Thursday, May 28, 2015

"The Shepherds" - Doug Rehberg

Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr., was a member of the United States Supreme Court for 30 years. His mind, his wit, his work ethic earned him the unofficial title of “The greatest justice since John Marshall.” At one time in his life, Justice Holmes explained his choice of careers this way: “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.” (My apology to my dear friend, Chuck Trenz!) While there are many words spoken by Justice Holmes that are difficult to understand, these aren’t some of them.

In the Third Century a man was anticipating his death by the sword and he wrote these words to a friend, “It’s a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are the masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are Christians and I am one of them.” And a contrast 1,500 years makes!

The difference in perspective between Holmes and this third century believer is the difference between religion and the Gospel. Religion begins in man’s efforts and ends there; but the Gospel has another origin outside of the thoughts and efforts of men. For these practitioners there’s no “in,” “up,” and “out,” rather there’s “me” and “me only.”

Last Sunday, Pentecost, we began to see how the Gospel of Jesus Christ has a discernible pattern to it.  It’s a pattern the Old Testament foreshadows. The pattern begins with The Lord moving upon us.  The result of this movement is a change of focus from “inward” to “upward.” Our eyes, our attention move from the cares and concerns of “my life” to His glory. The last step in the sequence is “outward.” In other words what God works into us, suits our focus Godward and outward to others. That’s what we saw last week in Acts. And that’s what we’ll see again this week in Luke 2.

On this Baccalaureate Sunday we will be revisiting an extremely familiar text – the story of the shepherds at the birth of Christ. How many sermons have you heard and how many plays have you seen on the shepherds? But this Sunday’s message promises to be far different from your typical Christmas message. In preparation for it you may wish to consider the following:

1.      Who were the Khmer Rouge?

2.      What’s the significance of Jesus’ words in John 14:18?

3.      What similarities can you find between the shepherds in Luke 2 and Moses in Exodus 3?

4.      What is the oldest profession in the world?  (See Genesis 4)

5.      What is Pharaoh’s view of Joseph’s brothers’ profession?

6.      How many shepherds can you identify in scripture?

7.      What did the Jews of Jesus’ day think of shepherds?

8.      Whose sheep were these shepherds watching in Luke 2?

9.      What is the shepherds’ response to the angel’s announcement?

10.  What are swaddling cloths and why does Luke alone mention them?

11.  Can you find the “in,” “up,” and “out” in this story?


See you Sunday!  Join us as we thank The Lord for our graduates!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"In Step with the Spirit" - Doug Rehberg

Nearly five years ago I told you of an incident in my life that occurred more than 40 years ago when I was living in Virginia and my father was working for The Christian Broadcasting Network. Every day CBN would broadcast locally and then a video tape would leave Virginia and be shipped around the country to 8 or 10 affiliates. This was before cable, digital broadcasting, even satellite television.

In fifty years the name of the program hasn’t changed. It’s called the 700 Club, and if you watch it you know that the format has changed little over the years. There’s news, music, interviews, and always a time of prayer. And this particular night as Pat Robertson prayed, he stopped and said, “There’s a woman driving in a pink care who’s been pleading with God to heal her. And the Lord wants you to know that He’s heard your prayers. Go back to your doctor, get a complete work-up, and listen to what the doctor says.” Then, after praying for her, he added, “Please call us and tell us what happens.”
For weeks there’s no call, so everybody forgets about it. The tape makes its way from Virginia to Atlanta, from Atlanta to New York, from New York to Detroit four months later. Then one day a woman comes home from the hospital where she’s just begun the first of a series of treatments. She parks her pink Cadillac in her garage and come into the house. She turns on the television when she hears the instructions to a woman with a pink car who’s been agonizing in prayer for healing. So she calls her doctor and gets an appointment for the following week.
When the doctor finishes reviewing a battery of tests he says to her, “I can’t explain it. It’s never happened to me in all my years of medicine. It’s gone. Your disease is gone. There’s no sign of it!”
Now imagine her reaction. She’s stunned. A man in Virginia is moved by the Holy Spirit to address a woman he’s never met. She’s a woman who drives a pink car! When he speaks the word God has given him to speak it takes four months for her to hear it. But when she hears it, she acts on it and her faith and trust in Jesus explodes! And that’s exactly what we see happening in Sunday’s text – Acts 2:1-13.
This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. It’s the day that the Christian Church has traditionally focused on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. It’s the time many point to as the birth of the church; an idea that’s reinforced by Luke’s positioning of it in the Book of Acts.
However, the One many miss in Pentecost is Jesus. When Pentecost is examined in its biblical context, it’s fascinating to see how instrumental Jesus is in all that happens that day in Jerusalem. Moreover, when Pentecost is examined in its biblical context there comes a fresh apprehension of what Jesus desires to do in us – in short – Move us!
This week marks the beginning of a six-week series entitled “Move” which parallels the study the children will be engaged in this year in Vacation Bible School – June 22-26. Throughout this series we will examine familiar Scripture texts to see in them how the Holy Spirit moves His people in three directions: in, up, and out.
In preparation for this Sunday’s message “In Step with the Spirit”, you may wish to consider the following:

