Tag: light

The Hammer, the File, and the Furnace

This is another article I found years ago (originally written by Chuck Swindoll).

It was the enraptured Rutherford who said in the midst of very painful trials and heartaches:

Praise God for the hammer, the file, and the furnace!

Let’s think about that. The hammer is a useful and handy instrument. It is an essential and helpful tool, if nails are ever to be driven into place. Each blow forces them to bite deeper as the hammer’s head pounds and pounds.

But if the nail had feelings and intelligence, it would give us another side of the story. To the nail, the hammer is a brutal, relentless master—an enemy who loves to beat it into submission. That is the nail’s view of the hammer. It is correct. Except for one thing. The nail tends to forget that both it and the hammer are held by the same workman. The workman decides whose “head” will be pounded out of sight . . . and which hammer will be used to do the job.

This decision is the sovereign right of the carpenter. Let the nail but remember that it and the hammer are held by the same workman . . . and its resentment will fade as it yields to the carpenter without complaint.

The same analogy holds true for the metal that endures the rasp of the file and the blast of the furnace. If the metal forgets that it and the tools are objects of the same craftsman’s care, it will build up hatred and resentment. The metal must keep in mind that the craftsman knows what he’s doing . . . and is doing what is best.

Heartaches and disappointments are like the hammer, the file, and the furnace. They come in all shapes and sizes: an unfulfilled romance, a lingering illness and untimely death, an unachieved goal in life, a broken home or marriage, a severed friendship, a wayward and rebellious child, a personal medical report that advises “immediate surgery,” a failing grade at school, a depression that simply won’t go away, a habit you can’t seem to break. Sometimes heartaches come suddenly . . . other times they appear over the passing of many months, slowly as the erosion of earth.

Do I write to a “nail” that has begun to resent the blows of the hammer? Are you at the brink of despair, thinking that you cannot bear another day of heartache? Is that what’s gotten you down?

As difficult as it may be for you to believe this today, the Master knows what He’s doing. Your Savior knows your breaking point. The bruising and crushing and melting process is designed to reshape you, not ruin you. Your value is increasing the longer He lingers over you.

A. W. Tozer agreed. In The Root of the Righteous, he wrote:

It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.

Aching friend—stand fast. Like David when calamity caved in, strengthen yourself in the Lord your God (1 Samuel 30:6). God’s hand is in your heartache. Yes, it is!

If you weren’t important, do you think He would take this long and work this hard on your life? Those whom God uses most effectively have been hammered, filed, and tempered in the furnace of trials and heartache.

Take time to thank your Master for any trials and heartaches in this season of your life.

God allows suffering in your life to shape you, not ruin you.— Charles R. Swindoll

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The Reflection of the Cross in the Crib

This is a new blog post by a missionary friend, Nate Bramsen.

The songwriter nailed it. “Born to die that man might live, came to earth new life to give.
Jesus was born as prophesied, for a purpose, and with a plan.

Spend a few minutes and see the reflection of the cross in the crib.

At Christ’s birth, night became day — even the stars pointed the way. (Matthew 2:2; Luke 2:8-9) Day turned to night at His death — even the sun hid its face. (Matthew 27:45) 

No room was found in the inn for Christ’s arrival though a new tomb was quickly provided for His death. He went from a virgin womb to a virgin tomb. (Luke 1:34; John 19:41) Seems STILL TODAY, we have room to get rid of Jesus, yet little place to welcome Him. 

Interesting, isn’t it, that at Jesus’ birth, the chief priests pointed seekers to the location of the Christ, HOWEVER, at Christ’s resurrection, these same characters bribed the soldiers to tell a lie that seekers might not find Him. (Matthew 2:6; Matthew 28:12)

Mary wrapped the baby Jesus in grave clothes (swaddling rags) and laid Him in a wooden (presumably) manger. I wonder…did her thoughts go forward thirty-three years when men would lay Him on a wooden cross and wrap his body in swaddling clothes for the grave? What an amazing picture to see the swaddling clothes left lying body-less in the tomb! (John 20:6-7) From swaddling clothes to a Savior’s crown, the work that saves is DONE. “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

