Category: Psalms

Where Does My Help Come From?

Psalm 8 and Psalm 121 both open by recognizing God as Creator. In Psalm 8 the author considers the majesty of the night sky, the moon and stars. In Psalm 121 the psalmist gazes at the mountain tops and praises God as the Maker of heaven and earth.

The psalms then diverge as they consider a human response to the power, majesty and beauty of God.

PSALMS

The author of Psalm 8 focuses upon humility. “God, since you you created the great heavenly bodies, why do you even think about us? We’re so small and insignificant.” The author describes the relationship between God and humanity in terms of power and authority. The remainder of the psalm continues in this vein as the writer compares humans to angels and animals before closing by praising God once more.

This perspective of our relationship with God contains merit. It promotes the virtues of humility and reverence before God. It can remind us that God has given humanity the responsibility of overseeing and caring for creation. God is the Creator and we are its stewards.

Yet there are risks if we depend upon Psalm 8 as our primary prism for relating to God. God’s great power and authority can overwhelm us. Our humility and reverence for God contains the potential that we come to see God as distant and unapproachable. God is maintaining the universe and He’s entrusted us to maintain our piece of earth. He’ll do His thing and He expects us to do ours. Who are we to bother God?

stargazing 02

The author of Psalm 121 takes a different tack. When he looks at the mountaintops and the sky beyond them he too praises God as Creator. However, the next words out of his mouth don’t dwell upon the distance between God and humanity. This psalmist regards creation as emphasising how qualified the Creator is to help his creation.

The Creator will help, not just in big ways, but in smaller troubles we face also. As he lists God’s care for humanity be begins with the line, “He will not let your foot slip“. Of course he can protect you from lions, he can smooth over that workplace conflict, and he can strengthen your marriage, but he’ll also not let your foot slip. In the face of grandeur, God cares about us scraping a knee, spraining an ankle, breaking a hip, or falling off a cliff.  “He will not let your foot slip

Of course, the very premise that we need to call out for help assumes that we will encounter troubles in our lives. This psalm doesn’t guarantee a trouble-free life. It teaches us that God is always with us. He who watches over you will not slumber.

This psalm reminds us that none of our problems and worries are too small for a great God.

Snake River - OClair

Psalm 8 contains an important lesson about God. Humility and reverence before God need to be part of our faith. But we shouldn’t camp out in Psalm 8 as though it’s the end of the story. Our faith needs to grow to a place where we look at the majesty of God and praise Him because he cares about us. In all our relative weakness, He loves us, individually.

sound-waves 01a

After preaching on this topic, I heard this song on the radio as I drove home immediately afterwards. I think it’s a great summary and I’m sure the artists had psalms like these in mind when they wrote it.

 

Father to the Fatherless

 – The True God who inhabits sacred space
    is a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows.
He makes a home for those who are alone.
    He frees the prisoners and leads them to prosper.
Yet those who rebel against Him live in the barren land without His blessings and prosperity.  Psalm 68:5-6 (VOICE)

I’ve been preaching a series of sermons seeking to identify the heart of God. Who is God at his core? What are the values God holds most dearly?

In Psalm 68:5 God identifies himself as “Father to the fatherless”. The name “Father” is often attributed to God throughout Scripture. While it’s true that he is the Father, or Originator, of all humanity, God makes the point that the name is more than a description of origin. He is Father because it’s a role he willfully adopts.

Throughout history children are a footnote. They hold no power or influence. Those without parents have no natural defenders. Those without fathers struggle to find the provisions needed for life. Yet God describes Himself as “Father to the fatherless”. Father to the weakest, to the marginal, to the overlooked and under loved. God is Father.

All followers of Christ should attest to the goodness of God our Father. All of us were fatherless before Christ signed the adoption papers with his blood, called us his brothers (Hebrews 2:11), and through the Holy Spirit welcomed us into the family of God.

If the Spirit of God is leading you, then take comfort in knowing you are His children. You see, you have not received a spirit that returns you to slavery, so you have nothing to fear. The Spirit you have received adopts you and welcomes you into God’s own family. That’s why we call out to Him, “Abba! Father!” as we would address a loving daddy.   Romans 8:14-15 (VOICE)

How close is fatherhood and adoption to God’s heart? According to James 1:27Real, true religion from God the Father’s perspective is about caring for the orphans and widows who suffer needlessly and resisting the evil influence of the world.So how does the church reflect this aspect of our God?

fatherless 02

Here’s a list I’ve compiled a short list of children’s homes and family services affiliated with various Churches of Christ both in the US and around the world. And the good news if you want to practice “Real, true religion…” is that they all accept donations! You can read a good overview of Church of Christ children’s homes HERE. (You can find a longer list HERE, but I have not verified the links.)

