November 21, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 21}: Refuge in the Mundane

You're on day 21 of a month-long series.  Catch up on previous posts here.

Today's topic is near and dear to me, because I live most of my life in the mundane.  Laundry, dishes, baths, shopping, educating, reading, playing, picking up, and answering most questions with, I don't know, we'll have to look it up or ask Dad, pretty much sum up my life.  What I do on a day to day basis is of no grand importance to peoples or nations, but make a profound difference in the lives of the humans who live with me under this roof.  Nevertheless, the mundane can get me down.

Does the routine hum-drum of life ever leave you looking for a refuge?

If you've caught on to the idea of this series, then you know the next thing I'm going to say is that God is our refuge in the mundane routines of life that could suck the life out of us if not for His grace and mercy.  There is hope in our Refuge, even in the mundane.  That is good news, because I know for many of us most of life is lived there.

What makes us want a refuge from the mundane?  Hm.  Good question.  I'm going to try to answer it right now off the top of my head!  One thing I alluded to above is that the mundane does not appear to "make a difference in the world."  And all through high school and college we're fed the lie that our lives only matter if we go out and change the world.

News flash: The only One who can change the world did, by sending His Son to save His people from their sins.  And that world-changer is our refuge when we start to wonder if what we're doing is of any significance.  So, run to the refuge!  Belonging to the Lord is what gives us significance.  Living for Him is what gives your life meaning.  If you are loving Him and loving your neighbor, you are right in the center of His will.  He will guide you in the details and is molding you in the mundane!

Another thing about the mundane is its relentlessness.  It never ends!  The weeks cycle by with work, activities, and conversations, people, places, and things.  We are fed the lie that we deserve a break as commercials for cruises flit across our TV screens and AAA mailings arrive in our mailboxes.  We quickly settle into discontent.

News flash: Vacations are amazing, but the mundane always eagerly awaits us when we get home.*   The only One who can give us true rest is the Lord, our refuge.  We need rest not necessarily a vacation, and the Lord provides a refuge of rest.  So, run to the refuge!  Turning to God when our hearts get unsettled and bitter about our mundane circumstances changes our perspective.  We can ask the Lord to give us new eyes to see how and where we can love Him and others more right in our mundane little lives!

My dear little boy needs my attention now; I have been putting him off to get this done before diving into today's mundane. <wink>  So it is time to summarize.  These are the verses that come to mind as I think about these things, Philippians 4:12-13:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

The secret to contentment in the mundane?  Running to the refuge!  The Psalmist speak over and over about the strength of the Refuge.  The Good Lord places us where we are in life and calls us to love and live for Him right there.  When our hearts get restless, we need to run to our Rest, our Refuge.  He strengthens us, fills us with hope, and changes our perspective so we can keep on keeping on, with joy!

God bless you in your mundane today.

*I am not anti-vacation or suggesting you should never take a physical break!  I have dreams of seeing amazing places with our family that I one day want to realize.  I also love a good getaway and take time each day to "just sit."  I want to point out that those things alone cannot provide the deep feeling of refuge and rest our hearts really need and were created for.

November 20, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 20}: Refuge in Loneliness

This is day 20 in a month-long series.  Catch up on previous posts here.

Wow, look at that!  Day 20 already!  As in previous years, I'm enjoying this November tradition of writing daily about a topic.  I am praying for you, that God is meeting you with His presence and through His Word.  Thank you for being here to learn with me.

On with the show here, then!  How about we talk a little about loneliness?  Is is not perplexing how we can be connected to so many people with all of the modern means of communications, yet we can feel so totally alone?  Been there lately?

I believe a big part of the issue is that, despite the communication and the contact, connection is lacking.  Deep in our hearts, not matter how hard they may be, we all want to be known.  We feel alone when we feel unknown.

If you find yourself in that unknown, alone place, I have good news for you!  No matter how unknown and alone you feel, you are known and you are not alone.  If anything has been strengthening my faith from this study, it is a broader view of how complete a refuge God is because of how richly, deeply, tenderly, and abundantly He loves me.  Loves you.  Loves all who trust Him.

You feel lonely, but praise God - you are not alone!

In one of David's rescue-me-from-my-enemies Psalms (142) David says:
I look to my right and see:
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
no one cares for my life.

