Tag Archives: love

Son Shines

Allow me to first set the stage . . .

In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword.  His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.  Revelation 1:16

And then this . . .

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”  Your face, Lord, I will seek.   Psalm 27:8

In Psalm 148 praise is given to our Lord from the heights of the heavens and from the depths of the earth.  Everything between the two worship the Lord our God — all creation!

I’m reminded of the beauty of how the earth and all that is in, on and near it rejoices in praise to our King.  The stars twinkle in a sequence of praise!  The trees lift their arms to the Lord Most High!  The crickets sing their praise as the birds dance in the air.

But recently I was struck by how one of God’s creations rejoice and praise the Son of God.  By day it lifts it’s head to the heavens and seeks the face of our Lord.  And by night, it bows in humble adoration to the God of all.  Each day of it’s life, each second of it’s existence it does nothing but worship the King.

The sunflower is perhaps, the most rewarding example of all of God’s creation in how to praise His holy name – morning, noon and night!  The sunflower is unique in that even if the clouds block the sun’s rays, it still follows it’s path.  You see, it does not need to see the sun to know it is there!  It knows!

Our Lord’s face is like that of the brilliant sun!  It shines bright and warm!  And our heart knows He is there!  So, I turn my face to the Son and seek His face — morning, noon and night!

Lord Jesus, the sunflower is so brilliant!  You created something so simple to explain and demonstrate your majesty.  From a simple seed, we are able to grow a very true example of worship.  You are most praiseworthy and adorned by all.  May I not take my eyes off of the Son that shines forever in the hearts of those who love Him!

by Mark Cruver

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Without Wings

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  James 4:10

There are plenty of things crafted by the Master’s hand that goes counter to all things understood.  In many ways we would consider these things “exceptions” to whatever rule they seem to break.  For instance, the Platypus, an ostrich-headegg-laying mammal — seems a bit odd, don’t you think?  Let’s consider the Bat, a flying mammal — blind none-the-less — still a bit odd.  How about a Penguin?  A bird, that swims!  Speaking of birds, what’s up with the Ostrich?  A bird that has wings, but cannot fly!  Imagine if it could though — wow!

God is the only one that can get away with this kind of “exception-al” thinking or doing!  It truly demonstrates the mastery of His design.  When we try to apply some of these same exceptions to things created by human hands, it doesn’t quite run the same “exception-al” rules.  For instance, we don’t drive boats on the road, nor can we get a hot-air balloon to lift with water!  Perhaps more so, we have yet to create or design a plane that could fly without wings.  It just doesn’t happen.

But beyond all things tangible things, God also created a relationship that is truly “exception-al.”  It is built with love at it’s core, faith as it’s fuel and hope in it’s veins.  All of which assume their own “exception-al” design.  Further, God reminds us that in order to be more like Him we must humble ourselves before Him and man. Seems “exception-al” to me!!  In essence, He says, deflate your pride and I will make you soar on the wings of eagles!  What?

He has designed us without wings — yet, He has promised to lift us high if we are to humble ourselves.  That means making life all about Him and little about me!  That means saying, “I wanna do life Your way, not my way!”

Thank you Lord Jesus for doing an “exception-al” work in me!  You designed me to love the unlovable, to worship the God of the universe, to soar without wings, to taste and see!  Continue to show your immeasurable love to me each day as I learn more about dropping my pride to the curb!

by:  Mark Cruver

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Filed under Faith, Hope, Humility, In Christ, Life, Love, Pride, Surrender, Trust, Truth, Uncategorized

Circle of Life

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

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Like Yesterday’s Ragdoll

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

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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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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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Right Place, Right Time

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.  Mark 15:21

Ever wonder whether or not you were where you should be or doing what you should be doing or going where you should be going?  I can imagine most everyone has asked these questions of themselves at one time or another.  And sometimes, after our experiences we second guess our purpose there.  Why is this?  Is it a lack of faith or a hole in our trust?

There was a man that the scripture tells us was just “passing through from the country.”  Not much else is said for his purpose in Jerusalem, but it’s likely he was there to bring a sacrifice not realizing that which was going on at the time.  And this man, observing the radical journey Christ was taking through the streets, being led to the Hill, by cracks of the Roman whips and shouts of hurt and pain from those whom He loved.  Simon found himself in the right place at the right time.

Unlike anyone else to have ever lived on this earth, Simon from Cyrene actually carried the cross of Christ!  It doesn’t make him any more holy by any means, but to have carried the cross for Christ must have been the most unbelievably symbolic moment of time.  As I mentioned before, it is most likely Simon was there for his own purposes, but God chose him to escort THE Lamb of God to be sacrificed for the sins of all.

I would dare suggest that Simon would have preferred not to be the one to carry this cross.  I might figure that he was wishing he was not standing where he was standing, or made eye contact with the Roman soldier that called him out.  He may have even felt as though he was the one “helping” Jesus to the cross.  The opportunity for doubt, shame, regret and wishing he had not been there at all was ever-so present.  He might even had thought he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But God used Simon for the Glory of God and the Salvation of the World!

Lord Jesus, today is the anniversary of the day Simon carried your cross!  We speak of how you carry our burdens and the weight of all sin hung with you on the cross that Simon carried for you!  I’m in awe.  It has shed a whole new light on the events of this day.  May I be reminded often of your journey to the cross — for me — and the many times you demonstrate your love for me!

