On Elizabeth and Mary

 by Henry Knapp

Now, I’ve never been pregnant. I want to be real clear about that—never, ever have I been pregnant. Ok. Now that that’s out of the way…

In the Gospel of Luke, we are told of the wonderful meeting of Elizabeth, miraculously pregnant with the soon-to-be famous prophet John the Baptist, and Mary, the even more miraculously pregnant mother of Jesus. These miraculous mothers were related by blood, but more so, by their faith and faithfulness. It is amazing what God can do through one or two faith-filled women.

When the women met, Elizabeth was well along in her pregnancy. When she heard Mary’s greeting, Luke, the doctor-author, notes that “the baby leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41). Now, not ever having been pregnant, nor ever having been a doctor, I’m still pretty taken by these words. The baby “leaped”! (Like a frog? I wonder.) I realize that babies can move around in the womb; I remember when Kelly was pregnant and the kids were kicking her. But “leaped” means something more. “Leaped” is quite an activity for an unborn child.

Something above and beyond is happening here. Here we see, not just the high energy of a growing baby, but honor and praise and amazement in the work of the Lord.

Who is this One born to Mary? It is for Him that the trees will clap their hands, that the angels will sing in glorious praise, that the stones cry out, that the hosts of heaven bow down and worship. It is Him that even the unborn children acknowledge and honor.

If the trees, the stones, and the unborn praise God with such rapture and delight, why is it that we are so reserved in our honor? Elizabeth, having felt John’s joy in being in Mary’s presence, is filled with the Spirit, and exclaims “in a loud voice” her praise of her Lord. This expression of passion and joy is not simply emotionalism, it is not getting lost in our feelings. It is, by God’s grace, a passion for Jesus our Savior, in full recognition of His birth, life, and sacrifice, that brings forth the kind of response where even the child yet in the womb knows his Lord.

Worship is what we are made for; it is what we have been redeemed for. From birth. To death. And in everlasting life. We are made to worship our Lord fully and passionately. What’s stopping you? Are you drawing near and responding in praise to our Savior week after week?

If at no other time throughout the year we stand amazed at the salvation of our God, may it be now. And may we in faith respond to that salvation in “leaping joy”, worship, service, and devotion all through the coming year.

Merry Christmas!

Henry

Celebrating Advent Together


On the first Sunday of Advent, November 29, we will begin a special Advent sermon series - focusing on the Anticipation of Christ’s birth. Henry Knapp and Doug Rehberg will be basing each week’s message on a different candle in the Advent wreath: Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy - culminating with the lighting of the Christ candle on Christmas Eve. These messages are particularly poignant this year as we all need to remember to keep our eyes on our Savior, Jesus Christ, the most precious gift we will ever receive. 


 


To accompany our worship series, the Discipleship Team has assembled a Devotional for Advent, featuring 28 daily devotions based on those same candles in the Advent wreath. These heartfelt devotionals were written by various Hebron members and missionaries. Although we are not physically together, we have the opportunity to learn and grow together as we are reminded each day of all the Lord has done for us. These devotionals will be given out to those attending worship on the 29th with additional copies placed in the literature racks. It will also be posted online at
hebrononline.org/more/publications.



Our plan is to hold 4 on-site worship services on Christmas Eve this year. 

A 4:00 pm service will be held in the Barclay for families with young children . Glow sticks will be used for our own candle lighting service. 

Services will also be held at 7:00 and 9:00 pm - in the Sanctuary at 7:00 and 9:00 pm and in the Barclay at 7:00 pm. (A service will also be posted online.) The reason for the simultaneous services at 7:00 pm is the need to allow for social distancing. We feel this is the best option to allow for anyone who would like to attend the opportunity to do so. With that in mind, we are asking that you pre-register your intention to attend. You can do that online (the link will be provided via the e-newsletter and on our website) or by calling the church office. Tickets will not be required - this is only so we can plan. If you find out later that you can or can’t attend that is okay. Candle lighting will take place, but we will provide battery operated candles so you will not need to blow them out. We are asking that everyone remains masked throughout the service. 




