Thursday, December 7, 2017

"The Eyes Have It" - Doug Rehberg

This week we are in the gospel of Luke looking at another one of Jesus’ commands that’s attached to a promise. Here He says, “Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measurement you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)

What is immediately interesting is that Luke’s account of this command is an expansion of what Matthew tells us in his report of the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7, the text Ken Wagoner preached a month ago, the record of Jesus’ words is abbreviated. After warning us of exercising condemnation against another, Jesus says, “…with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” What’s missing is the command to give.

Now there are a number of reasons for Matthew’s brevity and Luke’s expansiveness, but central to Luke’s addition of the command to give is his understanding and appreciation of the link between our giving and our concept of and relationship with God.

Throughout the Old Testament law, caring for the poor was central to the faith of Israel. While many surrounding cultures observed dietary laws and purity rituals, what made the faith of Israel unique were the lengthy lists of commands to care for the least, the last, and the lost. Yearly tithes were gathered for the poor. Loans to the needy were given without interest. If debts could not be repaid in seven years, they were forgiven. If hard times forced a farmer to sell his land, it was to be returned in the year of Jubilee, which took place every fifty years. The God of Israel was unique in tying worship of Him with compassion for others. When His people began to believe that rituals were all He required, God sent His prophets to remind them that justice to the poor was His greatest concern. And this was the hear t of Jesus’ teaching as well.

However, Jesus goes further than the Torah and the prophets to zero in on the reason for giving beyond the needs of the economically and socially needy. He tied giving to God’s plan for redemption. And nowhere can we get a clearer picture of that than in His command to give.

We are going to dig into this command in earnest this Sunday by unpacking three aspects of verse 38. In a message entitled, “The Eyes Have It” we will hope to see the blessing inherent in this oft-heard command. In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How do you define redemption?
  2. How does Jesus’ command in verse 38 obligate both the giver and the Lord?
  3. Read Matthew 6:19-24. How does “the eye as the lamp of the body” relate to giving?
  4. What does “the eye” refer to?
  5. How does the master in Matthew 29:1-16 show a “good eye”?
  6. How does Genesis 22:9-14 shed light on “the good eye”?
  7. How does having a “bad eye” reveal your view of God?
  8. What is the reason for all the descriptors of the kind of gift God will provide to those who give?
  9. What does Jesus mean when He says that the gift will be “put into your lap”?
  10. How does the incarnation prove all this?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"A New Command" - Scott Parsons

On November 19, 1977, I stood before a beautiful young woman in front of a crowded church and made a vow to God that I would love her as long as we both lived. It was an easy promise to make. I knew that I already loved her and I was eagerly looking forward to the years to come. But I had no idea just how hard that promise would be to keep. Standing at that altar, love seemed so easy. In real life it wasn’t. By the end of our first year of marriage things were pretty stormy. We were so young and we were both deeply disappointed that our self-centered desires for marriage were not being met. It would have been easy for either one of us to walk away, but we didn’t. A few years later a crisis hit our marriage with such force that even our family and friends could not understand why we stayed together. Frankly, I’m not sure how we stayed together either. The thin thread that held us together was not anything that we brought to the table. It was an unshakable conviction that God had brought us together and that He must have a purpose in all of this. And He did. He was teaching us how to love. He was teaching us that love is not about how we feel or having our needs met. Love is an unshakable commitment to die to ourselves for the sake of others; even when we don’t feel like it. Even when it hurts us and our needs aren’t being met.

This truth doesn’t apply only to marriage. Sunday’s text is John 13:31-35 in which Jesus commands His followers to love one another. When we receive the grace of salvation and stand up to join the body of Christ, it seems so easy. We love Jesus and the new life He has given us; we love the new family He has given us; it seems so easy. But it doesn’t take long to discover that loving one another can be a painful and difficult command to keep.

To prepare for Sunday, I would like you to read this passage, and then read I Corinthians 13. Look at the context of I Corinthians 13. It might surprise you that this chapter is not written about marriage. It is given to teach us how we are to love each other. As you read each statement regarding what love is and/or does, ask the Holy Spirit within you to give you an honest assessment of how well it describes you. Then ask God to open your heart to truly loving others.

Blessings,

Scott

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"For God's Sake" - Doug Rehberg

It’s called “The Golden Rule” and this week we will examine it. If you check the etymology of this command you will find many who would accuse Jesus of plagiarism. In their eyes He’s simply restating the ancient maxim (proverb) of reciprocity that first appeared two thousand years before Jesus sits down and teaches on that mountain that day. The ancient proverb stated, “That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.”

A cursory check of other religions through human history reveals numerous similar ethics to the one cited above. Each one of them is cast in negative terms. For instance, several centuries before Christ a man named Tiruvallur said, “Do not do to others what you know has hurt yourself.” Additionally, he said “Why does one hurt others knowing what it is to be hurt?”

However, when Jesus issues His command in Matthew 7:12 He’s not repeating a negative maxim, instead He’s offering a completely different teaching. It’s all positive. It’s not an admonishment to refrain from doing evil; it’s a command to do good. Its proactive, rather than reactive. “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.”

Now, over the years, there have been many common insights offered on these words. Taken together these insights enable modern English readers to find a certain degree of confidence in their understanding of Jesus’ command. We will highlight several such insights on Sunday. But there is one particular aspect of Jesus’ command that I’ve never seen prior to my recent study of these familiar words. It’s an insight that links Matthew 7:12 to Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, as well as II Chronicles 28:1-15 and is the key to understanding the essence of what Jesus is teaching us here and later on His earthly ministry. In short, the essence of what Jesus is commanding is as far away from the law of reciprocity as you can get. Instead of commanding us to refrain from evil, or promoting some good deed in return for an act of kindness, the heart of the command is acting out of gratitude for what the Lord has done for us. That’s what we see The Good Samaritan doing in Luke 10. That’s what we see the Israelites doing in II Chronicles 28. That’s what we see the disciples doing thought the Book of Acts. You know why its golden? Because it is so rarely seen.

