Best Friends For Life And Eternity

“My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.”  John 15:12-14

Last night I was reminded of what friendship is all about when I realized it was the greatest thing that ever came out of Zephyrhills Jr. High School in 1982.  In my opinion, never before this time nor since then, do I believe anything as great as this has ever come from this place.  An introduction between two 12 year old boys on the first day of science class.  A friendship, nurtured through time and tested with life’s most challenging events — death of family, marriage, abandonment, accomplishments and failures, betrayal and family crisis to only name a few.

I’ve thought about what life might be like without friends.  It’s pretty quiet to say the least.  No one to share life with or rejoice in victory.  No one that cheers and no one that listens.  A true place of isolation.  It reminds me of how I thought Wall-E must have felt (even though he was a robot) — but even he had a pet roach!

So I cherish my friend!  I am unable to express in words what his friendship really means to me.  But it pales in comparison to the worth of friendship my Father has of me!  As much as I value the one thing that has stood the test of time on earth, it too will pass.  My joy in this earthly friendship is knowing our lives will extend into eternity — into the presence of Christ — an eternal existence far more indescribable and greater than anything on earth.

So long as I’m still on this earth, everyday I am able to live in that heaven.  I experience the essence of what Christ intended in our relationships through the gift of this friendship He orchestrated.  His blessings, through friendship, is a reflection of His character living out in me and through Him, I am able to live in peace and joy of knowing the nature and future of our friendship.

It is merely a taste of the friendship the Father, through His Son, has for me!  Christ commanded us to Love one another as (He) has loved (us).  This is how we are to relate with one another and an example of Christ THROUGH you!  Our love — true love — is only possible THROUGH Him!  And when we do!  When we trust in His love towards our friends, He then says, “you are my friend!”

What?  Christ is my friend?  I have always understood Christ as my Teacher, Christ as His Son, Christ as my Sacrifice, Christ as my Life, Christ as my Comfort, Christ as my Rock, Christ as my Deliverer …. but friend?

How blessed I am to have a friend on earth that reminds me of what Christ means when He says He too is my friend!

by:  Mark Cruver

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

Night with a Perfect Stranger

Recently I ran across this book and wasn’t really sure it’s value nor application on my life.  But the one thing I did know was it’s message was something important.  Perhaps that was the Spirit prompting me.  I’m so glad I listened!

It took my relationship with Christ and, through this story, linked me with the living, breathing triune God that is joined with me forever.  Further it revealed in real terms how my life I do not live, but it’s Jesus’ life and only He can live it.

I learned further that it doesn’t matter what it feels like — my relationship with Christ is real and true.  The love the Father has for me is because of who I am, not what I’ve done or not done.

It taught me more about sin than I’ve ever understood.  That given my relationship with Christ, joined — linked, means I take Him with me into all my sin.  This is something He told the Corinthians.  This is huge!  Anything that comes my way, comes through Jesus!  Wow!

Can’t say how much it opened my eyes!  Check out this preview.

by: Mark Cruver

Fully Armed

“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel . . .”  Ephesians 6:19

Football season is upon us and in the south, that’s serious business.  It’s a hype with anticipation that exceeds our understanding.  They truly are the Roman Gladiators of our day and we are entertained by their passion to move that pigskin!  They rush the field with purpose and drive that screams dedication and discipline.  They know whose team they belong and they all run the right direction to win the prize (unless you’re my brother and then you might run the other way — oops! – luv ya man!).  I’ve never seen a game where any of the players ran onto the field without their pads, their helmet, their cleats — the ball!  Now, there’s been a time or two I’ve seen a helmet pop right off someone’s head – usually the result of a sweet tackle or block – but never are they ill-equipped.

“Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  Ephesians 6:13

Do you know who you are?  If I were to ask a group of football players that question in the locker room at half-time they would likely reply in unison . . . “Football Players!”  How would you answer that question?  If you are living out the promise of John 15:5 then your life will reflect who you are in the fruit it produces through the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.  But knowing who you are is only the first step in victorious living!  A soccer player can know who they are as well as a football player — but last I knew they require different gear . . . armor for the game!  A soccer player in shoulder pads does not reflect the true identity of the game of soccer — nor does a football player without a helmet.

