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Archive for the ‘God’s Refuge’ Category

 

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Three-year old Elena (our granddaughter) had much to report about preschool last Thursday:

“Firemen came and they brought their fire truck! We got to hold the hose!”

Later Elena recited what to do if a fire occurred: 1) Don’t open a hot door, 2) To get out, crawl along the floor under the smoke, 3) Stop, drop, and roll if clothes catch fire, and 4)…

 

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“…CALL 9-1-1!” she announced loudly and firmly.

Isn’t it a comfort to know that with three quick taps on our phones we have access to emergency help almost anywhere at any time?   The process to develop such a system, however, was not quick. It took forty-some years to fully install the Emergency Call Answering System, from its inception in the 1950s to almost complete coverage of 911 service across all America by the 1990s.

On the other hand, Pastor Arnold Prater pointed out years ago in one of his sermons that King David of Bible times called 9-1-1.

Did you know that?  I didn’t.

David recorded his call in Psalm 91, verse one – 911:

 

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(“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”)

 

Notice his call was not characterized by panicked fear. Instead his attitude is one of calm faith.  David affirmed several important truths about Who he was calling and what the Almighty had to offer to those who dwell in His shelter.

Wait a minute. DWELL? How do we dwell in the presence of an unseen God?

By bringing our thoughts back to him throughout the day with praise, worship, and gratitude. We can:

 

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  • Say his name to center our attention. He has dozens but to get us started, he is God Almighty, Maker of all things, The Lord Who Provides, and our Helper. Let who he is impact how we function.
  • Breathe out the stressful, worrisome thoughts; breathe in the Spirit, the breath of the Almighty (Job 33:4). Listen for his voice.
  • Pray, recite scripture, sing, even shout (Psalm 47:1-2)!

 

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David says we dwell in the SHELTER of God. Bible writers used the word, shelter, or synonyms like refuge and sanctuary, more than 40 times. In Psalm 91, David alludes to several details of God’s sheltering protection. He is trustworthy (v. 2), faithful (v. 4), watchful (v. 11), attentive (v. 15), thoughtful and compassionate (vs. 15-16).

These traits are just a few examples of our Heavenly Father’s character—which he brings to bear in our lives. He never responds out of character; he is always motivated by love and goodness. Take shelter in such glorious thoughts!

In addition to those mentioned above, the MOST HIGH is another meaningful name of God. One of the ancient creeds described him as “a Spirit infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” No one can claim to be of higher capacity or higher worth.

 

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And in him we can REST. How? I like Spurgeon’s advice: “Use the Lord’s words as your pillows. Lie down and [rest] in Him.” We can collect pillow after pillow as we prayerfully read our Bibles, asking God to speak comfort and strength into our weary souls.

And in the SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY we find:

  • Security (Psalm 17:8),
  • Love and Kindness (Psalm 36:7),
  • Refuge (Psalm 57:1),
  • Satisfaction and Joy (Psalm 63:7).

 

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Now some readers of Psalm 9-1-1 might assume David was promising a delightful, problem-free life of ease. But his own life proved otherwise as he ran from murderous King Saul, lived as a fugitive in enemy territory, fought numerous battles, dealt with problem sons, and more.

No, David would be among the first to tell us that God doesn’t rescue us from all difficulty; he uses difficulties to nudge us closer to him.

In the shelter of the Most High.

In the shadow of the Almighty.

 

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What better place to be?

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.thefellowshipsite.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.quotes.gram.com; http://www.pinterest (4).

 

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A little over two years ago when Steve and I retired, God provided for us a perfect little ranch house built into the side of a hill. A strip of woods and a ravine separate our block from the one behind us, and large windows in the kitchen/family room offer a tranquil view of treetops.

 

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One of the projects we completed before moving in was the addition of a deck off the back of the house. The vista we enjoy from window and deck give us the sensation of living in a tree house, and we revel in the beauty and quiet.

Just about everyone loves tree houses. Even television now offers programs featuring their construction.

Why do they cause such delight?

Perhaps because tree houses provide:

  • A quiet, peaceful refuge, removed from the stressful responsibilities of our lives.  There’s something about being up among the trees that repairs our equilibrium. We breathe easier, the peace of the surroundings soaks into our spirits and tension is released.