In Preparation for Sunday’s message, “For God’s Sake”, you may wish to consider the following:
1.       Why the “so” at the beginning of verse 12?
2.       How does the “so” enable us to begin to understand what Jesus is talking about?
3.       How is a sense of community reflected in Jesus’ words in versus 12?
4.       What connection can you find between Matthew 7:12 and Luke 10:27, 28?
5.       What does “love your neighbor as yourself” mean? How would the first hearers of Jesus
        understand those words? (see Leviticus 19:9-18)
6.       What enables us to see ourselves in others?
7.       How does Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan inform our understanding of the Golden Rule?
8.       Do you think Jesus used II Chronicles 28 as a guide for constructing this parable?
9.       If so, what is He saying about the actions of the Samaritan? What motivates him?
10.   How does our understanding of the Golden Rule grow as a result of these parallel texts?


See You Sunday!!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

"How to Ask" - Doug Rehberg

One day Rabbi Barukh’s grandson, Yehiel, was playing hide-and-seek with another boy. He hid himself well and waited for his playmate to find him. After twenty minutes he peeked out of his secret hiding place, saw no one, and pulled his head back inside. After waiting a very long time, he came out of his hiding place, but the other boy was nowhere to be seen. Then Yehiel realized that his playmate had not looked for him from the very beginning. Crying, he ran to his grandfather and complained of his faithless friend. Tears brimmed in Rabbi Barukh’s eyes as he realized that God says the same thing: “I hide but no one wants to seek me.”

Such was the painful tone of God’s voice when He spoke through the mouth of His prophet Hosea:

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals and they buried incense to images. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms, but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.” (Hosea 11:1-4)

The truth is that our God can remain quite hidden until in prayer we discover He is what our hearts seek above all.

One time during a conference on prayer, Thomas Merton was asked, “How can we best help people to attain union with God?” His answer was stunningly clear: “We must tell them that they are already united with God – prayer is nothing more than coming into consciousness of what is already there.”

It is with equal directness that Jesus addresses another command to His hearers in Matthew 7. Last week Ken masterfully led us into a clear understanding of what Jesus means when He says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” It’s the opening command of chapter seven, and a negative one at that! 

But beginning in verse 7 He issues a pointed positive command that is actually three commands in one. He says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Like His Father speaking through the prophet Hosea, Jesus speaks to us, His people, and He says in effect, “Ask, seek, and knock, and you will be rewarded.”

This Sunday we will be digging into Matthew 7:7-12 to see all that the Lord has to show us in this well-known charge of Christ. In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following;
  1. What condition(s) can you find for the promises Jesus is setting forth here in this command?
  2. On what grounds does Jesus promise these “good things” to everyone who asks, seeks, and knocks?
  3. How common is the title “Father” for God in the Old Testament?
  4. How common is it for Jesus to use this title in the gospels?
  5. What’s the relationship between “pateras” in Greek and “Abba” in Aramaic?
  6. Why is “Abba” inserted into the Greek New Testament on three occasions?
  7. How common was the title “Abba” in ancient Jewish literature?
  8. What two things can we discover from the verb tense Jesus uses in verse 7?
  9. Are “ask”, “seek”, and “knock” synonyms or something else?
  10. What does this command tell us about the God we serve?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"Of Twigs and Timbers" - Ken Wagoner

I have been following most of the sermons in this current series, and see up to this Sunday every scripture has come from the book of Matthew.  I also see most of the scripture selections are from Matthew 5-7.  Most of you know Matthew 5-7 is known as the Sermon on the Mount.  I, like most of you have read this section many times, have heard much more than one sermon from this portion, and have used these texts for Bible studies.   I have become convinced we are not to read this portion of Matthew  as an opportunity to pick and choose what quality we want to emulate in our life, or to believe we do not need to spend much time in worry about those issues in which we have room for improvement. Instead, this section is a unified description of the privilege we who have been redeemed and rescued by the work of Jesus Christ so that we can experience right now the Kingdom of Heaven.  As this sermon series describes, these commands are “A Charge to Keep,” not a choosing of what I want to do but what God wants to do in and through me.

For those who do not identify themselves as followers of Jesus, it would not be uncommon to hear them say if they examine the Bible at all it is to try to find the commands they cannot accept.  While for the follower of Jesus, we read the Bible to examine God’s Word and ourselves, and refrain from practicing the things God cannot accept.  Those in the world who look for those commands they cannot accept would probably have to say what they read in Matthew 7:1 is right along with their view of understanding and living in this life.   In their understanding “do not judge” supports the idea that if we are to love others we must be tolerant and even develop an attitude of acceptance of their ideas, lifestyles, and actions without criticism or disagreement.  I would suspect when this same person reads Matthew 7:6 they would conclude this is the most narrow minded, legalistic, overbearing view of a treatment to another person.  How could any person express one view in verse 1 and the same person express an apparently completely different view in verse 6?   

I would venture even we who follow Jesus have had some struggles with understanding how verse 1 and verse 6 fit together.  We are not to flip a coin between verses 1 and 6.   These are not options for us to choose, these are commands which help us to draw closer our Lord, and are used by Him in our reaching out to others whom we love.  Prayerfully, our hope this Sunday is to find some things which will help us grow more to be like Jesus, and give us a distinctive difference in living than those who do not know him.  

I am grateful for the privilege and honor to be with you this Sunday, and the following are some things for us to think about before we worship together.
  • The word “judge” has some broad understandings in the scriptures, and sometimes other English words are used to translate the original Greek word (“krino”).  Find these other words in  John 3:17, Acts 20:16, I Corinthians 6:1, II Corinthians 5:14
  • How do you distinguish what some may say is a contradiction between Matthew 7:1 and John 7:24?
  • When you think of the word “hypocrite,” what things come to your mind?
  •  Are there ways in your life where you may be seen more as a “judge” or a “hypocrite,” but not a “brother?”  How does  James 2:1-13 address this question?



Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"Your Need for the Needy" - Doug Rehberg

For nine years Tim Keller pastored a church in Hopewell, Virginia, before heading to New York City and founding Redeemer Presbyterian Church. In his book, Generous Justice, Keller writes:

“There are many great differences between the small southern town of Hopewell, Virginia, and the giant metropolis of New York. But there was one thing that was exactly the same. To my surprise, there is a direct relationship between a person’s grasp and experience of God’s grace, and his or her heart for justice and the poor. In both settings, as I preached the classic message that God does not give us justice, but saves us by free grace, I discovered that those most affected by the message became the most sensitive to the social iniquities around them. One man…Easley Shelton, went through a profound transformation. He moved out of a sterile, moralistic understanding of life and began to understand his salvation was based on the free, unmerited grace of Jesus. It gave him a new warmth, joy, and confidence that everyone could see. But it had another surprising effect. ‘You know’, he said, ‘I’ve been a racist all my life.’ I was startled, because I hadn’t yet preached to him or the congregation on that subject. He had put it together for himself. When he lost his Phariseeism, his spiritual self-righteousness, he said he lost his racism.”

Now Shelton’s transformation could be measured along racial lines. Through the power of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit convinced him that he had a view of the world that pigeon-holed people and their abilities based upon their race. But that’s only one illustration of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to change one’s perception of the world. At the beginning of Matthew 6, Jesus utters a critical command. Unlike the other commands we’ve already considered, this one is more subtle and thus, more easily overlooked. What Jesus commands here is less a “what” than a “how”. Look at verse 1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them…” You see, what He assumes is that we will be practicing our righteousness. He assumes that we will live lives that reflect His perspective and not our own. And what He’s saying is that there is a way to practice your righteousness and a way not to.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Your Need for the Needy”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What does “practice your righteousness” mean?
  2. What alternative translations can you find for the word “righteousness” in verse 1?
  3. What practices is Jesus referring to?
  4. What priority did Jesus put on giving to the needy?
  5. How is Jesus the fulfillment of Psalm 146:5-10?
  6. Why is Jesus concerned about our motive in practicing righteousness?
  7. What’s the greatest danger in not giving to the needy? What’s the greatest danger in giving to them?
  8. The Jews used to say, “Giving to the needy delivers the soul from death and purges it from sin.” Do you agree?
  9. From whom should we hide our giving?
  10. What does Jesus mean when He says, “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you?”
See you Sunday!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

"Looking for Love" - Doug Rehberg

In July of 1962 from a New York jail, Martin Luther King revised one of his favorite sermons, “Loving Your Enemies”.

Probably no admonition of Jesus has been more well-known and poorly followed than Matthew 5:43-45. Some feel that it is impractical. Nietzche contended that this command is a testimony to the weakness and cowardliness of Jesus’ followers. But, as King said, “In spite of these insistent questions and persistent objections, this command challenges us with new urgency…modern man is traveling along a road of hate, a journey that will bring us to destruction and damnation. Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love our enemies is an absolute necessity for our survival…Jesus is not an impractical idealist: He is the practical realist.”

King continued, “I am certain that Jesus understood the difficulty inherent in the act of loving one’s enemy…He was not unmindful of its stringent qualities. Yet He meant every word of it. Our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives.”

From there King proceeds to answer the practical question, “How do we love our enemies? And it’s instructive to note his three answers: First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive; second, we must recognize that the evil deed of the enemy, the thing that hurts, never quite expresses al that he is; third, we must not seek to defeat or humiliate the enemy but win his friendship and understanding.

From the practical, King moves to why we should love our enemies. And he answers with four powerful reasons – returning hate for hate multiplies it, hate scars the soul and distorts the personality, hate is just as injurious to the person who hates as the person who receives it, love is the only transforming force to make an enemy a friend.  Dr. King then ended his message with the powerful story of Abraham Lincoln and Edwin Stanton.

As we continue our series, “A Charge to Keep”, we will be examining Matthew 5: 38-48 and Jesus’ command to “Love Our Enemy”. In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Where would the people have heard it said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” (verse 43)?
  2. What does “love” mean?
  3. How many Greek words are there for love?
  4. What does C.S. Lewis mean when he says, “Christian love, either toward God or man, is an affair of the will”?
  5. How does Jesus’ command in verse 43 relate to what He says in verses 38-42?
  6. What does Jesus mean in verse 45 when He says, “So that you may be sons of your Father…”?
  7. What’s the purpose of describing the deeds of His Father in the balance of verse 45?
  8. How does verse 48 fit?
  9. How does Jesus demonstrate loving His enemies?
  10. Who are His enemies?
See you this Sunday – the 500th anniversary of the Reformation:

POST TENEBRAX LUX  -- “Out of darkness – LIGHT!”

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"Looking at Lust" - Doug Rehberg

The man writes, “When I was twenty-five I believed I could change the world, and I set about that task with all my strength. I was a go-getter. I had plenty of fuel in the tank and wind at my back. At forty I have come to realize that I can’t change my wife, my church, or my kids, to say nothing of the world. Try as I might, I have not been able to manufacture outcomes the way I thought I could either in my own life or other people’s.” Then he cites Samuel Johnson, the great 18th century thinker and writer who documented in his diary his efforts to overcome sloth by getting up early to pray. He wrote:
  • 1738: “Oh, Lord, enable me to redeem the time which I have spent in sloth.”
  • 1757: “Oh, mighty God, enable me to shake off sloth and redeem the time misspent in idleness and sin by diligent application of the days yet remaining.”
  • 1759: “Enable me to shake off idleness and sloth.”
  • 1761: “I have resolved until I have resolved that I am afraid to resolve again.”
  • 1781: (3 years before his death): “I will not despair, help me, help me, Oh my God. I resolve to rise at eight or sooner to avoid idleness.”

Last week we examined Jesus’ command for righteousness in Matthew 5:20. There Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you will not see the kingdom of heaven.” Immediately following, Jesus does something very unusual, He describes this excessive righteousness with six antitheses, each showing righteousness to be internal, whole-hearted, and God-serving rather than self-serving. A quick summary of these antitheses is as follows: From no murder to no anger; from no adultery to no lust; from divorce to faithfulness, from oath-keeping to simple honesty; from retaliation to loving contentment; from limited love to loving our enemies.

