Devotional

Seek Refuge in the Storm

When Storm Clouds Gather series, Devotional # 6





My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. (Psalm 62:7 NLT)

When storm clouds gather, we prepare for the coming tempest. We stay alert, watching for danger and the storm’s impact. We eliminate leaks and put on protective gear. We seek refuge in a safe shelter where tornadoes or other elements won’t harm us. Watching the storm outside the window from a warm room is much safer and more comfortable than standing in a storm, whipped by cold winds and rain or snow.


Preparation can help us with the upheaval in our lives as well.


King David had a stormy life. He stood up to Goliath and killed Israel’s enemy while the Israelite army trembled in fear. Jealous King Saul sought to kill David, and Saul and his army pursued David for years until Saul died. Wars continued in King David’s reign. David tried to cover-up his adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in battle. David’s sin cut him from his relationship with God until he repented and sought the Lord’s forgiveness. Friends and family members died. Twice David’s sons usurped his power and set themselves up over the kingdom. It was enough to want to give up!


The Psalms are filled with David’s laments, his woes, his joy, and his praise to the Lord in Whom he sought refuge. Psalm 62 is an example of David waiting for God and finding rest in Him. David wrote, Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; ; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved. (Psalm 62:1,2 NKJV) Truly my souls finds rest in God…I will not be shaken (from verse 1, NIV).


David had a lot of waiting time! It was about fifteen years between the prophet Samuel’s anointing of young David as king and the day David was made king of Judah. Another seven years passed before he became king over Israel; a wait of twenty years! Yet David knew it was the Lord who defended him, and that God’s promises to him would come true. Though David often was in despair, he turned to the Lord. David’s advice? O my people, trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8 NLT)

Photo by Avery Nielsen-Webb on Pexels.com

I don’t always wait patiently or silently. Sometimes my waiting includes foot tapping and grumbling. It’s not restful when my attitude is in the way. God’s working on that with me. I’m much happier when I’m trusting God and relying on His timing.


How have you waited on the Lord?


Are we realizing the rest we have in God by faith in Christ Jesus? He is our peace. Our eternity is secure. Are we resting on the promises of our Savior? I confess that too often I am so busy “doing” things for God that I neglect to spend time with Him. My priorities shift to other things and I miss the rest God gives me when I read and apply God’s Word.


How have you experienced His rest?


God was David’s refuge. When we take refuge in a place such as a tornado shelter, we are trusting it to keep us from harm. When we take refuge in God, we can pour out our hearts to Him and trust Him to give us comfort, peace, and rest in the storms. Our security is only in Him. Everything else is temporary.


Where is your refuge? Is your comfort found in material goods, food, substances, or in your position? Or is your refuge in God and the promises and direction of His Word?

Dear Lord God, Thank you for being my refuge. You are my rock where no enemy can reach me. No storm can unsettle me as I wait and trust in You. May I be quick to seek You and the rest You give. Amen.

Devotional

Fear or Faith?

When Storm Clouds Gather series, devotional # 5

By Kathryn Hughes

“Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together. I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:3,4 NLT)

There is so much to fuel our fears right now. COVID-19 threatens our health and life. Loneliness can overwhelm us as friends and family are distanced. Jobs are threatened or eliminated, adding another level of fear for personal finances and our economy. Riots, looting, and social injustice amp up the fear level too.

A friend once told me that fear is an acronym for:

False

Evidence

Appearing

Real.

Yet there is so much that is real in our fears right now. How can we avoid drowning in the fear?

FAITH

Remember that the Lord is still in control. Sure, the winds are whipping around and the waves are high. But is our Heavenly Father throwing up His hands in despair? No. The LORD reigns…surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved. (Psalm 93:1) He isn’t surprised by racial injustice nor by a medical diagnosis. He’s not surprised by any moment in our lives.

When I received a diagnosis of cancer, my Heavenly Father already knew it. In fact, I believe that God allowed me to have a minor unrelated health issue so the mass on my kidney would be discovered in the ultrasound. Was I afraid? You bet.

I read a limited number of articles about kidney cancer and talked with my surgeon. But I couldn’t allow myself to read everything there was on the subject nor focus on my family history of other cancers or other unknown fears. It distracted me too much and made me fearful.

