Not Even The Smell of Smoke

By Melanie Stone

This past year the Lord showed me that He was allowing my husband and I and our ministry to go through a time of testing. He compared it to the fiery furnace the Hebrew men endured in the book of Daniel, assuring me that we would not be consumed and we would walk out not even smelling of smoke. The purpose for the testing was to prepare us and the ministry for a real outpouring of His life and glory.

In 1 Peter 4:14 trials are described as fiery. When we go through a fiery trials, the purpose is to refine us. Wild fires will cleanse a forest floor and make way for new life to emerge. Blacksmiths use fire for metal to remove impurities and strengthen the product. Since fire is used in context of testing, we can expect a test to do these things:

  1. To remove what is dead
  2. To remove what is impure
  3. To start new life
  4. To make us stronger

Life has been good for my husband and I, filled with activity to advance ministry through Grow Churches and Freedom House Church. We’ve experienced personal breakthroughs and provision in areas of health and finance while enjoying family and new opportunities. For the most part, life has been good. However, over the past year, and again recently, Jerry and I have endured false allegations, betrayal, abandonment and loss.

I’ve cried many tears, doing my best to help this handful of people understand the truth, only to find myself making things worse or to be ignored. While shedding some tears, the Lord said to me, “You don’t mourn when a seed is planted into the soil. You are expectant for the plant to grow. In the same way, don’t mourn the end of yourself, instead expect my life to burst through your life and ministry.”

In prayer with some of our team, I saw a vision of hands releasing their grip from a bar, and I heard the Lord say, “Though many have removed their hand from your ministry, I have not removed Mine.” Then I saw a larger hand on the other side of the bar in a tight grip. After some of the team left, a song came up in me from years ago. The Holy Spirit prompted me to find it and play it. I was familiar with the chorus of the song, but when the second verse was sung, the Holy Spirit confirm what I had heard in prayer, “If you call us to the fire, You will not withdraw Your hand. We’ll gaze into the flames and look for You.” His Presence flooded my heart as He loved on me.

Let me tell you, if God leads you into a test, His aim is not for you to fail. His goal is not for you to be consumed. His intention is that you come through unharmed! His hope is that you are better, stronger and ready for what He has prepared for what you are about to do next. Being broken before God is a good thing when we surrender to the breaking. Once broken, like the shell of a seed, God wants to burst through with His life, His plan and His anointing.

Knowing this, engulfed in the pressure of the trial, I wiped my eyes and searched for the Lord. I saw Him, I heard Him and I ran into the arms of my Abba Father. We can do nothing without Him. I regularly spend time with God, but through difficulty, I find communion with Him is the only thing keeping me going. His Presence becomes everything that I need, the only thing I want. It’s in these moments in the Spirit that new life breaks through – new vision, new impartations, new anointing. The desperation causes us to let go of something we had in order to give God what He wants. What I have cherished in the past is nothing compared to what God has in store for what’s next. When we go to a deeper level of surrender, God is able to take us into a higher level of His glory. Even the Son of God went through death in order to experience resurrection life. What does God want to raise up in you? Are you willing to unite with Christ by going through dying to yourself in the fire?

Speak to your situation, “New beginnings, come forth, break like the dawn.” I saw another vision. From the ground I looked up and from underneath the leaves of a plant I saw multiple seeds hanging down. God said, “This is the reason for your dying. For the multiplication of seeds. This is how it works,” He said.

In the spirit, when we allow ourselves to be buried, God’s rain falls on us. It opens the seed, it causes germination, it causes growth, it causes fruit, it creates more seed for more harvest. Just be willing to go through the process of being useful to the Lord of the Harvest, the King of the Kingdom, the Head of the Church body, the Lover of the Bride. He is yours. You are His. This is when true freedom is released, where bondages are broken and His glory is seen and received, saturating us so God can have His way. We have to learn to give way, to bend, so God can flow through, sweeping through us individually and as a group with waves of glory. This is needed on the earth now, not something to wait for when we get to heaven. Now!

How to Go Through The Fire and Not Smell Like Smoke

  1. With joy for the prepared needed  (James 1:2-5)
  2. With love for the opposition (Luke 22:48)
  3. With faith for the breakthrough (Daniel 3:17)

Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, you can go through the fire, find freedom and walk out without even a trace of what you went through. Not only is Christ FOR us in our trial, Jesus puts Himself right IN the fire with us. Though you are dying to self, you are not BY yourself. Your loving Lord doesn’t leave you alone. He is he One who allows the test, brings us through the test and we don’t even smell like smoke!