Through our identity in Christ there has been given a specific uniform that gives us the tools to live a victorious life.  The New International Version of Ephesians 6:13 says “put on the full armor . . .”, but I personally like how the King James Version states it.  It says, “take unto you the whole armor . . .”  Take it!  There it is — take it!  A willing act of obedience to “gear up” and get ready for the battle that is waging around you each and every moment of the day.  And once we’ve put it on, it feels great because it was made especially for us — custom fit armor!  No blisters, no wear and tear, not too heavy, never too loose.  A perfect fit!  And as the war wages around us, unlike that football player, we never have to worry about our helmet popping off in the middle of battle.  Why?  Because we have been called to “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”  It’s who we are!

Have you looked in the mirror lately?  If you know Christ and the power of His resurrection then what you see in the mirror will look like you’re going into battle!  Every day!  If you don’t see it, keep looking — it’s there!

  • You ARE wearing a breastplate of righteousness because you are righteous in His sight!
  • You ARE wearing a helmet of salvation because you are a child of the King!
  • You ARE wearing a belt of truth, FREE in Christ because you know the Truth!
  • You ARE wearing readiness upon your feet from the gospel of Peace!
  • You ARE holding a shield of faith that is strong enough to deflect the arrows that burn with temptation from the evil one!
  • You ARE holding, wearing and reflecting upon the sword of the Spirit who lives inside you.  God’s Word is a lamp of light, the Truth that directs our every way.

Can you see it yet?

by:  Mark Cruver

Know and Live It

How many times have I wondered about the vivid moments in my childhood when I was always the last one picked for kickball?  The last one standing!  Did this ever happen to you? It was a horrible moment!  Standing there waiting to be chosen and in the end, only settled for.  Abandoned.  Neglected.  Devalued.  Humiliated.  Embarrassed.  Unwanted.   Faced with the reality of life when it feels empty and seemingly hopeless, I’m reminded of what Paul said to the saints in Ephesus:

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”  Ephesians 1:4

I’m reminded of this because I’m on a winning team!  Further, I was chosen before creation — hand picked!  I’m not alone nor am I unwanted.  I have been selected in Christ — wanted by Him!  There’s no reason for me to “feel” unwanted by anyone, regardless who turns their back on me or treats me unkindly.  Feeling left behind with it’s loneliness is prompted by a lie crafted and entertained in our mind that we are unwanted.  This could not be farther from the Truth!  God loves us so much, He chose us before creation to rejoice in Him — to experience a little bit of heaven on earth through Him.

But Paul just didn’t stop in verse 4 at saying we were chosen by Him.  He went on to reveal how God views me!   If this were an episode of Batman & Robin in the early 80’s you might hear Robin say this right now . . . “Holy and Blameless Batman!”

God says what He means and means what He says.  Because I am now IN Christ, I am holy and blameless.  You might say, “but look at what I’ve done in my life!  There’s no way I can be blameless for all that I’ve done!  I’m as guilty for wrongdoing as the next guy!”  Well, it is true that we are called to be holy … (“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.'”  1 Peter 1:17) … but our sin does not change who we are IN Christ!  These things are true about me regardless of what I have come to believe from others in my world.  God’s word is True and therefore, this is True of me!

So, what happens then when I’m faced with dilemma?  In the midst of my serious situation, what do I do?  The defeating thoughts of resentment, failure, uncertainty of my future, anger and self-condemnation pelt my core like quarter-sized hail from the sky.  I feel overwhelmed with so many things hitting me all at once.  Where do I go?  What do I do?

God has promised to “never leave us or forsake us” and He has promised to care for us (1 Peter 5:7).  These promises are significant as we face each day.  We have a loving Father who comforts us, cares for us, provides for us and protects us!  He LOVES us!

Thank you Lord Jesus for the promises you made . . . to ME!  Help me live each day not as the last one picked, but instead as the first one chosen by YOU because of your great love for me and because there’s nothing wrong with me!

by:  Mark Cruver

Just Not Feeling It

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

Over the years I have come to learn a great deal about myself from the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the most perplexing discovery is trusting the truth of my feelings … or at least I always thought they were true.

God designed each of us with feelings and with them we are able to express the love, joy and happiness in our relationships. But what happens when someone or something upsets the “applecart?” When what once was joy turns to pain and sadness? When smooth waters turn to fear and anxiety? Is this what the lord had in mind? Did He really expect me to hurt in grief to the edge of despair or experience the pain of loss to the edge of hopelessness? No, no He didn’t. In fact, Satan, with all of his same tricks from all generations has confused us to trust our feelings as Truth. But here is the problem with that … trusting in anything for redemption places those things in front of our Savior. It says that God is not able to save me, comfort me, redeem me, love me, change me, protect me or provide for me.

