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Change Your “Pas5w0rd,” Change Your Life

July 9, 2014

Psalms of Summer

This summer we’re going to delve more deeply into the Psalms. “The Psalms of Summer,” I’m calling the preaching series. (Or, as a pastor friend of mine called it, the Psalms of Psummer.)

We’ll find ourselves here in these poems and see our heart’s desires expressed in the Psalms. Some days we’ll walk out of church with new prayers to pray: prayers we’ve been longing to pray and have already been feeling, but maybe couldn’t put words to.

We’ll seek, too, to be shaped and formed by these prayers.

Psalm 1 as Preface, and Picking a Password

Psalm 1 is, as one early church theologian called it, the “foundation” of the house. It sets up the whole book of 150 Psalms. You could almost even think of it as a sort of “Psalm 0.”

The ones who are blessed, this Psalm says, the ones with the richest, most God-filled lives, the ones who flourish, are the ones who meditate on God’s word. Over and over.

Blessed are those… who delight in the law of the LORD and meditate on his law day and night.

I found myself this week being redirected to an article on NBC’s Today Website, because I had to click on the link that said, “How a password changed one man’s life for the better.”

And how can you not click on that, you know?

Mauricio Estrella had just gone through a painful divorce and was depressed. He says:

One day I walk into the office, and my computer screen showed me the following message:

“Your password has expired. Click ‘Change password’ to change your password.”

His work required a change of password every 30 days. He writes:

I was furious that morning. A sizzling hot Tuesday, it was 9:40 a.m and I was late to work. I was still wearing my bike helmet and had forgotten to eat breakfast. I needed to get things done before a 10 a.m. meeting and changing passwords was going to be a huge waste of time.

As the input field with the pulsating cursor was waiting for me to type a password — something I’d use many times during every day — I remembered a tip I heard from my former boss.

And I decided: I’m gonna use a password to change my life.

He reasoned like this–he has to type in his password several times a day–when his screen saver came up or his lock screen kicked in when he was away from his desk for extended periods of time.

So, freshly wounded from the divorce, he set a password: “Forgive her.”

Except he had to have at least one capital letter, one lowercase letter, one symbol, and one number, so it was “Forgive@h3r.”

Every day for a month he wrote, “Forgive her.” And Estrella said:

That simple action changed the way I looked at my ex wife. That constant reminder that I should forgive her led me to accept the way things happened at the end of my marriage, and embrace a new way of dealing with the depression that I was drowning into.

A month later, his password expired, so his new password–reflecting a new mantra he wanted to take on–became: Quit@smoking4ever.

It was a great article–a little self-help-y for my tastes, and it is true that we find ourselves in way too many situations that we can’t just positive think our way out of. But Mauricio Estrella knew what the writer of Psalm 1 knew–what we meditate on has the power to transform us. 

Two Ways

Here is one way of outlining Psalm 1:

What are the two ways? (Ps. 1:1-2)

What are they like? (Ps. 1:3-4)

What do they lead to? (Ps. 1:5-6)

This Psalm tells us, especially, that what we meditate on has the power to transform us.

What are the two ways? (Ps. 1:1-2)

Ps 1:1    Blessed are those
who do not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,

2 but who delight in the law of the LORD
and meditate on his law day and night.

Or, get this–I’d never read Psalm 1 in this translation until this week:

Happy the man
who did not walk by the counsel of the impious,
and in the way of sinners did not stand,
and on the seat of pestiferous people did not sit down.

(Stay away from the pestiferous ones!)

Walk… stand…sit. There’s a progression into wickedness here. At first you might be walking on by, just taking a look at–thinking about–going down a road you shouldn’t. If you slow down enough to stand there and look at the way of the wicked–that’s worse… when you stop to sit in the chair of those pestiferous people, well, then… you’re done for. Because what we meditate on has the power to transform us. And the ones that we spend time with also have the power to transform us, for better or for worse.

These are the two ways: the way of the wicked, the way of the righteous.

Righteous ones “delight in the law of the LORD and meditate on [it] day and night.”

Remove@clothingm1ldew?

Later Psalms will echo this. In Psalm 119, verse 97, it says, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” Then in verse 103, the Psalmist writes, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

I suspect that this idea of loving the law of God can sound a bit strange to us. We all see the value in laws and rules and regulations, sure, but to love somebody’s laws more than the summer season’s first ice cream?

We hear the word “law” and might think about some of the detailed instructions given in, say, Leviticus, regarding physical hygiene and ritual purity, such as Leviticus 14, which is about cleansing from infectious skin diseases and what to do when you notice mildew on your clothes.

So your new computer password becomes: Remove@clothingm1ldew.

Or we hear the word “law” and think of it as opposed to “grace.”  They were living under “law”; we are living under “grace.”

So what’s the Psalmist talking about?

He’s talking about his equivalent to our Bible. The Torah–the first five books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. This is “the Law”–it’s “God’s Word.” And not just the laws part of God’s law–but the revelation of God that it brings, the story that it tells of a compassionate God who is, in fact, slow to anger and eager to show compassion on all he has made.

In meditating on God’s law–God’s very words–the Psalmist is meditating on God: his guidance, instructions, blessings, love, character.

And I think Psalm 1 is self-referential, too–those who meditate on these Psalms will be blessed, will experience the favor of God.

What are they like? (Ps. 1:3-4)

3 [The righteous] are 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.

Those who meditate on God’s word are rooted, strong, nourished, bearers of good and visible fruit to all who walk by them. The wicked–in this case those who ignore God’s truth and go their own way–they are the chaff that has fallen to the floor. The grain is kept and preserved, the chaff just blows away. No roots, no fruit, no nothing.

What do they lead to? (Ps. 1:5-6)

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 will be destroyed.

Then in verses 5 and 6 there is what one interpreter calls a “parting of the ways.” God watches over them. What we meditate on has the power to transform us, so the righteous one now is a rooted and well-watered tree, bearing fruit like it should. She or he receives God’s blessing, God’s preservation.

The wicked one has been transformed by the bad company he keeps, so he just floats away with the next wind, on his way to judgment.

It’s God who does the planting and watering and blessing here, but it’s the righteous person who has done his or her part to meditate on God’s word. And that meditation has caused a transformation.

Scripture Memory

Over the last month or so I’ve gotten back into Scripture memory. I have these little cards I bring in my pocket with verses on them. The pocket is a great place for them because I might reach for my phone to check for messages, and I’ll feel the little packet of cards instead. This is a prompt for me to either pull a card out and learn a verse, or if I already know it, to try to say it and pray it.

There are many ways to meditate on God’s Word. We’re going to try one particular way this summer, and that is Scripture memory….

[AKJ note: Here we looked at some Scripture memory cards I made up for Psalm 1:1-2, as a way to put into practice what this Psalm preaches. Make your own, using this document, if you want!]

The above is adapted from the sermon I preached last Sunday. Scripture quotations are from the TNIV. See my other sermons gathered here.

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