Toxic Heart

Resentment kills a fool, and envy stays the simple.  I myself have seen a fool taking root, but suddenly his house was cursed. . . . But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him.  He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.   Job 5:2-3,8-9

I’m finding that I am holding resentment in my heart.  There have been at least 4 different occasions  in the last week that I have heard the topic spoken in my presence by someone.  When this sort of thing happens, I know God is trying to tell me something so I begin to really examine my heart.  In most cases like this, I stumble to find the clues, but this one might as well be like a zit on the tip of my nose.

I know this is about me and God.

Resentment is a poison that courses through the veins of the soul and eat away at the heart.  It will, single handed, destroy whatever remains in relationships.  When resentment hits home and is identified, the healing begins.  And, the nectar of resentment tastes oddly sweet, but breeds bitterness and hate.  Love is the antidote!

Far from affection, love translates into seeing and living your true identity found in Christ alone.  It is critical to live your identity toward those whom you find resentment and in that love be set free!

Lord Jesus, thank you for being persistent with me this past week and showing me what my heart looks like right now.  It’s clearly time for some spiritual spring cleaning!  Show me today what love requires of me!  Thank you more so for the power in the wonders you perform and the many miracles you display!

© 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.

A Dark Place Called Pit

And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.   II Peter 1:19

Last night I had the opportunity finally to see the first episode of the new series, The Bible on The History Channel.  It was exciting to see the Bible come to life and get more of a sense of human emotion as God stirred the hearts of His people.  It was very dramatic — yet still, it was perhaps nothing compared to the actual events.

In one particular scene I noticed something that had not occurred to me otherwise in reading of this account.  The excitement and energy of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea on dry ground has, as for many, been a moment of intrigue for me.  Imagining a wall of water on either side being held back by nothing but the strength of God himself is for me, a more than remarkable event.  But in this particular episode, I noticed the people grabbing torches to use for light as they journeyed quickly to the other side.  It never occurred to me that the walls of water might be so high as to block the daylight.  And as they reached the other side, it was as bright as noon.

I can only imagine what the Israelites must have felt while in the middle of the Red Sea, walking a dry bed.  Frightened.  Worried.  Confined.  Limited.  Uneasy.  Scared.  Curious.  Amazed.  Doubtful.  Confused.  Who could blame them?  They were just led into a very dark place!

For me, this dark place is called a pit.  I could spend a few days on my thoughts about the life and way of the pit, but for now, the measure of the journey is most important.  In the lives of so many, unlike the Israelites, the journey ends somewhere in the middle of the Red Sea.  Pitching a tent and making the pit feel like home.  Let me just say, there’s no place like home and the pit is not it!

It’s all about the journey, because, like the Israelites, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — my and your God, lifts me, leads me, guides me, teaches me to finish the journey.  He wants me to learn, forgive and love, and experience His life on solid ground!

Grab The Torch and journey through that dark place called pit!

Lord Jesus, I give you thanks for giving me your Light of Truth to guide me and teach me!  Your deliverance from my pits I’ve called home far too long is truly a celebration — a homecoming!  May I continue in my journey bearing witness to your hand as I learn to have eyes for you!

You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.  With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.  II Samuel 22:29-30

Gospel Reminder

I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”    Romans 1:15-17

The gospel is a message often reserved to be told to the one who does not know about such great news.  It’s been reduced to small pamphlets and branded into the shape of a cross.  And once we get it and capture the essence of our salvation through the life and death and resurrection and ascension of Christ, we unzip one of a dozen pockets in our backpack for safe keeping and set out on our journey of life with the gospel in tow — just in case.

I don’t know about you, but I need the Gospel full-strength, every day!  Forget that secret pocket!  I need to wear it like under armor!  The grace and faith of the gospel is at the core of who I am!  May I never tuck it away, set it down or adorn it for only a moment of apparent need.

I read this prayer recently that has stirred me, challenged me and awakened God within me!  This prayer is one I completely resonate with in my heart.  I continue to read it often and this is why I’m placing it in this post.  Remember, this is me speaking the gospel back to me!

