fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Who Is The Liar?

Who is the Liar? By Julie McAllen

22Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. 23No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

24See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.

26I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (1 John 2:22-27)

When we think of THE worst example of rebellion toward God, isn’t it Satan? If anyone was anti-Christ it is him. Study his personality and actions. He was an angel in heaven among the ranks of the holy and he starts thinking he can do better than God Almighty? When Jesus Christ, God made flesh, came to earth, who ended up putting him to death? Wasn’t it religious people who thought they had something better? PRIDE–particularly religious pride–has always opposed the Holy One who is God.

I am a very prideful person. I never thought of myself as the ‘sinner’ led astray by wild living. I was basically “a good person” out there in the world. I used to see those signs along the road that read “Jesus died for your sins” and ask God “so, what’s my sin?” I acknowledged that I was a sinner but really wasn’t sure what my sin was. Was anything I did really “that bad?” I also didn’t understand what sin did to my relationship with God, who I assumed at that time was just a big sky daddy who overlooked everything and all good dogs go to heaven. I didn’t really think sin mattered much to God because I was in darkness. But if there is no such thing as sin, there is no need for a savior then is there? I denied the Father and the Son… but then again, I didn’t know any Scripture.

Then I got involved with a nice, clean, white-washed religion that appeared to have all the answers. Oh how I was drawn to that! Like James says, “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14, 15) I had a desire to be one of the chosen few who could be righteous enough to enter the new order. I was sure I could be good enough. I loved the law set forth and endeavored to keep it, but I experienced a separation from God through the practice of my religion. I was still in darknesss for I had been deceived to deny the Father and the Son even as I became well-versed in Scripture.

Thankfully, the life of Paul was recorded in those Scriptures and I began to relate to his journey.

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. (Phil 3:4-6)

Wow. Paul thought he was “faultless” as regards doing the right thing too! So why did he also refer to himself as “the worst sinner?” (1 Tim 1:15)

Philippians chapter 3 continues…
7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:7-11)

Paul understood, by the grace of God, the pride involved in “having a righteousness of his own.” I believe he called himself the worst sinner, not because he drank too much, gambled away money, fooled around with woman… or men for that matter, or stole from the temple, but because he at one time denied the gift of righteousness through Christ in prideful preference for his own religiosity. It took a blinding encounter with Jesus Christ to humble Paul and cause him to repent of this sin of faultless self-righteousness. And God turned that “liar” into His spokesman for truth.

Legalistic religions churn out prideful people like the pre-Christian Paul every day and I was certainly one of them. I did not just leave it and expect time to heal all wounds, I REPENTED before God of my involvement in it because I am humbled every time I see what Jesus did for me. I can no longer deny him, he is the truth.

Who is the liar?

Did someone tell you that if you behaved well enough God would accept you too? If it’s all about keeping the law, what was the long-awaited Messiah for? When John said in this letter, “see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you,” what might the Christians he wrote it to believed from the beginning? He calls a person who denies Jesus Christ an antichrist. In what way could they be persuaded to deny Jesus?

I don’t think there is a religious group out there that does not agree that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Ro 3:23). We fear being labeled prideful if we do not agree that we all have sinned. But what is our true response to this? Do we remain the victim of sin and death? Strive to overcome it by our own efforts? Sweep it under the rug? Perhaps our response to this issue of sin affects our response to Jesus Christ and determines if we live in the lie or in the truth.

Unfortunately for some in the church, the response has become a list of do’s and don’ts to gain or remain in God’s favor. Though they may use the Bible, where does Jesus fit into this? Can our attitude deny Christ? If it’s all about “me” working my way to heaven, what do I need Jesus for? Is there anything we can do to merit God’s favor? In contrast, Romans 6:23 says God sent us a gift… the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The Bible’s anecdote to sin and death is not our own righteous works but a gift from God. Imagine that!

Religions that teach it’s members that eternal life is gained through some kind of work or behavior are DENYING the gift God offers in Christ. If they teach pro-self works, then they are anti-Christ. If you have fallen into this lie and have persisted in gaining life through your own works, REPENT! You’ve swallowed a lie. If you are still teaching it, REPENT! You have become the liar. If you are drowning in self-pity because you could never live up to the expectations of the religion–MEET JESUS, you are forgiven.

It matters not how well-versed or well-behaved your religion taught you to be if it has taught you to believe in another Jesus. Mine told me he died for my sins and in the same breath demanded I remain in their group to really know God and hold to their list of rules in order to survive the end of the world. Such a group is anti-Christ for they are pro-self.

Along the journey with Jesus, I thought I’d understood where the dangers lie in religion; Just stay away from those legalistic rules about lengths of skirts and facial hair right? No. I found lies in some Spirit-filled fellowships also where people were made to feel uncomfortable if their gifts were not displayed to the rest of the group for approval. Is there an unspoken rule that everyone must practice the gift of praying in tongues to prove their spirituality? All gifts are for the edification of the church, but not all are known to the church. There are silent prayers after all.

