Thursday, 31 March 2022

Tested And Approved

Proverbs 22:1 A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.      
      
      I have heard people express what they wanted to be inscribed for an epitaph on their tombstone or voiced at their funeral. I have not thought much of what would be said about me as I would be with the Lord, and nothing said on earth at that time would matter. I haven't given much consideration as to whether it is important what I want to be said about me when I go on to be with my Lord. The importance that some people put upon the impressions they leave concerning their lives made me wonder if I was missing the point of something important in life. Why didn't I give it much thought and why was it not important to me?
      What is often said about most men at a funeral is the same old boring thing, "He was a good provider." Of course, that should go without saying, as this is what a husband, father, and provider of home and family is supposed to do - be a provider. In some cases, things that are said are not true. I remember some people expressing platitudes at a memorial about a deceased man I knew well. According to some of the mourners, he was a great father and an understanding husband with a generous heart. The truth was, that he was an obnoxious abusive husband, a brutal father with very little compassion or mercy except for people who he thought he could get something out of. Of course, one does not stand up and shout at a person's memorial, "What a load of rubbish." We just bow our heads and think, "When is this going to be over?" Maybe this is what Jesus meant when He said, "Let the dead bury the dead."
      I do acknowledge that this man could have repented for his actions and choices in life before he died, but that is between him and his creator. We never know the heart's negotiations that take place on a death bed. I firmly believe in the fact that Jesus gives us every opportunity to repent and accept Christ's sacrifice before death. Even if the person is in a coma or delusional, Jesus can get through to them. Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. Only God truly knows what should be written on our gravestone, because He has been there every minute of our life and has the real account of who and why we are the person we were when we passed on.
      As I said, I have not given much thought about what would be the inscription stating who I was, until I was reading Romans chapter sixteen. The scripture verse jumped out at me, and I said out loud, "There Lord, that's it, this is what I want to be said about me when I am gone. I want what is said about Apelles." Romans 16:10a Greet Apelles, the one tested and approved in Christ. Oh my, yes, yes, yes Lord! May it be said that I was tested and approved in Christ. Isn't this what everyone wants? It is as great an accolade as, "Well done good and faithful servant." Matt. 25:23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.’
      The reality is, if I or any of us want Apelles' words said about us, then we will have to live up to the statement's value and truth. We will have to come through some tests in life and be approved, reproved, and sanctified throughout our lives to own those simple words. I cannot do it on my own, but Christ who lives in me can make it happen. Gal. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. What a simple mission statement, tested and approved is - when compared to all the epitaphs that are out there. 
      One day, we will all meet our Lord and maker. I try to have no final judgments on anyone's life because that is the Lord's work. If the things said are honest and true concerning the integrity of those who have gone on, then thank God for the righteous people who have given us an example of forthright living. Prov. 22:1 A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. I am blessed to have found the inspiring words, tested and approved in Christ. These words have become a beacon set before me. May we all come through the tests we were created to accomplish during our short time on this earth. May we all help approve each other in the love of God. Amen!

Thursday, 24 March 2022

I Quit!

Proverbs 4:25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.

