While Waiting

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”  Titus 2:11-14

I remember reading somewhere that most of our time in life is spent waiting on something — second only to our time spent sleeping.  We wait in lines — long lines, for rides, for tickets, for a deal, for gas, for admission . . . even for a free chicken sandwich.  And yet, we are satisfied with doing so.  Why is that?  I think it must be because there is purpose, a mission, the understanding that there will be something for me when it’s my turn.

Would I still wait if it took days, or months . . . or even years until my ticket was called?  I’d certainly have to weigh the value against the worth of my wait.  Some things are worth waiting for regardless of the time it takes.

A guy by the name of Simeon spent his life waiting for a promise to be fulfilled.  Luke tells us about him and his waiting in the second chapter of his book.  Promised by the Holy Spirit he would see the coming Christ before his death, he spent his life waiting . . . anticipating great things!

So moved, Simeon went and waited in the courtyard of the temple — and one day, without fanfare, the Christ child appeared in the arms of his mother, Mary by the side of Joseph.  And as Simeon took the child in his arms, he knew God’s promise had been given to all people.

Luke tells us that Simeon was a righteous and devout man and keenly aware of the Holy Spirit in his life.  While waiting, Simeon summed it up for all of us . . . submit, listen, trust and obey!

Lord Jesus, I eagerly await your return, but until that time give me patience as I wait upon other things I’ve placed at the foot of your cross.  While I wait, may I submit every moment to you, listen to your tender voice, trust in the promises of your Spirit and live in obedience.  For I know the value of which I wait is worth every minute!

“Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

Live It Up

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews 11 is without doubt, THE chapter in the Bible on faith.  And it speaks of the confidence and sustainability of the strength each of the characters of the Old Testament we have come to admire.  It is quite the list — a “Hall of Faith.”

Something each of these men and women demonstrated in their lives was an assurance of the mighty God who has promised to deliver, to provide, to comfort, to protect, to heal, to save and to strengthen.  All of them remained focused not on their circumstances, but instead on things above.

Living by faith means living it up.  Living by faith means living in response to who God is and not what I want.  Sure, I ask for God to perform miracles both big and small, but my faith in response to who God is can be seen when I don’t get what I want.  God has nothing but great things planned for me and despite my circumstances, I trust, through faith, that whatever it is, it’s better than anything I could ever dream.  So I live it up . . . lift it up . . . trust in that which I cannot see and press on in the hope of the promise made that you will deliver, provide, comfort, protect, heal, save and strengthen me.

The men and women of Hebrews 11 never received what they were promised.  They were, however, commended for their faith.  “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:40)

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given me.”  Romans 5:1-5

Self-Inflicted Cain

“Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”  Psalm 51:11-12

I recall the pain and still experience the occasional grief.  It hurts terribly and in those moments, when all seems lost and hopeless I cry out, “God . . . don’t leave me!”  It’s a state in which your heart yearns for comfort, embrace . . . forgiveness and grace.   And, before my spirit rests in tune with my soul and body on the presence of God living within me, I blame . . . I judge . . . I condemn . . . I self-inflict Cain upon me.

Cain, as you recall (especially if you read the story in Genesis 4 yesterday), was confronted by God on his anger toward Abel.  God spoke clearly to Cain regarding the presence of sin, it’s sneaky, “ready-to-strike” position and the fact that he (and we) must master or conquer it!  This is a simple reminder that God, my only strength, enables me to conquer the grip of sin!

But Cain chose for sin to master him.  The apple didn’t fall far from the tree did it?  In fact, that orchard is still producing fruit and it continues to drop not so far from that same tree!  The seed of sin was welcomed in and it grew to death — Abel’s death.

Cain, fully aware of the sin in his life began to experience the essence of pain, grief, shame and guilt we all experience because of sin in our own life.  And Cain, like David many years later, casts judgement upon himself.  Thinking he knows God well enough to predict the Creator’s behavior, he tells God what to do.  I’ve never done that . . . HA!

“Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear.  Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”  Genesis 4:13-14

God’s reply?  “Not so!”

What???  Not so?  Cain was wrong!  He miscalculated the love of God . . . God’s grace and forgiveness!