1.      How is the Day of Pentecost understood by the Hebrews?

2.      What is the purpose of God’s command in Leviticus 23?

3.      What is the purpose of a feast?

4.      How do the feasts of Israel chronicle God’s work in His people throughout history?

5.      Does Jesus value the feasts?

6.      How does He redefine the first four?

7.      What is the significance of His command in Acts 1:4?

8.      How is His baptism like what happens to the disciples on Pentecost? (Acts 2)

9.      What is the significance of the 3000 people saved? (See Acts 2:41)

10.  What does Acts 2:47 signal to us about the Holy Spirit’s intentions for us?

See you Sunday. Don’t forget to wear your ORANGE!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

"The Hospitable Host" - Doug Rehberg

Hospitality is at the heart of the Gospel. The practice of hospitality in the early church pervades the themes and language of the New Testament. Implicit in the stories of Jesus and the New Testament descriptions of human relationships is a clear ethic of hospitality. It is required and commended throughout the Scriptures. Although there is no word for hospitality in the Hebrew vocabulary, the practice is evident in the welcome, food, shelter, protection, and asylum that guests received in Old Testament times. Commands to care for strangers attest to the importance of hospitality in the Old Testament. Throughout the Old Testament, particularly in the Torah and exhortations of the prophets, various stories demonstrate that hospitality was closely connected to the recognition of God’s lordship and loyalty to His covenant.
The story of Abraham and the three divine guests in Genesis 18 is the most significant Old Testament text on hospitality. The writer of Hebrews attaches special significance to this story in Hebrews 13:2 when he says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
Abraham generously welcomes three unexpected visitors and, with Sarah and their servant, hurriedly prepares a lavish meal for them. While the reader is told that the Lord appears to Abraham in this meeting, it seems that Abraham only gradually recognized the identity of his heavenly visitors. It’s in the context of their hospitality that Abraham and Sarah receive the promise of a son. This is not surprising, for in the ancient Near East hospitality was often associated with promise and blessing.
As we’ve seen in our study “The Signature of Jesus”, from the beginning, Israel’s identity hinged on an understanding of themselves as aliens or sojourners who lived in daily dependence on God as their Host. We see this in Abraham’s reception of God’s promise in Genesis 15:13 – “You and your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not your own…” The sojourner state of Israel was a reminder of their dependence on God and a basis for gratitude and obedience. In the ancient Near East only Israel had explicit legislation protecting, and providing for, the resident alien. In fact, the command to love the alien parallels directly the command to love your neighbor.
In the New Testament the concept of required hospitality is greatly reinforced by the incarnation. God did Himself become a guest or a stranger in this world. The practice of Christian hospitality is inextricably linked to this truth. Through the ministry of Jesus, He and His disciples were entirely dependent on the hospitality and support of others.
Yet the incarnation does something much more than just show us God as a guest, it also shows Him as the consummate Host. In Luke 14:12-14 Jesus challenges the conventional understanding of hospitality which was assumed to be based on reciprocity and focused on family and friends. In Matthew 24:31-46 Jesus offers perhaps the strongest message on Christian hospitality to strangers. But in the text we will examine this Sunday – John 13:1-15 – Jesus goes beyond words and gives us a perfect portrait of what He calls all of us to do. In His role as Host He says something He says nowhere else, “For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.” He calls us to be what He is – a Host.
For years scores of us have practiced hospitality at Hebron. The roles we’ve played have varied widely, and the name we’ve given to filling these roles has often been “volunteer”. Whether we’ve sung in the choir, been on a Barclay set-up crew, acted as an  usher or greeter, or any number of other things; we’ve seen ourselves as volunteers, much the same way we would in any other organization. But Jesus is far more discriminating than that. And it’s because of that, we are adopting a new title for those who serve. No longer are we volunteers, but hosts. That is the “office” to which Jesus calls us.
Shakespeare famously asked it, “What’s in a name?” When you and I begin to reflect on the name “Host”, from a biblical perspective, the answer is much indeed!
In preparation for Sunday’s message, “The Hospitable Host”, you may wish to consider the following:

1.      How does I John 4:7-12 relate to biblical hospitality?

2.      How does the description of Christ in Isaiah 53 relate to His call to hospitality?

3.      What do we learn about Jesus’ view of hospitality from Luke 7:36-50?

4.      How is this “woman of the city” like Jesus in John 13?

5.      What three things does she do for Jesus that the Pharisee fails to do?

6.      What is her motivation for playing the host?

7.      What cost is associated with Jesus’ hosting in John 13?

8.      On what basis does Jesus pronounce His “ought” in verse 14?

9.      Why does Jesus elevate hospitality to the only spoken example He ever gives His disciples?

10.  Why do you think it’s a good idea for us to rename “volunteers”, “hosts”?

See you Sunday as we gather around the table of our Host!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"The Marks of a Godly Mother" - Doug Rehberg

I have a friend who retired from the pastoral ministry over 20 years ago. When asked how difficult the transition was he smiled and said, “Quite easy. Now I don’t have to be everybody’s mother.”

It is said that early in the Revolutionary War, George Washington sent one of his officers to requisition horses from the local landowners. Calling at an old country mansion, the officer was received by the elderly mistress of the house. “Madam, I have come to claim your horses in the name of the government,” he began. “On whose orders?” demanded the woman sternly. “On the orders of General George Washington, the Commander in Chief of the American Army,” replied the officer. The old lady smiled. “You go back and tell General George Washington that his mother says he cannot have her horses.”
Now, whether it’s administering justice or mercy, the job of a mother is never-ending. In fact, it’s striking to see how frequently the Lord refers to Himself through maternal images. (See Ruth 2:12, Psalm 91:4, Matthew 23:37, Hosea 13:8, Deuteronomy 32:10-11, Isaiah 42:14, Isaiah 49:15, Isaiah 66:13). Even the name El-Shaddai speaks of a God who possesses the nurturing features of a mother. In fact, such godly images are often reflected in some of the most important biblical characters we know, like Paul.
When you come to Paul’s second letter to Timothy, you come to a letter that’s been described by many as the most intimate, tender letter that Paul ever writes. Some say this is because Paul’s heart is drawn to Timothy like no other human being. Others say it’s because he’s about to be executed in Rome (his third imprisonment), and he’s full of nostalgia. Others say that Paul is an old man (66), and like many older men he’s getting a little more emotional in his old age. And while there may be some credibility to some of these views, what’s most obvious from Paul’s words is that Timothy is in distress. Timothy’s mentor and guide is facing impending death. Several years earlier Timothy had been thrust into a position he would never have chosen on his own. He now has his own ministry independent of Paul’s presence and assistance, and he’s full of self-doubt. So what does Paul do? Does he excoriate him? Does he tell him to buck up and play the man? Does he use himself as an example of what real suffering looks like? No, actually he offers some of the most tender, insightful counsel found in Scripture.
Years ago I preached out of Sunday’s text, II Timothy 1:1-7, a message entitled “Mother Paul”. This Mother’s Day we revisit the same text and see many fresh insights in a message entitled “The Marks of a Godly Mother.” In preparation for Sunday’s study you may wish to consider the following:

1.      Re-read Proverbs 22:1-6.

2.      What is the writer saying about how to raise a child? (v. 6)

3.      Read I Timothy 4:12. How much younger is Timothy than Paul?

4.      How old was Timothy when he was converted in Lystra?

5.      What does Paul mean when he says he has a clear conscience? (v. 3)

6.      What is the connection between Timothy’s tears and Paul’s joy?

7.      Why does Paul cite Timothy’s mother and grandmother? (v. 5)

8.      What do you think are the nature of Paul’s prayers in verse 3?

9.      How do you see Paul pointing to the sovereign providence of God here?

10.  What is the goal of Christian parenthood?

See you Sunday! Happy Mother’s Day!