Lenten Journey Day 10; Circumcision

*image source: google.com/images

2-Mar-12:  Romans 4:1-12

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6 So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:

7          “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,

and whose sins are covered;

8          blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.”

9 Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” 10 How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, 12 and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.



Today’s Sermon From The Ranch – Believing God

Sorry it’s late but we had some bad storms blow through and I shut down the computer.

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to feature Eric Elder’s latest series called “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind”) 

The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration

Believing God

Lesson 9 from
Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder

I’d like to talk to you today about believing God.  Not just believing in God.  But believing God–believing that He will do what He says He will do.  The reason I want to talk to you about believing God is because what you believe influences what you do.  Or, to put it another way, you do what you believe.
If you believe that people are going to hell if they don’t put their faith in Jesus, then you’ll do something about it.  If you’re not doing something about it, then you’re just giving intellectual assent to an idea, but you’re not really believing it.
I have a friend who went to the doctor for a checkup.  The doctor told him, “Your Dad had a heart attack by the time he was forty-eight, and you’re going to have a heart attack by the time you’re forty-eight unless you make some changes in your life.”  My friend had known this was a possibility before, but it wasn’t until his doctor told him the truth so directly that my friend finally believed it.  He began that day to change the way he ate, the way he exercised, and the way he lived his life.  He’s still going strong today.  Why?  Because he believed what his doctor said.
How much more so, when we hear what God says about our lives, should be believe Him and do what He says?
Abraham is an excellent example for all of us of someone who believed God, who heard what God said and took it to heart, and then backed up what he believed with his actions.
If you remember the story, God told Abraham that he would have so many descendants they would outnumber the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.  This was a pretty lofty idea considering that Abraham was old and childless.  But the Bible says:
“Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3).
Several years later, when God called Abraham to become circumcised as a way of sealing God’s covenant with him, Abraham did what God said that very day, and within a year, he and his wife Sarah had their first child–the first of a long line of his promised descendants.
While Abraham’s obedience to be circumcised was important and necessary for the fulfillment of God’s plan for his life, the Apostle Paul notes in his letter to the Romans that it wasn’t after Abraham was circumcised that he was declared righteous in God’s sight, but before.  Abraham was declared righteous several years before his circumcision.  He was declared righteous the moment he believed.  (You can read more about this part of Abraham’s story in Genesis chapters 15-18.) 
Abraham’s circumcision was a natural outworking of the faith that Abraham had already expressed in his heart to God.  His actions were directly influenced by what he believed.
Dallas Willard is one of the spiritual giants of our generation.  When asked what he would advise someone to do who wanted to grow spiritually, he gave a surprising answer.  You might think he would say, “Read the Bible more,” or “Pray more,” or “Go to church more.”  But he didn’t.  He said the best course of action for someone who wants to grow spiritually is this:  
“Do the next right thing you know you ought to do.”
He expanded on this thought by saying that you’ll grow more when you do the next right thing that you know you ought to do because you’ll be doing the very thing that God wants you to do.  He said it may very well involve reading the Bible more so you can get clarity on what it is that God really wants you to do.  It may involve praying more because you’ll need God’s wisdom for how to do it.  It may involve going to church more because you’ll most likely need the help of others to do what God has put on your heart to do.  But in any case, you’ll grow tremendously when you do the next right thing you know you ought to do.
My question for you today is this:  what’s the next right thing you know you ought to do?  
What is it that God has called you to do that He is wanting you to take the next step in faith to get done?  Maybe it’s in something regarding your family, your job, your finances, or your health.  Maybe it’s something regarding your calling, your gifting, your relationships, or the way you use your time.  Maybe it’s something that is quiet and internal, or maybe it’s something that is out loud and vocal.  Maybe it’s something you need to start doing, or maybe it’s something you need to stop doing.
Although I don’t know what it might be that God is putting on your heart right now as you read these words, I imagine there are probably one or two things that may have already started coming to your mind as “the next right thing you know you ought to do.”  Whatever it is, I want to encourage you to do it.  Believe in your heart that God has called you to it, then step out in faith and let Him help you do it!
You may remember the story of the widow’s oil, back in the Old Testament.  This widow had lost her husband, and she and her two sons were struggling to live.  She was at a point of desperation because her husband’s creditors were coming to take away her boys as slaves.
She cried out to Elisha, a man of God that she knew, and asked him what to do.  Elisha asked what she had left in her house.  She said that she had nothing there at all, “except a little oil” (2 Kings 4:5).
So Elisha told her what to do next.  He told her to go around to all her neighbors and ask for their empty jars.  She and her sons did what Elisha said.  She went all over the neighborhood asking for empty jars and brought them home.  Elisha told her to fill them up with the little oil that she had.  By faith, she began pouring out the oil into the first jar, and it didn’t stop!  It just kept flowing and flowing as she poured it into jar after jar, until every jar she had collected was full.  Elisha told her:
“Go, sell the oil and pay your debts.  You and your sons can live on what is left” (2 Kings 4:7b).
I love this story for several reasons, but one that stands out to me today is the fact that the widow believed what God was telling her to do through the prophet Elisha, then she went out and acted on that belief.  She did “the next right thing she knew she ought to do.”
One way to renew your mind today is to believe God–not just believe in Him–but really believe Him, because what you believe influences what you do.
Abraham wasn’t credited with righteousness after he was circumcised, but before, when he first believed God.  It was only afterwards that he stepped out in faith and acted on what he believed.  
The widow’s life didn’t start to turn around after she had sold all her jars of oil and got the money for them, but before, when she first believed what God told her to do through the prophet Elisha.  It was only afterwards that she stepped out in faith and acted on what she believed.  
God wants you to believe Him, too.  He wants you believe what He says and then to act on that belief, to do the next right thing that you know you ought to do.  For some of you, this might mean picking up a project that you’ve been putting off for years.  You might think, “Not that, Lord!  It’s been on the back burner for so long, I don’t think I’ll ever get around to it.”  For others of you, this might mean acting on something you heard just yesterday.  You might think, “Not that, Lord!  I just heard about it yesterday, I need a few more days, or months, or years to think about it.”  
We can think of all kinds of reasons not to do what we know we ought to do.  But I want to encourage you today to believe God, and then act on that belief.  Don’t let doubt and discouragement hold you back from doing “the next right thing” that God has called you to do.  
Believe God today, and then act on that belief!  Then one day, like Abraham and Sarah, and like the widow and her sons, people will be telling the story of what happened to you when you believed God, too.
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for creating each of us with special tasks to accomplish here on earth.  Help us to have the faith today to believe what You say when you speak to us, and then to act on that belief.  Help us today to step out in faith and do the next right thing we know we ought to do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Loving Thoughts