I personally believe in the continuation of spiritual gifts, however, I am cautious with groups where balance is neglected. On one side of the spectrum we have legalistic groups that rely solely on “knowledge” and block the Spirit. And on the other extreme we see some groups sweeping past the foundation of redemption from sin and eagerly pursue the spiritual gifts. I personally believe that when Jesus said we were to worship God in “Spirit and Truth” he was referring to the balance of being grounded in Scripture and also open to revelation through His Spirit, not either or. Look at the gift of prophecy for example. How can one use such a gift properly unless the word of God first dwells in them? And how can it unless a person takes the time to digest it? Such a gift was given to the apostle Paul because he was well grounded in Scripture and therefore in a better position to test the spirits and discern what was in line with the revealed will of God. Tongues, on the other hand, were given to some Gentile believers less familiar with the revealed word, yet they were encouraged to seek the gift of prophecy (1 Cor 14:1-5). After all, would you trust an unversed, new believer fresh from the world who “has a word for you?”

In imitation of Jesus, there is nothing wrong with the church feeding folks to put them at ease long enough to listen. They may invite them in through a church event offering fun and games. I’m sure when Jesus fed the five thousand with the fish and loaves he was well aware that some only came for the food, but others would follow him. Jesus dined with all types and healed people without regard to whether they would join him or not. Our Lord is perfect agape love in action and the church also is called to represent that, but he did not bestow spiritual gifts on the ones who merely took a passing interest did he? Those who received the Holy Spirit first were Jews, educated in the Scriptures concerning sin and the Messiah and they were obedient to his command to stay in Jerusalem until his timing in pouring it out (Luke 24:49). The role of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ not the individual or group with which one is associated. And it is foundational that one must grapple with their personal sin first in order to glorify Christ. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be the Helper which would convict the world of sin (John 16:8). Sin! Gasp! He doesn’t just send the Spirit for the warm fuzzies. In some seeker-friendly groups eager for the “experience” of Christianity, the temptation is to brush past the foundation and move headlong into praying for the gifts of the Spirit.

Perhaps in welcoming new seekers in hopes that they will continue to attend church and grow in the faith, it’s easier to extol the blessings of spiritual gifts than risk the discomfort of touching their sin issue lest they retreat too quickly. But talk about sin? How can the church grow with that kind of appeal? And yet, that is how the church of the first century grew — by responding first to the words “REPENT.” (Acts 2:38) To quickly breeze past laying that foundation in the rush to promote an encounter seems a recipe to invite in the wrong spirit. Let’s not forget that an enemy can imitate with signs and wonders also. Tongues and healings are NOT evidence of the Holy Spirit alone. If a person can tell you all about their experience at church and the gifted teacher who healed them but not be able to answer why it was necessary for Jesus to die for them personally, I might suspect something was lacking in the foundation of their faith.

We are in this world along with those who pay no attention to the cross or acknowledge Jesus Christ. And it is not our role to change the world by Bible thumpin’ those who are not asking. We are instead to be READY for those who ask according to 1 Peter 3:15. And why would they ask unless they noticed something different. Jesus taught that the church was not to be taken out of the world, but left in it (John 17:14-16) Those in Christ are STRANGERS in the world, not the other way around. As a Christian, I remind myself that this world is not my home, I am a guest here so I’d better respect those in the world outside of Christ. I would not expect them to take on my beliefs if they are at home with their own in this world. But when a person visits the church the tables are turned. The world is now a guest in my home. I feel no need to conform to their views by being overly seeker-friendly by sidestepping the issue of sin. We talk about sin. If that offends, then the door to our house is always open to leave. Whether in our personal homes or the house in which we gather for worship, it is right to welcome unbelievers and treat them as guests, but not to receive their teaching.

7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. (2 John 1:7-11)

To my understanding “house” in this case means “house church” in the sense that we do not welcome unbelievers by giving them the floor to teach their anti Christian way in the church. You can feed em and love em, but not ask them to teach the rest of the church gathered there in the hopes that we can “all just get along.” It is fine at the neighborhood BBQ to have lively and open discussion among diverse people of differing faiths, but should this be the case at church? Christians are to carry their cross, not put their enemies on it, so we may have to bite our tongues respectful that it is not our place as a guest at another’s house, but church is the place where we get to be free to worship Jesus without holding back isn’t it? If people came to CHURCH looking for answers, how sad it would be if in the interest of being seeker-friendly we shoved truth aside and just offered more happy programs and promises to keep them coming back. And come back they may, but are they being deceived by a false representation of Christianity that doesn’t address sin? It’s fine to keep a seeker off the street and coming back to church, but what is it they’re converting to — a new lifestyle or to Christ himself? What happens when the church programs end? Adherents of false religions, after all, say they have a relationship with God, read their Bibles and join in the activities of a religious life but reply with uncertainty when asked, “are you saved?” Somehow the message of the cross got missed. It’s a sly enemy tactic to shut up the blood-bought church and silence those must confident to take a stand for righteousness. Are we being deceived by thinking we’re doing something good in the name of religion by being too friendly? Have we become Satan’s tool by adopting a watered down seeker-friendly policy to keep folks coming back to church and forgotten that Christ did not come to bring peace but a sword? It’s OKAY if some people hate Christians for speaking truth ya know, that’s perfectly normal. I have come to love the sword in fact. I do not mind the separation that the message of the cross causes and yet Jesus has taught me to love and pray for those who differ or outright become my enemy because of it. That’s pretty friendly.

