Monthly Archives: October 2012

Rejecting God’s Will

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  II Corinthians 4:18

How do I know I’m acting in the will of my Father in heaven?  How do I know if my next decision is one that reflects, not rejects, the will of God in my life?  Hmmm, certainly makes me wonder!  And many more, both before and with me, have posed this same question to friends, family and the Father!  It’s a big question, surrounding the purpose of a big God that has big plans for me!  It is heavy knowing that I could, with one misguided step, alter the course of His will for me.

Really?  My steps, my disobedience, my selfishness, my conceited arrogance could be the thing that changes the course of His will in my life — for my life?  Living in the fear of that law can only produce unripened fruit.  My attempts to stay within the guardrails of life would only suggest I will get considerably dented, disfigured and damaged due to the nature of my humanity.  So do I stop trying?  Do I sit back and put it all on auto-pilot and “coast” into the pearly gates in need of a severe “tune-up” before slipping into heaven?  That one is difficult to swallow!  But I don’t think so.

Instead of asking myself questions concerning my placement in God’s will for tomorrow, next month, next year — regarding life altering decisions to move, marry or become a missionary, I should rather ask the questions about today!  Is my life TODAY reflecting the will of the Father?  Is what I’m doing TODAY in His plan for me TODAY?

See, tomorrow may never come and often times looking into the future for answers results in scenarios only our finite, “only what’s possible and logical” minds can imagine.  In relying upon that measure of impossibility limits the work of the Master’s Hand in the orchestration of what isn’t possible in our own eyes, minds and hearts and allows for the Spirit to move freely within and through us to make the impossible possible.  Let me speak into the outcome of my future and I only find answers in what appears — what is seen. Give the evil one a sliver of opportunity and he will only offer suggestions and planting seeds of doubt, gloom and destruction laced in the poison of what appears to be right.  But God works through the faith of those who trust in that which is unseen — He can pull off the impossible in a heartbeat.  He’s in the Truth business!  So, I pray into my future in faith of His will, trusting the fruit of my obedience today finds me too, in His will.

Lord, I want to trust in you for my today and my tomorrow. But the tomorrow I see has so many things that seem impossible.  Give me the wisdom to discern your Truth – Victory in Jesus, from the lies of the evil one – Victory in me.  Only YOU can make my tomorrow!  So, I focus on my today in YOUR will – my filter in all things today is through YOU!  I know that tomorrow has enough trouble of it’s own!  But even so, you are faithful!

“But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.”  Galatians 5:5

by:  Mark Cruver

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Glorious Ruin

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and teh Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  Job 1:21

Glorious RuinSuffering is imminent.  Pain exists.  Grief is around the corner — it’s just a matter of time.  I have experienced very little loss in my life.  Grief and pain rallied themselves around me at the loss of a pet or the slam of a hammer on my thumb.  True pain, the kind that comes from loss — utter grief, the kind that comes from death, has now circled my wagon and pitched a tent.  I can’t explain the immensity, the emotion, the sense of hopelessness, the depth of loss.

But in it, in the middle of the worst of life there is glory to be found.  This glory is only there because of one thing — the cross!  My crisis is a glorious ruin!  The pain is real, the grief is real, so too is the cross!  The author, Tullian Tchividjian says, “Indeed our efforts to contain, move past, or silence it, that ol’ rugged cross stands tall, resolutely announcing that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ . . . Instead of diminishing our pain, then, these words proclaim the corresponding and overwhelming gratuity of our Redeemer.”

This book will not change your crisis, but it will change how you walk through your crisis!  It will set you free!

Learn more about the author and the book here!

by:  Mark Cruver

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Equating Silence With Separation

“Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”  Matthew 11:3

Ordinarily, the sound of crickets is pleasant, peaceful and tranquil.  However, when all I hear in response to calling on God for help, healing or comfort is the sound of lonely crickets, I wonder of the distance I am from God Himself.  The mere nature of my circumstances and the apparent silence from the cries of my heart suggest God has taken a leave of absence or at least a lack of interest in my life.  Sound familiar?

