Tagged: Journey

Psalm 1: Which Way is Your Life Going?

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Which way is your life going? There is a beautiful poem by Robert Frost that goes like this…

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;…

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

Robert Frost tells of the paths we take in life. Some are popular ones; others are unpopular. Some follow well-worn paths; others down the road less traveled. Some are common turns in the road; others are watershed moments: those decisions that reshape your life in a way your will never be the same, you cannot undo, you will forever look back on as momentous.

It is a cliché but life is a journey. The more important question is journey where? What way are you taking?

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.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction

This psalm almost feels more like a chapter in the Proverbs then the Psalms. Doesn’t it? It is an odd way to begin the Psalms, but it really gets at these prayer-songs’ true purpose.

The Psalms are organized into 5 books which mirror the 5 books of the Law. That is intentional. The longest Psalm, Psalm 119, praises the goodness of the law. That is also intentional.

The Psalms were intended to aid the people of God to follow God better. And this Psalm makes that point clear.

When we pray, we pray for wisdom. When we believe, it is to form and reform the way we live. When we act, it is to seek God’s blessing, his will, his love in the midst of life.

As we will see, the Psalms are the prayers of God’s people through all the up and downs of life, from thanksgiving to lament, from good times and bad, whether season your soul is in, these are intended to teach us how to walk with God better.

What does it mean to be blessed?

We here about blessing thought the Old Testament. God blesses creation on the seventh day of creation. God blesses Abraham to go and be a blessing to all nations.

My personal favorite, Jacob steals his brother’s blessing by dressing up like him while his brother is off hunting. The story says his brother was super hairy, so Jacob puts fur on his arms and goes in and sees his father, who is near blind. His father, Isaac thinks it’s the older brother, Esau from petting his fur-clad, and blesses Jacob. Jacob then high-tails it out of there before his brother gets home, and his brother does not get a blessing, because apparently blessings can get revoked even under false pretenses.

So…What is a blessing?

Blessed is not being rich or getting material stuff, although the patriarchs of the old testament did have those things. Blessing is not some warm and fuzzy feeling either. If you are blessed you are probably happy, but not necessarily. Listen to the beatitudes of Jesus, and you get a sense that blessed is a lot different.

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek (the humiliated) for they will inherit the earth Or fast forward to the end: blessed are those that are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.

Obviously those who are mourning are not happy. Obviously those that are being persecuted might not have much at all. Blessed does not merely mean you are comfortable in life or happy.

Blessing means something different. Let me take a stab at it. Blessing is God’s approval over your life.

I think how as a child and as a teenager who I strived to make my dad proud of me. I was a good student, so I loved bringing a test home and showing my Dad my grades. I remember his smile, his sense of pride and joy over me doing that. That approval and encouragement in my life, gave me a sense of worth that allowed me to keep going.

I had a Dad that blessed me with that kind of approval and pride in my life. It didn’t matter if I messed up either. He was the kind of Dad that was always proud.

Do you remember the face of you parent when they were proud of you?

Do you strive to live your life longing to do God’s will that way?

Blessed is the sense of God’s approval on your life. It is that deep peace knowing you are living in the will of God, the heart of God, and you know God will use you and bring you into his kingdom, which you are apart of.

You right now, if you trust Jesus, if you are seeking to follow him – and we all mess up following him make no mistake on that – if you are seeking him, trying to follow his way, even if you stumble, even if you are crawling along, you can rest in the fact that God looks at you with a smile, like I said, even if we fail terribly in our walk with Christ, God loves sincerity before perfectionism. You know you have the peace of heaven in store. You know you are a part of his kingdom.

You are like the thief on the cross, where Jesus says, “Today, I tell you, you will be with me in paradise.” You are blessed. Right now. Knowing that beautiful gospel truth that God loves .

You might not have a cent to your name. You might have health problems. You might have stress in your life. Whatever it is, where ever you are at, our problem in this life pale in comparison in knowing God loves us, he has saved us, he has given his life for us, he looks at our lives with a certain deep pride, deep regard, deep joyous love. That is God’s blessing.

