The way of blessing is not getting our way - it's learning how to live in His way. It is here we find true happiness, a joy that cannot be shaken.
All right. Blessings to you all. What a, what a gift to be able to share this time together. As we kick off a new series, we’re calling it The Way of Blessing. To all of you, wherever you may be I know some of you are here in San Francisco, in the Bay Area, others of you joining us right now in other parts of the country.
And in some cases, even other parts of the world, I’m just so delighted that we can share this time together. My earnest desires that all of us would be blessed. Right? And that’s why we’re calling this series that we’re going to sit with as you make our way through the summer. And then into the fall, we’re calling it The Way of Blessing.
This is the way of blessing, and it’s the way that God wants us to walk. Right? And I know these are really difficult times. Uh, these are, these are turbulent times. I don’t think there’s any question about it. I mean, what we’ve all been walking through and are still walking through is just been nonstop.
It’s been like a roller coaster and, uh, it requires a tremendous amount of resilience on our part, but also we are invited into something we’re invited into a life of trust with God and the Lord has a way for us to go and He has a way for us to be. He has a blessing He wants to impart to us, you know, the disease that we’ve all been having to deal with, you know, at a physical level, it’s been very hard, no question about it, but there’s also been something else, not just a physical disease, but a dis-ease that has made its way into our lives, a kind of troubling of the soul and of the mind, our thought patterns.
I mean, I’ve heard from so many of you. How difficult it has been. A lot of us are dealing with anxiety and others just, we’re having a hard time, you know, moving forward in a positive, optimistic, hopeful way. Some of us have really had a hard time with fear and it just seems like every new cycle just can add to that fear, right?
When we think we’re getting better, something happens and it, it just, you know, It feels like we’re walking through just some more of what we’ve been trying to get out of and it can be hard. And I understand that. And you know, sometimes that fear just wants to define us and kin and confine us and keep us as kind of, you know, cave dwellers in a way, just isolated and afraid.
Um, and then of course there’s sometimes anger when you, some of the residual effects have been frustration. Now that frustration is kind of a low grade anger that’s been inside. And I just, I just know that the Lord wants to help us here. I mean, I’m just convinced of it. I mean, God’s plan for us is His blessing.
He wants us to be blessed and to flourish like that tree planted by the streams of living water. And, you know, so I just, I just want to pray. I just want to pray that God would use this word to bring life to you and to me and to everyone, who’s going to be able to share this time together. But Lord, I just, I just ask that you.
As the shepherd of our soul be with us right now, as we prepare to receive this teaching, help us to really concentrate and focus. And I just, oh, I just would ask for a flow of life and you know, where we need it most, you know, it might be physical, it might be spiritual. It might be emotional. And just in our thinking patterns, I don’t know, you know, you know what we need Lord.
And so we welcome you in right now in Jesus name, we pray. Amen. How I want to start then by just reading through Psalm 1. I mean, I was thinking about the series, The Way of Blessing. Cause that’s an aspiration that I have, like I mentioned, and I was going, where should I start Lord? Where, where would be the best place to launch from?
And I was drawn to Psalm 1. I mean, it’s all about blessing, the way of blessing, you know it, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that it’s the first Psalm. I mean, some of us are aware that the book of Psalms has been described as the hymnal of the church down through the centuries. It’s the longest book in the Bible, 150 Psalms, 150 chapters, Psalm 1, though, it starts like this.
Blessed is the man. Blessed is the one who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly nor stands in the path of sinners nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord. And in His law, he meditates day and night, he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth his fruit in his season, whose leaf also shall not wither and whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly Psalm says are not so, but they’re like the chaff, which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous for the Lord knows the way the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. How, if you think about this, the very first word in the first Psalm, the first chapter of the longest book of the Bible is what blessed.
Blessed. I love that. I think that’s fantastic. And it sets the table for everything that follows right? In the original Hebrew, the word that we translate as blessed, it really is connected to the idea of happiness. It’s one of the reasons why, when Jesus shares the beatitudes, the blesseds it’s often talked about as the happy attitudes, uh, you know, it, it has everything to do with,
not necessarily a trite kind of happy feeling, but the kind of, uh, vital happiness, it’s like happiness in its fullest most vigorous sense that is connected to joy and a settled soul and the goodness of God and the Psalm, the Psalm reminds us also that what is connected to that happiness is a choice that we make.
