Wednesday, March 28, 2018

"Paradise Found" - Doug Rehberg

This Easter Sunday our minds and hearts turn to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As a result, we will take a one-week break from our study of the Wisdom of James to re-examine John’s account of the resurrection.

Most Easters my mind turns to two of my favorite subjects – the resurrection and golf. And this year is extra special because of the story of Victor E. Dupuis. Vic lives in the eastern part of the state, outside of Philadelphia, with his wife of 29 years, Joy, and their three children. In addition to being managing partner of his firm, Dupuis Financial Group, Vic is a member of the Kennett Square Golf and Country Club and an avid golfer.

Six years ago on a business trip Vic, normally an outgoing and positive person, was harried from battling traffic as he returned from Harrisburg. Though he had several competing commitments, he had promised to join his golfing partner in a 6-hole, alternate-shot event called “The Devils Event”. He arrived late and apologized profusely; but by the second hole he had settled down and actually made a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 2.

But on the third tee Vic started feeling badly as he sat alone in his golf cart. When his partner yelled that it was his turn to hit his shot, Vic did not respond. The reason was simple – Vic had died. He had no pulse. No breath. They picked him up and carried him away from the cart and rested him on the tee box. As one of the members of the foursome called 911, another attempted CPR to no avail. The remaining member of the group, Paul Diddner, sped back to the halfway house to get an AED and to call Dr. William Ashton who was playing Hole No. 17.

As they all converged on the third tee, Dr. Ashton, who had carried a syringe of epinephrine in his golf bag for the past ten years, administered a shot under Vic’s tongue. By this time Vic was blue and had been totally unresponsive for more than five minutes. They used the AED and after three jolts and a total of ten minutes, Vic Dupuis came back to life before the eyes of everyone who had gathered. Vic’s eyes opened and he asked, “What’s going on?” Many replied the way I would have, “It’s a miracle!”  Indeed, that was the opinion of everyone who surrounded him, including Dr. Ashton.

But what happened three months later is, in the opinion of every golfer at K.S.G.C. and beyond, a rival miracle. You see, after receiving a pacemaker and following the instructions of his doctor not to play golf for at least three months, Vic was back on the course on day 91. He started on Hole No. 3, the same hole he had died on. From his bag he pulled a brand-new 6-iron. He had just removed it from its plastic wrapping earlier that day. He teed up his ball, set his feet, drew back his club, and let the ball sail. Within seconds of the strike the ball disappeared into the cup for a hole-in-one.

Think of it. A hole-in-one on the same hole, from the same tee, on which he had died over three months earlier! You say, “That’s amazing!” Yes, it is. But not half as amazing as that first Easter. God became a man and laid down His life.  He volunteered to take the eternal hell I deserve. He volunteered to satisfy every demand a Holy God had made on me. He volunteered to die. And then, to prove it’s finished, that I’m totally accepted by God forever, He got up and walked out of the tomb.

Dying on No. 3 tee, and coming back to life, and then 3 ½ months later getting a hole-in-one on No. 3? That’s a miracle, but it doesn’t hold a candle to John’s account of the resurrection of Jesus.

We will be studying John 19:40-20:10 this Sunday. In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Paradise Found”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Why is John’s account of the resurrection so much fuller than the other Gospel-writers?
  2. Why does John describe Jesus’ burial spot as in a garden?
  3. What is the significance of a garden in Scripture?
  4. Why does John consider the resurrection so important?
  5. Can you be a Christian without believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
  6. Why does Mary Magdalene come to the tomb at night?
  7. What is so impressive about the stone being rolled away?
  8. In verses 5-8 John uses three different words for looking. What can be deduced from this fact?
  9. What does John mean when he says, “They didn’t understand the Scriptures that he must rise from the dead?”
  10. What are the practical implications of the resurrection on you and your life?
See you on Easter!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

"Wars and Passions" - Doug Rehberg

It’s an old one, but a good one. A young boy asked his father, “Dad, how do wars begin?” “Well, take WWI,” said his father, “It all started when Germany invaded Belgium.” And immediately his wife who was listening to all this said, “Tell the boy the truth! It began because somebody was murdered.”

The husband drew himself up in an air of superiority and snapped back, “Are you answering our son’s question, or am I?” Turning her back on him in a huff, the wife walked out of the room and slammed the door as hard as she could. When the dishes stopped rattling in the cupboard, an uneasy silence followed, broken at length by the son, “That’s okay Dad, you don’t have to say anymore. I know how.”

When you come to James Chapter 4, you’re immediately met by his rhetorical questions: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” And that’s exactly what that young boy saw in both is parents.

