Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Blind Awareness" - Doug Rehberg

There’s a text in John’s Gospel that I thought about referring to last week in the message entitled, “The Gift of Humility”, because it fit. Instead, I determined to preach it this week; because I believe it requires more attention than a passing reference.

It’s often called the story of the blind man (in fact he’s the only person in the Bible said to be born blind); but that’s a misnomer, because there are a lot more people blind in John 9 than this one fellow. In fact, Jesus heals him; but not them! The truth is, everyone else in the story, with the exception of Jesus, is blind as a bat. And at the core of every instance of blindness is the absence of humility.

Providentially, as I was preparing this week’s message, I read Paul David Tripp’s entry for July 17 in his devotional, New Morning Mercies. His lead statement for the morning is, “Sin causes me to be all too convinced of my righteousness and too focused on your sin.” Before I excerpt more of what Tripp says, let me point out that the issue of sin is foremost in the minds of the disciples when they see this blind man.  They ask Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents; that he was born blind?” And while Jesus’ answer redirects their focus from sin to the glory of God, the link between sin and blindness is well-established in the balance of the story. Jesus answers, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” But, amazingly, in the immediate aftermath of God’s work is blindness brought on by the hubristic sin of the people around this man. It’s the same blindness that’s all around us today. We’ll seek to unpack all that John is telling us this week in a message entitled, “Blind Awareness”.

But back to Tripp. In commenting on Jesus’ words to Christians at Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-19, Tripp says:

Here’s the problem that these hard words are addressing in a warning that we all need to hear: you and I like to think that no one has a clearer, more accurate view of us than we do. We all tend to be way too trusting of our view of ourselves. We do this because we do not take seriously what the Bible says about the dynamic of spiritual blindness. If sin is deceitful (and it is), if sin blinds (and it does), then as long as sin still lurks inside me, there will be patches of spiritual blindness. I simply will not see myself with the accuracy that I think I do. In the language of poverty and riches, the passage above basically says, “You look at yourself and you think you’re okay, but you’re far from okay.”

Not only does sin blind, but as sinners, we participate in our own blindness. We all swindle ourselves into thinking that we are better than we are, that what we’re doing is okay when, in fact, it’s not okay in the eyes of God. The spiritual reality is that we’re like naked homeless people, but we see ourselves as affluent and well-dressed. It’s an embarrassing and humbling word picture. It confronts us with how deeply distorted and delusional our view of ourselves can be. Don’t be defensive as you read this; take in the warning.

So here’s what happens. When you think that you have this righteousness thing licked, then you quit being concerned about you and you focus your concern on the sins of others. You really need to know that you’re in spiritual trouble when you’re more concerned about the sin of the person next to you than you are with your own. Spiritual clear-sightedness always leads to personal grief and confession, not condemnation of your neighbor. Perhaps your eyes are more closed than you think they are. Perhaps you don’t know yourself as well as you think you do. Pray for the sweet, loving, sight-giving, convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit. His presence in you is a grace.

Tripp nails it. And in case you have any doubt, read John 9 and see that the deepest blindness is not ocular, but psychological and spiritual.

In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Read Jeremiah 5:15 and see the universality of spiritual blindness.
  2. Why would the disciples ask that question in verse 2?
  3. What are the works of God that are to be displayed in him?
  4. Why does Jesus spit on the ground and make mud to put in the man’s eyes?
  5. What is the significance of sending the man to the pool of Siloam to wash?
  6. Why don’t the neighbors believe that he’s been healed? (verses 8-12)
  7. What’s the impediment to the Pharisees believing that he’s been healed? (verses 13-17)
  8. Why do his parents say what they say in verse 21?
  9. Why do the Pharisees get angry in verses 28 and 29?
  10. What’s the irony of the Pharisees’ statement and action in verse 34?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"The Gift of Humility" - Doug Rehberg

There’s a great statement from Charles Spurgeon that should give us all pause in this period of Facebook and Instagram mania. Read what he says nearly two hundred years ago:

“We have plenty of people nowadays who could not kill a mouse without publishing it in the Gospel Gazette. Samson killed a lion and said nothing about it: the Holy Spirit finds modesty so rare that He takes care to record it (Judges 14:6). Say much of what the Lord has done for you, but say little of what you have done for the Lord. Do not utter a self-glorifying sentence!”

