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Monday, July 16, 2018

2018.07.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 13:18-19

Questions for Littles: What does the apostle want them to do for him (v18)? Of what is he confident? What does he desire to do in all things? But why does he especially urge them to pray for him (v19)?  
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learn the necessity and power of prayer.

First, we find the necessity of prayer in the command. “Pray for us,” says the apostle. You remember those who are prisoners (v3). You remember those who spoke the Word of God to you (v7). Remember us, too, in prayer.

This is the greatest service that we ever may do to those who are nearest to us: to go to the throne of heaven, armed with the blood and righteousness of Christ, and ask to have done all of the holy will of our most merciful and gracious God.

And even for those most distant, we may yet perform this greatest service!

Second, we find the necessity of prayer by considering him who asks for it in this text: the eminent apostle himself. Now, if the apostle needed prayer, how much do you need it? How much do those whom you care about it need it? How much do those whom God brings to mind need it?

In particular, the apostle needed prayer for his release and subsequent restoration to them. For those whom God places in positions where they come under the attack of the enemies of Christ, He calls us to the service of prayer!

Because God commands it, we do not ask “what good does it do” by way of challenge or rebellion. Rather, assuming that God commands us to do that which is good, we genuinely wonder: what does prayer accomplish? If all of God’s works are known to Him from the foundation of the world, does prayer change anything?

And the answer in this passage is: it absolutely does! The apostle believes that he and his companions have a good case to make before the judge. They have a good conscience, which is to say that they cannot think of a true charge against them. This is a strong plea both with the human judge, and with the divine Father who would give whatever strokes of discipline were necessary to a wayward child.

The apostle is an example to us in this: remember that he is speaking the Word of God to you, and follow the faith that has produced his good conscience, just as you follow the faith of your leaders, whose conduct was the fruit of faith and love in Christ. Let us follow the apostle in desiring to live honorably and in maintaining a good conscience.

But, the apostle now urges his readers to pray. Why? So that he may be released to them sooner. What? Can this eminent apostle really believe that if the readers do not pray, it will be longer; but, if the readers do pray, the apostle’s release will be sooner? That is exactly what he says!

Yes, known to God are all His works from the foundation of the world. And among those works are commanding His people to prayer, and moving His people to prayer, and sustaining His people in prayer. Prayer doesn’t change His plan, but it does change our circumstances, because He who rules over those circumstances has revealed Himself as the God who graciously hears and answers prayer! Therefore, prayer is an exceedingly powerful action, for it moves the hand of Almighty God!
For whom ought you especially to be praying? What might God be planning to do through you?
Suggested Songs: ARP4 “Answer When I Call” or TPH518 “Come, My Soul, with Every Care”

Saturday, July 14, 2018

2018.07.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 13:13-17

Questions for Littles: Where does v13 say to go to find Jesus? What do we bear there? What don’t we seek here (v14)? What do we seek? What kind of “sacrifices” should we offer in our worship then (v15)? And what else are we to offer as “sacrifices” in addition to worship (v16)? In addition to remembering and imitating our leaders (from v7), what two things does v17 instruct us to do with them? For what are they watching out? Who must give account? What difference can we make in the manner in which they give account?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we were reminded that when Jesus is the substance of our worship, unbelievers find it rather unimpressive. The Jews had their very visible, impressive temple. Even the apostles had been impressed with the buildings, and even their stones.

But we don’t have a city. We don’t have great buildings, made out of great stones, to show off to unbelievers. What we have is something yet to come. And the unbeliever, who does not have that biblical faith that treats the future as sure, responds to what we have by calling it, “Pie in the sky, bye and bye.”

Let the unbeliever despise it. Let him reproach it. It is the reproach of Christ, and we rejoice to have it fall upon us (cf. Rom 15:3).

We also don’t have very humanly impressive sacrifices. What sacrifices do we have to offer? In worship, we offer the sacrifice of the sound of songs coming off of our lips, praising and thanking God. Beyond the worship services, we have the doing of things that benefit others, and the sharing of ourselves and our things (the word in v16 is koinonia: fellowship, sharing).

Not impressive to man, but pleasing to God. And the leaders that the Lord has given us to speak the Word to us also watch out for our souls. It is apparent that one of the things that they do is persuade us of what we need to do, because we are to obey and yield to them. Both verbs occur primarily in situations where one is reasoning, and the other yields (submits) and does (obeys) what the one is reasoning with him to do.

So, Christ has entrusted the care of our souls to men on earth. In order to help us live lives that please Him, He has given us men who not only preach and teach in public worship, but have an active ministry of urging and encouraging us to do particular things—even and especially things that we are at first resistant to, but which here He commands us to give in to do.

That requires some humility from us doesn’t it? It requires trusting and obeying Jesus, whose Word this is—and from whose Word they are to be reasoning with us. And it requires our acknowledging that one way or another, this is Jesus’s plan for the care of our souls. We can either act in a way that their ruling over us is a grief to them or a joy to them—and the Lord puts it quite frankly to us: being a resistant pain hurts you too.
What kind of worshiping and living does God like? Who are your leaders who help you?
Suggested Songs: ARP131 “My Heart Is Not Exalted, Lord” or TPH131B “Not Haughty Is My Heart”

Friday, July 13, 2018

2018.07.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 1:1-5

Questions for Littles: When was the Word already there (v1)? With whom was the Word at that time? Who was He at that time? Who was with (literally, “toward,” or “facing”) God in the beginning (v2)? What was made through Him (v3)? What wasn’t made through Him? What was in Him (v4)? What did men receive from this light? What does the light do now (v5)? What has the former light of men become? What can’t the darkness grasp? 
In the Gospel reading this week, we began the Gospel of John. In Mark, the primary emphasis was a rapid ransom mission in which, by dying on the cross and rising again, Jesus sets free from sin and guilt everyone who believes in Him.

That’s true in John too, but now the emphasis is more upon a recovery mission: God, the eternally glorious Son, breaking into time to retrieve the adopted children, and bring them home to Father, where they will enjoy Him (Christ) as the very glory of the Father Himself, forever and ever.

So John begins by taking us literally to the beginning: the glory that Jesus had with God before the world began—from all eternity, the Father and the Son (with the Spirit, who is not explicitly mentioned here) in perfect and equal glory and power, of one substance.

This glory, God displayed by creating, and of course the Son is the Creator every bit as much as the Father is. Because the Word was God. So everything else that is not God is created by the Word. He is, therefore, very God of very God from the beginning. No wonder various cults either deny or rewrite this portion of Scripture!

And what a glorious beginning for man: the life of the Word Himself was given to men to be their light. Man was made in His image. Nothing else in creation can make that claim.

Sadly, man fell quickly. His light became darkness—so dark, in fact, that when the Word Himself came and shined in the darkness, men were unable to grasp His light.

So now, we are set up to learn more about the incarnation, more about Jesus bringing to the world the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, more about our darkness and our need for the Spirit to give us new birth. Let us prepare to have our hearts and minds seized by the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ in the gospel of John!
Who is Jesus? What has He done? What do you need Him to do in you?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH209 “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright”

Thursday, July 12, 2018

2018.07.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 4:6-13

Questions for Littles: To whom has Paul applied these things (v6)? What does He not want them to think beyond? Against whom does he not want them to be puffed up? What is the expected answer to the first two questions in v7? What three things does Paul sarcastically say that they have achieved in v8? Like what does he say that God has displayed the apostles (v9)? What three comparisons does he sarcastically make between the Corinthians and the apostles in v10? What are some of the circumstances that have accompanied true apostleship in v11? What are some of the habits or character traits in vv12-13 that belong to true apostleship? What does this look like in the eyes of others (v13)? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, the apostle points out to the Corinthian church that the true apostles are like the filthy slop and grime that has been removed from something filthy during the cleaning process.

