Back to School: Blogging for Compassion

Anyone else have their Facebook feed lit up with Back-to-School pictures this week?

We started our school routine the first week of August.  That gives us the benefit of doing things like a museum field trip this week–which means we’ll have the place to ourselves except for all the other homeschool parents who had the same idea I did.

But for all you moms who are rejoicing over the first day of school freedom, this is for you:

I love my kids, but being able to leave the house by yourself?  Yeah, that’s priceless.

As we celebrate (or commiserate over) our kids heading back to school, it’s a good time to remember children around the world for whom education is a priceless opportunity.  Here are a few pictures of Compassion children from Guatemala:

Aren’t those awesome? Education is one of the main pathways out of poverty.  But it’s not a road all children get to travel.

  • Worldwide, nearly 80 percent of primary-school-age children attend school. In least developed countries, this figure is around 66 percent.
  • The largest out-of-school population is in sub-Saharan Africa, where around 45.5 million children of primary school age are out of school.
  • Of the 67 million primary-school-age children who do not attend school, 53 percent are girls.
  • Worldwide, only 49 percent of children of secondary school age actually attend secondary school.
  • Of the 49 percent of secondary age students who do not attend school, 52 percent are girls.
  • The world’s functional illiterates include more than 130 million children who do not attend school, 73 million of them girls. (statistics from Compassion)

As you’re celebrating back-to-school week with your family, you can also make a difference in the life of a child. Sponsoring a child with Compassion provides your sponsored child with educational opportunities, medical care, food and clean water, and life-skills training.  Compassion’s church based ministry also insures that sponsored children get a chance to hear about Jesus.  That’s a priceless opportunity.

If you’re not sponsoring a child, consider sponsoring a child today. If you’re already sponsoring, tell us in the comments where your sponsored child lives.  And if you’re a homeschool mom like me, check out these free homeschool lesson plans from Compassion.

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Ferguson, Jena, and Hope

eph 2 14

I’ve grieved as I’ve watched the news streaming out of Ferguson this week.

We don’t know exactly what happened in the street that afternoon.  Some accounts paint a portrait of a young man shot in the moment of surrender.  Others describe an officer who had no option but to pull the trigger as a man who had already assaulted him and tried to take his weapon rushed him at full speed.  Perhaps the truth, as it so often does, lies somewhere in between.

But we have seen a community in grief. Yes, some have taken advantage of the turmoil to loot and destroy. Sinful nature shouldn’t surprise us. Yet we need to listen to the outcry. Listen. Because there are things about the black experience that I as a white woman will never fully understand:

And yet these are the experiences of many of our neighbors. In 2014 America prejudice is real. Privilege is real. And we all interpret events through the light of our experience.

Yet where there is Christ, there is hope.

It wasn’t that long ago that Jena, Louisiana, was in the news much as Ferguson has been this week. After the small 3000 person community was rocked by racial tensions at the high school, the national spotlight fell on Jena as 20,000 people descended on the town to protest. We’ve come to recognize the pattern.  But what happened next was extraordinary.

Jena broke out in revival.

Real revival–not the once-a-year, four nights of meetings, and a potluck kind of revival.  God showed up. Black churches and white churches worshiped together. Some nights they didn’t even have preaching because the presence of God was so strong. God moved among the people and brought reconciliation. The community was transformed.

We have hope, because this is what our God does. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:13-14).  Christ is our peace.  He destroys the barriers, tearing down the dividing wall. He gives us the ministry of reconciliation, for the only way we can be reconciled to one another is to first be reconciled to Him.

The hope for Jena is the hope for Ferguson and is the same hope for us:  Jesus. He is the one to whom we must look.  He is the one who forgives our sins and heals our brokenness. He is the one who transforms us, who reminds us to live like image-bearers and not hate speakers.  He is the one who overcomes the barriers between Jew and Gentile, male and female, black and white. He is the lifter of heads and the restorer of hearts, and he is the one who longs to bring all the prodigals back home.

