Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"It's Too Big...or Is It?" - Doug Keim

What are you dealing with? What is God calling you to do for Him? What struggles are occurring in your life at this time? We all have something, regardless of age, race, single, married, man or woman. How do we deal with all this stuff? How does God want us to deal with it?

On Sunday, we will look at how one of the most prominent figures in the Old Testament handled a huge calling from God in Exodus chapter 3 and chapter 4 verses 1-16. Moses initially struggled, feared, and doubted; yet God still patiently showed him how and what to do, and through the book of Exodus God used Moses mightily. But there are some very specific patterns that God uses in chapter 3 and 4 that He uses throughout Scripture and in our lives today. The world seeks a single way to produce one set of results for all people, while God's plan is far more personal, individual, and creative. Moses tried to take control and help his brethren by killing an Egyptian slave master only to run for his life and ending up in the desert for 40 years. Yet these years were not wasted - the Lord was preparing Moses for a huge task that He had for him. The Lord was preparing Moses for service that Moses could never have imagined on his own. When Moses was ready...the Lord got his attention at the burning bush. Yet Moses had excuse after excuse and reason after reason to not obey the Lord...even as God laid out the plan for him. Moses had tried earlier in his life to do things on his own, now he is face-to-face with God and doubt, fear, and anxiety are getting the best of him. Later as he heads to Egypt Moses’ faith begins to grow, yet he still has no idea that this seemingly quick trip would take him back to the desert for 40 more years. Still Moses throughout this time learned to rely on God's strength and not his own.

In our New Testament verses (Matthew 6:25-34) Jesus talks about many of the same principles that God used with Moses at the burning bush: trust, faith, God's strength and provision - not fear, anxiety, or trusting in our own strength. All of us go through some very difficult times and even devastating experiences and sooner or later come face to face with God. Sooner or later you will realize God is calling you or trying to get your attention just like He did with Moses.

Is this a pattern that God seems to be using in your life at this time? If so...stop at the burning bush, lay down your ego and pride, lay down your fears and anxieties, lay down your plans, lay down your will in your way and listen to what the Lord  has in store for may be extraordinary and it could be that God wants to lead you to a Promised Land that He has just for you!!!

I hope that you will join me on Sunday Morning as we dig into some very specific details on how to achieve this in your own life!!!

"The Sight" - Doug Rehberg

Have you heard the one about the priest who’s giving a homily on Matthew 5:44 where Jesus tells His listeners to love their enemies?

The priest says, “I’d bet that many of us feel as if we have enemies in our lives. Raise your hands if you have many enemies.” Instantly, quite a few people in the congregation raise their hands. He continues, “Raise your hands if you have only a few enemies.” About half of the people raise their hands. Then the priest says, “Well, raise your hand if you have only one or two enemies.” Even fewer people raise their hands. “See,” says the priest, “most of us feel like we have enemies.

Finally the priest says, “If there is anyone here who feels like they have no enemies at all, raise your hand.” And as the priest scans the sanctuary he spies one old man in the back of the church. He asks him to stand and explain himself. So the man stands up and shouts, “Yes Father, I have no enemies at all!” Delighted, the priest immediately invites him to come to the front of the church saying, “What a blessing!” When the man gets to the front he asks him, “Sir, how old are you?” The man says, “I’m 98 years old. The priest says, “You have no enemies?” The man says, “No enemies whatsoever.” The priest says, “That’s wonderful! Then tell us how it is that you have no enemies?” And the man says, “All those  b----‘s have died!”

It’s about loving your enemies that takes center stage in our final sermon in this 15-message series, Divine Exposure. Though it’s tempting to go back and review all of the occasions in history that we’ve studied where God comes and reveals Himself, I won’t. The biblical reason is two-fold: (1) You can do that yourself; and (2) all of those exposures including the ones the Lord gives Mary and Elizabeth, are only a prelude to His exposure to Simeon.

Like many other preachers, I have preached on Luke 2:22-35 on several occasions over the years, but I’ve never preached it on Christmas Sunday. What’s more, I have never preached it the way I will this Sunday, for I’ve never seen what I now see in the text.

Luke is the only gospel writer to mention Simeon, and yet he gives scant detail. Who is he? Is he a priest? Is he a prophet? Is he old? How long has he been hanging around the temple? No one knows for sure. What we do know is he is the first named person in Luke’s gospel who holds Jesus, other than His mother. But it’s not his hands that are our focus on Sunday. It’s his eyes. In a message entitled “The Sight” we will look into that.

In preparation for Christmas Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Why has Luke take us from the hill country house of Zechariah to Jerusalem?
  2. Why do Jesus’ parents bring him to the temple for purification?
  3. What is the significance of the sacrifice in verse 24?
  4. Why does Luke name Simeon?
  5. Can you think of any other Simeons in the Bible that may relate to this Simeon theologically?
  6. What does Luke mean when he says that Simeon was righteous and devout?
  7. What is “the consolation of Israel”?
  8. What does Luke mean when he says that the Holy Spirit was upon him?
  9. Why does Simeon say, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace”?
  10. How does Jesus practice what He would later preach?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"The Song" - Doug Rehberg

There is a line in Psalm 23 that speaks of fear, danger, and loneliness. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” In commenting on this verse, Max Lucado tells of a young friend of his who worked for a pharmacy while attending the University of Texas in Austin. His job was to deliver supplies to nursing homes and local residents who could not get out to retrieve these items.

