Psalm 1:1 "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful."
Blessed: divinely favored, happy
There is no doubt we all have a desire to be divinely favored by the Lord. We all want to be happy. How do we get there? How do we live a blessed and happy life in the midst of battles?
For me, the last three days have been a battle. It is not a physical battle, but a battle in my mind. For three days, I have had a song stuck in my mind. It is a song I heard many times when I was a teenager. They played it on the radio frequently. It's amazing that, twenty-five years later, this song I haven't been listening to is suddenly ringing in my head, over and over. It isn't a godly song at all, but it is stuck there, programmed in as if my brain were a computer, from my days as a teenager. What happened?
When I was younger, I allowed ungodly counsel to enter my mind through my ears. Counsel can come in many different forms, but it enters through the eyes and ears. The things or people we listen to, watch, or read penetrate into the heart and mind. Those things, much like a computer, program our thinking. Our thinking then dictates our actions. That's why it matters so much that we guard our eyes and ears, because through protecting those avenues we are guarding our hearts.
Proverbs 4:23 "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."
When we listen to ungodly counsel, we begin a path of decline. We will begin to walk in that counsel. Before long we will feel comfortable with hanging around people and things that clearly do not please the Lord. Then we will relax right in the midst of wickedness. Lot's life was a great example of this decline. Lot simply started walking in the direction of sinfulness (Sodom), hanging at first around the outskirts. (Genesis 13) Then he moved right in with the wickedness when he went into Sodom to live. Toward the end, we see him sitting in the gates of the city in a position of leadership. Genesis 19)
How do we keep our path from going down this spiral? Guard what counsel goes into your ears and eyes. Begin inspecting each influence in your life, and ask, "Is this a godly counselor? Is this movie a help to my Christian growth, or a hindrance? Is this song going to help me walk in the Spirit today? Is this friend helping me grow more like Christ? Is this book programming my thinking in a godly fashion?"
What about like my situation? The music (my ungodly counselor) was from years before when I was not protective of my heart. How do we deal with that? We have to reprogram our computers, our minds.
Romans 12:2 "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
That renewing comes through faithfully putting good counsel in the mind. That good counsel comes from God's Word.
Psalm 1:2 "But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night."
If we want victory in our minds, and if we desire to keep our feet from that downward spiral in our spiritual walk, we need to have a:
What counselors are influencing you? Are you guarding your heart and thereby guarding your steps? Who are your counselors throughout your day and week?
Joshua 1:8 "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success."
Then you will be blessed, Divinely favoured and happy. Time for me to go listen to some godly music and meditate on Psalm 1:1-2.
Being a parent has been a great asset to my Christian growth. God has taught me so much about Himself, about me, and about others through the parenting relationship.
For example, the agony of a child who is determined to go his or her own way...
Psalm 81:11 "But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me."
Have you ever dealt with a child who was absolutely set on doing what he or she wanted in spite of your counsel or even your direct command? If you have children or if you minister to children you have experienced it. As a parent, it's frustrating. You give your best for your child. You train them, provide for them, and guide them out of love. But when your command goes against their will, you are suddenly seen as the enemy. There are times when you restrain the child, and then there are times to back off and let them go their own way so that they face the consequences of their choices.
Psalm 81:12 "So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels."
How painful it is to have to back off and let them go down a wrong path! As a parent, my heart breaks to see my children suffer things that they would not have had to suffer had they simply listened to parental guidance, instruction, or command. This morning as I read Psalm 81, my heart broke over one word. The tears began flowing. I have uttered this word in my heart over my own children, and yet here I found God giving the same cry over me!
Psalm 81:13 "Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!"
He cried out in agony over His people Israel in this Psalm. He had been so good to them. He had provided, protected, and loved. He warned them and commanded them so that they would travel down a safe, blessed, and fruitful path, yet they refused to listen. He had to back off and let them go down their own path. It was agonizing to Him. He cried out, "Oh!"
