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The LORD is my fortress! Don’t say to me, “Escape like a bird to the mountains!” Psalm 11:1 (CEV)

Huddled against a flickering fire, in the darkness of a cold, mountain hillside, a young boy listens to the night sounds while millions of stars flicker above. Alone, but not lonely, his thoughts gravitate towards his God. A song comes to mind and as he meditates on its words a cracking branch in the darkness snaps him back to reality. Taking a torch and his slingshot he goes to investigate. Minutes later, a roar is heard as a lion falls dead just feet from its prey, a sleeping lamb.

Years later, that shepherd boy, now an anointed king waiting his turn in the palace becomes the ire of the current king. His life in danger once again, his friends urge him to flee to the mountains he loved for safety.

The mountains were a place of security and a symbol of strength. The mountains were a place where the oppressed and abused would go because in the mountains it was much easier to protect yourself from your enemies. For David, they held a special advantage. They were home. He knew virtually every cave, every cliff, every hiding spot were danger come. The mountains and his trusty slingshot offered him all the protection he would need.

It seemed logical, to David’s friends, that when Saul began to threaten David’s life he should flee to the safety of the mountains. But when God is involved, logical isn’t the best way. To flee to the mountains would imply two things to David.

Fleeing to the mountains would imply that the mountains were David’s best source of protection. In David’s eyes, it was God that was the source of his protection, not the mountains. The rock on which David trusted was the strength of his God.

Fleeing to the mountains also implied that there was no more safety for David in the palace. To this I imagine David thought back to the day he was beckoned from the hillside to be anointed King by Samuel. David knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the palace was where he was supposed to be. When you are where God wants you to be in life, you are in the safest place possible.

The enemy of doubt and its accomplice, fear, want us to believe that safety comes by our own strength and our own cunning. The follower of Jesus Christ knows differently. Safety comes when we are where God wants us to be. Will trouble come? Certainly. But in the face of that trouble we can have peace because we know we rest in God’s arms of strength and safety.

To the world a strong bank account offers financial stability. To the world, good health and good medicine offer the best hope of a long, satisfying life. To the world, protection comes from physical strength. All of these are good, to be sure, but we as followers of Jesus Christ know our ultimate protection comes from a loving, omnipotent Heavenly Father. When we trust in him we have NO FEAR!!

PRAYER: Father the future scares me. The financial picture is bleak. The political atmosphere is terrifying. It seems there are more and more things that cause me to worry. Empower me with your spirit to put my trust in you, not necessarily in the wisdom of those around me. In the strong name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” Matthew 14:28

We as Christ-followers profess an undying allegiance to Jesus Christ. Many have been put to death for proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives. But are we really ready to take the next step in complete faith in Christ?

The story of Peter walking on the water is much more than a Bible story about some guy trying to walk on water to Jesus. It’s a story of one man’s desperation to save himself. Peter wasn’t trying to show himself to be some bigger than life super hero. It wasn’t an attempt on his part to play the one-upsmanship game with the rest of the disciples. Fact of the matter is, Peter was scared!

Never mind the fact that Jesus had just fed over 5,000 men, women and children or that Peter had personally witnessed Jesus power over demons, sickness, hunger and death. That was then, this was now. A storm had come up as the disciples were trying to cross the lake. The boat was full of experienced fishermen, yet they were afraid.

That’s when Jesus showed up. Did Peter ‘know’ the ship was going down? We don’t know the answer to that. What we do know is that these men were tired from trying to row the boat against the wind and afraid. When Peter recognized that the mysterious form walking towards them was Jesus he was faced with a dilemma. In his heart he knew that Jesus was the safe haven he sought after, but was he willing to step out? The boat was going down, in Jesus there was safety, but it was getting to Jesus that would be tough. It meant getting out of a situation that was familiar, but doomed and stepping into the wave-filled sea.

Each of us is faced with decisions like Peter had. We are ‘comfortable’ in the situation we are in. Even if it’s a bad or dangerous situation it offers the comfort of familiarity. The question then is this. Do we stay or jump? Are we desperate enough for Jesus enough to get out of the boat? Are we willing to leave what we know and step into the waves of uncertainty and the unknown with only our view of Jesus as our guide?

