• Crave Him

    John 6:35

    "Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."'

    Why is it that when we say, "This is the last potato chip I'm going to eat," five minutes later we're looking for more? "Michael Moss" answers that question in his book "Salt Sugar Fat." He describes how America's largest snack producers know how to "help" people crave junk food. In fact, one popular company spent $30 million a year and hired "crave consultants" to determine the bliss point for consumers so it could exploit our food cravings.

    Unlike that company, Jesus helps us to long for real food-spiritual food-that brings satisfaction to our souls. He said, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty" (John 6:35). By making this claim, He communicated two important things: First, the bread of which He spoke is a person, not a commodity (v.32). Second, when people put their trust in Jesus for forgiveness of sin, they enter into a right relationship with Him and find fulfillment for every craving of their soul. This bread is everlasting, spiritual food that leads to satisfaction and life.

    When we place our trust in Jesus, the true Bread from heaven, we'll crave Him, and He'll strengthen and transform our lives.

    Why do you think we crave things we know can never satisfy the deepest cravings of our souls?

    What are some practical practices that will help you crave Jesus more?

    Continue to feed yourselves with the Word of God, ask for forgiveness of your sins, and tell God you want Jesus to be your personal Lord and Savior and you never hunger or thirst again.

    1. Food from Heaven

      Exodus 16:4

      "The Lord said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you."'

      In August 2020, residents of Olten, Switzerland, were startled to find that it was snowing chocolate! A malfunction in the ventilation system of the local chocolate factory had caused chocolate particles to be diffused into the air. As a result, a dusting of edible chocolate flakes covered cars and streets and made the whole town smell like a candy store.

      When I think of delicious food "magically" falling from the heavens, I can't help but think of God's provision for the people of Israel in Exodus. Following their dramatic escape from Egypt, the people faced significant challenges in the desert, especially a scarcity of food and water. And God, moved by the plight of the people, promised to "rain down bread from heaven" (Exodus 16:4). The next morning, a layer of thin flakes appeared on the desert ground. This daily provision, known as manna, continued for the next forty years.

      When Jesus came to earth, people began to believe He was sent from God when He miraculously provided bread for a large crowd (John 6:5-14). But Jesus taught that He Himself was the "bread of life" (v. 35), sent to bring not just temporary nourishment but eternal life (v. 51).

      For those of us hungry for spiritual nourishment, Jesus extends the offer of unending life with God. May we believe and trust that He came to satisfy those deepest longings.

      When did you come to realize your need for Jesus?

      How have you experienced being spiritually satisfied?

      If you hunger for a change in your life, feed your soul with the Word of Jesus seek Him out because when you feed on what He is offering you will never be hungry again.

      1. Uncommon Courage

        Daniel 2:24

        "Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him."

        In 1478, Lorenzo de Medici, the ruler of Florence, Italy, escaped an attack on his life. His countrymen sparked a war when they tried to retaliate against the attack on their leader. As the situation worsened, the cruel King Ferrante I of Naples became Lorenzo's enemy, but a courageous act by Lorenzo changed everything. He visited the king unarmed and alone. This bravery, paired with his charm and brilliance, won Ferrante's admiration and ended the war.

        Daniel also helped a king experience a change of heart. No one in Babylon could describe or interpret King Nebuchadnezzar's troubling dream. This made him so angry that he decided to execute all his advisors-including Daniel and his friends. But Daniel asked to visit the king who wanted him dead (Daniel 2:24).

        Standing before Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel gave God all the credit for revealing the mystery of the dream (v.28). When the prophet described and deciphered it, Nebuchadnezzar honored the "God of gods and the Lord of kings" (v. 47). Daniel's uncommon courage, which was born of his faith in God, helped him, his friends, and the other advisors avoid death that day.

        In our lives, there are times when bravery and boldness are needed to communicate important messages. May God guide our words and give us the wisdom to know what to say and the ability to say it well.

        How has someone's bravery made a difference in your life?

        How can you rest in God's power to act courageously for Him?

        Remember, when you feel you can't go on with any endeavor whatever it may be, God will be right there with you giving you the courage to complete whatever task you need to complete.

