Holiness and Sex

kiss-sun

1 Thessalonians 4:3 “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality.”

Holiness involves many areas of Christian behavior. Here Paul starts with avoiding sexual immorality. It is no secret to you that the world in which we live doesn’t have very high standards or expectations on this topic. Don’t get pregnant if you are not ready to be a parent. Don’t get a disease or share a disease. Don’t force yourself on someone else. Otherwise it is pretty wide open. It may not be bad advice, so far as it goes. But to say that this falls short of holiness would be a gross understatement.

The problem is that the world doesn’t share God’s understanding of the purpose for our sexuality. Some view it as little more than a way to feel good and have fun. It is an urge to satisfy. Many see it as a way to express affection for another human. That’s better, but still lacking.

At the core of the world’s problem is the view that it is primarily something I use and control for my pleasure. At a rally intended to address issues that face women, a number of participants held up signs referring to their private areas and expressing sole ownership and decision-making power regarding their use. Setting aside some of the crude language, if the point is that no man should be able to force his wishes on them, we can agree. If such declarations of independence discount any plans and purposes God may have for their bodies, we are obligated to disagree. But the problem doesn’t start there.

For thousands of years worldly men have stalked and used women for their own pleasure. Their intentions have been entirely self-centered. They treat women more like a thing than a person made in God’s image and a coheir of the gracious gift of life. They brag about their conquests. They fail to acknowledge that God has a divine purpose and plan for human sexuality, and that this falls within narrow boundaries.

God has clearly tied new human life to our sexuality. It may not be his only purpose. It may not always result in offspring. But any attempt to pretend the connection doesn’t exist is missing something that even basic biology ought to make clear.

God created this kind of contact to cement and solidify a life-long relationship between a man and a woman. It is, by far, not the only thing that strengthens the relationship, but it is an important piece of the puzzle. That relationship would make for a stable home in which to raise children. That relationship would make for a stable society. That relationship should be a classroom in which both men and women learn things like patience, sacrifice, loyalty, and service. God has a purpose, a vested interest here. His holy people, and that means every believer, avoid sexual behavior that is predatory, self-serving, destabilizing to marriage and family, or reinforces shallow rather than life-long relationships. To say it plainly, God’s holy people avoid sexual sin by limiting sexual relations to the person of the opposite sex to whom they are married.

This, as you know, is difficult, even for Christians. If it were easy, Paul wouldn’t have to put it in writing. Such self-control doesn’t some naturally to us. An old professor of mine once remarked, “Nobody I know has a spiritual track record free of sexual stumbling.” It makes me wince to admit it, but he is right, isn’t he. Even if we have controlled our outward behavior, have we shared God’s holy purpose?

For our guilt we need to remember that God not only wants us to be holy. He has made us holy in his Son. Paul says it beautifully to the Ephesians, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Jesus is the gentleman who respects and cares for his bride, the church. He gave himself up for our sin. He washes us and cleanses us in his baptism. His grace makes us holy, and it invites us to apply ourselves to living holy lives.

Be Holy

dove perch

I Thessalonians 4:3 “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.”

If I were to ask you about your goals for life, my guess is that your answers would revolve around several general topics: education, family or relationships, career, finances, lifestyle, volunteerism, and retirement. Which ones you emphasize depend to a large degree on your age and place in life.

If I were to ask you about your spiritual goals, my guess is that you would have to think about your answer a little longer. Many Christians don’t think about their life of faith as something they proactively plan and manage. You go to church. You try to behave yourself…sort of. Maybe you get involved in some program or class. Maybe you don’t. You believe God is important. You just aren’t sure what to do about it.

Let’s approach your life of faith from a different direction. What do you suppose God wants? What are his goals for you? Here, perhaps, the answers are a little easier. God wants me to have faith. That’s where everything starts. Maintaining that faith means time in his word and prayer. That means I go to church, and probably get involved in some kind of Bible study, too.

God wants me to serve. “Love,” we know, is the one-word summary of everything God wants in his commandments. This is not romantic love, though it may have many family applications. It is love like Jesus had. It offers assistance, it forgives, it treats others with dignity, it sacrifices.

