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)

 

About the music God has given me…

Hi! Over the years, God has given me a variety of songs. Some are worship songs or songs inspired by specific Biblical passages. Other songs are simply observations about life.

I am available for church concerts, church events, social events, clubs, etc., on a donation or love offering basis.

I am scheduling living room concerts, which are ideal for small groups or informal get-togethers with family and friends. I come on a donation or love offering basis.

If you know of a venue (like a coffeehouse or an establishment) that would be receptive to a 59 year-old songwriter with a guitar, feel free to let me know.

Carla and I are praying daily for open doors.

My YouTube channel is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfmKSgzM6LKsI2wAqH8R_ZA. Clicking “like” on a video (if you do like it) helps me with the good people at YouTube. Right now I have 56 subscribers to the channel. Once I reach 100 subscribers, YouTube will let me become creative with the appearance and the presentation of the channel.

You can contact me through Facebook or email (rickjordankcmo@gmail.com).

We will gratefully receive all the prayer we can get! Thank you very much for considering these requests and for sharing this post with other people who may be interested.

Grace and peace to you,

Rick Jordan

 

Solid Rocks and Crumbly Rocks

In the ancient world, cornerstones were the ultimate load-bearing stones. Builders started with the cornerstone. Builders laid out the entire structure using the cornerstone as a reference point for all of their measuring and leveling. Frequently the cornerstones were boulders that the builders could not move, so they squared them up and built on them. The boulder was in the way, so that boulder became the way to build something lasting. Their theory was that if the cornerstone couldn’t be moved then neither could the building, because the building had been constructed on and into and around that cornerstone.

In the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Testament, Biblical writers identified God in Christ as The Cornerstone. Consider these passages.

  • You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You. I will trust in You, Lord, always – for You, Lord God, are my eternal Rock – strong, stable, trustworthy, and lasting. (Isaiah 26:3-4)
  • But the Master, God, has something to say…“Watch closely. I’m laying a foundation in Zion, a solid granite foundation, a precious cornerstone, tested and squared and true. And this is the meaning of the stone: a trusting life won’t topple.” Isaiah 28:16 (New Revised Standard Version and The Message)
  • So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are God’s house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself. We are carefully joined together in Christ, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through Christ you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by God’s Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)

What does it mean that God in Christ is our Cornerstone?

  • Jesus is our absolute, constant, indispensable, solid, immovable, strong, reliable, stable, trustworthy, secure, foundational Rock.
  • We build our individual lives ON relationship with Jesus and INTO relationship with Jesus and AROUND relationship with Jesus.
  • Jesus is our starting point and our reference point for everything.
  • Relationship with Jesus provides perspective about everything.
  • We measure everything from our relationship with Jesus.
  • Jesus supports our lives better than anybody or anything else.
  • The church builds its life ON relationship with Jesus and INTO relationship with Jesus and AROUND relationship with Jesus.
  • When we are joined together in relationship with Jesus, Jesus joins us to each other.
  • Jesus holds us together like ancient cornerstones held entire structures together.
  • When we are built on relationship with Jesus we cannot topple because Jesus does not topple.
  • We BASE our lives on relationship with Jesus.

In the 21st century construction industry, cornerstones are not what they used to be. Cornerstones have become ornamental or ceremonial. Cornerstones are inscribed with the name and date of the building, but that’s as far as the influence goes. Cornerstones are no longer load bearing.

“Ornamental” and “ceremonial” are adjectives that accurately describe much of what passes for Christianity these days. And yes, I hated typing that sentence.

What does life look like when relationship with Jesus is merely ornamental or ceremonial – part of our lives but not foundational? What does church look like when relationship with Jesus is merely ornamental or ceremonial – part of our life together but not foundational?

What does LIFE look like when Jesus is our Cornerstone?

What does CHURCH look like when Jesus is our Cornerstone?

As long as we are thinking about rocks – what “rocks” have crumbled beneath you? Examples of crumbling rocks include relationships, expectations, career, approval, fantasies, paradigms, self-worth, dreams, bad religion, health, ambitions, happiness, finances, goals, perspectives, systems, pedestalized leaders, assumptions, beliefs – anything we base our lives on instead of Jesus or anybody we base our lives on instead of Jesus.

What happens when those “rocks” crumble?

