No One Can Help Me

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David uses the phrase “no one” three times in verse 4 of the 142nd Psalm. This verse is also the middle verse of the psalm. Since Hebrew literature often puts the central message in the center, we should start with this verse and then see the message that radiates out from the center. 

In this middle verse, David realizes that no earthly help can sustain him: 

  • no one is at my right hand with any strength to lend to me
  • no one is truly concerned for my wellbeing 
  • no one can help my eternal soul 

Radiating out from this middle verse we see…

  • …God, You watch over me, and You are my refuge (vv. 3, 5)
  • …I pour out my complaint to You, God, and You listen and respond to me (vv. 2, 6) 
  • …God, I cry to You for mercy, and You set me free from my prison (vv. 1, 7)

I find it interesting that David calls it “my prison.” David has learned that God may allow affliction and shaking so that he will see that there is only One who is reliable and stable. Trusting in anything or anyone else becomes, in essence, a prison. 

In verse 7, David mentions God’s “goodness to me.” Sometimes this word for goodness is translated “bountiful,” and it comes from a Hebrew word that can mean “to be weaned.” David is sharing with us that our afflictions can wean us from all human help so that we can fully enjoy the bountiful goodness of our loving God! 

When it appears that there is no one around to help me, that is actually a good thing.

It’s a good thing because it means that now that everything else has been cleared out of my way, I can clearly see The Only One that truly cares about me both today and forevermore! 

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Poetry Saturday—The Neglected Pattern

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A weaver sat one day at his loom,
Among the colors bright,
With the pattern for his copying
Hung fair and plain in sight.

But the weaver’s thoughts were wandering
Away on a distant track,
As he threw the shuttle in his hand
Wearily forward and back.

And he turned his dim eyes to the ground,
And his tears fell on the woof,
For his thoughts, alas! were not with his home,
Nor the wife beneath its roof.

When her voice recalled him suddenly
To himself, as she sadly said:
“Ah! woe is me! for your work is spoiled,
And what will we do for bread?”

And then the weaver looked and saw
His work must be undone;
For the threads were wrong, and the colors dimmed
Where the bitter tears had run.

“Alack, alack!” said the weaver,
“And this had all been right
If I had not looked at my work, but kept
The pattern in my sight!”

Ah! sad it was for the weaver,
And sad for his luckless wife;
And sad it will be for us if we say,
At the end of our task in life,

The colors that we had to weave
Were bright in our early years;
But we wove the tissue wrong, and stained
The woof with bitter tears.

We wove a web of doubt and fear—
Not faith, and hope and love,
Because we looked at our work, and not
At our Pattern up above. —Phoebe Cary

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Eternal

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Psalm 119 is divided into twenty-two 8-verse segments, with each verse of the segments beginning with its own Hebrew letter. Lamedh is found in verses 89-96, and lamedh is the tallest of all the Hebrew letters, so that means it stands out. 

Lamedh shows us big proportions. Words like eternal, boundless, established, enduring, and forever are prominent in these eight verses. The psalmist is inviting us to climb up into God’s Word and get a bigger view, a higher vantage point of who God is. 

Consider the opening verse of this section: Your Word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Eternal—think of the implications! If what God says—His Word—is eternal, then…

  • it continues through all generations (v. 90) 
  • it endures even when everything else fades away (vv. 90-91) 
  • it has no limits or frontiers (v. 96) 

At every single moment in my life, my eternal, enduring, limitless God knows the outcome or consequence of each option I could choose. His Word can so transform my mind that I can always choose the most Christ-glorifying option. The Spirit of Truth—my eternal Counselor—can guide me with God’s Word. 

I never have to be at a loss. I am never stumped. I always have access to eternal Truth. 

The psalmist got this: If Your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction (v. 92). 

Through God’s firmly-established Word I have—

  • Eternal Counsel 
  • Enduring Help 
  • Limitless Strength

And you have all of this, too, through God’s Word! 

Psalm 119 is a great place to start to make Bible reading a daily habit. Scientists tell us that you only need 21 days to make a new habit, and in Psalm 119 you have 22 days of daily reading that will transform your heart and mind. 

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“They” Or “You”

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For they have devoured Jacob and devastated his homeland. (Psalm 79:9) 

This verse is at the middle of this psalm, which in Hebrew literature makes it the central theme of this psalm. Asaph describes something that is not a very pretty situation. 

