Category  |  God

My Help!

For decades the renowned Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir has blessed multitudes through their soul-refreshing gospel songs. One example is their recording from Psalm 121 titled “My Help.”

Psalm 121 begins with a personal confession of faith in the Lord who brought all things into existence, and He was the source of the psalmist’s help (vv. 1–2). Just what did this mean? Stability (v. 3), around-the-clock care (3-4), constant presence and protection (vv. 5–6), and preservation from all kinds of evil for time and eternity (vv. 7–8).

Taking their cues from Scripture, God’s people through the ages have identified the Lord as their source of “help” through their songs. My own worship experience includes lifting my voice with others who sang a soulful rendition of Charles Wesley’s, “Father, I stretch my hands to Thee, no other help I know, if Thou withdraw thyself from me whither shall I go.” The great reformer Martin Luther got it right when he penned the words, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.”

Do you feel alone, forsaken, abandoned, confused? Ponder the lyrics of Psalm 121. Allow these words to fill your soul with faith and courage. You’re not alone; so don’t try to do life on your own. Rather, rejoice in the earthly and eternal care of God as demonstrated in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. And, whatever the next steps, take them with His help.

Dealing with Delay

A global computer system outage causes widespread flight cancellations, stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers at airports. During a winter storm, multiple auto accidents close major highways. The person who promised to send a reply “right away” has failed to do so. Delays can often produce anger and frustration, but as followers of Jesus, we have the privilege of looking to Him for help.

One of the Bible’s great examples of patience is Joseph, who was sold to slave traders by his jealous brothers, falsely accused by his employer’s wife, and imprisoned in Egypt. “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:20-21). Years later, when Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he was made second in command in Egypt (Genesis 41).            

The most remarkable fruit of his patience occurred when his brothers came to buy grain during a famine. “I am your brother Joseph,” he told them, “the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God”  (Genesis 45:4–5, 8).

In all our delays, brief or long, may we, like Joseph, gain patience, perspective, and peace as we trust in the Lord.

Knowing and Loving

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so” is the message of one of Christian music’s most enduring songs, particularly for children. Written by Anna B. Warner in the 1800s, this lyric tenderly affirms our relationship with Him—we are loved.

Someone gave my wife a plaque for our home that gives these words a fresh twist by flipping that simple idea. It reads, “Jesus knows me, this I love.” This provides a different perspective on our relationship with Him—we are known.

In ancient Israel, loving and knowing the sheep distinguished a true shepherd from a hired hand. The shepherd spent so much time with his sheep that he developed an abiding care for and a deep knowledge of his lambs. Little wonder then that Jesus tells His own, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. . . . My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:14, 27).

He knows us and He loves us! We can trust Jesus’s purposes for us and rest in the promise of His care because His Father “knows what [we] need before [we] ask him” (Matthew 6:8). As you deal with the ups and downs of life today, be at rest. You are known and loved by the Shepherd of your heart.

An Angry God?

When I studied Greek and Roman mythology in college, I was struck by how moody and easily angered the mythological gods were in the stories. The people on the receiving end of their anger found their lives destroyed, sometimes on a whim.

I was quick to scoff, wondering how anyone could believe in gods like that. But then I asked myself, Is my view of the God who actually exists much different? Don’t I view Him as easily angered whenever I doubt Him. Sadly, yes.

That’s why I appreciate Moses’ request of God to “show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). Having been chosen to lead a large group of people who often grumbled against him, Moses wanted to know that God would indeed help him with this great task. Moses’ request was rewarded by a demonstration of God’s glory. God announced to Moses His name and characteristics. He is “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (34:6).

This verse reminded me that God is not impulsive, suddenly striking out in anger. That’s reassuring, especially when I consider the times I’ve lashed out at Him in anger or impatience. Also, He continually works to make me more like Himself.

We can see God and His glory in His patience with us, the encouraging word of a friend, a beautiful sunset, or—best of all—the whisper of the Holy Spirit inside of us.

Stones of Remembrance

Some mornings when I go online, Facebook shows me “memories”—things I’ve posted on that day in previous years. These memories, such as photos from my brother’s wedding or a video of my daughter playing with my grandmother, usually make me smile. But sometimes they have a more profound emotional effect. When I see a note about a visit to my brother-in-law during his chemo or a picture of the staples across my mother’s scalp after her brain surgery three years ago, I am reminded of God’s faithful presence during difficult circumstances. These Facebook memories nudge me towards prayer and gratitude.

