You who are the hope of Israel, its Savior in times of distress, why are you like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who stays only a night? Jeremiah 14:8 NIV

Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

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Rusted Lock | Fort Point | January 2019

Charlie Brown says, “It always looks darkest just before it gets totally black.” Another CB quote: “Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask ‘Where have I gone wrong’, then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night’.” One more: “I think I’m afraid to be happy, because whenever I get too happy, something bad always happens.”

Poor Charlie. But we can sympathise can’t we? We keep our hopes low so we’re not disappointed. Or we struggle with those dark nights of the soul, unable to put our finger on what’s bugging us, and worrying that if we don’t identify it our world will come crashing in on us.

On the other hand there are times we really do struggle with life, trials, trouble, loneliness, fear, or resentment. There are times God seems distant, uninterested in our plight, and unwilling to hear us when we pray. We may know better, and even like the Psalmist call out to God in our distress, “Why are you like a stranger in the land?” But in those dark hours it’s difficult to find comfort in the fact that we can rail against God.

In those moments of distress we can call on God, and take great comfort in his promises of great restoration in the life of the world to come. We can look beyond our present brokenness to the time of restoration when every tear will be wiped from our eyes, and ever disease completely healed. We can find comfort that our deepest and truest hopes will be fulfilled. We can even look forward to understanding and knowing in ways we cannot on this side of eternity.

As long as we live in this broken and fallen world we will bear its impinging fruits. We will never fully understand God’s ways here and now. We must walk by faith and in hope. But in the world to come we will no longer need to look beyond today. We will no longer be eclipsed in our knowledge or distressed in our brokenness.

That hope is precious in the dark nights of the soul, and our faith in God sustains our hope as we look to his promises and his great show of mercy and love in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and glorious return.

There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.” Psalm 118:15,16

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4

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Red Berries | Fort Point, WA | January 2019

What’s the most dramatic moment of victory you’ve experienced? Was it the last-minute field goal for the championship series win? The day your boss finally had to admit that you were right? And at least nearly indispensable? And worth a large raise? Was it the day you paid off the last of your debt? The day you achieved your goal weight?

Do you recall the adrenaline rush on the day of that victory? What did you do when it occurred? Perhaps you pumped your hands in the air. Maybe you did a little whup whup dance or shouted “Woo hoo!” You might have been a little more subdued and simply gone out for a celebratory dinner or gave your spouse a joyful hug.

All of these expressions of joy are appropriate in their proper context. Sometimes, however, our rejoicing surpasses the degree appropriate to the win. A colleague likes to ask the question, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”. I would ask whether or not the win is worth the celebration. Are the things we celebrate worthy and good as well as substantive and truly consequential? I would add as well, are our celebrations over wins that are at the expense of a brother or sister in Christ?

Kenny Hatfield is a dedicated Christian football coach. He was asked one day after football practice, “Hey Kenny! Did you talk with God about the game tomorrow?”

“Sure did,” was his simple answer.

“Who’d he say was going to win?”

“God said he don’t care,” was his simple answer.

God does care when righteousness prevails over evil. He does care when one lost sinner is found. He does care when godly people respond in grace and kindness toward others. He does care when people pray and acknowledge his answers to our prayers.

All those celebrations are centered in God, his goodness, faithfulness, justice, and love. They all celebrate something that God has done through Jesus Christ. So let’s celebrate that raise, that good diagnosis, that personal goal achievement! Let’s say, “Woo Hoo!” when our team wins. But let’s rejoice more deeply and fully in the gifts of God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ, and bring him glory now and forever.

Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope. Psalm 119:116

Christ said, “Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” Revelation 3:8

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Lookout Tower at Fort Point, WA | January 2019

When I was in 5th grace I experienced the wind being knocked out of me. I was sitting on a branch of a tree, perhaps 10 feet up when suddenly the branch gave way. I fell immediately to the ground. My feet buckled under me, and I sad down hard on the ground. Fortunately, while I did get the wind knocked out of me, I regained my breath fairly quickly. But it was a sudden and stunning. I hadn’t given any thought to whether the branch would hold me, and it didn’t.

Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience of being let down by someone emotionally or in other ways. A friend suddenly withdrew his support. An employer suddenly hands you a pink slip. Your trip to the doctor for a routine physical turns into a diagnosis of a grave disease.

Falling out of a tree is one thing. Being let down by a friend is another. Far worse, however, would be being put to shame by God. If God were to take back his promises the results would be much more horrific. If we stake our eternal wellbeing on God’s word and promises, the stakes are dramatically high.

God’s promises are profound and far-reaching. He promises that our sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. He promises that he hears us when we pray. He promises that he has overcome sin, death, and the devil. He promises that the fullest life is lived in service to others. He promises that anything sacrifice for his sake will be paid back in the life of the world to come. He promises that his word will not return to him without accomplishing its purpose. He promises that his word is absolutely true and completely reliable. He promises that hope centered in him will never be disappointed.

All of life and hope in God is reliable. We who keep his word and uphold his truth will never be put to shame.

With weeping they shall come, and with consolations, I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel. Jeremiah 31:9

The Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost. Luke 19:10

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Revelation 3:7 | Fort Point, WA | January 2019

Perhaps you’ve never been lost. If you have, however, you know what a relief it is to be found – or at least to get un-lost! The problem with being lost is that once you’re lost, you can’t just turn around and go back to the place where you were unlost. Lost means lost. Lack of bearings. Uncertain options. No obvious correct path.

There may also be times we are lost and don’t even know it. We think we’re heading the right direction when in fact we are heading in exactly the wrong direction. We think we’re getting closer to our destination, but we’re getting closer to a destination other than we had thought. Ugh.

When it comes to being searched for and found there may also be two ways that occurs. If we know we’re lost and we are anxious, worried, and fearful about our situation, it will be good to know that someone is looking for us. We can hope to be found. If, however, we are wandering and pleasantly ignorant of the extent of our lostness and the danger that is at hand the experience of being searched out and found may not be immediately appealing.

Consider the hiker who is deep in the woods, lost and afraid because night is falling. His experience of being found is quite different from an intrepid 14 year old who is running away from home, and has no clue of the real dangers he faces. When he is found he may resent the search and not at all desire to be found.

A co-worker comes to your desk and says, “We’ve noticed your drinking…” Lost one potentially found. Your husband asks you at breakfast, “Who were you texting last night at 2 a.m.?” Lost one potentially found. Your friend remarks, “Didn’t you say you had to work overtime to make ends meet, and here you are driving a brand new sports car?” Lost one possibly found.

The danger of being lost has more to do with getting there and not realizing it than being there and calling for help. God is ready to come to those who know they’re lost and need his saving help. Thank God, also for those who are willing to ask the challenging questions of us when we are dangerously lost and unaware of it.

I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them. Ezekiel 37:26

Christ Jesus came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. Ephesians 2:17

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Lighthouse | Fort Point, WA | January 2019

From a quick Google search on the action of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today. He signed a bill that legalizes abortion up until birth in many cases. Three different reports portrayed three different perspectives toward the action. In every case, I am deeply distressed and troubled by this action.

FOX had the following: 

New York ‘celebrates’ legalizing abortion until birth as Catholic …

4 hours ago – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is under fire from faith leaders after he signed a bill into law that legalizes abortion up until birth in many cases. The Democratic governor directed the One World Trade Center and other landmarks to be lit in pink Tuesday to celebrate the passage of …

CNN’s headline:

New York puts in measures to protect access to abortion … – CNN.com

4 hours ago – New York (CNN) On the 46th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, New York state passed a law to protect women’s access to abortion if the historic …

CBS observed:

New York passes law allowing abortions up until baby’s due date if …

8 hours ago – New York state has enacted strong new legal protections for abortion rights. The new law, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, …

