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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

2019.06.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 6:1-7

Questions for Littles: In what year did Isaiah see this (Isaiah 6:1)? Whom did he see? Where? What filled the temple? Who stood above the throne (Isaiah 6:2)? How many wings did each have? What did each do with those wings? What did they cry to one another (Isaiah 6:3)? By what were the door posts shaken (Isaiah 6:4)? With what was the temple filled? What did Isaiah say about himself (Isaiah 6:5)? What were his lips like? What had his eyes done? What did one of the seraphim do in Isaiah 6:6? What did he have to use to take the coal from the altar? To what did he touch it (Isaiah 6:7)? What did he say had been done when the coal touched Isaiah’s lips? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, Confession of Sin, Song of Adoration, and Announcement of the Gospel came from Isaiah 6:1-7. This is a familiar passage about the great glory of God. Uzziah had been king for more than fifty years, but he was not the great king. The Lord is not only high, but higher than high: high and lifted up. So great is His glory, that the temple is not even standing-room-only. It is no-room-for-anyone-to-stand. You mayn’t step upon the King’s robe, and the train of His robe fills the temple!

The attendants of this King are “burning ones” (what “seraphim” literally means)—these are literally creatures of flame. Still, they are dwarfed and awed by the Holy-Holy-Holy One. They mayn’t stand, so they hover. They mayn’t look, so they cover their faces. Their feet are unworthy to be seen.

They cry to one another with such force that this heavenly temple of this glorious vision is shaken by their voices. This is no earthly shack, but still the praise of God makes it tremble as in an earthquake. Such is the crying out about the holiness of God that it causes a heaven-quake!!

It’s no wonder, then, that Isaiah was concerned about how he had used his lips up to this point. As he hears the flame creatures, he realizes the one great purpose for which lips exist, and he realizes further that his own use of his lips has fallen so far short of this purpose that his very existence is self-destructive. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God… but all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God… so, woe is me, for I am undone!”

It is a conclusion that we must all reach now, from God’s Word, by God’s Spirit, lest we arrive at the throne ourselves on that Great Day, and hear that judgment pronounced by Him who sits upon it! Of course, the glory of the holiness that is on display is matched by an equally glorious display of mercy. A hovering seraph, who has been waiting for the King to will him into motion, flies into action. He takes a coal so hot that a flame-being must use tongs to handle it, and touches it to Isaiah’s lips.

That might sound like a recipe for lip-annihilation, but that is not the result. Rather, it is lip-atonement. The reason is truly astonishing: He who sits upon the throne was the sacrifice upon whom the fire of the wrath of the altar of God had been spent.

There is a very important passage in John 12, where John 12:40 quotes Isaiah 6:10 of this chapter, and then says about Jesus in John 12:41, “These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” Who is the Him? Yahweh of hosts (Isaiah 6:3). Here’s yet another declaration by Scripture that Jesus is Jehovah, the Christ is Yahweh Himself!

And He is Yahweh upon whom was poured all of God’s hatred and holy wrath against sin, for everyone who believes in Him. Oh, dear reader, I certainly hope that is you. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and You shall be saved!
Have you believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ as the true and Living God who gave Himself for you? 
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH341 “Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed”

Monday, June 17, 2019

2019.06.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:4-9

Questions for Littles: What did Abram do at the beginning of Genesis 12:4? Why? Who went with him? How old was he? From where did he depart? Who and what else did Abram take (Genesis 12:5)? To where did they come? Through what land did Abram pass (Genesis 12:6)? To what place? As far as what object? Who were then in the land? Who appeared to Abram in Genesis 12:7? What did He say? How did Abram respond? To which mountain did he then move (Genesis 12:8)? What did he build there? What did he do with it? What was Abram doing in Genesis 12:9? In what direction?    
Joshua 24:2 tells us where Abraham came from, not only physically but spiritually. Before this chapter, he was serving other gods. So, what happens in Genesis 12:4-9 isn’t just good. It’s literally miraculous. Faith like this doesn’t come from the heart of a lost idolater. It takes divine power.

Of course, that’s another problem. Sinners don’t deserve for divine power to help them. Sinners deserve for divine power to destroy them.

But verses 4-9 tell us that Abram obeyed Yahweh’s words. That he was in Canaan but not of Canaan. That worship was suddenly his top priority.

That’s grace. A completely undeserved and impossible turnaround. Blessing for someone who deserves only curse. Spiritual life for someone who only has death from himself.

It was grace that produced obedience. As Genesis 12:5 implies, there would have been a lot of logistics involved in Abram’s move. But, the primary thing Genesis 12:4 tells us is that the move was “as Yahweh had spoken to him.” God grant us the grace to have our choices ruled instantly, completely by His Word.

