Tag Archives: Security

Cracking the Case

I needed more razor blades. Being on Sabbatical and not in our home town, we went to the nearest store. There I found the brand of blades I use. They were packaged differently, with the container of blades encased in a bigger, hard plastic case. But why should that matter? They were the right blades.

All was well…

Until I needed to use them. When it came time to open the bigger, hard plastic case, the trouble began. There was no way to open it. I’m not kidding! There was what appeared to be a little switch that could serve as a lock but it wouldn’t move. So I got out my trusty little knife and pried – and pried – and pried. Nothing changed. Being in a motel, I had few other resources so I banged the case on the counter-top by the sink. Nothing but a loud noise – not even a crack in the plastic. After a few more bangs – each harder and louder but with no results – I gave up. I was mystified. Access to guns and drugs appeared to be easier than access to these blades! The old blade currently in my razor would have to work another day or two until we arrived at my sister and brother-in-law’s home. There we’d find a way to ‘crack the case.’ Long story short – after chuckling with us about the crazy case, my brother-in-law took it out to his garage and cracked open the case with his hacksaw.

I’m still not sure why razor blades had to be placed in such a secure case. But I do know no one was going to get at them without tremendous effort. They were securely sealed – which brings to mind our security in Christ. We, too, are securely sealed. No switches, no knives, no banging; nothing can get to us. Suddenly I realize that being locked out had a message for me: “When the case can’t be cracked, give thanks for the seal.”

Paul preached it forcefully. “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Cor. 1:21-22) “You too heard the word of truth in Christ, which is the good news of your salvation. You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit because you believed in Christ.” (Eph. 1:13 CEB) “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30) We are sealed, held fast, protected. No one and nothing can get to us but through the hands of Jesus. We can’t be cracked – give thanks for the seal!

The Heidelberg Catechism confesses it beautifully:

What do you believe when you say “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?” That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth with all that is in them, who also upholds and governs them by his eternal counsel and providence, is for the sake of Christ his Son my God and my Father. I trust in him so completely that I have no doubt that he will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul. Moreover, whatever adversity he sends upon me in this troubled life he will turn to my good, for he is able to do it, being almighty God, and is determined to do it, being a faithful Father.”            “What do you understand by the providence of God? The almighty and ever-present power of God whereby he still upholds, as it were by his own hand, heaven and earth together with all creatures, and rules in such a way that leaves and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and unfruitful years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, and everything else, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.”

Give thanks for the seal. We can’t be cracked. No one, nothing can crack His case around us. Not knives, not counter-tops, not hacksaws. As Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (Jn. 10:27)

 

 

 

When the case can’t be c thanks for the seal.”

Sailing Through Life – Part 7 – Reflections on Feeling Lost

As we sailed throughout our journey, we were surprised how often we felt at least slightly lost. We had wandered and taken some wrong turns or simply lost track of where were because we were too busy enjoying the scenery and activities. “Where’s our room?” “Which deck is that on?” “Which deck are we on?” “Can we get to the other end of the ship on this deck?” We spent time laughing at ourselves. But we never worried – we knew we weren’t really lost. We were just disoriented.

The important thing was we knew we really couldn’t get lost. There was always lots of help. There were signs and maps posted along the way.

There were also plenty of people to help and staff to assist. As long as we were on board, we could never be truly lost.

It just like the life of those who are baptized. We’re on board with Jesus. We sometimes feel lost; we wander too far, take some wrong turns. We lose track of where we are and where we need to be because  we’re too busy enjoying the scenery and activities of life. Yet we’re never really lost – we just get disoriented. Think about baptism.

At the moment of baptism God makes some very special promises.

“Baptism is the sign and seal of God’s promises to this covenant people. In baptism God promises by grace alone: to forgive our sins; to adopt us into the Body of Christ, the Church; to send the Holy Spirit daily to renew and cleanse us; and to resurrect us to eternal life.” This promise is made visible in the water of baptism. Water cleanses; purifies; refreshes; sustains: Jesus Christ is living water. (1)

In baptism we are getting on board with Jesus for our journey through life.

“Through baptism Christ calls us to new obedience: to love and trust God completely; to forsake the evil of the world; and to live a new and holy life.” (2)

We may become disoriented through our wandering and sinning, but we are and always will be on board.

