Talking Behind My Back

Have you ever been the subject of someone talking about you behind your back?  Worse, have you ever been the one talking about someone else behind their back?  I hardly think anyone is exempt from either of those questions.  In fact, the topics about another span the universe and unfortunately we only find out about the negative things.  Truth is, nobody really likes to find out they’ve been “talked about” behind their back.

I recently encountered a moment very similar.  But my reaction was very different than most I think.  I found out someone was talking about me behind my back and it literally took my breath away.  I never ever thought this person would say such things about me so when I found out I could do nothing but sit there in tears.  Why was I taken so off-guard, you may wonder?  Well, it wasn’t the first time.  This particular revelation was actually the sixth time it was brought to my attention.  It was getting a bit ridiculous . . . or was it?

What do you really say when you find out God is talking to others about you behind your back?  What do you really say?  I sat in awe and wept.

When, for the sixth time, some random person comes up to you and says, “God just told me to come over and introduce myself because you needed someone to pray with,” you open your ears to their words.  The prayers, the conversations, the revelation of God in those moments and the realization that God Himself was having a conversation with others about you will change your perspective!

Then I read about the blind guy, Bartimaeus.  It was brief, but it was direct . . . Jesus spoke to others about Bartimaeus in much the same way as he has spoken to others about me.  Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  Jesus said this to those with him (likely his disciples).  And with that charge, they called Bartimaeus from the roadside where he sat yelling for mercy — something Jesus could have surely done Himself.  Bartimaeus was on the mind of Jesus and Jesus spoke to others to get his attention. (Mark 10:46-52)

I’m wondering now how many times I’ve missed the call from Jesus as He is trying to talk to me about someone behind their back.

Lord Jesus, I simply am awestruck at your thoughts of me.  When your thoughts of me reach me, they overwhelm me.  Thank you for calling out to your disciples for Bartimaeus.  I’m so thankful for their obedience in hearing your voice. Thank you for calling out to others for me!  And, for what it is worth, I’m glad you talk about me behind my back!

by Mark Cruver

Is It Just Me?

I shouldn’t be feeling this way!  These things shouldn’t be happening to me!  Life stinks!  I want one thing, but do another!  I love, but am not loved!  I fight, but do not win!  I work hard, but get no where!  I look up, but it’s cloudy!  Is it just me?

The answer to this, and many of the pending questions in life is found as I live not as I want, but as Christ lives through me.  Even as I’ve written this I’m reminded of how much I’m still learning.  Trusting Christ as my life is an act of obedience with every step.

It’s trusting the Truth in Christ and recognizing the lies from satan that bring misery and bondage.  It’s making it all about me and my circumstances instead of Him and His control of my circumstances.  For when I live through His Truth, He receives the glory.

How many times have you opened a gift and tossed the packaging away only to learn there was more!  Well, there is MORE!  How often I forget that along with the gift of salvation came Christ as life!  It’s rarely noticed until something happens greater than we (I) can bear, but the measure of this extends throughout my very existence — second of every minute.

Cast all your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.  Psalm 55:22

You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great.  You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.  Psalm 18:35-36

When life gets heavy, so heavy in fact it feels all-consuming, the answer to the pending question is yes, it is just me!  God has commanded me to give it to Him to carry.  His shoulders are broad and strong and not just for the moment — instead He expects me to heave my burden onto Him.  Why?  Because He can handle it – will handle it – promises to handle it – with ease.  Remember, His yoke and burden are light (Matthew 11:30)!

So, why do I feel like it’s just me all the time?  Well, it’s likely because it’s the devil’s idea.  A bunch of lies! Because of who I am, to whom I belong and through whom I live, it is not normal for me to carry my own weight.  When I choose to carry my own burdens, I am choosing to live life outside of Christ — independence from the One who lives in me!  And this, my friend, is sin (Romans 14:23).

 

Clean Undies

But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.  Philippians 3:20-21

Julie:  Are you wearing clean underwear?

Mark:  What?  Really?

Julie:  Are you?

Mark:  Just trying to pull my life together.

Julie:  I know.  Some days my only source of sanity comes in knowing that I have clean undies on.  I guess it’s the only thing I can control.  Everything else I shove off to Jesus.  I might appear looney tunes because I literally talk to him out loud as if he is there.  And not in  “mushy prayerful” conversation.  More like, “I can’t deal with this crap so you’re just gonna have to take it and figure it out yourself.  Let me know when I should pay attention to it because I’m done.”

Mark:  That’s where I am.

Julie:  Clean undies?

Mark:  They are clean . . . for now!

Julie:  Okay then!

This is an actual conversation I had recently with a dear friend and thankfully, not forgotten.  It was an incredible reminder of my need to let go and let God.  It is terribly easy for me to sulk, think, craft, construct, excuse and attempt to control my circumstances and ultimately, my life.

