Monthly Archives: April 2013

Are We There Yet?

It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.  Deuteronomy 1:2

Every parent can relate to that ride from home to somewhere that received the inevitable, “Are we there yet?” from the backseat.  Maybe one time would have been acceptable, but for some reason, this question echoes for hours until arrival.  Words that come to mind are patience, patience, patience.  But, because it compares greatly with running your nails across a chalkboard, the likely response is something like this . . . “We’ll get there when we get there!”

I can’t imagine how much of this Moses had to endure!  Forty years of wandering in the wilderness in pursuit of the Promised Land with millions of Israelites.  It was a journey that could have only taken eleven days.  Getting to the Promised Land took more than you or I would perhaps ever truly understand.  But one thing is for certain, it required  a focus, a direction, a compass that pointed and motivated them contrary to their circumstances.  It took a level of faith unlike anything they had ever encountered.  More importantly, it required of them a fix on God . . . and as their minds were no longer experiencing the faith of deliverance into the Promised Land they continued to wander.

Life can often find us circling this same mountain — especially in the midst of crisis, pain or hurt.  Healing and deliverance is desired quickly and all attempts are taken to make it so. But God’s time is so different.  He sees, answers and moves in ways so contrary to our understanding that we find ourselves buckled in the backseat asking over and over again . . . “Are we there yet?”  And from the front we don’t hear . . . “We’ll get there when we get there!”  Instead, we hear Daddy say, “No, we’re not quite there yet, but I can’t wait to show you what I have prepared for you!”

I just know in five minutes I’m gonna ask Him again!

Lord Jesus, I know I’m not there yet — but I can’t help but ask you over and over.  In the midst of my life I know I need to keep fixed upon you with my eyes, heart and mind on you at all times.  Maybe one day, I’ll stop asking if we’re there yet.  🙂  But for now, my faith is strengthened in knowing you are in control and that I’m resting in the knowledge of your sovereignty.  You never cease to be there all the time!

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.   Colossians 3:1-2

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Press On Through The Gospel

I meet today at the front gates of the Gospel.  And as I enter, I pray . . .

This is a recent blog post from a pastor in Nashville, TN — Scotty Smith.  It can also be found at this link: 
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith/2013/04/25/a-prayer-for-examining-our-lives-through-the-lens-of-the-gospel/

A Prayer for Examining Our Lives through the Lens of the Gospel

     I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. (Phil. 3:12-15) For, to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21)

Dear Lord Jesus, praying through this passage moves me to praise you for freeing me from the “paralysis of analysis”—an unhealthy, navel-gazing preoccupation with me. Now, as I examine my life through the lens of the gospel, it’s your glory, not mine, that I’m most concerned about. I matter, but I’m simply not the point. It’s so refreshing to really believe that.

I don’t know how old Paul was when he was when he wrote these words—maybe in his sixties or seventies—but it’s obvious that with an increase in age came an increase in gospel astonishment. He never grew bored exploring the unsearchable riches of Jesus, and he never seemed to tire of wrestling with the kingdom implications of the gospel.

Jesus, make me more and more that kind of man. Give me this kind of maturity in the gospel. I’m thankful that it’s your grasp of me and not my grasp of you that defines this way of life. Sometimes I lift my hands in awe and gratitude for the way you love me. Sometimes I shake my fists at heaven like a pouting, demanding child. Sometimes I wring my hands in anxious unbelief, like a hapless orphan. But I live and I will die secure in your palms and written upon your heart.

I praise you that as with Paul, you’ve given me a prize to win, not a wage to earn. I never earned my way into a relationship with you, and I don’t maintain a relationship with you by my efforts either. I am secure and beloved, all because of your doing.

What do I want for the rest of my days? I cannot say it any better than Paul, Lord: I want to know you, Lord Jesus, more intimately than ever. This is the one thing I want more than anything else. And I want to experience more of the power of your resurrection, for I have no power in myself to love others as you love me. And  I want to enter more fully into the fellowship of sharing in your sufferings—living out the birth pangs of new-creation life in this broken world which groans for its release from the bondage to decay—a release that is sure to come (Rom. 8:18-25). Our labors in you are not in vain, Jesus (Phil. 3:10-11).

This is what I really want. Help me to have way done with lesser things, and be much more taken up with your beauty and kingdom will. So very Amen I pray, in your most glorious and grace-full name.

