A Shelter in the Storm

Weathering the Storms of LifeHave you ever been caught out in a severe thunder-storm? The rain was coming down so hard that you couldn’t see five feet in front of you? You are trying to run toward cover, but because of the high winds and massive amount of rain you can’t see anything? You know that if you just keep moving forward, eventually you’ll find shelter and relief from the deluge.

After you’ve been running awhile, you begin to wonder why you haven’t reached  shelter. You ask yourself, “Did I go in the wrong direction? It is raining so hard that I couldn’t actually see the shelter, so I just started running in the general direction? Maybe I went the wrong way, maybe I passed it, maybe it is not really in front of me, maybe—maybe I’m lost and out on my own.”

As you continue questioning your hope of finding shelter, panic begins to well up within your heart. “I’m cold, wet, and tired from running. Maybe I should stop and wait for the storm to pass. Maybe I should go back the other direction.” Just as you’re about to give up, something within pushes you on. The voice says, “Don’t give up, just keep trusting what you know to be true.” So, you press on finding greater confidence with each and every step. “I’ve jogged in this park for years, and I know for certain that shelter is just a little bit further ahead.”

Suddenly, through the rain you see a dark shadow just a few yards ahead. You begin to run faster as you realize it is the long-awaited shelter right where you knew it would be. Entering the shelter you double over to catch your breath, and after a few minutes something incredible happens. You look outside the shelter at the overwhelming downpour that had left you blind, helpless, and confused, and you begin to see the beauty of the storm from within the shelter. Outside the shelter you could only see a few feet, but now you can see up and down the trails, and behold the beauty of the falling rain. You now realize the only way to go through a storm is under the safety of the shelter. After all, you’re still in the middle of the storm—the wind is blowing, rain falling, lightning flashing, and thunder crashing; nevertheless you are protected within this old, trusted safe haven.

I have found myself many times over the last forty-eight years being battered about by the storms of life. I was tired, cold, and weary. I kept calling out to God for help, but He never seemed to come and rescue me from the terrifying tempest. Continuing on, blinded by the wind and rain, soaking wet, and shivering, I just couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t point me in the right direction, why He wouldn’t stop the rain—I couldn’t comprehend how leaving me lost in this storm could possibly bring Him glory.

But then I remember, I had gone out into the storm on my own. I had chosen my own direction and took off running thinking that I could withstand the beating long enough to find shelter. What I needed to do was stop running away from God, remember the shelter of God’s presence, peace, and protection, and begin running to where He had always been. Sure enough, when I quit struggling, trying to get through the storm in my own strength, and relied on God it happened. My eyes were opened to see His shelter, and from there I was able to see the beauty of the storm and understand that He is glorified most when I find my strength, safety, and satisfaction in Him regardless of the circumstances.

God has never left you to fight alone, but He will freely let you go out and try it all alone. There has never been a moment when He wasn’t patiently waiting for you to stop thrashing about in your sea of self-determination and cry out to Him, “God, I CAN’T DO THIS!” Nope, not for a moment has He ever forsaken you! All you have to do is open your eyes to see Him, run to His shelter, and then find your rest in Him!

If you find yourself in the middle of a raging storm, you don’t know where to turn, and you are thinking of giving up, then you need Jesus. He is as close as your next breath and is waiting on you to cry out to Him. If you need help finding your way to Him, email me at pastorbob@lobc.net, and I’ll help you find your way to His shelter.

Here is a beautiful song by Meredith Andrews, “Not for a Moment.”

You Obey the One You Fear

Here is an insightful post by Jon Bloom on our need to fear God. If we do not have a Biblical fear of God then there is nothing that will move us to obey Him.

Bloom writes:

At the root of insecurity — the anxiety over how others think of us — is pride. This pride is an excessive desire for others to see us as impressive and admirable. Insecurity is the fear that they won’t, but instead they will see us as deficient. As King Saul1 shows us, it’s a dangerous fear because insecurity can lead to great disobedience.


Samuel’s heart was broken and heavy as he neared Saul’s camp at Gilgal. Israel’s first king had failed so soon and so seriously.

  And Samuel was tired. He’d been up all night prayerfully mourning the Lord’s words, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.”

And he was angry. The Lord had already severely disciplined Saul for officiating the burnt offering2 when he knew it transgressed the Law. But God had been gracious in giving him another chance by sending him to carry out judgment on the Amalekites. The instructions could not have been clearer. They had not been obeyed.

  The old prophet trembled at the word he must deliver to an armed king who feared public humiliation more than the Holy One.

  Saul was all smiles when he saw Samuel. “Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.”

Samuel had to bite his tongue. “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?”

