Resting In The Shadow

There are so many places where peace is nothing shy of just plain pretty.  Oh the beauty of a peaceful commute home from work or the beauty of  a calm conversation with the phone company over a discrepancy in the bill.  How awesome to experience the peace in the playroom when 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 child with a friend plays without fighting.  Sometimes I just cry out for a Klondike Bar!  Oh boy, what I wouldn’t do sometimes for a peaceful moment.

But God has extended for me a place, a place to rest — find peace.  It’s a place not riddled with distractions, formal rules, assignments or expectations — it’s a place of freedom, communion, fellowship and well . . . rest.

David spoke of this place as he, too, wondered of the assurance of fellowship with his God.  And as he did he found peace in his fellowship.  It was a place of rest, embrace and joy.

I’m reminded of moments I’ve spent in the hammock, under the tall oak tree.  I reflect on the fellowship with my Savior on the boulder found  firmly in place at the edge of the creek.  As I seek shade on a hot day, may I rest in the comfort of my Lord.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  Psalm 91:1

Irrational Recipe

It’s pretty common knowledge, especially among chefs, that ingredients play a key role in making anything in the kitchen.  You probably just squished up your face and said to yourself something like, “Well, it doesn’t take a chef to know that – duh!”  You’d be right.  In fact, it’s also pretty common knowledge to know that baking soda, when used alone, will not make a cake, neither will an egg, or oil, or flour.  I actually hope you have never done or choose to ever do this, but  you’ll know exactly what I mean if you spoon up some baking soda in your mouth.  Don’t ask me how I know this.

My experience of expertise in this area comes at a critical time in my life where I was learning from my grandmother, the trade secrets in the kitchen.  Making homemade brownies was always a treat!  But I must add, curiosity really got the goose on this particular day.  All the ingredients on the table and ready to assemble, the one that drew my attention far more than any other was the can of Cocoa.  Taking on the ideal fragrance of chocolate and appearing in presentation identical to it’s cousin Nestle Quick, I couldn’t resist the temptation to grab the spoon at the first chance I had.  Grandma finally went around the corner, just out of site and I moved in for the kill.  It was going to be a mouthful of succulent chocolate yum — a concentrated chocolate milk on my tongue and I couldn’t wait for the thrill of this tasteful experience.  I grabbed the spoon in my unbelievable fortune, dug it deep within the tin of joy and lifted the spoon to my mouth while subtle waves of chocolate dance through my nose to my brain.  And then, like I had just unleashed a scoop of the moon into my mouth, the bitter buds on my palette ached and immediately withdrew what little moisture had gathered under my tongue.  Even at the attempt to discard it, it was like someone had just stepped on a powdery mushroom as spores of Cocoa were released into the air.  One might think it would depart your mouth as quick as it went in, but like QuickSet concrete, Cocoa turns to a paste that a simple and single glass of water does not dissolve.

I had learned a valuable lesson that day.  I am not coo-coo for Cocoa anymore for one, but I mostly learned that all things are not as they appear.  Ingredients can seem a bit irrational at times.  It just doesn’t make sense that something so nasty can taste so good in the end.  Sugar is a sweet, sweet thing — it changes everything!!!

Tonight I was reminded of this principle once again.  The more I read about it, the more I became amazed, encouraged and simply in awe of God.  In short, God tells us that He is making something very good in each of us.  He plans to use all things to conform me into the image of His Son.  And I found myself staring at the pages . . . quiet . . . still . . . contemplating this apparent journey.  And here is what I began to think:  “What?  All things?  He’s going to take them all?  Surely not all of them!!  Really??  This one?  This?  That? And THAT??”

Oh my . . . this feels like a recipe for disaster!  And satan would surely like for me to think that in every sense of the term.  But that’s not what God has said about me, nor is it how Christ lives through me.  Yeah, my sin is like a spoonful of Cocoa — smells good, tastes like powdered poop!  But my crappy life experiences mixed with a heart for Jesus baked in His redemptive love and grace is an original recipe indeed!

Thank you Jesus!

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.    Romans 8:28

by Mark Cruver

Holidays That Hurt

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ  the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  II Corinthians 1:3-4

I’ve been reminded quite often during this holiday season of the hurt that surrounds me.  Not my own, while also deep, but rather the hurt of friends and family . . . and strangers alike.  I used to think and believe, without compassion, the hurt of those around me were more of their business than my own.  With this attitude it is simple and easy to think about yourself more highly than one ought and arrogantly disregard the pain of others.  After all, that’s not my problem . . . right?  I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Pain and hurt during the holidays is incredibly heightened.  With every turn, almost unavoidably, the joys of the season in family, and friends and fellowship spring from every corner.  To the hurting, it’s like rubbing alcohol on an opened wound.  There may be healing in it, but it hurts like the dickens . . . more than usual.

