Sun over wheat - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God recognizes and welcomes people who need help

What do you look like when you’re looking for help? Do you get that blank, worried expression you see on husbands who are seeking peanut butter at the store and have no idea what aisle it’s on? Or do you play it cool?

When I’m looking for help, I try not to look like I’m looking for help. That’s probably silly, and it’s probably a pride issue. But I don’t like to look helpless even if I am. But there are some times when I know I look utterly and completely lost, but even at those times not everyone around me is willing to offer help.

There’s a big difference between recognizing that someone needs help and choosing to stop. 

Sun over wheat - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sun over wheat – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Nahum 1:7.

God is good, 
   a hiding place in tough times.
He recognizes and welcomes
   anyone looking for help,
No matter how desperate the trouble.

God is the sort of person who will help anyone who comes to Him. Satan wants us to think that God will eventually give up on us and that if we screw up too many times, God won’t help us anymore. He’ll wash His hands of us.

That’s not true. Nowhere in Scripture has God rejected a living, breathing person who turned to Him and asked for help. No matter what kind of trouble we get into in this life, no matter how badly we screw up, no matter where the consequences of our actions have taken us, God is always waiting to welcome us home.

Not only does He recognize that we’re in trouble. He is also willing to help us, eagerly anticipating the day when we get our heads straightened out and come to Him. Like the story of the Prodigal Son. God symbolizes the Father. He’s out waiting in the road, watching for the crazy kid to come walking back.

This passage out of Nahum is pretty interesting. If you have a chance, I’d suggest reading all of Nahum 1, but I’d recommend reading it in the Message (which is the version I used this morning). Nahum is one of those minor prophet books that you need to understand the context before the translation will make sense.

Nahum was a prophet that God sent to Nineveh. Nineveh was a pretty evil place. I’m not going to go into details, but Nahum wasn’t the only prophet God had sent there. And the reason God sent Nahum was to warn the people of Nineveh that judgment was coming and if they didn’t repent, they were all going to die rather unpleasantly. If you study ancient history, in all honesty, losing aspects of Ninevite culture wouldn’t have hurt the world that much. But God doesn’t take anyone for granted, and He doesn’t want anyone to die without giving them a second chance. That’s what Nahum was for.

In the Message, Nahum 1 starts out with the phrase, “God is serious business.” And that’s very true. That statement is followed by a long list of what God is capable of doing. How powerful He is. How mighty He is. How strong He is. The Creator, the Sustainer of everything. What happens when He turns His rage on people who defy Him?

And then we get to Nahum 1:7. “God is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, no matter how desperate the trouble. ”

What other god would give the people who’ve betrayed and hurt him a chance to come home? Not only a chance to come home, but the opportunity to be safe. Nahum 1:7 tells us just how deeply God cares about us, that He recognizes when we need help, that He welcomes us into a safe place no matter how much trouble we’re in. Even if it’s facing consequences of our own stupidity, God is waiting to welcome us.

So whatever trouble you’re facing, don’t hesitate to take it to God. And if you see someone who is in trouble, stop and help them. And don’t beat them over the head with their troubles. Welcome them into a safe place, like God does for us.

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Haven Sunrise

My BFF is a blazing ball of hydrogen gas?

What does mean God to you? Is He some great spirit in the sky who grants wishes when you reach a certain level of perfection? Is He some distant intellect who created everything and then left it to rot? Is He your homeboy, someone you chill with and shoot the breeze with after work? (Louis Giglio has a talk about this option that you should see.)

I think Christians, American Christians specifically, have a skewed misconception of who God is and how He works and what He does. We Americans with our entitlement mentality have the feeling that God owes us something if we obey. And if He doesn’t answer our prayers, well, He must not exist. Or if He does exist, He doesn’t care, so why bother? And the rest of Christianity that isn’t stuck in the performance trap treats God (and Jesus) like some casual acquaintance they can punch in the shoulder when they greet each other.

I can’t tell you which perspective is more wrong because they’re all wrong.

How do you describe God? How do you explain Him? If you know how, I would gladly hear your take on it because words fail me when I set about accomplishing that kind of a task. So instead of me fumbling around trying to find the right words, I think I’ll let Scripture take care of it this morning.

Haven Sunrise

Haven Sunrise - Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 84:11.

 For the LORD God is our sun and our shield.
      He gives us grace and glory.
   The LORD will withhold no good thing
      from those who do what is right.

The Bible often uses metaphor to describe things that we can’t understand in their entirety. Metaphor is a powerful writing tool that enhances a story or a manuscript because it helps to communicate a concept even if the actual fact is too big for us to grasp.

Think about that first statement: For the LORD God is our sun.

I took this image on Christmas Eve 2011. It was 20 degrees outside, and I had made the mistake of assuming the sun came up at 7:00. So I got up at 6:00. Well, if I would have Googled it, I would have known that the sun wouldn’t come up until 8:00. So I was outside in my simple coat and my Crocs for two hours. Yes, I was frozen. I actually had to come in at one point because my right foot had gone numb. But after I ran hot water on it until the feeling came back, I went back outside. It took a hot shower and two cups of tea to get the feeling back into the rest of me after that.

But I noticed something. I live out in the middle of nowhere, as evidenced by the photo. There are no lights. I have yard light and the stars and the moon at night. And I have the sun during the day. But until the sun comes up, my world is pitch black. And it gets cold out here in winter. Like I said, it was 20 degrees. But once that sun came up, even though it was freezing, I felt warm because of the sunlight.

Is the metaphor becoming clear? God is my sun.

I think that’s a good way to put it. In the darkness, He brings light. In the cold, He brings warmth. He is the center of my universe. My whole life revolves around Him, or it should.

But this verse doesn’t just identify God as the sun, it also calls Him our shield. And those two terms aren’t usually synonymous.  If you’re a sun, you’re blazing hot and powerful and unrelenting. But a shield is quiet and confident and steady. And God is that way too. He’s a shelter and a refuge, a safe place to go in times of danger where nothing can hurt you if you take cover under Him.

And God doesn’t just light our paths and protect us from harm, He gives us grace and glory, according to this.

And you realize that He doesn’t have to do any of this, right? Unless you think you can walk up to the sun and demand your rights? Unless you think you can throw your arm around the sun and talk irreverently about what you think is wrong with the world? If you tried to do that, you’d burn up. Can you be best friends with someone whose very presence can turn you to ash?

Well, yes. Because Jesus made it possible. Jesus bridged the gap between us and God, welcoming us into a relationship with God. But we can’t forget that. We can’t forget that Jesus is the mediator and without His sacrifice, we could have nothing to do with God, not because God is limited but because we are. God is our heavenly father. He loves us, and He tells us to ask Him for what we need. But I think we forget our place sometimes and in trying to understand God, we present Him as Someone Who is like us — and He’s not. It’s not up to God to become like us; it’s up to us to become like Him.

So the next time you present a request to God, think about Who He is. Our sun. Our shield. Strong enough to bring light into the darkness but compassionate enough to protect us. And remember to approach Him with respect, not in terror but in humility, understanding that you can’t understand everything.