At the crib and at the cross, we find this Mary silently marveling — silently grieving. (Luke 2:19; John 19:26) Both the coming of Jesus and His resurrection were announced to a woman. Both named Mary. Both were told to “Fear not!” (Luke 1:30; Matthew 28:5)

At His birth, Jesus broke through the veil of the woman (hymen) from the inside out, yet at His death, the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:51) Both torn veils gave man access to God; the first for a time, the second for eternity. Blood was shed in both circumstances bringing life. This is He who was “born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law.” (Galatians 4:4)

Shepherds came to the crib of Bethlehem to see the Lamb of GodAt Christ’s death, the Good Shepherd went to the cross of Calvary to save His lost sheep

At Jesus’ birth, angels proclaimed where He WAS laidAt Jesus’ resurrection, Angels declared where Jesus WASN’T lying. (Luke 2:12; Matthew 28:6) Both at the manger and at the empty tomb, the witnesses urgently went out to spread the news.

At Jesus’ birth, Wise men brought spices to celebrate this baby — At His burial, Women brought spices to prepare His body. 

At Christ’s birth, the heavens celebrated as a baby cried, yet at Christ’s death, the heavens were silent as that same One cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Christ’s birth announcement was “Peace on earth goodwill toward man! Christ first announcement to His disciples post-resurrection was “Peace be with you!” The Prince of Peace is still the solution for world peace today.

The first time Christ came, the skies broke open in songA trumpet will sound and the same thing will happen when He comes again. Few were looking for His first coming. I wonder, whose watching now?

At His first coming, the shepherds were told to “GO and see this newborn King.” As we look to His return our hearts cry, “Even so COME, Lord Jesus.

My friends, at the announcement of His coming, Mary was told to “Fear not!” (Luke 1:30) At His birth, the shepherds were told to “Fear not.” (Luke 2:10) At His resurrection, those at the tomb were told to “Fear not!” (Matthew 28:5) And Jesus says to His followers, “Fear not…I am coming again!” (John 14:1-3)

As you celebrate Christmas, let this be a reality in your life. “Fear not, for I bring you good news of great joy that will be for ALL the PEOPLE!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Have You Seen the Star?

December 21 marks the longest night, hence the darkest night, of the year. In the midst of this darkness, even a little light can be clearly seen. As Isaiah put it, ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined’ (Is. 9:2). Every Christmas, during the darkest time of the year, we have an opportunity to shine. We can do that in a variety of ways: smiling, being patient with others (particularly while shopping), giving gifts to others (cookies and cards are always good), or telling others why we celebrate Christmas (it’s all about the birth of Christ!).

We need to be the light, as the Lord Jesus has called us to point others to Him. It may seem difficult, at times, to accomplish that. John was on to something when he said, ‘And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it’ (John 1:5). Sometimes people don’t know the Light, but sometimes they do not want to know the light. John also explains why: ‘And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil’ (John 3:19).

We know that the Lord Jesus is the Light (Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life [John 8:12]). We are to point others to Christ, and He is the Light that we point to; so where is He? 

First, He is before (in front of) us (When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was [Matt. 2:9]). That means that we can look forward and He leads us where we need to be. Second, He is shining in our hearts (For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ [2 Cor. 4:6]). We often say that we are broken people, but that just allows Christ to shine through us. 

There are three ways for us to respond. First, we rejoice (When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy [Matt. 2:10]). Second, we put on God’s armour (The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light [Rom. 13:12]) so that we can be effective for Him. Finally, we act as God would have us act (For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light [Eph. 5:8]).

Have you seen the Star? Are you filled with the Light that shines in this darkness?

Candy Canes

I came across an interesting news article last week. A principal in Nebraska was placed on administrative leave because she banned any mention of Christmas in school (contrary to school division policy).

[Here are three of the news articles in their entirety: 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/07/us/nebraska-principal-on-leave-after-banning-christmas-trnd/index.html; https://www.theblaze.com/news/ready-principal-banned-candy-canes-because-j-shape-stands-for-jesus-but-that-was-just-for-starters; https://globalnews.ca/news/4740301/christmas-ban-school-principal/%5D

Banning Christmas carols in an ‘inclusive school’ environment I can understand, but some of the banned items definitely caused me to raise an eyebrow (or two). Anything Santa was banned because it is too closely related to Christmas. I can understand that. However, red and green anything was also banned because those are recognized specifically as Christmas colours. Finally, candy canes were also banned. I can understand why candy canes could be banned if it had something to do with the sugar content. It had nothing to do with sugar. It had everything to do with what the candy cane represented. (And this is the part that I love). 

