Thursday, October 27, 2011

Comfortable in Your Own Skin

“Fighting’s and fears within…” is an apt phrase from the hymn “Just As I Am” to describe our broken selves. The biblical man, Lot, exhibited that brokenness within by being so conflicted in making right choices. Abraham, his uncle, on the other hand, often exudes confidence and commitment in making right choices. He readily responds to God’s call and unhesitatingly obeys God’s command.
Genesis 22 gives a blessed picture of a man whose self is not conflicted but is at peace with God’s unique directive. God amazingly tells Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt sacrifice. Isaac is the son of promise, the only son (with Ishmael out of the picture) and the object of Abraham’s great love. Yet Abraham doesn’t break stride in seeking to carry out God’s directive. There is no hesitation, argument, bargaining or plan of escape. What could produce such peace and strength within Abraham? I believe it came because he was confident in God’s character, God’s call, and God’s capability to keep His promises. Through Jesus Christ and His Spirit we also can know a transforming wholeness ourselves.
Though we will not completely escape anxiety, frustration, regret, doubt, or rebellion we do not have to be dominated by them. Through faith in Christ, we can come to a transformed self that is settled, despite challenges, in the confidence and comfort of Proverbs 3:5, 6 - “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”

See you Sunday!

1. What could God’s purpose possibly be in “testing” Abraham? Compare Job 1.
2. “Early the next morning” (Genesis 22:3) teaches us what about obedience to God?
3. Genesis 22:5 teaches us how remarkable Abraham’s faith really is. Compare Hebrews 11: 17-19.
4. What do you think Abraham may have had in mind when he said, “God himself will provide the lamb…”? (Genesis 22:8)
5. Genesis 22:9 teaches us a remarkable lesson in trust. Isaac could have overpowered his much older father but instead let himself be bound on the altar. Does this remind you of Jesus and His Father (Matthew 26:39)? Are we conflicted or confident toward the will of our Heavenly Father?
6. In thinking of the transforming of self to be healed and whole, what do you believe is a biblical view of self esteem? Compare Luke 5:8, Romans 7:24; Matthew 7:12 (the Golden Rule); Psalm 139:14; James 3:9, 10.
7. I found several Gospel types (comparisons) between Genesis 22:1-14 and the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord. How many can you find?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Whole Lot of Trouble

It was a joy for me to return from a weekend of ministry in Texas and listen to Ken’s message. What a blessing to turn Hebron’s pulpit over to someone like Ken. The result is always an engaging, discerning, rich presentation of biblical truth from a man who’s deeply interested in our sermon series. If you haven’t yet reviewed Ken’s message, “Life Is in the Blood,” I’d recommend you do it before this Sunday. It truly opens up a fuller, deeper understanding of Christ’s power to heal our brokenness with God.

This week we move on to consider the second great area of brokenness that sin creates in us and that is one’s broken relationship with one’s self. The evidence of such brokenness is plain to anyone who does a little self examination. Even our culture recognizes the disjunction between what we are and what we are meant to be. How often have you heard the expression, “I don’t know what got into me?” Or how about this one: “Part of me wants to do this and part of me wants to do that.” How reminiscent of Paul’s words to the Romans in Chapter 7. It’s called the “do do chapter” because it perfectly describes his basic inner conflict. It describes the typical result of battles lost – we end up in deep ‘dodo’! The Bible is clear on man’s internal brokenness. One need go no further than Genesis 13-19 to get a vivid example of a man’s brokenness with himself. The man is Lot and Sunday he’s center stage in a message entitled, “A Whole Lot of Trouble.”

We begin the message at 8:15 and 11:00 with a song that well captures the prevalence of our internal brokenness. We follow the song with two brief, real world examples of the kind of internal brokenness. Whereas much of the Christian church today likes to focus solely on Christ’s power to heal our broken relationship with God, the Scriptures go much further to describe in graphic detail the depth of the internal brokenness that plagues the heart of every man and woman.

