Tag Archives: grace

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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Heart That Thirsts

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?   Psalm 42:1-2

It wasn’t but a couple of summers ago that water in our neck-of-the-woods was at a premium.  The hot days came early in the year and seemed to stick around for most of the season.  I could have sworn the earth swung a little closer to the sun that year!  It was difficult on many.  The grass and wildlife suffered, the homeless and elderly were especially vulnerable and life, in general, was spent more so indoors than out.  It was parched!  Water restrictions were placed on just about everything as the local reservoirs reached an all-time dangerous low.  Would it ever rain again?  Those who could . . . and dared, watered their lawns to save their investment.  But no amount of water seemed to revive the crispy lawns . . . nothing like a good rain does for certain!

This year is a bit different.  Actually, it’s over 20 inches above different!!  Things that never turned green are twice as tall, more full and I think, when no one looks, the trees and plants actually spit out the excess water!  Lawns are being mowed every few days just to keep up with the growth.  The liquid “manna” from heaven brings rich nourishment to the land!

The earth cries out much like my own heart cries out.  When I choose to do life separate from Christ, the land in which my heart is rooted becomes brown and dry.  It longs for nourishment and searches for sources that offer something to satisfy.  These false sources of satisfaction come at a great price.  My heart will not grow, will not flourish, will not blossom — it’s fruit will not be that of grace, but will hunt to be filled.  David warns us with how the heart works . . . “guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  But with every other source, the thirst for what truly satisfies becomes stronger. And when satisfied with things other than Christ Jesus, that which flows from the heart represents a barren soul.

But when the heart finds and drinks from the fountain of Christ, the well that never dries, it flows with much fruit . . . the fruit of grace!

Thank you Lord Jesus for the quenching of my soul through the streams of living water that flows from you and you alone!  May I graze upon your grace and drink from your brook — all day long!

by:  Mark Cruver

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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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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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Grace Is More Than A Prayer

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’  As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’   Acts 17:28

It is the most remarkable gift anyone of us can ever receive — the gift of grace.  So often, we excuse ourselves into thinking of grace as a measure of forgiveness or pardon — and for many, grace is only that which takes place before a meal.  Grace is so much more, so far greater than these great things.  Grace is personal, grace is powerful, grace is transforming.

God met me when I was 12 years old and for the first time in my very young life, I met Grace — Salvation Grace.  Grace was heaped upon me in abundance and was there for me in all things.  As I grew in my faith and my needs increased, it became clear that I was not going to be able to meet these needs.  Grace took on, not a new face, but the reality of provision — I met Grace again — Enabling Grace.

And God is able to make all grace abound in you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.   II Corinthians 9:8

Throughout my life I’ve leaned heavily upon the assurance of my salvation.  I’ve also worked hard to “work-out” my salvation.  But through His enabling grace I am able to do much more than I can possibly and humanly imagine.  But for how long?  Surely the “wick” of grace will burn to the end and the flame of grace will be snuffed out.  Right?  It couldn’t be further from the truth!  For now I have met Grace, yet again — Sufficient Grace!  The abundant measure of God’s Grace upon me is overflowing — more than enough — every day!

Yes, I have met Grace!  God is Grace!  Grace is the person of Jesus!  Praise Him and I know Grace!  So as I continue to encounter difficult days, troublesome times, the “hard-knocks” of life — Grace will be there in an abundant supply!

Lord Jesus, Grace — thank you!

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Carrying Glory

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:  “Be holy, because I am holy.”  I Peter 1:13-16

My story includes countless moments when I’ve lost sight of God’s purpose in me.  I’ve set my mind to things and made choices that have altered the plan God set in motion.  Pride is not something that comes to mind when I reflect on those days.  But even so, it’s still God’s plan and He is still in control.

I’ve now heard, on two separate occasions — back to back, the story of Sampson.  I do not believe in coincidence — knowing full well, God has something for me to learn from this man.  It’s funny in that I recall a few months ago, while thinking through a number of old testament characters, that I didn’t know much about Sampson — except of his strength.  But now that has changed.

A man of great strength indeed, but more importantly, a man with God’s purpose imprinted on him from birth.  Informed by an angel from God, his mother was told of Sampson’s purpose:  to follow God in three ways, to one day freeing the people of Israel.  Sampson was to consume no alcohol — to stay pure on the inside.  Sampson was to never cut his hair — to be recognizably different, set apart.  Sampson was to never touch anything dead — to exercise obedience and self-control.

