Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"The Gospel According to Mary" - Doug Rehberg

In the Fall of 1968 the Beatles were nearing the end of their career together.  Paul McCartney describes it this way:

As a group we were starting to have problems.  I think I was sensing the Beatles were breaking up, so I was staying up late at night, drinking, doing drugs, clubbing the way a lot of people were at the time.  I was living and playing hard.
The other guys were all living out in the country with their partners, but I was still a bachelor in London with my own house in St. John’s Wood…So, I was exhausted!  Some nights I’d go to bed and my head would just flop on the pillow; and when I’d wake up I’d have difficulty pulling it off, thinking, “Good job I woke up just then or I might have suffocated.”
One night, somewhere between deep sleep and insomnia, I had the most comforting dream about my mother, who had died when I was only 14.  She had been a nurse, my mum, and very hardworking, because she wanted the best for us.  We weren’t a well off family.  We didn’t have a car.  We just about had a television – so both of my parents went out to work, and mum contributed a good half to the family income.
At night when she came home, she would cook, so we didn’t have a lot of time with each other.  But she was a very comforting presence in my life.  And when she died, one of the difficulties I had, as the years went by, was that I couldn’t recall her face so easily.  That’s how it is for everyone, I think.  As each day goes by, you can’t bring their face into your mind, you have to use photographs and reminders like that.
So in the dream 12 years later, my mother appeared, and there was her face, completely clear, particularly her eyes, and she said to me very gently, very reassuringly: “Let it be.”
I was lonely. I woke up with a great feeling.  It was really like she had visited me at this very difficult point in my life and gave me this message: “Be gentle, don’t fight things, just try and go with the flow and it will all work out.”  So, being a musician, I went right over to the piano and started writing a song, “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me…”  Mary was my mother’s name… “Speaking words of wisdom, let it be…. There will be an answer, let it be.”
It didn’t take long.  I wrote the main body of it in one go, and then the subsequent verses developed from there: “When all the brokenhearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer, let it be.”  I thought it was special, so I played it to the guys and ‘round a lot of people, and later it became the title of the album, because it had so much value to me, and because it just seemed definitive, these three little syllables: “Let it be.”
All of us know of another Mary who said the exact same thing in her time of trouble.  We read of it in Luke 1:38, “And Mary said (to the angel Gabriel), ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’”
Now when this Mary speaks these words, it’s not a resignation to fate or a whistling in the graveyard.  Rather, it’s a faith statement.  It’s a statement of deep conviction born of an intimate knowledge of herself and her God.  It’s a statement of profound truth based on objective reality.  When she says, “Let it be”, it’s not wishful thinking.  It’s a statement of faith that’s founded on the knowledge of a God who’s engaged in her struggles.  The truth of the statement “Let it be” is born out of the words she speaks in the verse that immediately precedes it, “For nothing will be impossible for God!”
This Sunday, the last Sunday of the year, we will again turn our attention to Mary’s encounter with Gabriel. Two weeks ago Tim focused our attention on Mary’s hymn of praise, Luke 1:46-56 – the Magnificat.  There’s so much to see in Gabriel’s announcement to Mary.  Indeed, the signature of Jesus is all over it.  For here in Luke 1:26-38 we find a goldmine of application to us in our walk with Jesus.  Like Mary, God is the initiator.  Like Mary, He is the One who greets us.  Like Mary, we are among the least, the last, and the lost; and yet He comes to us speaking words of life and hope and a future.  Like Mary, we receive from Him grace upon grace.
In this annunciation the generous justice of God is again seen coming to a poor, insignificant, peasant woman (like us) and declaring in bold strokes the grace of the signature of Jesus.
In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
1.      Why does Luke feature Elizabeth and Mary rather than Zachariah and Joseph like Matthew?

2.      Why is it the women who are the first to praise and be blessed in Luke’s gospel?

3.      In what ways does Luke’s account of Mary dispute the common idealized view of Mary?

4.      What is the significance of Mary being the fifth woman listed in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1?

5.      What is the significance of Gabriel’s greeting in Luke 1:28?  How is it different from his other appearances in Scripture?

6.      Note the differences in Gabriel’s reaction to Zechariah’s doubt and Mary’s doubt?

7.      What differences do you see in their reaction to his announcement?

8.      How is Mary’s statement in verse 37 a perfect summation of Jesus’ life and ministry?

9.      How is Gabriel’s description of what will happen to Mary in verse 35 a reflection of Genesis 1 & 2?

10.  What is the difference between Mary McCartney’s “Let it be” and Mary, Mother of Jesus’, “Let it be”?

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"The Angel" - Doug Rehberg

It’s hard to imagine a time in human history where the signature of Jesus was printed more indelibly than at the time of the first Christmas.  At every turn in the story the Lord’s justice and loving kindness is on full display. 

