Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"Loved by the Son" - Doug Rehberg

In preparing for Doug Dunderdale’s celebration service a few months ago, I came across a hundred-year-old Nigerian hymn that sums up our series “Treasures of the Son” better than any other hymn I know.  As I read it I thought, “Why don’t they write them like this anymore?”

Nothing either great or small—
  Nothing, sinner, no;
Jesus did it, did it all,
  Long, long ago.

“It is finished!” yes, indeed,
  Finished every jot:
Sinner, this is all you need—
    Tell me, is it not?

When He, from His lofty throne,
  Stooped to do and die,
Everything was fully done;
  Hearken to His cry:

Weary, working, burdened one,
  Wherefore toil you so?
Cease your doing; all was done
  Long, long ago.

Till to Jesus’ work you cling
  By a simple faith,
“Doing” is a deadly thing—
  “Doing” ends in death.

Cast your deadly “doing” down—
  Down at Jesus’ feet;
Stand in Him, in Him alone,
  Gloriously complete.

Throughout the month of June we have paralleled the lessons taught to our children in this week’s Vacation Bible School.  Specifically, we have examined five treasures that are given to every disciple, of every age, by the Son of God.  You will remember: we are Born of the Son; we are Healed by the Son; we are Forgiven by the Son; and we are Loved by the Son.  And it is this final treasure, Loved by the Son, that is our focus this Sunday morning.

As the Apostle Paul famously says in I Corinthians 15, “Faith, hope, love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”  But why is love the greatest and why is it the greatest of all the treasures the Son of God imparts to us?

There are several important reasons, but first among them is the fact that love is a prime attribute of God’s own character.  When Jesus loves us He is simply extending to us His very character.  While forgiveness, as we noted last week, is the most transformative treasure He offers us, His forgiveness flows from His love.  Indeed, all other treasures flow from His character of love, for as John tells us so succinctly in his first epistle, “God is love!”

In reflecting on the love of the Son this week, it seems to me that for the Christian there is arguably no greater expression of His love (notwithstanding the Cross) than what He does on resurrection night.  Indeed, it is so profound that both John and Luke record it.

I say that it is arguably God’s greatest expression of love because of the condition in which Jesus finds His friends.  They are terrified.  They are without hope.  They are locked down, baffled, and bewildered.  In terms of despair there’s no time in the Gospels that rivals it – even when they are in a boat on the Sea of Galilee in the storm.

So what does Jesus do?  He loves them!  In fact, He loves them in exactly the same way He loves you and me when we are in “lockdown” despair.  And when you see that, when you get it, you find it is just as the Nigerian hymn writer says, “Jesus did it, did it all, long, long ago!”

In preparing for worship this Sunday and studying the Son’s greatest treasure – His love – you may wish to consider the following:
1.      How is the disciple’s condition in Luke 24:38-49 a direct violation of Jesus’ imperative in John 14:1-7?

2.      What are some reasons for their violation?

3.      How is Jesus’ message to them in Luke 24:36 similar to the angel’s message in Luke 2:10?

4.      Why is fear so destructive?

5.      Compare and contrast Luke’s account of this encounter with John in John 20:19-29.

6.      What three loving things does Jesus do to dispel their fear?

7.      Why does He instruct them to touch Him when He prevents Mary from touching Him in John 20:17?

8.      Why does He ask for food in verse 41?

9.      What does Jesus mean in verse 44 when He says, “While I was still with you I spoke these words?”

10.  What is “the promise of my Father” in verse 49?  What is the significance of that promise for our self-concept?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Forgiven by the Son" - Doug Rehberg

Harry Robbins “Bob” Haldeman was best known for his intimate role in the Watergate cover-up that precipitated his resignation from his job as White House Chief of Staff under President Richard Nixon.  He was found guilty by a grand jury in 1974 and was sentenced to eighteen months in prison.  He was Nixon’s gatekeeper who once called himself  “the President’s S.O.B.”

But it’s not Haldeman’s knowledge of himself that is so amazing; it’s his knowledge of his boss, Richard M. Nixon.  In his later years, after prison, Haldeman wrote a memoir entitled The Ends of Power in which he spoke at length about the Nixon he knew.  In the book he notes that Nixon’s greatest hero was not Theodore Roosevelt, who he cited often.  It wasn’t Winston Churchill.  It wasn’t some other American President.  It was the French General, and former President of France – Charles de Gaulle.  In fact, whenever Nixon referred to de Gaulle, he’d always use his full name – Charles Andre Joseph Marie de Gaulle.  He not only admired the French President, he revered him.

