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“For a young person, ‘crucible’ is only a word from the dictionary. But as you mature, it becomes a testimony in your life’s journey.”

These were some of the wise words we received from Pastor Frank Damazio when he spoke to our pastors this past week.

He said that some of the greatest leaders you’ll ever read in the Bible went through the greatest trials in life. Brokenness brings about the greatness in a leader.

He then introduces the concept of the crucible and it’s place in Christian leadership. He says that many times in the Bible, you’d see that before a person is used by God greatly, he had to go through trials severely. Joseph had to spend some time in prison after being falsely accused. Daniel was in the lion’s den. Moses was in the desert of Midian for 40 years. Jonah was in the belly of a fish for 3 days. Over and over, we see people that were used by God in amazing ways. But before He did, they had to go through the crucible.

A crucible is a metal container where things like gold and silver are melted in. It is in the crucible that they are reshaped. Going through the fire will reshape you indeed. The question is, will you allow God to do it? Because sometimes, in our struggle to rescue ourselves from the crucible, we end up missing on what God’s trying to accomplish.

When we rescue ourselves from the crucible experience, we miss out on some of the best lessons God is trying to teach us.

Pastor Frank tells the experience he had when he was in Cape Town South Africa. When he visited, he learned more about the life of Nelson Mandela while in prison. One thing that he said that I will never forget was this – “The man that went in the prison was different from the man that came out.”

As Nelson Mandela embraced his crucible experience, he came out of it reshaped. Hatred was taken out and unforgiveness dissipated. He was a different Mandela.

Crucibles are what gives meaning to your life’s journey. It’s what defines you as a leader. It galvanizes in you what can never be taken away. It’s what you would call a defining moment. And the darker the trial, the greater the grace that’s provided.

Will you embrace your crucible experience for your good and ultimately for the glory of God?

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“Why do I still suffer even though I’m already a Christian? I thought after I come to Christ, all is going to be well.”

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the funeral of a man who was a wonderful husband, amazing dad, great employee and faithful servant in the church. He and his wife were remarkable examples to other couples. But one morning, MC was violently stabbed, which caused his death.

I was told that in his last few moments, before he went to be with the Lord,  his last few words to his wife were, “It is as it is. It is well.”

Wow.

How can one say this?
What hope was he holding on to that would cause him to make this declaration?

I realize that there are no amount of words to try to explain or even attempt to bring comfort to his wife and family in this time of tragedy. But God’s Word gives us a few hints as to why we go through what we are going through.

Paul tells the church in Philippi:

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:29-3)

Here are a few things that point to why we go through suffering:

1. PROOF

Suffering is one of the proofs that we follow Christ. His teachings are actually counter-cultural. If we go with what Jesus says, the Bible says that “everyone who wants to live a godly life will suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

Jesus says that in this world, we will have tribulation. But we can rejoice because He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

2. PRIVILEGE

Paul says that we suffer “for the sake of Christ.” Paul tells us that suffering is “granted” to us – which means it is a gift.

Now, how can this be a gift?!?!  It’s a gift no one would actually want to receive if you ask me. But, somehow, even James says to consider it pure joy, when we go through suffering and trials for it, will bring about steadfastness and perseverance that we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2)

3. PARTAKING

As we partake in the suffering, we are partaking it with Christ.
Paul in Philippians 3:10 desired to “know Christ and the power of His resurrection and share in His sufferings, being conformed to Him in His death.”

Furthermore, in Romans 8:17, we are told that “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

Sharing in His sufferings would mean sharing in His glory as well.

It definitely is easier to say it’s a privilege to partake in His sufferings. But the grace of God is overwhelmingly sufficient for His strength is made perfect even in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word that gives me comfort in times of trouble, strength in times of weakness and wisdom in times of confusion. In moments of suffering, You have promised that You will never leave nor forsake. For this, I am always grateful. May You grant me the grace to keep moving forward when I feel like giving up. I declare that this week is going to be a victorious week in the midst of difficult circumstances for victory is found as I live in Your presence daily.
IN JESUS’ NAME. AMEN.

Blog Banners.001Difficult circumstances can either TRANSFORM or DEFORM us.
The outcome will depend on how we respond to it. 

Will we respond in faith or in unbelief?

The apostle Paul writes in the book of Romans:

“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” (Romans 4:20-21)

How did Abraham keep himself from wavering in unbelief?

1. Grew strong in faith.

The Bible says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Coupled with hearing the Word is obeying the Word.

Abraham heard the word directly from God in Genesis 12. Not only did he hear, but he also obeyed. And as he obeyed, he saw that God followed through with what He communicated.

Our faith will grow as we hear and obey the Word. The book of James says that we shouldn’t merely hear the Word but also obey it lest we end up deceiving ourselves.

2. Gave glory to God.

Abraham’s eyes were fixed on the One who called him, not on the circumstances nor on the people around him. That didn’t mean he never had his moments. But because Abraham’s steadfast gaze was upon the One who holds his future, he honored God even in the difficult moments. God ultimately got the glory as a result of Abraham’s faith.

As John Piper would often say,

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Faith coupled with contentment that we have all that we have in Him will evidently surface in our life if it’s there. We don’t even have to manufacture it. People will notice and consequently glorify God.

