Through The Fire

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The Bible tells us that it rains on the just and the unjust alike, meaning that times of trouble and trials are bound to come to everyone regardless of whether your walk with the Lord is strong, or whether you have no walk at all. Even still, believers who have a relationship with the Lord should know that when trials do come, and if God calls us to persevere through the trail instead of delivering us, he is walking right by our side through the fire. We don’t have to walk through it alone. We only need to trust him. King Nebuchadnezzar learned that lesson when he decided to throw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the fiery furnace for not worshiping an image of gold that he’d set up. It says in Daniel chapter 3, verse 25:

“He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’”

Earlier, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego proclaimed that whether God chose to deliver them or not, they would never bow their knee to the image of gold. They recognized the sovereignty of God, desiring his will above their own, still having faith that he’d deliver them. Likewise, we should also pray in faith that God will deliver us, while at the same time knowing that he is God and may have a plan that is different than our desires. In the case of these three, God allowed them to be thrown in the fire, but he was right there with them all along. In the midst of their trial, God was not far away, he didn’t watch from a distance, he was right there with them. I believe that when we go through trials and are crying out to God, whatever he decides our fate to be, he is right there with us. Do you believe that today?

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God has the power to deliver us from any situation - even if it is a trial of our own making. When we call out to God, our job is to have faith, not only to believe that he will deliver us, but also to trust that he is God and that his ways are higher than our ways. Sometimes our prayers aren’t answered the way we’d want. Sometimes, God chooses for us to walk through the fire instead of helping us to avoid it. When that happens, don’t lose heart. God ultimately saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but not before they were thrown into the fire. When you’ve prayed and still see yourself heading for destruction, does your faith waver? I encourage you to keep your eyes on God. Whatever your fate, God is in control. Put your trust in him. Whether you are delivered, or whether you have to walk through the fire, trust that God sees what we cannot see, and that he is right there with you in the midst of it all.

Bread of Life

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What did Jesus mean when he referred to himself as the “bread of life”? The Jews really had a difficult time with that analogy, and for those who don’t understand today, it can be just as confusing. In John, chapter 6 verse 27, Jesus tells them, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” Then later in verses 47 through 50 he says:

“Very truly I tell you , the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

I believe that Jesus uses the bread analogy partially because the Jews were in the midst of discussing the manna that God sent in Moses’ day. Jesus uses that analogy to explain to them that any bread earth can provide is temporary. It may even spoil if we don’t eat it in a timely manner. But Jesus, being the “bread of life”, gives those who partake of him, eternal life. His flesh for bread, and his blood for drink may sound strange to those who don’t understand. But to those of us who do; to those of us who have accepted and have partaken of Jesus’ gift to us, the flesh and blood that he is talking about means our very salvation. If you are new to the Bible, don’t get tripped up with this analogy like the Jews did. Simply put, bread on earth only sustains life on earth. But Jesus will sustain us forever if we believe in him and accept his gift to us.

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Jesus told his listeners that he is the bread of life. He said that if we eat, or partake, of him, we will live forever. When Jesus died, it was the act of his body being broken and the spilling of his blood that covered our sins, giving us eternal life. When his righteousness covers our unrighteousness, we can stand in the presence of a holy God. So I encourage you, if you haven’t already, partake of Jesus, the bread of life. If you do, you will live forever in heaven with God. But if you don’t, you will experience eternal death, or eternal damnation, in hell separated from God forever.

Right Pursuit

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I don’t know about you, but at times, I find the Christianity walk to be a difficult one. It can seem as if the battle against the flesh, and our sinful desires, will never end. From when I wake up in the morning, until I go to bed at night, I know that I am susceptible to the enticements and the dangers of sin. Paul felt that never ending battle, and he encouraged Timothy to continue the fight as well. It says in first Timothy chapter 6, verses 11 and 12:

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

Once we become a Christian, we aren’t guaranteed a life without problems or a life without temptation. If we are trying to live a life pleasing to God, and if we have purposed in our hearts to actively pursue what is biblically right and just, there will be spiritual attacks. There will be times of difficulty, struggle, uncertainty, hardship, and pain. But as Paul encouraged Timothy, I encourage you today. Fight the good fight of faith. Flee desires that are contrary to the character of God and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. I encourage you to every day be on your guard, and to every day put on the full armor of God so that you can take you stand against the devil’s schemes.