 

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  • A respite from the ordinary. Most of us are surrounded by concrete and dry wall much of the time. To experience a vista of trees and sky is sweet relief.
  • A new perspective and fuel for the imagination. Away from daily routines and distractions, we can see our lives from a more objective viewpoint. In addition, our thoughts dance more freely, creativity flows more readily, and discoveries unfurl more frequently. No wonder many tree houses for adults are built as artist/writer retreats.

 

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All of these reasons make sense, but I have one more theory about why we love these structures: Tree houses provide a physical, tangible replica of the presence of God.

Jesus made the way for us to experience his company, like the ladder or staircase to a refuge in the trees (1).

God is always with us, whether we’re aware or not. The key is to draw near to him through prayerful conversation and mindful observation of his glory—in a sunset, a bird song, or the scent of wisteria on the breeze. Then his peace can pervade our thoughts, and God becomes our refuge (2).

 

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With him there’s no such thing as ordinary living. He offers a God-enhanced, abundant life of joy in blessing, comfort in sorrow, sufficiency in trouble, and more (3).

New perspectives open up to us as we sit in quiet contemplation with our Heavenly Father, perspectives such as: contentment is a matter of choice not circumstances; my identity, security and purpose are not the result of events or effort; they are the result of who I am—a beloved child of God; God-thoughts change the atmosphere of my spirit (4).

 

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Tree houses offer much; God offers much more. Best of all, he’s not limited to a small structure perched among the trees.

The high life with God is always available.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, God of the universe, for the incredible privilege of an intimate relationship with you. Anytime, anywhere, I can turn to you and breathe in your peace, admire the view of your glorious attributes, and experience rejuvenation of my spirit. I praise you, O Most High, for the restful shelter you provide. You are my refuge and fortress in whom I trust (Psalm 91:1-2).

 

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What benefits of the high life with God do you especially appreciate? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18
  2. Psalm 23:4; James 4:8; Isaiah 26:3; Proverbs 18:10
  3. John 10:10; John 16:24; Psalm 147:3; 2 Corinthians 12:9
  4. Philippians  4:11-13; Ephesians 4:24; Psalm 16:8

 

Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.fellowshipsite.org.

 

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Angie Perez sat on one side of her boss’s massive desk, he on the other. She began a lengthy list of reminders for the day…

“Now at ten o’clock this morning, George, you’re meeting with Sam about the Collins account. All the files you’ll need are in that portfolio. I put them in order from most important to least.” Angie pointed front-and-center with her pen.

“Great. ‘Appreciate you getting them organized.” George smiled. “I’ll need to review this paperwork beforehand—can you hold calls for me till I finish, probably around nine?”

Angie dashed herself a quick note. “Of course. And speaking of calls. Darcy Roberts already phoned, wanting to see you late this afternoon. I postponed her until tomorrow. I figured with your aunt’s seventy-fifth birthday dinner tonight, you’ll want to leave here on time today—maybe even early. You deserve to take a break after last week. Oh, and Aunt Lily’s gift is wrapped and ready to go in that black bag on the credenza.”

 

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“Oh, terrific. Thanks again for picking up the necklace.” George turned to glance behind him at the lovely gift bag Angie had prepared. “You’re probably right about taking off a little early today. I’m exhausted. And good thinking about postponing Darcy. That woman can stretch five minutes of business into a half hour of stories I don’t need to hear.”

…And so, one right-hand administrative assistant sets into motion the day’s activity for one corporate executive.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a right-hand assistant who took care of life’s unending details?

In reality, we have something far better: a right-hand God.

 

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“I have set the Lord always before me.

Because he is at my right hand,

I will not be shaken”

-Psalm 16:8 (italics added)

 

With God at my right hand, I have the strongest Protector—able to shield me from trouble much worse than George’s talkative clients:

 

“The Lord is my strength and my shield;

my heart trusts in him and I am helped.”

Psalm 28:7

 

God is the wisest Counselor—able to advise on matters much more important than business accounts:

 

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“The Lord gives wisdom,

And from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

–Proverbs 2:6

 

God is the sweetest Comforter, offering empathy and support:

 

“As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.”

–Psalm 103:13

 

And our God is the most loyal Advocate:

 

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“We have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—

Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”

–1 John 2:1

 

God breathes strength into me by the touch of his hand. Granted, I can’t sense physical contact. But when I hear a hymn or worship song and tears well up, when I read a scripture or passage from a book that speaks directly to a current situation, it’s every bit as expressive of support as a clasp on the shoulder.