Our day—like theirs—is plagued with “health and wealth” gospel, but the apostle presents to us the “hurt and filth” gospel.

He wants to make well sure that no one thinks of him (or Apollos) any higher than what he has written here (v6). And he wants to leave no room for their own boasting either (v6-7).

The Corinthians think that they are doing so great because they think that they look so great (v8). But, if the most eminent believers, the apostles, look like men condemned to death, whose distinguishing characteristics are folly, weakness, and dishonor… can earthly admiration ever be a test of true greatness?

The Corinthians think that they are doing so great because they have so much. But if the most eminent believers, the apostles, had no food, no drink, no clothing, no home… can earthly possessions ever be a test of true greatness?

What are more reliable indicators of true spiritual greatness? The first one listed is diligence—but within the immediate context, that opening clause in v12 may really be indicating service of others. What comes through most of all is love of enemy.

Blessing instead of cursing when cursed. Love of enemy. Endurance instead of revenge when mistreated. Love of enemy. Exhortation rather than slander when slandered. Love of enemy.

What does true Christianity look like? Well, it looks like obeying the great commandments to love God and men, but when we cut to the chase, its most distinguishing mark is when we love our enemies and show ourselves to be children of our Father in heaven (cf. Matthew 5:44-45).
Whom are you tempted to look down upon? What false reasons are you tempted to be proud of yourself? What enemy should you be loving? 
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH488 “May the Mind of Christ, My Savior”

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

2018.07.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:1-11

Questions for Littles: What was in the land in v1? What other famine does it mention (cf. Gen 12:10)? Where had Abraham gone? What had happened? Where does Isaac go? What does Yahweh appear in order to tell Isaac in v2? What hope does the Lord give Isaac for surviving the famine in v3? What will the Lord perform for him? What promise does the Lord make about Isaac’s seed in v4? What reason does the Lord give Isaac for the fact that He will take care of him? What does Isaac say about his wife in v7? Why? Where have we seen this before? Who notices that she is more than just his wife (v8)? Who rebukes whom in vv9-10? What action does Abimelech take in response to Isaac’s sin in v11?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, the Lord gives His people reason for both confidence and humility.

First, confidence. He is determined to keep His promises to Abraham (v3). He sustained Abraham in obedience and faithfulness, and He has given us also those same charges, commandments, statutes, and laws which may be kept by His grace alone.

Food is not as certain a guarantee of being fed as having the Lord with us to bless us (v3). Military and political strength is not as certain a guarantee of surviving in Philistine territory as having the Lord with us to bless us.

Just as the Lord was determined to bring into the world that seed of Isaac in which all of the nations of the earth would be blessed, so also the Lord is now determined to bring to Christ and to preserve in Christ all of those for whom Christ died. Now that is a cause for confidence indeed!

But there is also cause for humility here. It was hard enough that earlier in Genesis the Israelites had to suffer through seeing Pharaoh rebuke Abraham, and then Abimelech rebuke Abraham. But here is another Abimelech, another Philistine king, who is far outclassing Father Isaac morally.

Abimelech sees Isaac Isaacking (literally) his wife in v8. He does the right thing and confronts Isaac, whose response is basically an accusation that everyone know that Philistines are a bunch of immoral thugs.

Abimelech’s response to this is to explain to the poor, benighted covenantal patriarch that they actually care very much not to bring guilt upon themselves before God, which is exactly what Isaac himself could have ended up doing to them!

As if that isn’t humbling enough for God’s people to have to read in their history, he then turns around and, rather than exacting some form of revenge, or implementing some harsh penalty, he issues a proclamation of protection, treating Isaac as an honored guest of the nation!

How important it is that the Lord’s people remain humble, knowing that it is only the Lord’s purposes toward them and the Lord’s power in them that brings any good from them!
In what circumstances do you need confidence that the Lord will keep you? And against what people have you been tempted to be proud, though apart from grace you are worse?
Suggested songs: ARP130 “Lord, from the Depths” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

2018.07.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 42:1-4

Questions for Littles: Whom are we to behold (v1)? Whom does God uphold? What does the Lord’s soul do in His chosen One? What has the Lord put upon Him? What will He bring forth to the Gentiles? What three things does v2 say that the servant will not do? What will the Servant not do to a bruise reed (v3)? What will He not do to a smoldering wick? What will He faithfully bring forth? What two things does v4 say that He will not do? For what will the coastlands wait?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Isaiah 42. Oh, how we need both the strength and gentleness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here is true manliness from the great and true Man Himself: not brash harshness or rudeness excusing its gruffness on the grounds of not belonging to the fairer sex. No, true manliness is found in this combination of gentleness and strength.

First, gentleness. It is amazing that the Lord says of the Christ that He will not cry out or raise His voice—that He won’t case His voice to be heard in the street. For, the Christ is the forever-King, the great and last Prophet. He has every right to be heard. But He is not a pusher of His rights. Instead, He is meek and gentle.

Rather than pushing His rights, He focuses upon reviving His people. There is the person who is like a bruised reed—bent, almost broken… just the lightest further mis-touch would end him. And behold the gentleness and skill of Jesus, who handles the reed without breaking it—able to faithfully bring forth righteousness out of such an one as this.

And there is the person who is like the smoldering wick—not enough fuel drawn up into it, drying out of its own accord, about to lose the last spark of life in him. But here comes Jesus, who is so gentle with us that in adding new fuel He does not snuff us out. Dear foundering Christian, behold your gentle Savior!

But behold also His strength. He will not fail. He will not be discouraged. He always presses on and continues with a work that will surely be done. He has counted the cost and now lays it out.

His success in faithfully bringing forth righteousness with the weakest individual in v3 is a microcosm of His work, bringing for that righteousness, that justice, until it has covered the whole earth. He who patiently works through the story of the believer’s life also works persistently through the history of His church in the world, until He has accomplished all His holy will.

Even the furthest reaches—here, the coastlands—are pictured as patiently waiting for the sure success of the Savior. What glorious strength to go with His gentleness!
In what current failing do you need Jesus gentle with you? How does it also comfort you to know that His strength will surely finish and accomplish His work?
Suggested songs: ARP32B “Instruction I Will Give to You” or TPH243 “How Firm a Foundation”

Monday, July 9, 2018

2018.07.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 13:7-12

Questions for Littles: Whom does v7 say to remember? What have our leaders spoken to us? What are we to follow? What are we to consider? Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (v8)? By what are we not to be carried about (v9)? By what is the heart to be established? By what is the heart not to be established? Who may not eat from the same altar that we do (v10)? What happens to the bodies of the animals whose blood the high priest offers for sin (v11)? So, where did Jesus suffer His “burning” (v12)? And what has He done with His blood?  
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we heard about how Christ works from heaven in the hearts and lives of His people who are yet on earth.

One of these ways is the elders who spoke the Word to us. Some of them are now in glory. And even with those elders who are still with us, the Lord has worked in their lives and grown them by grace.
Jesus’s work in elders’ lives has produced an outcome in their manner of life. And Jesus hasn’t changed. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore, we are to imitate their faith.

