Lord, Keep Me Hungry

Lately I’m been thanking the Lord for something I have that so many other people seem to lack—even those who call themselves Christians. That something is a hunger for God.

I used to think that this hunger was initiated by me, but perhaps that’s not true. Could it be that God planted this craving for Him in me? Maybe He puts it in all of us, but if we turn to other things to satisfy our souls, our hunger for Him diminishes.

On any given day I see that operating in my life. I wake up and have a desire to spend time with the Lord in His Word, but the cares of this world draw me away. My to-do list beckons. I watch TV and am enticed by entertainment instead of entering into intimacy with the One who knows me best and loves me most. I’m drawn away and find myself in the trap of looking to the things of this world to satisfy my hungry soul.

If I continue to do that on many consecutive days, my desire for God shrivels.

What brings back the hunger for God is going to Him, crying out to Him, believing that He alone can satisfy these deep cravings and allowing Him to minister to me. I open wide to receive all He has for me: hope, help, healing and so much more.

Somehow eating—tasting and seeing that the Lord is good–(see Psalm 34:8) makes me more hungry for Him.

As I seek Him with all of my heart, I discover what Psalm 107:9 promises is true: “For He satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry soul with good” (AMPC)

I’m discovering that humility and hunger go together. Moses was described as the most humble man on the face of the earth (See Numbers 12:3). He continually sought the Lord for guidance rather than depending on himself, which is what we do when we’re bound by pride. Pride kills spiritual hunger. I’ve seen that happen in my life.

One of my greatest heartaches in life is to have loved ones who are suffering from near-starvation in their souls, but yet will not turn to the Lord. It seems they have no hunger to know Him or receive from Him.

Some seem angry at God, perhaps because in a time when they were seeking Him, He didn’t deliver in the way they demanded. Instead of pressing in closer, they backed off and chose looking to the world to satisfy their hungry souls.

I confess at times I’ve tried to cram spiritual food into them. That practice is futile. Like a child who’s no longer hungry, they spit it out, and things become messy.

I’m thinking of occasions when I’ve gone out to a gathering where delicious food is being served. For whatever reason a companion of mine has decided not to partake. It’s hard being with that person. I want to share and have us proclaim in unison how wonderful everything tastes.

That’s how it is with loved ones who have no passion or hunger for the Lord. God feeds me with so many tantalizing, delicious truths from His Word, and I want to share. They have no interest. I communicate, “Do you want a bite?” but they refuse and seem to prefer having emaciated souls. Some days they remind me of the paranoid patients I work with who believe that what I’m offering them is poison.

Yet there are some in my life who have a touch of hunger, and I share a morsel of food with them, and they say, “Give me more.” Eventually, they grow as hungry for the Lord as I am, and we spend time feasting together.

Those who have a touch of hunger are the ones I try to reach with my writing. I want their hunger as well as their intimacy with the Lord to grow. I long for them to experience the fullness of allowing Him to feed them and satisfy their souls.

As far as those who seem to have no hunger for the Lord, there are two things I can do. One is I can love them where they’re at letting God’s love flow through me to them. The other thing I can do is pray.

And so today I do: “Lord, for all of those who have lost their hunger for You, I pray that You restore that hunger. Give them a deep craving to know, love, and serve You. Help them to believe that only You can satisfy their souls.

And as for myself, Lord, please keep me hungry for You.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-9ALZrds-o

Hungry by Kathryn Scott

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaNkbqme8W0

Will You Worship? I’m Hungry for You by Gospel Invasion Group

 

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Leaping Instructions Guest Blog

Today I have a guest blog from one of my favorite writers, Kent Crockett.