I’d almost suspect that John the Baptist had some of those same thoughts while in prison under the watch of Herod.  Knowing the nature of his purpose driven life to preclude the coming Messiah and knowing too that this Messiah was in fact his cousin Jesus, his world turned to a more contemplative one at best, questioning the very truth of who Christ was while he sat in Herod’s dungeon.  Why would John do this?  After all, he knew from the womb from which he came that Christ, the Son of God was near him.  Yet, separated now by freedom and facts, John was faced with his faith.

God is not always about a triumphant rescue.  Christ knew who John was and grieved in knowing of his circumstances.  But while John’s (our) scope of understanding was (is) limited, God established the unexplainable ability to bring Him glory through his (our) circumstances when they appear either good or bad.  For me, this happens when my eyes come off of me and my circumstances and centrally focus on the cross and His sacrifice.  It’s not about me — it’s about Him!

This is not to say that God is not interested in my circumstances because indeed He is — more so than I truly know.  He is more interested, however, in my heart!  And when it comes to my circumstances, He’ll walk with me through them.

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

by:  Mark Cruver

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Le’go Of My Ego

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”  Proverbs 11:2

Letting go is so difficult to do.  Whether it be my favorite sweater, prized possession, loved one or my ego, letting it go takes an act of obedience and will at times beyond what we are able.  For me, the toughest has been my ego — my pride.  Recognizing the thickness my cloak of pride possessed simply bewildered and amazed me.  I wondered over and over how it was I could get to a point in my life where it became so significant to the relationships around me that I was unable to notice the brazenness of my arrogance.  How masterfully cunning the evil one had become.  But how intentionally blind I had allowed my own heart to grow in becoming numb to the Spirit.

Control of my life, my decisions, my journey — control is the key.  My pride says that I must be in control of all things, but God has made it clear that I am nothing without Him.  He wants full control of my heart and my life.  A complete surrender of all things.  Truly a white flag moment!

So, the only one hanging onto my ego, the only one palming my pride – is me!  Let go!  Let go and let Him!  He will . . . (fill in the blank).  He always has, always will — He’s the same yesterday, today and tomorrow!

Lord Jesus, I’m so glad you are in control of my life.  Surrendering daily to you in obedience is an act of faith — both because of who you are and who I am in you!  Teach me to recognize the heavy burden of pride I tend to place on my shoulders, that falsely makes me feel better about myself — teach me to live in the humility of your grace and trust in the power of your resurrection.  My value, my worth comes from you — the Author, Finisher and Controller of my life!

“A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.”  Proverbs 29:23

by:  Mark Cruver

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Manual or Automatic?

” . . . so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”  I Peter 3:7b

Everyday on the way to school my boys race to point out the shiniest, fastest, turbo-charged car on the road. They point, come out of their seats and drool over the “coolness” of these wheels.  If one of these spectacular sites happen to make their way next to us at a stop light then there’s no stopping the irresistible starring and obvious endless comments about the car next to us.  So much so that it, without fail, will draw the attention of the driver and invoke a revving of the engine and challenge to duel.  Problem is, dad’s in a Prius.  Ever try to rev an electric motor?  Impressive!  Thanks guys!

All this talk about cars has prompted a few questions from my boys about what car might be acceptable to drive when that glorious day arrives.  Of course, I’ve pointed out as many rust-buckets as possible in an attempt to divert their attention away from those hot-rods.  At one point, my eldest asked if a particular car would be suitable and I noticed it had a manual transmission.  I went on to explain that a manual transmission means you’ve got to do the work to make that car move.  Your hands and feet have to work together and every one of them performs a different job at the same time to pull it off.  It’s an art, but once mastered, can be your friend!  It’s nice to feel that power in your hands and feet!  Many more of us, however, enjoy the peace and assurance of the automatic transmission.  It just works!

I think I’ve thought similarly towards my pride.  Thinking that although I see that it’s there, large or small, that it will dissipate with time or have little consequence and light enough to be easily moved when necessary.  But I’ve come to learn — the hard way — that my pride is not something that moves on it’s own.  In fact, it sticks around, sets up camp and makes itself right at home — regardless if it’s welcomed or not.  It’s so much easier to deal with it than convince it to leave.  But soon, and it doesn’t take very long, it consumes me and among many things, occupies the room reserved for the Spirit who lives inside me.  Pride becomes my personal squatter!

