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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Even slag has a purpose

Yesterday I shared the truth about warnings - they are meant for our safety, but we need to have hearing ears and attentive eyes.  Today, we will look at the third characteristic related to heeding warnings - a responsive heart.  Remembering the heart is really the seat of our emotions, we can just imagine why God wraps the heart up into this picture of avoiding hazards by heeding warnings.  Our emotions can sometimes play tricks on us - making us see something totally different from what is really ahead of us.  Mom asked my sister last night why women choose losers.  I am not sure where this conversation came from, but I guess it was part of a story they were reading, so I just listened.  My sister's response was some women just do because they feel "needed" for the first time, or they feel "special" to someone and this is what they have wanted for so long.  I guess this kind of lends some credence to our discussion this morning - we cannot just listen to our hearts.  We need seeing eyes and hearing ears in the mix, as well.
For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices.  But this thing I did command them: Listen to and obey My voice, and I will be your God and you will be My people; and walk in the whole way that I command you, that it may be well with you.  (Jeremiah 7:22-23 AMP)
In the sixth chapter of Jeremiah, toward the end of the chapter, God describes to Jeremiah the commission upon his life - to be the refiner of ore.  Now, at first this may not seem significant, but when you read on, it becomes apparent God's commission will not be an easy one.  You see, God tells Jeremiah he is about to engage in the task of refining ore - not gold or silver ore, but bronze and iron.  If you know anything about these two, you know they are not pure metals.  The idea conveyed is that of dealing with "slag" - the part of the ore which gets thrown out because it refuses to yield to the fire.  I imagine Jeremiah got a little concerned about this one - for no one wants to boil rocks!  If they are going to spend all that time in the heat of the furnace, they want something of beauty to show for their hard work.  Something caught my eye in this passage, though.  We ALL have the potential of being slag.  Slag is just the waste left over after the refining process is finished.  When we fail to heed warnings, we run the risk of just becoming a bunch of rocks who never yield to the "boiling" process.
This might just speak to you, as well.  We all start out this journey as rocks - hard, unyielding, but filled with lots of potential.  The only way to determine if the rock will realize its full potential is in the fire.  Nothing extracts the pure metal except fire.  If you have ever wondered why you seem to be experiencing so much "fire" in your life, it might just be God's plan to bring more of the beauty inherent in your "core" to the surface!  
As Jeremiah and God converse on, we come to the passage above.  God makes the circumstances of Jeremiah's calling quite plain - he is to guide a people who hear, but don't obey; see, but don't choose the right path; knowing in their minds what is right, but they don't obey.  Put me on that list!  Jeremiah must have been about as excited as wet kindling when he heard that commission!  You are about to embark on the mission of boiling rocks and you will find some of those rocks just don't change much - they will just be rocks!  This is the lot of the refiner - it takes a lot of rocks being boiled to find the true ore in the mix!
The difference between a rock and ore is in their reaction to the fire.  Rocks just stay rocks, but ore begins to break apart until the purity of the "good stuff" interwoven in its recesses begins to be exposed.  We all have rocks and ore in our inner core.  Rocks will just boil, never yielding to the fire.  The only thing to do with the rocks is to throw them out - to cast them on the slag pile.  As the rocks are boiled, the slag begins to come to the surface - allowing the refiner to skim it off.  When he pours out the good metals extracted from the ore, the remaining slag may not seem valuable for any purpose.  Compared to the good metals extracted, the slag just looks like junk.
The opposite is actually true - slag may not have yielded the good metals of highest value, but it provides things of value we might just overlook.  Did you realize slag is used to make roads and foundations for buildings?  The fundamental ingredient in concrete is actually found in the slag pile!  The slag also is used as ballast - the stuff under the railroad ties which gives stability to the ties and beams.  It distributes the load of the train as it passes by, providing stability to those tracks.  Slag is even used in fertilizers - known as phosphate fertilizer.  Now, does that help to shed new light on the "slag" in your life?  Some of us get discouraged because we just see rocks.  God sees the tiny flecks of "good metal" in each of us.  He also sees the purpose for the slag - to give us ballast, help us develop a strong foundation, and to give us the substance for growth.
What God asks:  Listen with hearing ears; respond with obedient hearts; see with eyes which go beyond the seeing only the evident.  We may think we are just boiling rocks - he sees us as metal in the making!  But...he never discards anything he can use in our lives to give us foundation, helps us bear up under the weight and pressures of life, or give us just a little extra "umph" in our growth cycle!  So, what does this have to do with heeding warnings?  When we realize action is what brings us to a place of obedience, not just listening and seeing, we begin to desire the activity of the refiner's fire rather than resist it. Just sayin!