I would say most people say they are "starving" when they are actually just "hungry."
However, this statement seems to be the opposite when describing spiritual hunger, even in the church. The truth is, I have seen a steady waning in what I would call "divine desire" over the last few years. Now, I do not have the proper Barna Group evidence on hand to back up my suspicions. Yet, I can most assuredly tell you I have found many a starving soul, and rarely with an admittance of the faintest spiritual hunger.
Even among the "churched" population, we have so satiated the soul with false intimacies, counterfeit gods, and misplaced pursuits. Distracted by the plentiful buffet of "other than Yahweh" opportunities, much of our cultural Christendom never experiences the slightest pang of soul hunger anymore.
Sadly, I would argue that heartless Sunday attendance, misplaced passion for faith-based events, and the infatuation with Christian celebrity sits on that buffet as well. It may be closer to the salad bar than the cheesecake, but it often serves as a distraction nonetheless. As it relates to food, the appeal of such buffets is the variety and abundance of food, not the greatness of the chef. As it relates to faith, the starving soul begs for abundant blessings and spiritual experiences, not the Spirit of the Living God.
To be honest, this increasingly prevalent phenomenon has me angry (for pun-deficient people, therefore the "grrr" in the title). In all seriousness, how long should the church placate the sinfully and socially satisfied? How long should we compromise the growth of the saints in Christ because a select few want to graze the buffet? When should we draw line in the sand, or the gravy?
Before you get defensive at my perceived lack of compassion, stop a moment and peruse a few gospel encounters with Jesus. The rich young ruler was not let off the hook because of his love and desire for money (Matthew 19:16-30). Jesus did not follow after him in attempts to convince him godliness was worth a try. No, in fact, Jesus called out to the crowd as he walked away, "It is difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
How about these verses...
Luke 9:62 - Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Mark 8:33 - But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Mark 7:6-8 - Jesus told them, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites in Scripture: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 Their worship of me is pointless, because their teachings are rules made by humans.' "You abandon the commandments of God to follow human traditions.”
Mark 9:33 - And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? ..."
It is difficult to argue the with the words of Jesus. Even Christ found himself exuding a righteous anger at the lack of faith, or spiritual starvation, He witnessed in the children of God.
"Please don't tell me you're starving. Just let me know when you are hungry."
Today, throughout the world is the celebration of St. Patrick's Day. While the loose morality of the day seems to permeate the celebration, it might do one well to know more about the proclaimed patron Saint of Ireland.
Patrick was actually born in Scotland. At the age of 16, he was kidnapped by pagan Irish raiders. After his captors returned to Ireland, Patrick became the slave of an Irish clan chieftain for nearly six years. During his imprisonment, Patrick once again embraced the faith of his father, who was a priest. It was prayer that sustained him throughout his captivity and a vision in a dream which led him to escape.
Patrick on Prayer ~
"The love of God and His fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain."
In another dream years after returning home to his family, Patrick received a calling from God to return to Ireland as a missionary. His knowledge of the clan system and familiarity with the ways of the Druid people led to the salvation of many people in Ireland.
While some of the details of the mission of Saint Patrick are foggy, the piece that is clear is this: He was imprisoned. He was freed. He returned to the land of imprisonment to invite others to a new beginning in Christ.
"To New Beginnings!"
God Bless and Happy St. Patrick's Day
* St. Patrick's Breastplate - A Prayer for Facing the Day in the Strength of Christ
* St. Patrick Info
Scientists record their observations for their experiments in a report. Sporting scouts jot down thoughts about potential team prospects. Even students take notes in class so they can remember any insights gleaned. If writing down the significant pieces of life are important in the examples above, how much greater is it to keep a journal of the work of God in our lives?
Many people hesitate at the word journal; like they are being asked to keep a spiritual diary. However, that is not the case at all. A journal is simply a compilation of what God has spoken as well as a place to reflect on how His words effect our current circumstances. It doesn't have to be a long detailed account or a run on sentence of prayers. A spiritual journal can be tailored to the desires and needs of it's keeper.
I would strongly recommend keeping a journal, and here are a few pieces to consider putting on the pages:
1) Scriptures. What are the verses you have been reading as of late? What words or phrases have jumped off the page as you read them. Those may be places that God is wanting you to focus, turn your attention.
2) Questions. What are the questions you have for God right now? Are you in need of wisdom? Do you desire discernment? Are you wrestling with the nature or plans of God right now? Are you in a relationship quandary? Record any and all questions as a matter of seeking Jesus as your answer. Plus then you know what to pray about and what to rejoice when truth from God takes the question away.
3) People. Who are the people in your life right that are blessing you, and who are you blessing? Who has spoken truth to you, provided for you? Record their names and give thanks to God for providing these people in your life.
Who are the people you have regular contact with that could use a helping hand, are in a season of storms, or need the hope of salvation? Record their names and being praying for opportunities to bless.
4) Markers. There are always spiritual markers that serve as major checkpoints for our faith. One such moment is baptism. You may include leading a friend to Christ, seeing the healing hand of God in a family member, or a miracle that has stretched your faith to new limits. The book of Joshua is like a journal of all the mighty word and works of God that He spoke and accomplished on Israel's behalf in Joshua's day.
