Sermon Series: Praying Bravely

During the month of September, we will be focusing on prayer – more specifically, what the Psalms teach us about what it takes to pray bravely.  We will be doing this by using some key questions journalists use all of the time:  1. Who is this God we praying to?  2. What is a successful prayer?  3. When are we supposed to keep going with prayers and when should we stop?  4. Where do we go to pray?  5. Why? Why even bother praying?

Join us as we answer these questions together, looking at the model prayers in the book of Psalms that have been passed down to us through the faith of Israel and then our Christian faith.  If you miss any sermons in this series, you can always listen to back episodes HERE.

New Sermon Series: Who’s Got Your Back?

Who has made you who you are today? Parents are usually high on the list, but also teachers, bosses, spouses, children, Sunday school teachers, among others. People have a huge impact on who we are and are becoming, so we will spend these next weeks studying some of these essential relationships in our lives through the relationships in King David’s life.  Join us for the next 5 weeks as we explore these God-given relationships that are meant to strengthen us in our Christian walk.

Rejoicing in New Life!

We are celebrating these weeks after Easter the New Life Jesus brings through his death and resurrection.  We, who were once enemies of God because of sin, are invited to become Children of God instead.  Join us as we continue to read through the book of Psalms, specifically the psalms which reflect the surprise of suffering and death not being the end of God’s story.  God has, in fact, heard our cries for help and in a surprise of grace, rescued us from our trouble.  We are filled with amazement, awe, and gratitude as we experience a transformed life.

New Lenten Sermon Series: Living in the Chaos

Merely hearing the word “Chaos” spoken will raise the blood pressure of many people. We do not like chaos. We like order. But as much as we do not want to live in the chaos of life the book of Psalms reminds us, chaos is part of life. Join us this Lenten Season as we study these sometimes difficult to read Psalms which bring us face to face with the gritty reality of life on this earth. In the journey, we will learn that the Good News of the Gospel is this: just as God is close to his people when life is full of Awe, so God is close to his people when life is full of Chaos.

Sermon Series: Celebrate Life!

Why do we exist? There are many different ways to answer that question. My favorite is this: to glorify God and enjoy him forever. God has created this world to be a blessing to us. He has created a People to be devoted to loving God and loving others. He has given us the hope of heaven. And what should our response be to this graciousness of God, this lavish love of God? We are called to glorify God and enjoy him forever. And so, as we continue through the Psalms this year, we’re going to spend these next several weeks getting caught up in the wonderful task of glorifying God and enjoying him, studying these Psalms that call us to stand in Awe of our great and mighty and powerful God!

A Guide to Reading and Praying the Psalms

“Be Brave. Be Strong. Don’t Give Up. Expect GOD to Get Here Soon.”  ~Psalm 31:24 (MSG)

The Book of Psalms has been an invaluable resource to Jews and Christians for learning about God, ourselves, and this world for thousands of years.  Psalms are prayers, and are therefore the words of humans to God.  However, because they are in our Bible, they are invaluable to us as not just words to God, but they also teach us as words about God.  They reveal to us who God is, how God acts, and how we are to respond to God’s work in this world.  Most importantly, the Psalms are words from God to all humanity.  As Scripture, God speaks to us through the Psalms to develop us into mature Children of God.

The Psalms contain the whole range of human emotions and experiences – from joy to grief, birth to death, hope to despair.  The Psalms can be brutally honest and express great anger with God when God does not act as the Psalmist expects.  While this brutal honesty can sometimes be shocking, it is a powerful reminder of this fundamental fact: nothing we experience in this life is outside the concern and interest of our Creator.

The key theme of the Book of Psalm is: The Lord Reigns!  God reigns over creation and all nations, including his people Israel.  This declaration is great news, because the Lord is good, faithful, the keeper of promises, and the giver of good gifts.  God is just, in contrast to the wicked, and watches over those who are faithful.  God’s plan is for Israel to be a light to the nations, causing them to turn to the Lord and live out God’s will for them.

The Book of Psalms is a collection of 150 Psalms, essentially an anthology, divided into five “Books”  (Book 1: Psalms 1-41; Book 2: Psalms 42-72; Book 3: Psalms 73-89; Book 4: Psalm 90-106; Book 5: Psalm 107-150). These five books are analogous to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible (Genesis-Deuteronomy).   The final Psalm in each of these books ends with a similar-sounding doxology (Psalm 41:13; 72:18-19; 89:52; 106:48; all of 150).

