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10 WAYS TO REACH YOUR NEIGHBOR
Pastor Duane Smets

1. Begin Praying for Them
The first thing we can do, before even spending time with someone is pray for them. Ask God for great relationships and to provide opportunities to share God's good news.

2. Welcome in New Neighbors
Your most immediate sphere of influence, except for your family, is your physical neighbor (or maybe a coworker). If you haven't already, go introduce yourself and learn a little bit about them. If you have a new neighbor, now is a great time to start!

3. Make a Connection & Introduce Yourself
Let's not just be one-time neighbors. Continue to visit with your neighbor. Chat with them when taking out the trash or mowing the lawn. The more initial connections you can make, the better. Let them get to know you too!

4. Help or Ask for Help with House Projects
We all have "honey-do" lists or projects to do around the house, right? Often times these require a second set of hands. Invite your neighbors over to see if they are able to help with one of these projects, or, offer your time to them. You might not need a cup of sugar but you may need a power tool.

5. Invite Them Over for a Meal
Invite your neighbor, and their family if they have one, over for dinner sometime. Everyone eats, so why not do it together! Try to consider beforehand a few things you'd like to know about them that you don't already and ask them what they like to eat.

6. Do Something Fun Together in the City
We live in San Diego, so, I mean, come on! There are always things going on in our city around us! Go to the beach, a new restaurant, coffee shop or bar, Balboa Park. The possibilities are endless so go do something fun.

7. Capitalize on Holidays & Party
Make holidays count. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Labor Day, 4th of July, etc. Rather than closing our doors for family-only holidays, welcome your neighbors to your home and celebrate! Throw a block party and barbecue! You never know the special ways people may feel loved and welcomed by an invite to such a party.

8. Offer Prayer When Life Strikes
Sooner or later, life strikes. Sickness, death, marital problems, financial issues, and other pressures weigh down on our souls. As you develop relationships with your neighbors, be available as an ear to listen and offer to pray for them. You'll be surprised how often most people are willing to be prayed for if you just ask. Pray intentionally, friends, and feel free to let them know you've been praying for them since step one.

9. Invite Them to a Church Activity
Inviting your neighbor to a church activity (be it a Community Group, Sunday service, or other event) is a great way to offer invitation into the broader Christian community, providing more opportunities to share the gospel while showing your neighbor that, like you, other Christians are cool too.

10. Be Ready to Share: Your Story and The Jesus Story
As you cultivate your neighborly relationship, pray to discern an opportunity to share your story and the Jesus story and pull the trigger. Now, I realize that most people perceive this to be the most difficult item on this list but this is the one way that people come to believe in the Good News of Jesus: by hearing the story of His life, death, and resurrection for our sins. If Jesus did that for you, you can boldly share your story and the Jesus story.

 

 

 

Reading tips for the Psalms:
Pay attention to the whole of a psalm, not just to the parts of a psalm.

Read the psalms consistently, rather than occasionally and sporadically.

Pay attention to the internal coherence of a psalm or a section of psalms, rather than allowing them to remain fragmented parts, reflective of our immediate and self-absorbed interest.

Read the psalms out loud, not just silently.

Read and sing and pray the psalms together, not just alone.

Pay attention the Psalter’s “hospitable ‘I’” and its “intimate communal” sense, rather than allowing the individual expressions to devolve to individualism and the communal expressions to devolve to an impersonal communalism.

Immerse yourself in the metaphors that the psalmist employs, rather than remaining distant and detached from them.

Pay attention to the placement and role of the psalms in the biblical canon, rather than viewing them as isolated and idiosyncratic.

 

These suggestions were written by David Taylor of Fuller Theological Seminary.

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YOUR STAFF
SERMON DISCUSSION | PS 23:4f
Gabe Hagstrom

View the sermon here.

Last week we talked about the Rod which naturally leads us this week to talk about The Staff. Duane described the staff as “the piece of equipment that identifies one as a shepherd…It’s very personal…It’s always with him.”

When you think about your occupation, what one piece of equipment would identify you and your colleagues? Your job’s version of the staff?

