Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A Baptist Role Model - Doug Rehberg

Last week a man came out of one of the services and almost hugged me! Now that’s not unusual for a lot of men, but not this guy. He’s not a hugger. So instead of hugging me he says, “I want you to know that I came this close (holding his thumb & index finger a fraction of an inch away from each other) to standing up and shouting hallelujah for the way you elevate the grace of God in your preaching.” Instantly I said, “Do it! Who knows? Others may join in.”

Now I mention this because that’s exactly the target of John’s aim; not only in the prologue, but throughout his gospel.

Someone has said, “Religion can make you weird. It can also make you afraid. If God is a police officer at best and a child abuser at worst, you had better be careful, and careful will kill the freedom of your new life in Christ.”

Think of it. If the work of Christ depends on your faithfulness, obedience, and purity; and you must work to maintain your witness; maintaining it will kill your freedom. If there are angels piling up the good things you do on one side of some gigantic scale, and demons stacking up all the bad stuff on the other side; you’re like the Angolan basketball team Charles Barclay talked about in 1992 – “You’re in trouble!”

I’ve heard the parable of the talents taught for years as an endorsement of religion. Now that was rarely the intent of the teacher; but that’s the gist of what was being taught.

You remember the story (Matthew 25:14-30). The master leaves home and entrusts his stuff to 3 servants. The first servant gets 5 talents, the second gets 2, and the third gets 1. When the master gets back, the one who gets 5 gives him 5 more. The one who gets 2 gives him 2 more. But the one who receives one returns only one. And Jesus says that the master is ticked, “At least you could have invested it with the bankers and given me some interest, along with the principal.”

For years people have used that story to teach people to live up to their potential so that one day they might hear those oft quoted words at a funeral, “Well done, good and faithful servant”. I have a friend who says that, if he hears those words one more time at a funeral, he will set propriety aside, stand up, and say, “That’s nonsense! Only Jesus was faithful enough to hear those words…certainly not Sam!”

But Jesus is teaching something far greater than watching your P’s and Q’s in this parable. We know that, because in the very next chapter-the “Jews of Jerusalem,” the religious leaders were getting together planning how to kill Him. Now I would suggest that teaching people to work harder at being good and faithful doesn’t make you a target for death. The parable’s not about doing better. It’s about taking a risk. If that third servant had gotten his eyes off himself and his fear and lost that talent by doing something risky, the master wouldn’t have been displeased one bit. In fact, it was his attempt to be safe and secure in his own strength that caused him to be castigated by the master. We don’t serve a hard Master. We don’t serve a greedy Master who reaps where He doesn’t plant. We serve a Grace-Giving Master who says, “Here’s all I’ve got I give it to you to use for my glory and your joy. Now go out and forget yourself and take a risk!”

Now if anyone in the gospels does that any more clearly and effectively than John the Baptist, I don’t know him or her. That’s why John features John the Baptist not only in the prologue (John 1:1-18), but at several other points in the first three chapters. Why? Because John the Baptist is a perfect example of someone who is living out being adopted, elected, receiving of divine revelation and a daily supply of grace. In short, he is a perfect illustration of a life where the implications of what the incarnation of God is being lived out.

In preparation for the message entitled, “A Baptist Role Model,” you may wish to consider the following:

1. Read our preaching text for Sunday – John 1:6-8, 19-34; 3:25-30.
2. What tribe of Israel does John come from?
3. What is unusual about him when it comes to his profession?
4. Why does John use the word “witness” to describe him 3 times in verses 6, 7, & 8?
5. What are the marks of his witness?
6. How different is his witness to Jesus from the ones we normally hear about?
7. How does his witness align with grace?
8. Who does John identify himself to be in chapters 1 and 3?
9. Who does John identify Jesus to be in chapters 1 and 3?
10. Who would he define to be the good and faithful servant?

