Seeking Refuge

by Doris Hoover

God is our ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 NIV

Hurricanes impact entire communities. Tornadoes, on the other hand, target individuals. They spin down a street, obliterating one house here and one house there while leaving others untouched.

On September 1, 2021, Hurricane Ida blustered up the east coast, launching a tornado at residents of a small New Jersey community. It ravaged individual homes three miles from my daughter’s house. She sent photos of houses ripped apart. Although my heart went out to the tornado victims, I praised God for my daughter’s safety. Indiscriminate destruction!

A week prior to Ida, our entire country felt the hurricane-like impact of world events, but individual families in Afghanistan suffered the tornado-like devastation of a suicide bomber who stood near their children. Indiscriminate violence!

In the aftermath of nature’s storms, people generally resume their normal activities unless they receive a direct hit. Then they stand shell-shocked in front of splinters that used to be a house. Meanwhile, they take shelter in homes of friends and family or in motels. Insurance companies provide financial aid so the victims can rebuild. Gradually, families replace the material possessions that had been torn from them.

In the aftermath of the political storm caused by the military withdraw from Afghanistan, most of us returned to our normal lives, even though our hearts were heavy. But those who lost loved ones, collapsed in shock, unable to stand. How do they go on? Where does one find shelter when a loved one is torn from them?

 “God is our ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1 NIV). If the earth around us gives way, God is our help. When mountains crumble into the sea, God is our help. In the midst of roaring, foaming waters, God is our help.

The devastating circumstances we encounter in life leave us reeling, frightened, hopeless. Yet smack in the middle of our ruins is a place of refuge for broken, hurting people. A quiet voice calls to us. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10 NIV)

The Lord invites us to curl up beneath His wings and take refuge in His strength. No matter what storms spiral around us, He stands immovable, unbreakable. In the shelter of the Most High, we can retreat from turmoil, even if just momentarily. Our trial may not cease, but its effects cease when we burrow our heads in God’s neck and hear Him whisper over us, “Be still.”

The Lord is a refuge for hurting people. He holds us in His arms for as long as we’ll stay. There’s no time limit, no expiration date on God’s comfort. He never moves away from us: We can cling to Him until we’re ready to let go.

Are you in need of refuge? Call out to the Lord. He will never fail you. God will work in your brokenness. He’ll pour healing balm over your deepest pain. The Lord is an ever-present shelter in all of life’s storms.

“I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” (Psalm 61:4 NIV)

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

About the author: If you’re looking for Doris Hoover, she’ll be somewhere between the Sunshine State of Florida and Sunrise County, Maine. Most likely, you’ll find her outside collecting ideas for her writing. Her love of God and nature inspire the devotions she writes. Doris is a mother of three and a grandmother of five. She and her husband Tim enjoy traveling to visit their family. Doris has won awards for her devotions. In addition to being published in The Upper Room, CBN.com, Arise Daily e-devotionals, and InkspirationsOnline.com, Doris is also a contributor to many compilations such as Arise to Peace, Short and Sweet, Light for the Writer’s Soul, and more. Her first book is Quiet Moments in The Villages, A Treasure Hunt Devotional. You can visit her website and blog at ANatureMoment.com.

Join the conversation: Have you recently encountered a storm?

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?

How Do You Define Freedom?

by Debbie W. Wilson @DebbieWWilson

My husband and I zipped along I-95 South, near Washington DC, on a section of interstate that never sleeps. Among the mostly courteous drivers, a few wanna-be race car drivers cut in and out, too close for comfort. I marveled at how a tight space could hold so many speeding vehicles. That changed when we reached an area marked, “Warning: Unmarked Pavement Ahead.”

The space abruptly shrank to three lanes, and we were left with no markings defining the lane boundaries. This slowed us down considerably, since there was nothing to define where exactly we should be driving. We lost any sense of security that we would not be scraped by someone else.

I imagined the rest of I-95 without marked lanes and shuddered. Then I thought of our culture. In the name of freedom, we’ve erased timeless limits that protect the liberty and well-being of all.

Defined limits provide safety and ease even in a crowded parking lot. In a populated world we need clear boundaries to prosper. The Bible provides timeless parameters to protect our travel through life. When we navigate within those limits, we avoid wrecks and heartaches.

The Problem with Religious Rules

Human additions to God’s laws become heavy chains that cause people to rebel against God’s perfect law of liberty and are unprofitable (James 1:25).

“‘Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!’? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires” (Colossians 2:21-23 NLT).

