Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"A Good Walk Unspoiled" - Doug Rehberg

The woman had just returned from a meeting of the National Organization of Women in Denver when her five-year-old greeted her at the door. “Mommy,” she said, “When I grow up, I want to be a nurse.” “A nurse?” her mother said. “Now listen, just because you’re a woman that doesn’t mean you have to be a nurse. You can be a surgeon if you want. You can be a lawyer or a judge. You can even be the President of the United States. You can be anything you want to be!” Her daughter looked dubious. “Anything, Mommy?” “Yes, honey, you can be anything you want to be!” The little girl beamed and said, “Then I want to be a horse.”

We received a graduation announcement the other day. Like most invitations that announce the graduation or “commencement” of a high school senior, this one had a picture of the graduate on the front. But unlike others, it had a message across the top that read, “The World Awaits.” Now, without knowing the young person, do you think that’s true? Do you think the world awaits any graduating high school or college senior? Isn’t it far truer that, in a world of rampant conformity, the world awaits no one, it simply proceeds according to its own set of rules of conformity. If you doubt that, just consider the definition of success that pervades our culture today. Success equals independence, financial stability, and freedom to pursue an insatiable desire for amusement. The truth is – anyone rejecting the mores of popular culture are ignored or relegated to the fringe. This is nothing new, of course; the Bible speaks of it from Genesis through Revelation.

This Sunday is Baccalaureate Sunday at Hebron. At both the 9:15 and 10:45 services we will be recognizing our 2017 high school graduates. At the same time we will be looking at another element of what it means to “flourish” in life. Last week we examined Genesis 1 and 2 and observed what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God. This week we move ahead a few chapters to see what the Lord tells us about enjoying Him. Like many great story tellers (Charles Dickens for one – “the best of times…the worst of times…”), the writer of Genesis uses contrast to make his point. Chapters 4 and 5 are largely a genealogy of Adam. It’s a text littered with names. But remarkably there’s a name that is used twice. Think of it. In the space of fifty verses and two dozen different names, the Holy Spirit directs the author to mention two different people with the same name – Enoch.

There couldn’t be any greater contrast between the first Enoch and the second one. The first Enoch lives his life in total conformity to the culture around him. It’s a culture that his father emulated and Enoch personifies.

The second Enoch couldn’t be more different. He bucks the culture. Instead of walking in step with his prurient interest, the Bible says twice, in the space of three verses, that he walked with God. He didn’t live a conforming life. He lived a transformed life. The more we dig into the second Enoch the more remarkable the insights he provides for every Christian – graduates and post-graduates.

The message this Sunday is entitled, “A Good Walk Unspoiled”. The text is Genesis 4:24 to 5:24. In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What does the name “Enoch” mean?
  2. What is the significance of their fathers’ names in relation to their lifestyles?
  3. How long does Enoch #2 walk with God?
  4. Drawing on Genesis 5 and Hebrews 11, in what ways did Enoch walk with God?
  5. What does it mean that “he walked with God and he was not, for the Lord God took him”?
  6. Who said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled?”
  7. What other Scriptures come to your mind in understanding what walking with God means?
  8. What evidence can you find from Jesus’ ministry that confirms the aptness of the walking image in describing the spiritual life?
  9. In what ways does the question, “How’s your walk?” get to the essence of the Christian life
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"Designed by the Master" - Doug Rehberg

This week we begin a short preaching series (six weeks) that mirrors what the elementary students will be studying this summer. We’ve entitled it, “Flourish”.

This week “flourishing” has been on my mind because of the spectacular reminder in visiting Eugene, Oregon last weekend. Now I’ve been to the West Coast a few times before; but never to Oregon, and never to “TrackTown”.

They call Eugene, Oregon, “TrackTown” because of the University of Oregon’s legendary track and field program, their four head coaches who have been inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame, and historic Hayward Field. Oregon’s track and field history have been documented in two major films – Without Limits and Prefontaine, not to mention a number of books.

But, as I walked around Eugene I kept thinking it could be called “Rhododendron Town”.  They were everywhere! In fact, it is the only place I’ve ever been where athletic fields are lined in rhododendron. Rhododendrons grow there like yews and thistles grow here. It’s remarkable. The truth is – rhododendron, azaleas, cedars, bleeding hearts, pieris japonica, viburnum, etc., all flourish in Eugene due not only to moisture and temperature levels, but also to the composition of the soil. And you know the soil is where flourishing all begins. Everything starts at the roots. And so it is with our spiritual life.

