Monday, August 31, 2020

"The Lord Is My Host" - Henry Knapp

He Is ALWAYS The Right Choice.

Buyer’s remorse. The regret you feel, the doubt that comes, immediately after the purchase of a product, especially an expensive one. I am positive that we all have felt it. A sense that perhaps the item is not quite right or that it was too costly or that something better might be right around the corner. In my early twenties I purchased a car that quickly revealed itself to be a lemon—constant repairs, unsatisfactory performance, a huge pain. And the frustrating thing was that in the days leading up to the purchase, I felt so confident. Then, blah; the car was a bust. The lesson I learned… buyer’s remorse. 

Buyer’s remorse doesn’t happen only when purchasing things. “Did I take the right job?” “Should I have pursued that relationship instead?” “Was that the right thing to say or do at that moment?” Second guessing ourselves could be our full-time job! And there’s a good reason for that—we are not omniscient. We don’t know everything. We don’t know the future. So it is hard to know if we’ve made the right choice, when we don’t know what is coming.

One of the more dramatic images in the Bible is in Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Wow! The idea of Jesus standing at the door of your heart, knocking, desiring to come in and be with you, is a truly powerful picture. Of course, the choice is obvious—OPEN THE DOOR! If there is a decision you will make that should have no buyer’s remorse attached to it, it would be to invite Jesus in so you might dine together.

The idea of fellowshipping together over a meal is a popular one in the Bible. Unlike modern America, where sharing a meal together is not especially meaningful, in ancient times, eating together was a powerful expression of a tangible relationship. If you ate together, there was a necessary connection and obligation to one another. This was especially true for the host—if you were welcomed to someone’s table, they were assuming responsibility for you in crucial ways.

Where you turn then to get a meal is an important action. Who is the host at your table dictates all—how you will be nurtured, your security, your present and future. The choice of host is not random or arbitrary, it is an expression of your confidence; which host do I trust with my life? 

There is a reason why Jesus is at the center of the table in all the paintings you have seen of the Last Supper. He is the host. On the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), Jesus is invited in to join the two disciples, but then at the dinner, He takes over the role of the host. While it might look like He is the guest, in reality, it is His table. He is serving. You might think you are welcoming Jesus into your heart as a visitor, but He will quickly become the host.

  • The host has responsibility for preparing the meal—Jesus is sovereign over every aspect of your life, arranging things so that you might experience His blessing.
  • The host serves the meal—Jesus provides exactly what you need at exactly the right time to grow and mature as He deems appropriate. We may not like the food placed in front of us, but it is His meal.
  • The host prays and sets the tone for the meal—Jesus intercedes for us and calls us to live with great joy and gladness in His presence. 
  • The host dictates the tempo of the meal—Jesus decides when it is best for us to move from one dish to another, from one experience to another. We may not like His timing, but He is the host!

There is, of course, always the possibility that when we sit down at a particular meal with our Lord, we might not like what we see. There might be the temptation to look longingly at other tables and wonder if we’ve made the right choice. But, there need never be a moment of buyer’s remorse at the table of the Lord; for He is always the right choice. He is always the right host. We are blessed to be in His presence.

As we prepare for worship this Sunday, read Psalm 23.

1. Last week we focused on the metaphor of a shepherd in verses 1-4. There is some debate whether the metaphor shifts in verse 5 or not. If we stick with the shepherd/sheep metaphor, what might verse 5 mean?

2. If the metaphor does shift from that of a shepherd, what metaphor might the author be using in verse 5? What implications are present?

3. How and why might the table be “in the presence of my enemies”? What enemies might the author have in mind?

4. What is accomplished with oil on the head? 

5. How can you testify to your “cup running over”? Is this always the truth? If not, why not? If so, why don’t we recognize it as such?

6. Why would these two qualities (goodness and mercy) “follow” the author? What does that mean?

7. What is the point of the last line? Is it merely to promise heaven to Christians? What else might be incorporated in this statement?

