In The Secret Place: The Promises of Psalm 91

Last week we talked about claiming promises from God. But we didn’t talk about the verses that got me started on that study. Psalm 91 is packed full of promises that are clearly meant to include the reader. There isn’t even a writer credited, so there’s no clear historical context, and the psalm is addressed to all who make the Lord their God. There’s nothing to distract from the fact that this psalm was written for everyone who’s in a relationship with God, including you as a Christian today.In The Secret Place: The Promises of Psalm 91 | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Claiming Relationship With God

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of Yahweh, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” (Ps. 91:1-2, WEB)

The psalm begins with a promise to those who remain, inhabit, and abide (H3427, yashab) in the hiding place or shelter (H5643 sether) of the Most High God. They will “stay permanently” (Strong’s H3885 lun) in the shadowing protection (H6738 tsel) of El Shaddai.

Because of that promise, we get the only “I” statement from this psalm’s writer. They claim the Lord as “my God” and say they will have confidence in Him (H982 baach). And they demonstrate that trust by making Him their refuge, shelter (H4268 machaseh) and defensive stronghold (H4684 matsud). That’s something we can do as well.

Stripping Fear of Power

This psalm contains truly incredible promises of protection in the midst of trials. We’d probably prefer it if God’s protection meant we didn’t have to go through trials. But to be delivered “from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence,” there must be someone trying to trap you or a pestilence threatening your life (Ps. 91:3, WEB). And if “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand,” then you must be in a location where people are perishing right and left (Ps. 91:7, KJV). Continue reading

Claiming God’s Promises

Not every single word in the Bible applies directly to each person reading it. It’s all inspired by God and we can learn from it, of course, but not everything applies to everyone directly. For example, some cleanliness laws in the Old Testament were gender specific and some prophecies were delivered to a specific person or group (like the dream warning Nebuchadnezzar he would become like an animal for 7 years).

But we can take this observation too far. We might make the mistake of thinking that because warnings to follow God alone were delivered to ancient Israel they don’t apply to us today. Yet the New Testament confirms we still need to make a choice between darkness and light (Deut. 30:15-20; 1 John 1:5-2:6). This type of thinking can also block us from accepting encouraging promises as well.

Have you ever read one of God’s promises and thought, “That sounds wonderful, but it can’t really apply to me?” I’m sure many of us have. For me personally, I struggle with believing God will answer my prayers the way He promises too (mostly I feel like my prayers for other people aren’t effective). But does that mean God’s promise to hear when we call doesn’t apply to me? Of course not. And I’ve even seen some examples of His direct responses to my prayers. My doubts and anxieties don’t cancel His promises. But they can block me from recognizing or accepting His work with, in, and for me.Claiming God's Promises | marissabaker.wordpress.com

God’s Presence In You

The Holy Spirit is one thing God promises to new believers. Jesus told His disciples the Father would give them the Holy Spirit after He left and we see that promise fulfilled quite spectacularly in Acts 2. As the narrative continues, a pattern emerges where believers receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when they covenant with God at baptism. And it’s made clear that this promise isn’t just for the people of that time. Continue reading

This Is Why The Way We Think About Life Matters

Most of us have a working definition of what life is. We can tell that a couch is non-living and that the cat sleeping on its cushions is alive without thinking about it much at all. But ask the question, “What is life?” and we have a little more trouble answering. We might fall back on a biology textbook definition and list properties of life like organization, metabolism, homeostasis, growth, and response. Or maybe we’ll go with a more philosophical approach and discuss the meaning or purpose of life. Either way, you’ll find there isn’t a single consensus on how we should define and think about life.

This Is Why The Way We Think About Life Matters | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Photo credit: Pearl via Lightstock

As people who believe in a creator God, Christians have another factor to consider when coming up with a definition of life. We have God as the starting point for all life, and so our definition could add a phrase such as, “Life is something given and sustained by a creator.” And more philosophically, we can talk about human life as distinct from animal or plant life because we have a chance at eternal life. Continue reading

Always Love, Never Compromise: Relating To Those Outside Your Faith

Our society idolizes tolerance. We’re “supposed” to understand the other’s point of view, support them in living however they want, and admit they’re no less “right” than we are. From a Christian’s perspective, though, today’s ideas of tolerance look more like an attack on objective morality. People who disagree with you don’t just want you to tolerate them; they want you to agree with them. And in many cases they’re not willing to extend even tolerance back to you, much less agreement.

There are two extreme reactions Christians might have when faced with a society like ours: 1) go along with society or 2) start attacking people we don’t agree with. But neither of those options is the best one. Better to ask, “Does the Bible offer any guidelines for Christians navigating such as society?” People of God have always had to interact with people outside their faith, and scripture does provide guidelines for how we can approach such relationships.Always Love, Never Compromise: Relating To Those Outside Your Faith | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Don’t Judge People

This first guideline has nothing to do with accepting the wrong things we see ungodly people doing. We can make moral decisions about another person’s actions (e.g. discern between right and wrong) and in the appropriate context tell them they’re not lining up with God’s law (e.g. preach the gospel and call for repentance). But to pronounce a sentence on someone and condemn them is not our right.

