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You can read the first three posts here, here and here. Where do we go from here? I am sure there is all of the statistical data to discuss and missional “stratgery” that merits our attention. But if we take a step back and ask, “What works?” I am not sure that we can come up with a cookie-cutter plan that works for everyone. But that’s what we want isn’t it? We want a P90x program that can be plugged into any church context that will automatically multiply our numbers. We tell ourselves thought it’s not about numbers it is about saving souls (souls are numbers right?) yet the pressure of our budgets and the depleting numbers in our Sunday night service is evident that something must budge. So we want an evangelism P90x to plug in and get results. I think we should move in a different direction…one that is simple. Consider The Skit Guys and their hilarious video that closes with a point I want to highlight….

Investment into one person. We are not called to save the world but we can invest in one person. Eddie and Tommy both talked about how investment made on their part or on the part of someone else made the difference in salvation and changed their lives. Last night one of my former youth group kids spoke to my current youth group and he talked about a relationship he had with a girl for 2 1/2 years and how he was able to baptize her. Investment. One person. Full focus. Prayers, efforts, service, study all focused on one. So often we worry about all the things around us when sometimes God reveals the fertile soil that is right in front of us.

What if we taught students to invest their lives into people for a year committed to discipling them and helping them grow over a period of time. Then watching that person do the exact same thing. Friends, discipleship and evangelism does not have to be mutually exclusive. They can be one in the same. So that is what I have learned. It takes investment, relationships and a whole lot of God in this process.

What would you add?

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Often we know what to do by what not to do. For example, Heather and I have told Samuel over and over not to touch the eye on the stove as it will burn him. Two year olds do not comprehend directions and the implications of danger. Sometimes they just have to learn it themselves. When we weren’t looking Samuel touched the eye of the stove and burned himself. Now he knows what to do based on what not to do. Evangelism is the same way it seems and there are some pitfalls in the way we are mission-minded. A bit of clarification in these studies: I am no missiologist and these are purely subjective based on experience. Some of these also might be contextual (i.e., what works for Eastern Christians might not work for Western Christians) both geographically and generationally. I am coming at these from the standpoint of youth ministry but some of them span the generation gap. For better research and methodology I suggest you peruse Ed Stetzer’s website for various “missional” topics. I am still a babe in the missional discussions but here are some evangelistic mistakes…

#1 Doing nothing at all

This is a pitfall many of us get into as the ruts of life tend to deter our focus. Whether it is based on fear, apathy, rejection, lethargy, apostasy or whatever one of the worst things we can do when it comes to evangelism is to simply do nothing. But…

#2 Doing instead of being

Us westerners are good at doing things as we are used to tasks, accomplishments, projects and goals. We are always at the cusps or precipice of the waves of doing. The church is no different as we have this program, that trip, this initiative, this goal or that yearly theme (“Saving Souls in 2013”) all border on idolatry. Mission-minded people do a lot of things but not to the neglect of being a lot of things. Jesus said the harvest is ready and that we needed more workers but he also told us to pray about this harvest. In other words we need people who are ready not who simply do things. Which reminds me…

#3 Making evangelism program-oriented or staff-oriented

Evangelism is the work of every member as we are a part of the priesthood of all believers. Comments like, “That’s why we hired you” or “that’s what we pay you for” are statements coming from people who are too lazy and selfish to do the work God requires them to do. Evangelism should flow effortlessly from the leadership and from every member in the church. It’s not a “class” or a “day” or even a “Service-project.” Evangelism seems to be a part of the spiritual disciplines much like prayer, fasting and giving.

#4 Evangelism as systematic theology class

I once thought evangelism was about knowing things in Scripture and when they figured these things out they would eventually become Christians which I equated to evangelism. It never occurred to me that sitting with someone in the hospital was evangelism. It never dawned on me that praying with someone over the phone was evangelism. I never grasped that maybe going to a football game to watch a kid play was evangelism. Knowledge is important but it also puffs-up. Transformation, submission and obedience seem to be key components of evangelism.

