Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"The Son" - Ken Wagoner

In 1993 Bill Bennett compiled a collection of stories about self discipline, compassion, responsibility, courage, and other character building essentials and called it The Book of Virtues.  These stories come from many different centuries, cultures, and faith backgrounds, and as a general rule are healthy and good to read.  However, some of the stories appear to be contrary to the Gospel, and may influence how we read some of the scriptures today.  Here is a short example on the topic of work from Aesop titled “Hercules and the Wagoner.”  Perhaps I am attracted to the story because of the title!

A wagoner was driving his team along a muddy lane with a full load behind them, when the wheels of his wagon sank so deep in the mud that no efforts of his horses could move them.  As he stood there, looking helplessly on, and calling loudly at intervals upon Hercules for assistance, the god himself appeared, and said to him, “Put your shoulder to the wheel, man, and goad on your horses, and then you may call on Hercules to assist you.  If you don’t lift a finger to help yourself, you can’t expect Hercules or anyone else to come to your aid.”  Heaven helps those who help themselves.
It is an intriguing short story, and encourages some positive characteristics which are good to have.  But, does it possibly create a conflict with the foundational message of the Bible?  If we approach the Bible the same way we approach The Book of Virtues is it possible we will not understand much of the Bible and potentially even close our minds to the truths of the scriptures?  Our main scripture this coming Sunday is from Genesis 16 and the story of Sarah and Hagar.  Abraham and The Angel of the Lord are also main characters in this chapter, and the passage warrants enough attention Paul made reference to it in Galatians 4.  We live in a significantly different culture than the culture of Genesis 16 which adds to the struggle in understanding, but many people today when reading Genesis 16 will say, “If this is what the God of the Bible is like and wants I don’t want any part of that.”   Thanksgiving week is a busy week, but if you have time read Genesis 16, and ask yourself these questions to try to understand what God is teaching us.
1.      Who are the main characters in this story? In what way have we seen them before this scripture, or are any of them new to the scriptures at this point?

2.      What is going on in this chapter? What are the events which have preceded this chapter and how does Genesis 16 fit in with what we have read to date?

3.      In what way does God reveal Himself in this chapter, and what is the message God is communicating at this time?

4.      How does Paul interpret this story in Galatians 4, and what was the issue in Paul’s time which moved him to use Genesis 16 for his explanation?

5.      Why do you think this story even “makes it” in the Bible?



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"The Thorn" - Doug Rehberg

American painter, John Sargent, once painted a panel of roses that was highly praised by his critics. It was a small picture, but they said it approached perfection. Although offered a high price for it on many occasions, Sargent refused to sell it. He considered it his best work and was proud of it. Whenever he was deeply discouraged and doubtful of his abilities, he’d look at it and remind himself, “I painted that.” Then his confidence and ability would return and his spirits would lift.

Once when Dr. Park Tucker, Chaplain of the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1920s, was walking around the streets of his city feeling dismal and discouraged, his eyes seized on a sign in the window of a funeral home. At first he wondered if he had read it right. Upon closer inspection he confirmed that he had. The sign read, “Why walk around half-dead? We can bury you for $69.50 and we give green stamps, too!”

Now these are two common strategies for dealing with discouragement – look to your past successes or consider how bad things can really be. But Paul offers us a much more superior way of processing discouragement than either of these. In fact, it’s a discovery he makes as a result of a clear divine exposure. He tells of it in II Corinthians 12:1-10.

In our series “Divine Exposure” we have already seen how God stoops to the weakness of men like Elijah and women like Sarah. In both of those cases He condescends to their place of alienation and discouragement and lifts their spirits by giving them a new perspective. But in Paul’s case His approach is quite a bit different. Indeed, it is because of the gracious vision God gives Paul that the apostle grows afflicted and discouraged.

We will delve into this entire matter this Sunday in a message entitled, “The Thorn”. As we noted briefly in last week’s sermon, Paul receives a vision of the heavenly throne room of God just like Isaiah. But there are some considerable differences that we will highlight.

For years I read this passage and lifted from it what I thought was the main point, a principle of prayer. The principle is persistence. Paul says that he pleaded with God three times to remove the thorn. He didn’t pray just once or twice. He prayed three times. Therefore, I reasoned, that anytime a struggle emerges in your life, pray diligently for the Lord to take it away.

While such a principle can be derived from this text, there’s so much more here. Paul’s primary purpose is not to impart a prayer technique to his readers, but to underscore a much greater principle that has far reaching implications for all of us.

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

1.      Why does he tell the Corinthians all of this? What prompts the discourse?
2.      Why does he speak of himself in the third person in verse 2 and following?
3.      What is the third heaven?
4.      What detail does he provide to us about the third heaven? Where is that?
5.      What does his description and his third person recounting tell us about those who say they’ve heard from the Lord, etc.?
6.      What conceit could Paul possibly have as a result of his divine exposure?
7.      What was the thorn?
8.      What message of Satan would flow from the presence of the thorn?
9.      How does the presence of the thorn equate with divine grace?
10.  How is God’s power made perfect in weakness?

See you Sunday!

See you Sunday!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

"The Altar" - Doug Rehberg

Forty years ago I lived in Miami, Florida, and spent a lot of time on Key Biscayne. One of the men I came to know on that island was a man who didn’t have to work for a living. His substantial wealth afforded him the luxury of freedom from financial worry.

When I first came to know him, I asked all the normal questions men ask like, “What do you do?” His answer was telling, “Whatever I want to do.” I followed that one with, “Well, where do you work?” He replied, “I don’t.” Within several minutes he divulged the reason for his ease. He said, “It all happened on January 28, 1977. That was the day my ship came in.” What I would later learn is that it was on that day that he made a commodities trade that set him up for life.