When my children do the same thing, it is a heavy and painful weight in my heart. I don't want to see them fail. I don't want to see them hurt. I want to see them safe, blessed, and fruitful. And my heart cries out, "Oh!"
What really broke my heart this morning is the thought of Him crying out over me, "Oh!" When I go my own way and refuse to listen to Him, He feels it. My Father agonizes over my wrong choices. The thought of that restrains me. It makes me think twice about how badly I want my own way.
Then as I read on in Psalm 81, God explained all the things He desired to do for His people, Israel. He wanted to bless them and help them, but their foolish choices restrained His hand. And He cried, "Oh!"
How many times I must have made Him cry out! How many times my foolish choices must have restrained His hand! How many battles I must have gone through unnecessarily because I simply would not follow His lead!
I find myself crying out, "Oh that I would not break His heart and make Him cry out it agony because of my pride and self-will!"
May I be fully surrendered today to His will, His command, His counsel, His voice.
My Dad had a secret.
My brother and I discovered his secret.
In his room, hidden in the back corner of his nightstand drawer was a box of... Whoppers. You know, those chocolate-covered heavenly malted milk balls. Those were his favorite junk food, and he kept a secret stash in his room often. They were not very cheap, so he kept them for his own more discerning palate and gave my brother and me cheaper treats. He knew we would eat anything sweet, so there was no sense in wasting money on them for us. Not to mention, we would eat them like popcorn while he would eat a handful here and there.
Over the years, I have come to realize that many parents do this! They have a secret stash somewhere in there room. Matter of fact, it's not uncommon to find a small bag of peanut M&Ms in my husband's headboard cabinet of the bed. (M&Ms are expensive here!)
Yes, sometimes parents keep things hidden from their children, but there are some things we desperately need to share with our children.
Psalm 78:4 "We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done."
Worship of God
""...the praises of the LORD..."
Our children need to see a living, personal walk with the Lord. They don't need dried up religion, choking tradition, or dead habits that substitute for real worship. They need to see that we are sold out, fully committed, and in sweet communion with our Father. They need to see it, not just hear about it. They see us praising, singing, praying, thanking, and sitting at His feet daily.
The Fear of the Lord
"... and his strength..."
This next generation needs to see our respect for the Lord and for the things of God. They need to see us humbling ourselves before Him. They need to see that we reverence Him as the Creator of all things, the Holy Judge, and our Saviour. They need to see us stand firmly on righteousness and that we shun things that are against Him and His holiness. Our God is strong and powerful. Our children should not see us treating Him lightly or irreverently, nor casually standing by as others do.
"... and his wonderful works that he has done."
We need to pass on to the next generation God's Word, who He is, and what He has done. They need to see that His Word is true and we can trust it!
Why is it so important to pass these things on to our children? What is the purpose of it all? That there would be raised a Godly generation, and that they in turn could then pass it on to their children!
Psalm 78:6-8 "That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God."
We desperately need a generation that:
"... set their hope in God..."
Without faith it is impossible to please Him. This next generation needs to see that God can be trusted even in the darkest hour. They need to see that they can confidently follow Him.
"... not forget the works of God..."
The next generation needs to know who God is and what He has done. Our generation has become Biblically ignorant. We know very little about our God and His Word, yet we pride ourselves in our spirituality. What contradiction! When our children come to us for counsel, we cannot handle the Bible skillfully enough to give them real help. We need to get in the Word and get before our Father. We need to know Him intimately so that we can pass these things on to the next generation.
"... but keep his commandments:"
A fully surrendered life is a treasure indeed. But our generation has become masters at sidestepping the clear commands of God. We have learned to eloquently argue the case for disobeying the Word. But we need to show this next generation what it means to submit, to surrender my will for His command. Instead we are raising a generation who knows all the excuses of why holiness is not relevant for today's generation. His command has not changed.
1 Peter 1:15 "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;"
Let's not hide God's Word from this next generation. Let's not hide true worship or the fear of the Lord. Instead, let's make these things our focus and passion. Pass it on to our children.
