God is Our Refuge & Strength

Psalm 46:1-10

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.

10 Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

“God is my refuge and strength…”

This psalm has been on my heart the last couple of weeks. One reason is that I am currently listening to a song in my prayer/worship time based on one of the verses in this passage. As I shared in our opening prayer a couple of weeks ago, there is a difference in a refuge and an escape. With both, you are looking for a safe place you can run to that will take you away from your present reality. But the difference is an escape is when you are running away from the present reality. You can escape by reading a book, playing a video game, or talking on the phone with a friend. Your focus changes from the present reality with its problems to a different place. It doesn’t matter if life really changes for you. It is simply something that helps you get away from all that life is throwing at you at the moment. It is a place of relief and retreat that gives you a respite long enough to be able to return to your present reality a bit later, none the worse for wear, and hopefully, ready to pick up the gauntlet life has handed you for a season.

But a refuge is a place you run TO when the troubles of your present reality become overwhelming. A refuge is a safe place you can go in which you receive strength for the moment, strength to look beyond yourself and your capabilities, a place where you can truly find rest for your weary soul and encouragement for the days ahead.

Psalm 46 encourages us that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. God is our safe place, our hiding place, that place of safety where no one and nothing from this life can touch us. In that safe place, we can pour out our troubles to the Lord, and tell him about that friend that betrayed us, that moment where we felt afraid, that time of uncertainty where the future looked dark and dismal. And as we pour out our hearts to Him, He can bring us sweet peace by speaking words of comfort or encouragement or simply by resting in His presence.

As children, we all probably played hide and seek. Someone would count to ten and we had those scant seconds to cram our bodies into a tiny space or a dark place where we would not likely be found. We would run into a closet or hide under the bed – places that ordinarily would not stand out as a place we would want to spend time in, perhaps even in places that might normally make us afraid. But we didn’t want to be “IT,” so we would hide somewhere in the dark and giggle when the person who was “IT” walked right past us. Sometimes we would hide somewhere silly, like behind a tree, where we could be easily seen from the right perspective, but in our minds, we were “safe.” We felt invincible in that hiding place, like nothing or no one could touch us.

That is how God wants us to feel when we come to Him and seek Him as our refuge. He doesn’t want us to merely pick up a book and escape into an alternate reality. While that isn’t wrong or sinful, it’s not His best for us.

He wants us to run TO Him when we are feeling overwhelmed. Instead of just picking an alternate activity to calm us, He wants us to run to Him and find that safe place where we can receive His strength instead of walking in our own. He wants us to pick up the Word and receive those words of encouragement that give us strength to try again, strength to continue fighting that battle. And if we will run to Him, even when the days look dark, into a place that would usually cause us fear, we can run there in the confidence that we are not alone. He is with us in that place of refuge. We are safe in that hiding place with Him where the enemy can not only not see us, but he cannot touch us. He can’t jump out of the shadows and pounce on us in that safe place with God. God is not only our refuge, but He is our strength. In that place of refuge and safety, we receive strength by resting in His arms and knowing in those moments we are never truly alone.

The closest thing to that kind of refuge that I could think of is a childhood memory of my daddy rocking me to sleep. As a child, I would climb into his arms in the rocking chair and completely relax. I knew as long as Daddy held me, I was safe. There was nothing that could take me from the comfort of his loving arms. If anything or anyone tried, I knew Daddy was my protector, and that absolutely nothing was capable of ripping me from the safety of His arms. I knew if needed, he would fight for me. It was the safest place in the world, and nothing could touch me there.

God is our refuge today in a world that increasingly makes no sense. Tonight as we wait for the results of a tempestuous election, we can find that place of refuge and strength. We can climb into Daddy God’s arms and know the safety of His love and presence. He will never allow the enemy to take us from Him. He will never allow anything to jump out of the shadows and overwhelm us. He is watching over us and watching over His Word to perform it in our lives. He will not prevent us from leaving, and He will even allow us to walk into scary places where we only think we are safe. But He is never far away, and it is our choice to run to His place of safety or choose our own hiding place in Life’s “Hide and Seek.” There is safety in His arms…find that place of safety and security in Him, your refuge and strength. The choice is up to you.

