Greetings, friends! I am happy to let you know that my book, Psalms by the Sea, has just been published and is available at Amazon. This is a 30 day devotional that takes you through a journey of the psalms. I hope you will come along!
Below is a free leader’s guide for small group use that accompanies the book. You can use Psalms by the Sea as a 5-week study. I hope you enjoy it!
Psalms by the Sea Small Group Leader’s Guide
This guide is provided for groups who wish to study Psalms by the Sea together. Originally intended as a personal devotional resource, Psalms by the Sea can easily be turned into a 5-week group study by using this leader’s guide.
This book, available at Amazon, is a compilation of 30 devotionals intended to take the reader on a journey through the ancient songs of praise, lament, wisdom, trust, and thanksgiving. These five categories are not obvious in the book, but I specifically organized my writing so that it could translate into a study on these individual psalm-types. By immersing ourselves in God’s word on a daily basis, we hope to learn how to sing new songs of faith to our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. By coming together in a group every week, we can learn from one another and understand the different functions of psalm categories and what it means to worship God in every season of life. I pray that you and your group grow closer to God and one another as you take this pilgrimage together.
Every devotional contains a few reflection questions within the body of the reading. These are designed for personal use but can make great discussion starter questions. I suggest that as you read through each day, highlight those questions in your book and consider using them as “ice-breaker” openers for each class. Some of the questions in the book may feel too personal for group use, and that’s okay. You will soon discover how much self-disclosure your group can handle as you go through each week. Be prepared to share your own responses to those questions as you feel led.
Listed below are the group discussion questions for each day. Some are fun and non-threatening, and others are deep. As you spend time with your group, you will know what they will respond to. If you only ask one question and it takes off for the rest of the hour, that is great! Don’t feel pressure as the leader to ask all the personal reflection questions AND the group discussion questions for the week. I have deliberately provided more questions than you could possibly use so that you can tailor each lesson to your group. Your class is the curriculum! You are the curriculum! The Holy Spirit is definitely the curriculum! The book in your hands is just a book. You and your students will be both teachers and learners in this adventure. May God add many blessings to your journey!
Week One: Praise Hymns
Songs of praise are the most common type of psalm, as psalms were written to be part of a worship experience. When we praise God, we remind ourselves of all of God’s immeasurable blessings and provision. We offer him the adoration that he deserves and express our individual and corporate appreciation for who he is and whose we are. Praise psalms can be especially helpful in times of distress and anxiety because they remind us to look outside of our circumstance and lift up our hearts to a worthy and mighty Lord. The first six psalms (Days One through Six) are praise psalms.
Day 1 Call to Worship
Today’s devotional talks about remembering a terrible situation first thing in the morning that you forgot about your slumber. Have you ever experienced an awful moment of awakening to a tragedy? Describe what it felt like. What is your worst memory of the pandemic? Did you ever wonder if we would get though it? How did you cope?
Day 2 Secret Decoders
Our study of Psalm 145 invites us to praise God on the bad days. Do you do this? Why is it important? How can psalms and songs of praise help us when we feel broken?
Day 3 Slaying the Leviathan
Today we are reminded that God is bigger than your biggest failure, fear, or regret. Can you name a “leviathan” that made you feel trapped? What does this psalm say about God’s power? What can people do when they feel hopeless in the face of monsters that threaten to annihilate them?
Day 4 Pouring Out Speech
Psalm 19 is a beautiful song of praise to the creation and the Creator. What was your favorite image? We are challenged to be sure that the words of our mouths are pleasing to God. Are we as a people declaring the glory of heavens, or are we tearing down all that God has done? Is our social media witness in line with this psalm? How should Christians express themselves?
Day 5 The Rock
Psalm 95 declares that God is our ROCK. How do you know this? Can you give examples of a time when God’s steadfast and unmovable love made a difference in your life? Do you need the rock to cling to right now? Describe your situation.
Day 6 Hunker Down or Flee
Sometimes in life God calls us to hunker down and stay in a situation that seems impossible. Other times God urges us to flee. Can you identify points in your life when this happened? What was the result? Can you name a circumstance when you saw that God was indeed a very present help in trouble?
As you finish the first week on Praise Psalms, offer your class a moment to reflect on the importance of praising God in the storms of life. Invite them to write their own psalm of praise.
Week 2 Psalms of Lament
Sometimes you just need to vent! In psalms of lament, we see exactly that: complaining, crying out for help, expressing sorrow, and confessing sin and pain. Yet lament psalms always end with a word of praise that God is in the dark places with us. These are songs that can bring great catharsis to the soul. Days 7 through 12 are psalms of lament.
Day 7 Caught
Have you ever gotten caught red-handed? We all have. Can you describe what happened? Psalm 51 boldly states that we have all been born in guilt and sin, but God teaches us wisdom in the “most secret space.” What does this mean? How does confessing help? Can God really cleanse us white as snow?
Day 8 Waiting and Watching
Are you good at waiting? Have you ever asked God to deliver you and then you had to wait? Psalm 130 is a psalm of penitence. What does it mean to offer penitence while you wait for God’s deliverance? How can we grow to be more patient?
Day 9 Secondhand Smoke
Do you think we live in a time where it is hard to learn the truth through news and social media? Have you ever endured a situation where your enemies told lies about you? What happened? Where can we go to find truth?
Day 10 We All Fall Down
Psalm 51 is a beautiful instrument of confession and penitence, reminding us that God knows everything that we have hidden away. What kind of things do people hide in their hearts? Why is it important for people to confront things that they’ve hidden away?
