Thursday, July 19, 2018

"Light of the World" - Scott Parsons


Light is such a strange thing.  We love it as long as it suits our purposes.  We design our houses to have windows in strategic places to let in natural light and we design our lighting in each room according to the use of the room or the atmosphere we desire.  But sometimes light is not so welcome.  Each morning I get up and look into a mirror that has five light bulbs above it.  I hate it.  The first thing I see each morning is a brightly lit image of every flaw, wrinkle and sag on my face.  I often prefer to brush my teeth in the dark.  As a child we often lived in southern rentals where cockroaches thrived.  I refused to turn any light on at night because I was afraid of what I might see.  Truth is, when it comes to spiritual things we prefer the darkness, and that should not surprise us.  The Bible teaches us that because of the fall all of us are, by nature, living in darkness.  Our sin so separates us from the holiness and light of God that we are unable to see it, understand it or desire it.   Because of this we live in a dark world filled with sin, suffering and fear.  We are by nature trapped in darkness and afraid of the light, because when the light shines on us we see things that we do not want to see.

That is why it is so critical to grasp what Jesus meant when He said, “I am the light of the world.”  We are so familiar with that phrase that I’m not sure we fully comprehend its meaning.  Light of the World is not just another name for Jesus, or a warm, welcoming description of who He is.  It is a vivid description of His essence and our greatest need.  He alone is the antidote to our darkness.  We have no hope unless Jesus, through His mercy and grace, shines the light of holiness shine into our dark places, letting us see just how sinful we are and how holy He is.  It is this piercing light of truth that brings us to the place where we truly acknowledge our sin and cry out for mercy.

But then what? What happens after, as Charles Wesley describes God’s work in his hymn “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”: “Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light, my chains fell of and my heart was free?”  That is what we are going to look at Sunday from 1 John 1:5-10.  As you prepare for Sunday, read the passage and ask yourself these three questions:
  1. Where does the light come from?  V.5
  2. What happens when the light shines on us?  V.9
  3. What happens when we live in the light?  V.7
For John, the whole issue of our relationship with Jesus is summed up in whether or not we are walking in the light.  As you read, ask God to shine His light on your heart and life in such a way that you can see the truth about who you are and how you live.  That is where joyful, victorious living begins.  See you Sunday.

Blessings,
Scott

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Matter of Thirst - Doug Rehberg

In 2007 Brennan Manning was speaking at a conference in the Midwest. He said, "In the 48 years since I was ambushed by Jesus in a little chapel in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania, and in literally the thousands of hours in Bible studies, prayer, meditation, silence and solitude over those years, I am now utterly convinced on Judgment Day the Lord Jesus is going to ask each of us one question and only on question. "Did you believe that I loved you? That I desired you? That I waited for you day after day? That I longed to hear the sound of your voice?"
Now you may think that a bit melodramatic. Or you may say, "Prove it." I think one can quite easily prove it when you examine the last words of Jesus on the cross as recorded by His beloved disciple, John. In fact, John is the only Gospel writer to record these remarkable words, which are a perfect sequel to his story of Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well.
One of the things we will say on Sunday is that John bookends his Gospel with the thirst of Jesus. In fact, John uses the word "thirst" five times; and each time Jesus is the center figure in each usage. Jesus is always quenching the thirst of someone other than Himself.
Think of the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. The story begins with Jesus' thirst, and it ends with Him quenching her thirst. In fact, He is never said to get a drink from that well. In John 19 it's the same thing. After 6 hours on the cross, Jesus exclaims, "I thirst!" But again, He is never pictured as getting His thirst quenched. As we will see on Sunday, He again quenches the thirst of another. In fact, His exclamation is proof that He's quenched the thirst of another.
But John leaves Jesus' thirst right there. He says, "I thirst." But His thirst is never quenched. Listen to what one of my favorite commentators says, "There is a sense, a real one, in which Christ still thirsts. He is thirsting for the love and fellowship and devotion of His own. He is yearning for fellowship with His blood-bought people. Here is one of the great marvels of grace - a redeemed sinner can offer that which satisfied the heart of Christ."
Manning is absolutely right, and John would agree. We are going to dissect all of this on Sunday in a message entitled, "A Matter of Thirst." The text is John 4:1-15 and John 19:28-30. In preparation for Sunday's message you may wish to consider the following:
1. Why does John consider thirst so important?
2. How does Jesus attend to people thirsty in chapter 2?
3. What evidence do we have that Jesus quenches the deepest thirst of the Samaritan woman?
4. How do Jesus' words in Matthew 26:29 and Matthew 26:39 relate to His words in John 19:28?
5. What causes His thirst on the cross?
6. What is the cup of wrath referred to in Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Revelation?
7. What similarities can we draw from Jesus' thirst at the well and His thirst on the cross?
8. Whose thirst does Jesus satisfy on the cross?
9. How does Jesus' words in Revelation 3:20 relate to John 19:28?
10. How does the message of John 19:28-30 show us that Brennan Manning's certainty is well-founded?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

