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HOW SAFE IS SAFE?

September 24th, 2008

 

On our first foray into the big city of Chicago for a Cubs game, we stayed at a hotel in one of the outlying suburbs.  At breakfast, our server suggested that we take the train to Wrigley Field, rather than drive into the congested area around the ballpark.  She directed us to a nearby parking facility, where we left our car, headed to the train station, and made our way to the boarding platform.  We were most definitely out of our element, coming from a much smaller city, and we looked around in amazement.  Was this a good idea after all?  Were we safe here?  It was mid-morning so the daily commuters into the city were long gone to work.  The remaining folks on the platform reflected a wide variety of culture and dress.  I found myself not so comfortable in these unfamiliar surroundings; my excitement was mixed with a little bit of uncertainty about this added adventure.

 

Looking around, we spotted an elderly gentleman sporting a tweed suit, a cane, and a full reddish beard; we decided he looked safe enough to approach for directions.  After he explained which train went where, I asked him if it was safe to ride the train system.  He scrunched up his face, stroked his beard, looked off in the distance, and said; “Hmmmm, how safe is safe?”  I must admit, I did not have an answer.  A bit uncomfortable over his comment, we thanked him and turned away to take another look at the train schedule.  When we turned back around to address the gentleman, he was nowhere to be seen.

 

Over the years, we have often discussed that encounter, and the wisdom of the man we met (although it did not give us much comfort at the time!).  On many occasions, the man’s message has helped us put the question of safety into proper perspective.  How safe is safe?  What is safe anyway? And what does safe get us?  Is safe only an illusion?  I suspect my idea of safe is somewhat different from yours, maybe significantly different.  If I met that man again, I still would not have an intelligent answer for him.

 

These days, as I find myself glued to television news updates, it would be easy to lose heart and sink into fear and depression.  That is exactly what can happen right now if I were to put my trust in, and measure my well-being by, the value of my net worth.  I simply must refuse to fall into that trap.  This week as I watched the newscasts and prayed about the current state of our country’s economy, the Lord gave me a vision and a Scripture.

 

Here is the vision:  “A bright yellow spotlight pours down from heaven, into a field of cattails and tall reeds.  People are running about in the field, gripped in fear, struck with terror after hearing reports of impending doom.  Every thing they have pinned their hopes on is crumbling.  They grab for the reeds, but the fragile tubes break off in their hands, leaving them holding onto a piece of straw.  Then they reach for the cattails, but the tops crumble and float to the ground where they are blown away.  All that remains before them are sharp worthless sticks.  They see the spotlight, but it certainly does not look like anything they can grab hold of for security.  And so, they continue to react to their situation based on what their natural eyes can see, and what their natural minds can grasp.  Soon, every last reed and cattail is broken off, bent over, trampled on, and pressed to bits.  All that remains in the empty field is that bright light.  Maybe now they will look with their spiritual eyes to see from where their hope comes.  The One Who created the universe and formed us from the dust, also sent His Son to be the Light of the world, to rescue us from impending doom.”

 

As I think back about our encounter at the train station, I am reminded that my natural eyes only see part of the story.  A recent Amtrak collision tells me trains are not safe.  The evening news says I am not safe in automobiles or airplanes, schools or shopping malls.  Television commercials remind me that I am not even safe in the privacy of my own home.  September 11 confirmed that we as a nation are certainly not safe within our own borders, even living in the so-called safest country in the world.  Add to that the increasing turbulence in weather patterns, causing stronger hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes.  Neither is my bank account safe, nor my retirement investments.  Recent government bailouts of major lending institutions, plus the fall of a number of giants on Wall Street, remind me that our economy is losing credibility.  Add to that the increasing cost of goods and services coupled with the declining value of the dollar.  Today I have a fair amount of job security, but who knows what tomorrow might bring?  As I look to retirement, will Social Security and Medicare benefits still be available for me?

