Monday, July 27, 2015

"Weighing the Risk" - Ken Wagoner

We are entering the time of the year which is sometimes called the “dog days of August.”  I have always pictured this as the hot, dry time of the year when vacations come to an end, school activities begin in some form, cutting our lawns are not nearly as enjoyable as it was in early May, and many people are beginning to feel the summer is coming to a close.  We are not quite ready for the fall, and we think of the summer plans which have not been accomplished, and probably will not happen.  There is a tendency to feel like we are stuck in place.  If we are not careful, our focus on living for Christ may also lose some of its edge, and there can be complacency in our daily faith walk.  Recently I was feeling some of this, and to help change this way of thought I looked on-line for quotations from people of all walks of life encouraging us to look more positively on living on the edge.  Here are some of the many I found:

“If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough.”   Mario Andretti

“Go out on a limb.  That’s where the fruit is.”  Jimmy Carter

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”    Eleanor Roosevelt

“I don’t think you are human if you don’t get nervous.”   Sidney Crosby

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”   John A. Shedd

If your personality is like mine when we read quotations like these, we may feel a sense of excitement of thinking, doing, or dreaming things which energize us and hopefully bring good to those around us.  But the potential missing piece in these quotations are they do not necessarily speak to the challenge, risk, and dreaming of being a part of something which brings glory to God!  My hope is this Sunday we can begin to see through God’s Word some possible risks God may be calling you and me to take.  Risks taken not so we can feel good about ourselves, but risks that help us to see God in a clearer vision, serve Him well, and glorify Him.

In preparation for this, look at some of the following examples we see in scripture of those who took significant risks for God, and look to see what we can learn from their weighing the risk.

  • Read II Samuel 10:1-14 and see how Joab responded to the challenge set before him that day.

  • Read Esther 4:1-17 and think of the consequences Esther was facing as Mordecai encouraged her to speak up for God’s people before the King.

  • Read Numbers 13:25-33 and see how the report of Joshua and Caleb differed from that of the 10 other spies, and the consequence of the people’s disobedience.

  • Read Daniel 3:30 where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace because they would not worship King Nebuchadnezzar.

 Thank you for the privilege of being with you this coming Sunday, and I look forward to our time of worship together.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"The Meaning of Marriage" - Doug Rehberg

This week I reread an analysis of marriage written by a man who maintains that there is a natural tendency in every marriage to go from the height of bliss to the humdrum of routine. He analogizes it to the reaction of the husband to his wife’s head colds during the first seven years of marriage. He calls it “The Seven Stages of a Married Cold.”

He says in the first year it’s: “Sweetheart, I’m so worried about you. You’ve got a bad sniffle and there’s no telling about these things with all those germs floating around. I’m going to take you to the hospital for the afternoon where you can get a thorough check-up and a few hours of fluids. Now, I know that hospital food is not the best, so I’ve arranged for a caterer to deliver a couple of gourmet meals.”

The second year it’s: “Listen darling, I don’t like the sound of that cough and I’ve called Dr. Miller to come over right away. Now go to bed like a good girl and I’ll clean the house, do the laundry, cook dinner and maybe you’ll start feeling better.”

The third year it’s: “Maybe you better lie down honey. Nothing like a little rest when you’re not feeling well. I’ll bring you something to eat. By the way, do we have any soup?”

The fourth year it’s: “Look dear, be sensible. After you feed the kids and do the dishes you’d better hit the sack.”

The fifth year it’s: “Why don’t you get yourself a couple of aspirin?”

The sixth year it’s: “If you just gargle or something instead of sitting around barking like a seal.”

The seventh year it’s: “For Pete’s sake, stop sneezing! Whatcha trying to do, gimme pneumonia?”

Now you may smile a bit at that, but every one of us would acknowledge that there are stresses and strains in every marriage, and some start quite early, like the ones in John 2. John says, “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee…and the wine ran out.” Now in our day there’s a quick fix to such a problem, but in antiquity it was far more complicated than that. For newlyweds in Jesus’ day there was no greater embarrassment than to run out of wine at your reception.

The average wedding reception lasted a week. The law of Israel commanded hospitality at any cost, and we see examples of that throughout the Old and New Testament. Wine symbolized life and joy in Hebrew culture. Moreover, wine was the symbol of divine blessing. The Rabbi’s had an expression, “Without wine there is no joy and without joy there is no life.” To run out of wine at a wedding feast was a catastrophe. It was an insult to one’s guests and an embarrassment to the host. To run out of wine would be a breech of sacred trust, yielding nothing but shame. And it’s into that harrowing circumstance that Jesus comes with His first four disciples.

