Fasting From the World to Find the Kingdom, part 4

James, chapter 4 illustrates the need for fasting from the world:

What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes? Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives?  You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight. You don’t have because you don’t ask.  You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings.

 You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God?  Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? God jealously longs for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us?  But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud, but favors the humble.  Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you.  Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep! Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadness.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  -James 4:1-10

James writes that we have, "cravings that are at war in our own lives".  These cravings cause conflicts,  disputes, and even murder.  These cravings result in jealousy, struggles, and fights.  James writes that these things are the result of unfaithfulness and friendship with the world.  God loves the world and wants the world saved (John 3:16) and so should we, with God's love.  The friendship with the world that makes you an enemy of God is something different.  God loves the world, but is not the world's friend.

Friendship is when you have things in common and fellowship around those things.  The world is moving against and away from God.  The Christian is moving with and toward God.  So, the Christian cannot align with or friend the world and if he or she does, they have ceased to move toward and be a friend with God.  James says you can not be on both teams.

God jealously longs for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us.  The Bible tells us that God is a jealous God.  His jealousy is not like human jealousy, that often is a wanting of something someone else has.  God is jealous for us to be wholly His.  The more we are in God, the better life we will have and God knows this.  God wants to and deserves to be number one in our lives.  The human illustration is that the married person wants to be the number one person in their spouse's life.  If they are looking at others or sharing intimacy with others, the spouse is jealous, and rightly so; because they made vows to each other at their wedding to be faithful and we long for them to stay faithful and are jealous if they are not.

Our flesh craves the worldly things, but God jealously longs for our faithfulness, writes James.  How do we get from unfaithful craving for the world to faithfulness to God?  Grace.  We need more grace.  Got grace?  Get more grace.

Grace is God's unmerited favor or his empowering presence.  God has already made provision for our faithfulness.  We don't earn the ability or work our way to it, but we must procure it.  He activates you to act.  You act in faith, by his faithfulness, through his grace.

James gives inspired instruction on how to extricate yourself from the world. How to stop the friendship with the world by cutting off those cravings, through fasting from the world.

This is what James says to do:   

Humble yourself:  Humble those cravings by starving them.

Submit to God:  Re-set your self under God.

Resist the devil.  Hold your ground and stand against the devil.  The word devil is from diabolos witch means "the Slanderer (par excellence)": the quintessential, the best at it, slanderer.  Slander is, "oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another which will harm the reputation of the person defamed".  Character assassination and smear are words for slander.  This is the devil's stock & trade.  You can expect slander from mouths that the devil has commandeered and you can stand against it.  James says that the devil will run away from you if you stand against him, while humbling yourself and submitting to God; seeking grace (God's unmerited favor & empowering presence).  

What does the devil have to do with fasting from the world to find the kingdom?  Why does James insert this counsel about deliverance into a section in his letter about  out of control desires, repentance, and humility?  Being in the world, but not of the world has it's pitfalls.  James may have in mind, that when you are unfaithful to God, moving toward idolatry, you open a door for the dark side (the demonic) to get a foothold in your life.  

The devil is only one person, but I assume that James means the devil's forces who carry out his attack on the church.  Lies are the calling card of the devil's forces.  They will lie about you, God, and others.  If they get into your thoughts at all, they will be whispering lies.  If the dark forces gain enough ground in a person's life, they fill there mind so much, that the person begins to (irrationally) speak out the lies of the enemy.

James reminds Christians that they are to simply resist the knock on the door and not answer.

The world is enemy territory, because of the fall of man.  God's kingdom is taking it back, but the job is not done.  The Christian who feeds from the unsanctified world will get sick and that is what James is addressing.  Park of the sickness is "devil trouble".  This trouble is not like getting severely attacked, but is like you opening a place where the attack can get in and start nesting.

James has instructions on how to unfriend the world:  

Come near to God and wash your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double-minded (repent), humbling yourselves before the Lord.  James writes that the sin filled Christian can become a "spiritual schizophrenic" (double minded), which is when your soul or mind is split in two.  Living a double life is not a good condition, but it is mentioned in this letter to Christians, because it is a common condition, in my opinion.  If that is you, James has some instructions:  we need to repent deeply.   

Cry out in sorrow, mourn, and weep!  We need to mourn and grieve.  There are some of us who have issues of life, pain and sorrow that we have not released, and anger that is a volcano beneath our lovely spiritual, false-self masks.  

Let your laughter become mourning and your joy become sadnessWe have laughed and joked when we really need to cry.  We need to cry tears and cry out to God for grace and mercy and repent.

