Tag Archives: hope in crisis

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


Leave a comment

Filed under Belief, Christian Living, Faith, Glory, Heart, Hope, In Christ, Joy, Life, Peace, Strength, Trust, Truth

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Belief, Faith, Heart, Life, Strength, Trust

Life Is Liquid

“But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”  Hosea 12:6

They say patience is a virtue, but at times it feels more like torture than anything virtuous.  Waiting is not something we are just wired to do — or at least do easily.  In fact, we are forced into moments where waiting is necessary and since we are aware of our own discomfort with waiting, environments are created around us to distract us or deceive our senses into thinking we aren’t really waiting at all.  Amusement parks are good at this where long lines form to ride a spectacular ride, they will snake everyone in line back and forth in order to give the appearance of a shorter line and to create the effect of a line that is always moving.  A line that seems to be moving is the line I’ll jump in at the grocery store!

Life is very similar to this — it is fluid — always moving.  This reminds me of the crazy waters dumped on New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.  For the first time since they were engineered by the Army Corp of Engineers the levees were challenged that protected the city from rising waters.  It was said they would never break, but the water became too great a challenge for the banks of the levee.   Slowly they weakened against the subtle force of rising waters and the water spilled into the city bringing unimaginable destruction.

Water flows to the path of least resistance.  My life has always somehow found it’s way following paths of least resistance. It feels easier that way doesn’t it?  But, before long it’s flooded.  God said (I didn’t listen), “Mark, the water is going to get deep, be patient I’m building the levee!”  But life seemed to pour it on and pour it on in volumes I was unable to manage and I wasn’t going to allow anyone else to take control.  So, I constructed my own walls to hold back the turbulent liquid of life — I did it my way. [Big mistake!]

Hindsight is always 20/20 — we look back and see the mistakes, usually coupled with more knowledge today than then.  It’s a measure of growth and includes an experience where life has been sharpened and more thoroughly engaged.  But there is something that comes with a spiritual hindsight that sharpens the focus of our vision and pierces the soul.  It allows and readies us  to wait.

The scripture is filled with patience!  I think of Simeon in the courtyard waiting on the coming Christ child.  I think of Noah waiting for the waters to subside.  I think of Elijah waiting on the ravens.  I think of Joseph left in a pit to die then sold to slavery.  I think of the blind man.  I think of the father of the prodigal son.  I think of Nicodemus.  I think of Jonah in the belly of a great fish. I think of Moses, then Jacob for Rebecca.  I think of the people of Israel and their journey to the Promised Land.  I think of Paul in prison. I think of Mary and Joseph.  I think of Daniel in the den.  I think of Sarah to bear children.  I think of our Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives, on the shore, in a boat with stormy seas, with Mary and Martha, and I think of Him around the table with twelve He had chosen knowing their faith would be challenged.

It’s a time of waiting He calls us to.  This is because our time of waiting on Him is a picture — a reflection — of Him imprinted upon our spirit.  Nothing exemplifies this better than the story of the father waiting upon his prodigal son.  It is a story of waiting, a story of redemption and unconditional love.  It’s the best picture we have of our own Heavenly Father awaiting His children — you and me – to return to Him.  But He waits.  So also, I wait on Him.  It is a period of time, while the world flows by, for me to embrace, to fellowship, to awaken to life flowing not the path of least resistance, but flowing straight up!  Sue Monk Kidd says it best in her book, When The Heart Waits, “Crisis, change, all the myriad upheavals that blister the spirit and leave us groping–they aren’t voices simply of pain but also of creativity.  And if we would only listen, we might hear such times becoming us to a season of waiting, to the place of fertile emptiness.”

“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  Romans 8:25


Leave a comment

Filed under Belief, Christian Living, Faith, Hope, In Christ

When The Bottom Falls Out

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Hebrews 13:8

Last night I received some horrible news . . . it’s related to the crisis for which I write this blog.

Ever had one of those moments when it seemed like the world was caving in around you and the bottom was falling out beneath you?  Ever been in a place where everything you know with vibrant colors suddenly turns black and white.  Ever reflected on the things that used to make you laugh and smile and instead feel sadness?  And in the middle of those moments we plead and all but beg for God to comfort, to hold, to carry the immense burden.  But the mere act of asking for those things reveals the lack of trust in my own heart I have in believing in His promises.

Yesterday He was here, right by my side — better, He was living inside me!  Today is no different!  He is right beside me, comforting me and living inside me!  Oh sure, the circumstances have changed, the scenery is a little scorched, but He’s the same today as He was yesterday.  So, while my crisis continues, my relationship with Christ is strengthened.

One thing I’m learning in the midst of crisis is the difficulty that comes in seeing the hope there is in a future.  But remember, yesterday . . . same — today . . . same — tomorrow and forever . . . SAME!  He cares for us — He cares for me!

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”  Ephesians 1:4


Leave a comment

Filed under Belief, Faith, Hope, In Christ, Trust

Self-Inflicted Cain

“Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”  Psalm 51:11-12

I recall the pain and still experience the occasional grief.  It hurts terribly and in those moments, when all seems lost and hopeless I cry out, “God . . . don’t leave me!”  It’s a state in which your heart yearns for comfort, embrace . . . forgiveness and grace.   And, before my spirit rests in tune with my soul and body on the presence of God living within me, I blame . . . I judge . . . I condemn . . . I self-inflict Cain upon me.

