Summer ought to be a season when we’re able to rest well—a time we can spend in the Lord and His goodness. But, oftentimes, we actually fall out of healthy spiritual habits and end up trying to rest from the Lord instead of resting in Him.
That’s why we’ve created the Summer Selah Series. Over 40 days, we’ll be sharing daily devotions during a season where you may not feel very devoted.
Based on excerpts from his book Selah: Devotions From The Psalms For Those Who Struggle With Devotion, Ross Lester, our Pastor of Preaching and West Congregation Pastor, will provide readings from select Psalms, a brief devotional reflection, and some prayer points for each of the 40 days.
Take some time to read Psalm 1. Then, come back and read the following verses again.
“Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2 ESV)
When my wife Sue and I lived in Seattle, Washington, one of our favorite sunny-day activities was to head down to a place called the Ballard Locks where we would watch the boats come and go from Lake Union to the Puget Sound. The best thing about the Locks was watching the salmon swim up the salmon ladder to return to their spawning ground. It was a remarkable thing to see. They strived and strained against a fierce and unending flow of water. It would be much easier for them to swim with the current, but it is imprinted in them to swim the other way.
The Psalms start by describing a new and different kind of person—a righteous one, a blessed one, one who sticks out from the crowd. This person is so different that many commentators and scholars suggest that the Psalm can only be talking about Jesus. Even if it is, it is still describing someone that followers of Christ should strive to be like.
How exactly is this person different? He refuses to follow the path of least resistance or to give in to the thinking of the day. He pursues a different course, one that will seem foolish to those who are looking in on his life, but one that will ultimately lead to blessing, or happiness or contentment as the word can equally be translated.
This was always supposed to be the path of the people of God. Ours is not supposed to be a well-worn highway, but a narrow and difficult track. Jesus spoke of it in His Sermon on the Mount, where He described a different kind of person living in a new kind of kingdom.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, and those who are meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst not for stuff, but for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted.
Popular culture isn’t going to sell you any of those values as a key to contentment. The kingdom, it seems, is upside down, back to front, meant for those who are prepared to swim upstream. Citizens of this kingdom were always supposed to be renegades and rebels, people who won’t buy what society is selling. Why have we become so mainstream?
So, there are a couple of questions for us today:
- What are the areas in your life that God would ask you to repent of the fact that you have gone with the flow?
- Where have you followed a path of least resistance, which has led to massive compromise in order to keep going? Your money? Your intimacy? Your attitudes towards others and the tone you use to engage with people you disagree with? Your conversations? Your family life? Your approach to work?
- What are the areas of your life where God is asking you to live in radical obedience by actively opposing the messages of our culture and heading in the opposite direction?
- Where is it that you need to take ground by swimming against the current? Not just holding out, but moving forward?
I pray that, as you repent and ask God to show you these areas, you will have the courage and the conviction to do what it takes to follow Him and the ways of this new kind of kingdom.
The pursuit of joy and contentment, it would seem, lies in the journey upstream.
Dear Lord, forgive us for the ways that we have lived to please the world more than we lived to please You. Forgive us for where we have forsaken the call to live with bravery and bold rebellion. Empower us by Your Spirit to live lives that stick out, to live the kind of lives that are blessed by You, even if they seem strange to the world. Thank You for the example Your Son set and the grace that He gives to us. It is in His name we pray.
Ross Lester, Selah: Devotions From The Psalms For Those Who Struggle With Devotion (Magnolia, Texas: Lucid Books, 2017)