Tag Archives: Psalm 1

Following…who?

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

(Ps 1.1-3)

Watch out for false prophets..By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 

(Matt 7.16&17)

As I urged you…stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer…these promote controversies rather than God’s work – which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about…

(1 Tim 1.3-7)

If you point these things out …you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus..train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

(1 Tim 4.6-8)

The goal of God’s work in his children’s lives is their godliness, the creation of an ever clearer reflection of himself in them, showing his glory and beauty to the world. In the same way that a silversmith purifies the metal by fire, burning off impurities until he sees his face reflected in the liquid metal surface, so also our God is working out his good purposes in us.

We can choose to cooperate with this work, to embrace our destiny with faith and hope, trusting in God to be at work in all things, and seeking to learn in every situation what his will is for us. We can choose to hunger for godliness, choose to yearn after the fruit of the spirit above all worldly ambitions and make every effort to reject those things which frustrate our fruitfulness. The psalmist celebrates the power of the word of God to grow us into fruitful disciples, and when we meditate on it – chew it over, consider it from many angles, allow it to shape our thoughts – we are transformed indeed.

But we also make choices about what kind of people we admire and emulate, whose advice we take seriously and whose lives are our example. It is about choosing such people wisely that Jesus teaches when he speaks of looking for grapes on thornbushes! It is good to have role models, but what qualities should I look for?

Firstly, I need to find people who at least claim to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, our sacrificial Lamb, the Risen and returning Judge – a tree that looks like one which ought to bear good fruit. Secondly, I need to consider what fruit their lives actually bear, since this may give the lie to their claims. Paul warns Timothy about those who claim to be christians, but who bear bad fruit in disputes, divisions, doubts and pointless speculation. The effect of their ministry is not growing godliness – in themselves or their hearers – and this is a sure sign that they cannot be trusted.

So if I am looking to be inspired and encouraged by others in my journey of faith, I need to find those who bear good fruit after the manner described by Paul – lives of godliness, showing peace and self-control, faithfulness and patience, love, joy and kindness. It may well be that those qualities are in lives which are small and quiet in the eyes of the world, and even those considered foolish – so be it, these are the things which I desire. Let me learn humbly and reverently from God’s servants wherever they may be found, recognising in them a means by which I may be drawn further into godliness.

It is also good to find teachers who can educate us in the things of God, and we can serve them in praying for their protection – the history of the church is littered with sad tales of prominent saints who were led astray, and whose status proved a temptation to which they seemed to have no defences. We are all vulnerable and none should judge another for falling, but rather pray God’s keeping from sin and deliverance from temptation for ourselves and all those called into public service for the gospel.

Lord God, I thank you for all those who teach and lead me in your ways. Keep us all from sin, and make us quick to run to you when tempted to go astray. Keep your name in honour among us, that we might above all things fear bringing it into disrepute, and strive with all our might to be found increasingly in the image of Christ. For your glory and our blessing we pray, Amen!

A nourishing soil…

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked..But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

(Ps 1.1-3)

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statues of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure enduring for ever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are much more precious than gold..they are sweeter than honey..

(Ps 19.7-10)

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

(Col 3.15-17)

At a recent small group bible study, we were challenged to think just what it means for the word of Christ to “dwell richly” in us, and these thoughts are largely the fruit of that discussion. It is a phrase which I instinctively warm to, even though it takes some unpacking. This is something which I want to be true in my life, a prize which I covet..so what might it look like?

My first thought – as a gardener – was of the way in which plants either thrive or struggle in a given environment, and the difference which a little care and appropriate nourishment and attention can make to them. If we consider that the word of Christ has been planted in us – the source of our new life, and all those wonderful things celebrated in Psalm 19 – then we have a choice as to how we treat it.

Each person is unique, and each will respond more easily to certain parts of the word than others, depending on how they are made – for some reason, I find it easier to read and learn from the letters in the New Testament, than from the gospels for example. The letters readily bear fruit in my life, I connect with them easily. Does this mean that I neglect the gospels? No, it means I need to think like a gardener with a reluctant plant – I take time, I study how this particular species needs to be treated, and I approach it accordingly, confident that my actions will bear fruit. The results may not be spectacular, and this particular ‘plant’ may never come as easily and abundantly to me as the others, but I will be enriched nonetheless.