Here’s my point . . . pride is something that must be moved out of the way so as to make room for the Spirit to work inside and through me.  It just gets in the way of the work He has in store for me — and others!  Paul Miller in his book A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World states that “the point of prayer is shifting control from you to God.”  The act of “shifting” happens manually — not automatically.  It is imperative that I make the efforts to “put off” my pride which is found in my old self and humble myself before the Lord and others “in true righteousness and holiness.”  By not making room for the Holy Spirit inside me grieves Him (Eph. 4:30).

Lord, may I always make room for you in my life.  My pride means I am in control.  My desire is to shift control over to you all the time.  Teach me what it means to actively choose to make room for you by dismantling my pride so that you can move in me — and others!

“You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.  Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  Ephesians 4:20-24

by:  Mark Cruver

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Pride and Prayer

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want . . .”  Psalm 23:1

Pride has a huge component that involves control.  If I must give up control, I’ve got to lay down my pride to do so.  The illusion in life is that we are in control of anything — when in fact, we have little control.  And when faced with a moment of surrender, our pride fluffs it’s feathers.

I remember an area in my own life where this was rather evident.  But like in most circumstances when pride is flexing muscles, we rarely notice it until after the fact.  Driving the family around was always a test of my pride.  It was rooted in the need to be in control of the vehicle — laced with a lack of trust and dependence, I all but demanded to be behind the wheel.  I felt too out of control if I were to sit in the passenger seat while my very capable, precious and lovely wife was in the captain’s chair.  It made me uncomfortable, unsettled, uneasy, restless, on edge and I would make noises to indicate my feeling in danger.  How absolutely absurd is that?  Exactly — it was my pride getting in the way of my prayer!

All too often we negate the role of the Shepherd in our daily journey with Him.  The role of the Shepherd is one that exemplifies a measure of love for me that when truly understood and believed gives me worth and dignity.  It means I have great value!  Value is obtained through worth and recognizing that through the Son I surrender.  It’s an act of obedient surrender, bowing before my Lord in ushering Him into my life, my decisions, my questions, my uncertainty, my crisis!  It’s an act of stepping out of the driver’s seat, allowing Him to sit on His throne and take me places I’ve never dreamed of going — trusting faithfully in the Shepherd!

So, what keeps me from bowing before my Lord?  My pride!  It’s the big bully in the room every time.  It’s the thing that keeps me from speaking to God when I’m driving alone in my car, it’s the thing that keeps me from considering others better than myself, it’s the thing that keeps me from praying!  Pride has no place.

My God has created me to fellowship with Him — both in joy and sorrow, both in victory and suffering.  I must cast off my pride and fall to my knees in prayer.  I have no control — I give Him full control!

Lord Jesus, it is you that has me in your palm.  Extend to me your wisdom in knowing that through faith, I am capable of many things, but in control of nothing.  Remind me of the power in prayer and the prison of pride.

“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”  Psalm 23:3

by:  Mark Cruver

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Humility . . . Need I Say More?

“Do nothing out of vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:3-4

In the face of crisis and especially personal conflict, I find it all too easy to slip into a posture of greatness over others.  It flies in the face of my pride to humble myself when the light’s on me.  I want to win!  But it’s not really a race now is it?  Matthew tells us that “many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

God had something very unique in store for all of us to learn on humility.  I find in moments of crisis and conflict the elements required to ignite the flame of defense and arrogance.  It is easily sparked into a firestorm of pride that rips open the hearts of relationships and stomps out the substance and belief that in the humility of Christ, we find strength!

