Blessed: Happy Much?

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” (Psalm 1:1)

I don’t like the word “happy.” It’s a slippery word for a slippery emotion. As soon as I start evaluating the level of my happiness, it starts fading. On the other hand, sometimes I’m hit with a wide-eyed awareness: “I’m really happy right now.”

blessed_350Some scholars say the world “blessed” that we’re going to talk about this week as we study Psalm 1 together means “happy,” but it’s more than that. It means something like “happy because God likes me and he’s taking care of me.” As a Christian, I can always say I’m being blessed by God even as my mood rises and falls with my hunger level.

In other words, blessing can be an emotion, but it’s backed by rock solid evidence of God’s goodness. Any good things or feelings I can point to in my life absolutely come from him. And when I start counting all the good things I have and feel because of Jesus, it’s easy to call myself blessed. Maybe even happy. Definitely joyful.

What David wants us to hear this week, though, is that blessing comes only on the path of God. More tomorrow.

Think: How often do you apply these words to yourself: blessed, happy, joyful? What’s the difference between feeling blessed or happy and knowing for a fact that you are blessed by God?

Pray: Thank God for all the ways he has blessed you with good gifts and good emotions in your life. Ask him to help you to be willing to walk in his way all of the time.

Do: Read all of the way through Psalm 1 as a preparation for the rest of our study this week.

Blessed: Blasphemy Day

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” (Psalm 1:1)

Have you ever heard of International Blasphemy Day? According to a post on Albert Mohler’s blog a few years ago, Blasphemy Day (September 30) was dreamed up by a group called the Center for Inquiry. There’s a blasphemy contest, as well as the continuing effort to get folks to officially reject faith in God via YouTube videos.

blessed_350You can read Dr. Mohler’s excellent suggestions for responding to all of this (including the refusal to be offended and outraged).

David also has something to say about mockers, a title that seems to fit those creatively blaspheming against Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit. Simply this: Steer clear. Don’t walk, stand, or sit with them, philosophically speaking. Recognize the dead-end path they’re on and head the other way.

Why? Because God will reign down fire on you if you don’t? Actually, the first motivation David offers is that God blesses (makes happy?) those who refuse to participate in rejecting him and his way. Put positively, blessings, support, and connectedness are found in trusting God and enjoying his Word.

Think: What’s your first reaction to those who openly mock God or faith in God? How can you demonstrate God’s love, grace, and forgiveness to people who see your faith in him as foolish?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to follow the path of those who reject him even while representing his love and grace to them in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Do: Identify a few people in your life who you know have rejected Christ and commit to praying this week that they will be drawn to trust in him, instead.

Blessed: Delighted by a Book?

“But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)

People who are passionate about the writings and ideas of the famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung are sometimes call Jungians. And the Jungians were pretty excited a few years ago. A huge journal he kept of his innermost thoughts and feelings was published after being hidden away and unavailable for nearly 100 years.

blessed_350I’m not a Jungian; his teachings don’t line up too well with those of the Bible, in my view. But I can understand why you’d be excited to read the long, lost insights of the person you’ve patterned your life after. The Jungians couldn’t wait to get their hands on that book.

You know where I’m going. We tell everyone we believe the Bible contains the very thoughts of God – that the God of the universe went to the “trouble” of getting down in language his ideas for us. We say we believe that, but I’m not sure we’re convinced.

If we were, it seems like we’d be a lot more delighted to dive into the thoughts of God every day. We’d be less likely to categorize studying the Book along with eating green vegetables, getting exercise, and flossing. What can we do to increase our enjoyment of God’s thoughts from God’s Word?

Think: How many people do you know who really seem to be fascinated, enthralled, captivated and excited about the Bible? How did they get that way?

Pray: Ask God to help you to delight in his Word and to learn to really, truly enjoy meditating on it every day.

Do: Grab an online or offline (paper, even) thesaurus and read a long list of words that mean the same thing as “delight.”

Blessed: No Third Option

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)

Reading today’s verse on its own begs one obvious question: Who? Who is like a tree with a primo spot by the river? Who’s the one that always grows, that never lacks what’s needed, that seems to be especially favored by God?

blessed_350Jump back a couple of verses and you’ll see that this person is defined by what he or she does NOT do: “walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” That kind of person delights in God’s law and is like this stellar tree.

