My Rampart

Have you ever come across a verse that was difficult to shake?  By that I mean, unable to stop pondering, thinking or unpacking?  Indeed, these verses are the hidden jewels of the wealth of treasure throughout God’s Word, and once discovered — they radiate like diamonds on the soul.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.   Psalm 91:4

For some time now this verse has conjured up all sorts of images . . . wings, protection, safety, shelter and the list goes on.  But it was the latter part of this verse that stirred in my heart for more than a week.  His faithfulness?  Mentioned in the same breath as feathers and wings?  My shield and rampart . . . what in the world is rampart?  My only reference to this word in my everyday life was from my childhood, watching one of my favorite shows in the early 80’s called Emergency One!  It was a syndicated TV series focused on the world of two paramedics at Station 51 and their close working relationship with Rampart General Hospital. The paramedics would arrive on an emergency scene, care for the wounded and call into “Rampart” to alert them of injuries in need of immediate care.  And like the heroes they were, they whisked the injured to the hospital.  Upon arrival, “Rampart” became the place for healing, recovery, care — where peace conquered chaos, and disasters became stories of miracles.

A place of fortification — rampart serves as a place, a broad place, raised to an elevation to serve as a defense.  Now it’s starting to become more than feathers!  My God serves as a broad, expansive defense for me.  And not just Him, but through His faithfulness this shield and rampart protects.  Can anyone else see the radiant diamonds glistening in this discovery?

My God, my Rampart!

Frozen By Fear

Fear has power.  It’s ability to reinvent is comparable only to the force of nature.   Fear is able to change momentum, redirect confidence, sabotage faith, conceive doubt, hijack control and freeze freedom.

I’m reminded of a beautiful spring day at a Tennessee wilderness creek.  It was a supremely perfect day.  Just the right amount of sun through the trees to warm your back while following the rushing water upstream and pausing on occasion to witness it’s power cascading over boulders left behind from something far bigger than myself.  On this particular day I chose to get a bit closer than usual to nature.  With a number of good sized rocks scattered beyond the shoreline into the rushing water it only seemed right to hop from one to another.  The air smelled of adventure and then time seemed to freeze.  Oddly however, it all happened in a split second and yet, lasted what felt like a lifetime.  As I left the security of one rock to land on the next, my eyes caught glimpse of a water moccasin warming himself on the likes of the rock I had intended to land.  But I was already in motion, in the air with no way to “change my mind.”  Yet, in some odd unexplainable way, I changed my mind, changed my direction and needed to change my shorts!  I landed on a completely different rock out of harms way.  Fear changed my momentum, redirected my confidence, sabotaged my faith, gave birth to doubt, hijacked my control and froze my freedom in mid-air.

It’s easy to talk about fear when it comes to snakes . . . who doesn’t freak out?  But when fear creeps into our lives through relationships, emotions, finances, careers and circumstances, it behaves in very similar ways.  And yet, Jesus tells us to fear not!

I’m reminded in scripture the account of Jesus asleep on the boat as the disciples begin to panic over the storm that threatens to bring disaster.  Jesus asks, “where is your faith?”

The sick woman who touched Jesus’ garment was called to reveal herself.  Full of fear and trembling she fell at Jesus’ feet.  Yet Jesus tells her, “. . . Go in peace and be freed . . . ”

David, a boy with only three stones faces a giant bully — but fear has no power!

Faith in knowing the Truth brings fear to it’s knees.  It thaws the grip fear has on the soul to do what is right and affirms the power of the Spirit who lives within to “go in peace and be freed!”  It is through the greater power of the Spirit of God that overcomes anxiety in messed up and broken relationships, that conquers unleashed emotions, that answers the questions of why and what if, that gives the solution to how.  It sees through the fog of soured circumstances to see that God is in control and that His promises stand true to the end . . . that He is glorified!

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”   Romans 8:5

 

Calm, Chaos and Christ

In a conversation with one of my sons this past week it was brought to my attention how busy things have gotten for me.  He said it with the best of intentions, but it certainly made me think a bit.  In reflection, I could see his point.  Life was getting busy, bouncing from one fire to the next and with little time to rekindle.  My loaded days certainly looked different than a year ago, but at what expense?  Stressed by the daily entourage of deadlines, projects and well, worry and wonder, that “double-W” will get me every time.

