Screaming For A Savior

“Three times I pleaded with the lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'”  II Corinthians 12:8-9

In speaking about the need for a savior our minds immediately bend towards the life changing and spiritual exchange of salvation.  But this is not the reference of my thoughts today.  Paul, in his discourse to the Corinthians discusses what he refers to as a “thorn in the flesh.”  While many scholars are not certain as to what exactly this was, one thing is true — it drove him nuts!  His plea was not for a spiritual exchange, this event already took place in Paul’s life.  He was looking to be rescued from whatever followed him day and night in torment.

I know if I were to sit down and begin writing a list of things that bug the dickens out of me, it wouldn’t be long before I’d need a new sheet of paper.  But, as the list grows, one or two of them would dominate the page and rise to the top of the list in how severe they impacted my life.  Apparently, it did the same for Paul.

Kids are funny and do some of the darn’dest things sometimes.  Their worlds are so limited and small.  Oh, this is a great thing, both for them and any adult in their midst.  I envy their small, simple lives.  But, anything that disrupts the harmony of their world:  a missing “binky”, not the right food, too much sweet tea before bedtime, not enough sleep, a skunk under the house, someone else playing with “their” toy, getting dressed in the morning . . . and the list goes on, sends them into a fit of overly expressive opinion.  They’ve got a plan of how life should be and when it’s not like that then the world knows!

As adults, I find my relationship with God isn’t too far off from the same thing.  But instead of being overly opinionated about what might be considered “small things,” I’m extremely vocal and demanding over the circumstances in my life that measure extremely critical according to my scale.  What is it with that?

I’m all the while asking and asking again, pleading none-the-less, for God to deliver, change the course, answer a prayer, make a wrong – right, do this, do that, on and on and on.  It never occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, in the midst of pain, sorrow, hurt, crisis and grief that God may be saying, “Even though this stuff stinks, I hurt too, I feel the pain too, it makes me sad too, I understand your desperation, I know your loss too!  Even though your life is spinning, all I want you to do is wrap your arms around me, hold on tight and in this time when you are weak — through me, you WILL BE strong!”

Paul pleaded three times for God to deliver him — rescue him — save him from his thorn.  And while God could have done this — remember He is God — He did not.  Instead, God reminded Paul that His grace was sufficient for Him in this very difficult — distracting time.  That even in the midst of his circumstances, God would use him through his weakness, in His strength, and there find rest.

Lord Jesus, may I find rest in your strength!  As much as I would love for you to remove me from my personal pain and grief, I know that in it, you are strong!  May I boast only in my weaknesses, my difficulties, my crisis!

“Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  II Corinthians 12:9b

by:  Mark Cruver

Rejecting God’s Will

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  II Corinthians 4:18

How do I know I’m acting in the will of my Father in heaven?  How do I know if my next decision is one that reflects, not rejects, the will of God in my life?  Hmmm, certainly makes me wonder!  And many more, both before and with me, have posed this same question to friends, family and the Father!  It’s a big question, surrounding the purpose of a big God that has big plans for me!  It is heavy knowing that I could, with one misguided step, alter the course of His will for me.

Really?  My steps, my disobedience, my selfishness, my conceited arrogance could be the thing that changes the course of His will in my life — for my life?  Living in the fear of that law can only produce unripened fruit.  My attempts to stay within the guardrails of life would only suggest I will get considerably dented, disfigured and damaged due to the nature of my humanity.  So do I stop trying?  Do I sit back and put it all on auto-pilot and “coast” into the pearly gates in need of a severe “tune-up” before slipping into heaven?  That one is difficult to swallow!  But I don’t think so.

Instead of asking myself questions concerning my placement in God’s will for tomorrow, next month, next year — regarding life altering decisions to move, marry or become a missionary, I should rather ask the questions about today!  Is my life TODAY reflecting the will of the Father?  Is what I’m doing TODAY in His plan for me TODAY?