It was grace that strengthened Abram to resist the pressure to be like the world around him. He even targets “the oak of the teacher” in Genesis 12:6. The Canaanites were then in the land, and at a place that would have been important to their religion, Abram sets up an altar and worships Yahweh. God grant us the grace to serve Him in exactly those parts of life where the world around us offends Him most.

It was grace that made worship Abram’s top priority. What did Abram do in Shechem? A lot of things, but the only one that Genesis 12:7 tells us about is that he worships in response to God’s promise of something impossible—that the seed of a man who has no seed will inherit the land. What did Abram do between Bethel and Ai? Obviously much more than just “pitch a tent,” but the only thing that Genesis 12:8 tells us is that he worships. The main thing in Abram’s life has become worship. God grant us the grace to make worshiping Him the main thing in our life, regardless of what all the other things are.
What are some changes that you would make if you decided to “tear off the bandaid” and obey God instantly on things that you’ve been sluggish or slow to do thus far? What would your day look like if worship was the highest priority? What would your week look like?
Suggested Songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion”

Saturday, June 15, 2019

2019.06.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:4-9

Questions for Littles: What did Abram do at the beginning of Genesis 12:4? Why? Who went with him? How old was he? From where did he depart? Who and what else did Abram take (Genesis 12:5)? To where did they come? Through what land did Abram pass (Genesis 12:6)? To what place? As far as what object? Who were then in the land? Who appeared to Abram in Genesis 12:7? What did He say? How did Abram respond? To which mountain did he then move (Genesis 12:8)? What did he build there? What did he do with it? What was Abram doing in Genesis 12:9? In what direction?
So often, when studying Scripture, there arises a “what” question with a “Who” answer. The Lord Himself is so often the power upon Whom something rests or the purpose for Whom something is done, or the actual pleasure in Whom we are to delight. And the Bible constantly reorients us toward Him.

Well, that’s exactly the word for us in Genesis 12:4-9. In the first three verses, Scripture reorients our focus, as we look for the serpent-crushing Seed, to center upon Abram and his family. Now, in these next six verses, following Abram reorients our attention unto the Lord with “where” questions that have “Whom” answers. We have known since Genesis 12:1 that the Lord Himself is the real answer to the question of where Abram is going—“the place that I will show you.” Now we find that the Lord Himself is the primary feature of every place that Abram goes.

Genesis 12:4 begins to highlight this by saying, “as Yahweh had spoken to him.” Genesis 12:5-6 are logistics that keep us moving: map history from Abram’s navigation software. But the distinguishing landmark by which we know that he arrives is “Then Yahweh appeared to Abram.” The Scripture tells us one thing about this appearance: that Yahweh promised the land to Abram.

In the ordinary course of the history, we would expect, “and there Abram pitched his tent.” But this is no ordinary man, and this is no ordinary history. Abram knew the reality that the Holy Spirit would later carry his descendant Moses to write in Psalm 90, “Yahweh, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” Instead of “there he pitched his tent, we have “there he built an altar to Yahweh, who had appeared to Him.”

To be sure, there is tent-pitching. Genesis 12:8 tells us that Abram moved to the mountain between Bethel and Ai and pitched his tent. But in the course of this account, verse 8 serves to show that wherever there is tent-pitching for Abram, there is also altar-building and Yahweh-worshiping. And not just personal worship. Look at all those people in Genesis 12:5. This is family worship! At this point in the history, one might even call it corporate worship.

There is a picture for us here in the story of our own lives. Tents are temporary, mobile structures. They go along with Abram. What he leaves behind as he “journeys” is a string of altars. Our dwelling is temporary (regardless of felt-permanence). The Lord’s worship is permanent (regardless of felt-brevity). It’s not just that our lives are all about Him. Rather, our lives are all about recognizing and responding to the reality that all of everything is always about Him! “Yahweh, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.”
What does the consistency of your personal/family worship say about how your life is oriented?
Suggested Songs: ARP90A “Lord, You Have Been” or TPH234 “The God of Abram Praise”

Friday, June 14, 2019

2019.06.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 13:31-35

Questions for Littles: What has Judas just done at the beginning of John 13:31? What does Jesus say is now happening to Him? What does He say is done unto God through Him? Since God is glorified in Christ, what will God do for Christ (John 13:32)? When? What does Jesus call them in John 13:33? What does He tell them will only be happening for a little while longer? What had Jesus told the Jews? To whom does He now say it? In John 13:34, what does His imminent departure become the occasion for commanding? What will people know when they see the apostles keeping this commandment (John 13:35)
It’s difficult to be left behind, even when you know that your dear one is only gone temporarily and only for a great reason. We’ve just celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Wives who waited for husbands to return longed to receive that embrace, to return that eagerly planted kiss. As they did so, everyone at the port would know that was her husband, and she is his wife.

