Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"It's Too Big...or Is It?" - Doug Keim

What are you dealing with? What is God calling you to do for Him? What struggles are occurring in your life at this time? We all have something, regardless of age, race, single, married, man or woman. How do we deal with all this stuff? How does God want us to deal with it?

On Sunday, we will look at how one of the most prominent figures in the Old Testament handled a huge calling from God in Exodus chapter 3 and chapter 4 verses 1-16. Moses initially struggled, feared, and doubted; yet God still patiently showed him how and what to do, and through the book of Exodus God used Moses mightily. But there are some very specific patterns that God uses in chapter 3 and 4 that He uses throughout Scripture and in our lives today. The world seeks a single way to produce one set of results for all people, while God's plan is far more personal, individual, and creative. Moses tried to take control and help his brethren by killing an Egyptian slave master only to run for his life and ending up in the desert for 40 years. Yet these years were not wasted - the Lord was preparing Moses for a huge task that He had for him. The Lord was preparing Moses for service that Moses could never have imagined on his own. When Moses was ready...the Lord got his attention at the burning bush. Yet Moses had excuse after excuse and reason after reason to not obey the Lord...even as God laid out the plan for him. Moses had tried earlier in his life to do things on his own, now he is face-to-face with God and doubt, fear, and anxiety are getting the best of him. Later as he heads to Egypt Moses’ faith begins to grow, yet he still has no idea that this seemingly quick trip would take him back to the desert for 40 more years. Still Moses throughout this time learned to rely on God's strength and not his own.

In our New Testament verses (Matthew 6:25-34) Jesus talks about many of the same principles that God used with Moses at the burning bush: trust, faith, God's strength and provision - not fear, anxiety, or trusting in our own strength. All of us go through some very difficult times and even devastating experiences and sooner or later come face to face with God. Sooner or later you will realize God is calling you or trying to get your attention just like He did with Moses.

Is this a pattern that God seems to be using in your life at this time? If so...stop at the burning bush, lay down your ego and pride, lay down your fears and anxieties, lay down your plans, lay down your will in your way and listen to what the Lord  has in store for may be extraordinary and it could be that God wants to lead you to a Promised Land that He has just for you!!!

I hope that you will join me on Sunday Morning as we dig into some very specific details on how to achieve this in your own life!!!

"The Sight" - Doug Rehberg

Have you heard the one about the priest who’s giving a homily on Matthew 5:44 where Jesus tells His listeners to love their enemies?

The priest says, “I’d bet that many of us feel as if we have enemies in our lives. Raise your hands if you have many enemies.” Instantly, quite a few people in the congregation raise their hands. He continues, “Raise your hands if you have only a few enemies.” About half of the people raise their hands. Then the priest says, “Well, raise your hand if you have only one or two enemies.” Even fewer people raise their hands. “See,” says the priest, “most of us feel like we have enemies.

Finally the priest says, “If there is anyone here who feels like they have no enemies at all, raise your hand.” And as the priest scans the sanctuary he spies one old man in the back of the church. He asks him to stand and explain himself. So the man stands up and shouts, “Yes Father, I have no enemies at all!” Delighted, the priest immediately invites him to come to the front of the church saying, “What a blessing!” When the man gets to the front he asks him, “Sir, how old are you?” The man says, “I’m 98 years old. The priest says, “You have no enemies?” The man says, “No enemies whatsoever.” The priest says, “That’s wonderful! Then tell us how it is that you have no enemies?” And the man says, “All those  b----‘s have died!”

It’s about loving your enemies that takes center stage in our final sermon in this 15-message series, Divine Exposure. Though it’s tempting to go back and review all of the occasions in history that we’ve studied where God comes and reveals Himself, I won’t. The biblical reason is two-fold: (1) You can do that yourself; and (2) all of those exposures including the ones the Lord gives Mary and Elizabeth, are only a prelude to His exposure to Simeon.

Like many other preachers, I have preached on Luke 2:22-35 on several occasions over the years, but I’ve never preached it on Christmas Sunday. What’s more, I have never preached it the way I will this Sunday, for I’ve never seen what I now see in the text.

Luke is the only gospel writer to mention Simeon, and yet he gives scant detail. Who is he? Is he a priest? Is he a prophet? Is he old? How long has he been hanging around the temple? No one knows for sure. What we do know is he is the first named person in Luke’s gospel who holds Jesus, other than His mother. But it’s not his hands that are our focus on Sunday. It’s his eyes. In a message entitled “The Sight” we will look into that.

In preparation for Christmas Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Why has Luke take us from the hill country house of Zechariah to Jerusalem?
  2. Why do Jesus’ parents bring him to the temple for purification?
  3. What is the significance of the sacrifice in verse 24?
  4. Why does Luke name Simeon?
  5. Can you think of any other Simeons in the Bible that may relate to this Simeon theologically?
  6. What does Luke mean when he says that Simeon was righteous and devout?
  7. What is “the consolation of Israel”?
  8. What does Luke mean when he says that the Holy Spirit was upon him?
  9. Why does Simeon say, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace”?
  10. How does Jesus practice what He would later preach?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"The Song" - Doug Rehberg

There is a line in Psalm 23 that speaks of fear, danger, and loneliness. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” In commenting on this verse, Max Lucado tells of a young friend of his who worked for a pharmacy while attending the University of Texas in Austin. His job was to deliver supplies to nursing homes and local residents who could not get out to retrieve these items.