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”   Genesis 50:20

 

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Suspicion is a Weed in the Garden of Trust

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].   I Corinthians 13:7  (Amplified Bible)

You know, our actions don’t change until our minds change.  In other words, doing (whatever that might be — good or bad) is produced through what we think about, how we think and where our heart dwells.  And when it comes to how we relate to others, it’s critical that our lives reflect the mind of Christ in our obedience to Him in all things.  When we let down the guard of our hearts we allow Satan to gain a stronghold on what we think of others . . . it replaces love, faith and trust with suspicion.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  The root to the spring of joy in our lives bubbles-up from within our heart.  The lack of faith, the absence of trust and false-love destroy relationships, but truth and faith — the essence of love, brings joy to our lives.

But it begins not in the heart, but instead in the mind.  This is why God calls us to the renewal of our mind.  To do this we must learn more about God’s Word.  Study it, meditate on it!

Love is believing the best in others regardless of the circumstances.  When we choose to no longer believe the best in someone, suspicion grows strong.  It’s Satan’s preferred garden of weeds!  If allowed to grow, they will destroy a garden and choke off the beauty and splendor that it is fully capable of producing.  It may not always feel right because man enjoys being critical of others, but God’s way is to not judge others or become critical and suspicious of their ways.

Our most important relationship is the one we have with God the Father.  It is in Him alone that we need to place our trust — not others.  And with a balanced attitude, a guarded heart and a renewing mind, God’s love in us will flow like a spring.  When this happens, the beauty and splendor of the garden of our hearts and minds will pop with full-color . . . weed-free!

Lord Jesus, this is a lesson for today and everyday!  I only wish I’d learned it sooner.  Regardless, teach me to trust when it doesn’t feel right and give me discernment and wisdom to recognize when you are trying to show me the truth.

A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.  Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the sould and healing to the bone.  Proverbs 16:23-24

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Faith Springs From Hope

. . . the faith and love that springs from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel . . .    Colossians 1:5

On those hot, blistery Florida summer days, I remember as a teenager going with my friends to the local springs to swim.  With it 95 degrees or more in the shade, the year-long 70 degree water was always a bit chilly at first.  The shallow end of the spring was much warmer as the sun was able to make a difference in the shallow.  But the deeper you swam, the closer you came to the spring, the colder that water would get.

I remember swimming near the sandy bottom, chasing the bluegill and becoming fixed on the bubbling of fresh water from somewhere beneath it all.  It made the sand dance.  When the light from the sun cast its light just right, you could see the fury of cold water mixing with the warmer water around the spring.  It was truly amazing to see — and I never grew tired of that sight.

I was sad to learn recently, the spring is no longer open to the public — but is still dancing . . . it just can’t help it!

God has given us an abundance of love and faith and it, too, springs from hope.   It dances . . . it just can’t help it!  The difference is, it has no measure and nothing can contain it.  It stretches as far as the east is from the west.  It is the strength we need in pressing forward, to pursue the desires of our heart, to obtain our God-given dreams.

Lord Jesus, my faith has been tested on many levels.  My hope has been battered by storms in my life.  Restore in my heart, in my mind, the truth about your hope.  The truth that says your love and faith force themselves from your hope — because it just can’t help it!  As you live in me and I in you, may I remember when things feel bleak that your springs are bubbling in my soul with an abundance, uncontainable love to which I find your hope in all things.

But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. . . The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.   Galatians 5:5-6

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Where My Help Comes From

I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1-2

How do you explain peace?  Is it best described as a stillness or calming of a mighty storm?  Or is it more like the gentleness of the beast as it reclines with the lamb?  Maybe it could be described best in the quiet morning hours of a springtime sunrise overlooking the reflection of the mighty mountains on the surface of an outstretched lake.  More difficult is defining it in a person — like the person of Christ.  We like to see peace to know what it’s like.  It becomes something ever so different when we taste it for ourselves.

But while Christ, in His person demonstrated a more scandalous sense of peace, He was and still is, the Prince of Peace!  And this peace, unlike the calm sea or the comfort of beasts or even the stillness of the morning — is actually living within me!  But though my heart toils and wrenches in the anguish of pain and grief, He offers peace and rest in the comfort of His arms in every place, every corner, every moment of my life.

Even the gardener, in the midst of his pain, hurt and grief, in great sorrow still sowed the land with seed.  With peace and joy, not without tears, he continued in his day to bring the first fruits of the season.  I can only imagine the number of seeds that were watered by the tears that drenched the soil under his knees.  But what he brought home were sheaves of songs of joy!

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.  He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.    Psalm 126:5-6

In the peace that only He can give, there is unmeasurable comfort.  When every ounce of myself can no longer carry on, I remember, my strength comes from the Prince of Peace.  This is where my help comes from!

Lord Jesus, I know you are the Maker of heaven and earth!  When I think of that alone I am overwhelmed with your power, your creativity and humbled by your love for me — merely a dot in the vast expanse of your creation.  Yet, though what appears to be so small, you have written a promise to be my Peace, my Joy, my Help, my Rock!  Oh,  how much you must love me!  There are days when I feel I cannot move for the weight of this world upon me is so heavy.  But in you the burdens of my circumstances become light and my wondering is sealed.  You are more than I have ever imagined and your greatness is beyond my human ability to understand.  Thank you for helping me through my pain!

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.  The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?  The Lord is with me; he is my helper.  I will look in triumph on my enemies.  Psalm 118:5-7

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