When a seeker says they now are a believer, I certainly wouldn’t want to downgrade their positive experience. If a person talks about becoming comfortable at church and the friendships formed through it, there is nothing wrong with those things, but does this make them a Christian now? I wouldn’t want to MISLEAD them by assuming that just because they now go to church or even had some spiritual experience that they have come to Jesus Christ for salvation. So after affirming their positive experiences at church, the simple question to ask them is “at what point did you realize your sin?” If someone has truly come to Christ for salvation from sin and death, surely they will have a ready answer to that question and able to tell you the lie they had been in before coming to the truth.

26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (1 John 2:26-27)

I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? (1 John 2:21-22)

Do you know the truth? Who is the liar?

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

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August 31, 2012 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Teach us to pray

My Prayer Chair

My Prayer Chair

Teach us to pray by Julie McAllen

This journal is a result of prayer. I begin each month asking “Lord, what do you want me to write?” As I go about the month, I take note of the discussions that come up most frequently in conversation which lead to spiritual fruit. This month it was very clear. Even the pastor of the church I currently attend was focusing on it. As the month neared it’s end, I knew the topic. However, it is a very broad topic. What needs to be said that hasn’t already been written? I hesitated because what the Lord wants me to share is also very exposing, but throughout the month I noticed one thing that has come up over and over with other topics. It is when we share our personal stories we are most effective in the kingdom. God said, lay it bare. The topic is prayer. Laying bare our personal prayer life opens the way for others to let down their walls and express frustrations they have in prayer as well as share the things they’ve come to grasp as the right way for them to pray. Prayer is personal. There really is no right or wrong way, but there is a way designed for each of us. Therefore, I plan to share my personal journey in prayer in the hope that those who read this will discover their own way with more confidence.

The problem most of us encounter in prayer is the time we set aside for it. When to pray? I don’t think there is anything I can add to this than has already been said on the subject of “redeeming the time” (Eph 5:16), but if we get to the heart of the joys and benefits of prayer, we might be eager enough to seek more time set aside for it.

Do you come to prayer with restrictive ideas? Religious upbringing may have led us to only pray in a certain position, using certain words to address approved topics only. We may have been taught to avoid emotional outbursts or confine our prayers to church on Sunday and meal times. Maybe we’ve always allowed someone else to say our prayers for us and simply feel uncomfortable hearing our own mouths utter the words. Maybe you can pray alone, but not with others. Think about your own prayer life, are there areas you know you want to grow in, but carry with you an old hang up? Pray about it.

In my previous religion I always prayed. Mostly I prayed about my family and gaining Bible students whom I could teach. I thanked God when good things came my way, but I really did not pray much about someone’s cancer or the neighbor’s need for a car and I never understood what it meant to worship or adore the Lord in prayer. After God’s grace got a hold of me, however, I started to pray for other people. At first, a lot of friends left in my former religion. Then, my extended family, people in my neighborhood, etc. It got a little long and so I started keeping a list. Then that list got too long to pray through in one day, so I broke it up into days…..Monday prayers, Tuesday prayers, etc. I wondered if I was going about my spiritual life in a fleshly manner, but I was praying every day. Then I noticed a woman’s prayers that were different than mine. She spoke so intimately to God and used words like “kiss” and “embrace” and I think she might’ve called Him her husband. I thought to myself  “she has a different relationship with God than I do!” 

 
The early disciples were accustomed to prayer, after all, they were raised in a religious environment, yet upon hearing the intimate prayers of the Son of man, they were thirsty to ask, “Lord, teach us to pray.” I had a similar experience.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)

The disciples became thirsty to deepen their prayer lives upon hearing Jesus pray too. Do you realize that when you pray with others, they may become thirsty as I had when hearing this woman pray?

As I was driving in my car one day I distinctly heard the Lord say to me (in my heart, not audibly) “you don’t know how to pray.” I argued that “I pray every day Lord!” But I KNEW He was about to teach me something.

The first step was to ASK. I asked at home “Lord, teach me to pray.” I wasn’t sure why I had to ask since I was already praying!! But I trusted God with that.

At this point I’d like to inform the reader that the following events occurred while I was alone. Because of my past, I had some trust issues and did not approach a pastor with my questions on prayer. In retrospect I see how sensitive Jesus is with each one of us in our individual journeys. If he needs to reach you alone, he will. In an account involving a deaf and mute man, a crowd of faithful ones brought him to Jesus that he might lay hands upon him. It is interesting to note that while others may have been surrounding him and praying for his healing, Jesus knew what he needed. He took him aside to heal him alone.
 

31Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.
33After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!” ). 35At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
(Mark 7: 31-35)

I also was alone. In fact, I didn’t even realize what had happened until several months later. The Lord was ready to “teach me how to pray.”

I was listening to worship songs while floating on the river in my kayak a few years ago. I stopped at a sandbar to read my Bible. Between singing the worship songs and reading in Romans, I was quite prepared to receive whatever God offered though I didn’t even realize I was about to ask Him for anything. I laid down in the sand and I was just praising God. I began thinking about the intimate prayers of that woman and got hungry for more intimacy in my own relationship with Him. I remember praying, “Jesus, would you be my husband?” Well “something” came over me. I understand now what happened to Mary. No, I did not get literally pregnant, but the Holy Spirit overshadowed me. I just thought “WOW!” and buzzed on perfect love for a good week!!

