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!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Making Disciples - Dan Weightman

If you were to do a survey among believers and ask them about their primary focus as a Christian, you would likely receive a variety of responses. Some may say we are to focus on loving God and loving others. Others may say their focus is on service or worship. Still others may point to outreach and evangelism. Each of these are good answers, but at the end of Jesus’ time on earth it is notable that Jesus chose to put the spotlight on “making disciples.” If this is the focus, how do we accomplish this task and how are we to understand the Great Commission? This Sunday we are going to look at the wisdom behind this often neglected and misunderstood priority as we study the methods Jesus employed in making His own disciples.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"You Are Your Brother's Keeper" - Scott Parsons

The early church fathers considered church discipline as one of the marks of the true church.  If their assessment is true it should trouble us, because church discipline has become exceedingly rare these days.  I think there are a number of reasons for this.  For starters, it seems as if offending someone today has become the greatest of all sins, and few things offend a person more than pointing out their sin.  That is compounded by our mobile society in which a new church which will either ignore or even embrace their sin is usually pretty easy to find.  So rather than risking offending and losing church members, we simply say nothing.  Church discipline is also hampered by the reality that none of us is perfect. The “let him who is without sin throw the first stone” thing makes many of us afraid to speak up.  We know our sin and we really don’t want anyone pointing a finger back at us!  

But I think the greatest drawback with church discipline is the way in which we have formalized it.  We have taken it out of the realm of personal relationships and given it to church Sessions, Presbyteries and General Assemblies, with courtroom-like rules and regulations that make the process so formal, unyielding, complicated and ineffective that it ceased having any impact on the holiness of individuals.

James, as I believe the rest of Scripture does, clearly states that the responsibility for holding one another accountable for their sins belongs to each of us.  If you see your brother or sister falling into sin, you do not have the luxury of looking away, or waiting on some official body to step in and do something.  You are your brother’s keeper.  That is how God has designed His kingdom.  We tend to think of our relationship with God as deeply personal and private.  It is something strictly between God and me.  But in reality, salvation not only brings us into a relationship with God, but also brings us into a relationship with each other!  Together we are viewed by God as the bride of Christ.  Together we represent Christ to a fallen world.  Therefore if a brother or sister sins and wanders from Jesus, we have a responsibility to them and to God to bring them back.  That is how James concludes his book.  

Sunday we will talk primarily about how we reach out to those caught in sin.  I would encourage you to reread the entire book as you prepare for Sunday, and ask God to open your heart and mind to His calling on your life.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"Healing Prayer" - Doug Rehberg

In 1986 Bon Jovi released their third album, “Slippery When Wet”; and on it was the song, “Livin’ On a Prayer”. A good friend of mine counts this song one of his favorites of all time.

The song was the creation of three men: Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Desmond Child. The song is the band’s signature song, topping fan-voted lists for decades. After the September 11, 2001 attacks – in which New Jersey was the second-hardest hit state after New York, suffering hundreds of casualties, the band performed an acoustic version of this song for both states.

When asked to speak about the song and its meaning, Jon Bon Jovi said, “It deals with the way two kids – Tommy and Gina – face life’s struggles, and how their love and ambitions get them through the hard times. It’s working class and it’s real…I wanted to tell a story about people I knew…a lifestyle I knew.”

Here are a few lyrics:

Once upon a time not so long ago
Tommy used to work on the docks, union’s been on strike
He’s down on his luck, it’s tough, so tough
Gina works the diner all day working for her man
She brings home her pay, for love, for love

She says, we’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got
It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not
We’ve got each other and that’s a lot for love
We’ll give it a shot

Woah, we’re half way there
Woah, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear
Woah, livin’ on a prayer

Now James would understand that. As we’ve seen throughout our examination of this letter, life for the first century Christians is far tougher than what Tommy and Gina were facing; they had livelihoods. Many of those to whom James is writing don’t. Add to that the loss of loved ones due to intense persecution, the rampant spread of disease, and oppression, and their lot in life was meager at best.

So what does James tell them at the conclusion of his letter? What practical exhortation does he give them in verses 13-18? In a word – “PRAY”. He calls them not to live “on a prayer”, but to establish a lifestyle of prayer in which every want and need, joy and blessing is bathed in prayer. Look at what he says here. He talks about the incalculable value of prayer. In fact, in six verses he mentions prayer seven times, describing its application and its power. We are going to look carefully at all of this on Sunday, Mother’s Day, in a message entitled, “Healing Prayer”. I hope you are planning to be with us, especially since this text has been used throughout the centuries to support some serious fallacies.

In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What examples do you have of specific answered prayer in your life?
  2. Did God ever surprise you in answering your prayer?
  3. How are the words of James 5:13-18 an elaboration of what James says earlier in his letter?
  4. In verse 13 what’s James saying about what our focus should be in all circumstances?
  5. How are praying and praising two sides of the same coin?
  6. What can we learn from verses 14 and 15 about the extremity of the need for prayer in special cases? (note the word “over” in verse 14)
  7. Is James promising healing every time the elders anoint with oil and pray?
  8. Who does he say we should confess our sins to? What are the circumstances?
  9. Why does James cite Elijah as an example of effective prayer?
  10. How is this example an encouragement to us?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

"Patience" - Doug Rehberg

A woman once approached the famous violinist Fritz Kreisler after one of his virtuoso performances. Her approach was actually more like a rushing teenage groupie. As soon as she was within shouting distance she exclaimed, “I’d give my life to play as beautifully as you do!” Kreisler’s reply was a classic. He smiled and said, “I did,” and walked away.