In his letter to the Christians who lived in Thessalonika, Paul brings up another desire God has for your life. It is a central part of Christian life. Almost two hundred years ago, an entire movement in American Christianity was built around it. But it doesn’t get so much attention anymore. The plan is holiness. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.” “Sanctified” is the same thing as being holy.

That is something more than living life free from sin. Holiness goes to the root of how we understand our identity as Christians and our whole relationship with God. When God makes something holy, he sees it as completely consecrated and dedicated to himself. It now exists for his special purpose. It is not like everyone and everything else. He wants us to be different.

This isn’t limited to people who have chosen to become pastors, or Christian teachers, or missionaries, or some other kind of full time church work. This applies to every Christian, and to all we do in every area of life. In another letter, his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds them, “You are not your own. You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” Later in that same letter he says, “Whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” Nothing we do is too small, or too personal, to be holy to God. Our entire existence becomes a tool for him to use to carry out his plans and purposes.

God made us holy when he called us to faith and made us members of his family. He paid a purchase price for us when Jesus died as our substitute on the cross. This paid for the guilt of all our sins and took them all away. In one sense, this set us free. It made us free from punishment, free from trying to pay for sin ourselves, free from spending eternity in hell. It set us free from the power and control of the devil, and free from our own corrupt will and desires that live inside of us.

At the same time, it makes us holy. We now belong to God, but not in the sense that we are prisoners who have been captured and forced into slave labor. We have been miraculously transformed, lovingly elevated, changed into new and better creatures fit to work with God as his partners.

Holiness is a goal worth pursuing. The Lord may have little to say about the level of education we attain, the career we choose, or the standard of living we reach. But alongside our salvation and the life of love we lead, he wants us to be holy. It is part of his plan.

Don’t Get Mad, Get…God’s Word

Angry Man

James 1:19-21 “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

When we don’t understand something, there are a number of different ways we might react. We might start speculating. We all love to give our opinions. Pop the hood of your car around a group of men sometime and start tinkering with the engine. Then see how many of them don’t gather around and start giving their ideas about what might be wrong. But unless one of them really knows both the symptoms and the engine well, the opinions do little good, and could potentially do major harm.

Sometimes when we don’t understand something, especially something that hurts, we just get mad. Then we lose control. We break things. We say things we will later regret. There is not much that is useful about that kind of anger.

So it is that, as we react to life’s trials, whether caused by people or circumstances, James tells us to be slow to speak. No one ever learned anything by talking.

And be slow to anger. There is such a thing as righteous anger, but most anger is just a self-pitying reaction that chases out love. Anything that works against love can’t possibly produce the kind of life that God wants us to live. Sometimes anger gets us what we want. If we storm around, then others will back down and let us have our way just to try to keep the peace. But this isn’t getting anything done the way God wants it to be done. It is nothing more than selfish manipulation.

In place of these, James urges us, “Be quick to listen.” If there are answers to be found, we will find them in the word of God. If there is a godly path for us to follow, that, too, will be found in the word of God. Let God’s word be heard when you have to deal with unpleasant people or problems.

That word is important for more than its ability to explain and guide. James concludes, “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” James is writing these words to people who are already Christians. He isn’t urging them to accept the word and be converted. He is urging them to accept the word that has already been implanted in them. He is urging them to live the Christian life.

You see, just because we have become Christians, that doesn’t mean we have stopped struggling with what God’s word says to us. You know this by experience. Sometimes God’s word asks us to do things we have trouble believing could possibly be right. Sometimes God makes us promises we find most difficult to believe he will keep. Our own experience, our own sense of reason, and our own desires and preferences want to take us in a different direction than the one in which God’s word is leading.

So which do we follow? There is only one safe way. Let God’s word be heard. “Accept the word implanted in you.” Do so even when everything in you and around you seems to say the opposite.

What’s at stake is more than how we deal with some immediate problem. This is the word which can save you. But hasn’t the word already saved me? Yes, it has. But just as that word once gave us the faith that saved us, it is still God’s tool to feed our faith and keep it alive. This same word goes on convicting us of sin and assuring us of forgiveness. This same word enables us to rest our lives in God’s love even when trials are tempting us away. Let God’s word be heard, and we won’t be deceived into giving up on God and giving into sin. That word will make us strong for life now, and safe for life with him forever.

