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Singing Psalm 121 to help and not harm

Snow-capped mountain reflected in the ocean

“I lift my eyes and see the hills;

    From where will come my aid?” ~ Psalm 121:1

Looking up at the hills could signify seeing obstacles up ahead. Or it could mean looking for solutions from people in high up places with a higher pay grade. Or it could mean looking ahead to where God is calling you to go.

Singing Psalm 121 to help and not harm your outlook 

“On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.” ~ Genesis 22:4

Abraham saw the place where God told him to go and sacrifice Isaac.

Abraham's response demonstrates that he passed the test of his faith in God’s goodness:

Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” ~ Genesis 22:5

Do you ever look up and wonder, whether or not you see hills, where your help will come from?

When you lift your eyes, from what hills are you looking for help? Which hills are you climbing and thinking, when I reach the top of that hill, then I will have arrived? You work. You train. You strive. You aim for perfection. You bleed. You sweat. You cry. You reach the zenith, and it’s lovely. Maybe others have joined you to the pinnacle. Yet something is missing. You need supernatural help to find what that something or rather, who that someone is.

You clean up. You connect with others. You make small and great changes. You marry. You have children. You get to see their children and perhaps even their grandchildren. Great blessings. Still, something is missing in this story. The perfection you aimed for eludes you and you cannot attain it. What or who can?

Abraham had to wait many years to have his covenant child of promise and was still alive to see his grandchildren. What happened after that is nothing short of breathtaking.

“Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” ~ Hebrews 11:12

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” ~ Galatians 3:29

“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” ~ John 8:56

No matter your sordid past or tainted ancestry, in Christ, you are a new creation and a child of Abraham, one of his descendants too numerous to count! This fact alone helps your quest to find where you belong and to know who to thank. This fact alone improves your outlook by orders of magnitude. Your pursuit of completeness and perfection comes to fruition in your finding the perfect one in whom you can place all your trust.

It is those who have the faith of Abraham in the Lord Jesus Christ, whether or not they were physically born from the bloodline of Abraham, who are Abraham’s offspring. You are the offspring of the one who was willing to offer up the delight of his eyes, his son, Isaac, on an altar on a hill, in obedience to the One who actually did offer up his Son, the Lord Jesus, to forgive your sins and mine.

Singing Psalm 121 to help and not harm your security

“The One preserving Israel,

    He slumbers not, nor sleeps.” ~ Psalm 121:4

Great sorrows come amidst your joys. Who is your help? Who will come to your aid?

His eyes are open, never shut. The Lord sees. He sees you.

Who is your shade in the scorching heat?

Who will protect you from harm when night falls and the pull of the full moon touches the unstable who are looking for someone to victimize?

“The LORD will keep you, He’s your shade;

    The LORD stands at your right.

The sun will do no harm to you,

    Nor will the moon at night.” ~ Psalm 121:5-6

You dread dying. Yet the one who made you also remakes you for the place you are meant to be. The place where you will live forever.

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” ~ Hebrews 2:14-15

What or who frees you from your fear of death and from its power?

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ~ John 8:31-32

But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” ~ Genesis 22:11-18

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ~ Revelation 21:2-4

This image fills your mind's eye and helps you persevere through any and every hardship. Like Abraham, you realize that God is the center of your story, indeed the center of the story. He provides all you need, and you worship and glorify him as Lord of all.

"The Lord will keep you from all harm;

    He’ll keep your life secure." ~ Psalm 121:7

Singing Psalm 121 to help and not harm your relationships

In talking with a young person who expressed that his parents don't understand how he is hurting, it occurred to me that although parents are to be instruments in God’s hands to point their children towards God and his ways, to be there for them to talk things through and help them to resolve their dilemmas, they are also sinners needing redemption that only Jesus can supply. I am in no way different from his parents in needing redemption in order to listen well and connect.

