Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Feelin' Queasy - Henry Knapp

Normally, I have a pretty settled stomach. I have been known to react poorly to eating a few things, but in general things don’t affect me too much. Food things, that is. There are other things that will indeed make my stomach twist around, things that make me feel nauseous, groggy, or unsettled.

I’ll confess to not being a fan of certain medical thingys—if I’m ever visiting you in the hospital, do not feel compelled to show me your incision. Slimy bugs, creepy-crawly sea creatures, and sappy love stories don’t do much for me either. (Ok, I lied. I like the sappy love stories).

Having my feet washed by someone else, though I have never had the experience, seems to qualify as “queasy producing”. I’m just not sure how I’d feel about that. Not that I have special feelings about feet or anything—it’s just that someone touching my feet would be so, well, demeaning, so uncomfortable! I can imagine my mind screaming: “Egads, don’t touch my feet! They are too… worldly, too earthy for you to touch; you are too good to go playing with my feet.”

Kelly grew up in a church tradition where once a year the congregation would gather for a foot washing ceremony. They would sit in a large circle, men in one area, women in another. The person next to you would remove your shoes, wash your feet, wipe them dry, then pass you the water basin and towel and you would then wash the next person’s feet. The idea of serving another this way sounds pretty cool; the idea of someone washing my feet, on the other hand, makes me feel queasy.

So, I’m kind of sympathetic to Peter. In the biblical account when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, Peter is dumbfounded. He can’t imagine that Jesus would stoop to do that. We’re not told exactly what so mystified Peter; but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was queasy at the thought that His Lord, Jesus, would be touching his feet, would so humiliate Himself and “lower” Himself to do that. Jesus is simply too, way too, good for that!

I also feel for Peter in how he responds to Jesus’ rebuke. After pulling away in queasy shock and semi-horror at the thought that Jesus would wash his feet, Jesus explains that He must do this if Peter is to be counted as one of His own. And Peter, full of enthusiasm and passion for his Lord, now wants Jesus to wash every part of him! If feet connect me to Jesus, then wash even more, wash it all so I can be even more connected! Peter’s reacting exactly like I would react! “No, never, Lord… OK, then EVERYTHING, Lord!”

Once again, Peter has misunderstood what’s happening. Jesus tries to explain: I have made you clean, and if I have made you clean, you need not keep trying to be clean; I’ve already done the job. Washing the feet is just reminding, restoring the relationship. Jesus has a goal—that we would be clean. Of course, the “clean” Jesus is talking about here is not “clean from dirt”, but a real clean, a cleanliness of spirit, of intimacy with God. We have been cleaned by the Master Washer, and we need never fear uncleanness again. When Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, He is demonstrating for them what He has come to do—to serve, to give of Himself in this amazing way. And, once clean, we are clean forever!

As you prepare for worship this week, read John 13:1-20.

1. The opening verse here seems to cover a lot more than just Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. What might “loved them to the end” imply and/or cover?

2. In this passage (and down through the next section), how is the role of Satan described? It would be easy to blame it all on him… yet, does John do that?

3. Verses 4 and 5 are wonderfully descriptive. You can really “see” it all happening, no? Why do you think each detail is included?

4. You’ve read my thoughts on Peter’s reactions above… read verses 6-10 again. What motivates Peter here?

5. In verse 12, Jesus asks: “Do you understand what I have done for you?” Well? Do we? What is the purpose of Jesus’ actions here?

6. In verse 14, one purpose is fairly clear—to provide a model we should follow. But how? Is a literal foot washing ceremony in view here? What characteristics should be reflected in one who takes this seriously?

7. Reflect on the promise of verse 17. Wow, huh? 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

How to Spend a Life - Doug Rehberg

The man writes, “There was a time in my life when I thought the church talked too much about money. So, I stayed away. But in 1991 it all changed for me. It was then that I determined that I’ll never belong to a church that doesn’t ask me for money. And I’ll tell you why. On July 23, 1970, my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. For three years we had tried unsuccessfully to start a family, and now he was here. I’ll never forget hearing his first cry. It was right before the hospital was allowing fathers in the delivery room, so I had to wait outside in the adjoining room. When the nurse came in to tell me, I spoke first. I said, ‘Is that my baby?’ The nurse smiled and said, ‘Yes, your wife has just given birth to a beautiful baby boy.’ I was on cloud nine. I had always wanted a boy, and here he was. I could hardly wait to get him home. But the rich glow of fatherhood soon dimmed when I was asked to go to the business office. It seems that my insurance coverage was less than advertised, and there was a big bill to pay. In fact, it seemed like they were going to hold my wife and son hostage until the bill was settled. So, I drove home, grabbed my checkbook and wrote out the biggest check I had written in years. But you know what? That was only the first check I’d write on my son’s behalf.