      "That's it, I quit. I'm done, count me out. It's over, I'm finished with the ministry," The minister wanted to say out loud, but couldn't because the question awaiting him, just hung there, like a church bell ready to be rung. "What are you going to do once you shut it down?" came the question to his mind. "Oh, something or other," he said. Therein is the dilemma. What are you going to do with the calling upon your life? The Apostle Peter had to answer this question after the Lord had been crucified. Not sure what was coming next, Peter went back to fishing. John 21:3a Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” Not a bad idea. Just shut it down, and go fishing. Then what?
      I believe I am describing what a lot of men and women who are in church ministry contend with, as some have tried to quit and get out of ministerial responsibility, serving the poor who will always be with us, and enduring the sometimes laboriousness of church life. These worn-out ministers find themselves in a confused and wearisome situation while having deep inner questions to answer that are running at lightning speed through their minds. "What next? How do I turn off the conviction of my heart concerning the calling of God? What would I do, and if I find something to do, how do I go about it? Will God support my decision?" Rom. 7:24a Oh, what a miserable person I am! I feel miserable for staying and damned for quitting. What do I do with these thoughts? "Help me, Lord," becomes the constant prayer of desperation.   
      Jeremiah found himself in a similar situation. He had become disheartened with prophesying what God had put in his heart because the result of saying what God had spoken was constant persecution against himself. He was lowered into the bottom of a well for being forthright. Jer. 38:6a So the officials took Jeremiah from his cell and lowered him by ropes into an empty cistern in the prison yard. He was feeling the pressure of being whipped, then bound with stocks. Jer. 20:2 So he arrested Jeremiah the prophet and had him whipped and put in stocks at the Benjamin Gate of the LORD’s Temple. The suffering that Jeremiah went through because of the calling that had been placed upon his life at birth, had become burdensome to live with.
      Jeremiah wanted to quit the whole thing but ended up saying, he had an inner compelling desire to speak because God's word burned in his bones. Jer. 20:9 But if I say, “I will not mention His word or speak anymore in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. He admits, "Yes, indeed I cannot hold back the anointed unction of God's living word." The word of the Lord lives and moves, for it will do what God says the word will do. Isa. 55:11 So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. 
      Some may sense the assignment God has given them to be too hard to bear, and like Jonah, they want to quit the assignment they have been given. As Jonah did, they run away as far as possible from God. Not a good plan or even possible since God is everywhere. Jonah wanted out of the responsibility of the ministry assignment he was to bring to Nineveh. However, after he had reluctantly agreed to go to Nineveh and prophecy what he was supposed to proclaim, again Jonah wants to quit, but this time, on his own life. Jonah 4:3 Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live. We can end up tired of everything churchy and ministerial if we are not close to the heart of God. We can find ourselves - put out, burned out, and fed up with what we perceive to be unthankful people and the toil of ministry work. Becoming bitter rather than better, we end up on the slag-heap of washed-up ministers gasping for a breath of holy air.
      Elijah, with God's clear directions, had pulled off one of the greatest feats on Mount Carmel by calling down fire from heaven to consume everything on the altar and consume the altar itself. One would think Elijah had it all together and possessed an arsenal of ministerial weapons at his disposal. Yet, after his incredible victory over the four hundred priests of Baal, when threatened by Jezebel, he runs away wanting to give up and die. 1Kings 19:4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
      We need God at all times, especially when we want to give up. The Lord has the answers, and He will continue to give them to us if we ask by faith. James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. If we are going to give up, then let us quit believing the enemy of our soul who lies all the time. If we are going to quit, then let us quit doubting God and doubting His love for us. 
      Father, in Jesus name, Help us ask you for help when we feel overwhelmed and want to shut down. Lord, fix our hearts with grace and your courage, so we can prevail when the desire to give up is the strongest. Prov. 4:25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. May God's face shine on all the ministers who are sowing God's love into our lives. We look to Jesus who did not quit while on His way to the cross to die for us all. Amen!