Cain, as you recall (especially if you read the story in Genesis 4 yesterday), was confronted by God on his anger toward Abel.  God spoke clearly to Cain regarding the presence of sin, it’s sneaky, “ready-to-strike” position and the fact that he (and we) must master or conquer it!  This is a simple reminder that God, my only strength, enables me to conquer the grip of sin!

But Cain chose for sin to master him.  The apple didn’t fall far from the tree did it?  In fact, that orchard is still producing fruit and it continues to drop not so far from that same tree!  The seed of sin was welcomed in and it grew to death — Abel’s death.

Cain, fully aware of the sin in his life began to experience the essence of pain, grief, shame and guilt we all experience because of sin in our own life.  And Cain, like David many years later, casts judgement upon himself.  Thinking he knows God well enough to predict the Creator’s behavior, he tells God what to do.  I’ve never done that . . . HA!

“Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear.  Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”  Genesis 4:13-14

God’s reply?  “Not so!”

What???  Not so?  Cain was wrong!  He miscalculated the love of God . . . God’s grace and forgiveness!

  • Where Cain felt punished, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt burdened, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt kicked out, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt abandoned, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt unloved, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt unwanted, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt unworthy, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt restless, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt homeless, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt friendless, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt hated, God said, “No way!”

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  II Corinthians 12:9


Leave a comment

Filed under Belief, Faith, Grace, Hope, Love

My Strength

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.”  Psalm 18:1-3

The Lord is MY rock:

A rock is firm, solid and never shifts.  It is trusted, dependable, a place of assurance, confidence and guarantee.  The rock in which David describes is a place of refuge!

So, this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”   Isaiah 28:16

The Lord is MY fortress:

In the line of defense, the first to encounter is the fortress.  My God, who can stand against Him?

“You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remember the Rock, your fortress.”  Isaiah 17:10

The Lord is MY deliverer:

Being delivered means to be “set free.”

“O Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, who shields my head in the day of battle . . . ”  Psalm 140:7

The Lord is MY shield:

Protection from the swords and arrows of battle was imperative for life.  Without them, death would be imminent.

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”  Ephesians 6:16

The Lord is MY horn:

With every battle came a battle cry!  A loud resounding horn to announce early victory and the first to march in battle.

“God is with us; he is our leader.  His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you.  Men of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your fathers, for you will not succeed.”  II Chronicles 13:12

The Lord is MY stronghold:

A place of steadfastness.  A confident, secure and safe place to trust.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?”  Psalm 27:1

The Lord is worthy of MY praise and I AM RESCUED!

by:  Mark Cruver


Leave a comment

Filed under Belief, Faith, Hope, Trust

Screaming For A Savior

“Three times I pleaded with the lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'”  II Corinthians 12:8-9

In speaking about the need for a savior our minds immediately bend towards the life changing and spiritual exchange of salvation.  But this is not the reference of my thoughts today.  Paul, in his discourse to the Corinthians discusses what he refers to as a “thorn in the flesh.”  While many scholars are not certain as to what exactly this was, one thing is true — it drove him nuts!  His plea was not for a spiritual exchange, this event already took place in Paul’s life.  He was looking to be rescued from whatever followed him day and night in torment.

I know if I were to sit down and begin writing a list of things that bug the dickens out of me, it wouldn’t be long before I’d need a new sheet of paper.  But, as the list grows, one or two of them would dominate the page and rise to the top of the list in how severe they impacted my life.  Apparently, it did the same for Paul.

Kids are funny and do some of the darn’dest things sometimes.  Their worlds are so limited and small.  Oh, this is a great thing, both for them and any adult in their midst.  I envy their small, simple lives.  But, anything that disrupts the harmony of their world:  a missing “binky”, not the right food, too much sweet tea before bedtime, not enough sleep, a skunk under the house, someone else playing with “their” toy, getting dressed in the morning . . . and the list goes on, sends them into a fit of overly expressive opinion.  They’ve got a plan of how life should be and when it’s not like that then the world knows!

As adults, I find my relationship with God isn’t too far off from the same thing.  But instead of being overly opinionated about what might be considered “small things,” I’m extremely vocal and demanding over the circumstances in my life that measure extremely critical according to my scale.  What is it with that?

I’m all the while asking and asking again, pleading none-the-less, for God to deliver, change the course, answer a prayer, make a wrong – right, do this, do that, on and on and on.  It never occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, in the midst of pain, sorrow, hurt, crisis and grief that God may be saying, “Even though this stuff stinks, I hurt too, I feel the pain too, it makes me sad too, I understand your desperation, I know your loss too!  Even though your life is spinning, all I want you to do is wrap your arms around me, hold on tight and in this time when you are weak — through me, you WILL BE strong!”

Paul pleaded three times for God to deliver him — rescue him — save him from his thorn.  And while God could have done this — remember He is God — He did not.  Instead, God reminded Paul that His grace was sufficient for Him in this very difficult — distracting time.  That even in the midst of his circumstances, God would use him through his weakness, in His strength, and there find rest.

Lord Jesus, may I find rest in your strength!  As much as I would love for you to remove me from my personal pain and grief, I know that in it, you are strong!  May I boast only in my weaknesses, my difficulties, my crisis!

“Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  II Corinthians 12:9b

by:  Mark Cruver


Leave a comment

Filed under Belief, Christian Living, Faith, Hope, Humility, In Christ