fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Who Lights the Incense?

WHO LIGHTS THE INCENSE? By Julie McAllen

INSTRUCTIONS: Remove incense sticks from box. Place stick firmly in a suitable and secure heat and flame resistant holder (not provided). Light tip of stick then blow out flame so tip glows.

I’ve never actually read the instructions on a box of incense before writing them down here; I can usually figure it out on my own just fine thank you very much. I trust that is the case with those who will read this article too.

There are a lot of things we use every day which require no need to consult the manufacturer. And because we take for granted the ease with which it comes to us, we assume others know also and therefore feel no need to explain to them what, how, or why we do what we do.

For example: I burn incense because it smells good, so I light up a stick and position it near me for my pleasure.

Well duh.

I’ve taken the act of burning incense for granted so long that it never occurred to me to read the instructions or write about it. So why am I bothering to do so now? Because I wonder if that is also the case with prayer. After all, no one needs instructions on how to pray, even atheists in foxholes figure that one out without reading any manual. Yet recently I was led to investigate the instructions in the Bible about prayer and how it relates to incense. For the believer who prays regularly, this article may seem…..well…kind of like the idiot instructions on a box of incense. Yet most of us do question at times whether or not God really hears us or how and if He already knows our needs before we bring them to Him why does He ask us to pray? So, it can be to our benefit to read the instructions in the manual and learn more about the mechanics of prayer to increase our confidence in continuing in it.

The essence of prayer is to meet with God. In addressing the topic of prayer, the apostle Paul wrote that he prayed with his mind as well as his spirit (1 Cor 14:14-15). So there is an engagement of both mind and spirit in the act of prayer. The things our minds wrestle with bring us to Him with questions and concerns and in the process He unveils our hearts. The connection to our Creator happens when the intellect is stripped and gives way to the spirit’s prayer. We may leave the prayer closet with unanswered questions but gain the peace of God that surpasses all knowledge (Phil 4:7).

A recent experience in prayer reminded me of this and is the inspiration for this article.

I know God is not a squirrel…. but….

There are days I look very forward to prayer and there are days when I admit, it’s more out of duty or obligation in a rush to get through the list. Other tasks weigh on my mind.

It seems the past few days have had interruptions and distractions keeping me from hearing God’s voice, but I knew today would be quiet so last night I went to bed looking forward to a morning of prayer.

I’m blessed to live on the river with beautiful views surrounding my home. Downstairs I have a favorite spot known as “the prayer chair.” It’s positioned near an east facing window making it a perfect spot to receive the morning sun. Upstairs I have an office with another comfortable chair and floor pillows for kneeling, but since it’s on the west side of the house, it’s not as welcoming in the morning. But this morning beckoned me to the tall east facing windows behind my kitchen table. I tossed the pillows on the floor, peered through the pines and absorbed the creation by watching the sun sparkle on the river below. It’s not hard to begin intercessions when He makes it so easy to come in with thanksgiving and praise.

As the Spirit opened, I found myself receiving a lesson on the struggle between intellect and love, the mind and the heart. I received a wonderful word on incense which I wrote down for another time. As I prayed for others on my list, He relieved my intellect and gave in its place wordless groans (Romans 8:26). I trusted the Spirit’s prayer more than my own and I let it flow. Then the hunger increased, I asked to know Him more intimately, to know He was near. I asked for a touch, a vision, anything.

Just then, I opened my eyes face-to-face with a gray squirrel staring at me through the window. Only a sheet of glass stood between the two feet of space that separated us. I watched him nervously jitter from one end of the window to the other cautiously checking my eyes to see if they followed him. Finally, he was gone, off to gather his provisions. And once again, with humor God reminded me that yes, He was very near. I was allowed this understanding only by remaining still and silent on my knees where I’d be able to meet with Him face-to-face.

I didn’t begin my prayers on January 10, 2012 asking to understand incense. I was actually just going through my usual Tuesday morning list. I came in with my mind and it’s petitions toward God and as I was still before Him, my mind gave way to praying in the Spirit. When it did, I heard a question.

“Who lights the incense?”

And a flood of understanding filled me. Whenever this happens, I scramble for a notebook. This is what I managed to capture.

Prayer is like incense: January 10, 2012

The light from heaven comes. We receive the fire and prayers escape our lips. They ascend to heaven in the smoke of sweet incense. Do not release this until you’re lit with the fire from Him. For He is the one delighting in the aroma of your prayer.

If I want to delight in the smell of a stick of incense, I must first go to it and light it. Then I may enjoy the fragrance it brings to my nostrils.

How pleasant to be assured that what I pray to God has first been given His attention. He walked over to me and lit me. I am praying…..

Prayer is like incense. I’d read verses about that before but they never touched my heart as much as they do now.

May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering. (Psalm 141:2)

As I read the verse now, it connects with my experience and a blessed understanding comes to me, ‘my prayers are pleasing to God.’

In Exodus chapter 30, God’s people are given detailed instruction about the altar of incense. The priests of the old covenant ensured that incense was burned before the Lord morning and night. The altar on which this incense was burned was before the curtain that separated the holy place from the Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies in which the mercy seat of God was positioned above the ark of the testimony. The blessing in this arrangement includes “this is where I will meet with you.”

6You shall put this altar in front of the veil that is near the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is over the ark of the testimony, where I will meet with you. 7 Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; he shall burn it every morning when he trims the lamps. 8 When Aaron trims the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations. (Exodus 30:6-8)

This is a shadow of the new covenant privilege we have in prayer. The writer of Hebrews in the New Testament reminds Christians of those first covenant arrangements in chapter 9 where the construction of the earthly tabernacle is considered. He describes how the holy place and the Holy of Holies are separated by a veil. Priests were continually entering the outer tabernacle in their worship, but it was only the high priest who could enter the Holy of Holies. He entered with blood offered for himself and the sins of the people. (Heb 9:1-7)

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; (Heb 9:11)

When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are recognizing his role as our High Priest and the right given to us as kings and priests under the new covenant arrangement to participate in intercessory prayer.

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb 10:19—22)

By the blood of Christ, we enter the holy place. But how is it that we can meet with God who is in the Holy of Holies?

The instructions for the altar of incense in Exodus 30 included placing that incense in front of the curtain separating the holy place from the Holy of Holies. The sacred items of the ark of the covenant and mercy seat of God are in the Holy of Holies as described in Exodus 25:10-22.

What I found interesting in that account were the cherubim at the two ends of the mercy seat.

17 “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. 18 You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at one end and one cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat at its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall have their wings spread upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. 22 There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel. (Exodus 25:17-22).