See, tomorrow may never come and often times looking into the future for answers results in scenarios only our finite, “only what’s possible and logical” minds can imagine.  In relying upon that measure of impossibility limits the work of the Master’s Hand in the orchestration of what isn’t possible in our own eyes, minds and hearts and allows for the Spirit to move freely within and through us to make the impossible possible.  Let me speak into the outcome of my future and I only find answers in what appears — what is seen. Give the evil one a sliver of opportunity and he will only offer suggestions and planting seeds of doubt, gloom and destruction laced in the poison of what appears to be right.  But God works through the faith of those who trust in that which is unseen — He can pull off the impossible in a heartbeat.  He’s in the Truth business!  So, I pray into my future in faith of His will, trusting the fruit of my obedience today finds me too, in His will.

Lord, I want to trust in you for my today and my tomorrow. But the tomorrow I see has so many things that seem impossible.  Give me the wisdom to discern your Truth – Victory in Jesus, from the lies of the evil one – Victory in me.  Only YOU can make my tomorrow!  So, I focus on my today in YOUR will – my filter in all things today is through YOU!  I know that tomorrow has enough trouble of it’s own!  But even so, you are faithful!

“But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.”  Galatians 5:5

by:  Mark Cruver

Glorious Ruin

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and teh Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  Job 1:21

Glorious RuinSuffering is imminent.  Pain exists.  Grief is around the corner — it’s just a matter of time.  I have experienced very little loss in my life.  Grief and pain rallied themselves around me at the loss of a pet or the slam of a hammer on my thumb.  True pain, the kind that comes from loss — utter grief, the kind that comes from death, has now circled my wagon and pitched a tent.  I can’t explain the immensity, the emotion, the sense of hopelessness, the depth of loss.

But in it, in the middle of the worst of life there is glory to be found.  This glory is only there because of one thing — the cross!  My crisis is a glorious ruin!  The pain is real, the grief is real, so too is the cross!  The author, Tullian Tchividjian says, “Indeed our efforts to contain, move past, or silence it, that ol’ rugged cross stands tall, resolutely announcing that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ . . . Instead of diminishing our pain, then, these words proclaim the corresponding and overwhelming gratuity of our Redeemer.”

This book will not change your crisis, but it will change how you walk through your crisis!  It will set you free!

Learn more about the author and the book here!

by:  Mark Cruver

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

Prayerfully Persistent

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”  Luke 18:1

Oh, how guilty am I of giving up?  When the road gets tough and the tough gets going, where am I?  Sitting on a park bench, my face planted in the palms of my hands expressing my lack of endurance.  In my own strength, I collapse with frustration, fatigue and the hopeless will to no longer fight.  I begin to dream of life on the other side of the world I once grew strong in defending and seeing the long and windy, often graveled and filled with pot-holes, road ahead, I throw my hands to the air and declare . . . “I give up.”

But, unlike me, the parable of the widow spoken of by Luke in chapter 18 is far from anyone’s expectations.  Prayerful persistence gets the judge’s attention — and an answer!

Regardless of the circumstances, Christ was reminding us of the hope we have in Him.  He wants us to be the one knocking on the door at all hours of the night and day asking for results with confidence He’ll deliver.

Prayer has power . . . persistent prayer has power, with fireworks!

Lord Jesus, persistence is not my strength.  It’s not what I do well on this earth.  Teach me to know that my earth-bound limitations do not exist in your world.  Remind me of the persistence of the widow to approach your throne often over my circumstances.  Lend me your ear!  Thank you for being approachable, willing and quick to hear my voice!

“To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.”  Romans 2:7

by:  Mark Cruver

Nothing Matters But Jesus

All that is going on in this world the worries in my life is as Shakespeare said, “Much ado about nothing”. It is essentially a “tempest in a teapot”. The scenes change, the characters are different and the props are moved in and out, but they are just props. The plot however does not change. It is all about Jesus. Everything points to Jesus. Everything else is a lie. All else is a lie. All else is a sham. All reality and truth are in Jesus.   Nothing, plus Jesus equals . . . Everything!

