Psalm 7:1

O Lord my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers, and deliver me.

Matthew 5:11 (NIV)

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Downtown Houston Photo Excursion with Andy Bulgerin

The concerns have been raised this Fourth of July about possible terrorist attacks in the United States. Earlier this week there was a scare at the Washington Navy Yard that shots had been fired. Authorities are urging citizens to be vigilant. The internet chatter and other signals of possible trouble are said to be at an all-time high. With attacks in Europe, and the Middle East, and Egypt, and the intense fighting in Syria against ISIS, there is plenty evidence of evil’s intent: mayhem, death, terror, and destruction.

All this is evidence, however, of a greater evil intent and more vicious enemy. Satan, the accuser of our souls, destroyer of good, father of the lie, and thief is prowling like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He is the chief villain, the head of the cabal, the prince of this world. His intent is to bring us all down; to undercut everything good that God has in store for his people.

Our salvation and security are in God’s hands. Our safety and protection come from him. While we live in a fallen world, we can be thankful for the service men and women, police officers, and who protect us from evil of every kind. We can thank God for the freedom we have as citizens of this nation – even as we repent for making those freedoms license for immorality. But let us not forget that whatever evil may befall us, no one can put Jesus back into the grave. No one can take God off his throne. God has saved us by his mighty power and abundant grace and love. Nothing can change that. Thank God!

Psalm 63:1

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you.

Revelation 21:6

Christ says, “To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”

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The beautiful sequential fountain at Butchart Gardens, near Victoria, BC

The dangers of drinking seawater in an attempt to quench your thirst are well documented. Bottom line, it’s very bad for you, and can be lethal. Kidneys apparently cannot work properly with seawater. Few of us, fortunately, are in a position to have only seawater available to drink.

Bilgewater is water that collect in the lowest part of a ship. Bilge water can be found aboard almost every vessel. Depending on the ship’s design and function, bilge water may contain water, oil, urine, detergents, solvents, chemicals, pitch, particles, and other materials. No one would choose to drink it willingly. But in times of extreme thirst we will fill our bodies with the most vile liquids.

Sometimes we choose to take very harmful things into our souls. Seawaters of greedy consumption and bilgewaters of lustful desires can be made to appear very delightful. In a dry and thirsty land, almost anything will do.

Greedy consumption and lustful desires never satisfy the soul. Only the true water of life from God can do that. Is there some bilgewater that needs to be removed from your heart? Is the seawater all around you appearing to be attractive? Seek the water of life from God – his word, grace, love, and presence. He will satisfy your soul.

Jeremiah 23:29

Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

Luke 12:49 

Jesus said, “I came to bring fire to the earth.”

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I must admit it: there are times when I truly resonate with the sentiment, “Can’t we all just get along?”. I hate confrontation and fighting. I try to avoid conflict if possible. I strive for peace and harmony in my relationships and in the relationships of those around me.

But there comes a time when we must express our grave concerns, disagreements, and opinions – even if it ruffles feathers. It seems to me that now is such a time. While the Supreme Court of the United States did rule to make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states of the USA, our right to express our beliefs have not been taken from us. And even if they have, there is a time to say, “We must obey God rather than man.”

I don’t like conflict. I want to be a pleasant fellow, a good neighbor, a peaceful citizen. But that desire must take a back seat whenever the choice is between denying my Savior, or being stifled in my convictions on the one hand and just getting along on the other hand. I don’t need to be ugly. I don’t need to resort to anger (cf. James 1:19-20). But in the end, I must obey God rather than man (cf. Acts 5:29)

Psalm 119:114

You are my hiding-place and my shield; I hope in your word.

2 Thessalonians 3:3

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

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Some are basic and for purposes of protection from dangerous weather. Others are very high tech and well-appointed to protect from thieves, terrorists, or other human enemies. Safe rooms have even been featured in movies and TV shows. But each has limits. Whether it be internal resources, physical strength or vulnerabilities: none will withstand every threat indefinitely.

God, however, is our eternal source of safety, security, and salvation from the most grave enemy of all. Satan would steal our joy, kill our souls, and destroy our hope. He would succeed at that if he were not thwarted by God. We would succumb to the devil’s wiles if we didn’t have a place of refuge to which we may flee.

What dangers lurk around you? What temptations haunt your weakest moments? Are you prone to worry, quick to lose your temper, given to greed, open to lustful desires, too ready to gossip? Are there evil forces surrounding you that threaten your marriage, seek to destroy your financial wellbeing, or ruin your health? Whatever may befall you, God is the only place of refuge and eternal safety.

We do well when we go to him in the face of any danger, and stay with him through challenging times as well as times of joy and favor.

Deuteronomy 23:5

The Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loved you.

John 12:47

Christ says, “I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.”

