Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Sanctioning a Stoning" - Doug Rehberg

When I was sixteen I met Jim Bakker for the first time. He and his wife, Tammy, were doing a children’s television program on the Christian Broadcasting Network in Tidewater, Virginia. (It was a kind of Christianized Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.) Since that time Jim and Tammy have become famous for many things, including:

PTL Club
Heritage U.S.A. in Charlotte, N.C.
A cosmetics line
A theme park
Sexual misconduct
Mail & wire fraud & conspiracy to defraud the public
Cancer, etc.

I have a friend who’s interviewed Jim several times since his release from prison. In one interview my friend said, “I’ll bet the hardest thing about the whole prison experience has been the feelings of embarrassment and shame.”  Jim smiled and said, “It was tough, but I’m glad it all happened. Now I can go anywhere and be with anybody in the whole world, and there aren’t raised eyebrows. I can go into any bar, any social circle of outcasts – and nobody tells me that I ought to be careful because ‘people will talk’ and that I might ‘hurt my reputation’. People have already talked. I don’t have any reputation to hurt. It doesn’t matter anymore, because I’m free.” The Apostle Paul would understand that in spades.

In Luke’s account of Paul’s life – Acts 8 through 28, he is quick to chronicle the beginning of Paul’s walk with Jesus as rocky and reputation-dissolving. There’s a six-word statement at the beginning of Acts 8 that says it all – “And Saul approved of his (Stephen’s) execution.” It’s something that the Apostle Paul never forgot; and yet, like Jim Bakker, it freed him from all pretense.

We are going to delve into all of this – Saul’s relationship to Stephen – this Baccalaureate Sunday. Indeed, it seems appropriate to be looking at Acts 6 and 7 this week, because without this experience, Saul would never have become Paul. He would never have walked with Jesus and would never have seen how overwhelming grace is!

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

1.      Is forgetting a necessary component of forgiving?
2.      What does it mean to be “seized with a great affection”?
3.      What is the meaning of Stephen’s name?
4.      Why does Luke devote 7% of this book to him?
5.      What is the meaning of Stephen’s profile in Acts 6:8, “full of grace and power”?
6.      Who are these “freed men” in verse 9?
7.      What role does Saul play in instigating the crowd against Stephen?
8.      What parallels do you see in Acts 6:8-12 and Acts 7:54-60 between Stephen and Jesus?
9.      How does God answer Stephen’s dying prayer in verse 60?
10.  How do we know that the stoning of Stephen freed Paul from pretense?

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Walk This Way" - Doug Rehberg

This Sunday we begin a new series entitled “Walk This Way”. It will be a relatively short series. It will roughly parallel the Children’s Ministry Orange curriculum used this summer for VBS and children’s small groups that profile the Apostle Paul’s walk with Jesus.

But this week we begin back in a familiar text – Micah 6:6-8.

With what shall I come before the Lord,
    and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

It’s about walking humbly with the Lord that is our focus this Sunday.

In August 2006 Dave Chilcoat, a distant friend and mentor to many, died of Lou Gehrig’s disease – ALS. He was 58 years old when he died. He had been diagnosed just three years earlier. In the view of most he died a young man, but in terms of spiritual maturity he died an old, wise sage. He knew what God’s answer in Micah 6:8 was all about, because he lived it; especially in those final three years. He knew what it meant to humble himself before the Lord and walk with him. Near the end of my message on Sunday I will refer to the journal he wrote throughout his ALS years. His wife published it a few years after his death under the title – Nobody Tells a Dying Guy to Shut Up. In preparation for Sunday’s message, I would encourage you to Google: “Dave Chilcoat God’s Man” and listen to his own words. They were recorded in the final months of his life. They’re not long – only 8 minutes and 24 seconds. After you watch and listen you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What is the nature of the scene in Micah 6?
  2. What is God’s problem with His people Israel?
  3. What does the Hebrew translation of verse 8 mean? “Humble yourselves and walk with your God?”
  4. How are we to humble ourselves?
  5. In what way does humbling yourself correspond to Jesus’ first “blessed” in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5)?
  6. What does Paul mean in Romans 3:10-12? Who is he talking about?
  7. What does the Lord mean in II Corinthians 12:9 when He answers Paul’s plea?
  8. What does Paul mean in I Corinthians 8:2 when he speaks of our lack of understanding?
  9. How well does what Jesus says to Peter in John 13:7 apply to what He says to you and me?
  10. How is a humble walk an exciting walk?
See you Sunday around the table.

Monday, May 9, 2016

"Pentecostal Power" - Ken Wagoner

It was five years ago on Pentecost Sunday when I was invited to preach at Hebron on a Sunday morning. Please know I am not surprised or disappointed if you don’t remember anything I said that day.    

I remember as a young Christian thirsting to read the Bible for the first time in a serious manner, and reading about people speaking in tongues. I had no idea what this was talking about, and thought what’s the big deal! Everybody uses their tongue to speak. I also told you my first experience with someone who experienced God in different ways than I ever heard. That person was my barber, and while he was holding a pair of scissors at the back of my neck he began to tell me the blessing of receiving the Holy Spirit. He believed I should receive the gift of tongues at that moment. He locked the door to the shop, closed the blinds, and prayed in a mixture of English and some other language I did not know. After 10 minutes of nothing happening to me I thanked him for caring for me, but did not believe I was going to receive that gift on that particular day. That was also the last time I went to him as my barber. Fairly or unfairly, I have been influenced by this experience. For Christians who are more inclined to receive and experience the miraculous gifts of God, Pentecost Sunday is one of their high marks of the year. For Christians who hold a more reserved view, Pentecost Sunday is probably not too much different than most other Sundays.  

