Psalms 1

2017 Messages

The Psalms are quite simply some of the most honest thoughts and emotions recorded in God’s Word. They are not complicated and are clear in pointing us toward our true path to follow in life, Jesus Christ. We learn from Psalm 1:1-6 how this path of blessing brings fulfillment, joy, satisfaction, and lasting pleasure when we delight in and devote ourselves fully to the source, God’s Word. God has given us this treasure, but we often ignore it and choose a path of our own leading to destruction. While it is not always easy to stay the course, it is clear how we are to do so. Be encouraged and remain firmly planted in the truth God gives us by His Word.

Blake HolmesJan 1, 2017Psalms 1:1-6; Psalms 1:1; Psalms 1:2; Psalms 1:3; Psalms 1:4; Luke 24:44; Matthew 7:13-20; Psalms 1:5-6

Happy New Year. My name is Blake Holmes, and I'm really excited to be with you this morning. I just want to start our time by acknowledging that I know, for many of us, 2016 perhaps was not the year we had hoped it would be. Others of us had a great year, for sure. I know in a room this size there are some of you who had a year that maybe was pretty rough. Maybe even coming to church was a struggle for you. You're unsure as to what you've walked into or why you're here. You just know you're not on the path you want to be on. You have some regrets from this last year.

Wherever you are in your spiritual journey, I just want you to know I think you're going to find that this is a safe place…a safe place to ask questions, a safe place to share the things you struggle with, a safe place to explore the faith. We're just excited you're here. Some of you are here because a family member grabbed you. Some of you are here because a friend said, "Hey, just come."

Some of you are here because you simply need to be reminded of God's Word, his truth. You're fully convinced, but you need encouragement and need to be reminded that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Wherever you are, we're glad you're here. We want you to know that this is not a perfect place, but we believe we serve a perfect God in heaven who loves us and desires to have a relationship with us. I want to pray for us, and then we're going to jump in.

Father, I thank you for each one in this room and how you're providentially at work in all of our lives, which just simply means, Lord, none of us escape your notice, but you're aware of all of our needs. I thank you, Lord, for your church. Not the building, Lord, but the people, the people who know and love you, who are an encouragement to me, who remind me of what is true.

I pray, Father, that you would help us to lay aside the distractions of what lies ahead in 2017, the pain, the frustrations of 2016, and allow us to be attentive this morning, that we can make the most of this remaining time we have together, that we could hear from you. We ask this in Christ's name, amen.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to take my family on a road trip. For all of you parents out there, you know what it's like to load up your kids and decide to travel across the country. Last summer we traveled to North Carolina. That is certainly not just a three-hour drive to Austin. North Carolina takes a couple of days. With four kids in the car over a couple of days, that can be a haul, and it can test everybody's patience, if you will.

As we're getting close to our destination… We're only a couple of hours away. We're on the interstate. We're going at a pretty good speed, 70-plus miles per hour. Pretty excited to be there. The kids are anxious. My wife is tired. I'm tired of driving. Then she tells me… She's looking at her phone. She goes, "Uh-oh." I go, "What does 'uh-oh' mean?" She says, "In three miles this highway is solid red. It's a complete traffic jam."

I'm thinking, "Oh no," because when you've been traveling for two days on the road, the last thing you want to do is to come to a standstill on the highway and make what is already a long trip longer. She tells me, "We need to exit. We need to exit right now. Exit now. Otherwise we're going to get stuck behind all this traffic." There's a real part of me, honestly, that's like, "Do I trust her?" I mean, I want to trust her, but do I trust the phone? I want to get there, and the highway is open, and we are moving.

I can't see what lies ahead. All I can do is rely on what she's told me, that it's solid red, which all of you know, because you have smartphones, that that is traffic ahead, and everybody hates traffic. I hate traffic. So I decide it's probably a good idea for the peace of our marriage and my own sanity, "Okay, let's exit." She tells me, "It's going to feel a little crazy. We're going to take some back roads. I'm sure it's two-lane highways, but we'll get there." She's trying to set expectations. "Don't grow impatient, Blake." I understand what she's trying to say.

Sure enough, we're taking these little winding, twisting roads. You know, you get behind slow cars, you know, Mom and Pop who live in those small towns. They're in no hurry. But the whole time, what are you thinking? Well, if you're like me, you're thinking, "I wonder what it would have been like had I stayed on the interstate. What if I had chosen just to push through? Would we have made better time?"

