Time With God

Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation.
*Bend Your ear to me and listen to my words, O Eternal One; hear the deep cry of my heart.

Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.
*Listen to my call for help, my King, my True God; to You alone I pray.

My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
*In the morning, O Eternal One, listen for my voice; in the day’s first light, I will offer my prayer to You and watch expectantly for Your answer.

-Psalm 5:1-3 (KJV, *VOICE)
Photo credit: Pixabay

You woke up in the morning, rested or not rested.  Your life is before you, starting with today.  If you are a coffee drinker, you will turn your machine on and begin to make your first cup.  It might be light or dark out.  You might be the first one up, or your home may already have the sounds of the ones who awoke before you.

It does not matter if you have a farm or live in the White House.  You have a life and there is God, who hears your prayers.  But for God to hear, you must pray.

If we are believers in God, then we will naturally want to talk to the Lord.  There is something missing, if you do not have a desire to pray.

Give ear to my words O Lord

This psalm starts out with a call to God to listen or hear,  The King James says, "Give ear" and The Voice Translation says, "Bend Your ear", which I like.  The idea is that the psalmist is saying, "Turn your listening attention to my words, Lord".

God is not like a human, with a limited attention span and many distractions.  But, being human, we speak to God in human terms.  Someone might even say, "Are you listening to me?", to God.  Of course God hears, but we feel like he does not sometimes, because of our experience down here.

These opening words are instructions (how to pray) and intimate pages, from David's prayer journal.  David, being a pioneer in prayer and worship, sets the example for how to pray.  I am fond of the KJV of Psalm 5, because I know the song, based on these words.
Consider my meditation
I feel like every time that the word "mediation" comes up, I have to mention that there is authentic Judeo-Christian meditation, that is referenced here.  The Hebrew word for mediation could be translated "sighing", or "groaning".  As The Voice translation puts it, it means "deep cry of my heart". Your meditation is that thought you are chewing on, mulling over.

Your meditation is not an obsession.   An obsession is a thought you are preoccupied with.  If that thought is something that is not true, honorable, right, pure, admirable, or lovely (Phil. 4:8); then it might be a bondage that needs to be broken off you.

Your mediation is the sighing, groaning, rumbling cry of your heart.  Sighing, groaning, rumbling, and crying is completely inarticulate.  We can sing Psalm 5:1-3, together, but it is not the best instruction or model for public prayer.  In other words, this psalm is about intimate prayers between you and God.

You open the door to prayer with God, by beginning.  You find a place to pray.  Then you pour out your heart to him.  That looks different to different people.

You share your mediation with God.  What that means is that you open the door of your heart and let it flow.  Meditation (Judeo-Christian) is inarticulate, according to David, here in Psalm 5.

So when we share our hearts with God, they key is in the sharing, the intimacy.  "Consider my meditation", means, "Let me tell you what is on my heart".  It might be what is bothering you, what you are hoping for, or what you are worried about.

Meditation also means rumination or contemplation or reflecting or considering.  In prayer, we share these with God.  Don't go it alone.  We say, "Lord, this is what I am concerned about."

Your concerns, thoughts, or considerations may very well be inarticulate.  Just opening up to God is the point of prayer, because it is about your relationship to God and it is about your heart.
Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.
David repeats that he wants God to listen to his voice.  We know God hears and we know God listens, but on an inarticulate, feeling level, we need to express this.  And these words are from someone who gets it, that it is a good idea to talk to God.

Does prayer, my prayers change God or me?  I used to think that prayer molds me to God's (settled) will.  Now, I believe that the Bible teaches that God is moved by prayer and makes moves based on our prayers.  God actually can not or chooses not to do certain (many) things, if we do not pray to him about them.

Whether I pray or not, God still loves me.  That is settled and does not change.  But something changes, in me and in my circumstances, when I bring my heart to God.

When I let God into my inarticulate or articulate thoughts, worries, ruminations, and reflections; I am not only unburdened, but I am letting him know me and be my partner.  Relationship with God takes intentionality, just like any relationship. 
My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
I need to be with God in the morning, or my whole day does not go well.  I have heard other people share, who are like me, say this; but for others, it is not as crucial.  So, you have to discern if this is how your design functions or not.

The lesson, or take-away, here, for me, that I want to share, is this:  The point of prayer time, talking to God time, spending time alone with God; is intimacy (into-me-see).  The whole point is letting him know you.  That's devotions.

Your devotions might be Bible reading, journaling, crafting crafted prayers, listening, or talking to God, to get something off your chest.  Whatever you do, whatever your style, whatever season you are in; the  main thing is intimacy.  Are you getting to know God and letting God know you?

Psalm 5, verses 1-3, are about letting God know you.  Let him know you.  Don't fall into the trap, that says that since he is God, he already knows me.  Believe me, he wants you to open your heart and let him intimately know you.   That verse in Revelation, "I stand at the door and knock", is written for Christians, not the world.

