Category Archives: Peace

Strength to Strength

They go from strength to strength . . .  Psalm 84:7

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.  My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.  The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.   Psalm 28:8

As I think on my day, I cannot help but think about the mountain of circumstances and events that surround it on all sides.  It’s fairly daunting and no health supplement will give the strength to cross over.  But, the truth is, tomorrow is on the other side and despite the fact the mountain is tall and steep, I know it must be climbed.images

I remember standing on the top of one of the “Ivy League Peaks” in Colorado and seeing the world from what appeared to be — the top!  Mountain after mountain, capped with snow and rock blanketed the landscape in all directions.  It was truly breathtaking.  But the more than ten hours it took for me to get to the top was no pleasant journey.  No doubt, there were pleasant moments — the scenery, the cobalt-blue lakes adorned with beaver homes, forests of aspen, the treeline and then nothing but rock.  If you’ve been there, you know what I mean!  But it took a focus, determination and a strength that was beyond my likelihood.  My focus was on the mountain before me, I knew it meant climbing to the top — and it was obvious, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

It’s like that in life too.  It’s easy to focus on all the mountains, in all directions, and wonder and worry about how to manage the challenges each of them face.  But God gives us today and on that mountain calls me to draw upon His strength to get through it — to climb it.  And if I strain in His strength, He assures me of even more strength!  I move from strength to strength.  He enables me to make it through today!

So, I choose to trust Him — my heart trusts Him!  I call on His strength today and in the end, I see the beauty of His strength in me.  It is throughout the day that I approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we [I] may receive mercy and find grace to help us [me] in our [my] time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

Thank you Lord for the strength you have given and the promise of your provision of strength over and over again.  It is through this I praise your name!

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.  Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.  Psalm 105:1-4

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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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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Heart Check

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

Yesterday I stepped out on a limb and started a new exercise program. If you know anything about me, you’ll know first hand this is not typically a part of my daily repertoire. However, despite it all I decided to take a stab at it.

Little did I know my heart would feel like a steal drum keeping up with the rhythm of the climatic stanzas of the 1812 Overture. Relentless! But while this is new and energetic, it proves well for the overall health of my entire being. It’s good for my heart!

But what happens when my spiritual heart begins to feel the effects of mistreatment? It, too, begins to effect my entire being – from spirit to earthly shell.

I’m sitting in Starbucks this morning and struggling with maintaining a single thought. You know those days when strangeness continues to walk into your world? I’m tempted in frustration for the baby crying in the corner, the guys sitting right over my shoulder who talk like they’re sitting across the room from each other. Oh, and lets not forget the man and his newspaper in the chair next to me whose phone won’t stop ringing as he refuses to answer. Makes for a moment to turn your heart – toward a critical spirit or toward the love of God – you know, it’s not really about me anyway.

Lord Jesus, for the moments when life looks strange, remind me of how normal you are. For the things that nag me, remind me of the abundant love you give. For the things that grieve me, with your mighty hand wipe my tears. For the things that I doubt because I don’t know, increase my faith. For the things that offend me, keep my heart from being critical. For when my heart gets stepped on by others, give me the comfort of your healing touch.

And my Lord says to me . . . . Guard your heart Mark! From it flows everything and if left unguarded will harden!

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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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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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Would I Know If God Moved?

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”  Ephesians 1:18-21

I was snorkeling off the shore of one of the Bahamian islands a number of years ago.  It was a most picturesque and peaceful time.  The still blue-green water of the Caribbean with a mask and snorkel — perfect!  I spent a good hour or so just floating on the surface looking at the sand below in waters only four feet deep or so as it was well known for the many sand-dollars.  Every now and then a needle-fish would zip under me or schools of little silver fish would flash by — really hard to describe how cool it was.  But after a while, something just didn’t seem right.  Ever have that feeling?  It had been well over an hour, I stayed parallel with the shore so I knew I hadn’t drifted far from there, and everyone who had come with me was off doing their own thing.  It was just me, God and the fishes of the sea!  But I felt like someone was staring at me.  That’s really an uneasy feeling when your bobbing in the ocean like a cork thinking you’re all alone!  It was very unsettling — for good reason — I slowly lifted my head and what I saw straight in front of me took my breath and I managed to put my swim in full reverse.  There were three — THREE — Barracuda starring directly at me, moving their mouths — filled with teeth mind you — open and close.  I was done — through — out of the water — snorkeling had come to a close!

