Category Archives: Hope

Son Shines

Allow me to first set the stage . . .

In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword.  His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.  Revelation 1:16

And then this . . .

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”  Your face, Lord, I will seek.   Psalm 27:8

In Psalm 148 praise is given to our Lord from the heights of the heavens and from the depths of the earth.  Everything between the two worship the Lord our God — all creation!

I’m reminded of the beauty of how the earth and all that is in, on and near it rejoices in praise to our King.  The stars twinkle in a sequence of praise!  The trees lift their arms to the Lord Most High!  The crickets sing their praise as the birds dance in the air.

But recently I was struck by how one of God’s creations rejoice and praise the Son of God.  By day it lifts it’s head to the heavens and seeks the face of our Lord.  And by night, it bows in humble adoration to the God of all.  Each day of it’s life, each second of it’s existence it does nothing but worship the King.

The sunflower is perhaps, the most rewarding example of all of God’s creation in how to praise His holy name – morning, noon and night!  The sunflower is unique in that even if the clouds block the sun’s rays, it still follows it’s path.  You see, it does not need to see the sun to know it is there!  It knows!

Our Lord’s face is like that of the brilliant sun!  It shines bright and warm!  And our heart knows He is there!  So, I turn my face to the Son and seek His face — morning, noon and night!

Lord Jesus, the sunflower is so brilliant!  You created something so simple to explain and demonstrate your majesty.  From a simple seed, we are able to grow a very true example of worship.  You are most praiseworthy and adorned by all.  May I not take my eyes off of the Son that shines forever in the hearts of those who love Him!

by Mark Cruver

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Without Wings

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  James 4:10

There are plenty of things crafted by the Master’s hand that goes counter to all things understood.  In many ways we would consider these things “exceptions” to whatever rule they seem to break.  For instance, the Platypus, an ostrich-headegg-laying mammal — seems a bit odd, don’t you think?  Let’s consider the Bat, a flying mammal — blind none-the-less — still a bit odd.  How about a Penguin?  A bird, that swims!  Speaking of birds, what’s up with the Ostrich?  A bird that has wings, but cannot fly!  Imagine if it could though — wow!

God is the only one that can get away with this kind of “exception-al” thinking or doing!  It truly demonstrates the mastery of His design.  When we try to apply some of these same exceptions to things created by human hands, it doesn’t quite run the same “exception-al” rules.  For instance, we don’t drive boats on the road, nor can we get a hot-air balloon to lift with water!  Perhaps more so, we have yet to create or design a plane that could fly without wings.  It just doesn’t happen.

But beyond all things tangible things, God also created a relationship that is truly “exception-al.”  It is built with love at it’s core, faith as it’s fuel and hope in it’s veins.  All of which assume their own “exception-al” design.  Further, God reminds us that in order to be more like Him we must humble ourselves before Him and man. Seems “exception-al” to me!!  In essence, He says, deflate your pride and I will make you soar on the wings of eagles!  What?

He has designed us without wings — yet, He has promised to lift us high if we are to humble ourselves.  That means making life all about Him and little about me!  That means saying, “I wanna do life Your way, not my way!”

Thank you Lord Jesus for doing an “exception-al” work in me!  You designed me to love the unlovable, to worship the God of the universe, to soar without wings, to taste and see!  Continue to show your immeasurable love to me each day as I learn more about dropping my pride to the curb!

by:  Mark Cruver

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Broken Bottles

. . . fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning it shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

There are so many moments throughout life that I have wanted to bottle up and keep forever to enjoy over and over.  Moments like the birth of my first son and each of his siblings thereafter.  The moment I placed my hand on my bride’s back and felt those beads draping her stunning self.  The day I received the call for my first real job!  The second I finally made it atop a 13,000 foot mountain, on foot, and peered from the top of the world!  The day I watched my middle schooler cross the finish line in first place.  The day my youngest caught his first fish.  And the list goes on.  Bottles and bottles of joy!  Oh, that we could just bottle it all up and keep it, experience it, taste and see it over and over.

