Reflections on psalm 1:1-3

Reflections on Psalm 1:1-3

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

The psalms have been an anchor for my soul in the last several months of my life. Many Christians turn to the psalms, and for good reason. Beyond the reality of beautiful poetry, one can find many emotions within each poem. Anger, sadness, rejection, loneliness, feeling forsaken, grief, despair and much more. It came to my attention, that my focus turns to the psalms around the fall season. Perhaps it’s the beauty of the season that make the words of the psalms truly capture my attention. I’d like to attempt to make a trek through the psalms, and share my reflections. I’m not going to make any promises, because I know that perfection will not be visible in this exercise.

That being said, lets start with the first three verses of Psalm 1:     Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,

Blessed. We are blessed if we don’t not follow the path of the wicked. Now, what does it mean to be a wicked person? In one sense, its living in direct opposition to God and the mandate the he has laid before us. Before I had a collision course with Christ, this was me. So, in no way am I implying that I’m better than anyone else, nor is that the actual intention of the scriptures. In my opinion, being wicked simply means to do things for purely selfish reasons and gain. Again, this was me before becoming a new creation, I did everything to make myself feel good and my gain. Not caring about the soul of another. The result for me was that my soul began to wither and I did not prosper, as it says in verse three. In simple terms, when a soul begins to wither, they have no color or fail to be vibrant. The same way the leaf looks stunning in the fall. The soul that withers is not living as they ought to be.

The tree planted:     

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

This section of the psalm stuck to my heart in a profound this, mainly because this tree is stable. Even in the changes of seasons, it does not fret because it knows that it will be taken care of. Now, I am not saying that a tree has emotion, but more metaphorically speaking. We humans have a very hard time being stable. We easily worry and give in to worry and every other desire and emotion when life becomes difficult.  Emotion is not wrong or bad, frankly emotions are a gift from God. However, when we constantly let our lives be led by them we fail to bare fruit in seasons. We don’t thrive. Rather than being dominated by emotion, we should learn to filter and delay our emotions. The opposite of that is constantly freaking out and always being in a state of panic. Is that how you truly want to live?

Furthermore , it is my belief that this part of psalm one is telling us to trust that the very God who planted us. Will not leave us to be destroyed by the various storms of life, but that he will not leave us and always-always provide for us. He feeds us, clothes us the same way he provides for the sparrows. The path of Christ is narrow, and sometimes in life our souls can wander, we get beat up spiritually, we doubt and yes sometimes we can find ourselves on the other side of the road where we are not meant to be. But, if your tree is rooted in Christ, he will never allow you go too far off the path. He’s amazing like that.   

Knee Jerk Reactions

I think that if there was one thing I’d change about myself, it would be how reactive that I am to pain. What I mean is that, when something of adversity comes my first protective measure is to lash out or rather do things without thinking. Or I don’t specifically think of the consequences before doing certain things.

Over the last few months, I’ve become a fan of stoicism. Mainly in how it teaches one to sit with thoughts and emotions, noticing them and sometimes not even doing anything about them. Because well emotions, they aren’t something solid that can always be trusted in. Our emotions can often let us down and leaving us feeling and looking stupid in the end.

Detaching from emotions- or rather not giving ear to every emotion that comes to us. I don’t think that means that we allow ourselves to become emotionally constipated per-say. Some emotions are worth paying attention to, on the other hand if we allow ourselves the always open window of emotion. We then become a slave and emotion is our master.

There’s time in life where one must turn off emotion and do what needs to be done. A simple example is this, let’s say you wake up pissed off for reasons you don’t even know. Are you going to let that get in the way of your work day? Or, let’s say your boss pisses you off so much, are you then going to focus on how much you dislike them? Or are you going to focus on the task at hand?

Now, perhaps there’s issues with your boss that need to be handled, maybe even finding a new job. But what happens we you lose control, and you unload on your boss? Now you can probably kiss your job good bye.

Consequnces.

And with them, most of us then think “why in the hell did I just do that?” Then you feel like #### after.

So, sit with your emotions, decide which emotions are worth paying attention to and what ones are worthy of dismissal. For as a person of faith, I am not ruled by any one thing but have the mind of Christ.

Stop Saying Your Broken

Growing up in my faith, it was very common to hear fellow believers, exclaim that they were a broken person, after all it makes sense, within the the framing of the Christian faith. Is the idea the sin a broken and corrupted everything within the human existence.