#5 Thinking it is up to you to save people

We have many people out there who have Messiah-complexes and that if they don’t save someone then the world, as they know it, is over. News flash-you are not Jesus and the redemption of this world is not up to you. If Jesus wanted all of this world to be saved he would have died on the cross for our sins. Wait a minute…

What would you add?

 

 


© firwoodchurch.com

You can read the previous post here.

I am concerned now about what motivates us to do evangelism. In other words, if I were to sit down with a teenager and ask them, “Why should you evangelize?” I wonder what responses I would get:

  • What is evangelism?
  • (With shrugged shoulders) I don’t know.
  • Because I heard I should do it in the lesson or something.
  • Because it says I should in the bible.
  • Because a whole lot of people are going to hell if I don’t and it would be my fault because I never said anything.
  • Because the gospel is an invitation for something beautiful.

Ok, that last one was mine but I am sure you have heard multiple reasons why you should evangelize and some of them are good and some of them are less than helpful. I would like to at least entertain that our desire to evangelize is related to two factors: 1) our understanding of the Scriptures (and our response to that understanding) and 2) our perception or view of the world.

I cringe when someone tells me that I need to evangelize because at judgment day I don’t want to be standing next to my friend and them asking me why I never mentioned Jesus to them as they go down the vortex to hell. First of all, who said we are going to talk to other people at judgment day? Secondly, God chooses different people to plant seeds, to water but only God increases. Thirdly, what about that person I met on the airplane? Am I going to answer for that for not offering them the invitation because I wanted to sleep instead?

The call to evangelize in Scripture:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

We are told to Go, while making disciples, while baptizing and while teaching. That is the call to the disciples Jesus worked with but it seems implied that this is not only a contextual command but an overarching command to all disciples bearing the name of Jesus. We simply “Go.” That is the call. Whenever, wherever, whoever, however we simply “Go.” What I have noticed though is that students don’t follow leaders from information they follow them by imitation (heard this quoted somewhere but have seen it true in my ministry). Show me a youth group kid and I will be able to tell you the personality of their youth minister. Hence, Main Street kids tend to be weird, cynical, prophetic, fun (we have been accused of being “rowdy”) and hopeful. Which describes yours truly! So here is the deal:

EVANGELISM STARTS IN YOUR LEADERSHIP!!! ELDERS, MINISTERS AND MENTORS. YOU CANNOT LEAD A PERSON TO A PLACE YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN.

Remember that. So the call to “Go” rings forth from your leadership. You can have all of the resources imaginable (I recommend Dare 2 Share) and all of the events under the sun but if the culture of your ministry is not evangelistic then no amount of teaching will ever accomplish your task.

Secondly, We must perceive the world and look at it differently. We should feel broken at the people who are not participating in the kingdom of God. Our hearts should break when we see marriages fail, companies plunder, people turn to gods and not God, and all of the injustices we see. We must look at things differently. In the first Lord of the Rings movie: The Fellowship of the Ring it is apparent that everything has changed for the hobbits and for the world and the longing to go back has been trumped by a new task, one that is forged in fire and fraught with despair. The royal elf and Lady of Light Galadriel, played by Cate Blanchett, says these words about what has happened:

The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.

Leaders, students and all of us need to get to this point where we say, “The world has changed and is forever different and everything we see is now filtered through the lens of the gospel and we will forever try to live out the call to reach out as laborers in the kingdom of God.”


1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Remember the four-fold process from the last post? Let’s follow it through this psalm just to let you get a hang of how to organize it?

Introduction:

1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.

Report of Crisis:

Verse 2 – “Cried for help”

Verse 3 – “Sheol”

Verse 9 – “The pit” “death”

Verse 11 – “Mourning” “Sackcloth”

Deliverance as An Accomplished Fact:

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Conclusion: A Vow to Praise

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Do you see how this works? Remember, there are always nuances to this but you saw the format as it played out. This is an individual psalm of thanksgiving, meaning, it is a very personal psalm. We do not know the circumstances behind this psalm but it probably was during a time in David’s life where he experienced some type of physical illness or even some depression. Perhaps there was loss (“mourning”) somewhere but the thankfulness expressed to God was an accomplished fact. God did it and it was a time to rejoice.

