Doing everything you you’re supposed to do - flossing, quiet times, exercise, prayer - trying to balance all of that with actually living your life can be really hard.
Fun Fact: My journals go all the way back to January 2003, when I was in a really dark place at college. It’s so amazing to look back and see how God has been working over the years in ways I never could have expected!
Occasionally in these bursts of renewed discipline we’ll make some marginal change in our morning routine that actually sticks, or tweak the way we pray or journal, but long-term change is pretty hard to come by.
Pursuing God is not the same as dental hygiene.
“A Taste of the Good Life”
This week: Studying the Word of God and Communing with God
The people who wrote these psalms were just like us - desperate to know their God, eager to praise him with gratitude when things were good, imploring him to act when things were bad.
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.
The obvious conclusion we’re meant to draw here is that it’s better to be a tree than chaff. It’s better to be fruitful and strong than to be blown away.
The word “law” here is actually the Hebrew word “Torah,” which usually refers to the first five books we have in our Bible, sometimes called the Pentateuch. It’s the story of the founding of the chosen people - the Israelites. And in it we have a detailed collection of laws, guidelines, and rules God gives them so they can be a holy nation, ready to be God’s instruments in the redemption of this world.
Fun Fact: One of the most profound purposes of the creation story in Genesis (How the Torah begins) was to set God apart from all the other local deities worshipped in the land the Israelites were going to live in. All the other “gods” were tied to things like the sun and the moon, but in Genesis, there is only one God who created everything, including the sun and the moon (which not only are not gods, they don’t even have names!).
The Torah (law) was the God of the universe revealing himself to humanity and showing them how to live lives that reflected his values and his purposes.
So when we read in Psalm 1 about “meditating on God’s law day and night,” it isn’t about memorizing a list of rules. It’s about diving in to God’s revelation of who he is, it’s about examining our own lives to see if they reflect God’s justice and mercy, and it’s about communing with the Creator whose interactions with humanity start not with violence and injustice, but with love.
2 Timothy 3:16
All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.
God’s breath is in every page we read. But even that is not the end of God’s revelation. Because he gave the gift of the Holy Spirit, who lives within every single one of us who surrender our lives to Jesus.
Fun Fact: Many devout Jews wear phylacteries (small black leather boxes filled with verses from the Torah) as a very literal fulfillment of Deuteronomy 11:18: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them to your foreheads.” That’s one way to meditate on the law day and night!
We can experience the good life - peace, purpose, abundance - but it starts with pursuing God. Delighting in his law - his Word. Meditating on it. Becoming a people who are set apart for the redemption of our broken world.
Pursuing God leads to a fruitful life.
Day and Night
This psalm was written to real people in the real world. “Day and night” means meditating on God’s law while working and playing and eating and conversing and relaxing. It isn’t so much something you do, it’s who you are.
“This is fundamentally what spiritual transformation is all about: choosing a way of life that opens us to the presence of God in the places of our being where our truest desires and deepest longings stir.” -Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms
Fun Fact: In the wonderful little book The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence, a 17th Century Carmelite monk says, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.”
Our pursuit of God should spring out of desire and passion, not out of guilt.
Ideas for Studying the Word of God
Listen to an audio version of the Bible
Use music to help you reflect on scripture
Fun Fact: One of my favorite bands these days is Gungor, whose music has been extremely thought-provoking for me.
Reflect on Art
Fun Fact: The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Henri Nouwen, really is a wonderful book! I’ve read it three times.
Fun Fact: True confessions time. For fun I am working on an Excel spreadsheet that tracks historical events, kings, dominant empires and estimated authorship dates for biblical books for every decade from 1000 BC to 0. #nerdalert
Ideas for Communing with God
Different times for Silence and Solitude
Do something with your hands (dishes/hobbies/gardening)
Listening to the Spirit while running errands
The Great Outdoors
Fun Fact: For a quick wilderness fix, I head down to the Charles C Deam Wilderness Area in the Hoosier National Forest. There’s, like, a single deer in the whole place, but at least it’s peaceful!
Fun Fact: You know what works even better than praying aloud? Praying aloud while walking. I don’t know why, but when I walk and pray aloud, it’s like I’m having an actual conversation and I’ve had some pretty profound moments doing it. Now, I don’t know where you’d be able to do that without looking like a crazy person, but maybe just put headphones in and people will think you’re just talking on the phone?
The point of all of this is to set you free - free to pursue God in a way that gives you life.
Sarah McLaughlin Video
With laundry and food and diapers and school supplies, it was becoming really hard for Sarah to find time to commune with God. So she decided to do something a little unique.
She began to sing worship songs with her kids and post the videos on Facebook so she could be a part of the broader church community, even if flu season meant they weren’t always able to make it on a Sunday morning.
Fun Fact: Sarah (Scharbrough) McLaughlin is also a recording artist with several albums. You can find her music on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/sarah-scharbrough/id279574279
For Sarah, pursuing God is not something that gets put on hold when life gets busy. It’s an outflow of who she is.
It’s time to find someone to disciple you!
Ultimately, what matters is that you pursue God. Meditate on his law. Study the Word of God and commune with him in a way that gives you life, and I guarantee you will become like a strong tree planted by streams of water - deeply rooted, standing tall, fruitful in all you do.