The rationale given for candy canes is as follows: 
Historically, the shape is a ‘J’ for Jesus. The red is for the blood of Christ, and the white is a symbol of his resurrection. This would also include different-coloured candy canes. 

So, based on this reason, a candy cane is actually an evangelistic tool. What a great idea for Christmas. [Apologies to those who are trying to minimize sugar]. We could hand out candy canes with the newspaper articles (see links above) and so share the good news of Jesus Christ in a non-offensive manner. (If you use the CNN article, no one will guess you are trying to evangelize).

Death Valley

As a child, I loved our Christmas holidays. Every year we would burrow into our VW Rabbit and head down to California for a two-week skiing holiday. We would share a house with our extended family and spend the two weeks skiing, hiking, travelling to natural hot springs, and visiting with family. On the way home (if we were visiting our family in greater Los Angeles), we would sometimes swing through Death Valley .

Death Valley is the lowest point (over 30 metres BELOW sea level) in North America and a desert.

Image result for death valley

The surrounding mountains would be cloaked with snow and there was the odd winter that featured snow on the desert floor.

Image result for snow in death valleyImage result for snow in death valley

Driving through, we could see the tracks of the borax wagon trains and see where seasonal rivers (flash floods) had carved paths.

Image result for snow in death valleyImage result for dried riverbed in death valley

Most years we drove through, we saw no flourishing plant life. There may have been the odd Joshua tree or other cacti, flowers withered on their stems, or the frequent bleached logs.

Image result for joshua trees in death valleyImage result for death valley

One year we decided to visit our extended family in Los Angeles in the summer. My dad rarely had time off in the summer, but one year we did. My dad wanted to see Death Valley in the summer, so we drove through and saw the same valleys covered in wildflowers. As the winter snow melted (in the valley and from the surrounding mountains) the flowers had been provided with sufficient moisture to germinate and flower (ever so briefly). The appearance changed so dramatically, it was hard to believe that we drove through the same valley. It was amazing to see what a bit of water could do.

Image result for death valley

All of this is a lead-in to the verses I just recently re-read in Isaiah. Isaiah 43:1b-3a, 19 says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed youI have called you by your  name; You are MineWhen you pass through the waters, will be with youAnd through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For am the Lord your GodThe Holy One of Israel, your Savior; 19 Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

We have such amazing promises in these few verses. First, God has redeemed us. He found us where we were but did not leave us there. He is making something wonderful in and through us. Second, He shows us how precious we are to Him by announcing that we are His. (Everyone else, hands off!) Third, God promises that He will be with us when we pass through the waters and walk through the flames (trials and tribulations). Finally, we have His promise that He will make roads in the wilderness and call forth rivers in the desert.

Sometimes we feel like we are in the desert: nothing seems to be flourishing and the little life that is there seems to be all prickles. And yet….

When the waters come, there is life in abundance.

And God promises to provide that water.

I can’t wait to see what God will do this year. He will provide water and we will flourish. I don’t know how or where the water will come from, but that is not important. What is important is that we wait upon God and His timing for the waters (of blessing) to come. Let us do our part in being faithful to His Word and then He will do His part (in His timing) and bring the blessing that only He can give. That way all glory belongs to Him and we will have the privilege of praising His name.

Ireland

Ireland just recently held a referendum on whether or not to repeal the 8th Amendment (Right to Life). The pro-abortion side won (66% in favour of repeal). During the subsequent days, I came across two widely different perspectives. The first comment was on Facebook and said, ‘I’m sorry. Let me get this straight. A guy walks into a classroom and shoots 20 children causing a nation to believe it’s time to re-examine gun laws? In 2012, in the US alone, 1.2 MILLION unborn children were hacked apart and discarded like trash but that’s OK? I think it’s time for our nation to re-examine its morals.’  The second comment came on my Twitter feed and said, ‘Huge congrats to #Ireland for overturning their archaic and dangerous abortion law. They will repeal their Eighth Amendment in the name of a more humane law. See U.S.A., it can be done! #GunReformNow.