Verse 11 shows just how joyful David was. His mourning was turned to dancing (If you have a legalistic background change the word “dance” to choreography if that makes you feel better :)). But the moment of joy came in God hearing his lament. Because of this, David will come to God with a gracious and grateful heart. David got a little cocky (vv. 6-7) with God trusting perhaps in his own riches rather than the riches of God.

“Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” (Rom. 11:33).

You ever trust in yourself rather than in the Almighty? Do you trust in your strength? Do you trust in your intellect? Do you trust in your status? David said God made his mountain stand strong. Any strength he had came from God and God alone. Give thanks to God for his wonderful blessings.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss a time when your weeping/mourning was turned into joy/dancing?
  2. Has the Western mindset of “do-it-yourself” hindered our spiritual growth? How so?
  3. Why is it important to remember God’s deliverance and to be thankful for those times He answered?

 


We sing a song in our hymnals that have beautiful words:

For all that You’ve done, I will thank You
For all that You’re going to do
For all that You’ve promised and all that You are
Is all that has carried me through
Jesus, I thank You

and I thank You
thank You Lord
and I thank You
thank You Lord

Thank You for loving and setting me free
Thank You for giving Your life just for me
How I thank You
Jesus, I thank You
I gratefully thank You
And I thank You

Beautiful words that ring true in many of our circumstances. We are in a season now where being thankful is on the minds of our nation seeing as it is a national holiday. Gratitude though is not an American tradition but a tradition rooted deep in Ancient Israel. In 1 Chronicles 16:4 the writer shares with his readers that David, “appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel.” Imagine that you are given a task to do and your job is simply to thank God for what he has done. You might say, “Dude that seems boring!” But if you think about it for long enough you understand that at any given point we can be thankful for what God has done.

The category known as Thanksgiving Psalms is a particular category that has a specific formula:[1]

  • Introduction
  • Report of Crisis
  • Deliverance as an Accomplished Fact
  • Conclusion

The difference between lament psalms and thanksgiving psalms is that the thanksgiving psalms provide for us a window into God answering their lament whereas the lament psalms are offered with no foreseen deliverance. That does not mean there was no trust but the deliverance just could not be seen. Consider Psalm 30:

2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. (30:2-3)

Deliverance was realized in this instance. Rescue was seen. It was time for rejoicing but I time for thanksgiving to God who provided the deliverance. Like the lament psalms, the thanksgiving psalms are both offered individually and corporately. There is a time for thanksgiving in both circumstances and both are offered to God. We are going to journey through the thanksgiving psalms this week in an effort to experience gratitude on an individual and corporate level. In a time where we live in such an iEverything culture it is important to humble ourselves and express our gratitude for the one who created us. Bullock summarizes it better than I:

The psalms of thanksgiving tap one of the great spiritual resources of Holy Scripture and offer us a spiritual home where the passions of life can find their moorings in a source outside the human self. One of the great tragedies of the human spirit is to become a prisoner of ingratitude, for ingratitude shuts the human spirit up in a world lightened only by self, which is no light at all.[2]

Let us bow at the feet of our Master and learn the spiritual discipline of gratitude.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Define gratitude?
  2. What are some moments where you felt the most grateful?
  3. What are some moments where you felt the most ungrateful?

[1] Bullock, Encountering the Psalms, 152-53. As with all categories there are various nuances but for the most part the thanksgiving psalms will follow that 4-part formula.

[2] Ibid., 162.


1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

I saw a video[1] that said when Jesus quoted the beginning of Psalm 22 that he was using a rabbinic technique called “ramez” where the entire Psalm applies when Jesus mentions the first verse. I would like to believe that and it still may be true but the problem is that we do not have a shred of evidence to support this. It sounds more like something you would hear in a Rob Bell video (not slamming him but just sayin’) than you would in a commentary. Having said that, Psalm 22 is the most popular lament psalm in the entire psalter. Why? Jesus quoted this (already mentioned) in his prayer to God while dying on the cross (see Matthew 27:45-50). Yet this was first uttered by David hundreds of years before Christ died. It was a personal lament that placed him in perspective but also asked God the brutal question of “Why?”.

