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Fiery Trials

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 1 Peter 4:12-13 NKJV

Do not think that it’s strange; don’t be surprised, when you experience a fiery trial—something used by the devil—that is so calamitous, so devastating, so severe—in order to destroy your faith. Your adversary, the devil, is out to steal the Word of God from you. Just remember, it isn’t God sending the fiery trial, but it’s the devil.

Satan’s number one weapon that he uses to steal the Word from you is affliction and persecution (Mark 4:17). Affliction means “pressures of life.” Affliction includes sickness and disease, financial problems, and physical and emotional problems including anxiety and depression. So, what is the will of God concerning fiery trials?

The apostle James said that you should “count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; knowing that the trying of your faith works patience” (James 1:2-3). Various temptations (tests and trials) are to be received with joy and endured with patience. The word, “temptation” translated means evil solicitation; tests and trials (Greek text); and Jesus called temptation evil (Matt. 6:13).

If Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”, then how could tests and trials be the will of God.  And, in the same teaching on prayer, Jesus first taught his disciples to pray: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Since there are no fiery trials, tests and trials in heaven, then obviously, these pressures of life aren’t the will of God here on earth.

The will of God is to endure, i.e., be patient (Jas. 1:12-14); not waiting for something to happen, but enduring what is happening. Remember the devil comes to steal the Word with affliction to cause you to fail, to quit, and go back into sin (See Mark 4:15-20). When you are faced with a fiery trial, including this Coronavirus pandemic, “let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:4).

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trying of Your Faith

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 1 Peter 4:12, 13 NKJV

The Twilight Zone was a television series aired on CBS back in the early 1960s with episodes of science fiction, suspense, horror, and sometimes a psychological thriller with an unexpected twist. The show fantasized about strange things that happened to people. This Coronavirus pandemic that we are experiencing can feel like a twilight zone, but it is nothing more than the trying of our faith, and we should not think that is strange.

We are told by the apostle James to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (Jas. 1:2-4). According to James, the trying of our faith is various temptations, i.e., tests and trials, troubles and problems. We are told to count it joy when we fall into—not walk into or jump into a temptation.  If we fall into a situation of no making of our own, God will give us the grace to overcome it and come out on the other side better and stronger. But make no mistake about it; trials don’t come not to try us, but rather they come to try our faith—to test what we really believe about the Word of God. Too many Christians believe in the Bible and even worship it, but not enough will act on what it says. Every trial is an opportunity, if we have an attitude of joy.

Test and trials don’t make us stronger, but we can come out stronger if we take the opportunity to stand on the Word—that’s what faith is. Faith is like a bridge over troubled waters, and patience is the pier to uphold our faith. And, patience works by us being constant and consistent in our faith. And, it is patience that perfects us, not the trial itself (Heb. 10:36).

Further, we must have the right perspective about the trying of our faith, especially during this COVID-19 viral pandemic. Is it God’s will? Not according to scripture (Matt. 6:10). Will this test and trial make us grow and become more like Jesus? No! It is the Word of God and the Spirit of God that makes us grow stronger and be more like Jesus. Test and trials come to take the Word out of us, to cause us to fail, and to cause us to go back into sin (See Mark 4:14-20). Whatever the will of God is in heaven, it is also His will for us here in the earth. So don’t think that this pandemic is some strange thing. It is a trial which is to try us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Empty Tomb

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 NKJV

Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross and buried in a borrowed tomb, but on the third day He arose; and those who went to His grave—first the women, and afterwards both the women and Peter and John—found an empty tomb (John 20:1-8). He was resurrected from the dead!

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the heart of the Gospel message. Without the resurrection, we have nothing to stand on as believers, and our faith in Christ Jesus would be in vain (1 Cor. 15:14, 17). Jesus’ bodily resurrection tells us that the grave could not hold Him and that He demonstrated power over death. This in-refutable fact holds the promise that we too, who believe, will also have victory over death (1 Cor. 15:55). The empty tomb is the evidence that Jesus is not dead; He is alive and well (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25).

