A Word From Ron – First Place to Run

Early in our ministry in Hungary, my team sat down together and worked through our emergency contingency plans. Life wasn’t completely settled in those early years in post-communist Hungary, and there was still concern that the communists might once again attempt to retake power, at any risk.

Not wanting to be left without a plan we outlined the nearest, safest place to travel to and regroup as a team, including a variety of routes to get there. We worked thoroughly on this project hoping we would never need it, but yet knowing we had done everything possible to transport ourselves so the safest place we could drive to. It took a lot of research, but we finally came up with a plan. We had it memorized, programmed in our phones, and printed out for backpacks and gloveboxes. In fact, we took a trip there just to make sure we were familiar and confident in our plan for safety and refuge.

It wasn’t too long after putting the plan in order that we would have our first real test. My wife and I drove to pick up our car from being serviced and as I pulled out from the parking lot to the main road I heard an explosion, followed by a large compression of air. I pulled to the side of the road certain that whatever had been done to my car shouldn’t have caused that, but I went ahead and checked anyways.  I made my way to the front of the car to check the engine and noticed a parking lot of people looking my direction. It took a few seconds for me to realize they were not looking at me, but beyond me into what was an abandoned military facility.

I turned to see what they saw and discovered an ever growing mushroom cloud of smoke and I stood watching it somewhat in shock, and somewhat in curiosity. I stayed there until the mushroom cloud had grown so big it made its way over those of us that were watching, followed by large pieces of fiery debris.

I sped home, just a few minutes away to find my wife packing a few things and gathering the kids together. She didn’t see all that I saw at that point, but she did hear the explosion and saw the mushroom over the roofs of the houses and assumed that we needed to enact our emergency safety protocol and she was confident she knew exactly what to do and where to go. We were prepared for this.

It didn’t take too long for the news reporters to be on the scene to report it wasn’t a bomb or any attack, but rather a fireworks factory that caught fire and exploded. The news came as a relief, but it was even more comforting to know that if we ever needed it, we knew exactly where to go if we needed safety and refuge.

I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Psalm 91:2 KJV

Where do you go? What is your place of safety and refuge when times are hard? Who can you trust?

The Psalmist reminds us from his own life and experience that God, YAHWEH, is his first and only place he needs to go. And he is not afraid to let others know too… “I will say of the Lord.”

Sadly, people seem to explore other avenues of refuge as though a listening ear of flawed perspective and limited experience would be a wise choice. A friend, a parent, a sibling, or even a pastor should not be the first stop in our contingency plan.

God alone is our refuge and fortress. The imagery here is something like the impenetrable walls of a fortress in old medieval or Biblical stories, where there is one way in and you just make it in while the large impenetrable door closes behind you into the safety of those walls, the fortress, and covered above you by the refuge, often translated shelter, hope, or safety. God alone is that hope of safety and refuge. YAHWEH is the first place we should run to when faith is lost, when hope is gone, when we feel alone, when we feel unsure, when we feel unsafe.

When that time comes, have your contingency plan in place. When you are in need, don’t waste time running to powerless substitutes. Head to the “Most High, under the shadow of the Almighty. Head for the fortress, head for the only true refuge. Safety and true comfort will only be found in there!

Dr. Ronald J. Barnes


February 22, 2023

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