Idealists and the Fire

Warren Wiersbe said, “A realist is an idealist who has gone through the fire and been purified. A skeptic is an idealist who has gone through the fire and been burned.”

What makes the difference?

It’s not the fire, the heat, or the duration. It’s the attitude you choose to bring out of it.

When you look back on life’s unpleasant events, you can choose to see what you learned from the ordeal, or you can just see it as a bad experience and get nothing else from it.

In every trial, every problem, every difficult situation, God is seeking to teach us something new, seeking to take us to a higher place.

Maybe it’s a chance to exercise a bolder faith. Maybe it’s a chance to identify bad behavior that we must abandon. Or maybe it’s an opportunity to practice perseverance.

The lesson is always there in difficult circumstances; we can choose to be purified and made holy, or we can just allow ourselves to become burned and bitter.

Many will be purified, cleansed and refined by these trials. But the wicked will continue in their wickedness, and none of them will understand. Only those who are wise will know what it means. (Daniel 12:10)

This post originally appeared at PreachingLibrary.com

 

ability to bounce back

The Ability to Bounce Back

I received a brochure some time ago from a company specializing in resilient furniture: simple, sturdy, water resistant tables and chairs. Not fancy in any way, but built to last.

They’re not cheap either; a plain white folding chair is about $90.

They’re not nearly as pretty as the leatherette office chairs I buy at the discount store for much less money — but those chairs, as I am reminded every time I have to replace one, don’t have a long life-span.

There’s something to be said for basic, unadorned resiliency: the ability to get through, get over, and get past life’s many trials and tribulations. In this sense, sturdy beats stylish every time.

A popular magazine did a cover story several years ago on the subject of resiliency, asking the question, “Why do some people bounce and others break?” The article noted how some who experience trauma withdraw into a shell, while others facing the same crisis not only bounce back, but bounce back stronger than ever before. It talked about how resiliency is being studied in universities and taught in corporate seminars.

Resiliency, the article said, could become the most important skill of the 21st century.

Why do some people break down while others bounce back? Unlike furniture, I don’t think it has to do with our design. A chair can only be as strong as it was made to be. It can’t decide to grow stronger; neither can it decide to give up.

We, on the other hand, have access to support beyond ourselves. The flaws in our design (so to speak) can be overcome. For example, a person who is, by nature, prone to be discouraged and give up too soon doesn’t have to stay that way.

There’s a verse in Philippians that is so often quoted its meaning is sometimes overlooked. Paul is talking about being able to face hard times as well as good times, and he states confidently, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Resilience — the ability to bounce back — often comes down to a single decision: from whose strength will I draw: my own, or God’s? The promise of Scripture is that if you will look to God for strength, he will give it to you.

I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)

Today’s memo was updated from a previous post.

finding rest

Finding Rest

Author and journalist Iving Kristol said, “Being frustrated is disagreeable, but the real disasters of life begin when you get what you want.”

This is because what we want — or what we think we want — is so often not what we really need in order to live a fulfilled, meaningful life.

There comes a time when we realize that the trinket we worked so hard to acquire, or even the goal we sacrificed so much to reach, doesn’t bring the satisfaction we expected it would. We then find ourselves asking, as so many have, “Is that all there is? Is this as good as it gets?”

Goals will always have a place in our lives, and accumulating possessions will always be part of the human experience, but we do ourselves a disservice when we fail to understand that these things will never be enough.

On the other hand, we serve ourselves best when we learn to say, as Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in thee.”

Where are you seeking your rest today? In a paycheck? In a relationship? In a status symbol? In a measure of success? These things may not be the enemy — they’re not bad in and of themselves — but it’s important that we understand that they’re not the finish line, either.

If your heart is restless today, take a moment to re-evaluate what you really want. Strive to say, as David said, “My soul finds rest in God alone.” (Psalm 62:1)

Today’s memo was updated from a previous post.

