Our City of Refuge

Buried in the Old Testament is the idea of Cities of Refuge.

They speak profoundly to our situation and bring real hope for us who struggle so. Six places of safety were given to protect those who accidentally killed another person— may be an ax-head flew and hit someone, and they died as a result.

God told Joshua to establish cities of protection where one could be safe from an avenger. There were six of them, three on the east side of the Jordan river, and three on the west. The cities were pretty much covering Israel; each was spread out intentionally so they were always close. That city became a place of asylum for those guilty of manslaughter.

For us as believers, we know that we’ve committed crimes against God and other people. The burden we carry threatens to undo us. Satan (and his minions) want to destroy us—and honestly, we deserve it. We are essentially ‘criminals’ who have hurt others, and damaged ourselves in the process.

Outside of the city, we’re vulnerable—but inside those walls we find safety.

Those who have killed others are protected. If we venture outside, we find our adversary who is waiting. Scripture tells us that we must stay cloistered there until the current high priest died. Upon his death, we’re released and may leave the city walls.

For broken believers, the whole concept rings true.

The text speaks for itself, and there is spiritual logic in all of this. We see parallels here that speak to our condition. We’ve messed up big time. We also carry issues that the enemy can attack. Depression, bipolar, trauma, and even thoughts of committing suicide—they are a real part of our lives.

I must tell you that safety is found in only place.

Finding God and abiding in him is our place of safety. His walls protect us, Jesus is our high priest, who never dies; that means we need to stay with him, permanently. I like Hebrews 6:18, LB:

“Now all those who flee to him to save them can take new courage when they hear such assurances from God; now they can know without a doubt that he will give them the salvation he has promised them.”

For us especially, we often have problems with the doctrine of assurance of salvation. Our enemy works overtime to accuse us (Rev.12:10). We’re his targets and the lies of many demons assault us. We can, at times, wonder if we’re really saved. We wonder if we are really forgiven, and we doubt our salvation. Satan’s efforts can be constant and crippling.

I encourage you to think this over and pray about this. Numbers 35 is a good place to start. That chapter is pretty clear. Look also at Exodus 21:13-14; Joshua 20:1-6; Deuteronomy 19:2-13.

A Life for a Life

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We must decide upon some things. This is not easy theology. It calls us to take decisive action.

The idea of Jesus dying on the cross for my sin is brutal. I’m left with the idea that I contributed to His death. But my sin had to be covered, and alas, and He did so. But I can never repay God for the drastic measures He took. But I do know that my life is now His. His for mine.

In many cultures it is a life for a life.

Some people groups believe that the person who saves another person is owed a “life debt” out of gratitude. I become His “property” because He died in my place. A life for a life. His for mine.

There are sins that I commit that He must pay for. This is not as easy as you might think; I confess my sin, and Jesus Christ picks it up. He has chosen to pay every and all penalties for it. I go “scot-free” while He must die. This is what He decided to do for me. A life for a life.

The cross was not just a Roman method of execution. It was planned in eternity for the rebellion of mankind. It was God’s “method.” He knew those “from the foundation of the world” but had to find a way to atone for their sin, and redeem them from Satan’s control. He must die for them. And it’s a life for a life. His for mine.

I’ve been ransomed and redeemed.

His death gives me eternal life– something which can ever be taken away. His own death makes me “holy.” The Bible promises me even more than this: forgiveness, peace, joy and “real” holiness. He has done everything, I have done nothing except believe.

His life for mine. A life for a life.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

Romans 11:33, ESV

 

We’re Inconsistent Rascals

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“Loving Father God, my heart is filled upon rethinking the greatness of your love and the completeness of your plan.  I want to please you, but how often my flesh folds under the pressure of temptation.  I thank you that you know my frame, and you remember that I am but dust.  And I thank you for the abundance of Grace and the gift of righteousness that you have made available to me through the cross of your son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thank you for receiving me back, my gracious Lord.   Amen. ” 

Jack Hayford

When my children do wrong I ache inside.  As a father I so want to hear their confession and see their repentance.  But I cannot imagine disowning them. Never, ever!  How much more is our Heavenly Father ready to receive us back, and hold us close to his heart.

This profound love turns us back to Himself. The very fact you feel the Holy Spirit’s tug is evidence enough that you haven’t been permanently forsaken and ‘cast aside.’ You’ll need to take a step of faith however. Always remember— proximity to Jesus is always a good thing. Stay close, and watch the enemy flee. He will, but only if you stand.

Become brutally real with yourself, but never despairingly. Confess your sin to the real God who loves you unconditionally. Let Him fill you with His Spirit again. Sin is not the ultimate place or condition of the true believer in Jesus–his love has the incredible power to bust through all of our disobedience and rebellion. And he is the only one who can do it–you can’t.

“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

John 6:66-68

Who else would take us? Jesus loves each one of us as if there were only one of us. Sink into that love, and have the assurance that He alone has the power to save us- We’re his; even when we’re rascals. And he has decided that we are now his friends. Isn’t that wild!

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Here Be Giants!

 

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Deuteronomy 31:8, NLT

There is an ancient map in London, England dated from 1525, that has some interesting notations written on it. At one edge someone wrote, “From this point there are fiery scorpions.’  And also written, was “Here be dragons.” On the other margin somebody else noted, ‘Here be giants.” But a believer named Sir John Franklin wrote on this same map, “Here is God.”

Certainly cartographical scorpions, dragons and giants seem to be bit quaint. We certainly don’t really believe in such things anymore. Yet the presence of God is true and quite real. He is present, and is quite active in the lives of everyone who has ever used a map of any sort.

35 “As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Mark 4:25-41, NLT

The Sea of Galilee actually has four names, and it actually isn’t a sea, but a lake with sweet and good water. The lake is over 13 miles long and 7 miles at its widest point. The way the hills surround the lake can produce waves over 20 feet, due to unique weather pattern that exists today.

The disciples were seasoned fishermen. They had each seen tough times, but what is going to be unleashed on them is far and above anything they have ever seen. They were frightened.

Jesus was pretty much exhausted. He had been ministering for several days. This was a stretch. A trip across the lake would give Him a definite break. He is so tired, He falls asleep, using a “boat cushion” as a pillow. He is soon sound asleep.

The disciples seem to respect Jesus’ need for rest. But it all gets chaotic and confused quite quickly. None of them had experienced such a terrible storm. They woke Jesus up, and strongly suggested that He do something decisive. Otherwise, they would all be lost.

Jesus was awakened to another need. My guess is that He needed more sleep, but the present moment He needed to speak boldly into this ugly storm. The waves are quite nasty, but at His Word spoken, everything becomes quite serene.

His disciples are undone. They simply draw different conclusions. What they have just seen strips them down to a basic level. The deep presence of Him takes apart of all they understand. God takes them apart, and they end up in a very interesting position.

Our perceptions shouldn’t alter the presence of God. He is our steady rock in our ‘quicksand world.’ He shuts down our storms. You can truly rest with Him in your boat, controlling the storms.

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