Wednesday, June 27, 2018

"Take Your Place" - Barrett Hendrickson

Sitting in on the large group meetings at VBS this week has reminded me of where we have been the past 3 Sundays. Our Fully Alive sermon series has been following what the kids have been studying this week in VBS. We do this so you can have good conversations with your kids about what they learned in VBS. (All part of the light of the church, walking alongside the love of the family.) We've heard stories of Joseph (of Genesis), Esther, the early Church. Tomorrow (at VBS), and this coming Sunday (in worship), we are looking at the life of Paul. The key question is "How can you play a part in God's big story?"; and the bottom line is "Live like you're part of a bigger story."

Paul was converted on the road to Damascus in Acts chapter 9, and gets sent by the apostles back to Tarsus for three years, when he is called to Antioch to preach. (Antioch is the birthplace of the word "Christian" Acts 11:26.) In chapter 13 we see Paul and Barnabas sent off on their missionary journeys. The rest of the book of Acts is Luke's telling of Paul's journeys. The section that we will be reading Sunday is Acts 26, but this specific story needs to be put in context, because Paul was arrested years before, and now he is on trial. Paul recognizes his role in God's big story, and takes every advantage to preach the Gospel to any audience he can gather.

As you prepare for Sunday morning I hope you'll:

  • Read Acts 21:27-25:27. This will help you understand the complicated judicial process Paul has gone through to get himself before Agrippa in chapter 26.
  • Remember your life before you were saved.
  • Remember your conversion story.
  • Consider what the Great Commission means for your life.
  • Consider what gifts you have that could be used for the glory of God.
  • Pray for the kids in VBS, that the Word of God would take root in their hearts.
  • Pray for me, that the Lord would give me His words.
  • Pray for the Session, staff, and Pastoral Nominating Committee at Hebron, for wisdom and unity.
  • Pray for an unbeliever that you have a relationship with, that they may hear the Gospel call on their lives.

I'm looking forward to seeing you Sunday morning at 8:15, 9:15, and/or 10:45.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"Living Like Jesus Matters" - Scott Parsons

Sunday’s text, Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37, can be troubling to read.  Seeing the fervor and love expressed among believers in the early church often makes us question what has gone wrong with the church and us.  It is easy to write their experience off as a bunch of newly saved Christians living a spiritual high together, and dismiss this as the way we ought to live today.  There is no question the church is a different animal today than it was then.  But I’m not sure that it is better.  Sometimes I think we have formalized and codified the modern church to the extent that many churches have become more like businesses with a weekly meeting of interested shareholders than a true fellowship of believers.  Additionally, our society is radically different than in the day Luke wrote this.  Then people were significantly less transient and church members would generally have lived in close proximity to each other and naturally seen each other regularly.  The church would have been a neighborhood gathering rather than a group commuting to a central place. Our mobile society also makes it difficult for the church in many ways, including how we fellowship together and deal with problems.  Instead of being stuck together like family and working through problems.  Our fellowship usually takes place in the context of worship, and we typically deal with problems by bolting to another church at the first sign of trouble.  What is lacking is a true sense of community where people live, love and grow together. 

This lack of community not only hinders our personal growth, it hinders church growth as well.  Notice at the end of the Acts 2 passage Luke writes, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  The early church did not grow because of well-designed programs or high powered gospel presentations. The church grew because life in the community of believers was so extraordinary that people were drawn to it, wondering what made these people so different.  While I think this kind of community is rare today, I don’t think it is impossible.  However, in view of societal obstacles, it requires intentionality, hard work and sacrifice; but the benefits are amazing.

Do you desire more out of your life?  Do you find your spiritual fervor and/or growth lacking?  Are you open to having the Spirit guide you in another way of living?  Read through our passages and come prepared Sunday to challenge your presuppositions of what the Christian life should look like.  It could change everything!


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

"Walking Toward the Sunset" - Doug Rehberg

Robert Robinson was born in 1735 in Norfolk, England to poor parents. When Robert was 8 his father died. When he was 14 he was sent by his mother to London to learn how to be a barber.

There in London he became involved with a gang of lawbreakers and carousers. For three years he pursued the passions of his flesh. But then one night, at age 17, he attended a meeting where George Whitefield was preaching. He and his friends came to mock the words of Whitefield, but he came away converted.

Several years later he felt called to preach. He entered the school of ministry and within a few more years he became a Methodist pastor. Years later he left the Methodist Church and moved to Cambridge, England to undertake pastoral duties for the Baptists. Here he became known as more than a pastor. He was known as a theologian and hymn writer. He wrote theological treatises and many hymns.

When Robinson was 23 he wrote perhaps his most famous hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” In its second stanza he refers to the words of I Samuel 7:12 where Samuel is said to have taken a stone and called its name, “Ebenezer”, as a symbol of God’s power and faithfulness. Robinson refers to it this way, “Here I raise my Ebenezer – hither by thy help I’ve come.”