Spurgeon wasn’t simply uttering his own bias; he knew the Scriptures. He knew that there are negative references all over the pages of the Bible regarding self-aggrandizement and pride. Indeed, as we’ll see this week in our text, James 4, humility is not just a laudatory virtue; it’s foundational to the character of God.

Listen to what the Psalmist says in Psalm 24:9, “He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way.” In Proverbs 15:33 we read, “The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” Listen to what the Lord says through His prophet, Isaiah, “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones (Isaiah 57:15).

While there are over seventy specific references in the Scriptures to the supreme virtue of humility, the full import of this trait is most profoundly seen in the Lord Jesus. Remember how He describes Himself in Matthew 11? “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am humble and lowly of heart: and you will find rest for your souls.” All through His life and ministry humility is on full display. That’s why Paul, writing from a Roman prison in Philippians 2 says, “Have this mind in you which is yours in Christ Jesus.” What mind? The mind of humility.

In a message entitled, “The Gift of Humility”, we will examine what James, the half-brother of Jesus, has to say about the importance of humility in a Christian’s life. Indeed, without the gift of humility, unity among believers and fellowship with God is destined to be pallid at best.

In preparation for Sunday’s teaching you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What link can you find between humility and peace or rest in the Scriptures? (See James 4:18f.)
  2. What is the meaning of the word “passions” in verses 1 and 3?
  3. How does pursuing these passions mark us as adulterers? (v. 4) (Note Matthew 12:38f.)
  4. In what way is pride the first and foremost sin in our lives?
  5. What does the Bible say are some of the consequences of pride?
  6. What is your interpretation of verse 5? How does verse 6 follow from verse 5?
  7. Why would Paul cite the words of Philippians 2:4-11 from a Roman prison?
  8. What does true humility recognize? (See verse 4.)
  9. What does true humility REALIZE about the Holy Spirit’s work? (See verse 5.)
  10. What is true humility’s REACTION to the presence of one’s sin? (See verse 6.)
See you Sunday. We will be using the Litany of Humility as our morning prayer. You may wish to use it as well.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"How'm I Doin'?" - Doug Rehberg

In 1991 George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall as Supreme Court Justice. Although both men were African American, Marshall was a staunch liberal while Thomas was a devout conservative.

In arguably the most contentious confirmation in the history of the U.S. Senate, Thomas was accused by a former co-worker, Anita Hill, of vulgar advances and sexual harassment of the deepest variety. Though Hill had worked for Thomas at two separate government agencies a decade earlier, she waited until these hearings to reveal her story in the most salacious details.

Throughout the days of withering assault, Thomas continually and consistently adamantly denied the accusations, calling the whole exercise a circus, a national disgrace, a high-tech lynching.

In an interview months after the hearings were completed and Thomas was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, he was asked, “How were you able to endure such an assault?” Thomas replied, “I survived the ordeal by praying Raphael Cardinal Merry del Val’s Litany of Humility.”

After reading this prayer repeatedly this week, and sharing it with others, I am convinced that it’s a prayer that every one of us should pray every day.

In a world of rumor, innuendo, and attributed motives, this prayer sorts it all out. It is Gospel bedrock. Indeed, it is the lens through which this Sunday’s text should be viewed, for here in Matthew 19 and 20 we find a perfect description of the human heart and its antipathy for grace. The only remedy is the Holy Spirit’s power to drive us to our knees in humble contrition. And this prayer helps.

