Hold the Fort

by Nan Corbitt Allen

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 NIV

Did you ever build a fort as a kid? Sure you did. Everybody did. Sometimes it was with your bed covers after you were supposed to be asleep. Sometimes it was a crude combination of various materials in the family room. It might have been a simple canvas pup tent in the back yard. Or maybe you built a real structure with hammer, nails and wood. A friend built my young sons a solid structure on stilts that had a sign on the outside that read: No Girls Allowed.

Probably everybody has built a fort of some kind. But why? Why are we compelled to create a fortress? A barricade? A refuge? Are we trying to keep someone or something out—or something in? Is it built for the feeling of being hidden? The answers vary depending on the circumstances.

Several years ago, on a trip to England, our family visited Dover Castle which rises high above the white cliffs over the English Channel. Though it was built as a royal residence in the 11th century, it became a citadel that protected the owner from foreign invasion. It was a sentry’s lookout, too, for hundreds of years, and it was even used by Winston Churchill to assess the battles that took place on the channel during WWII. Through the ages, it was utilized to watch for an approaching enemy, in order to make ready for a defense.

One modern fortress that comes to mind is at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It’s not just a military base, but where our country stores 9.2 million pounds of gold. Through the years, priceless documents, like the original versions of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address, were kept there for periods of time. The fortress gave protection of things inside that are perceived to be valuable.

Another fortress is the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado, that once served as the center for the United States Space Command and NORAD. Its purpose was to hide military testing techniques and top-secret findings.

All of these fortresses serve different purposes: watchtowers, safe houses, and concealment areas. I think we are created with a need to seek refuge—from storms, from illness, from harm. A safe haven against the chaos of life.

Martin Luther, the great leader of the Reformation and songwriter, wrote these words in 1529.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing
Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate
On earth is not his equal.

The language is, of course, archaic to us. Remember that the lyrics were written originally in German (Luther’s mother tongue) and then transliterated to English. But look at the first line of the text.

“Bulwark” means a hedge of protection, a wall of earth (a levee) against a flood, a fortification. It is also a nautical term. It refers to a solid wall around the main deck of a ship for the protection of persons or objects on the deck. Though the word does not necessarily “sing” well in modern terms, it alludes to the enormous strength of our God to hold us near and protect what is precious to Him. That’s why the 46th psalm calls God our refuge.

The Message translates the first 3 verses of that psalm this way:

God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in sea storm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains.

Take refuge inside a fortress, but not with bed sheets, castles, or bunkers. God’s hand is the only safe place to hide, to assess the enemy’s approach, and to preserve you, a truly valuable child of God.


This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

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Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: Where do you take refuge?

Look Up, Child!

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory and the One who lifts my head.                                                                                                                                                        Psalm 3:3 NASB

I was having trouble sleeping at night. Over the past several weeks, the world had become a very dark place. Headlines continually warned of thousands dying and the crumbling economy. Anger aimed from one side of the related issues toward the other was rampant all over the internet. How would this all end?

At one point in his life, King David struggled with grim circumstances. His son, Absalom, had staged a coup in an effort to take the throne. He’d rallied tens of thousands of citizens to his support and was now a viable threat to David’s reign and life.

Upon hearing the news, David gathered his household and fled the city. Among them were the Levites, carrying the Ark of the Covenant from the Tabernacle.

When they came to the natural border at the Brook Kidron, David sent the Ark back into the city. The rest of the group passed over the water and started up the mountainside on their way to the wilderness, where they would go into hiding and wait for word from sympathizers remaining behind.

Upon seeing David’s entourage pass by, a man named Shemei came out of his house, shouting curses and throwing stones in disgust. “Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless scum! The Lord has returned on you all of the bloodshed you caused the house of Saul and has given the kingdom into the hand of your son. You are only getting what you deserve!” (my paraphrase of 2 Samuel 16:7-8).

David no longer had the Ark, the physical representation of the presence of the Lord.  The malevolence of his son (whom he still loved), the rejection of his countrymen, and the loss of his throne was completely devastating. David and his entourage wept in despair as they continued to trudge up the mountainside, with heads covered and feet bare.

He was sick with grief and fear. In desperation, he called out to God with Psalm 3. “O Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.” But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head.” (Psalm 3:1-3 NASB)

As David looked around at ground level, there was no hope to be found. His adversaries were increasing. People were saying that God was not on David’s side. But that was only what David could see. So he called to the Lifter of his head.

In response, God lifted David’s gaze to the many times He had previously come through for David. Many times in the wilderness, God had protected him from King Saul, who sought to destroy him. He’d rescued David from invading enemies during his reign as king.

it was a needed reminder: God blesses the people who take refuge in Him.

As David raised his gaze, he also remembered the character and power of God. With that reassurance, he then knew there was no reason to doubt God now. So on that terrible night, as he lay down his head, David was able to sleep in peace.

As I struggled to sleep, I thought about Psalm 3. I decided to make a list of the things I continued to fret over while in quarantine, things I had not yet surrendered to God. When I did, I found every item on my list of concerns was fear-based: insecurity about family members and their situations, money issues, concern about the future of our country and way of life. How could I let it all go?

I needed to appeal to the lifter of my head. And put my gaze where it belonged. Not on what I could see, but on the unseen powerful and merciful God.

What is keeping you up at night? Covid-19 fears? Insecurity about your financial future? Concern for the health and safety of your loved ones? What do you think the Lord would say to you?

Look up, child. When we look up, we remember what’s temporary and what eternal glory we will one day see. We remember a God who is powerful, working every situation to further His plan for the world. We remember the big picture.