P.S. This is also the last week that we’ll be highlighting our new book called, “Loving Thoughts,” a short book of quotes and Bible verses to help those who are passing from this life to the next.  You can download this book in an eBook format for free from the link below, or you can order a beautiful, 24-page paperback version by simply sending a donation of any size to our ministry.  Your gifts help to offset the cost of printing and shipping, as well as help us to continue creating more resources like these, so thanks in advance for your gifts!  Here are the links to download the free eBook or to request a paperback:
To make a donation and get the paperback, please visit:
Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 4:1-12.  Why do you think God credited Abraham with righteousness when he first believed God, rather than after he took his famous steps of obedience?
2.  Read James 2:18-20.  What are some of the differences between believing God and just believing in God, based on this passage?
3.  What is the relationship between faith and works, as described by the passage in James?
4.  What comes to your mind as “the next right thing you ought to do?”  What steps could you take to help clarify that those things really are from God, and then to step out in faith to begin doing them?
To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind, please visit:
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This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Getting To The Heart

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to feature Eric Elder’s latest series called “Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind”) 

The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration

Getting To The Heart

Lesson 6 from
Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder

I have thought for some time now that someone should make a movieabout two men engaged in an epic battle with one other.  In some ways, it would be like every other movie:  the hero and villain would be at war throughout the movie, with the hero having the upper hand at some points, and the villain gaining the upper hand at others.  Near the end, the hero would deliver the fatal blow that sends the villain to his doom forever.  But the difference in this movie would be that just before the closing creditsbegin to roll, the camera would back up from the final battle scene, revealing to the audience that the hero and the villain were one and the same person, fighting atop of a brain inside a man’s head.  Fresh from the victory in his mind, we would see the man finally stand up and walk forward to do what’s right.  No longer bound by the thoughts that were raging within him, he would finally be free to live the life he was called to live.An audience of such a movie might think that they had been tricked into thinking that the whole battle was “real” for the entire movie, when it was only being played out inside the man’s head.  But to those who saw what was taking place at a deeper level, they would realize that what took place inside the man’s head was no less real than what took place after he stood up at the end.  

The victory in our mind is often just as critical as a victory in the physical world.  In fact, we often need to secure the victory in our mind first before we can secure the victory in the physical world.

There are, however, ways to cover up our true thoughts and feelings with words and actions that make it look like we’ve got it all together on the inside.  This kind of activity might deceive men, but it never deceives God.  God wants us to win the victory in our minds and in the physical world.  When there’s a disconnect between what’s going on inwardly and what’s going on outwardly, God wants us to get to the heart.

Paul addressed this disconnect in his letter to the Romans.  The Jews were priding themselves on the outward signs of their faith, like the fact that they were circumcised whereas the Gentiles, or non-Jews, weren’t.  But Paul said:

“A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.  No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly, and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.  Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29).

In some ways, the Jews could have seen circumcision as one of the symbols of their salvation.  It was a physical sign imprinted on their bodies that they belonged to God, that they were children of a special covenant between God and His people.  But Paul said that if their circumcision was external only, then it would only merit praise from men, not from God.  

God wanted their circumcision to be a “circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.”  Paul said that the Gentiles, who didn’t have the law of God written down for them, would be more honoring to God than the Jews if the Gentiles kept the requirements of the law by doing what’s right.  Paul said:

“If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised?  The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker” (Romans 2:26-27).