The point of prayer is not to pray well, as in beautiful or clear speech to God.  You have not failed.  And the point of prayer is not to receive a clear word, a word or a sentence or more, from God.  You have not failed.  The point of prayer is relationship with God, to spend time with him, and to open your heart and let yourself get his heart.

This article might help you: Biblical Meditation, by J. Hampton Keathley III

Walking Wounded

When (And it happened that) Abram was ninety-nine years old Yahweh appeared to Abram. And he said to him, “I am El-Shaddai; (God Almighty) walk before me and be blameless so that (and) I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you exceedingly (very, very)".  Then Abram fell upon his face and God spoke with him...

...And Abraham fell upon his face and laughed. And he said in his heart, “Can a child be born to a man a hundred years old ("to a man one hundred years old can he be born?"), or can Sarah bear a child at ninety? (“can ninety-year-old Sarah bear a child?)" And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” ...

 ...And they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “Here, in the tent.”  And he (Yahweh) said, “I will certainly return to you in the spring (at that time of life), and look, Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the doorway of the tent, and which was behind him.  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age (going in the days); the way of women (“the road according to women”) had ceased to be for Sarah.  So (And) Sarah laughed to herself saying, “After I am worn out and my husband is old, shall this pleasure be to me?”  Then Yahweh said to Abraham, “What is this that Sarah laughed, saying, ‘Is it indeed true that I will bear a child, now that I have grown old?’  Is anything too difficult for Yahweh? At the appointed time I will return to you in the spring ("at the time of life") and Sarah shall have a son.”  But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” because she was afraid. He (Yahweh) said, “No, but you did laugh.”
-Genesis 17:1-3, 17-18; 18:-9-15 (LEB) (Footnotes and literal in parentheses)
Illustration by Jim Padgett, Distant Shores Media, CC BY-SA 3.0 

Many Christ-followers, God-followers living in the second testament times, are walking wounded.  We are people who desperately want God's will for our lives.  We do not want to live as pagans or in a worldly fashion.

In our following of God, we make mistakes, have failures, and go down the wrong road.  Our detours end up hurting us and hurting others.  Instead of the abundant life, we end up being the walking wounded.

This is what happened to Abraham and Sarah.  About 15 years before the time quoted above, Abraham had an amazing experience with God, recorded in Genesis, chapter 15.  It was all about his son and the destiny of his son's offspring.

To put some more context on that encounter, Abraham had just rescued Lot and met Melchizedek (Gen. 14).  I mention this, to say that, by the time we get to the encounters in Genesis 17 & 18, Abraham had had several, and several more than most people, supernatural encounters.  Here is one lesson from reading Genesis 14 to 18:  Encounters with God do not make you mature or whole.

This is how we get the term, "immature prophet".  An immature prophet is a prophet who has not matured.  He or she has got the gift, but they do not have the stature, or the maturity, to carry that gift and use it effectively.  Every Christian is called to an, "on to maturity" life, where we become mature and "put away childish things".

Abraham's and Sarah's lives illustrate the maturing process required to receive the fulfillment of God's destiny for our lives.  I believe that they were not a lot more ready for the fulfillment in Genesis 17 & 18, than they were in Genesis 15, which is illustrated by their reactions.  The new word from God, which built upon the old word was, "Yes, it is still going to happen.  Partner with with me, to make you the parents that I have always had in mind for you to be."

This is the key from God:  "Walk before me and be blameless".  And I believe "blameless" means wholeness.  The wholeness comes from God.  He heals the shame that binds you.

Sometimes, our reaction to God showing up, is to run and hide in the bushes, because we are ashamed.  Who told you that you were naked?  Abraham and Sarah are not exactly like that.  They don't have crippling shame, but they are wounded from their prophetic journey.

Abraham (Abram) and Sarah (Sarai) are walking wounded, because they lost patience and decided that while God's word to them was true, that they needed to do something to make it happen.  They reasoned that because of their age and the long silence from God, that this must be the right thing to do.  Perhaps, they even reasoned, that it was not ideal, but it was the best they could do.

We are supposed to act on our faith, right?  Faith is an action, based upon the faithfulness of the person whom our faith is in.  So, within a year or two of Abram's last encounter, when Sarai was not conceiving, they decided that Abram should sleep with one of their slave women, and even take her as an additional wife.

And as soon as he did that, and Hagar became pregnant, something in Sarai went "tilt".  She did not like her idea, when it worked, and Hagar be came pregnant.  Sarai and Abram were now, with Hagar and Ishmael to come, going on a detour that was not going to be happy, especially for Sarai.

This is really sad, because not only was Sarai grieved, but her unhappiness would affect her husband and this lady, now pregnant.  Instead of repenting and taking full responsibility, Sarai hatched her plan "b".  Note that her plan "a", was to have Abe impregnate Hagar, and her plan "b", was to mistreat Hagar so badly that Hagar ran away.  Perhaps Sarai rationalized that Hagar got what she deserved, because Hagar began to be direspectful of her (Gen. 16:4).