And it’s a choice that is connected to two pathways. We get to choose which one we want. Walk down. We really do. I mean we get to decide. Do we want to walk in the unhappy way or the happy way, the non blessed way or the blessed way. Right? We get to decide, do we want to pursue the way of foolishness or the way of wisdom, the way of death or the way of life, the way of ungodliness or the way of godliness?
The choice is ours. That’s what the Psalmist is laying out. It’s like we come to this fork in the road. We get to choose. Every human being in some ways does. One of the things that stands out to me, and that makes this Psalm so relevant, not just as a launching point for the way of blessing, which it is, but also because of the, the culture that many of us find ourselves immersed in right now, in other words, the context of our culture, I do think that this Psalm has so much to say to us today because there’s so many voices and, and most of those voices are calling us away.
From God away from the Lord’s teachings. And it’s going to require us really choosing to walk in the way of blessing. We have to make a, a conscious effort to do this because the culture isn’t going to naturally take us there. If we just float we’ll float in the wrong direction. So we’re going to have to make an effort to move in the way of blessing and follow the path of the Lord.
I mean, the, the culture, as it decays is going to actually provide us with an opportunity to live increasingly in His better ways, almost as if we’re like a, like a fish swimming in the opposite direction of the dominant stream of where everybody else is going. It’s almost like being willing to, to stand up and be counted for God.
And I’m not talking about in an arrogant way, but in an honest, sincere, humble, committed way. That we’re willing to, to, you know, go the opposite way. And that’s what this Psalm is actually getting at, in part it’s really describing. If you think about it, you look closely at Psalm 1, it really is a description of a collision of worldviews.
It’s a reminder that those who would be blessed will walk away from a kind of group think, that if you just look at that second first mocks, the, you know, kind of mocks with the superficials, um, superiority, the things of God. In other words, you know, think about the idea of the scornful and th they were being described there, right?
That the things that are being described as being sort of anti-God and one of the descriptions is the scornful. Those who would mock the ways of the Lord described them as being antiquated. Uh, somehow, um, no longer needed, uh, you know, too simple, you know, th that, that God really does remind us that that is not the way that we are to go, but that’s, that’s, that’s sometimes the reality of what’s happening.
And I think we are experiencing Psalm 1 right now, you know, and that, and, and, and yet the fact of the matter is God says that His way is the blessed way. That that other way is actually going to end only in death and destruction and pain and wounding, but that the way of the Lord brings life and goodness and blessing and happiness.
It’s the secret of happiness. I was reflecting on a CS Lewis because I was reading some of his writings. I mean, he, some of you are aware who CS Lewis was. He was a great thinker, uh, an apologist that is a defender of the faith. He was also a prolific author and he wrote books that are just amazingly, still, so, uh, capable of connecting with real world life.
I mean, he wrote “Mere Christianity” and, um, “The Four Loves” and some of you may recognize that that magical, uh, fantastical, uh, series that he wrote the “Chronicles of Narnia”. In which he just invites us as followers of Jesus to use our imagination. They’re filled with allegory and ah, it’s just so rich and beautiful and capable of speaking to both children and adults alike.
But Lewis, you know, CS Lewis was not, uh, a follower of the Lord. In fact, he, he ends up describing himself as the most. And I think a lot, some of the stuff I’ve heard, that’s not it right. That he calls himself the most reluctant convert of the way of Jesus, then the world has ever known. He, he says he was dragged.
Uh, I love the way he says it, kicking and screaming into the kingdom. Who could have known on that day in 1931. When he opened up and surrendered his heart and mind and mind to Jesus, that he would affect so many people for good. That God would use him almost like a, a modern day Saul of Tarsus to, to spread the good news and, and, and to reinforce the faith of so many people, his words still speak to us today.
Now some of us, you know, like I said, you know, you might be a little bit more familiar with Lewis’s, uh, upbringing than others, but he had rejected Christianity in his early years and lived as an atheist through his twenties. He kind of looked down. On Christian faith and didn’t see it as really relevant to his life.