Some of us joke about our sins and have rationales for each one.  We have become cynical and are sarcastic, even about spirituality.   This is all pride, that God can not bless: God stands against the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  That is the antidote, the path to God.  Fasting from the world.

Fasting From the World to Find the Kingdom, part 3

“Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are?  Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life?  And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth.  But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these.  If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith?  Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’  Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
-Matthew 6:25-34

Don’t love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them.  Everything that is in the world—the craving for whatever the body feels, the craving for whatever the eyes see and the arrogant pride in one’s possessions—is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world and its cravings are passing away, but the person who does the will of God remains forever.  -1 John 2:15-17

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus is saying, "don't worry about your stuff- your life, your food & drink, your clothes, but instead seek God's kingdom and God's righteousness.  God will take care of all your needs."  In other words, some of us need to stop or fast from worrying and instead seek God's kingdomHow many of us are worried about stuff?  Fast from that and replace that worrying energy with seeking God's kingdom.

Worry means divided, distracted, or to go to pieces.  It's like something in the back of your mind, or out of your mind keeps pushing it's way to the front of your mind, or the front of the line.  Jesus says, "no cuts, stop it".  Jesus does not say not to plan for, dream about, or anticipate tomorrow.  Jesus says to not be distracted from today, from what is before you, by questions about tomorrow.  He also says to replace that worry with kingdom desire.  Instead of worrying, seek God's kingdom.  Worship, pray, or play with God.  Give to others, encourage someone else, or do an act of faith (spelled r-i-s-k).  Fast from the worries to make way fro the kingdom.  The King will take care of all your cares in your tomorrows.

John's words in 1 John 2, reflect the same ideas of our worldly desires needing to be fasted from in order to find God.  I noticed the word craving here. 

What do you crave?  Do you crave God, heaven, Jesus, God's kingdom?  Is anything wrong with craving something like a piece of chocolate?  No.  God created chocolate and our ability to enjoy it.  So, what is the problem that John is writing about?  The problem is when we put the things of the world before God.  God loves the world and so should we, but we need to love God more than the world; more than we love the people of the world or the things of the world.

Part of fasting is to renew our appetites  in the right directions by disciplining them towards God.  Disciples go through discipline.  Disciplines are not optional. Being a disciple is not optional. 

Christians who have a lot of trouble finding God in their lives may not be disciples.  Disciples do the stuff.  Many of us have made listening to the word and reading the word an end in itself.  We feel good.  We feel inspired.  We gain knowledge.  But, if we don't do something, there is no growth and no change in our whole lives.  It would be like watching videos and hearing lectures on parachuting, but never putting one on and going up in a plane and jumping.  

We have a 'bizarre world' christian culture that implies that, "it is enough to just know and be inspired about the word."  No one usually says that, and the people who speak and teach and preach do encourage the listeners to do it, to live the life.  My point is that because we don't do discipleship, not much growth happens because discipleship is not lecture and inspiration, but hearing and doing; then wrestling and working it out together.

Many people who know the word have never launched their lives in the kingdom off the pad.  God guides people who are moving.  Discipleship is something you do.  

There are many exceptions and many disciples, but I am writing about those who are not disciples and are not doing it.  The Christian life for us, that Jesus died for, is a life walking with, in the world.

Disciples, seek the kingdom and stop the worrying.  Disciples, unplug from the world to be undistracted  from seeking the kingdom in your lives.  Christians are called to a life of temperance all the time and abstinence when appropriate.

Fasting From the World to Find the Kingdom, part 2

Fasting, by definition means to abstain from food.  I learned from Christian elders that you can also fast from things like reading the news paper or watching television.  I few years ago, I read about a church that was fasting from gossip.  We might need to fast from things that get out of control in our lives.  Like a weed or an unwanted plant in your yard, these things start small and get bigger and can take over, if totally ignored.

I noticed in Matthew 6, that right after Jesus gives some instructions on fasting (don't do it in a show-off  way), that he talks about some other things that can get out of control in our lives and need to be abstained from.

Imagine a movie about a time before the modern era.  Perhaps the first, second, or third century.  A man or woman looks for pebbles all day, gathers them, and puts them on display.  He or she wakes up each morning and gazes fondly at the pebbles.  The person might also have friends that collect pebbles and they compare and muse for hours about the different pebbles they might find or tell stories of the rarest pebbles that others have found.

Jesus had something to say about this kind of thing:

"Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them.  Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them.  Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  -Matthew 6:19-21

Fasting from the world means to stop the collecting activities that are not kingdom activities.  "On earth" is contrasted with "in heaven".  Nothing is wrong with collecting treasure for yourselves, as long as it is heavenly and not earthly treasures.  It is very true that, "you can't take it with you".

