Shelter In Place

Image result for shelter in God

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.  Psalm 91:1-4

This uncertain, unfamiliar, and unprecedented time we are living in may cause anxiety, fear, and even panic to overwhelm us.  The Psalms continue to talk me off of the ledge of despair with words that comfort me, encourage me, and draw me closer to my Lord.  During these days of sheltering in place and social distancing I have chosen to direct my time of prayer and meditation toward Psalm 91. Please stop reading my post and take a moment to read through this psalm.  As you read take note of all the ways the Most High God will act on your behalf and how you are to respond to Him.   

As I made my list of what God will do and what I am to do, I noticed His list is much longer than mine. The psalmist is confident and secure in who God is and what He is capable of doing. The Almighty Sovereign God will deliver the believer from various attacks of pestilence and plague, be a refuge, command angels to guard him in all his ways, rescue, protect, and answer him in uncertain and dangerous times. He goes above and beyond by honoring and satisfying him with a long – eternal life! We can be secure in knowing that as believers in Christ Jesus, we too are guaranteed God’s faithfulness forever. Just to be clear, God’s deliverance is not a vaccine against physical harm or even physical death, but it is a promise to deliver us spiritually and emotionally from anxiety, fear and panic and assure us even death will not separate us from His presence or His love.  (see Romans 8:37-39)

What is required of us in this exchange with the Divine?  We must choose to dwell, rest, love and acknowledge God, who is faithfully trust – worthy. To acknowledge God doesn’t simply mean to recognize him with a finger toward heaven or by making the symbol of the cross on your chest.  There is deeper meaning hidden within this psalm – it means “to be familiar with” through having “a personal relationship with God.”  Love is the natural overflow of knowing God personally and it is that love which draws us to live in connection with Him.

Looking closer at Psalm 91, we read:

“If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the LORD, who is my refuge– then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.” (vs 9,10)

Refuge in Hebrew means a “shelter from danger” and come near means “spatial proximity” or “approach.” Today, in this present time, two terms we have heard over and over are “Shelter in Place” and “Social Distancing.”  There really are no new terms! Here in Scripture we find refuge in God is our shelter in place where He will distance us from any harm that would try to approach us.  The President and the media keep saying we are in a war with an invisible enemy. Believers shouldn’t be surprised to hear of this invisible battle, for it has been raging from the beginning of time. Our roaring invisible enemy is prowling around trying to steal our joy, kill our faith and destroy our hope, but do not fear, God our Almighty Most High is our invisible fortress, all-powerful shield, ever-present shelter, and eternally victorious Warrior! He has overcome and will continue to overcome any invisible enemy of not only our bodies but also of our very souls.  The Lord will satisfy us with long life and show us His salvation. 

Let us pray.

Lord, we acknowledge you are the Most High, Almighty God. You are our shelter and refuge during this unstable and uncertain time.  We trust You to command your angels to guard us in all our ways and to dwell with us in the safe place of your peaceful presence. We love you Lord and thank you for delivering us, honoring us and satisfying us with your secure salvation. Amen

A challenge as you shelter in place:  Memorize Psalm 91 as you pray through it every day for the next 91 days and along the way write down all the ways God has been faithful to you. 

Join me on Facebook Live at 6:30pm tonight (3/24) and Thursday night (3/26) right before nightfall to help you direct your thoughts to God’s Truth, washing over you with His Word.

Sheltering in His place,

Nancy Taylor

ProvetheWord.org

Thirsty for Living Water

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Psalm 42:1-2 

“Are you thirsty?” said the Lion. “I am dying of thirst,” said Jill. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic. Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step closer… “I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill. “Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion. “Oh dear! said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go look for another stream then.” “There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis

Have you felt like Jill? Worn out from the relationships that seem like an unending marathon?  Burned out from giving it your all in ministry but not seeing results? Exhausted from trying to look as happy and put together as everyone around you? Panting to catch your breath in the hurried lifestyle that suddenly captured all of your free time? 

I’ve got good news for you today! In the longing, in the yearning, God is drawing us closer to Him. We are parched and panting, but God promises us He is the Living Water who will fully satisfy. 

On the outside it may look like we have found the source of life, but on the inside, deep down, our own souls betray our daily reality that nothing but an encounter with God is ever really enough. In the midst of procuring new things, striving after the newest experience, or inundating ourselves with the newest trends, we know we yearn for a remedy we cannot make ourselves. Most of us spend our days doing anything we can to satisfy the undeniable inward craving for purpose, meaning, and affection.  