        1. The Fierce Struggle

          Ephesians 6:12

          "Our struggle is... against the powers of this dark world."

          In 1886, an explorer named Carl Akeley found himself in a remote section of Ethiopia, chased by an eighty-pound leopard. He remembered the leopard pouncing, trying "to sink her teeth into my throat." She missed, snagging his right arm with her vicious jaws. The two rolled in the sand-a long, fierce struggle. Akeley weakened, and "it became a question of who would give up first." Summoning his last bit of strength, Akeley was able to suffocate the big cat with his bare hands.

          The apostle Paul explained how each of us who believe in Jesus will inevitably encounter our own fierce struggles, those places where we feel overwhelmed and are tempted to surrender. instead, we must take our "stand against the devil's schemes" and "stand firm" (Ephesians 6:11,14). Rather than cower in fear or crumble as we recognize our weakness and vulnerability, Paul challenged us to step forward in faith, remembering that we don't rely on our own courage and strength but on God. "Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power," he wrote (v. 10). In the challenges we face, He's only a prayer away (v. 18).

          Yes, we have many struggles, and we'll never escape them by our own power or ingenuity. But God is more powerful than any enemy or evil we'll ever face.

          What fight are you (or someone you love) facing right now?

          How is God inviting you to stand firm in His strength and fight?

          We, like Jesus need to stand firm with our beliefs and convictions. Don't cower when confronted with a non-believer. Stick to your guns and never give up.

          1. Monkeying With the Cosmos

            Colossians 1:17

            "He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together."

            In the early 1980s, a prominent astronomer who didn't believe in God wrote, "A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology." To this scientist's eye, the evidence showed that something had designed everything we observe in the cosmos. He added, "There are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature." In other words, everything we see looks as if it was planned by Someone. And yet, the astronomer remained an atheist.

            Three thousand years ago, another intelligent man looked at the skies and drew a different conclusion. "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" wondered David (Psalm 8:3-4).

            Yet God cares for us deeply. The universe tells the story of its Intelligent Designer, the "Super Intellect" who made our minds and put us here to ponder His work. Through Jesus and His creation, God can be known. Paul wrote, "[Christ] existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth" (Colossians 1:15-16).

            The cosmos has indeed been "monkeyed with." The identity of the Intelligent Designer is there to be discovered by anyone willing to seek.

            In what ways can you see God in every detail of your life?

            How might you humbly share your confidence in God with someone who doubts His existence?

            When you look at creation and see that everything on earth and in space have a purpose and position in creation. The only answer I have for you is it has to be God.

            1. The Gift of Repentance

              Joel 2:13

              "Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate."

              "No! I didn't do it!" My mom heard my brother's denial with a sinking heart, for my mom knew he wasn't telling the truth. Mom breathed a prayer asking God for help before asking my brother again what happened. He continued to deny he was lying, until finally my mom threw her hands up in exasperation. Saying she needed a time out; mom began to walk away when she felt a hand on her shoulder and heard his apology. He responded to the convicting of the Holy Spirit and repented.

              In the Old Testament book of Joel, God called His people to true repentance for their sins as He welcomed them to return to Him wholeheartedly (2:12). God didn't seek outward acts of remorse, but rather that they would soften their hard attitudes: "Rend your heart and not your garments." Joel reminded the Israelites that God is "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love" (v. 13).

              We might find confessing our wrongdoing difficult, for in our pride we don't want to admit our sins. Perhaps we've fudged the truth, and we justify our actions by saying it was only "a little white lie." But when we heed God's gentle yet firm prompting to repent, He'll forgive us and cleanse us from all our sins (1 John 1:9). We can be free of guilt and shame, knowing we're forgiven.

              How did you feel when you told a "little white lie?"

              How did the realization of what you did bring conviction and ultimately repentance?

              Once we agree and promise the Lord that we will follow Him, the first step is asking for forgiveness of or sins and repentance. These are free gifts that Jesus died for and earned for you with His sacrificial death. Ask for forgiveness of your sins and be free of your burden and let God do the rest.

              1. Finish Strong

                Acts 20:24

                "I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace."

                When I was in the Army, as I enter the final few minutes of our forty-minute workout, I can remember the Drill Instructor yell out, "Finish strong!"