Always, Only Good Gifts

Trinity

James 1:16-17 “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

If anything comes to us from God, then it is a gift, a display of his undeserved love, and it serves us. In order to emphasize this James describes these gifts as “good and perfect.” In John’s Gospel, Jesus is called our Good Shepherd. There good means that he shepherds just the way a shepherd is supposed to. Here “good” has a slightly different meaning. Here “good” refers to things that are beneficial. That’s not the same thing as saying they are always enjoyable. I can’t say that I enjoy any of the medicines that I take, but they are good for me. I can’t say that my children enjoy it when I take away their privileges. But when they have been naughty, it is good for them. I can’t say that we will enjoy every gift we receive from God. But if it comes from him, I know that it must be good for us.

Those gifts are also perfect or complete. Has our Lord ever done anything half way? His gifts are never missing essential parts. There is never any assembly required on our part. They never fail to do the job as well as advertised. They are perfect, and we would expect no less from our Father in heaven.

Sometimes it is obvious to us that God’s gifts are good. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord. It is by grace that you have been saved through faith– and this not from yourselves it is the gift of God. Jesus has done everything necessary for our sins to be forgiven and for us to go to heaven. We have no trouble in seeing how that gift is good and perfect.

Sometimes the benefit and perfection of God’s gifts are more difficult to see. An old friend in the ministry once told me about a member he had recently buried. A woman had started attending his church, and after a while she began taking membership classes. As they got to know each other better, my friend learned that her father was in the hospital. He asked if he could pay him a visit. This elderly gentleman was in the hospital for cancer. After a number of visits between the two men, the man with cancer was released from the hospital, and he asked if my friend would come to his home and teach him the Bible, too. On the day he was taken into membership at the church, he asked to speak to my pastor friend after the service. He told him, “I just want you to know that my cancer has been a blessing to me. If I hadn’t been sick, you wouldn’t have come and visited me in the hospital, and I wouldn’t have this complete confidence in Jesus, or be sure what is going to happen to me when I die.” Today this man is in heaven. Could cancer be a good and perfect gift? If it comes to us from the hand of our Father in heaven, it is.

Could this ever possibly change? Might God’s gifts cease to be good? “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Have you ever watched a shadow move? If you were inside a home in James’ day, the flickering oil lamps would constantly be making the shadows grow and shrink, jump and dance. If you are outside on a sunny day, the shadows are constantly on the move as they stretch first toward the west, and later toward the east. If a cloud comes along, they disappear altogether. There is nothing solid or permanent about a shadow.

But God is. To borrow a phrase from Gerhard Kittel, there is a magnificent monotony to God and his love. You may consider yourself a traditionalist who never wants anything to change. You may consider yourself a progressive who can’t see change happen fast enough. But on this we all agree: the unchanging love and grace of God that never wavers is our only true source of security and comfort. It is one thing that can never be made better. There can never be a new and improved version. And there is something entirely comfortable and soothing about knowing that he “loves me every day the same.” Brennan Manning has noted, “Trust in the God who loves consistently and faithfully nurtures confident, free disciples”. God’s changelessness is itself a good and perfect gift from him. And it assures us that his gifts are always, only good.

Teaching Through Testing

Obstacle

Exodus 15:25-26 “There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.’”

What kind of a God do you and I worship? People are naturally inclined to take extremist positions in their view of him. Before his gospel breakthrough, Martin Luther was raised to see God only as a merciless judge making impossible demands on his people. He was a God who inspired only terror, fear, and trembling in them. There are still those today who believe that a scowl, a frown, and a general spirit of gloominess are the normal uniform a Christian ought to wear. Following the Lord Jesus is the joyless, humorless burden we must bear if we don’t want to go to hell.

Perhaps the other extreme is more popular today. God is such an easy-going, mild-mannered, friendly sort of guy that you don’t have to take him too seriously. One TV preacher with his permanently painted on smile says that you can’t tell people that they are bad. God wants them to hear good news. A woman once sat across the table in my office and argued that Jesus wouldn’t try to make a person feel guilty. He didn’t deal with people that way. I have run into any number of arm-chair theologians while doing evangelism work who are convinced that they don’t need to change. God loves them just the way they are.