Our God is always close at hand, as if standing by, ready to assist however needed. He is always present, holding me by my right hand (Psalm 73:23).

And like a shade tree offering respite from the sweltering summer sun, God offers restful moments from the cares of this world.

 

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“The Lord watches over you—

the Lord is your shade at your right hand.”

–Psalm 121:5

 

He renews our strength as we rely upon him (Isaiah 40:28-31), and offers the rejuvenation of constant hope because we know our heavenly home is waiting for us (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

 

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I praise you, O God, for your presence. You are near as my Friend, ready as my Helper, dependable as my Guide. How breathtaking to consider I am never alone, left to struggle on my own. You are always at my right hand.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.hercampus.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.reviveourhearts.com; http://www.faithpictures.wordpress.com.)

 

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(Fair as in true and good)

 

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Yesterday, our church worship service ended with three baptisms. (Seven more took place at two other services.) What a heart-warming delight to celebrate the symbolism of new life with each participant!

One of those baptized was the pastor’s son.  As he rose up from the water, he smiled broadly and hugged his dad. Tears filled my eyes to witness a young boy committing himself to life with Jesus.

Just as physical life requires shelter, food, water, and clothing for survival, our new life in Jesus requires those same needs be met in our spirits:

 

Shelter

 

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(“The one who lives in the shelter of the Most High,

who rests in the shadow of the Almighty,

will say to the LORD, “You are my refuge, my fortress,

and my God in whom I trust!”–Psalm 91:1-2 ISV)

 

But how do we access a shelter that is invisible? By centering our thoughts on God.

Even amidst the business of each day, we can pause now and then and imagine a personal refuge with him (on a quiet beach, under a sturdy tree in the forest, by a lake in view of mountains–those are a few possibilities).

First, we breathe in the peace of his presence. Yes, just the simple act of taking a deep breath while whispering such words as, “Prince of Peace, I welcome you,” can create a shift from tension to tranquility.

Then, like the psalmist, we reaffirm our trust in the Most High God, the Almighty–the One whose kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19b), yet he knows the number of hairs on each of our heads.

 

Food

 

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 (“Man does not live on bread alone

but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

–Deuteronomy 8:3)

 

A pantry full of groceries is useless unless the food is consumed. Similarly, the great storehouse of inspiration and counsel in the Bible is of no use unless we read it, believe it, and live it out. The abundant, God-enhanced life of contentment and joy comes to those who taste of God’s character, promises, and wisdom—all found within the pages of scripture, ready to put into practice.

 

Water

 

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“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said,

streams of living water will flow from within him.”

By this he meant the Spirit.”

–John 7:38-39

 

With the refreshing of the Holy Spirit we become like trees planted by a stream (Psalm 1:3):

  • Strong—though not all at once, any more than a tree reaches maturity overnight. Growth occurs day by day, bit by bit, as we cooperate with the Spirit.
  • Green-leafed—radiant with health, reflecting the Lord’s glory, his goodness and character (2 Corinthians 3:18).
  • Full of fruit—a natural by-product of the Spirit’s presence. “Every good tree bears good fruit,” Jesus said (Matthew 7:17). Examples include humility, purity, and selflessness.

 

Clothing

 

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Familiar to many of us is the spiritual “armor” that Paul described (Ephesians 6:11-17). A worthy addition would be a garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3). Like a favorite sweater worn at every opportunity, praise of our Father should accompany us everywhere.

 

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This is certain:  God is more than able to provide for our every need—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

All possibilities for our lives exist within this one truth:

The almighty God rules from his throne in heaven, a throne he established before the beginning of time (Psalm 103:19a).

He’s got this–and everything else.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.cornerstonelife.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.projectinspired.com.)

 

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From the backseat of my grandparents’ car, I strained to catch my first glimpse of the Smokey Mountains. The day before the three of us had left home in Aurora, Illinois and were on our way to Conyers, Georgia to visit friends of theirs.

 

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(We traveled in style, in Grandpa’s 1950-something turquoise Studebaker.)

 

What an adventure for a six-year old.  Up until that time, I’d only visited one other state, neighboring Indiana.

Grandma had told me that mountains were like hills, only much, much taller. And instead of being a single mound (like the rise we sledded on in the wintertime), they were lined up one after another.

My imagination could hardly conjure a picture of such a phenomenon.

