I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
Two things I frequently desire as a woman: help and security. God is both of those things for me, and he fills the roles perfectly. This psalm spells it out for us; walk with me through it today.
Help: Whether I admit it or not, I am a needy person. I need help in many areas of life, from housework to hugs. My family can help in limited ways, but never perfectly. Only God can be my true Helper. He alone is fully sufficient to cover all of my lacking, all of my imperfections (and boy, do I have a lot of them!). On the days I feel overly strained and empty, I call on him even more. I pray for his help, I lift my eyes to the hills (v. 1), up to the horizon, looking forward to where I am going…to where he is! When I feel weak, I read the Words he wrote to me and am reminded that my foot cannot slip because he holds it fast (v.3). He is where I am planted and I will not fall (praise God for that because somedays I feel like I might). What can hinder my God from helping me? Nothing! He has made everything and it is at his command (v.2). He is always there, he does not sleep or get weary (praise God, because I sure do). He is present, strong and attentive (what comfort that brings!). I am helpless, I cannot save myself at all. God is that help I desperately need and he has saved me.
Protection: The Lord keeps me! How precious to know that I am safe because God has declared me “a keeper!” This is by his grace alone (knowing myself, I would have thrown me back). I cannot keep myself from evil, I find myself wandering toward it every day, but the Lord keeps me from “all evil” (v. 7). I will not be forever stained by it, I cannot be (what a relief!). He sustains my life, it is his, he purchased it at an unfathomably high price. I am not worthy, but he keeps me because what he spent on me declares me as worthy - the infinitely valuable blood of his son.
He uses his creation to bless me and not harm me (vv. 5, 6). All things bend to his will, even the sun and moon (yes, be amazed). “Your going out and your coming in” (v. 8) is language from Old Testament times when kings went out to war and came home (in) again. War still rages today and my Lord has placed me in the fray. I am NOT terrified because he is my help and he comes from the hills. So that is where my gaze rests. I go on battling and watching, battling and watching every day. I will be kept by him “forevermore” (v. 8). Eternally protected by my Keeper, this causes me to fight harder. My Lord wins, he has told me that already (he wrote it down over and over again so I wouldn’t forget), so I fight on like the woman he destined me to be.
My God keeps me and my God helps me. My God is mighty and Lord of all! I pray you serve him too.
I have watched more baseball in the last few weeks than I have in the past ten years combined. True, I am usually reading a book or doing something else at the same time, but I think it counts. My husband’s and son’s enthusiasm for the postseason is catching and I enjoy watching them root for the same team (or commiserating together). I’m happy the Chicago Cubs have made it to the World Series and I hope they win it too.
I find it interesting how a game can change many people’s perspective on life, even if temporarily. There is a buzz to life right now, at least among Cubbies fans (and all real baseball fans). You feel it at work, the grocery store, restaurants, on social media sites, and anywhere else people are gathered. Talk of the Cubs dominates conversations for young and old alike. Allegiance is reflected in what people are wearing each day and their ring tones playing “Go, Cubs, Go”.
What causes this buzz and excitement? Hope. Hope that the Chicago Cubs baseball team can really do it - they can win the World Series.
In the midst of all this post season hub-bub I have been studying the book of Hebrews with my boys. One word that could describe this book of the Bible? Hope. Real hope. Not nail biting, “I-hope-they-can-do-it-but-I’m-not-completely-sure” kind of hope, but solid and unwavering, “I-am-fully-convinced -no-doubt-about-it” kind of hope. Hebrews has once again concreted my faith in God.
The author is unknown for Hebrews, but God is proven the perfect Chooser. This author is a poetic, historical and literary genius. Beautifully written to the Hebrew people it presents the case for Christ using evidence from the Old Testament; lining up the prophetic words and what was lived out under the old covenant to prove the case for Christ being the Messiah and High Priest of the new and better covenant.