You can’t actually imitate their life by mimicking outward behavior. Rather, it is their faith—holding onto the Word of Christ, and responding to Him—that we must imitate. We are to take what “He Himself has said,” and turn it over into what “we may boldly say,” as we seek to live lives of love unto God and man. Sound familiar (v5-6)? Well, it should look familiar too (the lives of our elders).
So, Christ in heaven speaks His Word by means of men in whom He has already worked by that Word. And He uses His word on their lips to do similar work in us.

But here there is also a second way that He works in us: His sacraments. He feeds us from His table, and He sprinkles us with His blood. The altar on which Christ bore the fire of God’s wrath against our sin is the cross itself. And here, of the supper, v10 says that we have an altar from which tabernacle worshipers have no right to eat.

The implication is that we have been given a better meal. It’s not beef or mutton. And, it has 1500 years less tradition than the tabernacle meals. But the meal itself isn’t the bread and wine so much as it is the grace of Christ. And this is a meal which actually does establish the heart. Everyone who believes in Him has everlasting life. So the believer who comes to the table and feeds upon not dead flesh but a living Christ enjoys a union and communion with Him that always ends (or, perhaps better put, “never ends”) in everlasting life.

Jesus Christ has been establishing and keeping His people by Word and sacrament for two thousand years. And this is how He establishes and keeps us too!
How does Christ establish your heart? How does He produce the outcome of your conduct?
Suggested Songs: ARP19B “The Lord’s Most Perfect Law” or TPH271 “Blessed Jesus, at Your Word”

Saturday, July 7, 2018

2018.07.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 13:6

Questions for Littles: Who may now say something? How may they say it? Whom do I say is my helper? What will I not do? Who can do me no ultimate harm? 
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we heard the mechanism by which we embrace God’s love for us, in order to stir up our love for Him and others: His Word.

At first, we might have missed it in v5. We might just have seen that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

But then v6 begins, “So we may boldly say…” This is a parallel follow-up to where v5 says, “For He Himself has said…” There’s an extra pronoun in there. The verb already has the “He” implied. So there’s an emphasis upon His action of speaking there in v5.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!

He Himself has said. So we may say.

And that’s what we need to be doing, according to v6. Meditating upon the Word of God. That’s what the Old Testament would have called it. Christian meditation isn’t a mental inactivity. It’s a verbal activity. We take what God has said, and we preach it to ourselves.

Not just tell it. Preach it. Notice that v6 takes us a step further in content than v5. In the Lord’s speech in v5, He tells us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. But in our speech, we proceed to tell ourselves the differences that His continual presence make.

He will never leave us, so He is always present to help us. The Lord is my Helper. He will never leave us, so we never need to fear. I never need to fear. He will never leave us, so all things must work together for our good. What can man do to me?

If we are going to live lives of extraordinary love, it will not be enough merely to know the gospel or to have believed it at some point in the past. The Lord’s means of upholding this life of love is by our continually, intentionally dwelling upon the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us, and He gave Himself to us. Forever!
What habits help you preach the gospel to yourself continually?
Suggested Songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH243 “How Firm a Foundation”

Friday, July 6, 2018

2018.07.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 16:9-20

Questions for Littles: When did Jesus rise from the dead (v9)? To whom did He appear first? Whom did she tell (v10)? What did they do when they heard that she had seen Him (v11)? To whom did He appear after that (v12)? Whom did they tell (v13)? And with what result? What did He do when He appeared to the eleven (v14)? What did He tell them to do (v15)? What happens to the one who believes (16a)? What happens to the one who does not believe (16b)? Which apostles were followed by the signs in v17-18? What happened after He had spoken to them (v19)? What did they do (v20)? When were the signs fulfilled? 
In the Gospel reading this week, we have the appropriately rapid ending to the gospel of Mark. The writer whom the Holy Spirit carried to keep saying “immediately… immediately… immediately” takes us through Mary and the twelve, the road to Emmaus, the doubting disciples, the Great Commission, the ascension, the Session of Christ, and even the spread of the gospel with its accompanying signs. All in 12 verses!

The main point is clear: Jesus really did die and really did rise again, and you had better believe it! In v11, we’re disappointed that they did not believe. In v13, we’re disappointed that, again, they didn’t believe. So in v14, Jesus Himself rebukes them for not believing. Then in v16, He presses upon them how believing in Him is what makes an eternal difference.

Interestingly, in v17 and 18, Jesus establishes the signs not as things that cause faith but that happen alongside faith (parakoloutheo). In other words, the role of these signs is to strengthen faith that comes through the Word. And that’s exactly what v20 says happened.

Ultimately, that’s the most important takeaway for you, as we finish the gospel of Mark together. Do you believe that Jesus is God the Son, who became a man—the promised forever-King? Do you believe that He brought His kingdom of righteousness, and has paid for your entry into it with His own blood, because your sin had to be wiped away? Do you believe that He is sitting at the right hand of God in glory right now, and is soon to return? Your heart’s answer to these questions is the difference between heaven and hell for you!
What do you need to believe? What does your life look like if you do?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH459 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Thursday, July 5, 2018

2018.07.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 3:18-4:5

Questions for Littles: What should someone who seems wise in this age do (v18)? What is worldly wisdom before God (v19)? What does God do to man’s wisdom (v19-20)? In whom must we not boast (v21)? What is serving our glory (v22)? For whose glory are we employed (23a)? For whose glory is Christ employed (23b)? How are preachers to be considered (4:1)? What should they be aiming at (v2)? Who alone can judge our service to the Lord (v3-4)? What amazing thing will come from God for His faithful servants (v5)? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learn not to want to look good before others. The Lord flat-out tells us that’s a trap. Oh, how our hearts need to hear that! As soon as we begin to desire the admiration of men, alarms should be going off in our minds, “That’s a trap! That’s a trap!”

God catches the “wise” (fear quotes for humanist wisdom!) in their craftiness. The thoughts of the “wise” are futile—useless.

And look at what such wisdom boasts in—being connected to a celebrity pastor? Really? When every believer has God literally moving all of heaven and earth to bring them to Himself and fit them for glory?!

And what is the point of all of this work to prepare us for glory? That we would be glorious in and of ourselves forever? Of course not! But rather so that we would shine marvelously unto the glory of Christ our Redeemer! And that Christ’s great glory as Redeemer would redound unto the everlasting display of the infinite glory of GOD!!

And we’re going to brag, “I follow so and so”? Or, “I go to such and such church”? How about: “I have all of heaven and earth being bent unto my good and my glory by almighty God”!

What a ridiculous thing celebrity culture is in the church. Now, that doesn’t mean that ministry isn’t important. Indeed—God builds His church by the preaching of the Word. But, what do these preachers do? Amass followings for themselves? No—they are servants sent out in Christ’s name, to whom have been entrusted the mysteries of God: those truths that God has revealed.