Julie’s point was well taken. Clean undies are my job, God certainly has a sense of humor.  He left that decision to me!  Luckily I have the smarts enough to make it so.  But little have I ever realized the implication of assuming control of my life.  God wants nothing more than to “work all things together for His good.”

Control is a crazy thing — something we want desperately.  Because when we have it we feel safe, secure, ordered, in charge, peaceful, organized, mindful — but these are all false senses.  It is only through Christ, who is all, gives all and controls all.  It requires a true surrender and demands a level of trust that comes only through the grace and love found on the cross.  It begins in the mind, captures the heart and together, through Christ, brings everything under His control.

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

Direct My Thoughts

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.  Psalm 63:1

The desert is a pretty dry place!  Without water it’s even drier!  And yet, David found himself in the midst of this scorching environment with plenty of room to throw out criticism and dissatisfaction with his circumstances. It would be safe to say that he was not in the best of moments nor living in the midst of the best time of his life.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have thought about things I really didn’t want to think about.  In fact, entertaining these thoughts have consistently contributed to a separation from my Lord.  The further the separation, the drier the land in which I walk.  Often sparked by a thought, these moments slip into existence without much notice but regrettably find themselves the “author” of much no good.  As much as I feel I am all alone in these moments, I know I am not the only one that experiences this.  That’s why I am so very glad that David wrote this psalm.

Thousands of years following David, Paul writes to the people of Philippi and encourages them to think on those things found to be excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).  The Author of our mind is apparent as we learn more and more about Christ in us!  An undesirable thought may be introduced to our mind, but to whom does it belong?  Is it received?  Is it rejected?  Paul further explains the method by which to dissolve arguments — by taking every thought captive in order to make it obedient to Christ (II Corinthians 10:5).

Personally, I can’t imagine what it would be like to find myself in a literal desert, parched, hot, fatigued, hungry and more than anything . . . thirsty — with nothing to satisfy my body and it’s needs.  On the other hand, I have found myself in very similar conditions when it comes to the condition of my heart and soul.

Paul says to capture those thoughts and do something with them!  Don’t let them roam wild, but instead, make them obey Christ!  That’s serious business!  Unaccustomed to such discipline, it can seem a bit laborious.  But standing firm in Christ’s obedience satisfies the heart and soul of ALL of it’s needs.  Paul learned this application and lived it . . . AFTER listening to those thoughts himself that drove destruction.  Once he got it, he lived it and then taught others how to live in it themselves.  David called out to God, praised Him in the midst of trial, while utterly uncomfortable and seemingly hopeless.  But how he chose to think changed everything!  It was a choice!

Lord Jesus, like David, my whole being longs for you!  When I get caught up in what I think about my circumstances, remind me of who I am in you!  When I think about the lies presented to me in thought, remind me of the Truth and to whom I belong!  When I think I’m all that and deserve all this, remind me that you plus nothing equals everything!

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:33

Optional Love

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 8:5

It is so easy to take love and trivialize it to the point of making it all about self and very little about anyone else.  We throw out the word and give an expression here or there, but when life boils down, we rarely make decisions, behave, and more often than not, forget to respond out of love.  Instead it looks a great deal like self.

My love for you is optional.  At least that’s how I’ve justified it in my own mind and mainly because I have a choice to love you or not.  Some would argue that, as a Christ-follower, I am “required” to love you.  And while there may be some truth to that, it is still very much a choice. We become examples for each other on giving answers to some of life’s most challenging questions such as:  “What about when I get hurt?” or “How can I love her, look what she did?” or “That man just stabbed me in the back, forget him!”  And these examples serve as reference, defense in our own behavior to justify how we treat others.  So we choose, without much thought, to make love optional.

But God’s love for me has NEVER been optional.  The difference between the measure of God’s love for me and the optional love I give others is unmistakenably different.  Because, when I am in the depth of sin, the darkness of self-consciousness, the option of love is dry and unmerited.  And yet, at that moment, weathering the storms of life, the very action of Christ on the cross became the ultimate demonstration of the depth of His love for me — His unwavering love!

My hearts desire is to love as Christ loved!  To see others, regardless of sin, as Christ sees them.  To shed my self-contiousness and live in the brightness and fullness of Christ-consciousness that my love for others will have no options, but instead reflect what can only be a small, tiny demonstration of God’s love.  Wow — what would that look like?

Nothing Coming Between

Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.   James 4:7-8

Oswald Chambers in his famous devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, says something remarkably poignant and it reaches to the core of my being.  He says anything that disturbs my rest in Him (Christ) must be taken care of immediately; that I must never allow anything to remain that is causing a separation between Christ and myself.  I’ve never given a “truth-check” to the reality of what my sin does in terms of my relationship with Christ!  Separation?