This week we will single out the second antithesis: “You’ve heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery, but I say to you everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’” 

As we can see from the balance of Matthew 5, the issue for Jesus is not just the behavior, it’s the condition of the heart. The righteousness that Jesus demands is not born of moral acts, but the purity of heart behind the external chastity. And that is why the imparted righteousness the Holy Spirit brings to the life of the believer is so critically important.

That’s what we will be focusing on this Sunday in a message entitled, “Looking at Lust,” from Matthew 5:27-32.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Biblically, speaking, what is an antithesis?
  2. Why is Jesus’ use of six of them in chapter 5 so profound?
  3. How does His use of them promote the crowd’s reaction in Matthew 7:28-29?
  4. How does His use of them fuel the religious leaders’ hatred of Him?
  5. The world says, “The man who refrains from doing bad things is good.” What does Jesus say?
  6. How is Jesus’ perspective reflected in I Samuel 16:7?
  7. How does Paul’s message in Romans 7 comport with the struggle Jesus alludes to in verses 29 & 30?
  8. What was the effect of verses 28-30 on men like Marcion and Origen in church history?
  9. What is an alternative answer to the struggle given by Paul in Romans 8, Colossians 3, and Galatians 5?
  10. The same man whose words we led with ends his thoughts this way:
"In other words, the older I get, the more smitten I become by the fact that God’s love for me, His approval and commitment to me, does not ride on my transformation but on Jesus’ substitution. Jesus is infallibly devoted to me in spite of my inconsistent devotion to Him.”

Do you agree? Are these words a cop-out and excuse for sin, or the gist of divine power?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Excessive Righteousness" - Doug Rehberg

Nearly sixty years ago when John Kennedy was running for President of the United States, he was dogged by questions about his religion. As you know, Kennedy was a Roman Catholic and as such he was thought to be a man who posed a serious challenge to the American mainstream. There were those who believed that he might receive his orders from the Vatican rather than the electorate. So, after weeks of questions, Kennedy decided to hold a press conference. He began by saying, “Reporters have been asking my opinion on the Pope’s infallibility. So, I asked my friend, Cardinal Spellman, what I should say. And he said, ‘I don’t know what to tell you, Senator. All I know is that he keeps calling me Spillman!’”

Years ago a British investigator was asking a woman if she had seen the man who had set a building ablaze. When she said that she had, the officer said, “Could you describe his looks?” When the artist finished the sketch and held it up, he asked the women, “Would you say that this is the man who is responsible for the fire?” Instantly she replied, “Responsible? No, I’d say he’s highly irresponsible!”

You see, words have a variety of meanings in English. Take the word “end”. Webster gives us seven different definitions of the word, “end”. “End” can be a boundary, like an “end zone”. It can be a point at which something ceases to exist, like the “end of a rope”. It can be the cessation of an action, like the “end of a war”. An “end” can be a share of an undertaking, as in “he kept his end of the bargain”. It can be a synonym for death, as in “he met his end”. An “end” can be the player at the terminus of a football line of scrimmage  like a “split end”. And an “end” can be a goal or an aim, as in “to what end are you working?” There seems to be no end to the meaning of the word “end”.

Perhaps that’s why there’s so much confusion about Matthew 5:17. You see, to abolish the law and/or the prophet’s message would mean to bring them to an end. It would mean that Jesus has terminated them, or caused them to cease. But Jesus is clear about that. He hasn’t come to do anything of the sort. Rather, He’s come to fulfill them. Now the word “fulfill” implies another kind of ending. To fulfill something means to complete it. And there are many who point to Romans 10:7 as confirmation of the fact that Jesus has completed the law. In fact, many point to the verse to say, “Jesus has set the law aside. He’s released us from it.” And the fact is that no one can doubt that interpretation until verses 18-30 are read. For in verse 20 Jesus issues a command that follows from all He’s been saying in the Sermon on the Mount up to that point. He says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” So how does all that work?

This Sunday in a message entitled, “Excessive Righteousness”, we will explore the depths of this clear command of Christ. What does it mean to have a righteousness that exceeds that of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day? And how does this command square with the gospel of grace alone, through Christ alone, by faith alone?

We are in our fifth week of our series “A Charge to Keep.” Already we’ve looked at several clear commands of Christ from Matthew’s gospel. This Sunday is another important one!

In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Read Matthew 5:17-20. How does this text fit into the Sermon on the Mount? Especially given its positioning?
  2. Is verse 20 a “hard saying”?
  3. What is righteousness? How is righteousness defined in the Old Testament?
  4. How did the Jews of Jesus’ day define it?
  5. What is the connection between Moses and Jesus as evidenced in verse 17?
  6. In verse 18 the world “fulfilled” or “accomplished” is used. What does it mean?
  7. What does Jesus mean in verse 19 when He refers to “these commandments”?
  8. How is the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees described in the gospels? What are the marks of such righteousness?
  9. The Bible infers three kinds of righteousness – Inherent, Imputed, and Imparted. What’s the difference between them?
  10. What are the fruits of imparted righteousness evidenced in the beatitudes?
See you Sunday!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

"Rejoice and Be Glad" - Scott Parsons

This week’s sermon in our “A Charge to Keep” series focuses on Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:1-12 to rejoice and be glad. On the surface this seems like an absurd command, particularly since it is given in the context of extremely negative circumstances. Certainly there are things that all of us rejoice over; a wedding, the birth of a child, a promotion at work or a graduation. We understand the concept of rejoicing over good things in our lives, but why would we possibly rejoice and be glad over being persecuted?

I think our struggle stems from our assumption that rejoicing is the result of outside events or stimuli that affect us in a positive way. Good things happen and we rejoice over them. But what happens when the good things go away, or the circumstances of our lives are no longer following the path we set for them?  You don’t have to look too hard to see that in general our society is struggling. Terrible things are happening all around us. Our country and way of life is rapidly changing and many of the things we used to take for granted are now uncertain, including a general societal respect for biblical truth and the people who strive to follow it.