Against this tumultuous and distressing news, God’s offer of peace is a precious blessing. To be at peace in your heart in the face of the turmoil and trauma of social strife and upheaval, or just when the everyday difficulties of life bring us down, Jesus gift of peace can be more soothing than we might expect.
Just today a friend asked for prayer and I texted back, “Peace and joy in Jesus.” Peace was the key to the conundrum she faced. Jesus’ peace sorted things out for her.
I am struggling right now with some occasionally-severe sciatica. Sometimes all I can do is trust God and wait for his healing touch. Always I look for his gift of peace. It transcends all human understanding and man’s manipulation, and worldly wisdom. We’ll not discover it until we lean into Jesus’ words and God’s promises. Sometimes that leaning in comes only when all other props are taken away. Precious peace! What a blessing from Jesus!

When you return to the Lord your God, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you. Deuteronomy 30:2,3 NASB

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8

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Silhouettes | Fort Point, WA | January 2019

Perhaps you’ve been to the well more than once. You’ve run out of money and had to ask for a loan. You’ve busted your diet and must restart it…again. You’ve been late three times this week already and you’re running behind schedule again this morning. The list could go on and on. What shall you do? Give up? Quit trying? Bluster your way through?

God’s calling is different from all the others with whom we must make amends. Our boss may require make-up hours. Your nutrition counselor may want you to log your food and get more exercise. Your financial counselor may want you to keep track of your spending.

All these are good things to do. But God wants more from us than outward actions. He wants more for us than successful living. He wants us. He desires that we be with him. In prayer. In fellowship. In worship. In our relationships. In our everyday life.

That calls for constant repentance and faith. It means that we must return to him again and again, be near him in heart and mind, and seek his rule and reign in our hearts. That means we yearn for the things that he calls good. It calls for us to recalibrate our values, hopes, dreams, and pursuits.

It means dethroning the most difficult one to unseat: ourselves. We want to determine what is good and evil. We want to decide which loophole is appropriate. We want to choose our own path.

None of those bring us closer to God. So we repent. We turn around – in our hearts and minds first of all. We re-calibrate our hearts’ and souls’ desires. Then we act on the new values, desires, and dreams according to God’s will and word. This is a lifelong calling and we must never tire of admitting our need to repent of our sins and believe the good news of God’s mercy, love, and grace in Jesus Christ.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46:7

The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3

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“Out of the Depths” | Fort Point, WA | January 2019

When Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast people fled Louisiana to neighboring states and places more safe and secure. One such couple with their newborn child reached out to us at St. John for a place to stay. Diane and I ended up offering them a place to stay in our home. We were happy to provide a place for them, and they even helped us secure our house from potential storm damage. They were appreciative and able to be on their way the next day.

God offers himself as a place of safety and refuge for his people. The question for us is how do we take advantage of this place of refuge and safety. It’s not like we can go to a church building and expect that we will be protected just because we’re in a church building. A quick look at the flooding we experienced at St. John in 2016 and again in 2018 will lay that idea to rest. Rising water does not automatically avoid church buildings, nor will church buildings be exempt from damage by winds, fire, or even vandalism.

There are also those who have prayed earnestly for rescue, safe passage, or avoidance of plague, famine, or other calamity, who were not exempted from these difficulties. Surely we must recognize a deeper danger from which God is our refuge and place of security! This is not a cop-out. It is, however, a reminder of the wholly-otherness of God, and of his Grand Story of redemption, salvation, and grace that plays out in the every-day life and times of his people.

The rescue is actually The Rescue from sin, death, the devil, and hell. It is a redemption from the mundane worries of merely a better life under the guise of outward success and painless days. The refuge God provides is the confident hope that all enemies of our bodies and souls will one day be destroyed, and we who hope in God will be vindicated.

God’s place of refuge is a place of the heart, a resting spot for our souls, a bold faith in God’s delivering power. That was shown in Jesus Christ, through his perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection. The safety and security that God offers us is enjoyed by faith. It transcends every evil turn we face in this life and will be fully enjoyed in the life of the world to come.