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Posts Tagged ‘God’s Protection’

See if this biblical statement surprises you as it did me:

 

 

“The Lord protects the simplehearted.”  Isn’t that puzzling? I thought scripture warned us against Simple Simon behaviors.

For example, the book of Proverbs speaks repeatedly about the folly of naiveté, foolishness, and recklessness:

  • “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps” (14:15).
  • “The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge” (14:18).
  • “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it” (22:3).

 

 

God does not generally protect those given to foolishness. More often he allows foolish behaviors to point out our need of him. Clearly simple of heart must mean something else.

I turned to other translations, to see what terms they may have used, and another surprise awaited me. Seven different translations chose seven different descriptors.

The simplehearted are:

  • Unwary (New International Version, 2011)
  • Helpless (Good News Translation)
  • Innocent (New English Translation)
  • Inexperienced (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
  • Ordinary (Contemporary English Version)
  • Defenseless (GOD’S WORD® Translation)
  • Those of childlike faith (New Living Translation)

 

 

M-m-m. Those are not particularly desirable qualities in our culture. We tend to value shrewdness and self-reliance, sophistication and exceptionality, strength and power.

But simplehearted is a positive trait in another culture–the kingdom of God–where those with childlike faith are commended (Matthew 19:14).

Further consideration reveals why the simplehearted are in need of protection. At any given time, we are:

  • Unwary of potential danger caused by our enemy, Satan
  • Caught in troubling situations with no means of escape
  • Blameless yet accused (Consider false guilt part of this category)
  • Amateurs in applying God’s Word to the hard choices of life
  • Trapped on the treadmill of humdrum routine
  • Vulnerable to burnout, discouragement, jealousy, anger—you name it

 

 

Did you see yourself among those descriptors? I sure do.

But praise God, my frailties do not repulse him. On the contrary, because of his loving and caring nature, he deeply desires to protect us simplehearted folks.

Now there’s another word that can trip us up: protect. We’d like God to keep us completely safe from trouble, pain, and harm. And sometimes he does—even in miraculous ways.

Other times, God protects us through the trouble (2).

Satan, however, wants us to think that God’s promises have failed us if we have to endure hardship.

But one look at the godly people around us who suffer and it becomes clear: God does not create heaven on earth for the subjects of his kingdom.

God’s idea of protection is to keep us out of the hands of the enemy, Satan (2 Thessalonians 3:3)…

 

 

…and to guard our hearts and minds with his peace in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7)—until he takes us home. Thats when all heartache and pain will cease.

Meantime, “There isn’t a single moment when you’re not tucked next to the heart of God” (3).

Such sweet comfort for those of us with simple hearts, reaching out with childlike faith for our Father’s perfect protection.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

I praise you, O God, that you protect the simplehearted. Your eye is upon us, your arm is around us, your ear is open to our prayers. Your grace is sufficient, your promises unchangeable. My simple heart is filled with grateful praise!

 

(2 Chronicles 16:9; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 34:15; 2 Corinthians 12:9;

Psalm 145:13b, and a John Newton quote)

 

Notes:

(1) Psalm 116:6a (NIV, 1984, emphasis added)

(2) See Perfect Trouble for more reflection on this topic.

(3) Tony Evans and Chrystal Evans Hurst, Kingdom Woman Devotional

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.goodfreephotos.

 

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“Well, that’s about as good as I can make it,” Steve announced.

We stood at the end of the hall in the parsonage where we lived, surveying his handiwork: a fort.

You see, a hurricane was roiling toward all of us who lived in South Florida, the second storm in two weeks.

The first one, named Frances, had torn branches from our trees, ripped numerous shingles off the roof, mangled the screened enclosure and thrown it in the pool.

It could have been so much worse.

 

(Jeanne at Landfall.  We lived south of the eye–in that bright red area.)

 

Now we were facing Hurricane Jeanne. We had no idea if Frances had compromised the roof structure, and of course we were among thousands waiting for an inspection to assess such damage.

Because of the uncertainty of our situation, Steve built that fort. He dragged two dressers into the wide area at the end of the hall where doors opened to three bedrooms, two storage closets and a bath. Over the dressers he put two mattresses, and on top of that, two long, folding tables.

He tightly looped rope around all the doorknobs (to help hold them shut) except the door to our bedroom and bath. Then he laced the rope across the dresser-mattress-table structure like a web, and tied it all together snugly.

Now I know why little boys build forts, I thought, so when they grow up they can keep their families safe during a hurricane.