A pastor I once listened said that Christians are image bearers of God, and are like a mirror image of Christ. But sin has broken the mirror inside us that reflects christ. Hence why Christ had to come and die, to repair what was broken in us.

Again, it all makes sense. At least to me, and if you’re a follower of Christ. But I don’t believe that it was it was the healthiest of narratives to believe after becoming a Christian via the power of the holy spirit. I believe that most of us that have the name of Christ on our hearts, have forgotten that we have the holy spirit inside us. (1 Corinthians 12:13- Eph 1:13-14)

God put the spirit inside of us. Shouldn’t that do something to the psyche of a Christian? Absolutely!

God also gave us spiritual armor and a sword to fight back with, Ehp 6. Again, that should tell you something.

Once again, I think there is nothing good that comes from a fellow Christian that simply believes that they are weak and broken person, waiting for Christ to come and put them back together. Negative. Absolutely not! Outside of Gods grace and love, yes we are weak and broken people left to our own stubborn and tired ways.

But when the holy spirit invades your whole being, you have the mind of Christ, you have been made a new creation and have been enlisted in the army of God. Because we have the spirit, because we have been made a new creation and because we have been enlisted in the army of God.

Guess what, God calls us to go set other hostages free, he calls us to go on the attack against sin. That doesn’t seem like a broken person to me. Some many of us walk around with our heads down and shoulders slouched, thinking and believing that we may never have victory in our lives. In no way shape or form is that how the father wants us to live our lives. If anything living like that is like living out a lie from the pit of hell.

Your past has been forgiven. Any sit that you will ever commit. Past, present or future has been forgiven. That is every reason to hold your head up, to stand up straight with your shoulders back. It is every reason to achieve a sense of mastery over the self, in the grace of God.

So, my fellow believer. Stop saying your broken, rip that narrative up. Yes you may struggle and stumble at times, but that isn’t who you are. Remember what God has done for you, remember who he has made you to be. Hold your head up and stand up straight.

A Christian Stoic- Me?

Not really, but I do like a part of Stoicism or rather a definition of it:

the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint.

In college, my senior year I took a crash course in philosophy, and loved every moment of it. Particularly weighing other branches of philosophy against my own Christian world view. A lot of the different philosophies and even religions, try and make sense of human existence and suffering. growing up around the Buddhist perspective. The thought of reincarnation was once cool to me, because I would never really die, I would just come back in another human life… Or something else. When I truly began to understand what reincarnation was, I understood it as endless cycle of paying past debts and sins. If you did not make amends for your past in some fashion.

I just did not like the idea of not knowing if I would have done enough to write my own wrongs in my life. Furthermore- I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept that suffering was an illusion. Or that there was really no rhyme or reason to it. It just was… What spurred me onto the Christian perspective and following Jesus, was that I could see from the beginning that the world was the way it was because of sin.

On top of that Jesus even says that life is going to be hard (my own words- John 16:33). At least, with these two ways of understanding, I could wrap my head around why the world was the way it was. Better yet, someone that not only says that right out of the gate, but transcends it and over comes it as well with his death, burial and resurrection. I accept that as truth, because God has shown me his love in the actions and character of Christ.

Moreover, I know that I am not strong enough to absolve or atone for my own sin by myself. For as long as I have been trying to live this truth out, by the grace of God. I have been learning ways to handle adversity and suffering in life, in its many forms. That not only speaks and points to the heart and character of God. But the fruit of the spirit, that enables me to stand up as a man.

I look to how Jesus conducted himself as a man, within the pages of the new testament. Christ was a man- a God-man that was in control of his emotions. Always slow to anger, and when he did show anger, it was always calculated. He had a spine to him, wasn’t afraid to stand up to the religious big shots of his day. He was okay breaking away from people, to embrace solitude and divine connection with his father.

As I recall scenes from Mel Gibsons, Passion of the Christ. I can recall Jesus being calm while the Roman guards led him away. They beat him to a bloody pulp, mocked him, reviled him. And there he stood, silent in the face of the agony that was about to be set before him. He didn’t make a sound..

(By now if you’re still reading this, you might be thinking, get to the bloody point sir!) To me, some of the characteristics of Jesus seem very stoic, and as I have stumbled upon the definition of stoicism above. I have found that it has filled me with a new level of strength and even hope. As well as a way of conducting myself as man. Life has and will bring pain and adversity. But its how we deal with it that makes it all the difference.