So, what does it look like then to shed the pride, grow in humility and still come out a winner?  Well, it starts with knowing who I am in Christ and what He thinks of me — not what others think of me or what I think of me.  My pride takes the focus from being on Him and places it directly upon me.  So long as I’m looking to me to solve my crisis or conflict, responding through the lens of what I would do, then the crisis or conflict thickens.  Every time I bring only myself to a conflict or crisis, I mess things up.  It’s not until I surrender my pride to the power and strength of the Holy Spirit that lives inside me that I am able to stand in the midst of monumental crisis, astronomical conflict and humble myself in Christ, respond through Christ, lift high the Banner of Love and become one of the “least of these.”

God never intended for me to lose my backbone, to not stand for what is right.  Instead He reminds us to “fight the good fight,” “win the prize,” “press on,” “consider it all joy when we face trials.”  I have often associated considering others better than myself a sign of immense weakness as a man.  After all, isn’t it important to drive the nicest car, have the coolest job, have the perfect marriage, have the best kids, wear the best clothes and eat all the most nutritional food?  Aren’t these things badges of self-worth and pride?  They certainly can be.  But strip them all away and what is left?

In Christ, everything!

Lord Jesus, remind me that in You alone I find my worth and can indeed shed my pride!  That though I feel like the least, in you I am the most!  You ARE my everything!

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but give grace to the humble.’  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s might hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”  I Peter 5:5-6

by:  Mark Cruver

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Responding in Love

“. . . but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.”  I Corinthians 13:1

Responding in love has got to be one of the most difficult things to do consistently in relationships.  It’s a challenge, at best, to keep the heart and mouth in tune with what the mind knows about responding in love.  Paul says that our voices sound like the reverberating gong if our words are not flowing from a heart and life of love.  That’s irritating!

It goes back to John 15:5 really.  Where Jesus states that He is the vine and we are the branches.  Without the vine the branches have no life.  The branches are part of the vine — the vine flows through them!  Taking that analogy a step further one can visualize the relationship between Christ who lives in and through us and what we look like apart from Him.  So, if He is flowing through us, a fruit of that relationship would be the love we respond in.  Wow!  A true fruit of the Spirit!

But what gets in the way of that love from flowing from within when faced with oppositional moments in my life?  It’s my pride!  Pride acts as a clamp, cutting off the flow of love in and through any relationship.

I’m learning that pride is bigger than I have ever given it credit.  Larger than life itself, pride has become the thing in me I’m facing more and more each day.  It’s the difference between my agenda and God’s agenda.  It’s the difference between what I want and what others want.  It’s the difference between what I think I should do and what God wants me to do.  It’s the difference between the why I do things and the how I do things.

Pride = Self-Motive(Agenda+Arrogance)

whereas

Love = God-Motive(Sacrifice+Submission)

. . . . things that make you go, hmmmmm!

God, I want to respond in Your love — every time!!!  I want to start every conversation with Your intent, Your motive in mind — to the core of my heart!  I want to sacrifice whatever it is I want for what You want.  I want to submit to Your agenda, Your plan for the greater good in others — not myself!  Relationships are not about me — ever!  My pride gets in the way of that so often.  Continue to refine my heart, my mind and those things I choose to do each day — remind me of Your grace, Your mercy and Your LOVE!

“It always protects, always trusts, always hope, always perseveres!”  I Corinthians 13:7

by:  Mark Cruver

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Remember When?

“Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”  Psalm 42:6

When life comes to a point of feeling barren and dry, without hope or purpose . . . what then?  It’s easy to settle into a pit of despair and encounter the anvil of blame and self-condemnation.  Satan piles it on when our minds begin to entertain such thoughts.  No different than when he visited Eve in the garden or stood beside Jesus at the edge of the cliff, he throws a bone that looks to be covered in Grade A meat, when in fact it’s hollow, dry and splintered.

David experienced a number of moments in his life when despair seemed to be the theme.  But, without a doubt, it is apparent David was able to somehow pierce the darkness of his unfortunate circumstances and rise above them.  The key?  Well, David remembered!  He remembered the moments in his life when God delivered, embraced and sustained him.  (Psalm 63)

So often in life, in a day when multiple things go right, I only remember the one thing that went wrong.  How unfortunate that my mind cannot remember when.  I fail to reflect on the moment when God answered my prayer, when God provided a meal, when God pardoned me, when God got my attention, when God spoke through me, when God whispered, when God moved a mountain, when God gave me strength, when God held me . . . when God . . .