This week we will examine only three verses – James 4:1-3, but they are full of truth. The truth is that my initial intention was to read down through verse 10 and examine all of it on one Sunday, but I quickly abandoned that plan when I started unpacking these few lines. What we have here is a deep exclamation the basic problem of our heart. The problem is in its desires. What James is saying is that God made us with a capacity to seek pleasure, but rather than seeking the one pleasure that will satisfy us, we pursue substitutes. And if that weren’t enough, we fight, envy, and quarrel to satisfy our misguided desires. There is only one answer to our problem and James gives it.

In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. How does James 3:18 set up Chapter 4:1-3?
  2. What is the connection between peace and our passions?
  3. How is peace the greatest desire of the human heart?
  4. What does Jesus have to say about peace on that First Palm Sunday?
  5. What is a hedonist? Why does James call every one of us a hedonist in verse 1?
  6. How is hedonism the cause of quarrels and fights?
  7. What is the “desire” James is referring to in verse 2?
  8.  How is prayer the antidote to our warring passions?
  9.  James talks about “wrong” prayer in verse 3. What is he mean?
  10. What is genuine prayer and how does it cure our selfish pugilism?

Sunday is Palm Sunday!! May we worship the King in all His glory!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"Wise Relationships" - Doug Rehberg

“The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens…” Proverbs 3:19

This week James turns from words, and the power of the tongue, to wisdom. This is a logical step, for as James will show us, the power of words feeds right into the need for wisdom. For James, the heart, the tongue, and the mind are not only inexorably linked, but must be controlled wisely.

Like food and water, words spoken in relationships are necessary for life. Indeed, the harshest of all human punishment is solitary confinement where one is deprived of all words completely. However, as James pointed out last week, words can wound or they can heal. They can cause life to flourish, or they can make life wither and die. Therefore, what is needed is a wisdom in the midst of relationships.

What James is going to tell us this week is that the evidence of wisdom is seen in the way we live, for wisdom is the ability to see and build healthy relationships. He will describe three features that characterize wise relationships: they are healing, they are humble, and they are full of praise.

The Greeks believed that there was a wisdom behind nature. Wisdom made nature operate in patterns and rhythms. To the Greeks wisdom was like a cosmic data bank, or better – an idea bank – that controlled the movements of life. The radical message of the Gospel challenged all of that. As the Apostle John says in the first words of his gospel – “The Word (wisdom) became flesh and dwelled among us, full of grace and truth.” Wisdom, therefore, is not some abstract concept for the Christian, but a personal God who entered time and space to re-establish a relationship with those He made for Himself and called to Himself. Indeed, the cross is where ultimate wisdom is revealed. It’s where the love of God, and the law of God are reconciled so that we can live in a healthy, thriving relationships with God and others.

We are going to try to unpack all this this week in a message entitled “Wise Relationships”. The text for Sunday is James 3:6-18 and our companion text is I Thessalonians 5:1-11. In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following: 
  1. What is meant by the current expression – “get a life”?
  2. How are relationships a necessary part of getting a life?
  3. What are some features of good relationships?
  4. Why does James appeal to creation in verse 9 when he excoriates his brothers for their blessing and cursing out of the same mouth?
  5. How does what Paul says in I Thessalonians 5:11 fit with what James is saying?
  6. How do you define encouragement?
  7. In verse 14 James uses the expression “selfish ambition”. Paul uses the same expression multiple times. Do you remember what it means?
  8. How does James again show that humility is key to all we say and how we live in relationships?
  9. What does Jonathan Edwards mean when he says, “The difference between knowledge and wisdom is the difference between knowing that honey is sweet and tasting it on your tongue.”?
  10. What is the opposite of cursing?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"The Power of Words" - Doug Rehberg

This week we are in a new section of James’ letter. Though he returns to a topic he discussed briefly in chapter one, here in chapter three he expands on his discussion on the tongue. And what he says is an echo of what the writer of Proverbs says in Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

Think of it. People die because of something said. Tongues can be weapons of mass destruction launching wars and holocausts. Tongues can also be the death of marriages, families, churches, careers, reputations, etc. But people also live because of things that are said like, “Not guilty,” or “No, I do not wish to terminate this pregnancy.” The writer of Proverbs says that the tongue can be “a tree of life” (Proverbs 15:4). Tongues can reconcile people. They can make peace. They can build others up, bringing hope out of despair and life out of death.

James knows all of this, and that’s why he doesn’t stop with the tongue; he goes all the way to the heart. Jesus said it, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). A critical heart produces a critical tongue. A lying heart produces an acerbic, judgmental tongue. An ungrateful heart yields a complaining tongue.

But, conversely, a loving heart produces a gracious tongue. A trusting heart yields an encouraging tongue. In other words, the words you speak reveal what’s filling your heart. And that’s where the mirror comes into play.