And he actually though at a certain point, started thinking a little bit more about God. And in 1930, he turned to theism. And then in 1931, he eventually surrendered or, or begin to explore Christianity and opened up his life because to the Lord, because, because of people that he was around. One of whom is a name you’ll recognize a devout Christian, uh, named JRR Tolkien.
The author of the “Lord of the Rings” and Tolkien had a lot to do with Lewis coming to faith in Christ. And they actually had a small group together. And one more reminder of the beauty and blessing of small group and community life. And also how many of us, our faith journey is connected to other people. I mean, that’s usually how it always works, isn’t it?
Um, but I was thinking about Psalm 1 and CS Lewis and his writings, and I thought about, you know, these, this clash of culture and the way of Jesus and the invitation of, of Christ. And how the Lord invites us into his better way. And I remember something that CS Lewis wrote. In fact, I have three quotes that I want to share with you.
Each one of them, I think has something to, to give us of tremendous value. Look what he says here. And this is from the weight of glory. He says, I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else. What a description, right? I could see it.
I see the sun rising in the sky, but also the illumination that it gives to everything else. And I think about the way of the Lord and the way of blessing and, you know, it really is a way of seeing, isn’t it? And what we’re being reminded of that is that it has to do with the way of understanding life and finding life.
Well, the life that is truly life. It’s like going from black and white into full color. I mean, I w recently I was watching a documentary on the creation of the film, the Wizard of Oz, and there’s this iconic scene of, many of us have seen. I think everybody has seen the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, and, um, you know, there’s this iconic scene though.
She, and it was brilliant when it was, and when it was done, I mean, everybody was just stunned and amazed at it, but there’s this scene where Dorothy walks into a Oz and it’s this, this , it goes out of the house. It goes from black and white and then it opens up into color and it just pops. Right? It just pops with color and it’s just a contrast.
And in my mind, that’s a lot like what coming to Jesus is when you really see the Lord, everything pops, it’s like things change. Now I know what people are saying who are living in the black and white, but when you really come to Christ, ah, you see things very different. The beautiful fabric of God is on full display.
Lewis went on to say another thing, and this was from his book, “The Great Divorce”. Look what he says here about the blessed way he says in the end, look at this, there are only two kinds of people in the world. Those who say to God, thy will be done. And those who in the end God says to them Thy will be done.
I mean, it’s almost like, think about that one that is spot on if we want it our way apart from Him, but that’s what we really want.
But what we won’t get is our way, His way, I should say. But in other words, if we want to go our own way, then we can, but we won’t be able to go God’s way and our way at the same time, we’ve got to choose. We get one or the other. If we say your will be done Lord now in this life, then later on, we would just walk into the life that is truly life in the same way that we’ve walked through this life.
But if we insist on our own way. Then we’re going to get are the results of that insistence later. That’s a big part of what Jesus taught us, right? This life we get to choose and decide if we’re going to have God’s way. If we will, then He will show us His way beyond this life. It’s a pro. And then if it I’ll tell you this, you know, Jesus think about it this way.
He, he, he modeled for us. He, he showed us the blessed way. He, he showed us the way of Thy will be done. I mean, if you want to, you want to look at how it’s done, how you live a life of blessing that pleases the father, father, God, then we have a model it’s not as if we’ve been abandoned to kind of conjure up some, you know, imaginitive if, uh, you know, expression of what we think the blessed life looks like.
I mean, honestly, we just need to look at Jesus. We want to look and understand. What the blessed life truly is done. We look at Jesus and Jesus modeled, the Thy will be done, Father. That’s what He did when they asked Him how to pray. He said, well, when you pray, pray as this, our Father who is in heaven. Holy is Your name, Your kingdom.
Come on earth. This earth here as it is in heaven. Your kingdom come on earth as it is heaven. So the blessed life, the happy life, um, it’s, it’s not the life, that is the blessed life, because everything is going our way. We still live in a, uh, pain filled, broken sin, impacted world. And if any of us have been in under any illusions about that, about how fragile we really are, then, you know, this last season has.
You know, disabused us of that. We, we understand clearly how fragile things are, what a fragile, um, life ecosystem we live in, in previous generations, um, who had much shorter lifespans and were much more vulnerable to illness and disease. And that’s still the case in many other parts of the world, their, their understanding of life was a little bit different and mortality, and they thought more about things which were to come.