So why rejoice?  Jesus’ answer is that ultimately our joy does not flow from circumstances, but rather is the natural result of who we are. We rejoice because of our identity in Jesus. As you prepare for Sunday read through the passage and think through the following questions:

What is the nature of our relationship with Jesus?  Why are we in relationship with him and why can we be confident in that relationship?

What should our expectations be as followers of Jesus?  What is Jesus’s purpose for our lives?

What is the object of our joy?  What makes us glad?  What are God’s promises to his children?

Blessings,

Scott

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

"Just Say No" - Doug Rehberg

Years ago I was sitting in the library at Princeton when a guy waved to me from the sidewalk outside. I waved back, not knowing who he was; and minutes later he was sitting right across the desk from me.

It was an old college roommate who I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. Maybe it was his beard. Maybe it was seeing him in Princeton, rather than Boston. Maybe it was the years and the miles; but it wasn’t until he opened his mouth that I recognized him.

He led with multiple questions about my life and what had transpired since leaving college. I spoke briefly of my time in D.C., Miami, Philadelphia, and Princeton. Then I asked him about his last decade, and he spoke of New Brunswick, N.J. and Calcutta, India. It seems that Jim had traveled to Calcutta to spend a few months with Mother Theresa.

When he arrived he tried for three days to see her, but to no avail. Each time he was told that “the Mother” was busy. Finally, on the fourth day he sneaked into the back of the mission, and found Mother Theresa carrying a bedpan away from the bed of a leper. “Mother”, he said, “I’ve been trying to speak with you for three days; and each time they say you’re too busy. What have you been doing?”

“This”, she said. Jim stared at the bedpan and said, “This? Why? Don’t you have enough servants?” She smiled and said, “My dear, I am a servant.”

Now that’s exactly what Jesus is talking about in this fourth week of our series, “A Charge to Keep”.

This week’s text is Matthew 16:13-24. The command we will be digging into is found in verse 24, “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” This is one of the relatively few commands that finds its way into all three synoptic gospels. There’s a good reason for that; it’s the essence of coming to Jesus and taking upon yourself His yoke (last week’s message). It’s the essence of living out the Great Commission (the first message in our series).

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Just Say No”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What prompts Jesus to take His disciples to Caesarea Philippi?
  2. What sign does He give His disciples to prove His identity? (See the difference between Matthew 11:1-4 and Matthew 11:21f.)
  3. What was this site, the foot of Mt. Hermon, known for by the Romans and the Greeks?
  4. Had the disciples confessed the identity of Jesus as the Messiah prior to this?
  5. What does Jesus’ response in verse 17 mean?
  6. How does Peter’s behavior and rebuke in verse 22 set up Jesus’ command in verse 24?
  7. Why does Jesus attribute Peter’s remark to Satan?
  8. What does “denying yourself” mean?
  9. What does “taking up your cross” mean?
  10. Why does Jesus follow the words of verse 24 with three “fors” in verses 25-27?
See you Sunday as we gather around the Table of the Lord.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"The Way Forward" - Doug Rehberg

Bruce Manning Metzger was born in Middletown, Pennsylvania, and earned a BA from Lebanon Valley College in 1935. Metzger had strong training in Greek before entering Princeton Theological Seminary, having read through the Bible twelve times prior to his matriculation.

In 1938 after receiving his first seminary degree he began teaching at Princeton Theological Seminary. Two years later he began instructing in the New Testament and earned his PhD from Princeton University with a thesis entitled, Studies in a Greek Gospel Lectionary.

Among his many distinctions Metzger was the chief editor of the 1952 Revised Standard Version of the Bible. He was a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge and Wolfson College, Oxford. In 1971 he was elected president of both the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas and the Society of Biblical Literature. In 1978 he was elected corresponding fellow of the British Academy, the highest distinction for persons who are not residents of the United Kingdom. In his career he wrote twenty-six books, offered five translations of the Bible, and produced scores of scholarly articles.

These are just a few of his distinctions. When he retired at age 70 it was said that, “Metzger’s unrivaled knowledge of the relevant languages, ancient and modern, his balanced judgment, and his painstaking attention to detail has won him respect across the theological and academic spectrum.”
The reason I mention all of this is because this week’s sermon, “The Way Forward”, the third in our series, “A Charge to Keep”, reminds me of him. You see, when I was at Princeton Theological Seminary (1982-1984), Dr. Bruce Metzger was not only a frequent professor of mine, but my academic advisor. The year I graduated was the year he retired from Princeton. (Maybe I did him in!)

But you know what I remember most about Dr. Metzger? More than his fame and erudition was his extraordinary humility, evidenced most clearly in his prayers. Unlike many other professors, Metzger would never begin a lecture without prayer. Rather than a stern, high-brow prayer, he’d stand before the class, bow his silver-haired head and begin, “Father, we give you humble and hearty thanksgiving this day…” And from there it was as if every one of us was given total access to his private prayer closet. I remember with wonder the intimacy of those prayers. It was as if no one was with him, but Jesus.

If you have read this Sunday’s text then you know where I am going with all this. The second command of Christ, the one we will consider this week, comes directly out of the intimate prayer life of Jesus. It’s one of the few places in all the Gospel where we have a verbatim of Jesus’ prayer. And it’s in this prayer that Jesus utters some of the most precious words ever spoken to the believing heart. It’s an extraordinary invitation and command.

