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

Hurt Feelings Kick My Pride

“So then, no more boasting about men!”  I Corinthians 3:21

Why in the world do I allow my feelings to get hurt so easily.  The hurt and pain are tremendous and overwhelming at best.  I’m often at sorts identifying the nature of what God thinks of or sees in my feelings.  Since I have always worn my feelings on my skin they have been easily bruised and vulnerable to become infected with bitterness if not allowed to heal.

Lately, however, I’m learning the origin and makeup of my feelings.  There’s more to it than meets the eye!  The source of my pain and hurt runs more in line with the pride of our hearts that Paul warns the people of Corinth about.

When I disregard the gospel in my life, the human ego swells within and I fill the void to satisfy it’s insatiable appetite.  I then attach my self-worth to this ego and in order for me to feel good about myself I must measure against something (someone) else and satisfy my personal pride.

Then, like a thief in the night, someone hurts my feelings — but, what they actually do is kick my pride!  Ouch!  That hurt!  I wish my reply to someone’s “number 12” to my pride’s backside would invoke a simple “ouch.”  But it doesn’t.  It stirs my soul and in this case, deflates my ego.  Why does this make me hurt?  Because the emptiness inside of man’s ego that causes discomfort is often filled by the comparing of oneself to another.  It’s what the ego does!  And outside of the gospel, the ego re-inflates itself by other means.  It’s a horrible cycle.

So, when I hurt, when I get kicked — and I will, often — it’s vital to remember the Truth of the gospel.  The gospel is responsible for transforming my self-worth — my identity!  Because of this transformation, my ego operates different now!  Not by comparing myself to others, caring about what they think of me or even me judging myself.  Instead, I lean upon the Truth of what Christ thinks of me — that’s who I am!

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”  I Peter 4:12-13

by:  Mark Cruver

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Living in freedom is a way of life that comes at a difficult price at times.  Seeing ourselves from a vantage point that bypasses what feels right and flows with the mindset of society does not come natural at best.

Tim Keller knows that living in the freedom of dieing to self each day by living through the lens of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ is the most freeing, life-changing step a believer can take in their walk.

This little book is packed full of thought provoking, self-reflective insights that churn the soul in a deeper understanding of who we are in Christ and what that looks like daily.  Living in the shadows of everyone else is hard work — the ego is hungry.  Shed the burden and live in the Light of the only One that matters — what He thinks of you matters!

by:  Mark Cruver

Life’s Jigsaw Has How Many Pieces?

“Come, let us return to the Lord.  He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.”  Hosea 6:1

One of the best gifts I remember receiving for Christmas in my early days was a brand-new, fresh out of the box, Rubik’s Cube.  Oh man, how fun this thing was and yet, how frustrating.  Out of the box it was perfect, all the colors lined up in their assigned, intentional, made-for-them, places.  I didn’t want to touch it.  How would I possibly get it back to this state if I did?  I just held it for what seemed the entire day.  But eventually though, I did set it down.  Boy, was that a mistake!  My older brothers were adamant about getting their hands on that cube and conquering it!  To do so however, meant they were going to have to spin that thing in all sorts of directions — it was in disorder.  Every ten minutes or so, my brothers would announce, “I did it!” or “I got 3 sides!”  So aggravating!  My little brother had a plan though.  Not only a plan, he orchestrated a solution! Suddenly, he was no where to be found.  Ten or so minutes went by and no one could find him.  You see, he went off to a quiet place to concentrate.  To focus on what would be necessary to solve this puzzle — and not in front of the ones who thought they knew all the answers.  It was a quest he had embarked upon that reflects the journey many of us face in life.

With every twist and turn it seems like our life becomes more and more filled with disorder.  The solution?  Good question!  We take our shots at solving it and may in fact land a side or two that appears to be perfect.  Taking a closer look though, so much of it is in disarray.

Jigsaw puzzles are much the same.  Those geared for the younger children have these big-ole pieces and few to assemble.  Their minds need simplicity, with a slight challenge.  And, much like their own lives — simple and dependent — it’s easy for them to put their pieces together, even when they get scrambled.

As we age and our experiences in life grow more complex, destructive and challenging, the pieces in the box get smaller and their numbers increase significantly — and the picture of me is pretty intricate!  It’s, of course, an image of myself I’ve created! How do I put this puzzle of life together?

My little brother had a solution with the Rubik’s Cube!  He sequestered himself and met the challenge.  Attempting to solve it by taking a few twists and turns, he learned quickly he was getting himself farther and farther from solving it.  So, he solved as much as he could, one side, two sides and parts of three.  Then, he carefully did what all of us do.  Instead of working on knowing the Truth, we take short cuts that temporarily “solve” the problem.  You see, my brother carefully removed the stickers and reapplied them to make it appear the Rubik’s had been solved.  And then, just like all of us who struggle in pride and ego, like my brother, announce to the world in our own special way, “I did it!” — knowing inside that what you see is not the Truth.

It’s not a question of how many pieces make up the puzzle of our lives.  It doesn’t really matter how many pieces.  The image on the puzzle is very simple too – it’s you right?  John 15:5 says that we will bear the fruit of the vine of the One who lives inside us!  If that’s true, and I believe it is, then the picture on the front of your puzzle isn’t an image of you and your past — it’s the picture of Christ who IS your life!  When we are able to see this in ourselves, the puzzle starts to fit together, albeit not overnight, but one piece at a time!  Not because of anything we did, but because of everything He did!

Christ is the solution to life’s jigsaw and the picture on the box is like nothing you’ve ever seen!

