Holding Tight To My Right Hand

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Psalm 73:23-24

Ever enjoy a walk with a dear one? No where to be, just enjoying the stroll, hand-in-hand. Sometimes these walks are for the protection of the other. Such as when you exit the grocery store with your little one and you quickly remark, “Hold my hand now!” While other moments, like the one mentioned earlier, are moments of endearing fellowship.

But what happens when you find these strolls no longer happen? It’s not a matter of no place to go, it’s a reality of no one with which to walk. Life suddenly becomes a series of lonely strolls in the garden, along the shoreline, down the street or through the neighborhood. No longer protecting, no longer engaging, no longer sharing, no longer enjoying – it’s quiet, still and thoughtful. Different.

As sad as that seems, lonely as it appears, it is not so. The evil one would like for me to think this way in order to reflect on my isolation and seek to meet my needs in other ways contrary to Christ. Even in the midst of rejection, isolation, abandonment and the absence of those with which to walk hand-in-hand, God says and does something that is extraordinaire. He walks with me, grabs my right hand and with every hand I shake, and every rare moment I have to stroll with someone He shares in the moment … participates in the fellowship.

Lord Jesus, when I’m left out, rejected and removed, thank you for extending yourself, clutching tightly to my right hand and walking and talking with me wherever I go – whomever I’m with. Not only do you know my name – by name – you know my heart, my sadness, my desire for intimate fellowship and there you are! Continue to clasp tightly to my hand – there will be times I’ll want to dart across the street without looking both ways and I’ll need your tight grip to protect me. There will be times when I’ll not want to speak to you or to your face, but continue to hold me tightly as I will draw near to your comforting interest into my deepest thoughts. There will be times I will want to run and not walk and holding hands while running is no easy task, but stick with me for running is my way to get away from my pain, but you are my Comforter!

Equals Joy

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy . . . 1 Peter 1:8

As perplexed as one can be, I step back and take another look at the meaning of joy. Clearly, not to be confused with happiness, joy takes on an entirely different shape. It’s a state of my heart and a condition of my soul. Joy … made complete only through Christ Jesus.

Joy is one of those difficult things for the human mind to grasp. How does a mother who loses her baby find joy? How does the head of a household find joy in the loss of his job? How do victims of natural disaster who find themselves homeless experience joy?

I then think of the many trials and tribulations so many have endured. And James reminds us even in the midst of the worst to consider them pure joy. So, I invite you to the gallery of trials and tribulations. For behind the canvas of each of these unpredictably driven moments is joy unspeakable and full glory of our Savior . . . to whom I stand in awe!

The first portrait is that of Horatio G. Spafford. It is one of great loss financially, professionally and personally. But beneath the immense pain and grief from the sudden death of his daughters was joy — joy filled with Amazing Grace! Horatio G. Spafford in crossing the Atlantic to attend his daughters funerals … equals joy!

Visit now this portrait. The man we know of fairly well. A prisoner -in chains. Paul the Apostle, in prison for proclaiming the gospel of Christ. It is from here he writes to continue in sharing, encouraging and teaching the message of salvation. Paul in prison … equals joy!

Now come with me round the corner. This portrait is not so very different than the others. It’s yours and mine. The circumstances of my life, of your life, are clearly represented on this canvas. What’s behind my portrait? What’s behind yours? Can you say, me in my circumstances … equals joy!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds . . . James 1:2

Pain Suggests God’s Absence

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Matthew 27:46

Pain is a real thing.

While pain itself may not exclaim His absence, the lack of deliverance from the pain often does.  Have you ever spent time in desperate prayer asking for the pain to go away?  And when you realize the pain still exists, do you not wonder where God has gone or if He’s really listening?  Have you ever endured the pain of consequences only to experience little relief from prayer?  Have you ever experienced the pain of losing something or someone most dear and still, years later, continue to experience that pain?  In the midst of continual pain, have you ever cried out in righteous anger from the hurt to tell God how much He can’t possibly know the depths of your pain?

Pain is a real thing.

It sounds a bit cliche but God knows – with full understanding – the depths of pain.  He understands loss, He understands betrayal, He gets the pain of standing firm in the midst of temptation, He understands losing a best-friend, He relates with the unpopular — He knows how it feels to doubt God in the midst of pain!

But doubt isn’t the loss of faith!  Faith comes through knowing that which is unseen and Christ knew all unseen!  The doubt of His Father’s presence on the cross drew Him closer to the Father in faith of the Truth of His promises!

Yes, pain is a real thing and God is not absent in our pain!  He is ever-so present in fact!  Remember, He is our great Comforter, Healer and Friend!  Not a moment goes by, painless or painful, that God is not wrapped around us as a cloak of glory!

. . . because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’  So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?’   Hebrews 13:5-6

© 2012-2013 Mark Cruver. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder.

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

© 2012-2013 Mark Cruver. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder.

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