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?