Do you strive for God’s blessing? Then comes the question, who is blessed in this Psalm?

   Blessed are those, who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,

See the metaphor of the journey and way get taken up there: walking in the way of the wicked, the way of sinners or resting along the way in the company of mockers.

Who are the wicked and who are sinners? Well in one sense we are all sinners and we all have wickedness in our hearts, but often the Psalm use it in a more concrete sense of those who very explicitly have turned their backs on God and embrace ways that hurt and harm others.

Just like salvation has multiple sense: we are saved the moment we accept Christ’s forgiveness, then we are being saved as we take of practices of grace in our daily life, and one day we will be saved, vindicated in the final day.

One theologian talked about we have been saved from the penalty of sin, being saved the practices of sin, and one day will be saved from the presence of all sin. It is the second sense, our daily choices to either draw closer to God or turn away, that is what we are talking about here.

Who are mockers? This word for mockers in the Old Testament is synonymous with arrogance, stubbornness, ruthlessness, and hostility.

Mockers are those who have chosen to harden their hearts from God. They have chosen to ignore God’s commands. They have chosen to turn a blind eye to human suffering, choosing to benefit themselves. They live life for themselves and they don’t care.

And when a Christian comes along they mock, they scoff: You believe in God? Pfff… You actually go to church? Boring. You don’t drink or do drugs or sleep around? How on earth do you ever have fun?

They are quick to label you the closed minded one, when they have long since closed their souls off from the pursuit of truth.

They are quick to say they aren’t so bad, they don’t need God to be good people, but in turn their morality is maintained only if it is convenient for them.

They scoff at faith in God, we have all encountered these people. The scary thing is that we are often tempted to join in. We don’t want to be mocked. No one does. We want to be popular and do all that wild and crazy stuff our co-workers brag about on Monday mornings.

There is a seductive allure to the life lived ignoring God.  Its so much easier, it is no much more fun.

This is nothing new. It is a temptation that is thousands of years old.

One way seems easy and better, the other seems difficult and unpopular. One leads to life, the other leads to destruction.

How can that be? Let me put it this way. THink of two paths

The first looks straight forward, but actually it is the deadliest road in North America. The Dalton Highway is a 667 km road in Alaska. It is a serene drive, but a dangerous one. The road has numerous potholes due to the frozen ground shifting – we in Sudbury know a think or two about that. I should have put a picture of Maley drive there! Anyways, Dalton highway have fast winds that unexpectingly freeze the road leaving unprepared drivers stuck in the middle of nowhere to freeze to death.

Think of other paths. This might not be a path per se, but it works. Think is Edge Walk in Toronto around the CN Tower. First glance, I know what answer would be if you were to ask me to go on that: no thank you!

But the fact of the matter is it is completely safe. You have a safety harness that ensures you cannot fall. In fact, just last year, a 90 year old lady walked it. It was on her bucket list apparently. Good for her.

Do you see the difference between paths. One looks easy but is in fact very dangerous. One looks impossible, but is in fact quite safe and quite rewarding.

What way is your life taking? Is it towards God or away?

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Dt. 30:19-20)

How do we follow this difficult way?

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

Notice the importance of meditation, thinking, pondering, wrestling. I think it implies that the way of God is not always so simple, but there is joy in facing difficult realities longing to follow God.

Life will be messy. Life is not black and white. Neither are the Scriptures sometimes because if the Scripture were just simple and nothing more complex to them, they would only offer us shallow truism in the face of life’s perennial questions.

God does not just want us to have all the answers, he wants us to trust him, to walk with him, even to wrestle with him.

I know so many people that quote passages of the Bible in harmful ways rather then taking the time to mediate on them.

I usually encounter two people: One thinks too much of the law directly applies today and falls into literalism and legalism, imposing oppressive rules that don’t function.

The other doesn’t think any of the law applies today and their faith is often vague or action-less. The problem with that is that love and grace demand action, that is why law does apply. If I love someone there are certain things I will do and won’t do. In that regard the law does apply.

