13 January 2007

I remember when I used to think that paraphrasing the Bible was akin to playing Chopin on a kazoo. But I'm over that way of thinking now and often find myself drawn to the intimate joy of putting God's Word into my words. I think God's ego can handle it. Just one more indication of how much God's love can tolerate, or even instigate.

So here's what I've done with my beloved PSALM 1. I wrote out David's six verses from six translations and one paraphrase (New American Standard, New Century Version, Today's New International Version, English Standard Version, New Living Translation, Revised English Bible, and The Message). Then I spread them all out on a table in front of me and read them through numerous times and then started writing out my own paraphrase. And here's where the bottle stopped spinning ...


(a paraphrase)

1. Happy are those who reject the advice of evil people, who don't follow the example of compulsive sinners, and who don't hitch their hearts and minds to those who have no use for God.

2. With a passion to know God intimately, and follow God closely, these folks love the Lord's teachings, and they make the choice to think about those teachings during the day, and during the night.

3. People who choose to live out their life and their faith this way are like a tree that is planted near a fresh-water stream … always bearing fruit at the right time, never dropping a leaf, and always in blossom. Everything these people who are yoked to God do, turns out well.

4. But wicked folks, that is men and women with no time for God or for God's ways … well, their lives are a whole 'nother story. They're more like straw that the wind blows around, than they are like sturdy, planted, fruit-bearing trees.

5. Sad to say, but in the end, these wicked folks will be condemned by God and kept apart from everyone who's been chosen by God … and apart from everyone who has chosen God.

6. The Lord watches over the comings and goings of those who choose to live righteous lives. But in the end, people who make the choice to live rebellious, God-separated lives, have chosen death, not life.

Good night friends. Whoever and wherever you are. Godspeed.



07 January 2007


can be divided up into two parts ...

vv. 1-3 speak to the Godly life

vv. 4-6 speak to the ungodly life

Let's look
at the Godly life in vv. 1-3 — how to go after it and what the results will be. And then in a post next week we’ll look at vv. 4-6 — at the ungodly life — how to stay away from it and what the results will be if we don’t.

v. 1 ... "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."

The word "blessed" means "happy, fortunate, or enviable" and because of it’s plural ending it can be translated, "Oh, the happiness, many times over" ... Again, we’ve got a "cause and effect" situation here. The person is "blessed and happy many times over" for a reason. So what’s the cause? What’s the reason for this overflowing, ongoing happiness? It comes out of a life that chooses faithfulness over compromise, that chooses righteousness over unrighteousness, that chooses holiness and purity over a lower standard.

In v. 1 David shows us the progression of compromise ... the erosion sin brings into our lives, the ground sin causes us to lose. And it forces us to ask ourselves some pretty hard questions ...
  • What company am I keeping?
  • Am I rubbing off on the world more than the world is rubbing off on me?
  • What kind of entertainment am I choosing? (books, magazines, music, movies)
  • What kinds of words do I choose to express myself?
In a teaching on SECOND SAMUEL 11, Pastor Wayne Barber of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennesse, made these three points about this progression of compromise ...
  • Sin will take you farther than you ever thought you would stray.
  • Sin will keep you longer than you ever thought you would stay.
  • Sin will cost you more than you ever thought you would pay.
In the third century B.C. Mencius, said, "Before a man can do things there must be things he will not do."

The WORD of God is filled with examples of what kinds of things will be evident in the lives of people who are righteous and who are pursuing righteousness. And also, the WORD of God is filled with examples of what kinds of things should not be evident in the lives of people who are righteous and who are pursuing righteousness. And when we come to Christ there’s a lot we have to learn but there’s also a lot we have to unlearn. Because before we can do things there must be things we will not do.

So often we look at these lists of DO'S AND DON'TS and we think that if we could just do them all the right stuff and avoid all the wrong stuff we’d become righteous. What a mistake! Keeping a list of the right stuff won’t make us righteous.

The only way to become righteous is to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. But there ARE fruits that will be evident in a growing way in the lives of people who are in a relationship with Jesus Christ, in the lives of people who have taken on His righteousness.

When we come to Christ we’re saved and we begin down the path of righteousness. Today I’m not more “saved” than I was yesterday ... but hopefully I am more “righteous.” HEBREWS 10:14 makes this distinction very clear ... that salvation in my life is both a done deal and an on-going deal when it says, "By one sacrifice, Christ made perfect forever {once and for all}, those who are being made holy (day by day)."

So Christ made me perfect when I came into a relationship with Him, but I’m "being made holy", day by day, as I yield myself to Him and His will for my life.

