Monday, March 30, 2020

Slaps, Whips and a Crown of Thorns - Doug Rehberg

In these uncertain days of layoffs and business discontinuations, I’m reminded of a study done by The Ohio State University on why people are fired from their jobs. In fact, they compiled a list of the top fifty reasons. Would you believe it, the first fifteen had nothing to do with skills or knowledge; they had to do strictly with attitude.

It’s like the three women who died and went to heaven. When they arrive they meet Saint Peter at the gate who tells them to wait outside until he gets back from a meeting.

A few hours later Peter returns, calls the first woman and apologizes to her saying, “I’m so deeply sorry for making you wait.” Instantly, the woman replies, “Oh, I don’t mind at all. I’m just thrilled to be here.” Peter smiles and says, “Well, I have just one question to ask you so that I can finish the paperwork. How do you spell God?” The woman smiles and says, “G…O…D”. Peter takes her by the hand, walks her into heaven, and says, “It’s all yours!”

When he returns to the gate he calls the second woman and apologizes for the wait. She says, “Oh don’t think anything of it! I’m willing to wait a thousand years just to see Jesus face-to-face.” Peter smiles and says, “Well, you won’t have to. Just answer one question for me. How do you spell God?” The woman nods and says, “G…O…D”. Peter takes her by the hand, walks her through the gate and into heaven saying, “It’s all yours.”

When he returns and calls the third woman, before he can say a single word of apology the woman launches. “All my life I’ve had to wait!  I’ve had to wait in the grocery store! I’ve had to wait at the bus stop! I’ve had to wait for my kids! I’ve had to wait at the doctor’s office! Everywhere I’ve gone I’ve had to wait. And now I have to wait to get into heaven.” With that Peter says, “I’m truly sorry, madam. But for the record, if you can just answer one question, how do you spell, supralapsarianism?”

Years ago a woman called me in hysterics. Her grandson had just received a bad diagnosis and she was calling me to ask why. “Why would God do something like this to him? How could a good God do such a thing? He’s done nothing to deserve this! He’s a victim of a mean God!”  And by the time she finished her diatribe, I knew she wasn’t calling for answers. God was her target and my eardrums were the victim.

The Psalmist would understand that. Throughout the Psalms there are scores of questions that are asked of God, but none more profound and relevant to your life and mine than the three we find in Psalm 22. Remember them?

·         “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
·         “Why are you so far from saving me?”
·         “Why are you so far from the words of my groaning?”

Each of these questions are ones we have asked, or can imagine asking at one time or another. And yet, they are never answered in that Psalm or any other Psalm. In fact, David never gets them answered. For 1500 years these questions hang in the air until Jesus answers them. That’s what John 18 is all about. In John 18:22-19:3, each one of these questions is answered in such a way that they never have to be asked again.

In preparation for this week’s virtual worship experience and message entitled, “Slaps, Whips, and a Crown of Thorns”, you may wish to consider the following:
  1. What circumstances would drive David to utter the words of Psalm 22?
  2. We know that Jesus cites Psalm 22:1 on the cross, but how do we see the other two questions reflected at the cross and in this week’s text?
  3. Who is Jesus facing when He’s slapped in verse 22?
  4. Why does the officer of the high priest slap Him?
  5. What did a slap mean in Jesus’ day?
  6. What is the reason for the indictment before Pilate, in verse 30, that Jesus was doing evil?
  7. Why flog Him in 19:1?
  8. What comes to your mind when you think of men fashioning a crown of thorns for Jesus’ head?
  9. Why does God allow the only innocent man in all of history to be forsaken by Him?
  10. What does Jesus’ suffering say to you about how God answers David’s questions?

It’s a Passion Sunday this week, commonly known as Palm Sunday. It’s a day of questions and John 18:22-19:3 gives us some concrete answers. Hope you tune in and worship our Lord together with us, even though we’re scattered.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Power of Jesus - Henry Knapp

Judas Greeted Him with a Kiss

He betrayed me. Betrayed me! Up to that point in my life, I don’t believe I had ever experienced anything so brutal. Betrayal.

I had shared a secret. Needing a confidant—someone to help carry the load, one who would come alongside me, uphold me in my struggle, offer support when it all got too much. Needing someone to trust, I shared with him. And, he betrayed me. Benedict Arnold. Marcus Brutus (“et tu, Brute?”). Vidkun Quisling. Ha! They had nothing on T. Richard Dillinger (pseudonym to protect the innocent).

