10 Things to Believe while you’re in the Furnace

The fourth verse of “How Firm a Foundation” reminds us of our Lord’s promise:

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,                                                                  my grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;                                                                       the flame shall not hurt thee, I only design,                                                                          thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”

This reminds us of Daniel’s furnace story and the apostle Peter’s exhortation that presents the Christian life as a fiery furnace that refines gold (Daniel 3; 1 Peter 1:6-7).

We’re presently going through Daniel in our small groups so that we will have courage to live for the Lord through the heat of life. In Daniel 3, the story points us to the promise of our Savior who said that he would never leave us nor forsake us, and that includes the furnace of life. In fact, the fiery furnace of the Hebrew children is a picture of the entire life of the Christian. When we turned to the Lord we invited the scourge of the world and the refinement of Christ. And this heat that is upon us will not end until we are finally at home with our Lord, unscathed from what the world attempted to do – to wrestle our faith away from the Lord. I want to share with you 10 things to believe while you are in the furnace.

1. First, believe that the entire Christian life is like gold refined in a furnace. Though our lives are supplied with much tranquility and pleasant times, the whole of it is best described like heat that wicks out the impurities from gold. The furnace of Daniel 3 is a metaphor for your entire life with Christ.

2. Believe that the furnace is ordained – it’s not an accident or random chink in your life – Daniel 1:2.

3. Believe that every furnace is different for each child of God. Our Lord said to take up “your” cross and follow him. Your cross will not look like any other – your’s is tailor-made for you, and you alone. One child of God will endure multiple cancer episodes his entire life while his brother in Christ beside him will have splendid health, but fight against pride, self-assurance, and self-reliance as he knocks down 400k per year.

4. But believe also that every furnace has the same goal – to be conformed to the image of Christ and to “approve”, that is, test your faith – 1 Peter 1:12; 4:12ff. This also means that you are not alone as if you’re the only one struggling with cancer, or pride, or endless bureaucracy with lawyers, doctors, and health-care.

5. Believe that every furnace has an end – your suffering will not be forever. In fact, it is very short-lived compared with the joy and peace and vitality of life that awaits you – Daniel 3:27.

6. This is like #3 above but a littler broader. Believe that God loves you even though your furnace is hotter than others. This will help you to not envy those whose furnaces are a little cooler than yours. If your life seems to be more difficult than others, you must believe that God is not more upset with you than with others; you must believe that he knows what is the right temperature to purify you; you must believe that he is keeping you from bowing down to false gods; and you must believe that has the right to treat you differently than his other children.

7. Believe that it is better to be nearly alone in the furnace with the Lord and a few close friends, than to have the world’s red carpet under your feet – Daniel 3:23-25. Remember, King Neb could not keep his men from dying, while the Lord kept his alive.

8. Believe that the injustices of the furnace, though ordained of the Lord (just like the wicked crucifixion of Jesus) – will one day get their just due. For all the harm that you have endured from people – the lies, the manipulation, the back-stabbing, the slander, the passivity and indifference, not one single injustice will remain unsettled. All will be made right in the end – Daniel 3:29-30. (as a footnote: Keep in mind that the unbelievers and wicked of this world are having the best times that they will ever have. Yes, long for justice from the Lord, but do not gleefully anticipate the eternal ruin and punishment of the lost). 

9. Believe that Jesus died alone and abandoned in his furnace so that you might live through yours – Matt. 27:46. You were miraculously saved because Jesus wasn’t.

10. Believe that God loves you if you love his Son(John 8:42) . Do you love his Son for what he has done for you on the cross to take away your sins? Then know this: there will come a day when you will compare your eternal joy with your furnace, and say, “For it [the furnace] was a light [marsh-mellow] and momentary [poof] affliction compared with this eternal Holiday at the Sea.


“Be True to Yourself” – Sound Advice?

But what if my heart is leading me to lie, steal, commit adultery, murder, and covet? May I still follow my heart and be true to myself?

We hear this counsel from high-profile socialites, aristocrats, philosophers, and sages of sorts: Be True to Yourself. Some go so far as to advise you to not allow any shame for any reason into your life – as if there is nothing to be ashamed about if it was what you wanted to do for yourself. Hhmmm? Let’s think about this and see if it pans out for our good in everyday happenings.

First, I think there is something right about this motto. If you shared with me how hard it is to keep working toward your Master’s degree, while your best friend keeps ridiculing you, telling you that you’re a failure – out of jealousy, then, be true to yourself! That is, don’t let people box you in and limit you from broadening your skills, education, and worthwhile pursuits.