To this day it hangs in the Supreme Court office of Clarence Thomas. For Thomas, like the Cardinal, knows what it’s like to be in the crosshairs of vicious attacks from within and without:

Here’s the prayer:

O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, deliver me Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, deliver me Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being falsely accused, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, deliver me Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, deliver me Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “How’m I Doin’?”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Why do you suppose Matthew is the only Gospel writer to include Jesus’ parable (Mt. 20:1-16)?
  2. What’s Jesus’ primary point in telling it?
  3. How does this parable incite anger?
  4. How is the word “inheritance” in verse 29 a key to understanding Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question?
  5. Who are “hired laborers” in the first century?
  6. How are verses 4 and 15 a key to understanding God’s sovereignty?
  7. What’s at the root of the laborer’s reaction in verse 12?
  8. What’s striking about the Master’s address of them in verse 13?
  9. How is the Cardinal’s prayer relevant here?
  10. According to Jesus in Matthew 19:28-20:16 how are you doin’?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Forsaking the Flesh" - Doug Rehberg

This week we come to the sixth and final teaching in our series, “Flourish”. Let’s review where we’ve been.
  • Week #1 – We were made in God’s image
  • Week #2 – God made you to enjoy Him
  • Week #3 – God made you to follow Jesus
  • Week #4 – God made you to love others
  • Week #5 – God made us (His body) for each other
  • Week #6 – God made you to be you

Now these are the six lessons that will capture the time this coming week in Vacation Bible School and throughout the summer in Children’s Ministry. As you know, each of these themes/lessons is connected to a main biblical text each week. These texts have been the focus of our preaching. This week’s text is I Samuel 17:4-11, 32-50 and the story of David and Goliath. 

Tony Payne has said, “God uses two great methods for achieving His Christ-centered plans for the world: redirecting and renewing minds/hearts.” He does this through His Word preached and taught, through the fellowship of His Body the Church, and through His indwelling Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who redirects and renews us. He is the One who changes and keeps changing us into conformity to Christ.

Back to Tony Payne, “There is a Latin phrase that describes the essential place of God’s Spirit in bringing change to people’s lives: sine qua non.  It means, literally, ‘without which not’…so, as patience is sine qua non for raising children or playing golf, the internal work of God’s Spirit is sine qua non for the progress of God’s agenda in us and in the world.”

Now all of this is terribly relevant to our study this Communion Sunday, because the story of David and Goliath screams of the necessity of walking in the Spirit. The truth is the essence of the story of I Samuel 17 has much more to do with the battle between King Saul and the young man David, than the one between David and Goliath.

By this time in Saul’s life, he has come to rely completely on himself and his unrenewed mind. This is why he is so hopeless in the face of the giant. This is why he has to be convinced to send David into battle. And this is certainly why he seeks to protect him by every means he values, like armor and spear.

The story of David and Goliath is the story of a battle every one of us faces. Will we follow our flesh, listening to its fears, its allurements, and its deceptions, or will we submit to the ways of God’s Spirit? This Sunday we will dive into this text and see the contrast between the flesh and the Spirit in four stark ways.

In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What facts does the writer give us in Sunday’s text?
  2. What change can you see in King Saul from his anointing in chapter 10 to his description in chapter 17?
  3. How does he go from courage to fear in a few short chapters?
  4. What happens in chapter 16 that makes him behave the way he does in the Valley of Elah?
  5. Do the words of Psalm 51 resonate with what’s happening here?
  6. What is the key difference between Saul’s perspective and David’s?
  7. What does Saul mean in verse 37 when he sends David out with the words, “The Lord be with you”?
  8. What does David mean in verse 39 when he says, “for I have not tested them”?
  9. What does David reveal about living by the Spirit in verse 45 and following?
  10. How is “God made you to be you” explained from this story?
See you Sunday at the Table.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Living Together" - Doug Rehberg

In 1933 a radio station in Detroit began broadcasting a fictional story of a masked man who fought outlaws in the American Old West with his Native American friend, Tonto. The Lone Ranger has been called an enduring icon of American culture. Indeed, to be called a “lone ranger” has a specific meaning with American society that is often less than flattering.

The Lone Ranger was an expert marksman, an above-average athlete, a skilled horseman, a master of disguise, and a force to be reckoned with. He was the portrait of rugged individualism and machoism.

