January 17, 2007

Circumcised Ears

2007 1502 page15 cap had an incredibly powerful time with God one morning a few months ago. For several days I had been working my way through the book of Acts in my devotional time with God. I had visited Acts on numerous occasions in previous devotional times, and had always been moved and motivated by the thrilling events that surrounded the birth of the Christian church.
I’ve also preached from Acts on many occasions over the years (what preacher hasn’t?). It’s the ultimate textbook detailing the evolution and development of the church. But on that morning it wasn’t about evolution and development; it was about the “fresh” word God spoke pointedly into my life.
I was reading Acts 10. I had often used Acts 10 in evangelistic meetings to explain and debunk any notion that God encouraged the eating of unclean meats when in vision Peter was commanded to “rise, kill, and eat.” However on that morning, God manifested His presence in my worship room and revealed a word that has impacted not only the way I live, but how I lead.
The Rooftop Encounter
The apostle Peter, while in Joppa, went up on the roof of the house where he was staying to pray at the noon hour. There is something admirable about believers who know how to pause in the middle of the day to pray in order to keep their heart connected to God. During that midday prayer time on the roof Peter was taken into vision. The outcome of that vision dramatically changed his entire ministry worldview relative to race and culture.
2007 1502 page15But something else happened on that rooftop that captured my attention: “While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Behold, three men are seeking you’” (Acts 10:19).*
Look again at who spoke directly to Peter: the Holy Spirit. I don’t know about you, but I crave the Spirit speaking directly to me. I don’t want to seem mystical, but I believe the Holy Spirit wants to communicate with Christ’s believers now as directly as He did with Peter back then.
In the Old Testament God communicated His will and direction in various ways—through prophets, through the Urim and Thummim. In the New Testament, specifically in the book of Acts, Peter and the other apostles received direct guidance from the Holy Spirit. Not an impression, but a direct word.
That got me thinking: Why don’t today’s believers get that kind of direct word from the Spirit? Could the barrier be what Jeremiah called “uncircumcised ears” (Jer. 6:10)? The text suggests that those with uncircumcised ears don’t value or appreciate the privilege of hearing from God. More to the point, it says that those with uncircumcised ears “have no delight in [the Word].”
Going to the Roof
Peter went to the roof for the single purpose of communing with God. And while on the roof, the Spirit spoke a direct word of guidance to him.
I am convinced that just like Peter, we also need to break away and take regular trips to the “roof.” It will mean detaching from the pull and tug of heavy demands and responsibilities in the middle of the day, coming aside in order to get on the same frequency with God.
I don’t think most believers purposely resist getting on that frequency; it’s just that we get so caught up with the urgency of going and doing that over time God gets nudged out (an absence of a “delight in the Word”). Our busyness creates uncircumcised ears unaccustomed to detecting that “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12).
Imagine again Peter on the rooftop, deliberately pursuing a season of quiet. Up on the roof he is blessed and favored by the Spirit speaking a word of guidance and direction. The only way the Spirit could speak to Peter and he be able to hear is that he clearly had circumcised ears.
*Bible texts in this column are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Fredrick Russell is senior pastor of the Miracle Temple in Baltimore, Maryland.