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!