One delivery occurred every four days. He would pick up a large jug of water and place it on his shoulder. From there he’d walk about fifty feet or so, behind the pharmacy, to a building on the other side of the alley. The customer was an older woman, perhaps in her seventies, who lived alone in the dark, sparce, and tarnished apartment. A single light bulb hung from the ceiling. The wallpaper was stained and peeling. And every four days Lucado’s friend would knock on the door, enter the apartment, and place the large jug of water on her kitchen counter and remove the empty one. He’d receive the payment from the woman, thank her politely, and then leave.

Over the weeks he began to wonder about the purchase. Why would this woman buy water in large jugs every four days when city water was available at a fraction of the cost? The answer? She was lonely. Indeed, she was so lonely that she opted to spend considerably more money just to have a regular visitor.

As we implied last week, our culture today is wedded to rabid individualism. It affects every area of life, including our faith. One of the first lessons in the great Bible study curriculum – The Bethel Bible Series – is to “Think Hebrew”. Bethel makes it clear that there  is a striking contrast between the way we (Greek thinking people) think and the way the Hebrew mind processes information. To the Hebrew the corporate is far more important than the individual. And so it is throughout the Scriptures.

Now think of Mary and the aftermath of her divine exposure. Gabriel, the angel most associated with divine judgment, appears to her and remarkably dispenses divine grace. In the first four words he uses the word “grace” twice. He announces God’s intentions. “The power of the Most High will overshadow you. The child born to you will be called holy – the Son of God.” Imagine her sense of fear, danger, and loneliness at the announcement. And yet, instead of basking in her solitude, she surrenders to the urgings of the angel and makes haste to see her equally pregnant cousin, Elizabeth. And it’s here in the presence of Elizabeth that the full measure of God’s exposure to Mary is realized. Simply put, without her visit to Elizabeth, there’d be no song. There’d be no proclamation of the Gospel by Mary. There’d be no justification for her statement in verse 38, “Behold, I am a bond slave of the Lord…”

This week in a message entitled, “The Song”, we will be examining the aftermath of Gabriel’s visitation to Mary in Luke 1:39-56. In preparing for Sunday’s study, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What is the distance that Mary travels from Nazareth to the house of Zechariah?
  2. What would that journey have been like for her?
  3. Why does she go?
  4. What does the location of Zechariah’s house tell us about Gabriel’s visitation to him earlier in chapter 1?
  5. What does Luke mean when he says that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit when she heard Mary’s greeting?
  6. How does God expose Himself to Mary through Elizabeth?
  7. Why is Mary’s song – the Magnificat – called the greatest Christmas carol of all time?
  8. What is the great shift that occurs in Mary’s song?
  9. How does the message of this song perfectly reflect Micah 6:6-8 and the essence of Jesus’ signature?
  10. What is the difference between Mary’s song and most of the Christmas carols we sing?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"The Seed" - Doug Rehberg

Finally we come to Jesus! For twelve weeks we have studied men and women who have had their course altered by their exposure to God. It’s been an array of biblical characters, each one in some condition of significant spiritual need.

For Job it was extreme frustration and self-righteousness. For Elijah it was self-pity and fear. For Joshua it was seasoned resolve and hubris. For Jacob it was fear and desperation. For Abraham it was disbelief. For Sarah it was alienation and self-loathing. For Hagar it was victimization through manipulation and abuse. For Paul it was an agonizing thorn in the flesh.

This Sunday we begin a two-week view of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In what condition does Gabriel find her? When he arrives it’s anyone’s guess. After he begins to speak it’s awe and trepidation. Think of the circumstances.

When God chooses to expose the fullness of Himself and His eternal plan, He doesn’t begin with the words, “Once upon a time…” but rather, “In the days of Herod the king…” He then further identifies His intentions by narrowing it down to the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Think of this, God bases His exposure to Mary on His exposure to Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth. What He says to Zechariah, her husband, is the setup for what He will say to Mary, the betrothed virgin.

This is a timeless story of Christ’s advent. Let’s review the facts. God passes over Jerusalem and imperial Rome to come to a 13 to 15-year-old virgin living in a village twenty miles south of Jerusalem. We know from history that Nazareth was a hotbed of corruption with Roman soldiers passing by each day and spending the night. Greek merchants were coming and going, selling their wares. Residents of Nazareth were largely rude, violent, and of poor reputation. In short, Nazareth was a rough place (note Nathaniel’s remark, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”) And yet, it’s to Mary of Nazareth that Gabriel comes and exposes the heart and mind of the Most High God.

What we find in our study of Luke 1:26-38 is an exposure that foreshadows God’s exposure to every believer in Jesus Christ. What He does for Mary is a perfect portrait of what happens to all in whom Christ is born. In the face of His grace all foreboding, all attachments, all self-assuredness and all self-preservation fades from sight and surrender to Him ensues.