A lot of us freak out when things don’t go our way, or have a level of ease. We lose our tempers, say things we don’t mean and sometimes even get violent… But, in reality that is nothing good or worthy that comes from that. So instead of doing all of that negative garbage. Why not look at adversity and suffering in a new way? When frustration comes our way, when pain comes our way. How about simply acknowledging its presence,

A Real Escape- Why I seek it.

In recent years, probably a few times a month. I am filled with the desire to go rock climbing, skydiving or hiking. The interesting fact is, I’ve never done any of those things. So its not as though I could simply pick up and do any of those. I would love to though. Up until recently, these desires seemed so odd to me. Why would I suddenly want to do something, seemingly dangerous, that I have never done before?

Two reasons:
One- a sense of adventure and thrill.
Two- a way of escape.

With the sense of adventure, I believe that this stems from living with cerebral palsy all of my life, being confined to the same daily context. It’s not directly a bad thing. But there is a huge part of me that wants to break free and experience new things.

And with the way of escape, another catalyst to my sense of adventure is to find peace. Peace, away from daily drama, complaining and the like. When I was praying in the early hours of the morning, God revealed to me that my longing for escape, is much deeper. In fact, my longing for escape is much deeper than this world.

CS Lewis once wrote: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.

I love these words, because they perfectly explain the longing in my body, mind and soul. I want to be in the arms of Christ. Because He is my peace and the real escape that I long for. When I am finally with Him, I will be able to do all the things that randomly spring up in my heart to do.

Put Your House In Order. While You Still Can.

I was reading my Bible this morning, and this particular phrase in 2 kings 20:1

This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

I do not intend to dig a lot in the context of this passage, but rather center the focus of this around what verse one means for us today. My room has a lot of clutter in it, I know where everything is at, but it has a lot of clutter.

Now, on one hand there is a method to how my room is, its easier for me to reach certain things and doesn’t require me to stand and reach for high objects. I know this annoys my family, but for me it works. It’s not because I intend to live like a slob. My clothes are not neatly folded because folding can be tough for me.

My parents come sometimes and fold things as they see it should be, it stays neat for awhile but then as time goes by, things return to the way they were before. People within the design word, claim that your outside world reflects your inside world.

So, if I have a lot of clutter in my room, I probably have a lot of clutter on the inside too. It makes sense and I would agree that it is true. I do have a lot of clutter on my inside life. I’ve been trying to get it in order for a long time now, I’m not where I want to be but I am damn sure much better than what I was.

Getting your room in order is not only physical, but it is mentally, emotionally and spiritually too. I would submit that the latter three are of greater significants. All of us are headed to our graves, and to a degree we can choose how we get there.

Maybe for someone its getting your mental health in order, so that the heaviness of depression and anxiety don’t completely drain you of all joy and appreciation of life. Perhaps its getting your money in order, where you actually plan for a future and not burn your money on meaningless pleasure. Maybe it’s making peace with your past and people that you have wronged or wronged you.

If you and I don’t do this, what is the consequence? We die in the state we have chosen to live in and we will not recover. We will die holding onto that shame, regret, bitterness and anger. We will die, never know what we could have been.

I think hell is a real reality, not some metaphorical reality. And I believe that God reaches out to us every day, telling us that he is the way out from the suffering in our lives. That’s why he sent his son Jesus on a rescue mission, for us. He can make us new, fill us with peace and joy and give us a completely new road map to destiny.

The sad part is, some choose to stay in the pain and suffering because that’s all they know. It’s become their norm of comfort. Shedding the old skin and experience new life can be painful too. In one of the Narnia movies, a young boy turned into a dragon, who was then a mean and grumpy soul.

In order for the boy to be transformed from being a dragon, Aslan had to remove the dragon flesh from his body. Which was extremely painful. Which is true for us as well, it hurts an extreme amount. But when our own dragon skin is removed, it is as though we are all new people.

I’m still working on getting myself in order, you can too. We can still recover while there’s still time.

Christians-Gods Temple- Redeeming Health

When I was attending my first bible college, we were discussing the every quoted verse in 1 Corinthians 6:19. Which reads “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;” Interestingly enough, there are all kinds of interpretations to this verse, anything from drugs, tattoos, suicide, sex and even health. Most of us, in our chapel discussion agreed that in had to do with our health and honoring God with our lives.

I spoke up about how I thought, that I strongly believe that as Christians we ought to be doing our best to take care of our bodies. In all all aspects: mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. Not always in that order.

I’ll never forget it, when a rather loud black woman piped up and said “I don’t need to take care of my health, I’m dying anyway and in Heaven I’m gonna get a new body.” My first thought in that moment and even now is, that can’t be right or true. Yes, I do affirm that on the other side of life, Christians will have glorified bodies that are free from sin and decay.