You want to be blessed, happy, fortunate? Then examine yourself. See where you need correction. See where you need to begin again. See what you need to be reminded of again. See where you need to get back on track. The Christian life should be one of constant self-examination. FIRST CORINTHIANS 11:28 and SECOND CORINTHIANS 13:5 tell us to do that. Examine yourself! Oh, we get real good at examining other people ... but the admonition of the WORD of God is for us to examine OURSELVES.

If you’re not examining yourself on a regular basis and being honest about what you see and what you don’t see then there’s a good chance that you’re letting compromise walk in the front door of your life and faithfulness slip out the back door.

The last synonym given for this word "blessed" here in v. 1 is "enviable." Interesting. In other words, when you’re living a life of consistency and faithfulness, others will see that and be drawn to Christ. They will want to know what you have that they don’t have. They will desire to have what you have.

There are three sets of words used in this verse ... three sets of three words ... each describing the progression of sin compromise brings into our lives.
Let’s look at these words ... and see the progression towards death that the compromise of sin brings into our lives.

"Blessed is the man who does not WALK in the COUNSEL of the WICKED ..."

The word "walk" here in v. 1 means "passing by". It refers to "casual movement along the way." It’s like when you’re in the store shopping and the clerk comes up to you and says, "May I help you?" And you respond, "No thanks, I’m just looking." Or when you’re looking at a new car, but not really buying ... you’re just "kicking tires."

The word "counsel" means a "clear, planned direction." And obviously the word "wicked" means "ungodly". So what’s David saying? He’s saying that we’ll be happy and blessed and enviable when we don’t flirt with sin ... when we don’t go window-shopping for sin. The ungodly are walking on a way that leads to death. And if you don’t want death, don’t go out looking for it. There are lots of old saying that say the same thing.
  • If you don’t want to catch fish, don’t go fishing.
  • If you don’t want to get wet, don’t put your toe in the water.
You know what they call couples who don’t use birth control? Parents. Cause and effect. Sowing and reaping. David’s telling us plainly that when we’re seeing how close we can get to sin without sinning instead of seeing how close we can stay to God and His holiness, we’re playing with fire.

PROVERBS 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death." When you’re just flirting with sin it doesn’t always seem that dangerous. But things aren’t always what they seem to be.

Several years ago I read an amazing story in The Orange County Register. It seems that two Orange County women went shopping in Tiajuana, Mexico. As they were returning to their car with their packages one of them heard a whining, whimpering sound.

She looked around her and saw a chihuahua dog lying in the gutter. It was breathing heavy and looked rather swollen. She knew it would die if she left it there and so her friend went to the car, got a towel and came back to the dog. And then the lady who’d found it wrapped it in the towel and took it with her to her car. They were afraid they wouldn’t get it across the border, so they hid it under their packages in the trunk.

And when they were safely across the border, they stopped and brought the sick dog into the car and laid it in the back seat. The woman dropped off her friend and went home with the dog. She knew that she’d have to nurse it through the night and then she planned on taking it to the vet first thing in the morning.

It was a long night. She made a little bed for it on the floor next to her bed, but it was wheezing and coughing hard ... and kept putting it’s feet up on her bed, and so finally she put the little bed she’d made up on the end of her bed and it slept the rest of the night.

n the morning she took it to the vet. When she touched it, it was hot and she knew it was even sicker than it had been the day before. When she arrived at the vet’s office she told him that she’d been taking care of her friend’s dog and that while they were gone it had gotten sick.

After the vet had heard her story and examined the dog he stood by the door and said, “Lady, you’re not getting out of here until you tell me the truth. Where did you get this?” Finally the lady told him the truth — and he said to her, Mam, this is not a chihuahua, this is a Mexican River Rat, and it has rabies!”

Things aren’t always what they seem to be. Sometimes darkness masquerades as light. Oftentimes sin looks surprising like righteousness. Once in a while right appears to be alarmingly similar to wrong. At first glance, the distinctions aren’t always clear. But you know what? God is working in His church and in the hearts of His people. And He’s calling us into holiness; He’s calling you and me into lives that will be lived in such a way that the distinction between righteousness and sin will become more and more obvious. So that when people look at us they are aware of the fact that there are ...
  • Two Kingdoms / one of darkness and one of light.
  • Two Kings ... two Masters / one of love and one of hate.
  • Two kinds of servants / one of sin and one of righteousness.
Christ is calling us into purity of thought and deed and word. He’s calling us to be a "peculiar people." He’s calling us to stand up for that which is "true, and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy." (PHILIPPIANS 4:8-9).

God is calling us to live like what we are ... "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God" (FIRST PETER 2:9). He’s calling us to stand alongside Joshua and "choose this day whom we will we serve." (JOSHUA 24:15) ... not just with our words, but with our hearts and our actions.