Notice something: There’s no third option here. You cannot be someone who does NOT live like a sinner but also does NOT love God’s way. Turned around, Psalm 1 doesn’t leave room for us to both live like the wicked and experience God’s well-watered earthly blessings.

We’re either all the way with him – or we’re all the way with the ones who are against him. And things don’t go well for them in the next few verses.

Think: What percentage of people would you say are trying to find the third option – not wicked, exactly, but not completely committed to God’s way, either? What’s the danger of trying to follow that non-existent path?

Pray: Ask God to help you to choose him over the path of those who reject him every time, even in the little choices you make every day.

Do: Close your eyes and think about trees. Okay, not really. But notice the trees this week and think about where their water comes from. Ponder how they get what they need to grow.

Blessed: Dead and Disconnected

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.” (Psalm 1:4)

“Not so the wicked!” As Christians, we believe in a real, literal hell where those who reject faith in Christ will spend eternity apart from God. Such a fate is too horrible to even imagine.

blessed_350But today’s verse could also describe the state of those who reject God in this life, right now. If we are not connected to the source of all of life, light, wisdom, beauty, and good things – we are not connected to anything, at all. We are disconnected and adrift in the wind.

The wicked – the God-rejecters – are spiritually dead, as the New Testament explains to us. They are not planted and watered and alive and receiving nutrients. They are empty husks, destined for the fire.

By the grace and power of God, faith in Jesus transforms the wicked (all of us) into those credited with Jesus’ righteousness. He transforms the dead things into the living trees planted by the water. He brings us to life. (See Ephesians 2:1-10.)

Think: In your own words, how would you describe the difference between being spiritually dead and spiritually alive in Christ?

Pray: As a Christian, thank God for making you alive and connected to him through your faith in Jesus.

Do: Read how dead people come to life and get connected to God in Ephesians 2:1-10.

Blessed: Wicked v. Righteous

“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.” (Psalm 1:5)

It’s easy to get confused about all of this talk of “the wicked” and “the righteous.” These days, most people would tend to divide those groups up by our own ideas about what’s really wicked – murder, rape, genocide – and what it means to be a “good person” in your heart.

blessed_350For Israel, though, these two groups were defined by who was in a covenant relationship with God and who wasn’t. God’s chosen people were righteous as long as they continued to follow the Law. Everyone else – no matter how “good” their hearts – were “the wicked.”

For those of us who have never followed the Law, though, the difference between these two groups is even more clear. Outside of Christ, we are all wicked. We are all sinners. We are all separated from God. But through faith in Jesus’ death for our sin, God declares us as righteous as Jesus is. We may still struggle with sin, but we are forgiven, cleansed, made right with the one and only God.

Bottom line: In the end, the righteous and the wicked will not be together. They won’t wind up having the same experience. It matters which group you belong to.

Think: In your own words, how would you describe to someone the difference from God’s point of view between the righteous and the wicked?

Pray: Thank God for his justice and mercy, for his grace and forgiveness to those who come to him through faith in Jesus.

Do: If you really want to dig into how the wicked can become the righteous, read carefully through Romans 5.

Blessed: Final Destination

“For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1:6)

God knows. The words “watches over” in this verse can be read as “knows” or “knows and guides” or “knows and cares.” The big idea is that God knows where the righteous are going and how the righteous are getting there because he’s paying attention, keeping them on the path, preparing the way.

blessed_350The path of the wicked, on the other hand, runs out of God’s “knowing” and terminates. It’s not the God doesn’t know where they’re going; it’s that their path, their way of life, is a dead end.

Again, the difference between being the righteous and being the wicked comes down to one word: Jesus. Those is Christ have the righteousness of Christ. Those not in Christ – no matter how good they seem – are the wicked.

So what’s your final destination?

Think: Are you encouraged by the idea that God is watching over your way if you are a Christian? Do you like the thought of being known by God? Why or why not?

Pray: Thank God that he knows the way of those who are righteous because they are in Christ.

Do: Think about memorizing some or all of Psalm 1.