City of Refuge

God is our refuge and our strength! David, more than anyone else in the Bible, professes this nature of God again and again. God is his provider, hiding place, shelter. He is his R E F U G E.

Before David experienced this, God designed an infrastructure of the Cities of Refuge through Moses and Joshua (Deut 19). These real cities are sprinkled across Israel, and all about a day’s journey from the different areas of God’s people. It’s fascinating to learn all of the purposes and plans for these cities – from the Israelites to the foreigners, to what the city leaders were required to do. Hosting a refugee was no small feat. But the most important component of these Cities of Refuge, is that they highlight God’s heart for true justice. He provides a safe place for those being chased and persecuted unfairly (giving the example of unintentional murderers), until the situation can be evaluated and judged. God makes a way for fairness over quick revenge, for everyone.

A couple of things stand out to me about these cities. First, the responsibility was on the accused to get to the safe place. They had to seek out and travel to the City of Refuge. It wasn’t enough that it existed. It wasn’t enough that there was a law that said they should get a chance to be fairly judged. And the leaders of the location the person committed the crime weren’t  required to transport them. They had to seek refuge as an individual. It was up to them to flee and get to safety.

What does my seeking after the Lord look like, in times of distress? Is it active and focused? Am I running to the Lord first, as diligently as I can?

The other thing that stands out to me is the host leaders of the Cities of Refuge. This put a lot on them to be prepared, to host the refugee, protect the wanted man, and provide for him. People would stop what they had going on when a refugee would arrive. It wasn’t always convenient. They may have worried about having enough for their own family, let alone provide for this stranger. They may have been concerned of the character of this person. There had to be a lot of things, perceived or real, that gave them pause when these situations arose.

What’s stopping me from providing for others that are seeking fair treatment? What are excuses I use to turn a blind eye to injustices around me?

I love this example that God outlined for us! He didn’t only rescue his people from Egypt (where they were being unfairly used and abused)… he then used the people to set up rescue centers for others. To whom much has been given, much is required. The Israelites knew too well of being treated unfairly – what better group to provide for others being potentially wrongly punished?

What trials has God delivered me from, that I can in turn support others in?

While we may not be hunted or wrongly accused for intentional murder, we may have:

        • Made a big mistake at work and had a boss that owned it on our behalf
        • Had a friend growing up whose family took us in and invested in us when we needed it.
        • Had financial help when tight on cash and in a bind.

God is such a faithful refuge!

I’m thankful for this example of the Cities of Refuge. What a beautiful foreshadowing for us and our sin. He is our refuge from ourselves! He gives us time to seek him, work out our salvation and be judged by Him.

Don’t be caught by the enemy – race as fast as you can to our perfect Refuge!

Prince of Peace

Five months ago, I began reflecting on the God of Peace, and shared my heart in a Bible Journal entry. It was the end of March and the world seemed to be looking for peace. The unknowns of the pandemic brought so much fear and anxiety into the world. The timing of that assignment was a blessing for me to pause and focus on the God of Peace.

Four months later and I have the focus of Jesus as our Prince of Peace. Pretty fitting, considering that we are in such a place of unrest and on so many levels, beyond the pandemic. But we have the perfect Son, in the form of a Prince, from the lineage of the King of All Kings, that can provide us perfect peace. Even in the storms.

What corners of your world need more peace? Do you need to be free from the worries and stress of this world? Or do you have relationships that need peace? Jesus, alone, can restore all relationships:

        • Our relationship with God.
        • Our relationship with man.

Jesus reconciles us to God, makes us righteous so we can dwell with the father for eternity. His saving grace provides this path to wholeness and peace with the father.

Jesus heals the wounds and pain of sin. This healing is what allows reconciliation with man. Without the healing, we can forgive, but it requires Jesus’ healing power for true restoration and reconciliation. Our Prince of Peace, Jesus, can do that!

Many of you know my marriage went through some dark storms. For a long period of time I did not see healing, reconciliation or restoration as part of our story.

The Lord used that time to do a major work in my heart and in my husband’s heart. We had a lot of people praying for healing, restoration, and reconciliation, even when I couldn’t pray that prayer myself. There were many days that I was too exhausted, wounded, and angry to do any more work on the marriage. Thank you, Jesus, for interceding on our behalf!

