Tag Archives: Psalm 119

Keep me hungry Lord..

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

(Psalm 119.10-16)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man or woman of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

(2 Timothy 2.15 & 3.16)

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

(Colossians 3.15-16)

I was always taught that it was important for a follower of Jesus to set aside time daily to pray and read the bible – and I suspect most of us know that it is a good habit to acquire, although we may struggle to establish it! We know in our heads that God speaks to us through the words of the old and new testaments, and that through them, we grow in our understanding of God’s plan for redemption and above all in knowledge of Christ Jesus our saviour.

But how often as human beings do we put into practice things which we know to be good for us?! It is an ongoing struggle for me to find ways to engage with the bible which do not become a rushed, cursory skimming of the text, and perhaps a slightly less rushed perusal of the commentary provided by printed or online notes.. I am almost too familiar with the bible, taking it for granted and assuming that I know enough to get by without trying too hard to improve and continually refresh my knowledge.

I do not believe that there is a one-size-fits-all solution to this challenge, nor even that what suits at one time of life will be appropriate at another. The single mother, caring for children and holding down a full-time job  will find it hard to make time for in-depth daily study – and her Lord knows and understands. A short dose of scripture morning and night might prove as effective and nourishing to her faith as anything more ambitious, because the Holy spirit will use that to speak to her need. Someone who learns better by hearing and seeing than by reading, will find recorded talks and short video clips stimulate their understanding, and prompt their worship and praise just as effectively as prolonged meditation on the complexities of the book of Romans!

The point is, as Paul writes to the Colossians – that the word should “dwell richly” in us, a beautiful expression which I take to mean that it ought to be treasured, to be alive in us, like a welcome presence, influencing every part of our lives. The great 119th psalm is an incredible outpouring of praise for the word, for the treasure which we have in it, and a reminder that it is only as we live by the word that we are in fellowship with God.

Paul writes to encourage the young church leader, Timothy, to work diligently at his knowledge of scripture, so that he can bless others through his teaching and life. We too, have a responsibility to one another to be as skillful in handling scripture as we can be, so that the body of Christ – the church – nurtures and comforts and grows stronger in unity as we teach one another.

When I consider my daily time of bible reading in the light of these thoughts, it is a good deal easier to motivate myself to do it! I am helping others, not just myself, and fulfilling my calling as a member of the church. Through the bible, I see Christ, and he is the end, the purpose of all my studies – to see and know and grow more like him.

May God in his mercy increase my hunger and longing to see Christ, my desire to live with and for him, so that I never grow tired of reading his word and so that it will indeed dwell richly and bear fruit in my life, and be a blessing to those around me.

 

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Wherever?

Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope.

Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.

The proud hold me in utter contempt, but I do not turn away from your instructions.

I meditate on your age-old regulations; O Lord they comfort me.

I become furious with the wicked, because they reject your instructions.

Your decrees have been the theme of my songs wherever I have lived.

I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord; therefore, I obey your instructions.

This is how I spend my life: obeying your commandments.

(Psalm 119. 49-55)

What sweet words I find at the start of this lovely extract from Psalm 119, ” your promise to me”, reminding me where my ultimate security lies in the face of all that life throw at me! In the months ahead, I know that I will find myself in need of that solid reassurance as our family faces the biggest upheaval we have known since our first child arrived and parenthood commenced!

It is likely that in April, in a little church just behind the beach in this picture, my husband will be voted in as the minister of the local parish, and in the summer we will leave the city to learn how to live in a relatively isolated part of Scotland. We have been assured at every step thus far that God is in charge, and his timing is right not only for our family, but also the congregations involved – the one we leave and the one we are called to.

The God who has led us thus far, into marriage; ministry; parenthood; is a faithful God, one who has called us to know and be loved by Him. We have a God who has graciously invited us to be part of His great work in the world, part of the redemption of a people who will praise Him and enjoy Him for ever. We need no approval from any man, it is nothing to us if others regard our decision as foolish, because only God’s opinion really matters – He asks us to go, and to obey His instruction is our privilege and pleasure.

