Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Our Family" - Doug Rehberg

We come to the end of our series, “Full Disclosure” this week. It’s been a wonderful journey through a book that’s often been labeled hard and difficult. However, our journey has been exciting for so many, including me. Until this series Hebrews was a book I read, but never grasped the way I do now. And I must not be alone, because literally scores of people have told me how much the Lord has spoken to them through our study.

This week we revisit the final verses of this sermon that Scott so masterfully exposited last week. Remember his points regarding Jesus as our Shepherd? He’s eternal, He’s personal, and He equips us with everything we need to get home unscathed. And it’s that last point that I want to explore further this week.

Remember the question – “If God loves me why is my life so hard?” Remember the answer – “Your life is a long journey and the only way you will make it home without even more pain and discontentment is to fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith.” And the way the preacher encourages us to do that is by giving us more than a dozen individual portraits of Jesus as the full disclosure of God.

At the end of his message the preacher draws on one of the richest themes of Scripture to describe Jesus and every Christian. He uses the portrait of a shepherd with his flock of sheep. In 13:20 the preacher calls Jesus, “The great shepherd of the sheep.” In doing so he uses a word that he uses in chapter 3 when he says, “But exhort one another every day.” In chapter 13 he says, “I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation…” The word is perakaleo in Greek and it’s one of the most powerful words ever used to describe one of the gifts of the Shepherd to the sheep. The gift is other sheep who act as shepherds speaking into our lives.

A few years ago David Wilkie wrote a book entitled, Coffee with Jesus. It’s sort of Jesus “with an edge”. In it Wilkie has a dialogue between landscaper Carl and Jesus about Carl’s wife, Lisa.

Carl: “Lisa wants me to take her to the opera, Jesus! What could suck more than that? Ugggh! The opera!”
Jesus: “Lisa hides well her hatred of football, Carl, even when you insist on watching ten hours of it on Sundays.”
Carl: “Lisa hates football? But she sits there and watches with me and never complains.”
Jesus: “I love watching it sink in, Carl.”

Sometimes those “in your face” moments come as we pray, or as we read the Bible, but often they come from others (shepherds) who love us. I remember one time confessing a sin to a mentor of mine. After I confessed, I said something like, I was surprised that I had done it. He replied, “You wouldn’t have been so surprised if you didn’t have such a high opinion of yourself.” Touché.

That’s what we are going to talk about this Sunday – the role of other under shepherds in our lives. In chapter 13 the preacher called them “leaders”. In chapter 3 he calls them “one another”. The point is this: If you are a Christian and you have no one with whom you confide, turn to for advice, ask for a critique, listen for wisdom, take off your masks; you’re in deep weeds. Your walk in this world requires shepherding and Jesus mostly gives it through your brothers and sisters in Christ.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Our Family”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Consider the theme running through Hebrews 3:13; 10:24-25; and 13:17-25.
  2. Who are some of the shepherds named in Scripture?
  3. How many different names of God are associated with the name “Shepherd”?
  4. What do you know about sheep? Is it a compliment or a criticism to be called a sheep of His flock?
  5. What does Jesus mean when He tells Peter three times to feed or tend His sheep?
  6. How does Jesus fulfill His promise to never leave or forsake us through “undershepherds?”
  7. Why does the preacher attribute the role of “exhorting” to leaders as well as other sheep?
  8. What does exhortation/parakaleo mean?
  9. What are the dangers in shepherding?
  10. What are the fruits of effective shepherding?
See you Sunday!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"Our Shepherd" - Scott Parsons

The Lord is my Shepherd

In Psalm 23 David calls the Lord his shepherd.  What is significant to me about that is not so much David’s recognition of God as a shepherd, but his own willingness to consider himself a sheep!  Phillip Keller, in his beautiful book “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”, describes sheep as being senseless, helpless and defenseless.  It is significant that David the king, who knew sheep well, would be willing to approach God admitting that he was senseless, helpless and defenseless.