And so this week as the news from Ferguson continues, I’d ask you to pray. Pray for Michael Brown’s family in their grief.  Pray for Darren Wilson and his family. Pray for safety for police and protesters. Pray for God to raise up peacemakers and gospel-proclaimers. Pray that Christ Jesus will be peace for Ferguson.

And for us.

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Finishing Well

finishing well

It grieves me when a prominent pastor’s ministry hits the skids.

My Facebook and Twitter feeds lit up last week with the news that the Acts 29 network had removed Mars Hill from membership and urged Mark Driscoll to resign as pastor.  The news was shortly followed by an announcement that LifeWay was pulling Driscoll’s books from its stores and web catalog.

I’ve never been a Driscoll fan. I respect that he succeeded in planting a growing congregation in one of the least-churched areas of the country. Seattle is tough ground. However, I’ve never been fond of his combative style–or his views on women. Driscoll has been plagued by controversy, and the charges of spiritual abuse against him and the Mars Hill elders should be taken seriously. Driscoll’s public statements and the statements of the board indicate that he desires repentance and reconciliation. For his sake and the sake of his church, I hope that process of restoration proves successful.

But we’ve seen this story before.  Young, charismatic pastor builds successful ministry and rises to stardom, only to see it all come crashing down. As the news unfolded last week, this was the question that came to my mind:  what does it take to finish well?

What does it take to finish well? Because so many don’t. We see it in the headlines. We’ve seen it in history. And we see it in Scripture. Moses led the Hebrew people out of Egypt, but sin kept him from entering the Promised Land. David was a man after God’s own heart, but his reign never recovered from his sin against Bathsheba and the murder of her husband.  And Samson–for all his strength, Samson’s story is a tragedy of wasted potential.

What does it take to finish well? I don’t want the end of my life to repudiate the beginning. When I stand before the Lord in glory, I want to stand before him unashamed. But how do we live now to end well then?  I think there are three things that are important in this:

Cultivate Integrity.

In his response to the Driscoll saga, Tim Challies said this:

When the Bible lays out qualifications to ministry, it is character that rules every time. The Bible says little about skill and less still about results. It heralds character–Tim Challies

While I don’t always agree with Challies, I think he’s right on here. Character counts. Proverbs 10:9 says that “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” To finish well, we need to cultivate integrity–the willingness to do what is right even when it costs us something. That means devoting ourselves to pursuing the Lord until his pleasure becomes the desire of our hearts. When we get to the point that we choose holiness not because we fear punishment but because doing otherwise breaks the heart of God, then we are learning what it means to walk in integrity.

Walk in Humility.

A mentor once told me that money, sex, and power are the big three temptations that sink ministries. I think there’s a fourth that encompasses all three: pride. The insidious nature of pride blinds us to our own faults. Pride convinces us that we will never fall, that those who warn us of danger don’t understand that we’ve got it all under control. Pride teaches us to rely on self; humility drives us to depend on God. Humility reminds us that it’s not our kingdom we’re building; that platforms are only beneficial when we build them into altars. Walking in humility recognizes that temptation is common; that it’s when we most think we’re standing firm that we need to beware of falling (1 Corinthians 10:12-13). We place our trust in the one who is able to keep us from stumbling and recognize our weakness never outgrows the need for his strength.

Practice Accountability.

We need truth-tellers in our lives, and we need to heed what they say.

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Paul had Barnabas; Nathan confronted David with his sin. Moses’ father-in-law gave him wise advice. If we want to finish well, we need to surround ourselves with people who will speak into our lives. We need those around us who believe in our divinely appointed destinies and love us enough to challenge us when we are in danger of falling short. Like the strings that keep a tent pole from swinging too hard in any direction, accountability keeps us grounded and stable.

Driscoll’s story isn’t over yet. There may be a day in his future when he stands repentant and restored.  I pray it is so. But my story isn’t over yet either.  I want my life to be more than a cautionary tale. I want to finish well.