I’ve officiated many funerals alongside grieving people who referred to their deceased loved on as “my rock.” My wife is like a rock to me. I have no idea what I would do without Carla. I firmly believe God wants us to be in relationship with people who are so reliable and so solid that we can count on them. When death claims those people, it is devastating. God understands the intensity of that grief. In the previous paragraph, I wasn’t referring to rock-like people God places in our lives. I was referring more to Rock substitutes – people or places or things we stand on instead of Jesus.

I’ll use another example from my own life. As a recovering people pleaser, only recently have I grasped how thoroughly I was basing my life on people’s approval. That “rock’ has crumbled beneath me many times over the years, but the crumbling has not stopped me from counting on people’s approval all over again. In my people-pleasing, I am like Charlie Brown running toward the football Lucy is holding for me to kick, but Lucy has earnestly promised that this time she won’t jerk the football back at the precise moment I am beyond the point of no return in my kicking motion (like she has every other time)….

Splat.

Good grief.

I am finally getting tired of being Charlie Brown.

On whom or on what are you basing and building your life?

Grace and peace,

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

 

The Jesus Who will put us through whatever it takes (John 9)

Reading the Gospel of John chapter 9, I am stunned as I watch everything Jesus put that blind beggar through.

Jesus spat on the ground next to the man, which was something Jewish people commonly did to disabled beggars to convey their disgust and to communicate their opinion that God had cursed the person with the affliction because of something the beggar’s parents did or something the beggar did. In the case of this man born blind, we would be talking about prenatal sin – like perhaps the embryonic baby had a porn stash in his mother’s womb.

THEN Jesus smeared muddy spit paste over the man’s blind eyes and told him to grope his way to the pool of Siloam. Jesus didn’t even guide him there! What abuse must the man have endured from people as he crawled or stumbled to the pool?

After the beggar’s eyes were opened, Jesus vanished from the scene, leaving the man to tell his story repeatedly to religious leaders whose interrogation intensified until finally those leaders barred him from the synagogue because he had the audacity to let some controversial Rabbi miraculously heal him on the Sabbath, committing two code violations the leaders had added to the laws in the Hebrew Scriptures.

But by the end of John’s Gospel chapter 9, the formerly blind former beggar could physically AND spiritually see! Notice how the man’s courage grew and his perceptions about Jesus brightened each time he repeated his story.

Is it possible Jesus knows what He is doing? Can it be that Jesus will stop at nothing to open our eyes and develop our faith? Can it be that Jesus will put us through whatever it takes to open our eyes and develop our faith?

I emphatically believe so.

When I measure these truths about Jesus alongside my prayer life, I wonder how often I ask God to take me the easy way through (or give me the easy way out). That path-of-least-resistance praying comes up short when compared to the formidable dimensions of John 9. God must know that, if God took us the easy way through, we might arrive sooner. However, that version of ourselves showing up at the destination would not be up to the challenge or that version of ourselves would not see clearly enough with the eyes of faith to trust and obey vigorously. So maybe our prayer lives need a new gear. The new gear might sound like this – “God, please put me through whatever it takes to open my eyes and develop my faith. Thank You for not taking me the easy way. Thank you for loving me enough and dignifying my journey enough to be as hard on me as you were on that guy back in John 9.”

I am reading an article from the Sojourner’s website about Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head). He discovered CTE while examining Mike Webster, the NFL center whose life ended tragically because of multiple concussions. In the interview with Sojourner’s Bradford William Davis, Omalu says this – “I let the Spirit of God percolate into my being. Everything I do, I do through the eyes of faith.”

WOW.

May you and I become people who let God’s Spirit percolate into our beings so thoroughly that we do everything through the eyes of faith – no matter what it takes.

In Jesus’ name,

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

 

An Inductive Study Guide for John 9

We don’t see things the way they are as much as we see things the way we are.

We don’t see people the way they are as much as we see people the way we are.

We can have physical or spiritual or social or emotional blind spots. John chapter 9 is full of eyes that are opening and eyes that are closing. It contrasts light and darkness.