This past fall you had a series from the Old Testament titled, “Divine Exposure.” Remember these titles: “Awakening, Whirlwind, Voice, Wrestler, General, Torah, Laugh, Cry, Prayer, Altar, Son, Seed, Song, Sight.” You looked at different ways God revealed himself to his people, and each of these encounters pointed to someone even greater who was yet to come. We know this one was Jesus.

In Acts 2 we read of “a sound like a rushing wind, tongues of fire resting on each person, and people speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” I am guessing not many of us have had this type of experience in our past.  In what ways do these experiences point us to Jesus, the one who has come and continues to work in our hearts and lives? In other parts of the New Testament we read of a “dove appearing, buildings shaking, and earthquakes rumbling.” The scriptures are full of events where God acts in dramatic, uncustomary, fresh, and extraordinary outpourings of the Holy Spirit. I would also guess most of us at some time in our lives have wondered why we don’t experience things like this on a regular basis? Are we missing these today? And can we be so intense in looking for these extraordinary outpourings of the Holy Spirit, we may miss God’s miraculous work in our lives in other ways?

Here are some questions for you to look at in preparation for this Sunday:
  1. Pentecost was one of the Jewish feast days, only they didn’t call it Pentecost. That’s the Greek name.  Jew called it the Feast of Harvest or the Feast of Weeks. It is mentioned in Exodus 23 and 24, Numbers 28, and Deuteronomy 16. Why do you think God decided to dramatically intervene on this day as recorded in Acts 2?
  2. Can you think of times in church history when God poured out His Holy Spirit in extraordinary ways? What happened during these times, and what was accomplished?
  3. In what ways do we see a fulfillment of Genesis 12:1-3 in the Acts 2:1-13 passage?
  4. In John 16 - 18 Jesus gives a long teaching before He dies about our dependency on and relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. What in these chapters is extraordinary, uncustomary, dramatic, and fresh?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

"From Mercenary to Mother" - Doug Rehberg

This week I read about a father and son who were out walking in the woods when they came across a stray dog. After checking for tags, the father said, “You know son, we’d better take this little guy home with us, because it doesn’t look like he’s got one.” So, carefully the little boy picked him up and carried him all the way home. Once inside the house the father said, “Well son, what do you think we should name him?” And before his son could answer, his wife chimed in, “Why don’t you name him ‘Mother’, because if he stays, I go.”

Now that’s a real threat. I mean dads are important, but moms are essential. I remember a number of years ago when a prison system in the south offered free Mother’s Day cards and free Father’s Day cards for any inmate who wanted to send them. Within two days, 10,000 Mother’s Day cards were requested and no Father’s Day cards.

As we have learned over the years God has numerous names in the Scripture from Elohim to Alpha and Omega. But there’s one name that is particularly rich and well-used and that’s the name El Shaddai. It’s used over two hundred times in the Old Testament and each time it’s translated, “God Almighty”.

Now on the face of it, it seems that this divine name implies strength and muscle. But when you examine the Hebrew word Shaddai, you find that it doesn’t mean muscle, it means breast. Shad in Hebrew means breast. Now think of it. When God shows up, it’s at the point of Abram’s greatest despair. And how does He come? As Elohim? No. He comes as El Shaddai, the God of rest and nourishment. And when you examine the other four places in the Book of Genesis where El Shaddai appears, you find the need of Isaac and Jacob is just as great as Abram’s. What they need is not might. What they need is nourishment. And that’s what God provides each of them.

You know who shows us the clearest view of the attributes of God? Jesus. We see Him doing that in John 21 in His encounter with Peter on the beach after his three-fold failure. We see Him doing the same with Mary at the tomb and Thomas behind closed doors in Jerusalem the night of the resurrection.

But perhaps more than any other New Testament figure we see the Shad of God being most transformative in the life of the Apostle Paul. This Sunday we are going to dig into the opening lines of his final epistle – II Timothy. It’s here that we find some of the clearest evidence of Paul’s radical change from a religious mercenary who’s hell-bent on stamping out Christianity to a man whose heart is as soft and sensitive as any on display in the New Testament. As we will see on Sunday in the span of thirty years from his Damascus Road experience Paul goes from a religious mercenary to a faithful, spiritual mother.

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

  1. What would you say is Jesus’ view of women?
  2. Would you consider His view of women to be in step or out of step with the culture of Orthodox Judaism of the time?
  3. Can you site examples from the Gospels of how Jesus treated women in an uncommon manner?
  4. On whose authority does Saul of Tarsus (Paul) head to Damascus to arrest followers of Christ? (see Acts 8 & 9)
  5. How accurate is it to refer to Saul/Paul as a religious mercenary prior to his conversion?
  6. How does Paul demonstrate a tremendous shift of heart in his final words to Timothy in II Timothy 1:1-7?
  7. What does he mean when he says he serves God with a clear conscience, “as my ancestors did” in verse 3?
  8. What does he mean in verse 4 when he says, “As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy”?
  9. What role do Eunice and Lois have in Timothy’s faith?
  10. How does Paul show Timothy and us Jesus in this text?
See you Sunday!