There is much in this Divine Exposure. In preparation for Sunday’s message “The Seed”, you may wish to consider the following:

  1. Why do you suppose Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah is so essential to Luke’s presentation of God’s announcement to Mary?
  2. Who is Gabriel and where does he show up in the Old Testament? What is his message? (You may wish to check extra-biblical literature like Enoch, etc.)
  3. How does the Old Testament prepare us for the Chosen Seed being born in Nazareth?
  4. What are the clues in verses 5 to 25 that God will come in grace, rather than judgment?
  5. What do you make of Gabriel’s greeting in verse 28?
  6. How does this encounter follow the Annunciation Pattern of the Old Testament?
  7. How is Mary’s reaction to Gabriel different from Zechariah’s?
  8. What are the differences between Gabriel’s description of John the Baptist and his description of Jesus?
  9. What two signs does Gabriel offer Mary in answer to her question, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Are the two signs significant?
  10. What does this tell us about the value God places on fellowship?
  11. What is Mary saying in verse 38 and how is that the normal reaction to divine grace?

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"The Son" - Ken Wagoner

In 1993 Bill Bennett compiled a collection of stories about self discipline, compassion, responsibility, courage, and other character building essentials and called it The Book of Virtues.  These stories come from many different centuries, cultures, and faith backgrounds, and as a general rule are healthy and good to read.  However, some of the stories appear to be contrary to the Gospel, and may influence how we read some of the scriptures today.  Here is a short example on the topic of work from Aesop titled “Hercules and the Wagoner.”  Perhaps I am attracted to the story because of the title!

A wagoner was driving his team along a muddy lane with a full load behind them, when the wheels of his wagon sank so deep in the mud that no efforts of his horses could move them.  As he stood there, looking helplessly on, and calling loudly at intervals upon Hercules for assistance, the god himself appeared, and said to him, “Put your shoulder to the wheel, man, and goad on your horses, and then you may call on Hercules to assist you.  If you don’t lift a finger to help yourself, you can’t expect Hercules or anyone else to come to your aid.”  Heaven helps those who help themselves.
It is an intriguing short story, and encourages some positive characteristics which are good to have.  But, does it possibly create a conflict with the foundational message of the Bible?  If we approach the Bible the same way we approach The Book of Virtues is it possible we will not understand much of the Bible and potentially even close our minds to the truths of the scriptures?  Our main scripture this coming Sunday is from Genesis 16 and the story of Sarah and Hagar.  Abraham and The Angel of the Lord are also main characters in this chapter, and the passage warrants enough attention Paul made reference to it in Galatians 4.  We live in a significantly different culture than the culture of Genesis 16 which adds to the struggle in understanding, but many people today when reading Genesis 16 will say, “If this is what the God of the Bible is like and wants I don’t want any part of that.”   Thanksgiving week is a busy week, but if you have time read Genesis 16, and ask yourself these questions to try to understand what God is teaching us.
1.      Who are the main characters in this story? In what way have we seen them before this scripture, or are any of them new to the scriptures at this point?

2.      What is going on in this chapter? What are the events which have preceded this chapter and how does Genesis 16 fit in with what we have read to date?

3.      In what way does God reveal Himself in this chapter, and what is the message God is communicating at this time?

4.      How does Paul interpret this story in Galatians 4, and what was the issue in Paul’s time which moved him to use Genesis 16 for his explanation?

5.      Why do you think this story even “makes it” in the Bible?



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"The Thorn" - Doug Rehberg

American painter, John Sargent, once painted a panel of roses that was highly praised by his critics. It was a small picture, but they said it approached perfection. Although offered a high price for it on many occasions, Sargent refused to sell it. He considered it his best work and was proud of it. Whenever he was deeply discouraged and doubtful of his abilities, he’d look at it and remind himself, “I painted that.” Then his confidence and ability would return and his spirits would lift.

Once when Dr. Park Tucker, Chaplain of the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1920s, was walking around the streets of his city feeling dismal and discouraged, his eyes seized on a sign in the window of a funeral home. At first he wondered if he had read it right. Upon closer inspection he confirmed that he had. The sign read, “Why walk around half-dead? We can bury you for $69.50 and we give green stamps, too!”

Now these are two common strategies for dealing with discouragement – look to your past successes or consider how bad things can really be. But Paul offers us a much more superior way of processing discouragement than either of these. In fact, it’s a discovery he makes as a result of a clear divine exposure. He tells of it in II Corinthians 12:1-10.

In our series “Divine Exposure” we have already seen how God stoops to the weakness of men like Elijah and women like Sarah. In both of those cases He condescends to their place of alienation and discouragement and lifts their spirits by giving them a new perspective. But in Paul’s case His approach is quite a bit different. Indeed, it is because of the gracious vision God gives Paul that the apostle grows afflicted and discouraged.

We will delve into this entire matter this Sunday in a message entitled, “The Thorn”. As we noted briefly in last week’s sermon, Paul receives a vision of the heavenly throne room of God just like Isaiah. But there are some considerable differences that we will highlight.

For years I read this passage and lifted from it what I thought was the main point, a principle of prayer. The principle is persistence. Paul says that he pleaded with God three times to remove the thorn. He didn’t pray just once or twice. He prayed three times. Therefore, I reasoned, that anytime a struggle emerges in your life, pray diligently for the Lord to take it away.

While such a principle can be derived from this text, there’s so much more here. Paul’s primary purpose is not to impart a prayer technique to his readers, but to underscore a much greater principle that has far reaching implications for all of us.

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

1.      Why does he tell the Corinthians all of this? What prompts the discourse?
2.      Why does he speak of himself in the third person in verse 2 and following?
3.      What is the third heaven?
4.      What detail does he provide to us about the third heaven? Where is that?
5.      What does his description and his third person recounting tell us about those who say they’ve heard from the Lord, etc.?
6.      What conceit could Paul possibly have as a result of his divine exposure?
7.      What was the thorn?
8.      What message of Satan would flow from the presence of the thorn?
9.      How does the presence of the thorn equate with divine grace?
10.  How is God’s power made perfect in weakness?