Psalm 23:1-4
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 

While “the rod” was designed and used for protection, discipline and authority. Shepherd most often turn to the staff when they are looking to guide, comfort and even rescue. From the passage Duane had three main ideas:

I.   A Staff to See
II.  A Staff that Seeks
III. A Staff which Saves

A Staff to See
Shepherds will usually teach the sheep to look for his staff, and to closely follow it. The staff is tall making it easier to see over the other sheep even from far away. Although if a sheep does wander too far from the group, it can lose sight of the staff.

We don’t have a physical staff that we have to keep an eye on…because we’re not literally sheep. Instead we have something else that was lifted up for us.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:14-15 

Duane pointed to Hebrews 12:1-2 encouraging us us to “look to Jesus”, and Colossians 3:1-2 where we’re instructed to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

How can you daily look to Jesus, like that tall staff to make sure you haven’t wandered?

The staff often guides, comforts, rescues, and corrects sheep.

When you think of time looking to Jesus, which of those 4 things do you feel Him doing for you?

Because all those sheep are trying to follow one staff, their best bet is to stay close to the Shepherd and the rest of the sheep in a group. Duane pointed to this idea as community. Sheep staying close to other sheep so they don’t lose sight of the staff for too long.

How are you helping others your community keep their eyes on Jesus?

It’s also possible to be in the midst of sheep, just following other sheep without ever looking up, instead focusing on something else. Something of this earth.

Is there something down here that is bothering you? Something you can’t stop looking at long enough to once again focus on Jesus?

A Staff that Seeks
Sheep go astray. In Isaiah 53:6 it’s their primary characteristic. They get lost. The staff is often used by the Shepherd to bring sheep back into the fold

What do you think it means to be “lost”?

Have you admitted your “lost-ness”? That you may not have Jesus at the center of your life?

The staff is also used to rescue. the entire Bible lays out God’s love for us as He rescues us. One of God’s favorite ways to rescue the lost is through his people. In Matthew 28:19 before returning to heaven he gave us one thing to do in his absence: “To go make disciples of all peoples.” To go find lost sheep.

What keeps you from seeking to turn the lost sheep in your life towards the gospel?

What relationship(s) can we encourage you in where you’re sharing the gospel?

If you don’t have any, where might you start to form some so you can follow Jesus commission to us?

A Staff which Saves
The staff is tall so we don’t get lost, and guides us in case we wander, in spite of all that we will sometimes leave the flock and wander into danger. The staff can be used by the Shepherd to go and find the sheep, break them out of and bramble and thorns and save them and then later comfort them while they remove the remnants of thorny bush.

Why do think The Shepherd bothers to go find a single sheep that got itself lost and caught?

Duane tied the John 3:14-15 story back to a story in the old testament, of Moses and the Israelites. They were all getting sick and dying, and God told Moses to lift up a staff with a bronze serpent on it, and if the people believed God and looked at the staff, they were healed.

It was an foreshadowing of Jesus lifted up, and saving us. We believe, look to Him and are saved. It’s the simple, very good news.

Do you find yourself in danger, wandered off from the group? Share how we can pray and encourage you back to Jesus and his love and care.

Pray for One Another

 

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LOOKING FORWARD
SERMON DISCUSSION | Ephesians 4:11-16
You can view the sermon here.

Get Talking
Find out how people’s weeks have been. What are some highs? What are some lows?

Dennis discussed The Resolved Church’s vision statement for this year which is that we would become a healthy, mature, and great church. How do you think we are doing as a church in pursuit of this vision? How are you doing personally in pursuit of this vision?

What do you think a healthy, mature, and great church would look like?

Sermon Discussion
Dennis spent a significant amount of time laying the foundation of understanding what spiritual maturity (SM) is. What do you think about when you hear the words “spiritual maturity”?

We were given a definition of SM: Partnering with the Holy Spirit of God, through the Word of God, in the context of authentic community, for the purpose of glorifying God.

Dennis gave 3 biblical facts about SM:
• SM is primarily not performance based, it is relationship based.
• SM is not entirely a personal issue.
• SM isn’t always a matter of knowledge. It’s a matter of doing, not just knowing.

Do any of those ideas challenge or contradict your understanding of SM? Why?

I. Pastoral: Support Your Local Pastor
It is the pastors’ job to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. God always starts with the leadership, and works through them to give us what we need to serve and live for God.

When you think of your pastors, what do you think their responsibility is? What do you, or have you, expected from your pastors?