In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What prompts Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 11:25-30?
  2. What is Jesus declaring about His Father?
  3. What is He saying about Himself?
  4. What is He saying about those to whom He chooses to reveal Himself?
  5. Why does Jesus call His Father’s will “gracious” in verse 26?
  6. What is necessary for us to have in order to accept Jesus’ invitation in verse 28?
  7. What is this “rest” of which He speaks?
  8. What is the connection between “coming to Him” and taking on His yoke?
  9. What is His yoke? Why does He call it “easy” and “light”?
  10. What does wearing His yoke look like?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"Changing Your Mind" - Doug Rehberg

A friend of mine writes, “You may not know it, but unbelievably rich spiritual power is available to you. This power is not the result of being more religious, acquiring more knowledge about God, moving to a monastery, being more obedient, or praying more often. I suppose there is nothing wrong with those things, but they don’t yield spiritual power. The source of spiritual power is repentance…Repentance isn’t what you think it is. It’s so very different from what most people think that I tried to find another word for it…When repentance comes up, most of us think of a … “turn or burn” message directed at horrible sinners to scare the hell out of them. That’s not what repentance is at all. In fact, it’s a wonderful word…Repentance is from a Greek word meaning, ‘to change one’s mind.’ It means that you recognize God is God and you aren’t…that you don’t get a vote on what’s right and what’s wrong…In short, repentance is knowing who you are, who God is. It’s knowing what you’ve done or haven’t done in light of His truth, and then going to Him in agreement with Him and His assessment.”

No one agrees with my friend’s assessment of repentance any more than Matthew, the gospel writer. For Matthew there’s no picture of Jesus standing in His hometown synagogue and saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…” (See Luke 4:16f).

The first word out of Jesus’ mouth, fresh off His tussle with Satan, is “Repent.” But it’s critical to know why Jesus says that. He tells us, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” You see, repentance is not something you do to gain the Lord’s attention or favor; it’s something that occurs when His attention and favor is already on you and you have a change of mind and tell Him so.

This Sunday we continue our series, “A Charge to Keep”, by examining Jesus’ first command. Our text is Matthew 4:12-17 and our companion text is Luke 5:27-32. As we dive into the first thing He commands us to teach others to observe, it’s instructive to note how positive a command it is. There’s no conditionality to it. He doesn’t say, “Change or else”. He rather says, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repentance is not a necessary work to bring the kingdom near. According to Jesus, it’s already here. The question is - do we recognize it?

In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What are the similarities and differences between the command of John the Baptist in Matthew 4:7-9 and Jesus’ command in Matthew 4:17?
  2. What does Jesus’ audience tell us about His view of repentance?
  3. What’s the connection between the quoted words of Isaiah in 4:15-16 to what Jesus says in verse 17?
  4. What is the common definition of metanoia – “repentance”? Why is that definition incomplete?
  5. What do you make of Paul’s words in II Timothy 2:25-26?
  6. How can repentance be considered a gift?
  7. Someone has said, “Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin.” What’s that mean?
  8. How is this first command of Christ foundational to all the others?
  9. What was the first thesis of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses?
  10. Look up Question 60 of the Heidelberg Catechism. Do you see a perfect correlation to biblical repentance? (Hint: You should!)
See you Sunday!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

"Having it All" - Doug Rehberg


During my lifetime I have had several mountain-top experiences, literally. I’ve been at the top of the Schilthoran Summit in the Bernese Alps. I’ve been at the top of Whistler Mountain in British Columbia. I’ve been to the top of Koolau Range on Oahu, and near the top of Mount Elbert in Colorado. And each time my thoughts would turn to the God of the Scriptures and often Psalm 121:1 & 2. Throughout the Bible mountains have profound meaning in the lives of believers and sending them back into the world with a mission.
In Genesis, Noah’s ark settles on a mountain-top where God makes a new covenant with Noah and all of creation. Generations later on Mt. Moriah, God proves His unspeakable provision to Abraham. On Mt. Horeb, God calls Moses to deliver His people from the bondage of Egypt. When Israel crosses the Jordan, entering between two mountains, they receive the blessing of God.
Mountains are prime locations for God’s call and commissioning of His people. Perhaps this is why Matthew is so fond of mountains. Of all the gospel writers, it’s Matthew who begins and ends Jesus’ three years of earthly ministry on a mountain. Some commentators, in fact, think that it’s the same mountain, near Capernaum on the northwest shores of the Sea of Galilee. In between these two mountain-top experiences, Matthew tells us of five other mountains associated with Jesus’ ministry.
One fascinating study is to compare Moses’ Sinai experience with the experience of those who gathered to hear Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Instead of clouds, fencing, and veils, Matthew says “seeing the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountain…sat down…and he opened His mouth…” What a difference! What’s even more striking is to compare Matthew 28:16-20 to Moses’ Sinai experience. It’s the difference between night and day.
This week we begin our new series, “A Charge to Keep.” It flows from what Jesus tells His brothers on this mountain in Galilee weeks after His resurrection. It’s called “the Great Commission.” The words are familiar,
                “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

It’s the phrase, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” that will capture our attention throughout the series. What has He commanded us? We’ll dig into all of that in the coming weeks. This week we introduce the topic by looking at the location, the lessons, and the license Jesus reveals to us in this farewell address.
 
In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:

1)      In Exodus 34 the Bible says that Moses had to wear a veil on his face after leaving Sinai. Why? (See II Corinthians 3:12)
                                 
2)      What does the word “commission” mean?

3)      Why does Jesus pick a mountain in Galilee as the place to issue His commission?

4)      Compare Matthew 4:8-9 to Matthew 28:16-20.

5)      What does, “but some doubted” mean?

6)      Why the differences between Matthew’s account of the Great Commission and Mark’s?

7)      What does “worship“ mean in verse 17?

8)      Find the four “alls” in verses 18-20. What is the significance?

9)      What does the word “observe” mean in verse 20?

