Hungry

The other day I took my five-year-old daughter to have a cavity filled at an early morning dentist appointment. As we walked out of the dentist office after the procedure, she looked up at me, still a little loopy from the oral sedation she had to take for the procedure, and said, “I’m hongwy Mama, feed me.” She said this because she was “hongwy”. She also said it because she’s five and she can’t feed herself. She also said it because I am her mother and it is my job to feed her when she is “hongwy”. That’s the way it works.

That is also the way our relationship with God works. We should come to God in prayer, looking for Him so we can tell Him, “Abba, I am hungry. Feed me.” We cannot feed ourselves the spiritual food that we need from God, because He is the only One Who has it. We ask God to feed us because He is our Father, and it is His job to feed us when we come to Him and tell Him we are hungry. And just like my compassionate reaction to my own daughter’s pleas to be fed, He reacts to our pleas with infinite compassion. I long to fill my daughter’s hunger, it is something that gives me great fulfillment and peace, knowing that she is fed and taken care of. God longs to fill our hunger, that is why Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.” (John 6:35).

Something I increasingly observe is that we are not hungry for God because we are too easily filled by the things of the world. C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” We are far too easily satisfied with the vacuous and temporal fulfillment of our flesh. Our bellies are so full of worldliness, that we are content to nibble upon spiritual scraps, even though God has provided access to a limitless buffet of holiness, wisdom and peace.

When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, God gave them an abundance of manna each day, far more than they could ever consume. But God told them to only collect what they needed for each day, “Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.” (Exodus 16:21). Jesus reiterates this daily dependence on God when He teaches the Apostles to pray, “Give us each day, our daily bread.” (Luke 11:3).

God tells us that we need “daily bread”, but some of us are just getting weekly bread when we make our obligatory church appearance on Sunday. We show up at church, empty and hungry, trying to get filled on an hour of corporate worship and then stretch that hour of bread to try and make it last through the week. When the Israelites tried to do that, their manna rotted and was inedible, “Moses told them, ‘Do not keep any of it until morning.’ But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell.” (Exodus 16:19,20). We cannot grow spiritually on maggoty, rotten bread, but many of us are trying to.

Instead of being hungry for God, many find themselves frustrated and cranky.  I have heard people refer to this hungry/angry condition as “hangry”. How many of us are “hangry” about our spiritual growth? There are three types of Christians: hungry, hangry, and those who are so used to going without any food at all, that any hunger pangs they may have once suffered are long-since gone and they exist in spiritual numbness.

Are you spiritually numb? Are you ambivalent about God’s presence and His call upon us to be well-equipped in His word (Heb 13:20,21; 2 Tim 3:16,17) and to pursue holiness (Lev 20:26; Lev 19:2; 1 Peter 1:14-16)? Then ask God to give you a heart of flesh (Ezek 36:25-27; Ezek 11:19,20) and to quicken your spirit (Rom 8:10-13).

Are you hangry? Are you frustrated in your walk with God? Are you trying to fill a belly that is full of the world with maggoty, rotten bread? Then ask God to examine your heart and show you the changes that need to be made in your habits and life (Psalm 139:23,24; Psalm 19:12; Job 31:6), and then surrender, in daily faith, to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to teach you and to give you ears to hear and a heart of obedience (Psalm 143:10; Psalm 16:11; Psalm 25:4,5; Psalm 86:10-12).

Are you hungry? Do you find yourself wondering if there is more to be had than the religion you are being offered, when your true heart’s desire is for more relationship? Then meditate on Jesus’ promise to be your daily bread as you seek His presence and fellowship through daily prayer and regular Bible study (Luke 17:19; Matt 9:22; Luke 7:20). Pray for Him to put you into fellowship with other hungry brothers and sisters. Believe that when you come to Him and look up and say, “Abba, I am hungry. Feed me” that He will be faithful and compassionate to provide far more than you could ever hope to consume (Philippians 4:19; 2 Cor 9:8; Eph 3:8).

“Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.’…So they said to Him, ‘Then what sign do You do, that we may see and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”‘ Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He Who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, always give us this bread.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.'” (John 6:26-35)

“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)

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Not For The Faint Of Heart

I never want to convince someone that they need Christ. If I lead someone to Christ, I want it to be because I presented the Gospel to them and the Holy Spirit convinced them that they needed salvation. That is the only way a person can come to true repentance, “For no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them to Me, and at the last day I will raise them up.” (John 6:44).  No matter how convincing my words may be, they will never pierce someone’s soul. Convincing someone of my beliefs will not serve as the daily spiritual food that they need. Only Christ can be the spiritual food we need, because only Christ can take up residence in a person’s heart and make the changes in their understanding and perceptions that are necessary to transform a person, “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35). Christ must take precedence over all things, including the way we present the Gospel.

When you read the Gospels, you become aware that Jesus never persuaded anyone to believe in Him. Jesus didn’t woo, entice or lure people to follow Him. He presented the truth, sometimes in all its naked glory and sometimes He made it relatable in the form of a parable, but either way, He simply presented truth and allowed the person to become fully convinced in their own mind. One thing that becomes starkly apparent when you read the Gospels is that Jesus never chased anyone, but on the contrary, many times He made it seem difficult, at times even impossible, to be His disciple and follow Him:

-“On hearing this, Jesus told him, ‘You still lack one thing: Sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.'” (Luke 18:22)

-“Then He said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.'” (Luke 9:23)

-“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

-“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be My disciples.” (Luke 14:33)

-“Indeed, it is easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25)

-“You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death. And you will be hated by everyone because of My name.” (Luke 21:16,17)

-“Then will they hand you over to be persecuted and killed, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.” (Matt 24:9)

You see, Jesus wasn’t looking for half-hearted, lukewarm commitment. Scripture says, “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” (2 Chron 16:9). Jesus was looking for those who were hungry for righteousness and thirsty for truth. Jesus sought those whose hearts would be fully committed to Him, who were willing to leave everything, just to be in His presence and learn from Him. He made it clear that following Him wasn’t just a one-day-a-week commitment. He made it clear that those who wanted to follow Him must be willing to forsake this world and everything in it. Jesus didn’t cheapen the message of salvation by making it seem appealing to those who didn’t want to come out of the world.

The Gospel of salvation has eternal implications, saving those who receive it from eternal spiritual death. The Gospel is serious business and Jesus took it very seriously. This is something the church today, as a whole, seems to have lost. Many churches today try to appeal to the culture by mimicking it.  They think they need to attract the world by using the things of the world.  They attempt to use a bait-and-switch tactic by dumbing-down the Gospel and try to present It in a way that seems non-threatening, when the whole premise of the Gospel message is indeed threatening– death to self, admitting you are a sinner, carrying your cross, coming out of the world, perpetual repentance and turning away from sinful desires. We shy away from telling the culture we are trying to reach that they must forsake sin and that they must repent. Without forsaking sin and without genuine, daily repentance, there can be no transformation by the Holy Spirit. The Gospel is not for the faint of heart. It is not for those who want Jesus to meet them halfway. Truly, a person can choose salvation no matter what depths of depravity and sinfulness they may be at in their life, but they cannot stay there. The moment the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the soul of a human being, they are propelled forward, out of the slimy pit and the mud and the mire, God graciously setting their feet upon the rock of salvation, Christ Jesus. Yes, the Gospel is a threatening message to sinners, but it is a message of hope and redemption to those who choose salvation through it.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in Him.” (Psalm 40:1-3)

Lift your head weary sinner, the river’s just ahead
Down the path of forgiveness, salvation’s waiting there
You built a mighty fortress 10,000 burdens high
Love is here to lift you up, here to lift you high
If you’re lost and wandering
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide
All who’ve strayed and walked away, unspeakable things you’ve done
Fix your eyes on the mountain, let the past be dead and gone
Come all saints and sinners, you can’t outrun God
Whatever you’ve done can’t overcome the power of the blood