Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"Joy in Nothingness" - Doug Rehberg

I just got off the phone with our daughter, Kate, who was telling me of a camping trip she was on this past weekend.  She and four friends left Nairobi and traveled by car about 3 ½ hours to the base of Mount Kenya, Africa’s second highest peak, where they camped for a few days.  Though the trip was filled with laughter, beauty, and two harrowing automotive breakdowns, what struck me were the elevations.  Kate’s been in Nairobi for nearly a year, but it wasn’t until this conversation that I realized she’s been living in a city with the elevation of Denver.  And her camping trip took her to the foothills of a mountain peak 3,000 feet higher than Pike’s Peak.

In some sense that’s where we will come on Sunday morning.  For the past three weeks, in our study of Philippians, we have been at a considerable elevation.  Among all of Paul’s letters, none soars as high with supernatural joy than this one.  But this week we begin our ascent to the grandest peak of this letter.  In Christian theology Philippians 2:511 is called the Kenosis text.  In the mid-19th century, Gottfried Thomasius, a German Lutheran, began to develop “Kenotic Theology” that focuses on the person of Christ in terms of self-limits on, or “emptying” by the pre-existent Son in becoming a man.  Kenosis literally means emptying.  And it is this “emptying” of the divine prerogatives of the second person of the Trinity that captures Paul’s attention and ours in chapter 2.  Indeed, it is one of the grandest peaks in all of Christian theology.
This verse is a treasure trove!  The more you examine it, the deeper you dig, the more you find it provides necessary information for understanding the full import of the gigantic peak that follows.
As we dig in this Sunday, in a message entitled, “The Joy of Nothingness”, I believe you and I will discover truths about ourselves and Jesus that have the power to radically transform our Christian lives.  I can’t wait to dig in with you!
In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
1.      Read Isaiah 53.

2.      What do you think of this statement?  “Cry with someone.  It’s more healing than crying alone.”  Do you agree?

3.      How did Paul determine to come to Philippi in the first place?  (see Acts 16)

4.      What is the nature of the conflict Paul refers to in 1:29?

5.      What do the terms “selfish ambition” and “conceit” mean?  (see verse 3)

6.      How does the story of Adam and Eve relate?

7.      How is “self ambition” the intrinsic pattern of every human conflict and “conceit” the motive?

8.      What linkage can you find between “conceit” and Christ emptying Himself in 2:7?

9.      How does Jesus free us from our self ambition and conceit?

10.  How does Jesus fill our emptiness by emptying Himself?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

"Joy Without Fear" - Doug Rehberg

Last week the Reverend Ken Wagoner was in our pulpit preaching on Philippians 1:12-26.  As you know, Ken is no stranger to Hebron.  What a joy it is for me to know that when an invitation to preach is extended to him, Ken will read the E-newsletters and listen to previous sermons in the series to be fully apprised of what the Lord has already spoken to His people at Hebron before he arrives.  Ken and his message always fit right in to where the Lord is taking us; and I am most grateful.