It’s so easy to focus on the issue, the specifics and become entirely distracted from the essence of truth in the current of self.  This “rip-tide” is subtle, inviting and yet, swift and dangerous.  Anything that stands between Christ and me stands in the face of trusting Him by doing things my own way.  It is a willful act of looking into the mirror and seeing “self” instead of Christ in me!  It becomes a refocus of self-consciousness.  When I focus on me and my own circumstances, analyzing and contemplating the outcome of life’s most uncertain  moments, it translates into the absence of God’s rest, His contentment and peace.  It is replaced with self-consiousness in the form of feelings of fear, rejection, discontent, worry, pride, resentment, hurt . . . to name only a few.

The answer here is found in my “will” — through choice.  God has designed me in such a way as to decide what thoughts to entertain.  And He reminds me in His Word to take “every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” (II Corinthians 10:5)  How I choose to think about me and my circumstances is the difference between my “junk” coming between Christ and me and nothing coming between Christ and me.  It’s the moment when I choose to deny self-consciousness and live in the embrace of Christ-consiousness.  Through this lens I quit focusing on myself and begin focusing on Christ in me – my Strength, my Comforter, my Healer, my Deliverer, my Redeemer.

Lord, Jesus, I need you every hour!  And in each hour I desire to think on Truth!  I realize that when I choose to do things my way and not your way, I am separated from you!  Those are very unpleasant moments for me and worse to remember.  I’m asking Lord, to make me God-concious!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.    Philippians 4:8

Something Beautiful

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Jeremiah 18:1-4

If I were most honest, this morning I woke up not feeling the most beautiful.  Clearly, when I wake up, there is nothing beautiful about that look, but I’m not referring to the beauty on the outside . . . I felt not so beautiful on the inside.  I felt broken.  And in my brokenness, the pieces of my life seemed scattered.  Like a favorite vase on the shelf that had fallen and shattered to the floor, I saw my life in a million pieces and the impossible task of cleaning it up and even more, the impossible ability to put it all back together.

It’s important to know that there was nothing that occurred to cause me to wake in this state except the fact that I know the evil one is in the business of deceiving me in what I think about me, what others think about me and in what and whom I trust.

But in my brokenness, I collect the pieces . . . big, small, tiny and seemingly insignificant and pile them at the foot of His cross!  Why would I even want to do this?  There is a very good reason why!  Because my God is the Potter!  He is my (and your) Restorer!  He makes ALL things NEW!  He takes my brokenness and makes something beautiful.  When you understand the grace that is ever so sufficient for even me, you will see Him.  You will see this beauty, not without the seams from healing, the scars from the process, the marring.  But praise Him — He didn’t stop there!  He kept shaping, kept molding, kept forming — and He continues to make beauty!

Lord Jesus, you have made all things well!  Today you have shown me the sufficiency of your grace for me in all things.  Remind me of my brokenness every day!  May I never live a moment without recognizing the position of your hands upon the sides of my life as it spins on the wheel.  You’ve never let go, you’ve never stopped, you’ve never tossed the clay and started over!  Thank you for the beauty of ashes that only comes from the refining fire of your Spirit!

by Mark Cruver

Getting Wronged By Rights

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'”   Luke 15:31-32

Pride is a wonderful thing, don’t you think?  Not the kind of pride that comes through accomplishments or belief in another, but the kind that is filled with self-righteous arrogance and the lack of understanding who God is and the fact that you’re not Him.  No, not so wonderful . . . it inflates the flesh!

Do you think Adam or Eve dealt with pride?  We don’t read much in the way of life after the fall but for little snippets that shed a little light upon the groans of a broken world.   I would suspect that there was some pride during the time when Adam and Eve were banished from the garden.  The emotions, the attitudes, the lack of fellowship with God had to have been filled with moments of absolute grief and loss.  The only place they had ever known was the Garden of Eden and despite all that was made for their pleasure, none was truly theirs anymore.  Suddenly, the first family was without the amenities of sin-free existence.

I can only imagine a few conversations about how they couldn’t be treated like this . . . or how they shouldn’t be treated like this.  How too, I suspect, they both questioned why they were designed, created and given life.  After all, the serpent convinced them that they knew better than God — that their plan far outweighed God’s plan.  They were wronged by rights.

The sense of entitlement that both Adam and Eve likely felt is not unlike the rights we feel we have when something we think belongs to us is taken away.  Much like Adam and Eve, when we take our eyes off the Designer and focus on the measure of me and what I am going to gain, we immediately lose sight of the promises that come through the union of Grace and Truth.

One of my favorite authors, Bill Gillham, writes about it so well in his book Lifetime Guarantee.