Children’s Homes in the US

Adoption & Foster Care Agencies Supported by Churches of Christ

International Child Sponsorship and Orphanages

This list isn’t close to exhaustive, but indicative of the variety of ways Churches of Christ seek to serve God by loving the fatherless.

 

Should Christians be Green?

Somewhere in the list of “100 Bible passages Christians know best” you will find Romans 1:20.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

 

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Earth viewed from the Hubble Space Telescope

 

Christians often point to the grand elements of nature and say, “there must be a God”. At other times we will highlight the intricacy of nature and say, “there must be a God”. One statement expresses awe at enormity and grandeur, the other expresses awe at delicacy and intricacy. At either end of the scale what we really ask is, “How could anyone look at this and deny the existence of a God?” We then point to Romans 1:20 and say, “See, people (atheists, remote tribes, scientists…) are without excuse for rejecting God.”

Unfortunately, we often fail to notice the details in this verse. Paul doesn’t claim that Creation tells us about Jesus. He doesn’t claim that nature informs us about the church. He simply says that nature reveals two aspects of God: Eternal power; and Divine nature. Basically, nature tells us that a divine God exists, and God is powerful.

Nature by itself does not enlighten us to the goodness of God. It doesn’t reveal the grace, or mercy, or love of the divine God.

It is true that at times we may see glimpses of goodness and tenderness in a sunset, a flower, or the way animals interact with each other. It is also true that carnivores feeding on other animals, earthquakes, droughts, diseases, and death may justifiably give a very different impression of God. This second view still sees God as divine and powerful, but adopts a very different view of His character.

Although Creation has a voice that speaks of God, God’s people still have a vital responsibility to use our voices to fill the many silences of creation.

If creation speaks of God, then I wonder if the way we treat creation speaks of the way we value God?

Harking all the way back to Genesis 1 God has given humanity the responsibility of caring for Creation. In the beginning this was the only responsibility God gave the people he created in his image. Don’t eat of one tree. Care for everything in the garden.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  Genesis 1:28

In my experience many people have taken the directive to “subdue and rule” as an opportunity to consume and exploit resources. We have taken our place at the top of the biological pecking order and acted as though everything else on the planet exists for our benefit alone.

Sadly, caring for the environment and other species inhabiting this planet has become a political football. Because the Green Party, or the Democrats or whoever have emphasized this so much, many people want to swing to the opposite extreme. That opposite extreme is to say that economics always trump environmental concerns.

I’m fine if we all have different ideas of what it means to rule over creation, as long as we all have that goal. Our track record as a collective humanity is not great. The World Wildlife Fund maintains a long list of animals that it regards as currently endangered. It doesn’t take very long searching the internet to find even longer lists of recently extinct species.

ExtinctionAndPopulation_430

We can argue around the clock what the reasons are for the loss of biological diversity over the past 100 years or so, but I think most people would agree that humans have contributed to some degree.

We can also argue over definitions, but a key word for me in this conversation is “sustainability”. God wants people to live in a manner that sustains the life of the planet, the plants and the animals. While this charge was given to all humans through Adam and Eve, Christians who believe in the existence of God and the role of nature in revealing God, should take a lead role in promoting environmentally sustainable living.

From the very beginning God challenges us to consider what it means to “subdue and rule”. Humanity well knows the tendency for absolute power to corrupt absolutely. We understand the desire to accumulate power, to assert our will, to pad our nest, all at the expense of others. God calls us to a different manner of ruling.

God calls us to rule as He does: for the benefit of others. Jesus himself provides the ultimate example of this type of leadership. The King of the Jews allowed himself to be nailed to a cross for the benefit of all humans. He calls us to love our neighbours. And ultimately the health of the planet is linked the wellbeing our all people.