Then immediately He says,
I cry to you, O Lord;
I say, "You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living."

I love how David talks to God.  He is honest with Him and He trust Him.  There were probably people concerned for David's life, but when you're alone in a cave hiding from a dishonored king who wants to kill you, I suppose it can be easy to feel utterly abandoned!  But David is in the habit of communicating with Almighty God and knows His connection to Him.  So he pours out His heart to the Lord.

God is our portion in the land of the living!

Are you feeling like David?  Does it feel like no one cares for your life?  Oh, my dear friend, God does.  I think about Jesus walking this earth on His mission to save His people from their sins.  I can only imagine how many times loneliness must have crept in.  Lord, no one understands me; I am so alone.  But you are here with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.  Our Savior understands loneliness and is accessible to us at all times.  Run to the Refuge!

David's words here also remind me of the blessing times of helplessness and loneliness can be.  He looks around him and concludes, I have no refuge!  Times of desperation remind us that all earthly things will pass away.  Seeking refuge in temporal amusements or solutions is futile; times of loneliness remind us we need more than the things and people around us.  We need the Lord.   I cry to you, O Lord; I say, You are my refuge.  On earth below and heaven above, God is our matchless refuge.  Run to the Refuge!

You are loved.  You are known.  You are not alone.
Run to the refuge, stat!

Running Orders!
  • Are you feeling lonely today and/or do you remember times of intense loneliness?  Copy David's prayer and talk it out with the Lord and/or spend time praising Him for how He has met you in loneliness in the past.
  • Read Psalm 23 and write down what God speaks to you through those words.

November 19, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 19}: Refuge in Grief

This is the third week in a month-long series.  Catch up on previous posts here.

Throughout this week, I'm rolling with my gut, letting the Lord speak to me and writing about situations in which He is a Refuge.  I believe the short story is that God is our Refuge in all circumstances and situations!  I will only hit on six possibilities this week, but please roll with this theme; think about areas of your life where you really need to know God as a Refuge and seek out Scriptures to strengthen your resolve to run to the Refuge, rather than to the many false refuges the world offers.

The odd thing about today, is that I feel led to write about something with which I don't yet have much experience, grief.  Some of you have lost parents, siblings, spouses, children, or best friends.  You know grief in a way I have yet to.  I am sure you also have stories to tell of how God was a refuge in those times of heartache and sorrow.  I can only write this today, because I know that when the time comes in my life, I want to be ready to walk through those days in the refuge of my Lord.

This is the verse God brought to mind as my mind returned to consciousness from deep sleep this morning.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted 
and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 
Psalm 34:18

In times of loss, grief, and heartache, when it feels like we have been forsaken, God is close.  God is always near, He is always with us.  The God of the universe, Creator of all we see and the galaxies we cannot, is close to us when our hearts are breaking.  What comfort!  We can grieve in our Refuge, share our hearts with Him, and let ourselves be enveloped by His presence.  God's very presence is with us when grief overwhelms us.

Grief implies loss.  When I think of grief, I usually think of losing someone dear to me.  But you may also find yourself in situations where you're grieving a loss of other things.  Perhaps a sickness or accident means you grieve for what could have been, because you have lost strength or abilities that are no longer yours.  Or maybe there has been an unexpected life change and you grieve the loss of a town you loved, a larger salary you enjoyed, or proximity to dear family and friends.  Whatever the situation, God is close.

As a Refuge in grief, God provides a place for us to mourn freely with one who understands.  We won't scare Him away with our anger or our questions.  He won't abandon us to walk the road of heartache alone.  God, our Refuge in grief, loves us as a parent does a child.  He is our Comforter and Friend.  He is near!

One final thought about running to our Refuge in times of grief:  He understands.  Jesus walked the roads of this earth, loved people, and wept when they died.  Jesus knows human sorrow.  He understands.  And further, God the Father had to turn His back while the sins of the world were placed on the shoulders of His son.  The plan was right and good; redemption was coming!  But how the Father must have grieved to see His son suffer and to turn away as He died.  God understands.

The one who loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins knows what it is to grieve and is near when we are grieving.  We have a sure, strong, comforting refuge to run to in grief.

Run to the Refuge, dear friend.

