© Bill McCown | www.myghcf.com
Don’t get me wrong, now. Yesterday's posting about exhilaration in a life in Christ was not meant that you wouldn't have any problems. It's not an amusement park existence you enter into...no, no, buddy. Rather, it's an adventure you go on with Jesus. Every single thing, whether you are pushing a broom or praying for mercy; in Jesus, it is the most exciting adventure you will ever undertake. Don't be afraid of any "rules", it's more of a love language He speaks to you. Doing His will is not a chore, it's a choice you make– a choice based on a love of God, not some legal contract. This is a God willing to love you even when you don't love Him; so you can come just as you are. In Him and Him alone, you can venture where you could not go before...love, forgiveness, kindness, patience, generosity, wisdom...it all becomes not necessarily just what you do but who you are. "I can't", becomes "I can", and failures of the past turn into successes in the present, which produce an ability to move you onto the next mountain to climb. The journey and the fellow travelers you meet all bond together into your greatest adventure. Come on, get off your lonely "road to nowhere". Let Jesus guide you on a more treasured trail; tough, fraught with danger, failures, challenges...but, heck, isn't that what a real adventure is all about? Endure the fire...it's producing pure gold!
© Bill McCown | www.myghcf.com
B-O-R-I-N-G. That’s what some people call the Christian existence. Before Jesus came into my life and heart, I guess that's what I thought, too, because I could only see the teachings of the "church" as all the "don'ts" in life. I never realized the excitement of all the "dos". To me, now, a life in Christ is pretty exciting...you never know what twists and turns may come your way, you're not really in control, and there are a lot of ups and downs. It’s sort of like riding “Montu” at Busch Gardens, but without the shoulder harness! I guess that attitude and viewpoint was honed over the years of being in such difficult and fearful situations in regards to health, finances, or relationships, and seeing that all of those problem areas, when I sought the Lord, have always worked out for my good and for my best interest. I found out that when I don’t run my life and I let it go to God, I can really "enjoy the ride”. I am secure knowing that in holding onto Him, He will never let me be thrown off. Just like on Montu, sometimes I squeal in delight and at other times I gasp in horror...but always, always, I enjoy the ride. A life in Christ is vibrant, boisterous and exuberant. B – O – R – I – N – G...you can keep it if you want to, but it's so much better when you get off the "religion" ride and get on the "relationship" ride with Him. Yahoo – let's go again! Endure the fire…it's producing pure gold!
© Bill McCown | www.myghcf.com
"Do as I say, not as I do". If that isn't the antithesis of what God says, I don't know what is! Rather, God tells us to be an effective doer of his Word, not just a hearer. Do you sit in church and "hear" the truth of what a godly life is supposed to be and yet when you're in the car on the ride home, you don't "do" it but instead take up where you left off in that heated argument with your husband or wife? Do you "hear" the worship song that says Jesus is Lord, but what you "do" proves that you still run the show and not Him? Do you "hear" His command to love and forgive but what you "do" is filled with anger, hatred and unforgiveness? Don’t get me wrong now, I am not sharing this from the pinnacle of success in these areas. I live painfully aware of my own inabilities and struggles in attaining what I preach for others to achieve. But I want to encourage us all. Do not give up in seeking God and allowing His nature to rule and not your own. Be determined to be a "doer" and not just a "hearer". Remember, God's grace is sufficient. When we run out of faith, God's grace will be there. Keep going, be determined to hear the voice of God, and then depend on His strength to bring you to the effective "doing" of it. Go on now, get back out there! Endure the fire...it's producing pure gold.
You may have noticed a new image that now accompanies all of Pastor Linda's "From The Crucible" posts. In searching for an image to use with these postings, I found this image that was being used on the website for McCown Bronze Sculpture (http://www.mccownsculpture.com/). I contacted the owner, Bill McCown. He graciously extended permission to us for its use on this blog. His reply to me included the message, "Best wishes for a successful ministry as they are sorely needed in today's times." We are grateful to Mr. McCown for his generosity.
Mankind screwed up, not God! As a result, our broken nature tends to lean more toward legalism and rules to show that we love God. We mistakenly divide life into the natural and the supernatural; the unspiritual and the spiritual. We foolishly assume that we should not partake of the "natural", thus creating this world of "don'ts". Yuck. Obeying man-made rules only makes you "feel” holy. Obeying God's directions makes you "be" holy. God made all that we see (and the Hubble telescope is showing us there is a lot more we haven't seen!) And even though the earth and all of nature is under a temporary curse, (the resultant state from Adam's disobedience), they are things we should heartily embrace and not dutifully shun. I believe God intends for us to have both the natural and the supernatural. I know this because as I run a marathon with wind and sweat and pain, I am also exhilarated and it leads me to praise God. Or when I hike the Appalachian Trail and reach the summit of one of the seemingly endless mountains, my eyes soak up the majestic scenery, it pours into my brain at a pace that inundates my senses, and I am engulfed with profound wonder and joy. Are these exotic pleasures therefore sinful? How about enjoying fresh picked peaches or the sensual inundation from rich chocolate? No, my friend, these are not bad, they are good, complete and intended for our use. God is not anti-pleasure. He gave us the exotic, but we have wrongly changed it to the erotic. So, go ahead…thoroughly pursue and enjoy the "natural" but just make sure you do it from the "supernatural" nature. Then it is the "pure" enjoyment God intended; the holy blending of both worlds where nature is employed, but it leads you to where God is enjoyed! Endure the fire...it's producing pure gold!