And it is their job to proclaim those truths as faithfully as possible. Not to satisfy men. Not even to satisfy themselves (v4!!). We would think it terrifying that the Lord Himself will judge our faithfulness. But then we see that by His grace, and for Christ’s sake, God is actually going to praise His true servants. How merciful and generous is that?!
Whom are you tempted to try to impress? How can you focus on faithfulness instead?
Suggested songs: ARP131 “My Heart Is Not Exalted” or TPH131B “Not Haughty Is My Heart”

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

2018.07.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 25:29-34

Questions for Littles: Who was boiling some food in v29? Who came in from the field? What did Esau ask for (v30)? What did Jacob demand first (v31)? What did Esau say about his situation (v32)? What did Jacob keep insisting that he do (v33)? What did Esau do? What does v34 say that Esau had done to his birthright?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, Esau trades a moment of fleeting pleasure for his birthright.

Sure he was hungry, perhaps even faint with hunger according to the word used, but he wasn’t starving. It’s like a lot of children say when they’re clamoring to have their supper without any more delay: “I’m staaaarving!!” No. You’re. Not.

Literally, Esau says, “Make me devour! Please! The red! That red! I’m starving!”

No wonder they called him Red. Like father, like son. One track mind. We wouldn’t even put it past Jacob to know just what food to happen to be cooking at the entrance to camp, in order to tighten the screws upon his brother. You know Red; he’s a sucker for that red stuff!

Well, Esau’s wickedness was in a lack of control. He couldn’t contain his appetite, and treated as nothing a birthright that included fathering the line of promise! Oh, what eternal treasure one may trade for a moment of pleasure! He sprouted for himself a root of bitterness.

Jacob’s wickedness was not in a lack of control, but in maintaining a heartless, calculating, grip on control. He knew he had him, and he demanded an oath.

He didn’t need to do this. Undoubtedly, his mother had shared with him God’s Word about his destiny. But Jacob didn’t trust the Lord to bring it about. And that’s the greater sin here. Not so much that Jacob tried to control Esau, but that Jacob was trying so hard to be in control because he didn’t believe that God was.

I wonder if you can identify with that felt need, dear Christian—the need to be in control. If we act upon it, we can do real damage to others and to our relationships with them. But, even worse, we expose a grievous defect in our relationship with the Lord.

It is just as important to trust that the Lord is in control over everything as it is for us to practice the discipline of self-control of our desires!
In what area do you need more self-control? What circumstance is testing your trust in the Lord?
Suggested songs: ARP127 “Unless the Lord” or TPH231 “Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right”

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

2018.07.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:22-13:4

Questions for Littles: Where does the church gather for worship on the Lord’s Days (v22)? With whom does the church gather on the Lord’s Days (v22-23)? Who is the Priest who leads that worship (v24)? Who is the Preacher who preaches in it (v25)? What is He using that worship to prepare us to receive (v25-28)? How should we participate in that worship (v28)? What kind of earthly life does that worship produce (13:1-4)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Hebrews 12:22-13:4. As a review of the last several sermons, this passage also prepared us for the Lord’s Day morning text and sermon. So, it serves us well to review their teaching.

First, congregational worship on the Lord’s Day joins a celebration already in progress in glory, where Christ’s gospel accomplishments are being delighted in by angels, perfected saints, and even God Himself.

Second, Jesus is the leader of this worship. He is the Great High Priest who is the Mediator of this new (everlasting) covenant. And the blood that has sprinkled everything to sanctify it is not the blood of bulls and goats, but His own blood, which overcomes all of the guilt of all of His people’s sins.

Third, Jesus is the preacher in this worship. He speaks from heaven, and He calls for a response from us. We must not come out of worship unchanged, which would be to refuse Him who speaks. Rather, we take all of His truth to heart, and all of His instruction as marching orders for our lives.

Fourth, we rejoice that rather than our trying to worship Him well enough to get something from Him, He has already designed His own worship as the method by which He is giving us an unshakeable kingdom.

Fifth, when we come to such worship, through such a Mediator, we must do so according to His prescriptions, with dignity of manner, and reverence of heart. We come by grace, but we still come to a Holy God!

Finally, this God-loving worship sends us out into a neighbor-loving life. Love of brother. Love of stranger. Love of sufferer. Love of spouse.
How do you prepare for worship? What do you do during? How do you follow up?
Suggested songs: ARP184 “Adoration and Submission” or TPH95C “Now with Joyful Exultation”

Monday, July 2, 2018

2018.07.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 13:5

Questions for Littles: What should our conduct be without? What should we be instead? With what should we be content? Whose speech is a reason for us to be content? What has He said? When will the Lord leave us? What else will the Lord never do? 
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learned how to love our brothers, love outsiders, love the sufferers, and love our wives.

Interestingly, the solution was something NOT to love—silver! Of course, the verb for love-silver (compare to love-brother and love-stranger from vv1-2) had come to mean any kind of covetousness: an inordinate love of things.

Covetousness is such a danger. If the poor think that they would stop thinking about wealth so much if they would just become wealthy, then they have missed the point of this verse. The problem is in what the heart loves. And the wealthy are just as susceptible to this—even more. Remember the rich young ruler?

The essence of love is giving OF oneself. For God so loved the world… that He gave His only begotten Son. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He love us… and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Well, it’s very difficult to give of ourselves if we are obsessed with getting for ourselves. But this is exactly the point at which our verse meets us. God Himself has loved us. God has given Himself to us. God has promised never to take Himself from us. He has loved us.

Truly, we love, because He first loved us!

Do we desire to be the kind of brother-loving, stranger-loving, sufferr-loving, spouse-loving people that we are commanded to be? Let us begin by embracing the love of God for us. Let us begin by counting it worth more to have Him than it would be to have everything and everyone else.

This is how God resolved Asaph’s covetousness (Ps 73), and it will spare us too!
In what daily and weekly exercises do you embrace God’s gift of Himself to you?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Christian Unity” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion”

Saturday, June 30, 2018

2018.06.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 13:5-6

Questions for Littles: What is our conduct to be without (v5)? With what are we to be content? What has God said to us? Who is our helper (v6)? What will we not do? Who can do nothing, ultimately, to harm us?
In this week’s sermon text, we hear not only about whom to love, but also how to love. How can we go about giving of ourselves to and for others?

The key to the correct conduct is a condition of the heart: no covetousness and full contentment. But how can we find this contentment?

By looking unto Jesus, the Forger and Finisher of our faith—to consider Him who endured such hostility against Himself. He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

When we realize that He has given Himself to us (and, therefore, all other things along with Himself), we are freed from slavery to selfishness.

What more can we add to ourselves that we do not already have? Instead, we now have the privilege of pouring ourselves out for others and knowing that we lose nothing in the bargain.

Of course, this doesn’t come naturally to us. So, the Holy Spirit prescribes some theological self-preaching. Like the depressed Psalmist in Psalm 42-43, the covetous believer has a little mini-sermon by which he may address his weak soul. There, it was, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Hope now in God, for I will yet praise Him. He is my help and my God. Here, it is similar: “Yahweh is my helper. I will not fear. What can man do to me.”

Blessed is the one whose help is the God of Jacob (Psalm 146:5)! Yes, we have had our name changed to Israel (God wrestles), but we so often still act like Jacob (heel-grabber; scoundrel). God has committed Himself to us, and gets down in the muck to be our help anyway. He is the God of Jacob.

