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Monday, September 25, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am? - Our Hiding Place

Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah. - Psalm 32:7

When I pondered what it means that God is my hiding place, I immediately thought of this story by an unknown author I read just a couple of days ago.

A young soldier found himself in a heated battle during the Scottish Reformation. The enemy was defeating this young man's army. He and his comrades hastily retreated from the battlefield in defeat, running away in fear of their lives. The enemy gave chase. This young man ran hard and fast, full of fear and desperation, soon found himself cut off from his comrades in arms.

He eventually came upon a rocky ledge containing a cave. Knowing the enemy was close behind, and that he was exhausted from the chase, chose to hide there. After he crawled in, he fell on his face in the darkness, desperately crying to God to save him and protect him from his enemies. He also made a bargain with God. He promised that if God saved him, he would serve Him for the rest of his days.

When he looked up from his despairing plea for help, he saw a spider weaving its web at the entrance to the cave. As he watched the delicate threads being drawn across the mouth of the cave, the young soldier pondered its irony. He thought, "I asked God for protection and deliverance, and he sent me a spider instead. How can a spider save me?"

His heart was hardened, knowing the enemy would soon discover his hiding place and kill him.

And soon he heard the sound of his enemies, who were now scouring the area looking for those in hiding. One soldier with a gun slowly walked up to the cave's entrance. As the young man crouched in the darkness, hoping to surprise the enemy in a last-minute desperate attempt to save his own life, he felt his heart pounding wildly out of control.

As the enemy cautiously moved forward to enter the cave, he came upon the spider's web, which by now stretched completely across the opening. He backed away and called out to a comrade, "There can't be anyone in here. They would have had to break this spider's web to enter the cave. Let's move on."

Years later, this young man, who made good his promise by becoming a preacher and evangelist, wrote about that ordeal. He wrote:

"Where God is, a spider's web is as a stone wall. Where God is not, a stone wall is as a spider's web."

I have no idea if this is a true story, but I see no reason it couldn't be.  My God is a God of miracles.  David understood what it was like to be on the run, fearful of losing his life, but he also knew what it was like to find peace knowing that God was his hiding place.  A place of shelter, refuge and protection.  A secret place known only to those who know how to find Him.  Impenetrable to the enemy.  Hidden from the eyes of the prowling foe.  A place to rest and regain strength for the continuation of the race.  Yes, God is our hiding place, and we can find shelter in Him today as long as we are running to Him and not away from Him.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am? - Our Light

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  - Psalm 27:1

I don't know about you, but I don't like the dark.  It's not that I'm afraid of the dark, but rather that I'm afraid of things that may lurk about in the dark.  Just last night, I heard a scratching sound in the bathroom.  I know it's not uncommon for critters to find their way inside our walls, especially the bathroom walls, but I knew I wouldn't be at ease until I verified there wasn't something actually in the bathroom.  I crept toward the door, listening for the sound of scratching.  As I pushed the door open slowly, I reached in and flipped on the light.  With the room lit, I then felt comfortable to go in and explore. . . but not in the dark, never in the dark.

Speaking of dark, I recall a vacation Jason and I took to Pigeon Forge several years ago.  We were staying in a cozy little cabin, but the first night we were there, the power went out.  Now, I don't know if you've ever been tucked back in the woods of Tennessee, but let me tell you, it's an entirely new level of dark.  There was no light anywhere.  No street lamps.  No moonlight, for it was overcast.  No light from electronics because the power was out.  The darkness was stifling.

I first discovered the power outage as I stumbled, feeling my way along the walls to the bathroom early in the morning.  I found the bathroom door and then the light switch.  I flipped the switch, but nothing happened.  So I did the most logical thing I could think of—I flipped it again and again.  Strangely, each time I flipped the switch, a new sense of panic welled up inside me.  It was dark.  I was in an unfamiliar place.  And I was getting scared.  Of what?  I have no idea, but darkness does that, you know.  It creates fear for no reason at all.  That's why I'm glad I know the Lord as my light.

No matter how dark our path may get, we will never truly be in darkness as long as our eyes are fixed on the Lord.  He is our Light.  He offers shelter from the impending darkness as well as peace from the fear it evokes in us.  It is that Light that guides us by illuminating the paths we should take along our journey.  Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)  And it is that Light that serves as a beacon of hope when situations look grim, and we feel like giving in.

