Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Soul Food

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

-- John 6:35

What's your idea of a great meal? For some folks, a grilled T-bone steak, baked potato and salad always hit the spot. Others love pizza, Chinese or seafood. And let's not forget those who crave vegetarian.

People's tastes and taste buds vary widely; it's their hungers that unite them. But there's another kind of appetite that has nothing to do with cheeseburgers and ice cream. It's the spiritual hunger that's hard-coded into our DNA. Inside, everyone has a gnawing desire to fill a gaping internal void. Some try in vain through negative pursuits involving drug use, alcohol, compulsive spending or gambling. Others attempt to fill it by becoming workaholics or escaping reality through television, video games or even travel. But after the thrill is gone, the hunger always returns.

And they're never satisfied.

Jesus addressed this universal dilemma by proclaiming (and proving) Himself to be the "food" that everyone longs for. When we accept Him as our Lord and Savior and become Christ-followers, He literally resides in us. And He does lead our lives when we're willing to ask, listen and then obey.

But it turns out that a little spiritual hunger isn't such a bad thing. In fact, we all need to have a drive - a certain level of intensity - to continue developing as Christ-followers. That's because the cliché is true: life really is a journey rather than a wide spot in the road. God has so many things for us to see, experience and comprehend during our brief existence on Earth. It's how we grow and mature into Jesus' likeness. How boring would our lives be if we already knew all the answers?

Unfortunately, too many Christ-followers experience stunted growth because they lack the intensity to continue seeking meaning in their lives. The solution is to grow by making the most of the people, places and situations that God puts before us every day. It's up to every Christ-follower to continue developing their spiritual muscles through regular Bible Study, prayer, worship, Gel Group participation and other positive habits. After all, there's nothing like a good workout to whet ones appetite.

So with all this talk about food, what's for supper?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now?

With all my heart, I will praise the Lord. Let all who are helpless,
listen and be glad.
-- Psalm 34:2

Imagine what might happen if someone famous from long ago (maybe George Washington?) came alive in 21st Century America. There's no doubt that George would be amazed at how his nation had grown over the last 200 years. And of course, he would be impressed with our modern conveniences and technology, our superhighways - and probably shopping malls.

But how would our first president react if we told him about modern communications? Could we blame him if he refused to believe that the air is actually filled with music, sporting events, news reports and talk shows? And how quickly he would become a believer if we gave him a radio and a television - and then turned them on to pick up the signals.

When it comes to God and your journey as a Christ-follower, are you a little bit like a modern day George Washington? The Bible tells us that God wants a relationship with us and continues to communicate with us in many ways. But if we're not able (or willing) to tune in the signals and listen, all we get is static.

So how does God speak with us today? He does it in many ways - both expected, surprising and sometimes somewhere in between. First, it's through the Bible - His timeless message and owner's manual for living a full life on earth in preparation for an eternity of joy with Him. God can also speak through a close friend, a worship service or even a discussion in your Small Group.

(Ever listed to a sermon and felt like it was written just for you and your situation? Maybe it really was!)

Then there are those unexpected sources of God's wisdom. It might be from a conversation with a co-worker or a neighbor. There's that 11 PM phone call from an old college friend or army buddy. You might meet a stranger in line at the supermarket. Or your 5-year-old child might say something straight out of the blue.

God can indeed speak through many channels. But what can we do to tune Him in? Above all, ask God through prayer to speak to you and reveal His message. Then be patient and open your ears, heart and mind in faith. In one form or the other, God will eventually answer. And if His answer seems a bit odd, check it against Biblical principles and talk it out with another Christ-follower. God will never ask you to do anything that contradicts the Scriptures.

Whether it involves your spouse, a friend, a child or God, a growing relationship calls for quality, two-way communications. And to grow as a Christ-follower, we need to make time in our busy schedules to listen to God and share our deepest thoughts, joys and desires.

That's how George Washington tuned in to his Creator 200 years ago. Now it's up to us to catch up to this revolutionary concept.