fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Keep Yourself In God’s Love

Keep Yourself In God’s Love by Julie McAllen

It’s become my signature at the end of every article I write and letter I send. Some friends have asked why.  The passage is from Jude 21, “keep yourself in God’s love.” And this is my explanation.

When I was still in the darkness of my religion, the book of Jude was very difficult to read. After all, I had been condemned by the leaders of that religion and tended to chaff at the warnings in Jude wondering if they were directed at me. But I was seeking God. I had told my elders I could no longer serve because I was trying to build my own relationship with God at the time, and they said I was selfish. After 7 years of dedicated service, my life was falling apart and I was feeling weak and vulnerable, grasping for God, asking for prayer, and now they were calling me selfish? So God validated my efforts to pursue Him in Jude 20-21.

20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

I noticed the SELFISH language of it. It is all about keeping YOURSELF in God’s love and building YOURSELVES up in YOUR most holy faith. It wasn’t up to any man to build up my relationship with God, it was up to me. Seeking Him is a selfish endeavor He respects. I had grasped the first step in personalizing my faith outside of the constructs of religion. There is grace indeed, it was pouring out all over me, but God put upon me a responsibility for our relationship and continues to remind me of it even as I enjoy fellowship now within the church. And by my signature, I remind others to do this as well. We must do something to keep our relationship with God strong, like any other relationship. What does it say? Wait for something to happen? Expect the pastor or fellow Christian to always build us up? No, we, yes, WE ourselves must build ourselves up in the faith.

But what about serving others? Isn’t the Christian life about loving our neighbors? Isn’t it about serving others? When we “selfishly” keep ourselves in God’s love, He then fills us up to overflowing and we can not help but spill out somewhere. Filled to be spilled. This is how He enables us to love our neighbors as ourselves. In this we learn it is HE who prays, writes, ministers, heals and speaks to others through us. We can not love others with HIS LOVE unless we do our part first which is to “keep ourselves in God’s love.” So the goal of our Christian life is not service and obedience, it is to stay in love with God. For Jesus said service and obedience would be the natural RESULT of loving Him, not the other way around.

If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15)

Staying in love is a much more pleasant goal wouldn’t you agree? And though faith is a gift from God and fruit of His Spirit, it is up to us to nurture it. There is a lot of self-directed language in the latter part of Jude which serves as a guide to us as Christians on how to value and nurture what we’ve received by faith.

17But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
20But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. 24To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 21:17-25)

* Continually go back to the foundation of Christ and the apostles (v. 17)

* Pay no attention to latter-day scoffers not built upon that foundation (v.18)

* Be on guard against religion of flesh not Spirit, it will divide you (v. 19)

* It is up to us to build ourselves up in faith (v. 20)

* Pray in the Holy Spirit (v. 20)

* Meditate on God’s love (v. 21)

* Wait on the mercy of Jesus (v. 21)

* Meditate on the eternal life (v. 21)

* Show mercy to the wayward (v. 22)

* Actively expose error with their salvation in view (v. 23)

* Hate the sin, not the sinner (v. 23)

* Know that any faith and standing you have is a gift (v. 24)

* Give all glory to the One who is making you stand and enabling you to minister to others (v. 24, 25)

Amen.

Now go ye forth and selfishly indulge thyself! ~Book of additions 3:16

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

Advertisements

June 29, 2012 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Keep Yourself In God’s Love

Remembrance Day

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”. With that said, loving others is not a choice, but a command from God. And while we can love others without loving God, we can never love God without loving others. It just doesn’t work that way according to God’s Word. To what extent do we love others? Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” – John 15:13. Christ died for us because he loved us. Christians are to exemplify the same sacrificial giving, even if it involves laying down our own life. This act of love is in imitation of Christ’s love. In my own understanding, I believe that dying for someone is not the only definition of “lay down one’s life”. I believe it encompasses all aspects of our lives, in a sense that we “lay down” our finances, resources, time, etc… for another person who needs those things.

A homeless person may need financial support to buy necessities. A husband who just lost his job may need resources available to certain individuals. A friend mourning over the loss of loved one may need time with a friend to be consoled. There are so many ways to “lay down our lives” for others and not necessarily mean to die for them. However, while most of us would never be in a position to have to lay down our lives for another person, our willingness to do so reveals our attitude and relationship with the Lord.