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Dear Lord Jesus, even as Paul was eager to preach the gospel to believers in Rome, so I’m eager to preach it to my own heart today. There was a time when I thought the gospel was only for nonbelievers—simply the doorway and launching pad for beginning a relationship with you. I now realize the gospel is just as much for believers as it is for nonbelievers.

Indeed, there’s nothing more than the gospel, there’s just more of the gospel—inexhaustible riches to be mined and treasured; a bottomless ocean of sovereign grace and daily mercies; irrepressible power for transformation and liberation.

So what does my heart need to hear and believe, this and every day? The “it is finished” of your life and death, resurrection and ascension! Lord Jesus, that you’ve already accomplished everything necessary to completely redeem us—nothing is left to chance or left to be done. You came into the world as God’s promised Messiah. You lived a life of perfect obedience on our behalf—as our substitute, fulfilling all the demands of God’s law for us. You died upon the cross for us—taking the judgment we deserve, completely exhausting God’s righteous anger against our sin. Hallelujah, many times over!

Through faith in you and this good news, all of my sins have been forgiven and I’ve been given the gift of your perfect righteousness. God has already declared me righteous in his sight. He cannot love me more than he does today, and he’ll never love me less. In fact, because of your work for me, Lord Jesus, God now loves me just as much as he loves you, for he’s hidden my life in yours.

Oh, the peace this brings. He’s adopted me as his child, placed his Spirit in my heart and will send you to complete this grace work one Day—a redemption so glorious, so spectacular that it includes the gathering of your pan-national Bride and the renewing of the entire cosmos. Astonishing!

And now, the Holy Spirit constantly reminds me I’m God’s beloved child, because I’m so prone to forget. He’s also present in my life to make me like you, Lord Jesus, for I can no more change my heart than I can materialize a herd of camels by snapping my fingers. Salvation is of the Lord, from beginning to the glorious end. Keep pressing this gospel into my heart—and protect me from all false gospels. So very Amen I pray, in your priceless and peerless name.

by Scotty Smith, Founding Pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN

The Beauty Of The Cross

“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.  The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”  Isaiah 65:17

He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'”  Revelation 21:5

I serve a God that says, “Behold, I will make all things new!”

This past week I watched more football than I have ever watched in a single week.  For those who know me they would be amazed.  In those games I heard and witnessed coaches in victory, defeat and frustration.  Players were exhausted, discouraged while others were equally energized and enthusiastic.  Victory and defeat.  Those in victory fed like a frenzy off the encouragement and belief in their coaches to “press on” and finish strong!  Those in defeat required a bit more propping up.  A tough task even for the most experienced coach.  But in that locker room, on that side-line, in the huddle, I can assure you there is no backing down of what could be.  There is nothing withholding the reminders, the reflection, the truth of what got them on that field.

God gave us a reminder, an image to reflect upon — the Truth of what got us in His loving arms day in and day out.  Something to constantly and forever ponder in those moments when we tend to forget about who leads us into victory and who is seated on the throne, by our side, when we feel a sense of defeat.

God is standing in the locker room and huddle of our life and getting our attention . . . “Behold!”  It’s a locker room, half-time pep talk, if I’ve ever seen one!  “Behold, I will make ALL things new!”    VICTORY!!!

But I spin around to see the win, find the scoreboard, check the yards and time till the buzzer sounds.  The lights are bright, the stands have cleared, the roar is dim . . . but I no longer see the hash marks, the field rises to the end zone and in place of the goal post . . . is the beauty of the cross!  Whether in victory or sensing defeat, the cross is ALWAYS there!

The straight way to a perpetual newness and freshness of holy youth is to go to Christ again, just as we did at the first. A better thing still is never to leave him, but to stand for ever at the cross-foot delighting yourself in his all-sufficient sacrifice.

They that are full of the joy of the Lord never find life grow weary. Getting near to Christ, you will partake in his joy, and that joy shall be your strength, your freshness, the newness of your life. God grant us to drink of the eternal founts, that we may for ever overflow.

