Life: Use Only As Directed
What follows is an elaboration on my previous sermon on Psalm 1. The Pastor asked me to tweak the trial sermon and deliver it during the morning worship services, as it would serve as the sermon for the church’s theme: ‘Meditation: Private Time in the Word.’
I was also blessed to be able to share some of the material from both sermons in my first Bible Study lesson — the PowerPoint slides and outline of which can be found here. Sources for the theological content of the sermons can be found here.
I pray something you hear and/or read will be beneficial.
For the purposes of skimming/skipping ahead, here is a hyperlinked outline of the sermon text:
- Meditation: For What? (For What Purpose, Goal?)
- Meditation: Why? (For What Reason?)
- Following Parental Directions
- Sins of Commission
- Sins of Omission
- Why? Avoid Sins of Omission
- Why? True Bliss
- Two Ways To Live: As Selected, As Directed
- Crux of American Morality: Self-Fulfillment
- The Danger of Not Following Directions
- The Appeal of Trying to Determine Our Purpose, Our Direction
- Blissful Meditation
- Way of Self Leads to Self-Destruction
- Fruitful Prosperity
- Meditation: How?
I thank God for another opportunity to stand before you – humbly – and just talk about the word of God. I’d like to thank Pastor Scotton for having me; he has commissioned me to speak on the theme: Meditation: Private Time in the Word, and to come from the same text from my trial sermon back in January – Psalm 1. [Also see Bible Study PowerPoint slides here]
But this should not be a repetition of that sermon, but more of a continuation. I’ll try not to be as nerdy about the Hebrew words, the context, and so on ( since that’s already been covered). But, I can’t promise that I won’t be as corny. Despite my nerdiness and corniness, I hope something that is said will be beneficial.
Previously, I focused on the why? Why is it so important to meditate on God’s Word? Why is it so important to study Christ’s teachings? Today, I’d like to broaden that a bit.
When it comes to meditation, I’d like to talk about, the “For What?” then the “Why?,” and finally the “How?” Meditation: For what? Meditation: Why? Meditation: How?
Psalm 1 says:
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,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 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.
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.[NIV]
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. [Ps 19:18, NASB]
Meditation: For What?
At What Point Can One Call Oneself A True “Fan”?
Do you remember where you were when you found out that Prince died?
It seemed like that day in April 2016 was a national day of mourning. On television, in newspapers, on social media, everyone was paying tribute to Prince. It felt like radio stations were playing his music 24/7. His record sales skyrocketed 16,000%. It seemed like almost everyone was suddenly a Prince fan.
I was still DJ’ing at the time, so you can imagine how many song requests I got those next couple of weeks. “Hey man, you gotta play a set for Prince.” “Do it one time for the Purple One!”
And, I’m like, “OK, OK.” What songs do you want to hear?” –“Oh, you know, man, you know. Any song. Any Prince is good.” I could be wrong, but I suspected that many of the people who came up to me could count all of the Prince songs they knew on one hand.
I did not doubt that people felt sad about Prince’s passing. It was truly a tragedy. I do not want to minimize that. But, I wondered about the great number of people who seemingly, suddenly became Prince fans.
I’m sure that they liked some of his music. But at what point can one honestly call oneself a “fan” – a fanatic?
Could I really call myself a fan if I didn’t own any of Prince’s records? If I could barely name any of his albums? If I didn’t know what it sounded like when doves cried? Does anyone know what it sounds like when doves cry? <musician plays chorus of “When Doves Cry”>
Now there might be some people in here who were true Prince fans back in ’84 when Purple Rain came out. Who were down with the Revolution. Who had the posters on the wall. Who knew the all the deep cuts, not just the greatest hits. Who knew all the lyrics to all the songs because they played them over and over again. True fans.
And not only did some fans know the music, they actually tried to be like Prince. They imitated Prince. Maybe even idolized Prince.
For me, growing up my idol was Michael Jackson. I would watch his music videos over and over again. Why? Because I wanted to be like Mike. I wanted to get my kicks just right. Am I the only one who ever tried to moonwalk? With the one glove? With the black shoes and white socks? Maybe it’s just me. I spent a lot of time, trying to be like Mike. And, I did it by studying his moves over and over again. By meditating on his music.