Wait a minute.  She encouraged her husband to sleep with this lady and then after the lady had been sleeping with him and was pregnant and was enjoying herself, put in this strange (to us) position by Sarai, then Saria has the audacity to be mad at her?  What happened?

Abram and Sarai messed up really bad.  But, they were not in the "mess up" category of, for example, David, when he murdered a man (2 Sam. 12:9) so he could sleep with his wife.  They were also not like Esau, who God judged as not caring about something that was precious, his birthright (Rom. 9:13).  They also were not like king Saul, who infamously lost his patience and was called a rebellious person practicing witchcraft (1 Sam. 15:23), and who lost his inheritance, his sanity, and his life.

What was different about Abraham and Sarah, that makes them models for us?  Good question.  They had faith.  It was flawed, immature, and not patient; but they had some faith.  They made a mistake, a very big mistake.

What they did was not malicious or deceitful.  We have to consider the cultural context.  Polygamy seems to have been ok in that time, for cultural of social reasons we do not understand in modern, western society.

You can imagine, that because of wars and the harsh conditions in labor (at work), there might have often been more women around than men.  It is actually compassionate to allow polygamy in such times, so that women could have a roof over their heads and become mothers.

In this context, we can see that what happened to Hagar was in the realm of "normal".  She might have even thought herself lucky to become a second wife of the tribal leader.  In the midst of her good fortune and then misfortune, she gets her own visit from God, and some have said, that she in the first theologian in the Bible.

Hagar had a visit from God, after being mistreated by Sarai (and Abraham), and got to give God a name, "El-Roi", "the God of seeing" (Gen. 16:13).  God dialogued with Hagar who told him that she ran away from Sarai, because she was mistreating her.  God's response to Hagar, was to tell her to return to Sarai and submit to her "hand".  Then, the angel of Yahweh gave her a personal prophecy for her son, naming him, and telling her that his descendants would be great in number, wild, and have everyone against them and the hostility of all his brothers (Gen. 16:10-12).

Hagar returned to Sarai and Abram, gave birth to Ishmael, and they all watched him grow up, assuming that this was the child of promise, but he was not.  They settled into "second best", or "good, but not great".  They might have felt something uneasy, like when you realize that you made a wrong turn, and you keep going further into somewhere that does not look like where you wanted to go.  But you rationalize and make the best of it, perhaps going into some level of denial.

Thirteen years went by after Hagar returned and Ishmael was born.  Ishmael was 13 years old.  Maybe Abram noticed a wildness about him.

Do you know how we have the pejorative term "Ass" to describe someone who is a jerk or rude?  Unfortunately, that was the prophecy over Ishmael.  Asses or donkeys are good beasts of burden.  That is the positive side.  But the prophecy was that he would be,
A wild donkey of a man,
his hand will be against everyone,
and the hand of everyone will be against him,
and he will live in hostility with all his brothers.
"Wild donkey" is connotative of incorrigible, someone who does not take orders, is delinquent, or "a law unto themselves".  So, a "wild ass" person is worse than a "spoiled brat", although there is overlap.

So, into this context, about 15 years since Abram's last supernatural encounter recorded in Genesis 15, God shows up again, talking about the same prophecy, amplified version.  Abram and Sarai are now walking in or living with, what they thought was the answer to their prayers or the fulfillment of God's promise.

They are making the best of it and are living in woundedness, rather than wholeness.  They have self-inflicted wounds, that God is fully aware of.  In spite of what they have done, on God's calendar, it is time to talk to Abram again and tell him, "It's time".  God says, "It's time and here is how it is going to work out for you."

That is when God says, "I am El-Shaddai", which means "Your all-sufficiency".  Then he says, "Walk before me and be blameless".  God does not want them to "hide", in shame, or "do it for themselves", in self-righteousness.

No.  This means that God will cleanse them and make them whole.  It is just like John's word, "But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)  This is the good news.  He makes us whole.  We just have to be in relationship with him, walking before him.

When we don't walk before him, we are either hiding in shame or living self-righteously, even shamelessly, apart from him.  We can only become whole by walking before him.  It means an "Honest to God" and "Into-me-see" life.

The incarnational life of the king living his life through us, is the only authentic Christian life that there is.  Remember, "Apart from me, you can do nothing"?

The point I want to make, is that we can mess up and even mess up other's lives with our blunders, but God is still faithful.  We try to "do the right thing", just like Sarah and Abraham, and end up on detours from God's plan.  The crux of the story that I have been reiterating is, will we be flexible in letting God correct our course, when he comes along and gives us the grace we have been waiting for?

Imagine the feelings that Abraham and Sarah went through when God encountered them again, a year or so before Isaac was born.  Imagine the offer of your dream, from way back, coming true, that you gave up on.  You might feel great joy, and at the same time, you will feel the loss of that which you have built and convinced others, to build with you, that was not God's dream he gave you.

