Let No Sin Rule over Me

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Reading:                                        Psalm 119

פ Pe

 (Verses 129-136)

Your statutes are wonderful;
therefore I obey them.
The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.
I open my mouth and pant,
longing for your commands.
Turn to me and have mercy on me,
as you always do to those who love your name.
Direct my footsteps according to your word;
let no sin rule over me.
Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may obey your precepts.
Make your face shine on your servant
and teach me your decrees.
 Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
for your law is not obeyed
(NIV).

Reflection

Slavery is distasteful. Distasteful is a rather mild term. Let’s call it what it is—an abomination. It’s difficult these days to find someone who is in favor of slavery. We all seem to be in favor of personal liberty. But are we?

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Sunsetting through the windows of the National Gallery of Canada — photo by David Kitz

While trumpeting our personal liberty, are we letting ourselves become shackled by crippling habits? We seem quite willing—maybe even eager—to let sin enslave us.

James, the brother of our Lord, provides us with this warning: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (James 1:13-15).

Clearly sin has consequences. Yielding to temptations takes us down a dark path. We may think we are in control, but before long we discover we have a new master. Our sinful nature takes over. Evil desires are in control. If we persist in that pattern of behavior, the end result is a seared conscious and death.

We need a Savior to set us free. The psalmist expresses that earnest desire: Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.

Is that your prayer and the desire of your heart? It is for me.

Response: Father God, I need you to liberate me from every stronghold of sin. Establish within me a clean heart. Help my thoughts and actions to be pure. Lord Jesus, be my master. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you yielded control to sinful habits? Take some time to go to the cross of Jesus.

Time for God to Act

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Reading:                                        Psalm 119

ע Ayin

 (Verses 121-128)

I have done what is righteous and just;
do not leave me to my oppressors.
Ensure your servant’s well-being;
do not let the arrogant oppress me.
My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
looking for your righteous promise.
Deal with your servant according to your love
and teach me your decrees.
I am your servant; give me discernment
that I may understand your statutes.
Because I love your commands
more than gold, more than pure gold,
and because I consider all your precepts right,
I hate every wrong path
(NIV).

Reflection

Do you have a negative view of judgment—God’s judgment? Do you cringe at the thought? If you are guilty of wrongdoing, you should cringe. But if you have been harmed by wrongdoers you have solid grounds to welcome God’s judgment. Our sense of justice calls for the intervention of a righteous judge.

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Making me whiter than snow — photo by David Kitz

There is none more righteous than the LORD—none more worthy to sit as judge. For this reason the psalmist calls for God to act. It is time for you to act, LORD; your law is being broken.

As we look about our world, as we listen to newscasts, it becomes increasingly apparent that it’s time for God to act. Lawlessness and violence abound. Sexual perversion is promoted—gets top billing—is openly applauded. Plutocrats with their extravagant wealth rule the roost, while the poor struggle to feed their families. On the international stage dictators and warmongers parade about freely, while oppressing their own people and slaughtering any who would dare to oppose them.

Where is the justice? Where is truth and right judgment in all this? Where is the LORD? Daily, the prayer on our lips should be this: It is time for you to act, LORD; your law is being broken.

It’s time for evil and crooked dealings to be exposed. It’s time for the light of day to reveal what has been done in secret. It’s time for the righteous Judge—the Judge of all the earth—to act.

On a personal level, like the psalmist, let this be the cry of our hearts: Deal with your servant according to your love and teach me your decrees. The prophet Hosea also has a fitting word for us. But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always (Hosea 12:6).

Response: LORD God, I see the corruption that is in the world. Keep me from it. It is time for you to act, LORD; your law is being broken. Please show mercy and grace to those who call out to you. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you troubled by the lawlessness and injustice in society? Where do you turn?

Double-minded

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Reading:                                        Psalm 119

ס Samekh

 (Verses 113-120)

I hate double-minded people,
but I love your law.
 You are my refuge and my shield;
I have put my hope in your word.
Away from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commands of my God!
Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live;
do not let my hopes be dashed.
Uphold me, and I will be delivered;
I will always have regard for your decrees.
You reject all who stray from your decrees,
for their delusions come to nothing.
All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross;
therefore I love your statutes.
My flesh trembles in fear of you;
I stand in awe of your laws
(NIV).

