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Monday, July 25, 2011

Suffering and Glory

Many Scripture passages in the Bible speak of refining gold into pure gold. It is a beautiful illustration of God’s method for shaping His children. Suffering and glory go together. You can’t have one without the other. It's true! God equates our suffering to the purifying of silver and gold. Neither metal is pure in its natural state. Both are mixed with all sorts of gunk making them impure, just like us. Malachi 3:3 says, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.”

We are born with a sinful nature (as a result of the fall) that constantly attracts all sorts of impurities: thoughts, beliefs, destructive actions, and habits. We are influenced by a society permeated with sin. As silver and gold need to be refined before they reveal their beauty, so do we. The process of refining includes the melting down of the metal by fires designed not to destroy the metal, but bring forth its beauty.

The silver is crushed into small pieces and placed into a crucible. The silversmith places the crucible over the fire and then watches carefully as the silver melts. Eventually, impurities rise to the top of the crucible. The silversmith scrapes them off carefully. Then a hotter fire is built. Again, the silver is subjected to more heat. Under intense firing, more and different impurities are released.

The silversmith never leaves the silver unattended in the fire because too much heat may damage the silver. Each time the fire is amplified and impurities removed, the silversmith looks at himself in the melted silver.
At first, his image is dim. However, with each new fire his image becomes clearer. When he visibly sees himself, he knows all the impurities are gone. The refining is complete!

So it is with us. God breaks us and puts us into the crucible of suffering for one purpose—to make us into His image. At first, large chunks of impurities surface, representing “big” sins, like stealing and lying. It’s somewhat easy to skim these off. The process continues, and with each layer of impurities, the chunks get smaller and smaller. It takes longer to skim off the smaller impurities (representing unidentified sin and negative core beliefs) because they are harder to see.

If you are feeling the heat of the fire today, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you and every tiny impurity is removed.

[this is an excerpt from I'm Beautiful? Why Can't I See It?]

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Times of Distress

All we have to do is turn on the news and I think can agree we as a country we are going through a distressful time, which of course filters down to every household. Whether you are affected by unemployment, loss of your home, or illness, or even plain old worry and discouragement, God has a promise for us. To the weary who seek and call his name, he will bring relief and vindication.

We look all around us and see misguided, abused, addicted and oppressed people. We wonder why God isn’t taking action. In the book of Isaiah the reader [that would be us] comes to understand it is not because God does not want to act (v. 1-11) or because he cannot act (v. 12-26). The reason is given: he will act on his own terms and in his own time (v. 27-31). Meanwhile he calls upon us to have faith and to wait in hope. The only one who can predict the future is God because he is the only one who shaped it. Repeatedly, Isaiah presses home the fact that idols do not know the future and cannot protect us from the future. Only God can.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Approval Junky

One enduring attribute of most human beings is that we obsess about the approval of others. Most often we don’t realize it is an obsession, but it is. We are approval junkies shaped by other people’s opinions—real or assumed. It is imperative to figure out if one is an approval junkie because this obsession affects more decisions than we realize.

I can’t recall a time I didn’t seek others approval. As a wee babe I needed my parent’s blessing. Then it was my grade school teachers and peer groups opinions that mattered most. It sort of mushroomed from there.

What I know now is my need for approval stems from insecurity—low self-esteem, self-image and self-worth. Living for two decades with a deadly eating disorder, and an addiction to alcohol and men, only made my need—or fear—for approval stronger.
Not surprisingly, fear of man’s approval is an attribute completely absent from Jesus’s thought process. The word “fear” has two meanings. ‘To be afraid of’ is what we normally think of. The other meaning is ‘to have a reverential awe of.’ Jesus said, “I will show you whom you should fear…” (Luke 12:5). Jesus is speaking of God the Father. Biblically, ‘to fear the Lord’ means we hold him up in reverence and with respect because he is so awesome and holy.

To ‘fear man’ can go either way. We can become so obsessed with another person that we are in reverential awe of them. Or, the other person’s opinion and approval of us is so important that we become afraid of the consequences of that person not approving of us. This first type of fear can be called idolatry. The second type of fear can be called debilitating. They are both strongholds which must be broken.
I began breaking down this stronghold by facing the fact I was an approval junkie, a.k.a. people-pleaser. God showed me that by obsessing about other people’s opinions I had a distorted view of reality.

If you look at Jesus’s life and teachings while he was on earth, he shows no adoration or fear of men, whether they be the hostile Pharisees or disciples in training. His life and message was completely God-directed. There was never a hint of compromise. He feared no human being.

Jesus zealously tells us not to fear mankind. He urges us to fear God only. We must break these behavior patterns and refuse to allow other people’s approval or disapproval dominate our thinking. The Word of God confirms:
• Those who hunger and thirst for God's approval will be blessed and satisfied (Matthew 5:6)
• We should not try to please men but God (1 Thessalonians 2:4).
• We were created for God—for his pleasure (Colossians 1:6).
God gives us his seal of approval! God “set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts...” (2 Corinthians 1:22). “You were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13). Marked with a seal suggests possession and security. This means you belong to God.