No More Hunger Pangs

fat-gluttonous-cat

Are you a fat cat?

John 6:35  And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

Hunger is the body’s way of signaling to us that we need to eat because the fuel that keeps us running efficiently is low.  However, when we continue to eat when we are not hungry, the satiation signal becomes desensitized.  This is similar to manually overriding an automatic program.  Because our brains are so plastic, when we continually override the satiation signal by continuing to eat, brain changes will occur that change the brain and our body’s response to overeating.

According to Rexford S. Ahima and Daniel A. Antwi’s research, Brain  Regulation of Appetite and Satiety,  “Overnutrition activates the endocannaboid system, which results in hyperphegia (increased appetite), reduction in energy expenditure and obesity. Activation of the endocannabinoid system may contribute to the development of the “metabolic syndrome”, characterized by abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”

So, our bodies have an excellent system for regulating hunger and food intake, but our minds can consciously or perhaps not so consciously sabotage our body’s natural protective mechanisms.  The same dynamic can occur with sin in our lives.  We have evolutionary internal physiological systems that were established in our brains that allow a similar signal to warn us of sin.  This is our conscience.  The external input, which should become internal, is learned as children developmentally (learning the difference between right and wrong), and reinforced continually in our lifetimes by our particular religion’s teachings (if we are members of a religion).  Of course,  having the emotions of shame and guilt after sinning is another signal from the brain to inhibit further immoral behaviors.

However, just like the satiation cascade of hormonal/chemical reactions in the brain and body being overridden by conscious intent, the same can happen with the expression of immoral behavior.  In order to acknowledge sin, we must be reflective and aware of our own thinking and behavior with the deeper understanding of the impact sin can have on our lives and others lives.   Sin is very much like dopamine activation when we eat sugary foods, whether the sin has arisen from the need for power, greed, or sexual immorality.  Obviously, with such a significant dopamine reward system evolutionary wired in the brain, our later evolutionary development in the pre-frontal cortex will need to be accessed to restrain impulsivity and to provide self-control.

Ignoring our brain’s warning signals can create negative consequences for us spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  The longer the signals are ignored, the greater the risk of brain changes that will reinforce the new behavior, and subsequently will create a greater challenge to overcome the sin.  It is a see saw between our dopamine reward system and our pre-frontal cortex’s conscious intent of control.  Additionally, the more we desensitize our awareness of sin, the more numb we become, the harder our hearts, and the less likely we are to have compassion and empathy for other people.

As Paul states in Romans 7:15-20:

“For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me”.

Paul describes very well the condition of his soul if he continues to sin.  He states that he is”… no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”  Because if we continue to sin, then sin has found a dwelling place, or has taken a firm hold such that it is overriding all else such that we are no longer choosing sin, but sin is controlling our behavior.  Addiction is the most extreme aspect of this behavior, as once the dopamine pleasure/reward system is firmly established, brain changes occur which make the addictive behavior extremely difficult to control.

hunger-games-pic-announcer

Hunger Games

Hunger Games Trailer

Hunger Games is about a dystopian society with a two class system; the rich and the poor. Typically dystopian genre (which explores an imaginary society that is unpleasant to say the least because of it’s dehumanizing aspect) is used as satire to reflect current conditions in a real society.  In Panem, the rich live in a protected city in extreme satiation and boredom such they use the poor from 12 districts in a game where they must kill each to survive and then telecast the game all over the city for entertainment purposes.   The poor are expendable objects to relieve the boredom of Panem residents.  Furthermore, their satiety level is so high, when attending many of their lavish banquets, they  take a pill so they will vomit what they already ate so they can eat more.  In contrast to the over consumption of Panem,  the 12 districts are barely able to get their needs met.  The wealthy display overt self involvement which has degraded into hedonistic numbness.  The poor experience extreme suffering with the painful understanding they have lost all control over their ow lives.  However, the heroes are the poor, who bring impetus for change at the risk of losing their own lives via the main character, Catniss. There is certainly a sense throughout the story that the tension between the self-centered with the suffering  will only be resolved by the residents of Panem being brought to to their knees in pain to have a chance at becoming humane.

panem-destruction

Destruction of Panem

“…the dominant culture, now and in every time, is grossly uncritical, cannot tolerate serious and fundamental criticism, and will go to great lengths to stop it.”

Walter Brueggemann, in The Prophetic Imagination, effectively explores deeper themes relating to a civilization being in a state of numbness by exploring periods of satiation  in the Old Testament. For example, the Israelites were slaves to the Pharaoh of Egypt, which as a civilization was in a time of great flourishing.  However, Brueggemann points out that abundance is always on the back of the disadvantaged and the status quo continually protected by those in power.  He calls this the “royal consciousness” which creates a society that is in a state of constant numbness due to satiety.  Numbness deters true spiritual growth, which doesn’t matter to those in power as their goal is to continue their “politics of oppression and exploitation.”   Brueggeman also contrasts the period of King David’s reign with that of his son, Solomon.  The Israelites during David’s time were continually at war, so experienced hardship and suffering. David sought Yahweh in all things until near the end of his reign, where he himself fell into the numbness of satiation evident by his decision not to go out to war, and subsequently engaged in adultery with one of his soldier’s wives, and when Bathsheba becomes pregnant attempted to cover up his sin by sending her husband to the front lines to be killed.  It is the Prophet Nathan who is sent by God to confront David with his sin.  However, with David being in a state of numbness, the Prophet Nathan is in a precarious position, as he could be killed by King David for bringing David’s sin out in the open.  Hence, in a brilliant, subtle move the Prophet Nathan tells David a story (2 Samuel 12:1-15):

“So the Lord sent Nathan to David. Nathan came to him and said, “There were two men in a certain city. One was rich, and the other was poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cows, but the poor man had only one little female lamb that he had bought. He raised her, and she grew up in his home with his children. She would eat his food and drink from his cup. She rested in his arms and was like a daughter.