About this time, it just so happens this little winding, twisting road I was on starts to get near the highway I was once on and there is a clearing in the trees and I look outside the driver's window to my left and, lo and behold, for miles it is a parking lot, complete standstill. There's this sense in you of like, "Victory! Victory! I am so glad we made that decision." I want to look at my wife and take all the credit. "Isn't it great we took the exit?" (No, I didn't do that.)

There's this sense of victory. Then there's this part of you that thinks, "Hey, why did hundreds of people get stuck on the highway today? They all have smartphones. You all have smartphones. You have the access and the capability to look and see what was ahead, just like we did." You look over and you're like, "Man! That is painful. I mean, you saw on your phone. Why did you keep going?"

I thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be great if there was a GPS for life?" Like, some app you could get on your phone, and when you had to make hard decisions in life, you could look ahead and see how it's going to turn out. You could see what tomorrow would bring, and you go, "Okay, well, if I make this decision, that means it's going to have these consequences. I don't like those consequences, so I'm going to take an alternate route." That would be great.

Then it hit me. The reality is we have been given a GPS, if you will. We have been given guidance. We've been given a gift. It's a collection of 66 books written by 40-plus authors over 1,500 years, divinely inspired by God's Spirit, and given to us as a gift. Here's the tragedy, folks. In the same way those hundreds of people had access to a smartphone and chose not to use it or look at it or ignored it, we take God's Word for granted and ignore its instruction. Because of that, we end up in places where it leads to frustration and regret.

My message this morning is a really simple message. It's one I hope encourages you. I hope it's one that helps you, as we start 2017, to think about the path you are on. We're going to look at Psalm 1. If you have your Bibles, go ahead and turn there. The Psalms are a favorite of many, quite simply because they're very familiar to us. When you open up your Bible right in the middle, 9 out of 10 times you're going to land in the book of Psalms.

They're a favorite of many because they're short. It's not like reading some of the longer chapters you find in Genesis. They're a favorite of many because they're pretty simple. A child can understand the Psalms. You're not reading from Leviticus or Daniel or Revelation. They're short songs that when we read it we go, "Hey, that makes sense."

They are favorites of many because they're illustrative. Instead of just saying things like, "God cares for you," the psalmist will say that God captures our every tear in a bottle. That's a picture, isn't it? You stop and think about the fact that the psalmist chooses to say that God cares for you to such an extent that every tear you shed is precious and he captures them in a bottle.

It doesn't just describe God as strong; it describes God as a shepherd that watches over his flock, that leads, that guides, that protects, that warns. It describes God as a fortress. It says prayer is like, "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I am. Give me a perspective. Allow me to walk in strength." They're illustrative. They're a favorite of many because they offer us hope and they're honest. When you read the psalms, they fit every occasion.

If there's a day in which you feel sorrow or hurt or grief, you could turn to the Psalms, and you're going to see the psalmists don't sugarcoat it. The psalmists are honest, and they offer at times expressions of sorrow and grief and even doubt and question God. "God, where are you?" Have you ever been there before, where you've felt all alone? Maybe in 2016 you didn't understand why life had treated you unfairly, why there was hurt and pain and suffering. Read the Psalms. There are also psalms of celebration and joy. They're so relatable to life.

We're looking at Psalm 1, because it serves as the introduction to the whole book. It's a very short psalm. It's only six verses. It's broken up into three parts. Let me just go ahead and tell you that as I walked through this psalm… As I said, it is simple, it's not complicated, yet it is very difficult to apply. The question I'm going to ask you over and over today is a very simple one…What path are you on? That's the question the psalmist wants us to wrestle with. What path are you on?

In the first two verses, he's going to focus on the two paths we have to choose from. He's going to make the point, "Hey, we're all headed down one of two paths" in verses 1-2. In verses 3-4 he's going to give us two different pictures. He's going to switch the metaphor a little bit. Each path is illustrated by two very different pictures. Finally, he's going to come to a conclusion in verses 5-6. He's going to show us that each path points and ends in two very different destinations.

So let's look at verse 1. Verse 1 reads, "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…" If you have your Bibles, I would encourage you to mark up your Bibles. I mark up mine all the time. I take notes. What I would encourage you to do is just underline twice that word blessed, because what the psalmist starts with is offering us, suggesting to us, introducing to us that we are all looking for this. We are all looking for blessing.

Now I know that word feels pretty innocuous to many of us. We say it often. "Lord, bless this food" or "Lord, bless you." We don't really know what it means, but contextually here it's significant, because it's not talking about a temporal pleasure, a fleeting pleasure. It's talking about joy. It's talking about lasting satisfaction. It's talking about fulfillment. The idea he's going to introduce to you is that there are two paths, and one is going to lead to what it is you're looking for, and one is going to lead to pain and regret and a lack of blessing.