Those who have given their lives for our freedom and protection are by far the ultimate example of commitment to the love of God at any cost. We honor them even now as they’re in the presence of God, surrounded by the same love they demonstrated others while fulfilling their duties on earth.

We also honor our veterans and those in the armed forces who actively take a part in fighting for our nation. May we never lose sight of the fact that they have also committed to lay down their lives for others – as there is “no greater love than this”. We pause during our eventful weekends to remember those who have died for us; we remember their families and pray for God’s peace to surround them. We also consider blessings to those who are currently serving in the armed forces and thank their families, who also manifest God’s love through their sacrifices. We pray for God’s presence to continually be with them and protect them from all calamity.

We honor those in the police forces, sheriffs, rescue and fire departments who also put their lives in danger for our safety and protection; we pray for the angel of God to protect them on a daily basis. We remember those who lost their lives while in active duty and pray for God’s healing for their families and friends who mourn.

My prayer is that many will be encouraged by this Memorial Day weekend in knowing they are loved; many are in need of knowing this unshakable truth. God reveals Himself to those who don’t know Him through the acts of love of others. It is a testimony that God exists among us. “We love because He first loved us.” – 1John4:19

Have a Blessed Memorial Day!

Linda

May 28, 2011 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Inerrant Word of God

The Inerrant Word of God by Julie McAllen

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

Have you ever had someone encourage you to stop using your Bible in favor of their preferred translation? Discussions over translations can make a simple soul feel like they have to go through seminary in order to come to Jesus. It can sometimes leave a person questioning if they know the truth at all when they doubt the Bible in their hands. People ask, “if the word of God is infallible, then which one is it? WHICH translation is the correct one?” Well, I’m just a simple soul that didn’t go to seminary so I’m not qualified to tell you, but I won’t let that keep me from sharing some thoughts on the subject.

When we read our present day Bibles we have the Apostle Paul and other writers to thank. This was their service. But the church existed BEFORE those written letters. The church existed before Paul because we know before he was a Christian he persecuted the church. But what did Paul say about his role within the body?

24 Now 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. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness (Col 1:24-25)

Paul informs the Christians in Colosse that he is a “servant of the church” to present to them the word of God in its fullness. What Bible was he presenting to them? Obviously, there were not any to be seen. But isn’t it interesting to ponder that the church existed before the Bible?

How changed it is today. We send out missionaries with Bibles in hopes to establish churches, but that is not what was going on in the first century. The church was established first and then God called Paul and others to write a Bible. Their letters became the New Testament. The people who originally received those letters already belonged to Christ, but they did not have the word of God in its fullness. Today we have those letters neatly categorized into chapter and verse. We can choose from hard cover, soft cover, leather bound, red letter, large print, thin line, wide margins, concordances, cross references, commentaries, and translations galore!

But those are BIBLES. The Word of God is something else. And it is the word of God that stands forever.

I will use the Bible to explain what I mean, but really, THE WORD existed before any printed or digital Bible. It is the WORD that is eternal, not the BIBLE–regardless of the availability or preference of translations.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Was there a Bible? No, just “the word.”

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Was there a Bible? No, just a man of flesh and blood who spoke so powerfully that guilt-ridden sinners saw hope, legalistic religionists gave up their place, people were healed both physically and emotionally, and families were divided because of this word. They were not arguing over KJV, NASB, or an NIV were they?

The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (John 6:63)

This man SPOKE the word. He claimed to be the one who SPOKE the universe into existence, and brought children to birth by this word. Whether it is SPOKEN or WRITTEN, the word only brings one to life if the ETERNAL SPIRIT enables it to happen. This is the inerrant word of God (Is 40:8), not a particular translation. I can testify that even in what is considered to be a “wrong translation,” God saw fit to speak life into me and others I know. It was His Spirit we heard. Didn’t Jesus say that even the rocks would cry out if no one else testified? If God can use a rock, surely He can use a Bible.

Keep in mind that the work of evangelism before the printing press was mainly done ORALLY and localized letters. There was no great distribution of Bibles. People’s hearts were opened and the Spirit descended upon them when they HEARD the words of Life–not transferred by an accurate translation of neatly categorized chapter and verse, but by Spirit-born believers who related what they knew from their own receiving of it.

Jesus prayed that we would also believe through their message. When he prayed “your word is truth,” he couldn’t have meant any particular translation, for the Bible as we know it was not even available. No leather bound, red letter, wide margin, 5 ribbon bookmarked, concordance, cross-referenced, introduction to each letter, Premium edition NIVs were to be seen (hint, hint, my birthday is coming up and I need a new Bible).