Bible study questions:

  • How did the disciples see the blind man?
  • What was wrong with the disciples’ questions about the blind man? In what direction did their questions take the conversation?
  • How did Jesus change the direction of their thinking? What is the difference between “why?” and “so that?”
  • Because poor blind beggars were considered cursed, Jewish people walking by them would sometimes spit on the ground beside the beggars to shame them and communicate their disgust with them. This man born blind would be conditioned to the sound of human spit splashing the ground and he would know what it meant. Why did Jesus choose to use a mixture of spit and mud on the man? How did Jesus change the act of spitting on the ground from a curse to a blessing?
  • Why did Jesus require this man to grope his way to the pool of Siloam with muddy spit paste all over his face? How would the people he walked by react to him? Why didn’t Jesus just zap him like He zapped others? What does this teach us about God’s role and our role in relationship?
  • Where do you see evidence that Jesus not only set the man free from his condition but also set him free from what he used to do because of his condition?
  • This newly healed man had to tell his story several times, mostly under the duress of interrogation. How do you see his view of Jesus expanding with each narration? What does this teach us about the potency of our faith story? How much expertise do we need about Jesus in order to start telling our story?
  • How did the religious leaders view the man?
  • How did the religious leaders view God?
  • Legalism is the elevation of rules and regulations over God. How did the religious legalism of the Pharisees cause them to bury the lead? What were they unwilling to see and appreciate?
  • How do you interpret the response of the parents to the religious leaders’ questions? Why would they throw their son under the bus? What does this say about the power of legalism?
  • Verse 34 indicates the religious leaders still viewed the man as cursed even though he had been miraculously healed. What does that tell you about the way religious rigidity affects how we see other people?
  • How do you interpret Jesus’ disappearance? Why didn’t Jesus stick with the man during the interrogations or at least show His face so the man would know what his new Eye Doctor looked like? Why did Jesus wait until the man had been kicked out of Jewish worship life before finding him? Does their encounter at the end of the chapter give you any clues about Jesus’ curious behavior? What do you think of the idea that Jesus is faithful but not predictable?
  • The fact remains, Jesus DID look him up. What does this teach us about God’s heart?
  • Jesus was the only One who viewed and treated this man like a human being and like a child of God. What are the evidences of this in the chapter?                                                                   
  • This man experienced two miracles in one day, and he got to participate in both of them. What was the second miracle?
  • How could you use this man’s story to help somebody understand what it looks like to follow Jesus?
  • How did Jesus view the religious leaders? What does this teach us about God’s heart?

C.S. Lewis “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” (from The Weight of Glory)

Application questions:

  • Scotosis is the technical name for a hardening of the mind or heart against unwanted wisdom. Scotosis is an unwillingness to see. There are four forms of scotosis in this chapter. Where do you see the blindness of desensitization to the plight of other people? Where do you see the blindness of legalism? Where do you see the blindness of prejudice? Where do you see the blindness of self-preservation?
  • What is the role of Jesus in your story?
  • What is your version of the two most important words in John 9 (v.1 – “He saw…”)? How does Jesus see you differently than anybody else sees you?
  • What is your version of Jesus changing a curse into a blessing, sometimes using the same physical or emotional or relational material?
  • When in your journey have you experienced Jesus being faithful not NOT predictable? When have you thought Jesus was being too hard on you? Have you reached the end of that story yet? If you are in the middle of that story, what keeps you going?
  • When / how has God in Christ opened your eyes? What is your version of the man’s “so I went there” statement of obedience in verse 11?
  • What is your story of how you used to be one way and now you are becoming another way (v. 25)?
  • What is your version of the statement “When Jesus found the man” in verse 35? When/where/how has Jesus intentionally found you in order to open your faith-eyes and change your identity?
  • To whom are you telling your story?
  • The Pharisees were blind to Jesus’ identity because He did not do things their way. What are some current examples of this same form of blindness, a blindness that says God can only be God if God does things our way?
  • In what ways are your eyes still closed, especially when it comes to how you view certain individuals or people groups? What are your blind spots and how did you acquire those blind spots?
  • Are you willing to do whatever it takes to have your eyes opened by Jesus?
  • When Jesus heals us from forms of blindness He also sets us free from whatever lifestyles we engaged in because of that condition. Are you willing for Jesus to set you free not only from your blindness but also from what you have been doing because of your blindness?
  • How is the Holy Spirit using John 9 to give you new reality checks or insights about the life of faith? Are you willing to let Jesus do whatever it takes to grow your faith?

God in Christ – Please open our eyes to see what You see. Please open our ears to hear what You hear. Please open our minds to receive what You know. Please open our hearts to trust where You lead, especially when You are being faithful and unpredictable. Please transform us into people who love like You love. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Grace and peace,

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