We have troubles, regrets, doubts, and fears in life that we carry with us. They are sometimes unforgettable and often unforgiveable. There are groups to join and people to talk with to deal with our issues, yet they remain with us. The only true help we have is in the living hope of Jesus. “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for us, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5). Jesus is our hope, our only hope, who makes our past disappear. Because Jesus was resurrected from the dead, we have hope for our own lives to die and become resurrected to new life. We can live hopeful instead of helpless with the love of Jesus.
Living with teenagers gives a new meaning to obey or obedience. Do they make it their daily goal to disobey? Some days I believe so. What about us? I have to stop and think as I stress the importance of feeding the dogs for the third time to my son, how many times does God tell me to do something over and over. I can tell my boys the importance of their obedience: they will be rewarded, praised and hugged and feel good about their accomplishment.
God, being the awesome Father He is, also gives rewards for obedience. It’s not material things we may be asking for, or could be if it is a need. It’s more important things that provide joy, peace and a loving heart. God talking to His Chosen People is the same as talking to us. (We are Chosen if we are His) “Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may LIVE and INCREASE and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers” (Deut 8:1). God has wonderful plans and promises for all His Children. He doesn’t save us just to sit around and be saved. He gives us gifts and abilities and thoughts to DO something for Him; something that will bring Him Glory. Romans 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. His promises for Ezekiel and the children of Israel are the same for us. We have several examples of producing fruit, which is a sign of growing and being productive. If your career is farming pecans, then you depend on the trees producing pecans. Of course some years produce more than others, but when a tree becomes diseased or too old to produce pecans, the farmer has to cut it down, burn it and plant another one that will produce. God wants us to grow in knowledge and grace and produce good fruit. If we don’t, or refuse, we are placed aside or cut away from the orchard. God is gracious and long-suffering and gives us time to be grafted in. God is the ultimate gardener and knows how to cultivate and graft to create the perfect flowers and fruit.
Refuge is a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger or trouble. We may not be running or hiding for our lives on a daily basis but we are in a battle with our minds. We face doubt, fear, anxiety, depression, pain, financial problems, family problems and frenemy issues. We desperately need help daily to deal with these moment by moment issues. These problems could easily overwhelm us and most people are overwhelmed to the point of illness and disease. Stress to the body is sickness. It is a slow and painful death.
According to Stress.org:
There are numerous emotional and physical disorders that have been linked to stress including depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, immune system disturbances that increase susceptibility to infections, a host of viral linked disorders ranging from the common cold and herpes to AIDS and certain cancers, as well as autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. In addition stress can have direct effects on the skin (rashes, hives, atopic dermatitis, the gastrointestinal system (GERD, peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis) and can contribute to insomnia and degenerative neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease. In fact, it’s hard to think of any disease in which stress cannot play an aggravating role or any part of the body that is not affected (see stress effects on the body stress diagram) or. This list will undoubtedly grow as the extensive ramifications of stress are increasingly being appreciated.
We all need a refuge from stress. A place in our minds to retreat, to hide from the problems of the day. Jesus offers the only hope we have. He will take our problems and give us peace. “Trust in him at all times, O People, pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8). How do we do this? Whenever problems or concerns come to mind, talk to God. Tell Him what you are feeling and what you need to do and memorize His promises, like Psalm 62:8 or Proverbs 3:5-6 (there are thousands). Pick your favorite most comforting promise of God and recite it when problems attack you. He will flood you with peace that is beyond understanding! That’s another promise: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).
There are 2.2 billion people in the world who claim to be Christians, followers of Christ. It’s the world’s number one religion thus far. I wonder if folks who just “know” about Christ are calling themselves Christians. If that’s the case, there are far less, maybe 12 to 1? If we consider the 12 disciples who followed Jesus day and night for years, listening to His teachings, and seeing first-hand the miracles performed, there was 1 out of the 12 whom betrayed Jesus. The other 11 were faithful followers, willing to die for the truth of Jesus Christ. It is easier to know who Jesus and God are without being fully committed. Most religions have rituals to follow. We are made for rituals –we do that every day when we wake up, go to work, go home, talk with family, go to bed and start over the next day. Religious rituals are from the foundation of mankind. Jesus came and blew up the rituals and said you have to surrender your life, die to yourself and let me live through you. Jesus doesn’t say this without backing it up. When he rose from the grave and ascended to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell with us. The same Holy Spirit that spoke to Moses, gave Him the Ten Commandments, spoke to Noah and told him to build a large boat in the middle of the desert, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. When we live with this Spirit in us, we are able to accomplish anything asked of us. Not everyone claiming to be a Christian is living with the Holy Spirit dwelling within. Sin is prevalent in this world and the Holy Spirit helps us deny sinful habits in our lives. Some sinful habits are too hard for us to break alone, we need God’s help. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). Don’t be deceived, you can’t keep sinning while the Holy Spirit dwells within you. You must choose what’s more important in your life, Jesus or your sin.
We live in a 10-ring circus of confusion. So many things compete for our attention and our trust. It doesn’t seem harmful or even dangerous. We have a natural tendency to compare our goodness or badness to others. We even choose sins that are not as bad as others, example, we don’t approve of adultery, yet we spend more time on our iphone than reading the Bible. We would never consider killing someone we don’t like, but we’ve said many times how we hate that person. God’s Word says our thoughts are dangerous. It takes practice and the Holy Spirit to control the natural thoughts we have and replace them with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. It takes practice and it is very important! We are not alone being Christians in this evil world. All of the original disciples were persecuted and tortured for practicing their faith. They understood and saw firsthand the effects of their sins against Jesus. They looked into His eyes after denying and doubting Him and saw the pain and disappointment all over His face. They saw the difference in living in this world and living for God. They GLADLY and EAGERLY choose God’s path. Sin destroys and kills the heart, soul and body. They are our witnesses to give us an example of living for God and having a life of Joy. They tell us (Hebrews 12:2) to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.