Yet Jesus prayed…..

17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
(John 17:17-20)

How were converts to Christianity made after this prayer? With a Bible in hand???

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. (Acts 10:44)

Something happened to Peter that gave him boldness to speak, but who REALLY gave the testimony?

And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. (1 John 5:6)

26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. (John 15:26)

Written or spoken, it is the Holy Spirit who still testifies.

Whenever the “New Testament” mentions “scriptures” it is referring to the “Old Testament.” Notice what Jesus himself said about those scriptures.

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

Do we receive life from having the best Bible or by coming to Jesus? While on earth, Jesus, who is the WORD and the TRUTH was not received by all was he? He went first to the Jews, who DID have a written testimony of his coming, yet not all received him to become children of God (John 1:12). Was it a problem of translations? No, Jesus confirmed that the scriptures were true. They testified about him. Paul used those same scriptures to establish the fact that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah, yet the written word was not enough to convict everyone. Neither is it today. People can read any preferred translation you shove at them and yet not receive a testimony from the Spirit.

I am thankful for churches and missionaries who hand out Bibles and Christian book stores that offer a wide selection of translations, but ONLY GOD can distribute His Spirit to those whom He chooses to show mercy….like Paul. Did someone thump a Bible on his head? If you know his story on the road to Damascus then you know why a humbled Pharisee could now testify to the Corinthians in this way.

1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. (1 Cor 2:1-10)

Looks like the Spirit got a hold of Paul and gave him a testimony. It’s still done this way today.

As for the Bible, I am THANKFUL for those who were called as servants to WRITE it.

This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. (John 21:24)

We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:4)

My joy is complete.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

May 27, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Bless the Opposition

 Bless the Opposition by Julie McAllen

“I don’t need this!” Who hasn’t blurted that out in some form or another when faced with a hardship? Everything was going just fine until THIS came along. If it would just go away, all would be blessed, or so we think. We all encounter opposition: financial burdens, physical disabilities, difficult people in our lives, and recurring negative habits of our own. Somethings we may have a measure of control over, other things simply must be endured.

When Moses was first called to task, his immediate response was to talk to God about his own imperfection. He admitted he was not a good speaker and questioned God’s choice to make him a spokesman on behalf of Israel. Though the Lord promised He would help by including Aaron, a perplexing character trait of God is revealed in the passage.

The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? (Exodus 4:11)

God MADE Moses to be slow of speech and tongue and yet in this God-given imperfection, he was called to do a great work. If God needed a spokesman, why didn’t He simply create a radio announcer type of fellow and use him? Why Moses? Furthermore, as Moses and Aaron went forth to Pharaoh they encountered opposition. If God wanted Pharaoh to “let His people go,” don’t you think He would’ve paved the way and made it simpler for poor stuttering Moses? God had not blessed his task with an immediate submission on Pharaoh’s part, to the contrary the account accredited God Himself as the one who hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 10:20)!

Note how God used the opposition in the case of Moses.

9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.” 10 “Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said. Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the LORD our God. 11 The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.” 12 After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, Moses cried out to the LORD about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. 13 And the LORD did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. 14 They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said. (Exodus 8:9-15)

Moses showed fine character in leaving Pharaoh the honor of setting aside time to pray for him and his officials. Do we consider it an honor to pray for those who oppose us? And look at the result. God heard and sent the relief Moses prayed for on behalf of Pharaoh. Though Pharaoh’s heart was unchanged, what do you suppose this did for Moses’ faith? One answered prayer, two responses.

Did it get any better?

25 Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields—both men and animals… Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Pray to the LORD, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.” 29 Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. 30 But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the LORD God.”….. Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward the LORD; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land. 34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. 35 So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses. (Exodus 9:25-35)

Another plague, another prayer. This time we see Pharaoh having some faith in what the prayers of Moses can accomplish. He even admits his sin. Yet when the hail ends, Pharaoh’s hard heart is once again revealed but Moses continues to have faith in God. Do you suppose he was perplexed at this point? Do you suppose Moses wondered if his efforts with Pharaoh were a waste of time? Do you ever wonder if he got weary praying for this obstinate man’s heart?

Plague after plague, prayer after prayer, the story was played out in Exodus and in the hearts of Moses and Pharaoh.