You will remember that at the beginning of his message Ken told the story of his high school basketball coach.  (Interestingly there was a man at the 11:00 service, a perfect stranger to Ken, who had gone to the same high school Ken had, around the same time, and he knew it instantly when Ken mentioned his coach’s name.)
But there’s another basketball coach who comes to my mind today.  He’s arguably the greatest college basketball coach of all time.  His name is John Wooden.  He coached the UCLA Bruins to more college basketball championships than any other NCAA coach in history. What was the secret to success?  Teamwork.  Not just the, “Come on guys, let’s all work together like a team” kind of thing where every player really does his own thing.  Wooden produced the genuine article.
Coach Wooden insisted on a level of dedication and selflessness that is almost unheard of today.  The team members all wore the same uniforms and the same kind of shoes.  Coach Wooden actually instructed his team, every year, on how to put on their socks to avoid blisters.  When a young recruit, Bill Walton, was confronted with Wooden’s rule that no facial hair be worn, Walton said, “Coach, I have a beard and I am going to keep it.”  Wooden simply smiled and said, “We’re going to miss you, Bill.”  Needless to say, Walton shaved his beard.
Individual accomplishments and records held little value to Wooden.  Every year he put together the best group of players he could find.  And the five men who best complemented one another and worked together are the ones he started.  But he didn’t consider them to be any more important than the substitutes, his assistants, or the equipment manager.  His motto was, “The most important player when we win is the rest of the team.”
Coach Wooden used to encourage his players to acknowledge the assists of their teammates.  If one player received a pass that allowed him to score, Wooden wanted him to give the other man a wink or point to him as they moved down to the opposite end of the court.
“But what if the other player isn’t looking when you point or wink?” a new player asked Wooden once.  Wooden just smiled and said, “Oh, don’t worry.  He’ll be looking.”  You see, John Wooden understood people and the power of partnership.  So did Paul. 
Two weeks ago we noted that perhaps the most vivid theme of Paul’s joy-filled letter to the Philippians is koinonia – fellowship/partnership.  In fact, it’s his partnership in the Gospel that moves Paul to write to them from a Roman prison.  More than any other church, the Christians at Philippi are partners in Paul’s ministry.  But that doesn’t mean they have no problems or concerns.  They live in a city of intimidation.  They face the persecution of Greeks, Asians, and Romans.  They have the same fears that you and I have when it comes to living out the Gospel.
So what does Paul do?  After reminding them of their standing in Christ as saints, after offering his thankfulness to God for His work in their midst, after rejoicing in God’s plan for them, he addresses their fears.  At the end of Chapter one (1:27-30), Paul gives four reasons why they and we can have joy replacing fear.
In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Joy without Fear” you may wish to consider the following:
1.      If brevity is the soul of wit, what is the seedbed of wit?

2.      What do we know of the imperial guards mentioned in 1:13?

3.      What is Paul’s definition of life?  What is his bottom line? (Ken focused on this last week.)

4.      What does Paul mean in verse 27 when he says, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ?”  (See “Roman colony”)

5.      How does that replace fear with joy?

6.      What were the privileges associated with living in a Roman colony?  How do those privileges translate to our standing in Christ?

7.      What does Paul mean when he says, “Stand firm”?

8.      What is their comfort in their striving?  (See verse 27c.)

9.      How does suffering help us replace fear with joy?

10.  How does Paul prove his partnership with them?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"Joy in God's Plan" - Ken Wagoner

Here is a description from Paul himself as to the struggles he encountered in his life:

 Five times received 39 lashes from the Jews, three times beaten with rods, once he was stoned (I don’t think this means he was on drugs), three times shipwrecked at sea, spent a night and day adrift at sea, during frequent journeys he was in danger from rivers, robbers, his own people, the Gentiles, danger in the city, in the wilderness, at sea, and from false brothers.  Experienced toil and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst often without food, and experienced cold and exposure.  On top of all of this was his anxiety for all the churches.  II Corinthians 11:24-28
And yet we read in his letter to the Philippians these familiar but sometimes perplexing words:  “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” 1:21 
As you move forward from your previous series, The Signature of Jesus, and work your way through Philippians you will see the word “joy” is found at least 20 times in this book.  When seen in relation to the whole of scripture we find if our life in Jesus is real, then joy should be overflowing.  But true joy does not seem to come easy.  Mike Mason in his book, Champagne for the Soul, says this:  “The search for joy is inseparable from spiritual warfare.  Anybody who wants to be happy will have to fight for it.”
We will spend most of our time this Sunday in Philippians 1:20-26.  In these verses there are two words which seem to be contrasted to one another:  ashamed and honored (some translations use the word exalted).
  1. What do you think of when you hear the word “ashamed?”  Are there any times in your live when you experienced shame?  Why was this?
  2.  Likewise, what do you think of when you hear the word “honored.”  Are there any times in your life when you experienced being honored or honoring someone or something?  Why was this?
  3. In Daniel chapter 3, we read the familiar Sunday school story of Shadrech, Meshach, and Abednego.  What do we learn about shame and honor as they lived their lives?
  4. Paul explains what he means when he says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  How does he explain this and do you agree?
  5. Agree or disagree with the following definition of faith:  “Faith is the confidence or trust that we put in a person who has given us cause to think that he/she is reliable and is able and willing to help us in our need.”    If true, how does this help us to see what Paul describes as “joy in the faith.”
  6. For those of you who remember singing an old hymn, “Jesus Is All The World To Me,” meditate on the words of this hymn.  If you don’t know the hymn, look it up on the internet and listen to the message.
I have two books to suggest for you to read on your own either during this series or after the series is complete.  The first one I mentioned above:  Champagne for the Soul, by Mike Mason.  This book is a reflection of his 90 day experiment to be joyful in the Lord.  He confesses his “go to” demeanor is more anxious and borderline depressive rather than happy, so this was not an easy thing for him to do.  The second book is The Heavenly Man, by Brother Yun.  This is a story of a Chinese pastor who experienced the Joy of God’s Plan in ways most of us would not desire.  Some of his stories made me say “this could not have happened,” but he always emphasizes the importance of the Word of God in his life.  Both of the books can be found on Amazon, but neither of them are meant to replace God’s Word.  I look forward to being with you Sunday.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