Running Orders:
  • I don't know the aches and grieves of your heart, but the Lord does.  Sit a spell and pour those out to Him today.  Run to the refuge and rest there, letting the Lord be a refuge and comfort to you.
  • Ask the God who is close to the brokenhearted for all you need in the midst of your grief.  Write these things down so you can go back later and give testimony to how He provided for you.

November 18, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 18}: Refuge in Uncertainty

This is day 18 in a month-long series.  You can catch up on previous posts here.

Last night as I was putzing around before bed, I was thinking about times in life when we really crave a refuge.  One thing that came to mind is uncertainty.

How is God a refuge when life feels uncertain?

Good Christian answers come quickly to my mind, Well, God is trustworthy.  God loves me and won't forsake me.  God holds the future in His hands, so I don't need to worry.  And so on.

Many of you know all of those things.  I do, too.  But resting and taking refuge in those truths can be so challenging when we feel the pinch of uncertainty:  Will I get the job?  Will my baby be born healthy?  Will I be healed of this disease?  Will I be able to provide for my family?  Will we find a place to live we can afford?  Will I get into the college of my choice? Will my kids turn out 'okay'?

We all know some of those questions, don't we?  We are familiar with the uneasiness that settles into our minds and hearts as we await answers.  It is hard for our sinful natures to run to the refuge and actually take refuge in the midst of uncertainty.

But we must!  Must!!

God our Refuge is our only hope for comfort and security in uncertainty.  We can learn to run to Him, combating tendencies to worry and fear with confidence in our Refuge.

Three Ways to Run to the Refuge in Uncertainty

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 5:31-34
In uncertainty, run to the refuge by remembering how able God is to provide for your needs.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:1-5
In uncertainty, run to the refuge by remembering how God has provided for your needs.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  Matthew 7:7-11
In uncertainty, run to the refuge by asking for all that you need.

Running to the Refuge requires that we move!  We must hurry our minds to truth about who God is and what He is able to do. We must remember His love by reflecting on His track record of care for us.  We must ask the Lord for what we need, and leave the responsibility to Him.

Uncertainty can strangle us in its grip of worry and fear.  Our Refuge frees us from our captor, because He loves us, won't leave us or forsake us, and He holds the future in His omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, not to mention, big and strong, hands!

Running Orders:
  • I imagine some things came to mind as you were reading this.  Now, take those thoughts captive by reading the passages above and intentionally running to the refuge with all of your uncertainty.
  • Memorize Matthew 7:11  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

You not only have a refuge, you are loved by your Refuge.
Walk in His way today!

November 17, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 17}: Refuge in Weariness

I wonder, now that life has put me a bit behind, if I'll ever catch up and get back to posting the morning of rather than the evening!  For now I will write when I can and see how things shake out.  Thanks for standing by; I am grateful for you stopping by to read.

The first week of this series I spent the days writing about what God is a Refuge of.  In those posts I explored what kind of refuge God is for us.  The short summary is to say He is the best and most complete Refuge man can find, in this world and the next.  Then last week, I spent time on topics concerning God as a Refuge from.  I would summarize those posts this way: God is a refuge from all that might assail us physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

This week I have another theme for you - Refuge in.  How is God a refuge in certain situations?

Right now, because I am feeling pretty tired, I'm going to go with running to the refuge when we are weary.  We  had a full weekend here with some unexpected illness and I was away from home most of time.  The Good Lord provided so well for us in friends and family taking care of the kids and the kids rolling with the punches.  I am feeling so thankful!

Nevertheless, I am tired because I am human, I can only do so much in a day, and managing a changed schedule is somehow tiring.  This post will be short for those reasons; I need to get to bed soon!

The verses that come to mind right now that I feel I am supposed to share with you are these:

Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:27-31

God is a refuge in weariness because He knows our "cause" and has not disregarded us.  He is a refuge in weariness because though we wear out and languish, He does not tire, does not weaken, and does not change.  In our weariness, by taking refuge in Him we can be strengthened by His strength and empowered by His power.

Man grows weary, stumbles, and falls.  God renews his strength.  How does that happen?  Man simply hopes in the Lord.

I picture letting my tired body fall limp into the strong, uplifting hands of Almighty God, and being carried up to new heights in His hands - no longer trying to fly, run, or walk on my own, but rather being carried along by His strength and power.