See you Sunday!

See you Sunday!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

"The Altar" - Doug Rehberg

Forty years ago I lived in Miami, Florida, and spent a lot of time on Key Biscayne. One of the men I came to know on that island was a man who didn’t have to work for a living. His substantial wealth afforded him the luxury of freedom from financial worry.

When I first came to know him, I asked all the normal questions men ask like, “What do you do?” His answer was telling, “Whatever I want to do.” I followed that one with, “Well, where do you work?” He replied, “I don’t.” Within several minutes he divulged the reason for his ease. He said, “It all happened on January 28, 1977. That was the day my ship came in.” What I would later learn is that it was on that day that he made a commodities trade that set him up for life.

Now every one of us have “marker” dates in our lives, those titanic days on which something remarkable happened. Think of the assassination of JFK, September 11, 2001, the day your first child was born, or the date someone close to you died. We all have them and so did so many of the Old Testament characters we’ve examined in this series, “Divine Exposure”. Think of the day God came and answered Job’s searing questions. Think of the moment God found Elijah under that broom tree in the wilderness. Think of the night Jacob wrestled at the Jabbok, or the day Abraham raised the knife to slay his son, Isaac. All of these exposures stand as markers not only for the Old Testament figure involved, but for us as well. However, no such exposure is greater, or more profound than Isaiah’s vision of God in Isaiah 6. Someone has called it the Matterhorn of all Old Testament peaks. Here Isaiah is carried away from the temple in  Jerusalem in a vision to the throne room of heaven.

This text is so seminal, so pivotal, that a sermon could be preached on every word. But what we will seek to do this Sunday is look at the dramatic parallels between what Isaiah experiences that day and the experience of every true Christian. For the truth is, what God does for Isaiah in that vision nearly 2800 years ago is what He has done for each of us.

On Sunday we will look at five common experiences between Isaiah and us. We will look at the Reality of the experience in verse 1, the Diversity of the experience in verse 1, the Beauty of the experience in verse 2, the Humility of the experience in verse 5, and the Festivity of the experience in verse 8.

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

1.      What is the significance of the death of King Uzziah?
2.      What does his death mean for Isaiah and Judah?
3.      Unpack the details of the vision in verse 1 – what do they mean?
4.      Who is Isaiah and how does God tailor this experience to meet his deepest need?
5.      J. Gresham Machen once noted, “A low view of the law always produces legalism; a high view of the law makes a person seek after grace.” How is that relevant here?
6.      What is it that prompts Isaiah’s woe in verse 5?
7.      What does he mean by “lost”?
8.      Someone has said, “Isaiah doesn’t know himself until he sees God.” Do you think that’s true for you too?
9.      How many times are Seraphim mentioned in the Bible and why twice here?
10.  What is the message of the Seraph with the coal in verse 7?
11.  How does Isaiah go from his utterance in verse 5 to the one he makes in verse 8?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

"The Prayer" - Doug Rehberg

This week I read about a five-year-old boy who came to his father one day with a request. “Dad,” he said, “I know that Mom is supposed to have a baby in a few months and I really want a brother. Can you promise me a brother?” His dad replied, “Johnny, I’ll tell you what. If you pray every day for two months for a baby brother, I guarantee that God will give you one.”

So the boy started out strong. For a month he prayed every night before he went to bed for a baby brother. But after a month he began to grow skeptical. He began to ask around the neighborhood and found that nobody who ever prayed for a brother got one. In fact, he was told that it was silly to keep praying that way. So he stopped.

And at the end of the two months his mother went to the hospital and delivered. The next day when the five-year-old was allowed to visit, he came into the room and found a set of twin boys. His father said to him, “Now aren’t you glad you prayed?” And Johnny hesitated a minute and said, “Yes, but aren’t you glad I stopped after one month instead of two?”

When most people think of prayer they think of it like that father and son; prayer is a means of securing a desired end. However, in this week’s message, “The Prayer”, we will be examining the first extended prayer in Scripture. It’s a prayer in which Abraham makes six separate requests of the Lord, all prompted by the Word of God and all on the same subject. But unlike most prayers, this one is initiated by God (18:17). The Bible says that as the three visitors set out from the tent of Abraham (note: the message of October 25th, “The Laugh”), the Lord says, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” Stuart Briscoe in his commentary on Genesis says, “This question, which apparently the Lord was addressing to Himself, is as of great interest to us as it was undoubtedly to Abraham. It deals with the whole question of whether God has a strategy and if He will share it with His people and, in fact, involve them in its outworking.” But it’s far more than that. It’s a divine exposure that gives us one of the greatest foreshadowings of the Gospel in the entire Old Testament.

Think of it. In Genesis 3 God announces the promise of the Gospel. In Genesis 15 He ratifies the veracity of His promise. In Genesis 22 He provides a phenomenally clear portrait of the Gospel. And in Genesis 18 He explains the reason for it.