                Everywhere I went, in my military career, every instructor I've known, uses the phrase a few minutes before cool down. They know that the end of the workout is just as important as showing up for it. And they know that the human body has a tendency to want to slow down or slack off when it's been in motion for a while.

                The same is true in our journey with Jesus. Paul told the elders of the church at Ephesus that he needed to finish strong as he headed to Jerusalem, where he was certain to face more persecution as an apostle of Christ (Acts 20:17-24). Paul, however, was undeterred. He had a mission and that was to finish the journey he'd begun and to do what God called him to do. He had one job-to tell "the good news of God's grace" (v. 24). And he wanted to finish strong. Even if hardship awaited him (v. 23), he continued to run towards his finish line-focused and determined to remain steadfast in his journey.

                Whether we're exercising our physical muscles or working out our God given abilities through actions, words, and deeds, we too can be encouraged by the reminder to finish strong. Don't "become weary" (Galatians 6:9). Don't give up. God will provide what you need to finish strong.

                What do you do when you get tired and feel like giving up?

                What's the benefit of finishing strong?

                If you have something, you need to do in your life and feel like giving up remember Jesus is right beside you cheering you on to finish the race and become a winner in Christ.

                1. Walking By a Blessing

                  Isaiah 48:18

                  "If only you had paid attention to my commands."

                  In 1799, twelve-year-old Conrad Reed found a large, glittering rock in the stream that ran through his family's small farm in North Carolina. He carried it home to show his father, a poor immigrant farmer. His father didn't understand the rock's potential value and used it as a doorstop. The family walked by it for years.

                  Eventually Conrad's rock-actually a seventeen-pound gold nugget-caught the eye of a local jeweler. Soon the Reed family became wealthy, and their property became the site of the first major gold strike in the United States.

                  Sometimes we walk past a blessing, intent on our own plans and ways. After Israel was exiled to Babylon for disobeying God, He proclaimed freedom for them once again. But He also reminded them of what they missed. "I am the Lord your God," He told them, "who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea." God then encouraged them to follow Him away from old ways into a new life: "Leave Babylon...! Announce this with shouts of joy" (Isaiah 48:17-18, 20).

                  Leaving Babylon, perhaps now as much as then, means leaving sinful ways and "coming home" to a God who longs to do us good-if only we'll obey and follow Him!

                  What aspect of God do you look forward to as you walk with Him today?

                  What can you do to gently lead others to His love?

                  We need to listen to God and obey His commands. He knows what is best for us. Obeying God's commands will lead you to the gold mind of salvation. If you don't listen you may just miss the mark.

                  1. Always Worth Sharing

                    2 Corinthians 2:14

                    "Thanks be to God, who always... uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere."

                    After I became a believer in Jesus, I shared the Gospel with my uncle. Instead of making a decision to trust Jesus, as I expected, he stopped speaking to me for a year. His bad experiences with people who claimed to follow Jesus made him distrust believers in Christ. I prayed for him and reached out to him weekly. The Holy Spirit comforted me and continued working on my heart as my uncle gave me the silent treatment. When he finally answered my phone call, I committed to loving him and sharing God's truth with him whenever I had the opportunity. Months after reconciliation, he said I'd changed. Almost a year later, he received Jesus as his Savior, and, as a result, our relationship deepened.

                    Believers in Jesus have access to the greatest gift given to humanity-Christ. The apostle Paul says we're to "spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere" (2 Corinthians 2:14). He refers to those who share the gospel as "the pleasing aroma of Christ" to those who believe, but acknowledges we reek of death to those who reject Jesus (vv. 15-16).

                    After we receive Christ as our Savior, we have the privilege of using our limited time on earth to spread His life-changing truth while loving others. Even during our hardest and loneliest moments, we can trust He'll provide what we need. No matter what the personal cost, God's good news is always worth sharing.

                    How has God encouraged you to not give up after you shared the gospel with someone who reacted in a negative way?

                    How did God bring you close to someone after you both connected as believers in Jesus?

                    When someone rejects the gospel do not give up hope. Keep praying and try to touch base with that person even if they don't respond. Remember God will win in the end. His will, will be done!