Do you know what awe and joy feels like, when your jaw drops and you have no words?  Do you know the feeling of joy expressed in laughing with uncontrollable tears at the same time?  That is the feeling or experience of the feelings, when Jesus does something for you that seemed impossible or you had wrestled with for years, maybe decades, and since he did not do it, you gave up on it, while still worshiping him as Lord, but with massive disappointment in your heart.

You learned that the highest form of worship is lament.  You learned that you will trust him no matter what.  And then one day, God visits you and says it is about to happen.  That thing you gave up on, he is going to give you.  You must open a closed, broken heart, and grieve the loss of your personal sand castles.  God, totally understands and is patient while we take in the good news that sounds unbelievable, but it true.

Abraham fell down with emotion.  He exploded with laughter.  Was it joy or incredulous laughter?  I think it was a flood of many emotions hitting the man at the same time.  It was "Joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).

He probably told Sarah about the newest encounter, and when the angel of the Lord came and spoke to Abraham again, soon after, and just before the destruction of Sodom, Sarah overheard the Lord reassuring Abraham of the word about the baby, Isaac, coming in the next year.  And she laughed very out loud.

It was funny that the Lord chided her for laughing.  God's special messenger is standing there, reminding Abraham about the soon coming baby.  It is as if he was encouraging Abraham to get on with it and do his part to conceive.  Sarah eavesdrops on this conversation and bursts into laughter.

Does she not know who this person is, talking to her husband?  Maybe she does not.  She is honest about her incredulity and he says, in a sense, "Get with it.  You are about to be a mother".  Wow!  Sit with that thought or with what went through Sarah's heart.

Abraham and Sarah completely used their resources to make the life or destiny and calling from God, as they best knew it, come true.  Now God comes and says, "here it comes", and "now I am going to make it happen... through you two."  That is the laughter, that it is completely by grace.  We just get to be vehicles or carriers of it.

This story is an encouragement to those of us who are walking wounded, with promises on our lives, yet to be fulfilled.  God meets people who have faith, weak faith, flawed faith, and faith mixed with unbelief (Mark 9:24).  We are the walking wounded and when God comes, he will heal us and make us whole, restoring us and fulfilling all his promises (Hosea 6:1-3).

Walking Before God

When Abram was ninety-nine years old Yahweh appeared to Abram. And he said to him, “I am El-Shaddai; walk before me and be blameless so that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you exceedingly.”
-Genesis 17:1 (LEB)
Photo from Pixibay

I looked up Genesis 17:1 in ten translations and looked at David Guzik's commentary, and decided that I liked the Lexham English Bible the best.  In the LEB, we have, "Yahweh", "El-Shaddai", and "Walk before me and be blameless".

Instead of Yahweh, most other translations have, "The Lord".  I believe "Yahweh" here in this story is fitting, because that is God's proper name, that means Lord.  Why not have the name, rather than what the name means?  And "The Lord" means the "I AM"(Ex. 3:15).

This verse starts out with Abram's age of 99.  He is still Abram, without the "ha".  These Yahweh encounters are going to result in a name change of  his name (Gen. 17:5); and his wife's name (Ge. 17:15).

In the verses that follow, God tells Abram that he is going to multiply him and Sarai, which is what their new names, Abraham and Sarah, signify.  They were worried about addition and God wants to do multiplication.  The multiplication did not occur until the third generation, when their great grandchild, Jacob had his children, who became the 12 tribes.  From these 12, there would be millions and millions of people born.
“I am El-Shaddai"
God is standing in our future, with the provision we need to live there.  He said to Abraham, “I am El-Shaddai", before he said to him, "Walk before me and be blameless".  From David Guzik's commentary, he writes that, El-Shaddai might mean "God who is sufficient" (Kidner), or, "I am that God who pours out blessings, who gives them richly, abundantly, continually” (Clarke), or, "It may have in mind the strength of a man’s chest (God Almighty) or the comfort and nourishment of a woman’s breast (God of Tender Care)" (Barnhouse).

It is a Biblical principal that where God guides, he provides.  Before God gives Abraham the promise, that was something Abe and his wife wanted more than anything; he wants to transform Abraham through a revelation of who he is.  Abraham gets an expansion of his knowledge of God.

He must be expanded, to receive what is coming.  And Abraham and Sarah's relationship with God must deepen and widen.  The gift will come in the context of the relationship.  All authentic ministry comes from relationship with God.  All the benefits come from the benefactor, just like a good father who takes care of his child. 

God wants to transform Abraham into a person who knows God as El-Shaddai:
  • God has everything you need and will give it to you.
  • God's blessings, in all dimensions, that he wants to pour upon you, are beyond measure.
  • God is The Almighty, who cares for each one of his kids.
  • God's provision for us is also in his comfort and nourishing, tender care.
God does not just want to provide for us.  He wants us to know him as our provision.

We are missing it, if our eyes are just on the provision.  Remember that we enter his gates with thanksgiving (Psalm 100:4) and that it is God's will for us to be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thess. 3:18).  We get caught up in thinking we do not have enough and wondering why God lets others have more.  Ironically, many of the people who have more are also in discontent.  Why?  Because the key is knowing God and letting him transform you, so that you see him as your provision.