Then a strange thing started happening in my prayer life. I’d read from my list as always and suddenly I’d break open emotionally. I’d hit a name and start crying and not know why. I didn’t even know if that person was sick or going through a trial but for some reason I’d start to “feel their pain.” Then I’d come across another person on my prayer list and get a warm glow and know they were in a blessed state. Some people wouldn’t affect me but I’d still pray for them. Why it was one day their name would grab me and the next it didn’t I could not explain. I did not know if this was normal or if all Christians experienced this in prayer. It was simply new to me. It didn’t scare me, but I needed to share it with someone to find out if it was normal. I told a few people at the church I was attending and they gave me blank stares. Okay, I’m weird then, keep it to myself.

God was confirming for me what men could not however. I had a wake up call. I felt this urge to get up in the middle of the night and started praying for someone I knew only casually. I had a sense they were in trouble. They were in a battle or about to enter one. I kept praying protection over them. It was 3 a.m. and I was baffled by this. When I contacted her the next day I told her I was praying because she was about to enter a battle. It was then she confided she was battling suicidal thoughts that very night and about to get baptized as a Christian the next Sunday. Wow. Do you suppose someone in the Spirit realm was mad about that? I understood what it meant to “intercede in prayer” after that. The HOLY SPIRIT intercedes, we don’t. I trust now that the Spirit calls on others to pray in my behalf when I myself can not. He will lead someone to pray for me, even if I never ask them to! I trust in God’s grasp. He looks out for us and the body of Christ IS CONNECTED. Believe it.

In addition to these “emotional prayers”, I also began writing out prayers in my personal journal. Often, I’d read them the next day and be astounded at their beauty (gee, I wish I could write like that!) or be surprised by the insights given in them. And sometimes those writings became the basis for ministering to others. I knew what verses to share with them because of it. I called it “writing in the Spirit” not knowing if anyone else did such things. A line I just love from someone’s else’s song based on Song of Solomon 6:10 says, “who is this, that beckons me to compose? Beauty beyond words surrounds me when you’re near, you’re the lover of my soul. Draw me near to you, draw me near to you.” I think that person understood. Through writing, I was learning prayers of worship and adoration as well as prayers of intercession. And who was teaching me this (1 John 2:27)?

Then one day I was with a friend who attended the same church where I got the blank stares. She mentioned how much she missed her old  prayer group in which some would “prophesy.” What’s that!? Were they setting dates and predictions!? I told her that sounded really scary. She then told me ‘to prophesy’ only meant speaking God’s word. Christians ARE engaged in prophesying whenever they feel an urge to share a particular verse with another. Do you ever use the Bible to speak for God? As she explained it, I thought “I think I do that sometimes.”  

So I started to research what was going on with me. I wondered if I received a gift??? Could it be they didn’t end in the first century as I’d been taught according to 1 Cor 13:8-10?

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

 
Those who deny the first century gifts quote the above passage. But I wondered, what does it mean?
10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. (NIV)
10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (KJV)
10 But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless. (NLT)

What is “perfection, in part, or full understanding?” Some would contend it means the completion of the old testament and replacement with the new covenant. Therefore, the gifts ended and they are not for our time. They say they died out with the last apostle. No one now could lay hands on another to bestow upon them a spiritual gift. But what happened in me? What happened on the sand bar? Why the new way of praying? What ended and what began? I wondered if the perfection spoken of meant at my own death? Then I will be perfect, then I will have full understanding. So I opened myself to the possibility that the gifts continued into our time. Prior to that openness, however, I was already operating in them without fully realizing it. This is the little joke God has going with me. He lets me claim it before I can name it in other areas as well. So many times I’m the last to know, and He uses that along with my methodical mind to TEACH. Some people simply receive grace, I have to EXPLAIN grace once I “get it.” His workmanship, created for His glory and my humility. Good thing He gave me a sense of humor.

Through this journey I got to the point where I wasn’t afraid to ASK God for the gift of tongues. I told Him it wouldn’t frighten me if I received it and if He didn’t want to give me that evidence then I’d accept it. So I prayed. Nothing really happened though. No incoherent babbling. I was fine with that.

However, the next day I was doing my morning Bible reading. I was not looking for anything in particular. And this scripture JUMPED out at me….
 

My heart is stirred by a noble theme
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.
(Ps 45:1)

The Lord said to my heart, “I gave you the gift of tongues already, you’re just confused about what it is.”
God gifted me to write His words. Those were the prayers in my personal journal. In intimate prayer, I am often compelled by an urge to write and this is how God speaks through me, for it is the Holy Spirit that gives testimony and not us (John 15:26). I now believe tongues refers to whatever mode of communication God has decided in advance through which we would glorify Him (Eph 2:10).