And then I was reminded of a few men with which I could certainly relate.  The account of Jesus in the boat with His disciples on a stormy night brought instant peace.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.  Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this?  Even the winds and the waves obey him!”   Matthew 8:23-27

Years ago I recall standing on a small bridge on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas.  On this particular bridge one can look to the left and see the raging, deep blue almost black waters of the Atlantic Ocean and to the right you can see the calm turquoise blue green, crystal clear waters of the Caribbean.  Below your feet, under the bridge the two met, yet kept their distance.

When I read this story of the disciples in the boat with Jesus, I’m reminded of the fierce waters of the Atlantic that day and I must admit if this sort of torment “came” upon my boat, it would invoke a slight bit of fear.  But without warning, chaos appears in our lives much like the waves of the sea and it is plenty enough to sweep us off our feet.

I’m further struck by the fact that the disciples cried out to Jesus because He was sleeping during the chaos.  How many times have I thought Jesus was sleeping in my own chaos?  Shaking my fist or expressing a sarcastic “Thanks!” seemed to be the most appropriate response.  But Jesus’ response to our chaos is most profound!

Jesus takes our chaos and through our trust in Him brings peace.  In the midst of life’s most chaotic moments when Jesus seems to be no where around and silent to the mighty waves He says, “You of little faith!”

May I continue to see the peace in the presence of Jesus, throughout my chaos whose presence alone demands the raging seas of life to become calm and clear.

Wife With No Name

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.  Psalm 34:8

Today I had the most excellent conversation with some new friends at my local Starbucks.  It was one of those conversations that begin knowing full well God orchestrated.  Those are indeed, the best kind!  During the course of the conversation, my new friend asked me a question.  She said, “Who is your favorite woman in the Bible?”  What an interesting question.  I sat and pondered as she explained, “I’m going to be speaking at my church on a woman of my choice from the Bible and I just don’t know who.”  I replied, “My favorite woman in the Bible is the wife with no name.”  Confused and a bit bewildered, my new friend sought to learn more.  “It’s Noah’s wife,” I said.

You see, there’s not much written — in fact hardly a word — on Noah’s wife.  She’s a quiet character in the story of Noah, but plays the leading supporting role.  The mere story itself suggests many things I believe to be true about Noah’s wife that serves to be a lesson for all of us.

The story of Noah begins, if a story can actually begin when one is 500 years old, with God finding favor with him and his family because he was found righteous.  God found favor in the hearts of Noah’s family, destroyed everyone else upon the earth.  Not once do we read of Noah’s wife complaining, belittling or questioning Noah.

Instead, we find the wife with no name in complete obedience to her Father in heaven as she follows with honor her entrusted husband.

May we learn from Noah’s wife the power in obedience to our God . . . even in the midst of unbelievable circumstances, unfathomable storms and undeniable messes . . . only to find, in His great plan, the promise of all things new!

 

Holidays That Hurt

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ  the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  II Corinthians 1:3-4

I’ve been reminded quite often during this holiday season of the hurt that surrounds me.  Not my own, while also deep, but rather the hurt of friends and family . . . and strangers alike.  I used to think and believe, without compassion, the hurt of those around me were more of their business than my own.  With this attitude it is simple and easy to think about yourself more highly than one ought and arrogantly disregard the pain of others.  After all, that’s not my problem . . . right?  I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Pain and hurt during the holidays is incredibly heightened.  With every turn, almost unavoidably, the joys of the season in family, and friends and fellowship spring from every corner.  To the hurting, it’s like rubbing alcohol on an opened wound.  There may be healing in it, but it hurts like the dickens . . . more than usual.

The loss of a family member or a very dear friend conjures up an absence, a change in routine and a reflection of what once was.  The grief associated with such loss can be immense.  The heaviness of sadness and loneliness can sink what was once unsinkable.  How one stays afloat in such times is somewhat of a mystery . . . but not really.

The God of this universe has promised you comfort in the midst of loss, grief and pain.  His comfort alone is sustaining and the “mystery” is truly by the grace of God!  He is the author of all that is and He alone orchestrates the healing power of the Holy Spirit in and through you.  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus my friend and everything that belongs to Him has been freely given to you!  While things are not the same in your world, Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever!

Experiencing the fullness of joy in the holiday season is indeed a precious gift.  Enjoy, celebrate and give thanks for those moments . . . but do not forget nor neglect the fact, there are those who experience far less joy in this season.  Share God’s precious gift with those who may be hurting.  It may be the only gift they receive.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.     II Peter 1:3-7

Rescuer Realized

Habakkuk the prophet saw it all and shares with us a portion of what was likely a lengthy conversation between him and God.   The account is shared in none other than the Old Testament book of Habakkuk.  It’s short — only three short chapters — but it is rich in the transforming understanding of who God is and the fullness of His glory!

