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!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

"The Whirlwind" - Doug Rehberg

This week I received a critique of my preaching that went like this: “Love Doug’s preaching, but it lacks personal application, and a personal challenge. It’s scholarly, big words, but not real engaging. It lacks real life stories that I can relate to.”

That got me thinking about how God chose to communicate with us. For many, when they think of the Scripture they think of commandments or various exhortation. But surprisingly God seems to agree with “my reviewer”, for when He determined to communicate spiritual truth to us He selected biography, rather than lecture or essay. Years ago, one of my professors wrote a book on Old Testament theology entitled, He Gave Us Stories, because he understood the power of that medium to communicate truth.

Stories are much more interesting and engaging than precepts. Stories have the power to hook us because we all have one. In fact, one of the best questions you can ask someone is, “Tell me your story.” Stories suck us in and promote reminders and parallels to our own story.

Over the next three months we will be digging in deeply to the stories of nine different biblical characters. In nearly every case we will be interacting with them at the climax of their life. This is the point at which God encounters them and exposes to them not only who He is, but who they are. What inevitably happens when you examine each exposure is that you see yourself in them. Their story reveals our story and that’s where God begins to change us as He changed them.

So this week we begin with Job. Our text is Job 42:1-9 and yet we will be referring to Job’s entire life. When God shows up in chapter 38, after a 38 chapter silence, He meets Job in a whirlwind. Look at Job 38:1, “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said…”

For years I’ve heard people say from time to time, “I feel like Job” or “He’s like Job.” And yet, every time I hear those words I think of 1988 and the Vice-Presidential debate between Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle. When Quayle said that he had as much political experience as J.F.K. had when he ran for the presidency, Bentsen retorted, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” There’s no one I know who’s like Job, and yet his struggle is a struggle all of us share. God’s answer to that struggle is the same answer He gives to us. And that answer has the power to change us.

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

1.      Read Chapters 1, 2, 23:1-5, and 42.
2.      Why does God challenge Satan in Chapter 1?
3.      What does He mean when He says that there’s no one like Job, blameless and upright?
4.      How does Job distinguish himself from you and me in 1:21?
5.      What do you make of his statement to his wife in 2:10?
6.      What is it that undoes Job and makes him long for an audience with God in Chapter 23:3-4?
7.      Why does God come to Job in a whirlwind?
8.      What answer does God give to Job’s challenge?
9.      What’s at the heart of Job’s problem with his suffering?
10.  How does Job prove God right in His challenge to Satan in Chapter 1? What is Satan’s view of Job’s faith?

I am excited to see you on Sunday!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"The Awakening" - Doug Rehberg

We are a week away from beginning a brand new series entitled, “Divine Exposure.” While any new series carries with it a large amount of personal excitement, this series, in particular, provokes an added level of anticipation. Some of the texts we will explore are old favorites, others are less commonly known; but all of them will offer to us new and challenging insights that are capable of propelling us to a deeper level of intimacy with God. The exposures we will experience go both ways. Not only will we see things in God that perhaps, we’ve never seen before; but we will discover things in ourselves that have been hidden that are now exposed.

A few months ago Chris Ansell of Bellefield Church was with us preaching on the text we have before us this week: Exodus 3:1-12. Here Moses sees a bush that’s on fire, but it’s not consumed. He goes over to take a look and the Lord speaks to Him out of the bush. And while Chris focused on the name of God in verses 13-15, we will dig into the preceding verses to find four lessons about God that undergird all that Moses will ever know about himself and his God.

This Exodus 3 incident is a perfect prelude to our fall series. It sets the groundwork for every subsequent time the Lord condescends to encounter a man or a woman in the Scriptures. Indeed, what Moses discovers about God here at the bush is what you and I must rediscover every day of our lives.
The Reformers had a slogan to describe it. They said, “After the darkness, light!”  May that be our slogan this week, as well as the weeks to come. May the Lord condescend to us and drive our darkness away.

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

1.   How does what Jesus says in John 10:1-10 relate to our text?
2.   What is the Reformers Wall in Geneva, Switzerland?
3.   Why did the Reformers select the burning bush as a symbol of the Reformation?
4.   What does the word shekinah mean?
5.   Why is God’s name changed from Elohim to Jehovah in this text?
6.   What is the significance of God showing up at Horeb?
7.   What is God saying about His identity in verse 6?
8.   What does verse 7 tell us about God’s compassion and insight?
9.   What is the significance of God’s description of Himself in verse 8(a)?
10.  What is significant to you about His promise in verse 8(b)?

See you Sunday!