Oh God, Help Me!

Two words—HELP ME. These words are no stranger to these lips. They are the words heard by the Domino’s delivery man on the other end of the phone when my wife Elizabeth is gone for an evening and its my turn to feed the kids. The auto mechanic probably knows my voice well—he definitely knows these words from my lips. Help Me. Tax season comes around, yep, two words.

My wife knows all too well, I’m not the mechanical guy. Most men have Honey Do Lists, I have Honey Don’ts! It’s probably best that we rent and not own. Help Me. These may be the two most common words on my mouth when I speak to God. In my falling short as a husband, a father a human-being—HELP ME. In my sin, my failure to obey, my brokenness. HELP ME. I desperately needed Christ’s help before I was a believer, and it is no different today. If you ever whisper this in desperation to God, you’re not alone.

HELP…the word occurs 187x in the Bible. It is strewn through the whole storyline of Scripture. The stories of the Old Testament are filled with individuals needing help and asking for it. We are not alone. The Exodus event is one of the most significant saving moments in biblical history. Have you ever noticed the catalyst for such a saving action? Look at Exodus 2:23.

“During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.”

HELP. That was the catalyst. God’s people cried to God for help, he heard them and he moved. It was no different when God’s people were in danger in the wilderness, when they took the promised land, when they were in danger from other nations, when they were in exile or any other time they were in need. They cried for help and God answered.

The Psalmists exhaust the vocabulary of help. They teach us that we are not alone, they embolden us to call for his help. The create confidence in the reality that “there is none like God…who rides through the heavens to your help” (Deut 33:26). The Psalmist poses the question in Psalm 121:1: “I lift my eyes up to the mountains where does my help come from?” The most profound answer to that question is of course, Christ. 

Hebrews 2:14-18 uses the language of help three times. It speaks of a help in the face of death, in the face of satan, in the face of sin and in the face of temptation. It is a help that requires a birth, a death and a resurrection. God helps us in Christ. He deals with our greatest needs assuring us he will help us with everything else.

If you have ever wondered: Will God help me? Does he care? Is he interested in helping me? Does he here when I cry for help? The crib, the cross and the empty tomb are God’s definitive YES! He has helped us and he will continue to help us. Let those two words move from your heart to your mouth: HELP ME. God will not fail you.

 

Washington’s First Presidential Act

In George Washington’s first inaugural address he expresses deep humility regarding the task at hand and publicly turns his attention heavenward as the first step in his journey. Washington’s first presidential act is an instructive moment in history.

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.

What Makes a Theologian

Oswald Bayer wrote a fine book titled Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation. In this book he summarizes Luther’s thinking on what makes a theologian and what rules should govern the theologian. Luther argued that a theologian is made through six things.

  1. The grace that is worked through the Holy Spirit
  2. The agonizing struggle
  3. Experience
  4. Opportunity
  5. Constant, concentrated textual study
  6. Knowledge and practice of the academic disciplines

Luther goes on to say that three rules should govern the life and task of the theologian.

  1. Prayer
  2. Meditation
  3. Agonizing Struggle

I love the intersection of experience, suffering and study in Luther’s thought on the development of a theologian. It takes more than books and a degree to make a solid theologian. As the quote goes, “a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.”

One must know the roaring of a condemning conscience and the silencing power of the gospel to bring the good news home to others. One must know the power of the old man, the agony of daily repentance and the sweetness of forgiveness to instruct others in the fray.

The theologian has to know both sides of a theological concept: the objective and subjective. It is not enough to know about the love of God in Christ. By the Spirit he must know what it is to be loved by God in Christ. The theologian must be desperate, humble and dependent. Prayer, meditation and trust in the Holy Spirit are critical elements of theological development and maturity.

The theologian understands the tension that Luther touches here. God alone makes a good theologian and yet the theologian is responsible to study, pray, meditate and agonize. He must hoist the sails and position the mast, all the while trusting that the wind of God will blow on him.

Theologians are limping men and women—men and women who have grappled with God, have been destroyed and been made new. They are people who know the sweetness of the gospel because they know the depths of sin and judgment. They are people who know the landscape of God’s word intellectually and experientially. They are people that know God and you know it when you engage them. God, make me one of these.

God’s Upside Down Mission Strategy

Paul once stated that the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world  (1 Cor 1:18-31). His point, God’s choice of strategy for enacting his saving plans makes no sense to the world. This foolish wisdom is seen clearly in the incarnation, the cross, and the selection of the twelve disciples. Last year, I spent some time working on the theme of the twelve disciples and God’s upside down mission strategy. Here is the document: The Choice of Twelve: God’s Strange Mission Strategy.