Instead, I clung to what I did know. The Lord allowed the disease. He will accomplish his purpose for my life. I will not die one minute earlier than the day He already planned.

Thankfully, the surgeon was able to remove all of the cancer.

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com

When fears surface and try to pull us under their wave, focusing on God’s greatness and character helps us remember who He is. The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive [with us,] Nor will He keep [His anger] forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:8-10 NASB) Like King David, we can say, I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.”

Let’s be ready to confront fear with faith. Write down some Scripture that helps bring the focus back onto the God who loves us. Use those verses in prayer, personalizing them as I’ve done with a few verses of Psalm 103 in the prayer below. Here are a couple Scripture passages that mean a lot to me, I hope they encourage you too. Psalms 139:16-18; Psalm 103.

Heavenly Father, I bless Your holy name. May I forget none of Your benefits. You pardon all my iniquities. You crown me with lovingkindness and compassion. You satisfy me with good things. Please forgive me for focusing on fear instead of on You. Please help me to praise You and to trust You to remove the fear.  In Jesus’ powerful name. Amen.  

* * *

Devotional

“Put on God’s Protective Equipment”

When Storm Clouds Gather Series, Devotional # 4

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  (Ephesians 6: 10-11 NIV)

Of the storms we face, one I fear most is the fire storm, having evacuated in two fires in 2003 and 2007. It’s currently the peak of fire storm season and fires rage throughout California. The air hangs heavy with smoke in San Diego County from fires.

A firefighter wears a special firefighter uniform, often known as bunker gear. The jacket and trousers are fire proof. The rubber boots include steel toe coverings and a steel shank to protect the feet from sharp objects. Fire resistant gloves protect hands from broken glass and other objects. A self-contained breathing apparatus allows the firefighter to breath fresh air instead of toxic gases and smoke. The helmet is made of a hard plastic to protect the head from falling debris. This personal protective gear allows the firefighter to stand against the flames and fight the fires.

A firefighter wouldn’t think of going into a fire storm without protective gear. We need to put on the full armor of God to stand against the devil’s flaming arrows.

The Apostle Paul warned Christ’s followers to put on protective gear so we can stand against the devil’s schemes and the enemy’s flaming arrows. That difficult ex-spouse or co-worker or may seem like the enemy, and our child who has forsaken our values and beliefs certainly causes us pain, but behind all of our struggles there is a far more sinister force. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. The devil would like nothing better than for us to fight against one another. (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  How can we do that? Put on the full armor of God. To put on something is a conscious decision and an action.

Paul likened the full armor of God to the Roman guard’s armor. Put on the belt of truth. Put on the breastplate of righteousness. Have your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

The helmet of salvation is another vital piece of armor. Without a helmet, warriors and firefighters alike can have a fatal blow to the head. It is fatal if we do not have salvation. I pray you do have that saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18 NIV)

How can we know we have salvation? Romans 10:9-10 tells us,

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

Paul tells us to take the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Doubt, fear, anger, and bitterness have all been part of the enemy’s arsenal against me. Like flaming arrows, they don’t just injure, but burn long after they hit. You can probably think of arrows that have hit you. Oh, that we would be faster to counter them with the shield of faith!

Two offensive weapons are part of the protective equipment we need: the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and prayer on all occasions for all of the Lord’s people.

Let’s put on the full armor of God.

Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you for dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin. Thank you for the victory over sin and death through Your resurrection. I pray for each of us, that we may have that saving relationship with You. Please help me to put on my spiritual armor, and to stand against the enemy in Your mighty power and not on our own. Amen.

Devotional

“Prepare for Storms: Eliminate Leaks”

When Storm Clouds Gather  series devotional #3

By Kathryn Hughes

…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.      (I Peter 5:5-7 NASB)

Leaks in our spiritual life are dangerous. Just as a leak in a boat can cause it to sink, leaks in our spiritual life will cause us damage. A leak may be sin in our life. It can be pride, or anything else that keeps us from following God wholeheartedly. One of my struggles is handling things on my own instead of giving them to God. I’ll make plans without even consulting Him, and then try to make my plans succeed. For instance, I realized part way in my planning of this devotional series that I was planning out what to say before asking the Lord what He wanted me to share. After I stopped to ask Him what to write, He sent me back to my Bible and computer-+.  Me, handle something better than God? That’s my foolish pride.

