Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"No Father Like Him" - Doug Rehberg

A few weeks ago a friend of mine stopped me before one of the worship services to tell me that he had read my e-newsletter article that week where I referenced the prodigal son’s motivation in returning home. I said that it wasn’t repentance, but a scheme. He disagreed. And after seeking to explain myself, he reinforced his opposition by saying, “I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.” 

I’ve thought about that brief exchange often since that day. The trigger for such thoughts has been my preparation for our fall series, “The Rescue”.

What I’ve found in studying the first three chapters of Galatians is the need to go back to Luke 15 and spend a little time dissecting this 3-part parable that ends with the greatest story ever told.

The story of the Prodigal is the stuff of legend. Myriad books have referenced it. Countless sermons and teachings have sought to explain it. It’s a story I thought I understood well until a decade or more ago when I came face-to-face with Dr. Kenneth Bailey, an expert in the culture of the ancient Near East. Bailey lived and taught in Lebanon for nearly 40 years. And his insight into this parable opened my eyes to something I had never seen with such clarity – the pure, unvarnished Gospel.

Suddenly, all three stories that make up this parable came together. What’s more, each story builds to a crescendo in the final story of a man and his two sons.

There’s so much here; and yet, this week we are going to discipline ourselves to look at only one part of the parable – the father and his “reckless” son. For here in these few verses is the Gospel in miniature. It’s a Gospel that Paul elucidates beautifully in Galatians.

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What is the nature of the lostness of the younger son?
  2. What does he mean when he says, “Father, give me the share of the property that is coming to me?”
  3. What does Jesus mean in verse 13 when He says, “He gathered all he had and took a journey…”?
  4. What is the nature of his “recklessness”? See verse 13.
  5. Why would this Jewish son hire himself out to feed pigs?
  6. What does Jesus mean when He says in verse 17, “But when he came to himself…”?
  7. What biblical parallel is there to his words in verse 18?
  8. Why does his father run to meet him?
  9. Why does his father interrupt his speech?
  10. How is this story a perfect description of the Gospel?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

"The Hope of a Future" - Doug Rehberg

Sixty-five years ago in London, a violinist was scheduled to give a concert and the place was sold out. Now normally such a concert would not have attracted much attention. But this night the violinist was scheduled to play a $10,000 instrument, and all across the city music lovers flocked to hear what it would sound like.

As soon as the bow hit the strings everyone knew that they had made the right decision. They were mesmerized. They had never heard anything like it. They listened with rapt attention all the way through the middle of the third piece, when suddenly the musician stood up and began smashing his instrument on the stage.

The audience was stunned. For several minutes they sat motionless until the stage manager came out and said that the maestro would be right back after he uncased his $10,000 instrument. The one he had been playing was a $100 violin he had picked up earlier that day at a bargain music store.

And you know something? When he returned to the stage and started to play, no one could tell the difference; because in the hands of the Master, it’s not the instrument that matters, it’s the Master.

Corrie ten Boom was once asked, “How do you stay humble when Christians all over the world long to see you and hear your testimony?” Corrie smiled and said, “Do you think, for one minute, that the donkey that carried the Lord Jesus into Jerusalem thought the crowds were cheering for Him?”

This week we’re going to go to the beach together where we find Peter and the other disciples learning again from Jesus the essence of the Gospel – Jesus + nothing = everything.

It’s not Jesus + obedience. It’s not Jesus + good works. It’s not Jesus + the approval of others or our own performance. It’s Jesus alone! For He alone is our Hope of a future.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “The Hope of a Future” based on John 21:4-22 and Jeremiah 29:8-14, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What does Paul mean in Galatians 2:14(a) when he says, “When I saw that their conduct was not in step with the Gospel…”?
  2. How is Peter’s self concept in John 21 out of step with the Gospel?
  3. Why does Peter say to the others, “I’m going fishing”?
  4. What is the significance of Jesus’ question in verse 5?
  5. What is the significance of the catch He provides?
  6. What is the significance of this being the third revelation of Jesus to His disciples?
  7. What does Peter’s love for Jesus have to do with his restoration?
  8. How is Jesus’ instruction to him in verse 17 the essence of discipleship?
  9. How is Peter’s response in verse 20 & 21 stereotypical of a “works righteousness” attitude?
  10. How is the Gospel our only sure future?
See you Sunday!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

"An Ancient Reminder for a Modern World" - Scott Parsons

As a young teen I distinctly remember watching the cultural revolution of the 60’s with fascination. I was too young and too sheltered to really understand the anger and the cultural battles that were taking place, but as I would sing along with Dylan’s "The Times They Are A-Changin’", I knew that the world I would live in was going to be significantly different than the world my parents had lived in…and I was right!