9 The LORD had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country. (Exodus 11:9-10)

Moses was even told by God that Pharaoh would refuse his efforts. That is disheartening, especially for someone like Moses who wasn’t exactly custom-made for preaching in the first place. But he was also given wisdom as to why. This is key. In James chapter one where we are admonished to find joy in our trials, it also encourages that if we lack wisdom, we ought to ask God (James 1:2-5). Moses was a man like us, I have no doubt he had frustrations in this calling God gave him. He must’ve sought God many times before he understood it wasn’t just about him and Pharaoh’s stand-off, it was greater than that. It was that God may be glorified in Egypt. And through this, God created out of humble Moses a new man, a leader.

As if the opposition of Pharaoh and his officials were not enough, even the people whom Moses was defending and rescuing began to turn on him. Had Moses not sought God’s wisdom and understood the greater purpose, he might have given up his leadership role, which was not about glorifying Moses, but in leading the ones being rescued to glorify God!

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” 13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:10-14)

Moses knew the One who called him. It is fitting that Moses was not a born leader when he was called. There’s no bravado here. His faith is evident in the face of this opposition from pursuer and rescued. He’s against what looks impossible and hopeless and he knows the wonders he performed earlier were not of himself but of God. He has nothing left to rely on but faith in this same God who called him in his imperfection and that is why he could say to this imperfect people “stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” Without having all the answers and the map laid out as to how that would take place, he trusted in God’s deliverance. It looked hopeless, but Moses had learned to cry out in prayer and also learned to listen and obey.

15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” (Exodus 14:15-18)

I chuckle at how this might’ve been said in modern terms.”Stop praying already, I heard ya! Now MOVE IT! Don’t argue, I know it sounds silly, but stand there and hold up this stick!” Sometimes we have to be against an approaching army and the sea before we’ll stop arguing with God and do the uncommon thing He advises. Moses could’ve gone back to the fleshly way he responded when God first began to dialogue with him. He could’ve brought up all his imperfections or pointed out the sins of these people grumbling against him when they ought to be thanking him. He could’ve thrown up his hands and said, “impossible!” He could’ve cursed at God and yelled, “a stick?! That’s your answer?! Hold up a stick?!” But I believe it was through the trials and opposition he incurred with Pharaoh that Moses became the man God knew from the start he would be…despite what Moses thought of himself. And what of God? We all know the story don’t we? Did He show His power to all of Egypt and His people Israel also? The exodus is well-known right down to us, those who believe and those whose hearts are hardened. We still know the story. May God be glorified.

Jesus admitted that in this life we too would have trouble, and the Bible speaks often of human suffering as well as persecution, so we shouldn’t be surprised. But what’s the point? Why? Can anything good come from trials, suffering or opposition?

We come to God when we’re at the end of ourselves. Often it’s those trials that push us to the edge where we can no longer place blame on anyone else or the circumstances, and we are left to examine our own faith in God’s promises and in the character He is desiring to birth in us.

It’s not about the world around us then, it’s about the perfection God is creating in us. So, consider it all joy as you undergo trials. God isn’t finished with us yet. Just as Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered here on earth, so we do also (Heb 5:8). Will we give up or see the glory of God?

In a New Testament account, the disciples ask Jesus about the condition of a blind man wondering if his disability can be attributed to his own sin or that of his parents. Jesus’ reply echoes the statement Jehovah gave to Moses about his stuttering.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (John 9:3)

Who makes a man deaf, mute or blind? Both these accounts agree that the Lord is the Author of Life, even life imperfect. Our disabilities were written into our stories.

And just as Moses and Aaron went to confront the opposition of Pharaoh, the blind man was interrogated and opposed by the religious leaders of his day. Isaiah was sent to preach and within the same breath told no one would listen to him (Is 6:9-13)! It was decided upon in his mother’s womb that Jeremiah would be sent as a prophet to Judah and no one listened after 23 years of proclaiming the words God gave him (Jer 25:3). The blind man, Pharaoh, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the captivity of Israel. All were written into the story. And what about Peter’s denial of Christ? The betrayer Judas? And Christ’s death on a cross itself. All written in advance. Trials, suffering, opposition…..of God? Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Who makes the blind and the deaf? We can’t blame our Pharaohs. We can’t always blame the devil. Dare we blame God?

