Psalm 16 is richer than a seven course meal.
We will begin with the focus on “Life Together,” the GREAT GIFT we have in Christian fellowship.
This is a unique gift, and this psalm and Bonhoeffer will help us approach it wisely.
Then we will close our meal with a brief but glorious Easter sermon that focuses on the close of this psalm, and the triumphant truth of the resurrection of Christ and what that means for us. Remember what C. S. Lewis shouted across the train station to a parting friend?
REMEMBER! CHRISTIANS NEVER SAY GOOD-BYE!
Indeed, as Christ was raised, so will we be, and we will be together forever. So let us learn how to love one another well now.
But let us begin with life together on earth.
Our Lord delights in us, and as we delight in one another,
keeping the Lord always before us,
the flame spreads.
We have something no other fellowship can have. We have the living Spirit of God who comes to us like a flame, igniting our fellowship. We experience that here on this blog — one is quickened by the Spirit and that flame spreads to another, until we are all warmed by the fire.
I want to tell you this week the story of something that happened this year, when God met the need of one of our own, and that flame warmed another, in hopes you all will be warmed by the fire. We belong to a God who is real, who delights in us, and delights in surprising us. I want to tell you two stories involving some of our own that I hope will spread the flame in your own heart giving you confidence that:
- He exists
- He cares about our fellowship
- He delights in surprising us with encounters!
Both of the stories I’m going to tell you involve our own Jill. Her transformation began when Julie, who lives in the city in Nebraska where I lived for twenty-five years, sent her Idol lies. I want you to meet Julie first, through this video, which was done for Idol Lies. My daughter Anne is the first woman, and Julie is a bit later in the yellow sweater:
Julie was impacted by Idol Lies, and thought about her friend Jill (our Jill!) who lives across the country. They have maintained a friendship for many years. Julie had prayed for Jill, being concerned with the bitterness and depression she saw growing in Jill’s life. This weekend, I am back speaking in my hometown — and went over to meet Jill at Julie’s house. I asked Jill to share a testimony at the retreat which she did wonderfully! She did a FANTASTIC job, so anointed by God. I loved meeting her, having her in my small group, and thanking God again for the depth of women on this blog. It was also so fun to have her meet our own Joyce. (I wish you all could meet Joyce — this woman who is so filled with Christ.) Kim, who used to be on the blog, was there too — having decorated for the retreat amazingly. Sweet fellowship.
How God loves to bless us through our friendships. I have Jill’s written testimony on how Idol Lies impacted her, which you will read this week. But that is not the end of this amazing story! When Jill came on the blog, so did so many others, so I asked a handful of women who have been with us a long time to welcome and mentor the newcomers so they didn’t fall through the cracks. (I don’t always do this — but sometimes I’m on the ball.) Elizabeth was randomly put with Jill. When Elizabeth asked Jill how she happened to come on the blog, Jill told her that Hope’s story in Idol Lies has changed her life. Elizabeth was stunned, for unbeknownst to Jill, Elizabeth is Hope, having used a pseudonym in Idol Lies. This so encouraged Elizabeth, for she knew God was behind bringing them together. (Indeed, He delights, this psalm tells us, in His saints who are in the land.) Then Jill and Elizabeth discovered they lived not too far from one another and shared the same birthday. So they met in person, rejoicing in our amazing gift of Christian fellowship — unlike any other bond. If we keep the Lord always before this, as is the theme of this psalm, we can rejoice when God gives us a new friend, adding to the old. We can also rejoice when He gives our friend a new friend, for He is our solid rock. A huge part of keeping life together healthy is keeping the Lord in the midst of our fellowship so that we help one another cling to Him, and not to one another. This is God’s plan, for as the old hymn says, “I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name.”
In Life Together, Bonhoeffer writes:
He who looks on his brother should know that he will be eternally united with him through Jesus Christ.
We enter into that common life not as demanders but as grateful recipients.
The more meagerly our brotherly love, the less we are living by God’s mercy and love….The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything between us recede, the more clearly will Jesus Christ and His Word become the only thing that is vital between us.
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. As you are journeying in this Christian life, what is one important thing (though certainly not the only thing) you have learned about life together?
SONGS FOR THE WEEK
Our own Staci, who lives across the ocean from most of us, suggested this wonderful song for this week — it is perfect. Staci herself is welcoming a dear friend, Stephanie, for a visit, telling me she is getting fresh flowers for the guest room. Friendship is such a gift and we must treasure our friends, yet also hold them loosely — for they cannot be our rock. How can we possibly do that? By believing the Lord is the friend closer than a brother, and that He goes before us, is all around us — here is Staci’s song:
Here are some others to take you through the week:
Blest Be The Tie That Binds by Sara Groves
(This is a relatively unknown Charles Wesley Hymn inspired by Psalm 16)
Monday-Wednesday Bible Study, Including Jill’s Story
3. Read Psalm 16:1-7
A. Often the summary of the psalm is in the opening of the psalm. How would you summarize verses 1 and 2?
B. Hear the voice of Christ first in this psalm, as Bonhoeffer as helped us do. In whom does He delight according to verse 3?
