Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer - Week 6

In a certain seasons of life, the Holy Spirit will keep bringing the same verses and ideas to your attention. That's happening right now for me, but instead of a verse, He is bringing me an entire chapter. Perhaps that means I'm getting where I can handle more but I think the more likely reality is I don't need just a trickle of a verse. I need the fire hose on full blast.

The chapter is Romans 8: bearing the fruit of the Spirit over fruit of the flesh.  I talked a lot last week about the process of bearing more fruit. (Read it here).  Oh, the pruning, snipping, clipping and stripping of my flesh continues.  I have to keep in mind the point of it all is to bear MORE fruit than I currently am. I did not anticipate this when I got into this high and lofty idea of THE YEAR OF PRAYER, but I probably should have.  (Let that be a lesson to you.)

But it is all good.  Honestly, I'm good with it.

One of the many things I love about Romans 8 is the intensity.  You've had all this build up about sin and salvation, Paul could quit while he is ahead.  But he doesn't, the dude just keeps going higher, like he is trying to be the first one to scale a spiritual Mount Everest.  The Apostle Paul is the Sir Edmund Hillary of the Gospel.  The language is beyond meaty, with every word, every sentence and idea you could chew on for the rest of your life.  It wins the aware for "Best Theology and Life Application" in my book.

Because really, what good is theology if you can't apply it to life?

I've been in this chapter since October and I'm only up to verse 5.  Paul is taking the idea of bearing spiritual fruit to the stratosphere and putting the screw to us all. Bear fruit, not just because you want to but because CHRIST DIED FOR YOU TO DO IT.

We are supposed to be an intentionally-fruit-bearing-people.  We should be paying attention to the way we spend our time, money, energy, gifts, etc. To live a lift worthy of Christ, you have to live it for the way God wants, not the way you want.  Make the space, the time, the effort for HIM, NOT YOU. Simple, yet utterly profound.

This past week was another step in the direction of Spirit over flesh.  It's not just about a change of spiritual nature anymore, the Lord wants the internal change to be reflected externally, more than it is at the moment. This is because, when my flesh is not up to par, it effects my....well, effectiveness....in the Spirit.  It's an object lesson of sorts.

Three months ago, the Lord gave me a line of faith to believe He wants to heal my thyroid/adrenal disease. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease (or hypo-thyroidism) 5 years ago.  I've been on medication since, of varying dosages. It was only when I was ready, when He'd prepared me to think differently about what He wants for my physicality, that I felt like I could believe this was not meant to be.  It took half of decade, but He moved me away from the thought "I will always be on this medicine," to "Maybe I can get off someday....soon!"  However, He reminded me my lifestyle would have to support this goal.

He would heal me, but I would need to do my part.

I have not been consistent or intentional.  Things are changing, but only slowly because I haven't been fully committed.  I haven't been paying full attention to what goes into my body and how well my body functions as a result.  Not in a legalistic way, but in a way that takes care of this 5'11" Temple of the Holy Spirit.

The crux of the matter is this: when I don't feel good, I am not at the top of my stewardship game.  I don't use my gifts, time, presence...all that goes into a life of service to Christ...as well as I could.  When I do what I want, I get sluggish and lazy.  This does not please God, Amy.

 Richard Foster writes in his book Prayer, 
God cares as much about the body as he does the soul, as much about the emotions as he does the spirit.  The redemption that is in Jesus is total, involving every aspect of the person - body, soul, will, mind, emotions, spirit.
When I do what pleases the Lord (which includes take good care of my body by eating right, exercising within healthy limits), I am a more effective servant.  When I pour into the Spirit, I'm a joyful steward of all He is given me; the fruit really starts to pop up all over the place.  When I pour into my flesh, I am an unwilling steward of His blessings; the fruit starts to wither on the vine.

This week is all about coming to see and understand this, not just in my head but in my heart . 

The writer of Hebrews echos Romans 8 well when in 12:1-3 (from the Message, of course),

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it..he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever...When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

The pruning in me is happening to create a lean-mean-fruit-bearing machine, for His glory and the good of myself and those around me. Freedom comes with responsibility.  That responsibility is to take back our God-given authority from the enemy.  We can regain the ground lost when we let our flesh rule the roost.  To do things God's way is to rest in His finished work and be released to share our redemption.  We can't do things our own way and expect the same results.

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19, NLT)

I need to keep my eyes open.
I need to keep my heart desiring His fruit over my own.
I need to be willing to go where He sends, with a new level of personal holiness in mind. (There is more coming on this as we take this journey through the upcoming season of Lent.)

If you find yourself flagging in your faith, it might be time for you to let the Lord do some stripping, getting rid of some spiritual (and for me physical) fat. Keep praying, keep pushing in, keep going over Jesus line by line.

The Lord has already given me the theme for Week 7.  "I am an under-rower."  I'll explain later! 

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