God a Safe Shelter
?God a Safe Shelter? Psalm 27:5; 46:1,2; 55:7,8? 5-26-13
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe?in his dwelling;
he will hide me?in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock. (Psalm 27:5)
God is our refuge?and strength,
an ever-present?help?in trouble.
2?Therefore we will not fear,?though the earth give way
and the mountains fall?into the heart of the sea,
3?though its waters roar?and foam
and the mountains quake?with their surging. (Psalm 46:1,2)
My heart is in anguish?within me;
the terrors?of death have fallen on me.
5?Fear and trembling?have beset me;
horror?has overwhelmed me.
6?I said, ?Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
7?I would flee far away
and stay in the desert.
8?I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.? (Psalm 55:4-8)
Story after story is coming out of Oklahoma about people saying that they prayed to God and saying that God saved them from the storm.
It takes faith to believe that God is able to save you.? It takes a bit of faith to believe the testimony of these people.? The skeptic sees the black on the white board. While 36,000 may have been spared, 24 were not.? Why didn?t God save them too?? I do not know the mind of God- and do not pretend to know it. ?Nor do I pretend that I have the ability to judge God because I am so much smarter and nicer than He is.? A similar question would be ?Why God doesn?t save everyone all the time??? It is obvious God does not save everyone from every disaster, storm or sickness- but life is still good.? It is also obvious that everyone dies.? It is also obvious that no one is perfect and no one deserves by their goodness- salvation.? I don?t care whether you are Moses- Ghandi- no one deserves salvation- in this life or the next.? To say that we do is a part of our arrogance and pride.? To judge God?s actions as if we were the ones who define good- is also full of arrogance and pride.? We are not wise enough to see all the factors, and to make an overall plan.? God is like an architect who works his way around the obstacles to come up with the best plan. He hears us but also is in more of the know of how to get things done.? I have learned a lot about architects in the last few months.? They have skills and abilities I do not have.? I do not pretend to know what kind of foundation is needed to a new building, or what the codes are to different things.? Yet when I tell the architect that we would like our building to have an extra secure entrance in light of the Sandy Hook school shootings or a safe room in case of a tornado- they can tell us what that entails.? God is the designer.? But He also has asked us to pray to Him saying He will listen.? In order to move forward we have to at some point trust the architect- and we must do that with God.? God is our shelter through means, through actual shelters, and through His peace.
1) GOD SAVES US THROUGH ORDINARY MEANS- The things that God has made in creation are often providential tools God uses to rescue us.? To say it is not God because they were saved by jumping in a bank vault that just happened to be there is an illusion.? To say that they got to their shelter just in time- or because they heard a report- and therefore it could not be God doing the saving is an illusion.? Most who lived through it will say ?Thank God I?m alive?? or if they don?t believe in God will say, ?Thank my lucky stars.?? Throughout scripture and through our common life we experience God providentially using other things to help us on our way.? To say ?If God does not descend down from heaven in a way I can see Him- then it is not God who saves?- is shortsighted and narrow-minded.? We Presbyterians say we believe in Providence- that God works through His creation and through His governing of creation to save us.
God is also our help in times of trouble Psalm 46:1,2.? It is not just a direct help by giving us peace.? Reformed folk have always believed that God helps us through each other.? While we are not going to Oklahoma, we are going to New York to help with Hurricane Sandy so that others can go to Oklahoma.? This past week I received a letter from Susan Glenn, Dwayne Taylor?s daughter, who spoke of how his helping others on mission trips enriched his own faith.? This is a win-win situation.? Mission trips are important not only for reaching out to others, but it enriches our own faith.? The number one factor for someone growing up in the church and staying in it as an adult is going on a mission trip with the church- #2 is going on a week- long conference like Montreat or Camp Fellowship.? We have two opportunities- one to New York in July to help with the $40 billion disaster there- I am going and I hope someone will go with me.? The other trip is to Peru- to help strengthen our sister church and spread God?s good news.