 “Now, a visitor came to the rich man. The rich man thought it would be a pity to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler. So he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared her for the traveler.”

 David burned with anger against the man. “I solemnly swear, as the Lord lives,” he said to Nathan, “the man who did this certainly deserves to die! And he must pay back four times the price of the lamb because he did this and had no pity.”

 “You are the man!” Nathan told David. “This is what the Lord God of Israel says: I anointed you king over Israel and rescued you from Saul. I gave you your master Saul’s house and his wives. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if this weren’t enough, I would have given you even more.  Why did you despise my word by doing what I considered evil? You had Uriah the Hittite killed in battle. You took his wife as your wife. You used the Ammonites to kill him.  So warfare will never leave your house because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.

 “This is what the Lord says: I will stir up trouble against you within your own household, and before your own eyes I will take your wives and give them to someone close to you. He will go to bed with your wives in broad daylight.  You did this secretly, but I will make this happen in broad daylight in front of all Israel.”

 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin; you will not die.  But since you have shown total contempt for the Lord by this affair, the son that is born to you must die.”  Then Nathan went home.”

Nathan states David has shown “total contempt” for Yahweh by his actions of intentional sin that clearly denote a heart that has become numbed from satiation.  Yahweh moves swiftly to bring David out of his satiated numbness by bringing suffering to David.  Because numbness is certain spiritual death.  However, it is David’s sincere repentance that has saved his life.

Moving forward to King Solomon’s reign we see a wealthy kingdom in flourishment.  However, the flourishing has come on the backs of the poor, and Solomon has quit obeying Yahweh by setting up altars to his many wives gods.  The pattern repeats itself of turning away from Yahweh in disobedience after coming to an extreme state of satiation.

1 Kings 11:1-13:

“King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites.  They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.  He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.  As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.  He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molekthe detestable god of the Ammonites.  So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.

On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites.  He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.”

The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command.  So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.  Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son.  Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

The satiation numbness is always characterized by disobedience to God.  In Solomon’s later years he fully realizes his mistakes in an almost autobiographical account found in Ecclesiastes, ““I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after the wind.” (1:14).  Solomon concludes with, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (12:13).

Brueggeman:  “The Solomonic establishment embodies the loss of passion, which is the inability to care or suffer.  One has only to compare the grief, anguish, and joy of David (2 Sam 1:19-27; 3:33-34, 12:15-23; 18:33; 10:4; 23:13-17) with the one-dimensional narrative of Solomon to realize something decisive has happened from the father to the son.”

sand-castle

Our Kingdom: “As we know from our own recent past, such an exploitative appetite can develop insatiable momentum so that, no matter how much in the way of goods or power or security is obtained, it is never enough.” p. 27

Any time we build our lives without submission to God and no matter how much wealth we obtain it is a “striving after the wind,” or the building of kingdoms made of sand.  There is a distinct pattern in the Bible of His people turning away from God in disobedience, God tearing down their Kingdoms and Temples, suffering, and then a return to God.  An important typology in the Old Testament is that of threshing floors.  Threshing floors were built in the “high places” where after the wheat stalk is beaten on the hard floor, the wind blows the hard shell of the grain away (chaff), and leaves the most important part, the kernels of wheat, which was such a significant nutrient for survival that invading armies would take over the threshing floors first to starve the people before attacking.

This typology reveals the deeper truth of God creating suffering to take away the hard shell around our hearts that has created numbness, with the transforming process of His Spirit (the wind) creating a heart fit for His Kingdom.  We are presently in a time of “royal consciousness” and as portrayed in the Bible will undergo extreme suffering to destroy the hardness of our hearts.  God loves us so much, he does not want any one of us to be lost.

God’s Holy Spirit revealed that I was to be a Pastor at the church I attended.  A year ago, I received a vision from God that indicated our church was to plant a huge garden to provide fresh vegetables, not only for our church community, but for the entire city where we live.  So many churches, Mosques and Synagogues are built on large tracks of land.  In my vision, I saw members of our church and the community working together in the garden.  I saw LGBTQ attending our church in full fellowship with love and acceptance.  I saw loudspeakers set up outside the church because so many people were flowing to our church that our auditoriums couldn’t hold the overflow.  Pastors and Ministers were visiting our church from other States to see what we were doing.  I had an image of a large oak tree providing shelter for the coming storm, and love pouring from our church community sending ripple after ripple out of spiritual transformation.  I shared this important vision for the church with church leaders.  Unfortunately, this church is in a state of “royal consciousness” as well.  They continue to build their own kingdom of sand and refuse to obey God.  They are determining their own path, and by not obeying are losing the incredible spiritual blessing God had for the church and the community.

God has just revealed to me that this is humanity’s last warning.  We are striving after the wind, and not placing God first.  Any Kingdom we build for ourselves will perish.  Hearts are growing cold, and hatred is increasing.  The love that comes from a tender heart, a heart of compassion, is being lost due to numbness.  Please heed God’s warning, and turn to God.

love-will-grow-cold

 

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