For What? To Be True Fans — Fanatic Imitators of Christ
Alpha’s theme this year is Meditation: Private Time in the Word. We have heard many sermons about how meditation involves reading, memorizing, and reflecting on God’s word over and over again – in the hope of becoming more godly.
This is the For What? Just like I studied the moves of Mike, in order to be like Mike, we study the words of Christ, in order to be like Christ. That is the goal. To be Christ-like. To be fans – to be fanatics – of Christ.
Because Jesus wants fans. He wants us to be totally, utterly devoted to Him. He wants us to dedicate everything we have – our time, our talent, and our treasure – to Him. To His Ministry. To His Mission. We have been commissioned to “Go ye therefore and make disciples – make fanatics – of all peoples (Mt 28:18-20). Jesus wants fanatics!
At What Point Can I Call Myself A True Fan of Jesus?
Now back when I was so busy living life on my own terms, I had to ask myself, “Can I truly call myself a fan of Jesus?” Am I really, fanatically trying to be like Him? Am I really familiar with his work, or do I just know some of His greatest hits?
Nah, nah I’m good. I was born and raised in the church! I have been in church all my life. Of course, I know Jesus. Of course I know God’s word. Of course, I’m a fan.
New Jersey Christian
Does anyone hear live in New Jersey? Well, I was born and raised in New Jersey. I have lived in New Jersey all my life.
Now, does anyone know what year New Jersey became a state? What is the state motto? How many counties are in New Jersey? What is the state bird? What does the state flag even look like? How many people live in New Jersey?
I don’t know. I kid you not, I had to Google the name of the governor (Phil Murphy). My point is, just because I live in New Jersey, does not mean that I know a great deal about New Jersey.
Moreover, I did not live in New Jersey by choice – at least not for the first 18 years. After that, I never came home. Rules? Hah. I’m a grown man. I can do what I want. After high school, I was free.
Then, some years after college, I realized that freedom ain’t free. And, I had to ask Mom and Dad if I could come home because I couldn’t really afford that kind of freedom. But, anyway, my point is: I did not choose to be born and raised in New Jersey.
I say that to say, just because I was born and raised in the church, did not mean that I knew a great deal about the God who was worshipped in the church. And, I did not even choose to be in the church. My Mom would say, “OK, it’s time to go to Bible Study.” – “But Mom, I wanna (slap)”
“But, Mom?” There was no discussion. When it came to coming to church, I had no choice.
But here is the issue, young people, one day, young people, one day you will have that choice. And, if your anything like I was, you might want to find out what it’s like to sleep in on a Sunday morning.
Now when you do decide to come to church every once in a while, you might get some comments: “Oh, Danny, wow it’s so good to see you. Haven’t seen ya in a while. Where ya been?”
But there won’t be anyone there to pop you in the mouth if you say you don’t want to go to church. What will you do, on that day? When no one makes you to sing to Jesus, or learn about Jesus, even think about Jesus? Will you be a fan of Jesus?
That’s a question we all have to answer daily. Whether or not we had a choice to come to church today, my brothers and sisters, we can choose to be fanatics of Jesus. And we can do that by meditating on God’s Word.
Meditation: for what? To become fans of Jesus, to imitate Jesus, to become more like Jesus.
But what is the reason? Meditation: Why? In my trial sermon, I talked about a lot of things. These included, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, my ashy knees, and the time I almost burnt my seminary to the ground by not following microwave instructions.
I was really trying to focus on the importance of following the instruction of the LORD.
I mentioned how, when we open up a package for a new appliance or a new gadget and we see the instruction manual, if you’re anything like me, you toss that bad boy to the side.
I don’t need no instructions. I can figure this out on my own. The only time I look at the instructions is when I have a problem. But it seems that maybe we can avoid some of these problems in the first place, if we first read the instructions.
if you want to get the most out of the Microsoft Windows, does it not make sense to follow the instruction of Bill Gates – the creator of Microsoft Windows? If you want to cook a dish by Rachel Ray, does it not make sense to follow the instruction of Rachel Ray, the creator of the recipe? If you want to take care of your Civic, does it not make sense to follow the instruction of Honda – the creator of the Civic? If you want to get the most out of your life, does it not make sense to follow the instruction of the Creator of Life?