Just as Jesus heals our physical bodies, he heals us spiritually and emotionally. Have you experienced this? For me, he brought so much healing to my heart, that I couldn’t accomplish on my own. And believe me, I tried to white knuckle my way through, on my own. I realized that my fake version of “getting by” wasn’t true healing, and wasn’t bringing any peace. And while healing and peace looks different for each person, for me it eventually led to healing in my marriage. The path to peace was different than I imagined, but that’s one of the things I love about the Lord: His ways are greater than mine.

I also learned in this season that peace isn’t the absence of conflict or living in some blissful state of harmony. Ultimately, it’s having confidence that I am His, and He is mine. God with us – and living in us! At the end of the day, month, year, and lifetime, I am HIS and made whole through Jesus. He’s got me and will lead me home for eternity, and THAT is complete peace.

If you’re in the middle of a life storm, you can trust Jesus to bring you peace. Whether you need comfort to walk you through, grace and forgiveness of sin, or healing in relationships. You can trust Him to lead you to peace!

What are your personal testimonies of peace, that can only be attributed to Jesus, as our Prince of Peace?

Pasture

Pasture. What a peaceful concept. God calls himself our Pasture, in Jeremiah’s prophesy of Judah being reunited after the fall of Babylon. God’s people were led astray, away from their true Pasture, the Lord, and they had been devoured. Unprotected. Without hope. The Babylonians even gave that as the justification for the plundering and devastation – you were the ones that were led astray by your own leaders and abandoned your Pasture, your true habitation.

But God.

Despite our wandering away from his hope-filled pasture, He comes and rescues us. Again and again.

And his pasture is beautiful. It’s wonderful. It’s sanctifying. He wants to protect us, care for us, give us hope. His pasture is so comforting because he is with us!

And yet, we wander.  Like the old hymn depicts, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love”.

Where do you wander?

I recently celebrated a birthday, which brought some really sweet well wishes from people that spanned different seasons of life. It was fun (and humbling!) to go back in time and think through how the Lord has been my Deliverer. My Pasture.

In my teens, I wandered right into parties and relationships I had no business being part of. I remember thinking “I will just go for a little bit”. Or, “I will just go and make good choices”. Riiiiiiiight. And the Lord had so much more for me! He had sweet fellowship and integrity for me, when I was choosing the opposite.

In my twenties, when I was so focused on starting my career and saving money, I would wander into coveting the next job. I found myself thinking about the next opportunity, instead of focusing on the one right in front of me. Who did God have for me to love? Who did I not invest in, during the seasons I was looking at the next rung on the ladder, instead of the people around me?

My thirties… oh the decade of spending too much time in the wrong pasture of worry and words. But the Lord is so faithful to call me back. To show me that He’s got a plan. Stay in his pasture of hope, stop wandering over to Worry Hill. And the words… I learned some lessons with words in my thirties, and how to avoid the pastures of gossip, and steer clear of pastures that create fire coming from my mouth. God is my Pasture, full of words that are true, lovely, and pure.

As I spend time in my forties, I know my heart will have moments of wandering, and I know our faithful God will draw me back. I’m focusing on “staying in my own lane” as one of my faith mentors has encouraged. God’s pasture is such a joyful, restful place to be, why would I ever get distracted, lost, or wander? Here’s to letting go of my “fix-it” tendencies and trading them for following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

What about you, where do you wander?  Is he calling you back to his Pasture today?

 

1. Jeremiah 50:7 
2. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson, 1758

In Jesus’ Name We Pray

Have you ever thought of prayers that close with “In Jesus’ Name We Pray, Amen”?  Maybe you close your own prayers that way.