“I quickly learned that children are expensive. There’s food to buy and formula to get. And then there are all those diapers. There are doctor visits and booster shots. There are toys and trips and clothes to assault the checkbook on a regular basis. I quickly learned that by the time you build a wardrobe, he’s put on another inch or two and you have to start all over again. And as his size increased, so did the expenses. Soon, it was baseball gloves and hockey sticks. Soon, it was dress shoes, then gym shoes, then running shoes, not to mention the glasses and the braces. And then disaster hit. My son became a teenager. Now it was cars and dates and brand names. All my son ever wanted to be was an architect. It seemed like he’d be in school until my retirement. Talk about expensive! There was tuition and books, drawing tools and drawing tables. But, like most parents, we were happy to do it. We never saw our financial sacrifice as a bitter burden. He was growing up. He was pursuing his potential. He was living out his dreams, and it was a joy to help. In fact, my wife and I felt like that’s what we were there for.

“Then one day it all changed. On a bright, sunny, horrible day in October we buried our son, Lance, in a small country cemetery. And that afternoon, as we walked away from the grave, I had an interesting thought. We’d never spend another dime on him. Death is cheap. Death can be sustained without any expense. The dead have no need of money, only the living do. Life’s expensive. Growth costs. That’s why I’ll never belong to a church that doesn’t ask me for money.”

You know, the man’s right. There are churches that have no vision. There are churches that have no dreams and no plans. They set no goals and reach them all the time. There are churches that never challenge their people to see what the Lord has in store for them. They’re headed to the cemetery. They’re headed to the place where there are few expenses. For you see, its only growth that requires a cost. It’s only life that requires a sacrifice for a fuller future. And that’s exactly what we see in Sunday’s text: John 12:20-28.

For three years Jesus has been saying, “My time has not yet come.” Not only has Jesus been saying it, so has John. During his description of Jesus’ three-year ministry John has repeated the same message, “His time had not yet come.” But it all changes in John 12:23. This verse is the fulcrum on which the entire gospel of John rests. Everything to the left of it refers to Jesus’ three-year ministry before the final Passover, and everything to the right of it refers to what He does during and after it. And it’s in the immediate verses after His pronouncement that His time has come that Jesus gives us four secrets to getting the most out of His call on our lives. They are four principles of living that reflect what it means to follow Him. And this Sunday we will examine them together.

As you prepare for our study this Sunday, you may wish to consider the following:

1. What is it that triggers Jesus’ turnaround from, “My time has not yet come”, to “It’s here!”?
2. Why do many call verse 23 the watershed of John’s gospel?
3. What does the Greeks’ presence at the Passover mean to Jesus and to John?
4. How does loving your life cause you to lose it?
5. What does hating your life mean?
6. How does Romans 6:1-11 inform us?
7. Why would Paul, Peter, & John have a problem with the ubiquitous diagnosis in the church today that someone is “hurting”?
8. What’s Jesus mean in verse 24? What other Scriptures come to mind?
9. What does it mean to see where Jesus is at work and then joining Him?
10. How does that man who lost a son exemplify what Jesus is telling us in this text?

See you Sunday!  

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

His Royal Highness - Doug Rehberg

As a Methodist circuit preacher came riding into town on an old, broken-down horse, a young boy sat at the corner with rolled-up pants and his shirttails hanging out. The preacher said, “Son, which one of these roads will take me to Stoughton, the one to the right or the one to the left?” The boy said nothing. He just sat there.

The preacher said, “Son, which way to Stoughton?” The boy just sat there. Finally, the minister got down off his horse and walked over to the boy and tapped him on his shoulder, “Which way, son?” The young boy looked up and asked, “Who are you?” The preacher said, “I am a follower of the Lord!” The boy said, “Well, it don’t matter which way you take, you’ll never catch him on that hoss.”

When Jesus rides into Jerusalem to begin the last week of His earthly ministry it’s not to catch anybody. It’s the opposite. He’s there to be caught. He’s riding to His death. With this entrance the die is cast, and no gospel-writer comprehends this fact any better than John. Indeed, chapter 12 marks the great divide in his gospel. Chapters 1 to 12:11 detail the first 155 weeks of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Chapters 12:12 through chapter 21 detail the last week. Among the four gospel writers, no one is more thorough in his treatment of Jesus’ final days than John, and he starts where they all start, with this ride.

