Tuesday, April 17, 2018

"Train Wreck" - Doug Rehberg

Abraham Lincoln said it, “We must plan for the future, because people who stay in the present will remain in the past.” Robert Fulmer famously said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Indeed, one of the clear ways we reflect the image of God is when we exercise our capacity to plan. Bruce Cook, a management consultant to Christian organizations, once observed, “Success for the Christian can be defined as determining what God wants to accomplish and then getting on with it.”

Years ago LeRoy Sims wrote a book in which he told the story about how he imagined Jesus arriving in heaven after His ascension. The story goes something like this: When Jesus appears in heaven the angels quickly gather around Him anxious to question Him on His plans. “What are your plans?” they ask eagerly as they surround the Lord. Without hesitation the Lord responds, “My men, they are my plan.” Immediately the angels are alarmed, for they have watched this motley gang of men disburse under pressure during the events that led up to the Lord’s crucifixion. “And what if they fail?” asks an angel with concern. Again, with quiet confidence, the Lord responds, “I have no other plans.”

If the Lord had brought in a consultant there’s no way there would have been agreement. No human or angelic consultant would ever have recommended such a plan. Men are prideful, rebellious, and insubordinate. They have little faith and their priorities are twisted. Their selfish desires often overrule all other desires. As the former Englishman John Guest often cites, on his first trip to Philadelphia his eyes were open to this new land he would call home. When his eyes fell upon a sign printed in the early 1770s: “We Serve No Sovereign Here!” And it’s that point that James is highlighting in Sunday’s text: James 4:13-17.

Following upon his observation in Chapter 3:18, James details three things that war against the peace that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can give. In 4:1-10, it’s following the selfish passions of our heart. In 4:11-12, it’s harboring a judgmental spirit that seeks to elevate us over everyone else. And in Sunday’s text it’s our propensity to live our lives without reference to the sovereign will and the leadership of God. In short, it’s a recipe for disaster.

This Sunday’s message, “Train Wreck”, is an exposition of the last 5 verses of Chapter 4. Our companion text is Luke 12:16-21. In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:

  1. What was the worst Amtrack wreck in American history?
  2. What does such a wreck tell us about ourselves and God?
  3. What change did James experience in his planning after he met the resurrected Lord?
  4. What is James doing in verse 13?
  5. How is this analogous to Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus in John 3:10?
  6. How does the cross prove that we stink at autonomous planning?
  7. On what grounds does James cite our insufficiencies in verse 14?
  8. What does he mean in verse 15 when he says, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills.’”?
  9. How does looking into the mirror of the perfect love (1:25) help?
  10. In verse 17 James seems more concerned with sins of omission than commission. As you reflect on the words of Jesus, would you say He is too? If so, how does obedience produce peace?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"Living According to the Law" - Scott Parsons

In Sunday’s passage, James tells us not to speak evil of or judge a brother. This seems counter-intuitive to many professed Christians today, because the law of God clearly points out evil, and it seems as if it is our duty to apply the law by passing judgment on those who do not keep it. Others point out that we no longer live under or by the law, but rather by grace. Therefore they really don’t focus on the issue of sin, but celebrate the goodness and love of God. These two views represent opposite sides of gospel understanding. James tells us that both are wrong.

James states that speaking evil of or judging a brother is not simply unkind, but is actually a violation of the law. In fact, he says it is “speaking evil of and judging the law.” Why is that? It is helpful to remind ourselves of the purpose of the law. The law was not given as a means of righteousness.That is a common misconception among Christians. Many think that Old Testament children of God were saved by obedience to the law and the New Testament child of God is saved by grace. Nothing could be further from the truth. No one could be saved by obedience to the law because no one was able to keep it. That is why the Bible says that “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” It was not his works, but his faith that evidenced his salvation. It is also the reason that David said: “You will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” 

So the law was given to show us how glorious God is (He is the standard, not the law), and how far short we fall of His glory. The law was also given to show us the scope of our sin, show us our need of a Savior and bring us to repentance. That is why James says that speaking evil of or judging others is so wrong. In doing so we are not only violating the purpose of the law by setting ourselves (rather than God) up as the standard of righteousness, we are also being disobedient to the commandments in the law. When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, He answered; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” But then He added, “The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So speaking evil of and judging someone is breaking the law’s command to love. 

All of this is background to Doug's sermon on Sunday. As we look at James 4:10-12, we are going to examine how we are to interact with each other in view of the commands of the law. Pray that God will give us the grace to allow the law’s reflection of God’s character to shine brightly through us.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

"The Courage to Submit" - Barrett Hendrickson

Covenant. God's relationship with His people is based on Covenant. I'm counting at least 43 times the Bible uses the Immanuel Principle, "I will be your God and you will be My people" or some derivation of that. He promises to be with us, His people. God loves His people and calls them His bride. Sunday, we're going to take a look at how we are to be a faithful and loving bride, knowing that He is unfailing in His love for his people.

We'll take a look at what being that faithful and loving bride means. But until then, read The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 7 on God's Covenant with man.