This week we begin with Genesis 1 and 2 and Psalm 139 as we examine what it means to be created in the image of God. Though that image has been marred by sin, it nevertheless is still with us. In fact, it’s rediscovery of that image that helps us ward off a crisis of identity. Indeed it’s essential that when the struggles of life threaten to overtake us that we stop and refocus our attention on God’s purpose in creating us in His image. And the truth is that it’s only at the cross that that purpose is proven and that image becomes clearer.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Designed by the Master,” you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How do the pains and struggles of life make us or break us?
  2. What is an “identity crisis”?
  3. Is it possible to experience it more than once?
  4. What does the “Imago Dei” mean to you?
  5. In what way(s) are you made in His image?
  6. Are the image and likeness of God two different things?
  7. How does Genesis 1:26 relate to Psalm 8?
  8. What does David mean when he says that man is crowned with glory and honor (Ps. 8:5)?
  9. What does, “let him have dominion” mean?
  10. What does verse 27 tell us about the image of God in us?
See you at the Table this Sunday!

Monday, May 8, 2017

"Excelling in Generosity" - Ken Wagoner

When Doug asked if I would be available to preach this Sunday, I asked him what was the sermon series, and what text was scheduled for this week.  Doug’s response was there would be several weeks on giving but no specific text was assigned for the week.  He also reminded me it was Mother’s Day which made me think these two topics are not usually placed together.  To satisfy the Mother’s Day aspect, here is a story I would imagine many of you have heard, but it also makes a small bridge to generosity and giving.

A little boy came up to his mother in the kitchen one evening while she was fixing supper, and he handed her a piece of paper that he had been writing on.  After his mom dried her hands on an apron, she read it, and this is what it said:

For cutting grass:  $5.00 – For cleaning up my room this week:  $1.00 – For going to the store for you:  $.50 – Baby sitting my kid brother while you went shopping:  $.25 – Taking out the garbage:   $1.00 – For getting a good report card:  $5.00 – For cleaning up and raking the yard:  $2.00       Total owed:  $14.75

Well, his mother looked at him standing there, and the boy could see the memories flashing through her mind.  She picked up the pen, turned over the paper he’d written on, and this is what she wrote:

“For the nine months I carried you while you grew inside me.  No Charge. – For all the nights that I’ve sat up with you, doctored and prayed for you:  No Charge. – For all the trying times, and all the tears that you’ve caused through the years:  No Charge. – For all the nights that were filled with dread, and for the worries I knew were ahead:  No Charge. – For the toys, food, clothes, and even wiping your nose:  No Charge. – When you add it up, Son, the cost of my love is:  No Charge.”

When the boy finished reading what his mother had written, there were big tears in his eyes, and he looked straight up at his mother and said, “Mom, I sure do love you.”  And then he took the pen and in great big letters he wrote:  “PAID IN FULL.”   John (Gibby) Gilbert

In II Corinthians 8:1-9, Paul commends the Corinthians for their excelling in faith, speech, and knowledge, and he exhorts them to excel in generosity which he called “an act of grace.”  It is from the II Corinthians passage where I get the sermon title for this week.   Proverbs is also a book which encourages generosity in giving.  I know I can be more generous, and I suspect almost all of us have room for improvement in this area.  Below are some verses from Proverbs to look at before we gather together on Sunday.  We will look at these together in worship, but if you have time read these verses (and II Corinthians 8:1-9) in preparation for God’s working in our lives to grow in our generosity in response to God’s great love for us.
  1. Proverbs 30:7-9 – What is the overarching question in this prayer, and what is the underlying assumption in these verses?
  2. Proverbs 10:16 – This verse describes both a righteous and a wicked person.  How would you define these two different type of people?
  3. Proverbs 11:1 – The word abomination is found in this verse.  What are some other words which can be used to describe this condition.
  4. Proverbs 11:4 – What do you think of when you hear the words “the day of wrath?”
  5. Proverbs 18:10-11 – What does the author mean when he uses the term “strong city?”
  6. Proverbs 11:24 – What do we learn from this passage about the benefits of our generous giving, and the warnings about withholding what God has blessed us with?
Thank you for the privilege of being with you this Sunday, and I pray together all of us will grow in our giving, and generosity will flow from us for His glory!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Fools and Their Money" - Doug Rehberg

One hundred years ago a man named Oskar was born in Germany who would change the face of history for more than a thousand people. In his mid-twenties, after starting several businesses, he went bankrupt. But then in 1939, with the help of the Third Reich, he gained ownership of a factory in Poland and began making a profit. The first thing he did was hire a Jewish accountant named Stern and together they began to make some serious money. Within three years, he was spending it as fast as he made it. You say, “On what? Homes?” No. “Perks?” No. People! He began buying people. He’d go to the commandants of the German concentration camps and offer bribes and payoffs to buy Jewish prisoners to work in his factory. Sometimes the price would be meager, other times it would be exorbitant. Either way he’d pay it. By the end of the year he had spent his entire fortune buying as many people as he could. By the end of the war he had risked both life and fortune buying 1,100 Jewish men and women, boys and girls, and sparing them from certain death.