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Taking Dead Aim - Doug Rehberg

In 1610, just one year after the death of Dutch seminary professor, James Arminius, his followers drafted five articles of faith based on his teaching. They called it a “Remonstrance”, a protest against the official teaching of the Church of Holland expressed in the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism. They argued that the teaching of the church was wrong.

Not long ago I was in a discussion with a man who said, “You didn’t answer my question!” I replied, “Oh yes I did. You just didn’t like my answer.” The problem wasn’t a failure of communication, it was a failure of acceptance. And that’s what these Arminians were doing.

Unlike the teaching of the church they believed that: (1) man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him; (2) God’s election of those He will save is prompted by His foreseeing what they will of their own accord, believe; (3) Christ’s death on the cross did not ensure the salvation of anyone, nor did it secure the gift of faith to anyone (for there is no such gift); (4) what the cross did was create a possibility of salvation for everyone who believes; and (5) once saved it rests with the believer to keep himself in a state of grace by keeping up his faith—those who fail at this will fall away and be lost.

Now think of the implications of this! What the Arminians were saying is what millions of Americans who populate thousands of churches today believe. What they are saying is what I believed for years, because it was what I was taught—man’s salvation depends ultimately on his own decisions.

Now what’s amazing is that the Bible is quite clear on all of this. Years ago a dear woman at Hebron was reading through the Bible as part of our church-wide “Read through the Bible” effort. She had been in hundreds of Bible studies where she had consistently raised Arminian objections to what was being taught. When she got to the end of the Book of Revelation she called for an appointment. And there in my office she confessed, “I don’t like it. I don’t agree with it. But I have to say that total depravity, God’s unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints are all through the Bible. In fact, it’s front and center!”

Indeed it is! And no one is clearer on this than John. In fact, he nails it right out of the gate. If you read the first 18 verses of John 1 carefully, you’ll find him speaking plainly and forcefully in favor of God’s sovereignty and man’s inability; the same way the church of Holland understood it.

This Sunday we begin a new series: “That You May Believe, a Study of the Gospel of John.” This week’s message is entitled, “Taking Dead Aim”. That is exactly what John does in these first 18 verses. He not only sets forth the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, he enumerates four clear implications of that incarnation.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:

1. How long after the Ascension did John write his gospel?
2. Why does he borrow from Genesis 1 in beginning his gospel? What does this tell us about what he’s saying?
3. How does he describe our salvation in verse 12?
4. How is one saved? (See verse 13)
5. Whose will is exerted to bring about our rebirth and adoption?
6. How is grace communicated to us? (See verse 16)
7. How is grace and truth apprehended by the sinner? (see verse 17)
8. What does John say about the identity of Jesus Christ in verse 18?
9. How is verse 18 a perfect sequel to verses 1 & 2?
10. Why do you think many believe that John wrote chapter 1:1-18 after he had finished his gospel?

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Desire to Dwell - Henry Knapp

“Don’t hang out with them… they’re the bad kids!” I don’t think my mother ever used those exact words, but I sure picked up the impression. I strongly suspect other moms spoke that way about me, warning their kids that I was the bad influence. Of course, the implication is that their “badness” would rub off on me (or, mine onto them!). As a parent myself, I can completely understand the parental warning—I don’t want my kids to be negatively influenced by others either! The solution, of course, is “Stay away!”

Now, in parenting situations, that might very well be great advice. The desire to protect our children from bad influences is overwhelming, and right and proper, I would think. A big part of that protection is to ensure that they find themselves in healthy, God-honoring relationships and circumstances. But, I’m really glad that God does not treat me/us like that!

God is holy. That is, He is distinct, separate, removed from the sinfulness and evil of this world. God does not, and cannot, abide evil and wickedness. But—and there’s that wonderful word—but, the Lord, nevertheless, desires to be with us! An amazing thing about our God, though He is holy, perfect, and good in every way, it is His desire not to abandon us, to separate Himself from our sinfulness. Instead, He desires to walk with us. The Bible uses lots of different language to try to capture this reality—God walks with us, we are united with Christ, He comes to us, and so forth. But, the image I like best is… God desires to dwell with us.