Asaph says “they” have done this. But to whom have they done it? To the Israelites? Yes, but it goes deeper than that. Or should I say it goes higher than that? “They” have actually done these terrible things to God Himself—

  • Your inheritance is invaded 
  • Your temple is destroyed 
  • Your servants are attacked 
  • Your name is dishonored 
  • insults are hurled at You 

In the New Testament, Jesus said His followers should expect persecution. But notice that Jesus said this persecution was because of Him. “They” are not really attacking Christians, but “They” are attacking Jesus Himself. When Jesus revealed Himself to the persecutor of Christians named Saul of Tarsus, He said to him, “Saul, why do you persecute Me?” 

Asaph recognizes “They” are attacking God, so he also expects that God will deal with them—

  • may Your mercy meet us 
  • may Your name be glorified 
  • may Your strong arm be revealed 
  • may Your sheep be protected 
  • may You be praised forever 

When—not if—persecution comes our way, we must remember to shift our paradigm from “They” to “You.” “They” are not to be feared, but God is to be feared and reverenced. “They” don’t get the final word, but God, “You” get the final and decisive word. When the attacks come because you stand for Christ, take your eyes off of your persecutors and put them on your God. 

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The Spirit Of Truth

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When I was 4 years old, I heard my echo for the first time as I yelled “Hello!” to a barn on the other side of a pasture. I was totally convinced that I had a friend in that barn yelling back to me, and I ended up being a bit disappointed later when I discovered that it was just my own sound waves bouncing back to me. 

To my 4-year-old brain, a little friend yelling back from the barn was absolutely true. It was maturity and new information that taught me differently. Isn’t this an ongoing story for all of us? Many things seem true from our current perspective, but then as we get older or smarter we realize that our original belief—what we really believed to be true—is now invalidated. 

Rarely does anyone admit, “I was immature back then,” but we usually try to justify ourselves by saying, “If I would have known back then what I know now….” But the fact is it will always be an impossibility for you to know then what you know now. 

In 1880, Edwin A. Abbott wrote Flatland, a favorite book of Albert Einstein. Abbott was a college-trained mathematician and theologian; in fact, he was actually better known for his theological writings than for this book. In this fabulous little book, Square, who lives in two-dimensional Flatland, cannot perceive height or depth. So what appears to him to be a wall, would merely be a line to you and me. One day Sphere from three-dimensional Spaceland visits Flatland, trying to explain to Square what his world was really like, but Square and his other Flatlanders could never fully grasp the idea. 

When Jesus was interviewed by Pilate, it sounds as though Pilate is missing a “dimension.” Pilate tries to state things the way that he understands them, but Jesus is revealing to him a whole new dimension (see John 18:33-38). The word Jesus uses for “truth” in this conversation means objective truth: something that is always true, regardless of where or when we live. Jesus explained that He as God IS objective truth. Any of our truth statements that aren’t grounded in God are subjective truth statements at best. 

Listen to how John describes Jesus: In the beginning—before all time—was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. He was continually existing in the beginning co-eternally with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him not even one thing was made that has come into being. In Him was life and the power to bestow life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it and is unreceptive to it. (John 1:1-5 AMP) 

Here’s the absolutely amazing thing: Jesus wants us to have this same insight into heavenly dimensions! Jesus said He would ask the Father to send us the Holy Spirit, Whom He called “the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:6, 16-17; 15:26; 16:12-13).

The Spirit of Truth…

  • …reminds us of the words of Jesus—John 14:26 
  • …helps us testify to others about the Truth—John 15:26-27 
  • …continually reveals objective truth to us—John 16:12-13 
  • …gives us truthful words to share with other “Flatlanders” who doubt the words of God—Matthew 10:16-20 
  • …and helps us spot and refute the falsehoods of the antichrist—1 John 2:18-27  

[Check out all of these Scriptures by clicking here.]

I love the King James Version of 1 John 2:20—But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. Being baptized in the Spirit of Truth means that you have access to an eternal perspective. You are no longer bound by the dimensions and paradigms of this “Flatland” but you are seeing things from God’s transcendent perspective. 

The unction of the Holy Spirit will allow you to speak THE Truth to a world blinded by the spirit of the antichrist. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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Perspective In The Middle Of The Storm

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Have you ever read the children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Poor Alexander, his day just seemed to get worse—nothing was going right. He wakes up with gum in his hair, trips on his skateboard, and drops his favorite sweater in the sink filled with water. Breakfast doesn’t get any better, things go sideways at school, his least-favorite food is served for dinner, his nightlight burns out. And if all that’s not bad enough, the cat decides to sleep with his brother instead of with him. 

Can you relate to Alexander? 

Doesn’t it seem like when one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong? And if things go wrong for too many days in a row, it seems like the bad times are lasting forever! All of us have a tendency to exaggerate during the dark days. 

