Psalm 119:81-88


81 I am worn out waiting for your rescue,
    but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes are straining to see your promises come true.
    When will you comfort me?
83 I am shriveled like a wineskin in the smoke,
    but I have not forgotten to obey your decrees.
84 How long must I wait?
    When will you punish those who persecute me?
85 These arrogant people who hate your instructions
    have dug deep pits to trap me.
86 All your commands are trustworthy.
    Protect me from those who hunt me down without cause.
87 They almost finished me off,
    but I refused to abandon your commandments.
88 In your unfailing love, spare my life;
    then I can continue to obey your laws.

Here’s what I like about this portion of Psalm 119 (and many of the psalms, for that matter)…the honesty and the differentiation of the author.

First the honesty. The pain, exhaustion, and disappointment of the author clear. It’s acknowledged and stated. It’s not hidden or covered up with super-spiritual fairy dust.

“I am worn out waiting for your rescue…My eyes are straining to see your promises comes true. When will you comfort me? I’m shriveled like a wineskin in the smoke…How long must I wait?”

For some Christians, this revelation of reality is a sign of weakness, or faithlessness. It sounds hopeless and something a “good Christian” wouldn’t say. Which is really weird because…it is written by a faithful person. Texts like this are encouragements to us to go to God and be bold, be honest…express reality. God’s not bothered by it. If Jesus in the garden, then on on the cross, can cry out to God in anguish, well…we can, too,

And second…the differentiation. In the midst of these expressions of reality, the author writes:

…but I have my hope in your word…When will you comfort me? (the implication is that comfort is coming)…but I have not forgotten to obey your decrees…When will you punish those who persecute me?…All your commands are trustworthy, protect me…They almost finished me off, but I refused to abandon your commandments. In your unfailing love, spare my life; then I can continue to obey your laws.

Something amazing is happening here…life is really really sucky. And…the author of this psalm trusts and rests and hopes in the reality of God, in his goodness. The author never loses sight of God. While many Christians deny the realities of their pain because of their fears of being seen as unfaithful, there are many Christians who only live in their realities and hardships, their situations and circumstances. The have the first parts of these verse down pat, on repeat, telling anyone and everyone about how hard and difficult their lives are…and the never make the transition to remembering the hope they have in God. It’s not because this hope isn’t real, it’s because we live in an age of perpetual victimhood, pity, and navel-gazing that attracts attention.

While it may be true that life is really, really hard, it is equally true, if not MORE true, that God is good. In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul writes…

Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Do you see how this text from Paul plays itself out in Psalm 119:81-88? Acknowledge reality, talk to God (praying and thanking), then you’ll experience peace. Merely acknowledging reality does not lead to peace. And, denying reality while talking to God will also NOT lead to the peace of God.

My hope and my prayer for you today, is that you would live in the tension of life- acknowledging its realities while trusting in the hope and goodness of God.

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Psalm 119:73-80


73 You made me; you created me.
    Now give me the sense to follow your commands.

Just because we have been created BY God, we do not have the capacities to fully KNOW God or obey God. This ability (let’s call it “revelation”) only comes from Him. We can ask Him for this sense.

74 May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy,
    for I have put my hope in your word.

The Bible Reading Plan WestWay is using this week has been about being a light. When people experience us, it ought to be the desire of each Christian that people would experience God and his love for them through us; we are to be living and active demonstrations of God’s love to all we meet.

75 I know, O Lord, that your regulations are fair;
    you disciplined me because I needed it.
76 Now let your unfailing love comfort me,
    just as you promised me, your servant.
77 Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live,
    for your instructions are my delight.
78 Bring disgrace upon the arrogant people who lied about me;
    meanwhile, I will concentrate on your commandments.
79 Let me be united with all who fear you,
    with those who know your laws.

Christians find this space in “the church.”

80 May I be blameless in keeping your decrees;
    then I will never be ashamed.

Keeping God’s word through humble, loving, obedience does not lead to shame

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Psalm 119:65-72


65 You have done many good things for me, Lord,
    just as you promised.
66 I believe in your commands;
    now teach me good judgment and knowledge.