For what is it to me to judge those outside? Should you not judge those inside? But those outside God will judge. Remove the evil person from among yourselves (1 Cor. 5:12-13, LEB)

In the verses leading up to these, Paul has been talking about the need for Christians to exercise sound judgement within the church. He’s giving them a directive to put out of the church people who say they follow God yet flagrantly and unrepentantly practice sin. In contrast to that, he tells us it’s not our responsibility to do the same to people outside the church. We can’t condemn non-Christians for not acting like Christians. God’s the one who gets final say on their lives.

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Letting God Define You

How do you define yourself? We all finish our “I am __” statements in different ways. We can go with something fairly basic, such as “I am a writer/sister/Christian.” That’s often how we introduce ourselves to people. But there are also less flattering “I am” statements that we tell ourselves. “I am anxious; I am too fat/skinny/unhealthy; I am a sinner not good enough for God.” Or sometimes we go with more positive self-affirmations: “I am a good friend; I am confident in using my gifts; I am a redeemed and forgiven child of God.”

How does God define you? Scripture reminds us in several passages that our “I am” is not as reliable as God’s “you are” (see 1 Sam. 16:7, Is. 55:8-9 and Jer. 17:9-10). He knows us better than we know ourselves and He can give us insight into His perspective. If we ask, He’ll reveal things about ourselves to us directly as well as through His word.

Some of the “you are” statements God makes about people are critical, such as when He describes all humans as sinner under a death penalty or rebukes Israel for their rebellion (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; Is. 1:18-25). But while part of God’s perspective on us involves seeing our faults, that’s not all He sees. For those in relationship with Him, His “you are” statements are overwhelmingly positive. There’s certainly a place for acknowledging our sins, abhorring ourselves, and repenting as Job did (Job 42:5-6). But we’re not to stay downcast. God wants us to have a realistic view of ourselves, and He values us far too highly for this view to not involve some incredibly positive things.Letting God Define You | marissabaker.wordpress.com

You Are Of Value

Aren’t five sparrows sold for two assaria coins? Not one of them is forgotten by God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore don’t be afraid. You are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7, WEB)

Our God cares even when a sparrow dies. But we’re not just another animal crawling around the earth that gets a moment of attention from Him. We’re valued highly — so highly that the Father and Son think you’re worth the price of Jesus’ life. And They thought that even before you were saved (Rom. 5:6-8). Continue reading

Our Christian Nationality

A number of years ago I was sitting in a church service listening to the minister introduce his sermon topic for the day. One of the first things he said was, “Close your Bibles and put them on the floor. I’ve got something to tell you this morning.” Smacks of Bibles hitting linoleum is a sound I hope never to hear again. While teenage me wasn’t brave enough to stand up and walk out, I did keep my Bible open in my lap so I could do my own study while he lectured on American history.

The United States of America, rather than something out of the Bible, should feel like a strange topic for a sermon. And yet I’ve heard other sermons, though much less extreme, preached about this topic on a fairly regular basis. Typically, it’s presented as something like “the Biblical history of our country” or “America’s Christian heritage.” The speakers usually do turn to scriptures, but they may spend more time quoting founding fathers and presidents than they do Jesus.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t a rant against my country or an article condemning people who love the U.S. of A (which I why I didn’t post this 4th of July weekend, though it would have probably gotten more views then). Nor am I saying Christians teachers shouldn’t quote writings outside the Bible. My concern is that patriotism for our physical nation has gotten muddled up with our Christian faith as if the two are, or should be, interconnected. But I don’t think they should be.Our Christian Nationality | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Not Of The World

When Jesus walked this earth, He said He was “not of this world” (John 8:23, KJV). At the Passover, He started describing His followers that way as well (John 15:19; 17:14-16). We still have to live in this world, as Paul points out in 1 Cor. 5:10, but we don’t belong to it.

“We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19, KJV). The present world is evil because it has fallen into sin and is under Satan’s sway (Gal. 1:4; John 14:30). I think most Christians would agree with that at least to a certain extent, otherwise we’d have no need for a Savior. But often, we think of this world’s evil as an abstraction. The world “out there” is wicked, “society” is evil, or there’s a spirit of wickedness at large “somewhere.” But maybe my neighborhood, this city, our country isn’t really all that bad.

Here in the U.S., we don’t yet face the sort of persecution that would serve as a constant reminder that this world isn’t a Christian’s home. I’m thankful for that, but I also wonder if it has made us lose sight of some important truths. The United States was founded with some Christian principles and a guarantee of a religious freedom, but it was never a “Christian nation” and it hadn’t even looked like one for a long time. And while you have the right as an American to get involved in pushing your country toward where you’d like it to go and a duty as a Christian to stand up for what’s right in God’s sight, this physical nation isn’t where we owe our primary allegiance. Continue reading