The radio series proved to be a hit. It spawned a series of books, a popular television show from 1949 to 1957, comic books, and several movies. There was something seductively appealing about this solitary hero that appealed to a wide audience of Americans.

The Lone Ranger got his name from the fact that he was the sole survivor of a group of six Texas Rangers, but that detail was lost on most who were simply fixated on romanticized individualism. It seems that a posse of six Texas Rangers were pursuing a band of outlaws when they were betrayed by a civilian guide and ambushed in a canyon. Later, a Native American named Tonto stumbles onto the scene and discovers that one Ranger is still alive; and he nurses him back to health. The truth is that without Tonto’s empathy and devotion, this Lone Ranger would have died of the same wounds inflicted on the other Rangers.

You say, “Okay, but what’s all of this have to do with Sunday’s passage, ‘Living Together’, based on I Corinthians 12:12-31?” Just about everything!

In I Corinthians 12 Paul is writing to a church that is embroiled in factionalism. Unlike the church at Philippi, founded on the same missionary journey, the Corinthian Church is filled with lone rangers. It is filled with Christians who live by the adage, “What’s in it for me?” In chapters 1 through 11 we see this attitude playing out in power struggles, illicit behaviors, even in the use of spiritual gifts. Rather than humbling themselves, these Christians are all about control. They’re all about being in charge.

It’s into the midst of this isolationism that Paul speaks the truth of the Gospel which is the opposite of what he hears about the Corinthian Church. Under the inspiration and authority of the Holy Spirit, Paul seizes upon a metaphor that captures the essence of what the church is. It is the Body of Christ. It is one body with only essential parts. In other words, there can be no lone rangers in a church that seeks to walk in step with the Spirit of God. That’s the heart of what Paul is saying in I Corinthians 12, and that’s the heart of our study this Father’s Day Sunday.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Where is Paul when he gets the report that the church at Corinth is a mess?
  2. How does I Corinthians 1:10 inform our understanding of I Corinthians 12?
  3. Why does Paul seize upon the metaphor of the body to describe the church?
  4. How are his words in Romans 12:1-3 relevant to what he says in I Corinthians 12:12-31?
  5. What other texts from Paul apply to the Corinthian conundrum? Philippians 2:1-11 maybe?
  6. What is Paul’s point in I Corinthians 12:12-13?
  7. How does the metaphor capture the essence of Jesus’ words in John 15?
  8. In these verses Paul underscores three needs that every believer has as a function of being a part of the Body of Christ. What are they?
  9. How is living with a “body” mentality more freeing than a lone ranger mentality?
  10. How is love the most excellent means of achieving healthy “body life”?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

"The Lessons of Lydia" - Doug Rehberg

Years ago I visited a woman in the hospital who was suffering from a rare and serious heart issue. The doctors had warned her that there was not much they could do, but watch and wait.

As I walked into her hospital room late one night, I was surprised to find her playing cards with her roommate and telling funny stories. So I asked her, “Lib, how can you be so carefree at a time like this?” She looked at me quizzically and said, “Why Doug, I’m surprised at you. I love Jesus; and besides, I’m a Presbyterian. I believe that God calls the shots, don’t you?” Touché!

No text in the New Testament proves that God calls the shots any better than the one we will take up this Sunday in a message entitled, “The Lessons of Lydia”. Our text is Acts 16:6-15 where we see the hand of God and the incomparable power of the Gospel to change everything.

Acts 16:6-15 is the story of the conversion of the first person on the continent of Europe to come to Christ – Lydia, the seller of purple. Like Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb of Jesus, what the Lord does here makes Christian chauvinists cringe and leaves religious misogynists no legs to stand on.
Consider the facts:
  • Paul and his band of brothers had absolutely no intention of entering Europe on Paul’s second missionary journey. They intended to stay in Asia Minor.
  • Without three dramatic interventions of God, Paul and the others would have stayed in Asia.
  • They come to Philippi, a town with a dearth of Jews and no Christians.
  • On the stone arches entering Philippi was an inscription prohibiting anyone advancing an unrecognized religion.
  • The Jewish rabbis were famous for teaching, “It is better that the words of the Law be burned than be delivered to a woman.”

