November 30 – To Know Your Place

Friday, November 30, 2012


November 30 – To Know Your Place

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Imagine my surprise over the last few years when one of the most basic things I absolutely knew was upended.  I grew up knowing there were five senses: touch, sight, taste, scent, and hearing.  That was it. The knowledge was firm and solid.  Then, I began reading about and hearing about other senses.

Our bodies react to things like temperature, time, and pain. But, one that many point to as a sixth sense is our equilibrium and balance.  This system in our inner ear allows us to sense our body’s movement, the direction we go and the rate of speed at which we are moving. The kinesthetic sense that tells us where our body is, so we can touch our own nose with the tip of a finger, even if our eyes are closed, is also part of this.  These two things help us know our place in the universe.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet … (Psalm 8:3-6).

We can sense our place, but sometimes we forget who we are.  We are more than flesh and blood. We are more than our five (or however many) senses. We are more than the things we do and experience.  We are unique as a creation of God.  And it is Him who resides within us that gives us our identity.

“But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding." (Job 32:8)

“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:26)

We are made up of particles from the universe around us, as common as dirt, but to the Lord of all Creation, to the ruler of the universe, we are everything!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

“…and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” (Revelation 1:5)

When you stand up today and retain your balance, when you shut your eyes and touch your nose with the tip of your finger, when you see a sunset or hear a beautiful song, when you taste holiday goodies or smell cookies baking; you have been given an extraordinary gift. You have been given life by the Creator.

“And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

Your place … your time in the world is now.  You have been created and are loved by God Almighty.

November 29 – To Touch

Thursday, November 29, 2012


November 29 – To Touch

In the New Testament we see Jesus reaching out to touch people time and again in order to heal them.

A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.” (Matthew 8:2-3)

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. (Matthew 8:15)

Two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”   “Yes, Lord,” they replied.” Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you’; and their sight was restored. (Matthew 8:27-29)

These are just a few of the instances where healing came through Jesus’ touch.  When I did a web search on the power of touch, one of the first references came from WebMD.  A touch, even from a stranger, will help to lower anxiety when faced with stressful news.  It helps babies grow and assists children as they attempt to concentrate in school, it is also known to reduce chronic illness and disease.

Research as well as anecdotal evidence proves that touch has the power to relieve stress and thus to heal, it has the power to create bonds between people, to help them connect in amazing ways; yet we still find it difficult to reach beyond ourselves in order to touch someone.  Children in all sorts of homes, no matter the level of wealth, live without affectionate touch.

My mother was one of those children.  The only person who ever touched her as an infant was a nurse hired to care for her.  It took her a long time as an adult to be comfortable with that type of love.  My father, on the other hand, was very affectionate and spent those years teaching Mom and assuring her that it was OK to be affectionate with her children.  There are pictures of her holding me on her lap, but if you look closely enough, you see that it isn't a snuggle moment, it is a professional attitude adopted for the photographer.

I didn't know that about her, though, because I was my father’s daughter.  I remember my mother as being affectionate, but my sister doesn't  It’s because I was the one who moved in to Mom for the hugs and snuggles.  I was constantly hugging her or holding on to her arm. I would curl up beside her on the sofa or crawl into her lap when she was in the recliner. When she was dying in the hospital, I crawled into the bed beside her so we could just hold on.  She never refused my affection; she just didn't know how to initiate it.

I am still that way. I surprise waitstaff in restaurants when I touch their forearm as I’m telling them how much I appreciate their service.  Their smiles grow enormously because of a connection that was made.  That’s all it takes … a touch.

November 28 – To Taste

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


November 28 – To Taste

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2-3)

How much of life do you experience through your tastebuds?  When you are at the ocean, do you taste the salt in the air? When you wake up in the morning, do you try to clear the fuzziness from your mouth so that you become more alert?

We have more than ten thousand taste buds on both the tongue and roof of our mouth. When saliva breaks down the food we eat, the brain responds to the information, telling us what flavor we are tasting.  Although the sense of taste is one of our weakest senses, we receive a great deal of information as things pass through our lips.  We experience an intense range of tastes, from sour to sweet, salty to bitter.

Think about the metaphors we use for life around us as we experience moments.  Bittersweet is used to describe moments that are both happy and sad, someone who is salty might be a little risqué in their speech and we've all experienced more than our share of sour people.  When something goes badly for us, we might say it leaves a sour taste in our mouth.  When someone does something nice to us, we refer to them as sweet.  A person who spends more time being unhappy is probably a bitter person.

All of these things are part of the experience of being human, so why would we not want to taste and see that the Lord is good?  The Psalmist tells us to experience all that the Lord has to offer us.  Tasting and experiencing are the same thing.  Peter tells his readers that they have already tasted … or experienced the Lord and have found that the relationship with Him is good.  Now that they are certain of that fact, it is time for them to grow past the ease of acting like babies and grow up.

The Lord has created us to be such wonderful beings and given us the ability to experience the world around us in so many different and creative ways.  Tasting the world is yet another way we have to experience the world.  Today, as you taste things, consider just how extraordinary that experience is.

November 27 – To Smell

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


November 27 – To Smell

The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.” (Genesis 8:21)

The priest shall take a handful of the flour and oil, together with all the incense, and burn this as a memorial portion on the altar, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. (Leviticus 2:2)

Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. (Revelation 8:3-4)

Our sense of smell tells us a lot about things we’re going to encounter, from food to people to places and things.  I love the smell of lilacs in the spring or lilies on Easter Sunday morning. I used to work across the street from a barbecue restaurant and when they smoked their meat, my mouth began to salivate. The country has its own smells, rarely as attractive as those; from dead skunks to pig manure, you know you’re around farms. But, the scent of freshly mown grass, crops that are in the middle of harvest, and fields of clover all remind you of the beauty of the land.

For the Lord, the offerings of his people brought an aroma to Him that was pleasing. In the Old Testament, those various scents were released when burning on the altar.  It wasn't just the scent itself that was pleasing to the Lord, but the prayers that followed that scent into the throne room.

When Noah and his family opened the ark and released the animals into the world, the first thing they did was to build an altar and burn an offering to the Lord.  That scent was pleasing to Him.  When the children of the Exodus brought their sacrifices to the temple to be burned on the altar, the scent was pleasing because they were in obedience to His Law.

Long after the time of the Temple and burned sacrifice, our prayers are still before the Lord as a pleasing aroma. In Revelation we read that they lift up from the altar with incense as an offering.

The Lord is pleased when we pray and continue to build the relationship with Him that He wants to have with us.  Let our prayers be as an offering whose aroma is pleasing to the Lord.

November 26 – To Hear

Monday, November 26, 2012


November 26 – To Hear

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:11-15)

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say." (John 8:42-43)

I get frustrated when people look like they are listening, but I know their minds are a million miles away. Nothing I am saying to them means a thing because they aren't fully engaged in the conversation.