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

Comment on What To Preach To Yourself Everyday by Recommended Articles For September | Gospel Glory

Behaving better is never an indication of Spiritual growth, but instead, believing better in the One who lives inside you will change your behavior. It will come from the love born out of living through Him.

by:  Mark Cruver

Seeing is not Believing

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  I Corinthians 13:12

My days are surrounded by what I see.  That’s profound, huh?  My drive to work this morning was blessed by the view of God’s design in this morning’s sunrise.  Strokes of pink stretching in all directions across the eastern sky.  Fields of tall grass going to seed danced in unison to the morning breeze as the new sun accented their bronze tips.  The joy of time spent with my boys, talking about God’s attributes.  The mile-long river of red lights before me while I sit in traffic.  If I didn’t know any better – it all seems pretty real to me.  But what is real?  There’s no doubt those things are real, but God suggests that what I see in myself and others may not be as real as they appear.

If what He says is true (and I believe it to be so), then what we see cannot be what we always believe.  “We live by faith, not by sight.”  II Corinthians 5:7

Here’s what I do know . . . I know that God is Supreme, always and forever!  I know that I am not Him!  I also know that He created us to have fellowship with Him, regardless of our circumstances.  I know too, that our ability to understand Him completely is limited by the inability of our flesh (bodies).  Even so, I know that within me lives God Supreme through His Spirit and that because of Him abiding in me, Christ then lives through me!  Therefore, I am a NEW creation and that this is who I am — my life is Christ.

This means that my mind is of Christ, my heart belongs to Christ, my eyes see through Christ, my hands touch and feel through Christ’s hands, my feet walk in the footsteps of Christ.  It’s John 15:5!

But do I believe it?  I can’t see it, so is it real?  John 15:5 goes on to say that evidence of knowing and believing this truth will be evident in the fruit of my life.  “. . . and you will bear much fruit!”  This is because we behave through our belief!

God reveals the truth of who He is to us in three different ways . . . through His creation, through His written Word, and through His Son, Jesus Christ!

It’s like finding a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies on the table when you get home.  You can smell them and your mouth starts to water.  There’s no doubt they are real and your body is already enjoying them and your mind is trying to convince your will to tell your hand to grab one!  But you resist.  Why?  Because quite honestly, you have no idea where they came from.  But from the sweet aroma, you know for a fact they did a great job!  Wait, there’s a note next to the plate that says, “Dear son, I made you a plate of cookies today because I love you.  I hope you enjoy them . . . Love, Mom.”  Ahhhh, how sweet!  Mom made you cookies . . . but did she?  How do you know?  Well, they look like the cookies she makes, smells like the cookies she makes, she left me a note that says she made them — you conclude it must be true!  Then, the doorbell rings.  You rush to the door and see that it’s Mom coming by for a visit.  The first thing she asks is if you found the plate of cookies she left for you.   And you say, “It was you!  Thank you so much, I can’t wait to eat them.  Would you like to have one with me?”

You see, God created all things as proof of who He is!  He left us a “note” as further evidence of the truth through His Word.  And just to confirm the author and finisher of all things, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to fulfill His Truth.

Seeing is not believing, but knowing the Truth that sets you free is something you can believe in!  Then, through faith, because you believe, you behave Christ through you — The HOPE of GLORY!

by:  Mark Cruver

Art of Renew

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  II Corinthians 3:18

I’m not sure if you have noticed recently, but there is an art of renew!  You don’t believe me?  Look on Pinterest for just a minute and you’ll see what I mean.  There’s an art to re-purposing old things, sprucing them up and giving them a new home.  It’s become an art!

We have this pretty extensive garden where I work and there’s a lot of what I would call, yard art!  The other day this U-haul pulled into the parking lot carrying a number of items the owner had purchased to be delivered intended to go into the garden.  I was nominated to help unload — no problem.  It was not as I expected.  The stuff in there was old — and I mean like, wood rotting kind of old — aged would be an understatement.  I thought to myself, “this stuff is ready for the burn pile!”

I couldn’t help but wonder where in the garden old crudy stuff was going to look good.  Since then, they’ve taken these trellis’, arbors and benches, sanded them and applied a fresh coat of weather proofing stain and all I can say is WOW!  They look fantastic!  They truly are reflecting the work of their carpenter and now ever-increasingly!

But this process . . . this process of renewal.  This period of transformation is anything but pleasant.  Would it look any different if we were talking about the art of renewing how we feel, what we think or even what we do (how we behave)?  There is a difference, but the art is the same!  When we begin to apply the principles of renewal to ourselves personally, our minds tend to lean towards thinking something like, “I’m a lot like the carpenter re-purposing a trellis for the garden.”  When, in fact, it may be closer to the truth if we took a look at identifying more with the trellis itself.

The challenge for us here is when we identify ourselves with the trellis we immediately think, “How in the world am I going to sand and stain myself?”  And that’s just it!  It’s not of yourself.  You can’t — but He can!

The process of renewal begins with a willingness to be sanded and stained by the Carpenter!  There is nothing we can DO to become MORE like Him — Christ IS our life!  But, along the journey of life something happens, our joints loosen, our skin dries out and cracks, our structure weakens with age.  We see ourselves as we think most others see us as worn and no good — unworthy of our original design.  And until someone comes along and looks beyond the dirt, the wear, the age will we then be reminded of who we really are!   When the Spirit reminds you and your heart surrenders to the sanding, you become Art of Renew!

You see, we allow ourselves to be thrown on the discard pile – we believe the lies about ourselves – because of the crud in our lives – our pasts.  We think we have no further purpose or value to anyone and we believe the lie!  But let me tell you, God, the Great Carpenter, has never forgotten His purpose for your original design.  So like that trellis, “Be still and know that I am [He is] God.”

Allow the Master’s hand to sand and stain so that through you, His glory will reflect ever-increasingly!

by:  Mark Cruver