WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THE HEAT?

I came out onto our porch the other day and noticed the candles that had been removed from the dining room table.  I knew it was warm on the porch, with the summer heat way and all, but I did not expect to see what I saw! 

Candles on porch

One was standing tall, as it had done for many weeks earlier, and the other, well it was bent over, so far that its wick was facing the tabletop.

What would cause the difference in the reaction to the heat on the porch?  One seemed to fold under the heat while the seemed to be untouched by it.

I am not a scientist (as my high school science teachers would readily confirm) but I suspect that one was exposed to more light from the outside while the other had more access to the cooler air from the house.  But, my purpose is not to discuss the scientific melting point of wax candles; rather it is to consider why one Christian can be so unnerved by difficulties while another seems to glide through problems without any apparent negative reaction to them.  

In the twentieth chapter of the second book of Chronicles, we read about Jahaziel’s encouragement to Israel before a battle:

And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’”

2 Chronicles 20:14-15 ESV.  (I encourage you to read the whole chapter.)

Moses told the same thing to the people of Israel:

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. – Exodus 14:13 ESV

candle standing tallDid you see that?  When we are facing the heat from others because of our stand for the Lord, because of our faith in Christ Jesus, because of our unwavering belief in the truth of the Holy Bible, the Lord says that the battle is His, not ours.  This does not mean that we can ignore the fight, and it is not a guarantee that we will have an easy time of it.  Rather, it means that we will not do battle alone.  He will be with us in the fight; He will strengthen us for the battle; He will encourage us; and we can be assured that the outcome is in His control.  We are to trust and not be afraid.  Stand up straight for Him, even when the heat seems unbearable.

Paul in the letter to the Ephesians says:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Ephesians 6:12-13 ESV. 

After this exhortation, Paul identifies the armor that God has provided to us in His grace:  the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of readiness given by the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.  Ephesians 6:13-17.

The Christian who can stand tall in the heat of the cosmic battle between God and Satan is the one who relies on the Word of God, who has his armor on, and who trusts God that we are to stand firm in our faith, no matter what.

Candle folded overJesus, in the parable about the soils, describes this person who cannot withstand the heat:

And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

Luke 8:13 ESV

The person who tries to fight the battle in his own strength is the one who, when the heat intensifies, succumbs and folds, the light of his witness is gone and he is incapable of doing what he was created to do.

Stand in the strength of God Almighty.  He is totally sovereign and His purposes will prevail.  Our God is the Creator of the universe and He holds all things, including each and every one of His children, in His hands.  This is the God who is telling you to stand firm.  Obey Him — be strong, and just watch and see what God will do for you today.

Father, forgive me when I have been overcome by the heat of struggle and when I have failed to rely on Your strength.  Give me the grace to trust You as difficulties come and enable me to stand tall, with my witness shining bright even through darkness and testing.  Grant me Your power through the indwelling Holy Spirit, through Christ my Lord.

 

ARE YOU WILLING TO BE A PICKLE FOR OUR LORD?

I have been learning about canning, most of which has been done since I retired from my law practice.  It has been great fun to prepare food, process it and then enjoy it later on down the road.  I don’t have shelves and shelves of “canned food” but I am enjoying getting into the swing of home preserving food by canning.

However, I really had no idea how much work and thought went into the preparation and preservation of food, and my poor husband had no idea how many times I would hand him a spoonful of something and ask for a taste test!

I have been doing jams, apple butter, relishes, etc., but I ventured into something new last week, I prepared pickles.  I read up on several recipes that sounded good and selected “Pickled Yellow Squash” and “Sweet and Spicy Zucchini Pickles”.  Both recipes had rave reviews and they were not the ordinary cuke dill pickles that neither of us favored.

When we tasted the finished product, I was glad that I decided to make them.

Pickles
The summer squash was sliced in the round while the zucchini was sliced in ribbons, to lay flat on sandwiches.

I found it interesting that both of the squashes were of mild flavor on their own but then, after being subjected to vinegar, spices and sugar, their taste exploded.  However, they were not ready to be preserved at that point – we had to subject them to heat, both by boiling them in the vinegar solution and then by placing them in hot jars and putting the sealed jars in a water bath canner for the specified processing time.

What began as soft-flavored veggies that would spoil within days turned into pickles that were both tangy and sweet and which offered a great-tasting condiment that would last for a year (unless eaten first, of course!).   While we don’t personally care for dill/sour pickles, even those are the result of the mild-flavored cucumber going through the pickling process, with the resulting explosion of flavor and crunch!

As Christians, we will have times of testing, times when we may feel that we are in the crucible with a boiling tempest swirling around us, and sometimes it even involves people or circumstances that produce a pungent odor to our senses.  We should not be surprised when these difficulties or challenges come.

Testing and trials are guaranteed if we are children of God.  In the Old Testament, we know that God used such trial to humble His people and to test them.  See, for example, Deuteronomy 8:12 where we read:

And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble youtesting you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

 In Luke 8:13 we find Jesus’ parable of the soils and He describes the seed that falls on the rocky soil as follows:

And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

Then we find this incredible, counter-cultural, admonition in the Book of James:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness

James 1:2-3

The Christian life is not one of ease and one that is free of hardship or persecution.  Rather, we are to meet difficulties with joy because we know that the process we are experiencing is working toward our transformation into having the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,

2 Corinthians 2:14-15

So, be a pickle for our Lord.  Expect the pickling process to be difficult, to be hot, to be smelly and sometimes downright unpleasant, but know also that you are being transformed into a fragrant aroma for our Lord, and your preservation will continue throughout this life and into all eternity. 

Father, thank You for your Word and for the promise that You are with us during testing and trials, during difficulties and persecution, and that nothing will be done that is outside Your control, and further that nothing will operate in any way other than for our good through Your providence and Your will.