Day 11 Deliverance
What are things that people need to be delivered from … can you make a list? Are you struggling with any? How can people ensnared in sin, despair, hopelessness, or deception find freedom? What can the church do to help?
Day 12 Cawfee Regulah
What is your morning routine? Share it with the group. Do you think we reach for our Bibles as often as we reach for our morning coffee? How can we make changes in our daily habits to include being in God’s word? Share your story.
As you complete the second week on Psalms of Lament, encourage your students to take a moment to write their own lament song.
Week 3 Psalms of Trust and Confidence
This week we will focus on songs that express our blessed assurance in God’s strength, provision, salvation, and abiding presence. These psalms give us a sense of confidence that no matter what is happening in the world, God is still in charge. Psalms of trust remind us that we are never alone. Days 13 through 18 are psalms of trust and confidence in God.
Day 13 Timeless
Can you recall the first time you ever heard the 23rd Psalm? Why do you think it is the most used scripture for funerals? What is your favorite image from this psalm?
Day 14 Shaking and Quaking
Can you describe the power of God in one sentence? Psalm 99 is an invitation to cry out to God when we feel powerless. Why don’t people do that? Have you ever felt run over? Describe what happened.
Day 15 Out of the Mouths of Babes
King David penned a beautiful reminder about trusting God in Psalm 8. He lists reasons why we can be confident that God takes care of all his creation. Can you make a list of why people can trust God? Do you have a story to tell about a time when you trusted God with something big and he saw you through it? Share it with your class.
Day 16 Being Known
Share the name of the person in your life who knows you best. Now describe that relationship. What conclusions can you draw about being known? What does it mean to know that God knows the word we are about to say even before it is on our tongues? Does this suggest we should think before we speak?
Day 17 Fear Not
What are people most afraid of? Are you worried about something that you can share with the group? How can people find peace in a world that lacks it? What is your understanding of being “sheltered in God’s dwelling”? (See verse 5).
Day 18 Still Waters
What is your favorite Bible translation to read? Today we read Psalm 23 for the second time. List any new insights. What does the phrase “still waters” mean to the world today? How can you be a vessel of still water to someone who needs it?
As we complete this week, ask your class to write their own psalm of trust in God.
Week Four Wisdom Psalms
Wisdom psalms offer words of insight into life’s struggles and challenges. These practical words reinforce God’s teachings and provide guidelines about our actions and behaviors. A lot of the wisdom writings focus on the contrast between righteousness and wickedness. Days 19 through 24 are wisdom psalms.
Day 19 Truly Happy
Do you believe you can ever be truly happy? What would that look like? Describe what it means to “honor the Lord.”
Day 20 You Choose
Name a time in your life when you had to make a decision that changed everything. Psalm 1 describes the “wicked.” Who are the wicked today? How can society get back on the right path toward the way of the righteous?
Day 21 Night Terrors
What disrupts your sleep? Do you struggle with night guilts? What can we do when daytime anxieties take over nighttime rest?
Day 22 The Sure Thing
Name something you thought was a sure thing that turned out to be not so sure. In the Message, Peterson talks about “God-wonders and God-thoughts.” Focusing on these things helps us trust God. Can you name some? How can you witness to someone who is struggling to trust in the Lord?
Day 23 Sleepless
What does it mean to be “fearfully and wonderfully made”? Have you ever struggled with self-esteem? What does it mean to you to know that all of God’s works (including people) are wonderful? Do we treat everyone as though they are wonderful, or only the ones who are like us?
Day 24 Breaking Up is Hard to Do
Tell about a time when you went through a hard break up. What helped you get through it? Have you ever felt jealous or betrayed? Where was God when that happened? What does the psalmist mean when he says, “Commit your way to the Lord”?
Finish your class this week by instructing your students to write a brief wisdom song of something they have learned in this study.
Week Five Thanksgiving Psalms
Thanksgiving psalms are exactly that … songs that give words of thanks, appreciation, and attribution to God for his kindness and mercy. They convey the writer’s understanding of our deep dependance on God for salvation, hope, change, and redemption. God is worthy of our thanks! These humble and humbling psalms remind us of God’s graciousness and goodness toward us in all seasons of life. Days 25 through 30 complete our study with thanksgiving psalms.
Day 25 Of Mice and Women
Psalm 94 reminds us that we are blessed when God disciplines us. Do you agree? Have you ever felt rejected by God? Can abundance and fear live in the same place? What can we do with our anxiety?
Day 26 Even to Death
Psalm 48 assures us that God is everywhere. Describe a time when you experienced God in an unusual place. What does the psalmist mean when he says that God will be our guide “even to death”? Are you afraid to die?
Day 27 Though Fire and Water
There is much debate between the idea that God brings disaster versus God allows disaster. Discuss this with your class. In either case, we know that refining fires come to change us for our good. Have you experienced this? Tell what happened. Why is refining necessary? Is God refining our world right now?
Day 28 Soul-Stirring Songs
(Note to leaders: you may want to provide hymnals for this lesson.) What is your favorite hymn? Share it with the class. Are psalms painful or healing to you? Compile a list all of the things that you are thankful for right now.
Day 29 Songs of Praise
Go around the room and fill in the blank: “I love the Lord because ____________.” Are you surprised at each other’s answers? Has there ever been a time when God did not incline his ear to his people? What does it mean to praise God in the storm?
Day 30 Loyal Love
Define the word “love.” List three things you love. Do we remember to thank God for loving us, or do we take that love for granted? Does God ever let go of us? How can you help someone who doesn’t know God’s love?
Finish your study by writing a group psalm of thanksgiving. It can be a simple list of all the things you are thankful for in the group.