Following Parental Directions
If I could summarize Psalm 1 into five words it would be: Life: Use Only As Directed. Life: Use Only as Directed.
We often say that God has a plan for our life, but God has given us a life for His plan! We were given life by God, for life with God. And because He wants what is ultimately best for us, He wants us to follow His directions.
Now, I am not a parent, but I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for parents when their children don’t follow directions.
Most parents want the best for their children, but we don’t always listen.
When I was kid, I know I used to make my parents mad. “Danny, didn’t I tell you not to drink all that soda before you went to bed last night! Look, at this is. Look at this! These are brand new sheets! We got company coming over and you got my house smelling like a zoo! Go clean yourself up, Nasty.” [I’m embellishing a bit here, lol]
Sins of Commission
Now when it comes not following our Heavenly Father’s directions. There are sins of commission and sins of omission. That is, there are wrong things that we do (commission) and there are good things that we fail to do (omission).
For example, growing up in my house my mother was very strict about how I presented myself. My shirt always had to be tucked in. Thou shalt not untuck thy shirt.
So, I made sure, when I left for school in the morning, my shirt was tucked all the way in. Now when I Mom drove off, that was a different story. I untucked my shirt with the quickness; I had to look cool for my friends.
I was already short, and nerdy, and they had me riding in a car seat til I was like eleven. Gotta cut a brother some slack!
Now if my Mom showed up earlier than usual to pick me up from the afterschool program, and she saw my untucked shirt, now we had a problem. I had committed a sin of commission. A brother was in trouble.
Sins of Omission
Speaking of trouble, did I ever tell you that I got arrested?
Yea, about five or six years ago, Kristin and I were driving one day when I got pulled over. I didn’t think I had committed any traffic violations; I was driving under the speed limit. But we both got tickets, for failing to buckle our seatbelts.
And what had happened was, I misplaced that ticket. When I found it, it was too late to pay it online; I had to go to pay it in person.
So, the plan was to drop Kristin off at work on [Princeton University’s] campus, and then pay the ticket at the court, which was about five minutes away by car.
However, on the way to drop her off, a police officer “randomly” ran my plates and pulled us over. Since the ticket was unpaid, there was a warrant out for my arrest.
He talked to Kristin first and with this serious expression on his face he’s like, “Miss, do you know this man?” And she’s like, “yeah…? he’s my boyfriend…” He thought the warrant was for something a little more serious.
Now although he kind of felt bad about it, he had to follow policy and arrest me. He cuffed me, put me in the back of the squad car, and took me downtown.
So, Kristin had to miss work, walk about a mile to the where I was being held, and then to bail me out. That’s when I knew she was ride or die.
And, let’s just say click-it or ticket is not a game. I had failed to buckle up and I had failed to pay the fine on time. I had committed a sin of omission.
Why? Avoid Sins of Omission
I say all that to ask, regarding God’s directions, how do we know if we are committing sins of omission if we do not know what the directions are?
This is why it’s important to meditate on God’s directions. We could be causing ourselves unnecessary stress by failing to follow God’s directions.
Why? True Happiness: Bliss
Psalm 1 (Ps 1:1-2) tells us that “Blessed is the one who does not walk in the council of 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.”[NIV]
Now, as I said before, the word translated “blessed” does not [necessarily] refer to divine blessing. The word for Divine blessing is a different word – barak – like Barack Obama.
So Psalm 1 is not saying that if you meditate on God’s directions, then God will bless you. Meditation is not a string that you pull to earn God’s blessing.
“OK, God, I’m meditating on your word, it’s time for you to bless me. OK, God, I’m praising you, it’s time for you to bless me. OK, God I’m praying this certain type of prayer with these certain words, it’s time for you to give me what I want.” Brothers and sisters, that’s not how it works.
For God is not a Divine Vending Machine. He does not give us what we want if we pay Him with certain amounts of praise or study or tithes. God is Sovereign and He blesses us how He chooses to, with things we do not even deserve.