What we all search for is a soul- satisfying encounter with God.

Jesus’s answer to the Samaritan woman is for you and me: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up into eternal life.” (John 4:14) We later learn in John 7:39 this living water Jesus speaks of is the Holy Spirit offered to you and me as the gift of eternal life. 

Are you weary of looking for living water? Soak your soul today in the satisfying presence of God and in His Word. Determine to run everyday to His stream and quench your soul in the freedom of self forgetfulness in light of God’s goodness and mercy found in His Word.  It is His great joy to give you access to this stream! He came so you and I may know the deep satisfaction of His life changing Living Water! (Isaiah 55:1-3)

Come, come to the waters this morning and let yourself be drenched in the mercy and love of God. You have no idea how badly He wants you to come to Him, how much He cares for your thirst to be quenched with true life. He has broken down all barriers for you to get to the edge of the water to kneel down and have a drink. The last page of the Bible has an amazing invitation for each one of us: “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.”(Revelation 22:17)

 Father, my throat is parched from calling for help. I am weary from continuing to look for Living Water in dry wells. I long for you, I thirst for you, and I drawn to you like a desert animal is intuitively drawn to water sources necessary for life. I am afraid you will disappoint me if I really ask for your presence to come touch my life. But I choose to put my hope in you and trust anyway. You satisfy my soul like no other. Come, Holy Spirit, take root in my soul. I need you. Amen.

— Emma Abernathy

Hiding in a Cave

With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.  I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.  When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! (Ps 142:1-3)

While David is writing Psalm 142, he is hiding in a cave with 600 of his men while Saul, the present king, out of mere jealousy towards David, seeks to kill him with 6,000 of his bravest men.  Consider them 6,000 ‘Navy Seals’ of our time.  David only has 1/10th of the army of Saul and if we are to look at military strategy today, David had no chance of surviving.

In I Samuel 16, Samuel anoints David to be future king.  David’s insurmountable trust in God is based on the promises of God’s Word: what He says God will do and who God says He is.  He cries out to God and shares His pain with Him.  He seeks God as His refuge.  

His trust is so unwavering in God he has an opportunity to protect himself by killing Saul when he goes into the cave to relieve himself.  However, because David does not want to interfere with God’s plans, he only cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe.  Later, David comes out of the cave and bows before Saul.  He shows him the corner of the robe and says, “Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.”

Some of you may feel you are in your own ‘cave’ overwhelmed by your circumstances.  You may feel all odds are against you.  You may feel like your life is caving in and you are desperate for someone to save you from your circumstances.  Some of you may have been betrayed by someone when the only thing you have done is live righteously and love rightly.  

During these times, it may be tempting to take life ‘by the horns’ and control your circumstances.  After all, isn’t that what the world considers a ‘strong person’?  However, as much as David feared His life, He trusted God more.  As a result, Saul came to his own conclusion that David is more righteous than him and David has been anointed by God to be the future king  (I Sam 24:17).  

Whatever you are going through, can I encourage you to pour your heart out to God and find refuge in Him? Can I encourage you to take God at His Word?  He is who He says He is.  He will defend you and He will set you up on a high rock when all is said and done.  

Edna Lee

The Desires of My Heart

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

This time of year there’s a lot of focus on the heart. Pink and red hearts are everywhere and it’s a great time to do something special for someone you love. While it may be festive for many it can also be a painful reminder of dreams unfulfilled, promises broken and hope deferred, which “makes the heart sick“. Can you relate?

Abraham’s heart received a powerful promise from God that he would become the father of many nations. When God didn’t deliver soon enough he took matters into his own hands by producing a child with his servant. That story did not end well and it’s never ended well in my life either. God doesn’t need our help, He wants our heart.

Because “The LORD is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made” Isaac was born from the elderly couple well beyond their child-bearing years. Can you imagine the joy of receiving a long-awaited promise, finally seeing it with your natural eyes and holding it in your arms? God’s promises are worth the wait.

Abraham’s heart must have been wrenched when God asked him to sacrifice his one and only son, Isaac, in Genesis 22. Has your path ever taken a turn which makes zero sense?

Unlike me, Abraham did not delay. He set out on a 3-day journey to the place where God directed with his son. What would be going through my mind? Would I even be able to walk? What would I say to Isaac when he asked: “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?

In bewildering faith, Abraham responds, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And they continued in obedience. How perplexing is your circumstance? What are your saying about your situation? Are you willing to continue?