In some, metaphorical way, we actually do.  With photos we revisit those moments, but the joy is somewhat diluted.  And with understanding and with time, our eyes become less fixed on those moments and diverted to other joyous moments or moments calling for far less celebration.  Either through an alternative experience or a devastation, there comes a moment when bottles we’ve stored in our wine-cellar like hearts gets broken.  What in the world do I do when a precious and very dear bottle gets broken?

The scripture tells us that the joy I store up in those bottles is not the joy I am to fix my eyes upon.  So, when a bottle I’ve stored up gets broken, it is through the joy I find in Christ that heals that brokenness and allows me to continue to experience the joy in those bottles I feel is lost.

Circumstances in the “here and now” often distract me from the joy I find in my relationship with Christ.  And I often confuse the joy, or lack thereof, with the continuation of the joy found in my bottles.  That comparison is not fair to the Truth found in the joy so ever available through Christ Himself, who lives within me!

Fixing my eyes on that joy means keeping a focus on those things set before me.  It is not meant for just a moment, but for life because of who I am!  I do this not because of the satisfaction in the moment, but for the result set before me.  It is the encounter of the One who IS joy, who endured the most undeserved suffering for me on whom I can remain focused, because of the joy in Him through eternity.

I must focus on where I am going!  So many things are there to distract me like anxiety, depression, loneliness, separation, fatigue, unworthiness, discouragement.   But I then remember the Truth, that God has conquered all of these.  When I take life with Him in focus, I can see more clearly His love, His Truth, His hope, His patience, His joy, His peace.

So, I focus my thoughts on the character and promises of my Savior, all things change!  Life changes!  The joy in those broken bottles are experienced once again through His joy and the world looks different, through Christ in me, the Hope and Glory!

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?  Is it not you?  Indeed, you are our glory and joy.   I Thessalonians 2:19-20

by:  Mark Cruver

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Depths of Discouragement

I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.   Psalm 121:1-2

The Lord will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.  Psalm 121:7-8

In those moments when the rain refuses to stop, life begins to appear just as gloomy.  I’m not sure how people who live in the northwest find themselves in sunshine.  While the many drops of rain puddle in the yard and create ponds and sometimes rivers for days on end, I become increasingly more vulnerable to thinking less on encouraging things.  My chin and eyes, fixed on above drop and ponder — wonder — think.  The mind begins and continues to spin and in the world of wonder there is a playground of doubt that is fed by the evil one to discourage.  The cycle is a vicious spiral digging deeper into the muck of all that seems less than fortunate.  And then one dwells.

But David reminds us of the ever present hope in our Maker!  The one who sits upon the throne — rain or shine!  And in this Truth, God defeats discouragement through the hope of His promise to never leave our side — to be the Hope and the Finisher of all He created — including me!  Amen!

It’s more than just a state-of-mind.  It’s a belief, a faith in knowing the truth of His endless and unconditional love for me that changes things.  Bending in the shape of His will results in the shape of the cross!  It’s matchless and unlike anything ever known or understood.  So, despite circumstances, I stand on this promise!

Where does my strength come from?  It comes from the Lord!

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.  James 1:12

by:  Mark Cruver

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Rest In Victory

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.  The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.  The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.   Psalm 19:8-9

For trials and crisis, it can often seem as though joy has somehow become caught in the drain hole of life.  And when the essence of joy has been removed from the soul, when purpose and hope have appeared to have run for the exit, that which remains feels deflated — defeated — discarded.  But this victory is skewed!  This victory gives the impression that the “other side” claimed for itself the ownership of the battle.  And while the evil one would have us think this is true and both in our hearts and minds establish this paradigm, it is the furthest from the actual state of affairs.

My mom loves to keep things.  More specifically, she likes little phrases, old books, articles and references to scripture jotted down on a napkin or notebook paper.  It is not uncommon for me to visit and for her to hand me this old program from an event with a “saying” on it that she feels would inspire or lift you up.  She doesn’t just share the words, she’ll give you the whole thing!  So, in true form, during my recent visit home she grabs her four-inch thick genealogy binder and pulls out this half-page piece of paper.  On it is typed — not from a computer — typed from an old typewriter.  I would sincerely suspect it was from her manual typewriter I remember from my childhood that I actually used to type my triplicate carbon copied papers on for high school.  On the paper was a six or seven line prose from, well, “unknown” was at the bottom.  I searched the internet to find it’s true author and found the same short document, but instead of “unknown” at the bottom it referenced “Alan Redpath (stroke victim).”