How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?   Habakkuk 1:2

Habakkuk wrestled with recognizing the presence of God in the midst of difficult times.  He continues to question God in His allowance of wrongdoing and injustice, His tolerance of evil and conflict.  Habakkuk has forgotten for whom God exists!  He forgets that God is writing a story, but the detour in that great story must include the existence of unfortunate and sad circumstances because of the presence of sin.  And this often gives the false appearance of God’s absence.

God then, in chapter two, reminds Habakkuk of His great plan, His grand purpose and His holy splendor!  And Habakkuk’s eyes open to seeing, believing and trusting in the promises of God.  He finally realizes the message of rescue God has for His people.

You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one.   Habakkuk 3:13a

I cannot imagine the moment Habakkuk realized this truth!  His countenance changed, his life changed!  How he trusted in God changed and the depth of understanding of the love God has for him and His people was immeasurable.  Because, when all was lost, when nothing else was left, Habakkuk praised the One who enables!  It’s another great example of God’s whisper throughout time of His inevitable rescue!

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.   Habakkuk 3:17-19

Lord Jesus, remind me of your grand plan for me!  Continue to teach me of the joy I have in you because I belong to you!  I do rejoice . . . may I always rejoice . . . even when I have nothing, because with you I have everything!

 

Direct My Thoughts

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.  Psalm 63:1

The desert is a pretty dry place!  Without water it’s even drier!  And yet, David found himself in the midst of this scorching environment with plenty of room to throw out criticism and dissatisfaction with his circumstances. It would be safe to say that he was not in the best of moments nor living in the midst of the best time of his life.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have thought about things I really didn’t want to think about.  In fact, entertaining these thoughts have consistently contributed to a separation from my Lord.  The further the separation, the drier the land in which I walk.  Often sparked by a thought, these moments slip into existence without much notice but regrettably find themselves the “author” of much no good.  As much as I feel I am all alone in these moments, I know I am not the only one that experiences this.  That’s why I am so very glad that David wrote this psalm.

Thousands of years following David, Paul writes to the people of Philippi and encourages them to think on those things found to be excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).  The Author of our mind is apparent as we learn more and more about Christ in us!  An undesirable thought may be introduced to our mind, but to whom does it belong?  Is it received?  Is it rejected?  Paul further explains the method by which to dissolve arguments — by taking every thought captive in order to make it obedient to Christ (II Corinthians 10:5).

Personally, I can’t imagine what it would be like to find myself in a literal desert, parched, hot, fatigued, hungry and more than anything . . . thirsty — with nothing to satisfy my body and it’s needs.  On the other hand, I have found myself in very similar conditions when it comes to the condition of my heart and soul.

Paul says to capture those thoughts and do something with them!  Don’t let them roam wild, but instead, make them obey Christ!  That’s serious business!  Unaccustomed to such discipline, it can seem a bit laborious.  But standing firm in Christ’s obedience satisfies the heart and soul of ALL of it’s needs.  Paul learned this application and lived it . . . AFTER listening to those thoughts himself that drove destruction.  Once he got it, he lived it and then taught others how to live in it themselves.  David called out to God, praised Him in the midst of trial, while utterly uncomfortable and seemingly hopeless.  But how he chose to think changed everything!  It was a choice!

Lord Jesus, like David, my whole being longs for you!  When I get caught up in what I think about my circumstances, remind me of who I am in you!  When I think about the lies presented to me in thought, remind me of the Truth and to whom I belong!  When I think I’m all that and deserve all this, remind me that you plus nothing equals everything!

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:33

Nothing Coming Between

Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.   James 4:7-8

Oswald Chambers in his famous devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, says something remarkably poignant and it reaches to the core of my being.  He says anything that disturbs my rest in Him (Christ) must be taken care of immediately; that I must never allow anything to remain that is causing a separation between Christ and myself.  I’ve never given a “truth-check” to the reality of what my sin does in terms of my relationship with Christ!  Separation?

