Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Eat'n with the King - Doug Rehberg

Two years ago in an interview with an Italian newspaper Pope Francis brought up his favorite movie - "Babette's Feast". The context for his citation was the opposition he's experienced to his ecumenical outreach; the same kind of rigidity portrayed by the townspeople in the movie. 

For those who haven't seen the film, here's a brief synopsis. There's a small church in a Protestant town in Denmark that has been pastored by a very rigid and religious man. He and his congregation are so prominent and so legalistic that they have created a drab,  scary village where men and women spend most of their days in austere judgment of one another. 

After the pastor dies, his daughters are forced to lead the congregation. They had hoped to marry one day, but their father had strictly forbidden it. One day a French woman, Babette, comes to town and changes everything. While working as a housekeeper, she discovers that she's hit the lottery back in Paris. Instead of taking the money and returning home, she spends all of her winnings on preparing a French feast for all the townspeople.

At first most villagers think she's satanic, believing firmly that food should never be enjoyed. However, when they finally sit down at the table their preconceptions begin to fade and surprisingly joy and gratitude break out. By the end of the film everyone is eternally grateful to Babette for opening their eyes.

Someone has written, "After seeing the movie for the first time, many flock to French restaurants to experience first-hand the delicacies of a French feast. However, the meaning of the movie is far deeper than that, and Pope Francis knows it."

For Pope Francis the message is plain. First, the reaction to the feast is one of unbridled joy. Second, this joy is a foretaste of what heaven will be like. Third, Babette's example of total selfless giving is a portrait of Christ. Fourth, the change wrought in the hearts of the villagers is the product of the power of the Holy Spirit. Fifth, the general toast at the end of the meal perfectly summarizes the message of the Gospel:

“There comes a time when your eyes are opened. And we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us. And everything we rejected has also been granted. Yes, we even get back what we rejected. For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.”

Have you ever stopped to realize the supremacy of the feast image in Scripture? Of all the metaphors God could use to describe His intentions in redeeming us, He picks the feast. Think of it. When He determines to save His people from bondage in Egypt, He sanctions a feast. The last thing Jesus does with His disciples before the cross is feast with them. And when He reveals the future to His beloved disciple John, in the final years of his life, what picture does He give him to describe it? A wedding feast - His and ours!

And where is this feast held? The same place Jesus prepares for His beloved – in the New Jerusalem. And that stands to reason for Jerusalem is the site of God’s greatest gift to us – the feast. In fact, the Bible begins in Jerusalem with a feast in Genesis 14 and ends with a feast in the New Jerusalem in Revelation 22. The significance of Jerusalem cannot be overstated. It is the center of the feast. It is the center of every intention God’s ever had. That’s why over the next six weeks, leading up to our fall series – “Nehemiah (a study in comfort)" we will be reviewing the centrality of Jerusalem in God’s eternal plan.

In preparation for Sunday’s message entitled, “Eat’n with the King,” you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Who is the first person in the Bible to be universally accepted as historically certifiable?
  2. What biblical personage is claimed to be the father of three great religions, confirming God’s promise in Genesis 12:2?
  3. How old is Abram in Genesis 14?
  4. What is the significance of Deuteronomy 26:5 in the Genesis 14 story?
  5. Where is the Valley Shaveh?
  6. What does Melchizedek mean?
  7. What roles does he play here?
  8. Why does he “bring out” bread and wine to greet Abram and the king of Salem?
  9. What is the significance of his statement in verses 19 & 20?
  10. Why does Abram tithe to him?
There’s so much here! See you Sunday when we dig in!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

"Light of the World" - Scott Parsons

Light is such a strange thing.  We love it as long as it suits our purposes.  We design our houses to have windows in strategic places to let in natural light and we design our lighting in each room according to the use of the room or the atmosphere we desire.  But sometimes light is not so welcome.  Each morning I get up and look into a mirror that has five light bulbs above it.  I hate it.  The first thing I see each morning is a brightly lit image of every flaw, wrinkle and sag on my face.  I often prefer to brush my teeth in the dark.  As a child we often lived in southern rentals where cockroaches thrived.  I refused to turn any light on at night because I was afraid of what I might see.  Truth is, when it comes to spiritual things we prefer the darkness, and that should not surprise us.  The Bible teaches us that because of the fall all of us are, by nature, living in darkness.  Our sin so separates us from the holiness and light of God that we are unable to see it, understand it or desire it.   Because of this we live in a dark world filled with sin, suffering and fear.  We are by nature trapped in darkness and afraid of the light, because when the light shines on us we see things that we do not want to see.

That is why it is so critical to grasp what Jesus meant when He said, “I am the light of the world.”  We are so familiar with that phrase that I’m not sure we fully comprehend its meaning.  Light of the World is not just another name for Jesus, or a warm, welcoming description of who He is.  It is a vivid description of His essence and our greatest need.  He alone is the antidote to our darkness.  We have no hope unless Jesus, through His mercy and grace, shines the light of holiness shine into our dark places, letting us see just how sinful we are and how holy He is.  It is this piercing light of truth that brings us to the place where we truly acknowledge our sin and cry out for mercy.

