Walking Through the Fire, Through the Flood and Through the Rainbow Parades

When, years ago, I first heard the traditional hymn, “I need thee, Lord I need thee, Every hour I need thee…” I thought it sentimental and adoring but really wondered, do they really need the Lord every hour? After all, unbelievers make it through an hour, the whole day – many their whole lives – prospering and content without the Lord.  In fact, they shun His interference.  However, as a believer in Christ, this hymn has become a frequent personal anthem. “Every hour” speaks deeply to those of us who decidedly follow Jesus.  The closer we follow Jesus, the more we need him.  As A.W. Tozer describes, this world is ‘not our playground but our battlefield’.  And, within this battle ground, the Lord has one strategy for victory:  walk in obedience and total dependence to Him.

“Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus walked.”  1 John 2:6

It is in this great Scriptural challenge – “walk” – where we often slip, trip, and fall.

walk-dont-run

In the fire and in the flood, we want relief and deliverance – we are anxious to run and make things happen.  When the flood of sin rises higher, when “good becomes evil and evil becomes good” ” many Christians plan, strategize and gear up to protest and rally.  It is a prideful delusion that draws Christians to believe that the world can change through political, social or economic arenas.  The great danger is this:  we may miss the anointing that God would bestow upon us, the “good works which He planned in advance for us to do”.

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  (Micah 6:8)

When the world around us or the personal world within us is crashing how can we walk like Jesus walked, humbly with our God?  It is easy to be sickened and shocked by grievous violence, pervasive immorality, and increasing apostasy.  But let us not be as those outside Noah’s ark, shocked when the rain began! Those who study the Word may be grieved but not shocked – we are witnesses to the prophecies that the Lord Himself proclaimed.

“Get into this Word and get this Word into you!” remains the cry of 90 year old Pastor Ben Crandall.  Walk into the Word of God, take time to digest, meditate and hear from the Lord. We are purposefully placed amidst this dark world and, step by step our mind and hearts will be renewed and strengthened from the Word.  Discernment and godly instruction often challenge and override the ‘good’ ideas and inclinations of our fleshly nature.  Jesus declared in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Now, more than ever, the Body of Christ needs to rise up as His Body.  Jesus may not lead us to the White House lawn but He may be preparing us to meet the woman at the well.  Legislation will never change our culture or the course of this world, it is as foolish as investing in a foreclosed bank.  The sad truth is, many Christians have befriended this world and now strongly ‘push back’ at the thickening darkness.  “Friendship with the world is hatred toward God” – we are not called to improve this world but separate ourselves from it.  

It is through separation that we gain spiritual strength.  We will not change the world but will have divine anointing as we walk through it in Christ’s shadow.  “Walking humbly with our God” is a divine call onto a path where He touches the sick, speaks life to the brokenhearted, and opens doors for those in bondage.  To ‘walk like Jesus walked’ is to walk in divine appointment – not knowing whom we might touch and the eternal difference it makes.

The Lord seems to overlook the influential, the politically endowed, and those with celebrity status to find the weakest, most insignificant, and unknown.  Those with a heart to obey are fully qualified. We can never renew or revive this world in any way but we can be vessels of honor in service of Most High God as He renews and revives the hearts of man for all eternity.

These are the last days before Christ returns as Judge.  Time is short and we must be in step.  The devil isn’t moved by campaigns or product boycotts.  We can boycott the whole world, if it were possible, and it wouldn’t add anything to the Kingdom of God.  The devil trembles, he loses ground, when we decide to really pray, to study God’s Word and walk humbly with Him through this world.  Along that lighted path, doors open and hearts change as people meet Christ their Savior.

Let us walk together in unity, close behind Jesus Christ through the fire, in the flood, and across the ‘rainbow parades’ in step with Him as He reaches out to those who would receive Him, those who would be set free.

RISE UP AND GO FORTH

From threshing, to rising, to the offering of bread…
(c) Laing Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Grain is crushed for bread, but one does not thresh it forever…” (Isaiah 28:28)

While suffering, even threshing and crushing, comes equally to the lives of believers and unbelievers, those who follow Christ have great assurance through their trials, a two prong anchor: your suffering has purpose and its intensity and duration is divinely measured. It does not seem so under the weight of grief and loss, moreover, this assurance itself does not lift the darkness of torment, depression or fear. Truth is an anchor onto which we must fasten ourselves –  it does not stop the storm but sustains us to the end of it.

