The Paradoxical Nature of Christianity

I’m in love with a king who became a slave.
I’m in love with a God who is humble.
You gotta go down, if you wanna go up.
You’ve gotta go lower, if you wanna go higher and higher.
You’ve gotta hide, and do it in secret, if you wanna be seen by God.
It’s the inside, outside, upside down kingdom,
where you lose to gain, and you die to live.

I love the lyrics to this song by Misty Edwards: Servant of All

Have you ever noticed how much of the Bible seems to have a paradoxical nature? I’m not saying that the Bible contradicts itself; I don’t think Jesus is bipolar. I’m saying that, the ways of God seem to be the stark opposite of our ways a lot of the time. It’s like watching a movie were there are two realms: 1)right-side up heaven, and 2)upside down earth.


Paradox: Hide to be seen
Misty used some great examples of the paradoxical nature of Christianity in her song. Let’s look at those examples, and some others in scripture, and try to understand why everything seems so backwards to us:

Matthew 6:16-18 – And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

People, by nature, want to be honored and get attention from others. It’s okay to want a reward, but we should want it from God not man. It’s not wicked to expect payment for your work. It is wicked to show off to people hoping that they will think you are better than them. Love is not prideful (1 Cor. 13). Fasting is not for man anyway, it’s for God; and we don’t get God’s attention the same way we get mans attention. We’ve got to hide, and do it in secret, if we want to be seen by God.


Paradox: The servant is made king. Least is the greatest. Last is first.

Matt. 23:11-12 – The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Servant and KingThe one who cuts others down, will be cut down, and the one who builds others up, will be built up. It’s natural for us to try to build ourselves up, by cutting others down – forcing our way into leadership, but that’s not God’s way. God is Spirit. Man is flesh. His ways are higher than our ways (Is.55:8). God says instead to humble yourself, build others up, and then they will build you up and you will have a strong following. Would you rather follow a leader who is clearly in it for personal gain, or one who is doing what is best for the workers?

Philippians 2:5-11 – You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was Godhe did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges… he humbled himself… and died… Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth

Jesus, who was God, humbled Himself, and stepped down from His kingship to become a slave to sin and death. His willingness to die caused billions of people to live. God therefore, elevated Him to the place of highest honor.

Luke 17:33 – If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.

We now have the choice of whether we will: 1)briefly die to our own desires, so that God will exalt us with Christ and give us eternal life, or whether 2)we will live briefly in our own desires, and lose our eternal life.

Matt. 4:8-10 – the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”

Jesus had the option to cling onto His own life. He could have gone ahead and stepped into His kingship, without dying on the cross. He probably preferred the idea, but Jesus realized that if He stepped into His kingship prematurely, without the hard work of dying to Himself, there would be dire consequences. He would have been eternally separated from His father, and He would have led the nations to battle, killing many of the people who He instead chose to save, help, heal, and deliver by being obedient to God’s timing/ways. Though it sometimes seems counterproductive, or contradictory, the best way to get the desires of your heart is to ‘let them die’ and hand over control to God. He will give you the desires of your heart, far exceeding what you could’ve expected or done for yourself.


Paradox: Lose your life, gain the world
Satan desired to be exalted to a higher level. He saw God make man in His image and Satan got mad about it. He wanted our position, so he cut us down for it. In doing so, Satan condemned himself to eternity in hell. If he had instead, humbled his desires, and served mankind, God probably would’ve raised him up to a new level of authority.

Ps. 37:4, 7, 9, 35-36, 38 – Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heartBe still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways… those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land… I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a luxuriant native tree, but he soon passed away and was no more… there will be no future for the wicked.

1 Timothy 6:10 – For the love of money… some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

How many movie stars and millionaires have we seen that commit suicide? Have you met people who were rich, who were still miserable? Most people desire a life of comfort; it’s natural for us to look to money for that comfort, but God says true happiness and comfort come from enjoying your hard work and by giving to others.