The evidence is overwhelming, undeniable and thrilling. After several chapters of presentation and encouragement, the author writes this in chapter 10:19-23:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
I find these verses to be nearly the book of Hebrews in a nutshell. Because Jesus is the answer to all things Old Testament and because of what he did for us on the cross, ushering in the “new and living way”, we can have FULL assurance of faith and can hold fast in our hope. No wavering! Why? Because HE who promised is FAITHFUL. In other words: because God says so, that’s why!
God tells us that if he has picked us to be on his team, we win. The World Series is in the bag and we can call ourselves victorious already. Jesus Christ, putting on his jersey of flesh for a time, hit the out-of-the-park, walk-off home run that saved us. Then he went and sat down at the right hand of his Father, job done (Hebrews 10:12). That is why the Bible is full of commands to rejoice!
So… rejoice! We can possess real hope because Jesus has already crushed the Opposition. We who are on the side of Christ remain on the field until all of our teammates are fully gathered together. We eagerly await the return of our Savior to begin the victory ceremony (Hebrews 9:28). Until then we walk in full assurance that it has been accomplished. “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf,” Hebrews 6:19-20a.
So, let the buzz begin. Spread the good news of what Jesus has done. Let your hope and enthusiasm be on display and affect the way you behave. Let this assurance of victory be on your lips as you encourage your team often, “…and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25b. That “Day” of His return is coming quickly. Be sure you are identifying with Christ and clothed in the Holy Spirit, not trusting in a short-sighted jersey of blue and red dust.
The Cubs may or may not win the World Series this year, I don’t know. I hope they do, but it is not something I hope in. My life’s hope is firmly in the hands of the One who has accomplished the eternal win and who has given me faith to believe that when he said, “It is finished.” He meant it.
Ladies, today I enCOURAGE you to rejoice with me in the fact that we are forgiven. If you have accepted the gift of sacrifice from Jesus Christ your sins have all been paid for long ago. You don’t need a man dressed in black with a white collar or robes or blue jeans to tell you this. The one and only man who walked this earth who could redeem you and pay your penalty did so long ago, job done. Period.
Forgiveness of sins happened at only one point on our human timeline of history and that was on the cross of Jesus Christ years ago. His blood poured out as he consumed the full wrath of his Father (the wrath we deserve), he then gave up his spirit as he declared, “It is finished!” John 19:30. This is the moment when sin died, mission accomplished. Jesus paid for your sins and mine at that exact moment. It is imperative that you understand this if you are a Christian.
Never minimize the sacrifice of our God dying in our place. If you think you can say enough repetitive prayers or do enough good works to earn forgiveness you are gravely mistaken and in attempting to do so, you are spitting in the face of Jesus. How dare you? If his act was lacking than we would have to crucify the Son of God over and over again to accomplish forgiveness multiple times. What a worthless and insufficient god that would be. That is not my God. That is not the God of the Bible.
Women, do not fall prey to a deceived way of thinking. If you have accepted Jesus, have turned from your life of sin, and now live for him, you are forgiven. Your sins have been washed away by the all sufficient blood of Jesus Christ. This is what causes us Christians to love our Savior so much and propels us to worship him with unreserved gratitude.
Is repentance needed? Oh, yes for sure. When your eyes are opened to your ugly sins and see that they are what keep you from a loving God, you will fall on your knees with a contrite heart seeking mercy and forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.
After salvation will we still sin? Yes, to our shame knowing what it cost our Redeemer. It is a true daily battle, but the payment of Jesus still stands good. Once accepted in earnest, all sins have been forgiven.
Ladies, when Jesus died, the veil in the temple that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (where only the high priest was allowed to go once per year to atone for the sins of the people) was torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). No more earthly intercessor needed, full access granted to the mercy of God because of what Jesus did.
“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:11-14.
If you have not yet done so, seek this mercy today and turn to God. If you have received this mercy, you are familiar with the awesomeness of this forgiveness that I speak of. Praise him for it! Your freedom has been granted, walk in the victory that Christ has provided, knowing your debt has been paid in full!
