Sunday, August 16, 2015

Stop Doing Urgent Things

Ever have one of those "ah ha!" moments?  I'm a little embarrassed to say that something as obvious as what I'm about to say has only recently dawned on me.  But if there is someone else out there who might benefit from this insight, I suppose it is worth the shame.
For a long time I have been aware of the phrase "The Tyranny of the Urgent."  It comes,  I discovered, from a book written by the late Charles Hummel.  I never read the book.  I only knew the phrase, and used it often.  I guess I liked the way it sounds:  "the tyranny of the urgent!"
In my mind, the phrase stood as a sort of explanation of why it is so hard to get things done, and nothing  more.  Actually, more than an explanation, I think I viewed  it almost as an excuse.  Why are my projects and goals so slowly accomplished?  Oh yeah, that's  right:  the tyranny of the urgent. 
Maybe it was the word "tyranny" that left me with a sort of fatalistic approach to this idea.  If the "urgent" is really a "tyrant" then I had no choice but to do whatever it wanted.  Tyranny implied power and strength.  Tyranny implied something that could not be escaped.  It was inevitable.  No sense fighting.  The tyrant always wins. 
Only recently was I introduced to my mistake.  I was listening to an audiobook intended to provide motivation and encouragement.  The author then, almost as an aside, happened to say something that grabbed my attention.  He said "you must choose the important instead of the urgent."
What?  What was that?
The dim bulb began to brighten. Immediately I looked up the "Tyranny of the Urgent" book online and I found an excerpt with this quote within it: 
"Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important."

That is the concept that I had missed.  Totally missed.  Never even crossed my mind.  What a  dunce.

The "urgent" things only appear to be important because they are sitting right in front of you, shouting for your attention.  But they are generally not the important things in life.  Important things are what you need to focus on.  Important things are what we must give most of our time and energy to.  Important things make a difference.  Urgent things do not.

So here is what I learned:  Your success largely depends on your being able to say "no"  to urgent things and to focus more fully on important things. 

You must say no to urgent things.
You must say NO to urgent things.
You MUST say NO to urgent things.
Got it?

Stop doing urgent things.
I didn't grasp the fact that you can and should say no to urgent things.  I must LEARN to say no to urgent things.  They must be dismissed and discarded as quickly as possible, in order to make room for the much less urgent (but vastly more valuable) important things in life.
I'm not sure what the "urgent" things are in your life.  I know, for me, it is about 99% of the emails I receive.  It is often about 50% to 75% of what I do with my spare time.  I have a long way to go to fully implement this principle.  But I feel like I now get it.  And I guess that's a good start.


Monday, July 27, 2015

A Heart-Breaking Proof of Christianity

Various methods and arguments have been used to help prove the truthfulness of the Christian faith.  For example, there are the philosophical proofs of God's existence.  These, while not proving Christianity particularly, provide a foundation upon which other proofs may then be added such as the reliability of Scripture and the reality of the life and accomplishments  of Jesus Christ.
Sound arguments are not enough to save a soul.  Salvation, according to Scripture, requires a new  heart.  Mankind's resistance to Christ is not ultimately intellectual, but  moral.  Nevertheless, good sound reasoning is  valuable to refute the foolish arguments against Christianity that are often raised.

The fact that man is actually spiritually blind offers another opportunity to prove that what the Bible teaches about God, Christ and Salvation are actually true.  Personally I find it one of the strongest confirmations of the inspiration of Scripture and reliability of God's Word. It is also a heart-breaking proof.  Allow me to explain.
The Bible clearly teaches that unregenerate people are spiritually blind.  That is, they cannot comprehend, explain or figure out even the most fundamental spiritual truths.  Remember Jesus' words to Nicodemus "Are you a teacher in Israel and you don't understand these things?" Nicodemus was very smart.  But he couldn't see the plainest truth of Scripture.
The Bible describes the natural man as "blinded by the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4)."  They cannot see the gospel even if it was placed right before their eyes.  This truth is presented frequently in Scripture in different ways using terms like "blind" and a "darkened" mind and even "dead." 
And it is this very fact that I have often, with admitted sadness, found to be true among unconverted church-goers and religious people.  Have you ever talked to an unconverted religious person about the gospel?  I'm talking about a regular church-goer, sermon-hearer, Bible reader.  They have sat with their Bible on their lap hundreds of times and read the Word.  They have listened to hundreds if not thousands of sermons.  And yet - when such people are simply asked to explain the gospel they are at an utter loss for words.  Ask them why they think they should go to heaven - they are perplexed and confused and uncertain. 
The conversation usually heads toward the good things they try to do and the bad things they try to avoid.  Ultimately, if asked if they are sure, the usual response is "no."  They hope so.  But it is hard  to be sure of  salvation when their understanding of it is based upon their works and their goodness.
I expect the irreligious person to be ignorant of the gospel.  But when I ask a regular Bible-reader and church-goer to explain "what must I do to be saved?" and they have no answer - it convinces me beyond a shadow of a doubt that what the Bible says is true. 
You see, the unconverted man can sit  through the most  moving and clear presentation of  the gospel.  He can hear the invitation to repent of his sin and trust only in Christ for salvation.  He can be told about the cross, the fact that Christ bore the punishment due to sinners, the necessity of faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.  He can be told that he CANNOT save himself through good works.
But ask that same man why God should let him into heaven...and you consistently get the same  response:  I hope I'm good enough, I try to do the right thing. 
They heard nothing.  They understood nothing.  It made no sense.  They are, as the Scripture's said, blind.  All they got from the sermon was the need for making moral improvements to their life.  They missed the gospel.  They missed grace.  They missed Christ.  They missed heaven.
I  have had  these conversations frequently with church-goers over the years who hope they are saved.  I had one just the other day.  It borders on frightening.  So many times they have heard the gospel.  So many times  they have missed it.  While it confirms the truth of Scripture, it  breaks my heart at the same time.  It is possibly the most convincing, yet disturbing, proof of Christianity that I know.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

What Christians Really Believe about Gay Marriage

It isn't a pleasant thing to watch your nation express such explosive hostility and dynamic division over an issue.  The Supreme Court  decision about gay marriage has sparked a series of angry and vitriolic outbursts from those on both sides of the debate.  If you have a Facebook feed or Twitter timeline you have seen (and maybe participated) in the expressions of approval or disappointment which have sadly gone far beyond a cordial debate or friendly disagreement.


But maybe more saddening than the displays of hatred toward those with whom we disagree (ironically over an issue which is apparently all about love) is the strange aversion we have to facing the foundational point of difference between the two sides.  It doesn't appear that many people want to get to the heart of the matter.  It almost seems that we have lost our very capacity for real communication.  In the place of ideas and principles and discussion we have substituted memes and images and slogans and sound bites and meaningless chatter.  Sometimes it appears that the only contest is about who can shout the loudest.  We don't seem to care what the other side really believes.
For those who really care to understand the basic issue at stake for the Christian about gay marriage, I will share it with you here.  In doing so I know that I may invite expressions of hatred from those who disagree.  But at least I will be hated for what I really believe, rather than for the caricature of my belief as often presented by the media or Christian "figureheads" which are not actually Christian at all.  



The Biblical Christian has a fundamentally different worldview than everyone else.  As such, we necessarily approach virtually every issue in a different way (or at least we should).  The Biblical and Christian worldview does not  first ask "what works" (known as pragmatism) or what "feels right" (known as hedonism) or what do "most people think" (a form of relativism).  The Biblical and Christian worldview simply asks "what does God think, what does God say?"  For the Christian, that is the fundamental issue.  And if the way God thinks about an issue is different than the way I think...then I need to change (not Him). 
Therefore a Biblical and Christian worldview about marriage simply asks "What does God say about marriage in the Bible?" 


