Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Praise and Blessing - Henry Knapp

 Praise is most easily defined as that adoration, that joy, we direct to God because of who He is. A blessing is something we look to the Lord for that benefits us. Praise finds its end in God; blessings are for us. “Bless you” (short for “May the Lord bless you”) is a concise, yet powerful, prayer. In that little phrase, we are asking that the Lord would… what? What are we actually asking for when we ask God to “bless” someone? Usually, what we mean with the phrase is something like, “may something good happen to you,” and that’s a good thing. But, for the Christian, the idea of “blessing” runs much deeper.

 To be blessed by the Lord is not simply to experience good things, but to experience the greatest of things—God’s Presence. That is why so many “blessings” in the Scripture are tied up, not only with what we receive from the Lord, but with the Lord Himself. Most frequently, a blessing for us is framed in the Scripture as a celebration of the Lord. Not only do we hear of how we benefit, but we hear of God, and the good things that He is.

 If you have been worshipping at Hebron for some time, you will note that we end each and every worship service with a benediction. That is not simply some ritual or action that we do “just because.” A benediction is an important part of a worship service—it both ends the service on a “high note” and it launches the worshipper into their week.

 “Benediction” is Latin for “good word” or “good speaking.” So, when the pastor speaks a benediction, he is blessing the congregation with a final “good word”: a good word intended to wrap up all that has been happening during the worship service, and a good word which should spur us on to godliness, service, and adoration throughout the week. The benediction of a Hebron worship service is sometimes a summary statement of the Scripture, sometimes a charge and/or encouragement, sometimes a passage from the Bible.

 The classic benediction in Scripture is in Numbers 6:22-27 where Moses is explicitly commanded by God to bless God’s people with words you might be familiar with: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” The essence of this benediction is the announcement of God’s blessing, His grace and peace—all wrapped up with the promise of His very Presence with His people.

 Just as a benediction is to “end with a high note,” to wrap up the worship experience with God’s Presence, and to send us into the world with His blessings, so this week in worship we will give a “benediction” to this past year and look forward to the one coming. For many of us, thinking of the past year in terms of blessing will not be too easy—it certainly has been a challenge! But, as we attend to the Word in Scripture, we will, I trust, hear God’s blessings, and be able to carry them into the future.

 Join us for worship this Sunday as we explore a marvelous scriptural benediction, Revelation 1:5b-6.


Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Merry Christmas - Henry Knapp

Once every seven or so years, December 25th falls on a Sunday — and this is one of those years! This means that this year, on the day of the week that we gather to worship our Lord, we will also be celebrating Christmas, a time we normally set aside for family, gift-giving and joyful reflection.  

Sunday Worship. Already in the years following Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, the enthusiasm of Christ’s followers to come together for fellowship and worship began to wane, so that the author of Hebrews would need to remind them: “Do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25). The importance of corporate worship, coming as a body before the Lord in praise and adoration, is an essential aspect of our faith. Gathering as a church body flows naturally out of our response to His gift of salvation. And, early on, the church began gathering on the day of Christ’s resurrection, on Sunday, recognizing the first day of the week as the day of worship. 


Christmas Worship. The celebration of the birth of Jesus has long been part of the Christian worship tradition. Of course, Jesus is central to Christian belief.  Contrary to much popular “Christian” views today, we cannot separate our faith from the Person and work of Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ followers soon found it helpful to mark the miracle of the incarnation — the coming of the God-man. This led to a worship service (in Latin, the mass) specifically designated to remember the birth of the Christ (so, a Christ-mass or Christmas). The particulars of linking that particular annual worship service with December 25th is a story of political intrigue, social accommodation, military presence, bad history, and prickly personalities—interesting, but not particularly relevant at this point.  


Christmas worship this Sunday. So, we have the importance of weekly worship for God’s people, the identification of Sunday as the appropriate day of the week for corporate worship, and December 25th as the special day to celebrate Christ’s birth.  Which brings us to this Sunday, Christmas morning, when the people of God will gather together and do that which we should do best of all:  give thanks and praise to the Glory of God for the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior. 


Come join us, at 10:00 AM in the Barclay building—Hebron family breakfast to follow our worship together. 


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Your Latin Lesson for Today: Cur Deus Homo - Henry Knapp

Because of the prominence of the Roman Empire for centuries in Europe, the Latin language underlies much of our modern speech. Scholars have estimated that nearly 70% of English words have Latin roots, meaning, so far, that 30 of the 50 words you’ve read can be traced back to the language the Romans spoke. And, unlike English which has morphed significantly through the centuries; Latin stayed largely stable for years.  The Latin Jesus heard from the Roman soldiers was remarkably similar to the Latin of centuries earlier and later into the medieval times. Which meant that a Latin speaker from Jesus’ time would have understood the phrase, Cur Deus Homo.

 Late in the twelfth century, more than 900 years ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury in England wrote a short book, entitled, Cur Deus Homo, or “Why God Became a Man.” Anselm of Canterbury was a master philosopher and theologian in the church, defending the faith against secular intrusion; and following his death, was quickly canonized (made a saint). Much of late medieval thinking follows the pattern of teaching Anselm formulated, and his impact remains present in philosophy even today. However, his strongest influence is found as he asked the question: “Why did God become a Man?” Anselm was asking the question we all should ask around Christmas time—why did Jesus come to earth? Why did God come to Bethlehem as a baby?

