Once or twice a month I visit a correctional facility with a few other guys ... this week I had a chance to give a message on "Taking Refuge in the Lord". I used the Psalms as my text - there are 43 direct references to the word 'refuge' in the Psalms ... also many other indirect references. Here are a few of the points I used:

A refuge is a place of shelter, safety and trust. The principal words used in the Old Testament applied chiefly to God as a “refuge” for His people. Taking refuge in God is somewhat of an abstract concept because, unlike a European castle-like fortress, God does not have an address. Finding that place of refuge in God involves a few key principles.

Taking Refuge in God always involves release. Psalms 62:8 says
"Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge."
Three years ago I was faced with the trauma of dealing with a crisis on the high seas when my wife became paralyzed from the waist down after we boarded the a cruise ship. I vividly remember the crisis and how God spoke to me about letting go ... He whispered these words to me "You cannot project manage your way out of this. You need to flow with Me in this and give up control". Taking refuge in God always involves releasing control of your life ... release is the doorway to God's refuge.

Another aspect of entering Refuge involves worship. Psalms 64:10 says
" Let the righteous rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him; let all the upright in heart praise him!."
I can vividly recollect a time in my life when worship became a mode of survival for me. I was in my early forties and my first wife was suffering from a failing heart and failed kidneys. I felt so afraid and alone. I remember times of solitude ... singing along with worship tapes … weeping uncontrollably … pouring my heart out to the Lord ... and taking refuge in His presence to make it one more day. In a deeper way I understood that His strength is made perfect in weakness … I have never been the same person. When we worship we take refuge in God.

The Fear of the Lord is another way that we take refuge in the Lord. Psalms 2:12 puts it this way
" Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him."
During a very difficult episode in my career I was dealing with an injustice done to me … thoughts of revenge overwhelmed me … the Holy Spirit began to make me aware of what was going on. One day, as I sat at my computer composing an e-mail message to an executive in my organization, I heard Him whisper to me "You can go there if you wish … but if you do I will not go with you." I'm not sure that I can adequately put into words the sense that came over me. I can only describe it as the fear of God. The Fear of the Lord is a place of refuge … walking in this fear keeps us safe.

The scriptures are a place of refuge. Psalms 18:30 says
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.
Walking in obedience to the scriptures is a place of safety. I am consistently challenged by Jesus’ instruction in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus always goes to the heart of an issue and more importantly to the heart of man. We enter God’s refuge when our heart motives and the scriptures are in agreement.

Lastly I want to say that there is a blessing to the one who enters God’s refuge. Reiterating the last part of Psalm 2:12
"Blessed are all who take refuge in him."
It is good to remember that we are blessed when we release control, worship the Lord, fear Him and align our hearts with the scripture.

Absolute Relativism

Ever heard someone say 'Everything is Relative" or "There are No Absolutes"? Sure you have. Ever think about those statements ... about how they are 'Absolute' statements on 'Relativism'? You kind of think that someone might say it like this "Maybe Everything is Relative" or "There may be No Absolutes". Pretty funny when you think about it? God must be laughing.

Relativism is man-made concept. Human love is weak and relative. Human truth is skewed and relative. Human justice is corrupted and relative. Apart from the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, mankind is doomed to relativism.

Isn't it great that God's love for us is not relative? At our worst His love for us does not fail ... it is absolute ... we can depend on it. The book of Lamentations says it this way:
This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. Through the LORD's mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
God's love ... His mercy, compassion and faithfulness ... these are absolutes.

Intolerant Love

From James at Mere Comments, “the path from toleration seems to lead to acceptance and then to endorsement and to the intolerance of opposing views.”

I find myself getting more ‘tolerant’ with each passing day … that is a good thing – right? After all isn’t that part of loving each other … accepting our differences. Well, I’m not sure. Here is a story from the New Testament:
As Jesus was starting on his way again, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus asked him. "No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; do not cheat; respect your father and your mother.' " "Teacher," the man said, "ever since I was young, I have obeyed all these commandments." Jesus looked straight at him with love and said, "You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me." When the man heard this, gloom spread over his face, and he went away sad, because he was very rich.
Did you catch how Jesus looked at the man? It says that He looked at him with love then told the man something that he did not want to hear. Jesus knew this man and He was not tolerant of the man’s love of money. Jesus loved this man enough to tell him the truth about his heart.

