What are you craving?

Without realizing it, a lot of this morning’s message has been taking shape without much foresight, but simply through the normal routine of life. This morning I want to talk about our cravings. It says in the Gospel of Matthew, in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that we are blessed when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, for then we will truly be filled. And as I read that scripture I can’t help but think about all of the other cravings that I have in my life, and how they often take the place of what my heart and soul truly need for their sustenance.

Our young adult class just had our annual “Ugly Sweater Christmas Party” last night at the Log Inn, and I would imagine that none of us left feeling as if we would need to hunger for anything for quite some time; if you leave the Log Inn physically hungry than the fault only lies with oneself. But I don’t want to talk about our physical hunger and cravings this morning, I want to focus on the inside, on the disconnect of what we are called to hunger for, and for the poor substitutes that we settle for.

In just 10 short days we will begin our Lenten Season, as we prepare for the joy of Easter morning, and the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Often we look at Lent as a time to give up something in our lives; to sacrifice a comfort, or challenge ourselves to live without something that usually accompanies our lives. In preparation for Lent I picked up a book entitled, A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor. It is a book that I am really looking forward to digging into this Lenten Season, and it has already challenged me in some ways. One of the chapters is entitled Miracle Bread, and talks a bit about the Israelites and how God provided manna for them in the desert.

Without knowing it at the time, this chapter refocused this message to what we will be talking about together this morning. So first a little background on when the manna appears in Scripture. The Israelites have been rescued from their slavery in Egypt. They have crossed the Red Sea as God spared their lives. They have looked upon the Promised Land that God had lead them too, only to fear those inhabiting the area. And now they find themselves wandering in the desert, because of their lack of trust and faith, and what does God do, He once again provides for them. He hears His people and provides miraculous bread for them to eat. When the Israelites wake up, they see that God has covered their camp with miraculous bread, manna, and it is enough for everyone to have their needs met. They are asked to only gather enough for each day, “their daily bread,” and if they collect more than is required, maggots will infest it during the night. To confirm that this manna is from God even more, on the sixth day the Israelites are instructed to gather enough manna for two days, so they can rest on the seventh day, and yet the manna is not destroyed by maggots, but instead stays fresh for this extra day.

And this is where I want us to turn to scripture this morning, because it is all too familiar as to what they do next. So in the light of being rescued from slavery, seeing the Red Sea parted before them, having this miraculous bread being provided for them daily for their sustenance and survival, how do the Israelites respond? We next find them griping and complaining, and even reminiscing about the good old days when they were in slavery, where at least they had some options around the dinner table.

So if we turn to the book of Numbers in chapter 11:4-9 we read the following account:

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna! The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a handmill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.

All I can say is wow. Talk about spitting in the face of the Giver. Enough with your miracles God, I want some options!!!!! As absurd as their response sounds, how quickly we also overlook the blessings in our lives as well. We so often struggle with the same topic of contentment and are driven to craving other things. The Israelites were in essence blinded by their cravings, and if we are not careful, we too can easily stumble down that same path, and often not find our way back to hungering for the things that truly matter.

As our scripture in the book of Numbers continues we see God answer their plea for meat with more quail than they ever could have imagined. Starting up again at verse 31 we read:

Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. (probably about 60 bushels)Then they spread them out all around the camp. But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food.

Let me read that last line one more time, “because there they buried the people who had craved other food.” So my question for you and all of us here this morning is simply this: What are you craving? It is easy to think about food as a response to this question, but what about things like: popularity, acceptance from others, new stuff, more stuff, the newest stuff. Is the quality of your day determined by what TV shows are on at night, or about whether or not your favorite team won the game.

We are called to be set apart for God, just as the Israelites were when they entered into the Promised Land. And one of the greatest ways we can do this is by not being deceived by the flashy things of this world. But here is the greatest problem, this is not just a “me” problem, this is not just a “you” problem, but this is instead an “us” problem.
The book our small group is currently studying is called Deadly Viper Character Assassins, which is a book on character and integrity but with a bit of a Kung Fu twist. And the second chapter of this book is entitled The Assassin of Zi Qi Qi Ren.

Watch this quick video to see just what Zi Qi Qi Ren is.

[youtube id=”3xGTJLsztzI”]

Self deception while deceiving others. This is exactly the state that our cravings have left us in, we are not only deceiving others, but we are doing it to a point we are duping ourselves into thinking everything is hunky dory at the same time. Let’s face it, just like the Israelite’s we are not content with God’s manna. We are constantly craving more, and the more that we want can easily become our prison cell. We are over-stuffed with what we have begged for, just like the Israelite’s with their quail, and those things may not be blessings at all. They are more likely our curse—what the New Testament in James calls cravings that give birth to sin.
But there is hope. Just as God continued to show the people of Israel a new way, He has shown us a new way through the life and death of Christ. When Jesus first started His ministry, some of His very first words are known as the Sermon on the Mount. And with these words, I believe that Jesus calls us to move away from craving, and into the land of contentment. He asks us to trade in our griping and our lust for peace and concern for others.

I want to close this message this morning by calling us all to trade in our cravings for God’s blessings. Please clothes your eyes as I read these words from the Gospel of Matthew:

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are –no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full’, you find yourselves cared for.
You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart –put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
Not only that – count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – give a cheer, even! – for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. Amen

I hope that you can  really be vulnerable and honest with God, telling God all of the things that you crave over His goodness, His blessings, and His righteousness. Maybe today is the first time that you decide to set aside your own cravings that so often lead to destruction, and instead learn to sit at Christ’s nail-scarred feet and let His heavenly contentment wash over you.

February 15, 2012 <> Michael Warneke

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