5) Wisdom. We often hear godly wisdom from the mouths of others; whether it be in song, sermon, or conversation. Record those nuggets of wisdom that you might reflect on them later. More importantly, write it down so that you can best share the find with others.
So whether you buy the dollar composition notebook or spring for the fancy leather-bound journal, I challenge you to keep a record of all that God is doing in and around you. You won't regret it.
If you would like to gather a good sampling of the human condition and the diversity this world has to offer, then sit at your local Starbucks and simply people watch.
I mention Starbucks because they tend to be coffee centers which draw in the proper diversity. The local small-town shop or diner’s sampling size is just too narrow. To witness the wondrous breadth of humanity, you need a diversity magnet, of which the Seattle-based coffee mecca qualifies.
It may also be helpful to define people watching. I don’t mean you should be the creepy guy lurking in the corner, making one feel like they are in the opening scenes of a CSI episode. No, just quietly go about your business but be aware of your surroundings, be observant.
Notice the elderly businessman dressed in his banker blue suit and red tie stopping in to sit and enjoy hot java and brief still moment before the day of work begins. Notice the young girl and her mother who tries to be her “just as young” friend, living vicariously through her daughter’s life and wrinkle-free beauty. Take note of the man who appears to never have been to a Starbucks. Watch as he is politely corrected with the word “tall” when he orders a small drink. Please don’t miss the overly energetic woman, who hates coffee, so instead orders the most calorie-laden frappuccino on the way back from her spin class. And sadly, there is the handful of people who have come to believe that pajama day is any day, any time.
Don’t forget the baristas, the host of green-apron clad, java artists. They come with a slew of personalities, all shapes and sizes. There is the hipster, the one who doesn’t need another ounce of caffeine, the quiet one, the flirt, the nerd, the political analyst, and, of course, the snob who only drinks Chemex coffee. Baristas are a breed of their own.
The microcosm of culture contained in just one busy morning at Starbucks gives rise to many an eyebrow and many a question. I know it makes me consider the amazing differences in each and every person. However, it also makes me see the strikingly obvious similarity as well.
We are all in need of unconditional love. Humanity has and will continue to search for this love in the emptiest, lowest and scariest of places. The sad truth is we won’t find that depth of agape outside the loving embrace of Christ. In that love, we find acceptance, significance, forgiveness, and eternal hope. In that love, we strive to be remade, renewed until we emulate the same loving embrace that first rescued our soul.
The hope of the gospel is that we find all we need in Christ, the one who loves humanity completely-- who took on humanity to save us from its curse. The word all is just too small to describe the fullness of what Christ supplies His children. And the miracle of miracles is that he gives His unconditional love to any and all people who will receive, no matter their current or past depths of depravity. He is love, so it only makes sense that it radiates from who He is.
I pray you receive that love today! May you find significance, forgiveness, purpose, acceptance, and redemption in Christ’s loving embrace. Christ’s love is only what makes being human worth it.
As a kid you're told not to judge a book by it's cover. And since most people will watch a movie before reading a book in today's world, I guess it might be more appropriate to say that we shouldn't judge a movie by it's trailer alone. Either way, it's the idea that what exists between the front and back page of a hardcover novel might be more intriguing and meaningful than the artwork on the front would have us think.
I was introduced to the same idea as it pertained to faith quite a few years back now. It's been said that we live life between two trees, the initial tree in the Garden of Eden and the final Tree of Life in the New Jerusalem. We stand between the fall and the final redemption of man. And most of the scriptures depict how we as humans, being pursued by a loving God, discover and respond to that redemption.
Of course there are climactic moments to which our attention is often drawn, such as the birth narrative and the resurrection story. There are significant elements of transformation that flood our minds like the birth of the church or our own transfer from the darkness to light, addition to grace, fear to love. One can't forget the seasons of reformation like that of Luther in 1517 or that time when you and many others committed to a season of prayer and saw local congregational regeneration. All of these moments happen between the trees.
I've recently been saying another phrase/question that has slimmed down a vast amount of days between the trees. For me it takes faith to a new depth, or new focus maybe. It goes a little like this: "How do we live between the Sundays?"
So much of what we consider church, in the grand year 2013, takes place on Sunday. We gather. We sing. We receive offering. We pray. We shake hands. We fellowship. We take communion. We may even break bread together. But how is it that we participate in church between the Sundays? That's been the place that has most troubled and convicted me as of late. How do we practice the very sacred acts of the body during the week together? How does what happens in the lives of believers, intentionally intersecting with one another, during the week become more intriguing, significant, and meaningful? Is it just small groups? Is it just another study? Or is it about adopting a common rhythm, practice, or way of life. Hmmm...
I am eagerly, maybe even desperately, seeking community that begs for the interaction of the church between the Sundays; interactions that rival or even exceed the gathering for worship each weekend. I wish to come alongside hearts that are hungry for the discipleship process becoming a true rhythm in their lives. I need people who push me to beg for fellowship, interaction, accountability, and inner transformation.
Sundays are great. But I'm still looking for those ready to live between the Sundays as well.
* Acts 2