The Deficient Theology of the Hungry

     If there’s anywhere I think we Charismatics have consistently gone wrong in our theology it is in the area of “hunger preaching.” People are constantly talking about “being hungry for more of God” as if that is a requirement for healthy spirituality. We must always be desperate, always be thirsting, always be “pressing in deeper.” Why? Because supposedly what we already have is just a teaser of God’s Presence in our lives.

     The Bible verse referenced most often for this kind of teaching is Matthew 5:6, which reads, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” The way this verse is interpreted, it is assumed that none of us are sufficiently righteous already. We are still lacking in fullness, lacking in sanctification, lacking in union with God. We need more of the fire to cleanse us, more of the anointing to make us feel connected to God, more of the glory to at last fill us up with what we’ve been missing out on. This is supposedly evident by the fact that we don’t see all the hospitals around us getting cleared out by healing evangelists, all the stadiums being filled with spontaneous revival meetings, and all the riverbanks and shorelines filled with new converts constantly being baptized. If we really had it together with God, He would open the heavens for us and we’d actually start to walk in His power (finally).

     The problem with this line of thought is it starts from a place of lack rather than a place of fullness. It tells us we are super deficient, rather than complete in Christ like the apostle Paul taught us. It sets us up to live a very driven, need-focused lifestyle — often overextending ourselves in fasting, prayer, and event-attending-hype in order to pursue the next level of impartation and breakthrough. It undermines any sound teaching on the virtues of contentment, restfulness, or self-care. Meanwhile it underscores the lie of the enemy that says “you will never have enough and never be enough.”

     I am someone who is legitimately all for the wildness of the Holy Spirit. I love the crazy, intense manifestations. I love to challenge people to receive good gifts more freely from God, to expose themselves to different ways He is moving on the earth, and to ever grow more familiar with His Presence. I understand that all of this often takes risk, patience, endurance, and intentionality. The life of a revivalist is an adventure and a constant learning experience.

     One thing we do not need though while we are on this adventure is to live hungry and thirsty. Orphans live hungry. Orphans do not get fed enough to have a full belly. But we are children of the King. We have bellies so full they are overflowing with springs of living water! We are the temple of the Living God! And we are already as righteous as it gets, because we have received Christ’s righteousness as our own.

     Nothing could be more satisfying.

     It is perfectly possible to live a thriving spiritual life — growing in the knowledge of God, becoming increasingly activated in His gifts, expecting Him to move in new and surprising ways — and still be 100% satisfied. In fact, I would like to suggest that dissatisfaction can be more of an indicator of spiritual immaturity than of readiness for what God wants to do next. Dissatisfaction often gets our eyes off the finished work of the Cross and onto ourselves. It calls us to look at where we might be failing and to constantly wish we were more resolved to really be radical for God now. That only leads to a broken cycle that always ends in disappointment.

     Worse yet, our constant hunger keeps us from fully appreciating the beauty of how present and active God is in the here and now. The spiritual and emotional highs He gives us can’t be properly enjoyed for what they are, merely because they don’t often lead to instant and immediate transformation in all the areas we have been contending for. If an encounter did meet a significant need, we know there is still an endless sea of more needs yet to be contended for… It’s an exhausting schema.

     My advice; give up entirely on trying to get more hungry for God. Don’t stop making healthy changes in your life where you need to. Don’t stop engaging in spiritual warfare. Don’t stop indulging yourself in enjoying God’s Presence and revelations. Don’t stop getting out of your comfort zone to be used of Him in a manner that stretches your faith. Do great exploits to demonstrate His love and spread His fame. Just do all that stuff completely, entirely satisfied in the love of God.

You are enough.

Christ in You is enough.

Holy Spirit indwelling you is MORE than enough.

     Let your confidence in those truths redefine all of what you are reaching for. Then, join with the Psalmist and declare, “I shall not be in want.”

Follow @dmichaelSTL

Eternal Life Today

Jesus said that He came “to bring life, and life more abundant” (John 10:10). Some versions say “life to the full.” This is eternal life – the life found in the Kingdom of Heaven.

In religion we sometimes piously project this “abundant life” far into the future. We put all our hopes in the after life, a postmortem experience. We wait to die or to be resurrected from death at Christ’s return. We limit our understanding of eternity to this future experience, downplaying the significance of the here and now.