Charles Spurgeon

Rejection And Sorrows . . . He Understands

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.  Isaiah 53:3

I’d like to think it was a silent night on the night of our Savior’s birth, but I believe Bethlehem was far from quiet that night.  When people travel from all over the world for the Olympics, is the Village quiet?  When thousands descend upon a stadium for a game, are the roads, hallways or arenas quiet?  During the days of Mardis Gras, are the streets of New Orleans silent?  The answer to each of these is a resounding, “No!”  It was the busiest night in Bethlehem.  The census was underway and people had traveled from miles around.  So many had flooded the streets, overnight accommodations were slim to none.  Everyone was busy, so busy they missed the arrival of God himself in their own backyard.

Unnoticed by many, Christ was born to be noticed only by a few.  Those who listened, those who trusted, those who believed in something bigger and more hopeful than themselves — they came, bringing gifts, proclaiming the arrival of the King, welcoming the One they had been waiting in the courts to arrive.  A subtle entrance, a grand reception — but only by a few . . . the rest would reject Him, hurt Him, fill Him with sorrow.

It’s difficult to believe He understands the pain of rejection.  It’s not easy trusting the human sorrow He experienced to know the deepness of my own sorrow.  The truth is however, He does understand.  He understands and promises to heal the brokenhearted.  But, like those in Bethlehem that night, I all too often forget to listen, forget to notice, forget to see, forget “to taste and see that the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!”

Lord Jesus, rejection sucks — that’s me being brutally honest!  You have promised to be my Comforter, my Healer, and NEVER reject me!  Your love for me is not conditional and never weakens!  You are seated upon the throne and I am seated with you!  I know you understand every ache in my heart!  Continue to refine me — burn off that which is unrighteous as I strive to be holy as You are holy! I’m so glad you understand!!!!

 

The One Big Mistake

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

Yesterday, my son forgot his lunch for school.  Oops!  That didn’t turn out so well for him.  A costly mistake!  Luckily his older brother felt some compassion and shared a portion of his with him.

How many times have we made the trip into town for an errand, only to realize we left the bag of stuff to return to the store just next door was left at home.  Oops!  That’s gonna require another trip.  A costly mistake!

When was the last time you decided not to lean over your bowl while enjoying some nice hot soup?  Oops!  That’s gonna need a stain-stick!  A costly mistake!

It’s not so unusual for at least one adult member of the family to push the indicator light on the gas gauge.  Oops!  That’s not gonna end well.  A costly mistake!

Those are examples of the many mistakes we commonly make throughout not only our day, but life.  The consequences are expected and not that drastic.  We kick ourselves with words like, “Are you kidding me?” and “How could you have been so dumb!” and “What in the world was I thinking?”  We even recreate an alternative ending in our minds by recusing our actions by saying things like, “I should have . . .”  or “I could have . . .”  or “I would have if only . . . ”

My life, like yours, is filled with a bunch of these “little” mistakes.  In most cases, turning around, making another trip or learning a lesson and changing are simple solutions to these daily misfortunes.  But life dishes out some game changers too.  You may know what I’m talking about — those mistakes that alter the course of your life, bring disaster to you and others, they hurt, rob and destroy.  They bring regret to a whole new level.

However, regardless of my many minor mistakes or major mistakes, my God is with me.  Today this is true: I know not what God will do, but God will do!  His presence is with me always and I must not forget that God is in control of my life.  Whatever experiences I have today, He has them with me!  He will restore through my mistakes!  It is true that my decisions can bring disaster into my life — and others — but God is the only one who can keep the disaster from destroying me!  “Lord Jesus, do not allow me to try and take control because I will make a mess of it.  I cannot meet life today without you!”

The ONE big mistake I can make today is forgetting you in the struggle around me.  I must not . . . MUST NOT . . . make that mistake today!  I must rest in you today!

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him for God is our refuge.”  Psalm 62:5-8