When the last scene of Schindler’s List was aired twenty-two years ago on NBC, the television audience was as large as the first moon landing, some sixty million people. There, standing before his factory full of workers, Oskar Schindler announces the war is over, the Nazis are defeated, and everyone is free to go. And as he bids them farewell, he’s overcome by emotion. He cries out, “I should have done more! If only I had not wasted so much money. I could have done more!” He looks over at his automobiles and says, “I could have traded one of those for another ten lives.” He looks down at a small gold pin on his lapel and says, “I could have given them this and saved at least one more life.” And at that moment Schindler realizes something that most of us never realize – the difference between life and death is often just a matter of money. And, nowhere is that any clearer than in Jesus’ parable of the rich fool.

Of all the Gospel writers, none is more acutely aware of the power of money than Dr. Luke. In fact, as you read through his Gospel in one sitting (or maybe two) you quickly see that Luke has a rich/poor theme running all the way through it. And that stands to reason, for of all the things Luke knows about the Gospel and the culture into which it is preached, he knows it’s all a matter of the heart and its affections.

Think of it. Here in Luke 12 Jesus is surrounded by thousands of people who are listening to His words. But, interestingly instead of focusing on the crowd, Jesus is addressing His disciples. He’s talking about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who say one thing in private and do another in public. He’s talking about the difference between pleasing people and pleasing God. He’s talking about their willingness to stand up for the Son of Man in the midst of a hostile, religious world. When you review verse 1 through 12 you see that it’s all weighty matters that occupy Jesus’ attention; and at the root of it all is a passion for the lordship of Christ. But suddenly in the midst of this sobering teaching, Luke says someone in the crowd interrupts with a self-serving demand, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Talk about a non sequitur! Talk about cognitive dissonance! But when you take a step back and analyze what Jesus says in response to this demand you find that there is perfect symmetry between what He says in verses 1-12 and what he says in verses 13-21. Here Jesus is talking about money – the very thing that is the master of most hearts. Here in a few verses Jesus enumerates three ways in which money can capture our hearts and make fools out of us.

In preparation for Sunday’s message entitled, “Fools and Their Money” you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What evidence can you find of the rich/poor theme in the Gospel of Luke?
  2. What significance is there to Luke’s description of crowd size in verse 1?
  3. Why does this man interrupt Jesus in verse 12?
  4. What leads him to think Jesus can help him get what he wants?
  5. What does Jesus’ warning in verse 15 imply?
  6. Why is the parable of the rich man so apropos to us?
  7. Where do these thoughts come from?
  8. What does the frequency of personal pronouns in verses 17-19 signal?
  9. What does his desire to hoard signal?
  10. What does his mention of his soul in verse 19 signal? How does that differ from what David says to his soul in Psalm 103?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

To Dwell in the Dwelling

While I was growing up at Hebron, we would end the fall term of Youth Club by caroling around the neighborhood. It was always a fun time, as we would walk around the block, stopping at houses of people we knew, knock on their door and 15 of us would sing off-key Christmas songs. No one ever invited us in for yule log or wassail. (I'm beginning to think those things were made up.) As we walked from house to house, Jerry would always tell us to walk with him - not in front, not behind, but with. After spending many more years with Jerry, I've learned that his favorite English word is "with." (His favorite word is in German, "kartoffelsalat.")

As I've been studying to prepare for this sermon, I've wanted to take the rabbit trails the Scripture has given me, but know I need to stay on task. One of those rabbit trails is to study the timeline of God's presence with man. How has man's relationship, fellowship, and community with God evolved from the time man was created, to now, and what will it be like when the presence is complete? What does "God with us" mean?

Instead, I've learned a lot about the tabernacle, and the who, the with what, and the why to build it. You might even be pleased to know that I've even found out there is a numerical significance to the amount of materials God called for. The Exodus might have been 3300 years ago but God's request of taking up an offering to build the tabernacle still applies to us today...except the tabernacle has changed.