For years I have taught that Abraham’s negotiation with God in Genesis 18:16-33 is a transparent example of God’s foreordained will. Rather than showing God’s will bending to the will of Abraham, Abraham’s will is bending to the will of God. In other words, God knows what He is going to do and Abraham comes to learn it through this prayerful dialogue. And while all of this is true, there’s so much more that’s taking place here. Indeed, in this divine exposure, Abraham, and every inspired reader, learns of the loftiness of God’s holiness and the breadth of His grace. There is so much here!

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

1.      Two weeks ago in Genesis 18:1-15 we read of these three men. Who are they?
2.      In verse 17 the Lord says, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” Why the first person singular pronoun?
3.      How is this question really an invitation to Abraham to engage Him?
4.      On what grounds does the Lord invite him into dialogue?
5.      What do you make of the words, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see…”?
6.      What do you think happens in verse 22 to clarify the parties engaged in the following dialogue?
7.      What does the Bible mean in verse 23 when it says that Abraham drew near?
8.      In what way is Abraham acting like a priest or mediator between God and the Canaanites of the plain?
9.      What marks Abraham’s request as unique to Scripture?
10.  Why does he stop at ten?

11.  What does all this tell you about the Gospel?

See you Sunday!

Monday, October 26, 2015

"The Cry" - Ken Wagoner

The following story is probably a familiar one to many of you, but it reminds us of the struggle we sometimes find ourselves in as we live in obedience to God:

A man was walking along a narrow path, not paying much attention to where he was going.  Suddenly he slipped over the edge of the cliff.  As he fell, he grabbed a branch growing from the side of the cliff.  Realizing that he couldn’t hang on for long, he called for help:
Man:  Is anybody up there?
Voice:  Yes, I’m here!
Man:  Who’s that?
Voice:  The Lord!
Man:  Lord, help me!
Voice:  Do you trust me?
Man:   Completely, Lord.
Voice:  Good. Let go of the branch!
Man:  (After a long pause)   Is anybody else up there?
Many of us are people of routines, things and/or people we depend on, trust, and believe this will never  change.  And yet sometimes God calls us to trust in something or somebody which is contrary to much we have grown to trust.  The story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22 puts this dilemma at the ultimate level, and we think how grateful we are this happened to Abraham and not us.  Abraham was tested, he obeyed, he trusted, and eventually he heard the cry of God.  But there is so much more to this story than what we normally see or hear.
If you have time read Genesis 15-22 in preparation for this Sunday, looking at the life of Abraham, the provisions and promises of God, and the fulfillment we find in the One greater than Isaac.
We are told God tested Abraham.  Look at these scriptures which also speak to different times of testing, and see what you learn.  I Kings 10:1, Exodus 16:4,  Deuteronomy 8:2, 16, Deuteronomy 13:3, II Chronicles 32:31, Exodus 17:2, 7, Numbers 14:22, Isaiah 7:12.
This sermon series on “Divine Exposures” reminds us God makes Himself known at just the time we need Him.  The “cry” or “call” to Abraham is certainly one of those instances we can say the Divine Exposure came at the right time.  The Psalms tell us we “cry” to God as well.  Look at the following verses as the Psalmist speaks for us, and what do we learn from them?  Psalm 34:17, 55:17, 72:12, 84:2, 88:1.
Can you think of any other times in the Bible when the “cry” of God fully revealed the living God to those who were alive at that time, and to us today? 
Thank you for the privilege to be with you this coming Sunday, and let’s pray together for His glory to be revealed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"The Laugh" - Doug Rehberg

Wow! We are already in the seventh week of our series and finally we come to a divine exposure that centers on a woman – Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

If you are anything like me you’ve read this story many times throughout your life and never really focused on Sarah. You’ve focused on the three men who came walking near the tent of Abraham that was pitched about a mile from the city of Hebron, in the country of Palestine. (Interestingly, in future days the city of Hebron would become a city of refuge, to which those accused of a crime could flee to receive safety and a fair hearing. And here, years earlier, another person bounded by shame and discouragement finds freedom and joy.) Instead of coming to Abraham as a whirlwind, a whisper, or a wrestler in the night, the Lord Jesus Christ comes to Abraham in the heat of the day as a threesome.
After focusing on the Lord’s identity, my attention would always shift to Abraham and the promise of a child of his own. But the one I never fully appreciated in this account is clearly the one God came for – Sarah.

Think of it. Abraham is ninety-nine years old. It is fourteen years after God has made His dramatic promise to Abraham a certainty by cutting an unconditional, unilateral covenant (Genesis 15). Moreover, it’s after chapter 17 where God comes and engages him in a full dialogue regarding Sarah’s delivery of their firstborn – a son, Isaac. So why repeat all this at the beginning of chapter 18? I never asked that question. But I guarantee we will not only ask it this question on Sunday, we will answer it.

At a time in human history when women were seen to be of little consequence, at a time when women could be bought and sold, at a time when a woman’s value was measured by her ability to birth sons, God stops at Sarah’s tent to expose her and expose Himself.

As an aside - just think how often Jesus did the unthinkable and stopped to engage a woman in conversation. Think of the woman at the well. Think of the woman with the eleven year bleeding issue. Think of His own mother at the foot of the cross. The Gospel is replete with examples of Jesus bucking His culture and raising the profile of women and their needs to the same level as men; and here we see another perfect example of it.

For years I’ve heard some say, “Why don’t you ever preach much on marriage?” And the answer is that I like to preach what the text gives me. Instead of picking through the verses of Scripture and finding verses that support a pre-determined proposition, I’d rather exposit what the text tells us. Well, here is a golden text on marriage. Though I passed this way scores of times over the last fifty years, I never saw the meaning of God’s exposure as the laugh. My prayer is that you will see it with me on Sunday and marvel at His compassion and His grace.