As a closing point I want to direct our attention to Hebrews 2:5-9 which quotes Psalm 8. These verses discuss “the world to come”. As I understand this passage, it states first that the world to come will not be subjected to angels, but, in light of Psalm 8, to humans. Christians in eternity will share the same responsibilities to the world we inhabit then as we do today on planet Earth. So we better take this task seriously.

What does the way you think about nature, which reveals God, communicate to those seeking God?

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • “The Bible and Ecology: Rediscovering the Community of Creation” by Richard Bauckham.
  • Chapter 4 in “Old Testament Ethics for the People of God” by Christopher J.H. Wright, (the chapter entitled ‘Ecology and the Earth’).
  • Chapter 5 in “Surprised by Scripture” by N.T. Wright, (the chapter entitled ‘Jesus is Coming – Plant a Tree!’).  Scot McKnight provides a brief review of Wright’s essay HERE.
  • Chapter 21 in “Kingdom Ethics” by Stassen & Gushee  (the chapter entitled ‘Care of Creation’).

What if…God isn’t like that?

God is                                 .

How we fill in that blank impacts our lives far more than we often realise.

In Psalm 7:8-9 David invites God to examine him for sin. He probably has a specific accusation in mind that he’s trying to defend himself against, but most Christians I know would find that invitation terrifying.

Let the Lord judge the peoples.
Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness,
    according to my integrity, O Most High.
Bring to an end the violence of the wicked
    and make the righteous secure—
you, the righteous God
    who probes minds and hearts.

throne of GodToo many Christians travel through life convinced of their UNrighteous rather than confident of our righteousness. We fear that if we invited God to examine us according to our righteousness that he’d see only sin and darkness.

How can David so boldly invite God to proclaim his righteousness and integrity? It’s not because David thought he was living a sinless life. Rather, the worldview described in this psalm flows from a confidence in the righteousness of God, not the psalmist’s own perfection.

David clearly understands that God hates sin, note verses 11b-13:

He passes judgment daily against the person who does evil.

If the wicked do not turn from their evil deeds, God will sharpen His sword;
    He will bend His bow, stringing it in readiness.
Yes, He has prepared His deadly weapons
    with His arrows flaming hot. (VOICE)

He also opens the psalm describing God as a “refuge”: a place of safety. In verse 10 he calls God, “My Shield” and if v11 “a righteous judge”. Knowing God in this way allows David to invite God as witness to his integrity and righteousness. God is just and God is safe.

I don’t know who’s to blame. Is it Catholicism? Is it the Reformed teaching on the Depravity of Humanity? Is it preachers seeking power and moral superiority?

Whatever the source, I know many Christians convinced that they sin minute by minute. Even if they’re in the middle of taking the shirt off their back to give to a homeless drifter they would worry that they were secretly (in their subconscious) doing it to make themselves feel good. They would worry that they were not being good stewards by giving away a shirt. And they would worry that these things were sinning and God would be upset with them for not giving to a person in need with the purest of motives.

We come to define ourselves as sinners and convince ourselves that when God glances in our direction he only sees us through a dark fog of sin. One way I’ve seen people express this is through asking God for forgiveness for “known and unknown sins” each time they pray: even at each meal.

What if God Isn’t Like That?sad girl father 01

What if… God looks at his people and the first thing he notices is our goodness, our love for others, our desire to honour Him, our growth in godliness over the past 18 months, our integrity and our righteousness? (Luke 15)

What if… God recognises our sin and loves us anyway? (Romans 5:8)

What if… The blood of Jesus Christ really does cleanse us from all sin? (1 John 1:7)

What if… Christ has set us free from worrying about every little possible sin? (Gal 5:1)

What if… Trying to be righteous by living the right way actually means we would fall away from God’s grace? (Gal 5:5)

What if… Righteousness is something given to us? (Gal 5:6)

What if… The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love? (Gal 5:6b)

What if… We’re to serve one another humbly in love because the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself”? (Gal 5:13-14)

What if… When God judges us he doesn’t ask us about secret sins and impetuous moments, but whether we’ve loved him, lived for him, and humbly served others?

What if… Being adopted by God means he shows us our goodness rather than pointing out our shortcomings?

What if… His grace covers our humanity?

What if… These ‘what ifs’ are all true?

Would it change the way we answer the opening question?

Would it make us more likely to invite God to examine us?

Would it increase our faith to trust the redemptive power of Jesus sacrifice?