 

Looking through my natural eyes, things can appear pretty bleak.  But I know that I cannot see the full picture unless I also look with my spiritual eyes.  The Bible story the Lord showed me is found in the Book of II Kings, in chapter six.  The king of Syria was making war against Israel, and every time he planned an ambush, the prophet Elisha would forewarn the king of Israel, allowing Israel to avoid the traps.  (God often shows his prophets what He is doing.)  Consequently, the king of Syria came after Elisha and his servant, surrounding the city with a great army of horses and chariots.  Elisha’s servant was terrified and asked what they should do.  Elisha said, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  Elisha prayed, asking the Lord to open the spiritual eyes of his servant.  Then the Lord opened the servant’s spiritual eyes, and he saw that the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

 

Our current state of events has not taken God by surprise.  In fact, He has told us that very soon everything that can be shaken will be shaken, leaving behind only those things that have a solid foundation.  I invite you to pray that the Lord would open your spiritual eyes so you can see that those who are with you are more than those who are against you.  Cast your cares on the Lord, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End of all things.  Search the Scriptures so you know that the things you see happening today have been foretold from the beginning, and everything is playing out as planned.  Indeed we are in danger of losing some of our comforts and some of our pleasures, and times are going to get more intense, but all is well.  Look to the One Who loves you with an everlasting love, Who watches over even the sparrows, and Who has your future safely in His hands. 

 

 

 

Matthew 6:19-21

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 

Proverbs 18:10

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe.

 

Psalm 119:117a

Hold me up, and I shall be safe

 

II Kings 6:8-9, 14-17

Now the king of Syria was making war against Israel; and he consulted with his servants, saying , “My camp will be in such and such a place.”  And the man of God [Elisha] sent to the king of Israel, saying, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are coming down there.”    Therefore he [the king of Syria] sent horses and chariots and a great army there and they came by night and surrounded the city.  And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots.  And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master!  What shall we do?”  So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his [spiritual] eyes that he may see.”  Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw.  And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

 

Matthew 6:25-26

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about  your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?”

 

Luke 12:6-7

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins?  And not one of them is forgotten before God.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

 

Joel 3:16

The Lord also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake; But the Lord will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel.

AN EXERCISE IN TRUST

September 18th, 2008

 

 

During a time of prayer, I heard the Lord ask me how much I trust Him.  I had to admit that, although I try to hide it, I really do not trust Him nearly enough.  (Of course, He already knew that, since He knows my every thought and action.)  When it comes to the storms of life, I too often display very little evidence of trust.  So, I bowed my head and asked if He would teach me to trust Him more deeply.  I would first need to be teachable; He must first teach me how to even take the risk to choose to trust!  Sometimes growth comes in baby steps.

 

Then in a vision, the Lord placed me on a beach and said to me, “I am that ocean in front of you.  Will you trust Me enough to let Me wash over you?”  The expanse and sound of the ocean made me tremble, tempting me to abandon the entire exercise.  But, I stood for a moment, allowing the warm refreshing breeze to wash over me, calming my fears.   I took a deep breath and made the choice to trust.  I laid down my fear, stood firm, and allowed Him to teach me to trust.  Hey, this is no baby step!  Here we go…

 

I plant my feet solidly on the beach.  He directs my eyes to my feet on the sand, where only a trickle of water streams through my toes.  The message here is that I can trust when I am mostly in control.  I can see that my footing is solid, and I know I can turn and run at any time.  Of course, I can trust You this much. 

 

The water rises to my ankles.  I can still see the sand beneath my feet, even though it is shifting slightly and I am not completely steady.  I am still mostly in control and I have no fear.  Sure, I can trust You this much. 

 

The waters rise, covering my knees.  Now my foundation of sand is barely visible, and I see shadows of little fishes swimming around my ankles.  A tiny bit of fear whispers to me, and I am aware that if one of those huge waves comes crashing in, I will not be able to back up quite so quickly as before.  Yet, still I can trust You this much. 

 

The waves increase and the water comes up to my waist.  Now my balance is hindered and the foundation beneath me is shifting.  Now I cannot turn and run; any movement toward the shore will have to be slow and deliberate.  But, my arms are free and I can trust You this much. 