Any speaker can tell when even a few people aren't paying attention.  The worst thing is, for me, these are the people I begin to focus on, trying to do anything to grab their attention.  I've listened as many speakers and pastors talk about these people in their congregations.  Others might be listening, but their faces turn into bland and dull images.  They don’t actively listen and participate in what the speaker is delivering.

Then, there are those who are the joy of every speaker.  Their faces light up with excitement as they become part of the process.  Their eyes reflect the emotions the speaker is delivering and react to the words.  When they agree or get excited, their body language tells the speaker that they are right there with him or her; when they don’t get it, they let the speaker know there might be need for more explanation.  But, at every moment, these people are not only actively listening, but they are hearing beyond the words, they hear something that is being spoken from one heart to another.

Jesus said that the word of God is like seed.  Some people hear it and then lose it because they have no strong roots. It’s all very exciting and they are right there with the speaker and then, they quit listening and all of a sudden, it’s gone from their lives.  There are those who hear and actively listen and are so excited by what they hear, but the world rips them apart and they can’t rise above the worries.

It isn't always easy to hear the message of God that comes to us through Jesus Christ.  In fact, Jesus says that many will never be able to hear it.  They just won’t listen with open hearts.

But for those who do listen and hear and absorb the message of love, they will not only grow, but will produce fruit that is seen by everyone around them.

Do you listen? Will you hear?

November 25 – To See

Sunday, November 25, 2012


November 25 – To See

“But blessed are your eyes, for the see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Matthew 13:17)

 “Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

When Jesus came to earth and walked among us, very few people who met him fully understood who he was.  Can you begin to imagine what it was like for those who recognized the power of God flowing through Him?  Think about His mother and what it must have been like to know how close she was to the Lord.  Then, think about Simeon and Anna who were at the temple when he was presented for circumcision (Luke 2:21-39).  They knew they were looking upon the face of God.

Jesus told Nathanael in John 1:50 that he recognized Jesus as the Son of God and King of Israel because Jesus had seen him under the fig tree. Then Jesus told him that he (Nathanael) would see heaven open and angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

For a brief moment in time, there were those who actually got to see Jesus in human form and for the most part, they didn't know what a gift they had been given.

Today, we have to rely on faith.  Faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; faith that what scripture tells us to be true about Him is true.  We don’t have the opportunity to walk beside the Jordan River and see Jesus perform miracles and watch as He heals a blind man by making mud and placing it on the man’s eyes.  We aren't able to see Him heal the centurion’s son or change water into wine, feed five thousand people or bring Lazarus from the tomb.

Peter says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8)

It is faith that we rely on even when we can’t see Jesus face to face.  It is faith and believing in him that will fill us with joy.  It is faith that brings salvation and a promise.  We will see Jesus Christ face to face.

November 24 – Taw - Psalm 119:169-176

Saturday, November 24, 2012


November 24 – Taw - Psalm 119:169-176

Let my cry come before thee, O LORD; give me understanding according to thy word!
Let my supplication come before thee; deliver me according to thy word.
My lips will pour forth praise that thou dost teach me thy statutes.
My tongue will sing of thy word, for all thy commandments are right.
Let thy hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen thy precepts.
I long for thy salvation, O LORD, and thy law is my delight.
Let me live, that I may praise thee, and let thy ordinances help me.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments.

Let me live that I might praise you.

Each breath we draw is a gift
The hues and shades of color explode for our eyes to see
Aromas and tastes fill our senses

Let me live that I might praise you.

Each step we take moves us forward
We feel the warmth of arms which embrace us
We hear music as the earth responds to its Creator

Let me live that I might praise you.

Each beat of our heart renews us
Grass, trees, flowers and plants restore freshness to the world
Sweet water flows from springs to sustain us.

Let me live that I might praise you.

Each hair on our head is numbered.
Birds, animals both wild and tame, are known by their creator
The people we see are loved by the same.

Let me live that I might praise you.

The words on our lips and thoughts in our heart
Are needed to tell the world of its Savior
The Word of God made manifest to us.

Let me live that I might praise you.

November 23 – Shin - Psalm 119:161-168

Friday, November 23, 2012


November 23 – Shin - Psalm 119:161-168

Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of thy words.
I rejoice at thy word like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love thy law.
Seven times a day I praise thee for thy righteous ordinances.
Great peace have those who love thy law; nothing can make them stumble.
I hope for thy salvation, O LORD, and I do thy commandments.
My soul keeps thy testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
I keep thy precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before thee.

If you were to take one moment to praise God seven different times during your day, would that change you?  Would it distract you from selfish behavior or whining or gossiping or negative thoughts enough to remind you that it is God who is in control of the world, not you?   Would refocusing seven times each day on the Creator of the Universe, praising Him for His creation and His activity in your life and on this earth make you more productive and happier?  Would it offer something different in your life that would make it better?

The church desperately needed a teacher for the sixth grade Sunday school class and Dad had talked to everyone.  No one wanted to take those kids.  It wasn't that they were particularly awful or anything, they had simply worn out too many teachers.  I was a senior in high school and after Mom and Dad had talked about it, they asked if I would consider taking the class.  That was a difficult decision to make.  Mom had the high school class and I loved being in there. We had great fun together, but I also realized that this would be terrific experience for me, so I decided to say yes.

The next few weeks were spent in intense preparation.  I pulled games and lesson plans together, anything to keep these kids interested.  Sixth grade is a fabulous year for kids.  They are just beginning to really look beyond childhood and seeing what it might be like to be adults.  But, they still have a sense of wonder about so many things and their little minds are cocky and bratty and intelligent and yearning.

The first day in the class came and I was ready for anything.  I was ready for everything. When the hour was finished, I went home for lunch, put my head down on the table and cried.  They didn't give a hoot about my planning or my great ideas. They tested me and I failed.  The problem was, I couldn't give up.

Mom gave me the best advice I’d ever had that day for working with kids who are forced to come to Sunday school and desperately want to enjoy it, but have no plans to help make that happen.  She told me to stop and ask them to join me in prayer every single time they started getting out of control.

Well, I could do that.  The next Sunday morning I had more plans and ideas and I was ready once more to tackle a room filled with bright and bratty kids, and I had one more tool in my belt to manage this group.  I’m certain that they might have told their parents the Greenwood family prayed a lot, because we prayed a lot that morning.  In that hour long period, we stopped to pray at least five times.  But, each time, I got their attention for just a little longer.  The weeks went by and we didn't have to pray quite so often. Either they were better or I had gotten better, or if I’m fully honest, all that prayer just begged God to hang out with us and pay attention.

Prayer changed that classroom little by little and has worked in every crazy classroom filled with kids who really didn't want to come to Sunday school I've ever managed.  We focused away from ourselves and onto the one solid and firm foundation we can trust in a crazy world.

Seven times a day – Praising the Lord.  That seems like it could change a lot of hearts.

