Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Desire to Dwell - Henry Knapp

“Don’t hang out with them… they’re the bad kids!” I don’t think my mother ever used those exact words, but I sure picked up the impression. I strongly suspect other moms spoke that way about me, warning their kids that I was the bad influence. Of course, the implication is that their “badness” would rub off on me (or, mine onto them!). As a parent myself, I can completely understand the parental warning—I don’t want my kids to be negatively influenced by others either! The solution, of course, is “Stay away!”

Now, in parenting situations, that might very well be great advice. The desire to protect our children from bad influences is overwhelming, and right and proper, I would think. A big part of that protection is to ensure that they find themselves in healthy, God-honoring relationships and circumstances. But, I’m really glad that God does not treat me/us like that!

God is holy. That is, He is distinct, separate, removed from the sinfulness and evil of this world. God does not, and cannot, abide evil and wickedness. But—and there’s that wonderful word—but, the Lord, nevertheless, desires to be with us! An amazing thing about our God, though He is holy, perfect, and good in every way, it is His desire not to abandon us, to separate Himself from our sinfulness. Instead, He desires to walk with us. The Bible uses lots of different language to try to capture this reality—God walks with us, we are united with Christ, He comes to us, and so forth. But, the image I like best is… God desires to dwell with us.

From the beginning in Eden, God acts so as to dwell with His people. It is not enough simply to remove our sin or to free us from the slavery of our evil. It is not the Lord’s sole purpose to bless us with good and gracious things. All these are part of what God does so that He might be our God and we His people. That relationship—belonging to God—is not a distant thing. It is intimacy expressed in His intention to dwell, to live among, to be a part of every moment, to be with His children.

There’s no better picture of this than in Revelation 21. Here, the Apostle John recounts his vision of what Heaven will be like—the culmination of all the creative and redemptive work of God: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21: 3-4).

We justly think of all the blessings and benefits—no more pain! No more mourning, tears, crying… death. No more! But, this is not simply because we will be in heaven; but because in heaven we shall dwell with God Himself! The thought of being daily, every moment, in the immediate presence of God is overwhelming! God desires to dwell with us, and all that dwelling means is possible because of the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us.

As you prepare for worship this Sunday, read Exodus 33:12-16.

1. What does the Lord mean when He commands Moses to “Bring up this people” (vs. 12)? Who is He talking about, and what does He want Moses to do?

2. Why does Moses want someone to go with him? What might his concerns be?

3. What does it mean that God “knows you by name”? Obviously, knowing everything, God knows our names. Why stress this to Moses?

4. To find favor in God’s sight means what?

5. What would it look like for God to “show you His ways” (vs. 13)? What is the result of God doing so? Why does Moses desire this?

6. What might God mean when He says He will send His Presence with Moses? Isn’t God omnipresent (everywhere) anyways? Of course, He is everywhere so He will be with Moses. What is special about what He is saying?

7. In verses 15-16, why does Moses want to be seen as “distinct” from the rest of the world? Why does he want to stand out? Is this simply an ego thing? If not, what is in play?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Answering Peter's Question - Doug Rehberg

I have a friend who has 2 PhDs and 186 patents. He is one of the brightest minds I’ve ever known. On Monday, July 22, he called me to express his disappointment that nothing was said on Sunday, June 21st about Apollo 11 and mankind’s first trip to the moon. Of course, the reason for his surprise was that Saturday, July 20, 2019 was the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin setting foot on the moon; arguably the greatest feat in human history.

Now if you know my friend, you know that the reason he thought mentioning Apollo 11 on July 22nd was appropriate was because of the role God played with Apollo 11. For him mankind’s first trip to the moon was an obvious example of divine orchestration. And he is consistent. He speaks of the same divine mastery over his own work—from idea generation to stunning ground-breaking applications.

Just consider the 8-day, 3-hour, 18-minute, and 35-second mission of Apollo 11. It all began May 25, 1961 when President John F. Kennedy speaking before Congress said, “We chose to go to the moon not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.” And hard it was.

Over 8 years $24 billion was spent on the moon landing. The Saturn V rocket, used to lift the spacecraft off the launch pad, was the largest rocket man ever designed, weighing 6.2 million pounds, the weight of 120 thirty-ton dump trucks. The rocket generated 7.6 million pounds of thrust, creating more power than 85 Hoover Dams, while expending 20 tons of fuel per second! It burned more fuel in one second than Lindbergh used to cross the Atlantic. The Saturn V went from paper design to launch in just six years in large part because Wernber von Braun was a Christian. The difference between the recognition of a need and the infinitesimally small time interval just preceding its solution is unfathomable and only explainable by Divine Orchestration or more specifically, Divine Insight.