Cherubim are first mentioned in Genesis 3:22-24 where we learn that their chief role is to guard God’s holiness. Cherubim are also upon the mercy seat of God which is in the Holy of Holies where sin can not enter. What does it mean?

When we enter prayer cleansed by the blood of Jesus, we are standing in a holy place where our prayers are offered to God. Just as Aaron kept the incense burning day and night in the old covenant arrangement, we as new covenant priests having washed our robes in the blood of the Lamb are seen before the throne of God serving Him day and night in His temple (Rev 7:14-15). The revelation continues with a scene in heaven of an angel holding a golden censer, or container, standing at the altar where incense is given to him “so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.” Picture that scene: we offer prayers, but wait on heaven to release angels bringing incense to mix with our prayers, “and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up to God out of the angel’s hand.” (Rev 8:3-4)

Angels are ministering spirits sent out to render service for the sake of those who inherit salvation (Heb 1:14) Angels were sent even to minister to Jesus (Matt 4:11). They continue to play a vital role in our lives bringing us close to God where we can “meet with Him” as we enter the temple.

That morning I was praying like a priest showing up for duty as I interceded by mindfully going through my list. It was like I was waiting not only for a stick of incense, but the fire to light it as well. As I continued in prayer, a hunger increased to draw near to God. You might say I became aware of the veil separating the holy place from the Holy of Holies. I noticed the transition of praying from my mind to praying in the Spirit. I felt the Presence of God as I gave into it. That is when He asked me, “who lights the incense?”

Jacob had a dream in which he saw angels ascending and descending on a ladder set on the earth reaching into heaven. The experience was so powerful that he exclaimed, “surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Gen 28:10-16) He had met with God through the intercession of angels. I like to think of them now coming down the ladder with empty bowls to fill with my prayers. They take them back up to heaven where God mixes His favorite incense with them.

But why does God need this mixture of prayer and incense? Aren’t my prayers enough? I found an answer to those questions in a book which is rich with the details of God’s holiness and requirements for fellowship with Him.

Sacrificial offerings are the major theme of the book of Leviticus. The grain offering reminded the people of God’s provision of life: daily bread. And they were given instruction as to what kind of bread to offer.

 11 ‘No grain offering, which you bring to the LORD, shall be made with leaven, for you shall not offer up in smoke any leaven or any honey as an offering by fire to the LORD. (Lev 2:11)

Leaven, is often a symbol for sin or the spread of evil according to the writers of the new testament (Matt 16:6, 1 Cor 5:6, Gal 5:9)

Leaven and honey were excluded because they both ferment; however, there was allowance for leavened bread in the offering of firstfruits at Leviticus 23:17. The church, like leavened bread, is composed of sinners. As we begin our prayers, certainly we want to pray in the will of God. But the truth of the matter is, we do not always know if we are. Our sincerity may in fact be tainted with leaven even when we are offering up our petitions and praise in the name of Jesus who is the sinless bread of heaven. Certainly we want our prayers to be pleasing to God, and as sinners we are welcomed to come before the altar even if leaven is present in our prayers, yet can these ascend into the Holy of Holies as the soothing aroma He desires? What can we learn from the shadow set forth in the old covenant?

12 As an offering of first fruits you shall bring them to the LORD, but they shall not ascend for a soothing aroma on the altar. (Lev 2:12)

So the question arises; how did God’s people present their grain offerings to become a soothing aroma to the Lord?

 14 ‘Also if you bring a grain offering of early ripened things to the LORD, you shall bring fresh heads of grain roasted in the fire, grits of new growth, for the grain offering of your early ripened things. 15 You shall then put oil on it and lay incense on it; it is a grain offering. 16 The priest shall offer up in smoke its memorial portion, part of its grits and its oil with all its incense as an offering by fire to the LORD. (Lev 2:14-16)

The offering with oil and frankincense became a soothing aroma to the Lord (Lev 2:1-2).

Throughout the Bible, oil is associated with the anointing of Holy Spirit and symbolizes the very presence of God (Ps 23:5, Acts 10:38, 1 John 2:20) Perhaps praying in the Spirit could be understood as a “leavened” prayer anointed with oil. It’s interesting to note that when James describes a spiritually sick member of the church, he is not instructed to pray himself but rather to call the elders to pray over him. They anoint the sick one with oil in the name of the Lord (James 5:14-16). When weak, we need the help of oil, or Holy Spirit, to pray.

God desires to hear back from the Spirit which He sent to us. Notice how James addresses this,

3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? (James 4:3-5)

God jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us. And so, we are encouraged to pray in the Spirit.

When the disciples were told to wait until the Holy Spirit was sent, they obediently returned to Jerusalem and waited. How? They were “continually in the temple praising God.” (Luke 24:49-53)

Exciting things happen when we wait while praising God.

2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4)

When our prayers are anointed with the oil of Holy Spirit and mixed with the incense of heaven, they become the smoke of the incense that pleases God because what pleases God is that we pray in His will. Though we may enter prayer with our own ideas, God desires His own will to be done and that is why He sends out angels to light the incense and bring our utterances back to Him as holy prayers. So incense is given into the angels censer and once mixed with our prayers, it’s filled with the fire of the altar and thrown to the earth where effects are seen (Rev. 8:3-5)! These become the prayers offered in God’s will.

14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  (1 John 5:14).

Heaven is moved whenever or however we pray, but when we stand in the holy place not knowing what to pray or dutifully go through a list, we may miss the intimacy of meeting with God if we’re not still and wait long enough to be “lit,” because it’s the smoke of the incense that reaches past the curtain to please our Father and send angels into action.

Prayer is an invitation. God beckons us there to instruct us what He has in store, not the other way around. We have absolutely no idea what God intends to do, how can we know the mind of God? How can our lists of prayers instruct Him what to do?

9but just as it is written,

   “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.”

10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:9-16)

We don’t know God’s will, and yet, we need a reason to come. So we show up with our lists hoping that He will answer these petitions as we envision them fulfilled, but “hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Ro 8:24-25) There it is again, we wait. As we wait, the oil is poured out and the angels come to light the incense, “In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Ro 8:26-27)

Can we pray without knowing all these details? Of course we can, but I realize now what has been occurring all this time: God enjoys incense, not just prayers. Though He is pleased that I’ve showed up with my first fruits as I start to relate to Him the things on my mind with it’s own words, He says, “she is weak and doesn’t know how to pray about this” and the Spirit begins to intercede. I’ve come in the holy place by the blood of Jesus, I’m positioned before the curtain, He is in the Holy of Holies with cherubim on the seat of mercy. Will He direct their attention toward me? Will “tongues of angels” be given to mix with incense so that my intellect no longer has cause to assert it’s own will over the perfect will of God? Angels descend from heaven with incense and then ascend back to heaven with my prayers and the smoke of this is pleasing to God and I sense my prayers becoming holy enough to go beyond the veil and into the Holy of Holies where I may meet Him there.