“Crushed for bread” is a Christian truism rarely preached in the western world. It does not fit well into much of the gospel entertainment and prosperity that prevails in many church circles. When the Lord allows, designs and orchestrates, threshing and crushing in our lives it assaults our fleshly thinking, our human comforts, our health and sense of security – sometimes all at the same time. It does not seem loving nor merciful. In fact, it may cause the deepest questions of ‘love’, ‘mercy’ and ‘God’ to arise in our soul. Yet Lord stands by the cries of anguish and even accusation – He will prove faithful if we decidedly hold fast to the anchor.

But why the fire? Why the pummeling pain of betrayal, disappointment, and confusion? Why the shaken ground, the void of peace – why indeed!

Like grain, we are shaken to remove chaff, threshed to make bread. Challenging our comfort, even all we have built as security and surety in our lives, as threshed wheat we are mixed for kneading and shaping – which leads us into a fiery furnace! While we desperately seek to dull the pain, find any exit, or extinguish the fire the Lord’s purpose remains – to reveal Himself to us in the furnace. The threshing floor and fiery furnace are painful places where divine opportunity is ever present: we can walk by faith in the strength of the Holy Spirit, surrender and defer to the Lord’s leading, and depend on Him to deliver us. If the Christian life is indeed supernatural, the Lord will shake all our natural strengths and prove them deficient.

But how do we survive through, even rise up and come forth from these trials?

Be honest with God. Forget the brave veneers, scriptural and religious clichés, and reverent formalities. Let go. “I can’t take this! ….Help me, Lord, I am sinking!…I’m not going to make it through…” Unburden your heart with expectancy and start the journey through the fire. Share your burden with brethren and spiritual authority, an elder or pastor. Consider support of godly counsel and intervention. Central to deliverance though – learn to shut in with God, unhurried and undistracted.

Study the sovereignty of God. Immerse yourself prayerfully in the Word of God and the testimonies of the ordinary men and women who fell prey to evil men, suffered great loss, were wrongly accused, deeply betrayed, tormented, grieved, anguished…yet found their pain and darkness counted greatly in the Kingdom of God. Beckon the Holy Spirit to speak through the Word to your heart, write down the very scriptures that challenge your fears, your doubts, your grief, and overwhelming powerlessness. Memorize them and decidedly dare to stand upon them in faith, they are your protective shield and winning sword. (Ephesians 6:16,17)

Decide to worship. “The sacrifice of praise” becomes a deep and meaningful as we willfully worship God even as our hearts fail from brokenness and fear. It is costly praise, valued by the Lord, a worship that declares, “Yes, I am miserable/in pain/fearful and anxious/crushed and heartbroken…but you are still God, sovereign over all and worthy of worship.” Powerful tactics of Satan, magnifying points of anguish and highlighting every possible disastrous outcome, begin to wane as we magnify the Lord and shift our thinking toward His promises of victory. Read aloud, even sing the Psalms as a battle cry.  A pastor once admonished, instead of “Set me free and I’ll worship you” resolve to “worship Him and He’ll set you free”.

Seek God’s Purpose. What is He threshing, separating, out of your life…what is He kneading into your life? What of Himself does He choose to reveal? Keep asking, keep seeking – believe that the Lord will draw near to us as we draw near to Him, “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”. What is His purpose for your suffering? As Pastor David Wilkerson often preached, “Don’t waste your afflictions!” Our suffering can produce valuable assets to the Kingdom of God, preparing our vessels for God’s Spirit to flow through and reach others who may be floundering in a dark miry pit.

Broken to be shared

Broken to be shared

Wheat must be threshed for flour, kneaded and molded for the fire and, finally, broken to be shared. When hardship and turmoil come, when emotional trauma strikes and pierces with multilayer pain, let us grasp the ‘two prong anchor’ and build on this foundational promise. Let us cry out to the Lord, seek godly avenues of wisdom and support. Decidedly worship, let your spirit gain strength as the Lord inhabits your praise. Above all, do not give up. Let us resolve that, even before threshing comes, we will stand and press on with the certainty that sovereign God will produce in us that which has eternal value.