Saul felt immediately exposed. Alone he had figured that fudging some on the instructions really wouldn’t matter. But now he knew he had gravely presumed. He fumbled for words. “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.”

This was a smoke screen. “Stop!” Samuel cried. He could not bear Saul trying to cover disobedience with cosmetic righteousness. Nor his cowardly hiding behind the people. “I will tell you what the Lord said to me this night.”

Saul was defensive in his guilt. “Speak,” he said with a bravado disguise.

“Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And the Lord sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?”

Then looking over at the plump livestock, the price of Saul’s kingdom, Samuel said, “Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”

Saul was defiant in his denial. “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”

Samuel just hung his head in disappointment. And he shook it with a subtleness that stung Saul as much as anything the prophet had said…yet.

  With teary eyes on the ground, Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.”

Samuel then paused and caught his breath. Slowly he looked up into Saul’s guilt-shy eyes. “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”

Saul nervously glanced at the wordless watching men around him. He was sweating. “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”


Saul is a sober reminder to us that we obey the one we fear. He feared the people — he loved his reputation — and despised God. Being little in our own eyes can be either righteous or ruinous. It’s righteous if we see God as big and us as small. This actually frees us from fear. But it’s ruinous if the approval of man is what’s big to us because it always leads to disobeying God.

When we fail in this area, and all of us do at some point, God calls us not to remorse but to repentance. Saul was remorseful, but not repentant. He pursued the god of his own glory over the God who gave him that glory right to his death on Mount Gilboa. And he became lethally paranoid with insecurity.

So let us repent of our insecurities and say with Peter and the disciples, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). For the wise and humble “fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).


1This meditation is taken from 1 Samuel 15.

I’m Going to be a Dad?

In my office, on the wall above my computer monitor, is a present my wife gave me for Father’s Day 2005. It is a picture frame with thirteen pictures of me and William. It starts with a picture of me holding him the day he was born and is followed by another picture taken on the same day each month. The final picture is, of course, me holding him on his first birthday. On my book shelves I have several other pictures of him—graduating preschool, his school photos from kindergarten, first, and second grade.  In just a few seconds, I can see all seven years of his life.

Sometimes I just can’t think or study anymore, so I take a break to rest my weary mind. It is during those breaks that I recall all the wonderful memories I have had with William over the last seven years. I think about how much he has grown physically, all that he has learned educationally, and how he is maturing spiritually. Without a doubt, I am a proud father. I love my son with every ounce of my being, and I make sure he is confident of that love. I want him to know my love for him doesn’t change when I am frustrated at his disobedience, when I am disciplining him for his actions, and most especially when we are separated from one another. I want him to understand that my love is unconditional, and nothing—I mean nothing—will ever separate him from my love, ever.

Most of us have seen too many children literally fighting for the affections of their parents. When they do not get it, they go elsewhere in search of love and acceptance, and it is guaranteed they will find it somewhere. It was this thought which woke me up from a deep sleep shortly before William was born. I sat straight up in the bed with one thought racing through my mind, “What if I’m not a good dad?” I found myself gripped with fear and anxiety. What did I know about being a parent? I was thirty-nine years old and should be getting ready to be a grandpa not a dad! Needless to say, I wasn’t able to clear my mind or go back to sleep, so I quietly knelt down beside the bed so as to not wake my wife, and I began to pray.

That night, I prayed for everything. I prayed for my son’s health, protection, salvation, his spiritual calling, and even his future wife. I remember asking God to give him a heart that burns with a passion to live a godly life, tell others about Jesus, and meet the needs of the hurting. And then I prayed something I had never said before, “Father, I guess I’m asking you to give me a son like Jesus. A son who loves you, obeys you, seeks to glorify you in all he does.” To be honest, the words came out before I thought them through, so I stopped praying to contemplate what I had just asked for.

Up to that point, praying had eased my fear and anxiety; however, that last line had rekindled the fire of anxiety and put one thought in my fearful mind, “If he is to grow up like Jesus, he needs a father like Jesus’ Father, and I’m not GOD!” With that dark storm cloud of fear hovering over me I cried out, “God, please help me be a good dad!” Immediately a thought rushed into my mind, “Give him Jesus!” Give him the unconditional love of Christ, teach the commands of Christ, show him the love, grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness of Christ, and most of all, live the life of Christ as an example for him.

That dark night of the soul has become a bright beacon on days when I just don’t feel like I’m getting the job done. It is a bright lighthouse shining in the darkness—lighting the way for me to avoid the dangerous rocks of doubt and depression. It is a memory that reminds me that my son doesn’t have to be perfect, nor does his father! Why? Because Jesus is perfect and He is in control of our lives!

