Unfavorable Frustration

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive  mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16

I just hung up the phone — uggh!  I’m so frustrated!  My heart pounds hard.

My mornings are filled with burnt toast and tired children — uggh!  I’m so frustrated!  I’m snappy.

I’m going to be late — uggh!  I’m so frustrated!  I drive crazy.

My circumstances suck — uggh!  I’m so frustrated!  I give up.

Any of these sound familiar?  I wish I could say I’ve made them up, but I can actually remember these happening to me.  What would your list look like?

God doesn’t call me to be frustrated, but I have wrestled with understanding what I should look like, how I should behave and what even I should think when I’m frustrated.  You see, frustration is in itself no sin, but is a conduit to sin.

Frustration is defined as a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.

This means, in practical terms, it’s what happens when I don’t get my way or I’m not satisfied with the results.  Paul tells us that circumstances in life will stink (my paraphrase), but how we respond to those frustrating moments is really what matters!  The feelings are real, they will present themselves and well up within, but Paul further explains in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that “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.”  It’s clearly a choice!  How I respond is a choice!

The good news is that God has given instruction on how NOT to handle it on my own.  I can’t speak for you, but I tend to screw things up when I try to handle them on my own.  So, when the moments arrive, and they will, when my needs are not met and I’m struggling in the lack of satisfaction, what do I do?  How do I respond?  My body clenches, my teeth clamp, my heart races and I tend to huff!  But God gives me an outline of what I SHOULD do in these moments instead.

God wants my every thought to fall in obedience to Him.  He desires for me to fly the white flag in life indicating a full surrender of everything in my life.  He expects and desires me to surrender my satisfaction, my unmet needs and my unresolved problems.  He knows all about them anyhow, He just waits for me to hand Him the reins.

Oh, so yes, that outline!  I mentioned, God gives me the ultimate outline for response.  From within my frustrations we are called to approach the throne with full confidence!  Pray with confidence when I’m frustrated?  Pray or huff?  I really want to huff . . . but taking that thought captive in obedience means to snuff the huff and practice my prayer.  And then comes the why!  Why pray?  Because in doing so, the floodgate of our hearts open to receive from the Father His mercy!  It also unlocks the code required to see the grace only He can serve that WILL help us in our unfavorable frustrations!

by:  Mark Cruver

In Christ There is No Cowardly Lion

“The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”  Proverbs 28:1

Crisis can bring out the wildest of thoughts, don’t you think?  Somehow, someway we feel like running and running as far away from the pain or hurt.  It feels like that would solve the very existence of the massive discomfort in our hearts — but does it?  Not at all!  We grapple with the idea that sweeping the circumstances under the rug will somehow hide the reality of the crisis from our routine — but does it?  Not at all!  When we flee the seemingly unconquerable crisis, we never actually leave it behind, we only add to the pain, extend the hurt and create a further chasm between the truth and facing the truth.  When we flee the hardship and overwhelming odds we somehow manage to always trip over the “lump in the rug” from where we merely swept it for the moment.

So how do we stand firm in our crisis and face the truth?  How do we conquer the giant?  How do we keep from becoming the cowardly lion?  There’s really only one way.

The 16th century author, Thomas Brooks said it best in his book Heaven On Earth:

“Your strength to stand, and your strength to withstand all assaults — is from your communion with God.  Communion with God is that which will make you stand fast, and triumph over all enemies, difficulties, dangers, and deaths.  Communion with God will make a man as courageous and bold as a lion, yes, as a young lion which is in his hot blood, and fearless of any creature. . . . Communion is a reciprocal exchange between Christ and a gracious soul.  Communion is Jacob’s ladder, where you have Christ sweetly descending down into the soul, and the soul by divine influences sweetly ascending up to Christ.  Communion with God is a shield upon land, and an anchor at sea; it is a sword to defend you, and a staff to support you; it is balm to heal you, and a cordial to strengthen you.  High communion with Christ will yield you two heavens, a heaven upon earth, and a heaven after death.”

You own this!  You already own the courage of Joshua — captain of the Lord’s army!  You already have the strength of Samson.  You already own the boldness and bravery of David.  You can conquer Satan like Job.  You already have direct fellowship and union with the Father like Adam.  You own this because you know Him!  It is through their communion with God that gave them the ability — living God through themselves — gave them the courage and gave Him the glory!

But when their communion with God was distracted and neglected, not a single one of these men stood firm.  God wants our communion!  In Christ you are no cowardly lion . . . you hold in your hands the keys to heaven on earth, the armor of God and the power of His resurrection!

Be fearless in Christ and in bold communion always!

