Monday, September 24, 2007

Circumcision at it's finest

"...but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart; in spirit and not in letter; whose praise is not from men, but from God."
- Romans 2:29

I have been in prayer that God circumcise my heart. There was a time when the phrase "circumcise my heart" didn't make sense to me. In fact, the whole act seemed rather embarrassingly pointless. But what doesn't make sense in the eyes of man is often complete wisdom.
Paul's letter to the Romans opened my eyes to circumcision as having great spiritual significance. "How", I asked God, "does one get their heart circumcised?" As I prayed about the meaning, He gently opened my eyes.
God is the ultimate EVERYTHING. He is not just the Creator of Science and Prose... He is the Creator of Poetry and Art. He hides meaning in symbolism at multiple levels. I don't profess to understand all of His purposes in commanding His people to be circumcised, but Romans 2:29 brings some of God's meaning into focus.
The act of circumcision removes unnecessary flesh from a special member of a man's body. Similarly, circumcision of the heart, removes the excess flesh from our desires. The excess flesh wraps itself around our emotional heart, crushing it with unneeded weight, constricting it's ability to give life.
Circumcision of the heart removes the desire for excess. It cuts off the fleshly desire for more than what we need; however, it is not the castration of the good passions that God has given us. It is the removal of lusts that interfere with our ability to love God and love

So I pray:
  • "Lord, I love You more than this extra helping of food; help me to love You more!"
  • "Lord, I love You more than the praise of men; help me to love You more!"
  • "Lord, I love You more than this selfish fantasy; help me to love You more!"
  • "Lord, I love You more than my success; help me to love You more!"
  • "Lord, I love You more than this brand name shirt; help me to love You more!"
  • "Lord, I love You more than this TV show; help me to love You more!"
  • "Lord, I love You more than this (competing desire); help me to love You more!"
  • "Lord, circumcise my heart and circumcise the hearts of Your people. Be our First and Primary Love! Give us a greater love for others!"

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More Blessed than the Mother of Jesus

While Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd shouted, "How blessed is the mother who gave birth to you and the breasts that nursed you." Jesus replied, "Rather, how blessed are those who hear and obey God's word."
- Luke 11:27-28

The Gospel of Luke tells us that Mary was the "most blessed of all women" (Luke 1:42), but Jesus' words above give us an interesting comparison. Yes, Mary was indeed blessed in her role as the mother of Jesus, but we EACH have the opportunity to be blessed if we simply hear and obey God's word. To obey, we must first hear. In order to hear, we must put ourselves in a place where we can listen.

And in hearing, praying that God opens our hearts and minds, we are transformed to be able to be able to obey. "It is God who produces in you the desires and actions that please Him." (Philippians 2:13)

So ultimately, we just need to make the time, setting our hearts to hear God, and He does the rest. Partly, this involves REPLACING activities that we know compete with God for our affections. It might not be a "bad" thing that tries to grab our attention from hearing God's voice, but we can choose the better thing and be blessed because of it.

As they were traveling along, Jesus went into a village. A woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary. Mary sat at the Lord's feet and listened to him talk. But Martha was upset about all the work she had to do. So she asked, “Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work all by myself? Tell her to help me.” The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha! You worry and fuss about a lot of things. There's only one thing you need. Mary has made the right choice, and that one thing will not be taken away from her.”
 - Luke 10:38-42

We serve the Lord best by first sitting at His feet and listening to Him.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Prayer for Our Country -- Especially in the Upcoming Elections

Pray for this country to become faithful to Our God! For the Lord said to Ezekiel (Chapter 14:12-23):

The LORD spoke his word to me. He said, "Son of man, suppose a country sins against me by being unfaithful to me. I will use my power against it, cut off its food supply, send a famine to it, and destroy its people and animals. Even if these three men--Noah, Daniel, and Job--were in that country, they would, by their righteousness, rescue only themselves," declares the Almighty LORD. "Suppose I send wild animals through that country and they make it childless and turn it into such a wasteland that no one travels through it because of the animals. As I live, declares the Almighty LORD, not even Noah, Daniel, and Job could rescue their own sons or daughters. They could rescue only themselves. And the country would become a wasteland. "Suppose I bring a war against that country by saying, 'I will let a war go throughout this country.' Suppose I destroy the people and the animals in it. As I live, declares the Almighty LORD, not even Noah, Daniel, and Job could rescue their sons or daughters. They could rescue only themselves. "Suppose I send a plague into that country or pour out my fury on it by killing people and destroying animals.

