fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

The Ultimate Test of Faith

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Psalm 103:1, 2

“Bless the LORD, O my soul;

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

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

And forget not all His benefits.

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Staying Spiritually Alert

Isaiah 38:1-7

 

j0438492Maintaining a state of spiritual alertness may be difficult when we’re faced with challenges, particularly if we were unprepared spiritually or emotionally. Last week’s study revealed how there is a great divide between seeking God’s will and true worship of Him; this week’s lesson shows us how we bridge the gap. To worship God in truth involves knowing God’s heart and remaining in His presence (by keeping alert of our spirituality). Maintaining spiritual alertness requires that we adhere to certain truths about our Lord.  In our study of Hezekiah, we learn that he maintained spiritual alertness, despite the troubles facing him.

 

Staying spiritually alert requires an ever present awareness of the following seven principles revealed in Hezekiah’s life (Outline by Sandy Maddox)

 

1.      Vs 1: In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus sys the LORD, ‘Set your ousein order, for you shall die and not live.’

God Speaks Personally – God spoke “personally” to Hezekiah.  God speaks to us through his word, our friends & family, a pastor giving a sermon; or sometimes He communicates directly to our heart and moves us to action or understanding. The important lesson in this scripture is to hear God’s voice when He is speaking to you.

 

2.      Vs 2: The Hezekiah turned his face to the wall…

Position Yourself – Hezekiah physically moved himself to be in a quiet place with the Lord; after the terrible news, he needed a moment with God. How do we bring ourselves to a moment with God? Is our first reaction to call a family member or friend when we’re faced with a problem? “Turning to the wall” signifies that Hezekiah did not want to call on anyone but his God of salvation.

 

3.      Vs 2: …and prayed to the Lord.

Petition the Lord – Hezekiah went straight to the source where he knew he would find comfort. He appealed to God, seeking Him. He had witnessed God’s mighty hand and knew that He is the only one to deliver him from death that was called upon him.

 

4.      Vs 3: and said, “Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have waked before You in truth and with a while heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.”

Present your past and your purpose – Hezekiah knew he was a faithful servant. Unlike his father, Ahaz, who didn’t trust in God and sought the help of a nation that God would soon bring judgment upon, Hezekiah only looked to the Lord.

 

5.      Vs 3: And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Pour out – Hezekiah cried out to God. He had no anger, bitterness or resentment; but he had tears of agony. Hezekiah had just been told he was going to die; he believed it because he believes in God’s promises; he had nothing left to say or do. He already pleaded his case before the great Judge and there was nothing left to do. How many times have we felt defeated in our situations – where there is nothing left we can do but pour ourselves with ourcries.

 

6.      Vs 4&5: Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah, saying, “Go an say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the LORD, the god of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.”

Prayers are heard – Although there is no telling how long before God told Isaiah He would add fifteen years to his life, we know that Hezekiah remained faithful and spiritually alert during the difficult time. How long are we willing to wait before we lose faith in our Lord? God hears prayers before they are prayed! Isa 65:24. Knowing this truth about our Lord helps us maintain spiritual alertness.

 

7.      Vs 7: “This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that he LORD will do this thing that He has spoken.

Promise of His presence provided – God is a keeper of promises. When we know this truth, there is no disconnect between seeking God’s will for us and worshiping Him in truth.

 

*As we model a lifestyle of spiritual alerness, we open ourselves to receiving God’s grace, guidance and the ability to discern His perfect will.

 

Thank you, Sandy, for another great lesson! We look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on this lesson. Blessings.

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Place of Silence

I received an endearing email from my “spiritual soul” sister.   The message I received from Sue was in line with the passages in Isaiah I covered earlier, mainly that the people of Judah needed to find their strength in “quiet confidence” in God (Isa 30:15). This is an amazing testimony of one who was blessed to experience being in the presence of God. With Sue’s permission, I have published her message that she sent me so that others may also be encouraged and be moved to finding their “quietness”with God. 

Linda, I just have to share with you something that happened to me this morning. I needed some “be still time” myself (yes, I remind  even myself of that quite often …not just you! LOL) and I felt led to go to a prayer chapel that my friend showed me. It seems like lately I have felt so much like I am constantly going to God in prayer for things that we need and in prayer about all of the things that are troubling me right now both personally, for others, and for our Country.  So I just felt this overwhelming feeling of wanting to be alone with God for a while.