Has a pastor ever failed to meet your expectations? Why?

How do you think the church, in general, views the role of a pastor?

Take some time to discuss the group’s expectations about church leadership. Examine it through a biblical lens, and take time establishing a solid foundation before moving on.

Pastors are human, too, just like us. They struggle with the same things we do, yet they bear a burden of responsibility for our souls that most people do not understand or comprehend.

Take some time tonight, maybe even now, and pray for the elders/leaders of the church. Here are some practical suggestions from Dennis:
• Pray for their wisdom
Pray for their spiritual and sexual purity
Pray for a healthy balance between life and work
Pray for their wives who often go unthanked and are overlooked in their support.
Refuse to listen to gossip. Pray for discernment in conversations about leaders/elders.

II. Personal: Look Beneath the Surface
We need to personally grow up and mature in our walk with Christ. We are called to become more and more like Him, and reflect His character and life in ours.
Dennis proposed that emotional and spiritual health/maturity are inseparable.

What are some ways that emotional and spiritual health are linked? How have you seen the two interact and effect one another in your own life or in the life of someone you know?

When we become Christians, God does not automatically remove all the emotional baggage from our past. Read 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. Our transformation into maturity is a process, and it is progressive.

How could God use the emotional baggage (hurts, pains, disappointments, etc.) of your past to bring about present maturity?

Discuss some positive and negative ways our emotional makeup can effect our progress in maturity.

Read the following verses: John 5:5, Luke 4:18, Psalm 23:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
These verses discuss God’s divine restoration and healing of our bodies and souls. Dennis said healing means “wholeness” in the Scriptures. In your mind, what would it look like for a part of your soul that you consider broken, injured, or ill to be made whole and healed?

Take some time to discuss specific instances of spiritual healing that has occurred with members of your group. Ask a few people to share an experience of spiritual healing, and what the process for that healing looked like.

III. People: Commitment to Community
Community (and specifically Community Groups at The Resolved) is where we can experience profound transformation and maturity both personally and corporately.

Have you seen any growth in your life that has come from being a part of a Community Group?

SM is developed and demonstrated in community because life was meant to be shared with others.

What does it look like to share life? What does living life in community teach us? How can sharing life transform us and mature us?

It’s impossible to have an open and transparent life with everyone you meet, including in church. The deepest, realest parts of our lives are meant to be shared with a few trustworthy people.

RHETORICAL QUESTION: Who are the people in your life who fit into this category? Do you need to pursue this type of relationship with someone? Think about it.

Pray Together
If you haven’t already done so, pray for the leadership in the church, including your community group leader.

Pray for God’s grace to desire an ever-growing personal spiritual maturity (Christ-likeness!), and pray for trust in God to allow Him to do His transforming work in your life.

Pray for your community group, and for God to bring about real, discernible transformation through it.

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YOUR ROD
SERMON DISCUSSION | PS 23:4e
Pastor Ryan Buss

I. The Rod of a King
The rod has historically represented authority and leadership. Throughout the Bible the rod is also used as a symbol of leadership and authority of God. For sheep, the rod becomes something they attach to as the symbol of the leadership of the shepherd.

What are some symbols in our American culture of the authority and leadership of various leaders?

Pastors are the visible leaders God has given His people. We know we need and want to be led, but at the same time we don’t want to be led. There is something in us that makes us not want to listen to our leaders.

Have you ever felt like that before? What was that like?

Read Hebrews 13:17-18. What does this say about the relationship between church leaders and the congregation? What do you need to grow in?

Be leadable. What are some of the ways that we can be leadable in the church?

II. The Rod of a Friend
The rod had a large end and a thinner end. The shepherd would use the thinner end of the rod to inspect the sheep for deadly and infectious skin diseases. This is a metaphor for us to get down deep into our lives and really inspect what is going on.

Biblical, godly rebuke is the inspection from a friend to bring healing and love. Have you ever experienced good godly rebuke? What was that like? What did you learn about God in that experience? Why does loving, godly rebuke make a person a better friend?

Read Galatians 6:1-2. What does this say about rebuke in the context of the church community?

Have you ever experienced bad rebuke? What was that like? What did you learn from that experience?

Normally the sin that we see in people has a much deeper root issue. We need to learn how to dig deep and draw people out that we might know what the source of the issue is and help bring the healing of the gospel to that issue.