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Where All Things Spring

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.   Proverbs 4:23

This verse suggests the heart is the origination point for life.  Not the breathing, “heart-beating,” check my pulse kind of life, in fact, much more than that.  Many, like me, have always determined that the essence of who I am as a human being originates in my mind.  What do I think about?  What do I spend time considering?  After all, we’ve all heard the phrase . . . garbage in-garbage out!

But what if . . . what if it’s not in the mind at all?  What if the words I speak, the thoughts I hold captive, the places my feet and hands take me are all a result not of my mind through decision but instead out of my heart?

Solomon was clearly onto something when he remarked on the power and nature of the heart.  It’s roots into the life we live is not only deep, but sustaining.  Tapping into this understanding and recognizing the activity of our heart assures us of the freedom of Christ to flow through all we do.

But what happens when belief drives behavior, not from how we think, but instead because it’s rooted in our heart?  Ouch!  Can that change? Can the heart heal?  The answer is an absolute, YES!  Guarding the heart from belief and behavior, good or bad, is critical from keeping our life from a spiritual intensive care.

The heart is a complex spiritual muscle.  It requires a constant check — a guard.

Lord Jesus, the heart and mind are strangely difficult to decipher.  Jeremiah even questioned who could possibly understand it.  While from the heart I realize springs life, it is true too, that it is the root from which all things in me find life.  I know when rooted in you, life flows freely!

He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord.  II Chronicles 12:14

© 2012-2013 Mark Cruver. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder.

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Toxic Heart

Resentment kills a fool, and envy stays the simple.  I myself have seen a fool taking root, but suddenly his house was cursed. . . . But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him.  He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.   Job 5:2-3,8-9

I’m finding that I am holding resentment in my heart.  There have been at least 4 different occasions  in the last week that I have heard the topic spoken in my presence by someone.  When this sort of thing happens, I know God is trying to tell me something so I begin to really examine my heart.  In most cases like this, I stumble to find the clues, but this one might as well be like a zit on the tip of my nose.

I know this is about me and God.

Resentment is a poison that courses through the veins of the soul and eat away at the heart.  It will, single handed, destroy whatever remains in relationships.  When resentment hits home and is identified, the healing begins.  And, the nectar of resentment tastes oddly sweet, but breeds bitterness and hate.  Love is the antidote!

Far from affection, love translates into seeing and living your true identity found in Christ alone.  It is critical to live your identity toward those whom you find resentment and in that love be set free!

Lord Jesus, thank you for being persistent with me this past week and showing me what my heart looks like right now.  It’s clearly time for some spiritual spring cleaning!  Show me today what love requires of me!  Thank you more so for the power in the wonders you perform and the many miracles you display!

© 2012-2013 Mark Cruver. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder.

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Pain Suggests God’s Absence

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Matthew 27:46

Pain is a real thing.

While pain itself may not exclaim His absence, the lack of deliverance from the pain often does.  Have you ever spent time in desperate prayer asking for the pain to go away?  And when you realize the pain still exists, do you not wonder where God has gone or if He’s really listening?  Have you ever endured the pain of consequences only to experience little relief from prayer?  Have you ever experienced the pain of losing something or someone most dear and still, years later, continue to experience that pain?  In the midst of continual pain, have you ever cried out in righteous anger from the hurt to tell God how much He can’t possibly know the depths of your pain?

Pain is a real thing.

It sounds a bit cliche but God knows – with full understanding – the depths of pain.  He understands loss, He understands betrayal, He gets the pain of standing firm in the midst of temptation, He understands losing a best-friend, He relates with the unpopular — He knows how it feels to doubt God in the midst of pain!

But doubt isn’t the loss of faith!  Faith comes through knowing that which is unseen and Christ knew all unseen!  The doubt of His Father’s presence on the cross drew Him closer to the Father in faith of the Truth of His promises!

Yes, pain is a real thing and God is not absent in our pain!  He is ever-so present in fact!  Remember, He is our great Comforter, Healer and Friend!  Not a moment goes by, painless or painful, that God is not wrapped around us as a cloak of glory!

. . . because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’  So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?’   Hebrews 13:5-6

© 2012-2013 Mark Cruver. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder.