When Abraham raised the knife over Isaac, God intervened and provided a ram to take Isaac’s place. Abraham not only knew but got to experience Jehovah Jireh, the LORD our Provider.

If the cry of your heart this Valentine’s season is:
“God, I heard your promise but nothing has happened. Where are you?”, “Why does it appear the promise you provided is being taken away?”, or “My heart hurts. Make it stop.”
It’s time to refocus.

1. Look away from the pain and focus on the Provider.
2. Choose new words to describe your situation. Try saying “God himself will provide” until you believe it.
3. “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

When was the last time you asked the Creator of your heart to delight it in Him?

With a heart that has journeyed epic highs and lows, and in His Unfailing Love,
brandi

He Listens

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.” Psalm 5:3

Earlier this year, Aiden, my 16-yr old son, said something very thought-provoking. He said, “I always believed God was real, but I never believed He listened.”  Never?  Wow.  It was a breath-catching statement to speak out loud about God, Elohim, the Creator of heaven and earth.  It made me ponder.  How many people are living hectic lives, with “never” in their minds, but desperate hope in their hearts that God does listen?   Thankfully, my son was bold enough to speak his thoughts aloud, but I wonder how many others are struggling with the same unspoken belief?  

Aiden made his statement after God showed Himself in an incredible display of power.  We were on the Double O trail, in the middle of a strenuous hike in Arches National Park.   We had started the 4-mile hike with gentle snow flurries in the air, but as the day wore on, the temperature had dropped below 30 degrees and we found ourselves hiking in a snow-sleet mess.  As we paused to catch our breath and take in our surroundings, I realized that the valley below us would have been a stunning view if it had not been shrouded in fog.  Without giving much thought to my words, I looked up to the heavens and prayed out loud, “Oh Father, if You would clear out the fog below us and allow a glimpse of Your beautiful valley, I would be so grateful.”  And God listened.

Within 10 seconds, the sound of a mighty rushing wind came out of heaven, across the mountain to the top of the valley where Aiden and I were standing.  The wind sounded like an 18-wheeler hurtling down a freeway and was so loud that Aiden was startled.  He turned around, and looked at the mountain behind him, asking “What is that?!”  The sound reminded me of the verse in Acts 2:2 when the Holy Spirit came and filled the disciples that were sitting together.  “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.”   The mighty, rushing wind filled the valley and pushed the fog out; Aiden and I were able to see the beautiful scenery below.   It was an amazing, incredible display of God’s love and power.  Soon after, Aiden made his comment in awe, “I always believed that God was real, but I never believed He listened!”  Today, Aiden believes He listens. 

If you are one who is struggling with unspoken belief and doubt in your heart that God listens, can I offer some encouragement?  God knows your heart, struggles and doubts.   Look up, and ask Him to show you a fresh, new vision of Him.  God will be faithful to answer.  He listens.

Sacred Story is honored to have Tana Deshayes as a guest contributor. Tana is a Senior Advisor with Inspire Women, a faith-based organization located in Houston, TX which equips women to find their God-given purpose.  Following God’s call on her life, Tana retired from corporate America in 2019 after working 20+ years in the oil and gas industry.  She has a passion for teaching, encouraging and mentoring women in the workplace. Tana is honored to be the mother of two handsome young men who are “skillful in playing, mighty men of valor, men of war who are prudent in speech, and the Lord is with them.” (1 Sam. 16:18)

Hidden in Plain Sight by Becky Allender

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.  On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness.  Psalm 145:4-6

Put this book on your reading list – you will love it!

“We don’t just have our stories. We are our stories.” Becky Allender quotes her husband Dan in the preface of her memoir Hidden In Plain Sight: One Woman’s Search for Identity, Intimacy, and Calling. Becky champions the power of story which led her to co-found the Allender Center at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology where she facilitates story workshops. I read her memoir in the fall and fell in love with the beauty of her bravery.

Becky shares 34 stories from the chapters of her life, providing glimpses into her life – as a child who learned to “hide,” a young married woman who overshadowed by her husband’s public platform, a woman pursuing her burden for victims of sex trafficking, a grandmother who cherishes her family, and others.

I treasured her journey, digesting at bite at a time. The bonus of a memoir is I can pick it back up, without having to connect the dots from one chapter to the next. I could resonate with Becky’s experiences in some way. I soaked in reminders about God’s heart to fill His children’s stories with adventure, freedom, healing, purpose, joy, comfort, and simple pleasures.