There’s something similar going on here between Christ and His disciples. He’s about to leave for the best of reasons. The most God-glorifying event in history—redemption of sinners through the blood-atonement and wrath-enduring of Jesus—is about to take place. “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”

And then God is about to respond by seating a Man on the very throne of heaven. “If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.”

There will not be centuries and millennia of waiting before Jesus sits on the throne. There will, however, be millennia of waiting before the disciples can throw their arms around Him—before they can publicly and physically reciprocate His love. People won’t be able to observe them with (for instance) head placed upon His chest to say, “Aha! This one is His disciple!”

To be sure, there is a very close love between them. That’s what He means when He calls them “little children”—something that John later picks up in addressing those whom he pastors in his letters. But these dear ones won’t be able to be with Jesus to display their affection. “Where I am going, you cannot come.”

So Jesus gives them the New Commandment. The commandment that this particular apostle will later call “the new commandment that is not really new, but that we [the New Testament church] have had from the beginning [the night Jesus was betrayed!]” (cf. 1 John 2:1-11). “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Note the form of this “new” commandment is not so much in the form of the Ten Commandments as it is in the form of the two greatest commandments. Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love one another as I have loved you. In the context, we can see Whom it is that we are really loving when we do so. Christ Himself.

During the time of His absence, the Lord Jesus receives as personally done unto Him whatever is done to His church. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” (Acts 9:4, Acts 22:7). So, when we take an affectionate interest in one another, sacrificially serve one another, warmly greet one another, etc., we are making public displays of affection. For Christ. And all can see Whom it is that we love. Whom it is that we follow. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

More importantly to us, Christ knows it. Christ receives it personally. Whatever you do to the least of these His brethren (Matthew 25:40), He receives as done unto Him. One day, we will have glorified bodies in which to wait upon, serve, and dote upon our Redeemer. Until then, we may focus upon loving Him in our loving of one another.
What opportunities do you currently have in your own congregation to show love to Jesus?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Thursday, June 13, 2019

2019.06.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Questions for Littles: What does the apostle say is not profitable (2 Corinthians 12:1)? Whom does he say he knows (2 Corinthians 12:2)? To where was this man caught up? What is not even known about his trip (2 Corinthians 12:3)? What kind of place was it (2 Corinthians 12:4)? What kinds of things were said there? Of whom would the apostle boast (2 Corinthians 12:5)? Of whom would he not boast? What would the apostle be speaking if he did boast (2 Corinthians 12:6)? But why would the apostle still not boast? What was the thorn in the flesh to prevent from happening (2 Corinthians 12:7)? Whom do we discover, in verse 7, had been the one to whom was given the revelations from 2 Corinthians 12:2-4? Whose messenger was the thorn? What did it do to the apostle? What was the apostle’s response (2 Corinthians 12:8)? How many times? How did the Lord respond in 2 Corinthians 12:9? In what, then, did the apostle decide to boast? What, then, would rest upon him? What five things does he specifically name as giving him pleasure in 2 Corinthians 12:10? For Whose sake? When is the apostle strong?
It’s kind of a strange thing to place extra emphasis upon, by an unnecessary repetition: “whether in the body or out of the body I do not know.” The point seems to be that the apostle is so far from deserving credit for the revelation that he experienced that he does not even know in what manner he was there or received it. So, there is much praise due unto God and His amazing work, but none at all to the powerless man upon whom or through whom that work is done.

That’s a tough lesson to learn. Sometimes, we’re frustrated with ourselves that we might learn something reading the Bible, but discover that we haven’t really learned it, when the very thing that we had resolved against on our knees, comes right out of our hearts as soon as we stand up on our feet.

But our God is not surprised. Our Heavenly Father knows our weakness and gives us what we need to. Whether that painful, temporary discipline to produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness and requisite holiness (cf. Hebrews 12:3-11). Or that thorn in the flesh to keep even his apostle humble. If the one whose mind and pen the Holy Spirit used to write the Scripture needed suffering to train the character of his soul, why would we think that merely reading that Scripture would be enough for us?

The Lord knows the suffering that we need. We might hate it because it exposes our weakness, but isn’t that exactly the point, according to our Scripture today? One of the great reasons for our suffering is for us to be reminded of and feel our weakness. It is in our weakness that the Lord’s strength fulfills one of its great aims: to be displayed in us, because it is our only true source of true strength. God’s sufficient grace, after all, is not only blessing for those who deserve only curse, but also strength for those who have only weakness.

And what strength it is! Don’t we say, “how strong!” when we see someone who can take pleasure in infirmities? Pleasure in reproaches? Pleasure in needs? Pleasure in persecutions? Pleasure in distresses?

But that’s what we say in response to our own infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions, and distresses. They force us to look away from ourselves and to Christ instead. And, looking to Him, we say, “how strong!”
What opportunities (weakness) is your life currently presenting you to look to Christ and say, “how strong!” How will you be reminding yourself to take that opportunity?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH435 “Not What My Have Done”