Thursday, March 29, 2012

Holy Week

“The love of Christ in its sweetness, its fullness, its greatness, its faithfulness, passes all human comprehension. Where can language be found that describes His matchless, His unparalleled love towards the children of men? It is so vast and boundless that, as the swallow skims the water, and dives not into its depths, so all descriptive words but touch the surface, while depths immeasurable lie beneath. Well might the poet say, “O love, thou fathomless abyss!” for this love of Christ is indeed measureless and fathomless; none can attain unto it. Before we can have any right idea of the love of Jesus, we must understand His previous glory in its height of majesty, and His incarnation on the earth in all its depths of shame. But who can tell us the majesty of Christ? When He was enthroned in the highest heavens He was very God of very God; by Him were the heavens made, and all the hosts thereof. His own almighty arm upheld the spheres, the praises of cherubim and seraphim perpetually surrounded Him: the full chorus of the hallelujahs of the universe unceasingly flowed to the foot of his throne: He reigned supreme above all His creatures, God over all, blessed forever. Who can tell His height of glory then? And who, on the other hand, can tell how low He descended? To be a man was something, to be a man of sorrows was far more. To bleed, and die, and suffer, these were much for Him who was the Son of God; but to suffer such unparalleled agony – to endure a death of shame and desertion by His Father, this is a depth of condescending love which the most inspired mind utterly fails to fathom. Herein is love! Truly it is love that “passes knowledge.” O let this love fill our hearts with adoring gratitude, and lead us to practical manifestations of its POWER.From Morning and Evening – Charles H. Spurgeon

This week our Enewsletter’s sermon profile has been expanded from one message to four! This Sunday, April 1, we will begin to examine another principle characteristic of the transformed life – POWER. (We’ve already looked at Love, Hope, and Forgiveness.)

In physics, power is the rate at which energy is transferred, used, or transformed. Therefore, the rate at which electrical energy is transformed into heat and light in a light bulb, for instance, can be measured as “wattage.”

But this is only one definition of power. In the social dimension, power is defined as an entity’s ability to control its environment, including the behaviors of others. In the gym, power is defined as one’s ability to move specific weights or applied pressures. The term power is widely used in everyday human experience.

But what does power or dunamis mean in the spiritual realm? And how does that power manifest itself in a life that is being transformed by the supernatural energy of God?

Well, beginning this Sunday, Palm Sunday, we will begin our examination in the familiar Lucan text: Luke 19:28-40 where the “good doctor” gives us his own take on Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem.

On Thursday night, April 5, we will gather in the Barclay at 7:00 pm for a Maundy Thursday Service of worship. Maundy is from the Latin, mandatum meaning “mandate.” What is this mandate that we are to recall? It’s found in John 13 where on the night of His betrayal before taking up the bread and the wine, Jesus knelt to wash His disciples’ feet. And when He got back up He said, “I have set before you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” His mandate is that we do for others what He has done for us. So how are we to do that? What’s that mean? Our focus this night is on the contrast between the dinner event in John 12 and the dinner event in John 13. Here we will see some powerful lessons found around the table.

On Friday night, April 6, at 7:30 pm we will gather in the Sanctuary for a Tenebrae Service. Tenebrae is Latin for extinguishing of light. In this service we will hear the story of the events of Jesus’ crucifixion in word and song with the intermittent extinguishing of lights. This is a vivid and somber service of worship during which time we will particularly focus on Luke 22:54-62 and Peter’s lack of power in denying Jesus three times.

Then on Easter Sunday morning, April 8, we will gather at our regular Sunday morning times to focus on the Power of the Resurrection by examining Luke 24:13-35 – the Emmaus Road experience.

In each of these services our focus will be on the kind of supernatural power that becomes visible in a life that is being transformed by the Holy Spirit. What is abundantly clear from each of these texts is that the power that God bestows on us through the finished work of Christ is 180 degrees from the power the world recognizes and craves. As with every attribute of the transformed life, what God does as He transforms a redeemed life is to turn on its head everything our culture tells us to be and to do. In fact, it’s almost axiomatic that everything “they” tell us to be and to do is false and binding.

