Tuesday, January 29, 2019


HIDDEN IDOLS

God loves us so much that He will show us those things that hold first place in our hearts, if we are open to His revelations. Several years ago, He led me on a journey of self-discovery—one that revealed startling truths about hidden idols that control and manipulate our lives. 

God commanded the Israelites to worship and obey Him and Him only, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). Yet in their prideful arrogance, they refused and worshipped idols and sought godless counsel. 

The Israelites incorporated the worship of God with idol worship. They were unrepentant, covetous, disobedient, rebellious, and lusted after power and kingdom expansion. Sadly, like ancient Israel, America has become a rebellious mecca of self-worship and pseudo Christianity. 

You might be thinking, "Wait just a minute! I don't worship idols!" However, idols are not limited to Ashtoreth poles, shrines, totems, or other manmade deities. Idols come in the guise of objects, electronics, habits, beliefs, desires, activities, persons, or anything that draws our focus away from God and causes us to look to ourselves and to the things of this world to satisfy us.

When we invited Christ into our hearts, we were delivered from the bondage of sin and death. But that spiritual transformation did not remove us from a pagan world that has a feel-good mentality and worships the religions of  secularism, tolerance, materialsim, self-worship,  and compromise. 

Christian values are scorned, mocked, and debased. All forms of media promote crass materialism, self-indulgence, and play to the ego with the promise that if we buy into their propaganda, we will look better, feel better, be better, and live healthier, longer lives. This daily, minute-by-minute capitalistic infusion of a world-view has created a culture of self-indulgent, idol worshippers that are groomed and trained to worship self and all that satisfies the flesh.

America’s motto is “In God We Trust.” God asks, “In whom do you really trust? Who or what do you first turn to for help and answers? In whom or what do you find complete rest and joy? Is it in your intellect, your talents, your spouse, your family and friends, your government, your bank account, your doctor, your pastor or priest?"

Years of struggling with major illnesses drained me physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. So when another medical problem arose, I prayed, “Lord, I am so tired of these medical issues. I know You love me with a perfect love, because every good and perfect gift come from You. And because You and Your Word are perfect and unchanging, is there anything in my life that is keeping me from receiving all that You would have for me?”

God’s gentle voice spoke into my spirit, “You worship an idol.” I was stunned. I said, “Lord, I love You and You alone. What idol could I be worshipping? There is no thing or person that I hold above You.” Then in my spirit, I heard, “What you give the most thought and attention to is  your idol."

The startling realization hit me. My life was the idol. For the first time, I fully understood this scripture: “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:25). My thoughts and attention had been focused on me and my health. I repented and asked God's forgiveness for pursuing the healing and not the Healer.

Luke 8:43 tells about a woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years. She had spent all of her money on physicians, but they could not heal her. But when she pushed through the crowd in pursuit of Jesus, she was able to touch the hem of His garment and was immediately healed. Was I pushing through the circumstances in pursuit of Jesus?

God wants us to be spiritually, emotionally, and physically whole, but who are we pursuing first to accomplish that – man's answer or Jehovah Rapha our Healer? We must pray for God's guidance, so that He can lead us to doctors who will provide the best care, and depending on the attitude of our heart, receive supernatural healing. Jesus said, “Seek me first, [pursue Me first], and all things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

The following basic truths are found in Proverbs 3:5-8. If followed, they will help us keep our eyes on God and not on the problem or ourselves:  

1. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. ("For those who trust in themselves are fools" Proverbs 28:25).

2. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Acknowledge Him in every thing you do and every success, because He is the giver of those gifts (I Peter 4:10)
  
3. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. ("If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously" (James 1:5)

4. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones (Proverbs 3:5-8). This is God's promise to those who seek Him first and submit all their ways to Him.

God asks us: “Who or what do you love most? Would I be enough if your dreams of having a husband or a child were never fulfilled. What if you never receive the bigger home, the perfect health, that promotion, or whatever else you believe would make your life better or happier? Are you willing to surrender it all to Me and offer your life as a living sacrifice? If everything you value in life were lost, would you still love Me or would you shake your fist at Me?"

God asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, who was the fulfillment of God's promise of an heir and a new nation. Through Isaac, God would establish His eternal covenant. With unwavering trust and obedience, Abraham laid his son on the altar. God quickly responded in providing a sacrifice, thus sparing Isaac and giving Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars and the sand on the seashore.

God is most concerned with the attitude of our heart, who and what we serve, and what we value most. God was pleased with Abraham's heart. God showed me that in obsessing over my health, I was focusing on myself; therefore, it was all about me. My joy and happiness were predicated on my health. He then challenged me to lay it all upon the altar.

