Our Present Help in Trouble

Psalm 46 (ESV)
God Is Our Fortress

To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah

Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Selah

– – –

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

There are a lot of keywords that stand out in that sentence.

God is our refuge.
God is our strength.
God is our help.

But the one that stands out to me today is this: God is present. He’s our PRESENT help. God isn’t far. God isn’t preoccupied elsewhere. God isn’t inaccessible. He’s here, He’s present, He’s active. God is our PRESENT help.

God shows up.

God doesn’t always “show up” when, where, and how we think He should. But let us never doubt that God is with us as we walk through whatever trials or challenges we face. And as we face those challenges, God should be the very first one we turn to for help. He is our refuge, our strength, our present help in trouble. Amen.

Photo by Andrew Charney on Unsplash

 

Psalm 8

How Majestic Is Your Name

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
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?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Do you ever stare up at the stars at night? It’s better if you can get out away from the city lights, out in the country, on a dark moonless night. How far the eye can see, how many stars the eye can spy. And we know that our eyes can only take in a fraction of what we can see with the best telescopes. The vast universe, larger than our brains can imagine, splattered with uncountable pin pricks of light against the velvety blackness of endless night sky, speaking to God’s immeasurable majesty. I feel washed over with awe as I take in the beauty of the stars–what an awesome God we serve. And yet, like David, I wonder: 

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?

Photo by Pawel Nolbert on Unsplash

Where Does My Help Come From

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121 ESV

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Psalm 42

When you’re feeling down, it’s easy to listen to more negative thoughts.

“This is awful.”
“There’s nothing I can do.”
“It’s hopeless.”

But I recently read that sometimes the problem is that we are spending more time listening to ourselves than we spend talking to ourselves. Psalm 42 sets a good example for us when we feel down, and shows us how to talk to ourselves.

First, we see that the psalmist isn’t trying to hide how he feels – not from himself, and not from God. In fact, God wants us to talk to Him about how we feel. (Besides, He already knows!)

More importantly, we see that this self-conversation doesn’t end with dwelling on negative thoughts and feelings. After each acknowledgment of feelings, the psalmist speaks encouraging truth to his soul.

When we feel down, it can be hard to speak encouragement and truth to ourselves. It can be hard to even see it or think of it. It can be really hard to feel it and believe it. But that’s the first step in breaking the cycle of negative thinking that the devil uses to keep us down. If we continue denouncing the lies and speaking the truth, eventually it will begin to break bonds and feel true.

And as we focus on truth and speak honestly with God, we can ask Him if there are any specific steps we need to take to change our circumstances or if we simply need to rest in Him while He works.

Read through Psalm 42 today. Can you relate? Now re-read the pep talk portions and let them sink in.

Psalm 42

Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?

To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.

When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.

By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”

As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Photo Credit: Gary Bendig

Be a Star

 

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing,  that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,…” Philippians 2:14-15

Frequently in this world, we hear the message “Be a Star!” Maybe it isn’t always said quite like that, but think about it. 

  • Reach for the stars
  • Go for the gold
  • Be the best you
  • Be true to yourself
  • Be awesome today

And many more, right? Not that there is anything wrong with trying to be your best, staying true to who you are, and dreaming big dreams. It’s all about perspective, isn’t it? Doing those things through God’s strength, for God’s glory, to fulfill our God-given purpose.. yep, totally fine. Of course, in the world, we often find these lines of encouragement being very *I* centered. They all focus on me, and my desires, my experience, my dreams, and my awesomeness.

But the Bible tells us to be stars, too, doesn’t it? And it looks nothing like the world thinks it looks. 

Actually, to get the whole idea, we need to back up to the beginning of Philippians 2. Verses 14 and 15 are like a bullet point summary.

Look at what we find when we read Chapter 2:

  • have the same mind and love<—be in unity
  • do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit
  • count other more significant than yourselves
  • look to the interests of others in addition to your own
  • be like Jesus, a servant to others

These things look very different than the world, don’t they? And now notice the “therefore,” both of them, which means, “keep going, this next part is connected.” (More or less.)

Through this kind of living, we continue to work out our salvation through/by God who is working in us, SO THAT through living a lifestyle without grumbling and disputing with others, we may then SHINE like a multitude of Jesus lights (some translations say “stars,”) in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.

Basically, living like this stands out. It’s NOT the norm. People notice it. And when they see this, they see Jesus. So my friends, in the midst of a world that feels the need to tear others down, step on people’s backs to reach their goals, look out for themselves only, and grumble and complain: BE A STAR.

