Bread – Sanctuary

March 24, 2017


Psalm 57

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in You my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge, until the storms of destruction pass by.” Ps. 57:1

The idea of sanctuary or refuge seems to be having a strong pull on all people today, as we seek what the secular press calls “safe places” or “safe zones.” We feel surrounded by a mist of confusion and doubt, loss and turmoil, anxiety and depression, and, as the Psalmist put it, “the storms of destruction,” and we reach out to safe places.

But what the world calls a “safe place” is a place where the gathered people are told that they are OK, that they are safe, that their thoughts and opinions are worthy, and that their view of the world is correct. The world’s safe places are places where they may be a guard at the door, fluffy couches to lay on, and donuts and coffee (or tea) to drink. These safe places may be infilled with soft music of a type to be found in a massage studio, murmured conversation and soft touches, and calming words. They are a place where people may retreat from what is going on outside the room, but they are not places of solution.

In this Psalm’s title, there is reference to this Psalm having been written “in the cave.” This is probably the cave where David lived while escaping from Saul. It is a place where the walls are defined, where the entrance is guarded, where the fires of evening warm the area and light it. The cave for David is a relatively safe place, and from a secular and worldly point of view, it qualifies as a sanctuary or a refuge.

Many people refer to our churches as places of safety, refuge, and sanctuary. In fact, my place of worship calls its main building a “sanctuary” because there we can meet God, worship Him, and leave the world outside. But is the church worship building really a sanctuary, whether we call it one or not? Do we really leave the world’s way of thinking outside when we walk in? Is all of our sinfulness immediately dropped at the foot of the door to the church sanctuary? Is the sanctuary free from politics, strife, worry, fear, and squabbles? If you have been in a church building any length of time, you know that the reality of the world exists inside the building as well as outside.

This is why David does not refer to his cave as his sanctuary or refuge. It may be the place where David has time and focus to think about where his real sanctuary is, but the place itself is not the place of sanctuary or David would refer to it as such.

No, David’s real place of refuge, his real sanctuary, as well as ours is “in You [in God Himself]” and in “the shadow of Your [God’s] wings.”

As we seek peace in our lives, we need to understand something fundamental. Peace is not found in ourselves. Peace is not found in others. Peace is not found in a place. Peace is only found in God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But, you may say, that you find peace in good music, in good wine, in good company, in contemplation, in reading a good book, and in comfortable places surrounded by familiar things and people. And that sense of peace may very well be real…for the moment. As soon as the music is over, the wine is done, the company leaves, the book is over, and the door is shut on that special place, the peace is over. At best it is a temporary peace; at worse it is a false peace. The real peace, the peace which passes understanding, the peace which is eternal, comes from only one source and can be found in only one relationship – “for in You [God] my soul takes refuge…”

Seek sanctuary where it may really be found. Seek the mercy under the wings of the Almighty, the God Most High. And rest.
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© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

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Bread – Disappear

March 10, 2017


Psalm 55

My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.  Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me, and I say “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest;…” Ps. 55:4-6

At the beginning of this Psalm, David is impatient with the Lord.  In the middle of this Psalm, David wants to disappear, to fly away from his troubles, whatever they are.  At the end of the Psalm, David turns to the Lord in confidence, saying “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you.”  Ps. 55:22

In this Bread, we are focused on the middle.  We have appealed to the Lord to help us out of our disaster, probably of our own making but sometimes caused by a stranger or (as in this Psalm) someone close to you.  We have told the Lord to pay attention to us and we have lost patience with Him.

So what is next, do we turn to our own might, power, intelligence, cunning, and resourcefulness?  Well, don’t you think David probably did that before he started telling the Lord to pay attention to him.  After all, don’t we usually try to do it first ourselves before we ask the Lord for help?

