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

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

Recognizing God’s Will

Have you ever ran into someone who you recognize, but couldn’t remember their name or who they were? That’s happened to me a couple of times. Being the shy person that I am (yes, I’m shy), I normally wouldn’t say anything until I knew for sure who they were. But to help jolt the memory, I would usually have to clear my mind of everything I was thinking of so I can focus on that person. Sometimes all it really takes is hearing their voice and I can remember everything about them in an instant!

I believe that knowing the will of God is much the same process. When we’re at a loss with our lives, we pray for God to reveal his plan for us but often times don’t see God answering our prayer. Little do we realize that God has already revealed it to us, but we failed to “recognize” it much like we do a long-lost acquaintance.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2. In this verse, we are reminded to “renew our minds” so that we will be able to recognize the will of God for us when He places it in front of us. I don’t believe God plays mind games with us, particularly those seeking to live according to His will – and He wouldn’t hold out on faithful servants who ask in humble prayer. I believe that if God’s word says He imparts wisdom to those who ask, He does. So why don’t we see His will for us when we ask for discernment? Mainly it’s because we don’t recognize it and there may be different reasons why we don’t. For one, we may not agree with His plan for our life, so we choose not to see it and keep asking Him to show us what He already has! Or perhaps our minds are clouded with so many things that are preventing us to see God’s will. In my personal experience, I don’t recognize God’s will when I’m not paying attention. For me, paying attention would require me to be still and wait quietly – only then do I become aware of Him and His will for my life. More than often, God has revealed His plan for me through His word, through a friend, a church sermon and sometimes even through music! Sometimes I can feel God tugging at my heart to notice Him. And even then, I sometimes miss the obvious and find myself on bended knee asking for what He has already revealed. Crazy, isn’t it??

Know this, God has a plan for everyone, including you and me. Jeremiah 29:11, 12 “For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord. Plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you.” He is a God of PURPOSE and everything He does is for His Glory. He is a God of divine order and not of confusion. Just look at our universe and how orderly it is! He makes no mistakes in planning out the happenings of each and every day. He orchestrates every aspect of our lives and when you think about it, that’s a very good thing. Personally, I’d rather he plans out my every minute of the day because I’ve been known to make a mess of things!

They say there are two things for sure: death and taxes, but I beg to differ. I say there are three, and the third surety is that God has a plan for everything that is under His creation. So rather than ask the Lord to reveal His will for you, ask Him to help you recognize the will and plan He has already set in place in your life. When He does, obedience must follow your humble request; you must be prepared to be obedient to follow the path He has willed for you; with discernment, He will provide you with the resources to live out His plan for your life. With Him in control, you will never go wrong!

May you continue to abide in God’s Grace, Linda.

(photograph courtesy of Marcene)

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Live by law, I dare ya!

 Live by law, I dare ya! by Julie McAllen

Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me? (John 7:19)

Jesus addressed a group of Jews familiar with the Old Law covenant. They were religious people, but not perfect. As Jesus said, “not one of you keeps the law.” Do you know any religious people like this today? Don’t start pointing fingers, three of them will be aimed back at you. For the law was given that it might prove what sin is, and we are all sinners. But not everyone reacts the same to the exposure of their sin. In this case, Jesus had to ask, “why are you trying to kill me?”

You might think it’s only hardcore atheists determined not to open a Bible who are trying to kill Jesus, but like the group being addressed in the above passage, religious people today do a pretty good job of it also. I know, I was one of them.

When salvation is based upon performance, a person may be completely immersed in religious activity and even possess an above average knowledge of scripture and yet feel separated from God. Separated from God? Isn’t that what sin is? This is what’s so confusing for religious people “in good standing.”

I was very proud of being in “good standing,” but felt the separation. I would remind God in my anger “didn’t you see me do all those things? How good do I have to be!!?” I was working, but upset that I could not sense His approval of me. A salvation based on my works was not only wearing me out, it was embittering me toward God. And as I was trying to live up to law, I was trampling on the grace He had poured out. I was “killing Jesus” in favor or my own path to righteousness. I could not see at the time how the sin of PRIDE led me to be a religious person. Had I heard of grace? Yes, but I chose law. And I believe God knew what He was doing when He allowed that to run its course.