Sunday we are going to be looking at Hebrews 13:20-22 which describes Jesus as our Shepherd.  But it is meaningless to think of Jesus as our shepherd if we are unwilling or unable to acknowledge that we are the sheep!  The peace and joy that comes from resting in the hands of Jesus only becomes a reality when we let go of every pretense of self-sufficiency and humbly and gratefully admit that before God we are senseless, helpless and defenseless.

The key question throughout this series has been, “If Jesus loves me why is my life so hard?”  

Sunday we will consider the reality that much of the pain, struggle and despair of living in a sinful world pass away when willingly place our lives in the hands of the Shepherd.  Consider these things as you prepare for worship on Sunday:
  1. Do you acknowledge your need of a Shepherd?
  2. How much do you need Jesus?  Do you need/turn to him for everything, or just for the things you feel you can’t handle by yourself?
  3. Are you willing to be led by the Shepherd, allowing him to determine what you need, what you should do and where you should go?
  4. What areas of your life have you been unwilling to surrender to the Shepherd?  Your work? Finances?  Family?  Your thought life?  Recreations?
Think and pray about these things as we consider together the role of Jesus as our Shepherd.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"Our City" - Doug Rehberg

I once had a professor of English literature, Dr. Delvin Covey, who was intimidating to many. Not only did he hold several advanced degrees, he knew several languages other than English. He had been a translator from President Roosevelt at Yalta. He had been a deep sea demolition expert. He was a playwright with productions on Broadway and CBS. It was a joy to sit under his erudition.
Several of his statements have stuck with me over the decades. When a student would stand to make a point that was weak or off-target, he would stare at them for the longest time and then say, “Let’s move on before we have time to contemplate that last statement.” But there was another lasting “Coveyism” that came to mind for me this week as I was preparing Sunday’s message from Hebrews 11:13-16 and 13:10-16 – “Our City”.

Here in this text the preacher of Hebrews talks about the tension every follower of Jesus has in navigating the city of this world and the city of God. His point is clear – every true Christian is a resident alien of the city of this world, while at the same time a citizen of the city of God.

Now over the last 200 years many Christians in America have sought to relieve this tension by either separating themselves from the world or by fully conforming to it. For the one, the sectarians, their motto is “Come out from among them and be separate.” For the conformists it’s, “We’re all children of God no matter what you believe.”

But the preacher argues against both extremes. In fact, what he says is exactly what the Lord tells a group of worn and weary God-fearers hundreds of years earlier. And here’s where the “Coveyism” comes in.

It’s one of the most famous promises of Scripture, cited by millions of Christians. It’s Jeremiah 29:11. In fact, many of us know a dear brother at Hebron who has that verse “memorialized” on his car’s Pennsylvania license plate. Remember the promise? “For I know the plan I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Now every time Dr. Covey heard someone offer a quote from some famous writer, he’d ask, “What else did they say?” In other words, “What else do you know about the author or his intentions?” No more perfect question could be asked of Jeremiah 29:11. What’s the context for the promise? What else is the Lord saying here?

You know what the answer reveals? The same truth the preacher is holding before us this week. Remember the question? “If God loves me, why is my life so hard?” And the answer is always the same: “Life is a journey and the only way you’re going to get home unscathed is by fixing your eyes on Jesus.” This week the preacher shows us that Jesus is our city. Even in the midst of being a  resident of the city of this world He calls us to remember our citizenship and love like Jesus loved.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Which side of the tension do you find yourself normally defaulting to – escapism or conformity?
  2. What is the context of Jeremiah 29:11?
  3. What is a resident alien?
  4. How is the church, the Body of Christ, a foretaste of the future city of God?
  5. What was Abraham and the other heroes of the faith looking for? (see Hebrews 11:10)
  6. What is the preacher talking about in 13:15 when he encourages us to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God”?
  7. How does the preacher use the example of Jesus in 13:12-13 to exhort us to offer up a sacrifice of praise?
  8. How does chapter 13 prove again that the indicative is the power necessary for the imperative?
  9. How does he call us to live as citizens of the city of God here in the city of this world?
  10. How does that change your life, your attitude, and your commitment to Jesus and those He loves?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"Our Grace" - Doug Rehberg

Back in January, in the third sermon in this series, “Full Disclosure”, I mentioned a quote from A.W. Tozer, a deceased Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor who famously preached and wrote scores of books throughout his 40+ years of ministry.

