Category Archives: Joy

Circle of Life

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  I Corinthians 1:9

Years ago I was introduced to the idea of spending time with God on a daily basis.  Intentional moments carved out of my already busy schedule to focus on the God who sustains me — talk with Him, pray with Him, laugh and cry with Him.  So I pursued these moments with fervor, but the well of time quickly ran dry as life happened.  Projects, deadlines and many other things crowded the once designated time with Him.  It wasn’t long before I was no longer mentioning a quiet time with my Lord, but instead making excuses why I couldn’t afford that time.

And then I heard a dear friend and colleague speak to a group of college students.  I was one of them.  It turned my scripted idea of carving out a time with God each morning on it’s end.  He went on to invite us to explore the meaning of fellowship with our King.  As we are called into fellowship with Christ Himself, what then would that fellowship look like?  We were then encouraged to draw a circle around ourselves and regardless of where we are, invite Him into our circle.  True fellowship with the Savior!

So, no matter the place, no matter the moment, no matter the victory or crisis, no matter the emotion or experience, my circle includes the God of the universe who not only lives within, but does so in full fellowship with me!  As I exercise, He’s there to fellowship.  As I shop, He’s there to fellowship.  As I eat the blessings of this earth, He’s there to dine.  As I pay my bills, He’s there.  As I commute, He’s along for the ride.  As I worship, He rejoices in my joy of Him.  As I stress, He’s there to comfort and relieve.  As I heal, He is there to touch.  As I study, He is there to instruct.  As I doubt, He’s there to remind me of His promises.  As I question, He shows me in His Word an answer.  As I sit and wonder, He sits and loves.

When I draw a circle around me and invite the God of the universe to join me there — wherever that may be — I invite and unlock the very gift of life, love and the power of God to reside and rest within me.  It’s not a circle that excludes the fellowship of others, but the circle of life creates a light that shines and causes others to see Jesus in my circle!

Lord Jesus, may I continue to invite you into my circle — fellowship with me not just in the morning, but noon, day and night.  Now that’s a “circle of LIFE.”

by:  Mark Cruver

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Life Sucks, God’s There

Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.

“But if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him.  He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.  He provides rain for the earth; he sends water on the countryside.  The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.  He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.  He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away. . . . Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”   Job 5:7-13,17

One of my favorite characters in The Peanuts Gang comic is little Pig Pen.  For obvious reasons, the poor little boy needs a bath!  Every where he goes a cloud of dust follows him and hovers over all he does.  Rarely do you hear a complaint from any of his friends, they just know . . . that’s Pig Pen.

I’d like to think I resonate with another of those famous characters however.  Maybe I feel more like Linus with his security blanket or Charlie Brown for his lack of self-confidence.  Perhaps Snoopy for his perseverance would serve as a better likeness.  And then of course, there are times I relate best with their teacher . . . mumbling something not worth listening to.  But in reality, more often than not, I relate with Pig Pen.  Not for the smell, but for that crazy dark cloud that seems to follow me everywhere I go at times.  Maybe you can relate.

That dark cloud often gets translated into a phrase we most commonly refer . . . Life Sucks!  When everything goes against us, fighting life becomes exhausting and gaining ground is something foreign.  When it happens enough, too much for our liking, there seems to be an overarching theme that sets into our minds.  It’s a tone we do not like, but nonetheless, listen to.  It says to us, almost unnoticed, that God must not be present since life sucks so badly.  In fact, it is drilled into our belief that if life sucks, then God must or even can’t be present.  The two are mutually exclusive.

Oh, how our hearts are so tender and deceived so easily.  The TRUTH is that even in the midst of life that sucks, God is there!  His heart is ever so aware of our burdens and stands ready to fellowship in our suffering.  The fall of man made life suck and since then sucky things happen each and every day!  But even then, God promised us He would never leave us nor forsake us.  It truly defines what it means to have peace amidst the stress.  All that sucks in our life, sucks to God as well and He desires nothing more than our hearts in middle of life’s valleys and celebrations.