The loss of a family member or a very dear friend conjures up an absence, a change in routine and a reflection of what once was.  The grief associated with such loss can be immense.  The heaviness of sadness and loneliness can sink what was once unsinkable.  How one stays afloat in such times is somewhat of a mystery . . . but not really.

The God of this universe has promised you comfort in the midst of loss, grief and pain.  His comfort alone is sustaining and the “mystery” is truly by the grace of God!  He is the author of all that is and He alone orchestrates the healing power of the Holy Spirit in and through you.  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus my friend and everything that belongs to Him has been freely given to you!  While things are not the same in your world, Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever!

Experiencing the fullness of joy in the holiday season is indeed a precious gift.  Enjoy, celebrate and give thanks for those moments . . . but do not forget nor neglect the fact, there are those who experience far less joy in this season.  Share God’s precious gift with those who may be hurting.  It may be the only gift they receive.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.     II Peter 1:3-7

When God Appears

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.  “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them; “Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  “Lord, if it’s you,” Petter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  “Come,” he said.    Matthew 14:25-29

I’ve thought about this passage for quite some time.  I was enamored by the acts of Christ in separating himself from the distractions of life to find a quiet place to pray — and not just for a minute, but for hours!  Knowing Christ approached the throne for those He loved along with fellowship with His Father was for me a cause for pause.  But the next course of events were absolutely stunning.

From a distance, Christ’s vantage point, the boat and disciples could barely be seen.  Matthew tells us they were “already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves . . .”  Then, the impossible unfolded.

Knowing full well they were no longer near the shore, Christ appeared to the disciples.  As unexpected as this must have been, it was not unlike the Lord to teach through His actions and less so through His words.

When God appears in the midst of life events difficult to explain because it simply does not make sense, it is undoubtedly exactly when God finds a teachable heart.  I’ve often heard that if you can’t explain it, God’s in it!  This was so true of the moment Christ stood before them on the water in the middle of the lake.

It’s reassuring knowing God shows up to my events and teaches me simply by His presence of the Truth of His promises, the abundance of His love and the depth of His hope.

Thank you Lord Jesus for your willingness to seek the Father on my behalf and then pursue me, find me and call to me — right where I am.  Good, bad or indifferent, it doesn’t matter the circumstance, what you think of me never changes, your call to me never ceases, your love for me runs deeper than my mind can imagine.  I just cannot explain what it’s like when you appear!

For the grace of God ha appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the is present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.     Titus 2:11-14

Getting Used To It

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:  ‘Be holy, because I am holy.”  I Peter 1:15-16

One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the last couple of years more than anything is that with grief, with loss — comes change.  And in the face of such change there is the temptation to force myself through the briar patch despite the snags and pain with all of its’ lasting wounds and scars.  At times, it feels like it would be more comfortable if I simply stopped and settled in place.  However, the problem with sitting in the briar patch are those pesky thorns starring me in the face and their scratch at every move I make.  Those painful briars tell me it’s safer and hurts less if I just sit still.  And when I do, everyone hears me say things like — “I’m over here . . . do you mind if I just talk from here?  It hurts too much to come to you!”  “That’s ok, it’s just where I am . . . just getting used to it, I hope you don’t mind.”  “I’m doing well, no I’m great, really.  I’m just going to . . . ouch! That hurt!”

But, God didn’t call me to live my life in the briar patch.  Briar patches are places to hide and sulk.  God called me to live life in the abundance of Him without exception.  He calls me to live in His holiness and run into His arms instead places that lie about their safety and comfort.  The hurtful den of that patch is a place where the healing bed of His salvation can also be found.  The mere idea of stepping out of the briars without hurt, without pain . . . with healing and the assurance of His abundant love is the essence of joy, comfort, peace and hope.

There is no peace in the heart of those in the patch, but there is healing in the heart of the one who takes refuge in Him. He has called me to be holy as He is holy — to live in the truth of who I am, regardless of my circumstances.  That is joy unspeakable.

When change comes because of grief and loss, remember there is no getting used to that!   God called me to rest in the knowledge of who I am in Christ, not in getting used to the briar patch — that’s not who I am!

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  II Corinthians 10:5

When God Prays

After he dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.  Later that night, he was there alone, . . .      Matthew 14:23

In the context of this event with Christ and his disciples, He sent them across the lake in their boat ahead of Him.  He then went to pray.

It’s easy to pray . . . right?  I can’t tell you the number of times prayer has felt more like trying to speak another language without knowing a single word in that dialect.  Not knowing what to say, how to say it, where to say it, when to say it.  Should I ask?  Should I tell?  Do I even need to speak?  He knows everything already so what’s the real point?

No, it’s not so easy to pray!  But when I hear someone else pray from their heart through the love of Christ, it’s like my spirit has been refreshed!  I shared this with my oldest son recently when we were talking about prayer.  I mentioned how much of a joy it is to hear him pray — to witness him approach the throne on our behalf as we all begin our day!