“Yet, when we fall into sin, we must not despair of God’s mercy, nor continue in sin,
for baptism is the sign and seal of God’s eternal covenant of grace with us.” (3)

Just like on a cruise ship, God provides plenty of help. There are signs and maps – the Word of God. God sends plenty of people to help – family, friends, fellow Christians, mentors, coaches, teachers, friends. God’s staff is always present and available – Pastors, Sunday School teachers, Youth leaders, Christian authors, angels, His Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 

The reality is, baptism assures us that once we’re on board, we’re never really lost; only disoriented for a while. I’m not sure if King David ever sailed on a ship, but he knew the same reality.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
(Ps. 139:2-12)

Once we’re on board, God keeps us on board. Jesus affirmed it when He said, “My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him. I and the Father are one heart and mind.” (John 10:27-30 The Message)

The reality is, once we’re on board we’re never really lost; only disoriented for a while. Jesus has us – and He will never let go!

(1) Baptismal Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America
(2) Baptismal Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America
(3) Baptismal Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America

Safe and Secure

We have a security system at our house. I know it works because we’ve accidentally tripped the alarm on more than one occasion. But there is also a code we can punch in at the control box which, we’ve been told, would immediately bring emergency assistance without setting off the alarm. But how do we really know? Sometimes I would like to punch in the code just to see if anyone comes quickly. But unless I want to get into deep trouble, I need to trust and believe.

I feel much the same way when I read Psalm 91. The Psalmist is eloquent and picturesque as he speaks about four provisions of security. The first provision is in verse 3: “Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.” God gives SAFETY from the traps and snares the devil sets for us.

God also provides SHELTER. (4a) “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge…” When a predator or something dangerous approaches, the bird instinctively spreads its wings and the younger birds scurry underneath for shelter. So God provides shelter for His people.

God’s third provision is that He is our SHIELD. (4b) “…his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” The Psalmist knew that God is faithful to all He created (Psalm 36:5): “Your love , Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” He also knew that God’s faithfulness would pass through the generations. (Psalm 119:89-91 NLT): “Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans.”

The fourth provision God provides is SACRED GUARDIANS. (11-12) “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Hebrews 1:14 teaches that angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. God sends His angels to keep His people safe and on track in all their ways. In essence, God has provided us with designated drivers to escort us home.

These provisions give us at least three freedoms, the first of which is FREEDOM FROM FEAR (5-6) “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” Since God provides security, what is there to fear? The Psalmist also says that we gain FREEDOM FROM EVIL. (7-8) “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.” Evil will not take over our lives and control us. Thirdly, we gain FREEDOM FROM HARM AND DISASTER. (10) “…no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.”

God gives safety, shelter, a shield, and sacred guardians so we are free from fear, evil, and harm and disaster. The Psalmist concludes by restating God’s covenant with His people: (14-16) “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Notice the promises – God will rescue us, protect us, answer our prayers, be with us, deliver us, honor us, satisfy us with long life, and show us salvation. It’s wonderful!

It all hinges on TRUSTING GOD. Security in God is not an insurance policy against misfortune or trials. The glorious, seemingly unconditional provisions and promises of Psalm 91 are, at core, not a call to understand but a call to trust. (1-2) “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” To ‘dwell’ is to trust God – to put all your weight on Him. Think of climbing a rock wall. Once you put your weight in the harness and trust the person holding the rope, you feel safer and therefore can climb easier and higher.
(1)
Are you willing, in the midst of the tough times of life, to put your weight on and trust in God?

Consider the following conversation. (2)

“God, can I ask you something?” “Sure.”
“Promise you won’t get mad?“ “I Promise.”
“Why did you let so much stuff happen to me today?” “What do you mean?”
“Well I woke up late.” “Yes.”
“My car took forever to start.” “Okay…”
“At lunch, they made my sandwich wrong and I had to wait.” “Hmmm…”
“On the way home, my phone went dead, just as I picked up a call.” “All right.”
“And to top it all off, when I got home, I just wanted to soak my feet in my foot massager and relax, but it wouldn’t work. Nothing went right today! Why did you do that?”

“Well, let me see…the death angel was at your bed this morning and I had to send one of the other angels to battle him for your life. I let you sleep through that.” “Oh…”
“I didn’t let your car start because there was a drunk driver on our route that might have hit you if you were on the road.” “Oh…”
“The first person who made your sandwich today was sick and I didn’t want you to catch what they have; I knew you couldn’t afford to miss work.” “Oh…”
“Your phone went dead because the person that was calling was going to give a false witness about what you said on that call, so I didn’t even let you talk to them so you would be covered.” “I see God.”
“Oh, and that foot massager, it had a short that was going to throw out all of the power in your house tonight. I didn’t think you wanted to be in the dark.” “I’m sorry God.”
“Don’t be sorry, just learn to trust me…in all things, the good and the bad.” “I will trust you God.”
“And don’t doubt that my plan for your day is always better than your plan.” “I won’t God. And let me just tell you God, thank you for everything today.”
“You’re welcome child. It was just another day being your God and I love looking after my children.”