What are some ways that you can draw people out? What is to be our attitude as we seek to do this?

III. The Rod of a Father
Receiving rebuke as s gift of God is the main idea of this point. Rebuke can also be seen as one of the ways that God disciplines us, His children.

Pastor Duane spend some time focusing on the family structure, and the place that discipline has with children. Father’s are the appointed head of the home and the one whom God calls to exercise discipline and instruction with his family. He sets the pace for the family spiritually. It is important for fathers to instruct their children in the Lord and to correct them.

Fathers
How are you doing in spiritually leading your family? How are you doing in instructing and correcting your children? What are some ways that you have found to be helpful as you try to lead in this way? What is the greatest challenge you are experiencing as a father right now?

What were you challenged by in Pastor Duane’s preaching about correction?

Hebrews 12:5-11 is a great passage for looking at the discipline of God with His children. What do we see about God and His discipline with us, His children?

How do we experience God’s instruction and correction in our lives?

What is the difference between punishment and discipline? Why is this distinction important as we seek to understand our relationship with God the Father?

IV. Pray for one another!

 


PASTORAL THOUGHTS ON SPANKING
Pastor Duane Smets

In Tedd Tripp's book Shepherding A Child's Heart he takes a whole chapter to address spanking titled, "Embracing Biblical Methods: The Rod." In the chapter he walks through six different things:

1. The Rational Behind the Rod - "In their natural state...children have hearts of folly. Therefore they resist correction. God has ordained the rod of discipline for this condition...The child not submitting to parental authority is acting foolishly. He is rejecting the jurisdiction of God. He is living his life for the immediate gratification of his ants and desires...Ultimately, to refuse God's rule means to choos his own rule that leads to death. It is the height of foolishness. The rod of correction brings wisdom to the child. It provides an immediate tactile demonstration of the foolishness of rebellion."

2. What is the Rod? - "The rod is a parent, in faith toward God and fait fulness toward his or her children, undertaking the responsibility of careful, timely, measured, and controlled use of physical punishment to underscore the importance of obeying God, thus rescuing the children from continuing in his foolishness until death." Tripp spends time looking at it as: A Parental Exercise, An Act of Faith, An Act of Faithfulness, A Responsibility, A Physical Punishment and A Rescue Mission.

3. Distortions of the Rod - "Since the rod is an idea that has fallen on hard times in our culture, we need to clear our minds of some of the distorted conceptions of the rod. I do not want you to think I am advocating one of the popular misconceptions of the rod. Here are some things the rod is not: Not the Right to Unbridled Temper, Not the Right to Hit Our Children Whenever We Wish, Not Venting of Frustration, Not Retribution, Not Associated with Vindictive Anger."

4. Common Objections to the Rod - In this part of the chapter Tripp responds to these criticisms slowly walking through a discussion of each of them: I Love My Children Too Much To Spank Them, I'm Afraid I Will Hurt Them, I'm Afraid It Will Make Him Rebellious and Angry, I'm Afraid of Teaching Them to Hit, It Doesn't Work, I'm Afraid of Being Arrested for Child Abuse.

5. The Fruit of the Rod - Tripp offers eight fruits. (1) Teaches outcomes to behavior. (2) Shows God's authority over mom and dad. (3) Trains a child to be under authority. (4) Demonstrates parental love and commitment. (5) Yields a harvest of peace and righteousness. (6) Teach self-control and respect. (7) Returns the child to a place of blessing. (8) Promotes an atmosphere of closeness and openness between parent and child.

6. The Best of Both - "If you focus exclusively on either the rod or communication, you will be like a ship with all the cargo loaded on one side. You won't sail very well. Communication and the rod are not stand alone methods. They are designed to work together...Authoritarian parents tend to lack kindness. Permissive parents tend to lack firmness. Assess which distortion of biblical training you tend toward. Strive for greater balance."

I'd encourage all parents to get a copy of Shepherding A Child's Heart (available online or at our church bookstore) as one of the best and most helpful books on Gospel Centered parenting. In the above video you can watch and listen to Pastor Tedd Tripp talk about The Rod and what he has written about it in his book.

I also preached a sermon called "The Biblical Call of Covenant: God Expects Parents to Give God to Their Children" that you can find online here.

