God Raises a Standard

“So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19).

There are days when it feels as if ‘all hell is breaking loose,’ or trials seem to be coming at you from every direction. Sometimes this can be an indication that you are living your life without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If this is the case then it is wise to slow down and seek the Lord and be still before him to find peace. There are other times however, when you are doing your best to walk in the will of God. Although you are doing your best, you cannot understand why it seems like you are facing so much opposition. Most times, the intense opposition is an indication that you are on the cusp of something great.

Intense trials often suggests that your breakthrough is up ahead. Advancing the kingdom of God puts you in direct opposition with the kingdom of darkness. Despite the opposition, continue to pray and stay the course. Continue to do what God has called you to do and complete your assignment. Remember that God will take care of the adversary as long as you are doing what he has assigned you to do. “For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak” (Isaiah 59:17).

Bear in mind that it is those who are often doing important things that are likely to experience criticism. It is when you decide that your life has significance and you determine to live in this way, when you are likely to experience opposition. Our God will not allow the trials to overwhelm you continually and he will arise to defend and protect his people. He has given us the weapons of the word to bind anything that is contrary to his will. The weapons of our warfare are not physical, but mighty to pull down spiritual strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). You will overcome and you are guaranteed the victory because God is on your side.

“According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompense” (Isaiah 59:18).

A.P.-Y.

Wisdom Or Foolishness?

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The wisdom of men and intellectualism cannot comprehend the things of God. This is why Paul said that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus also said that we need childlike faith in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). Children are quite impressionable and it does not take a lot for them to be convinced. It is when we become adults that we grow in skepticism. It is often our experiences of the world that can at times leave us jaded and not as trusting of other people. This also translates into our trust in God.

While a degree of skepticism is healthy, faith requires that we believe in things that we cannot prove. If you have studied at a University level, you have been taught to use reason. You are encouraged to question all forms of information presented to you and to seek out empirical evidence. Many of the bible narratives can be proven by historical evidence but there are instances of faith that requires us to believe without seeing.

The decision to live a radical life for God can mean that you will make decisions that will make you look stupid. No one can explain how Mary conceived without a man and many people still think that Joseph was stupid to marry her. When you listen to the Holy Spirit and seek to do what God tells you to, don’t always look for support and understanding from everyone. Even well intended christians can discredit when you know you have heard from God.

It is important to know God for yourself. Develop a relationship with God where you can discern his voice. Learn the word so that you can check out what you are hearing with what is written in scripture. Be careful who you share the things that you have heard from God with as not everyone will understand or encourage you.

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

A.P.-Y.

Spread Joy

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

Laughter is good medicine and has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, strengthen the immune system and reduce pain (https://www.Helpguide.org). Solomon confirmed this in Proverbs and described the opposite of joy as a crushed spirit which dries up the bones. We can say that the opposite of joy is grief and sorrow.

Grief is a legitimate response to loss and hurt and it is a healthy human response. Grief should not be avoided and people need support and positive human connections to respond to grief. People don’t need to be told to, “be strong, look at the bright side or it could be worst.” People experiencing grief need genuine empathy, a listening ear and a response that says, “I may not understand but I am here to listen. Please let me know what I can do to help.” People need time to grieve and only the person experiencing the grief and loss can determine how long they need.

Outside of people who are genuinely experiencing grief are people with “Martha type” personalities. Some people consider themselves pessimists and see the glass half empty rather than half full. You can often guess that a call or text message from some people will be to share some bad news. There is a genuine need for authentic relationships that offer mutual support and friendships where we can share difficulties. We have to ensure that these relationships are well unbalanced.

Consider before you press forward if that message will increase the other person’s stress levels or send them some joy. Do you share inspirational and encouraging messages as well? How do you leave people feeling after your conversations and encounters with them?

Most relationships are not 50/50 and some people are naturally more optimistic and resilient than others. Nevertheless, we have to be considerate and intentional. We need to try when we can to spread some joy and gladness to others. Become a carrier of the grace, peace and joy that comes from walking in relationship with Christ Jesus. This will encourage people to seek after God in order to experience the fruits that come from our relationship with him.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22).

A.P.-Y.

Understanding Your Calling

“who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9).

Many people are still trying to figure out what they should be doing with their lives. This is not limited to people in their late teens who are completing high school. People go through “existential crisis” at different ages and stages. This is when people question whether or not their lives have any purpose, meaning and value. This is sometimes associated with extremely negative emotions that can be linked to depression and anxiety. In extreme cases, this can lead to suicidal thoughts and some people eventually commit suicide.