He says, "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…" This first path is paved with a disregard for God's Word. Under walks, stands, and sits, just draw three little squiggly lines, because they're in parallel. In English when we think of poetry we usually think in terms of rhyme, but in the Hebrew text they think in ideas of parallel thought, and each thought builds upon the other for emphasis.

What he's saying is, "Blessed is the man who chooses not to walk down the path that disregards God's Word." For emphasis, notice the progression of ideas. He starts with walks. He says, "Blessed is the man who does not walk." Then he says, "Blessed is the man who does not stop." Then he says, "Blessed is the man who does not sit." He's telling us about the nature of temptation and sin. It has a way of luring us in. It has a way of capturing our attention, and then slowly we begin to rationalize, minimize, and justify our decisions until all of a sudden we scoff at God's Word, we feel justified in our decisions, and it has us.

If you've been around here for very long, you know that one of Todd's favorite illustrations, which I think is insightful and so true to life, is he talks about how we're fascinated and tempted by sin in a similar way that we're fascinated by the little bear cub. As a graduate of Baylor University, every once in a while I'll go down to campus and take my kids down there, and what do they want to do? They want to go and see the bear pit.

In the bear pit you have mama bear, which is a big old bear, and then you have these small cubs. What is everybody fascinated with but the small, cute little cubs. It feels like you want to just reach out and touch them, because they don't have those huge claws. They're not intimidating. Their paws are soft. They're small. You just want to grab it. You want to hold it. It's small. But what happens when you continue to care for and feed the bear cub? The bear cub grows into mama bear, and mama bear is not one you can control.

I think the point Todd has made so often up here that I'm repeating to you today is found right here in Psalm 1:1. It's a warning that sin acts in the same way. At first it seems like it's not that bad. At first it seems like, "Well, who really cares?" and it captures our attention, and we begin to feed it. The more we feed it, the more of a stranglehold it has on our lives, the more of a grip it takes on our lives, the more justified we feel, the more we rationalize it, to the point where it becomes an addiction, where it becomes destructive, where it steals life from us.

What he's saying is, "Hey, consider the path you're on. We're all looking for blessing. We're all looking for fulfillment, for lasting satisfaction, but if you're not careful you will be duped, because you will stray off the path God has intended for you and find yourself in a place that leads to pain and regret." The question is…What path are we on? Where are we currently looking for fulfillment? To what degree does sin have a grip over our lives? Are we kidding ourselves? Are we being fooled?

He goes on. Look at verse 2. He introduces a second path. "…but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." Here's a second path. The first path is one that has a complete disregard for God's Word. The second path is paved with a devotion to God's Word. This verse is a little confusing. I would encourage you to draw a question mark over the word delight and over the word meditates.

The reason I say that is because when you think of the law, that's not something you probably think you delight in. What do we delight in? We delight in a vacation. We delight in a win. We delight in a good meal. We delight in a pay raise. Those are the things I find delight in. When I think of the law, I usually think of something I'm not allowed to do that I want to do. I usually think of something that is keeping me from what I want to do. I usually think of guilt. I usually think of something that's hard and burdensome.

It's contrary to my thinking to go, "Hey, the path that's going to lead to blessing and fulfillment… The way you do that is by delighting in the law." The reason we don't understand this idea, the reason this trips us a little bit is we have a wrong perception of the law. We don't realize that the law was given to us for a very specific reason. God gave the law to the Israelites because he wanted to live in relationship with them.

There are two simple purposes of the law. The first purpose is that it was revelatory. The law reveals the character of God. Do you want to know what God is like? Read the law. The reason God says, "Don't steal" is because God is a God of truth. The reason God says, "Do not murder" is because God is a God of life. The law reflects who God is. The reason we don't commit adultery is because God is faithful. It teaches us about his character.

It was also regulatory in that it showed them how they were to live. The law was given in context of relationship. The Israelites were to be a kingdom of priests, a people who were set apart to be a blessing to all of the other nations of the earth, so as other nations looked at Israel they'd go, "What is it about you that you experience the blessing of God?" and they would say, "We know the one true God, and he loves us, and he wants a relationship with you as well." That was the idea of the law.

The reason God gave the law is because he loves us. The same reason you give instruction to your kids as to what to do or what not to do. Why? Not to keep them from something they want but to keep them from something that's going to bring them harm or pain in their life. Why do you do that? Why do you instruct them, "Don't do this" or "Do do that"? Because you want to protect them.