Both the cross and the empty tomb are significant in the Christian faith. Why? The cross symbolizes our atoning sacrifice for sin (John 1:29; Heb. 9:22). It is also the universal symbol of Christianity, but it has no saving power. The cross (timber of a tree) was an instrument of capital punishment and suffering and shame. It only symbolizes what Jesus did (1 Peter 2:24). And, the empty tomb is a symbol of the resurrection and victory over death—speaks of what Jesus is doing right now in the lives of believers.  The empty tomb gives us the hope of our victory over death and our resurrection.

Much is said and sung about the cross, but little or nothing about the empty tomb; believers even wear and display crosses as a symbol of their faith. Some will even hang a cross around their neck. But why do we hang a cross around our neck but not an empty an empty tomb? Jesus is no longer on the cross; He is not dead, He has risen! It is the empty tomb that tomb demonstrates that death is not the end for us but only a new beginning in the presence of the risen One (1 Cor. 5:3)

So, the empty tomb is the evidence without question or dispute, “[that] without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16). Because of the empty tomb, we are forgiven of sin; we are saved by grace through faith; we have eternal life; we are filled with the Spirit; we have life in abundance; we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus; and, we have hope against hope, today and tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear Not!

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NKJV

The Lord is your Helper and He promised to never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5); yet, one of Satan’s most powerful and insidious weapons used against the people of God is fear: fear of failure, fear not having enough, fear sickness and disease, and in these days, even fear of contracting or dying from a viral infection.

Fear immobilizes and paralyses you by instilling dread in your heart and mind. But if you are faithful, focused, and fearless, you will triumph in victory by staying present in the moment, keeping your eyes on Him, and showing courage in the face of fear.

What Is Fear?  Fear is the opposite of fearlessness and courage. It is a feeling—and can be a spirit—of dread caused by the expectation or realization of danger, or any unfavorable outcome. What causes fear is the uncertainty of the future (See Gen. 15:1). Fear is an acronym (F.E.A.R.)—any circumstance presenting false evidence in your mind but appearing real; and thus, you react as if it were so. Therefore, fear is faith in reverse. But God says, “Fear not, for I am with you!”

The two greatest emotions among mankind are fear and love. Always choose love because God is love and there is no fear in love; in fact, perfect love casts out the torment of fear (1 John 4:7-8, 18). Remember you are dead with Christ in God (Col. 3:2, 3), and “dead men don’t sin’ and dead men don’t fear! But truth be told . . .

It is only natural in your humanity to have some fear, but choose to respond to fear in faith and not react with dread in your heart.         “Fearless” isn’t the absence of fear, but having courage in the face of fear, just as Moses told Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of  them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Fear produces bondage, but fearlessness produces liberty and victory (Rom. 8:15; 2 Tim. 1:7). Fear not!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep Your Eyes on Him

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:2, 3 NKJV

Living in a day and time of COVID-19, the Coronavirus pandemic, can be unsettling in many ways. These perilous times can try your faith, distort your focus, and shake your courage. But you must not let plagues, pestilences, life’s troubles, and other distractions dampen your faith, blur your focus, or grip you with fear. You must continue to do God’s will, and in the end, you will triumph if you remain faithful, focused, and fearless.  You need to stay present in the moment and keep your eyes on God. Just keep eyes on Him!

In scripture text above, we are told to set our mind on things above—not on the things of the earth—because we are dead in Christ (Gal. 2:20) and our life is hid and protected with Christ in God. What God is saying is that we are to focus on Him and not be moved by everything happening in the world. Focus is fixing your spiritual eyes, i.e., your mental sight. “Where there is no [mental sight], the people perish” (Prov. 29:18). To focus on God is not glancing at Him, His Word, or His promise in the times of trouble (Ps. 41:1; 59:16); it is time to gaze and not glance. When you gaze at God, you are focused on Him and maintaining a clear image of a vision of victory—coming out of this crisis on the other side.