Before giving you some considerations in advance of Sunday’s message, I’d like to remind you that when God exposes Himself to Job He centers on Job’s greatest issue – his self-righteousness. Remember, he’s examined himself and found nothing his friends accused him of. In his eyes he’s completely innocent, and consequently he’s mad at God. He wants his day in court. He wants to argue his case. So what does God do? He comes to him in a whirlwind and lays him out. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who do you think you are?” And amazingly, Job is totally changed by it. He says, “I have uttered what I did not understand. Things too wonderful for me!”

When He exposes Himself to Elijah He finds him believing himself to be a victim. He’s self-possessed. He thinks there’s only one true prophet left and that’s him. He wants to die. But the Lord comes to him in a whisper and says, “You’re wrong, Elijah. You’re not alone and it’s not all about you.”

Think of Jacob. He thinks he’s been dealt a bad hand in life. He’s got a biased father and an angry brother who’s his enemy. Therefore, he reasons, “Whatever I get in life is up to me.” So he schemes and connives until God comes and wrestles him out of the darkness and into the light.

Think of Joshua. He’s the commander of the army of Israel. He’s the picture of strength and self-reliance until the Commander of the army of the Lord shows up and says, “I’ve come to fight for you.”

You see, God knows every human emotion and He’s in the business of exposing it. Are you feeling worthless? Are you feeling like you don’t measure up? Are you feeling like no one understands you or cares? Even your spouse? Especially your spouse? Well, I’ve got some good news for you. He does! And He’ll come all the way to your tent to show you the wonder of His grace.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “The Laugh”, you may wish to consider the following:

1.      What is the significance of the time of day mentioned in verse 1?
2.      Why does Abraham run to meet these men?
3.      What do you make of his inquiry in verse 3?
4.      Why all this food and bother?
5.      When do you think Abraham first realizes the identity of His guest?
6.      Why repeat Genesis 17:21 at 18:10?
7.      What is Sarah’s role in this story?
8.      Why does she laugh?
9.      What does she mean in verse 12 when she says, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”
10.  What is the meaning of God’s question in verse 14?
11.  Why does God call her out in verse 15?
12.  What change is evident in Sarah after this exposure? See Genesis 21:6.

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"The Torch" - Robert G. Fleischman

Many years ago when I worked at Westinghouse Research, I was invited to a lunch time Bible study in Penn Center. Eight or ten of us sat around a table with our brown bag lunches and coffee. The leader read a passage of Scripture and then went around the table and asked each  of us, “What does this mean to you?” I wanted to jump up and yell, “No, no, it’s not what it means to me but what does it mean.” I didn’t jump up and yell. I was a lot more timid in those days but I didn’t attend the Bible study again either. 

Genesis 15 can be a very confusing passage of Scripture with all the cut up animals, smoke, fiery torch and  dreadful darkness but if we use the principles of Contextural Bible Study it becomes profoundly meaningful not only for Abram but for God’s people for the 4000 years since God exposed Himself in such a seemingly strange way.  

In preparing for the message on Sunday, I suggest that you read Genesis 15 and then ask these kind of questions:

Who said it?

When was it said? (or when did it happen?)

To whom was it said?

Why was it said?

What did the person hearing it (or seeing it) understand it to mean?

Does it have any meaning beyond that point in time?

What does it mean to me?

How old was Abram when this took place? 

God told Abram that, “in you all of the families of the earth shall be blessed.” How do you think that Abram understood that promise? 

Why was Abram in “a deep sleep” instead of seeing all of this face to face? 

One prominent Bible scholar has said that if he was restricted to just one chapter in the Bible it would be Genesis 15 and if he had to choose only one verse, it would be Genesis 15:17. That’s quite a statement. On Sunday, the Lord willing, we will try to unpack this passage and see how really profound and beautiful it is.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"The General" - Doug Rehberg

For 55 years Dr. W. A. Criswell was the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. Over his preaching career Dr. Criswell preached thousands of sermons from that pulpit. He is included in any discussion of the greatest American preachers of the 20th century. On November 11, 1959, Criswell preached a sermon entitled, “The Warrior Christ.” His text was the same one we are digging into this Sunday – Joshua 5:13-15. It’s the often overlooked precursor to the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho. And it’s this oversight that has proliferated such misperception and misapprehension of what really happens in Joshua 6. It’s a misperception that Criswell seems to do little to ameliorate. Listen to what he says:

Now here is a little personal touch about Joshua. As I have said before in these several sermons already delivered, the more I study this man, the more my unbounded admiration for him. No wonder Jesus was named for this man, who carried His people into the Promised Land – Joshua, Savior. Everything that is written about him is fine, everything. They murmured against Moses, and they found fault with the leadership of the man of God (Exodus 16:2-3). You will never find one instance where the people murmured against Joshua; this noble, wonderful servant of God. Another little trait, another little presentation of him; he did not know who the stranger was with a drawn sword in His hand. But fearlessly, courageously, bravely he walks up to Him. Is he a phantom? Is He real? Is He a Hebrew? Is He a Canaanite? Is He a friend? Is He a foe? Apparently, no fear in Joshua, the soldier of God at all; he walks up to Him fearlessly, bravely and asks, ‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?’