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Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily. He tells us that because every day we need to be reminded of our call to him; we need to be reminded of who we belong to. And Paul encourages Timothy to fight the good fight of faith; to take hold, or embrace, the eternal life to which he was called. I encourage you do the same. How? Try focusing only on the current day you are living when it comes to your walk. Live out your current day seeking first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. Don’t think about tomorrow, because the Bible says that tomorrow will have enough problems of its own. Just take up your cross for today. Put on the full armor of God today. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness today. And tomorrow, reset and try to replicate and improve that pattern.

Time Well Spent

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There are countless things and opportunities in our world that are enticing to the flesh. As technology advances and the cultural shift continues to align more with what God calls sin, the more accessible and the more acceptable sin becomes. If we ignore, or lose sight of how the Spirit of God is leading us, we might find ourselves giving into desires that we once abhorred. We might find ourselves chasing things that are fruitless or maybe even sinful. Proverbs 23 verses 4 and 5 warns us with these words:

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”

When we die we will be held accountable for how we have spent our time on this earth. Are you spending time chasing things that are fruitless or are you spending your time pursuing things that are spiritually fruitful? We can spend our entire lives trying to acquire wealth, possessions or status; things that are temporary; things that are ultimately fruitless. Chasing riches is what Proverbs highlights in this portion of scripture. But we are also warned in Matthew not to store up for ourselves treasures on earth that will not last, but to store up treasures in heaven that will last forever. Right now might be a good time for us to evaluate what we are spending our time pursuing.

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Proverbs warns us not to wear ourselves out to get rich. Yes, we need money to survive, but accumulating wealth for the sake of getting rich should not be our goal. It is ultimately a fruitless pursuit. We all need to take stock of how we are spending our time. Are we pursuing things that have eternal rewards? Or are we spending our time pursuing things that are temporary; things that may one day spout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle, as this proverb says? I encourage you to evaluate how you spend your time; that at the end of the day, the Spirit living inside of you and the scriptures that highlight God’s heart will attest that it was time well spent.

Influence God

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When it comes to our walk with the Lord, we all want to be perfect, but none of us are. We are sinners and at times we disobey God. Sometimes we disobey him in small ways, and there are other times when our sins are so great that they may result in lasting earthly consequences; consequences that even God may have ordered himself. If you’ve sinned and have wronged God so badly that he has decided to take action against you, I encourage you to do what Ahab did and humble yourself before him. First Kings, chapter 21, verses 27 through 29 says: 

“When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: ‘Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.’”

Ahab committed a great evil in the sight of the Lord. His wife encouraged him to have an innocent man killed just so that he could take possession of his vineyard. Verses 25 and 26 says, “(There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.)" All of this and the Lord still extended grace. We should never stir God to this level of anger. But if you ever do, remember this story. Humble yourself, fast and repent. Then the Lord may have mercy on you and withhold the level of judgment he had originally carved out for you.

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Because of the magnitude of Ahab’s transgression, God was about to bring disaster upon him. God didn’t relent completely. His judgment passed along to Ahab’s son. But his grace allowed for it not to happen in Ahab’s lifetime. God acknowledged his repentance and stayed his hand. So remember, true repentance and humility goes a long way with God. Even if you’ve done something incredibly bad, he can still offer grace to you. But it is my hope that for you and for me, it’ll never come to that. If you don’t know already, I encourage you to learn what God likes and what he doesn’t like, and to pursue for former and avoid the later.