Of course, God is able to do more than all we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20). But God is Sovereign. He does what He wants, how He wants, when He wants to do it.
My point is, the blessedness in Psalm 1 is better understood as bliss or true happiness. Truly happy is the one who does not walk in the way of the wicked but who meditates on God’s directions and goes God’s way.
Two Ways To Live: As Selected, As Directed
The crux of the Psalm, a theme that runs throughout all of Scripture, is this: ultimately, there are two ways to live. Life: Used As Directed. Or Life: Used As Selected. Life: Used As Directed or Life: Used As Selected.
That is, we can choose to live life according to God’s directions or we can choose to live life according to our own selections.
According to Scripture, that is the way of the wicked. Wickedness is not necessarily horrific evil. More broadly, it is just doing your own thing. Living life on your own terms. Going your own way – instead of the way of the LORD.[See the link above for more discussion about this and for the sources cited]
Crux Of American Morality: Self-Fulfillment
For the LORD intends for us to use our lives in certain ways. But we often want to use our lives how we want. It’s my life, I can do what I want!
This is the way of the world. Our American morality is centered not on the fulfillment of God’s commands but on self-fulfillment.
A 2015 poll by the Barna Group suggests that a majority of American adults somewhat or completely agree with the following three statements.
1. “The highest goal of life is to enjoy it as much as possible” (84%).
2. “To be fulfilled in life, you should pursue the things you desire most” (86%).
3. And, “the best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself” (91%).
In our increasingly self-centered society, we are increasingly grounding our morality in our own selves.
The platitudes we often hear sound so innocent, even encouraging. “Follow your dreams. Pursue your passions. Do what makes you happy.” But these fly in the face of God’s directions. We are not trying to be who we want to be, but who God wants us to be. We ought to fanatically try to be more and more like Jesus.
The Danger of Not Following Directions
For it can be dangerous if we walk in the way of the wicked and go our own way.
What warning do you see on almost every prescription medication: “use only directed.”
It can be dangerous when we take medication without following directions. It can be dangerous when we operate heavy machinery without following the directions. And, it can be dangerous when we use our lives – which can be used for so much good, but also, as we see daily in the news, for so much evil – without following God’s directions.
The Appeal of Trying to Determine Our Purpose, Our Direction
But why do we want to go our own way? Why do we want to use life as we select it?
Often, I think, because the things of this world seem so appealing. Money, fame, prestige, power, “nice things”, pleasure. They seem so appealing.
What do you think Frisbees were first used for? Believe it or not, Frisbees were originally pie containers. Pie containers.
In the 1800’s, William Russell Frisbie bought a bakery in Connecticut, which he called the Frisbie Pie Company. By 1956, they were producing 80,000 pies per day. But students at Yale, started tossing the Frisbie Pie containers around for fun. One thing led to another and now: Frisbees are one of the most popular toys in the world.
Did you know that bubblewrap was first a wallpaper? Play-Doh was first a wallpaper cleaner. Listerine was first an anti-septic. Coca Cola was first marketed as a cure for morphine addiction. Rogaine was first a blood-pressure medication. And so was Viagra.
As you can imagine, once these companies changed their product’s original purpose to be more profitable, they amassed much more worldly success.
Similarly, many of us may want try to change God’s purpose for our life and go our own way – because we want worldly success – and we often think that such success leads to true happiness.
But it seems that each year we are tragically reminded that the rich and the famous people we sometimes idolize – the people who have all the things we want – are not actually, truly happy.
But Psalm 1 tells us that those who do not go their own way – which is the way of the wicked – and who meditate on God’s word day and night are truly happy – truly blissful.
The word for law here is torah. Torah does not always refer to the laws in the Old Testament. As in many other places in Scripture, here it means, more generally, instruction, or direction.[See a longer discussion on this topic here]
And we are encouraged to meditate on these directions – metaphorically – day and night. That sounds pretty fanatic.
Way of Self Leads to Self-Destruction
Why should we meditate? Psalm 1 gives us the answer. There are ultimately two ways to live life – with two different destinations. The wicked way of self-ambition, self-reliance, self-fulfillment: it leads to self-destruction.