November 22 – Give Thanks

Thursday, November 22, 2012


November 22 – Give Thanks

Offering thanks to God for all that He has given us is a predominant part of the Christian life. On this day, we celebrate not only what the Lord has given us, but the abundance with which He pours out His blessings upon His people.

Psalm 136:1-9

1      Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
                      His love endures forever. 
2      Give thanks to the God of gods.
                      His love endures forever. 
3      Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
                      His love endures forever. 

4      to him who alone does great wonders,
                      His love endures forever. 
5      who by his understanding made the heavens,
                      His love endures forever. 
6      who spread out the earth upon the waters,
                      His love endures forever. 
7      who made the great lights—
                      His love endures forever. 
8      the sun to govern the day,
                      His love endures forever. 
9      the moon and stars to govern the night;
                      His love endures forever.

November 21 – Resh - Psalm 119:153-160

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


November 21 – Resh - Psalm 119:153-160

Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget thy law.
Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to thy promise!
Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek thy statutes.
Great is thy mercy, O LORD; give me life according to thy justice.
Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from thy testimonies.
I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep thy commands.
Consider how I love thy precepts! Preserve my life according to thy steadfast love.
The sum of thy word is truth; and every one of thy righteous ordinances endures for ever.

“Look on my afflictions” or “Pay attention to me!”

There is nothing more annoying than to watch a small child in a grocery store throw a tantrum.  We've all seen them, many of your mothers have experienced them, and probably many of our mothers put up with them as well.

Mom wasn't above walking out of a grocery store when I was a small child.  One day, though, with her arms filled with groceries, far from the car, I decided I’d had enough and sat down on the sidewalk and threw my tantrum.  There she was with a screaming child and bags of groceries in her arms.  Please remember that this would have been in the early 1960s and there were no such things as handles on the bags.  She was holding several brown paper bags.

Being the coordinated mother that she was, she balanced on one foot, while trying to get me to stand up with the other by sliding it under my bottom and trying to lift me.

An extremely (un) helpful older woman walked right up to mom and rather than offer to take the groceries out of her arms or help manage the child, decided to yell at mom about how she was obviously abusing her child.

It made sense that an infant was begging for attention, but mom never really got past the fact that an adult was doing the same thing in a very different way.

We all clamor for attention in a very busy world and many of us do so in quite unique ways.  The Lord doesn't really care what it is that we do or how we express our need for His attention, He is glad to be there for us and I think this is something we often forget.  We don’t have to go to extreme measures to flag Him down.

He’s right there, ready to pay attention

November 20 – Qof - Psalm 119:145-152

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


November 20 – Qof - Psalm 119:145-152

With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep thy statutes.
I cry to thee; save me, that I may observe thy testimonies.
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in thy words.
My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate upon thy promise.
Hear my voice in thy steadfast love; O LORD, in thy justice preserve my life.
They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from thy law.
But thou art near, O LORD, and all thy commandments are true.
Long have I known from thy testimonies that thou hast founded them for ever.

It seems as if the Psalmist gets the same type of sleep I get when I am stressed or worried about something. I’m awake long before dawn and in the middle of the night, I find myself lying there, desperately trying to relax enough to fall back to sleep.  There is nothing worse than being awake when the world is asleep and finding that all you want to do when the world is awake is sleep.  On the nights when I end up reading through most of the night because I’m not sleeping, I fall soundly asleep about eight o’clock in the morning.

One night I was in college and couldn't sleep. My roommate was sound asleep in the bunk bed above me and I wasn't going to turn on a light or get up and do anything because I didn't want to disturb her, so I just lay there praying to go back to sleep.  It wasn't working. I tried everything.  At one point, I began reciting The Lord’s Prayer over and over and over again, hoping that the familiar words would relax me and bring me comfort so I could release whatever it was that was causing me to be upset.

Other times I have attempted to recite as much scripture as possible or simply pray whether silently or out loud.  When I’m alone, I will turn on a light and read the Bible or do anything to send me back to sleep.  Sometimes I can relax, but most of the time I remain awake.

Maybe those moments are when God is trying to get my attention.  I've tried to make myself available.  Nothing profound has really ever happened; generally my frustration begins to build after being awake for a few hours.

For many years, I slept with the television going in the background, knowing that it would distract me from the things which brought me stress and would offer enough white noise to drown out the insanity of my own mind.

I trust the Lord and I count on Him to supply my every need.  There were some mornings I told Him that He would be the only way I made it through that day and when I got to the end of the day, I was grateful for His strength.

When I think that I am alone in those long, dark nights, the words of the Psalmist comfort me even when they don’t put me back to sleep.  I am never alone.  When I am awake, He is with me; when I sleep He surrounds me with His care.  When I am stressed, He comforts me.

November 19 – Tsade - Psalm 119:137-144

Monday, November 19, 2012


November 19 – Tsade - Psalm 119:137-144

Righteous art thou, O LORD, and right are thy judgments.
Thou hast appointed thy testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness.
My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget thy words.
Thy promise is well tried, and thy servant loves it.
I am small and despised, yet I do not forget thy precepts.
Thy righteousness is righteous for ever, and thy law is true.
Trouble and anguish have come upon me, but thy commandments are my delight.
Thy testimonies are righteous for ever; give me understanding that I may live.

There is a lot of faith expressed in this strophe.  I wonder if I would ever be able to claim the same strength in my faith.

I don’t know about you, but when I am fighting my foes and am feeling small and despised, I don’t remember much that is good.  I get petty and bitter and angry and ugly. There are times it takes everything I have not to lash out in that anger and say terribly hurtful things.  I have learned throughout the years that my words generally make things worse, not better and a few moments of self-righteous indignation add up to time spent apologizing and begging forgiveness, so it has gotten easier for me to stop myself from saying those hurtful things out loud, but trust me, I still say them inside.

The Psalmist promises that he doesn't forget the Lord’s precepts and that the Lord’s commandments are his delight.  I’d like to think that was true about myself, but when I am at my angriest or am feeling hurt and wounded, or feel as if trouble and anguish are surrounding me, I am so self-focused, I can’t think about anything other than my pain.

One of the ideas the Psalmist lifts up, though is that of the Lord’s faithfulness and that His testimonies are righteous forever.  That is why I am able to pull out of those times when it seems as if darkness surrounds me and I lose sight of the Lord’s precepts and commandments.  Because no matter how long I choose to wallow in my anger and pain, the Lord’s view is longer and deeper. He can wait as long as it takes. He has all the time in the world and when I find Him again, the only thing I will find from Him is righteousness and faithfulness.  When I come before Him, those are what He offers me, all I have to do is accept.

Faith is what it takes for us to see that there is something beyond the murky mess we create in our lives.  Understanding this brings us life.

November 18 – Pe - Psalm 119:129-136

Sunday, November 18, 2012


November 18 – Pe -  Psalm 119:129-136

Thy testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.
The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
With open mouth I pant, because I long for thy commandments.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is thy wont toward those who love thy name.
Keep steady my steps according to thy promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep thy precepts.
Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes.
My eyes shed streams of tears, because men do not keep thy law.