In spite of Steve’s efforts, however, we could not be sure his structure would withstand the pressure of the wind, especially if the roof gave way. And even a well-built fort could not keep out water should flooding become an issue.

But thankfully our fate was not in Steve’s hands, reliant on his fort-building skills (stellar though they be).  Our lives were–as they always are–in the sure hands of God.

 

 

 

No, those verses are not meant to imply God’s perfect protection for his people at all times. The historical record and present day tragedies bear out: Many wonderful men, women, and even children have suffered and died through no fault of their own.

However, those of us who have “made the Most High our dwelling,” can be assured of these truths:

  1. Any number of catastrophes could have overtaken us already, but God has safeguarded us.

For example, if it were not for his providential care I may already have died from:

  • Any number of illnesses as a child. Thanks to penicillin and antibiotics I survived.
  • Car accidents.  At least several times I’ve come that close to a horrific crash.
  • Falls from high places. (You can read about one such escapade here.)

No doubt you have your own stories to tell of potentially disastrous circumstances.

2. God always brings good out of distress—beginning with heightened awareness of his presence (Psalm 94:18-19).

 

 

Another positive outcome:  By the wind of his Spirit, he stirs up the ripple effect of his work in us to impact the lives others.

 

3.  In the context of eternity, our time on earth is no more than a blink.

One day we will be delivered out of this broken world into a place where no harm or disaster will ever occur, all troubles, frustrations, and pain will fade into insignificance.

 

Such truths gave me comfort that night as I hunkered down in our fort.  Wind and rain pounded against the house, sounding like hundreds of stomping feet on gymnasium risers.

Yet I slept.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Afterword: Obviously we survived that storm. The roof held firm and we experienced no flooding. Yes, the region was without power again for a number of days, and there was more debris to clean up. But God honored us with his loving protection–again.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.maxpixel.com; http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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With quick, deft movements our daughter, Heather, enveloped her baby girl in a swaddling wrap.   It was bedtime, their first night of a week-long visit from Washington State to our home in Florida. Our younger son watched the swaddling process, fascinated by the flannel and Velcro contraption.

“Now what do you do?” he asked his sister. “Hang her upside down?”

Sophie did resemble a bat, all folded up into a neat little package. You would have thought she’d be squirming in discomfort, but her sleepy, contented expression said otherwise. Infants love the cozy, confined sensation that simulates the womb.

 

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But within months even the openness of a childproof play space isn’t liberating enough for many toddlers. Given their way, the little tykes would wobble off down the street—make that the middle of the street–confident in their abilities to handle life. Efforts to hem them in are met with raucous dissent.

Even as adults, when circumstances hem us in, we balk at the confinement, which negatively impacts our time, energy, and choices.

So when we read, “You [God] hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me” (Psalm 139:5 NIV), a person’s reaction might easily be: “I’ve got enough stuff in my life hemming me in—family responsibilities, long hours at work, financial obligations—you name it. I need God to free me up, not hem me in any further!”

 

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But hemmed in by God IS freed up. According to Bible scholar, Warren Wiersbe, those italicized words in the ancient Hebrew of Old Testament times included the meaning, “to guard a valuable object.” ‘Brings to mind God’s protection, doesn’t it—being held in his strong, reliable hands. *

And don’t miss that adjective, valuable. God sees each one of us as precious. Otherwise, he would not have sent his Son to die in our place.

“Hemmed in” also provides imagery of loving affection. When Sophie was tucked snugly into her swaddling wrap, Heather or Tim would encircle her in their arms and hold her close until she fell asleep. Surely those moments of cozy contentedness were among the first when she realized Mommy and Daddy loved her very much.

Similarly, “The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him” (Psalm 32:10b).

 

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“Hemmed in” brings to mind peace as well, because the all-powerful God of the universe is active in our lives. Psalm writer, King David, says we’re enclosed “behind” (in the past) and “before” (in the future). As for the present, God has laid his hand upon us (139:5).

 

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That means, behind us there is God, redeeming the hurts, mistakes, and sins of the past. Before us there is God, preparing the way for the future chapters of our lives, chapters he has already written (v. 16). In the present, there is God—attentive to our needs, guiding us through each day, and enabling us to thrive.

We are not hemmed in because God desires to control us in some self-interested power-grab. He is motivated by his gracious, loving kindness to keep us safe and content.

_________________________

 

Thank you, Father, for hemming me in. What a relief to know that Someone much wiser than I am is in control. How comforting to contemplate your continual, unfailing love. Your hand upon me is not oppressive; it is restorative, as I learn to rest in your peace. You have freed me up to live in the joy of your presence, and I am humbly, overwhelmingly grateful.