It’s so easy to focus on the issue, the specifics and become entirely distracted from the essence of truth in the current of self.  This “rip-tide” is subtle, inviting and yet, swift and dangerous.  Anything that stands between Christ and me stands in the face of trusting Him by doing things my own way.  It is a willful act of looking into the mirror and seeing “self” instead of Christ in me!  It becomes a refocus of self-consciousness.  When I focus on me and my own circumstances, analyzing and contemplating the outcome of life’s most uncertain  moments, it translates into the absence of God’s rest, His contentment and peace.  It is replaced with self-consiousness in the form of feelings of fear, rejection, discontent, worry, pride, resentment, hurt . . . to name only a few.

The answer here is found in my “will” — through choice.  God has designed me in such a way as to decide what thoughts to entertain.  And He reminds me in His Word to take “every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” (II Corinthians 10:5)  How I choose to think about me and my circumstances is the difference between my “junk” coming between Christ and me and nothing coming between Christ and me.  It’s the moment when I choose to deny self-consciousness and live in the embrace of Christ-consiousness.  Through this lens I quit focusing on myself and begin focusing on Christ in me – my Strength, my Comforter, my Healer, my Deliverer, my Redeemer.

Lord, Jesus, I need you every hour!  And in each hour I desire to think on Truth!  I realize that when I choose to do things my way and not your way, I am separated from you!  Those are very unpleasant moments for me and worse to remember.  I’m asking Lord, to make me God-concious!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.    Philippians 4:8

Cannot Contain

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?  Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?  Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor?   Isaiah 40:12-13

I cannot get the familiar song from childhood out of my head . . . “My God is so BIG, so STRONG and so MIGHTY, there’s nothing my God cannot do!”  Remember those words?  You may, in fact, sing it all day now that you’ve read those words — and that’s alright!

To children, there’s not much out there that doesn’t seem big and strong and mighty — everything is actually!  Have you ever returned to a place you remember from your childhood as an adult only to find it much smaller than you recall?  My backyard was huge!  My house was even bigger!  Driving by the place now though, I can’t help but notice it really wasn’t that big at all.  As we age, as we grow bigger ourselves, stronger and more self-sufficient, that which was once MIGHTY becomes less mighty.

Oh how great is the danger in diminishing the “big-ness” or the “strength” or the “mighty-ness” of our God.  Yet, the fallacy is that we have elevated ourselves to believe we are greater than He, more able than He, more in control than He, more wise than He.  We take into our world the false belief that all things work together because we have orchestrated the events through our own efforts and that chance, good-luck and a sprinkle of coincidence somehow channel our existence and outcome.

But God, in His great love of which cannot be contained . . . in His great power of which cannot be contained . . . in His great simplicity of which cannot be contained, in His great knowledge of which cannot be contained has called His children (that’s me and you) by name.

How big, how strong, how mighty is your God?  Remember, there’s NOTHING He cannot do — still!

Strength to Strength

They go from strength to strength . . .  Psalm 84:7

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.  My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.  The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.   Psalm 28:8

As I think on my day, I cannot help but think about the mountain of circumstances and events that surround it on all sides.  It’s fairly daunting and no health supplement will give the strength to cross over.  But, the truth is, tomorrow is on the other side and despite the fact the mountain is tall and steep, I know it must be climbed.images

I remember standing on the top of one of the “Ivy League Peaks” in Colorado and seeing the world from what appeared to be — the top!  Mountain after mountain, capped with snow and rock blanketed the landscape in all directions.  It was truly breathtaking.  But the more than ten hours it took for me to get to the top was no pleasant journey.  No doubt, there were pleasant moments — the scenery, the cobalt-blue lakes adorned with beaver homes, forests of aspen, the treeline and then nothing but rock.  If you’ve been there, you know what I mean!  But it took a focus, determination and a strength that was beyond my likelihood.  My focus was on the mountain before me, I knew it meant climbing to the top — and it was obvious, I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

It’s like that in life too.  It’s easy to focus on all the mountains, in all directions, and wonder and worry about how to manage the challenges each of them face.  But God gives us today and on that mountain calls me to draw upon His strength to get through it — to climb it.  And if I strain in His strength, He assures me of even more strength!  I move from strength to strength.  He enables me to make it through today!

So, I choose to trust Him — my heart trusts Him!  I call on His strength today and in the end, I see the beauty of His strength in me.  It is throughout the day that I approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we [I] may receive mercy and find grace to help us [me] in our [my] time of need.  Hebrews 4:16

Thank you Lord for the strength you have given and the promise of your provision of strength over and over again.  It is through this I praise your name!

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.  Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.  Psalm 105:1-4

by: Mark Cruver