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Do You Love Me?

In John 6, many followers had left Jesus. Not everyone thinks about how a leader feels when followers decide to pull away or pull others away from their leadership. Leaders are called to serve – they sacrifice, they invest, they care. How did Jesus feel when people chose to reject His leadership? Even His twelve were complaining about His teaching. We see in verse 67 Him turning to His closest twelve, asking, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” When they reaffirmed their commitment to Him, He revealed knowing one of the ones HE CHOSE would betray Him. He wasn’t blaming Himself for His choices – men that complained, doubted, criticized, abandoned and even betrayed Him. He put the responsibility on them (Read John 6:60-71). God gives people a free will, and choices they make are often a reflection of their faith, their failures and their flaws. Jesus knew this from the beginning when He made His choice to live and to die for us.

When you say “yes” to the call of God on your life, whatever the size of your church or ministry, you can expect some measure of rejection. Someone somewhere will despise your sacrifice to serve them. Someone will criticize your teaching, doubt your vision, and leave your side. Some will even try to harm you by taking away the influence of your ministry, to pull your followers away from you, to gossip about you in the company. Know that you are in good company – that people did this to Jesus, to His disciples, to the martyrs throughout history, and to the persecuted church today.

Consider Elijah, who considered Himself to feel isolated and alone, even after the great miracle of fire coming down from heaven and defeating Baal. Jezebel was even more aroused to kill him and the prophets. He feared her. He feared the people would follow her. But God spoke to Elijah, He put His fire into Elijah, He caused Elijah to rise up and fulfill his destiny. Today, Elijah is with the Lord, and those days are long past him. We have to have eternity in mind and choose to serve God today. Our light afflictions will soon pass away in the light of His glory. We have to lift our eyes off this temporary, imperfect, fallen world and look to Jesus. Jesus is grateful for you and appreciates your sacrifice. Jesus is supporting the vision God gave you. Jesus is the message you preach. Jesus said, “I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU. I WILL NEVER FORSAKE YOU.” Hebrews 13:5

Leader, please don’t blame yourself for choosing to surround yourself with imperfect people who may complain, criticize, doubt, abandon or even betray you. Don’t beat yourself when even your team members turn your back on you and walk out the door. People make their own choices.

Leader, you aren’t perfect. Maybe you said or did something you shouldn’t have said or done. Maybe you didn’t say or do something you should have said or done. Maybe you were human and maybe you showed frustration or anger. Maybe you made a mistake and everyone saw your failure. Maybe you made a wrong choice and everyone saw your sin.
There was a group that followed Jesus because they loved Him. Peter loved Jesus. When Peter saw Jesus on the shore, He threw off His garment and dove in the water, swimming to get near Him again. Peter preached to crowds of thousands, leading them to Christ. Peter was the spearhead for Christianity in Jerusalem, defying the threats of the religious hierarchy of His own people, proclaiming a kingdom while living under Roman rule. He endured beatings and whippings, imprisonment and death. He kept preaching. He kept healing, asking for signs and wonders. He kept taking authority over the enemy until the day he underwent his own crucifixion. Peter was known among the pioneers who “turned the word upside down.” Yet Peter was also one of the closest to Jesus who denied Him three times. He was the one who attempted to kill a soldier in the garden. He was the one who even after experiencing the wonder of walking on water, to put his eyes on the storm and sink. He was the one who resisted Jesus’ purpose of coming and dying – Jesus saying, “Get behind Me, Satan.” Jesus didn’t give up on Peter. Before He left, Jesus commissioned Peter, but not only with marching orders. He gave Peter motivation when He asked Him, “Peter, do you LOVE ME? Then feed My sheep.”

Leader, don’t compromise your message.
Leader, don’t sell out your vision.
Leader, don’t fear your provision or your future.
Leader, don’t grow weary, don’t quit.

Leader, keep your eyes on Jesus. His is Your Master.Go where He sends you. Obey Him, whether your mission is to large masses or the one homeless person on the street. Your reward isn’t popularity; your reward is fulfilling the purpose of the One you love, the One who died in your place.

Know if they reject you, they are rejecting the Christ that sent you to them. Like the Lord said to encourage Elijah, you are not alone. That spirit of Jezebel is not greater than the God you serve.

The Lord has need of you. He values your sacrifice that know one else knows about. He feels your anguish, your frustration, your despair. He knows your imperfections and failures. Like Peter, He chose you anyway. You don’t have to carry the load and weight of other people’s responsibility.

