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)

 

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)

 

Are You Waiting on the Lord for Something? (Psalm 37:7)

Are you waiting on the Lord for something? Carla and I are in a waiting season, balancing by faith the tension between confidence in a God Who holds the future and uncertainty about what the future holds.

Can anybody relate? Most people of faith I know are in between one thing and another thing. Transition was normative to the faith journeys we read about in the Bible, and that has not changed.

Carla and I are learning that, while we wait ON the Lord, we can also wait IN the Lord. For example, Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still IN the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act.” You can also check out Psalm 39:7, Psalm 62:5-8, Psalm 130:5, Isaiah 30:15-18, and Lamentations 3:24-26.

We all block out time for who and what matters most to us. Waiting IN the Lord means we block out time to intentionally and consciously engage Christ’s presence in us…

…by worshiping God as often as possible in as many ways as possible,

…by building relationships in a faith community,

…by marinating in the Scriptures,

…and by being fully present with the Spirit of God every single day – speaking some, listening more, and being quietly still most.

Waiting IN the Lord by intentionally engaging a conscious awareness of Christ’s presence IN us changes who we are while we wait, and that kind of spiritual core formation is God’s higher purpose for our lives. It means what Christ develops in us during the process of waiting could be superior to what we find upon arrival. And of course, waiting IN the Lord also prepares us for whatever God is preparing for us.

If only it didn’t take so blasted long, right? We want a microwave God, but we have a slow-cooking God. The results are much more satisfying.

May you and I be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for God to act.

Tick tock,

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

Here is our YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfmKSgzM6LKsI2wAqH8R_ZA/featured

 

Encouragement to Slow Down

Back on April 16, the devotional message from First Baptist Church of Lee’s Summit’s pastor Blake McKinney reminded readers of Ephesians 4:2 – “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Part of the devotional message read, “God sees us rushing around, skimming life as we live in a constant hurry, and he urges us to be patient. He sees us losing our temper with the people around us when they don’t meet our expectations, and he urges us to be patient.”  

Blake’s observations really resonated with me. God must have known from the beginning how focusing on what we want rather than looking for ways to bless and give mercy to those around us would damage us on the inside.

Of course God knows best. He wants the best for me and you. He knows that if I slow down just a bit and take time to actually see the people around me, experience life with those in my path, it will bless me and it might somehow bless them, too. I’m so thankful that He’s patient with me in this.

Carla Jordan
https://rickcarlajordan.com/

“Powering Up God’s Way” (Isaiah 40:27-31)

What kinds of strength or power does the world recognize and reward?

  • Physical power
  • Military power
  • Athletic power
  • Persuasive power
  • Glamorous power
  • Attractive power
  • Prestigious power
  • Seductive power
  • Intimidating power
  • Charismatic power
  • Racial/ ethnic power
  • Sizable power
  • Political power
  • Financial power
  • Intellectual power
  • Social power
  • Manipulative power
  • ???

Some of these powers are intrinsically good and helpful. Some of these powers are intrinsically evil and harmful. Some of these powers are neutral – the way we use them determines their morality.

God’s power is incomparably greater than every conceivable form of human power, but human powers are more tangible and more sensory, aren’t  they? Because God’s power functions subversively we can miss it, especially when we feel powerless in this world.

Isaiah wrote this prophecy to exiles, people whose nation had been swallowed up by the dominant empire of that day – Babylon. From Israel’s desolate and conquered perspective God was disregarding their troubles and ignoring their rights (Isaiah 40:27).

It’s easy to read God that way when our faith is in a weakened condition.

In the passage, God argues otherwise. Isaiah 40:28 says God is Almighty whether we see it or not. God’s resources are never exhausted. God’s perceptiveness never dims.

Isaiah 40:29 is one of the most encouraging verses in the Bible. According to this verse, we qualify for God’s strength when we own our weakness! This reminds me of the first three steps in the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

BRILLIANT!!! We own our weakness, we choose to believe in God, and we entrust ourselves to God.