1.       The distance between God and his creation is so great, that, although reasoning creatures owe him obedience as their creator, they nonetheless could never realize any blessedness or reward from him without his willingly condescending to them. And so it pleased God to provide for man by means of covenants.1
1. Is 40.13-17, Jb 9.32-33, 1 Sm 2.25, Ps 100.2-3, 113.5-6, Jb 22.2-3, 35.7-8, Lk 17.10, Acts 17.24-25

2.       The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works.2 In it life was promised to Adam and through him to his descendants,3 on the condition of perfect, personal obedience.4
2. Hos 6.7, Gn 2.16-17, Gal 3.10, Rom 5.12,19, 1 Cor 15.22,47, Gal 3.12.
3. Rom 5.12-20, 10.5.
4. Gn 2.17, Gal 3.10; Compare Gn 2.16-17 with Rom 5.12-14, 10.5, Lk 10.25-28, and with the covenants made with Noah and Abraham.

3.       By his fall, man made himself incapable of life under that covenant, and so the Lord made a second, the covenant of grace.5 In it he freely offers sinners life and salvation through Jesus Christ. In order to be saved he requires faith in Jesus6 and promises to give his Holy Spirit to all who are ordained to life so that they may be willing and able to believe.7
5. Gal 3.21, Rom 3.20-21, 8.3, Gn 3.15, Is 42.6, Mt 26.28, Heb 10.5-10.
6. Mk 16.15-16, Jn 3.16, Rom 10.6,9, Gal 3.11, Acts 16.30-31, Mt 28.18-20, Rom 1.16-17.
7. Ez 36.26-27, Jn 6.37,44-45, 5.37, 3.5-8, Acts 13.48, Lk 11.13, Gal 3.14.

4.       This covenant of grace is frequently identified in Scripture as a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ, the testator, and to the everlasting inheritance and everything included in that legacy.8
8. Heb 9.15-17, 7.22, Lk 22.20, 1 Cor 11.25.

5.       This covenant was administered differently in the time of the law and in the time of the gospel.9 Under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances given to the Jewish people, all foreshadowing Christ.10 For that time the covenant administered under the law through the operation of the Spirit was sufficient and effective in instructing the elect and building up their faith in the promised Messiah,11 by whom they had full remission of their sins and eternal salvation. This administration is called the Old Testament.12
9. 2 Cor 3.6-9, Heb 1.1-2.
10. Heb 8-10, Rom 4.11, Col 2.11-12, 1 Cor 5.7, Col 2.17.
11. 1 Cor 10.1-4, Heb 11.13, Jn 8.56, Gal
12. Gal 3.7-9, 14, Acts 15.11, Rom 3.30.

6. Under the gospel Christ himself, the substance13 of God’s grace, was revealed. The ordinances of this New Testament are the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper.14 Although these are fewer in number and are administered with more simplicity and less outward glory, yet they are available to all nations, Jews and Gentiles,15 and in them the spiritual power of the covenant of grace is more fully developed.16 There are not then two essentially different covenants of grace, but one and the same covenant under different dispensations.17
13. Gal 2.17, Col 2.17.
14. Mt 28.19-20, 1 Cor 11.23-25, 2 Cor 3.7-11.
15. Mt 28.19, Eph 2.15-19, see under figure 11 above, Lk 2.32, Acts 10.34-35. 
16. Heb 12.22-28, Jer 31.33-34, Heb 8.6-13, 2 Cor 3.9-11.17. 15.11, Rom 3.21-23,30, Ps 32.1, Rom 4.3,6,16-17,23-24, Heb 13.8, Gal 3.17,29, see context and citations under figure 10 above, Heb 1.1-2.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

"Paradise Found" - Doug Rehberg

This Easter Sunday our minds and hearts turn to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As a result, we will take a one-week break from our study of the Wisdom of James to re-examine John’s account of the resurrection.

Most Easters my mind turns to two of my favorite subjects – the resurrection and golf. And this year is extra special because of the story of Victor E. Dupuis. Vic lives in the eastern part of the state, outside of Philadelphia, with his wife of 29 years, Joy, and their three children. In addition to being managing partner of his firm, Dupuis Financial Group, Vic is a member of the Kennett Square Golf and Country Club and an avid golfer.

Six years ago on a business trip Vic, normally an outgoing and positive person, was harried from battling traffic as he returned from Harrisburg. Though he had several competing commitments, he had promised to join his golfing partner in a 6-hole, alternate-shot event called “The Devils Event”. He arrived late and apologized profusely; but by the second hole he had settled down and actually made a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 2.

But on the third tee Vic started feeling badly as he sat alone in his golf cart. When his partner yelled that it was his turn to hit his shot, Vic did not respond. The reason was simple – Vic had died. He had no pulse. No breath. They picked him up and carried him away from the cart and rested him on the tee box. As one of the members of the foursome called 911, another attempted CPR to no avail. The remaining member of the group, Paul Diddner, sped back to the halfway house to get an AED and to call Dr. William Ashton who was playing Hole No. 17.

As they all converged on the third tee, Dr. Ashton, who had carried a syringe of epinephrine in his golf bag for the past ten years, administered a shot under Vic’s tongue. By this time Vic was blue and had been totally unresponsive for more than five minutes. They used the AED and after three jolts and a total of ten minutes, Vic Dupuis came back to life before the eyes of everyone who had gathered. Vic’s eyes opened and he asked, “What’s going on?” Many replied the way I would have, “It’s a miracle!”  Indeed, that was the opinion of everyone who surrounded him, including Dr. Ashton.