  • Where Cain felt punished, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt burdened, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt kicked out, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt abandoned, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt unloved, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt unwanted, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt unworthy, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt restless, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt homeless, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt friendless, God said, “No way!”
  • Where Cain felt hated, God said, “No way!”

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  II Corinthians 12:9

Pain Of Cain

“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”  Romans 6:16

Sin carries such a heavy burden on the soul it causes our bodies to sag and slump.  It saturates our very being with guilt and shame so as to reflect the disobedience in our hearts.  I’m reminded of the child that has disobeyed their parents, but confesses nothing of the such.  He goes about his day thinking and feeling the pride before his fall.  Not until he stands before his judge (his father and mother) does he begin to feel the weight of the sin of disobedience.  And once he does, his head drops, shoulders slump, eyes turn away, a frown appears and a strong desire to be somewhere other than here manifests itself.

Cain experienced this with his brother, Abel.  In case you’ve forgotten the glorious details of this amazing story (Genesis 4), allow me to shed the highlights.  I would encourage you to read it, read it again and then read it slowly!

In response to God’s receipt of the brother’s offerings, Cain became angry.  Cains body reflected his anger and his heart stirred in his countenance.  God asks Cain why his face is so downcast.  And then, the most profound words perhaps in the entire Old Testament are spoken by God directly to Cain.  He said, “If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”  WOW!!!!  Perhaps the first . . . . okay, the second lesson on sin!  It didn’t work the first time, so now God is spelling it out to Cain.  Sin doesn’t own you!!

But Cain, in his sin and shame, responds much like many of us respond to our own sin.  Filled with shame and guilt, we listen to the lies about who we are, what we are like, what others must think and rarely recover from the self-inflicted wounds to our own heart.  Cain felt so ashamed of the most horrid of crimes he committed, killing his brother, that he condemned himself to become an outcast from God’s own sight and a target to any who find him.

God’s response?  The most amazing grace ever found in Scripture!  While Cain felt certain his punishment would lead to death, God’s plan . . . God’s way was and is much different!  God said to Cain, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.”  WHAT?  God raised His glory from the ashes of ruin in Cain!  Through the pain of Cain came the salvation of the world!!!

How might you ask?  Well, Cain was used to build a city. Then, through the descendents of Adam’s third son, Seth (because Cain killed Abel) came Noah!  WOW!

Salvation of the world through the pain of Cain!  Who knew?

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”  Genesis 4:7

Down For The Count

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  I Corinthians 8:37

Becoming a man who lives his life defeated auctions the birthright of ownership for himself over being owned.  It’s the difference between allowing the perspective I have of my life to determine my direction and living, not in defeat, but victory.  Those things look so different.  The trouble is while walking the streets of life we often follow the most attractive down the alleys of destruction only there to find ourselves sulking under the trash of our past.  Is that really what it’s all about?

Mohammad Ali took a few hits for his time.  Agreed?  Unfortunately, we can witness the ill effects of the battles he fought only to face his greatest yet in life.  No doubt there were moments when he got knocked so hard that many, himself included, thought he may be down for the count.  Getting up from defeat takes strength and humility beyond measure.  Either in a boxing ring or the ring of life it is still the same.  The famous and memorable character Adrian, in the Rocky movies, was famous for his no compromise attitude as Rocky lay on the mat bloodied and bruised.  Adrian yells over and over, “Get up!  Get up! Get up!”

I know I have felt slapped to the mat, defeated, bruised and bloodied and I have waited for someone to come, clean my wounds, help me up and tell me it’s all going to be just fine.  And while there’s definitely a need for this kind of love for one another (Love your neighbor as yourself . . . Romans 13:9), it is temporal and unpredictable.  This kind of dependence on man reminds us how lonesome the ring can be at times.  There’s no one yelling, “Get up!”

This is defeat at it’s finest.  And the Savior I serve ate defeat for breakfast – lunch – and dinner!  Last I checked, I serve a RISEN Savior who conquered death and the grave!  And when life slaps me to the mat bruised and bloodied, hopeless and helpless, my Savior is there and He says, “Get up! Get up! Get up!  Since I live in you — you ARE victorious!  Get up!”  We are never down for the count!

Thank you Lord for the victory we have in You!  We are more than conquerors and can get back up when we get knocked down because You already won!

