Take a moment and read Daniel 3:1-30
There are some fires you can’t get out of–you’ve got to go through the fire–you’ve got to go through the flood–you’ve got to go through the test–you’ve got to go through the struggle that you might decrease and He might increase.-T.D. Jakes
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace to die. Some of you feel like you have been thrown into the fiery furnace left to die. The fire is hot and the struggles are overwhelming and there seems to be no way out, but there are some things we learn from this story in Daniel and from our own fires.
*We are not alone. No matter what may come your way, you can come out of it unbound and unharmed. He is with you wherever you go and whatever you are going through, and He will not abandon you. On the other side of the fire, He will call you to come out, unharmed.
*Fires can increase our faith if we get out of the way. This is what it means to let Him increase and for us to decrease. When we let go and let God, He begins to show Himself faithful and true. If we don’t let Him be the refreshing water in the fire, we will be exhumed. Are you willing to get out of the way?
*In our weakness, He is strong. The struggles of this life and the faithfulness of God in the midst of the fire give us opportunity to praise the one who recues. He is made strong, He is exalted, and He is worshipped in our weakness. When you feel like you can’t go on or like your faith is dwindling, place your trust in the strong God who is your Rock and your Defender.
May we consider the fires and the struggles of life as a blessing for growth and an opportunity for God to show His provision, His power, and His strength.
You are loved by a mighty God!
The Potter and the Clay
A potter spends a significant amount of time spinning, and poking, and prodding, and bending, and shaping the clay into what he wants the clay to become. Once he has shaped the clay, he then puts the clay through the heating process, and then after awhile, places it on the shelf to cool off. The potter then goes about brushing and painting the clay to a beautiful array of colors. He then places it through the heating process one more time, and then removes the finished product to cool again. When this process is complete the clay is beautiful. Each step in the process is critical and important to the finished product, and the clay must go through each step in order to become what the potter desires it to be.
The Lord is our Potter, and we are the clay. He is spinning, and poking, and prodding, and bending, and shaping us into something beautiful. Sometimes it hurts and we want him to quit, but He just keeps working on us. Sometimes we slow down the process through our own stubbornness or as we seek our own plans, but He is patiently shaping us. Often we are thrown into the heat of the world, and it seems overwhelming, but it is a part of the process. He is painting and brushing us to make us look like Him
Are we willing to let the Potter have His way with us? Are we willing to be spun and prodded and poked and bent and shaped by God? Are we willing to endure the heat and the sacrifice to become a beautiful piece of clay? Are we willing to get out of the way?
God knows what He’s doing for each of us. He is the potter, and we are His clay. He will mold us and make us, and expose us to just enough pressures of just the right kinds that we may be made into a flawless piece of work to fulfill His good, pleasing and perfect will.
Most Christians are not maturing spiritually because we are not being challenged or are not willing to be challenged by other like-minded believers regarding sin, spiritual disciplines, worship, attitudes, and other important factors to maturity in Christ. This lack of accountability is a major obstacle to our growth. We need to be responsible to others for our actions, and we need the comfort and support that comes in true Christian accountability.
I understand that our first accountability is to God. “So then each of us should give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). This is personal accountability. 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us that we are the Body of Christ-and each member belongs to the other. This chapter suggests a strong importance of accountability between believers. It is important for each believer to have at least one person in which to confide, pray with, listen to, and encourage.
In order for accountability to truly work we need trust and relationship. Trust involves meeting together to share, to be vulnerable, and to know that what you are sharing is in confidence and will not be judged. Trust is a slow process and is a willingness to open up and share sensitive information, but it is essential if we are going to mature spiritually, yet most are afraid of accountability and never seek it out. Accountability also becomes easier in strong relationships so we need to build strong relationships with others so that we can have true accountability.
Who are you accountable to? Don’t use the copout that you don’t need others in your life, because if you do, you will not grow and you will become stagnant. Who do you trust to share things with knowing that they will challenge you, but still love you? Lets find that person and let them challenge us so that we can be all that Christ wants us to be.
