Shaken or Steadfastly Stirred?

“Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.  He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”  Psalm 112:6-7

A number of years ago, I was shaken by the news of my mom having cancer.  The first in our family, the aggressive nature of this strain made for moving quickly.  The thought of losing a dear loved one to something so out of my control for me was a lesson in trust and prayer.  My initial response was asking, sometimes even yelling at God to get answers to the growing question of “why?”  My fist was spiritually drawn and raised a number of times in the deepness and darkness this horrible incident brought upon my mom.

And now, years later — and mom cancer-free — I find myself once again facing a more personal crisis.  The cover looks the same, the story is just a bit different.  Every word is written on the pages of grace and forgiveness, penned by the Author.  And while I don’t really know the ending to this one exactly, I am confident in knowing it will be very similar.  How do I know?  Well, here is what He said about that . . .

“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

It’s great knowing the ending, it helps in living through the pages of life.  But, how do I live off those pages when I come to a chapter that “rattles my cage?”  How do I keep reading?  How do I keep the book open and read on?

It’s easier said than done, but the Truth is that the words I read off my pages of life are more than just words.  What it is my eyes see cannot be trusted — but knowing who authored my story from the beginning, from cover to cover is imperative.  In whom do I trust?

David reminds us that a righteous man will never be shaken and will not fear bad news.  It’s all in how I live — where is my faith, do I believe in the Author and Finisher of my life?  Or am I trying to write each page?

This means that my life is not in my hands, but rather, in the hands of my God!  The pages are being written by Him.  Getting shaken is placing trust in myself to get through the bad news, to figure out my own way to process and “deliver” myself from the worry and fear.  But that’s not trusting — that’s acting like Adam!

So, God — when I face the pages in my life that reflect strife, present crisis, face rejection, bear fear, instead of being shaken, help me . . .  HELP me be steadfastly stirred by those moments but not shaken.  Remind me of who I am IN YOU and THROUGH YOU, and that my heart be, as it is, steadfast to withstand the storms I face each and every day!

Amen!

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

Prayer of a Righteous Woman

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  James 5:16

Sadly, when I look back at the women in my life – the matriarchs of the family – I have few, if any, memories of them praying over their family.  Both of my grandparents were pretty silent women, unless of course they were ready to leave during their visit or chastising their husbands for not doing something the way it “ought” to be done.  But prayer was reserved for the “heads of household.”  The men in the family wore that badge and even so, it didn’t look much different than it did with them.  I’m not suggesting they never prayed, it’s just we never really saw it happen.  Prayer was often assumed, but rarely demonstrated.  It was always formally given tribute before large “all-family” meals, and I do recall my grandfather lowering his head before taking even a taste of his food from his lap-board stretched across his reclining chair.

Growing up in a home where God was respected and taught, learning to pray even as a young adult was rarely modeled.  Following in the footsteps of their own parents, my parents rarely prayed with us boys and never as a family.  Well, with one exception, I think Dad made it a point to pray at mealtime because of what was on the menu.

Now I’m an adult and surrounded by my mom and other women of great faith in Christ.  Prayer is looking a little different these days.  Is it that we are becoming ever more aware of our own inability to “fix” life around us and greater is our understanding of the One who conquered death for life?

Unlike in the days of my youth, my mom is a praying machine.  It’s possible she’s been that way all her life, but I presume life looks different in your senior years and she has made no bones about her call to worship in prayer for her sons, their wives and the grandchildren.  It’s what she does now!  Thank you mom for taking up the sword and speaking the Truth into the lives of those you love so dearly — through faith you have demonstrated the power of God through prayer!

The most important woman in my life, however, has been the one perhaps gone most unnoticed by me for her faithfulness, her sacrifice, her boldness, her bravery, her courage, her discipline and devotion to Christ.  She has become a woman of God like none I have ever witnessed.  She wears the scars of battle everyday, but stands to face the giants of life with the belief of David.  The prayers for her husband have not been ignored by our Creator and the work He began in me He has yet to finish!  Because of her faithfulness to her Lord, I have been restored to my relationship with my Father, who lives within me.  Through her prayerful obedience, God has shown His light into the crevasses of my soul and by His Spirit He has challenged me to learn the meaning of leaning and the lost discipline of prayer.

The battle still wages — it wages for our souls and the souls of every member of our family.  The lion prowls, but will we feed it?  Prayer, as I’ve learned, is the battle cry!

The prayers of a righteous woman, too, is powerful and effective!

by:  Mark Cruver

A Prayer for Wisdom and Strength When Facing Temptation

With the fact that I’m currently reading on the power of prayer, Scotty Smith summarizes the hearts and minds of men and women everywhere in the face of temptation. Call on the power of God, in the name of Jesus for strength. The reward in the power of trusting Him far outweighs the regret of believing the lies in temptation.

by:  Mark Cruver

Satan, You Can’t Have My Children

Going into this book I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I was a little intimidated by the title.  Afterall, it’s a little “in your face” to satan.  For someone who doesn’t really go after stirring up the pot, I certainly would rather not stir up the darkness.  That’s my flesh talking for sure!

I’m reminded often of the power I have at every turn of every moment of my life.  Christ in Me!  The Hope of Glory!  The God who rose from the grave and turned water into wine!  The God that defeated Goliath and withstood the fiery furnace, the God that created man from dust and thousands of years later walked on water.  The very God where darkness cannot be found — it’s not allowed!  That’s the power I have — because Christ lives in me and through me!

With that in mind . . . I read this book!

First of all I must let Ms. Iris know how thankful I am that God laid these truths upon her heart, gave her the spirit of obedience and put them on paper.  They were a true testament to the nature of who she is in Christ and who we all are who call on the name above all names!

Our children are so precious!  More than legacies and more than little people.  As Ms. Iris says, they are unique spirits clothed in an earth-suit of their own.  As parents we spend the majority of our time caring for the earth suits, but little to no time nurturing their more valuable identity — their souls.  Robbed of their innocence, the truths of the Kingdom and their dependence on Christ alone, our children are wandering in the desert and clinging to false faith, false hope and false love.

It is our responsibility as parents to protect them from the scalding arrows of satan and his never-changing lies.  We must PRAY!  Pray for our children at all times!  Present them at Christ’s feet, surrendered but not silent!  It’s past time to be intentional about talking, praying and teaching the Truth, boldly, honestly and fearlessly to our children.

I could go on and on — this book fired me up!  Can you tell?  Every Christian parent should read it for no other reason than as a reminder that our battle is not against flesh and blood — and our children are walking aimlessly inside the lion’s pride.

Click here to learn more about his book!

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