I am excited to sleep tonight.  I am more enlivened by the thought that my God is a refuge in weariness because He understands my need and strengthens my feeble being, mind, body, and soul.

Running Orders:
  • Keeping it simple tonight, tell the Lord areas of life that are making you weary and run to Him as your refuge in those things.

November 16, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 16}: Worship and Rest

We used to sing this one sometimes at our church in Cambridge.  I love Fernando Ortega's music, so deep, rich, and true.  Be blessed by Our Great God through this song!  :)

Fernando Ortega

Eternal God, unchanging
Mysterious, and unknown
Your boundless love, unfailing
In grace and mercy shown
Bright seraphim in endless flight
Around Your glorious throne
They raise their voices day and night
In praise to You alone

Glory be to our great God!
Glory be to our great God!

Lord, we are weak and frail
Helpless in the storm
Surround us with Your angels
Hold us in Your arms
Our cold and ruthless enemy
His pleasure is our harm
Rise up, O Lord, and he will flee
Before our sovereign God

Glory be to our great God!
Glory be to our great God!

Let every creature in the sea
And every flying bird
Let every mountain, every field
And valley of the earth
Let all the moons and all the stars
In all the universe
Sing praises to the living God
Who rules them by His Word

Glory be to our great God!
Glory be to our great God!
Glory be to our great God!
Glory be to our great God!

Lyrics taken from <a href="">this page</a>

November 15, 2014

Running to the Refuge {Day 15}: Refuge from Shame

I am so sad I was not able to get to this post on Saturday, but some family things came up that took precedent.  Then I couldn't get into my blog to write when I did have the time.  Sigh.  But I know you all are forgiving, so I thank you!

I have been looking forward to reflecting on God as our refuge from shame, because I live too often either in the shadow of shame or in fear of being shamed.  The Lord does not want you and me to live that way. 

Truth is, no one I know wants to be shamed or feel shame; we try to avoid those experiences or keep them secret at all costs  How, then, is God a refuge from shame, so we can stop being afraid of it?!

He is a refuge from shame in two ways, because there are two different definitions of shame,* as I have been alluding.   One is "a feeling of guilt, regret or sadness that you have because you know you've done something wrong."  The other is "dishonor or disgrace."  Usually we bring the first upon ourselves and the other is done to us.  In either, we can run to God our refuge, because He is our Redeemer and our Defender.

As our Redeemer, God forgives our sin and restores us to righteousness.  He is a refuge from guilt, regret, and sadness that result from wrong-doing, because He is the only hope for freedom from those feelings.  He declares, Your sins are forgiven and shame must retreat, taking condemnation with her.

The Lord redeems His servants;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in Him.
Psalm 34:22

Our Redeemer gives us refuge from shame, because shame cannot dwell in His I-freed-you-from-guilt shelter.

As our Defender, God surrounds and protects us.  He is a refuge from any way that an enemy might try to shame us.  Boldly the Psalmist prays:

In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
Psalm 71:1

And he goes on petitioning God for rescue, deliverance, protection, and refuge from wicked and evil men.  He knows, as all believers should, that God is our only true hope for honor and grace.  When external forces, tangible and intangible, threaten to dishonor and disgrace us, it is the Lord who will defend our cause, when our cause is His.

Our Defender gives us refuge from shame, because in Him we find real honor and grace.

God is our refuge from shame caused by our enemies and shame caused by our sin.  Is that good news for your weary soul?  It sure is for mine.  Thinking about these things is filling me with joy!  Feelings of shame grow exponentially in the Petri dish of fear.  In the refuge of the Lord, fear evaporates and shame dies for lack of food.  Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Running Orders:

  • Is shame a prominent feature in your life?  Do you hide or fear rather than running to the refuge?  Take some time to write down ways shame is keeping you from the refuge, then give those things over to God prayerfully, maybe even physically ripping up the list.
  • As I was reading, I spent some time in Psalm 31:19-20 (below).  God has goodness stored up for those who fear Him.  His heart is bursting with desire to pour out His good love on you.  Rejoice and be free!
How great is your goodness
which you have stored up for those who fear you;
which you bestow in the sight of men
on those who take refuge in you.
In the shelter of your presence
you hide them from the intrigues of men;
in your dwelling you keep them safe
from accusing tongues.