"What Love Does" - Doug Rehberg


“They drew a circle that shut me out:
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout;
But love and He had a mind to win;
He drew a circle and took me in.”

Thus, is the story of Sychar and the woman Jesus encounters there.

In Proverbs 23:26 Solomon says, “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” That’s what we all long to have – the heart of another. But how is it gained? How does someone give his/her heart to you? Jack Miller writes, “You reach the conscience of another person by first being changed yourself, and out of that change, in love, reaching the other person.”

Most of the time when we desire to influence someone else we look to methodology; some way to change them without changing ourselves. And the reason is that we are so possessed with our own wants and needs that we are blind to theirs. Solomon identifies what we really want in any primary relationship; we want their heart. It’s not wrong to want the heart of another, actually it’s the height of maturity. But the way we go about trying to get it often reveals the depth of our own immaturity and our lack of understanding of Jesus.

If we are really going to reach the conscience of another, we have to deal with the question of whether we have first given our hearts to God. It’s only as our hearts are open to Him, infatuated with Him, that we are able to have them truly open to others. And it’s only there that true change happens.

This Sunday we will see an ultimate example of that in Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. In so many ways Jesus and this woman are polar opposites. But, in one way they mirror each other. It’s this striking similarity that is rarely discussed. But it’s only in examining this feature that the heart of the encounter is seen; and the heart is transformation.

In preparation for this Sunday’s message, “What Love Does”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Read John 4:1-26 several times.
  2. Check the lyrics to “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” and the You Tube interview of Stuart Townend’s description of writing it.
  3. How does the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Sychar reveal His love for His Father?
  4. How often is Jesus described as being “weary” in the gospels?
  5. What is His principle need as He sits down at the well?
  6. What laws does He violate in engaging her?
  7. Why does He say to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here…”?
  8. What is the woman’s deepest need?
  9. How does Jesus satisfy it in verse 26?
  10. How does He gain her heart? How does He gain yours?
Sunday is communion at Hebron. This is a great preparatory text. See you Sunday!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

"Take Your Place" - Barrett Hendrickson

Sitting in on the large group meetings at VBS this week has reminded me of where we have been the past 3 Sundays. Our Fully Alive sermon series has been following what the kids have been studying this week in VBS. We do this so you can have good conversations with your kids about what they learned in VBS. (All part of the light of the church, walking alongside the love of the family.) We've heard stories of Joseph (of Genesis), Esther, the early Church. Tomorrow (at VBS), and this coming Sunday (in worship), we are looking at the life of Paul. The key question is "How can you play a part in God's big story?"; and the bottom line is "Live like you're part of a bigger story."

Paul was converted on the road to Damascus in Acts chapter 9, and gets sent by the apostles back to Tarsus for three years, when he is called to Antioch to preach. (Antioch is the birthplace of the word "Christian" Acts 11:26.) In chapter 13 we see Paul and Barnabas sent off on their missionary journeys. The rest of the book of Acts is Luke's telling of Paul's journeys. The section that we will be reading Sunday is Acts 26, but this specific story needs to be put in context, because Paul was arrested years before, and now he is on trial. Paul recognizes his role in God's big story, and takes every advantage to preach the Gospel to any audience he can gather.