10)   What statement of Jesus sustained David Livingstone throughout his years in Africa?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

"Joshua's Charge" - Doug Rehberg


Throughout the history of America out-going presidents have given a farewell address days before they exited their office. The timing is interesting. Each address comes at, arguably, the lowest point in the president’s popularity and influence. However, it’s striking to see how similar so many themes raised by the outgoing presidents are, regardless of party affiliation, political ideology, or popularity.
When George W. Bush gave his farewell address, he spoke of the need for compassion and understanding for immigrants. He said it this way, “In the face of threats from abroad, it can be tempting to seek comfort by turning inward. But we must reject isolationism and its companion, protectionism. Retreating behind our borders would only invite danger.”
Bill Clinton sounded a similar theme when he said, “As we become ever more diverse, we must work harder to unite around our common values and our common humanity.”
Ronald Reagan said, “I’ve spoken of a shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. In my mind, it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”
But perhaps the most famous and revered farewell address of all time is the one George Washington gave in 1796. In fact, there is no tradition more steadfastly maintained in the U.S. Senate than the annual reading of George Washington’s farewell. In this “letter to friends,” he warned that the forces of geographical sectionalism, political factionalism, and inference by foreign powers threaten the stability of the Republic. He urged all Americans to subordinate sectional jealousies to common national interests. Judging from the present raging jealousy and factionalism in Washington, maybe the entire Congress should listen to Washington’s warnings every single day!
This Sunday, as a sequel to Scott Parson’s timely messages from the Book of Joshua, and in preparation for our Fall preaching series, “A Charge to Keep”, we will examine Joshua’s farewell address to the leaders of Israel. Rather than issuing a warning of inclusion, 110 year-old Joshua urges exclusion. In fact, he charges the people of God to be ardently faithful to the vision of exclusive subordinance to the God of Israel and His commands.
Remember what Scott said? There is no Old Testament figure who foreshadows Jesus more clearly than Joshua.  Indeed, they have the same name - Yehosha – “God who saves.”
As we begin our new series next week, we will be on a mountain in Galilee where Jesus issues His farewell address. The balance of the series will be devoted to digging into the essence of His charge to all of His disciples, including us. But first, we’ll take a look at what the first Joshua has to say, for it’s as relevant to us as it was to ancient Israel.
In preparation for Sunday’s message, you may wish to consider the following:
1)      How important is persistence in living the Christian life?

2)      In Ecclesiastes 7:8 we read, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning….” Do you think Jesus agrees?

3)      How long did Joshua “lead” Israel after Moses’ death?

4)      What strikes you most from reading his words in Joshua 23:13?

5)      Why does the elderly Joshua seem to deemphasize the past?

6)      What is the focus of his attention?

7)      How much value does Joshua place on obedience?

8)      Why does he counsel separation in verse 7?

9)      What’s the goal of such separation?

10)   What’s he say about idols in verse 7? Do you have any?
See you Sunday!  

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

"The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat" - Scott Parsons

I had the opportunity to take two of my daughters to see the total eclipse last Monday in Illinois. It was the first total eclipse I had ever seen and it was a phenomenal experience. As I reflected on the experience, I was surprised at how subtle the change in light was as the eclipse progressed. Even when the sun was 90% covered, it was still fully light around us with a full shadow being displayed under the trees. Ninety percent of the sun was blocked, but other than there being a slightly dulled effect to the light, things basically looked normal. But the instant the sun was totally blocked, everything changed. It was dark. The street lights came on, the bugs started chirping. We even had some bats fly by!

As I was thinking about this week's sermon, I was struck by how similarly sin affects us. Sin is so hideous because it seems to have so little effect on us. When the serpent told Adam and Eve that they really wouldn't die if they ate the fruit, it seemed reasonable to them. It seems reasonable to us too. Most sins we commit seem to make little difference in our lives. Others don't see it and after a short time, we don't either. Even as the sin progresses, we often see little difference and think it doesn't matter, but it does. It matters to God.

This Sunday I am going to be preaching from Joshua 7 about God's response to Achan's seemingly invisible and insignificant sin. Take the time to read through it carefully. It will seem shocking at first as the immensity of God's response washes over you. But do not be put off by it. Look deeper to try to understand why God's response is so severe. Also read Sunday's companion passage in James 1:12-18 to gain some insight into the subtle progression of sin in our lives. Pray that God will graciously reveal our sin to us, that we might see it for what it truly is, and that He would lead us to repentance.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Who Is on the Lord's Side?" - Scott Parsons

Last week’s events in Charlottesville have been sad and disturbing on many levels.  But one of the things I noticed was how people on both sides of the conflict assumed that God was on their side.  I guess that shouldn’t be surprising.  Most people have always believed that in some fashion God is on their side.  Most of the wars our country has been in are between peoples who both believed God was on their side.  Even in our personal problems/disagreements, we generally assume that God is on our side and expect Him to resolve things in a way that is advantageous to us; and then become rather unhappy with God when He fails to do that. I think it is part of our sinful nature to assume that we are always right and that therefore God must be on our side.

This week as we look at Joshua 5:13-15 we discover some troubling truths.  God reveals himself to Joshua in such a way that it removes any question as to whose side God is on, and the answer is one that none of us particularly want to hear.  It’s just a few verses so read them carefully a couple of times and consider the following questions:

1.       Who is in charge of my life?
2.       What should my heart response be to this?
3.       What does Jesus actually want from my life?
4.       What needs to change in me if I am going to live the life Jesus wants me to live?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"Guilt's Only Remedy" - Doug Rehberg

A missionary returned to his home city where he announced a collection for foreign missions. A good friend said to him, “Very well, Andrew, seeing it’s you, I’ll give $500.” “No”, said the missionary, “I can’t take the money since you give it, saying it’s because of me.” His friend saw the point immediately and said, “You’re right, Andrew. Here is $1000, seeing it’s because of the Lord Jesus.”

It’s axiomatic for any Christian seeking to give. The target of our gift is not ourselves or others, but the Lord Jesus. If you were here last week, or listened to the podcast, you know that we were in Luke 8:26-39 where we examined a perfect portrait of what Jesus calls every disciple to do in fulfilling His Great Commission. Not only does He take His disciples to a place that is quite foreign to them, He shows them how to proclaim the Gospel, make disciples, and instruct others in observing His commands. In short, He shows them how to make “little Christs”.

The best evidence that this formerly demonized man becomes a “little Christ” is what Jesus finds when He travels to this area later in Jesus’ ministry. (See Matthew 15:29-31.) A whole crowd of believers come out to meet Him and seek His help. How is it that they have come to believe? What agency has God used? This one man’s obedience to the charge of Jesus. He goes back home and tells everyone what Jesus has done for him. And in following Jesus’ charge, rather than following his own desires, he presents Jesus with a glorious gift of gratitude; the believing hearts of his countrymen.