I think sometimes because we live in such a modern world, we are a bit, um, you know, I, I, yeah, I guess the way I would, I would say it is sometimes we are. We take things for granted that somehow we should be exempt from certain things and that we just have certain assumptions about what, what life is and every now and then something comes that disrupts that conception and challenges, our security and stability and foundation.
And I think we’ve, we’ve walked through that and are walking through that now. And that can sometimes actually be a good thing, because I know I’m not saying it’s good in and of itself, but it can be a good thing because it makes us think more deeply about what life truly is and what it, what meaningful life really is.
And it, it causes us to become more serious with our faith. Lewis, uh, CS Lewis had one more thing to say, and I, I love this. This is from the classic “Mere Christianity”. And if you haven’t read “Mere Christianity” and you’re a sincere follower of Jesus, I really would strongly that even if you’re just an explorer of Christianity, I would, I would encourage you to read, read this book.
It’s it’s a classic. Lewis wrote this. He said, this means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world, is not as some modern people think a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. And then he says this, if you read it, yeah.
You will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The apostles themselves who set foot on the, who, who sat on foot, the conversion of the Roman empire, the great men who built up the middle ages, the English evangelicals who abolished the slave trade.
They all left their mark on earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. And then this classic statement, it is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they had become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in, aim at earth and you will get neither.
Wow. I mean, aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in aim at earth. You will get neither. So one of the great keys to the blessed and happy life is to ask ourselves, honestly, what are we aiming at? Oh, what are we aiming at? What is the path we are choosing? And are we really committing ourselves to it, putting in another way, you know, the life joyfully illuminated by the assurance of the coming life creates the reality of the blessed life.
The kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. It actually, it actually is the invitation to bring some of heaven on earth. And I mean, that’s what Jesus was. And that’s what God invites us to experience in this life. But, let’s return again to the Psalm. It really is a picture of contrast. Isn’t it? It’s a juxtaposition, as I mentioned of the non blessed and the blessed life, but even more, it, it shows us not just what that looks like, but it shows us how to live the blessed life.
It’s one of the things that most stands out to me. Um, you know, the first verse, it really does remind us about what the blessing, you know, the blessed life doesn’t do. You know, it doesn’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly stand in the way of sinners, sit in the seat of the scornful, but then it reminds us where we are to turn to, but his delight is in the law of the Lord.
And in that law, he meditates day and night. In other words it’s always on our mind, specifically the Torah, the law, but more expansively, all of God’s word, you know, Jesus taught us. He said, be a student of My words. Because my words, they are spirit and they are life. And then we’re told in second Timothy three 16, that all scripture is given by inspiration of God is God breathed and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness oriented, how to live a right life, a blessed.
And, and yet, you know, I go back and I see, okay, the Lord invites us to be students of His words and any true disciple is going to just sit with the words of their teacher, their master, as it were, and, and become, um, well acquainted with the concepts that are being taught. And that’s what we’re invited into, but we’re not just invited to learn them.
Listen, Think about this. That’s one another thing I love about Psalm 1. It’s not just about learning God’s words, committing ourselves to God’s words, you know, having a familiarity with them. No, it’s more than that. You know, delights, delights himself in the word. Think about that. That’s the blessed one.
He delight. He delights himself in the word and meditates upon it day and night that the light I, that just caught me. Right? The idea of finding great satisfaction. We’re talking about how the Lord is saying, I want you to find it. I want you to find just real joy and pleasure in my words. I mean, we’re talking about the punch of joy.
Boom. It hits us like God’s word is to bring things alive in us. And it got me. I don’t know. It got me thinking about some of the times in my life when I most happy. And, and have, have just felt, I don’t know most alive. And, and there are, I was thinking about, there are two kinds of things that, that tend to make me feel pretty happy.
One is just like things that are filling me with awe, like, whoa. And then there were other things that fill me with, uh, uh, I’ll call it a, ah, I, I it’s, it’s a simple pleasure in life. So sometimes it’s the amazing moment. Where I just feel overwhelmed by the awesome beauty or the awesome thing that I’d be holding or experiencing I’m awestruck.