The basic tenets of scripture are pretty straightforward. From the beginning of creation, to the end of all time, everything the Lord has set in front of humanity has been done because of love. Even when He wanted to destroy everything, He was reminded that His love was greater than His anger and from that humanity found redemption and hope in a rainbow.

His word, His law, the message that weaves throughout the Bible are all about God’s love for His people and His desire that they return that love in a strong relationship with Him. He doesn't want to be a puppet master who pulls our strings and He doesn't want to set us up for failure.  What He wants from us is acknowledgement that He is our Creator and Savior and He wants us to understand that our lives are much better when lived within His will.

It doesn't seem like it should be that difficult, but we, in all of our short-sighted wisdom certainly can cause chaos.  We fight for our own way and cause disruption around us.  We demand power and oppress others in order to gain that power.  We are so susceptible to self-centered motivation and find it easy to forget that we are simply children of a loving God and all we need to do is rely on His word.

The Bible is not a weapon to be used against those who offend us or upset us, it is a way of comprehending the heart of God. The Psalmist says it gives brings light and understanding. Scripture is God’s way of communicating with us on a very general and a very personal basis and it is His story of how much He loves us.  No wonder the Psalmist says he pants for the words of God and longs for His commandments.  Love fills the pages of this book. As we read it looking for the story of the power of love from the Creator of all things, we will find joy, peace, love, hope and redemption.

November 17 – Ayin - Psalm 119:121-128

Saturday, November 17, 2012


November 17 – Ayin - Psalm 119:121-128

I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors.
Be surety for thy servant for good; let not the godless oppress me.
My eyes fail with watching for thy salvation, and for the fulfilment of thy righteous promise.
Deal with thy servant according to thy steadfast love, and teach me thy statutes.
I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies!
It is time for the LORD to act, for thy law has been broken.
Therefore I love thy commandments above gold, above fine gold.
Therefore I direct my steps by all thy precepts; I hate every false way.

Can you imagine what our lives would look like if the Lord dealt his people with anything but love?  The Psalmist then calls on the Lord to act for His law has been broken.  What if the Lord did act with justice and righteous anger every time we broke His law?

I, for one, would be in misery every moment of the day.  I could not stand up under the Lord’s anger for the things that I consider to be small misdemeanors, yet I know there is every probability that things I have said or done have wounded someone’s heart in ways I can never repair.

When I choose to act out of anger rather than love or respond with bitterness or nastiness rather than grace, I don’t deserve the Lord’s love to be poured out on me.  When I gossip about someone or place my needs before theirs because I think I deserve that, I live according to the world’s rules, not God’s … and I don’t deserve His grace.

Every day we want the Lord to treat us with love and grace, yet we treat those around us with disdain. We expect justice and equality, never knowing what that might really mean.  We want people to act just like us, to behave in the manner we believe is correct, to live according to rules we have applied to the culture, to fit in with our understanding of the world, to abide by our interpretation of Scripture.

We miss the point. Everything is to be predicated with love.  Every single consideration we give to another person on this earth is to begin with love.  We can’t judge or set rules or create expectations unless we begin with love … for each person, not for a specific group that makes sense.  God doesn’t lump us all into groups and then choose which will be loved and forgiven, he loves each person for who they are first and He asks us to do the same.

Ask the Lord every day to deal with you in love, then turn around and love each person that you encounter, whether in person or around the world.

November 16 – Samek - Psalm 119:113-120

Thursday, November 15, 2012


November 16 – Samek - Psalm 119:113-120

I hate double-minded men, but I love thy law.
Thou art my hiding place and my shield; I hope in thy word.
Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God.
Uphold me according to thy promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for thy statutes continually!
Thou dost spurn all who go astray from thy statutes; yea, their cunning is in vain.
All the wicked of the earth thou dost count as dross; therefore I love thy testimonies.
My flesh trembles for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments.

My grandmother did not like it if we talked about ‘loving’ an inanimate object.  She informed in more than once, I’m afraid, that we could only love other people.  Now, I’m sure that if I had pushed her on that regarding scripture, especially the way the Psalmist uses the word in these verses, she would have been alright with this usage.

However, the other word she didn't like to hear us use was ‘hate,’ especially when it came to people.  In her mind, there was never a reason at all to hate someone.  And I’m absolutely certain that there was no one on earth my grandmother hated.  She was one of the most loving people you could know and she had been hurt by people who should have loved her the most.  But, she never hated them, before a heart could beat even once, she had forgiven any action and turned the other cheek.

I’m not sure how she was able to continually live like that, be a pastor’s wife, raise eight children and live in the world, but she did.  Every moment of every day, she relied on God. When her legs quit working well, she counted on God to get her around so she could keep her home open for friends and family to show up.  When her eyes quit working well and she could no longer embroider, she began to work with larger pieces.  She wanted to continually keep her hands busy, because idle hands were the devil’s workshop.  She spent a great deal of time asking my father’s advice on how she should share the little bit of money that came into her life.  She had a large number of charities she donated funds to and cared deeply about all of them. She was constantly aware of the things her grandchildren were doing and later on, her great grandchildren.  Until the end of her life, she walked with the Lord.  She never really preached to her grandkids, but every morning the Upper Room was at her place at the table.  Sometimes we would read the devotion, other times she would read it to us and then we prayed together.

I can’t imagine there was ever a moment when that woman wasn't in direct connection with her Lord.  It was He who held her up. The Lord was her hiding place and her shield.  When her days were long, she went to Him, when her nights were longer, she counted on the joy that He had placed in her heart.

She knew great love and avoided hate because she knew the Lord and lived by His word.

November 15 – Nun - Psalm 119:105-112


November 15 – Nun - Psalm 119:105-112

Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to observe thy righteous ordinances.
I am sorely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to thy word!
Accept my offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me thy ordinances.
I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget thy law.
The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from thy precepts.
Thy testimonies are my heritage for ever; yea, they are the joy of my heart.
I incline my heart to perform thy statutes for ever, to the end.
We use (or hear) the phrase “My life is in your hands.”  I think the Psalmist has it right when he says, “I hold my life in my hand continually.”  We really do. 

I drive over the tracks of a very busy railroad in the middle of Iowa on a regular basis.  Every time I drive over them, I am aware of the many deaths which have occurred because people don’t pay attention to the dangers.

One night, I came upon a slew of emergency vehicles sitting on the road parallel to the tracks.  Someone from the railroad was filming the action and there were rail vehicles working to get a crumpled, jumbled mess of something off the tracks.  It was dark and difficult to see and traffic was being moved past the accident. I wasn't sure what I was seeing.  The next day, I checked the local news for that area and a young man had been killed when his car was pushed nearly a mile down the track by an oncoming train.  He had decided to race the train for the intersection.