The Apostle Peter learned his lesson about pride. Jesus told His disciples on the night He was betrayed that they would all be made to stumble because of Him, but Peter was adamant that even if all the others stumbled, he would not. Even after Jesus told Peter he would deny Jesus three times, Peter said, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Mark 14:27-31 NKJV) Peter was relying on himself. To his great sorrow, he learned that his pride and confidence were not enough.

Sometimes the leak in our boat may be fear, or a lack of faith. Matthew 14:22-33 describes Jesus walking across the water through the wave-tossed sea. The disciples saw Him from the boat and were afraid, but Jesus told them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” At that, Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus told him to come, and Peter did. He walked on the water. What faith!

But Peter’s faith sprung a leak; seeing the wind, he became frightened and began to sink. Peter cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus cared for Peter. He caught him by the hand and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

I can almost hear Jesus say the same thing to me. Can you? Why do we doubt? Why do we have little faith, when we have such a faithful God? Why do we allow sin to get in the way of our relationship with Him?

May we learn the lessons that Peter learned and shares with us. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.  

Let’s plug our leaks before we sink. Let’s humble ourselves and really look at who we are and Who God is. May we carefully examine our motives, thoughts, and pride, and then confess our sin to the Lord. What fears and leaks in our faith need to be brought before Jesus? Let’s cast them on Jesus, for He cares for us.

Dear Lord Jesus, I confess my sin of pride. Please forgive me for doing things my way. Help me trust You and to hold on to faith when the waves are high. In Jesus’ powerful name, I pray. Amen.

Lighthouse in the storm image by mollyroselee from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/users/mollyroselee-9214707/

Boat in storm Photo by Myriam Zilles on Pixabay https://pixabay.com/users/myriams-fotos-1627417/

Devotional

“Don’t Worry – The Gift of Peace”

When Storm Clouds Gather devotional series #2

By Kathryn Hughes

“Therefore, do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?”…For your Heavenly Father knows that you need these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:31, 32b, 33 NKJV)

“In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, what circumstances will I face when school resumes on campus?” That’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot lately. I love teaching gardening and library, and as a teacher’s aide I’m also on the playground. However, the concern of bringing home illness stifles my usual excitement for a new school year.

My Heavenly Father knows my anxieties. Even better, He knows what I need (Matthew 6:25-34). He knows my future down to the smallest detail.

So why do I allow myself to fret? I can’t change my circumstances. But I can change my focus from my situation to focus on God, His salvation, His character, His love for me, and His promises. I must choose to do so, for fear is all too consuming of my energy and peace.

Worry is also disobedience, for Jesus Christ said, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life…” (Matthew 6:25 emphasis mine) Worry is not trusting God; it is in effect saying we know better than God, or that we don’t believe He can handle our problems. He doesn’t want us stressed or anxious. He wants to give us peace. Jesus tells us, I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27 NLT)

Photo by Ralph W. lambrecht on Pexels.com

It’s time I replaced my apprehensions with something better. Maybe you need to get out of the anxious whirlwind, too. Jesus gives us the antidote. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Let’s seek God in prayer. Let’s confess our sins, and give that worry list to Jesus. One method is to write down those areas where we have been disobedient to God’s instructions or we are sinking in those negative attitudes. Then, after bringing them to God for forgiveness, cross them out by writing “paid in full” repeatedly until the offense is no longer visible.

We can replace negative thoughts and attitudes with peaceful ones. We can write down verses that address what makes us fearful, or what we are struggling with that keeps us from resting in His peace. A concordance helps in finding verses that relate to a specific topic or word or phrase.  Find a verse that encourages your heart to focus more on God and then place that card in a prominent spot where you will see it.  Read it, over and over, until His truth starts to replace the worry, behavior, attitude, or fear with His calm, resting peace

Shall we worry? No. Our Heavenly Father cares for us.

Dear Heavenly Father, Please forgive me. I have piled the cares of this world onto my back instead of trusting You to care for me. I confess this is sin. Your Son, Jesus, died to save me, so You certainly will not turn Your back on me. Please help me to seek You first, to look for Your kingdom and righteousness. Thank You for Your deep love for me. Amen.

Lighthouse in the storm image by mollyroselee from Pixabay