There are several relationships that I hope for the opportunity to mend. I ask the Lord to bring about those opportunities in his perfect way and in his perfect timing. My great desire is to become a person who is a consistently safe place for people to talk about whatever is on their heart, whatever they want to talk about. People are often searching for that safe place but don’t find it. My overarching goal is to imitate the Lord Jesus in becoming a safe place. Sadly, I was not a consistently safe place for some of those whom I care about and dearly love. It is heart wrenching to know that though the walls I inadvertently constructed have been smashed down, there remains a remnant of fear that seems, in the hearts of some, to be even more formidable than the walls were. Although I have become willing and available as the Lord is increasingly supplying me with tenderness of heart and compassion, these loved ones presently aren't in touch to experience in our relationship the changes that the Lord is bringing about.

May the Lord himself meet them where they are, that they would know that he is their safe place. Meanwhile, they are within his reach, while I am being called to tangibly love those whom the Lord has placed within my reach and at the same time intangibly loving those outside my reach by lifting them often before the throne of grace trusting that God is bridging the gap and sending others to minister to and tangibly love them. I had hoped my heart would be trusted and my sins overlooked for having the right heart, but I have instead been taken to task. Like I took others to task before I realized the sweetness of mercy that swallows up the bitterness of vengeance (which is always stolen since the Lord tells us that vengeance is his.) 

Although my heart condemns me at times, God is greater than my heart. I trust there will be reconciliation among us whether in this life, or if not, in the life to come since God brings help and not harm using the very thorns that would block our path from what would ultimately harm us. He will right every wrong and restore all that is broken. His taking me, not to task, but by the hand into his strong hand gives me the courage to take myself in hand and in faith whisper to my soul: Just. you. wait. Not for the condemnation I deserve but for his free gift of grace in Christ that I don’t deserve.

“Good enough” parents do care, but they often won’t know how to express that care in ways that get through. I had God’s ways in mind, but I went about them unwisely relying on myself. You don’t get to choose your inherent weaknesses and blind spots. Unrighteous expressions of anger and harshness build from exasperation when you care more than you know how to express it, where fear of the strong possibility of your loved one’s seemingly imminent downfall carries you off the rails. Or you avoid conflict and consequently the relationship.

Or your helping is lopsided where you spend a great deal of time working on what you perceive is needed for someone’s benefit while being utterly unaware of more important other things that person needs that you might be neglecting. You don’t know what you don’t know until something surfaces, revealing a gap between what you believe and your ability to walk out that belief under the pressure and stress that you didn't even know to prepare for, never mind how to prepare for it.

In spite of your desire to help and not harm your relationships, knee-jerk reactions that reflect what you saw done in similar situations from your own childhood will be history repeating itself. Unless you make the opportunity, make the time to think through the choices and discern what it looks like to glorify God in conflict, you will say and do, or at least carry the same tone as the examples you observed when you were a child. If those were caustic, it is likely that healthy flowing communication will come to a halt and that relationships will die.

Praise be to God that Jesus builds the bridge to God for parents and children when both cry out to him and admit their inability to resuscitate dead relationships. Only he can help parents own up to when they have tried to bring about behavioral change in their children but were not careful to engage their hearts. Only the Lord is able to change personalities, replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, and bring relationships to new life as he takes your relational sins to the cross, crucifies and buries them, and in so doing, raises up new, living relationships.

“Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?” ~ Acts 26:8

You no doubt desire a city filled with these kinds of living friendships:

“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” ~ Hebrews 11:16

There is a purpose for your relationships among your family and friends that goes beyond those relationships. Primarily, it is your desire for the Lord that is destined to be transformed from a duty to a deep love for him, wanting him to be your best friend forever. From a sense of outward coercion (“Do your devotional. Have your quiet time.”) of what you think others expect of you to do for God, as if God needed anything from you, to a burning need from within for him, for his wisdom, for his guidance, for his love, for his presence, and relishing in the beauty of who he is, needing him to engage your emotions enabling you to love him and others as he would have you do. Like with your family and friends, you go beyond the surface as your love for them grows. You desire to know their deeper needs, to see them, really see them and know who they are. Without him, we can do none of this. With him, we can do whatever he calls us to with a sense of peace, in joy, and sincerely, from the heart. With him, you live well. Without him, you die inside.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways

    and my thoughts than your thoughts." ~ Isaiah 55:8-9

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." ~ Philippians 4:7

He is leading parents to this incomprehensibly wonderful place of unity within diversity where he is leading their children as well. He can transform our marriages and/or the marriage we have with him (your maker is your husband.) God reflects his genuine love and joy among the three persons of the godhead in designing that two humans, one male and one female, would become one, be fruitful, and multiply into true worshipers of God who worship him in Spirit and in truth.