Obstacle #4: Lack of Discipline
This Thursday starts one of the biggest stages in professional golf, the US Open Golf Championship. It is one of 4 Major Championships in professional golf and is a coveted prize for any golfer. Every professional golfer in the field of golfers this week will have put in valuable time and effort preparing for this weekend. The kind of effort to prepare for the US Open takes a great deal of discipline. Hours of practice, time spent in the gym, tons of mental preparation, and 1000’s of golf balls on the range and the putting green have went in to preparing each golfer for the US Open. The goal is to win, but those who lack discipline will never get the prize.
In 1 Peter 1:16, the Bible provides a goal for every Christian: “Be holy, because I am holy.” The word holiness denotes purity, being set apart, perfection. It means uniqueness, a belonging to God, a living with God, and being a light. Just as winning the US Open in golf takes discipline, so growing in Christ-likeness takes discipline. It takes the discipline of reading the Word daily, of serving others, of consistent prayer, of devotion to corporate worship, of staying connected to the vine, of bearing fruit, and of striving each day to become all that He wants us to be. We can be content with grace and the lack the discipline to do what it takes to reach the goal, or we can refuse to let ourselves not grow stale and stagnant in our relationship with Christ. Let’s choose discipline and let Christ do His work in us.
OBSTACLE #3: A Dangerous Contentment
Over the last two weeks we have been covering some obstacles to growing in Christ. One was un-forgiveness and last week the obstacle was control. Both of these have a tendency to stymie our growth. This week we cover a third obstacle to growing spiritually: CONTENTMENT
Dangerous contentment means no more stretching and believing God for something great. A dangerous contentment is a limited vision of what my life in Christ looks like. A dangerous contentment leads to no great desire for the Kingdom. A dangerous contentment leads to a limited passion for service and work. A dangerous contentment means we become satisfied with where we are, and it leads to a dangerous passivity in our pursuit of spiritual growth. In otherwords, we exist as a Christ follower, but worship is not a priority. We claim to love Jesus, but we devalue the Body of Christ by doing as little as we can. We read His word, but we rarely apply it. We go to church, but there is no zeal for Jesus. Contentment causes us to be satisfied with the status quo. Jeremiah Burroughs says, “I am discontented because I have not these things which God never yet promised me, and therefore I sin much against the Gospel, and against the grace of faith.”
We often say, “I am comfortable with where I am right now.” The problem is that we cannot live on our past growth in our relationship with the Lord. God wants us to experience Him daily in our lives and continue to experience Him in an “abundant life.” May God stretch you and expand your vision, and may God grant you a great desire for His Kingdom and give you a passion for service and work so that you are never satisfied, but always seeking to know Him more.
God bless. Have a great week!
Obstacle 2: Control
This week we will cover a second obstacle that gets in the way of our growth in Christ. The key word this week is CONTROL. We want to control the situation rather than submitting fully to God.
Proverbs 3:5-6-Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will keep your paths straight.
We find that when we lean on our understanding and when we push for our way, and for our answer, and we walk crooked paths filled with worry or discontentment or disconnection from God Himself. Our goal should be to submit fully to His will even when we can’t see the full picture. We have to relinquish control and until we do, our control will continue to control us.
When you accept the fact that sometimes seasons are dry and times are hard and that God is in control of both, you will discover a sense of divine refuge, because the hope then is in God and not in yourself. LET GO AND LET GOD!! TRY IT!!!
Obstacle 1: Unforgiveness
As I sat in one of my offices this week, I heard a conversation behind me about two sisters that aren’t talking to each other. I often hear conversations about people not getting along or who are just to mad to talk to another person. You can hear this conversation take place in restaurants, grocery stores, the workplace, homes, and even in the church.
If you find that you aren’t growing in Christ, or that Christ seems far away, or it seems as though you are disconnected from Him, it is possible that you need to check your relationships with others. Your fellowship with God flows freely when you’re willing to forgive, but it gets blocked by unforgiveness. One of the greatest obstacles to maturity in Christ is an unwillingness to forgive because it is the opposite of Christ character. To be like Christ is to forgive as He forgives. Colossians 3:13-Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the lord forgave you.