Matt. 6:31-33 – So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matt . 7:7-11 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

It’s when we stop trying to build up ourselves, and start trying to build up God’s kingdom, that God gives us what we need and  want. If it’s God that makes us unique, and puts desires in our hearts, then its Gods job to bring us the fulfillment of those desires.


Paradox: Stop looking to find

– Gen. 2:19-22 – Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.  So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

Did you notice that it says no helper was found for Adam while he was looking among the animals? Why was he looking for a helper in the animals? Sounds like modern America to me! We should be looking for someone made in God’s image, not a wild beast of a person. But even still, it was when Adam quit looking that God brought him a suitable helper. Not by our works, but by His grace He gives good gifts to those who love Him.


Paradox: Jesus is the Tree of Life

Jesus: the Tree of Life. I love the paradox of Christianity.

Jesus: the Tree of Life. I love the paradox of Christianity.

Jesus' death, on a tree,
 brought Life for all the world to see!
Enter into me,
 O, Jesus, who died on Calvary.
You died in front of all the world,
 yet your Spirit lives inside of me.
Let the world see that you live, you breathe;
 you came back with 'God speed'.
Wisest of the Wise,
 you confound everyone –
The wisdom of the world
 is folly to the One,
Who with a paradox 
 caused us fools to know,
That the battle has been won;
 we can rest in Him who's shown:
That in death, you have true life.
 and in service, you become king;
And to deny our own power,
 is to sprout God's very wings.
The Spirit's gifts 
 are for everyone to partake;
I am wholly yours, 
 make a fool of me and take:
All the lies,
 and all the works of man –
Burn them up, 
 billow and fan.
God is Spirit, 
 and God is Love,
 He lives in every man!
Not by my might, nor by power,
 but by My Spirit, says the Lord –
Go into the world, 
 and knock on every door!
He who hears My voice and opens
 shall surely say:
Jesus, you are my hope;
 the only Truth, 
 the only Way!

– 1 Cor. 1:25 – For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Paradox: We can’t save ourselves, but God can save us. When we accept God, God comes to live inside of us.  … you’re so weird God ❤


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Riches in Humility

We should all be humble toward each other (1Pet.5:5). A synonym for humble is: respectful. Humble yourself that God MAY exalt you (1Pet.5:6). God CAN exalt you, but he needs our permission by our willingness to show humility. Satan goes through the earth looking for someone he MAY devour (1Pet.5:8). Satan can only devour you if you are acting in pride. Willingness to listen, and respect, is the 1st step to humility.

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1 Peter 5:5-8 – Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.


Now, to expound on this wonderful Highlands message, might I add some more depth:

Without humility there is little blessing. Those who are humble receive grace – and the word grace is shown to be tied to the word gift throughout the Bible. He gives so many gifts that we couldn’t list them all, but let’s look at a few that come with humility:

– Rom. 12:6 – We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith

– Eccl. 5:19 – Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil–this is a gift of God.

– Eccl. 3:13 – That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil–this is the gift of God.

God gives gifts to the humble! These people were humble and thanked God for what they had. God exalted them. The following are people God humbled, because they had pride about what they possessed and thought it was by their own power they were wealthy.

– Eccl. 6:2 – God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.

– Deut. 8:18 – Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

– 1 Sam. 2:7 – The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.

You may be in a place of poverty, but if you are relying on God He will see you through!

– James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Here are some more gifts that God gives us by His grace when we are humble:

– Eph. 4:7-13 – But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”… 11So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

But the main gift Christ gave was the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit, himself, gives us gifts as well. It’s actually through the Holy Spirit’s gifts that we are able to step into the power (authority) of the gifts that Christ gave.

– Acts 1:4 – On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about….

– Acts 1:1-5 – Jesus… gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised… you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

– 1 Cor. 12:27-31 – Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues… 31Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

– 1 Cor. 14:1,3-5 – Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy…  the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort… the one who prophesies edifies the church.I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy.

