Day One: Fear

Psalm 128:1 (NRSV)

Happy is everyone who fears the Lord…

“In this phrase, ‘fear’ is not about being intimidated or ‘shaking in your boots’ before the divine presence. It is rather about reverence or awe before YHWH, and the observation that whom one reveres, one obeys. To fear YHWH is to entrust all of life and hope to this one and follow the divine guidance. The perspective of the psalm is that such a decision about lifestyle makes a difference; living in line with YHWH’s teaching brings a profound joy and completeness to life.” [Brueggemann, Walter. Psalms (New Cambridge Bible Commentary), pp. 545-546]

According to Psalm 128:1, who are happy?

What does it mean for you to fear the Lord in your current circumstance?

What other fears can we be driven by, rather than by the fear of God? What are some fears that can lead to missing out on the happiness that God has in store for you?

Let’s spend a moment in prayer, let’s lay down all the fears that we may be struggling with before the Lord and entrust our lives to Him again.

-DP

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Day Five: But I wake up and everything’s right

Psalm 127:1

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.

“The first people to sing this psalm had expended much effort to get to Jerusalem. Some came great distances and overcame formidable difficulties. Would there be a tendency among the pilgrims to congratulate one another on their successful journey, to swell with pride in their accomplishment, to trade stories of their experiences? Would there be comparisons on who made the longest pilgrimage, the fastest pilgrimage, who had brought the most neighbors, who had come the most times? Then, through the noise of the crowd, someone would strike up the tune: ‘If GOD doesn’t build . . . guard . . .’” [E. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction]

How does this psalm change the tune of Israel’s tendencies during pilgrimage?

Was there a time you’ve “stood watch in vain”? How does this psalm change your perspective?

Despite great distances and formidable difficulties related to work, how can we wake each morning?

Declare that the Lord’s mercies are new for us every morning as we rise to work / study!

– WW

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Day Four: You see me I be work, work, work

Psalm 127 (NIV)

In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

“Relentless, compulsive work habits (‘work your worried fingers to the bone’) which our society rewards and admires are seen by the psalmist as a sign of weak faith and assertive pride, as if God could not be trusted to accomplish his will, as if we could rearrange the universe by our own effort.” [E. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction]

How then does the reward of sleep in verse 2 surprise or make sense to you?

How does this type of rest differ than how we might commonly understand it in our culture today?

What happens when we try to do God’s work for him?

Spend time resting in the promises of God today.

– WW

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Day Three: When you a gon’ learn, learn, learn

John 5:17 (MSG) – But Jesus defended himself. “My Father is working straight through, even on the Sabbath. So am I.”

Psalm 127:3 (NIV) –Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.

”Jesus’ job description: ‘My Father is working straight through. . . . So am I.’ By joining Jesus and the psalm we learn a way of work that does not acquire things or amass possessions but responds to God and develops relationships. People are at the center of Christian work.” [E. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction]

How does this new view of work edit your current job description?

Perhaps you’re not a “people person” or you like to work independently – in light of John 5, how does this affect the way you work?

Jesus’ legacy in his work was to make us sons and daughters. What do you want your legacy to be?

Spend time praying for a new view of work, centered in Christian work.

– WW

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Day Two: There’s something ’bout that work, work, work

Genesis 1:27, 29-31 (NIV)

So God created mankind in his own image…
      male and female he created them.
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

“The truth is that work is good. If God does it, it must be good. Work has purpose: there can be nothing futile about work if God works. The curse of people’s lives is not work, but senseless work, vain work, futile work, work that takes place apart from God.” [E. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction]

How is the work of God defined / described in Genesis 1?

If Christian discipleship turns us away from senseless work and re-orients us in God’s work, this sets us in the mainstream of what God is already doing – how does this free us from the curse of work?

Does Christian discipleship sound like “work” to you? Why or why not?

Spend some time asking for God to re-orient us in the good work He is doing.

– WW

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Day One: Work, work, work

2 Thessalonians 3:11-13 –We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.

“One of the tasks of Christian discipleship is to relearn ‘the works you did at first’ (Rev 2:5 RSV) and absolutely refuse to ‘work like the devil.’ Work is a major component in most lives. It is unavoidable. It can be either good or bad, an area where our sin is magnified or where our faith matures.” [Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction]

How did Paul encourage the church in Thessalonica to avoid the sin of Babel (frantic and compulsive work, Genesis 11:3-4) as well as avoid becoming the lilies of the field, which “neither toil nor spin” (indolent and lethargic work)?

Some in Thessalonica may have read Psalm 127 as you don’t have to work hard to be a Christian. Go to sleep. God’s doing what needs to be done. There’s nothing more for us to do. How might the psalmist respond?

Spend time in prayer, asking God to mature our faith as we work faithfully unto Him.

– WW

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Day Five: The Talk of the Nations

Psalm 126:3 (Message)

We were the talk of the nations –
  “God was wonderful to them!”
God was wonderful to us;
  we are one happy people.

