Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Prayer That Turned The World Upsidedown - Session 2 - Introducing The Lord's Prayer







The Church of Divine Guidance Sunday Morning Adult Bible Study Group studying the book Prayer That Turned The World Upside Down: The Lord's Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by R. Albert Mohler, The President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Lord’s Prayer is the most powerful prayer in the Bible, taught by Jesus to those closest to him. We desperately need to relearn its power and practice.

The opening words of the Lord’s Prayer have become so familiar that we often speak them without a thought, sometimes without any awareness that we are speaking at all. But to the disciples who first heard these words from Jesus, the prayer was a thunderbolt, a radical new way to pray that changed them and the course of history.


Far from a safe series of comforting words, the Lord’s Prayer makes extraordinary claims, topples every earthly power, and announces God’s reign over all things in heaven and on earth. Study along with us by getting a copy of the book by clicking this LINK or the image of the book at the end of the study notes. 



“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts,  as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’
Matthew 6:5‭-‬13 NIV

INTRODUCING THE LORD’S PRAYER


The Lord's prayer is in both Matthew and Luke.

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”  He said to them, “When you pray, say: “ ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.   And lead us not into temptation. ’ ”
Luke 11:1‭-‬4 NIV

Luke emphasizes God’s response to prayer:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:9‭-‬10‭, ‬13 NIV
In Matthew it is included in the Sermon on the Mount section.  The Sermon on the Mount presents a picture of life in the kingdom of heaven. something like this: How to live a life that is dedicated to and pleasing to God, free from hypocrisy, full of love and grace, full of wisdom and discernment.   The arrival of God’s kingdom leads to a complete transformation of values that in turn leads to a transformation in the practice of religion—particularly in giving, fasting, and prayer.

There are many examples of Jesus spending time in prayer. There's quite a list of Scriptures of Jesus praying. ((Matt. 6:5–9; 14:23; 19:13; 26:36–44; Mark 1:35; 6:46; 14:37–39; Luke 3:21; 5:16; 6:12, 28; 9:18, 28–29; 11:1; 22:32, 41, 44; John 17).  But He gave His disciples a specific model to follow when we pray.

But before he gives his model for prayer in Matthew 6, Jesus provides important context:
        
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matt. 6:5–8)
        
Matthew 6:1 is the key to understanding this passage.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Matthew 6:1 NIV

Here Jesus says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” The first and most urgent warning Jesus gives is a warning against a quality of religion or reverence that is public and ostentatious that offers nothing that is stimulating or challenging and is false. This type of reverence  draws attention to the one praying, because it's designed to reveal them super religious.

The way we pray will reveal either the superficial, insincere nature of our faith or the glory of God.  Jesus is clear that those who wish to be seen as super spiritual have already received their reward.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
Matthew 6:5 NIV
Hypocrisy vs Intimacy


On the other hand Jesus commends another type of reverence one that is secret and not public evidenced by humility.  That kind of reverence will be rewarded by the Father. The difference can't be more extreme. One comes from pride the other from humility And we know which God prefers.

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Matthew 23:12 NIV

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Matthew 23:12 NIV


 We can pursue the glory of the Father by humbling ourselves in secret, or we can pursue our own glory by exalting ourselves before others. We can’t do both.
We want to make sure that we don't fall into the trap of thinking we have to impress others when we pray.

As David what the Lord really wants is a broken and contrite heart.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Psalm 51:16‭-‬17 NIV


In other words a prayer that is offered in humility.

WHY JESUS DOESN’T THINK MUCH OF ROUTINE CHRISTIAN PRAYER MATTHEW 6:5–8


“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Matthew 6:5‭-‬8 NIV

The first thing we need to know and remember is that as member of God’s family we are commanded to pray and if we really love Jesus as we say we do we show that love by being obedient.

“If you love me, keep my commands.
John 14:15 NIV

In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,
1 John 5:3 NIV


A failure to pray is therefore not only a sign of anemic spiritual life, it is disobedience to Christ.  Prayer is central to the Christian life and to the Scriptures.

It is interwoven throughout the biblical text, telling us to pray and instructing us how to by showing us the prayers of the Old and New Testament saints and providing us with the Psalter as our guidebook to God-pleasing prayer.  The question is how we will pray.