– Acts 2:1-4 – When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them

– Acts 2:17-18 (Joel 2:28) – this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

– Heb. 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

God gave us prophets in the old testament, during Jesus time (the new testament), and today! And God is never-changing. Since Jesus and God are never-changing, and they are only 2 beings in the trinity of God, then we have to understand that the Holy Spirit does not change either. If the Holy Spirit offers gifts to people in the past, he offers them to us now. The Holy Spirit is seen giving (the 1 Cor. 12) gifts in the old testament, the new testament, and now.

– James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Old Testament Example of Spiritual Gifts:

– Dan. 4:9,18 – I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you… 18“This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

The king refused to tell Daniel what his dream was, yet he still asked for an interpretation. The Holy Spirit gifted Daniel with 1)word of knowledge (seeing the same dream), 2) prophesy (the interpretation), 3)word of wisdom for the king.

We’ll expound on the other gifts of the Spirit later.

– Gal. 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;

Evidence of the Holy Spirit:
FRUIT: of the spirit (Gal. 5)
GIFTS: of the spirit (1 Cor. 12)
– POWER: when the holy spirit comes upon you to give proof of God (Acts 1:8)
– LOVE: for all the world (1 Cor. 13). God defines his version of love for us in the love chapter, which (no coincidence) is right smack in the middle of the use of the gifts (12) & abuse/proper use of the gifts (14).

The Fruit & Gifts are given to us to emPower us to Love. Love is the most important command. You need all of these to be able to fully show love to people.

It’s no surprise that the church is being humbled right now. The church hasn’t been acting in love (respect) toward others. Christians have been acting pridefully toward unbelievers, especial gays. It’s godly to stand up for what God asks us to, but if we are not doing so inside the boundaries of God’s love, then the Bible says our actions are worthless (1 Cor. 13:3). God does not see varying degrees of sin. Sin is sin; and God is not a respecter of persons. You are not better than anyone else. Period. We are equally created whether we are currently following God or not. The correct way to show someone they are sinning is out of love; which means, to those in your sphere of influence, you can share God’s word when an opportunity is presented, in a way that maintains respect for that person (without cutting down, bickering, fighting, dishonoring, etc). This is a prime example of why we need the gifts of the Spirit. How can we understand or get the power needed to be able to handle situations appropriately? The Spirit searched the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:10) and teaches us what to say (Ex. 4:12).

– 1 John 4:8 – He who has no love has no knowledge of God, because God is love.

– John 4:24 – God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.

– 1 Cor. 14:15 – For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays… I will sing with my spirit… when you are praising God in the Spirit

– 1 Cor. 14:18 – I thank God that I speak in tongues

– 2 Cor. 1:22 – God has also sealed us and given us the Holy Spirit as a down payment in our hearts that guarantees everything he has promised us.

– Rev 7:3 – Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.

– Eph.4:22-24 – You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

–  Acts 1:8 – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.

Rev. 3:14-22 – To the Church in Laodicea 14“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. 21To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

– Gen. 3:11, 21 – And he said, “Who told you that you were naked?“… 21The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

– Luke 24:49 – I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

– Acts 2:38-39 – And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

– Acts 1:2-5 – until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostleshe gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

– 1 Cor. 12:7 – But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit with.

Manifestation:
1. an event, action, or object that clearly shows or embodies something, especially a theory or an abstract idea.
2. the action or fact of showing an abstract idea.

The testimony (manifestation) of the Spirit (through the gifts) embodies Christ. It is the evidence of the living God.

Synonyms: sign, display, demonstration, show, exhibition, presentation, example, testimony, evidence, proof

1 John 5:10 – Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.

– John 14:12 – Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these

– Rom. 8:11 – the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

We died with Christ. We are born in the Holy Spirit. So, we are supposed to be living through the Holy Spirits gifts in this new life He gave us, not through our own strength which is what we put to death.

Jesus set the example. Jesus was baptized, which is the symbolic act of repentance and dying to our own wills, desires, and flesh. It was at that moment that Jesus was clothed with the Holy Spirit and began operating with the gifts of the Spirit. The same Spirit that dwelled in Him, dwells in us with the same gifts, because the Spirit is God – who never changes.

