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Made In His Image

“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” Genesis 1:26a

There is a voice in the American society that says that we need to fear African American people. That for some reason we are all ignorant savages that are looking to destroy everything- property, and people alike. And unfortunately those “images” are what I see so often. Youtube is littered with videos of black people fighting one another, ripping clothes and pulling out hair. The most popular music from today’s black artists say things like sex, violence and money are good things to desire. In fact, I recently heard a song by Nikki Minaj that basically glorifies her derrière in the most sexual way. I had to get on my students for listening to it in Sunday school. (Yep, exactly)  There are nearly 2.5 Million people incarcerated. According to the 2009 census ~850,000 inmates were African American. The statistic only worsens when other minority groups are added. Much of this has to do with the prison industrial complex (believing that the best way to rehabilitate some is to institutionalize them, which in fact does nothing in terms of rehab), and the new Jim Crow (discussed in another blog).  All of this feeds this voice that gives way to so much fear. This voice would cause an otherwise confident individual to clinch her purse or lock her car door when a black man walks by. This voice would cause a store clerk to ask a black man for two forms of identification when paying with a check, meanwhile the previous lady (white) who paid with a check was not even asked for a one piece of identification. This voice cause another store clerk to secretly follow black kids around the store assuming they are thieves and are stealing merchandise . This voice would cause a supervisor to assume that because a black woman has a recent new hair doo, that she looted the hair from Ferguson shops. (Yes someone actually said this) This voice causes the police officer to assume a group of black men standing in a parking lot are conspiring to commit a crime. This voice causes law enforcement to point snipers and militarized police officers armed with rifles and tear gas to fire toward unarmed citizens who are exercising their first amendment rights to protest, yet they protect the Neo Nazis as they rally and protest on the city hall steps. And it causes the officer to reach for the lethal weapon before rationalizing the situation and allowing the laws of the land prevail.

But there is a problem with this voice. This voice is inaudible. It doesn’t really exist. It is something that we have conjured up that says “they” are different than us. That last time I checked, my blood is still warm and runs red through my veins just the same as my white brothers and sisters. So, why the disparity? Why are we treated so differently? I believe a great portion of it has to do with the appreciation of the image of God, or lack thereof. Genesis 1 describes God’s creation plan. On each day of the first week, God created something and he called it good (טוֹב – “tov” meaning very good, or forcefully good). On the six day, however, God would create his greatest creation, namely mankind. “Let us make man in our image…” This has so many implications, more than I’m willing to unpack now. But what I will say is that humanity was God at his best. We bear his image! That doesn’t mean that its a physical appearance, but we bear his image in terms of his character. We can show goodness, and kindness, and love. We can create. We can show mercy and grace. We were created to bear God’s glorious image to the world that He created! This is central to our relationship to one another. Now I must say, that while we are created in His image, that image has been marred by sin. We don’t love perfectly. We don’t show kindness, goodness, etc., perfectly.  C.S. Lewis calls us “Glorious Ruins”. I think this is an accurate description. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t try.

1st John 3 says that those who love God, loves their neighbor. Neighbor is undefined here intentionally. Neighbor knows no color or ethnicity. It knows no socioeconomic status or mental capacity. It has no distinction. In the case of the gospels, when neighbor is defined it is usually the marginalized, and the outcast. This should move us to consider the superficial fear of other races. If you are reading this and have these fearful feelings, consider your heart. Why are you fearful? Is it because of the “voice” that says you should be fearful. Maybe its because of the images you see on T.V. and the media. Or is it because of your own sin that prevents you from seeing the image of God in a person. Calvin says sums it up nicely saying, “The Lord commands us to do good unto all men without exception…, [The Scripture] teaches us that we must not think of man’s [real value], but only of his creation in the image of God to which we owe all possible honor and love

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What I Learned In Seminary

Graduation1

אהללה היהוה (Praise the Lord!). 100+ credit hours later, and I am complete. Yesterday marked the end of my graduate school journey. In a few days (Lord willing), I will be conferred as a Master of Divinity. That’s an extremely heavy title. I don’t claim to have mastered the divine, but I have been equipped to faithfully carry a message that has eternal implications. I feel the weight of the responsibility. Nevertheless, I believe God has and will continue to enable me to proclaim His truth. I am eternally grateful to all those who have supported me along the way. Special thanks to my parents who have been true blessings.

