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?