– Luke 18:18-22 – A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” 21“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. 22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.

Lay down your life today. Humble yourself, hear Gods words, eagerly search him out, eagerly desire His gifts, and ask Him to give these wonderful gifts to you. He will no withhold any good thing from you. He asks us to seek His kingdom first, and to align ourselves with His good and perfect will, and then we will be blessed and he will give us everything our hearts desire (wealth, possessions, clothing, food, honor, glory, community, connection, purpose, etc). Stay humble to get and keep your gifts.

– Rom. 12:3-8 – For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

God made every person with a purpose; and every purpose is needed. It doesn’t matter if your purpose looks big or small; we should always act with humility, encouraging each other, and never cutting down or belittling anyones purpose. The gifts help you find your purpose, see others purpose, and walk in that purpose. This is how you change the world.


We are called to have faith about everything in God’s word; but while you are asking God for the gifts, and seeking out a greater understanding of them, you can always go see them first hand. Here is a location in Montgomery, AL that gives personal prophecies every 1st Friday of the month at 7pm. Due to the July 4th holiday, the next meeting will be July 10th:

Saints In Action
3412 Old Selma Rd, Montgomery, AL 36108
(334) 834-7760

There will be a short time of worship, short preaching, then they will put you in groups of people and 2-3 people will prophesy over you. They will record the words and email them to you. They ask $5 for this management.

If you are around Panama City, Florida, you could go to Christian International. I think they have prophetic services weekly?

Christian International
177 Apostle’s Way, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
(850) 231-2600

Example of personal prophecy:

– 1 Sam. 9:3 – Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.”…  6But the servant replied, “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.”… 9(Formerly in Israel, if someone went to inquire of God, they would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.)… 17When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the Lord said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.” 18Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, “Would you please tell me where the seer’s house is?” 19“I am the seer,” Samuel replied. “Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will send you on your way and will tell you all that is in your heart. 20As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line?” 21Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?”

1 Cor. 14:3 – the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.

Samuel called Saul up to his true purpose. You should expect the same.

For those worried about false prophets, you should remember that 1)anyone who lines themselves up with God is under His authority, 2)if a word is not strengthening, encouraging, or comforting, then its not from God and can be ignored, 3)everything should be done out of love, so if its not done that way then its not from God, 4)if it doesn’t line up with what God has already outlined in His Word, then its not from God. God tells us to test every word to see if it lines up with the Bible. With these biblical principles you will have no problems discerning the true from the false.


Here’s are some links to great Highlands sermons about the Holy Spirit and Humility:

Highlands Sermon Series – The Holy Spirit
Highlands Sermon – Humility & Respect

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Feast and Fast – Part 2

I have 347+ articles of clothing, which is disgustingly typical for the American woman. This doesn’t include undergarments, accessories, or shoes. If each article cost $20 that would be $6,940 wasted, since I wear maybe 17 articles in a week. I have enough clothes to wear something new, everyday, for 5 to 6 months.

Do these envious, gluttonous tendencies our culture tells us we need in order to ‘fit in’, cause us to be discontent and unhappy? People are walking 20 miles, without shoes, to get water to survive. There are homeless people, who don’t have a coat this winter, who might die. There are people starving to DEATH. How can we rationalize our gluttony? Is our clothing/possession reputation more important than real human lives? Wouldn’t we be happier if we saw the lasting and perpetuating joy from helping someone in need?


