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Yesterday Looms Tomorrow

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You re a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes.  All such boasting is evil.  If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.  James 4:13-17

Sometimes days are predictive.  At other times the days ahead can be as mysterious and anxious as a haunted house.  It’s amazing how deep our minds can dig into the plans we have for ourselves in looking toward tomorrow.  Unfortunately, our culture, perhaps our bent, is to gather from yesterday and build a structure of our own tomorrow.  While there is a place to look back to learn from history, it is a dangerous practice in trusting the Lord and living for Him each day.

In the book of Genesis, Lot’s family was granted a pardon by God to flee the city of Sodom.  But as they did, they were to not look back.  They were to remain focused on where they were going, not where they had been.  And as God rained down fire upon Sodom, Lot’s wife could not help herself and turned back to look.  It was a costly mistake as she turned to a pillar of salt.

Granted, people aren’t turning to pillars of salt for looking back on yesterday, but there is a lesson (many lessons actually) here, demonstrating obedience, a pursuit of God’s will, a focus to things to come, the plans He has for me!

And it may be true that my yesterday looms today, but God has gone before me and built my tomorrow!  It is today that I live in yesterday’s tomorrow God made just for me!  And today, well, He is shaping my tomorrow and whispers in my ear — “Just wait and see what I have planned for you!”

May I not boast of my tomorrow and blame yesterday for it!  Instead, may I lift my eyes to the Heavens, in front of me and rejoice in knowing that today was yesterday’s stage for my tomorrow!

The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.  Psalm 118:24

by:  Mark Cruver

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Safe in the Shadow

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.  Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.   Psalm 63:6-7

David was chosen by God, appointed by the prophet Samuel to be King.  As a shepherd, he trusted the helping hand of God to be his strength and refuge.  He protected his flock from the wild beast, killed lions with his bare hands and with a single stone brought down the most feared Philistine.  And yet, despite his faith in God, he made some terribly poor decisions.  Falling into temptation with a beautiful woman, wife of a soldier off at war whom later he would have killed.  With child, they marry and because of his sin, God takes this child.  Yet, in obedience, David and Bathsheba bear another, a son, the wisest, King Solomon.

Despite his sin — David was a man after God’s own heart!
Oh God, hear my cries today as I sit on my bed and remember you.
In the stillness of the morning I reflect on your beauty in all you touch.
From the depths of the ocean to the furthest star of which you’ve named.
In my sin, much has been taken from me, and I mourn the loss.
Through the night I dream of the death of what I called my life — and dream of you.
I pray forward, through my obedience, that you allow the birth of new life.
For now I rest in the shadow of your wings, near your breast or as you soar.
I sing, like the bird who sings after the storm.  She does because it swells from within.
Not because she’s hungry, not because she’s lonely, not because she’s grieving . . .
but because she knows she’s safe in the shadow of your wing and she sings praise!

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.  Proverbs 18:10

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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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When God Asks

. . . my cup overflows.   Psalm 23:5

In the course of my life I can guarantee I’ve reached the million mark in a number of areas.  There’s been more than a million cups of coffee (ok, maybe not that many-but close!), a million steps since I learned to walk, a million sneezes (each time I sneeze I do them in threes-that adds up fast!), a million mistakes and a million peanut M&M’s.  But one thing is for sure, the benchmark of asking God to do things, change things and make things happen have far exceeded a million I think.

I just celebrated my birthday this last weekend and the top question on the board was, “What would you like?”  Others were wanting to create a day full of blessings by giving things I’d enjoy.  My day was filled with my favorite things (I suddenly started humming that song from The Sound of Music) — ugghh!!  I was overwhelmed at times and stuffed to the gills for most of the day!

I have spent a great deal of my time in life asking God for things.  Some of those requests and prayers have been answered, while some are still in the queue.  And now, many have asked me for the answers to questions in order to bring blessings to me.  That day was made marvelous through the diligence and willingness of those asking of my favorites.  But what about God?  How often has God asked me, about me?

