Monday, April 27, 2020

Two Men and Two Boats - Doug Rehberg

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the many people who have influenced my ministry over the years. Some were mentors, but most were simply contributors. One such man was Dr. Bowens. He was an ordained Baptist minister who taught Social Studies at Western Branch High School in Tidewater, Virginia, back in the 1970s. Prior to 1971 I had never attended a school where a minister was on the faculty. What’s more, I had never attended a school with African American students or teachers, and he was African American. And by the end of the first week of class, any racial prejudice I may have harbored against him vanished. Dr. Bowens taught me a lot of what I’ve never forgotten - including this gem: All of creation testifies to truth, therefore no Christian should cede any area of human endeavor to the devil; no art, no science, no philosophy, no human enterprise.

Twenty years later a man in California wrote one of my favorite songs of all time. Here it is on Vimeo – “Heart of the Matter”. The reason this Don Henley song grabs me is because of the truth of his claim. Forgiveness is the heart of the matter! Forgiveness is at the heart of the heart of God and no gospel writer knows that as well as John.

One time Donald Grey Barnhouse was asked how long it took him to write a sermon. His answer was instructive: “Two days and 24 years.” That’s what Don Henley said about the song, “The Heart of the Matter”. He said, “It took me 42 years to write and four minutes to sing.” For John it took 3 years with Jesus, a cross, and an empty tomb to write chapters 20 and 21.

These chapters are arguably the two most important chapters in the Bible for the Christian not just because they detail and confirm the resurrection; but because they detail and confirm our resurrection. Not just our resurrection at the end of our lives, but in the midst of them. They confirm that the words of Paul in II Corinthians 5:17 are existentially true for every believer. But how? How are you a new creation? What’s the proof of it? Are you less sinful than you used to be? Are you more holy than you used to be?

Now some appeal to our position in Christ. They speak of our being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. They talk of Christ’s merits being imputed to us. And while that is absolutely true, there’s a very practical and demonstrative change the Holy Spirit brings to every Christian life that is lived under His sway and John alone among the gospel writers speaks of it. He underscores it in both chapters 20 and 21. But most miss it!

This Sunday and next we will zero in on it. This week in a message entitled, “Two Men and Two Boats” from John 21:1-14, we will examine the heart of the matter. In preparation you may wish to consider the following:
  1. When do you think the disciples became Christians?
  2. What marks their regeneration?
  3. What’s the purpose of their regeneration?
  4. Do you see any parallels with Matthew 16:1-19?
  5. What is the significance of Luke 5:1-11 in understanding John 21:1-14?
  6. Why are the two big catches at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and at the end?
  7. Why the two different reactions of Peter in Luke 5 and John 21?
  8. Why does Jesus come to the beach that morning?
  9. Why have the disciples gone fishing?
  10. How does Jesus’ behavior in chapter 21 mirror His words in John 20:22-23?
See you virtually this Sunday!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Purpose of Things - Henry Knapp

I can’t begin to count how many disagreements Kelly and I have had through the years that basically boil down to a misunderstanding. Often it is my mishearing something Kelly has said, or her misreading something I have done. But, usually it comes down to our assuming why something has been said, and, of course, assuming wrongly. Supposing a negative motive, and getting it wrong, starts the ball rolling. Kel will say something to me, and I’ll assume that she intends to critique me; immediately, I get defensive, and the squabble begins!

I have done some work for a company that published theological articles. A “peer reviewer,” my job was to read prospective papers and see if they were suitable to print in the journal. Many were good, some excellent, and there were lots of reasons some submissions were poor. But, one of the more frequent objections I would have was the lack of a reason, a lack of purpose. It is very frustrating, as a reader, to be half-way through an article and still not be sure what exactly the purpose of the author is—what point is he trying to make, and why is it important?

Sometimes in life, the problem is no clear purpose. I always wondered, why make the bed? I’ll just be crawling back in later tonight. Or, why pay taxes? It’s just a drop in the ocean anyways. When there is no clear purpose, it is hard to be motivated to do the job. But sometimes, the problem is not the absence of a good purpose, but the presence of too many good purposes. When one solution solves so many problems, sometimes it is hard to focus on the one main reason the solution is given to begin with. And, suddenly, the solution is used for a lot of good reasons while ignoring the real purpose for which it was intended.

Thus, I fear, with the Gospel stories of Jesus. The record of Jesus’ life touches on so many things. Jesus’ teachings are beautiful, insightful, and sure to inspire. His miracles are full of compassion and wonder; His exemplary life is motivating; His sacrifice stirring. There is so much we can learn from Him. So much we should learn from Him! The Gospels teach us ethics (how to live), theology (how to think), passion (how to worship), love (how to serve), hope (how to expect). The Gospels teach so, so much, it’s possible to miss the main reason they were written. More than possible, I’d say that very often the real, main purpose we have been given the Gospel is frequently forgotten amidst the flurry of other good purposes.

How do we stay on track? How do we make sure that, while we are absorbing, learning, and growing into all that the Gospels teach, how do we make sure that we are not losing the main purpose? Well, by God’s grace and providence, the Apostle John writes to tell us exactly what the purpose of his book is. No mistake, no assumptions, no misunderstanding. The purpose of the Gospel According to John is…

Well, come join us in worship this Sunday as we explore this very question. And, as you prepare, read John 20:30-31.

  1. What is the connection between this paragraph (vs. 30-31) and the story of Jesus and Thomas which immediately precedes it?
  2. Why would some of what Jesus did not be recorded (vs. 30)?
  3. Why is it important to note that Jesus acted “in the presence of the disciples”?
  4. Notice the use of  “purpose language” in verse 31. How do we know that John is describing his purpose here?
  5. What does John say his purpose was? What other purposes might people often come to the Bible to discover? Why would it be bad to lose track of this particular purpose?

