is for this sinful activity. They act as if they can say they respect God's commands on the truth, but still tell an occasional lie if it is really necessary.

But, you cannot do these things and still be standing for the right. God has a word for this type of behavior - hypocrisy.

The fact is that righteous behavior requires standing for the right. It means, at times, talking about politics and religion, even if it seems impolite to do so. The church, I am convinced needs a re-awakening. For too long we have gotten too close to the world under the pretext that we are being loving and non-judgmental.

But ask yourself this: Is it loving to allow evil men to trash our nation? Is it loving to leave our children and grandchildren a mess because we simply don't want to get involved? Is it loving to be politically correct, even if it means denying the commands of the Savior who died for your sins?

The nation is in trouble, dear people, and so is the church. I do not believe this to be a coincidence, for as goes the church, so, too, will go the nation. We need to get our lives in order, we need to look to God's word as our standard for right and wrong, we need to repent when we are wrong - and then we need to take a stand!

The question is, will you take that stand or will you let this next generation grow up in a second-rate nation and in a church that is a church in name only? Evil men are boldly taking their stands - in broad daylight and without shame. Will you have the courage to take your stand for what is right? Our children and grandchildren need your courage. Our nation is in peril... and God is most certainly watching. He expects us to take the right stand. Will we?

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it. Genesis 4:7, NIV 


Standing For the Right

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm. Abraham Lincoln

One of the most important things that you will ever do in your life is to stand firm for the right. Too many people have strong feelings for that which is right, but they have a hard time in actually taking a stand. 

Abraham Lincoln is a man who had no trouble in standing up for what he knew to be right. At the time, such a stand did not make him very popular. In fact, he was one of the most hated Presidents to ever hold office. He knew, though, that slavery was an evil that could not be tolerated, so he took a stand. Many stood against him, but many stood with him. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost during that particular stand, but history has proved it to be the correct one. Slavery is gone and Lincoln will always be one of our most cherished leaders.

We have a lot of things to process as we go through life. We have our livings to make, our families to raise, our nation to protect and, most importantly, our God to serve. Balancing all of these things can be quite complicated, but God has not left us without help. In fact, we can go at any time into the presence of the Creator of the universe and ask for His help.

And He will give us that help, you know, if we will serve Him and take our stands for Him. Many believe that we are at a pivotal point in the course of this nation, and I would tend to agree. I believe that we have made a lot of bad decisions for many years, and the consequences of those decisions are starting to take over. I also believe that our nation is worth saving. I believe that we owe it to our children and to our God. 

America, despite claims to the contrary, has always been a Christian nation. It will not remain one, however, unless Christians gain the courage to take a stand for the right again. I'm not talking about war, but I am talking about following Lincolns advice. We must find out what is right again. That secret is found within the pages of the Bible. I am convinced that we need to return to those pages, find out what is right in God's eyes, and take a stand.

If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all. Isaiah 7:9, NIV


Spilled Milk

Spilled Milk

There's no use crying over spilled milk. Old proverb

Just about everyone has that one "big mistake" from their past that makes them shudder every time it comes to memory. For some that big mistake literally rules their lives, for they either live in fear of discovery, or they live with the consequences of that action. If this is you, welcome to the club! Now, what are you to do about it?

Your first response might be, "What can I do about it? What's done, is done!" And... that is exactly the point. If you could go back and live your life over, you would avoid those big mistakes - but you can't. So, again, the question comes back as to what to do about those things that  we cannot change. The answer, I believe, is to live well today.

When I was a kid, milk came in glass bottles with crimped foil lids. Once, when I was about five, I reached into the fridge and took out a full half-gallon, grasping the bottle by that foil lid. The lid came off in by hand and the bottle crashed to the floor - breaking glass and flooding the kitchen with milk. I was horrified because Dad was sitting right there, aggravated by my carelessness. At five, the mess looked incomparably large. It was certain that I was dead - this was a "big mistake" from which five year-old boys do not recover. So, it was settled: Life was over. Then, we cleaned up the mess and I learned one of life's big lessons: Don't cry over spilled milk!

One of the greatest gifts that we have as Christians is that of forgiveness. We all know this, at least in theory, but we sometimes forget to apply it to our own circumstances - especially when it comes to the "big mistakes". Still, if you are a Christian and you have repented of your sins, regardless of the size, you are forgiven!

God has called us to a life rich with challenges and opportunities and countless blessings, but these things cannot be achieved if we cling to the mistakes of our past. If you could change the past, you would, but you can't. So, don't cry anymore over your own personal spilled milk. You can recover! Your life is not over after all, so you might as well get on with living well today!

But on thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14, NIV


Sin Leaves Scars

There's a story told about a farmer who wanted to teach his little boy about anger. He started having his son hammer a nail in the fence every time he lost his temper. The fence was quickly filled with nails, but after a while, the boy was able to control his temper. The day came when he finally went the entire day without losing his temper. The Dad had him pull a nail out for every day he controlled his temper.

Some time later, the boy - now older and wiser - proudly showed his father the fence. Every nail had been removed. The father looked at the fence and told his son, "Now, look at the fence - what do you see?" "Holes", the son replied. The father then made this point: "Just as your anger has passed, so now all of the nails are gone. But, just as the nails leave holes, so too will your anger leave scars."

One of the truly wonderful aspects of the love of God, is in the area of forgiveness. Once a sin is forgiven, in God's eyes, it is gone. The problem is with the physical consequences. For example, a drunk driver who has killed an innocent victim can ask for and receive forgiveness. The sin is gone and we can have great peace from that, but the "scars" remain. Like the holes in the fence, the "hole" that the lost life leaves will always be there, and we will always remember.

This, I believe, is one of the main reasons that sin is sin - it comes with consequences that God would spare us from. Each one of us carries scars from past sins, and every decent person would go back and change those hurtful things that we have done in the past if we could... but we can't. So, the solution is to do our best with the rest of our life.

Someday, the faithful will be in heaven - not because we deserve it, but because God has made arrangements for the faithful. We've all caused more than our share of these scars in the past. The question is what will we do with the rest of our time?

 A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty. Psalms 19:19; Here is a trustworthy statement that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners... I Timothy 1:15, NIV