From the beginning in Eden, God acts so as to dwell with His people. It is not enough simply to remove our sin or to free us from the slavery of our evil. It is not the Lord’s sole purpose to bless us with good and gracious things. All these are part of what God does so that He might be our God and we His people. That relationship—belonging to God—is not a distant thing. It is intimacy expressed in His intention to dwell, to live among, to be a part of every moment, to be with His children.

There’s no better picture of this than in Revelation 21. Here, the Apostle John recounts his vision of what Heaven will be like—the culmination of all the creative and redemptive work of God: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21: 3-4).

We justly think of all the blessings and benefits—no more pain! No more mourning, tears, crying… death. No more! But, this is not simply because we will be in heaven; but because in heaven we shall dwell with God Himself! The thought of being daily, every moment, in the immediate presence of God is overwhelming! God desires to dwell with us, and all that dwelling means is possible because of the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us.

As you prepare for worship this Sunday, read Exodus 33:12-16.

1. What does the Lord mean when He commands Moses to “Bring up this people” (vs. 12)? Who is He talking about, and what does He want Moses to do?

2. Why does Moses want someone to go with him? What might his concerns be?

3. What does it mean that God “knows you by name”? Obviously, knowing everything, God knows our names. Why stress this to Moses?

4. To find favor in God’s sight means what?

5. What would it look like for God to “show you His ways” (vs. 13)? What is the result of God doing so? Why does Moses desire this?

6. What might God mean when He says He will send His Presence with Moses? Isn’t God omnipresent (everywhere) anyways? Of course, He is everywhere so He will be with Moses. What is special about what He is saying?

7. In verses 15-16, why does Moses want to be seen as “distinct” from the rest of the world? Why does he want to stand out? Is this simply an ego thing? If not, what is in play?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Answering Peter's Question - Doug Rehberg

I have a friend who has 2 PhDs and 186 patents. He is one of the brightest minds I’ve ever known. On Monday, July 22, he called me to express his disappointment that nothing was said on Sunday, June 21st about Apollo 11 and mankind’s first trip to the moon. Of course, the reason for his surprise was that Saturday, July 20, 2019 was the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin setting foot on the moon; arguably the greatest feat in human history.

Now if you know my friend, you know that the reason he thought mentioning Apollo 11 on July 22nd was appropriate was because of the role God played with Apollo 11. For him mankind’s first trip to the moon was an obvious example of divine orchestration. And he is consistent. He speaks of the same divine mastery over his own work—from idea generation to stunning ground-breaking applications.

Just consider the 8-day, 3-hour, 18-minute, and 35-second mission of Apollo 11. It all began May 25, 1961 when President John F. Kennedy speaking before Congress said, “We chose to go to the moon not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.” And hard it was.

Over 8 years $24 billion was spent on the moon landing. The Saturn V rocket, used to lift the spacecraft off the launch pad, was the largest rocket man ever designed, weighing 6.2 million pounds, the weight of 120 thirty-ton dump trucks. The rocket generated 7.6 million pounds of thrust, creating more power than 85 Hoover Dams, while expending 20 tons of fuel per second! It burned more fuel in one second than Lindbergh used to cross the Atlantic. The Saturn V went from paper design to launch in just six years in large part because Wernber von Braun was a Christian. The difference between the recognition of a need and the infinitesimally small time interval just preceding its solution is unfathomable and only explainable by Divine Orchestration or more specifically, Divine Insight.

There are some amazing facts about the Apollo 11 mission. The average age of NASA engineers at the time was 27 years old. When the Lunar Landing Module touched down, a distance from its intended landing site, it had only 23 seconds of fuel left. On the way from Colombia, the command module captained by Michael Collins, to the surface of the moon, astronaut Buzz Aldrin broke a crucial circuit breaker in the Lunar Landing Module—Eagle—but was able to fix it by shoving a ball point pen into the disabled breaker.

