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!