I grieved with Becky as she recounted childhood fears, moves, loss, burnout, bitterness, infertility, and rejoiced with her through supernatural rescues, lives changed for the kingdom, the beauty of redemption, moments of gratitude, unleashed gifts, honest conversations, healing from wounds, and more. The book drips with vulnerability as Becky “tells on herself” on occasion, going out on a limb to talk about the things in her heart and life.

Becky encouraged me to reflect upon my own story through the questions at the end of each chapter. She talks about Christ followers leaving a legacy through sharing their stories which impacts the next generation. Psalm 145:4-6 speaks of one generation “commending God’s works” to another. The word commend means to recommend as worthy.

The chapters of my story and your story are designed to show off the One who is worthy of praise. When we carve out time to process and put our stories down, we are sowing into the next generation wisdom, authenticity, passion for God’s plans, faith in His Word and prayer, and a love for reaching people with The Greatest Story Ever Told. Our stories fuel the torch of the Great Commission which is handed off to the next generation.

Sister, your story matters. Your story makes a difference beyond your lifetime. It is confidence in this reality which propelled me to create Sacred Story. I love giving a voice to ordinary, yet brave women who will tell of “God’s mighty acts” and pass on wisdom for the life of faith. I urge you to read Becky’s book whether individually and/or with a group and begin to process your chapters.

We are here to come alongside you in whatever that may be and to provide an avenue for your story to be shared on a greater scale. As a spoiler alert, I interviewed Becky on the Sacred Story podcast; our conversation will be published this spring. I encourage you to subscribe on Apple Podcast so you will receive a notice when episodes are published. The podcast is also available on Spotify and Google Play.

Thank you Becky Allender for your courage and for modeling what it looks like to declare God’s greatness!

~Laura

The With-ness of God

“You hem me in behind and before, you lay your hand upon me… Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” Psalm 139:5,7

As we exit the Christmas season by boxing up the stockings, the tree, and the gift wrap till next year, one thing has lingered behind in my soul, unwilling to be put away. It is the beautiful word “Emmanuel” and the accompanied meaning of “God with us.” I have begun to see and hear the “with-ness” of God weaving its way through every part of our daily lives. To me this life changing truth is primarily based on two different points: 

1. God genuinely likes you 

2. You two are in it together.  

God gently but firmly lays his hand on our back, letting us feel the touch of his presence as he guides us, like a gracious father teaches his young daughter how to ride a bike. Picture this for a moment, wherever you are, God laying his hand on your back between the shoulders as a reminder that he loves you. He wants to be with you in whatever it is you are doing. God genuinely enjoys the way he made you and loves spending time with you. Isn’t this remarkable?!

I often struggle to believe I was made in a good way, thinking instead that I am too much or not enough, or what I am doing does in no way warrant the attention of God Almighty. I sometimes think, “If God really knew me he wouldn’t like me that much.” I think we all can struggle with this kind of shame some days. But God, who is rich is mercy and graciousness, does not let my shame deter him from fully knowing me and voluntarily wanting to spend time with me. 

Like an awesome earthly father with a young daughter, God likes to hear my various thoughts on things, likes to carry for me what I cannot carry for myself, likes to play with me even though his skills far surpass what I have to offer, and loves when I reach up to hold his hand when I feel afraid. We are fully known by God, and yet he still sincerely likes us and is here to stay. 

Every day in life with God is “Take Your Daughter to Work Day.” His presence is always with us, surrounding us and invading every part of who we are. It sustains us as we walk through fire and flood. He is with you on the challenging path he has asked you to walk down, holding your hand, not going anywhere. What a gift of grace that there is no path so dark I could run down that God would not come chasing after me. There is no circumstantial challenge so great as to cause God to give up on you or question if you were really fit for the task. 

It is incredibly powerful to know God is with you in everything. He is with us. He is with us. He is with us. And he is not going anywhere. Feel the touch today of a Father who deeply cares about you. Feel the with-ness of a Friend who will never let you go alone. Emmanuel is here to stay. 

– Emma Abernathy

New Year, New Decade, New Mercies

“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory. The Lord has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” Psalm 98:1-3 

New year, new decade, new mercies. Every year on NYE, as the ball drops and the clock strikes midnight, the world joyfully celebrates the new year. There is an undeniable buzz and excitement as people celebrate, but why?