Now there are obvious questions that arise when you read this account – John 2:1-11. Why include this story? Why does John cite this as Jesus’ first miracle? And why, for heaven’s sake would you put it so early in your narrative? Think of it. In chapter 1, John precedes this story with: (1) the incarnation, (2) the identity of Jesus, and (3) the call of the first disciples. Then suddenly, it’s wine at a wedding. Why? On what grounds does this story warrant such a premier place in John’s gospel? And to top it off – what’s the significance of marriage to John the apostle?

It’s these questions and more that we will explore this Sunday in a message entitled “The Meaning of Marriage”. The text is John 2:1-11. And in preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How many miracles does John include in his gospel?
  2. What is the message John seeks to convey through the miracles of Jesus?
  3. What does John mean by the words: “On the third day”? (verse 1)
  4. What is the significance of Cana?
  5. What Old Testament account does John draw upon in composing the beginning of his gospel?
  6. What is the significance of Mary’s words in verse 3?
  7. What is the significance of Jesus’ reply in verse 4?
  8. What is the significance of the six water jars in verse 6?
  9. What marriage does John have in view when he tells us this story?
  10. How is this story the story of every believer?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

"Who Should I Say That You Are?" - Chris Ansell

The Theophany Form

Most critical scholars of the Bible would argue that the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) were compiled from multiple sources by a later editor. This is contrary to the traditional understanding that Moses penned the words sometime after the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, in the ballpark of 1500 BC. This critical line of reasoning is called the Documentary Hypothesis and has assigned each of the material to one of four sources labeled as JEDP. Each letter signifies the tradition which the content is thought to have been derived from; J – Jehovah/Yahwistic, E – Elohim, D – Deuteronomist, and P – Priestly. The argument is that these were all separately developed traditions that only centuries later were edited together into one cohesive whole.

This Sunday we will look at a story from the Pentateuch, the story of the burning bush. This is the story where God reveals himself to Moses, and in the process re-reveals his divine name of Yahweh to Moses. Within this story, skeptics would argue that it contains 3 of these 4 sources (J, E, P).  But this is where historical context is an important clue into the history of this passage. Chapters 3 and 4 follow a literary pattern that is well attested in both the Bible and other Ancient Near Eastern writings. It is called the Theophany Form.

In this literary form there are a number of elements in which the deity appears to a mortal to provide some form of “holy words,” utterances to the mortal, all including the quelling of human fear and the back and forth between further inquiry and protest from the hearer. (For a more complete synopsis of the theophany form see Stuart, Doug. Exodus: New American Commentary, pp 106-108)

So why is this important? What this means is that even before the time of Moses, this form was a recognizable literary structure in the region where the Israelites dwelled. This means that while skeptics try to mix and match their sources with elements of the narrative, their efforts are in vain. The theophany form explains all of the different elements of the story in one cohesive whole, leaving no stray elements behind that need to be explained away by later editors or sources.

This is an important concept. It means that we can hold fast to our traditional understanding of the authorship and transmission of the Bible. This is one example of the historicity of the Bible and thereby the continued authority of the Word as God’s words to us. This was not a story that was invented by a Jewish editor, or the summarization of various myths about God. This experience Moses had with God fits right into the cultural understanding of such an event. We can trust the validity of this experience.

  1. In this post I suggested that this was a “re-revelation" of the name of God, Yahweh. Why do you think a reminder of God’s name was necessary?
  2. How does this story of the burning bush fit into the larger narrative of Scripture leading to the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

"The Recipe for Rejoicing" - Doug Rehberg

I googled “Christian Stress” and here’s a sample of the book titles that appeared on my screen: 
  • Stress Management: The ultimate guide to getting rid of stress and anxiety – the most effective techniques
  • Surrendering Our Stress: Prayers to calm the soul and strengthen the spirit
  • Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 simple strategies to stress less, sleep more, and restore your passion for life
  • How to Properly Perform Emotional Freedom Technique: By EFT tapping your chakras, you can be free of emotional stress
  • Simplicity: 1,000 ways to reduce stress and simplify your life starting today
  • Don’t Be a Worry Wort: Accept God’s peace and change your life
  • Meditation: The Meditation Solution: A practical guide to a happy, peaceful and stress-free life

Today stress management is a billion dollar industry. Studies have shown a link between stress and nearly every physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual disorder known to man.

