Monday, May 6, 2013

Psalm 119 - The way of faithfulness

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Its amazing how each day this Psalm seems to be right where I am living. For those who are just joining us. We are looking at Psalm 119. It is an acrostic poem with each section matching letters of the Hebrew Alphabet.

ד Daleth
25 I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.
26 I gave an account of my ways and you answered me;
teach me your decrees.
27 Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,
that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
28 My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
29 Keep me from deceitful ways;
be gracious to me and teach me your law.
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I have set my heart on your laws.
31 I hold fast to your statutes, Lord;
do not let me be put to shame.
32 I run in the path of your commands,
for you have broadened my understanding.

Psalm 119:25-32 The Message
25-32 I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse!
Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?
When I told my story, you responded;
train me well in your deep wisdom.
Help me understand these things inside and out
so I can ponder your miracle-wonders.
My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn;
build me up again by your Word.
Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;
grace me with your clear revelation.
I choose the true road to Somewhere,
I post your road signs at every curve and corner.
I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me;
God, don’t let me down!
I’ll run the course you lay out for me
if you’ll just show me how.

I love the part in the Message version that says barricade the road that goes Nowhere; grace me with our clear revelation. I choose the road to Somewhere. 

In the NIV I like where it says "I choose the way of faithfulness". 
Faithfulness is a choice sometimes one that is not glamorous or receiving much in the way of earthly accolades. It does not make a lot of sense to people who are chasing worldly success. How do you measure success from a kingdom stand point?  I always go back to the Sheep and The Goats. "What ever you do for the least of these my brothers, you've done it unto me." Helping people who can't do anything in return, does not get Good Samaritans of our day fame, fortune or much recognition. Most of the time people doing that kind of work is scoffed at and thought to be foolishly waiting their lives on hopeless people who will never change.

“What we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But if that drop was not in the ocean, I think the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. I do not agree with the big way of doing things.” Mother Teresa

We have a tendency to think I am just one person what can I do when there is so much need in the world. I may not change the world but maybe I can make it a little better for someone. That attitude will probably not make me rich or famous. Really my goal is to hear Jesus say well done my good and faithful servant. I continue to believe that "Seek first the kingdom of God and then all these things shall be added to you." Anytime I try to turn this around and do the so called "responsible thing. " I find myself back to having to evaluate the choices I have made. I wonder what if I didn't take the time to write or help some struggling soul. I have made a point to be available to God and I've seen his transforming power first hand at work in broken peoples lives. People who just about everyone had given up on.  I choose to believe that there is tremendous power in having even one person believe in you. I can look back through the years and think of some really messed up people who I stood with, prayed for, encouraged. I may not have had the answer or been able to fix their problems. I could stand with them. I could listen, I could pray. I believe transformation of people is something worth fighting for. Jesus laid down his life for me. I am compelled to follow his example. It does not look like much on a resume but then I remember the poem called One Solitary Life that speaks of Jesus and the effect he had on this world.  
"He never wrote a book 
He never held an office 
He never went to college 
He never visited a big city 
He never travelled more than two hundred miles 
From the place where he was born 
He did none of the things 
Usually associated with greatness 
He had no credentials but himself "

Measured by todays standards of success, Jesus would not have looked like much. He left his carpentry business to travel around preaching and ended up crucified. On his resume He would write savior of the world. Seeker of the lost and the broken. The potential employer would look at it and say.... "nope... nut job." His actions matched his words. He did indeed do as he promised. Death could not hold him in the grave. I'm not saying one should not work hard, or get an education or have a family. All of those things are good and I do believe Jesus wants us to have an abundant and full life. I do believe that he has created many wonderful things for our enjoyment. I do often feel a lot of pressure to become something or someone significant, to make something of my life. I have to step back and ask myself is that God calling me to move in that direction or am I just feeling the constant pressure of our day and age. I remember the words of Jesus in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. I remember again the words of Mother Teresa "Small things done with great love can change the world."  

"Today there is great pressure from many directions in our society to work harder, to become smarter, to produce results, or to be moved aside. The church in many western countries is in danger of absorbing this mentality into its own attitudes and practices, forgetting that in the divinehuman endeavor success comes not by might nor by power but by a gracious release of God's Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6)." J. Edwin Orr

I have to think that the Psalmist might have been looking at his life to see how it was measuring up to his friends, family and neighbors who were busy chasing success. "My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn; build me up again by your Word." The Psalmist was not chasing success but rather choosing faithfulness to God even if it resulted in things that did not produce worldly success in this life. I look at the many people who were martyred for their faith. All they had to do was compromise and they could have lived. Some might argue that a little compromise was worth not loosing your life. Think what they might have done for God if they lived on, some might say. However I see the power of their stories to reach out over time and centuries to impact you and me. If you or I were in their shoes what would we have done? Compromise or Stand Firm? They chose to stand firm even unto  death and God will call them faithful.

'We live in a day characterised by the multiplication of man's machinery and the diminution of God's power. The great cry of our day is work, work, work! Organise, organise, organise! Give us some new society! Tell us some new methods! Devise some new machinery! But the great need of our day is prayer, more prayer and better prayer. ~R.A.Torrey

Our portion of Psalm 119 is filled with a lot of strong take action kind of words.

I have chosen... I hold fast.... I run in the path...I grasp and cling.

These are all conscious decisions of a person who is not choosing the floating down the lazy river approach to life. This person is choosing to do things God's way even if that way is not popular. Each and every day we must decide if we will follow him or go our own way. We would like for God to give us the answer when often he is waiting for us to make a decision and to choose a path. Todays little step of faith helps us to take a bigger one in the future. Some times we must use planned abandonment and leave behind a good thing to have God's better plan for our lives. 

I am still wrestling with what I should do. I still don't have a clear answer. I've wrestled with this kind of thing before. There is the argument of "wouldn't it be better to make a lot of money that could then be used for kingdom work". I find myself looking back over the years and asking would I have done things differently? I'm not sure that I would, because I have tried my best to follow the Holy Spirit step by step with each decision and at each cross roads. At each point I did what I thought the Holy Spirit would have me to do at that time. 

Matthew Henry wrote, 'When God intends great mercy for His people, He first sets them praying.'

One of the things that has grown and increased in my life is taking time daily to spend with the Lord in the word and in prayer. For many years my idea of praying was in church services or if there was a crisis or a big decision to make. It was more of I check in with God from time to time rather than a daily abiding in Him. Its one of those things I have chosen to make a priority in my life. 

What are some things that you have chosen? 

"I’ll run the course you lay out for me if you’ll just show me how." The path beyond our familiar comfort zone is in unknown territory. I have not been this way before. We need the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us to be our comfort when life feels awkward and uncomfortable. As you keep moving forward you will start to get the hang of the new territory. About the time you have it down and it has become your new comfort zone it will be time to move to the next new unknown part of the journey. 

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