Sampson was given a great responsibility by God, like none other.  He was chosen to be the one that would free the Israelites from the Philistines.  He had a special purpose.  But he often mocked this and wasn’t willing to carry God’s glory.  All about himself, he lost sight of his purpose.  And with that, he lost his strength — he lost everything, including his own eyes.

But God, because of His unending abundance of grace and mercy, listened to Sampson’s voice in his final hours.  And God restored His strength, freeing the Israelites and fulfilling His purpose.

God wants me to carry His glory every day.  By guarding my mind and keeping my heart pure on the inside.  By becoming noticeably different to others and living a life that is set-apart.  By choosing each day whom I will serve through obedience and self-control.

Lord Jesus, I’m gonna be honest and say that carrying your glory seems like a lot to carry.  In fact, the devil wants me to think I can’t carry it at all — that it’s too much to measure up to.  But I know that your word says your yoke is easy and your burden is light!  My purpose is to be holy!  It’s a good thing it’s not tied to feeling because I’m not feeling very holy.  But your Truth is clear, I am holy because of Christ in me!  Continue to guard my mind and heart, protect me from the lies of the things I see as I continue to be who I am!  May my actions, responses and behavior reflect that of a child of the King! And may your Helper, the Holy Spirit, nudge my spirit and extend the strength I need to be obedient to you in all things.

Finally, brothers [Glory Carriers], whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.  Philippians 4:8-9

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Rest In It

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  II Peter 1:2

I feel like there is only one thing that I need right now above and beyond all other things.  Just this one for now.  With it, I believe I can manage most anything — keep a level head — and with Christ at the center, remain firmly planted.

My needs are few and far between right now.  Give me the basics of life and I’m set, but far fewer needs are as obvious to me than this.  The battle that rages around me, for me and against me, sometimes becomes as real as a sword thrust into my own chest.  It swallows the air in the room and clenches my attention.  It’s in these moments when I know the battle that rages on is not against flesh and blood that I need wisdom, strength and a reminder of where the battle is being waged.  I feel weak and completely inadequate at times, reduced to garbage at others.  When the pressures of my circumstances suddenly blast their way into my life, I find it incredibly difficult to remain hemmed.

It’s not much to ask I don’t think – just this one thing.

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Here’s how God answered me as I was going through these emotions.

From a dear friend He reminded me of this . . .  II Peter 1:2 — God has given ME an abundance of grace and peace through the knowledge of God.  I thought, what?  And then I continued to read.  In verse 3 it is confirmed.  “. . . has given us [ME] everything we [I] need for life and godliness . . . so that through them you [I] may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”  You mean I have all that I need here, right now to participate not in the angst, not in the anger, not in the selfishness, not in my self-condemnation, not in my worry, not in my self-loathing — BUT INSTEAD — to participate in the divine nature and escape all these things?  Oh, Lord, that is big!

I will need you to show me what this looks like and teach me in these ways because I cannot do this on my own.

GRACE: Gods power freely given to me to meet my circumstances.
PEACE: Resting in Gods GRACE.      -Anabel Gillham

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Lord Jesus, maybe I need more than just one thing.  I need to experience your abundant measure of grace and then, rest in it!

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Forever Following

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalm 23:6

Today I returned to an old favorite — Psalm 23.  If you haven’t read it in a while, it is chock full of encouragement and hope.  A great book – a short daily read – that I would recommend is Max Lucado’s Safe in the Shepherd’s Arms.  It’s amazing!

As I was rereading this passage this morning, it struck me how David stresses that goodness and mercy (love) follow me.  Follow me?  God’s goodness and mercy?  Well, depending on your personal theology of God’s whereabouts, this can crash someone’s party if all they think is that God’s dictating from some throne.

