Overcoming Spiritual Starvation


I believe that confidence in the flesh, confidence in what we can accomplish robs us of our hunger for Jesus Christ. We can care more about what we can do and therefore focus less on what God can do. In this we limit the outcome of success in our life. We limit the outcome of divine power working in our life. We limit God’s grace working for and through us. And at the end of this road we find ourselves still wanting.

To “still want” means to be disappointed.

In our disappointment, our energy is spent. Our expectations wane, we regress to less faith in God, and our love for Him is just a concept. A theory. An impression. Our walk with God becomes a regimented list of things to do. We walk by sight. We embrace religion.

Religion, however, is not hunger. It’s spiritual starvation. How do we overcome this? They key is in what we hunger for.

Did you know that all of creation hungers for the Lord? Every beast, land, vegetation, sea and the universe groans for the knowledge of God. They not only groan, they praise Him and they lust for His Presence. Many men and women and child have also groaned with desire for this knowledge. As a result, they have found Him. They have all discovered the secret that Jesus is infinite, therefore there is always more of Him to know. They have learned to truly live life as God intended.

The greatest thing about craving more of Jesus and knowing Him is that with each morsel we take in, we are satisfied. However in our satisfaction, we still desire more. Unlike “still wanting” we are not disappointed, because we become more and more like Him as we seek Him. Each new piece of knowledge enters our inner man and our old self wastes away. By the knowledge of Christ and His surpassing greatness we are renewed day by day.  It’s like taking a bath. The dirt of our old self vanishes, while we are being refreshed with His Nature.

Hunger is not something anyone really wants to experience, unless our hunger is craving the knowledge of Christ. Just as a deer pants for water, or as a dying man is parched for life, or a famished and debilitated child is desperate for food and healing – in the same way we need to feverishly desire God.

We need to seek to know Christ – seek for intimacy with Him; seek with a violent craving for the presence of the Lord. Nothing will gratify us like Christ can.

If our flesh is what we boast in, we will always be thirsty.

If our strength is what we pride in, we will always be weak.

If our accomplishments are what wow us, we will always be disappointed.

When we make it our goal to glory in our accomplishments, we will fight for them with selfishness, greed and deception. The old sinful nature will rule our heart, mind, and soul. We will not look like Christ; we will look like His enemy.

We will consider suffering weakness.

We will consider tragedy failure.

We will see change as ruin.

But if we are like Paul and make it our goal, “to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. (To) want to suffer with him, sharing in His death, ….(we can trust) that one way or another we will experience the resurrection from the dead!” (Philippians 3:10-11).

If Christ is who we boast in, we will always be gratified.

If Christ is our strength, we will always experience more power.

If His accomplishments are what wow us, we will see Him do infinitely more.

We will embrace suffering as growth. Tragedy will be dear to us for it will be our teacher. We will walk happily in change because change will shine light into our darkness. We will overcome spiritual starvation and be fed adequately by the Savior’s vat. Resurrection will have more meaning because death to ourselves brings us home to His Holiness.

My friend, hunger for the right thing. Hunger for more of Jesus and less of yourself. You will find that when God opens His hand to you, your hunger will be forever satisfied.

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Love is Knocking at Your Door…


“Knock, knock,” Love taps loudly on the door. He is standing there hoping the ones He cares for will answer. He stands and stands, knocking with great eagerness to enter and dine with the disciples He calls friends.

Yet, no answer comes.

He knows they are inside. He peers through the window, observing how busy they are. Scurrying here and there, speaking His name, “Praise Jesus!” He hears His name spoken with great emphasis; however, His name shares praise with another’s – man’s.

He listens carefully at the door and hears all the great accomplishments His friends are doing and planning to do; He hears them discuss the great strides they plan to make. But if they would just let Him in, He knows that He could show them so much more.

As Jesus looks, Love watches intently at the faces of those whom He cherishes; He hears many things that seem good, but the faces of each one looks tired, angry, and empty.

He knocks with great passion…

still no answer…

so He waits because He loves.

As Jesus waits, He ponders with determination; the only way for His disciples to allow Him into their home, into their life, into their work is through discipline.

He says with great earnest as He continues to knock, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here 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” (Revelation 3:19-20).
Jesus brings toil, tragedy, change and strife to this little home of believers. The upset is tumultuous and very uncomfortable. Some fall to their knees in defeat for they have known in the past the hand of discipline that comes from the Lord. Others stand to the side and deliberate how man can fix this. And others just leave the home to find another to live. Then there is that lonely one who hears Jesus knocking and opens the door and lets Him in. With this one, Jesus comes in and dines; this one lone person ate with the Savior.

A change began to happen in the home. Some joined the meal with Jesus. The one who answered the door, afresh, each saw Jesus for the first time.

