Cravings (Psalm 63:1, John 6:35, John 7:37-39)

A craving is an intense desire or longing. Some people crave chocolate. Some people crave football. Some people crave a break. My wife Carla craves Diet Coke. I crave dark roast coffee. Our nine month-old granddaughter Sylvia craves whatever she can gnaw on to relieve her precious yet sore mouth.

Take a moment to list your cravings. I say “moment” because true cravings will pounce onto the list.

Which of your cravings are good for you? Which cravings are not good for you? Which cravings are good for you until they become too much of a good thing and turn on you?

In Psalm 63:1 David says, “Oh God, You are my God, I earnestly search for You. My soul thirsts for You. My whole body longs for You in this dry and weary land where there is no water.”

David was on the run in a wilderness, out in the middle of nowhere, watching his back, ducking and dodging. His extreme physical hunger and thirst reminded him that he was even more hungry and thirsty for the deep fulfillment he could find exclusively in the manifested presence of God. David had learned by personal experience that relationship with the living God could satisfy his deepest aches and longings better than anything or anybody, and he wanted to return to that gratifying relational place. Reading ahead we find David telling us he found fulfillment while still in the wilderness.

WOW.

In America, our cravings have become industries. We can get what we want, when we want it, as much as we want, and we can even swipe a card or click an app and delay the practical consequences of our choices.

Perhaps we are in our own postmodern wildernesses where we attempt to satisfy God cravings with people and places and things (God-substitutes). These God-substitutes jump the instant gratification needle but they are not sustainable, and they have a nasty habit of serving up life damaging fallout once the needle stops jumping.

What if our cravings are more spiritual in nature but we keep misdiagnosing them? What if our starved souls are screaming for God’s presence but we keep trying to gratify our souls with inadequate indulgences? What if our self-imposed wildernesses can be wake-up calls?

John 6 records Jesus and the disciples miraculously feeding thousands of people with five barley loaves and two fish donated by a little boy. The next day the crowd looks until they locate their new Messianic meal ticket, McJesus. During the ensuing dialogue Jesus says to them, “I Myself am the Bread of life. The person who is continually coming to Me will never ever at any time be hungry, and the person who continually believes in Me and trusts in Me will never ever at any time be thirsty.” (John 6:35)  

John 7 gives an account of Jesus showing up at an eight-day long Jewish festival reenacting their forty years in the wilderness and celebrating how God miraculously provided water. On the climactic day of this water festival, Jesus secures everybody’s attention and yells, “Anyone who is thirsty, come to Me and drink up! If you believe in and entrust yourself to Me you can come to Me and drink continually. For the Scriptures say, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from their hearts.’” (John 7:37-38) John the Gospel writer adds a parenthetical statement that we call verse 39. “When Jesus said ‘living water,’ He was referring to the Spirit Who would be given to everybody believing in and entrusting themselves to Him. But the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet entered into His glory by being crucified and resurrected.”

Jesus was telling them (and us) that relationship with God in Christ abundantly and eternally satisfies our cravings.

Have your cravings driven you into a spiritual or emotional wilderness? Are you sick and tired of wandering around in a dry and weary land where there is no water? Are you willing to let Psalm 63 redirect your cravings in the right direction, in an ultimately satisfying direction?

It’s possible you are in a wilderness you did not choose. Life circumstances dumped or threw you into this dry and weary land where there is no sustenance and no relief. You are grief-stricken or depressed or lonely or desperate or exhausted. David didn’t choose the wilderness either. The jealous and homicidal king Saul chased David into the wilderness. What David found in his physical wilderness you can find in your emotional wilderness. Please know I would not make such a claim unless I had experienced the presence of Christ in my own dry and weary lands and had come alongside scores of other suffering people as they experienced the same.

I suggest you take your list of cravings, whatever they are, and place your cravings alongside Psalm 63:1. Let this verse become your prayer for a few days. Don’t try to do anything. Be a sponge. Welcome the Holy Spirit into all of your cravings. Invite the Holy Spirit to use this Psalm to speak to your cravings. Expect Christ to do what only Christ can do. Christ can liberate you from dangerous and destructive cravings. Christ can bring into balance the good cravings you struggle to manage. Christ can stimulate the spiritual cravings God created you to have. Christ can bring healing to the cravings you did not choose. God can enable you to desire the heart and the ways of Jesus like never before. That craving is better in every way imaginable.

This is what I hear God saying to me through these three passages. Oh God, You are my God, I earnestly search for You. My soul thirsts for You. My whole body longs for You in this dry and weary land where there is no water. But there is water, if I simply remember where to look. Christ is Living Water and the Bread of Life, and Christ is those realities no matter where I circumstantially or internally find myself.

