fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Staying Spiritually Alert

Isaiah 38:1-7

 

j0438492Maintaining a state of spiritual alertness may be difficult when we’re faced with challenges, particularly if we were unprepared spiritually or emotionally. Last week’s study revealed how there is a great divide between seeking God’s will and true worship of Him; this week’s lesson shows us how we bridge the gap. To worship God in truth involves knowing God’s heart and remaining in His presence (by keeping alert of our spirituality). Maintaining spiritual alertness requires that we adhere to certain truths about our Lord.  In our study of Hezekiah, we learn that he maintained spiritual alertness, despite the troubles facing him.

 

Staying spiritually alert requires an ever present awareness of the following seven principles revealed in Hezekiah’s life (Outline by Sandy Maddox)

 

1.      Vs 1: In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus sys the LORD, ‘Set your ousein order, for you shall die and not live.’

God Speaks Personally – God spoke “personally” to Hezekiah.  God speaks to us through his word, our friends & family, a pastor giving a sermon; or sometimes He communicates directly to our heart and moves us to action or understanding. The important lesson in this scripture is to hear God’s voice when He is speaking to you.

 

2.      Vs 2: The Hezekiah turned his face to the wall…

Position Yourself – Hezekiah physically moved himself to be in a quiet place with the Lord; after the terrible news, he needed a moment with God. How do we bring ourselves to a moment with God? Is our first reaction to call a family member or friend when we’re faced with a problem? “Turning to the wall” signifies that Hezekiah did not want to call on anyone but his God of salvation.

 

3.      Vs 2: …and prayed to the Lord.

Petition the Lord – Hezekiah went straight to the source where he knew he would find comfort. He appealed to God, seeking Him. He had witnessed God’s mighty hand and knew that He is the only one to deliver him from death that was called upon him.

 

4.      Vs 3: and said, “Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have waked before You in truth and with a while heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.”

Present your past and your purpose – Hezekiah knew he was a faithful servant. Unlike his father, Ahaz, who didn’t trust in God and sought the help of a nation that God would soon bring judgment upon, Hezekiah only looked to the Lord.

 

5.      Vs 3: And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Pour out – Hezekiah cried out to God. He had no anger, bitterness or resentment; but he had tears of agony. Hezekiah had just been told he was going to die; he believed it because he believes in God’s promises; he had nothing left to say or do. He already pleaded his case before the great Judge and there was nothing left to do. How many times have we felt defeated in our situations – where there is nothing left we can do but pour ourselves with ourcries.

 

6.      Vs 4&5: Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah, saying, “Go an say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the LORD, the god of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.”

Prayers are heard – Although there is no telling how long before God told Isaiah He would add fifteen years to his life, we know that Hezekiah remained faithful and spiritually alert during the difficult time. How long are we willing to wait before we lose faith in our Lord? God hears prayers before they are prayed! Isa 65:24. Knowing this truth about our Lord helps us maintain spiritual alertness.

 

7.      Vs 7: “This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that he LORD will do this thing that He has spoken.

Promise of His presence provided – God is a keeper of promises. When we know this truth, there is no disconnect between seeking God’s will for us and worshiping Him in truth.

 

*As we model a lifestyle of spiritual alerness, we open ourselves to receiving God’s grace, guidance and the ability to discern His perfect will.

 

Thank you, Sandy, for another great lesson! We look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on this lesson. Blessings.

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sharing Psalms

Sharing Psalms by Julie McAllen

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” (Eph 5:19)

I am musically challenged. Not a good singer, don’t play an instrument. But I can write. Therefore, I will spare you my hymns and spiritual songs and share with you instead my psalms.

I was greatly affected by Sue’s letter to Linda titled “A place of silence.” It awakened me. Sometimes we forget we’re hungry until we smell someone else’s cookin’. I had not forgotten God, in fact I was praying daily, sharing counsel with others, reading my Bible, engaged in the things of the Christian life. But….when I read Sue’s letter about the simple silence before her God, I remembered it had been too long since I’d felt the intimacy.