If you are no longer satisfied with prayers based on things seen and long for depth and intimacy with God, be assured He is delighted when we kindle the flames of our spiritual gifts and seek never to quench it’s fire. (2 Tim 1:6; 1 Thess 5:19-20)

The intimacy in prayer is as two lovers interlocked in a kiss. Solomon expressed the love between a Shulamite and the king with these words, “Draw me after you and let us run together! The king has brought me into his chambers.” (SS 1:4) When she speaks of his kisses they are described as “the kisses of his mouth.” The most satisfying prayers to God are those uttered in the name of Jesus whose words are planted on our lips. The lovers become one as they run together. The prayer of the perfect Son of God is a fragrant prayer, and it affects those around us even as the king’s scented oil caused the maidens to love him (SS 1:3).

Likewise, in relationship to our King Jesus, we take on the fragrance of Christ and are not only pleasing to God but also among those with whom we come into contact (2 Cor 2:15-16-17).

The fact is that if we have been saved by grace, we’ve also been raised up with Christ and are seated with Him in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6). How often do we push beyond the first heaven to meet with Him there? The Lord is seated in heavenly places where a man the apostle Paul describes was “caught up” where he heard “inexpressible words” (2 Cor 12:24). This doesn’t happen in a prayer life comprised only of 10 seconds of grace before your meal or exclamations of “help me Jesus” on an icy road, it happens, oddly enough, when we set prayer as a discipline, even entering it as a mindful and dutiful obligation or habit. An hour set aside for prayer is not to be confused with an act of legalism as if to prove to God our worth based on a record of time spent there. But when we are still before the Lord and wait, it’s a bit like those instructions on a box of incense as we’re “taken out of the box to be lit.”

May we never look at our prayers–or a box of incense–as unimportant again. Make it a habit to be still long enough to wait on the incense from heaven to be mixed as a pleasant fragrance to the One who is on the throne.

And so beloved, “build yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,” and of course….

Keep yourself in God’s love, (Jude 20-21)

Julie

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January 23, 2012 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions, Prayer Requests | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Who Lights the Incense?

Love Your Enemies

Love Your Enemies by Julie McAllen

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Lk 6:27-36)

It’s tough. Really tough. To be mocked, ignored, shunned, taken advantage of, the object of scorn? Suffering for thine enemies takes on many faces. Is the enemy the disease attacking your body from which you seek relief? When the pain is real, is it enough to know that Jesus “carried our sicknesses?” (Is 53:4) When the enemy is one who opposes your faith at work, home or even at church, is it enough to know that Jesus is familiar with suffering, despised and rejected by men? (Is 53:3) We hope in the resurrection, but when the enemy death steals those we love, we still suffer grief. It’s tough to love your enemies. Misery loves company, but misery also seeks immediate relief. We agree, “yes Lord, love my enemies, but get me out of this!”

Regardless of who or what that enemy proves to be, are we given any instruction from God in how we can cope with this perplexing and difficult command to “love your enemies?”

It’s easy to become a Christian. Get saved, go to church, wait for heaven. It’s easy, until you actually attempt to walk in the Spirit, fulfilling the words of Spirit that wage war against your flesh.

Love my enemy? Pray for those who persecute me!!? Who of us has not wanted to skip highlighting that one in our Bibles? We love to get our yellow markers out for the verses that tell us how loved WE are by God, but these ones are harder to accept, let alone apply. It makes little sense to our eyes of flesh when we see these words, but coming from Jesus, we know they are not mere red letters on a page, they are words of Spirit and life (John 6:63).

And so, we need his Spirit to accept them.

The apostle Paul, a saved and deeply spiritual man, outlined for our benefit the battle with sin he endured. Through it, he came to understand that within his flesh, or sin nature, nothing good resided there. (Ro 7:18) Paul did not stay in the infancy stage of his Christian life enjoying the bliss of salvation, he pressed on to maturity to know the suffering of Christ. He learned this through the battle of flesh and Spirit. Through this, Paul concluded it was impossible to please God or have fellowship with him in the flesh (Ro 8:8). What a wretched condition to love God and seek to please him, but fail time after time. Love your enemies? Try it in the flesh and you will know how far from God you really are.

Paul was humbled through his battle with the flesh and thereby could write with authority the truth of his own condition and ours. The truth? We’re hopeless, defeated and enslaved to the sin in us. Who will rescue us from this body of death? (Ro 7:24)

An authentic Christian life is not easy. It is the very real struggle of flesh and Spirit battling it out in our members. Proverbs 3:5 admonishes us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Yes, obey –even when it makes no sense to your flesh. Loving our enemies is such a daunting task. Our flesh resists it, our Spirit knows we are to obey. A battle ensues. What makes sense to the flesh is in opposition to God. And so, in Paul’s raw exposure of the battle, he offers the solution of how to win the war.

Life by the Spirit

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Ga 5:16-18)

What does this mean to “walk by the Spirit?” Is it to be continually in a love fest with the Lord overflowing with bliss? Oh that it were! But notice what Paul shares about this after he outlines the struggle of flesh and Spirit for us.

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 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. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Ro 8:12-17)

We have an obligation. It is to put to death the misdeeds of our flesh. One of which is a sinful inclination to withhold love from our enemies. Our flesh is opposed to giving them anything good. It is impossible to do this without God’s help. And so, how do we love them? How do we pray for them? Oh Jesus, help!

Our High Priest

The letter to the Hebrews outlines the priestly role of Jesus Christ who has entered the Most Holy Place with his own blood, in fact, the blood of God (Heb 9:12, Acts 20:28). And by this blood, we were invited into the New Covenant of which he is our mediator. The righteous blood of Jesus purified us to stand before the throne of God with confidence (Heb 10:19-22) And it is there, in that confidence that we trust the promise Jesus made at John 15:16 that what we ask in his name it will be given. To utter a prayer simply adding “in Jesus’ name” is not a magic formula however. It is the assured expectation from the prayer of intercession in which we become aware that we are not the ones praying. For in his position as High Priest, Hebrews 7:25 states that he is always alive and interceding for us. When he became the mediator of the New Covenant, we were invited to pray in his will and not our own.