BEFORE YOU PRAY: A FEW THINGS JESUS WANTS YOU TO REMEMBER


The first thing is to not pray as the hypocrites. We’ve talked about the characteristics of how they pray. Especially the desire to be seen as super religious and superior to others exhibited in how they pray.  

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you”
(v. 6).

Mohler says that while you may get a tangible, material reward, the real reward is communion with God himself.

Do Not Pray to Impress

Not only does Jesus warn us not to try to impress other people He also warns not to try to impress God.

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Matthew 6:7‭-‬8 NIV

God is not looking for long words, long prayers, and mindless repetition. And he is not impressed by the length or complexity of our prayers.

All of us can probably relate to Moler’s example of copying the prayers of we’ve heard others pray. I’m not talking about reading a prayer and making it our prayer because when we read a prayer we most often understand what we are praying. If you are going to read a prayer and you don't understand the words the don't pray it until you find out what you are saying. It’s like the author said; What kind of prayer is it that uses words you do not even understand?”

In his battle of prayer with the prophets of Baal Elijah prayed simple prayer;
        
At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “ Lord , the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord , answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord , are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”  Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord —he is God! The Lord —he is God!”
1 Kings 18:36‭-‬39 NIV

The Lord isn’t looking for impressive words; he is looking for humble hearts—hearts that trust him enough to work, even when our words are few.

Matthew says He already knows what we need so we don't need to feel compelled to try to impress God with a lot of words trying to appear reverent.    Instead, by faith we will see a sovereign God who is ready and able to answer our prayers, and who directs all things for our good and his glory.

APPROACHING THE LORD’S PRAYER


The Lord’s Prayer does not teach us the clever or artful skill or the mechanics of prayer. Instead,  the Lord Jesus rearranges our theology and breaks open our faulty misconceptions about the character of God and our deepest needs in this world. He teaches us that prayer is not about impressing God; rather, it is about praising him by humbly coming before him to offer the kind of prayer that pleases him.
        
As Jesus’ disciples, we need to pray. We are created to be a praying people. But we desperately need instruction. . We need the Lord Jesus Christ himself to teach us to pray because, left to our own devices, we will pray wrongly. We need to approach the Lord’s Prayer with the same request and attitude as Christ’s disciples.  We need to ask the Lord to teach us to pray. Of course, Jesus was ready to teach his disciples before they were ready to learn. He is ready to teach us too.

We will start looking at the prayer itself next week.

Bible Study Audio






Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Prayer That Turned The World Upside Down - Session 1 - Introduction




The Church of Divine Guidance Sunday Morning Adult Bible Study Group studying the book Prayer That Turned The World Upside Down: The Lord's Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by R. Albert Mohler, The President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Lord’s Prayer is the most powerful prayer in the Bible, taught by Jesus to those closest to him. We desperately need to relearn its power and practice.

The opening words of the Lord’s Prayer have become so familiar that we often speak them without a thought, sometimes without any awareness that we are speaking at all. But to the disciples who first heard these words from Jesus, the prayer was a thunderbolt, a radical new way to pray that changed them and the course of history.


Far from a safe series of comforting words, the Lord’s Prayer makes extraordinary claims, topples every earthly power, and announces God’s reign over all things in heaven and on earth. Study along with us by getting a copy of the book by clicking this LINK or the image of the book at the end of the study notes.


INTRODUCTION


Matthew 6:5-13 NIV  “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.   “This, then, is how you should pray:  “ ‘Our Father in heaven,  hallowed be your name,   your kingdom come,  your will be done,  on earth as it is in heaven.   Give us today our daily bread.   And forgive us our debts,  as we also have forgiven our debtors.   And lead us not into temptation,   but deliver us from the evil one.   ’


Our author, R. Albert Mohler, Jr. says, and I agree that we Christians are longing for the Kingdom of God as described in the Bible to come.

The kingdom of God is synonymous with the kingdom of heaven. The concept of the kingdom of God takes on various shades of meaning in different passages of Scripture.

