day 23 – put a psalm in my heart

Keep company with Psalm 62-64 with me today, won’t you?

Morning. Psalm 62 is a psalm of confidence and trust. The author declares their trust in God (vs. 1-2,5-7) and calls on others to do the same (vs. 8). “My refuge”/”our refuge.” Who, today, will you call on to trust the Lord?

Mid-day. Psalm 63 is another confidence/trust psalm. For some of us it is surely quite difficult to read this psalm and not try to sing it. Think Keith Lancaster/Acappella. “Your love is better than life.” (vs. 3a) Sing this song aloud and deliberately get it song stuck in your head today, coming back to it again and again. What effect will you let it have on you?

Tonight. Psalm 64 is an individual’s psalm of complaint/lament to God and the story within it all turns on how others talk about, and speak to, this psalm’s author. Contrary to a something we likely learned as children, words can hurt as much as sticks and stones. Indeed, they can be just as deadly and can come at us with just as much stealth! “Surely the human mind and heart are cunning.” (vs. 6b) How will you speak of, and speak to, others today? Watch and pray, lest you you become Satan’s tool.

* The thread of thought that connects these three psalms is obvious. Consider these these three lines: (a) “You [God] reward everyone according to what they have done.” {62.12; a verse alluded to 3x in the New Testament}; (b) “… all who swear by God will glory in him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.” {63.11}; and (c) “He [God] will turn their own tongues against them and bring them to ruin.” {64.8}

prayer before a hummingbird feeder

 

I have several hummingbird feeders in my yard and most of the year we have guests at those feeders. The Ruby-throated hummers are by nature extremely territorial. If I happen to walk near one of the feeders and there is a hummingbird nearby at the time, I can expect to hear them repeatedly voice their displeasure and often begin to see them zoom about a bit several yards off. However, this month is the first time I have had a hummingbird “strafe” me.

The particular Ruby-throated male I have in mind is exceedingly bold, unflinchingly flying, or even hovering for relatively long periods of time, within 1-2 feet of me. If he is hovering beside me or behind me and I then turn and face him directly, he will immediately put a bit more distance between us – beyond arm’s length – but will then proceed to repeatedly buzz me quite close until either I leave or he changes tactics.

I greatly admire his courage and bravery. How much bigger am I than he? There is no comparison. But does that make a difference in his actions? None whatsoever. I can consistently count on this: if we are in the yard at the same time – and believe me, he knows it if we are – he will confront me, the “enemy,” and will do so courageously with skill and wisdom.

All of which reminds me of two things. First, that one of the themes that runs like a rope throughout the entirety of the book of Acts – the book in the Bible like no other that tells of the true life of our community of faith for today, the church – is backbone and fortitude, guts, and nerve.  In fact, such even forms the final word in the book. It is the dominant thought that Luke, the author, wants imprinted on our mind and ringing in our ears until the end:

“… proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28.31)

Second, it reminds me of things James, Peter, and Paul said:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4.7)

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith …” (1 Peter 5.8-9a)

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16.13-14)

And so my feathered “friend” – my aerial “hero” – prompts me to pray this way:

God, make me ever like this bird: courageous and strong, skillful and wise, confident and yet well aware of my limitations. May I know no fear save fear of displeasing you and may every beat of my heart be beats of trust in you, for I know you care for me always. So, what have I to fear, for you are with me? And so, may I be with you. Daily. By the courageous Christ I pray. Amen.

eluding our idols: twenty questions on 1 John 4.16b-5.5

This coming Sunday (Jan. 25) at 9:00 a.m. some of our adult classes at MoSt Church will continue in a study entitled Eluding Our Idols. It’s a close look at what’s commonly known as John’s letters (1, 2 & 3 John). To help you get ready for this encounter with Scripture and our discussion of it, you’ll find the following here: (a) the text of 1 John 4.16b-5.5 and (b) twenty questions and exercises to go along with this reading

receiving the word

4.16b God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them. 17 This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love because God first loved us. 20 If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. 21 This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.

5.1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God. Whoever loves someone who is a parent loves the child born to the parent. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep God’s commandments. 3 This is the love of God: we keep God’s commandments. God’s commandments are not difficult, 4 because everyone who is born from God defeats the world. And this is the victory that has defeated the world: our faith. 5 Who defeats the world? Isn’t it the one who believes that Jesus is God’s Son?

wrestling with this word

1. How exactly does a person go about making sure they “remain in God?” (4.16b)

2. Why is it crucial, not just good, for us to know that God “remains in us?” (4.16b)

3. How is it that when mature, perfected love is in us, confidence for, not fear of, the Judgment Day fills our heart? (4.17a)

4. When are we “exactly the same as God in this world?” (4.17b)

5. Is there to be any fear in the heart of one who loves? (4.18a) Does your view sync with 4.18a?

6. Restate 4.18b in your own words.

7. The cure for fear is _____. (4.17-18)

8. Just how strong/earnest is your quest to be “made perfect in love?” (4.18b) Score it 0-100.

9. Which comes first: God’s love for us or our love for him? (4.20)

10. How do we know our love for God is real? (4.20)

11. To love each other as brothers is God’s command to us. (4.21) When, where, and how did he declare such? Be as specific as possible with your answer.