But what happened three months later is, in the opinion of every golfer at K.S.G.C. and beyond, a rival miracle. You see, after receiving a pacemaker and following the instructions of his doctor not to play golf for at least three months, Vic was back on the course on day 91. He started on Hole No. 3, the same hole he had died on. From his bag he pulled a brand-new 6-iron. He had just removed it from its plastic wrapping earlier that day. He teed up his ball, set his feet, drew back his club, and let the ball sail. Within seconds of the strike the ball disappeared into the cup for a hole-in-one.

Think of it. A hole-in-one on the same hole, from the same tee, on which he had died over three months earlier! You say, “That’s amazing!” Yes, it is. But not half as amazing as that first Easter. God became a man and laid down His life.  He volunteered to take the eternal hell I deserve. He volunteered to satisfy every demand a Holy God had made on me. He volunteered to die. And then, to prove it’s finished, that I’m totally accepted by God forever, He got up and walked out of the tomb.

Dying on No. 3 tee, and coming back to life, and then 3 ½ months later getting a hole-in-one on No. 3? That’s a miracle, but it doesn’t hold a candle to John’s account of the resurrection of Jesus.

We will be studying John 19:40-20:10 this Sunday. In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Paradise Found”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Why is John’s account of the resurrection so much fuller than the other Gospel-writers?
  2. Why does John describe Jesus’ burial spot as in a garden?
  3. What is the significance of a garden in Scripture?
  4. Why does John consider the resurrection so important?
  5. Can you be a Christian without believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
  6. Why does Mary Magdalene come to the tomb at night?
  7. What is so impressive about the stone being rolled away?
  8. In verses 5-8 John uses three different words for looking. What can be deduced from this fact?
  9. What does John mean when he says, “They didn’t understand the Scriptures that he must rise from the dead?”
  10. What are the practical implications of the resurrection on you and your life?
See you on Easter!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

"Wars and Passions" - Doug Rehberg

It’s an old one, but a good one. A young boy asked his father, “Dad, how do wars begin?” “Well, take WWI,” said his father, “It all started when Germany invaded Belgium.” And immediately his wife who was listening to all this said, “Tell the boy the truth! It began because somebody was murdered.”

The husband drew himself up in an air of superiority and snapped back, “Are you answering our son’s question, or am I?” Turning her back on him in a huff, the wife walked out of the room and slammed the door as hard as she could. When the dishes stopped rattling in the cupboard, an uneasy silence followed, broken at length by the son, “That’s okay Dad, you don’t have to say anymore. I know how.”

When you come to James Chapter 4, you’re immediately met by his rhetorical questions: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” And that’s exactly what that young boy saw in both is parents.

This week we will examine only three verses – James 4:1-3, but they are full of truth. The truth is that my initial intention was to read down through verse 10 and examine all of it on one Sunday, but I quickly abandoned that plan when I started unpacking these few lines. What we have here is a deep exclamation the basic problem of our heart. The problem is in its desires. What James is saying is that God made us with a capacity to seek pleasure, but rather than seeking the one pleasure that will satisfy us, we pursue substitutes. And if that weren’t enough, we fight, envy, and quarrel to satisfy our misguided desires. There is only one answer to our problem and James gives it.

In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How does James 3:18 set up Chapter 4:1-3?
  2. What is the connection between peace and our passions?
  3. How is peace the greatest desire of the human heart?
  4. What does Jesus have to say about peace on that First Palm Sunday?
  5. What is a hedonist? Why does James call every one of us a hedonist in verse 1?
  6. How is hedonism the cause of quarrels and fights?
  7. What is the “desire” James is referring to in verse 2?
  8.  How is prayer the antidote to our warring passions?
  9.  James talks about “wrong” prayer in verse 3. What is he mean?
  10. What is genuine prayer and how does it cure our selfish pugilism?

Sunday is Palm Sunday!! May we worship the King in all His glory!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"Wise Relationships" - Doug Rehberg

“The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens…” Proverbs 3:19

This week James turns from words, and the power of the tongue, to wisdom. This is a logical step, for as James will show us, the power of words feeds right into the need for wisdom. For James, the heart, the tongue, and the mind are not only inexorably linked, but must be controlled wisely.

Like food and water, words spoken in relationships are necessary for life. Indeed, the harshest of all human punishment is solitary confinement where one is deprived of all words completely. However, as James pointed out last week, words can wound or they can heal. They can cause life to flourish, or they can make life wither and die. Therefore, what is needed is a wisdom in the midst of relationships.

What James is going to tell us this week is that the evidence of wisdom is seen in the way we live, for wisdom is the ability to see and build healthy relationships. He will describe three features that characterize wise relationships: they are healing, they are humble, and they are full of praise.

The Greeks believed that there was a wisdom behind nature. Wisdom made nature operate in patterns and rhythms. To the Greeks wisdom was like a cosmic data bank, or better – an idea bank – that controlled the movements of life. The radical message of the Gospel challenged all of that. As the Apostle John says in the first words of his gospel – “The Word (wisdom) became flesh and dwelled among us, full of grace and truth.” Wisdom, therefore, is not some abstract concept for the Christian, but a personal God who entered time and space to re-establish a relationship with those He made for Himself and called to Himself. Indeed, the cross is where ultimate wisdom is revealed. It’s where the love of God, and the law of God are reconciled so that we can live in a healthy, thriving relationships with God and others.