Years ago a man I love told me that to be a fruitful Christian one must be FAT – Faithful, Available, and Teachable. The longer I live the truer those words become, especially when it comes to familiar texts like the ones we will be examining next week. My prayer for all of us this Holy Week is that we would be FAT!

Here are some questions you may wish to consider in preparing your mind and heart for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday Tenebrae, and Easter.

Palm Sunday: Luke 19:28-40 - “Power of the King”

1. What do you know of Henri Nouwen?
2. When you consider Jesus’ questions in Matthew 16:13 and John 18:34, how
important is a proper understanding of one’s identity to Jesus?
3. Why does Luke preface his presentation of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem
with Jesus’ parable of the talents?
4. What connection can you find between Jesus’ words in Luke 19:11-27 and
Jesus’ deeds in verses 28-40?
5. What is the meaning of Bethphage and Bethany? What relationship is there
between these two meanings and Jesus’ ride?
6. What did horses and donkeys symbolize in Jesus’ day?
7. Why does Jesus send two disciples to borrow the colt?
8. What is to be learned from David’s words in Psalm 20:7? What is the
application to Palm Sunday?
9. Why is there no “Hosanna” in Luke’s account? What does Luke’s alternative
account tell us about the crowd’s focus?
10. How does Jesus’ entrance into the city correspond to His words in Matthew
16:19 and 18:18?
11. What does Jesus mean when He responds in verse 40? Do you really think
stones could cry out?
12. Connect Hebrews 12:2 to this account.
13. What will be the evidence in our lives that the power of the King is
controlling us?

Maundy Thursday: John 12:1-7 and John 13:1-17 - “Lessons from Dinner”

1. Where does this dinner occur?
2. What is the meaning of Mary’s anointing of Jesus?
3. How does His burial (12:7) warrant such extravagance?
4. Who were anointed in the Old Testament?
5. Why does Mary focus on Jesus’ feet?
6. What is the difference between what Mary does at Bethany and Jesus does in
the upper room?
7. What 3 “substances” does Jesus apply to every believer? What do each mean?
8. What does Jesus mean in verse 10?
9. How does verse 10 relate to what He says in verse 14?
10. How can we say that what happens in John 12 and 13 is all about
forgiveness? How important is the subject of forgiveness to John, Jesus,
and you?

Good Friday: Luke 22:54-62 - “Tenebrae Service”

1. How does this incident relate to Jesus’ warning in 22:31-32? Notice how
Jesus addressed him.
2. Can you think of any other Satanic prayers (requests) in Scripture (22:31)?
3. To whom is Satan addressing himself?
4. Where does Jesus issue the warning? What is the context?
5. Do you find any relationship between Luke 22:32 and Luke 22:61(a)?
6. What is the relevance of the fire?
7. What prevents Peter from acting on Jesus’ prayer for him?
8. What can be learned from contrasting Jesus and Peter in the midst of their
9. What do you make of Luke’s reference to the “Lord” in verse 61?
10. Christ looked upon the chief priests and it made no impression on them. But
when He looks on Peter He’s melted into bitter tears. Why?

Easter: Luke 24:13-35 - “The Power of the Resurrection”

1. How does the meaning of Emmaus relate to the essence of this incident?
2. Why do you suppose these two are walking away from Jerusalem?
3. What do you make of Jesus’ move toward them?
4. What other biblical references can you find where God does the seeking?
5. Why does Jesus ask questions rather than give answers?
6. What are we to learn about these two men from verse 19-21?
7. What does their testimony in verses 22-24 tell us about the strength of
miraculous evidence to convince the fearful heart?
8. What is Jesus’ remedy for unbelief?
9. Where does the power reside in changing lives?
10. What does this post-resurrection account tell us about the power of the
transformed life?