David reflects on moments when he saw him in the sanctuary (v. 2) and with his lips, praises Him!  He remembers Him when he sat on his bed (v. 6) and with his voice, praises Him!  He knows His right hand upholds him (v. 8) and with his lips, all will praise Him!

May I simply remember when God was there . . . yesterday . . . today . . . and forever!

“What the Lord expects from us at such seasons is not to abandon ourselves to unreasoning sorrow, but trustingly to look sorrow in the face, to scan its features, to search for the help and hope, which, as surely as God is our Father, must be there. In such trials there can be no comfort for us so long as we stand outside weeping. If only we will take the courage to fix our gaze deliberately upon the stern countenance of grief, and enter unafraid into the darkest recesses of our trouble, we shall find the terror gone, because the Lord has been there before us, and, coming out again, has left the place transfigured, making of it by the grace of his resurrection a house of life, the very gate of heaven.”
– Geerhardus Vos

by:  Mark Cruver

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Faith Fueled By Belief

“One thing I do know.  I was blind but now I see!”  John 9:25

Faith can be a hard sell at times.  Buying into the belief in something without evidence of support is justifiably impossible to the mind.  Yet, beyond understanding, we believe in all sorts of things.  We need no basis or proof of it’s value or existence.

There are many things I believe in and have faith will happen.  These things warrant my faith because I’ve come to rely upon their consistency.  Their loyal nature of repetition has allowed me to forget about whether or not they’ll deliver and I’ve turned it into more of an expectation.  For instance, the sun has never failed me.  Every day since my birth, and countless stories have been told of it behaving the same before my time, the sun has risen in the east and set in the west.  Another is my car . . . it just turned over 80,000 miles this week.  Yet, despite it’s wear I’m confident it will start this afternoon when I get back into it.  Why?  It’s proven to me time and time again it will.

But it’s not with these examples or many others like them that I find my belief exercised.  Why?  Well, mainly because with these particular events I have never seen them occur.  I’ve only read about them — granted, I’ve heard their stories over and over again, but still I must ask myself, “to what degree do I actually believe these took place?”  I would argue, many Christ followers today wrestle with this same question.  Allow me to present a couple of the more popular.

Perhaps top on my list is the moment when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood in the center of the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:1-30).  With the flames ordered by the king to be heated seven times their normal temperature even the kings soldiers were killed as they were throwing the three in the furnace.  Now . . . why is this difficult for me?  Here’s why . . . I’ve stood near a bonfire before — can’t really get that close to it.  What my mind knows about flames says that it is impossible for man to live to talk the next day about what it’s like inside a massive flame.

Second on my list would be the division of the Red Sea as Moses led his people closer to the Promised Land  (Exodus 14).  Really?  Water always takes the path of least resistance.  Next time you have a bowl of water you try separating it into two halves so the bottom of the bowl between it remains dry.  Good luck with that!  The laws of water says that is impossible!

This may raise a question regarding my own faith in Christ, since in many similar ways there are miracles and moments of equal disbelief.  But here is my point . . . it’s not that I don’t believe them, it’s that I do!  It’s that belief that fuels my faith in the One who came to save me, deliver me from sin and restore me to my rightful place, seated by His side, at his throne . . . TODAY!

It’s through the belief in those extraordinary moments of life, witnessed not by my own eyes but believed through the consistency of the pure and holy nature of the One who lives in me that drives my faith further toward the cross!

So, I make my faith personal — watching, tasting and living in the arms of my Savior every day.  I believe because I know — in both the things I can see and those I will never see.  I believe because I know He is real and I have SEEN Him every day.

Lord Jesus, remind me of the simple truths of Your character!  Remind me of your faithfulness that is evermore present in the small things because you have proven your faithfulness in the big things.  I want to trust you in all things, I want my faith to be strengthened in believing your words, your promises, knowing full well You are the “same, yesterday, today and forever!”

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the quiet waters, he restores my soul.”  Psalm 23:3

by:  Mark Cruver

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