(Psalm 73:23-24; 36:5-7; 63:7-8; 16:11)

 

* (See Isaiah 41:10.) Not that God surrounds us with virtual bubble wrap so problems and pain can’t impact our lives. Rather than insulate us from challenges and hurt, he most often brings us through them—with his strength, wisdom, and peace. He’s saving perfect bliss for heaven.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.justprems.com.au; http://www.centerforparentingeducation.org; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.biblia.com.

 

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A Bit of Nan-Sense for 1-28-16:

 

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My son and daughter-in-law gave me a lovely, cloth-bound journal for my birthday. I decided to record favorite scripture verses, perhaps one or two for each book of the Bible, then meditate on the meaning, and record how the truths have played out in my life.

One of the first entries included Exodus 14:13-14, when the Israelites had just escaped slavery in Egypt only to come up against the Red Sea. To make matters worse, Pharaoh’s army was in fierce pursuit. The people were terrified, desperately wishing they’d stayed in Egypt.

Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

True to his word, God did miraculously rescue them.

Notes to self, in response:

Time and again God has proven to me his trustworthiness and demonstrated his loving care. My blessings journal with over 1000 entries thus far provides ample proof.

In addition, Scripture abounds with promises that give me hope during difficult times. I know that God specializes in bringing beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:3). And though deliverance may not come as soon as I’d like or in the way I expect, I know God will see me through.

With those words, “be still” (at least in this context) God was not suggesting total inactivity. After all, the Israelites did have to walk through the Red Sea to the other side. It appears God was urging them to be still of heart – to cease the negativity, consternation, and fretting.

That’s my part in God’s provision, too:  stillness of heart.

And how do I achieve that?

A mind is kept stilled in peace by staying focused on Almighty God (Isaiah 26:3).

 

(Does that make sense to you, too? Share your thoughts below!)

 

Photo:  Nancy Ruegg

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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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In a desert land he found him,

in a barren and howling waste.

He shielded him and cared for him;

he guarded him as the apple of his eye

(Deuteronomy 32:10, italics added).

Notice the verbs: found, shielded, cared for, and guarded. Just as God watched over the Hebrew nation in the wilderness, God is surely watchful over each of us. See if these stories trigger memories of your own–when God found, shielded, cared for, and guarded you.

FOUND:

Growing up in a Christian home, I learned about Jesus before taking my first steps. At age four, after hearing the crucifixion story, I asked Jesus to be my Savior and constant Companion. Even as a preschooler, I understood my need for Someone to take the punishment I deserved for my naughtiness, so I could receive God’s gift of eternal life. If Jesus was willing to suffer and die in my place, how could I say, “no?”

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Praise God he seeks after lost sheep—even the little ones (Luke 15:4)!

Where did God find you?

 SHIELDED:

Numerous times over the years I have felt shielded from harm, including serious car accidents.

One time while approaching a stoplight, I hit a rain-slicked patch of city street, with cars in front of me and a bus to the right. My car began to slide and swerve; I started pumping the brakes. But there was no way to stop soon enough and avoid collision with the slowing line of vehicles ahead.

I took a chance and turned a bit to the right, hoping beyond hope there would be enough room for me to squeeze ahead of the bus, where the lane was open. Surely God intervened and created the needed space. (I think he also alerted the bus driver to apply his brakes and leave room for me!) My car did come to a safe stop, with room to spare.

God has shielded me in other important ways, too. He’s protected me from life-choices that would have led me down treacherous paths. He’s saved me from unhealthy relationships.

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Praise God he is our shield! We can trust in him, and receive the help we need (Psalm 28:7).

How has God shielded you?

CARED FOR:

I couldn’t find the dental insurance form I needed to drop off at Dr. H.’s office. Jeremy (our younger son and a middle schooler at the time) assisted me in a thorough search.  No form. While out on my walk, it suddenly occurred to me the form may have been gathered up with the newspaper. Sure enough, that’s where it was. Being Wednesday, those papers—and the dental form—should have been long gone in the recycling truck, but Jeremy was saving newsprint for his art teacher. God not only revealed to me the location of that form, but kept it safe, saving me the hassle of getting a new one and filling it all out again.

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Praise God for his loving attention, even in small matters like dental forms (1 Peter 5:7)!

How has God cared for you?