Later, this friend and I attended a midweek service. Neither of us knew it was pentecostal, we just wanted to try their midweek Bible study because the non-denominational church we were attending at the time didn’t offer one. It was decent, like any other church group. Nothing weird happened, we just had a Bible study. But I picked up their brochures in the lobby because I didn’t know much about their beliefs. I started reading about the gifts of the Spirit and realized what happened to me on that sandbar. I was baptized in the Spirit and that is why I began to pray differently. Surprise, surprise. I didn’t start to attend that church to find the gifts or ask someone to lay hands on me (which still scared me!), rather I was sent there to have them explained. When I told the pastor about my personal prayer life he said I probably speak in tongues already and don’t know it. That made me laugh because I said I could hear myself pray and no babbling ever came out of my mouth. I always prayed in English. He smiled and said I was probably not aware of it. Huh? Speak English!

My logical mind wants to speak English. I also have several school teachers in my head ensuring correct sentence structure and spelling! But when I read about tongues, it basically said to just relax and open your mouth to allow it. It’s about letting go of control and giving it to God. I’ve become aware of how this manifests itself in my personal prayer style. In recognized English, I may begin to pray for someone saying “Lord, help them. Surround them, let them know you are near” and it begins to trail off into “groans of the heart.” (Ro 8:22-27) I simply allow myself to speak jibberish then. I’m opening to the flow of Holy Spirit and to express a pure emotion. How is that any different than the wails expressed in deep despair or the exclamations breathed out in pure pleasure? We do this all the time in grief and joy (think of sounds heard at funeral homes, on roller coasters, and in honeymoon suites) What’s being felt could be expressed in logical words, yet loud cries come forth and we all make allowance in those cases. And isn’t it true that in either case we are aroused by hearing it in others? Don’t you cry when you hear someone else crying? Why? We recognize the emotion because often times we’ve experienced it in another area of life. We may not share their situation, but we certainly can identify with their pain. The Spirit is connecting. I lift up prayers in tongues at times not knowing the persons needs specifically, but I sense an emotion with which I can empathize. Pain, fear, loneliness, anger, passion, joy, praise, thanksgiving. And every pentecostal will tell you it’s not like they don’t know what they sound like. You can hear yourself mouthing the “words” and yes, you KNOW you sound silly!! But you become more comfortable with it and stop questioning it (is this just me? Do I sound like Fred Flintstone saying “yabba dabba doo?” or as someone shared recently, the Lion King’s “hakuna matata”) So what is the value in it? Why tongues? Personally for me it is the permission to let go of logic. I say if doing the chicken dance while praying gets you in touch with the Spirit it has the same value. Paul said, “I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” (1 Cor 14:15) Praying in the Spirit shuts down the logical mind with all it’s self conscious concerns for “correctness” so that you can be an open vessel for God Himself to announce His purposes through the person of the Holy Spirit. That explains why when I would pray with my mind and looked at my Monday prayers and hit upon someone’s name I’d suddenly cry or feel something. I was beginning to pray not with my mind alone, but with my spirit. And that feels good even if I’m crying because my mind has been released from it. This came in handy later as God began putting into my life people with very deep hurts. Had I remained praying only with my mind, I’d probably be out of my mind by now! But, God in His wisdom sent me a Wonderful Counselor so that I did not have to carry it myself (John 14:26). Yes, those uneducated and untrained in counseling can be used to help heal the emotional wounds of others whom the Lord brings into their circle. Jesus prayed on earth, did you know he still prays on earth today through the body of Christ?

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. (1 Cor 2:10-13)

While praying in the Spirit you may become aware that someone is in trouble. God wants you to know of a need. He may move you to a more specific prayer according to their need, a Bible verse to give them, a physical provision, and at times an acknowledgment from God that He is aware of their need and putting into motion the means to help them. That gives the one praying rest. What I see in this is that God will allow a person to pray for another while sparing them the details. I have prayed for someone’s “problem” without knowing what that problem is. Isn’t God kind and respectful of us in this? I am so glad to know that someone is praying for me and my weaknesses and failures but I’m spared the embarrassment of having to confess it all directly to them. Only God truly knows.

When we ask God to teach us to pray, His Spirit within us begins to lead our personal style. And yes, He may cause some to babble a lot of incoherent words, others He may cause to feel strong emotions of sorrow or joy. I have felt people crash to the bottom, float in peaceful rivers, cry out in pain, and have sung their songs of praise and worship when they could not. This was NOT my idea. I didn’t even know anything about it. God began to work on me when He told me “you don’t know how to pray.” So I asked Him to teach me to pray and He took over from there.

So, are you thirsty? Do you want more intimacy like I did? Ask and you shall receive. Don’t ask if you’re not ready for it and don’t fight it when it shows up in an unexpected way. As I shared my prayer journey with others this month, we began to discuss other aspects about our personal prayer habits. Where and when do you pray for example. How long? Do you use any aids in prayer? It’s not my intention to share the following as a road map to what you must do. My routine has benefited me, and whatever you can extract from it for yourself is up to you. Pray about it.

When discussing the time and place of prayer with others, I’ve learned some friends kneel or lay prostrate on a special rug. Some stand. I have a comfy yellow chair pictured above. Some prayer warriors raise arms above their heads, some fold their hands, I tend to open my arms in a receiving manner. Some people use objects like rosaries, crosses, stones, I recently acquired a rain stick I’ve begun to use in prayer. Some play music or sing. I burn incense and Indian sweet grass. Some are most comfortable in groups, I prefer solitude. Some pray in the tongues of men, some of angels. I write. Sometimes I take communion when I pray.