Coming in 2021 

Doug and Henry will begin a new sermon series: 
Genesis: Looking Back to See Ahead

It's Not Just a Phase - He IS Our Eternal Hope

 by Jen Balkey


2020 has seemed like a cosmic joke to many. It is a year many are hoping is a phase that we will get through and not have to repeat again. We have become quick to blame hardships, setbacks, and/or disappointment on 2020. While we do this, we are quietly and sadly forgetting that God is always in control. He is completely sovereign over all that has happened, is happening, and will happen. If we choose to give the power of our world and lives to a year on the calendar, where does that leave God?

While this Thanksgiving will look very different from that which many of us hoped or desired, I pray that you are able to reflect and praise God in spite of all that 2020 has held. Besides, there is hardly any way that everything that has happened in 2020 has been bad… right? Are you seeing a silver lining anywhere yet? Whether in your own life or in someone else’s, have you been able to see God’s grace, mercy, and miracles? Many babies have been born or conceived, and many marriages have happened even if they had to look differently from what the bride and groom hoped. God’s creation and marital vows are two beautiful ways to see God working. Even so, I do not want us to minimize the pain, sickness, and death that has occurred as well. We must wrestle with these two extremes and come to experience God’s provision, power, and presence in all of it.

As we move into the Advent season and look forward to celebrating Christmas, inevitably there will again be setbacks that we can choose to focus on. But we will once again have the choice to orient our gaze toward Him. What will you choose? The end of 2020 brings with it the celebration once again of the birth of Christ!

This year, that celebration will undoubtedly be different… but you can choose what you are focusing on. Our focus will frame the experience. Think for a moment of a beautiful photograph. I’m thinking of one with some of those fancy photography features where the subject is focused and the background is blurry. Christ is highlighted - completely in focus. All of the Christmas d├ęcor is there too, but in the background. Beautiful for what it is, but in its rightful place - the background.

2020 is not over yet. (No sighs or eye rolls.) It’s not too late to reframe your picture of 2020. This has not just been months upon months of some joke being played on us. Give God the glory due Him. You don’t have to try and delete the background of all that has happened in 2020, and pretend to see only Jesus and none of the difficulties. Rather, let the hardships and interruptions fade into the background, knowing each day of this odd year was still a part of God’s plan. See the beauty of the Christmas season with the twinkling lights, adorned trees, and boxes with their perfect (or imperfect) wrappings as reminders of Who and what we are celebrating.

How will you aim your camera? What mental picture is going to be displayed in the scrapbook of your mind as we end this 2020 calendar year? Can you and will you choose Him? Christ - our Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Light of the World, Emmanuel - God with us!! Joy and Peace to you and yours!

Love, Jen

 


'Tis The Season for Our All Church Gather

 


For the past few years Hebron’s Mobilization Team has selected one of the missions we support to be the target of an end-of-year All Church Gather. This year the mission spotlighted is The Blessing Board, a non-profit organization that provides furniture and household goods to those who need them at no cost to them. Everyone who has an appointment at The Blessing Board hears the good news of the Gospel and receives a New Testament. 

Like many non-profits, this year has provided a variety of challenges for The Blessing Board, causing them to shut their doors for a period of time and furlough most paid staff. When they were able to reopen, they did so with new procedures and safety protocols in place. In spite of the cancellation of major fundraising events, the faithful giving of churches like Hebron, as well as businesses and individuals, has enabled them to continue to serve those in need in our community. Nearly 1000 families will have been served by year’s end.

This is the season for giving. With this All Church Gather, we have a wonderful opportunity to give a tangible gift to someone who is struggling.

Your gift of new or gently used silverware, pots and pans, towels and washcloths will be collected on December 6, 13, and 20. Bring them to the boxes provided at the church entrances. Join with children’s ministry to flood The Blessing Board with these sorely needed items.

Visit www.TheBlessingBoard.org to learn more about The Blessing Board and how you can join with many others at Hebron to volunteer at this wonderful Christ-centered ministry that is doing great things in our community.

