Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Missed Opportunities / Misplaced Priorities - Douglas Keim

Our guest speaker this Sunday is Douglas Keim, DC, a life-long member of Hebron Church, Elder, adult Sunday School teacher and Adult Christian Education Team member. Doug is pursuing a Masters at Liberty University for his Ministry Degree. Doug and his wife, Megan, have 2 children. He feels it is a privilege to preach at his home church.

When you read about the faithfulness of the 12 disciples and their loyalty toward Jesus, it can be a bit disheartening. They left all behind and followed Jesus for three years with no thought of themselves or their wellbeing. Yet they were not the perfect Jesus followers some people think they were. They also had to learn, grow, and mature in their own walks of faith, just like we do today in 2022. In the sermon Sunday morning, I will be preaching on one such occasion where the disciples not only missed a wonderful opportunity, but Jesus had to completely refocus why they were following Him in the first place.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

"To the Church in Sardis" - Henry Knapp

Wake Up!

In Ephesians 5:14, Paul says, “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” How do you obey a command to wake up from sleep? Let me tell you when you will obey the command to wake up. You will wake up when you are on the sixth floor of a hotel at 3 AM and fire alarms are blasting. You particularly will wake up when small children are with you in that hotel room and the wife who you love. That happened to my family once on a trip to New York, and let me tell you, you respond to the call to wake up! I’ve never been so cold standing in a parking lot in my briefs as that night in New York.

The church of Sardis is told to WAKE up! Christ is calling His bride toward a wakefulness of urgent importance. To be told to wake up is to be told to be alert and arise from your unconscious state to a conscious and attentive one. This church is not at all aware of her real spiritual state. They think they are “fine.” They are far from “fine.”

The thought that most of my congregants think they are “fine” is a scary thought. They think they are “fine” when they are just going about their busy days. They are working, shopping, driving, playing their video games, binging Netflix at night, scrolling on their phones and running their children wildly from one activity to another. In the meantime, they have forgotten the priority of the pursuit of intimacy with God each day, touching base with fellow members of the Body, getting time in the Scriptures, practicing prayer or solitude. Week after week, in the busyness of the social activities, there is little zeal for worship or deep commitment to our local church, and on and on. My concern is this: One is either always growing and maturing spiritually or one is slowly drifting off. There is no neutrality in the Christian life. You are either connected to the Vine, or you are not. “Fine” can often appear alive, but it is in fact a “deadness”, with no zeal for God and the things of God.

The church today—and every individual in the church (including Hebron)—needs to wake up. A wakeup call is a sudden clear warning that something is bad or “off.” I got a wakeup call at 3 AM that one chilly New York morning, not the one I was expecting from the main desk at 7:30 AM. We thought we were “fine” in our beds that particular night, but we needed to heed the call to awake. A wakeup call from the Lord is a spiritual call; we respond with renewal of the mind, love in our hearts, hope in all we do.

A prayer from a 16th century Puritan pastor:

O My Savior, help me. I am slow to learn, so prone to forget, so weak to climb; I am in the foothills when I should be on the heights; I am pained by my graceless heart, my prayerless days, my poverty of love, my sloth in the heavenly race, my sullied conscience, my wasted hours, my unspent opportunities.

I am blind while light shines around me; take the scales from my eyes, grind to dust the evil heart of unbelief. Make it my chiefest joy to study thee, meditate on thee, gaze on thee, sit like Mary at thy feet, lean like John on thy breast, appeal like Peter to thy love, count like Paul all things dung.

Give me increase and progress in grace so that there may be more decision in my character, more vigour in my purposes, more elevation in my life, more fervor in my devotion, more constancy in my zeal.

For worship this week, read Revelation 3:1-6.

1. Why do you think God cares about our spiritual state of health and alertness? How is this different than just God wanting converts and people to be saved?

2. See Matthew 7:21-23. Why does God say “I never knew you” to people who thought they were doing good and were “fine”?

3. Can you think of a time in your life when God has prodded you to wake up, given you a wakeup call? How is this Philippians 2:12-13 in action in your sanctification?

