Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Arrows Out

Expectations are powerful.  Stop for a moment and think about some of the expectations that guide your life with your friends, at your work, or with your family or neighborhood.  Expectations actually shape who we are and who we will become.  With that in mind, we are going to look at what we should expect to happen when God pours out his Spirit on a local church starting with the Scriptures but moving into our everyday life.

Reflection questions:
1.      What do I think I can expect to happen in my life as God pours out His Spirit on a person or a local church?

2.      Do I experience those expectations being met in my own individual life?

3.      Where in my own life do I feel I am leaning against God’s agenda for my life rather than leaning on God’s agenda for my life and for the life of my church together?

4.      What can I do to make my life more open to God’s Spirit in my own life?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Loving Your Neighbor

In two weeks – on October 6 – Hebron’s Beyond Campaign will commence!  What a perfect time to examine Luke 10:25-37 and Jesus’ call to love our neighbors.

Tim Keller writes, “It’s a mistake to think that you must feel love to give it.  If, for example, I have a child, and I give up a day off to take him to a ballgame to his great joy, at a time when I don’t particularly like him, I am in some ways being more loving to him than if my heart were filled with affection.  When you feel great delight in someone, meeting their needs and getting their gratitude and affection in return is extremely rewarding to your ego.  At those times you may be acting more out of the desire to get that love and satisfaction yourself, rather than out of a desire to seek the good of the other person.”

This Sunday the topic before us is LOVE – specifically loving your neighbor.  This topic follows seamlessly from the first two weeks in our Beyond series.  In week one, we examined Acts 26 and the divine interruption of Saul’s life by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Unless He interrupts our lives with His grace, none of us will ever reach beyond ourselves and our own self-interest.

Then last week we were in Luke 1:67-80 and 2:39-40 to see the biblical foundation for our engagement with the world.  Remember the points of that message?

·         The Wilderness (v. 80) – With the coming of Christ all walls of separation are broken down.  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth”  John 1:14.  And Jesus calls us to break down walls of separation and connect in a deeper way with others.

·         The Works (v. 72) – Why would anyone abandon his isolation for the world around him?  Because that’s exactly what Jesus did for you.  By His works we are free to do His work.
·         The Witness (vvs. 76-78) – Why does anyone ever want to go beyond himself and his own needs?  Because he knows what it’s like to experience the satisfaction of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
On Sunday we move inexorably toward our Beyond kickoff by turning to Luke 10 and the story of the Good Samaritan.  Eleven years ago, on Christmas Eve, I first preached this text at Hebron.  For many, it was the first time they were to see themselves in the story not as one of the two passersby, or the Samaritan, but as the guy in the ditch.  You see, Jesus is the true Good Samaritan, and He’s the One who has compassion on us, healing our wounds and paying all costs.
But this week I want to focus on another aspect of this incident by looking at how it is possible to do what Jesus tells this teacher of the law to do in verse 28.  How is it possible to love my neighbor when I don’t like him?  Why go Beyond myself to meet the needs of another in the name of Jesus when I don’t even know him?  Moreover, if love is an emotion, how can it be commanded?

These are the questions before us this Sunday.  In preparation for our study you may wish to consider the following:

1.      Note the immediate context of Luke 10:25-37.  Read Chapter 10:1-24.

2.      In what way is the lawyer’s question a test?

3.      What is the SHEMA?

4.      How does this lawyer prove that he understands the essence of God’s law?  (Note: Deut. 6:5 and Leviticus 19:9-18.)

5.      On what grounds does Jesus command love in verse 28?

6.      How does the “eternal life”, referenced by the lawyer, relate to the words of Jesus in verse 28(b)?

7.      In what way was the lawyer wishing to justify himself in verse 29?

8.      How does the Good Samaritan do what Jesus commands in verse 28?

9.      How does loving your neighbor imply real life?

10.  How does the cross vividly demonstrate Jesus loving His neighbor?

See you at His table this Sunday!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Foundation for Engagement

Mark 9:15 says, “And immediately all of the crowd, when they saw Jesus, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him.”  Now think of the difference between Moses and Jesus.  When the prophet of Horeb had been on the mountain for 40 days, the Bible says that he underwent a kind of transfiguration so that his face shone with such radiant brightness that he had to put a veil over his face, for people who might look upon him could not endure the brightness of the glory.  Not so with our Savior, however.  He had been transfigured with even greater glory than that of Moses; and yet, it’s not written that people were blinded, but rather, they were amazed, running to Him, and greeting Him.