GUARDED:

One spring day in 1985, an elderly gentleman hit the gas pedal instead of the brake, at the stop sign on our corner. He drove his station wagon right through the garage wall. Several feet more to the right and he would have plowed into our daughter’s room, and she was playing there at the time. The driver was protected, too, sustaining only minor injuries.

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Praise God he guards us like an eagle, hovering over its young (Deuteronomy 32:11).

How has God guarded you?

THE APPLE OF HIS EYE:

The last phrase of Deuteronomy 32:10 explains why God is so attentive to his people. We are the apple of his eye. Some translations replace apple with pupil. God protects us as the pupil of his eye.

Just as our eyesight is precious to us, so we are precious to God.

As we’re careful to provide protective care for our eyes, shielding them from danger, for example, so God provides loving, protective care of us.

May we continually praise our God for all he is to us. First, he found us, and then became our attentive Shield, Provider, and Guard.

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(“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands” — Psalm 92:4.)

 In the Comments below, please share your personal stories of how God found you, or how he has proved himself as your Shield, Provider, and Guard. Let’s celebrate together God’s powerful deeds on our behalf!

(Art and photo credits:  www.biblewalks.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.com; http://www.imagefriend.com; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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(No, the title is not a typo!  Please read on!)

One time only the verb wrestle is used in scripture.  You probably remember the story of Jacob wrestling with a man through the dark hours of one night. Chances are, Jacob would have been sleepless anyway.  The next day he was to reunite with his estranged brother, Esau (Genesis 32:22-32).  Echoing in Jacob’s mind was his brother’s vow to kill him (27:41).

At the end of the wrestling match, when the man left Jacob, he realized his opponent had been God (32:30)!  (Some say God took the form of an angel.  Some say this was an appearance of Jesus, a pre-incarnate visitation, before he was born as a baby in Bethlehem.)  

Jacob’s heart must have been pounding madly at that moment, but not just from the exertion.  Imagine his shock to realize he had engaged with the all-powerful King of the universe in hand-to-hand combat!

The chronicler to record this event (and all the other events in Genesis) is generally accepted to be Moses.  As he wrote this particular story, Moses must have smiled to himself at the word play that flowed from his pen (Did they use pens of some sort in those days?)

First of all,  Jacob’s name in ancient Hebrew is ya’ aqob.  The word, wrestled, is ye’ abeq.  Even the location of the event is included in the word play.  Verse 22 indicates Jacob was camped along the stream called Jabbok, or yabbok in Hebrew.  Perhaps it was named later, as a memoriam to Jacob’s once-in-history experience.  By Moses’ time, the name would have been well-established.

But that’s just an interesting aside.   Showcasing his sense of humor was not God’s main objective for including this story in scripture.  What might he want us to learn from Jacob’s experience?

Perhaps it is a lesson in humility, as it certainly was for Jacob.  At the end of that wrestling match, God wrenched Jacob’s hip.  He limped for the rest of his life–a constant reminder that God was his Shepherd-caretaker, responsible for Jacob’s successes.  God was also his Angel-deliverer.  Jacob could not guarantee his own escape from Esau’s harm. or any other danger (Genesis 48:15-16).

God proved himself as Jacob’s Mighty One (49:24) the next day.  Shortly after the man left Jacob, Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming toward him–with four hundred men.  Quickly Jacob took precautions to protect his family.  But it was unnecessary.  Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him.  The two brothers, who had been alienated from one another for years, now wept in each others’ arms (33:1-4).

At the end of his life, Jacob reaffirmed that it was God Almighty who had provided all the blessings he’d enjoyed (Genesis 49:25).  The patriarch was as powerless to bless himself as he was to overpower God in a wrestling match.  And he prayed that the Strong God would give his blessings–tumbling out of the skies, bursting up from the Earth–to rest on the head of Joseph (vs. 25-26, The Message).

Jacob did not pray that Joseph, too, might  wrestle with God, but that God’s blessing would rest upon him.

Yes, wrestling with God has its place.  At times we may spar with God using words, much as David openly and honestly expressed his disappointments, depression, and even anger to God.  (See Psalms 22, 55, and 77 for examples.)  God is big enough to handle it.

But then comes the morning when we can affirm that his compassions, his blessings, never fail.  Great is the faithfulness of our God (Lamentations 3:22-23)!

So an additional bit of word play brings the two concepts together, thanks to my preacher-son, Jeremy:  wrestling + resting = wresting.

Wrestling allows load-shifting; resting results in peace.  Together they make us strong, steadfast, and firm in our faith.

(art credit:  http://www.bishopmarcelopires.org )

 

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