Below I’ve shared his words because it describes perfectly of this battle of which I’ve spoken above.  It is the truth in victory!  It is the rest of victory!  Amen!

There is nothing – no circumstance, no trouble, no testing — that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me.  If it has come that far, it has come with great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment, but as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift my eyes up to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disarm me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret, for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is.  That is the rest of victory!  (unknown)(Alan Redpath (stroke victim))

by:  Mark Cruver

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Hold To It

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

It’s not easy staying the course. I think my ideal is life should be smooth sailing, but as a dear one says often, “God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.” The turbulence in life can deter my attention, missing the actual moment God has created especially for me!

I’ve been thinking a great deal about the life of Moses lately. There’s really too many lessons with that man! But in my circumstances, there is much to gain by peeking into the life he lived. Chosen by God, Moses was given the task to lead the people of Israel from captivity (slavery) to the Promised Land (freedom). This being a place he’d never seen and trusted the words of God that what He said was true. Leading a million or more people through the desert had to have been the most challenging thing he had ever faced. This I know, because the Bible speaks of the whining, complaining, arrogant, disobedient, entitled people he was leading. And perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad had they made it there in the 11 or so days it should have taken, but instead, it took 40 years. In fact, Moses himself would never step foot on this land.

I mention Moses because in some ways, I feel like he must have felt. Tired, discouraged and faced with more questions than answers. Yet the lesson I can learn from Moses is much as Christ spoke about to the Jews from the book of John. It’s much easier to veer from the truth and slip into what I feel may be better . . . my way, not God’s way. But Jesus tells us, “hold true to my teaching . . .” Press on, stay the course, keep your chin up, trust, believe and know whom you have believed and am persuaded that He is able.

So, hold to it! Paul said in I Corinthians that it was “by the gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word” for it is in that “which you have taken your stand.”

Lord Jesus, pressing forward in the face of gale-force winds is draining. I feel somewhat discouraged, but I know that my hope is not in the journey. My hope comes from you alone! I am choosing to live in II Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

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How Much To Trust

. . . because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.  II Timothy 1:12

How much do I trust Him . . . really?  Oh man, this question is one I have always avoided.  I would suspect that it has been one that many choose not to ask of themselves for fear of the truth that lies beneath the selfish surface of our own sufficiency.

One of my boys thinks it’s fun to randomly fall backwards toward me without notice.  I’ve told him over and over again this is not a good idea.  “What if I don’t see you or notice you falling?  What then?”  His reply . . .  “Dad, you wouldn’t let me fall, you’ll catch me, right?”  That’s some firm trust!

Unlike my son, unlike Paul or Timothy, I’m looking behind me to see if God is there to catch me — before I take the plunge.  That’s not faith — nor trust.  That’s doing things my way.  God wants me to abandon my way and have faith in His way — though it doesn’t make sense at times.  But my plan seems to abandon His way for mine most of the time.

Yes, Lord, I pray for your provision on those I love.  Give them the fruits of your hand in whatever form you see fit:  sunshine or storms, abundance or famine, wealth or poverty, health or illness, peace or conflict.  Whatever it takes to draw them nearer.  And for me, I pray the same!  Give me the confidence to fall into you with all things, in all things, from all things.  I do trust you Lord, with everything!  And even when I don’t, I know you will give me a chance to find out if I am.

. . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6

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Faith Springs From Hope

. . . the faith and love that springs from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel . . .    Colossians 1:5

On those hot, blistery Florida summer days, I remember as a teenager going with my friends to the local springs to swim.  With it 95 degrees or more in the shade, the year-long 70 degree water was always a bit chilly at first.  The shallow end of the spring was much warmer as the sun was able to make a difference in the shallow.  But the deeper you swam, the closer you came to the spring, the colder that water would get.

I remember swimming near the sandy bottom, chasing the bluegill and becoming fixed on the bubbling of fresh water from somewhere beneath it all.  It made the sand dance.  When the light from the sun cast its light just right, you could see the fury of cold water mixing with the warmer water around the spring.  It was truly amazing to see — and I never grew tired of that sight.

