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.

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Living in a shelter might be a good idea this year

People who live in Kansas are intimately familiar with storm shelters. Especially this year. We’ve had some crazy storms in the last month. So when I read the verse this morning, I thought first of tornado shelters, but then I thought of one of my favorite movies.

Have you ever seen Blast from the Past? I don’t like romances, but that’s an older romantic comedy . . . with Brendan Fraser . . . so it’s really funny and goofy and I actually enjoy it very much. It’s about this crazy inventor and his family who are terrified that someone is going to drop nuclear weapons on the U.S. back in the late-60s. I think. I can’t really remember the dates. So this guy builds a huge bomb shelter under his house. Well, one night a plane crashes on their house. The guy thinks it’s a nuke and drags his pregnant wife down into the shelter and sets the locks for 30 years. His wife has the baby, and the three of them live in the shelter for 30 years until the locks open and the son returns to the surface looking for a wife. It’s a great movie.

In that movie, these three people lived in their bomb shelter. And it’s kind of funny to say, it made them a close family. The parents were completed invested in the son, and the son grew up adoring his parents. They loved each other. They were a little weird, but their family was strong. So you can imagine what happened when the son returned to the surface in the late 90s. The US wasn’t exactly the stronghold of family values anymore.

Obviously, something like that doesn’t happen in real life. I mean maybe people have tried living in a bomb shelter before. I don’t know. I haven’t researched it, so maybe I shouldn’t be saying it doesn’t happen. But generally speaking, people don’t live like that. If you take Blast from the Past literally . . . . maybe we should.

I thought about this when I read the verse this morning.

Psalm 91:1

1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
      will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

The family in the movie was a little off, yes. But they were loving and compassionate and considerate. The parents loved each other. The child respected the parents. The parents wanted the best for the child. They stuck together because they were everything to each other.

So . . . what is the shelther of the Most High? It’s beautiful language, but poetic metaphor doesn’t do very much for us practically speaking. And if God is telling me that I need to live in the shelter of the Most High, I want to know what it is.

Honestly, I don’t know. And I’m not a biblical scholar so I can’t decipher Hebrew or Aramaic. But I can share what I have discovered over my few years of life that I think is pretty close.

The shelter of the Most High isn’t a building or a cave underground, I don’t think. (Maybe it is. That would be funny.) But it’s a way of living life. It’s a perspective on life. It’s understanding that God is God, that He is sovereign, that He really does know what He’s doing, that He never makes mistakes, and that He always keeps His promises. It’s living your life with that knowledge being central to your every thought.

If you can live your life truly believing that, it changes everything. If you can live your life believing that, it doesn’t matter if you lose your job or your family or if you have to leave everything you’ve ever known or if you can’t ever seem to accomplish your dreams. If you can believe that God is God, that He is sovereign, that He really does know what He’s doing, that He never makes mistakes, and that He always keeps His promises, you understand that nothing ever happens by accident. You can wrap your head around the fact that even though things in your life seem to be going nuts, God still has a plan. And it’s a good plan too.

So when you can live in that knowledge, it becomes obvious how you can rest. You can take it easy. You don’t have to worry about your life or your food or your clothes or anything because God has your back. You can rest because God’s got you covered.

So am I advocating that you build a giant bomb shelter under your house and live there? In Kansas, it might not be a bad idea. That way you don’t have to run for shelter; you’re already there.

But no.

I think a lot of American Christians have forgotten–or never knew–what it’s like to live in God’s shelter. We’ve ventured out so far on our own we’ve either lost sight of it or we never knew it existed in the first place. And now that the storms are hitting us, we don’t have a safe place to take refuge. And that’s why we’re being blown around.

I bet all those people in Alabama and Missouri wish that they’d had a shelter to go to when the tornadoes hit them. Well, the storms of life are stronger, harsher and more frightening than any tornado. And we were never expected to weather them in our own strength.

If you’re tired and weary of all the wind this morning, go back to the shelter. It’s not being weak. It’s the smart thing to do.