Joyfully Serving My Master

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Refining Silver

I received the following in an e-mail today and wanted to keep it available. It is not unique to me, though I don't know the author. It is certainly worth thinking through during times of trial.

Malachi 3:3 "And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver"This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up, Heexplained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire wherethe flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot then she thought again about the verse that says: "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver." She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?"He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy--when I see my image in it."If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Jealous Love

I just finished the book of Judges in my Bible study time. As I think through the characters in the book I see so many who failed miserably. Towards the end of the book there are several instances of immorality, whether that be Samson's relationship with a prostitute or the men of Gibeah wanting to have homosexual relationships with a visitor but contenting themselves with brutally raping and murdering his wife instead. I see that and think, no wonder God punished Israel over and over again for their sin. But then God was so very quick to forgive them when they repented, then to defeat their enemies and to bless them until they fell into sin again.

Judges gives us a very different picture of love than what we see in American culture today. It is a love that is forgiving, giving, and jealous. I think we can pretty easily understand how God shows His love by giving to His people, and by forgiving His people. But many have difficulty comprehending how God shows his love just as clearly when He is punishing sin.

Exodus 34:14 says, "for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." This is not the type of sinful jealousy that we might see in ourselves. This is a pure and righteous jealousy coming from a perfect, holy God who loves His people with a perfect love and wants to have a relationship with them. However when God's people sin they break that relationship with Him. As we see with the Israelites, when they refused to put away their sinful ways and return to God, the only way for God to restore a relationship with them was to punish them. He would allow another nation to conquer the Israelites, and allow them to be in captivity for as long as it took for them to come to their senses and cry out to God once more. Then He answered. Over, and over, and over again He answered them. You see, God loved the Israelites. He had chosen them. He wanted to have a close, intimate relationship with them. He loved them jealousy and would not accept them turning away from Him. So He did whatever it took to bring them back, and did it time after time after time.

Israel is not out of the picture. God promises to restore His relationship with that nation once again. However at this point in history God has also allowed people of all nations who will call on the name of Jesus to enjoy that same intimate love with Himself. And it is still a giving, forgiving and jealous love. I am so glad that God loves me enough to make life hard when I rebel against Him once again. I am thankful that He takes the time to give the appropriate consequences to my unrepentant sin. Of course I'm not saying that I like life to be hard or that I enjoy the consequences of my sin. But I am awed that the creator of the universe loves me so jealously that He will go out of His way to do whatever it takes to draw me back into His arms.

I thank God for His jealous love.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Give me the faith of -- Jephthah???

I am often astounded at how God chooses to use faulty people to accomplish His plan on earth. Last night I was reading in Judges chapters 11 and 12 about Jephthah. He was the son of a prostitute, rejected by his family and driven out of his country. While in the land of Tob he gathered around himself "worthless" men. The New King James version even goes so far as to say that Jephthah and these worthless men went out and raided together, though other versions say only that they went out together. Whether he was a thief or not, he certainly was a fool to have chosen the companions he did. But the people of Israel went to him for help when they were in trouble, and God chose to bless Jephthah and gave him and Israel victory. But even in the middle of being used by God, Jephthah showed great foolishness. Jephthah made a vow that if Israel won he would sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house. Of course the first thing that came out when Jephthah returned home was his only daughter. He realized then his own foolishness, but he ended up sacrificing her anyway. This was clearly against the laws that God had established, and the consequence to Jephthah of his own foolish vow was great.

Seeing God use such a foolish man to deliver Israel from her enemies would be amazing in itself. However there is a much more surprising ending to the story of Jephthah. His name is mentioned again much later in the Bible. Hebrews chapter 11 is often called the Bible's hall of faith. There we read about one person after another who showed great faith in God. At the end of this amazing list of godly men and women verse 32 mentions the name of Jephthah. I was rather stunned to see God single him out like that. Why would God list Jephthah among those with great faith? For that matter, why are Balak and Gideon also there? Balak was the leader who when Deborah told him to go up and fight and God would give him victory, he told her that he would only go if she went with him. Then she responded that God would give Israel the victory but that it would be by the hands of a woman that the enemy's king would be killed. Gideon tested God twice before he would believe that what God said was really true. Then after the great victory Gideon collected all the golden earrings from the plunder and made an ephod that the people worshipped as an idol.

My first reaction to reading this was simply, "why?". Why would God choose to put men who seem to me to be foolish and even lacking in faith in this hall of faith? I was almost indignant at first. But the more I pondered the question, the more humbled and grateful I became. You see there is great hope in the fact that God ended up remembering the faith of Balak, Gideon and Jephthah. How many times am I a fool like Jephthah? How often do I test God instead of stepping out in immediate obedience? How frequently do I qualify my obedience, saying that I will do it if somebody else will do it with me? And yet how greatly I long to be a woman of faith. I want to trust God completely and immediately. So I have hope. Despite my foolishness and cowardice God can take my tiny faith and make it great.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Judged by works

I was reading in Isaiah 59 and came to verse 18 that says, "according to their deeds, accordingly He will repay." Now this is not a good thing. The previous verses talk about how God looked and saw that there was no justice and no intercessor, therefore he put on garments of vengeance. This of course was referring to the nation of Israel but it made me ponder about God's judgment of sin today and in the future.

I turned to Revelation 20, the scene of the Great White Throne judgment. Here Jesus is sitting on the throne judging those who did NOT place their trust in Him as their personal savior. These are the people who rejected the death, burial, resurrection and future coming of Jesus. Verse 12 says, "And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and the books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books." Every single one of these people appearing at this judgment will be condemned to hell for all of eternity. However they will also be judged according to their works. Eternal torture and horror alone is not enough for those who Jesus judges most severely. Somehow the worst offenders will get a worse punishment.