So there is a whisper of advice that seems to fit with our everyday experiences. Very true, we can heed the scorn and belittlement of those around us who want us to fail because of their jealousy, to our demise. But we need to stay the course, and remain true to what we have come to believe is good for our welfare in this life. It takes prudence and courage to know when a scoffer is attempting to derail your efforts, and to keep-on-keeping-on against the cynical wind.

However . . .

My Self cannot consistently be the goal for navigation in this life – it only causes more harm than good. For example,

If I really stayed true to myself when Cheryl asks me to help her hoe the garden, she would wrap that hoe around my head. ‘Ouch’ – that motto hurts! To Be True To Myself when asked to do something that I don’t want to do, or is out of my proverbial comfort-zone, does not bode well for me or for those that I care about. One cannot simply use this advice as an out when put in uncomfortable circumstances.

Again, for example,

If you, as an 18 year old young man, shared with me that you want to make it big in the music industry – but you needed to borrow $50 from me, I would have a few questions. Like, “Do you have a job?” You reply, “No, I don’t want to waste my time working for McDonald’s 40 hours a week when I can be working on lyrics and chord progressions.” I can certainly tell you that I would not put money into your hand and say, “Be True to Yourself – Live Long and Prosper.”

And again, for example,

If you grew up believing that the acquisition of material wealth was the measure of your humanity and self-worth, and consequently you keep your credit cards maxed out, you buy on impulse, you refuse to spend less than what you earn – all because you NEED to feel special via a new purchase, then “Be True To Yourself” is bad advice. Here’s why:

Your Self is not the first and foremost consideration for well-being – it’s an assumed implication of your consideration for others. It goes like this: Love Your Neighbor As Yourself. Meaning, just as you instinctively and naturally consider your well-being, you first treat your fellow-man with the same consideration that you would desire from them. The only way to be true to yourself is to first be true to others. Ultimately, Be True To Yourself fails to take in the full spectrum of human interaction. But what Jesus said does. That’s because Jesus knows what we deny about ourselves. Jesus knows how selfish and self-centered we are. He knows that when push comes to shove, we will turn away from our fellow-man for our own personal gratification and comfort.

This does not mean that you can’t tell your kids to be quiet because you’re preparing for a test; or, that you can’t say no to a request if it is inappropriate or too imposing upon your time. It just means that when you say yes to yourself, have you first considered that it is also right to say no to others? Saying no to a certain other is the right thing to do if they were in your shoes – they too would want the right to say no, if you were too demanding and manipulative with their time. See how this works?! When you love others as yourself, you can make a decision that is best for you because it is what you would desire for them – if they were in your place.

In the end, Jesus beats what the world offers because he calls me to turn away from myself and turn to others, first. That’s because Jesus wants me to spend more time thinking about others than myself. And because of that, any consideration for myself is now guided by how I would want others to treat me. In the end, to love your neighbor as yourself is better because it is the offspring of , “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.” In the end is Christ crucified for all the harmful ways that I have been true to my selfish self.


Joel Osteen: Harmful if Swallowed

Back in 2006 I wrote a critique of Joel Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now. I wrote this for my own edification and have never posted it – until now. I am regularly asked about my take on his teaching. I have placed this (nearly 9,000 words long) in “Your Turn” – a page on the desk of this blog. Here is the link for your convenience:


I do not take lightly the arrival of viewing Mr. Osteen as a false prophet; his words reveal what he thinks about God, Man, and the Scriptures. With no intention other than to inform and instruct, and maybe, even to persuade, I encourage you to soberly consider his words with Scripture as I have done. If you have questions for clarification, please ask – I’ll do my best to answer.


“What Cancer Cannot Do”

My parents received a Christmas card from some special friends that shared this title and perspective below. But if cancer is not your lot in life, something else is just as formidable and threatening for the New Year. Replace the word “cancer” with whatever feels overpowering, threatening, and frightening. Look to Christ who overcame all things and believe that he is Lord over all things, including the bad stuff.

“Cancer is so limited . . .

It cannot cripple love

It cannot shatter hope

It cannot corrode faith

It cannot destroy peace

It cannot kill friendship

It cannot suppress memories.

It cannot silence courage.

It cannot invade the soul.

It cannot steal Eternal Life

It cannot conquer the Spirit

We cannot understand the countless mysteries of life, yet we rest in the promise of One who does.”

May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you with peace as he ordains every trial for your future enjoyment of his grace.