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. 19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory (Ro 9:14-23)

It does not depend upon our desire or our effort, yet He sends us out. He even hardens whom it pleases Him to harden for the sake of displaying His power. I am humbled to realize that if I have any shred of faith, it truly is a gift. I am an object of His mercy. In this, God has taught me to pray mercy toward others and not “change them so I can have a nice day.”

When Jehovah called His people Israel as His witnesses, He did not say their testimony was to make converts, rather He declared that by giving a witness THEY would know, believe, and understand who He was (Isaiah 43:10). And yet, as many miracles as they witnessed, the Lord did not give them a mind to understand (Deut 29:2-6).

And when many of that nation rejected the Messiah, even then in Paul’s anguished cries for their salvation, he was given wisdom of God’s sovereign choice as noted in Romans 9. He came to understand that a remnant of that nation were chosen by grace while some were given a spirit of stupor–similar to Pharaoh’s hardened heart.

5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. 7 What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, 8 as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.” (Romans 11:5-8)

As written, they were warned within their own scrolls that understanding and wisdom would be sealed (Isaiah 29:9-12). No amount of reading would unlock it. Jesus himself quoted the scriptures that proved their fulfillment. Still it was hidden. Paul strove earnestly using the scrolls and his background as a Pharisee to reason with his brothers, yet they remained hardened while the elect received mercy and grace.

Paul understood that wisdom is not found merely in the black and white letters found in ancient scrolls. Wisdom comes from the Spirit.

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:6-10)

As we encounter opposition and see no results, what does it do to our faith? Moses continued to trust in the Invisible though the situation appeared hopeless. He focused on the big picture of God’s glory. Paul gave his life to ministry while understanding many would never hear, never see. He knew it was completely dependent upon God’s mercy to reveal anything by His Spirit. He also understood the big picture as to why there had to be given a spirit of stupor–for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. The script was already written. And regarding Israel’s continued obstinacy, Paul said, “because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” (Ro 11:11)

God had a reason for hardening hearts back then, do you suppose He does now in whatever opposition we are facing?

Paul also understood that the persecution against him was for the advancement of the kingdom. Could this be the case in our suffering too? His focus was continually on God’s glory rather than his own suffering. Could this be our attitude too?

12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. (Phil 1:12-14)

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. (Phil 1:27-30)

Wisdom from the Spirit revealed a purpose in the opposition God allowed. So how are you handling your opposition?

44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:44-48)

14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. (Phil 2:14-16)

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Pe 4:12-19)

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

April 27, 2011 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Two trees in the garden

Two trees in the garden by Julie McAllen

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
(Gen 1:27)

Man was created in the image of God placed on this earth to represent his will. We learn a lot from the Genesis account. It’s here we grasp God’s deepest desire for us–to be a reflection of him, created in his own image.

Later in scripture, he restates his purpose for us through the writings of the apostle Paul who said it was God’s intention to conform us into the likeness of his son.

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 (Ro 8:29)

So we see the truth of the matter. From the very start of our conception as people, the goal of God was stated clearly,

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Gen 1:26)

In the likeness of God. In the likeness of his son. This is why we are here. It is the desire of our creator and therefore the deepest desire within us “to be like God.” And the enemy knew it from the beginning. He knew the truth. And thus, the lie had to be formed around that truth.

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:5)

Isn’t that the expressed desire of God himself? He intended that his creation would be in his image and likeness. But who spoke these words to Eve? Who knew her desire to be like God so well that he convinced her to take a path that her creator had warned against?

Well we all know the story. It was Satan twisting the words of God to conform to his own goal of separating the creation from the creator. And it worked. Was there any truth in the serpent’s lie? Yes, for he promised Eve that she would be “like God” if she ate of the forbidden fruit and this is the result according to God’s word.

And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:22)

Man was created in God’s image. And yet God is proclaiming that after their disobedience he has now become like the Divine nature in knowing good and evil?

Let that sink in a moment.

When Adam was created and placed in the garden, was he already perfect? Was he already living forever? Was he already conformed to the image of his creator?

Some have made the assumption that the couple were already perfect and living forever on the earth. Had Adam not sinned, the logic follows that his offspring would have inherited everlasting life on earth through him. But think again. Was Adam “like God” before the sin?

Were there not two choices in the middle of that garden?

And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17)

Of all the trees in the garden they were free to partake. There was only one law, one thing forbidden to them. And where was it placed? In the same arena as another very important tree.