What’s so perfect about the timing is that I had been trying to write about the topic, “Intimacy with Christ.” It had not been flowing so that piece remains in fragmented notes until I go back to it. Maybe now I won’t have to as I think this covers it.

What I love about keeping a personal journal is how it reveals my own story and how God is answering prayer. I never know it until I read what’s been written. Has this ever happened to you? I highly recommend journaling and keeping a prayer notebook for this purpose. What astounds me is how much my recent journals sound more like the psalms. Has anyone else had this experience of writing psalms? Please share them, we’re encouraged to at Ephesians 5:19.

As brought out in my earlier post on “The uncertainty of Abraham”, God’s promises are often revealed over the course of years, but between my journal and this blog, I noticed how God worked in my life within a simple week. Thank you Sue, for being transparent in sharing your intimate time with the Lord, that I can feel free to share with others how He touched me this past week. I did not realize the answer had come until I went back and noticed the dates in my journal.

March 22, 2009 (personal journal entry)

…Lord, how much longer? Lord, keep me free from desire that leads no where. My hope is in you because it does not lead to disappointment. Refresh me again, Lord, with your love. I will carry this cross, I will walk through this valley. In your strength, Lord, I can bear it. Give to me your strength, your hope Jesus. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross. I value your discipline, Lord. Though it pains me now, I understand your desired fruit and I welcome the transformation. Let my heart be fully devoted to you and no longer entangled with the sin of divided loyalties. I am no part of this world or the things in it. Separate me as you see fit Lord. Continue calling me to Yourself. I will listen. I will hear. Give me the strength to act…..

…..where do I find you God? Are you on the top of the mountain? In a cave? Cradling a newborn baby? In the temple or stain-glassed sanctuary? God, you are always present and I find you closest to my heart in union with the pen.  As I pour out my spirit on the page I recognize it as your own and we are one. The ink bleeds into the blood and the page becomes my daily bread….(end of journal entry)

These were journal entries written BEFORE I read Sue’s blog “A place of silence.” As I read them now, I see how hungry I was to feel His presence. I was also praying for refreshment and strength in a personal, ongoing battle that tends to wear me out. A couple days went by and Linda emailed me mentioning she’d like to write about  prayer. I made some suggestions, but she answered back that her intention was to write about how prayer brings us into God’s presence. This is an excerpt from my reply back in the early morning of Thursday, March 26, 2009.

March 26, my email to Linda
……Here I am at 4:30 am. He woke me up TO PRAY!!!! In our intimacy, I brought someone before Him and wrote about the answer God gave to me in his behalf. Well, so I had to plug in and send him a letter. So here I am on line.

How appropriate that I open YOUR letter revealing the one prayer topic I did not suggest. Yes, of course! How prayer brings us into God’s presence!!

After reading Sue’s post on silence before the Lord, I was saddened that I had not felt His intense presence for a while. I skipped my Tuesday morning Bible study so that I could have the day with Him. I’m glad I did. We spent the morning in prayer. But this morning (2:30 am Thursday) I totally felt His presence. Again, His timing, not mine. Wakes me up just to be with me. Yes, I got out my ‘anal retentive prayer notebook’ and turned to my Thursday prayers and He just sorta said, “no, not that….YOU!!” and we well, ya know, did the inner chambers thing. When we had our fill of love, I brought my friends before Him and He gave me a particular message for the person I wrote to before replying to you. No, I don’t have any message for you…unless you gather something out of this. I gathered something out of yours because it was about the very thing I just experienced, the presence of God in prayer…
(end of email to Linda)

Have I been refreshed? Have I been strengthened by God’s presence? I will let my “psalms” speak. I wrote these in those wee morning hours of March 26 after He woke me up to pray and bring me into His presence. I see God at work. Through Sue’s blog and Linda’s intent to discuss prayer, I end up sharing this experience which fulfills my earlier intent to write on the intimacy we share with Christ as His bride. Sisters, this is fellowship!