Reflection

Our reading today from Psalm 119 begins with a rather harsh statement: I hate double-minded people, but I love your law. 

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Sunset photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

You never know where you stand with a double-minded person. His opinions and his views on various topics shift, depending on who he is with or what is currently in vogue. Everything is relative, so what is wrong today might be right tomorrow depending on the circumstances of course. This fluid, shifting perspective, accurately reflects the moral tenor of our times. There is no certainty. There are no absolutes.

Psalm 119 is a direct contradiction of this world view. The author rejoices in the word of God. He exalts the LORD’s commands. My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.

But where does that leave me? I live in a world that is trying to bend me—to distort me—so I fit into its mold. It takes real determination to resist. If I compromise my faith, I quickly become a double-minded person, unfit for the Lord’s service. I need the mind of Christ.

James has this advice for us: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8).

Response: Father God, I need your wisdom to live right in this world. I want to escape the corruption that is in the world by drawing close to you and obeying your holy word. I call on you for help. Amen.

Your Turn: Do you suffer from double-mindedness? Where is your anchor?

A Lamp for My Feet

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Reading:                                          Psalm 119

נ Nun

 (Verses 105-112)

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.
I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
    that I will follow your righteous laws.
I have suffered much;
    preserve my life, LORD, according to your word.
Accept, LORD, the willing praise of my mouth,
    and teach me your laws.
Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
    I will not forget your law.
The wicked have set a snare for me,
    but I have not strayed from your precepts.
Your statutes are my heritage forever;
    they are the joy of my heart.
My heart is set on keeping your decrees
    to the very end (NIV).

Reflection

Some stories that you read are memorable. They stick with you. You identify with the character or the event, and as a result, on a certain level their experience becomes your own.

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The path of life — photo by David Kitz

Several years back, I read a story in Guideposts Magazine about a boy in Florida who went rambling through a field on his grandparent’s farm. On this adventurous excursion, he jumped across an irrigation ditch only to land on a deadly snake—a water moccasin—which instantly bit him. It was only through the miraculous intervention of God that this young fellow made it back to the farm house and survived. In this situation the old proverb, look before you leap, definitely applied.

We too are pilgrims traveling through a field—a dark and dangerous world. That’s why we need the light of God’s word. The psalmist says it best. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

We need a light—the light of God’s word—on our path because there are venomous snakes in the grass. Actually, the psalmist uses a different analogy; he speaks of snares. But the net result is the same. On this path we are walking, our very life is in grave danger. We must see clearly to avoid disaster. The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.

We need to know the precepts—the principles of God’s word—if we are going to walk in His ways. This goes beyond a fixed set of rules. It involves an understanding of the reason for God’s commands. For this we need the Spirit and the mind of Christ. We are not just walking to avoid pitfalls; we are walking toward a goal. That goal is Christ Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2, NKJV).

Response: LORD God, shine the light of your word on the path of life you have ordained for me to walk. I am not on this path by accident, but through your will and purpose. Guide me home. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you encountered snares or snakes in the grass? Are you on the right path?

Sweeter Than Honey

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Reading:                                       Psalm 119

מ Mem

 (Verses 97-104)

Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
 I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path
(NIV).

Reflection

Here’s a question for you: How do you take a bone away from a hungry dog?

Answer: You offer him a steak.

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Walk with me — National Gallery of Canada — photo by David Kitz

In many respects humans respond just like dogs. We won’t give up our filthy habits unless we are offered something much better. Many years back I remember a conversation with a drug addict—a former drug addict. I asked him if he found it difficult to give up his drug habit.

“No it was easy. Once I experienced the love of God—the real love of Jesus for me on the cross—it was easy. I found something so much better,” he said with a huge grin on his face.

These words from today’s reading reflect the same concept: I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

It’s not hard to walk the straight and narrow when you are walking that path with the Lord—when He Himself is teaching you—when your heart is burning within you as the resurrected Jesus opens the eyes of your understanding. There is a closeness in the Spirit that has no equal. Those are the moments that change you forever because you are fully with God. His word is rich. It’s nourishment to your famished soul. His love is the air you breathe.