Holy Week at Hebron promises to be gripping. Please make every effort to find time to worship with us. The power of God’s word to transform is nowhere stronger than in this final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

See you then!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Forgiving the Debtor

Debt! An ominous sounding word! While there are debts that can and are paid on time or even ahead of schedule, we often think of the word "debt" with LOTS of money owed or PAST DUE bills. Jesus taught us to pray "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors". I believe He was teaching about more than money owed. The term "debt" in the Bible is defined by the commentator, William Barclay, as "a failure to pay a debt...a failure in duty.” In other words a "debt" in the biblical sense is to fail to do right or a failure (doing wrong).

In Sunday's text, Jesus will offer a prayer of forgiveness on the cross toward those who crucified Him though He was innocent. He is our supreme example AND enabler in forgiving our "debtors" (those who failed to do right toward us)! One aspect of the Lord's Prayer is also helpful in forgiving others = we ask to be forgiven AS we forgive. So that means that we are "debtors" ourselves and therefore are to be forgiving toward our "debtors". Jesus goes on to say at the end of the prayer (Matt. 6:14, 15) that God’s forgiveness toward us and our forgiveness toward others is linked - a rather sobering thought!

One commentary I read on these Scripture passages stated that Jesus showed and taught forgiveness because He wanted His followers to be a "forgiving community" Are we? I know I need to grow in this spiritual trait - how about you?

See you Sunday!

1. Jesus prayed for those who were KILLING Him. (Lk. 23:33-34) Does that
challenge us regarding some "unforgivable wrong" that someone has done to us?

2. Jesus prayed for their forgiveness and said they did not know what they were
doing. (Lk. 23:34). Did the soldiers not know what they were doing at the
crucifixion? Does it mean we don't have to forgive those who "know what they
did to us"? What does it mean that they didn't know what they were doing?
Consider Acts 3:15-17, I Cor. 2:8.

3. Looking at Jesus' seven words from the cross, where is this prayer for
forgiveness considered to be numerically? Mt. 23, Mk.15, Lk.23, Jn. 19.

4. How do you think it is possible for someone to forgive grievous "debts"
and "debtors"? Consider Gal. 2:20, Eph. 3:17 and Col. 1:27. What do you
think "Christ IN you" really means?

5. What does Psalm 66:18 teach? How does that compare with Matt. 6:14, 15? Just how
important is a forgiving spirit?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Forgiving the Older Son

"Did you ever have a big brother or sister? Maybe you are one! Sometimes that is wonderful and sometimes it is challenging. Well, the big brother we meet in Luke 15 proves to be challenging (to say the least). Jesus is telling some stories to a group of people who are VERY committed to religion and morals. They are upset that Jesus is spending time with folk who aren't that religious or that moral. Reading the group of 3 short stories Jesus connects about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and 2 lost sons brought me to some conclusions.
1) We should rejoice, not be upset or uncomfortable, when "sinners" respond to
2) Those who are slavishly committed to the "high road" can be just as LOST as
those in the "pigpen"!

In our series on forgiveness we now encounter the "transforming" life of Christ within us to forgive the unforgiving. We all have encountered "big brothers" who cannot forgive our mistakes, think they are better or smarter than we are, look down their noses at us or consider themselves more spiritual = doubting the quality or reality of our faith. I think it can take a large dose of God's grace to have the right attitude toward such brothers and sisters. Perhaps as Jesus told the stories that day some of the "sinners" were stirred to have more of God's loving heart toward their critics, the “big brother" Pharisees.

Hopefully this passage will help us to be more forgiving if we are "big brothers" and more forgiving toward those we see as "big brothers".

See you Sunday!

1. Who is Jesus primarily instructing with these parables in Luke 15? vv. 1-3

2. Do you think Jesus is teaching that some people don't need to repent? v.7

3. How many "sinners" need to repent to stir Heaven to rejoice? v.10 How stirred
up do we get over the salvation or spiritual transformation of someone?

4. Describe the big brother's attitude when the little brother is welcomed back
home. v.26 Do you think his attitude is warranted - why or why not?

5. The father is described as running to meet the little brother. Consider the
father's approach to the big brother in vv. 28-31.What might that represent
about God's heart toward the Pharisees and teachers of the Law?