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

1. What is the difference between Lot and his uncle in terms of heredity, ethnicity, experience, divine blessing, and divine call?
2. How relevant are Paul’s words in Romans 7 to Lot’s story?
3. What are the internal signals from Lot’s choice in Genesis 13:10-11 that reveal Lot’s predicament?
4. How important is following your eyes or your “gut” in walking with God?
5. What position do the angels find Lot in when they arrive in Sodom (19:1)?
6. What does this position tell us about Lot’s value system?
7. Why does he petition the visitors as he does in verse 2?
8. What does the ancient law of hospitality require Lot to do?
9. Contrast Abraham’s welcome of the three heavenly visitors in Genesis 18 and Lot’s welcome of his guests in Chapter 19. What does this tell us about Lot’s heart?
10. What do you make of Lot’s hesitation in verses 15 and 16?
11. How does Hosea 4:16 speak to Lot’s brokenness?

See you Sunday for worship!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Life Is in the Blood

This week we welcome back to our pulpit the Reverend Ken Wagoner. Ken has been a great supporter of Hebron’s ministry throughout the years. Through Ken’s work with Chinese students at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University a number of Hebron members have been blessed to help staff an evangelistic outreach over the Labor Day weekend at Summer’s Best Two Weeks camp. This event brings Chinese students to students (graduate and undergraduate students) from across the East Coast to Jennerstown, PA to hear the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ in their native tongue.

For years Ken has also been a main force with PRISM (Pittsburgh Region International Student Ministry). This is an outreach ministry that we have supported with our mission dollars over the years and Grove outreach. Ken has preached at Hebron several times in the past five years, including this past Pentecost Sunday. He is a sound, expository preacher from whom all of us have learned and grown.

Ken writes, “This Sunday I want to emphasize that being saved from the penalty of sin is a great thing. It is a gracious gift from God, not anything accomplished on our own. However, to stop there in our walk with Christ is to deprive ourselves of more that God wants us to enjoy, value, and receive benefit. Stopping at freedom from sin’s penalty prevents us from being saved from the power of sin in our lives.”

The companion text for this Sunday is from Exodus 14 where the Israelites are pinned in by the Red Sea on one side and Pharaoh’s army on the other. They are scared to death. They’re so scared that they begin to accuse Moses falsely saying, “You brought us out here to die. It would have been better for us had we stayed in Egypt.” When they were released from Egypt it was as if they were being freed from the penalty of sin, but God has more in store for them than that. He wants them to be freed from the power of sin and experience the joy of walking by faith, not by sight. Such freedom is only possible on the other side of the Sea. Getting there requires them to put their faith in God’s strength and not their own.

As we’ve seen in the account of Jesus calming the storm raging sea in Mark 4, faith, simply put is fixing your eyes on Jesus and His power rather than your own. How easy it is for us to get our eyes locked on ourselves and our circumstances rather than on Christ and His glory and strength. In Ken’s primary text – Mark 5:21-34 – we find a wonderful example of a broken woman who finds wholeness in only Christ. Here we see a faith concealed, rewarded, and revealed. She is a model of what Christ intends in healing us of our “Cainish” brokenness toward God.

In preparing for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:

1. What does the Bible mean in Exodus 14:8 when it says, “And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel…”?
2. What is the significance of including the number of chariots that pursue them?
3. In verse 10 it tells us where these saved people focused their eyes. What’s the product of that focus?
4. The Israelites are said to have “cried out to the Lord,” and yet, immediately (in the next breath) go on to excoriate Moses. What do you make of that?
5. What’s God’s remedy? We see it in His command to redirect their eyes (verse 13).
6. What’s God’s purpose in desiring to free us from the power of sin? (Hint: verse 17)
7. In Mark 5:21 Jesus again crosses the Sea of Galilee. Why do you think His disciples aren’t mentioned in this trip?
8. What does Mark mean by telling us that instead of getting better she got worse as a result of spending all she had in verse 26?
9. What’s the basis for her touch in verse 28? How is this “faith concealed”?
10. How is she a model of freedom for us in verse 29?
11. What is the reward in coming to Jesus the second time in verse 33?
12. How does Jesus’ message of freedom in verse 34 relate to living without the power of sin?

May the Lord bless you and Ken as you worship Him together this Sunday!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

That's Who I Am!

