Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 32
What I Read Today: Psalms 1-5.
What Stood Out About What I Read Today: Psalm 1: 1-3. “How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway with sinners, or sit in the assembly of scoffers! Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the Lord’s commands; he meditates on his commands day and night. He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. He succeeds in everything he attempts.” and Psalm 4: 4-5, “Tremble with fear and do not sin! Meditate as you lie in bed, and repent of your ways! (Selah) Offer the prescribed sacrifices and trust in the Lord!”
Random Thoughts About What I Read:
Here’s some advice I got from a leader in my church when I was all of 18 years old: “If you’re going to join a fraternity, you should find one a lot like ‘Animal House’ and do everything you can to be light in the darkness.” It all sounded so noble and I took it to heart and did that very thing.
Before you even begin to wonder if that’s good advice or not, you have to keep in mind that this person knew me very well. He’d seen me grow a great deal–spiritually speaking–in a very short time. He knew that it’d probably be good for me to take what I believed and make it my own. He knew that it was probably time to get out of my suburban Christian behavior bubble–it was full of good kids doing church-type things in a time where Christian ministries were doing everything possible to keep us entertained and out of trouble.
Again. It seemed like the right advice at the right time for me. Generally speaking, this is horrible advice.
Because it was at college in that very fraternity that the mindset was different. See, in high school, my circle of friends had a generally negative view of the party scene. Certain behaviors were off-limits…and while experimentation was certainly taking place, it was either repented of or lied about (legalism’ll do that). But in the fraternity life, the mindset was that all of these things were expected…and the more excessive the better.
And, let’s be honest: Sin is fun. There’s an appeal.
And when the message of sin is positively reinforced, well, let’s just say it’s easy to begin to follow the advice of the wicked. You just begin walking alongside them rather than watching from afar.
Then you stand. You begin to take it more seriously. You can still turn and go the other way pretty quickly, but instead of just going with the flow, you begin to spend more time there. It’s kind of like walking in front of a bar every day on your way to work, but then one day you decide to stop and look at the prices of the drinks on the menu in the frame outside. You were moving, kind of curious, maybe wondering what it was like and why people in there might be laughing or listening to great music or shooting pool or whatever. Then you stop to see what it might cost. (It’s just an analogy, folks. It breaks down when you realize that all of those things are not sin–just making a point about walking and then standing)
I call this “giving them your ear.” In fact, whenever I’m involved in situations where I’m asked to work with a couple whose marriage is in trouble, that’s on of the first things I ask: Who has their ear? For example, a wife will say her husband is considering a divorce and while there isn’t another woman involved, he’s going out now and partying and probably dancing and chatting up other girls. It’s usually at this point I try to figure out who is giving him the advice that his current situation is awful and their lifestyle is better…because that’s almost always the case. I mean, if the guy was still plugged into a group of solid Christian guys who were encouraging him to talk to his wife about the state of things and find ways to serve her and communicate to her because she’s not the kind of lady that wants her husband to end their marriage and all that jazz…
(okay, speaking of analogies that break down–I realized that’s kind of a Disneyland group of guys, man. Let’s be honest, most Christian small groups are not the types of environments where that kind of thing can come up without judgment so most people wouldn’t bother bringing it up in their small group anyway. But lets just say the group was a solid one and said things encouraging him to work on his marriage, okay?)
…instead of guys who reinforce the idea that his wife is the kind of woman who beats him down and he needs to get out of that situation and the kids are better off without him in the mix and besides, life is too short to not live it up and these women are more fun and the single life is the best life and all that.
Well, that’s “standing.”
Then you sit. You’re in now. You’re one of them and you’re staying a while. It’s an active view that not only is the God-thing not for them, but it’s not for anybody. In fact, those that are walking with God are nuts or wackos or closed-minded or whatever else the current milieu says we are…and nobody wants to be in with the losers, right?
See, the process there the verbs in the verses give you?
Then the passage gives you a contrast…BUT (or in the case of the NetBible, “INSTEAD”)…
…a blessed person is one who finds pleasure in the Lord’s commands.
…a blessed person is one who meditates on His Word.
He’s a tree unswayed by the current milieu. Strong, because he’s planted for the long-term by a stream that will constantly replenish him. When the time is right, the fruit will show, too.
The meditating on His Word was usually pretty easy. I’ve been given extreme doses of it all along my journey. I’ve been involved in Bible-teaching churches and small groups that were focused on deep study and I really liked reading about it all anyway. So, for me, meditating on His Word is still something I thrive on and believe in as I head up my own ministry.
It’s that catch of “finding pleasure in the Lord’s commands” that was trouble for me. I mean, I gotta be honest. There were rarely times that I didn’t know the right thing to do given a situation. It isn’t like I’d walk into my small group of guys (who were actually kind of a Disneyland kind of group now that I think about it) after the weekend and brag about the wrong thing. “Hey, boys! I got totally hammered this weekend and it was AWESOME! You guys should try it out!” Nope. I knew better. Cover that stuff up. If they ask, minimize the story, too. Thankfully, they learned my M.O. over time and asked much harder questions and held me accountable–which, interestingly, they “had my ear.” I’m glad they were there. But sometimes it was hard to take pleasure in the commands.
That’s where the Psalm 4 passage came into play for me.
First, I had to “tremble.” Realize the God was God and I’m not Him. That kind of gives Him the right to “tell me what to do.”
Then, I had to meditate and repent. See, it’s one thing to read it and learn it. But the greek word for “repent” is a 3-fold process. It involved a consideration of the facts, which will convict the heart, which will change the mind (thank you, DTS alliteration sermons in 3-points!). So, you get the data in your brain and think about it, which pokes at your emotions, and you change the way you think–which causes you to turn away from that old way.
Finally, you just “offer the sacrifices” and “obey.” Just decide to do the right thing even if the wrong thing looks a lot more fun and gratifying whatever urge is the chink in your armor.
Over time, I realized that I never really regretted doing the right thing. Sure, I might’ve missed out on the last two hours of the greatest party of all time, or got away from the drunk girl when my initial idea seemed more fun, or being the designated driver by choice or however else the “right thing” looked given the situation.
And I watched the payment for “following the wicked, standing with sinners, or sitting with scoffers” play out in my friends. Maybe it was when I had to bail out the friend for drunk & disorderly conduct, or a guy who had a one-night stand tell him she was “late,” or watching a guy lose his pilot slot due to a DUI or whatever else the “wrong thing” was given the situation. It was in those moments I learned how much the payment for the wrong thing always shows up in the fine print of the deal.
As those processes played out, they more or less rewarded themselves. So, as I got older and a bit more experienced, I began to find pleasure in the the Lord’s commands. They were the best thing for me, as only a Father who loves me can give me, even when I thought I knew better.
And yes, trying to be salt & light turned out to be a good thing for me and the next step in my spiritual growth at age 18. The reality is that it was a 3-year (more bad advice: Graduate in 3 years so you can get to seminary. Why leave college, man?) lab experiment in seeing what it means to follow/stand/sit against learning to love the Lord’s commands. So, I do wish I’d been more salt & light. That’s for sure.
But I learned. I grew. And hopefully, the standing firm is a lot more frequent than hopping on the path to follow these days…
(Tomorrow’s Reading: Psalm 6-12)