If we compare what the Bible says about marriage to what our culture and government says about marriage, it is clear that there has been a fundamental disagreement about marriage for a long time in our country (long before the gay marriage issue ever arose).  For example, our government imposes (or provides) certain tax implications upon married people.  The Bible has nothing to say about that.  Our government protects health benefits to married partners.  The Bible has nothing to say about that.  Our government allows the dissolution of marriage these days for virtually any reason.  The Bible does not.  Our government allows consenting adults to live together as an alternative to marriage.  The Bible does not. 
I point all that out simply to say that long before we ever deal with the gay marriage issue we must recognize that the Bible's view of marriage is something fundamentally different than our culture's view and our government's view.  Frankly I think it is reasonable and fair to say we aren't even talking about the same institution any more. 
Now, if you do not care what the Bible has to say about marriage, then we have found our fundamental point of disagreement.  Good.  But then we are not actually debating gay marriage, we are debating the truth and authority of God's word.  Also, if you want to believe that the Bible is silent or neutral on the issue of homosexuality, there are plenty of websites you can browse to support this belief.  I learned long ago it is a waste of time to try and persuade someone to believe what they don't want to believe.  I could quote you the verses (Lev. 18:22, Lev. 20:13, Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9-10).  But what is the point?  If you don't want to believe it you won't.
Therefore the fundamental difference between myself and those who support gay marriage is really not about gay marriage at all.  It is not about love.  It is not about genetics or science.  It is not about politics or the Supreme Court or about equality.  We differ in our worldview.  My worldview is this: I believe I live in a world that God made.  As such, He  has a right to make the rules.  But there's more...


It is only when we can discuss this issue at the fundamental level that we can begin to see any cause for hope.  You see, according to the Christian and Biblical worldview, we have ALL messed up this marriage thing  that God gave us.  Yes - both homosexual and heterosexual marriage in our nation is a mess.  Me!  I've messed it up.  Yes, homosexual marriage and practice violates God's standard.  But much of what goes on in heterosexual marriage does as well!  Rampant pornography, sexual selfishness, lack of compassion and love, the absence of mutual submission and sacrifice, role reversals, easy divorce, fighting and cruelty and silence and separation...the list goes on and on.
You see, the only hope we have for marriage is Jesus Christ.  We first of all need His forgiveness for how we have wrecked this institution of marriage.  We have made a mockery of it.  I, as a husband, fall FAR short of God's standard and need His forgiveness every day!  But the Christian hope and the beauty of a Biblical worldview is that Christ offers forgiveness to those who have made a mess of marriage...and everything else.  All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. 
We've made a mess of marriage and of this world.  "But God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life."  That is the hope we come to when we are ready to face the fundamental issues involved in the gay marriage debate.  Ultimately marriage is a picture of Christ's love and death for His church.  "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25)."
If you hate what I believe now, that is okay.  At least we can talk about where we differ on a more  fundamental level than the name-calling and slogan-slamming commonly going on around us.  If you believe that homosexual couples have a right to marriage then we disagree on the level of our worldview.  Let's talk about that, rather than gay marriage which is just one of a thousand areas we will find to disagree about if our worldview is different. 


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter and the Right Story

Today we celebrate Easter.  Around the world in different ways Christians will focus on the risen Christ.  "Happy Easter" will be said.  And yes, it is a happy day indeed.  Of course, for Christians, every Sunday is Easter.  Every Sunday is resurrection day.  Christ is risen.  Hallelujah. 
But Easter doesn't mean the same thing to everyone.  For some it is eggs and bunnies and candy.  I love eggs, though I prefer them pickled.  I'm really not a fan of rabbits.  For others Easter is all about tradition and rituals - both religious and social.  Everyone seems to have a context, a story, into which their celebration of Easter fits. 