Now the truth is that John’s account of the Triumphant Entry is the leanest of all accounts. In fact, John’s 8 verses are rarely read or preached on Palm Sunday. While his words describing this event are often overlooked, that’s a mistake. For here in 8 verses he gives us a glimpse into the Kingship of Jesus that everyone there that day misses, and many still miss. In fact, John seems to highlight the extent of the blindness in verse 16 when he says, “His disciples did not understand things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.”

This Sunday, the first communion of the decade at Hebron, we will dig deeply into John’s 8-verse-account of this famous ride. We will look at four “D’s”: the DESIGNATION (verse 13), the DETERMINATION (verse 14), the DELUSION (verse 18), and the DECLARATION (verse 19). In preparation for Sunday’s message, “His Royal Highness” you may wish to consider the following:

1. How does Jesus prove He’s in charge of the events of Palm Sunday?
2. Why does He wait for Lazarus to be raised from the dead before riding into Jerusalem?
3. How does this ride reflect the words of Isaiah 53:4-5?
4. What does John mean in verse 16 when he refers to his own blindness to the events of this day?
5. What is the importance of Zechariah 9:9 to John?
6. Why do the crowds cry out what they do?
7. What’s the meaning of a king riding a donkey in the First Century?
8. How do they miss Jesus’ clear, visible message?
9. What’s the primary motivator for the crowd that day? (See verse 18)
10. What do the Pharisees mean in verse 19? Are they right?

See you as we prepare to come to His table on Sunday!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

A Gift for the One I Love - Henry Knapp

What do you get someone who has everything? The perpetual birthday/Christmas question. What gift can we find for someone who really doesn’t need anything we might be able to give?

My parents are now in their 80s, and we have long ago exhausted every possible gift idea. It helps that my father responds to anything chocolate like it’s manna from heaven, and that if it has a Steeler emblem on it, it should be treated as gold. But even so, how many Steeler ties can you wear to church each week? My mother is a bit easier, but only because she is classy enough, and kind enough, to act like, yes, really! THIS dishtowel is actually the best one ever!

Of course, at its best, we are not giving gifts to actually give the other person something, but to express to them our love and care. And this paves the way for us to ask—What can we give to Jesus our Lord? We well know that Jesus doesn’t NEED anything. We can’t give Him something that He doesn’t already have. We can’t give Him any more glory than is already His. We can’t give the Lord of creation our money, it’s His to begin with. We can’t give Him our lives—He already owns them. But, that doesn’t mean we don’t have that drive to give to Him, that yearning to show Him our love and devotion by offering Him… well… what He already owns!

Now, some people will distort this—many people have distorted this—so that our giving is somehow a way of making God pleased with us. Our offerings, our gifts to the Lord, are seen, not as a free expression of adoration, but as a means of currying favor. We do things for our God with the hope that He will do good things in return. What a horrid relationship that is! Can you imagine voicing that out loud on Christmas morning—“Here, mom, here’s my gift to you; but just so you know, I’m only giving it to you so you feel compelled to give me something good in return.” AHHHH! Sure, it’s wonderful to get gifts. Sure, I want to give gifts to those who give them to me. But, not because they give me gifts, but because our relationship is marked by love, respect, and devotion.

So, if not to win God’s approval or His blessings, why do we so desperately want to give something, anything to Him? Because, that’s what you do when you love someone—you give, and give, and give to another. Every birthday, every Christmas, we dig and dig, seeking the right gift—the gift that will not provide them something they don’t already have, but to give them the gift that expresses the depth of our relationship.

In our text this week, Mary, the sister of Lazarus, gives an extravagant, wonderful gift to Jesus. Never once is there a hint that she is doing so to earn His pleasure, or that she is trying to get something from Him. Her gift is motivated from her desire to express her adoration, her love, her devotion to Jesus her Lord.

It is my prayer that we too will give all we have out of love to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

As you prepare for worship this week, read John 12:1-11.

1. Give a quick scan at the verses immediately before this story. How do they shape the storyline here?

2. In verse 1 we are told that the Passover is coming. What implications are present from that statement?

3. Notice how they describe Lazarus—we just left him, I don’t think the author needed to mention this… but he did. Why?

4. Both Martha and Mary make an appearance here. Notice that they are “in character”. Is this a good thing or bad?

5. Just like there is a description of Lazarus, there is a description given of Judas. Why do you think the author describes him thus?

6. In verse 5, Judas questions the value of anointing Jesus as Mary has done, drawing the contrast with using the money to help others. What current church debates might follow this same pattern?

7. Jesus’ comment that the poor will always be with us means what? What attitude is Jesus trying to bring forth in His followers?