fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

The Ultimate Test of Faith

prayer02

Psalm 103:1, 2

“Bless the LORD, O my soul;

And all that is within me, bless His holy name!

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

And forget not all His benefits.

 

 

Lately I’ve been stirred to write about prayer, praise and worship. I hadn’t realized I was this focused on praising our mighty God until I flipped through the recent journals I’ve written; they’re about praising the One who delivers, who heals and who remembers us.  I suppose this special interest in writing about praising God is primarily because of the challenges I’ve been facing in recent months. Feeling overwhelmed by life’s demands, feelings of insecurity, not to mention constant struggle with imperfection is enough to make us surrender to defeat.  However, as challenges become mountainous, so does my desire to worship God; it’s an automatic reaction of my spirit.   Desperate situations tend to push some people over the edge…but a faithful believer tends to gravitate to praising God more passionately. When our faith is tested, do we praise God for the opportunity we have been given to experience His saving power? When we’re in fear, do we exalt in the God whom we know will deliver us through any circumstance?

 

The enemy wants nothing more than to keep us from praising our Creator. His tactics to draw us away from worship and praise include discouragement, dissentions among friends and family, confusion, temptation, doubt and fear (among others).  He is so sure of himself – his plan of attack is to be relentless enough that we crack under pressure and cause us to weaken our faith in the Lord. Despite the attacks, however, we can speak words of adoration to God where we are being carried to a triumphal place. We can be thankful because only God can provide the clarity we need to walk through the cloudiness in our circumstances. Nothing may seem clear to us at the time, but only God knows where we are and where we are going; He is guiding us every step of the way. Praising God while facing trials brings us to a peaceful rest because we know He is in control of our entire lives and the outcome of ALL situations.

 

The secret of praise is not to wait until we’re already experiencing peace. On the contrary, we praise regardless of our circumstances. When we are broken in spirit or feeling weary and defeated, that is the time to sing songs of praises louder and worship with more intensity than you we have! If you do, you can rest assure you will abide in God’s peace. The ultimate test of faith is not that we overcome our trials as thankful victors, but whether we can still thank and praise God while in the midst of the trials. It’s so easy to entreat God with our needs when we’re desperate, and to forget to praise Him along the way.  This is why Paul reminds us at 1Thess 5:17,18 to pray without ceasing, but always give thanks to God. Thanklessness is a trait of the unbeliever; to remain thankful and to praise God while in the midst of challenges is truly a test of faith to a believer. Let us hold fast to our faithfulness and worship our Lord and Savior no matter our circumstances! God bless you.

Advertisements

May 26, 2009 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Shout to the Lord!

j0438548
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” – Psalm 95:6

“Oh, gives thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever!” – Psalm 107:1

“I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.” Psalm 7:17

“I will declare Your name to my brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You. – Psalm 22:22

The psalmists above couldn’t contain themselves – they testified to God’s mercies and goodness. The exuberance of these praises is meant to be contagious. Have you ever shared a song of worship at church and felt the energy and high spirit as you sang in union with the congregation? Some songs have brought me to tears!

The concept of prayer and worship is not a hesitant (or menial) matter. Sometimes the reason for hesitancy when it comes to prayer is the uncertainty of whether we are in line with His will in the situation. Other times, pressures and challenges may keep us from being in a worshipful mode. Some believe that to give thanks to God one must FEEL thankful, but that’s not what Paul taught. 1Thess 5:16-18 – Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Giving thanks is not an expression of emotions, it is an act of the will – something you choose to do. Giving thanks calls for looking past negative circumstances and accepting them for ultimate good purposes; it calls for acknowledging God as the One who has allowed events in your life for the fulfillment of His purposes. You choose to thank and praise God because you know that the pain you’re enduring is an opportunity for Him to demonstrate His power, grace and love.

Not sure what to praise God for when you feel heavy with burden? The entire Psalm 150 is a wonderful worship song. Read it – over and over. Memorize it if you can and when you recite it, your reason for excitement for praising the Lord will become clearer to you.

“Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His Sactuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the LORD!”

-Psam 150

We worship and praise God for his “mighty deeds” – creator of the heavens and earth; He caused the mountains to form, the seasons to appear on schedule and the waters of the earth to keep their positions. He sent His son to earth to die for our sins; He loved us first and provided a way so that we can be reconciled to Him. God has answered prayers; He’s performed miracles; He is the great healer. He causes Himself to be found by prodigals, in fact, he promises those who search for Him that he will let Himself be found. Praise God for being the ONLY promise-keeper we will ever know! God never changes; He is the same God who promised Abraham, Isaac and David that their nation will be blessed and it was! The messiah came forth from their lineage.  Never let it become insignificant or a drudgery to praise the Creator. Whether in prayer, song or thought, let us lift up our hands and praise the One who Was, who Is and is to come!