Apologies if my introduction sounds a bit fatalistic or gloomy. I am not declaring depression or self harming on anyone. On the contrary, I am highlighting a serious issue which I hope that we can address in order to offer strategies for coping. I have found that supporting people to identify what they are good at, to be honest about their passions and identify their gifts and calling, helps to reduce feelings of depression. The devil is the father of lies and his demons whisper lies and deceit that causes depression. Some of the well rehearsed lies sound like; “you don’t serve a purpose; no one will miss you if you are gone; you are not valuable; you are a burden to others.”

Contrary to those lies is the word of God which says; “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14). “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:5); “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:16).

These and many other scriptures point to the fact that God knew us before we were conceived in the womb. God created a unique purpose for us and sent us into the earth at a specific time to fulfil that purpose. The Devil hates us because he hates God and we are children of God. His main goal is to create so much pain and confusion that we abort the plan of God for us. When we draw close to God, he comforts us, cares for us and makes the way for us to do what he created us to do. Being close to God means that he reveals to us daily why he has us here and what he wants us to do.

Daily communication with God helps us to heal from hurting and offers immense peace and assurance. We develop confidence in knowing what we are created to do and how we should be doing it. God loves you so much and he has a very good plan for you which he wants to help you to accomplish. Stay in his presence, pray and ask him for guidance and let him help you. Reach out to a minister, counsellor or a mature Christian for help and counselling if you need additional support. Remember that you are valuable and the world needs what you have to offer.

A.P.-Y.

Better Days are Dawning

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

The weather has changed for the better and a few days of sunshine does brighten the moods of everyone. Like the weather, we go through spiritual seasons in our walk with God. Times of difficulty can feel like harsh winters with constant snowstorms, icy roads and slippery conditions. People in the Caribbean can relate to hurricanes and storms with winds battering trees and houses. Other natural disasters include tsunamis, tornados, earthquakes and flooding. Most of us can definitely relate to seasons that feel like a catastrophic weather event.

The disciples can relate to being in a storm on a boat while Jesus was asleep in the stern. I am sure that Jesus knew that there was a storm. Either way he was not perturbed by the storm. Not when he knew that he had the power to command the wind to be still. “And He got up and [sternly] rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still (muzzled)!” And the wind died down [as if it had grown weary] and there was [at once] a great calm [a perfect peacefulness]” (Mark 4:39).

I remember experiencing hurricanes as an adult in Jamaica. We prepared and remained indoors until it was safe to venture outside. Eventually the rains would end and we were sure to have the sunshine again. The end of the hurricane season meant better days were ahead. The ensuing months were some of the coolest and meant that we were approaching Christmas. These were days to celebrate and enjoy spending time with family.

The storms are ending and there is sunshine up ahead. Raise your level of expectation and declare your better days. “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may endure for a night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning” (Psalms 30:5).

A.P.-Y.

Sharpen Your Spiritual Senses

“having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18).

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he prayed for them to have the spirit of wisdom and revelation to gain insight into the things of God. The things of God cannot be understood through human reasoning. This is why the carnal mind is enmity against God or stands opposed to the things of God (Romans 8:7). We cannot use our human intellect to reason out and understand the wisdom of God. Understanding the things of God requires faith to see what does not yet exist.

Jesus’s disciples once asked him why he spoke to the crowds in parables which were at times hard to understand. “And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matthew 13:11; 13).

It takes revelation knowledge from God and being submitted to the Holy Spirit to discern the supernatural. Being a Christian and trying to explain some aspects of faith to a non-Christian can at times seem foolish. “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

We have to be confident and secure in what we know and in whom we believe. We have to know when to give an answer but also discern when to avoid foolish debates and arguments about scripture. As we study the word and grow closer to God, our spiritual senses are trained to understand the things of God. There are things that we will see, hear and feel that we cannot explain to people who aren’t mature in God. Stay connected to the Holy Spirit and maintain relationships with believers who can strengthen your faith and help sharpen your senses.

“As iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens [and influences] another [through discussion]” (Proverbs 27:17).

A.P.-Y.

Like the Garden of Eden

“And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited’” (Ezekiel 36:35).

Ezekiel was a prophet who lived in Babylon during the time of the Jewish captivity. His writings foretold of the destruction and captivity of Jerusalem and their eventual restoration. Ezekiel spoke in chapter 36 of God’s plans to restore Jerusalem. Ezekiel said that God’s plan to restore his people was not due to their repentance and acknowledgement of their sins. Rather, God decided to restore them based on the integrity of his name which he would maintain against the surrounding nations. “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came” (Ezekiel 36:22).

God also promised to change the hearts of the people and cleanse them from their sins. “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:27). Ezekiel further prophesied about God’s plans to bless the people and give them an abundant harvest. “I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations” (Ezekiel 36:30).

One of Ezekiel’s final declarations was that God would allow the nation of Israel to become like the garden of Eden. This would be restoring it back to the state of Eden before the fall of Adam. The idea that God would restore his people and their nation to such an abundant state like that of Eden is remarkable. There is nothing that God has done in the bible for his people that is not available to us. We live under the Abrahamic covenant and lay hold of the promises of God. We declare that wherever we live, that God will bless and multiply us. We declare that God will cause us to live in such abundance that people around us will say, they are living like the garden of Eden.

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth”” (Genesis 1:28).

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God is Present in our Struggles

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”(Romans 8:28).

There are many times when we question the presence of God amidst difficulties and struggles. Sometimes we struggle to discern the voice of God during seasons of testing. Paul reminded us in the New Testament that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Paul did not say that some things work together for good. He never said that only the good things or the good seasons are working out for our good. It takes faith to see God in the trials and times of disappointments.

I can recall many ‘missed opportunities,’ perceived failures and setbacks, that I only understood long after the event. There were failed relationships that I mourned and wondered why God allowed some doors to close. It was generally on reflection that I understood why God closed some doors. I am often able to see years later why God allowed me to remain in some situations for longer than I deemed necessary.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph is one of the most gracious bible characters that I can think of. His ability to discern the hand of God during his difficulties, kept him from becoming bitter and resentful. In maintaining an excellent spirit, Joseph experienced the divine favour of God.

God is with you in the failures and disappointments and he is not absent when you feel rejected. Remain faithful to God. Forgive those who have hurt and disappointed you and pray for them. Trust that God has a plan for you and all things will work out for your good.

A.P.-Y.

Overcoming Martha Syndrome

“But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41).

Jesus visited the house of Mary and Martha while travelling through a village called Bethany. Now the two sisters had two different responses to Jesus visiting their house. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to his teachings. “But Martha was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities; and she approached Him and said, “Lord, is it of no concern to You that my sister has left me to do the serving alone? Tell her to help me and do her part”” (Luke 10:40). Jesus’s response is perhaps not what Martha would have expected. He pointed out to her that she was troubled and anxious about many things.

“but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part [that which is to her advantage], which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). Jesus was not so concerned or impressed by Martha’s serving. It does not mean that he was not grateful to be served or impressed by her service to others. I think the concern was that Martha had not found the balance between serving and being served. She had not learnt how to simply sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what he was saying.

I am not blaming Martha for her actions and I assume that perhaps she was the older of the two sisters. Maybe she had been taught that she was useful only to serve. Martha had probably derived her sense of significance from being of service to others. Imagine that the Messiah was in her house and her anxiety was about serving instead of hearing him speak. Had Martha been taught that it is ok to be served by others and that it is ok to rest from her serving?

As I consider Martha’s plight I know that many of us have been socialised to serve others. We also work in professions that are characterised by serving and giving of ourselves daily. We have to strike the balance between serving and giving so much of ourselves that we become empty. The desire to please others can cause us great anxiety and the constant pressure to perform can be exhausting. Let us learn to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what he has to say. Pray and ask God to help you to find rest to be able to choose the “better part.”

A.P.-Y.

Advancing the Kingdom

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).

Jesus came to advance the kingdom of God and our assignment is to continue to establish his kingdom in the earth. A kingdom has a system of laws, a government and a structure. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). We are governed by kingdom principles which are found in scripture. We have a kingdom mandate to reach the world with the gospel and to make disciples all over the world.

Our work as christians extends beyond the four walls of our church. We are sent into the marketplace to effect change and to bring the transformational message of Jesus Christ to the world. We are sent to turn the world upside down by changing doctrines and philosophies that do not line up with the word of God. God allows us to have influence in our world and will allow us to have platforms to create change. We cannot be silent or put our lights under a basket, but on a stand so that the world may see. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

We have to know our standing in this world and recognise the authority that we command in the darkness. Our light outshines the darkness and we overcome through the blood of Jesus Christ and by the words of our testimonies. God has commanded us, “do not fear,” because of the power which he has given us to trample upon every power of the enemy. “No man will [be able to] stand before you [to oppose you] as long as you live. Just as I was [present] with Moses, so will I be with you; I will not fail you or abandon you” (Joshua 1:5).

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