Some malign Peter because he took his eyes off Jesus and turned his attention to the troubles that surrounded him. But give him credit. He got out of the boat. He was desperate enough to leave what he knew to get to Jesus.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I’m in a situation that seems headed towards destruction. I’ve known you for a while but have come to realize that my knowledge hasn’t taken me to the next step of being desperate for you. I’m content with the familiar even though I know it’s not what is best for me. I want to step out of the boat Jesus. With you as my guide and your Spirit as my power I want to leave what I know and receive for myself what is unknown but so much better than what I have. I hear you calling me and from this point forward I choose to be desperate for you. In your name, Amen.

Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope! I promise this very day that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles. Zechariah 9:12 (New Living Translation)

The prophet Zechariah ministered to the people of Israel during a very difficult time in the lives of the people of God. They were just returning from years in exile, a consequence of their disobedience to God. It was to rebuild their cities and their lives.

It’s important to remember that the reason for the exile was that the people intentionally and willfully chose to disobey God. They weren’t tricked or deceived. They knew better. But regardless of their knowledge they made a decision to go their own way. Now, their time of discipline was complete and it was time to move on.

The word Zechariah is given for the people is this: “Return to me. Come back to the one place you know you can always return to.” God has the same message for each of us today. You may be suffering now from the consequences of poor choices. Your life may be full or worry, shame, guilt, remorse, fear, anger or a multitude of other factors. It’s possible that the choices you have made will have consequences that will be with you the rest of your life. Even so, God is saying, “Come home. Come to me. You once were imprisoned, trapped in a life of meaninglessness and pain. Come home.”

I have a friend who was involved in a terrible snowmobile accident in which he lost both of his legs. The events leading up to the accident were not good. He never should have been on that snowmobile and riding with the people he was. For the rest of his life he’ll have a reminder of that accident.

The story has a ‘good ending’ of sorts however. As a result of the accident he has found a renewal of his faith and a trust in Jesus such as he’d never had before. He ‘came home’ to his God and Savior Jesus Christ and his life was dramatically changed.

You may be feeling imprisoned by your sins. You may feel shut up under a sense of your guilt and shame. Look to Jesus. He is the only one who can deliver you from your offenses and give you hope regardless of what you have done in the past.

Zechariah gives those of us another promise. He says “I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles!” What an amazing promise of grace. Not only are we forgiven, we can expect to enjoy all fullness of grace and plenty of spiritual and physical blessings. God doesn’t just forgive us when we come home, He blesses us!

No matter where you are in life. Come home to Jesus. Let Him remove the guilt and shame of your past. Trust Him to bless you beyond all you can imagine.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I come before you today realizing that my life is a mess. I’ve made choices I knew were wrong. I’ve accepted you as my Savior but I still struggle with habits, anger, shame and guilt. I know better but still go my own way. Please forgive me for my rebellion. Empower me to live for you today and to experience all the blessings you have for me. Amen.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

God is my refuge. A refuge isn’t a zoo where life is sterile and everything I need is handed to me by some ‘celestial zoo keeper’. I don’t exist to be put on show so that people can scrutinize my movements. I’m not here to be free of all enemies and hardship. I’m not in a cage that keeps me from being the real me.

God is my refuge. He didn’t send His son, Jesus, to die for me and then leave me to fend for myself in a world where I need protection from spiritual forces. He’s not a distant, apathetic or angry old man that is wringing His hands wondering what will happen next and how He can endure the struggle of keeping me alive.

He is my refuge. A refuge is a place set up for animals to thrive in their natural environment. Natural hardships still occur but they are there to help me grow stronger. I am free to roam. Free to be myself. Some refuges have no fences. They are simply areas set aside where unnatural enemies (man) can’t enter to kill, harm or maim. The animals inside are free to leave, but most realize that it is to their benefit to stay.

As Christ-follower our enemy is an unnatural one. Satan wants to harm us, to keep us bound, to lead us to a path of destruction. He tempts us by trying to get us to believe that true freedom rests beyond the boundaries of the refuge we have in Jesus. He lures us outside so that he can attack and destroy.

When we stay safe within the bounds of God’s love and learn to walk with Him in obedience we are protected from Satan. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t encounter hardship. In fact, we can almost be guaranteed there WILL be hardship. But that hardship is there to make us stronger and so that we can be free to live life the way we were intended to live it.

PRAYER: Holy Father. Thank you that you are my refuge. Thank you for providing a place in life where I can live life to the fullest. I acknowledge that when I am walking with you, you offer protection that I can’t find anywhere else. Help me to learn to live within the safety of your refuge. Thank you for the forgiveness you offer when I stray. Amen

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September 2022
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