Get up on the mountain (in the spirit), find yourself in the embrace of the Lord who holds you with nail scarred hands. Allow yourself to be loved by Him again, shedding any guilt or shame of your insufficiency. Experience His grace upon grace upon grace for yourself, for your ministry, for the people you serve. Respond to Him with an open heart of love, hiding nothing, holding nothing back. Be exposed, be vulnerable, and be strengthened by the love you share. Like Peter, see Him, shed your tunic and dive in after Jesus. Life is short. Choose again to die to self and live for Him.

Psalm 126:6 He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him.

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The Superiority of Mercy

James 2:13 Judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Mercy is a deep compassion. It not only forgives the repentant with extravagant love, mercy brings better-than-before restoration and intimate reconciliation with the favor of a royal. Mercy is excessively lavish with what is not deserved to the one who turns back home.

If you don’t extend mercy to a repentant brother or sister with loving action, attitude, and articulation, then mercy will not be extended to you by your Father in heaven.

Greek word for triumph: “to exult over, to glory over, to boast itself to be superior, rejoice against, to boast over causing injury to the person or thing.”

Mercy trumps judgment. Whatever judgment brings as evidence to convict and condemn the repentant trespasser, mercy comes in with more authority and more power.

To ignore the authority and power of mercy is a serious crime. It is severely disrespectful of a Father of mercies, a God named “Love.” Refusing mercy is a strong defiance, positioning oneself contrary to Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, dishonoring the punishment He endured to set the humble free.

Mercy shows kindness, sensitivity and tenderness to those who have been broken, bruised and battered by their sin. Mercy is like the good Samaritan, pouring in oil and wine to heal the devastation of a life lived apart from Life, whose name is Jesus.

To come against those separated from God without an offer of hope of rescue or the message of salvation, is representative of a pharisaical spirit that comes to condemn, unlike the Savior, who came to save. It comes to fight for change instead of persuade to repent. This spirit is blind to the deeper matters of the spiritual blindness of their opponent, attempting to control behavior instead of yielding to the Spirit of God who change hearts.

Does mercy mean we can’t feel anger at injustice?
Does mercy mean we can’t speak out against wrong doing?
Does mercy mean we can’t take action to change laws?
Does mercy mean we can’t have a voice against wickedness?

Of course not.

Mercy means we don’t go into the world condemning sinners for sinning.
Mercy means our commission is to serve and save.
Mercy means understanding its is the kindness of God that draws people to repentance.
Mercy means we are careful not to break a bruised reed, or careful not to hurt hurting people.
Mercy means we are sensitive to humanity’s desperate need for grace.
Mercy means we don’t categorize people based on their job, their past or their political party.
Mercy means we consider those in need of an awareness and extension of God’s love.
Mercy means we listen before we speak, communicating the worth of those in our sphere of influence.

If our genuine, unadulterated goal is to rescue the perishing, then our message will not be void of a love that pursues, a humility that serves, a kindness that reaches, and a Gospel message that saves.

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Get It Girl / Part 3: Get it Together!

GET IT, GIRL!

In this blog series, “Get It, Girl,” that I believe the Lord is leading me to write about fulfilling the call He has placed on our lives, especially for women in leadership. Being a woman in leadership in ministry, this series is coming from my heart.

PART 3: Get It Together

“Get it Together” isn’t about getting your stuff together; this blog is about doing life together with others. God’s plan for our lives include the what, the why, the where, the when, the how, and the “who.” God doesn’t just call us to do our individual part; God calls us to do our part in conjunction with others. God knows we are stronger together, better together.

The people in our lives or business or ministry might be obvious champions, or they may be like David’s mighty men – the misfits. They are the people on our team and the people we serve. They are the ones we learn from, the ones we teach, the ones we restore and the ones we launch. They are the new ones and the old ones. They are ones we marry. They are our children. They are our friends.

Choose the ones God has chosen 

There are some people in our life that God has chosen for us. It’s important to take the time to seek God for the men and women He wants to join us together with. Some of the roles people fill are supportive roles, others are in varying degrees of leadership roles.

Just because people are present in our lives doesn’t mean they are people God wants us to put in a specific role. Attendance isn’t the only criteria for a team position. God often has choices for people that are outside our line of sight. In addition, we need to pursue God’s timing for filling positions. A person might be God’s choice, but not God’s choice for right now.

The people God has chosen for you will not be perfect. As you know, you are not perfect either. When we know God has chosen someone for our team, we still need to make the choice in our hearts to choose them too, even with their flaws and imperfections. We commit to equipping, restoring, resourcing and empowering our teams. When we choose men and women, we are committed to them through good and bad, beautiful and ugly. We need to be careful not to despise or make comparisons about the people God places in our lives; instead, we need to grow together in love and grace.