The psalmist is suggesting that when we follow the path of devotion to God's Word, we recognize that God has given us his Word not to keep us from something but to protect us from something, not to inhibit us but to provide for us, not to rip us off but to set us free. Then it goes on to say that he meditates on that law day and night. As I said, just draw a question mark over the word meditation.

If you're anything like me, when I think meditation I think of somebody who's all by themselves in a dark room with candles, legs crossed, arms crossed, eyes closed. That's what I think of when I think meditation, and I think, "Kind of boring." Meditation, biblically speaking, is not to empty your mind as in the Eastern meditation. Biblically speaking, it's just the opposite. It is to fill your mind with truth, to remind yourself of what is true. Not to isolate but to live with Scripture continually on your mind.

An illustration that helps me is when you're on the phone and you're speaking to somebody and then somebody else calls and you take that call, what is it that you're continually thinking about now that you've taken that call? That you've left somebody else on the other line. In the back of your mind, you're continually thinking about the presence of someone else.

When we meditate on Scripture as we go throughout our day, we're continually thinking about the presence of God and his truth and how we're to live in light of his truth. So there are two paths. It's not complicated. It's very clear, but it's very hard to stay on the path that leads to ultimate life, blessing, and fulfillment.

Let's look at verse 3. Verse 3 paints a picture for us. "He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers." Circle that word tree. Notice the tree is not just any tree. First, it's a tree that's been planted. There's intentionality. It's been planted by a source of life, by streams of water. Second, it yields its fruit in season. It bears fruit. Its leaves do not wither. David, the psalmist, goes on to say, "In all he does, he prospers."

This message is so simple. A child can understand it. What he's saying is, "If you choose the right path, if you choose a path of devotion to God's Word, where you yield to God's Word, where you trust that he always has your best interests in mind… When you walk that path, you will be like a tree that is firmly planted by streams of water. You will be a blessing and a source of nourishment and shade and protection and a gift to those around you."

The blessed man intentionally spends time in God's Word. He believes that God's Word is the source of life and instruction. The blessed man is a blessing. He perseveres through trials and drought. Let me be very clear. It is impossible for you to say that you know God but have complete disregard for his Word. Those two ideas are completely inconsistent. As you see throughout Scripture, the theme is the righteous always hunger for truth.

Joshua in Joshua 1:8 says, "Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth, but meditate on it day in and day out." What does Jesus say in John 14? "Whoever has my commands and obeys them is the one who loves me." "The one who heeds my Word, the one who walks down that path… That's how you know if you love me."

Paul says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness." Why? "So that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." There's a connection between the righteous and the Word of God. The blessed man is like a tree. In all he does he prospers.

This can be confusing, because many people distort this idea and believe it means we'll always be happy, healthy, and wise. That's just simply not true. What it does mean is that our relationship with the Lord will always flourish, that we'll always be able to bear fruit regardless of the circumstance, so long as we're dependent upon him. Think of John 15:5, where Jesus talks of the vine. As long as we're rightly related to the vine, we bear fruit, because apart from him we can do nothing.

Do you know anybody like that in your life? Regardless of the circumstance, they remain true to God's Word. Regardless of the circumstance, they're a blessing to other people. Regardless of the circumstance, they continue to counsel from God's Word, learn from God's Word. When you look at them at the end of 2016, you go, "Hey, I see you growing even more than this time last year." Fortunately, there are many of you that I look out there today and I can say that's true of you.

One particular friend of mine is Bobby Crotty, who many of you know. When I think about this verse, I think of Bobby. I think about a guy I got to know many years ago and the way in which he has disciplined himself to know God's Word. I think about the humility in which he serves this community of believers. I think how Bobby serves tirelessly but doesn't bring attention to himself. I think about how he doesn't look for thanks but continues to give and offer encouragement. When I'm tired, when I lack confidence, he's a blessing.

What about you? Do you know friends like that? Are you that way for your Community Group, for those you work with, in your home? Are you like a tree that others look to for blessing and shade and help? Do people seek your counsel? When was the last time somebody in 2016 thanked you because of the impact you had in their life, because of the way you nourished them, pointed them to Scripture, and encouraged them?

The second picture is found in verse 4. It says, "The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away." Circle the word chaff. It's in contrast to the tree. We don't live in an agrarian society, so many of us may not know what chaff is, but it's simply the husk around a seed. It has no root system. It bears no fruit. It's easily blown by the wind. It's useless. It's temporal. It's here one minute and it's gone. It brings no fruit, no shade. It's in contrast to the tree.