It does not make God loves us, and this is the Apostle Paul’s point. But God is pleased when we follow its principles, which get to God’s very heart and will for our lives today.

Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Jesus lived the law out and said if a law does not conform to his summary of the law, the law of love, that the core purpose of the law is not sacrifice but mercy and compassion, if an individual law did not function to promote love and mercy, then Jesus simply saw that individual law as no longer applying.

So, do you meditate on God’s law? John Wesley the great revival preacher said that before he went to bed he would pray asking God whether he had wrong anyone that day and resolved in prayer to fix it or if he had sinned against God, he would ask forgiveness, and resolve to work tomorrow on that aspect of his character.

Do we have that kind of deep self-examination before God? This is what this Psalm is calling us to.

When we do these things, what kind of people do we become?

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.

The Psalmist uses this analogy of a rooted tree by the water. Let me take this metaphor further…

There is a tree that grows in the desert called the mesquite tree. It thrives there. Why? Mesquite trees have roots that can go down over forty feet to underground streams.

Mesquite trees in times of drought or in the harsh winds of the dessert, stay green and lush. It is because of their rootedness. Their roots are strong enough to reach streams that refresh them.

The question is whether we are like Mesquite trees. Are we rooted enough in God? Do we nourish our spirits by meditating on God’s law? Do our souls drink from the streams of the Gospel to refresh us?

If we don’t we will wither. If we do, we will produce fruit.

The Apostle says that the whole law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: love your neighbor as yourself. When you do that, when you life in God’s love and for the love of others, not in the pits of laziness or legalism, then our lives produce fruit. Paul describes them in Galatians 5:

…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

You see, when we strive to follow his way, when we mediate on his word in wisdom, when we know how the law culminates in prayer and love, and we look for these fruit, the law is fulfilled.

You can weather storms. It is not that storms don’t happen. It is that you can weather them because you have strong roots.

Whatever they do prospers. In the Bible there are kind of two perspectives on obedience and success. This early Psalm expresses the idea that those that do right are virtuous and therefore succeed in life. There is a lot of truth to that.

We also know that the righteous can also find a lot of strife in life. Those that are honest do not always get promoted. Those that are self-less don’t always make a lot of money. Bad things can happen to good people. That is the whole book of Job.

Perhaps you are wondering this: I am trying to follow God, but why did I lose my job? I tried doing what is right, why are more people angry at me? I am honest in my life, why is my health worse? It is in the face of questions like this that we have to reevaluate what true success is.

True success in found in God.

True success is found in trusting the Gospel

True success is found in walking with Christ, through all the ups and downs of life.

True success is knowing that at the end of the age, Christ will turn to you and say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

That is all that matters. If you are wondering why life has given you the short end of the stick, remember in the eyes of the world we all might be losers and suckers, but in God’s eyes we are kings and queens, ready for the crowns of life.

Are you ready to rest in that, to know that God is enough.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction

You see the success of this world is not success in God’s eyes. They are like chaff. They are like the dry husk of grain that is blown away in the wind.

Some of us that have not grown up on farms might not get the chaff analogy. I was sitting looking out the window and the light shown in. In the beams of light, you can see little particles of dust, normally invisible, gently moving. You can’t even feel them on you hand.

That is the success of this world. They are that dust to God. One day they will be exposed for how inconsequential they are.

The people of God trust in hope that God will return to set right all that has gone wrong. And the sad fact is that those that continue to hold on to the idols of this world will experience this day as a bitter day, a day of destruction.

All the money of the greedy will burn, all the towers of the ambitious will be flattened, monuments will be melted, so much false-accomplishment will be destroyed. Everything that was not done to the glory of God will be no more.

It will be a bitter day because so many have spent their entire lives, they have built their entire lives on things that cannot last. They have refused to build their lives on God.

Jesus warns this:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Mt. 7:13-14)

The question then for us is, will we enter the narrow gate? Will we follow the path of the righteous? Will be build our lives on the things that last or the things that will be dust one day?

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