Find a Place To Hide?

Psalm 141:8–“But my eyes are upon You, O God the Lord; in You I take refuge…”

Is it OK to take refuge, to escape from the things that are working against us? Is it wimpy? Is it scared? Is it lazy to take refuge? Is it ignoring the problem? Is it denial? Is it losing the battle when we hide from it?

Yes, it is scared, denial and losing–unless we’re hiding in God.

We should always be hiding in God. He should always be our covering and protection. As soon as we step out from under His protection under our own power, we are on our own and ill-equipped. We weren’t created to duke this life out on our own. We may look strong and successful without God for a long time, but ultimately we will fail. That failure may not come until death and we find ourselves facing an eternity in Hell without Him because we chose a life on earth without Him. But we fail.

When I say refuge and hiding, I am not talking about curling up in a fetal position sucking our thumbs, although there may be times when that is appropriate–for a season–but only in the Lord, in dependence and crying out to Jesus.

I am talking about putting everything we say, think and do through a Jesus filter, a Jesus paradigm and accepting the protection, wisdom and blessing He promises when we do that. I don’t care how tough we are, we all seek refuge in something or someone. Anything besides God that we seek refuge in will eventually let us down. Money is fleeting. Our jobs will suck the life out of us. Too much, or the wrong, food will make us sick. Drugs, alcohol, illicit sex–we all know what those do. Even exercise comes to the end of its benefits. Family is temporary. Going to church for the wrong reasons is useless.

God is the only One who cares about us beyond our wildest expectations and will always be there to give us true refuge. When we take refuge in Him by living in obedience to Him, then most of the things we used to escape to outside of God suddenly become good and healthy things. Instead of inadequate protection, they become weapons to fight with in our spiritual, emotional and even physical battles.

In other words, hiding in God is not really walking away from the battle. It is asking the General of Generals, the Chief of Staff to fight with us and often for us–because we just don’t have what it takes without Him. And He is more than happy to oblige. He loves His kids and loves to fight for us.

So, yes, take refuge–in God alone.

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In the Fray but Seeing Beyond It

Psalm 139: 24–“…and lead me in the way everlasting.”

That word “everlasting” is what makes me a different man than I was before I met Jesus.

Biblically speaking, before allowing Jesus into my life, I was “everlasting” but sliding toward punishment everlasting. Now, with Jesus, I am steadily rising toward paradise everlasting.

Knowing that I am everlasting helps raise my spirit and my emotions above practical realities. It diminishes the anxiety of things gone wrong. There is a day coming for me when those worries won’t matter at all. They will be laughable.

I need to respond graciously to painfully unfair situations and love the unlovable and care for those who can’t care for themselves and fix my car and go to the doctor and work full time and patch my roof, because those are responsibilities God has given me. I love Him and want to do what He asks of me.

I do not need to, in fact I should not, cower in shame and fear, feeling cursed and doomed when life gets tough (as much as I may be tempted to). My faith in the future God has promised me shines a bright light on how good life is despite my problems.

Presently, those crises mean less and less Here, but eventually, they will mean nothing There. I will be so much more in love with my Father and so much more thankful for what He rescued me from that I won’t be able to see or think of anything or anyone else. I will be overwhelmed with God, amazed by the fact that He even considered me. I will rest, I mean really rest like I never have before, in the confidence that I will always be near Him…

in a very everlasting sort of way.

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He was the lone human figure on a long stretch of broken up, pot-holed county road that lay flat across farmland whose rows ran to the horizon in every direction.

A hot waft of air lifted a tousle of his wheat-blond hair like a flag and let it float back down as the breeze passed through. The flag  then blended with the rest of the soft, finger-combed, sweat-moistened hair on his head, bouncing as he walked.

A tall man, he strode leaning forward, lifting his knees high and firmly scraping his dusty, edge-worn leather shoes into the gravel of the road’s shoulder, step after step. The soft wrinkles at his brow and corners of his eyes told of an intensity but one that had mellowed some. His gait alone showed he had not given up, but a vacancy in his eyes belied conflict between elements of doubt and blind, dogged faith.

The high sun from the cloudless blue sky burnt the man’s neck and turned his dark blue suit coat into a furnace. He wiped sweat from his face with the back of his right hand as he marched on. Both shoulders and arms were sore, but the left ached more. It held a brown leather suitcase, the weight of which bent the man’s frame as he fought gravity to keep the bag off the road.

He muttered to himself most of the time, not insanely, but as if discussing  solutions to a problem. And for long stretches, he would be silent. But he was most at ease when he sang in a soft baritone.

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Ice Cream and Vegetables

Psalms 135 and 136–

God’s word, the Bible, is not like a bowl of ice cream. A bowl of ice cream tastes really good. It makes me feel good about life. It is usually associated with fun times, and it is easy.

I don’t approach the word of God the same way as a bowl of ice cream. To be honest, I want the Bible to be easy and fun, but it’s not. It is at least equally as good as ice cream (understatement) but different.

I would love to walk into the kitchen and say, “I’m going to open me up a big ol’ chapter of the Bible, mmm-hm, and slather some prayer all over it, mmm-hm, and gobble it all up in about five minutes, oh yeah. It will be all I want, m-HM!, because if I do that for too long, I’ll get sick.” Sometimes it’s like that (except for the sick part) but not usually.