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Refuse the Refuse

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.  Isaiah 26:3-4

I recall a moment a number of years ago when I hopped on my riding lawnmower to mow the old retention pond behind our house.  Although it was dry from the summer drought, it was knee high with grass.  Going in long circles on the outside of the bowl, the first two runs were admittedly a little spooky.  Bugs flying in all directions, grass slapping my arms and legs on both sides — it’s creepy!  This time it proved to be even worse.  On my second go around I noticed something moving amid the grass in the center of the pond area.  As I passed by, a 4-5 foot black snake raised it’s head above the waist high grass to grab a better glimpse of what was disturbing his field–ME!  Chilling!  I thought sure by the time I got back around it would have crossed my mowed path and vanish into the woods on the other side of the levy.  As I approached, that was further from the truth.  There he sat in the middle of the path — right in my way!  It was like he was saying, “I don’t think so mister!”  My arsenal was pretty lethal with a 48 inch spread of spinning blades, but it would require a direct hit and from all I had observed, his reach was serious.  Honestly, I knew the mower was fast, but quite frankly it would never be fast enough when it comes to snakes.  So we sat there, like it was some sort of dual at high noon some fifty feet apart.  I inched forward thinking he’d get the idea and move on.  But his idea was far more effective!  He began to slide his way directly toward me.  I immediately stopped the mower, I think I said something I shouldn’t, slammed it in reverse and floored it.  Riding backwards, but looking forwards, this snake was persistent!  I never knew the mower would go that fast in reverse!

I feel like this some days.  I turn the corner and there sits the evil one bombarding me with a plague of thoughts of “what ifs” that are relentless . . . persistent.  And in those moments, I must refuse the refuse he serves and stay my mind on the Lord.  Reminding him of his garbage reminds me of my inheritance!  Don’t let the trash pile up!

Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

© 2012-2013 Mark Cruver. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder.

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Conforming Isn’t Pretty

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.   Romans 8:29-30

Ever feel like your needs are minimized?  For me, the one thing that is real beyond doubt is my pain, my hurt, my grief — they are important to me because they are real.  And they are important to me because they are even more important to God.  He never minimizes the degree of my stress, or hurt to justify my circumstances, nor does he compare my needs with those of someone else — He has met me in the midst of wherever I find myself, in my hurt, in my confusion, in my pain.  But I wonder too, are my needs a far stretch for God’s grace to reach?  Oh, absolutely — His grace covers — His grace is more than enough for me.

But the trouble comes when the abundance of His grace meets my idea of my needs.  This creates a rather interesting dialogue.  So I pray to God to release me from this pain.  He replies . . . “Mark, it may not seem good to you and I know it hurts, but this pain is creating in you a new compassion.”  I then pray that God would change my circumstances.  He replies . . . “Mark, you are indeed in quite a pinch, but remember who is still on the Throne, trust me, I know the plans I have for you!”  So then I ask why it is I feel so condemned by others to which He replies . . . “Mark, man condemns, but I have set you free!  Remember, I chose you, I pursued you, I ransomed you and my glory fills you every day!”

Lord Jesus, I realize you are at work within me.  You are working diligently to conform me further to your image and it isn’t very pretty!  I don’t always understand your ways, but I trust them!  Your ways stretch beyond my sight.  Thank you for sharing with me the end of this story . . . to be like you!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

© 2012-2013 Mark Cruver. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder.

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I Believe I Know

My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.  But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.  Psalm 131:1-2

What a most perfect place to be . . . the stillness of my soul in the bosom of God — Author and Finisher — Grace and Truth.  It is the essence of peace and contentment, where nothing can substitute satisfied longings and needs of the soul.  But then again, if only I believed enough to trust in depth the truth of His grace on me.  How this must sadden His heart.

Yeah, we’ve all seen it a time or two.  The little child who finished his last Cheerio and wants more!  The puppy that hasn’t quite had enough belly rubbing!  Or, the teenager who got a car for his birthday, but it wasn’t the one he wanted.  We can be so needy can’t we?  Never satisfied . . . never content.  Yet, Christ has called us to “rest” in Him.

There are so many things I think I need, things I must do now or changes I need to make in order for other things to happen.  Are they really that urgent?  I believe I know exactly what I need and I forget to ask, look or consider that you are actually still very much in control of my life and all that it entails.  The outcome of all I do is prescribed through you!  You are still, very much, on the throne and you love me and want only the best for me.  Why must I consider to put me first?