These two diametrically opposing portraits speak volumes about the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.  The law repels, but the greater glory of the One who is said to be “full of grace and truth” attracts.  Though Jesus is holy and just, there is so much grace that sinners run to Him, amazed by His goodness, and fascinated by His love.

Spurgeon writes, “Reader, it may be that just now you are blinded by the dazzling brightness of the law of God.  You feel its claims on your conscience, but you cannot keep it in your life.  Not that you find fault with the law, on the contrary, it commands your profoundest esteem, still you are in nowise drawn by it to God; you are rather hardened in heart, and are verging toward desperation.  Ah, poor heart!  Turn your eyes from Moses, with all his repelling splendor, and look to Jesus, resplendent with milder glories.  Behold His flowing wounds and thorn-crowned head!  He is the Son of God, and therein He is greater than Moses, but He is the Lord of love, and therein more tender than the lawgiver.  He bore the wrath of God, and in His death revealed more of God’s justice than Sinai on a blaze, but that justice is now vindicated, and henceforth it is the guardian of believers in Jesus…”

This week we will examine Luke 1:67-80, a pivotal text in Luke’s account of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It’s been described by many over the years as the last prophecy of the Old Covenant and the first prophecy of the New Covenant.  It is uttered by the 32nd Zechariah mentioned in the Bible and is one of the greatest transitional declarations of God in all the Scriptures.  While many who read it think only of John the Baptist and his role as the forerunner of the Messiah, there is much more happening here than that.  Indeed, what we find here is a concise description of the biblical foundation of every Christian’s engagement in the world.

If you haven’t already guessed it, this preaching series is moving inexorably toward our great BEYOND month of October.  The month of October will be the time when everyone at Hebron will be given the opportunity to go beyond themselves and impact the world around them with the tangible fruits of the Gospel.  Our goal is clear – to see everyone experiencing the exhilaration of being used by the Holy Spirit to impact the lives of others for Jesus’ sake.

Last week we began in Acts 26.  There we saw clear evidence of how Jesus interrupts our life and brings us to the point where we recognize that everything that’s happened up until that point, is prelude, or preparation, for what He intends to do with us these days to impact others with His grace.  This week we’re in Luke 1 to find the foundation for engaging the world with the Gospel.

In preparation for this Sunday’s message, you may wish to consider the following:

1.      What does the name Zechariah mean?

2.      How relevant is that meaning to what Zechariah does?

3.      What is the significance of Zechariah’s declaration in Luke 1:63?  (Note the meaning of the name “John”.)

4.      Who is Calvin Miller?

5.      Note the difference between the description of John the Baptist’s early years and Jesus’.  (See Luke 1:80 and Luke 2:39-40).

6.      How accurate is it to say that before Jesus, the Hebrews were well-acquainted with mercy, but not grace?

7.      What do the differences found in question 5 tell us about engaging the world with the Gospel of grace?

8.      How is mercy the heart of the sacrificial system in the Old Testament?

9.      How is grace the heart of the sacrifice in the New Testament?

10.  What is the significance of equating Jesus to the “sunrise” or “rising Sun” in v. 78?  (See Mal. 4:2; II Pet. 1:19; Rev. 22:16.) 

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Divine Interruption

On Sunday afternoon I received an email from Orville Winsand who had clearly taken the bulletin insert detailing the direction of our next 12 weeks of preaching at Hebron to heart.  The former Chairman of the Art Department at Carnegie University wrote that I may want to check out Michelangelo’s 1545 painting of Saul’s conversion, given this week’s message, “The Divine Interruption”.  As always, Orville is right on target! 

