There is freedom in the fire. Our culture has conditioned us to pursue comfort and avoid the fire (adversities) at all cost. But what if by avoiding the fire, we end up forgoing greater levels of freedom and seeing Jesus in a greater way? What am I talking about? Glad you asked! Daniel chapter 3 shows this principle in a loud way. King Nebuchadnezzar erected a huge statue and said that when the music played, everyone had to bow. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose not to because of their allegiance to God. This made the king angry. He had a conference with them and told them he would give them another chance to do what he required. They boldly declined the King’s offer and told him they knew their God could deliver them and if He chose not to, they still would not bow. Their response didn’t go over well with the king, he was furious! He commanded that the fire be turned up seven times hotter and had the 3 men bound and thrown in. Shortly after throwing them in the fire, the king could not believe what He saw. In Daniel 3:24 he said, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?”… “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!”
They threw the men into the fire bound, but when they got in the fire, God brought them freedom; their hands became untied, and they were not in the fire alone. The 4th man walking in the fire with them was Jesus Himself. There is so much to glean from this powerful text! When I am going through for the sake of Christ, I don’t have to fear the fire. I have endured some difficulties, but I must confess that many times I entered the fire bound by fear and pride. However, the longer I stayed in the fire, the more freedom I found because the difficulties caused me to press into God even more. I was desperate and that desperation birth a greater prayer life and a greater hunger for God and His word. The chain of fear was broken, and I was free to walk in faith. Pride was destroyed at a greater level and I am now more willing to be transparent and take off the mask of perfection. I received a greater deliverance from people-pleasing and I am now more focused on bringing God glory. The devil wanted the fire to destroy me, but God used the fire to work for my good. I found freedom in the fire!
What fire are you in? Can you see how God has brought greater levels of freedom in your spirit because of the fire? Have you seen Jesus in the fire?
Psalm 34:19 NKJ Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.
Don’t just read the word of God, take the time to study it and when you do, the word of God will read you. Allow the word to turn the pages of your heart and reveal the areas that need a spiritual makeover. We are being perfected so there is always something to work on. We rush through reading the bible and instead of having a bible study we have a quick drive-by bible reading. We then lament that we are in the word, but we are not seeing any change. Could it be that we just need to slow down and digest what we read? Could it be that we need to take the time to meditate and answer questions that allow us to connect with the material before us? When I was in school, for me to grasp the material, I had to read it more than once. I took the time to look up words in the dictionary to ensure I understood what I was reading. I highlighted certain sentences; I jotted down notes to summarize what I just read in my own words. Whenever I took this approach, when it was time for the test, I did well. Why? Because I took the time to study the material instead of just reading it, so the material was in me. I try to take the same approach when I study the word of God.
Below are a few practical ways I study the word of God.
-I pick a specific scripture that addresses an area that I need to work on. For example, I have been studying Proverbs 29:25 because I have had an on and off relationship with the fear of man. Proverbs 29:25 NLT says, “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety.” For the first few days of my study, I focused only on that verse and allowed the Lord to speak to me. I looked up the verse in different translations.
-After a few days, I googled this exact phrase, “cross-references for Proverbs 29:25.” This search led me to many scriptures that carry the same theme as Proverbs 29:25. I chose a few of those scriptures/passages and read them over the course of two weeks. I took my time to digest them. I highlighted key phrases, I took notes, I sat and reflected on what I read. I prayed prayers connected to those scriptures.
-At the end of the two weeks, I took some time to jot down all I learned. I did not open my bible to gather the information; I wrote what I remembered on my own. I then asked myself the following questions for this study, “What are my symptoms, How do I fear man? I took some time to reflect on my areas of struggle and wrote honest answers to these questions.
-I concluded this study by praying for deliverance from the specific things I wrote. I suspect that this will be more than a one-time prayer.
I encourage you to slow down and spend time studying the word of God. You will not regret it. I would love to hear from you. How do you study the word of God?
Psalm 119:11 NLT
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
For a long time, I knew that sugar was not good for my body. I spent a lot of time researching and studying these truths. I could rehearse different facts about the adverse effects of sugar and even shared it with others. However, I was still eating it. I knew the truth, but I wasn’t living it out. Knowing truth and living in truth are not the same thing.
