The Shape of the Blessed Life

(Continuing reflections on Psalm 84 from Part One and Part Two)

In Psalm 84, there are statements of blessing.

First, “blessed are those who dwell in Your house (verse 4).” Abiding is blessed. Lingering in ongoing, continual relationship with God is staying in touch with the goodness and richness of His life with and in me. How is my abiding deepening? How am I coming to know myself more and more at home in Him? What temptations are drawing my eyes and my life away from Him? What false promises of life tease and tempt me to look elsewhere for what I most truly and deeply find only in Him?

Second, “blessed are those whose strength is in You (verse 5).” If I feel strong, what makes me feel strong? My intellect? Experience? Physical health? Résumé? Education or training? Resources or possessions? Or, can I see all of these ultimately as a gift from God Himself? All my strength—my strengths—are in Him. I don’t use strength apart from Him. I live strong and confident in Him. It’s subtle, but critical.

I’ve been learning that becoming more confident in Him often involves feeling weak at times. God’s training process often causes things or abilities we’ve relied on apart from Him to become sour or less reliable than in the past. He may allow the good things we’ve become attached to and relied on to be less attractive or helpful than in the past so that I start seeking and depending on Him again. If I become comfortable in self-reliant modes, He will, in His great grace, cause me to feel less “together” to drive me back more fully to Him.

Third, “blessed are those who trust in you (verse 12).” Trust is of priceless value. Not just to God, but to us as well. Few dynamics have been more rewarding to me as the trustful relationship I have had with my sons. Being trusted feels good. Being trustworthy feels even better. Trust is lived belief. Our faith is more than facts about God we agree to. It is a life of relying on God, of trusting Him and entrusting ourselves to Him. It is realizing that I can always count on Him at all times no matter my circumstances. Again, my faith is tested when, for a season, I am tempted to see in my circumstances evidence that God has failed, or that God can no longer be trusted. It is good when I see His reliability in the face of my felt distrust. Sometimes it can take a while before I make these connections.

Finally, it’s not a “blessed” but – “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere (verse 10).” The psalmist says, “I would rather have one day in God’s presence than a thousand days anywhere else, no matter how fun, or pleasurable, or beautiful.” Life with God is more joyful than the happiest day I can imagine. Life with God is more satisfying than anything I could eat or drink. Life with God is more beautiful and tantalizing than any beauty that captivates me God’s presence is better. Who God is is better than what God gives. Always. Always.

Popular Posts of the Last 30 Days

Advent Greetings to you,

As I prepare to enter a season of focused reading, research and writing on my Unhurried project, I find myself deeply grateful. There are so many who have prayed, encouraged and given financially to make my ministry through The Leadership Institute possible. I thank each of you who have invested in these many ways.  (If you are open and able, donations of any amount, no matter how small, can be made to this ministry through Paypal to The Leadership Institute)

As I do each month, below are the most visited blogposts of the last month or so. It’s been encouraging to see an increase of visits since the last time I updated you. I had my first 300+ visit day a week ago. May one of these posts provide a word of encouragement or insight as you may need in the season:

In order of popularity, here they are:

  • Advent: A Few Thoughts – On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I was interviewed in a Sacramento-area church about Advent and spiritual formation. Included in this post are some notes I made for that interview.
  • The Power of Small Beginnings” – Here I shared a powerful little quotation from Elton Trueblood on the practical power contained in a seed. I just read it again and love it!
  • A Good Word: Learning to Abide in Weakness” – I shared here a little quotation from a French monk from the last century on finding grace in the midst of weakness and temptation, rather than waiting until after it subsides to experience God’s generosity.
  • Discipline is the Price of Freedom” – This title comes from a quotation by Elton Trueblood. I shared my own experience (both success and struggle) with self-discipline.
  • Put Your Oxygen Mask On First” – Having recently flown to the Dominican Republic, I heard this standard line from the flight attendant a number of times. The point of this post is that soul care is not a unaffordable luxury but a strategic necessity.

Looking Back: Learning to Abide in Weakness

Greetings on this third Sunday of Advent. I’m posting a link below on the theme of learning to be rooted in Christ right in the midst of the temptations and struggles we all face:

LINK: “Learning to Abide in Weakness

A Good Word: The Purest Acts of Faith

Gem took this shot of me recently at Laguna Beach. She's good, isn't she?
Gem took this shot of me recently at Laguna Beach. She's good, isn't she?

“…the purest acts of faith always feel like risks. Instead of leading to absolute quietude and serenity, true spiritual growth is characterized by increasingly deep risk taking. Growth in faith means willingness to trust God more and more, not only in those areas of our lives where we are most successful, but also, and most significantly, at those levels where we are most vulnerable, wounded, and weak. It is where our personal power seems most defeated that we are given the most profound opportunities to act in true faith. The purest faith is enacted when all we can choose is to relax our hands or clench them, to turn wordlessly toward or away from God. This tiny option, the faith Jesus measured as the size of a mustard seed, is where grace and the human spirit embrace in absolute perfection and explode in world-changing power.” (Gerald May. Addiction and Grace. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988, p. 128)

How does this experiential description of faith intersect with your own journey?

Where has God been inviting you to trust Him more?

How has it felt to come to deeper expressions of trust in God?

Where I Look When I’ve Fallen

IMG_2759One gift of living in Orange county is our amazing library system. Not only do I have access to all of the collections within the county, but the system also provides a free outside the system interlibrary loan service. I’ve been able to get access to books from theological libraries across the country that were far too expensive to purchase or that I didn’t see the need to own. If you haven’t already, look into the services of your local library system.

One such book (a pamphlet, really) that I received was written by C. S. Lewis’ spiritual director, Fr. W. F. Adams (Thoughts from the Note-Books of a Priest Religious. London: The Faith Press, 1949). I paraphrased one of his lines about those in ministry in this way:

“Others may fail and give up, but the faithful fail and keep going.”

This is an echo of Proverbs 24:16:

for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,
the wicked stumble when calamity strikes. (TNIV)

Failure isn’t an option for imperfect humans like you and me. The option we do have is how we will respond to failure. Do we let ourselves become discouraged and so throw in the towel? Or, do we get right back up and keep going in the good direction we were trying for. Walking with God will often involve falling, and reaching up to His hand to sustain and guide me.

Which direction do I look when I’ve fallen? Do I stare guiltily at my failure, or gaze at his face full of mercy, forgiveness and the kind of bracing grace that will help me find freedom?

Looking Back: Grace in Weakness

In the midst of my cycling adventure, I took time to post ahead some links to significant past blog entries, like this one…

LINK: “Grace in Weakness

A thought from Andrew Murray on how we receive grace in weakness, not just after weakness.

Buy Murray’s Abide In Christ on