Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Face to Face with An Angel - Henry Knapp

I remember thinking how cool it would be to wear glasses. Yup, that’s the kind of thoughts I had. I’m not really sure why I thought it would be cool—perhaps, all the really cool kids happened to wear glasses or perhaps the other glasses-wearing children just looked especially fun or perhaps the girl I had a crush on had them, and I wanted to have some vicarious link to her? In any case, unfortunately I was cursed with perfect eyesight. Sigh.

But, along came my fifties; and as I’ve aged my eyes have weakened. At last, now I get to wear reading glasses! Double sigh. The annoyance! The aggravation! The broken frames and lost glasses! I guess that goes to show ya: Be careful what you wish for.

I suspect the same could be said for how most of us think of angels. The Bible tells us that the angels serve as God’s messengers, that they minister here on earth, and that they worship in presence of God Himself. It sounds reasonable for us to want to meet them, to encounter one face-to-face. And, according to the author of Hebrews, many of us might have unknowingly met an angel when showing hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2). With this in mind, I think we often envision angels as looking just like us, and that we could easily (and perhaps often do) pass them by on the street without notice. Now, I suspect that is true, and perhaps takes place frequently. But, that’s not the dominate picture painted by the Scripture.

Usually, when an angel shows up, it does not appear to be cuddly, cutesy, warm, or fuzzy. Often, when angels appear, everyone is stunned, frightened, if not absolutely terrified. At Jesus’ birth the shepherds were “filled with great fear” (Luke 2:9), as was Zechariah when he was scared speechless (Luke 1:12). Cornelius stared in terror (Acts 10:4) and the great warrior Joshua fell on his face (Joshua 5:14). And, no wonder! Some descriptions of the heavenly host are absolutely spooky—four-faced, with calf’s feet, wings with hands, eyes all over (Ezekiel 1). And, all so often, dazzling, blinding light. Nightmares!

Imagine the women who had followed Jesus during His ministry—downcast, distraught, despairing as they made their way to the tomb to anoint His body following the crucifixion. How overwhelmingly depressive that must have been, with little room for any other emotion. And yet… when they get to the tomb, find it empty, wonder in confusion, suddenly, bam! Blazing light! Two angels appear! The women’s response? “They were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground” (Luke 24:5). If there was a time to greet an angel from God, certainly this was it—saddened, abandoned by their leader, some angelic comfort would be good. Instead, the women are terrified, and the angels appear to somewhat less than comforting.

Unless, that is, the angels know something about true comfort; that true comfort is found in Jesus, that the best thing they can do, the best thing we can do amid despair and pain is to talk of the Lord. And so the angels, terrifying in presence, point the women to Jesus, to what He has said and to His presence. Frightening as it might be, perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad after all to meet an angel… to be directed over and again to our Lord Jesus.

As you prepare for worship on Sunday, read through the opening verses of Luke 24.

1. What does the “but” in verse 1 connect to?

2. Is it significant that Jesus rose on the first day of the week? When you think of your week, do you think of it as Sunday to Saturday? Or Monday to Sunday? Interesting…

3. Read the parallel descriptions of the resurrection in the other Gospels. What is distinct about Luke’s account? Why do you think he includes what he does and leaves out other things?

4. Finding Jesus’ body missing, the women were “perplexed” (vs. 4). How might you describe your emotions if you were in that position?

5. The angels recount Jesus’ teachings in verses 6-7. How do the Gospel accounts capture Jesus’ words?

6. Verse 8 is big… huge in my book. Why do you think that is?

7. What is the natural response to an encounter with the resurrection (vs. 9)? If that is not your reaction, what might that mean?

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

"Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit" - Doug Rehberg

It’s one of those pictures that never leaves the recesses of your mind. The year was 1992. The place was Barcelona, Spain. It was the 1992 Olympic summer games, and Derek Redmond was set to win his first Olympic gold medal in the 400 meters. At the time, he held the British record for the 400 meters. He had won gold medals in the 4 x 400 meter relay in Germany in 1986 and Tokyo in 1991.

As the race unfolded in Barcelona, he was leading the field. Being positioned in the fifth lane he had made up the stagger on all the inside runners. He was looking fast and strong. Then suddenly he hears a pop! It’s his right hamstring; it had ripped nearly all the way through. Instead of racing toward the finish, he collapsed on the track in pain.

However, he didn’t stay on the track for long. Realizing where he was, Redmond got to his feet and began limping toward the finish line. All around him people were shouting for him to stop, but he didn’t stop. He kept hopping toward the finish line.