6. Would you describe the big brother's response to his father as respectful or
disrespectful - why? vv. 28-30

7. Do you think the father stopped the party because the big brother was upset?

8. Are there any hints in the story on how to forgive the "unforgiving" big brother?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Forgiving the Younger Son

I’ve heard it said, because we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; and because we can add not one wit to our salvation by good works - we are to sit back and do nothing. After all, it’s said, “God’s sovereign, He’s in charge of everything. If He doesn’t do it, it won’t be done.” Where do we get such twisted views? The world? Ourselves? The Devil? Probably from all three. What an absurdity!

God, the Father, didn’t appoint our salvation, and Jesus Christ didn’t accomplish our salvation, and the Holy Spirit doesn’t apply the fruit of salvation to us so that we can stay living like the pagans we once were. He saved us to conform us to the image of Christ. He redeemed us to remake us into a company of disciples who will tangibly reflect the character and the characteristics of the Lord Jesus! If you are saved, it’s GO TIME!

If someone reads the New Testament with the mildest of care, they will see Jesus establishing a clear pattern of “coming and going.” As we saw last week, He had the woman at the well come to Him and then she went to call others to come. It’s the biblical pattern. He saves us to send us! He frees us to free others. He calls us so that we may call others to Him. What He does for us He calls and equips us to do for others. How is this missed? I call the question!

Here’s one of the clearest pieces of evidence that ratifies this Christological pattern, yet, so many miss it in today’s church. In Matthew 16 Jesus takes His disciples on a journey miles north of Galilee to a place named for the Roman Caesars. It’s called Caesarea Philippi. It’s here that Jesus asks them a question – “Who do men say that I am?” This is the first time in the gospel that Jesus’ true identity is revealed to the disciples. And if you listen to what Jesus says in response to Peter you see that it’s all revelation. The Father reveals to Peter the identity of His Son and Peter speaks it. And what follows in most Christian commentaries is: (1) an elaboration of Jesus’ blessing on Peter; (2) the delineation between Petros and Petra; and (3) the nature of the church’s foundation. That’s it. What’s missing is most essential. It’s found in Jesus’ word right after He says, “And upon this petra – the rock – I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” The words that follow flesh out the purpose of the church. Our foundation is the confessed Lordship of Jesus. But our purpose is to prevail against the gates of hell.

Now let me ask you – what is the mission of hell and its henchmen? Simple. To enslave people in their sin. It is stealing, killing, and destroying by binding people in their sin, shame, and guilt. (Note: the image Jesus uses here – “gates.”) So what is it that the church does to gain victory in the face of hell and its gates? Jesus tells us in the very next verse. He says, “I will give you (His disciples) the keys of the kingdom of heaven…” What are those keys that unlock the gates? He tells us, “…and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” What’s He talking about? The same thing He’s talking about in Matthew 18. There He says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother…Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” They are the same words! So, what’s He talking about? The same thing in both places. FORGIVENESS! Do you see it? He’s giving us the same commission He possesses – to storm the gates of hell to release prisoners. Is there any shred of evidence that we are, therefore, justified in sitting on our butts and saying, “If a sovereign God wants to do it He can do it without me.” Sure He can, but why miss it? It’s way too exciting. It’s like Tom Cruise in Top Gun – engage Maverick!

That’s what this series on transformation is all about. That’s what Paul means when he says, “If anyone be in Christ he is a new creature. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

This week we will examine a familiar text - Luke15:11-32. It’s 2/3rd’s of the greatest story Jesus ever told. It’s a perfect example of the power of forgiveness that the Holy Spirit can wrought in a transformed life. The Father is Jesus. You and I are the younger son. Not only does He exhibit profound and costly (extravagant) forgiveness to us, He empowers us to do likewise.