Isaiah 40:30 gives us valuable information about people who epitomize humanity at its dynamic peak. That strength eventually declines. At our very best and even with our technologically advanced powers, we cannot compete with God’s power.

Isaiah 40:31 continues that line of reasoning by presenting the alternative. “But those who wait on (hope in, trust in) the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not get weary. They will walk and not faint.”

What does it mean to wait on the Lord? We identify primarily with passive waiting, like standing in line or being put on hold. But “wait” in verse 31 refers to active waiting. We entrust ourselves to God moment by moment, wrapping ourselves around God and tenaciously leaning against the wind into the solid hope that God is still faithful to His promises and is still capable, no matter what powers in this life have destabilized us or enfeebled us.

People who live in such intentional and trusting hope “gain new strength.” This means far more than God supplying a boost or a power surge to what we already have going for us. Rather, we come to an end of ourselves and we exchange our failing strength for God’s sustainable power (verses 29 and 30).

God’s strength manifests itself in three scenarios. In the first scenario we soar high on wings like eagles. There are seasons in life when we are effortlessly and transcendently gliding. In this scenario it is all good.

In the second scenario we run without getting weary. There are seasons when life is challenging and there is resistance (like hills during a marathon), but we are making progress. We hit our pace and keep moving. In this scenario it is not all good but we are okay.

In the third scenario we walk without fainting. There are seasons when life stinks, when faith wobbles, when we are disillusioned or discouraged or deflated, and the best we can manage is to shuffle one 5,000 pound leg forward and then move the other leg in generally the same direction or in no direction we can detect. In this scenario it is not all good and we are not okay but by God’s grace we are still standing. Success is defined as not totally shutting down and giving up.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could choose which scenario or season characterizes us? The faith journey does not work that way. We do, however, get to choose the source of our strength. We do not have to settle for human strength or power that is ultimately inadequate. We can own our weakness and exchange our ebbing strength for God’s strength.

God most emphatically demonstrates divine strength in the weakness of the crucified Christ. On the cross, worldly powers were broken from the top down and humble love secured our redemption from the bottom up. God offers us that kind of strength.

Are you soaring? Are you running? Are you walking? Are you collapsing? In the grace of the Gospel we come as we are, not as we should be.

May you and I exchange our powerlessness for God’s enduring and adaptable strength.

Grace and peace,

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

 

Remembering to Notice

This is certainly not an original thought, but it occurred to me again recently that my perspective can make a big difference in how I view the big and small parts of daily life. On the one hand, it can be so easy to take kindness and blessings for granted. But if I am plugged in to what God is up to, there are so many good things to notice and for which to be thankful.  

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

A recent example was a tiny (and I do mean tiny) addition to the wall of the ladies restroom/shower area at the indoor track where I walk. A screw had been strategically added so the blow dryer had a place to hang while not in use. I didn’t realize what big feelings I had about a home for that blow dryer(!), but I was so thankful when I saw that little addition, I took a picture!   

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The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37: 23

Reflecting on what a difference our perspective makes also caused me to think about the words of a song Rick wrote several years ago titled “I Saw.” I think of it as a song not about people-watching really, but about people-noticing and how paying attention can help us be more aware of the world around us and the people in our path.

I highly recommend watching out for what God is up to in your life. When I do, I am reminded of how very good He is.  

Carla Jordan

www.rickcarlajordan.com

 

Just Like the Sparrows

I have loved the melody and the message of “His Eye is on the Sparrow” since childhood. My earliest memories of it are George Beverly Shea singing it during Billy Graham services.

The lyrics point me to Matthew 10:29-31 where the Bible does speak of sparrows, that if God watches over each of them (and He does), I can be sure that He watches over me, too, not in a critical way, but because He loves and cares for me. How He watches over me when there are several billion of us is way beyond me, but He’s God and that’s one of the many reasons we can be in awe of Him.

Rick and I recently got to lead a group of residents at a nearby care center in singing some familiar hymns including “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” As they joined in, it was clear that many of them also have good memories of that song and find comfort and assurance in its message.

Thanks be to God for His never-ending love and care.

Carla