It is tempting to say that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but that’s not quite right, either. The God who was dealing with Israel here, the Lord we follow today, does take some seemingly extreme positions. But he is more than a flat, one-dimensional character.

Do you think that he takes his demands seriously? What does he say? “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians…” When God is bringing his word to you, you had better sit up and pay attention. We ignore his voice at our peril. And he expects that we not only hear what he has to say, but that we earnestly put it into practice. “…if you keep all his decrees…” he warns. This is no toothless set of general guidelines or suggestions. Our very lives are at stake. How many thousands of Egyptians died in the 10 plagues for failing to follow his commands? How many sinners does death fail to overcome today?

To say that this is a challenge for us, even in the best of times, is a vast understatement. When the Lord is leading us through times of testing, every inclination is to abandon him and his commands. Did you ever have a teacher that you felt wasn’t treating you fairly? The teacher made unreasonable demands on your time and didn’t give you full credit for your work, and then it got really hard to listen to him in class, and to put your whole self into the class work. In a bigger way the same temptation comes to us when the Lord is leading us through life’s tests.

In fact, if it seems that this is simply too much for us, it should. As much as the Lord is leading us to know him when he preaches us his law and then leads us through life’s tests, he is leading us to know ourselves. He is leading us to see that we are weak, helpless, and needy.

Then we are ready to see that knowing the Lord is more than knowing how seriously he takes his demands: “…for I am the Lord, who heals you.” He is the LORD. When we hear that name, we may be inclined to think of more demands from our ruler. But this is “LORD” in all capital letters. This is God’s Old Testament salvation name. This is the name which reminds us that he has freely chosen to make us the objects of his love. This is the name that assures he is faithful. Even when we wander away, he comes looking for us, and he will not stop until he finds us and reclaims us. He will always come for us. Even when we have angered him he wants nothing more than to forgive us and reaffirm his love.

It is this Lord who heals us. That’s not physical healing only. It’s not limited to spiritual healing, either. It is completely comprehensive. His invisible hand is involved in every problem that has ever been resolved in our lives: physical, spiritual, emotional, relational or any other. Our God is the faithful Lord who heals us, and he leads us through life’s tests so that we might know him better.

Follow Jesus to Sweet Relief

drink water

Exodus 15:22-25 “Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What are we to drink?’ Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.”

Not everyone is a natural-born leader, but following doesn’t come naturally to us, either. Are you satisfied to follow the car ahead mile after mile, or do you feel the urge to pass him, especially if his speed is erratic? Are you content to let the driver in your own car drive when you are a passenger, or do you feel the need to offer a steady stream of driving tips and commentary?

When we became Christians we surrendered the position of leader of our own lives. We are in the Lord’s army now. We are his followers.

The children of Israel were just learning this lesson in Exodus 15. Here God gives them a little taste, and a little test, of what following him is going to be like on the road through the wilderness ahead. We need to learn the same lesson.

Note how Israel got into this mess in the first place. Moses was leading them, and it is true that Moses was the man they could see out in front, showing them where to go. But Moses wasn’t aimlessly picking his way along through the desert on his own. The Lord guided the nation in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Moses was simply following God’s own lead. It was the Lord who led them to this place and into this predicament.

Does that seem strange to you? I get into enough trouble all by myself. I don’t need God’s help with that. We are tempted to object that it is the devil who brings evil into my life and makes my life miserable. Sometimes, that is true.

In the case before us, it is clear that the Lord was deliberately leading Israel into this difficult and painful situation. Three days in the desert with no water was no small problem. It is estimated that the nation of Israel would require about 11 million gallons of water a day at this point in time. If that much water were going to be hauled in by train today, it would take 1800 tanker cars. Now the little water they do find is so bitter they can’t stand to drink it, even after three days of thirst.

Why make a point of the fact that the Lord led Israel to this bitter trouble? We simply don’t want to believe that it is right or fair for God to impose troubles on us. We take issue with the way he is running our lives. Sometimes, it just makes us mad at him! Why should my child have an incurable disability? Why should I be struggling to find a decent job? How come I can’t find someone with whom to share my life? Why am I terminally ill?