Thank you, Lord Jesus for never giving up on me and most of all, never leaving me.  Thank you for joining me each morning for coffee and riding around town from place to place.  Thank you for sitting at the table with me and my family and resting each evening by my side.  Thank you Lord for hearing my complaints and disgruntlement.  Thank you for smiling and laughing when my heart sings in moments of joy.  Thank you for being there, even when life sucks!

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”   Deuteronomy 31:8

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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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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More Time, More At Ease

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. Acts 10:1-2

Admittedly, remembering to spend time with someone whom you never, or rarely, see is at best … difficult. There is an old saying that may be familiar that says, “Out of sight, out of mind.” The truth of this phrase works great when you’re trying to keep something from your children or working diligently on a diet. To introduce whatever that is, regularly brings it to mind – and then your mind latches onto it like a tractor beam and your thoughts revolve around it.

But this phrase carries with it a danger when it comes to spending time with my Lord. If I don’t look for Him, have faith in His presence, call on Him casually as well as during defined moments, then recognizing Him becomes far more difficult and I become less at ease with my time with Him. In this instance, out of sight and out of mind equates to Jesus my acquaintance instead of Jesus my Lord, my Friend, my Confidant.

Nothing spells love better than time. For Christ in me, His time is everlasting and abundant. His measure of love through time is endless. And the more I spend time with Him, the more at ease I become in my awareness of Him in my daily events. There have been some unusual places (or at least seem unusual to me) where spending time has fueled my fellowship with Him. Speaking with Him at the grocery store, sipping coffee at Starbucks, mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, learning at conferences, visiting with others, at the playground, fishing on the lake, wading at the beach. Precious moments where there are conversations – simple conversations.

Let’s here of some places in which you’ve had a conversation with your Lord Jesus because you’ve been at ease in His presence.

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Bagels and Deisel

[5] Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. [11] You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:5,11 NIV

Breakfast is such an important start to any day. But this morning, life took a turn rather unexpectedly for more than forty professionals. While preparing for their three hour journey aboard a charter bus, each scurried around gathering their things and talking with their colleagues about their quality of rest overnight. Typical small talk. And then came the news. There was little known of the whereabouts of the bagels and coffee. You could have heard a pin drop as those with an affection for that daily cup of joe began to strategize in obtaining their much needed fix. Luckily, as time would have it, the bagels and coffee did arrive, but not without a scene like termites on fresh wood!

The walk to the bus was a delightful, but short, journey as everyone enjoyed their close embrace with a styrofoam cup. The joy, however, was quickly set aside at the stench of diesel fuel inside the bus. Bagel and coffee in one hand and now the smell of diesel – life sure does serve the unexpected for breakfast sometimes.

God reminds us of the fellowship He wants in us. We sing songs of adoration and praise that echo the truths of who He is. Truths that declare the sustaining grace in Him, the endless love He empowers and how through those things He is all we need. It is within this that He becomes our food and drink both in the morning and throughout the day. It is in 1 Corinthians 1:9 that Paul says, “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” And it is in all circumstances, with or without bagels, smelling of diesel or roses, that we can fellowship, commune, embrace and consult with our Heavenly Father.

Thank you Lord Jesus for the joy I can find in you regardless of my circumstances. Would you like to sit and have a bagel? I have an extra!

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Determined Purpose

My determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him . . . . Philippians 3:10 AMP

It’s more than just a goal. It’s determined! This means God has gone before me, prepared me, designed in me a purpose, an intent to fellowship, commune, delight in and know my Father.

Knowing the intimate and delight in my designed purpose brings a level of joy into my heart. The idea that God created me with this in mind says an immeasurable amount for the love He has for me. And as I manage my relationships on this earth and experience the lack of intimate fellowship with those I have wounded through poor decisions, I stand tall still in the unmistaken truth that I may know Him!

So, today, and each day, till I breathe my last breath, may I make all relationships second to my determined purpose of getting to know you deeply and intimately. As I walk and talk with others or as I sit in want of fellowship with others may I include you in all things both in my heart and on my mind. When I want to hide, may I make you my hiding place. When I’m lonely, may I find refuge in fellowship with you. When I’m filled with joy, may it be unspeakable and filled with your glory.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. 1 John 1:3-4 NIV

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