Sin, confession and forgiveness will always be important topics for believers and unbelievers alike. I believe that a healthy picture of God will lead Christians more often to thank him for forgiving our sins than meticulously seeking his forgiveness.

How to Rewrite the Bible

My life’s goal is to guided as many people as possible into a loving relationship with God. A significant part of that mission is to help people appreciate, value and even love, the Bible: God’s message to us.

The Bible has been around for a long time.

Bible WritingThe canon of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) was well established by the 3rd or 2nd century before Christ. The New Testament authors completed their writings by approximately the end of the first century AD. Then the early church reached a general consensus on which books to include in the biblical canon during the fourth century. All of that is a long time ago.

For centuries people have trusted the message the Bible contains for their eternal salvation. Because the Bible is so widely respected courts will ask people to swear on the Bible that they’re telling the truth. In popular vernacular the Bible has often been referred to as “The Good Book”.

Considering all the possible names the Bible could be given, the church should quite rightly feel proud that their sacred guide is called “The Good Book”. However, sometimes we may forget that not everything in the Bible is good. For instance in Luke 18:11 we have a prayer that begins, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people….” Jesus cites this “bad” prayer to demonstrate an ungodly attitude of pride. In addition to describing godliness for the people of God, the Bible also contains many examples of negative behaviour that Christians should avoid.

Although a little obscure, Psalm 6 is another passage that contains a negative example for us. The psalm seems to describe the emotional rollercoaster of a poet suffering a severe illness. In verse 2 he cries out, “heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.

Verses 8-10 contain a rebuttal to the psalmist’s enemies that seem to have arrived at his bedside. The author counters his enemies by declaring that God does hear him.

the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.

It seems reasonable to conclude that these assertions shame his enemies because, like Job’s friends, they were whispering in his ear that God had abandoned him.

  • God fearers: They come to the psalmist and tell him that he’s sinned.
  • Non-religious friends: They tell him that God isn’t listening.
  • Pragmatists: They tell him to suck it up that this is just his path in life.
  • Philosophers: They tell him that God wants him to suffer for some unknown reasons.
  • Pessimists: They tell him to get used to a life of suffering because God’s decided not to heal him.

From the psalmist’s perspective, these aren’t good people. He describes them as “people who do evil!”

Rewriting Psalm 6

I pray that most of us will never experience the bones of agony that this psalm describes. So how does this psalm relate to us? Of course there’s more than one answer, but one choice we have is to rewrite the Bible.

Psalm 6 contains two human characters: the psalmist and his enemies. However, since we as readers don’t want to identify ourselves with either of these characters (although that may be necessary at times) we recognize that there’s a third possibility.

This psalm challenges us to change the story. When we see people suffering, how will we respond to them? Will we respond in a way that causes them to see us as the enemy, or in a way that lifts their spirits and points them to God?

If we found ourselves at the psalmist’s bedside, what would we say? What would we do? How could we affirm God’s faithful love in the midst of suffering? Can we speak in a way that challenges the enemies’ doubts and affirms God’s mercy? Do we have an alternative narrative to tell, a rewriting of the story?

These questions don’t have simple answers.

Does our relationship with God equip us to share stories of His faithfulness? Are we prepared to share reasons we trust God and demonstrate why others should also?

I’m not suggesting that the psalmist requires a Bible study as he agonises soaking his bed with his tears. Silence and presence may well provide the most appropriate response.

I am suggesting that we can’t waltz into that situation unprepared and expect to provide greater comfort than the evil companions already there.

Rewriting the Bible

What I have in mind when I speak of rewriting the Bible really isn’t as heretical as it sounds. Rather it’s a challenge to recognise that the Bible’s stories become our stories and each time they do we have an opportunity to write our own ending.

  • Will I sink like Peter when waves seem about to crash upon me, or will I keep my footing and my eyes focused upon God?
  • Will I cultivate gratitude in my life, or will my story reflect the 9 lepers Jesus healed who never said “Thanks”?
  • Will I eat with Jesus each Sunday morning then walk out the doors and sell him short or will that meal solidify my commitment to follow him?
  • Will I give in to peer pressure and deny Jesus as Peter did, or will I write a different conclusion to that story?
  • Will I think like James and John and condemn everyone not quite like me, or can I live with diversity of thought as long Jesus is being honored?