12. Do you believe 5.1a? Explain. Would you say our tribe in Christendom is well known for believing/practicing this Scripture? Why?

13. How does a believer practice 5.1a?

14. What does it mean to “believe that Jesus is the Christ?” (5.1a)

15. John speaks of believers being “born from God.” (5.1a) What does “born from God” mean?

16. How might the expression of Christianity be very different if all believers everywhere truly, deeply, and consistently believed/practiced 5.1 with mature love? How might those yet to believe be different?

17. How is it that lovingly obeying God gives love to our kin in Christ? (5.2)

18. John says that “God’s commandments are not difficult.” (5.3b) But experience says they are at times. When are they difficult for us, and why?

19. All who are born of God “defeat the world.” (5.4a) What does that defeat/victory look like? What does it not look like?

20. What enables Christians to defeat the world? (5.4b-5)

LIFE group guide: be brave!

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Oct. 26) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

A call to courage; a summons to live bravely in Christ’s name in a fearsome world.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today … (Exodus 14.13 NIV)

• God says, “Because you are devoted to me, I’ll rescue you. I’ll protect you because you know my name. Whenever you cry out to me, I’ll answer. I’ll be with you in troubling times. I’ll save you and glorify you. I’ll fill you full with old age. I’ll show you my salvation.” (Psalm 91.14-16 CEB)

• … the righteous are as confident as a lion. (Proverbs 28.1 CEB)

• As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (Luke 9.51 NIV)

• Stay awake, stand firm in your faith, be brave, be strong. Everything should be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16.13-14 CEB)

• … the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid … (2 Timothy 1.7 NIV)

• Through faith they conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, realized promises, shut the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped from the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in war, and routed foreign armies. (Hebrews 11.32-34 CEB)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. “I remember a situation in which I was brave. I __________.” Seriously or humorously.

2. Tell us about something you did that you even surprised yourself a bit that you did.

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. Poll the group. What would test their bravery most: disease, destitution, or derision?

2. Read Psalm 27. What does it say to you about fear and courage?

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. Is there such a thing as “good fear?” If so, differentiate “good fear” and “bad fear.”

2. Specifically, how do life’s three greatest things – faith, hope & love – inspire courage?

3. Share one of the most encouraging (pouring courage into) acts you’ve ever received.

4. I find I’m most willing to face the difficult or try what I’ve not tried before when I ___.

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Make a list of the ways God “braved you up” to face difficult times. Then, thank him.

2. Get involved in a ministry you’ve either not engaged in before or it’s been awhile.

trust

NOTE: Following is a copy of the discussion guide that will be used in MoSt Church’s LIFE groups tomorrow (Sun., Sept. 4). This guide flows out of the sermon that I’ll preach that morning, the fourth installment of the four-part SBMT sermon series. You’ll find these LIFE group discussion guides categorized each week here on my site under the category title LIFE group guides.

Aim

An exploration of some of what it means to “trust” the Lord.

Scripture

• Abram trusted the LORD, and the LORD recognized Abram’s high moral character. (Genesis 15:6)

• I trust in God; I won’t be afraid. What can anyone do to me? (Psalm 56:11)

• The LORD is trustworthy in all that he says, faithful in all that he does. (Psalm 145:13b)

• Trust in the LORD with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. (Proverbs 3:5)

• Therefore, the LORD God says: Look! I’m laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a valuable cornerstone, a sure foundation: the one who trusts won’t tremble. (Isaiah 28:16)

• The king was thrilled. He commanded that Daniel be brought up out of the pit, and Daniel was lifted out. Not a scratch was found on him, because he trusted in his God. (Daniel 6:23)

• She listened to no voice; she accepted no discipline. She didn’t trust in the LORD, nor did she draw near to her God. (Zephaniah 3:2)

• Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news. (Mark 1:15)

• Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. … Trust me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me … (John 14:1,11a)

• Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation. (Romans 10:10)

• I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust. I’m convinced that God is powerful enough to protect what he has placed in my trust until that day. (2 Timothy 1:12b)

• Although you’ve never seen him, you love him. Even though you don’t see him now, you trust him and so rejoice with a glorious joy that is too much for words. (1 Peter 1:8)

Open

Icebreaker questions are intended to simply get us all talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. What are some things you rely on to always work; things you trust to be ever ready and reliable?

2. If 0 is “never trusting” and 10 is “naturally trusting,” where on the scale would you say you are in nature when it comes to trusting people?

Dig

These questions are meant to help us grapple directly with some of the sermon’s Scripture texts.

1. Answering from the preceding Scriptures, why should anyone trust God?

2. Think of “trust” as an engine. From the Scriptures above, what are some of trust’s components?

3. In light of the Scriptures above, what might a person miss out on if they don’t trust God?

Reflect

These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us through his word.

1. As a group, brainstorm a list of synonyms for the word “trust.”

2. How do these three words differ in your mind, if they differ at all: belief, faith, and trust?

3. Why do you trust God? Tell us why trust in God makes a real difference in your life.

4. What do you see as some of the greatest enemies of, or hurdles to clear for, healthy trust in God?

5. God has crossed your path with people who helped deepen your trust in God. What did they do?

6. Share with us a failure in your life that came from a lack of trust in God and what you learned.

7. Someone says to you, “I feel like my faith is fading away; my trust is dying.” How do you respond?