Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"A Good Walk Unspoiled" - Doug Rehberg

The woman had just returned from a meeting of the National Organization of Women in Denver when her five-year-old greeted her at the door. “Mommy,” she said, “When I grow up, I want to be a nurse.” “A nurse?” her mother said. “Now listen, just because you’re a woman that doesn’t mean you have to be a nurse. You can be a surgeon if you want. You can be a lawyer or a judge. You can even be the President of the United States. You can be anything you want to be!” Her daughter looked dubious. “Anything, Mommy?” “Yes, honey, you can be anything you want to be!” The little girl beamed and said, “Then I want to be a horse.”

We received a graduation announcement the other day. Like most invitations that announce the graduation or “commencement” of a high school senior, this one had a picture of the graduate on the front. But unlike others, it had a message across the top that read, “The World Awaits.” Now, without knowing the young person, do you think that’s true? Do you think the world awaits any graduating high school or college senior? Isn’t it far truer that, in a world of rampant conformity, the world awaits no one, it simply proceeds according to its own set of rules of conformity. If you doubt that, just consider the definition of success that pervades our culture today. Success equals independence, financial stability, and freedom to pursue an insatiable desire for amusement. The truth is – anyone rejecting the mores of popular culture are ignored or relegated to the fringe. This is nothing new, of course; the Bible speaks of it from Genesis through Revelation.

This Sunday is Baccalaureate Sunday at Hebron. At both the 9:15 and 10:45 services we will be recognizing our 2017 high school graduates. At the same time we will be looking at another element of what it means to “flourish” in life. Last week we examined Genesis 1 and 2 and observed what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God. This week we move ahead a few chapters to see what the Lord tells us about enjoying Him. Like many great story tellers (Charles Dickens for one – “the best of times…the worst of times…”), the writer of Genesis uses contrast to make his point. Chapters 4 and 5 are largely a genealogy of Adam. It’s a text littered with names. But remarkably there’s a name that is used twice. Think of it. In the space of fifty verses and two dozen different names, the Holy Spirit directs the author to mention two different people with the same name – Enoch.

There couldn’t be any greater contrast between the first Enoch and the second one. The first Enoch lives his life in total conformity to the culture around him. It’s a culture that his father emulated and Enoch personifies.

The second Enoch couldn’t be more different. He bucks the culture. Instead of walking in step with his prurient interest, the Bible says twice, in the space of three verses, that he walked with God. He didn’t live a conforming life. He lived a transformed life. The more we dig into the second Enoch the more remarkable the insights he provides for every Christian – graduates and post-graduates.

The message this Sunday is entitled, “A Good Walk Unspoiled”. The text is Genesis 4:24 to 5:24. In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What does the name “Enoch” mean?
  2. What is the significance of their fathers’ names in relation to their lifestyles?
  3. How long does Enoch #2 walk with God?
  4. Drawing on Genesis 5 and Hebrews 11, in what ways did Enoch walk with God?
  5. What does it mean that “he walked with God and he was not, for the Lord God took him”?
  6. Who said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled?”
  7. What other Scriptures come to your mind in understanding what walking with God means?
  8. What evidence can you find from Jesus’ ministry that confirms the aptness of the walking image in describing the spiritual life?
  9. In what ways does the question, “How’s your walk?” get to the essence of the Christian life
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"Designed by the Master" - Doug Rehberg

This week we begin a short preaching series (six weeks) that mirrors what the elementary students will be studying this summer. We’ve entitled it, “Flourish”.

This week “flourishing” has been on my mind because of the spectacular reminder in visiting Eugene, Oregon last weekend. Now I’ve been to the West Coast a few times before; but never to Oregon, and never to “TrackTown”.

They call Eugene, Oregon, “TrackTown” because of the University of Oregon’s legendary track and field program, their four head coaches who have been inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame, and historic Hayward Field. Oregon’s track and field history have been documented in two major films – Without Limits and Prefontaine, not to mention a number of books.