This isn’t to say that circumcision and the law was of no value to the Jews, as we’ll find out next time in chapter 3 of Paul’s letter.  But it is to say that God wants our inward reality to match up with our outward reality.  And when we get to the heart first, the outward actions will flow much more naturally.  

I got an email from a friend who is struggling with p..n ogr.phy (I didn’t type out the full word so that this email will get past people’s spam filters).  For years, this friend has battled this battle, thinking of himself as an addict.  He hasn’t been sure if he will ever break free.  Although I believe he can and he will, it’s hard for him to believe it, because of the length and the strength of his battle.  

Yet in his most recent email, he said he had just been to a counselor who asked him many in-depth questions about his struggle.  After reviewing the situation, the counselor said that he doesn’t think my friend has an addiction and he told my friend several reasons why.  This was news to my friend because he’s been feeling like an addict for years!  It changed my friend’s thinking about his situation and he’s already had some small victories in his battle since then!

My friend’s actions are beginning to change because he has changed the way he thinks about his problem.  He now sees that there’s a possibility that he really can be free from this battle that has dogged him for so long.

God cares about what’s going on inside your brain.  He cares about what’s going on inside your heart.  And He cares about what you do as a result of what’s going on inside your brain and heart.  What happens internally is just as important—and just as real—as what happens externally.

In one of the final scenes of the Harry Potter series, Harry has a fairly surreal experience and talks about it with one of his most trusted mentors.  As their conversation comes to a close, Harry asks:

“Tell me one last thing.  Is this real?  Or has this been happening inside my head?

His mentor replies:

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?”

Sometimes we think that the thoughts in our head are separate from, and unrelated to, the actions that we take in our lives.  We treat the two as different realities.  But the truth is that our thoughts influence our actions.  Both are real and God cares about both.

God wants you to have the victory on the inside so you can have the victory on the outside.  

He doesn’t want you to be obedient just so you can say you have faith in Him.  He wants you to have faith in Him so that you can be obedient.  

While there can be value in just doing things because you know they’re right, even if you don’t feel like doing them, there’s much more value if what you do on the outside matches up with what you think and feel on the inside.  When they match up, you’ll feel better about what you’re doing, others will feel better about what you’re doing, and God will be honored by what you’re doing.

As God said to Samuel when Samuel saw a man that he thought God would choose to be as the king of Israel:  

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7-8).

Ask God to renew your heart and mind this week.  Ask Him to reveal anything within you that is improperly motivated, or that seeks for anything other than the good of others and the glory of God.  Then, if God reveals anything to you that needs to be changed internally, ask Him for help to know how to change it.  Ask Him to remake you from the inside out.  Give Him permission to do that work inside you, whatever it takes.  

Then, when God is done remaking you on the inside, you’ll be able to stand up, move forward, and do what’s right.  No longer bound by the thoughts that were raging inside you, you’ll finally be free to live the life you were called to live!

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for caring about what goes on inside us—our thoughts and feelings—just as much as you care about what we do on the outside. Thank You for the reminder that both are real, and both are really important to You.  Fill our minds and hearts with Your will for our lives and help us to believe and act on Your will.  We pray that doing so will make an tremendous difference to us and to those around us in the weeks and months and years ahead.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S. I met a great band at a music festival this month and thought you might like to listen to one of their songs, which they graciously shared with me so you could listen to in its entirety for free at the link below.  The band is called Fue, and the song is called “Abide in Love,” based on the Song of Solomon.  Here’s the link to the song, and the link to their website below that:

Loving Thoughts

P.P.S. Over a thousand people have downloaded our free eBook that we offered last week called “Loving Thoughts,” a book of thoughts and quotes for those who are passing from this life to the next and those who love them.  Many have also ordered copies of this book in paperback for themselves and as gifts for those they love.  I’ve even had two people pass away this week who were close to us and have given them copies of this book as they grieve their losses.  It’s a very small book, but the thoughts will help to give you a clear perspective on what it means when a Christian passes away.  If you’d like a copy, you can download the free eBook yourself by visiting the link below, or you I’d be glad to send you a beautiful 24-page paperback for a donation of any size to our ministry.  Someone yesterday just ordered 10 copies to give out to friends and family, and you’re welcome to do the same.  Your donations help us with the cost of printing and shipping, plus they help us to continue to create resources like these in the future, so thanks so much in advance.  Here are the links to download or request a copy:
To download the free eBook version, please visit:
To make a donation and get the paperback, please visit:
Questions for Reflection
1.  Read Romans 2:7-29What was the problem that Paul was addressing with the Jews in this passage?
2.  What did Paul mean when he said that “circumcision is circumcision of the heart”?  And how does that take place?
3.  In what ways can our thoughts and feelings differ from our actions?  And in what ways are they related?
4. Are there any areas in your life where your thoughts and feelings are disconnected from your actions?  What might you do this week to help them line up more closely?
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