Prayer is a connection unmatched by any other relationship on earth!  It’s a fellowship that enriches the heart and infuses the spirit with a communion of God’s love that by nature is the epitome of faith and trust!  And when we pray, Christ prays!  When He hears the voice of His children praying, His Spirit too is filled with joy!

When Christ went onto the hillside, He did so to be alone . . . to think . . . to commune . . . to intercede!  And hours later He came to the lake.  Hours later?  Yes!  He spent hours interceding in conversation with His (our) heavenly Father, knowing the fullness of what was yet to come.

Lord Jesus, help my voice speak the words of my heart in fellowship with you often so you can intercede on my behalf to the Father!  I know BIG things happen when I’m in fellowship with you and I know BIG things take place in the Kingdom when you mention my name to the Father!  May I learn to be still, listen and pray!

Next Post:  When God Appear

Rescuer Realized

Habakkuk the prophet saw it all and shares with us a portion of what was likely a lengthy conversation between him and God.   The account is shared in none other than the Old Testament book of Habakkuk.  It’s short — only three short chapters — but it is rich in the transforming understanding of who God is and the fullness of His glory!

How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?   Habakkuk 1:2

Habakkuk wrestled with recognizing the presence of God in the midst of difficult times.  He continues to question God in His allowance of wrongdoing and injustice, His tolerance of evil and conflict.  Habakkuk has forgotten for whom God exists!  He forgets that God is writing a story, but the detour in that great story must include the existence of unfortunate and sad circumstances because of the presence of sin.  And this often gives the false appearance of God’s absence.

God then, in chapter two, reminds Habakkuk of His great plan, His grand purpose and His holy splendor!  And Habakkuk’s eyes open to seeing, believing and trusting in the promises of God.  He finally realizes the message of rescue God has for His people.

You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one.   Habakkuk 3:13a

I cannot imagine the moment Habakkuk realized this truth!  His countenance changed, his life changed!  How he trusted in God changed and the depth of understanding of the love God has for him and His people was immeasurable.  Because, when all was lost, when nothing else was left, Habakkuk praised the One who enables!  It’s another great example of God’s whisper throughout time of His inevitable rescue!

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.   Habakkuk 3:17-19

Lord Jesus, remind me of your grand plan for me!  Continue to teach me of the joy I have in you because I belong to you!  I do rejoice . . . may I always rejoice . . . even when I have nothing, because with you I have everything!

 

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!

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

Life Sucks, God’s There

Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.

“But if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him.  He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.  He provides rain for the earth; he sends water on the countryside.  The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.  He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.  He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away. . . . Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”   Job 5:7-13,17

One of my favorite characters in The Peanuts Gang comic is little Pig Pen.  For obvious reasons, the poor little boy needs a bath!  Every where he goes a cloud of dust follows him and hovers over all he does.  Rarely do you hear a complaint from any of his friends, they just know . . . that’s Pig Pen.

I’d like to think I resonate with another of those famous characters however.  Maybe I feel more like Linus with his security blanket or Charlie Brown for his lack of self-confidence.  Perhaps Snoopy for his perseverance would serve as a better likeness.  And then of course, there are times I relate best with their teacher . . . mumbling something not worth listening to.  But in reality, more often than not, I relate with Pig Pen.  Not for the smell, but for that crazy dark cloud that seems to follow me everywhere I go at times.  Maybe you can relate.

That dark cloud often gets translated into a phrase we most commonly refer . . . Life Sucks!  When everything goes against us, fighting life becomes exhausting and gaining ground is something foreign.  When it happens enough, too much for our liking, there seems to be an overarching theme that sets into our minds.  It’s a tone we do not like, but nonetheless, listen to.  It says to us, almost unnoticed, that God must not be present since life sucks so badly.  In fact, it is drilled into our belief that if life sucks, then God must or even can’t be present.  The two are mutually exclusive.

Oh, how our hearts are so tender and deceived so easily.  The TRUTH is that even in the midst of life that sucks, God is there!  His heart is ever so aware of our burdens and stands ready to fellowship in our suffering.  The fall of man made life suck and since then sucky things happen each and every day!  But even then, God promised us He would never leave us nor forsake us.  It truly defines what it means to have peace amidst the stress.  All that sucks in our life, sucks to God as well and He desires nothing more than our hearts in middle of life’s valleys and celebrations.

Thank you, Lord Jesus for never giving up on me and most of all, never leaving me.  Thank you for joining me each morning for coffee and riding around town from place to place.  Thank you for sitting at the table with me and my family and resting each evening by my side.  Thank you Lord for hearing my complaints and disgruntlement.  Thank you for smiling and laughing when my heart sings in moments of joy.  Thank you for being there, even when life sucks!

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”   Deuteronomy 31:8

by:  Mark Cruver