Let us set our minds and spiritual eyes on God. Instead of seeing only the discouraging and mounting number of infections and deaths caused by this invisible enemy, let us look unto Jesus, our Lord (2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 12:2). “Let [our] eyes look straight ahead, and let [our] eyelids look right before [us]” (Prov. 4:25). And, if you believe what you see by faith, stand on Isaiah 44:23, “Sing O heavens for the Lord has done it. Shout you lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing.” It’s time to focus on God; it’s time to sing; it’s time to shout!  “When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him (Isa 59:19). Just keep your eyes on Him!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Present in the Moment

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen . . . But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:1, 6 NKJV

While praying about the coronavirus—this invisible enemy—the Lord reminded me of three words that He spoke to my heart last Fall: faith, focus, fearless. These words are a reminder of what God is saying, not only to prepare us, but to equip us to survive this pandemic, victoriously.

Any difficult journey in life can try your faith, distort your focus, and shake your courage. But let’s not allow plagues, pestilence, life’s troubles, and other distractions dampen our faith, blur our focus, or grip us with fear. We must continue to do God’s will, and in the end, we will triumph if we remain faithful, focused, and fearless.  We must set our face like “flint” (i.e., strength and determination, Isa. 50:7) and stay present in the moment.

“Now faith” is faith that is present in the moment. True faith is always now (Heb. 11:1). Being present in the moment is the only time where there is no time. It is the point between the fears and failures of the past and the uncertainties of the future. God is here right now with us in the midst of this fight against this unseen enemy. So, what is God saying? What God is saying to me may be different than what He is saying to you.

Being present in the moment with our faith in and our focus on God, He will speak to us right in the middle of this “de-normalization” of our lives: being sheltered in placed with your spouse and loved ones; not being able to send our children off to school; stressing out to purchase groceries and supplies as the unbelieving make a run on the stores; and, our limited ability to go and come and gather in community with other believers.

We may hear God challenge us about our true love and commitments for our spouse, children, and others. Was it love all along or just toleration? Were we really trusting God for our supply and the needs of children? Are we now being forced to face the fact as to whether we ever had true love for God and His people? Everything that happens, happens in the present moment, and without faith right now—in the present moment—we cannot pleased God (Heb. 11:6). So, let us love one another and care for each other during this crisis and afterwards.

In the present moment, there is no point in worrying about the past and or being anxious about the future (Phil. 4:6). We only need to be present. To be present means, in the words of Isaiah the prophet, to “Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say” (Isa. 28:23 NIV). Being present is being fully engaged, involved, and attentive to what God is saying and doing in you in every situation.

Have faith in God. Seek Him and He will reward us even during these difficult times, where it may feel like our world is being turned upside down. But remember  “. . . that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Stay faithful,  focused, fearless, and present in the moment!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blessing of Being Conscious of the Presence of the Lord

Then David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. 2 And David said to all the assembly of Israel, . . . 3 and let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we have not inquired at it since the days of Saul” . . . 7 So they carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart. 8 Then David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets. 9 And when they came to Chidon’s threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled. 10 Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark; and he died there before God. 11 And David became angry because of the Lord’s outbreak against Uzza; therefore that place is called Perez Uzza to this day. 12 David was afraid of God that day, saying, “How can I bring the ark of God to me?” 13 So David would not move the ark with him into the City of David, but took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 14 The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house three months. And the Lord blessed the house of Obed-Edom and all that he had. 1 Chronicles 13:1, 3, 7-14 NKJV

In 2 Samuel 21:1, during a famine when David inquired of the Lord, he wasn’t seeking to get the presence of Lord in a place that God wasn’t already present. He sought the spirit of the consciousness of the presence of the Lord—that’s when the blessing comes.