 

Psalm Titles

Most Psalms (116 of the 150) include a short title at the beginning of the Psalm.  While these are very early additions to the Psalms, it is not believed they were part of the original Psalm itself.  These titles sometimes include the author’s name.  King David is the author most often cited (73 times), though Solomon, Moses, and others are also listed as authors.  Also included in these titles are directions for how the Psalm was first used, directions for the music leader, and musical notations as to the tune to be used when the Psalm was sung.  There are also sometimes historical references to when the Psalm was used, or why it was written.


Categorizing the Psalms

The Book of Psalms is filled with many different kinds of Psalms.  These include Psalms of lament, worship, thanksgiving, teaching (Torah), history, to name just a few.  Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann has developed a very helpful method for categorizing all these various types of Psalms.  He uses three groups that represent the three places humans regularly find themselves: Orientation, Disorientation, and New Orientation.

  • Psalms of Orientation: are where followers of God most often find themselves.  Life makes sense.  We have confidence in God and God’s creation.  We recognize this world has been built by God, and God reigns over this world.  Psalms of Orientation are wonderful declarations of God’s great power and faithfulness.  For examples, see Psalms 1, 8, 14, 111, 131, 133, 145.
  • Psalms of Disorientation: reflect those crisis moments in our life when the world, or at least our life, seems to collapse.  We are drawn down into a dark pit.  We cannot see the hand of God at work in this world, and we are tempted to believe we have been abandoned.  This is a terrifying place for the Child of God, and many of these Psalms have been of great help as they express with brutal honesty the doubts, questions, and accusations that result from life falling apart.  For examples, see Psalms 13, 22, 32, 50, 74, 88, 143.
  • Psalms of New Orientation: reflect the surprise of the pit not being the end of God’s story.  God has in fact heard our cries for help and in a surprise of grace, rescued us from our trouble.  We are filled with amazement, awe, and gratitude as we experience a transformed life.  For examples, see Psalms 23, 30, 34, 91, 103, 135, 150.

 

Fundamentals of Hebrew Poetry

Parallelism.  Unlike English poetry, which most often uses the rhyming of sounds, Hebrew poetry uses the rhyming of ideas.  This is called parallelism.  The vast majority of verses in the Psalms are made up of two lines, the second of which will either repeat the idea of the first line (synonymous parallelism), complete the thought of the first line (synthetic parallelism) or make a contrast to the first line (antithetical parallelism).

  • For example, Psalm 1:3 uses synonymous parallelism to say essentially the same thing twice:

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

  • Psalm 1:4 uses synthetic parallelism, the second two lines complete the thought of the first:

Not so the wicked!

They are like chaff

that the wind blows away.

  • While Psalm 1:6 uses antithetical parallelism, contrasting the righteous to the wicked:

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Acrostics.  Hebrew poetry also uses acrostics, in which each line begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet (Psalms 9-10 together, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145).  The significance of this form is to show how complete (from A-Z) is the law of the Lord.  This form also helped in the memorization of Psalms.

Figurative Language.  Because the Psalms are poetry, they use many literary devices to drive home their message.  These devices include metaphors, similes, figurative and emotional language.

 

A Christian Use of the Psalms

The Book of Psalms is the most quoted Old Testament book by New Testament authors.  There are 79 quotations from the Psalms, along with over 300 allusions and parallels.  Jesus directly quotes from the Psalms 11 times, often times to explain his ministry or opposition to his ministry (for example: Matthew 21:16; 27:46; John 13:18).

  • The very fact of Jesus knowing the Psalms so well and applying them to his own life and ministry should be a very strong encouragement for Christians to also know the Psalms well.
  • However, there are many troubling passages in the Psalms that can offend, or at least confuse Christians.  For example, there are a group of Psalms known as the Imprecatory Psalms (7, 35, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, and 139) in which the psalmist calls upon God to curse and/or punish the psalmist’s enemies. “Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave.” Psalm 55:15 This, of course, is the direct opposite of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:43-48).  We must keep in mind these Psalms are spoken from the heart, and before the ministry of Jesus.  As such, they do not reflect the perfect will of God lived out in a person, but the deepest cries of that person who does not yet know the full salvation of God.  Also, the psalmist is calling for and trusting in God’s justice, rather than acting out in revenge.
  • The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews cites five different Psalms as referring to Jesus in just the first chapter of Hebrews.  There is therefore much we can learn about Jesus from the Psalms.  However, we must not seek to read the Psalms only for finding Jesus.  There is a great wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and guidance for Christians in the Psalms, whether or not they can be directly related to Jesus.