Jen got my attention when she put herself on the line, sharing a gross number of excessive clothing she owns. I had to know, and of course I had even more than her… In Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, Jen asks, ‘What in my life, and in the lives of most Americans, is just too much?’ She comes up with 7 categories: food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress. She tackles one category a month, for 7 months as an exercise in simplicity to create space for God’s kingdom to break through in her life. I fell in love with her journalistic writing style and attention grabbing evidences. The following are some ideas from her book:

Month 1 – Food:

– Jen chose 7 foods to eat during the month. Her friends chose to eat like the poorest nations, with only rice, beans, bread, and oatmeal. Jen talks about how sick she gets of the 7 foods, how people react to her new menu, how grateful she is that the foods are nutritious and doubling her energy, how much money she saves, how little food gets wasted during the fast. She weeps for her children in Ethiopia that she is trying to adopt. They are orphaned by disease, hunger, or poverty and will go to bed with no mother while her American children threw away a pound of food because there was no ketchup. She weeps for her biological children who will battle American complacency and overindulgence for the rest of their lives.

“We didn’t even know what was precious. We threw away things that people would kill for today.” – The Book of Eli

– In our culture intentional reduction is so uncommon people just don’t know what to do with it. Folks are adding, not subtracting. The rise in prosperity is not making people happier or healthier. We are incurring debt and working longer hours to pay for the high-consumption lifestyle; spending less time with family, friends, and community. What happened to don’t gain the world only to forfeit your soul?

– By the 1960’s real food was rapidly disappearing from its shelves, to be replaced by the modern cornucopia of highly processed food-like products. Maybe food simplification is a good idea for all of us. For health, waste reduction, time management, spiritual clarity, and gratefulness. Maybe we should consider avoiding food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, or more than 5 in number. When a loaf of bread traditionally involves flour, yeast, water, and salt, but now contains 20+ ingredients, and lasts a month longer than the homemade version, we might should be wary what we are eating.

– In some supernatural way the abstinence from food was the catalyst for Jesus’ unveiling. After Jesus’ fast, He began healing, rescuing, redeeming. The Spirit filled up the emptiness Jesus created, launching Him into ministry.

Month 2 – Clothes:

– Jen counts her clothing items: 327. She estimates she spent $30 average on each, which equals $9,810. She didn’t include anyone else in her family. She decides to wear 7 articles of clothing for a month. Her friends do a variation of the fast, separating the clothes they wear in a month from the rest to see what percentage actually gets used.

– Unfortunately, Jen didn’t choose a jacket as one of her 7 items and it ends up snowing in Austin, Texas. She talks about the 4,500 homeless people and the lack of shelters in emergency situations; 100+ people died last year from the cold. She layers on her 7 items and gratefully goes to bed in her warm home.

– Scripture describes the people who drew Jesus’ eye: the poor widow, lepers, the lost and hungry, adulterers, the outcast, the sick and dying, the already dead. Finery and opulence never impressed Jesus; quite the opposite. He rebuked religious leaders for their fancy robes, strutting around as if their ceremonial dress had any bearing on the condition of their hearts. There is something noble about an assembly of believers in simple clothes, where the lobby isn’t filled with people saying, ‘You look pretty’ to one another. Perhaps an obsessive occupation with dresses, hair, and shoes detracts us from the point of the gathering: a fixation on Jesus. Maybe our fine dresses keep us from dancing or bowing in worship, or hugging the poor off the streets, or changing a babies diaper; keeping us from connecting in loving ways.

– Host a clothing swap with your friends so you each get something new without spending money. Give away the clothes you don’t use, to help someone in need. Think about what you are buying. Does your child need a $50 smocked dress to run around filthy playgrounds? I hope one day clothes and appearance and everyone else’s assessment doesn’t even occur to me. I would like to be so focused on the valuable that what I am wearing doesn’t even warrant mental space.

– Love your neighbor as yourself. What standard is acceptable for my own life? My own family? This is the benchmark for everyone else, which necessitates a decrease in the definition of necessary (for us) and an increase in the definition of acceptable (for everyone else).

– The average human gets around 25,000 days on earth. We have this one life to offer; we get one shot at living to expand the kingdom, fighting for justice. We’ll have one moment to say, ‘This is how I lived.’ Jen spent enough on clothes to irrevocably change the lives of a 100,000 people. Closets full of clothes we might have worn twice. She said, I imagine being in heaven and having a family look at me who were too poor or sick to raise their babies. I gaze on their helplessness and see them realize the same amount I spent on clothes would have kept their families fed and healthy for 30 years.