I have learned a lot over the last few years, and I would like to take a moment to share with you all some of the most significant lessons that have really impacted and shaped my view of scripture and life overall.

1. C-R-R-R (Creation-Rebellion-Redemption-Restoration)

Up until the last few years, I have always looked at the Bible as a book of random acts and occurrences that are seemingly disconnected from regular life. I have always reverenced the book, but it was hard for me to see how it was relevant or how it applied to life (outside of the gospel of course).

Post seminary, I understand the bible to be one story- God’s story! He is the main character. He creates, and he restores. It is a story of love and fellowship. God wants to dwell in his good creation, particularly among mankind for man is unique (created in His image) (Gen 1:26). He calls man to fill the entire world with His image (be fruitful and multiply).

But because man sinned and rebelled (Gen. 3:6-7), God could no longer be near to man in complete fellowship (1 Pet. 1:15-16). As we read through the story, we see the ways in which God makes it possible for man to be in His presence (The Law, Tabernacle, and Temple). And he establishes these covenants of which man is to obey (Gen 12:1-3; Gen. 17:9-11; 2 Samuel 7:5-9). Their obedience will guarantee blessings.

Alas, man did not keep the covenant and continued to break it. God then punished his people by sending them into exile. Yet he remained faithful to them- he sustains, and keeps them even in exile and will ultimately bring them back to their land (Isa. 14:1-3).

Jeremiah, who was a prophet during the exile of Judah, speaks about a new covenant that the Lord will establish between He and his people. A covenant that will not be broken by the sin of man, but, in fact forgives and forgets the sin of man. This covenant was established in the broken body of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11:24-26). This is the gospel that we are all very familiar with. His death and his resurrection are the means of grace to all of his elect (Heb. 10:12-18).

It is through his blood, that we are redeemed. And as the redeemed covenant people of God in union with Christ, he calls us again to fill the world with His image by making disciples (Matt. 28:19-20) who will look to Jesus. The inaugurated Kingdom of Jesus has come and we can experience it, but it has not been fully revealed. We live in a tension of the already, but not yet. Christ’s eschatological Kingdom will be fully revealed on day, but we must wait and be ready in hopeful anticipation for his coming. He will restore all things.

What does this mean for you and me? The story is still being written with us!!! We play a role in bringing about God’s complete redemptive plan. God has not left us without encouragement though, for He has written that He will prevail in the end and we will join him in victory (Rev. 21:3-4). This is the story of the Bible (truncated of course).

2. Context Is King

Unfortunately, the Church has become a battle ground for doctrine wars. This is primarily due to the fact that untrained preachers read their presuppositions and assumptions into scripture, and regurgitate it as true interpretation. However, seminary has taught me to let scripture interpret itself. We do that by reading it in its context. Context is not limited to historical setting (a lot of preachers will do well if they only held to this one), but it involves the literary genre, audience, grammar and syntax (original languages), and the context of the Grand Story (C-R-R-R). Interpretation (exegesis) is an art, and the only way to perfect an art craft is to practice it over and over again. Yes, it does take time and effort. But we do it because we love the people who we minister to.

3. Secular- Sacred Distinction

I have been taught my entire life that I, as a Christian, must avoid “worldly” or secular things (i.e. movies, secular music, video games, art, certain jobs and employment, etc.). I agree that Christians need to avoid all things sinful, but not all secular things are sinful. In fact, this mentality has bled over into relationships. I have heard preachers says we need not make friends with non Christians- they are worldly (as if Christian are not worldly???). However seminary has taught me to enjoy all things (that are not sinful of course) because God has created all things. All things are to be received with thanksgiving for those who know the truth (1 Tim. 4:1-3). We are called to full the world with God’s image. We do this by engaging the culture and especially loving people. God calls some to the workplace. We are to serve him where ever he calls us. If you work at an office or a warehouse, that office or warehouse becomes your ministry and you are required to serve God well by doing your jobs well. We are called to love non Christians. Invite non Christians to your home, spend time with them, and develop a relationship. In so doing, you embody Christ and you invite an opportunity for the gospel to take root in their lives. This is engaging culture. There is no divide between the “sacred” and the “secular”.

