Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"The Marks of a Changed Heart" - Doug Rehberg

Three mean-looking guys on motorcycles pulled into a truck stop café where a trucker was eating his lunch at the counter. As soon as they entered the café and spotted the little man on the middle stool, they walked up behind and grabbed his food. Next, they spun him around and laughed in his face. And you know what the trucker did? Nothing. He simply paid his bill and walked out without saying a word.

One of the bikers was unhappy that they hadn’t succeeded in provoking the small man into a fight; and he bragged to the witness, “He sure wasn’t much of a man, was he?” The waitress replied, “No, I guess not.” Then, glancing out of the window she added, “I guess he’s not much of a truck driver, either, because he just ran over all three of your motorcycles.”

Remember the old adage, “Don’t get mad, get even.” That pretty much sums up the natural inclination of the human heart – not only to others, but to God.

Have you lived long enough, and thought deeply enough, to know that most problems people have with God are not theological, but personal? I think of Elizabeth Elliot’s whose first husband was murdered by cannibals to whom he and several others had come to minister. Her second husband died of cancer. And she wrote about it.

“The experiences of my life are not such that I could infer from them that God is good, gracious, and merciful necessarily. To have one husband murdered in the cause of Christ and another one disintegrate, body, soul, and spirit, through cancer, is not what you would call a proof of the love of God. In fact, there are many times when it looks like just the opposite. My belief in the love of God is not by inference or instinct. It is by faith.” And that’s exactly what we see in Sunday’s text – Genesis 50:15-21.

After the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a woman in Kentucky who took him to a grand old tree that once stood in front of her house. There in front of that tree she wept bitterly that the Union soldiers had come and destroyed its limbs and trunk. She looked for a word of condemnation from the general. Surely he would see her plight and share in her mourning. But, after a brief silence, the God-fearing general looked her in the eye and said, “Cut it down, my dear madam, and forget it.” But how do you get there? How do you get to the place where you don’t only forgive and forget, but love? Joseph shows us.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “The Mark of a Changed Heart”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How long has it been since Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery?
  2. How long has it been that they and their father have lived in Egypt?
  3. What would prompt them to think that Joseph may wish to pay them back for all their evil?
  4. What does their message in verse 16 signal about their desperation?
  5. Why does Joseph weep? (Note verse 17)
  6. Do you see any similarities between these brothers in verse 18 and the youngest son in Luke 15?
  7. What does Joseph’s response in verses 19-21 say about his changed heart?
  8. Who does Joseph most resemble in the Scriptures?
  9. In what ways does the story of Joseph mirror Jesus’ story?
See you Sunday!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"A Peculiar Faith" - Dan Weightman

Has anyone ever called you strange or different? What if they were to call you peculiar? Would you shy away from such a distinction or embrace it? Likely, if they were referring to your favorite socks or interest in exotic foods, you might take offense. But what if they were referring to your faith?

Interestingly, in Titus 2:11-14 Paul outlines how followers of Jesus Christ were to be different, even “peculiar” when compared to the world around them. This week’s sermon is going to explore what it looks like to have an authentically peculiar faith that is both Christ-like while at the same time a credible witness to the world around us.

To do so we are going to do a character study of the life of Joseph and see how he exemplified a peculiar trust in the Lord through his proclamation of God’s peculiar promises, a peculiar integrity, and maximizing the peculiar position given to him.

In preparation for this message, I invite you to spend some time in Genesis 37-50 reviewing the life of Joseph. This study includes a number of chapters, so try reading a few each day leading up to Sunday asking yourself the question, “How was Joseph’s example of a peculiar faith a powerful witness to those around him?” Also, as you go through your week, I invite you to examine yourself by asking the same question.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"The Money Trap" - Scott Parsons

Sunday will be the last day in our series, "Walk This Way". Today's passage, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, presents us with a subtle warning that the path of walking with Jesus may not be as we would like to believe. 