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

"The Lord Is My Shepherd" - Henry Knapp

Sorta like this…

Metaphors and analogies are a theologian’s best friend. Well, maybe that’s overstating it but you get the idea—imagery from everyday life frequently helps communicate difficult concepts. When trying to get a specific point across, it is often necessary to draw on parallels from more familiar, mundane things. I remember really struggling to understand quantum mechanics, until someone encouraged me to think of it as a ball bouncing around in a box. Using that simple illustration, various aspects of quantum theory became, if not understandable, at least more manageable.

And so it is with everyone who turns to the Scripture to meet and learn about God. There is no end to our sovereign God, no limit, no edge where you can finally say you’ve grasped all there is to know. The depth, breadth, height, and beauty of our Lord is boundless—trying to understand it all is far above our natural, created, limited abilities. And so, our God graciously speaks to us in ways that we can grasp, often using images, figurative language, metaphors and similes. Through these, we are able to have a fuzzy, yet truthful, grasp of the Lord we worship.

Word-pictures for God are most prevalent in the book of the Psalms. Perhaps it is in the nature of poetry itself or in the emotive character of the songs or simply in the imagination of the human authors… whatever the reasons, there are literally hundreds of metaphors and analogies describing God, His character and person in the Psalms.

So very often, the psalmist uses familiar objects and concepts to emphasize the strength, power, dependability, and security of the Lord. God is described as being like a Shield, a High Tower, the Rock, a Refuge, and so many more. The strength of the Lord, His victory in battle, His salvation for His people are all spoken of in metaphorical language. God is like these things, and so, so much more! The Mighty Fortress of Psalm 46 communicates God’s steadfast love for His people, His strength, security, and power. Nothing can stop the plans and purposes of our Lord! These powerful, dominant, “strong” images set our minds at rest when we are confronted by the confusion and struggles of this world—when all seems to be crashing around you, there is nothing like being reminded that our God is the Rock of our Salvation, a Stronghold for His people.

But the Psalms also bring forward another aspect of the Lord, and the use of metaphor and analogies again enliven our minds to the depth of our God. For God is not simply described in “power” images, but also in surprisingly tender pictures: the love and care of a gentle mother (Psalm 131:2); the compassion of a dutiful father (Psalm 103:13); the best part of a blessing (Psalm 16:5-6); and, of course, the Good Shepherd (Psalm 23; 80:1, 100:3). There are many aspects to each of these images—there is power and authority in the Shepherd, oh, yes, indeed! But, the overall picture is one of care, empathy, and kindness. The security and strength of the Mighty Fortress is also the gentleness and compassion of the Shepherd.

It never does us good to focus on one aspect of biblical revelation to the neglect of others. Keying in on God as King is a must—but not so much that we lose sight of the equally biblical presentation of our Savior as Brother. The plethora of metaphors, similes, and analogies used by the authors of the book of Psalms help us see the vastness of our God and the endless love and devotion He has for His people.

As you prepare for worship this week, read Psalm 23 and do it multiple times.

1. What is your experience with shepherds? What do you know about them and their work?

2. What do you know about shepherds in the Bible? When and where are they spoken about?

3. What does it mean that one has no “wants” if God is our shepherd? Are we without desires the more we become a Christian?

4. The Psalms are poetry, and poetry communicates via emotion as often as through content. What are some emotions the author is trying to evoke with his words? What emotion does the author himself have?

5. This Psalm is frequently used at funerals as part of the comfort offered to God’s people. What is comforting about this Psalm?

6. As always, we can distort scripture to our ends instead of God’s design. What possible distortions of this text would be possible? In other words, where could someone “overplay” the ideas listed in this Psalm?

7. What other areas of life could one use this Psalm in ministry? Imagine a situation where a friend is in need… where/how could Psalm 23 be useful?

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

"The Power of Positive People" - Doug Rehberg

It’s an old preacher’s story that you may have heard many times before, but it bears repeating, especially in the times in which we are living.