But, as I walked around Eugene I kept thinking it could be called “Rhododendron Town”.  They were everywhere! In fact, it is the only place I’ve ever been where athletic fields are lined in rhododendron. Rhododendrons grow there like yews and thistles grow here. It’s remarkable. The truth is – rhododendron, azaleas, cedars, bleeding hearts, pieris japonica, viburnum, etc., all flourish in Eugene due not only to moisture and temperature levels, but also to the composition of the soil. And you know the soil is where flourishing all begins. Everything starts at the roots. And so it is with our spiritual life.

This week we begin with Genesis 1 and 2 and Psalm 139 as we examine what it means to be created in the image of God. Though that image has been marred by sin, it nevertheless is still with us. In fact, it’s rediscovery of that image that helps us ward off a crisis of identity. Indeed it’s essential that when the struggles of life threaten to overtake us that we stop and refocus our attention on God’s purpose in creating us in His image. And the truth is that it’s only at the cross that that purpose is proven and that image becomes clearer.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Designed by the Master,” you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How do the pains and struggles of life make us or break us?
  2. What is an “identity crisis”?
  3. Is it possible to experience it more than once?
  4. What does the “Imago Dei” mean to you?
  5. In what way(s) are you made in His image?
  6. Are the image and likeness of God two different things?
  7. How does Genesis 1:26 relate to Psalm 8?
  8. What does David mean when he says that man is crowned with glory and honor (Ps. 8:5)?
  9. What does, “let him have dominion” mean?
  10. What does verse 27 tell us about the image of God in us?
See you at the Table this Sunday!

Monday, May 8, 2017

"Excelling in Generosity" - Ken Wagoner

When Doug asked if I would be available to preach this Sunday, I asked him what was the sermon series, and what text was scheduled for this week.  Doug’s response was there would be several weeks on giving but no specific text was assigned for the week.  He also reminded me it was Mother’s Day which made me think these two topics are not usually placed together.  To satisfy the Mother’s Day aspect, here is a story I would imagine many of you have heard, but it also makes a small bridge to generosity and giving.

A little boy came up to his mother in the kitchen one evening while she was fixing supper, and he handed her a piece of paper that he had been writing on.  After his mom dried her hands on an apron, she read it, and this is what it said:

For cutting grass:  $5.00 – For cleaning up my room this week:  $1.00 – For going to the store for you:  $.50 – Baby sitting my kid brother while you went shopping:  $.25 – Taking out the garbage:   $1.00 – For getting a good report card:  $5.00 – For cleaning up and raking the yard:  $2.00       Total owed:  $14.75

Well, his mother looked at him standing there, and the boy could see the memories flashing through her mind.  She picked up the pen, turned over the paper he’d written on, and this is what she wrote:

“For the nine months I carried you while you grew inside me.  No Charge. – For all the nights that I’ve sat up with you, doctored and prayed for you:  No Charge. – For all the trying times, and all the tears that you’ve caused through the years:  No Charge. – For all the nights that were filled with dread, and for the worries I knew were ahead:  No Charge. – For the toys, food, clothes, and even wiping your nose:  No Charge. – When you add it up, Son, the cost of my love is:  No Charge.”

When the boy finished reading what his mother had written, there were big tears in his eyes, and he looked straight up at his mother and said, “Mom, I sure do love you.”  And then he took the pen and in great big letters he wrote:  “PAID IN FULL.”   John (Gibby) Gilbert

In II Corinthians 8:1-9, Paul commends the Corinthians for their excelling in faith, speech, and knowledge, and he exhorts them to excel in generosity which he called “an act of grace.”  It is from the II Corinthians passage where I get the sermon title for this week.   Proverbs is also a book which encourages generosity in giving.  I know I can be more generous, and I suspect almost all of us have room for improvement in this area.  Below are some verses from Proverbs to look at before we gather together on Sunday.  We will look at these together in worship, but if you have time read these verses (and II Corinthians 8:1-9) in preparation for God’s working in our lives to grow in our generosity in response to God’s great love for us.
  1. Proverbs 30:7-9 – What is the overarching question in this prayer, and what is the underlying assumption in these verses?
  2. Proverbs 10:16 – This verse describes both a righteous and a wicked person.  How would you define these two different type of people?
  3. Proverbs 11:1 – The word abomination is found in this verse.  What are some other words which can be used to describe this condition.
  4. Proverbs 11:4 – What do you think of when you hear the words “the day of wrath?”
  5. Proverbs 18:10-11 – What does the author mean when he uses the term “strong city?”
  6. Proverbs 11:24 – What do we learn from this passage about the benefits of our generous giving, and the warnings about withholding what God has blessed us with?
Thank you for the privilege of being with you this Sunday, and I pray together all of us will grow in our giving, and generosity will flow from us for His glory!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Fools and Their Money" - Doug Rehberg