In the Bible, we are reading words written thousands of years ago by men living in cultures we can only imagine, and they (accept for the prophets) probably could never imagine ours. But it is the word of God. He has commanded us to know it and to speak it. For some reason, He wants us to know about Og and Bashan and Sihon and the fact that His mercy endures forever. It all takes us, in what sometimes seems like a roundabout way, to eternal truths that we can get nowhere else.

So instead of ice cream, God’s word is more like vegetables. (Hang on) Having been somewhat of a vegetarian for a couple years, I can tell you that I can eat a truckload of vegetables till I am stuffed like Thanksgiving, and in a little while, feel pretty good. And I feel good about being full of nothing but good stuff that is going to do me absolutely no harm and has been shown to actually do me a lot of good. Good, good, good. God’s word is good.

If I were to eat that much ice cream, however, (and I have) it would be a different story. But I’m not here to trash ice cream or debate the value of vegetables over ice cream.

I am just saying that God’s word usually is not ice cream for me. I have to approach it reverentially, in a prayerful mode, pushing all other thoughts from my head as well as I can and be ready to spend a little time, maybe a lot of time once it starts tasting really good.

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”:

Spend some time letting those truths sink into every cell of your being and see if it isn’t hard to push yourself away from the table.

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Tell Me What You Want, I’ll Give You What You Need

Psalm 34:10–“But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.”

Spending time with God, reading His word, slows me down. It is possible to read through a few verses just to say I did that and then not remember anything I read. I have a hard enough time remembering it even when I take my time and focus.

I wake up in the morning and immediately start thinking of all the stuff I should do. Reading the Bible and praying are a couple of those things. I want God to direct my life, so when I’m reading and praying, I have to actively push all the tasks on my list out of my mind. Those tasks are crying for my attention, but I have to thumb my nose at them and say, “I’m doing this now. You can wait.”

What I read in the Bible seldom relates directly to what I plan to do in a day. At least that’s the way it seems in the beginning. I woke up today thinking about work and the leak in my roof and my daughter who is away from home. My Bible reading started, “I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” What has that got to do with work or my roof or my daughter or anything else I care about? A whole different train of thought.

I have to stop, slow down and focus on every single word, think about what it means and let it seep in, pushing my worries out of the way. By the time I have read through a passage that way about three times, I usually start to enjoy it. Then I don’t want to leave it to go take care of a bunch of problems. In this case, I was blessing the Lord like the verse said, really enjoying my time with Him, aware of how much He does for me, how much He loves me and cares for me and desires good for me even though I screw up all the time… and I didn’t want to leave. I found myself thanking God for a good job, the fact that I even have a roof and for a daughter who is in a really good place.

Although the Bible doesn’t always speak directly to my specific problems, it makes them seem smaller.  I think it helps me solve them in a better, wiser frame of mind. It puts responsibilities in perspective and helps me to see what is most important.

Spending time with God slows me down, but I think it makes me more efficient. At least it reminds me that my life is eternal and  not just an accumulation of tasks and then I die.

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The Opportunity of Adversity

I have been reading Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick. Today I read, “Every time God presents a significant opportunity, it’s formed in the crucible of crisis….To my way of thinking, adversity gets in the way of opportunity. But God doesn’t think like I think…instead of taking away our adversity, he develops our faith and demonstrates his strength by working through our adversity.”

Then I started thinking, “I don’t have a lot of adversity.” Not really, compared to so many others I know or have heard or read about. No developmentally challenged children, no cancer, no bankruptcy, no divorce. I have my adversity. Some may look at me and think, “Poor him.” Sometimes I do that. But relatively speaking, I’m doing pretty well, thank God.

And I don’t want adversity. I do a lot of stuff to avoid adversity. I exercise. I work. I try to maintain friendships. So, is there something not quite right about that? Should I be seeking out adversity so that Jesus can work more significantly through my life? That is definitely not right.

Furtick says a little later, “Adversity is inevitable.” So my and everyone elses’ time is coming, through no effort of our own. I, too, will have the opportunity to let Jesus shine brightly in my life as he navigates me through crisis…if I let Him…and don’t bail out and blame Him for everything.

Often, my life of relative comfort seems boring, limp, pasty and insignificant. I think if I did more of the things I often sense the Holy Spirit nudging me toward, I would have more adversity…but also feel more alive, more engaged. More adventure.

One of my favorite Bible verses says to seek God first and everything else we need will fall into place (Matthew 6:33). Not seek adversity. And not seek comfort at all cost. But seek Him.

As I seek to obey God, I may experience adversity in the form of sacrifice. Giving my hard-earned money to those who need it more than I. Giving my time to help others when I could be doing something to help me. Rejection by those who reject Jesus.

But, also, as I seek to obey God, I will experience blessing. The joy of seeing how my actions help someone else. The grace of accepting someone’s gift of appreciation.

So it’s not a matter of seeking adversity or seeking comfort but, rather, seeking and doing God’s will,  and praising Him in the midst of whatever adversity or blessing comes along.

Life is adversity AND blessing. We cannot forever avoid either.

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Eh, I ain’t writin’ no 50,000-word novel in a month, at least not this month. I got my reasons. Time. Effort. Mood. Blah, blah, blah.

Nice thought but…

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