The command to rejoice in suffering doesn’t mean you sweep the pain under the rug and pretend it’s not there. Remember, we are also told to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. So God wasn't addressing your "cry–o–meter"! The whole idea of suffering being part of the earthly experience is unfathomable to say the least. Why any at all? The perfection in heaven assures no suffering, but here we have to face it head on and Jesus tells us how...with rejoicing! Right about here is where a lot of people jump off – but please don't. We tend to only look at the suffering part, but God is more interested in the end product of it all: PERSEVERANCE, CHARACTER and HOPE. That's a pretty good deal when you think of it. It's not the pain you rejoice in, it's not the difficulty, challenge or loss you rejoice in; it's the knowing that the opportunity for growth afforded by the suffering is to be celebrated. No one in his right mind votes for suffering. But if you're viewpoint towards it is broadened, then you can see suffering is more like going to the spiritual gym, "no pain, no gain" (Romans 5:3-5). Endure the fire... it produces pure gold!
24-hour news cycle, 24-hour shopping centers, 24-hour restaurants, 24-hour traffic, 24-hour lights, music, TV…SHUT UP! Ever sit for a quiet moment with all of that shut off? What do we usually say? “Silence is deafening!” Amazing isn’t it. Silence is so unusual in today’s industrialized areas that its presence is felt as if it were still noise. Yikes! Yet, God is always inviting us away for some quiet time with Him. If He speaks in a “still, small voice,” then how can you hear Him in a clanging, loud world? Practice, honey, practice! If we let our senses dominate our thinking, the incessant overstimulation won’t allow you to focus on the “things unseen”. Silence is that buffer zone between the turmoil of the world and the treasures of the Lord. Diligently seek the silence so you will be able to hear God. Spending time alone with God is the only way to more fully develop the ability to “see” and “hear” Him. In doing that, your eyes and ears can see and hear the fulness of His glory; even on the surface of a very noisy planet. (Psalm 46:10) Endure the fire...it's producing pure gold!
“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10) WOW...God has given us the entrance pre-req's to be in His presence! We were born unclean because of Adam but, in freely accepting God's open gift of salvation in Jesus, we are made clean. Remember, nothing unclean can be in God’s presence. So it's your cleanliness that gets you in, not your good works. Whoa, in that light..."Washed in the blood of Jesus" starts to take on some pretty deep meaning! Do you really understand just how very much God loves you? He wants to embrace you, to protect you, to provide for you. What do we do? We take our dirty little Adam nature and try to accomplish the clean works of God and always end up with a stained and broken result. Then, to top it all off, we often blame God for it all. Lay it down, give it up, come into the clean light of God. Ah, Lord, I delight in You! (1 Peter 2:9). Endure the fire…it produces pure gold!
Are you a rain barrel or a sieve? Ever see a rain barrel? it doesn’t fill itself, it has to have a flow come to it. When full, there is plenty of water, sometimes to overflowing. But if you put a sieve on the same drain spout, the water would just leak out all over and never be there for you or for anyone else’s use. Do you know people like that? God’s flowing all the time, but they are never full of His Spirit or His love or His joy. They woefully complain that God doesn't flow to them. That’s because God is so wise. He never wastes anything and is not stupid. You’ll often receive His mercy, but He will not pour out His blessings, strength and understanding, etc., to a vessel with holes in it! Sin is the hole in your rain barrel! Stop poking holes with your disobedience. Plug up the holes with repentance and obedience to God’s directions and watch how you will be filled to overflowing; plenty for you and others, too. God says you will never thirst again! Oorah! (Psalm 23:5, Prov 3:10, John 6:35)
We all have problems; unless, of course, you live in the fantasy world of the kids’ movie, “The Lion King”, with the “gut no worries, mahn…gut a problem free philosophy”. But, in the real world, you are constantly surrounded by worries and challenges. So how can you “enter His rest” when the wart hog keeps singing that fantasy song in your head as you slog through life? Well, you won’t be able to, because you know that song is not true. But if the truth of God makes its echo in your heart and you actually live by it, then you can. God tells us to trust Him...that He will be with you and show you the way; and that is the true rescue from the deepest well. Our error is that we try to “rest in Him” only when the world’s struggles prove too much to carry alone. When it’s a real mess, then we press in and gather up everyone we know to “pray hard”. God is telling us that if we pressed in to Him with the same eagerness for His companionship and daily dialogue, as we do for His rescue, that many of those same difficulties wouldn’t even arise! Immersed in Him, our life and character would be so changed, so purified, that those difficulties wouldn’t be there in the first place. Seek God early, before getting crowded out by life’s pleasures and problems. Then, and only then, can you sing, “Gut no worries, mahn!” (Isaiah 12:2). Endure the fire!