28 Apr 2018 – SIMPLY IDOLS
Whenever people ask me what the first step in crossing a threshold is, I say start by asking God what your false refuges are.
But what does that mean? Basically, a “false refuge” is the “place” we go to avoid God when things go wrong. Usually deep down we’re disappointed with Him, even if we won’t admit it. Maybe we’re angry at a situation or frustrated with life or just at the end of ourselves emotionally but instead of heading for God and resting in Him, we chill out in front of the tv or we crack open a bottle of the best red wine or we soothe ourselves with chocolate, or distract ourselves with a trip to the movies or we zone out by shopping until we drop or we calm down via a fishing trip. When we’re doing drugs or viewing porn, we know we’ve crossed the line and need to repent. But what if we just “check out” emotionally on the wife and kids for a couple of days? Detaching is better than exploding, surely?
All these kinds of practices and habits constitute false refuges. Isaiah 28:15 talks about them when it mentions “refuge of lies” and “a hiding place of falsehood”. And deep in the Hebrew of the word for “falsehood” there are nuances of idolatry on a threshold, disappointment with God and slander.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with tv or wine or chocolate or movies or shopping or fishing – these are great gifts of God. But when we substitute them for Him as our hiding place, they – ever so subtly – become idols. We’ve substituted “good” for “God” and created false refuges. Far from innocent diversions, they are deadly to our intimacy with Him.
2 May 2019 – REVEALING IT
The single most important step in coming into our calling is identifying and renouncing our false refuges – those hideaway places we have built to console ourselves and that substitute for God as our comfort and strength.
The usual way things go is this: we experience rejection or disappointment or disillusionment and so we head for our refuge with all its inbuilt comforts and distractions. In time, when we’ve made a routine practice of this, we have replaced God with our refuge and come to reverence it, rather than Him.
We have swapped the truth for a lie so slowly, so subtly that we don’t realise that chocolate or food, a book or music, an outburst of anger or a time of zoning out – or so many other things, some good gifts of God and some sinful habits – have become more important to us than Him in time of trouble.
If you don’t know what your false refuge is, then just ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it. He will be only too happy to.
5 Feb 2018 – INTRACTABLE ONES
When we’re disappointed or disillusioned with life, we should seek God. However, all too often we seek a “false refuge”, a habit of consolation away from Him where we can comfort ourselves before picking ourselves up and trying again.
Some false refuges are seemingly harmless. Some are obviously harmful.
Some are easy to overcome. It’s simply a matter of repenting and applying some willpower. Some don’t even require that – they are old habits, long withered away, that we’ve put behind us. They simply need repentance – if the Lord happens to bring them to our attention.
But then there are others. No amount of willpower makes the slightest dent on them. Truth is – my attitude is such that I don’t want to fully surrender these false refuges to the Lord. My attitude to my attitude is, “Ok, Lord, today You can have this but tomorrow I might need it. I’m surrendering – temporarily.”
How do we deal with these kind of false refuges – the ones that are absolutely intractable? We ask for the help of Jesus. Now, of course, we’ve asked for the help of Jesus before – on other false refuges – and things changed straight away, so it’s a mystery as to why this isn’t. Fact is, although we asked for the help of Jesus in the past, mostly our own willpower came to our rescue.
Now we’re really down to the wire. Now we’re really discovering how much of our heart is surrendered to Him. Now we’re at the stage where we have to ask Him not just to work on our attitude but on the attitude behind our attitude.
7 Jun 2021 – THE MOUNTAIN OF GOD
When it comes to false refuges, they can be so subtle that they are almost impossible to spot. When Elijah fled from Jezebel and headed for Horeb, the “mountain of God”, it would seem that he was seeking God’s presence. For forty days he journeyed into the wilderness.
Yet God had come at Mount Carmel, demonstrating His presence in falling fire and rushing wind and drenching rain. And God had sent His angel to make breakfast for Elijah when he was near Beersheba. And God, no doubt, could have been found at the temple in Jerusalem that Elijah seems to have bypassed in his hurry to remove himself as far as possible from Jezebel. In fact, God could have been found at any step of the journey, had Elijah stopped long enough to face Him.
The “mountain of God” is not God. It’s a wonderful and good and holy place but it is not God. It’s all too easy for us to seek refuge at the “mountain” thinking that we’ve sought God when we’ve chosen the created thing rather than the Creator. A false refuge is still a false refuge, even if it’s right next to God – even if it’s a beautiful and sacred gift He’s given us – but it’s not Him.
Choose God, not His mountain.
27 Jun 2018 – NOT SEEKING GOD FIRST
The biggest single issue that keeps us from stepping into our calling is our “false refuges” and associated covenants. A false refuge is the place we go first when we’re disappointed, disillusioned, disheartened – or just simply in crisis. So many of us believe that we’re hiding in God’s protective shadow when actually our ever-present help in time of trouble is a block of chocolate. Or a distracting movie. Or a trip to our favourite dress shop. Or a beer. Or two. Or zoning out.
The fact is we don’t notice our own behaviour: we pick up the phone to ask for prayer, we’re don’t step before the Throne.
Now there’s nothing naturally wrong with any of the things I’ve mentioned – not the chocolate or the movie, the dress or the beer, the mental check-out, or the prayer partner on the end of the phone.
But when God is not our first thought, He becomes our last resort. And that’s how we create false refuges – through simple habits of seeking God somewhere other than first.
11 May 2019 – HOLY PARACLETE
It’s said that army personnel are advised, in digging a foxhole, to make it big enough for two.
It’s good advice in spiritual warfare too. You need room for your paraclete – the one who “comes alongside”, the one who is your wingman, your back-to-back fighting buddy, your armour-bearer, your companion in battle.
If you don’t make space for the Holy Spirit then, more likely than not, you’ve actually created a false refuge. And not a very comfortable one either.
12 May 2019 – FORTRESS HIDING PLACES
When we find ourselves in a hiding place that has, however subtly, substituted for God as a primary source of comfort, we are in the process of creating a false refuge.
Over time, any refuge can become a walled stronghold. When we go to God as our refuge and strength, He becomes our fortress and high tower. But when we choose someone or something else, we gradually fortify our stronghold. We put down massive “foundations” that are lies and falsehoods we believe, we erect huge structural “pillars” that are justifications for our behaviour, a manifesto of judgments against others and our vows about how to treat others like them, a “covering” of denial that seals us off from grace.
Sometimes, when we’ve asked God to point out the unholy refuges in our life, and the denial is so intense we can’t hear Him, the next step in attempting to identify them is incredibly frightening: ask Him to lay siege to ‘them’.
28 Apr 2021 – STOP STRUGGLING
If ever you’ve found yourself in trouble in the ocean, you know how instinctive the struggle is, how desperately you want to do something, anything, to help those coming to your assistance.
But the best thing you can do is nothing. The best thing you can do is hand your rescue over to the experts.
The same is true when we’re drowning in the problems of life. We shoot our hand up, waving at God while struggling crazily with Him even as He’s effecting our deliverance. And of course we’re just making everything more difficult and ensuring the rescue takes much longer than it should.
When you’ve asked God to rescue you, stop struggling with circumstances and hand them all over to Him. He doesn’t need your help to rescue you.