Read what blogger, Rachel Anne Tedesco, has to say about “The Conversion of Saul”: 
“Michelangelo’s worldview was primarily Christian.  Much of his work depicted significant events in Christian faith and development.  The story of the conversion of Saul to Christianity is one such story.  In this tale, Saul sets out on his campaign against Christianity after the stoning of Stephen.  Saul sets himself apart for his cruelty in his persecution of Christian believers.  At the time, the normal punishment for Christianity was imprisonment.  Saul, however, called for a total extermination of all Christian followers – starting in Jerusalem.  On his journey to Damascus (Syria), Saul’s life changed forever.  Saul later wrote that on his trek, he was blinded by the light of God.  The light overwhelmed him and blinded him.  While chaos erupted around him, Saul, blinded, received the Word of God, ‘Saul, why do you persecute me?’  This moment marked the turning point in Saul’s life.  He stopped his crusade against Christians and spent the rest of his life devoted to God as a Christian missionary.”

Now I don’t know anything about Ms. Tedesco, but from a secular point of view she’s got a pretty good handle on the facts of Acts 9.  While her references to the account as a “tale” is specious and short-sighted, the impact on this event on Paul was so great that years later he talks about it before the King of Judea, Agrippa II.  And it’s this verbal description of his conversion that is our focus this Sunday.  But first, back to Michelangelo.
I believe the testimony of history is that Michelangelo’s worldview was not primarily Christian, but thoroughly so.  Upon finishing his previous project, The Last Judgment, in the Sistine Chapel in 1541, the great artist embarked on capturing two additional biblical scenes from Paul’s Chapel (Cappella Paolina) in the Vatican:  The Crucifixion of Peter and The Conversion of Saul.  It took him three years alone to complete the 20 x 21 foot painting of Saul’s conversion.  Someone describes it this way:

“A god figure (Jesus or God the Father) is depicted in the sky surrounded by a host of angelic beings.  A red-robed God is thrusting a muscular right arm toward Saul, soon to be Paul, spearing him with holy light.  Below are at least twenty people in and around an area where Paul lies on the ground among a background of gentle hills.”  (Actually, Paul says they all were lying on the ground.)  “The event caused Saul to be thrown from his horse.  Saul is seen grasping his head with both hands while another man – some say an angel – supports him, lifting his head and shoulders from the ground.  A slight aural glow graces Saul’s head, and also the head of his horse, which is off to his right.  In Michelangelo’s time, a fall from a horse was symbolic for a ‘fall from pride.’” 

You may want to check out the work for yourself by going to Michelangelo:  Saul’s Conversion.

But it’s not the “what” of the painting that captures my attention, but the “why.”  It’s the “why” of his conversion that establishes the bedrock of Paul’s testimony to Agrippa. It’s the “why”, that establishes the foundation of his entire life.  Moreover, it’s the “why” of Paul’s conversion that mirrors, so perfectly, our lives and ministries as well.

What Ms. Tedesco misses in her reprise of God’s word to Saul is what so many others miss.  In recounting the events of Acts 9 to the king, Paul provides a fuller account of what Jesus actually said to him.  Not only did Jesus ask, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  He added a commentary on Saul’s condition.  It’s exactly the same commentary He gives every one of us who walks in our own way, rather than in His way.  Jesus not only said “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” but also, “It is hard to kick against the goads.”  Indeed it is!  This Sunday we will attempt to show why it’s so.

In preparation for this week’s message on Acts 26:1-18, I invite you to consider the following questions:

1.      What are “goads”?

2.      Who is Agrippa and from whom has he descended?

3.      Why does he allow Paul to speak to him?  (See chapter 25.)

4.      What purpose does Jesus give for His interruption of Saul’s life?

5.      What will happen to Jews and Gentiles alike when Paul carries out Jesus’ purpose for his life?

6.      How is this call to a new way of life analogous to Christ’s call on your life?

7.      How is everything in Paul’s life prior to the Damascus Road a preparation for His standing before Agrippa?

8.      How is Paul’s audience with Agrippa a fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Matthew 10?

9.      What three “deliverances” will come to others as a result of Paul’s fulfilling his call?  (verse 18)

10.  How does Paul prove to walk in the light of his own deliverance?

See you on the 8th!  Remember to every Hebrew the number 8 is the number of new beginnings!!  What a perfect way to begin a new series.