God is our hiding place

“For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory” (Psalm 32:7, NLT).

One of the fun parts of riding my bicycle is watching the ground squirrels scurry back to their hiding places as I get too close for their comfort. They can really run! Sometimes I surprise them and sometimes they surprise me. They have holes everywhere for quickly taking cover.

At times we can feel like a ground squirrel, sunning on a rock, enjoying the morning when out of nowhere comes a hawk, a snake or a wild cyclist to shake us up, disrupt or even destroy our lives. Squirrels escape to their burrows but where do we go? God is our hiding place, the one we can run to anytime, anywhere. He doesn’t make all the dangers in life go away, but he provides the safety of his love and grace, giving us strength to face and get through the troubles, and even gives us a song as we go!

God is our sun

“For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory” (Psalm 84:11a, NLT).

In southern California, we have silly names for the weather. We have wind events and rain events (I guess because they are so rare) and in June, we have June Gloom. This means the marine layer of clouds comes over land, and if we’re lucky (imo) it even comes out to where I live. I say lucky as I really enjoy the quiet and the feeling of being fogged in. It stays cool a little longer, which relieves the heat of the early summer.

If the sun never came out, I’m sure it wouldn’t feel so lucky. We need the sun for light and warmth and I’m sure a lot of other things to do with our little galaxy we’re not even aware of. This verse says God is our sun. He gives light, warmth and life to the whole earth. No wonder ancient civilizations used to worship the sun. They had the right idea, they just didn’t realize the identity of the real sun—God, the giver of life and our shield, who gives grace and glory.

Emmanuel, God with us

This article I wrote back in 2009 goes along with the verse from yesterday.

Anyone who has been to my home knows I love flowers. They are everywhere—in the backyard, in the front yard and in pots wherever I can find space. I love everything about them from planting them, watching them grow, and enjoying their fragrances and colors, to how they attract butterflies and hummingbirds. I wait all year for spring bulbs and I’m sad when they finish blooming. When a piece of a plant breaks off, instead of throwing it out I stick it in dirt and hope it grows. I talk to my roses.

I’ve always thought my love of flowers was genetic as my parents came from farming backgrounds. My dad was an avid gardener who also loved flowers. My mom’s yard is full of them and she loves them as much as me, or rather, as much as I do. I read a booklet by Baxter Kruger that changed my perspective on my passion for flowers, as well as my other hobbies and predilections. The booklet (available in e-book form on his website,www.perichoresis.org) is titled The Secret, not to be confused with the new age book of the same name.

Kruger tells the story of his encounter on a plane with a biologist. This man was enthusiastic about plants, so much so Kruger received an impromptu botany lesson. That prompted him to ask the biologist where he got his passion for plants. The man said he’d not really thought about it, so Kruger showed him a diagram depicting Father, Son and Holy Spirit and explained that his passion came from God’s passion. He didn’t say what the biologist thought, but I know what my reaction was: Aha!

That’s why I love flowers so much! That’s why artists paint, musicians play, singers sing, architects build, athletes play and compete, writers write and pilots fly. Our passion and creativity come from the passion and creativity of God, through the Son, in and through the Spirit. I was right, my love of flowers is genetic, but it’s DNA passed on to me through the shared life of Father, Son and Spirit.

So when the biologist who loves plants goes on a research trip or I plant yet another bulb or a poet writes a poem, we are expressing the image of God. Why is this important? It means, as many of us have suspected, our lives are not separate from God. As Paul said in Acts 17:28, “In him we live and move and have our being” (NIV). In Christ, all of life is shared life with the Trinity.

As I write, occasionally looking out the window at my flowers and fruit trees (and running out to chase the birds away), I am living “in the circle of the Triune life of God” (The Secret). All people, as we live out our passions or dream of living them, participate with God as he lives in us. He is Emmanuel. Our lives are in him. He is with us in everything we do. I think I’ll go plant something in celebration of God with us!

God’s deep thoughts

“O Lord, what great works you do! And how deep are your thoughts” (Psalm 92:5, NLT).

This world has produced some great and deep thinkers—philosophers, mathematicians, preachers, statesmen, inventors and engineers. We admire them for their intelligence and contributions to society. Where would we be without their inventions and innovations? I for one am happy so many smart people are out there thinking up new things. Not all of them have been for the best, but that’s life.