I met Kent quite a few years ago at a writers conference where I was on staff. My privilege was to critique his proposal for a book titled, The 911 Handbook. I let him know that he was an excellent writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed and was encouraged by reading his work. Later that book was published. Since then Kent has had a number of books published including Slaying Your Giants: Biblical Solutions to Everyday Problems and The Sure Cure for Worry: Learning to Trust God No Matter What Happens. Kent was a pastor for many years, and now works to continue to build up the body through his writing and speaking ministry. To see more of his blogs go to http://kentcrockett.blogspot.com/

Leaping Instructions

By Kent Crockett

leaping%2bfor%2bjoy

Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. (Luke 6:22-23)

I’ve seen people leap for joy when their football team scores a touchdown.

I’ve seen people leap for joy when a player hits a 3-pointer to win a basketball game.

I’ve seen people leap for joy when they win the Publisher’s Clearing House. But I’ve never seen anyone leaping for joy when they’re hated by others.

Jesus said to “leap for joy”—not when your team wins, but when evil is being unleashed on you. One time when I was being attacked by a mean-spirited person, another pastor told me, “You need to follow the leaping instructions. Jesus told us to jump for joy when we’re under attack.” I had never thought of that before—to literally leap for joy. Jesus said to “be glad in that day,” not after you die and go to heaven.

The key is to understand what’s taking place in heaven at that very moment. You must realize that when you’re being hated for doing God’s will, the Lord is giving you an incredible reward in heaven that will last throughout eternity. If He would pull back the curtain and you could see this reward, you would be doing cartwheels and leaping for joy. But since you can’t see it right now, you’ll just have to take Jesus’ word for it.

LEAPING INSTRUCTIONS. (You can also leap for joy when you are discouraged or depressed). Find a private place where it’s just you and the Lord. Start jumping up and down while you’re praising God. It’s that simple. Leap just like you jumped for joy when your team won. But now you’re doing it because God is blessing you in the midst of a horrible situation. And don’t be surprised if your depression and discouragement also leave you. http://kentcrockett.blogspot.com/

 

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How You React

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

While looking up inspirational quotaions for a group I was leading recently, that particular quote spoke to me as I shared it with those in the group. It was attributed to Epictetus, a philosopher who was born in 55 AD.

He penned those words a long time ago, but the truth they convey applies to our lives today.

I see the importance of this truth often in working with people who attempt to overcome trauma. Those who can’t seem to get over what’s been done to them are those who react with bitterness, hatred, or self-pity. Some believe that their traumas are what causes their problems, but the truth is that it’s their reaction causing their unhappiness and mental health issues.

For years I found myself caught in that trap. I believed that harsh experiences from my childhood were the cause of my misery. What I discovered was the truth contained in the above quote. What caused my despair was my reaction–holding on to bitterness instead of forgiving those who had hurt me. This led to self-pity, negativity, and at times self-loathing. (If I had been a better person, then I would not have been mistreated like that.)

As I was contemplating this issue, I thought of a time years ago when I worked as an LPN on an orthopedic ward. There were two patients on my floor that had totally different reactions to what had happened to them. Watching them taught me that we truly do have a choice as to how we react to adversity.

I’ll call patient #1 Mr. Darling. Mr. D entered our hospital after being run over at the construction site where he worked by an inexperienced cement truck driver. He had multiple broken bones and numerous other injuries.

Patient #2, Mr. Woe Is Me came in for surgery on his hip after a fall.

Mr. D. who spent eight months on our ward (this was before rehab centers), brought joy to our floor because of his positive attitude, sense of humor, and encouragement to everyone he came in contact with. I remember going into his room with several other workers when we had to do some kind of treatment, and there would be laughter and lifted spirits all around. How well I recall his warm, loving smile.

This patient faced an uncertain future. He would be permanently disabled—never going back to the contruction work that he loved. He chose to react to his situation with acceptance and making the best of a bad situation. Immediately he forgave the man who had caused the accident, and was even concerned with how the accident might affect him. If I remember right, Mr. D was a believer, but he didn’t talk much about God. Instead he lived a life that showed he knew Him and trusted Him. He had a grateful heart and repeatedly thanked us for every little thing we did for him.