Why did he ask the brutal question? Certainly because of his enemies:

  • They mock him – v. 7
  • They are bulls surrounding him – v. 12
  • He experiences physical pain because of them – vv. 14-16
  • They divide his garments – v. 18

I am tempted to talk about Christ as Christ later exemplifies this in many aspects. Yet, David, in our context, is enduring much at the hands of many. He struggles with this not because the concept of impending pressure of enemies is uncommon but for David the struggle lies in the very nature of God himself. God, you are holy (v. 3), you answered our fathers when they cried (v. 5) and you protected and will protect your people but right now you have left me (v. 1), you are not answering me (v. 2) and because of this I find no rest.

Let’s stop for a minute and think about this. Have you ever felt like that before? I talk with teenagers all the time who experience in part what David experiences in whole. I hear comments like, “Robbie, it’s so hard to trust in God because it feels like he is not there and not listening.” If pressed they would probably admit that they feel like God has left them. Ever felt that way before? Ever experience that type of brokenness before?

What’s David’s solution?

Intense trust in God’s ETERNAL character (vv. 8-10), a request for his presence and deliverance (vv. 11, 19-21) and in all of this personal anguish he promises (fancy word is “vows”) to praise God (vv. 22-31).

You tracking with that?

David vows to praise God in the midst of impending destruction and intense physical, emotional and spiritual anguish. We think the world is going to end because a democrat got elected president but last time I check people don’t want our heads on a platter. Our issues are not even a blip on David’s radar. He would consider many of our issues as wastes of time. But even David said, “I will tell of your name…” (v. 22).

What would it look like for many of us who have cancer, terminal illnesses or many of us who have lost loved ones to proclaim in the midst of intense anguish, “I will tell of your name”?

“Yeah God, you have left us and I don’t fully understand it all but I trust in your divine purposes as one who created me (see vv. 9-10) and because of your infinite ways I will tell of your name.”

That is what you call BIG FAITH!

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does this psalm help in your ups and downs with God?
  2. Why praise God in the midst of intense suffering?
  3. In what ways does this entire psalm help inform you about Christ’s suffering and death?

1 By the waters of Babylon,
    there we sat down and wept,
    when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
    we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
    required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
    “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How shall we sing the Lord’s song
    in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
    let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
    above my highest joy!

Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
    the day of Jerusalem,
how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,
    down to its foundations!”
O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
    blessed shall he be who repays you
    with what you have done to us!
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
    and dashes them against the rock!

Continuing our journey through some lament psalms we come to a particularly interesting category of lament psalms called community laments. Individual lament looks at individual problems where the community laments approach God from the standpoint of a group of people. The difference is that the psalmist intends on voicing the psalm as a representative of his people. Sins may be involved (aren’t they always ;)) but it is the sins of the people (i.e., collective disobedience) rather than specific sins of a person.

This particular psalm is voiced from the context of Babylonian captivity (i.e., Exile) and comes to us without a specified author.[1] Babylon took many of the people of Israel away (hence Exile) in the sixth century BCE and many of the Israelites would not return for decades (70 years?). This particular season brought many Israelites to two recognitions: 1) the brevity of their communal sin and 2) their dependence should not be in their own ability to write history but in the one who created it.

Notice in this Psalm the community is weeping and longs to return to Zion, the holy city. They find that they have to endure the context they are in but their understanding is that “this world is not their home” and Zion is the place they need to be both physically but ultimately, spiritually. Notice that they can’t even sing the “Lord’s song” in a land where the song is not recognized (v. 4). This land that they are in is filled with injustice as implied in verses 8-9 is that their little ones were dashed against rocks. Whether that’s literal or figurative does not take away from the fact that they are experiencing a communal low.

