Prayer

My Help Comes from the LORD

smokey mountain

One of my favorite places to visit is the mountains of North Carolina. I think one of the reasons for that is because mountains make me feel very small. It’s hard to go to the mountains, see the majestic sky lines and the unbelievable views and not be in awe of God’s creation.

This year in particular, I felt very small. The house in which we were staying was surrounded by terrifying roads along with a terrifying driveway leading up to the house…and let me tell you, I probably prayed as hard and as fervently as we drove up and down these roads and that driveway as I’ve prayed in some time. There’s nothing like contemplating your impending doom, to get you praying…and praying hard!

I write all of this a bit tongue in cheek, but on a very serious note, I came back from vacation quite refreshed (even if it wasn’t that relaxing). I think one of the reasons I came back so refreshed was because I had time away from the everyday “hustle and bustle” of life to spend some time contemplating the things of God. And no matter where you find yourself, it is always a good thing, and a beneficial thing, and a soul refreshing thing to do…to contemplate the things of God.

For me personally, the mountains are a good place to do this. I’ve heard some say the beach helps them to connect with God in a way that they may not in their ordinary day to day lives.

With all of this being said, and aside from my terrifying drives that got me really close to God a few weeks ago, the fact is we as Christians here in America live in relative safety. We get to worship in relative safety. But this has not always been the case, and that is the backdrop for one of my favorite Psalms – Psalm 121.

The backdrop of Psalm 121 is that of a pilgrim traveler that was making his way up to Jerusalem to go up to the temple to worship. And this pilgrim who was making his way to and from the temple would encounter many trials and dangers along the way.

I suppose in light of the immediate context of this Psalm, some might wonder how this Psalm would apply to you and I. Well, let’s take a closer look.

While it is true that you and I dwell in relative physical safety in our day, that doesn’t change the reality that we are still pilgrims in the midst of a dangerous world. This being true, we can see very plainly in just the first few verses just how applicable this text is for us.

In verse 1, the Psalmist says, “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?”

Friends, even though we may not be facing perilous physical journeys right now in the way of dangerous mountain roads, the fact is that all of us deal with challenges in this world. Dangerous challenges that threaten to derail us on our journey WITH and TO God, and that threaten to derail us on our path to worship.

Our world and our lives are filled with things like sickness, the death of loved ones, difficult relationships, money issues, trouble at work, and we could go on and on. All of these things are in addition to the Spiritual and emotional challenges that we all face. (Of course the big one that sort of sums up all of these things up is SIN…We ALL deal with sin.)

Each of us could, I have no doubt name something that we are dealing with right now.

So…in this context, I love this question. Why? One, because it is an acknowledgement of and an awareness of the need for help. Secondly, because it implies that there is an answer, and there is help to be found.

The Psalmist asks, “Where does my help come from…?” As the Psalmist looks to the hills as a picture of the trials and dangers that await him, it reminds us that we are a people who do need help. Much like I said earlier about how the mountains help me to feel small and they humble me…so does our seeing and going through challenges and difficulties in our everyday lives. These things help us to remember that we are not self-sufficient. We are not strong. We are not the ones with all the answers. We are small…and we are in need of help along the journey of life.

But here is the reality. The truth is we are all tempted to look somewhere else, other than to God for our help. Unfortunately most of us, and maybe even all of us often look in places that offer no help at all or at least they don’t offer us the help that we truly need.

But, the Psalmist here in Psalm 121 gives us just the answer that we need, and tells us EXACTLY who we are to be looking to for our help. In the midst of whatever trial, and in the face of the mountains that lay before us.

Verse 2, “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

Folks, we can and we MUST be looking to the ALMIGHTY, ALL POWERFUL, SOVEREIGN God of the Universe. The God who is the creator of the heavens and the earth. Look around at the world, look all you want, and you won’t find anything that God didn’t create. If God created it, He is sovereign over it. I know sometimes it seems like the world is out of control. Sometimes it seems like your problems, your hurts, your pains are too much for anyone to bear…but if you have the ALMIGHTY God, the creator of the world…the one who is sovereign over ALL things…then what should you fear? Nothing!