A psalmist named Asaph seemed to be having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day of his own. Listen to some of his words, including the exaggerations of how bad he thought everything was: 

Why have You rejected us forever, O God? … Your foes roared in the place where You met us… They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land. … How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile Your name forever? Why do You hold back Your hand? (Psalm 74:1, 4, 8, 10, 11) 

In the middle of the storm, we tend to not only exaggerate how bad things are but we also seem to lose our bearings and we can even lose sight of God. I think that’s what was happening to Asaph in the first half of his lament. But then we come to the middle verse of this psalm and we notice the beginning of a change in perspective: “But You, O God, are my King from of old; You bring salvation upon the earth” (v. 12). 

Aha! In the middle of his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, Asaph stopped looking at all the bad things around him and turned his gaze upward. “Look,” he tells himself, “there is God still reigning as the Supreme King!” Asaph begins to recount all that God has done, using the phrase “It was You” who did these miraculous things five times in the next five verses. 

In the middle of the storm, Asaph has to remind himself…

  • God existed before time began
  • He is still the sovereign ruler in this present moment 
  • He gets the final and decisive word at the end
  • He never forgets His covenant of love with His people 
  • He defends His cause and His people 
  • His desires can never be thwarted or even delayed a single moment 
  • He is the only One who exists as the Eternal I AM
  • His love and His power are unmatched and unrivaled anywhere in the universe 
  • He will rise up to save me 

My friend, I implore you to remember these words of Asaph. Commit them to your memory now, so that when your terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day happens—when it seems like everything is going to go wrong forever—that you can spot those lying exaggerations, you can turn your gaze upward, and you can find hope in knowing your God not only has all power to save you in the storm, but He has unlimited love that wants to save you through the storm. 

Look up, look up, look up and see your God reigning supremely over even the worst terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. 

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Poetry Saturday—Growing Down

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Mix a grunt and a grumble, a sneer and a frown,
And what do you have? Why old Mr. Brown,
The crabbiest man in our whole darn town.
We all called him Grow-Up Brown:
For years each girl and boy and pup
Heard “Grow up, grow up, oh grow up.”
He’d say, “Why don’t you be polite?
Why must you shout and fuss and fight?
Why can’t you keep dirt off your clothes?
Why can’t you remember to wipe your nose?
Why must you always make such noise?
Why don’t you go pick up your toys?
Why do you hate to wash your hands?
Why are your shoes all filled with sand?
Why must you shout when I’m lying down?
Why don’t you grow up?” grumped Grow-Up Brown.

One day we said to Grow-Up Brown,
“Hey, why don’t you try growing down?
Why don’t you crawl on your knees?
Why don’t you try climbing trees?
Why don’t you bang on a tin-can drum?
Why don’t you chew some bubble gum?
Why don’t you play kick-the-can?
Why don’t you not wash your hands?
Why don’t you join the baseball team?
Why don’t you jump and yell and scream?
Why don’t you try skipping stones?
Why don’t you eat ice cream cones?
Why don’t you cry when you feel sad?
Why don’t you cuddle with your dad?
Why don’t you have weenie roasts?
Why don’t you believe in ghosts?
Why don’t you have pillow fights?
Why don’t you sleep with your teddy at night?
Why don’t you swing from monkey bars?
Why don’t you wish on falling stars?
Why don’t you run in three-legged races?
Why don’t you make weirdie faces?
Why don’t you smile, Grow-Up Brown?
Why don’t you try growing down?”
Then Grow-Up Brown, he scrunched and frowned
And scratched his head and walked around,
And finally he said with a helpless sound,
“Maybe I will try growing down.”

So Grow-Up Brown began to sing
And started doing silly things:
He started making weirdie faces
And came in first in the three-legged races.
All day he swung from monkey bars,
All night he’d lie and count the stars.
He tooted horns, he banged on drums,
He spent twenty bucks on bubble gum,
He went to all the weenie roasts,
And once he thought he saw a ghost.
He got to be great at pillow fights
And went to sleep with his teddy at night.
He flew a kite, he kick a can,
He rubbed some dirt upon his hands.
He drew some pictures, threw some stones,
He ate forty-seven ice cream cones.
He got some sand between his toes,
Got a loose tooth and a bloody nose.
He got a dog, they rolled in the mud.
He imitated Elmer Fudd.
He climbed a roof (though no one asked),
He broke his wrist—he wore a cast.
He rolled down hills, he climbed up trees,
He scuffed his elbows, skinned his knees,
He tried to join the baseball team;
When they said no, he spit and screamed.
He cried when he was feeling sad
And went and cuddled with his dad.
He wore a hat that didn’t fit,
He learned just how far he could spit,
He learned to wrestle and get tickled,
Sucked his thumb, he belched and giggled.
He got his trousers torn and stained,
He ran out barefoot in the rain,
Shouting to all the folks in town,
“It’s much more fun, this growin’ down.” —Shel Silverstein

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Refusing To Be Controlled By Fear

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The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

How many of my daily choices are affected by fear?