Since this is the case, let us continually put ourselves in mind of the fact that He refuses to leave us or forsake us. The more we learn to live before the face of God, the less we will indulge discontentment or covetousness!
When do you tend to be discontent? How will you remind yourself of Christ at these times? What does your “self-preaching” life look like these days?
Suggested Songs: ARP146 “Praise the Lord” or TPH257 “Children of the Heavenly Father”

Friday, June 29, 2018

2018.06.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 15:40-16:8

Questions for Littles: Who were looking on when Jesus died (v40)? What had these women done during Jesus’s ministry in Galilee (v41)? Who asked for Jesus’s body (v42-43)? What did Pilate verify with the centurion (v44-45)? In what did Joseph wrap Jesus’s body (v46)? Where did he lay him, and what did he do to the door? Who observed this (v47)? When the Sabbath was past, what did the women do (v1)? When did they come to the tomb (v2)? What were they asking themselves (v3)? What did the solution turn out to be (v4)? Whom did they find in the tomb (v5)? What did he tell them that Jesus had done (v6)? Whom did he tell the women to tell (v7)? What did they do and say instead (v8)?
In the Gospel reading this week, we follow Mary, Mary, and Salome as they keep track of everything that is happening with the Lord and His body.

Evidently, these were women of some means, for they had followed Him and ministered to Him during His ministry, and they had the means of purchasing the spices to anoint Him now.

Let us learn from them the blessedness of being always busy in service, for we never know when our service will become an occasion upon which the Lord makes us witnesses to a great work of His.

There were things that they could not do—like make so bold as to request the body themselves (the Lord sent Joseph of Arimathea to do that), and especially they could not roll the stone away (the Lord Himself did that). But what they could do, they did.

Let us not, however, miss that the primary actor in their story is not themselves but the Lord. He is always a step ahead of them—even having the angel waiting, ready to instruct them. When the women are still afraid and running away not telling anyone, Jesus comes upon them and instructs Mary further, and she tells the disciples.

In all our service of the Lord and pursuit of Him, let us be mindful that it is truly He that is pursuing and employing us. Our risen Savior sits on the throne of glory, ruling over all things. Hallelujah!
How are you serving the risen King? How has He gone ahead to help you?
Suggested songs: ARP157 “Immortality and Resurrection” or TPH358 “Sing Choirs of New Jerusalem”

Thursday, June 28, 2018

2018.06.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 3:9-17

Questions for Littles: To whom do the fellow-workers belong (v9)? To whom does the building belong? What was given to Paul so that he could build (v10)? What was he privileged to lay? Of what must future builders take heed? What other foundation can be laid (v11)? What foundation has been laid? With what might one build (v12)? But by what will the building be tested (v13)? What will believers receive if their building endures (v14)? Through what will we all be saved (v15)? What is the church (v16)? Who dwells there? What will God do to the one who does the church harm (v17)? Why? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learn that there is much more at stake in ministry than satisfying the opinions of men. The workers don’t belong to the church; they belong to the Lord. What pastor fears his congregation? What pastor indulges competitive thoughts about other pastors? Let him remember that as a worker, he belongs to his Master—regardless of whom else he might be working with. And let him further remember that the work does not belong to him but to his Lord!

In one sense, this is a great comfort. The Lord will surely accomplish all that He has planned to accomplish!! That’s a cause for humility too—if the outcome is guaranteed before we begin, and sustained by grace while we labor, is there really any room at all for boasting? Absolutely not.

In another sense, this is a great caution. Because it is only the Lord’s eternal work that will stand the fire of the transition from time to eternity. v15 isn’t describing the fire of judgment. It is a reference to the fact that when the Day comes that we enter eternity, then at last we will see what fruit was eternal, and the results may be surprising indeed.

What is the solution? An endless cycle of vision statements, surveys, statistical analyses, and performance reviews? To listen to the ministry experts you sure would think so! No, rather. The answer is Bible study that gets put into action.

The Lord has only one foundation: Jesus Christ. And He has already been laid down by the apostles and prophets. And the Lord also has His own building materials: gold, silver, precious stones. Oh, there is a temptation to embellish with whatever we can. Organizations, affinity groups, programs and the like may make for a much larger structure, but they will not survive into eternity.

So what? Isn’t the only point to “get saved.” Of course not! The great point is to glorify God! And we should cherish the opportunity to serve Him in bringing Him that glory!!

And the second point is like it—to do good to others. The horrifying part about potentially seeing an entire life’s ministry go up in smoke is that the fruit of that ministry was being measured in people, eternal souls. Shall we really hate them so thoroughly as to sacrifice them on the altar of our own self-importance and job satisfaction (or volunteer ministry satisfaction)?!

Let us build the Lord’s church only, ever, with the Lord’s materials given in Scripture: the ordinary means of grace. Our ever-merciful and over-generous Lord even super-adds another incentive: rewards. If our work endures, we will receive a reward. Not because of how well we have done in ourselves—but because whatever genuine good is done is always done in Christ, and He Himself is the worthiness of the work. But, still, the Lord gives us rewards!

There are those who, even understanding it in this way, shrink back from the idea that the Lord gives rewards to His people for service well-done in this life. But it is such a repeated point in Scripture, that we will leave them to argue it out against the Holy Spirit. Instead, accepting this truth at His Word, let us marvel at His grace and generosity, and see how richly He has laid before us motivations to serve according to His instructions rather than our imaginations!
What service are you doing in the building of Christ’s church? From where in the Bible is your method?
Suggested songs: ARP119I “According to Your Word, O Lord” or TPH402 “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation”

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

2018.06.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 25:19-28

Questions for Littles: Whose genealogy is this (v19)? How old was Isaac when they got married (v20)? Why did Isaac plead with Yahweh (v21)? How did Yahweh respond? Looking at v26, how long had Isaac pleaded, and how long did it take Yahweh to respond? What were the children doing within Rebekah (v22)? What did she do about it? What did Yahweh say was within her womb (v23)? Whom did Yahweh say would be stronger—whom did Yahweh say would serve the other? What did the first twin who came out look like, and what did they call him (v25)? What did his brother do when he came out, and what did they call him (v26)? As the boys grew, what was Esau like (v27)? What was Jacob like? Who was Isaac’s favorite and why? And who was Rebekah’s favorite?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we continued to follow the line of promise, from which Jesus Christ, the Savior, would eventually come. And, we continued to see both man’s sinfulness from which we need to be saved, as well as evidence of God’s gracious work by which He is saving us.

Isaac and Rebekah serve as a warning to us here in v28. As he gets older, Isaac is such a slave to his appetite that it twists his heart. Here, he plays favorites with his children—and even picks his favorite child by his favorite food! Eventually, he won’t even be able to indulge his plan to thwart God about the blessing without satisfying his food craving first. Rebekah too has her favorite in Jacob, the gentler boy, as mothers are tempted to do. More on her later though.

But they weren’t always like that. The Lord had graciously worked in their lives for many years. Let us be warned not to rest upon prior grace, but to always be pressing forward in our walk with the Lord! For twenty years, Isaac’s solution to their childlessness was to pray for his wife. Not blame. Not manipulation. Prayer.

And this had its effect upon his wife. The man whom she had met while he was out praying in the evening prayed for her, cycle after cycle, month after month—more than two hundred months! So, when her pregnancy made her bemoan her very existence, she too prayed.

And the Lord answered. The Lord doesn’t always answer when we ask, “why?” But He did this time. Two nations were in her womb—well, it certainly felt like that, didn’t it! But then again—two peoples. And they were already in a battle. One would be stronger than the other.