March 26, 2009 about 3 or 4 am (after a wonderful worship experience with my Lord.)

Again He comes to me

at this late hour?

I am His bride

and He wraps me in His love.

I open the Song of Songs

and I have to blush

at the accuracy of it.

Don’t go. Remind me of our union.

But it is a wave

to catch a glimpse of

what was, what is, and what is to come.

 I thought you woke me up to pray for the others, but I realize you just wanted to be with me! Thank you Lord, thank you for calling me into your chambers.

 You are all that is too wonderful to me

You surround me, enfold me

with your love.

I drink in your forgiveness

and become one with your body.

We enter the sanctuary together

before your Father

He becomes my Father

and we celebrate our marriage.

Welcome to the Feast

you fill me with wine.

 Precious Lord, Precious Jesus

ever near, ever present

I am drunk with your love.

Now that we are married

let us have children together

brought forth in blood.

How wise you are Lord.

(end of journal entries on March 26, 2009)

No matter what our battle, God in His wisdom has chosen His love to be our shield. I went forth the next day so full of His love, I had no thoughts of any stress in my life. Reading through this I see how He chose to strengthen me. Our God is an awesome God. This glow continued like “some really strong weed, Dude.” Sorry for the comparison, but it was like a high I thought should’ve worn off by now!

Saturday, March 28, 2009 (journal entry)

Thank you Lord. You are filling me still even now. I surrender, I surrender. You are King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You reveal everything to me through your Spirit. It’s too much–things too wonderful for me! Overwhelmed I bow before your throne of Grace so completely awed by your Presence. I am an object of His mercy! (end of journal entry)

I am so thankful for writing. I notice prayers answered, I notice His Spirit speak through my hands put to page.  I share this because I also know that as we connect with God personally, our stories connect with the body of Christ as evidenced through the communications shared with Linda and Sue and see how God used them in answer to my hunger for His presense.  Our God is an awesome God.

If you are gifted in music, please sing out! Those of us “musically challenged” are encouraged by it. If you are a writer of psalms, please share them with us! To the Father’s praise. (Eph 5:19)

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

March 29, 2009 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Uncertainty of Abraham

 The Uncertainty of Abraham by Julie McAllen

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.

 2Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. (Gen 22:1-3)

And we all say “wow, look at the faith of Abraham!”  Amen.

We marvel at people who respond so quickly and obediently to God’s direction for their life and wonder if we can ever match that kind of faith. Abraham questioned God’s pronouncement against Sodom, yet he doesn’t even hesitate with his own son? Rather, he gets up the next morning ready for the sacrifice. Amazing!

How can I have that kind of faith? The answer that came to me was surprising: Through uncertainty. I assert that our questioning and uncertain waiting periods are a necessary part of great faith. Abraham’s journey taught me this.

Trace back the years before the birth of Isaac. Abram is 75 years old when he is promised that a great nation would come forth through him (Gen 12:1-4).

If you had the promise of great-great grandchildren naturally you’d expect a child first. Did he put faith in the promise that a child would come through him?

3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” (Gen 15:3)

A little impatient there Abe, aren’t ya? Abraham not having been given enough details, tries to “help” God out by coming up with solutions of his own to fulfill what God has already promised will come. How often do I do that?

 4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

 6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Gen 15:4-6)

Through the uncertainty, Abram is given more details about the promise. The son will come through his own body.

 1Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
 Abram agreed to what Sarai said.
(Gen 16:1, 2)

Tired of waiting, Abram now trusts a son will come through his body, but is obviously uncertain about the reproductive qualities of his wife Sarai so he agrees once again to “help” God fulfill his promise. How often do I do that?

Needing further reassurance, God visits Abram to fill in more details…..

15God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”  (Gen 17:15, 16)

It’s at this point that Abraham laughs! He questions God even as He reveals the name of the son and time he will be born through the aged bodies of Abraham and Sarah (Gen 17:17-22). How often do I do that?

