Surrounded 

Psalms 118:12
“They surrounded me like bees; They were quenched like a fire of thorns; For in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.”

A few years ago I was part of an outreach in a remote area of northern Ghana. One afternoon a few of us went for a walk along a path that led us to the small river that skirted the village. As we weaved our way through the bush we were suddenly confronted with an odd buzzing sound. At first it was difficult to discern exactly where it was coming from, that is, until, we made our way past a large tree and the obscure noise suddenly made sense. We had inadvertently walked right beside a large bee hive. We could now see what was making all that noise. We immediately turned and began to run as fast as our legs would take us. As we ran a friend reminded us of the B-budget movie from the 70’s about a  swarm of killer African bees that attacked unsuspecting people. All we could think of was to run for a body of water to dive into and escape. 

Fortunately, we escaped unharmed and were able to laugh about our close encounter with the dangers of wild Africa. Apparently,  the psalmist had some bee experiences of his own that he reflected upon when times got tough. He speaks of his trials surrounding him like a swarm of bees. It does not take personal experience to know that this would create chaos, confusion and fatigue. While we may not all have been chased by bees, we can all speak of times when difficulties mounted up against us and made life almost unbearable and all we could think of was how to escape.  During those times it is important to remember that the mercy of God endures forever and that He wants to come to our aid and to provide us with comfort for the difficulty and ultimately deliverance from our struggles. 

If life is like a swarm of bees turning your world upside down, remember that there is a secret place of the most high where you can hide and find comfort, protection and deliverance. 

Jim 

Walking In The Dark

Isaiah 50:10
“Who walks in darkness and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God.”


Life can be confusing. There are times when it seems as though we are walking in darkness and it is very difficult to navigate our way. These dark times can be caused by illness, the loss of a loved one, having a prodigal child, or a host of other hardships. Fortunately, Isaiah was no stranger to difficulty, and writes to give us assistance as we make our way through the struggles we are facing.

“Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God.”

Isaiah uses two verbs to describe the action we should take when we do not know how to handle the things we are facing.

First, he says we are to “Trust in the name of The Lord”. The word trust can mean to believe, depend on or put confidence in. This particular word also could be used to speak of a place to hide for refuge from a storm or attack. What is alluded to, is the name of the Lord is like a bomb shelter, during the greatest trials of life. Not long ago, I was in a bomb shelter, and found it was not only a place of security, but was stocked with everything necessary to sustain life until the attack was over. No matter what we face, we can hide away in the name of the Lord.

Second, he writes we should rely upon God. The word rely means to support yourself, as you would if you had an injury and needed a crutch or a cane. The idea is, the difficulties we face are too much for us and we need assistance. What a wonderful thing it is to know we can always lean upon the Lord.

No matter what you are facing, don’t try to make it through on your own. Instead, look to God who loves you and sent His Son to die for you. He wants to help you navigate through the journey of life, even in the darkest parts.

Pastor Jim

Shelter

Psalm 57:1
“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by.”

No matter where we live, we are faced with the storms of life. Growing up in California, I was constantly reminded of the great earthquake that was looming on the horizon. We were told that because of the fault lines, one day California would fall into the sea. Upon moving to Florida, the new fear was the hurricane. A few years back, a particularly large hurricane had developed in the warm waters of the South Atlantic. The atmospheric conditions were such to allow this storm to grow larger and larger as it traveled north. All of the models had it making landfall just outside of my home town. Having never experienced a hurricane before, I was glued to the Weather Channel for information. A hurricane this large had never been tracked before; it was larger than the state of Texas, and had wind speeds over 140 mph. People up and down the coast of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina were heading west for safety. One news station reported that hotels, as far as Kentucky were filling up, as people searched for a safe place in the storm. I felt stuck. I did not know where to go. In a last-minute decision, we drove across the state and stayed with friends, figuring though we might not be avoiding the storm, at least we would have the comfort of going through it together. Fortunately, the storm moved north, missing Florida all together, and reducing in size drastically as it met cooler waters. I came to the realization,  no matter where we live, we are faced with the storms of life, and must determine where we will run for safety.