4. What do you think zeal is in the Christian life? Can you think of someone who is zealous for the Lord? What would Hebron Church look like in a zealous state spiritually?

5. Spend some time praying for your walk with the Lord and Hebron – the need for renewal and being called to wakefulness!

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

“To the Church in Thyatira” - Henry Knapp

Three Theological Virtues

 I grew up just cynical enough to think “wimpy” when I heard the term “virtue.” To be labeled as someone virtuous was definitely not a compliment. Saints were virtuous; straight-laced, goody-goodies. No one wanted to be virtuous. After all, it wasn’t cool to be good.

 I do not know where I got such an idea. Honestly, it sounds like I was raised by hooligans, surrounded by delinquents, aspiring to be a bozo or thug.

 Any amount of maturity enables one to see that virtue, far from being dismissible, is admirable on every level. Virtue is character, an ideal, quality, value. Virtue: “moral excellence; goodness; righteousness; conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles.” Now, who wouldn’t want that?

 The Church has long recognized the Bible’s emphasis on three particular virtues, qualities stressed for every Christian—Faith, Hope, and Love (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 13:8). These are the “Three Theological Virtues.” They are called “theological” for two reasons: First, the ultimate object, purpose or goal of these traits is God Himself. While many may personally benefit from one’s faith, hope and love, these qualities eventually lead toward Jesus. We may not mean it to be so, others may not recognize it, but the ultimate end of every true virtue is the Savior. We can see that to be so, especially given the second reason for calling them “theological virtues.” These qualities are obtained only as a gift from God Himself. True, we have the honor and responsibility to exercise these virtues, to employ them in our daily lives, but the source of these traits is the Lord, given to us by His grace. These theological blessings, then, point us toward Jesus because they ultimately come from Jesus. 

Faith is the trust, the reliance upon God, believing His Word, for promises unseen.

Hope is the confidence, the assurance that God’s hold on the future is certain and sure.

Love is the sacrificial expression of giving to others at the cost to oneself.

 How is our ethical conduct to be filled with faith, hope and love? Above all, the Bible’s stress on these virtues recognizes that they are grace-based, that is, we exercise them in this world only by God’s free gift of grace, and they are graciously demonstrated to others—that is, a Christian is virtuous to others not because they deserve it, but out of grace. These virtues grow in our hearts by God’s good direction and blessing. They are ours, not by right or merit, but by gracious action of our Lord.

 What would it look like to be filled by these graces, to be part of a community which exercises regularly these virtues? What would it be like to have a witness of faith, a character of hope and a life of love? Is it possible? Can we hope that our Lord will bring such into our lives? I think so. Why? Because this is how Jesus encouraged the Church at Thyatira—“I know your love and faith and patient endurance.” Perhaps He would say that to us as well? May it ever be so!

 Join us in worship this week. Read Revelation 2:18-29.

 1. In verse 18, Jesus describes Himself as having “eyes like a flame of fire” and “feet like burnished bronze.” What do these two metaphors mean? What are we to glimpse of Jesus because of this?

 2. Jesus describes the works of the church in verse 19. List out the five qualities identified here. Can you give an illustration of what each might look like?

 3. Read 1 Kings 18-21 (or scan them!). What is the overriding impression you get about Jezebel? What was she like? What character traits stick out to the reader?

 4. If I were to insist that the focus here is not Jezebel’s sexual concerns but her idolatry, how would you read Jesus’ accusations against her (vs. 20-23)?

 5. How does the church at Thyatira compare with the one in Ephesus? Remember in Ephesus, there was a lot of truth, but they had forgotten their first love. Here we have a lot of love (tolerance) but not a lot of truth.

 6. In verse 24, Jesus says He will not lay on the church any other burden. What burden do they already carry? What burden might Jesus be sparing them from?