The Bible contains many negative examples so that we can avoid the mistakes and failures of others. Our relationship with God will determine how we respond in those situations. It’s easy to see the shortcomings of others. Each of us must answer the question, “How are we preparing ourselves for a better conclusion to our story?”

The Past Fuels the Future

I have regrets. I’m not immune to errors in judgement. I’ve made mistakes.

Even worse, I’ve done things wrong that weren’t mistakes. They were deliberate words and actions that I knew were wrong and I did them anyway.

I’ve accomplished things. There are things in my life that make me proud. Degrees I’ve gained. Friends I’ve kept. Family I’ve loved. Trophies for this and that. Not perfect, but proud.

When I look back on my life, some days I see the warts. Sometimes I see smiles.

The problem when my regrets fill the horizon is that I don’t look back far enough. I only look at my life. My disappointments. My hurts and pain over the last 40 years. If only I would look further into the past. 2000 years further…

When I look deeper into the past I see Jesus. I’m reminded that as he wept in the Garden of Gethsemane he looked 2000+ years into the future. He saw my shortcomings. He knew I’d disappoint him and others. He knew that at times I’d choose to ignore him. Knowing all this he still took the actions necessary to forgive me. He died for my benefit. He welcomed me into his family.

The attitude that I bring with me today often reflects how far I look into the past. Can I look backwards past my regrets just as Jesus looked forward past them? Can I look back far enough to see Jesus, or will I allow my regrets to block that view? Will I move through today with the baggage of yesterday or the freedom given me by Christ?

Each January I lead the Lawson Rd Church of Christ through a process of reflection and projection that we call Vision Sunday.

When we reflect on the past year there are always things we  wish we’d done differently. Situations that we could have handled better. People we could have loved more. How we view the past has a big influence on the future. We can criticise it. We can become discouraged by it. We can learn from it. We can be motivated by it. Or we can focus on the places God’s hand is obvious and praise him.

mlk day onToday is Martin Luther King Day in the US of A. We face the same process and the same choices. MLK Day prompts us to spend time looking both backwards and forwards. When we do so…

  • We can criticise Dr King for his shortcomings.
  • We can criticise the day.
  • We can be discouraged by aspects of the past or the lack of progress of the past 50 years.
  • We can continue to learn from the civil rights movement.
  • We can be motivated to continue the work of those who’ve gone before us.
  • Or we can look for God’s hand in our history and praise him.

I am firmly in the camp of the last three. Dr King’s vision of equality and love for all neighbors comes from the pages of Scripture and the heart of God. We’re not there yet, which means we all still have roles to play in standing against discrimination and racism. Don’t just read this and do nothing. I encourage you to take a moment and write down something you can do to encourage racial harmony.

How we look at the past, individually, as a church, or as a society, will influence the way we view and live the future. As individuals we must believe that we can make a difference. As a society we must admit the wrongs of our past and work to right them. As Christians, we acknowledge our regrets, but move forward in the power of Christ, filled with hope while working for a better tomorrow.

The psalms provide a wonderful example for using the past to motivate the present as we move into the future. They contain many examples of praising God for past faithfulness that inspires confidence in His future faithfulness. Yesterday during worship we read the first few verses of Psalm 21 and I’ve copied them here for your encouragement.

The king is glad because You, O Eternal, are strong.
    In light of Your salvation, he is singing Your name.
You have given him all he could wish for.
    After hearing his prayer, You withheld nothing.

True blessings You lavished upon the king;
    a crown of precious gold You placed upon his head.
His prayer was to live fully. You responded with even more—
    a never-ending life to enjoy.
With Your help, his fame and glory have grown;
    You raise him high and cover him in majesty.
You shower him with blessings that last forever;
    he finds joy in knowing Your presence and loving You.
For the king puts his trust in the Eternal,
    so he will not be shaken
    because of the persistent love of the Most High God.

A Recipe for Good Sleep

Psalm 4 is not a simple song to read and follow the train of thought.

Two commentaries I read interpreted the psalm in completely different ways. The first focused on v7 and concluded that a severe drought, possibly connected to idol worship from v2, was the context of the psalm. As a result he primarily applied the psalm to our lives by warning against using contemporary idols to distract us from trusting God.

I followed the second interpretation views the psalm as an evening benediction that I’ll describe below. I don’t really have the expertise to decide between the interpretations of these two scholars, but I found this second reading plausible and more applicable to my life, and hopefully yours.