Nixon admired de Gaulle’s toughness.  He admired his aloofness – it is said that de Gaulle had no friends or close associates.  He was quite paranoid of those he considered to be his enemies.  In fact, it was de Gaulle who reportedly first said to a staffer, “We have no friends, only interests!

The longer I live the more I find that most people, though they might never admit it, live by that adage.  It’s a universal sentiment and it’s nothing new.  That’s why, of all the statements of Jesus, none is more striking than what He says to His disciples in the waning hours of His earthly ministry.

Here on the eve of His betrayal and execution Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants…but friends.”  Think of it.  At a time when personal interests would, for most, trump every other commitment, Jesus turns from personal interests to those He calls His friends.  He renames them.  He establishes with them a completely new relationship.  They are no longer His students or servants, but His friends.

And while the timing of this announcement is striking given Jesus’ immediate future, what’s more incredible is the immediate actions of His friends.  Within hours they will betray Him.  They will abandon Him.  They will forsake Him completely.  The ones He’s just called friends treat Him just like His enemies.

In thinking about this week’s topic – the fourth treasure of the Son of God to His people – Forgiveness – I was struck by the undeniable connection between Jesus’ friendship and His forgiveness.  Without His absolute and total forgiveness of them there’d be no lasting friendship.  Indeed, His declaration of their new identity is inexorably linked to His forgiveness of them.  They are His friends not because of something they’ve done or will do.  They are His friends because of what He will do.  Nothing could be plainer than that.  While His friends will flee from Him, He will hang on a tree for them.

But interestingly, Jesus’ establishment of friendships begins well before the Upper Room.  Throughout His three-year ministry we see Him “making friends” throughout Palestine.  A perfect example is in Jericho as He’s making His way to Jerusalem.

That’s where we will be this Sunday as we examine Luke 19:1-10.  In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:

1.      Henri Nouwen’s definition of friendship in Out of Solitude: 3 Meditations on the Christian Life.

2.      Check out C.S. Lewis’ definitions of friendship.

3.      What were some of the differences between Jesus and other Rabbis of His day in terms of disciples?

4.      In John 15 when Jesus calls His disciples “friends’, how unique is this?

5.      How is Jesus’ friendship tied to His forgiveness?

6.      What is the significance of Jesus making a friend in Jericho on His way to the cross?

7.      Why is Zacchaeus up a tree?

8.      Why is Zacchaeus named by Luke three times and Jesus once?

9.      What is Jesus commanding him to do in verse 5?

10.  Why does Zacchaeus divest himself of his fortune in the presence of Jesus’ friendship?

11.  How does friendship hinge on forgiveness?

In the 8:15 and 11:00 services we will conclude the message with a video clip of Brennan Manning speaking on friendship to a group in Philadelphia in 1999.  If you are planning to attend the 9:30 service you may want to view it by Googling Brennan Manning Kingdom Works Video 1999.  The clip itself is found at the 32:22-35:40 mark, but the whole message is terrific!

See you Sunday!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Known by the Son

Most of you know of my close friend Mike, who died on Easter Sunday, because I’ve written about him and talked about him in a sermon or two of late.  We walked through a lot of life together – some 37 years worth.

One of the things that I remember Mike saying is that when he retired he wanted to open a bar called “Tired of Trying.”  He never got that wish.

Several times over the years he’d talk about the “bar dream”, though I never recall him fleshing it out to any great extent.  Whenever he talked about it, however, my mind would drift to Cheers.  You remember that downstairs Boston bar where Ted Danson and Shelly Long plied their trade.  Gary Portnoy described it this way:

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
All those nights when you’ve got no lights, the check is in the mail
And your little angel hung the cat up by its tail
And your third fiancĂ©e didn’t show

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You wanna be where you can see our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name 

Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee’s dead, the morning’s looking bright
And your shrink ran off to Europe and didn’t even write
And your husband wants to be a girl 

Be glad, there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You wanna go where people know, people are all the same
You wanna go where everybody knows your name” 

