Forever Following

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalm 23:6

Today I returned to an old favorite — Psalm 23.  If you haven’t read it in a while, it is chock full of encouragement and hope.  A great book – a short daily read – that I would recommend is Max Lucado’s Safe in the Shepherd’s Arms.  It’s amazing!

As I was rereading this passage this morning, it struck me how David stresses that goodness and mercy (love) follow me.  Follow me?  God’s goodness and mercy?  Well, depending on your personal theology of God’s whereabouts, this can crash someone’s party if all they think is that God’s dictating from some throne.

This suggests one, if not two things.  First, as implied, this means that God’s not just ruling like we see of the images of Pharaoh.  He is not the unapproachable conductor of all things.  On the contrary, He is personal, relational, compassionate, with an abundance of grace and love beyond our wildest dreams.   Which leads me to the second.  While God is clearly “seated” on the throne, He, through the Holy Spirit, pursues me!  Pursues!  David understands this in his remembrance of God’s presence through the guarantee of God’s goodness and mercy following me every day.  It reminds me somewhat of the old 90’s episodes of Dukes of Hazard when the “good ‘ole boys” were in “hot pursuit.”  They couldn’t seem to cut a break!  I, too, am in “hot pursuit” by my Savior — every day!  And trailing and flanking that pursuit is Goodness and Mercy!

But even in the midst of great news, where goodness seems so obvious, it’s possible for circumstances scratched by the sharp nails of darkness to overshadow our hearts and minds with pittance.  Its unfortunate that such be robbed from our lives, but God still moves!  He still pursues, not sitting and ruling from a throne, but running and guarding, protecting and whispering in our ears at every turn.  Whispering the Truth of His goodness and His mercy that stands firm against the lies of darkness, the thief in the night, and fills me with joy unspeakable, full of His glory!  All this in spite of my circumstances.  Amen!!

Lord Jesus, I’m reminded of my first day of school.  I was so scared, worried.  I didn’t like kindergarten and I wasn’t going to stay.  I remember planning my escape down to the very minute for when I’d make a dash.  Mrs. Mapstone was faster than she appeared as I remember she was a bit older than me — much older!  Remember how I made it out the door and just beyond the ditch before she caught me?  I was so not happy about that!  But as much as I was frightened to be at school, I think the bus was even worse.  I remember looking back over my shoulder more than once to see if mom was still there.  She was.  You’re pursuing me, right?  Life’s bus ride and classroom are filled with so many things.  Some I know, most I don’t.  I’m looking back, if that’s o.k., to see your Goodness and Mercy!  I see them . . .!

Bull Crap

–conflicts on the outside, fears within.  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us . . .   II Corinthians 7:5b-6a

In John Eldredge’s book, The Beautiful Outlaw he writes about the cunning nature of Jesus during his ministry on earth.  It is definitely a characteristic I’ve rarely associated with Christ and one, quite honestly, difficult to apply.  My Savior — sly and sneaky?  In some ways it is very much so, but in order to fulfill His purpose it was necessary for Him to do the impossible — hated, hunted and hung.

It was the greatest measure of dramatic irony time has ever witnessed.  God knew the end of this story, yet everyone, including satan himself, never saw it coming.  His cunning nature introduced me to a new aspect of Christ’s person that I had never considered.  An aspect of His humanity mixed with the foreknowledge of God unfolded before me Christ — to whom I can say the darndest things!

I know, there seems to be a leap from learning more of His cunning nature to the ability to express myself to Him.  But, it’s not so much how unbelievably smart Christ was [is] as much as it’s about how much He understands how scary it is to live on this earth.  He knows first-hand about hungry wolves and the sheep they appear to be.

And so, as I pulled into the parking spot, it just rolled off my tongue like He was sitting in the seat next to me.  He was near!  I spoke to Him a little different than I normally do.  I said with a muddled tone, “Bull crap!  That’s bull crap and you know it!  Right?  It’s bull crap right?”  And while serious as a heart attack with Him, I paused for a moment and busted out laughing!  I just said “bull crap” to my Jesus!  And He understood me!

I replayed that moment in my head over and over throughout the day.  I had thoughts of whether it was the right thing to say to Him, should I have said it different, and why would I even ask Him that question.  But then He reminded me that I wasn’t the first person to ever talk with Him like that — the disciple who denied Him and the disciple who betrayed Him said it in much different contexts as well.  The text is not the same, but the meaning certainly is.

Why do I mention these things?  It’s to remind me of the Comforter in Him.  He gets me!  Just like I am!  He knows my circumstances and I can be honest with Him, real with Him, expressive with Him as He comforts me and I take refuge in Him!