To help you prepare, for Sunday's sermon, I suggest reading the whole book of Exodus. I love this historical narrative of redemption. But if you are studying your own thing, and want just one chapter to read which will help you Sunday, I would love for that to be Exodus 12.

We will be reading Exodus 25:1-9 as we gather on Sunday morning. God has already given the 10 commandments and is now telling Moses who, with what, and why He wants to build the tabernacle. I'm really excited about how what God has shown me through my study, and I hope to see you at 8:15, 9:15 or 10:45.

For some extra credit, watch this, I'll refer to it Sunday.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Discerning God's Will for Your Life" - Scott Parsons

One of the great tragedies of western culture is that we have made accomplishment and the acquisition of things matters of primary importance.  I don’t think it is a stretch to say that they are the gods of our civilization.  Not only do we worship easily and naturally at the altars of these gods, we teach our children to do the same.  From the earliest age we seek to get them into the finest schools we can and strive to give them every advantage so they get into the best colleges and land the best paying and most prestigious jobs.  It is our desire that our children be successful.  There is nothing wrong with that.  The problem is with the standard we use to measure their success.  The nearly universal measurement of success today is the job you have and the recognition we receive from it, the homes we are able to purchase and the cars we are able to drive.  Of course the details of this great pursuit vary, but the desires/goals of success are pretty much standard.  A successful life is a prosperous life.

Is this, however, the measure of success for a follower of Jesus?  Is the common pursuit of our culture consistent with God’s will for our lives?  You don’t have to dig too deeply into the Bible to see that the answer to these questions is a resounding, NO!  The Bible clearly teaches that there is nothing inherently wrong with wealth and success, but it also clearly teaches that these are not the primary pursuits of the follower of Jesus!  Jesus himself said; “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.”  So in kingdom culture, what is of primary importance?  What is to be our primary pursuit?  It is character.  It is a head and heart that is given wholly to God that translates into a life that is lived for His glory.  So when we think about the will of God for our lives, our primary thoughts should not be about success or things, but about our relationship with God and how our lives reflect his Spirit that lives within us.

In Sunday’s sermon from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul without hesitation declares that he knows God’s will for our lives.  Read these verses and reflect on the following questions:
  1. Do these things characterize my life on a daily basis?
  2. Which of these things do your struggle with the most?
  3. What life priorities do you have that are at odds with God’s stated will for your life?
  4. How can you change these priorities?
  5. God always responds to his children when they ask for help.  Ask God to do whatever is necessary to conform your life to his will.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"The Reality of the Resurrection" - Doug Rehberg

The  whole of Christianity rests on one fact: “Christ has been raised from the dead.” Indeed, Paul labors this fact in many of his letters, but nowhere more clearly than in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15.  There he says, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith; you are still in your sins.” But that’s not all Paul says about the essential reality of Jesus’ resurrection.

In Romans 1, Paul notes that Christ’s divinity finds its surest proof in His resurrection since He was “through the Spirit of holiness declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead.” Therefore, it would not be unreasonable to doubt His Deity if He had not risen.

In Romans 14 Paul notes that Christ’s sovereignty depends upon His resurrection. “For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”
In Romans 4 Paul argues that Christ’s resurrection assures us of our justification; the choicest blessing of the covenant of grace. Listen to what Paul says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

In I Peter another apostle gets into the act of pointing out the blessings of every believer when he links our regeneration to the resurrection of Jesus. Listen to what Peter says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Thus, the golden thread of the resurrection runs through ever grace bestowed on every believer, from regeneration to our eternal glory, and binds us together with one another in Christ.

It’s hard to over-estimate the importance of the resurrection. Listen to Paul again, “His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.”

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our subject this Easter Sunday. We will begin with its veracity and then move to consider Jesus’ clearest teaching on it in John 14:1-7.

In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Who is Jesus talking to in John 14 and why are they scared?
  2. This is one of only two places in the Gospels where Jesus speaks in imperative tense. What does that mean?
  3. Where else does He use the imperative tense?
  4. On what grounds is Jesus angry with His disciples?
  5. What are His arguments for them to trust Him?
  6. In verses 2 and 3 Jesus uses the word “place”. What does he mean by “place”?
  7. How does His statement in verse 3 correspond to His statement to Mary in John 20:17?
  8. How does the resurrection give unassailable credibility to His words in verse 6?
  9. What’s the implication of His statement in verse 7?
  10. How credible is the resurrection of Jesus Christ in our modern, rational, and scientific age?
See you on Easter!