But then, out of nowhere, a man appeared on the track. Officials tried to stop this intruder, but they couldn’t stop him. When he reached Redmond, Redmond instinctively tried to push him away. But suddenly, he recognized who this intruder was. It was his father. Derek’s dad had come out of the stands to help. And as soon as Redmond realized it was his father, he said, “Dad, I want to finish!” And with that, his dad put his arm under his left shoulder and helped walk his son to the finish line.

If you check the statistics of the Barcelona games you’ll find that Redmond was disqualified, with the “DNF” (Did Not Finish”) label. But that’s only true if you are looking at that race as a track and field purest. The truth is, Derek Redmond did finish the race; and his dad helped him to do it.

Not so of Jesus! By the time we get to the seventh word, we find that all of His work on the cross is completed by One party – Jesus Christ alone.

Some call the seventh word – the word of contentment. After more than six hours of agony and forsakenness Jesus speaks His final word, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” No longer is His cry, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Instead of a woeful plea, He finishes with a contented pronouncement, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”.

Think of it. In those hours on the cross Jesus asks His Father to forgive our sin. He promises salvation to a criminal. He establishes a new relationship between His beloved disciple and His mother. He acknowledges the judgment and curse of God upon Himself and its resulting thirst. He proclaims His absolute victory. And now He deposits Himself into the hands of the One who had appointed Him to fulfill all righteousness.

As we will see on Sunday, this seventh word is as magnificently relevant to you and me as every one of the other six words. When Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” it’s not only a perfect word, it’s a powerful word that gives us incomparable hope.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, you may wish to consider the following:

1. Compare Luke 23:44-46 and John 10:27-30.
2. What confidence can you derive from both texts?
3. What does the seventh word say about those who are in Christ?
4. How does the Son of God mirror His Father in His work?
5. What’s the significance of the curtain in the Temple being torn in two? What does it mean?
6. Why does Luke include this detail right before the seventh word?
7. What does the use of the noun, “Father”, indicate?
8. Whose hands had Jesus been in prior to the seventh word?
9. What does “commit” mean?
10. Why does Jesus commit His spirit into His Father’s hands?

See you Sunday as we listen to what Jesus says and feast at His table.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

It Is Finished: Knowing What You Are Finishing - Henry Knapp

My dad always said he was so, so pleased he had sons—while the first years were difficult, eventually kids grow up to become free labor! And, when my own son grew old enough to mow the lawn, I knew exactly what my dad was talking about. Working around the house on different projects with my father was a big part of my growing up years. We would tackle small electrical jobs, larger lawn-care tasks, work on the roof, fixing up and cleaning up all aspects of the home. I’m sure I didn’t always appreciate what I was learning, but I certainly was learning.

One of the big things I was learning was how frustrating and useless my help could be at times—especially when I couldn’t (or didn’t) grasp the nature of the project at hand. All too often, my dad would have me work on something, and I wouldn’t really understand the end goal. What were we working on? What was the purpose of drilling the hole right here? Or, why was it so important to have this cleaned in this particular way? Without knowing the reason for what I was doing, way too often I was doing it wrong or in a way that was not helpful.

This was, thankfully, a lesson I have taken into other areas of my life—knowing the reasons behind something, knowing the end goal, the final target, really helps me understand the steps along the way. Of course, this has shaped my understanding, practice, and teaching of my faith as well. Like so many folks, I can sort of do a job, even if I don’t know why; but when I grasp the point of a project, everything becomes more clear. A Christian prays. OK, I learn to pray. But, before I explored what the point of prayer was, my prayer life suffered. A Christian reads the Bible, or is involved in ministry. OK, I can do that. But, once I know why these things are part of the Christian life, my practice is so much richer.

In worship this week, like last week, we will be looking at Christ’s statement from the cross, “It is finished!” We began last week to explore just some of the depths of that statement, and we’ll continue to do so this week. “It is finished!” What is finished? Well, we talked about some of the things Christ had in mind when He cried out. As we continue to look at those things, we’ll see how they fit together—how an end goal is in mind. And, understanding the overarching plan will help us understand what Jesus was “finishing”.

If Christ’s goal was to die, then “it is finished” means one thing—the dying is finished. If He intended to show forth God’s love, then “it is finished” means He faithfully has shown that love. If the goal was the fulfillment of prophecy, then the finished work of the cross fulfilled it all. If the conquest of Satan is in mind, then at the cross Jesus finished in victory. All of these were “finished” at the cross… and so much more! Can we summarize them? Explain them in a way that helps our faith by understanding the end goal, the point of it all? Join us in worship this week, and let’s see!