And, why? I asked. Why had T. Richard betrayed me as he did? Was it principle? Fame? Money? Or, was it simply because telling her I had a crush on her would embarrass me? Yes, in fifth grade, I was betrayed when T. Richard told Marcie I liked her.

It was popular in the past decades to claim that there are no moral absolutes. That everything is relative. That what is deemed “right” and “wrong” are just products of our society. After all, the argument went, in some cultures there is no stealing. In some societies, it is wrong to say a particular word; while in others it is perfectly acceptable. Consider, they say, how standards change—in one decade, certain clothing would be scandalous, in others, totally normal. And so the conclusion: everything is relative.

But, what about betrayal? It is hard to imagine a society where Benedict Arnold would be held up as a hero. Or, that being a traitor would be honored. (For an interesting read on this, try Peace Child, by Don Richardson). Betrayal strikes deep, perhaps deep enough that we might say it does indeed reflect a universal denunciation, an absolute prohibition based on the Creator of the world.

So, it is easy to wag our fingers at Judas Iscariot—certainly the most famous betrayer in history. Honored and blessed to walk with Jesus for three years, given the greatest gift of witnessing the Savior’s earthly ministry, Judas betrays Jesus, turns Him over to those seeking to kill Him. For thirty pieces of silver, for a couple of months’ worth of wages, Judas sells out his leader. Or, perhaps it was because Judas had lost faith in Jesus. Or, because Judas wanted to force Jesus into messianic action. Or,… Whatever the reason, Judas betrays Jesus and is now the most recognized traitor in history.

While the Bible clearly acknowledges the horror of Judas’ action, it always seems odd to me that more emphasis is not put on his evil deed. The Bible denounces Judas, but that doesn’t seem to be the focus. Instead, Jesus’ death is more often spoken of as payment for MY sin. It is almost like… I betrayed Him! Could it be that the revulsion I feel toward those who would betray their country, their leaders, their friends, is the kind of revulsion that leads straight to the cross? And, could that sense of betrayal be directed at me? Could it be that my sin really is so bad as to be put in the same camp as Judas? Could it be that the betrayal of Jesus occurred, not just by one of His disciples, but by all of them? Is the biblical picture of the traitor Judas a portrait of us all? Not unique in being worse than all the rest, but simply a pattern for us all? Can you say, “I betrayed Jesus, and still betray Him”?

Christ died, betrayed by His friend. Christ died betrayed by my sin, by your sin. But, He died to remove the guilt, the stain, the condemnation of that betrayal! Because of His death, even traitors experience His salvation, by trusting through faith in Jesus Christ, to whom be praise now and forever.

In preparation for worship this week, read John 18:1-11.

1. This passage occurs immediately after Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17. Do you think there is a link between Jesus’ prayer and the events immediately following?

2. Notice how Judas is described in verses 2-3. What all is implied and stated here?

3. Verse 6 is always an interesting thought for me. Why do you think Jesus’ proclamation knocked them to the ground?

4. Why does Jesus direct the soldiers’ attention to Himself? What is His motive and goal? How does this express the gospel message?

5. Why do you think Simon Peter acted as he did? Why does Jesus respond to Peter like He does? Can you speculate on how Peter felt after this episode?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Livin' on a Prayer - Doug Rehberg

J. C. Penney said it, “God wants to possess me, not merely my possessions.” Have you ever known anyone who was so possessed?

The man lived in Germany, his name was Bengel. There was something about him that caused others to marvel. One such man, a friend, desired that same intimacy, but he was uncertain about how to get it. So, he decided to sneak into Bengel’s room one early evening to observe his devotions. Entering the room and opening the closet door, he hid himself in a place where he could observe everything. Within an hour, Bengel came in, sat down at his table, and began reading the New Testament. The hours passed until finally the clock in the corner struck midnight. With that the old man spread out his hands, smiled broadly and said, “Dear Lord Jesus, we’re on the same terms.” He closed the book, climbed into bed, and fell asleep.