He says, "The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away." Let's just be candid. When we read the word wicked, probably we automatically assume this must apply to somebody else. "The wicked? I'm not wicked. I mean, I make mistakes, but I'm not wicked." I think the psalmist would suggest to us, "Slow down and consider the times where your life is inconsistent with the Word of God."

As we invest in what is temporal and contrary to the will of God, we live like chaff. Our efforts are in vain. Our investment is futile. We're not a blessing to others. As I said, chaff is a hard concept for many of us to grasp because we don't live in an agrarian society, but we all understand what dust is like. When I was in college I remember taking a history class. I'd never even heard of or studied about the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, but the Dust Bowl of the 1930s was a time when our country was going through a depression.

There was no topsoil in the panhandle of Texas, most of Oklahoma, and some of the surrounding areas. Because there was no topsoil and because there was no root system, as the storms blew through, it literally created this huge dust bowl. You see these pictures of the devastating effects it had on many people's lives. It drove two and a half million people out of their homes. Most of them fled to California. Two and a half million people during the time of depression.

Just when they thought that nothing could go right, they're hit with a dust bowl, this huge, incomprehensible storm that left a wake of destruction. When you read the word chaff, you could just think about the dust of the destruction that's left. The psalmist is saying, "The wicked man is disconnected from God. He disregards God's Word. He's not a source of blessing. He's focused on what's temporal." What path are we on? How should this verse serve as a warning to us?

Let's look at verses 5-6. "Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish." We see in the final concluding verses there are two different destinations. When we don't choose the path of devotion to God's Word and who he is, when we don't trust him and follow him, when we don't believe who he says he is but choose to go our own way, when we choose to trust in ourselves and blaze our own path, it's not without consequence.

In this life it leads to pain, isolation, hurt, loss, broken relationships, guilt, shame. In the life to come it leads to judgment, loss of opportunity, loss of reward. Just draw a box around judgment. Draw a box around perish. It's a warning. It's the psalmist saying, "You get to choose." Your phone is showing you this is what lies ahead if you go this direction, but you have a choice. You have a choice to exit that highway. You have a choice to take another way, to go another direction. We all choose.

Life is not that complicated when you ask yourself this one question. "What path am I on? Am I the one driving? Am I the one navigating or am I trusting someone else to lead me? Am I trusting in the Book I say I'm devoted to? Am I trusting in the God I say I want to follow?" We don't have a marriage problem. We don't have a financial problem. We don't have a relational problem or a work problem. We have a path problem, because we're walking down the wrong path.

Instead of blaming others or pointing at others, we have to draw the circle around ourselves, as we say around here so often, and ask ourselves, "How am I contributing to this? How am I bringing hurt to other people? What am I doing to discipline myself to grow in the knowledge of God's Word so I can take the next steps so 2017 is going to be different than 2016?" One of the ways we're encouraging our whole body is what we're calling the Six-Week Challenge.

For the next six weeks, to start this year, we're going to memorize Psalm 1. We're going to meditate on God's Word together. For each week we're going to take one verse, from the kids to all of us in here. I want to encourage you not to memorize it just to check a box but to meditate on its truth and to evaluate, "What path am I on? What steps do I need to take so that 2017 is going to be different than 2016?"

Just this last week we were cleaning out our kids' rooms. I was looking at their bookshelf, and I found my old collection of Choose Your Own Adventure books. Is anybody familiar with Choose Your Own Adventure books? These were so fun to read as a kid. I loved to read them as a kid. I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books, because the concept is that you'd read for a few pages and it would put you in the story.

You would come, let's say, to a house, and it would give you an option. You'd get to choose your own adventure. "As you walk up to this scary house, are you going to knock on the door? If so, turn to page 21. Are you going to look in the window? If so, turn to page 33. Are you going to walk around back? Turn to page 47. Or are you just going to simply run away? Turn to page 90." When you're sitting there and reading the book, you're like, "Okay, what do I do? Am I going to knock on the door, look in the window, go around back, simply run?"

As a kid, do you know what was great about "choose your own adventure"? I turned to all four places. That was gold, because I would completely cheat. I would put my hand in all four places, and all you want to avoid are those two terrible words, "The end." If you saw "The end" at the bottom, that meant you were dead and your adventure was over. So I would go to the four places, I would look, and go, "Oh, that sounds like a better adventure. I'm going to stay alive. I'm going that way," and I would turn to that page.