So I think we can assume that David has tried to get out the mess he is in, and he then turned to the Lord.  The Lord did not appear in David’s timing and, so, he impatiently started looking for alternatives.  He started to look for the rear exit.  He started to look for how he could gracefully exit “stage left” and disappear from the scene.  But, perhaps, there is no back exit for him and no solution coming from his own mind or from God’s hand.  So David looks at the sky and dreams, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove…”  We probably would more generic and just wish for wings like a bird because in those circumstances, for us, any old bird would do.  But David also realizes that in disappearing he can find peace, and so he probably thinks of the dove first, as the symbol of peace.

But maybe, just maybe, he also recognized that the dove also represents the spirit of God, what we today would call the Holy Spirit.   In that sense, then, he is praying for a miracle.

How often have we wished just to disappear?  To get out of harm’s way, to avoid the difficult conversation, to agree to be agreeable, to make our excuses for our non-involvement?

In today’s world, as secular society becomes more hostile to public displays of religious belief, there is a tendency for us as Christians, which means us as the Church, to disappear behind the walls of our churches, to our places of sanctuary.

And when I disappear, when I fly away, what do I leave behind?  At best, a memory.  And when the church disappears behind cloistered walls, what do we leave behind?  At best, a memory.

David was in a horrible circumstance – “horror overwhelms me.”  He wants help from God or by just disappearing.  But he gets neither.  Instead, he gets to stay where he is.

Just like we must stay where we are, where we are planted, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

Why?  So that God may be glorified in the actions of His people as salt to a sick and dying world, as a light in dark places, as truth in opposition to lies, as hope where there is none, as love where there is perhaps less than none.

The Church must not disappear.  The Church must stand in the evil day, unafraid, unbowed, unapologetic, full of grace, truth, love, and power.

Oh we may want to disappear and, in fact, the world (Satan) may make it very easy to disappear, calling it peace.

But there is no peace in retreat, but only in the arms of the Lord.

________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

Bread -Uphold

March 1, 2017


Psalm 54

“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life…” Ps. 54:4

There is a picture fixed in my mind from a commercial which ran long ago.  The picture is of a professional football player (probably someone on the line, because he was a giant) holding in a cradle next to him and brand new baby.  The baby was content, as was the professional football player.  The professional football player did not need the baby to survive, but the baby sure needed the professional football player.

When I think of God upholding my life, that image of the football player and the baby comes to mind.

We like to think of ourselves as the football player, getting ahead in life by crushing the opposition, standing our ground, blocking out the bad from getting through, and ultimately helping our team win the day.  But, really, we are the baby.  We have no food but for that food provided by the Father, we have no life which is not upheld for us by God, we have no strength to fight off our enemies, and we can plan until the cows come home, but it is the Lord who provides.

God commands us to love one another as He has loved us.  Maybe another way of thinking about this is that we are commanded to uphold one another as we ourselves have been and are being upheld by God.

The nature of upholding someone is that we are beneath them, holding them up.  They are on top and we, by choice, are on the bottom.  We no not uphold by pushing down but by lifting up.  We uphold by making ourselves lesser so that the one we are upholding may become greater.

To uphold someone means that our foundation, where we place our feet, must be firm.  We cannot uphold another from a place of weakness, but only from a place of strength.

How is it that the professional football player made himself lesser in order to uphold the baby?  He stopped what he was doing to hold the baby, and he waited on the baby.  The football player sacrificed himself so that the baby would have a safe, peaceful place to live.

So God so much wanted to uphold me that He sent Himself, the Son, into the world to die for me.  He put Himself on the bottom so that I might be lifted up into the throne room of God.

Just as David said so long ago – “The Lord is the upholder of my life.”  And because I stand upon a firm foundation and because I am upheld, I can uphold others.

Who will we uphold today … in our prayers, in our thoughts, in our words, and in our actions?  Look around, we have lots of people to select from.  Including those who live with us.