In Luke 9, we read that everyone wanted to walk with Jesus. I mean, why not? He was healing them and feeding them, and telling them things that stirred their souls. Just when He seems to have the masses on His side, He turns to them and says, “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.” In others words, Jesus calls to the crowd and says “Follow me and die!” Not exactly a stellar church growth motto! But He means it. Shortly after this a man says to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus looks at him and says, “I’m homeless. Come live like me.” Jesus calls another man to follow Him, but the man says, “Let me go home and take care of my family first.” Jesus says, “Let the dead bury their own dead. You go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Seems harsh, doesn't it? It doesn't seem to fit with our image of a meek, kind, easy to follow Jesus.  But in our series we have learned that though Jesus is accepting and kind, He is also the eternal Son of God who will not accept second place in anyone’s life. Walking with Jesus means dying to everything we are and have, and following Him on the path He desires to walk. That's why idols are such terrible things. They are things we keep in our lives that are more important to us than Jesus. And the idol that tends to be most troublesome in our lives is wealth. We may be reticent to talk about money, but God is not. Money or wealth is mentioned in the Bible over 800 times. Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19 and ask God to lead you on an idol hunt in your own heart.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

"Men of Athens" - Doug Rehberg

One evening last week I came home late from meetings to have a card handed to me. It was from Max, a neighbor kid who’s as cute as can be. The card read, “Dear Doug & Barb. I’m sorry for making skid marks on your patio. Will you please forgive me?” I looked at Barb as if to say, “What’s this all about?” But if you know anything about my wife, you know that she was filling me in as soon as my eyes diverted from the card.

It seems that Max and a neighbor girl were using our driveway and patio as a race track. That’s nothing new. What is new is that Max had decided to change the mode of transportation. Instead of using the #1 toy of last season – a cool, plastic 4-wheeled car that surpasses any “big wheel” variant I’ve ever seen – he opted for his bicycle. Now it’s one thing to ride your bike on the “Rehberg long course”; it’s another to lay rubber for more than ten feet a dozen or more times! It seems that Jimmy Buffet was right when he sang, “There’s a woman to blame.” Max has fallen into the common male trap of trying to impress the girl. After all, if one skid mark doesn’t impress her, maybe eleven more will!

When Barb filled me in on the details it turned out that Max’s indiscretion spread like wildfire. His parents sprang into action trying to remedy the problem before Doug set his eyes on the carnage. Really, for the life of me, I still can’t figure out this fear of me. (Maybe I’m not as sweet and lovable as I think I am!)

Anyway, the rest of the story happened two days later when Max’s mom marched him over to face me. He stood there, directly in front of me, sheepishly repeating his written plea. “Doug, will you forgive me for making skid marks on your patio?” Instantly I grabbed him, hugged him, and said, “Of course I forgive you, Max. You’re my buddy!” His mother looked like a five-hundred-pound weight had been lifted from her shoulders, and the smile on Max’s face was the stuff of Norman Rockwell.

I’ve thought about that incident in the last few days, especially as I’ve focused on Acts 17:16-34 and Paul’s ministry in Athens. Look at what he says in verse 30: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent…” It’s a fascinating statement for a lot of reasons. First, he’s not speaking in the synagogue, he’s in the Aeropagus. Second, he’s not talking to Jews, but Gentiles. Third, he’s not talking to God-fearers, but polytheists. Fourth, he’s not talking about what commonly passes for repentance in evangelical circles these days (turning around), he’s talking about biblical repentance – a whole life change. Rather than addressing behavioral change based on a concerted human effort, he’s talking about a thorough life change founded on the totality of the divine effort in Jesus.

There’s a lot in this text that further informs us as to what walking with Jesus looks like. But to boil it down to its root, what we have is a picture of a man living what Martin Luther refers to as “a life of repentance” – the surest sign of walking Jesus’ way. (By the way, how do you think skid marks on a patio compare to lash marks on the back of Jesus?)

In preparation for Sunday’s message, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What was the first of Martin Luther’s 95 theses? Why did he start there?
  2. What is Jesus’ point to Simon the Pharisee when He tells him the parable of the forgiven debt in Luke 7?
  3. Why is Paul in Athens?
  4. Why does he leave the synagogue and expand his ministry to the marketplace? (see vs. 17)
  5. What is an agora?
  6. What does Luke mean in verse 16 when he says that as Paul looked around his spirit was “provoked”?
  7. What is the result of his spirit being provoked?
  8. What does he mean in verse 22 when he says that he “perceives” that in every way they are religious?
  9. What is the result of this perception?
  10. What is the ground of true repentance?
See you Sunday!