Okay. enough for now. These are my top 3. I hope that you are encouraged by what I have written. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Pentecostalism: Why Evangelicals Should Pay Attention

I wrote this little peace for a missiology class I took and I got pretty good feedback. I thought I would paste it hear to see what you all think. I’m considering taking this a step further, doing a through synthesis of the Pentecostal contribution to modern Christianity and the Missio Dei. *Note: it is lengthy.

Introduction

As I have spent time at a largely reformed, Presbyterian seminary, I have often heard individuals speak rather negatively about the Pentecostal charismatic movement. The backlash is usually directed at the movement’s theological framework, and as a result the movement as a whole is easily dismissed. With over 523 million reported Pentecostal/charismatic believers, this movement is something that deserves legitimate consideration.[1] The intent of this paper is not to give an apologetic for the theological framework for the Pentecostal movement, but to appreciate the theology of mission that is so very present in this movement. William Seymour, leader of the Azusa Street Mission and perhaps the founder of the modern day Pentecostal movement, said these words that are at the very heart of Pentecostal missions, “Do not go from this meeting and talk about tongues, but try to get people saved”.[2] As I have come to understand, the Pentecostal/charismatic movement was not so much of a new theological endeavor (although there was new theological developments associated with the movement), it was widely a missionary endeavor. The call to missions that these people who had undergone a “baptism of the Spirit” was phenomenal. In this essay, I hope to explain and distinguish between the Missio Dei (the mission of God) and Pentecostal missions borrowing from Bosch, Jennings, and Fee, moving on to discuss Pentecostal mission theology, and how in light of the paradigm shifts, we should respond as evangelicals (reformed or otherwise) to the movement of God through these missions.

 2.       Mission and Missions

David Bosch writes, “Mission is God’s turning to the world in respect of creation, care, redemption, and consummation. Mission is thereby seen as a movement from God to the world; the Church is viewed as an instrument for that mission”. [3] This is Missio Dei truncated. God the Almighty One, Father of all creation set his son as coroneted King over all things, who will lead his people (the Israelites) in a mission that will not only have a lasting effect on the people (Jew and Gentile), but all of creation (global mission).  As we read through the OT, especially the prophets, we can easily see how the Messiah ushers in this new move of global mission. Global mission from the beginning of creation, has always been God’s purpose and plan, however limited to Israel it might have seemed. Israel was the chosen people. They were supposed to be representatives, images of God to the world, so that the nations of the earth might come to the full knowledge of the Almighty God.  Israel led, now Christ leads. Gordon Fee writes, “Our global mission, therefore is deeply woven into the biblical understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection for all people, as that understanding is rooted first of all in the teaching of Jesus himself. His giving his own life “for many” means for the “great and numberless many”, who will hear it as good news and respond with repentance. The proclamation of that good news, of course, is what the ongoing mission of the church is all about”.[4]  This has great implications to the missions of the Pentecostal movement.

Where mission is a global move of God through the church, missions is specific to how the church responds to God’s mission.[5] It is the actions- the doing that believers do knowing that we (gentiles) have now been included as participants in God’s mission with Jesus at the helm of the ship. The Pentecostal movement certainly understood this. From the very beginning, when the “fire first fell” from the Azusa Street Mission, Pentecostalism has been identified in relationship to missions.

 3.       Pentecostal Missions

The historical paradigm of Pentecostal missions is summed up in Seymour’s quote, “Try to get people saved”. William Seymour, a black holiness preacher is often accredited to the modern development of Pentecostalism. However most historians, including Vinson Synan, notes that Seymour was trained under the direction of Charles Parham who founded Bethel Bible School in Topeka, KS. It was Parham who first developed the theological argument that the tongues were the initial evidence of being baptized in the Spirit.[6] Seymour became a student of Parham, and adopted his theology carrying it eventually to Los Angeles. Parham, and subsequently Seymour (for a time), taught that the tongue was a known language, unknown to the speaker who was filled with the Holy Spirit.