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Delight in Honor

Romans 12 10It’s been a really long time since I’ve watched a sitcom. We don’t watch much prime-time T.V. The kids stream their shows over Netflix. After they go to bed the hubs and I watch a couple episodes of whatever show we’re binge-watching. Monk.  Chuck. Downton Abbey.

Okay, that last one would just be me.

Last week we decided to watch a few episodes of a comedy show we’d heard was good. Meh. For one thing, the writers really should have spent more than five minutes on character development. But the humor also made me remember why I started steering away from these shows.  Why is it funny to watch people tearing one another down?

Have we forgotten what it means to honor?

Romans 12:10 calls us to “ Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Some translations render the latter part of this verse as “Outdo one another in showing honor.”  The Living Bible reads “Delight in honoring one another.”

As the church, we should delight in honoring one another.  We are not to compete for honor but to outdo each other in honoring one another above ourselves.

Why is it so hard?

  • Because we believe honor is a limited commodity. Believing there’s not enough honor to go around pushes us to compete for praise instead of generously building others up.
  • Because we default to criticism instead of celebration.  I get this. I’m a detail person and I like seeing thing done well.  But when our normal response is to point out the faults instead of celebrating the successes, it may be that we are failing to honor.
  • Because we try to hide our own flaws by pointing out other people’s failings. We fear exposure. Pointing the finger at someone else is a surefire way of getting the attention off the fissures in our own feet of clay.

Honor is rooted in love. The Father loves us. We are loved. Let that sink in for a moment. You are loved. You are bought by the priceless blood of Christ. You are adopted as a child of the king. You are a co-heir with Christ, sharing his victory and inheritance. We don’t have to fight for seats at the Father’s table. Our places are secure with him, and his love has no limits.

Being secure in the Father’s love helps us honor others. We can invite others to find their places at the table without risking our own. We can celebrate their God-appointed destinies because their success doesn’t threaten ours. There’s no need to hide our cracks when we’re all mended by God’s healing love. We can delight in honoring each other because God delights in honoring us.

What does it look like to honor?

  • We believe the best of each other.
  • We listen–really listen–to one another.
  • We create a culture of grace, not shame.
  • We desire to help one another succeed.
  • We encourage.
  • We challenge.
  • We hold accountable.
  • We make church the one place where no one fails.
  • We love.
  • We celebrate.
  • We thank.
  • We forgive.
  • We delight in letting each other shine.
  • We keep Christ central.

We honor people because we see them as God sees them.  Made in his image, precious in his sight, once lost in sin but now cleansed by the blood. Transformed by his grace.  Made for his glory.  We choose honor because God is doing a work in them that should be valued, celebrated and protected.

This week, let us choose honor.  Let’s build up instead of tearing down.  Let’s celebrate success instead of failure.  Let’s mourn over sin instead of rejoicing at someone else’s fall.  And let’s be the first to offer them a hand back up.

Let’s love as God has loved us.

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Inspired to Hold Up the Sky: Blogging for Compassion

SAMSUNG CSCSo there’s this book called Half the Sky that quotes an old Chinese proverb about how women hold up half the sky.

Women hold up the sky, but there are 100 million women missing.

  • Missing because in China 39,000 infant girls die each year because parents don’t give them the same medical care that they give their sons.
  • Missing because in Pakistan and the Middle East women and girls are doused with kerosene and burned or seared with acid for ‘disobedience.’
  • Missing because in some parts of the world if a young man commits a crime, raping his sister is seen as a suitable punishment.
  • Missing because governments shrug when impoverished girls are kidnapped and imprisoned in brothels.
  • Missing because women lack the access to basic maternity care that we take for granted in the United States.  In the U.S, a woman has a 1 in 4800 chance of dying in childbirth.  In Niger it’s 1 in 7.

100 million women who are no longer there to hold up their part of the sky.