It’s the turn of the last century and the shoe company makes a decision to open up a new market. This is well before Adidas and Nike. So it sends two salesmen to the North African country of Morocco. After a week both salesmen send a telegram home. The first reads: 

    “Please make arrangements for my safe passage home. No one wears shoes here.” The other telegram     says, “Please send all the shoes you can. No one wears shoes here!!!”

The more I’m around Christians these days, the more pervasive I find the first salesman. Or to put it in terms Robert Kennedy could understand:

“Most people see things as they are, and ask why? But almost no one dreams of things that never were, and ask why not?”

And there’s a simple reason for that. Negativity is easy. It comes normally. It’s far more widespread than Coronavirus. It infects the minds and the hearts of men and women from their conception. It’s then nurtured through a lifetime of fearmongering. It surrounds us to the point that you find people trying to outdo one another for the honor of being the dourest. It’s sick and it’s repugnant to God.

Negativism is easy to come by. It’s born into us. It’s bred into us. Being negative takes no thought at all, it’s simply the way of the world. That’s why both the world and the church are filled with negative Nellies.

Oh we may try to mask it with words like, “realism” and “thoughtfulness,” but the truth is negativity takes no thought and is the laziest thing in the world. Anybody can do it. Rodney Dangerfield made a career of it.

Being positive takes work. That’s why one of the Holy Spirit’s primary jobs is to produce positive people. If you doubt that just take a look at Sunday’s text. Here in Peter’s final words of his first letter, there is supernatural positivity all over them.

This week I came across six documented health benefits from positive thinking:

·         Increased life span

·         Lower rates of depression

·         Lower levels of distress

·         Greater resistance to the common cold

·         Better psychological and physical well-being

·         Better cardiovascular health

Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty with every opportunity, the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” And no one in the New Testament epitomizes positivity more than a man named Joseph of Cyrus. But we don’t know him by that name. We know him as Barnabas. His name means, “Son of Encouragement”. But in the Greek New Testament his name is Paraklesis. It’s a name that’s very close to another name. It’s the name John uses for the Holy Spirit – “Parakletos". The word can be divided into two parts: “Para”, meaning, “alongside of", and “kletos”, meaning, “called one”. Thus, parakletos means, “one who is called alongside another to plead their case.” That’s what the Holy Spirit does. That’s what Barnabas did. That’s what every believer is called to do. That’s why one of the telltale signs that the Holy Spirit is getting His way with us is indomitable optimism. Why not? Jesus has paid it all!

Luther said it, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” Norman Cousins said, “Optimism doesn’t wait on facts. It deals with prospects.” And that’s exactly how we see Peter closing this letter. It’s a primer in positivity. And that’s why we didn’t want to pass it over without examining it with some care.

In preparation for Sunday’s message entitled: “The Power of Positive People”, you may wish to consider the following:

1. Where does Silvanus (Latin name for Silas) first show up in Scripture?

2. Why does Peter regard him as a “faithful brother”?

3. Why is it important for Peter to describe him this way?

4. What’s been Silas’ role in this letter?

5. How can Peter summarize all that he’s said in this letter as, “the true grace of God”?

6. What attacks against the true grace of God has Peter addressed in this letter?

7. Who is he referring to in verse 13 as, “She who is at Babylon”?

8. Who is the Mark he is referring to at the end of verse 13?

9. How is Mark’s presence with Peter and Silas an illustration of what he says in verse 14?

10. Have you gained more peace and love as a result of our study of 1 Peter?

With you as we wrap up 1 Peter this week!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

"Humble and Holy" - Doug Rehberg

In these months of seemingly endless political debate, medical opinions shifting like the sands of the sea, speeches delivered in strident tones in churches and in every conference room on Capitol Hill, riots in the streets, politicians mounting rostrums or hiding in basements, and talking heads peppering the airwaves with polarizing sound bites, I have found myself drawn to the words of the Apostle Peter. In the final section of his first epistle he lays out a matter far more important and profound than anything anyone else is saying these days. Here in his closing chapter he chooses to return to topic number one; the greatest mark of holiness in anyone in whom the Holy Spirit is getting His way—HUMILITY!