Mr. W was a different story. Going into his room was hard on everyone. He yelled at those taking care of him and never said, “thank you,” no matter how much we tried to please him and make him feel better. He incessently had a “Why me?” attitude as he recovered from his surgery. I remember well the look on his face—a sour I-hate-life and even at times a I-hate-you look. In the time he was in our care, I never saw him smile.

He left long before Mr. D, and I hoped that somehow he would discover the truth that it was his reaction to his situation that was hurting him and bringing on misery.

The day Mr. D was finally able to leave the hospital, I felt joy for the privilege of getting to know him and taking care of him. I can still see him in my mind’s eye walking from his room slowly with his walker to the wheel chair—a man crippled in body but not in his emotional or spiritual life.

I praise God for Mr. D and others–like my Uncle Danny who these days is facing multiple medical issues–who inspire by how they face adversity. I want to be one of those people.

And I don’t want to ever forget that “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

I also don’t want to forget this truth from Scripture:  “And Jehovah is a tower for the bruised, A tower for times of adversity.” Psalm 9:9 YLT

“It Is Well” by Kristene DiMarco

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Wb_WD1emFQ

 

 

 

 

 

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Dealing With Dream-Stompers, Naysayers, Hope-Slayers

Recently I overheard a mom and her child interacting. The conversation entailed the adolescent expressing a desire, and her mom squashing it due to fear over the child’s past behaviors.

Angry words ensued, and the more the young person repeated the goal she wanted to pursue, the more the mom shot it down.

They invited me into the conversation, but the mom remained negative and wouldn’t listen to my attempts to suggest she allow her child to pursue her dream and give her room to fail.

When I left them, they were still speaking antagonistically toward one another.

After this, I thought of that mom and the role she was playing in that altercation: dream- stomper, naysayer, hope-slayer.

My heart hurt as I thought of times I took on that role with certain people in my life—especially those who repeatedly made unwise choices.

Then I recalled people in my life who have delivered discouraging words when I announced a dream or desire—often those the Lord laid on my heart.

“You’ll never succeed at that.”

“You’re not good enough to accomplish that.”

“That will never happen.”

“Why in the world would you want to attempt that goal?”

“Are you crazy? Kidding me? Have a screw loose?

Despite those who have tried to squash my dreams, with God’s help I’ve succeeded at most of them. The others are still in progress.

The key to realizing our dreams is to avoid listening to the dream-stompers and instead open our ears and hearts to the Lord and embrace His words and will for our lives.

One thing I know is that if He has called me to it, He will do it in me and through me. I think of God calling me to sing and those who have tried to squash that dream He laid on my heart. Several people in my life have said, “You can’t sing.”

My singing is not about being on “The Voice” or “American Idol” but it is about being able to minister to others with songs, some written by talented songwriters and others that God has laid on my heart. When I’ve obeyed God and sung songs to hurting souls, they have been moved and changed. They have said, “Wow! You can sing.” Many times there have been healing tears.

So who is right?

God empowers me to touch souls with songs, and the ones who say, “You can’t sing” are not souls who need a song from me. They listen with fleshly ears and compare me to the best singers in the world.

I think of the tsk-tsk I’ve heard from others as I’ve tried to pursue my dreams. When I turn to the Lord, He has something different to say. He communicates, “Good for you,” “I’m so proud of you,” and “You can do this.”

I’m praying for that mom who too often plays the dream-stomper in her daughter’s life—that she will allow the Holy Spirit to speak encouraging words through her.

And I’m praying for myself that I will completely let go of ever being the dream-stomper, naysayer, or hope-slayer in people’s lives—even my own–as I let go of negative words toward others and to myself.

Today I know for certain that God is dreaming big for me and for my loved ones—even if dreams and desires seem difficult or even impossible.

When others say, “That’s impossible,” I need to remember to embrace what God says, “…for all things are possible with Me” (See Mark 10:27) and echo what David said in Psalm 55:23: …But I will trust in, lean on, and confidently rely on You.”

