Those Darn Cravings

Cravings are a daily challenge in my life, like the craving for dark chocolate. I have to manage that one and a few others so I can keep losing and relosing the same five pounds  that are my old “frenemies.” After the Lord helped me quit smoking in 1987, I thought I’d never meet the likes of those overwhelming cravings again, but then along came Downton Abbey.

We usually think of cravings in connection with things that aren’t so good for us, but there are some good ones out there. I have never, ever craved the healthy green stuff that tastes like my front lawn, which I force myself to drink regularly, but in the days when I did regular aerobic workouts my body did actually crave more of how it felt when I did that.

Yearnings, cravings and longings tell a lot about us — where we’ve been, what we’ve tasted, and even what we’ve been deprived of.

When I read the words of the priest who wrote “My soul longs and yearns for the courts of the Lord,” and “My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God,” in Psalm 84:2, I wanted to know why he felt all that.

This is one reason I love to read the Psalms so very much; the expression of sincere human passion lurks in every nook and cranny!

Why did this writer hunger so for the house of God? And what is it like to have one’s heart as well as one’s flesh sing for joy? Because we all know what it’s like to sing the words from a heart that is not really joyful at all, or even bored, or even pretty disappointed at God.

Stained Glass and PewsThese are some of the many words in Scripture that blew away dry doctrine and left me unsatisfied with the status quo of religious experience in my early days of being a Christian. Words like these made me jealous, as they should, for an authentic experience of life with God so compelling and nourishing that I had to have it on a regular basis. I went looking for that experience, and I found it in the Holy Spirit. When I received Him fully into my life and began paying attention to His faithful Presence, everything changed.

How did that happen? The Spirit gave me daily tastes of the real love and wonderfulness of my heavenly Father and Jesus. They’re addictive. They’re nourishing. Their fellowship gives, and never takes away. They’re happy and they love me! God’s sheer goodness and the pleasantness of His Personality blow away the competition for my craving button.

Many things are addictive in this life, and we all have them in some degree or another. My prayer is that you all could all have the opportunity to be addicted to JOY because of your experience of the Living God.

Psalm 84 (2) – Longing and enJoying

Okay, on to Verse 2 of Psalm 84!

My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. (Psalms 84:2 NAS)

At first glance a simple little verse, but ponder it a little, and it opens up a feast of truth for my soul and spirit! I hope it will do the same for you.

First, it really gets my attention when David says something in two ways, because he WANTS that emphasis to not be lost on his audience: He starts out with “My soul longed… for the courts of the Lord.” But no, that’s not enough! Because he then adds, “….even YEARNED for, the courts of the Lord.” Okay, it worked on me; I see that second phrase, and involuntarily tilt my head in the same way my dog does when I say something he doesn’t understand: What? What? What are you saying?

So I dig down into the Hebrew words in my nifty NASB Strongs Bible app, and discover these are NOT mere synonyms, these words “longed for” and “yearned.” Not even close! In fact, they cover the range of desire that goes from 30 mph to 120 mph in 6 seconds! Because the first word just means “Yeah, I want that.” But the second word actually means “to be consumed by, swallowed up in, done in by…!!” Wow.

So David essentially says, “I want you, God….. no wait, I want you more than anything! I can’t think of anything else. Wanting to be near you has eclipsed every other desire in me. I’ve got to get to where I can be near you!” And David doesn’t stop there, he tells us what happens as a result of that yearning, when he gets to the courts of the Lord, to the place where he can know God more: both his mouth and his heart are singing for joy!

So, now we get to the good news and the bad news. The good news is that this is a wonderful place to be: to have a heart singing for joy — not because Daddy made you go to church and singing is what you do there, or because the choir is doing a cantata and you have to practice your part — but because you are so full of joy you’ve gotta sing about!

The bad news? It’s the sinking realization, “Gee, I don’t know how to get there.” I know exactly what that is like. I’ve witnessed the unbridled joy in people like David in the Bible, and heard numerous other witnesses in the Bible speak of loving God, yearning for God, wanting him more than anything — and realizing, I don’t know how to make my heart do that…. I don’t know how to fill myself with passion for this invisible God. I believe IN Him, I want to be that full of passion for him, but I honestly don’t know how to get there! How do you make yourself feel passion?

But I have the answer for you: I discovered it in my prayer place years ago. It is simply confessing the truth. It goes like this: on the knees, before the Lord, saying, “God I want to love you like this, but I don’t know how. I don’t want you like David did… but I WANT TO WANT YOU LIKE THIS. PLEASE HELP ME. Holy Spirit, fill me with this kind of love and yearning for God.” Because it occurred to me in a moment of enlightenment, the Holy Spirit is our helper, and what is He here to help us do, if not to love this God we cannot see, with all our might?

And the Spirit WILL answer you. I think I can safely say on His behalf, He LOVES to answer prayers like this. He did for me. He filled my heart with longing for God in the coming days and weeks. And over the years, if my love wanes, I go right back to the Spirit, and offer my wandering heart back to Him to be filled with longing for God. Longing comes, fills up my soul and spirit, and leads to more intimate times with the Lord. And that always brings the joy. I sing for joy because God is greater than my wandering heart, and my life with him flows out of His power, not my weakness — if I knock, ask and seek for it.