Jesus understands. He invites us to come to Him so He can teach us how to live without heavy burdens. Even better, He promises to walk with us. Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light’” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT).

The Problem with License 

Perhaps, repulsed by legalism, other believers have swung to the opposite extreme. They minimize and dismiss God’s instructions. In contrast, the Bible shows how God’s commandments serve as guardrails of liberty.

  • “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17 NASB). God’s commandments serve as guardrails of liberty.
  • “Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3 NLT).

We avoid the potholes of our fallen nature and sin and enjoy life’s journey when we walk His path in the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s Word outlines our lanes. (Psalm 119:105)

The Protection of Guardrails

In Satan’s conversation with Eve, he portrayed God to be like him, a liar and a thief who steals our freedom and joy (Genesis. 3; John 8:44, 10:10). Nothing could be further from the truth. As we remember God’s character, we won’t fall for lies.

Don’t be duped. Biblical instructions on right and wrong keep life’s interstates safe.

The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.                                                                                                                                           Psalm 19:7-8 NLT

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How Do You Define Freedom? Insight from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, she speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Debbie’s book, Little Women, Big God will introduce you to the surprising women in Jesus’s family tree. As they journey through impossible circumstances, each discovers that quality of life is not determined by the size of our problems but by the size of our God.

Join the conversation: What standards help define how you choose to live?

 

Blazing A Trail

by Sheri Schofield

Sometimes, finding God’s will for our lives can be confusing, because sometimes God asks us to do the unusual. What we perceive is  a well-mapped path may not be where God is taking us. Maybe He wants us to blaze a trail for Him where others have not yet traveled.

That was what happened to me. A few years ago, I had gone with our missions team into Mexico. We were in drug cartel territory helping small churches in the Sierra Madres, the beautiful mountains of north-central Mexico. During that trip, one of the Mexican women who worked in children’s ministries told our pastoral team, “We have no curriculum. Please help us!”

Though it took me some time to understand what God wanted of me, I recently returned back to Mexico, bringing a book I had written and illustrated on the plan of salvation with them in mind. It was not yet published in Spanish, but I had supplementary materials in Spanish, in notebook form, and had brought along the illustrations. I also planned to teach a children’s ministry seminar on multi-sensory methods, showing the assembled pastors’ wives how to effectively communicate Bible lessons to children.

I had written this book particularly for the church in Mexico. Many of the people from those towns were featured in my illustrations. It was an exciting time! They were thrilled to see familiar faces in the illustrations — some of their own children, some of their leaders. This book was theirs!

After the first class, we all went outside for a break. Suddenly, a big boom followed by the noise of heavy machine gun fire filled the air. A battle was being fought about four blocks away. This town was situated right on the line between La Linea Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel, and it was ground zero for warfare.

We went back inside, where thick, adobe walls offered protection. When the machine gun fire drew near and the battle raced up and down the main street only a block away, we paused to let the noise pass, then returned to our lessons.

We later learned that La Linea Cartel had ambushed a state trooper vehicle with a grenade launcher and machine guns. State troopers swarmed the town and were in control by the time we left. Their pickups had machine guns mounted in the back, manned by police wearing black hoods and body armor. They were rolling out to battle the cartel. That day, five cartel members died.

Throughout the turmoil, I was totally at peace, for I knew God had brought me to that place. I trusted that whatever happened, I belonged to God, in life or in death, and I was not afraid.

I am not young. I know the dangers of this ministry. But there is something freeing about being in the center of God’s will, following His plan for my life, going where He leads me. My friends and I are blazing a trail for Him in Mexico’s cartel country, where evil dominates. I have found God’s will, and I am not afraid.

King David, a man of war, knew the security of being in the center of God’s will. In Psalm 23:3,4 he wrote, “He (God) renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me . . .” (NLT)

When I follow God’s will, my safety lies not in time, but rather, in eternity with God. I am content with that.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NIV

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Blazing A Trail: finding peace and courage when God calls – Sheri Schofield on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Sheri Schofield, is an award-winning children’s author-illustrator and children’s ministry veteran of 40 years,  Sheri was named Writer of the Year for 2018 at Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference for her work in effectively sharing the gospel of Jesus. Her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids, can be followed on her blog at her website, http://www.sherischofield.com. Questions welcomed!

Sheri’s new book, The Prince And The Plan, is a beautifully illustrated, interactive picture book, written for children ages 4-8, that helps parents lead their children into a lasting, saving relationship with Jesus. It explains abstract concepts through words and interactive, multi-sensory activities. Useful for children’s ministry as well.

Join the Conversation: Where is God taking you?