Bottom line – wildernesses happen. We cannot always choose where we are, but we can always choose where we live. May we crave shared life with the One Whose crucified and risen life abundantly and eternally satisfies.

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)

 

Christ Sitting with Us In It (Isaiah 63:9, Hebrews 4:14-16)

In all their suffering He also suffered, and He personally rescued them. In His love and mercy He redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them THROUGH all the years. (Isaiah 63:9, prophesying about Christ)

How do you picture this verse? Where is Jesus? Where are you? What is happening? How is Jesus helping you?

Therefore, since we have a magnificent King-Priest, Jesus Christ the Son of God, who has passed through the heavens from death into new life with God, we must keep tenaciously clinging in faith to all we know to be true and real. For we do not have a divine Go-between Who is incapable of understanding and empathizing with the realities of our weak and flawed humanity. Our divine Go-between fully entered our afflictions. As a Man our magnificent King-Priest was tempted and tested and pressurized in every way just as we are and He emerged sinless and victorious. What this means is we can keep coming openly and boldly to the place where loving grace is enthroned, so that we can receive mercy’s kiss and discover the divine enablement we urgently need to strengthen us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

How do you picture this passage? Where is Jesus? Where are you? What is happening? How is Jesus helping you?

Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, offers this insight: “I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort,’ but what it ended up saying was, ‘I’ll sit with you in it.’ I never thought, until I found it, that it would be enough, but it’s perfect…I don’t feel alone in it anymore.”

Jesus suffers with us and rescues us and redeems us and lifts us and carries us primarily through our faith relationships.

…1 Corinthians 12:26 (The Passion Translation) …whatever happens to one member happens to all. If one suffers, everyone suffers. If one is honored, everyone rejoices.

…Galatians 6:2 (The Passion Translation) Love empowers us to fulfill the law of the Anointed One as we carry each other’s troubles.

How are you experiencing Christ sitting with you in “it”? In what specific ways are your faith brothers and sisters embodying Christ to you?

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmisl.com)

 

Reframing (Isaiah 43:1-3a)

The Lord created and shaped and formed Israel – the people God affectionately nicknamed “Jacob.” Now this is what the Lord says: “Do not be afraid, because I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the deep waters and are in over your head, I will be right there with you. When you go through the raging rivers, they will not overwhelm you by sweeping over you and taking you all the way down. When you walk through blazing fire you will not be scorched, and the fierce flame will not set you ablaze. Why? Because I am the Lord your personal God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior….” (Isaiah 43:1-3a)

What happens to us is significant. Our perspective about what happens to us is even more significant in the long run. A “frame” or a “frame of reference” is a way we describe how we look at life or the things of this life. When we “re-frame” something, we decide to begin looking at the same reality in a different way or in a different light or from a different perspective. For example, how are Kansas City Chiefs fans reframing the word “quarterback” these days? Why? We can reframe a problem as an opportunity. We can reframe a weakness as a strength. We can reframe a tragedy as….

On October 1, 2017 Oshia Collins-Waters and Todd Wienke attended a concert in Las Vegas. During the concert a human monster shot hundreds of people, killing 58 people. Todd took three bullets while using his body to shield Oshia and others from harm. Today Todd is in constant pain because of bullet fragments doctors could not remove. Today Oshia is in therapy from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But they refuse to let that unimaginably horrific event define their lives. On October 1, 2018, Oshia and Todd returned to Las Vegas, to the scene of the massacre, and got married. That’s reframing!

According to Isaiah 43:1-3a, who is God in our lives and where is God in our lives?

What are some examples of “raging rivers” and “blazing fires” in your life?

How are the raging river and the blazing fire similar? How are the raging river and the blazing fire different?

How do the raging river and the blazing fire feel?

What does God promise to people who are in the raging river or in the blazing fire?

How did you see life / God / faith BEFORE the raging river or the blazing fire?

How do you see life / God / faith IN the raging river or the blazing fire?

How do you see life / God / faith AFTER the raging river or the blazing fire?

What perspective shift or reframing movement is emerging in you? How can you cooperate with the reframing shift this week?

What prayer rises up in you from Isaiah 43:1-3a? What does your heart want to say to God or ask God?

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (rickjordankcmo@gmail.com, www.rickcarlajordan.com)

 

Psalm 131

Lord, my heart has stopped needing to compulsively make everything about me.

My ego has stopped needing to compulsively prop me up by putting others down.

I have stopped needing to compulsively get myself all tangled up in matters that are too complicated for me or too far above me.

Instead, I choose to become quiet and calm in Your presence like a small, contented, weaned child being held in the arms of a loving Mother.