It’s compared to chaff that disappears in the breeze, like the seeds of those dandelion flowers we used to blow away. But walking in the way of the LORD leads to true happiness, to bliss. It’s compared to a tree planted by the water, which yields its fruit in season. Whatever it does prospers.
Now as I mentioned before, in the Hebrew, the verb “prosper” can refer to the person, to the tree, or both.
And how do trees prosper? By bearing fruit.
But trees do not eat fruit. Fruit is not for the trees to enjoy for themselves. More graphically, animals eat the fruit, which contain seeds. When the animal does its business, the seeds pass through and then have a natural fertilizer in which a new tree can grow.
I say that not to make a poop joke, but to clarify that the prosperity spoken of here is not necessarily health and wealth, it is the accomplishment of God’s purpose, a purpose from which others can grow.
Psalm tells us that there are two ways to live life: Used as Directed, or Used as selected. The way of self leads to self-destruction. The way of our Blessed Lord leads to bliss. This is the “Why?”
But how? How do we meditate on God’s word. What does this look like in practice? I’d like to make three suggestions. Time, Tools, Together. Time, Tools, Together.
Perhaps the most important thing is to consistently set aside time to meditate on God’s Word. Because we live in a world of short attention spans, desires for instant gratification, and an abundance of distractions, this can be easier said than done.
A few years ago, when I was working mostly nights. I started going to Noon Day Bible Study. And, they would always sing one of my favorite hymns. Oh, how I love Jesus, Oh how I love Jesus, Oh how I love Jesus. Because He first loved me. Because He first love me.
So, I had to ask myself, if Jesus loved me first, why do I often put Him second?
I’d much rather watch a good movie than meditate on God’s Word. I’d much rather go out and play ball than study the Scriptures. I’d much rather go shopping, or surf the internet, or check Facebook than – as Rev. Bligen would say – than put my face in the Book.
What kind of things take up most of our free time? For me, it’s been video games and TV shows. Now we have access to entertainment on our televisions, our computers, our tablets, and right on our phones. Now you can stream movies and entire seasons of shows whenever and wherever you want. We have so much at our fingertips.
But I have to remind myself, because it’s often hard for me to stay focused, that if God is truly first in my life, if I am trying to truly be a fan of Jesus, maybe meditating on His directions is more important than that hour-long show that I love. That two-hour shopping trip I want to take. That 3-hour game I just can’t miss.
Sometimes, other things in life take priority over the One who gives us life. At times, we become more fanatic about creations than the Creator.
Fans of the Fleeting
When I was younger, I was a fan of Sisqo. He was an R&B singer who dyed his hair different colors and sang really wholesome tunes like “The Thong Song.”
As you can imagine, when I asked my father if I could dye my hair red like Sisqo he kindly explained to me that that was not never going to happen – as long as I lived in his house.
Sisqo probably wasn’t the best role model for me at the time. But I was trying to imitate him.
Now, if you don’t know or remember who Sisqo is, that demonstrates my point. He was famous for a few years and then he disappeared.
Looking back over my life, I have to ask myself: why did I idolize people who were so temporary?
The people who are cool and popular right now, the songs that are hot right now, all the movies, the shows, the clothes, the fashion – it’s all so temporary. In a few years, they’ll all be old news. Bruno Mars, Drake, and Beyonce: they’re all are going to be playing on the oldies station. They’re talented, but they’re passing thrills.
But somewhere I read that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever more (Heb 13:8). The God we serve is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. So, does it make sense to be more fanatic about things that are temporary, than the One who is Eternal?
It can be hard, but I believe we must try to make meditating on God’s Word a priority in our lives. We have to try set aside time to meditate on His directions.
And with this time we need to use tools.
For now we have access to God’s Word on our televisions, our computers, our tablets, and even right on our phones. Now you can stream sermons and entire books of the Bible whenever and wherever you want. We have so much at our fingertips.
If we are pressed for time, we can listen to podcasts and audiobooks and even audio Bibles – when we’re driving, cooking, cleaning, at the gym, at the mall, running errands. Nowadays, we can literally meditate on God’s Word day and night.
