“I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber….The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” – Psalm 121.

Many of the Psalms are a cry for help. Many other passages in Psalms point to the comfort and deliverance David received from God. King David was often in awful situations. He talks about it in several of his psalms. King Saul and others were determined to find and eliminate him. The entire 121st psalm speaks of God’s intimate care over the land of Israel and its people, but verses one and two are more personal — David’s statement of confidence in his God. This psalm is a vivid description of a God who is active on behalf of His people. The people stumble and trip; the Lord keeps them from falling. The people snooze and doze from exhaustion; the Lord does not slumber but is always wide awake. The people are oblivious to coming trouble and attack; the Lord protects and shelters them. These are immensely comforting words for people who can feel forgotten. Who wonders if God is aware? Who find themselves in constant need of help. People in David’s time and people like us.

Where does your help come from? Where do you turn to in your time of distress? So many today lift their eyes to finances, the economy, politics, health, comfort, safety, friends, family, etc. We profess to cast ourselves and our cares upon the Lord, and then persist to bear our own burdens as if we felt God is unable to sustain and carry us.

Help for our greatest need comes from God. Our greatest need may be for forgiveness. Or reconciliation, righteousness, and peace with God. It’s only when we face a mountain that we find our true help. And if we find that kind of help there, surely we will also find other kinds of help as well. Help for our daily cares and troubles. Help for our lingering anxieties. Help for our loneliness and our plaguing fears.

The truth? God is your Source—the perfect and on-time Source for everything you could ever need or want. But, you have to receive Him as your one and only Source by faith. If you allow it, God will be your Source for everything you need. Jeremiah states the result when one places their confidence in God as their source: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV)

If your source has stopped working God can turn on another source. If God closes a door in your life, He can open another door. And if another door closes, He can open a window, and you can crawl through it. God is not limited to your ability and capacity.  Bank accounts rise and fall. Economies go up and down. Stock markets can go bull or bear. It doesn’t matter.

Whether they seem to you like trouble or shelter, look away from those mountains to Calvary, to Christ crucified on your behalf. He alone is your help.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In times of trouble, how can we remember where our help comes from?
  2. How can God be your helper this week?

Resist Discouragement

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”– John 14:1.

Discouragement is a temptation, a common one. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind” (NIV)   If we linger in discouragement it can be costly. It can sap us of our energy and dreams, and it can consume a lot of time. It can keep us from doing what we need to do because we don’t want to face it.  

The book of Nehemiah illustrates how the enemy can discourage us, and how we should respond to discouragement in a way that prevents more damage and that moves toward healing our wounds.

Nehemiah was the man that God raised up to accomplish an important task – to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Despite all their efforts, however, they faced plenty of opposition from their hostile neighbors. Essentially they were saying that Jews were totally incapable of building the wall of Jerusalem when the Jews were working so hard every day under the blazing sun. Nehemiah’s response as given in vs.4-5: “Hear us, our God, for we are being mocked. May their scoffing fall back on their own heads, and may they themselves become captives in a foreign land! Do not ignore their guilt. Do not blot out their sins, for they have provoked you to anger here in front of the builders.” These words were spoken to God, and not to those who had spoken against the Jews.

Nehemiah did not react at all to their criticism. He did not retaliate against the enemies with equal actions or words. Neither should you react when you receive criticism from others. You will also notice that Nehemiah pours out his feelings to God frankly and honestly, and then just rests his case with Him. Be content to know that God will deal appropriately with the ones who have criticized you unjustly in His own good time.  

When you are discouraged, remember God’s promises. Nehemiah 4:15 says, “When our enemies heard that we knew of their plans and that God had frustrated them, we all returned to our work on the wall.” Psalm 34:19-20 says, “The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!”

The main application for you is to press on with whatever God directs you to do in your journey of life. Whatever difficulties you face, you must keep your morale high, because God is with you every step of the way. You can only accomplish so much on your own, but you can “…do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13).

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Have you ever become discouraged in some aspect of your life and thought about quitting? Think back on what made it so discouraging and how you dealt with it at the time.
  2. How can the story of Nehemiah help you deal with discouragement this week? 

Lost And Found

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”    Colossians 4:5-6. 

The Impossible is a story of survival. Immediately, the fight for survival is on. Swept away from her husband and youngest sons, Maria Belon emerges from the deluge to the screams of Lucas. As the water pushes them inland, Maria swims to Lucas. After the immediate threat recedes, Maria and Lucas climb a tree and take inventory on their wounds. It quickly becomes clear that Maria needs medical attention. But how are they going to get it?  Who will see their predicament and solve their problem? There is no infrastructure. No communication. There is no app for that.