We are going to try to unpack all this this week in a message entitled “Wise Relationships”. The text for Sunday is James 3:6-18 and our companion text is I Thessalonians 5:1-11. In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following: 
  1. What is meant by the current expression – “get a life”?
  2. How are relationships a necessary part of getting a life?
  3. What are some features of good relationships?
  4. Why does James appeal to creation in verse 9 when he excoriates his brothers for their blessing and cursing out of the same mouth?
  5. How does what Paul says in I Thessalonians 5:11 fit with what James is saying?
  6. How do you define encouragement?
  7. In verse 14 James uses the expression “selfish ambition”. Paul uses the same expression multiple times. Do you remember what it means?
  8. How does James again show that humility is key to all we say and how we live in relationships?
  9. What does Jonathan Edwards mean when he says, “The difference between knowledge and wisdom is the difference between knowing that honey is sweet and tasting it on your tongue.”?
  10. What is the opposite of cursing?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"The Power of Words" - Doug Rehberg

This week we are in a new section of James’ letter. Though he returns to a topic he discussed briefly in chapter one, here in chapter three he expands on his discussion on the tongue. And what he says is an echo of what the writer of Proverbs says in Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

Think of it. People die because of something said. Tongues can be weapons of mass destruction launching wars and holocausts. Tongues can also be the death of marriages, families, churches, careers, reputations, etc. But people also live because of things that are said like, “Not guilty,” or “No, I do not wish to terminate this pregnancy.” The writer of Proverbs says that the tongue can be “a tree of life” (Proverbs 15:4). Tongues can reconcile people. They can make peace. They can build others up, bringing hope out of despair and life out of death.

James knows all of this, and that’s why he doesn’t stop with the tongue; he goes all the way to the heart. Jesus said it, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). A critical heart produces a critical tongue. A lying heart produces an acerbic, judgmental tongue. An ungrateful heart yields a complaining tongue.

But, conversely, a loving heart produces a gracious tongue. A trusting heart yields an encouraging tongue. In other words, the words you speak reveal what’s filling your heart. And that’s where the mirror comes into play.

When James says, “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body,” (verse 2) he’s not coaching us on how to be perfect – far from it. What he’s doing is holding up the mirror of the perfect law and showing us that there’s only One who bridled His tongue perfectly and that’s Jesus. He is the only One who humbled Himself sufficiently to have every word that proceeded from His mouth be perfect. The mirror humbles us when we see the miserable condition of our heart revealed in our unbridled tongue. And that’s the beginning of the change.

The mirror does one other thing! It points us in the direction of One who can change our heart and alter our speech. He can soften our heart and turn it from selfish grumbling to selfless gratitude. And the New Testament is full of examples of such change. The Apostle Paul, Zacchaeus, Peter, Legion, Mary Magdalene, and James are but a few.

This week we are going to dig into James 3:1-6 and see the power of words to kill or to heal, not just others, but ourselves as well.

In preparation for this Sunday’s message “The Power of Words”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Do you remember the sermon from Thomas Chalmers cited in our bulletin lesson seven weeks ago? It was titled: “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” How does that relate to the tongue?
  2. Look at James 1:26. How is 3:1-6 an expansion of what James says there?
  3. What is the command in verse 1? What judgment is he talking about?
  4. How did James experience that judgment?
  5. How is pride at the root of deadly words?
  6. How are words and works linked in Scripture?
  7. What is James saying about himself in verse 2?
  8. What would James say about the ditty: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me?”
  9. What evidence can you point to in Jesus’ recorded ministry that His tongue was perfectly bridled?
  10. How does looking into the mirror regularly change our words?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

"Living in Faith" - Doug Rehberg

In the movie classic Miracle on 34th Street, Santa Clause utters a definition of faith: Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.” In other words, faith is irrational, contrary to experience, logic, and knowledge. It’s believing in a feeling apart from any objective reality. I think that pretty well sums up the common definition of faith today.

When Hudson Taylor, the famous missionary, first went to China, it was on a sailing ship. As they made their way through the straits and shoals of the China Sea, the ship became immobilized by a lack of wind. Now for sailing people such events occur regularly with no need for alarm. But this time there was a problem with that strategy. The ship was drifting slowly toward an island of cannibals. In fact, in the distance the captain could see the fires already burning.

So, as a last resort, the nervous captain came to Taylor and asked him to pray for help. “I will,” said Taylor, “provided you set your sails to catch the breeze.” The captain declined. “I’m not going to make a laughingstock of myself by unfurling in a dead calm.” “Very well,” said Taylor, “then I will not undertake to pray for this vessel.”

Within minutes the sails were unfurled and Taylor took to praying. After about fifteen minutes, while engaged in prayer, there came a knock at his cabin door. “Who’s there?” shouted Taylor. “It’s the captain,” the voice responded. “Are you still praying for wind?” “Yes,” said Taylor. “Well, you’d better stop. We have more wind than we can manage.” Now let me ask you, was Taylor rational or not?

For the past eight weeks we’ve been studying the letter of James written to those he dearly loves. And everything he has to say to them involves faith. As we have seen, James has little time for religious doctrine that does not translate into the way we live.

For James the issue is the result of one’s faith. For James, if faith is only a matter of thought patterns and emotions of the believer, and does not exhibit itself in altered behavior; it’s moribund, dead, no faith at all.