Now these technological resources are great, but I think it is important to have a solid, physical study Bible. Study Bibles can be so helpful in explaining the context and the meaning of biblical passages.
They often come with summaries and outlines of various books of the Bible, as well as maps and helpful graphics. One of the first things I bought a few years ago when I felt the need to study God’s Word more was a Study Bible.
Here at Alpha, we primarily use the NIV, so I purchased the NIV Application Study Bible – and I highly recommend it.
It can be a great investment into one’s spiritual life – and the life of one’s child, or spouse, relative or friend. I use different study resources and digital software now, but that study Bible helped turn my life around.
Bible Apps, ScriptureTyper
There are also a lot of great Bible apps for mobile devices. Bible Gateway has a free app with free audio Bibles. Olive Tree is another great app that allows you to add Bible dictionaries, concordances, commentaries, and more to your digital library.
You see, we have to remember that in biblical times, there were no books. They had scrolls. And scrolls did not come cheap.
So, if your family did not have the money, one couldn’t afford to have God’s Word in one’s house. Not to mention, that many (if not most) people could not read.
So how did the Jews meditate on God’s Word? They memorized it.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (Ps 119:11).
The Hebrew Bible was always read out loud. And, much of the New Testament – especially the letters – were written to be read out loud.
And these words were read out loud over and over again. And when one hears and recites these words over and over again, just like when we listen to our favorite songs over and over again, one can commit them to memory.
Then, the Word of God is not over there on the shelf, or a few clicks away on Google, it’s right here <pounds chest for emphasis>.
Scripture Typer is mobile app that helps you memorize God’s word in three easy steps.
First, you type the verse by copying what is shown on the screen. Second, the app takes away half of the words, so you’re essentially filling in the blanks. Then, after practicing the first two steps a few times, you type the verse from memory on step three.
And since you only have to type the first letter of each word, the whole process can take just a few minutes. And, it can start to feel like a fun, educational game.
If one did this once a day, every day, by this time next year you could have 365 verses memorized.
Scripture Typer also tracks all your progress, tells you what verses you need to review, and even lets you organize verses into collections. You can put all your favorite Psalms or all you favorite hits from the Gospels into one playlist.
Now, I know everyone is not a computer scientist, but the app is pretty straightforward. If you would like some help, please just let me know. I’d love to help you. Because, I think it’s definitely worth a try. I can’t even begin to tell you how much Scripture memorization has changed my life.
Over and Over Again
Did your mother ever tell you something over and over again? To the point where you could hear her voice even when she wasn’t around?
When I would do my homework, my Mom would tell me over and over, “Danny, write your name on your paper. Name and date. If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. Always write your name on your paper.”
To this day, I always write my name and date on my papers. The sermon I’m reading now, has the name and date on every page. Because the words of my mother are always with me.
That’s how it can be with God’s Word.
If you read it and study it and hear it over and over again, the words of God will always be with you.
And when you have God’s directions in you, they can help with your discernment.
Do you know how they catch people who make fake money? From what I understand, they don’t study every single kind of counterfeit currency. They study the dollar bill – intensely.
They know it frontwards and backwards. They know the colors, the patterns, the text – everything about it. So, if they see a dollar bill that looks a little off, it sticks out like a sore thumb.
Similarly, when you meditated on God’s word, and have God’s directions within you, when you hear something that sounds a little off, it can stick like a sore thumb.
So, when you get invited to that place that is not of God, when you feel like doing that thing that is not of God, when you’re being peer pressured into something that is not of God – it sticks out like a sore thumb.
This is why meditation is so important. God’s directions can be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Ps 119:105), guiding and directing us as we make decisions in life. So, let us make the most of our time and the tools that are at our fingertips.
And let us do this together.
I realize that the theme is “Meditation: Private Time in the Word.” But meditation can be a little easier if you know you’re not doing it alone. Alpha recently finished the Fitness Challenge, right?
