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Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Road to Blessing

 It had to be a time of "anxious waiting" for the eleven disciples gathered in the upper room after all they had been through and as they awaited Jesus' promise of the Holy Spirit.
We’ve all experienced times of "anxious waiting" … perhaps even going through such a time now. The best thing to do is what the disciples did those days. They gathered with their community of faith and "constantly devoted themselves to prayer" (v. 14). In times of anxious waiting, it is important to surround ourselves with the faith community and pray—pray for the presence and grace of God as we walk through those trying moments of our lives.
During this time of “anxious waiting”, God moves and God speaks and God calls. They still really aren’t sure what exactly they are waiting for, but they are sensitive to the promptings of God, and so Peter senses the need to replace Judas. But he senses this as he reads the Psalms … he quotes a few
words from 2 Psalms, 69:25 and 109:8
May his place be deserted;
    let there be no one to dwell in it.
and
 may another take his place of leadership.
Now I would suggest that many would read these Psalms and not sense at all that they are talking about Judas, and they are not … except that in the particular context/situation that Peter finds himself, as he reads them, God can talk to him. It seems obvious to me that in spending their time in prayer, they did what all Jews did when they needed to pray, they turned to the Psalms, and in doing this, God, in His own special way, just kind of highlights what He wants to say. Peter was a fisherman, remember, not a Bible scholar. As a boy he would have learnt the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, in preparation for his bar mitzvah, but the Psalms he would have known from singing/praying them in synagogue and Temple, or hearing them prayed/sung in the Temple where we are told they spent much of this time of “anxious waiting”.
What am I trying to say? Simply this: Read the Psalms … and in reading them, pray them … and in reading them and praying them you will become amazed as God highlights them and speaks directly into your particular “anxious moment” … directly into your very specific situation. If you’re not already doing so, please let me encourage you to begin even today, to read a Psalm a day.
The Psalm set for this Sunday is  Psalm 1 … always a very good place to start.
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.

Now, many folk don’t like this Psalm because the message seems so simplistic, so "either/or." You are either "righteous" or "wicked" with no "in between." That negative attitude can shadow our feelings about this psalm and perhaps tempt us to not persist with the Psalms.

However, those of us who are in Christ and living with all the contradictions that come with putting off the old and putting on the new (
Eph 4:22-24 … put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; … and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness) know that it’s not either/or. We wish it were, oh how I wish God had perfected me at my conversion, and how I especially wish He’d perfected you at your conversion. But He’s chosen to allow it to be a process, of putting off old and putting on new … a process which He would like to speed up in our lives with our permission, but a process which we often choose to slow down because we think we actually enjoy our sin and we think it doesn’t matter. So, rather than Psalm 1 as either/or, we should see it (as Walter C. Bouzard, Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Wartburg College, sees it) as a "positive picture of the joys and pitfalls of our lifetime journeys." He goes on to say, "Taken as a whole, the psalm serves as an invitation to the entire psalter, holding before the community of faith—and not just the individual—the hope and promise that blessings will come from delighting in the Word of the Lord."


Do you delight in the Word of the Lord, or is Bible reading a bit of a burden for you. I think Peter delighted in the word of the Lord, so, in his time of anxious waiting, he turned to it … and God spoke to him … he sensed what the right thing to do was. You and I can too. If I’m remembered for anything when I leave here, I hope it will be this: That this man pestered us to distraction about reading the Bible because it is the beginning of our life with God.

Psalm 1 gives us a vibrant picture of what our life with God can be like. It begins, “Blessed is the one who…”
The first thing we need to know when we begin the first of the 150 Psalms is that Jesus is the perfect Psalm 1 Man. He fulfilled the righteous life and the prophecies of this Psalm and all of the Psalms. And he offers for us to be his students (another word for student is of course disciple) in his school of prayer. Jesus is our Teacher, the Psalms are our text, and daily life is our classroom.
 “Blessed is the man or woman who…” rejects worldly counsel and sinful ways to delight in and meditate on the law of God – the Word or message of God’s loving purposes for us – day and night. “He or she is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he or she does prospers” (Psalm 1:3).
Probably you haven’t thought of Psalm 1 as it relates to your daily stresses and your personal boundaries. I think these are important applications of God’s word.
If you’re a Psalm 1 man or woman like Jesus then when someone offends you, pressures you, or is upset at you it doesn’t define you or cause you to react negatively. Even before your trial came upon you, through your meditations and prayers you were already permeating yourself with God’s Word, rooting into his love, and drawing up nourishment from the rivers of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when you come into the difficult situation in which someone says or does something hurtful you are not so distressed by it – you don’t absorb the wound or conflict.
Even under the pressure of sweltering heat and drought, your leaves stay green and you have the capacity to bear fruit because your roots go down deep to the stream of life. Even when people are offensive you don’t internalize it to become wounded or ashamed by it because you are relying upon God and his Word for your sustenance – you remain separate and secure in your personal boundaries, rooted in God’s kingdom, and therefore able to bear the fruit of love even for the people who offend you or are mean to you.
As a Psalm 1 person you are not defined or controlled by the visible landscape of stress or conflict but by the invisible landscape of the glorious kingdom of the heavens in which you are living with Christ. As I said on Ascension Day, the truth is that you and I are now invited to live in the Kingdom of God, as kingdom people, so that His kingdom comes and His will is done, by us, in us and through us, so that the rule of Christ spreads through the land.

I can’t help but believe that Peter and the believers, in their time of anxious waiting, turned to the word of God and delighted in the word of God. I call you and myself to do the same. To become more like Jesus, the Psalm 1 Man, let’s read this Psalm in the week ahead and pray it over and over until it’s God realities permeate your soul and your life. Pray it in view of particular stresses, temptations, or conflicts, imagining yourself as the tree planted by streams of Living Water even though all around you in your circumstances there might be difficulty and drought.

So, … let us pray
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.


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