When Christians look at people with a real love motive they will often speak truth that comes across as intolerance … but it is nonetheless truth ... and it must be spoken with and in love.

Unconditional Love and Respect

From the 5th chapter of the book of Ephesians:
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church - for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery-but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
In his video series “Love and Respect” Emerson Eggerichs makes the case for a man to unconditionally love his wife and for the wife to unconditionally respect her husband. On his website Emerson writes, "You may remember how the Beatles sang, 'All you need is love.' I absolutely disagree with that conclusion. Five out of ten marriages today are ending in divorce because love alone is not enough. Yes, love is vital, especially for the wife, but what we have missed is the husband's need for respect. This Love and Respect message is about how the wife can fulfill her need to be loved by giving her husband what he needs -- respect. And the husband can fulfill his need to be respected by giving his wife what she needs -- love. Does this always work? No. But if one is married to a person of good will, I would bet the farm that it would work!"

Unconditional respect is a concept that is pretty foreign to me but unconditional love is not. As a Christian man I want to give that kind of love to my wife. But as a man that has made mistakes and sinned I am not so sure about unconditional respect. To that Emerson points us back to the scriptures. I guess we can’t say that Christ loves us unconditionally and also say that our respect for him is conditional.

Maybe this is the heart of our problem in relating to God. When we don’t ‘feel’ that unconditional love we have difficulty giving him unconditional respect. I guess that is the heart of faith … respecting … honoring … and trusting in God’s unconditional love even when we don’t ‘feel’ it.

Peace and Harmony

Bill Tammeus references an article in Arab News. The article ends with "Such incidents anger over 1.5 billion Muslims who want to live in peace and harmony the world over".

I hear similar words from people of others faiths - people want to live in peace and harmony but continue to speak words that are contrary to those sentiments. I found the very short Arab News article riddled with words like "resentment", "sinister campaign", "negative consequences", and "hatred in the Muslim world". Conservative Christians, of which I am one, often use similar words when they describe people in Hollywood and the news media.

If we are ever to live in peace and harmony we must find a way to get past rhetoric and find a way to genuinely love and accept each other – one heart at a time. For me, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, raises the bar for peace and harmony in the world … treating others the way you want to be treated … turning the other cheek … going the extra mile. These concepts all go to motive and, apart from His help; I am helpless and hopeless to act in ways that bring peace and harmony.

Peace and harmony – good words for this day when we celebrate the life of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Prophet

If you read nothing else this weekend read Chuck Currie's blog on "Martin Luther King Jr. Here are a few of Dr. King's quotes:
"I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits,” he said when accepting the Noble Peace Prize."

“This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future,” he said. “It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.”
I have asked many people if they believed Dr. King was a prophet and have gotten a wide variety of responses. I believe that he was a prophet to our nation ... it is sad that much of our nation and the church is confused about this. I wonder if Dr. King was speaking prophetically when he said
"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
This weekend especially I honor the memory of Dr. King and his legacy to our nation and the kingdom of God.


Something recently rang true in my soul ... 2006 will be a year of family. You know, for many, the idea of family gets all wrapped up in painful thoughts of less-than idyllic family life. All of us have experienced some measure of pain in our families … some of it in our nuclear family and some in our church family.

Several years ago I had a conversation with Tom, a visitor to our church. He was not a believer. Tom told me that he thought that churches were a mess. I answered his concern and told him that I knew why church was a mess and wondered if he would like to know why as well. Perplexed by my response, Tom said that he would like to know why the church was a mess. God gave me some wisdom. I told him that the church is a mess because "I" am a mess.

You know the church has always been a mess. The apostle Paul spent large parts of his letters dealing with messy situations in the early churches. Even he himself struggled. He said that the things he wanted to do he did not do and those things he didn’t want to do he found himself doing. I am sure that one such time was when he and his friend and co-laborer, Barnabas, disagreed whether Mark should be brought along on a missions trip. It is written, "they had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company". There is no denying it … families are not neat and tidy.

I guess successful families are the ones where family members choose to love and keep loving … keep pushing past the pain of the past towards a hope for the future. As for me, I choose to let go of painful past family expriences – I will no longer allow past family experiences to defile my current family experiences … both my nuclear and my church ones.

Jesus told us that non-believers take note when we have this extraordinary love for each other:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35