Psalm 55

Character revelation from Psalm 55:

Verse 16: God saves me. He rescues me from conflict and keeps me safe.

Verse 17: God hears my voice. When I think nobody’s listening or nobody cares, God hears every cry, every whisper, even every thought. Even though He already knows, He listens anyway.

Verse 18: He ransoms me unharmed from battle. Ultimately, nothing in this world can touch us or do any lasting damage. God has already won the war, so we need not fear the battle or shrink from conflict; we will emerge unscathed and victorious.

Verse 19: God is enthroned forever. He will never be overcome! He reigns over the whole earth, and all creation will bow down to Him as the rightful ruler. His kingdom will never end, for love has conquered all.

Verse 22: He will sustain me. Not only did He create me; not only did He save me; He also sustains me from day to day, constantly present and working in my life.

Published in: on March 12, 2012 at 12:55 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

The Role of Biblical Lament in Adolescent Ministry: A Summary

The following is a summary I wrote for my Technical Writing course. So, definitely more academic than anything else I’ve posted on here, but I thought the article was really interesting, and to spare you the 20+ pages of research, here’s a nice condensed version for you.

In his article “The Role of Biblical Lament in Adolescent Ministry,” Bob Yoder explores the purpose of Scriptural lament and the importance of teaching youth in the church an appropriate way to express their grief through lament, an element that is sadly lacking in most churches and youth groups today.

Yoder begins by helping readers to understand the nature of biblical lament, which is defined as “expressions of complaint, anger, grief, despair, and protest to God.” Laments are cries to God against injustice and pleas that he right the wrong which the writer is experiencing. The two main examples of lament in the Bible are the books of Psalms and Lamentations.  While Psalms encompasses several different kinds of prayers, the majority of these are laments, showing the importance of expressing grief to God.   Lamentations is a raw, honest look at crisis, showing us how those who experienced it processed their emotions, and even how the objective writer himself became immersed in their lament.

Yoder brings youth ministry into the equation by discussing the lifestyles and struggles of today’s adolescents: due to our ever-changing, fast-paced society where children have to deal with parental divorce and peer pressure, they are forced to grow up sooner than children of previous generations. These rapid changes do not allow them time to slow down and process their feelings. In addition, the adults who should be helping to shape them spiritually have backed out of responsibility, leaving today’s teenagers to manage on their own the troubles they experience and the pain they feel.

Lament, he explains, gives adolescents a chance to articulate the feelings they aren’t quite sure how to place and helps them connect even the difficult parts of their lives with God’s overarching plan, helping them understand that God really is involved in the midst of their pain.  It also provides an opportunity to slow down and practice introspection in the midst of a busy world.

There are two basic kinds of crises that adolescents experience: 1) major crises, such as divorce, violence, alcoholism, et cetera, and 2) developmental crises, which are those parts of the maturation process that can cause confusion, like dating relationships and struggling to find a sense of self. While major crises are more of an unexpected blow, developmental crises should be attended to as well, as ignoring them leads to a later buildup of confusion and grief. Lament is a way to help adolescents deal with these crises in constructive, rather than destructive, ways.

Yoder then discusses the effectiveness of lament at each stage of adolescence, as proven by research. Early adolescents, he explains, may have difficulty with the concept of being angry at God and may need adult guidance to keep the structure of lament age-appropriate. Middle adolescents, while still struggling with that theological tension, are more comfortable expressing themselves as they are learning independence. Late adolescents deal with more abstract crises such as life goals and worldview.

The research consisted of pastoral leaders experimenting with having the youth in their churches write their own laments consisting of three parts: 1) venting their anger and frustration, 2) recalling a time in their lives when they felt God was there for them, and 3) a transition into thanksgiving and praise to God. After this exercise, they had the students fill out questionnaires, from which Yoder found his results.

There are a few other factors to be considered, such as the fact that some people need more time to deal with each step adequately before they can move on to thanksgiving. Also, although writing the laments seemed effective for the most part, some students did not enjoy writing. Yoder suggests that these adolescents use their own developed skills in the practice of lament through music or art or other such means.

Overall, Yoder concludes, practicing Biblical lament seems to be a healthy way for adolescents to express their emotions and may keep them from unhealthy alternatives like violence, drug abuse, or self-destructive behaviors.

Published in: on March 11, 2012 at 11:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Psalm 27

Character revelation from Psalm 27:

Verse 1 — God is my light. He has nothing to hide and hides nothing from us, and He illuminates our path.

Verse 1 — God is my salvation — not only has He rescued me for eternity, but every day He saves me from my own choices and from the attacks of Satan.

Verse 1 — God is my stronghold. The image of a fortress or stronghold is detached from the battle, impenetrable. This metaphor goes beyond security — it suggests a rock-solid wall of protection between us and the world, separating us from the enemy.

Verse 4 — God is beautiful. This one sounds a little weird at first, since society has taught us to view beauty a certain way. But God is the One who created beauty, and He is the personification of beauty. He attracts and keeps our attention. His holiness is stunning and truly amazing to behold.

Verse 5 — God keeps me safe — He provides security.

Verse 9 — God is my helper. When I lack strength, He makes up the difference. He is always by my side to help me through the day and to lift me up when I fall.

Verse 10 — God receives me. He provides the acceptance and affirmation we all long for.

Verse 11 — God leads me in a straight path — this signifies both direction and guidance.

Published in: on November 1, 2011 at 11:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Ahead and Beside

Psalm 16:8“I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

I love how this image simultaneously portrays God as both guide and friend. If we keep our eyes on Him as he leads the way, He will also be right there by our side, holding our hand and walking with us every step of the journey.

Too often we view God as one or the other. If He leads us and can’t see us, what happens if we fall behind? Or, if He walks beside us, how will we have a clear-cut path?

The truth is that neither scenario is accurate. God blazes the trail for us to follow, but when the going gets tough, He’s not going to leave us to figure it out alone. He promised never to leave or forsake us, and He never will. He will always be right there, taking every step with us, always pointing us ahead and reminding us in a gentle whisper, “This way. Keep going. I’m right here with you.” And with Him ahead and beside, as our guide and our friend, our footing will be sure, and we will never be shaken.

Published in: on September 1, 2011 at 10:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Pierced Ear

Psalm 40:6Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but my ears You have pierced.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the Old Testament tradition of piercing the ear of a servant. But just in case, here’s a quick explanation. In Exodus 21, detailed instructions were given regarding servants and their freedom. Verse 6 explains the ritual to be carried out when a servant desired to stay: “If the servant declares, ‘I love my master…and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.” Like a wedding ring symbolizes a couple’s commitment to each other, the pierced ear was a representation of a servant’s desire to remain close to his master though offered his freedom. Offering sacrifices, however, was a requirement of the law to make atonement for sin, an obligatory duty to appease God. 

Sacrifices were offered out of fear; an ear was pierced out of love.

God does not want our ritualistic sacrifices; He has set us free from the need to appease Him through our own feeble attempts at righteousness. Instead, He desires to pierce our ears — to make us His in response to our willing declaration, “I love my Master; I don’t want to leave.” He desires our hearts.

Published in: on April 27, 2011 at 12:52 am  Leave a Comment  

He Whose Walk is Blameless

Psalm 15

“Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?

“He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow man, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

“He who does these things will never be shaken.”

It takes transparency to speak the truth, humility to hold your tongue, integrity to keep an oath, and generosity to freely give of what you have. It takes a pure and childlike heart to fill this description.

 Lord, give me the purity to be this person.

Published in: on April 14, 2011 at 1:36 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,