Criswell is not alone in admiring Joshua. He’s on everyone’s top 10 list for role models in Scripture. Indeed, even Sunday school children for over a hundred years have sung his tribute in the ditty: “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho…” Remember the line: “You may talk about your men of Gideon. You may talk about your men of Saul. But there’s none like good old Joshua at the battle of Jericho that morning.”

For four weeks now we’ve looked at the climax of the lives of an impressive list of Old Testament “heroes”: Job, Elijah, and Jacob. And in each case their exposure of God transformed them. The divine exposure totally reoriented them. All of them were at a serious point of despair when God showed up and altered their perspective. And so it is with Joshua. And so it is with us and our commonly held view of the battle of Jericho.

We’ve entitled Sunday’s message, “The General.” And as we will see, when God comes to Joshua, He comes in a way that perfectly fits Joshua’s need for exposure. Joshua is the General of the Army of Israel. God comes as the commander of the Army of the Lord and teaches him some valuable lessons about God and him. My hope and prayer is that as we dig deeply into these three verses, we will see some of those same fascinating lessons.

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

1.      What history does Joshua have with Jericho before this exposure?
2.      Why is Joshua 5:1-12 so important to understanding this exposure?
3.      Why is the conquest of Jericho so important to Israel?
4.      What do Numbers 13 and 14 add to our understanding of what Joshua must be thinking as he looks toward Jericho in Joshua 5:13?
5.      Who is this man with the drawn sword? Why is his sword drawn?
6.      What does it mean when the text says, “Joshua went to him”?
7.      What does His answer to Joshua’s question mean? (See verse 14)
8.      What does His command in verse 15 mean?
9.      Why does He not use His sword on Joshua?
10.  How does Joshua demonstrate a change of heart and mind in verse 14 and following?
11.  What lessons can we draw from this exposure?

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"The Wrestler, cont." - Doug Rehberg

Years ago, as a junior in high school, I helped build and operate a Christian coffeehouse near Virginia Beach. And it was during the construction of that place that I was the recipient of divine exposure. It happened like this.

For six months I had participated in a group of peers who were “on fire” for the Lord. Their devotion to Jesus, their long prayer sessions, their abstinence from the things of the world, challenged me. Their challenges were never direct. I think they always assumed that I was right on board with them, but to be honest, I was largely going along for the ride.
One night we were all gathered in the center of this nearly completed building praying. As usual, the prayer time went on and on. The more it progressed the more uncomfortable I grew. So after about thirty minutes I inconspicuously recused myself and headed over to a corner behind some building materials.
As I sat there with my head down and eyes closed, I could feel my heart begin to race. I suddenly found my mind beginning to race, too. One after another, pictures of my life began to be projected before my eyes. I saw how I had unconsciously made my father and his faith a barrier between the Lord and my faith. I don’t remember ever thinking about that before, but I could see it now. He had become “the perfect Christian” to me; the one I would never begin to emulate. It was amazing. Things I never put together before began falling into place. Right at the crescendo of my thoughts and emotions I felt a touch on my shoulder. I looked up and it was a guy I really didn’t know very well. He was years older than me. He looked at me and said, “Doug, you’re ready, aren’t you?” And I nodded, because those words perfectly corresponded to what I was thinking at that moment. It was as if God was speaking through him right to me. The guy prayed for me that night and things have never been the same since.
Now I don’t pretend to place my experience of exposure on the same plane as Jacob’s at the Jabbok, but it’s slightly similar. And the lessons we will draw from his exposure absolutely parallel every Christian life. I hope, by now you have read the Jacob story and pondered last week’s message. In preparation for this week you may wish to consider the following:

1.      Why does Jacob refuse to let the wrestler go until he blesses him?

2.      In what way did Jacob “prevail”? (Verse 28)

3.      How does Jacob’s desire compare to Moses’ exposure in Exodus 34:29-33?

4.      How does wanting to know His name correspond to seeing His face?

5.      What replaces Jacob’s desire to “beat” Esau?

6.      In what way is Jacob’s permanent limp a good thing?

7.      How is it possible that God can be our greatest enemy and at the same time our greatest desire?

8.      How much of your faith is using God rather than surrendering to Him?

9.      Are you, right now, more like Jacob or Israel?

10.  What does all this have to do with communion?

See you at the Table.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"The Wrestler" - Doug Rehberg

One of the great American bands of the late 20th century was the Allman Brothers. Their lead singer and guitarist, Gregg Allman, wrote most of the songs that composed a genre of music many called “country-fried rock and roll.”

Well, there’s a five-minute song that Gregg wrote in 1969 that became for me, and my buddies in college, the lament of all laments – “Whipping Post”. It’s said that Gregg wrote this song in the middle of the night. He had no pen or pencil, but he was so desperate to get the lyrics down that he took the ends of burnt matches and wrote the lyrics on an ironing board. Here are his nocturnal musings:

I've been run down
I've been lied to
I don't know why,
I let that mean woman make me a fool
She took all my money
Wrecks my new car
Now she's with one of my good time buddies
They're drinkin' in some cross town bar

Sometimes I feel
Sometimes I feel
Like I've been tied
To the whipping post
Tied to the whipping post
Tied to the whipping post
Good lord I feel like I'm dyin'

My friends tell me
That I've been such a fool
And I have to stand down and take it babe,
All for lovin' you
I drown myself in sorrow
As I look at what you've done
Nothin' seems to change
Bad times stay the same
And I can't run

Sometimes I feel
Sometimes I feel
Like I've been tied
To the whipping post
Tied to the whipping post
Tied to the whipping post
Good lord I feel like I'm dyin'

Sometimes I feel
Sometimes I feel
Like I've been tied
To the whipping post
Tied to the whipping post
Tied to the whipping post
Good lord I feel like I'm dyin'

When the Allman Brothers first recorded it, it was five minutes long. But sometimes in concert they’ve been known to stretch it to twenty-two minutes, and when they do, the crowd erupts. And the reason the crowd is so into it is because every one of us can identify. Maybe it’s not the scorn or thief or carelessness of a lover, but it’s someone in your life who’s tying you to the whipping post.