Everywhere, advertisements are crying out, telling us that we deserve this and that benefit.  There are shopping websites and idea websites that we look at for hours, that lead us towards benefiting ourselves with earthly treasures.  Some people see shopping as their joy and recreational activity.

We have to corral our desires back to God, back to God's kingdom, back to kingdom activity.  Jesus says "stop", because we may have to deny our selves something in order to bring it down to a smaller place in our lives.

What is heavenly treasure and what can you take with you?  Relationships built in Jesus will last.  You get to take your children with you.  You get to take what you give to the Lord with you:  "Thank you for giving to the Lord, I am a life that was changed!"  You get to take what you did in his name with you.  The prayers you prayed, the spiritual seeds you sowed will yield treasure in heaven.  When you suffer for his name, and when you are faithful; you are laying up heavenly treasure.

 “The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how terrible that darkness will be!"  -Matthew 6:22-23

Fasting from the world to make way for the kingdom of God in our lives brings up the issue of what we look at.  What you gaze upon is what you become.  To make way for the kingdom in our lives, we need to be more careful what we look at.  Darkness inside a person of the light is a tragic thing.

Are we constantly looking at things, wanting them, lusting for them, coveting other people's things?  Is our life marked by discontent or generosity?  Are we constantly looking to have, to desire, to want for ourselves; or are we always attentive to what we can give and are we content on earth, while hungrily desiring more of heaven?  Cultivate generous eyes.  Learn to see how Jesus sees.  The Holy Spirit will help you see this way.

"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."  -Matthew 6:24

Some of us may need to fast from serving wealth.  Is your life centered around making money or serving God?  Nothing is wrong with making lots of money and being wealthy.  But, is building wealth or building the kingdom your priority?  Who do you serve?  Has your wallet gotten saved? 

Fasting From the World to Find the Kingdom, part 1

“And when you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They distort their faces so people will know they are fasting. I assure you that they have their reward.  When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
  -Mathew 6:16

Jesus mentions fasting, in the sermon on the mount, in Matthew, chapter 6:  He says, “and when you fast..."  Jesus gives instruction to his disciples on how to fast differently than the super-religious people of the day.  The purpose of fasting, like all kingdom activity, is to bring our lives into alignment with heaven.  God rules and reigns in heaven, without restriction.  In fasting, we seek God's rule and reign in our whole being.

I got the idea that we can fast from the world to find the kingdom of God.  This was perhaps the original idea behind monasteries and  hermitages.  This is also the idea behind getting away to pray and retreats.  Jesus himself went away to pray.

But the majority of the majority of Christ-follower's lives are lived in the world.  For the Christian, worldly appetites need to be abstained from, to make way for the kingdom in our lives.

In fasting, we deny our selves worldly things and instead focus on spiritual food.  In fasting, we train our appetites that they come second to our desire for God.

The values of the world are at odds with God's values.  Everywhere, the world is involved in rebellion against God:  Idolatry, deception, and lies.  The Christian lives in the midst of this.  How then do we function in our new walk outside the world, while in the world?  By intentionally fasting from the world as a way of life.  The disciple of Jesus lives a life of God first, all the time, everywhere.

This is sounding hard, you might say.  But, God gives us grace, more grace (James 4:6) to work out walking with him and under the banner of the kingdom in this world.  God gives us latitude and leeway in our walks.  In the new covenant it is all about Jesus.  He has done it all already.  You cannot earn anything, but you get to decide, every day, how far you want to go.  You really can decide to be cold or lukewarm or hot, and if you are a son or daughter, you can expect discipline, with love, from God.  We are not under law, but as sons and daughters, the bar is actually higher.

In the sermon on the mount, after Jesus mentions fasting, everything he says, up to verse 34, is instructive on how to fast from the world.  Remember that for everything that Jesus instructs, God has already made provision for you to do, with the help of the Helper, the Holy Spirit.

"Don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites."  You may feel sad and get sad and therefore, look sad.  That is ok.  Jesus is saying to not put on the sad mask, to be a spiritual phony.  Keep is real, be genuine, be yourself.

Jesus contrasted his ways with the religious leaders of his day.  Hypocrisy was their corporate culture: saying one thing and doing another.  The religious hypocrite has many masks.  They are fake actors, rather than real, transparent, and authentic.

Don't be like the religious hypocrites Jesus says.  They mouth things about God, but they are man centered.  They are law centered, devoid of the Helper, the Holy Spirit.