– In a culture that elevates beauty and style, the Christian community is at genuine risk for distraction, even deception. Are we no different from the secular population, drawn to charisma and style above substance and integrity? I hope not. I want to belong to a Christian community known for a different kind of beauty, the kind that heals and inspires. I can’t help but remember Jesus, and how God made sure to mention He was plain by human standards: ‘He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.’ – Is. 53.

Month 3 – Possessions:

– I could point a finger at culture for pressuring me into having nicer things. I might implicate modern parenting, which encourages endless purchases for the kids, ensuring they aren’t the ‘have-nots’ in a sea of ‘haves’. Jen gets rid of 7 things a day for a month.

– The great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor. I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning. And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end.

Unfortunately, in the southern bible belt, we care so much about clothing, appearance, and pride that some people kick out the poor that step into their churches. Such was the case in a church I once attended. The south needs to awaken their hearts and focus on the ministry of reconciliation instead of selfish gain and conceit.

– Jen gives away her clothes. The clothes that gave her confidence when she was terrified and uncertain during her first women’s conference, brunches, and weddings. Getting rid of them is like a farewell to our old life. I thought about how my lovely clothes propped up the outside while my inside was struggling to find its way. I smile to think of a broken, abused woman slipping these pretty things on and propping up the outside a bit during her healing process. I pray they will remind her that she is beautiful, she is valuable, she is worth it.

– We went in for the Easter service and saw a homeless-looking guy with weird hair, wearing what appeared to be a burlap sack in the shape of pants and a tunic. This was, of course, Shane. He’s been ‘escorted out’ of several churches before they realized he was their guest speaker… As we were about to take communion, Shane said, ‘You are under no coercion, but if you want to, you can leave your shoes at the altar when you take communion. We’ll wash them and deliver them all to the homeless community in San Antonio tomorrow. We were both wearing our brand new boots; the most prized and expensive shoes we’d ever owned. At the close of the service, I watched all these smiling people gladly walk barefooted out into the cold. When God told us to give, I suspect He had spiritual formation in mind as much as meeting needs. ‘If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.’ We want the life part without being united in the death part, but that version of Christianity doesn’t exist – that is a false gospel, void of sacrifice or love. The fertile soil of death is where the gospel forms roots and actually bears fruit.

Matt. 6:19-21 – Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal… where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

– In a typical year the US spends about $16 billion in foreign aid and $276 billion on advertising. What do we do with our riches? Money is the most frequent theme in scripture; perhaps the secret to happiness is right under our noses. Maybe we don’t recognize satisfaction because it is disguised as radical generosity, a strange misnomer in a consumer culture.

Month 4 – Media: 

– One month without tv, gaming, social media, radio, internet, apps, or excessive/useless texting. Take something away and your habits become clear. We had to start cooking together, walking after dinner, having friends over, doing crafts, actually calling people, reading books, and fall in love with new hobbies. It’s wild what will emerge out of the black hole of media. Media stole energy from my home and family, substituting face-to-face time with screens.

Sorry if that’s a short description of this chapter, but I don’t have cable and just joined the smart phone era this month, so I’m already protecting myself here. Pinterest might be my downfall in this category, so I included it in my version of the fast. Maybe I should add excessive texting too. I would challenge anyone to try Jen’s challenge for a month. It’s peaceful and helps you focus on what is important in life.

Month 5 – Waste:

– Does ‘creation’ have anything to do with God whom I call ‘Creator’? Surely God isn’t worried about how we handle His creation that He created. Jen takes on 7 habits for a greener life this month: gardening, composting, conserving energy and water, recycling, driving one car, second-hand shopping/thrifting, buying only local.

“Today is Earth Day, or as evangelicals call it, Thursday.” Ouch.

