Centered on Jesus for protection

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…let all who take refuge in you be glad;….you surround them with your favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:11-12 NIV

Lightening shattered the sky as torrential downpours hovered over us.  This storm had caught us unaware half-way into our hike. Besides being soaked through and picking our way carefully among the roots and gullies, I had slipped on a rock and landed on my right forearm. Thank God for his grace, for my arm fell on dirt rather than something sharp.  Nonetheless, the scrape was bad.  I held my arm up to catch the rain, washing off the blood.

When we hike, I follow Mike.  This day, I had been focusing on his backpack.  That morning I had meditated on Jesus’ promised provision of daily bread. I pictured all my stockpiled supplies in that backpack that the Lord daily carries for me. During the rain, I stayed close to Mike’s heels. This gave me a good visual of how closely I need to follow Jesus with my eyes locked onto that backpack full of planned provision.

Once the rain started, we hurried downhill as quickly as we dared. The ominous circumstances triggered a reminder of Satan’s lurking. Those storms seemed to park themselves right over us for the entire long descent.  Encountering two large snakes reenforced my awareness of evil’s presence. Gingerly, we stepped around these serpents, one while we ascending and one on our way down. Neither of them scurried out of the way.  What’s up with that?  I thought snakes avoided people.  Were they intent on catching us unaware?

By God’s mercy, almost an hour after the heavens opened up, we reached Mike’s red truck and found shelter.  Mike’s relief was palpable in his words, “Never again are we going to hike when the sky looks questionable!”  Mike has a healthy respect for lighting.  He knows fellow Ranger candidates who died, having been struck by lightening during patrols.

The next morning, Sunday, our Bible reading plan included Psalm 5.  Given our experience the day before, I immediately connected our safety with the words of verses 11 and 12 cited at the top of this post.

I pictured myself sheltered by God’s three-person shield. In my mind’s eye I ‘saw’ each member of the Holy Trinity with his back toward me. The father positioned himself on my left. Jesus planted himself right in front.  And the Spirit closed me in on the right.  The three locked shields to keep me surrounded and protected. 

I imagined them so close to me that I felt almost cocooned.

Friends, this is what God’s surrounding favor looks like.  No wonder the psalmist rejoiced in the midst of danger. 

God doesn’t block all the storms or the enemy’s attacks on us, but he keeps us safe and provides just what we need to stand firm, not giving into fear.

Make it obvious, Lord

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Psalm 5:9 – Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies—
    make your way straight, before me.

Straight path

How kind of God to give us the specific words to pray for obvious, ‘in-your-face’ guidance and direction.

If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to have to GUESS what God wants you to do!  Therefore, it is doubly good news that our Heavenly Father tells us to pray for a straight path that is unmistakable.  Does that mean the path will be easy?  or provide us with a constant view of the destination? Not necessarily.  Come with me and take a moment to think about what a ‘straight path’ implies:

  • In the photo above, can we see any obvious stopping point or terminus?  No.  But we do see enough of the path to walk on for probably 5 more minutes. From past experience, God gives just enough light for the next step.  I certainly WANT more, but I’m learning that this is God’s way and He is giving me practice in trusting Him.
  • A straight path is not necessarily a level path.  Sometimes the way ahead is UPHILL.  We live in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina.  In our cove, the incline is about 13 % on average.  So when we walk DOWN the half mile to get the newspaper, we have to walk back UP.  It’s hard.  And it doesn’t FEEL like it has gotten any easier in the 2 years we have lived here.  My point is that even straight paths are difficult.  Somehow knowing that ‘hard is normal’ make it easier to accept

To amplify this ‘Life is difficult by design’ truth, I’ll share with you a verse that Joni Eareckson Tada spoke about this week on her radio broadcast Link to the radio page of her website.  She told the story of Paul undergoing a sudden furious stoning that was meant to kill him.  Paul’s own analysis of this murderous attack was that this was God’s training. So Paul explicitly used it in his instruction of new believers:

  •  Acts 14:21-22 – after being stoned and left for dead (acute suffering) Paul taught the following, with Barnabas accompanying Him –  “They preached the gospel in that city (Derbe)  and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faithWe must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God, they said.

One final thought about God’s provision of the righteous path, the God-glorifying path: He will show us how to live, where to go, what posture or lifestyle to adopt in the face of enemies.  That we will live among enemies is a given!  What sort of enemies are these?

As many wise Christians have counseled, we should not be collecting enemies needlessly because we are jerks! But there WILL be enemies set on our destruction if we are showing our true colors as redeemed, forgiven, beloved children of the King. As long as we are sons and daughters who fearlessly, with joy, share news of available freedom from guilt and adoption as a sibling of Jesus we will be opposed.  Satan and his spiritual forces of darkness DON’T consider what we herald as good news.  And they sow lies as often as they can, through whatever means they can, both IN the church and in secular society.

Satan's plan

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