When God’s presence is restored, consciously in our minds, He answers our famine, and afterwards, He fills us with His glory. Our scripture text above bears out this truth. For example:

The Ark could only be transported on the shoulders of the Levites with poles on their shoulders (See ex. 25:14; Num. 4:15; 7:9; 10:21 and 1 Chron.15:15).  Transporting the Ark on a new cart was the way of the Philistines (1 Sam. 6:7), but not the way God prescribed. The methods of the world can violate the law of God, and produce death, as it did for Uzza. Uzza and his brother Ahio drove the oxen and the new cart carrying the Ark. This was a man-made attempt to bring back the presence of the Lord (the Ark). The right motivation is no guarantee of God’s blessing. God’s service must be rendered according to God’s law. The work of God calls for right motives and methods.

In verse 9, when the oxen stumbled, Uzza— whose name mean strength—put forth his hand to steady the Ark and the Lord struck him dead. Why? The hands of human strength tried to keep the “moving of the spirit” under control. We don’t move God; He moves us; we don’t touch God; He touches us! So, what is the blessing of being conscious of the presence of the Lord? You can clearly see the blessing when you compare and contrast the houses of Abinadab and Obed-edom (verses 11-14).

Abinadab had the Ark in his house for twenty years (1 Sam. 7:2) and there were no reports of his house being blessed; why, because he wasn’t conscious of the presence of the Lord.  Is it because, you lose consciousness of God’s presence when you start practicing the presence of the problem. On the other hand, Obed-edom had the Ark in his house for three months, and had a consciousness of the presence of God and the Lord blessed his household and everything he had. God’s presence is the answer to famine, and there are blessings when you’re conscious of the presence of the Lord!

 

 

 

 

Why Does Famine Come?

Then David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. 2 And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you, and if it is of the Lord our God, let us send out to our brethren everywhere who are left in all the land of Israel, and with them to the priests and Levites who are in their cities and their common-lands, that they may gather together to us; 3 and let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we have not inquired at it since the days of Saul. 1 Chronicles 13:1-3 NKJV

In the face of famine, spiritually speaking, you ought to seek consciousness of the presence of the Lord—you ought to inquire of Him; when you do, God will speak if you really want to hear from Him about your famine (2 Sam. 21:1). But why does famine come?

In the above text verses, you can see Saul’s biggest problem is our biggest problem—neglect! Saul’s neglect of the Ark symbolized the neglect of God and His presence. Neglecting the things that remind us of God will cause us to neglect God. We must keep God consciously in the center of our lives. Unlike Saul, David sought the presence of the Lord (2 Sam. 21:1). Ergo, famine comes when you (1) Ignore God’s presence; (2) because of what you think, say, and do; and (3) because of decisions you make in disobedience to God; thus, dishonoring God (Job 36:11).

For example, when Satan rose up against Israel and tempted David to take a census of Israel. David’s thinking, what he ordered to his army’s commander to do displeased the Lord. David sinned and acted foolishly. As a result, God gave David the choice of three consequences of his sin: three years of famine, three months of his enemies overtaking him by the sword, or three days of a plague (1 Chron. 21:1-2, 7-13). David chose to fall in the hand of God. David had ultimate authority as king, and was a wise and effective leader until Satan tempted him with pride (Prov. 16:18). Thank God that David repented and sought the presence of the Lord.

Famine doesn’t come to destroy you or cut you off from God; it comes to bring you to repentance, and to seek the presence of the Lord. You can always know that you lose consciousness of God’s presence whenever you’re on a path of committing sin (Jas. 1:15); living a life of sin consciousness (Rom. 8:1); and not being grateful, joyful and thankful (Deut. 28:47-48). This is why famine comes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring It Back!