This week, as I was preparing my message, “Humble and Holy”, I thought of another man who wrote a letter, 26 years ago, in the twilight of his life. So much of what he said mirrors the sentiment of Peter. Like Peter, he knew the arrogance and pomposity that swirled around him. Yet like Peter, he exhibited an attitude that is diametrically opposed to the prevailing attitude of his day or ours.

He began his political career as a Democrat, but later became a Republican. When asked why, he said, “Because the Democrats left me.” The more political power he accumulated, the more withering the attacks of his political opponents. By this time the left wing had perfected its ad hominem attack on the intelligence of conservatives. They began it with Nixon and Ford, but perfected it with Reagan. They said Ronald Reagan was shallow and stupid. They wrote articles like, “In Search of Reagan’s Brain”. But through it all Reagan smiled and persevered with quips like, “There you go again!” But in 2004 the truth of his mental acuity came to light. People were stunned. Upon his death hundreds of lengthy, detailed handwritten essays on a wide range of political and economic policies were found in his personal effects. His breadth of knowledge, his ability to express complexities in easily understood terms, was unassailable. Even William F. Buckley was astounded. Rather than being the most dim-witted American President, Ronald Reagan turned out to be one of its most erudite.

But, clearly his most stunning attribute was his humble optimism. Reagan walked in humility and optimism. Nothing shows this quality more than the letter he wrote on November 5, 1994, nearly 5 years after leaving office. Here’s an excerpt from his handwritten letter:

            “My Fellow Americans,

I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Upon learning the news, Nancy and I have to decide whether as private citizens we would keep this a private matter or whether we would make this news known in a public way.

In the past Nancy suffered from breast cancer, and I had my cancer surgeries. We found that through our open disclosures we were able to raise public awareness… So now, we feel it is important to share it with you. In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clearer understanding of the individuals and families who are affected by it.

At the moment I feel just fine. I intend to live the remaining years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done. I will continue to share life’s journey with my beloved Nancy and my family. I plan to enjoy the great outdoors and stay in touch with friends and supporters.

Unfortunately, as Alzheimer’s Disease progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience. When the time comes I am confident that with your help she will face it with faith and courage.

In closing let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your President. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.

I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a light dawn ahead.

Thank you, my friends.

May God always bless you.


Ronald Reagan”

Think of it. No ghost writer. Just Reagan himself, being himself—humble, honest, and indefatigably optimistic, in the face of losing his mental faculties.

That’s what we see Peter doing at the close of this letter. He is exceedingly humble and positive. Rabidly so. The theme runs throughout this letter. And as Henry pointed out last week in 4:12ff, for Peter, it’s all about attitude, an attitude based on fixing your eyes on the sufferings of Christ. What he says in 4:12 he elucidates in chapter 5.

Now, originally this week’s message “Humble and Holy” was to be the final one in this series on 1 Peter. But, due to the extraordinary importance of humble optimism in your life and mine, I have decided to take two weeks with chapter 5.

This week it’s “Humble and Holy” (verses 1-11). Next week it’s “The Power of Positive People”, (verses 12-14). In a world of pervasive pessimism, where pessimism is called realism, Peter begs to differ. He says that the message of the gospel of grace leads to unbridled optimism in everyone whom the Holy Spirit controls.

1. What is the nature of Peter’s exhortation in chapter 5?

2. How important is his statement in verse 1 that he recognizes himself to be a “fellow elder”?

3. Do you think he’s only addressing elders of the scattered church or every believer?

4. What two features of exercised oversight does Peter reject as poor examples of godly living?

5. How does Matthew 20:20-28 relate as a real-world example of what Peter is saying?

6. What example in Jesus’ earthly ministry can you cite for Peter’s admonition in verse 5(b)?

7. What Old Testament references are there for “the mighty hand of God?” (See verse 6.)

8. How does putting on humility (verse 5) result in casting all your anxiety on the Lord (verse 7)?

9. What’s the devil’s principle way of devouring us? (Verse 9).

10. What’s our reason for unbridled optimism according to Peter? (Verses 10 & 11).

See you this week and next!