As we mentioned in our first week of “The Signature of Jesus – First Penned”, Matthew’s radical departure from the standard Hebrew genealogical presentation of Jesus of Nazareth is astounding.  It is unprecedented to include even one woman in a Jewish genealogy.  It was simply not done!  And yet, the Holy Spirit inspires Matthew to include four women in the progenitors of Jesus.  And as we underscored this point two weeks ago, we detailed the corruptions, the weaknesses, and the brokenness of each one of these women.  As we dug into their identities we were painfully aware that the words of the angel of the Lord are unassailably true – “…you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  There’s no more striking picture of the Lord being on the side of the poor, the broken, the orphaned, the widow, the stranger, and the guilty than in the first six verses of Matthew’s gospel.
This week (Christmas Sunday) is no exception.  In Luke 2:8-20 we again find the angel of the Lord coming not to kings and princes, not to the moral upright and the well-respected, but to the despised and distrusted shepherds.  Again God sets human propriety on its ear!  Not only does He come to these shepherds who are out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks at night, but He declares that “the good news of great joy” is for them!  He says it this way, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Now this account includes some of the most familiar words recorded in the Bible.  From “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” to the plethora of Hallmark cards, many of the words of the angel are at the forefront of American minds this Christmas season.  However, familiarity often breeds blindness.  I would venture to say that while these words are some of the most familiar words of Scripture, they are among the least understood.  And that’s a real problem, because if we miss the meaning of the words, we miss the signature of Jesus.  So this Christmas Sunday we will dig in and see the wonder of these first pennings.
In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:

1.      How does the coming of the angel to the shepherds speak of God’s generous justice?

2.      What was the common opinion of shepherds in the Old Testament?

3.      How had that opinion changed by the time of Jesus’ birth?

4.      Look at verse 15 – how is it that this statement is called “the core of the Gospel”?

5.      What is the “city of David”?  (I thought Jerusalem was city of David.)

6.      What is meant by the words “this day” and “Christ the Lord”?

7.      What is Luke’s opinion of the link between David in II Samuel 7:9-16 and Jesus in Luke 1:32-33?

8.      What is the correlation between Genesis 35:16-21 and this text?

9.      How is Benoni/Benjamin a foreshadowing of Jesus?

10.  In what way are the shepherds the first evangelists? 

See you Sunday for a Merrier Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"The Woman" - Tim Williams

“There is something about Mary” was the title of a 1998 movie.  Bible believers feel the same about Mary, the mother of Jesus.  On the one hand some give Mary a reverence well beyond Scriptural basis and others almost downplay her to avoid any hint of Mary worship.  The Bible doesn’t give us a lot of information but certainly more about her than any other New Testament lady. 

Some Christians refer to her as the Mother of God, while others oppose that term since the eternal  God has no parents.  I personally am touched by the Greek term “Theotokos”  which means  “Bearer of God”.  We are on solid ground biblically when we, with Elizabeth, term Mary “the mother of our Lord”. (Luke 1:43)
Some hold Mary to be sinless while all should hold her to be special.  While the Scripture makes it plain that she was a virgin she also identified with the need for God as Savior. (Luke 1:47)  Her virginity was prophesied (Isaiah 7:14) and was honoring to the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in causing her to conceive the Christ Child. (Luke 1:35)  Some hold to her continuing as a virgin her entire life while others believe she and Joseph consummated their marriage and even had other children. (Luke 2:7)  We are on solid ground biblically when we recognize and respect Mary as favored of God and blessed among women!  (Luke 1:30,42,48)

Here in our text known as the “Magnificat”, Mary testified to her own sense of humility, even unworthiness , to be the mother of the Son of God.  (Luke 1:35)  Her sense of lowliness may have come from her needing a Savior, her nationality (at that time the Jews were conquered people enslaved by the Romans), her hometown of Nazareth (John 1:46), her gender (commentator William Barclay noted that the opinion of women in Palestine was low or even her age (many a Jewish girl was betrothed between the ages of 12 and 14).  Whatever her perspective, we join with her that any favor or grace of God given to us is purely undeserved and truly amazing!

Mary also acknowledged that she was honored by God’s favor in her life.  Just as a book is valued when the actual author has signed it, so we are greatly blessed when the signature of Jesus is put upon us!  The Bible makes it clear that in Christ and in Him alone we broken and sinful people have been greatly exalted in the eyes of the Lord.  (Ephesians 1:3-8)

Yes, there is truly something about Mary that is for all of us.  Not only her personal  honor as the mother of our Lord Jesus, but that she and we are examples of God reaching down to the lowly and lifting them up!

See you Sunday!