The decision I need to make today and every day is: who will I listen to?

Song reference:

Lately the song “Through It All” written my Andrae Crouch has been coming to mind. And this past Tuesday someone in my Bible study mentioned it as well. Even with dream-stompers, nay-sayers, and hope-slayers working to try to get me to abandon my God-given dreams, my Lord reminds me that through it all He is teaching me to trust in Him alone.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNsWrS5zvBI

“Through It All” by Andrae Crouch featuring CeCe Winans

 

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The Better Life

Recently I heard four words in a song that touched me deeply. They were “There’s a better life.”

Those words reminded me that I’m living the better life. The one I lived before I knew the Lord was filled with torment and at times terror. These came not so much because of what I’d been through but because of my negative reactions. I chose substance abuse, overeating, bitterness, anger, and self-loathing.

One of the ways my life has changed for the better is that I’m not bound by negative thinking. Yes, I can slip into it, but because of the Lord and His Word and His speaking truth to my soul, I can choose to quickly escape wrong thought patterns.

The song I was listening to called, “Chain Breaker,” reminded me of all the ways the Lord has made my life better.

Ironically when I looked for an image that said, “A Better Life,” I found one that listed an atheist website.I went there and found a book titled, A Better Life with this subtitle: 100 Atheists Speak Out On Joy and Meaning in a World Without God.

The lie that some struggling Christians or seekers believe is that instead of a life with God being better, the life without Him is the better life. A number of people I know who were once devoted to the Lord have embraced that lie. They’re blind to the fact that what they see as freedom is really a deep bondage.

One of the most famous atheists, Richard Dawkins, has written a book titled The God Delusion. On Amazon.com part of the description of the book said this: “The God Delusion makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just wrong but potentially deadly. It also offers exhilarating insight into the advantages of atheism to the individual and society, not the least of which is a clearer, truer appreciation of the universe’s wonders than any faith could ever muster.”

Sadly, a loved one of mine who once seemed to be a devout Christian has embraced all that Richard Dawkins communicates. This individual not long ago went to hear this well-known atheist speak and expressed excitement over meeting someone whom she saw as one of the greatest men living on this earth. I cried when those words were texted to me from someone who was once a Christian I admired, but had rejected truth for lies.

What deception.

Yet at any given moment each of us has to decide if life with God or life without God is better. Even as a Christian I spend too much time living as if there is no God. I try to solve matters myself and look at self-sufficiency rather than dependence on the Lord as the greatest virtue. I tend to plot and plan instead of pray. I choose worry over worship and fear over faith.

I’m grateful that God whispers to me to draw near when I get caught in any of these.

Lately I’ve been thanking God that He drew me into the better life and has kept my heart strong against those who try to convince me that a life without God is superior, especially during those periods when it seems God is refusing to answer my prayers, and my heart gets broken yet another time.

The bottom line is that no matter what my circumstances may hold, I have a God who holds me and helps me—who hears me and heals me.

What I need is grace to remember all that God has done for me and in me, all He has brought me through, all the ways He has made my life so much better. Psalm 105:5 says it like this: “[Earnestly] remember the marvelous deeds that He has done, His miracles and wonders…” (AMPC)

Today I’m celebrating this better life God has called me to. I’m trusting Him to continue to break every chain that keeps me from fully enjoying it.

“Chain Breaker” by Zach Williams

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGYjKR69M6U

 

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Three Keys To Peace

Receive My peace. Those are the words that often come to mind when I seek the Lord with a listening ear.

The lie that gets in the way of obeying is this: I cannot have peace until these difficult circumstances in my life are resolved.

The truth is God’s peace is available 24/7.

When Jesus left this world He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives…” (John 14:27 NIV). The last part of the verse speaks to what will get in the way of receiving the peace He offers. “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Whenever I read that verse, I’m reminded of a short but powerful song a lady I met at a prayer meeting sang there. “This peace that I have. This peace that I have–the world didn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away.”

