Thursday, January 17, 2019

2019.01.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 1:1-7

Questions for Littles: Whose apostle was Paul (v1)? By whose will was Paul an apostle? Who else wrote this letter with him? To whose church did he write it? Where was this church? To which other people in Achaia was it written? How many of them? What two things does the apostle pronounce upon them (v2)? From what two persons? Whom does the apostle bless in prayer in v3? What three things does he call God? What does God do for us (v4a)? In how much of our troubles does God bless us? What does v4 give as one reason for which God comforts us? In what troubles will we be able to comfort others? With what comfort will we be able to comfort them? By whom will we and they have been comforted? What abounds in us, according to v5a? So also what of ours abounds (v5b)? Through whom? For why/whom were Paul and Timothy afflicted (v6)? What was steadfast (v7)? What did they know?
In this week’s Epistle reading, the passage is full of the sovereignty of God, in places and ways that we might find surprising.

First, there is God’s sovereignty in ministry. It is by God’s will that Paul was an apostle of Jesus.

Then, there is God’s sovereignty in the lives of all the saints.  Grace can only be grace if it is sovereign. Anything other way, and grace would be more like rewarding or coaching. And true peace can come from God only if He is able to give us every kind of peace. An incomplete peace is, by definition, not peaceful! But grace and peace both come from God and from Christ. Jesus, of course, is Himself the sovereign God. There is no one else from whom grace and peace can come.

Then, there is God’s sovereignty in comfort. He is the God of all comfort. There is no comfort that He cannot give. He comforts us in all tribulation. There is no trouble in which we does not comfort us. His can help others in any trouble. There is no trouble that our friend may be in, in which this comfort cannot console them.

Finally, there is God’s sovereignty in suffering. Yes, He is able to comfort us once we are in the suffering, but He also sovereignly rules over our coming into that suffering. Verse 5 says very specifically that  it was the sufferings of Christ that abounded in Paul and Timothy. And there is no greater example of God’s sovereignty in suffering than the suffering of Christ (cf. Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23, 3:18, 4:28).

It is no wonder, then, that the apostle concludes that the results of the suffering were planned all along. “If we are afflicted, it is for your consolation…” One thing that can be a most difficult part of suffering is when it seems to have no purpose. But Paul knows the purpose of his own suffering (to be able to console others), and theirs (in order to partake of the consolation).

This is one of the sweetest of God’s purposes for our suffering. Yes, we suffer in order to glorify Him. Yes, we suffer in order to serve others. But we also suffer in order that we might be consoled. God loves to console His people, and to make that consolation abound through Christ!
When have you suffered the most? How has Christ been your consolation? Whom else have you had an opportunity to comfort? How do you prioritize being a comfort to others?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

190116FW Josh 13:1-6 - Our Fleeting Labor Established and Employed by Our Faithful Lord

An imperfect, but hopefully helpful, sample of a family worship lesson in Joshua 13:1-6.

2019.01.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 13:1-6

Questions for Littles: What was Joshua’s condition in v1? What does the Lord tell him about himself? What does the Lord tell him about the land? What two people’s land still needed to be conquered (v2)? Where was the Geshurite land (3a)? To whom did the five regions/cities in 3b belong? What other lands needed finished clearing (v4-6a)? According to God, who would drive them (out)? What part does He assign to Joshua? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we’re coming to a transition point already. Basically, the conquest is over except for the paperwork and the closing remarks. And we’re halfway through the book.

That’s because Joshua isn’t really a book about military battles won.

It’s a book about power displayed. It began with “Moses, My servant, is dead.” It has proceeded to “You are old, advanced in years.” But at the beginning, it was still, “I will be with you.” And even here, it is still, “I will drive them out from before the children of Israel.” Seasons of church history, along with entire lives of believers, come and go. God’s power is forever.

It’s a book about promises kept. It began with a promise to Joshua that the Lord would be with him. Fast forward to a conquered and almost-completely possessed land, and now Joshua is old, advanced in years. And the Lord has been with him. The. Whole. Time. Not only that, but this land is an inheritance. 2.5 tribes got theirs on the other side of the Jordan. 9.5 remain on this side.

And certainly not because of any faithfulness on their part. Since Leah and Rachel got into their little maidservant-assisted arms race, the story of these 12 has pretty much been, “Really Lord? These are the fathers of the church? These are 12 of the 24 pillars of the congregation in glory?” It’s all grace. God’s gracious keeping of God’s gracious promises, because God is faithful. The entire theme of the book is found in 21:45 and again in 23:14—“Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.”

And it’s a book about progress in redemption. Here are the people from whom Christ would come. His father David would eventually subdue the Philistines in a way that none of the judges ever could. Here is the land where Christ would live and die and rise again for us. And the land from which the good news of Christ crucified and risen would go out into all the world.