I have to confess that sometimes thoughtful traditions become habits, and there are times that I miss the meaning in the moment of routine. When I stop and really think of these words at the end of my prayer, it’s an awesome reminder that:

          • God is in control
          • Jesus has the power, not us
          • To him be the glory
          • We want our heart and will to be aligned to the Father’s
          • Jesus is our intercessor
          • His name is above all names

When we truly believe in the power that Jesus’ name carries, we call on Him and know he is able. He is able to comfort. He is able to heal. He is able to meet us where we are. He is able to forgive. He is able to change us. He is all powerful, and his name is above all other names. Philippians 2:9-10 tells us:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

So Jesus’ name is above any other name, and there is POWER in his name! The New Testament is filled with examples of disciples praying and doing miracles in Jesus’ name, with faith, and then times when they weren’t. The results were very different. John 14:14, John 16:23-24, 1 John 5:13-15, Acts 19:13-16

This is an awesome encouragement for me to slow down and think about what I’m saying and what’s truly in my heart. What am I really asking for? What are my motives? Do I believe God will answer my prayer? Am I requesting Jesus’ power, by calling on his name?

As we are called to be more Christ-like, studying who he is will help us identify areas of growth. These daily attributes and names of God are amazing!

Jesus was named with the Hebrew origin meaning Jehovah / Yahweh Saves, or God Rescues. This name, chosen by God, is over every other name. And we have access to his power by calling on his name – wow! And when we call on his name, we are declaring that the power is his. The glory is His. None of it is ours! 

Do you have a situation that needs the power of Jesus to intervene? Approach God in faith, knowing and believing that Jesus’ name is above all. Say his name out loud!

Majesty on High

Majesty on High

The past couple of days we’ve been talking about majesty. BJ described the majestic glory of Jesus and Jon shared the power and majesty of God’s holiness. Today we come to Hebrews 1:3,

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

When I picture Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, as the Majesty on High, I can’t help but think of God as the righteous and perfect judge. Maybe the English words of “your majesty” as a royal title, conjure up thoughts of power and ruling over people. But God is the Majesty on High. The ruler over all the rulers. The most perfect judge. Mind-blowing wisdom.

The past few weeks have been especially heavy for our nation. For our world. What a testimony to our need for the most perfect ruler. The righteous judge with perspective, truth, and love. As we individually play judge and jury to things on this earth, we have a Majesty On High that can judge without bias. God approaches us without fear or prejudice. He doesn’t shy away from deep wounds. He provides a process of repentance and redemption through Jesus.

As I’ve been evaluating and reflecting on my own contributions to the real problem of racism and inequality, I definitely have gaps between my heart and my judgement, compared to the Lord’s perfect ways.  I’m praying for more areas of my life to be brought to light that need cleansing, repentance, and healing. Where do I have callouses? What unfounded opinions and beliefs do I hold? What generational sin am I making my own? When have I been silent where words were needed? When I have I spoken out when my silence was needed? Cleanse me, Lord! I need you, the Majesty on High, to rule in every corner of my heart.

Lily of the Valley

Last week, my kiddos picked this bunch of flowers and surprised me. Lily of the valleys have a beautiful smell and their white dainty petals are just so pretty.

About 30 minutes later, the lily of the valley bouquet became a perfect visual. The fun and joy took a turn when they ate some candy they knew they weren’t supposed to and were overcome with guilt. The Holy Spirit prompted them to be honest and confess…oh to be 10 and 7, and have the guilt of snuck candy! Can you remember some of those moments in your youth? My oldest was wrecked, feeling like she led her younger brother into the sin, and she felt awful and couldn’t quite shake it.

The beautiful bunch of flowers was a great reminder of Jesus’ saving grace, and how he cleanses us, white just like the lilies. Song of Solomon 2:1 is a foreshadowing of Jesus, being called the Lily of the Valley, and wow, are there parallels to this beautiful flower and our beautiful savior. Jesus, like the lily, bears much fruit and shows us how to be fruitful. When I was looking into other scriptures that talk about the lily of the valley, I found that historically these flowers were also called the ‘ladder to heaven’.  The way the buds are layered on the stem makes them appear to be stacked like a ladder, and how fitting that the flower that Jesus is identified with, is also the way to heaven.

Jesus is white and pure, and he wants nothing more than to save us from our sin and cleanse us. He wants us to be clothed in white and free from the darkness of sin. The bright white color of the lily shows his purity and righteousness.

Your sin might look different than mine, and different than sneaking candy… but in God’s eyes, sin is all the same – separation from him and his ways. We like to categorize sin on earth, based on our morals, based on the consequences they bring… sometimes we measure sin like we do skyscrapers – by assigning a size. But God looks down at skyscrapers and they all look the same from his vantage point.