Interestingly, as the boys grew up, Rebekah’s faith would be tested. Will Jacob really turn out to be stronger? Will the people of Esau really turn out to be the servants of the people of Jacob? What the Lord’s word had said, and what Rebekah’s eyes seemed to prove were opposites. It may in fact be that, in this particular case, her special favor to Jacob wasn’t favoritism, but faith. Are we willing to trust God’s word over our eyes?

In what situation could you be choosing to pray instead of blaming another?
What is a situation in which you have promises from the Lord, but your eyes seem to be saying something else?
Suggested songs: ARP4 “Answer When I Call” or TPH522 “Behold the Throne of Grace!”

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

2018.06.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 87

Questions for Littles: Where is the foundation of Yahweh’s city (v1)? Whose gates does He love the most (v2)? What kinds of things have been spoken of His city (v3)? From what nations will there be people who know the Lord (v4)? Where will it be said that this one and that one were born (v5)? Who will establish Zion? What will the Lord record about those who know Him from among the peoples (v6)? What do the priestly musicians say (v7)? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 87. Here, we see the devotion of God to His covenant people. He loves the gates of His city—that which defines the going out and coming in, that which sets the boundaries.

It is evident that He takes pleasure in pointing to the new birth of each believer from every nation. Like a father, proudly certifying the birth of His precious child, the Lord is seen (or, better, heard) here, announcing the registration of each one whose name is written in the book of life.

Looking at the list of nations that He singles out in v4, it is evident that He takes special pleasure in the salvation of those from the “toughest” countries. Is anything too hard for God? He loves to give a great salvation.

And what the Lord loves to celebrate, His people love to celebrate. This is not merely a private reflection for us to savor by ourselves. When the priestly musicians are enlisted to mimic the statements of Godin v7, we see that this is a subject of praise for the public worship of the people of God.

Isn’t this the true response to God’s election? God’s choice? God’s effectual calling that gives us the new birth? To praise Him who has done it! (not to argue over whether we think it was fair of Him to save us—of course it wasn’t; it was mercy!).

In particular, let’s give our attention again to the first two lines. Who is the foundation of the city of God? Who is the gate by which alone one may enter Zion? Of course, it is Christ! And this is the answer to why the Lord is so enthusiastic about His church—because it is the church of His Son!!
How does your love for the church imitate God’s? Do you love it for the same reason? Do you love the display of the truth of sovereign grace?
Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH87A “Zion, Founded on the Mountains”

Monday, June 25, 2018

2018.06.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 13:1-4

Questions for Littles: What kind of love are we to let continue (v1)? Whom else are we to love, according to v2? Whom have some entertained? Whom are we to remember as if right there with them (v3)? How is marriage to be treated (v4)? What is to be kept pure? Whom will God judge?
In the sermon this week, we heard about the various loves that mark a believer who is preparing for glory. Each of the objects of Christian love in vv1-4 have something to do with our destination in the glory of our Lord.

First, we are to love the immediate family. Let brotherly love continue. That means the whole family. The church is our family now. They will be our family forever. This has been a theme throughout the book, ever since chapter 2 showed us Jesus, presenting us in heaven as the children who had been given to Him to retrieve, and to bring home.
Oh, how we should love the members of our congregation! Each one! We’re family.

Second, we are to love the extended family. Elsewhere, Scripture tells us that we are to do good to all, but especially to the household of faith. Here, the command not to forget the love of strangers is followed up by the idea that these particular strangers may turn out to be angels—possibly calling to mind Abraham’s hospitality, but probably referring to hosting Christians whom we don’t know whether they may turn out to be a preacher, who can bring the Word to us.

Third, we are to remember suffering family. We might be separated from them in their suffering, such as those specifically named here—those in prison. But, whenever and wherever Christians—our family—are being mistreated, we are to remember them as if we were chained to them. We are all going through whatever pain is necessary as Father prepares us for Home.

Finally, we are to give our best efforts to our family family. It is a wonderful thing when our household is part of the household of believers. And there is no more precious saint on earth to love than our wives. The Lord gives a triple-reminder here of how much marriage—and the family that is built around one—is the vital unit of earthly congregations and of the church as a whole. First, He has declared marriage honorable. Second, He emphasizes the necessity of keeping it pure. Third, He announces frightful judgments against those who defile it.

Beloved, let us love one another!
What members of the family of God do you most need to work on loving?
Suggested Songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Saturday, June 23, 2018

2018.06.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:29

Questions for Littles: Who is a consuming fire? Whose God is He?
In this week’s sermon text, we were reminded that it is no small thing to approach God in worship. The concluding verse of that text alludes to three places in Scripture to remind us that the glory of worship is actually the glory of the living God Himself.

The first place to which it alludes is Sinai. We know this of course, because it is the nearest conflagration of fire to our passage, being mentioned earlier in the passage. But whether at the time of the ten commandments, or earlier in Moses’s experience of the bush, there is one detail that tells us that these are not the primary allusion here: in neither of those Sinai fires did the Lord actually consume what was on fire.

The second place that this “consuming fire” image takes us is the whole burnt offering. It was the first and primary offering in the system of worship that the Lord had commanded under the Mosaic covenant. You couldn’t have any other kind of worship without the offering in which the entire bull would be entirely burnt by a fire whose intensity would have to be achieved to accomplish that.

But, just as the bull is an inferior substitute as a glimpse of Christ, so also the burnt offering’s consuming fire is an inferior substitute as a glimpse of the wrath of God. How great and consuming is the wrath of God, and it is every bit as central to His character as love is! We love to quote 1John 4:8, “God is love.” How much do we love to quote Hebrews 12:29, “God is wrath.” Our God is a consuming fire!

And how much more amazing is His love to us now than it was before we began to grasp that truth?

The third, and most pointed, place to which this verse points us is Leviticus 10 and the cautionary demise of Nadab and Abihu. Consecrated priests, on a consecrated day, using consecrated pans, to offer consecrated incense. What could be wrong about that?

One thing: God had not told them to perform this act of worship. God calls it strange fire, and goes on to explain what made it strange, “which He had not commanded them” (Lev 10:1). Now, consider vv2-3 in light of the passage before us this week:

“So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’ ”

Oh, dear reader, how necessary it is that we remember the divine simplicity. Our God is who He is—not in parts or pieces but a glorious divine simplicity. So when we come to Him, let us come to Him in the manner appropriate to His nature as love and His nature as a consuming fire!
How do God’s holiness and wrath magnify His grace to you? How does this affect how we worship?
Suggested Songs: ARP7B “God Is My Shield” or HB11 “Holy, Holy, Holy!”

Friday, June 22, 2018

2018.06.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 15:16-39

Questions for Littles: What did the soldiers put on Jesus’s head (v17)? What did they say in v18? What did they do to him in v19? To what place did they bring him (v22)? When they offered Him wine with painkiller in it, what did He do (v23)? What were they doing with His clothes (v24)? What was the charge against Him (v26)? What does v28 give as the explanation for the two robbers being crucified with Him? What did those who passed by do (v29)? Who else blasphemed and mocked Him (v31-32)? What happened for three hours (v33)? What did Jesus say at the ninth hour (v34)? What happened in v37? And what happened to the veil of the temple (v38)? What did the centurion say and why (v39) 
In the Gospel reading this week, we come to the climax of the gospel of Mark, and indeed the crisis point of all human history.

Truly this Man was the Son of God! God became a man to die for men so that we might come safely near His holiness. God opened that new way through the veil—the flesh of Jesus Christ.