As you prepare for Sunday morning I hope you'll:

  • Read Acts 21:27-25:27. This will help you understand the complicated judicial process Paul has gone through to get himself before Agrippa in chapter 26.
  • Remember your life before you were saved.
  • Remember your conversion story.
  • Consider what the Great Commission means for your life.
  • Consider what gifts you have that could be used for the glory of God.
  • Pray for the kids in VBS, that the Word of God would take root in their hearts.
  • Pray for me, that the Lord would give me His words.
  • Pray for the Session, staff, and Pastoral Nominating Committee at Hebron, for wisdom and unity.
  • Pray for an unbeliever that you have a relationship with, that they may hear the Gospel call on their lives.

I'm looking forward to seeing you Sunday morning at 8:15, 9:15, and/or 10:45.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"Living Like Jesus Matters" - Scott Parsons


Sunday’s text, Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37, can be troubling to read.  Seeing the fervor and love expressed among believers in the early church often makes us question what has gone wrong with the church and us.  It is easy to write their experience off as a bunch of newly saved Christians living a spiritual high together, and dismiss this as the way we ought to live today.  There is no question the church is a different animal today than it was then.  But I’m not sure that it is better.  Sometimes I think we have formalized and codified the modern church to the extent that many churches have become more like businesses with a weekly meeting of interested shareholders than a true fellowship of believers.  Additionally, our society is radically different than in the day Luke wrote this.  Then people were significantly less transient and church members would generally have lived in close proximity to each other and naturally seen each other regularly.  The church would have been a neighborhood gathering rather than a group commuting to a central place. Our mobile society also makes it difficult for the church in many ways, including how we fellowship together and deal with problems.  Instead of being stuck together like family and working through problems.  Our fellowship usually takes place in the context of worship, and we typically deal with problems by bolting to another church at the first sign of trouble.  What is lacking is a true sense of community where people live, love and grow together. 

This lack of community not only hinders our personal growth, it hinders church growth as well.  Notice at the end of the Acts 2 passage Luke writes, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  The early church did not grow because of well-designed programs or high powered gospel presentations. The church grew because life in the community of believers was so extraordinary that people were drawn to it, wondering what made these people so different.  While I think this kind of community is rare today, I don’t think it is impossible.  However, in view of societal obstacles, it requires intentionality, hard work and sacrifice; but the benefits are amazing.

Do you desire more out of your life?  Do you find your spiritual fervor and/or growth lacking?  Are you open to having the Spirit guide you in another way of living?  Read through our passages and come prepared Sunday to challenge your presuppositions of what the Christian life should look like.  It could change everything!

Blessings,
Scott

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"Walking Toward the Sunset" - Doug Rehberg


Robert Robinson was born in 1735 in Norfolk, England to poor parents. When Robert was 8 his father died. When he was 14 he was sent by his mother to London to learn how to be a barber.

There in London he became involved with a gang of lawbreakers and carousers. For three years he pursued the passions of his flesh. But then one night, at age 17, he attended a meeting where George Whitefield was preaching. He and his friends came to mock the words of Whitefield, but he came away converted.

Several years later he felt called to preach. He entered the school of ministry and within a few more years he became a Methodist pastor. Years later he left the Methodist Church and moved to Cambridge, England to undertake pastoral duties for the Baptists. Here he became known as more than a pastor. He was known as a theologian and hymn writer. He wrote theological treatises and many hymns.

When Robinson was 23 he wrote perhaps his most famous hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” In its second stanza he refers to the words of I Samuel 7:12 where Samuel is said to have taken a stone and called its name, “Ebenezer”, as a symbol of God’s power and faithfulness. Robinson refers to it this way, “Here I raise my Ebenezer – hither by thy help I’ve come.”

Yet in the third stanza he says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it – prone to leave the God I love.” What Robinson writes in verse three is prophetic. After years of following Jesus he wanders from the pathway and once again lives a life characterized by lapses into sin, instability, and spurious teaching.

The story is told that one day he’s riding a stagecoach when he notices a woman deeply engrossed in a hymn book. She’s humming a hymn, and when she sees him looking her way she says, “Do you know this hymn?” Robinson stares at her saying, “Know it? I wrote it.” The hymn was “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Robinson said, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds if I had the feelings I had when I wrote them.” Of course the answer to Robert Robinson’s desperate longing was the same one he discovered at 17. The words of this hymn contain two significant truths – we can wander and the Lord never does.

This third week of our series, “Fully Alive” we turn to the life and ministry of Jesus. From Joseph, to Esther, to Jesus!