Who here wants a dirty chewed up bone when there’s steak on offer?

Response: Father God, renew my first love for you. I want to fall in love with you again. Fill me with delight for your word. Completely change my affections. Amen.

Your Turn: Are you too content with your bone? Have you experienced the nearness of Jesus?

The LORD Sustains Me

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I will praise Him!

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The Lord sustains me — photo by David Kitz

But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the LORD,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.

(Psalm 3:3-6 NIV)

Right Meditation

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I will praise Him!

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A tree planted by streams of water, Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island, BC — photo by David Kitz

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

(Psalm 1:1-3 NIV)

The Limits of Perfection

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Reading:                                        Psalm 119

ל Lamedh

 (Verses 89-96)

Your word, LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.
Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you.
If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have preserved my life.
Save me, for I am yours;
I have sought out your precepts.
The wicked are waiting to destroy me,
but I will ponder your statutes.
To all perfection I see a limit,
but your commands are boundless
(NIV).

Reflection

One of my hobbies is art. I enjoy drawing. In recent years I have rediscovered my childhood love for pencil crayons. When creating any piece of art, I find there is a delicate balance that needs to be reached. Anything I do can be improved. Early on in the process there is a lot of improving or refining needed, but eventually you reach a point where further tinkering becomes pointless. I aim for perfection, but perfection always seems illusive. At some point I need to say, “I’m done. This piece is finished.” 

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“Sunrise” original art by David Kitz

In today’s reading the psalmist reached that same conclusion. To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.

We will never reach the limits of God’s holy word. There is always more to be discovered, to comprehend and apply. It is as the psalmist declares, “Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.”

St. Paul expresses the same thought. Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! (Romans 11:33). Eternity gives us insufficient time to explore the wisdom of God. But let’s begin the quest; let’s take up the challenge. All of Psalm 119 can be viewed as a grand challenge to discover the wisdom and beauty of God’s word, His commands and precepts.

Let’s continue the journey. This glorious art—the divine art of God’s word—is without beginning or end. At its best human art is a pale imitation of what God has done. The LORD is the true artist.

Response: Father God, I love your word. I want to dig deeper in it and know you better thereby. You are a totally awesome God, far beyond my comprehension, but not beyond my appreciation. Amen.

Your Turn: Have you taken up the challenge of studying God’s word?

Persecuted Without Cause

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Reading:                                        Psalm 119

כ Kaph

 (Verses 81-88)

My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
but I have put my hope in your word.
My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
I say, “When will you comfort me?”
Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
I do not forget your decrees.
How long must your servant wait?
When will you punish my persecutors?
The arrogant dig pits to trap me,
contrary to your law.
All your commands are trustworthy;
help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
They almost wiped me from the earth,
but I have not forsaken your precepts.
In your unfailing love preserve my life,
that I may obey the statutes of your mouth
(NIV).

Reflection

Christians around the world are going through an unprecedented time of persecution. Broadly speaking the news media has done very little reporting on this topic. In China, new church buildings have been bulldozed to the ground. In Syria and Iraq, Christians have fled for their lives as Islamic extremist rampage through their communities raping and killing any who remain. In India several states have passed anti-conversion laws in an attempt to halt the spread of Christianity. Christmas celebrations were cancelled in Manipur state because of clashes and threats of violence from Hindu radicals.

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Radiant glory — photo courtesy of Liz Kranz

For those who are suffering, these verses from Psalm 119 are particularly pertinent: All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for I am being persecuted without cause. They almost wiped me from the earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.

Satan and his minions are determined to wipe Christians from the face of the earth. Sensing that his end is near, he has inflamed a host of religious extremists and fanatics to attack the bride of Christ. Though he rages, he will not succeed.

In their suffering, persecuted believers turn to the Lord and to his holy word. These words are their prayer: In your unfailing love preserve my life, that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.

We ought to thank the Lord daily for the freedom we have to assemble and worship our Savior. It’s a freedom we may one day lose.

Response: Father God, have mercy on those who are suffering for their faith. Be with those who are fleeing persecution. Travel with them and be their guide. Show me how I can help. Amen.

Your Turn: Do we take our freedoms for granted? Have you faced opposition because of your faith?