“But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!  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 15:57-58

Hide And Seek

By Ken Boa

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” – Genesis 3:8-9 NIV

Everyone has experienced the cycle of sin and shame. It’s a dreadful place to be, a box canyon with three sides going straight up. We enter by way of sin, and wouldn’t dare to look for a way out since we don’t think we deserve it (and we don’t). And if we hear the sound of someone passing by, we can’t even call out for help. To do so would presume that the person wants to help us (adding presumption to our sins). We know no one could want to help one such as us (which is not true, but it is what we think). And so we hide in our canyon of shame.

There is only one way out of our shame, but we often can’t see it. The way out is to simply say what we have done—confess it to God—so that we may receive his forgiveness which is always available. And yet we are usually too ashamed to lift up our eyes, much less our voice, to him. So what does he do to get us to speak? He seeks us out. In our moment of need, when we are hiding from him, he comes looking for us—and he speaks first. Without our even knowing it, he changes our confession to a conversation.

God did this first with Adam and Eve. In the perfect Garden of Eden, the first couple sinned. Hearing God approaching in the garden, they ran and hide themselves among the trees. Did God see them? Yes. Did he know what they had done? Of course. Was he gently willing to allow them to tell him in their own words rather than accusing them directly and deepening their shame? That’s exactly what he did. By rhetorically calling out, “Where are you?” God drew Adam out from his hiding place. Seeing the patience of God, Adam released himself from shame by confessing his sin to God.

Is your identity today “Ashamed”? It need not be. Know that God is walking in your garden seeking a conversation that leads to confession, and freedom. If you lift your eyes, you will see him. If you lift your voice, he will hear you. He seeks you for only one reason: To find you and set you free.

God’s Promise to You: “When you hide, I see you and will seek you out.”

Liberating Loneliness

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” John 16:33

Imprisoned by a sense loneliness is debilitating. It hijacks the spirit and cripples the heart into a need for others. Living a lonesome life, believing the lie of isolation is gripping. Joy is not made complete in this and while I can certainly resonate with those feelings, those moments of quietness, stillness mixed with the grief and pain of loss, I completely understand.

Here is what I know about this . . . and I write because I must hear myself speak Truth back at me.

Jesus, while speaking to His disciples spoke of His time of departure and the fact that once He is gone, they will scatter. Worse, He tells them they will leave Him alone. They will abandon their Lord, they will leave Him and go on their merry way.

My Jesus knows how I feel right now, He understands me and my circumstances — He’s been there!

More so, He knew then that though His followers abandoned Him that He was not alone. He knew and rested in the peace of knowing His Father is with Him. I have been set free from the bondage of loneliness forever!

Jesus, I need a nudge from your Spirit! I, like you, feel lonely. But also, like you, may I remember who my Father is and that He is with me always! That He has overcome the world though I may have trouble in this world. That in you, I may have peace in my heart!

“Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” John 16:32b

by:  Mark Cruver

Dancing With The Devil In Jeans

“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away ad enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  James 1:13-15

“May I have this dance?”, says the well-dressed man with a glow on his face, a twinkle of hope in his eyes and a determination in his spirit.  Extending his hand, he can hear his heart pound from his chest.  She turns and looks up to see the most charming, delightfully looking man she’s ever seen.  His rich voice alone made her melt.  With such grace and elegance she accepts and the most beautiful, romantic, heart-filled dance begins.  It was a dance that made time stand still while the orchestra continued to play.  It was a dream come true!

I wish this were true of every dance.  To be or to have a “knight in shining armor” that steps from the shadows to sweep a fair maiden from her feet is beyond fairy tale — but it happens every day!  This is the dance we think will be, it’s the moment we’ve dreamed about — music, lights, action!  But it will soon end in disaster!

I know, I know — how could I be so pessimistic?  After all, it’s not real, it’s a fairy tale!  And can’t we just imagine for a moment what that would be like to sweep our fair maiden or be swept by a prince?  Certainly!  Those fairy tales are great and even to imagine such things to happen to us brings us a sense of happiness — but there is another dance!  There’s a dance that looks very much like the dance of our dreams — but ends in death!  Can you tell the difference?