A modern iPhone has 2400 times the processing speed, 1 million times more operating memory (RAM) and 7 million times more program (ROM) memory than the crucial Apollo 11 navigation computer essential for to the success of the mission.

But perhaps most incredible of all, President Richard Nixon had his speech writers draft a disaster speech that was ready to be delivered in the likely event that the mission failed.

Now these are only a handful of facts that leads my good friend to rightfully conclude that God superintended the success of the mission. The three principle astronauts—Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins have all spoken plainly, and at length, about God’s hand in all of it. (Perhaps this is why Aldrin took communion on the surface of the moon.) All 3, along with Chris Kraft, knew that without God’s sovereign work the mission would have failed.

But how did they know that? Not every astronaut believed that. Certainly not every engineer believed that. The truth is whether its 1969 or 2019 the vast ­­­­­preponderance of scientists aren't like my friend. They are skeptics at best. Why? Jesus tells us, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17) It’s Revelation! It’s not the product of human wisdom. It’s the result of God opening eyes and hearts. And that is exactly what we will see this Sunday as we examine Matthew 19:16-20:16.

How many times have you been told that what you do determines your destiny? How many times have you told yourself that your standing with God was based on your own efforts at obedience and holiness? How many times have you wondered whether your life measures up to the standards God has established for getting to heaven? If you think getting to the moon is tough, just imagine working your way into heaven.

Until this week I never put Matthew 19:16-30 together with Matthew 20:1-16. Maybe it was the chapter break by someone other than Matthew. Maybe it’s because I was lazy. Maybe it’s because of revelation. Whatever the reason, they go together and the truth is startling!

In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:

1. What is Jesus’ point in 19:17?
2. Why does he point this rich young man to the second tablet of the law?
3. How good is the man’s self-assessment in v. 20?
4. What does His command in v. 21 mean?
5. What’s Jesus mean in verses 23 & 24?
6. Why are the disciples astonished in v. 25?
7. How does verse 26 relate to 20:1-16?
8. What are the two ways Jesus answers Peter’s question asked in verse 27?
9. What is the principle message of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard?
10. How does 20:13-15 answer the questions of both the rich young man and Peter?

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Being Mad at Your Maker - Doug Rehberg

The guy’s written me off. He used to reach out to me but no more. You say, “What did you do to offend him?” It’s simple, I wouldn’t agree with him.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and the man was on the practice tee hitting a few golf balls when the pro brought a man out for a lesson. As was his custom, the pro walked over, grabbed a bag of balls and a large portable mirror. At the same time, the pro told his pupil to pull out his seven-iron and hit a few shots so that he could see what he was going to be working with.

After watching a dozen shots, six to the right and six to the left, the wise old pro instructed the man to stop and listen to him. For the next five minutes the pro suggested several key corrections to the man’s technique. But as he began to demonstrate each of his solutions the man interrupted him, suggesting what he thought was his problem and ways to fix it.

Finally, after being interrupted three times, the pro backed away from the hitting area and began listening intently to his student. Every time the man would offer his opinion the pro would nod his head in agreement. “Maybe you’ve got something there,” he’d say. After 20 minutes of agreement the lesson was over. The student paid the pro, congratulated him on his expertise, and walked away in an obvious good mood.

Now the man who had been watching all of this was so astonished that he walked over to the pro and asked, “Why did you stop trying to teach him and instead agree with his kooky ideas?” The pro straightened up, and as he carefully pocketed his fee said, “Son, I learned a long time ago, it’s a waste of time trying to sell answers to a man who only wants to buy echoes”.

There are a lot of Christians buying their own echoes. And nowhere is that truer than around the issues of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the topic before “the house” this Sunday. But, interestingly, it’s not forgiveness of a person that’s in sight this week but forgiving God.

Have you ever been angry with God? Have you ever been so convinced that you were right and He was wrong that you stayed away from Him? Almost everyone I know who wants little to do with God began their long walk away from Him because of some hurt that they blame on Him or His people.