Lord Jesus, I long in my heart every moment of drawing closer to resting in your Spirit and living in content of all you give.  I want nothing more than to no longer beg in my heart or whimper from my spirit for those things I believe I know I need.  Instead, I choose to trust in you in all things for you are good!

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8

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Walking in the Word

My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4:20-23

I can name any number of people in my life whom I think needs healing — something needs fixed! How ’bout you? In fact, it’s super simple to come up with such a list and forget (or disregard) the very thing God is most interested in healing . . . me! Sure, He shares that same love with those I think about too, but it’s my heart He is after (and theirs) and I must answer to Him and Him alone.

Walking in the Word of God requires little of your feet and every bit of your mind. The power of the mind is life changing! How it is given reign dictates a very specific path and ultimate end . . . it leads to either death or life. What it is we choose to dwell upon, what we choose to think about or meditate upon drives where we walk.

How many trips have you ever taken? No, I mean vacations, adventures, discoveries? How many have you ever taken and never left the couch or your favorite chair or front porch swing? How is this possible? How can we walk on the sands of Cancun or trek the Aspen forests of Colorado or swim with a whale or enjoy that slice of double layered triple-chocolate miracle cake . . . with vanilla ice cream and never spend a dollar or leave the comfort of our own homes? Because we think it! The power of our mind is strong and the ability it has is remarkable.

Romans 8:6 says, “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace …” This holds true regardless of our circumstances — not just in or about sin. In crisis, in pain and grief, in the midst of life’s most challenging moments, walking in the Word — with the mind controlled by the Spirit brings life and peace to the swirling chaos and confusion. It is the key to “health to a man’s whole body.”

So, what keeps us from putting on the mind of Christ? What keeps us from thinking with the mind of the Spirit? Well, it’s a matter of choice often led by the evil one through a deceptive measure. Making us think that whatever is in our mind is good when it is destructive takes our eyes off the Spirit’s thoughts and onto our own. It’s then no longer about the Spirit who lives in me that is most important . . . it’s that what I think is most important.

By keeping watch of my thoughts through walking in the Word I begin to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ Jesus!

Lord Jesus, my mind is a tool. Sharpen each edge by the refining of my heart with the stone of your Word. Strengthen in me my mind to meditate on you both day and night. Continue to show me ways of your Truth so that I may trust you in all things. Thank you Lord for your Spirit, for you grace and for being Truth!

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Getting Wronged By Rights

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'”   Luke 15:31-32

Pride is a wonderful thing, don’t you think?  Not the kind of pride that comes through accomplishments or belief in another, but the kind that is filled with self-righteous arrogance and the lack of understanding who God is and the fact that you’re not Him.  No, not so wonderful . . . it inflates the flesh!

Do you think Adam or Eve dealt with pride?  We don’t read much in the way of life after the fall but for little snippets that shed a little light upon the groans of a broken world.   I would suspect that there was some pride during the time when Adam and Eve were banished from the garden.  The emotions, the attitudes, the lack of fellowship with God had to have been filled with moments of absolute grief and loss.  The only place they had ever known was the Garden of Eden and despite all that was made for their pleasure, none was truly theirs anymore.  Suddenly, the first family was without the amenities of sin-free existence.

I can only imagine a few conversations about how they couldn’t be treated like this . . . or how they shouldn’t be treated like this.  How too, I suspect, they both questioned why they were designed, created and given life.  After all, the serpent convinced them that they knew better than God — that their plan far outweighed God’s plan.  They were wronged by rights.

The sense of entitlement that both Adam and Eve likely felt is not unlike the rights we feel we have when something we think belongs to us is taken away.  Much like Adam and Eve, when we take our eyes off the Designer and focus on the measure of me and what I am going to gain, we immediately lose sight of the promises that come through the union of Grace and Truth.

One of my favorite authors, Bill Gillham, writes about it so well in his book Lifetime Guarantee.

Stop fighting it, brother.  Give up all your “rights”–all talents, all abilities, all gifts, all the things you’ve clung to to get your need met for self-acceptance.  You’ll love the results!  You will find “life” through allowing Him to express Himself through your talents, your abilities, your fights, and your personality to a hurting world to do His will.  That’s the way Jesus walked.  He let the Father do it through Him.  (p. 201)

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that I don’t have to think that what I feel is rightfully mine is being squandered.  But instead, I can know that what I have is everything because you live within me!

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