Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Promises of God - Doug Rehberg

Years ago Donald Grey Barnhouse told the story of living in France during his student days when the Lord used him to lead a young woman to Christ.

Several years later this woman became the wife of one of the French pastors in the South of France. She often went to the Barnhouse home to visit. One day she saw him taking verses from a “promise box” – a small box that held about two-hundred promises from the Bible printed on heavy paper and curled into cylinders. Barnhouse said, “We used to take one out and read it when we needed a special word of comfort.” So this woman made a promise box of her own, writing these same special divine promises in French.

Throughout the years the promise box was used regularly by her family. She used it with her children when they were young, and the result was that each one of her kids grew to trust the Word of God and believe in His promises.

But during the Second World War she and her family were impoverished. Her husband was still preaching and teaching, but no one had much money to support his work. In fact, the only food they had were the potato peelings that were generated by a small local restaurant. Her children were emaciated; they cried to her for food. Their clothing was almost in rags, and their shoes were worn through.

In one of her most tragic moments she turned to the promise box in desperation. She prayed, “O Lord, I have such great need. Is there a promise here that is really for me? Show me, O Lord, what promise I can have in this time of famine, peril, and sword.” She was blinded by her tears, and in reaching for the box, she knocked it over. The promises showered down around her, on her lap, on the floor; not one was left in the box.

Suddenly, she said, “I knew at that moment a supreme joy. In that moment the Holy Spirit suffused me with divine power and light. I realized that all of the promises were indeed for me in the very hour of my greatest need.”

Of all the meanings of Christmas none are truer or more reliable than this one – God keeps His promises. Indeed, the whole testimony of Scripture is that in Jesus Christ all of the promises of God are yes and amen! Simply put, everything God ever intended to do He does in Christ Jesus.

That is why this Christmas Sunday we are going to look at a set of seven promises that God makes to Abraham, Moses, and Jeremiah. Each one finds their complete fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Like that woman in France, God intends for us to remember His promises. For many of us two-hundred are difficult to keep foremost in our minds. So how about seven of them? If only you and I could every day remember these seven, oh, how much richer and more productive our lives would be.

In preparation for the message entitled, “The Promises of God,” you may wish to consider the following:

1. Read Exodus 6:1-8 and Jeremiah 31:31-34.
2. What does Exodus 6:9 say about you?
3. What seven promises of God can you pick out of Exodus 6:2-8?
4. What is the significance of the number seven in Scripture?
5. What is the difference between us and the Israelites when it comes to these promises?
6. What three promises can you find in verse 6?
7. What do the words, “And I will take you to be my people” mean in verse 7?
8. What two promises can you find in verse 8?
9. What is the big deal about a promise of land?
10. What is the big deal about a promise of the possession of it?

See you Sunday and Monday!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Taking Dead Aim - Doug Rehberg

The boy sat with his mother in church and listened to the sermon entitled, “What is a Christian?” Every time the minister came to the end of a point he’d bang the pulpit and say, “What is a Christian?”

Finally, after several points the little boy turned to his mother and whispered, “Mama, do you know?” His mother turned to him and said, “Yes, dear. Now sit still and listen.”

The little boy turned back in obedience and began to listen. Finally, the minister came to his final point. He banged the pulpit especially hard and shouted, “I ask you, what is a Christian?” All this was too much for the little guy, so he jumped to his feet and cried out, “Tell him, Mama, tell him!”

Years ago at Christmas I received a couple of golf books including Tom Kite’s book entitled, Lessons I Learned on Life and Golf from Harvey Penick.

Now Harvey Penick was one of the greatest golf instructors of all time. He taught thousands to play the game, including Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite. For over 60 years people would flock to Austin, Texas from around the world to have Penick teach them.

He was a remarkable man. He used to keep a little red notebook in his back pocket in which he’d jot down principles he’d discovered in teaching the game of golf. Over the years, he filled several red notebooks, and for years people begged to see them. Kite asked. Crenshaw asked. People around the world asked, and each time Harvey said flatly, “No”. Several years ago, under pressure from his son and current golf instructor, Tinsley, Harvey relented; and the Little Red Book was born. As soon as it hit the shelves it became a runaway bestseller. It’s a must read for every golf professional. It’s a must read for every golfer. And when you read it, you discover that of all the principles Harvey isolates, one stands out.