I was sad to learn recently, the spring is no longer open to the public — but is still dancing . . . it just can’t help it!

God has given us an abundance of love and faith and it, too, springs from hope.   It dances . . . it just can’t help it!  The difference is, it has no measure and nothing can contain it.  It stretches as far as the east is from the west.  It is the strength we need in pressing forward, to pursue the desires of our heart, to obtain our God-given dreams.

Lord Jesus, my faith has been tested on many levels.  My hope has been battered by storms in my life.  Restore in my heart, in my mind, the truth about your hope.  The truth that says your love and faith force themselves from your hope — because it just can’t help it!  As you live in me and I in you, may I remember when things feel bleak that your springs are bubbling in my soul with an abundance, uncontainable love to which I find your hope in all things.

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. . . The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.   Galatians 5:5-6

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Mind Of Its Own

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hpe fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  I Peter 1:13

I ask because I want . . .

I want because I do not have . . .

I wonder on that I do not have . . . that’s doubt.

I reason when I wonder . . . that’s distrust.

I get so confused . . . that’s distraction.

I want to live from faith to faith . . .

But, I doubt when I lose faith . . .

And, I do not believe when I doubt.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything form the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.   James 1:5-7

Lord Jesus, this unsettles my soul.  I am fearful . . . I am that man.  I know the battlefield is not for my heart — it already belongs to you!  The battlefield is for my mind.  I thought about my children this morning in the early hours, about your words from Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  I find great comfort in knowing this, as my children face so many obstacles — none too large for you.  As you know, I thought, too, how our minds are much like children — they need training.  While my soul belongs to you and my spirit lends its ear for hearing you, my mind . . . well, it has a mind of its own.  My mind has been trained to speak loud against my spirit and disbelieve many things.  When I disbelieve, I disobey.  But this is more than just a declaration, it’s a prayer of revelation — one of finally seeing the root of my angst, the nourishment of my doubt and the birth of stillborn hope.  Renew these thoughts into a river of peace, resting in the joy of faith, not by sight, but faith through belief in who you are and what you are doing in me.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

I ask because you make it possible to come before you to seek you in fulfilling the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4)  . . .

I seek you with my desires because I want to experience you in all things (Matthew 6:33) . . .

I trust you in all things with all of my heart (Proverbs 3:5-6) . . .

I live from faith to faith, believing you when what I see does not make sense (Luke 1:45).

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Murdering Hope

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.   Ephesians 4:31-32

I don’t have a clue what just happened, but I know who did it!  It was a team effort, they worked together and while they carefully manipulated the moment in their favor, the next move determined the fate of hope.  Unfortunately however, this murderous moment is not so uncommon and repeats itself virtually every day and often more than once.

Whether its like last night when I couldn’t find the ice cream scoop or yesterday when someone pulled into the parking spot I had been waiting on, it’s as though, as some say, someone just “peed in my cornflakes” and the smell of murder fills the air.  It’s when the sidekick accomplice of pride and entitlement lend their support to the masquerade.  When my friend speaks the truth and when family seems to turn their back, the characters begin to prepare for hope’s assassination.  There is nothing good that comes from the acts of resentment and bitterness — together they murder hope — and everyone gets hurt!

It seems like hope doesn’t have a fighting chance in this orchestrated tale of events, but hope has a few tricks up it’s sleeve just the same.  The lord over resentment and bitterness is lies themselves.  Hope is drained through the lies I choose to believe — both of myself and others.  Standing firm however, on the promises that Christ alone IS my everlasting Hope ushers in THE very thing that unravels the plans brought about by lies through resentment and bitterness.  When the ploy is revealed, hope lives!

Lord Jesus, while this story is silly in nature, it conveys a familiar pattern of destruction that so easily entangles.  I know who wins this and I know that hope through you is all the hope that is needed.  Jesus, I’m asking that you continue to heal me and guard my heart from resentment in the little, daily things, but more so, guard my attitude from bitterness and remind my mind of the fullness of my faith in you and the untrustworthiness of my emotions.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.  

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.  

Lamentations 3:19-26

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