That second day of our trip, as we rounded the top of yet another hill in Tennessee, my straining paid off. Far in the distance we caught sight of mountain tops. Each rise thereafter afforded another spectacular view, always a bit closer to the peaks, and even more mesmerizing than the last. My breaths came in startled gasps. Never had I seen such magnificence…

 

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…until, at age fifteen, when I traveled to Colorado for a week at Young Life’s Frontier Ranch. The soaring, steep cliffs of the Rockies dwarfed the more rounded Smokies.

 

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Ah, but then came the semester-long, short-term missionary adventure in Quito, Ecuador, a city nestled in the Andes Mountains at 10,000 feet. Thirty miles to the south, Cotopaxi towers over the city, at 19,000 feet above sea level.  Again, my breath was taken away.

 

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“Mountains are earth’s undying monuments,” said Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Indeed, they do stand tribute to their Maker, ancient testimonials to God’s awe-inspiring, creative power.

They also provide a meaningful metaphor, because certain adjectives we use to describe mountains, also describe Him:

 

  • High

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(“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” — Psalm 61:2)

  • Firm

“God’s solid foundation

stands firm.”

–2 Timothy 2:19a

  • Strong

 

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(“O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies!

Where is there anyone as mighty as you, O LORD?

You are entirely faithful.” –Psalm 89:8, NLT)

  • Immoveable

“I the Lord do not change.”

–Malachi 3:6a

  • Eternal

 

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(“The eternal God is your refuge.” — Deuteronomy 33:27a)

 

One of the psalmists, perhaps King Hezekiah, wrote:

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem,

so the Lord surrounds his people

both now and forevermore.”

–Psalm 125:2

(Emphasis added)

 

Imagine yourself surrounded by high, strong and secure mountains.

Are they likely to crumble? No. Neither will your Almighty God fall to pieces, succumbing to the pressure of insurmountable problems.  It can’t happen!

Do mountains change with every passing breeze? No.  Neither can your Lord be shaken.

Are you easily accessible when surrounded by mountains? No. You are protected. Mountains can even act as barriers against stormy weather. Similarly God shelters you from the full brunt of the storms of life.

And what is your view from this protected valley? Your eyes are drawn upward toward peaks and sky, indicative of the appropriate response when we’re facing difficulty:

 

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Look up to the Maker of mountains

and Provider of refuge.

His righteousness is like the mighty mountains.

He surrounds us with his favor and loving kindness,

encircles us in his everlasting arms of love,

and guards us by his providence on all sides.

Hallelujah!

(Psalm 36:6; Psalm 32:10; Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 32:7).

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; http://www.tripadvisor.com; http://www.gatlinburg.com; http://www.mountainlake.com; http://www.cotopaxinoticias.com; http://www.pinterest.com (3), http://www.wikipedia.org.)

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“Save for a rainy day,” financial experts advise.  And they’re right.  It is smart to have funds set aside in case of emergency.

But we would also be wise to save up for another kind of rainy day:

  • The day great disappointment shatters our joy
  • The day the doctor begins a consult by saying, “I’m terribly sorry, but…”
  • The day a loved one calls with disturbing news

What could we possibly save up that would help in such circumstances?

Consider: monetary deposits in a bank account insulate us against financial emergencies.

Similarly, we can make faith-statement deposits into our soul-accounts, to insulate us against life’s emergencies.  A healthy soul-account offers peace of mind, confidence, and a sense of well-being.

The most valuable faith statements are those straight from scripture, since the Bible is our source of truth.

Statements such as these are worthy starting points:

  • God is with me, even in the midst of trial.

“Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10).

  • God is my stronghold in time of trouble, offering help and deliverance.

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.  The Lord helps them and delivers them” (Psalm 37:39-40).

  • He will supply all my needs.

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

 

Sometimes God makes deposits in our soul-accounts through other reading.  Here are a few examples I’ve collected:

  • “God makes good things out of the hard times.” – Erica Hale
  • “Difficulties are sent to make us grow. Move from complaining to proclaiming what God is doing through the problem. Remind yourself, for every Calvary, there is an Easter.” – Barbara Johnson
  • “When we understand that life is not about us, we learn to overlook the trivial and fix our gaze on the eternal. What is an offense compared to His love? What is a rejection compared to His unconditional acceptance? What is a momentary trial compared to an eternity with Him?” – Emmanuelle Gomez

 

Faith statement deposits also come through experiences, such as:

  • The spontaneous hug of a good friend who knows of our struggles. That’s God’s way of assuring us…

…We are not alone.

