Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Seeing the Big Picture" - Doug Rehberg

The HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers” follows a company of U.S. paratroopers through the preparation and experience of invading Europe on D-Day.  Based on real-life interviews of survivors, the series captures both the intensity of war and the heroism of the troops.

In one scene, immediately after the paratroopers hit the ground in France, Lieutenant Winters and Private Hall wander through the countryside before meeting up with the rest of the Americans.  The private radiates fear and insecurity because he lacks the exact knowledge of where he is.  The lieutenant, however, speaks with a calm confidence coming from his careful study of the maps and from the maturity of his training.  He sees the big picture, and following his leadership, they soon find their other comrades and make it to the rendezvous point with the rest of the Americans.
Here’s the conversation Winters and Hall have as they walk through a dark, sparse forest with the echo of gunfire in the distance:

The private asks, “Do you have any idea where we are, sir?”  “Some,” says Lieutenant Winters.  “I need your help to locate some landmarks to get our bearings.  Keep your eyes peeled for buildings, farmhouses, bridges, and roads.”  “I wonder if the rest of them are as lost as we are?”  “We’re not lost, Private.  We’re in Normandy!”

Every one of us has been like that private.  And nothing reduces us to that status any more than brokenness.  It may be physical brokenness.  It may be relational and emotional.  It may be any number of other deprivations.  But what is common in the midst of our affliction is an inability to see the big picture.

This week we are going to re-examine one of the choice passages in all of Scripture in which the myopia of Joseph’s brothers runs headlong into his big picture perspective.  Indeed, Derek Kidner, in his commentary on the last chapter of Genesis, notes that what we find in Joseph’s big picture perspective is the clearest, most unvarnished presentation of biblical faith in all of the Scriptures.  For here in the wake of his father’s death, the brothers who had betrayed Joseph, the brothers who repeatedly seek after their own selfish desire are scared to death of what Joseph would now do to them.  So they make up a lie and transmit it to Joseph through a messenger.  They say, “Your father…”  Now get that!  He’s their father too, yet they say, “Your father gave strict orders before he died that you were to forgive us…”

And yet in the face of his brother’s dereliction and fear, Joseph exhibits in the essence of the true faith.  Kidmer calls it the pinnacle of faith.  Joseph makes three statements that reflect the power of the Holy Spirit on his life.  Indeed, Kidner is right.  There is no greater synthesis of godly trust than the three declaratives Joseph makes in the face of his troubled brothers.

These three declarations are not the product of radical spontaneity.  They are, rather, the product of a life lived on the battlefield of torment, in justice, abuse, and loss.  Like that lieutenant, Joseph knows exactly where he is.  He knows exactly where his brothers are.  And his declarations reveal it.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Seeing the Big Picture”, you may wish to consider the following:

1.      Briefly review Joseph’s life from chapter 37 when he’s sold into slavery by his brothers.

2.      How long is Joseph away from his brothers?

3.      How does God use the sin of his brothers’ betrayal for His purposes?

4.      How does God use the death of Jacob for his purposes?

5.      How long does Jacob live in Egypt before he dies?

6.      Why do the brothers doubt Joseph’s forgiveness in the face of their father’s death?

7.      What three things does Joseph say in the face of his brothers’ lie and fear?

8.      What is he saying in verse 19?

9.      What is he saying in verse 20?

10.  What is he saying in verse 21?

11.  How do these three declarations demonstrate the pinnacle of biblical faith?

12.  How able are you to say them and mean them?

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"A Cup of Cold Water" - Tim Williams

Have you ever been really thirsty for a drink of water?  Seems like there is nothing else that quenches our thirst like water.  A drink of water is not only refreshing but actually a necessity! Experts say you can only live a few days without water.  Interestingly, a drink of water is often offered as a courtesy as well.  Many restaurants provide a glass of water with your meal (at no cost) and often when you visit someone's home or business they offer you a choice of beverages including water.  So many public places have water fountains and so many businesses have a water cooler.  Many of us keep a bottle of water nearby. . . (Are you thirsty yet?)  :)