As I’ve been contemplating what blocks peace in my life three things came to mind: Unconfessed sin, focusing on problems, and prayerlessness.

So the three keys to receiving peace are these:

–Maintain a repentant heart. David spoke of what it feels like when he held on to sin in Psalm 32: “For day and night your hand was heavy on me;… Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”(vs 4-5)

I cannot attain lost peace until I stop denying my sin and humbly acknowledge it.

Letting go of sin shows I desire to obey the Lord. I like the promise in Psalm 119:65 “Those who love Your law have great peace; Nothing makes them stumble.”

–Focus on the Lord. I confess that too often I keep my gaze firmly planted on the problems and pressures of this world. I focus on fools, fears, flaws, failures, which can lead me to be in a frenzy rather than in a state of peace. The verse that speaks to this is Isaiah 26:3:   “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You: because he trusts in You.”

Turning to God and keeping my mind fixed on Him is a sign that I am trusting in Him, and trust is what brings peace.

–Pray. Sometimes when I lack peace, it takes me awhile to realize that I’ve been doing lots of trying to figure things out myself instead of praying to the One who is in control. When I take on the role of my own problem-solver, peace evades me. In fact, this course can lead to a sense of feeling I’m in a panic.

Philippians 4:6 challenges me to instead pray about everything. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” And the promised result (verse 7) is peace. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

All three of the above keys to peace are interconnected, and as I embrace them I sense God’s peace taking over.

When I looked up John 14:27 in the Amplified Bible a little while ago, I decided my heart’s desire is to do what’s in brackets. “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge].”

Lord, please give me the grace to do just that.

Music moment:

A number of years ago, I listened to the following song again and again after hearing Cheri Keaggy sing it in person at a women’s retreat. Listening to the song again today reminds me how sweet the peace of God truly is.

“Sweet Peace of God” by Cheri Keaggy

Note: I’ve written about peace before in these Hearts Set Free blogs. If you want to read more, here’s a post from December 10, 2010 https://elainecreasman.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/guaranteed-peace/

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My Wants Vs God’s Will

Recently I heard a song that touched my heart. The theme was embracing God’s will even when it seems that what He has allowed brings heartbreak.

I found out later that the song was written after the songwriter experienced a miscarriage.

One line spoke of our broken hearts possibly being God’s will—that it’s part of His plan.

I thought of all the heartaches and heartbreaks I have had in my life. Could it be God’s will that my heart break? Again and again?

What I do know is that my heartbreaks have brought me closer to Him.

I think of the verse that helped bring me through those times of heartbreak, especially after my brother’s suicide, Psalm 147:3, which says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [curing their pains and their sorrows].” (AMPC)

Another verse about broken hearts is Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (NIV)

Because this is a fallen world, we all will experience things that break our hearts. What I need to consider is this: what am I going to do with my broken heart? At my job I work with people who choose drugs and alcohol to deal with heartbreaking circumstances. I’ve tried that route myself, and it is a dead end, which only increases the pain.

At times I’ve turned to other things of this world to deal with my broken heart. I wanted my husband to heal my broken heart when I married him and at various times over the years. I turned to food, the accumulation of possessions, the approval of people.

These just make my “heart” condition worse.

I’ve discovered that turning to God is the only answer to my broken heart. Doing His will after I don’t get what I want is the only way to maintain hope and receive healing when my life doesn’t turn out the way I had planned.

My plans did not include loved ones turning away from the Lord. They did not include my own and family members’ battles with physical and mental illness. I did not want severe struggles in our marriage and in other relationships. What I wanted was a smooth life. What I received was a rough one with challenges that have some days seemed insurmountable.

But as I embrace “Your will be done,” instead of going my own way when God refuses to give me what I want, victory comes. He shows me His way. He reveals His will.

And so today and in the days ahead with trials continuing to challenge me, I stand firm on following the Lord and embracing His will.

How about you?

Thy Will by Hillary Scott & The Scott Family

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCR_Fa8YV2U

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