What if we had an app on our iPhone that measured our engagement with unbelievers? How much activity would it show? And what would we have to show for our efforts? How do we engage with unbelievers. It is always wise to look at what Jesus did.

Jesus’ entire adult life was characterized by a deep concern for the spiritual condition of the nonbeliever. He saw them as desperately lost, and His heart was broken because of that. His compassionate purpose for their well-being was deep-rooted, and He showed this concern specifically in the way He met them where they lived, fed them, taught them, and healed them (Matthew 9:9-11; Mark 1:33-34; 6:30-42; Luke 5:1-11).

The example Jesus set for us is to build relationships with people who don’t know Him. When we meet a person who has not yet experienced God’s saving grace, we are to have the heart of Jesus and extend a helping hand at their point of need. If they are thirsty, we can give them a cup of water; if they’re hungry, we can feed them (Matthew 25:35-40).

We can build relationships by spending time with those far from the heart of God. If you don’t have a relationship, it will be difficult to talk to people about God. And, if you don’t spend time, you won’t have a relationship. And with time, a relationship can turn into friendship and friendship into love. When that happens it is easier to talk to them about Jesus.

Concentrate on family members first. We typically already have a relationship with family members.  Be sincerely interested in what they’re interested in, even if you find it hard to be interested. Know their struggles. Encourage them. Don’t be distant. Lean in and never give up on any of them. Above all else, pray for them.

Pray for the people far from God in your life by name. Ask God to provide you with opportunities to talk to them about God. 

I think it’s clear that we, in countless ways and opportunities, can and should reach out to those far from the heart of God. We can show them love by offering them a meal, a job, or friendship, and most importantly, we can introduce them to Jesus.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you describe or define evangelism? How do you think evangelism should be done? How do you do evangelism in your life now?
  2. Can I witness to others when I have my own struggles?
  3. Do you regularly pray for those far from the heart of God?
  4. Have you attended the 401 Missions class?

You Asked For It – The X Factor

“You know, in fact, that any attempt to talk things over with X will shipwreck on the old, fatal flaw in X’s character. And you see, looking back, how all the plans you have ever made always have shipwrecked on that fatal flaw–on X’s incurable jealousy, or laziness, or touchiness, or muddle-headedness, or bossiness, or ill temper, or changeableness. Up to a certain age you have perhaps had the illusion that some external stroke of good fortune–an improvement in health, a rise of salary, the end of the war–would solve your difficulty. But you know better now. The war is over, and you realize that even if the other things happened, X would still be X, and you would still be up against the same old problem. Even if you became a millionaire, your husband would still be a bully, or your wife would still nag, or your son would still drink, or you’d still have to have your mother-in-law live with you.” – The Trouble With X, C.S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis wrote a thought-provoking essay called “The Trouble with X,” in which he describes the struggles we all have with certain people who have a “fatal flaw” in their character that causes us difficulty and frustration. But by the end of the essay, however, Lewis turns the tables on you, with the reminder that, “you also are just that sort of person. You also have a fatal flaw in your character.” Ouch. The day that fully sinks in will be sobering and humbling. And convicting.

We are X in Lewis’ essay. This is not to say there are not specific issues which require our examination of others. Lewis is simply stating that we tend to take the exception and make it the rule. So we talk about, criticize, and get angry at the difficult people in our lives. But this essay points out what we know to be true intuitively: It may not seem a problem today, but reacting negatively to difficult people can quickly become our default position. We will wait for them to fix what needs to be fixed rather than looking within at what we need to fix.

“We must love ‘X’ more,” Lewis writes, “and we must learn to see ourselves as a person of exactly the same kind.” But it is difficult to turn our gaze from other’s faults to look at our heart and our lives. It’s always easier to point to others, but this is only to miss the point of God’s grace working in us. “Of all the awkward people in your house or job,” Lewis says, “there is only one whom you can improve very much. That is the practical end at which to begin. And really, we’d better. The job has to be tackled some day: and every day we put it off will make it harder to begin.”