The lies, the stealing candy, the gossip, the pride… it’s all unrighteousness that he wants to forgive and free us from. He wants us to walk in light and be made white and pure. I’m so glad he made a way for us to do this and to free our hearts and minds of the weight of sin! To have everlasting life through believing in Jesus and confessing him as Lord.

Do you feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit to confess sin in your life? Will you allow Jesus to cleanse your heart and make it white like the lily of the valley?

Kind, Kind Father

Luke 6:27-36

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

He is Kind to the ungrateful.

Am I kind to the ungrateful? Or do I mostly love those that love me back? Do I extend mercy to others, the same mercy that God extends to me? When I think of the mercy he has shown me, wow. He is a kind, kind Father. 

This week’s passage challenged me, and I spent time taking inventory of my relationships (especially the tough ones), and what they would look like if my kindness matched our Father’s.

The world says “fake it till you make it”…I have a friend that says Faith It Till You Feel It. What a great approach to showing kindness to those that can’t repay it, blessing those that say bad things about us, or praying for those that mistreat us. We can take that step in faith to show love and kindness, and ask God to change our hearts, the situation, all of it. C.S. Lewis says it this way in his book, Mere Christianity: Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

A lot of relationships are complex and need help, healing, and boundaries. A small act of kindness can be a place to start. It won’t fix everything, but it just might align our hearts to be more like the Lord’s.

God With Us

Taking us back a few decades to Dances With Wolves and the Native American named Stands With A Fist. I’ve always loved that movie, and wondered, if we had literal names, what would they be? Ask your family, see what they come up with as your name. Get ready for some laughs!

    • Laughs Too Hard
    • Drinks All The Coffee

I looked up some names from the Sioux tribe and loved some of these!

    • Wears A Red Shirt
    • Friend to Everyone
    • Chief When Child

Can you imagine calling your son for supper, “Hey, WEARS A RED SHIRT, TIME TO EAT!”

And that’s exactly what was happening in Jesus’s day. It was foretold in Isaiah that the virgin will bear a son and he will be called Immanuel, which literally means “God With Us”. While this type of literal naming was common then, I wonder what the friends and family of Jesus thought of calling him God With Us. So there’s God the creator, and this is God With Us. We picture this a lot of times at the birth of Jesus, and it leaves me thinking of his early life beyond birth – was he directly called God With Us, as a name?

It’s pretty amazing that God knows exactly what his people needed – and he provides for them. God created community. We are made in his image to desire community. He provided God in the flesh to walk with us, give us an example, show us how to avoid temptation, turn the other cheek, and so many other life lessons. But then after leaving his glory in heaven, spending time on earth, he became a sacrifice for us – so we can be reunited with God the Father! And it doesn’t end there. He defeats the grave and because of his resurrection we have life! And if Jesus is God With Us, then I like to think of the Holy Spirit as God In Us. God sent us a helper to literally live inside of us, guide us, comfort us.

My prayer for each one of us is that we will feel God with us – the Holy Spirit living inside of us. He isn’t a distant God, but a God that walks with us, guides us, and brings peace by His presence. Take a moment and jot down where you experienced God with you this week.

Two days ago, my kids and I were on a run (gotta love E-learning PE!) and a downpour seemed to come out of nowhere. And shortly after, the most vibrant, complete rainbow appeared. I couldn’t think of a better example for my kids to see his faithfulness in that moment. We were soaked, ready to be home, and then, WOW, such a beautiful surprise and reminder. We have storms in this life – and He will always be with us through them. His promises are true and he is good.

(photo credit, Sharon O’Shea)

This weekend, how can we recognize his closeness? Is there time we can carve out to hear the God Inside Us? Are there some areas of our heart we can clear and make room?

 

Hiding Place

You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for your word. Psalm 119:114

Hiding place.

In times of hiding, we may experience confusion, fear, doubt, sorrow, anger, loneliness, and so many other emotions. David provides us an awesome example of praising God while he is being protected and waiting.

As as our hearts are on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, I have to wonder about Saturday. Where were all of his followers? Some scattered? Some together? Hiding? What emotions were they experiencing? Were they recounting Jesus’s words of his resurrection? Fearful of what may happen to them next? Mark 16tells us that they had unbelief. Were they confused that Jesus didn’t perform a miracle on the cross and remove himself? Angry at Judas, or even themselves? Luke records that they were all together after the crucifixion. I picture them sitting around a table, in a secret back room, recounting and piecing together his every word and having some “ah ha” moments.