When I was a little girl there was a jewelry store in Westdale Mall in Cedar Rapids that had a large glass bowl full of little red, circular pins. These pins had the words, “You are Loved!” written in white on them. They were free for the taking and I often grabbed a few out and pinned one to my shirt to wear and gave the others out to family or friends.
Now, I realize that this was a marketing ploy to sell more jewelry and attract customers in to their store (not penniless kids like me) but I just couldn’t resist that message of love. I believe all of us long to feel truly loved and loved forever.
As we near Valentine’s Day, I want you to feel loved. No, let me change that. I want you to understand that you are already very loved. And if you have Christ, you have been marked with an irrevocable seal far better than any little pin on your shirt that I could ever give you.
The Bible tells us Christians that we are loved thousands of times in thousands of ways. The entire Bible is truly a love story written for us from beginning to end. It is a story of being lost, empty and without hope until a Savior finds us, fills us and promises to keep us with him forever. The love we receive is undeserved, unfathomable, and irrevocable.
The love found in the Bible can be summed up in one name – Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is God’s love manifested in flesh and sent to save the unlovables of this world - us. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).
The only way to ever have love or feel loved is to have Jesus Christ. There is no separating the two. God is love, he doesn’t contain love or just show love, he IS love. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8).
The only way to love others is to share Christ with them. You may offer a hungry person something to eat, but if it is not done with the love of Christ it is worthless. That person will still die of starvation, a spiritual starvation. Offer them tangible bread to eat and the Bread of Life so that they will never hunger again (John 6:35). That’s how you love others, you show them Jesus.
I told you this is a forever love and it is. Romans 8:38 &39 – “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nope, once you have Christ, nothing separates the two of you ever again. That’s a secure relationship!
If you feel this is all “old news”, you know Jesus loves you and died in order to save you and yet you don’t feel he really knows you or is near you, let me introduce you to Psalms 139. Read it, I mean it, go read it right now! You will see just how intimately God knows you.
God’s promises are rock solid, but I can’t believe them for you, you have to trust them for yourself. Allow his love to soak into your life and satisfy you fully.
Now here is one of the awesome parts… we have been permanently marked as belonging to God forever. Think of it as a permanent “I am Loved!” pin on you. This promise is found in Ephesians 1:13 & 14, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
You may not be able to see it but you are walking around with a big seal on your body saying you are the eternal possession of the eternal King of Glory. Wow, talk about being loved! That’s you my friend. Rejoice in the love of God that is written all over you forever.
Sold. I knew as soon as I read the label on that pair of jeans hanging on the rack, they would be the ones I would buy. The lure of a better appearance just by slipping them on was overwhelmingly appealing. The marketing department knew exactly what they were doing. Had they been honest, the label may have read, “Get some exercise and eat less, Tubby, then you can really be 10 pounds thinner and won’t have to fake it anymore!” Not a good way to make sales.
If we were to take a good, hard look at our lives my guess is that we could identify other areas where we also tend to “fake it”. For some it could be your financial status, you spend money you don’t always have and act as though you are very secure when maybe you are truly living paycheck to paycheck. For others it could be your home life. You act as though you have it all together when in reality you often feel like things are a mess and you can barely keep up.
These are important issues, but there is one area in which faking it can mean the difference between life and death...that is your spiritual life. I am sad to say, but I think MANY people are faking the wellbeing of their spiritual life. They may attend church (at least on the “important” Sundays), say the right things, and even carry around a Bible, but this is all for appearances. They may look and act the part very well, but inside they are dead. They don’t truly know Jesus. Could this be you?
Do you feel you are just going through the motions, do you ever stop and think, “What the heck am I doing this for?” Do you say you believe but then wonder what that even really means? Do you find yourself thinking people should keep their beliefs to themselves? Do you act differently depending where you are and who you are with?