Why? Because the Lord is testing us. He isn’t trying to make us fail. He wants to exercise our faith to make it stronger. He is helping us to put it into practice. Where do we turn in times of testing? Do we remember our God, and the nature of our relationship with him? He is not primarily the great Guide in the Sky. He is our Rescuer, the God who saves us.

Israel had just been schooled in that lesson at the Red Sea. The Lord did not teach them how to overcome the Egyptians and free themselves from slavery by their own wits or power. He delivered them. He taught them to turn to him in their need.

We have learned this lesson even better at Jesus’ cross and empty tomb. The Lord did not place us on some sort of spiritual installment plan for paying off our own sins. He wiped out the debt for us by giving his life in place of ours. The Lord does not offer some super-secret diet and exercise plan that enables us to achieve immortality through self-discipline. He overcomes death by his own resurrection. He pours faith into our hearts to give us new life. His powerful voice will call our dusty corpses out of our graves some day and transform us into creatures fit for heaven.

That means that the crisis of the moment is also well within his control, though it may be far beyond our own. Don’t panic. Don’t complain. Pray. Trust. His rescue methods may be supremely unconventional. His timing often comes as a surprise. But his deliverance is effective without fail. His solutions promise sweet relief.

Safety You Can Trust

Fortress

Psalm 91:2 “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”

Our trust is where we turn for help. The words “refuge” and “fortress” call to mind the strongholds people in the Middle East would build on hills and mountains for protection. In fact, the word “fortress” in the Hebrew is the word “masada.” Maybe you have heard of Masada, a narrow plateau near the Dead Sea, a quarter of a mile up from the desert floor, with sheer cliff faces on all sides. King Herod built a palace and fortifications there, and it appeared to be impregnable.

But we need to beware of false trusts in our lives. Nothing on earth is completely safe. The literal Masada fell to the Roman army when they built a ramp a quarter of a mile high to move their army and siege machinery within reach of the walls. Today we see modern day, high tech security systems failing to protect the treasures they guard. Scenes of such failures from movies like Ocean’s 11, or Mission Impossible, or National Treasure may be fiction, but news reports of thefts at museums, galleries, and banks are not. Money, family, government, career, personal heroes, my own wits– eventually all these things will fail.

But our God never will. He is our trust. With him we are always safe. Sometimes we are inclined to question that. We feel like we have been more than a little burned, a little bruised, a little manhandled by life. Why hasn’t he kept me safe? I trusted him!

There is a scene toward the end of the movie The Pagemaster in which the young hero is going on and on about all the deadly dangers he has endured in a long list of adventures he has been forced to experience. The Pagemaster, a sort of magical librarian who wanted to help the boy get over his fears, replies, “And yet you stand before me today.”

For all of our hardships, that is true of us, too, isn’t it? And yet we stand before him today–not a magical librarian, but the supernatural Author of our life stories. Has the Lord failed? I don’t think so. Even for those who trusted God and are not with us anymore, their trust has not been misplaced. They stand before him in heaven, where they are fully and finally safe.

Safe with God– that’s what it means to be saved, doesn’t it? That’s why we call him our Savior. In our faith, in our life, in our future, trust him to keep you safe.

A Safe Place to Rest

Baby sleep

Psalm 91:1 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Is the appeal of the Christian faith to be found in its rules? Is the emphasis of the Christian faith the moral responsibilities it lays upon its members? Are we the religion of more and more work to do? Maybe we have given outsiders that impression, and maybe that is part of the reason they aren’t more interested in getting to know our Jesus. That kind of religion is hard to distinguish from all the competing religions of the world. That kind of religion doesn’t seem likely to offer much help.

Sometimes, maybe that’s how this faith feels to us. Jesus’ claim on me just adds more items to my task list each day. I am socked with obligations and responsibilities from which other people seem to be free. Maybe that’s the way we even think it should be. My Christian faith is here to give me more instructions, more tools, more help in living my life the way I am supposed to.

Now I don’t want to deny that following Jesus involves giving oneself to his service, a life that aspires to keep his commandments. But is that the main reason we are here? Is that the desire of our hearts that he has filled? Let me put it this way. Suppose you are a soldier fighting a war. The battle has stretched on for days. You are tired. At such a time better strategy, clear orders, and more weapons in your arsenal may all sound appealing. Then you could fight better. But don’t you suppose that what you really want is rest? A cease-fire so that you could get some uninterrupted and secure sleep? A few days leave away from the battle so that you could get some much needed R and R? Maybe that even sounds good for life’s little battles you fight now.