3. Remained fully convinced.

Abraham was told that he will have a son that will give birth to a nation. And when God did, his faith to trust in God’s word was tested. He was asked to sacrifice Isaac at Mount Moriah. While he was willing to sacrifice Isaac, God stopped Abraham from doing so and provided another sacrifice on Isaac’s behalf.

But whatever was in Abraham’s mind at that moment, he was fully convinced that God would either give him another son or raise Isaac back to life. He was fully persuaded that God had the ability to do either.

Being fully convinced doesn’t mean we will always know the outcome. But even in the midst of uncertainty, Abraham was certain of one thing: God is both willing and able to fulfill His promises.  He never turns back on His Word.

Author C.S. Lewis declared,

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”

Will you continue to trust Him and remain fully convinced?

Life’s ups and downs may lead you to ask these questions.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Moses went through several ups and downs because God was preparing him for not just a journey but a task that will deliver God’s people from slavery.

Our personal story is often connected to a larger story.
It is very possible that our view can become so myopic that all we see are the things that concern us.

I love what the great evangelist D.L. Moody said, “Moses spent his first 40 years thinking he was a somebody. He spent the next 40 years learning he was nobody. He spent his third 40 years discovering what God can do with a nobody.”

It is often that God allows us to go through fire to melt away the very things that keep us from the purposes of God.

God had to strip Moses of his pride, selfish ambition and arrogance before He could use him for His glory.

God’s training ground usually is made up of life experiences that will contribute to the ultimate assignment God has for us. (Os HIllman)

God is the Divine Orchestrator. Remember what He said in Romans 8:28 (The Message)?
“He (God) knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”


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PHOTO CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelknights/

Have you ever broken anything in your life? A vase, a mirror or an iPhone.

I did a couple of years ago when I dropped my iPhone. The glass broke and it was an expensive lesson. It was a lesson on carelessness. I was trying to carry too many things at one time. You know how that goes.

But when God is the One who does the breaking, it is never out of carelessness. There is always a purpose to the breaking.

In Matthew 14, Jesus fed 5000 plus people. The disciples told Jesus to dismiss everyone because it was getting dark and they had no food. The only thing they had was 5 loaves and 2 fish.

Jesus told them to keep the people there and have them sit.

Jesus TOOK the bread, BLESSED it, BROKE it and GAVE it away. While this was a process Jesus used to perform a miracle to feed the 5000, I wonder if this is also a process God does whenever He deals with us.

You see this all throughout Scripture – God takes, God blesses, God breaks and God gives away.

God took Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, blessed him with a son, broke him in Mt. Moriah to see who his top priority was when God asked Abraham to offer Isaac and then as a result, gave him to be the father of many nations.

God took Moses from the Nile river while in the basket, blessed him to be part of Pharaoh’s household, broke him when he was forced to live in the desert for 40 years and ultimately to be given away to be the deliverer of the Israelites from the clutches of the Egyptian empire.

God took Joseph into a journey towards Egypt when he was sold into slavery, blessed him with a great job in Potiphar’s house, broke him when he was thrown into prison because of a false accusation by Mrs. Potiphar and then gave him to be the 2nd in command all over Egypt to save both Egypt and Israel from famine.

God took Jesus from heaven, blessed Him when He announced that He is His Son of whom He is well pleased, broke Him on the mountain of Calvary only to be given away to become the Savior of mankind.

A.W. Tozer said it beautifully,
“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”

Today, you may be in the TAKING stage. God is taking you on a journey. And when He does, it can be disorienting because you don’t know where He is taking you. But hold on tight, because He is holding your hand. You may not know what the future holds but at least you’re assured that He holds the future.

Some of you may be in the BLESSING stage. That is wonderful! God desires to bless His children. Enjoy it and share it.

Others may be in the BREAKING stage. Understand that blessed are the broken, for they shall see God. It was in the desert of brokenness that Moses saw God via a burning bush. Actually, the breaking is really a blessing. God has to break our pride, selfishness, self-will. Some of us, God has to break our dreams because He is wanting to replace it with better ones. There are those of you are coming off a broken relationship. God is taking you to a new journey. He had to break that to allow you to discover Him in the process.

There are those in the GIVING stage. It is in this stage that God takes the brokenness in our own lives and gives it away to a broken world. We all are essentially wounded healers. With the comfort we’ve received, we comfort others who are going through the very same thing we went through.

You see, this is the process God brings us through. When we realize this, we will stop struggling and start cooperating with His dealings. Then and only then will you realize that God has done a miracle in your life.

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I spoke to a lady this afternoon that was going through a major crisis.

Bankrupt business.
Failed marriage.
Wayward son.

But she came to me not asking for counseling. Neither did she come to seek help regarding her situation. She came to me to ask how she can serve in church.

It was impressive what kind of perspective she had… that though she was going through difficulty (which is a huge understatement), she wanted to look for opportunities to get the focus off herself and onto serving God through the church.

I remember what Pastor Jim Laffoon said many years ago that stuck with me. He said,
“When the devil attacks your camp, launch an all out war against his.”

Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith.”

While we live by the grace of God, we concurrently need to wake up each morning in fighting mode.

We don’t march toward victory, but we march from victory. And as we do, we march out fighting.

Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them…” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

We are saved by grace and we live by grace. But somewhere in there, we fight and work with all our heart because of the very grace that’s been bestowed.