For Parham, and initially Seymour, this theological distinction had great implications to global missions. Now people could go do global mission and not take the time to learn languages or cultures, because the Holy Spirit would give them the language they needed to use. Synan writes of one of Parham’s worship services, “during these meetings, the students [of Bethel Bible School] spoke in twenty-one known languages, including Swedish, Russian, Bulgarian, Japanese, Norwegian, French, Hungarian, Italian, and Spanish. According to Parham, none of his students had studied any of these languages and they were all confirmed by authentic speakers”.[7] Now there are obviously some theological and practical issues related to this. However, as I said, I am not writing to defend a theology, but we must appreciate this. Seymour embraced this idea. It is reported that missionaries we sent away in masses, some in less than a few minutes from receiving their credentials and confirmation from Seymour and his other elders.

Cecil M. Robeck writes a wonderfully eloquent book regarding the specifics of global missions in various countries that these missionaries were sent to, and how the fire of God fell on the people there. Unfortunately, I don’t have the room to dive into the rich historical global missions that the Pentecostal movement has experienced. But suffice it to say, God’s hand was certainly upon the movement.[8]

4.       Mission Theology

There is something very good about the Pentecostal movement. It is the largest protestant denomination in the world, yet most evangelical don’t consider it a significant movement. What is God doing? I think the answer can be found examining the movement’s mission theology. The Pentecostal theology of mission has centered around three fundamental aspects: the centrality of the Word and Spirit, Pentecostal eschatology (urgency), and the Pentecostal sense of destiny.

Author after author emphasize the Spirit’s work of empowerment to do evangelism. It is the driving force, the motivation for doing evangelistic work. Pentecostals are so deeply committed to the teaching found in Acts. God has really poured out his Spirit and given believers the power to go into the world and preach the gospel. Evangelism is the central musicological thrust.[9] We should not miss the rich implications here. To say that one is committed to the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those it is poured entails “the antecedent commitment to Jesus’ work in inaugurating the kingdom”.[10] A Spirit empowered mission perpetuates Jesus’ mission. This is a very good thing!

This takes us right in to the next aspect- eschatology. Jesus Christ has ushered in his eschatological kingdom, though not fully revealed yet. As members of the church- people who have been privileged to serve in God’s global mission- we have a responsibility to the eschatological kingdom. “From an eschatological perspective, the mission of the church is to witness to the truth that the kingdom of God which still belongs to the future has broken into the present age in Jesus Christ and continues into the world through the Holy Spirit”.[11] In light of this, Pentecostal mission theology says we should live in a certain way. In a kingdom where God reigns, all normative moral structures are changed. Shalom is established. We live in a new redemptive society where enemies become brothers, strangers become neighbors, injustice gets rectified, etc. “Radical strategy” was the term used to identify early Pentecostal mission activity. Pentecostal’s urgency regarding the coming of the eschaton resulted in them favoring the use of kerygmatic proclamation (preaching), and church planting as strategic missions focus. The idea was, by the Holy Spirit, to establish churches were people will be saved through gospel proclamation and experience the shalom of God before Jesus returns.

Out of the three points given, I think I may have the hardest time with this last one regarding divine destiny. The final point to Pentecostal mission theology is God’s divine appointment. Many early Pentecostal would agree that the movement was no ordinary movement, but it was called forth by a divine appointment from God. They saw themselves as God’s instrument to the world, a special group. Having such close theological connection to the early believers of Acts, they believed they were the climax of two thousand years of Church history. This sense of destiny, as one writer writes, “Filled them with an assurance that overcame persecution and early rejection”.[12] This is a good thing, I suppose. It always kept the motivation and progress moving forward. These things sort of shaped the early theology of mission, and as a result established a paradigm that would last for nearly 100 years.

5.       A New Paradigm Shift

We are now entering into the second millennium of the Pentecostal movement. Some things have changed, as a result, in recent years. What should be most obvious is the whole idea of eschatological urgency that shaped the early years of the movement has now begun to fade. Without that urgency to “get people saved”, what happens? In recent years, the movement has moved to globalization. With the center of the Christian church now moving to the southern hemisphere in the indigenous, and the southern world (third world), issues regarding political participation, citizenship, gender relations, and economic morality, are now on the radar of the Pentecostal movement. Social justice concerns and compassionate ministries are now sweeping across all of Pentecostalism.