I know that I take my life in my hands the moment I get behind the wheel of my car, but for some reason, every time I drive over a set of railroad tracks, I have a need to ensure that I will make it across safely.

Every morning when we wake up, our life is in our hands.  The decisions we make during the day can sometimes be the difference between life and death, or even more importantly, life eternal and death.  The Psalmist tells us that the word of the Lord is a lamp to our feet, a light to our path.  We don’t have to travel in darkness.

When I drive on the back roads of Iowa after dark, I worry about wildlife crossing the road in front of me. I prefer the wide spread out view that my high beams give me and keep a watchful eye on the fields, the ditches and the road.  I like having a light to lead me down the path.

Having a light lead me down the path of life is also something that I am grateful for.  The word of the Lord is a lamp … a bright light for that path.

November 14 – Lamed - Psalm 119:89-96

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


November 14 – Lamed - Psalm 119:89-96

For ever, O LORD, thy word is firmly fixed in the heavens.
Thy faithfulness endures to all generations; thou hast established the earth, and it stands fast.      
By thy appointment they stand this day; for all things are thy servants.
If thy law had not been my delight, I should have perished in my affliction.
I will never forget thy precepts; for by them thou hast given me life.
I am thine, save me; for I have sought thy precepts.
The wicked lie in wait to destroy me; but I consider thy testimonies.
I have seen a limit to all perfection, but thy commandment is exceedingly broad.

(Note: somehow I managed to get Mem before Lamed. I’ve corrected the titles and apologize that the strophes are flipped around here in the blog.)

Astronomers can see stars today that exploded long before the earth was populated. The heavens show us a glimpse into eternity past.  The same stars and planets that have been seen by different people throughout history remain in place, a sign of the firm foundation the Lord laid for His creation.

We live on the earth which was established by the Lord as home to generations which have come before us and to those who will follow us.  In all that we can see and understand, this is the one location which would support us and give us life and a place we can call home.

He is faithful to us in all things.  He has always been faithful to us and he will always be faithful to His people.

He is steadfast, He is eternal. He is always the same.

What better way to know Him better than through His word?  The Lord exposed Himself to us in two ways.  He gave us His word and He gave us creation.  Either tells us so much about Him.  Both are eternal.  The truths of creation and the truths found in scripture are unchanging, no matter what imprint we attempt to place on them.  They, and we, are simply servants and we can not change His creation, nor can we change His word.

November 13 – Mem - Psalm 119:97-104

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


November 13 – Mem - Psalm 119:97-104

Oh, how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day.
Thy commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged, for I keep thy precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep thy word.
I do not turn aside from thy ordinances, for thou hast taught me.
How sweet are thy words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.

There is peace.

After the pleading of the last strophes, the Psalmist takes a moment to reflect on the blessings that come to him from the Law.

He gains wisdom because of the time he spends with it. I envy those people who are able to quote a reassuring scripture passage when it is needed.  My father was like that.  There was so much scripture anchored within him, that he was able to call it up at a moment’s notice.

The Psalmist has understanding.  I think of the things I have learned about people through reading scripture.  In the pages of scripture I see broken, rejected people who come back from their pain to lead lives that not only honor the Lord, but bring great glory to His name.  It wasn’t the famous or popular or wealthy who were called to serve the kingdom; it was people like me and you.  I understand people better because of scripture.

The Psalmist tells us that spending time meditating on the Law has helped keep him from awful mistakes. He stays away from evil and hates the false way.  I’d like to think that were true of every person who spends time in Scripture, and sometimes it is not at all.  But, for those whose lives are dedicated to understanding what it is God wants from their lives and who search the scriptures in order to find that understanding; they will find the knowledge of their place in the world.

When that comes. There is peace.

November 12 – Kaf - Psalm 119:81-88

Monday, November 12, 2012


November 12 – Kaf - Psalm 119:81-88

My soul languishes for thy salvation; I hope in thy word.
My eyes fail with watching for thy promise; I ask, “When wilt thou comfort me?”
For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten thy statutes.
How long must thy servant endure? When wilt thou judge those who persecute me?
Godless men have dug pitfalls for me, men who do not conform to thy law.
All thy commandments are sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
They have almost made an end of me on earth; but I have not forsaken thy precepts.
In thy steadfast love spare my life, that I may keep the testimonies of thy mouth.

Have you ever felt as if you were all alone and no matter how much time you spent praying or reading Scripture, God was just not following through?

I suppose we might consider the Psalmist to be a little overly dramatic in these words.  His soul languishes, his eyes fail, he cries out ‘when,’ he feels like a wineskin which hangs above the fire, blackened by smoke and shriveled so it is no longer useful, he cries out ‘how long’!

Though I haven’t used those descriptive phrases, I have called out, sometimes in an overly dramatic way: when will you take care of me, how long must I wait?

I believe that since God knows my innermost thoughts, I can use all the drama I please when he and I are in a quiet place together, so high drama sometimes permeates our conversations.

The Psalmist feels confident that he has not strayed from God.  He hopes, he waits, he remembers and yet, his enemies are still in power and he has to put up with their lies and poor behavior.

It’s the final line of this strophe, though, that sets the Psalmist apart from me.  I want God to help me because I can’t bear the stress any longer.  I want Him to rescue me from those who attack me because I’m tired of being abused. I want God to stand beside me so that I can live my life without struggle.

The Psalmist wants the Lord to give him life so he might keep the Law that has come from God.

November 11 – Yod - Psalm 119:73-80

Sunday, November 11, 2012


November 11 – Yod - Psalm 119:73-80

Thy hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding
      that I may learn thy commandments.
Those who fear thee shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in thy word.
I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that in faithfulness thou hast afflicted me.
Let thy steadfast love be ready to comfort me according to thy promise to thy servant.
Let thy mercy come to me, that I may live; for thy law is my delight.
Let the godless be put to shame, because they have subverted me with guile; 
     as for me, I will meditate on thy precepts.
Let those who fear thee turn to me, that they may know thy testimonies.
May my heart be blameless in thy statutes, that I may not be put to shame!

My mother always told me that I was to be a good example for others. When other parents were worried about the bad influence of others in their kids’ lives, my mother knew that it was important for me to be a good influence, so she encouraged me to be friends with whomever I liked.  She trusted that the solidity of my foundation from her and from Dad would be enough to protect me.

Mom had been a good kid whose parents gave her very little foundation.  She didn’t always show her pain on the outside, but on the inside, she had a miserable childhood.  She loved every single kid she came into contact with once she got involved in churches with Dad.  She saw those who didn’t have a lot of love at home and just heaped it on them whenever she could.  She saw those who were brilliant, yet shunned by their peers because they didn’t fit in well socially and found ways to draw them into conversations.  She saw those who were popular, yet had low self-esteem.  Their drive to have friends was based on the fact they didn’t really believe in themselves.  She put them in situations where they could care for someone else.