Image Credit: Unsplash

Heirs According to Promise


There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:28-29 (ESV)

If you are Christ’s, you are Abraham’s offspring–heirs according to promise.

If you are Christ’s,..you are heirs to the promise. Period, the end, it’s a done deal.

One of the amazing things about Christ’s coming is that He opened up this promise to all that would come to him. Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female.. All.

The birth, death, and resurrection of Christ has given each of us a way to enter into a relationship with God, and become His children.

But notice the stipulation, “in Christ.” You are all one IN CHRIST. And also, IF YOU ARE CHRIST’S, then you are heirs.

Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

So you must come to the Father through Jesus, but when you do, you do not only come into His presence,  you become His child! His heir. Part of His family. We are not only saved from an eternity of consequence but we are brought into a new “forever home” in relationship with God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Think about it. Isn’t it truly amazing?

A Recipe for Peace?

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:4-7)

Frequently, you’ll hear one of these verses cited alone, but my favorite way to read them is keep the paragraph intact. Read them all together. What you see here is a recipe for finding peace at all times. The answer begins with rejoicing in the Lord and ends with the peace of God through Christ Jesus. As always, it’s bookended with God and Jesus.

Follow the flow of meaning from one verse to the next. Let it sink in.

God bless you!

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Approval

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man?If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Ephesians 1:10 (ESV)

I was reading through Galatians a couple of days ago when this verse really struck out at me. A long time approval-needer, it kinda felt like a club to the head, a not so subtle reminder that we don’t really find approval from man, and that it should not be so. No, we cannot be truly devoted to the Maker of Heaven and Earth and need more than His approval to be happy. If we give others that kind of power, we give them a certain measure of worship and allegiance as well. Isn’t it so?

So am I now seeking the approval of man? Or of God??…

Ineffable.

Indescribable. Unspeakable.

When there are no words.

I am rarely a person at a loss for words, but on occasion, something happens that is like a sucker punch to the soul. Stealing the wind, the breath, the words. This past week has taken my words. And so, giving up on trying to form words around my feelings, I’ve turned instead to praying.

We know that we can take it all to God in prayer–sadness and loss, confusion and chaos, and even ineffable silence. We can just go to God and say, “God, I don’t know what to say. I can’t put this into words.” I ask God to search my heart and mind because He already knows what I am trying to say, what I’m feeling and thinking, and He even knows what I need before I can say it.

Romans 8:18-30 reminds us that this world is subjected to frustration, waiting for the day that it is released from its bondage to death and decay. Likewise, our spirits groan as we await our final liberation and redemption. Meanwhile, we live in this tormented and frustrated world and we will encounter various trials and sufferings.

We don’t bear these alone, however. God is with us, yes, but He has given us the Spirit as well, which intercedes for us. And we also know that God is working all this together for His glory and for good for those who love Him.

The “good” in the suffering is rarely visible. Suffering feels anything but “good,” and quite often, exactly like a sucker punch to the diaphragm.

I heard it said this week that “the Bible is how God speaks to us, and prayer is how we speak to God.” God wants us to talk to him, and we do that through prayer. Prayer isn’t magical or mysterious, prayer is simply opening a line of communication with the sovereign creator of the universe. No, prayer isn’t magical. But the One we are communicating with is almighty and awesome.

So when we find ourselves here, pray.

Where words fail, prayers prevail. Even the wordless prayers.

What Sin?!

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. “- 1 John 1:5-10

We don’t like to be called out on things. It’s not in our human nature. I don’t like criticism, I hate messing up, I don’t like my faults and mistakes pointed out. It’s a hard thing for me to take gracefully.

The Bible doesn’t mince words, though. It’s pretty clear.

God is light.

If we walk with God, WE will have light.

If we walk with God and don’t have his light, we are lying to ourselves about our walk with God and our sin.

If we say we are without sin–directly or indirectly–again we are lying.

Many of us might say, “Oh I would never try to claim I am without sin! We all sin!” And this is true for me, too, I would never make such a claim.

But what if we simply avoid it? Deny its presence? What if we don’t spend time searching our hearts or weeding sin out or re-training our habits? Are we not saying the same thing? Are we not lying to ourselves in the same way?

Of course, as always, the Bible doesn’t just point out our sin and leave us there.
John reminds us that the truth is that we do have sin, but the truth is also that if we will confess those sins, God is faithful to forgive them.

But to confess them, we must call ourselves out on them. To be honest with ourselves about our sin, we must walk with God, in the light of His presence, in which there is no darkness or shadow.

May you be filled with the light of Jesus today, as you walk in His presence.