I read the stories of the women who overcame obstacles to change the world.  Obstacles like poverty and lack of education. Obstacles like forced prostitution, kidnapping, and rape. Obstacles like leaking urine and feces because of unrepaired childbirth injuries, and obstacles like cultures that simply consider women less valuable than men.  And I wonder:  if I were in their place would I share their courage?

I see the need, and I feel the call to do something.  To alleviate the suffering, yes.  But also to point girls and women to hope–the hope found in our Savior.  For our Father has created them to be his daughters and he calls them to come home.  He clothes them with dignity and strength, and he longs to rescue and redeem their brokenness.  It is only in him that we are made whole.

But what can I do?

That’s where Compassion comes in.

Child sponsorship programs make a difference.  Through Compassion, I have the opportunity to make a difference for a child in poverty.  Compassion’s church-based child development programs help provide Christian training for children, as well as providing educational opportunities, treatment and training to maintain child health, development of self confidence and social skills, and vocational training.  $38 dollars a month transforms the life of a child.

And so, I sponsor a 6 year old girl in Burkina Faso.  Because I can make a difference for her. One less shirt to cram in my already stuffed closet–one meal cooking at home instead of eating out.  It’s a small price to pay to change a child’s world.  I’ll give.  I’ll pray.  I’ll write.

And I’ll hold up my small piece of the sky so one day she can hold up hers.

There are children waiting for sponsors.  Will you consider sponsoring a child with Compassion today?

Before you go, check out this video from Caitlin Jane–and listen to the story behind the song.

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Blessings In Obedience–A Guest Post from Denise Lilly

By Denise Lilly

woman in grass

To be a parent is to persevere regardless of feelings.

Emotions run high in parenthood – joy, excitement, frustration, anger, exasperation, fear – but being a parent is about action. I don’t feel like sitting at the table for a half hour trying to convince him to eat what’s good for him. I don’t feel like addressing a temper tantrum. I don’t feel like chasing a poopy butt boy. I don’t feel like rising at 3 a.m. when he cries.

But of course, I do all these things because being Bronson’s mom is not about what I feel like doing.

And I expect him to obey regardless of feeling, too. I know he doesn’t feel like getting dressed when I say or holding my hand in a parking lot or leaving his food on his plate (instead of throwing it on the floor), but I’m not too concerned about his feelings on these matters. I want him to learn to do them in obedience.

Lately I’ve been recalling a theory I studied in social psychology. As quoted from Social Psychology by  David Myers:

“Experiments confirm that positive behavior toward someone fosters liking for that person…It is a lesson worth remembering: If you wish to love someone more, act as if you do.”

And later…

“If we want to change ourselves in some important way, it’s best not to wait for insight or inspiration. Sometimes we need to act…”

As a mom, I naturally do this with my son. I act as if I love him regardless of the situation, and I, of course, really do love him immensely.

But this is not always as easy or natural with other people.

Jesus says I should bless those who curse me. I should love my enemies. And I sense he’s not too concerned about my feelings on these matters.

But nothing seems more unnatural, more impossible to me. I wait for insight and inspiration, and while in waiting, I dwell on what was said or done. I weave a web of ruminations, and I find myself trapped in bitterness.

In some situations I’ve prayed for more than a handful of years for forgiveness – that I would be overwhelmed by forgiveness for the people who have hurt me.

This has not happened.

I’m still trapped in bitterness. I’ve woven more threads of anger and pain over the years. As time goes on, I find there’s more people who hurt me, and I’ve been exasperated by God’s inaction.

But I think he’s been more exasperated by mine.

He doesn’t tell me to feel forgiveness. He tells me to act in forgiveness. To bless, to love, and as I’ve learned in psychology, this will actually change the way I feel.

It’s not that my feelings are arbitrary or even unjustified. People have been cruel. Things happened that should have never happened, but I can’t control other people or change the past.