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

(1) http://www.aviatorsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/IMG_0035-2.jpg
(2) Original author unknown

 

Reflections From A Catcher

Growing up I was the youngest boy in the neighborhood. As such I was ripe to be picked on. What remains deposited deep in my memory bank are the times we boys played baseball. I loved those pickup games – in spite of the fact they were often a hurtful experience. Being the youngest, and therefore the least talented, I was most often the last person chosen when the teams were selected. On the crueler days I wasn’t officially selected at all because, if I had been, the teams wouldn’t have been ‘even.’ But I was still allowed to play – all-time catcher! Have you ever played all-time catcher in a pickup game? Then you know the feeling – what it’s like to be put where the action is least and therefore can do the least damage! How I longed to be accepted, included, given a chance. Rejection hurts!

Perhaps those repeated rejections eventually paid off; the grace of Christ found a hungering, longing heart. I came to learn that God chose me because He wanted to choose me; He chose me because He loved me. My age didn’t matter, nor my size, nor my ability, nor my goodness. As the apostle Paul wrote, “It is by grace you have been saved through faith.” This has always been the heritage of the people of God. In Deuteronomy God reminded the Israelites they were who they were, and were where they were, because of Him: “The Lord did not set his affection on you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you…” (7:7-8) No problem for me – I knew that if I was chosen it had to be a gift!

Paul expands this great truth (Ephesians 1:4): “For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Imagine that! Me – holy and blameless in his sight! Who’d have thought it? And it’s been in the mind of Christ since before the creation of the world! I’m not an accident, not an afterthought, not a problem to be put up with or deal with, not someone for whom an inconspicuous harmless position needs to be found. Rather, God had me in mind before I, or even the world, was created! And what He had in mind was someone who will be holy and blameless before Him!

It really doesn’t matter what others think; It’s really not important whether or not peers or superiors choose me. God has already chosen me!

And when life’s all said and done I’ll be blameless before Him! Most assuredly, I‘m not there yet, but through the Holy Spirit of Christ I’m on my way! Sure, I’ve been rejected many times since those boyhood days – and I will face rejection again. It’s part of the fabric of human life. And at times it will still hurt. But, praise God, the One who created me and who was Himself rejected by humankind, has promised He will not reject me! His grace is permanent; His promise is secure. Even if I’m never more than the all time catcher in this life, I’m on God’s team and I will, when it counts, stand blamelessly before Him.

So when you’re not invited to the party, do not get the part, or make the team – when you don’t get the promotion or are turned down for the job – when you don’t get the boy or girl or the award goes to someone else; in the midst of your rejections, when you’re reeling from the turndowns of life – pause and give thanks to God. Thank Him for His selection of you, His plan for you, His continuing care for you. He loves you, now and always. Your position is secure in Him.

PRAYER: Lord – Thank you for your grace through which you chose me to be blameless before You. Forgive the hard feelings I have towards those who have rejected me; ease the pain of human turndowns in my life, and through Your Spirit refresh and renew me with your grace. May I find my satisfaction and security in you alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

A Shady Life

I admit – I live a shady life.

But it’s not what you think. I’m not dishonest, crooked, underhanded or shifty. Rather I’m shaded and sheltered. Here’s what I mean.

A desire for being in the shade and shadows brings to mind the time we took our 3 boys to Washington DC. It was hot. No – it was scorching hot. It was so scorching hot that the front page of the news showed a row of parked motorcycles all tipped over laying on their sides. In the intense heat the blacktop had softened so the kickstands sank, tilting the cycles until they all fell. Now that’s hot!

I vividly remember the sweat and fatigue. We planned our walking routes so we could get periodic spots of shade – it was the only relief and rest available outdoors. And even the air conditioned buildings seemed muggy and stifling. Perhaps that’s why I identify so easily with the Psalmist who prayed “…hide me in the shadow of your wings…” (Psalm 17:8) The wings are another image of and symbol for the cloud. What we would have given for some shadowing clouds on that day! (1)

The Psalmist uses the imagery again: “The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, or the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more.” (Psalm 121: 5-7) The Lord is a shadow for all the distresses and threats we encounter – any time, day or night.