Those who make their home with the Most High find rest. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus invites us. Jesus took all the heaviness out of the commandments by keeping God’s commandments for us. He emptied them of their crushing weight when he gave his life to pay the penalty for our sins they imposed. He has lifted the burden of performance-based religion: constantly trying to bribe God into sparing us with our weak attempts at good behavior. Those chains have been removed and we are free. In him our souls find sweet rest and safety. That’s not to say that all Christian activity comes to a halt. We may still serve him, but now we do so like free men and women, doing the things we love to do, doing them for the one we love, doing them because he loved us first.

Must we limit that rest, that peace of mind, to the spiritual realm? In the context, I believe the psalmist wants to take us farther. Our Lord has taken the heaviness out of life in this world, with all its uncertainties and dangers– crime, illness, poverty, war, conflict, and hardship. In fact, he mentions these very things in the verses that follow. But he does not do so by taking them away. We rest in his shadow even as these things are going on around us, even happening to us. We do not need to be afraid when he is near because we know he loves us. We can join Jesus in the back of the boat, sleeping through the storms of life. We are safe with him, because he has everything under control. Under his shelter we find rest.

Safe at Home

Cozy

Psalm 91:1 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Where do you live spiritually? What do you call home? When we read “live” or “dwell” in our Old Testament, there are a couple of different ideas the writer might have in mind. Sometimes a word is used which refers to “tenting.” The Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob spent most of their lives in tents. It meant that they moved around quite a bit. My family likes to go camping and live in a tent. But we wouldn’t want to live that way all the time. Tenting is and should be a temporary thing.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High” is the person who is there to stay–permanently. This is more than temporary lodging. This is home. A tent or even a nice hotel room might provide adequate shelter. But none of us is inclined to mistake them for home. We realize that even a house isn’t the same thing as home. When we dwell in the shelter of the Most High, then we have found our permanent home.

But just what does that mean, to live in God’s shelter like that? We know that God is present everywhere, but we are not able to see or find him in the vast expanse of nature, other than the fingerprints he has left on creation, the evidence of his power that remains in what he has left behind for us to use. That is not the same thing as meeting God or living with him, and so it is not there that we find our home with him.

Nor is the psalmist referring to our heavenly home in this context. Even now we are at home with our Lord when we are in his word. When we are gathered to worship, then we are dwelling in the shelter of the Most High. When we gather for Bible study, then we have come home. We are living in our home when God’s word and prayer sanctify our breakfast table, our supper table, or the last moments of our day before we close our eyes for sleep. This same shelter accompanies us through the day when our thoughts go back to his word to guide our choices and rule our behavior. When this is where we have found our home, then we are safe with God.

It ought to be clear to us, then, that many people are spiritually homeless. They are completely vulnerable to the demonic and worldly elements around them because they do not live in his word. They may be wandering aimlessly from one idea or belief to another. They may have taken up more or less permanent residence in the seedy motel of immorality or reside in the rickety old shack of self-righteousness. In any case their souls are exposed, these buildings are collapsing around them, and they will perish forever if they don’t get out in time.

We shouldn’t think that this same danger is far from us. Many of us know where our true home is, but we spend less time there than we should. We may visit the shelter of the Most High from time to time, maybe even weekly. But can it be said that we dwell there? Can it be said that God’s word is the place I call my home?

And what do we get for our journeys away? Worry, anxiety, stress, fear, guilt, ulcers, sin, failure, hurt, and trouble. And those are the small problems. Wander far enough away, and hell itself can be added to the list.

At home with the Lord, all we know is safety from these things. His shelter is composed of certain promises that guard our hearts, guard our souls, and even guard our bodies. His gracious forgiveness of all our sins for Jesus’ sake is the key element in the security we find at home with him. But from that grace flows every other promise he gives to grow our faith, to be our life’s companion, to feed us and clothe us, and to protect us from anything that could result in our ultimate harm. When I have found my home in these promises of his word, then I know that I am safe with God.