So when Mom told me that I could be friends with anyone I liked, no holds barred; I relaxed and enjoyed myself.  She knew that everyone has the potential for good and if her kids could be influence for good, that was all that mattered. There was no one I couldn’t take to our house; there was no one whose home I couldn’t go in to.

As a Christian, I want to be that same type of person. My foundation is strong … in what I have learned from my parents and in my relationship with God.  It is His word in which I hope and find my delight.  Because of this, I believe that everyone has amazing potential and I look forward to new friends every day!

November 10 – Tet - Psalm 119:65-72

Saturday, November 10, 2012


November 10 – Tet - Psalm 119:65-72

Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according to thy word.
Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in thy commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I keep thy word.
Thou art good and doest good; teach me thy statutes.
The godless besmear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep thy precepts;
their heart is gross like fat, but I delight in thy law.
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.
The law of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Have you ever noticed how most really good stories of people’s lives come from transformation?  They were in one place that wasn't so good and came out of it through faith into another place and now they are able to live in joy.  Many of these stories begin with a big success of some sort, then there is a crash and then redemption.

I think the reason this happens is that without that crash, we don’t actually appreciate the glory and wonder that is life.  We go along in our lives perfectly happy with all that is great, thinking we've got it made.  Then, we things fall apart and we come out on the other side, we recognize that life is so much more than we knew.

There are so many things that can happen to us and I suspect that most of us have at least one thing that happened in our lives which we can point to and say, “That was the moment I realized that there was so much more to life.”  Maybe it was the death of someone we loved.  I clearly remember the night Mom told us she had two weeks to live.  Things were swirling through my mind with such rapidity, I couldn't focus.  Then it hit me, nothing else mattered except love.  She no longer cared about what was happening in our business or the gossip at the church.  The only thing she wanted to do was ensure her family knew how much she loved us.

It is good for us to face struggles, whether large or small, because when we come out on the other side of them, we find that we have learned so much.

November 9 – Cheth - Psalm 119:57-64

Friday, November 9, 2012


November 9 – Cheth - Psalm 119:57-64

The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep thy words.
I entreat thy favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to thy promise.
When I think of thy ways, I turn my feet to thy testimonies;
I hasten and do not delay to keep thy commandments.
Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget thy law.
At midnight I rise to praise thee, because of thy righteous ordinances.
I am a companion of all who fear thee, of those who keep thy precepts.
The earth, O LORD, is full of thy steadfast love; teach me thy statutes!

Is the Lord your portion, or do you find it necessary to make sure you supplement with your own work?

I've never been one who was able to wholly rely on God to provide all my needs.  I might say that I am and I might pray to be that person, but I want to just make sure I have all the bases covered because I don’t want Him to work that hard in order to provide for me.  You know, I should be able to pull myself up by my own bootstraps and work hard enough to ensure there is enough money to pay the bills.

We really don’t find ourselves relying on God that much, do we?  At least not for material things.  Maybe we feel guilty about having so many ‘things’ in our lives that we don’t feel it is right to ask God to help us pay for them.  Maybe we want to keep getting more ‘things’ and know in our hearts that God really only intends for us to have what we absolutely need, so we won’t rely on Him.  Maybe we think that since there are so many starving people in the world, people who live at such a low level of poverty, we don’t have a right to ask Him for anything more than what we can provide for ourselves.

There are a lot of reasons we make up in our head for not completely relying on God to be our portion … in every aspect of our lives.  Do we rely on God to provide a way for us to sleep well each night so that we are rested in the morning? Do we rely on Him to provide the time necessary to get our tasks done during the day so there is time to enjoy friends and family?  It is these things we feel we must do ourselves, because they seem so mundane and necessary.  We can do these things and if we can’t, then we just keep trying harder and harder.

Some days I tear through my day, only to find at the end of it that I’m still exactly the same as I was the day before.  Nothing has changed, nothing has gotten better.  Everything remains the same.  All the work that I did, all the sleep that I lost, all the time that I spent was for naught. I worked hard and it feels like wasted time.

God is my provider.  He will be my portion. The things I need, the things I do, the things I desire; He will provide.  When I remember that and remember to take my feet off the pedal and lean back into His will, anything can happen.

Today, think about who your provider is. If it is simply you (or a spouse), do you spend more time than you should worrying about how things will be taken care of?  If it is God, do you find yourself relaxed in knowing that He’s got it?

November 8 – Zayin - Psalm 119:49-56

Thursday, November 8, 2012

November 8 – Zayin - Psalm 119:49-56

Remember thy word to thy servant, in which thou hast made me hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction that thy promise gives me life.
Godless men utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from thy law.
When I think of thy ordinances from of old, I take comfort, O LORD.
Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake thy law.
Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.
I remember thy name in the night, O LORD, and keep thy law.
This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept thy precepts.

Well, if those other guys aren't going to follow you, O Lord, I will; even when they are doing everything possible to hurt me.  And, Lord, I trust that my commitment to you will save me in the long run.

There have been many nights that I have crawled into bed and told the Lord that I knew the only person I could rely on was Him, the only thing I could have faith in was Him.  People who I should have been able to trust were not trustworthy and those whom I didn't even know, were saying things about me which were so untrue, I was stunned into disbelief.  My only comfort was in knowing that the Lord was with me while I slept and while I was awake.

It is in the Lord that we find the fullness of hope.  He brings comfort when the world offers none, He gave us life in the beginning and will give us life throughout eternity.

The Psalmist reminds us that in God’s word we find the absolute truth of hope and life.  While this Psalm speaks of God’s law, as Christians we are offered the entirety of scripture.  We see the larger picture, history as well as a glimpse at the future.  Through it all, the Lord remains the same.

And … through the ups and downs of our own lives, the Lord remains the same.  He is the same today as He was the day we were born.  He will be the same Lord on the day we die.  He is the same Lord. He never changes, His love for us never falters.  In that abiding strength we can rest.  We will find hope and comfort there and in that strength we find life.

November 7 – Vav - Psalm 119:41-48

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


November 7 – Vav - Psalm 119:41-48

Let thy steadfast love come to me, O LORD, thy salvation according to thy promise;
then shall I have an answer for those who taunt me, for I trust in thy word.
And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in thy ordinances.
I will keep thy law continually, for ever and ever;
and I shall walk at liberty, for I have sought thy precepts.
I will also speak of thy testimonies before kings, and shall not be put to shame;
for I find my delight in thy commandments, which I love.
I revere thy commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on thy statutes.

We talk and think about freedom a lot today … what has been done to gain us freedom from oppression and freedom to live the way we wish to live.  We observe other countries with far less freedom from their governments and express gratitude for the opportunity to live in the United States, where many freedoms are a given.  For the most part, we are quite aware and quite grateful for this opportunity.

There are other freedoms, though.  Things we miss out on because we tie ourselves up in knots.  Things that people around us miss out on because we are so self-centered and sometimes, so self-righteous.