Last week a dear friend was lamenting his lack of patience with his wife. The same day I heard another man say, “I hate traffic; just hate it!”

This week I read about a man who hates to stand in line anywhere he goes. Every time he sees a line - at the grocery store, a ball game, anywhere, he always says the same thing, “I stood in line all through the Army and I don’t intend to stand in any more lines for the rest of my life!” Now when we hear the word, “Patience”, that’s what we normally think; lines, spouses, traffic. But not our friend, James. He’s talking about a patience that is much more like that of Fritz Kreisler than that ex-Army man.

Throughout our four-month investigation of James’ letter we have repeatedly seen how practical James is, and how relevant his words are to our lives. Rather than portraying the Christian life as a war or a series of big spiritual battles, it’s a series of small choices we make every day.

One of my college professors, Thomas Howard, famously said, “Heaven and hell are under every bush.” And what he meant by that is what James is talking about throughout this letter. Hell is, “Your life for mine.” In other words, “It’s all about me…The purpose of your life is to satiate my deepest desires.” Heaven is the opposite, “My life for yours. I am here to love you as I love myself.”

In Sunday’s text, James 5:7-12, we will hear James talking about the necessity of patience. It’s a patience that resembles not only the Old Testament prophets and people like Job, but God Himself. If anyone ever demonstrated biblical patience, it’s Jesus Himself.

As with most of James’ words, there’s a lot in this text. If we begin to see the Holy Spirit applying its truth to or lives, our joy and peace will explode. In preparation for Sunday’s message entitled “Patience” you may wish to consider the following:

  1. Why does James pepper these verses with the word, “brother”; or as some manuscripts say, “brother and sisters?”
  2. What six imperatives does James issue in these six verses? (Hint: One of them is repeated.)
  3. What do you know about the early and latter rains in Palestine?
  4. What does James mean in verse 8 when he says, “Establish your hearts”?
  5. What does James analogize to the latter rain?
  6. How does the coming of the Lord breed biblical patience?
  7. Why the admonition against grumbling in verse 9? What connecting is there between patience and a lack of grumbling?
  8. What is the secret to steadfastness?
  9. What does avoiding oath-taking and swearing by heaven or earth have to do with patience?
  10. Look at Luke 9:51 and what Jesus does. James uses the same word to describe what he calls all of his brothers and sisters to do.
See you Sunday!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

"Possessions" - Doug Rehberg

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

When the last scene of Schindler’s List was aired 20 years ago on NBC, the television audience was as large as the first moon landing, some 60 million people.  There, standing before his factory full of workers, Oskar Schindler announces the war is over, the Nazis are defeated, and everyone is free to go.  And as he bids them farewell, he’s overcome by emotion.  He cries out, “I should have done more!  If only I had not wasted so much money.  I could have done more!”  He looks over at his automobiles and says, “I could have traded one of those for another 10 lives.”  He looks down at a small gold pin on his lapel and says, “I could have given them this and saved at least one more life.”  And at that moment Schindler realizes something that most of us never realize - the difference between life and death is often just a matter of money.

Years ago I remember reading of a couple who waited years to have a child, and finally the day arrived.  But as soon as he was born, there were bills to pay.  He cost them to get out of the hospital.   He cost them food and clothing and education.  He cost them at every point, “But that’s okay,” said his father, “because that’s what we’re here for.”  But then at age 21 the boy died.  And suddenly there were no more costs.  The man said, “That’s when I learned it.  I’ll never join a church that doesn’t want or need my money.  Death’s cheap.  It’s living that’s costly.”

And of all the people in the New Testament, there’s one who seems to get that more clearly than any other one, and that’s Mary.  The Bible says she breaks open a flask of expensive perfume and pours it on Jesus’ feet.  And in response to that act, Jesus uses a word that He never uses anywhere else in the Gospels.  He calls it beautiful.  Now the word beautiful is kalos in Greek.  It’s the same root from which we get the word kaleidoscope.  It speaks of an endless array of refracted brilliance.  And Jesus calls what Mary does a kalos thing.  Now notice it’s the giving of a gift of treasure that provokes Jesus to use that word.  He says, “Truly I tell you, wherever the Gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in her memory.”  Now why is that? James knows.

When you get to James Chapter 5 there’s no escaping the fact that James has been with Jesus. He understands the meaning of wealth better than anyone. Chapter 5:1-6 contains some of the most pointed words in all of the New Testament regarding what true stewardship and discipleship mean. It’s his second “Come now…” in six verses! He’s in the face of every one of us, because his greatest desire is that we thrive in peace as disciples who are much more in love with Jesus and others than ourselves.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following: 
  1. Who is James referring to in these 6 verses?
  2. What does “weep and howl” mean in verse 1?
  3. How do verses 1-3 relate to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:19-21?
  4. What two concerns is James pointing out in verses 1-3 and verses 4-5?
  5. Is he speaking only to owners and supervisors in verses 4-5?
  6. How does verse 4 compare to Genesis 4:10?
  7. What’s the heart of the issue in verse 5?
  8. What does verse 6 mean?
  9. The Greek says, “You have condemned and murdered the Righteous One..” Does that help you understand verse 6?
  10. How is Mary the antithesis of those James is writing to?
See you Sunday as we gather at His table.

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.