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Storm Shelter

"For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy." Psalms 61:3

Sunday, January 22 was a stormy Sunday in Georgia, maybe even a bit more than a "Rainy Day in Georgia!" Sunday afternoon choir practice was canceled and there was talk of calling off the evening services. I received a phone call about 4:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon from a concerned church member informing me that there was a band of tornadoes cited west of I-75 near Macon and heading for Statesboro, Georgia at a speed of 60 mph. That would put the storms near Statesboro at about evening church service time. I immediately called two of our church deacons inquiring whether or not we should cancel evening services. An alert and devout deacon told me that our area was presently under a tornado watch and that if a "warning" status was given, we should call off all services. Then he added, "The church is a storm shelter; and that means it would be about the best place to be if danger strikes."

Did you know that Statesboro Primitive Baptist Church is literally a storm shelter? The Red Cross has designated SPBC as a facility which qualifies for a house of refuge and safety in case of emergency or disaster. The church is considered a "Safe Room," and a "Safe Room" is defined by Wikipedia Encyclopedia as "a fortified room that is installed in a private residence or business to provide a safe shelter, or hiding place for the inhabitants in the event of a break in, home invasion, tornado, terror attack, or other threat." The shelter or safe room is made from reinforced material like steel or concrete.

Well, the church has been a storm shelter for longer than the Red Cross has been around. Actually, the reason God designed and continues to build His church is that His people need protection and safety from the threats of the world and the devil. Jesus Christ, Our Lord, tells us plainly that the world is against us, that we will have to deal with trouble, and that while on Earth, we should not expect to be able to tip-toe through the Tulips; rather we should be prepared for briars and hard times. Yet, God is faithful and provides us a table in the wilderness and comfort when life is overwhelming:

"And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." Isaiah 32:2

The church is comprised of people whom God has chosen, Christ died for, and the Holy Spirit gives eternal life to. These people are not of the world, but they live in the world, and are witnesses to God's amazing grace and light. The church universal is made up of all the elect family of God, regardless of denomination, race, or geographical location. The local church is made up of professors of the Christian faith of like doctrine and practice who meet regularly on the Lord's day to worship together as well as to serve the God of Heaven and Earth within the church family. They also offer an outstretched arm and hand in the community and work to pro-mote the cause of the Christian faith and to glorify the one true and living God who owns everything.

The church is not a building, but is a body that lives and moves and breathes. The church is a born again believer who loves God and so loves His people that he or she wants to sacrifice their time and talents to help someone feel better about Jesus Christ and themselves. So the local church sings and prays and preaches and teaches and learns, thereby equipping one another so that when the storms come, there will be a place of refuge. The church will make the biggest difference in a person's life on Earth by providing spiritual food and water along with pure love and genuine fellowship. People need the Lord! People need one another too! The church is God's arena whereby people who are given the gift of faith, as the fruit of the Holy Spirit, exercise that faith on the gospel course with the desire to make much of the Lord Jesus Christ and thereby encourage one another along the trail of trials called life on Earth.

If the Red Cross has chosen and qualified Statesboro Primitive Baptist Church as a place of comfort and hope during natural disasters, we who attend and worship on 4 South Zetterower Avenue should assess the attributes of God's grace displayed here in a way which shows the church as a spiritual storm shelter. The Red Cross evaluated the church building as to location, layout and physical structure. We should see the church as a home, designed for God exalting worship which is built upon the truth of God's Holy word. While the Red Cross does many wonderful works to aid suffering humanity, the cross that was red with the blood of our Lord and Saviour on Calvary's hill has lifted the burden of all our sins and prevented eternal suffering in hell.

"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock." Matthew 7:24,25

In case of a spiritual emergency, we have a place to go! The chorus of a favorite hymn is "Oh Jesus is a rock in a weary land, a shelter in the time of storm." You don't have to go to church to get to Heaven, but you sure can go there to get out of the storm! We humans are so silly. Sometimes we don't have sense enough to get out of the rain That's what we are implying when we neglect attending church to worship God and grow in grace.

Even though the church building is not the most important factor for finding spiritual refuge, the place is pertinent to magnify the purpose and the Person. We all need a place. A place to pray, to praise, to preach, to pour out our hearts, and to prop one another up when times are tough. This world is going to hell and so we need a heavenly place to refresh our souls from the heat of life. I vividly remember a time in my life in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky during army basic training. The first free weekend in Nashville filled my heart with sin. I remember getting back to the base feeling so guilty. My soul was in turmoil and my whole being was churning. I knew I had to have some relief and I also knew that God was the only one who could give me what I so desperately wanted. Then I saw it - a church! I don't know what kind of church it was, but the door was open, so I went in the sanctuary. No one was there but God and me. I sat on the front row and prayed and meditated and God forgave me. In other words, when I was hurting, I went to God's place and He showed me my place. That little church room was a shelter in the time of storm. I believe all of you reading this article can remember some stormy part of your life and how the church played a big part in anchoring your soul and directing your heart and way to God's lighthouse.

