Where Do You Go?

Today’s readings are Daniel 7-9, Psalm 91, and John 19.

We read in John 19 where the people denied Jesus was their king, and they wanted Him to be crucified (John 19:6-7, John 19:15). Just one week earlier in John 12, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people shouted in John 12:13, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” What a difference one week can make! Even back then without traditional media or social media..the rise and fall from the top can happen quickly, and even for the Son of God. Today, we see this all the time. Coaches win a couple championships and are treated like a king until they have a couple bad years and suddenly everyone thinks he can’t coach anymore. A quarterback wins a Super Bowl or two, but then he has a tough year and everyone says he’s washed up and is calling for last year’s draft pick to take over. An actress makes a lot of great movies, but then has a bad one or two and suddenly she’s lost it and people are saying she has a troubled marriage and troubled kids, whether it’s true or not.

You and I may not be in the national or international public spotlight, but we can likely relate in some way. You were a top athlete in high school and then you go to college and you no longer play sports and you are just one of forty thousand other “regular students.” You were the rising young star in your company and now you seem to have peaked in your position, they’ve moved on the next possible future CEO, or worse yet were let go from the company. You had what you hoped would be the perfect marriage, but it didn’t work out and now the rumor mill is swirling with mistruths about what happened. Many will experience a time in the spotlight or a time when things were going well that changes in one way or another. It could just be from retirement. People either aren’t telling you how great you are any more, or even worse, they are turning against you and gossiping mistruths.

I love pairing these verses with the other part of our reading today, Psalm 91. Please take a few minutes to read this quick chapter.

Here are the first twelve verses.

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge[a]
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.

My question for you today is, where do you go? Where is your shelter? If you are in your prime so to speak and things are going great, is your affirmation from the social media “likes” or the “atta boy” and “atta girls” you are getting in emails and at the last company meeting? Please take caution and prepare yourself that you won’t be at the top forever because things will change, if not due to unfortunate circumstances, then due to age or time. We must go to Him and His word now for affirmation, even before it seems necessary. If you are reading this and you have been at the top, but now you are not..where are you going for shelter and comfort from all the noise? Are you going to drugs or alcohol? Are you going to a bad relationship? Or are you still trying get affirmation from all the social media “likes” and followers? All of these medicines to treat or mask the pain will be temporary. Ephesians 6:12 tells us we are fighting against spiritual forces, not powers of this world. However, we read Psalm 91:11 tells us when we take shelter in Him, “He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” How cool is that?!

Let us seek our refuge in Him and Him alone. And let those of us who have children teach them to do the same.

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!

Faith and Decision Making

Are there any big and generally permanent decisions that you made in the past that at the time seemed like a good and sound decision, but now you wonder if it was the right decision? This is not referring to situations that have gone horribly wrong as a result of a string of poor choices. This is about decisions that were made where it was quite clear that the outcome was far beyond your control. Brainstorming on a few of these types of examples:

  1. Attending one university as opposed to another.
  2. The city and state in which you live.
  3. Having a child start kindergarten at the earliest or holding him or her back a year.

We made the decision to have our son Peyton start school at age five instead of waiting another year. From an early age Peyton was curious about the world around him and had an affinity for mathematics. He loved preschool and was always eager to attend. We did not have constant prayer over this decision, nor did we sense divine inspiration. It was a big decision and it seemed like a “no brainer” at the time.

With Peyton now in sixth grade, Amy and I recently reflected back on this decision and recognized some of the impacts such as athletics, social skills, and academic achievement. If we see a negative impact now, should that cause us to doubt our decision? Granted, in some situations it is absolutely appropriate to hold a child back a year while in the middle of grade school. I’m talking about those shreds of doubt, the “what if” situations.

This topic is a wonderful opportunity to rely on our faith. If we lacked faith in an all-knowing, loving God, I truly believe we would be dwelling on this topic day and night, perhaps with regret, worry, and maybe even blame. We might ask, “what if his life is a struggle because he started school too early?” or ” will he be okay with sports, academics, and socially?”

It is in our hands to love our kids and abide in the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we lead our family, but we need not worry because God has it all. God knows the past, present and future. He knows Peyton. He has a plan; may his will be done. This is one of the many benefits of having faith. God didn’t make us to worry, he made us to worship him, to look to him, to honor him, to take refuge in him, to have relationship with him, and for that I am so thankful.

You came near when I called on you;
  you said, ‘Do not fear!’ (Lamentations 3:57)

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
  and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)

1 Samuel 18; Romans 16; Lamentations 3; Psalm 34