The prince of this dance has another agenda and it’s not blue birds and butterflies!  It’s a dance of deceptions, footsteps toward destruction and with the glistening temptation of lies.  It’s a dance with the devil and most of the time, I’m wearing jeans.  What does this mean exactly?  Well, I rarely ever dress up for the occasion and he could careless how I look.  But he always looks dashing, trusting, believable, cunning, hidden, and while matching my every step, he is spinning me, disorienting me from the Truth.  This is not the dance partner I’m looking for, he’s danced with everyone in the room.  How do I know this?  Because this is who he is!  “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8)

I’m dizzy, he stepped on my feet and he’s got bad breath.  Oh, and he whispered to me how I can make my own decisions, do as I want to do, be in control, meet my own needs, save myself.  Now that’s a fairy tale indeed!  I’ve danced with the devil with jeans on and it was nothing like I had ever dreamed.  It became a nightmare!

King Jesus!  It is you with whom I dance!  I praise your Holy name!  Nothing or no one else will satisfy the longings of my heart as do you!  Continue to remind me that dancing with the devil leads only to destruction!  But dancing in your courts with praise, glory and honor is a dance for all eternity!

The only thing that’s ever happened when dancing with a lion is death.  If you don’t believe me, ask the zebra!

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”  I Peter 5:10-11

by:  Mark Cruver

My Strength

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.”  Psalm 18:1-3

The Lord is MY rock:

A rock is firm, solid and never shifts.  It is trusted, dependable, a place of assurance, confidence and guarantee.  The rock in which David describes is a place of refuge!

So, this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”   Isaiah 28:16

The Lord is MY fortress:

In the line of defense, the first to encounter is the fortress.  My God, who can stand against Him?

“You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remember the Rock, your fortress.”  Isaiah 17:10

The Lord is MY deliverer:

Being delivered means to be “set free.”

“O Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, who shields my head in the day of battle . . . ”  Psalm 140:7

The Lord is MY shield:

Protection from the swords and arrows of battle was imperative for life.  Without them, death would be imminent.

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”  Ephesians 6:16

The Lord is MY horn:

With every battle came a battle cry!  A loud resounding horn to announce early victory and the first to march in battle.

“God is with us; he is our leader.  His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you.  Men of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your fathers, for you will not succeed.”  II Chronicles 13:12

The Lord is MY stronghold:

A place of steadfastness.  A confident, secure and safe place to trust.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?”  Psalm 27:1

The Lord is worthy of MY praise and I AM RESCUED!

by:  Mark Cruver

One Thing Remains

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Hebrews 13:8

Today is less about me and more about a people that finds hope in leadership.  Regardless of your political preference the realization and level of dependence upon others has become strikingly apparent in our country.  It is without doubt that change is imminent, in my lifetime or throughout the lifetime of my children.  Leaders will come and go, decisions made beyond my influence will be made and how we “deal” with the tides of consequence as they repeatedly make their way to shore matters most.  Some swell to heights too great to describe, while others will roll ashore in the quiet and stillness of the night — either way, they make their way to shore and retreat back to the depths with grains of sand in hand.  Every wave, every break takes with it a part of the peaceful, tranquil place — until nothing remains.  So empty!

Praise the Lord it doesn’t have to be this way!  Thank God for His place in our lives out of the love He has for His children!  You see, God has taught us that nothing remains when it is built on sand.  While on the surface it seems firm and stable, it quickly erodes, battered by the storms that pound us every day.  The answer?  He is the answer!  When we trust in the One who is the Rock, we can rest assured our lives will not crumble.  It will withstand the storms each day brings, it will endure the pounding waves and stand against the prevailing winds that shift with the tides.

You see, regardless of who’s in charge — at the top of the political pyramid or on the ground — one thing remains . . . my God, the God of the universe and the One who sent His Son — King of Kings and Lord of Lords . . . remains on the throne TODAY!  He was there yesterday . . . He is there today . . . and He will be there tomorrow!  And, in case this is not enough . . . His word tells me I’m seated there with Him every day!  This is something we can “take to the bank.”

“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me? 

The Lord is with me; he is my helper.  I will look in triumph on my enemies.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

. . . This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118:6-9,24

by:  Mark Cruver