Lord Jesus, thank you for allowing me to be me with you!  In those moments of shedding facades and becoming vulnerable, show me the path you’ve paved for me and continue to give me wisdom as I step with you!

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.  For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.  Psalm 4:11-12

Glorious Ruin

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and teh Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  Job 1:21

Glorious RuinSuffering is imminent.  Pain exists.  Grief is around the corner — it’s just a matter of time.  I have experienced very little loss in my life.  Grief and pain rallied themselves around me at the loss of a pet or the slam of a hammer on my thumb.  True pain, the kind that comes from loss — utter grief, the kind that comes from death, has now circled my wagon and pitched a tent.  I can’t explain the immensity, the emotion, the sense of hopelessness, the depth of loss.

But in it, in the middle of the worst of life there is glory to be found.  This glory is only there because of one thing — the cross!  My crisis is a glorious ruin!  The pain is real, the grief is real, so too is the cross!  The author, Tullian Tchividjian says, “Indeed our efforts to contain, move past, or silence it, that ol’ rugged cross stands tall, resolutely announcing that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ . . . Instead of diminishing our pain, then, these words proclaim the corresponding and overwhelming gratuity of our Redeemer.”

This book will not change your crisis, but it will change how you walk through your crisis!  It will set you free!

Learn more about the author and the book here!

by:  Mark Cruver

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Living in freedom is a way of life that comes at a difficult price at times.  Seeing ourselves from a vantage point that bypasses what feels right and flows with the mindset of society does not come natural at best.

Tim Keller knows that living in the freedom of dieing to self each day by living through the lens of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ is the most freeing, life-changing step a believer can take in their walk.

This little book is packed full of thought provoking, self-reflective insights that churn the soul in a deeper understanding of who we are in Christ and what that looks like daily.  Living in the shadows of everyone else is hard work — the ego is hungry.  Shed the burden and live in the Light of the only One that matters — what He thinks of you matters!

by:  Mark Cruver

Satan, You Can’t Have My Children

Going into this book I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I was a little intimidated by the title.  Afterall, it’s a little “in your face” to satan.  For someone who doesn’t really go after stirring up the pot, I certainly would rather not stir up the darkness.  That’s my flesh talking for sure!

I’m reminded often of the power I have at every turn of every moment of my life.  Christ in Me!  The Hope of Glory!  The God who rose from the grave and turned water into wine!  The God that defeated Goliath and withstood the fiery furnace, the God that created man from dust and thousands of years later walked on water.  The very God where darkness cannot be found — it’s not allowed!  That’s the power I have — because Christ lives in me and through me!

With that in mind . . . I read this book!

First of all I must let Ms. Iris know how thankful I am that God laid these truths upon her heart, gave her the spirit of obedience and put them on paper.  They were a true testament to the nature of who she is in Christ and who we all are who call on the name above all names!

Our children are so precious!  More than legacies and more than little people.  As Ms. Iris says, they are unique spirits clothed in an earth-suit of their own.  As parents we spend the majority of our time caring for the earth suits, but little to no time nurturing their more valuable identity — their souls.  Robbed of their innocence, the truths of the Kingdom and their dependence on Christ alone, our children are wandering in the desert and clinging to false faith, false hope and false love.

It is our responsibility as parents to protect them from the scalding arrows of satan and his never-changing lies.  We must PRAY!  Pray for our children at all times!  Present them at Christ’s feet, surrendered but not silent!  It’s past time to be intentional about talking, praying and teaching the Truth, boldly, honestly and fearlessly to our children.

I could go on and on — this book fired me up!  Can you tell?  Every Christian parent should read it for no other reason than as a reminder that our battle is not against flesh and blood — and our children are walking aimlessly inside the lion’s pride.

Click here to learn more about his book!

by:  Mark Cruver

Night with a Perfect Stranger

Recently I ran across this book and wasn’t really sure it’s value nor application on my life.  But the one thing I did know was it’s message was something important.  Perhaps that was the Spirit prompting me.  I’m so glad I listened!

It took my relationship with Christ and, through this story, linked me with the living, breathing triune God that is joined with me forever.  Further it revealed in real terms how my life I do not live, but it’s Jesus’ life and only He can live it.

I learned further that it doesn’t matter what it feels like — my relationship with Christ is real and true.  The love the Father has for me is because of who I am, not what I’ve done or not done.

It taught me more about sin than I’ve ever understood.  That given my relationship with Christ, joined — linked, means I take Him with me into all my sin.  This is something He told the Corinthians.  This is huge!  Anything that comes my way, comes through Jesus!  Wow!

Can’t say how much it opened my eyes!  Check out this preview.

by: Mark Cruver

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