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.’” It was this commanding observation of Christ that got President Jimmy Carter in trouble with the media back in 1976.

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?



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!

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!