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God our helper! – Psalm 121

God our helper! – Psalm 121
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 23, 2017

From the movies and into the language fabric of American culture has been the question: “Who’re you gonna call?” and the answer, “Ghost Busters!” But who do you call when you need help in life? Some call their therapist, psychiatrist, minister, friend, or family member. Calling 911 isn’t going to help you answer the deep spiritual questions one has or some of the day to day problems one faces. So, who do you call to when you need help?

The Bible teaches us over and over that the believer is to be dependent upon the Lord and to go to him when they need answers in life. Sadly, few do unless only as a last resort. I have had thousands of conversations about relationships, finances, family problems, addictions, and fatal attractions and few have heeded the advice I have offered only to later respond that they wished they had. Once I was asked where I went for help and I remarked, “To God our helper.” Let’s discover what the Psalmist sings about this…

READ: Psalm 121

The Israelites were told over and over and over again to depend upon the Lord and not themselves, the pagan gods of the land, nor the worldly wisdom of the age. Yet they often failed to do so and suffered the consequences of their decision. Here we discover that…

I. God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world! (Vv. 1-4)

A song of ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

1. The title “song of ascents” identifies Psalms 120-134 as a song to be sung when the Israelites “ascended” or “went up” to Jerusalem for their annual feasts. Four of these 15 psalms are ascribed to David but this one is anonymous. Jerusalem sat on a hill and the temple rose up on the highest point, so when the pilgrim went to worship God in his temple he would sing, “I lift up my eyes to the hills”. Like a scene from a movie of a besieged city looking to the hills for reinforcements against her enemies, we lift our eyes to the Lord! The believer is to look to the heights of the Lord for their help; not just in times of distress but in every situation! So, today, like the pilgrim of God ask yourself, “Where does my help come from?” Your answer should be immediate and direct, “My help comes from the Lord!” But notice why the Psalmist was willing to sing this? He knew that God, like we learned last week from Colossians, is “the Maker of heaven and earth”! The Christian knows and understands that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” and that “by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” (Colossians 1:15-16 NIV) Therefore he is sure and certain and he keeps us from slipping up in life, as the Psalmist sang, “He will not let your foot slip”! We forget Jesus told us succinctly, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7 NIV) This is not some “name it and claim it” heresy but rather the promise of the Lord God that if we walk daily with him he will walk daily with us! There is so much false advice and ungodly wisdom in the world today that it is good to know God will keep us from slipping up when we remain in him. The Psalmist realized this and reiterated that “he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep!” God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world!

EXAMPLE: You can by hiking boots or walking shoes with treads designed to give you better footing in rough places; you can purchase cork or felt-soled waders to help you navigate the moss and algae-covered rocks while fishing; and you can buy simple flip-flops to protect your feet while using public showers in gyms or at the swimming pool. But what can we depend upon to keep us upright in a sin-filled world that offers so much trash for advice? The Psalmist reminds us that God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world!

A good parent doesn’t hover over their child but they remain watchful throughout the child’s life. When they are younger they help them to stay safe, look both ways, and to say “please”, “thank-you”, and “you’re welcome”. We discover that like a watchful loving parent…

II. God helps us by watching over our lives! (Vv. 5-8)

The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

1. God is not a nag. He does not scold you, berate you, or remind you of your mess-ups. He is not some angry old grump or judge watching and waiting for you to mess up just so he can discipline you back into line. It was truly liberating for me to learn that rather than an angry God that the God of the Bible was a loving God who loved me even before I was born and knew every step I would take in life! He loved me so much that he provided for my salvation from sin’s judgment! Rather than a judgmental narrow-minded bigoted deity, he is my helper, redeemer, and friend. The Psalmist reminded his readers that “The Lord watches over you”; not as a nag but to be your “shade at your right hand”! He is the one we can depend upon to shield us and lead us in a corrupt world and to keep us safe and secure. Shade was an important part of life during the Psalmist’s time. The Israelites looked for it as they traveled to Jerusalem to worship; shepherds sought it out to rest in during the heat of the day; and all wanted the protection of the snug roof over them at night — so he sings to those who are seeking shade and shelter, “the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night”. It does not matter the time of day, the season of the year, or what phase of life you are in, God is with you; right beside you, shading you and protecting you, “The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” I truly like that. It is refreshing to know that a loving God cares enough for me to remind me that he is with me always, through every stage or up and down of life. The Apostle Paul asked and age-old question when he queried, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” Like the Psalmist even Paul was “convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39 NIV)  God helps us by watching over our lives!

EXAMPLE: One of my favorite hymns is “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”. It speaks of how God loves us and watches over us just as he does each tiny sparrow like Jesus reminded his disciples, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26 NIV) The Psalmist reminds us that God helps us by watching over our lives!

Conclusion:
God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world! God helps us by watching over our lives!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The gift! – John 14:15-26

The gift! – John 14:15-26
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 4, 2015

Gifts can be very personal things depending upon the giver, the getter, and the gift. We are entering the season where folks begin to think about gifts, with the celebration of Christmas just around the corner. Some gifts last past their original giver and receiver and are handed down from generation to generation. Generational gifts can carry with them not only the significance of the original gift but the memories of all those it was given to as well.