As I mentioned, there is a special influx of social concern happening in the southern hemisphere- Latin America, Brazil, and Chile. Pentecostal missions are responsible for reforming education and agribusiness (business of agricultural production) in and around Latin America, and they have really highlighted for the world the disenfranchised communities of these countries.[13]   While there is lots of activity in the southern world, North America has had its fair share of Pentecostal social concern. Two of the largest evangelistic movements that America has seen in years have been spearheaded by Pentecostal groups. Convoy of Hope, based in Springfield MO, and the Dream Center Movement out of Los Angeles are headed by Pentecostals. Convoy of Hope, according to Christianity Today, has served over 43 million people in more than 100 countries, and given away over $227 million in food and needed supplies. “This movement has joined forces with churches, businesses, and government agencies to carry out the Convoy mission”.[14] Over 88,000 children receive assistance from Convoy’s feeding initiatives in El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Kenya, Nicaragua, and the Philippines. Convoy of Hope is also considered a reliable “first responder” organization in disaster relief efforts. Convoy has responded to the recent natural disasters in Japan, Missouri, and Alabama.

The Dream Center is a Los Angeles based movement that is driven by volunteers to provide mobile hunger relief and medical programs, residential rehabilitation programs for teens and adults, a shelter for victims of human trafficking, transitional housing for homeless families, foster care intervention programs, job skills training, life skills counseling, basic education, and Bible studies just to name a few. St. Louis is blessed to have an independently operated Dream Center in our community! All of this was a result of the social concern of the Pentecostal movement.

In recent year, the demographic of Pentecostalism is changing studies show that by year 2050, the minority community (African American, Hispanic, and Asian) will become the new majority in western Pentecostalism. With the changing ethnicities, we get different concerns. The priorities of the ethnic Pentecostal community are issues of life, biblical marriage, education, sex trafficking, immigration reform, poverty alleviation- these things matter!

6.       Why Should We Pay Attention?

It is obvious that God has his hand upon this movement. It would be sinful, and at the very least ignorant to write this movement off as something that should never have happened. In God’s sovereignty, he has allowed it to exist and it is clear that it is impacting the world in a mighty way. No other movement has been as successful at evangelism to the unchurched as the Pentecostal movement. As far as I am concerned, they are participating in the Missio Dei as God has designated them to. What are we to do? I’m not calling for a conversion to Pentecostalism. But I am calling for evangelical to see Pentecostal theology with a missiological hermeneutic. I think that is initially how it was intended, however far it has gotten off track in recent study. Let us come along side of our charismatic brothers and sisters, knowing that God uses other vessels, but his one mission is always sure. And let us rejoice, always looking to Jesus, knowing that he has chosen us, and our feeble missions, to advance his global mission.


[1] Lord, Andy. Network Church a Pentecostal Ecclesiology Shaped by Mission. Leiden: BRILL, 2012. Print.

[2] McClung, Grant. Azusa Street & Beyond. 2nd ed. Alachua, Fla.: Bridge-Logos, 2012. Print.

[3] Bosch, David Jacobus. Transforming mission: paradigm shifts in theology of mission. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1991. Print.

[4] Fee, Gordon. Called & empowered: global mission in Pentecostal perspective. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991. Print.

[5] J Nelson Jennings, God the Real Superpower (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2007), 19.

[6] Vinson Synan, The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal, 1901-2001 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001), 43.

[7] Ibid. 44

[8] See Cecil M. Robeck and Jr, The Azusa Street Mission and Revival: the Birth of the Global Pentecostal Movement (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006), for a more in-depth look at the history of global mission as it relates to respective areas of the world.

[9] Anderson, Allen, Azusa Street and Beyond (Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2005), 173-174.

[10] Murray W. Dempster, Called and Empowered: Global Mission in Pentecostal Perspective, Reprint ed. (Peabody, MA: Baker Academic, 1991), 23.

