Do you want to be blessed in 2014? Some people are anticipating the fresh start and opportunity of a new year. Others are anxious of an uncertain future. Regardless, both categories of people seek blessing in the new year. No one enters a new year thinking, “I hope I have the most terrible and trying year ever.”
This week I read some advice on how to have a blessed new year:
Eat pork & sauerkraut. According to the Pennsylvania Dutch, eating pork & sauerkraut will bring you good luck. The reason is that since a pig’s hooves all point and root forward they are forward and future-oriented creatures (chickens and turkeys scratch backwards so they are past-oriented). As for the sauerkraut, the long strands symbolize long life.
Eat black-eyed peas and collard greens. According to Southerners, these also bring good fortune.* The black-eyed peas represent prosperity and the collard greens are the color of money; of course everyone wants to be wealthy.
*I read that this Southern tradition went back to the Civil War when Union soldiers destroyed southern lands but saw the peas as only fitting for animal fodder so they were left. In turn, Confederate soldiers survived starvation off these peas and became a symbol of health and blessing.
Eat twelve grapes. A Spanish tradition* says that eating twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight will ensure good fortune for every month of the year. Also, apparently the taste of the grapes symbolize the type of year you will have – sour grape = sour month, sweet, etc.
* I read that this tradition dates back to 1909 when Spanish wine makers had a grape surplus and needed a creative way to sell them in mass quantities.
Eat pomegranates. Mediterranean cultures associate this fruit with abundance and fertility (it’s the national fruit of Armenia). So ladies, be careful of the fruit that you associate with… and that you eat.
Jump waves. On New Years, Brazilians jump seven waves, one for each day of the week, for good luck.
Burn a scarecrow. In some Latin American countries, superstition is that burning a scarecrow removes negativity and ensures positive energy.
Smooch. In English folklore, it is tradition to find the one you love and give a toast and a new year’s kiss. This symbolizes starting the year with love and unity in your relationship; also the contrast is supposedly true that to not kiss anyone will mean a year of loneliness.
The reality is, none of these are factual; these are superstitious traditions not spiritual truth. If you want to have blessing in your life and new year then following superstition, reading horoscopes, and even making resolutions are not guarantees for automatic success. Life is not so superficial. What every life needs is deep and practical spiritual faith foundation.
Supremely, we need God. As the psalmist says,
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you?” (Psalm 73:25)
Today’s message starts a series “Living on the Path” and discovering your blessing. You can have a life of abundant blessing. This type of thinking or talking does not have to be reserved for those with slick hair, even slicker suits and who speak with a smile as bright as a dentist salesman. Of course, bookstores are filled with books that make promises to following a few quick easy steps for a life of prosperity. We have all heard this before. But this message and this series is not about a procedure as much as it is about a perspective… a path.
Procedures are straight forward. Paths are zigzagging. Procedures must be performed by listening to all the information and following every instruction. If the procedure is ignored then something ends up broken and it needs to be fixed.
Paths are different. Path’s are about a destination. People living on a path – even the right path – is a journey of ups and downs, twists and turns, crisscrosses and zigzags.
You see, procedures can be fixed. When a car has a problem the mechanic follows a procedure for its fix. Computers have problems that follow a procedure and are fixable. Even cats have a fixable procedure. But generally speaking, people do not need fixing as much as they need faith.
Jesus has already fixed everything that needs fixing. The gospel is greater than all our slopes and sins. We simply trust and have faith in His gospel fix, and then follow Him in the journey of life.
When we understand this perspective, the path faith has much more freedom than we realize. We do not have to live every choice with fear that we’re going to mess something up. It is guaranteed that we already will do that. Faith is living with contentment in the guidance of Jesus Christ and confidence in the gospel and grace of Jesus Christ.
Think of it like this: When you’re traveling to a destination but in need of directions we set our GPS and go. This is the 21st Century. And yet, somehow with our set GPS we still find ways to get lost. The question becomes, do you pull over to fix your GPS or do you keep driving along the path because you’re “re-calculating” to eventually get to your destination? We keep driving. We make the appropriate u-turns or travel the extra minutes to go around the block or hit the next exit. Traveling is about the journey.
The same is true in life. Becoming a Christian and following Jesus does not mean there will not be roadblocks or recalculations on your GPS. Keep pursuing the path because every obstacle is an opportunity to continue learning and growing in the Lord.
In Psalm 1 we can see 2 truths for living on the path of faith.
EXAMINE Psalm 1
Psalms were songs and prayers. The word Psalm in Hebrew is tehilla, which means “to praise or to glory; to make music”. When the Psalms were translated into Greek, the title Psalmos was given, which means “songs; or ψάλλω: means twanging or striking with the fingers on musical strings, making melody”. So, the Psalms are a book meant to be prayed & praised to the glory of God.
Psalms are poetic. They are part of the Wisdom literature. I’ll be one of the first to say that poetry does not excite me. Yet the Psalms do. They encourage me because they instruct about life, human experiences & emotions and most of all about the character and work of God.
Further, the Psalms display the path of blessing. The word blessed [eh-sher] means happy and is used 26x in the Psalms.