And then there are other times where I’m ah struck, right? That’s another way –. I mean, the difference between awe and ah, I, I, there are some times where I find myself just fill with small pleasures in life. It might be, you know, uh, I don’t know. A subtle thing. Like, no, just to the warmth of a, of, of a bath that you know, or.
Or a good cup of coffee on a familiar chair, the early part of a morning, or looking at a sunset sunrise. Yeah. Or a sunset, or taking a walk along the beach. And, and just as, as that sun is going down, the waves are gently rolling in and, and just, I don’t know, the vastness of the horizon, just certain moments are awe moments in certain moments.
It could be the kindness of a word, an expression on someone’s face, who we love. You know, just the little things that remind us of God’s goodness, but I don’t know God, that’s the same kind of way that God delights, invites us to delight. In His words, sometimes He invites us to delight in the awesomeness of His words and we just sit with the holiness of God and we sit with how His ways are not our ways and getting advices into His ways.
And then there are other times where we are just. I don’t know, given those ahh moments where we just feel the, the pressure of life and the pain and the anxiousness of it all, just drifting away as we are encouraged and strengthened by the simple promises of scripture and the, you know, I, I, for me, like sometimes the Lord’s words are, uh, uh, guidance.
You know, they show me a path, a path that I should go, His words in ways become something that show me a way, right? That I can make my way through a certain season in my life or through a challenge that we’re facing. And the other times where it’s like a beacon in the darkness where I wouldn’t know which way to go, but I can, I can see that light at the end of the tunnel.
And it gives me great hope. Like it could really strengthen as me to know the Lord is with me. And honestly, this has been one of those times where God’s word has been such a great reminder, not to be discouraged, not to be dismayed that I’m in the midst of losing many things I can trust God. In ways that are hopeful and meaningful and I can be optimistic.
And that doesn’t mean denying reality. It doesn’t mean somehow just putting on a happy face. It means allowing, um, His joy to fill me in such a way that I can be happy and that His words are alive in me. And I can trust Him for my tomorrows. So can you, by the way, right. Hopeful today is trustful tomorrow’s.
I mean, just letting the Lord have His way in our life, you know, the blessed way, is the way that we are being invited into. And, um, it’s a life that’s built on His words and His presence is a life that’s centered and submitted. So I hope that’s aligned and, or maybe better said aligning itself with God’s truth.
Like I’m not trying to use the culture as my guide. I want to use His words as my guide. My north star isn’t the the perspectives of changing opinions that are now in vogue or what is trending in the latest, you know, social media feeds or whatever. I want my, I want to be settled on Him and on His good ways. Uh, you know, everything else will fade away, but his words will end.
The blessed life, listen, is a life of continual progress and adjustments, a life filled with goodness and love and an assurance that in some ways, while everything may be changing, some things remain the same and God’s goodness is one of them. You know, I was reflecting on it on a, stanza from a poem called The Will of God by Frederick William Faber and I was struck by it.
He said, I worship the sweet will of God. And all thy ways adore to every day I live, I seem to love the more and more, and he has an a and I think this can be said in one of two ways, he had breathed into my soul, a special love of the love to lose my will and his, and by that loss be free where had breadth into my soul, a special love of the, uh, love to lose my will in his, and by that law.
Be free, uh, love to lose my will in his, and by that loss be free. Wow. That is something we are all being invited into. We are invited into His way and not our own way. The more I can go His way and say, in a way, yes, and amen to Your way in my life, because remember, amen needs let it be. So Lord, the more free I become, we get to choose, you know, I’ve got another thought I want to share.
Um, but before we do that, we’re going to go into our song. But as we’re thinking about that, I do want to remind everybody I get to do this. It’s my privilege. It’s the closest thing to a time of giving that I get to get to remind us of, you know, as we give our tithes and our offerings, wherever you can do that.
And if, if, if you, if your heart is so inclined and you want to follow the Lord into the ways of blessing you can give online, you can, you can, you know, uh, send it into our offices. You can, you can give through the app, whatever works, you know, that’s what I do. But the key is, like I say, you always give Him our hearts, but the song that we’re going to kind of share right now really does set up.
Uh, well, it both captures and sets up my closing thought that I want to share on the other side. Here we go.