There are some amazing facts about the Apollo 11 mission. The average age of NASA engineers at the time was 27 years old. When the Lunar Landing Module touched down, a distance from its intended landing site, it had only 23 seconds of fuel left. On the way from Colombia, the command module captained by Michael Collins, to the surface of the moon, astronaut Buzz Aldrin broke a crucial circuit breaker in the Lunar Landing Module—Eagle—but was able to fix it by shoving a ball point pen into the disabled breaker.

A modern iPhone has 2400 times the processing speed, 1 million times more operating memory (RAM) and 7 million times more program (ROM) memory than the crucial Apollo 11 navigation computer essential for to the success of the mission.

But perhaps most incredible of all, President Richard Nixon had his speech writers draft a disaster speech that was ready to be delivered in the likely event that the mission failed.

Now these are only a handful of facts that leads my good friend to rightfully conclude that God superintended the success of the mission. The three principle astronauts—Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins have all spoken plainly, and at length, about God’s hand in all of it. (Perhaps this is why Aldrin took communion on the surface of the moon.) All 3, along with Chris Kraft, knew that without God’s sovereign work the mission would have failed.

But how did they know that? Not every astronaut believed that. Certainly not every engineer believed that. The truth is whether its 1969 or 2019 the vast ­­­­­preponderance of scientists aren't like my friend. They are skeptics at best. Why? Jesus tells us, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17) It’s Revelation! It’s not the product of human wisdom. It’s the result of God opening eyes and hearts. And that is exactly what we will see this Sunday as we examine Matthew 19:16-20:16.

How many times have you been told that what you do determines your destiny? How many times have you told yourself that your standing with God was based on your own efforts at obedience and holiness? How many times have you wondered whether your life measures up to the standards God has established for getting to heaven? If you think getting to the moon is tough, just imagine working your way into heaven.

Until this week I never put Matthew 19:16-30 together with Matthew 20:1-16. Maybe it was the chapter break by someone other than Matthew. Maybe it’s because I was lazy. Maybe it’s because of revelation. Whatever the reason, they go together and the truth is startling!

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

1. What is Jesus’ point in 19:17?
2. Why does he point this rich young man to the second tablet of the law?
3. How good is the man’s self-assessment in v. 20?
4. What does His command in v. 21 mean?
5. What’s Jesus mean in verses 23 & 24?
6. Why are the disciples astonished in v. 25?
7. How does verse 26 relate to 20:1-16?
8. What are the two ways Jesus answers Peter’s question asked in verse 27?
9. What is the principle message of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard?
10. How does 20:13-15 answer the questions of both the rich young man and Peter?

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Being Mad at Your Maker - Doug Rehberg

The guy’s written me off. He used to reach out to me but no more. You say, “What did you do to offend him?” It’s simple, I wouldn’t agree with him.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and the man was on the practice tee hitting a few golf balls when the pro brought a man out for a lesson. As was his custom, the pro walked over, grabbed a bag of balls and a large portable mirror. At the same time, the pro told his pupil to pull out his seven-iron and hit a few shots so that he could see what he was going to be working with.

After watching a dozen shots, six to the right and six to the left, the wise old pro instructed the man to stop and listen to him. For the next five minutes the pro suggested several key corrections to the man’s technique. But as he began to demonstrate each of his solutions the man interrupted him, suggesting what he thought was his problem and ways to fix it.

Finally, after being interrupted three times, the pro backed away from the hitting area and began listening intently to his student. Every time the man would offer his opinion the pro would nod his head in agreement. “Maybe you’ve got something there,” he’d say. After 20 minutes of agreement the lesson was over. The student paid the pro, congratulated him on his expertise, and walked away in an obvious good mood.

Now the man who had been watching all of this was so astonished that he walked over to the pro and asked, “Why did you stop trying to teach him and instead agree with his kooky ideas?” The pro straightened up, and as he carefully pocketed his fee said, “Son, I learned a long time ago, it’s a waste of time trying to sell answers to a man who only wants to buy echoes”.

There are a lot of Christians buying their own echoes. And nowhere is that truer than around the issues of forgiveness. Forgiveness is the topic before “the house” this Sunday. But, interestingly, it’s not forgiveness of a person that’s in sight this week but forgiving God.

Have you ever been angry with God? Have you ever been so convinced that you were right and He was wrong that you stayed away from Him? Almost everyone I know who wants little to do with God began their long walk away from Him because of some hurt that they blame on Him or His people.