Some things, like racial and gender equality were better. Other things, like abortion, morality, anger and violence were worse. But it was my world and I have learned to be comfortable in it. Now, fifty years later, the times are changing again, and now I am on the other side of the change! I understand better now the fears and angst of the generation before me. I find myself looking back and wondering what happened to the country, culture and church that I knew; and looking forward with fear and uncertainty.

But how are we to look at the past, present and future as follower of Jesus? What is to be our anchor in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty, and our guiding principle as we forge ahead? That is what we are going to be talking about Sunday morning as we look at Isaiah 6:1-8. I would encourage you to read these verses several times, and then consider the following questions:

  1. What is the greatest motivator in your life? What vision guides you on your journey?
  2. How do you view people who are different from you (racially, culturally, sexually, economically)? How do you react when they challenge you? Disagree with you? Threaten you?
  3. How does God view you? Why?
  4. Does God have a purpose for your life? If so, what is it? Are you fulfilling the calling He has given you? Why or why not?

See you Sunday!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

"Another Look at Joseph" - Doug Rehberg

My friend, Steve Brown, has written a new book: Hidden Agendas (Dropping the Masks that Keep Us Apart). In it he talks about the prodigal son story in Luke 15, where the younger son demands from his father his share of the inheritance. When he gets it, he goes out and loses it among Gentiles (a major taboo for a Jewish heir).

Jesus tells us that, when he’s at a point of total desperation, he conceives a plan to go back to his father and plead for mercy. As we have seen in our study of this story, the disingenuousness of his plan is observed in the words of his speech before his father. They are nearly identical to Pharaoh’s plea before Moses and Aaron when the brunt of God’s plagues was fully felt. In other words, he’s back to conning his father. And yet, his father interrupts his speech and lavishes on him unthinkable gifts. Remember the Greek word for gift and grace is the same word – charis.

Brown takes us to the party where the fatted calf is killed and the wine flows freely. He says, “Imagine the taste of that wine.” Now remember, to the Jews wine was the symbol of life and joy. So what does the wine mean at the party? What is the father saying to his profligate son? He is saying, “You once were dead, but now you are alive. You once were in mourning but are now full of joy.” It seems like everyone is grasping the significance of the wine but the elder brother. He won’t come into the party. He won’t taste the wine. He won’t allow himself to share in the grace just like the principle targets of Jesus’ story, the Pharisees. Brown says, “Imagine that everywhere that younger son would go, even back to the pigpen, he would remember the taste of that wine.” Everyone at the party who allows himself to drink and celebrate would forever remember the taste of that wine. And as they would remember it, they’d share anew in the joy and life of the Gracious One.

But you know the sad reality? The church today is filled with elder brothers. The church is filled with those who can’t bring themselves to come in and taste the wine. They say it’s not right. It’s not responsible. That sin’s too great. It might spill over to others and cause them to stumble. That’s one of the sadness’s, but you know the other? We who have tasted the wine are prone to forget its sweetness. We are prone to do what Luther warns us about. We are prone to revert to the old Adam who forgets the grace and clings to his own goodness.

With all that in mind, this Sunday we will return to the Joseph story, Genesis 45, and see again the phenomenal measure of God’s grace distributed to us in Jesus. In a message entitled “Another Look at Joseph”, Genesis 45:16-28, we will look at one of the clearest biblical portraits of God’s grace to us. In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:

  1. How is grace by definition “one way”?
  2. What does the question, are you saved, really mean?
  3. Whose command is Joseph following in his treatment of his brothers in verses 17 and 18?
  4. How long have his brothers and father believed him to be dead?
  5. In verses 17 and 18 what are his brothers being saved from?
  6. What is the meaning of Joseph’s words in verse 20?
  7. What is the significance of the values mentioned in verse 22?
  8. What is the significance of the garments Joseph distributes in verse 22?
  9. What is it that revives their father in verse 27?
  10. How are the wagons and the cross alike?
See you Sunday.