Our True Refuge Is God

24 July 2024, 12:00 am

After his wife died, Fred felt he could endure the pain as long as he had his Monday breakfasts with his buddies. His fellow retirees lifted his spirits. Whenever sadness came, Fred would think about the next time he’d enjoy their company again. Their corner table was Fred’s safe place from grief.

Over time, however, the gatherings ended. Some friends became ill; others passed away. The emptiness led Fred to seek solace in the God he’d met in his youth. “I have breakfast by myself now,” he says, “but I remember to hold on to the truth that Jesus is with me. And when I leave the diner, I don’t leave to face the rest of my days alone.”

Like the psalmist, Fred discovered the safety and comfort of God’s presence: “He is my refuge . . . in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2). Fred came to know safety not as a physical place to hide, but as the steadfast presence of God we can trust and rest in (v. 1). Both Fred and the psalmist found that they didn’t have to face difficult days alone. We too can be assured of God’s protection and help. When we turn to Him in trust, He promises to respond and be with us (vv. 14-16).

Do we have our safe place, a “corner table” we go to when life is hard? It won’t last but God will. He waits for us to go to Him, our true refuge.


Time to Party

23 July 2024, 12:00 am

Our former church in Virginia held baptisms in the Rivanna River where often the sunshine is warm, but the water is frigid. After our Sunday service, we’d load into our cars and caravan to a city park where neighbors tossed Frisbees and kids mobbed the playground. We were quite a spectacle, traipsing to the river’s edge. Standing in the icy water, I would offer Scripture and immerse those being baptized into this tangible expression of God’s love. As they emerged, soaked to the bone, cheers and clapping erupted. Climbing up the bank, friends and family enveloped the newly baptized in hugs—everyone getting drenched. We had cake, drinks, and snacks. The neighbors watching didn’t always understand what was happening, but they knew it was a celebration.

Jesus’ story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32) reveals that it’s cause for celebration whenever someone returns home to God. Anytime someone says yes to God’s invitation, it’s time to party. When the son who’d abandoned his father returned, the father immediately insisted on showering him with a designer robe, a shiny ring, and new shoes. “Bring the fatted calf,” he said. “Let’s have a feast and celebrate” (v. 23). This was a massive, exuberant party including whoever would join the revelry. They “began to celebrate” (v.24).


Instruments for Good

22 July 2024, 12:00 am

The criminal had been apprehended, and the detective asked the perpetrator why he had brazenly attacked someone with so many witnesses present. The response was startling. “I knew they wouldn’t do anything; people never do.” That comment pictures what is called “guilty knowledge”—choosing to ignore a crime even though you know it is being committed.

The apostle James addressed a similar kind of guilty knowledge, saying, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin” (James 4:17).

Through His great salvation of us, God has designed us to be agents of good in the world. Ephesians 2:10 affirms, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” These good works aren’t the cause of our salvation but rather the result of our hearts being changed God’s Holy Spirit taking up residence in our lives. The Spirit even gives us spiritual gifts to equip us to accomplish those things for which God has recreated us (see 1 Corinthians 12:1–11).

As God’s workmanship, may we yield to His purposes and the empowering of His Spirit so that we can be His instruments for good in a world that desperately needs Him.


The Winning Goal

21 July 2024, 12:00 am

On February 5, 2023, Christian Atsu kicked the winning goal for his football (soccer) team in a match in Turkey. A star international player, he learned to play the sport as a kid running barefoot in his home country of Ghana. Christian was a believer in Jesus: “Jesus is the best thing that ever happened in my life,” he said. Atsu posted Bible verses on social media, was outspoken about his faith, and put it into action by helping finance a school for orphans.

The day after his winning goal, a devastating earthquake shook the city of Antakya, once the biblical city of Antioch. Christian Atsu’s apartment building collapsed, and he went to be with his Savior.

Two thousand years ago, Antioch was the fountainhead of the early church: “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26). One apostle, Barnabas, said to be “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit” (v. 24), was instrumental in bringing people to Christ: “A great number of people believed and turned to the Lord” (v. 21).

We look to the life of Christian Atsu not to idolize him but to see in his example an opportunity. Whatever our circumstance in life, we don’t know when God will take us to be with Him. We do well to ask ourselves how we can be a Barnabas or a Christian Atsu in showing others the love of Christ. That, above all, is the winning goal.