Thursday, November 16, 2017

"How to Ask" - Doug Rehberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"Of Twigs and Timbers" - Ken Wagoner

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"Your Need for the Needy" - Doug Rehberg

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

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

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

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