 

How To Use the Psalms to Grow Closer to God

  1. Begin with Prayer.  Ask God to speak to you through your reading and reflection upon               Scripture.
  2. Keep in Mind Before Reading a Psalm:
  • A Psalm is Poetry – the authors often use metaphorical and intense language, not literal language.
  • A Psalm is Prayer –  The Psalms are first spoken to God, not about God.  The language will be honest and from the heart.
  1. Ask While Reading a Psalm:
  • What does this Psalm say about God?
  • What does the Psalm say about humanity?
  • Why was this Psalm prayed?
  • How does the author use the fundamentals of Hebrew poetry to make his point?
  1. Ask After Reading a Psalm:
  • What is the most important point in this Psalm?
  • What is God wanting to teach me about himself, myself, and/or this world through this Psalm?
  • Who can I apply this Psalm to my daily life?
  • How can I use what I have learned today to be a blessing to others?
  1. Close in Prayer. Spend time in silence, reflecting on what you have read and asking God to speak to you.

New Sermon Series: “Choosing Joy”

In a world with so much hurt and pain, is joy really possible?
In a life with so many ups and downs, is joy really possible?
Yes! Jesus promises us a life in which we live in joy.
But we must choose to pursue joy and nurture joy.
Join us beginning Sunday, July 31 as we discover how to choose to live a life of joy!

New Sermon Series: The Power of ONE

Power of 1 - web“Purity of heart is to will one thing.” Soren Kierkegaard

Do you ever feel pulled in many different directions, with many different allegiances?  What if, instead, you had only one allegiance – one goal in life?  Join us this week as we begin a new sermon series on what it means to live a life focused on just one goal.

2015 Sermon Series (first 6 months)

byREQUESTfinalSQUAREWe sought you input on sermon series for this next year, and you responded! Below are the first six months of the sermon series you requested.

We now encourage you to look at this list and think ahead to those particular series you could invite your friends or family members who you know these would speak to.

Sermons By Request List:

January – First Things First: Priorities for the Christian Life

February – Known and Loved: Intimacy in Marriage

March and April – I’m Saved… Now What?: From Believer to Disciple

May – The 10 Commandments for the 21st Century

June – Discovering My Spiritual Gifts

July – Decoding Revelation

Faith in Action – Living Boldly and Humbly

1 Parables

      Watch any television newscast, read any news website, and it becomes obvious: this world is spiraling out of control. Be the reporting on natural disasters or human-made disasters, wars or just rumors of wars, I am often tempted to turn off the TV, disconnect the internet, and retreat into my own little world.

Yet, at the beginning of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, Jesus tells us to request: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

This is one of the perplexities of God’s work in Jesus Christ; the Kingdom of God has already arrived, and yet, has not yet fully arrived. God binds Sin’s power now, but will not destroy it until Christ returns in all his glory.

So, how do we live our lives in the midst of this “already” and “not yet” arrived Kingdom of God? Well, despite the temptation, we cannot retreat into our own little world.

I think the answer is reflected in the nature of the Kingdom of God. If it is both “already” and “not yet,” then let me suggest we strive to live both “boldly” and “humbly.”

We live boldly because we know, regardless of the news reports, in the end, God’s Kingdom wins, and our souls are safe in his hands.

Yet, we also live humbly, because one thing Jesus’ teachings about God’s Kingdom make clear, we can never predict when or where God’s Kingdom is going to show up. For we know God is at work in this world in ways far deeper and more significant than we will ever understand.

Join us this next month as we study some of Jesus’ parables on the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ parables will challenge you to look at your life and community with fresh eyes, to see some of the deep and significant ways God’s Kingdom is all around you. Then you will be challenged to go out and join God in bringing his kingdom to earth.