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Monday, March 29, 2010

Blessed by staying on course

Psalm 119:1-8 (The Message) "You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You're blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That's right - you don't go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; then I'd never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel. I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways. I'm going to do what you tell me to do; don't ever walk off and leave me."

Ever want to live a "blessed" life? A truly blessed life? Probably more than we admit, we have this yearning deep within to really enjoy our days, feel that something valuable came out of the decisions we made today, know that someone or something was made better by our involvement. It is not an uncommon thing to want to "succeed" in life. Success is an elusive goal for us - when we get to the point of "success" we seldom are "happy" with what we have accomplished - at least not lasting happiness. We set out on another venture, hoping that we will be "more fulfilled" with the next success, only to find that the latest pursuit leaves us feeling just as empty, just as unfulfilled, just as challenged for "more" as we were before.

There is really only one pursuit that bears a reward that we can term as "success" in our lives and that is the passionate pursuit of Christ as our Lord and Savior. Anyone who really knows me understands that I am a little quirky when it comes to words and their meaning - not really a fetish, but I like to know what a word means, how it has come to be used through the ages, and what the root(s) of the word stem from. With that in mind, I looked up success (and its sister, succeed) in my good old, well-worn and tattered Webster's dictionary and this is what I found:
  • The outcome or result of something (success)
  • A favorable termination of a venture - attainment of favor (success)
  • To turn out well (succeed)
  • To prosper, thrive or flourish (succeed)

The Psalmist wrote of being "blessed" when we stay on course with God, walking steadily on the road that he reveals for our lives. Blessed is not a common term you hear interwoven in our communication each day. We likely use another word to describe what the Psalmist was describing here: "happy". The term "blessed" just doesn't carry enough sense of emotional description that we connect with, so we use the term "happy" to represent our disposition, sense of well-being, and attitude when the results of our pursuits have been successful. "Happy" comes closer to what we really feel when we meet life head-on and come out unscathed on the other side. Blessed really has that meaning - enjoying true happiness (not the elusive kind that is based on the situation of the moment) that brings us pleasure or contentment in life.

As King David pens these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he is bringing us head-on into the reality of our destiny in Christ. A man or woman that follows hard after God is one who will enjoy the blessings of God's care - new mercies in times of ill-planning; new grace in times of bad performance; new protections in times of hostile attack. Sounds like corporate life, doesn't it - but this is not what I am describing here, nor was it what the Psalmist had in mind, either.

We set out each day with an end in mind. Rarely do we get up, say to ourselves, "I think I will just drift along today and see where I end up". Even if we have very few plans for the day, we usually have some end in mind - even if it is as basic as relaxing, reading a good book, sipping iced tea, and getting some much needed rest for my body. David wants us to recognize the importance of starting each and every day with a "course adjustment" - walking steadily on the road revealed by God. We make this "adjustment" at the feet of Jesus - taking time each day to "check in" with him, read a little from his instruction book (The Bible), and then listening intently for his direction.

For many of us, we make this passionate pursuit of Christ way more difficult than it has to be. We have these pre-conceived notions that walking with Christ means hours of study in the Word, endless hours on our knees until callouses develop, and becoming so out of touch with the reality of day-to-day living that we are more "heavenly minded" than we are of any earthly good (I call this being "weird"). In reality, a passionate pursuit means a heart investment in the one we are pursuing. Sometimes I don't really have to say much - God just breaks through in my thoughts and shows me something little, gives me a little hint of his love or grace, and then we move on. I send up hundreds of "arrow prayers" - those short ones that come as you think of something or someone that needs just a little thought brought before God at that particular moment. You see a car wreck and pray instantly for those involved, knowing that their day has been royally messed up, their "ride" crumpled, leaving them stranded for a way to get to/from work, etc. Not lengthy, meaty prayers that would make it to the "annals of prayer", but simple words that let God know that a need exists and we recognized it. When we begin to recognize the needs around us, God is pleased. He is always delighted when his kids begin to see something or someone other than themselves. Amazing, isn't it, that our heavenly Father is so delighted in just the small stuff? When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees (those religious leaders of his time), he never commended their "long words" of prayer. As a matter of fact, he chastised them for being too lengthy with words that really did mean anything. Simplicity with God is foremost - be who you are, share from your heart, open up to him - you won't be disappointed.

Time in the Word is another challenge for us - it is hard to understand, seems to contradict itself at times, and is just plain confusing at others. Get yourself a good translation that makes it easier to understand what is recorded in these 66 books we call the Bible. Don't start out with huge expectations that you will become a bible scholar in a week - be realistic. Take a verse at a time. Get a dictionary and look up some of the words to see what they mean (the roots of the word). Spend a little time mulling it over. Then move on. You may read 10 verses before you come across something that says, "this one's for you", but don't give up. Even in the dry spells, when reading seems laborsome, I have been rewarded to find excellent truths buried deep within some of the "dry stuff" in the Word.

We begin a study of Psalm 119 today. The first concept I wish to convey is that God wants our course to be "blessed" - truly happy, giving us true contentment. He wants our walk with him to be steady - not wishy-washy or wavering to and fro. He wants us to enjoy the blessings of his care and protection - comes from following his directions. My family gives me the directions for everything. Why? Because they know I will read them! We benefit from reading the directions - we don't have to do a job twice, we don't put things out of order, creating chaos in the end. So, I challenge you to re-read the passage above. See what God gives you today and ask him to "stay your course" with him. Pray that prayer with sincerity and see what God will do! Have a truly blessed day in the Lord.