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Monday, September 7, 2015

Determined to not just be "inside the line"

Pure lives - those lives which are unhindered by things which contaminate - either from external force or internal pressure.  Most of us struggle with one or the other of these, but most likely it is both.  We recognize the pull of things external to our lives which easily get us muddled up and kind of leave us feeling a little "dirty" or "contaminated".  It might be the not so "clean" joke at the lunch table, or the flashes of inappropriate images and language which enter in through our eyes during the viewing of a TV show. The sources are many - the influence is greater than we might think. To this we add our own internal "pressures" to conform to this or that image of what we think we are meant to me - either because we imagine it is what we are supposed to be, or someone has somehow convinced us it is the right way for us to act.  Either one of these produces enough internal pressure to get us thinking and acting in ways which aren't always the best for us, or the wisest.  In the end, we are left with some pretty confusing thoughts and actions. What keeps us from being affected from all these internal and external forces or pressures?  It is close consideration and adherence to the principles taught in God's Word. 

Great blessings belong to those who live pure lives! They follow the Lord’s teachings. Great blessings belong to those who follow his rules! They seek him with all their heart. (Psalm 119:1-2 ERV)

God's Word isn't meant to be an extraneous force - it is meant to be an internal "compass" by which we allow our path to be directed. In order for this to actually "work" in our lives - we have to get into the Word and allow it to get into us.  It is more than a casual acquaintance with it - it is a daily and consistently focused consumption of it.  You have heard it said that we are what we eat. I challenge us to begin to also think that we are what we consume in the way of influencing thoughts, guiding principles, and valid instruction.  The Holy Spirit gives us influencing thoughts - what we choose to do with them and how we ultimately allow them to guide our actions is our own choice.  The Word of God is filled with all manner of guiding principles - some steering us away from one course of action and toward another, others simply stating truth and giving us a standard by which to live (no matter what).  It may come as a surprise to some, but to avoid the influence of external forces and internal pressures, we need God's wisdom, direction, and stable principles by which we guide our steps and measure our actions.

As I have said on numerous occasions, we all kind of chafe against the "rules" in life at one time or another - some of more frequently than we'd like to admit.  It should come as no surprise that we are creatures who like to live as close to the edge of being "inside the rules" while being just close enough to being "outside the rules" to give us a little bit of a thrill and taste of what we somehow think we are "missing" by keeping the rule.  We don't recognize how dangerous this is for us, though.  The closer we walk to the line of being "just barely inside the rules", the closer we are to the influences which can be our undoing and easily ensnare us.  God didn't give us rules to make us "miss out" on things which would be for our good, but he gave us rules to live by which would ultimately keep us from the destructive influences which would lead us into areas of compromise which would "contaminate" our focus, "stain" our character, and "corrupt" our thinking.

David begins this rather long psalm with the premise he will build upon throughout the 176 verses which follow.  In essence, he sets the stage for what he will reveal as true and trustworthy as he goes on to elaborate about the choice he has made to follow the teachings of God in his life.  I would have to concur with David as it comes to living life by a "different" set of rules than most.  As we make this determination to follow the instructions God lays out, choosing to walk well within their boundaries, not dangerously close to the edge, we find blessing (contentment, happiness, joy, peace, emotional well-being).  I haven't found those same blessings in much else in life - have you?  How "close" we choose to live by the rules and how "determined" we are to actually become familiar with those rules will make all the difference about how well we fair when the external forces mount their attack and the internal pressures build.

Two things for us to take away from this today:  1) We have to follow God's teachings, not just make them a nice set of "ideas"; and 2) We have to do more than occasionally glance God's way for advice or deliverance in life.  This is the meaning of following the Lord's teachings - it is a determined commitment to not just acquaint oneself with what he instructs, but to use those instructions to order our steps and settle our thoughts.  This is also the meaning of seeking him with all our heart - nothing deterring us from actually spending time with him, drawing us away when we are, or pulling us back to the edges of the rules.  Seeking implies action - sometimes action requires a little more effort than we might want to exert, but I have never known God to ask for any action in my life that isn't "rewarded" by something great he reveals (maybe not immediately, but when I do as he says long enough, I see the action producing an outcome much more desirable than any I could produce on my own).  Just sayin!