I often reduce my experiences with God down to a feeling — some kind of sense of His presence.  I think you know what I mean — when your reading or singing and a chill goes up your spine.  God?  When someone says something you needed to hear.  God?  When you barely miss the biker you never saw as you pulled out of the parking lot.  God?  When you have this feeling.  God?  We certainly can’t deny the involvement of something or someone that stirs, reminds, provokes or prevents.

But how would I know if God really moved?  Would it be a swift breeze to the back of my neck?  Would it be the wrestling of the branches on a still morning?  Would it be a red-bird that lands in front of me? Would it be a miracle over the impossible?  Maybe.

Paul knew!  When your heart opens to the understanding of Christ in you, all sorts of moving can be felt.  It’s the little glimpses of truth, flashes of God’s fingertips on your life that spark with knowing . . . God just moved!  When His glory merely twinkles in the time of this place it overwhelms our being.  It’s stirring!

And Paul says to the Ephesians, when you open your heart to understanding who you are in Christ . . . you begin to KNOW the hope, the riches, the incomparable GREAT power in Christ alone!

Oh, my God!  Lord, Jesus, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  That I would see just a small glimpse of you moving in my life, in my world, demonstrating your great love like I have just seen is overwhelming!  Thank you for extending just a glimpse for I’d dare say I am not capable of seeing the fullness of your glory!

. . . His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth.  His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden.  Habakkuk 3:3-4

 

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Lifter of my Life

But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.  To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.   Psalm 3:3

Satan is a great suppressor.  He thrives in throwing the grappling hook of despair in our direction with the weight of self-pity, depression and everything negative tied to the other end.  And then, once that hook is set good, he gently and quietly slips it over the edge and with it plunges our countenance.

There’s no question that Scrat, the prehistoric squirrel from the very popular Ice Age movies is a long favorite of many.  His quest for the “acorn of life” is without doubt one of great persistence and commitment.  In the most recent of the movies, Scrat finds himself on a very small island with what appears to be a skeleton of his own kind.  And just off shore, to the depths of the ocean, he discovers through clues from his boney ancestor the acorn settled on the ocean floor.  Too far to swim, too deep to dive — he must find another way.  And with a boulder as his anchor, he holds on for dear life as it sinks, with a tight grip, to the resting place of the acorn.  And what appears to be his best idea yet to get this nut, turns into him only getting pulled down into deeper waters.  The deeper he sinks, the more powerful the pressure becomes.  Poor Scrat will never learn — but he sure can teach us a few things!

When we fix ourselves to the boulder of negativity and free fall over the edge, the weight of discouragement, despair and doubt destroy our mood.  And as we allow for these thoughts to captivate our minds we are no longer behaving with the mind of Christ.  Christ is our example here.  Christ, when all things appeared certainly negative, maintained a positive attitude.  He encountered personal attacks, betrayal and abandonment from his disciples when he needed them the most.  He was strongly misunderstood, misrepresented and deserted.  He was mocked and called a liar and left alone.  He had every reason to be negative — yet, he turned to the Lifter of his life.

Lord Jesus, you turned to the One who lifts the heads of those whose lives are struck with despair and doubt.  I know when I’ve experienced this it weighs so much it drives me to the floor.  Yet, somehow, this burden is light for you!  As though your finger touches the underside of my chin, much like a father does with his own child and you lift it to gaze upon your glory!  Oh my God — the Lifter of my head, the Lifter of my life!  You not only hear my cry . . . you lift me up!

Who is this King of glory?  The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.  Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.  Who is he, this King of glory?  The Lord Almighty–he is the King of glory.  Psalm 24:8-10

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