Broadly speaking, the kingdom of God is the rule of an eternal, sovereign God over all the universe. Several passages of Scripture show that God is the undeniable Monarch of all creation: “The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). And, as King Nebuchadnezzar declared, “His kingdom is an eternal kingdom” (Daniel 4:3). Every authority that exists has been established by God (Romans 13:1). So, in one sense, the kingdom of God incorporates everything that is.

More narrowly, the kingdom of God is a spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of those who willingly submit to God’s authority. Those who defy God’s authority and refuse to submit to Him are not part of the kingdom of God; in contrast, those who acknowledge the lordship of Christ and gladly surrender to God’s rule in their hearts are part of the kingdom of God. In this sense, the kingdom of God is spiritual—Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), and He preached that repentance is necessary to be a part of the kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17). That the kingdom of God can be equated with the sphere of salvation is evident in John 3:5–7, where Jesus says the kingdom of God must be entered into by being born again. See also 1 Corinthians 6:9.

There is another sense in which the kingdom of God is used in Scripture: the literal rule of Christ on the earth during the millennium. Daniel said that “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44; cf. 7:13–14), and many of the other prophets predicted the same thing (e.g., Obadiah 1:21; Habakkuk 2:14; Micah 4:2; Zechariah 14:9). Some theologians refer to the future, open manifestation of the kingdom of God as the “kingdom of glory” and the present, hidden manifestation of the kingdom of God as the “kingdom of grace.” But both manifestations are connected; Christ has set up His spiritual reign in the church on earth, and He will one day set up His physical reign in Jerusalem.

The kingdom of God has several aspects. The Lord is the Sovereign of the universe, and so in that sense His kingdom is universal (1 Timothy 6:15). At the same time, the kingdom of God involves repentance and the new birth, as God rules in the hearts of His children in this world in preparation for the next. The work begun on earth will find its consummation in heaven (see Philippians 1:6).

Because we are looking for that Kingdom, we yearn for radical change, for things to be made right. We rightly long to see righteousness and truth and justice prevail. We are actually desperate for what no earthly revolution can produce. We long for the kingdom of God and for Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords. We are looking for a kingdom that will never end and a King whose rule is perfect.

That's why we pray the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples because, in Mr. Mohler’s opinion it is a cry for a revolution.  That God’s kingdom come and His will be done as opposed to what's happening now.  That's why he says that the Lord’s Prayer turns the world upside down. 

However he says that the church especially those who identify themselves as evangelicals have given up on this prayer and prayer in general. That's what is so good about up concentrating on prayer last year and into this year. He says that we aren't as desperate today as in the past. Because we are incredibly distracted and busy, which states of mind that are enemies of prayer.  Last year we talked about stopping time and creating a God space so that we could stop our busyness and hear from God.   Plus in his opinion they don't know how to pray. I really think that, because of our work last year do know how to pray. But it is always good to review, because we sometimes forget and become lazy. That's why Peter said.

I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
2 Peter 1:13-15 NIV

An important point Mohler makes in the introduction to the book is that it's important to stay focused and remove distractions when we pray, we can do that when we create our God space. The example is the advice that Martin Luther gave to his barber on how to pray. He said;

“So, as a diligent and good barber, you must keep your thoughts, senses, and eyes precisely on the hair and scissors or razor and not forget where you trimmed or shaved, for,  if you want to talk a lot or become distracted thinking about something else, you might well cut someone’s nose or mouth or even his throat.”

The point was point we need to resist distractions in prayer. A distracted barber is a dangerous barber. “How much more does a prayer need to have the undivided attention of the whole heart alone, if it is to be a good pray-er!”

When you pray the Lord’s Prayer, like following the pastor when he says repeat after me or at Christ Church every Sunday or here several years ago at the opening of service is it just done without thinking or meaning?  I’ve even been in services where the person leading actually forgets part of it.

Many evangel sense something similar occurring in their prayer life. They can go through the motions say all the right words, and even lead a congregation or group in prayer without remembering a single word they have said or even understanding what they just prayed for.