Throughout chapters one and two James describes what a living faith looks like. He describes what a life will look like when one looks into the mirror of the perfect law – the finished work of Jesus Christ. Looking in the mirror not only reveals who you are in your own strength and ability, it will also show you who you are presently, and forever, in Christ.

In James 2:14-26, James takes special pains to labor the practical results of a genuine, saving faith. He says, “Faith without works is dead.”

Now that statement and his surrounding teaching have caused gallons of ink to flow over the last 500 years. More than that, those words have been the club that’s used by religious practitioners to underscore an apparent inconsistency in Scripture. Scores have argued that what Paul says about faith in Romans 4 and what James says here are mutually exclusive. A cursory reading of both texts gives you such an impression. But, as you dig a little deeper into the word, the contexts, and the historical realities of Romans 4 and James 2, all apparent contradictions evaporate. Indeed, a good look into the mirror of the perfect law (James 1:23) brings consistency, cogency, and godly challenge. We are shooting for all three this Sunday in a message entitled, “Living in Faith”.

In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Read Romans 3:21-25(a) and 4:1-5
  2. Do you see any inconsistency in what Paul and James are saying?
  3. What resolution can you offer?
  4. What light does Acts 15 shed on the apparent controversy between Paul and James?
  5. What’s the definition of the word “justification”?
  6. Is the faith James cites in verse 14 saving faith?
  7. What does verse 19 tell us about genuine faith?
  8. How does verses 15-18 show us proof of genuine faith?
  9. How does verse 23 show us a second proof of saving faith?
  10. How does the mirror promote both proofs?
See you Sunday!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"Living in Mercy" - Doug Rehberg

At a meeting of Baptist leaders in the mid 1700s, a newly ordained minister stood to argue for the value of oversees missions. He was abruptly interrupted by another minister who said, “Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without consulting you or me.” That young man was William Carey.

William Carey is often called the Father of Modern Protestant Missions. Though there were European Protestant missionaries to Asia almost a century before Carey arrived in India, his work marks a turning point in the size and scope of Protestant missionary efforts to the world. (He spent 41 years in India, through the death of two wives and several children, with no furlough.)

Carey taught himself Latin at age 12. By the time of his death, at age 73, Carey had translated the complete Bible into six languages, and portions of the Bible into 29 others. Yet, he never attended the equivalent of high school or college. His work was so impressive that in 1807, 41 years after his death, Brown University conferred on him a Doctor of Divinity.

There are few people in the history of the Christian Church more revered than William Carey; and yet, when he was suffering from a dangerous illness, he was asked, “If this sickness proves fatal, what passage would you select a the text for your funeral sermon?” Carey replied, “Oh, I feel that such a poor sinful creature as myself is unworthy of having anything said about him; but if a funeral sermon must be preached, let it be from the words: ‘Have mercy on me, O God, and according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion, blot out my transgressions.’” In the same spirit of humility, he directed in his will that the following inscription and nothing more be engraved on his tombstone:

William Carey, born August 17, 1761: Died June 9, 1834
“A wretched, poor, and helpless worm
On thy kind arms I fall.”

Someone has said, “Empty boats float high, but heavily laden vessels are low in the water; merely professing Christians can boast, but true children of God cry for mercy upon their unprofitableness.”
That’s what James says happens to us when we look into the mirror of the Gospel, the perfect law, the law of liberty. Not only is mercy desired, our hearts are changed and we begin giving it to others.
Look at what James says in 2:8, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scriptures, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself…’ Why? He answers that in the next verse; because you will see them exactly as you see yourself – a sinner in desperate need of mercy.

We are going to talk about mercy this week. It’s at the heart of God’s self-disclosure in both the Old and New Testament. That’s why James can make this dramatic statement: “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

In preparation for this week’s message, “Living in Mercy”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How does God describe Himself to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7?
  2. In what ways do we see Jesus fulfilling God’s self-description?
  3. In what way do you fit James’ description of one God chooses in James 2:5?
  4. How does James’ view of the poor square with Jesus’ view of them? (See Mt. 5:3 and Luke 6:20.)
  5. How do the rich blaspheme the name of Christ? (See James 2:7.)
  6. How does loving your neighbor as yourself relate to not showing partiality?
  7. How does one act as one who’s judged under the law of liberty?
  8. In what way does mercy triumph over judgment?
  9. How does the mirror of the Gospel make us merciful?
  10. If faith without works is dead, what work best demonstrates your vitality as a child of God?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"For Glory Sake" - Doug Rehberg

I got a message from an old friend to call him and I put it off. You know why I put it off? Because I was guilty. I hadn’t talked to him in months. I had said that I would call his son who is suffering from COPD, but I hadn’t. I had no excuse. I was guilty of letting everything get in the way of my commitment to him and our friendship. I put off calling, because I was so embarrassed at my failure as a friend. My words belied my actions. What kind of person makes a promise and never keeps it? What kind of person calls another man a dear friend, and then forgets all about him? A false friend, a lousy friend, that’s who!

So after nearly two weeks, I called and he answered. And right after I heard him say, “Hello”, I launched into a sincere apology. I said something like, “I can’t even believe you’d want to talk to me after all this time. Please forgive me for not calling you and your son. I’m ashamed of myself and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”

As I took a breath to continue my plea, he interrupted saying, “What are you talking about? After all we’ve been through, after all the years of the love and blessings we’ve enjoyed together…there is nothing that you could ever do to reduce my feelings for you. You are my beloved brother and that will never change!”

Have you ever known the kind of peace and motivation that comes from experiencing that kind of acceptance? It’s said that the depth of one’s reservoir of good will and mercy is directly related to one’s experience of it. And that is certainly true for my friend. At a time when I was beginning to wonder if most reservoirs had dried up, the Lord gave me that phone call and that clear demonstration that deep reservoirs of mercy still exist.

And James knows that in spades. This week we will begin in 1:23 and read through 2:7. Here James uses a metaphor that he will carry thematically throughout the balance of his letter. He talks about God’s Word as a mirror that shows us two things – our radical falleness and His infinite love and devotion to us. And just like my experience with my friend, it’s only the latter that can begin to have a radical effect on the former.

There’s so much in these few verses. I look forward to digging into them with you and then gathering around His table.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “For Glory Sake”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Google “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson and listen to the words.
  2. What’s the difference between the mirror Michael sings about and the one James writes about?
  3. How does James establish the identity of the mirror?
  4. What part of God’s words is James referring when he says in verse 24, “For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he looks like?”
  5. What’s the perfect law to which James refers in verse 25?
  6. What is it that’s being forgotten?
  7. How does James’ message here help us understand better the “mechanical” and the “organic” obedience Ken referred to last week?
  8. What is James’ purpose in citing the example of partiality in 2:1-7?
  9. Why does he refer to Jesus the way he does in verse 1?
  10. What’s at the root of all partiality?
See you Sunday!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"Growth in Listening" - Ken Wagoner

I am currently reading the biography of Ulysses S. Grant, and since it is 965 pages long, I believe I will be reading this book for a long time. What I have found fascinating so far in the first 260 pages is the countless number of times Grant, who was a very humble man, was ridiculed, denigrated, slandered, and mocked by family, friends, and foes.  He certainly had his share of failures. But, I have lost count of the number of times he overcame these attempts to remove him from a variety of different positions of authority.  And in almost every case of proving his critics wrong, the reason for not being relieved of duties was his ability to accomplish what he was trained to do as a military leader. His actions were so overwhelmingly positive and produced many of the early northern victories of the civil war, they could not get rid of him. His actions spoke louder than his words.  

In my work with Chinese scholars I am meeting with two Chinese scholars who are young but eager in their growing Christian faith. Recently, I asked both of them to describe some of the important reasons they became a Christian. Both of them articulated a good faith in what God has graciously done for them, but both of them also pointed to seeing something in other Christians they knew they wanted to have too. They were encouraged in seeing others live their faith in daily life.

Some of historical critics of the book of James thought this book gave too much emphasis on doing good works, and not enough on having a solid faith  Most of these arguments have been dismissed, and the recent sermons from both Doug and Scott have clearly focused on the foundational grounds of our  faith centered on not what we do, but what our heavenly Father has done for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. But our text this week from James begins this letter’s appeal to us to live out what has been accomplished for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ so others may see this and be encouraged to follow Jesus. Tim Keller writes this about our response to the Bible: Because the Bible is the Word of our creator, it is our soul’s “owner’s manual.” The things it commands are the very things we were created to do.” It is when we read what we are commanded to do, and we realize we fall short of doing them, that we begin to feel uncomfortable with the scriptures. Being uncomfortable is not always a bad thing. What is important is how do we respond when we begin to feel uncomfortable with what we have been commanded to do. Hopefully this Sunday, we will begin to deal with those things outside of our comfort zones, and begin to realign ourselves with realizing how God created us to live. I am privileged to be with you this Sunday, and would you join me in praying “The words of our mouths, and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and Redeemer.”  

Here are a few thoughts to ponder as we gather together for worship this Sunday:
  1. In James 1:21 we are instructed in the type of attitude we are to have in receiving God’s Word.  What is this attitude?  How are you doing in this in your daily life, and in your corporate life?
  2. In the illustration of seeing oneself in a mirror (James 1:22-24), the word “look” is used three times.  Why is this word used more than once, and what does it mean?
  3. What does James mean when he refers to the “perfect” law (verse 25)?  Look at Psalm 19 for some insight in this.
  4. James 1:26 is one of the first “practical” issues of life addressed by James addressing the use of our tongue.  Why do you think he starts here?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

"The Power" - Doug Rehberg

In 2015 Andrew Peterson wrote a song that appeared on the album, “The Burning Edge of Dawn.” Here are the lyrics:

I cannot explain the ways of love
Life cannot explain the grace of kindness
There’s no reason that can satisfy enough
The healing of this blindness

I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection
I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection

And even in the days when I was young
There seemed to be a song beyond the silence
The feeling in my bones was much too strong
To just deny it. I can’t deny this

I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection
Seized by the power of a great affection

Now this is the theme of my song
Now I must forgive as I am forgiven
And even when the shadows are long
I will sing about the Son that’s risen

That His kingdom has no end
And His kingdom has no end

I will praise Him for the fields of green and gold
I will praise Him for the roar of many waters
I will praise Him that the secret things of old
Are now revealed to sons and daughters

I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection
I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection

So Father I will give you thanks and praise
The Son has opened wide the gate of glory
He declared your mighty love and gave His grace
And I will tell His story
It is my story

I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection
Seized by the power of a great affection….

Now whether Andrew Peterson knows it or not, that’s the essence of what James is saying in our text this week. You will note that it’s largely the same one Scott preached from last week. If you were at Hebron last week or listened to the podcast, you know that Scott spoke thoroughly about the reality of sin and how it’s not an intruder from the outside, but an internal resident of our heart. That’s what James means when he says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God…”. James identifies the source of sin, it’s bred in our own hearts. If there’s any doubt about that, reread verses 14 and 15!

So what are we to do? Besides confessing our sin and turning away from it, is there anything else that we can do to see sin recede and righteousness rise in our lives? James, Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Chalmers, Samuel Rutherford, and Andrew Peterson say there is, and that is what we will be examining this week.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following: 
  1. What does Jesus mean in John 14:15 when He says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments?”
  2. Why does James use the worlds “lured” and “enticed” when he is referring to our desires?
  3. In Greek vs. 14 reads, “But each one is tempted by his lusts, having been drawn out and having been seduced by them.” Does this reading shed any light on what verse 14 is saying?
  4. How did Ulysses deal with the temptations the sirens posed? Is that effective?
  5. What is the deception James refers to in verse 16?
  6. How did Thomas Chalmers suggest dealing with sin?
  7. Why does God give us the capacity for desire and affection if it gets us into such trouble?
  8. How does verse 17 tie to verse 16?
  9. In verse 18 James speaks of the desire of another – whose? And what is that desire?
  10. In verse 18 James is alluding to a heavenly “show and tell”. Who is showing and what’s being told?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

"Sin and Temptation" - Scott Parsons

There are few concepts more out of style today than the concept of sin.  Biblically, sin is any disobedience (passive or active) of the commands of the sovereign, holy God. When you reject the notion of a sovereign, holy God (which much of our culture does today), the concept of sin becomes irrelevant at best, and dangerous in the eyes of many.  It is viewed as a vestige of a more primitive time that was used to provide common people with a framework to understand problems, pain and suffering, and a tool to help control the masses.

In our more “enlightened” age, the concept of a creating, sovereign God has been rejected for a scientific, man centered view of existence.  Thus, sin as an offense against God has also been rejected.  Instead, sin is considered an obsolete guilt trip that gets in the way of men and women reaching their fullest potential.  The concept of evil has been redefined as anti-social behavior that is remedied by education and rehabilitation.

Sadly, this societal shift has also affected the church.  Sin is rarely taken seriously.  Research done by one of our nation’s polling groups has concluded that “there is no significant difference in ethical behavior between churched and unchurched citizens of America.”   In other words, our beliefs regarding God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness has done little to affect how those who claim to be Christian’s live.  The lack of church discipline is evidence of this.  Historically considered to be one of the marks of a true church, rarely is personal sin addressed within the body of Christ, even scandalous sin.

James 1 has been talking about the Christian’s response to suffering.  It is critical to realize that suffering does not just come from outside sources, but it is often the result of our own sinful choices.  In James 1:13-18, James speaks to us about the reality of sin, the consequences of sin, and our hope in the midst of sin.  I know that sin is not a popular subject and that it is not something we like to think about.  But the truth is, we cannot understand and embrace grace if we do not have a clear understanding of the reality and depth of our sin.  We all have sins we wrestle with, and some that we harbor and nurture.  Please read Sunday’s passage carefully and boldly ask God to open your eyes to the presence and danger of sin in your life, and for the Spirit’s power to overcome them.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Plan for Trouble" - Doug Rehberg

There’s a blog entitled, “god blog”. In one of its recent posts, there is the heading: “C.S. Lewis is popular but wrong; we are not little Christs.”

After introducing the fact that C.S. Lewis had no formal theological training, the blogger goes on to say that while some criticize Lewis for being too loose with doctrine, “My take is somewhat the opposite. He is too literal about what it means to follow Christ. For Lewis it means to become, little Christs, which to me makes no sense at all…The part of Lewis that I don’t understand (and perhaps my understanding of Christian doctrine is insufficient) is his claim that every Christian is to become a little Christ. That the whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”

Here’s Lewis’ full statement:

“Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: That we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has – by what I call “good infection”. Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.” Mere Christianity, p. 177.

What trips up the blogger is the belief that what Lewis is describing is human effort applied to imitating Christ, but he’s not. What Lewis is saying is what Paul says repeatedly, as in Galatians 2:20 and II Corinthians 5:17. Rather than talking about the consequences of human effort, what Paul and Lewis are detailing is what divine effort can do in a life. And that’s exactly what James is talking about in James 1:2-12.

What is the vehicle by which God the Father and Spirit conforms us to His Son, Jesus Christ? James tells us – trouble. How did Jesus stand steadfast? He had the wisdom of God in the face of His trials. How do we know of His steadfastness? It’s through His response to those trials.

The fantastic truth that James sets forth in verse 12 is one we will examine this week. Simply put, the truth is this – as we ask and receive the wisdom of God our steadfastness increases and the life we live begins to parallel, more and more, the life of Christ. What is “the crown of life” to which James refers? It is to be glorified, standing in His presence, looking exactly like Him. And, according to James, that work has already begun.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Plan for Trouble”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How does James include himself in his admonition to count trials as joys?
  2. How is he paralleling the message of an orthodox Old Testament prophet?
  3. What does James tell us about the purpose of trials?
  4. According to James is the task of the Christian life to overcome trials?
  5. How does Jesus prove that trials are a blessing?
  6. How is pain and suffering a positive tool in the hand of our Master?
  7. Why does James segue into a prosperity discussion in verses 9-11?
  8. How is prosperity a great trial?
  9. How do trials make you real?
  10. What do you think the crown of life is?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

"Wisdom for Trouble" - Doug Rehberg

Here’s a test:
  1. Your boss comes in and tells you that your services are no longer needed. What’s your greatest need at that moment?
  2. You put your child down for a nap and an hour later you find she’s dead. What’s your greatest need at that moment?
  3. You’re minding your own business and a car comes along and sideswipes your car. What’s your greatest need at that moment?
  4. You go to school and your best friend betrays your trust by accusing you, falsely, in front of others. What’s your greatest need at that moment?
Answer: According to James, it’s wisdom!

Throughout the letter of James, a clear distinction is made between good (Godly) wisdom and evil (natural human) wisdom. In chapter 3:13-18 James says that a person whose life reflects jealousy and self-ambition has not the true wisdom of God, but is earthly-minded and unspiritual. But true God-given wisdom is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” In other words, Godly wisdom is the possession of God and it is something for which His children can seek and find. That’s why Luke could say what he does about Jesus in Luke 2:52.

That’s what we are going to be talking about this week as we dig into James 1:5-8. So many come to verse 5 and try to apply it to all kinds of understandings. But James is specific. He’s talking about “counting” or “considering” all trials a joy (v. 2). What he’s saying is that there’s only one way to do that and that’s to have a new perspective that only divine wisdom can give us.

Last week we talked about what positive things trials can provide us. This week we’re going to talk about how we access them. In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Wisdom for Trouble”, you may wish to consider the following:
  • What does James tell us about wisdom in verse 5?
  • How does verse 5 flow directly from verses 2-4?
  • How does his meeting with the resurrected Jesus in I Corinthians 15:7 relate to what James is saying?
  • Do you think it’s cruel in the face of someone’s pain and anguish over a trial, to tell someone they don’t know enough?
  • How is the severity and effect of a trial defined by our perspective?
  • Why does James put a condition on our prayer in verse 6?
  • What does it mean to ask for wisdom while you have doubts?
  • The Book of Proverbs says that a fool is not aware of his foolishness. Is a wise man aware of his?
  • How is outrage at suffering a sign that there’s eternal life?
  • Did Jesus ever pray for wisdom in the midst of His trials?

See you Sunday as we gather at His table!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"Getting Started" - Doug Rehberg

In the 4th century Pope Gregory the Great wrote a commentary on the Book of Job in which he famously observed:

“Scripture is like a river, broad and deep,
shallow enough here for a lamb to go wading,
but deep enough there for an elephant to swim.”

And interestingly, the “here” and the “there” can be the same text. Nowhere are Gregory’s words more apparently true than in James’ letter to Jewish Christians dispersed throughout the known world.

Years ago I remember listening to some recordings of “end times” dispensationalist teacher Hal Lindsey. I’m not sure I ever knew where he was teaching or the identity of his audience, but when he introduced his series of messages on the Book of Daniel, wild applause broke out. It was as if he was finally giving them what they were paying him for – a view into the future!

As I have been studying the Letter of James over the past three or four months, I have been fascinated to see how much like those Hal Lindsey listeners many commentators are and how shallow they make James’ message to be! For them James presents a set of practical hints and habits that, when appropriated, put the doer in good standing with God and others. It is this type of interpretation that drove Martin Luther to seek to banish the book of James from the New Testament canon. He saw such an interpretation as simply a re-tool of the law; another play of the Judaisers to lead people away from the Gospel. If Luther could read some modern interpretations of James, he would surely feel vindicated.

But, the truth is, the Letter of James is so much more than a place for lambs to wade. It’s not a legal re-tool. It’s not a compendium of “handy-dandy tips” for Christian living. It’s not an appeal to the human will. It’s a heater for the heart. It’s a letter that the Holy Spirit has used throughout history to move Christians out of their complacency and into a fully equipped ministry that reflects the character of Jesus Christ.

For years at Hebron we have taken seriously what Paul sets forth in Ephesians 4:12 as the goal of the ministry: “To equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Today Hebron’s even more committed to that goal by actively seeking to ENGAGE people with the Gospel, EVANGELIZE those who have been engaged, ESTABLISH them in the faith, and EQUIP them for the work of ministry which is Engaging, Evangelizing, and Establishing others in the faith. And the Letter of James is a perfect tool for the job. It’s full of admonitions and applications set against the backdrop of Christ’s finished work.

This Sunday we begin where James begins in 1:1-4. After issuing a single greeting, James dives in and so will we.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Who is this James? (If you were at the 7:00 pm service on Christmas Eve you may remember.)
  2. How is this James like the younger son in the “Prodigal Son” story Jesus tells in Luke 15?
  3. Who are the twelve tribes of the dispersion?
  4. What amazing confession does James make in verse 1? And why is it so amazing?
  5. What does James tell us about trials, troubles, and temptations in verse 2?
  6. On what grounds should they bring us joy?
  7. How do trials test our faith?
  8. What is steadfastness?
  9. How does steadfastness make us perfect and complete?
  10. How does steadfastness make us lack for nothing?
See you Sunday!