That’s ultimately what every book in the Bible is about: the praise of God’s glorious grace to sinners, in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. And whether this is the day that you come to believe in Christ, or just one of many days in which you live and love and serve obediently through faith in Him, that’s what this day of your life is about too. The praise of God’s glorious grace to sinners, in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Be faithful. Be obedient. But remember that it’s not by your faithfulness, but by the power and promises of God!
In what circumstances of your life right now (hint: just name whatever your circumstances are!) is God demonstrating His power and His faithfulness to His promises? 
Suggested songs: ARP90B “Teach Us to Count Our Days” or TPH90A “Lord, You Have Been Our Dwelling Place”

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

2019.01.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 32

Read Psalm 32
Questions for Littles: What does v1 say about the man whose transgression is forgiven and whose sin is covered? What does v2 say about the man against whom the Lord doesn’t count the guiltiness of sin? In v3, what made it feel like his bones were rotting so that he groaned all day? Whose hand (v4) was making him feel like that? To whom did the sinner acknowledged his sin, stop hiding his guilt, and confess his transgressions (v5)? How did the LORD respond? What do the godly do, in a time when the Lord may be found (v6)? What else does the Lord do for those who seek His forgiveness or pray to Him (v7)? What does the Lord do for believers in v8? What surrounds the person who trusts in the LORD (v10)? How should the righteous respond to Him (v11)? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin all came from Psalm 32. This wonderful Psalm is quoted by Paul to prove that we are made right with God only through faith in Romans 4. Notice what the man contributes to his being blessed in vv1-2: transgression, sin, and iniquity. By the sacrifice of Christ, God doesn’t justify the godly; He very specifically justifies the ungodly (cf. Rom 4:5).

Of course, sinning by itself doesn’t cause forgiveness. There are many who sin and are not bothered by it. There are others who sin, and think that they can do something themselves to make up for it.

What is it that leads to the forgiveness in Psalm 32? It’s the acknowledging of our sin and confessing of our transgression to the Lord. Just as the Lord saved from the flood (v6), so also He saves from sin (v5). The missing piece, of course, is Christ Himself, with His death and resurrection. He is our “ark”—the One in whom alone we can be saved, the One in whom alone “the flood of great waters” will not come near us. Confessing our sin to Him (v5) must always be joined by praying to Him (v6), hiding in Him (v7), and listening to Him (v8-9).

All of these things, taken together, are summarized in v10 as “trust in the Lord.” And what is the result? He makes us righteous; He makes us to rejoice! Behold how salvation is completely a gift! And behold how complete a gift it is: forgiveness, safety, peace, guidance, mercy, and joy.

Perhaps the best part of this gift is found in the second line of v10: he who trusts in Yahweh, steadfast love shall surround him. Like an army that allows no escape, so the covenanted love of God in Christ Jesus will allow us no escape. When we trust in Him, our whole life is enclosed with steadfast love!
What sin have you been trying to pretend away? In which ways are you tempted to think of yourself as better than others, or pretty good? Which aspect of trusting in Christ from this Psalm do you think needs the most work for you? What are you going to do about that? 
Suggested songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness” or TPH32B “How Blest Is He Whose Trespass”

Monday, January 14, 2019

2019.01.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 1:3-14

Questions for Littles: Of Whom is God the Father (v3)? With what spiritual blessings has He blessed us? Where? In Whom? What else did God do to/for us in Christ (v4)? When? For what end purpose/result? To what has He predestined us (v5)? By what means? According to what reason? For what further/ultimate purpose (v6)? What did He make us by that grace? What do we have through His blood (v7)? According to the riches of what? What has He made known to us (v9)? Where/in-Whom did He purpose His good pleasure? In whom did He plan to gather together all things (v10)? For when did He plan this to happen? What did we obtain in Christ (v11)? How many things does God work according to the counsel of His will? What was God’s purpose for the first believers’ trusting in Christ (v12)? What brought about the Ephesians’ faith (v13)? How were they sealed when they believed? What is the Holy Spirit to us (v14)? Until when? Unto what ultimate purpose?
In the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learned why God created the heavens and earth. The answer, of course, goes back into eternity. God had predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.

But how could this come about? How could creatures come to be united to the God the Son, the Creator? Because God, who had chosen us to be holy and blameless before Him in love, refused to allow us to perish in our sin.

This adoption in everlasting love has its own “why” purpose: to the praise of the glory of His grace (v6).

His giving us the inheritance of being like Him and with Him forever has the same purpose: that believers would be to the praise of His glory (v12).

When at last we are displayed as the blood-purchased possession of Christ, it will also be unto the same purpose: to the praise of His glory (v14).

This is the chief end of man: that the elect would glorify God by eternally enjoying Him as His own dear children as the glorified brethren of the Firstborn, our Lord Jesus Christ!

Whatever you are going through, this is what your trial is accomplishing! Whatever else God intends to do through the task in front of you, this is what the duty before you will ultimately accomplish!

There is no more comfort-assuring, joy-enlarging, purpose-giving doctrine than God’s eternal, adopting election to the praise of His glorious grace!
What are you going through? What tasks lie before you? What is God doing in them?
Suggested Songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”