John Knox was on the same terms. In 1572, as the Scottish Reformer lay dying, he asked a friend to come and read him the Scripture. Though Knox was an Old Testament scholar, it wasn’t the Old Testament he wanted. It wasn’t a miracle or a wonder, it was a prayer. Every day until he died, John Knox wanted John 17 read to him.

Philip Melanchthon said it, “…no voice has ever been heard, either in heaven or on earth, more exalted, more fruitful, more sublime than this prayer offered up by the Son of God Himself.” We might add, none more intimate either.

Think of it. Here in the presence of His disciples Jesus has an intimate conversation with His Father. Now remember these are the same men who asked Him months earlier to teach them to pray. In response to their query Jesus gives them the model prayer, called, “The Lord’s Prayer.” But here we have the Lord’s Prayer! This is the Lord of Glory speaking to His Father and addressing two sets of needs—His needs and His friends’ needs.

The great Scottish Commentator Arthur W. Pink says, “In John 17 the veil is drawn aside, and we are admitted with our great High Priest into the holiest of all. Here we are able to enter the secret place of the tabernacle of the Most High.” And here we are to listen to what is on God’s mind.

This week we are going to examine much of what is on Jesus’ mind (and heart) in this timeless intercession. It behooves us to do just that, because Jesus is as focused on you and me in this prayer as He is on Himself.

In preparation for this week’s message entitled: “Livin’ on a Prayer”, I would encourage you to read and reread John 17 and see how many requests Jesus makes of His Father. Here’s a hint” He makes the same number of requests for Himself as He does for all of His disciples, including you and me. Here are some other questions that will assist you in your examination of this magnificent prayer:
  1. Jesus’ prayer is tied directly to what He’s been saying in chapter 16. How does 16:33 work to prompt Jesus to pray?
  2. How do His words in chapter 16 reflect themselves in His prayer?
  3. In verse 1 Jesus uses the word “glorify” twice. What does “glorify” mean and who does He wish to be glorified?
  4. What’s Jesus mean in verse 2 when He says that His Father has given Him authority over all flesh?
  5. How does this statement, and the one following it (about eternal life), set up the balance of the prayer?
  6. How does the Father honor Jesus’ request in verse 5?
  7. Who does Jesus credit for the election of those who are saved? (see verse 6.)
  8. What word would you use to describe the similarity between the Father and the Son as expressed in verse 8?
  9. How do we add to Jesus’ glorification as mentioned in verse 10?
  10. How does it make you feel to know that Jesus included you in His prayer in verse 20?
Though we will not worship in person together this week, we will be worshipping together as we ruminate on this most blessed text. Through the week you will be encouraged to listen to other podcasted messages in addition to this week’s podcast. All of this is done to increase our knowledge and love for Jesus Christ, our Great Savior! May He bless you and yours richly!


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Standing Firm - Doug Rehberg

In light of the Coronavirus craze I think of Dr. William Oslear, one of the founders of John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, who said, “It is more important to know what sort of patient has a disease than what sort of disease a patient has.” Did you ever hear of the hypochondriac who was fanatical in following every care he could find in a book or magazine? Unfortunately, he died of a typographical error!

Years ago Norman Cousins wrote a true story of a high school football game in Southern California at which a small number of people started feeling sick. The doctor at the game suspected food poisoning, so an announcement was made that no one was to get a drink from a certain beverage machine that was thought to contain the noxious drink. Soon the medical station was flooded with people claiming to be suffering from food poisoning. Hundreds of people were temporarily hospitalized. Panic hit the stadium.

Later, upon examining the machine and testing the drinks, no problems were found. Every single item tested was found to be perfectly safe. As soon as people were told that the machine was not at fault, the illness started clearing up!

A friend recently asked, “How many funerals have you conducted since arriving at Hebron?” Now, this isn’t a new question. But this time I decided to check my records. The number is 627. And over 750 in my entire ordained ministry. But there was one memorial service that I participated in long before my ordained ministry began. What stands out most vividly is what happened in a hospital waiting room a week before that service. I’ll talk about it in Sunday’s message entitled, “Standing Firm”.

Sunday’s text, John 16:1-15, marks the beginning of a new chapter in John’s gospel, but’s it’s a continuation of what Jesus is saying in chapter 15. In John 15:18-25, Jesus uses the word “hate” 7 times. “They will hate you,” He says. “They will put you out of the synagogue. They will even kill you thinking that’s what God wants them to do!”