What is clear to me is that for many, Easter can be celebrated without any connection to the gospel Jesus preached.  Somehow, at some point, Easter -  the resurrection message, became a stand-alone menu item.  A sort of spiritual side-dish that can be ordered and eaten with any dinner you like. 
Isn't it strange that so many are comfortable celebrating the life of Someone without any real connection to His message?
Easter is one part of a grand story.  Easter is a chapter in God's book of salvation.  Granted, it might be the most important chapter.  But it is only 1 chapter.  Without the rest of the story this day makes no sense. 
I believe the great problem with modern Christianity can be summarized this way:  we are trying to plug Easter into the wrong story.  We have taken a central, exciting, spirit-lifting historical fact and transplanted it into whatever religious tradition makes us happy.  But it isn't working.  In medicine, the organ donor and recipient must be matched.  The same is true with the Easter story and the context you put it in.  Easter is out of place when not connected with the gospel story Christ preached.
Some are trying to plug Easter into the health and happiness story.  God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.  The problem here is that Easter is not about your present circumstances.  Paul, discussing the resurrection of Christ in 1 Corinthians 15 says that "if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable."  The resurrection of Christ teaches us that believers will be resurrected too, into a glorious and greater life than we have now.  Easter isn't about making this life better, but about making the next life possible.
Some are trying to plug Easter into the emotionally charged semi-spiritual atmosphere of modern worship.  Let's sing.  Let's dance.  Let's play the music as loud as we can and celebrate!  He is risen!  Yeah!  The problem here is not the singing, or even the dancing.  The problem is the total rejection of Easter as a message, a doctrine and a teaching.  The pattern of Jesus Himself, and His disciples, was always a pattern of teaching.  Of Jesus we read again and again in the gospels "they were astonished at His teaching."  Of His disciples we are told they were always "teaching and preaching the Word of God."  Paul tells Titus to teach "sound doctrine." 

Some, like myself maybe, are trying to plug Easter into the comfortable Christianity story.  He is risen.  I'm saved.  Now let me just muddle through the rest of this life and hope for glory.  But the problem with this terrible dilution of the Christian faith is that it insults the very Savior who rose for me to give me new life, new habits and new purpose.  A risen Savior demands a changed life from me.  I can't have my Easter and my old way of living and thinking too. 
Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, has a Biblical context.  It is part of God's story.  I'm no expert.  But the context of a story seems pretty important to me.  The context of Easter is that mankind, all of us, have gone astray.  Some go astray publicly and heinously.  Others go astray quietly and peacefully.  But we all go astray. 
Jesus came to reclaim straying sinners like you and I. 
To do this He had to live a perfect life.  He did.  To do this He had to die in our place and bear the punishment we deserved.  To do this His sacrifice had to be accepted by the Father.  It was - and the resurrection proves it. 
And ALL the benefits of Easter: regeneration, forgiveness, acceptance with God, adoption into His family, eternal life - come only to those repent and turn away from their pattern of straying (sin) and believe and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. 
That is the Biblical context of Easter.  It is a link in the chain of God's plan of salvation for you and I.  Celebrating Easter won't save you and it won't save me.  Simply singing "He is risen" won't wipe away our sins.  We need the whole car of salvation, not just the engine, to bring us to glory.  We need every ingredient in the recipe to make the dish complete.  One part won't do. 
My point to my professing Christian friends today is this:  What are you celebrating today?  A resurrected Savior?  Yes, indeed!  But He is more than His resurrection.  He came, He lived, He taught, He suffered, He died, He rose, He sent, He preserved and He will one day return.  Easter needs a context, or it is meaningless.
And for those who are yet strangers to Christ - why stay that way?  There is no hope in this life or the next without our resurrected Savior.  Begin with His resurrection.  But then work out the message in the Bible.  Read why He came.  Read why He died.  Doesn't it make a lot more sense than the story you are living with right now? 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

What is He like?

Once we have answered one of life's most fundamental questions, "Does God exist?" - it seems that there is no more important question that we could ask than "What is He like?"

Everything, it seems to me, hangs on the answer to that question.  If He is a monster, then life is as meaningless and hopeless as if He didn't exist at all (and maybe worse).  If He is powerless, then regardless of His character He may not be able to help us.  If He is uninterested, then we are all basically on our own; we may hope for the best, but we should plan for the worst.  Our concept of what God is like will change the way we live and view life.

What is He like?

Our answers to that question must, at times, sound pretty silly to God.  Have you ever listened to someone try to explain something for which you are a bit of an expert...and they clearly are not?  I have heard some pretty humorous explanations about how various medications work from customers.  I imagine God must, if I can say so respectfully, be infinitely more amused with our attempts to explain Him.

What is He like?

Actually it probably isn't our puny "mind" that stands most against the knowledge of God.  It seems to me, as I look at myself and talk with others, that the biggest obstacle we have to knowing God is our hearts.  Because we have sick (sinful) hearts, we tend to imagine a God who is more...shall we us.  Let's be honest.  The reason that we frankly know so little about God is that we don't want to.  We are not much different than Adam & Eve, hiding in the garden after they had sinned.