If you are anything like me you receive scores of transmissions throughout the week from those struggling with the stressful circumstances of life. Some of the stress is self-inflicted. Other stress seems to be imposed by others. Regardless of the source, the stress and discouragement that accompanies life in the 21st century is pervasive. No one is immune. And it’s about finding peace in the midst of turbulence that causes us to dig back into Paul’s letter to the Philippians this Sunday.

As you know, Paul is writing from prison. He has a death sentence hanging over his head. He’s isolated from those who have been to him “a joy and a crown”. He longs for the Philippians and yet, instead of focusing on his own plight, he spends his time instructing them on how to rejoice always regardless of the circumstances.

When we studied chapter 4 together a few months ago, we emphasized some other features in Philippians 4:1-9. This Sunday we will circle back and find Paul’s recipe for rejoicing in all circumstances.

In preparation for Sunday’s message “The Recipe for Rejoicing” you may wish to consider the following: 
  1. What does I Corinthians 11:16-33 tell us about the turbulence of Paul’s life?
  2. Note God’s prediction of all of this in Acts 9:10-16.
  3. On what basis does Paul tell them to “stand firm” in Philippians 4:1?
  4. What happened on October 19, 1987?
  5. How does Paul link 3:2 to 4:1 and establish a principle in dealing with stress?
  6. How does prayer reduce anxiety? (see v. 6)
  7. What kind of prayer is he talking about?
  8. What does Paul mean in verse 5 when he says, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone”?
  9. How is it connected to what he says in I Corinthians 7:29-31?
  10. What do you make of Paul’s use of the words: “The peace of God” and “The God of peace” in verses 7 and 9?

See you Sunday as we gather at His table.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

"Moving Freely" - Doug Rehberg

After Marilyn Monroe’s divorce from playwright Arthur Miller in 1961, Monroe seemed to be lost and depressed. She fell in love with Frank Sinatra. There were rumors that she had affairs with both Robert and John F. Kennedy.

Yet, near the end of her life, she and former husband Joe DiMaggio were spending time together again. Former DiMaggio teammate Jerry Coleman remembers seeing them together in New York City. He said, “I was doing shows in New York and I was walking down Park Avenue to get my car when I saw this couple come around the corner. Joe had his head up in the air and his arm around her. I didn’t bother to say ‘hello’. I thought he was as happy as I had seen him, so I left him alone.”

Any hopes of a long life together were crushed on August 4, 1962 when DiMaggio received word of Marilyn’s death. She died alone. Authorities didn’t know who to call, as she had no family. So they called Joe and he stepped in. He orchestrated his ex-wife’s funeral.

DiMaggio barred the public and almost all of the Hollywood glitterati – producers, directors, and actors – from the funeral. When they protested to him he said, “If it wasn’t for you she’d still be here.”

According to one account of the funeral, printed in the New York Times, DiMaggio bent down to Monroe’s casket weeping and saying, “I love you. I love you. I love you.”

For two decades after the service DiMaggio had flowers delivered to Marilyn’s grave twice a week. “I firmly believed,” said a friend of Joe’s, “all those years that he visited the grave site and left flowers, he was still in love with her; but he also did it out of a great sense of guilt. Because I think he helped contribute to her demise. I’m firmly convinced that if he had behaved differently, they would have had a good marriage. He destroyed it – and he felt that guilt.”

This Sunday our focus is the power of memory to free us, rather than enslave us. We will begin with a story of another famous war hero who lived in the shadow of his memory. In his case, however, it wasn’t the guilt of losing a life that enslaved him, but the joy and gratitude of a life spared and freed – his!

Paul writes a lot about the power of memory to change a life. According to Paul, a clear memory of our heritage and our destiny can determine the way we live out our lives in gratitude or the opposite.
This Sunday falls the day after Independence Day. How appropriate, for we will be examining Ephesians 2 in a message entitled, “Moving Freely.” Here, writing from prison to Christians he has known longer than most, Paul sets for the powerful link between memory and gratitude. In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:

  1. Who was Eddie Rickenbacker?
  2.  Why does Paul repeat the admonition to “remember” twice in verses 11 & 12?
  3. What are we to remember?
  4. How does our memory affect our freedom to give to God and others?
  5. What is the first mention of remembering in Scripture?
  6. How does God’s memory affect every Christian?
  7.  How do you understand Jack Miller’s statement: “Cheer up, you are a lot worse than you think you are and God’s grace is a lot bigger than you think it is”?
  8. What does Paul say about our position in Christ in verse 13?
  9. What does he say about our proximity to Christ in verse 13?
  10. Compare and contrast God’s forgiving Adam in Genesis 3 to Paul’s description of God’s forgiving us in Ephesians 2?

See you Sunday!