 

The crashing waves wrap around my shoulders, licking at my face.  Slowly I am surrendering my control, and my balance.  Fear is no longer whispering; it sounds more like a freight train (or is that just the sound of the waves rising up around me?).  With a faint and wavering spirit, I plant my resolve, even though I can barely plant my feet.  I push back the panic and quickly decide: Yes, I can still trust You this much. 

 

The water reaches my chin, and now I wonder how much longer I can quell the screams that are stuffed inside me.  Fear gives way to stark terror, and my control completely dissolves.  I realize that I must now turn my face toward heaven to keep my nose out of the water.  (I wonder, why do I not turn my face toward Him more often, even before the waves threaten to drown me?)  Here is where I am forced to surrender, either to my terror or to my Savior.  I must admit that the control thing was only an illusion anyway.  I take a deep breath, wondering if it will be my last, and I decide to go for it, even if I drown!  So I tip my head back and shout out loud.  Yes, Lord.  I will trust you this much!

 

As I stretch my arms up in complete surrender, the water gently lifts my body up, and I find myself floating on the swells, completely peaceful in His arms.  Ah, so this is what trust feels like!  I can’t say I like the butterflies in the stomach that accompany the experience, but oh, how I love the sweet release that comes on the heels of trust.  I choose to cast all my cares upon Him, as He cares for me, His child. 

 

Now, if I can just remember to do this when the real storms of life lap at my face!

 

 

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding.

 

Psalm 62: 8

Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.

 

Psalm 89:9

You rule the raging of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them.

 

Matthew 8:26b-27

…Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.  So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

 

John 3:2

This man [Nicodemus] came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

 

Psalm 9:10

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

MY LOVER’S CALL

September 14th, 2008

 

 

My Lover calls:  Come to the well, to the pure fresh sweet water of My Word.  Drink deeply, splash the cool water to your face.  Throw your head back, your face to the sun, taking in its sweet warm rays.  Breathe deeply of the dew-laden breezes.  Shake your hair and dance.  Throw your arms out and twirl around.  Point your toes and pirouette.  Somersault in the thick grass and land on your back, spread eagle and face up. 

 

Now dear child, as you lie there, spent but exhilarated, your senses taking in the fragrance and texture of the grass, tell Me, who is able to create such a beautiful flower as you are?  No one but Me.  Who would take the time to sculpt that lovely face, with every little detail in concert with all the other perfect etchings?  Only Me.  Who would love you so deeply and so passionately, that He would caress you in His arms and breathe His very life into you?  You guessed it:  that would be Me. 

 

I had the most lovely afternoon the day I formed you, sparing no time or expense to adorn you with My very best.  In truth, I was reluctant to be separated from you long enough for you to make your earthly debut, to take your life’s walk in preparation for eternity with Me.  Oh girl, even now My heart sings and I can hardly wait to see the look on your face when your unveiled eyes gaze upon Me for the very first time. I yearn for your undivided attention and your sweet, tender affection.  Know that My heart burns with love for you, that I watch over you every day and I sing over you every night.

 

Dearly beloved child of Mine, I know this is a difficult season for you and the enemy is in a full press to steal your hope and your joy.  Know that I will not leave you vulnerable or unattended for even a second.  Neither will I allow you this discomfort for one breath longer than is necessary for Me to refine you.  I desire to teach you all you will need to know and understand, in preparation for the glorious position I have reserved just for you in eternity.

 

Trust Me, My beloved, and rest in Me.  Press your nose to the wind and drink deeply from the vast reserves of My love for you.  Soon the storm will pass and you will experience the refreshing exhilaration you always enjoy after the rain is spent.

 

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Song of Solomon 1:15

Behold, you are fair, my love!  Behold, you are fair! You have dove’s eyes.

 

Psalm 139: 13-14a

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

 

Song of Solomon 2:4

He brought me to the banqueting house, And his banner over me was love.

 

Isaiah 27:2-3

In that day sing to her, “A vineyard of red wine!  I, the Lord, keep it.  I water it every moment; Lest any hurt it, I keep it night and day.”

 

Psalm 23:2

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

 

John 17:24

Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory …

 

Hebrews 13: 5b

…For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”