Stop fighting it, brother.  Give up all your “rights”–all talents, all abilities, all gifts, all the things you’ve clung to to get your need met for self-acceptance.  You’ll love the results!  You will find “life” through allowing Him to express Himself through your talents, your abilities, your fights, and your personality to a hurting world to do His will.  That’s the way Jesus walked.  He let the Father do it through Him.  (p. 201)

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that I don’t have to think that what I feel is rightfully mine is being squandered.  But instead, I can know that what I have is everything because you live within me!

Would I Know If God Moved?

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”  Ephesians 1:18-21

I was snorkeling off the shore of one of the Bahamian islands a number of years ago.  It was a most picturesque and peaceful time.  The still blue-green water of the Caribbean with a mask and snorkel — perfect!  I spent a good hour or so just floating on the surface looking at the sand below in waters only four feet deep or so as it was well known for the many sand-dollars.  Every now and then a needle-fish would zip under me or schools of little silver fish would flash by — really hard to describe how cool it was.  But after a while, something just didn’t seem right.  Ever have that feeling?  It had been well over an hour, I stayed parallel with the shore so I knew I hadn’t drifted far from there, and everyone who had come with me was off doing their own thing.  It was just me, God and the fishes of the sea!  But I felt like someone was staring at me.  That’s really an uneasy feeling when your bobbing in the ocean like a cork thinking you’re all alone!  It was very unsettling — for good reason — I slowly lifted my head and what I saw straight in front of me took my breath and I managed to put my swim in full reverse.  There were three — THREE — Barracuda starring directly at me, moving their mouths — filled with teeth mind you — open and close.  I was done — through — out of the water — snorkeling had come to a close!

I often reduce my experiences with God down to a feeling — some kind of sense of His presence.  I think you know what I mean — when your reading or singing and a chill goes up your spine.  God?  When someone says something you needed to hear.  God?  When you barely miss the biker you never saw as you pulled out of the parking lot.  God?  When you have this feeling.  God?  We certainly can’t deny the involvement of something or someone that stirs, reminds, provokes or prevents.

But how would I know if God really moved?  Would it be a swift breeze to the back of my neck?  Would it be the wrestling of the branches on a still morning?  Would it be a red-bird that lands in front of me? Would it be a miracle over the impossible?  Maybe.

Paul knew!  When your heart opens to the understanding of Christ in you, all sorts of moving can be felt.  It’s the little glimpses of truth, flashes of God’s fingertips on your life that spark with knowing . . . God just moved!  When His glory merely twinkles in the time of this place it overwhelms our being.  It’s stirring!

And Paul says to the Ephesians, when you open your heart to understanding who you are in Christ . . . you begin to KNOW the hope, the riches, the incomparable GREAT power in Christ alone!

Oh, my God!  Lord, Jesus, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  That I would see just a small glimpse of you moving in my life, in my world, demonstrating your great love like I have just seen is overwhelming!  Thank you for extending just a glimpse for I’d dare say I am not capable of seeing the fullness of your glory!

. . . His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth.  His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden.  Habakkuk 3:3-4

 

Right Place, Right Time

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.  Mark 15:21

Ever wonder whether or not you were where you should be or doing what you should be doing or going where you should be going?  I can imagine most everyone has asked these questions of themselves at one time or another.  And sometimes, after our experiences we second guess our purpose there.  Why is this?  Is it a lack of faith or a hole in our trust?

There was a man that the scripture tells us was just “passing through from the country.”  Not much else is said for his purpose in Jerusalem, but it’s likely he was there to bring a sacrifice not realizing that which was going on at the time.  And this man, observing the radical journey Christ was taking through the streets, being led to the Hill, by cracks of the Roman whips and shouts of hurt and pain from those whom He loved.  Simon found himself in the right place at the right time.

Unlike anyone else to have ever lived on this earth, Simon from Cyrene actually carried the cross of Christ!  It doesn’t make him any more holy by any means, but to have carried the cross for Christ must have been the most unbelievably symbolic moment of time.  As I mentioned before, it is most likely Simon was there for his own purposes, but God chose him to escort THE Lamb of God to be sacrificed for the sins of all.

I would dare suggest that Simon would have preferred not to be the one to carry this cross.  I might figure that he was wishing he was not standing where he was standing, or made eye contact with the Roman soldier that called him out.  He may have even felt as though he was the one “helping” Jesus to the cross.  The opportunity for doubt, shame, regret and wishing he had not been there at all was ever-so present.  He might even had thought he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But God used Simon for the Glory of God and the Salvation of the World!

Lord Jesus, today is the anniversary of the day Simon carried your cross!  We speak of how you carry our burdens and the weight of all sin hung with you on the cross that Simon carried for you!  I’m in awe.  It has shed a whole new light on the events of this day.  May I be reminded often of your journey to the cross — for me — and the many times you demonstrate your love for me!

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”   Genesis 50:20