We don’t need to fear. We just need to keep looking up.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NASB 

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Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: What is weighing you down today?

 

Thankful No Matter What

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

The LORD is my strength, and my song; He has become my salvation. Psalm 118:14, ESV 

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November to be a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” For over 150 years, Americans – and people around the world – have thanked God for His many blessings on Thanksgiving.

But, what if we don’t feel blessed? What if we’re in the midst of some trial or difficulty or heartache right now? Can we still join in the Thanksgiving celebration with joy or will we just be going through the motions?

The writer of Psalm 118 knew trouble. His life had not been easy. He had been betrayed and attacked. And he had felt caught in a hopeless and dangerous situation with no way out.

But in the middle of those trials, he also experienced God’s personal intervention on his behalf. In Psalm 118:8-16, the psalmist testifies to God’s deliverance and expresses his gratitude. In this passage, we find 3 reasons to thank God when we face times of trouble:

  1. God is our refuge (Psalm 118:8-9) – When storms are raging all around us, we can always find safety in God’s presence. He is our shelter from the storm. Other people may not be fully trustworthy, but God can always be trusted. Other people may not always be dependable, but we can depend on God in any and every situation. Like the psalmist, when we’re in the midst of trouble, let’s thank God that He is our refuge. When we hide ourselves in Him, He will be our shelter!
  1. God is our helper and protector (Psalm 118:13) – When people and circumstances fight against us, we do not have to wonder or worry about victory. God Himself goes with His people and fights for them. When the psalmist was surrounded and swarmed by his enemies, victory came through the name of the LORD. Do you ever feel “swarmed by enemies?” Call on the name of the LORD. Thank Him that He is your protector!
  1. God is our strength (Psalm 118:14) – “The LORD is my strength, and my song; He has become my salvation.” God saves! He will deliver us through trouble with the strength of His might. He is our reason to sing, so let us lift a song of praise and thanksgiving to the God who is our strength!

God is our refuge, our protector, and our strength! If we can name no other blessings in our lives today, we can thank God for these. Let’s thank Him today, especially in the midst of trouble.

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Thankful No Matter What – @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the Author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest.

Kathy’s book “Before His Throne” leads you on a 9-week journey through the book of Malachi to discover what godly fear looks in our daily lives and how this biblical attitude will help you find deeper intimacy with God.

Join the conversation: Are there other things about God for which you are thankful?

 

Peace Like a Frog

by Linda Rooks @Linda_Rooks

One day while pulling weeds and overgrown vines in my large Florida backyard, I squeezed through the hedges to grab a vine and spied a small frog clinging to a leaf. Instead of jumping down and hopping off to find a calmer location where the plants were not being jostled and shaken, he didn’t budge.

For the next hour, I continued pushing past the frog as I pulled on vines and drug them back through the hedges to deposit them in the trash can. But despite the disturbance I was making, the frog didn’t move. Seemingly unfazed by any potential danger, he sat peacefully and unflustered on the side of the leaf.

I was surprised at his cool composure. Why was he so calm in the midst of so much chaos around him?

With my hands busy with the task of pulling out the vines, my mind was free to ponder things like how a frog could stay so peaceful, and I realized God’s provision of a suit of camouflage made him feel safe. His reaction to danger was to “hide” in God’s provision for him. The frog was able to be quiet and at peace in the midst of the mayhem going on around him, because he knew that while remaining still he’s invisible to predators. He’s camouflaged. He’s hidden.

The frog inspired me to think about my own reactions in life, for when uncertainties surround me and life seems chaotic, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

But when life gets out of hand and we don’t know how to untangle ourselves from the chaos surrounding us, God tells us to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 ESV) Like a frog that doesn’t move when danger lurks, God asks us to be still.

For when we are still, we can find that hiding place in the arms of our loving Father. When we quiet our minds and rest in His care, He can give us His peace that transcends understanding. (Philippians 4:7) In Psalm 32:7, David says, “You are my hiding place, you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (NIV) And Psalm 91:4 tells us, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart“ (NIV).

When we’re still and look to God in our troubles, we can recognize that God has the answers for us. He is our security, and He is our refuge.

When we look at nature, we see how God protects all His creatures, sometimes by giving a frog the protection of camouflage, sometimes by giving a porcupine prickly spines or a bird the ability to fly away. For each of his creatures, He is a loving creator.  But for us, His people, He is also a loving father. God’s amazing love is our protection. He is our hiding place and our refuge. When we’re scurrying around trying to find answers, He stands with His arms out to us, telling us to come to Him. He is faithful and has promised never to leave us or forsake us. He himself is our protection and refuge.

When you feel fear stalking you, when your mind swirls around with fears, imaginations, and unanswerable questions, when fear creeps up on you and is about to pull you under, remember you have a hiding place in a God who loves you with an everlasting love. His protective camouflage will hide you from the enemy’s snares. And under the shadow of his wings you can find refuge.

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linda rooksAbout the author: Linda W. Rooks has a ministry of hope for those in broken marriages. Her book Broken Heart on Hold, Surviving Separation continues to bring strength and healing to those who need an encouraging friend in the midst of marital breakdown. Her new book, Fighting for Your Marriage While Separated, will release in February 2019, to offer practical guidance for those who desire reconciliation. Linda writes for both adults and children, and her stories and articles have appeared in numerous publications including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Focus on the Family and Today’s Christian Woman. She and her husband reside in Central Florida where their ministry to marriages in crisis has helped many couples reconcile their relationships.

Join the conversation: When has God been a refuge for you?