"Joy in God's People" - Doug Rehberg

There’s a verse that many people use inappropriately to get their Christian friends or family members to quit smoking, to exercise, and to eat more spinach.  It’s in I Corinthians 3:16, and it reads, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and in that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
Here’s why that verse is used inappropriately in getting people to take care of their bodies.  Paul is not talking about the human body, but the body of Christ.  The “you” in the text is plural.  It should read as though Paul were writing from Atlanta, Georgia, “Y’all are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in y’all.”  And every first century Christian would read it that way.  Therefore, Paul’s injunction is only relevant to the deeds of the individual as they affect the whole community of faith.  Think gossip, prejudice, stinginess, and jealousy rather than switching from Marlboros to some electronic cigarette.
There’s something equally as instructive about this verse and that’s the translation of the Greek word for temple.  In English the word temple connotes the entirety of the building.  If that’s what Paul meant, he would have selected a different Greek word altogether.  The word he uses means only a part of the temple.  It’s the word for the Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place.  You will remember that this site was visited only once a year on the Day of Atonement by one person, and one person only, the high priest.  And the reason he was restricted to one visit a year was because the Ark of the Covenant was there - the place where God Himself resided.
When you understand all of that, you begin to see the wonderful and amazing statement Paul is making in I Corinthians 3:16.  He’s saying that God’s place of residence on earth is in the midst of His people.  He is saying that the people of God, corporately, are now the Holy of Holies, the very dwelling place of God. Once we understand what the Apostle Paul is saying, the ancient invocation of the prophet Habakkuk takes on new meaning:  “The LORD is in His holy temple.  Let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Hab. 2:20).  In other words, “God is here so be awed!”
This Sunday we begin our new series entitled:  Joy, a study of the Book of Philippians.  As I mentioned last week, it’s a perfect sequel to The Signature of Jesus; for what Paul tells us over and over again in this four-chapter letter of joy is that the church is the dwelling place of God, therefore be awed and rejoice!  Think of it.  All of the justice, righteousness, and loving kindness God commands His people in Micah 6:8 now becomes evidenced in His body the church.  Why?  Is it because His people are so special?  Is it because the New Testament believers are so far superior to the Old Testament ones?  Hardly!  It’s because He now dwells not only among them, but in them, I mean “us”!
As you know every letter Paul writes is addressed to the church.  And every letter is divided into two parts – the indicative and the imperative.  The indicative is a description of all Jesus has done for us.  The imperative is his encouragement to us to appropriate His finished word and live it out.  His letter to the Philippians is no different.  But unlike every other letter Paul writes, this letter begins with unbridled joy and it ends the same way.  And one of the reasons is that there appears to be no particular conflicts among the brethren at Philippi.  It’s a remarkable thing really.  Here in a city that was named for Alexander the Great’s father, the St. Louis of Macedonia – the gateway from Europe to Asia, a city that was home to three major cultures and an untold number of minor ones, a city with wide socio-economic stratas; and yet, among the church at Philippi there was no apparent strife.  Perhaps that is why, as Paul sits under house arrest in Rome, he’s inspired by the Holy Spirit to write a letter of monumental joy; an unfiltered description of what the Signature of Jesus looks like when the body is operating under the control of its head – Jesus Christ.
Each of the messages in this series begins with the word “Joy”.  This first week we focus on the opening eleven verses were we see Paul’s “Joy in God’s People”.  In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
1.      What is the back story to the hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”?