When James says, “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body,” (verse 2) he’s not coaching us on how to be perfect – far from it. What he’s doing is holding up the mirror of the perfect law and showing us that there’s only One who bridled His tongue perfectly and that’s Jesus. He is the only One who humbled Himself sufficiently to have every word that proceeded from His mouth be perfect. The mirror humbles us when we see the miserable condition of our heart revealed in our unbridled tongue. And that’s the beginning of the change.

The mirror does one other thing! It points us in the direction of One who can change our heart and alter our speech. He can soften our heart and turn it from selfish grumbling to selfless gratitude. And the New Testament is full of examples of such change. The Apostle Paul, Zacchaeus, Peter, Legion, Mary Magdalene, and James are but a few.

This week we are going to dig into James 3:1-6 and see the power of words to kill or to heal, not just others, but ourselves as well.

In preparation for this Sunday’s message “The Power of Words”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Do you remember the sermon from Thomas Chalmers cited in our bulletin lesson seven weeks ago? It was titled: “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” How does that relate to the tongue?
  2. Look at James 1:26. How is 3:1-6 an expansion of what James says there?
  3. What is the command in verse 1? What judgment is he talking about?
  4. How did James experience that judgment?
  5. How is pride at the root of deadly words?
  6. How are words and works linked in Scripture?
  7. What is James saying about himself in verse 2?
  8. What would James say about the ditty: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never harm me?”
  9. What evidence can you point to in Jesus’ recorded ministry that His tongue was perfectly bridled?
  10. How does looking into the mirror regularly change our words?
See you Sunday!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

"Living in Faith" - Doug Rehberg

In the movie classic Miracle on 34th Street, Santa Clause utters a definition of faith: Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.” In other words, faith is irrational, contrary to experience, logic, and knowledge. It’s believing in a feeling apart from any objective reality. I think that pretty well sums up the common definition of faith today.

When Hudson Taylor, the famous missionary, first went to China, it was on a sailing ship. As they made their way through the straits and shoals of the China Sea, the ship became immobilized by a lack of wind. Now for sailing people such events occur regularly with no need for alarm. But this time there was a problem with that strategy. The ship was drifting slowly toward an island of cannibals. In fact, in the distance the captain could see the fires already burning.

So, as a last resort, the nervous captain came to Taylor and asked him to pray for help. “I will,” said Taylor, “provided you set your sails to catch the breeze.” The captain declined. “I’m not going to make a laughingstock of myself by unfurling in a dead calm.” “Very well,” said Taylor, “then I will not undertake to pray for this vessel.”

Within minutes the sails were unfurled and Taylor took to praying. After about fifteen minutes, while engaged in prayer, there came a knock at his cabin door. “Who’s there?” shouted Taylor. “It’s the captain,” the voice responded. “Are you still praying for wind?” “Yes,” said Taylor. “Well, you’d better stop. We have more wind than we can manage.” Now let me ask you, was Taylor rational or not?

For the past eight weeks we’ve been studying the letter of James written to those he dearly loves. And everything he has to say to them involves faith. As we have seen, James has little time for religious doctrine that does not translate into the way we live.

For James the issue is the result of one’s faith. For James, if faith is only a matter of thought patterns and emotions of the believer, and does not exhibit itself in altered behavior; it’s moribund, dead, no faith at all.

Throughout chapters one and two James describes what a living faith looks like. He describes what a life will look like when one looks into the mirror of the perfect law – the finished work of Jesus Christ. Looking in the mirror not only reveals who you are in your own strength and ability, it will also show you who you are presently, and forever, in Christ.

In James 2:14-26, James takes special pains to labor the practical results of a genuine, saving faith. He says, “Faith without works is dead.”

Now that statement and his surrounding teaching have caused gallons of ink to flow over the last 500 years. More than that, those words have been the club that’s used by religious practitioners to underscore an apparent inconsistency in Scripture. Scores have argued that what Paul says about faith in Romans 4 and what James says here are mutually exclusive. A cursory reading of both texts gives you such an impression. But, as you dig a little deeper into the word, the contexts, and the historical realities of Romans 4 and James 2, all apparent contradictions evaporate. Indeed, a good look into the mirror of the perfect law (James 1:23) brings consistency, cogency, and godly challenge. We are shooting for all three this Sunday in a message entitled, “Living in Faith”.

In preparation for Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Read Romans 3:21-25(a) and 4:1-5
  2. Do you see any inconsistency in what Paul and James are saying?
  3. What resolution can you offer?
  4. What light does Acts 15 shed on the apparent controversy between Paul and James?
  5. What’s the definition of the word “justification”?
  6. Is the faith James cites in verse 14 saving faith?
  7. What does verse 19 tell us about genuine faith?
  8. How does verses 15-18 show us proof of genuine faith?
  9. How does verse 23 show us a second proof of saving faith?
  10. How does the mirror promote both proofs?
See you Sunday!