So what is their solution? Trust in God that he will repay their enemies for evil and to remind themselves of the hope that is protected in the memory of Jerusalem, their highest joy. I am reminded how important this psalm is as we find ourselves in post-election America. I will not go far as to say the U.S. is Babylon (some make a strong case for this) but I also am reminded that our hopes, our dreams, our greatest reality can never be in a human institution. The monarchy of Israel was never God’s intention nor is it his intention to wield the wills of his kingdom through the United States of America or any other human institution.

There is a sense where we all struggle with singing the Lord’s song in a foreign land. We all are living in tents and our temples have yet to be built. We read Scripture that reminds us (like Zion reminded the Psalmist) of better things. Our hope does not lie in parties, partisanship or policies. Our hope lies in the Kingdom of God. It always has, it always will.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are some things your church community could possibly lament about?
  2. Why is it important to stick to the kingdom of God rather than human institutions?
  3. Why is it so hard to have a kingdom-vision for your community rather than a democratic, republican or whatever vision?

[1] Was this psalm written pre-Exile anticipating Babylonian captivity or was it post-Exile written during the experience of Exile? Not sure. In the end it does not matter as it seems the point is clear that the captivity was a cause to approach God and make their requests made known to him.


1O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
    nor discipline me in your wrath!
For your arrows have sunk into me,
    and your hand has come down on me.

There is no soundness in my flesh
    because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
    because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
    like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

My wounds stink and fester
    because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
    all the day I go about mourning.
For my sides are filled with burning,
    and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed;
    I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

O Lord, all my longing is before you;
    my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
    and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
    and my nearest kin stand far off.

12 Those who seek my life lay their snares;
    those who seek my hurt speak of ruin
    and meditate treachery all day long.

13 But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
    like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
14 I have become like a man who does not hear,
    and in whose mouth are no rebukes.

15 But for you, O Lord, do I wait;
    it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.
16 For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me,
    who boast against me when my foot slips!”

17 For I am ready to fall,
    and my pain is ever before me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
    I am sorry for my sin.
19 But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty,
    and many are those who hate me wrongfully.
20 Those who render me evil for good
    accuse me because I follow after good.

21 Do not forsake me, O Lord!
    O my God, be not far from me!
22 Make haste to help me,
    O Lord, my salvation!

There is a lot to unpack here but this Psalm is a beautiful example of an Individual Lament that may be categorized as a prayer song of a sinner. Sin (or iniquity) is mentioned four times. If we are careful with our interpretation we will note that he has his complaint against his enemies but the enemies is not the problem but only a hint at the problem.  It’s like the smell of something bad but not the bad thing itself. For David, clearly the root of the problem is his sin. Smarter people than I am tell me that this is a common theme in the Ancient Near East. People do bad things so bad things happen to them (retribution). God surely warned them of the blessings and curses that would come from their obedience or disobedience (see Deuteronomy 28). So David’s symptoms are not the problem.

But that’s just it. The lament is real and the pain is real but it comes from somewhere else. Notice the physical symptoms:

  • no health in his bones – v. 3
  • sides are filled with burning – v. 7
  • he is feeble -v. 8
  • his heart throbs – v.10

You get the picture. There is an association with physical pain and mental anguish for David. Makes sense though when one considers times of anguish in their own lives. I remember a season in my life when I was going through a tough time and there were serious physical ramifications. I could not eat and I remember experiencing severe heartburn. My body ached over the anguish I was experiencing and it was gut-wrenching. The solution for David to all of this anguish seems to be in verse 18: his confession of sin and remorse for wrong-doing. There was no grey-area for David as the pain (both internal and external) he was experiencing was directly correlated to his own spiritual brokenness. You and I can sit down over a cup of coffee and smirk at his rather “unlearned” theology but David was a staunch warrior for God. He was in the trenches.

Discussion Questions

  1. Talk about a time where you experienced physical pain from spiritual anguish. What was it like? Describe the circumstances.
  2. Do you think it is right to say that many of our difficult times is due to our sinfulness? Explain.
  3. How is David’s resolve to confess his sin a helpful solution for our laments?

