Because You Know

“Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”  Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”  She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.”  Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.   I Samuel 16-18

The story of Hannah is quite crazy in sadness, heartbrokenness, a search for answers, anguish, grief . . . surrender, expression, faithfulness, trust, obedience, worship . . . great love, honor, answers, blessings,  peace and assurance.  It’s a story of rescue!

Hannah sought the answers to the many questions in life she faced from those around her and not once did she find a solution.  Isn’t it just like any one of us to search for the answers we long to find in others — friends, family and sometimes strangers.  But never will I find true peace in the midst of brokenness unless I seek the Prince of Peace.

Hannah fell to her knees in great despair . . . the Bible describes it as anguish and grief, two things that the wrath of true crisis brings upon anyone who experiences such pain.  It further describes her in prayer, in such deep grief, words were unable to leave her lips while her mouth continued to move.  The priest thought sure she was drunk — but no, she was declaring, expressing, worshipping in prayer the depth of her own heart, the brokenness of her own spirit to the One she knew could heal.

And in this moment of honesty, she then went on her way — in peace!  How could this be?  Not only on her way did she go, but she actually ate something!  In crisis, in true heartbrokenness, the appetite is so small.  This is evidence of her in essence saying — believing — “I have shared my heart with my Lord and He knows all things — my hurt, my longing, my desires, my brokenness — whatever comes of this will clearly be of Him because He knows!”

Wow!  Because HE knows!

Lord Jesus, may I have the courage to stand from my own knees and no longer worry, no longer allow my circumstances to bring my face downcast BECAUSE YOU KNOW!

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

Always Abounding

“…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

Lebanon CedarThey 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

Righteousness Rises

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

Apple Of Your Eye

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

Broken Bottles

. . . 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

Bagels and Deisel

[5] Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. [11] You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:5,11 NIV

Breakfast is such an important start to any day. But this morning, life took a turn rather unexpectedly for more than forty professionals. While preparing for their three hour journey aboard a charter bus, each scurried around gathering their things and talking with their colleagues about their quality of rest overnight. Typical small talk. And then came the news. There was little known of the whereabouts of the bagels and coffee. You could have heard a pin drop as those with an affection for that daily cup of joe began to strategize in obtaining their much needed fix. Luckily, as time would have it, the bagels and coffee did arrive, but not without a scene like termites on fresh wood!

The walk to the bus was a delightful, but short, journey as everyone enjoyed their close embrace with a styrofoam cup. The joy, however, was quickly set aside at the stench of diesel fuel inside the bus. Bagel and coffee in one hand and now the smell of diesel – life sure does serve the unexpected for breakfast sometimes.

God reminds us of the fellowship He wants in us. We sing songs of adoration and praise that echo the truths of who He is. Truths that declare the sustaining grace in Him, the endless love He empowers and how through those things He is all we need. It is within this that He becomes our food and drink both in the morning and throughout the day. It is in 1 Corinthians 1:9 that Paul says, “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” And it is in all circumstances, with or without bagels, smelling of diesel or roses, that we can fellowship, commune, embrace and consult with our Heavenly Father.

Thank you Lord Jesus for the joy I can find in you regardless of my circumstances. Would you like to sit and have a bagel? I have an extra!

Determined Purpose

My determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him . . . . Philippians 3:10 AMP

It’s more than just a goal. It’s determined! This means God has gone before me, prepared me, designed in me a purpose, an intent to fellowship, commune, delight in and know my Father.

Knowing the intimate and delight in my designed purpose brings a level of joy into my heart. The idea that God created me with this in mind says an immeasurable amount for the love He has for me. And as I manage my relationships on this earth and experience the lack of intimate fellowship with those I have wounded through poor decisions, I stand tall still in the unmistaken truth that I may know Him!

So, today, and each day, till I breathe my last breath, may I make all relationships second to my determined purpose of getting to know you deeply and intimately. As I walk and talk with others or as I sit in want of fellowship with others may I include you in all things both in my heart and on my mind. When I want to hide, may I make you my hiding place. When I’m lonely, may I find refuge in fellowship with you. When I’m filled with joy, may it be unspeakable and filled with your glory.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. 1 John 1:3-4 NIV

Perfume Of Grace

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel. Proverbs 27:9

The presence of God in my life is often treated as something I take from the shelf and use at will much like a staple from the pantry. But the joy of Christ in me is difficult to contain. Keeping the lid on Jesus is like bottling a fireworks display.

But how does Christ resonate through me through my brokenness? Is it truly possible? The answer is a resounding YES! I am much like the perfume vessel that has been broken. The grace of God is released and the aroma of Christ in me fills the room! It is sweet and brings joy to the heart!

Lord Jesus, may I learn today to live in my brokenness so that the sweet essence of your Spirit and grace is ever present – unavoidably noticed! And thank you for such pleasantness through your friendship!

Praise In Pain Means More Than An Ox

I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me. I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs. The poor will see and be glad—you who seek God, may your hearts live! The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people. Psalm 69:29-33

As I both reflect and experience the depth of my own hurt and continual pain, I’m dumbfounded by the salve. As I encounter hurt by others, I’ve learned how quickly my demeanor is squeezed of what one might conclude to be the essence of happiness. But while rejection produces hurt and hurt, pain, I cry to my Lord for comfort. Not a bad idea actually, it seems like the right thing to do for deliverance. But in the depth of my own outcries what do I bring? Certainly no ox!

When the wounds of rejection present themselves in portion, my heart drips with self and desperate pleas for God to rescue my heart from bleeding out. And while turning my eyes, cries, and broken heart toward the Savior for comfort, He tells me of the tone, expression and essence of me He most desires and in which, delights.

God’s salve to the pain and hurt from rejection and isolation comes through His salvation! Call this a moment of discovery, but I’ve never seen the word, nor meaning, of salve in the word salvation — until now! And while an ox is a bit bulky to bring before the Lord, but would most definitely please Him, the inward and outward expression of praise and glory through song from the depths of my soul brings Him far more pleasure in fellowship with me than any ox with horns and hoofs. Makes me smile a bit to think of that!

Lord Jesus, I’m listening to your gentle voice. You are showing me what to do in my pain, hurt and rejection and it is not what I expected. While it hurts beyond description to be unwanted by fellow man, you want and invite me daily to be in close fellowship with you! And with my hurt, you heal through your salvation! May I continue to sing your praises through the pain – despite no ox! 😉