May God, through His fellowship . . . His communion, live through me today in fullness and boldness!  It’s who I am!

by:  Mark Cruver

Comment on What To Preach To Yourself Everyday by Recommended Articles For September | Gospel Glory

Behaving better is never an indication of Spiritual growth, but instead, believing better in the One who lives inside you will change your behavior. It will come from the love born out of living through Him.

by:  Mark Cruver

Seeing is not Believing

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  I Corinthians 13:12

My days are surrounded by what I see.  That’s profound, huh?  My drive to work this morning was blessed by the view of God’s design in this morning’s sunrise.  Strokes of pink stretching in all directions across the eastern sky.  Fields of tall grass going to seed danced in unison to the morning breeze as the new sun accented their bronze tips.  The joy of time spent with my boys, talking about God’s attributes.  The mile-long river of red lights before me while I sit in traffic.  If I didn’t know any better – it all seems pretty real to me.  But what is real?  There’s no doubt those things are real, but God suggests that what I see in myself and others may not be as real as they appear.

If what He says is true (and I believe it to be so), then what we see cannot be what we always believe.  “We live by faith, not by sight.”  II Corinthians 5:7

Here’s what I do know . . . I know that God is Supreme, always and forever!  I know that I am not Him!  I also know that He created us to have fellowship with Him, regardless of our circumstances.  I know too, that our ability to understand Him completely is limited by the inability of our flesh (bodies).  Even so, I know that within me lives God Supreme through His Spirit and that because of Him abiding in me, Christ then lives through me!  Therefore, I am a NEW creation and that this is who I am — my life is Christ.

This means that my mind is of Christ, my heart belongs to Christ, my eyes see through Christ, my hands touch and feel through Christ’s hands, my feet walk in the footsteps of Christ.  It’s John 15:5!

But do I believe it?  I can’t see it, so is it real?  John 15:5 goes on to say that evidence of knowing and believing this truth will be evident in the fruit of my life.  “. . . and you will bear much fruit!”  This is because we behave through our belief!

God reveals the truth of who He is to us in three different ways . . . through His creation, through His written Word, and through His Son, Jesus Christ!

It’s like finding a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies on the table when you get home.  You can smell them and your mouth starts to water.  There’s no doubt they are real and your body is already enjoying them and your mind is trying to convince your will to tell your hand to grab one!  But you resist.  Why?  Because quite honestly, you have no idea where they came from.  But from the sweet aroma, you know for a fact they did a great job!  Wait, there’s a note next to the plate that says, “Dear son, I made you a plate of cookies today because I love you.  I hope you enjoy them . . . Love, Mom.”  Ahhhh, how sweet!  Mom made you cookies . . . but did she?  How do you know?  Well, they look like the cookies she makes, smells like the cookies she makes, she left me a note that says she made them — you conclude it must be true!  Then, the doorbell rings.  You rush to the door and see that it’s Mom coming by for a visit.  The first thing she asks is if you found the plate of cookies she left for you.   And you say, “It was you!  Thank you so much, I can’t wait to eat them.  Would you like to have one with me?”

You see, God created all things as proof of who He is!  He left us a “note” as further evidence of the truth through His Word.  And just to confirm the author and finisher of all things, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to fulfill His Truth.

Seeing is not believing, but knowing the Truth that sets you free is something you can believe in!  Then, through faith, because you believe, you behave Christ through you — The HOPE of GLORY!

by:  Mark Cruver

Living Redeemed

“My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you — I, Whom you have redeemed.”  Psalm 71:23

As an early teen, I mastered the art of cashing in on others carelessness.  It was the perfect arrangement and the reward was sweet.  You see, back then (you know I’m getting old when I have to say that), beverages came in tall 12 oz. or 16 oz. glass bottles.  Remember?  Depending on your age, you may have to learn instead of remember.  HA!

At any given moment you could walk up and down the street and find any number of bottles along the roadside, in the ditch or even in the trash.  Thrown away and discarded, these bottles had value!  For me, it was a cash-cow!  I quickly learned that if I collected them and took them to the gas station market right down the street, they would give me 10 cents for every bottle.  That was a no brainer for me!  Do the math!  For every 10 bottles I got a whole dollar!  It didn’t take me long to fill the brown-paper grocery bags with my collection of discarded gold!  And I walked away with a refreshing Nehi Grape Soda and a candy bar — that’s what I’m talking about right there!