Some people would push back by saying that C.S. Lewis hasn’t met my Uncle Joe or Mike the co-worker, or Amy the neighbor. In the essay Lewis says, “But why don’t you tell them? Why don’t you go to your wife (or husband, or father, or daughter, or boss, or landlady, or friend) and have it all out? People are usually reasonable. All you’ve got to do is to make them see things in the right light. Explain it to them in a reasonable, quiet, friendly way.” And we, whatever we say outwardly, think sadly to ourselves, C.S. Lewis doesn’t know X. But we do.  We know how utterly hopeless it is to assume that X will be reasonable. We know that because we have tried until we are blue in the face, only to realize that it is a complete waste of time. And besides if we attempt to have it out with X, there will be a scene, or X will simply look at us like we are aliens and say,  I don’t know what on earth you’re talking about.” Even if they agree to work the problem out they will soon return to their old difficult self because a leopard cannot change its spots.

The essay also adds: “It is no good passing this over with some vague, general admission such as ‘of course, I know I have my faults.'” It is important to realize that there is some really fatal flaw in you: something which gives others the same feeling of despair which their flaws give you. And it is almost certainly something you don’t know about–like the advertisements for bad breath where the only person who doesn’t realize they have bad breath is you. The real trouble with X is the trouble we see every morning in the mirror. And the day to start working on this problem is today. Let us turn our attention to where it is needed most. “The matter is serious,” Lewis reminds us, “let us put ourselves in His hands at once—this very day, this hour.”

“Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD.” – Lamentations 3:40


Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you have a “fatal flaw?”
  2. Why is it more difficult to look inward at ourselves, than outward at others?
  3. What can we do to make us less difficult to others?
  4. Do we pray for ourselves as well as for the difficult people in our lives?
  5. Pray and ask God to give you the self-awareness to look upward and inward for anything that would be a difficulty in the lives of others.

You Asked For It: How Should I Deal With An Uncertain Future?

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” – John 10:27-29.

The question this week in the You Asked For It series was “How To Keep From Stressing Out.” It would have been just as easy to ask “How to keep from stressing out due to an uncertain future. We are living in a time when it is hard to predict what will happen today let alone in the weeks and months ahead. You thought you knew where your life was heading. Things seemed to be falling into place and then bang, doors which you thought were open suddenly slammed in your face. You step back, a little bewildered. You wonder if that really just happened. And even more importantly, you wonder what do I do now? Where should I go?

Life moves at a much faster clip than it did a hundred years ago. So amidst that frenetic pace, we as Christ-followers try to live in such a way that we experience God’s peace, joy and love. Our principal goal is to try and bring some clarity to the future. Or in other words, find a way to bring the future into focus. We want to plan the future as a means of hopefully controlling or at least minimizing the uncertainty.

We don’t need clarity. We need trust in God. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations,I will be exalted in the earth!”

Outside of money, I think the most difficult thing to trust God with is our future. But that is exactly what we should do because our future isn’t really our future. But the truth is, I think most of us know we can trust God but we have a really hard time doing it. Especially when we are stressed and the future looks bleak. But let me give you a possible reason. Some of us have a hard time trusting God because we don’t know Him well. Most of us would probably be a little offended because we believe we do know Him well. I spend time with Him, I read His word, I pray, I attend church and Northstar Groups.

But sometimes when life is uncertain, I know I can trust God, but I still have a hard time doing it. So it begs the question: do I truly know God, that I have full confidence in who He is and what He will do in my life. Because only when you fully understand His great love for you, His unending grace, His faithfulness to you, and His plans for you that you will be able to trust Him no matter what comes your way. To trust Him for where that road will take you.

To let Him lead me one step at a time knowing that even if I have no clue what I’m doing or where I’m going, He does. And He will make sure that I reach the end safely. Taking that step forward into the unknown requires that I know Him more. That I trust the One who guides our every step.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:34 MSG)

Discussion Questions:

  1. Worrying about our future, our health, our kids, whether or not we are measuring up at work, school, family life…the list goes on and on. What would you say is your biggest worry?
  2. Have you ever felt like the future was hopeless? What was your stress level?
  3. Read 1 Kings 19:3-11: Verse 4 gives us a dark picture of how Elijah was processing the events he had just gone through. What was Elijah focusing on? What do you focus on when looking at the future?
  4. In verse 10, Elijah has a pretty bleak vision for his future. Have you had a bleak view of your future? What can we do to change our view of the future?
  5. Do you struggle with any “what if” questions? How can you push past them to experience God’s peace in your life? Rather than worrying and struggling through something uncertain, what can you thank God for today?
  6. Pray and ask God to help you trust Him for the future?