[11] Ibid. 24

[12] McClung, Grant, Azusa Street and Beyond (Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2005), 84.

[13] Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism: the New Face of Christian Social Engagement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007).

[14] Crosby, Robert. A New Kind of Pentecostal. Christianity Today, August 2011, Vol. 55, No. 8, Pg. 50

An Inccurable Disease

“When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.  And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” Matthew 8:1-4

There has been a recent flood of news regarding the numerous cases of those who have tested positive for the HIV/AIDS virus, primarily in the Adult Entertainment business. I was just recently reading an article on Yahoo News about the adult film star that recently tested positive for the HIV virus. She explains how some of the required rules and restrictions have been abandoned by some of these Adult Film Studios, risking the safety of their performers. The adult film industry has, with great wisdom, placed strict guidelines for every studio to follow. One of them is ensure that every performer is tested every 30 day for STD’s, and other diseases and that the results are reported to the national database for all performers. In this recent infection, the female actor was unaware that her male actor actually tested positive for HIV a few days before shooting the film. The studio knew his test result but failed to inform anyone, and did not stop the actor from preforming.

I’m not going to bash this girl for doing what she does. Obviously, porn is a perverse and sinful industry to partake in and I don’t think I need to elaborate on that. However, the challenges that this woman will have to face from now on will be great. Imagine yourself in her shoes for a moment. The day before, everything seemed quite normal. You were living you normal day to day routine, going to work like you do everyday, living life with family and friends like always…. But suddenly you get the news that you are positive for HIV. They tell you that HIV is not curable, and it will eventually kill you if you don’t take the necessary precautions. You life has just been rocked…. What was once your normal day to day has changed forever, you will never be the same.

I don’t have HIV, but I have something worse. Something that, unlike HIV, cannot even be treated with medication. And guess what…..? You have it too! What is this incurable disease. It called Sin. I have been infected, and you have been infected, and there is no earthly cure. As we look at Matthew 8, we see a Jesus who cures a man with leprosy.  Leprosy was a terrible disease that kept you from having a normal life. If you were a leper, by law, you had to live alone outside of the city or camp. No one could touch or be near you, unless they risk becoming ceremonially unclean. You could not worship, if you came to the tabernacle or temple you would risk death. You had to walk around with long messy hair, and torn clothes, and you had to cover you mouth and yell “unclean, unclean” so that anyone near you would know exactly who you were. You lived that way until your disease healed up, which was not often because there is no medical treatment at this time. You lived in seclusion, abandoned by all people. Here in these few verses, Jesus does the unthinkable. He touches this leprous man and heals him. He show the people who were following him, and he shows us why he is authoritative. He shows us why we should listen and take heed of all the things he just said in his sermon on the mount. Jesus breaks the law, and the social norms and heals a very desperate and faithful man. I won’t get into the faithful response of the leper but there is truth we can glean from the lepers response also.

Jesus heals those with disease. But he didn’t stop there. As you read through Matthew’s gospel, you see Jesus healing the blind, raising the dead, healing others who are sick in their bodies, feeding thousands. Jesus heals….

But he didn’t stop there, there was one disease that he was not able to simply lay his hands on and heal. There was one disease that required of him a little more than spit and a ball of mud. This disease would take his very life. Brothers and sisters, my sin and your sin required blood…. HIS blood. Jesus endured the pain and anguish of the cross that was required to heal the disease of Sin, He rescued us from death. Glory be to God, cause he didn’t stop there…

Jesus heals completely. He resurrected, proclaiming victor over all things! Not only has he given us a cure for our disease, but he has made us better, stronger, mightier than we were before he administered the cure! This news should elicit a response. How great is our God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is a balm for our souls! How will you respond?