What is really interesting to me is that both quotes equate abortion laws with gun laws. They just come at it from differing perspectives. The first comment is about how abortion kills far more people than guns, and yet we only care about restricting access to guns. The second comment is about how abortion is more humane than gun deaths. I guess the second person has never really thought through what an abortion actually involves.

If you read any article on either abortion or gun laws, you will see people holding very strongly-worded opinions. Each side almost vilifies the other. Rather than appealing to reason, the object seems to be to call the ‘other side’ more derogatory names than they do ‘our side’ (whatever that means). As Christians, we are not to participate in such conversations. God has called us to support and encourage those who are weaker (1 Thess. 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all), and this includes unborn children. According to Isaiah, we also need to ‘Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow’ (1:17).

So, how should we engage in this debate? First, pray. Then pray some more. Then let your actions speak before your words. Realize that social media is (usually) not the forum to hold a civil, nuanced conversation. Don’t just talk, but act (James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves). We need to be an example (lead by doing) rather than just telling others what to do (lead by telling).

Some good books on this topic are:

Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality by Nancy R. Pearcey

A Practical Guide to Culture by John Stonestreet

Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for the Family by Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet

 

What If Jesus Meant What He Said? Part 3

Part 4

Our Suffering and Persecution Reveals Our Savior

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you (2 Corinthians 4:7-12).

In the New Testament we see that Jesus said, ‘You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Matthew 5:14-16). The ‘lamp’ Jesus’ hearers would have been picturing was a small earthen vessel – a simple clay lamp which would be continually refilled with oil to keep burning.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are the light of the world because Jesus, the Light of the world, dwells in us. He is the treasure in our ‘jars of clay.’ Just like the battle in Gideon’s day, for our battle plan to be effective, our clay jars must be broken for the light to be manifested. It is in our brokenness that the world will see Jesus Christ.

We speak often of transparency, but do we know what that means? The word itself originated in the late 16th century, and it means ‘shining through.’ Being transparent isn’t letting people see into you – it’s letting them see through you. There is a big difference. True humility is not emphasizing all our shortcomings. Rather, it’s about showing His salvation despite our failures. Brokenness is a conduit to that end. Here is a litmus test: when another person leaves a conversation with you, do they leave thinking about your life (whether it be your perceived successes or failures) or about your Savior? Does the world see the beauty of Christ alive and at work through your brokenness – a brokenness which is changing you more and more into the image of Jesus Christ?

Let us not run from the very battle-plan that will reveal our Savior to a lost and dying world.”

Part 5

Suffering and Persecution Reinforce Our Strength

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,[a] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Much of the church is weak and sickly. Not because Christ isn’t enough, but because we confuse weakness and strength. We try to pray away the difficulties of suffering and persecution, when our Lord not only refused multiple times to take Paul’s thorn away, but declared weakness as the very channel through which God displays His strength.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul stated that the thorn was ‘given’ to him. Not imposed, but given as a gift – an asset. Furthermore, did you notice the purpose of the thorn? The apostle stated, ‘to keep me from becoming conceited.’ It would be easy to assume that this ‘messenger of Satan’ was simply an enemy attacking Paul, but since when does the Enemy of our souls want us to not become conceited? God was in ultimate control.

Lessons or opportunities from God are often accompanied by a messenger from Satan. The Enemy wants us to focus on the thorn and miss the test that God has prepared for us. We might see a problem when God wants us to use that very situation to teach us patience. We might see our failures when God is showing us His faithfulness. We might see sorrow when God is revealing in us His strength. We might see disease when God is teaching us dependency. God tests His own to prove them, not to disqualify them.

Going back to Gideon’s confrontation with the Midianites, what was God’s reason for not wanting 32,000 soldiers to head into combat? ‘The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’’ (Judges 7:2). This brief life is for the glory of God – the glory of a God who loves us and wants us to enjoy Him forever in His kingdom. When Jesus tells us to deny self and take up our cross, this is not a punishment but a privilege. It is an invitation to allow God’s life to be manifested in our mortal flesh, thorns and all.

Bibliography

Bramsen, N. (2017). What If Jesus Meant What He Said? Dubuque, IA: Emmaus International.