– Carolyn S Smith

Be the One

In Luke 10, we find the parable known as “The Good Samaritan.” A lawyer stood up while Jesus was speaking and asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The lawyer already knew the answer to his question, but he asked in hopes that he could trick Jesus into speaking against the Law. The lawyer was one of many who wanted to shut down what Jesus was doing and saying (that He was the Son of God) because they feared the following Jesus was attracting with his sermons and miracles. Jesus was gaining popularity among the common people, and the Pharisees feared they would lose their influence and power they had over the Jews. The Pharisees and lawyers kept asking Jesus questions, hoping He would say something against God or the Law so that they could arrest Him.

On this particular day, Jesus answered the question with a question, as He often did. Jesus asked the lawyer what did the law say? The lawyer summed it up by giving the rabbinical summation of “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus commended him for answering this correctly. “Do this and live,” Jesus said. The lawyer, however, wanted to make himself sound spiritual, so he said, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus responded by telling the parable about the Good Samaritan. A parable, remember, was a story Jesus would tell the crowds and his disciples that had a hidden meaning. (“A heavenly story with an earthly meaning,” as they told us in VBS.) In this parable, Jesus told them about a man had traveled from Jericho to Jerusalem, which was well known for being a dangerous road, where thieves were known to be a threat. The man had been robbed and beaten, stripped of his clothing, and left for dead on this well-traveled highway. After a while, a priest came along, one who should have been concerned with helping someone in distress, but instead of reaching out to the man who had been beaten, the priest crossed the road to the other side and ignored the man who was lying in the dirt. Perhaps he did not want to risk making himself unclean by touching someone else who was ceremonially unclean. But the priest showed no compassion for the man who had been mistreated and went on his way. Next, a Levite came along. He too, observed the man who had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead, but he was also more concerned with his own needs, like the priest, rather than in helping someone in distress. The Levite also crossed the road in order to avoid the wounded man.

As the man lay there bleeding, perhaps calling out for help from someone, anyone, finally, a Samaritan approached the wounded man. But instead of ignoring him like the others, the Samaritan went to the wounded man and gave him first aid. He poured oil and wine into his wounds to promote healing, and then the Samaritan picked the man up and put him on his own donkey. The Samaritan walked along beside the donkey, making sure the man didn’t fall or harm himself more. The Samaritan held the man steady on the donkey all the way to the inn. He took money from his own pocket and rented a room for them, and he gave extra money to the innkeeper. He told the innkeeper to spend it if the man needed anything, and he paid for the room for a few extra nights. He told the innkeeper if it cost anything else, to let him know the next time he came through the area, and he would pay him back.

Particularly interesting about this story is that in this time, the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. The Samaritans’ ancestors had intermarried with the Jews and produced children who were biracial. The Jews considered the Samaritans half-breeds, and both races viewed and treated the other with contempt. The Jews would actually travel around Samaria, going out of their way to avoid having any interaction with them.

Jesus finished this story by asking the lawyer, “Who is his neighbor?” and the lawyer replied, “The one who had compassion/mercy on him.”

This parable reminds of a scene on “The West Wing” that I saw recently.

One coworker in the White House had been through a previous trauma (Josh) was now possibly in danger of losing his job. Another coworker (Leo), a recovering alcoholic, related this story to him…

“Guy falls in a hole…A priest walks by and the Guy hollers out, “Help! I’ve fallen in a hole! Can you help me?” The priest writes out a prayer and drops it in the hole and keeps going.

A doctor walks by the hole. Guy calls out, “Help! I’ve fallen in a hole! Can you help me?” The doctor writes out a prescription and drops it in the hole and keeps going.

A friend walks by, and the guy hollers out, “Help! I’ve fallen in a hole. Can you help me?” The friend jumps in the hole with him, and the Guy in the Hole says, “What??? Are you stupid?”

Friend says, “I’ve been here before. I know the way out!”

Leo says, “As long as I have a job, you’ll have a job here.”

This scene made me cry both times I watched it. I just thought it was so profound, because here on this secular program is a modern story about the Good Samaritan, and it depicts exactly what our job as a Christian in today’s world should be.

