Monday, September 28, 2020

Psalm 57: Taking Refuge in God Part 2

Psalm 57:1–2 (ESV)

1Be 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,

till the storms of destruction pass by.

I cry out to God Most High,

to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

Over these last few months Psalm 57 has comforted and challenged me. It has challenged me to think more specifically about the phrase, “for in you my soul takes refuge.” That is a common idea in Scripture, but as I have struggled to respond in a biblical way to my life circumstances, I began to wonder, “What does it look like in my life in a very practical way to take refuge in God? As I seek to point others to take refuge in God, how can I help them understand in a very tangible way what this entails?” Here are a few thoughts that I am trying, with the Lord’s help, to apply in my own life.

First of all, taking refuge in God means that I turn toward Him. It means turning from false refuges -  all the familiar, self-reliant ways that I seek relief from life’s problems. I must repent of such things as control, perfection, withdrawal, anger, logic, excessive planning, daydreaming, watching TV, eating, and replaying conversations. It means I cry out to God. In my distress, I need to talk to God. I need to pour out my heart to Him (Psalm 62:8). I need to talk to Him about the situation, how I feel and how I am responding. I need to confess of known sinful responses. I need to share openly with Him my concerns and fears. He already knows but my soul needs to talk to Him. I need to ask the Lord for help. Sometimes the pain and confusion run so deep that all I can cry out is “Help!” but when I am able, I need to ask the Lord in specific detail to help me, expressing what I would like the Lord to do for me.

Secondly, taking refuge in God means actively reminding myself of God’s unchanging character. It means reviewing the truths I know about God, especially the ones that give me hope in the specific situation. Am I feeling unloved? He is the one who loves with perfect, steadfast everlasting love. Have others betrayed me? His faithfulness endures for all generations. Do I feel afraid and out of control? He is the sovereign, all-powerful Creator. Nothing is too difficult for Him. God’s Word gives us many different images to help us understand God and trust Him more fully. Search the Scriptures for these images. Which ones are most helpful for you? Personally, I return over and over to two images: God the everlasting Rock, who is stable in the midst of my instability and God, the gentle, caring, watching, guarding, ever-present Shepherd. 

Thirdly, purposefully review the promises of God. God has made so many beloved promises to His people in His Word, and He is faithful. He cannot lie. He will keep every promise. Which of God’s promises do you find most encouraging for your specific situation? He promises He will never leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:8) He will help His people (Isa. 41:10). He forgives sin completely (Ps. 103:11-12, 1 John 1:8-10). The Lord promises to be near to the broken-hearted (Ps. 34:18) and to give strength to the weary (Isa. 40:29). We need to review these rich promises often. In the midst of suffering, we must choose to belief that that these specific promises apply to us in our specific circumstances. In the midst of suffering, other voices seem to speak louder than the voice of God. In the midst of suffering, I tend to forget that God is speaking a personal word to me through the words of the Bible. 

Fourthly, we need to commit to intentionally interpreting our life experiences through the lens of God’s Word. We tend to interpret our experiences through the lens of our painful emotions. This often gives us a very distorted view of life, of ourselves, of other people, and of God.  We have to constantly direct our minds to what God’s Word says is true rather than relying on our emotions and experience to define what is true. When we choose to interpret what is happening in our lives in light of God’s Word, we can find hope even in the midst of painful circumstances.

Fifthly, taking refuge in God means be willing to examine our hearts. One of God’s gospel purposes for trials is to refine us and make us more like Christ. God uses the pressures of suffering to expose our hearts so that we can see areas of sin to which we have been blind. Suffering becomes an opportunity to ask “Where is my thinking unbiblical? What sinful and selfish desires are driving my responses? What good desires have become too important to me? In what ways do the things I value differ from what God values? How am I seeking my own kingdom instead of God’s kingdom? What are the common false refuges that I seek? Trials can become a wonderful opportunity for us to grow more like Christ. 