Jesus left all of his followers an indescribable gift. One that never fades fails, is out of date, grows old, or breaks. In fact it lasts a lifetime! John has been giving us clues to this gift all along in Jesus’ ministry and teaching and now during the Last Supper, Jesus reveal what this gift is and what it means for his disciples and future followers. Let’s take a look at the gift…

READ: John 14:15-26

It is always good to have someone who supports you no matter what. Good parents do this with their children even when they mess up. Jesus now relates that he is giving us a gift that will never leave us or forsake us. In fact…

I. His gift is our advocate! (Vv. 15-18)

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

1. I included verse 15 again because it is a pivotal statement within John’s gospel. If we love Jesus, we will obey his commands. Remember his commands were not burdensome but far easier than the millstones the Pharisees and others placed around the necks of the Hebrews. His commands were, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31 NIV) God’s love, his sacrificial love, is the foundation in which we are to live our lives. So, if we say we love him we will be willing to sacrifice. The first sacrifice we are to give is ourselves to him! Without this willing sacrifice of trust we will never experience the gift he has promised: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth.” Another counselor literally means one alongside of like an advocate or encourager forever! Jesus told Nicodemus, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:5 NIV) When we receive Jesus we receive God and when we receive Jesus we also receive the Holy Spirit! They are all one in the same! This relationship is “forever” and cannot be nullified in any way. He walks with us because he is with us, the Spirit of truth. This is why Jesus immediately tells them, “The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” The ungodly world can never understand the things of God. Paul would write, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV) This is why Jesus could promise, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” His gift is our advocate!

EXAMPLE: We all like it when someone is willing to stand with us during good times but it is even better when they stay by our side during difficult times. I remember when my father died; I would have given anything for someone to come along side of me, just to be there. It was a very difficult time. How wonderful to know that his gift is our advocate!

The gift of the Holy Spirit lives in each of who trust Jesus with our lives. This was a new concept and a little bit frightening to the disciples because the Holy Spirit up until Jesus had only been present when his people were in complete loyalty to God. Sin immediately separated him from their lives. We now learn from Jesus that…

II. His gift manifests himself to us! (Vv. 19-22)

Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

1. Jesus knew his promise to be with them forever would become extremely important because he was going back to his rightful place. “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.” The ungodly world cannot see or hear the things of God and soon Jesus would not be physically in their midst, he would die on a cruel cross, be buried in a stone tomb, and then rise again! However, they would see him again, not just his resurrected form but the promise of himself as their advocate! And because of this, they would know for certain, “Because I live, you also will live.” Jesus’ resurrection proves our eternal existence! “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” Not just on the day they saw him alive again, but on the day his promised advocate came upon them to prove that he now lived in them eternally! Those of us who have placed our lives in his hands know he is the Father, he is the Son, and he is the promised Holy Spirit! Only our spiritual insecurity or sin makes us doubt this truth. Again, Jesus reminds them, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” Loving Jesus is seen in how we obey his commands of love. Therefore, “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” Literally the world will see Jesus in them and Jesus will display himself in their lives! But then there are those who do not quite get it and “Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?'” Perhaps Judas, Thaddaeus, thought that Jesus only meant to show himself as Messiah to them and not the rest of the world. That prospect disappoints him. However Thaddaeus need not have worried because it is so much better because his gift manifests himself to us!

EXAMPLE: It saddens me that there are those who live their entire lives never knowing the intimacy of having a close loving relationship. My wife and I have been married long enough that we almost know what the other person is thinking. Sometimes we can just look at each other and just smile and nod. As close as we are the relationship we enjoy pales in comparison to that which any believer has with Jesus through the Holy Spirit. How wonderful to know his gift manifests himself to us!

Mentors in life are important. These are men and women who can teach us the sacred wonderful things of God that they have discovered within Scripture and how they have applied them to their lives. However, the most important mentorship a believer can have is God himself and Jesus has provided away for each of us to have this relationship. We learn that…

III. His gift is our teacher! (Vv. 23-26)

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

1. The importance of obedience is not lost on Jesus. He understood that it would take a lifetime commitment in order to follow him after he had returned to heaven. So, he again stresses, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” In fact Jesus relates, “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” The idea here is that God will be with the one who is obedient and will live with them! Jesus would go and prepare a place for us and he also promised to abide with us here and now if we are obedient! The reason so many do not have a deep relationship with God is because they are unwilling to obey him. “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” God will not manifest himself to those who do not obey him. Disobedience has consequences. Jesus makes it clear that “These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” Jesus has taught all along, “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.” (John 12:49 NIV) Jesus told his disciples this truth because he would not be with them for much longer, “All this I have spoken while still with you.” However, three things needed to occur for those who would follow him: his death, his resurrection, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit will perform a couple of functions for the disciple’s future lives in him: he will teach them about “all things” and he “will remind [them] of everything” Jesus ever said! This truth is for us here and now as well when we abide in him his Spirit becomes our teacher. His gift is our teacher!

EXAMPLE: At the elementary school I work at we have some really excellent teachers. It is easy to know who truly cares for the kids and the ones that are there just to collect a paycheck. The children know this as well. Working there has made me think of the teachers who made an impact in my own life. Usually it was those who took the time to make sure I understood the subject and came along side me to help me. How wonderful to know that his gift is our teacher!

Conclusion:

His gift is our advocate! His gift manifests himself to us! His gift is our teacher!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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