As in our time, Anselm was struck by the lack of reflection upon the gift of Christmas. People knew that Jesus was born, they recognized that it was an amazing thing, yet they had little understanding of why it was important. The fact that God was present on earth, that He became human, was easily acknowledged; but the reason why God did so, why God became Man, was not clear. Anselm launched into this gap, seeking to clarify why Christmas happened.

In Cur Deus Homo, “Why God became a Man,” Anselm focuses on two great truths:

  • Only man ought to pay for his sins, but he cannot.
  • Only God can pay for sins, but he ought not.

Here is the great dilemma—we are the guilty ones, but we cannot do anything about it. God, on the other hand, has the ability to do all things, yet He should not have to fix anything. Those that should, can’t.  He who can, shouldn’t. Understanding this dilemma, Anselm concludes:

> Since only man ought to pay for sin, and only God can, payment must be made by a God-man.

Christmas, then, is necessary so that someone might be found who both should pay for sin and who can pay for sin, that is, the God-Man.

All of which drives home the core point—Jesus came from heaven to earth for the purpose of accomplishing that which we desperately need (payment for sin), but that only God can offer. The God-man, Jesus Christ, the one born in Bethlehem, justly celebrated each Christmas, our Savior. He could do that which we could not, and He willingly paid the price for our salvation. To embrace Jesus as your Lord is to recognize our need for a Savior, and His willingness to fulfill that role. What a Christmas Gift!

Join us this Sunday for worship as we explore the reason that Jesus is the reason for the season.

 1. Read Matthew 20:28. The context of this verse deals with Jesus’ disciples discussing their status in His coming Kingdom. How does this shed light on Jesus’ statement?

 2. What does it mean, “to serve”? How does this connect with the following phrase, “to give His life…”?

 3. What does it mean to “give your life”? Is the only way to understand that, “to die”? What else might be involved?

 4. Jesus gives His life as a “ransom.” What all does that entail? Ransom from what?

 5. Who benefits from Jesus’ life? What does the text say? Why is that important?

 6. When through your life has Jesus’ gift of His life impacted you? Why have you experienced His “payment of ransom”? What does that look like? 

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

The Coming of the Snowmobile - Henry Knapp

 The Coming of the Snowmobile

 It was a cold, blustery winter’s night and I was in the middle of nowhere in my very unreliable old junker of a car driving home from visiting a friend when, suddenly, wham, I was head first in a ditch, the car firmly anchored in a snowbank, my back tires off the ground. Shaken, but whole, I worried that I might be on this lonely road for hours, when, to my great surprise and joy, there appeared in the distance a solitary light, slowly growing. Imagine my relief when pulling alongside was a snowmobile with a grizzled old driver who dismounted, looked my car over, and grunted that he couldn’t help me; and to my great dismay… pulled away and left me stranded! In but a short time, I went from a sense of relief that I was rescued to the shocked panic that I was abandoned miles away from any help or safety.

 I had misunderstood what the coming of the snowmobile had meant. It certainly was not unreasonable for me to assume that the coming of the snowmobile would lead to needed assistance, but reasonable or not, my assumption was wrong. What I thought the coming meant, it did not.

 Hours later another “coming” brought the assistance I needed, and I eventually made it home that night. I have to tell you, when that second passerby drove up, I was quick to check my assumption that help had arrived.  I did a simple thing, I asked. What is the meaning of your coming at this time? Are you here to help? And, indeed he was—I was saved!

 Jesus has come. That is the celebration of Christmas, and the anticipation of that coming is what Advent is all about. But, like my snowmobile driver, sometimes we make assumptions as to the meaning behind the coming. It is easy to assume that Jesus’ Christmas coming is meant to satisfy me, that it is about what I want, to make it all about me.

 And, of course, in some marvelous way, Jesus did come for me! For you!

 However, our assumptions about Jesus’ birth at Christmas often lack scriptural depth. What is important about Jesus’ coming is not what we want it to mean, but what God Himself intended it to mean. Yes, there is great, great meaning behind the birth of the Son of God, but that meaning should be based on what God tells us, not simply on what we want to imagine Christmas to mean.

 Yes, Christmas is a marvelous family time. Yes, it is a time to envision peace on earth, goodwill towards all. Yes, it is a time of giving and receiving. But all these serve as pointers toward a great, more meaningful purpose. And how do we discover what that purpose might be? We ask! We look in the Scripture for the reasons God Himself gives for sending His Son. In the Gospels Jesus states at various times the reasons why He was born that Christmas morn, “I have come…,” He says.

 This week in worship we will look at one of those reasons—Jesus says, “I have come not to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45), and what a great reason that is! Come join us as we study this text together.

 In preparation for Sunday, read Mark 10:45.

 1. The context here is very important. Look at the surrounding verses—how does Jesus’ stated purpose contrast with what is generally thought? How does the Christmas coming of Jesus challenge our normal way of thinking?

 2. Jesus once again refers to Himself as “the Son of Man.” Recalling that refers to His divinity, how does that impact His statement here?

 3. Why does Jesus remind people He did not come to be served? Why would people naturally think that way? How might that factor into your own interactions with the Lord?

 4. What does it mean that Jesus came to serve? Serve who? Serve how?

 5. How have you personally experienced the “serving” of the Lord? Can you identify particular instances in your life where Jesus “served” you? What response might be expected here?