Where is your God?
Community Group Discussion Guide
Sermon Summary
This message addresses the struggle we all face with staying strong in our faith when life’s circumstances become difficult. It’s not so hard to have faith when times are good and everything is going our way, but when things take a tragic turn, we may have more questions than answers. Examples of this are found in the tragedies our nation felt this past week with the Boston Marathon bombings and the explosion of the fertilizer plant in West Texas. The Psalmist shared his struggle with the ups and downs of faith in Psalm 42 and 43. One moment he would be singing God’s praises and the very next moment, he would be downcast and depressed. However, he reminded himself that God is his rock and that he is to put his hope in his Savior and his God! The answer to the question “where is your God,” is found in the fact that since the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, God dwells not in temples made by the hands of men, but in the hearts of true believers. As such, we are able to be the hands, feet and spokespersons for God.

Small Group Discussion Questions

1. What were your first thoughts and reactions when you heard about the bombings in Boston?

2. Some people use the questions surrounding tragedies to attack people of faith, but even people of faith sometimes face difficult questions. Our faith may not answer every question we have, but it does lead us to trust in a God who will ultimately give us victory over life’s trials and tribulations. How does your faith help you handle life’s toughest questions and find hope in difficult times?
Rom 5:1  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Rom 5:2  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Rom 5:3  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
Rom 5:4  perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Rom 5:5  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

3. Have you ever noticed how easy faith is when things are going your way, but how much more difficult it is when circumstances are not fun, not nice, not comfortable and maybe even tragic? Could you relate to the writer of Psalm 42 and 43 in his ups and downs in faith? Explain.
Psa 42:9  I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?"
Psa 42:10  My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?"
Psa 42:11  Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

4. Brother Larry answered the question “where is your God?” by saying God now dwells in the hearts and souls of people who believe in Christ rather than in temples built by the hands of men. Do you agree that God many times makes His presence known to people through people? How have you seen God’s glory in someone else and how have you allowed God to use you to be His hands and feet in someone’s life?
John 17:18  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
John 17:19  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
John 17:20  "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
John 17:21  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
John 17:22  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:
John 17:23  I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.



Where is your God?
Psalm 42

Monday began as a normal Monday, but things soon changed. My wife, Debbie, has a younger sister who was running in the Boston Marathon. She is an avid runner and finished the race in 3hrs, 13 minutes. She had several friends running in the race. She was at the finish line waiting on them, when the bomb went off.

We are grateful that she was not physically injured. However, she saw some tough things. We need to continue praying for the families of those who lost loved ones, the injured who are still recovering, the law enforcement community who lost one of there own, and have another who is recovering from serious injuries.

Then on Wednesday night, the town of West Texas was rocked by a fertilizer plant explosion. My good friend Hudson, who is a Dallas Fire Fighter, called me yesterday. He was to Post guard last evening at the casket of one of their Fire Captains who was off duty, but saw the smoke and responded to help the volunteer firemen. He was one of five fire fighters who lost their lives along with two EMTs and two paramedics.

Hudson's dad is a fire Chaplain in the Fort Worth-Dallas area. He's working with the families there. Please keep them in your prayers.

When we see senseless terrorism that destroys innocent life, we all have questions.
When we see things like a plant explosion that kills multiple first responders and tears apart a quite little community, we all have questions.

The questions achieve an even greater urgency when you or someone you love are the victim!

As I've told you many times, I'm not the kind of person who sees a demon in every shadow or around every corner, but I do know this...

Whether you are the victim of an actual physical attack, or an emotional attack, or a spiritual attack, Satan will always seek to use the negative circumstances of our lives as an opportunity to weaken our faith!
Always!! Satan will never miss an opportunity to seek to destroy our trust in a loving God and the plan God has for each of our lives.

Preston Gillham, put it this way in his book, "Grace in Ungracious Places" published a short time after 9/11...

