My Hiding Place

15 10 2014

Psalm 119:113-120

I don’t know about you, but a hiding place sounds pretty good right now. Sometimes it is just too much. The burdens are too heavy, the fear presses in too strongly, and the voices around me seem too loud. Instead of courage, I have discouragement and despair eating away at my soul. I want to be five again, climb up in my dad’s lap, and let him chase the monsters away. I want him to hug me and tell me everything is going be okay. I want to close my eyes and picture a tomorrow full of hope, light, ease, laughter, and no struggles. Then I open my eyes, and I’m a grown up again. My circumstances stare back at me unblinkingly, the pain forces its way in again, and I feel weak, vulnerable, and alone.

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” – Psalm 119:114

The fifteenth stanza of Psalm 119 is a place of refuge. Through His Word, God invites us into the safety of His presence, the strength of His power, and the surety of His faithfulness. Circumstances will rage, people will hurt us, pain and heartache seem to go with the territory. But we have a Father with wide open arms who invites us close, who draws us up next to His heart, and reminds us that in Him everything really is going to be okay. He doesn’t promise no more struggles, but He does promise His strength. He doesn’t promise we won’t be afraid, but He does give us His peace. He doesn’t guarantee a life without pain, but He does promise us a life overflowing with joy. Grace is the best hiding place for my heart.

My Jesus Resolution today is to hide. I don’t have to be brave, have it all figured out, or do it by myself. What I do have to do is let myself be loved, to let myself be held, to surrender to His way, His timing, and His goodness. The world can try, and it will, to poke me out of His arms. But the best place to grow up is in the hiding place I find in my Father’s embrace.





Light

13 10 2014

Psalm 119:105-112

It was a dark, summer night at camp. The stars glittered in the sky, winking to be seen away from the city lights. It had been a long day of snacks, crafts, band-aids, and kids learning about Jesus. I was tired, but there was one more mission to accomplish. The campers had all written notes to the camp director and it was my job to deliver them. I started walking to the cabin on the other side of the camp, remembering the simple path that led from here to there. It seemed so straight and clear cut during the day. In the dark, however, I wasn’t sure of the way, and the terrain seemed so much more uneven under my feet. I hesitated, and then reached for the flashlight I should have used from the beginning. With a light illuminating my way, the journey was a joy.

Probably one of the most famous verses in Psalm 119 is found in the fourteenth stanza. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) The psalmist encourages us to hold onto God’s light even when our way seems dark. He describes how the blackness threatens to ensnare him, how discouragement hounds him, and yet clinging to the heavenly lamp allows him to walk safely through the dark.

We all have dark days, times when the shadows threaten to overwhelm our hearts. God’s Word is the flashlight we need to find our way in the darkness. It highlights His faithfulness, shines with His glory, is radiant with His grace, and sparkles with His love. There is enough light in His Word to safely guide you so that you can take the next step.

My Jesus Resolution today is to follow the Light. God’s Word has the power to show me the way, keep me safe, provide me answers, and reveal pitfalls along the way. It also has the power to ignite a fire in me that will chase away the darkness that pulls at my soul. The most important thing the lamp that is God’s Word does is lead me into the presence of Light Himself, and when I walk in Light, darkness cannot overwhelm me.





The Teacher

10 10 2014

Psalm 119:97-104

Teachers are probably the most influential people in our society. Although they get little recognition and even less compensation, they hold the future in their hands every time they pick up a book, do a math problem, or give out a gold star. We all have favorite teachers. More than teaching us the facts, teachers open our minds to new ideas, our eyes to new visions, and our confidence to new heights. The best teachers do more than fill our heads with knowledge. They stretch our understanding and help us walk in the world equipped to face new challenges.

The power of a good teacher is the focus of the thirteenth stanza of Psalm 119. The writer recognizes all the ways that being a student of God’s Word has changed him. It has made him wise, given him understanding, kept him from sin, and transformed even his taste buds.

“I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.” (Psalm 119:102)

Here’s the truth that we must never forget every time we open our Bibles. Through these precious words, God Himself is teaching us. There are information and facts to learn, patterns to recognize and follow, and new truths to understand and hang onto. The most important piece of Bible study, however, is learning to open our eyes to the truth that every time we open His Word we enter His presence. His voice echoes, thunders, invites, and whispers on every page as He guides us to the truth He most wants us to understand. We are deeply loved. We are profoundly wanted, and it is His delight to give us Himself.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be a learner. God is a Teacher. The Bible is His textbook. Learning His lessons, doing His homework, and studying His truths has the power to change my heart. The best part of being His student is His commitment to be with me as my Teacher. The lessons He wants to teach me are grounded in His example and best experienced by walking in His footsteps.





Doing Vs. Being

8 10 2014

Psalm 119:89-96

We live in a doing society. Our value and worth are tied to what we produce during our lifetimes. Money is the ultimate marker of success. Good looks, fame, and power are held up as ideals. Busyness identifies who is important. We invest our lives in a check list of symbols that allow other people to see our worth. We are encouraged, driven, and even shamed into believing that accomplishment and productivity are the final scales by which we will be measured.

Because we are so drenched in doing thinking, it is easy to bring this “I must do” mindset into our relationship with God. Doing thinking says that I must perform in order for God to love me. I must prove myself worthy in order to receive grace. Busyness for God equals approval from God. A completed checklist defines what it means to be wholly pleasing in His sight. The problem is that we cannot accomplish by doing what God gives us freely just by being His. You can’t earn His love. You can’t barter for grace. You don’t rack up points by performance. His delight is in your being His, belonging to Him, and learning how to rest in the truth that He has already done it all for us.