What is your vision?  If you are a Christian, then God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are your "pro".  They are definitely professionals at what they do, but the "pro" here is short for "provision".  They are the provision for the vision.

Abraham, when he was Abram; had a vision, a desire, and a destiny that God affirmed, confirmed, and prophesied.  That's the good news.  The bad news was that it did not come to pass, for a long time.  And, he shared that vision and prophecy with his wife, who would be his partner in that destiny or vision coming to pass.

Can you imagine the thrill at receiving the divine affirmation and confirmation about your procreation, and then the disappointment, when it does not happen...  for weeks, months, years, and then decades.

What if the wait was because God was waiting for Abraham and Sarah to get something, about God, before God could give them what he promised? 

Abraham would be looked back on as "the man of faith" (Gal. 3:9), and as "the friend of God" (James 2:23).  His faith was severely tested and the friendship was stretched or refined by the fire of his suffering.  Sarai's suffering was his suffering.

All those years went by and Sarai saw other ladies get pregnant and give birth and raise beautiful children, while she sat alone, barren.  Why on earth would God promise something, but not bring it to pass?  Can you imagine her faith and the strain on her relationship to her mystic husband who told her that God appeared to him and made these promises?

You might remember when Sarah laughed.  Well, Abraham laughed before that and it seems like he laughed even harder (Gen. 17:17), because he fell to the ground laughing.  I don't think his laughter was joy, but was incredulity.  It is hard to imagine laughing like that when God is speaking to you, not in a whisper, but in a full on appearance.  I think that this is evidence of Abram's friendship with God.
And God said to Abraham, “as for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, for Sarah shall be her name.  And I will bless her; moreover, I give to you from her a son. And I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations. Kings of peoples shall come from her.”  And Abraham fell upon his face and laughed. And he said in his heart, “Can a child be born to a man a hundred years old, or can Sarah bear a child at ninety?”   And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”  And God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear a son for you, and you shall call his name Isaac. And I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant to his offspring after him.
-Gen. 17:15-19

Faith is messy.  We believe, because after all, God is faithful.  But, we have doubts and we just don't understand, and then when painful disappointment mixes in, it is a mess; but there is still faith.  It's still real faith, because real faith has faith in the faithfulness of another.  We don't have to understand it, for it to be real faith.

So, Abraham could have laughed hysterically, when God again made his promise and gave him the prophetic word; and still be a man of faith.  Notice also that God named his son Isaac, which means "laughter", right after Abraham laughed hysterically.  On the spot, God took Abraham's incredulous laughter and incorporated or transformed it into joyous laughter in the more specific prophecy about the promise that would be fulfilled soon.

It is also notable that Abraham and Sarah had a godly marriage, that Peter references in 1 Peter 3:1-7.  Sarah never went to her place of prayer and got words from God about her destiny of being the mother of Isaac, that we know of.  Instead, God gave her words through her husband.

She was subject to her husband.  Subject does not mean "sourced".  God was her source.  Her husband was her loving leader.
"Walk before me and be blameless."  
There is a saying that, "The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine".  The Bible teaches that a happy life, a content life, comes from wholeness.  That life comes from walking before God, who is our Father, our provider, and our all-sufficiency.

You can be rich or poor, an owner or a renter, fertile or barren, sick or well, on the mountain top, or in the arid desert.  You may be highly qualified or a simpleton.  But the question is, are you walking before God?  Or are you going your own way?  Are you letting God meet your needs or are you doing it for your self?

"Walk before me and be blameless" (LEB, ESV, NET, and NKJV)
"Walk before me faithfully and be blameless." (NIV)

"Walk with me and be trustworthy." (CEB)

"Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life." (NLT)

"Obey me and always do right." (CEV)
"Live entirely before me, live to the hilt." (MSG)

"Live in My presence and be blameless." (HCSB)

"Walk before me habitually and be blameless" (Young's)

Our physical walking is daily and many times daily.  Our walk with God is the same.  We may walk to the curb to get the mail or we may walk from the parking lot to our destination.  In out walks, short and long, we encounter people, situations, and choices.  It is in those places of living that we walk with God.

Our walk with God is not divorced from all of our run-of-the-mill, every-day encounters; but is completely wedded to it.

I think that "blameless", means, "with integrity".  I think the idea is wholeness.  God is after wholeness in us.  Playing the part of "Christian", but not really being one in how you live in private, is not wholeness.

Salvation is an event and a process.  The walk is a continual walk.  We get more sanctified, we get more fruitful, we get more wise, we get more freedom, and we grow in grace.  If you do not embrace the process, the journey, your pilgrimage, and walking before God, through life; then you will not grow or mature spiritually.