– Until now, my  produce originated from the same place where it is all in season, all the time: the grocery store. Whether it is a hot-weather vegetable or a fruit that requires sandy soil, I haven’t a clue. It doesn’t matter because it can be prematurely picked, artificially ripened, and shipped from anywhere on earth if I need it for my cobbler that day. By subsidizing large-scale agriculture with government handouts, we: a) expedite the extinction of small farmers and diversified crops, b) facilitate agriculture that is destroying and polluting our soils and water, weakening our communities by concentrating wealth and power into a few hands. Only .18/dollar goes to the grower when buying at the supermarket. Farmers markets enable farmers to keep .80/dollar spent by the consumer. When you buy from an independent, locally owned business, twice the money recirculates through the community, doubling the positive impact on the local economy. Nonprofit organizations receive on average 250% more support from smaller business owners than they do from large businesses.

– Since we are recycling this month, we have zero trash. Americans 251 million tons of trash per year. Trash in a landfill will stay there for a really long time; with little oxygen and moisture, trash doesn’t decompose rapidly. Landfills aren’t meant to break it down, only bury it. Sites have to be monitored 30+ years because of contamination threats. Who knows what percentage of chemicals gets into our groundwater. What if we changed our label from ‘consumers’ to ‘stewards’? There are a limited number of resources in the world, and when we take more than we need, simply put, we are stealing from others. By pillaging the earth for more than our share, we break the 8th commandment. I was stealing from people, present  and future. Turns out I constantly steal from my kids (and yours). I’m snatching up goodies like clean air and water while millions of families clamor for a drink and struggle with disease. I’m throwing away excess paper and packaging while rain forests disappear.

– I keep thinking about our obsession with health. God gave us spectacular bodies, and we value them. But as certainly as God created man in His image, He first created the earth. With the same care He designed 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body, He also crafted hydrangeas and freshwater rapids and hummingbirds. The details He included while designing the earth are so extraordinary, it is no wonder He spent 5 days of the 6 days of creation on it. So, why don’t we care for the earth anywhere near to the degree we do our bodies?

Ps. 42:1-2 – The earth is the Lords, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the water.

– We should fulfill our calling to be caretakers of the earth regardless of whether global warming is real or there are holes in the ozone layer or three nonhuman species become extinct each day. Our vocation is not contingent on results or the state of the planet. Our calling simply depends on our identity as God’s response-able human image-bearers.

Month 6 – Spending

– Staying true to our generation, we dug a deep, dark debt hole to purchase the lifestyle we couldn’t afford but for some reason felt entitled to. Unwilling to live within our means. This month Jen buys from only 7 vendors: farmers market, gas station, online bill pay, kids school, travel fund, emergency medical, and target. That a big cut from the 66 vendors a month, not counting repeat visits. She cut down on a lot of excessive purchases.

– Let’s address the original objection, ‘But I tithe.’ This basic obedience exempts the rest of our spending, assuaging our consciences and checking the stewardship box. But you know Jesus, with the quick retort:

Luke 11:37-42 (MSG) – When he finished that talk, a Pharisee asked him to dinner. He entered his house and sat right down at the table. The Pharisee was shocked and somewhat offended when he saw that Jesus didn’t wash up before the meal. But the Master said to him, “I know you Pharisees burnish the surface of your cups and plates so they sparkle in the sun, but I also know your insides are maggoty with greed and secret evil. Stupid Pharisees! Didn’t the One who made the outside also make the inside? Turn both your pockets and your hearts inside out and give generously to the poor; then your lives will be clean, not just your dishes and your hands. 42“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but manage to find loopholes for getting around basic matters of justice and God’s love. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required.

They never missed a penny of tithing, but shamelessly neglected justice and totally missed the point. Jesus remedy: Give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you. What if we gave new meaning to the verse ‘love your neighbor as yourself’, and gave 50% of our earnings to them, making them our equals? What if we gave 80% away? What if wealth and indulgence are creating a polished people rotting from the inside out, without even knowing it? Jesus never utters a positive word about the wealthy, only tons of parables with this observation: It is terribly hard for us to receive His kingdom. If this is true, then more than fearing poverty or simplicity, we should fear prosperity. If tithing the minimum and consuming the rest is okay, then we can dismiss Jesus’ ideas and act obsessed about other stuff He said. Annually the US spends $8billion on cosmetics, $12billion on perfume, $17billion on pet food, and only $6billion on global child education, $9billion on clean water for global citizens.