This is the answer to that question that Jesus quoted from the beginning of Psalm 22. Jesus was forsaken so that we could be forgiven and call the Holy God our Father.

We are horrified by the mocking of the soldiers—the whole garrison gathering together for the crown of thorns, the mocking salute, caning Him in the head, spitting on Him, and offering Him mock worship. We are horrified by the passers by, wagging their heads and blaspheming Him. We are horrified by the chief priests making even belief in Him a point of mockery. We are horrified by those who were crucified with Him reviling Him.

But, to be honest with ourselves, we are not so horrified with these things as we ought to be even with our own sin. And that is part of the point, in the blessed wisdom of the Holy Spirit: do you see what sin is? Do you see what sin does?

No wonder such a sacrifice would have been required to atone for it! And what a glorious wonder indeed that the Holy One would give Himself for such sinners as we are!! Amazing love, how can it be that Thou, my God should’st die for me?!
What has God given us to keep the cross of Christ fresh on our minds and hearts?
Suggested songs: ARP22A “My God, My God” or HB199 “Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed”

Thursday, June 21, 2018

2018.06.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 3:1-8

Questions for Littles: How couldn’t Paul speak to the Corinthians (v1)? In what two ways did he speak to them? To what does he compare the spiritual food he gave them (v2)? Why didn’t he give them solid food? What proof does he give them that they are still fleshly minded in v3? What does this envy, strife, and division look like (v4)? What are Paul and Apollos called in v5? What did the Lord give to each one? What does Paul do in v6? What does Apollos do? What does God do? Which of these is “something” according to v7? What is the relationship between the planter and the waterer (v8)? According to what will each receive his reward? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we were reminded of the two unflattering options for those who foster party-spirit in the church. Either they are acting like the most infantile believers possible, or they are acting as if they are not believers at all, but still in their flesh—what the NKJV calls “carnal.”

We’ve met them before—people who either make themselves or someone else the litmus test for favor in the church. Either you are for them, or you are for the other guy, but the way they describe it, you can’t be for both.

It’s no wonder that Paul says that when someone is thinking like this, they have to go all the way back to square one and start over with the gospel as if they are just now hearing it for the first time.

If we don’t realize that God’s work in this world is all about God, all about Christ, and that the best of men are still servants at best… then how can all of our hope be in God? How can all of our hope be in Christ?

Paul is basically calling them out for their own inability to recognize the wisdom in his preaching. As we go along in 1-2Corinthians, we realize that there were many in that church who preferred the false “super-apostles” to the genuine apostle, Paul. One of the reasons was because they thought their preaching sounded much wiser than Paul’s.

But Paul has just finished saying that since the wisdom of his preaching is Holy-Spirit-wisdom, only Holy-Spirit-people are able to receive it. And now he says that is exactly why the majority of the congregation at Corinth could not receive it. Yes, the same congregation that he has generally acknowledged under the title “saints” just two short chapters ago.

This is a frightening condition: to have quenched the Spirit to the point that we act so fleshly that our behavior is indistinguishable from unbelievers.

How is it with you, dear reader? Is there some believer that you so identify with (or so identify against!) that you make them a litmus test of unity and familiarity? Do you not see how to make so much of them is to make little of Christ? To make little of God? God spare us from such a mindset!

Let us instead rejoice in all of the Lord’s work, giving special attention to whatever we have the privilege of serving in—knowing that the fruit belongs to God, but that He rewards us for our labor in whatever part He has assigned to us (for the sake of His grace in Christ!).

Let us rejoice in Him! And let us prepare to feed upon the solid food that is only digestible through that rejoicing.
How do you work at staying connected with everyone in the church and not just one group?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

2018.06.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 25:1-18

Questions for Littles: What did Abraham get in v1? How many sons did she bear him (v2)? Thinking about Abraham’s life so far, why is this so amazing? What did Abraham give to Isaac (v5)? What does v6 call Hagar and Keturah? What did he give their sons? Where did he send them? How long did Abraham live (v7)? What point does v8 make about this age? Yet, how does this compare in length to some of his ancestors? To whom was he gathered in v8? Then what happened to him in v9? Who buried him? To whom did the special blessing of God pass on (v11)? Where did Isaac dwell? Whose genealogy do we have in vv12-18? How many princes came from him? How long did he live? To whom was he gathered in v17?  
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we have the transition from Abraham to Isaac. Notice the great blessings that continue to fall upon Abraham and everyone connected with him. Between the ages of 137 (when Sarah died) and 175, Abraham remarries and proceeds to have six more sons. Considering the fact that he was considered old for having children at 100, this is pretty amazing!

And he has enough to give gifts to Ishmael and to all of them without making a significant dent in his possessions, because after that it can still be said, “He gave all that he had to Isaac.” Isaac, of course, isn’t just his son; Isaac is the son of the promise.

So, there is blessing that attends everyone connected with Abraham, but the main blessing without which the rest would matter little goes to the one from whom the Christ will come: Isaac.

The Holy Spirit also gives us a clue here that Ishmael is a believer in the Savior who will come through Isaac. Yes, God blesses Ishmael greatly, and just as promised (cf. Gen 17:20), 12 princes come from Ishmael.

But the real blessings are Ishmael’s hope in the resurrection, as he returns to participate in burying Abraham with Isaac, and then what happens at Ishmael’s own death. When Abraham dies, it first tells us that he was gathered to his people, and then that he was buried by his sons.

This “being gathered to his people” doesn’t, therefore, refer to burial. Sarah was the only one in that cave, and the gathering was something that happened when his spirit departed, not when his body was committed back to the earth.

Therefore, when we see the same phrase used of Ishmael in v17, we don’t understand it of burial either. He breathed his last, died, “and was gathered to his people.” Who are his people? Well, one of them is his father, Abraham, who preceded him in death by 46 years. Ishmael’s soul departed to where Abraham’s soul had departed.

It is precious that, despite his rocky start, Ishmael did not allow jealousy or spite to keep him from hoping in Christ. We too might wish to have a central role in the work of God on earth, but those things are up to the providence of God. What is far more important for us is that we would be hoping in Christ Himself, who is THE center of all of God’s saving work. Then, at our deaths, we will be gathered to our people—the people who trust in Jesus!
Who are “your people” who have gone before you? Who are “your people” now on earth?
Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or HB435 “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

2018.06.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Colossians 1:9-22

Questions for Littles: With what did Paul pray that the Colossians would be filled (v9)? How did he pray that they would walk (v10)? With what did he pray that they would be strengthened (v11)? Who has qualified us for this (v12)? From what has God delivered us, and into what has God conveyed us (v13)? Through what do we have redemption (v14)? What is this redemption (v14b)? Of what is Jesus the image (v15a)? Over what is Jesus the firstborn (v15)? What was made by Him and why (v16)? What is Jesus before (17a)? In whom do all things consist (17b)? Of what is Jesus the head (v18a)? Why (18c)? What pleased the Father (v19)? What things did God reconcile to Himself (v20)? By whom? How did He make peace? In what were we once alienated and enemies (v21)? What has He now done to us? In what (v22a)? Through what? To do what? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Confession of Sin, and Assurance of the Gospel came from Colossians 1:9-22.

The passage begins with prayer, and quickly moves to where good prayers quickly move: the person and work of Jesus Christ. How can sinners such as we are be filled with the knowledge of His will and walk worthy of the Lord, being strengthened with all might? The only answer is: by the redemption through Christ’s blood.