All of us are prone to forget the things God has done for us. We need reminders. When Joshua led God’s people towards their new home, they had to cross the Jordan River (Joshua 3:15). God parted the waters, and his people walked through on dry land (3:17). To create a memorial of this miracle, they took twelve stones from the middle of the riverbed and stacked them on the other side (4:3, 6–7). When others asked what the stones meant, God’s people would tell the story of what God had done that day.

Physical reminders of God’s faithfulness in the past can remind us to trust Him in the present—and with the future.

Breathtaking Glory

One of the pleasures of a trip to Europe is visiting the grand cathedrals that dot the landscape. They are breathtakingly beautiful as they soar toward the heavens. The architecture, art, and symbolism found in these amazing buildings present a spellbinding experience of wonder and magnificence.

As I thought about the fact that these structures were built to reflect God’s magnificence and His all-surpassing splendor, I wondered how we could possibly recapture in our hearts and minds a similar feeling of God’s grandeur and be reminded again of His greatness.

One way we can do that is to look beyond man’s grand, regal structures and contemplate the greatness of what God himself has created. Take one look at a starry night sky and think of God’s power as He spoke the universe into existence. Hold a newborn baby in your arms and thank God for the miracle of life itself. Look at the snow-covered mountains of Alaska or the majestic Atlantic Ocean teeming with millions of God-designed creatures and imagine the power that makes that ecosystem work.

Mankind is not wrong to reach for the sky with structures that are intended to point us to God. But our truest admiration should be reserved for God himself as we say to Him, “yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor” (1 Chronicles 29:11). 

Pressing On

As I walked past an outside wall of the office building where I work, I was amazed to see a beautiful flower growing up through cracks in the concrete slabs covering the ground. Despite its deprived circumstance, the plant had found a foothold, rooted itself in the dry crevice, and was flourishing. Later, I noticed that an air-conditioning unit located directly above the plant dropped water on it throughout the day. While its surroundings were hostile, the plant received the help it needed from the water above.

Growing in the Christian life can sometimes be difficult, but when we persevere with Christ, barriers are surmountable. Our circumstances may be unfavorable and discouragement may seem like an obstacle. Yet if we press on in our relationship with the Lord, we can flourish like that lone plant. This was the experience of the apostle Paul. Despite the severe hardships and challenges he faced (2 Cor. 11:23–27), he wouldn’t give up. “I . . . take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me,” he wrote. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize" (Phil. 3:12, 14).

Paul realized he could do all things through the Lord who strengthened him (Phil. 4:13), and so can we as we press on with the help of One who gives us strength.

Faith-Building Memories

As I stepped into the music-filled sanctuary, I looked around at the crowd that had gathered for a New Year’s Eve party. Joy lifted my heart with hope, as I recalled the prayers of the previous year. Our congregation had collectively grieved over wayward children, deaths of loved ones, job losses, and broken relationships. But we’d also experienced God’s grace as we recalled changed hearts and healed personal connections. We’d celebrated victories, weddings, graduations, and baptisms into God’s family. We’d welcomed children born, adopted, or dedicated to the Lord, and more−so much more.

Reflecting over the history of trials our church family faced, much like Jeremiah remembered his “affliction” and his “wandering” (Lam. 3:19), I believed that “because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail” (v. 22). As the prophet reassured himself of God’s past faithfulness, his words comforted me: “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him” (v. 25).

That night, each person in our congregation represented a tangible expression of God’s life-transforming love. Whatever we’d face in the years to come, as members of the interdependent body of Christ, we could rely on the Lord. And as we continue to seek Him and support one another, we can, as did Jeremiah, find our hope being ratified by faith-building memories of God’s unchanging character and dependability.

What Remains in the Eye

The hummingbird gets its English name from the hum made by its rapidly beating wings. In other languages, it is known as the “flower-kisser” (Portuguese) or “flying jewels” (Spanish). One of my favorite names for this bird is biulu, “what remains in the eye” (Mexican Zapotec). In other words, once you see a hummingbird, you’ll never forget it.

G. K. Chesterton wrote, “The world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder.” The hummingbird is one of those wonders. What is so fascinating about these tiny creatures? Maybe it is their small size (averaging two to three inches) or the speed of their wings that can flap from 50 to 200 times per second.

We aren’t sure who wrote Psalm 104, but the psalmist was certainly captivated by nature’s beauty. After describing many of creation’s wonders, like the cedars of Lebanon and the wild donkeys, he sings, “May the Lord rejoice in his works” (v. 31). Then he prays, “May my meditation be pleasing to him” (v. 34).

 

Nature has plenty of things that can remain in the eye because of their beauty and perfection. How can we meditate on them and please God? We can observe, rejoice, and thank God as we contemplate His works and recapture the wonder.