A Fireplace, a Baby, and a Restraining Embrace

At our house we have the joy of having a real wood burning fireplace. There is something about a fireplace that just sets a cozy atmosphere. Sitting on well-worn couch, drinking a strong cup of coffee, reading a good book while feeling the ambient warmth of the fire is the definition of relaxation. And no matter how fancy they may be, a gas fireplace just can't quite recreate the experience of a real wood burning fire-place. Since my wife and I enjoy using our fireplace so much we started early this year on a cool fall night. This was our first fire of the year and the first fire since we welcomed our little boy Jude into the world. Know at 8 months he is crawling and trying to get into everything. He is so inquisitive and wants to experience through his senses everything he can. He wants to touch and he wants to taste. As a result the roaring fireplace captivated his attention. He would fight and fight to get a closer look. To satisfy his curiosity I took him, held him in my lap, and we sat on the floor right in front of the fire.

As he felt the warmth radiating from that fireplace he became less than satisfied with just sitting in my lap. He fought with all his strength to leave my embrace to go and touch the fire. You see my little boy wanted to experience the fire in a way that would be harmful and dangerous to him. Rather than enjoying the fireplace in the way it was intended, he wanted to experience the fire in a way that would be harmful to him. Without my restraining arm, he would have very well gotten into that fire and would have been extremely burned. Yet Jude did not realize that my restraining embrace was not to keep him from joy but to keep him from harm. In love I did not allow him to go into the fire, despite all his squirming and groaning.

You know many of us think just like my son Jude when we begin to think about God and his law. God has given us good gifts to enjoy yet we often use those gifts in a harmful way that God never intended us to do. We take the gift of sex, and rather than using it the way God intended within the covenant of marriage, in the name of sexual liberation and autonomy we divorce our sexuality from marriage. We take the gift of food, and rather than enjoying a wonderful meal we gorge ourself and become gluttons, whose god is their stomachs.

Yet we see God's law and the morality he defines for us is not keeping us from joy but is actually protecting us from sin. Just as my grip around my son was protecting him from misusing the gift of fire, so God's law protects us from turning good gifts into idols. When it comes to the way the world operates, God has a plan and a purpose to the way the world works. When it comes to family, sexuality, money, honesty, and worship, God is not trying to keep us from pleasure, he is trying to keep us from getting burn. His commands are a gift to us and the word of a father who loves his children.

Although Jude did not understand why I wouldn't let him go into the fire, as his Dad I was protecting him. God does this for us by giving us his word to instruct us how to live. So look at the commands of God not as a opressive dictator but as a loving father. When we enjoy the gifts of this world the way God ended, then the warmth of a cozy fire is a great gift not a harmful burn.

Take Refuge in God, and Exalt Him Among the Nations

Before you read this blog go read Psalm 46 then come back. Psalm 46 is a beautiful Psalm describing the gracious protection of God as our refuge and strength. This Psalm teaches us that God is a rod of stability in an unstable world. In the time of ancient Israel, there was great political instabilitiy. At any moment a nation could rise and conquor the known world. Their was great unrest and the people lived in great fear of unsuspected attack from a pagan empire.

In the midst of this, the Psalmist writes that God is a refuge for those who are suffering. He is a refuge in times of hardship. As a result, we do not fear (v. 2). Why? Because God reigns supreme over all the nations. Even in the midst of political turmoil and constant war. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter. God utters his voice, the earth melts (v. 6). God is our protection. He rules over the nations. He is not threatned by them.

However the really amazing thing is what happens starting in v. 8. The Psalmist gives an invitation to the quarreling nations to come and behold the works of the Lord. Through a first read of the Psalm you might wonder, why in the world would this Psalm turn into an invitation to the nations? What does this have to do with God as a refuge? Never the less, God invites the nations to, "Be still, and know that I am God".

You see, this section reveals to us one of God's purpose for hardship and tumoil. Our trusting in God in the midst of suffering serves as a visible invitation to a lost and dying world. As we trust God as our refuge, we invite the quarreling world to come take refuge in God as well. We invite them to exalt in God. Trusting God in suffering serves as a visible evangelistic call to the world. We invite them to behold the works of the Lord. We tell them that God will make the wars cease. We tell them that God can be their refuge as well.

You see, God "will be exalted among the nations" (v. 10). God wants to fill this whole world with his worshipers. He proclaims that His glory will be spread across the earth to every tribe, tongue, and nation! You see God isn't our refuge so we can escape from the world, but so that we can invite the world to take refuge in Him too.

As we trust God as our gracious protection and fortification, we invite others to find protection in the arms of God. The Lord of Hosts is with us. His name is Immanuel. His name is Jesus. In his arms we rest, and under his gracious protection we invite the nations to join us in his loving embrace.