You see, our feelings are often times out of sync with the truth. Our feelings respond to impulses from our minds and our minds draw conclusions through correspondence with our will. Together, the three of these in a split second construct a belief in which our behavior is birthed. But what is right? It “feels” like it is right many of the times, but this is Satan’s crafty way of making that which is untrue appear true. This, in turn produces sin.

It’s important to remember that my feelings are not Truth. God is Truth! So, when I am feeling anxious in a relationship or disgruntled over a circumstance, what is Truth? God is! It is imperative that we seek God in the midst of our feelings and ask Him to reveal His truth so that I do not bend truth in my mind to match my feelings. What I may perceive as true and what actually is Truth are two different things.
So, the next time I feel out of control, the next time I feel anxious, the next time I feel unworthy I’m turning my heart towards the Truth to seek The reality of who I am in Christ not because of what I’ve done, but because of what He’s done in me!

by:  Mark Cruver

A Life on the Rocks

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”  Matthew 7:24

When I stepped out on this bed of rocks today to take this picture I thought certain it was going to be rather uneventful.  These rocks had been there for some time now and I figured they had settled into the ground pretty securely.  Boy, was I wrong!!  Despite my confidence in what appeared to be a wise and stable moment quickly turned into a very weebly and wobbly near death experience!  O.K., maybe not near death, but I almost fell flat on my bum!

How often do we find our lives much like this very thing?  We know the cliche already of “not building our house on the sand.”  That, we know, is a bad idea!  So instead of sand we choose rocks!  After all, they look a lot more stable!

How many rocks do you have lining the bed of your life?  Is your life on the rocks?  You may be asking what rocks am I talking about?  Well, let’s look at this for just a moment.  What are some things in your life where you place your trust, your dependence, your time, your hope, your confidence, your future, your success or maybe even your career?  And maybe, just maybe a few of those have found you great reward, satisfaction or worth.  So, in those victories you have placed your feet — stood there, confidently stable.  But that position gets old eventually and you will grow weary.  Those rocks will fail you every time because they were placed there by you!

God, through Christ’s parable of the wise man, showed us what happens to the man who places his trust in a sandy foundation.  His house grew weary and “fell with a great crash.”  But the man who placed his trust in a firm foundation built on The Rock never grew weary!  God has encouraged us to place our trust, our dependence, our time, our hope, our confidence, our futures, our success and even our careers upon the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ!  When we are living a life through the life of Christ all these things flow from a bedrock of love and grace!  It’s a Life on THE ROCK!

“For who is God besides the Lord?  And who is the Rock except our God?”  II Samuel 22:32

by: Mark Cruver

All Rights Reserved

The only right a Christian has is the right to give up his rights.  -Oswald Chambers

My nephew is 3 years old.  Lunch for his brothers and sister were being prepared for the day and they were being carefully assembled on the kitchen counter.  His mom grabbed the block of cheese from the refrigerator and began slicing pieces off for each of their lunch boxes.  No one was eating the cheese at the moment, it was for later.  But this little guy was ready, right now, to get his cheesy prize.  His logic was clearly, “if there’s cheese, then I get some.”  Unclear to him this was false logic, because once he found out he wasn’t getting any cheese, his happy, sweet and innocent self turned into a thrashing, loud and tearful torment.  What in the world just happened?

He felt he had a right to get cheese.  All the pieces were in place for this to be true . . . he was there, cheese was there, mommy was there, his mouth was there!  Cha-ching!

I have been challenged lately in my life in much the same way.  There are circumstances where I have felt all the right pieces were present for a very specific outcome.  On more than one occasion these moments have never turned out as I had imagined they would . . . or should.  So, upon departure I would find my anxiety to be high, my criticism to be sharp and despair to be looming near in the shadows.  What in the world just happened?

It’s all about my rights!  In those moments, much like my nephew, I thought I deserved something.  A pat on the back or a certain comment, maybe just a positive look to assure myself things are just fine.  The fact is I don’t NEED any of those things.  Sure, I’d like them and it would be added coolness to get them, but all of those things are already being met in and through Christ in me.  I just need to learn, and trust, in living in that truth.  My worth, my identity is found through Christ.

“I am the vine, you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

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