Created To Crave God

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I was playing golf with a pastor and a missionary when the starter asked if a single player could join us to make a foursome. We happily agreed. About 4-5 holes into our game, our guest asked what we did. My pastor friend started out, “I’m a pastor, and this guy is a missionary, and—” 

Our guest interrupted and blurted out, “You guys are Christians?! I’ve never had so much fun! I always heard Christians were boring.” 

When did it come about that people thought of Christians as boring—or even worse, as sourpusses and killjoys? Sadly, too many Christians have helped cement this idea in people’s minds. I think this is largely because those Christians are misinformed and frustrated. This frustration, I believe, comes from the mistaken idea that Christians are supposed to squelch any urges or cravings that we have.  

But check out this Q&A from the Westminster Catechism—

Q: What is the chief end of man? 

A: To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. 

Glorifying God is supposed to result in enjoyment—enjoying both God’s presence and the life He has given us. We are created to crave the fuel of His Spirit that satisfies and energizes us. 

Just as your car would at best under-perform if you attempted to run it with anything else but gasoline, so our lives will under-perform and feel like drudgery if we are trying to fuel our cravings with anything other than God. 

The dictionary defines “craving” as a great or eager desire, or a yearning. But I believe the Bible defines God-honoring craving as the longing for an intimate relationship with God that is implanted by God Himself. 

The people of Judah had gone astray from God and were trying to satisfy their urges with foreign gods and pagan idolatry. When King Asa called these backsliders back to God, here’s how he did it—

[Asa] commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers—to inquire of and for Him and crave Him as a vital necessity—and to obey the law and the commandment. (2 Chronicles 14:4 AMP) 

Contrast this with the temporary cravings of earth—

But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish, useless, godless, and hurtful desires… (1 Timothy 6:9 AMP) 

This world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever (1 John 2:17 NLT). 

Nowhere are godly cravings and earthly cravings better contrasted than in James 4:1-6. 

In this passage, the Greek word for desires (v. 1) and pleasures (v. 3) is hedone. This is where we get our English word “hedonism.” There is nothing wrong with pleasure—for God Himself takes pleasure—but it’s what pleasures we are craving that can make them ungodly. James rightly points out that the wrong hedonism is a craving to fulfill “your desires,” “your pleasures,” and to desire “friendship with the world” (v. 1, 3, 4)

Jesus talked about worldly cravings—using the same word hedone—when He said, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures [hedone], and they do not mature” (Luke 8:14). 

Notice the same thing in Isaiah 58:2 where God declares that people “seem eager” to delight in God, but it’s only a show for them to satisfy fleshly cravings. John Piper noted, “God means they are delighting in their business and not in the beauty of their God. He does not rebuke their hedonism. He rebukes the weakness of it. They have settled for secular interests and thus honor them above the Lord.” 

Instead, notice the fulfilled cravings when we seek God: “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on My holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 58:13-14). 

I like that reminder that “the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” The origin of the word craving is the Old Norse word krefja, which means to lay claim on something because of a promise. God has promised, and so we can claim it. 

James assures us that the spirit God implanted in us envies intensely (James 4:5). We were made to crave God’s presence, we were made to find ultimate satisfaction in His presence, we were made to find eternal delight in knowing Him more intimately! 

The proud person says, “God, I know what I want. Give it to me.” The humble person says, “God, I know Your presence is the only thing that will satisfy me. Give it to me.” 

The craving in our spirit can be redirected from earthly yearnings to God-honoring yearnings by yielding to the Holy Spirit. I would humbly suggest that our prayer should be something like this—

“Father, grant that my cravings are for Your name to be hallowed, Your kingdom to be made visible, and Your will to be done. Let the enjoyment I have in Your presence shine out of me in a way that invites others to be dissatisfied with their earthly cravings and find their ultimate satisfaction in a personal relationship with You through Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit, continue to refine and redirect all of my cravings away from earthly things to eternal pleasures. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” 

If you would like to follow along with all of the messages in this series called Craving, you can find all of the sermons by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Links & Quotes

I co-host a leadership podcast with my good friend of 30+ years Greg Heeres. In an episode that came out last week, we were discussing the importance of friendships for leaders. All of us need friends that are investing in our lives. You may check out the rest of the conversation Greg and I had by clicking here.

Jonathan Woodward writes, “The right use of authority or power can make people glad. In our age, however, power is often immediately viewed with skepticism or outright disdain.” He also talks about our responsibility to the incorrect use of leadership authority: “It’s absolutely necessary to identify, challenge, and rebuke sinful leadership. It ensures that people are cared for and God is honored.” Check out The Power to Bless: Six Dimensions of Good Leadership.