  • An answered prayer—and the answer is far beyond what we asked for. That’s God’s way of showing us…

…His love and blessing never fail, even in the midst of difficulty.

  • A transformed spirit through worship.  Worry becomes faith. Fear becomes courage. Depression becomes gladness. That proves…
  • …The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 4:8).

 

Faith-statements, deposited in our souls even before we have need of them, provide a deep, sweet sense of security.

When difficulties arise, and the time comes to make withdrawals, we can praise God for each truth. Praise will fill our hearts with song and drown out the voices of worry and fear.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Your faithfulness, O God, is unwavering and unfailing.   Oh, how I want to be faithful to you, especially during difficult circumstances.  You have provided the tools.  I praise you for the deposits your Spirit makes into my soul account, offering solace, perspective, strength, and wisdom.   Help me to avail myself of your gracious provision.  

 

(Photo credit:  www.dailyfinance.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Back in the 1970s somebody came up with the idea of worry stones—small, smooth pebbles that people could rub between their fingers to release their worries. (What a great money-maker, huh?  Collect some free pebbles, clean ’em up and sell for 100% profit.  Genius.)

According to enthusiasts, the constant rubbing activates the nerves at the base of the thumb, releasing endorphins. As a result, a sense of calmness purportedly settles in the user’s mind.

Even if that’s true, what happens when the person stops rubbing? Since the worry has not been resolved; isn’t it likely to return? I can’t see myself rubbing a stone until I fall asleep at night, can you?

Here’s a better idea.  Instead of going to a small pebble for worry-relief, go to the Rock.

What Rock, you ask?

“There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2).

Next question:  Why go to the Rock?

1.  God our Rock is more stable and reliable than Gibraltar.

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The Rock of Gibraltar has become a symbol for stability, having stood sentry on the southern coast of Spain for centuries. Some say it dates back to the Jurassic Period.

But our God is older still, isn’t he.

“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:4).

And he is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  Now that’s reliable.

2.  God our Rock is more sheltering than a deep cave.

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(Verteba Cave, Ukraine)

During World War II, a small group of Ukrainian Jews found a way to escape the Nazis. They lived underground in caves for a year and a half.

At night they foraged for food. They even built showers and latrines deep inside.

But imagine living every day in pitch blackness and in fear of being discovered.

One day it happened. Nazi soldiers stumbled upon their hiding place. A courageous woman spoke for the group, as German guns pointed straight at her.

“What are you afraid of here?” she said. “Is the Furhrer going to lose the war because we live here?” Miraculously the soldiers left without doing anyone harm.

The band of Jewish villagers found relative safety in those caves,  and in April, 1944, the cave dwellers were liberated, able to return to the light.

But God our Rock offers guaranteed eternal safety for our souls. His Son, Jesus “became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9)

3.  God our Rock is more protective than Masada.

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Perhaps you’re familiar with the mountaintop fortress, towering 1500 ft. above the Dead Sea.   The refuge was built by Herod the Great, from 37 to 31 B.C., to showcase his power.

Infamous for his brutality, Herod had good cause to be paranoid. He spared no expense to make sure this desert fortress could withstand attack and provide long-term refuge. His plan included protective casement walls, an ingenious water-collection system and cisterns for storage, storehouses, barracks, palaces, an armory and more.

Impregnable? Almost.

When Herod died, Jewish rebels were able to overtake the Roman guard remaining at the fortress. A thousand Jewish zealots lived atop Masada for three years.

Yet nothing or no one on earth can compare to God our Rock.

“Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I,” cried David. “For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe” (Psalm 61:2-3).

And how do we avail ourselves of God’s refuge?  Through gratitude, praise, and prayer.  We can:

  • Thank him for his promises, for the times he has protected and provided in the past.  We must feed our confidence in God rather than our fear.
  • Praise him for his glorious attributes that he is bringing to bear upon our situations–attributes such as power, wisdom, trustworthiness, and love.
  • Affirm our faith. If we occupy our minds with expressions of trust, there won’t be room for thoughts of worry.

“My soul finds rest in God alone;

my salvation comes from him.  

He alone is my rock and my salvation;

he is my fortress, I will never be shaken…

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;

my hope comes from him”

(Psalm 62:1-2, 5).

(Photo credits:  www.ehow.com; http://www.kids.brittanica.com; http://www.noplaceonearthfilm.com; http://www.masada.org.il.)

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