A Safe Place

Life soon teaches us the reality that we often feel unsafe in this world.  That’s why we have to learn the important skill of developing safe places where we can find rest from the stresses and strains of life.  Developing a safe place for your soul is a vital skill in “keeping your heart with all diligence” to borrow the wisdom of Solomon in Proverbs 4:23
As a young child I loved being out in nature where it was serene. (I still do!)  The gentleness and quietness of nature is appealing to most everyone.  We learned as children that even though it felt safe, because in most ways it was, there were dangerous places to avoid.  One such danger was getting lost by not paying attention to one’s location.  Another danger was the creatures that we encountered on a regular basis.  From the big ones, like black bears, to the smaller ones, like skunks and even beavers, we knew to keep our distance.  The serenity of nature, I later learned, mimics the serenity of God’s presence.
As a young pastor I learned the importance of having a “hiding place” where I could go to rest, recharge, and renew my strength.  During the hard seasons of life, when we feel vulnerable and exposed, Christians know that we have a safe place to which we can retreat for rest and refreshment.  And of course, the safest place I know is in the presence of the Lord.  His presence is the best place for a Christian to renew, recharge and refocus. 
Two of the most loved Psalms in the Hebrew Bible is in Psalm 90 and 91.  Listen to its promise: 

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.”  (Psalm 90:1)

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)

A “dwelling place” is a HOME.  Your home is the one place to which you can go to shut the world out and rest, without fear of unwelcomed visitors invading your comfort and security.  For the Christian, God’s presence is our HOME where we know we are loved with an everlasting love.  We are in our safest place in the presence of the Lord. (And He is “everywhere present”)
A shelter is a SECRET HIDING PLACE where we can escape from the threats that weary us. Notice that the psalmist promised that if we take our place in the presence of God, His shadow will be cast over us.  Nearness to God creates a blanket of protection for the believer.  Talk about a safe place!
A refuge and fortress are PROTECTED STRONGHOLDS where the enemy cannot touch you. The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe.”  (Proverbs 18:10)
You might be tempted to think of this “safe place” analogy as a form of Christian “escapism.”    But Christians know better.  We fully acknowledge the harsh realities of life.  We aren’t running away from anything or anybody.  We are running into the presence of the ONE who alone can calm our fears, give us a peace that passes understanding and grant us renewed strength to keep moving on the upward way.  
Be safe church family!  Shalom,
Pastor Deric

God & Government

Canadians are among the most highly taxed in the world1 with an ominous history of increasing government intrusion into the personal earnings of its citizens.   At our current rate of taxation, the reality is that all Canadians work for the Government of Canada.  Taxes, combined with the national debt, places generations of Canadians in financial insecurity.   Promise of tax reform can overthrow sitting governments because people are weary of the burden of paying high taxes.  On one occasion during His earthly ministry Jesus addressed the subject of taxes.   Do you remember the famous story from Mark Chapter 12? Two angry factions that normally hated one another pounced on the opportunity to trap Jesus in a political debate that would undermine the people’s confidence in Him.  The topic?  “Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?”  The Romans were notorious for numerous oppressive taxes including a “religious tax.”  During that exchange Jesus offered the famous words that have guided Christians through the centuries as it relates to their relationship with human governments.  He said, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”   The question that arises from Jesus’ teaching is, “what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God?”  Our church has agreed to three guiding beliefs about our posture toward the governments of our land. 
“WE BELIEVE that civil government is of divine appointment for the interest and good order of society; that those in authority are to be prayed for, conscientiously honoured and obeyed, except only in things opposed to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Lord of the conscience and Prince of the kings of the earth.”2
The posture of our church is that we are NOT fundamentally at odds with local, provincial or national governments.  On the contrary, we view them as God’s appointment to serve and protect all Canadians.  This view is based on the basic premise that God is the “Ruler Supreme” who sets the boundaries of the nations of the earth, and He alone has “dominion from sea to shining sea and from the rivers to the ends of the earth.”  He commands the church to be “subject to the governing authorities” as evidence of our confidence in Him.  Romans 13:1-7 is the anchor text of the New Testament concerning earthly governments.  It’s a powerful discourse on the basic stance a Christian must adopt toward human government.  Its logic has been the foundation for Christian interaction with human governments through the centuries.  We take the view that our basic role as participants in our country is cooperative.  We are not anarchists, nor activists but conscientious upholders of the sanctity of government. 
I have no doubt that Paul’s longer explanation of the role of government is based on the famous teaching of Jesus in Mark Chapter 12 when he said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
“WE BELIEVE in the entire separation of church and state.”
Did you know that as early as the 17th century Baptists were the first religious group to adopt separation of church and state as a fundamental article of faith.  Early Baptists stood for the freedom to worship God as they believed the Bible taught. They understood religious freedom to be a principle that would apply to all people, not just their own.  Baptists readily acknowledged the proper authority of civil government but stopped short of giving civil rulers any authority to compel religious belief.  Faith was a matter between the human person and God, and civil authorities should respect the religious conscience of all persons.  Baptists fundamentally rejected any attempt to grant the state the “divine” authority to compel or even guide people in matters of religion.  On the other hand, they believed that a “state sponsored” church is beyond the reach of the will of God.  This belief lies at the core of what Jesus told His accusers in the famous story to which I alluded earlier. 
“WE BELIEVE in religious liberty; that every man has the right to practice and propagate his beliefs.”
Our core loyalty is to our Lord and to His Kingdom.  We exist in part to bless the world by propagating the truth that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of all Lords.  As human government encroaches on the freedom of Christians to share the Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, we remain steadfast and unmovable in the work of the Lord.  Our mandate from the Risen Lord Jesus Christ is to “go and make disciples of all nations” because “all authority in heaven and on earth” belongs to Him (Matthew 28:18-20).  So far in Canada’s history, Christians have had the freedom to share the Gospel freely.  There are troubling signs that our freedom is slowly being eroded.  Either way, we are going to continue to announce, share and proclaim the good news that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. 

Can’t wait to study Mark 12: 13-17 with you at Church on Sunday,  

Pastor Deric
  1. https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/highest-taxed-countries
  2. City Centre Baptist Church General Operating By-law (4.00 Articles of Faith)