Are you living in unforgiveness? Is there bitterness in your heart? Do you feel like someone has treated you unfairly? Have you been hurt by someone’s actions? You may feel like all of these things justify unforgiveness, but that is not Biblical, because the Bible is clear that unforgiveness is never justified. We don’t deserve forgiveness, but Christ gave it freely on the cross, and He continues to forgive if we live in confession. Let go of unforgiveness, and get rid of the obstacle that keeps you from growing in Christ. Start today!
C. S. Lewis: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
One of the most dangerous things a person can do is to hold onto resentment. Clinging to unforgiveness has far-reaching and often unexpected consequences.
Although bitterness takes root in the mind, it doesn’t stay contained. Acrimony can spread into every aspect of a person’s life. For example, the hostility a man feels toward his father can color his relationship with his wife, his willingness to perform at work, and his involvement in church.
It’s probably not surprising to hear that resentment impacts the mind and spirit, but you may not have realized what a physical toll it can also take on us. An attitude of bitterness ratchets up tension and anxiety, which can affect everything from muscles to chemical balance in the brain. Over time, that kind of mayhem weakens the body.
Because unforgiveness is a violation of God’s law, it also causes spiritual turmoil that hinders a believer’s growth. Prayer is stifled because of harbored sin that should be confessed. And worship is dry and hypocritical because it’s difficult to effectively honor the Lord while trying to justify or hide a wrong attitude. What’s more, a resentful person’s witness is damaged, as others are prevented from seeing God’s glory shining through him.
Forgiving someone means giving up resentment and the right to get even with him or her, even though you were wronged. God insisted this was the only way to go through life. One reason He commands us to forego hostility and vengeance is that these things cause so much damage to our own lives. -Charles Stanley
May we be quick to forgive like Jesus forgives!! Matthew 18:21-22
A Prayer for Nepal
As this letter is being written, news continues to roll in regarding the devastation of the major earthquake in Nepal. Thousands have lost their lives, and hundreds of thousands are homeless with no place to go. They are lacking basic necessities and wondering what will come next in their lives, and even though they are thousands of miles away from us, the question beckons, “what can we do?”
- We can pray for suffering, loss, and devastation of the people
- We can pray for financial help, for food, shelter, water and basic necessities to flow into the country from those across the world who have hearts of compassion
- We can pray for physical needs for the people and for those who will suffer in grief over the loss of loved ones
- We can pray that in this Hindu nation where many will blame their gods for this tragedy, and where their Hindu gods are untouched by suffering, that Jesus will draw near and sympathize with those who weep, because he knows suffering and human tears.
- We can pray that this tragedy will open up new doors of ministry and make new ways for the hope of Jesus Christ to shine more brightly in this nation.
Psalm 86:6-Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.
Thank you for loving the nations enough to pray.
A family is a place where principles are hammered and honed on the anvil of everyday living. ~ Chuck Swindoll, Pastor
When I think about these words by Chuck Swindoll, I am reminded of a moment I just recently experienced. Kim and I now have the privilege and responsibility of taking care of our grandson on Monday’s. As I held him this past Monday and he lay peacefully sleeping, I prayed these words:
“Lord, I pray that one day Lincoln will recognize his need for a Savior, and that he will surrender his life to you.”-AMEN
As I prayed that prayer, I recognized my responsibility to that little boy I call my grandson. I have a responsibility to pray for him daily, to talk with him and to tell him about Jesus, and a responsibility to hammer and hone the principles of Jesus into his life through my everyday living. It is in my living that he will be learning!
We all have a responsibility in our families to hammer and hone the principles of Christ in our everyday living. In many cases we fall so woefully short and we feel like we have failed, but Christ desire to use us to make a difference. It is time to start afresh and anew. It is never to late. Let’s pray daily for our families, and let’s live everyday so that Jesus is recognizable, and when we fall short, let’s rest in His forgiveness and keep fighting this fight for our families.
Love you church!