Thursday, 17 March 2022

A Lonely Place

Proverbs 18:24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

      I prayed out loud, "Lord, what is wrong with me? What is this agitation boiling up in my soul?" I feel like I'm fighting something I cannot touch. I can almost catch glimpses of it in my spiritual peripheral vision, but it remains a mercurial shadow on the edges of thought. I’m convinced I see a pending storm with a gun barrel grey ceiling pressing down upon me, even while the sun is shining on every side. My eyes are focused on a bright and clear day, but my soul feels a darkened membrane stretching against my mind. Father, I just want to give up. "Am I depressed?" I asked. I questioned again, "Lord, can you tell me, what is agitating my soul?” I heard a soft, "You are lonely."
      I said, "Everyone is lonely, we have been in restrictions and lockdowns for over two years. Besides, I have friends and lots to keep me busy." Again, I heard, "You are lonely." How have I come to this lonely place? Is this one of the aspects of being human, where we must process and encounter the test we are shadowboxing? Do we have to go through a dire valley to understand the lessons being taught in our souls? This wretchedness is too real to ignore or escape its festering. Psalm 55:6 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Where is our God who gives us rest?      
      Do I put on a mask and fake it till I make it? If I wear a mask, it will reveal what is within me by the mask I am using. If my mask is happiness, I am covering up the sadness within my heart. If my mask is bravery, I am hiding the cowardice at work in my conscience. If I wear the mask of confidence, I am hiding the fact that I feel like a cardboard cutout empty of substance. Psalm 69:3 I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Heavenly Father, I need a saviour, not a formula. I don't need three steps to overcome blah blah blah. I need to be heard in my moment of uncertainty. Are you there Lord?
      Maybe this is a battle against demonic giants whose shadows tower over my existence. Satan is the one who murders the visions of holy men who end up in lonely places. From this empty place, I received an illumination of thought. The Holy Spirit is listening to my groans. From out of the depths of my groanings is my sincere heart wanting God's affirmation of purpose and declaration of love. Rom. 8:26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. Even in a dark place, we look for light to find our way, while we call upon our Lord to send His healing oil that anoints our soul and resurrects our lives into the joy of relationship with our God.
      Yes, Lord, I see there is life after being buried under the lies of the enemy. If we trust in your goodness and trust your leading, we can come out of dark places. For you are a friend to the downcast and a Lord to the needy. Prov. 18:24b But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. I will look to the heavens and hope again. For this dry place is but for a season. Our hope is in God, and He will sustain us with the love of His graciousness. The salvation of God is for all man, even the corrupt and inventors of evil. One drop of the Lord's blood can change the vilest of souls. Yes, Lord, there is hope in your grace.
      As I prayed, God sent His healing oil through an anointed friend who ministered the majesty of the Holy Spirit upon my soul. Fragrant oil dripped upon my heart and I left the lonely place for the garden of God's Eden. I found other souls resting there. "Your battle is won," they shouted, "You have been tried and found to be alive in the grace of God's divine love." Thank you, Lord, for your goodness of heart and for delivering me from the lonesome place of endless wastelands. I will remember to put on the whole armour of God, that I may extinguish the spears of burning darkness. Lord, you are good and worthy to be praised. Thank you, God, I am home. Amen!

Thursday, 10 March 2022

The Least And The Most

Proverbs 28:6 Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.
     
      The thing we want the least is to die, but the thing we want the most is to be with our Lord. To get the most, we will have to eventually submit to the least thing we want. So, how do we get the most in this lifetime so that we can courageously meet the demands of the least thing wanted? The Lord teaches that we should die to ourselves while we are in this world so that we can live forever through the redemptive gift of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote a fair amount in his epistles on the subject of dying to ourselves. Paul taught, that by dying to ourselves we can live here, and eventually live eternally with our God. Phil. 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  
      Dying to self starts when we accept the gift of God's salvation through Christ. Therefore, the least we can do is realize that accepting Jesus as our Lord, is the most substantial decision we could make on this side of eternity. Dying to self is not a popular subject in a world where everyone is continually being pressured to get the most out of this commercially driven system by acquiring an endless amount of plastic ready-made stuff and limitless merchandise to become satisfied and happy. The world's message is, "Don't die to yourself, but rather, give yourself everything imaginable." However, God says to live by His spirit and not the cravings of the flesh. Rom. 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.    
      Whether it is life's momentum or of shrewd design, there is a permanent campaign at work to instill dissatisfaction within our hearts to notice what we do not have. Crowds of people are being sold a bill of goods that causes wanton cravings for whatever is deemed to be missing in there lives, and these same people end up investing their energies into the wrong areas of life to obtain fulfillment. Hag. 1:9 You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. While chasing the most within the world, those who strive within this manner of living, end up with the least satisfaction and personal validation, because the world cannot give what is of eternal worth.
      We are told by the advertising world that if we get everything we can wish for, we will live dignified lives and reach the pinnacles of pure happiness because we have everything we want. Although throughout history, this theory has proven to be wrong over and over again. We keep chasing the stuff rather than what the Lord offers us through His love. The questions we need to ask ourselves are, "Why do I need more stuff if my heart's desire is to be with the Lord? Why do I put so much emphasis on acquiring more of what the world has? How can I want what God wants for me and fulfill what I was created to do?"
      It truly is a life-living balancing act to keep our eyes upon Jesus and continue paying the bills to live on this earth. This is why the joy of the Lord has to be our strength. The joy in stuff is short-lived. The joy of the Lord strengthens our souls as we walk closer with our God. Crucifying the flesh is a full-time job of faith but needed so that we are not consumed by what the flesh wants outside of God's will. Our integrity in the Lord is paramount. Prov. 28:6 Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.      
      To get the most out of our lives, we will have to enter within God's narrow gateway of sanctification. It's not that the narrow gate is hard to find. On the contrary, it is clearly defined by the fact that Jesus is the gate we must walk through because He has the eternal answer for our soul. Wide is the gate that leads to the least amount of fulfilment this temporal life has to offer. Matt. 7:13 You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. I believe the broad and wide gate is popular because there are no boundaries in the world. Anything man imagines, including sin, can walk through the broad gate and is promoted as acceptable behavior and self-righteously justified.
      We who are in Christ, have the most wonderful saviour. If you find yourself in a position of having the least amount of joy, love, and satisfaction, then give God the mess you are in, and let Him bring the most love, peace, and strength you have ever known to your heart and life. Thank you, Father, for giving us the very best of your heart. Blessings and peace be upon us all.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

