Hot Enough For You?

One night years ago my daughters discovered popcorn.

At first, we did our popping in microwavable bags, but we soon switched to a popcorn popper.  On that first exciting day when I pulled the contraption out of the cabinet and set it on the counter, the girls stood on stools so they could watch what would happen.  The kernels tumbled into the popper and I plugged it in.  One daughter covered her ears with her hands and the other shouted, “What’s going to happen?” over the roar of the machine.

And then that first kernel popped.  They squealed in surprise!  And then more kernels began popping in quick succession until there was a constant stream of fluffy white popcorn pouring down the shoot and into the bowl.

The girls danced, laughed and shouted and kept calling our attention to the popcorn as if we’d never seen such a magic trick.  My husband and I watched the girls more than the popcorn; their excitement was joy-giving.

It does seem like magic.  Dump into an inauspicious machine a hard, dried up tiny little crackle of corn and with heat, it transforms into a new texture, color, shape, consistency and taste.  Who would have ever thought looking at the original kernel that the wonders of popcorn lie within?

Likewise, who would look at us much of the time and fully realize all that God has placed in our hearts and all that He has planned for our lives?  Others might see a brittle surface with no flavor.  We might look useless or dried up.  We might simply look un-fun and plain old ordinary.

Yet, God is the Master of transformations.  Although He sees us and fully knows who we are in this moment, He also always sees what we can become.  And He’s willing to turn up the heat to change us.

Because heat is what it takes to break us down, cracking our exterior and softening our insides so that we’re receptive and usable.

To the untrained popcorn popper, it might seem like waste, like the Master is burning His kernels over the flame and they’ll be ruined and tossed aside.  Or that this process is pointless and no good will come from the heat; nothing will ever change.

God, however, never takes us through the fire without purpose and never leaves us in the flame a moment longer than necessary to achieve transformation.  He isn’t reckless or thoughtless.  He’s not cruel or forgetful, blind or oblivious.

Paul wrote in Romans:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).

Over the years, I’ve read these verses often and just as often shrugged them off as an impossible standard.  “Glory in our suffering?”  Not hardly.  Truth be told, I’m more of a whiner than a perpetual rejoicer.

But as a toughened kernel who’s experienced at least a bit of transformation from my own sessions in the heat, I’m looking at these verses anew.

My commentary says:

This is more than mere Stoic endurance of troubles, even though endurance or steadfastness is the first result in a chain-reaction outgrowth from distress. This is spiritual glorying in afflictions because of having come to know (as in “to know by intuition or perception”) that the end product of this chain reaction (that begins with distress) is hope.

This gives me pause.  Have you really considered how hope fits into this picture?  Perhaps I can begrudgingly endure a trial here or there because some periodic heat produces perseverance and fixes flaws in my character.  But how does that stir up hope?

For the Christian, hope is confident expectation that God will do what He says He will do.  The only way we know that is through experience, the kind of experience that develops perseverance and strengthens our character.  We have hope because we’ve seen God deliver us time and time again and we’re confident that He will never fail.

Paul finishes those verses by telling us “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” In other words, we won’t be disappointed or shamed by unfulfilled promises.  The commentary continues:

“The reality of God’s love in a believer’s heart gives the assurance, even the guarantee, that the believer’s hope in God and His promise of glory is not misplaced and will not fail.”

It all comes down to the reality of God’s love for us.  He loves us enough to know that we’re more than a golden kernel with a tough exterior.  He knows that sometimes it takes heat to reveal, refine and transform, but He also knows just how hot it needs to be and just how long it needs to last.  He’s not out to singe us or blacken us with despair.  He’s lovingly and expertly making us new.

I use The Bible Knowledge Comentary, New Testament Edition, by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

What Would Bring Jesus Joy?

Today I read a great Valentine’s verse.  In the past two weeks, I’ve actually come across it three times, so today I’ve been meditating on it because obviously God wants me to pay attention.

The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17, NKJV).

I love that verse!  There’s two things that encourage me here.

His love

I love how the NKJV says “He will quiet you with His love.”  If I really think about the root cause of so much of my anxieties and worries, what keeps me tossing and turning at night—it’s because I’m not trusting in God to take care of me.  I’m not trusting enough in His love.  When my mind is noisy with anxiety and stress, His love can quiet me.  His love gives me peace.

The NIV translates this as “in his love he will no longer rebuke you,” which to me is such a powerful thought.  When I’m messing up, stressed, or worried, intermingled with those thoughts are thoughts of condemnation.  I say bad things about myself that I would never ever say –or even think–about anyone else.  I think, “You are such a mess.”  “That was so stupid.” “I can’t do any of this.”

But, Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  No condemnation!  God’s great love for me covers over all my mistakes and I am no longer rebuked or condemned.

His Rejoicing

I clearly remember the days when we Christians all wore WWJD bracelets and there were songs, books, sermons and t-shirts asking, “What Would Jesus Do?”  It was catchy and thought-provoking.

Today, though, I’ve been asking myself a slightly different question—What Would Bring Jesus Joy?

Not as catchy, I know.  I’m not trying to sell the rights to make t-shirts or anything.  Still, the Zephaniah verse says, “He will rejoice over you with singing.”  I want Jesus to rejoice over me!

I want my actions to bring Him joy and glory so that people see Christ in me.  In my words and thoughts, I ask as the Psalmist did, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, NIV).

Unfortunately, I fall short of this goal often.  I’ve read many articles and books lately saying that you can’t disappoint God.  I don’t know that I agree with that.  I think we see His disappointment when Moses tried to get out of going to Pharaoh and leading the Israelites out of Egypt.  We see His disappointment in Israel’s perpetual complaining and turning to false gods.  In the New Testament, Jesus was disappointed even in the disciples and their lack of faith and understanding.

Sometimes, He’s probably disappointed in me.  Sometimes, I don’t give Him reason to rejoice.

But, in those moments I can go back to His love.  As a parent, I always love my children, but I am sometimes disappointed in their behavior choices.   Similarly, even if God is saddened by my disobedience, or lack of trust, or my poor reactions to life’s irritations, He never stops loving me and His grace always covers me.

As Paul wrote in Romans 8:38-39:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King