Things aren’t always what they seem to be ... David goes on to give us a second triplet of words ... "Blessed is the man who does not STAND in the WAY of SINNERS."

The word "stand" means "coming, taking one’s stand." The word "way" means "a marked out path, a certain way, a precise way of life." Do you see the progression of compromise and deterioration? We start out listening to the counsel of the wicked ... just kind of from the side-lines. But before we know it we’re coming into the inner circle and taking our stand on the road of unrighteousness.

Let me ask you a question: Are you "in Christ" or are you "out of Christ"? Jesus said in MATTHEW 7:20, "by their fruit you will recognize them." When people look at you and listen to you and really get to know you, do they recognize you as a follower of Christ, or as one who chooses compromise over obedience? Examine yourself!

Can you think of times in your own life when you’ve witnessed this progression of compromise? I know I can! It’s the reality of JAMES 1:14-15 ... "But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."

For two summers in the early 1990s I spent time speaking in The Netherlands and in Belgium. The second time I was there I had one more day in Amsterdam before returning home and so I decided to take a bus tour of the city. About 1/2 way through the tour I found out that we’d be going through Amsterdam’s famous red light district”.

First we saw the X-Rated book stores, then we saw the prostitutes (some 4,000 of them in a 10 block radius) and then we saw women sitting in store-front windows with placards around their necks telling how much money they cost and what services they were willing to perform.

And as I sat on that bus, finally I had to just close my eyes and pray ... I saw first-hand the progression of sin David was talking about ... the progression of decay sin and compromise bring into our lives that James was talking about. I saw how easy it was for some people to get off the bus and walk around the book stores and then slyly slip into them.

I saw how easy it was for some people to talk with these poor women and then disappear up a set of stairs with them. I saw the pain and death in the faces of the women as they sat in their windows — advertising themselves. It was a sad example of the deadly truth of compromise.

Which brings us to the last group of three words in this verse ... "Blessed is the man who does not SIT in the SEAT of MOCKERS."

The word "sit" refers to a more permanent "settling down and abiding". When we compromise and move from walking to standing and from standing to sitting we move from being a pioneer who’s "checking out the frontier" and we become "a settler who builds a house and puts down roots."

The word "seat" means "the center from which all else emanates" ... and it’s used by David in much the same way we use it when we say, "The Seat of Congress." And finally, "mockers" refers to those who make light of that which is sacred ... they are hard-hearted people who mock that which is holy. They’re not only actively avoiding righteousness ... they’re actively persecuting righteousness and those who are righteous.

Where are you with regard to compromise and sin? Are you walking by sin and looking? Are you standing next to sin and admiring it? Or are you sitting down next ot sin and befriending it? It’s a progression none of us can take the chance of entering. Because like a down-ward spiraling whirlpool of water in the ocean or the up-ward spiraling whirlwind of a tornado air in the sky ... when we flirt with sin and compromise our faith, we always get the short end of the stick and we realize the truth Wayne Barber spoke.

Of course, there are many examples of this in the WORD. For examples of people who chose compromise over faithfulness you can look at Samson or Lot. These are two men who walked face-first into sin and felt it’s horrible consequences. They didn’t backslide ... they backwalked. Nobody ever "slides" into sin. We "walk" into it. We see, we look, we desire, we choose, we sin.

But look at Joseph and you’ll see an example of a man who stood for righteousness at great personal cost. Remember the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in GENESIS 39:1-12? It has a plot straight out of TV's soap operas! Joseph was striving to serve the LORD with all his heart, soul, mind and strength, and old Potiphar’s wife kept saying, "Joseph, come to bed with me."

She wasn’t messing around about messing around ... she told him right out what she wanted. And it wasn’t instructions on how to fluff the pillows! And what did Joseph do? He fled! He ran right out of there! She grabbed his loin-cloth as he was running out the door and when he came out of the room he was as naked as the day he was born. But you know what?

He had decided ahead of time that that was what his response to sexual sin would be. What do you think he would have done if he hadn’t thought about sin ... and about making a commitment to stay away from compromise ... how do you think the story would have turned out if he hadn’t made up his mind ahead of time about the kind of morals he would have? Of course, he could have taken Ms. Potipher up on her offer.

It’s no wonder in the New Testament we read that we are to "flee sexual immorality" (FIRST CORINTHIANS 6:18), "flee idolatry" (FIRST CORINTHIANS 10:14), "flee the evil desires of our youth" (SECOND TIMOTHY 2:22).