Psalm 1:1 “Blessed is the man…” “Blessed / blessings”: The language is plural not singular and could be rendered “doubly blessed” or a state of “blessedness”; or for Duck Dynasty fans even “happy happy”. The blessed is an identity of God’s children because they are connected to Him and all His resources. God’s blessings are poured out on His followers (cf. Eph 1:3). In contrast, those not blessed do not have access to God nor His resources. The blessed life is expounded on more in Jesus’ teachings (cf. Matt 5:1-10).
Matthew 7:9-11 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
Ephesians 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
When the Psalmist speaks of blessing as an identity, does it bring you joy or jealousy? Are you encouraged or do you feel ignored by God? If this causes you doubt or feeling of neglect then there is possibility you lack connection to the Blesser. To believers, God’s word brings comfort – even conviction or challenge is comforting. But to those not belonging to God, His word will bring confusion (cf. 1Corinthians 2:14). My prayer for you in hearing this message is that your eyes will be opened and heart discerning of God’s path and purpose for your life, rather than your own.
The blessed path of faith is separated from evil (Psalm 1:1).
Those that desire God’s blessing must first learn about removing themselves from sin and repenting of its ways. The words walk, stand, sit express levels of association with the words counsel, way and seat communicate patterns of behavior. These who associate with wicked, sinners and scoffers are those who not just give consent to evil but celebrate and contribute with such a lifestyle.
People follow a path of evil when they have faulty beliefs about God. They view God’s commands as burdensome and rules as restrictive. They doubt and lack trust in God’s path.
– Why should I avoid substance abuse when it makes me feel better?
– Why should I not indulge at buffet restaurants and avoid gluttony when food tastes good?
– Why should I refrain from anger or envious emotions when it helps me get what I want?
– Why should I abstain from physical intimacy before marriage when I love this person?
Adam & Eve had similar questions. They walked with God’s blessing in the Garden of Eden and they did so because they believed God’s truth. They trusted God’s goodness and relied upon God’s gracious provision. Yet, when the serpent arrived the first attack was to facilitate doubt on God’s word. When Adam & Eve doubted God’s character they chose an alternate path that lead away from the destination of blessing and toward the destiny of death.
We must realize God’s boundaries bring blessing not bitterness
“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance… [God] makes known the path of life and in [His] presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore” Psalm 16:6, 11).
We must separate from evil by renewing our minds. This happens through spiritual intake.
“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” Romans 8:6
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good” Luke 6:45
We must separate from evil with discerning minds. This happens with spiritual application.
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by renew of your mind by testing and discerning God’s will” Romans 12:2
– – > Caution of leisure or entertainment time.
– – > Commit to less social media and increase spiritual growth & personal relationships
The blessed path of faith is satisfied with God & His Word (Psalm 1:2-3).
Those that have received God’s blessing are those that realize only God’s path brings true pleasure and joy. The blessed have captured affections through delighting and attention through meditation upon God’s word.
1:2 “delight is in the law” [torah]. The Psalmist finds God’s truth as a treasure and protection. The law was God’s principles and precepts for how to worship and live.
“The law… is better than thousands of gold and silver pieces… [protects] in affliction” 119:72, 92
1:2 “meditates day and night” [meditate: to muse or to murmur]. Worldly meditation is about emptying of the mind whereas Christian meditation is about emptying and filling the mind with God’s beauty, truth and presence. Meditation upon God and His word should be a regular routine and consistent spiritual discipline in order to grow and sustain in the journey of life.
Meditation is like the runner who has the finish line in mind; or tools in hand of a workman.
Notice that both paths – ungodly and godly – involve a form of meditation. What do you meditate on?
If there is to be any maturity and depth to your relationship with God it must involve meditation – and even memorizing of God’s word.
2014 SPBC MEMORIZE: Psalm 1; Psalm 119:1-24; 1Corinthians 6:12-20; 1Corinthians 13
Results of the blessed (v.3)
– Foundation: Like a tree with long and deep roots and positioned by a stream for prolonged growth.
– Fruitful: Like a tree yielding fruit for others to consume and enjoy and its leaves don’t wither
o Note there are seasons of fruit bearing. In other words the blessed mature in season but there are also seasons of “winter” cold and change. The tree experiences and sustains growth through the rhythm of every season.
God’s path is not immune to tension, trouble or trials.
Who & what is feeding you to sustain every season of life?
Who are you feeding? Fruit is meant for others to consume & enjoy.
o v. 3 “prosper” – word implies a successful journey of reaching the intended destination from the path God has positioned you on (cf Gen 24:1; 2Chron 26:5).
Results of the non-blessed (v.4-5)
– No Foundation: Like chaff rootless, weightless and wind-blown. There’s little and no sustained growth.
– No Fruit: Like chaff is useless and producing nothing enduring.
o What are you doing that will last forever? Our attitudes and actions should be influenced by eternity.
only thing you can take to heaven is people
o v.5 “Therefore the wicked will not stand in judgment nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.”
Life does have an end path destination.
• Godliness is nurturing, growing roots and generating life
• Ungodliness is empty, leaving disappointment and unsatisfaction
In the movie The Matrix, Morpheus tells young friend, “Neo, sooner or later you’re going to realize just
as I did that there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”
What word/phrase will you pray describes your 2014? Provide relevant Scripture.
1:6 “Lord knows the way of righteous”. This knowing goes beyond a person’s knowing God but to God knowing them. Our path must unite with Christ’s path, who led and provided access to the destination of God’s righteousness.