Do you know what else?  Nothing, and I mean nothing, can extinguish His light.  No power outage can diminish His glow.  No cloud coverage can block out His rays.  He is an ever-present Light, and because of that, we need never walk in darkness.

As for our cabin experience, I've since made a habit of carrying my cell phone to bed with me when abiding in unfamiliar territory.  That way I know light is within my reach.  Something about the knowledge that instant light is waiting on the nightstand allows me to rest peacefully and even to enjoy the darkness.  It's strange, I know, but darkness brings out peculiar behavior.

Funny, they say darkness is the absence of light, but if God is our Light, and He is never absent, can there truly be darkness?  How's that for a thought to ponder today?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am? - Our Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. - Psalm 23:1

I could spend months talking about the Lord as our shepherd (and I have—just ask my ladies' Sunday School class), but for the sake of continuing our study through the book of Psalms, I'll try to reduce my thoughts to this one post.

As I understand it, shepherds have a personal relationship with their sheep.  Not only does a shepherd know each sheep by name, but he is also aware of the personality, weakness, and quirk of each sheep.  He knows them better than they know themselves.  And as the shepherd, he has a huge responsibility to care for those sheep because, let's face it, sheep can't exactly take care of themselves.  They're not the brightest animal among God's creation, now are they?  (And of all the creatures God could relate us to, which one does He choose?  That doesn't say much for our intelligence, now does it?)

The fact is that sheep are helpless.  Unlike many other animals, sheep have no natural means of protection.  No claws or sharp teeth or stink spray.  Not only that, but they are navigationally challenged (like myself), making it difficult to find good pasture or clean water.  They don't have any enhanced senses, so they are preyed upon by wolves and other wild animals.  Helpless, completely helpless!  And yet, anytime I see a field of sheep, they look so content and peaceful.  Why?  Because they are.  As long as the shepherd is nearby, they feel safe, and a good shepherd never leaves his sheep.

Psalm 23 is one of the most familiar Bible passages of all time, and it paints a beautiful picture of the Lord's role as the Shepherd in our lives.  Penned by David, a man who knew a thing or two about shepherding, this psalm begins with today's name:  "The Lord is my Shepherd."  And on the heels of that statement, David proclaims, "I shall not want."

As a young child, I was confused by that verse, for in my immature understanding, I took the verse to mean that David didn't want the Lord as his shepherd.  I was too young and uneducated to realize that the word "want" here is not defined as "desire" but rather as "need, require, or lack."  So, in fact, what David is saying is this:  "Because the Lord is my shepherd, I need nothing else.  There is nothing I lack."  And then he explains that statement in great detail:

vs. 2 - He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. - The Shepherd provides rest.
vs. 2 - He leadeth me beside the still waters. - The Shepherd provides refreshment.
vs. 3 - He restoreth my soul. - The Shepherd provides salvation.
vs. 3 - He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. - The Shepherd provides guidance.
vs. 4 - Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. - The Shepherd provides peace and safety.
vs. 4 - For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. - The Shepherd provides companionship and correction.
vs. 5 - Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. - The Shepherd provides nourishment.
vs. 6 - Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. - The Shepherd provides blessings above and beyond what we can ask or think.
vs. 7 - Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. - The Shepherd provides the fruit of the Spirit by which we can live our lives.
vs. 7 - I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. - The Shepherd provides hope for the future.

Let's face it, the psalmist could have simply said, "The Lord is my Shepherd.  'Nough said!"  But he didn't.  Instead, he made sure that there could be no misunderstanding.  He spelled it out so that even the most ignorant or na├»ve among us could understand.  If the Lord is our Shepherd (and if you're saved, He is), then He's all we need.  No matter what comes our way, He will provide.  Just like the shepherd, God loves His sheep and will do everything in His power to care for us.  We've already established that there is no limit to His power, so what does that mean for us?  It means there is no need too great, no situation too dire, no foe too frightening, and no wanderer forsaken.  It means we're taken care of.  It means the Shepherd is all we need!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Who Do You Think I Am? - The Governor of Nations

For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the governor among the nations. - Psalm 22:28

Strong's Concordance defines "governor" as "one who rules or reigns; one to whom is given power and authority."  Yep, that's our Lord.  He rules.  He reigns on high.  He has all power and authority.  The Bible makes this abundantly clear.