_________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Refuge

August 15, 2016


Psalm 31

In You, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in Your righteousness deliver me!  Incline Your ear to me; rescue me speedily!  Be a rock of refuge for me; a strong fortress to save me!  For You are My rock and my fortress…for You are my refuge.”  Ps. 31:1-4

A refuge is a place of safety from the world.  In the Bible, this refuge may be a strong castle with walls that cannot be breached and a wide moat which cannot be crossed; or it may be the shelter of a rocky cave, high above the fray, protected from the storm; or it may be the shelter of God’s wings which cradle us in times of emotional need.   In the world, a refuge may be a private room when one can gather his or her thoughts before the day begins; it may be a chair in that room which is incredibly comfortable and which holds us; it may be a book which is read in that chair which lets us imagine things beyond our current mess; or our refuge may be a person in whom we have great trust.

God through David says two things about being a refuge – “Be a rock of refuge” (verse 2b) and “For You are my rock and my fortress…” (verse 3).

If He “is” David’s refuge, then why is it necessary to ask God to “be” it?

One answer to this question has to do with continuity.  The refuge today may not be the refuge tomorrow.  The enemy discovers the cave; your private room is invaded by a ringing telephone.  Your book of refuge ends and you must find another.  The problem with this answer is that it flies in the face of God’s nature.  He is not changeable, in that today He is a fortress of refuge and tomorrow He is not.  No, He was a refuge, He is a refuge, and He always will be a refuge.  This is one of His characteristics, that of being a place of safety among the turmoil of the world.

So in what sense is David asking God to “be a rock of refuge?”  I think that this is really a prayer for David.  God is being asked by David to continue being a refuge for David.

Why would David have to ask this of God?  When a refuge disappears, it is either because the refuge has disappeared (and we know that is not in God’s nature) or because you (David) are no longer in the refuge.  If David is no longer in the refuge of God, why not?  Since he is no longer there, it can only be for three reasons – (1) the bad people came and kidnapped him; (2) God told him to leave; or (3) he left on his own accord.

We know that David would not leave God’s refuge because the people seeking him out have found and seized him, because what kind of refuge is that.  We know that God is mighty to save and His is a mighty fortress against which nothing can prevail.  So, if David is in God’s fortress, he is safe.  Option 1 is not the answer.

Option 2 is that God told him to leave.  There is only one refuge built by God which God told us to leave – and that was Eden and was due to our disobedience (sin).  And He created another refuge for us, Himself in Jesus Christ, where we may find safety if we profoundly believe in Him.  So, in that sense, God evicted us from a place of refuge so that we might find Him, the person of refuge.  David was not thrown out of God’s fortress by God.

This must mean that David either left the refuge on his own or knew that he would unless empowered by the Holy Spirit to stay.  The plea by David to God to “Be a rock of refuge for me” is really a request by David for God to help David not leave.

Are we, today, out in the rain of the world, getting wet and blown around from place to place?  Why?  It is because God has left us or because we have left Him?

But to have left something, you had to have found it in the first place.  So, the real question is, have you asked God to be your shelter from the storms of life, your strong place of refuge?  Have you found that place of protection, knowing that all is well because Christ is Lord and not you?  If not, what are you waiting for?  If so and you are outside the place of refuge, return.  If so and you are in that place, then give thanks.

_________

© 2016 GBF    All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Sanctuary

March 14, 2016


Psalm 11

“In the Lord I take refuge…Flee like a bird to your mountain…”  Ps. 11:1

One of the reasons I like to capitalize the personal pronouns which reference God is that the direction of the personal pronoun reference is more clearly seen.  For example, here the phrase “your mountain” does not refer to God’s mountain, but to David’s.

When we are in trouble today or this week, there are two basic sanctuaries we can seek out, our mountain and God.

“Our mountain” may not be a literal mountain, but simply a place.  And there are three types of places.  The first place is the one we go to most often, and yet we rarely think about it as a sanctuary – and that is ourselves, our minds.  How many times, when we are in the midst of difficulty, do we reach into ourselves for the solution?  In fact, we know that some people so retreat into their mind that they stay locked up in it, becoming withdrawn, recluses or hoarders, or evidencing psychological disturbances.  So one place of sanctuary is our mind.