In the Bible there are some references to a drink of water.  The unique story in 1 Chronicles 11 of David wanting a drink of water from the Bethlehem well is stirring.  Three brave men fought their way through enemy territory to get it for him; and then he offered it as an offering to the Lord.  (I can relate to his specific thirst as there is a mountain river in Colorado that I used to drink from 40+ years ago, and I can still taste it!)  Jesus asked the woman at the well for a drink of water (John 4).  In Hell the rich man longs for even a drop of water but there is none. (Luke 16).  In this week's text Jesus teaches us that sharing a drink of water can be a blessing to both the giver and the recipient. 

Giving someone a drink of water seems like a very small deed, and yet Jesus says it can bring eternal reward!  Often folk help in ministry in seemingly "small" ways but without them services and programs would be difficult or ineffective.  I can't begin to list all the "cups of water" that get served in the work of God, but HE knows each one and honors them.

Listen to what Jesus said about the "drink of water" that He offers.  "…but whoever drinks the water that I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:14

So next time you offer or are offered a drink of water, remember that behind that small kindness are lessons of courtesy, necessity, ministry, and the Gospel!  

So grab your favorite cup and come to church.  See you Sunday!

1.  Who are the little ones who are given the cup of cold water in Matthew 10:42?

2.   What guarantee does Jesus make in Matthew 10:42?

3.  In Matthew 10:41 Jesus mentions other rewards...any ideas what they might be?

4.  Besides the Samaritan well, where else is Jesus thirsty?  John 19:28

5.  Study the Old Testament Gospel call of Isaiah 55:1.

6.  We have been learning a lot about how Jesus is so powerfully displayed throughout the Old Testament.  How does the Apostle Paul do that with ancient Israel and their wilderness wanderings?
1 Corinthians 10:1-3; Exodus 17:1-6

7.  In our text Jesus says that giving a drink of water can be an important ministry.  Where else does He teach this same truth?  Matthew 25:34-40  

8.  Can you think of the equivalent of some simple "cups of cold water" that people share in serving our Lord?

9.  What is the final Gospel call of the Scriptures?  Revelation 22:17

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Life with a Limp" - Doug Rehberg

Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “Every person I have ever met who has accomplished anything has done it to compensate for some weakness in their life.  All my body building was done to compensate for a sense of inadequacy and weakness in my life at an early age.”

James Toney, the former World Champion middle-weight boxer once said, “I fight with anger.  My dad, he did my mother wrong.  He made my mom work two jobs and he left his responsibilities behind and I can never forgive him for that.  I hope my father reads this article because if he ever decided to come out of the woodwork, I’ll be ready for him.  Everything I do is about that.  I look at my opponent and I see in his face my dad and I have to take him out.  I’ll do anything to get my dad out of him.”

Burt Reynolds once said in a Parade magazine interview, “My dad was Chief of Police and when he came into a room all the oxygen went out of it.  There’s a saying in the south that no man is a man until his father tells him he is.  It means that someday when you’re thirty or forty, this man who you respect and want to love you says to you, ‘You’re a man now and I love you.’  But you know, my dad never said that to me.  We never hugged, never kissed, never said, ‘I love you.’  (Reynolds paused and said) ‘So what happened was that later I was desperately looking for someone who would say, ‘You’re grown up, Burt, and I approve of you and I love you and you don’t have to do those things anymore.’  I was lost inside.  I couldn’t connect with life.  I was incomplete.  I didn’t know what I needed to know.”

Last week we saw the Gospel in the story of David and Goliath, because we saw Jesus in it.  We saw that it’s not so much what David does to Goliath, as what Jesus has done to the greatest giant  in our life – sin, death, and judgment.  Because of Jesus’ victory over our Goliath, we can thoroughly rely on Him to equip us to gain victory over the lesser giants we may face.