How can we be sure? Jesus points to Himself as the wings of God. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” (Matthew 23:37) What a picture! When her babies are in danger Mama Hen spreads her wings to protect them. Pretty much what human mothers do for their children!

The issue is whether or not we will plan our routes to go under His wings.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Underlining mine) The shady spots are available – sometimes God’s wings and shade are right where we are – but oftentimes we need to go to the shade – like the hens need to go to Mama. The Psalmist knew it – he made it clear: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91: 1-4). Curry’s Paraphrase: When we dwell under His wings we will have rest during the heat and storms of life.

One final image – Jesus hangs on the cross with His arms outstretched. His wings are spread. He’s offering the refuge of a shady life for all who come to Him.

The words of William Cushing say it eloquently: “Under His wings I am safely abiding, Though the night deepens and tempests are wild, Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me, He has redeemed me, and I am His child. Under His wings, under His wings, Who from His love can sever? Under His wings my soul shall abide, Safely abide forever.” (2)

(1) See my three previous posts: Life in the Cloud, More Life in the Clouds, Living in Glory

(2 Under His Wings, William O. Cushing

More Life in the Clouds

Last week I mused on Psalm 105:39: “God put a cloud over his people…” I considered the first of four distinct but beautiful meanings of God’s use of ‘the cloud’ in the Bible – the cloud guides us. This week I caught up in a second meaning. Consider Exodus 14:19-20. “The angel of God that had been leading the camp of Israel now shifted and got behind them. And the Pillar of Cloud that had been in front also shifted to the rear. The Cloud was now between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel. The Cloud enshrouded one camp in darkness and flooded the other with light. The two camps didn’t come near each other all night.” (The Message)

God had been guiding the Israelites through the wilderness. But at this moment they didn’t need a guide – they needed a guard. The Red Sea was in front of them so they could not move forward. And the Egyptian army was in hot pursuit and gaining ground behind them. So God moved the cloud from their front to their back. God now truly had their back! And even more amazingly the cloud enshrouded the Egyptians in darkness so they could not see the Israelites but flooded the Israelites with light. To live in God’s cloud is to have the assurance of divine protection.

Billy Graham, in his book Angels, shared of the night hostile natives surrounded John G. Paton’s mission headquarters, intent on burning the Patons out and killing them. Paton and his wife prayed all during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see that, unaccountably, the attackers had left. A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Jesus Christ, and Mr. Paton, remembering what had happened, asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men you had with you there?” The missionary answered, “There were no men there; just my wife and I.” The chief argued that they had seen many men standing guard – hundreds of men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station so that the natives were afraid to attack. Only then did Mr. Paton realize that God had sent his angels to protect them. The chief agreed that there was no other explanation. To live in God’s cloud is to have the assurance of divine protection.

Now I admit an experience like that of the Patons seems pretty remote from my life. While I have had some experiences where I’ve said “Thank you, Lord, for protecting me,’ I’ve never had the verification they had. But that does not invalidate my experiences. In fact, it makes me wonder how many times I, like the Patons, have been totally oblivious to being guarded by God’s cloud. And I wonder – do I really need to have verification to believe? Am I not to live by faith and not by sight? As I read the Biblical accounts of God’s ‘guardian angels’ at work, I recognize that most of that work is done behind the scenes. God just wants us to trust Him. He has promised to guard us – is that not enough?

The Psalmist put it poignantly: “He will not let you fall; your protector is always awake.
The protector of Israel never dozes or sleeps. The Lord will guard you; he is by your side to protect you. The sun will not hurt you during the day, nor the moon during the night. The Lord will protect you from all danger; he will keep you safe. He will protect you as you come and go now and forever.” (Ps. 121:3-8 Good News Translation) To live in God’s cloud is to have the assurance of divine protection.

I wonder – how often have you been oblivious to God’s guarding cloud? Do you need verification? Or are you willing to walk by faith? As you come and go today, are you willing to trust He will protect and keep you? Perhaps the assuring words of Jesus can cement the deal for us both. “My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them real and eternal life. They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand. The Father who put them under my care is so much greater than the Destroyer and Thief. No one could ever get them away from him. I and the Father are one heart and mind.” (John 10:27-30 The Message) Is that not enough?

Two hands are holding a glowing cross