The psalmist is testifying to the way that God’s words to Him are a constant source of comfort in trouble – and is that not the case for us? We have a communicating God, one who has chosen not to remain anonymous or remote, but to be known, and to share His heart with us. That heart is full of tender, forgiving and transforming love, of compassion for the pain of living in a world which is deeply scarred and troubled. Our God knows that we suffer, and His promise to us is constant presence, we are never alone in the dark. He will keep us safe through all that may come, and His promise is that He is always at work in us to refine us into the likeness of Jesus, so that none of what we endure will be wasted. We have a glorious hope of resurrection life, a current promise of divine strength, and the courage of knowing that we are obeying our Lord’s explicit command – a purpose, an enabling and a future to look forward to.

The songs of God’s people have been a source of strength and comfort to me for as long as I can remember, and the best ones are retelling of great truths, ways of calling to mind and celebrating all that we know of God, His acts and character. Many times, I find a phrase coming to mind and as I trace the rest of the verse and sing it to myself, I am blest and it seems my perspective is brought back into line with God’s ways of thinking and working. It is surely this experience to which the psalmist is referring as he talks of how God’s decrees are the theme of his songs….wherever he has lived.

As I look back along the story of my life – the physical places I have lived, but also the stages of life and experiences I have known – I am reassured, that the God who has been faithful through so much will continue to keep His word to me. I can rely on Him, and actively look for the ways He will remind me of His presence with, purpose for, and delight in me.

All praise be to Him and may my life continue to become more and more pleasing to Him!

Just kidding myself….

Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord.

Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts.

They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.

You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully.

Oh that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!

Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands.

As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should!

I will obey your decrees….Please don’t give up on me!

(Ps 119.1-8, NLT) 

As I read these words this morning, I had to laugh. Such a perfect articulation of my thoughts this week and written, well, how long ago?! It is marvellous to receive God’s word so directly, to hear one’s own thoughts turned into prayers by a poet/musician who wrote in a completely different culture, and yet voiced the experience of God’s people down across the centuries.

We know that it is not our ability to keep God’s decrees which dictates our acceptance by him. It is all his grace, and what a relief that is! But obedience is our response to that grace, as the psalmist says – “I will thank you by living as I should!”As I go on following Jesus, my life should increasingly reflect his character, so that my thoughts, words and deeds are all in accord, so that I am a person of integrity.

The apostle Paul told his readers in the Roman church that this transformation comes about through our minds – it is by no means accidental or unwilled.:- “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.“(Romans 12.2)

I have a responsibility as a professing Christian, to be actively growing in my knowledge of God, through his word, through prayerful living and sharing with my fellow believers. If I choose to sit back and drift, then I will not find myself growing in holiness, or humility, or self-control. The human default setting is still towards selfishness, laziness, and dependence on self rather than reliance on God. I find in myself a lack of discipline, a mental laziness when it comes to studying the bible, a casual attitude to intercession, and so many ready excuses for not being what I could be…

I have to tread carefully here, since the devil would love to cast me into a pit of despair over my failures, and bind me with a sense of futility about my efforts to change. That is not God’s will for me, and I reject such an attitude. I rejoice in the forgiveness which I have in Christ, in the fresh start which is given to me daily, and the many personal tokens of God’s love which I receive . But the grief of my failure to live up to the  love which is so lavishly bestowed upon me is real, and I will acknowledge it. Indeed, I think I can even be glad that I feel it, because it is a sign that my spirit is still desiring God, longing to know him better, to live more closely with him. If I did not care about my heavenly Father’s heart, I wouldn’t mind falling short of his perfect ways.

So here is the challenge.. to allow my sense of my shortcomings to be strong enough to drive me to seek God’s help in changing habits and thoughts, re-arranging my days if necessary to do so, while not falling into a trap of despair when the inevitable failures happen!

God is not fooled by my efforts to justify myself, and he is not deceived as others may be by my public behaviour. I am known, through and through, by the only one whose opinion really matters. I have a long way to go, but praise God, the work is still in progress, and the divine craftsman is not for giving up!

May God, the source of hope, fill us completely with joy and peace because we trust in him. Then we shall overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.(from Romans 15.13) Amen Lord, so let it be!