“…but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. I Corinthians 15:57-58
They are ridiculously impressive! The cedar trees of Lebanon have a reputation of growing to unbelievable heights, stretching their branches to the heavens and to what seems beyond. In order to sustain such a plant, their roots must grow deep, reach far and hold on in such a way so as to keep it firm and steadfast. They, too, are immovable!
God speaks often of the cedars of Lebanon in His word, their far reaching branches (Psalm 80:11), tall and lofty (Isaiah 2:13), majestic in beauty (Ezekiel 31:7). They are, by far, a symbol of God’s strength, power and holiness.
He then, calls us to be like that of cedar ourselves. But not of ourselves – for that is impossible! Rather, He calls us through His victory to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding.” While these are true of the cedar, how could they also be so true of me? If one can argue the steadfastness or immovability of the cedar, the one thing that remains undeniable is the cedar always abounding in it’s majesty!
I am personally struck by the word “always.” Not once does the mighty cedar of Lebanon abound no more! It abounds . . . always . . . because of who or better, what it is! Likewise, I, too, am able to abound always because of who I am, abounding in the work of the Lord!
Lord Jesus, the prevailing winds often blow hard and topple many trees, but the strength and resilience of the cedar of Lebanon keeps it upright! May I remember the roots of my own spirit drive deep into the Rock and despite the battering of life, You, oh Lord, sustain me!
by: Mark Cruver
Tag Archives: identity
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24
Children say the most amazing things sometimes. So much so, a number of years ago Bill Cosby actually hosted a show called, Children Say The Darndest Things. Sometimes they are like little parrots, repeating those things they overheard their parents say to each other or what they learned on the playground. These moments can be particularly surprising and in some cases, unsettling. But how often do children remind us to do what’s right? They have a nature about them that tends to hold tight to the compass of life by reminding us of our True North. Today that happened!
In a group setting with hundreds of children, the adult in front spoke to the crowd and asked the following question: “What did God teach you throughout your summer?” Little hands stretched to the ceiling to share their moments of truth and revelation. All were superb, but one student caught my undivided attention.
With a firm voice of confidence rarely witnessed, he says, “I learned how extraordinary we are even though we are ordinary because God makes us extraordinary.” I leaned back in my chair and pondered the Truth of his insightful summer. This was not something he picked up on the playground, this was coming straight from the Truth of God’s Word! We may be ordinary, but we are in fact, extraordinarily ordinary — because God makes us that way!
Lord Jesus, thank you for the Truth of your righteousness and holiness that resides in those who call you King of Kings and Lord of Lords. A message often delivered through the honest mouths of children! May I pause to listen to your voice!
by: Mark Cruver
But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Malachi 4:2
Mornings when the sun shines bright and firm is a morning when I tend to feel refreshed by the warmth of it’s rays. It’s almost magical, but the truth of those rays, the refreshment and comfort all come from the Creator. What seemingly exists as another day, the “repeat event” that happens over and over is actually shaped into existence, designed for me, uniquely adorned and set to display the glory of the Lord!
And on those unique mornings when in the field the cattle even turn into the rays of the sun, something happens. They frolic. Frolic? They dance in the sunshine, play in the warmth of the sun and in their youth play in the spirit of who they are!
Does my heart see that sun? Does my spirit taste and see that the Lord is good and dance in the rays of His healing? I say yes, but is it not dependent on if I see that sun? What happens on an overcast day when the sun does not touch the ground? Will my heart sing? Will I frolic?
God shines with healing in His rays regardless of the circumstances that bring a dense fog to my world. Knowing this is one thing, but believing this is believing that God is exactly who He says He is. Further, it’s having faith in that which cannot be seen and knowing in that faith that His healing comes in trusting throughout life — not just when the sun shines bright! Clouds pass, but the sun shines forever!
Lord Jesus, I praise you not because of who I am, but because of who you are! You are the everlasting truth and healing in all things. You have come each morning to kiss the breath of this earth with the healing power of your righteousness. Through this I dance . . . I dance knowing my spirit is well-fed!
by: Mark Cruver
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings . . . Psalm 17:8
I’ve spent some time thinking about what it means to be the apple of someone’s eye. Having an apple in one’s eye is a little bizarre and interesting at best. But we’ve used that phrase to describe the worth someone has to us as an individual, placing them in very high regard. So when David writes in prayer to God, “keep me as the apple of your eye” it affirms the immense worth and value to him by God.
David understood who he was and there was no question he understood the truth about what God thought of him. Likewise, God thinks the same about us all! We are accustomed to say — in fact, I am guilty of praying this just yesterday — how grateful I am that you (God) love me so much in spite of all of my junk. My junk equates me with my raggedness but it is important to understand, know and believe — especially never to confuse — that my raggedness does not make me worthless! It does not define me!
