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)

The Only Thing

One of the questions I have been asking my group of ladies that regularly attend weekly Bible study is, “Is God’s Word enough?” I asked them what their motives are for coming to our church, why are they here, what are they looking for? Because if we go to church for any other reason besides fellowship that honors God, worship that honors God and humble service that honors God, then God’s Word will not be enough. Unless our motives for going to church are purely centered around seeking God and Him alone, then His Word will not be enough for us. I put it to them this way: If our building burned down and we had no music, no pews, no TV monitors, no kitchen, no coffee pot, no nursery, no air conditioning, and all we could do was meet together in the parking lot, would they still be drawn here to assemble together with other Christians simply to worship together, discuss God’s Word and learn?

We have this erroneous idea that we need to look for a church that has a lot to offer us, like we are shopping for the best insurance plan or retirement package. Like, God somehow owes us the most pleasant worship experience He can muster based on our entertainment-idolizing culture. Our lives are filled with the empty busyness of daily mundane necessity and the deceptive vanity of selfish pursuits, therefore we reason that anything we expend our “free” time upon must give us the most bang for our buck.

Yet, on the other side of the world a room full of spiritually hungry Christians meet in a room that possesses a lone, bare light bulb and twenty to thirty metal chairs.  Forsaking all, they meet at the peril of their own lives, craving each other’s presence, hungry for God’s Word, thirsty for righteousness, compelled to seek each other out, drawn together by the Spirit within them that has sealed them for the day of redemption. For them, God’s Word is enough. For them, God’s Word is everything. For them, God’s Word is the only thing.

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph 4:10)

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12)

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16,17)

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)

“The congregation of believers was one in heart and soul. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they owned.” (Acts 4:32)

“Join one another in following my example, brothers, and carefully observe those who live according to the pattern we set for you. For as I have often told you before, and now declare even with tears: Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and their glory is in their shame. Their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,..” (Philippians 3:17-20)

The Grievances Of A Nobody

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. These 95 Theses were written because of Luther’s fervent belief that scripture dictated two truths that had been wholly perverted by the Church in his time:

1.  The Bible, not men, is the central religious authority
2.  The salvation of a person’s soul is only by God’s grace through their faith in Jesus Christ and cannot be earned by any deed of men

Luther’s 95 Theses were written as a response to the Catholic Church selling “indulgences” to absolve sin– which basically means people were encouraged by the church to purchase their own forgiveness, all proceeds of those purchases benefitting the Church. It was these 95 Theses that eventually led to the Protestant Reformation, which led to the division of the Christian Church even to this day.  Once again, in this Laodicean Church age, the Church finds itself in gross neglect of obedience and adherence to scripture. Once again, the larger portion of the Church has given precedence to the traditions, formulas and programs of men, over Jesus’ simple plan of discipleship and Lordship salvation. Agenda has become more important than relationship, the sheep are starving and they don’t even know it.

Once again it has become necessary to hammer a ledger of charges against the church door. And although I am a lowly nobody, tucked away in a quiet corner of the Southern US, I bring these charges against the church to bear record in heaven. And although these charges do not total 95, they are the sum total of what has been laid upon my heart in grievance.

  1.  We want to follow a Jesus that doesn’t require anything from us. We want a Jesus of convenience, rather than One of personal sacrifice. Even though Jesus clearly articulates in His teaching that we must not only be willing to forsake all we have to follow Him, but also be willing to die to ourselves. (Mark 8:34; Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23)
  2. We appoint and elect spiritual leaders in the church out of convenience or necessity, rather than according to the requirements of scripture or the genuine leading of the Holy Spirit. Men who have never even read the Bible in Its entirety, who have exhibited no consistent dedication to their own spiritual maturity, neither consistent management of the spiritual growth of their own family, are put in positions of spiritual leadership in the church. It is far better to have a vacant position of leadership, than to fill it in desperation, according to whim or to those simply seeking authority. (1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9)
  3. We seek teachers who will empower us, rather than convict us. We have authority in Christ, but we are not in control, He is. Preachers who promise empowerment through Christ are teaching people to substitute themselves in the place where Christ should be. We are at His feet, He is the only One on the throne. (1 Cor 15:27,28)
  4. We want changed circumstances instead of changed lives. We don’t mind submitting our circumstances for Christ to work on, but we do not want to submit to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit working within us developing and refining our character…..because inner transformation costs too much.  (Phil 2:12,13)
  5. We are not coming to the cross broken and in desperate need of a Savior, longing to be free from the tyranny of sin in our lives. We want to be saved from the punishment for our sins, but we do not want the necessary personal death that goes along with it, drawing us out and away from sin. We want new wine in old wineskins. (Romans 6)
  6. We are Biblically illiterate which has led to a gross lack of discernment within the Church as a whole. We follow ministries because they tell us what we want to hear. Someone who truly hears the voice of God will not appeal to your ego or personal agenda. When we follow ministries simply because they appeal to us, any spiritual changes made within us are not by the Holy Spirit and will ultimately lead us further away from the truth. (2 Tim 4:3,4)
  7. We do not recognize our Shepherd’s voice because we spend little-to-no time listening to Him in intimate, daily prayer or consuming scripture. (Titus 1:16; John 10:27)
  8. We spend far more time pursuing and managing our own kingdom, rather than pursuing to learn about and understand God’s kingdom. We are damned by distraction and spiritually crippled with busyness that produces fruit for our own kingdom, eating up any opportunity for us to bear fruit for God’s kingdom. Our time is wasted and consumed day-after-day building with straw and hay on a foundation of sand. (1 Cor 3:12,13)
  9. We measure our relationship with God according to the tasks we perform within or for the church, rather than the time we actually spend in personal fellowship with Him. We pursue ministry over relationship. (Rev 3:1)
  10. We have littered the Christian landscape with the half-built towers of those who began to build, but failed to fully count the cost of what it means to truly follow Christ. When you preach half the Gospel, you will only build half the tower. (Luke 14:28-30)

We are a nation of empty lamps and dirty cups, claiming Christ as Savior but full of worldliness and devoid of any inner transformation by the Holy Spirit. God does not operate according to our own personal agendas. God isn’t simply whatever we imagine Him to be. The Gospel cannot be found in our cartoon version of Christianity. Neither is the Gospel found in our denominational associations and conventions. We want Christ, but we want Him to operate within our Sunday morning program. We want Christ, but we want the world too. This is why we have found ourselves in this putrid stench of pond-water Christianity that kills us when we drink it. Jesus said He came to give us rivers of living water (John 7:38), but we want the water to flow into our neatly enclosed area, where it can no longer flow, but it sits and turns to scum.

If you find yourself at a point in your life where you feel inexplicably pulled into a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God, I encourage you to surrender. I encourage you to pray for God to send you the people that He will work through to quench your thirst, and the church that He will work through to feed your soul. I encourage you to pray for Living Water. That is God’s will for His children, and He always answers prayers according to His will.

“Jesus stood up and called out in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. To the one who believes in Me, it is just as the Scripture has said: ‘Streams of living water will flow from within him.'” (John 7:38)

“If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, proving yourselves to be My disciples.” (John 15:6-8)