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

Rest In Victory

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.  The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.  The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.   Psalm 19:8-9

For trials and crisis, it can often seem as though joy has somehow become caught in the drain hole of life.  And when the essence of joy has been removed from the soul, when purpose and hope have appeared to have run for the exit, that which remains feels deflated — defeated — discarded.  But this victory is skewed!  This victory gives the impression that the “other side” claimed for itself the ownership of the battle.  And while the evil one would have us think this is true and both in our hearts and minds establish this paradigm, it is the furthest from the actual state of affairs.

My mom loves to keep things.  More specifically, she likes little phrases, old books, articles and references to scripture jotted down on a napkin or notebook paper.  It is not uncommon for me to visit and for her to hand me this old program from an event with a “saying” on it that she feels would inspire or lift you up.  She doesn’t just share the words, she’ll give you the whole thing!  So, in true form, during my recent visit home she grabs her four-inch thick genealogy binder and pulls out this half-page piece of paper.  On it is typed — not from a computer — typed from an old typewriter.  I would sincerely suspect it was from her manual typewriter I remember from my childhood that I actually used to type my triplicate carbon copied papers on for high school.  On the paper was a six or seven line prose from, well, “unknown” was at the bottom.  I searched the internet to find it’s true author and found the same short document, but instead of “unknown” at the bottom it referenced “Alan Redpath (stroke victim).”

Below I’ve shared his words because it describes perfectly of this battle of which I’ve spoken above.  It is the truth in victory!  It is the rest of victory!  Amen!

There is nothing – no circumstance, no trouble, no testing — that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me.  If it has come that far, it has come with great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment, but as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift my eyes up to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disarm me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret, for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is.  That is the rest of victory!  (unknown)(Alan Redpath (stroke victim))

by:  Mark Cruver

More Time, More At Ease

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. Acts 10:1-2

Admittedly, remembering to spend time with someone whom you never, or rarely, see is at best … difficult. There is an old saying that may be familiar that says, “Out of sight, out of mind.” The truth of this phrase works great when you’re trying to keep something from your children or working diligently on a diet. To introduce whatever that is, regularly brings it to mind – and then your mind latches onto it like a tractor beam and your thoughts revolve around it.

But this phrase carries with it a danger when it comes to spending time with my Lord. If I don’t look for Him, have faith in His presence, call on Him casually as well as during defined moments, then recognizing Him becomes far more difficult and I become less at ease with my time with Him. In this instance, out of sight and out of mind equates to Jesus my acquaintance instead of Jesus my Lord, my Friend, my Confidant.

Nothing spells love better than time. For Christ in me, His time is everlasting and abundant. His measure of love through time is endless. And the more I spend time with Him, the more at ease I become in my awareness of Him in my daily events. There have been some unusual places (or at least seem unusual to me) where spending time has fueled my fellowship with Him. Speaking with Him at the grocery store, sipping coffee at Starbucks, mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, learning at conferences, visiting with others, at the playground, fishing on the lake, wading at the beach. Precious moments where there are conversations – simple conversations.

Let’s here of some places in which you’ve had a conversation with your Lord Jesus because you’ve been at ease in His presence.

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!

Equals Joy

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy . . . 1 Peter 1:8

As perplexed as one can be, I step back and take another look at the meaning of joy. Clearly, not to be confused with happiness, joy takes on an entirely different shape. It’s a state of my heart and a condition of my soul. Joy … made complete only through Christ Jesus.

Joy is one of those difficult things for the human mind to grasp. How does a mother who loses her baby find joy? How does the head of a household find joy in the loss of his job? How do victims of natural disaster who find themselves homeless experience joy?

I then think of the many trials and tribulations so many have endured. And James reminds us even in the midst of the worst to consider them pure joy. So, I invite you to the gallery of trials and tribulations. For behind the canvas of each of these unpredictably driven moments is joy unspeakable and full glory of our Savior . . . to whom I stand in awe!

The first portrait is that of Horatio G. Spafford. It is one of great loss financially, professionally and personally. But beneath the immense pain and grief from the sudden death of his daughters was joy — joy filled with Amazing Grace! Horatio G. Spafford in crossing the Atlantic to attend his daughters funerals … equals joy!

Visit now this portrait. The man we know of fairly well. A prisoner -in chains. Paul the Apostle, in prison for proclaiming the gospel of Christ. It is from here he writes to continue in sharing, encouraging and teaching the message of salvation. Paul in prison … equals joy!

Now come with me round the corner. This portrait is not so very different than the others. It’s yours and mine. The circumstances of my life, of your life, are clearly represented on this canvas. What’s behind my portrait? What’s behind yours? Can you say, me in my circumstances … equals joy!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds . . . James 1:2