Monday, April 13, 2020

Peace Be with You - Henry Knapp

I well remember my first horror movie. A group of my older friends were gathering to watch something that we kind of knew was “off limits,” so naturally, I was all eager to join them. When the movie came on, I didn’t know what an “exorcist” was, but I quickly learned—at least what Hollywood’s version was like. Thus began an unexplainable interest in horror movies, which mercifully passed in a couple of years. Egads!

Of course, it is hard to find a good horror movie these days that doesn’t feature a good ole’ zombie or two. The whole idea of something that has died and then returned to life is beyond freaky. First off, we have a terrible fear of dying to begin with, then the image of the decaying body walking around again—ugh! Now, the thought that zombie-fear would be a modern phenomenon is crazy; people of every age knew that dead is dead, and the un-dead is just… wrong, so very wrong.

So, we shouldn’t minimize the fear and dread that overwhelmed the disciples upon their first encounter with the risen Lord Jesus. We are told in John 20:19 that Jesus’ followers were hiding out “for fear of the Jews,” who had just crucified their leader. And then, miraculously, Jesus stands among them! Talk about ratcheting up the horror level! The resurrection of Christ is such a fundamental aspect of our faith that many who are well-versed in the story may easily forget how freaky a resurrection really is. The disciples had as much an aversion to seeing dead bodies walking around as we do today. The horror and dismay which would have gripped the disciples would have been overpowering. Small wonder, then, that Jesus’ first words to them would be, “Peace be with you.”

Of course, the difference between Jesus’ resurrection and a zombie-infestation is massive. While part of the “terror-appeal” of a zombie is that they might share their deadness with you, Jesus’ resurrection was a victorious one over death itself. Jesus did not come back to life in some deformed fashion, but perfected in His humanity, the glorified Man. Of course, that very glory would undoubtedly add to the disciples’ fright—holiness always brings terror to those trapped in sin. Again, Jesus’ response? “Peace be with you.”

Think for a bit on the saying here: “Peace:” not simply the absence of strife, but the quality, sense, and possession of completeness; that you are totally in the center of God’s will, grace, and love. “Be with:” that that peace resides, that it comes upon you, that it stays, that it marks the quality of your life, now and into the future. “You:” God’s direction and interest is not random, it is not generic, it is not common. God’s peace is for you, yes, YOU. The work of Christ in redemption—His birth, life, death and resurrection—is so all-encompassing, that it would be easy to think of our own portion as a small, insignificant cog. But, not so! God’s peace, purchased with the life-blood of our Savior, is for you. He truly had you in mind as He was dying on the cross, and having been raised to life, He offers you His peace.

In every situation, in every circumstance, in every trauma, sorrow and frustration, Jesus’ word to you remains, “Peace be with you.”

In our preparation for worship this week, please read John 20:19-29. 
  1. vs. 19: Why would the disciples be in fear of the Jews?
  2. vs. 20: Why would Jesus show them his hands and side? What is he concerned about?
  3. vs. 21: What is the connection between God’s peace and God’s sending? Pretty amazing, no?
  4. vs. 22: “breath” is another word for “spirit”, so when Jesus “breaths” on His disciples, what picture is He trying to communicate?
  5. vs. 25: How do you explain Thomas’ words here? Why is he being so stubborn?
  6. vs. 26: Why the “eight days?” What is significant of this passage of time?
  7. vs. 27: When Jesus says, “do not disbelieve,” what is He saying about disbelief?

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Of Stones and Men - Doug Rehberg

“Dateline Jerusalem – On the evening of the annual celebration of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the nearly one million inhabitants of this city were shocked by the announcement that a body, identified as that of Jesus, was discovered in a long-neglected tomb just outside the city limits. Rumors had been circulating that a very important discovery was about to be announced. The news, however, far outstrips all of our wildest guesses. The initial reaction of Christians here and around the world has been one of astonishment, bewilderment, and defensive disbelief. We will just have to wait to see what effect this discovery will have on the 2000-year-old religion. To the mind of this writer it appears that Christianity will have to take its place on the same level with the other religions of the world. No longer can its followers claim that unlike other religions, the tomb of its founder is empty. Evidently a 2000-year-old hoax has come to an end.”

In writing to the Corinthians Christians, Paul states that if the above news report is true, your faith in Jesus Christ is worthless and you are still under the curse of your sin. What’s more, he says, that you are among all people most to be pitied, because you’ve staked your life on a lie. However, the above report is a fantasy. It’s never been true and the question for every one of us is: have you yet grasped the everlasting consequence of the resurrection of Jesus for your life?

Now none of us can answer that question with a definitive yes, because the consequences of the resurrection far exceed anything that you and I can ever fathom in this life. That’s why every Easter season I can admit to seeing more in the resurrection than I’ve ever seen before. How about you?

This Sunday in a five point sermon entitled “Of Stones and Men" we will seek to see more than we have ever seen before. And if we do, you can file that under “spiritual growth”.

Fortunately we have John, the Gospel writer, to help us. More than any of the other three John elucidates the power and consequences of Easter. In preparation for this Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
  1. In terms of ink, how much more does John tell us than Matthew, Mark, and Luke?
  2. Why is he so effusive?
  3. Why does Jesus’ body need to come down from the cross before sundown? (See John 19:42)
  4. Who is this Mary in verse 1, and what is her significance in the story?
  5. In verses 5-8 we see three uses of the word saw. Do they mean the same thing?
  6. What does Peter’s seeing in verses 6-7 tell us about the resurrection?
  7. If Peter and John went back to their homes in verse 10, why did Mary stay?
  8. How important are the angels to John?
  9. What does Jesus mean by his three statements to Mary?
  10. What is the good news for us in verse 17?
See you virtually this Easter morn!