More and more scientists are dissatisfied with the lack of evidence supporting the theory of evolution. ICR reports, “Indiana University Biologist Armin Moczek told The Guardian, ‘We still do not have a good answer. This classic idea of gradual change, one happy accident at a time, has so far fallen flat.’”

The churches in my hometown of Cedar Springs, MI, have partnered together to make sure students who are food insecure on the weekend are supplied with nutritious food to carry them through the weekend. If you would like to know more, or if you would like to help us, please check out the Cedar Springs Ministerial Association website.

“Because we love something else other than this world, we love even this world better than those who know no other.” —C.S. Lewis

This is one of the best interviews I have done. I so enjoyed this! And the good news is this is only part 1. We had such a good conversation that the hosts asked me to stick around to record another episode with them. Here is the first session…

“Here’s the deal: the better you get, the harder you have to work.” —Albert King, speaking to Stevie Ray Vaughan

Here is a brief clip from a teaching I did for some ministry interns. You can check out more of this by clicking here.

Go Deep—The Fruit Of The Spirit

We have been studying the different sets of gifts listed in the New Testament. These gifts are to bring maturity and health to the church. Previously we have looked at:

In this lesson, we discover how the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5) shows our Christian maturity.

You may download the participant’s study guide here → Go Deep – fruit of the Holy Spirit handouts

Near the end of this lesson, I shared something that I hadn’t included in the handouts, but I promised to share it—

LOVE for God fill us with love for others → there is JOY in knowing His nearness → PEACE comes in the face of anxiety-causing tribulations → which gives me PATIENCE with others who are anxious without God → then I can have KINDNESS to draw them to God → and GOODNESS that is expressed in kind deeds → and my FAITHFULNESS that creates a sense of stick-to-it-iveness → and GENTLENESS that gives me courage to stand up for what’s right → my SELF-CONTROL keeps the fruit of the flesh in-check → which gives me greater LOVE for God and others… 

Growing The Wrong Thing

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

In a recent teaching time with some ministry interns, I discussed the two main metrics that we can use to measure growth: quantity and quality. Sadly, too many churches and ministries have gotten so caught up in the “numbers game” of more-more-more being the only metric of success, that they’ve forgotten about quality. Or maybe they do focus on quality, but only as a means to the end of more-more-more. 

This is never a metric of success that is discussed in the Bible. Check this out…

In the chapter entitled ‘Don’t Try to Grow Your Ministry’ in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter I wrote this—

Businesses think in terms of quantitative gains—things they can count—but churches and nonprofits should be thinking in terms of qualitative gains—a quality improvement that isn’t as easily counted. I think we all know this, and yet we still persist in wanting to define success in a church or a nonprofit by those quantitative standards such as attendance growth, donations, and the like. When we think qualitative over quantitative, suddenly what seemed “small” is so significant and so valuable that it cannot be calculated! What if one of those babies that weren’t aborted discovers a cure for cancer, or deciphers a dialect to take the Gospel to an unreached people group, or becomes the loving next-door neighbor that leads your son or daughter to a relationship with Jesus? 

Just as you cannot put a price tag on a life, you cannot put a price tag on a sheep. Make no mistake about it, God views His sheep—every single one of them—as invaluable. Because His valuation is so high, we can understand why He gets so angry at those who are more concerned about their success than they are about the health of the sheep. When God uses the word “Woe!” we should definitely take that seriously. He uses that very word to warn shepherd leaders who were shirking their responsibility when He said, “Woe to those shepherds who only take care of themselves” (Ezekiel 34:2). 

When we map out our plan for success, or when we try to define success solely by quantitative measurements, we ultimately become more committed to our plans than to God’s sheep. God pulls no punches when He calls leaders with this attitude evil, mere hired hands, or even thieves (Jeremiah 23:3; John 10:8, 12). And most sobering of all, God says, “I will hold them accountable” (Ezekiel 34:10). 

Friends, let’s make sure we are focused on the metrics that really matter. Recently, a pastor shared honestly with me about his frustration with the “numbers game,” and purchased five copies of my book to use as a discussion starter with his church staff. I hope you will consider using Shepherd Leadership in a similar way. If I can be of assistance, please let me know. 

Shepherd Leadership is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Podcast: Leaders Need Friends

Listen to the audio-only version of this podcast by clicking on the player below, or scroll down to watch the video.

