Afresh Each Day

I’m convinced, if you wait on Him . . . or better . . . if you will listen, God has something big to say every day.  Sometimes my children remind me how much I miss in life.  From the back seat I often hear, “Daddy, did you see that?”  And my answer is often the same each time . . . “Ummm, no I missed it!”  The busy nature of our lives and the fast-paced schedules create an environment where we forget.  We forget to look up, look around and notice things, especially the Creator.  He’s ever present, ever moving, ever speaking . . . every day.

Yesterday, the morning moon would not leave me alone.  I know you’ve likely painted an image in your mind of the larger than life moon out my bedroom window blazing its beams on me throughout the night.  Oddly enough, this wasn’t it at all.  In fact, in the early morning, skirting around town, like I was a child once again, the moon seemed to follow me everywhere I went.  Every turn I took, it was there.  But on this particular morning, it struck me different every time I saw it.  It must have been a dozen or so moments.  You may be wondering what was so extraordinary about these moments.  Well, it was the handiwork of the Creator, speaking to me.  With every glance of the moon, the painting in the sky displayed in curious splendor a new moon.  In what appeared to be in a blink of an eye, the clouds that ordained the moon just moments before were gone and replaced with the morning hue of pinks and blues.  Oh how majestic is Your name in all the earth!

And then, this morning, He seals the deal.  Shows me in ways only possible through His works, the renewing of His lovingkindness, mercy and grace . . . each day.

His lovingkindness begins afresh each day.
Lamentations 3:23 TLB

And when I read this, everything seemed to pause.  For real?  Afresh?  Each day?  This doesn’t feel true.  It certainly isn’t how I choose to live, that’s for sure.  Heaping upon yesterday’s yesterday the self-inflicted debt of grace and love needed.  My trailer of bad days is a heavy load to bring into today from yesterday.  But in Lamentations, God says His lovingkindness begins afresh, brand-new, no-debt, no baggage . . . full, in an abundance of grace and mercy — just enough for today!  And He will meet me tomorrow with a million new moons to declare His lovingkindness one more time!

Thank you, Lord!  Thank you for new days, new hours and new minutes!  Thank you for new moons at every turn!  Thank you for new beginnings each day!

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

The Fingerprint of God

photoLast week I had the honor of helping a dear friend with some fallen trees on his land.  For you and me, we would take a chainsaw to a fallen tree and cut it into logs or split it into firewood — but not this guy.  He takes the trunk of the tree and runs it through his mill to make planks.  Recycling the fallen.

My dad made his living taking such pieces of wood, old and new, and transforming them into true works of art.  Since childhood, fresh cut wood causes me to reflect on many great moments of sanding, drilling, cutting, glueing and ultimately experiencing my dad’s handiwork.  His work was breathtaking.

And so, last week, while cutting these logs into planks . . . I noticed something I had never noticed before.  I’ve always admired the grain of wood.  The patterns that swirl around knots that number it’s years, it’s simply beautiful.  But this time I realized this looks like a fingerprint.

The truth of what I was looking at, what I was admiring, had actually been touched by the hand of God.  It was His fingerprint! With no two alike, God touched not just this tree, but every living thing . . . including me with His hand.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10

My God, may I never overlook your handiwork in me!  May I never discard the fact that your fingerprint is within me because you have fearfully and wonderfully created me.  I am your workmanship!!

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

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

Heart That Thirsts

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?   Psalm 42:1-2

It wasn’t but a couple of summers ago that water in our neck-of-the-woods was at a premium.  The hot days came early in the year and seemed to stick around for most of the season.  I could have sworn the earth swung a little closer to the sun that year!  It was difficult on many.  The grass and wildlife suffered, the homeless and elderly were especially vulnerable and life, in general, was spent more so indoors than out.  It was parched!  Water restrictions were placed on just about everything as the local reservoirs reached an all-time dangerous low.  Would it ever rain again?  Those who could . . . and dared, watered their lawns to save their investment.  But no amount of water seemed to revive the crispy lawns . . . nothing like a good rain does for certain!

