“…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: in Christ
God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I Corinthians 1:9
Years ago I was introduced to the idea of spending time with God on a daily basis. Intentional moments carved out of my already busy schedule to focus on the God who sustains me — talk with Him, pray with Him, laugh and cry with Him. So I pursued these moments with fervor, but the well of time quickly ran dry as life happened. Projects, deadlines and many other things crowded the once designated time with Him. It wasn’t long before I was no longer mentioning a quiet time with my Lord, but instead making excuses why I couldn’t afford that time.
And then I heard a dear friend and colleague speak to a group of college students. I was one of them. It turned my scripted idea of carving out a time with God each morning on it’s end. He went on to invite us to explore the meaning of fellowship with our King. As we are called into fellowship with Christ Himself, what then would that fellowship look like? We were then encouraged to draw a circle around ourselves and regardless of where we are, invite Him into our circle. True fellowship with the Savior!
So, no matter the place, no matter the moment, no matter the victory or crisis, no matter the emotion or experience, my circle includes the God of the universe who not only lives within, but does so in full fellowship with me! As I exercise, He’s there to fellowship. As I shop, He’s there to fellowship. As I eat the blessings of this earth, He’s there to dine. As I pay my bills, He’s there. As I commute, He’s along for the ride. As I worship, He rejoices in my joy of Him. As I stress, He’s there to comfort and relieve. As I heal, He is there to touch. As I study, He is there to instruct. As I doubt, He’s there to remind me of His promises. As I question, He shows me in His Word an answer. As I sit and wonder, He sits and loves.
When I draw a circle around me and invite the God of the universe to join me there — wherever that may be — I invite and unlock the very gift of life, love and the power of God to reside and rest within me. It’s not a circle that excludes the fellowship of others, but the circle of life creates a light that shines and causes others to see Jesus in my circle!
Lord Jesus, may I continue to invite you into my circle — fellowship with me not just in the morning, but noon, day and night. Now that’s a “circle of LIFE.”
by: Mark Cruver
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
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
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
. . . 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
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. Psalm 19:8-9
For trials and crisis, it can often seem as though joy has somehow become caught in the drain hole of life. And when the essence of joy has been removed from the soul, when purpose and hope have appeared to have run for the exit, that which remains feels deflated — defeated — discarded. But this victory is skewed! This victory gives the impression that the “other side” claimed for itself the ownership of the battle. And while the evil one would have us think this is true and both in our hearts and minds establish this paradigm, it is the furthest from the actual state of affairs.
My mom loves to keep things. More specifically, she likes little phrases, old books, articles and references to scripture jotted down on a napkin or notebook paper. It is not uncommon for me to visit and for her to hand me this old program from an event with a “saying” on it that she feels would inspire or lift you up. She doesn’t just share the words, she’ll give you the whole thing! So, in true form, during my recent visit home she grabs her four-inch thick genealogy binder and pulls out this half-page piece of paper. On it is typed — not from a computer — typed from an old typewriter. I would sincerely suspect it was from her manual typewriter I remember from my childhood that I actually used to type my triplicate carbon copied papers on for high school. On the paper was a six or seven line prose from, well, “unknown” was at the bottom. I searched the internet to find it’s true author and found the same short document, but instead of “unknown” at the bottom it referenced “Alan Redpath (stroke victim).”
Below I’ve shared his words because it describes perfectly of this battle of which I’ve spoken above. It is the truth in victory! It is the rest of victory! Amen!
There is nothing – no circumstance, no trouble, no testing — that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment, but as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift my eyes up to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disarm me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret, for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is. That is the rest of victory! (unknown)(Alan Redpath (stroke victim))
by: Mark Cruver
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