This week we see the same outcome – a gift of gratitude to Jesus – in a fundamentally different way. In Luke 7:36-50, we see a delivered woman coming to Jesus herself to show Him the full extent of her gratitude. It’s an amazing contrast, and yet, at the core there’s a striking similarity. The product of Jesus’ grace in a life is always an outpouring of tangible gratitude.

Here’s a man I seldom quote – Ralph Waldo Emerson. But what he says in his essay, “Gifts”, is profoundly true and vividly on display in the life of this former prostitute (or as Luke puts it: “woman of the city, who was a sinner”). Emerson says:
“But our tokens of compliment and love are for the most part barbarous. Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore, the poet brings his poem; the shepherd his lamb; the farmer his corn; the miner his gem; the sailor his coral and shells; the painter his painting; the girl a handkerchief of her own sewing.”

That’s what we see in this woman’s gift to Jesus. As we will see, it’s not a gift given to gain anything. It’s a gift given to acknowledge a great gain already received.

The title of this week’s message is, “Guilt’s Only Remedy.” In all the pages of the New Testament there is no one pictured whose guilt is more public than this woman. And yet, in the presence of Jesus her guilt has evaporated into nothing but profound gratitude. Her story is the story of every self-aware believer. True giving  is never the means of getting, but the product of having already gained more than you ever thought possible.

In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How widespread is guilt in your life?
  2. How do you deal with it?
  3. What’s the connection between Luke 7:18-35 and our text?
  4. Why would a Pharisee invite Jesus to his table?
  5. Why would this woman venture to come to Jesus’ feet in the home of a Pharisee?
  6. What five things does she do at Jesus’ feet?
  7. Where would she have earned enough money to buy such an extravagant gift?
  8. What’s the problem with Simon’s question in verse 39?
  9. What irony is expressed in Jesus’ question in verse 44?
  10. How has her “faith” saved her and enabled her to gain peace rather than guilt?
See you Sunday at the Table!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

"A Charge to Keep" - Doug Rehberg

It’s not often that I get a movie recommendation from a patient in the hospital, but today I did. Longtime Hebron member and friend, Ron Young, asked, “Have you seen Dunkirk yet? It’s worth every minute.” Funny, Barb indicated last night that Dunkirk is on the top of her “must see” list.

Frankly, I’ll take a hospital patient’s movie recommendation over those garish cinematic previews they expose you to before every feature film. For me, those Hollywood previews are a colossal disincentive to movie-going; I like the personal recommendations far more.

Well, this Sunday we are going to give you a preview of the coming preaching series this Fall – “A Charge to Keep”. Remember the “Great Commission” Jesus enunciates at the end of Matthew’s Gospel? Matthew tells us that Jesus is together with His disciples on a mountain in Galilee. It’s right before He ascends into heaven. He says to them:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Now that’s how Matthew ends his Gospel. He’s the only Gospel-writer to end with this three-part Commission. Mark gets close, but Luke and John leave it out entirely. Now there are reasons for that that we will discuss in September; but the essence of the Fall series will be to “flesh out” the third part of the Commission: “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

What’s that mean? What commands did He give us?

This Sunday we will preview the series, “A Charge to Keep” with an examination of an incident that occurs nearly two full years before Jesus issues the Great Commission. And the relevance is striking! As soon as He gets to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, He encounters a man who is in desperate need of Jesus. This man is a perfect candidate for the work of the Great Commission. And that’s exactly what He receives from Jesus. Here, nearly two years before He issues the charge to His disciples, Jesus shows them how to do it. Like a great movie preview He takes them into the reality of coming attractions! Come Sunday and see what I mean.

In preparation for Sunday’s preview you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How does the location of this incident set the stage for the Great Commission?
  2. How does this trip across the Sea of Galilee to the eastern shore mirror Jesus’ life in Nazareth?
  3. What do we know about this area of the world?
  4. How does this demon-possessed man epitomize those to whom Jesus sends His disciples after the Ascension?
  5. Why does he fall at Jesus’ feet? (See Mark 5:6)
  6. Why does he beg Him not to torment him?
  7. What’s with his name? (verse 30)
  8. Why do the demons beg Jesus not to send them into the abyss?
  9. Why does Jesus allow the man to stay with Him?
  10. How is His command in verse 39 mirror the Great Commission?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"What's The Sense In Worrying?" - Barrett Hendrickson

Ask my kids what they know. The first thing they'll tell you: "God is always in control." It's a tough concept to get under. "God is always in control." What would life look like if we really believed that? The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) starts chapter 3 like this: "From all eternity and by the completely wise and holy purpose of his own will, God has freely and unchangeably ordained whatever happens." It has a whole slew of scripture to back it up as well. Eph 1.11, Rom 11.33, Heb 6.17, Rom 9.15,18, Acts 4.27-28, Mt 10.29-30, Eph 2.10, Is 45.6-7.
This Sunday, we'll be looking at Psalm 46, the Psalm that Martin Luther was reading when he wrote "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." There is a lot of power in the Psalm. The imagery of it can be kinda scary: Earthquakes, wars, destruction. But in the end we see that God is always in control.
So, in preparation for Sunday morning, I'd love for you to read this Psalm, morning and evening. Take the beginning of the Psalm, ch 46:1-2a,

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble
Therefore we will not fear...

and use it as an anchor reading the rest of the psalm, apply the universal truth of "God as refuge and strength, and help, therefore I won't fear" to the rest of the chaos in the psalm. Think of that earth shaking day that you saw mountains falling into the heart of the sea. What is the sense in worrying.

Questions to consider:
  1. What is the role of open water in the Bible? Look at Genesis 1, 7, Matt 8:23-27, 14:22-33, Mark 4:35-41
  2. What is a earth shattering day that you've experienced that you saw figurative mountains crashing into the sea?
  3. Where does God dwell?
I'm excited to show you what God has been teaching me through my study of Psalm 46 over the past few weeks. I hope you'll join us for worship at 8:15, 9:15, or 10:45 on Sunday morning.

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!