For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. - John 5:27

And hath put all [things] under his feet, and gave him [to be] the head over all [things] to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. - Ephesians 1:22-23

So, how does this affect us?  In what ways can we find comfort in the fact that God is the Governor of nations?  For me, it brings peace when I think of all the turmoil in our world.  Wars and rumors of wars—yes, we're living in the last days.  Peace on earth seems like wishful thinking.  But no matter how chaotic things may appear, we can trust that God is in charge, and one day, everyone will answer to Him.  He has the final say.  He always has and always will reign supreme.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Way It's Supposed To Be

Lord willing, we'll return to our study of the names of God in the Psalms tomorrow, but this post has been on my heart, and I felt I needed to share it with you.

Last week, I was watching a show on television.  The youngest of three daughters had her heart set on going to West Point to become a soldier.  Her attitude was right.  Her motives were pure—to serve God and country.  But in the end, her application was denied, and she was heartbroken.  As we often do when we're hurt, she lashed out at others, particularly her dad.  When he questioned why she was mad at him, her response was something akin to this:  "You taught me wrong.  You said if I did right, worked hard and played by the rules that things would work out for me.  But you're wrong.  That's not how life works."

Oh, how I can relate.  I, too, have lashed out at my Father (the Heavenly One).  I recall when our first dog, Tessa, had to be put down because of cancer, I struggled to find something to fill the void in my heart.  Unfortunately, what I grasped hold of were anger and bitterness.  I felt just like the daughter in the show.  I felt I had been duped.  I served God, lived right and tried my best to follow His commands, even when they made little sense, and this was my reward?  Yes, the bitterness gripped me hard, and I'm sorry to say it held me for years.

In fact, I thought I had it firmly at bay until a couple of years ago when we had to put our second dog, Tippy, down.  Suddenly, all of those angry thoughts and bitter feelings came back with a vengeance.  Why was God being so cruel?  Didn't He love me enough to keep things like this from happening. . . again?  I'll be honest, I've spent the past couple of years trying to deal with this bitterness.  I knew it was wrong.  I knew God was good, but I was struggling to get my head and heart in sync.

Fast forward to last week.  Mitch's tumor had been growing at an alarming rate.  We knew it was only a matter of time before we'd have to make that horrible decision that no "parent" should ever have to make.  Then, without further warning, we were in the midst of heartache and despair.  The decision had to be made, and even though Jason and I both knew it was the right thing to do, we didn't want to do it.  It was too hard.  We loved him too much to let him go, but at the same time, our love for him was too great to allow him to suffer.  So, we did what was best for him and grieved.

As I cried off and on over the weekend, I had a realization.  I was sad, almost hollow inside, but I wasn't angry.  I didn't feel bitter or resentful.  In fact, I even thanked God for various things and praised Him in the midst of the storm.  And at that point, a small smile interlaced with my tears.  I've grown.  I've matured spiritually.  Somewhere along the way, I've finally come to believe that even when things are bad, God is still good, and He still loves me.

And you know what I think had an enormous impact on me?  The study we're going through on who God is.  It's no coincidence that I've been studying and writing on God as our refuge, strength, help, high tower, deliverer and so much more.  Through this study, I've been able to learn more than just what God does.  I've learned to appreciate Who He is and to understand that He never changes.  This knowledge has helped me through these troubling times.  Yes, it hurts.  Yes, I'm still sad.  Yes, I still feel Mitch's loss, and I know I will for some time.  But this occasion, unlike all the rest, I find myself able to turn to God for comfort rather than turning to Him in accusation.

I don't know what you may be facing, but perhaps you're in a situation where you're saying, "God, I've done right, played by the rules and lived according to your Word. Why is this happening?  It's not supposed to be like this!"  I remind you that even in the darkest hour, God is good.  He is kind and loving and does not enjoy seeing His children suffer.  But what I've come to understand that it is in these most challenging times that we grow the most.  God is molding us to become more like Him, and that molding is often painful but always worth it.  Don't be afraid to cry.  There's nothing wrong with tears.  You can rejoice in the Lord while you sorrow.  But in the midst of that difficulty, watch out for anger and bitterness.  They can creep in unaware and, like the most stubborn weeds, they're difficult to get rid of once they've taken root.

Instead of examing the situation, look to God.  Remember Who He is.  Note how much He loves you.  Then turn to Him for comfort.  He'll see you through!

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. - James 1:2-4