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!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Forsaking the Flesh" - Doug Rehberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Living Together" - Doug Rehberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

"The Lessons of Lydia" - Doug Rehberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 2, 2017

"A Ticket to Ride" - Doug Rehberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.      What makes Philip suited for this task?

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

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

7.      What does his question promote?

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

9.      How is a true friend a guide?

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

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"A Good Walk Unspoiled" - Doug Rehberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"Designed by the Master" - Doug Rehberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

"Excelling in Generosity" - Ken Wagoner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Fools and Their Money" - Doug Rehberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

To Dwell in the Dwelling

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"The Reality of the Resurrection" - Doug Rehberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"Marked by Jesus" - Doug Rehberg

Galatians 6:11-18

Here’s a riddle for you. Where in Paul’s letter to the Galatians does he mirror Jesus’ clearest depictions of His Father? Hint: It’s his use of the “B” word.

Here’s another riddle for you – Why is grace so much more difficult for Christians to fully embrace and dispense than the law? It’s an amazing thing. Paul uses the word “grace” eighty-seven times in his writings and each time he uses it his desire is that everyone who hears his words might come to apprehend grace in the same measure he has received it.

Years ago I read the profound words of one of my favorite Bible expositors – A.W. Pink. He was writing of divine grace when he said, “The grace every Christian has received from God in Christ is more than ‘unmerited favor’ (the common definition used by many Christians). To feed a tramp who calls on us for food is unmerited favor. But suppose after feeding him he robs and beats you, and you feed him again. That’s grace. It’s more than unmerited favor. It’s favor shown in the face of absolute demerit. That’s the grace you and I have received on the Cross.” And it’s that grace that causes such consternation.

One of the reasons I wanted to preach through Galatians again (after fifteen years) was because I believe I apprehend it far more today than I did back then. But another reason I wanted to preach it again was because I believed it was exactly the message Hebron needed to hear at this time. Though I’m often wrong, I couldn’t have been more right this time. What I’ve seen since September 4th has been classic, biblical evidence of the proclamation of the unvarnished grace of God in Jesus Christ – the full range of emotion from unspeakable, overwhelming joy -  to anger, judgment, and hostility. What a ride!

As Paul thought back to the final parable of the three Jesus tells in Luke 15 he must have shook his head and said, “That’s always the way grace always plays out. Some are overwhelmed and transformed. Others are angry and point fingers. But look what the Father does. He never stops dispensing grace to both, just like His Son!”

In preparation for Sunday’s message – “Marked by Jesus” from Galatians 6:11-18– you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Which brother do you more often resemble, the younger or the older?
  2. How about the false teachers?
  3. What was the trigger for Jesus telling these three parables?
  4. What are some ways in which religion is the antithesis of the Gospel?
  5. How is religion focused on the externals while the Gospel is focused on the internal?
  6. What marks is Paul referring to in verse 17?
  7. How do they differ from the mark of circumcision?
  8. How do you define “grace”?
  9. What rule is Paul alluding to in verse 16?
  10. How is Paul in verse 18 just like the father in Luke 15?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"Bragging on Jesus" - Doug Rehberg

This week we’re in one of the great texts of Scripture – Galatians 6:11-14. And the reason it’s one of the greatest is because it’s all about the power of the Cross – which is the Gospel. Here in these verses Paul sets forth the centrality of the Cross, the comprehension of the Cross, and the change that the Cross alone can make in our hearts.

To set up Sunday’s message, I’ve decided to quote verbatim the most recent newsletter one of my mentors, Dr. Steve Brown. It’s a little long. It’s biting. And it’s a perfect introduction to Paul’s message of Galatians 6. Steve writes:

A friend sent me a quote by C.F.W. Walther, a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod founder and probably its best-known theologian. I’ve thought about that quote all morning.

If you don’t like the quote, just stop reading there. You’ll probably end up outraged and offended…and that’s kind of “in” these days. Everybody is outraged and offended, so you can join that very big club. (Another friend said there ought to be a Sunday school class called The Outraged and Offended and it would be the biggest class in his church.)
Here’s the quote: “While it is indeed necessary to preach against gross vices…such preaching produces nothing but Pharisees.”
You want to feel guilty? (That’s neurotic but it is the gift that keeps on giving and a place where some people like to live.) Read Romans 1-3 but don’t read it at night before you go to sleep because it will keep you up. It’s in-your-face about sin and, unless you’re dead, it will make you wince. Then Paul in Romans 7 confesses his sins so that everybody knows he’s not an outsider of the human race. And then, just when you think Paul is writing a New Testament version of the book of Ecclesiastes, he writes something so amazing and wonderful it will take your breath away: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).
I teach seminary students they should preach the law to get people guilty enough to run to Jesus. It’s God’s methodology of evangelism. Then they should preach grace until people profoundly and deeply understand its unconditional and radical nature. And I always add, “Preach it again so they won’t get discouraged. Then, if you must, preach on sin.”
The truth is that knowledge of sin is the least of a Christian’s problems…with serious Christians anyway. I’ve never met a Christian who doesn’t want to be better than he or she is. That’s true and it’s true of me too. I know about my sin and, Lord knows, I have spent a good deal of my life trying to manage it, hide it or fix it. And frankly, I haven’t been that successful.