 

Children's Ministry

 by Ellen Dillard



 









 


Confirmation

by Derick Kelly

It has been some time since I, myself, went through the process of confirmation. I have done it both as a student and as an adult helping students. Each time I was struck with the power of the long-held tradition. It was something very unique to sit around a table and learn about God and faith with so many other adults who had taken an interest in our group. There in that group was the first time that I had ever spent time with nearly any of the adults that had volunteered to help. Not only were they there to help, but they also took me and my other friends seriously. They treated our young, budding faith as if it were real and important. I think this space would be the first time I had ever felt that an adult deeply cared for the musings of my faith or the longings I had for God (outside of my own family).

With all of this in mind, I know that recently the confirmation process at Hebron has changed. This year, starting on January 3rd we will begin our confirmation class here at Hebron. Confirmation will be open to any student in 9th to 12th grade. It will be held on Sundays at 11:00 o’clock. During this time, we will explore some of the workings and history of our church, as well as the basics of our faith. It will also be an opportunity for our young people to learn more about all of these things from other adults in our congregation.

For anyone wondering about what we will be talking about, the easiest way to describe our confirmation is in two parts. First, we will spend six weeks talking mostly about the history of the church as well as particulars of the Presbyterian church. The second half will be about some essentials of the faith including things like, who is God, what is the Bible’s story, why should we go to church, among other things of that nature. The last thing we will do together is help the students who have come through the class write their own statement of faith. In this process students will be encouraged to reflect on what they are committing to and who they believe God to be.

I am personally very excited to teach and participate in this class. If you have any questions or would like your student or a student you know to join, feel free to contact me at my email: derickk@hebrononline.org or my phone: 814-661-5149.

 


Ken Wagoner - China Outreach Ministries

by John Sciullo


While we continue to adjust to the challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is encouraging to know that we serve a mighty God. The China Outreach Ministries, an organization serving the spiritual needs of Asian students, continues to impact students by exposing them to the Good News of the Gospel. While health concerns continue, along with travel restrictions and political tension, C.O.M.’s geographical footprint has spread 500 miles westward towards the University of Illinois. A husband/wife couple from the local ministry have enrolled for online courses at the University. This allows them to complete their degrees and live together while continuing with the small group environment in Pittsburgh led by Ken Wagoner. A small group of new students has also joined despite previously mentioned travel restrictions. They are transfers to the Pittsburgh area from within the United States border.

As the pandemic continues, there are changes in the tools that are being used, but perhaps the biggest change for Ken and his family is the adjustment necessary to address his wife’s declining health from MS. Eleven months ago, the year began with Rosie in the hospital. Since that time she has not returned to the level of health she had prior to hospitalization. There is little that Rosie can do without assistance and Ken is the primary source of that assistance. Consequently, Ken has reduced his workload to part-time and retired from the United Methodist Church on October 1, 2020.

The Mobilization Team asks that you keep Ken and Rosie in your prayers, as well as our Asian guests who seek to better know the Lord.

 


Dan Schmidt Family - Our Missionaries to Kenya

 by Henry Knapp

As he goes through a personal crisis, our missionary Dan Schmidt keeps his eyes on Jesus and sees the ways God would use him. He recently related this story:

I have yet to cross paths with another cancer patient more than once over the course of three weeks at the cancer center. Aside from the nursing staff, every person I’ve interacted with has been new to me each day. Cancer regimens vary widely, and enough people come and go at different times of the day, that the likelihood of seeing the same individuals is small. At least that has been my experience.

With one exception. That exception’s name is Glen. And this is how God works:

Glen and I were placed in adjacent chairs 6 out of 7 days. In statistics, when a scenario occurs that is extremely unlikely to happen due to chance, we refer to it as a statistically significant event. In the body of Christ, we call it an act of God.