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The thief, Jesus tells us, steals, kills, and destroys. That’s his intent. But God is committed to our salvation. He will see to it that his will for the good of his people succeeds – no matter the opposition or difficulty. When Balaam was dispatched to curse Israel, God turned that curse into a blessing. Rather than cursing Israel, Balaam served to bring honor and advantage to Israel (cf. Numbers 22-23 – the context of the Deuteronomy passage above).

Even more decisively when Jesus was taken prisoner, interrogated by the chief priests, mocked, spit-upon, and beaten by the soldiers, shuttled from Caiaphas to Pilate, to Herod and back, and ultimately sent to the cross, God turned that evil to good. Jesus suffering and death resulted in our salvation. The world judged Jesus, but he saved the world.

Whatever evil may be aligned against God’s kingdom and people, we can be certain God will prevail. He will bring a blessing, for he loves us. That is a message of great good for us in these troubled times.

This article was recently shared by the President of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Matthew Harrison. It is thoughtful and well written; worthy of your consideration…
Another brutal and senseless killing spree by a crazed gunman, motivated by racial hatred, sends our thoughts swirling between despair and numbness. Why were these nine Christians martyred as they were taking in the life-giving Word of God in Christian Bible study? We know and are too often reminded that there is horrid evil in this world, and an “evil one” who bedevils the minds of such killers. Jesus said it would be so (John 17:15).

As the world devolves around us from insanity to insanity, I’m reminded of the statement of John Adams that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Nowhere is that more true than in the case of the Second Amendment. As both religion and morality are on steep decline among us, we can only expect more of this insanity by individuals unhinged from the safety of families and a society normed by natural law and influenced by the genuine teaching of the Bible. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

No truth of the New Testament is so loudly stated by Jesus than that the Triune God is the creator of all people (Matt. 19:4); that God loves all (John 3:16); that all are equally indebted to God and valuable to Him (2 Cor. 5:14–15; John 8:12). Racism is a fundamental denial of the Word of God (cf. Acts 2:5ff.; Matt. 15:21ff.) and natural law. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” (Declaration of Independence). The denial of human rights, maltreatment of persons due to race, including the forbidding of the right for a man and a woman to marry without regard to race, is contrary to natural and divinely revealed law (Holy Scripture). It also contradicts the universality of the truth of the Gospel of Christ, who died for all (Romans 3:9–10, 19; 2 Cor. 5:19).

We mourn the loss of these dear Christians and pray for their loved ones. May they be consoled by “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” and the picture of heaven painted by St. John in Revelation of “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).

We reject racism and racially motivated hatred in all its forms. We repent where we have fallen short, and we pray for strength to stand for what is good and right and true. We pray for the perpetrator and his family, even as we demand the swift execution of justice.

Pastor Matthew C. Harrison

PresidentThe Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod 

[One other thought: The Christian witness of grace and forgiveness for Jesus’ sake, given by the family, loved-ones, and brothers and sisters in Christ to the man who apparently perpetrated this terrible act of hatred and mayhem, has had a profound on many. Thank God for his grace so profoundly expressed by those gracious folks!]

Below are the Bible passages referred to in the above article.

John 17:15

[Jesus prays,] “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

Mark 12:31

[Jesus says,] “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Matthew 19:3

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

John 8:12

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Acts 2:5-10

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome,11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

Matthew 15:21-28

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Romans 3:9-10, 19

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

2 Corinthians 5:19

…that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Revelation 7:9-14

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Isaiah 30:18

The Lord waits to be gracious to you. 

Revelation 3:20

Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. 

   
We have learned a little bit about waiting this week. Diane was admitted to the hospital with pains, and other symptoms that could not be easily diagnosed. Because she went in on Saturday night, we waited until late Monday to have even an initial non-diagnosis – even though they had run tests throughout weekend. We waited four days for a diagnosis. We waited for doctors’ orders to come through. We waited for doctors’ orders to be carried out. We waited for the next day. Finally we got a diagnosis and now we are waiting for her to be released!

I’m not certain we have been all that patient during this ordeal, but the picture of Jesus knocking at the door of our hearts reveals a remarkably patient waiting on God’s part. Isaiah also reveals a patience, but with an added nuance of grace. 

Sometimes we think of God seething with anger and barely constraining himself from reeking revenge and utterly quashing evil of every kind. Sometimes we may even wish for that as well. It would be so good, we think, if God would just take out our enemies and make the world run as it should. God doesn’t desire that kind of obedience.  He is yearning for obedience from the hearts of women and men. Such obedience is not forced, it is wooed. So God waits patiently and graciously. He will come to any who will receive him. His Holy Spirit is working in our hearts to bring us to him, and to open ourselves to his presence. 

Our lack of patience has much to do about controlling our world and circumstances in ways that are beneficial to us. God’s patience has to do with his desire for our true gladness and eternal joy. What a blessing awaits those who embrace the gracious patience of God. Jesus delights to abide with such people.

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