"You won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you."  Fasting is something you just do in the kingdom.  You do not have to do it, and your are not required to do it.  You might fast and pray if you feel so led, or you might fast (stop) something in your life that is impairing the kingdom in your life.  You won't need to advertise it.  Christ followers have a secret life with God.

One of the marks of a Pharisee is that they don't do things in secret, but display them.  The Pharisee also gets a thrill out of the display being seen, of showing and telling.  Each Follower of Jesus has their own secret history with God, which God rewards.  You don't need to show off.

Jesus Wants The Key to Our Painful Room

Jesus said to her, “Go, get your husband, and come back here.”  John 4:16 (CEB)

When Jesus said this to the woman at the well, he was abruptly changing the subject.  They had been talking about worship.  She had a passion or interest for worship of God. 

Their conversation also crossed social and cultural  boundaries.  Jews were not supposed to talk to Samaritans and men were not supposed to talk alone with a woman.

She was bold to talk to Jesus.  She went to the well at the noon hour when no one would be there, but Jesus was there.

Jesus and the Samaritan woman were having a discussion about worship and then Jesus abruptly changed the subject and said something, asked a question, that seems strange, "go get your husband, and come back here."

Jesus' question seems rude.  A normal response from her could have been, "excuse me?"  But Jesus is not rude.  Jesus also is not mean or shaming.  Perhaps the Holy Spirit suddenly gave him that question and a word of knowledge as a picture in his mind.

Jesus wants the key to our painful room.

Jesus was beginning to minister to the woman at the well when they talked about worship, by imparting truth to her.  But he decided to go deeper with the her when he asked her this question.  Jesus wanted to talk to her about her most intimate relationships and love her in that most broken place. 

Most preachers and teachers preach and teach that the woman at the well was an immoral woman who had been divorced five times and is now living with a man out of wedlock.  What if the truth is that she had five husbands die, one after the other, and the man that she lives with now is her last husband's brother and she can not be married to him for some legal reason, but he is taking care of her?

Regardless of why or how, this lady had experienced tremendous losses.  Jesus was happy to talk to her about worship and teach her a few things.  But Jesus was more interested in loving her in her deepest pain.

When you let Jesus into your secret, perhaps shameful, place; he takes away the things that hold you.  He offers to take them from you.  He asks for them from you and you can give them to him and be changed.  You will still be broken, but in a good way.  God uses broken people.

Broken people whom Jesus has touched in their deepest pain become witnesses of his love and the truth about God.  Rather than carrying the identity of loss or sin, that person carries the identity of loved one, forgiven one, one full of hope, and a worshiper from the most intimate place with into-me-see.  Transformation now, in this life.  Jesus paid the price.

Jesus wants the key to our painful room. 

Many people are in the church, but have never been healed or let Jesus touch and transform them.  Many people have crossed over into God's Kingdom, but not had Jesus come into the most painful places in their hearts.  This ought not be so.

I love this quote:

“In my deepest wound, I saw your glory and it dazzled me." -Augustine

Keep Working at All Y'all's Salvation in Holy Awe

Carry out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God.

So work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved.

Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.

Be keener than ever to work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility.

Keep Working at All Y'all's Salvation in Holy Awe.  

Philippians 2:12b (CEB, MSG, CEV, NLT, PHILLIPS, Sevy Southern Accent Translation)  

We live in a narcissistic, individualistic, consumerist society here in the west.  I think it is very easy 
to view Philippians 2:12 as individualistic, as in, "I have to work out my own salvation before God".  I believe strongly in personal responsibility and assertiveness, so my mind tends to go in the individualistic direction.  But I discovered that is the wrong or not the best or fullest (exegetical) interpretation of Philippians 2:12(b).

Verses have to be interpreted in their context and the context of Philippians 2 is the whole community.  When Paul writes, "you", he means "you all".  The salvation in verse 12 is the ongoing salvation in our lives.  It's sanctification, healing, and growth.  These all occur in community.  Community is a key to growth.  

Dave Black wrote about this the other day and inspired me. As Dave Black states, this is a corporate exhortation. Paul is speaking to the church and to each individual within it. In the church, we are all linked as one. Earlier in Philippians 2, verse 2, Paul writes that the church should be of one purpose and one mind. Dave Black calls this "co-souled":

""co-souled" (2:2), inextricably linked together by the Spirit of God on the basis of their common faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, who is in the process of creating a visible community of faith -- a living, breathing organism that knows that its most credible form of witness to the world is its own unity and love."
I am reminded again that Christianity is not a solo flight and even The Lone Ranger had Tonto!  I thank God for my friends and the healing communties I have been a part of.  We need time alone with God and we need time with community.  Inspiring sermons and uplifting worship are wonderful.  I love them.  But the Christian life is lived out and grown in community.  Two's and three's, four's and five's, ten's and sometimes twenty's.