But then what? What happens after, as Charles Wesley describes God’s work in his hymn “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”: “Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light, my chains fell of and my heart was free?”  That is what we are going to look at Sunday from 1 John 1:5-10.  As you prepare for Sunday, read the passage and ask yourself these three questions:
  1. Where does the light come from?  V.5
  2. What happens when the light shines on us?  V.9
  3. What happens when we live in the light?  V.7
For John, the whole issue of our relationship with Jesus is summed up in whether or not we are walking in the light.  As you read, ask God to shine His light on your heart and life in such a way that you can see the truth about who you are and how you live.  That is where joyful, victorious living begins.  See you Sunday.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Matter of Thirst - Doug Rehberg

In 2007 Brennan Manning was speaking at a conference in the Midwest. He said, "In the 48 years since I was ambushed by Jesus in a little chapel in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania, and in literally the thousands of hours in Bible studies, prayer, meditation, silence and solitude over those years, I am now utterly convinced on Judgment Day the Lord Jesus is going to ask each of us one question and only on question. "Did you believe that I loved you? That I desired you? That I waited for you day after day? That I longed to hear the sound of your voice?"
Now you may think that a bit melodramatic. Or you may say, "Prove it." I think one can quite easily prove it when you examine the last words of Jesus on the cross as recorded by His beloved disciple, John. In fact, John is the only Gospel writer to record these remarkable words, which are a perfect sequel to his story of Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well.
One of the things we will say on Sunday is that John bookends his Gospel with the thirst of Jesus. In fact, John uses the word "thirst" five times; and each time Jesus is the center figure in each usage. Jesus is always quenching the thirst of someone other than Himself.
Think of the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. The story begins with Jesus' thirst, and it ends with Him quenching her thirst. In fact, He is never said to get a drink from that well. In John 19 it's the same thing. After 6 hours on the cross, Jesus exclaims, "I thirst!" But again, He is never pictured as getting His thirst quenched. As we will see on Sunday, He again quenches the thirst of another. In fact, His exclamation is proof that He's quenched the thirst of another.
But John leaves Jesus' thirst right there. He says, "I thirst." But His thirst is never quenched. Listen to what one of my favorite commentators says, "There is a sense, a real one, in which Christ still thirsts. He is thirsting for the love and fellowship and devotion of His own. He is yearning for fellowship with His blood-bought people. Here is one of the great marvels of grace - a redeemed sinner can offer that which satisfied the heart of Christ."
Manning is absolutely right, and John would agree. We are going to dissect all of this on Sunday in a message entitled, "A Matter of Thirst." The text is John 4:1-15 and John 19:28-30. In preparation for Sunday's message you may wish to consider the following:
1. Why does John consider thirst so important?
2. How does Jesus attend to people thirsty in chapter 2?
3. What evidence do we have that Jesus quenches the deepest thirst of the Samaritan woman?
4. How do Jesus' words in Matthew 26:29 and Matthew 26:39 relate to His words in John 19:28?
5. What causes His thirst on the cross?
6. What is the cup of wrath referred to in Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Revelation?
7. What similarities can we draw from Jesus' thirst at the well and His thirst on the cross?
8. Whose thirst does Jesus satisfy on the cross?
9. How does Jesus' words in Revelation 3:20 relate to John 19:28?
10. How does the message of John 19:28-30 show us that Brennan Manning's certainty is well-founded?

Thursday, July 5, 2018

"What Love Does" - Doug Rehberg

“They drew a circle that shut me out:
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout;
But love and He had a mind to win;
He drew a circle and took me in.”

Thus, is the story of Sychar and the woman Jesus encounters there.

In Proverbs 23:26 Solomon says, “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” That’s what we all long to have – the heart of another. But how is it gained? How does someone give his/her heart to you? Jack Miller writes, “You reach the conscience of another person by first being changed yourself, and out of that change, in love, reaching the other person.”

Most of the time when we desire to influence someone else we look to methodology; some way to change them without changing ourselves. And the reason is that we are so possessed with our own wants and needs that we are blind to theirs. Solomon identifies what we really want in any primary relationship; we want their heart. It’s not wrong to want the heart of another, actually it’s the height of maturity. But the way we go about trying to get it often reveals the depth of our own immaturity and our lack of understanding of Jesus.

If we are really going to reach the conscience of another, we have to deal with the question of whether we have first given our hearts to God. It’s only as our hearts are open to Him, infatuated with Him, that we are able to have them truly open to others. And it’s only there that true change happens.

This Sunday we will see an ultimate example of that in Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. In so many ways Jesus and this woman are polar opposites. But, in one way they mirror each other. It’s this striking similarity that is rarely discussed. But it’s only in examining this feature that the heart of the encounter is seen; and the heart is transformation.

In preparation for this Sunday’s message, “What Love Does”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. Read John 4:1-26 several times.
  2. Check the lyrics to “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” and the You Tube interview of Stuart Townend’s description of writing it.
  3. How does the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Sychar reveal His love for His Father?
  4. How often is Jesus described as being “weary” in the gospels?
  5. What is His principle need as He sits down at the well?
  6. What laws does He violate in engaging her?
  7. Why does He say to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here…”?
  8. What is the woman’s deepest need?
  9. How does Jesus satisfy it in verse 26?
  10. How does He gain her heart? How does He gain yours?
Sunday is communion at Hebron. This is a great preparatory text. See you Sunday!