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • [0:31] Can a leader have friends at work?
  • [1:22] Can a leader mix work friendship and personal relationships?
  • [2:25] You can’t be friends with everyone.
  • [3:21] How many true friends can you maintain?
  • [4:47] Bringing someone into your confidence can be a challenge.
  • [6:01] Tell people their story, not someone else’s.
  • [7:45] Greg talks about getting naked with your team.
  • [8:58] I explain why you need a Paul and a Barnabas in your life.
  • [10:01] Leaders need play time to recharge and refresh.
  • [11:08] I make the case for “sabbathing” to be a verb in my book Shepherd Leadership.
  • [11:55] We discuss being intentional about how you spend your time.
  • [14:31] I describe the qualities I look for in a strong leadership friend.
  • [16:45] We discuss how a “yes man” isn’t a true friend.
  • [18:12] Leaders need to be careful not to end up on an island.
  • [21:52] How do you navigate friendships through organizational groups and silos?
  • [23:20] I shares a humorous note Greg left me to illustrate the friendship tradeoff.
  • [24:22] Greg says you need a trusted friend to help you monitor your energy level.
  • [25:30] I say it’s important to thank friends for paying attention to you.
  • [26:14] We use Jesus’ relationships with His disciples to model their own friendships.
  • [27:40] We would love to be your leadership friend in our coaching huddles.

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple.

Killing Mammon’s Covetousness

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Max Lucado wrote, 

“The United States economy endured ten recessions between 1948 and 2001. These downturns lasted an average of ten months apiece and resulted in the loss of billions of dollars. Every five years or so, the economy dumps its suitors and starts over. What would you think of a man who did the same with women? What word would you use to describe a husband who philandered his way through nine different wives over fifty years? And what word would you use to describe wife number ten? How about this one? Fool. Those who trust money are foolish. They are setting themselves up to be duped and dumped into a dystopia of unhappiness.” —Max Lucado, Fearless  

Yikes! It sounds like money can be a scary thing. So let’s consider statement #12 in our series asking “Is that in the Bible?”—Money is the root of all evil. Is that in the Bible? No! 

That phrase is close to one that is in the Bible, but “close” misses the real meaning. What Paul actually wrote to Timothy is, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). 

That three-word phrase “love of money” is actually just one word in Greek, and it means “friend of silver.” 

The Bible teaches that money itself is neither good nor evil. It’s merely a tool like a hammer that is used for building something or for destroying something. If the hammer builds or destroys, it’s not the hammer that is good or evil but the attitude of the one gripping the hammer determines the good or evil outcome. 

So too with money. Money keeps the lights on, puts gas in our car, clothes on our backs, and food in our stomachs, it even helps people share the Gospel here and around the world. It’s our attitude toward money that leads us to good or evil thoughts and actions. 

In describing people who were a friend of silver, Paul uses phrases like this to describe them: teaches false doctrine … does not agree to sound instruction…and godly teaching … who think godliness is a means to financial gain … want to get rich … eager for money (1 Timothy 6:3-5, 9-10). 

In 1923 a group of the world’s most successful financiers gathered at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Together these men controlled more wealth than the United States Treasury! They met together to discuss how they could use their present wealth to gain even more wealth. Their plan was put into place and it began to reap the results they planned: they expanded their influence and their bank accounts. 

Then six years later, on October 29, 1929, Black Tuesday happened. The worst day for the New York Stock Exchange ever and the beginning of the Great Depression in the USA. 

What about that group of wealthy financiers who wanted more, more, more? 

  • Charles Schwab—president of Carnegie Steel Company—lived the last years of his life on borrowed money and died penniless 
  • Arthur Cutten—the world’s largest wheat speculator—died insolvent 
  • Richard Whitney—president of the NYSE—served a prison term for embezzlement 
  • Albert Fall—a member of the president’s cabinet—also went to prison 
  • Jessie Livermore—the “bear of Wall Street,” Leon Frazer—president of the Bank of International Settlements, and Ivar Kreuger—head of the world’s largest monopoly (a match company)—all committed suicide 

Their friendship with silver—their love of Money—led to their disastrous downfalls. 

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24). 

The word Jesus used for “Money” is Mammon: wealth personified and deified. When we make Money our god—Money (with a capital “M”)—we naturally begin to covet what isn’t ours. Nothing satisfies and so we covet to possess more and more and more. 

Remember Jesus we cannot serve two masters. If we replace God with Mammon, it is inevitable that we will break all of the Ten Commandments. Has anyone ever made an idol to their Money, or murdered for money, or committed adultery, or stolen, or told lies? They sure have! 

Paul described those who worship Mammon this way—

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

But those who worship God, Paul described like this—

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (1 Timothy 6:6-8) 

Simply put: Contentment with God kills Mammon’s covetousness! 

