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~ The Kingdom of Desperation ~

We all know the drill: Dial a service or company and we get a menu of push-buttons. Here's a possible scenario:

"Hello, you reached "Dial-A-Prayer". Press #1 if you are very satisfied with your prayer-life; Press #2 if you are not." You press #1. "Sorry, that was the wrong response. You are a liar. We will press #2 for you since we care about you and you are in denial."

"Hello, since you pressed #2, please press #1 if you are in need of prayer; Press #2 if someone else is in need of prayer." You press #2. "Sorry, that was the wrong response. You are definitely in denial. We will press #1 for you."

"Hello, since you pressed #1, please press #3 if you wish to be added to our prayer-line of over 2,000 committed subscribers; Press #4 for other options." You press #4.

"Hello, you should realize there are no other options. Since you did not realize this, we will put you on our prayer list since you obviously need our prayers. Press #5 for needs regarding physical healing, press #6 for needs regarding spiritual healing, press #7 for needs regarding finances, press #8 for needs regarding relationships, press #9 for needs regarding church services." You press #6.

"Hello, our church services are biblically based and independent, always true to God's word. Press #10 for directions and times." You press #8.

"Hello, our church services are biblically based and independent, always true to God's word. Press #10 for directions and times." You hang up.

From country chapels of 20 people to megachurches with 4 services of 2000 people attending each, churches strive to provide responses and solutions to the needs of their attendees. North American churches have a reputation for their great ability to attend to the physical and emotional needs of their congregants. On the spiritual level, we "need" or "desire" to be with our loved ones forever in the heavenly realm, or to escape eternal hell-fire, so we come forward to "accept" Jesus as the answer to our ego-based desires. Something is wrong with this picture, as they say. One thing strange to me is how we humans have been induced with the power to "accept" our Creator. We should offer our daily thanks to Him for accepting us! Even those of pagan religions do not "accept" their gods. They embrace them as realities. I do not "accept" the rising sun of a new day or "accept" the blessings of devoted friends and the love of family. I recognize their presence and embrace them in love and gratitude.

What percentage of our prayers are simply and purely praises and expressions of gratitude? Can we pray for an hour without asking for anything? Many of us remember singing to our children, "I love you, I love you" without asking anything from them. How long has it been since we sang the same song of love to our Creator without asking for anything?

God knows our needs, and above them all are our needs for redemption and re-formation, for re-creation. How strongly do our hearts desire the same? Yes, Jesus, while on earth, addressed the physical needs of many. However, the 20,000 and more people He fed with a few fish and loaves of bread on two occasions were hungry again a few days later. He knew that would be the case. He even told the multitudes that followed Him, "You don't seek the Bread and Living Water I provide, but more fish and loaves of bread." When He told those around Him, "You must eat My flesh and drink My blood," most left Him in disgust. Jesus knew that those He raised from death would live a while only to die again. Yes He healed many from their leprosy and blindness, but only a tiny percentage of those afflicted in His country. These were signs of His power and symbols of what He was sent to do on the spiritual level for all people.

Jesus was not particularly inclined to address people's physical needs. Should He had abandoned His divine mission and taken over the Roman Empire with legions of angelic entities and human devotees, and remained incarnate for the last 2000 years, making sure the entire globe was free of physical ailments and human oppression and injustice, we still would not experience heaven on earth. Although healthy, happy and free, people's hearts would remain corrupted. Anti-Christs promise to do what Jesus didn't. And humans love them for it and ask, "Why didn't the Christ do this for us?" Even John the Baptizer sent a messenger to ask Jesus, "Are you really the One, or shall we look for another?"

Jesus called to Him, as still does, the desperate. Those satisfied with their lives don't hear His call. The needy do, but Jesus doesn't give them what they think they need. "Your sins are forgiven" isn't exactly what paralyzed people had in mind when approaching Jesus for healing. "Seek first the Kingdom of God and all else will be added unto you" was not necessarily what people then and now want to hear. We live in a consumer-technological culture. Wealthy churches use power-point projections to lead congregants in worship and to accentuate preachers' sermons that are recorded and instantly reproduced before the service is over for congregants to take home. Services become bible studies and people in North America forget the difference between worship and study, between "the Kingdom of God" and the "all else". The Kingdom of God is for "those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." If we wish to witness that kingdom, we must join desperate people, not satisfied ones.

Biblical history attests that when human-perceived needs are satisfied, humans forget God. Pre-occupation with things, even technological wonders in our church services, are mistakenly identified as evidence of the presence of the Kingdom of God. Wealth, numbers and satisfaction of both church goers and nations are erroneously used as an indicator of God's favor and blessings. I regretfully can't cite the reference, but I remember reading how foreign missionaries to oppressed Christians in a Communist nation asked, rather self-righteously, "How can we pray for you? What do you need?" The answer was, "Pray that we don't become like you."

Jesus spoke of the power of the meek and poor, those who know by experience the grace of desperation and the thirst for righteousness. We learn from them. They don't learn from us. They teach us to intensify our hunger and thirst. Being hungry and thirsty isn't satisfying, but it is heavenly. Such hunger and thirst encourages us to seek the Source of water and bread. Life itself. If we feel satisfied, then we best align ourselves with the desperate and share their hunger and thirst. "For theirs is the Kingdom of God."

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
   in the Christian Faith ~

Spiritual Resource Services  © September 14, 2006

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