As the body of Christ here on earth, we became the temple in which his Spirit dwells. The Spirit is always alive and interceding through us. If you’ve ever had the experience of being awakened in the middle of the night to pray and yet not know why or for whom, you understand the meaning of an aspect of walking in the Spirit.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Ro 8:26-27)

To groan and search in intercession under a burden not even knowing why is not the pleasant experience we seek in prayer, but it comes upon us like an unexpected wind. Our obedience is simply to remain in prayer waiting for a breakthrough. When we are not given the why or the who but only the burden, it comes out as “the groans that words can not express” for if we knew what to pray, we’d just say it wouldn’t we? But the Spirit-led prayer is the way in which Jesus intercedes on behalf of the saints. Without even realizing it, sometimes we pray for our enemies or those opposing other believers. When we faithfully avail ourselves to his work, relief comes when we become aware of the power flowing through us and out of us knowing that something or someone is being loosed in heaven (Matt 18:18). It’s a wonderful shared blessing when the Spirit reveals who it is we’ve been interceding for as we wait to see how he carries it out in this realm. When that person tells you how recently some “coincidence” occurred that solved a problem they’d been dealing with, our expressions of “praise God!” are most sincere. It’s no longer a praise for their “good fortune” in the happy coincidence, it is in the very real understanding that God had it planned for them and heard the cries of their heart in advance, but before he would pour out the blessing, he invited someone here on earth to speak it into existence through prayer. For everything that is good is created from his word, not our own. He invites us to intercession, he invites us into his divine nature and purpose.

So we see that the Spirit is capable of praying blessings through us. As our flesh resists loving our enemies, do you see how it is that we could pray for them? The obligation is not so much “pray for your enemies” as it is not to obey our sinful nature and live according to it. (Ro 8:12) We obey the Spirit’s lead.

When faced with the very real and very difficult task of loving those whom your flesh resists, we are not obligated to listen to the desires of that flesh–we are under command to live in the Spirit. Too often the concept of being “Spirit-filled” has been reduced to the pleasantries of worship. While prayers of adoration and corporate communion with the saints is ordained by God and necessary for our joy and refreshment, the suffering and burden that comes with the alignment of our wills to God’s is also part of the Spirit-filled life.

So God asks us to “love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who abuse us.” Is he asking us to be doormats? What is God’s goal in this? It remains as in all things, “to conform us into the likeness of his son.” This is why we were called in the first place (Ro 8:29).

Jesus, the firstborn among many brothers, walked perfectly by conforming his flesh to that of the Spirit. Paul also “pummeled his body and led it as a slave.” (1 Co 9:27) Yes, we DO have an obligation. It’s painfully stated as our assignment to put to death the misdeeds of our own sinful nature.

 Our adoption

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (Jn 1:12)

It is bliss to have the revelation that we belong to Christ having been adopted as children of God. Our spirit testifies with his and we cry out “Abba Father!” It is good to belong! But what kind of Spirit did we receive?

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Ro 8:15)

The same Spirit of adoption is not a spirit of fear! Fear makes us retreat from an enemy. Fear makes us protect our own.

Look now at your High Priest. He knows your fears, your situations and your sufferings. You have taken comfort in that understanding. But the pain is still there, causing your flesh to cry out for relief to be removed from this enemy.

Now look again at Jesus. He was enthroned in the heavens before coming to our earth. He looked down from that vantage point knowing that he was about to enter a hostile environment as a helpless baby, dependent upon sinful humans. He knew so well the suffering he would endure at the cross that he sweat drops of blood asking the cup of his affliction to pass if there were any other way. There was no other way. So, FEARLESSLY he came to earth. FEARLESSLY he presented himself to those he knew would one day spit in his face and nail his hands. He didn’t retreat. He faced the greatest enemy of those he loved. He faced death for all of us. He was moved by love, not fear. Perfect love had cast out fear. (1 John 4:18) And this is the same Spirit we received. And this is the Spirit praying for our enemies.

We do suffer. Maybe not at a literal cross, but by putting to death our own sinful nature. The nature that fears the enemy, the nature that retreats, the nature that refuses to bless, love or pray for those who oppose us. Our Lord died for us while we were yet his enemies (Ro 5:8-10), he asks us now to do the same. Oh God, help us!

And so, given his Spirit, we are commanded to love our enemies. We come before him, acknowledging our sin—the reluctance of our flesh to love and to bless. And we ask for a Helper. God has given us his Spirit, not so we can separate ourselves from our enemies, but to enable us to love them and thereby reflect his glory.

and if (we are) children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Ro 8:17-18)

Keep yourselves in God’s love, Julie

August 9, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions, Prayer Requests | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Love Your Enemies

The Gift of Worship

The Gift of Worship by Julie McAllen

Why worship? Why praise? What does it mean to worship?

Jesus said to the woman at the well that the Father was looking for ones to worship him in Spirit and Truth (John 4:24). In this we learn we’re really not able to worship God without His Spirit. It is a provision then. Something He gives us. We tend to think of worship as something we are giving to Him, and it’s true that we are, but He made it possible and we receive strength in doing so. I only understood that when I felt unworthy to worship. The focus on my failings left as I focused on Him in worship. What a wonderful provision it is to be given a new Spirit in order to worship the One worthy of our praise! It is the air I breathe, to quote a worship song. He breathes His Spirit into us, and we breathe it out in worship. As long as we keep breathing, we’re alive! HALLELUJAH. Praise our God, giver of life.

Worship can be expressed in ritual but limiting it to the duty of attendance is blocking the full potential of the power of God’s Holy Spirit given to strengthen us. Have you ever given into sin and felt too unclean to worship God? Take heart, that is why God forgives sin. We are weak, fragile creatures prone to sin which separates us from God who is able to impart the strength to overcome. When we make a decision to praise Him even in the storms of life, we are trusting that forgiveness. Worship helps us get over feelings of unworthiness as we come into the presence of God. Does God need our praise then? No, we do. That is why God is so bent on forgiving us! Let’s face it, praises do not come easily out of our mouths if they’ve recently been used to curse. That weakens us. And so, we must go to God in prayer trusting that He forgives us, leave it behind and WORSHIP. Truly, this is the refreshment for which our souls thirst.

The accuser loves to steal our faith by reminding us of our failings. He desires to shut down our praises to God. Any enemy delights in his opponents weakness, so why give him more power by aligning yourself with his accusations? There is a balance in airing out our grievances then. We should not hide our pain, and it is good to confess our sins to others and ask for prayer, however, consider the amount of time you spend on each. Do you praise more than complain? Have you ever noticed how weak you feel after grumbling and complaining? Do you want to be made well? What’s the Great Physician prescribed? Praise!

From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
(Ps 8:2)

God ordains praise, not just for Him, but for us to use as a weapon equipping us with power against our foes–whether the foe is an actual person, situation or our own negative thoughts. Relief comes when we praise God. And the joy of the Lord strengthens us (Neh 8:10). We know what weakens us and we have an adversary whose more than willing to accompany us in our pity party. And why not, he wants us weak. But we’ve been given a Helper to strengthen us. It is up to us who to obey.