In 1963, near the end of his life, Tozer was asked what he thought of modern preaching in America. He replied, “I have suffered through many a dull and tedious sermon that took aim at nothing and hit it every time. But let me tell you, no sermon is like that when the preacher is showing me the beauty of Jesus.”

That’s what the preacher of Hebrews has been showing us over the past four months. The question is, “If God loves me, why is my life so hard?” The answer throughout this sermon is: “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of your faith.” Indeed, it often takes the difficulties of life to do just that!

This morning I was reading Psalm 138, a Psalm of Thanksgiving to the Lord, written by David a thousand years before the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the last two verses he says, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.” Then he adds, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love (hesed), O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the works of your hands.”

Derek Kindner, one of the great biblical scholars of our day, in commenting on verse 8, recalls the way the Old King James Version renders it: “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.” What a great picture that is! But Kidner doesn’t comment on David’s last statement. He seems to be issuing a command to God when he says, “Don’t forsake the works of your hands.” In other words, “I’m trusting you to never stop working on me!” And that’s exactly what the preacher of Hebrews tells us God is doing at the conclusion of chapter 12 and throughout chapter 13.

But there’s another way in which David’s words are used by the preacher as he closes his sermon. What he’s saying to these poor persecuted Christians is, “Don’t you forsake the works of His hands which is the community in which He has placed you.” For twelve chapters he’s shown us in vivid detail the beauty of Jesus. He does for us what Helen Lemmel wrote about so many years ago. He’s turned our eyes upon Jesus. He’s enabled us to look full in His glorious face. And many of us have found that the things of earth have looked strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. But this week he gives us another angle from which to see Jesus – “OUR GRACE”. Chapter 13 marks a great divide in this sermon. The preacher moves from what is called “the indicative” to “the imperative”. 

For twelve chapters he’s told us the Gospel – all that Jesus has done for us. In this final chapter he’s telling us how we should, therefore, respond to it; how we should live. The beauty of the preacher’s message is that he doesn’t jump to the imperative like most modern preachers. The buzzword among many modern Christians in America today is, “Just give me the application!” But without a solid exposition of who Jesus is and what He has done, there is no sound application, only moralistic quips.

The preacher doesn’t do that. He bases his final exhortation on the work Jesus never ceases to apply to the life of the Christian. Indeed, it is His never-ending grace that produces the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

In preparation for Sunday’s message from Hebrews 12:28-13:9 that builds on Hebrews 3:1-6, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What other places in the New Testament can you cite where the indicative precedes the imperative?
  2. What’s the danger in focusing on the imperative without properly understanding the indicative?
  3. How does the chapter break between chapters 12 & 13 interfere with the preacher’s message?
  4. How does verse 29 of chapter 12 relate to 13:1?
  5. How do our “brotherly love” and our “hospitality to strangers” demonstrate divine fire?
  6. Why would verses 1-4 be so radical to those first century hearers?
  7. How are money, sex, and power redefined for the Christian?
  8. Do you agree with this statement?  “If you come to a worship service, or a Bible study, or a Grove, but don’t give up your privacy and get deeply, intensely connected with other believers, then you are a part of a Christian club, not a community of faith. And you’re not going to be shaped. The empowering presence of God is not going to work through you as He would in community.”
  9. How do you read verse 5? What’s the nature of Jesus’ promise cited here?
  10. How does the cross of Christ and His resurrection make verses 1-5 possible?
See you with the family on Sunday!