– What if our goal became nonconsumption? If you think of something you want, wait a month and see if you still need it. What if we redirected all that saved money to save people? What if we became wiser consumers? It’s simple to find out if a business has integrity or if they are building from the backs of slaves and children.

– We don’t see the New Testament church hoarding the feast for themselves; more Bible studies, more sermons, more programs, classes, training, conferences, information, more feasting for us. We are addicted to the buffet, skillfully discarding the costly discipleship required after consuming. The Phillippians send Paul money in spite of their own poverty.

– The pagan satirist Lucian (130-200 ce) mocked Christian kindness: “The earnestness with which the people of this religion help one another in their needs is incredible. They spare themselves nothing for this end. Their first lawgiver put it into their heads that they were all brethren.” Emperor Julian, who attempted to lead the Roman Empire back to paganism famously declared: “The impious Galileans relieve both their own poor and ours… It is shameful that ours should be so destitute of our assistance.” Would the early church look on us in disbelief seeing that Christians outnumber orphans 7 to 1? Would they see our wasteful spending and notice 25,000 people die every day from starvation? How will they judge us on the final day?  With a 6th of the world population claiming to be Christian, I don’t think they could reconcile the suffering happening on our watch while we live in excess. If we were following God’s principles we wouldn’t have to coax people into our sanctuaries. The local church would be the heartbeat of the city, undeniable by our staunchest critics. Instead the American church is dying. We made it acceptable for people to do nothing and still call themselves Christians. Last year, 94% of churches reported loss or no growth. 4,000 churches are closing annually. We are losing 3 million people annually. The church the Bible describes was wrought with sacrifice. It cost believers everything, and they still came.

Month 7 – Stress:

– This month Jen observed Sabbath, and prays 7 times a day everyday. We have too much going on. We are short fused, stressed out, overextended, and unrested. This pace is not sustainable. Not living in the moment; I’m just getting it done while thinking about what’s left. We race from one activity to another, teaching our children to max out and stress out. Nice legacy. Perhaps God designed Sabbath as a gift, not an obligation.  What if God understood our tendency to overwork and underrest, so He made it mandatory to breathe, pause, pray, and relax every week? God ordained the Sabbath for us, not just another requirement from us.

Mark 2:27 – The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath

– Everyday we are summoned to be creators of the present moment. Artists know the value of white space. Sometimes what isn’t there enables us to see what is. Perhaps you are being called to the spiritual practice of bringing a little of the white space into your workday by setting pauses on the hours, to stop and pray. Constant prayer interrupts our ego trips and disrupts our toxic trajectories.


– God sent the prince of peace. Self-deprecation is a cruel response to Jesus, who died to make us righteous. Guilt is not Jesus’ medium. He is battling for global redemption right now; His objective hardly includes huddling in the corner with us, rehashing our shame again. He finished that discussion on the cross. We’re so conditioned to being a problem that we’ve forgotten we’re actually the answer. God is not angry with you; how could he be? You’re on the team. Don’t imagine He is sitting us down for a lecture. Rather, He’s staging a rally, gathering the troops. He is staging a massive movement to bind up thebroken hearted and proclaim freedom to the captives. The trumpet is blowing. The Bride is awakening. I don’t want to base my life on what I’m against; that’s not inspiring enough motivation. May we embrace unity over infighting, bravery over comfort, us over me, people over principles, and God’s glory over our own. Together, let’s become repairers of broken walls and restorers.


Some questions to help you figure out what to fast:

1. What in my life, if taken away, would alter my value or identity?
2. What causes an unhealthy change of attitude, personality, or focus when ‘it’ becomes threatened?
3. What is the thing outside of God that you put everything else on hold for?