9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (James 3:9-12)

We have one mouth and it is not made for both cursing and praising. We choose how to use it. One choice weakens us, the other strengthens us.I used to read about the wicked tongue in James and think it only hurt the person who was the object of my cursing. I didn’t realize it could hurt me. Even if someone else does not hear our cursing against them…say like when we write it out in our diary or gossip to others about them…we have none the less been dwelling on negative thoughts toward them. Whose spirit does it crush? Theirs or ours?

4 The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life,
but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
(Proverbs 15:4)

It hurts us, our own spirits are CRUSHED. Devoting an unbalanced amount of time in retelling the wrong done against you by someone does not heal you, it hurts you. Your own tongue has deceived you then as the king of perversity claims dominion over it. Give your tongue over to praise. The enemy has nothing to work with there, no foothold, no open door. It is no wonder the enemy wants us yelling at one another. Our mouths become an open invitation when we curse someone (whether they hear it or not). Or we can choose to use the Helper of the Holy Spirit as a weapon against him when we praise God!

Lord, forgive me. It is so hard to surrender all. Break me Lord. Lead me in repentance of thoughts, tongue and action. I am perverse. Cleanse me. You are the rightful Lord and King over my these. Help me to surrender this death-dealing tongue to you. Father, discipline me with love and justice as you empower me to see your wisdom and ways. Hallelujah, you are God! My tongue is to praise you always. There is power in this tree of righteousness, this tree of life heals. Praises silence the foe. Aligning my tongue with the enemy only invites the darkness to steal my spirit. Your word is a protection over me. I pray Father what you have given me, “a wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” In the name of Jesus who owns this temple, I SHOUT this perversity out! Make room for the King, glory to God. I consecrate my tongue to His praise alone. This temple is a house of prayer and praise, the enemy has NO RESIDENCE here. There shall be no perversity in this tongue, for it belongs to the King. Come Lord Jesus, I lay it down at your cross. Crucify what is of the old nature and rise up renewed in Christ. By faith I receive it. Thank you Jesus, Lord of all. Amen.

Worship Music

I just marvel at the mass communication available to us all now that was not conceived of a few years back. We share worship music and Bible discussions via internet. Many modern churches post the lyrics on a screen as opposed to hymnals, and electric guitars are replacing organs. As one who grew up on rock music, it doesn’t offend me, yet I can clearly see how someone whose formative years were more conservative could not relate. Our world is always changing and with change comes some discomfort.

In selecting worship music, Christians have personal preferences. Contemporary or traditional? Contemporary Christian music is just another rock concert devoid of reverent worship some would say, but attendance at a conservative church singing traditional hymns can be irreverent also. It’s not about what kind of music, it’s the heart of the person worshiping. Look at Christmas songs. People annually mouth the words “Hallelujah” or “precious Jesus” to classic hymns and yet may have no reverence for God. So it is with traditional hymns or contemporary worship songs. Do we just mouth the words or actually worship? And is it wrong to give into passionate feelings? Some people use their bodies more expressively than others, while some keep their arms to themselves while welling up inside in silent praise. David gave into heartfelt worship and was despised by Michal for it. I can’t say that I ever despised anyone’s show of worship as Michal did, but I know I have giggled at the way some people worship and I know I also have been giggled at. But what appeared to be irreverent to Michal was heartfelt worship to David unto the Lord.
14 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, 15 while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.
17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.
20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”
23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.
(2 Sam 6:14-23)

I think David would rock on at a contemporary Christian concert don’t you? I’ve been to plenty of secular rock concerts in my day and know a crowd can be stirred up by the lights, electric guitars and pounding drums giving their message a follow-along chant. If we agree rock music has an enormous influence persuading young people into unhealthy lifestyles, then why not contemporary Christian music? It influences action also. The time spent in worship spills over into our Christian lives leaving us more hungry to pray, study the Bible, commit to ministry and charity. Worship music is intended to produce a sacrifice of PRAISE in contrast to some secular rock songs whose clear intention is to glorify self gratification. So, why not give into praise? When I raise my hands to Him in praise and proclaim “Holy, Holy, Holy” it is because I know He is far more worthy of that title than me. Deep feeling is involved and it releases me from my own shame and sin to give Him that praise. God alone is Holy. He raises us up to silence His enemies and renew our spirits.

So I’ve come to view worship as a gift from God. One I give back to Him regularly. And as with any other religious practice, we’re encouraged to ask, “why am I doing this? Is it for me or for God?”
 

4 Then the word of the LORD Almighty came to me: 5 “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? 6 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? 7 Are these not the words the LORD proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?’ ”
8 And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: 9 “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’
(Zech 7:4-10)

Whether in fasting or feasting, who are we doing it for? Are we conservatively fasting for self or God? Are we exuberantly worshiping for self or God? It shows us how far from holiness and true love we are if we only perform but are without the true worship God intends. And true worship relates to the administration of justice, mercy and compassion (James 1:27). It is not that we fast or feast, worship this way or that way or with that music or this music, but that it brings forth the desired heart of God within us which translates into love towards others.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name. (Heb 13:15)

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

June 28, 2010 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions, Prayer Requests | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Testing…testing…1..2..3

Testing…testing…1..2..3 by Julie McAllen

An infant is taught “Don’t touch that hot stove!” As we mature, we’re taught to use it. Is this a contradiction?

20Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21″Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Col 2:20-23)

If we died with Christ and to the basic principles of this world, do we trust that? Or are we still in the fear mode that an old religion instilled? Religion has failed time and again in restraining sensual indulgences only if it has taught its adherents to cling to its rules instead of learning for themselves the will of God through the freedom of exploration.

My need to explore is wrapped up in this.

1Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. (1 John 4:1-6)

In 1 John 4 where it warns about false prophets and being led astray by devious spirits, John also admonishes us to “test the spirits.” What does “testing” imply to you? What that says to me is look at every angle, get inside it, examine it from the top to the bottom, see for yourself if it is of God and agrees with His word.  In other words, go ahead, touch it. That might take a while. But this is the value in knowing God is with us–ALWAYS. If He says test it, He’s still with us as our protection while we test it.

Religion, on the other hand, controls with fear. But there is no fear in love. God is love. Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18). I personally believe that considering controversial teachings are part of growing in relationship with Jesus Christ and shedding the remains of a religious spirit. When we ourselves have personally tested a teaching we feel led to explore, we will know for ourselves and not because someone else said “don’t touch.” This is part of being in relationship with Jesus rather than religion who’s only defense becomes “well… the pastor said….” We are trusting Our Savior’s authority over any other when we explore as led.