I can move forward, stepping in obedience into forgiveness, letting my actions untangle my feelings. I can be a blessing. I can be loving. And I can let these actions change me in a very important way.

Denise Lilly spends her days in the daily grind of motherhood in Maine with her two sons. She is a writer, photographer and blogger. Read more of her writing in her book, Cling, or on her blog at


I am thrilled to have Denise guest posting on the blog today.  I was blessed by her words and I know you will be too.  She was sweet enough to offer a free copy of her book, Cling, to one lucky reader.  Be sure to enter!


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When We Wait (Isaiah 40:27-31)

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They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).

Isaiah 40:31 is both a favorite verse and one that’s easy for me to ignore.  On one hand, how could you not love reading this verse?  Mount up with wings like eagles?  Run and not be weary?  I want a piece of that.  On the other hand, it’s one of the most quoted Bible verses out there.  We see it plastered on coffee cups, posters, notecards, and bookmarks.  It shows up in our Facebook feeds and on Pinterest pins.  And because we see it so often, sometimes we stop seeing it.

Until the day God means it for you.

I made a connection this week I had never seen before.  A basic precept of Bible reading 101 is to consider the original audience for the text.  Understanding the audience of the text often helps us understand the meaning of the text.  What it means for us today has to be consistent with what it mean to them then.  Yet for some reason, I had never considered the original audience for this verse.

Isaiah 40 was written to a nation in exile.  God revealed to Isaiah that Babylon would carry the nation of Judah into exile (Isaiah 39:5-7).  Under the inspiration of the Spirit, Isaiah looked forward to a generation who had not yet been born and wrote a message of hope:  Don’t despair. God has not forgotten you.  He is sovereign, and there remains a destiny for the people of God.

We remember that day when the towers fell and the world seemed to rock on its axis.  Our emotions swung from shock to anger to grief and our prayers tasted like the salt of our tears: Lord, where are you?  Why is this happening?  Where is justice?

The exiles had the same questions:

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”? (Isaiah 40:27)

Does it have a familiar ring?  To me, it sounds like the echo of my own pain.  In times of hurt I am tempted to question God’s heart. Isaiah reminds us when we are tempted to question where God is, it is time for us to remember who God is.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28).

God is Creator.  He is the everlasting God.  He does not grow weary.  And yet there are times when his ways are beyond our comprehension.  In those moments when we cry out for a move of God, when we are desperate for understanding, what does God ask us to do?


It’s not a passive word.  Sometimes translated as “hope,” the Hebrew word means  “to wait attentively” or “to hope with expectation” (Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament).  It’s the watchman on the walls waiting for the dawn; the expectant mother waiting for the moment of birth.

In the depths of our sorrow and pain, God asks us to wait for him to prove himself faithful.

  • We wait for God to hear us (Psalm 40:1)
  • We wait  for God to move (Psalm 27:14)
  • We wait for justice (Psalm 37:34; Proverbs 20:22)
  • We wait on our promised inheritance (Psalm 37:9).
  • We wait on Him (Psalm 130:5-6)

We wait, because the Lord’s coming is as certain as the dawn.  We refuse to take shortcuts or cast about for our own solutions, preferring the deliverance that comes from his hand. We wait because we know who he has declared himself to be.

In our waiting he gives us strength.  He who does not become weary lifts us up on wings like eagles, keeps the runner from becoming weary and the walker from becoming faint.  He gives us himself. And in doing so, he ensures that we don’t just endure the waiting–we exult in a victory that is sure to come.

I will wait upon the Lord.  For my hope is found in him.

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Resources for Ministry Wives

Just a little announcement for ya:

I’ve added a resource page for ministry wives and women in ministry to the blog.

ministry wives

On this page you will find:

  • Links to some of my favorite books on ministry, church conflict, leadership, church growth and revitalization, etc.
  • Resources for rest, renewal, and help for pastor’s wives and women in ministry.
  • Links to online communities for ministry wives.
  • A list of some of my favorite PW blogs and bloggers.

