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Monday, January 19, 2009

Spiritual Food Crisis (part 2): The Causes

What causes starvation? In physical terms, we see climate change, pesticide- resistant disease, invasive pests, war, government corruption, inequities and predatory practices in globalization as the causes for food shortages around the world. In the most general sense; however, starvation is basically a function of 3 conditions:
1. Insufficient food,
2. Insufficient calories, or
3. Insufficient nutrients.

Insufficient food occurs usually in cases of drought or famine. A drought dries up the water. Disease and/or war wipe out crops and livestock. There’s nothing to eat, nothing from which to grow something to eat, nothing on which to raise animals to become or produce something to eat, and nothing to sell in order to buy something to eat. The people starve.

Only Jesus can give us living water. The living water is the Holy Spirit which we receive as the seal of our salvation. 2 Corinthians 1: 22 tells us that Jesus…has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Without a relationship with Jesus, you’re in a spiritual drought.

2 Corinthians 9: 10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;

Without a relationship with Jesus, you have no food, no means of raising food and no means of producing food. Without a relationship with Jesus you will find yourself spiritually starving because you have insufficient food for your soul. Your life may be full of activity, affiliations, associates, and accolades; but without Jesus you have no real food to nourish your spirit.

On the other hand, you may be saved. You may actually have a personal relationship with Jesus, and yet you may still be starving because you've failed to ingest enough spiritual calories for the life you are called to live.

Calories are energy and if you live an active life you need a lot of energy. If you are actively pursuing the command to live a holy life, if you are actively participating in ministry, if you are actively engaged in fighting of the temptations to sin and the enticements to compromise that bombard you, then you need a lot of spiritual calories.

These calories come from drinking deeply of the living water of the Holy Spirit by spending time in prayer and meditation. These calories come from feeding on the bread of life that is Jesus, the Word made flesh, by developing your relationship with Him. Spiritual calories come from feasting on the meat that is the will of the Father by witnessing, loving, forgiving, and being obedient to all that you know of God’s will.

So if you find yourself struggling in spiritual and moral areas that you thought you had mastered, it may be because you have been weakened by not taking in enough spiritual calories. When your witness begins to lag in power and boldness, you need to take in more spiritual calories. When your ministry begins to drag, take in more spiritual calories. When the devil’s attacks increase in intensity and you must respond with increased spiritual strength, make sure that you have bulked up on prayer, Bible study, private time with the Lord, and obedience to the Father. Otherwise, the demands of your spiritually active lifestyle will deplete your energy and you will find yourself suffering from the ravages of spiritual starvation.

The third general condition that leads to spiritual starvation is insufficient nutrition. This occurs when there is plenty of food, but the type or variety of the offerings does not provide all of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that the spiritual body needs.

One of the most essential nutrients is calcium, the main nutrient in milk. Along with many other problems, calcium deficiency causes weak bones. A weakened skeleton cannot sustain muscles that may be otherwise strong. A weakened skeleton cannot protect and support organs that might themselves be functional.

A deficiency in the spiritual milk of the Word, a lack of corporate and personal Bible study will weaken the very foundation of a spiritual body. When a person or a church neglects the Word or fails to explore and hold to its truths, even if everything else is in place, the work of the spiritual body will suffer and nothing else will perform as it should. Although surrounded by other spiritual food, a Bible-lacking life will begin to show the signs of spiritual starvation.

If you are saved, if you do love the Lord, if you do try to live a holy life, and yet you still suffer the symptoms of spiritual starvation, when's the last time you read your Bible?

Not just at Sunday School, not just during the scripture reading at church.

When and how often have you given dedicated time to searching the scriptures, wrestling with the words of the Word, and studying to show yourself approved. There is a reason you feel spiritually undernourished.

Examine yourself. Examine your ministry. Do you see in your live any of the elements that might cause spiritual starvation? If so, make the necessary adjustments now. There is no need for any of us to die inside from spiritual starvation.

2 Peter 3: 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

John 3: 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Monday, January 5, 2009


In 1974, Bob Marley released a song called “Dem Belly Full But We Hungry.” A paraphrase of the first verse goes
Them belly full but we hungry
A hungry mob is an angry mob
The rain it falls but the dirt is tough
A pot to cook but the food not enough

During our “Go Prepared” Training for the upcoming missions trip, Rev. Mary McKinney referenced this song as she talked about the food crisis in Haiti.

In parts of Haiti the food shortage is so severe that the people make dirt cakes. Now these are not the mudpies we made as children, back in the days before Nintendo and Playstations. Dirt cakes in Haiti are a mixture of salt, cooking oil, and dirt. Desperate parents with no food to offer their families bake these ingredients and feed the cakes to their children. The dirt cake fills the child’s stomach and dulls the pangs of hunger so the child can sleep. Of course, the dirt cakes have no nutritional value. Their bellies are full, but they are still starving to death.