The second type of mountain could be a collection of minds, or the society of others.  We do this every day.  When we are in trouble, we seek the advice of other people or, if not their advice, at least their friendship.  These groups may be family, best friends, co-workers, respected peers, or others with whom we find comfort and safety.  People then are our sanctuary.  But, like all people and people-groups, they are fickle and have their own issues, and so the reliability and effectiveness of the sanctuary may be in doubt from time to time.

The third type of mountain is more of a physical place, a true “mountain.”  Now this physical place may not be a literal mountain, but it has the same elements – perceived permanence, earthly, strong, defensible, calming, and peaceful.  Our mountain may be a favorite chair to which we run when we are in trouble.  Our mountain may be a particular room in the house where we can escape the various demands being put upon us.  Our mountain may be our office if we are escaping from the house, or our house if we are escaping from the office.  Our mountain may be the place we like to take vacation.  Our mountain may just be a place of respite, a fountain, a bench, a park, a museum, a gallery … any place where we can escape the troubles we have.

 

When we are in trouble, when our enemies surround us, when we are paying the consequences of our sin or others’ sin, how often do we seek the sanctuary of our mind, other people, or a special place?  I think, if we are honest, the answer is most of the time.  Although God may be found in every one of these places, atop every one of these mountains, He is not necessarily there if we are not seeking Him there.  The mountaintop house, perched over the valley, where we drink our coffee while we watch the world come to life is, in itself, a man-made place of refuge.  My mountain is my mountain.  It is a choice to seek refuge there, but God may or may not be present there unless I also seek Him.

Which then, of course, leads us to the second place of refuge – God Himself.  In this Psalm 11, someone is advising David to flee to his mountain, and David’s response is “In the Lord I take refuge.”

Can we say that?  Can we truly say that we take refuge in the Lord when we face difficulties, or do we try to work it out ourselves first?  When we are faced with danger, do we seek first a well-defended sanctuary made of brick and stone, of a well-defended fortress of well-armed men and women, or do we first seek the Lord?

As we begin today, Monday, there is an entire week when we will be attacked from every side, by people who we thought loved us and respected us, by people who we known neither love us nor respect us, by circumstances, by events, by sin, by trouble, by Satan himself.  When this happens and we need respite, where will we seek sanctuary?

Will we flee to the mountain (ourselves, our friends, our good places) or will we flee to God?

What I think I tend to do is to first seek the comfortable chair, the book, the place of peace … and then, if I think about it, I will talk to God.  And isn’t this our true selves, our true order of events.  Flee first to our mountain and, once we get there, talk to God, maybe?

What would happen if I first sought refuge “in the Lord?”  Would I then need the chair, the book, the drink, the conversation with a friend, the self-analysis?  Perhaps, but then it would be because God led me there and not because I led myself there.

Have you ever fled to your mountain to find that your place of sanctuary was not very helpful, that it did not protect you as well as you thought it would?  How often have we retreated to vacation only to return from vacation unrested?

Perhaps our failure to find true sanctuary, to find true refuge, is because we have it in the wrong order.  We flee first to our mountain and then, maybe, to God.  Instead, we should flee first to God and then, if He says, go find the place of His choosing to rest ourselves.

“In the Lord I take refuge.”  Is this a reality or just a motto?

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Refuge

February 5, 2016


Psalm 5

“…because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against You.  But let all who take refuge in You rejoice…”  Ps. 5:10b-11a

When we use the word “refuge,” a lot of images come to mind.  When a spy “comes in from the cold,” he or she takes refuge in a “safe house.”  A “safe house” is one presumptively impervious to attack, but we who read spy novels know better – because the meanies on the other side know where the “safe house” is and how to break into it, we know that the “safe house” is not really safe at all.  It is only the illusion of refuge for the spy within.  When the spy enters the safe house, we know what will happen in the next chapter and it will not be good.  That person will be driven from his place of perceived refuge back into the cold, real world.