This suggests one, if not two things.  First, as implied, this means that God’s not just ruling like we see of the images of Pharaoh.  He is not the unapproachable conductor of all things.  On the contrary, He is personal, relational, compassionate, with an abundance of grace and love beyond our wildest dreams.   Which leads me to the second.  While God is clearly “seated” on the throne, He, through the Holy Spirit, pursues me!  Pursues!  David understands this in his remembrance of God’s presence through the guarantee of God’s goodness and mercy following me every day.  It reminds me somewhat of the old 90’s episodes of Dukes of Hazard when the “good ‘ole boys” were in “hot pursuit.”  They couldn’t seem to cut a break!  I, too, am in “hot pursuit” by my Savior — every day!  And trailing and flanking that pursuit is Goodness and Mercy!

But even in the midst of great news, where goodness seems so obvious, it’s possible for circumstances scratched by the sharp nails of darkness to overshadow our hearts and minds with pittance.  Its unfortunate that such be robbed from our lives, but God still moves!  He still pursues, not sitting and ruling from a throne, but running and guarding, protecting and whispering in our ears at every turn.  Whispering the Truth of His goodness and His mercy that stands firm against the lies of darkness, the thief in the night, and fills me with joy unspeakable, full of His glory!  All this in spite of my circumstances.  Amen!!

Lord Jesus, I’m reminded of my first day of school.  I was so scared, worried.  I didn’t like kindergarten and I wasn’t going to stay.  I remember planning my escape down to the very minute for when I’d make a dash.  Mrs. Mapstone was faster than she appeared as I remember she was a bit older than me — much older!  Remember how I made it out the door and just beyond the ditch before she caught me?  I was so not happy about that!  But as much as I was frightened to be at school, I think the bus was even worse.  I remember looking back over my shoulder more than once to see if mom was still there.  She was.  You’re pursuing me, right?  Life’s bus ride and classroom are filled with so many things.  Some I know, most I don’t.  I’m looking back, if that’s o.k., to see your Goodness and Mercy!  I see them . . .!

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From Not For

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:36

Just imagine, living a life where nothing matters.  A life where risk is paramount and failure is subject only to the level of risk.  What if life could be lived without the possibility of effect?  Where the response of others matters not?  Free to be all I want to be and soar the skies of life, moved only by the shifting winds.  Did I say free to be?

This past week I watched the 1998 movie, Rounders, starring Matt Damon who plays a man with a gambling lifestyle of big bets and bigger losses.  In the movie Damon’s character sits around the table with the toughest card shark around with the confidence of high return.  On an apparent strong hand he puts it all on the line, betting every chip of the $30,000 he brought to the table.  In a matter of a second, that confidence turned to fear while he watched his life savings zero out.

Living in true freedom takes risk!  But what truly is the price?  God has called me (us) to live a life free in Christ and yet, I remain shackled to the insecurities of my own understandings.  He says to trust in Him, but to trust in all His ways means a complete abandonment to self and releasing the grip of all I want and receiving all He wants.

What if, I’m living my life not as free as God has intended it to be?  What if, even in my limited knowledge of knowing Christ has set me free I am not nearly as free as I’d thought?  In the midst of crisis, or when things just don’t go the way I had ever hoped or planned, what about that moment gives way to the very essence of Christ in me?  Subjecting myself to the landslide of failures over and over again against the heavy terrain on the steep side of that mountain of healing gives the impression there is far more I must do before I am truly set free.  But God’s freedom does not come after the journey, but instead within the journey as I experience the very presence of Christ in me, through me!  It’s facing the biggest, most dangerous, risky moment of life, where anything and everything I’ve ever dreamed is on the line and placing it all in the arms of Jesus.  It’s not to say that the outcome will be any better and become rosy red, in fact it can all disappear, but God doesn’t want me to climb this mountain alone to find God waiting at the top.  That’s not freedom!  He wants to be in every step, every treacherous slip, every strained ounce of progress . . . that’s freedom to be!

It’s when all seems lost that our vision clouds with uncertainty, but when I am walking in intimate fellowship with Christ in all things — loss becomes gain.   For me, it’s living life from salvation, not for salvation.  It’s living life from His grace, not for grace.  It’s living life from His acceptance, not for my acceptance.  It’s living life from His love, not for love.

Dear Lord Jesus, I so often wrestle with living for others instead of from you.  There is nothing more important to me than living in full obedience to you.  Unshackle the chains of insecurity I have placed around my own mind and renew it with the confidence of Christ in the freedom of life that only comes through you!  I love you, I love you, I love you my Abba . . . Daddy, I love you!

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1

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