Sunday, October 25, 2009

shelter of refinement

God seemed to really show up subtly today. Jake's back is improving. It was good to see some signs of relief for him. I think some of it was things we are doing and he is doing for himself as far as positioning and exercises and such. But there was also a deep sense of God's presence today. A calming that we needed. I keep thinking of the word shelter: the shelter of the presence of God. I think that is something many of us long for - I know I do. Shelter of the Almighty God holding back the elements - protection and safety.

In last nights blog Lois commented with this verse as way of encouragement:

"Malachi 3:16-Then those who feared the Lord talked often one to another and the Lord listened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord and who thought on His name-(Amplified Bible) This is what happens when you write and the rest of us read."

That statement really spoke to me about community and the need for sharing the stories that we find ourselves in - the struggles and the victories. The verse caused me to read through Malachi (word means message) and understand the context. To understand that this is a book of confrontation. Of hitting the receivers right between the eyes and confronting their behavior, their deception, their cheapening of the practice of their faith. It is the heart of God that lead Jesus to turn over the greedy money changers in the temple. It is the heart of God that in the book of Acts that lead to two people dropping dead because they lied before God about their offering. It is the message that the Spirit of God is working in our midst and that our actions not only have consequences but that we will be judged.

Jake and I did some schoolwork today. We actually for the first week finished the whole weeks assignments. I felt the victory, Jacob said we have to catch up. In the midst of our time together he started talking to me about James 1 where he says that we will face trials of various kinds. And and those trials produce perseverence and strengthen our faith.

The word trials is actually what it sounds like in Greek - testing. The testing of our faith. I confessed to Jake and Robbie a bit later that I have a hard time accepting that trials are testing of my faith. Testing of my faith is not testing to catch me and trick me and wait for me to fail. That is the tape that plays in my head though. That I am really deep down a failure that just needs to be proven. Testing is actually a process of refining - melting down metal so as to remove what is impure and posses that of greater value. Removing of impurities. Facing a trial either draws you deeper into faith or causes you to run away from God - either way you are forced into a decision and you are changed in some degree.

God's desire is that faith grows - that comes as we face trials of various kinds. That comes as our faith (persecutions) is challenged and our hope is questioned and our love is measured. Malachi challenged God's people about their choices of bringing an offering to worship God. As part of their covenant they were to bring the best lamb, spotless without and blemish. It represented a huge sacrifice but it also represented purity, perfection, sinlessness. Yet the people were offering mutilated, blind, crippled lambs of little worth. They did not give God their best; they were going through the motions and giving God the leftovers.

Malachi was pretty clear; trials were coming to test their faith and refine their heart by removing purities that they might rely fully on God. It is so easy to slip back to relying on ourselves.
Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. "They will be mine," says the LORD Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. Mal 3:16-18

We are refined by fire and the impurities are being removed. God's grace is poured out and we are being made into the image of Christ. Though this is not easy we as a community sharpen each other and help in this refinement. As I read the emails and the comments on the blog and we share conversation we grow and change through these trials of various kinds.

Perhaps a big part of shelter is in the trials. For God is deeply taking care of me in such a loving way as he refines my impurities - though they are really so deeply difficult - so many necessary things are.

In his shelter,

Tom (JK Daddy)

PS Thanks Lois and everyone else for my lessons for today.

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