We also have a blog full of more parenting resources for you here.

May God help His parents to point to His glory by disciplining their children in the way He knows is going to be best for them.

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OUR PERMEABLE SOULS
Rich Plass & Jim Cofield

It is virtually impossible to overstate the significance of our learned relational attachment system in the early years and its profound influence on our relational experience as adults. The quality and character of the programming we received early in life establishes a pattern of attachment that controls our relationships later in life.

We are able to attach to others because our souls are relational and permeable. God designed us to absorb the presence of others, especially when we are young. Two primitive instincts are in service of the infant’s attachment design. First is the sucking instinct. It fosters a bond with the mother whereby the child absorbs both the physical and emotional needs of the young soul. Second is the instinctual search for the gaze of another’s eyes. Looking for and locking on to the eyes of another also fosters a bond. These instincts build the neural network that compels the infant’s connection with others.

The attachment system is so significant and comprehensive that it literally organizes and influences the development of other critical neurological systems in the body. Our feelings, will and memory come under its domain in the first months of life. When our cognition comes online later, it will also be under the influence of our attachment system. In other words, the attachment network compels us to connect with others, and it eventually controls how we connect with others.

No child is consciously aware of what is being encoded in implicit memory or even that anything is being encoded. So how does the encoding happen? How does a child learn an attachment pattern so early and so thoroughly? The answer is a fascinating piece of our relational design. We are created with mirror neurons that make it possible to know the emotions of another person.

By means of mirror neurons an infant is able to borrow the emotions of the caregiver. A baby “literally uses the mature functions of the parent’s brain to help organize and regulate his or her own functioning.” Humans learn an attachment pattern early because of our capacity to mimic the emotions of another. The basic outline or structure of our emotional blueprint is forged in the early months of our connecting because we borrow the emotional state of those who are nurturing us. How does this work?

Think of a mother calming her distraught infant. She instinctively knows her soothing emotions have the best chance of helping her child. This is because emotions breed similar emotions. Comfort breeds comfort. Conversely, anxiety breeds anxiety. The infant’s neurological wiring attunes the infant to the emotions of the caregiver. The state of being of the caregiver shapes and forms the state of being of the one being cared for. “We pass down our brain circuitry to our children through our emotional communication.”

Mimicry is possible because of neurological wiring. But there is another factor that is even more mysterious: the permeability of the brain. Permeability is the quality that makes us open and vulnerable to the influence of others, especially when we are young. By God’s design, infants cannot help but absorb the presence of others. Permeability is what makes our borrowing possible. We are designed by God to be influenced by others.

From our first day on earth relationships are critically important in shaping who we will become. We are designed for relationships. And we are also profoundly designed by relationships. We are not static, impenetrable beings. We are embodied souls, and our souls are permeable 24/ 7, especially as children. No wonder that Scripture uses the metaphor of “sons and daughters of God.” The safety and significance we find in our new family of faith has a profound impact on our souls.

 

This is an excerpt from The Relational Soul by Rich Plass and Jim Cofield.

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PARENTING RESOURCES
Pastor Duane Smets 

Family is a big deal to God.  God himself is the great and perfect father who handles a lot of responsibility in ruling over and caring for all of his creation. God has a son named Jesus whom he has forever been in healthy and happy relationship with.

God sacrificially gives away his son Jesus to come to earth where he lives and dies in order to save God's wayward human children. God then allows these wayward children to be adopted into the holy family through belief in the person and work of his son.

Family is definitely a big deal to God. In many ways you might even be able to say the whole story of the Bible is about the story of God's family.

For those who have experienced the pain of broken or lost relationships in their family, knowing God's so big on family can have one of two effects. It can either create great difficulty since family is a sore subject and the result is a person distances themselves from God. Or it can create great hope and healing since we are designed for family and can experience redemption and grace by belonging to God's special family through his son Jesus.

Not surprisingly, the Bible also has a lot of practical instruction on family. For many who are new to family or come from a family who did not know or exhibit the loving principles of God's family the Bible is a great aid and resource to turn to for instructions on how to do family well. Below is a list of resources (books, articles, sermons & key Bible passages to study) I highly recommend for learning about family from God's perspective as he has revealed in the Bible.