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Mark 10:17-22 describes Jesus’ approach to a rich man who, like me, believed that he had to “do” something to earn God’s favor. Jesus’ response to his question of: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (verse 17) is perceptive. He did not give him the simple Gospel of grace, but rather, challenged him with obedience to God’s commandments (verse 19). The pride of this man was seen in his response to Jesus when he said: “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” (verse 20) Was this statement true? Of course not! Scripture explains that: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) This man’s pride had deceived him into thinking he was righteous enough for eternal life. He was not ready for the Gospel of grace. So, Jesus broke him with the law by saying:

” ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property.” —Mark 10:21-22

Jesus put His finger on the rich man’s pride by emphasizing the essence of the law — that of loving God and others by denying self and surrendering all to God. The rich man’s “face fell, and he went away grieved” because he wasn’t ready to give up his pride in his accomplishments and possessions. I find it interesting that in this passage Jesus does not emphasize grace to this man. He gives him more from the law in order to grieve him. I too went away grieved when I heard only more law from the Word. In the same way that Jesus broke the rich man with the law, my religious pride was broken by the impossible notion that I was capable of living up to the standards imposed by my religion. Only by being challenged by law was I humbled into hearing the true Gospel of grace.

What must you do to inherit everlasting life? C’mon, you know. Is it to sell all you have and give to the poor? Jesus knew the hairs on this young man’s head, that’s why he told him to do that. He knows you too. You know what it is. How hard do you have to work? How perfect do you have to be?

Tired yet?

I was. The more I tried to gain life through my own ability to keep the law, the more tired I got. I kept asking “what must I do?” in my heart. I couldn’t hear grace — only more law. Isn’t this what the young man heard too? He went away grieved. I did too. And it was good for me. I was humbled to the point of hearing another way. One day I noticed Jesus did it all and there was nothing I could add to it. There was nothing I could “do.” That left me helpless. I realize now that God allowed me to live a life under law to show me I was in fact “the worst sinner.” God led me to repent of my pride in being a religious person like this young man who had the audacity to say he kept all the commandments from his youth on. What human could ever do this? Only one man I know was perfect. His name is Jesus Christ and he is my righteousness now. I am a sinner, but he paid my debt. I couldn’t do it, could you? Are you still trying to?

If you live a basically good life but still feel separated from God, let me ask you this: Have you ever thought to repent of your “good works?” Maybe you’re like I was asking “what did I do wrong?” because you got tricked into thinking “sin” just meant the bad things we do. Have you repented of your pride? Do you know you will NEVER be good enough? NEVER!! To think we as humans could somehow obtain perfection through our own efforts is a denial of Christ. We “kill Jesus” rather than accept the life he gave us.
And if the idea of one man dying for your sins is ridiculous and unnecessary, then go ahead, live by the law. I wish you luck.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

July 1, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , | Comments Off on Live by law, I dare ya!

Strength in Weakness

j0309634Two weeks have gone by and I haven’t kept up with the study of Galatians. Several times I attempted to sit myself down and write about the freedom we have as Christians (as we learned in the book of Galatians), but the enemy managed to place stumbling blocks in front of me and caused me to trip. Those of you who know me personally are aware of the various dilemmas slapping me up at the moment. I’m not one to put my personal life out there, but trust me when I tell you that I’m being attacked by the enemy (and suffering consequences of poor choices I’ve made) as I post this journal.

 I’m writing today in an attempt to be lifted up in spirit; yes, I’m down at the moment. If you’re finding yourself at the “end of the rope” or been a target for the enemy’s bullets, I hope you find encouragement in this message.