Sarah and Abraham both know what God has promised and yet they laugh at the absurdity of it. Never the less, as chosen vessels for His purpose, they find themselves holding baby Isaac 25 years after that first promise given to unsuspecting Abram (Gen 21:1-5). A man of great faith at that time? I don’t think so. He BECAME a man of great faith as he waited on God. Slowly over the course of 25 years, God unfolded the plan. 25 years!! What have I been praying about for 25 years? Honestly, I get worn out just waiting for a week!

As Christians, we are promised God hears our prayers. And we wait. And we wait. And we wait. Maybe even 25 years. Is there any purpose in the wait? What does Abraham’s journey teach us? Go back to the opening verses in Genesis 22 and notice the first words “sometime later God tested Abraham.”  The unquestioning faith we all desire to have is built during the waiting period of slow revelation. Only “sometime later” could Abraham have the faith that led him to tell  his servants both he and Isaac would return (Gen 22:4, 5). Only “sometime later” could Abraham have certainty that God would provide (Gen 22:8). He fully trusted that a great nation would come through Isaac not because “God said so” that first day, but because he watched the answer unfold through many years. How could He possibly doubt it by then? The waiting period was good for him. How often do I say that?

 17By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. (Hebrews 11:17-19)

If we desire great faith, we will wait as the answer unfolds and we WILL be tested. So consider it all joy when you face trials, look what they produce! (James 1:2, 3).

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

March 23, 2009 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | | 3 Comments

A Place of Silence

I received an endearing email from my “spiritual soul” sister.   The message I received from Sue was in line with the passages in Isaiah I covered earlier, mainly that the people of Judah needed to find their strength in “quiet confidence” in God (Isa 30:15). This is an amazing testimony of one who was blessed to experience being in the presence of God. With Sue’s permission, I have published her message that she sent me so that others may also be encouraged and be moved to finding their “quietness”with God. 

Linda, I just have to share with you something that happened to me this morning. I needed some “be still time” myself (yes, I remind  even myself of that quite often …not just you! LOL) and I felt led to go to a prayer chapel that my friend showed me. It seems like lately I have felt so much like I am constantly going to God in prayer for things that we need and in prayer about all of the things that are troubling me right now both personally, for others, and for our Country.  So I just felt this overwhelming feeling of wanting to be alone with God for a while.

The Cathedral is absolutely beautiful and really the closest thing to the big cathedrals that I saw in Manhattan when we were there.  The chapel is located directly behind the huge sanctuary and you have to walk down the side of it to get to the chapel in the back.  The organist was playing beautiful music in the cathedral and no one else was around the church at all. At that moment in time I almost felt like all of that was there just for me alone.  As I walked in to the doors to the little chapel there is a sign that greeted me that says. “This is a place of silence. Please maintain silence at all times.”  So I sat down in the pew and did just that. I was silent.  Not just in my voice, but in my mind.  I didn’t feel like talking or thinking or feeling anything. And what was on that sign was my lesson for the day.

I didn’t do anything except just sit there in the quiet stillness of that beautiful place but before long an overwhelming sense of Gods presence came over me.  I knew that “I knew that I knew” that God was right there with me. There were three other people in the prayer chapel and they too just sat there in silence. I wondered if they felt what I was feeling.  It was as if the rest of the world while still out there was closed off from us.  We were on Holy Ground and we had been drawn there by a loving Father that wanted to just spend time with us.   And it was amazing that all of the desire to seek answers to the things I have been praying about was gone.  I didn’t feel that I had to say a word.  I felt like all that God wanted from me was my presence. And He was thrilled that I was there.  I could honestly feel His joy.  And the most wonderful part to me was that all that I wanted of Him was His presence. And being there gave me such joy too!