Books
Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent & Barbara Hughes
Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick
God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding The Biblical Foundation by Andreas J. Kostenberger
Parenting By God's Promises by Joel Beeke
Shepherding A Child's Heart by Paul David Tripp
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Articles
How I Pastor My Family by Justin Hyde
Fathers Who Father Their Family by Duane Smets
Six Ways Fathers Pursue Christ In Their Fatherhood by Scott Thomas
On Being A Wife and A Mother by Tracy Martin
The Gospel, Grace & Our Kids by Amy Smets
Parents Require Obedience by John Piper

Video
How Spanking Can Be Both Biblical and Unbiblical with Paul David Tripp

Miscellaneous
Adoption Resources by Duane Smets
Children's Catechism by Duane Smets
Marriage Resources by Duane Smets
God, You & Our Kids by Duane Smets

Key Bible Verses
• Genesis 1:28 "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth."

• Deuteronomy 6:4-9 "The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

• Joshua 24:15 "Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served...But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

• Psalm 96:7 "Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!"

• Proverbs 1:8 "Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching."

• Proverbs 15:20 "A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish man despises his mother."

• Proverbs 29:15 "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother."

• Malachi 4:6 "And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers."

• Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

• Romans 8:14-17 "All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."

• Hebrews 12:5-11 "Have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? 'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.' It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

• 1 John 2:9-14 "Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." 

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YOU ARE WITH ME
SERMON DISCUSSION | PS 23:4
Gabe Hagstrom

You can view this sermon here.

There’s over 6 billion people on this planet, you would have to go pretty far out of your way to be truly alone, and yet here we are as a people, struggling with loneliness.

Do you think loneliness in our culture is getting better? worse? always the same?

What do you do to try and assuage your loneliness?

David was a shepherd who actually did spend extended stretches without seeing another human. This week we learned his secret, to not getting lonely, even in the worst of times – just develop a relationship with the God who is everywhere, all the time forever.

Lets read the passage:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Psalm 23:1-4

“You are with me”. Duane made the point that right here in verse 4 is the first time David addresses God directly. He acknowledges and appreciates His presence. Duane had some other points about that presence and broke them down into three points:

A Promised Presence
A Perceivable Presence
A Permanent Presence

A PROMISED PRESENCE
We are built for relationship. We see in Genesis 3:9 that we had it! And lost it. That relationship we lost with God is something that was immediately promised to be restored to believers. We’re promised in Ezekiel 37: 14,27 that God will “be with us.” Later Jesus is recorded in John 14 that he will “be with you forever”, and “dwell in you”.

What does it mean that God is with us now? How do you explain that God is “in you”?

Duane points out the incredible fact pointed to by all these verses. That the all powerful, most incredible being wants to be with you.

How would your life change if most powerful human on the planet wanted to have a relationship with you?

What are some similarities and differences between that and God’s desire to have a relationship?

Knowing that God is with us, how can we approach our own feelings of loneliness?

A PERCEIVABLE PRESENCE
God is with us, but we can’t see Him and mostly can’t hear Him.

How do we know that God is with us?

Duane brought his counselors Jim and Rich into the sermon. One of the big ideas that they often share is that the soul is permeable, it can be affected and changed. We’re changed by the people and beings we spend time with. You’ll notice it in your interests, opinions, even vocabulary.

Has spending time with a person or group of people ever changed something about you?

Galatians 2:20 states that God lives in you, is permeating your soul and affecting you. You can see His presence in that.

How have you seen Christ change you since you’ve been a believer?

Have you seen Christ change others?

A PERMANENT PRESENCE
Relationships are great, but they can also be scary. They can be broken which often leaves us feeling more lonely than when we started. Then can be conditional where people spend time with us as long as we amuse them, or are nice to them, or don’t ask much of them.

God’s presence is none of those things. In Joshua 1:5 and again in Hebrews 13:5 God tells us “I will never leave you or forsake you” and Jesus promises at the end of Mathew 28 to be with “you always, even to the end of the age”.

What differences might there be in a relationship that is assured to exist indefinitely?

What kind of being would you like to have a permanent relationship with?

What kind of being would one have to be to have a permanent relationship with you?

PRAYER
Pray with your group that you would be seeking God’s presence to permeate your soul, and that you might share that relationship with others who are lonely.