1.        Read Genesis 3:15.  Why do you think some believe this could be alluding to Mary?

2.       What angel appeared to Mary?  Luke 1:26

3.       Who were some of Mary’s relatives? Luke 1:13,17; Matthew 11:14

4.       In Luke 1:51-53 what contrasts does Mary describe to show the Lord blessing the last, least and lost?

5.       How does Mary see the bigger picture of the coming of the Savior?  Luke 1:54,55

6.       Can you find 3 attributes of God that Mary praises in Luke 1:49,50?

7.       Some have noted Mary’s journey with her son as being from the cradle to the Cross – why? Luke 2:7; John 19:25

8.       Can we find a possible reference to Mary in Paul’s writings?  Galatians 4:4
        9.    See if you find both our brokenness and God’s blessing in Romans 5:8!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"The Women" - Doug Rehberg

Years ago, an old Scottish preacher was reading from the opening chapter of the New Testament.  It was the King James Version.  He began, “Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat Judah…”  Then suddenly it occurred to him how long this genealogy was, so he looked up and said, “and they kept begetting each other all the way down the page and half way down the next one.”

For many that’s the temptation when they come to a long list of biblical names, like the one we encounter in Matthew, chapter one.  The problem with doing what that Scottish preacher did, however, is that it promotes ignorance.  There are no wasted words in Scripture.  Everything’s included for a reason.  The fact that most of us don’t wish to take the time to examine a genealogy, or in some cases not to even read it,  is no excuse for believing that it’s unimportant or, at best, a necessary historical anchor.  Most genealogies are so much more than that, especially Matthew’s record of Jesus’ family tree.
As I just mentioned, one of the reasons for recording a genealogy in Scripture is to anchor the truth of the text in objective history.  In other words, the veracity and authentic historicity of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth is rooted in His heritage.  He didn’t just happen on the scene, He came from a long line of human beings and the genealogy proves it.

But, as is clearly seen in Jesus’ genealogy as recorded by Matthew, there are several other purposes at play, the most significant of which is to underscore a theological point.  Someone has said, “Matthew’s genealogy is not as much literal as it is making a theological claim.”  While I take issue with down-playing the literal nature of this genealogy, the theological claims are most important.
First, Jesus’ genealogy includes the names of women.  That was never done.  The Jews recorded genealogies through the father’s line, with no mention of a mother’s name.

Second, the women mentioned in the first six verses are all foreigners to Israel.  Not a single one of them was of the congregation of Israel.  They were a Canaanite, a Canaanite, a Moabitess, and a Hittite respectively. 
Third, they are each associated with sin.  In fact, the principle reasons they are profiled in the Old Testament is due to their sin and ill-repute.  Even Ruth is tainted in Hebrew eyes.

Fourth, each of these women is the recipient of profound divine grace.  It’s hard to argue which one of these women received a greater portion of god’s grace, but my money’s on Uriah’s wife!
Matthew’s point is clear – Jesus is both man and God.  He’s greater than Moses.  He’s greater than any prophet.  He is God in the flesh who has come to actualize the words of the angel to Joseph in Mt. 1:21:   “He will save his people from their sins.”  And His genealogy alone proves that!

But more than all of that (and we’ll delve into all of this on Sunday), what does this genealogy tell us about the character of God?  It tells us that He is a habitual justice-doer and lover of kindness.  Think of it.  In the first six verses of the New Testament we see the big, bold, flowing strokes of the signature of Jesus!
He moved into our neighborhood!  What kind of neighborhood is it?  It’s a neighborhood that’s filled with crooks, prostitutes, widows, and victims of sexual abuse and co-conspirators to murder.  He moves into a neighborhood populated by people like us – the least, the last, and the lost.  And what does He do?  He pinpoints our idols and pours out His grace.

Have you ever thought about the signature of Jesus in the Christmas story?  You will over the next three weeks as we look at The Women, The Woman, The Angels, and The Men.
In preparation for Sunday’s messages, you may wish to read Matthew 1:1-6 and Psalm 146:5-10 and consider the following questions:

1.      How does the Lord introduce Himself in Deuteronomy 10:17-18; Psalm 68:4-5; Psalm 146:7-9; Zechariah 7:9-10?

2.      Do you remember the principle difference between the God of Israel and the gods of all the surrounding cultures?  (We mentioned it repeatedly during our series on the Signature of Jesus.)

3.      What are the purposes of a biblical genealogy?

4.      What’s the significance of the first six verses of Jesus’ genealogy as recorded by Matthew?

5.      What was the role of women in society in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus?

6.      What was the mother of King David?

7.      What is the scandal of Jesus’ genealogy?

8.      What does Jesus’ genealogy prove about the character of God?

9.      How is Micah 6:8 fulfilled by God in Matthew 1:1-6?

10.  What is the principle motivation for doing justice and loving kindness as seen in the women of Jesus’ family tree?
See you Sunday.