My thoughts turned to those of a loving parent who’s children have grown and gotten busy with their own lives.  It seems like they only call or stop by when they want or need something.  And I could almost feel how much that parent would love it if they just came by to spend some time with them without wanting a thing. How much joy it would bring if the children would come by just to be present to the parent and not seeking anything and needing any help.  I wanted to do that with my Heavenly Father this morning.  I felt like I was actually giving God something very special.  And the amazing part was that it was a gift of…..me!  I can not tell you how much joy came over me when I came to realize that God loves me so much that He really desires to spend time with me.  It is as if I have always known this in my head, but today it got through to my heart.  And as I gave Him that gift, He gave me the gift of His presence in a very real way right back to me.  He only wanted to be with me and not ask anything of me or need anything from me.  He literally lifted all my cares on to his shoulders without me saying a word.  I didn’t have to even ask. I didn’t even realize that He had done it. But I could feel that He understood every care and I have such a compete trust that He is taking care of it all and doesn’t need my help.  “Cast all of your cares upon me, for I care for you!”  What a blessing!  He actually took my cares without my having to even “cast” them His way.  What a simple lesson.  “This is a place of silence.  Please maintain silence at all times.”    I have such an awareness of God’s love for me that I know now that all I need to do is truly….”Be still and KNOW that I am God.”  Come into His presence.  I get it now in a deeper way then I have ever before.  He created us for His own pleasure.  We only have to open ourselves to being present to Him.  I want to learn how to do that every day all day long.  Surely it is not just something He wants from us every now and then?  There must be more to learn about this Linda. I just feel it.

Linda, I so wanted to share all of this with you.  I hope that it will encourage you.  I so want you to feel how much God really loves us in the same way that I felt it today. I feel that my lesson on being in God’s presence is not over yet.  There is more to it.  But in God’s time He will open my eyes and my heart to it.  I have a feeling I will return to that prayer chapel very soon.  I love you.  Sue

March 22, 2009 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Discerning God’s Will

Isaiah 29:13-16; 30:1-3, 15-16

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The passages reviewed in class today centered doing the will of God, despite our circumstances. However, as it was brought out today, we can’t know God’s will until we know what it is to worship God. The people of Judah had substituted lip service and empty ritualism for true worship. The disregarded God as Creator and they felt they could handle all circumstances on their own. This is evident by the fact that the people of Judah looked to Egypt for help when they were coming against Assyria. They didn’t consider the God who initially brought them out of that very land! However, judgment would fall on them and they would be put to shame (Isa 30:3). It’s very sad that Judah didn’t acknowledge that their strength relied on “trust and quiet confidence” in the Lord (Isa 30:15). It’s important to know the true worship of God because there is a great disconnect between worship and discerning God’s will.

 

Discerning God’s will begins with true worship (by Sandy Maddox)

a) How would you define true worship? Praise and devotion: coming into God’s presence; acknowledging God as Creator of all things. (Please feel free to add more in your comments).

 

The 7 conditions of worship:

  1. Reverence – allows us to focus on the holiness of God (Isa 6:1)
  2. Relationship – to experience an intimate presence
  3. Repentance – a turning away form sin and turning to Him with a clean heart and willing spirit (Isa 6:5, 8)
  4. Responsibilty – to commit your life to serving Him (Isa 6:8)
  5. Resources – God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory. His provisions are abundant (Phil 4:19; Isa 58:11)
  6. Recognize Rebellion – anything less than complete submission, trust and obedience to the total will of God is rebellion (Isa 30:1,2)
  7. Reward – God will bless us with joy, peach, fulfillment, purpose and eternal life (Isa 30:15)

Personal Evaluation:

I seek God’s direction…

a) Daily, for every decision I make whether large or small

b) Sometimes, if I have time for a daily devotion with the Lord

c) Only for the really big, important decisions I have to make

d) I seldom give it any thought

 

This I know…

1)      I can discern the Lord’s will by worshiping Him in spirit and truth

2)      I can discern His will by acknowledging Him as my Creator and giving Him priority in my life

3)      I can know His will when I am obedient and ask for His guidance

4)      I can walk in His will when I patiently, consistently and confidently trust Him instead of choosing my own actions that “seem good for me”

 

We’re so thankful to Sandy for a great lesson she taught today. We look forward to hearing your comments. God bless you.

March 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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