Wednesday, December 12, 2018

How do you measure spiritual Maturity?


Read Psalm 119:49-56.

Zayin

Physical maturity can be mostly self-evident as children grow and adults grow older.  Spiritual maturity is not immediately discerned but certainly can be observed over time.  Nothing reveals the depth of one's walk with God quicker than trouble and stress.

The psalmist, in this seventh stanza, continued to reference some arrogant, wicked mocker of his faith.  It made him rage inside with anger (v.53).  So, how does this penman that God used to write this portion of the Scriptures respond in a spiritually mature way?

1. He found hope in the Word of God. (v.49)
2. He found life-giving comfort in the Word of God. (v.50,52)
3. He found the Word of God made him sing. (v.54)
4. He found solace in the Word of God in the darkest hours. (v.55)
5. He found God's blessing through faithful obedience to God's Word. (v.56)

An infant requires someone else to feed them and do everything for them.  As one grows up, they learn to feed themselves.  Spiritual maturity is knowing the Scriptures and how to put them into practice.

"But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:14)


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

4 steps to overcoming criticism of your Faith


Read Psalm 119:41-48.

Waw
In this sixth stanza, the psalmist mentions a vocal enemy.  Someone had done more than criticize him; they taunted him about his faith.  This put him in a tight spot on several levels.  He felt the pressure.

Anyone who lets their faith in Jesus be known will sooner or later encounter a similar experience.  It may come from a person at work, a neighbor, or even a relative.  Dependency on God and His Word may be seen as offensive to them and foolish.  Such reactions usually come from those who are hurting, feeling guilty, or jealous that you have found forgiveness and purity in Christ.  But their hurtful words still hurt.

What did the writer do to overcome his feelings and get back on track?
1. He depended even more on the steadfast love of God. (vv.41-42)
He did not give in and he did not give up because of spiritual opposition.  He looked up to One who loves us and never changes.

2. He renewed his hope in the trustworthiness of God's Word. (vv.43-44)
The truth of God's Word will last forever.  Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."  (Matthew 24:35)  You can count on them!

3. He looked to the future with increased influence for God. (vv.45-46)
In the moment, he may have felt hemmed in or powerless against the criticism.  But his hope relied on a time when God would lead him to a new level of freedom.  "In a wide place" he would have plenty of options and opportunities to tell others of his faith in the LORD, even in the highest of places.

4. He committed himself to learn and practice the Word of God. (vv.47-48)
Such actions involved his hands and his heart.  His hands would lovingly take hold of the Scriptures.  With his mind he would meditate, turning the truth over and over in his thinking, looking for insights and applications to his life.


Monday, December 10, 2018

A prayer for Life



Read Psalm 119:33-40.

He
The prayer continues in this fifth stanza.  Twice, the writer cries out for "life."  The old King James translated the word "quicken" and modern translations use the word "revive."  The meaning has to do with preservation of one who is experiencing great discouragement or threatening sickness.

In the first seven verses, there are seven prayer requests.  Each one carries a resultant commitment or effect.
1. Teach me.
The purpose of being taught the Scriptures is to obey them.
2. Give me understanding.
Beyond knowing what God has said is having discernment to apply it to one's life.
3. Lead me.
Asking the LORD to guide is commonly prayed by believers.  But this request includes a predetermined attitude of delight in following God's leadership.
4. Incline my heart.
Without that inner commitment to obey God's Word, one will naturally turn to self-pleasing behaviors.  A selfish life ultimately produces emptiness.  The Apostle Paul wrote, "Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment." (1 Timothy 6:6)
5. Turn my eyes.
It is inescapable that what we use our eyes to read or view has effect on thinking, speech and behavior.  There is no difficulty in finding an endless supply of worthless things to see and waste the time God has graciously given us.  Investing time looking into the Scriptures is life-giving with eternal consequences.
6. Confirm...your promise.
Every day, and throughout the day, God is at work.  He demonstrates His provision for us, His care of us, His protection and His love.  A hardened heart misses this constant intervention.  A spiritually sensitive heart not only enjoys this moment by moment interaction with God, but lives a life of awe and respect for His presence.
7. Turn away the reproach.
As in the last stanza, we are not told what the threat to his well-being was.  He prayed for God to take it away and in doing so that the LORD would show to all that His decisions are good and right.

May our prayer be: Give us this kind of life.


Sunday, December 9, 2018

The remedy for a heavy Heart


Read Psalm 119:25-32.

Daleth

We are not told what happened, but the songwriter was extremely downtrodden.  It was not a physical problem.  His heart was heavier than he could bear.  It must have felt like the end, because of his opening statement: "My soul clings to the dust."

This is the fourth stanza of Psalm 119.  God had answered his prayers in the past and now he needed the LORD's intervention again.  

1. He prayed for life. (v.25, 27, 32))
He was alive outwardly, but inwardly he felt enslaved and dying.  With a broken heart he prayed for God to break the bondage and give him the freedom to live.