Our basis for this walk is not our selves.  God is.  We must do things, but he empowers us to do them.  We must be good, but his goodness gives us that ability.  We take up what he has given us.  That is what Paul means by, "The life I now live is by the faithfulness of the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20).

Worshiper and Servant of God: Obadiah

When Jezebel killed the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah took one hundred of them and hid them, fifty each in two caves. He supplied them with food and water.
-1 Kings 18:4

(This is a re-post from 2013, edited and added to.)

Obadiah means "worshiper of Yahweh" or "servant of Yahweh".  In the Hebrew, the word is abad-Yah. which means both to worship and to serve God.  The Biblical idea of worship is linked with serving: serve God, worship God; or serve other gods, worship other gods.

When we hear the name Obadiah, we might think of his book, in the Minor Prophets.  He was a Prophet.  But, the first Obadiah mentioned in scripture, in 1 Kings, was living during the time of Elijah, Ahab, and Jezebel.  It was a time of apostasy among God's people.  Ahab and Jezebel were terrible, evil rulers. 

Obadiah was a courageous hero, who hid and fed one hundred authentic prophets.  It is fitting that his name meant "Servant of Yahweh" or "Worshiper of Yahweh", in a time of apostasy when authentic prophets were in hiding and Yahweh worship was not in vogue.

Obadiah was a special servant of God who was known to the evil king, and to the famous prophet Elijah.  Obadiah took care of 100 hidden prophets.  The 100 hidden ones must have been intimidated and Elijah had his own moment of intimidation.  But, Obadiah freely moved about, in and out of danger. 

The lesson here is that God has special servants that can go in and out of places that other servants can not.  The second lesson is that God has hidden servants and if you are one of them, God has special people who are in your path to serve you!

The popular lesson or sermon, is the story of Elijah, and how he defeated the false prophets, but then felt exhausted and had that encounter with God on the mountain.  We have been taught lessons from Elijah's life.

But you might not be an Elijah.  You might either be a hiding, hidden prophet; one of the 100, or, you might be an Obadiah.  We have the servant in the spotlight, Elijah; the hidden servants, and the stealth servant.  All three categories are significant and valuable.

Remember the great command: "Love one another".  Serving is loving and there is a Hebrew linkage between service and worship.  Those who serve God, do loving service to his people.

Worshiping God means serving God.  I imagine this is why we call more formal church meetings worship services.  This is the whole idea of the incarnation and his incarnational life in our lives: worship to God in service to others.

Worship can be at a time and in a place, but is mainly part of a life.  Who are we serving in our lives?  Obadiah, in 1 Kings was serving God in his life.  Remember Bob Dylan's song, "Gotta Serve Somebody"?  That's it.  Who are you serving in your life?

The songs we sing declare and remind us of the life we live: the who, what, and why of a life, now in Christ.  The singing, prayers, and bowing down are expressions of a life that is now serving God, through how we treat others and relate to God 24/7.  Worshipers live a live of service.

Pray, Knowing That Your Father Knows What You Need

“When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.

“When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words, as the Gentiles do. They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask.  -Matthew 6:5-8 
Photo credit: Pixabay

(This is a re-post from 2012.)

I recently had something to pray about that was knocking me down inside.  As I went to prayer, I remembered what Jesus taught us, that Father already knows, but to pray anyway.  Jesus says to pray, knowing that Father knows.

Jesus says that we do not need to inform God.  But Jesus' disciples pray.  God already knows, but wants our prayers, in secret, with few words, and he will reward us for it.  That is what Jesus says.

Jesus gives more instruction on specifically how to pray, and many kingdom things are covered there.
Filtering or processing our particular prayer request through the outline that Jesus gives is helpful.  Jesus says:

Pray like this:
Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name.

Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.

Give us the bread we need for today.

Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us.

And don’t lead us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

“If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins.
The lines Jesus speaks on prayer are all launching pads for all encompassing prayers.  Disciples are people of prayer, prayers related to God's kingdom activity.  Apply your prayer request to each of these launching pads: "bring your kingdom", "give us the bread we need", "rescue us", "forgive us"; and so forth.

But, Jesus says that when you go to prayer, in secret where Father sees; know that he already knows what you need.  Exercise your faith.  Commune with God in secret, knowing he knows.  Still and quiet your soul.  Let deep call unto deep.  Be a babe in arms.  Let God hold you.  

Sit in the secret quiet space alone with God.  God knows your troubles.  Remember that Jesus has opened the way to the Father.  He's the way.  Bring that to mind.  Remember that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, who is the helper, and the comforter.  He will help you and comfort you in prayer as you sit with God and know that Father knows.

Weep, dance, sing, give thanks, talk; knowing God knows your need.  You can talk to him, cry out to him, cry and weep before him.  You can get in any posture that is comfortable.  You can whisper or yell.  You can be completely inarticulate, because your father does not need information.  He wants you.

The disciple (that's me and you, if you are a follower of The Lord Jesus Christ) prays.  We pray regularly, because we need God.  We need heaven's air, figuratively speaking.  We need the bread man from heaven daily.  One thing we get settled in our selves, is that God The Father knows and deeply cares about us.  He loves me.  I have to know that to live as a Jesus follower.  