There’s a lot in Scripture that speaks to the power of knowing one’s name.  Indeed, naming the animals was the first task God gave Adam in the garden.  By naming them God was establishing Adam’s dominion ever them.  And yet, there’s a longing in every human heart to be known beyond one’s name.
Years ago I was taking a tour of a large church in Washington, D.C. when the guide noticed that the Senior Pastor had just walked by.  She stopped her speech, turned to all of us and said, “The most amazing thing about Dr. Evans is that he knows every one of our names.”  And while that is notable, it begs the question, “What else does he know about you?”
You see, Gary Portnoy is right in saying that every one of us wants to go where everyone knows your name, and where troubles are all the same, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.  The ubiquitous longing of the human heart is to be known by One who knows everything about us and accepts us unconditionally.
Imagine a place where we can know what Paul refers to in I Corinthians 13:12(b), “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  He’s talking about a third treasure the Son of God gives to everyone who knows Him – the joy of living in a place where you are fully known by Him.
This week we will look at how Jesus alone can bring us to such a place.  We will be looking at a perfect example in His interaction with the (unnamed) Samaritan woman in John 4.  In order to comprehend the full extent of His knowledge of her it is important to juxtaposition her with the Jewish man He encounters in chapter 3.  In each case, Jesus employs a 3-step process in making His knowledge of them clear to them.  As in the case of both Jew and Samaritan, Jesus’ knowledge of them produces in them a singular satisfaction that they had never known before.  It’s the same satisfaction Mike longed for.  It’s the same satisfaction Gary Portnoy sought to capture in his song.  It’s the same satisfaction you and I have always desired.
In preparation for Sunday’s message “Known by the Son”, from John 4:1-26, you may wish to consider the following:

1.      What does Dale Carnegie mean when he says, “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest, most important sound in any language?”

2.      How important are names in Scripture?

3.      Why is Nicodemus named by John in chapter 3, but not the Samaritan woman in chapter 4?

4.      Where is Jacob’s well, or the well of Sychar located?  What’s so important about this location in biblical history?

5.      Why does Jesus ask her for a drink? (v. 7)

6.      Why doesn’t she honor His request?

7.      What is the difference between her and Nicodemus?  What are the similarities?

8.      What is the “living water” Jesus says that He can give her? (v. 10)

9.      Why is her thirst much more important than His?

10.  What does her husband have to do with it?  (v. 16) 

See you Sunday – Father’s Day!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Healed by the Son

In our text Jesus deals with two ladies who are ill.  To care for them means an "interruption" to His schedule and yet He takes time for both, sharing His power with them.  Many times we are interrupted or have difficult situations to deal with - do we respond as Jesus with loving concern or do we show our irritation due to the interruption?  Caring for those who are sick is a powerful way of demonstrating God's love.  We may not always be able to bring healing to their body but we can bring health to their heart through our "bedside manner"!  Isn't it fascinating that Jesus on the day of judgment will highlight in a positive way visitation of the sick! (Matthew 25:36)

Our text shows how Jesus was involved in two miraculous healings.  One came to a lady who had been ill for years who was healed by touching his clothes.  The other was a twelve-year-old girl who died and was raised back to life by His command and touch.  In both cases it is all about Jesus and His compassion and power.  We, too, who have experienced his love and power in our lives know that it is all about Him.  May we also remember to appreciate and pray for caregivers and may we show “patience with patients”!

See you Sunday.

1.  What was the name of the dying girl's father?  Mark 5:22

2.  How did this father emphasize his concern for his daughter?  Mark 5:22-23

3.  How long had the woman been sick?  Mark 5:25

4.  How does Mark describe her previous medical experiences?  Mark 5:26

5.  Note the method of her healing. Mark 5:28-29  What are some other unique approaches to healings in the Bible?  Acts 5:15; 19:11-12

6.  Consider how Jesus might have realized power had gone out of Him.  Mark 5:30

7.  What great encouragement for faith is found in Mark 5:36?

8.  Why do you think Jesus said the girl was sleeping as if she was dead?  Mark 5:35, 38-40

9.  Besides the phrase in Mark 5:41 what are some other places where Mark records Jesus speaking in Aramaic?  Mark 7:34; 14:36; 15:34

10.  How does Jesus show His love and compassion in practical fashion for the young girl who has just been through a death and life experience?  Mark 5:43