2. He prayed for understanding of God's way. (v.27)
What he came to realize was that only by living according to the Word of God would he ever know clear direction for his life.  More than merely reading the Scriptures, he asked God to help him to think and gain insight into His Word.

3. He prayed to be faithful to the truth. (vv.28-31)
Once a person sees the real life implications of the Scriptures, there will be a conviction about every false way.  Ridding one's life of enslaving lies and habits against the knowledge of God brings the freedom every human heart truly desires.  Living in that freedom only comes through a commitment to diligently put the learning into practice.

How powerful then are the words of Jesus!  Coming to Him is the starting place and cure for every heavy heart.
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)


Saturday, December 8, 2018

My reason for Living


Read Psalm 119:17-24.

Gimel
What is my reason for living?  Why am I here?

The answer to those questions determines one's true success or failure in life.  We can live to please ourselves, but all the pleasure, power and possessions on earth will not fill the emptiness inside.  We can live for others and serve in great humanitarian efforts, but at the end we will have only made a few improvements on things that one day will all pass away.  When one lives to fulfill God's design for them, they discover personal satisfaction, life-changing service to others, and eternal benefits that can never be taken away.

Where does one begin to discover God's purpose for their lives?  See the psalmist's perspective here in stanza three of this song.

1. His Requests (vv.17-18)
He prayed for God's blessings on his life.  But notice why he wanted to be blessed "bountifully."  It was so he could live in alignment with God's Word.  Next, he prayed that God would help him to have spiritual insight into what he was reading.

2. His Needs (vv.19-20)
This world is not our home.  Our existence here will only be for a number of years.  Eternity is ahead.  Life on this planet then becomes a proving ground and preparation for what is ahead.  A pilgrim in a strange land needs a map, direction, and guidance along the journey.  The psalmist's desire was that God would reveal such direction from His Word and rule in his life's decisions accordingly.

3. His Story (vv.21-23)
He understood from God's Word and from observation that those who stray from God's purposes for their lives suffer the consequences.  But his prayer was that God would remove from him any temptation to stray.  His desire was to be faithful.  Even if respected authorities came against him, he determined in advance to turn to God's Word for counsel and to guide his thoughts.


Friday, December 7, 2018

The secret to avoiding personal Sin


Read Psalm 119:9-16.

The price of spiritual growth and enjoying a personal relationship with the God of heaven is purity.

Beth is the second of 22 stanzas in this acrostic psalm.  The subject continues to be the Word of God but the focus in these verses teaches us the basis of avoiding personal sin.

An unwillingness to give up sin keeps people from coming to Jesus for His forgiveness and cleansing.  For the believer, sin breaks our fellowship with Him and stunts spiritual growth.  Christianity has too many spiritual pygmies.

Many have memorized verses 9 and 11, but the secret to maintaining one's purity is found in verse 10.
1. The desire of purity.
"I seek you."  One who desires to live as they wish with eyes on what pleases them will soon find themselves enslaved in sin.  It is only when our supreme desire is to seek out what God wants that we find true freedom.  Purity begins with wanting to be right with the LORD more than personal wants.

2. The demand of purity.
"With my whole heart."  A half-hearted commitment satisfies no one.  Either we are living for God or we are not.  Purity demands that we forsake everything that displeases the LORD.

3. The determination of purity.
"Let me not wander from your commandments."  First, we must know what God has commanded in His Word.  Next, we must make a commitment to obey it.  Notice that the psalmist uses the personal reference of "I" 8 times in these 8 verses and, also, the action verbs attached to them.  Then, when confronted with temptation, we have predetermined to go God's way instead of our own.

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it."  (1 Corinthians 10:13)


Thursday, December 6, 2018

The starting line for Life-change


Read Psalm 119:1-8.

Many know that is the longest chapter in the Bible.  But most cannot tell you why.  This is an acrostic song and each stanza of 8 verses begins with one of the 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet.  Presumably this mnemonic device was used to teach and to memorize the psalm.  Notice that every one of the 22 stanzas is focused on the Word of God.

Aleph
1. The Word of God blesses those who put it into practice. (vv.1-3)
There is no little idealism in these verses, especially the words "do no wrong."  God's Word is perfect but we are not.

2. The Word of God must be diligently practiced. (v.4)
This is a command from God, not a suggestion.  The word "diligently" means quickly and with intensity.  When we know what God has to say, He expects us to do it and to do it now.  There is no easing into obedience with God.  Either we are living in obedience or we are disobedient.

3. The Word of God will drive us to prayer. (v.5)
We all identify with the psalmist's prayer.  Understanding God's perfect Word reveals our sinfulness.  It is not possible to live a life that pleases God without knowing His Word and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.  Every sincere heart has cried out with the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:24, "Wretched man that I am!"

4. The Word of God should change our behaviors. (vv.6-8)
The psalmist made three personal commitments for life-change:
-"Having my eyes fixed on all your commandments."  Spiritual growth begins with high regard for the Scriptures.
-"I will praise you."  True worship comes from one whose heart is right with God.
-"I will keep your statutes."  Every moment of the day reflects our commitment to practice the Word of God by what we think, what we say, and what we do.