The Needle Was this Big!

As a boy growing up I remember having to go to the health department to get my shots in order to start school. I do not have any idea what they were for, but I most definitely remember the atmosphere.

You would sign in and then sit in a waiting area for your name to be called. In the waiting area there were a lot of kids doing one of two things—begging mom in tears, “Don’t make me get a shot. I’ll be good. Don’t let them stick me mommy!” or they were, what I like to call, scream-crying. I would explain the last one to you, but I am certain just thinking about a child scream-crying will cause you to take two aspirin.

Here I am, a little kid and all, watching other kids being tortured with the thought of getting a shot or in hysterics from being viciously attacked with a giant needle. My anxiety level was rapidly climbing the charts, mostly because I was imagining a shot about the size of the Seattle Space Needle. As the minutes ticked away I began to fantasize of what was about to happen. I could imagine several nurses holding me down while the doctor put the ever-growing needle into my arm. The longer I had to wait with the many other kids crying hysterically only heightened my sense of dread.

Realizing there was no way I could go through with this, I began to plan out my speech to my mother. I had made a list of all the chores I could do if only we would leave right now. But before I could get the words out it happened—“Bobby Pittenger, could you please come back to see the doctor?”

What happened next was like a blur. There was only one doctor and his nurse with me. No one was there to help hold me down. The initial stick of the needle hurt a little, but within seconds the pain and the bleeding stopped. It seemed as if it had only taken five minutes, but that could not possibly be true, could it? I remember thinking, “Is that it?” All the anxiety, crying, screaming, begging, and pleading for a little stick in the arm? Clearly the anxiety of wondering what was going to happen was far greater than the actual event. And if the truth were told, the torture I expected to endure was all in my head. I guess an anxious heart can be very, very deceptive.

How often does an anxious heart deceive us in regard to life’s difficulties? Philippians 4.6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Be anxious for nothing. Don’t let bills, health, work, money, or anything else cause anxiety in your life. God doesn’t give us a loop-hole for a little bit of anxiety? Nope, He says, “Don’t be anxious.”

Fortunately, God doesn’t leave us hanging with just a “Thou Shalt Not Command.” Notice His plan to avoid anxiety:

  1. Prayer—spend time talking with God each day.
  2. Supplication—seek Him, share your concerns.
  3. With thanksgiving—tell Him how thankful you are for His presence, provision, protection, and promises during you difficulties.
  4. Share your requests—be honest about your needs, wants, and wishes.

Obeying God’s plan for defeating anxiety guarantees “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Questions for Group Discussion

I. Paul promised the peace of God would guard our hearts and minds when we cast our cares upon Him.  There are times when we move our focus from God toward the problem. You may not be immediately overcome by anxiety, however, like quicksand, the more you struggle the faster you sink. With that in mind:

  1. What is something that has caused great anxiety in your life?
  2. Where did the anxiety take you (fear, worry, fretting, anger, blaming, doubt)?
  3. How would things have been different if you had kept your focus on God and allowed Him to guard your heart and mind?

II. God has said that all of creation is good (see Genesis 1-2). We know that He created these things for our enjoyment, which brings Him glory. So…

  1. What are some of the ways you find comfort during stressful or difficult times? (e.g. family time, food, company, TV, shopping, etc.)
  2. How do these point you toward God?
  3. How do you ensure that these things are from God and not just your efforts to mask the fear and anxiety?

III. After being unjustly beaten, Paul and Silas were able to demonstrate the peace that surpasses all understanding while imprisoned in Philippi. Jesus lived out this peace throughout His journey to the cross. So…

  1. How did He remain in peace even when the wrath of God was about to be poured out upon Him?
  2. Remembering that Jesus is a human just like you, how can you have peace even when the world seems to be crumbling down around you?

Benefits of Fearing the Lord

As we talked about yesterday, the Lord is to be feared; however, fear should not leave us cowering to the point that we are not able to approach Him.  Hebrews 4.16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We should be able to approach God boldly, confidently, cheerfully, courageously, freely, and fearlessly with all assurance that He desires to hear our petitions. God wants to fellowship with us. However, we cannot approach Him like many children do their parents today—hateful, full of spite, and disrespect. He is God. We are to bow humbly before Him, showing great respect, fear, and awe because of who He is.  We should never demand anything from God.  We can share our pains, needs, wants, desires, fears, questions, and concerns, but we do this from a heart that realizes His plan is perfect, He sees the bigger picture, He knows what is best for us, and what will give Him the most glory.

The fear of the Lord prohibits us from approaching God in a selfish, entitled manner. In Psalm 8.3-4 (ESV) David says, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”  His fear of the Lord kept everything in perspective. He is God and Creator; we are the created.