We may also have an image of a place in our home which is armor plated against intrusion.  That place of refuge might be called a “safe room” or maybe even a panic room.  And when the robber comes to the door, we might seek refuge in our internal safe room.  But for those of us who have seen the movie, we know that this “safe room” or “panic room” again provides only the illusion of refuge, because there is always some way for the bad people outside to force their way inside … or trick their way inside.  Because we know that the safe room, if designed right, can only be breached by our own foolishness of leaving it because we think the outside is safe, because we think that the bad person has left.

Then there is the image of the refugee from war or riot or famine who seeks a new life in another place, another country.  Today, it may be the people from Syria seeking refuge in the United States.  Tomorrow it may be Texans seeking refuge in Mexico, or vice versa.  But we know the end of that story, too.  They may find a better life in that new place, but the place of refuge is rarely the Nirvana which it is made out to be by the slick advertisers – instead, it has its own share of troubles, which it is happy to visit upon people seeking refuge there.

We have been talking about physical places of refuge, but there can been emotional places as well.  When we withdraw from the world to read a good book or play a good videogame, we may be seeking refuge in the mindless, in the mind-numbing, because the reality is just too tiring, too depressing, too destructive, too difficult to handle.

The Psalm today really speaks of two places in life.  The first place is within ourselves.  This is the place of self, where David points out that they live “by their own counsels.”  It is these people who David points out have an abundance of transgressions because, in relying upon self, they rebel against God, they say “no” to God.  One might be inclined to say that there is a third place, the place of society or friends or other people, but this would be wrong because all society is, all our friends are, all other people are is a collection of selves.  To the extent that this collection of selves each rely upon themselves, they are occupying the place of self.   have taken refuge in their own strength, in their own knowledge, in their own position and power, in their own wealth, and in their own ability.

The second place we can reside in life is with God.  We can take refuge in Him.  In Him and not ourselves, we can find love, safety, support, power, and position.  But to do it we have to “take refuge” in God.  We have to not seek refuge in ourselves or others, but seek refuge in God.

Where is our place of refuge?  Is it among our belongings, our house, our friends, our achievements, ourselves?  Or is it with God?

I have been somewhat unfair in how I have asked the question, because I have left off the third alternative, which is both.  Isn’t this the answer, really, that we choose most often?  We seek ourselves when that seems appropriate and convenient, and we seek God according to the same criteria.  Or we may take refuge in ourselves most of the time and then, in times of “real” trouble, seek refuge in God.  In so doing, we live in neither place for very long, always wandering and never resting, always looking for refuge and never finding refuge.

Why do we do that?  Do we believe that refuge in God is like refuge in the spy’s safe house, like God’s house can be invaded at will by Satan?  Do we trust God, mostly, but make sure that our own safe room is ready to retreat to when God fails?

We take refuge where we believe we can be protected.

Do you believe God can protect you?  Do you believe He will protect you?

Why do you think Christ died on the cross?

Why, indeed, except to save us, to provide us the place of refuge from the effects of our own sin, to preserve us for eternity.  We sing “A mighty fortress is our God.”  Maybe it should really be “The mighty fortress is our God.”  It should be “the” and not “a” because there is only one place of refuge where we may truly lie down in safety – every other place is only an illusion of safety.

You might think of it this way.  There are two places of refuge.  One is refuge “lite” and the other is refuge “strong.”  Why would you not pick the strong place?   Every time, all the time.

__________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

Bread – Unsafe

July 23, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, July 23, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Joshua 8:30-35; Rom. 14:13-23; Matt. 26:57-68; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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In today’s reading from Joshua, there is the historical recounting of a covenant renewal ceremony between Israel and God, where Israel set up an altar, wrote the Law on the altar, and then had the Book of the Law read to them by Joshua. This occurred with the entirety of Israel (a very large number of people, “half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal.” Joshua 8:33. Considering that the mountains are twenty miles apart, this shows how many people we are talking about.