But to assume that we can just let ourselves go, and let illness and death simply take us over. Is frankly sinful and a smack in the face to God, because he blessed us with life. It is then our response to honor him back. In my years of Christ, I have seen so many people walk through the church doors. Including pastors.

It’s sad that we have readily accepted this reality. I don’t think it is enough as believers, to simply ready ourselves for death. No, we still have much purpose and mission in this life. And as such our bodies need to be ready for the tasks at hand. This could mean, preparing your body and mind, for a time of raising children up. Working a job that requires heaving lifting etc.

Even if you have a desk job, guess what? you still need to honor God with your body. This could be a simple, as saying no to fast food and choosing healthier options. It could very well mean preparing food the night before. The point is, Christians need to think more broadly about how we honor God with the temples we inhabit.

It’s both the inside and the out.

Its my personal belief that Jesus Christ himself, was a fairly in shape person. After all, he walked almost everywhere and worked with his body. Who are we to be any different. We truly are without excuse.

The Key To Paradise

I believe that one of the “hard” things of the Christian faith, is that if we are not careful things can become lost in translation. We can read the same things over and over in our bibles, without having what we read move us or change us. I’m no different, I struggle to pray as I should, and though my bible reading is disciplined. It can seem very robotic, as though I only do things out of “religious duty”

We all know the story when Christ is on the cross, with two people on each side of him. If you don’t know of it, I encourage you to read Luke 23:26-44. Again, I have read this passage quite a bit over the span of my faith journey, and it sadly doesn’t move me sometimes or nothing jumps out at me. The story kept coming to memory, so I opened my bible with the thought in my mind

“Okay Lord, what are you saying to me?”

As I was reading, it came to my attention that there were two different types of hearts: On one hand, there is the heart of stone, the first criminal almost has a mocking tone of voice and posture of heart. “Your Jesus right? So why not get yourself off this piece of wood and save us!?” (My translation). If I’m not careful, this can be me too, I can have a horrible attitude about my life and faith as well. In which case, I have to bring myself in Gods presence, seek forgiveness for my hard heart and allow him to soften my heart over again.

I love the words of Ezekiel 36:26:

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone[a] and give you a heart of flesh.

In my observation, this is what happens to the second man hanging beside Jesus, something happens inside of his own heart to invoke a different response. He says “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same condemnation ? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom .” And he (Jesus) said to him “Truly, I say to you. today you will be with me in paradise.”

Again, I’ve read this before, this really isn’t anything new to me per say, but what I noticed, is that there is so much going on between the second man and Jesus. I don’t know much at all about this mans life, his past or anything. But I think it’s safe to assume, that he knew deep down he made a mess of his life, wasn’t proud of himself at all and knew that there wasn’t much at all that he could do to merit the grace of God.

I believe that that is the best place a person can be, because when we are to proud, full of pride then there really is no way we can see the grace of God, can we? No we can’t. And our hearts cannot ever really soften, unless the spirit of God breaks through with a holy sledge hammer.

The way Christ responds to this man, completely blows my mind, Jesus doesn’t lead this man in a prayer, tells him to repent or anything of the sort. The man only cries out from his heart, which is in a way a form of repentance and asking for forgiveness. And Christ accepts him willfully. The man knows, that if he is to enter paradise with Christ, it has everything to do with the goodness of Christ and zero to do with himself.

This, my friends, should set us free! Why? Because it’s no longer about us, we know longer have to slave and white knuckle our way into Christs love. We can rest in the grace and mercy of Christ, and breath with great joy because it’s all about the finished work of Christ for us.

Trust me, if you feel like God is done with you, or wants nothing to do with you, you’re mistaken. He just wants you. All of you. While you are still alive, there is still time to know the grace and goodness of God. All you have to do is cry out to him.

The Beauty and Invitation of Grace

Lots of people are addicted to many things, me, however. I am addicted to the grace of God. I can’t get enough of it, I need it almost every moment of every day. Grace is the one sustaining reality in my life that keeps everything else going. I talk about grace so much, because it has utterly changed my life.

Many churches have hot button topics that they love to preach about, and for me grace is that truth. I was am the prodigal sons, before I gave in to the affectionate calling of the Lord drawing my heart, I was the other younger son that was arrogant, and felt like God owed him everything (if there was a God) and now, being a redeemed Christ follower, I am the eldest son that runs away and comes back home.