I now pray as David prayed, “Show me your ways, O LORD. Teach me your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope [and my life rest] in You all day long” (Psalm 25:4-5).

PRAYER: LORD, thank you for daily showing me Your mercy, goodness, and unending faithfulness. Show me any hidden idols or sin that I need to repent of and cast off. Create in me a clean heart; renew a right spirit within me. Help me to seek You first with all my heart and not trust in my own efforts, the efforts of others, or this world. In Jesus name, amen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A LIFE REDEEMED


Have you ever seen or known a person whom you believed was completely irredeemable. Their sins appeared to be too great and their heart too hard for them to change their ways? Saul, before he became the Apostle Paul, was such a person. 

Saul was born to a Jewish family in Tarsus (Turkey). A Roman citizen, he became a Pharisee who hated Christians because he believed Jesus' teachings violated the Mosaic Law. He relentlessly pursued, brutalized, persecuted, and ordered the deaths of those who called themselves Christians. 

Stephen, a devout Christian, "a man full of God's grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people" (Acts 6:8 NIV). He was brought before the high priest and Pharisees. With false charges set before him, he reminded them of what God had done for them, calling them "stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, who always resist the Holy Spirit" (Acts 7:51 ESV). Because of Stephen's strong influence over the people, his stoning was ordered, which Saul had heartily approved. 

This story of hatred and persecution is being played out on the world's stage as society sinks deeper and deeper into apostasy. Stiff-necked, rebellious people are rejecting God because they are uncircumcised in their hearts and ears. Like the high priest and Pharisees, today's people reject truth so they don't have to admit they are sinners. 

Saul's all-consuming hatred of Christ followers drove him to go before the high priest and ask for letters to the synagogues at Damascus. Thus, if he found any people belonging to the Way (followers of Christ), he might bring them bound to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1-3).

Do you see that all-consuming fire of hatred and persecution towards today's Christians? They are taken before the courts, sued, and forced to pay exorbitant fines and "damages" that wipe out their businesses, because they choose to hold to their Christian beliefs and not cave to a hedonistic and corrupt culture? However difficult, Jesus said,  "...love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:43-45 NIV).

Saul approached Damascus and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him and falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And Saul asked, "Who are you, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do" (Acts 9:3-6). At that moment Saul was struck blind, so those traveling with him led him to Damascus where he fasted and prayed for three days. Saul had become a man undone.

There was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias whom God told to go and lay hands on Saul that he may regain his sight and receive the Holy Spirit. Saul's reputation preceded him, so Ananias said to the Lord, "Lord, I have heard from man about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name" (Acts 9:10-16 ESV). 

Despite Ananias' obedience to the Lord, he must have questioned within his heart why God would choose such a man to carry God's Word to the Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel? "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?" (Romans 11:33-34 NIV) We cannot begin to know the mind of God for He tells us, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways" (Isaiah 58:8 NIV).

Saul, whom Jesus would eventually name Paul, meaning humble, would say this about himself, "...Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst" (1 Timothy 1:15). "I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me" (I Corinthians 15:9-10). 

It is by grace we have been saved, through faith—and this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). The requirement is a repentant heart that invites Christ into the heart and expresses remorse and regret for wrongdoing and sin. It is a changing of one's mind and a turning away from sin. For it is in our repentance, that doors open for God's power to work within us. 

Scriptures do not tell us, but just maybe Christians had prayed for Saul, for there is hope for each person to be redeemed (delivered from sin). Those who confess their sins, God is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

If you have been praying a long time for people and have not seen any change, do not give up hope, and do not stop praying for them. Remember, Paul, who said he was the greatest sinner of them all, became a man of Christ who used his Jewish roots and Roman citizenship to minster to both the Jews and the Romans. Other than Jesus, no single person was more influential during the beginnings of Christianity than Paul. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, He wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament. During his ministry, it is estimated that he traveled over 10,000 miles to bring the Gospel to the lost.

God has all power, ability, and authority to take what the enemy would intend for our destruction and bring good from it. He certainly did that for Paul and He will do that for any who call on the name of Jesus Christ and put their hope and trust in Him.

PRAYER: Father, Your Word says that you do not want even one to perish but that all would come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I ask that you draw (name) by Your Spirit and soften (his/her) heart to receive the life-changing truth and message of Jesus Christ. May (name) experience Your love and turn to You, so that (his/her) sins may be wiped out, making room for restoration. In Jesus name, amen.