The psalmist breaks the song into 4 sections, each bookended by a similar thought/topic.

1. The Lord answers prayer v1 Answer me v3 …the Lord hears.
2. Trust in the Lord v4 Tremble v5 …trust in the Lord
3. Prayer of confidence v6 Prosperity…? v7 …abound!
4. Sleep well

 

sleep psalm

The psalmist begins (v1-3) by laying his situation out before God. We don’t get a lot of details but we understand that there’s conflict. I think many of us will resonate with the psalmist’s situation. He gets to the end of a day. It’s been a rough day. There’s been some conflict and he feels disrespected and even like his reputation has been muddied. Lies have been told. He comes home frazzled.

A key phrase occurs at the end of v2. The Hebrew words can be translated as either “seek false gods” or “seek lies”. In one sense false gods are lies, so they can both be correct. However, if we read this verse as the psalmist defending himself, it seems to fit better that he’s offended by lies being told against him.

Each section concludes with a statement of confidence, and verse three closes with the psalmist reminding himself, and his oppressors, “The Lord hears when I call to him.” we all need that reminder at times, don’t we?  This is why many people use prayer journals in their devotional lives. They allow the opportunity to go back and look at past prayers and remind themselves that God still hears when we call to him.

Verse 4 begins the second section with a in dramatic fashion with a single word directed at his tormentors, “Tremble”. The psalmist doesn’t provide a reason to tremble. He may have fear in mind, but I suspect that his motive is anger. This meaning was adopted by the Septuagint (an important translation of the Old Testament into Greek) and quoted in Ephesians 4:2, “In your anger do not sin.

The psalmist advises his opponents to contain their anger and malice. They should examine their hearts and be silent. But stopping their bad behaviour isn’t enough. They need to get right with God, so the author advises them to offer sacrifices, to worship, and to trust God. Again this last line has relevance not only for the troublemakers, but also for the psalmist. To gain a healthy perspective on this situation and life as a whole, worship and trust God.

The third section opens in v6 with a question, a doubt, maybe even an accusation against Yahweh. “Where will good things in life come from?” Having expressed that doubt the psalmist immediately answers his own question by quoting from Aaron’s blessing in Numbers 6:24-27. This blessing that he’d no doubt heard many times before points him to God as the provider of all good things. “May the light of your face shine on us.” The greatest joy for which he prays is not that of a harvest, of food or drink, but an awareness of the light of God’s face shining upon him.

Having completed this process of moving his thoughts from dwelling on the turmoil of the day to dwelling on the blessings of God, the psalm concludes,

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.”

Regardless of what life throws at us, may we each sleep in peace, confident of God’s protection and that the light of His face shines upon us.

 

Vision Sunday 2010

Read Psalm 126 here.

At the start (or close to) of each year, Lawson Road takes time to look back on the previous year and forward to the current year.  We look back seeking to identify how we, as a church, have served God in the previous 12 months.  However, we don’t want to take credit for ourselves, so we also seek to acknowledge how God has worked through and among us over that period.

The church members benefit from this process because they often don’t realise how the church has grown or how many guests visited us during the year.  Vision Sunday also provides an opportunity to highlight ministries that take place outside the spotlight, and share their victories with the rest of the congregation.

When we turn our gaze to the coming year we attempt to predict the opportunities and challenges we will face as a church.  Of course there is a measure of futility associated with this task, but we would also be irresponsible if we didn’t make any plans.  We mainly emphasise our need to seek and prepare for the opportunities God will send us to serve Him and share His Good News.

As I prepared for this annual event it occurred to me how many Biblical examples I could find of this process.  The concept of looking backwards at God’s activity in our lives and using those experiences to inform our future faith forms a recurring example in Scripture.

  • God’s actions in the Exodus form the basis of his demand for future exclusive worship in Exodus 20.
  • Many of the Psalms follow this pattern.  For example, the first 3 verses of Psalm 126 look back to God’s deliverance and the joy that accompanied it.  That experience then forms the basis for expecting God to again deliver with joy in the last 3 verses.
  • Hebrews 11-12 uses the lives of past godly leaders to motivate faith in present day Christians.  “Since we’re surrounded by [these previous examples of faith] … let us run with perseverance… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Heb. 12:1-2)
  • The Lord’s Supper embraces this head swiveling principle.  At it’s core, the Supper commemorates the death and resurrection of Christ.  Yet looking backwards in turn inspires us to look forward and motivates our present actions, “you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

This may seem like a logical process to apply to Scripture since it was written a couple of thousand years ago, but how about in our own lives and churches?