Someone close to me was having difficulty in prayer. She had no idea where to begin. Her husband made a wonderful suggestion. He said a relationship with God begins like any relationship with people. You don’t feel like pouring out your heart to someone you just met. Generally speaking, you get to know someone over time and become close enough to share your more intimate thoughts. So he suggested she just begin by saying ” Good morning Jehovah” every day and not obligate herself to anything more than that. As she became more comfortable greeting Him, she could tell Him little bits about her life just like anyone else would do with a new acquaintance over a period of time.

Can’t pray? Open Psalms and pray along with David. There are times I can not pray, so I read the prayers of others or even my own from previous entries in my personal journals. Sometimes I find myself slipping into prayer when I read the Bible saying “yes Lord, I agree,” “Thank you Jesus,” or “Lord, do I have this problem too?” and as I begin confession, prayers tumble out. I suggest that if you struggle with prayer from time-to-time, try writing them out instead of voicing them. Reading my old prayer journals is much like reading the Psalms now. I am edified by reading my own Psalms. In them are praises of adoration as well as cries for help. I understand David more as a result and know God’s love for him as well as for me.

In my former religion I was told to never pray with anyone who was not a member of that group. It gave me a hang up. I have difficulty in groups. We did not pray together in that religion, rather a qualified elder would lead and we’d say “amen.” Men always led prayer, it is still shocking to me when in a mixed gender group if a woman prays. When the Lord showed me my hang ups with public prayer, I prayed about it and asked Him to give me some confidence. The next day I was with someone who started telling me her burden and I was surprised to say “can I pray for you right now?” It was that easy. But in general, I still am a private prayer.

Who do you address in prayer? Jesus, Jehovah, Father, Lord? I have a pamphlet in my Bible with 21 names of God as well as a poster next to my prayer chair with the names of Jesus such as “The Good Shepherd” or “Wonderful Counselor.” Depending on the need, I will call out the name that best addresses it. For example, if it is a need for peace, I will address Jehovah Shalom. When petitioning for physical provisions, I will address Jehovah Jireh. When thanking Him for a victory, I pray to Jehovah Nissi. I most often find myself naturally uttering “Father” and as I pray, other names come up–usually Jesus or Lord. When I am desperate, I find myself crying “Daddy.” Get to know the names of God and see where you are already acknowledging that particular character in your walk with Him.

Most of us were taught to end our prayers “in the name of Jesus” but what does that mean to you? If I’m sending out a quick “prayerette” while driving in icy conditions with bald tires and forget to include the formality will God hear me? Of course. But when I am settled in my prayer chair and have enough quiet time to worship, here is what is going on. I often begin with the acknowledgment that I am before His throne. How did I get this privilege? I am a sinner and God is Holy. Why would He listen to me? So I acknowledge before the Father that I have gained access to the Holy of Holies by the shed blood of Jesus. I am in His presence made holy by the blood. As I contemplate that, I begin to ask forgiveness over those I pray for. I am symbolically sprinkling the blood upon them. This for me is praying in the name of Jesus. I am there not in my own name, for it is sinful. I am there in the name of the one who is blameless and that is Christ within me. I died, therefore, I pray through him. What good does it do to add the words “in the name of Jesus” at the end of a prayer and yet not understand what it means to you personally? It is a privileged joy to pray for others in the name of Jesus. Thank you Father for this invitation to your Holy presence!  

As I enter that presence, I often ask for aid in praying. Help me pray in the Spirit. Granted, our minds wonder. I may be praying and making out a grocery list at the same time! My mind is racing concerned about other things I should be doing instead of sitting in my chair……the laundry piling up, don’t forget to call that person, oh, what about those plans this weekend, did I remember to buy toilet paper?…… I am asking for His presence to override all those mindful thoughts and allow me to pray in the Spirit alone. I keep a tablet next to my chair for two reasons. Write down those busy thoughts so I can relax and know they won’t be forgotten and also to record messages I may receive in prayer. Yes, I have to check my messages.

Most of us are familiar with answering machines. Let’s say God left you an important message. He called you last Monday and your machine took the message. You got busy and didn’t check messages. Tuesday came but ya know, life got in the way. You intended to catch up on messages on Wednesday but got distracted. Thursday came and went and the weekend was a blur. Meanwhile, a friend of yours is a fanatic about checking his messages. He’s got this daily routine even! You notice he’s always got things to say about the questions you have and wonder why. Why does he get all the answers while you struggle so much? Is he specially blessed or something? No. So it is with prayer. We all have questions and needs. I think God answers promptly, we just don’t always put aside enough time to check the messages. It’s not like any one person is more blessed than another, it’s just a matter of time spent with the Lord and developing a sensitivity to hearing Him. It’s a sad fact that a lot of us really don’t have enough time to pray though. It is a challenge to set the time aside. But I do think the more time we spend in prayer, the more in tuned to God’s voice we become and get a bit more familiar with that answering machine! We all respect a pastor if he says he has to put aside enough time to pray, but do we respect ourselves or each other enough for that? Why should the pastor get all the fun? I’m checking messages as soon as possible! And like the answering machine, even if what you needed to know was sitting there since Monday, if you put aside the time on Friday and finally check it, the same message will be there. You just got it a little late that’s all.