Oftentimes compromise can be avoided if we make our minds up ahead of time to do so and then flee when the opportunity presents itself!

v. 2 ... "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he mediates day and night." This verse begins with "but" ... that is "but in contrast to the one who compromises ..."

v. 1 is an example of the negative ... of what NOT TO DO if you’re choosing faithfulness over compromise ... and v. 2 is an example of the positive ... WHAT TO DO if you’re choosing faithfulness over compromise. Again, it’s the Truth Mencius, spoke of when he said, "Before a man can do things there must be things he will not do."

I love the way The Living Bible puts this verse, "But they delight in doing everything God wants them to, and day and night are always meditating on his laws and thinking about ways to follow him more closely."

The "law of the LORD" is referring to the written WORD of God — the Bible. In order to change our patterns of living or behavior we need a standard ... a clear direction. Listen to PSALM 119:9, 11, 97 ... "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your words. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long."

Do you DESIRE to know and follow God’s WORD? Do you DELIGHT in knowing and following God’s WORD? God’s calling us to delight in the WORD of the LORD. He’s calling us to find delight in spending time opening up the Bible and reading it and pondering it and meditating on it and praying through it and storing it up in our hearts ... He’s calling us to do this not as a duty, not not as something that burdensome or irksome ... but as something that’s a joy!

In The Living Bible v. 2 ends this way, "always meditating on his laws and thinking about ways to follow him more closely." David is saying that the person choosing faithfulness over compromise will give thought to their spiritual life.

People plan their meals, they plan their vacations, they plan their sports schedules, they plan their weekends, they plan their careers, they plan their whole lives! But how often do they plan their spiritual lives, their spiritual growth, their spiritual journey? So many times we just leave it up to chance.

Frederick Nietzsche was a 19th century philosopher and professor and poet ... among other things. And in his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in a chapter entitled "The Higher Life" he writes ...

"Shy, ashamed, awkward, like a tiger whose leap has failed: thus I have often seen you slink aside, you higher men. A throw has failed you. But, you dice- throwers, what does it matter? You have not learned to gamble and jest as one must gamble and jest. Do we not always sit at a big jesting and gambling table?"

How many times do Christ-followers gamble and jest with their spiritual lives? Hoping they will turn out all right ... but not planning their spiritual journey ... giving thought to their life in Christ? This is one area where laziness and compromise can get it’s foot in the door and begin to erode away at our faith. We can’t leave our spiritual maturity up to chance!
  • v. 1 gives us the promise of happiness, blessing and fulfillment.
  • v. 2 tells us the way to experience it.
  • v. 3 tells us what the result will be in the life of the person who chooses consistency over compromise.
v. 3 ... "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." Throughout the WORD of God there are many places where our spiritual development is likened to the life of a tree or a plant.

And so David shows us four tree-like characteristics of a Godly life ...
  • PLANTED ... fortified, stable, rooted, solid, strong
  • FRUITFUL ... production naturally follows being planted and growing
  • UNWITHERED ... even during days of difficulty ... remaining undaunted
  • PROSPEROUS ... saved, at peace, fulfilling the goals God has designed for his/her life.
There are no short-cuts to spiritual growth. Just as physical growth comes one day at a time, so spiritual growth comes one day at a time. One choice at a time. One tiny step at a time. One decision at a time. And when we choose to follow David’s words here — words which call us to examine ourselves and see if we are choosing compromise over faithfulness — then we will begin becoming the people He has called us to be.

In Germany, after WWII a young girl rode her bike each day ... looking for food for her family. She’d find scraps of this and that, but she was always hungry and each night she dreamed of hot, fresh-out-of-the-oven bread. Oh, just to have even a crust or a heel! But all her dreaming was in vain because she never found anyone throwing out fresh bread.

One day as she was riding in a part of town she wasn’t familiar with she came up over a little stone bridge and saw something in the distance — it was a sign — a sign with a picture of a loaf of bread. A bakery, she thought! Surely, they will give me a piece of bread. She peddled as quickly as she could, tossed her bike down in front of the store and bounded in through the front door.

"Please sir, can I have a piece of bread!"

"What?", the merchant replied.

"Sir — the sign in the window — can I please have a bite of bread. Please!"

"Oh, little girl," the man replied, "This is not a bakery, this is a sign shop. I’m sorry, but I have no bread."

The world is dying to see men and women and young people who are living out what they are advertising. If you are "in Christ" then start living like it ... and speaking like it ... and spending your money like it ... and treating others like it ... What does the world see in you? Authentic Christianity ... or just a shell ... outwardly righteous but inwardly lean and full of compromise?

In a posting next week we'll continue our study of PSALM 1 ... beginning with v. 3 and I encourage you to study it and pray through it and meditate on it’s truths ... and come praying and expecting! Godspeed.