Now, isn’t it a little easier when you know that many other people you care about are also counting their steps, and exercising, and eating healthier? Isn’t it often a little easier to go to work out when you have a gym buddy? Aren’t road trips a little easier when you have someone in the passenger seat to keep you awake?
We don’t’ have to do this alone. It’s hard to do things alone. Especially when we’re doing something so countercultural.
It’s easy to be an Eagles fan now. I bet there are a lot more Eagles fans across America now, than there were just a few months ago. It’s easy to be a fan of something that is popular.
But mainstream society is telling us that we should use life as selected, instead of as directed – by God. We are paddling in boats going upstream. But we can be encouraged when we know that we our brothers and sisters paddling along with us – people who can help us along the way, and keep us accountable.
And, of course, we have the Holy Spirit blowing in our sails. We don’t have to do this alone. With God’s help we can do this. We can do this together.
So, who’s it gonna be? Who’s going to start the Meditation Challenge? Who’s going to start the Meditation Challenge in your house? My house? In your family? My family? In your relationships? My relationships? We can do this church, and we can do this together.
If you haven’t already, let’s start this today. Let today be day one.
Meditation: Private Time in the Word. For what? To be a fan of Jesus, fanatically trying to be more like Jesus. Avoiding sins of commission and omission.
Meditation: Why? According to Psalm 1, we can use life as selected or life as directed. One way leads to self-destruction, the other leads to bliss.
Meditation: How? By making meditation a priority concerning our time, by putting God’s word in our hearts using tools, knowing that we are in this together.
Brothers and sisters, we may not all be here today by choice. But we can choose to be a fan of Jesus every day. Jesus wants fans. He says anyone who wants to be my disciple – my fanatic – must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me (Lk 9:23).
He wants those who are willing to dedicate everything they have to Him. He wants those who say: “All to Jesus…” <continues and closes with “I Surrender All”>
 I was at a gym in Lawrenceville, NJ when I heard a guy tell his friend, “Man, Prince just died!” And, I could see the tears welling up in her eyes. All of a sudden, she let out this spine-tingling scream, a blood-curdling wail full of anguish and agony. It gave me goosebumps. She was hysterical. “I can’t believe this happened! He was too young! I just saw him the other day!” Then her friend said to her, “No, not Prince. Prince the artist.” Apparently, she had a friend named Prince who she thought had died. As she realized her misunderstanding, she wiped her eyes and said, “Ooooh, well that’s a shame.” It seemed that she was much more devoted to her friend Prince, than the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.
 And, I’m like, “Really, so you think it’s a good idea for me to play a slow ballad like Purple Rain in the middle of a high-energy party?”
 Trial Sermon
 Pagan way of thinking. Pagans would praise and make sacrifices to their gods so they could win divine favor. If you were going to war, maybe you pray or sacrifice to Apollo or Ares – for favor in war. If you were about to go on a sea voyage, maybe you would pray or sacrifice to Poseidon – for favor on the seas. If you wanted to fall in love, maybe you would pray or sacrifice to Aphrodite – for favor in your love life.
 OK, I want health and wealth and prosperity, let’s see that’s D7. How much does that cost. OK, that’s going to cost some meditation, a little bit of fasting and prayer, and a few Hallelujahs.
 Also, “Any kind of sexual expression between two consenting adults is acceptable” (69%). “People can believe whatever they want, as long as those beliefs don’t affect society” (79%), “People should not criticize someone else’s life choices” (89%). Barna.
 Barna Study.
 Did you know that, reportedly, about 100 people die in the United States from choking on pen caps? The purpose of the cap is to keep ink from coming out when it’s not in use. But sometimes we chew on the caps. And some people unfortunately end up swallowing the caps. This is why, if you look at most pen caps, they have a hole on the top. So that if someone swallows it, some air can go through the windpipe. It can be dangerous when we do not use things as directed.
 Business Insider, http://www.businessinsider.com/successful-products-that-were-originally-intended-for-a-completely-different-purpose-2016-3#hair-restoration-medicine-rogaine-was-intended-as-a-blood-pressure-treatment-7
 Business Insider.
 Bruce K. Waltke, James M. Houston, and Erika Moore, The Psalms as Christian Worship: A Historical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 141
Image from here