Remember When?

“Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”  Psalm 42:6

When life comes to a point of feeling barren and dry, without hope or purpose . . . what then?  It’s easy to settle into a pit of despair and encounter the anvil of blame and self-condemnation.  Satan piles it on when our minds begin to entertain such thoughts.  No different than when he visited Eve in the garden or stood beside Jesus at the edge of the cliff, he throws a bone that looks to be covered in Grade A meat, when in fact it’s hollow, dry and splintered.

David experienced a number of moments in his life when despair seemed to be the theme.  But, without a doubt, it is apparent David was able to somehow pierce the darkness of his unfortunate circumstances and rise above them.  The key?  Well, David remembered!  He remembered the moments in his life when God delivered, embraced and sustained him.  (Psalm 63)

So often in life, in a day when multiple things go right, I only remember the one thing that went wrong.  How unfortunate that my mind cannot remember when.  I fail to reflect on the moment when God answered my prayer, when God provided a meal, when God pardoned me, when God got my attention, when God spoke through me, when God whispered, when God moved a mountain, when God gave me strength, when God held me . . . when God . . .

David reflects on moments when he saw him in the sanctuary (v. 2) and with his lips, praises Him!  He remembers Him when he sat on his bed (v. 6) and with his voice, praises Him!  He knows His right hand upholds him (v. 8) and with his lips, all will praise Him!

May I simply remember when God was there . . . yesterday . . . today . . . and forever!

“What the Lord expects from us at such seasons is not to abandon ourselves to unreasoning sorrow, but trustingly to look sorrow in the face, to scan its features, to search for the help and hope, which, as surely as God is our Father, must be there. In such trials there can be no comfort for us so long as we stand outside weeping. If only we will take the courage to fix our gaze deliberately upon the stern countenance of grief, and enter unafraid into the darkest recesses of our trouble, we shall find the terror gone, because the Lord has been there before us, and, coming out again, has left the place transfigured, making of it by the grace of his resurrection a house of life, the very gate of heaven.”
– Geerhardus Vos

by:  Mark Cruver

My Agenda — Rescue Me

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  Proverbs 19:21

It’s funny for me to think about how often I have thought I was in control.  With circumstances in life either “going my way” or free falling without a reserve, having a sense of control comes with a great deal of comfort.  Does it not? Even so, control is a matter of either letting nothing or letting go, because control happens either way.

It’s also one thing to think I’m in control of my life, but it’s quite another to think about being in control of my own destiny — the outcome of my life.  For instance, in the midst of crisis or just ordinary life, I pray for a specific outcome.  I pray that God would deliver, restore, heal and bring me to a place far greater than the “pit of despair” I’ve loathed myself within.  I scour the scriptures to read of His promises to deliver, restore and heal and yet, time passes, I continue to pray and time passes further.  Am I over expecting?  Am I waiting on that miracle?  Am I reading into the promise too much?  Good questions, but the answer to them is not as precise.

Remember, I’ve learned a ton on what God truly thinks of me.  He rejoices with me and mourns with me, He understands my pain, my loss and the joy that comes from His blessings.  He gets me!  He ought to, He designed me from the inside-out.

But in my prayers — in my most intimate moments with Him before His throne, I find myself asking.  Asking of course is not a bad thing, it’s rather good as He reminds us that we “receive not, because we ask not.”  But I find myself “creating” my outcome — presenting MY agenda.  It sounds something like this . . .

Dear Lord . . . you know I’m in quite a pickle!  I’ve done it again – but this time I really did it!  It’s going to take a miracle this time and only you can pull one of those off.  So, if you could restore this job I can certainly be the man you always intended.  It will certainly be true that if you could just get my job back your name would be echoed through the halls and people will come to know about who you are through this miracle.  Amen

While He could certainly move the mountains I’ve created in my life, sometimes He doesn’t plan on moving them, but expects me to climb them!