Being in a small group, Bible Study, or house church is no guarantee of being in community.
What then is community?  Thoughts, definitions, and comments:

"Community, for me & as I understand it, is nothing short of having a group of people to which you grow together with in love & in understanding & application of the Gospel of Christ.
Church cannot completely satisfy it.
..nor Small Groups.
..nor Bible Studies.
It happens & when it does, we should hold fast to it & savor it."

"People that will do anything for one another with no expectation of anything in return. They don’t have to have the same background or life situation or go to the same church or school. They reach beyond social, financial and popular expectations and show true brotherly love."
"I think it looks like a bunch of real people – with real family, real issues, real hopes, real dreams, real fears and real failures… People who come together regularly and get involved in each other’s daily lives with the aim to genuinely pursue following Jesus, living Jesus, loving Jesus and loving each other like Jesus loves them. Its people committed to a bigger dream and a greater glory – to a world where the kingdom comes more and more and where outsiders become insiders cause of the love of God. It’s a place of extreme generosity, radical kindness and unheard of compassion. It’s a group of people who are relentless encouragers – who’ll tell you when you’re acting like a moron (cause they love you), who’ll forgive you (regardless) and you’ll forgive them, and these same people will be the ones who cheer you on as you run the race of life. It’s messy too (as families are) but issues are addressed with grace – and unity is a key outcome and objective. Its sacrificial living too – living that says “I wanna also put your needs above my own”… "
“Jesus with skin on!”

God has judged and The Government of God

They sang the Song of Moses, servant of God; they sang the Song of the Lamb:

Mighty your acts and marvelous,
O God, the Sovereign-Strong!
Righteous your ways and true,
King of the nations!
Who can fail to fear you, God,
give glory to your Name?
Because you and you only are holy,
all nations will come and worship you,
because they see your judgments are right.

“Great and awe-inspiring are your works,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
king of the nations.
Who won’t fear you, Lord, and glorify your name?
You alone are holy.
All nations will come and fall down in worship before you,
for your acts of justice have been revealed.”

“Lord God All-Powerful,
you have done great
and marvelous things.
You are the ruler
of all nations,
and you do what is
right and fair.
Lord, who doesn’t honor
and praise your name?
You alone are holy,
and all nations will come
and worship you,
because you have shown
that you judge
with fairness.”

Revelation 15:3-4 (The Message, Common English Bible , & Contemporary English Version)

I believe that these two things are happening.  God is judging and God's government is arising.  The two go hand in hand.  God's judgements do not have to mean complete destruction.  That is what we think of sometimes when we think of God judging.  But judging can just mean rendering a decision and turning you over to consequences.  Judging can mean disciplinary action.  Judging is also justice.  People doing wrong are brought to justice.  They get caught and stopped and punished.

God wants to save the world.  God wants to wake up deceived people.  God "brings the bottom up", for people who are in denial about their need for Him.

God's government arising is the kingdom of God breaking into the earth and overturning the works of the devil.  As God's government appears or is seen and heard, people are called to come to God and begin serving God.  The message Jesus preached and sent his disciples to preach was the kingdom of God.  Repent, for the kingdom of God has come.  The King is a good king.  We become his subjects and serve him.  We then come into his army and under his care and protection from his enemies.

I imagine that the government of God is going to be an emphasis among Christians in the days ahead in that there will be a revelation and deeper understanding of the government of God.  Christians that are Christians in name only will come under God's government full-time in their lives and be more active in the Kingdom of God and kingdom activities.  These renewed believers will find themselves in the army of God with not only offensive but also defensive weapons that will protect them in ways that they would not have been protected if they were only audience members and consumers in Christian culture.

God Turns a Heart When You Turn and Go

And it hath been, at his turning his shoulder to go from Samuel, that God turneth to him another heart, and all these signs come on that day.

And just as Saul turned to leave Samuel’s side, God gave him a different heart, and all these signs happened that very same day.

Saul turned and left Samuel. At that very moment God transformed him—made him a new person! And all the confirming signs took place the same day.

-1 Samuel 10:19, Young's Literal Translation, Common English Bible, The Message

God changes hearts.  When Saul took leave of Samuel, God did the big thing.  God turned Saul's heart.  The private prophetic word was given in person.  But the miracle from God only happened when Saul left the meeting with the prophet to go.  Saul had to see that it was God who would do the things spoken of by Samuel.  The prophet was just God's messenger.  The power and the lifting up of Saul all came from God, and to God Saul owed worship and fidelity.