In a message entitled, “Being Mad at The Maker”, we will not discuss the subject from a smattering of biblical proof texts, rather we have a great story of it in I Kings 17. Here in this text we find a woman, who knows God, who has experienced years of His blessing, and yet, in the face of the death of her son, she’s angry and bitter at God.

We are going to dig into this lady’s issues this week. And amazingly we’ll discover that her issues are our issues. And God’s solutions are exactly what we need!

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:

1. Why does Elijah pronounce a three-year drought upon Israel and the surrounding territories?
2. Why would God send Elijah to Zarephath? What do we know about the place?
3. Why would God command a widow to feed the prophet instead of the ravens (v. 6)?
4. What do we know about this widow?
5. What is she forgetting in verse 18?
6. What is her fixation?
7. What is her focus?
8. How does Elijah answer each of those?
9. What do you make of her declaration in verse 24?
10. How often do you see yourself in this woman?

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Satan: Busy at Work - Henry Knapp

I know I am skewing old here, but… who remembers Flip Wilson? Wilson was a comic in the sixties and seventies who was famous in part for his portrayal of “Geraldine Jones”. I don’t remember much of Wilson’s humor, and I suspect that a lot of it would be considered irreverent and perhaps even offensive today. But at the time, he had quite a following. In particular, I remember Geraldine Jones’ popular cry, “The devil made me do it!” Wilson, dressed as a loud, sassy woman would defend all her bad or impulsive decisions by claiming that the devil made her do it. Wilson’s delivery was spot on, and Geraldine was great character; but in retrospect, it was amazing how long he was able to ride that one joke.

Well, maybe not. See, the situations Geraldine so often found herself in were not extraordinary, odd or unusual. Quite the contrary, her situations were the most commonplace—talking with a friend, riding the bus, or most famously, buying a dress. But, when asked how she could spend so much money on the dress, out would come the retort—“the devil made me do it!” and never without a huge audience laugh.

Why did we laugh? Not, I think, because we can’t imagine being in the situation; but because we are always exactly in that situation! The situation of having made poor choices and needing someone/something to blame. How easy is “the Flip Wilson defense”? Blame it on the devil!

But, Scripture won’t have anything to do what that. Yes, the Bible acknowledges that Satan is active in this world, that he is dangerous, and that he is relentless in his desire to destroy God’s people (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is surely no one to fool with.

But, can we justly claim that “Satan made us” do something? Nope. Not according to God’s Word. Satan has tremendous powers; and he is always working against holiness. But he doesn’t “make” us do anything. He certainly is guilty in God’s sight, but guilty of what? Not of making us do evil… it is, after all, we who do evil! In the Bible we are the ones held accountable for our wickedness and sinfulness. The devil doesn’t make us do anything.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Satan is active in this world. But not in “making” us do things. That guilt is all our own. What does Satan do? His great power is easily summarized in Scripture. He is the Deceiver—twisting God’s Word, a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He is the Tempter—challenging us to turn from God and betray Him (1 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 7:5). Finally, Satan is the Accuser—undercutting God’s promises and the assurance of salvation He gives (Revelation 12:9). The thought that Satan might make us do evil is easy to have—it removes the responsibility from us. But that is not what he does. He doesn’t make—he deceives, tempts, and accuses. And, believe me, that’s bad enough! Maybe he doesn’t have to make us do anything… maybe his deceit, temptations, and accusations are more than enough.

But, thanks be to our Lord for the grace, salvation, forgiveness, and protection we have in Jesus Christ, who for us has won the victory!
As you prepare for worship this week, check out Zechariah 3.

1. One of the challenges of this passage is that it is a vision. How does that change our interpretation of what happens?

2. Note: This is not the Joshua you might be thinking of. The “Joshua” of the biblical book lived centuries earlier. This one is not a military leader, but “the high priest”. What was the role of the high priest?

3. Reading to the end of the chapter, you get the impression that it is the Day of Atonement (or, just take my word for it, the Day of Atonement is in view here). How does that influence what is going on in this passage?