Wouldn't it be great if life worked like that? Wouldn't it be great if there were some of the decisions we made in 2016 where we could go back and go, "You know, I didn't mean to turn to page 47; I wish I had run away"? But it doesn't work like that. Verse 6 is telling us there are consequences to our decisions. It's telling us not to walk alone. See what it says? "The congregation of the righteous." The righteous, those who follow God.

They realize the importance of community. They realize that we need each other. They realize we need to be reminded. We need to be an encouragement to each other. We're not to isolate. We're not to walk this path alone, but we're to help each other, serve each other, care for each other, pray for each other, remind each other of what is true.

Here's the truth. None of us delights in the law of the Lord as we should. None of us stays on the path of devotion to God's Word as we should. We all veer. We've all rebelled against God. We've all gone our own way, but here's what's great about Psalm 1. Like all of the psalms, it points us to something. Better yet, it points us to someone, and that person is Jesus.

In Luke 24, Jesus says, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." When he talks about the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, that's the sum of the Old Testament. He specifically says, "and the Psalms." What he's saying is, "All the Psalms, all the Old Testament points to me."

When you open your New Testament, you turn to the book of Matthew. Whereas Moses was on Mount Sinai standing on a hill receiving the Law from God, you see Jesus standing on a mount saying he is the fulfillment of the Law, that he is the way and the truth and the life. In the Sermon on the Mount, he begins his message with the word blessed, just like Psalm 1.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit." What does that mean? "Blessed are those who recognize that they're bankrupt before God. Blessed are those who recognize that without God, his Word, his instruction, the encouragement of others, they're going to go their own path. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are those who are persecuted. Blessed are those who mourn."

What does he say in this message? He tells us about two paths. He says, "Be careful. There's one path that is wide that most people are going to follow, and do you know where it leads? It leads to destruction. See Psalm 1. You would be wise to choose the narrow path, because it leads to life." Do you know what else he talks about? He talks about a tree. He says, "The righteous bear fruit. You will know the righteous because they bear fruit. Be careful of the wolves who come in sheep's clothing. You will know them by their deeds."

What is he talking about? Psalm 1. He ends that message by talking about the choice we all have to make to either respond to his Word and build our house on a solid foundation or just simply hear it and neglect it and keep on going, because it seems to be too simple, and we build our house on the sand, and when the storms come we're not like the tree; we're washed away. We have a choice.

This message is simple to follow. It's easy to understand. Psalm 1 is clear. So often, though, I don't need to be taught as much as I need to be reminded, and I imagine you're the same way. Following the path of devotion to God's Word and a willingness to follow him leads to life, and it's worth it. Do you want to know why 2016 brought regret and pain and hurt? It's because we veered off the path.

What's so great is to the extent that you've veered off the path, because Psalm 1 points to the one who came, God incarnate, and stood on another mount and shared truth, we're reminded that there's grace. For every time we veer off that path, there is one who says, "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. I am the way and the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me."

No matter how far you have veered off, today could be different. The year 2017 can be different. I've watched countless numbers of lives changed because they've finally admitted that they've been on the wrong path and have come to a point where they've trusted, not in themselves, not in what they have done or what they have not done, but in what Jesus offers us of grace and forgiveness. Because they've received that grace, they recognize that God is leading them and instructing them of a better way. The year 2017 could be different. Let's pray.

Father, I thank you for the simplicity of the Psalms. I thank you, Lord, for the picture of two paths, two pictures, two destinations. Lord, we just come to you and confess that often we've made a mess of our own lives, not because of what's been done to us but because of the choices we've made, because we've trusted in ourselves. We've isolated from others. We've disregarded your Word. We've thought that our way is better. We've believed that you're not good, that you're not great, that you don't have our best interests in mind.

To the extent that we've done that, it's brought hurt and pain and regret. We look back and go, "Ugh." So, Lord, would you remind us where life and lasting fulfillment is ultimately found. May we be more like a tree than the dust that's blown in the wind, that's here today and gone tomorrow. May our lives count because we invest in what's eternal and meaningful. I pray, Lord, that verses 5-6 would warn us of what's to come if we don't heed your instruction.

Thank you for Jesus and that he has come to offer us life and forgiveness and grace, that we don't have to live this alone, and that no matter how many years we've been walking, veering off the wrong path, all it takes is us to submit ourselves to you and your Word and declare Jesus who he is, and we are immediately set again on the right path. Help us, Lord, to take the next step in our relationship with you, I pray. In Christ's name, amen.