Coming out of a very word-based, legalistic religion, in which I was regularly told “do not touch!” I was led to cautiously explore and  understand  the things previously hidden from me, namely the gifts of the Spirit. The lesson learned  is not about whether the gifts are real and for our time, but rather about  the  FAITH involved in going outside my comfort zone. God gave me faith to explore and say “so what if it turns out to be wrong?” Then I will know based on experience and not human commands with regulations having an appearance of wisdom.  Faith asks: Trust man or God? I chose to trust in God to carry me through it.

Every Christian has come across a teaching or their own ponderings that are controversial or unsettling. What should our response be? Say “my religion doesn’t teach that!” or find out for ourselves if it has any merit in the context of the faith? In tearing down a religious prejudice, we move further into what personal faith is really about. It’s scary stuff . God may want to move us into such foreign territory. But that’s what faith is (Heb 11:8-10) Do we REALLY trust in the Invisible??? If He says taste and see that He is good, do we? Or do we cling to previous knowledge? Does pride and prejudice keep us from exploring? Does the fear of being wrong or hurt again hold us back? This is a wonderful part of the journey too often missed by the religious nibbling on inherited leftovers, but in a fresh relationship with Jesus Christ, there’s an entire banquet set before us. God is not guaranteeing all of it is good or none of it will cause discomfort, but as we receive Him in FAITH, He promises to never leave or allow any of it to hurt us beyond recovery. He wants us to explore and to discover for ourselves what His good and perfect will is.

In my own journey, God’s healing has  involved exposing me to the diversity of his body through the honest exploration of a variety of teachings. Visiting different churches has helped tear down the prejudices instilled by my previous religion. Yet some would claim that is spiritual harlotry. But how can anyone curse what God has already blessed? (Nu 23:8) I don’t make decisions based on “what I was always taught” but instead I test it all and see how it lines up with scripture. I am fond of saying “I currently believe…” as I know too well that I may be challenged by learned men and God’s Spirit to realize I was wrong. I wake up knowing that what I believe today may be overturned tomorrow. I test, I pray through it, I wait. I pray everyone have that joy and confidence in God to do this.

If you are a believer, it means you were called and chosen by the Father already. He loves you. What have you to fear? Explore! If God is for us who can be against us????? Yet we too often put God in a box. We make up our minds, then see what matches what we already decided. If a “crazy” idea comes up, do we reject it saying it can not be true as it won’t fit in the box?  Bible study should be approached with the utmost freedom to question odd ball ideas. Sometimes one odd ball idea will lead down a rabbit trail that proves that idea wrong, however, along the way we discover a valid truth about some other area of question because of the time put to study and prayer. This is where the excitement is!! It’s when we approach daily reading and prayer with preconceived ideas that it becomes ritual and boring and we fall into a spirit of religion. As long as Christ is holding me, I’m trusting and letting the wind blow (John 3:8). I don’t ever expect to know all the answers either.

Someone once made this comment of me, “some children obey when told the stove is hot, but Julie has to touch it to make sure.” That sounds like the description of a rebellious child. In the garden, the first pair were told essentially there was a hot stove. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not to be touched…….or was it? Maybe they touched it a lot. They certainly had to have seen it. God’s command to Adam was simply not to eat the fruit. It was Eve that added “you must not touch it” (Gen 2:17; 3:3) The fruit was not to be consumed where it would fill the body and become one with it. That is what was implied by “do not eat.” Were they obedient if they looked at it, touched it, explored and studied it’s properties and yet refused to eat it? I think so. Unfortunately though, Eve went headlong into consumption and further more shared it with her partner. Sin entered them both through the digestion of it–not by merely looking at it or touching it to figure something out for themselves. God is not against education is He?

What about now? Are we given freedom in Christ to explore? God tells us “do not fear, I am with you” and how do we respond? I obey with understanding that I am now in His garden and He has the right to claim what belongs to Him alone and what I must avoid and what I must surrender to Him. And yet, He invites me to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

If I do not touch the hot stove, I don’t know if it’s really hot or if some authority other than God just enjoys keeping me from it. God is my authority now, not any well-meant human parent. And what does God tell me? He says in effect, “I put a tree before you. There it is. It is not meant for you to consume, but you can’t help but notice it. You will see it with your eyes. You will smell it’s fragrance. You will stand next to it. I never said you couldn’t touch it. But on the day you eat of it by taking it into your system and allowing it to feed your hungers, you will notice the separation. You will know you’ve sinned and be ashamed. You will want to hide from me, but I will search for you.”

In the garden this occurred and the outcome was a flaming sword blocking the way to the tree of life. Through Christ, the way is now open. As I go forward and test the spirits, I am also warned in 1 Timothy 4:1 that “…some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” Therefore, in venturing out to test, I do run the risk of following deception. However, the value of a relationship with Jesus Christ living inside me is in becoming aware of sin from within should it release unhealthy hungers. A set of religious rules cannot convict as well as a downcast spirit sensing the separation which brings repentance and forgiveness. In other words, I believe if I begin to follow a deceptive spirit, one of two things will happen: I will abandon the faith, or I will grow to maturity having tested it. I believe God invites us to touch the hot stove. I believe He is ready to heal our blistered fingers when we do and then the next time we pass the stove, our experience reminds us of what we learned and God’s forgiveness is magnified even more. In that maturity, we are no longer tempted to eat something in an effort to feed the needs  that only God can fill. We remember the experience we were allowed to explore. In our infant religion, it all remains “forbidden fruit” forever tempting us to taste. That is why maturity in Christ  involves some exploration so that we know that we know what we know.

I asked the Lord about the weakness I am prone to. 

From where does this spirit of religion come? It’s root is pride. Why am I prideful? It is a protective wall. Why do I need protection? I fear. What is the cure? Love. For I am being made perfect in love to cast out fear. I trust your work Lord…..

I believe God has allowed me to test the spirits because of this. He is casting out fear as I trust His love over me. As I read from Hebrews 12:22-25 about the things we have access to in approaching the spiritual Mount Zion, God asked me what I was trembling at. I admitted it was the church here on earth. He told me at that moment that He was with me always and that I should not refuse Him when He speaks through it. He gave me permission to test the spirits assuring me He would never let go as I went on the journey to find out for myself what was of God and what was deceptive. Having been hurt by a false prophet in a congregation I trusted, it is no wonder that I must resolve these issues so that I can recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood as I explore different teachings.