Even more commonly though we take a less spiritualized approach. We look forward to a future day when things will get better on this side of eternity. A day when we will graduate college. A day we will get married. A day we will finally get into shape like we want. A day we will get a better job.

But Jesus said He came to give us life to the FULL. And we are alive right now. Today.

Everyday we can choose to live in abundance. This is not an exaggeration. We can live in expectation of what is yet to come, but we can also take full advantage of our present opportunities.

We can connect with people who contribute to our well being. We can indulge in contemplative prayer, appreciating God’s nearness and dwelling on His goodness. We can go outside and enjoy the Sun and get our bodies moving with physical exercise. We can express ourselves through art, or through purposeful acts of service to our communities. We can make decisions big and small that result in our health and well being, following the rhythms of grace that produce both greater maturity and a more constant sense of delight in our lives. We don’t have to wait until tomorrow to live to fully and to practice contentment.

I frequently remind myself that the Spirit of God is within me already, so I already am walking in eternal, Kingdom life. Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is… righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” These things are all given to us freely in the space we are in right now.

It takes a conscious shift of mind sometimes to fully appreciate all that is at hand. When we do though, our days grow much brighter. We live much more accomplished and much more restful if we just lean into the life Christ offers us as we walk with Him in THIS season of life.

And we trust that there is only an eternity of more life to unfold before us.

Follow @dmichaelSTL

Let’s Notice

     As a Charismatic Christian I have spent a lot of time “seeking” the presence of God. I’ve put it in many hours reaching for His heart, beckoning for Him to come, and even sacrificing money and energy to go places to “get in His Glory.” Often, I have felt frustrated with the lack of fruit that has come from such attempts to attain a deeper connection with the Lord.

     One of the most popular worship songs of our time has a line in it that I’ve really grown to like. It says, “Let us become more aware of Your Presence.” I like that because it indicates a reformational truth about the nature of God.

     God is here. He is not just “out there” somewhere. 

     The incarnation of Jesus revealed to us that our Maker is not inclined to maintain a separation from humanity in any sense. He is committed to be with us, manifestly.

     This is not even just something He does. It’s who He is….

     He’s Immanuel – which literally means “God is with us.”

     He’s Yahweh Shammah – “The Lord is here.”

     He is the promised Spirit of Christ, “with us even until the end of the age…”

     Most of all He is love — and when seeking to overcome relational distance, “love never fails.”

     Instead of asking for more of God’s presence, my prayer life these days consists primarily of finding ways to acknowledge and appreciate His nearness. I actually make lists of “encounters” I have with Him, to help bring them to my attention more. For instance, I’ve made note that…

  • I wanted to spend alone time in prayer and reflection, but instead I felt God when I took time to encourage a friend who interrupted me wanting to talk about their problems. God showed up through me, rather than to me.
  • I had a dream at night that really caught my attention, and upon taking time to consider its deeper meaning, I realized there was divine counsel hidden in its imagery that added guidance to my current situation in life.
  • The number 11:11 caught my eye repetitively this week. I can’t help but think God is winking at me every time I see it, encouraging me that my life has an orchestrated symmetry to it just like the four linear ones standing side-by-side each other.
  • I was thinking about my own personal weaknesses and failures, right when Katy Perry’s song came on the radio saying “I will love you, unconditionally…”
  • I was thinking about someone I missed, and then five minutes later I ran into them for the first time in years at a grocery store.
  • At church I was let down because I was getting caught up in worship right when the pastor cut off the music. He immediately started preaching a message though that turned out to be exactly what my soul needed to hear that day.
  • I wake up dreading a long work day ahead of me, but suddenly the dread turns to optimism and I end up having a full, fun day. (I often find out later that someone just happened to be praying for me that morning!)

If I don’t take time to stop and savor these moments in life, I can become blinded to just how active and intimately involved the Lord is in my seemingly mundane routine. Even the more spectacular divine encounters – such as when an angel physically touched my head – can seem incredibly normal at times. The most dramatic signs from Heaven have a way of becoming easy to forget if we do not make an intentional effort to rehearse what happened and praise God for it.

Whatever it takes, I encourage you to practice looking for and listening for the presence of God in your life. Contrary to religious tradition, He isn’t one to simply “intervene” on special, awe-inspiring occasions. Rather, He is creatively weaving Himself in our daily lives already. He is loyal to keep working for our benefit whether we notice or not.

Let’s notice though. ? 

Follow @dmichaelSTL