“We cannot make ourselves joyful. Joy cannot be commanded, purchased or arranged. But there is something we can do. We can decide to live in response to the abundance of God and not under the dictatorship of our own poor needs. We can decide to live in the environment of a living God…We can decide to center ourselves in the God who generously gives and not in our own egos which greedily grab.” [E. Peterson]

“The joy that develops in the Christian way of discipleship is an overflow…that comes from feeling good not about yourself but about God. We find that his ways are dependable, his promises sure.” [E. Peterson]

Therefore… “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean revel in him! Make it clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!” (Phil 4:4 MSG)

Is there a “responsive-joy-in-Jesus” overflowing from you and into your church, missional group, or campus ministry? Are you helping them see the Master? What holds you back?

“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean revel in him!” How can we ‘practically’ do this celebrating and reveling more in our lives together? What will it look like?

Let’s pray that we will celebrate and make much of Jesus in our churches, missional groups and campus ministries. Let’s ask for Jesus’ contagious joy for one another.

– TR

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Day Four: Armloads of Blessing

Psalm 126:4-6 (Message)

And now, God, do it again –
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
Will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
Will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

“The hard work of sowing seed in what looks like perfectly empty earth has, as every farmer knows, a time of harvest. All suffering, all pain, all emptiness, all disappointment is seed: sow it in God and he will, finally, bring a crop of joy from it. It is clear in Psalm 126 that the one who wrote it and those who sang it were no strangers to the dark side of things. They carried the painful memory of exile in their bones and the scars of oppression on their backs. They knew the deserts of the heart and the nights of weeping. They knew what it meant to sow in tears.

“One of the most interesting and remarkable things Christians learn is that laughter does not exclude weeping. Christian joy is not an escape from sorrow. Pain and hardship still come, but they are unable to drive out the happiness of the redeemed…Christian joy is actual in the midst of pain, suffering, loneliness and misfortune.” [E. Peterson]

What are your ‘killjoys’ in life? What are the things that seem to kill your happiness and discourage you? Why?

Take a moment and evaluate these killjoys in light of who God is and what he provides. Are they true joyous pursuits or momentary pleasantries and escapes?

Spend some time praying for the ‘desert’ moments we may be going through. Let’s ask God for hearts that will trust him and seek him for the ‘rain’ – the resolutions and help we need.

– TR

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Day Three: Do It Again!

Psalm 126:3-4 (Message)

God was wonderful to us;
  we are one happy people.=
And now, God, do it again…

“The other side of ‘we are one happy people’ — verses 4-6 — is in the future tense. Joy is nurtured by anticipation. If the joy-producing acts of God are characteristic of our past as God’s people, they will also be characteristic of our future as his people. There is no reason to suppose that God will arbitrarily change his way of working with us. What we have known of him, we will know of him. Just as joy builds on the past, it borrows from the future. It expects certain things to happen.” [E. Peterson]

Psalm 126 “announces the existence of a people who assemble to worship God and disperse to live to God’s glory, whose lives are bordered on one side by a memory of God’s acts and the other by hope in God’s promises, and who along with whatever else is happening are able to say, at the center, ‘We are one happy people.’” [E. Peterson]

How does joy become a powerful witness to the greatness of God?

In what ways can, “And now, God, do it again!” change the way we pray? How can Psalm 126 reframe our passion and hope in prayer? Describe.

This joyful and ‘wonder-filled’ life is our testimony to others. Let’s ask God to empower us this way so we will love and care for those who need God’s impossible miracles. Let’s ask Him to, “do it again,” now in their lives like he did in ours.

– TR

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Day Two: We Laughed, We Sang

Psalm 126:1-3 (Message)

It seemed like a dream, too good to be true,
  when God returned Zion’s exiles.
We laughed, we sang,
  we couldn’t believe our good fortune.
We were the talk of the nations –
  “God was wonderful to them!”
God was wonderful to us;
  we are one happy people.

“We laughed, we sang, we couldn’t believe our good fortune.” The word ‘fortune’ here is about God’s favor, his restoration and transformation. “That is the authentic Christian note, a sign of those who are on the way of salvation…Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship, it is a consequence. It is not what we have to acquire in order to experience life in Christ; it is what comes to us when we are walking in the way of faith and obedience. We come to God (and to the revelation of God’s ways) because none of us have it within ourselves, except momentarily, to be joyous. Joy is a product of abundance; it is the overflow of vitality…It is exuberance.” [E. Peterson]

How do faith and obedience relate to joy in our daily lives?

Ephesians 1:3 (NIRV) – “Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Those blessings come from the heavenly world. They belong to us because we belong to Christ.”

What are the spiritual blessings we have received? How does this spiritual ‘exuberance’ change the way we live and interact with one another?

Let’s take some time to give thanks to the Lord for his blessings. Let’s pray for joyful obedience in our lives and deeper faith that is expressed in love.

– TR

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