What is He like?

I think our fundamental obstacle to knowing God is our fear of the consequences.  The irony of this fear is that the "consequences" to really knowing God are all good.  Yes, we might find that in our study of who God is that He demands that we change.  It is impossible to know God and keep living the way we have in the past.  But the good news is that God is in the business of changing us.  When we know Him, really know Him, we find out that "changing us" is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.

What is He like?

So I guess this post is an invitation to find out what God is like.  To that end I would like to suggest a series of sermons just preached by our Pastor, Mark Marquis, at Immanuel Chapel in Upton, MA.  The series is on the character of God.

It is all available to listen to for FREE on SERMON AUDIO.

I invite you to listen to this series.  Each message is about 30 minutes.  Start with the first message, and work your way through them.  A few hours spent thinking about what God is like might just change the way you live the rest of your life.

"“You know, it’s awfully hard to get a Christian scared. It’s hard to get him panicked if he really believes in God. If he’s just a church member, you can get him panicked. But if he really believes in God it’s very difficult to do it.” - AW Tozer (1897 - 1963)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What's Your Problem?

If you were to look over my shoulder on most days of the week you would see hundreds of bottles of pills.  Hundreds.  I work in a little hospital pharmacy where we dispense prescription medication to sick patients every day. 

Imagine if the next time you went to your pharmacy that the pharmacist opened up the door and simply said to you, "help yourself."  No instructions.  No direction.  Throw away that prescription.  Just a welcoming invitation to take any bottle from the shelf and ingest any number of tablets with the sincerest of hopes for your health and happiness.

What would happen? 

Maybe you would get lucky and happen to lay hold of the bottle you needed and administer yourself the appropriate dose to promote your well-being and health.  Maybe.  Not likely.

More likely the average person would grab the wrong medicine in the wrong amount and die; or at least get no better.

How come?  Aren't they all, in theory, good medicines?

Yes.  Of course. 

But they are not all suited to cure your specific problem. 

When making the choice to prescribe a medication your physician (assuming he or she has your best interest in mind) will make their decision based upon their careful and specific diagnosis of what is wrong.

Does it matter which medication they prescribe?  Of course it does.

Now let's change the illustration a bit.

Does it matter which church you attend?

On any given Sunday you can presumably (at least in many U.S. locations) take your pick from dozens and dozens of church-options within a reasonable distance from your home.  Does it really matter?

As with medicine, I submit that the church you choose will either help you or hurt you (or do nothing at all) depending on what is really wrong with you. 

Every Sunday, from thousands of pulpits across our nation, "medicine" is being dispensed into the souls of those gathered to worship. 

If you choose your church without an accurate diagnosis of what is really wrong with you it is possible that your heart will get sicker and sicker.

So what's your problem?

The Bible's answer to this question is clear.  You may choose to disagree with the diagnosis.  If, however, the diagnosis is correct - the fact that you disagree will not alter to course of your condition.

The Bible says that mankind's fundamental problem is sin.  

That is it in a nutshell.  Sin.

"For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" - Romans 3:23
"But the Scripture has confined all under sin" - Galatians 3:22
"You were...dead in trespasses and sin" - Ephesians 2:1

The "right" church then, for sinners, is the church that clearly and consistently points this awful fact out.  Our problem is not fundamentally our circumstances.  It is not our spouse (sorry hun).  It is not our parents (sorry kids).  It is not our personality or health or job. 

But what, exactly, is sin?  Simply put, sin is rebellion against God's law.  God has said "do this."  And we don't.  God has said "don't do that!"  But we do. 

That's sin.

And God hates it.  And if we think that "hate" is too strong a word for how God views sin - we are mistaken.  The Bible says God hates it. 

And so the right church for sinners is the one that tells them every week how God has chosen to deal with sin and offer salvation. 

How has God chosen to deal with mankind's sin?

First, He sent His Son to pay the debt for our sin by dying on the cross:

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of  us all" - Isaiah 53:6

"I am the good Shepherd, the good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep" - John 10:11

"having made peace through the blood of His cross." - Colossians 1:20

Second, He offers salvation freely to any who will repent of their sin and believe in His Son.