We will be in Luke 24 where two disciples (unnamed) are walking away from Jerusalem and toward Emmaus. It’s Easter afternoon and they are walking away! Like Robinson they are dispirited and lost in their own self-contemplation. They have left their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, not believing a word of the news that Jesus is alive. This familiar text – Luke 24:13-35 - contains much more truth than is often seen. The VBS question for the week is: “How can you live like Jesus is still at work in this world?” It’s a question to which those two guys on that road think they have an answer. Before Jesus shows up they’re dead wrong. After He leaves they not only know the truth, they’ve experienced it all over again.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Walking toward the Sunset”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What is a disciple?
  2. How did one become a disciple in Jesus’ day?
  3. What are the evidences that none of Jesus’ disciples qualified to follow Him?
  4. How does Jesus totally abrogate rabbinic practice of His day in calling His disciples?
  5. How far and in what direction is Emmaus from Jerusalem?
  6. How does Jesus’ behavior in this text mirror His behavior three years earlier?
  7. How cogent is the discussion the two disciples are having as they walk along? Why does Jesus ask them about it in verse 7?
  8. On what grounds does Jesus call them foolish in verse 25?
  9. Why do they invite Him in verse 28?
  10. How does Jesus impart His grace to them? What difference does it make in their lives?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

"The Great Planner" - Doug Rehberg


When I was an undergraduate, back before most of you were born, I mentioned recently in our study of James. His name was Dr. Delvin Covey. Like James who says, “Come now you rich…”, Covey famously slapped down a student this way, “Class, let’s move on before we have time to contemplate that last comment.”

But there’s another memory I have of Dr. Covey, one that involves his response to a fellow professor. The other professor was new to campus. He had little knowledge of Covey or his pedigree. One day, in a lecture hall full of students, he asked Covey, “How is it that a Gordon professor made it all the way to Yalta as a translator for President Roosevelt?”

Now, you may recall that the Yalta Conference occurred in Eastern Europe in February 1945. It was a summit in which the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia met to determine the future of postwar Germany and the rest of Europe.

Covey paused a moment, then replied for all to hear, “My dear sir the question is not how did I get to Yalta, but how did I ever get here?” I was reminded of Dr. Covey’s comment when Ellen Dillard, our Children’s Ministry Director, gave me a copy of the questions to be addressed this month at Vacation Bible School. The question for Day 2 (or this week’s message) is particularly interesting. “How can you live like God has a plan for you?” I can hear Dr. Covey, and anyone with the slightest biblical acumen answering, “How can you not?” In other words, what possible evidence can you provide that God does not have a plan for every life?

In theology it’s called the doctrine of divine providence. (You may want to read the bulletin insert this week for a fuller description of this doctrine.) The Bible clearly testifies (on nearly every page) that God is executing His plan meticulously throughout all of human history.

Perhaps the clearest expression of His providence is the incomparable words of Joseph to his brothers in Genesis 50, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” But there are other profound illustrations  in both Testaments, including the story of Esther. Think of it. Here’s a young exiled Jewess who becomes Queen of Persia by divine providence. God puts her there to deliver His people from slaughter by a proud and power-hungry king who just happens to be her husband! This ten chapter book screams of God’s providential role in every circumstance of every life. We will highlight this fact on Sunday in a message entitled “The Great Planner”. The text is Esther 1:1-5, 10-12 and 2:1-4, 15-23. In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following: 
  1. Consider reading the Book of Esther.
  2. How many times is God mentioned in the Book of Esther?
  3. More than a century before the king’s party (in Chapter 1) God had moved a Persian King (Cyrus) to allow Jewish exiles to return to their homeland. Where’s God’s grace on display in the story of Esther?
  4. Ahasureus is the Babylonian name of this Persian king. His Persian name is better known. What is it?
  5. On what grounds does the king “divorce” his wife Vashti?
  6. What New Testament parallels come to mind when you think: wine, women, and debauchery?
  7. How does God use the king’s sin to bring about His purposes in chapter 2?
  8. On what grounds does the king choose Esther to be queen? Can you think of any Old and New Testament parallels?
  9. How does Mordecai prove in chapter 2 that God’s in charge?
  10. How does God use the Book of Esther to show us what true trust and worship are?
See you Sunday!