Almighty God, The Father.  The Father of Jesus.  The creator.  He knows my problems.  He likes it when I pray to him in secret, because he says he'll reward me for it.  It is a rewarding relationship he invites us into.  Knowing that he knows and knows even better than I know, gives me peace, builds my faith, and encourages me.

Make Way For The King (re-post)

Mighty gates, lift up your heads!
Ancient doors, rise up high.
So that the glorious King can enter. 
-Psalm 24:9

Art credit: "Heaven's Door", by Tim Stewart

(This is a re-post from 2013)

Make way for the King

God is calling Christians everywhere to make way for the King.  God is calling Christians everywhere to open their hearts and let Christ reign in their hearts.  God is calling Christians everywhere to stop trying to live for Christ and instead, let Christ live through them.

Transformation and Intimacy With God

The normal Christian life is one of transformation.  But transformation takes cooperation in the believer.  The normal Christian life is one of intimacy (into-me-see) with God, where we walk with God and gaze upon God, without hiding our brokenness; and God transforms us.

Growth Through Body Life

The normal Christian life is a life of "one-another", where we confess our sins to each other and receive forgiveness from each other and give encouragement to one another.  We love one another and we bear each others burdens.  There are about forty admonishments to positively care for each or one another, in the letters to the churches, in the New Testament.  This growth in Christ occurs in two's, three's, and smaller numbers.

The Rule of Christ in Your Heart

King Jesus wants to enter and take over the heart of every believer, every person who identifies themselves as a Christian.  It is a paradox and a mystery that there are people who are not experiencing the kingly rule of Christ in their hearts, yet call themselves Christians.

A Life of Honest Brokenness

Sinners and sinning Christians are always welcome in Christian fellowship, and we all stumble frequently.  The Christian life is not a life of perfection or "fake it till you make it", but of honest brokenness before God and before brothers and sisters in Christ.  The King wants to come into the rooms in our lives that we are ashamed of, or the rooms that are locked because we have to be in control.

Give Jesus Full Access

Make way for the King and open up those closed gates and doors means, "give Jesus full access".  It means everything is his in your life if you claim him as your savior.  You must open, you must be willing.

Have Dinner With Jesus

When you open the door to Jesus, he wants to come into your house, your life, and have dinner with you and for you to have dinner with him (Rev. 3:20).  What if having dinner with the King is the key to your life, to getting aligned with God, to having your life in a place where it works, and where you are fulfilled?

I Let Him In and He Saw Me and I am Forever Changed

The Christian life is personal.  We have a God that wants intimacy with us.  When the King comes through the door or gate you open, you will see his face and and he will see yours.  The face is the most personal part of a person. 

You will say, "I saw The Lord........... and He saw me!"  This will change your life. 

Fasting From The World To Find The Kingdom, part 2 (re-post)

Photo credit: Jean Fotunet (CC BY 1.0)

(This is a re-post of the third and fourth posts I wrote on fasting, from 2012)

“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 kingdom.  How 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. 

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 sadness.

We 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 1 (re-post)

Photo credit: Pixabay

(This is part one of a two part re-post of four posts from 2012)

“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.

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? 

Rest and Burnout Series, parts 7 & 8 (re-post) Suffering, Restoration, and Rest & Moving In The Opposite Spirit of Cynicism

Photo credit: Pixabay

(These are parts 7 & 8 of a series I did on rest and burnout in 2012.)

Part 7

Suffering, Restoration, and Rest

I will restore (repay) to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.
-Joel 2:25 (ESV)

It is hard to rest when we focus on our losses, disappointments, and unfulfilled dreams; but we must.

What about all this lost time?  Why do we have to wait for our promises?  Not to have what we have dreamed about and been promised is a loss and we keep losing time in the time between the times.

But God is the great restorer.  The whole Bible is a story of restoration.  God is all about restoration.

While you wait, God is upgrading you in many areas; stretching you and maturing you: enlarging your heart.  God walks beside you in your losses, when you are betrayed, passed over, and hurt.  You are growing in faith, hope, and love.  You are learning deeper and deeper forgiveness and grace.  You must choose God a thousand times over bitterness.

The person called to healing ministry that prays for a thousand people without success or the person called to write or preach messages that writes or preaches a thousand times with little fruit; what is the difference inside of them after the one thousand compared to how they would be if they had immediate success?  The "one thousand step" people experience a lot of pain through the one thousand, a lot of death to self.  Finally, they are doing it (there could be a hundred other examples), for One.  They are doing it from and to love.  They are praying for the sick out of the Father's heart for the sick or writing and preaching out of God's love.

So, you might think that there's something wrong when your gift does not work or is not called upon; but God is implementing a larger, deeper, longer plan for you.