Of all the characters of Scripture, none felt more persecuted by those close to him than Jacob. For 94 years he lived feeling as though his father and brother were standing in the way of God’s promise. They were to blame. They were the ones that he (and his mother) sought to overcome.

This week we begin a two-week investigation of Jacob’s experience in Genesis 32:22-32. Here in the dead of night, when he’s all alone, the Lord condescends to expose Himself as a man who wrestles Jacob for hours. It’s as a wrestler that the Lord reveals so many powerful truths about God, Jacob, and us.

In preparation for part one of “The Wrestler”, you may wish to consider the following:
1.         Review Jacob’s life by reading Genesis 25-33.
2.         What is the significance of the birthright and the father’s blessing?
3.         Why is the Lord’s statement to Rebekah in Genesis 25:23 so critical to the story of Jacob?
4.         Why is Isaac so resistant to God’s word? What’s wrong with God’s message?
5.         Why does Rebekah aid Jacob in conning his father?
6.         What is the significance of the words in Genesis 27:33, “Then Isaac trembled violently”?
7.         Why does Jacob send all his family and goods to meet Esau before him?
8.         Why does God wait till Jacob is alone to expose Himself?
9.         What does Jacob learn about God and himself from wrestling with the incarnate God?
10.     How does this exposure prove that our greatest struggle in life is not with a man or woman, father or mother, sister or brother, but God?

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"The Voice" - Doug Rehberg

Years ago I knew a woman whose husband died suddenly. They had just built their dream house on a lake. He was the owner of a large tile company in Pittsburgh, so the house they built was full of tile. There was tile in the kitchen and bathrooms; but more than that, there was a tile mosaic in the living room, and the porch overlooking the lake was covered in multicolored tile. It was absolutely beautiful - so bright and colorful. And yet, when the husband died, all beauty seemed to wash out of her life. There she was, all alone in a brand new home.

One morning, at a point of particularly acute despair, she is sitting on her bed, in “their” bedroom. The sun is shining through the eastern windows, but none of that matters to her. The sun has gone out of her life. She is in, what the Puritans called “the slough of despond.” And what makes it especially tough is that it was immediately after accomplishing their dream. The house was built. It was all paid for; yet now it seems like a giant albatross.

So she’s sitting there on the bed with her eyes closed. All at once she opens her eyes and stares straight ahead at the bedroom door. It’s a panel door painted white. But this morning the door is bathed in sunlight. And for the first time ever she stares at the cross that separates the panels. She has seen doors like this all her life, but that morning she really sees it – the cross. Instantly the Holy Spirit speaks to her out of the silence and says, “You’re not alone. He’s with me and so are you.”
As she told me the story tears filled her eyes. It had been over thirty years since the Lord spoke to her in her brokenness. And yet, as she described it, it seemed to me as though it had happened only a day or two ago.

Last week we focused on the story of Job. In twenty-five minutes we were able to review his entire life and focus on its climax - God’s exposure in the whirlwind. Though Job is at his lowest, when God shows up, rather than comforting him, He challenges him. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” “Who do you think you are challenging me?” God shows up and speaks to Job out of the whirlwind and Job is changed.

This week we see God exposing Himself in an entirely different way. It’s a different kind of suffering that Elijah endures. It’s a suffering of defeatism. At this point in his life and ministry he wants to die. He wants God to end his life just like Moses did in Numbers 11, just like Jonah did in Jonah 4. But interestingly, his crash came not after a loss, but a win. In fact, the win Elijah experiences in I Kings 18 is as great a victory as there is in the Old Testament. His circumstances couldn’t be more dissimilar than Job’s and yet, their despondency is mutual. Elijah is in the pit of despair and it’s at that point that God comes to Him and exposes Himself in the prophet.

In preparation for this second message in our series “Divine Exposure”, you may wish to consider the following:

1.            Why does God value stories so much that He fills the Scriptures with them?

2.            How has God spoken to you through stories, biblical and otherwise?

3.            Why do some scholars believe that chapter 19 is an editorial error, i.e. there’s no way chapter 19 follows chapter 18?

4.            What is Baal worship and why is Israel engaging in it?

5.            What is Elijah’s hope going into the showdown at Mt. Carmel?

6.            Why does Elijah select this site for the showdown?

7.            Why within four verses does Elijah leave his servant and go hide himself? What’s he doing and why?

8.            What do you make of God’s approach to him in 19:5f?

9.            What are the problems with Elijah that God addresses at Horeb? (Note the significance of this place.)

10.        How does God change Elijah through this exposure?

11.        How does his story parallel your story?

See you Sunday!