The freedom to express love. Think about someone you spend a great deal of time with, outside of your family.  A co-worker or a friend, even a friend you know online.  Do you express your love for that person or do you make it easy and appropriate for them to express love to you?  Now, don’t tell me that you find many ways to express love.  I’m talking about the words that let others know without a doubt they are loved.  We don’t do this often enough, for many reasons.

The freedom to be exuberantly joyous.  The freedom to speak about God’s love. The freedom to ask questions about beliefs without fear of judgment.  The freedom to think differently … out loud.  Are your friends comfortable enough around you to really speak of the differences they have regarding issues … all of your friends, not just the ones who enjoy confrontational conversations. Or do you vocalize your beliefs so stridently, that they are quiet because they fear your derisive speech?

The freedom to cry and weep from either pain or joy.  I know some of my friends are very comfortable with this.  I seem to have no control over my tears, I blame it on my age.  But, I know many who can’t express deep emotions.

The freedom to speak truth … in love.  True love.  Not judgmental ‘love.’  These things are all messed up today and we don’t know what it is we are doing, so we just speak what we believe to be truth and hurt whoever might be in the way, because we’re doing it in love.

The freedom to really be whom God has called us to be.  To be fully His, to live a life that fulfills His desires for us, rather than living a life that forces us to pay bills and take care of everyone else.  We get so wrapped up in the details of our lives, that we forget these lives are not our own, we are here because God gave us life and wants to give us eternal life.  These decades on earth in between those two events shouldn't be separated from Him.

It is in seeking the Lord continually that we will find peace and freedom in our lives.  We have been given such grace in living in a country that allows us to exist without daily fear of war from outside enemies. Let us live out that grace by untying ourselves from the strictures placed on us and find freedom within ourselves so that we might bring a message of hope to the world.

November 6 – He - Psalm 119:33-40

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


November 6 – He - Psalm 119:33-40

Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep thy law and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of thy commandments, for I delight in it.
Incline my heart to thy testimonies, and not to gain!
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; and give me life in thy ways.
Confirm to thy servant thy promise, which is for those who fear thee.
Turn away the reproach which I dread; for thy ordinances are good.
Behold, I long for thy precepts; in thy righteousness give me life!

The word ‘statutes’ is another of the eight words the Psalmist uses to describe the Law.  It comes from the Hebrew word ‘khoke,’ which has in its root meaning, to cut or carve.  The original Ten Commandments were delivered as carvings in stone and all of the law is to be carved upon our hearts.

How many of you can say that you understand God’s word?  I would like to think that it isn't that difficult, but my goodness we have an awful lot of commentaries, sermons and interpretation out there which would prove me wrong.  Maybe the Psalmist would agree more with them than with me since he was asking the Lord for guidance and understanding.

As I read these words this morning, I see a heart yearning to be more than it is, to be closer to divine than human, to let go of the things useless things which occupy so much time and effort.

Isn't that what we really want when we look at the depths of our heart and soul?  We want to do the right things and set aside those things which make us shallow and petty.  We want to love beauty and we desperately want to find that beauty in everything we encounter; whether it is a homeless man on the street or a sunset in the sky.  We want to be the person who lives according to the goodness that comes from God’s word.

But, sometimes that struggle is so great we just give up.  Cynicism takes hold in our hearts and we lose sight of beauty and only see ugliness around us.  We expect to be hurt by people and focus on every little thing that annoys or wounds us.

The words of this strophe are a balm for hearts that have been battered and are looking for a way back to wholeness.  Everyone longs for truth and righteousness. When we ask the Lord to guide us and lead us, teach us and help us, we are asking for those deep desires in our hearts to be fulfilled and He promises that He will do so.

November 5 – Dalet - Psalm 119:25-32

Monday, November 5, 2012


November 5 – Dalet - Psalm 119:25-32

My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to thy word!
When I told of my ways, thou didst answer me; teach me thy statutes!
Make me understand the way of thy precepts, and I will meditate on thy wondrous works.
My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to thy word!
Put false ways far from me; and graciously teach me thy law!
I have chosen the way of faithfulness, I set thy ordinances before me.
I cleave to thy testimonies, O LORD; let me not be put to shame!
I will run in the way of thy commandments when thou enlargest my understanding!

Are you beginning to notice some of the eight different words which the Psalmist uses to write of the Law?  In this strophe, we see statutes, precepts, law, ordinances, testimonies, commandments.  The word ‘precept’ is translated from the Hebrew word ‘piqqud.’  It is a charge, an order issued by an authority.

This portion of Psalm 119 is a lament.  The Psalmist is miserable.  He uses such terrific phrases to describe his situation.   “My soul cleaves to dust.” He is near death.  “My soul melts away for sorrow.”  What beautiful words to mean that he feels as if he is melting away because of the number of tears flowing from his eyes.

Then, he uses the same word, ‘cleave,’ when talking about the closeness he has with the Law.  As close as he was to death, he will be with the Law.  Redemption from death came from His asking the Lord to hold him close to the Law.

The point of this strophe is that without God’s word, we are nothing.  If we walk away from Him, we will die as nothing.

There have been several times in my life where I simply didn't have time to read scripture.  When I was in college, I was much too busy with other things.  But, I remember the first time I opened my Bible to do some actual studying and reading and I felt as if I’d returned to a safe place. I couldn't imagine ever leaving it again.  I did, though.  Several times. Each time that I would come back, I always felt as if I was where I belonged.  I’d open the Bible and discover words that seemed to be written to me personally, reminding me always of the truth that could be found there.

God’s truth never changes.  His love never changes.  No matter how far our souls fly from Him, no matter how much weariness or pain they are in, we can find His strength and Love when we return to the Law.

Lord, teach me your statutes, enlarge my heart so that I can understand your precepts, choose the way of faithfulness, cling to your testimonies and run in the way of your commandments.

November 4 – Gimel - Psalm 119:17-24

Sunday, November 4, 2012


November 4 – Gimel - Psalm 119:17-24
Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live and observe thy word.
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
I am a sojourner on earth; hide not thy commandments from me!
My soul is consumed with longing for thy ordinances at all times.
Thou dost rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from thy commandments;
take away from me their scorn and contempt, for I have kept thy testimonies.
Even though princes sit plotting against me, thy servant will meditate on thy statutes.
Thy testimonies are my delight, they are my counselors.

Can you imagine having the passion that the Psalmist has for the Law?

What have you been longing for so much lately that your soul is consumed?  To see that it is the Law seems hard to understand, but the beauty of these words fills me to the point that I begin to understand that passion.

What if, every time we opened the Bible, we prayed these words with as much passion as the Psalmist did, so that every moment of our day we were living by and observing God’s word?  What if we were to ask that our eyes be opened so that we see God’s teaching in everything we observe?  What if we were to stop thinking about ourselves as citizens of this world and realize that we don’t belong here and the faster we get to heaven, the happier we will be?  What if we were consumed with longing for God’s teaching and a desire to obedient to that teaching?