Others stood by skeptical and feeling threatened and they said, “Who is this person who interrupts our plans?”

As their skepticism grew, their hearts became hardened to the truth that Jesus shared. However, the ones dining with him listened with open hearts and ears and eyes.

Suddenly, Jesus noticed their eyes were no longer darkened by fatigue, dander and futility. They were full of wonder, hope and faith. Laughter filled the table, joy encompassed the heart, and power seem to propel the gathering.

Quickly, the one who opened the door for Jesus stood with head bowed low and said with humility of heart, “We have sinned and we repent; forgive us, Lord; from this day forward with great earnest we declare that we will, ‘rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. We will meditate on your precepts and pay attention to your ways. We will delight in your decrees; we will not ignore your word’” (Psalm 119:14-15).
After dinner, they settled in the library for dessert and tea. Jesus spoke with a loving tone to each,

“My sons and daughters, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His child” (Hebrews 12:5-6). 

At that moment, each person felt the power of the Spirit of God move in and among them. They knew at that time Jesus was not just an outsider looking in on his friends who were working and striving, He was now the leader moving in and around them to do the immeasurably more than they could ever imagine.

However, because of His great love, Jesus could not forget the others. Resentful, the others reclined in the dining room eating their own meal and feeling frustrated and filled with fret.

Their plans were interrupted; their accomplishments shortened; their hearts became cold; the chatter around the table was loud; the room was filled with gossip and angry words. The fury was thick and the noise so brass that they did not hear nor notice Jesus standing outside the dining hall, looking in, knocking with great love to enter and dine with the disciples He calls friends.

Love was knocking. And no one came.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” – Jesus

 

True Service Requires “Bleeding”


In many circles the word service is defined as doing something for others.  Sadly, the vision that is often projected so others hopefully will be intrigued to get involved is: “It won’t cost you anything…it won’t take much time…all will be provided for you…just give a few minutes of your time for this serving project.”

The truth of the matter is this; there is hardly anyone who really wants to get on board with this kind of service. Most would rather do what’s in-achievable, what’s hard, what’s impossible and see God do something great through them. In order to really do this, we must cast a different vision.

Dr. J. H. Jowett said, “Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing.” And Warren Weirsbe further explains his quote with what I think is the best vision for service:

“If there is to be any blessing, there must be some “bleeding.”   

We are not going to change the world with what’s comfortable or even achievable. We may make a small step forward, but there will never be any lasting passion that comes from it. This type of serving creates apathy. Those with this kind of service attitude might think, “If it feels good at the moment, I’ll do it or if it fits my comfortable schedule and doesn’t shake up my world too much, I’ll do it.” In the end, this kind of service dies very quickly. The serving project isn’t the worst thing that dies, it’s the person serving. They see no reason for being involved or see no fruit from their easy service time. “So, why bother…” is their response to the next service project.

I think as leaders of service projects, the greatest reason we cast an easy service vision is because we fear people won’t want to “bleed” for blessing. We fear that if we don’t make things easy and achievable no one will serve. With this attitude we have missed the purpose of serving and misunderstood the hearts of those who want to be involved.

There are three things we must consider when it comes to having the attitude of Christ in serving:

1.) People want relationship. A serving project must meet the need of relationship. It must be a ‘people to people’ project. If Jesus died for people for the sake of people finding an eternal relationship our Heavenly Father, than we must serve in such a way that we die to ourselves for the greater good of making another person’s life better now and for all eternity.  If helping people is not a part of the project, and if building relationships with people is not the end goal, then we might want to reassess our project.

Example: We can feed the homeless by providing food for the food bank. This is a noble project. But dropping off food at a food bank is hardly exciting and life changing for the servant. Wouldn’t it be better to prepare a boxed meal and a few bags of groceries and actually deliver it to the families that need the food? This puts the people serving into the hungry people’s lives. This opens the door for relationship. And it shows the people serving that their service is changing lives, not just filling up shelves with food. (I’m not against the food bank, just wanting to make this ministry more person to person.)

2.) People want to suffer for the greater good. Paul tells us something about himself that I think we need to also desire, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” (Philippians 3:10). To know the power of Christ’s resurrection is like knowing the power of blessing. To be resurrected from the dead is to be relieved from the horror of pain, misery, sorrow, bondage and death. This is a great feeling, but if this is the only thing we are experiencing as a follower of Jesus, we will become complacent, selfish, and entitled believers.  Service will only be attractive to this believer if it’s comfortable, fits with their lifestyle, budget or time constraints. This follower misses out on the true blessing of “bleeding” for others.

I don’t think people really want an apathetic experience with Christ. This does not meet the need of doing what’s great in the kingdom of God; it doesn’t empower, instead it confines.