Next, taking refuge in God means that I learn to depend on Him, not on myself or others. My default response to suffering is to trust in myself or to trust in others. Only when I recognize my own inadequacies and the limited abilities of others, will I turn to the Lord for help. My proud, self-reliant heart still struggles to learn the lesson of 2 Chronicles 20:12, “For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” This verse calls us to dependence on God in two main areas. In the midst of difficulties, our need for wisdom becomes clear. We don’t know how to respond to difficult people or circumstances in a way that glorifies God. We need wisdom from the Word of God, applied by the work of the Holy Spirit. We must search the Scriptures for wisdom. We much examine the life of Jesus (1 Pet. 2:21-25, Heb. 12:3). We must look at how God has treated us. We must determine our biblical responsibilities in each situation. We lack wisdom, but God tells us that He will give it generously and graciously when we ask Him. Taking refuge in God means that I commit to following the wisdom found in God’s Word even when my own wisdom makes more sense to me (Ps. 119:23, 51, 69)

Taking refuge in God also means depending on Him to supply the strength to carry out my responsibilities. Suffering leaves me feeling weak and vulnerable and often it feels impossible to obey the commands of Scripture. In my own strength I am powerless against the physical dangers of this life, against the strategies of Satan, against the wooing of the world, and against the sinful, self-oriented tendencies of my own heart. But God has promised us that His grace is sufficient. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us. God is extravagantly generous. He is not stingy with his resources. He loves to come to the aid of His people. He gives strength to the weary. He enables us to obey all He has commanded. He gives grace to love the unlovable. He gives grace to face our own sin. He gives grace to endure moment by moment as long as our struggles last.

Next, taking refuge in God means that we use the resources that God has given us, especially the local church. We are ultimately to put our hope and trust in God Himself, but we are created in His image, made to be in intimate relationship with God and others. We are not meant to walk through life on our own. When God saved us, he placed us in the body of Christ. We are to bear one another’s burdens. When I experience deep sorrow, I call out to God, but I also reach out to brothers and sisters in Christ who can sit beside me, weep with me, and pray for me. When I have physical needs beyond my resources, I humble myself and make my needs known to the body of Christ. When I don’t know how to respond, I seek wisdom from those more spiritually mature than me. One of the main ways that God shows his love and care is through his people. My own pride, with its desire for autonomy and desire to appear strong, often hinders me from using one of the greatest resources God has provided for His people, the church.

Finally, taking refuge in the Lord means that I meekly submit to His work in my life. One of the biggest hinderances in my life to trusting God is simply that often I am afraid that He will not give me everything I want. He has not promised me that. Instead of being satisfied that the Lord has given me Himself and every spiritual blessing in Christ, my heart searches for satisfaction in other places. Sometimes I fear that the Lord might not give me the exact kind of help that I think is best. I don’t want to endure. I want instant relief. I don’t want to learn to love in hard relationships. I just want everyone to love me and think I’m wonderful. I don’t know and love the Lord enough yet to say with the psalmist, “Besides you I desire nothing on earth.” However, I can choose to believe God’s Word. Though I see Him only dimly as in a distorted mirror, I know enough. I can choose to trust Him and believe that his dealings with me are good. I can humbly admit that God is wiser than I am, that as the perfect Father, he truly does know what is best for me. In the raging storm, I can calmly take refuge under His wings.

Kim Anderson

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Please Pray for Pablo and Judi Perez

Please pray for Pablo and Judi Perez. Pray that they would continue trusting in God during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please pray that they would be able to reach many people. Pray that God would keep them safe.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Please Pray for Sam and Jamie Hornbrook

The pandemic issues are severe in our area. We just had two families in our church, who are related to each other, pass COVID around to each other. Most of them are recovering with light symptoms, but one of the grandfathers of the family died on Monday, this week, at age 78. Just last night, his wife joined Jamie´s online ladies Bible Study, for the first time. May the Lord continue to work in her heart. She and her husband did not attend our church, but their children who do attend our church, have shared the gospel with them.

We have been having Sunday services in person, at church for the last 6 weeks. Our attendance which has been between 40 and 50, is about half the regular, pre-pandemic numbers, but our online followers have grown quite a bit.

Big praise is that we have now had 9 evangelistic Bible Studies on Fridays at our next-door neighbors. Teresa, the elderly lady in her 80s, Marisol who is about to turn 60, and Freddy, the grandson, and nephew, have all given testimony that they have trusted Christ for salvation. Freddy has been going to church with us on Sundays, then he comes over to the house on Sunday evenings for discipleship and guitar lessons. We thank the Lord for His amazing work in this family.

I (Sam) have as many as 8 counseling sessions every week with people from all over Mexico City and one with a man in another state. It's all on the internet these days, this ministry seems to be growing and people are more hungry than ever for help from the Word of God.

Jamie and I have had no health issues and take the recommended precautions to protect ourselves from the virus, but our priority is to continue to minister to people with the Gospel. Thank you for praying with us and thank you for your faithful partnership with us!