Today's Most Important Decision

Today’s Most Important Decision

Marcus Aurelius said, “The most important things in life are the thoughts you to choose to think.” If this is true, then today’s most important decision will be what to think about.

You can think thoughts of faith or thoughts of doubt, thoughts of hope or thoughts of despair, thoughts of love or thoughts of hate. These thoughts will find their way into your words and your actions as the day wears on.

“Thoughts should be tested before they’re transmitted,” said William Arthur Ward. “If our thoughts taste unkind, critical or unfair, we should refuse to release them into the dangerous world of words.”

Every temptation begins with a thought. So does every act of goodness. That’s why Paul said…

Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (Romans 12:2)

Today, let thoughts of faith, hope and love fill your mind.

• Decide to believe the best about the future God has planned for you. That’s faith.

• Decide to expect the best in each situation, because God is at work in the details. That’s hope.

• Decide to give the best to those around you, because this is what he has called you to. That’s love.

Your life will move in the direction that your thoughts take it.

Today’s most important decision, then, is to allow yourself to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

On the Horizon

Robert Louis Stevenson spent much of his life struggling with serious health issues. In spite of this, he remained eternally optimistic.

One day, when his fever was running high and he couldn’t control his coughing attacks, his wife said, somewhat cynically, “I suppose you still believe it’s a wonderful day.”

Stevenson replied, “Yes, I do. I will never permit a row of medicine bottles to block my horizon.”

Are there rows of problems and and rows of fears attempting to block your horizon today? Can you look past them and see the goodness of God?

But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever. (Psalm 52:8)

Blest Be the Tie That Binds

Blest Be the Tie

Centuries ago, John Fawcett was the pastor of a small, struggling church in Wainsgate, England. Since he was a talented and dynamic preacher, he soon received an offer to be the pastor of a large, affluent church in London.

It was a great opportunity, but it presented a problem: He dearly loved the congregation in Wainsgate, and it was killing him to leave.

After he and his wife had packed away all their belongings, members of the church came to see them off. During their good-byes, Mary Fawcett said to her husband, “John, I cannot bear to leave!”

He thought for a moment and said, “Neither can I. And so we won’t. This is our home and these are our people and here is where we’ll stay.”

John Fawcett spent his entire fifty-four-year ministry serving this one church.

Shortly after making this decision to stay, he wrote these words…

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

That’s the verse everyone knows. Here’s one of the other verses.

We share each other’s woes
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
T he sympathizing tear.

There’s a reason why old-fashioned things like Sunday School classes and Home Bible Studies are still such a great idea. It’s not just about what we learn from the lesson. It’s about what we experience in community with others.

It’s much more than just an advertising slogan: Life is better when we’re connected.

They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. (Acts 2:46-47)

Today’s memo was updated from a previous post. It is taken from Steve’s series Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs.

potter's hand

Clay in the Potter’s Hand

Several years ago at Silver Dollar City, our group saw a demonstration of clay in the potter’s hand, as we watched an artist craft, with great skill, a small vase out of a mere lump.

When he asked if anyone would like to give it a try, one man stepped up. He then sat at the wheel, and as the clay began to spin round and round, he grabbed hold with both hands … and made a big mess.

Being a potter is not nearly as easy as it looks. For a lump of clay to become a lovely decoration, someone who knows what they’re doing needs to be sitting at the wheel.

The Bible compares our lives to this same kind of clay, needing to be shaped.

The question is: Who, if anyone, will do the shaping?

I’m guessing no one really wants their outcomes to be determined by the random spinning of an unattended wheel. Nor do we want to be left in the hands of an unskilled volunteer.

Neither scenario is likely to end well.

However, if you will allow God his rightful place at the potter’s table, the words of Jeremiah will be yours…

“O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.” (Jeremiah 18:6)

This day, as in every day, you get to choose who sits at the potter’s wheel, and whose clay you will be.

Today’s memo was taken from Steve’s series: Shaping Things to Come.