If you could hear the cries of people asking for you to come on over and help us, would anyone be bold enough to choose a vacation they would never forget together to help another person out?? When HUGO hit SC thousands came to help us- I hope we can return the favor.
2) GOD SAVES US THROUGH SHELTERS-All three passages that we read talk about God as the ultimate shelter.? In fact he is called ?The Shelterer.?? The book of Jonah- if it is about anything- is about God providing safe places- a vine for shade in the heat and even a way out of a terrible sea storm.? It is evident that many people in Moore were saved through a tornado shelter, a safe room, or just having enough warning to take cover in a safe place.? I like the safe room idea.? I went online and found out the idea of a safe room some times is a concrete basement room designed to withstand 300 mph winds.? There is a company called ?Hidden safes? that says demand for ?safe rooms? basically a panic room or a hidden vault room has jumped recently.? There are some doomsday preppers who believe they can make a shelter that will protect them from anything.? I remember in the First Gulf War a Yugoslavian engineer boasting that the bunkers of Sadaam Hussein were impenetrable.? That was before they were destroyed by bunker busting bombs.? Human shelters have limits.? There is only one who can shelter us through death.
There are many times when God describes Himself in scripture as a ?shelter in a time of storm.?
He is called a rock- a refuge from the heat and from the storm.
He is called a shield- When the arrows are flying around you- it is important to have a shield.? The implication is that those who do not have the Lord are shieldless.? ??There were a lot of hymns that express our common experience of this that were erased from the blue Presbyterian hymnbook.? Like ?Rock of Ages Cleft for Me- Let me Hide myself in thee.?? Or ?Jesus is a rock in a weary land.?? Some of them are added back in the new Presbyterian hymnbook.
III. GOD SAVES US BY HIS PEACE AND STRENGTH- The Bible says that we are like a stilled child at his mother?s side, or a still baby bird under the shelters of His wings.? We would like to stay on the mountaintops of life- with nothing going wrong.? But when you go through a real valley in life- and you realize you have nothing left but God then you learn something.? My friend Sue Madden says ?It is only by going through the valleys that we enter into a deeper dimension with God.?? We all will face valleys.? I pray that we will face them with God?s strength and peace.? It is interesting to listen to those who were interviewed speak of their faith.
When you go through anything it is important to recognize the human element.? By nature we are skeptical and blind to God?s hand.? Rabbits (like many mammals) are born with their eyes and ears fused shut so that they will not run away and wander off.? Eventually they open up.? It is often in the valleys that our eyes are opened to what life is really about.? To the people in Oklahoma it is not the houses that are of ultimate importance- but the things that last beyond the real estate.
Jackie Sing- Faith sign on the mantle didn?t move an inch.? ?It?s a life changing event.? I don?t have a fear of tornadoes- I have a healthy respect for them- God created them. I think it?s going to make us stronger- because the Lord is our refuge and strength.? Walking through our house makes me realize what?s replaceable and what is valuable- we can put all we need in a bucket. ?Makes you change your thoughts about what matters in life.? How do you react- when everything is taken away from you.? I know the Lord has something incredible for me.? Beyond all the sorrow and grief and hurt I feel a ray of sunshine despite the thunder.? We appreciate the outpouring of love.?
Rhett Burnett is the undersheriff for Cleveland County where Moore is located.? He said, Burnett added, ?This is a resilient city, and with God?s grace, we?ll recover. We?ve been through the grinder with these storms and the bombing (in Oklahoma City in 1995), but we always recover. We know our God is an awesome God, and He?s with us.?
Before Jesus died- he sat on the hill overlooking Jerusalem and could see the spiritual storm clouds gathering.? He wept and said, ?Jerusalem, Jerusalem- how I would have gathered you as a hen would gather her chicks under her wings but you would not come.?? God can provide a shelter and a strength for us- but we must come to Him through faith.? Do not be like those who?will not come to their shelter.