One word keeps coming at me relentlessly – weakness. Actually, there’s more than one word: tired, drained, exhausted, pathetic and faint – to name a few, that describes my energy and will to move forward. How can this be? Me? Pathetic and faint?  I have to confess, I have an incredible life. I am blessed to have amazing friends – not just “fair-weathered” friends, but genuine friends who love and care for me. I don’t think I go one day without and email or phone call (or text message) from someone dear to me, letting me know they’re thinking about me. I love my work, my family and my ministry – and most of all, I share an intimate relationship with my Heavenly Father. So, why am I struggling with weakness?? Dear Lord, reveal yourself to me through these challenges you are allowing me to experience. Open my eyes of understanding so that I can come out of this glorifying You.

 2 Corthinthians 7:9 tell us that “power is perfected in weakness”. Power and weakness in the same sentence? Yes, because the weaker we are, the more God’s grace shines clearer. It’s not until we need God’s grace that we actually search it out and obtain it. Pastor James McDonald stated in one of his sermons, “The grace of God is not fully seen in our lives until weakness is fully experienced.”  Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10

I’ve come to understand that feeling weak is not fatal – it is necessary. Without weakness, how can God display His saving power? Without weakness, I wouldn’t need God’s grace.  I take no joy in the pain of my struggles, but I do take joy in knowing that Christ’s power is revealed through me as I suffer through them. Yes, I’m tired. Like so many others who are also going through their share of sufferings – whether it be pain from a child who has gone astray, pain from a marriage slowly deteriorating when you’ve tried all you can to keep it together, pain from a job loss or financial burdens – or pain from suffering mental health problems such as depression or suffering from physical illness. All of these cause weakness, weariness, exhaustion and feelings of hopelessness.

 Isn’t it comforting to know we are children of a mighty, awesome Father who will strengthen us with His power? I’m not sure how many times the apostle Paul mentioned about his weaknesses, but it appears that in the 2Corinthians, he mentions it quite often. When I think about Paul experiences (2Corth11:26-27), it’s no wonder he was weak – physically and mentally. Yet, 2 Corth 11:30, Paul said, “I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.” Why? Because displaying Paul’s weakness magnified God’s power at work in and through him. How awesome is it to know that God’s power is being revealed through each one of us when we are weak?

 I resolve to surrender my weakness and exhaustion. I give it to my Father above, who will empower me with strength and wisdom so that I can move towards his purpose for me. Although my feebleness may cause me to move a little slower, my faith will not waiver. In time, I’ll be able to brag about my weaknesses, just as Paul did. In the meantime, I will move one small step (in faith) at a time.  Thank you, God, for your saving Grace…thank You for Your Mercy…thank You for Your Power.

July 7, 2009 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Running with Endurance

42-15659276We come across many today who are facing some form of adversity in their lives; financial hardship, strained marriages, health issues, mental illness, loss of loved one, rebellious children, etc… We live in a world surrounded by anxiety and distress. The apostle Paul compared the Christian life to a race we’re all running in.

 24)Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  26Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;  27but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (1Corth 9:24-27)

 Life is a race, however, the only way to run and actually finish the race triumphantly is by running on wings of grace. Grace is the only way because our legs will tire out. The race is long and the course has obstacles – we are sure to give out. Isn’t that how we sometimes feel about going through life – like we can’t go on anymore?  In His grace, God supplies everything we need to endure the race: Holy Spirit, His word, access to Him through prayer and encouragement from fellow believers.

 It is through God’s grace that we attain salvation, glorification and sanctification. Salvation is securing a favorable place with God made possible by means of Jesus Christ. Glorification is the conforming of our bodies to the image of Christ. Sanctification is the process of growing as a Christian. Some may feel that we are on our own in the process of spiritual growth – dependent on our desire to take action, but we are not on our own. Grace is involved in our spiritual growth, too.

 Paul mentioned that in his race, he slaves his body so that he’s not disqualified. Being trained properly prior to the race was pivotal. Runners were disqualified for not being trained appropriately for the race. Sanctification is compared to being trained to become like Christ and it’s through God’s grace that this can be possible. We can take heart when we’re faced with adversity because it’s during that time that we experience His grace. Each day will come with it challenges but we can overcome as long as we’re riding on wings of God’s grace.   God bless.

June 18, 2009 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Running with Endurance

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