So what do Paul and his band do? They enter Philippi and head down to the river and evangelize the women they find there. There’s absolutely no natural reason for any of this to happen. It’s only the power of the Gospel that obliterates all the human perspectives and conventions on Paul’s day and ours.

The story of Lydia’s conversion is incredible. What is striking is the immediate evidence of change exhibited in her life. In all the Scriptures no one can teach us more about the effect of Christ taking hold of a life than Lydia. I look forward to examining her story together with you.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How and why does God thwart Paul and his companions from staying in Asia Minor?
  2. Who is with Paul as he travels on this second journey?
  3. What would you think is God’s message to Paul in the vision he sees?
  4. Why doesn’t Paul go to the synagogue on the Sabbath?
  5. Why are these women down by the river?
  6. What does “a worshipper of God” mean in verse 14?
  7. Why give Lydia’s professional status? What does this tell us about Lydia?
  8. What do you make of the words, “the Lord opened her heart” in verse 14?
  9. What does she mean, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord?”
  10. What are the authentic signs of true belief in Lydia?
See you Sunday!

Friday, June 2, 2017

"A Ticket to Ride" - Doug Rehberg

In John 15 Jesus uses an unusual word to describe His disciples.  Now today the word, “friend” can have a multitude of definitions, but “philos” in Greek means, “someone who is dearly loved.”  Jesus is so emphatic in His use of this word that He offers a powerful predicate.  He says, “No longer do I call you servants.”  That’s exactly what they had been for 3 years.  They had had the honor and privilege of being the unlikely recipients of Rabbi Jesus’ call.  Nothing in their upbringing or aptitudes would have suggested to Jesus that He should choose them as disciples, servants.  But here, in John 15, Jesus raises the ante by forever changing their name to friends.

I have an entire chapter in my book on the first century meaning of the word friend.  It’s quite instructive to dig deeply into the first century usage and meaning.  But think about what true friendship means today.

Someone has said, “Friend:  a one-syllable word describing a person who is attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. This is a typical dictionary definition, but genuine friendship is much more.  When we examine the deeper meaning of friendship, so many descriptions come to mind:  trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, kindness, understanding, forgiveness, encouragement, humor, cheerfulness, to mention a few.  Genuine friendship should be treasured and nurtured.”

Joni Eareckson Tada writes, “In friendship, God opens your eyes to the glories of Himself.”  Charles Spurgeon once said, “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys in life.  Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend.” 

It’s about a critical aspect of friendship that we speak this Sunday, using a familiar text – Acts 8:26-39.  Here Philip acts as the consummate friend to a perfect stranger.

Bill Hybels of Willow Creek writes, “God often keeps us on the path by guiding us through the counsel of friends and trusted advisors.”  Beth Moore writes, “We long to find someone who has been where we’ve been, who shares our fragile skies, who sees our sunsets with the same shades of blue.”  Wow!  Philip, guided by the Holy Spirit, is that and more for a man he’s never met until the Gaza Road encounter.  What he does is what Jesus calls all His friends to do.  May we learn to be such friends to help ourselves and others flourish.
In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:

1.      From what activity does God call Philip to travel to Gaza?

2.      How far does he have to go to follow the command of His Master?

3.      Why would the Holy Spirit compel Philip to leave the crowds in the city of Samaria to go to the desert road for one man?

4.      What makes Philip suited for this task?

5.      What prompts Philip’s question in verse 30?

6.      Why doesn’t Philip just tell him all about Isaiah and the Gospel and be done with it?  Why the question?

7.      What does his question promote?

8.      What’s the Ethiopian long for in verse 31?

9.      How is a true friend a guide?

10.  Do you think Philip’s abrupt departure from the waters of baptism is sad or wonderful?  Why?

See you Sunday!