In and of itself, the description is impressive but conveyed no apparent great theological message (to me)…until I read the ESV study notes which commented “…the curious fact that Israel is able to hold a covenant renewal in Shechem, apparently without having to capture it first.” The place where this great event occurred was not under Israel’s control and was in fact potentially hostile territory. The place they were exercising their obedience to God was in an unsafe place. Even though they were in an unsafe place, they obeyed and worshiped.

As a bookend to this reading, we see Jesus in Matthew before the Sanhedrin, being accused. Peter is watching, sitting with the guards where he can be identified with the crowd rather than his Lord. Although not in today’s reading, we know the very next episode, where Peter is accosted and denies Jesus three times. Peter is in an unsafe place and acts like it; he hides among the unbelievers rather than be identified as Jesus’ follower.

The simple fact is that we, as Christians, live every day in an unsafe place, in the world. When we demonstrate our obedience to Christ, depending upon where we are we may be subject to strange stares, outright questioning and ridicule, loss of promotion at work or loss of the actual job itself, shunning by family and friends, imprisonment (in many places) and injury or death (Iraq and Nigeria come to immediate mind).

So what do we do as Christians when we find ourselves in an unsafe place? Are we bold in our proclamation of who we are in Christ and whose we are? Or are we timid, treating others as more important than we treat God Himself?

If I am honest with this answer, I have to truly say that I am timid more often than bold. Perhaps you find yourself in the same boat.

Why is this? Do we not believe that God is God and has control over the unsafe places as well as the safe? Do we not believe that God can, if He will, save us from the fires of adversity? Do we not believe the promise of eternal salvation, whether we are impoverished, ridiculed, imprisoned, hurt, or murdered?,

The answer is that we, as fallen people saved by grace, do and don’t believe. We are often double-minded, unsure, doubtful.

How do we overcome this? Part of the answer is to understand what Israel was doing between the mountains. They were hearing God’s Word to them, Scripture. We have that opportunity every day to read, study, digest, eat, and understand the reality of God’s involvement in the entirety of history and in our lives. Through this, we can grow in our reliance upon Him and can slowly release our reliance on ourselves and others.

But a major part of the answer is to realize that we had nothing to do with our salvation; God chose us for salvation and He saved us when we could not save ourselves.

I think that when I doubt Christ in an unsafe place, it is because I know myself and I doubt myself … and I know that if my eternity is somehow based upon me, then it rests on a weak foundation. However, when I remember that God saved me in His sovereign will, then there truly is no unsafe place. Why should I be afraid of circumstances or others when I realize that the only person with power in the room is God, and He has already declared me to be His adopted child through Christ?

Now this is truly easy to say and hard to do in specific, unsafe circumstances.

But isn’t it amazing that Christians in many countries will die by the sword rather than renounce Christ? How do they get such strength?

They get such strength because they realize they have none but for what God gives them.

When will we stop being timid in unsafe places? When we stop resting in ourselves and, instead, rest in God. When we stop asking ourselves how we will respond and instead ask ourselves how He will respond. When we take away the words “we” and “I” and substitute the word “Him.”

You will find yourself in an unsafe place today. Will you be timid or bold?

You know, the wonderful truth of the gospel is that, whether we are timid or bold today, God has still saved us. Because He first loved us, we can grow in love of Him. Because He sends us His Holy Spirit, we can stand in the evil day. Because He sends us His Word, we can learn to lean on Him, rest in Him, believe His promises, and grow in strength and maturity.

The fact that we may be timid is no proof that we are not a Christian; it just means that we are learning to walk and talk as a Christian. We are toddlers in the faith. But with the good food of Scripture, relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit strengthened through prayer, and the training of the Holy Spirit, we will grow into the understanding that there are no unsafe places anywhere, anymore.

In Christ, there are no unsafe places, anywhere, anymore. Think about it. And then live like it.