"The enemy will be quick to ask the question, 'Why do you continue this exercise in futility? If God was capable of carrying your load he would have taken it by now. I don't believe he is anywhere to be found!'

Preston goes on to say...

 "In the un-grace of these days, there is plenty of anguish and heaviness to go around. The devil does not lack for concerns to load on your back, and just as soon as you clear out a space, he will dump a fresh bucket of his ungraciousness on top of you…

 You must not give up even though you are tired of the fight. The scenario we are living through in these days is akin to bailing water out of a boat during a ferocious storm. Take the things that weigh you down and fling them in Father's direction...

 …You will have to do this with resolute determination on a frequent basis, not because Father fails to take what you give him, but because the devil loads you down in hopes of breaking your will to trust Father. Consider this: The Pentagon and World Trade Center were not the only sites attacked by terrorists. You are under attack as well!"

Some people, when under attack, give up on their faith. When they need God the most, they tragically walk away from Him!
Listen...

If you decide there is no God then you've given justification for every evil act ever done on this earth, for if there is no God, no absolute truth, no real right or wrong, then you have no basis by which to forbid any behavior whatsoever! Anything goes!  

Whatever heinous crime or wicked acts that can be conjured by the mind of man can be performed with impunity, for in a world without God, right and wrong is decided by those with the most power, money, and influence.

In a world without God, people make decisions based on what they desire as apposed to what is right! I understand some people, make horrible choices in the name of God, but if you trace those choices back to their root, you won't find God, but evil human desires or vendettas being carried out in the name of God.

 The attacks of the enemy are nothing new!! It's been going on since the Garden of Eden, and we see examples throughout the Bible.
I want us to pray an ask God to guide our study this morning as we look at some verses of Scripture found in the Book of Psalms which are very much relevant for us today!!

PRAY!

Psalm 42, and Psalm 43 were written by a son of Korah, who was the son of Kohath, who was one of the sons of Levi, the original ancestor of Israel's priests.
This Psalmist gives us a powerful insight into the struggles faced by someone under grave spiritual oppression and attack.

 Evidently, he had been captured and taken away from Jerusalem and the temple where he loved to worship. His captors mocked him by repeatedly asking him, "Where is your God?"

While we are not in captivity physically in America, we do find ourselves at times in  a spiritual climate of hostile questioning and at times, ridicule. During times like 9/11 and what we faced this past week, there are those who will, in an attempt to attack our faith, ask "Where is your God?"

 Let me be quick to point out not all questioning is hostile, and I don't think it's wrong to ask questions. God is big enough for our questions. Like the writer of our Psalm today, sometimes we go back and forth between faith and questions ourselves. Deeply honest questions of why?

Let's read Psalm 42...

1As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
Psalm 42:1 (NIV)

2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
Psalm 42:2 (NIV)

3My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
Psalm 42:3 (NIV)

4These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.
Psalm 42:4 (NIV)

5Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and
Psalm 42:5 (NIV)

6my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon —from Mount Mizar.
Psalm 42:6 (NIV)

7Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
Psalm 42:7 (NIV)

8By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.
Psalm 42:8 (NIV)

9I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”
Psalm 42:9 (NIV)

10My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
Psalm 42:10 (NIV)

11Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 42:11 (NIV)

The Psalmist longs for God, thirst for God, and wants to meet with God! His appetite for food is gone and all he can do is cry out to God both day and night. He pours out his soul as he remembers how strong his faith was when things were good.

The Psalmist remembers leading the multitude in procession to the House of God with shouts of joy and thanksgiving. This song writer must have been a worship leader!
But now he's not in the sanctuary. He's in captivity. Circumstances are not good and he is not surrounded by friends, but enemies. His faith is under attack. His faith is being tested like never before.

Have you ever noticed how easy faith is when things are going your way, but how much more difficult it is when circumstances are not fun, not nice, not comfortable and maybe even tragic?

 The Psalmist is puzzled by the struggle.
"Why are you downcast, O my Soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God!!"