One hundred years ago a man named Oskar was born in Germany who would change the face of history for more than a thousand people. In his mid-twenties, after starting several businesses, he went bankrupt. But then in 1939, with the help of the Third Reich, he gained ownership of a factory in Poland and began making a profit. The first thing he did was hire a Jewish accountant named Stern and together they began to make some serious money. Within three years, he was spending it as fast as he made it. You say, “On what? Homes?” No. “Perks?” No. People! He began buying people. He’d go to the commandants of the German concentration camps and offer bribes and payoffs to buy Jewish prisoners to work in his factory. Sometimes the price would be meager, other times it would be exorbitant. Either way he’d pay it. By the end of the year he had spent his entire fortune buying as many people as he could. By the end of the war he had risked both life and fortune buying 1,100 Jewish men and women, boys and girls, and sparing them from certain death.

When the last scene of Schindler’s List was aired twenty-two years ago on NBC, the television audience was as large as the first moon landing, some sixty million people. There, standing before his factory full of workers, Oskar Schindler announces the war is over, the Nazis are defeated, and everyone is free to go. And as he bids them farewell, he’s overcome by emotion. He cries out, “I should have done more! If only I had not wasted so much money. I could have done more!” He looks over at his automobiles and says, “I could have traded one of those for another ten lives.” He looks down at a small gold pin on his lapel and says, “I could have given them this and saved at least one more life.” And at that moment Schindler realizes something that most of us never realize – the difference between life and death is often just a matter of money. And, nowhere is that any clearer than in Jesus’ parable of the rich fool.

Of all the Gospel writers, none is more acutely aware of the power of money than Dr. Luke. In fact, as you read through his Gospel in one sitting (or maybe two) you quickly see that Luke has a rich/poor theme running all the way through it. And that stands to reason, for of all the things Luke knows about the Gospel and the culture into which it is preached, he knows it’s all a matter of the heart and its affections.

Think of it. Here in Luke 12 Jesus is surrounded by thousands of people who are listening to His words. But, interestingly instead of focusing on the crowd, Jesus is addressing His disciples. He’s talking about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who say one thing in private and do another in public. He’s talking about the difference between pleasing people and pleasing God. He’s talking about their willingness to stand up for the Son of Man in the midst of a hostile, religious world. When you review verse 1 through 12 you see that it’s all weighty matters that occupy Jesus’ attention; and at the root of it all is a passion for the lordship of Christ. But suddenly in the midst of this sobering teaching, Luke says someone in the crowd interrupts with a self-serving demand, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Talk about a non sequitur! Talk about cognitive dissonance! But when you take a step back and analyze what Jesus says in response to this demand you find that there is perfect symmetry between what He says in verses 1-12 and what he says in verses 13-21. Here Jesus is talking about money – the very thing that is the master of most hearts. Here in a few verses Jesus enumerates three ways in which money can capture our hearts and make fools out of us.

In preparation for Sunday’s message entitled, “Fools and Their Money” you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What evidence can you find of the rich/poor theme in the Gospel of Luke?
  2. What significance is there to Luke’s description of crowd size in verse 1?
  3. Why does this man interrupt Jesus in verse 12?
  4. What leads him to think Jesus can help him get what he wants?
  5. What does Jesus’ warning in verse 15 imply?
  6. Why is the parable of the rich man so apropos to us?
  7. Where do these thoughts come from?
  8. What does the frequency of personal pronouns in verses 17-19 signal?
  9. What does his desire to hoard signal?
  10. What does his mention of his soul in verse 19 signal? How does that differ from what David says to his soul in Psalm 103?
See you Sunday!