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God holds the high center,
he sees and sets the world’s mess right.
He decides what is right for us earthlings,
gives people their just deserts.

God’s a safe-house for the battered,
a sanctuary during bad times.
The moment you arrive, you relax;
you’re never sorry you knocked.

(Psalm 9:7-10; The Message)

Do you feel battered by life? Knocked down? At times ready to give up? So many people are struggling today without work, without means to provide for themselves and their families. In such times, we often feel like we struggle on alone, depressed and worried, looking for a way out of the situation.
God Himself is the safe-house. God Himself is the sanctuary in bad times. Not the church, not the government, not our small group, not our Sunday School class, not the neighbor or our best friend – God Himself is the answer.
When we read King David’s Psalms we see a man who experienced similar life challenges. He was fearful, he was backed into a corner, he was angry with his enemies, he was frustrated. But over and over he turns to the Lord, seeks His guidance, His forgiveness, His strength. He asks for God’s kindness, for God’s justice and His provision.
We too have that privilege. We too can seek God’s provision and strength. We too can run to the safe-house, to the sanctuary that is our great God, our Father, our Lord. When we knock and he opens the door, we can relax in Him, knowing that He loves us and cares for us every moment of every day.

Reflections on Psalm 139

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

There is no where I can go and find God unavailable…He is always with me and there for me.

Joshua 1:5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

  • In times of difficulty
  • In times of victory
  • In times of rebellion
  • In times of faithfulness
  • In times of questioning
  • In times of certainty
  • In times of insecurity
  • In times of confidence

The question I ask of myself is ‘where do I go?’ in those times. There are times when I go on a journey away. Away from people. Away from emotions. Away from decisions. Away from pain. Away from vulnerability.

Yet time after time I discover that God is there at the end of the journey. And time after time he leads me back from where I have come. In the journey back he brings healing, reassurance, courage and vision.

We believe that God is grace and will yearn for us to be in his arms. He will look for us, find us and embrace us. Yet there is something within that will attempt to sabotage his grace.

I thank God for his incessant and interrupted love for me. He never withholds his presence from us. He never scolds us or rejects us. He is for us not against us.

For personal or group response and reflection:

What stands out to you in this scripture?

Can you illustrate the truth in this scripture from your own experience?

What do you think God is saying to you and us today in this scripture?

Read the scriptures above. Ask each other the questions one at a time. Allow time for the whole group to answer and see where God takes you as the truth takes root in you.

Author: Phil Harper

journey to the cross

We’re nearing the end of the Lenten Season, the end of our journey with the Lord as we prepare to once again “die to sin and live to Christ” through our experience of worship celebrating Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. In personal reflection, I’ve realize anew that I am on a daily journey with Christ, not only during this holy season, but every day of life.

Sunday is Palm or Passion Sunday in the Christian calendar. As I was preparing the liturgy for next Sunday morning worship at First UMC, Warrenton, GA, I realized that I was in a quandary. My heart said, “preach on watch and pray, on betrayal, on denial” but the church secretary reminded me that the children and youth will process in with rejoicing, with joy, with palms. So the Spirit took me in a different direction… toward joy, toward rejoicing, toward running with joy to the cross. In Mark 11 through 15 we encounter immense contrasts… shouting, dancing, praising people… drowsy, negligent, sleeping disciples. Such contrasts… the entire “pueblo” mobbing the streets for just a glimpse of Messiah on the back of a young donkey… a dark, angry select mob with swords and mallets surrounding Messiah in the blackest of night.

Palms or Swords? which do I choose each day? To lift up his name in praise or brandish my self-righteous sword at his people who he created in his image. Which do I choose? to journey to the cross with him, to die to my self image, my self will, my self aggrandizement? or to flee in shame, shock and fear?

It took the power of the Spirit to change the disciples from fear to courage. It took the power of the Spirit to sustain Messiah in that dreadful, dark journey. It takes the power of the Spirit to sustain me and you on our journey to the cross. May the Spirit of our Messiah lift us up so that we may truly love and praise Him.

In ancient times, great fortresses were built on mountain tops. Many of those fortresses remain today in Europe and Asia. Few such places of protection can be found in the US. During this turbulent time of economic and spiritual crisis, most people around the world would wish to find a place of protection, a place of security.

A reading from Psalm 43 in The Message strikes me as a message of hope for all of us today.

Give me your lantern and compass, give me a map.
So I can find my way to the sacred mountain,
to the place of your presence,
To enter the place of worship,
meet my exuberant God,
Sing my thanks with a harp
(how about a guitar, keyboard or flute)
magnificent God, my God.

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God —
Soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face… He’s my God!

Simply spoken.. He’s my God. I can trust in Him, enter into a breathing space, a space of His presence. There I meet Him and sing my thanks. Basking in the light of His presence, my soul is lifted up, my spirit takes courage to face another day of the realities of life.

We invite you to commit to a rhythm of spiritual disciplines:

Daily – We live with a rhythm of daily disciplines:

  • Simplicity – through simple, eco-friendly living and generous giving
  • Community – through sharing meals, sharing possessions and sharing life
  • Prayer and Scripture – through daily prayer and meditation on Scripture;  praying for each other and gathering together for worship

Weekly – Gather with others to learn, love and be in fellowship, communion, and accountability (weekly common “table”).
Seasonally – Meet with others in times of festival, celebration and meditation,  marking “holy-day” and the rhythms of the creation.
Lifelong – Study and learn together what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, God made flesh, in a continual cycle of mystery and discovery.

Through these practices may we deepen our connection to one another, to God and to the world we serve.


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December 2019
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