Tuesday, September 18, 2018

2018.09.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 4:1-20

Questions for Littles: What was Jesus doing by the sea? Why did he have to get into the boat? How did He teach them (v2)? What is the seed (v14)? Where did the first group of seed fall in v4? What happened to it? What does v15 say happens to the word in their heart immediately after they hear it? Where did the second group of seed fall in v5? What happened at first? But then what happened to it in v6? How do the stony ground people receive the Word (v16)? But what happens when trouble or persecution comes (v17)? Where did the third group of seed fall in v7? What happened to it? What does v19 say that the cares and pleasures of the world do to the Word? Where did the fourth seed fall in v8? What did it produce? What does Jesus say is required for hearing in v9? Who apparently needed to hear, since they need to ask in v10? What does Jesus say He is giving them in v11? What do the parables show that hearers cannot do on their own in v12? What three things does this group do with the Word in v20?
This week’s Invocation and Confession of sin came from Mark 4:3-20. Here, Jesus teaches us some things that surprise us at first, until we admit to ourselves the truth about our spiritual condition.

The point about parables in general is actually the same as the point of the parable of the soils: left to themselves, our hearts are not good soil!

To a believer, parables often seem so obvious! But that’s just the point, according to Jesus in v12. The simplicity of using basic, earthly illustrations for spiritual truth is to show just how hard our hearts are that we can see and hear, but not perceive or understand!

There aren’t any exceptions to this. Even the disciples didn’t understand the parable at first (v10), and Jesus implies in v13 that this is the easiest of parables. The key is in one glorious word in v11: “given.”

The disciples didn’t have it in themselves to know the mystery of the kingdom of God. It had to be given to them. For any of us to see and perceive, it has to be given to us. For any of us to hear and understand, it has to be given to us. For any of us to turn and be forgiven, it has to be given to us.

Look at all of the dangers to our hearts! Sometimes our heart is like no soil at all. The Word goes in one ear and out the other. Any distraction can make us forget immediately what we had read in devotions or heard in the sermon.

At other times, our hearts are mostly stone with some soil. We love to hear the sermon or read the Scripture devotionally, and we may even think about it a bit—but it’s never really the controlling factor of our hearts or minds, and the smallest bit of trouble makes us decide to abandon biblical thinking or living.

Then there are the times when we hear the sermon, or study the Scripture, and we agree with it and go along with it for a while. But there are other things that are just as important to us too, and eventually something comes along to turn us away. Either a care of the world comes along, and worry makes us “wiser than God”—we go in for what we think will work instead of what God says to do. Or perhaps a pleasure of the world presents itself—or was already there—and in the end, we just can’t give it up to love and serve and obey Jesus with our whole life.

What’s the solution? Just give God your whole heart! Well, it may be that simple, but that’s very different from being easy. In fact, it’s impossible. It has to be given to us. Let us watch against all those weaknesses and defects of heart, but at the end of the day we must ask God to give us good ones!
Take time right now to confess the weakness of your heart, and asking the Holy Spirit to soften it
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH173 “Almighty God, Your Word Is Cast”

Monday, September 17, 2018

2018.09.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:1

Questions for Littles: When does this verse start? Who is already there? What did He create? From what did He create them? 
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learn the terms upon which we may study and think about the origins of all things.

First, it is impossible for us to reason from the evidence of what we see in the creation backward to the process by which it was created. The word for create, here is בָּרָ֣א (bara). There are many words in Hebrew for “create”—words meaning to form, cut, build, arrange, and make from other things. But this particular “creation” word is only ever used of God. It means to create from nothing.

We are very creative, but we must use materials that exist already, and even the ideas in our minds are built upon things that we have already experienced. We just don’t have a point of reference for what it means to create from nothing. We must also remember that the creation itself was cursed for man’s sake in the Fall (Gen 3:17), and that in Genesis 8:22 God restored to the created order a continuity that had been disrupted in the flood.

We simply do not have access to either the process by which “bara” happened or the way creation was before Genesis 8:22.

Second, without any valid basis in the created things for drawing conclusions about the creation process, we are left only with eyewitness accounts. And there is only one Eyewitness, and the account that He has given us is the Scripture.

“In the beginning, God.” Full stop. He is the only One there. In fact, He does not create man until day six. Therefore, we are entirely dependent upon Him to tell us what happened.

Reading the Bible, like other acts of worship, is practice at not being God. Are we willing to submit? Are we willing to acknowledge that God alone can tell us about how creation happened? Will we be thankful that He has told us about it? Or will we, without valid reason, decide to formulate our own theories?
How would you respond to a sincere believer who tries to convince you of theistic evolution?
Suggested Songs: ARP19A “The Skies Above Declare” or TPH250 “I Sing the Almighty Power of God”