One reason is because with “new” comes a hope for something better and hope is contagious. This type of joyful hope and excitement is such a beautiful picture of what it’s like as a Christ follower to hope for the day when Christ will return and our God will make ALL things new. Rev. 21:5 “ And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

As we consider Psalm 98, the short nine verses in this Psalm are packed full of worshipful celebrations of our God. I love how Charles Spurgeon unpacks the Psalm in three segments mirroring the stanzas:

  • Psalm 98:1-3, the subject of praise is revealed. The Lord has brought salvation, that alone is enough to praise but I love in Ps. 98:3 that he goes even further. He has “remembered” the people of Israel. The reality that our God is faithful to remember us is a true gift.
  • Psalm 98:4-6, the means of praise is revealed. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord… sing praises to the Lord.” This call to worship is what NYE reminds me of, a true celebration with shouts of joy. The best part is that one day every knee will bow and worship King Jesus.
  • Psalm 98:7-9, the extent of praise to be proclaimed universally. This prophetic Psalm foreshadows the coming of Christ to save the world as a righteous judge.

In this new decade, my prayer is for an eternal perspective grounded on the praise of God. In 2020, I pray my focus would be on the reality of God’s faithfulness, the hope of his return, and the contagious joy I have in my personal relationship with the worthy King. Join me in pausing to reflect and dream in the following categories, how can we worship in these areas in 2020?

  • Spiritual:
    • Quiet time with God
    • Church / serving / tithing
    • Discipleship / mentorship
  • Relational:
    • Friends / Family / Coworkers, etc.
  • Personal:
    • Health, reading, traveling
    • Work, finances, personal growth/education, projects

May we each take time to pause, reflect, and consider how we can sing a “new song” of praise in these categories in 2020 for our God is worthy.

Father help us to enter this new year with an excitement of joyful praise for who you are and what you have done for us though Christ. May we carry this praise throughout the year into every part of our lives. You are faithful, steadfast, righteous, merciful, and have “done marvelous things” that deserve unceasing praise! We love you Lord. Amen

~ Kaitlyn Wurzbach

 

 

Jesus the Majestic

When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Psalm 8:4

Like an old black and white photo digitally restored with color, the Word of God this Christmas season has captivated my imagination. I have been visualizing the Nativity scene more clearly, seeing new angles, details, and glimmers of God’s glory. A great joy in my yearly rhythm with the Word is occasionally camping out in a certain passage or psalm over a number of days, soaking up all the spiritual nutrients possible. Over the past few weeks, Matthew 2 and Psalm 8 have spotlighted the story of the Magi, shaping the way I am viewing this season as resounding with God’s majesty.

The Magi left their comfortable, familiar environments to seek Jesus because they saw the star God had sovereignly placed in the sky and were overjoyed with what they found at the end of their journey. The heavens declared the glory of God and the stars proclaimed the work of his hands; His glory shown through the heavens he created, and he drew the Magi to himself and thus to worship. Worship must come after an encounter with Jesus; his majesty is too great for anything less than adoration from our hearts.

When they arrived, they found a small child at the center of a very humble environment- not at all what they had expected. However, the unexpected did not obscure the majesty of this king. John 1:3-4, speaking of Jesus, says, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” God’s kingdom coming into the world, the climax of restoration, hope, and victory over darkness for all humanity started with the birth of a small baby. Darkness was about to be silenced by the cries of an infant. The Magi gave the majestic child extravagant gifts fit for a king and reverently bow low in honor. They had considered the heavens for many years, studying the moon and the stars, which a God unknown to them had set in motion so they and the nations they represent might come to know Him and worship at His feet.

When we leave our comfortable, familiar environments to seek Jesus because we have heard his call, joy is always found and we cannot help but worship. Like the Magi we bow low before King Jesus in reverence and awe during this season, praying, “Lord, who am I that you took on flesh for me? What is man that you sacrificed your heavenly seat to save us?” We lay down our earthly crowns of popularity, wealth, and potential in light of his majesty and give him all we have, the greatest treasure of our hearts.

True life is found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you know Him on a deep, intimate level? Have you seen His glory, His majesty, and has it brought you into joyful, authentic worship? It is the greatest joy to know Him! This joy is even greater than the fleeting joy of the holidays. This joy is sustaining, commanding, and will never disappoint. King Jesus wants a relationship with you, specifically, and is inviting you by name to come to the manger and behold his glory this season. We come to him in awe, obedience, and surrender because the King of all kings has made himself known to you and to me. Wow.

King Jesus, thank you for not staying mysterious and unreachable, but sacrificing the glory and honor you deserved in order for us to know you. Lead my heart to worship you in a deeper way this season. We love you. Amen!

~Emma

God’s Christmas List: The Gifts of Obedience & Surrender