I know that God cares about me, in fact loves me beyond measure.  I also know that He wants nothing but the best for me — even though my choices have not always opened the door to His blessings.  But God knows my heart and He knows what delights me and my spirit.  Knowing this, sometimes He doesn’t actually need to ask — He knows — and He blesses.  My day entails keeping a close watch out for His subtle surprises — to see the beauty in the blessings of those things in which He knows I find delight.  I don’t always accept those blessings as I should, nor see them as from His hand.

My cup, indeed, overflows!

  • The honks high above of the Sandhill Crane, circling in their flocks on their journey home, grabs my attention in awe and wonder.
  • The dazzling dance of a bumblebee in the garden captures me.
  • The sounds of a saxophone.
  • The burst of orange, blue, yellow and purple from the sun’s first kiss of the day takes my breath away.
  • The heartbeat of the ocean gently breaking on the shore in the early morning hours mesmerizes me.
  • The subtle breeze of springtime.
  • The sounds of my children laughing.
  • The winter night sky is overwhelmed with the details of His creation.

When God asks me how He can bless me, these are a few of those things He shares with me!

Lord Jesus, I am overwhelmed at how much my cup runs over.  My party is clearly not over or my cups would be dry.  Instead, you have filled them to overflowing!  I celebrate these many blessings and more — may my eyes continue to recognize your hand in all things.

. . . because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb.   Genesis 49:24-25

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Passive Attentive

Dear Lord Jesus, I can think of many things in my life, both past and present, that by definition fall into the category:  destructive.  Whether it be patterns of negative behavior or attitudes from the flesh, I know I have what it takes to single-handedly make a mess of everything.  This is no surprise to you.  I’m so thankful you are a God of restoration!

However, the sealing off of negative thoughts and inconclusive moments in my world have been conduits of passive aggressive behavior in my relationships.  You have spoken to me this morning as clear as the sun is shining and answered my prayer.

Awareness of your presence and the familiar tone of your voice are but refreshments to my weary mind and aching heart.  I am guilty of being passive attentive to your Spirit within me and when I neglect to listen, my doer listens to other things.  I hurt, others hurt, I no longer trust, others cannot trust — it’s not your plan.

I know I need to listen to you in all things, becoming actively attentive to your Spirit within.  Remind me of the power I have in you!  In your precious and Holy name, Jesus Christ, Amen!

We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  I John 4:19-20

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Pressure Of Performance

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.  Colossians 2:9-10

Backing off a 100 foot cliff with nothing but a rope was not my idea of having fun.  I would have much preferred the more scenic route.  Leading a group of young people that day into the back country of Colorado was a first for me — worse, I was in charge!  On the event list was rock climbing, white water rafting and my favorite . . . rappelling!  Adventure plus high octane risk of death was never my cup of tea.  But this day, I was facing it — head on.  I knew I was going to need to find a part of me that never showed face.  I was going to need to go beyond the extra mile and risk it all — go first!

The moment I took my first step backwards and stared into the eyes of 25 teenagers, I knew I was gonna die right there in front of them!  My level of self-confidence swung like a pendulum from “You can do this!” to “Are you kidding me?  You’re gonna die!!”  There was no in between where there was time to convince or justify — it was all or nothing.  The sounds of my heart pounding could be heard throughout the canyon that day from the pressure to perform.

I’m glad, and maybe a bit proud, to say that I made it to the bottom of that rock ledge and would have done it all over again.  It was a great day for me to be the student.  I wish, however, that the pressures of performance had sweet endings like that all the time, but they don’t.  The constant attention and effort required to measure up, meet expectations and “be” is riddled with living in bondage.  The energy consumed by the physical body, the spiritual body and the toll upon the mind and emotions is at times, overwhelming.  Truth is, with man, I will never measure up and I will always disappoint.  How sad it must be.

But thank heavens I serve a God that takes me as I am!  Bad ideas, stupid words, dumb decisions, mighty mistakes and the list goes on — God still, despite it all, accepts me and considers me COMPLETE in Christ!  That certainly takes the pressure off!  I get to be me!

Lord Jesus, I am so mindful of those around me and what they think of me.  You knit me together like that!  So, I work hard at measuring up.  Continue showing me that all that matters is in You and You alone!  Reveal in my heart as I turn and see Your face as I back off ledges in my life that You are my reason!

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

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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

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