PRAYER IN WORLD RELIGIONS AND IN EVANGELICALISM


Every major religion has prayer of some kind.  In Christianity there are different traditions of prayer.  Roman Catholicism’s prayer practices, very much influenced by the monastic tradition and Catholic teachings. Incorporate physical elements like prayer beads and formulaic prayers (e.g., “Hail Mary, full of grace”). Historic Protestantism made prayer into a central theological concern.  in the context of Christian worship. Their aim was to regulate prayer by Scripture.  They demanded that prayer be both scriptural and intelligible.  Later, the Anglican Church produced a prayer tradition that is now established in what we know as the Book of Common Prayer. These prayers seem exceedingly formal to many modern evangelicals.  Prayer is also very much a part of our evangelical tradition and our piety. Evangelicals Are recognized for a populist approach to prayer. We encourage all saints (that is, all believers) to pray in private and in public. We regularly organize large prayer meetings and even arrange prayer marathons, which systematize a steady stream of prayer over lengthy periods of time for a single issue. We even teach the youngest among us to pray. But do we teach them well?

           

Try Writing Out Your Prayers

By Rick Warren
           
“The Lord gave me this answer: ‘Write down clearly on tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance’” (Habakkuk 2:2 GNT).
            I
f you want to hear God speak, you need to withdraw to a quiet place, wait patiently and expectantly, ask God to give you a picture of what he wants to say to you, and then write down God’s responses to your questions.
           
In the book of Habakkuk, the Lord commands the author to “write down clearly on tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance” (Habakkuk 2:2 GNT).
           
That’s how we got the book of Habakkuk. In chapter one, Habakkuk wrote down what he said to God. And in chapter two, he wrote down what God said back to him.
           
That’s also how we got the book of Psalms; many of those psalms came directly from David’s quiet time. David meditated on the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, and then he wrote down his thoughts, and they’re called psalms. In many of the psalms, he starts out with what he’s feeling and then ends up with what God says.
            I
f your prayer life is stuck in a rut, and you tend to pray the same things over and over —“God, be with this person” or “Bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies” — then here’s what you need to do: Start writing out your prayers.
           
“What? You mean I don’t have to say them?” That’s right! Writing them down is a prayer. God can hear it in your thoughts. Just write it down.
           
Is it okay to write out a prayer and then read it? Of course it is. When you’re writing it, you’re praying. When you’re reading it, you’re praying.
           
This is called the spiritual habit of journaling, and it’s one that all Christians should understand and practice.
           
A journal is not a diary. A diary is about the things you did. A journal is about the lessons you learned — the mistakes you made and what God has taught you from those things.

PRAYER: THE BAROMETER OF THEOLOGICAL CONVICTION


The first thing Jesus taught his disciples about prayer was how not to pray. The Lord’s Prayer must be seen not only as a model of what prayer is, but also as a model of what prayer is not. Jesus provided the Lord’s Prayer within the context of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7).

Most commentators have seen in it an exposition of Christian ethics. Sort of setting forth of a "golden rule" for all men to live by. How to live a life that is dedicated to and pleasing to God, free from hypocrisy, full of love and grace, full of wisdom and discernment.

The first thing Jesus taught his disciples about prayer was how not to pray.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Matthew 6:5, 7-8 NIV

The philosopher Roger Scruton who, even before converting to atheism and joining the Church of England, argued that what people truly believe about God is reflected in their worship and prayer.  In other words, what we believe about God is revealed most truly not in what we say about him but in how we approach him—in prayer in worship. It is one thing to hear a person state what he believes, but it's another thing to listen to him pray. pray, so we believe.
        
 We learn a great deal about someone by what they ask others to pray for. Just consider what we learn about the Apostle Paul’s priorities and character from his prayer requests found all throughout Scripture. For instance, in 2 Thessalonians 3:1–5, Paul’s primary prayer was that the gospel advance throughout the world and that the Thessalonians would be deeply impressed with the “love of God” and the “steadfastness of Christ.”

2 Corinthians 3:1-5 NIV Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.  Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.

Clearly, Paul’s primary concerns were eternal matters and the kingdom of God.
        
In short, prayer discloses much about us. It discloses our assumptions and convictions. It discloses our view of God and of ourselves.  It discloses our priorities and our assumptions about God’s priorities. It discloses our doctrines of God, man, sin, redemption, the world, and a host of other theological matters. If we really want to know what a person believes, we should listen to them pray.
                  

THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS FOR PRAYER



Biblical scholars and pastors from almost every Christian denomination or tradition agree on this much: Christians are called to pray. Yet prayer raises a host of theological issues. What are we trying to do in prayer? Are we trying to convince God to do what he otherwise would not be inclined to do? Are we trying to negotiate with God—even to manipulate him? Are we trying to inform God of what he does not know?
        
The primary theological foundation for prayer is the fact that there is one true and living God who has revealed himself to us:
        
 I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let Him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any. (Isa. 44:6–8)

This God has made us in his image (Gen. 1:26–27), thus we have the spiritual and rational capacity to pray.

First, prayer is not a matter of creative self-expression.

Second, prayer is not an act of therapy. We should not seek some sort of curative kickback when we pray.

Third, prayer is not an act of manipulation or persuasion. We are not simply trying to find the right formula or secret code to force God to answer our prayer as we want it to be answered. Nor are we trying to persuade or bargain with God as if he were one of his creations. Prayer is not persuasion. Prayer is about God’s will being done—not our own.

Fourth, prayer is not a news report to the Creator. God knows everything perfectly. This is what Christians mean by saying we worship God as omniscient—he is all-knowing. We must resist the temptation to use prayer as a way of alerting God to what he otherwise does not or would not know. Not only does God know everything—past, present, and future—heaven knows our hearts and minds better than we know ourselves.

Finally, prayer is not an act of bargaining. We have all heard prayers that sound like a negotiation meeting: “Lord, I will work on this sin if you will help me with this blessing. Also, I will try to do this for you, if you promise to do that for me.” This type of prayer reveals huge theological misunderstandings. Prayer does not inform God of what he does not know, nor does it get him to do what he is reluctant to do. Prayer does not change God; it changes us.




Sunday, April 8, 2018

Psalms: A Guide To Prayer And Praise - Session 12 - Psalm 139 - God Knows Us




The Church of Divine Guidance Sunday Morning Adult Bible Study Group studying the book Psalms: A Guide to Prayer and Praise by Ron Klug. The Psalms are some of the most widely read and best-loved portions of the Bible. For thousands of years these songs of faith have spoken to the hearts and minds of people around the world. The Psalms are songs–music our spirits sing to the Creator. They are poems–full of vibrant imagery and strong rhythms. And they are prayers–our deepest emotions expressed to the Lord who feels with us. Most importantly, the Psalms are God’s Word to us, revealing the truth about him and our relationship with him. Study along with us by getting a copy of the book by clicking this LINK or the image of the book at the end of the study notes. 

The thought that Almighty God knows who we are individually is staggering, even scary; we cannot hide from him. However, when we come to know his goodness and love, we don’t want to hide from God. Psalm 139 helps us understand the comforting truth of God’s interest in the details of our lives. As we grow to trust God not only as the judge of all the earth but as the one who cares deeply for us, our response is to become still more intimately acquainted. The result: an increased desire for personal purity and integrity.
     
1. How much do you think God is really involved in our lives—none, some, completely? On what do you base your answer?

You have searched me, Lord , and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord , know it completely.  You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,  even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”  even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.  For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you. - Psalm 139:1-18 NIV

2. In what ways and on what levels does God know us?

He knows us completely. Nothing is hidden from Him. He has always known us and knows everything that we will ever do.

3. How did the psalmist react when he realized how completely God understood him?  How do you react?

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. - Psalm 139:6 NIV

He thought that it was wonderful that God knew and understand him. 

I react with shame sometimes when I realize that God knows what I thinking and when I realize that the thing that I did that I didn't think anyone knew He did.  On the other hand I am very thankful that He does know and understand me yet He still loves and cares for me.

4. David described the all-knowingness (omniscience) of God. What attribute or characteristic of God did he explore in verses 7–12?

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,  even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”  even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. - Psalm 139:7-12 NIV

His omnipresence (the presence of God everywhere at the same time).

5. How do people try to escape from God today? Why do they fail?

By not praying, not being around Christians, not going to church, not reading the Bible.  They fail because God is omniscient and omnipresent.

