3-22-20 Xtreme: Faithfulness

kthomasCommunity Study

Overarching theme: In 2020, FUMC will be a Go church!

Instructions:
When using this material as teacher, feel free to pick and choose the point you want to emphasis in the lesson. The format of the curriculum is designed to have an abundance of information in which to refer as desired.

Core Point:
The past is the past. There is nothing that can be done about it. The past can only be used to gain wisdom for the future. What can change is the future. When we, as God’s people, are willing to follow God in our daily lives, God will make a good way in the future. The way may be bumpy at times and have curves, but the process will be filled with God’s love and grace.

Start point:
Lent 2020, the period of 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays), began on Ash Wednesday, February 26, and ends at sundown on the Saturday, April 11, before Easter. The penitential season of Lent is a season of the church year which commemorates the forty days Jesus fasted and prayed in the wilderness before he began his public ministry.

During Lent, we enter into a season of preparation, which includes self-reflection and repentance. Ideally, we seek to literally “turn around” and realign our lives and focus towards God. Most people think of Lent as a time to give up things, however, it can be a time to take on new life-giving practices. Lent helps rid ourselves of distractions and our own selfish desires to focus more clearly on God. For example, a person may give up sweets for 40 days and when the temptation to eat a sweet hits, that person instead prays to God for strength.

Practically speaking, Lent is a good way to form a new habit that helps an individual to live and love as more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. I use to hear that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Actually, for me, it took longer. Only you know how long it takes you to form a new habit. So, the intentional practice of incorporating a new Godly habit during Lent allows time for that habit to become a part of your life.

During the Sundays of Lent, we will focus on the following practices: Compassion, Prayer, Simplicity, Faithfulness, Servanthood, and Discipleship.

Psalms:
The book of Psalms, also called Psalter, came from the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament. In many Psalms, reference is made to stringed instruments (such as harp, lyre and lute) with songs sung with their accompaniment. The traditional Hebrew title is tehillim, which means praises. Many of the Psalms are prayers. The book of Psalms was compiled over a number of centuries starting with the era of Kind David. “It was put into its final form by postexilic temple personnel, who completed it probably in the third century B.C. As such, it has often been called the prayer book of the ”second” (Zerubbabel’s and Herod’s) temple and was used in the synagogues as well – (https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-psalms/).” The Psalms read like various forms of literature with a pattern and flow. Many end with words that uphold the King while starting with praising God. The words in each Psalm can represent the true feelings and ideas of both an individual and a people group. The book of Psalms is a very emotional and visceral collection of writings.

Reflect on this Scripture:
Psalm 46 (NRSV),
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
8 Come, behold the works of the LORD;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Questions to ponder about the passages:
What jumps out at you from this passage?
What do the word pictures, or imagery, in this Psalm represent?
What do you think the general state of the culture was at the time written?
How is God described?
What will God do?
What are we to do?

Commentary:
During this fourth week of Lent, we are going to focus on faithfulness. In Psalm 46, we can conclude that the focus is on God being our refuge and strength in times of difficulty. We may be able to surmise that at the time the writing of this Psalm, there were struggles between God’s people and other nations and cultures. During times of struggle, each generation of the Israelites would look back and encourage one another with the stories of how God had worked to deliver and uphold the people. The stories would highlight the faithfulness of God. Fundamentally, God was experienced as a refuge and protector in times of profound struggle. Through the stories, God’s people were encouraged to call out to God for help and strength during difficulty, believing God would help, as in the past. This particular Psalm appears to have been used as a hymn with three sections. Each section ends with the word Selah. Selah can be used as an exclamation, or mean “forever.” Section one, seems to give testimony to God’s care in the face of natural events. Section two, seems to give testimony to God’s protection of the city of Zion, which represents God’s presence with the people of God. Section three, seems to give testimony to God’s sovereignty over all creation and the world. Ultimately, God is in control and will care for God’s people even though the world is in struggle and chaos. God and God’s people will win in the end. So, the message we can get from this Psalm is that we are to call out and look up to God for our help and strength. We respond to God’s faithfulness to us with our faithfulness to God.

Questions to Ponder for accountability in the group:
How does Psalm 46 make you feel as you read it?
What is the message you get from this Psalm?
How does this strengthen your view of God?
How will you respond to this message in your daily activity?
How can you demonstrate that God is your refuge and strength?
What does it look like to be faithful to God?
What holds you back from being faithful to God?

Activity for the life of a disciple:

1.Remember to find encouragement for the day by reading the daily devotional from FUMC.

2.Ponder and pray on this scripture this week:
Psalm 46:1, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Who can you help to feel the presence of God in times of trouble?