Yet, the father still runs to be every single time. No, grace is not an invitation to live a careless life, grace is the gift and ability to walk closely with Christ each and everyday. And with joy. But the reality is that, we do wander off the path. Take for example, the timeless hymn “Come Thou Fount”

“Prone to wander Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love”

We sing this all the time, but I don’t believe that we understand what we are singing. God is not stupid, he isn’t. He knows that you and I are gonna screw up and screw up a lot. He knows we are gonna lose our tempers, say things we don’t mean, totally blow it and act counter to how we Christians should act.

But you know what? He’s not shocked. He knows. And dare I believe that he is shaking his head at us, rather he picks us up, brushes us off and reminds us who we are in him. And sets us on the narrow road. Any anger that we may believe that God has toward us, was poured out on the cross. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation. The old has been done away with and the new has come.

The sins you cannot forget, are the sins that God has forgotten.

I believe that because God is slow to anger, his hearts cry is for people to finally notice how much they need his grace. On one hand, proud people who already think they are amazing. Have no need for the beautiful gift of grace. While on the other hand, those that know they have blown it time and time again. The grace of God is the most precious of gifts.

It’s a gift, you can do nothing to deserve it, let alone un-deserve it. But you can embrace it with all its joy and beauty.

Mental Illness and Church Leadership- Responding to Dale Partridge

Recently, a pastor by the name of Jarrid Wilson committed suicide. Admittedly I knew of his name until I saw a post on social media that spoke of this tragic event. As a phycology major, a lover of the mind and as one of has a soft spot in his heart for people who suffer with the beast of depression. My heart ached. It ached even more, when I saw a blog from the Christian post that had as a headline:

People struggling With Mental Illness Shouldn’t Be In Church Leadership https://www.christianpost.com/news/people-struggling-with-mental-illness-shouldnt-be-in-church-leadership-jarrid-wilsons-friend-says.html?fbclid=IwAR3cW6bcPkMpaFWqxE1q6AypIFoYXPI2SUkROzOxx1_thJgcORpCuD0o_po

Now to be fair, I can see the authors intent, pastors are very often over worked, hardly ever get any time off and tend to be everyone’s go to when they have a problem. However, it is extremely troubling to me to say  that it is “reckless” and “unbiblical” for churches to put someone in a position of leadership, if they are having struggles with mental illness or doubt.

Okay, I can kind of see the doubt part. But to say that people who struggle with mental illness shouldn’t be in church leadership, is in its self a very stupid and ignorant thing to say. That would eliminate a huge majority of the Christian community serving the body of Christ.

            Moreover the passages used to support the authors position are 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, The author focuses on the concept of being “sober minded” as its states in 1 Timothy 3, along with self- controlled. There in a huge danger, I believe in applying these passages to people who suffer with mental illness. Because we first have to have a clear understanding of what “sober minded” actually is in this context. If we are talking about someone that is still on the recovery road due to recovery, okay I can deal with that. If we are talking about someone who isn’t very rooted in their faith, and is easily influenced by others, I can see that too.

Sober minded and dealing with a chemical imbalance is something utterly different, yes, depression can sometimes can get very dark, and we can lose our way. But to say that a person is not sober minded is a grave insult. I think that a person can depressed, and be sober minded in that they cling to Christ like a weighted blanket rests on the body. Those of us who suffer, might need a gentle reminder of who we are in Christ. But to suggest that it is automatically removes us from church leadership is dangerous and unrealistic. Think about the amount of people that have anxiety, or having a rough day and their thoughts are not the best. OOPS! I guess there goes their ability to serve Gods people!

            …. And for the record, have we ever thought about how Jesus himself might respond to this? Have we even considered all the problems his own disciples had? Let me tell you, they were many. I don’t ever recall Jesus saying “Hey Peter, you got too many problems, you can’t be my disciple anymore!” Nor, did he ever say to Thomas “Gee Thomas, I can’t accept you for your doubts, good bye!”

So what gives some Christians today, the right to act differently? Jesus didn’t give his disciples the boot right away, why should we? Now, I firmly believe that there is reason, as to why a fellow believer wouldn’t be inclined to a position of leadership within the church. And I don’t think that mental illness is one of them. We very well need  to institute better care for our pastors, but simply disqualifying then is utter nonsense. If you’re a Christian and struggle with mental illness in any form. It’s okay to talk about it, you are not weak or less then because your battle is different than the next person. Having this struggle does not in any way negate how the Father see’s you in his son Jesus.