6. What phases in the development of a child are described in verses 13–16?
Behold the only one greater than you!

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. - Psalm 139:13-16 NIV

From conception through birth.

7. What does verse 16 suggest about our lives? What was the writer’s reaction in verses 17 and 18?

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. - Psalm 139:16 NIV

Verse 16 suggests that everything is already predestined by God.

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you. - Psalm 139:17-18 NIV

The writer reacts with joy that God has already predetermined everything.

As you know there is debate about predestination. While I believe that God knows everything that will ever happen and that His desire for us always good.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

He has given us free will.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord .” - Joshua 24:15 NIV

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” - Genesis 2:16-17 NIV

Here's the scripture that those who believe in predestination use;

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. - Romans 8:28-30 NIV

What I believe is that what is predestined is what will happen to those who choose to obey and those who choose not to obey.

READ PSALM 139:19–24.

If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!  They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.  Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord , and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?  I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.  Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. - Psalm 139:19-24 NIV

8. Why did the writer ask God to destroy these people? How do you react to this idea?

This surprising change of tone and outlook is regarded by some interpreters as a later addition. However, the intensity of conviction apparent in the earlier verses is seen again here. God, who has such minute knowledge of man, cannot overlook flagrant sinners. - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary.

9. To what request did the writer’s logic lead him in verses 23 and 24?

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
- Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

The psalmist closes with the personal plea that God will search, try, know, see, and lead him. His goal is the way everlasting, the way of life and peace, as compared with the way of ruin and destruction for the wicked.

10. Contrast verses 19–22 with Jesus’s words: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). How can these two attitudes be reconciled?

If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!  They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.  Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord , and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?  I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. - Psalm 139:19-22 NIV

This certainly does not sound like loving our enemies and praying for them. He is praying that he not have to be around them or be associated with them.

11. Is there a legitimate hatred of evil? Explain.

Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. - Amos 5:15 NIV

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,  a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,  a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. - Proverbs 6:16-19 NIV

Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. - Psalm 97:10 NIV

“Is it all right to be angry at people who hate God? Yes, but we must remember that it is God who will deal with them, not us. If we truly love God, then we will be deeply hurt if someone hates him. David asked God to search his heart and mind and point out any wrong motives that may have been behind his strong words”

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting - Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

12. Summarize everything you learned about God from this psalm. How can this understanding of God affect your life?


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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Psalms: A Guide To Prayer And Praise - Session 11 - Psalm 73 Does It Pay To Be Good?




The Church of Divine Guidance Sunday Morning Adult Bible Study Group studying the book Psalms: A Guide to Prayer and Praise by Ron Klug. The Psalms are some of the most widely read and best-loved portions of the Bible. For thousands of years these songs of faith have spoken to the hearts and minds of people around the world. The Psalms are songs–music our spirits sing to the Creator. They are poems–full of vibrant imagery and strong rhythms. And they are prayers–our deepest emotions expressed to the Lord who feels with us. Most importantly, the Psalms are God’s Word to us, revealing the truth about him and our relationship with him. Study along with us by getting a copy of the book by clicking this LINK or the image of the book at the end of the study notes. 

This song is written out of the psalmist’s agonizing and bitter search for answers. His question is simple: Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer? If we're honest, most of us have struggled at some point to reconcile God’s sovereignty with what we see happening in the world. But God is bigger than any of our doubts, and we can regain perspective and faith as we draw near to him.
 
 1. Is there any connection between obedience to God’s commands and human success?  Explain.

Today it doesn’t appear that human success has anything to do with obedience to God’s commands.  Human success often depends on knowing the right people, being a child or a family member of a successful family, intelligence, or being in the right place at the right time. Success on this basis can be, although not necessarily, fleeting, because it is based on human beings. It is also limited to this life not eternity. Success based on obedience to God’s commands when achieved is permanent when you achieve what God considers success.