Of course, none of our deep thinkers can come close to the deepest thinker of all time. God’s thoughts are unimaginably deep and wonderful—too wonderful for us to comprehend. Not only are his inventions amazing—just consider water, oxygen and food—the depths of his love, grace and mercy are beyond our reach. Our minds can’t begin to grasp the love that compelled Jesus to go to the cross for us. He is the original and best thinker and amazingly, his thoughts are for us!

God answers right away

“As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength (Psalm 138:3, NLT).

Many have wrong ideas about prayer. Some see God as Santa Claus, who watches to see if you’re behaving or not and answers accordingly. Others see him as a big vending machine. If you say and do the right things, what you want slides through the slot. Still others think of him as a cosmic butler, ready to do their bidding. Of course, when the prayed for answers don’t materialize, they blame him and get angry or turn away.

God is none of these. Prayer doesn’t work like that. It’s not a way to get things and God isn’t keeping a list of who’s naughty or nice. He does answer, just not always in ways we want or anticipate. He answers with himself. He gives us the assurance he is with us and on our side. He leads us beside the calm waters and restores our soul (Psalm 23). In solitude and silence, wait for him and enjoy his presence, which is worth so much more than anything else we could ask for.

God can’t be measured

“Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness” (Psalm 145:3, NLT).

We learn early in science classes how everything must be measured, observed and duplicated before we can prove the truth of a theory or supposition. So when we get to the point of thinking for ourselves about God, we have already applied the good old scientific method to him and all things spiritual. No wonder so many turn away, not to mention all the disinformation, bad examples and hypocrisy seen in Christians.

God’s greatness can’t be measured—and neither can he. We can’t see, hear, touch, taste or smell and we certainly can’t measure or duplicate him in a lab. So how do we know he exists? Many books have been written, many arguments have been made and I don’t have time and space here except to say I’ve seen his greatness all around the earth and in the unfolding of my life. He is here, he is real and he is great.

God heals the brokenhearted

“He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds” (Psalm 147:3, NLT).

Most of us have experienced a broken heart to one degree or another. Sometimes the hurt isn’t too deep and is easily overcome or forgotten. Some hurts go so deep the person is forever affected. Some have perhaps died of a broken heart. Life holds a lot of pain and there are no real cures. Drugs and alcohol only dull it and lead to even more heart break.

God knows our hearts and he knows the depth of our pain. He watched as his one and only son was tortured and killed. You could say Jesus went to the cross brokenhearted over the pain and destruction caused by sin. The good news is he is the one who can heal all broken hearts and bandage the wounds we all carry. His love, grace and mercy is the balm to soothe and the cure which heals.

God teaches us through grace

“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures” (Titus 2:11-12a, NLT).

In Hebrews we read the Old Covenant is no longer in force after the death of Jesus, which means the Ten Commandments are no longer in force. So naturally the question arises—what about sin? What about obedience? Can we just do anything we want and get away with it? Because of these questions, churches have felt compelled to tack on a few conditions to grace.

Paul addressed this in Romans 6:1-4, asking shall we continue in sin so we can experience more grace? Of course not! Paul announced that in Christ, we have died to the law and are living new lives. In Titus we read that grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness. Before, the law was the teacher but now in Christ, grace is our kinder, gentler, no strings attached teacher. May we all listen and learn well.

God strengthens our hearts

“May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen” (1 Thessalonians 3:13, NLT).

Not for the faint of heart—when you see this warning it usually means whatever follows is going to either frighten, disgust or freak you out, like an article I saw on eyeball tattooing and piercing. Definitely made me feel squeamish, sickened and disturbed (idioms.thefreedictionary.com).

Life itself could be classified as not for the faint of heart and Paul knew that better than most (just read 2 Corinthians 11). But he also knew he wasn’t alone and without help. Because of the love overflowing from the Holy Spirit (verse 12), Paul’s heart was strengthened and he could pray confidently for the Thessalonians their hearts would also be strong, blameless and holy. May our hearts be strengthened today as we live in the joy of his presence.

Jesus is our knight

“For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:13, NLT).

We love a good story—just look at how much money movies still take in at the box office, and now we can download as well as rent them. It seems we can’t get enough of knights jousting, going on quests and rescuing fair maidens, as movies and TV series continue the theme. Who doesn’t love a thrilling sword fight, with good triumphing over evil?

All good stories have their source in the pages of the Bible. We (humanity) are the fair maiden, trapped in the darkness of sin and death. God is the just king who sent his best knight to rescue us and bring us back to his kingdom of light, where goodness reigns and there is peace and plenty for all. It’s the true Camelot, but rather than just watching it, we get to live it—forever!