If any of the above describes you, time to do a serious heart evaluation. Don’t take any of this lightly and don’t waste time. Matthew 10:28 - And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. God is just and he will deal with those who are only pretending to serve him, the consequences are real.
How do you know if you are authentically following Christ? Here are a few ways: Check the fruit in your life. Matthew 7:16 - You will recognize them by their fruits. Your life should be producing godly fruit for the glory of God (see Galatians 5:22-23). Seek counsel; ask a trusted minister to help you evaluate your condition. Finally, ask yourself if you really know who Jesus is; are you able to articulate it? Better yet, do all three of these things.
What you DON’T want to do is compare yourself to others around you. There are too many fakers out there. If everyone who claimed to be a Christian was a Christian, the Bible would be a lie. Matthew 7:14 - For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. The Bible is not a lie, it is solid truth. Make sure you are on the narrow path and not following others along easy street to destruction.
We can fool many around us, even those closest to us, but you will never fool God. God sees your heart and he knows what is inside of you. Let this cut you deep; you have to get this right. No more playing around or blindly following traditions taught by men. No amount of good deeds will get you into Heaven, only accepting the free gift of Jesus Christ. John 14:6 -I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Know for certain.
An authentic relationship with your Savior may not make you look ten pounds thinner, but the evidence of his grace in your life and on your face will be glorious and beautiful, more attractive to others than any pair of jeans. Go ahead and fake your hair color, nail length and skin tone if you must, but let your relationship with Jesus Christ be the real deal.
My Pastor often uses a phrase during his sermons that can irritate me, or at least sound wrong for some reason. It is, “The Bible reeks of Jesus Christ”. Reeks…really? I’ve heard of trash reeking, farms reeking, and at times I will tell one of my boys that they reek. But the Word of God…I’m not so sure that’s the proper use of that word.
When something reeks it repels a person away from it. No one wants to smell something stinky or get close to it for sure. That’s like checking the milk to see if it has turned. You have to smell it to know, if it’s sour, you push it away fast. Or if someone has bad body odor we may give them a handshake but we probably won’t give them a big bear hug. If it reeks, it repels.
So I’ve been reading Paul’s letters to the Corinthians lately (awesome books of the Bible by the way, you should check them out) and I come across these verses:
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?” 2 Cor. 2:14-16
What? Not only does it talk about the Word of God having a fragrance (“the knowledge of him” = the gospel of Christ = God’s Word), but it also talks about Christians having an aroma! Now we already know that people can have different smells good and bad, but this passage speaks of something more, a powerful spiritual aroma.
Keep in mind that Paul is speaking only to Christians here and he says that as Christians we have the “aroma of Christ” and we smell different to different people. To one we smell like death (does the word “reek” come to mind?) and to the other we smell like life. Wow, we are some pretty potent people! Either others will be drawn towards us or repelled away from us. Both of these reactions come from the same scent which is the knowledge of Jesus Christ that is in us.
Why does this happen? If you belong to the World you hate Jesus and are repelled, but if you belong to God, you love the knowledge of him and are drawn. It says in John 15:19, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” As you can see there are two very different groups of people here: worldly/hate/repelled vs. godly/love/drawn.
This is why when you mention Jesus in a conversation some will engage and have a conversation and others will shut down and end the discussion. If you have never experienced this before, it may be time to take a good long whiff of yourself. Have you been spending enough time with your Savior to smell like him? Or do you smell way too much like the world around you?
You need to have the aroma of Christ well applied and then spread “the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” Just like the Word of God tells us too. Remember that this fragrance is life to many of those around you; Jesus draws others to him through you. This is very exciting news! Don’t feel bad about smelling like death to some around you and knowing that the World hates you. It is great assurance that you belong to Christ! It is a great thing to reek of Jesus Christ!
...Did I really just say that? Could it be true…my Pastor is right? Aw, man, can’t he be wrong just once? Well, not this time I guess.