When God Winnows: A Study of Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man That walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor standeth in the way of sinners, Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; And in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, That bringeth forth his fruit in his season; His leaf also shall not wither; And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. 4 The ungodly are not so: But are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: But the way of the ungodly shall perish. [1]

Mary told her farmer-husband Rick that see wanted to bake him a loaf of fresh bread. She explained to Rick that she did not have enough wheat to prepare a whole loaf. Being a good husband that he was, Rick decided that he should get her some wheat, especially since he could already taste that sweet, warm bread. So Rick went out to the grain fields, he cut down a few stalks and wrapped them in a bushel. Rick then to the bushel to the threshing floor. He laid the stalks out on the floor, and took he trident fork and began agitating the stalks. Over and over again he would throw these stalks in the air. Most of the stalk blew away with the wind, but the little seeds of grain fell back to the floor. After he was satisfied with the amount of grain he collected, he put it all in his sack and took it to his wife. Later that day, he enjoyed a nice slice of fresh baked bread.

What does this have to do with Psalm 1? In so many words, I have described the process of winnowing- the separation of the wheat from the chaff. It is an enduring process that requires faithful attention and persistence. There is a clear end goal. As we turn to the text, the Psalm writer has given a snap shot view of the winnowing process in the kingdom of God. Similar to Rick’s process, God puts his people through a winnowing process in order to produce a proper/necessary result. Psalm 1 describes for us the results of God’s winnowing process. Rick produced two things as a result of his winnowing process- chaff and seed. Likewise God’s process produces two results- the Blessed and the Wicked.

The Blessed vv.1-3 Psalm 1 can effectively be separated into 3 divisions, the first division describing those who are called Blessed. The psalmist begins by identifying things that blessed people avoid. Vv1. Walking, standing, or sitting with the sinner, or mockers. The idea here is progressive. It is one thing to walk among the scornful, but it another to sit (rest) among the scornful. Sitting or resting has the idea of being in collusion with these wicked men. Blessed is the man who is not in collusion with the wicked against the righteous one, not even easily influenced. vv.2 The blessed man is not influenced by the wicked, but is influenced by his meditation of the Word of God. This means that there is a intentionality behind his study of God’s word. Joshua 1:8 says “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success”. [2]

A blessed man is intentional about doing all according to the Word of God. As a result of his intentionality, the Lord establishes his “blessedness” like a tree planted by the river (it has access to all the water it needs), like a tree that brings forth fruit in its intended season (functions properly), whose leaves do not wither but prospers in all that he does. The idea is not prosperity in a carnal sense, but every God-controlled activity that this blessed individual does will come to complete divinely directed fulfillment. The Wicked vv4 The Psalmist draws a distinct separation between the blessed and the wicked introducing us to the second division. The wicked are individuals who are not in covenant relationship with God. They are empowered and driven by the own desires, pleasures, and lusts. The wicked live according to their own passions.

Yesterday, I was on HBO to Go and I decided to watch “What’s Love Got to do with it” starring Angela Bassett and Lawrence Fishbourne. I have seen this movie probably a hundred times, but as I watched it last night I could help but to notice how evil Ike Turner was portrayed in that movie. There was one scene in the movie- Anna Mae had tried to commit suicide by taking to many pills. On the ride to the hospital, as the EMT’s are doing their best to pump the pills from her stomach, Ike leans in over Anna Mae, and whispers in her ear “If you don’t make it, I’ll kill you”. The statement is obviously foolish, but he showed just how evil Ike was- in Tina’s lowest and most vulnerable moment, Ike only concern was for himself. Maybe you know someone who lives for themselves. Maybe there are a few here whose hearts are postured only towards self. The Psalmist informs us that these wicked, and evil people are like the chaff in the winnowing process- absolutely good for nothing. They are the worthless husks that are blown by the wind, never to amount to anything.

The Judgment vv5-6 Verses 5-6 bring us to the last division of the chapter. The psalmist fast forwards us to the end process of the winnowing of God- the Judgment. God knows all things- no thing is hidden from him. Rick’s winnowing process what incomplete- some seed was left behind. But God’s process is absolutely complete. There will come a day when God will separate the wheat from the chaff. God knows who are his, those who has embraced the covenant from his/her heart, and has done all according to his Word. Paul says it this way. “ But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” [3] God will save you from the impending destruction of the chaff. He will save you because you have committed your lives to him and have produced fruit that will last eternally.

[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version. 2009 (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version.) (Ps 1:1–6). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jos 1:8). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (2 Ti 2:19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.