I’ve stood before people with fear and trembling to have them pray over me about my fear of the church. Isn’t it odd to have the thing you fear most pray for you? I’ve had my skepticism in listening to men who claim to be anointed with healing ministries. My religion taught me to fear  “laying on of hands” and “speaking in tongues” but God progressively taught me not to fear and that He was with me. It was all in baby steps along the way, but more than learning about these gifts, I learned about FAITH and FEAR. And because I previously pushed the envelope attending various church gatherings outside of my comfort zone, I finally came to a point to trust further the body of Christ on earth—which has been my greatest fear. I’d permitted others to pray over me before, but one evening I changed my focus. I told Jesus I trusted him to heal me through another’s hands. I gave no special credit to the one praying, he was just a member in the body of Christ. It’s not about his healing hands, it’s not about his gift of tongues, it’s about my faith in the body of Christ here on earth. So I let my faith  lead me to trust without fear and  RECEIVE IT THROUGH CHRIST. I didn’t feel anything “magical” in that at the time, but I did feel released. What is the magic then? It is my faith. “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” If I didn’t press on to test the gifts, I would’ve missed that lesson on faith. I received it in faith only due to exposing myself long enough to a portion of the church I previously misunderstood so that I could trust these prayers and I received healing not from a man, but by Jesus flowing through the body of Christ on earth. I allowed it because I trust God is with me. And He granted me to trust the body for it has been a long time prayer for me to “trust the church on earth.” So, this really wasn’t about studying the gifts of the Spirit as much as it was a lesson in combining faith with action.

It all begins with faith. It does not end there though. Faith pushes us to the testing grounds. This looks different for each of us. If we consistently pray and then ask why we don’t hear God’s voice, I wonder if we’re praying too much? Is it time to put feet to faith? I do believe a person can hide themselves in prayer and never step into their inheritance. If God is nudging you to do something, faith and fear are involved. It may be something very, very tiny….like a little mustard seed….but it is so important that you do it because our faith grows and He becomes real to us when our faith is linked to action. And action may include the simple faith in presenting yourself to trust and receive.

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? ……In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

I felt blessed and released.  But what really had I done? Some monumental act? No, not really. But I took a baby step of faith and another, and another. What had God done? By asking me to test, He dispelled a  myth  that gave men more power than they deserve while at the same time letting me recognize their actual value within the body. He is answering my prayer concerning fears of the church. He is getting at the root of my own weakness to a spirit of religion. In my obedience to His challenge, my pride is exposed by the things I do not understand and must humbly investigate. I tell you these things in case you can pinpoint an area in your own life where you may have let fear hold you back. It is fine to recognize where you are and admit “I keep praying and don’t know what He wants me to do” but if in fact you know there is something, no matter how small, that He has asked you to do, then it is important to begin the exploration. If you look at the faith of Abraham, you’ll see it was YEARS before he could offer up Isaac in such submission to God. There were baby steps along the way that taught Abraham to know God was trustworthy even in the craziest things He requested. See related article “The Uncertainty of Abraham”  https://fruitageofthespirit.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/the-uncertainty-of-abraham/

20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone……26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:20-26)

So what does the word of life advise if we’ve been existing on milk too long and not moving forward after coming to faith? It says it’s alright to go back to the elementary truths of God’s word all over again, but please note that God wants us to grow to maturity in it and it is by use  (testing for ourselves and going beyond our comfort zone) that we will be trained to distinguish good from evil.

11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:11-14)

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Ro 12:1, 2)

What is God asking us to do? Be transformed by His mercy and THEN, yes, then we will be able to TEST and approve what God’s will is. He has so much in store for us. Regularly we go back to the elementary things to help restore that understanding of God’s grace and mercy over us, but know that at some point He again will remind us that we DIED with Christ and Christ wants to live through us. Christ has a work to do here on earth through His body the church of which we are part. He wants to use our bodies to do His work. Don’t hinder him in using yours and trust that He is working through others too. Is there a baby step you neglect to take because of fear? He has prepared you along the way for a work He had in mind long before you were even born. Let him grow it to maturity in you! Offer your body to him then, for at the cross you died and in your baptism you were buried with him but risen to a new life! (Ro 6:4)

I praise God for the grace he has apportioned to each member of His body the church. He gives as he gives it. We are the body from the newest convert to the oldest sage in the faith. No member is more important than the other. We may serve in different ways as we are called to different ministries, but those ministries all serve God and are for the up building of the entire body. When we understand this fact, embracing the mercy shown to us as individuals, we are no longer infants clinging to milk fearful and unable to grow. God remains Our Father and Protection no matter what teaching or scheme of man blows our way.

7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.8This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” 9(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph 4:7-16)

Keep yourselves in God’s love, Julie

May 24, 2010 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions, Prayer Requests | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

In Remembrance

In Remembrance by Julie McAllen

Today is March 30, 2010. Your calendar may indicate that it is Passover, Nisan 14. The two writers of this journal, myself and Linda, are former members of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This journal is intended for general Christian encouragement and not meant to be a place for discussing the differences between sects, however, on this day of Passover I feel compelled to enlighten readers as to what goes on in Kingdom Halls throughout the world on this most reverent day for Jehovah’s Witnesses. I also invite you to pray for them on this evening as they celebrate the Memorial of Christ’s death.

Jehovah’s Witnesses will gather at sundown for the one time of year in which they pass the emblems of communion. There will be song and prayer and a discourse on the meaning of the bread and wine. The sad part is that very few members of this sect, which they consider to be Christian, will partake of the body and blood of Christ. During the eight years I was considered as one of Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses, I never took the bread or wine passed to me. It was out of respect for Christ and his kingdom that I was deceived into doing this.

The last Memorial I attended at the Kingdom Hall was in 2003. The first few years out I felt very uncertain about my absence there. I was not gathering with my former brothers and sisters at the Kingdom Hall, but neither was I celebrating the communion sacrifice within the body of Christ, the church. Now I am very certain why I stay away from that occasion and even more thankful that God has given me the right to partake with thanksgiving and understanding especially during this time of year. I always wanted to do the right thing before Jehovah and so I had to reason through the process for myself in order to feel comfortable at my “first communion.”

 23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Cor 11:23-29)

That is the scripture that made me shudder and think. I wanted to commemorate the death of Jesus as he says to “do this in remembrance of me.” So I knew it was important to have some kind of “Memorial.” I knew from this section of scripture it was also very important to “examine myself” and not to partake as it would bring judgment on myself if I didn’t “recognize the body.” So the next thought was to do just that–examine myself in relationship with Jesus Christ and to figure out what it meant to recognize the body. In my JW trained mind, the body meant the remnant of the anointed 144,000 who would be co-rulers with Christ in his kingdom to come. Only they were part of the new covenant in Jesus’ blood and therefore only they partook. But the Holy Spirit led my Bible reading and allowed me to see the new covenant and the body in a different light.

What is the body???