Things began to happen to Saul, inside & outside of him, when he left the meeting with the prophet.  Saul went back to his life, with the prophetic word over his life, and God began moving upon him.

God called the chosen person and then began to move in his life to make him fit for the call.  We can surmise that God gave him a heart to govern. God works from the inside out.  The Spirit of God changes a person from the inside out.  We might see or hear something on the outside, but on the inside is where the transformation, change, and turning takes place; and this is what happened to Saul.

God equips those he calls.  That's good news.  But it does not stop with one transformational touch. I was in a class once where we were studying spiritual transformational models that take seasons of a  lifetime as people grow to become more  Christlike.  There was a man there who shared that he went through all the stages of the particular model in one night.  In truth, he was actually a very underdeveloped (immature), controlling, verbally abusive, and religious person.  I have actually met a number of people like that, who after one special touch or experience, they think they've arrived and then they live carnally from their new plateau.  

The beautiful truth is that God can change people.  Another truth is that: the way in is the way on.  I learned that from John Wimber.  What got you here will keep you here.  God's grace, God's power, and God's intervention got Saul started in his kingship.  An anointed and powerful person was used by God to give Saul a message.  The relationship between the two men is also helpful for Saul, but Samuel will not be able to empower Saul of keep him on the throne.  Saul will need to cultivate an ongoing relationship with God for that.  

He got a powerful prophetic word.  Wonderful.  Now what?  He walks away.  Maybe his mind is spinning.  Then God does something in him.  Does Saul even know God touched him?  God changed Saul into another, different person.  God gave him a different heart.  More wonderful.

Is a powerful encounter, receiving a personal word of prophecy, followed by the changing of your heart, initiated by God; enough to set your spirituality for life?  That person will still need to make certain choices along the way that involve repentance, humility, and standing under trial, testing, or persecution.

Your deciding to lead because you want to or because others promote you or place you in a position is different than what happened to Saul.  A person deciding to be a religious professional and then going to school and getting placed in an institution and elevated over people is different than what happened to Saul.  We have no record of Samuel observing Saul over a period of time and determining that he deserved recognition as an elder, the chief elder of Israel. 

Saul's story shows us that God calls.  God calls a 'mister average'.  God can call anyone.  God can make a king or a queen out of anyone.  Saul's story tells us that God can change anyone.  It is implied that God changed Saul's heart to make him fit to be king.  God empowers and equips people for service.  

Saul's story also illustrates that God sometimes does the supernatural when we get our eyes off of man or woman and walk away from the person who spoke the word of God to us.   We sometimes have a prayer time that may be anointed, electric, or very encouraging; but the change does not appear to happen.  A small or large period of time may pass and then, suddenly, the change happens.

Where does your teaching come from?

Whoever wants to do God’s will can tell whether my teaching is from God or whether I speak on my own.  John 7:17 (CEB)

Being a teacher was a popular profession in Jesus time as it is also today.  In church gatherings, Bible Studies, small groups, huddles, and one on one discipleship; there is a lot of teaching.  Secular teachers dispense knowledge.  Teachers and those taught have knowledge of a topic, from drivers education to astrophysics.  Jewish and Christian Bible teachers teach doctrine, knowledge of the scriptures; what the scriptures mean and how they apply.

When Jesus was living his earthly life, some people were concerned that his teaching was wrong and that he might be a false or heretical teacher.  He told those concerned ones that his teaching came from out of God, rather than from himself.

For those investigating him and his teaching, he said that God is the common denominator:  If a person is desiring God, desiring God's path, has passion in their heart to know God; then they will recognize God in Jesus' teaching.  If you truly desire God, you will recognize God in someone's teaching.

Conversely, if someone's pursuit and passion is doctrinal purity to the detriment of desiring God, and that person is so invested in certain doctrinal interpretations and even traditions; then a different interpretation or application of scriptures might be deemed threatening to them and stamped heretical, in the name of doctrinal purity.

Today, we can all fall into the trap of being more enamored with our doctrines, the way we believe or make sense of the Bible, rather than being in love with God.

There is a difference between a teacher who just teaches well, from whom you take away something good and a teacher who's teaching comes from out of God.  We need our teachers to give us something to take away from them.  We need to leave the class room or learning table with something.  Teaching is not an entertainment.  Questions and answers, dialogue, homework, written papers, presentations, assignments, and field trips are all part of the learning experience where we take away the learning and internalize it, systematize it, and apply it.  This is all well and good.