How do I know this to be true?  Well, God revealed this to me in conversation with a dear friend.  He reminded me of the close relationship between Christ and John the Baptist.  Jesus thought extremely high of him and expressed to many John’s immense value to the furtherance of the gospel.  In fact, Jesus said this about John:  “I tell you the truth:  Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist: yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matthew 11:11)

Jesus said these words about John while John sat in prison for speaking his convictions to the king.  So there John sat (Matthew 11:1-19), wondering if this person he was hearing about was in fact the one to come.  Reading into this passage just a slight bit, it would make sense that John was curious of the truth in who this man was because he knew if it were THE One, he could move the mountain John faced called jail!  It sounds alot like John may have had an agenda of his own — “rescue me!”

But in response to his curiosity, Jesus sends word back to John confirming who he is to be true.  And in his response, he states the many miracles he has performed as proof.  But not a single reference of performing a miracle too for John.  Then, in only a few verses later, Matthew writes that Jesus announces the greatness of John the Baptist.  And despite his greatness, Jesus does not rescue him.  We learn later, three chapters later, John is beheaded.

Lord Jesus — may I see through the lens that allows me to realize you are in control.  Teach me the truth about your plans, your agenda.  While I “think” I know what’s best for me, teach me to know in confidence that regardless of the outcome of my life, the most important thing is You!  It may not always look as I think it should look, smell the way I think it should smell or turn the corners in life I think should be taken.  That’s my agenda and I want your agenda!  Rescue me Your way!

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

by:  Mark Cruver

Your Great Power

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard for you.”  Jeremiah 32:17

I’ve got to tell you, this morning during my time with the Lord, I spent it reading some thoughts from one of my favorite coaches for life.  Though she is no longer living, her words still impact people like me and I find her thoughts to be like glue that bonds what I know about myself, what I know about God and living through Him everyday together.

As I read her words this morning, I couldn’t help but think to myself how utterly impossible it would be for me to say this any better.  It was exactly what I needed today and it captured the Truth in what I face most days.  Thank you God for your servant Anabel!

The following are her words:

What can I do to fight this battle of depression and self-condemnation? Well, I’ll go back and read Jude 24 again and Romans 14:4 and Philippians 4:13 and I Corinthians 15:58 and John 15:5 and Jeremiah 31:3. When I have finished reading those verses over several times I’ll “come to my senses” and realize that Satan is alive and well and talking to me, trying to get me to sink into the pit of depression and forget who I really am by God’s grace and the power that is mine by letting Christ live through me. And then what do I do? I’ll turn to him, look him straight in the eye, and shout, “Don’t you rejoice over me, you louse! Though I may fall, I WILL get up again and even though I may not see things clearly all the time let me remind you – THE LORD IS MY LIGHT and HE CANNOT BE EXTINGUISHED ” (Micah 7:8). (You gave it your best shot and failed big time–remember?)

God’s Word–a power in the lives of those who believe.

Thank You, Lord, for the incredible power You have placed within me. Oh, I can’t escape the battles–they will be a part of life as long as I’m on Planet Earth–but I know what to do: Run like crazy and let You take over. There’s just one thing that I must remember–I have to guard my mind and keep the deceiver in his place–which is under Your control.

“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy — to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!”  Jude 1:24-25

by:  Mark Cruver

Don’t Press the Easy Button

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

Have you ever had a verse just stick in your head?  I’ve been reading quite a bit lately and through the course of one of the books I’m into the author shared this verse to make a point.  I sat on this page and in this paragraph for what must have been a half-hour.  I can’t even tell you what point the author was trying to make with using the verse, I just knew that for whatever reason, I was needing to camp on it for a while.  Galatians 6:9 was that verse.

Giving up is so easy!  I think I’ve mentioned before how my son is a cross-country runner.  They have trained hard to run a 5k or 3k and very few, if any, give up during the course of their run.  They stick to it!  Endure the pain, power through it and even come in last if that’s what it takes to finish.