I’m planning to keep this updated as I discover new resources.  If you have suggestions, feel free to contact me.

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When Lions Roar: Isaiah 36-37

Lions are not my favorite thing to see at the zoo.  Why?  They’re boring.  Nine times out of ten you only find the lions doing their favorite thing:  snoring.

At least the gorillas scratch themselves now and then.

One zoo visit things went a little differently.  As we walked around the zoo, we could hear the lion roaring.  The male lion was perched on a rock, loudly declaring himself the king of all he surveyed.  I stopped to watch, getting a good look at his full mane and sharp teeth.

Then I glanced at the children.  The oldest had her hands over her ears.  My son had both hands over his mouth, and the youngest was peeking through her fingers.  Pretty much like this:

I laughed.  There wasn’t anything to fear.  Despite his swagger, the lion was in the zoo.  There were stout walls, deep moats, and iron bars keeping him from escaping.  He might think himself the king of beasts, but the lion was dependent on his keeper’s generosity for food.

His only power was in his roar.

Hezekiah came face to face with a roaring lion when the Assyrian army came to call.  Hezekiah had reversed the policies of his father by destroying the idols of Judah and refusing to pay Assyria tribute.  Assyria viewed this as rebellion, and Sennacherib marched on Judah.  The Assyrian army captured the fortified cities of Judah and surrounded Jerusalem.  Sennacherib sent his spokesperson, the Rabshekah, with a message for Jerusalem (Isaiah 36:1-32).

Rabshekah’s speech was a masterful bit of psychological warfare.  He declared that Judah was defenseless and helpless.  Egypt would not help them and the Judean army was not strong enough to turn back a single Assyrian chariot.  He accused Hezekiah of betraying his people and said that the people would surely die unless they surrendered.  His speech didn’t only challenge Hezekiah. It also challenged God.

Through his messenger, Sennacherib declared that Yahweh had given him permission to conquer Judah.  He insisted that the Lord was powerless to save his people.  None of the other gods of the nations had delivered their people from the Assyrian onslaught.  What made Judah think their God would have any more power?

Sennacharib and his emissary didn’t know who they were challenging.

Faced with the enemy’s roar, Hezekiah did the only thing he could do.  The king took the letter from the messengers and went into the temple, spreading the letter out before the Lord.  God answered through the prophet Isaiah, declaring that he himself would save the city for his name’s sake (Isaiah 37:1-38).

Despite all Assyria’s boasting, Sennacherib never fired a shot against Jerusalem.  An angel of the Lord struck the Assyrian army, and 185,000 men died overnight.  The Assyrian army withdrew, and Sennacherib eventually met his end.  He who had dared to challenge the Most High was killed in the temple of his god by two of his own sons.

In the end, it was Sennacherib’s god who was unable to save him.  Sennacherib thought he had the power, but the real authority lay with the Lord.  Sennacherib’s only power was in his roar.

Isn’t that how the enemy always works?  Satan’s power is in his roar.  Like that lion in the zoo, he roars like he owns it all.  That’s what he wants us to think.  He wants us to fear.  Satan wants us to believe that he’s really the one in control.

Satan wants us to fear because fear makes us do foolish things.  It was fear that drove Hezekiah’s father to pay tribute to Assyria in the first place.  Fear makes us shrink back and convinces us that we have to protect ourselves.  Fear drives us to punish other people to keep them from hurting us.  Fear makes us try to control our worlds so that no one gets close enough to hurt us.  Fear drives us to dance with the devil because deep down we don’t really believe that God can keep us safe.

When lions roar in our life, we should follow Hezekiah’s example.  I love that image of Hezekiah on his knees in the temple, spreading Sennacherib’s threatening letter out before the Lord.  I feel like that sometimes:  Lord, have you seen this?  What are you going to do about this one?  Like Hezekiah, we pour it out before the Lord and wait for our deliverance.  For when God delivers us, it proves what he has already said about himself.  He is our defender, our fortress, our strong tower.  He is Mighty God, the Creator of  heaven and earth.  He is our Redeemer and Friend, and he is with us.