It's in Kite’s book. It’s in Crenshaw’s book. It’s in every review of Harvey Penick’s teaching. It’s the line Ben Crenshaw says was going over and over in his mind on the back nine at Augusta in 1995 when he won the Master’s five days after Harvey’s death.

Harvey says, “I can’t say it too many times. It’s the most important advice in this book. ‘Take Dead Aim.’ Once you address the golf ball, hitting it has got to be the most important thing in your life at that moment. Shut out all thoughts other than picking out a target and taking dead aim at it.”

That’s what John does.

Of all the four Gospels, John’s Gospel is first and foremost evangelistic. His targets are men and women. His aim is that they might know the Son of God and that He might transform their lives.

According to John, knowing Jesus Christ should radically change your life. In fact, he’s so confident of this change that he begins his Gospel with the words, “In the beginning…” For John, the transformation Christ makes in a life is as radical as a new creation.

Now some suggest that this text, these first 18 verses, were written after the completion of chapter 21. In other words, sitting down and writing about all he’s seen and heard, he composes the prologue: “In the beginning was the Word…” And when you read it you get the sense that John can hardly contain himself. He packs into these 18 verses so much truth that you wonder how he does it. Teresa of Avila once said, “I only wish I could write with both hands, so as not to forget one thing while I’m trying to say another.” That’s how John must have felt.

In these 18 verses John summarizes the whole of the Gospel. Now, we usually read this text at Christmas time, and we think about the Babe in the manger. God became a man in the womb of a woman! The Creator of all flesh becomes enmeshed in flesh. The non-carnate becomes incarnate. But for John there’s much more to this text than that.

Here in these 18 verses John sets forth four dramatic implications of the incarnation. “God became a man. Great, so what?” John answers that question. That’s our message this third Sunday of Advent.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “Taking Dead Aim” you may wish to consider the following:

1. What evidence is there in John’s gospel that he may have written 1:1-18 last?
2. What is John saying about the identity of Jesus in verses 1-3?
3. Why is the insertion of John the Baptist in verses 6-8 so significant to John’s message?
4. What biblical doctrine is being described by John in verse 12?
5. What does this say about the widely-held view that everyone is a child of God?
6. What biblical doctrine is being described in verse 13?
7. What is John saying here about man’s free will?
8. Why is this such a hard truth for people, even Christians, to believe?
9. What biblical doctrine is John describing in verse 18?
10. How do verses 16-18 agree with what Paul says in Ephesians 1 & 2?

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Reformed But Always Reforming - Scott Parsons

My wife and daughters love the Nutcracker.  They have seen it several times and get excited anytime a new version or rendition comes out.  It is a yearly tradition in our family.  Unfortunately, I find the Nutcracker to be dreadfully boring and a waste of time.  I actually think I have made a reasonable attempt to like it.  I even took my wife, Kim, to New York to see the New York Ballet Company perform it.  It was apparently well done.  Kim really enjoyed it.  I experienced a good nap after intermission.  I know I ought to like and enjoy it.  I just don’t.  Maybe it’s because I don’t understand it, or don’t enjoy ballet, but for whatever reason I just can’t get into it. 

I know that many people feel the same way about Christmas in general.  The reality of Christmas is great and glorious, but our personal experience never measures up to our expectations. Most people who struggle with Christmas treat it like I do the Nutcracker…you know you ought to like and enjoy it, but you just don’t.  So usually the solution is to avoid it as much as possible but work to have a good attitude about it when you can’t.

I think part of the problem is that many of us have unwittingly traded the biblical view of Christmas for a cultural one.  We glamorize and sanitize Christmas to the point that the true reality of Christmas gets lost.  The coming of Jesus was neither glamorous nor exciting.  The reality was harsh and difficult.  The problems and struggles that the participants of the Luke 2 narrative were going through did not go away because of the events of that night.  And yet, the angel claims to bring the shepherds a message of good news that will bring them great joy.  Maybe part of our struggle to find joy at Christmas is that we have begun to focus on personal or cultural expectations of Christmas rather than the good news that Jesus actually came to bring.  I would encourage you to carefully read through Luke 2:1-20 prior to Sunday, and then ask Jesus to prepare your heart to be challenged and encouraged by the good news that is truly Christmas.