Dig Deeper – Psalm 131

Title and Text: “Prayer as Communion with God” – Psalm 131

Questions for Discussion and Reflection:

  • What is primary for you: prayer as conversation or communion? How do these concepts overlap? How do you understand the distinction between them?
  • Read Luke 10:38-40. If we are “anxious and troubled” like Martha, how can we become “calmed and quieted” like the psalmist (v 2)?
  • The key metaphor in this psalm is a maternal one: a weaned child with its mother” (v 2).
    • How do you relate to this metaphor? Can you picture yourself in relationship to God like a weaned child w/their mother?
    • How do you respond to prayer that isn’t trying to get something from God but is content to be with God?
  • What connection do you see between the relinquishing of self (v 1) and resting in God (v 2) with the call to “hope in the Lord” (v 3)?
  • Take five minutes at the end of each day this week to practice prayer as communion w/God. Try one or more of the following practices to help:
    • Soaking prayer: Lie on your back and “soak in” God’s presence and love for you. Rest in God’s love.
    • Centering prayer: Sit w/eyes closed and give consent to God’s presence and activity. Then hold your mind on a key word (joy, peace, hope, Christ, etc.). Gently return yourself to the word when you get distracted.
    • Examen prayer: Recall the events of the day. Notice where your attention is drawn. Hold that moment in the day before the Lord. Ask God if there’s anything he wants to say to you.
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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?

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?

Going Deeper – 2 Sam. 6

“Dead or Alive” – 2 Sam. 6

Questions for Discussion and/or Reflection:

  • When have you heard (or yourself said) that a worship service was “dead” or “alive”?  What is it that makes us describe worship in these ways?
  • Do you feel the punishment fit the crime when God strikes Uzzah dead for touching the Ark of the Covenant to keep it steady (vv 6-7)? Why or why not?
  • Pastor Nate suggested that Uzzah attempted to manage and control the ark, and God, through his own efforts and advanced techniques.
    • What do you think of this assessment?
    • Where and how do you observe such obsession with techniques and technologies in the church today? How might Uzzah’s end be a caution to such churches and church leaders?
  • Scan through the chapter looking for expressions of David worshipping God. How would you characterize his worship?  What can you learn from his example?
  • What is the fundamental difference between Uzzah and David? In regards to whatever you identify, where do you see yourself: more like Uzzah or David?  What are you going to do next?

Going Deeper – 2 Sam. 5:1-10

“A Longer Stride and a Larger Embrace” – 2 Sam. 5:1-10

Questions for Discussion and/or Reflection:

  • David waited a long time from when Samuel anointed him as Israel’s king (1 Sam. 16:13) to when he actually became king over all Israel’s tribes (2 Sam. 5:1-5). Recall all David has gone through in that time.  What do you think this moment in today’s text felt like to him?
  • Why do you think God places us in situations and seasons in life in which we have to wait for him to fulfill his word? Though hard for us, how is waiting good for us?
  • Israel’s elders challenge David to be a shepherd-king (v 2). In light of their past experience w/Saul, why was this shepherding role important to them?
  • David graciously includes these people in the northern tribes who had only just come around to acknowledging his authority, and agrees to be their shepherd-king. What does this reveal about David’s character?  How can his example challenge you?
  • In his letters, Paul regularly praises God for the “faith” (in God) and “love” (for others) that he observes in the lives of those to whom he writes (see Eph. 1:15, Col. 1:4, 1 Thess. 1:3, 2 Thess. 1:3).
    • Why is this combination of faith and love central to a life with God?
    • Where do you need “a longer stride”? How is God calling you to trust him?
    • Where do you need “a larger embrace”? Who is God calling you to love?