So just showing up consistently for prayer is important to me. I’ve wondered why I should follow the list of names in what’s come to be known as my “anal retentive prayer book.” Why pray them over and over? What I’ve learned is it gives me a dedicated reason to show up, and while praying for the person on the list, sometimes God gives me a family member or some connection. I have been given insight for someone while praying for another. When that person tells me about them, it confirms the reality of God’s intercession. And the changes occur in me as I pray for them as well. When I write down things I received in prayer, often they are confirmed within a few weeks. I will wonder why I was given a family member of someone I prayed for and don’t understand the impressions I received, but sure enough that person will start telling me something and I’ll go back to my personal journal and see God already had me praying toward it. God becomes so real the more I pray and see happen what I can not explain. I know it was His Spirit interceding and not me. Glory to God!

 
So what does my anal retentive prayer book contain? It’s a three punch hole binder with folders and sleeves. I have side tabs with other sections, but one tab is labeled “prayer.” Each day is on lined paper slipped inside a plastic sleeve. That way I can update the paper from time to time. And the folder catches any last minute notes of who to pray for, helpful suggestions I come across or scriptures I jot down. Mondays are set aside for Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I lift them up in general and also have specific names of people I am currently ministering to and friends who are involved in those cults. Tuesday is set aside for my family, immediate and extended. Wednesdays are for groups: my neighborhood, my country, our school district, clubs I belong to here as well as Internet groups, and all my clients for whom I work. Thursday is the day I am in prayer for ministries I support, churches I’ve visited along with their pastors, and individuals who are currently ministering to others. Fridays are set aside for friends in my circle. Saturday is just for me and my own needs. Sunday wraps it all up as I recall the blessings of the previous week and set it aside for praise alone. As you may guess, some people overlap into several days. Some are friends that find their way into clubs or ministries. And of course, as the Holy Spirit leads, I may begin praying for a Tuesday person on a Saturday if my heart is drawn there. Want me to pray for you? Sorry, not your day! Ha ha. The purpose is not to restrict prayer, but to ensure that when I say “yes, I’ll pray for you” that I don’t forget! At least one day that week you are on a list! Also if the morning goes by and I don’t get the chance to open my binder, I can pray in the car remembering what day it is. As I’m rushing somewhere on a Wednesday, I’ll just remind myself it’s “group day” and recall those I normally lift up on that day.

My personal prayer journal is separate from my prayer binder though. I write in these and I go through them rather fast. You know the type you find at the Dollar Store? I have stacks of them. This is what I keep next to my chair to jot down impressions I receive during prayer or to actually write my prayers out. Also, while praying about the needs of a friend I may discover God wants to use me to fulfill that need. I will jot down simple things like “send a card” or “Jer 29:11.” God wants to work through us and it really doesn’t take that much. He has some simple suggestions.

When you maintain a life of prayer, you notice God speaking through people who come out of the woodwork so-to-speak. As we trust it, we become more sensitive to listening. I remember one day this guy coming up to talk to me out of nowhere and as he was speaking about his own life I got this message that it was a word for me. I had been muddled and grumbling in my spirit about something and here he was, unbeknownst to him, sharing counsel with me. I knew God had sent him. I had no idea if he was a brother or not, doesn’t matter. God can make the rocks cry out and donkeys talk if He needs to. I’ve heard Him in sermons and scripture as well as secular movies, books and songs. Consistent prayer opens you to His presence all the time. He is everywhere. Listen.

Simply being in prayer–no matter how it’s done–helps us walk in the Spirit. It’s being in tune with God. Seeing Him in the ordinary throughout the day. I feel as though I can have His perspective on situations I come across throughout the day and less likely to knee-jerk into my own. And if I’m in tune then I can see the answers. Things don’t “just happen” they become answers to my prayers. Now the secularist will say it’s my own brain training and desire to see God. How can you argue? But seeing God all day long is more satisfying than seeing myself. How does that look? A few years ago my car got hit twice within a 6 month time period. Both times it was parked legally and got hit! I collected insurance from the other parties and instead of cursing the incidents, I thanked God for providing the money for something I was fretting about earlier in my prayers. Self brain-washing? Answered prayer? Praise God I’m doin’ my Hallelujah dance regardless of what the secular brain scientists wanna say about it! I could just be angry about the dents and those other drivers, but instead I was praising God. Another time I had a large amount of money stolen through identify theft. Yes I was upset and I took the measures to get it back (my bank did cover the loss), but my disposition was spared because I prayed for the thief. I asked God to use this incident to bring them to Him. In prayer I forgave the thief I never met and released them to God. I have no idea what became of this person, but because I brought them up in prayer, God calmed my attitude through the ordeal. How else can we walk in love when bad things happen?

