Call to Worship: Psalm 25

Here’s a call to worship based on Psalm 25 with two options for the last congregational statement.

In worship today, we offer our lives to you, Lord.

Our God, we trust in you.

In worship today, make your ways known to us, Lord; teach us your paths.

Lead us in your truth—teach it to us—because you are the God who saves.  We put our hope in you always.

In worship today, show us your compassion and faithful love.

Forgive our sins, and teach us the way we should go—the way of justice, love, and faithfulness.

In worship today, we want to honor you.

Show us the way of your heart.

(or…)

For you alone are worthy.

Going Deeper – 2 Sam. 22

“With My God” – 2 Sam. 22

Questions for discussion/reflection:

  • The Hebrew conjunction in v 30, which is the source of the message title, can be rendered as “with” or “by.” What different sense does each word convey?  What do you think best fits with this chapter and with what you’ve learned of David’s life?
  • Identify the metaphors David uses to describe God in vv 2-3. What do they word pictures convey?  In what ways do you identify with any of these?  How does it help you to think of God these terms?
  • While David touts his own integrity in vv 21-25, we know that he was far from morally perfect. There is place in our life with God for both the pursuit of moral living and the need for divine mercy.
    • How do you keep these two things—personal morality and divine mercy—in tension, each having a proper place in your life?
    • Peter quotes God’s words from Lev.19:2 in a way that allows for them to be construed as a command or promise: “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). How can both of these possibilities be true?  How does help with the above tension?
  • David exuberantly expresses confidence that with his God he can overcome anything. What is the basis for this confidence?  Where do you need this confidence in your life?  What would help you receive this confidence right now?

Going Deeper – 2 Sam. 16-18

“Seasons of Suffering” – 2 Sam. 16-18; Pss. 3, 55

Questions for discussion/reflection:

  • Make a list of your life’s “seasons of suffering,” times when you went through a particularly tough trial. How did each trial test your faith?—build your faith?
  • In what aspects of his life was he tested in these chapters (e.g., as a king, father, believer, etc.)? In what ways did he suffer?  How did he respond?  Read and reflect on Psalms 3 and 55, a couple of his prayers in relation to these events, as you consider his response.
  • One way David responded to his trials was to pray. In prayer, David’s relationship with God grew stronger and he found strength to walk through hard times.
    • When hard times drive us to God in prayer, what positive outcomes may happen in our lives? (Consider David as an example).
    • In seasons of suffering, we may be tempted to cope through bad habits (e.g., drugs, heavy drinking, sexual sins, or simply evasion through excessive entertainment, etc.). Why are these ultimately dead ends?  What does prayer do that nothing else can?
  • David becomes a humbler, more compassionate person through his season of great suffering. What was it about David’s attitude in suffering that enabled him to grow personally and spiritually?  How can his example encourage and challenge you?

Going Deeper – 2 Sam. 11-12, Ps. 51

“Felix Culpa!” – 2 Sam. 11-12, Ps. 51

Questions for discussion/reflection:

  • The narrative text in 2 Samuel and the corresponding prayer in Psalm 51 both express themes of sin, confession, forgiveness, and salvation. How do these texts affect you?  In what ways do you relate to these themes in David’s experience?
  • Augustine’s Latin expression, “Felix culpa!” means “O happy sin!” How does David’s great sin become an occasion for happiness?  How have you experienced pain regarding your own sin?  Have you also experienced joy in God’s forgiveness and salvation?
  • Nathan’s creative pastoral confrontation of David’s sin through the use of parable underscores David’s hypocrisy: he’s outraged at a sin in a hypothetical other while blind to that very sin in himself until directly exposed. Jesus speaks to this phenomenon in Matt. 7:1ff; Paul speaks to it in Rom. 2:1ff.  What sins are you especially critical of in others?  Could these be an issue in your own life?
  • Nathan confronts David’s sin personally and directly: “You are that man!” (12:7). David responds personally and simply: “I’ve sinned against the Lord” (12:13). How will you take personal responsibility for your sin?
  • Paul’s proclamation, “Where sin increased, grace multiplied even more” (Rom. 5:20) expresses the reality for David and us all. Take some time this week to identify your sin (ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you; see Ps. 139:23-24), confess it to God, and receive his gracious forgiveness and saving love!  Make Psalm 51:10-12 a daily prayer.

Going Deeper – 2 Sam. 9

“True Love” – 2 Sam. 9

Questions for discussion/reflection:

  • David doesn’t act like a typical political leader: rather than eliminating the threat to his power, he shows Mephibosheth kindness.
    • What was the key factor that guided David toward kindness over hostility?
    • What leads you to show uncommon, unexpected kindness?
    • How might your commitment to Jesus and his way of life move you to show kindness to others?
  • Reflect on this episode from Mephibosheth’s perspective. How do you think he felt when David sought him out?—when David treated him with kindness, dignity, and generosity?  How might God have used this circumstance to work in his life?
  • David’s demonstration of love toward Mephibosheth wasn’t accidental, but intentional: he went looking for someone to bless, ironically from among his enemy’s house (v 1). This is what God did for us (Rom. 5:6-8).  Prayerfully reflect:
    • Is there an enemy to whom you can show God’s love? What might this look like?
    • To whom else is God calling you to show loving-kindness?
    • To whom have you made a commitment to love that you have neglected or failed to live up to? How can you show renewed commitment to love them?