Glen lived 70+ years without knowing Christ. Glen came to faith in Christ [as we sat together receiving chemotherapy].  If the only reason God allowed cancer into my life was to meet Glen, it will all be worth it – I mean that. God is so good. What a privilege it has been to share, to pray with, and to walk beside Glen as he joined our Forever Family in Christ. Thanks be to God and to Him be the glory! Please keep him in your prayers as he begins this journey in newness of life!

Likewise, please keep Dan and his family in your prayers as they walk through the journey of his therapy and rehabilitation. For more about the Schmidt’s go to www.schmidtsinkenya.com.

 


On Praise and Giving Thanks

by Henry Knapp

November is normally a good time to think of giving thanks—the predominance of Thanksgiving at the end of the month tends to shape things in a thankful way. Normally, that is. Of course, we are not in normal circumstances. In the midst of a pandemic, during troubled social times, amid a contentious political season, while we are separated from one another, and even our worship looks different, it is not normal, and our usual response of thanksgiving may not come so easily.

A challenge in discipleship is helping people to distinguish between praise and thanksgiving. Both are proper and necessary for the Christian—we are to praise our Lord and give Him thanks. Many believers, both young and old, struggle with doing both, not because they don’t believe that God deserves both, but because they can’t always distinguish between them. What, after all, is the difference between praising God and thanking Him?

Praise is the exclamation of honor and joy over the qualities of God. They focus on what and who God is. We praise God when we recount all that He is—His goodness, mercy, justice, holiness, love. Because God is so deserving, because God is rightly honored when we adore Him, because praise speaks truth about our Lord to the world, it is and should be a constant characteristic of Christian worship.

Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is situationally based. It is the right response of the Christian as we reflect on what our Savior has done for us. Thanksgiving comes when God acts on our behalf; we receive from His hand, and then return thanks to Him for His actions. Whereas praise speaks of who God is, thanksgiving responds to what He has done.

Usually, it is more difficult to teach people to praise than to give thanks. Because thanksgiving arises in response to what God has done for us, it is simply easier. In normal times, we can quickly list out the many good things we have received from our Lord and begin to express our appreciation to Him for those. Once you start thinking about it, “counting your blessings” easily turns to thanksgiving to God. Praise, on the other hand, forces us to think of God simply for who He is, to talk about Him without regard to what He has done. To praise God we have to discount ourselves, we have to think solely of Him and not of what He has done for us in this world. Praise thinks of God alone, and that’s not easy.

In recent times, all this is a bit different. Suddenly, for many, the thanksgiving does not come so easily. In our COVID-dominated world, it is more difficult to understand God’s providence or to see His blessings without being overwhelmed by frustrations. It is not that we are ignorant of the good things God does each and every day, it is just that there are so many other difficulties that push those blessings from our minds.

So, it comes as good news to read Psalm 136. The psalm is one big list of thanksgivings. It also is a tour of Israel’s history. As the psalm progresses from one historical event to the next, we are told to offer thanks to God “for his steadfast love endures forever”. For every step along the way, give thanks! Why? Because of God’s steadfast love for His people. But, if you know of the early stages of Israel’s history, you know that it was not always (or even often) smooth sailing. All too often, the Israelites ran into trouble. The psalmist’s response? “Give thanks!”

Now is a perfect time to practice praising God—think of all that He is and tell Him about it!

Now is also a perfect time to practice thanking God—in good times and hard, our Lord is at work doing wondrous things, and so Paul’s admonition rings true:

“Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

 To the praise of His Glory! Henry

 


Masking Now Required During the Worship Service

 


At the October Session Meeting the Session approved instituting a full masking protocol for all on-site worship services beginning November 1. (Masking will not be required for worship leaders while they are up front.)

The reasons behind this decision are many. They include:

· COVID cases are on the rise and are projected to continue to rise as a second wave occurs during the winter months and flu season.

· Clearly the virus is not going away, and experts are now saying that masking helps protect others as well as the wearer.

· As more people attend worship, assuring 6-ft. social distancing becomes more challenging.

· With the colder temperatures people are remaining inside the building longer.

· Many of you have been wearing your masks throughout the service and have shown that faithful worship can happen while masked.

