I spent half an hour this morning meditating on Psalm 1 (one of our sessions at the Brighton Conference I'm attending was cancelled so I had a bit more time than I expected) and as I meditated I wrote down my thoughts. Hopefully for some of you who haven't spent much time meditating on the Bible before it might be useful to see some of where my thoughts went, not that I'm any expert on doing this stuff but if it helps you then great. If not then feel free to ignore my random ramblings!
All the way through doing this I was talking to God about what I was thinking and praying for people who came to mind too.
I didn't get to the end of the psalm after half an hour, but that's OK.
Blessed – happy, content, satisfied, at peace, growing, flourishing, prospering, doing life well, growing in relationship with God,
is the man – God working in and interested in individuals. Interested in the whole man. Not one specific area of life (health, mind spirit, relationships etc) but in every area of life – God is holistic and is interested in blessing the whole of us – no secular and sacred divide.
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked – where do I do this? By taking bad advice? Not all advice from unbelievers is bad, any more than all advice from Christians is good. But I need to make sure the advice I am getting is rooted in scripture and the choices I'm making are out of a desire to please God and seek his kingdom.
or stand in the way of sinners – I don't think “in the way” means getting in the way of sinners as in being a barrier to them, but being influenced by them. Jesus calls us to be in the world and be around sinners, but not to be of the world, not just conforming to what they would want us to say and do. Where is this happening to me?
or sit in the seat of mockers – I'm reminded of a lady Ben and I met in Singapore airport waiting to come home who spent a 15 minute conversation with Ben deriding the UK as a nation (and she was English). Mockers are people who drag you down, who are filled with negativity, who always have their cup half full, who take you down in their lift.
There is a progression here – walking to standing to sitting. Being around the wrong people can make me increasingly lethargic and lifeless and rob me of being a blessed person. Christians can do this to me as much as non believers. God put me around people who take me up in my lift and help me to discern and avoid being influenced by those who would take me down.
So what is the answer? What is the alternative? The psalmist says that it is to root myself in God.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord - God I thank you so much for the Bible. Thank you that it's freely available to us. Thank you for all the different ways it is now available – not only in print but on audio, iPhones and Blackberries – (and thank you for a good excuse to own an iPhone). Thank you for all the different translations which bring different aspects alive. Help me please to delight in it. Not that reading it should be a chore but something I delight to do, like enjoying a nice glass of red win, spending time with Catrina and the children or sitting down to read a good book. Something I look forward to and that I have a hunger for. Terry Virgo preached yesterday on the difference between our union with God (which is unshakeable through Jesus death on the cross and is never in doubt) and our communion with God (which is a relationship we need constantly to be working on). I don't spend time with God in order to strengthen my union with him (to earn his favour or his love) but in order to grow in my communion with him (to know him more and deepen my relationship with him).
And on his law he meditates day and night – God let this be a living thing which I take into every area of my life. Let spiritual disciplines (or 'relational food' as I now think of them) be as natural as having a conversation with Catrina or phoning or texting her. And help me to prioritise carving out time with you out of the 'firstfruits' of my time, not giving you then scraps that are left over after everything else has gone, but the best bits.
And what is the result of this?
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.
God that's the man I want to be. To constantly be being refreshed with living water, not yesterdays water or last weeks water. To be getting fresh input, fresh strengthening, fresh understanding and fresh ideas every day. Not be relying even on the sermon from last Sunday, the conference I went to last month or that encounter I had with God last year but a fresh drink for today. I'm reminded of the Israelites in the desert who had fresh manna every day, and if they tried to keep it until the next day it was no good (other than on the sabbath). We need fresh input every day, not try and take such a great gulp on a Sunday that we can survive until the following Sunday – that's a receipe for death.
And God's promise is that whatever we do will prosper. People seem to try and spiritualise out the 'whatever' bit of that sentence, but I believe that when God says 'whatever' he means 'whatever'. But here is the key. Psalm 37:4 says it like this - “delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”. The key is that as we delight ourselves in God he gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36) and changes the desire of our hearts, so that our desires become his desires. Jesus said it a different way talking about material possesions “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
God help me not to live with a poverty or failure mentality. Help me to live with an expansive view of life, believing that you are going to prosper every area of my life, but that prospering will flow out of my delighting in you and your word and you shaping my longings and desires.