Category Archives: Strength

Vine Life

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Yesterday I was overwhelmed with the realization of so many people walking, driving . . . living, in circles around me. I know what you may be thinking. Something to the effect of . . . “Duh!” Ha, I had the same thought actually. But my realization came in asking the question of how many are actually living a vine life – a life that we live when abiding in Christ?

This realization brought about some emotions I had not truly experienced before. The idea that I was the only one trying to live a vine life struck me as rather exclusive and well . . . only. But I was reminded that even if I were the only one on earth to be living a vine life – and I’m not – there is another who lived such a life. To live a vine life means to live as Christ lived.

Living a vine life comes more in the mini-moments of life – not exclusively within those more grandiose moments of life (although very present there too). It translates into the moments of life when Christ participates in my doing. It’s a conversation, a fellowship, a dialogue, an inclusion, a consideration, an involvement, a credit, a reference, an engagement.

In this life, I live not of myself, but through the source of life that gives me strength. It means doing the impossible, loving the unlovable, moving the unmovable, reaching the untouchable, believing the unbelievable and living the new creation I am because of the unthinkable of the cross.

Lord Jesus, wow! A vine life – your life! For those moments when I am traversing life single-handedly – tap me on the shoulder!! Whisper in my ear!! Remind me to ask you about what I’m doing because you long for this sort of fellowship. You long to create memories with me!

Men will dwell again in his shade. He will flourish like the grain. He will blossom like a vine, and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon. Hosea 14:7

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He Never Taps Out

He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Psalm 121:3-4

Change is excruciatingly painful. It is extremely undesirable, yet somehow necessary. Life rarely, if never, flows down the same channel or at the same pace or taking a familiar shape. It is liquid and with it, seeks to demand conformity. What makes the difference with change is not its inevitability, but more so the strength and nature of ones response to such changes.

But what happens when change seems to completely sap one of every bit of energy and motivation, sending you spiraling through an ultimate need for renewed strength and fortitude? It can be immobilizing!

Precisely! This is a job for our Redeemer! The God of whom the Psalmist speaks who never sleeps nor slumbers. God never takes a break . . . He never taps out! (I found this to be a good place to take a deep breath . . . Inhale big . . . Exhale big — it helped me!)

God’s strength endures forever – a mighty and strong hand He extends to the weary! His truth never fails — He is the solid rock on which to stand forever – never shifting! Isaiah 40:8 says,
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever. “

Thank you Lord Jesus, that when the tides of my life, the swift currents of my day change the shores with which I’ve become far too familiar that I can fix my eyes and my heart on your never changing Lighthouse!


But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. Psalm 59:16-17

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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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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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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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Safe in the Shadow

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.  Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.   Psalm 63:6-7

David was chosen by God, appointed by the prophet Samuel to be King.  As a shepherd, he trusted the helping hand of God to be his strength and refuge.  He protected his flock from the wild beast, killed lions with his bare hands and with a single stone brought down the most feared Philistine.  And yet, despite his faith in God, he made some terribly poor decisions.  Falling into temptation with a beautiful woman, wife of a soldier off at war whom later he would have killed.  With child, they marry and because of his sin, God takes this child.  Yet, in obedience, David and Bathsheba bear another, a son, the wisest, King Solomon.

Despite his sin — David was a man after God’s own heart!
Oh God, hear my cries today as I sit on my bed and remember you.
In the stillness of the morning I reflect on your beauty in all you touch.
From the depths of the ocean to the furthest star of which you’ve named.
In my sin, much has been taken from me, and I mourn the loss.
Through the night I dream of the death of what I called my life — and dream of you.
I pray forward, through my obedience, that you allow the birth of new life.
For now I rest in the shadow of your wings, near your breast or as you soar.
I sing, like the bird who sings after the storm.  She does because it swells from within.
Not because she’s hungry, not because she’s lonely, not because she’s grieving . . .
but because she knows she’s safe in the shadow of your wing and she sings praise!

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.  Proverbs 18:10

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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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His Glory and Our Well-Being

From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’    Acts 17:26-28

I find these two things undeniably related.  As a child of the King, they cannot exist exclusively independent from one another, yet, we prod through life as though His glory is somehow untouchable and our well-being is ours to obtain.  Could it be that these two things are so intertwined that they, in a very un-human way, stirs the soul to trust in the largely strange pursuit of God for me.

It’s that which forms the basis of asking whether He really cares for me.  Perhaps you even answered the question toward yourself without giving it a second thought, “Of course He does!”  I do the same — each time I ask!

I think of Job and Jeremiah as well as the Disciples.  Characters that faced a myriad of obstacles, trials, doubt, and mostly . . . God’s personal pursuit in the presence of His glory.  Job cried out in pain and grief to question God (Job 38:2-3) and Jeremiah explodes toward God with His use of Him (Jeremiah 20:7-9), while the Disciples questioned Jesus in others wounds and crippling being ascribed to our sin and foolishness (John 9:1-7).

Nothing spells care more clearly than the willingness and patience of our God and His children questioning His presence and purpose for our lives.  The pursuit of His people is far from passive and swells with His love and compassion.  His gentleness and patience mixed with the power of His might and glory, together display the majesty of the Almighty God, my everlasting Father . . . the Prince of Peace!

Lord Jesus, this one is more than I can chew in a single bite.  It is overwhelming at best.  May I never stop questioning you, but may I never doubt your purposes nor your pursuit of me!  I know, without question, you care for me — the depth is something my mind cannot measure.  If only I knew and understood your heart more clearly!

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!   Psalm 139:16-17

 

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