It’s a crazy world we’re living in these days, but the parables and stories in the Bible are still true and relevant today. It’s our job to help people that have fallen – that have been beaten and bruised in life, who are spiritually lying on the side of the road bleeding out – while the church is unconcerned and doesn’t want to get their hands dirty by messing with those sinners.

But we need to be like the Good Samaritan, as well as like the friend of the Guy in the Hole. We have to be willing to jump in the hole with them, to get down where the real stuff is happening, and get our hands dirty helping them if need be. We need to remember that one day we were that Guy in the Hole, pleading for help, with everybody ignoring us. But somebody made the decision to jump into the hole with us, so they could show us the way out.

I encourage you tonight, be that friend. Be the Good Samaritan who is willing to stop and help someone who is in trouble, one who is bleeding and hurting, one who isn’t going to make it unless someone steps in to help. Be the one who shows compassion for someone who has messed up and just need someone to help. Be the one who jumps down in the hole and shows that person the way out. After all, God sent Someone to help you find the way out. Don’t make them beg. Have the compassion of Jesus and reach out to someone who needs help, whether you think they deserve it or not. Be the one!

The First Miracle

I guess if we’re going to talk about miracles, we should start with the first one – my birth. Yes, it was that long ago!

My parents, Alfred & Peggy Smith, had been married for about five years, and they had a cute little red-headed girl named Judy. Mama suffered a miscarriage sometime after Judy was born, and they discovered that there was an issue. Mama and Daddy had an Rh factor problem, which had something to do with the blood type of the mother and baby not being the same, and it caused the mother to develop antibodies that recognize the baby as a foreign substance to be fought against. Though it’s not as much of a problem today, it was in the 50s. Mama suffered four miscarriages between my and my sister’s births, and she almost bled to death twice. It was a very traumatic time for her. She really wanted another child, but she told me she had prayed that if God didn’t mean for her to have another child, she would accept it as such. She miscarried the fourth time the next day after her prayer. So she decided it was not meant to be and left it in God’s hands.

Several months later, Mama noticed her belly button had begun to protrude. Mama, ever the positive soul, became convinced she must have a tumor. She went to the doctor to get it checked out, and he gave her astonishing news – she was about three months pregnant – with me! Things went well at first, as with the others, but before long, the symptoms of a miscarriage began with more bleeding. The doctor put her on immediate bed rest.

So tell me, how do you stay on bed rest when you have a four year old? I guess you do what Mama & Daddy did. Mama stayed in bed during the day with Judy in the bed with her or close-by, and after Daddy was finished work, he came home & donned an apron and cooked supper and did whatever else needed doing around the house: cleaning up, washing dishes, washing clothes, doing whatever his little family needed. Mama was on bed rest for the entire rest of the six months of her pregnancy with me. Daddy came through like a champ, like he always did. I’m sure he was exhausted, but he did what he needed to do for his family and held things together as best he could, and it paid off in the end.

About six months later I was born without further complications. Mama said my hair was so long when I was born that she could pin curl it (which apparently was a thing then.) I weighed over 8 pounds, and as far as I know, I was healthy and no worse the wear for the traumatic journey Mama had during her pregnancy.

So Mama always told me I was her miracle baby. I’m sure after all she had been through, it was a great relief that I made it. It could have ended in sorrow again, but God heard the prayers of a young mother crying out for her child. It would not be the last time He answered her prayers for her children.

Many years later, I was in a church service one evening, when the minister preaching began to speak prophetic words over some of the people there. I had not experienced this in my church, though I was raised in a Pentecostal church and believed in the move of the Spirit. I had never seen this man before, and he didn’t know anything about me. I was astounded to hear him say, “You were anointed from your mother’s womb.” Wait a minute…he didn’t know my story! How could he know that? He didn’t, but the Holy Spirit who dwelt in him did. God revealed it to him. This experience touched my heart in a special way, and it really got my attention. When God does something like that, it’s very personal, and makes you feel as though He knows who you are and the street where you live.

But that God is that kind of God I serve, a personal God who knows you in an intimate way, and sometimes when you need to be reminded of that, He makes sure that you are.

Call to Me and I will answer you, and show you

great and mighty things that you do not know.”

Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.