David, facing the calamities of a wicked king seeking to destroy his life, fled to the Caves of Adullum. However, it was not the security of this hidden cave that comforted him. Instead, he writes, “And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge.” True peace will only come when we make the Lord our hiding place. Scripture is filled with invitations to come to Him, no matter what storms we are facing, and find safety, rest, peace and even guidance.

“. . . casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

“Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”  Psalm 55:22

Will you make the shadow of His wings your hiding place today?

Pastor Jim

 

City Of Refuge

Joshua 20:5
“Then if the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not deliver the slayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unintentionally, but did not hate him beforehand.”

Many of the cities throughout Israel were designated as “Cities of Refuge.” This meant, if a person accidentally caused the death of another, he could flee to one of these cites for protection from the revenge of the victim’s devastated family. The rules governing these cities were simple. If death was caused accidentally, the guilty could flee to the city, and remain safe within its borders, until the death of the reigning High Priest. After his death, the crime was completely forgiven and the individual was free to return to his normal life. This law was designed to curb vengeance, but also serves as a picture for us of the work of Christ.

The Bible declares, there is a haven where the guilty sinner can run, in order to hide from the vengeance of God. That place is in Christ. We are told, all our sins are covered by His blood, and because of the cross, we will not face the judgment of God. Just like the Cities of Refuge, the death of Christ, our High Priest, provides complete atonement for sin. Unlike the Cities of Refuge, we can hide in Christ for accidental, as well as deliberate sins.

No matter what we have done wrong, we can flee to Christ and be forgiven. As we hide in Him, the wrath of God is appeased, and we are given a brand new start.

Come to Christ today. Ask Him to forgive you of your sin, and to transform your life. There is life found in Jesus you will never find anywhere else.

Pastor Jim

 

City Of Refuge

Deuteronomy 19:2
“. . . you shall separate three cities for yourself in the midst of your land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.”

Deuteronomy is a compound word meaning “Second Law”, and is a recap of the instructions Moses gave to the first generation of believers who had been delivered from Egypt.  Forty years have passed and a new generation has arisen in Israel. Consequently, it became necessary to rehearse the Law before the people entered the land of promise. Much of what is found in Deuteronomy is a recap of what was first presented in Exodus, Leviticus or Numbers. This is true of the law regarding cities of refuge. Numbers 35 gives us much greater detail regarding these cities. In it we find:

Numbers 35:12
“They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment.”

God established a system in Israel to ensure the safety of a person who had accidentally caused the death of another. Instead of allowing vigilantes to run rampant, Moses was  instructed to have six cities built where a person could flee, find protection, and await his day in court.

Four things stand out to me about the cities of refuge. First, we are told the cities were to be distributed throughout the land for easy access. Second, in Deuteronomy 19:3, we read that good roads were to be built and maintained so that nothing would hinder a person from reaching the city. Third, these cities were for all people wether they were natural born children, foreigners, or travelers. Fourth, the person must remain in the city until the High Priest dies, then their crime is forgiven and their guilt forever removed.

It is not difficult to see the parallels between the cities of refuge and the work of Christ. The death of Christ provides a way for all men to have their sins pardoned. No matter what our background might be, nothing hinders us from coming to Christ and being forgiven. Those who hide in Christ will never face the avenger of death. A person who had fled to the city of refuge was a marked man. All others knew he was only safe because of the provision of God. If he ever left the city he was no longer safe from the avenger. The same is true of us. Our hope is found in Christ, where we are constantly reminded to abide. As long as we sit under the shelter of the cross, there is no sin that can harm us. We are marked men and the whole world should know  our hope is in Christ alone.

However, there is a contrast worth noting, the cities of refuge were only for the innocent, while the cross is designed for the guilty. There is no sin, no matter how great or how frequent, that cannot be forgiven at the cross.

Hebrews 6:18
“… we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”

Pastor Jim