Choose the ones you want

Not every decision is a decision God makes for us. Some decisions God gives to us to make. We need to choose wisely. We love and accept, everyone, but not everyone is qualified for a position we might be trying to fill.

When choosing a team, we look at competency and character. We look for chemistry- how they will work with others. We look at culture- will they be adaptable to our region and to us? Can they catch the vision and our values? I also look for compassion- do they genuinely care for the people we serve?

Choose the ones you don’t want

It’s just as important to choose the ones you don’t want in a position as much as the ones you do want. We need to choose our teams wisely because these are the people we invest in. These are the people we will lean on.

All people are important. I believe when a person is humble, God can transform and empower anyone. I believe if someone can see their need for change, God can change them. However, if someone is still immature or troubled, he or she may not be ripe for a position I am looking to fill. There is nothing wrong with taking our time to let someone prove themselves. If their heart is for you, they will be patient and faithful where they are at, trusting you to follow God and follow your heart.

Let go of the people who let go of you

Life is too short to grieve someone who didn’t want to life with you. It’s okay to take grief to God in prayer, but we have to leave it there. We have to move on. Focus on the people who are with you.  If their heart is for you, they will show you grace when you are weak and show you mercy when they see your failures. They will keep the vision and not be distracted or derailed when they have a different opinion on an insignificant matter. They will be teachable, accept correction and stick with you for the long haul. These people are treasures, valuable gems God has not only for you, but also for His kingdom purpose. Work together in unity and faith, and give God all the praise.

 

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Get It, Girl! (Part 2: Choose It)

GET IT, GIRL!

In this blog series, “Get It, Girl,” that I believe the Lord is leading me to write about fulfilling the call He has placed on our lives, especially for women in leadership. Being a woman in leadership in ministry, this series is coming from my heart.

PART 2: CHOOSE IT

After we SEE it, we need to decide if we will CHOOSE it.

Who Me?

Yes, you. The need God sees for the world is a need He is asking you to help meet. Jesus is the answer. He died for the world. His salvation is here, but He needs you to take that good news to them. He needs you to be His hands, His feet, His voice.

God sees you as valuable to His kingdom. He doesn’t choose one over the other based on race, age or gender. You aren’t disqualified because of past failure. He has a place for each of us. We aren’t in competition with each other. We are here to be a compliment for the other.

If there is any voice telling you that you can’t carry the good news, that voice is a liar. That voice may come from someone you know, someone you don’t know… that voice might even be coming from inside of you. God has given you a voice. God is calling is calling you to tell the world of His love.

Saying “Yes”

God is calling, but we have to answer. God doesn’t force Himself on anyone. To do our part in God’s plan, we need to surrender to Him and say, “Yes.” The part you have is unique to you. The gifts you have, the talents, the opportunities to study, to train, to experience… all from God… and all for a purpose He has for your life.

You have a lot of options throughout a lifetime. There are many things you can do with your one life. Don’t just consider your life from this earthly perspective; consider your life when it is done. When your life is over, how did you spend it? Did it have a temporary effect? Did it have an eternal effect as well? Think of your life as currency, no matter what your age, how will you spend what you have left?

Please say, “Yes.”

God Has Help for You

You aren’t alone. God has also given you His Spirit. He’s not just any spirit; the Holy Spirit comes with some considerable experience. He created the universe, so there’s that. He also raised Jesus from the dead, snatching Him out of the belly of hell and restoring Him in the presence of His Father. That’s impressive. Every miracle recorded in both the Old and New Testaments was done by His power. Jesus left the earth so the Holy Spirit could come to each of us.

The Holy Spirit isn’t just someone we are willing to open up to for help; He is the One who gives us direction on what we are to do. He is our leader. We are to pursue Him. I not only choose to receive Him; I choose to follow Him.

Today and Everyday

Our initial choice to surrender to God can often be a memorable moment. We sense the Holy Spirit calling. We give Him our lives. Surrender is more than a letting go; it’s a going after. It doesn’t happen just once; our yielded heart seeks our Lord each day, choosing to fulfill His plan for His purpose.

 

LINK LEADING LADIES

Leading Ladies is a ministry of LINK Churches, a ministry for pastors and their spouses. Leading Ladies is for women who lead in ministry and the marketplace. If you would like to receive information on Link Leading Ladies, please email me at melanie@growchurches.com.

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