 7. The promise given to the church is one of authority, rulership. What would that look like if it were fulfilled here at Hebron? How might we see that played out in our lives?

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

To the Church in Pergamum - Henry Knapp

When I was growing up, I was frequently asked if my head was full of granite. A favorite phrase of one of my peers, every time I did something of questionable intellectual value (that is, every time I did something stupid), he would ask after my rock-hard brain. I’m glad he didn’t know the term, “blockhead,” or I’m sure I would have heard a lot of that too. Behind his insult was the thought that nothing good could ever penetrate such a stone-filled head.

The prophet Ezekiel describes the one who is separated from God as having a heart of stone (Ezekiel 11 and 36). The same idea is behind my “friend’s” reference to my granite-head - What good can come of a head/heart of stone? The great blessing of the Gospel is that God can change a heart of stone (or a head filled with it) into a heart of flesh—a beating, vibrant, alive heart, turned toward God Himself. Usually, this shaping and molding in my life is a slow and often unrecognized process. My mind, my desires, my whole life’s orientation is slowly refashioned to yearn for the things of my Savior. But, every once in a while, God dramatically shifts and changes things for me.

Such a time occurred a number of years ago. I was in a men’s Bible study and we began talking about temptation. Someone asked, “When do you experience temptation? Where are you tempted?” My initial thought was “Always! And everywhere!”, but when I took time to think about it, I did discover that there are times and places where temptation arose more powerfully for me than at other times and places. Of course, the follow up to this was a warning to avoid those times and places. If you are particularly susceptible to a kind of temptation, then don’t put yourself in that position. If you struggle with alcoholism, don’t go to a bar! If surfing the internet is not healthy for you, avoid being alone on the computer. The concept is so straightforward that I was surprised at how powerfully the idea hit me.

Of course, a lot of this depends on your ability to identify your weaknesses when confronted with something that deprives you of God’s joy. We are surrounded by sin, and sin infects our very lives, so it is no wonder we often think that temptation is all around us—it surely is. But, pinpointing the particular ways that we are confronted by temptation is an important step in avoiding it. Satan seeks to rob us of the pleasure of God’s blessings, and a primary tool is tempting us with that which is unhealthy. Knowing when and where you are most vulnerable to these temptations is a key way of combatting Satan’s ploy, and resting in the goodness of our God.

Again, so much of this insight is lost on us if we don’t confront head-on the ways sin and evil impact us. Paul writes, “We are not unaware of Satan’s schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11), but I worry all too often that we ARE unaware! We do not know of our vulnerability, of the means and manner of Satan’s attacks. If we do not know, then we all that more easily fall into temptation. Of course, the cross of our Savior is ever before us. Ignorance of our temptations, even falling into temptation, does not separate us from the grace of God expressed to us in Christ. In this we rejoice and celebrate! But, like Paul, we want to be aware of the trials and temptations that come our way, so we might more faithfully avoid them.

In Jesus’ letter to the church in Pergamum, He criticizes the church for failing to recognize and stand up against temptation. While the particulars of what that congregation dealt with might be different from Hebron, we too need to hear the challenge and confront the presence of temptation in our lives. Come join us on Sunday as we explore what the Spirit says to the churches!

Read Revelation 2:12-17.

1. In verse 12, what is the “sharp two-edged sword”? Why do you think it is described this way?

2. Why would someone dwell “where Satan’s throne is” (vs. 13)? Where do you think that is?

3. Notice the pronouns in verse 13b—“MY name” and “MY faith.” What do you think Jesus might be stressing here? How would this help the believers when they are being persecuted?

4. What are the teachings of Balaam (see Numbers 22-24)? How do these same “teachings” apply to us?

5. Jesus offers a simple solution in verse 16, what is it? Why could it really be that easy? What does that mean?

6. What would it mean for Jesus to make war against us with “the sword of his mouth”? What would that practically look like in today’s world? In your life?

7. The hidden manna and the white stone (vs. 17) are particularly rich images, but also hard to discern. What might be implied here?