This has a spiritual application.

In Isaiah 55: [God, through the prophet, asks] 2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? In John 6: 27 [Jesus warns us] Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life…”

You see, it is possible to be spiritually full and spiritually starving all at the same time.

Granted, there is a such thing as good spiritual hunger. A degree of spiritual hunger motivates us to pray more, study the Word deeper, seek a more intimate relationship with the Lord.
Matthew 5: 6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

But we’re not talking about a healthy spiritual hunger. We’re talking about spiritual starvation. And, like physical starvation, spiritual starvation has (1) symptoms, (2) causes, (3) effects, and, fortunately, (4) treatments.

Over the next few blog entries, we will consider all four aspects. Today, we will look at the symptoms of spiritual starvation.

In John 4, Jesus’ disciples leave Him to rest at a well in Samaria while they go into town to buy lunch. A Samaritan woman comes to the well and Jesus asks her for a drink of water. She is surprised, “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” (verse 4)
John 4: 10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. … 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.

When the disciples return they offer Jesus something to eat. Jesus turns them down.

John 4: 32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?
34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

The Apostle Peter advises new Christians that if they want to grow spiritually, they must desire the pure milk of the word (1 Peter 2: 2)

In John 6: 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

This is the spiritual food for which we hunger: living water, the pure milk of the Word, the bread of life, the meat that is the will of the Father.

Something in us desires, hungers after these spiritual staples, but whether that desire is a healthy hunger or starvation is determined by considering the symptoms.
The iconic images of starving African babies with flies around their eyes and distended bellies are easy to recall from televsion, but there are other, less photogenic indicators of physical starvation. They include
1. stunted growth.
2. tongue, mouth irritation.
3. diarrhea
4. brain dysfunction, delusions
5. sexual dysfunction
6. heart failure and/or nerve disease.
7. anemia- low blood count
8. diminished ability to healing wounds
9. loss of night vision or blindness
10. loss of balance.
11. compromised immune system, high susceptibility to disease

Rom 1: 20 says For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. In other words, we can see the spiritual reflected in the physical. So it is that the indicators of spiritual starvation correspond to the symptoms of physical starvation.

1. Stunted growth: When your faith does not grow, it indicates that your spiritual diet is insufficient. When, sermons still go in one ear and out the other, when you feel no more moved to pray than when you first joined the church, when you have no more boldness to witness for Christ, then you are in a state of stunted spiritual growth.

2. Tongue, mouth irritation: Or rather, irritating tongue and mouth. When you continually back-bite, slander, curse and attack with your words, it is a symptom of spiritual malnutrition.

3. Verbal diarrhea: When gossip rolls off the tongue more easily than prayer and you tell everyone about “mess” and no one about Christ…..

4. Brain dysfunction, delusions: When you seem to be growing less wise with age, when it is more and more difficult to discern the will of God or to understand the Word of God, when you are attracted to unbiblical doctrine; you’re not losing your mind, you're losing the mind-of-Christ.

5. Sexual dysfunction: Growing comfort with a dysfunctional sexual lifestyle. When sinful lusts and fantasies creep in where you thought they’d been banished, there is a spiritual famine.

6. Heart failure, nerve disease: This is evidenced by the failure to have a heart for hurting people, sort of everyone-just-gets-on-my-nerves disease.

7. Spiritual anemia: Simply not having the blood of Jesus in your life.

8. Poor wound healing: Inability to forgive the wounds you have received, holding to grudges, having a vengeful spirit, and peeling the scab of old emotional scars so that you walk around psychologically raw all the time.

9. Loss of night vision and blindness: When you constantly feel lost in the darkness of this world you are experiencing spiritual blindness .

10. Loss of balance: When you bounce between two or more opinions --Somedays you are an ultra-legalist and no one can do anything right; no one is holy enough. Other days you are ultra-liberal and no one is really wrong because everything’s relative anyway, right? You waver between two opinions because you’ve lost your spiritual balance.

11. Increased susceptibility to spiritual infection: Is sin getting deeper into your life? Are your spiritual defenses weakening? Do things hurt you that would have rolled off your back before? Do things entice you that would not have tempted you before? Are you doing wrong in things you always did right about before? Sin, destructive behaviors, even heresy is getting easier because your spiritual immune system has been compromised by spiritual starvation.

Examine yourself for these symptoms. If you see them evident, consider carefully your spiritual diet. It is possible to look full and be hungry. You may lead a busy lifestyle. You may be involved in a lot of economically or socially impressive enterprises. You may be a member of all the right associations. Your life may be full but your soul still starving.

Next time, we will look at the causes of spiritual starvation.