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" - Acts 16:31

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish" - John 3:16

Third, He offers to change us.  God has not wiped away our sin only to send us back to our old ways.  No, we aren't perfect yet.  Far from it.  But He gives a new heart and His Spirit to begin the work of changing us.

"If any man is in Christ Jesus he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

"we are no longer slaves to sin" - Romans 6:6

So, does it matter what medicine you pick when your body is sick?  I think so.  So do you.  Even the best tasting (but wrongly chosen) medicine may be killing you.  Some, to go back to our opening illustration, would look at all the bottles of pills and just walk away.  Too many choices.  Better to not pick any at all.  That's too bad.  Because there is a right choice, and there is help available.

And does it matter which church you pick if your soul is sick?  Yes, I think so.  The question for us to ask ourselves is not "how did that sermon make me feel?" but rather "did that sermon address the real problem with my soul?"  Some, like the discouraged patient, look at all the church-choices and simply walk away - skeptical and indifferent.  That is too bad also.  You don't have to walk away.

If your problem (like my problem) is our sin - there are churches who will help.  There are pastors and teachers who will point you to God's cure as presented in God's Word.  God hasn't left you to wander around forever.  Christ offers Himself.  "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am chief."

Saturday, January 3, 2015

10 Christian Books That Have Influenced and Blessed Me

A little while ago (longer than I care to admit) the nice librarian at our church asked me if I would kindly provide her with a list of what I considered to be my own "Top 10" Christian books (excluding the Bible of course).  What she was asking for was a list of the 10 books which have most influenced me as a Christian and which, by extension, I would probably recommend to others.

Her intention was to ask several people and create a "Top 10" shelf in our church library with books that several people consider to be "highly recommended."  I thought it was a great idea.
But as I pondered her request, my thoughts started getting tangled like a string of hastily stored Christmas lights.  Maybe I'm overthinking it.  But here is what I'm struggling with:
1)  How do I know which books have actually influenced me the most?  The ones I THINK have been most helpful might not in fact be the ones that have really been most useful to my progress (or lack thereof) as a Christian.  It's like asking "Which 10 meals in your life most nourished you?"  I haven't got a clue.  But I'm pretty sure that some which I enjoyed the most weren't necessarily the healthiest.
2)  But secondly, and even maybe more importantly, is the issue of pride.  When providing a list of my top 10 books, how do I avoid the temptation to merely list books which I  think I "should" consider to be favorites.  Maybe that sounds weird.  But readers are a funny lot.  And we, to our shame, often make rash judgments about others based upon what they have read or are reading.  It's wrong.  I'm not proud of it.  I'm just giving you the truth.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Prospering Christian

According to Psalm 1, the "blessed" man is the one who rejects the counsel of those who are opposed to God's Law, and rather delights himself in thinking about His commands day and night.

Of such a one, the Psalmist says confidently, "whatever he does shall prosper (Psalm 1:3)."

This sounds wonderful.  This sounds like the way things should be.  It appears that the image set before us is that of a Prospering Christian, obedient to the Lord and successful in life.  Sign me up.

But something about this bothers us. 

We secretly, but not vocally, wonder about the multitude of examples both in Scripture and in our own experience that seem to prove the exact opposite.

Whatever he does shall prosper?  Really?

Do Godly Christian men and women never experience any sort of failure or loss?  Of course they do.  To suggest otherwise would appear to be a denial of reality itself.  Faithful, God-fearing Christian men and women experience all sorts of disappointments every day:  loss of health, loss of relationships, loss of business, loss of jobs, loss of friends, loss of possessions, loss of respect. 

Whatever he does shall prosper?  Can that possibly be right?

To escape the conclusion that the Psalmist is exaggerating (or worse, simply wrong), two possible alternative interpretations may suggest themselves to our mind.

1)  Maybe the Psalmist simply means "spiritual" prosperity.  Surely the soul of the obedient believer prospers, even during adverse circumstances.  But something about that seems a bit dishonest with the text.  The Psalmist doesn't say "spiritually prosper" but rather seems to be much more inclusive with the words "whatever he does."