I love watching storms roll in from the safety of my front porch, but do you know where I would be terrified to see a storm? It would scare me to death to be on a boat on the sea!
As Asaph wrote Psalm 77, through the inspiration of the Lord, he began picturing himself on the waters in the storm. His view of the storm was a little different, though. Typically when we see storms, we think of the storm being the enemy, and we are needing God to intervene and rescue us. Asaph however saw the true nature of the storm.
Psalm 77:16-20 "The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled. The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad. The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook. Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron."
Why were the waters stirred up and troubled? From where were the arrows of lightening coming? What was the thunder?
Asaph recognized that God was in control of the storm. This trial in his life wasn't an accident that happened and he suddenly needed God's help. This storm was part of God's plan and work in his life. Yes, God's arrows, God's thundering, God's stirring of the waters. How is this good news? How does this help me when I am in a storm? How could Asaph sing a song about God throwing arrows in his life? The key is the last verse.
It seems like the last verse is completely out of place. As a homeschool mom, if I were grading Asaph's writing, I would circle the last sentence with my red pen of judgment and write "off topic." It just doesn't seem to fit! But actually, it's the key to understanding our storms and our God.
Psalm 77:20 "Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron."
You see, Asaph knew the children of Israel were (and still are) God's chosen people. God made a promise to Abraham, and He will keep that promise. He is the Shepherd leading His flock. Our Shepherd leads us. Sometimes He leads us right in the middle of a storm. The amazing thing is that our Shepard who stirs the waters can also part the waters just like He did as Moses and Aaron led the children of Israel through the Red Sea with enemies pursuing. Sometimes He stirs the waters and sends out His arrows. It's during those times we need to remember He is the Master of the wind and seas. They have to obey Him! If He so chooses, the stormy water has to part at His command. Sometimes He wants us to weather the storm, trusting He is in control. Other times He parts the waters for us to walk through on dry ground. We have to trust it's the same Shepherd in both situations... the Water Stirrer and the Water Separator. Trust the Shepherd of the Storm in the storm.
The rain is pouring down on you. The wind is blowing the rain in sheets and it stings as it hits your cheeks. The lightening surrounds you and the thunder engulfs you. You are in a storm. Suddenly you find yourself questioning God. Suddenly you begin asking:
Are You there, God?
Do You care?
Why aren't You listening to my pleas?
Why is this happening to me?
Why am I so alone?
If You care so much, why did you allow this?
In your heart you know it's a spiritual battle. How do you combat these feelings? How do you gain victory over questioning God's favour, His kindness (mercy), His Word (promises), His graciousness, and His compassion (tender mercies)?
The psalmist, Asaph, questioned all these things in his storm, too, but he gained victory. How did he do it?
He Looked Back
Psalm 77:10, 11, 15 "And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.... Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah."
The same God who had done so many great things in the past for His people, Israel, had not changed. He rescued them. He delivered them, He showed compassion on them. Asaph rehearsed those works to help remind him who His God was.
When you are in the storm and begin to question God, take a look back at how good He has been to you in the past. Remind yourself of the wondrous things He has done for you. Rehearse them out loud and praise the Lord for His compassion and love for you.
He looked at the Present
Psalm 77:12 "I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings."
The Psalmist then reminded himself of the things that God was doing right then! Even though there was a storm, God was doing wondrous things right then! He took time to dwell on those things and then to speak those things out loud.
When you are going through a storm, remind yourself of the loving kindness and blessings God is showing you right then even in the storm. Vocalize it. Praise Him to others. Give thanks and testify of His goodness. There really are so many benefits that He gives daily that our list of thanks would be endless!
He looked to the Future
Psalm 77:13-14 "Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people."
Paths don't just stay in one place. They continue on to the future. The psalmist was focusing on God continuing being the same. He is the God that does wonders... yesterday, today, and in the future.
When you are in a storm, remind yourself that God doesn't change. Look to Him guiding you in His path in the future.
He Looked at the Storm from a Different Perspective
(To be continued)