Romans 8:28-30 NIV And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Psalm 73:1-28 NIV Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.  But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.  They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills.  Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.  From their callous hearts comes iniquity ; their evil imaginations have no limits.  They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression.  Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.  Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.  They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?”  This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.  Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.  All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.  If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children.  When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply  till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.  Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.  How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!  They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.  When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,  I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.  Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.  But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

2. What basic conviction about life did the psalmist state in verse 1?

Psalm 73:1 NIV Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
That God is good and blesses those He considers good.  Pure in heart” means being totally committed to God and describes an attitude.

3. What did he observe that caused him to question this conviction (verses 2–5)?

That those who were not committed to God appeared to be being blessed.

Psalm 73:2-5 NIV But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.  They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.  They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills.


4. List the chief characteristics of the wicked in verses 4–14. How do you feel about such people?

  • Proud


Psalms 73:6 ERV So they are proud and hateful. This is as easy to see as the jewels and fancy clothes they wear.


  • Arrogant


Psalms 73:8 ERV They make fun of others and say cruel things about them. In their pride they make plans to hurt people.


  • Callous
  • Evil


Think they know everything.

5. What conclusion did the psalmist draw in verses 13 and 14 when he saw the success and popularity of those who scorned God?

Psalm 73:13-14 NIV Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.  All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.

 That there was no benefit in him being obedient.  Because even though he was trying something else always happened.

Have you ever felt that way?

6. How did the writer come to terms with the paradox that the wicked seem to be better
off  than the pure in heart?

He couldn't come to terms with it from a mental human perspective because it didn’t seem right. In fact it seemed to go against the law that they were told that if they obeyed they would be blessed and if they didn't they would be cursed.

 Deuteronomy 28:1-2 NIV If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

Deuteronomy 28:15 NIV However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:


He only came to terms with it when he began to worship God anyway. He did that because he said if he expressed how he felt he would be a traitor, teaching something that he really didn't believe.

Psalm 73:15 NIV If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children.

 False teachers do that.

When he started worshipping he was able to see more clearly.  When he started worshipping his focus changed from himself to God. 

7. Note the metaphors used to express the precariousness of the wicked person’s life (verses 18–20). What recent examples from our society can you think of that illustrate this?

Psalm 73:18-20 NIV Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.  How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!  They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.

 Slippery ground

In a dream

Fantasies

Psalms 73:18-20 ERV Clearly, you have put them in danger. You make it easy for them to fall and be destroyed.  Trouble can come suddenly, and they will be ruined. Terrible things can happen to them, and they will be finished.  Then they will be like a dream that we forget when we wake up. You will make them disappear like the monsters in our dreams.
Lottery winners

Trust fund kids

One hit wonders


8. As the psalmist looked back on his period of doubt, how did he feel about it?

Psalm 73:21-22 NIV When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,  I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

He felt stupid like a child having a temper tantrum.

9. How are the blessings of those who are near to God different from the “blessings” or advantages of the wicked (verses 23–28)?

The advantages of the wicked are temporary but those near God are eternal.

Psalm 73:23-28 NIV Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.  Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.  But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

 10. Verses 27 and 28 summarize the contrast between those who ignore or rebel against God and those who love and obey him. Paraphrase these two verses in your own words.

Even though I acted like a spoiled brat you still care for and guide me and I will be with you forever.  I don't have anyone but you anyway. All these things that I have been complaining about will someday be gone anyway, but you will be with me forever.  All those who have ignored you will lose everything even your presence forever. I’m going to always worship and praise you and testify to you goodness.

11. One commentator has titled this psalm “The Great Nevertheless.” Why is this an appropriate title?

Benson Commentary
Psalm 73:23. Nevertheless — Notwithstanding all my temptations, and my gross folly in yielding to them; I am continually with thee — In thy favour and under thy care. Although I gave thee just cause to cast me off, yet thou didst continue thy gracious presence with me, and kindness to me. Thou hast holden me by thy right hand — Hast upheld me, that my faith might not fail, and I might not be overthrown by this, or any other temptation. “The remainder of the Psalm contains the most dutiful and affectionate expressions of a mind perfectly at ease, and reposing itself with comfortable assurance on the loving-kindness of the Lord, of which it had thus experienced a fresh instance in its support under the late temptation, and complete victory over it.” — Horne.

12. Psalm 73 shows the writer working through his religious doubts and questions. What can you learn from this psalm about how to handle doubt and bitterness?


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