4. What is Satan doing (vs. 1)? Who do you think he is accusing?

5. What is with the LORD’s rebuke? What is the basis/reasoning of his rebuke in verse 2?

6. Verse 3-5 are very concerned with Joshua’s clothing. What do you know about priests’ clothing? Why is it so important?  Bible search question: Why is the priest’s turban important? What is noteworthy of the turban?

7. Of course, our interest is not on the ancient Israelite priesthood but on Jesus Christ. How does this passage speak of our salvation in Christ?

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Blessed Exchange - Henry Knapp

I am not very good at dressing myself.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know how to button up my shirt, how to put on my pants, socks, shoes and the like. I can do all the things that I need to in order to get dressed. What I have a hard time doing is knowing what to get dressed in. Mixing and matching colors, what style is right for what event, and (egads!), what is “appropriate” for the time of year… all such things are well beyond me. I need help! Usually, you can tell when Kelly is away when you see me dressed all wrong.

In the parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22, Jesus describes the importance of dressing appropriately. Of course, as a parable, Jesus is speaking not of an actual wedding banquet; but of the Kingdom of God. His point is that entrance and participation in the Kingdom involves being a certain kind of person. Participating in the Kingdom and being the wrong person will result, like the poorly dressed man at the wedding banquet, in being thrown out of the King’s presence. So, being “dressed appropriately”, being the right person, is so important in our Christian life.

Realizing this, the call for purity and holiness can often put people on the wrong path—a path that leads to self-effort, self-reliance, and self-justification. But that is never, never the Gospel path. The Gospel recognizes both the importance, yes, even the necessity, of being the right person, AND our inability to be that person. The Gospel proclaims that we are dressed all wrong, and that we desperately need the right clothing; but that nothing in our efforts can attain that clothing. Rather, we remain, despite all our best efforts, impure and unholy in God’s sight. But that is exactly how and why Christianity stands out among all other human ventures as the one, the only way to experience God—because it is God Himself who gives us His holiness as our own.

Imagine, if you will, being stripped of all your sin and evil. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But where would that leave us? Many think that having all our sin removed would leave us pure and clean in God’s eyes. But, no. Once all our sin is removed, we are… well, we are empty, without, void, yes—we are naked. Not only do we need our sin removed, we need an infusion of goodness. We need holiness. We need to be clothed.

And, that is the Gospel! Not just that God, in His compassion and grace, removes our dirty rags; but that He then clothes us in His own righteousness in Christ! He takes our sin and gives us His holiness. These two aspects of our faith work together—not only is our sin removed; but we are given all that makes us righteous in God’s sight. And where does our sin go? To Christ! And where does our holiness come from? From Christ! In salvation, through faith, by the work of the Spirit, we trade our sin for His godliness.

Theologically, we call this the blessed exchange: that we are blessed by exchanging our unholiness for His holiness, our sin for His righteousness, our unworthiness for His godliness, our death for His life.

This is God’s Gospel, His good news for you and for me. Have you embraced it in all its fullness? Don’t wait another minute to be dressed in the heavenly robes of righteousness in Christ our Lord.

As you prepare for worship this week, check out 2 Kings 4:18-37.

1. Remind yourself of the story in the immediately preceding verses. Why is the son so important to the woman? Obviously, there is the deep emotional and familial tie, but… more?

2. Why do you think the woman does not tell her husband of the child’s death (vs. 23)?

3. What is the role of this room the woman built for Elisha? Why is it important here?

4. Why does the woman not share with Gehazi what is wrong (vs. 26)? Why does she not verbalize what is wrong to Elisha?

5. The woman clings to Elisha’s feet, and Gehazi moves to push her away. Besides just protecting his master, why does Gehazi react like that?

6. What do you think Elisha hoped for when he sent Gehazi on ahead with his staff?

7. In verse 34, Elisha is described as stretching himself out upon the boy. Why is this described in such detail?