But the truth is many of us still struggle.  We are His.  He has purchased us with His blood.  He has raised us to new life.  His work is complete.  He has gained absolute victory, and yet, we live lives of attempted compensation.  We live like Schwarzenegger, Toney, and Reynolds, seeking to bury our sense of inadequacy and cover our weakness, when in reality Jesus wants them to remain exposed.  And we see that in the story of Jacob at the Jabbok.

All his life Jacob has lived under a cloud of conniving.  In fact, his name means conniver.  The blessing he receives from his father is the product of blackmail.  He blackmails his brother.  He blackmails his father.  And the conniving doesn’t end there.  For twenty years he’s locked in a family battle with an uncle who’s just as surreptitious as he is.  And yet, twenty years earlier, at Bethel (Genesis 28), God confirms his love for him.  God confirms his election.  God confirms his future.

It isn’t until he comes to the River Jabbok (Genesis 32:22-22) that Jacob’s life is changed.  It isn’t until that point in his life that his walk is altered.

This week we will look at Jacob in light of the Jabbok.  There we will see what God does for him and for us.  The picture of Jacob after Jabbok is the picture of every Christian who wrestles with God and is overwhelmed by His grace.  There are three marks of Jacob’s post-Jabbok walk that mirror the walk of everyone who’s wrestled with God and discovered the depth of His grace.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
1.      The meaning of the name Jabbok.

2.      Does Jacob do anything to prompt this encounter with God?

3.      What is Jacob’s state of mind when he comes to the Jabbok?

4.      Is there any significance to the time of day in which the wrestling occurs?  (Compare the Bethel encounter.)

5.      Who is wrestling with Jacob?

6.      Why does Jacob bow himself down seven times? (Genesis 33:5)

7.      What is the significance of Jacob’s answer in verse 5?

8.      Why does Jacob refuse his brother’s offer in verse 9?

9.      What noticeable changes are in evidence after the Jabbok?

10.  What could Jacob teach Arnold, James, and Burt about human weaknesses? 

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"Jesse's Greater Son" - Doug Rehberg

A number of years ago Kim and Tullian Tchividjian were at dinner with Kathy and Tim Keller when Kathy said, “Most preaching these days is M.O.T.S. preaching.”  Kim asked, “What is M.O.T.S. preaching?”  Tim answered, “It’s Moral of The Story Preaching.”  To read and preach the Bible as if it were fundamentally about us, and what we should do, is to miss the point of the Bible entirely. 

Two weeks ago we were in Luke 24 where Jesus has been risen from the dead for one whole day.  He encounters two of His disciples on the roadway, but they don’t recognize Him.  Later, at supper, He takes bread and blesses it.  He vanishes from their sight and instantly they say to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” 

Later the same night He walks into a locked room where scores of His disciples are gathered in fear.  And He says to them, “Why are you troubled? ...Touch me and see.  For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”  Then He turns their attention to the Scriptures and says, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 

So far that’s what every preacher, teacher, and Christian knows.  Jesus is reviewing with them how He’s the fulfillment of every prophetic word in the Old Testament.  But He doesn’t stop there.  Luke continues, “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…”  Now what do you suppose that means?  Exactly the same thing He means in John 5:39 when He says to the religious leaders of His day, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me.”  You see, the problem with the religious leaders of His day is the same problem with us in our day – we read the Scriptures to find the moral of the story, rather than Jesus.  What a loss that is! 

Rather than reading the Scriptures to find the Gospel, we read them to find morals and helps.  Moralism is our default position.  And because of it, when we read the Scriptures we miss Jesus altogether. 

Think of it.  In the Old Testament we are continually told that our good works are not enough, that God has made a provision for us.  This provision is profiled through the Old Testament.  Nearly every story in the Old Testament speaks of this provision over human strivings.  We see it in the clothes God makes for Adam and Eve after their fall.  We see it in the promises God makes to Abraham and all the other patriarchs.  We see it in the tabernacle construction and the whole sacrificial system.  We see it in the innumerable references to a coming Messiah, the suffering servant, etc.  Therefore, to say that the Bible is about Jesus Christ is to say that the main theme of the Bible is the Gospel – Salvation is of the Lord.  So what Jesus is saying to His disciples immediately after the resurrection is this – “It’s all about Me.”  And the goal of godly preaching and effective discipleship is to find Jesus in the text. 