C. Now this must be our prayer as well — do you delight in the saints of the land? Do you cherish Christian fellowship? Thank God for it and then pray
for ways He shows you that you could better delight in the saints of the land.
D. What do we learn happens when we run after idols according to verse 4? Often a gift is so good, we turn it into a god and then it cuts us to pieces.
Give an example from your life.
E. In contrast, when you make God your God, what happens according to verses 5 and 6?
Derek Kidner points out that the priests were not given a portion of land — that was so they would make the Lord their only inheritance. It is so easy to cling to His gifts — children, friends, houses, and lands. When we turn gifts into gods, our sorrows increase. But when we release them, when we make the Lord our inheritance, the boundary lines fall in pleasant places. I asked Jill to tell the back story behind why “Hope’s” story meant so much to her. Here is Jill’s story — see how her sorrows increased as she ran after her idols, and how the God who delighted in her used Christian fellowship and those sorrows as catalysts to bring Jill back to Him, to make Him her refuge, to set Him always before her. Here is her practice video followed by her written testimony:
I was in a bad place. My husband and I had walked through a very difficult chapter in our marriage and then God called him to join the Army as a bandsman. Of the following 23 months only 10 would be spent geographically together due to trainings and deployment. Through all this my idols demanded a severe price: my joy. I just did not have any. I was angry, especially at my kids. It grieves me to admit but eventually my 2 boys would smile at me and I would feel nothing. I yelled…a lot. I read book after book on how to be a better mom, but none of it changed my heart or made a difference. I felt helpless to change me and I was right. 1 Peter 1:7 – “These [trials] have come so that your faith … may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” In September of 2013 I started to (finally) read Idol Lies, recommended by a friend in Nebraska. The stories were helpful, the concepts solid but none of it truly permeated, until Hope’s story. I was intrigued by Hope from the get go and impressed by her willingness to give up a dream but it was the quote on p 134 articulating her fears over adoption that stopped my life cold in its tracks. I will never forget the day, as I read Hope’s fear that an adopted child would not love her God lifted my veil of ignorance. I felt the same crossroads that Oswald Chambers spoke of as Hope did. I saw that I had no joy in my children because I desired to control them, their life, their salvation, their love and every disobedience, every naughty inclination (normal for growing boys!) was literally the weight of their entire life (my investment) on my heart. My idol screamed at me “They don’t love you or they wouldn’t (fill in blank)!” “They will never become men of God if this is how they act!” “Your kids are terrible” “This isn’t what was supposed to happen!” “YOUR LIFE IS TERRIBLE!” Etc, etc. In that moment, I saw black and white – I thought my life was broken, my kids broken, but really it was me who was broken. I sat on my couch with Hope’s story in front of me, God lifted my blindness, and I wept, repented and turned towards Him. From that day forward I have been fundamentally different, from the inside out. I have that first love feeling for Christ that I never had prior to seeing my idols (even though I had accepted Christ at the ripe age of 6) and that love spills onto my boys. After a life in church, I had yet to understand true relationship with Christ. That day, I finally allowed Christ into my very core, giving up the idols that had resided there. My understanding of Christianity and Christ is completely different now. Now when my boys disobey or think of (very) creative naughty activities I do not have the entire weight of their lives on my heart, I merely have a behavior to manage and an opportunity to train/teach. I hardly yell anymore. When they smile at me, I will time to slow down to relish every moment of it and smile back with sincerity! Their lives are a gifted experience, not a threat. My love from Christ is secure. My worth in Christ is secure. I do not hear my idols screaming anymore. I know I will still struggle, we all do, but my joy runneth over. The rest of Hope’s story just drove home what the Lord was showing me. I, too, struggled with my relationship with my father. I, too, severely stonewalled those who disappointed and hurt me. I, too, struggled with grace, especially towards my children. I, too, struggled with having the perfect Christian family. Even her response to her husband being gone a lot (p 139) was something the Lord wanted to show me. It was as if God showed Hope all I needed just so she could show me. And I am (truly) forever grateful! Praise be to God and thank you, “Hope.”
4. What stood out to you from Jill’s story and why?
5. Read Psalm 16:5-11
A. The theme of this psalm is repeated in verses 5-6. What is it?
B. What blessing, according to verse 7, comes to those who set the Lord first before them?
C. What other blessing comes, according to verse 8?
D. What promise is given in verses 9-10? Who do you think this is talking about and why?
E. What other promises are in verse 11? Have you tasted this?
The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them,and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what wereally desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols,breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Listen to this message by Hugh Palmer and share your notes: LINK
6. What are your notes from the sermon?
7. What is your take-a-way and why?