Everyone has his or her stormy days, and you know when it rains, it pours. The best thing to do when it rains is just let it rain; but get to the shelter! There are certain atmospheric conditions which produce thunder-storms and tornados. Likewise, there are certain spiritual conditions which increase the chances of turbulence in a believer's soul.

First, there is persecution. The church has always thrived during persecution. The main reason the church is not viewed as a spiritual storm shelter is because of prosperity. If church people are living like the world, as is the case very often, why would the world want to persecute a friend. George F. MacLeod said, "The greatest criticism of the church today is that no one wants to persecute it: because there is nothing very much to persecute it about."

There is a positive side to the tune "misery loves company." When we are blessed to be hurting for the cause of Jesus Christ as a body of believers, we draw strength not only from our Lord, but from one an-other as well. Persecution from evil for us ought to huddle God's people together for praise and worship with strength from the word:

"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." Matthew 5:11

Probably, the strongest church in the world is the underground Christian church. People gather in secret places to worship God and have Christian fellowship realizing they could be killed for doing it. When a believer is told he or she can't have Jesus, they want Him all the more. When you're in a storm shelter during a storm you don't complain or criticize, you thank God that your life was spared. When we understand the church is our hiding place of spiritual safety, and that our souls have been mercifully spared from going to hell, we won't be nearly as concerned about how long the sermons are, what kind of songs we sing, or whether we share open or closed communion.

Second, tribulation will cause dark clouds to form on the horizons of life. When I was a young boy, I often spent summer days at my Grandmother's house. I remember hearing my grandmother say "come into the house. There's a cloud coming up." So we would all leave our playing and go into the house where my grandmother would direct us to the front room. We were told to sit quietly and not to say a word because she said, "God is doing His work." I think that was the first profound impression I had of who God was. Sitting there in that dark, quiet room, listening to the thunder and lightning, made me know that God was mighty and that He meant business.

We grow and mature spiritually through adversity, not when everything is going smoothly. In a time of trouble, the Christian has the opportunity to know God in a special and personal way. During hard times, the church has the opportunity to be the body of Christ. Although our Lord Jesus said we would have tribulation in this life, he also reminds us that he has overcome all our problems. We celebrate the victory of Jesus Christ's resurrection every Lord's day in His church. When we are at church, we should forget everything except what God has done! A worldly person will go to a bar to forget his troubles. A Christian goes to church.

Here's how God's spiritual storm shelter operates: you have a real problem and you're hurting, really hurting. Maybe you don't feel like it, but you find yourself sitting in a pew at church. The preacher reads his text, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Philippians 4:13). The Holy Spirit takes that verse right to your heart and applies it to your trouble. Then someone walks up to you after the service and says, "I just want you to know that I am praying for you." Now, even though you still have the trouble, you feel secure and a peace rolls in and though you can't describe it in words, you know it's going to be alright. The church is the best place to go when your burden is too heavy to bear, for that is the time to ask your Heavenly Father for help. And remember, troubles shared are troubles halved. Storm shelters are where troubles are shared and our cares are given to God.

A third storm factor is temptation. I read about a devout Christian who responded to the question, "What would you do if you were overtaken by a fierce temptation?" by answering, "I would lift my hands to the Lord and say, Lord, your property is in danger. Take care of it quick! Then I'd forget about it until I was tried again." A storm shelter provides food and clothing to those residing therein. The church, our spiritual storm shelter, feeds us the bread of life and clothes us with the robe of Christ Jesus' righteousness. Since our Lord was tempted and used the shelter of God's word to run the devil off, how can we neglect so great a protection from the crafty destructive ways of Satan?

Don't be a storm chaser! The trouble with temptations is that it usually starts off being a whole lot of fun. And, the trying part of trouble is that often it overwhelms us. Any burden is too heavy if it is carried the wrong way. Any load, no matter how light, becomes intolerable if you keep thinking about how heavy it is. God's church is also our spiritual storm shelter because it is the place of escape when temptation surrounds us.

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

In a storm shelter everyone is in the same boat. They are all there because of something that has upset their lives. Guess what, your preacher is tempted just like you are, and so is the person two pews down from you who you think has got it all together.

Thank God for storm shelters and for the storms that help us appreciate the shelter. I understand storm shelters are run by volunteers. The church, which is our spiritual storm shelter, is made up of volunteers too. Would you volunteer to be a storm shelter worker? I know there are a lot of hurting people who need a shelter. There are really no uncloudy days for the child of God, yet did I hear that the Lord Jesus Christ would be returning on a cloud? Yes, I heard in a storm shelter read from God's Holy Word!

Brother Randy

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