Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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We hope you will continue to join us on our new "home."

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

The Name of the Ship - Henry Knapp

When our kids were young we introduced them to a children’s fantasy series called The Magic Treehouse, by Mary Pope Osborne. The premise of the stories was that a couple of kids, Jack and Annie, were transported by the treehouse (don’t ask) back into key moments of time to observe what took place first hand. It won’t surprise you to hear that I liked the series for its creative way of introducing key historical events and individuals. On their journeys, Jack and Annie meet dinosaurs, knights, mummies, Clara Barton, William Shakespeare, and so much more. Part of the opening pages of each story involve the kids trying to figure out where they are—in time and space. Hints from the people they meet, the surrounding lands, written signs, and other indications eventually clue the kids in on when and where they are. Of course, history dictates the overall flow of the story and the kids’ subsequent actions.  

In one story, the kids find themselves on a massive ship in the middle of the ocean; looking over the side at the name of the ship, they realize they are in 1912 on the Titanic during its fateful journey. Knowing the end of the story, of course, effected how the kids acted while on the ship. Supposing, on the other hand, if the ship had been named, The Queen Elizabeth 2 (the QE2 struck an iceberg in 1998 and safely made it to shore with no loss of life), then the kids would have acted significantly differently. Knowing the end of the story dramatically alters the way one lives—either looking for a lifeboat if you are on the Titanic or bailing water if you are on the QE2

One of the great blessings of the Christian life is that our LORD has revealed to us the end of our journey. While there are many, many unknowns in this life, our final end is secure—secured by Christ’s own death and resurrection. The timing of the end of days, the specifics of how it will occur, and the details of what will happen have not been revealed to us. Indeed, even Jesus while on earth was not privy to that information (Mark 13:32). But, not having a comprehensive view of things does not mean that the Bible has not revealed much that should be guiding our lives. 

Without much controversy, we can say that the Scripture tells us clearly of:

· The visible, bodily return of Jesus in triumph and glory
· The resurrection of the dead, both the righteous and the wicked
· The bodies of the dead reunited with their souls, raised by the power of Christ
· A future judgment day for all peoples before the throne of God
· The wicked to eternal damnation
· The righteous to eternal life in heaven in the presence of God

This picture of the future is offered by the Spirit through the Scriptures, not simply to provide us insight into what is coming at the end of days, but as a guide to our present living. Just as it matters if you are on the Titanic or the QE2, so it matters how we understand the end of time. What we do today, what we value, who we serve, is shaped by this vision of the future. Assurance of our future with our victorious King should impact all that we think, all we do, and all that we are. Jesus is coming again! Amen. 

As we prepare for worship this week, I encourage you to look at 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. 

1. Paul here never explains why he doesn’t “want us to be uninformed” about the second coming of Jesus. Can you speculate on why it is important to be informed? What evidence might there be of this importance in the church today? 

2. Paul speaks of the second coming specifically in light of “those who are asleep,” meaning, those who have died. Why use the term “asleep”? Is Paul afraid of death or of talking about death? Is this just a nice way of saying it? 

3. The goal of Paul’s instruction is listed at the end of verse 13. What is it, and how do you see that goal working out (or not) in people’s lives? 

4. Notice the tie between the second coming of Jesus and His prior birth, life, death and resurrection (vs. 14). How does Paul think the second coming is connected? 

5. Can you create an order of how things will happen as Paul describes them? What difference does this order make in the ways we live our daily lives?

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

"Follow Me" - Henry Knapp

Arguably, one of the most personally intimidating verses in the Scripture is where Paul urges the Corinthian believers to “follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). It has such a personal impact, not because I am from Corinth, or because it is a challenge to follow Paul (though it is!), but because I realize that every Christian leader is to say something similar to the flock—in other words, I realize that I too must say to you, “follow me as I follow Christ,” and the thought of urging others to “follow me” is truly intimidating.

Intimidating it might be, but it is also a marvelous portrayal of the Christian life—not simply Christian leadership, but the life of every follower of Jesus. To younger believers, to one another, to the world we say, “follow me! This is the way of Jesus.”

The notion of “following” is central to the biblical concept of a disciple. To be a disciple of Jesus is to follow in His footsteps. It is not enough to agree with His teachings; not enough to admire Him; not enough to act like Him. Discipleship is following Him. To follow is to acknowledge that someone is ahead of you—you can’t follow Christ unless you are behind Him. For a prideful person, this is hard. To follow is to keep your eyes on the one ahead of you—you can’t follow Christ if you don’t watch Him. For an easily-distracted person, this is hard. To follow is to give yourself to another—you can’t follow Christ if you don’t submit to Him. For a selfish person, this is hard.

In some way, the three key Greek terms used in the Bible to describe a disciple of Jesus all encompass a characteristic of the follower:

mathatas—a learner, a scholar; one who accepts and embraces another’s teaching

akoluthea—a follower, an imitator; one who walks in the footsteps of another, with intimacy

apostolos—a messenger, a herald; one who obediently is sent with the authority of another

To be a disciple is to be a follower—one who learns, one who imitates, one who obeys.

Finally, to follow Jesus happens in a moment, and a lifetime of joy, struggle, peace, and challenge. Just like our salvation, our following Jesus engages every part of life. And, following is not just a daily struggle, it is also a daily joy and blessing. Discipleship is a life-long process, a life-encompassing process, and a life-giving process. I am excited to take this life-journey with you!

In preparation for worship on Sunday, read Matthew 28:16-20.

1. How do the notions of worship and doubt fit together here (vs. 17)? Is it odd to see doubt present at this point? Why would the author especially note this?

2. How does the assertion that all authority is given to Jesus (vs. 18) lead into the following sentences? What is it about His authority that prompts Jesus to the following commands?

3. Notice that Jesus’ command is that: a command. He does not preface things with modal inference—His is not a suggestion or option or possibility, but a command. What difference does this make? How would the passage read if we were to “try to make” disciples, or that we “should make” disciples?

4. List out all the verbs in verses 19-20. How do they relate to one another?

5. What is the connection/implication of the end of verse 20? Why does Jesus mention this at this point? Remember what follows… the ascension to the righthand of the Father.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

"The Essentials: The Church" - Dan Bender

This week we are going to be taking a little look at what it means to be the church and why it is essential not only for us as a people but for the world we live in as a whole.

This blog is going to pose more questions than answers because this will help set up our discussion this weekend. A very good place to look at this scripturally is in the Book of Acts, particularly early on. Because "The Church" has been around for so long, let's look at this in the past, present and future where it applies. Take a look at Acts 1 and Acts 2 and see if you can source the following:

Who has been/is (now)/will be "The Church"?

What has been/is (now)/will be "The Church"?

Where did "The Church" originate?

When did "The Church" come to be?

How was "The Church" formed?

Perhaps you have strolled down the side hallway of the Sanctuary before. You may have noticed that there are all kinds of pictures that tell a story of Hebron Church. Now, it’s not the complete story, but there are snapshots into Hebron's past that give you an idea about where we have come from.

Do you know Hebron's origin story?

It is pretty obvious that the church we take part in has had many changes over many years.

How well do you know the recent history of Hebron Church?

Knowing that the church we are a part of has come from someplace and will be here long after we are gone...

What is a significant and tangible way that you will involve yourself moving Hebron into the future?

Looking forward to exploring this more on Sunday!

Dan Bender

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

"The Essentials: Justification by Faith Alone" - Henry Knapp

Faith and My Broken Record

My father was a firm believer in the benefits of education. Growing up in the post-WWII era, he reflected many of the opinions of that generation, including the value of a college education in “getting ahead” in this world. Because of his emphasis on learning, he tended to eschew colloquial phrases and slang terms. If you used “ain’t” around the house, you could guarantee a “corrective directive” (slang, for various forms of “discipline”) from my dad. Of course, one man’s slang is another’s high dictation.

I wonder a bit about “a broken record.” If you are of a certain age, you know exactly what I am referring to—a “skip” in a vinyl recording which creates a repeated phrase or sound; if you repeat something again and again, you are mimicking a “broken record.” However, given the proliferation of digital recordings these days, I wonder if the meaning of “a broken record” is lost on the younger generation—a slang term at best with a vague meaning.

In any case, I fear I run the risk of appearing as “a broken record” when I speak of saving faith. This week we will look at an essential truth of the Christian faith—the fact that we are saved by God’s grace through faith alone. There is little as amazing, as stupendous, as outrageous as this teaching—that we benefit from Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, not by earning God’s blessing, but simply and totally by faith trusting in Christ. Personally, I get so moved by this, that I can’t help but talk about that marvelous gift of God—faith itself.

But, after preaching here at Hebron for a number of years, it is possible that I begin to hit the same high notes each time I talk about faith—that I sound like “a broken record.” The high notes I would sound are about the nature of faith and the object of faith. But, since I am committed not to focus simply on these characteristics of faith during the sermon this week, I thought I would write about them instead!

The nature of faith. It is easy to fall into two errors here—either “faith” means simply having the right concepts or ideas in our minds or “faith” is some mystical thing that you vaguely possess. Instead, biblical faith is trust, reliance, dependence. Faith is not a doctrine you are convinced is correct—it is embracing that doctrine and depending upon it for life. Faith is not some esoteric feeling but a confident reflection which leads to the confident action of trusting.

The object of faith. We can talk about strong faith or weak faith, and mistakenly believe that we are talking about the strength by which we hold to a teaching. You have strong faith if you do not waver in your trust; weak faith means that doubt creeps in. But, in describing faith this way, we make faith itself the key point. Instead, biblical faith centers on what or who we have faith in; it is the object of our faith that is the focus. The Christian faith speaks, not to the believer’s ability to believe, but to the object, the focus of that faith—Jesus Himself.

OK. Having repeated my favorite themes about faith—that faith is reliance on the Reliable One, Jesus—we can now move past the “skip on the record” and look to other aspects of faith… which we will explore this Sunday in worship together!

In preparation, please read Galatians 2:16.

1. This one verse is the conclusion or the focus of a longer argument Paul is making. But his argument itself arises from a practical dispute between himself and Peter. Read 2:11-14. What does “faith” have to do with the dispute? Why would this event lead to Paul’s discussion of faith?

2. Verse 16 is part of an argument Paul makes from verses 15-21. Read the entire section. How is verse 16 central to the issue at hand?

3. “We know that…” How do we know this? Why does Paul expect his readers to know this? Is this something we can or should take for granted?

4. Paul is rejecting the idea of being saved by works of the law. What would it look like to be saved that way? Describe the kind of faith and life that Paul is rejecting—one where salvation is by “works of the law.”

5. Where is the object of faith, Jesus Christ, central to Paul’s thought here? How do you know that Paul is not just talking about a really strong feeling of belief but of confidence in the God-Man, Jesus?

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Essentials: "The Person and Work of the Spirit" - Henry Knapp

 He’s a busy Spirit!

 In my nightmares, I am terrified that many of my Christian friends at Hebron would agree with the sentiments of Acts 19:2. When asked about the work of the Holy Spirit, these baby disciples respond with the observation, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Not even heard of Him! Egads! The dream gets worse when I think I might be part of the problem: that I haven’t shared enough about what the Bible says about the Spirit, what He has done in my life, what I know to be true of His Presence. And then I wake up, and pray…Lord, fill us with your Spirit!

 When the Bible speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit, it describes His actions in various ways—His actions in creation, in God’s providential guiding of this world, in writing the Bible, in convicting and judging sin in this world, and in applying Christ’s salvation into our lives. With all this and more, the Holy Spirit is constantly at work in Creation.

 I want to focus on the Spirit’s work of “applying Christ’s salvation into our lives.” We believe that Jesus’ death on the cross freed us from our bondage to sin. But, how do we become aware of that? How does what Jesus did work into our lives? This is part of what the Spirit does in the life of the believer.    

  • Conviction:  The Spirit brings to mind the presence of residual sin in our lives—having forgiven us, the Spirit draws us to confession (John 16:8).
  • Regeneration: Through the ministry of the Spirit a person is born again, receives eternal life, and is renewed (John 3:3-8).
  • Indwelling: The Spirit abides in the believer (Romans 8:9-11).
  • Sealing: God seals believers with the Spirit, marking us with ownership and the promise of final redemption (Ephesians 1:13).
  • Filling: Believers are “filled” with the Spirit, strengthened to spiritual growth, maturity, and faithfulness far beyond our natural abilities (Ephesians 5:18).
  • Guidance: We are to walk in the Spirit and be led by the Spirit, avoiding legalism and sin, providing discipline and direction (Galatians 5:16).
  • Empowering: The indwelling Spirit provides victory in the Christian life (Romans 8:13).
  • Teaching: Jesus promises that the Spirit will lead believers into the truth, illuminating the mind, and restoring God’s will through the Word (John 14:26)

And, the best of all…

  • Transformation: The work of the Spirit is the means by which we are transformed more and more, day by day, into the image of Christ Himself (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 Well, I guess I don’t know if “transformation” is the best or not, since, really, all the works of the Spirit are life to the believer!

 I hope and pray that your awareness of the Spirit’s presence and work deepens, grows, and matures more and more every day. Join us this Sunday as we worship our Triune God!

 In preparation for worship this Sunday, read John 14:15-18 and 16:7-15.

 1. In 14:16, the Spirit is referred to as “another Helper.” Another than who? What does that tell us about who the Spirit is? He is also referred to as “the Spirit of truth.” What might that imply?

 2. In verse 15, Jesus speaks of love and keeping commandments, then immediately speaks about the Spirit. What connection might there be between the three?

 3. In 16:7, Jesus says that it is better for Him to go away so that the Spirit might come. Why might that be hard to believe? What confidence does the list above inspire?

 4. Read verses 8-11 carefully. What sense can you make of these? How does the Spirit convict the world of sin? Of righteousness? Of judgment?

 5. Verse 13. How might the Spirit lead you into all truth? Have you had any experience of this work of the Spirit in your life?

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Essentials: The Sacrificial Death of Christ - Henry Knapp


 Onomatopoeia. I just like saying the word. Onomatopoeia.

 I don’t exactly remember when I first learned the word, “onomatopoeia,” but the same twisted sense of joy I feel today about the word started back then. An onomatopoeia is a word or phrase that sounds like its meaning: Bang! Pop! Meow! Whoosh! Learning about onomatopoeias started me thinking about words themselves and has led to some interesting (at least to me!) observations.

 Take the theological term “atonement.” Atonement means “a reparation or making amends for a wrong or injury,” and in biblical use describes the reconciling of God to man through the sacrificial death of Jesus. But what I like about the word “atonement,” word-wise, is how we got it as a theological term to begin with.

 When translating the Bible from Greek and Latin into English in the early 1500s for the first time, William Tyndale was faced with a problem. The biblical authors use a word which in both Greek and Latin has a rich, deep, and comprehensive meaning. It means some mixture of “being reconciled one to another,” with “paying a price” and “freedom and forgiveness” all stirred together. For instance, something marvelous is going on when the Bible describes the sacrificial system in Exodus and Leviticus—“forgiveness, redemption, cost, reconciliation, sacrifice.” Paul has this same complex of ideas in mind in Romans 5 when he talks of Jesus’ death on the cross. The problem confronting Tyndale was that there was no single English word which did justice to the breadth of the biblical idea.

 How, he asked, could you describe in one word, the means whereby humans are reconciled to God, forgiven of their sin, the penalty being paid, God’s wrath satisfied? Having sin removed, peace and holiness restored, all by means of the blood of Jesus on the cross? How in English can you talk about the process of becoming one, reconciled to God, all in one word?

 Without an appropriate word, William Tyndale simply made one up! At-One-Ment. The ending “-ment” means “the process of…” (so, “refreshment” is the process of being refreshed). Atonement, then, was Tyndale’s attempt to capture the process of being “at one” with God: At-one-ment.

 More than just reconciliation, more than forgiveness, or sacrifice, or freedom, the work of Jesus is the very work of restoring our fellowship with God in all its depth and splendor. It is atonement.

 At Hebron Church, we often talk about the death of Jesus, and what He accomplished on the cross. While we don’t often use the term, “atonement,” that is what we are talking about. And, if we are to be true to the fullness of the biblical witness to the cross, we need to see the work of Jesus in its totality—capturing our forgiveness from sin, the reconciliation of God to His wayward people, the joy of the redeemed, and the praise to the Redeemer.

 In worship this week, we will try to capture the essence of atonement—celebrating the completeness of God’s salvific work in and through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

 In preparation for worship this week, read 1 Peter 2:21-25.

 1. Notice that we are jumping into the middle of an ongoing argument. Peter is addressing what it means to live under authority. How do our particular verses factor into that discussion?

 2. In verse 21, Christ’s suffering is to serve as an example. How so? What are we to learn from His example?

 3. We are told that we are “called” to this (verse 21). What are we “called” to? Can you give an illustration in your own life of that calling?

 4. Describe Christ’s example in verses 22-23. How is this an example for you? Is there a situation where you can apply this today?

 5. How does verse 25 connect to Peter’s argument here? Why does he mention sheep and the Shepherd?

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The Essentials - The Nature of the Triune God - Henry Knapp

 Essential, Yet Beyond Understanding

I’m not a cat-guy. Now, I realize that in admitting that publicly, I’m inviting all you cat- aficionados to flood my email box with silly cat-thingies. Please…don’t. I mention not being a cat-guy because I do tend to identify with one quality of the cat, it’s curiosity. Of course, we have heard that curiosity killed the cat, and that’s because the cat is naturally curious. Well, so am I. I have this strong desire to understand what is happening, to explore anything odd, to investigate that which intrigues me.

This is true in all areas of my life—including my faith. How does this work? What does that mean? When might this occur? Where is that happening? I want to understand what I believe, make sense of what I’m taught and satisfy my curiosity in all things spiritual.

And, then I run into the Trinity. “One God who eternally exists in three different and distinct Persons—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—all of whom are fully God, and all of whom are fully equal.”

Curiouser and curiouser. I want to explore, to learn, to understand. But, no matter how hard I look, no matter how much I study, I simply cannot grasp that which is beyond the finite brain. And the history of the Church is filled with failed attempts to explain the Trinity, botched efforts to grasp the ungraspable.

But our faith is not built on what we know, it is built on what God has revealed to us, what He has shown us of Himself, and He has shown us the Trinity (biblical support easily available on request!). So, by faith we grasp what we cannot know. We trust, not in our own ability to understand, but in His willingness to tell us. Often, that leaves us unsatisfied intellectually. That’s ok, for faith comes from hearing the Word of God.

I beg you, watch this four-minute video—hilarious! And, at the same time, a great teaching on the Trinity. {Note for joke at the end: Legend has it that St. Patrick chased all the snakes from Ireland}.

For worship this week, read Exodus 34, especially, verses 5-9.

 1. From the opening verses, what is the connection between the Law of God and meeting with God?

 2. Verse 5. Descending from a cloud could mean a couple of things. What is implied about God in saying He descended in a cloud?

 3. Verse 5 says God proclaimed His name, then in verse 6, He says a lot about Himself. What does that say about the “name” of God?

 4. Make a list of the qualities God claims here. What do we learn about Him from each? How do they speak about God’s “god-ish-ness?”

 5. What is Moses’s reaction in verses 8 and 9? How is that an appropriate reaction? Why is that not the reaction that we have every day?

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Essentials: The Authority of Scripture in Our Lives - Henry Knapp

 Essential   /e sen(t)Shel/ adj.  absolutely necessary; extremely important

I spent a lot of time early in life in the water. I grew up near a lake and went swimming as often as possible, some fishing, sailing, and water skiing. My “training” began early.  As a young boy I was in the water often, sometimes by myself, but most frequently with family and friends. And, when you are young, sometimes the decisions you make are not always the brightest…like, for instance, wrestling bigger kids than you while underwater. More than once, I gulped too much water when I couldn’t get up for air. Scary times.

I suspect if you had asked the 5-year-old me if air was an essential to life, I probably would have looked at you like you were a weirdo. But after some thought, I might have agreed that it was essential. But, did I really believe that it was? Was air essential to my life as a 5 year old swimming in the lake? Well, certainly I could not do without it, but I suspect the “essential character” of air for my body was only important to me when I was likely not to have any.

What makes something essential? According to our dictionary, something is essential if it is absolutely necessary or extremely important. We are going to embark on a journey this fall in exploring “The Essentials of Our Faith.” Our focus will be on illuminating those key aspects of our faith that are essential, necessary, important. We will look at key theological and biblical ideas that are crucial to the Christian faith—and, if essential, then necessary—without which you do not have Christian faith.

But, think of the different ways we use the word “essential.”

Gravity is essential to everyday life on this planet. Honestly, no one gets away with life without gravity. But, when was the last time you thought about gravity? If we want to use the term “essential” then shouldn’t it be more front-and-center in our lives? Surely, gravity is necessary for everyday life, but if you never think on it, how “essential” is it to you? In other words, some things can be essential, as in necessary, without much conscious thought, and therefore, not very essential.

For many Christians a lot of “essential” doctrines are simply not that important in everyday life. Sure, the Trinity might be something that the Church has always stressed as an essential teaching; but many in practice, if not in theory, deny its importance every day. The return of Christ in glory for the Judgment Day and for heavenly blessing might be acknowledged in theology class, but it is hardly “essential” to how we live, right? If I can ignore it every day, if I can practically disregard it, then it can’t be very essential.

We think it should be otherwise. If something is “essential” to our faith, it should impact us, change things, influence thought and actions. If essential, then important, and if important, then influential. The “essentials” we will explore are not only important in theory, they are essential to life—essential, important, necessary. If indeed these teachings are essential, then they will change the way you live every day.

For this coming Sunday, please study Proverbs 3:1-8.

1. Notice that these verses break into two parts—verses 1-4 and 5-8. How would you give a subtitle to these verses? What is the common thread between them?

 2. What would it look like to “lean on your own understanding”? (verse 5)? How can you catch yourself from doing that? What is particularly wrong about it? Why would the author try to keep us from doing it?

 3. In verse 1, the author commands our “hearts to keep my commandments.” How might one’s “heart” keep a commandment? What is behind this encouragement?

 4. Verse 3 is a very vivid verse.  What ideas are present here? What is the benefit of binding something around the neck?

 5. In verse 7 a contrast is mentioned: being wise in one’s own eyes is contrasted with fearing the LORD and turning from evil. Why would being wise in your own eyes be the opposite of fearing the LORD or turning from evil? 

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Leaning into the Lord's Protection - Henry Knapp

 Our Summer in the Psalms

This week in worship we will wrap up our summer study of the Book of Psalms. As I have mentioned in the past, I don’t think of myself as “a Psalms-guy,” someone who naturally and easily turns to the Psalms in my devotions or prayers. After preaching through various psalms this summer, I can say… I’m still not a “Psalms-guy”! But, I have truly enjoyed our time here; I’ve caught the comfort and the encouragement and the passion. Gosh, maybe I am a Psalms-guy!

 If you haven’t been able to be with us, each week we have looked at a particular psalm and focused on the parallels in the psalmist’s experiences and our own.  What common events is the psalmist describing that we too have experienced?  It was easy to discover these: The psalmist speaks of being scared, excited, hurt, confused, hopeful, eager, suffering, and loving. Usually it has been easy to see how the psalmist’s experience has been like our own. And so, we’ve asked the question: What has the psalmist done that we can do as well? What has he learned? How has he felt? How can we lean into the Lord as he has done?

The Psalms portray various situations where we need to rely upon Jesus, where we need to experience His truth, His grace, His protection and to trust Him. We “lean into the Lord” when we give ourselves gratefully and fully into His Presence. To put off our own self-reliance and depend instead upon His.

The Psalms are full of these experiences; opportunities to “lean into the Lord.” Over this summer, we have looked at:

  • Leaning into the Lord’s peace in Psalm 46, His deliverance in Psalm 40 and His salvation in 130. In each, the blessings the psalmist experiences are ours as well.
  • Leaning into the Lord’s goodness (Psalm 34), forgiveness (32), and comfort (27)—marks of the Presence (Psalm 84) of the Lord in everyday life.
  • In Psalm 23, we see that we can lean into the Lord’s abundance, in Psalm 131 into humility; in Psalm 133 we together lean into the Lord’s people.
  • And in all this, we are following the pattern of Psalm 1 and 2, summaries of the entire book of Psalms as we lean into the Lord’s way of righteousness—Jesus Christ.
  • This Sunday, we confront those common experiences we all have had—trouble, danger, fear. As before, we will look at how the psalmist dealt with the problems, and so learn together that we can, and must, lean into the Lord’s protection.

 àIt is easy, sometimes, to neglect the Bible’s teachings by assuming that it is an ancient text with outdated ideas. But, it is good to see, in the psalms and elsewhere that the Bible touches on everyday life, on nearly every page.

àIt is easy, sometimes, to minimize the Bible’s teachings by assuming that it is a stoic, dry, lifeless manual for “doing the right thing.” It is good to see in the psalms the passion, emotion, hurt, confusion, pain, joy and sorrow that we experience all the time.

àIt is easy, sometimes, to ignore the Bible’s teachings by assuming that it has nothing to say that is relevant to our contemporary world. But it is good to see in the psalms a world we so easily recognize—a world filled with the Presence, the love, the mercy, the truth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

 In preparation for worship this Sunday, please read Psalm 121.

 1. If “the hills” were places where people worshipped idols, what are our current “hills”? How shall we see them, and avoid them?

 2. If “the hills” are things that draw our attention to our Lord, what are our current “hills”? How shall we see them and embrace them?

 3. What all lies behind the phrase, “maker of Heaven and Earth”? What is the psalmist trying to communicate?

 4. Why is it important that God not “slumber or sleep” (verse 4)? How is this meant to encourage the reader?

5.  This psalm is often identified as "The Travelers' Psalm"...can you see how/why?

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Leaning into the Lord's People - Henry Knapp

One Lord, One Faith

“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” Though I am almost certain you’ve never heard of him, this quote is attributed to a German theologian named Rupertus Meldenius (just try pronouncing that). I love that quote. I believe in this wholeheartedly. But let’s be real—interacting and rubbing shoulders with real-life sinful and broken people makes this lovely sentence almost unimaginable. It is hard to stress the essentials, to give liberty and to act charitably toward others.

I do believe that if we got our biblical anthropology right, we might be more united, in liberty, and charity. Biblical anthropology is simply the Bible’s way of discussing what it is to be human. What is Man according to the Bible?

First, each person is created in the image of God. God says humans are good. You are good. I am good. Fundamental to our created nature is that we are the crowning point formation of creation: We are good and pleasing to God. My grandmother used to say “God don’t make junk!” Made in the image of God, we are good. Very good. The creature is not a mistake or not without worth. Just the opposite, we are wonderfully made by our Creator.

Second, however, and what I believe is largely downplayed, the Bible describes how incredibly broken and sinful we are because of the Fall. We are not good morally, ethically, in our character, our thinking, our will, our emotions. Therefore, we are broken and sinful in our rebellion against God, and that shows in all our relationships: first, with Him, then, with every other person on this planet. You’ve heard it said, “The problem with the world… is ME!”

The third factor in our biblical anthropology is whether or not someone has been made new through the salvation offered by Jesus Christ. Christ’s redemption on the cross, once applied and received by faith, transforms a person. We downplay this. We frequently think (and act) as though our faith is a side gig; or a part-time job. But, being a Christian is the key identity factor in our existence. Biblically speaking, you have more in common with a person from another country, who may not speak your language or be of your skin color or intellect or social status than you do with non-Christian members of your own household.

Given this biblical understanding of humanity, the unifying factor for all of us in the church is that we are (1) made in the image of God, (2) fallen and sinful, desperately needing a Savior and (3) saved and redeemed by Jesus Christ alone. Our unity, our liberty and our charity rests in Christ.

So, what is Christian unity as we gather this week as the body in ONE worship service at Hebron (10AM in the Sanctuary!)? It is not that we all know each other, like each other, or think the same way. It’s not that we hold to the same political stance or dress the same or value the same things. We may not look alike or act alike: What makes us unified across the board is that Jesus is our Savior! We are the people of God, the church, each made in the image of God, desperately sinful and broken and needing the redemption of Jesus. For some, this redemption has happened. For others in our midst at Hebron, we pray that will yet happen. That’s the unity we should long for. The unity that is good and pleasant in God’s eyes: That Christ would be known, exalted, loved and served. To the praise of His Glory, may we seek true oneness in Christ!

In preparation for worship this week, read Psalm 133.

1. This psalm is part of the “Psalms of Ascents,” which means that people would sing it on the way to worship. Why would this be a good song to come to church with?

2. In verse 1, the psalmist asserts that it is good to dwell in unity—What is good about unity? Why would unity be stressed here?

3. Why do you think blessings are associated with “oil running down the beard”? Why would this be a good metaphor for blessings?

4. Same question for the “dew of Hermon”? Hermon was a central mountain in Israel, one of the highest. Why would dew be like blessings?

5. Where have you experienced the greatest sense of unity? What helped bring it about? How can we foster that more faithfully?

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Speaking Forgiveness - Henry Knapp

 I realize I’m showing my age, but… remember “Fonzie”? A character in the popular TV sitcom “Happy Days” “the Fonz” was the ideal stud of a man—strong, capable and utterly confident in himself and all he is and can do. Much of the sitcom humor surrounding the Fonz was built around his “cool-ness” and everyone else’s embrace of that identity. One exaggerated expression of this overwhelming self-esteem was the character’s inability to admit that he made a mistake comically portrayed by Fonzie’s physical inability to say the word “wrong.” Forced into a corner, he stumbles, “I was w…, I was wro…, I was wroooo…” Hilarious. (See “Fonzie’s word trouble” on YouTube). Hilarious because we know that confessing a wrong shouldn’t be that hard—we all need to do it more and more often!

 I think of Fonzie’s struggles with confession when I think of forgiveness. Like confession, forgiveness should come easily to us—because we should all have lots and lots of opportunities to practice it! As with the frequency of our sin, we frequently have the chance to give forgiveness and to receive forgiveness. Every negative interaction we have with family, friends, and workers is an opportunity to either ask for, or to give, forgiveness. Yet, like the Fonz, most of us can’t quite get the words out.

 That is not to say we are an unforgiving people (though I’m positive we should all practice forgiveness much more than we do). In my experience, even when we forgive, getting the actual word out is hard. Think back for a second… how often have you actually said, “I forgive you”? I am sure you have often thought: “Well, I can let that go,” or, “I’ll just ignore that one.” Or, when pressed, saying something like, “It’s ok, let’s just forget it,” “Oh, it’s all right,” or, “Let’s just move on.” The idea might be the same (might be, though, might not be!), but for some reason, getting the words out, “I forgive you,” is hard to do. If you doubt me, next time you are in any little squabble, try it on… it’s hard!

 What makes it so hard? Well, I think that to hear from someone that they forgive you, really emphasizes the original hurt.  We forgive sin; and if I need forgiveness from you, then I must have sinned against you.  If you have said, “I forgive you,” that means you think I have actually sinned against you! Usually, even when sin is at the core of our difficulties, we don’t like to call it what it is—sin. So, to try not to actually identify sin in your life, I hesitate to say, “I forgive you.” I actually don’t want you to feel that badly. If I am right about this, isn’t that just backwards?!?

 I think these words are also hard to say since we know that forgiveness is more than just “ignoring it,” or “getting over it,” or just “forgetting it.” Forgiveness is really, truly, completely giving up any claim of hurt, pain or injustice done against you. You can ignore, get over or forget an injury and yet still harbor a legitimate sense of right-ness, or superiority. But, if you forgive, then that’s it, it’s all over with, total, complete absolution; never again to be thought of or brought up. Now, that’s hard!

 No wonder then, that the Bible calls us to be a forgiving people—new creations in Christ who give to others what we have been given. Jesus highlights this principle to His disciples—if we truly realize what it means to be forgiven our sins by God, what sin by others could we possibly hesitate to forgive? (Matthew 18) And, how often? Of course, Jesus’ challenge is an infinite number of times—the same number of times the Lord forgives me.

 The forgiveness of the Lord is wonderfully portrayed for us in Psalm 32, which I invite you to read in preparation for worship this Sunday.

 1. In verses 1 & 2, what terms are used for sin? How do they differ? In what ways is forgiveness described? What insights into forgiveness are there?

 2. Can you explain the “wasting away” of the author’s bones? How might we describe that in today’s lingo?

 3. Verse 5 is seen as a solution to the trauma of verses 3-4. How is the problem “solved” by these verses?

 4. “Therefore” in verse 6 draws a conclusion—what is the conclusion, and how does it flow from the previous verses? If you have gone through the experience of verses 3-5, have you concluded as the psalmist does with verse 6?

 5. Verses 8-9 speak of God instructing us (assuming the “I” is God speaking), what other assumption/conclusion might be made? How does the instruction flow from the preceding verses?

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Your Only Comfort in Life and Death - By Kelly Knapp

“What psalm and topic are you preaching on this week?” I asked while we were walking hand in hand at a local park. Henry softly replied, “Psalm 27.” I immediately responded with “Oh, I know that one well through experience - the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” “Let me write on that one from my heart!” So, here I am. I am writing and reflecting on this week’s passage because recently I feel like I have a lot of experience with this need to lean into the Lord’s comfort.

When asked to speak in the Central African Republic back in the Fall of 2022, one very daunting thing hanging over my head was the U.S. State Department’s warning to NOT travel in this country. The site says: Level 4: Do not travel to the Central African Republic (CAR) due to Embassy Bangui’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens, crime, civil unrest, and kidnapping. Armed groups control large areas of the country; and they regularly kidnap, injure and/or kill civilians. In the event of unrest, airport, land border, and road closures may occur with little or no notice.

So, what does it mean to be wise and yet NOT walk in fear? What does it look like to have valid concerns and fears about various things, and yet not freak out in fear or live with a sense of panic or dread? I don’t have a lot of answers to those things, but I do know one thing. This Psalm is asking you and I the question that goes like this; Who or what should you fear if I am your light? Do you trust me as your Savior? I am the stronghold of your life. Is someone or something stronger than me? The Lord wants us to make wise, informed decisions as we go about this day to day life in this world. This is exactly what we did when we listened to a “risk assessment” coordinator who gives the green light or red light for missionaries to enter various countries. We were told “come ahead”—and so we went! Was it easy? No. Was it fun? No. Was it good for me spiritually: You bet!

Here’s why this is so practical and was so good for me spiritually: I had to face my fears and go forward in the midst of fear. I walked by faith and not by sight. Needless to say, I prayed through it, talked it through, cried it out—and boarded the plane. I have learned through experience like this that you are safer when you are in God’s will on the front line of a battle than if you play it safe by sitting at home on your sofa and are not in God’s will. Sure, something could have happened to us, but we were still safe! Safe in His grip. Safe because He was with us, and we are always spiritually safe. No matter what. Safe in His presence.

Safety concerns (obsessions?) have run amuck I believe. We are often more concerned with getting the question answered “Is it safe?” than the questions “Is it right” “Is it good?” “Is it necessary? “Is it God’s Will!?” One thing that has made me feel very safe and comforted through the past few months of facing fear in Africa, and then facing fear when I had to come face to face with death (in Florida while my father in law was dying), was the classic line from the Heidelberg Catechism: What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. Note: ONLY comfort. What was my ONLY comfort heading to Africa? Or, my recent flying to Florida alone to walk through “the valley of the shadow of death” as Henry’s dad was failing and eventually dying? I did not want to do these things. But, I am not my own. I am comforted by His grip of me. He is upholding me and eternally has me. That is my ONLY comfort. He is my only comfort in the midst of the fears. And man, I have fears! Fear is real. Yet, Jesus trumps fear. He is the only one who can. Lean in…lean in…oh, brothers and sisters, He is your light and your salvation. I pray you know this freedom, not from fear, but in the midst of fear - trusting Him.

For this Sunday, read Psalm 27.

1. Verse 1: How is the imagery of light used in the Scripture? Where is “light” present elsewhere? What is behind the picture of God as “light”?

2. Verse 2 describes those who oppose us. In what ways might evil show itself in your daily life? Externally, and internally?

3. How does verse 4 naturally arise from verse 1? What is the connection between gazing upon the beauty of the LORD and identifying Him as “my light/my salvation/my stronghold”?

4. There is a shift between verses 6 and 7—The earlier verses are statements of fact, the latter verses are addressed to God as a prayer. If you had to summarize the “mood” of these sections, what would it be?

5. The entire psalm speaks of the confidence we have in the LORD—that He has it all! How does verse 14 speak to this? What role does the author’s thought in verse 14 have in his argument?

Monday, July 24, 2023

Leaning Into the Lord's Confidence - Henry Knapp

A Heep of Humility.

Growing up in my household, Uriah Heep was a prominent figure. More than once he was referenced in terms of my own upbringing. Uriah Heep is a fictional character in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. Heep plays a minor role in the storyline but is so well written that he stands out and is easily remembered—particularly for his insincere flattery. An oft-repeated line for Dickens is when Uriah Heep expounds upon his humility—“I’m a very ‘umble person,” “I am the ‘umblest person going”! Of course, the joke is Heep’s bragging on his humility: he is very proud of being humble!

Uriah Heep’s false humility was referenced in my household as a mocking corrective to my own incredible lack of humility. Like most people, I was (am!) very protective of myself, overly conscious of any slight and paranoid that my faults will show. Consequentially, again, like most people, pride rises up in very unsightly ways, frequently dominating, if not my outward actions, then certainly my inward attitude and thoughts. There is great reason why the sin of pride has consistently been identified in the church age as the cause of much, much harm and wickedness.

When we look critically at the presence of this sin in our lives and honestly face the pervasive presence of a proud self-image, we walk a hazardous road. The dangers of pride are self-evident. Rarely, if ever, are we as truly good or truly special as we think we are. Crossing from pride to arrogance, and haughtiness is quickly done. But excessive pride is not wrong simply when it is annoying—pride is opposed in Scripture simply because it so often misplaces us in relation to God. The proud forget that they are the creature, and so easily assume the role of the Creator. On the other hand, the alternative is not false humility, nor a degrading of oneself that denies our created grandeur. For, our Lord did make us “but a little lower than the angels” and “crowned us glory and honor” (Psalm 8). So, the corrective of pride is not false, deferential, self-effacing. The corrective to pride is… reality!

The Bible urges us to see ourselves as the Lord Himself made us, as our Savior redeemed us, and as the Spirit is transforming us. Yes, He created/redeemed/sanctified us to be glorious in His sight—and so we are! There is every reason in the world for the Christian to be proud of what God has done, to be in awe of what the Lord has made us into. However, every single ounce of that pride is located in heaven, in our God! Yes, we are marvelous, but we are marvelous “in His eyes” because of Him. All that is good comes directly from Him, and we can claim none of it.

And it is that self-image, that perspective of who I truly am, that the Scripture expresses. I am all that God says that I am, and not a lick less. To depreciate myself is to falsely condemn what God has done. But, to be proud in myself is foolishness and forgets that I am but a redeemed creature and not in any way the Redeemer-Creator.

In our culture, it is hard to maintain this perspective. It is easy to think too highly of oneself, as if it is deserved. It is also too easy to ground our self-identity in anything other than in God. And, it is too easy to be overwhelmed with our sin and brokenness that we ignore the Savior’s voice. But, listen! He speaks to us as we truly are—sinners, loved and redeemed by Jesus Christ.

Please read Psalm 131 in preparation for worship this week.

1. The sermon title this week is “Leaning into the Lord’s Confidence.” How is the greatness of our God expressed in this psalm?

2. There are a number of reasons to think/feel negatively or critically about yourself. What are some bad reasons? What are some good reasons? What “reasons” does the psalmist have for encouraging a humble approach?

3. What does the psalmist mean when saying that his “heart is not lifted up/eyes are not raised too high” (verse 1)? How would we phrase something similar today?

4. What is “a weaned child with its mother” like? Why is this image a powerful one for someone who has not lifted heart/eyes too high?

5. How does verse 3 connect? It almost looks like a non-sequitur, but I don’t think it is—if flows naturally from verses 1 & 2. How so?

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Plog Along - Dan Bender

In a slight change of pace, today we are going to actually do a PLOG. That's right. Prayer blog. So, take a look at the Scripture for this week and follow some of the prayer prompts between now and Sunday.

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters

3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord


1. Reflect on Psalm 23:1-3 while you pray.
2. What does it mean for the LORD to be YOUR shepherd?
3. How have you seen the LORD lead you recently?
4. What does the path of righteousness in your life look like?


1. Reflect on Psalm 23:4 while you pray.
2. What does it look like in the Valley of the Shadow of Death? Have you been there?
3. Can you say at this point that you fear no evil?
4. What does David mean about the rod and staff bringing comfort?


1. Reflect on Psalm 23:5 while you pray.
2. What do you think it means to have God set a table for you? Then, have it be in the presence of your enemies?
3. When is the last time your cup overflowed?


1. Reflect on Psalm 23:6 while you pray.
2. What do you think the connection is between Goodness and Mercy might be?
3. What do you think about when you imagine what being with God forever will be like?

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

"Leaning into the Lord's Goodness" - Henry Knapp

Who hasn’t heard the encouragement to “grow up to be a good boy/girl”? My guess is that most parents either say that directly, or imply it over and over again in their parenting. After all, the alternative is pretty silly—“I hope you grow up to be evil and wicked.” You certainly do not have to be a follower of Christ to have a desire for “goodness.” We are all pretty much raised to pursue goodness, and it certainly appears to be a desire built into us as humans by God Himself.

But, what do we mean by “good”? What, after all, does it mean to be a good boy/girl? What does
“goodness” look like?

On one level, this calls to mind the old adage, “I know it when I see it.” We all have some innate sense of what goodness looks like. When we see something wicked or evil, we have a visceral reaction. When we see something good or beautiful, we just know it. We don’t define “good” or explain it because it is self-evident.

But what if it isn’t self-evident? What if there is more to “goodness” than what we can just assume? After all, sometimes the Bible makes it clear that we are to be “good,” and at other points that only God Himself is good. Sometimes “goodness” in humanity is applauded. Sometimes “goodness” is beyond our grasp. Perhaps we need help in understanding what “goodness” means.

The Bible uses the word “good” in various ways, often similar, but not always identical. To do that which is “good” often means something like “helping-the-old-lady-across-the-street.” Is that a “good” thing? Well, of course it is! When we treat one another as we should, we are acting in good ways, doing good things. These are evident and clear to us as humans. Our common humanity calls for responding to one another in ways that are morally acceptable. These actions are deemed “morally good.”

When we say, with Jesus, that only God is good (Mark 10:18), are we implying that only God can do a morally good thing? Of course not. Hundreds of times a day (hopefully) each of us acts with moral goodness toward one another. But God is indeed the only One “good” in terms of “saving good.” Here we are measuring “goodness” in terms of meriting God’s favor. Do our morally good deeds save us? Do they make God respond to us? Do they put God under obligation to treat us well? NO! All our “moral goodness” does not merit us “saving good.” Only God is good in that sense; only God is perfect in goodness.

There is one more sense in which the Bible uses the word “good.”: First, to speak of the way we should relate to one another (moral good); second, to describe the kind of life that merits salvation (God’s saving good); and, third, a kind of goodness which arises from a faith in Jesus. We are called in this Christian life to respond in ways that please our Lord, in ways that come from our faith in Christ, to honor and praise our Savior. These are deemed in the Scripture as “good.” Arising from a life of dependence upon the cross, these actions are “spiritually good”—a way of living which comes only from the new creation, only from a life given to the Lord. Do these “spiritual good things” earn us God’s pleasure? NO! This is by grace and grace alone. Rather, these are actions, deeds, thoughts, attitudes, which are produced by trust in Christ. If/when we trust in Him, our lives are transformed, and what we do from that transformed life is pleasing to our God, they are “spiritually good.”

This week in worship we will be looking at the goodness of our Lord, and the goodness we are called to by our Good God. I look forward to exploring Psalm 34 with you!

In preparation for worship this Sunday, please read Psalm 34.

1. Verse 2: “my soul makes its boast in the Lord.” What might this mean? Have you ever done this? What would this look like?

2. Verse 3: “magnify the Lord with me.” What might this mean? Has this become part of your daily life? Can you express this yearning today?

3. Verse 8: “taste and see that the Lord is good.” What does the imagery of “tasting” imply? How does one “taste” that the Lord is good?

4. Verse 15: “the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous.” The author intends this as comfort, encouragement. Why so? How is that good news for us?

5. Verse 22: “none who take refuge in Him will be condemned.” Why does the psalmist come to this conclusion at the end of his psalm? What condemnation is he seeking to avoid?

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

"Leaning into the Lord's Deliverance" - Dan Bender

When I was younger I spent some time playing bass for church. Now, I must confess, I knew nothing about what I was doing but putting my fingers in the right spots to make the sound come forth. I cannot read a lick of music, I have tried. It is like a foreign language to my eyes, but my ears...they seem to work. So, interestingly enough, most church songs 20 some years ago were not hard to play in terms of the bass. Now, I am sure they are far more complicated. Nevertheless, I can remember one song in particular which seemed simple, but proved to be pretty difficult for me. We were attempting to play one of U2's songs in youth group. It was 40. (Pronounced For - E with the best Irishness you can muster).

This song was built off of the bass line. I couldn't get it down. It came time to actually play the song at youth group; and as you might have guessed, I butchered it. I mean it was so bad that I still get embarrassed about it now some 20 years later and am much better at playing now. It is all of that to say, sometimes I think that we treat our Christian lives in a manner such as I have viewed this bass line. We feel as if we have to play it perfectly or else it isn't worth its tune. I was so focused on getting all of the notes right, i was not paying attention to what I was really doing. I was playing a new song. Now, it took some time, but eventually I got it.

Some of the words from 40 actually ring true when it comes to how I was frustrated. “How long to sing this song?” says Bono. I said the same thing.  Like “Lets just get it over with”, or “How long must we endure this??”

The older I get the more I understand that it isn't how perfectly I play the line, it is that I play for the King. When I try to force my fingers to hit the right notes I can and sometimes mess up. But what if I were to submit my fingers and be guided to the notes? Using the ears that God gave me to hear the music He wanted me to play? Turning frustration into persistence and even perhaps a nice tune.

It all stems from my understanding of deliverance. I bet on some level you might identify with me in this. For many years, I assumed that when I was delivered from my sin and shame that it was gone like I had been told. It was years and wisdom that helped me understand that while the immediate and long term consequence of sin (that which I have been delivered from) is still an active force in this world. You see...It wasn't just me who was affected by it; like I was the only person playing in the band. It impacts all of the created order. So, while I stand reconciled and redeemed, I stand next to that which is not. So....what do we do with this reality?

We need to introduce a new song. That song is the Good News of the Gospel. It is a new song that for those who are delivered and need deliverance, need to sing every day. How long? How long? How long? How long to sing this song?

Every. Single. Day.

This week read Psalm 40 in its entirety.

Reflect on the following.

1. How often do you sing the new song of the Gospel to yourself? 

2. Who in your life can attribute knowing the new song because you have sung it to them? 

3. Do you ever have a hard time believing that you have actually been delivered from the sin and shame in your life? 

4. Do you know anyone who says the same thing about themselves? 

5. Make a plan to sing a new song to yourself this week and someone who you know needs to hear it. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

What Makes a House a Home - Kelly Knapp

 “What a lovely house!” (my first thought) “What a lovely LAKE!” (when I got out of the car) “What lovely people!” (meeting the Knapps for the first time). I was on my first “leadership retreat” for a Pitt ministry, and the Knapps were hosting our college ministry leadership team for a spiritual retreat. That August weekend Henry Sr. and Lucy Knapp took off emptying their gorgeous lake home to us. A bunch of immature, rag tag, obnoxiously loud college students. Fifteen of us! If that’s not a picture of grace, I don’t know what is. “Here. It’s yours. Take care of it and have fun!”

 The “Conneaut Lake House” is where Henry grew up. It is lakefront and lovely. Fast forward 34 years: I was sitting with Hebron’s All Moms’ leadership team at the Lake House in January. We were up there to pray and plan, be still and share—and still delighting in that home and that lake. I was reflecting on the fact that this is my happy place. It means so much to me. Yet, I was dreading 2023 for I knew the “end of a good thing” was upon us. I could feel it coming: The Knapps/the people/the memories will not be here once this house is sold. I’m not exaggerating when I say hundreds and hundreds of people have come through that house. It’s been used for parties, gatherings, cousin time, grandkids, ministry, retreats, ministers, missionaries, and many, many friends. Most of all, it has housed my precious in-laws.

 And yet, it’s just a house. I am struck by how quiet that house is now. Since last fall, no one has been there. There is no presence. No laughter. No holidays and gatherings. And this July 4th there will be no swimming, no pontoon boat, no fireworks, and no annual cookout. The Knapps (Henry’s parents) are not there. (They are still in Florida due to Henry’s father’s illness). The walls would speak of so much activity, so much joy, heated discussions, much laughter, and a lot of chaos. What makes the story, however, is the gift of PRESENCE in that place. Ultimately, Henry and Lucy are missing. The presence is gone.

 You know the saying “a house is a house - but love makes a home.” I want to take that a step further. It’s the presence of the people that make a home. Presence is our greatest provision. This week’s psalm, Psalm 84, speaks of the DWELLING place of God. The Psalmist is longing for God, to be where God is. He wants to know His presence, not just the building of the Temple. That is the Psalmist’s longing and what is causing him to almost faint.  He can’t get enough of God.

 I have always wondered if I can really say along with the Psalmist—“Better is one day in your courts, oh Lord, than a thousand elsewhere!” Do I mean it? Is that true of me?

 I want to love God and HIS PRESENCE more than anything else in my life. I want to know that His presence is what makes my heart His home. Otherwise, it would be empty, barren and useless. This is what moves me from loving a house (a happy place!) to loving the Lord and His people more. Am I so fixated on a house that I could miss He who dwells there?

 The Conneaut house is just a house, and I release it to the Lord. “Better is one day…” Forget the lake this summer! I want to be in His presence, longing for Him, praising Him, knowing Him more. No matter what life brings. Hallelujah! 

 For worship this Sunday, read Psalm 84.

1. What makes the psalmist talk about God’s dwelling place as “lovely”? What do you think he has in mind?

 2. What about the building would make the psalmist so very passionate (Verse 2)? Is there a parallel in your life? In the church today?

 3. In verse 4, it appears that the psalmist is “blessing” birds. What is the meaning of this? Why do the birds receive his blessing?

 4. Geography lesson: “The Valley of Baca” is an incredibly arid place, where no one goes if they can avoid it. In verse 6, the pilgrims go through the valley. How does the author capture the idea of God’s blessing?

 5. Verse 10 is the capstone of this psalm. What is the job of a doorkeeper? It’s evident that the author is expressing his eagerness here, but eagerness for what? How might this be captured in today’s world?

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Leaning into the Lord’s Salvation - Henry Knapp

Why is it that we often see the way most clearly when we are most lost? When things look the bleakest, when all hope is lost, that is frequently when God most plainly reveals Himself. It really is the darkest before the dawn. The Psalmist relates such a moment: “Out of the depths, I cry to you, O LORD!” (Psalm 130).

No two experiences are exactly the same. There are, I am sure, as many ways God has touched our lives as there are believers in the world. Everyone encounters the Lord in unique ways, and it is a joy to tell those stories. Blaise Pascal, the world’s premier thinker in the seventeenth century, was taken by the theological truths of the Gospel. Almost against his will, CS Lewis became “the most dejected, reluctant convert in all England.” Count Zinzendorf, the father of modern missions, was overcome with joy while looking at a painting of a thorn-crowned Christ. There was nothing sentimental or emotional about the conversion experience of John Calvin.  His experience of God’s grace came slowly, in contemplation over time. In contrast, John Wesley’s heart was “strangely warmed” while reading the Scripture and reflecting on his life. An early missionary to Native Americans, David Brainerd had an experience of “unspeakable glory” that prompted a “hearty desire to exalt God.”

While no two experiences are the same, it does often seem as though God meets us most clearly in our deepest time of need. St. Augustine was in the depths of loneliness and despair when he heard the voice that took him to the Word of God, and ultimately, to faith in Christ. The author of “Amazing Grace,” John Newton, was brought to a saving knowledge of the Lord after surviving a violent storm in the Atlantic which threatened to destroy his ship. Also in a storm, Martin Luther gave his life to serve Christ while terrified at begin struck by lightning. Charles Colson was famously involved in the Watergate coverup and came to faith during his time in prison. An inward crisis, despondency, emotional turmoil, and the death of his brother led the Russian philosopher and author Leo Tolstoy to a personal faith in the Savior. Of course, the Apostle Paul was knocked off his horse, blinded and confronted by the Lord Himself.

“Out of the depths, I cry to you, O LORD!” Many of us can appreciate such a cry.  In times of trouble and despair, when we truly believe we are in the depths, we cry out to God. Of course, there are many reasons why we find ourselves in the depths; sometimes by accident, sometimes by the abuse of others. But often it is our own willfulness, our determination to be self-sufficient that lands us in despair. Perhaps that is why we meet the Lord at such times; perhaps it is exactly because our own way has led us to the depths, that we can finally listen to His voice. When we give up our self-confidence and trust instead in Him, we see Him as He truly is—the Savior, our Lord, Jesus the Christ.

If you have found yourself in the depths, read Psalm 130 for this Sunday.

 1. What do “the depths” mean to you? How do you know you are in them? What is your experience with “the depths”?

 2. What does the author’s use of “mercy” (Verse 2) and “marking iniquities” (Verse 3) tell us about the cause of the “depths”? Why does the author find himself in the depths?

 3. Verse 4 is a challenge. Forgiveness is with the Lord… but, where comes “fear”? What does the author intend to communicate?

 4. The author then speaks of his waiting. Clearly he is waiting for the Lord, but what characteristics mark that waiting? What is distinctive about his “waiting”?

 5. In Verse 7, the author shifts his address, and speaks directly to the people of God (“O Israel”). What occasions this shift? Why does he speak to the people now?

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Leaning Into the Lord's Peace - Henry Knapp

My neighbor, Jody, was GREAT! A year older than I, Jody’s ideas were always outrageous, his imagination vivid, his excitement contagious, and his energy limitless. Even his spooky, musty attic was the best place to hunker down for an evening and play. We envisioned all manner of make-believe situations in his attic—an attack by aliens, behind-the-lines in Nazi Germany, underwater exploration. Jody was always able to invent scenarios which would engage my young imagination.

I well remember one in particular—Cowboys and Indians. We were cut off from the rest of our group, stranded from any help, and pursued by vicious Indians looking to take our scalps! Panic and fear were the name of the game. And, amazingly, stuck in the hot, musty attic, I was completely taken in. I remember the fear, the dread of being caught and the efforts Jody and I went through to escape. Honestly, in my 7-year-old mind, I was truly terrified. Until, we safely arrived at the fort (the other end of the attic). There was safety! There was rest! There was my… fortress.

In our game the fortress was secure.  It was a place of salvation. Enemies could assail it, but nothing inside was in danger, as long as the fortress held. It is hard to express how absolutely safe and secure I felt inside the attic-fortress.

The image of God as a fortress is a popular one—both in the Scripture and in popular Christian thought. One of the church’s most famous hymns, written by the Reformer Martin Luther, is built entirely around this imagery: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God/A bulwark never failing/our Helper He amid the flood/of mortal ills prevailing.”

It is not surprising that the Psalmist drew on this image in describing His God. As in our time, the enemies of the Gospel are all around us—and deep within us! The evil which has set itself against the glory of our Lord is powerful, vicious and determined to destroy. To underestimate the danger is to surely fall into destruction. Yet, all is not lost. Though the Enemy be all around, though the brokenness of sin appears in every thought, word, and deed, yet the Christian dwells secure, for… Our God is a Fortress!

The metaphor of a fortress envisions the strength of high, thick walls; the permeance of security; the power radiating outward. Being “inside” the fort is life. Stable, indestructible, ever-present. These, and so much more, applies ultimately not to any building, not to any man-made structure, but only to the heart of our Lord.  It is there, in there, where we find peace, serenity and calm. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble…The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress!” (Psalm 46).

Join us this week as we experience the peace of our Fortress.

Read Psalm 46.

1. In Verse 1, what does “a very present help” mean? How might one experience this? What blessings does it convey?

 2. How does Verse 2 naturally follow from Verse 1? If Verse 1 is true, is there any other option than what occurs in Verse 2? Why/why not?

 3. How much trouble is pictured in Verses 2 and 3? Sure, God helps us, but what about the real, real tough stuff? How do Verses 2 & 3 address this?

 4. What are the blessings of being in the presence of God? A bunch of them are listed in Verses 4-9. What might all of these mean in everyday life? For instance, “a river whose streams make glad” would be what?

 5. Verse 10 is the conclusion of the psalm; it is the point where the Psalmist has been leading. The command, “be still,” means what in light of the rest of the psalm? Why is “be still” a great summary/conclusion of the psalm?


Monday, June 5, 2023

Why Do the Nations Rage? - Henry Knapp

I have confessed it before, and I’m sure I’ll state it again in the future—I’m not a “Psalms-guy.” Many people just love the Psalms; they appreciated the emotional framework of the Psalms, the poetry, the imagery and the personal voice of the author. Even without music, the Psalms move some people in dramatic and spiritual ways.

Not so for me. My appreciation of poetry never really evolved past “roses are red, violets are blue…” I have a good sense of metaphors and imagery, but it always appears lost to me in poetic form. I like hearing people’s testimonies, their personal interactions with my Lord, but set in the “wrong” format, I tend to get lost and miss the interpersonal dynamics of the author’s engagement with God.

When I first became a follower of Christ I was deeply immersed in Paul’s epistles. There’s where I found a home! Paul’s didactic style, his clear articulation of theological points, his direct and thorough description of the Christian life all appealed to me. I could follow that, enjoy it, and be drawn deeper in my relationship with Jesus. The more time I spent with Paul’s letters the less I spent with the Psalms.

Yet, the Psalms are God’s Word to us. The Psalms are the Bible’s praise and worship of the Lord. They are the experience and expression of deep passion and love. I know this to be true, and realize that, if I’m personally moved by the Psalms or not, they are given to me by my Savior, and I must embrace them. The Psalms are important, not because we like their poetry, or intimacy, or imagery, or emotion. The Psalms are important to us because God has given them to us. That is reason alone to study the Psalms.

Yet, even more, the Psalms speak God’s Word to us in different ways than do the Gospels or Paul’s letters. As humans we share many characteristics, none more so than our deep need of redemption. That message of redemption, the Good News, comes to us in various ways, intending to touch us on different levels, and we would be remiss to ignore any of them.

And so, this summer, we will be spending time in the Psalms. We have been studying the Gospel of Mark, and we will pick that up again in the new year. The idea is to work through Mark’s Gospel in the springs of 2023, 2024, and 2025. Taking a break from Mark this summer, our worship together will include looking each week at one of the Psalms. The personal “flavor” of these texts are intended to enhance our faith, enabling us to lean into God, His care and provision, in various ways. Therefore, the series will center on “Leaning into the Lord’s _____,” where each week the “blank” will be filled in with a different character, gift, or promise of God for His people.

This week, we are “Leaning into the Lord’s Way.” God has a plan for the world and for His Church, and that plan is well summarized in Psalms 1 and 2, our text for this week.

 Please read Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 as you prepare for worship this week.

 1. In Psalm 1, what are the steps a blessed man takes (and avoids)? What can you imagine are the practical consequences of these steps?

 2. In Psalm 1, what role in blessedness does God play? Where does God act on behalf of the blessed man?

 3. In Psalm 2, why does the author question the raging of the nations? What does it mean that the nations rage? Why DO the nations rage?

 4. What evidence can you find that the nations have set themselves against the Lord and His Anointed?

 5. How does God respond to the raging? Look through the end of the Psalm and note all the actions the Lord takes.


Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Bright Idea - Dan Bender

Everyone likes a hero, right?  Over the last decade and change, the biggest movies have been about superheroes. There have now been over 30 movies that are super high grossing regaling us with the tales of different characters with different powers. We know it’s not real but we connect with the characters. That is why we watch.

To say that they have captured our imagination and our ticket money is an understatement. We are wired it seems to be interested in something or someone bigger than ourselves. This is why it makes sense that we are taken the way we are.

This week we are going to take a look at a fairly peculiar bold move in the Bible. It’s certainly not what I would have expected to happen but it is something that we should not be surprised would have occurred. Not all superheroes wear capes. But, they do need armor and something to fight with. Something is the operative word. 

To get the fullest picture of the setting of this week's text you are going to have to do some light reading. So, here is how you can prepare and some of the questions that might help set the scene for you while you see what precedes our Scripture. 

Start by reading 1 Samuel 13:1-23

Part 1
1 Samuel 13:1-15

1. Even though it was Jonathan who attacked the outpost at Geba, why did Saul get the credit?
2. Why do you think that the Israelites were afraid?
3. What took Samuel so long to get there?
4. How many of the people were left by the end of Chapter 13?

Part 2
1 Samuel 13:16-23
1. What or who was seriously lacking in verse 19? 
2. What did Israel really have to work with as the battle approached? 
3. Where did the 4th detachment of the Israelites go?

Monday, May 15, 2023

"A Tie for Christmas" - Henry Knapp

I like making things easy for my kids. Things are tough in this world, and part of my job as a dad is to make things a bit easier. And, what is easier than… “a tie for Christmas!”

I wear a tie three or four days a week. I am reliably informed that this places me outside the mainstream of culture at this point; but, let’s face it, I pretty much live there.

I’m not sure why I wear a tie. By any real measure, a tie has little function. I have, in the past, used it in emergencies as a napkin, but I have since learned the errors of my way. Ties just… are. They hang there and don’t do anything. Someone, somewhere thought that they “dressed up” an outfit, but I’m not sure how. And, worse yet, historically they date back to the French (my English-snobbery is showing!). Why the tie? Who knows? It is (or, increasingly, was) just part of our culture.

A lot of our cultural practices, I am sure, have meaningful historical significance; but in the present, just seem to be there “just because.” This is, of course, not simply endemic of our culture—Every society has its cultural practices which perhaps do not make much sense even to those who practice it. In Mark 5:38, we have one such cultural tradition that, at least on the surface, seems a bit odd.

Jesus is coming to the synagogue ruler Jairus’ house because his daughter is very sick. You can imagine Jairus hustling Jesus along, not wanting anything to slow Him down. Unfortunately, before they arrive, news comes of the daughter’s death. And, as they approach the house, they hear weeping and wailing. What you would expect given her death, except… those weepers and wailers are not the family members, not friends. They are professional mourners—folks paid to grieve, and to do so freely and publically. The cultural tradition of the day insisted that, upon death, the family would hire a band of people who would mourn for them in the streets. Like a tie, you gotta say, “huh?”

It is these mourners who Jesus first interacts with in verse 39—“Why are you making a commotion and weeping?” Jesus seems to either be ignoring an important cultural tradition or He is ignorant of what has happened, that the girl has died. Or… Or, Jesus knows something that the professional mourners do not. Perhaps He knows something about death, that His understanding of dying, His awareness of true need is more, much more, than those who are “skilled” at mourning.

There are, undoubtedly, many odd aspects of our culture that, upon reflection, seem a bit off. One of the great dangers of our culture is that it can mask the truths of the Gospel. This has always been the case, and it will always be the case: Satan will use anything to distract us from the truth of Jesus Christ. But we have such a Savior who will not be distracted. He will push through our misconceptions and bring the light of the Gospel into our lives.

If you are wearing a tie this week or not, we welcome you to worship, to come to our Savior together! In preparation for worship this week, read Mark 5:21-43.

 1. What social rank would Jairus be in? Can you guess at reasons why he would be viewed on the higher ranks of society?

 2. In light of Jairus’ status, notice that he “fell at Jesus’ feet and implored Him earnestly” (verses 22-23). Why would Jairus react that way and what kind of impression would that have made on the crowd?

 3. How does Jairus express faith in this passage? List out the number of ways this happens. What are common, everyday examples of this kind of faith-in-action?

 4. Speculate on why Jesus left most of His disciples outside the house      (verse 37). Why allow Peter, James, and John to come in?

 5. What does Jesus do to raise the daughter from death? How does this hint at His salvation for us all?