Because I am Your weaned and resting child, my soul is deeply content to be held in Your arms.

People of God, let us rest our trust and our hope in the Lord now and from now on.

(Psalm 131 from a variety of translations and Hebrew word studies)

 

God Inside the Broken Heart (Psalm 34:18)

The Lord moves in so close to people whose hearts have burst open that God is actually present with them inside the broken heart. God rescues people whose spirits are crushed, rescuing them not by taking them out of it but by bringing them through it.

This is Psalm 34:18, based on several translations and Hebrew language word studies. What I hear God’s Spirit saying in this verse is that when we have troubles God has us, which means God also has our troubles.

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com rickjordankcmo@gmail.com) 

 

Productive Suffering (Psalm 116:10)

I believed in You and I trusted You, so I said, “I am deeply troubled, Lord.” (Psalm 116:10)

The best news from Psalm 116:10 is the fact that this anonymous psalmist expresses it in the past tense. In fact, please take time to read the entire psalm and observe the psalmist moving effortlessly between past tense, present tense, and future tense. But verse 10 stands alone in the psalm as evidence that faith and suffering are not mutually exclusive. People who trust in God suffer, but people who trust in God do not have to pretend it’s all good when it isn’t. God knows us inside and out, knows us far better than we know ourselves. God knows what we are thinking and feeling, but it is still vital to the relationship that we say to God what we are thinking and feeling. Once we are willing to speak our hearts and our minds, then the content is “out.” We can choose to be in God’s presence with holy honesty which leads to productive suffering. Because God has total access to us, God can start doing what God alone can do – wasting nothing and shaping us in the image of our suffering Servant Savior, Jesus Christ.

What does your hurting heart need to say to God right now?

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)

 

Praying through the picture window (1 Peter 4:7)

Praying through the Picture Window (1 Peter 4:7)

Carla and I recently traveled to Hannibal, Missouri to visit with Carla’s charming and delightful aunt Betty. Uncle Charlie and aunt Betty are the best of the best. They don’t come any better. Charlie passed away a few years ago. Betty turns 93 in a few months. She lives where they have lived for years, only now it’s Betty and a full-bodied cat with a disproportionately tiny head. I think this cat is Tiger the 3rd or 4th.

The living room furniture sits where it has always been. Charlie’s recliner is the most comfortable chair and the couch is nice and soft, but we’re fairly sure Betty never sits on the couch or in the recliner. Betty’s chair is upright, does not recline, and doesn’t look very soft, but a small table next to the chair displays evidence that Betty spends most of her time sitting right there. She sat right there during our visit. Betty’s chair is strategically positioned so that Betty can watch the world outside her picture window, “the world” consisting of a front yard, a stretch of street, and the houses across the street. While we were visiting with her, Betty commented on what was happening outside – two neighborhood kids playing, Carla’s cousin Cindy arriving to say hi. Sometimes it didn’t look like she was watching, but Betty missed nothing.

She wakes up every morning, eats breakfast, turns on the TV, and sits in her chair. Except for when she nods off, Betty invests her days showing up and noticing.

The lesson escaped me until Carla pointed it out later that evening. Aunt Betty is more productively engaged in the world than many of us who are juggling and managing life in larger contexts. Betty taught us with her life that day. She taught us about the power of prayer.

First Peter 5:7 says this, “Since we are approaching the end of all things, be intentional, purposeful, and self-controlled so that you can be given to prayer.”                                                                                                 

The clock is ticking. We don’t know how much time we have left. The most valuable thing we can do is position ourselves so that we miss nothing. Peter calls this being GIVEN to prayer, and it does not happen accidentally. We must strategically locate ourselves for the sake of perspective over comfort. Being “given to prayer” is momentous. It’s more than just saying prayers. Being given to prayer means showing up for our lives in a conscious awareness of God’s presence and joining the Divine-human conversation in progress. Like Betty talking with us about what she was seeing through the living room window, through prayer we take notice and we talk to God about what we are noticing. We pray the news, our families, our friendships, our concerns – whatever or whoever goes by. After all, God is on high alert even when we nod off. Prayer is how we join God in what God is doing in the world. And the secret sauce is that Almighty God chooses to listen to us and respond to us!

Deuteronomy 4:39 says, “You just need to know with every fiber of your being that the Eternal Lord, and no one else, is God up in heaven and down here on earth.”

We become people given to prayer when we take responsibility for our little piece of “down here on earth” action, noticing it and offering it to God. Or as Jesus expressed perfectly in the Model Prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

What new step can you take in your life of prayer? What would it look like for you to be intentional, purposeful, and self-controlled so that you can be given to prayer?

Rick Jordan (http://www.rickcarlajordan,com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)