Let the lions roar.  God’s love always triumphs.

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How to Increase Spiritual Hunger

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There’s a certain honesty that only comes in the early morning darkness. During the day it’s easier to find excuses for my spiritual struggles.  I’m busy.  I’m tired.  Things and people pull at my attention.  It’s easy to convince myself that the problem is out there.  If I can just find the right set of circumstances and set up the right routines then everything will fall into place.

But lying awake at 3:00 AM I have to face the truth.  The problem isn’t out there.  The problem is in me.

Sometimes I don’t pursue God because I don’t want him enough. Like the seed fallen among thorns, my desires for other things chokes out my desire for God.  I want to be liked, so I stay silent instead of speaking out.  Or say yes instead of saying no because I fear letting someone else down.  I’m tired of denying myself, so I justify a designer purchase and then worry about how to make the budget fit to cover it.  My emotions are churning, so I let food calm the storm instead of turning to God.  I don’t want to face my own sin, so I distract myself with a novel or movie.  If I ignore it, maybe it will go away.

I don’t seek God because I’m not hungry enough.

When I realize the depth of my spiritual apathy  in the 3:00 AM darkness, my first thought is usually to fix myself.  I just need to try harder.  Set the alarm earlier.  Post a new memory verse on the fridge.  Find a new accountability partner.  My mind races to find a new plan because this time it’s going to be different.

That’s the voice of guilt, and I’m learning to silence it.  Conviction points us to God; guilt separates us from him.  And yes, turning to anything other than God to meet my deepest needs is sin.  Food, stuff, friends, religious ritual, even my children—looking to  these things to define who I am and feed my soul hunger turns them into idols.  And like Dagon’s statue falling on its face before the ark, no idol can stand in the presence of the Lord (1 Sam. 5:1-5).  The Lord God Almighty is the only one who can feed my soul.

There are times where we need to stand on what God says rather than what we feel.  God says if we hunger and thirst after righteousness we will be satisfied.  And he says if we ask we will receive.  So what do I do when my problem is that I don’t hunger for God enough, when my desire for other things has choked out my desire for him?  I ask.  I ask God to increase my hunger.  I ask God to renew my desire for him.  It’s a prayer God has been faithful to answer.

What I’ve learned to do in those gray early morning hours of doubt is to run to God instead of from him.  The insidious danger of guilt is that it keeps us from seeking the very medicine that can heal our souls.  Spiritual apathy is sin.  The good news is Jesus died for sin and  when I confess my sin God is faithful to forgive me.  I confess the idolatry of my heart and ask God to renew my spirit.  And he does.

Ephesians says that even our faith is the gift of God (2:8).  Faith is not something we muster up on our own.  We can learn to walk in it and strengthen it over time, but ultimately God is both source and object of our faith.  Similarly, God puts hunger for him in our hearts.  When we lack hunger, the solution is not to try harder.  The solution is to ask God to increase our hunger for him.

Asking God to increase my hunger increases my awareness of and desire for him.  When I ask God to increase my hunger, I feel in my spirit the urgency to seek him.  God opens my eyes to those windows of opportunity when I can steal away for a few moments to spend in the Word.  He meets me in worship in surprising places—rocking a sleeping baby, or as I finish my walk and see the sun rising over the trees.  God increases my sensitivity so I am aware of his presence with me in the quiet moments of my day.  I begin to hear his voice even in the chaos.  The miracle of it all is that the more I experience him, the more I desire him.  Tasting God’s goodness makes us hunger for more.

If you find your hunger for God choked out by the weeds of this world, don’t start pulling weeds.  Plant seed.  Ask God to increase your hunger and listen to his promptings.  It’s a prayer he is faithful to answer.

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