  • How many examples do you have of God working in your life?  How do they impact your faith as you move into the future?
  • Do you agree that most Christians don’t have many specific examples of God’s activity in their life?  Why do you think that is?
  • Have you ever been part of a church that could share a history of God’s blessing that motivated them to move confidently into the future?
  • I suspect that most church members don’t know their congregational history and therefore many examples of God’s grace, love and rescue are quickly lost.  What’s your experience?  Does it matter?

God’s Story

  • Read Psalm 136 here, and Psalm 139 here.
  • If you missed Sunday’s sermon (10 May), you can listen to it here.

Although the Bible contains lengthy sections of legal code, poetry, prophecy, and advice to churches overall, the Bible tells a consistent story of God’s relationship with humanity.  This is not to suggest that the Bible is a fairytale, but it does tell a story.

I believe that we often overlook the forest for the trees, THE story for the stories.  We often treat stories such as Joshua defeating Jericho, or David defeating Goliath, or Jesus walking on water as wonderful stories in their own right, which they are, but we forget the role they play in telling the bigger story, God’s story.  Why was Joshua fighting Jericho?  How was this event connected to Moses and Abraham?  Why was David fighting Goliath?  How was this event connected to Joshua?

If you were to consider the entire Bible as a storybook, I wonder how you would summarize the story?  Would you just start and end with Jesus?  Would you include Creation?  How about the Exodus, the life of David, or the destruction of Jerusalem?  Would you discuss any of Paul’s letters, or tackle Revelation?

This isn’t just a theoretical exercise.  How we understand the Bible story will be a factor in how we can share the Gospel and bring others to Christ.  If we don’t understand the big picture we’ll have a difficult time sharing it with others.

I’m seeking your input on this question, “What are the 10 key events that MUST be included in summarizing the Bible story?” or if that’s giving you a head ache, just let me know, “Do you think it’s difficult to summarize the Bible story?  Is it easier to remember the individual stories?”

Songs & Scripture:

Naturally, I’m looking for songs that tell the Story of God.  Maybe that’s too much for one song, but let me know if you can think of some more.

  • I Love to Tell the Story
  • Why Did My Savior Come to Earth?  (This song doesn’t mention the OT, but tells of Jesus’ birth, death & return.)
  • Our God, He Is Alive
  • I Believe in Jesus (Howard – SFP)
  • My Redeemer Lives (Nicole C. Mullins on her 2000 self titled album connects Creation with the Resurrection)

Psalm 82

  • Read Psalm 82 here.
  • If you missed Sunday’s sermon (3 August) you can listen to it here.

.P

This Psalm is unique in the way it begins. It sounds a bit like Job 1 with various gods in conversation with Yahweh. Since we don’t believe in the existence of gods like Baal, what can we learn from these gods?

Psalm 82 makes the assertion that Yahweh’s validity as God is demonstrated by His concern and care for the poor and orphans, the destitute and oppressed, and the weak and the helpless. Who in our society represents the people described in the Psalm? What are some ways we can represent God in their lives?

Psalm 82 ends by the psalmist saying, “Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.” Have you ever prayed anything like this? Is this a scary thing to ask for?

Songs from the Psalms

These are mostly some songs that focus on God rescuing and caring for the poor, injured and disadvantaged as described in verses 3-4. (This theme also showed up last week in psalm 146:7-9.)

  • Rescue the Perishing (v.4)
  • Instruments of Your Peace (SFP)
  • God Will Take Care of You (vss. 3-4)
  • He is able, more than able, to accomplish what concerns me today (SOFP)
  • He Is Able to deliver thee (GSII—short chorus)
  • All Who Are Thirsty (Zoe Group, 2004. Album: Desperate)
  • A Shield About Me (©1980, not sure who made it popular, it actually comes straight from Ps. 3)
  • O Worship the King (the image of God “pavillioned in splendor” came to mind as I considered the Ps. 82 heavenly court scene)
  • Tempted and Tried (v. 2—although it’s a bit of a skewed reference)

Have we missed any songs that this psalm reminds you of? Add to the list by making a “Comment”.