In Paul’s statement, he doesn’t dismiss blessing but includes suffering. None of us will truly understand the power of God if we don’t walk the sufferings of Christ. God is not asking us to die on a cross (even though some have for His name’s sake), but He does want us to sweat, to work hard, to sacrifice and serve to the point that it costs us something.

Example: My oldest two children took part in a “Starv-a-thon” when they were teenagers. Their youth group decided to fast for 24 hours so they could understand the suffering of others. They also gave up sleep for 24 hours. Now that was not all they did. Leading up to the 24 hour fast of sleep and food, they collected money from the community so they could buy Christmas gifts for the veterans and their families. These soldiers had lost limbs and suffered greatly for our country and were in the hospital downtown in Washington, DC.

Using the money they collected, the youth shopped for gifts and wrapped them. Then early in the morning, they went to the hospital to meet the soldiers. They were able to meet the veterans, their families and give them gifts.  This “people to people” interaction was the most life changing for the receiver and the youth who were giving. It has forever marked the heart of my two children and all the other youth involved.

The youth sweat, they suffered, they worked hard, they sacrificed, they heard horrific stories from the soldiers, and they made another’s life better and were forever changed as a result. This is true service. This was a cause the youth looked forward to every year! Giving up something for the sake of the suffering invoked a desire to “bleed” more and more for others. In the end, my two children love people and missions! I am forever grateful they experienced a small portion of the “sufferings of Christ.”

3.) People want to do the impossible. If the project is too easy, too fitting, it can create apathy and even an indifference to the need at hand. People want to experience the power of God, not just the calling to serve. If we truly want to know His love, we must taste the impossible in life.  People of today want to follow a cause and make a difference. You hear these two phrases often. They will give themselves to something that is great not just something that is needful.

Once we have determined that there is a “people to people” component to the service project and we have designed an opportunity to truly “bleed” for the cause, then we need to make sure the service project is one where there is an irrefutable chance to know the power of God.

To know the power of God will mean taking steps of faith for the servant. This will be different for everyone, as everyone is on a different spectrum in their faith journey.

For some, just saying yes to the project will be a huge step. For others, it might be leading the project, or in some cases it might be funding it. And there are many other ways to take steps of faith in a serving project; more than I can list; for God is at work in the believer and the stories that come from these projects are endless.

The following four components to a service project that define the impossible are:

  1. We go where no one else will go. If another church is making a difference in an area, we don’t invade their project. We find an area where no one is making a difference. We also choose areas that might be unfavorable, even scary, or maybe dangerous; whatever the fear is, we must walk into this place with faith and love. For love casts our fear and fear is only a symptom to no faith. “Believe,” Jesus says, “and I will do it!”
  2. The cost and time need must be beyond our own ability and availability. If we can fund it; if we can do it within our plan, we will also take credit for the results. We need the opportunity to believe that God is needed and only He can make the project a success.
  3. We must expect God to do greater things than we ask for. We pray for God’s hand and blessing in the project. Prayer is at the core of any successful service project. However, in our prayers, we must believe that God is at work in it. As Paul says, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20); we must remember that it is God’s power that is at work in us, not our own. His plans, His love for people and His ability is far greater than what we can muster up in our human flesh.
  4. We must have the gospel ever before us. We must see the project in light of the gospel, just as Paul did. As Paul said to the Philippian church, he was grateful to them. Why? They were partners with him in the gospel. They were partners with him in grace. He taught them to see their suffering as a means to further the gospel. He challenged them to defend the gospel and to work side by side in faith so that the gospel would be proclaimed. We must choose to live for the mission of the gospel, for the good news of Jesus Christ to be shared with all people. In all we do, we are hope bearers for the lost on behalf of our Savior.

Example: About four years ago, the children’s ministry at our church provided Christmas gifts for 85 children living at the nearby homeless shelter. We had three weeks to collect money, buy gifts, wrap them and deliver them. I had a meeting with my 4th and 5th grade leaders; I shared with them this impossible vision. They looked at me like I must be mad! Even so, they were very much on board.

There were moments where I was even thinking that I had lost my mind.

I remember asking God, “Are you sure we can do this?” His answer, “No, but I can.”

Once this project was shared with the church, the church jumped on board. We not only collected all the items on the Christmas list that was requested from the children, we also collected enough money to buy an Adventure Bible for every child (this was not part of the plan). The Bibles cost a whopping $15 each! We delivered these gifts in the required time. It was a faith builder for me and my leadership team.

Excitement surged our team; we were in amazement at what God could do through mortals like us.

Service needs to cost and it needs to meet the abilities of our powerful God – which is endless.  Anyone who wants to truly know Christ will not be content with following him safely, but with a dangerous faith to “bleed” for the sake of others.

Church, let’s do this!