The father of lies jerks most of us around like puppets on a string. We dance to his tune when we look for life in what the world offers. It is a dance of death. But Jesus died not only for our sins. He died to sin and to this world and so have we as we were in Him when He died, was buried and rose from the dead. The strings have been cut and we are no longer puppets. We are in Christ and He is our life. Everything apart from Christ is death, but life lives in us. We know Him, whom to know is eternal life (John 17:3). Why do I believe that the world has anything to offer, but emptiness, ashes and death? Don’t I know that I am united with Him who is eternal life? All God would have me to do is believe in the One He has sent (John 6:29). He came that I might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).  But it seems like a lot of the time I shuffle around in my grave clothes. I have been raised from the dead but the illusions and delusions that life can be found apart from Christ lead us to dead ends of despair and death. There is a faint whisper of truth within me that only in Him is life, peace, joy, freedom and fulfillment. But my feelings, the world and its values and its ruler are shouting the opposite to me.

Most are building their lives, houses and careers on shifting sands. They have erected magnificent props on a stage that can be removed overnight. When God brings the curtain down on this comedy of errors then this world we love and cherish and all the vain things that charm us most will be destroyed. Everything but Jesus will be turned to ashes. Jesus will remain, as He is eternal. So will I as I am in Him and He is in me (John 14:20). I am eternally one with the Eternal One. I am immortal, indestructible ad bulletproof. We are God’s children and what we will be like has not been revealed, but we know that when He appears, we will be like Him (1 John 3:2).

But the world totters, Satan rages and my feelings run wild. I don’t feel safe, it doesn’t look like victory and I am sinking. Like Peter I have taken my eyes of Jesus and am looking at the waves of oppression and deception that threaten to overwhelm me (Matt. 14:28-31). Where is the way out? What is truth? Where can I find life? Jesus says I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). It is nowhere else to be found. Why do I look for, strive for, struggle for and seek what I already have? I have it all. I have Jesus. I have everything. I am complete in Christ (Col 2:10). I know that it sure doesn’t feel like it, seem lie it or look like it, but so what? All the opposing forces raised up against me are simply shadows in this valley of death I am walking through. There is no substance or reality to them. Victory has been won. It is all over. It is done. It is finished! Satan is defeated (Col. 2:15). Sin and everything against me has been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14). The world has been crucified to me and I am dead to it (Gal. 6:1). What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:24, 25).

I don’t feel victorious and if I do it doesn’t last long. But given the choice I would rather be victorious than have fleeting feelings that I am victorious. Christ is VICTOR! Death is swallowed up in victory (1 Cor. 15:54). What chance did it have against LIFE? But remnants of death beckon to us from this dying world. They promise, posture and pose as success, prosperity and status, but end up as ashes in our hands.

Only Jesus gives life. Jesus is Life. Jesus is all. Jesus is everything. Everything else is a lie. Jesus lives in me and I am in Him and He is my life. I am united to Him and one with Him. Is that enough? Nothing matters but Jesus and our relationship with Him. There is no life, peace, joy, freedom and fulfillment but in Him. It is really all too simple. Jesus says, Don’t be afraid, Just believe in Me (Mark 5:36).

by:  Mark Cruver

Mike and his wife Julia direct the Grace Walk Recovery Ministry with Grace Walk Ministries. Mike is a former pastor who struggled with alcoholism. He is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary. Prior to coming with Grace Walk, he was the director of the recovery ministry for Freedom in Christ Ministries. Before that he was a counselor for Grace Ministries International. They are the parents of three grown children and have seven grandchildren and live near Atlanta Georgia. Mike and Julia have co-authored four books on freedom from addiction with Dr. Neil Anderson. The focus of the ministry is to teach, train, and provide resources for people who want to help others overcome addictions and also to have a recovery ministry where people find true and lasting freedom in Christ.  by: Mike Quarles

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

Thinking of Me

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.  Psalm 139:17-18

Let’s do the math here . . . millions of people, plus how many grains of sand?  Yep, that would be all of them . . . quadrillions (that’s not even enough to number them).  Goodness!  Ok, and that would equal the number of thoughts . . . precious thoughts, about ME!  But there’s so many others out there to think about!  Why toward me?  My head hurts trying to comprehend the immensity of this.