I love how this verse speaks to the difference between wisdom/knowledge and transformation. There is a world of difference between having intellectual knowledge and intellectually assenting to what God’s word says and actually being changed and impacted by it.

67 I used to wander off until you disciplined me;
    but now I closely follow your word.

Hebrews 12:6 tells us, “For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” Without the discipline that comes from God, each and every one of us are “prone to wander” (as the hymn notes) and we pursue our own way, our own wisdom…we trust in ourselves and make choices that elevate our own wants, needs and desires over anyone or anything else.

68 You are good and do only good;
    teach me your decrees.
69 Arrogant people smear me with lies,
    but in truth I obey your commandments with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are dull and stupid,
    but I delight in your instructions.
71 My suffering was good for me,
    for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.

This is a punch in the nose to my sensibilities. It’s crazy talk. Often my “suffering” leads to self-pity and petty judgmentalism of other people.

These words, from James 1:2-4, are important, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

72 Your instructions are more valuable to me
    than millions in gold and silver.

What might our lives look like if we pursued God’s instructions, then lived them out in ways that demonstrated transformation, in the same way we pursue financial gain and stature?

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Psalm 119:57-64


57 Lord, you are mine!
    I promise to obey your words!
58 With all my heart I want your blessings.
    Be merciful as you promised.
59 I pondered the direction of my life,
    and I turned to follow your laws.

This is the power of honest self-reflection and self-examination. So many of us take the first step of pondering the direction of our lives, but then we turn to any and every thing other than God. We are in need of the guidance and direction of an objective other. That’s not to say God doesn’t have a bias…He does. But His bias is towards himself.

60 I will hurry, without delay,
    to obey your commands.
61 Evil people try to drag me into sin,
    but I am firmly anchored to your instructions.

I’m learning that the sooner I retreat to God and his commands, the easier obedience to God and his commands is. And, I’ll only be firmly anchored when I know the thing I’m anchored to.

62 I rise at midnight to thank you
    for your just regulations.
63 I am a friend to anyone who fears you—
    anyone who obeys your commandments.
64 O Lord, your unfailing love fills the earth;
    teach me your decrees.

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Psalm 119:49-56


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

God “remembering” his promise(s) to us requires work on our part. We have to know (remember) what He’s promised to us in order for us to call him to it. When we know, we can ask him to remember as well.

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

Once we’ve “remembered” his promise to us, we are revived; we are comforted. We can look back through the history of the Bible and see how God worked in the past, how he saved and delivered people…how he kept his word. And with that history and knowledge (the remembering) we are revived and comforted.

51 The proud hold me in utter contempt,
    but I do not turn away from your instructions.
52 I meditate on your age-old regulations;
    O Lord, they comfort me.

In the face of accusation and derision, we don’t reject God or his word, we meditate on him, and we meditate on it. We think about them and we consider them.

53 I become furious with the wicked,
    because they reject your instructions.
54 Your decrees have been the theme of my songs
    wherever I have lived.
55 I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord;
    therefore, I obey your instructions.
56 This is how I spend my life:
    obeying your commandments.

Because we have allowed the word(s) of God to penetrate deeply into our hearts, we are transformed by them. Wisdom and knowledge leading to transformation.

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Psalm 119:41-48


41 Lord, give me your unfailing love,
    the salvation that you promised me.
42 Then I can answer those who taunt me,
    for I trust in your word.

The way we can properly respond to others is through, and because, of God’s love for us.
43 Do not snatch your word of truth from me,
    for your regulations are my only hope.

I want to live my life as though God’s regulations are my only hope.
44 I will keep on obeying your instructions
    forever and ever.
45 I will walk in freedom,
    for I have devoted myself to your commandments.
46 I will speak to kings about your laws,
    and I will not be ashamed.
47 How I delight in your commands!
    How I love them!
48 I honor and love your commands.
    I meditate on your decrees.