Thursday, January 3, 2019

CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART



How many of us made a New Year's Resolution for 2019? Maybe it was to lose weight, start an exercise program, eat healthy foods, be a better spouse, a better parent, etc. Aside from those noble resolutions, how many of us resolved to seek God more this year and allow Him to circumcise our hearts?

God had told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and said, "This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised" (Genesis 17:10-14). Circumcision would be an external expression of a spiritual circumcision of the heart, bringing blessing to the nation of Israel, if they did not forget God and serve other gods.

God spoke through Moses to the Israelites in the wilderness, "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear (honor and respect) the LORD your God, to walk in ALL His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good" (Deuteronomy 10:12-16). Instead, their hearts became hardened towards God as they worshipped idols and no longer performed circumcisions. Thus, God caused them to wander in the wilderness for forty years until the older generation died.

The older generation had failed in following God's commandments, but He is a God of love and is faithful to His Word, so when the nation of Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promise Land with the new generation, the LORD immediately commanded Joshua, "Make for yourself flint knives, and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time" (Joshua 5:2).

Physical circumcision was spiritually significant because it signified the Jews separating themselves from the old sin-life so they could serve and worship God with clean and pure hearts. Although Gentiles were not part of the original Abrahamic Covenant, God made a new covenant with us through the blood of Jesus Christ. And in receiving Christ as our Savior, God calls us to surrender to circumcision of our hearts.

The Apostle Paul tells us, "...circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision is uncircumcision" (Romans 2:25-29). Paul goes on to say that circumcision is a matter of the heart, by God's Spirit. It is not by the letter of the law. For if the heart is sinful, then physical circumcision is worthless. In other words, the law says, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." Yet the uncircumcised heart condones cursing and uses God's name in vain. 

The Law can never be enough to cover an uncircumcised heart that refuses to recognize sin and acknowledge truth. The person with a circumcised heart knows truth and is convicted of sin. The flesh no longer controls them, because they have surrendered their heart and will to God and His commandments.

Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites tried to combine idol worship with worshipping God. This angered God for He had said, "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6). They forgot God and all that He had done for them and chose to serve other gods. Is America any different? We see the blatant and willful disregard for God as people worship celebrities, live in fornication, chase after pleasures of every kind, seek power, money, materialism, the supernatural, and so much more.

Whatever owns our earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). The Apostle Paul said that since creation, people have known God but have not glorified Him nor given thanks to Him. Rather they have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and serve created things rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25)

How can a person know if he or she worships the things of this world more than God? One must examine their heart to see what they value most, because that which is valued most becomes an idol that is worshipped.

The dictionary defines "worship" as reverence and adoration for something or someone. The Bible defines "worship" as an extreme expression of love for God. God tells us that we are to love the LORD our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our might (Deuteronomy 6:5). When we do, we rejoice in spending time with the Lord in prayer and studying His Word, for our love and passion for God and His Word should be greater than the love we have for a spouse, children, or anything else that captures the human heart.


All humans arrive in this world with a sin nature. Jesus told the Pharisees of their inability to keep the Law of God, because they were spiritually bankrupt. It was faith and not physical circumcision that would make them a child of God. Fortunately, because of God's great love for us, He provided rebirth through the blood of Jesus Christ to set us free from our old sin nature. That freedom is empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit who dwells within the hearts of the redeemed. If we belong to Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, we are Abraham's seed and heirs according to His promise (Galatians 3:29).

If we are truly in Christ, we have been circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Our old self, once ruled by the flesh, was put off when we were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which we were then raised with Him through our faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead (Colossians 2:11-12).

As we begin 2019, it is important to discern between God's truth and the world's version of truth. If we allow the Spirit of God and His Word to lead, guide, and direct our steps, He will lead us into all truth (John 16:13).

God will not take a back seat to the things of this world for He says, "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other" (Matthew 6:24). It is impossible to love both God and the world.

Jesus said, "If anyone love Me, he will keep My Word..." (John 14:23-24). Therefore, we are to treasure His Word in our hearts that we may not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). For God's Word is the scalpel that can daily circumcise the human heart, revealing those things that  keep us from living for Him. Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the things that we need, will be added to us (Matthew 6:33). Therefore, we should each ask this question of ourselves, "Whom and what will I be seeking and serving in 2019?" 


PRAYER: FATHER, I desire to begin 2019 with You as my first priority. Help me to be faithful in praying and reading Your Word each day. May Your Word be a sharp scalpel that will reveal and circumcise those areas of my heart that are not surrendered to Your will and purposes. In Jesus name, amen.