And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen 2:9)

The tree of life was placed in the middle of the garden and they were free to eat from it. Two trees in the middle of the garden. One was forbidden and certain to bring death, the other was free and certain to bring life. God knew it and so did his enemy. Two choices, both tempting the pair “to become like God.”

Notice in the temptation that there is only reference to “the tree in the middle of the garden” but none is distinguished by name. Neither Eve nor the serpent say “tree of life” or “tree of knowledge of good and evil” they just have a conversation about the tree in the middle of the garden. I’ve often wondered if Satan and Eve realized they were even talking about the same tree?

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:2-5)

Eve ate from the wrong tree. She ate from it because she was deceived into thinking it would be good for her and her husband to do so. They desired to be “like God” after all, and the fruit, therefore, had appeal.

The two trees in the middle of the garden are Law and Spirit. Both offered a promise to the couple who were designed to be perfected into the image of God. But perfection did not come for them. Their growth was halted. By their choice of one route to God, they were banned from the other route.

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)

What Adam and Eve had come to know was Law. They had become like God knowing good and evil. They had indeed attained the wisdom Eve desired when she gazed upon the fruit. But nothing is made perfect by law (Heb 7:19). And though Law promises to draw us near to God, our source of life, it actually draws us further from him. The separation known as sin.

7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. (Ro 7:7-10)

Our first parents underwent this separation. They underwent spiritual death. Where they used to walk freely in the garden with their creator, now they hid from the voice that called out “where are you?” Now banned from the tree of life, they would never be brought to perfection through the way God had always intended to bring everlasting life. Law brings death. The Spirit brings life.

Though each one of us is made in the image of God, like Adam and Eve, none of us are born perfect. Though we are sons and daughters knitted together in our mother’s wombs, we make choices as we grow and how we will respond to our innate desire to be “like God.” It helps to understand the first lie because the enemy of life is still telling it. He is the father of lies (John 8:44). Though Jesus spoke of Satan as having “no truth in him” that does not mean he doesn’t have the word memorized and able to quote from it. He basically quoted God’s word to Eve when he said that if she ate of the tree in the middle of the garden she would be like God. He twisted the truth to get her to eat from Law rather than the Tree of Life. The father of our flesh, Adam, fell for the lie. But the father of our Spirit, Jesus Christ, combatted the assault of twisted truth by quoting it back properly.

The first assault on Jesus was to get him to question if he even was a son of God (Luke 4:3) Believe it or not, this lie is often presented within religion today. Lies that whisper “knowing scripture is knowing God…..you’re not really saved unless you do this….. following the rules is following God…. only certain members within our group are sons of God….” But Jesus had witness born to him at his baptism when the Holy Spirit came upon him and told him the truth.

And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 4:22)

Have you also had that witness born to you? Or has someone caused you to question your adoption?

Wasn’t Adam promised dominion over the land? Did he receive it or did it produce thorns in his toil? The devil dared to promise Jesus dominion over kingdoms of the world, but unlike Adam, Jesus did not bow to the way in which Satan promised to give it. And when the devil took Jesus to the heights of religion symbolized by the temple, he quoted directly from Psalm 91. The teachers of the Law were always trying to trip Jesus up by quoting from it, but Jesus said they were from their father the devil (John 8:12-47).

Are you getting the picture? Satan uses God’s truths to tell his lies. By this, he steals your inheritance in the tree of life.

Anyone can quote scripture. Bibles abound for any thief to use for his own glory. No one can stop them. But, only God can reveal truth by his Spirit. Only by his Spirit can we, therefore, be brought into the complete and perfect image of God he intended at our conception.

Adam was a son conceived in the heart of God to be made in his image. However, Adam was never perfect, before or after the sin, and able to bring forth perfect children. Perfection only comes through death (Heb 11:40).

Look at Jesus. How was he perfected?

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Heb 5:8-9)

Jesus LEARNED obedience and once made perfect, he became the eternal father of all living. And through that obedience until death, Jesus was made perfect forever (Heb 7:28). Adam could never do this, he is only the father of our flesh which is imperfect. But the imperfect comes first and then the perfect. As we all have borne the likeness and image of the earthly Adam, so we shall bear the likeness of the last Adam, the man from heaven (1 Cor 15:42-49). One day, we will be among those mentioned in Hebrews 12:23 as “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” but that depends on which tree you choose now. You can be like God, but you are what you eat.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

March 27, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

%d bloggers like this: