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Lord! My boss is acting crazy. My coworkers are out to get me. The bills are piling up. And blast it! I’m sick of my brother’s uncle’s cousin’s sister’s adopted daughter always giving me a hard time! I’m going to kill her. You understand me, Big Guy? Huh? I’m going to blow up the whole flippin’ earth if something doesn’t start going right within the next two minutes. Starting now. Starting right now! Argggh!!

Am I the only who might occasionally…sometimes…feel this way…maybe more than sometimes…

*Cough*

Look. Let’s be real. Life sucks sometimes. K? If you wanna read this and pretend like life is skippin’ through the tulips on a bright sunny day and you never knew the meaning of rain clouds…well, this blog ain’t for you. My recommendation: go check out that good ol’ www.stoplyingtoyourself.com. I hear it’s all the rave right now.

But for the rest of us normal Christians, well. Time for tough love. Ready? Can you take it? If you can’t, then check out www.youneedprayer.com.

Listen. We are in the school of life and God is our teacher. In school, what do we receive at the completion of certain lessons? Tests. Guess what? Today we are in a season of testing.

Test #1 – The Love Test – God wants to know if our love for Him is the number one love in our life. The Word says that whoever puts someone before God, is not worthy of Him. The bible says it. Not me. The bible – which is only, like, the foundational standard of our faith but…yeah. I’m just sayin’…

Test #2 – The Giving Test – When the bills are tight and we are running on the dreaded unemployment that pays us just enough to cover an occasional water bill, what will we do when God says, hey, bless your sister with two of those three twenty dollar bills left in your wallet? And you think, hey, Lord, Mister Know-It-All up there, I’ve got four mouths to feed. I’ve yet to go grocery shopping. My gas tank is near empty. And you want me to do what? (I’ll be honest, I would not want to be in that situation…I may not be obedient.) But it’s important to understand that God is not testing our desire to give (well, if you’re real stingy, He might be,) but He’s testing our faith in His unfailing provision.

Test #3 – The Forgiveness Test – This one is key to reaching that next spiritual level. And if you’ve been following this blog at all, you know this is a sore point for me. Can we forgive someone who’s hurt us real bad? Now, don’t get all huffy on me, but if you can read this and say, yeah, no prob. What’s the big deal? Jesus forgave us, we forgive the world. Life is good. Running through the tulips, etc. Ahem. If you can say that lightly you have probably not been hurt to the point that I’m talking about. And that’s great. Good livin’ for you. But for others, they know what I’m talking about and yes, I’m still saying God wants to know if we are willing to forgive.

So what’s the bottom line? God’s tests hurt. Sometimes they really, really sting. Sometimes, they straight-up just suck. Sometimes, we know that the situation is just God doing His thing, but we feel like, man, do you have to darn near kill me in the process? I mean, if somebody had told me about seven months ago, hey, honey, this is just God trying to clean you up real good, I probably would have punched them in the face. Just saying. Now, I’ve never punched anybody. But a comment like that would have sorely tempted me at that moment in time…in fact, I think it might just still tempt me… Just pray for me, alright? Pray!!!

But here’s the good news. God’s invested in us. Can I say that again? God is invested in us. He has signed His name on the book of our lives and sealed it with the blood of Jesus. Now that’s an expensive seal, let me tell you. And nobody throws away an expensive anything just for kicks and giggles. So here’s the cool part. God sends us in the fire to withdraw us as pure gold. He scrubs our flesh until we’re kicking and screaming. And then? Well, He does the whole process over again! It’s aggravating! But anyway, even though He does all this, He is extremely careful not to burn us in the progression of it all.

One might say, hey! Wait a minute. You stick somebody in a flippin’ fire, they’re going to flippin’ burn. One plus one does equal two! Ever stuck your fingers on a hot stove? Duh! Burned, didn’t it? Duh! So don’t be telling me about…*continues screaming in the background* Alright. Let’s put it another way. When we cook food on the stove, we cook it until it’s, well, cooked, right? Do we cook it until it’s good or until it’s burned? Is there a difference? Why, so glad you asked. There is a difference! Guess what? Burned food don’t taste good. God don’t want burned kids. He wants cooked kids, get it?

So God sends us through these nasty tests that feel like they’re burning us to high heaven even though they’re just cooking us up until we’re nice and tasty so He can eat us up (just kidding). But if you remember anything through all my bumbling, remember that in the midst of it all, God is right there with us, carrying us, keeping us, and helping us pass the tests. Remember, He’s invested in our success.

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How many of us are eager and ready to go to the next level? The next level of joy, abundance, breakthrough, and power? We’re eager alright, but how many are ready? Both Psalm 66:8-12 and Malachi 3:1-4 speak of a trial of fire. It is a high duress situation designed to challenge us, cleanse us, and purify us—a test. We want the next level, but are we ready for it? Let’s follow the process of this testing and find out if we can pass.

God turns up the fire. Our circumstances start to get toasty. The bank account starts looking funny. The kids start acting silly. The car forgets how to work properly. The boss gets to cursing…in your face. And God tosses us right in the middle of it.

Impurities rise to the surface. When the heat turns up, let me testify, what’s in us will come out. Shall I be real? I was walking through a parking garage and this wonderful man careens around the corner in his hot-shot BMW. You know the type; special, wears their pants around their knees, thinks gold is the new color for teeth, and rap music should be so loud that China can hear it. So, (heaven forbid) he has to slow down because I’m directly in his path. He very gently rebukes me for walking in the “street,” proceeds to christen me with the name of a dog, and speeds off. Now, I’m a sanctified Christian ready for the next level. I’m not about to be moved by a sinner (hopefully) who can’t tell the difference between a street and a parking garage; a dog and a woman. So I calmly continue on my way…for the three seconds it takes my brain to process his words. Then I spin around and yell, “I know that fu[BEEP!] is not talking to me!” My friend had to pull me aside before I earned myself a Holy Ghost filled jail-sentence. Can we say, impurities rising to the surface?

Then, God scrapes off the impurities. He washes us with the blood of Jesus. And if the goldsmith continues to see impurities rising to the surface, then what will he do? Stick it right back into the fire until he can see his reflection in the metal. But here’s the key; the silver and goldsmith always know how hot the fire needs to be and how long to keep the metal heated to avoid damaging the silver. And if a silversmith know this, then we can rest assured that God knows this as well.

Now, check out the end of our psalm scriptures (psalm 66:12) and hear what God spoke to the church through Apostle Jones; “If you can pass the test, you can get the blessing. I’ve got to give you an examination, send a trial. You’re in the middle of testing. Your paper, your test, is unique to yourself. I had to put the squeeze on, up the pressure. But it’s going to be alright. I’m going to give you an anointing to destroy every yoke, lift every burden. No weapon formed against you will prosper. I’m still in control.”

Children of God, don’t give in, don’t give up.

God will turn it around.

God says; “I have to get some stuff out to put some stuff in. I’ve raised you to be a warrior priest. As I turn up the fire, as gold and silver is placed in the fire, impurities rise to the top and I scrape them off—to be remembered no more. It has to be at a place where it’s golden, where I can see my face in your reflection.”

So, brothers and sisters, know that there is an exam at every level—a mid-exam and then a final. God must know that we are ready and equipped to face the challenges that await us at the next level because there is no point sending us there if we’ll just get beat down when we get there.

So don’t hate the process. Don’t get mad at the silversmith and try to jump out the fire before it’s time. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4.

(Based off of Apostle Jones’ sermon, Approved for the Next Level)