Is anything too hard for the Lord? Absolutely not!

Look what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8.

Romans 8:31, “…If God is for us, who can be against us?“

Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?….” Verse 37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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.”

There is a lot going on in these verses, but I think we can sum it all up quite simply…You are in good hands with God. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. There is nothing this world will throw at you that can destroy you if you are in the hands of God, and friends if you are in Christ, that is precisely where you are. Firmly in the hands of God.

And I think the Psalmist in Psalm 121 would agree. So,  no matter what challenge or what mountain you see before you on this day…be looking to the LORD, the only one that can truly give you the help that you need.

Back to Seminary after the first of the year, here’s one way you can help!

I will be headed back to seminary again after the first of the year, and as always funds are a concern. This might be a reach, but if you guys have any Amazon gift cards, or are planning on doing any shopping on Amazon it’d really help me out if you’d use this link. You can simply click on it and bookmark it, then use it for all of your Amazon shopping. I’m an Amazon affiliate, which basically means if you buy something through one of my links, I’ll get a few pennies for every dollar you spend. So, if you plan on using Amazon anyway, I’d appreciate you using this link. It won’t cost you anything extra, and It would really help me out.

Thanks for your help, and especially your prayers!

Don’t Waste Your Sleeplessness

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Last night was my wife’s first night back to work after being out of work for maternity leave. We now have six kids, so I have to confess that I was rather nervous. One would think that after doing this several times it would get easier, but actually it gets more difficult each time. Taking care of an almost 3 month old in addition to 5 other kids is no easy task, so I think my anxiety was somewhat justified.One of the things I was worried about was the thought that the baby probably wouldn’t sleep so well with mama not being around. Our last kid had this very issue up until she was over a year old. I spent many nights up with her while sending my wife not so nice text messages throughout the night. Being tired and needing sleep through the night is one thing, its a whole different animal the next day when you have other little ones needing to be fed, diapered, chased, and loved. Tired daddies are usually grumpy daddies, and unfortunately I am often a good example of this.

Last night though, the baby slept quite well. I on the other hand did not. I’m not quite sure, but perhaps it had to do with that anxiety I just mentioned. I kept listening for every little peep, hoping I wouldn’t hear anything, yet getting nervous when I didn’t. It was a no win for me and sleep last night.

Finally, about 3:30 AM the baby decided to give me something to do and woke up to be fed. As I was sitting there feeding him and wondering if I would be able to make myself sleepy it hit me…”Tonight would’ve been a really good night to spend the night in prayer.”

Usually when I have these sleepless nights I just spend the night doing everything I can think of to make myself sleepy. I suppose there are times where this might be the best course of action. But maybe those sleepless nights, for whatever reason they are sleepless, might be great nights to spend some extra quiet time with God. In our hectic and busy world quiet time isn’t that easy to come by…Maybe those long nights as opposed to being annoyances are actually God’s gracious provision and an invitation into his presence. The Apostle Paul urges us to “pray without ceasing”…I have to confess, I’ve never been very good at this. As one who enjoys and feels called to tell others and preach about Jesus, I’d like to say that my prayer life is an example to others. The fact is, I can’t say that. I sometimes struggle in prayer. Sure I go through seasons of intense prayer…but I also go through times when I get so bogged down in life that prayer gets neglected. I think many of us go through similar periods. Prayer must be a priority in the life of the Christian. A healthy prayer life is a necessity for a healthy Christian. I think this explains my periodic spiritual anemia.

Early this AM however I was given a divine appointment with the Great Physician. I had sweet fellowship with the Lord as I meditated on Psalm 32. As opposed to dragging first thing this morning, being tired and grumpy…My heart is full. It appears my sleepless night was just what my soul needed. I think Jesus knew what He was doing when he himself spent many nights and early mornings alone in prayer while others were sleeping.

Perhaps the next time something is keeping you up, instead of begrudging the sleeplessness, you should see it as an invitation to the throne of grace. Yes, in Christ we have an open invitation…but every now and again, I think we need a reminder. Perhaps that’s what these nights are for. Just a thought.

Now I need a nap.