I think the more often we pray the less of a “cosmic genie” God becomes. What I mean is we stop going to God with a list of things He already knows about anyway. Like, “O God, please see to it that I get that promotion” or “make that difficult person stop being so awful to me.” God knows our needs before we ask, so we wonder why we should pray about them. I pray now to come into His presence more than anything. Yes, I bring my needs before Him, I have my list remember, but I’m really just hungry to be near Him now. In my prayer chair, I’m not just petitioning God about a personal problem or making supplications for a suffering friend, I’m looking for HIM. That’s not to say I can’t shoot some “prayerettes” His way throughout the day while driving, working, cooking dinner, etc. but I love looking forward to more intimate prayer time set aside for that very reason. Though he prayed with others for the benefit of his hearers, Jesus also withdrew to “lonely places” to pray (Luke 5:16). I also recommend having a special place of prayer like the nook in my house with my comfy yellow prayer chair. It’s there I settle in, burn incense, light candles, play a little mood music. Is that a female thing? It might be. I don’t know. It’s like planning a date and expecting Prince Charming to show up. And he does–white horse and all.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pray….
 

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

July 29, 2010 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Puzzled by Simplicity?

Puzzled by Simplicity? by Julie McAllen

What time is it when an elephant sits on your watch?
Time to get a new watch.
Simple questions deserve simple answers. So what makes us laugh at third grade jokes? We never expect simple answers.
In school I loved solving those long algebraic equations. I found delight in discovering that “x” plus “y” actually equaled “c” after filling up half a page and twenty minutes on the problem. As much as I enjoyed the “aha!” moment I wondered when in the world I’d ever need to use that process. Since graduating high school my math skills have diminished to balancing my check book and figuring out which can of soup is the cheapest per ounce. So much for algebra. But I remain fascinated with puzzles.
Have you ever found yourself engaged in solving puzzles in the Bible? As with my one time love of algebra, I can fill up pages of notes on a biblical topic with a satisfying “aha!” moment only to wonder when in the world this would be useful. There is no shortage of debatable topics offered to those who find themselves in biblical discussions. Are we in the last days? Is God a trinity? Are the gifts of the Spirit for our time? Is there a land promise left to Israel? Should women be ordained ministers? Were the six creative days literal 24 hour days? Do they deserve an answer? Of course they do and it is never a waste of time to resolve these questions for ourselves or others. But it is not the simple answer most deserving of our attention.
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? (Is 53:1)

What is the Christian’s message? Has it changed in the last 2000 years? Where it has, you will find problems. Look at your church, what is it’s main message? Look at your evangelism style, what is your message? Being a puzzle person by nature and a former evangelizer with a complicated last days message, I am always taken aback by the simple conversions of individuals in the Bible. Can it really be this simple?
One such story is of the Ethiopian eunuch and Philip in Acts 8:26-40. The eunuch was reading the scroll of Isaiah when Philip came along side him to explain it’s meaning. This eunuch was basically on his way home from a worship service. He was familiar with prophecy, but still had not heard the message.
32The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
34The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”
(Acts 8:32-34)
From this we learn he was reading what we now know as Isaiah 53:7-8. He was not yet acquainted with Jesus Christ and that is why he asked Philip “who is the prophet talking about?”

What do you think Philip explained to him? Did he come along side him to tell him about the last days? The origins of the universe? Convince him that Jesus was God Himself? How to be a good Christian?
 

35Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. (Acts 8:35)

What is the good news about Jesus? What is the message?

4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
  (Is 53:4-6)
The word of God says Jesus took all our sins on himself. Have you ever missed that point in giving a witness? Don’t.  That is the message. Have you ever been convinced that you need something else? Philip’s witness was about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. That was the gospel to which this man responded and got baptized. Did you notice that the eunuch’s trust in Jesus’ sacrifice was all that was needed for baptism? He did not have to have a thorough knowledge of every deep prophecy or clean himself up to accept the sacrifice Jesus made. He was baptized right there on the spot! And then went his own way rejoicing. What? It can’t be that simple! There’s got to be a longer equation to solve!
If our message has become the second coming, have we overlooked the purpose of the Lord’s first coming? Who has believed our message? Read Isaiah 53.
If our message has become an argument about the trinity, but his role as the promised Messiah has been missed, we frustrate the message. Read Isaiah 53.
I find it interesting that Philip is the disciple in this story with the eunuch. I believe Philip understood Jesus to be God by the time he was giving a witness to the eunuch, but I don’t think he was a trinitarian at his own conversion and baptism. He accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah, but was still confused as to his triune nature after 3 years of discipleship (John 14:7-9). Yet, Philip’s message was not about accepting the trinity. Philip started in Isaiah 53.
Peter’s message also was Isaiah 53.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Pe 2:24)
Paul understood the message of Isaiah 53.
16But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Ro 10:16-17)

What message have you been listening to and sharing? If it’s gotten complicated, simplify, bring it back to the good news that faith may follow the thing heard. Our gospel is not a message about angels and demons. Our gospel is not about piecing together evidence concerning the last days, winning someone over to the trinity, tapping into spiritual gifts, or scaring someone into submission through a message of hellfire or Armageddon. Our gospel is the same gospel that Paul preached, the same gospel that the eunuch was baptized under and later went his own way rejoicing. Our intention and compulsion is the same as Paul’s who said…
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor 2:2 )
So what time is it when an elephant sits on your message?
Time to get a new message.
Try starting at Isaiah 53.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

July 21, 2009 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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