Yep, singing for joy, not because it’s time for choir practice.

Why I Read Psalms and Proverbs Every Day

I want to share a sample of the rich food I receive each morning from reading five Psalms and one Proverb. For instance, on the 24th of the month, I read Psalm 116 through Psalm 120, and Proverbs 24. On that day, I am reminded of the following things about God and myself:

Psalm 116:
God hears my voice and my prayers. He has “inclined his ear” to listen to me.
The Lord is gracious, righteous, and compassionate, preserving the simple — like me — from the troubles I tend to get myself into.
The Lord will restore my soul back to a restful state after my mistakes or the actions of others have hurt me or caused me to stumble.
The right response to God’s faithful care is to keep crying out to him in my need, to express my thankfulness, and to keep my promises to him. My community should see how I rely upon him, and I should praise Him publicly.
Bible-garden

Psalm 117: (the shortest psalm in the Bible, at 2 verses!)
We should praise The Lord — along with every nation — because His lovingkindness is great, and His truth will endure forever.

Psalm 118:
I should give thanks to the Lord for his goodness, because his lovingkindness has no end…. it is EVERLASTING.
When I am in distress and call out to the Lord, he will answer me and rescue me, because he is “for me.” Therefore, I need not live in fear. The name of the Lord will protect me from those who would destroy me.

The Lord is my strength, and the song that I sing! Joyful sounds come from the place where I live because of his faithful care and saving actions.
The Lord will discipline me, even strongly, if I need it. (Other Bible verses tell me that the Lord only disciples those he loves and considers true children).
Giving thanks to God opens the gateway to his presence.
The Lord made this day, and it is right for me to rejoice and be glad in it.

The Lord has given us light (that saves us from all darkness).
There is a sacrificial animal to be placed on the altar in my place. (I deserve to die for my sins, but I won’t have to.)

Psalm 119 (the longest psalm in the Bible, at 176 verses!)
Those who live according to God’s ways and who seek God with all their heart, are blessed.
I need to cry out for God to help me become established in his ways. It is good to pray, “Open my eyes!” and “Teach me!” and “Give me understanding!” and “Teach me discernment and knowledge!”
We keep ourselves pure by living according to God’s words. His words are perfect counselors to us.
We avoid sinning against God by treasuring his words…  meditating on them and storing them in the heart.
Real freedom comes from walking in God’s ways.
The earth is full of the Lord’s lovingkindness! He is good, and does good things.
Affliction can be a good teacher.

If God allows affliction to be in my life, it is an act of faithfulness on his part.
When God judges something, His decision is the right thing.
Sometimes we feel like saying to God, “Why do I have to wait on you so long for comfort, and for your justice to be done to those who hurt me, used me, lied about me?”

God teaches us, and His words “are sweeter than honey.” They make us wise.
His words light the way for us, so we don’t need to walk in darkness or ignorance.
When we value God’s commands enough to live by them, we naturally come to hate evil and wrong ways of living.

God always turns his face to look upon those who love His name, and He has mercy on them.
It is good to pray for the Lord to direct my footsteps, and that no sin would rule over me.

If I put God’s promises to the test, it is likely I will end up loving those promises.
The Lord is near, and His compassion is great.
Great peace have those who love God’s laws; they never stumble in life.
All of our ways are known to The Lord.
Sometimes a good prayer is, “I have strayed like a lost sheep. Please come get me.”

Psalm 120
When I call out to God in distress, he answers me!

Psalms reveals the heart of God, while Proverbs provides wisdom for daily living. Take a look:

Proverbs 24

Do not envy wicked people. Do not fret because of them; their hope and light will be snuffed out.
A house (i.e., a LIFE) is built through wisdom, understanding and knowledge, which becomes full of beauty and value.
Possessing knowledge and wisdom makes a man strong and powerful.
You can claim innocence before men about a matter, but God knows the heart.
Wisdom is sweet to the soul, and leads to hopeful future that won’t fail.
Even if a righteous man falls or gets knocked down seven times, he always gets back up. The wicked, however, will be overcome by trouble.
Do not be happy when your enemy falls, or the Lord will disapprove and turn his anger away from him.
Fear the Lord and the king, and don’t join in with rebellious people — because the Lord and the king will bring sudden destruction to bad people.
Judge fairly, without partiality. If you declare a guilty person innocent you will be hated, but if you convict the guilty you will delight others, and be blessed.
Do not bring false accusations against your neighbor, or deceive anyone with your lips.
Do not ever say, “I’ll do to him as he has done to me, I’ll pay him back!”
The fields of lazy people are full of weeds and decay, and such a person will live a life of poverty.

What a rich feast of truth to carry into the day!

Ron taught me this practice when I first came to love God in 1979, and it has never grown old or failed to strengthen and bless my spirit. The 24th day of the month has the largest number of verses because of Psalm 119, but most days it takes 15 minutes or less to read the daily Psalms and Proverbs. They make a great devotional! Every day is different in emphasis, but altogether within the course of a month, I am reinforced in vital truths about God, myself, the world I live in, how to handle relationships, how to pray, how to talk to God, and many other things. I thank God for His Word, and invite you to try this for the coming month!