Then David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. 2 And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you, and if it is of the Lord our God, let us send out to our brethren everywhere who are left in all the land of Israel, and with them to the priests and Levites who are in their cities and their common-lands, that they may gather together to us; 3 and let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we have not inquired at it since the days of Saul. 1 Chronicles 13:1-3 NKJV 

The single reason for Saul’s maladministration and lost of the kingdom was—he didn’t seek the presence of the Lord. Unlike Saul, David’s first order of business was to bring back the Ark of God, i.e., bring back the presence of the Lord. And, when there was famine in the days of David for three years, year after year, David sought the presence of the Lord (2 Sam. 21:1). When David sought the presence of the Lord, he became acutely aware of the answer instead of being acutely aware of the problem. He shifted his consciousness from awareness of famine to an awareness of God’s presence. He brought his attention back to a consciousness of the presence of the Lord. Like David, we need to bring it back!

Consciousness is focused attention; an awareness of self, others, and one’s environment; it has also been called the superego (Sigmund Freud). One’s consciousness can be molded to be problem-conscious or God-conscious (1 Tim. 4:1-2). When our conscious is aware of the problem only, we need to bring it back to a consciousness of the presence of God.

When you seek the presence of the Lord—when you bring God back consciously. You’ll begin to feel that you know that God is on the scene to manifest a mighty blessing to answer your famine. You’ll know that God is not there just as an intellectual truth that you assent to, but He’s there because you sense He is there. Sort of like what you experience when you “pray through.” You feel that you are there in God’s presence.

So, how can you know you’re conscious of the presence of the Lord when you’re experiencing a problem?  First, you know God is on the scene when the presence of God has more of a reality than the problem (Ps. 16:11); second, you begin to feel joy and gladness, and then,  you find something in your circumstances to give God thanks for instead of just complaining about your problem (1 Thess. 5:18).  When you are conscious of the presence of the Lord, God will speak to you, somehow in some way (2 Sam. 21:1c).  The ultimate secret to success in life is to seek the presence of the Lord (Ps. 34:10). Just bring it back!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret to All Supply

“Am I a God near at hand,” says the Lord, “And not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the Lord; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord. Jeremiah 23:23, 24 NKJV

There was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered (2 Sam. 21:1). Like David discovered, the presence of the Lord is the answer to every situation. It is not an answer; it is the answer; it is the master key. In the face of famine, David didn’t seek rain or aid from another nation, David sought the presence of the Lord. God is always near at hand; you or your situation can never hide from God because His presence fills heaven and earth (text).

Christians read the Bible, and say that they believe its words, but often failed to understand that the God of the Bible is always present. The Bible begins with the answer—not the problem. In the beginning God—not problems, not need; not acute shortages of any good, lack or depravation. God created Paradise with Adam & Eve in mind (Gen. 1:1, 31). He never had in mind for them or us: pain, struggle, tears, toil, and unhappiness. So why is it, when things go awry, we often find ourselves not seeking the presence of God, but the thing that we think is the solution?

Let us not forget three powerful facts about God: God is Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, i.e., all powerful, all knowing, and all present (Ps. 139:7-8; Prov. 15:3; Isa. 66:1).     God is present everywhere and absent nowhere. God is       everywhere, or God is not God anywhere. For example,    when sickness becomes health, God is just as much present during sickness as He is during health. So, what does it mean, “David inquired or sought the presence of God?

For sure, it doesn’t mean that God wasn’t present, or David somehow escaped the presence of God. What David sought was the consciousness of the presence of God. Instead of being acutely aware of the problem, he became acutely aware of the answer (2 Sam. 21:1). David discovered the secret to overcoming famine; which is, to stop practicing the absence of God by dwelling on the problem, analyzing it, thinking about it, and constantly talking about it. After three years, year after year of famine, David inquired of the Lord—he sought the presence of the Lord.

From a conscious standpoint, God is not present where you choose to believe He is not, because you have choose to “Ease God Out” (EGO) of your consciousness and focus on your famine rather than His presence. The secret to all supply is seeking the presence of the Lord!