For years I have read the Proverb of the day. These daily readings have shaped my understanding of the fear of the Lord.  Here are a few verses that help us understand the benefits of fearing the Lord.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…” (Pr. 1:7).

“The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil…” (Pr. 8:13).

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Pr. 9:10).

“The fear of the LORD prolongs life…” (Pr 10:27).

“In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Pr. 14:26-27).

“Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it” (Pr. 15.16).

“The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” (Pr. 15:33).

“The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm” (Pr. 19:2).

Fear of the Lord brings knowledge, hatred of evil, wisdom, insight, prolongs life, confidence, is a fountain of life, is greater than treasure, and leads to a satisfied life. Things here may not always be easy; however, God is always faithful and one day will reward our faithfulness in fearing Him.

All Bible quotes taken from the English Standard Version

Whom Shall I Fear? GOD!

Yesterday I asked the question, “Whom Shall I Fear?” The answer is God.  Jesus warned us, do “not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10.28 NKJV).

Many try to limit the “fear of the Lord” as just having a reverent sense of awe toward God. I agree we should revere the Lord, humble ourselves before Him, and tremble in His presence.  However, this should not lessen our view of God as the omnipotent, omniscience, and omnipresent God of all creation. He declares what is righteous and holy. He has determined what is and is not acceptable. He commands and demands our obedience to that which He has declared holy.

When we lack a sense of fear toward God, we will find ways around His laws, commands, and ordinances. We will convince people truth is relative. We will give them the freedom to do what feels right and follow their own convictions, just so long as what they are doing makes them happy. By following this advice, we make ourselves god. We are wise, can decide right and wrong, and we can declare whatever we want to be right, just, and holy.

In twenty-first century America, we are way too sophisticated to worship wooden, clay, or stone idols. However, when we put ourselves in the place of God, we have enthroned a ruler who only pursues lust, envy, jealousy, and selfishness. We only seek that which fulfills our every desire. There is no longer room in our lives for a God whose commands leave us feeling guilty and inadequate.

Therefore, with broken and contrite hearts, we must avoid fashioning God into our image. We must remember we are sinners before a holy God. The following quote from a Charles Spurgeon sermon in December 1874 puts it this way:

Man fashions for himself a god after his own liking; he makes to himself if not out of wood or stone, yet out of what he calls his own consciousness, or his cultured thought, a deity to his taste, who will not be too severe with his iniquities or deal out strict justice to the impenitent. He rejects God as he is, and elaborates other gods such as he thinks the Divine One ought to be, and he says concerning these works of his own imagination, “These be thy gods, O Israel.” The Holy Spirit, however, when he illuminates their minds, leads us to see that Jehovah is God, and beside him there is none else. He teaches his people to know that the God of heaven and earth is the God of the Bible, a God whose attributes are completely balanced, mercy attended by justice, love accompanied by holiness, grace arrayed in truth, and power linked with tenderness. He is not a God who winks at sin, much less is pleased with it, as the gods of the heathen are supposed to be, but a God who cannot look upon iniquity, and will by no means spare the guilty.

This is the great quarrel of the present day between the philosopher and the Christian. The philosopher says, “Yes, a god if you will, but he must be of such a character as I now dogmatically set before you”; but the Christian replies, “Our business is not to invent a god, but to obey the one Lord who is revealed in the Scriptures of truth.” The God of Holy Scripture is love, but he is also possessed of justice and severity; he is merciful and gracious, but he is also stern and terrible towards evil; therefore unregenerate hearts say, “We cannot accept such a God as this,” and they call him cruel, and I know not what besides.

Sermon of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Heart-Knowledge of God,” December 6, 1874.

It is not for us to define God in a way that is more palatable. God has declared who He is, who we are, and how we are to live.  Let God’s Word lead you, and you will find the life of which you have always dreamed!

Whom Shall I Fear?

One of the worst memories I have of my school-years is of bullies. To this day, when I see a news report in which someone is being bullied a fire starts to build up within. Even as adults, we have to deal with those who try to intimidate us with fear.  They may threaten our job, family, health, or property. They demand we give them exactly what they want or pay for disobedience.

Bullying didn’t just start in the twenty-first century.  When we look back in history, we see that bullying today is nothing new under the sun. In the Old Testament, we can see how scare tactics were used against David; and yet, most of the time he responded in a godly manner. His trust in God allowed him to endure the trials of life. No matter what the threat or how difficult the circumstances, David’s trust in God led him to find peace which led to praise.

An example of this in Scripture is Psalm 27.1-6:

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.  One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.  For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;  he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.  And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD” (Psalm 27:1-6 ESV).