But teaching that comes from God is a whole other dimension.   People said that Jesus was different when he taught because he taught with authority.  Jesus was intimately acquainted with The Author.  Jesus was going to the well of God and getting right knowledge of God's word.  There was a weight and a power and an anointing on Jesus teaching because there was life from God in it.

None of us are Jesus, but Jesus showed us the way and he is the way to God. Jesus went to the well in his relationship with the Father.  We also are called to follow Jesus' way by going to God and hearing from God, and being changed by God. Teachers need to have God's heart imparted to them; so that they can impart it to others.  That's the Jesus way of getting your teaching.  Do we want to impart from God or from ourselves?  Do we want to just pass on what we heard or read someone else say, or do we want to teach from what we heard or saw from God?  What if Bible teachers and ministers only taught what they got from God?  What if we didn't teach or preach if we have not been to the well?

Moving In The Opposite Spirit of Cynicism

In this post, I want to share the idea that we can move in the opposite spirit that our flesh wants to take us.  We get to do something in our spiritual growth.  We get to walk by the Spirit and add more into our spiritual lives, like someone adding weights at the gym or increasing the distance or altitude of their walk, run, or hike.  And all of the good fruit that we're seeking to move in doesn't come from our efforts, but from Christ.  He paid for the exchange.  Following him means we get the exchange, the "in place of" or "instead of".

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,[a] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."  Galatians 5:16-24 (ESV) [a. Some manuscripts add murder.]

"By his divine power the Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own honor and glory. Through his honor and glory he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, that you may share the divine nature and escape from the world’s immorality that sinful craving produces.
   This is why you must make every effort to add moral excellence to your faith; and to moral excellence, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, endurance; and to endurance, godliness; and to godliness, affection for others; and to affection for others, love. If all these are yours and they are growing in you, they’ll keep you from becoming inactive and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever lacks these things is shortsighted and blind, forgetting that they were cleansed from their past sins.
   Therefore, brothers and sisters, be eager to confirm your call and election. Do this and you will never ever be lost. In this way you will receive a rich welcome into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ."  2 Peter 1:3-11 (CEB)

The Lord has given us everything we need.  We have to procure it, desire it, take hold of it, get activated in it, and develop it.  From the beginning, men and women have had to do something towards God and towards their own spiritual growth.  It has always been a partnership and a covenant where both sides do something.  This is in no way to be confused with you earning your spiritual place or saving yourself.  It is always with God and towards God, even when you are "in the dark" and have no sense of God.

What will I give my attention to, gaze at, look for, or move in and towards?  What we give our attention to is what we become.  You could call this the beholding - becoming principle.  If you constantly focus on not doing bad things, then you may become a person of good law; like a good police person or judge; and then as a Christian, your witness becomes that.  If you are just a love person, saying "all you need is love", without mentioning our savior; then as a Christian, you convey a cross-less Christianity where we can all just say we're sorry and hold hands in a circle.

It is about love and it is about doing good, but we can only love because God loves and we can only do good through God because of Christ.  The person who has become cynical is constantly focused on the wrong thing: they have a warped lens.   We can intentionally change the lens and start living differently, feeding our souls on the opposite of the hurtful, heart sick, and bitter ways of cynicism.

Earlier, I wrote about how the ugly by-product of burnout is cynicism.  Burnout is the result of lack of rest.  Burnout may also be the result of continual disappointment that has not been put to rest.  Loses need to be grieved.  Grief is a gift from God.

If you have a disappointment and you don't make appointments to meet with God, you start to believe that disappointment is the rule or way of life and you feed off it.  As the saying goes, "you are what you eat".  Burnout needs rest and a plugging back into God for renewal and refreshment.  Burnout not turned to God goes into cynicism.  What if your disappointment is all the time: "my life is a disappointment"?  Then you need to get a new life.  You can not see the kingdom of God unless you are born again.  Maybe you need new birth in some areas?

The believer's walk with God results in the fruit of God.  We have to do something: Walk by the Spirit and partake of Jesus in communion with him.  Do you commune with Jesus?  We become like the people we spend time with. 

The Christian life is not getting in a wheel barrow and having Jesus or other brothers and sisters carry us.  Actually Jesus paid for the road he wants us to walk on and other brothers and sisters are meant to help us along the way.  Along the journey, we get to hear each others story and share our dreams and encourage one another as we walk by the Spirit and partake of Christ in community.

We have to move in the ways of God, rather than just standing against the ways of hell or the works, ways, thoughts, ideas, and arguments of the flesh.  Some Christians are known for what they don't do or for what they are against, but Jesus said his followers would be known by their love.  What are you for?  What do you vote "yes" to, with your feet, and with your words and thoughts and deeds?  Those that love, naturally don't do destructive things.  Those that love God love as God loves.  They love their neighbor and love themselves.  How are you doing with love?