Here’s the deep truth of the twelfth stanza of Psalm 119. “I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.” (Psalm 119:94) The world is emblazoned with the wisdom and power of God. It is firmly written in the heavens. His testimonies shout His faithfulness and whisper glory all around us. Three little words point to the truth that God longs to embed deeply into our hearts. I am yours. These are being words, not doing words. If we can learn to live wholly in these three words, it will turn our world upside down, or should I say right side up.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be His. How long has it been since I spent the day just resting in the luxury of His love? I need to dig the stubborn roots of doing out of my soul, and trust in the grace He lavishes on me every day. When Jesus declared, “It is finished,” on the cross, He was speaking a message that should thunder in my soul. Doing finds its proper place when I embrace the deep meaning of what it means to be His.





Longing

6 10 2014

Psalm 119:81-88

What we long for says a lot about us. We can crave chocolate, want new shoes, or have a yen for a favorite place, but a longing is different. A longing is something that runs deep. It isn’t defined by something temporary or transitory. It is the echo of our hearts. It reveals our love, shines a light on where we place our hope, and identifies what we have decided truly satisfies our souls. Be still for just a moment. Look deep inside, and name your longings.

The eleventh stanza of Psalm 119 pulses with deep longing. The writer longs for the salvation of God, the presence of God, and the movement of God. In times of darkness and trial, our longings are refined and revealed. Immersing ourselves in the Word of God transforms our longings into a deep desire for nothing less than God Himself. Nothing else will do. Lesser longings dissolve when we stand in the glory of His presence. Shallow satisfactions are swallowed up as we cling to the promises that flow from God’s heart.

“My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.” – Psalm 119:81

The psalmist reminds us that the world doesn’t hold the answer for our longings. It offers solutions, answers, entitlements, and pleasures when connection with God is the only thing that will truly meet the longing of our hearts.

My Jesus Resolution today is to feed my longing for God. If I want my longing for God to grow, I need to fill it with pictures of His heart, echoes of His voice, evidence of His movement, and hope for His return. The Bible teaches me not only how to live for today, but how to long for the moment when I will stand in His presence utterly amazed. The world encourages me to feed other longings, lesser longings, dimmer delights. They have the power to dull my longing for God in the same way that His Word has the power to sharpen it. I want my longing for Jesus to crowd out every other longing that tries to take up residence my heart.





Created

3 10 2014

Psalm 119:73-80

Stop for just a moment and be very still. Feel the beating of your heart. Be very aware of your breathing as your lungs fill with air. Look at your fingers. Wiggle your toes. Listen very carefully to the soft sounds that make up the rhythm of your home. Open your eyes and catalog the colors, light, and beauty that they take in in an instant. Now close your eyes and imagine being held in the hands of your Creator. He fashioned your heart. He stretched your legs, shaped your smile, and put together the intricate systems of your body. His fingerprints are on your cells, nerves, blood vessels, and bones. You were designed to live out a purpose. A purpose that requires another act of creation.

There is both worship and wanting in the tenth stanza of Psalm 119. The psalmist begins by acknowledging the creativity, power, and wisdom of God. He understands that his physical heart was shaped and molded by divine fingertips. He then pleads for God to once again unleash His creative energy into his life.

“Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.” – Psalm 119:73

Looking like Jesus is going to require that I have a new heart, a new way of thinking, a new mouth, new ears, new hands, and new feet. I have to have a spirit that breathes in grace, exhales praise, and knows how to surrender. I have to be created anew.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pray that God will create something new in me. I want to exchange worry for worship, grumbling for gratitude, and fear for faith. I want to be still long enough, have faith big enough, and offer prayers bold enough to open my heart to His deep transformation. God is still in the creation business. He is mending broken hearts, re-inflating deflated hope, and infusing Jesus in hearts that are willing to be created in His image.





Gold and Silver

1 10 2014

Psalm 119:65-72

Materialism almost seems programmed into the American DNA. The American dream is drenched with the possibility and opportunity to have more things. Money provides our culture with a measuring stick of success. We proclaim our national priorities by where we choose to invest our wealth. We buy into the idea that more stuff is going to bring us security and happiness. We try to purchase peace of mind and insulate ourselves from disaster by increasing the size of our bank accounts. It is easy for money, in both overt and subtle ways, to become the standard by which we measure our worth and find our direction.

There is deep beauty in the ninth stanza of Psalm 119. He calls us to turn our eyes away from the sparkles of the world to the grace bestowed on us, the knowledge revealed to us, and the dazzling heart of the One who loves us beyond measure. The things this world values are cold and unfeeling. Money doesn’t walk with you when you’re sick, lonely, or overwhelmed. But God does. His Word reveals His rich promises, unfailing love, and the splendor of being covered by His mercy and carried by His strength.

“The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” – Psalm 119:72

The psalmist reminds us that the value of knowing God’s Word, of listening to His voice, and obeying His commands is greater than all of the money the world can pile up. He encourages us to make Bible study our delight and find our peace in the faithfulness of the Lord.

My Jesus Resolution today is to put a dollar bill in my Bible. Every time I open my Bible and see that dollar bill, I want it to remind me of what’s truly important, of where my true worth lies, and how important it is to value the things of heaven rather than the things of the world. Money is a tool God gives us so that we might take care of our families and serve others. The Bible teaches us not to let that tool become our master.