I can rejoice that God by his Holy Spirit stirs up within me an appetite for his word and a desire to be changed by it, so that I become rich in those things which matter – the Christ-likeness which is God’s purpose for me; holiness, love, discernment and courage to withstand evil and preach the gospel. The word dwells richly in my life when it is the most beautiful, the most dominant, the most desired thing I have – it is my prize because in it I find Christ and all the love of God for me.

As a singer, I especially rejoice in Paul’s suggestion that the word dwells richly in us when we sing just as much as when we speak together! I find immense blessing in singing the truths of faith, and in the way that the God-gift of music can embed the God-gift of gospel truth in my heart and mind. You may have heard people say that music ‘enriches their lives’, and surely for a follower of Jesus this is even more true, since our songs carry the word of Christ with them! Our emotions are a part of God’s making of humanity in his image, and while it is not wise to be driven by them, we are supposed to receive blessing through feelings – as we grieve over sin and rejoice in salvation; as we are eased by the beauty around us, and stirred by tunes which admirably fit the words to which they are set.

As we meet our fellow believers today, and as we live in a world which desperately needs to know our Lord, may his word be deeply embedded in us, bearing fruit and creating in us the beauty which is a faint mirror of his. May we speak and sing his truth, to his glory and the blessing of many..

Glimpsing the big picture

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

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.

(Psalm 1. 1-3)

Do you ever stop to think who the Bible is about? We are perhaps too familiar with it, too at home with the stories and teaching, and may miss this crucial point quite easily until someone points it out. At which point, if you are like me, you become astonished at your own foolishness!

At a recent midweek church meeting, we created a visual representation of the story of the bible – the whole big  picture, starting at creation and ending with judgement and the new heavens and earth. Along the way, we fitted in each book of the bible, and some of the principal characters who feature – such as Abraham, David, and of course, Jesus. And it was at this  point that our minister pointed out that the whole story is actually about God himself, and his dealings with people. He is the principal character, and it is the purpose of the entire book to teach us about Him, exalt and lift Him up – not any of the all too flawed human beings who feature.

The whole purpose of the collection of books which we call our bible is to reveal the heart of God, his relentless love and will to draw to himself those who will love and delight in him. It is a love story, but one written on such a large scale that sometimes we get too bogged down in the messy details to see it! The point of so many of the stories about folk like Abraham and David, is that they are flawed human beings who make stupid mistakes and refuse to trust the God who has promised to do great things for them. And still God is faithful to them! It is not their deserving that results in good things happening for them, but God’s goodness and persevering love. That is a lesson which I need to learn over and over again.

Jesus did not identify particular parts of the bible story as relevant to him and his ministry, but said that all of it spoke of him – the ultimate revelation of God to man, God made man, living in our messy and broken world. The books of the law spoke of God’s holiness and purity, and desire that his children should share that holiness – because our maker knows that this is the way to fullness of life, we are formed for perfection! Jesus came to live the perfect life, and show us what it could look like. The history books tell of God’s calling of a people to witness to his love and faithfulness, and of their betrayal of him as they turn over and again to other gods, to kings, to anyone at all rather than their God. Jesus witnessed to God’s love and faithfulness, demonstrating at every step of his ministry a profound trust in his Father and belief that God would be faithful to keep every promise made to him.

And running through the whole old testament – the scripture which Jesus knew – is the theme of redemption, of restoration and a final dealing with the rebellion which separates us from God. From the first sacrifices to the final promises by prophetic word of a coming Redeemer; the hope of a real and lasting transformation is demonstrated. In Jesus, it finally came to pass, and as the temple curtain was ripped apart on the day of Christ’s crucifixion, so the barrier which has kept us from God’s intimate presence was destroyed for ever.

While it is good to wrestle with individual passages and knotty theological questions, we must never lose sight of the overall story within which they sit. The details may entrap us into fruitless speculation and unhealthy ways of thinking about God, but the great epic theme restores our perspective, and puts the focus firmly back on God. This is the surest way to keep our souls humbly depending on him, trusting and returning to him over and over as we journey through life. This is the way to ensure that we thrive, like that psalmist’s tree planted by the flowing stream. And perhaps it is this thought which lies behind one of the sweetest, simplest of hymns with which I will close today.

Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above,

Of Jesus and  His glory, of Jesus and his love.

Tell me the story often, for I forget so soon!

The early dew of morning has passed away at noon

Tell me the story always if you would really be,

In any time of trouble, a comforter to me.

(A. K. Hankey, 1834-1911)

May we each be willing to carry out this ministry for one another in the days ahead, it is the most loving thing we can do..