I will grant that sometimes, maybe even much of the time, those things are true of us.  We might vocalize it or express it, but sometimes we do pray that we live according to the will of God.

We run into trouble with the ‘soul-consuming’ passion, don’t we!  There is so little that happens to us which consumes our soul.  We try to live quiet lives so that the rest of the world doesn't notice us.  We try to fit in with the crowd … even the crowd at church.  We want to be just like the next person so we don’t stick out and look or act differently than everyone else.  Our culture is made up of people trying to be average. We eat the same food (hence, the millions of chain restaurants), shop at the same stores, buy the same clothes, drive the same cars.  And by doing so, we shove our passion down into our souls and let it out a little bit at a time so that it doesn't offend anyone, sometimes not just the people around us, but those who are closest to us.

We don’t really know what it is like to desire God’s hand at work in our lives with such passion that we receive bountifully or behold wondrous things or see beyond this life to the next or feel consumed with passion for the things of God.

If you pray this prayer and really mean it, wait expectantly for the Lord to change you into the unique and glorious individual He created in the first place, living according to His Law of love.

November 3 – Bet - Psalm 119:9-16

Saturday, November 3, 2012


November 3 – Bet - Psalm 119:9-16

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to thy word.
With my whole heart I seek thee; let me not wander from thy commandments!
I have laid up thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Blessed be thou, O LORD; teach me thy statutes!
With my lips I declare all the ordinances of thy mouth.
In the way of thy testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on thy precepts, and fix my eyes on thy ways.
I will delight in thy statutes; I will not forget thy word.

The word translated ‘commandment’ in verse ten is mitzvah.  You might have heard this word used by a Jewish friend.  I've actually read it in several books as well.  A mitzvah is a commandment. It refers to the 613 commandments given at Mount Sinai.  All moral laws come from divine commandments or mitzvot (plural of mitzvah).

I have heard the word used a bit differently, as a good (moral) deed performed as part of a religious duty and has become the word that describes an act of kindness. Acts of kindness should be things we do because we are commanded to do them.  They are obedience to God’s call to love others.

In the book “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” by Chip and Dan Heath, they talk about willpower.  One thing they say is that self-control is an exhaustible resource.  We run out of self-control.  It is difficult to change a behavior that is so ingrained that it has become automatic.  Our bodies become physically exhausted when we use our minds to control those behaviors.

The Psalmist gets it. We can’t do this alone.  We can’t exert enough personal strength of will to stay on the straight and narrow, to avoid poor choices and bad behavior.  We wear out and take the easy route, which generally leads to more poor choices and bad behavior.  Anyone who has tried to quit smoking or drinking, or tried to diet or tried to exercise or learn something new and exciting … and has failed miserably, will tell you that the Psalmist and Chip & Dan Heath are absolutely correct.  We can not do this alone.  That’s all there is to it.  When we attempt to make major life changes by ourselves, the failure rate is going to be much greater.

But verse ten begs the Lord to help us not wander from His commandments.  That is the beauty of a relationship with God.  His strength of will and His power over creation is more than enough to take us through change and bring us out of the depths of failure to transformation.

The best way to make a complete transformation of any type is to do it with the Lord’s help.  When our exhaustible supply of self-control is gone, His still remains.

November 2 – Aleph - Psalm 119:1-8

Friday, November 2, 2012


November 2 – Aleph - Psalm 119:1-8

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! 
Thou hast commanded thy precepts to be kept diligently. 
O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping thy statutes! 
Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all thy commandments.
I will praise thee with an upright heart, when I learn thy righteous ordinances.
I will observe thy statutes; O forsake me not utterly!

The Revised Standard Version of the Bible (RSV) translates these words fairly uniformly, so when you read the word ‘law,’ you are reading the translation of the word Torah.  Torah comes from the verb ‘to teach.’

The Torah is the perfect expression of God’s will for us and a person whose way is blameless is a person who obeys the Law implicitly.  The Lord’s Teaching then is what we must learn as we walk through our lives.

The Torah was more than just the Ten Commandments. It is the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy).  It is the history of Creation, the story of destruction and hope (Noah and the rainbow), and the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). It is the history of Israel’s Exodus and the development of the tribal structure as well as the means by which God’s children could encounter Him personally.  It is lists and lists of people and it is also a very explicit set of rules which He expected His children to live by … not just because they were rules, but because if they lived obediently, they would be healthy, safe and holy.  In living by those rules, God was teaching His children how to live in a world that was alien to them while preparing themselves to return home and live with Him.

The Torah was a reminder of their past, a solid foundation which anchored them to the Lord. It was instruction, which, when obeyed, would give them all they might need. It was hope for a future beyond what they could know.

The Torah was and is all of that. It was corrupted by priests and men who believed in power more for themselves more than obedience to their Lord.  Rather than being in relationship with God and with each other, those in power enforced the Law to its fullest extent, because they believed it was better to be right than to be filled with grace and mercy.

But, in its purest form, the Law … the Torah … is simply God’s instruction on how to love Him with everything we have and how to love each other.

Blessed are those who live by love.

November 1 – Psalm 119

Thursday, November 1, 2012


November 1 – Psalm 119

By the time Jesus was actively in ministry and then Paul was teaching about the Law, it had become restrictive and negative.  Those who had taken it upon themselves to interpret the Law had removed all of the joy from obedience to God.  They had made the rules of the Law greater than the spirit of the Law and separated obedience to the Law from being in relationship with the Lord, the author of the Law.

However, when the Psalmist was writing the words of Psalm 119, it is easy to see how much joy he takes in his love of what the Law of the Lord really is.  It isn't just about observing the precepts, but since the Law is God’s will expressed to us, because we love God, we will love what it is He desires for us.

Psalm 119 consists of 22 strophes.  A strophe is a unit of verses within a poem.  If we were able to read this in Hebrew, we would see that it is an acrostic.  There are eight lines within each strophe and each line begins with the same letter beginning with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

There are also eight different words used to speak of the Law.  In verses 33-40; 57-64; and 73-80, each word is used in a verse of the strophe.  The RSV (Revised Standard Version of the Bible) is really the only translation that holds consistency with these eight words, so for ease of understanding, that is the translation I will use.  They are: law, testimony, ordinance (or judgment), commandment, statute, precept, word, and promise.

One other thing you might notice as you read through this Psalm is that each verse contains a reference or an address to God.  For the Psalmist, the Law and God are wholly intertwined and by praising the Law, he is also praising the Lord.

There are many different ways he finds to express himself in this Psalm, sometimes he laments his own failings and attacks by his enemies, but for the most part, we discover great joy in his understanding of God’s Law.  He never complains about having to obey it, but recognizes that in obeying God’s Law, he will find life, comfort, hope and wisdom.

Spend today skimming through the Psalm. Tomorrow we will begin with Aleph – Psalm 119:1-8.