We are in that amazing relational process of you becoming you and me becoming me so that we can become us under and in union with our God. The body is nestling under and no longer running from its head. The bridegroom and the bride rejoice together. Christ and his church are becoming one. And this is what our love will look like:

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” ~ Romans 12:9-10

Those in the helping professions and influencers would do well to give counsel that is in line with the Helper in order to help and not harm those who look to them for guidance in their outlook on life as they go out and come in each day, in how to be secure in who they are as image-bearers of God, and in their relationships with God and others. The Holy Spirit is the one who breathed out the word of God that we have in the Bible. Any advice that contradicts his counsel should be disregarded.

Your going out and coming in

    The Lord keeps evermore.” ~ Psalm 121:8

Who are those whose advice and company you value? Do they speak God’s truth that you might benefit from hearing or do they flatter you saying what your itching ears long to hear? 

What is it that your ears long to hear? Isn’t it that you are lovely as you are and have no need to change? That the problems are all outside of you, none within? You therefore have nothing to consider or to bring before the Lord to help you change. You are fine just as you are as long as you stay clear of anyone who would challenge your status quo and throw you off your tenuous equilibrium.

“I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared…that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” ~ Acts 26:19-20

Placing your hope not in your performance, whether you succeed or fail often, but in the grace of God that supplies every success and that teaches you from each failure, you relish the opportunity to change your mind, speech, actions, and heart.

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” ~ 1 Peter 1:13-16

When you are convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that it is the Lord alone who keeps you from all harm, you will recognize imposters behind smiling faces and smooth words who would center the story around you as a victim rather than around God’s glory that transforms your gaze from yourself onto him where it belongs. There has to be a place for change since God calls you to seek holiness not happiness. Yet there will be none as happy as those who are becoming holy.

When your feet are planted solidly on the rock of Christ, there is no need to fear. Nothing can move you from his secure hold of you.

“He’ll not allow your foot to slip,

    Nor rest while you He keeps.” ~ Psalm 121:3

Satan used Psalm 121:3 to advise Jesus that he did not need to go to the cross in order to accomplish his goal of ruling the world with all authority. The devil twisted the scripture in an attempt to deceive Jesus as if that authority were his to give to Jesus without him needing to suffer if only Jesus would worship Satan.

Satan worked here the same way that he works today. He tries to short-circuit God‘s wonderful plan with something that looks easier, more compatible, more comfortable with less suffering, but that is not capable of being fruitful and multiplying to create glorious nations of people that would worship and praise their creator who is forever blessed. Here is your test. Will you fall for the proud lie of attempting to reinvent perfection and fail the test? Salvation came through the very suffering that Satan hoped would end the possibility of anyone being saved. God’s “foolishness“ is indeed wiser than man’s wisdom that says that suffering can never bring good and humility is for losers.

"...and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." ~ Revelation 20:10

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man,

    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." ~ Proverbs 19:21

Jesus refused to be influenced by the worst influencer of all time who consistently gives the false impression that he only wants to help and do no harm. All authority in heaven and on earth was given to Jesus by the Father, because Jesus always did what pleases the Father. Jesus, unlike us whose hearts are deceitful and beyond cure save for him, lived in loving obedience in his relationship to the Father and would rule in all of his authority with a humble hand.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Jesus gave his people the Holy Spirit as their Helper, Guide, Counselor, and Comforter in his stead when he ascended back to the Father forever seated at his right hand where he has made room for his people who make room for his word.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. ~ Revelation 5:11-14

As you fight with the full armor of God the spiritual forces of evil all around you that are fueled in the heavenly places, and as you eagerly wait for Jesus, you can be sure that you will join him there when he comes to your rescue and and to the rescue of your fellow multitudes upon multitudes of Abraham's offspring.

“My help comes only from the LORD,

    Who heav’n and earth has made.” ~ Psalm 121:2

February 6, 2022 - May 24, 2024


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