Yet in the third stanza he says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it – prone to leave the God I love.” What Robinson writes in verse three is prophetic. After years of following Jesus he wanders from the pathway and once again lives a life characterized by lapses into sin, instability, and spurious teaching.

The story is told that one day he’s riding a stagecoach when he notices a woman deeply engrossed in a hymn book. She’s humming a hymn, and when she sees him looking her way she says, “Do you know this hymn?” Robinson stares at her saying, “Know it? I wrote it.” The hymn was “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Robinson said, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds if I had the feelings I had when I wrote them.” Of course the answer to Robert Robinson’s desperate longing was the same one he discovered at 17. The words of this hymn contain two significant truths – we can wander and the Lord never does.

This third week of our series, “Fully Alive” we turn to the life and ministry of Jesus. From Joseph, to Esther, to Jesus!

We will be in Luke 24 where two disciples (unnamed) are walking away from Jerusalem and toward Emmaus. It’s Easter afternoon and they are walking away! Like Robinson they are dispirited and lost in their own self-contemplation. They have left their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, not believing a word of the news that Jesus is alive. This familiar text – Luke 24:13-35 - contains much more truth than is often seen. The VBS question for the week is: “How can you live like Jesus is still at work in this world?” It’s a question to which those two guys on that road think they have an answer. Before Jesus shows up they’re dead wrong. After He leaves they not only know the truth, they’ve experienced it all over again.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Walking toward the Sunset”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What is a disciple?
  2. How did one become a disciple in Jesus’ day?
  3. What are the evidences that none of Jesus’ disciples qualified to follow Him?
  4. How does Jesus totally abrogate rabbinic practice of His day in calling His disciples?
  5. How far and in what direction is Emmaus from Jerusalem?
  6. How does Jesus’ behavior in this text mirror His behavior three years earlier?
  7. How cogent is the discussion the two disciples are having as they walk along? Why does Jesus ask them about it in verse 7?
  8. On what grounds does Jesus call them foolish in verse 25?
  9. Why do they invite Him in verse 28?
  10. How does Jesus impart His grace to them? What difference does it make in their lives?
See you Sunday!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

"The Great Planner" - Doug Rehberg

When I was an undergraduate, back before most of you were born, I mentioned recently in our study of James. His name was Dr. Delvin Covey. Like James who says, “Come now you rich…”, Covey famously slapped down a student this way, “Class, let’s move on before we have time to contemplate that last comment.”

But there’s another memory I have of Dr. Covey, one that involves his response to a fellow professor. The other professor was new to campus. He had little knowledge of Covey or his pedigree. One day, in a lecture hall full of students, he asked Covey, “How is it that a Gordon professor made it all the way to Yalta as a translator for President Roosevelt?”

Now, you may recall that the Yalta Conference occurred in Eastern Europe in February 1945. It was a summit in which the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia met to determine the future of postwar Germany and the rest of Europe.

Covey paused a moment, then replied for all to hear, “My dear sir the question is not how did I get to Yalta, but how did I ever get here?” I was reminded of Dr. Covey’s comment when Ellen Dillard, our Children’s Ministry Director, gave me a copy of the questions to be addressed this month at Vacation Bible School. The question for Day 2 (or this week’s message) is particularly interesting. “How can you live like God has a plan for you?” I can hear Dr. Covey, and anyone with the slightest biblical acumen answering, “How can you not?” In other words, what possible evidence can you provide that God does not have a plan for every life?

In theology it’s called the doctrine of divine providence. (You may want to read the bulletin insert this week for a fuller description of this doctrine.) The Bible clearly testifies (on nearly every page) that God is executing His plan meticulously throughout all of human history.

Perhaps the clearest expression of His providence is the incomparable words of Joseph to his brothers in Genesis 50, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” But there are other profound illustrations  in both Testaments, including the story of Esther. Think of it. Here’s a young exiled Jewess who becomes Queen of Persia by divine providence. God puts her there to deliver His people from slaughter by a proud and power-hungry king who just happens to be her husband! This ten chapter book screams of God’s providential role in every circumstance of every life. We will highlight this fact on Sunday in a message entitled “The Great Planner”. The text is Esther 1:1-5, 10-12 and 2:1-4, 15-23. In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following: 
  1. Consider reading the Book of Esther.
  2. How many times is God mentioned in the Book of Esther?
  3. More than a century before the king’s party (in Chapter 1) God had moved a Persian King (Cyrus) to allow Jewish exiles to return to their homeland. Where’s God’s grace on display in the story of Esther?
  4. Ahasureus is the Babylonian name of this Persian king. His Persian name is better known. What is it?
  5. On what grounds does the king “divorce” his wife Vashti?
  6. What New Testament parallels come to mind when you think: wine, women, and debauchery?
  7. How does God use the king’s sin to bring about His purposes in chapter 2?
  8. On what grounds does the king choose Esther to be queen? Can you think of any Old and New Testament parallels?
  9. How does Mordecai prove in chapter 2 that God’s in charge?
  10. How does God use the Book of Esther to show us what true trust and worship are?
See you Sunday!