I was talking with my son recently about what it meant to be redeemed.  This childhood experience of mine was what came to mind.  To redeem something means to exchange something for it’s value!  It truly is a “cash-in” moment.  So when God says that we have been redeemed — that would suggest a few things.  First of all, it suggests we have value!  Even in our state of sin and disobedience, He reminds us that He has already made the exchange — He’s already “cashed-in” for us!  Second, it suggests in the exchange there are winners!  At the gas station, the attendant won because she received benefit from the glass recyclers and I received my Nehi!  It was a Win-Win!  It’s a Win-Win with Christ and me too!  Christ wins in fellowship with us, knowing that His child is trusting in the life He intended us to live.  I win because I CAN live without condemnation because of Him!  And third, once I hand over those bottles — I don’t have to carry them anymore!  And let me tell you, if you’ve ever tried riding a bike holding two paper sacks filled with empty glass bottles you’d come to realize how challenging that really is.  I can’t say I didn’t lose a few bottles along the route.  Like our walk in Christ, we no longer have to carry the burden, sit beneath the weight or position ourselves under the pressure of the past any longer.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  II Corinthians 5:17

We are no longer bound to those things, the chains have been loosened and we have been set free!  We are able to then sit in the shade of His everlasting love and enjoy the sweetness of His delight and sip on the “Nehi” of His Spirit that lives within us.

But it’s one thing to know the meaning of redemption, it’s another walking and living redeemed.  What in the world does that look like and how do you do it?  It starts with faith — belief in trusting the Savior because what He says is true (Isaiah 45:19).  Through belief you teach your heart and mind to know and recognize the truth!  What looks like reality isn’t always true — that’s why your compass has to point in the direction of “He” at all times (see yesterday’s post).  Then, and only then, will you walk as does the blind man.  You become fully dependent upon the ONLY one who can redeem!

What does this look like in your life?  We all have issues, crisis, struggles, challenges, worries and busyness.  How do you live redeemed?

Take Your Olives To Your Olivet

In order to grasp a true understanding of what I mean by “olives” you must know how much I despise them!  Few things around the table am I able to consistently call a food-foe, but olives hold a unique place in the “not a chance” list of snack foods — right on top!  As a child they never held a favorable place with me and I thought as an adult things might change.  I thought that perhaps with age my taste-buds would embrace the flavors, the richness.  Nope, gagged on them just the same!

Life is full of olives!  For some of you, I know, you love olives!  You’ll need to replace them for the sake of this post with your personal version of my “olive.”  Life dishes out moments, experiences, circumstances that for all intents and purposes appear to be part of what life is all about.  I’d have to say the same about olives actually.  They look pretty, all dressed up with a red pimento stuffed inside, displayed perfectly in bowls or on toothpicks — they look yummy!  So do lemons!  So do jalapenos peppers!  But no matter what life dishes out, regardless of how it appears, these “curve-balls” of life can derail, disrupt, distract and even dismay.

So what do we do when life drops us a bowl of olives?  Christ gave us a perfect example on how to handle these moments.  Walking the streets just days before his arrest, Christ knew of the events to come.  Christ was as equally omniscient as the Father — He knew of the thorns, the spit, the cat of nine tails, the Roman Soldier that would pierce His side, the man that yelled mockery from the crowd, the nails in His hands and feet, the thirst, the pain, the separation from His Father . . . He knew!  Yet, He continued to love.  Sharing the love of the Father, healing the sick, performing miracles and teaching others about the Truth that will set them free.

But did Christ whine and complain of what was set before Him?  No, in fact, He knew He needed fellowship with the Father.  And so He did!  He found a quiet place, a secluded place, away from the crowds, away from the storm of life brewing thickly around Him.  He went to a place called Olivet.  It was here that Jesus spoke His heart to the Father.   It was here where He wailed, mourned, grieved and prayed.  He knew the immense weight of sin upon Him and that He would soon be separated from the Father.  He knew what He must endure before returning Home.

My eldest son is a runner!  He loves cross-country and can take off and disappear for miles.  Yesterday he and I had a great talk before practice.  We discussed many things, but most importantly, we talked about what it meant to spend time with Jesus.  How exciting!  So, just before practice I looked over at him and said, “hey man, go run with Jesus today!”  He smiled and said, “I’m planning on it!”  My son went to Olivet!

Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?  If we are abiding in Him and He in me (John 15:5) isn’t it supposed to look like this?  You say, “Well, I don’t have enough time in my day to spend with Jesus.  I’m up late and get up too early.  I’m too busy.  I’m never alone.”  Where is your Olivet?  Are you running with Jesus?  Are you working with Jesus?  Are you driving with Jesus?  Are you shopping with Jesus?  Are you sitting in a waiting room . . . with Jesus?   When you find your Olivet, Jesus meets you there no matter where it is — every time!

Take your Olives to your Olivet!

by:  Mark Cruver