This is exactly how God intends for us — for me — to run the race.  Now, granted, if I set out for a 5k, I’d be looking all over for an easy button!  But God never said the race we are to run in Him was going to be an easy race.  In fact, He warned us there would be “trials of many kind.”  Some of them would look like little roots that stick out of the ground and trip you up, while others would be steep cliffs that would appear far too impossible to scale.  But Christ encourages us through Paul to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

When my circumstances get tough and I focus on the “here and now,” it is part of my nature to want to “get off the ride” so to speak.  I remember a recent trip to Six Flags with my family and encountering this very thought.  It’s important for you to know that roller coasters and I do not typically see eye-to-eye on the definition of “that was fun.”  And yet, for many important reasons, I agreed with my family to ride the Superman ride.  Why couldn’t I just pick the one that is simple?  But no . . . I have to agree to the one that suspends you from your back and places nothing between you and the ground, then sends you into an inverted loop and accelerates you into a corkscrew.  I can’t tell you how bad I wanted an easy button for this!  Saying “NO WAY” was an option, giving up was possible, but that would be overlooking the MANY things God wanted to teach me through being suspended by my back 140 feet in the air, diving into an inverted loop and thrusted into a corkscrew.  It actually sounds a lot like my life . . . hmmm.

It’s never going to be easy to withstand the pressures of life . . . in fact, impossible without Him.  But when I am facing my giants, with all of it’s twists, loops and corkscrews, I don’t have to give up — I don’t have to look for the easy button.  Instead, I look down and remind myself where my feet are planted — on the Solid Rock, and then I look up and see where it is I’m seated — right next to my Savior!  I’m standing on a very firm foundation through Christ who strengthens me.   It’s who I am!

So, when I’m ready to give up Lord Jesus, remind me of the many things you are trying to teach me, remind me of my footing, remind me of my position in you!

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  I Corinthians 15:58

by:  Mark Cruver

Hurt Feelings Kick My Pride

“So then, no more boasting about men!”  I Corinthians 3:21

Why in the world do I allow my feelings to get hurt so easily.  The hurt and pain are tremendous and overwhelming at best.  I’m often at sorts identifying the nature of what God thinks of or sees in my feelings.  Since I have always worn my feelings on my skin they have been easily bruised and vulnerable to become infected with bitterness if not allowed to heal.

Lately, however, I’m learning the origin and makeup of my feelings.  There’s more to it than meets the eye!  The source of my pain and hurt runs more in line with the pride of our hearts that Paul warns the people of Corinth about.

When I disregard the gospel in my life, the human ego swells within and I fill the void to satisfy it’s insatiable appetite.  I then attach my self-worth to this ego and in order for me to feel good about myself I must measure against something (someone) else and satisfy my personal pride.

Then, like a thief in the night, someone hurts my feelings — but, what they actually do is kick my pride!  Ouch!  That hurt!  I wish my reply to someone’s “number 12” to my pride’s backside would invoke a simple “ouch.”  But it doesn’t.  It stirs my soul and in this case, deflates my ego.  Why does this make me hurt?  Because the emptiness inside of man’s ego that causes discomfort is often filled by the comparing of oneself to another.  It’s what the ego does!  And outside of the gospel, the ego re-inflates itself by other means.  It’s a horrible cycle.

So, when I hurt, when I get kicked — and I will, often — it’s vital to remember the Truth of the gospel.  The gospel is responsible for transforming my self-worth — my identity!  Because of this transformation, my ego operates different now!  Not by comparing myself to others, caring about what they think of me or even me judging myself.  Instead, I lean upon the Truth of what Christ thinks of me — that’s who I am!

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”  I Peter 4:12-13

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

Hope In Crisis

In the midst of my crisis (or anyone’s crisis) hope is something we cling to tightly.  It, at best, appears to be the last string of relief to our grief.  Hope is the emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life. We all want a positive outcome — more than life itself!  But often, our limited minds, deceitful hearts and what the Scripture calls “flesh” somehow turns the tide on hope and ushers our minds, our hearts and eventually belief to despair; the opposite of hope.

My friend just texted me on how I was doing in the midst of my personal crisis.  Yesterday I found myself hopeless, full of despair — sinning!  I completely neglected the fact that Christ’s blood covered that for me already and brought us hope in Him!

My hope is flawed, it has holes and withers as the wind blows.  But the hope found in the life of Christ is never changing!  It’s firm as a rock — in fact, it IS the rock!

So, my answer to my friend was this.  As long as I continue to hope in the outcome of my future through me and my own abilities, I will continue to doubt because I can do nothing without Christ who strengthens me.  That being said, my hope is not my hope at all, it is the Hope of the One Eternal, the Hope of God Almighty, the Hope of Glory . . . that’s the Hope I can trust!  That’s my Hope in crisis!

by: Mark Cruver