This year is a bit different.  Actually, it’s over 20 inches above different!!  Things that never turned green are twice as tall, more full and I think, when no one looks, the trees and plants actually spit out the excess water!  Lawns are being mowed every few days just to keep up with the growth.  The liquid “manna” from heaven brings rich nourishment to the land!

The earth cries out much like my own heart cries out.  When I choose to do life separate from Christ, the land in which my heart is rooted becomes brown and dry.  It longs for nourishment and searches for sources that offer something to satisfy.  These false sources of satisfaction come at a great price.  My heart will not grow, will not flourish, will not blossom — it’s fruit will not be that of grace, but will hunt to be filled.  David warns us with how the heart works . . . “guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”  But with every other source, the thirst for what truly satisfies becomes stronger. And when satisfied with things other than Christ Jesus, that which flows from the heart represents a barren soul.

But when the heart finds and drinks from the fountain of Christ, the well that never dries, it flows with much fruit . . . the fruit of grace!

Thank you Lord Jesus for the quenching of my soul through the streams of living water that flows from you and you alone!  May I graze upon your grace and drink from your brook — all day long!

by:  Mark Cruver

Conforming Isn’t Pretty

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.   Romans 8:29-30

Ever feel like your needs are minimized?  For me, the one thing that is real beyond doubt is my pain, my hurt, my grief — they are important to me because they are real.  And they are important to me because they are even more important to God.  He never minimizes the degree of my stress, or hurt to justify my circumstances, nor does he compare my needs with those of someone else — He has met me in the midst of wherever I find myself, in my hurt, in my confusion, in my pain.  But I wonder too, are my needs a far stretch for God’s grace to reach?  Oh, absolutely — His grace covers — His grace is more than enough for me.

But the trouble comes when the abundance of His grace meets my idea of my needs.  This creates a rather interesting dialogue.  So I pray to God to release me from this pain.  He replies . . . “Mark, it may not seem good to you and I know it hurts, but this pain is creating in you a new compassion.”  I then pray that God would change my circumstances.  He replies . . . “Mark, you are indeed in quite a pinch, but remember who is still on the Throne, trust me, I know the plans I have for you!”  So then I ask why it is I feel so condemned by others to which He replies . . . “Mark, man condemns, but I have set you free!  Remember, I chose you, I pursued you, I ransomed you and my glory fills you every day!”

Lord Jesus, I realize you are at work within me.  You are working diligently to conform me further to your image and it isn’t very pretty!  I don’t always understand your ways, but I trust them!  Your ways stretch beyond my sight.  Thank you for sharing with me the end of this story . . . to be like you!

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

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How Much To Trust

. . . because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.  II Timothy 1:12

How much do I trust Him . . . really?  Oh man, this question is one I have always avoided.  I would suspect that it has been one that many choose not to ask of themselves for fear of the truth that lies beneath the selfish surface of our own sufficiency.

One of my boys thinks it’s fun to randomly fall backwards toward me without notice.  I’ve told him over and over again this is not a good idea.  “What if I don’t see you or notice you falling?  What then?”  His reply . . .  “Dad, you wouldn’t let me fall, you’ll catch me, right?”  That’s some firm trust!

Unlike my son, unlike Paul or Timothy, I’m looking behind me to see if God is there to catch me — before I take the plunge.  That’s not faith — nor trust.  That’s doing things my way.  God wants me to abandon my way and have faith in His way — though it doesn’t make sense at times.  But my plan seems to abandon His way for mine most of the time.

Yes, Lord, I pray for your provision on those I love.  Give them the fruits of your hand in whatever form you see fit:  sunshine or storms, abundance or famine, wealth or poverty, health or illness, peace or conflict.  Whatever it takes to draw them nearer.  And for me, I pray the same!  Give me the confidence to fall into you with all things, in all things, from all things.  I do trust you Lord, with everything!  And even when I don’t, I know you will give me a chance to find out if I am.

. . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6