There’s good reason my head hurts.  My comprehension of the fullness of God and His ways is beyond the limited understanding my “earth suit” is capable of grasping.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”  Isaiah 55:8

While I know I am made in His image, I also know that I am not God — He is so much more!  I’m reminded of an old song I used to sing in my childhood that said, “My God is so BIG, so STRONG and so MIGHTY, there’s nothing my God cannot do!”  Even now, as an adult, this song speaks unbelievable Truth in the nature of who God is!

But being big, or strong and mighty, while true and awesome, does not address the reality that God thinks about me!  His thoughts about me are innumerable.  I am awestruck at the magnitude of precious thought He spends on me.  This is an expression of love, care and value that reaches beyond human reason and steps into a, perhaps the, realm of “lack of understanding.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding . . . ”  Proverbs 3:5

Amazing . . . simply amazing!  Despite my circumstances, despite my past, despite my ill-doings and doubt, despite my lack of hope or faith, despite my disobedience and rebellion, despite my worry — He thinks precious thoughts of me by an infinite number.  It’s a measure of unconditional love that crosses over the boundaries of our minds and sometimes our hearts.

“Jesus loves me, this I know . . . for the Bible tells me so!”

Thank you Lord Jesus for thinking precious thoughts of me today!

“How great are your works, O Lord, how profound your thoughts!”    Psalm 92:5

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

A Desert with Rainbows

“Then Moses said to him, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.'”  Exodus 33:15

It’s hard to imagine what it might be like to live in the desert.  Hot sun, tents, blowing sand — talk about the essence of being uncomfortable.  And yet, the people of Israel trekked through these conditions on their way to the Promised Land.  They were well prepared for this journey.  Although, along the way, they lost sight of the Lord God.  It’s a story with which we are very familiar, but tucked away within this epic journey was a relationship.  And, to what end do we understand this relationship between Moses and the Lord?  When he was an infant, Moses was perhaps the baby, “Most Likely Not To Live” — how many babies do you know that’s taken an unattended basket ride down the Nile River and lived to cry about it?  But through it all — against all odds — Moses had truly become a man of God, one who heard His mighty voice, seen His glory and witnessed His Almighty hand.  Moses was charged by God to lead . . . to lead the nation to the Promised Land, but without ever seeing it himself.

It was during this journey when God spoke to Moses and encouraged him to continue on the journey, but that He (God) would not be going with them.  Instead God would send an angel ahead of them.  Moses could not fathom what life would be like outside of fellowship with God.  For him, this was no option!  Moses chose the desert over reaching the Promised Land if it meant he must go without the Lord God.  Mighty things came from this decision.

This morning has been a sad morning for me.  Thinking of my own life in the desert I wonder how much I’m drinking from the well of others.  His springs of Life in our daily desert satisfies because of our sole dependence in Him and Him alone.  I get my thirstiest during moments when I sip life from a canteen instead of from His spring.  When I look for hope … comfort … love … acceptance … my way.  I look for these things in those that surround me and my circumstances and I crumble.  It’s the wrong foundation on which to stand — it’s not Hope, Comfort, Love, Acceptance, nor is it His Way!

May I learn each day to rest in the Hope that He gives through Him, enjoy the Comfort in His loving arms of grace, adorn the Love with which He freely showers me, believe that He Accepts me just the way I am and most of all . . . may I learn to Trust in Him!

This morning, opposite the sunrise in the western sky — without rainclouds, I saw a rainbow.  God wanted me to see that rainbow this morning!  It was a reminder that His promises are True and Everlasting.

Rainbows are possible, even in the desert!

by:  Mark Cruver