It’s been explained that seeing the image of myself in the eye of the another person requires a closeness most find uncomfortable. But when I apply this imagery to my relationship with God, it means that I can see myself reflected in the gaze of my Father! I am the apple of God’s eye!
God sees me with absolute clarity! From deep within, He sees and knows my junk — yours too! But this is not ALL He sees! Often it is all WE see of ourselves or all WE see of others. But God sees deeply and broadly — from the inside out. He sees potential, intent, ability — what will be, what has been and knows intricately what or who we will one day become.
As I continue to walk in His footsteps, walk in His Spirit, He calls to the surface from within, the goodness, greatness and beauty of Himself that only He can see in me so that one day it will become visible to all.
Lord Jesus, it is difficult standing so close to you that I can see my own reflection in the pupil of your eye. It makes me shiver at some level. But I know that you gaze upon me with immense worthiness and love. It is undeniably rich! May I live each day remembering that I am the apple of your eye and that though you know my junk, you know more who one day I will become! The work you started, may you continue to make complete!
by: Mark Cruver
inspired by: John Ortberg’s Love Beyond Reason
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64:6
Not so many years ago, my daughter had for herself a sweet little orange-striped kitty. Had she been a boy, it would have been a real-life version of Calvin & Hobbes. Classic adventures and discoveries every inch of her existence and countless moments of conversation and questions with answers. It was beyond all else the most unique bond in our home. Without “Two-Sides” (that was kitty’s name), going to sleep was impossible as was going to grandma’s or heading out on vacation. Two-Sides went with us everywhere.
But as the days checked off the calendar and the whiskers on Two-Sides disappeared, the love my daughter had for her was still ever strong. It was not a love of youthfulness or beauty, for Two-Sides had grown quite ragged. Instead, the love my daughter loved Two-Sides with was a love that made Two-Sides beautiful.
It is not very different with me (and you)! To God we are all rag dolls. But we were not created ragged, for when God finished what He had fashioned in His own image He said with His own breath, “It is good!” He loves me (and you) and that does not change over time!
But over time, we have all become like rag dolls, so crooked from sin and guilt that it would only feel similarly familiar to be discarded, forgotten, left to my own demise. But no! God changed everything because of His love for me! Thank God my identity is not found in my raggedness, but instead in Christ who took my raggedness to the cross!
John Ortberg wrote in his book Love Beyond Reason:
“There is such a love, a love that creates value in what is loved. There is a love that turns rag dolls into priceless treasures. There is a love that fastens itself onto ragged little creatures, for reasons that no one could ever quite figure out, and makes them precious and valued beyond calculation. This is a love beyond reason. This is the love of God. This is the love with which God loves you and me.”
by: Mark Cruver
. . . 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
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. II Corinthians 2:14
For centuries, people have adorned themselves with fragrance to bring a sweetness to the air they breathe and a fresh and delightful aroma to their presence with others. Not much has changed as our culture is no different. A billion-dollar industry, perfume and cologne play an integral role in social awareness and relationship building. Sometimes overused, it can throw a room of people in a tail-spin. But when used in moderation, it can unite and welcome even the least known.
Yesterday I was having a conversation with a family member while getting ready to head over to a friends house. Getting ready and going alone, I made a comment as I dashed some cologne on my wrist. I felt it was a waste of some good cologne to use for such an occasion. But upon reflection, I realized it was as much for me as it was for everyone else. Today I smell nothing — good or bad (thank goodness!). Why you may ponder? Well, I didn’t dash the cologne.
In Christ, I possess a fragrance that need not be applied every day. However, it is one through faith, I must choose. I must meet each day smelling of the fragrance of His triumph! It is a fragrance of faith and victory that gives strength and power unlike anything on earth. But when the prince of the air deceives my heart with lies and wages war in my mind, the aroma of His triumph is stifled by the smell of garbage, if I believe it.
Consenting without a single protest is easy to do. It comes at a great price, but often, like a fox, sneaks it’s way through. But the battle that wages for my mind is not one that I am incapable of taking captive. Then, and only then, can I take a step back and allow my Champion to win! This requires a trust and belief that exercises my faith to a level that surpasses understanding at times. It’s big, but it’s awesome!
So, with my everyday choices that come sometimes in triplicate, I stand to choose with what fragrance to meet each day. I choose, this day, to surround myself with the cologne of Christ and become a fearless fighter and soldier. Through this Christ can, and will fight for me and through me! Amen!
. . . then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . Joshua 24:15