Don’t be impressed with how much bible people know, rather be impressed with how much bible they are living out. It is so easy to be swept away by those who skillfully share the word of God while ignoring the rotten fruit that comes from their lives. Jesus is more concerned about how we allow the content we have learned to shape our character and impact our actions. It’s not just about learning the content, we are called to live it! 1 John 2:3-6 says “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” Again, the emphasis is on DOING not just KNOWING!
When I began to eliminate sugar from my diet and apply the knowledge I learned, I started to experience many positive changes. The same is true for us and our relationship with Christ. Focus on learning His word AND obeying it. As we obey, we then become more like Christ. Let your actions reflect that you are living in truth, and this is how we know we truly belong to God.
Jesus’ response to the adulteress woman in John 8 shows that compassion is not the same as condoning sin. The woman’s accusers were ready to stone her. Their main motive was to trap Jesus, it was not about upholding the law. Jesus, however, was ready to forgive her. He tells her that he does not condemn her but neither does he condone her sins. Before she leaves His presence, Jesus tells her, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” The forgiveness of God is a package deal, it’s a release of what you did wrong but also a warning to not return to your sinful habits.
When ministering to people we must not offer cheap compassion; one that tells you that we are all sinners and that Jesus understands, without ever addressing the need to turn from sin. This approach opens the door to compromise and produces rotten fruit. In our culture the calling out of sin and a call to repentance is mislabeled as condemnation when in fact it is true love and compassion. In John 3:17, we are reminded that Jesus did not come to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. That salvation comes when one receives the love of Christ AND turn away from sin.
We must also not be like the Pharisees and call out sin because we have impure motives and hidden agendas. We should not call out sin because we want to make ourselves look more righteous or with the intent to humiliate the sinner. We also should not do it for the sake of winning an argument and prove our point. We should address sin because we have true concern for the soul of the sinner. When love is our motive, we are more like Jesus and can be effective in reaching the lost.
Mathew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” It is necessary to explain why peace is needed before one can understand the job of a peacemaker. Sin separated us from a Holy God. However, Romans 5:1 reminds us that the work of Jesus Christ on the cross made reconciliation with God possible. The blood of Jesus allows us to be at peace with God the Father. Since I have been reconciled to the Father and I am at peace with Him, I am now called to bring that same peace to others (2 Corinthians 5:18). Simply put, being a peacemaker means that I bring the good news of salvation to a dying and confused world. Peacemakers are reconcilers. They pray with great fervency for revival to break out in the land and for the hearts of people to be turned to God.
Peacemakers will often offend those who are in sin because they speak the truth of God’s word. That truth is sharp and powerful and goes straight to the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Those who choose to continue in sin will never receive the peacemakers. However, rejected truth is still true!
There is so much chaos going on in the world and the root of it all is sin. Well-meaning individuals employ different strategies to accomplish world peace. However, world peace can NEVER happen through human plans, it can only be accomplished through the blood of Jesus. Good actions and legislations cannot bring lasting peace, only an acceptance of the finished work of Christ on the cross can do that. Rejecting Jesus is rejecting peace. Afterall, He is called the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6.
Oh, that the church will arise and embrace the call to be peacemakers!
I love the promise in Mathew 5:8 that the pure in heart will see God. This seeing is not limited to when we see Him face to face for all eternity. This seeing also refers to the connection, the closeness, the sense of intimacy with God that is gained when our hearts are pure. I love how Psalm 24:3-4 puts it, “ Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure.” When you have a pure heart, you see God so clearly. He reveals His truth to you when you are studying His word. Purity of heart opens the door for you to sit at the table as a member of the family and feast on the bread of life. He floods you with His presence and you “see” Him show up on your behalf and shower you with mercy and grace. It’s also worth mentioning that trouble and difficulty are tools that God uses to bring our hearts to a place of purity. The fire of difficulties serves as a spiritual detox. Impurities rise to the surface in the fire, and we are able to be purified. I encourage you not to shun the idea of difficulty because it gives you clearer vision to see God.