In a message entitled, “Being Mad at The Maker”, we will not discuss the subject from a smattering of biblical proof texts, rather we have a great story of it in I Kings 17. Here in this text we find a woman, who knows God, who has experienced years of His blessing, and yet, in the face of the death of her son, she’s angry and bitter at God.

We are going to dig into this lady’s issues this week. And amazingly we’ll discover that her issues are our issues. And God’s solutions are exactly what we need!

In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:

1. Why does Elijah pronounce a three-year drought upon Israel and the surrounding territories?
2. Why would God send Elijah to Zarephath? What do we know about the place?
3. Why would God command a widow to feed the prophet instead of the ravens (v. 6)?
4. What do we know about this widow?
5. What is she forgetting in verse 18?
6. What is her fixation?
7. What is her focus?
8. How does Elijah answer each of those?
9. What do you make of her declaration in verse 24?
10. How often do you see yourself in this woman?

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Satan: Busy at Work - Henry Knapp

I know I am skewing old here, but… who remembers Flip Wilson? Wilson was a comic in the sixties and seventies who was famous in part for his portrayal of “Geraldine Jones”. I don’t remember much of Wilson’s humor, and I suspect that a lot of it would be considered irreverent and perhaps even offensive today. But at the time, he had quite a following. In particular, I remember Geraldine Jones’ popular cry, “The devil made me do it!” Wilson, dressed as a loud, sassy woman would defend all her bad or impulsive decisions by claiming that the devil made her do it. Wilson’s delivery was spot on, and Geraldine was great character; but in retrospect, it was amazing how long he was able to ride that one joke.

Well, maybe not. See, the situations Geraldine so often found herself in were not extraordinary, odd or unusual. Quite the contrary, her situations were the most commonplace—talking with a friend, riding the bus, or most famously, buying a dress. But, when asked how she could spend so much money on the dress, out would come the retort—“the devil made me do it!” and never without a huge audience laugh.

Why did we laugh? Not, I think, because we can’t imagine being in the situation; but because we are always exactly in that situation! The situation of having made poor choices and needing someone/something to blame. How easy is “the Flip Wilson defense”? Blame it on the devil!

But, Scripture won’t have anything to do what that. Yes, the Bible acknowledges that Satan is active in this world, that he is dangerous, and that he is relentless in his desire to destroy God’s people (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is surely no one to fool with.

But, can we justly claim that “Satan made us” do something? Nope. Not according to God’s Word. Satan has tremendous powers; and he is always working against holiness. But he doesn’t “make” us do anything. He certainly is guilty in God’s sight, but guilty of what? Not of making us do evil… it is, after all, we who do evil! In the Bible we are the ones held accountable for our wickedness and sinfulness. The devil doesn’t make us do anything.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Satan is active in this world. But not in “making” us do things. That guilt is all our own. What does Satan do? His great power is easily summarized in Scripture. He is the Deceiver—twisting God’s Word, a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He is the Tempter—challenging us to turn from God and betray Him (1 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 7:5). Finally, Satan is the Accuser—undercutting God’s promises and the assurance of salvation He gives (Revelation 12:9). The thought that Satan might make us do evil is easy to have—it removes the responsibility from us. But that is not what he does. He doesn’t make—he deceives, tempts, and accuses. And, believe me, that’s bad enough! Maybe he doesn’t have to make us do anything… maybe his deceit, temptations, and accusations are more than enough.

But, thanks be to our Lord for the grace, salvation, forgiveness, and protection we have in Jesus Christ, who for us has won the victory!
As you prepare for worship this week, check out Zechariah 3.

1. One of the challenges of this passage is that it is a vision. How does that change our interpretation of what happens?

2. Note: This is not the Joshua you might be thinking of. The “Joshua” of the biblical book lived centuries earlier. This one is not a military leader, but “the high priest”. What was the role of the high priest?

3. Reading to the end of the chapter, you get the impression that it is the Day of Atonement (or, just take my word for it, the Day of Atonement is in view here). How does that influence what is going on in this passage?

4. What is Satan doing (vs. 1)? Who do you think he is accusing?

5. What is with the LORD’s rebuke? What is the basis/reasoning of his rebuke in verse 2?

6. Verse 3-5 are very concerned with Joshua’s clothing. What do you know about priests’ clothing? Why is it so important?  Bible search question: Why is the priest’s turban important? What is noteworthy of the turban?

7. Of course, our interest is not on the ancient Israelite priesthood but on Jesus Christ. How does this passage speak of our salvation in Christ?