What do you praise God for today??

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Expressions | , , , | 6 Comments

Who Am I? by Casting Crowns

I happened to be listening to this song and started singing along with the words.  At an particular moment, I stopped to realize a verse in the song that I found so profound (although I’ve heard this song many times).  “Who am I that the eyes that see my sin would look on me with love and watch me rise again?”  I thought to myself how insignificant I am compared to the 6 billion (plus) people on the earth and all of God’s other creations, that He considers me His own.  I thought you would enjoy the song, too.  God Bless.

May 14, 2009 Posted by | Expressions | , , , | Comments Off on Who Am I? by Casting Crowns

The New Creation

CB064038The New Creation by Julie McAllen

I have spent a lot of my Christian life misled by the small details. Believers divide themselves on the minor issues and proclaim their ultimate saving truth based on their interpretation of peripheral topics in the Bible. I love the peripherals, don’t get me wrong. I think God gives the extra pages of the Bible for those of us fascinated with puzzles! But through my walk with Jesus, I’ve learned that the…THE… most important truth is the death and resurrection of Christ. I echo Paul’s words at 1 Cor 2:2

2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

This is the foundational truth by which I stand: I died, and am a new creation in Christ.

20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

3Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3, 4)

Because of the deception of the false prophet that I lived and served under, I am very careful to test every spirit (1 John 4:1) and bring every teaching back to that cross. It is of FIRST importance (1 Cor 15:3)
With that in mind, I proceed to answer some questions about how I interpret the Word of Life.

What is our ultimate hope? My immediate thought is that it is not a retirement plan in heaven. It is this:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

I know God did not save me just to live happily ever after in heaven. He is doing a work in me now. A work that is impossible for me to do of my own will. A work that is impossible if I’m only looking at Jesus as a good teacher or attempt to follow a set of religious moral laws. He wants to conform me into the likeness of his Son. That is my hope and His work. This is not possible without His indwelling Spirit. This is the new creation!

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor 5:17)

We must not forget that mankind was created in God’s image. God is Spirit (John 4:24). Therefore, it was God’s intention all along to give us a spiritual body as well as an earthly body. He created us to be flesh and spirit. Adam was formed from the dust and given the opportunity to eat from any tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Therefore, he could partake of that other tree mentioned, the tree of life (Gen 2:9). He did not get that chance. After the sin, the tree of life was blocked to humankind with these words.

22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen 3:22-24)

We learn that Adam, the man of dust, was not meant to live forever, he had to eat from the tree of life to receive the gift of everlasting life. Mankind’s search has been to get to that guarded tree of life. Without it, he is only dust and to dust he will return.

45So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. (1 Cor 15:45)

This is the role of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to bring us to life, for if we remain in Adam only, we remain dead. We do not attain everlasting life by law or dutifully following the scriptures. The scriptures intent is to lead us to Christ himself who IS life.

6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

39You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40)

7He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Rev 2:7)

Jesus claims that he IS life, we must come to him. What are we doing when we take communion then? Are we not eating his flesh and drinking his blood as we proclaim his death? We were made in God’s image and through Christ we can now participate in the divine nature which Adam could not attain (2 Pe 1:4). The way to the tree of life is unblocked. Jesus is the way. Partake!

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. (John 6:53)

We were all born dead, under condemnation, and as enemies of God.

13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, (Col 2:13)

17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:17-19)

21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—(Col 1:21)

If we were dead, condemned, and enemies already then we NEEDED a savior. So when do the dead come to life?

21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (1 Cor 15:21-23)

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36)

11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:11-13)

Because I am a new creation in Christ, born of His Spirit, and no longer condemned, I know I have already been resurrected. Flesh gives birth to flesh and Spirit gives birth to Spirit (John 3:6). If that is the case, then I believe 1 Corinthians 15 is applicable to all those who partake in the divine nature now having been born-again.