Want to know how to check your attitude toward money? When you think about giving God His tithe, or when the Holy Spirit prompts you to give to a missionary, what thought comes to your mind? Do you think, “Ugg, I have to give this” or do you rejoice to say, “Yes, I get to give this”? The answer to that question will give you a really good indication of how much pull Mammon has over your heart. 

We all have a choice to make: yield to God or yield to Mammon. But remember only God can give us contentment today and pleasures that last for eternity. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Is That In The Bible?, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Links & Quotes

“This is one of the rewards of reading the Old Testament regularly. You keep on discovering more and more what a tissue of quotations from it the New Testament is; how constantly Our Lord repeated, reinforced, continued, refined, and sublimated the Judaic ethics, how very seldom He introduced a novelty.” —C.S. Lewis, Reflections On The Psalms 

I have shared quite often about the historicity of the Bible. Here is some additional evidence for that: Top 10 discoveries related to the Book of Daniel.

The folks at Fight The New Drug provide excellent research on the dangers of pornography as well as many helpful resources for folks to break free from a porn addiction. Pornography often attracts people when they are emotionally drained, but viewing porn actually increases feelings of loneliness and isolation.

If we ever start to think the Church is one or two ministers and a whole bunch of parishioners, it really won’t be a Church. According to Ephesians 4, all Christians should be ministers. 

You can check out the full message that this clip is from by clicking here.

Here is a word of encouragement for anyone in a time of spiritual warfare—

Check out my regular Monday Motivation series.

Wow, this post from T.M. Moore on how we respond to God’s “call” is a much-needed reminder. In the post, he wrote,

“Probably most Christians treat the calling of God as a kind of punctuated equilibrium. He breaks into their lives to ‘call’ them to some activity or task, but only from time to time, and only for that activity or task. He ‘calls’ us to believe the Gospel, and we do. He ‘calls’ us to this or that church, and we go. He ‘calls’ us to some ministry or other Christian activity, and so we participate. He ‘calls’ us to make a special gift, go on a mission trip, send a note of encouragement to a friend, and so forth. Our lives run on their own schedules, so whenever God ‘calls’ us to do something, we’ll try to get it done.

“But most of the time, other things have prior claims on our lives. We have jobs, families, friends, responsibilities, things we like to do or must do. We can’t respond to every calling from God because, well, there just isn’t enough time. We say, when friends press us to consider this or that Christian opportunity, ‘If God calls me to it, I will.’ But aren’t we just using the language of piety to relieve the discomfort of pressure to do something we’d rather not do?

“We are called of God. Of this there is no doubt. But for most Christians, the way they understand God’s calling is not the same as the way God issues it. And they have not yet learned to value His calling as He intends, as the defining and guiding value of our lives.”

Go Deep—The Operational Gifts In Orderly Operation

We have been studying the different sets of gifts listed in the New Testament. These gifts are to bring maturity and health to the church. Previously we have looked at the motivational gifts in Romans chapter 12, the operational gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12-13, and the leadership gifts in the church in Ephesians 4.

In this lesson, we learn how the operational gifts of the Holy Spirit must be supported by the leadership gifts that are given to the church. 

You may download the participant’s study guide here → Go Deep – operational gifts in orderly operation handout

If you would like to join us in person for our next class, here is where you can find us.

Amen Indeed

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I had a great time on the Ailbe Podcast with Rusty Rabon. 

The reason I wrote Shepherd Leadership is because my heart was aching for my fellow pastors who were feeling frustrated maybe even to the point of contemplating resigning their churches. The principles I teach in this book are ones that will get all of us back to a biblical standard of what God says is successful in our ministries. 

Toward that end, I love praying for pastors. Every week I send a Sunday morning prayer to my fellow pastors in my hometown to encourage them to find satisfaction in serving the sheep the Chief Shepherd has placed under their care. 

As we wrapped up our time together, Rusty referred to a prayer I shared in my chapter entitled ‘Stick-to-it-iveness.’ This prayer is adapted from Psalm 23 and is intended to be a source of strength for pastors. 

Take a listen…

I hope this prayer is helpful and energizing to you. I also hope that you will pick up a copy of Shepherd Leadership to infuse some more encouragement into your ministry efforts.  

If you would like to check out the other clips I have already shared from this podcast, please check them out here. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Call Me Pasture Craig

In my book Shepherd Leadership, I tell a humorous but very enlightening story of a student who called me “Pasture Craig.” It was done innocently enough, but it taught me an invaluable lesson. 

Check this out…

And since that day, I have never minded being called Pasture Craig because it reminds me of what I’m really supposed to be doing!

If you want to check out another hilarious story about my alter-ego Plunger Man, please click here. 

Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is an excellent resource for both pastors and non-profit ministry leaders and is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple.

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