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Psalm 119:33-40


33 Teach me your decrees, O Lord;
    I will keep them to the end.
34 Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions;
    I will put them into practice with all my heart.
35 Make me walk along the path of your commands,
    for that is where my happiness is found.
36 Give me an eagerness for your laws
    rather than a love for money!
37 Turn my eyes from worthless things,
    and give me life through your word.

There are lots of things I give my time and attention to. While they may be fun, enjoyable…even good, they do not provide life in the way God’s words do.

38 Reassure me of your promise,
    made to those who fear you.
39 Help me abandon my shameful ways;
    for your regulations are good.
40 I long to obey your commandments!
    Renew my life with your goodness.

One of the things we frequently talk of in our church is the way we long for wisdom and knowledge that leads to transformation. There are lots of things the Bible can, and does, teach us. And the question is…”What difference is this making in my life?”

It’s one thing to hear what God is saying, to read it, engage it, and study it…but to allow it to transform us is something entirely different.

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December 6 2013

On that day, I woke up to:

No job. No income. A loss in my sense of self, identity, and purpose.

I drove to my office, hurriedly packed my things, then left.

It would a bone crushing few weeks and months.

I did not pick myself up by my bootstraps.I did not resolve to do better. I did not dig deeply into the reserves of the Protestant work ethic. I did not become the self-made man or fall for the deception of self-sufficiency.

This was all part of my undoing. And it was only then that the miraculous happened.

Christ revealed who I was. Christ’s identity of me had more value, and carried more weight, then any other title or role I could lay claim to or might be given to me by another person or organizations. Christ gave me the inner strength only available through the power of the Holy Spirit, and my trust in him grew day after day.

Maybe you’re having one of those days today.

Maybe, everything you had is gone.

Maybe, the people whom you trusted have let you down in a catastrophic way.

Maybe, your hopes and dreams, your aspirations are crushed.

Maybe, you’re wondering how you’re going to get through the next 5 minutes, much less then next week. God knows it, and God sees it.

You’re not alone, and frankly, you’re not sufficient enough to get out of this mess. My hope and prayer for you in the midst of your most seemingly soul-crushing moment, is that you will come to the end of yourself, and find the peace and satisfaction and joy that only comes through finding yourself in Christ.

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Psalm 119:25-32


25 I lie in the dust; revive me by your word.

26 I told you my plans, and you answered. Now teach me your decrees.

27 Help me understand the meaning of your commandments, and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.

28 I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word.

29 Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.

30 I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations.

31 I cling to your laws. Lord, don’t let me be put to shame!

32 I will pursue your commands, for you expand my understanding.

As pastor Joe read Psalm 119 this past week, my mind was flooded with the images of people within our church congregation. Over the past 16 years of ministry, I’ve had so many conversations with people about their lives- the hardships and realities faced and the situations and circumstances they are in.

The honest answer to so many of these things is to “Seek God and trust in His goodness, His character, and His identity.” To know that He’s not abandoned them; He’s not ignoring them.

We learn about these things, we see, hear, and experience their realities in the Bible. And yet so many Christians neither take the time to read what God has for them not put into place and take action on the things they do read and learn.

And for many, their cycle of frustration, anger, bitterness, sorrow, and self-deceit continues.

But, it’s not just “those people.” I need these reminders, too.

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Psalm 119:17-24


17 Be good to your servant, that I may live and obey your word.

The implication here is that our ability to live and be obedient to God’s word depends on His goodness. Thank God “goodness” is who He is.

18 Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.

Without opened eyes, will be unable to see the truths in God’s instructions. I can read the words, I can see the words, but seeing the truth contained in them requires something else entirely. See Matthew 13:14-15.

19 I am only a foreigner in the land. Don’t hide your commands from me!

20 I am always overwhelmed with a desire for your regulations.

I want this in my own life. I want the driving force of my life to be the pursuit of God’s way.

21 You rebuke the arrogant; those who wander from your commands are cursed.

22 Don’t let them scorn and insult me, for I have obeyed your laws.

23 Even princes sit and speak against me, but I will meditate on your decrees.

I don’t need to respond to accusation; I simply need to reflect on the way of God.

24 Your laws please me; they give me wise advice.

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