Although there are many differing opinions on whether or not masking is helpful or necessary, the Session and staff are acting to  provide a safe worship experience for all of you and afford every opportunity to worship the amazing God we serve.

Circumstances change, however, so Session will keep revisiting this decision and others periodically as we remain in this challenging time.

 

Election of Church Officers

The Nominating Committee has concluded its work and has assembled an excellent slate of officers who are ready and willing to begin their terms in 2021. The slate is as follows:

Elder: Bill Kear, Tom Kellner, Margie Krogh, Mark Webb, Lynn Zimmer

Deacon: Nicci Ambroziak, Sandy Chastek, Heather Gaunt, Mike Ramsay, Dave Rosburg, Deb Schirm, Lona Wilson

Trustee: Ben Hershman, Bob Morrow, Dan McCune, Dave Tedrick

Nominating Committee: Mike Tomashewski, Janie Mason, Marty Sidlo (Alternate)

Henry has consulted with Presbytery and has been told that, due to the pandemic, the election of officers this year can take place in unique ways.

After considering the options, Session has determined that it is prudent to cancel the 2020 Congregational Meeting.  The sole purpose of this meeting is to approve the slate of officers prepared by the Nominating Committee and endorsed by Session. We will assume the positive election of the slate as presented unless significant objections are raised by the congregation.

Should you have any questions or concerns regarding any of the nominees, please notify Henry Knapp.

 

Thankful Amidst a Pandemic

 by Jen Balkey

There is a myriad of thoughts that likely cross your mind as we enter into the Thanksgiving season. How can I be thankful at a time when everything is upside down? Of course I have many things to be thankful for! Are you kidding me, another holiday affected by this virus - when will it ever end?

This year has been full of many challenges and disappointments for sure. But, I HOPE you have seen God show up and your relationship with Him has gotten stronger! This past month in Women’s Ministry we hosted a 2-day Fall Gathering. The focus was to look at the situations and circumstances in our lives and see how these can be seen as a setup from God to meet us… not seen as a setback. Our speaker, Kendra Pope, used God’s Word to show how – Righteous Rejoicing Results in HOPE. Our lives - in Christ - are full of HOPE.

Kendra Pope
Kendra utilized a multitude of scriptures to drive her point home. We were reminded in Romans 5:1-5 how we have been “made righteous” by our faith in Christ. And that, from Romans 4:23-25, any good that comes from us - is actually from Him! If we desire to do anything good - we must surrender ourselves and our will to Him. Furthermore, we see that our ability to rejoice in sufferings is made possible by our surrender to God. It is absolutely not natural or concurrent with our culture to rejoice when things are hard, out of control, and contrary to what we think we want or need. It is God who allows us to see these hard times as an opportunity to rejoice. Our character (righteous) and response (rejoicing) can be used to share the Gospel. In times of trial our faith is our most valuable asset!

The ONLY way we can get through hard times in a healthy way is to depend on Christ! There is what we see & there is what God is doing. It can be easy to get too wrapped up in this life that we lose sight of God’s promise for eternity. Hardship and heartache move us closer to Christ - if we turn to Him for His comfort and rely on His promises. Instead of seeing things with our human eyes as setbacks, look to Him and see what He is doing, and see how you can use these “setups” to draw close to God and share the gospel with the world.

Are we willing to live in God’s Kingdom agenda? Trusting Him? Recalling regularly that this life is NOT all there is? The more we know of God, the bigger He seems to us. Jesus is our eternal confident expectation. Our hope.

As you lament the differences the coming season may hold, I (Jen Balkey) pray that you can recall His promises and look for the “setup” that God is working for your good. Are you, or might you, grow through upcoming challenges as you look to Him? Praise Him? Share the hope you have with someone who may need it? Might you have righteous rejoicing that results in HOPE?!?!

Grace & Peace & HOPE to you while we endure together. Thankful to Him for Kendra and her faithful service in sharing His truth with us! And many more thanks for the testimonies that were shared during our time together which is evidence of all that God is doing in the lives of women we know!