Spiritual Rumination by Julia Phillips

 I’m sure most of you would agree, life is good. I love my home, my family, my husband, and I just can’t seem to find enough hours to play with my grandsons. When I make it to Fairbanks to see the ones who live there, I can’t wait to build tents and camp out with them on their bedroom floor. We build Lego castles and play Minecraft. We bake, draw, laugh, snowboard, wrestle, sing, dance, and build forts. All absolutely love their grandma. Life is so awesome; it fills me with joy. That does not mean I am not fighting battles — both serious and not so serious. Jesus tells us that in life we will all have times of suffering and tribulation. But each day I challenge myself and those obstacles. My dad always said, “I complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” Every day we are able to wake up and take a deep breath is truly a gift from God. Life is a gift.

But there is a part of my life that seems to harbor a hunger that just grows stronger by the day — and I’m grateful for it. I’m not alone. It is as if the church has turned a corner once again, and there is a remnant who are experiencing Paul’s cry in Philippians 3:10-14. Please read it now. My spirit and my soul long to know Him more — to hear His voice, feel His presence, and lean on His chest. Jesus is my heart’s greatest desire with a tenacity that is unbelievable. I won’t stop, I can’t stop until I am absolutely one with Him. And I know I’m not alone. This leads me to my soapbox.

You can’t turn on the evening news or read the newspaper without hearing about some new outbreak of something each day. Whether it’s a virus or disease somewhere in the world; a workplace shooting, a coup in a government, or even an outbreak of workplace inequity. Outbreaks everywhere. But I am desperately waiting for an outbreak of God Himself. I find myself angered and saddened by the spectator Christianity I see on most Christian television. “Just watch and don’t forget to send $1,500 to keep us on the air. God told me your life will change!” A person would literally starve spiritually on most of those shows. It’s because we were created to be relational, and we need what each other has. God could have built a castle to abide in, but He chose you and me. He chose to live in a Body. Cut your finger off and see how long it continues to be alive and healthy. It doesn’t happen, it dies and even begins to rot and decay. As the Body of Christ — and members in particular — we need to focus on the head, the Lord Himself. We need to embrace the responsibility of our gifts and callings. You can’t buy it. You can’t steal it. Like the story of the foolish virgins, you can’t even talk your brothers or sisters out of it. How does it come? “Those who hunger and thirst shall be filled.” It boils down to you. We will soon be in the year of our Lord 2020. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to make some changes in my diet.

A person can see spectatorship wherever they choose to fellowship. For example, if the sermon doesn’t make you laugh, jump, or cry, then it must be the preacher’s fault. Or if the worship service is too long, or too short, then the worship leader must have missed God. Maybe the building is too cold, too hot, or maybe the little ones are too noisy. What is wrong with this picture? Don’t we comprehend the incredible blessing and freedom we enjoy, being able to meet freely whenever we wish? And again, it is not supposed to be a spectator event. It is supposed to be a gathering of all the members of one body — His Body, to worship Him, to adore Him, to give to one another, and to impart. To encourage and uplift one another. To come into unity to worship the one true God. To spill out to the community, state, and to the nations, and because He is worthy of it. If we forget that church is all about Him, if we revert to the myth that it is all about us, then we never quite enter in and we miss the whole purpose of it all. We need a perspective change.

An elevated perspective can change everything. It is true in the natural world and it is true in the spiritual world. That is why you can come into a worship service on a given day, weighed down with big troubles and insurmountable problems and suddenly sense a change the moment the focus is turned upon Him. When we have an encounter with the presence of God, the problems that loomed so large that they blocked out the light of hope itself, suddenly seem to be so small that they lose their power to paralyze and control our lives. A perspective changes and we then revel in the peace and power of His comforting love. Sometimes they don’t disappear entirely — and at times they even seem to greet us at the door as we walk out of the service. Why?

The truth hurts sometimes, especially when it jars our sacred cows and traditions concerning worship, virtue, and the Christian life. I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, but what is necessary for an actual sustained presence of God in our daily lives is not a good preacher or the perfect song or hymn, but is instead a change in diet and a continuous collective hunger. Our God is literally drawn to the empty capacity of our growling spiritual stomachs, especially when we gather in one mind and in one accord with an insatiable appetite for Him. He knows what we are going to say before we even speak. He is a good Father and longs for His children to prosper and be in health — even as their souls prosper. There is nothing impossible with God. We must learn how to not limit the Holy One of Israel. My perspective changed many years ago, and I came to understand that I just had to pursue the deep longing in my heart at any cost. He wants to be our all in all.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves such as have a contrite spirit.”

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Church is not a spectator sport. It is all about Him. It’s not about us and our need for things. It’s not about calling down fire on a brother who wronged you at work the previous week. It’s not about trying to manipulate God by prayer into “stacking the deck” for us at work for the latest job opening. I realize that sounds awful. But if we are honest, sometimes our prayers are selfish if they aren’t including, “If the Lord wills.” It all seems to boil down to this; how hungry are you for just Him? How hungry are you to just be in His presence and worship Him for who He is and not just on Saturday or Sunday morning? The Bible says to pray that you are not so poor you steal, nor so full and satisfied that you forget your need for Him. Spiritual hunger seems to be the one thing that determines how much of God’s provision we will actually receive and to what extent we will know Him. 

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy milk and wine without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not (real) bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to Me; hear that your soul might live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, My steadfast, sure love for David.” Isaiah 55:1-3.

“For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.” Psalm 107:9.

Are you feeling “hungry”?

Ruminate on that.

Next week we will continue the discussion of having an outbreak.