Saturday, December 29, 2012

Strength and Sanctuary

But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end...
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever...
For me it is good to be near God; I have made the LORD GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
Psalm 73: 16-17, 26, 28.

Most of my scripture reading takes place in the evening.  As you can see in the picture above, one of the Convent cats likes to join me during my quiet time.  Of the two cats, T is the only one who likes to be this close to me in the evening; he's usually laying at the foot of the bed letting me know that it's time to go to sleep and the one sleeping next to me taking up half the bed in the process.  He's also the one who wakes me up early on the weekends when I have a chance to sleep in, all because he wants more food in his food dish.  T finds comfort in my presence; sanctuary in the warmth that I share with him when he snuggles in close to me. 

When I read Psalm 73 a few months ago, I knew that it would become the basis of a post.  Little did I know that as this post percolated in the back of my mind, God would be with me through  circumstances in my life to show me more about His strength and the sanctuary He provides.

A short time ago, one of my grandmothers passed away.  Mentally, she left us a few years ago and in October her body was able to catch up. True, it is sad that she left this world but Heaven is a much better place for her.  This is something that many in the family have clung to during our time of loss.  Grandma surrendered her life to Christ many years ago so we know that she is praising God in Heaven as this post is read.

Even though one knows that Heaven is the best place for the Christian loved ones who have left us, there is often a desire to have something physical to bring comfort during troubled times.  It can be a hug or a shoulder to cry on.  During the funeral  I noticed that for my mom, it was holding onto dad's hand as they walked past grandma's casket one last time.  My parents are not publicly affectionate so seeing my parents holding hands made an impression on me.  I wish I could take the picture I have in my brain of that sight and frame it.  Yes, mom was relying on the strength that God was providing her to get through the time of loss but having dad there by her side was a great comfort to her.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

This is a great verse.  Unfortunately, I have forgotten to find my peace in Christ more times than I dare count.  I let my head get in the way of Christ's work in me through the troubled times in my life.  Sure I would pray and cry about the circumstances but deep down I knew and Christ knew that "I" was trying to figure MY way out of the circumstances and not HIS way.  I wanted a worldly peace, not the peace that Christ would place in me if I would just surrender my stubborn (and I do mean stubborn) will to Him.  That peace of God which is difficult to understand is a protection for my heart and mind (Philippians 4:7.) Sadly, a few 2x4* situations have had to occur in my life to remind me that my faith is to be in Christ and not myself or anything else around me.  I am to place Him first in my life.  If my actions do not spring forth from that faith in Christ then I am the one who has sinned (Romans 14:23.)

Read that verse in John again.  Christ didn't say that our lives would be easy.  He said He would provide us with peace and that we should take comfort in knowing that He's taken care of things for His followers.  Sometimes I need to kick myself and say:
Darn it!  Stop getting in His way!  He's got this.  Let Him be in the lead.  Step back!  Seriously, woman, what are you putting your faith in today?  Get down on your knees and beg for forgiveness.  Stop trying to be in control.  Hand over the issue / problem / choice to Him and leave it with Him!
My life in Christ is not meant to be the world's vision of perfection.  My life is to be in Christ, seeking His will, knowing that He is there to help me accomplish it.  Fulfilling His will is often done through trying circumstances, unpleasant losses, and painful situations.

The following are a few more verses that remind us from where our strength is to come; where we should seek sanctuary at all times, not just when things are troubling.  Read these verses thoughtfully, please.

If it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us... Our help is in the name of the LORD who made heaven and earth.  Psalm 124: 2-3, 8

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  Isaiah 43:1b-2

It is the LORD who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.  Deuteronomy 31:8

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:12-13.

No, in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death or life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8: 37-39.

Knowing that I can find strength and sanctuary in Christ doesn't mean that I should go out and do stupid things; that I should put my faith in something other than Christ.  Paul is pretty clear about this: What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?  By no means!  Romans 6:15.  I really like how the King James Version says the last part: God forbid!  Here's my paraphrase for this verse and it should be read with lots of sarcasm.  "Really?!  You think that because He has done and will do all of these wonderful things for you, you think it's okay, that it is acceptable to go out and continue to live as though He's done nothing for you.  Please go have your heart examined because you really don't understand what Christ's love for you is."

Lord, please examine my heart today.  Forgive me for my lack of faith in You in ALL circumstances that come into my life.  Forgive me for not putting You first in all that I do because I have really messed up a good friendship with these bad choices.  I pray that I will put You first every day in all that I do.  I pray that the friendships You desire for me will grow with You in the center.  Lord, thank you for the strength and sanctuary You provide in all situations and for Your grace that has allowed me to live to this point today.  Amen

Sister Jane
Romans 14:8

*2x4 moments are not real pieces of wood hitting me upside the head but maybe they should be.  These are times when God has had to point out that I wasn't putting Him first in my life.  Sometimes I believe He has done this through job losses, financial difficulty, and relationship struggles.  I pray that they will be few but I know that when they do happen it's because I had a lesson to learn or a lesson to continue to practice in putting Him first in all things.

ps: Some creature photos to share with you!
Someone decided to snuggle close and take a nap while I worked on this blog post.  :)
Another cute sleeping pose I just had to share!  Someone loves his momma.  :)
Frank / Francine enjoying what was left of the corn roll.  October 2012

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