This week we plan on journeying through a category of psalms called Lament Psalms. If you could envision psalms of praise being the expressions of the heart at its most joyful point you might say that lament psalms are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Lament psalms are those expressions of the psalmist that come from moments of deep angst, torment and often fear. Have you ever had a moment where you were so confused and had no clue as to what God was doing? In walks the lament psalm. Typically there are two types of lament psalms: individual laments (these are personal) and laments of the people (these are communal or corporate).

Think of it this way: there are some seasons in our lives where we are individually going through painful experiences and so we take (i.e., “lament”) these expressions to God but then things happen to us corporately (church, nation, etc.) that cause us to “lament” expressions to God. Laments vary in form but typically will have a few (some have all) of the components below:[1]

  1. Address and Introductory Petition
  2. Lament
  3. Confession of Trust
  4. Petition
  5. Vow of Praise

You can even divide the Psalms of Lament into their own subcategories: 1) prayer songs of the individual, 2) community prayer songs and 3) thanksgiving songs.[2] There is a lot more we could do to unpack these psalms as far as form and function but at the core of these psalms lies a basic truth: It’s ok to be real with God. Did you catch that?

IT’S OK TO BE REAL WITH GOD!!!

We live in a Western Culture that hides behind facades, masks and lies to cover real heart issues. The people of God has always been able to express their doubts, fears, frustrations, anger and other raw emotions to God knowing that he is the only one who can place those fears into their proper contexts. Perhaps you have heard a preacher pound the lectern while preaching proclaiming, “We should never, ever doubt the ways of God!” That’s kind of funny when you read what David wrote in Psalm 22, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” I guess David was weak in his faith right?

Or maybe David had an intense faith knowing that God understands our hearts so we might as well be brutally honest and place those laments at the feet of the Almighty God! Bullock has an amazing comment that we would be wise to read… and re-read:

While the boldness and naked honesty of the psalmists may shock us, this attitude is nevertheless instructive for our spiritual lives. We sometimes hold back too much from God, conceal our true feelings in prayer, and create a false image of ourselves at the heavenly throne of grace. What would happen to us and to our relationship to God if we were truly honest with him and with ourselves?[3]

I think many of us know the answer to Bullock’s question: our relationship would strengthen and become as deep as it is wide. So this week we are going to journey through some lament psalms and talk about our own struggles. But… some questions for discussion…

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do we tend to mask our true feelings from God?
  2. Does doubt have its place in the Christian faith? Why or why not?
  3. What are some experiences in your life that led you to lament to God?

[1] Bullock, Encountering the Book of Psalms, 136.

[2] Ibid., 138.

[3] Ibid., 138.


© marques.silvaclan.net

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
    and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
    and strips the forests bare,
    and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!

This is a beautiful praise Psalm that coincides with the praise theme that God is universally present and sovereign. Sovereign is a fancy word that simply means God is king and reigns over all of creation. It is said that David wrote this Psalm (or it was for David…) and we are unsure as to the situation when David wrote it. Perhaps you could imagine David strolling through his kingdom on a donkey or a hummer and he looks at everything that is around him. Immediately he asks the people to stop so he can have his scribe jot down a few lyrics he is thinking about. As he looks at everything he is moved by the vastness of God’s awesome power and the only thing due to God is giving him the glory!

That’s exactly what he asks the readers and the heavenly beings to do: give God the glory. “Ascribe” is a fancy term that simply means assign or designate. Note why God is designated with glory (vv. 3-9): he is over the waters, thunder, the trees, regions of land, fire, and even a deer giving birth. Notice the contrast in verse 9 between birth of a deer and death of a forest. But the comparison is that both are naked: one entering and one existing. I am reminded of Job when he says, “Naked I came into the world (mother’s womb) and naked I shall return…blessed (or praise) be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

God’s be praised because he is universally sovereign and universally present.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Give a time when you felt pulled to praise God? What were some words you used to describe God’s glory?
  2. Talk about specific things (write them down) where you see God’s sovereignty?
  3. Why do you think David asked God to give us strength and peace to his people (v. 11)? In other words, what is so important about strength and peace?