PURIFIED BY THE REFINER’S FIRE


STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM

PURIFIED BY THE REFINER’S FIRE
==============================
He will sit as a refiner and purifier
of silver; he will purify the Levites
and refine them like gold and silver.
Then the LORD will have men who will
bring offerings in righteousness…
Malachi 3:3

It sounds easy to say we will always forgive others but what happens in your
heart when your own son is brutally murdered. How can God make good come from
that terrible event?

For answers, we go (in two
parts) to the southern Philippines where a decade
ago Severino (Junie) Bagtasos, a young pastor, was sitting in the front row of
his church in Alat
listening to his sister conclude her Sunday message about
heaven. Suddenly a
man barged into the chapel. Two loud bangs were heard.
Before anyone could
make sense of what happened, Severino lay lifeless in a
pool of blood. The
killer made his escape as the distraught church members
gathered around their
pastor, killed instantly by gunshots to his chest and
cheek.

His
mother, Purificacion, says, “I miss my son. Junie was the most caring of
all my children. He would always offer help when I was cooking. He would often
ask me and his father advice whenever he was beset with difficulties in
the
ministry because his church members were older than him. I was blessed
by
Junie’s sincerity and faithfulness in the ministry. Nothing could hinder
him
from going to his Bible studies. Heavy downpours and floods could not
keep him
from bringing the Word of God to those who needed to hear it. Death
threats
did not stop him.”

There is not even a hint of bitterness as
Purificacion speaks of that painful
time. “During one of the services held at
the wake of my son, my husband told
the congregation, ‘We forgive the person
who killed our son. If that person is
here, I want you to know that we
forgive you. If he is not here, and if anyone
of you knows him, please tell
him that we forgive him. The God we serve is the
God of love and we want to
show that love to you.’”

But there were those who didn’t share these
convictions. She adds, “Some of my
husband’s relatives who were also Muslims
got angry at him for saying this.
They were eager to avenge Junie’s death.
It’s part of their culture. But my
husband restrained them and told them that
our God is a God who also forgives.
We chose to forgive our son’s
murderer.”

Purificacion shares what she thinks now was one of God’s
reasons for her
losing Junie. “After my son’s death, many Christians whose
faith had grown
cold were ushered back to the Lord.” Now after a decade has
passed, she
continues to see God’s hand in it all. She adds, “I believe
Junie’s death was
part of God’s plan. It was His way of opening the doors
that have long been
shut. You see, before the death of my son, Chinese-Tausug
believers were
scattered all over Jolo [their island in southern
Philippines]. Many of them
stopped attending the worship
services.

When my son began the work in Alat [a predominantly Muslim
town], little by
little these believers started to gather again. Junie, their
pastor, loved
them dearly and was truly passionate for the ministry. One by
one they started
coming to church again. Before long, these believers were on
fire once more
and got involved in the work of God.” God’s refining at
work!

RESPONSE: Today I will live in the awareness of God’s refining plan
for His
Kingdom’s expansion.

PRAYER: Lord, purify Your Church and help
me to accept whatever consequences
this will have.

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