The Cathedral is absolutely beautiful and really the closest thing to the big cathedrals that I saw in Manhattan when we were there.  The chapel is located directly behind the huge sanctuary and you have to walk down the side of it to get to the chapel in the back.  The organist was playing beautiful music in the cathedral and no one else was around the church at all. At that moment in time I almost felt like all of that was there just for me alone.  As I walked in to the doors to the little chapel there is a sign that greeted me that says. “This is a place of silence. Please maintain silence at all times.”  So I sat down in the pew and did just that. I was silent.  Not just in my voice, but in my mind.  I didn’t feel like talking or thinking or feeling anything. And what was on that sign was my lesson for the day.

I didn’t do anything except just sit there in the quiet stillness of that beautiful place but before long an overwhelming sense of Gods presence came over me.  I knew that “I knew that I knew” that God was right there with me. There were three other people in the prayer chapel and they too just sat there in silence. I wondered if they felt what I was feeling.  It was as if the rest of the world while still out there was closed off from us.  We were on Holy Ground and we had been drawn there by a loving Father that wanted to just spend time with us.   And it was amazing that all of the desire to seek answers to the things I have been praying about was gone.  I didn’t feel that I had to say a word.  I felt like all that God wanted from me was my presence. And He was thrilled that I was there.  I could honestly feel His joy.  And the most wonderful part to me was that all that I wanted of Him was His presence. And being there gave me such joy too!

My thoughts turned to those of a loving parent who’s children have grown and gotten busy with their own lives.  It seems like they only call or stop by when they want or need something.  And I could almost feel how much that parent would love it if they just came by to spend some time with them without wanting a thing. How much joy it would bring if the children would come by just to be present to the parent and not seeking anything and needing any help.  I wanted to do that with my Heavenly Father this morning.  I felt like I was actually giving God something very special.  And the amazing part was that it was a gift of…..me!  I can not tell you how much joy came over me when I came to realize that God loves me so much that He really desires to spend time with me.  It is as if I have always known this in my head, but today it got through to my heart.  And as I gave Him that gift, He gave me the gift of His presence in a very real way right back to me.  He only wanted to be with me and not ask anything of me or need anything from me.  He literally lifted all my cares on to his shoulders without me saying a word.  I didn’t have to even ask. I didn’t even realize that He had done it. But I could feel that He understood every care and I have such a compete trust that He is taking care of it all and doesn’t need my help.  “Cast all of your cares upon me, for I care for you!”  What a blessing!  He actually took my cares without my having to even “cast” them His way.  What a simple lesson.  “This is a place of silence.  Please maintain silence at all times.”    I have such an awareness of God’s love for me that I know now that all I need to do is truly….”Be still and KNOW that I am God.”  Come into His presence.  I get it now in a deeper way then I have ever before.  He created us for His own pleasure.  We only have to open ourselves to being present to Him.  I want to learn how to do that every day all day long.  Surely it is not just something He wants from us every now and then?  There must be more to learn about this Linda. I just feel it.

Linda, I so wanted to share all of this with you.  I hope that it will encourage you.  I so want you to feel how much God really loves us in the same way that I felt it today. I feel that my lesson on being in God’s presence is not over yet.  There is more to it.  But in God’s time He will open my eyes and my heart to it.  I have a feeling I will return to that prayer chapel very soon.  I love you.  Sue

March 22, 2009 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Discerning God’s Will

Isaiah 29:13-16; 30:1-3, 15-16

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The passages reviewed in class today centered doing the will of God, despite our circumstances. However, as it was brought out today, we can’t know God’s will until we know what it is to worship God. The people of Judah had substituted lip service and empty ritualism for true worship. The disregarded God as Creator and they felt they could handle all circumstances on their own. This is evident by the fact that the people of Judah looked to Egypt for help when they were coming against Assyria. They didn’t consider the God who initially brought them out of that very land! However, judgment would fall on them and they would be put to shame (Isa 30:3). It’s very sad that Judah didn’t acknowledge that their strength relied on “trust and quiet confidence” in the Lord (Isa 30:15). It’s important to know the true worship of God because there is a great disconnect between worship and discerning God’s will.