Now every one of us have “marker” dates in our lives, those titanic days on which something remarkable happened. Think of the assassination of JFK, September 11, 2001, the day your first child was born, or the date someone close to you died. We all have them and so did so many of the Old Testament characters we’ve examined in this series, “Divine Exposure”. Think of the day God came and answered Job’s searing questions. Think of the moment God found Elijah under that broom tree in the wilderness. Think of the night Jacob wrestled at the Jabbok, or the day Abraham raised the knife to slay his son, Isaac. All of these exposures stand as markers not only for the Old Testament figure involved, but for us as well. However, no such exposure is greater, or more profound than Isaiah’s vision of God in Isaiah 6. Someone has called it the Matterhorn of all Old Testament peaks. Here Isaiah is carried away from the temple in  Jerusalem in a vision to the throne room of heaven.

This text is so seminal, so pivotal, that a sermon could be preached on every word. But what we will seek to do this Sunday is look at the dramatic parallels between what Isaiah experiences that day and the experience of every true Christian. For the truth is, what God does for Isaiah in that vision nearly 2800 years ago is what He has done for each of us.

On Sunday we will look at five common experiences between Isaiah and us. We will look at the Reality of the experience in verse 1, the Diversity of the experience in verse 1, the Beauty of the experience in verse 2, the Humility of the experience in verse 5, and the Festivity of the experience in verse 8.

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

1.      What is the significance of the death of King Uzziah?
2.      What does his death mean for Isaiah and Judah?
3.      Unpack the details of the vision in verse 1 – what do they mean?
4.      Who is Isaiah and how does God tailor this experience to meet his deepest need?
5.      J. Gresham Machen once noted, “A low view of the law always produces legalism; a high view of the law makes a person seek after grace.” How is that relevant here?
6.      What is it that prompts Isaiah’s woe in verse 5?
7.      What does he mean by “lost”?
8.      Someone has said, “Isaiah doesn’t know himself until he sees God.” Do you think that’s true for you too?
9.      How many times are Seraphim mentioned in the Bible and why twice here?
10.  What is the message of the Seraph with the coal in verse 7?
11.  How does Isaiah go from his utterance in verse 5 to the one he makes in verse 8?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

"The Prayer" - Doug Rehberg

This week I read about a five-year-old boy who came to his father one day with a request. “Dad,” he said, “I know that Mom is supposed to have a baby in a few months and I really want a brother. Can you promise me a brother?” His dad replied, “Johnny, I’ll tell you what. If you pray every day for two months for a baby brother, I guarantee that God will give you one.”

So the boy started out strong. For a month he prayed every night before he went to bed for a baby brother. But after a month he began to grow skeptical. He began to ask around the neighborhood and found that nobody who ever prayed for a brother got one. In fact, he was told that it was silly to keep praying that way. So he stopped.

And at the end of the two months his mother went to the hospital and delivered. The next day when the five-year-old was allowed to visit, he came into the room and found a set of twin boys. His father said to him, “Now aren’t you glad you prayed?” And Johnny hesitated a minute and said, “Yes, but aren’t you glad I stopped after one month instead of two?”

When most people think of prayer they think of it like that father and son; prayer is a means of securing a desired end. However, in this week’s message, “The Prayer”, we will be examining the first extended prayer in Scripture. It’s a prayer in which Abraham makes six separate requests of the Lord, all prompted by the Word of God and all on the same subject. But unlike most prayers, this one is initiated by God (18:17). The Bible says that as the three visitors set out from the tent of Abraham (note: the message of October 25th, “The Laugh”), the Lord says, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” Stuart Briscoe in his commentary on Genesis says, “This question, which apparently the Lord was addressing to Himself, is as of great interest to us as it was undoubtedly to Abraham. It deals with the whole question of whether God has a strategy and if He will share it with His people and, in fact, involve them in its outworking.” But it’s far more than that. It’s a divine exposure that gives us one of the greatest foreshadowings of the Gospel in the entire Old Testament.

Think of it. In Genesis 3 God announces the promise of the Gospel. In Genesis 15 He ratifies the veracity of His promise. In Genesis 22 He provides a phenomenally clear portrait of the Gospel. And in Genesis 18 He explains the reason for it.

For years I have taught that Abraham’s negotiation with God in Genesis 18:16-33 is a transparent example of God’s foreordained will. Rather than showing God’s will bending to the will of Abraham, Abraham’s will is bending to the will of God. In other words, God knows what He is going to do and Abraham comes to learn it through this prayerful dialogue. And while all of this is true, there’s so much more that’s taking place here. Indeed, in this divine exposure, Abraham, and every inspired reader, learns of the loftiness of God’s holiness and the breadth of His grace. There is so much here!

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

1.      Two weeks ago in Genesis 18:1-15 we read of these three men. Who are they?
2.      In verse 17 the Lord says, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” Why the first person singular pronoun?
3.      How is this question really an invitation to Abraham to engage Him?
4.      On what grounds does the Lord invite him into dialogue?
5.      What do you make of the words, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see…”?
6.      What do you think happens in verse 22 to clarify the parties engaged in the following dialogue?
7.      What does the Bible mean in verse 23 when it says that Abraham drew near?
8.      In what way is Abraham acting like a priest or mediator between God and the Canaanites of the plain?
9.      What marks Abraham’s request as unique to Scripture?
10.  Why does he stop at ten?

11.  What does all this tell you about the Gospel?

See you Sunday!