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

1. Who is Pinin Barcilon? What did she do?
2. How does Jesus’ statement in Mark 2:17 relate to the Matthew 16 & 18 texts
we’ve just cited?
3. How do the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” relate to Jesus’ actions in the
last two messages in this series – John 8 and John 4?
4. What is the meaning of the son’s demand in Luke 15:12?
5. What does “gathering together all he had” mean?
6. What does it mean when Jesus says, “…there he squandered his property in
reckless living”? (verse 13)
7. What does it mean when it says “he comes to himself” in the pigpen?
8. Why does the father run to him?
9. How costly to the father is the restoration of his son?
10. Enumerate some of the different dimensions of “loosing” the father provides
the son and think about how you can be used to loose others in the same ways.

See you Sunday!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Forgiving the Stranger

In Timothy 4 Paul calls Satan the “accuser of the brethren.” In John 10 Jesus juxtaposes Himself with the thieves and robbers. In John 8, right after He forgives and restores the woman caught in the act of adultery (last week’s message), He says to the religious leaders of the day, “You are doing the works your father did…He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” You know one of his biggest lies? The lie that says that forgiveness of sin is only about escaping divine judgment. It’s about much more than that!

When you speak to most evangelical Christians today about the forgiveness we find in Christ, they will tell you that divine judgment is averted by the blood and righteousness of Christ, and they’re right. But that’s not the full extent of His forgiveness. In fact, when you carefully examine the accounts of Jesus’ forgiveness in the Gospels you find that His focus is on a different escape. The escape Jesus’ forgiveness offers is not only an escape from divine judgment, but an escape (a release) from our prison of bondage. We saw this last week in John 8. We’ll see it again this week.

Here at Jacob’s well, near the Samaritan village of Sychar, Jesus meets a woman in the deepest of all human bondage - the bondage of guilt, sin, and shame. Her bondage is so deep and debilitating that her soul is a lot like that well - deep and hollow.

But Jesus works His grace in a stupendous way. The problem with the text is that it’s so well read and so familiar that most people don’t dig deep enough to find the beauty. We hope to see the beauty this communion Sunday morning.

The title of the message is, “Forgiving the Stranger.” Our contention that when the Holy Spirit is transforming our minds, hearts, and souls we will begin to do what Jesus does. And what He does here is simply remarkable. Not only does He free her from the coming judgment, He frees her from the prison of her guilt and shame. He does it by knowing her, loving her, and addressing both her conscience and her heart. He addresses the sin under the sin. He frees her from the lie that her worth is determined by what she does and what others think of her.

In preparation for Sunday’s message check out Matthew 16:13-19 and 18:15-18. It’s a perfect backdrop for John 4:7-30. You may also wish to examine the following questions:

1) What is your reaction to the following quote?
“Do what you will with your nature, educate it, cultivate it, and sublimate
it as much as you please. Raise it to the loftiest pinnacle of science and
philosophy; summon to your aid all the ornaments and ordinances of the
legal system, and all the appliances of man’s religion; make vows and
resolutions of moral reform; weary yourself with monotonous religious
duties; take up vigils and fastings, prayers, and alms, take up the entire
range of dead works and after all, yonder Samaritan adulteress is as near
to the Kingdom of God as you…”
2) What does Jesus mean in John 8 when He says to that woman, “Go and sin no
3) Why did nearly every devout Jew of Jesus’ day go to great lengths to avoid
entering Samaria?
4) What is the significance of wells in Scripture? (See Genesis 16 & 21 and
compare to John 4.)
5) What is the significance of the name and location of this well?
6) What is the nature of Jesus’ words to the woman in verse 7? And her
7) The word give/gift is used in verses 7 and 10, but they are entirely
different Greek words. The first means, “Give it to me!” and the second, “a
free gift of grace.” Why is this crucial?
8) In verse 16 Jesus issues a further command. However, this one strikes both
her conscience and her heart. How? What is Jesus saying? Where is the
hope in this?
9) What is the correlation between what Jesus says in verse 26 and what God
says to Moses in Exodus 3:14?
10) How do we know that this woman’s been forgiven and transformed?
11) What does the incident teach us about living a transformed life?
12) How is it that Christ calls us to see the sin under the sin as our only
pathway to freedom?
13) What does it mean to see sin as bondage rather than simply an offense?

See you Sunday as we gather around His table to receive His fresh, transforming grace!