As you prepare for worship this week, read John 19:28-30 and John 16:25-33.

1. When you use the word “finished”, what different meanings come to mind? For instance, what is the difference between “ended” and “accomplished”?

2. When you read Jesus’ statement, what is the tone of Jesus’ words in your mind? How loud are the words? What emotion is present there? Obviously, in the midst of suffering crucifixion, is Jesus frustrated? Angry? Happy? Satisfied? In despair?

3. The verse ends with “gave up his spirit,” obviously, meaning He died. But, why is it phrased that way? Why “gave up”? Why “his spirit”? Is Matthew trying to say anything particular here?

4. What is going on when Jesus speaks in John 16? Look around and make sure you know when/where Jesus and His disciples are when He speaks this section.

5. What are the disciples' emotions at this point? How does that impact the way they might have heard Jesus’ words?

6. In verse 33, Jesus says He has overcome the world. In what ways has He “overcome”?
7. He precedes that statement with the encouragement “take heart”. Why would He encourage the disciples this way at this time? How are the two statements—“take heart” and “I have overcome”—connected?

Thursday, June 6, 2019

It Is Finished - Doug Rehberg

It’s often been said that nobody likes a quitter. But today quitting seems almost fashionable. Kids quit school to turn pro. Politicians retire from public life to spend time with their families, even though many are in the prime of life.

Most of us on some level know what it’s like to have a love/hate relationship with something we are obligated to do. On the one hand, we fantasize about the feeling of relief we would get if we chucked it all. On the other hand, we know the feeling of satisfaction that comes in sticking it out.

Recently, I came across two stories of men who decided to quit their jobs and pursue an entirely different career path. In the first case, the man worked in Britain’s military defense system. Instead of writing a letter of resignation he baked a cake that read:

“To management:

Today is my 31st birthday, and having recently become a father I now realize how precious life is and how important it is to spend time doing something that makes me, and other people, happy.

For that reason I hereby give my notice of resignation, in order that I may devote my time and energy to my family and my cake business which has grown steadily over the past few years.

I wish the organization and my colleagues the best for the future and I remind you that, if you enjoy this cake, you can order more at www.mrcake.co.uk. Sincerely, Chris Holmes, (Mr. Cake).”

The second resignation was a bit more indiscrete. Steven Slater, a flight attendant, announced over the plane’s public address system that he had taken his last abuse from a passenger and that he was quitting his job. With that he grabbed two beers from the drink cart, deployed the plane’s evacuation slide, and exited the plane.

Now if ever there were a man who would have many reasons to quit it’s Jesus. When you factor in His sovereignty and power, He could have gotten down off the cross in a New York minute without the help of Elijah (Mark 15:36) or God (Matthew 27:43). But He doesn’t. He stays throughout all the mocking, all the darkness, all the judgment. He stays there all the way to the 6th word!

Now think of it. If the 4th word is the heart of the cross, the 6th word is the guts of the cross. John says, “When Jesus received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

John is the only gospel writer to include this final declaration from Jesus. The three others mention a second loud cry, but never tell us what He says. Only John tells us. For John the 7th word doesn’t even matter in light of this 6th word. In the English translations of the Bible what Jesus says is three words – “It is Finished”, but in Greek it’s one word – Tetelestai.

A few weeks ago a woman approached me before the 8:15 service and said, “I can’t wait to get to Tetelestai. 15 years ago you preached three sermons on it, and I have notes.” This time Henry and I are preaching on it, one sermon apiece. This Sunday is part I.

In preparation for Sunday’s message, “It Is Finished”, (part one) you may wish to consider the following:

1. Why do you suppose John is the only gospel writer to include the 6th word?
2. What does Jesus mean by saying it?
3. Does the Greek word itself give us any help with His meaning?
4. How does that declaration relate to you and your faith?
5. Who is the primary audience for the 6th word?
6. The other day you may have read these words from Matthew’s gospel: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come to fulfill them.” How do they relate to the 6th word?
7. What does Romans 8:21-39 have to do with the 6th word?
8. What does Hebrews 2:5-15 have to do with the 6th word?
9. How does the 6th word reinforce Paul’s declaration in Colossians 2:13-15?
10. Someone has said, “John 19:30 should be a dearer, more beloved text for the Christian than John 3:16.” Would you agree?

See you Sunday!