Burning Timber

For decades, a beautiful white pine has stood guard next to our home. It has withstood storms, snow, wind, and even a tornado. This summer however, we noticed a strange sound emerging from within its trunk and limbs. The distinct sounds of chewing could be heard from yards away, yet as closely as we looked, we could see no creatures eating it. Two friends who are knowledgeable about wood and trees mentioned that the culprit was most likely pine beetles.

Because our family has had a busy autumn, we put off dealing with the issue. As weeks passed, large swaths of the tree turned from green to brown. In quiet moments, we could still hear the gentle and persistent chewing. My husband spoke to his father about helping him chop it down whenever he had a free weekend.

One afternoon, a couple of weeks ago, I heard a chainsaw rev up. When I looked out of the window, there was my father-in-law, carefully sawing down the tree. My husband came out to help, and within the hour, I felt (more than heard) a mighty crash. Timber! The mighty tree had fallen.

The tree was almost as wide as I am tall!

This however, was only the first step, as the giant of a tree still needed to be destroyed. Because it was infested with pine beetles, it was necessary to burn each and every part of the tree, to prevent the insects from spreading to surrounding healthy trees.

Beginning with the trunk, we began burning. My husband worked for hours, sawing and throwing limb after limb into the fire. After the first day, only a fraction of the tree was destroyed. So far, we have burned for 3 days, have a bonfire scheduled next week, and still there is tree left to destroy. It will be a lengthy process.

As I watched the blaze last Saturday, the phrase “our God is a consuming fire,” came to my mind. I realized that a spiritual analogy can be found in our white pine. When sin, like pine beetles, infests our lives, the contamination is gradual. Days, months, or years can pass before the damage is evident. Still, the result is the same: disease and death. Like my father-in-law, the Lord comes and, in one fell move, chops the tree down to its roots. We are saved!

Even though salvation is immediate, the process of removing sin from our lives is life-long. When the Lord saves us, the Holy Spirit takes months, years, or decades to do the slow work of purifying our hearts. Piece by piece, branch by branch, he burns and purifies the rotting, parasite-filled parts of our lives.

The process of refinement is not always easy. Discipline and purification can be painful, but how thankful I am that the Lord takes His time. He is a consuming fire but has all of the patience He needs to carry out His purposes with mercy, day by day.

Pause: Find a quiet moment, and read Hebrews 12. What about this passage stands out to you?

Renew: Take a moment and reflect on your own journey with the Lord. Can you think of ways that you’ve seen the Lord slowly transform your life? What was that process like for you? If you have not yet given your life to Christ, take the plunge and watch what He will do!

Next: Be mindful this week, reflecting on how the Lord has been refining your mind, your relationships, and your behavior. Remember that transformation is slow and is not always a linear process.

May we be filled with gratitude for how our God is faithful to consume the sin that seeks to destroy us.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Calling and Covenant: An Interview with Gina Carr, Part 1

We all experience seasons in our faith journeys that don’t turn out the way we envisioned. My guest, Gina Carr, understands this better than many. Over the course of two episodes, she shares the story of how her life has taken unexpected twists and turns through seasons of intensity and what the Lord has taught her along the way.

My guest, Gina Carr, shares about her experiences through the lens of faith and the Lord’s goodness.

In this episode, Gina tells about her family’s journey into mission work. She and her husband felt called to work in Africa, but their time living on the field was shortened greatly by unexpected and extended illness. For the sake of their health, they moved back to the United States, feeling confused about their calling.

Gina explains that through the ashes of their failed mission, the Lord changed her and her husband’s view of their marriage covenant. She shares that through a retreat they attended, called “Train to Reign” at Christian Training Center International, the Lord began reworking the fabric of their relationship.

This is only the beginning of Gina’s story. There’s so much more to come in the second episode! If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please share it with a friend and subscribe. If something you heard on today’s podcast resonated with you, comment below or on PRN’s Facebook page.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

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Hope: An Anchor for the Soul

Years ago, I felt the Lord whisper a promise in my soul.  It was a sweet promise of a gift that would come. He did not tell me how.  He did not tell me when. Somehow I just knew it was true though. I could feel it in my heart.

I prayed off and on for years over the matter.  I prepared myself both in my spirit and in practical ways, waiting for the moment it would occur, but it never did.  Just when I would begin to think I had made the whole thing up, somehow the Lord would confirm it to me again through Scripture or a sermon.  One time, he even confirmed it through a conversation with a stranger while on vacation. Still, time passed, and nothing happened.  

This month, during a vulnerable conversation with a friend I confided in her this promise the Lord had whispered.  Rather than shaking her head in disbelief, she said, “I have a similar story,” and as she shared it, it really did seem that our stories aligned closely.  Happily, her whispered promise is in the process of coming into fruition.

Honestly, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it anymore.  I don’t even pray about it regularly. I know that, if it is to happen, the Lord will bring it about, and it probably will come about differently than I expect anyway.

This makes me think of Abraham.  The Lord gave him and his wife a promise of something that seemed impossible: a baby in their sunset years.  What seemed ridiculous at age 75 must have seemed unimaginable as he approached ages 80, 85, 90, and 95. Perhaps he thought he had imagined the whole thing.  In fact, because the waiting was too hard, and his faith was so small, he and his wife set out to accomplish the Lord’s will in their own timing. Abraham had a son with his wife’s handmaid. We all know how that turned out. Trying to accomplish God’s will for Him is foolish indeed.

Finally, at age 100, Abraham’s promised son arrived.  He was the beginning of a long-awaited line of chosen people, through whom the Lord would send His Son.  He was worth the wait.

In Hebrews 6, the author references Abraham’s story as he writes about inheriting a promise. However, this time, a more permanent promise is spoken of using the language of hope:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner…

Hebrews 6: 19 – 20a CSB

We have reason to hope. As believers, we have hope in a great promise that includes redemption, forgiveness, new bodies, and eternal life. Jesus has entered before us, and hope anchors our soul as we wait for what is coming.  Hope is a beautiful thing. It rises up and holds our souls steady as we wait for the promise to be fulfilled.

Our anchor of Hope is solid. it’s not going anywhere.

Pause: Inhale and exhale slowly.  Find a quiet space to read Hebrews 6: 13-20.  Meditate on these verses. What stands out to you?

Renew: Think about hope as an anchor for the soul.  What are you hoping for? Who are you hoping in? How is thinking about hope as an anchor for your soul reassuring?

Next: Hebrews encourages us to “seize the hope set before us.”  How in your faith walk can you “seize hope” this week? Is it by clinging to a particular Scripture verse,  by praying through a seemingly impossible situation, or by acting obediently on something the Lord has called you to do?  

May we cling tightly to our anchor of hope.

Pause, Renew, Next!