Can you relate?
A modern song writer, Gary Chatman, put it this way...

I wish my mind wouldn't argue with my heart
It splits the day apart
Into time well spent and time just thrown away
I wish my heart would please make up my mind
I'm wasting so much time
Gotta catch a glimpse of how it's gonna be
Gotta catch a glimpse of how it's gonna be

The Psalmist is struggling with his faith so he remembers the stories of God taking the Children of Israel across the Jordan on dry ground. However, he feels that God has allowed the waters to overcome him personally...

6... My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon —from Mount Mizar.
Psalm 42:6 (NIV)

7Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
Psalm 42:7 (NIV)

Have you ever felt forsaken by God?
We talked about this a few weeks ago in our message called "Flood Stage."
The Psalmist is experiencing what we talked about. He was feeling overwhelmed by his circumstances.
However, God was still speaking to him. Listen...

8By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.
Psalm 42:8 (NIV)

During some very difficult times in my life, God gave me a song.

Listen...

When the trying times come  and the doubts start to fly, I need you here, right here.
When the tragedies fall and my heart wonders why, I need you here, right here.
Chorus
C2                                        D                       G2                                     C2
For you alone have the Words of life, to whom else would I go, And you are
                         D                                 G2                                         C2
the way and you are the truth, you are the Savior of my soul.
When questions arise and answers can't be found, I need you here, right here
When friends aren't around and the night seems so dark, I need you here, right here.
Bridge:
D                                              C                                                  D                               C
To turn to other things would be folly on my part, a vain attempt to fill the
                                            G                             
God' shaped hole in my heart, Yeah in my heart

To turn to other thins would be folly on my part! But sometimes we are just weak! We struggle with our faith.
God showed the Psalmist His love by day and gave him songs and prayers at night, but when the enemy attacked listen to how quickly the Psalmist had a major mood swing...

9I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”
Psalm 42:9 (NIV)

10My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
Psalm 42:10 (NIV)

What is the answer to this back and forth, up one day, down the next, problem we have with our faith?

It's kind of ironic, but the Psalmist gives us the answer at the beginning of his desperate questions...

9I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”
Psalm 42:9 (NIV)

We must remember that God is a rock that cannot be moved by the ever changing circumstances of this world.

David, one of the other Psalmist put it this way...


5Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
Psalm 62:5 (NIV)

6He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
Psalm 62:6 (NIV)

7My salvation and my honor depend on God ; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Psalm 62:7 (NIV)

8Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.Selah
Psalm 62:8 (NIV)

There very fact God's Word states we need God to be our Rock and our Refuge implies there will be storms. There will be attacks. There will be hardships. There will be questions.
So people of faith are not immune to tragedy, but we are able to overcome it!

Jesus put it this way...

33“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 (NIV)

 A few verses later Jesus says this...

14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.
John 17:14 (NIV)

15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.
John 17:15 (NIV)

16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
John 17:16 (NIV)

17Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
John 17:17 (NIV)

18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
John 17:18 (NIV)

 I don't have all the answers. I don't know why bad things happen to good people. I don't understand a lot of things, but that is where my faith comes in. I started my journey of faith almost 40 years ago and I'm still learning what it means to walk by faith and not by sight!! I'm still growing!!
I have come to understand that this world is not heaven and in this world we will have troubles.

 However, Jesus overcame the world's powers when He conquered death and the grave on the Cross. When Jesus took the very tool of torture and injustice, a cross and made it the symbol of life, and hope and resurrection!!


 About this time, you might be wondering if I'm ever going to answer the question in the title of our message. "Where is your God?"

Yes, in a moment.

But first I want to show you something. The Psalmist followed up his song in chapter 42 with another song in chapter 43. I think it's a hit...

1Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men.
Psalm 43:1 (NIV)

2You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?
Psalm 43:2 (NIV)

3Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.
Psalm 43:3 (NIV)

4Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.
Psalm 43:4 (NIV)

5Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 43:5 (NIV)

 The Psalmist decided to let God's light and truth guide him!! A wise and wonderful decision. He decided to have faith that he would once again be allowed to worship His Savior and His God!!

 Here's a beautiful truth. The Psalmist wanted to meet with God. He wanted to once again be in the temple so he could be in the very presence of God.

We know because of what Jesus did on the Cross, and how the veil of the Temple was torn, giving us 24/7 access to the Holy of Holies, we know we don't have to wait for Sunday to meet with God.


 We know we don't have to be in this building or any other earthly building in order to worship God. Where is God?

Paul stated it this way when talking to the people of Athens...

22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.
Acts 17:22 (NIV)

23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
Acts 17:23 (NIV)

24“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.
Acts 17:24 (NIV)

25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.
Acts 17:25 (NIV)

So where is God?
For the answer to this we return to the prayer Jesus prayed in John 17...

20“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
John 17:20 (NIV)

21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
John 17:21 (NIV)

22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:
John 17:22 (NIV)

23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
John 17:23 (NIV)

24“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
John 17:24 (NIV)

25“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.
John 17:25 (NIV)

26I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
John 17:26 (NIV)

 So in this world of evil, we find glimpses of God in the people of God! Those who have allowed Jesus to enter their heart and allow The Holy Spirit of God to make their very body, the temple of God.
When we allow God to live within us, we are able to become His hands and His feet.

 Where was God this past week?
Let me give you an example. Debbie's sister's friend sent the following to his church after the bombing...

 Thank you all for your prayers.  After the chaos of yesterday...... A deep
sadness is felt all over Boston.
I am not sure I can put into words what we are feeling and what yesterday
was like, but I will try.
I was in the front of the group of runners that the police stopped within
1/2 a mile of the finish line as soon as the bombs went off.

They held us there for about 40 mins. We did not know what was happening and
many of the runners started to suffer from the effects of stopping without
water or medical aid, myself included.

Finally they realized that 2,000 people standing in such a small area was
also a possible target.  We were told to disperse, which was not easy to do.
Where were we to go anyway?
A nurse who was running the marathon was standing next to me.  I was so cold
and shaking and she said that my lips were turning blue and that I should
find some first aid as soon as possible. I tried to make my way back to our
hotel but the streets were all block off as a crime scene.

As I was trying to get back to our hotel, a man with his three children and
wife came up to me and offered aid. He took the coat off his back and put it
on me. They helped me find my way back toward my hotel. As we parted I gave
him a hug and we both started to cry.
His children asked their mom why we were crying.  She just hugged them all together and gave me an understanding smile.

All I could think of at the time was dropping to my knees and looking his
children into the eyes. I told them to never forget what I was about to tell
them. I told them that their father was a good man. That I would always
remember the kindness he offered a scared and hurting stranger and they
should always be proud of their dad and the love of God that he shared with
me. Afterward, the man helped me to my feet and held me in his arms again
before we parted.

When I was able to get back to our hotel room, I put on warm clothes and my
coat as well as the other coat and went out to look for Sandy.
As it would happen, a runner can up to me who looked as bad as I did
earlier. He was cold and confused.  He could not find his family and
couldn't get back to his hotel. He was lost and scared for his family's
safety.

I took the stranger's coat off I had received earlier and gave it to him. He
too started to cry and thanked me.   I was able to text
the number he gave me for his family. Shortly after, they texted back and
told us they were safe and where they were. As we parted he offered to give
the coat back to me. When I told him the story of how I came about having
the coat, we both started to cry again.

As would happen when Sandy and I finally found each other, she too was
wearing a coat that a young man had given her.  She told me that as she was
searching for me people were coming out of their houses with food and water
for folks and offering any kind of aid they could.

The kindness I saw yesterday will always be what I first think of when I think
of the Boston marathon. We all have gifts to give and coats to share.
God is so good and good things come out of the worst situations.