Haven or Fortress

Haven or fortress? Which do we aim to be and which is God’s intent for His church?
A haven is a safe place. A fortress is built to protect its inhabitants. But there is one very important difference.
Think about the two for a minute. A fortress- strong walls, watchtowers, barred gates, drawbridges,… Everything to keep evil influences out. Now picture a haven. A lovely, peaceful space where people are safe. A place so filled with goodwill that it makes you feel like doing good. A place of where the weary can rest and be refreshed for the journey.
The contrast? One is attempting to exclude evil. The other is simply filled with good.
Now which approach did Jesus take while He walked here on earth? Did Jesus ever exclude or avoid anyone? Did Jesus ever focus on someone’s sin habits? Did Jesus ever say to a sick person,”Get your life cleaned up, then we’ll think about healing for you.” He didn’t say to Zaccheaus,”You rascal up there in the tree. You’ve led quite the life. Now come down and get to work. Repent and make restitution for your cheating then we’ll look at what’s left of your life.” Jesus honored Zaccheaus by dining at his house, recognizing him as a person of value.
Jesus associated with the vilest of people. With sinners and harlots, with the unrepentant and traitors. He wouldn’t have had to put up Judas and his thieving, deceitful ways in His inner circle all those years. Surely He could have waited until the last few months or weeks of His ministry to let the traitor into their midst. But Jesus loved Judas. And loved him enough to show him that love all those years even when He knew full well that He would be disappointed in the end.
Jesus loved every person He met. He loved them in spite of what they did. But He didn’t excuse their sin. Instead He empowered people to overcome the sin. Because He experienced everything we do and never sinned, we have a powerful example.
Now let’s think about another aspect of that love. How many times have you and I disappointed our Father. And still He keeps on loving us and treasures us. What would happen to us if God would use us as we deserve to be treated? What if He would start treating us the way we treat our fellow humans, our brothers? Before God we are all as guilty as the obnoxious person whose reputation we don’t want to have associated with our name. Because we all come short in one area or another. None of us are what we should be.
But that is not what God sees when He looks at us. God sees the longing in our hearts. He sees why we do things, not how well we get them done. And He loves us because of His own goodness, not our own merits.
I am a father of two wonderfully adorable children. I love my children and I can try to imagine how our Father in heaven loves His children. The trouble is that we earthly fathers, much as we love our children, still have a hard time grasping the depth of God’s love for us. God created the world for His delight
A fortress is primarily intended to shut people out. To separate good and evil.
Jesus associated with the vilest of people. With sinners and harlots, with the unrepentant and traitors. He wouldn’t have had to put up with Judas and his thieving, deceitful ways in His inner circle all those years. Surely He could have waited until the last few months or weeks of His ministry to let the traitor into their midst. But Jesus loved Judas. And loved him enough to show him that love all those years even when He knew full well that He would be disappointed in the end.
Did Jesus ever exclude or avoid anyone? Did Jesus ever say to a sick person,”Get your life cleaned up, then we’ll think about healing for you.” He didn’t say to Zaccheaus,”You rascal up there in the tree. You’ve led quite the life. Now come down and get to work. Repent and make restitution for your cheating then we’ll look at what’s left of your life.” Jesus honored Zaccheaus by dining at his house, recognizing him as a person of value.
Jesus loved every person He met. He loved them in spite of what they did. But He didn’t excuse their sin. Instead He empowered people to overcome the sin. He didn’t come to separate good from evil. He came to enable people to be good.
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Isaiah‬ ‭59:2‬ ‭NIV.
It is our own stubbornness that hinders our relationship with our good Father, not His inability to love. If we persist in evil we will condemn ourselves. God will never withdraw from us but when we live in shame we are unable to experience His love.
Is there anything sadder in the world than to have a perfectly loving Father and live like an orphan? It must grieve His Father heart.
I wrote all that from the perspective of my own past with a father who loved his children. We were a family of ten and I’m sure we tried Dad’s patience at times, but I always knew that he loved us and wanted the best for us.
Now I’m sure some of you did not experience such a relationship with your earthly fathers. It may have been bad enough that the idea of God as a loving Father makes you cringe. If that is how you find it, l can only say that l am very sorry. My heart aches for you. I would love to put my arms around you and tell you how much you are loved and how special you are. God loves you just as you are. He doesn’t wait until you become as you should be.
It is tragic in the world today how people are valued by how they perform and what they can do. But the really tragic part is that many churches operate exactly the same way. In the church my wife and I grew up in and were a part of until just recently, that is the only way they know how to function. Get rid of the evil. Put up stronger walls to keep evil influences out. Avoid anyone who has issues with sin. But Jesus said:
“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person;” Matthew‬ ‭15:18-20‬ ‭NIV‬‬
We can never build a fortress strong enough to keep evil away. Jesus tells us right here why that approach doesn’t work. Because evil originates in the heart so the strongest walls will only be able to divide one group of sinners from the other. We need something better.
We need a new heart. We need a heart filled with the Father’s love. We need a place where we are under the protection of our Almighty Father. Jesus says:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” John‬ ‭10:27-29‬ ‭NIV‬‬
That, dear friends, is true safety.
Once we experience that haven, we no longer think of building walls to keep others out. We will have a burning desire that everyone could experience that rest in the Father’s presence. A city set on a hill can not be hidden. The good news of the Gospel can not be contained. The rivers of living water have to flow outward.

One thought on “Haven or Fortress

  1. Hello brother how are you there I hope all is well there with you all of there in Jesus Christ almighty name amen hallelujah my prayers always with you and all of there family members in Jesus Christ almighty name amen hallelujah

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