42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
(1 Cor 15:42-49)

Yes, our flesh is here on the earth, but we are seated in heaven already (Eph 2:6). We have the victory over the king of death as we have been transferred into the kingdom of light (Col 1:12-13). Yet we groan in these bodies as we await ALL of creation to be liberated by the Spirit’s work that they too enjoy the blessing and freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:18-27)

So that brings us to a very important second question. How does our ultimate hope impact the present?
When we grasp WHY God chose to birth us through His Spirit, it’s EVERYTHING!!! Our bodies are not our own. My time, my resources, my very life belongs to Christ. Otherwise, I’m just as dead as Adam. He has made us a holy priesthood to intercede on behalf of that creation subjected to frustration (1 Pe 2:9; Ro 8:20). So where do I serve?

8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:8-10)

I see in this that my salvation was completely in His hands. I have to remind myself of this often when frustrated with those not yet in Christ. It is by His grace, not my efforts (Romans 9:16). And He decided the work He had in mind for me even before He called me to Himself. We do not decide where to serve, He does. When we died to ourselves there at the cross, and were resurrected in Christ, our bodies became the temple in which he dwells. He moves us to serve where He already decided. And that changes EVERYTHING!!

To the glory of the Father, let the Son shine in us all. May discussions about the New Creation not distract us, but always bring us back to the cross, the place of our new birth through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

May 13, 2009 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | 1 Comment

RSVP Required

ISAIAH 55:1-13

thanksgiving-feastGod’s people in Isaiah’s time were going through a period of spiritual hunger. While in Babylonian captivity, they didn’t have God’s protection, blessings or spiritual sustenance. However, Isaiah was inviting them to return to their Maker.

 1“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;  And you who have no money come, buy and eat Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost.
    2“Why do you spend money for what is not bread,  And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,  And delight yourself in abundance.  3“Incline your ear and come to Me Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you, According to the faithful mercies shown to David.
    

Isaiah invites everyone!  This invitation was to eat and drink of God’s goodness to the point of fullness. I especially love the fact that those who wished to accept the invitation didn’t have to bring anything along for entry to the spiritual banquet. God’s grace comes free – a gift to us. So many times we feel we have to work to earn grace; but God had only one requirement for the Isrealites (and for us today) – repentance.  Along with repentance comes the acknowledgement of Christ as our Savior. God’s grace comes as a result of having been redeemed through the blood of Jesus; this gift of grace is given freely.

 

 The food and drink being made available is God’s spiritual truths and blessings. Unlike the spiritual junk food the world offers, God’s food is satisfying all our needs. Today, we hear of economic decline, loss of  jobs and homes, families under attack, etc… We’ve become an anxious and panic stricken society. However, this is not the case with those who have taken advantage of God’s invitation to feed at His spiritual table. Those who are spiritually well-feed have a healthy outlook on life because their thinking involves faith in God; they rest their hope on God’s promises and do not give in to fear or anxiety. Spiritual junk food is toxic to the body and the mind and is destructive to the spirit.

 

 6)Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. 7Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.

 God’s people were admonished to seek the Lord. Why? Because of their sin, they were far removed from God’s presence that in order for them to experience God’s blessings again, they would have to search him out. Calling upon Him “while He is near” didn’t mean that God would grow impatient and eventually depart. The uncertainty is not with God, but rather with those who need to be calling upon Him. If they continue to resist God, their hearts will eventually grow hard toward him and the end result will be disastrous. Having a heart hardened for God totally removes Him from being in the place He can be found.

 

     8“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.  10“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;

 One of the promises we can rest on is that God forgives freely. This may seem like a casual thought until you have experienced total forgiveness by God. His plans and holiness surpass all human comprehension. Verses 8-10 help us to see that we don’t always have to understand His way – they are too great! God is not looking for analysis, but worship that rests on knowing He is a keeper of promises.

 

 11So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty,Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.  Verse 11 is probably my most favorite scripture in the bible. When I start to feel overwhelmed, I remember God’s promises to me (and this verse), knowing He will deliver me.  The message Isaiah was conveying to God’s people was that although they were in a fallen state, God would still keep the promise He made to Abraham. The nation needed to know that God would be faithful to His word; yet, undeserving and unworthy, Judah would be restored.

 

The book of Isaiah is a wonderful book in that so many of us have either been in “captivity” or may be there right now in their lives. God’s people were delivered; He kept His promise to them to restore them to a great nation once again. Instead of being in spiritual starvation, they experienced an abundance of blessings.  We’re invited to the same banquet; will we RSVP?

May 8, 2009 Posted by | Expressions | , , , | Comments Off on RSVP Required

%d bloggers like this: