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?

Monday, May 8, 2023

Biblical Panini - Henry Knapp

 I’ve come late to the table when it comes to the panini. I’m not sure exactly when I discovered these marvels, but I know that others have been singing their praises long before I got on the bandwagon. Well, strike up the band, cause I’m on board now!

 What’s not to love? Bread, glorious bread! And inside, warm, toasted meats with cheese oozing. Goodness! I’m making myself hungry.

 One odd note I have noticed about the panini… I’m not sure if it is the bread or the insides that I like more. Sometimes it’s a no-brainer: the bread! But, often I find myself drooling over the goodness inside. Maybe that’s just the glory of a Panini—the best part is when it comes together as one.

 In the past weeks, we have noted the Gospel writer, Mark’s, use of a literary tool, “the sandwich.” In “the sandwich,” an author begins one story (the top slice of bread), shifts to a totally different story (the meat/cheese), before returning to his original story (bottom bread). The idea is that the two stories interact or interpret one another, so that by consuming the whole, you are getting something more meaningful than just one or the other. The whole sandwich is better taken together than the parts.

 Over the next two weeks, we will be looking at my favorite Markian sandwich—the intertwined stories of Jairus’ daughter and the bleeding woman (Mark 5:21-43). And, I find myself with a familiar conundrum: Which story do I like better? Jesus raising Jarius’ young daughter from the dead or his healing of the woman? Like consuming a panini, I go back and forth—sometimes the bread, sometimes the insides.

 But, of course, the glory of a panini is in taking it as a whole; and we will experience this excitement as we look at Mark’s sandwich. Jesus’ interaction with the bleeding woman, interfering as it does with the drama of Jairus’ daughter growing sicker every minute.  His taking the time to engage with the woman is a vivid moment, especially as we then hear of the daughter’s death. Jesus has come to save; and the scope, breath, and depth of that salvation is brilliantly displayed in the interweaving of these two events.

 Could Mark have recorded these two miracles as separate stories? Of course. The marvels of Jesus’ healing of the woman and raising the daughter are amazing in any way you take them. Then why did Mark chose to wrap them together? Here is truly an instance of when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The Gospel message, the redemption, the cost, the love, all come to us so much more powerfully when we see these two expressions of Jesus’ salvation together.

 Come, let us consume this sandwich together and praise the Lord of salvation we find there!

 1. What social rank would the bleeding woman be in? Can you guess at reasons why she would be viewed on the lower ranks of society?

 2. Why would she think that just touching Jesus’ cloak would bring her healing? Sometimes we slip into such thinking… can you give an example?

 3. Now, she was healed, but not by Jesus’ cloak! What does Jesus do/say that clarifies that?

 4. By forcing the woman to reveal herself, Jesus seems to be embarrassing her. Assuming that is not His motive, why did He publically “call her out”? Note: Notice the “publically” part.

 5. If it was not (just) from embarrassment, why did the woman come to Jesus “in fear and trembling and fell down before Him”? (Verse 33)? Have you had such an experience?

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Reacting Rightly - Henry Knapp

I get the giggles. Not often, but sometimes I do get the giggles. Not, mind you, a full-blown laugh; I get those as well, but there’s usually an understandable reason for my laughter. But, rarely, I have been known simply to giggle, a small fit of chuckles that rarely mean anything. And, unfortunately, it has been known to happen at the exact, wrong time.

When Kelly and I are discussing something significant, our tone undoubtedly matches that—my guess is that anyone listening in would know when Kel and I are in a serious conversation. But, I can remember at least twice, when, in the middle of a very serious conversation, suddenly… the giggles hit! Out of nowhere, and totally inappropriately, I’m having a very hard time suppressing a meaningless smile and little snorts of laughter. When that has happened, as you can imagine, I do everything I can to contain my reaction, to hide what is happening, since I well know that it doesn’t match what is expected.

It makes sense to expect certain responses to certain events.  If you are at a tear-jerking movie, some sadness is expected; if you are at a party, it is right to be joyful. When the expected response is missing, something is wrong, and we all know it.

What we don’t all know, however, is what the right response is to God’s work in our lives. Or, rather, I should say, we might know the right response, but we’ve become dull to it, so much so that we don’t look for it anymore. Redemption is a big deal. God’s work of salvation in our lives is an immense event. And, a certain response to God’s redemptive work is naturally expected. But, what response should we be looking for?

 A very dramatic story of redemption is recounted for us in Mark 5. Jesus encounters a man who is possessed by demons (a legion of them!), tormented and tortured, he is an outcast in society. While we don’t know specifics, it is easy to imagine the terror this individual evoked in others and which he himself experienced. But, when touched by the ministry, the salvation of Jesus, all things changed. Made new by the Lord, freed from demonic possession, comforted in pain, saved in all possible imaginable ways. An amazing story!

A story which extends beyond the salvation given by Jesus, and includes the response, the appropriate response, of the freed man. In Mark 5, notice the way the man responds to his freedom:

·         In his right mind (“clothed” reflecting that “rightness”) (verse 15)

·         Sitting at Jesus’ feet (verse 15)

·         Begging to be with Jesus always (verse 18)

·         Going forth with the Gospel to others (verse 20)

·         Proclaiming what Jesus has done (verse 20)

All this is in reaction to the salvation he received from Jesus.

 What is the appropriate response? Most of us know when giggling is inappropriate, but do we know how to respond to Jesus? Do we act on that knowledge?

One way—a key way to respond to salvation—is to worship. I invite you again to worship with us this Sunday as we study Mark 5:1-20 together.

1. The action takes place in “the country of the Gerasenes,” which is on the other side of the Sea of Galilee and is Gentile country. What impact might that have on what takes place here?

 2. In what ways does the author describe the demonic possession of the man? How do these indicate the presence of an unclean spirit? What would such look like today?

 3. Why would Jesus ask the spirit’s name (verse 9)? What does this say about Jesus?

 4. The many spirits (Legion) asked to be sent into the pigs (verse 12). Knowing the Jewish relationship with pigs, why might Legion have asked for that? Why would Jesus have granted it? And, then why did Legion run the pigs into the sea to drown (verse 13)?

 5. In verses 14-20, the healed man’s reactions have been noted above. But what about Jesus’ actions? Why does Jesus do what He does, including not allowing the man to come with Him?