“5” is the number of divine grace in the Hebrew Scripture. This Sunday marks the fifth message in our series, Living Beyond, and that’s fitting; because we are examining the way God restores what has been broken in every Cain. As we’ll see it’s only by His grace that our fractured self-image, our defiant arrogance, and our raging ignorance is overcome and healed. But as we’ll also see, “His grace” is not simply a theological concept. As surely as Cain slew Abel, Jesus demonstrates that while we were yet sinners, He died for us.

This week we’ll weave together three biblical texts, Genesis 4, Jonah 1, and Mark 4. When taken together they reveal the scope and depth of Jesus’ restoration of our brokenness. What is destroyed in Adam and Cain is remade in Jesus Christ. The koinonia, the intimate fellowship with God, that was lost in Cain, is resurrected and restored in Jesus Christ. O what a Gospel! O how we’ve missed it over the years!

As we noted last week, Cain is a picture of what we are by nature. Someone has quite fittingly said, “It is difficult to comprehend how much iniquity there is in our fallen hearts. Many are willing to admit that we have certain evil tendencies, but few are honest and sincere enough to admit that it goes all the way to the root of murder.” Instead of doing business with God and repenting of the sin of anger, jealousy, and hatred - instead of killing a sacrifice, Cain kills his sibling. He lures him to a lonely place and then does what Absalom does. We look in vain for an extenuating motive. Envy and hatred are the only ones. When God approved Abel’s sacrifice (remember his righteousness is based in the substitutionary sacrifice he offers – i.e. there’s no inherent innocence in Abel) Cain should have looked into his own heart and pinpointed what was wrong. But all he can do is look at what’s wrong with his brother.

Remember death did not hurt Abel, it “killed” Cain. Cain’s behavior is based on his flawed knowledge of himself and God. It’s a double-blindness. He can’t see into his own soul and he thinks that God can’t see him. Sin produces an arrogance that accuses God of abandoning His own. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain asks. The same God who comes to care for Cain is accused of not caring for Abel or his brother.

Someone has said, “All the life of the earthling is a barren search for something to allay fear and ease a fallen sense of significance.” We see that in Cain. There’s not the faintest whisper of sorrow. There’s not the remotest desire for grace. He’s lost in self-pity, resulting in a self-focus not a God-focus. No wonder the writer of Genesis notes that Cain dwells in the land of Nod the rest of his life. Nod means “wandering” in Hebrew. God’s prophetic words of Genesis 4:12 are realized for every Cain, everyone who’s estranged from God. To be alone without God is the worst thing earth can hold and Cain proves it.

But God doesn’t leave us there. He can’t tolerate leaving us in our brokenness. No, it’s for restoration that God becomes a man. It’s to deliver us from Nod that Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden.” Can you think of anything more wearying and burdensome than our Cainite brokenness? This Sunday we examine how He does it.

We begin by looking at the end of the Genesis 4:1-16 text. Here we see the back story to Mark’s account of Jesus in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. By connecting these two texts and comparing the Jonah 1 correlate, we can see just how Jesus brings wholeness out of brokenness in our relationship with God.

The title of Sunday’s message is “That’s Who I Am!” It’s the answer to last week’s “Who Am I?” message. In preparation for Sunday you may wish to examine the following:

1. How free is Cain’s will?
2. What are the signs of his brokenness in Genesis 4?
3. What does God mean when he says in Genesis 4:10 that Abel’s blood cries out to Him from the ground?
4. What does Cain mean when he responds to God in verse 8 by saying, “My punishment is more than I can bear?”
5. How does Mark know about the Sea of Galilee story in Mark 4?
6. What is the parallel between the disciples’ reaction to the storm and the sailors in Jonah 1?
7. How does Jesus respond to the disciples’ question in verse 38?
8. What is the parallel of Jesus’ questions in verse 40 and Cain’s statement in question #4?
9. What is the issue to which Jesus points in His second question about faith?
10. What parallels and what differences do you see between the Mark 4 incident and the Jonah 1 incident?
11. Why are the disciples more terrified after the wind and waters cease?
12. What is the nature of their question in verse 41?
13. How is this incident a precursor of the cross?
14. How does Jesus answer the disciples’ charge that He may not care what happens to them?
15. How does all of this demonstrate that only Jesus can heal our brokenness toward God?

See you Sunday for new members, an 11:00 baptism, and several special features!