One delivery occurred every four days. He would pick up a large jug of water and place it on his shoulder. From there he’d walk about fifty feet or so, behind the pharmacy, to a building on the other side of the alley. The customer was an older woman, perhaps in her seventies, who lived alone in the dark, sparce, and tarnished apartment. A single light bulb hung from the ceiling. The wallpaper was stained and peeling. And every four days Lucado’s friend would knock on the door, enter the apartment, and place the large jug of water on her kitchen counter and remove the empty one. He’d receive the payment from the woman, thank her politely, and then leave.

Over the weeks he began to wonder about the purchase. Why would this woman buy water in large jugs every four days when city water was available at a fraction of the cost? The answer? She was lonely. Indeed, she was so lonely that she opted to spend considerably more money just to have a regular visitor.

As we implied last week, our culture today is wedded to rabid individualism. It affects every area of life, including our faith. One of the first lessons in the great Bible study curriculum – The Bethel Bible Series – is to “Think Hebrew”. Bethel makes it clear that there  is a striking contrast between the way we (Greek thinking people) think and the way the Hebrew mind processes information. To the Hebrew the corporate is far more important than the individual. And so it is throughout the Scriptures.

Now think of Mary and the aftermath of her divine exposure. Gabriel, the angel most associated with divine judgment, appears to her and remarkably dispenses divine grace. In the first four words he uses the word “grace” twice. He announces God’s intentions. “The power of the Most High will overshadow you. The child born to you will be called holy – the Son of God.” Imagine her sense of fear, danger, and loneliness at the announcement. And yet, instead of basking in her solitude, she surrenders to the urgings of the angel and makes haste to see her equally pregnant cousin, Elizabeth. And it’s here in the presence of Elizabeth that the full measure of God’s exposure to Mary is realized. Simply put, without her visit to Elizabeth, there’d be no song. There’d be no proclamation of the Gospel by Mary. There’d be no justification for her statement in verse 38, “Behold, I am a bond slave of the Lord…”

This week in a message entitled, “The Song”, we will be examining the aftermath of Gabriel’s visitation to Mary in Luke 1:39-56. In preparing for Sunday’s study, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What is the distance that Mary travels from Nazareth to the house of Zechariah?
  2. What would that journey have been like for her?
  3. Why does she go?
  4. What does the location of Zechariah’s house tell us about Gabriel’s visitation to him earlier in chapter 1?
  5. What does Luke mean when he says that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit when she heard Mary’s greeting?
  6. How does God expose Himself to Mary through Elizabeth?
  7. Why is Mary’s song – the Magnificat – called the greatest Christmas carol of all time?
  8. What is the great shift that occurs in Mary’s song?
  9. How does the message of this song perfectly reflect Micah 6:6-8 and the essence of Jesus’ signature?
  10. What is the difference between Mary’s song and most of the Christmas carols we sing?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"The Seed" - Doug Rehberg

Finally we come to Jesus! For twelve weeks we have studied men and women who have had their course altered by their exposure to God. It’s been an array of biblical characters, each one in some condition of significant spiritual need.

For Job it was extreme frustration and self-righteousness. For Elijah it was self-pity and fear. For Joshua it was seasoned resolve and hubris. For Jacob it was fear and desperation. For Abraham it was disbelief. For Sarah it was alienation and self-loathing. For Hagar it was victimization through manipulation and abuse. For Paul it was an agonizing thorn in the flesh.

This Sunday we begin a two-week view of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In what condition does Gabriel find her? When he arrives it’s anyone’s guess. After he begins to speak it’s awe and trepidation. Think of the circumstances.

When God chooses to expose the fullness of Himself and His eternal plan, He doesn’t begin with the words, “Once upon a time…” but rather, “In the days of Herod the king…” He then further identifies His intentions by narrowing it down to the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Think of this, God bases His exposure to Mary on His exposure to Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth. What He says to Zechariah, her husband, is the setup for what He will say to Mary, the betrothed virgin.

This is a timeless story of Christ’s advent. Let’s review the facts. God passes over Jerusalem and imperial Rome to come to a 13 to 15-year-old virgin living in a village twenty miles south of Jerusalem. We know from history that Nazareth was a hotbed of corruption with Roman soldiers passing by each day and spending the night. Greek merchants were coming and going, selling their wares. Residents of Nazareth were largely rude, violent, and of poor reputation. In short, Nazareth was a rough place (note Nathaniel’s remark, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”) And yet, it’s to Mary of Nazareth that Gabriel comes and exposes the heart and mind of the Most High God.

What we find in our study of Luke 1:26-38 is an exposure that foreshadows God’s exposure to every believer in Jesus Christ. What He does for Mary is a perfect portrait of what happens to all in whom Christ is born. In the face of His grace all foreboding, all attachments, all self-assuredness and all self-preservation fades from sight and surrender to Him ensues.

There is much in this Divine Exposure. In preparation for Sunday’s message “The Seed”, you may wish to consider the following:

  1. Why do you suppose Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah is so essential to Luke’s presentation of God’s announcement to Mary?
  2. Who is Gabriel and where does he show up in the Old Testament? What is his message? (You may wish to check extra-biblical literature like Enoch, etc.)
  3. How does the Old Testament prepare us for the Chosen Seed being born in Nazareth?
  4. What are the clues in verses 5 to 25 that God will come in grace, rather than judgment?
  5. What do you make of Gabriel’s greeting in verse 28?
  6. How does this encounter follow the Annunciation Pattern of the Old Testament?
  7. How is Mary’s reaction to Gabriel different from Zechariah’s?
  8. What are the differences between Gabriel’s description of John the Baptist and his description of Jesus?
  9. What two signs does Gabriel offer Mary in answer to her question, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Are the two signs significant?
  10. What does this tell us about the value God places on fellowship?
  11. What is Mary saying in verse 38 and how is that the normal reaction to divine grace?

See you Sunday!