That’s what we intend to do this Sunday – Communion Sunday – as we examine one of the most familiar stories in the Old Testament – the story of David and Goliath.  It’s a story that has been the subject of moralistic Sunday school lessons for centuries.  It’s the subject of motivational sermons throughout the ages.  Today, with a few keystrokes you can pull up scores of sermons with descriptive titles such as “Facing Your Giants” and the like. 

As we’ve noted above, we live in a time of M.O.T.S. preaching.  We hope to break out of the mold this week!  In preparation for this week’s message, “Jesse’s Greater Son”, you may wish to consider the following: 

1.      Read I Samuel 17:1-54 and see if you can find Jesus in it.

2.      What is Malcolm Gladwell’s take on the story?

3.      How can he see Goliath as the underdog?

4.      What do you make of Goliath’s statement in verse 43?

5.      When Goliath shouts, “Give me a man” in verse 10, who is he calling out?

6.      What similarities exist between Saul and Goliath?

7.      Why is David at the battle site?

8.      Why does the battle come down to a representative from each side?

9.      Is there any significance to David being Israel’s representative?

10.  What is the effect of David’s victory?

11.  When Jesus says, “The Scriptures speak of me” does He include this story? 

See You Sunday as we gather at His table!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"The Christian Citizen" - Tim Williams

Americans are celebrating the 238th birthday of the USA this July 4th.  During its history America has generally recognized religious freedom so that one's faith did not face interference from the government.  Throughout hundreds of years of church history various Christian leaders have debated the connection between the church and the state.  In this week's text the Apostle Paul gives inspired instruction on the type of citizen a Christian should be in regard to the earthly government under which they live. 

Why would Paul give such instruction?  He consistently would write his letters to the churches with a twofold emphasis.  First, what we are to believe and then how we live those beliefs out. The Book of Romans is no different, with the first 11 chapters dealing with doctrine and the last 5 dealing with duty.  Chapter 13 is instructive because some believers would perhaps struggle with the idea of supporting human government if our "citizenship" is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20), while others would struggle with being subject to governments or government officials who they considered cruel, immoral or opposed to Christian values. 

Summarizing Paul's teaching could be as follows...Christians are to 1) recognize that human government is instituted by God; 2) strive to be law abiding citizens; 3) pay our taxes; and 4) show respect to those in governmental office. 

Our text also causes Christians to ask "Must we obey human government in everything?”  Oh, the wonderful wisdom of our Lord Jesus.  "So give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Matthew 22:21 

Happy 4th...see you Sunday! 

1. Where in the Bible do we find God instituting the concept of human government?  Some believe it starts in Genesis 9:6...why might they think that? 

2.  How do you think a Christian living under the governments of Iran or North Korea would or should understand Romans 13:1-7? 

3.  Read the Apostle Peter's inspired instruction about Christians and human government.  Would "God fearing, law abiding" citizens be an apt description for Christians based on his teaching? 

4.  Could something be legal but not right? 

5.  What if God's laws and human laws are not in agreement?  Read the Bible story of Daniel in the lion's den - Daniel 6.  Also see Acts 5:27-32 

6.  Did Paul ever exercise his Roman citizenship while serving the Lord?  Acts 16:35-39; 21:39; 22:22-29 

7.  Though he was a Roman citizen, Paul was also very committed to his Jewish nationality and heritage.  How strongly did he feel toward other Israelites?  Romans 10:1 

8.  Consider 1Timothy 2:1-3.  Have you prayed specifically for any government officials lately? 

9.  Read Psalm 2:10-12.  Do you think this might be healthy advice for those in governmental authority?