 

Discerning God’s will begins with true worship (by Sandy Maddox)

a) How would you define true worship? Praise and devotion: coming into God’s presence; acknowledging God as Creator of all things. (Please feel free to add more in your comments).

 

The 7 conditions of worship:

  1. Reverence – allows us to focus on the holiness of God (Isa 6:1)
  2. Relationship – to experience an intimate presence
  3. Repentance – a turning away form sin and turning to Him with a clean heart and willing spirit (Isa 6:5, 8)
  4. Responsibilty – to commit your life to serving Him (Isa 6:8)
  5. Resources – God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory. His provisions are abundant (Phil 4:19; Isa 58:11)
  6. Recognize Rebellion – anything less than complete submission, trust and obedience to the total will of God is rebellion (Isa 30:1,2)
  7. Reward – God will bless us with joy, peach, fulfillment, purpose and eternal life (Isa 30:15)

Personal Evaluation:

I seek God’s direction…

a) Daily, for every decision I make whether large or small

b) Sometimes, if I have time for a daily devotion with the Lord

c) Only for the really big, important decisions I have to make

d) I seldom give it any thought

 

This I know…

1)      I can discern the Lord’s will by worshiping Him in spirit and truth

2)      I can discern His will by acknowledging Him as my Creator and giving Him priority in my life

3)      I can know His will when I am obedient and ask for His guidance

4)      I can walk in His will when I patiently, consistently and confidently trust Him instead of choosing my own actions that “seem good for me”

 

We’re so thankful to Sandy for a great lesson she taught today. We look forward to hearing your comments. God bless you.

March 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Acting on Revealed Truth

How to make Godly decisions in crisis situations

 Isaiah 7: 1-12

 

1)   How does God fit in Your decisions when fear takes over?  Vs 1-2

 Note – (vs. 2)  Ahaz and his people were shaking with fear by the threat of Israel–they focused their attention on the powerful enemy. They failed to look to God for deliverance and protection.

Personal application–When you are in the midst of the storm, you’ve gotten bad news or the crisis has come, do you panic and ”shake in fear like the people of Judah”?   Do you feel helpless and hopeless? Remember to go back to the basics….”this I know” – “this I believe”!  God’s word speaks to every  need I have.  Phil 4:19 My best decisions are always based on faith not fear.

 

2)    God is in control of our Circumstances ….Vs 3-6

a)  When we listen to God’s voice, there is peace in the midst of the storm.  We find rest in Him.   Vs 4. God knows our circumstances as well as our perceived dangers – He is our protector.

b)  There is an inner calm in hearing His voice.    Phil 4: 6-9  (read this passage for peace and comfort)  – When we are in the midst of the storm, our minds race with bad thoughts, fears, and what if’s. Focus especially on verse 7 “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus.  (God promises protection over our hearts and minds!)

 

3)    God Knows the Outcome of Our Situation    Vs. 7-9

a)  God is involved in the details of our lives.  Vs 7-9

b)  If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not  stand at all.  Vs. 9b

c)  The Lord offers hope, guidance and direction, but like Ahaz, we must choose to  believe and then receive.

 

Remember in John 11 when Martha and Mary called for Jesus to come – their brother Lazarus was very sick.  Jesus stayed 2 more days (did not come when they asked or in their time frame).  Lazarus died.  When Jesus did arrive, they both met Him and said, “ if You had been here our brother would not have died”.  He asked Martha if she believed – -3 or 4 times He asked “do you believe?  He knew the outcome!   In verse 22, there are 2 little words even now.  Even now, if all seems hopeless, we must remember His timing is always perfect – He is always in control and we can trust Him!

 

 4)  God is our provider, He wants us to place our trust in Him. Vs 10-12

Why did God offer Ahaz a sign?  God wanted so much for Ahaz to trust Him and to set an example of faith for the people, but Ahaz refused God’s offer to choose a sign – he could name anything, but he didn’t want to give us control.  Instead he made an excuse that he didn’t want to test God – how pious!   Ahaz left a legacy as a man who was disobedient to God.

Personal application:

God so loves us, His daughters.  He wants us to place our complete trust in Him alone.  What legacy will you leave those you love and care about? Do they know you are a woman of great faith and love Jesus with all your heart?

 

May we leave a legacy of obedience to God – this is my prayer. 

 

Blessings Dear Ones, Sandy

March 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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