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.”

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The Best of Both Worlds

Within some Christian circles there is often talk about sacrificing the “good” in order to have the “best.” Some would say we give up “legitimate, natural pleasures” in order to enjoy deeper, spiritual joys. 

I wonder if we can actually have both.

What if it’s not God’s will for us to downplay the significance of good, permissible ways to have fun in order to focus more explicitly on honored, spiritual experiences? And what if He actually wants to blur the lines between what is a “natural” pleasure and what is a “spiritual” pleasure?

There are so many types of pleasure we are blessed with in life. There is certain euphoria we get only in corporate worship settings, and a certain peace that tends to be found more in solitude. There is an adrenaline rush we get while playing sports, and a release of endorphins when we work out. There a taste we get from delicious food, and a joy we get when our friends tells us jokes that make us laugh from the belly. There’s an appreciation for beauty that can fill our souls when we are scrolling through Instagram, and a satisfaction that comes from a good day’s hard work. And there always so many rewards that come from relational investments — when we are overcome with gratitude for the friendships that we are developing.

There are countless ways to experience heavenly bliss. Some of these might be easier to categorize as “spiritual” opportunities, while others are easy to view as “unnecessary.” But what if life is meant to be interlaced with both, continually? What if we aren’t meant to devalue or rate such experiences, but to savor them all? Maybe they are all a part of God’s benevolent plans for our lives.

I understand that there are times for prioritizing the kind of activities we will give our time to, and that sometimes we have to say “no” to good options in order to say “yes” to things the Lord has invited us to focus on. That said, we need to be careful not to create too much of a dichotomy between the material, temporal realm and the spiritual, eternal one. God is highly invested in both realms, and the two are highly intertwined with one another. I believe our lives are more fully lived when we are growing to explore and delight in the whole of the opportunities provided for us to experience joy in its manifold forms.

If we neglect any means through which God is working to lift our spirits in the name of “holiness,” we just might be getting stuck in an unnecessary rut. The Lord is highly creative, and He can make our hearts rejoice in so many ways…

That is, if we are willing to receive and celebrate all He is offering.

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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. ? 

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