_______________

© 2014 GBF

Bread — Sanctuary

May 15, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, May 15, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Ezek. 11:14-25; Heb. 7:1-17; Luke 10:17-24; Psalms 101,109,119:121-144

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From today’s reading from the prophet Ezekiel – “Though I removed them [Israel] far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the in the countries where they have gone.” Ezek. 11:16

Paraphrased, “Even though I [God] have taken you from your place of comfort and safety and transported you to a place you would not have chosen for yourself, and even though you are in trouble there, yet I remain a sanctuary to and for you, even in that place.”

Don’t you just love the image of sanctuary? A place in the midst of the storms of life, while we are in physical, economic, or emotional prison, stripped to the bare essentials – a place of rest, peace, safety and restoration – a sanctuary. A place where we can escape to in the midst of our harried lives. Is it any wonder that we often want to stay in the place of sanctuary once we have found it. Just let me hide O Lord! Just let me rest! Just let me take up residence under Your wing!

There is a phrase within our reading today that portends a shorter stay in sanctuary than we would want. That phrase is “for a while,” which can also be translated “in small measure.”

So God provides us sanctuary in small measure as we need it; enough sanctuary that we can rest and be restored but not so much that we disengage from the world where He has placed us.

Which is why the reading from Ezekiel is not enough. Yes, God provides us sanctuary. But He also provides us the ability to persevere in the evil day, fully exposed to its harshness and wickedness. In Hebrews today we read that Christ is a High Priest who powerfully intercedes for us all the time before the Father. In Luke we read about the power given to us by the Holy Spirit to overcome evil, all the while reminding us that we should not be glad to have power, but glad that our names are “written in heaven.” Lk. 10:20. In Psalm 109 we read that God also stands beside us, at our right hand, to save us from those who would condemn us.

God provides us sanctuary, He empowers us, He saves us, He provides us a great high priest to pray for us and to intercede for us, He stands beside us, He enables us to walk to integrity.

Sanctuary is not just a place but also a state of mind. It is not only a place for the body but a place for the soul. It is not only earthly, it is heavenly. It is no-where when we seek sanctuary; it is everywhere when seek God first.

Are you in the midst of exile or fear or hopelessness? God stands at your right hand. Sanctuary is close. Love is closer. See it, take it, live in it.

____________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Refuge

August 27, 2012


Readings for Monday, August 27 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 4:1, 5:1-11, 17-21, 26-27; Acts 9:19b-31; John 6:52-59; Psalms 1, 2, 3, 4, 7

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With talk of hurricanes and bad weather, thoughts turn to places of refuge, of shelter from the storm. Every one of our readings today describe the place where we may find such protection.

In Psalm 1, this place of refuge is a place of strength, built upon God’s law, His rules and regulations for our lives. “He [the person whose delight is in God’s law] is like a tree planted by streams of water…In all that he does, he prospers.” Ps. 1:3

In Psalm 2, this place of refuge is a place of blessing, built upon God’s favor. “Kiss the Son … Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” Ps. 2:12

In Psalm 3, this place of refuge is a place of protection, built upon God’s saving acts. “But You, Oh Lord, are a shield about me … Salvation belongs to the Lord; …” Ps. 3:3,8

In Psalm 4, this place of refuge is a place of peace, built upon God’s sovereign will. “But know the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself; … In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Ps. 4:3,8

In Psalm 7, this place of refuge is a place of forgiveness, built upon God’s righteousness. “O Lord my God, in You do I take refuge … I will give to the Lord the thanks due to His righteousness…” Ps. 7:1,17

In Job, this place of refuge is a place of restoration, built upon God’s mercy. “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves … For He wounds, but He binds up; He shatters, but His hands heal. He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven no evil shall touch you. In famine He will redeem you from death, …” Job 5:17-20

In Acts, this place of refuge is a place of fearlessness, built upon God’s truth. In this reading from Acts, Saul (Paul) proclaims the name of Jesus boldly and every time ends up in controversy and trouble, but escapes. He has no fear because he is grounded in God’s truth and in the reality of Jesus Christ.