12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink…. 27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Cor 12:12, 13, 27)

The word of God says that the body of Christ is a group of people who were “all baptized by one Spirit into one body.” I needed to recognize who this body was. Was it the 8,000 or so partakers at the Memorial among Jehovah’s Witnesses? What about that “one Spirit” part? Were they baptized under a different Spirit than I or the other remaining 6 million JWs?

4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; (Eph 4:4, 5)

There is only one body and one Spirit. Did I receive God’s one Spirit at my baptism then or not? Did I also become part of the one body or not? Am I in the new covenant?

I have received God’s Spirit. I knew it when I read the entire 8th chapter of Romans. I believed I received “the Spirit of sonship” (Rom 8:15) and that “the Spirit of God lives in me” (Rom 8:9). It was a struggle to believe this though. My Watchtower indoctrination made me want to reject this truth. I can recall reading in Romans 8 and believing God was speaking to me. JWs attribute verses 14-17 only to the 144,000, but I knew God was calling ME His daughter throughout the whole chapter. I was in a spiritual battle as I began to accept that truth. As I was crying and praying “thank you” to God for accepting me as His child, I was also apologizing for believing it because it was against my religious training in “Jehovah’s organization.” There was a demonic hold on me, but now I was AWARE of it because I sensed the loss of grace when I began to apologize for believing I was a child of God. I knew that was a powerful Watchtower demon on me and I rebuked it. That was a turning point. I accepted God’s grace and denounced the Watchtower. So even though I left in 2003, I did not accept God’s grace until 2007. I had been saved just prior to entering the Watchtower in 1996, but did not really understand the grace I was under. This is what Paul was warning the Galatians about as well. They were saved, but now turning to “another gospel” just as I had. And it is true, I became alienated from Christ just like he cautioned (Gal 5:4). Praise God, He restored me and I repented of my involvement with the JWs and trying to gain God’s favor through my own righteousness instead of boasting in the cross. I now proclaim not only his death and resurrection there, but mine also.

Because the Bible says there is only one Spirit, I knew the entire 8th chapter of Romans applied to me. There are not two Spirits, one for an anointed heavenly class and another for an earthly class as the Watchtower teaches. Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not even belong to him (Rom 8:9). So, if I have received this Spirit, then I am part of the body! How do I know?

13For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink…. 27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Cor 12:13, 27)

I realized I am the church.

24Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Col 1:24)

23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. (Eph 5:23).

I had “recognized the body” as it said to do in 1 Cor 11:29 and I had my first communion on September 9, 2007 “in remembrance of him.” It was not a spontaneous, emotionally provoked ritual. I examined myself since 2003 after all. I had opportunity before that when I attended church services and passed up the bread and wine in my uncertainty, but by 2007 I had come to some conclusions and knew I could partake without any hesitation. The truth had set me free.

I consider now what goes on at the Kingdom Hall on the night of the Memorial of Christ’s death to be very sad. His body and blood were given in sacrifice for all. By believing this, we are welcomed into the new covenant. He wants to be our mediator and savior. And how do Jehovah’s Witnesses respond? They pass that loaf and wine and reject him! Millions of deceived people will gather this year for the Memorial of our Lord’s death and reject him–not because they do not love him, but because they’ve been lied to by a false prophet. The Watchtower Society claims that only 144,000 individual comprise the church or body of Christ. Only they have become part of the new covenant. Through that one body, other people are welcome to associate with them. Therefore, only by attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall under the direction of them can one be saved. I reject this doctrine because God’s word of truth proclaims that there is only “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men” (1 Tim 2:5, 6).

And I echo Paul’s words in that same letter.

12I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim 1:12-14)

I know why I will not be at the Memorial this year. But I also know the confusion, pain, and suffering that goes along with leaving the fellowship of Jehovah’s Witnesses and not understanding what we are invited into. And so, I ask you to pray for the lost.

Father, help us to pray in agreement with your will and with one another. You’ve already given us your Spirit, we ask that you humble us to shed the walls we create in our lives that distract us from recognizing your breath within us. Thank you for creating in each of us a need for you. Thank you for your pursuit of the lost. Each of us were once enemies of the cross. Whether by flaunting a sinful lifestyle or by boasting in our own righteousness through religious works, Lord, we are humbled by what you have done. Thank you for your forgivenss. In putting on flesh, you gave up heaven to be with us. You allowed our wrath against you that we may escape yours against us. Thank you Jesus.

Today is a day of reflection. What meaning is this bread? Your body given in sacrifice. I accept. Lord, live in me and distribute my body as well. Here are my hands, use them to your glory, not mine. Help me recognize you in the bodies of others. Jesus, you gave your life blood. The life is in the blood and we drink it in. We have new life, a transfusion. Lord, we died with you on the cross, thank you for conquering death, we rise with you. Hallelujah. You have forgiven us. How can we accept this gift? Break my body, break my spirit, lead me always to forgive others for I am prideful without you and prone to rule. Be my Lord and reign over me that I can bow. Holy, Holy, Holy. You humbled yourself to win me, thank you, help me to do the same.

Jesus, I am ashamed of the things in which I’ve boasted. My righteous acts are filthy rags in comparison to your perfect love. You alone are righteous and I praise you. Was there no other way? As we approach your cross we ask this. Must we submit here, at this place of torture? But Lord, you asked the same thing approaching your own cross in praying that if there were another way, let the cup pass from you. You submitted to the Father’s will and drank the cup. There is only one way. Thank you Jesus for being that way. You are the truth, you are the life. In remembrance of you, we eat this flesh, we drink in the blood of forgiveness sealing the covenant between us. You rule, you are king. We are left helpless to dispute it. You strip me of all my rights Lord. What can I claim for myself? And yet, there at the cross you bestow on me the grandest right of all–to be called your child. Born of Spirit, we each enter your family. A right given by a king. A right we claim only by the blood that bought us. Nothing can separate us from your love.

Be present in our thoughts today, Lord, as we lift up those gathered in Kingdom Halls tonight. May your words of truth reach the hearts of those desiring to know you. As words of decpetion are dropped into the pure waters of truth, send a sword to divide. Give to their ears sound and to their eyes sight in your Spirit. Let your love be known to them. Invite them in with a restless spirit as you clear out the temple and make it a house of prayer. We ask for your power now, we petition you for wisdom to speak your words and that others may hear your voice in the letters you inspired. In the name of Jesus we stand in agreement against every battlement the enemy has erected. Jesus, you disarmed it all at the cross. Hallelujah. We pray your reign would become known as you deliver others one by one from the kingdom of darkness into your kingdom of light where we find freedom and grace in your loving arms. This is the cry of Jesus within, amen.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

March 30, 2010 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions, Prayer Requests | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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