Going Deeper – 2 Sam. 7:18-29

“A Model Prayer” – 2 Sam. 7:18-29

Questions for Discussion and/or Reflection:

  • Imagine your prayer life as a dinner plate, filled with various foods (kinds of prayer, including praise and thanksgiving, petition and intercession, confession, etc.).
    • What kind of prayer is your main course? What are your side dishes?
    • Do you have a well-rounded prayer diet? What might be missing or out of balance?
  • What’s the significance of approaching God with a deferential attitude, acknowledging your weakness and God’s greatness? How might such an approach change the way you pray?
  • Even when we have a need to bring to God, David models prayer that gives God praise before expressing our petitions, both in this passage and in many of the psalms. What effect does it have to place our petitions in the broader context of praise?
  • A common biblical form of petition, here demonstrated by David, is to hold God to his promises (e.g., Ps. 119:49). Do you ever pray this way?  What is the value in such petitions?  Is there a divine promise you want to remind God of today?

Call to Worship: 2 Sam. 24:24

Here’s a contemplative call to worship based on David’s words in 2 Sam. 24:24 (CEB) that invites worshipers to consider worship as costly and sacrificial.  The moment of silent reflection is optional but I recommend it.

Consider these words of David in 2 Sam. 24:24: “I won’t offer up to the Lord my God entirely burned offerings that cost me nothing.”

(Silence)

Lord, worship is sacrifice.  It can be no other way.  When we worship you we aren’t looking to get something from you but to give something to you.  Help us to understand today, as we prepare for this service of worship, that you call us to lay ourselves down before you, to give ourselves over to you, to offer the sacrifice of praise.  And in our feeble attempts to give you what you’re due, accept what we have to offer, our lives humble and broken, and transform us into living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to you.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Call to Worship: Spirit and Truth

Here’s a contemplative call to worship that invites worshippers to approach God and engage in worship with both heart and mind.  The biblical texts used (CEB) are 1 Cor. 14:15 and John 4:23-24.

Reflect on the words of the Apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 14:15: “What should I do? I’ll pray in the Spirit, but I’ll pray with my mind too; I’ll sing a psalm in the Spirit, but I’ll sing the psalm with my mind too.”

(Silence)

Almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Perhaps we’ve joined this assembly today because we desire that our hearts be stirred by your Spirit; help us also to be open to the renewal of our minds by your Word.

Perhaps we’ve come to this place with the expectation that we will experience your presence through music that touches our hearts; help us also to be open to a divine encounter through thoughtful engagement with every aspect of worship, even those that don’t particularly “move” us.

Jesus told us, “But the time is coming—and is here!—when true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father looks for those who worship him this way. God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth.”  And so today we desire to worship you in our spirits and with our minds—truly, to know you and love you with all that we are and all that we have.  We bring you our hearts: touch them.  We bring you our minds: transform them—all this by your Spirit and your Word, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Going Deeper – 2 Cor. 13:14

Title and Text: “Grace, Love, Fellowship” – 2 Cor. 13:14

Questions for Discussion and/or Reflection:

  • Paul’s benediction in 2 Cor. 13:14 is Trinitarian, referring to all three persons of God’s Self: Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit. What does the doctrine of the Trinity mean to you?  What does it matter to you?
  • Paul pairs particular nouns with each person of the Trinity: grace (Jesus), love (the Father), and fellowship (Spirit). In what ways do you associate these qualities with the corresponding members of the Trinity?
  • What is the significance of referring to Jesus as “the Lord” and “Christ” here? What about referring to the Spirit as “holy”?
  • Is there a sense in which these blessings of God are linked to participation in the body of believers?
  • In The Message, Eugene Peterson translates, “The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.” Peterson adds adjectives to the nouns.  What adjectives would you choose?  Write your own version of the verse below.  Read it each morning and evening this week at the conclusion of your prayers.

Going Deeper – The Harvest is Ready

Title and Text: “The Harvest is Ready” – Deut. 16:9-12; Acts 2:1-13, 42-47

Questions for Discussion and/or Reflection:

  • What place does the celebration of Pentecost have in your church?—in your life? What is Pentecost’s significance for you?
  • Review the two biblical passages. What areas of correspondence do you see between the Festival of Weeks and the Day of Pentecost?
  • How do you express your gratitude for God’s provision, both materially and spiritually, for your life? Do these texts offer any ideas?
  • Those who have encountered God’s provision live generously toward others, seen in the OT gleaning laws and the practice of the early church. What are some practical ways that your resources (material, intellectual, and spiritual) can help meet the needs of others?
  • Pastor Nate challenged us to involvement in God’s harvest through 1) prayer, 2) personal witness, and 3) partnership with others. Which of these do you need to place emphasis on in order to become more active in God’s purposes for the world?