Now this isn’t hypochondria. This isn’t a feckless worry. This is “take it to the bank” realism. This is what He says will truly occur in the life of every disciple. But that’s not all Jesus says! He tells us of 3 realities that will assist us in seeing things the way He sees them and, therefore, standing firm.

We will dig into all of this on Sunday, so in preparation you may wish to consider the following:

1. What does Jesus mean in verse 1?
2. On what grounds would anyone do the things described in verse 2?
3. What help does Jesus offer to us in our suffering?
4. How familiar is this Helper with helping someone in the midst of their suffering?
5. In what way is Jesus telling us that we will walk the same road as He walked?
6. How does Jesus describe Him in verse 13?
7. What’s the difference between a teacher and a guide? Who would you rather have?
8. How does suffering redirect our eyes from ourselves to the Lord?
9. How does it redirect our eyes from ourselves to others?
10. How does all this connect to what Jesus says in John 15:12-14?

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The Father Loves the Son - Henry Knapp

I was sitting across the table the other day from someone who was talking about the technicalities of his work. Now, I have no personal experience with his vocation nor have I ever spent any time learning about it. So, while I played along, like I knew what we were talking about—head bobbing, with an idiotic smile on my face, grunting at what I hoped were appropriate moments—it was basically like hearing a foreign language. There were lots of acronyms, technical terms, jargon, and shorthand phrases. That was OK. Often when I get together with someone and they share about their work, my inexperience with what they do every day means that I can’t always follow everything. Usually, I get enough of the gist to know if they are happy or not, and that helps me pray for and minister with them.

However, at the end of our meeting, this particular fellow says something that sounds like: “Given what I do at work every day, I think about your sermons like beedlebopinshine, ha, ha, ha!” Knowing nothing of his work or what “beedlebopinshine” is, I was at a total loss, not sure if I had been complimented or insulted.

In John 15, Jesus tells His disciples that He has loved them “as the Father has loved me”. OK. On one level, I can understand that. That makes sense. While we know little of the inner-workings of the Trinity, the fact that the Father loves the Son is not surprising. And, in this passage, Jesus is affirming to His disciples that He loves them like He is loved by the Father. Most of us would be able to track with that—we love like we have been loved. So, the fact that Jesus loves us like He is loved by the Father is completely understandable.

So, that’s good—the Father loves the Son. Clear enough. Until I slow down and think about it for a second… How DOES the Father love the Son? Or, more accurately, how do I know how the Father loves the Son? After all, I haven’t really seen it happening, the Father loving the Son. Sure, I guess it happens, but I don’t know what that is… do I? Thinking about it, it is suddenly “beedlebopinshine” all over again.

So, how does the Father love the Son? Here’s a big word (or two): Theologians describe this by means of a Greek word, perichoresis, or its Latin equivalent, circumincession. Two big terms that refer to one marvelous mystery—the fact that the Persons in the Godhead (the Father, Son, and Spirit) all “mutually indwell” one another. That is, they each are so a part of the other, that they are seen as permeating one another completely so that the one is always in the other two. Yikes! Try wrapping your head around that one. The existence of God, through all eternity, is such that the Persons of the Trinity are different, yet totally mutually indwelling.

What does this mean for the love of the Father for the Son? Well, that love is eternal. It always has been, and always will be. And, so is Jesus’ love for us. The Father’s love is constant and is never in doubt; so also Jesus’ love for His followers. God’s love for His Son never falters. Jesus’ love for you never fails. The Father loves the Son as an expression of His whole being (God is love); and that is how Jesus loves us.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” (John 15:9). What a great, great promise! Let us rejoice in that deep, abiding love together.

As we prepare together for worship this Sunday, read John 15:9-17.

1. What is the connection between Jesus’ discussion of love with the vine image that immediately precedes it?

2. What would “abiding in love” (John 15:9) look like? What would NOT abiding in love look like?

3. What is the link between obedience and love as described in this text? Look at the various ways it is spoken about.

4. In John 15:16, suddenly Jesus is talking about “choosing me” and “choosing you”. How does this factor into His discussion of love?

5. The same question for prayer in John 15:16. It seems out of place, no?

6. What is the difference between John 15:12 and John 15:17? Notice that they don’t exactly say the same thing… what is different here, and so what?