As I live, declares the Almighty LORD, not even Noah, Daniel, and Job could, by their righteousness, rescue their sons or daughters. They could rescue only themselves. "This is what the Almighty LORD says: I will surely send four terrible punishments against Jerusalem. I will send wars, famines, wild animals, and plagues. They will destroy people and animals. But some people will survive. Some of your sons and daughters will be brought out. When they come out to you, you will see how they live. Then you will be comforted after the disasters that I will bring on Jerusalem, after every disaster that I will bring against it. You will be comforted when you see how they live. Then you will know that everything I have done was done for a reason," declares the Almighty LORD.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Knowing You're On the Right Path

I'm sending this out, asking for prayer. I also believe that I'm not the only one that needs to be reminded of God's truth in this area and therefore pray for faithfulness on the part of all of God's people.

A couple days ago, I was hit hard with all sorts of negative thoughts: "You're a loser!" and "You should just give up!". Now, there were all sorts of good reasons behind both of those statements, and the accusations hit me hard. They were reinforced by the various circumstances throughout the day, and it's really easy to seek forgetfulness when that happens... to forget Whose we are... to forget to expect God's grace and power... to forget the WHOLE truth. But sometimes you know you're on the right path by the resistance you feel along the way.

Maybe that's how the early church found it such a joy to suffer for Christ's sake. They realized the oppression, the resistance, was an indication that they were on the right path. They sought God's direction and then went down paths that contradicted the conventional wisdom of the day. They refused to lean on their own understanding, and led by the Holy Comforter, they took a step out of the boat and onto unfamiliar waters.

And as they set out on that path, they encountered the Discourager of men, the Accuser. They met resistance: spiritually, physically and emotionally.

A couple days ago, that discouragement had me pinned. The accusations were based in truth and I felt hopeless. I could see the many mistakes that I've made along the way, and I heard the Accuser saying repeatedly: "Loser! Quit! Your God has abandoned you!"

I felt the resistance along the way.

I did something right, and turned to God. I prayed desperately, needing His encouragement.

In martial arts, when two competitors are grappling, they will try to constrict the breathing of their opponent. They will put a hand over the mouth, making breathing difficult but not impossible. The Enemy tries to keep us from breathing, too. He tries to keep us from feeling God's Presence. He'll offer something to take us off the path ("just for the moment"). And he'll also, in a way I don't understand, keep God's answer from coming to us right away. (Daniel's answer was delayed for 3 weeks! See Daniel 10)

When God's answer came back to me, I was able to "...take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Cor 10:5)

The truth is, I can only be a loser if I quit. "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me." (Phil 4:13) and with God's grace, I will persevere! "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Great Expectations - Renewing the Relationship

I remember how I felt when I first started following Jesus as Lord and Savior. Perhaps you had a similar experience?
I wanted to tell everyone I knew about my God, King and Friend. I wanted to purge my life of anything that would interfere with this wonderful new relationship. I yearned for that next, new revelation of His love.

But there have been times since then when my Passion has dropped below other passions. I've heard others say with a defeatist attitude that it's like marriage, where the feeling dies and you just have to get used to it, moving on to a "more mature" relationship.

Well, as scripture points out, my relationship with the Lord is very much like a marriage relationship. I can say that in over 15 years of marriage, my relationship has not always been "passionate", but to me, the ebbing of passion is a warning signal: either something is wrong in me (needing correction) or something is wrong in the relationship (again requiring attention).

Why are we so willing to settle for second best? (or worse?)

In my marriage, as with all my relationships, I can sense when something is not right... it's an emotional indicator light that God has put on my emotional dashboard.
My God made me in His Image, and scripture tells me that God also has feelings. Unlike God, I certainly can't trust my imperfect feelings any more than I can trust my limited intellect. But I can turn to Him when things don't "feel right". And like all of my relationships, I can trust that my Passion for Him will grow as I'm intentional in the time spent with Him.

What a great Friend and God we have, Who doesn't forsake us when we draw away... but rather, lovingly draws us back into the fiery passion that He has for us. Whether we're on the mountain-top or in the valley, we can rejoice in His Presence with a great expectation that He loves us and is in complete control of the outcome!

Blessings of Peace, Hope and Joy!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Obey and Expect

One of the great things about being available to others is that you get to hear how God is speaking to them... and in the process He can speak to you. For example: earlier this week, as I was praying for a friend, this person told me that God has really been emphasizing two things: "Obey and Expect". This hit me hard because, in truth, I was finding it hard to "expect" God's goodness. And as a fall-out of that, I was finding it hard to "obey".

When I truly believe in all of God's goodness, His power and plans for me, then obedience is easy. But when I doubt that He is really in control or that He really has my best interests at heart, we're all more likely to take things into our own hands or try to hide in our addiction of choice (translation: "not obey").

My prayer for you, and my prayer request for you, is that we can all more fully EXPECT God's goodness in our lives.

Blessings, Peace and HOPE!