You will also notice people along your journey who seem to have had it easy.  They got married easily, had children easily, found a great job, or are living in prosperity, got healed, have succeeded in ministry; and the list goes on and on.  Two things: You don't know their suffering- God's unique plan for their lives which also involves their personal brokenness and you are called (like Peter in John 21:22) to follow him and not compare yourself to other people.  Jesus had to tell Peter that it's none of his business what he does with the other person.  You have to find your way as a unique child of God.  God has a perfect plan for you that very well may involve delays.

When God shows us his plans for us (Jer. 29:11), it is a destination that requires a journey and it is a finished thing that requires building, starting with a foundation and that all takes time.

"I will restore the years"

“It will strike you at once that the locusts did not eat the years: the locusts ate the fruits of the years’ labor, the harvests of the fields; so that the meaning of the restoration of the years must be the restoration of those fruits and of those harvests which the locusts consumed. You cannot have back your time; but there is a strange and wonderful way in which God can give back to you the wasted blessings, the unripened fruits of years over which you mourned. The fruits of wasted years may yet be yours.” (Charles Spurgeon)

In your in-between-time, you feel like you are dying.  Your patience is stretched and broken.  You are not resting well.  You are getting burned out, standing still.  You cry, "what's happening to me?"  Job went through a terrible time of suffering.  He lost everything except his wife, some friends, and God.  Job is a long, 42 chapter book in the Old Testament.  Job tries to figure out why.  Job's friends try to figure out why.  Job gets some bad advice from his friends and his wife.  Job never gets the answer to the why question.

In his loss and perplexity (suffering), Job cries out:

"Though He slay me, yet I will trust him."
-Job 13:15

This is what Oswald Chambers has to say about this statement:

  • God frequently has to knock the bottom out of your experience as His saint to get you in direct contact with Himself.
  • God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith, not a life of emotional enjoyment of His blessings.
  • The beginning of your life of faith was very narrow and intense, centered around a small amount of experience that had as much emotion as faith in it, and it was full of light and sweetness.
  • Then God withdrew His conscious blessings to teach you to “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7) And you are worth much more to Him now than you were in your days of conscious delight with your thrilling testimony.
  • Faith by its very nature must be tested and tried and the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character must be proven as trustworthy in our own minds.
  • Faith being worked out into reality must experience times of unbroken isolation.
  • Never confuse the trial of faith with the ordinary discipline of life, because a great deal of what we call the trial of faith is the inevitable result of being alive.
  • Faith, as the Bible teaches it, is faith in God coming against everything that contradicts Him— a faith that says, “I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do.”
  • The highest and the greatest expression of faith in the whole Bible is— “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
-Oswald Chambers, My Utmost, June 20

"When it was beyond hope, he had faith in the hope (Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping-) that he would become the father of many nations, in keeping with the promise God spoke to him: That’s how many descendants you will have."
-Romans 4:18

Abraham was in the midst of a 25 year wait for his promise. In our instant culture, waiting this long seems unimaginable, but big things and big times sometime require big waits. A man named Jason wrote this:

 ..at the ages of 75 and 65, long after their bodies were as good as dead, and they had settled in their hearts that they would never have kids, God shows up, tells Abraham to leave his father's household and head somewhere in "that" direction, and promised him the one thing Abraham and Sarah had been praying about for years: Abraham would be the father of many nations.
But the odds were stacked against them.
They had tried for decades to have a child, and were never able to conceive. They were leaving their home, the only place where they found support and encouragement and knew that people were praying for them. They were going to make a long journey to only God knew where, and they knew that Sarah was well beyond child-birthing years. The circumstances weren't looking too good.
But Abraham still believed.
In a place with no hope, in a situation where logic and science told them that God's promise would never come about, in circumstances that shouted that God didn't want to give Abraham and Sarah a son... Abraham dared to hope...
And received the promise of Isaac 25 years later.
Maybe, that promise you've been holding onto isn't dead just yet. Maybe that marriage you're believing for, that child you're praying for or that job you're looking for is going to happen. Maybe the deepest desires of your heart really will be yours.
Maybe, just maybe, the waiting is an opportunity to hope.
And so, my brothers and sisters, as you journey through your promise, waiting for God to bring about what He said He would, may you remember to hope. May you keep your eyes on Him rather than the circumstances. And may you, as you dare to hope that God will keep His promise to you, see that promise come to pass...
Even if it is 25 years in the making.
Daring to hope...Jason

Near the end of Abraham and Sarah's wait, they both laughed when God told each of them that the baby will be here in about a year.  I believe their laughs were a bit cynical or out of incredulity.  Then God said, "as a matter of fact, you are to name the child Isaac".  Isaac means "he laughs".  God will turn their incredulous laughter to joyous laughter.

If you have ever received a promise that you waited a long time for, you know that having the promise makes the wait worth it.  God really does restore those years that the locust figuratively ate in your life.  We can rest in peace as we wait with God, who has upgrade upon upgrade for us in our spiritual growth, preparing us to be the person he sees us as in the future.

Part 8

Rest Series: 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.