It's the second to last day for us here at New Wine Newark, and it's been an amazing week. Leave alone the lost child, tornado, busted water mains, 3 cut fingers in 3 separate Wrights and deflating air mattresses...even without all those things it's been an adventurous week.
I've been hugely blessed by the challenging, in your face, not-so sweet talks of Simon Guillebaud, the main speaker of the week. The title of his series is "Back to basics: the gospel call." He started out with the Gospel Call to Authenticity, and basically said, "Look, we're in a war, life is no picnic, let's not pretend following Jesus is all sweetness and light. Life is hard, parts of it suck immensely, and the reality is that people need to hear an authentic gospel message that in this world we will have trouble, but we must take heart, for Jesus has overcome the world."
I loved the straight-shooting of Simon's talk, and some of his quotes were seriously thought-provoking:
We're immortal until God calls us home.
Until you know that life is war you cannot know what prayer is for.
The second day Simon talked about the Gospel Call to Adventure and encouraged us to take risks for God. He quoted Hudson Taylor who wrote,
"Unless there is an element of risk in our faith journey,
then there is no need for faith."
"We cannot settle for bumper stickers and slogans
when God is calling us to scars and stories."
No one really wants scars because that implies a wounding and pain, and I think most of us would rather dodge pain, where possible. But something Simon said today really made me think.
He was talking about the Gospel Call to Abandonment, and being living sacrifices for the Lord. He exhorted us to resist being conformed to the world, but instead to embrace the transformation of God to become more like Him. Although I wish it were different, I believe through my own experience that God's transformational work comes through those refining fire periods when life is excruciating and we can hardly bear the pressure.
Simon told a story of a group of ladies who were studying the refining fire process in Malachi 3:2-4 where it says:
But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?
For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap.
He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver;
he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.
Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness,
and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord,
as in days gone by, as in former years.
So one of the ladies studying this wanted to see for herself what the refining process truly looked like, so she went to a silversmith and asked if she could watch. And the silversmith said, "Sure, feel free."
So the lady watched the silversmith do his work, and she asked him, "Do you have to sit and watch the silver while it is in the fire?"
And the smithy said, "Yes, I have to watch it intently because as soon as it is done, I must take it out immediately so the refining process doesn't go on one little bit longer, otherwise the silver will be damaged. So I don't take my eyes off of it."
And as the woman was leaving, the smithy called out, "Oh, there's one more thing I forgot to tell you. I know the process is complete when I can see the reflection of my image in the silver."
So I'm sitting here thinking, "What an amazing God. What a loving Father! He sits with us through those fires, those times of trials, those heart-breaking seasons, and He waits and He watches and He poises, ready to grab us out exactly on time. Not too soon, else we won't be finished. Not too late, else we be damaged. But right at the perfect time when He is able to look into our spirits and see His own shining out at Him.
I hate those refining fire seasons, but I love the finished product, and I'm desperate to reflect my Daddy more and more, to be made more and more in His image. I know it's not just once or twice...for some of us it seems to be a long string of refining fires. But if that is what it takes to make me a person who can bring God an offering of righteousness that is acceptable to Him, like those of long ago, then I readily offer up my life as a living sacrifice to Him yet again.