The truth is that knowledge of sin is the least of a Christian’s problems…with serious Christians anyway.
I’m writing this in January. Tomorrow morning I’m going to Birmingham as one of the speakers (along with David Zahl and Dudley Hall) at a conference sponsored by my friend, Jack Williams (among others), a state congressman who profoundly understands grace and wants everybody else to understand it too.
The conference is “Coming Back Stronger.” It’s a great name because it presupposes that if one comes back…one has left.
And we do leave, don’t we?
As you know, in Jesus’ story about the prodigal son in Luke 15, there were two sons. One went to live with the pigs in a far country. The other son stayed at home, went to church, obeyed all the rules, and flossed every morning. Now let me tell you the rest of the story (Jesus told me and he’s a friend of mine).
The son who went to the far country went back there. They always do. Okay, he didn’t stay as long this time, but he did go back. And that’s not all. The “perfect” brother went to the far country too. He got tired of being good and when he wasn’t, faking it. So in a fit of anger and frustration, he made his way to the far country as well. They almost always do.
However there is a difference. The rebellious son came back, perhaps more than once, because they (i.e. those who have been loved and know they don’t deserve it) always do. The other son went to the far country, built a house there and stayed because they (i.e. those who are faking it) almost always do.
Steve, you are so frustrating! Don’t you care about sin?
Actually, I do. I’m an expert. I know the horror and destruction of sin. (It’s why the Bible talks about it so much.) Almost all my life I’ve watched sinners sin and, as a preacher/teacher, tried to do everything I knew to prevent it. But I know it firsthand too. I know the darkness, destruction, and guilt of my own sin. While I haven’t built a house in the far country, I regularly rent a place there…and I’m ashamed to even admit that.
I just got off the phone with a missionary friend with a large radio ministry in Mexico. He has been criticized for being antinomian (not caring about sin or the law) and asked me how to handle it. He knows I’ve been there and have the T-shirt. Frankly, I gave him some good advice. (I’ve been doing this for a long time and, while I may not be all that smart, I’m not stupid and have learned some important things along the way.) I told him to not let it go, but to address it over and over again. And then I told him to tell the critics that sin is dangerous not only because of what it does, but because of how, when we think we’ve conquered it, we can become Pharisees. That kind of self-righteousness is the most dangerous place in which we can live. Walther was right.
Did you hear about the man who walked into a bar and saw a dog playing poker? In his astonishment, the man asked the bartender, “Is that dog really playing poker?”
“Yes, he is.”
“That’s amazing.”
“Actually,” the bartender replied, “it really isn’t. He’s not very good at it. Every time he has a good hand, he wags his tail.”
You can always tell a Pharisee. (No, it’s not because he or she wags his or her tail.) You can always tell Pharisees by where they live and set up permanent residence. If it’s in the far country, don’t bother to kill the fatted calf or prepare the party. They probably won’t show.
You can tell when someone gets grace too. They often blush, sometimes are ashamed, and on occasion lie about being in the far country. But watch them. You’ll find they almost always run back to the Father because they know that living in the far country is a dark place and remember the Father’s love.
And each time they come home, as Lincoln said about the South after the Civil War, “It will be as if they never left.”

Now that’s the Gospel and only the Cross makes any of that possible. It’s the Cross that’s center stage this Sunday – Confirmation Sunday.

In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What’s your definition of grace?
  2. What’s significant about Paul’s handwriting in verse 11?
  3. Why has verse 14 been called “one of the greatest explanations of the Cross and its meaning in Scripture?
  4. What is the problem with linking the Cross so closely with conversion?
  5. How does I Corinthians 2:1-5 shed light on our text?
  6. How does Jesus’ rebuke of Peter in Matthew 16:23 prove that Jesus’ essential mission was the Cross?
  7. What does Paul mean in verse 14(a) when he says, “Far be it from me to boast except in the Cross?”
  8. Why does Paul reject this common Christian refrain, “It doesn’t matter what you believe. It only matters how you live”?
  9. What test does Paul suggest in verse 12 to determine whether you are comprehending the meaning of the Cross?
  10. How does the Cross alone change the human heart?
See you Sunday!

Steve’s letter is reprinted from the Key Life website: