Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Power of No - Doug Rehberg

Sirens were beautiful creatures from Greek mythology who lured sailors to their death. The power of their song was so irresistible that it would cause captains to steer their boats into the rocks.

We are seduced daily by proposals, promises, and perspectives that may leave us shipwrecked too, unless we learn and relearn the power of saying no. Investor Mark Suster has warned of the peril of shiny new objects. He says, “Everything you say ‘yes’ to is incrementally one more thing you must support with time, energy, and personal resources. The result is death by a thousand cuts. I strongly believe that your successes will be more defined by what you choose not to do than by what you choose to do.”

Why is saying “no” so hard for us? One well-known psychologist suggests three reasons:
1.       Accommodation: We say “yes” when we want to say no. This usually comes when we value the relationship above the importance of our own interests.
2.       Apprehension: We say no poorly and then feel guilty. Sometimes we are fearful or resentful of the request and overreact to the person asking by saying no when we do not mean it.
3.       Avoidance: We say nothing at all because we are afraid of offending the other party. We hope the problem will disappear, but it does not. We end up obligating ourselves through silence.

But, saying no is far easier when you have the confidence and foresight that comes from the clear goal a vison brings. Steve Jobs once said, “I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as much as things we have done. Innovation is saying no to a thousand things.”

Someone has said, “Saying no is powerful because it’s so rare.” Instagram founder Kevin Systrom turned down a personal offer from Mark Zuckerberg to be one of Facebook’s earliest employees. This move could have cost him hundreds of millions of dollars. But Systrom believed in his own vision and that staying in school was the right move for his future. As things turned out, years later Facebook bought his company for more than enough money to put any regrets to rest.

People like to be liked. We do not want to offend or make trouble. Rather than saying no, we would rather string people along and hope that they change their minds or forget their request. But nothing is more clear and respectful of others or ourselves than stating our conviction clearly and quickly. And that is exactly what we see Nehemiah doing in chapter 6. When Sanballat and Geshem seek to derail the completion of the building project, they offer to meet with Nehemiah to discuss things. Nehemiah says, “No!” It is one of the most widely quoted verses in the entire book of Nehemiah. It is used by many people, including a lot of preachers, as a “life verse”. But Nehemiah 6:3 is the center of Sunday’s text, Nehemiah 5:14 to 6:9. It is far more than a repository of life verses or morality meanderings. It is a perfect portrait of four frequent temptations that seek to seduce us into abandoning the vision God has set before us. We will be delving into all of this on Sunday in a message entitled, “The Power of No”.

In preparation for the message you may wish to consider the following:

1. Read Luke 9:51-62 and note Jesus’ emphasis on completing the task God sets before us.
2. Do you know the second line of the ditty: “Once a job you have begun, never leave it till it’s done…”?
3. Against the backdrop of “Threats from Within” (last week’s message) what do verses 14-19 tell us about Nehemiah?
4. What is the connection between the governor’s food allowance and the people’s ability to pay?
5. Does verse 19 strike you as a bit egocentric?
6. Why do the unholy trinity wish to meet with Nehemiah and where?
7. How does verse 3, Nehemiah’s response, capture the essence of the work?
8. What does verse 3(b) tell us about Nehemiah’s involvement in the project?
9. Why do the enemies persist with false charges in verses 4-7?
10. How are Nehemiah’s words in verse 8 a perfect “life verse” for ourselves?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Threats from Within - Doug Rehberg

In March of 1993 a large snowstorm blanketed much of the southern U.S. including Birmingham, Alabama. The snow that fell from March 12th to 13th is the largest accumulation Birmingham ever received; 18 inches in some spots.

The man writes, “As an idiotic 17-year-old with a four-wheel drive Jeep with an electric winch mounted to my front bumper, I didn’t see 18 inches of snow as a problem, but a challenge…so I loaded up my Jeep with a friend and set out to explore our hometown.

“It didn’t take us long to discover a lot of people stranded in their cars by the side of I65. With the best of intentions, my friend and I began helping people get their cars back on the road and off to an exit where they could seek shelter…

“Well, what began to quickly happen was that people started to hand us money or toss it out of their window as they drove away. At first what were simply good intentions became an all-out money-making adventure. We were very aware that soon the snow would melt, and the opportunity would be gone.

“One night as we were contemplating how we could increase our revenue, we saw a story on TV reporting a large number of people stranded at the airport. We immediately jumped into the Jeep and headed there. As we pulled up we could see hundreds of people through the windows. Some were sleeping. Others were talking to each other. Others were pacing. They all looked tired, hungry, and disheveled.

“So we walk into the airport and announce, ‘Who needs a ride?’ Suddenly we’re heroes. People start running toward us. They’re yelling, ‘I’ll give you $25 to take me to Homewood.’ or ‘I’ll give you $50 if you take us to the nearest hotel with a vacancy.’ For hours this scene is repeated. We get to the point that we stand there waiting for the bidding to go through the roof. One guy gave us $200 to take him to Childersburg (36 miles).

“I don’t remember how much money my friend and I made that week, but I can assure you it probably exceeded what the two of us, at that point in our lives, could have made in two or three months.”

Now this story comes from a preacher who, when he reads Nehemiah 5, can see himself in it. The parallels are striking. At a time when many of the Jews of Jerusalem who live behind the half-built wall are starving, others of their brethren are exploiting them.

Last week our focus was on chapter 4 and the extreme threat posed by the external enemies of God’s vision. Remember the nature of their threat—confusion, danger, fear. This week the threat is internal. The vision of God is being assailed by evildoers within the city. God’s people are ripping each other off! They are charging each other interest. In the midst of a famine brothers and sisters are exploiting each other, and Nehemiah is ticked. Like those two teenage boys, the pain of the many is the gain of the few. We have a lot to learn in this chapter.

We are going to dig deeply into all of it on Sunday in a message entitled, “Threats from Within”. The text is Nehemiah 5:1-13. As you read it you may wish to consider the following:

1. What are the reasons for the scarcity of food in Jerusalem?
2. What are the charges brought against the exploiters?
3. Who are the profiteers?
4. What is the nature of Nehemiah’s anger in verse 6?
5. What does “I took counsel with myself” mean? (see verse 7)
6. What is Nehemiah’s argument to the nobles and the officials?
7. On what grounds does he rebuke them?
8. How do we know that the Holy Spirit has convicted them?
9. After they make their promise in verse 12 why does Nehemiah threaten them if they fail to honor it?
10. What does it mean to have God “shake us out of the fold of His garment”? (see verse 13)

See you on Sunday!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Standing in the Arena - Doug Rehberg

Remember the 2000 blockbuster movie, “Remember the Titans”? It was based on a true story. I have a friend who was coaching a junior high football team back then. He said, “All the kids wanted to be Titans!” But to remember the Titans requires knowing the story.

In late 1990, screenwriter Gregory Howard wrote a screenplay called, “Remember the Titans.” It was based on the true story of T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. After it was purchased by Walt Disney Pictures, Howard admitted that he had made some big assumptions when writing the script.

1971 was a turbulent year in Alexandria. Although the school system desegregated 8 years earlier in 1970, the school board voted to merge three high schools into one, T.C. Williams High School. While racial tensions mounted between citizens, Williams’ newly integrated football players were more concerned with securing a starting position. To further complicate matters, Williams’ white Head Coach was forced to take the assistant coaching position to make room for the new African-American Head Coach. In a compelling example of effective vision-casting the two coaches were able to work together and lead the Titans to victory in the Virginia State Championship Game. While the rest of the nation struggled for peace, the student body of T.C. Williams overcame profound differences and set an example for the surrounding community.

The story of Nehemiah is a bit like that. It is easy to focus on the monumental achievement of Nehemiah and his fellow Israelites. In 52 days they are able to reconstruct the nine-foot thick, forty-foot high, 2.5 mile long wall around Jerusalem. It is a wall that had lain in ruins for over a century. However, that is the end of the construction story. The beginning of the story we have already examined. But now we move to the middle of the story. Nehemiah has traveled 800 miles with his entourage. They have journeyed for over a month to get there. Last week we looked at the eight clear and necessary steps he takes (2:11-20) in planting the vision the Lord has given him in the hearts and minds of his fellow Jews who live in the midst of the rubble of Jerusalem.

This week we find their total buy-in expressed in a whirlwind of activity. Chapter 3 gives us all the detail of the tribes getting to work. Nehemiah is careful to give us all the detail we need to see the historicity and scope of the project. But then we come to chapter 4. Here the “unholy trinity” goes to work attempting to tear down what has been done. It’s halftime! Half the wall is rebuilt. Now it is fighting time! In a message entitled “Standing in the Arena” we will examine the challenge, the charge, and the change of chapter 4.

You may wish to consider the following in preparing to get the most out of Sunday’s message:

1. Read all of chapter 4.
2. Notice the theme sentence in verse 6.
3. What happens to the people’s “mind to work”?
4. Beginning in verse 7 we see the conspiracy of the naysayers. What three weapons do they use to discourage the builders? Hint: The same three that are used widely today.
5. How does Nehemiah face these challenges?
6. What solution were the people offering to the 3 challenges? See verse 12.
7. What change does he make in the second half of the rebuilding project?
8. How does he come to conceive of such a solution to the problem?
9. What is Nehemiah’s message to the builders in verse 14?
10. How does this message parallel Jesus’ message in the Upper Room?

See you Sunday as we gather around His table!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Planting A Vision - Doug Rehberg

On August 20, 1940 Winston Churchill was speaking to the House of Commons. Already that year he had inspired a nation with three famous speeches: The “Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat” speech of May 13th; the “We Shall Fight On The Beaches” speech of June 4th; and the “This Was Their Finest Hour” speech of June 18th. But here in this speech he uttered a line that is as famous as any Churchill ever spoke. He said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” The line stems from the ongoing efforts of the Royal Air Force crews who were, at the time, fighting the Battle of Britain, the pivotal air battle of the war. The prospect of the complete domination of British air space and the consequent land invasion by the Germans was a foregone conclusion in the minds and hearts of many. But, because of the superintended grace of God and the unbelievable heroics of the RAF pilots, the German Luftwaffe was given its first major defeat.

According to some historians, on August 16, as Churchill was making his exit from the RAF Bunker at Uxbridge, after visiting with a number of the pilots who flew in the battle, he first spoke these famous words. Immediately afterwards he turned to Major General Hastings Ismay, who he called “Pug,” and said, “Don’t say a word to me. I have never been so moved.”

But four days later as they were traveling together in a car. On the way to The House of Commons, Winston was rehearsing his speech. When he came to the part where he said, “Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few” Ismay interrupted him. “But Sir, what about Jesus and His disciples?” Immediately Churchill said, “Good old Pug. ‘Never in the field of human conflict’…”

For anyone wishing to discover the secret of Churchill’s success in rallying a flagging nation in the face of titanic odds, one only needs to examine the myriad lessons in leadership Churchill learned over his long life. Every aspect of his leadership as Prime Minister of Great Britain in World War II can be traced to his life as a student, a writer, a politician, an army officer, etc. Through a vast array of experience Churchill developed a remarkably adept style of leadership. The same can be said for Nehemiah.

Over the last 3 weeks we have been examining this fascinating story of how God uses one man to engage His broken people in a monumental task. This week we will be completing chapter 2 where, after receiving the blessing and sanction of the king, Nehemiah journeys to Jerusalem to accomplish God’s plan for His people. What we have at the end of chapter 2 is a wonderful outline of what godly, effective leadership looks like.

This week we will be highlighting 8 aspects that are integral to planting a vision. In a message entitled, “Planting a Vision,” we will be looking at each aspect quickly and precisely. In preparation for the message you may wish to consider the following:

1. How long did it take Nehemiah and his entourage to get to Jerusalem from Susa?
2. Why does he wait three days to get started? (Compare with Ezra 8:32)
3. Why does he start his examination of the city at night?
4. Who are the men that accompany him in his investigation?
5. Why the stealthiness? (verse 16)
6. Why is he riding?
7. How did Nehemiah know those mentioned in verse 16 who would be doing the work?
8. Why does he state the obvious in verse 17?
9. What is he saying to them in verse 18?
10. How does he handle opposition in verses 19 and 20?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

"Let's Roll" - Doug Rehberg

Over the past two Sundays we have been privileged to begin digging into one of the truly remarkable stories of Scripture – the Book of Nehemiah. It’s been great for me to listen to the podcasts from afar and hear the rich preaching of God’s servant and, our dear brother, Scott Parsons. What a gift to Hebron!

When Scott and I began first talking about doing a series on the Book of Nehemiah he got a big smile on his face and said, “I love Nehemiah. Of all the characters of Scripture I feel as though I’m closest in identifying with him. He was a man who served God with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.” If you know Scott very well you can see a lot of Nehemiah in him.

This week, in a message entitled, “Let’s Roll”, we are going to take one more look at the way Nehemiah introduces himself to us. From there we will take another glance at the prayer he prays in chapter one and then move into chapter two and see how God supernaturally answers that prayer.

I think it was the church father, Basil of Caesarea, who said, in effect, that we ought to pray in such a way that we make God ashamed if He does not answer; throwing God’s promises to Him saying, “Lord, You promised. Now fulfill Your promise. Otherwise, it’s going to look bad for You and it’s going to look bad to all those around You, because they’re going to say that this God of the Jews, the God of Jerusalem, does not keep His word.” It’s that kind of prayer we see Nehemiah praying in chapter one. And it’s that kind of prayer we see God answering in chapter two.

Now lest you think that Basil was awfully bold in voicing such a declaration, the Book of Nehemiah is careful to show us that such boldness can only be effective if it springs from a humble heart. Nehemiah has such a heart in spades!

We will examine the man, the method, and the message of Nehemiah 1:4-2:10 on Sunday. In preparation you may wish to consider the following!
  1. Why does Nehemiah give us the month of Chislev in chapter one and Nisan in chapter two?
  2. What significant lesson are we to draw from those dates?
  3. Why does Nehemiah ask Hanani for a report on the conditions in Jerusalem?
  4. When he tells us in verse 4 that he sat down and wept and mourned for days, how long is he talking about?
  5. The prayer he cites in verses 5 to 11 follows the famous “ACTS” pattern. Can you identify each element in his prayer?
  6. Scott mentioned the significance of the line, “I was cupbearer to the king.” What else do you know about what a cupbearer is? Why does he wait 11 verses to tell us that?
  7. Why was Nehemiah fearful in verse 2?
  8. Why does the king point out his sadness and its source in verse 2?
  9. Why does Nehemiah say all he says in verse 3?
  10. What provisions does the king give to Nehemiah? Is this more than he asks for?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Sorrow in Susa - Doug Rehberg

Susa was the capital city of Persia. It was 850 miles away from Jerusalem, across barren wastelands. We quickly learn that Nehemiah is not only a resident of Susa, he lives in the citadel, that is the fortified palace of the king.

When he inquires of his Jewish brother, Hanani, who has just returned from Jerusalem, about the condition in which he found Jerusalem, the report is bleak. “The remnant there… who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”

On the face of it, it seems like a man as important as Nehemiah would have other things possessing his mind than a distant city to which he‘s never even seen. But not so! His body may be in Susa, but his heart is in Jerusalem, for he knows that place is the very dwelling place of God.

Nehemiah may very well have had Psalm 137:5-6 on his mind when he made his inquiry, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth; if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.”

Look at the news from Hanani. Notice the words he uses to describe the people of Jerusalem and their conditions. He calls them “survivors”. Their condition is one of “trouble and shame”. The wall around Jerusalem is utterly broken down and the gates burned with fire.

In the ancient world, a city without walls was a city completely vulnerable to its enemies. It had no defenses and no protection at all. An unwalled city was always a backwater town, with nothing valuable in it. Those living in an unwalled city were in constant fear and tension. They never knew when they might be attacked and brutalized. What is more, any temple or place of worship in such a town could never be made beautiful; because anything valuable would be easily carried away.

Join us Sunday morning as Scott Parsons preaches "From Sorrow to Success".

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Rebuilding the Broken - Scott Parsons

Brokenness is a universal condition.  Everything is broken in one fashion or another.  It is a consequence of the fall.  Nations are broken. Institutions are broken. People are broken. Nothing is exempt.  It’s true that not everything is broken to the same degree, but brokenness is inescapable. 

Nehemiah is a book about brokenness.  The setting of the book is the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and the subsequent deportation of the Jews from Jerusalem to Babylon.  After 70 years in exile, a group of 50,000 Israelites return to Jerusalem and find it in shambles.  The temple and city walls have been destroyed.  What is left of the city is occupied by all kinds of people who now claim it as their home.  Nothing is the same.  Their release from captivity has essentially been a transfer from one nightmare to a worse one.  Now, 93 years after their return, Nehemiah receives word that not much has changed.  The temple has been reopened under the supervision of Ezra, but not much else has changed.  The walls are still in shambles, and the Jews are in constant danger from people within and outside the city. 

When Nehemiah hears this, he weeps.  Who wouldn’t?  Things were supposed to get better, but they didn’t.  It’s how many of us feel about our own broken lives.  We keep thinking that things should get better, but often they don’t.  Sometimes we start to wonder why God doesn’t just fix things for us, or if he has abandoned us.  After all, we are supposed to be his children!  But Nehemiah is not a book of despair.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  Nehemiah helps us understand that it is not God’s intent that we simply hang on in a broken world, but that we live victoriously in it.  It isn’t always easy, but Nehemiah shows us that if we are willing to be patient, pray, trust God, and devote ourselves to his calling, he will in his timing lift us up and give us a song of praise.  It is a fascinating book that is encouraging and practical.  I suggest that you read it once in its entirety before Sunday, and ask God to give you a new perspective on the brokenness in your life and in the world around you.



Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Priority of Love - Scott Parsons

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that in all energy exchanges, if no energy enters or leaves the system, the potential energy of the state will always be less than that of the initial state.  The effects of this law can be described in this way:  “The Second Law of Thermodynamics describes basic principles familiar in everyday life.  It is partially a universal law of decay; the ultimate cause of why everything ultimately falls apart and disintegrates over time.  Material things are not eternal.  Everything appears to change eventually and chaos increases.  Nothing stays as fresh as the day one buys it; clothing becomes faded, threadbare, and ultimately returns to dust.”

Nothing is immune from this law. It is true of the material things we purchase and cling to.  Regardless of what we do to protect and care for them, everything will eventually decay (which is one of the reasons Jesus exhorted us not to put our confidence in the things of this world!).  Many of us are painfully aware of the effect of this law on our bodies!  We may be able to slow down the decay through proper eating habits, exercise, and good health care; but eventually everybody slows down and dies.  It is also true of institutions.  Every business, university, church, etc. has a life expectancy.  Nothing lasts forever.  It sounds pretty dismal doesn’t it?  I mean, if everything is headed to decay and destruction, why expend energy on anything?  The answer is simple:  Because some things are worth fighting to preserve.  The question then becomes; “What are the most important things in my life?  What will I spend my limited energy preserving?”

Sunday we are going to look at Jesus’ message to the Ephesian church in Revelation 2.  At the time of the revelation the church is 30-40 years old.  It had been blessed with some of the most gifted and godly leadership in the history of Christendom (the apostles Paul and John, as well as other extraordinary church fathers), and it had an impeccable reputation for standing for the truth.  Its problem was that decay had crept into the church, and they did not even recognize it!  That is the danger of decay.  Nothing collapses all at once.  The process is so slow that often we rarely notice it happening!  For the Ephesians, they had been so busy being and doing the work of the church that they failed to notice that they had stopped loving Jesus.  Scary, isn’t it? 

Sunday’s message is about the church in Ephesus, but it is for us!  If we are willing to look and listen, we will see that there is an inevitable decay taking place in our collective and individual relationships with Jesus. Are we willing to acknowledge it and fight it?  These are the treasures in heaven that last and are ours through Jesus.  They are worth fighting for.  Read Sunday’s passage and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what you need to see.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A Wise Prayer - Doug Rehberg

This week we turn to a final glimpse of Jerusalem’s importance in the history of divine salvation as we look at Solomon’s prayer in I Kings 8. Many have called this prayer the most powerful and poignant prayer in the entire Old Testament. Indeed, in many respects it is a model prayer for any wise disciple of Christ.

Remember who Solomon is. In the preface of Brennan Manning’s classic work, Abba’s Child, he says of his own life, “There have been times when the felt presence of God was more real to me than the chair I am sitting on…when the Word ricocheted like….lightning in every corner of my soul…there have been other times when I identified with the words of Mae West, ‘I used to be Snow White – but I drifted’; when the Word was as stale as old ice cream and bland as tame sausage…when I preferred cheap slivers of glass to the pearl of great price.”

Solomon’s life is a mixed bag. He had two names – Solomon and Jedidiah. One means, “peace” and the other, “beloved of the Lord.” Both names describe an amazing story of divine grace when you consider who his parents were. He was the second son of David and Bathsheba! The Lord passed over eight other living sons of David to bring him to the throne. Indeed, his parentage stands as a testimony of divine grace.

Although the presentations of Solomon’s life contained in I Kings and Chronicles are slightly different, both portray him as a wise king; though his wisdom is not always used for honorable ends (I Kings 2:13-46). Indeed, by the end of his forty-year reign his life had degenerated into a mass of self-indulgence. But that is not the whole story. For the most part Solomon was committed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Someone has said, “In many ways Solomon was an ideal king ruling over his kingdom, but ideal and reality were always in tension, and eventually the reality was much less than ideal. He was most of all, a king blessed by God, this blessing continuing even in the midst of sin (I Kings 11:9-13, 31-39). God’s choice was thus in the end seen to be more important than human choices, even if mortals can never presume on grace to evade the law’s demands. The hopeful end of Solomon’s story carries with it the implication that there could also be hope at the end of Israel’s story…”

All of this is prelude to what we will be digging into this Sunday in a message entitled, “A Wise Prayer.” The text is I Kings 8:12-30, but the prayer extends well past verse 30. It has been called a wise prayer that emphasizes all the proper elements of prayer; however, this Sunday I want to focus on the significance of the place of this prayer in the life of ancient Israel, and your life as part of the reconstituted Israel. There is much to see and meditate upon.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:

1. How was Solomon chosen to be king? (See I Kings 1)

2. How important are David’s words to Solomon in I Kings 2:1-4?

3. What is the significance of having Solomon anointed king at Gibeon? (See I Kings 1:33)

4. What is the significance of Solomon’s dream at Gibeon? (See I Kings 3:5-14)

5. How long does it take Solomon to build the Temple at Jerusalem?

6. What is Solomon’s prayer position before the Lord in I Kings 8:22?

7. What is the significance of his words in verses 23-24?

8. What is the heart of his plea in verses 27 & 28?

9. Is the covenant he refers to in verse 25 conditional or unconditional?

10. What is the significance of that divine promise?

See you Sunday as we gather at the table.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Fresh Prince of Salem - Doug Rehberg

If you were to play the game, “word association” what would your answer be if I said, “LeBron James”? If you said, “Akron, Ohio,” you would be right in line with my thinking. How about Sinatra? You would say, “Hoboken, New Jersey” or “NYC”. How about NASA? You would say, “Houston”. How about Arnold Palmer? You would say, “Latrobe”. Well, what about David a.k.a. King David? You would have to say, “Jerusalem”.

Someone has said, “When we take for granted that David captured Jerusalem and made it Israel’s capital, we need to remember that at the time this was a surprising move. No judge or king had established any capital, let alone one in a place that was difficult to conquer.” But David did just that. Throughout the five-thousand year history of this place it has been recognized by over 70 different names, but none more frequently referenced than “The City of David”.

This Sunday in a message entitled, “The Fresh Prince of Salem”, we are going to dig into the amazing, yet cryptic, account of David’s capture of Jerusalem and his turning it from a pagan stronghold into the capital of Israel (II Samuel 5:1-10).

Throughout modern scholarship there have been four principal reasons cited for David’s decision to leave the city of Hebron, 28.5 miles south of Jerusalem and conquer the city as his own.

The first is the presence of an abundant water supply. In a desert region where water is scarce, the city of Jerusalem with its numerous springs was a prize.

Second, Jerusalem was surrounded by deep valleys and natural rock outcroppings, making it a natural fortress. Add to that its elevation, and Jerusalem was a formidable defense against all foes.

Third, Jerusalem was at a crossroads of north/south, east/west trade routes. It was accessible to all travelers wishing to trade and to worship. It also was not part of any tribal territory, making it even more desirable.

But the fourth reason is clearly the most important and profound. The tradition of Jerusalem being God’s dwelling place had been passed down throughout the centuries. It is clear from his psalms that this tradition had a powerful impact on David. He knew what God had done there through Melchizedek and Abraham. David’s desire was to establish Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel; the city of God. It was the place God had put in his heart to build the Temple. As we will see in our Fall Series: “Nehemiah: A Study in Comfort,” it is the place that a remnant of Jews never forgot. How David conquered this city and staked God’s claim on it for perpetuity is fascinating. It is a wonderful guide to what every servant of the Lord should be doing. We will dig in deeply this week.

In preparation for Sunday’s study you may wish to consider the following:

1. Who are these tribes that came to David at Hebron?

2. What was their relationship with David prior to chapter 5?

3. What do they mean in verse 2 when they say, “It was you who led out and brought in Israel?

4. What do they believe to be David’s role as God has assigned it? (verse 2(b) )

5. What covenant do they make with David in verse 3?

6. How far is Jerusalem from Hebron?

7. The place was called Jebus by the Jebusites, it was their stronghold. Why is the capture of this place David’s first priority?

8. What is meant by the taunt in verse 6? “…the blind and the lame will ward you off”?

9. Why are the lame and the blind hated by David’s soul? (verse 8)

10. How does David capture the city?

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

"Passing the Test" - Doug Rehberg

When Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard came to Genesis 22 he wrote of the unfathomable pain and deprivation that Abraham must have felt throughout this four-day ordeal. Years ago, many of my colleagues at Princeton came to this story, they sincerely derided the God of the Old Testament as being nothing short of barbaric. And neither response is without some degree of merit for the chapter begins with the words, “After these things God tested Abraham…”

But if all you see when you read this story and think about it is Isaac and Abraham, you miss the point. And it’s the point that will capture our attention this Sunday as we see again, the profundity and prominence of Jerusalem in the history of divine salvation.
Let me offer you another angle from which to examine this story. In the early 1980s D. James Kennedy, pastor emeritus of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, told the true story of John Griffith. I’ve borrowed this story in the past and told it in my own words, but here’s Dr. Kennedy’s words without editing”

John Griffith grew up with one dream in his heart—a dream of travel. He wanted to travel to faraway places and see exotic sights. Those strange-sounding lands—that’s what he dreamt about and read about. That was his whole consuming passion in life. But that dream crashed with the stock market in 1929.

The Great Depression settled like a funeral cloak upon the land. Oklahoma, his native state, was turned into a swirling dust bowl by the dry winds, and his dreams were swept away with the wind. So he packed up his wife, his tiny baby boy, and their few meager belongings in an old car and drove away to find greener pastures. He thought he might have discovered those on the edge of Mississippi, where he got a job caring for one of those great, huge railroad bridges that cross the mighty Mississippi.

It was in 1937, Dennis Hensley tells us, when this true story took place. For the first time, he brought his 8-year-old son, Greg Griffith, to work with him to see what Daddy did all day. The little boy was wide-eyed with excitement, and he clapped his hands with glee when the huge bridge went up at the beck and call of his mighty father. He watched with wonderment as the huge boats steamed down the Mississippi.

Twelve o’clock came, and his father put up the bridge. There were no trains due for a good while, and they went out a couple of hundred feet on a catwalk out over the river to an observation deck. They sat down, opened their brown bag, and began to eat their lunch. His father told him about some of the strange, faraway lands that these ships were going to visit. This entranced the boy.

The time whirled by, and suddenly they were drawn instantly back to reality by the sound of a distant train whistle. John Griffith quickly looked at his watch. He saw it was time for the 1:07, the Memphis Express, with 400 passengers, to soon be rushing across that bridge. He knew he had enough time, so without panic but with alacrity he told his son to stay where he was.
He leapt to his feet, jumped to the catwalk, ran back, climbed the ladder to the control room, went in, put his hand on the huge lever that controlled the bridge, looked up the river and down to see if any boats were coming, as was his custom, and then looked down to see if there were any beneath the bridge. And suddenly he saw a sight that froze his blood and caused his heart to leap into his throat. His boy! His boy had tried to follow him to the control room and had fallen into the great, huge gear box that had the monstrous gears that operated this massive bridge. His left leg was caught between the two main gears, and his father knew that as sure as the sun came up in the morning, if he pushed that lever his son would be ground in the midst of eight tons of whining, grinding steel.

His eyes filled with tears of panic. His mind whirled. What could he do? He saw a rope there in the control room. He could rush down the ladder and out the catwalk, tie off the rope, lower himself down, extricate his son, climb back up the rope, run back to the control room, and lower the bridge. No sooner had his mind done that exercise than he knew there wasn’t time. He’d never make it, and there were 400 people on that train.

Then he heard the whistle again, this time startlingly closer. And he could hear the sound of the locomotive wheels on the track. What could he do? What could he do! There were 400 people, but this was his son, this was his only son. He was a father! He knew what he had to do, so he buried his head in his arm and he pushed the gear forward.

The bridge slowly lowered into place just as the express train roared across. He lifted up his tear-smeared face and looked straight into the flashing windows of that train as they flashed by one after another. He saw men reading the afternoon paper, a conductor in uniform looking at a large vest-pocket watch, ladies sipping tea out of teacups, and little children pushing long spoons into plates of ice cream. Nobody looked in the control room. Nobody looked at his tears. Nobody, nobody looked down to the great gear box. In heart-wrenching agony, he beat against the window of the control room, and he said, ‘What’s wrong with you people? Don’t you care? I sacrificed my son for you. Don’t any of you care?’ Nobody looked. Nobody heard. Nobody heeded. And the train disappeared across the river.

When I first heard that story I remember the depth of my feelings. Imagine the excruciating loss of that father, John Griffith. And then quickly it all became clear. I was on that train.
You see, the story of Genesis 22 is less about God’s test of Abraham than His test of Himself. What happens on that 2,500 foot mount in Palestine 4,000 years ago mirrors exactly what happened on that same site 2,000 years later. The test God places before Abraham is only a foreshadowing of the test He will place before Himself in that same spot. The exactness of the image is shocking; far more shocking than John Griffith and his son.

As we continue to examine the importance of Jerusalem in salvation history, yours and mine, we will be digging into Genesis 22:1-14 in a message entitled, “Passing the Test.” In preparation for the message you may wish to consider the following:

1. Someone has said, “Prayer is tuning in to God’s will.” Do you agree?

2. In light of Genesis 15 what do you make of Genesis 22? What is the connection?

3. How does a burnt offering differ from other Old Testament offerings?

4. Where is Moriah?

5. What does Moriah mean?

6. How old are Abraham and Isaac?

7. Why does Abraham get up early in verse 3?

8. What is the significance of Abraham’s reply in verse 8?

9. Who is “the angel of the Lord”?

10. Why does this angel stop Abraham?

11. What is the significance of verse 14?

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Heart of God - Doug Rehberg

Someone has said, “Promises are like babies: easy to make, hard to deliver.” Napoleon once said, “The best way to keep one’s word is not to give it.” And while that is true for men and women, God never retracts a single promise and never fails to deliver on ones He’s made. And nobody in the Old Testament ever witnessed the truth of that fact any more clearly than Abram.

Five years ago Kristian Stanfill wrote a song we sing at the Barclay Building from time to time. The title of the song is “The Lord Our God,” and the lyrics are as follows:

Promise Maker, Promise Keeper
You finish what you begin
Our provision through the desert
You see it through ‘till the end
You see it through ‘till the end

The Lord our God is ever faithful
Never changing through the ages
From this darkness You will lead us
And forever we will say
You’re the Lord our God.

In the silence, in the waiting
Still we can know You are good
All Your plans are for Your glory
Yes, we can know You are good
Yes, we can know You are good

Now it’s one thing to sing that, it’s another thing to back it up. On what grounds does Stanfill write such lyrics? There are many demonstrations of God keeping His promises in the Bible, but on what grounds can Stanfill be so emphatic?

For Paul and the writer of Hebrews there’s but one place to turn in the Old Testament to get all the evidence we need that God always fulfills every promise He makes regarding our salvation. It’s Genesis 15. Genesis 15 sets forth in vivid hues the fundamental reliability of God in honoring His promises. What He does that night 4,000 years ago, near the future city of Jerusalem, is all the proof anyone needs that what God’s heart determines always comes to pass. Here God doesn’t simply reiterate His promise, He ratifies His pledge with the greatest display of divine integrity we find in all of Scripture. As we will see God’s promise is not based on words or feelings. It’s based on an awesome display of commitment only matched by what this same Promise Maker would do 2,000 years later, on the same spot.

In preparation for Sunday’s message entitled, “The Heart of God”, you may wish to consider the following:

1. What does the writer of Hebrews make of Genesis 15?

2. What does Paul make of this same incident as reflected in Romans 4?

3. What does, ‘After these things” mean in verse 1?

4. What would cause Abram to be in fear and doubt after the glorious events of Genesis 14?

5. Why is Abram so concerned about having a son of his own?

6. What does God do in response to Abram’s question in verse 8?

7. What is all this cutting of animals in two?

8. Why does God wait until it’s dark and Abram’s asleep to speak to him again and show him the depth of His commitment to His promise?

9. What’s verse 17 mean? How do you interpret it?

10. What’s God saying by His actions that answers that His promise will come to pass?

R.C. Sproul has said that this chapter is the one he’d want if he could have only one chapter of Scripture. Come see why!

See you Sunday.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Eat'n with the King - Doug Rehberg

Two years ago in an interview with an Italian newspaper Pope Francis brought up his favorite movie - "Babette's Feast". The context for his citation was the opposition he's experienced to his ecumenical outreach; the same kind of rigidity portrayed by the townspeople in the movie. 

For those who haven't seen the film, here's a brief synopsis. There's a small church in a Protestant town in Denmark that has been pastored by a very rigid and religious man. He and his congregation are so prominent and so legalistic that they have created a drab,  scary village where men and women spend most of their days in austere judgment of one another. 

After the pastor dies, his daughters are forced to lead the congregation. They had hoped to marry one day, but their father had strictly forbidden it. One day a French woman, Babette, comes to town and changes everything. While working as a housekeeper, she discovers that she's hit the lottery back in Paris. Instead of taking the money and returning home, she spends all of her winnings on preparing a French feast for all the townspeople.

At first most villagers think she's satanic, believing firmly that food should never be enjoyed. However, when they finally sit down at the table their preconceptions begin to fade and surprisingly joy and gratitude break out. By the end of the film everyone is eternally grateful to Babette for opening their eyes.

Someone has written, "After seeing the movie for the first time, many flock to French restaurants to experience first-hand the delicacies of a French feast. However, the meaning of the movie is far deeper than that, and Pope Francis knows it."

For Pope Francis the message is plain. First, the reaction to the feast is one of unbridled joy. Second, this joy is a foretaste of what heaven will be like. Third, Babette's example of total selfless giving is a portrait of Christ. Fourth, the change wrought in the hearts of the villagers is the product of the power of the Holy Spirit. Fifth, the general toast at the end of the meal perfectly summarizes the message of the Gospel:

“There comes a time when your eyes are opened. And we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected. For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.”

Have you ever stopped to realize the supremacy of the feast image in Scripture? Of all the metaphors God could use to describe His intentions in redeeming us, He picks the feast. Think of it. When He determines to save His people from bondage in Egypt, He sanctions a feast. The last thing Jesus does with His disciples before the cross is feast with them. And when He reveals the future to His beloved disciple John, in the final years of his life, what picture does He give him to describe it? A wedding feast - His and ours!

And where is this feast held? The same place Jesus prepares for His beloved – in the New Jerusalem. And that stands to reason for Jerusalem is the site of God’s greatest gift to us – the feast. In fact, the Bible begins in Jerusalem with a feast in Genesis 14 and ends with a feast in the New Jerusalem in Revelation 22. The significance of Jerusalem cannot be overstated. It is the center of the feast. It is the center of every intention God’s ever had. That’s why over the next six weeks, leading up to our fall series – “Nehemiah (a study in comfort)" we will be reviewing the centrality of Jerusalem in God’s eternal plan.

In preparation for Sunday’s message entitled, “Eat’n with the King,” you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Who is the first person in the Bible to be universally accepted as historically certifiable?
  2. What biblical personage is claimed to be the father of three great religions, confirming God’s promise in Genesis 12:2?
  3. How old is Abram in Genesis 14?
  4. What is the significance of Deuteronomy 26:5 in the Genesis 14 story?
  5. Where is the Valley Shaveh?
  6. What does Melchizedek mean?
  7. What roles does he play here?
  8. Why does he “bring out” bread and wine to greet Abram and the king of Salem?
  9. What is the significance of his statement in verses 19 & 20?
  10. Why does Abram tithe to him?
There’s so much here! See you Sunday when we dig in!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

"Light of the World" - Scott Parsons

Light is such a strange thing.  We love it as long as it suits our purposes.  We design our houses to have windows in strategic places to let in natural light and we design our lighting in each room according to the use of the room or the atmosphere we desire.  But sometimes light is not so welcome.  Each morning I get up and look into a mirror that has five light bulbs above it.  I hate it.  The first thing I see each morning is a brightly lit image of every flaw, wrinkle and sag on my face.  I often prefer to brush my teeth in the dark.  As a child we often lived in southern rentals where cockroaches thrived.  I refused to turn any light on at night because I was afraid of what I might see.  Truth is, when it comes to spiritual things we prefer the darkness, and that should not surprise us.  The Bible teaches us that because of the fall all of us are, by nature, living in darkness.  Our sin so separates us from the holiness and light of God that we are unable to see it, understand it or desire it.   Because of this we live in a dark world filled with sin, suffering and fear.  We are by nature trapped in darkness and afraid of the light, because when the light shines on us we see things that we do not want to see.

That is why it is so critical to grasp what Jesus meant when He said, “I am the light of the world.”  We are so familiar with that phrase that I’m not sure we fully comprehend its meaning.  Light of the World is not just another name for Jesus, or a warm, welcoming description of who He is.  It is a vivid description of His essence and our greatest need.  He alone is the antidote to our darkness.  We have no hope unless Jesus, through His mercy and grace, shines the light of holiness shine into our dark places, letting us see just how sinful we are and how holy He is.  It is this piercing light of truth that brings us to the place where we truly acknowledge our sin and cry out for mercy.

But then what? What happens after, as Charles Wesley describes God’s work in his hymn “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”: “Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light, my chains fell of and my heart was free?”  That is what we are going to look at Sunday from 1 John 1:5-10.  As you prepare for Sunday, read the passage and ask yourself these three questions:
  1. Where does the light come from?  V.5
  2. What happens when the light shines on us?  V.9
  3. What happens when we live in the light?  V.7
For John, the whole issue of our relationship with Jesus is summed up in whether or not we are walking in the light.  As you read, ask God to shine His light on your heart and life in such a way that you can see the truth about who you are and how you live.  That is where joyful, victorious living begins.  See you Sunday.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Matter of Thirst - Doug Rehberg

In 2007 Brennan Manning was speaking at a conference in the Midwest. He said, "In the 48 years since I was ambushed by Jesus in a little chapel in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania, and in literally the thousands of hours in Bible studies, prayer, meditation, silence and solitude over those years, I am now utterly convinced on Judgment Day the Lord Jesus is going to ask each of us one question and only on question. "Did you believe that I loved you? That I desired you? That I waited for you day after day? That I longed to hear the sound of your voice?"
Now you may think that a bit melodramatic. Or you may say, "Prove it." I think one can quite easily prove it when you examine the last words of Jesus on the cross as recorded by His beloved disciple, John. In fact, John is the only Gospel writer to record these remarkable words, which are a perfect sequel to his story of Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well.
One of the things we will say on Sunday is that John bookends his Gospel with the thirst of Jesus. In fact, John uses the word "thirst" five times; and each time Jesus is the center figure in each usage. Jesus is always quenching the thirst of someone other than Himself.
Think of the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. The story begins with Jesus' thirst, and it ends with Him quenching her thirst. In fact, He is never said to get a drink from that well. In John 19 it's the same thing. After 6 hours on the cross, Jesus exclaims, "I thirst!" But again, He is never pictured as getting His thirst quenched. As we will see on Sunday, He again quenches the thirst of another. In fact, His exclamation is proof that He's quenched the thirst of another.
But John leaves Jesus' thirst right there. He says, "I thirst." But His thirst is never quenched. Listen to what one of my favorite commentators says, "There is a sense, a real one, in which Christ still thirsts. He is thirsting for the love and fellowship and devotion of His own. He is yearning for fellowship with His blood-bought people. Here is one of the great marvels of grace - a redeemed sinner can offer that which satisfied the heart of Christ."
Manning is absolutely right, and John would agree. We are going to dissect all of this on Sunday in a message entitled, "A Matter of Thirst." The text is John 4:1-15 and John 19:28-30. In preparation for Sunday's message you may wish to consider the following:
1. Why does John consider thirst so important?
2. How does Jesus attend to people thirsty in chapter 2?
3. What evidence do we have that Jesus quenches the deepest thirst of the Samaritan woman?
4. How do Jesus' words in Matthew 26:29 and Matthew 26:39 relate to His words in John 19:28?
5. What causes His thirst on the cross?
6. What is the cup of wrath referred to in Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Revelation?
7. What similarities can we draw from Jesus' thirst at the well and His thirst on the cross?
8. Whose thirst does Jesus satisfy on the cross?
9. How does Jesus' words in Revelation 3:20 relate to John 19:28?
10. How does the message of John 19:28-30 show us that Brennan Manning's certainty is well-founded?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

"What Love Does" - Doug Rehberg

“They drew a circle that shut me out:
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout;
But love and He had a mind to win;
He drew a circle and took me in.”

Thus, is the story of Sychar and the woman Jesus encounters there.

In Proverbs 23:26 Solomon says, “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” That’s what we all long to have – the heart of another. But how is it gained? How does someone give his/her heart to you? Jack Miller writes, “You reach the conscience of another person by first being changed yourself, and out of that change, in love, reaching the other person.”

Most of the time when we desire to influence someone else we look to methodology; some way to change them without changing ourselves. And the reason is that we are so possessed with our own wants and needs that we are blind to theirs. Solomon identifies what we really want in any primary relationship; we want their heart. It’s not wrong to want the heart of another, actually it’s the height of maturity. But the way we go about trying to get it often reveals the depth of our own immaturity and our lack of understanding of Jesus.

If we are really going to reach the conscience of another, we have to deal with the question of whether we have first given our hearts to God. It’s only as our hearts are open to Him, infatuated with Him, that we are able to have them truly open to others. And it’s only there that true change happens.

This Sunday we will see an ultimate example of that in Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. In so many ways Jesus and this woman are polar opposites. But, in one way they mirror each other. It’s this striking similarity that is rarely discussed. But it’s only in examining this feature that the heart of the encounter is seen; and the heart is transformation.

In preparation for this Sunday’s message, “What Love Does”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Read John 4:1-26 several times.
  2. Check the lyrics to “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” and the You Tube interview of Stuart Townend’s description of writing it.
  3. How does the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Sychar reveal His love for His Father?
  4. How often is Jesus described as being “weary” in the gospels?
  5. What is His principle need as He sits down at the well?
  6. What laws does He violate in engaging her?
  7. Why does He say to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here…”?
  8. What is the woman’s deepest need?
  9. How does Jesus satisfy it in verse 26?
  10. How does He gain her heart? How does He gain yours?
Sunday is communion at Hebron. This is a great preparatory text. See you Sunday!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

"Take Your Place" - Barrett Hendrickson

Sitting in on the large group meetings at VBS this week has reminded me of where we have been the past 3 Sundays. Our Fully Alive sermon series has been following what the kids have been studying this week in VBS. We do this so you can have good conversations with your kids about what they learned in VBS. (All part of the light of the church, walking alongside the love of the family.) We've heard stories of Joseph (of Genesis), Esther, the early Church. Tomorrow (at VBS), and this coming Sunday (in worship), we are looking at the life of Paul. The key question is "How can you play a part in God's big story?"; and the bottom line is "Live like you're part of a bigger story."

Paul was converted on the road to Damascus in Acts chapter 9, and gets sent by the apostles back to Tarsus for three years, when he is called to Antioch to preach. (Antioch is the birthplace of the word "Christian" Acts 11:26.) In chapter 13 we see Paul and Barnabas sent off on their missionary journeys. The rest of the book of Acts is Luke's telling of Paul's journeys. The section that we will be reading Sunday is Acts 26, but this specific story needs to be put in context, because Paul was arrested years before, and now he is on trial. Paul recognizes his role in God's big story, and takes every advantage to preach the Gospel to any audience he can gather.

As you prepare for Sunday morning I hope you'll:

  • Read Acts 21:27-25:27. This will help you understand the complicated judicial process Paul has gone through to get himself before Agrippa in chapter 26.
  • Remember your life before you were saved.
  • Remember your conversion story.
  • Consider what the Great Commission means for your life.
  • Consider what gifts you have that could be used for the glory of God.
  • Pray for the kids in VBS, that the Word of God would take root in their hearts.
  • Pray for me, that the Lord would give me His words.
  • Pray for the Session, staff, and Pastoral Nominating Committee at Hebron, for wisdom and unity.
  • Pray for an unbeliever that you have a relationship with, that they may hear the Gospel call on their lives.

I'm looking forward to seeing you Sunday morning at 8:15, 9:15, and/or 10:45.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"Living Like Jesus Matters" - Scott Parsons

Sunday’s text, Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37, can be troubling to read.  Seeing the fervor and love expressed among believers in the early church often makes us question what has gone wrong with the church and us.  It is easy to write their experience off as a bunch of newly saved Christians living a spiritual high together, and dismiss this as the way we ought to live today.  There is no question the church is a different animal today than it was then.  But I’m not sure that it is better.  Sometimes I think we have formalized and codified the modern church to the extent that many churches have become more like businesses with a weekly meeting of interested shareholders than a true fellowship of believers.  Additionally, our society is radically different than in the day Luke wrote this.  Then people were significantly less transient and church members would generally have lived in close proximity to each other and naturally seen each other regularly.  The church would have been a neighborhood gathering rather than a group commuting to a central place. Our mobile society also makes it difficult for the church in many ways, including how we fellowship together and deal with problems.  Instead of being stuck together like family and working through problems.  Our fellowship usually takes place in the context of worship, and we typically deal with problems by bolting to another church at the first sign of trouble.  What is lacking is a true sense of community where people live, love and grow together. 

This lack of community not only hinders our personal growth, it hinders church growth as well.  Notice at the end of the Acts 2 passage Luke writes, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  The early church did not grow because of well-designed programs or high powered gospel presentations. The church grew because life in the community of believers was so extraordinary that people were drawn to it, wondering what made these people so different.  While I think this kind of community is rare today, I don’t think it is impossible.  However, in view of societal obstacles, it requires intentionality, hard work and sacrifice; but the benefits are amazing.

Do you desire more out of your life?  Do you find your spiritual fervor and/or growth lacking?  Are you open to having the Spirit guide you in another way of living?  Read through our passages and come prepared Sunday to challenge your presuppositions of what the Christian life should look like.  It could change everything!


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"Walking Toward the Sunset" - Doug Rehberg

Robert Robinson was born in 1735 in Norfolk, England to poor parents. When Robert was 8 his father died. When he was 14 he was sent by his mother to London to learn how to be a barber.

There in London he became involved with a gang of lawbreakers and carousers. For three years he pursued the passions of his flesh. But then one night, at age 17, he attended a meeting where George Whitefield was preaching. He and his friends came to mock the words of Whitefield, but he came away converted.

Several years later he felt called to preach. He entered the school of ministry and within a few more years he became a Methodist pastor. Years later he left the Methodist Church and moved to Cambridge, England to undertake pastoral duties for the Baptists. Here he became known as more than a pastor. He was known as a theologian and hymn writer. He wrote theological treatises and many hymns.

When Robinson was 23 he wrote perhaps his most famous hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” In its second stanza he refers to the words of I Samuel 7:12 where Samuel is said to have taken a stone and called its name, “Ebenezer”, as a symbol of God’s power and faithfulness. Robinson refers to it this way, “Here I raise my Ebenezer – hither by thy help I’ve come.”

Yet in the third stanza he says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it – prone to leave the God I love.” What Robinson writes in verse three is prophetic. After years of following Jesus he wanders from the pathway and once again lives a life characterized by lapses into sin, instability, and spurious teaching.

The story is told that one day he’s riding a stagecoach when he notices a woman deeply engrossed in a hymn book. She’s humming a hymn, and when she sees him looking her way she says, “Do you know this hymn?” Robinson stares at her saying, “Know it? I wrote it.” The hymn was “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Robinson said, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds if I had the feelings I had when I wrote them.” Of course the answer to Robert Robinson’s desperate longing was the same one he discovered at 17. The words of this hymn contain two significant truths – we can wander and the Lord never does.

This third week of our series, “Fully Alive” we turn to the life and ministry of Jesus. From Joseph, to Esther, to Jesus!

We will be in Luke 24 where two disciples (unnamed) are walking away from Jerusalem and toward Emmaus. It’s Easter afternoon and they are walking away! Like Robinson they are dispirited and lost in their own self-contemplation. They have left their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, not believing a word of the news that Jesus is alive. This familiar text – Luke 24:13-35 - contains much more truth than is often seen. The VBS question for the week is: “How can you live like Jesus is still at work in this world?” It’s a question to which those two guys on that road think they have an answer. Before Jesus shows up they’re dead wrong. After He leaves they not only know the truth, they’ve experienced it all over again.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Walking toward the Sunset”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What is a disciple?
  2. How did one become a disciple in Jesus’ day?
  3. What are the evidences that none of Jesus’ disciples qualified to follow Him?
  4. How does Jesus totally abrogate rabbinic practice of His day in calling His disciples?
  5. How far and in what direction is Emmaus from Jerusalem?
  6. How does Jesus’ behavior in this text mirror His behavior three years earlier?
  7. How cogent is the discussion the two disciples are having as they walk along? Why does Jesus ask them about it in verse 7?
  8. On what grounds does Jesus call them foolish in verse 25?
  9. Why do they invite Him in verse 28?
  10. How does Jesus impart His grace to them? What difference does it make in their lives?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

"The Great Planner" - Doug Rehberg

When I was an undergraduate, back before most of you were born, I mentioned recently in our study of James. His name was Dr. Delvin Covey. Like James who says, “Come now you rich…”, Covey famously slapped down a student this way, “Class, let’s move on before we have time to contemplate that last comment.”

But there’s another memory I have of Dr. Covey, one that involves his response to a fellow professor. The other professor was new to campus. He had little knowledge of Covey or his pedigree. One day, in a lecture hall full of students, he asked Covey, “How is it that a Gordon professor made it all the way to Yalta as a translator for President Roosevelt?”

Now, you may recall that the Yalta Conference occurred in Eastern Europe in February 1945. It was a summit in which the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia met to determine the future of postwar Germany and the rest of Europe.

Covey paused a moment, then replied for all to hear, “My dear sir the question is not how did I get to Yalta, but how did I ever get here?” I was reminded of Dr. Covey’s comment when Ellen Dillard, our Children’s Ministry Director, gave me a copy of the questions to be addressed this month at Vacation Bible School. The question for Day 2 (or this week’s message) is particularly interesting. “How can you live like God has a plan for you?” I can hear Dr. Covey, and anyone with the slightest biblical acumen answering, “How can you not?” In other words, what possible evidence can you provide that God does not have a plan for every life?

In theology it’s called the doctrine of divine providence. (You may want to read the bulletin insert this week for a fuller description of this doctrine.) The Bible clearly testifies (on nearly every page) that God is executing His plan meticulously throughout all of human history.

Perhaps the clearest expression of His providence is the incomparable words of Joseph to his brothers in Genesis 50, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” But there are other profound illustrations  in both Testaments, including the story of Esther. Think of it. Here’s a young exiled Jewess who becomes Queen of Persia by divine providence. God puts her there to deliver His people from slaughter by a proud and power-hungry king who just happens to be her husband! This ten chapter book screams of God’s providential role in every circumstance of every life. We will highlight this fact on Sunday in a message entitled “The Great Planner”. The text is Esther 1:1-5, 10-12 and 2:1-4, 15-23. In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following: 
  1. Consider reading the Book of Esther.
  2. How many times is God mentioned in the Book of Esther?
  3. More than a century before the king’s party (in Chapter 1) God had moved a Persian King (Cyrus) to allow Jewish exiles to return to their homeland. Where’s God’s grace on display in the story of Esther?
  4. Ahasureus is the Babylonian name of this Persian king. His Persian name is better known. What is it?
  5. On what grounds does the king “divorce” his wife Vashti?
  6. What New Testament parallels come to mind when you think: wine, women, and debauchery?
  7. How does God use the king’s sin to bring about His purposes in chapter 2?
  8. On what grounds does the king choose Esther to be queen? Can you think of any Old and New Testament parallels?
  9. How does Mordecai prove in chapter 2 that God’s in charge?
  10. How does God use the Book of Esther to show us what true trust and worship are?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

"Living Like God's In Charge" - Doug Rehberg

This week we begin a six-week series entitled “Fully Alive” that mirrors this year’s VBS Curriculum.

In John 10:10 Jesus is speaking of Himself as the Door of the Sheep and He says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they (the sheep) may have life and have it abundantly.” What does it mean to have an abundant life? That is the theme of what we will be examining from the pulpit the next 6 Sundays and throughout the VBS week – June 24-28th.

This first Sunday, we will examine the life of Joseph, Jesus’ namesake. As we have mentioned on numerous occasions, no biblical figure mirrors Jesus any more clearly than the 11th son of Jacob, Joseph. And no experiences of Joseph’s life parallel the life of Jesus any more closely than the pain, suffering, and persecution he endures at the hands of sinful men. Rather than being outside the control of a loving God, each pain and affliction is a significant piece of the beautiful tapestry of Joseph’s life that produces countless blessings for others. In short, without the pain, betrayal, and suffering there would be no deliverance for others. Whether it’s in a pit, a caravan, a prison, or on a cross, the life of both of our Joseph’s trumpets the truth that God is never, absent from the lives of His people. Indeed, it's in the affliction that His presence is often best experienced and seen.
In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Living Like God is With You”, you may wish to consider the following:

  1. Read II Corinthians 12:2-10 and ask yourself if Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a good gift or a bad one? 
  2. What were the benefits of Paul’s thorn to himself and others?
  3. What’s the difference between preaching and sharing?
  4. Why does God give us so many illustrations of brokenness in the Bible?
  5. What is the connection between brokenness and healing in Scripture?
  6. Why does God require a broken Joseph to heal the brokenness in his brothers?
  7. How does Joseph heal them in verse 4?
  8. How does he heal them in verse 5?
  9. How does he heal them in verse 24?
  10. How is Joseph’s life a powerful portrait of Jesus?

See you Sunday! Don’t forget the patio dedication at noon and the Food Truck from 11:00 – 1:00PM!