  • whether to try something new or to stick with what’s familiar?
  • should I confront a friend on a bad choice or let him figure it out on his own?
  • to spend money or to invest it for later? what do I buy? where do I invest?
  • what if people don’t like what I do or say? what if they talk behind my back?

David begins this psalm with the same kinds of questions, as he battles enemies surrounding him, the possibility of his family rejecting him, false witnesses speaking lies against him, and foes closing in from every side. 

In the middle of all of these swirling issues, David exhibits a confidence that starkly stands out:

  • whom shall I fear?
  • of whom shall I be afraid?
  • my heart will not fear
  • I will be confident
  • I am still confident

How can David respond this way? He kept turning his thoughts from the temporal to the eternal—

It may seem dark now, but God is light.

People may be fickle, but God is unchanging.

Foes may be strong, but God is the strongest.

People are mean, but God is good.

Both David’s opening and closing thoughts in this psalm are really a conversation with himself: The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? … I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (vv. 1, 13, 14)

My friends, don’t let fear drive your decisions. Let confidence in God drive your decisions. Talk back to your fearful thoughts like David did and remind them of the great and loving God that cares for you. Don’t take matters into your own hand, but wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. 

I used Psalm 27 as a teaching example of how to turn passages from the Bible into our own personalized prayers. Check out this 5-minute video here:

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A Proper Perspective In An Evil Culture

Do these phrases sound familiar? 

  • The foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do? 
  • The faithful have vanished from among men 
  • Everyone lies to his neighbor 
  • The boastful say, “We will triumph with our tongues” 
  • The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men 

This could be said today in my neighborhood. And 20 years ago in Washington DC. And 500 years ago in Europe. But it was said over 3000 years ago!

In times like these it’s important to remember that there have always been times like these! 

In the United States, elections bring regular changes in leadership. Around the world and throughout history violent dictators are toppled, benevolent monarchies fall, dominate personalities shine brightly and fade from the scene, even people who called themselves “Great” or “the king of kings” have disappeared. What should our perspective be in changing cultures—whether they are good or evil?

In Psalms 9-12, David shares some timeless reminders.  

In Psalm 9, he contrasts the temporary track record of mortals with the transcendency of Yahweh. His Selah pauses in this psalm invite us to consider the question: Who benefits me ultimately and affects me eternally: mortals or God?

In the Septuagint, Psalms 9 and 10 make up one psalm. In our English Bible, Psalm 9 closes with the phrase “they are but men” and Psalm 10 closes by calling mankind “mere earthly mortals.” Contrast that with Yahweh who is described as “the LORD reigns forever” and “the LORD is King for ever and ever.” 

In between these eternal affirmations of God, mere earthly mortals are described as: 

  • arrogant 
  • boastful—literally saying “hallelujah” to themselves 
  • blessing all who are like them in their wicked thoughts
  • having no room in their thoughts for God 
  • even praying to themselves—which is the literal meaning of “he says to himself” that David repeats three times 

Literally this mere earthly mortal thinks of himself as god! But even as he says “nothing will ever hurt me while I’m alive” he acknowledges his mortality, admitting that he is indeed finite. 

In Psalms 11 and 12, David gives the righteous the proper perspective to handle all of this. In a word, David wants the godly to remember:

  • Remember God sees everything 
  • Remember God punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous 
  • Remember God gets the final word 

Christians can only live exemplary, anxiety-free, and God-honoring lives when we stay focused on the Infinite, on the Eternal God. With this perspective we can live out our roles as “aliens and strangers”—as the apostle Peter calls us—while we live in this evil culture.

Poetry Saturday—Indispensable Man

Sometime when you’re feeling important;
Sometime when your ego’s in bloom;
Sometime when you take for granted
You’re the best qualified in the room.

Sometime when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole;
Just follow this simple instruction,
And see how it humbles your soul.

Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist;
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining,
Is a measure of how you’ll be missed.

You may splash all you please when you enter,
You can stir up the water galore;
But stop and you’ll find in a minute,
That it looks quite the same as before.

The moral of this quaint example
Is to do just the best that you can;
Be proud of yourself, but remember
There’s no indispensable man —Saxon White Kessinger

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