2.      What would prompt someone to say, “Christ I like.  Christianity I like.  But Christians I can’t stand”?

3.      How does the post-Ascension Jesus do justice and love kindness in Acts 9?

4.      What does: “Summa Epistolae; Gaudes, Gaudete” mean?

5.      What does Martin Luther mean when he says, “The church is my mother, but she’s a whore”?

6.      What is the meaning of the word “saint”?

7.      What does Paul mean when he says, “saints in Christ Jesus”? (verse 1)

8.      How do you interpret verse 6?  Is he talking about individuals or the corporate body, or both?

9.      What is the meaning of “partnership” in verse 5?

10.  What do you think C.S. Lewis meant when he said that when Jesus captures a soul He finds its desires to be not too strong, but too weak?

See you Sunday as we look at our:

Incomparable Identity

Inevitable Change

Inexhaustible Vision

And find in it….Pure JOY!

Friday, January 2, 2015

"Joy to the World" - Doug Rehberg

This Sunday we transition from our series, “The Signature of Jesus”, to a new series entitled “Joy”, a study of the Book of Philippians.  Just as we have turned the calendar from one end of the year to a brand new year, so we turn the page from the loving kindness and justice of God to its fruit found in us.  Of all the texts to aid in our transition, none is better than Luke 2:22-35.  Here in the story of Simeon we find unbridled joy in the face of the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Who is Simeon?  Why is he at the temple at the precise time Mary and Joseph walk in to fulfill their responsibilities under the law?  What would prompt him to break into song?  What would cause him to say, “Lord, you are dismissing your servant in peace…”?  All of those questions, and more will be addressed this first Sunday of 2015 with a message entitled, “Joy to the World”.

The other day as I sat at home trying to get some relief from a bad cold, I turned to my favorite devotional, Morning and Evening, by Charles H. Spurgeon and began reading the evening selection for January 1st.  He’s writing on the fourth verse of chapter 1 of the Song of Solomon where Solomon says to the Lord, “Draw me after you…we will rejoice and delight in you.”  Allow me to quote Spurgeon’s comments in their entirety:
We rejoice and delight in You.  We will not open the gates of the year to the dolorous notes of the lyre but to the sweet strains of the harp of joy and the high-sounding cymbals of gladness.  ‘Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our Salvation.’  We, the called, faithful, chosen, will drive away our griefs and set our banners of confidence in the name of God.  Let others lament over their troubles; we who have the sweetening tree to cast into Marah’s bitter pool will joyfully magnify the Lord.  Eternal Spirit, our effectual Comforter, we who are the temples in which You dwell will never cease from adoring and blessing the name of our Jesus.  We will, we are resolved about it, Jesus must have the crown of our heart’s delight; we will not dishonor our Bridegroom by mourning in His presence.  We are ordained to be the minstrels of the skies.  Let’s rehearse our everlasting anthem before we sing it in the halls of the New Jerusalem.  We will rejoice and delight:  two words with one sense, double bliss, blessedness upon blessedness.  Need there be any limit to our rejoicing in the Lord even now?  Don’t people of grace find their Lord to be camphor and spikenard, calamus and cinnamon even now, and what better fragrance do they have in heaven itself?  We will rejoice and delight in You.  That last word is the meat in the dish, the kernel of the nut, the soul of the text.  What heavens are laid up in Jesus!  What rivers of infinite bliss have their source and, yes, every drop of hteir fullness in Him!  Since, O sweet Jesus, You are the present portion of Your people.  Favor us this year with such a sense of your preciousness that, from its first to its last day, we may rejoice and delight in You.  Let January open with joy in the Lord, and December close with gladness in Jesus.
What a perfect transition from the Signature of Jesus to Joy, for that indeed is what we find in ever heart wherever His signature is boldly written.
In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
1.      Leviticus 12:1-8 offers the biblical backdrop for Mary and Joseph’s journey to the temple that day.

2.      How is Simeon’s response to the baby a fulfillment of message of the angel to the shepherds earlier in the chapter?

3.      How many divine birth announcements are there in the Bible?  Who are these announced babies?

4.      What is the significance of Jesus being the fifth?

5.      Is there a pattern to these announcements?

6.      How is the announcement of Jesus different from the others?

7.      What does Luke mean when he describes Simeon as “righteous and devout”?

8.      How is Simeon a perfect symbol of who Jesus is and what He’s come to do?

9.      How is Simeon’s song, verses 29-32, different from Mary’s in Luke 1:46-55?

10.  Where is the joy in Simeon’s address of God in verse 29?

See you Sunday!