I’m guessing that their hearts and minds were swirling, likely feeling a need for protection and their souls to be comforted, unsure of what to think or do next.

Do you long for your heart to be comforted and are you seeking protection right now? Are you experiencing some of those same emotions during this time of quarantining? From David, to the disciples of Christ, to us today, we all long for the perfect Hiding Place. And God is a great provider!

This Easter will be different for most of us. The church building will be empty – but we can still celebrate that the tomb is empty! Jesus defeated the grave and He is alive! With hearts full and in our homes of protection, we can cheer, sing, and praise the victory over death!

As we “shelter in place” this weekend (and beyond), let’s do it with grateful hearts like David, praising God for who He is. Our protector, our hiding place, our shield. There’s no place I’d rather be than hidden by the Lord.

Echoing Jon’s invitation yesterday, if you don’t have a home church with online services available, please join us this Easter. Gather your household together around your computer and let the miracle of Jesus bring you grace, healing, and peace.  https://www.eastviewonline.church/live-stream

Happy Easter to each of you!

God of Peace

As we explore the God of Peace together today, what comes to your mind with the word peace? Take some time and think about how you would define peace.

In English, the word “peace” conjures up a passive picture, one showing an absence of civil disturbance or hostilities, or a personality free from internal and external strife. The biblical concept of peace is larger than that and rests heavily on the Hebrew root slm, which means “to be complete” or “to be sound,” according to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.

This definition makes me think of words like Perfect. Whole. Righteous.

What does peace feel like to you? Physically? Close your eyes and think about what God’s peace feels like.

I feel a huge inhale and an audible exhale. A release of every muscle and tissue. Hands open. Eyes closing and letting go of the clutter in my mind. An overwhelming sense of calm and perfection. A smile across my face and sun shining down and warming me.

I believe we are created in God’s image, with a desire for peace, a searching for His wholeness to consume us. One day we will be made perfect and live completely whole in His peace. Can you imagine it?!

Are you currently in a season of searching and seeking peace?  Ready to give up the worries and anxiety that we are surrounded by? I don’t know what is stealing your peace today, but lately I know I need:

        • His steadiness for my spiraling
        • His shield for my storm
        • His strength for my struggle
        • His saving grace for my sin
        • His sovereignty for my self-reliance
        • His sanctification for my shortcomings

In order to have more of His peace, I need to draw closer to Him and His ways. I loved Jon’s encouragement yesterday to Cry Out to the I AM! He will rescue us with His peace – the world can’t offer anything close!

Our God isn’t just the author of peace – He also tells us how to have His peace in our life. He wants us to live fully in His peace and He tells us how to do it! Do you believe – truly believe – that living with God’s peace in your heart, is a choice? Do you believe that you can choose to have more peace in your life? His word tells us it’s true, will you join me in clinging to this truth and choosing peace? Let’s start together, today!

When scriptures tell us to “let” something occur, I like to replace that with “allow”. Let’s do our part in all of this ALLOWING:

Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.  John 14

Let the peace of God rule in your heart. Col. 3:15

Think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, worthy of praise…and then the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:8

When you break down piece by piece and put Phil 4:5-7, in your on words, we learn that because God is working, we have no reason to be anxious:

God is here! Pray with gratefulness and ask our Father to meet our needs. His peace – which is greater than anything we can even understand – His peace will protect our hearts and our minds – in Jesus!

Rejoice, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances… hold fast to what is good and abstain from evil, and the God of peace will sanctify you. 1 Thess 5:16-23

Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with another, live in peace. 2 Cor 13:11

Those that love your law, have great peace. Psalm 119:165

The Bible is full of instructions on how to have His peace in your world, while living here in this world. Make your own list of actionable steps from scripture, to have more of God’s peace. I’d love to hear what scriptures have helped you have more peace. The more we spend in His word, focus on Him and what He has for us, the less we focus on ourselves and the unrest of this world.

I will leave you with this final beautiful picture from Isaiah 55:

“For you shall go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall break forth into singing,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.