Some people are so afraid of legalism or earning their place in God through works, that they are phobic or allergic to doing.  The phrase, "just do it", when applied to the Christian life even scares them.  To that person, I say this:  What I am writing about starts in your thoughts, in your being.  It is all about looking at your savior who did it all.  It has all already been done for you. I believe in the church of the walking wounded. We don't wait till we are ready to go or to fight or to work.  We don't pretend we are not wounded or broken, but we know that God uses wounded and broken people.

When we have a negative in our lives, like cynicism; we need to move in the opposite spirit.

Please look at Isaiah 61, especially verse 3:

"The Lord God’s spirit is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me
to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim release for captives,
and liberation for prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and a day of vindication for our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for Zion’s mourners,
to give them a crown in place of ashes,
oil of joy in place of mourning,
a mantle of praise in place of discouragement.
They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
planted by the Lord to glorify himself.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
they will restore formerly deserted places;
they will renew ruined cities,
places deserted in generations past."

Isaiah 61:1-4 (CEB)

I learned about moving in the opposite spirit from wonderful Graham Cooke:  God wants to give us the opposite of the negative.  He has an instead of or in place of for us.  Instead of cynicism, God wants to give us a trusting, optimistic spirit.  Do you know who the most optimistic and positive person is?  This person is also the most intelligent person in the world and loves Jesus more than anything.  You might have guessed.  The Holy Spirit.  He wants to fill our lives.  He's not a bit discouraged, cynical, or disillusioned.

All the facets and manifestations of cynicism have been getting free reign in the lives of some people.  God wants to replace these negatives with godly positives.  Each of the positives are our new map.  As we travel in God in them and toward God in them, we grow in God in them, deeper.

Cynical definitions and opposites:

In place of: Negativity
  • Positivity
In place of: Distrust
  • Trust
In place of: Disdain: {To regard or treat with haughty contempt; despise.  To consider or reject as beneath oneself.  A feeling or show of contempt and aloofness; scorn.  From Old French desdeign, from desdeigner to reject as unworthy. Disregard, despise, hate, indifference, and arrogance.}
  • Admiration, love, favor, praise, respect, honor, esteem, adore, cherish, accept, toleration, veneration, appreciation.
In place of: Skepticism:
  • Optimism, trust, faith
In place of: Sarcasm
  • Kindness, praise, accolade, commendation, or compliment
In place of: Misanthropic (distrustful, suspicious)
  • Trusting, unsuspicious, cheerful, optimistic,  idealist, romantic, and sentimental.
In place of: Sardonic (disdainfully or skeptically humorous : derisively mocking)
  • Gentle, playful, amusing, gracious, affable, diplomatic, and hospitable.

Moving in the opposite spirit from cynicism is described below: 

  • Positivity: being a positive person.

  • Trust: trusting, willing to trust, willing to give a chance, to give permission.

  • Admiration
    • love 
    • favor 
    • praise 
    • respect 
    • honor 
    • esteem 
    • love
    • adore
    • cherish
    • accept
    • toleration
    • veneration 
    • appreciation

  • Optimism
    • faith

  • Kindness 
    • praise 
    • accolades
    • commendations 
    • complimentary

  • Unsuspicious 
    • cheerful 
    • idealistic 
    • romantic
    • sentimental

  • Gentle 
    • playful
    • amusing
    • gracious
    • affable 
    • diplomatic
    • hospitable

These are ways that are the opposite of cynical.  These are a list of the ways that are not natural for the person who has been cynical as a defense.  To come out of cynicism it is not enough to just stop it, but doing the opposite dis-empowers it and the enemy's power in the sinful, fleshly realm.

There are 7 points and 30 sub-points.  These are just my notes, my sketch of what the opposite of cynicism is to me.  A work in progress.  I might have left dimensions out that apply to your experience.  You can do the same thing: writing down the negative and then the opposite.  They are not affirmations, but positive thrusts at the negative ways that cynicism manifests in the person who is burned out.

When you move in the opposite of the ways of the sinful nature or in destructive ways, you are moving in harmony with God's ways: loving, gracious, faithful, hopeful, wise, or merciful; for example, and God gains ground and the enemy loses ground in you life.  When this process happens, you are growing towards becoming the person God sees you as in the future.  You can make a prayer list of these positive opposites.  When we are heart sick in burnout, we are not inspired to pray.  These exercises can help you pray.