Rising From The Ashes

By: Kristen L. McNulty

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In the summer of 2008 I had the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream I had of visiting the city of Chicago. Chicago was always a place that fascinated me. I'd seen its landscape in movies, read about its attractive qualities in books, and it fuelled in me a desire to want to see the city.

While I was there touring the sites the thing that impressed me most about Chicago was something I hadn't know a lot about previously. That is the rebuilding of Chicago. You see in 1871, a great fire spread throughout a good part of the city and burned everything in its path. As a result, many of the landmarks of the city were destroyed and over 100,000 people were left homeless. Instead of moving away or scaling back the city, the people and officials came up with a plan for a bigger and better Chicago. They took the ashes and debris from the fire and dumped it along the waterfront, creating room for wonders like Grant Park and Soldier Field. Architects from around the world flocked to the city in order to help rebuild.

Where Chicago could have turned into a desolate city as a result of the fire, it instead turned into something stronger and something greater. Chicago literally rose out of the ashes with character and purpose.

As I listened to the tour guide tell this story, I couldn't help but think about the refining fires that we face in our lives. Do we, like Chicago, rise from the ashes when the flames flicker out? Or do we let the ashes settle on our lives and remain there, forever buried in darkness?

Much of the answers to those questions depend on the shape of our hearts before the fire starts. If we wait until the smoke starts rising to think about our character, chances are once things heat up we will be found wanting. But if we are already living our lives striving after the good things in life, the flames will only serve to refine and bring out the best of what is already there.

This was the message that God gave the prophet Jeremiah. God said to him:

"Jeremiah, I have made you a tester of metals, that you may determine the quality of my people. Are they the worst of rebels, full of slander? They are as insolent as bronze, as hard and cruel as iron. All of them lead others into corruption. The bellows blow fiercely. The refining fire grows hotter. But it will never purify and cleanse them because there is no purity in them to refine. I will label them 'Rejected Silver because I, the LORD, am discarding them."(Jeremiah 6:27-30)

Just as a rock can only be refined into gold if there was gold in it to begin with, so is it with you and I. If our lives are lacking in purity and character then when the refining fires sweep into our lives, instead of bringing the beauty in us to the surface, they will only leave us feeling burned.

There aren't a lot of guarantees in our lives, but we do know that no one is exempt from facing tough times. Therefore, we shouldn't wait until the smoke starts clouding our vision before we get serious about being a people of character, passion, and purity.

Letís make it our mission in life to be people who are refined and not defined by the things we go through.

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This devotional was aired as a part of the Making A Difference Christian Radio Show.