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

"Rejoice in Christ's Sufferings" - Henry Knapp

“Do Not Be Surprised…”

I went through a really silly phase when I was a teenager. It’s a common silly phase, and perhaps some of you are still in it. Perhaps it doesn’t seem “silly” to you, and maybe it isn’t. But as I now look back on that phase of my life, it sure seems silly to me.

I used to go (voluntarily!) to horror films.

Now, I look back and think, “What was I thinking???” Paying people money to scare me to death. And, I was a great victim—if and when the director intended you to scream, my screech was the loudest! Countless sleepless nights I cowered under my covers. The very definition of a fraidy cat.

Most of the scariness of horror films center around the surprise element—just when you don’t expect something… BOO! But, why are we surprised at things? Surprise happens when something occurs that is out of the ordinary, unexpected, unanticipated. Much of the shock is taken away when we suspect something is about to occur. It is when it comes out of the blue that we are so shaken.

“Do not be surprised…”, Peter writes. In his epistle to his fellow believers, the Apostle encourages them not to be shocked by the terrible things happening to them. While this is an assumption, I suspect it is true—Peter had to warn them against being surprised because they were surprised! Things were happening that they did not anticipate, not what they expected. Hence, they were shaken by the events and afraid. But, Peter commands them not to be surprised.

They are surprised because they did not expect these horrible things to happen. They did not expect this, because their thinking was wrong. Peter is telling his readers to think correctly about the world around them. If we understand the world accurately, we should never be surprised by the manifestation of evil. Peter is tackling a “world-view” issue here. How are Christians faithfully to view the world? What should we expect? What should we anticipate will be part of this world?

A world-view is a semi-technical term for the collection of assumptions (often unconsciously held) that we have about the universe. What is really real? What is most important? What has eternal value? What is wrong, and what is the solution? All these, and others, help make up one’s world-view. The Christian’s goal is to have our world-view shaped by the Scriptures—to see the world the way God Himself sees it. To value what He does, to abhor what He does. When we do, our Christian world-view informs us as to what we should expect or anticipate in this world.

Now, if you have a world-view that hard times should never come your way, that bad things really are not a big deal, or that evil doesn’t really exist; then of course you will be surprised when persecution comes! Or, when tragedy strikes, or when sickness falls. If you fail to recognize the power of sin, then every time it shows up, you’ll be surprised.

Actually, that might be a good way to evaluate your own understanding of sin. When you see evil and maliciousness in this world, does it still surprise you? Are you shocked sometimes by your own wickedness, sin, and brokenness? Perhaps you need a world-view check. Do you see the world the way God sees it? Are you aware of the reality of sin? The power of sin? Yet, also, the ultimate victory of Grace over sin? Of the cross over evil? This is ultimately the way we should see the world, a Christian world-view, an understanding of God’s Kingdom that is shaped by the Scripture. And, if we do, then I believe, we will not be surprised.

As you prepare for worship this week, read 1 Peter 4:12-19.

1. Why do you think Peter describes his readers as “beloved”? Why would the use of this term be helpful in this instance?

2. What are “fiery trials” in verse 12? What constitutes “fiery trials” in your life? Hold on to that picture as you work through Peter’s comments here.

3. Peter encourages “rejoicing” when you suffer? Why? (See verses 13 and 14.)

4. What does it mean to be insulted for the name of Christ? What is “the name of Christ”?

5. Notice the Trinitarian picture in verse 4: Christ, the Spirit of Glory, and God (often the New Testament writers use “God” as the name of the Father).

6. Why would anyone be tempted to be ashamed for suffering for being a Christian (vs. 16)?

7. What could Peter mean by the phrase, “Judgment begins with the household of God” (vs. 17)? Is there judgment yet to come for God’s people?