In John, this place of refuge is in Jesus Christ Himself, built upon His being the bread of life.

A place of strength, of blessing, of protection, of peace, of forgiveness, of restoration, of fearlessness – a place of refuge. Who would not want to go to such a place? Who would not want to run to such a place?

That place is Jesus. Go. Run.

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Castles

February 24, 2012


Readings for Friday, February 24, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Ezek. 18:1-4, 25-32; Phil. 4:1-9; John 17:9-19; Psalms 31, 35, 95

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From our reading today in Psalm 31 – “Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe…” Ps. 31:3 (1979 BCP). “For thou art my strong rock and my castle…” Ps. 31:4 (BCP 1928). “Be my rock of refuge, a fortress of defense to save me.” Ps. 31:2b (NKJV). “Be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.” Ps. 31:2b (NIV).

Castles are cool. Which little boy has not dreamed of being Sir _____, dressed in chain mail, the cross of Christ on his breastplate, sword in hand, on the parapet with flags waiving, ready to fend off the dragon or the evil hordes assaulting the walls?

But who has not also seen the interior of the castle, far from the sun, where the weary king sits on the throne, tired, bitter, torn between one last stand and surrender, at a loss for what to do next, imprisoned by his hopeless and inability to think or decide. Who has not witnessed in the stories the dark advisers, feeding the king lies of defeat, whispering loss into his ear, encouraging death and defeat, urging “Give up, Give up?”

Castles can be places of strong defense, of mighty deeds, of lofty vision, full of light and life. Castles can be the place of dungeons and death, dark and dreadful.

So, what predicts which one, which conclusion, which vision we are talking or thinking about? Well the first question we might ask is who built it, man or God? Actually, God does not even need to build it. According to Psalm 31, He is a castle, a strong fortress to keep us safe. If we abide in Him and He in us, we already live in a castle. Because it is a castle not made by man, it cannot fail, it cannot be overtaken by the dragon or the hordes, there are no dungeons and places of darkness. It is a place of refuge and protection, and it is not a prison. It is strong. It is durable. It is forever. None of its stones will be torn down. In God’s castle, we do not need to look to ourselves to defend the parapet because God’s army is in residence and mighty to save.

A second question we might ask is where is righteousness found? In our reading from Ezekiel today, we learn that a righteous man lives whereas a man who sins dies. Ezek. 18:3-24. Elsewhere in the Bible we learn that if we say we are without sin (and therefore righteous), “we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 Jn. 1:8. Righteousness is found in God and not in man. The place of righteousness is in Jesus Christ, the castle built by His hands, and not in us and not in the castle built by us.

There is a time in all of our lives where we are in the day of desolation, of destitution, of profound loss, of deep worry, of doubt and confusion, of depression, of loss and impending doom. This is not the end of days predicted by Scripture, but as far as we are concerned it might as well be. In the world cataclysm at the end of days, we are advised by God to flee to a place of safety. That advice works well for us to in our personal cataclysm. And where do we flee? To Christ, to God, to the castle, to the strong fortress, under the protection of the Most High.

Earlier in this writing I described a picture of a tired king, lost in his musings, with evil advisers by his side whispering loss and defeat into a mind and soul already feeling defeated. What is wrong with this picture?

What is wrong with this picture is the identity of the king on the throne. Is it you or is it God? Is it your friends or is it God? Is it your pastor or teacher or boss or leader or is it God?

The key to the effectiveness of the castle is who sits on the throne. When we say we have fled to God’s castle but somehow we are still assaulted, we are still defensive, we are still at a loss, we might ask ourselves are we really in God’s castle, where He is on the throne, or are we in a castle which we call God’s, but where it is really we or some other person who sits on the throne.

There is a strong place of safety, a fortress in times of need and plenty. A place of safety in all circumstances. That castle is God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Flee to it.

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