My next thought was, if unbelievers are judged according to their works, what works will be judged the most severely? I thought through passages in the old testament talking about what God hates. Proverbs 6 says that "16 These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood,18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil,19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren." Then Malachi 2:16 says "For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one's garment with violence," Says the LORD of hosts. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously." I also thought of the Old Testament Laws and what did God consider capital crimes in His nation Israel. Leviticus 20 gave some stern words: "13 'If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.14 'If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is wickedness. They shall be burned with fire, both he and they, that there may be no wickedness among you.15 'If a man mates with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal." There were certainly many other sins named among those I have already listed. But I didn't yet have my answer.

Next I looked to the person of Jesus, come to earth as fully God yet fully man. He showed us physically the nature and mind of God. So when we look at the life of Christ, which sins did He judge the most harshly? That is actually a pretty easy question if you have spent much time reading the gospels. Jesus' most harsh words were directed at the religious establishment of the time, the Pharasees. He condemned how they perverted God's laws with the addition of their own man-made rules and regulations. He also condemned any who would lead a child away from God saying, "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:6)

The next question was, why? Why did Jesus judge the false teachers and the legalistic and hypocrital religious leaders so much more harshly than those committing murder, adultery, homosexuality, or any of the other sins mentioned above? As I pondered and prayed through the scripture that I had been reading I had one of those light bulb moments -- you know the ones where the Holy Spirit illuminates the Word of God for a follower of Christ.

The answer was so simple. All I had to do was change my perspective. I was looking at sin from an earthly perspective. The murder and other "worst" sins as I had thought were all ones that killed or seriously hurt the physical body and emotions. That is indeed bad and deserves punishment. However there is another perspective, an eternal one. From the standpoint of time without end, harm done to this physical body is far less serious than harm done to the soul. A murderer may kill this time-bound body and cause someone else to lose even as much as 80 years of life. However a false teacher who keeps someone else from learning the truth about Jesus causes that person to spend all of eternity separated from God in horror and torture worse than we can imagine.

God is holy and can have no sin in his presence. Yet God desires for all men to be with Him for eternity. We read in 2 Peter 3:9 that "The Lord is not slack [slow in fulfilling] concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." However God has given man a choice. Our sin and works must be judged. We can choose to have our works judged at the Great White Throne judgment and face eternal punishment for the sins we have committed. Or we can choose to have our works judged at the cross where Jesus, the only sinless man to ever live, paid the only price possible in order to take away the sins of the world, and then offered to all who accept that payment His own perfect righteousness. It is that perfect righteousness of Jesus that gives anyone at all the wonderful prospect of spending eternity with God.

Looking at what it took on God's part to provide a way for man to avoid hell and enjoy heaven, it is no wonder that He is so very harsh with those who stand in the way of someone receiving such a great gift. God, may I always present You in truth and according to what You have revealed in Your inerrant Word.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Why me?

I was just pondering the opportunities God has given me to work in difficult and desperate situations with other women and wondered why He would choose me. I have never gone to look for that type of situation. I would never have considered myself the type of person to whom God would choose to trust a broken and fragile soul. Yet once again He has chosen to trust me. It is in times like these that I learn great and profound truths once more. God can use my weaknesses to show Himself strong. He takes my foolishness and makes Himself wise in the eyes of another. He takes my unfaithfulness and shows Himself ever faithful. He takes my small grains of faith and moves mountains with His mighty hand.

God could effect change in the heart and life of people with a single breath from His mouth. Yet He has chosen to use faulty people like me. God could take each believer directly to heaven the moment he trusts Christ as his personal savior and make him immediately perfect. Yet He has chosen to entrust us with life and the opportunity to be a part of His master plan on this temporary earth. God knows every need and thought in a man's heart. Yet He has chosen to act in man's life in response to the sincere prayer of true Christians. I am so insignificant. Yet God has placed the righteousness of Christ on my account and has invited me into the very throne room of heaven. I am grateful beyond words. I have been given life both now and in eternity, and trusted with the lives of others.

Why me?

Because of Christ.

Monday, January 03, 2005


I had a wonderful time with God this morning. After L & D left for school and while S was still sleeping, I had the opportunity to sit down at the kitchen table with a cup of hot tea. It is always so wonderful to have a good chunk of time to spend praising God, and to make sure that my sins have been fully dealt with and Christ's righteousness is credited to my account both practically and positionally. What amazing freedom there is in being completely forgiven. I know that all my sins were placed on Jesus the moment that I received Him as my personal savior, and that positionally I am covered with Christ's blood for all eternity. I also know that as long as I remain on this earth that I will continue to sin. I must daily claim God's promise that if I "confess (my) sin He (God) is faithful and just to forgive (me my) sin and cleanse (me) from all unrighteousness." That last part of cleansing from ALL unrighteousness is one of the most precious parts of that verse to me. I know that there are probably hundreds of times each day when I have a sinful thought. I am absolutely certain that I do not remember every little sin that I commit. And yet even the smallest sin, though it can never separate me from God or cause me to lose my salvation, does place a barrier in my communication with God. Yet God planned even for my poor memory. He didn't ask that I confess sins that I don't remember. I confess to Him every sin that I know about. Then He as a merciful and loving God takes that confession and applies it to the other forgotten sins, cleansing from ALL unrighteousness. WOW!!!! I love the joy, peace, love and the beautifully close relationship with the eternal God of all the universe that I experience after He has made me fully clean once again. There is nothing better than being in a position to have close, intimate fellowship with God with nothing in the way. And this is just one of the many incredible gifts that God offers freely to His children. Just as with salvation, there is nothing we can do to earn this gift, we have only to ask for it and gratefully accept it. There is no motivation for obedience greater than such abundant gifts freely given over and over, day after day.