The Best Version Of You

Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, observing the wicked and the good.
      
      1Sam. 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart. If we could see ourselves from God’s point of view, we would be utterly amazed at who God knows us to be in Christ Jesus. If we want to know the best version of who we are, then we will have to commune with the Lord. We will not find God's eternal version of ourselves in a self-help book, self-improvement app, or on the pages of a glossy magazine. We will only find out who we are in the presence of the Lord.
      The Lord created us and weaved our DNA out of His infinite vision of who we are. God thought of us individually, and here we are, living and breathing souls. Psalm 139:13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. The devil sees the worst version of our lives because all he ever sees is the evil that is on the earth. God, on the other hand, can see the best possible version of our hearts because the Lord can see our eternity in Christ. The Lord can direct and woo our souls because He created them, and knows exactly what will inspire us. Yes, we still have the free will to choose whether we will follow God. The Lord's advantage is that He created the abilities and giftings within our souls and He knows our purpose for living. Therefore, the Lord can direct us with honest love and devotion toward our well-being.
      Satan can only tempt, abuse, and deceive us into believing that we are less than who God says we are. The devil tempts us with sin, abuses us with depression, and deceives us with lies so that we do not believe the version of who God says we are in Christ. Satan has to beguile our hearts because he has no real say or power over our lives. Therefore, the devil must con us into relinquishing the authority God has given us, plus Satan is jealous of the love God has for us. This jealousy causes him to act out in continual tantrums like an evil petulant child as he breaks everything God declared as good. Satan intends to destroy the true version of our life's purpose with distortions and fabricated lies. John 8:44b When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. 
     The devil's focus on us is far too intense, and therefore, we have to be more than the mess he says we are. If it is true that we are all the terrible things Satan says we are, then why does he have to keep reinforcing the bullying narrative that he spews over and over again? The reality is that we are eternally secure in our saviour's hands, but Satan's time is short. Rev. 12:12b For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time. It is not our time that is short, it is the enemy of our soul's time that is coming to an end, and he is violently opposed to our expressing and living with the love of God. Even though Satan pretends to be an angel of light, we will never get the best version of who we are from his ugly dark heart. It is impossible for Satan to love and have joy. How pathetic he is.
      Why is the joy of the Lord our strength? Because in God's presence there is joy forevermore. The joy, peace, and love that emanates from God rains on us, who are the apple of His eye. Psalm 17:8 Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings. We cannot come away from the presence of the Lord without being transformed, revived, and inspired to be the person God says we are in Christ. If you want food, you grow it or go to a food store. If you want gasoline for your car, you go to a gas station. if you want to fly to another country, you go to the airport and take a flight. If you want real love, you go to the Godhead who is love.
      God knows every person who exists by name and every situation we are in, whether good or bad. Prov. 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, observing the wicked and the good. Those who are in Christ can grow into the version of who God says they are. If we want to be the best version of ourselves, then our Heavenly Father is the only one who knows the beginning from the end of our entire lives. The Lord has the blueprint to the very DNA we are knitted with. We do not need to go to a counterfeit blowhard liar like Satan, who claims to know what we need. No, Saints. We go to the Lord of mercy, the author and finisher of our faith, to be the best version of who we are in Christ. Amen!