Really, that’s the only answer to how we can do anything. The Scripture teaches us that apart from Jesus we can do nothing. We must be crucified with Christ so that it would no longer be we who live but Christ who lives in us. The live that we live, we must live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.

And who is this Christ? Very God of very God. The Creator of all things, the reason for all things, the goal of all things, the Sustainer of all things, the One in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells. What an amazing phrase that is: everything that God is, He is!

And what has this Christ done? Reconciled all things to Himself. Made peace through the blood of His cross. Reconciled sinners in the body of His flesh through death. And (past tense certainty of future even result) presented us holy and blameless and above reproach in His sight. This is the work of Christ. Halleluah!!

So, everything we ask for within the will of God depends on this Christ who is this glorious Person and has done this glorious work.

But let us not fail to notice one more thing about Him: all of heaven and earth throughout all of history is all about Jesus, and Jesus is about His church. He is the head of the body. The church is attached to Christ and identified with Him. Therefore, the church is not some peripheral organization or optional benefit. As Christ’s own focus in all creation and history, she must have a central focus in all of our life as well!
How much do your prayers dwell upon Christ? What place does His church have in your life?
Suggested songs: ARP16A “Keep Me, O God” or HB435 “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”

Monday, June 18, 2018

Introducing the "Pastor's Memory Challenge"!

Each week, during the fellowship time after worship, we purpose to have an "open mic" time for congregational sharing, but only a few have taken advantage of this time up to this point.

So, each week, we are going to be having a congregational memory verse. Yes, just one verse--baby steps! The children have been reciting their catechism answers for us for years--time for the adults to step up and start reciting some memory work of their own! Head on over to hopewellarp.org (or check out the back of this week's Hopewell @Home) to see the memory verse for the coming Lord's Day!

Each week, the verse will be a main verse from the morning sermon passage. Over the course of a sermon series, you will memorize your way through the key verses of a book, with each verse tied in your memory to the preaching of that passage. What a blessing to have the theology and application of entire books of the Bible ready to hand!

One week at a time.

So, as soon as folks are seated for the meal, one of the elders will step up to the mic and give you your golden opportunity to recite your verse for the week. When Scripture memory is done, we'll sing and pray in thankfulness for the birthdays and anniversaries of the week, and the ice will be broken for anyone who has something else that they would like to come to the mic and share.

2018.06.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:28

Questions for Littles: Who is receiving a kingdom (v28)? What cannot be done to this kingdom? What must we have? What do we do by that grace? What three things does v28 tell us about the worship that we should be offering?
In the sermon this week, we heard about how we respond rightly to our Redeemer in His worship. The Lord’s Day worship of a Christian congregation is full of Jesus’s Word, because He is using it to “shake off” what will not remain.

Christian congregational worship is an other-worldly experience that turns our attention up to heaven and forward to the New Heavens and New Earth. It is the weekly invasion of the genuinely glorious into our mundane lives.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, …

This reality demands three things of our worship: that it be acceptable, that it be dignified in manner, and that it be awed in spirit.

First, we are to worship God acceptably. This is the great lesson of the last third or so of the book of Exodus and the entire book of Leviticus, but especially of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10. Only what God has commanded for worship is acceptable to Him in worship. We must never think that God will be pleased simply because we mean well, are sincere, or feel worshipful.

Second, we are to worship God in a dignified manner. That is what the word translated ‘reverent’ communicates. This is not an occasion for lightness. This is not an occasion for over-familiarity. We must not be casual, laid back, flippant, or glib. This is one great reason to dress well for worship. While true worship is the greatest occasion that we have in this life for joy, there is good reason here to be restrained in the outward demonstrations of that joy. When in the presence of true greatness, one takes extra care not to draw attention to himself.

Third, we are to worship God in an awed spirit. We should be astounded at Him, and participate each week with a renewed sense and depth of wonder. We are not surprised that God, who has commanded reverence for our outward manner, would make the same requirement of our hearts before the sentence is complete. Throughout Scripture, the Lord addresses both, but the emphasis is always upon the heart.

If we do not marvel at God’s glory, His holiness, His justice, His power, and His wrath, then we will appreciate none of His other attributes enough either. Love and grace and compassion are all the more amazing when we consider the infinite weightiness of Him from whom they come, and who gave Himself both for us and to us!

But, ultimately, there is one thing that we need above all others. We need grace. Our original nature pushed down upon the knowledge of God, refusing to acknowledge Him or give Him thanks. If we are going to worship acceptably, reverently, and in awe, we must have grace! Let us ever be employing the means of grace, and especially coming to the throne of grace, to find His grace to help us in the time of need of corporate worship!
What are you going to do differently about worship, having carefully considered this Scripture?
Suggested Songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or HB11 “Holy, Holy, Holy!”

Saturday, June 16, 2018

2018.06.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:28-29

Questions for Littles: Who is receiving a kingdom (v28)? What cannot be done to this kingdom? What must we have? What do we do by that grace? What three things does v28 tell us about the worship that we should be offering? What does v29 tell us about our God?  
In this week’s sermon text, we learned how to worship in services where the Lord Himself is using His Word to give us an unshakeable kingdom.

There certainly is instruction about worship here. God, to whom we come, is not making Zion smoke, shake, and burn. But this does not make New Testament worship any less intimidating or serious than Sinai. In fact, it is exactly the opposite, because in New Testament worship, we come all the way to the Living God, and He is a consuming fire!

The fact that our God is a consuming fire means three things for our worship. First, we must worship acceptably. Is it too obvious to point out that if the Holy Spirit tells us to worship acceptably, then there is unacceptable worship as well?

In fact, needing a command to worship acceptably implies that our default mode is to worship in a way that does not please God. Let us learn, then, never to offer worship that is from ourselves, but only that worship that has been specifically commanded by God.

Second, we are to worship with reverence. The word means something like modestly, or respectfully, or properly. So, not only are we to worship with particular content, but we are also to worship in a particular style. Joy and zeal are not the same thing as showiness or lack of restraint.

Third, we are to worship with awe. Some translations say, “godly fear,” and certainly fear or even terror can be meant by this word. When we come to worship, it should be in wonder and amazement at the greatness and holiness and power and justice of God. This is more than a matter of external style as in the previous word. This is about the condition of our hearts.

So yes, there certainly is instruction about worship here. But the primary command is not to worship acceptably with reverence and awe. The primary command is actually, “Let us have grace.” Yes, some translations substitute “thankfulness” here, which is an alternative meaning for the same word. But, from the context, “grace” is the better reading.

That’s what we desperately need: grace. How do we have that grace? In large part by receiving the Word that He speaks. And then, of course, by prayer—an expression of dependence upon the Lord and His grace. Indeed, it seems that the point here is that worship itself is the place where we get the grace to worship well—not just in the assembly but in life as a whole. Dear believer, with such worship as God has designed for us, let us have grace to worship, that we may receive grace in worship!
Are you able to worship God well on your own? How do you show that you need grace?
Suggested Songs: ARP95B “Today If You Will Hear His Voice” or HB29 “O Come, and Sing Unto the Lord”

Friday, June 15, 2018

2018.06.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 15:1-15

Questions for Littles: To whom did they take Jesus in v1? What does Pilate ask Him in v2? What does Jesus answer, in v3, to all the accusations of the chief priests? Now what does Pilate ask in v4? And what does Jesus answer in v5? What effect does this have upon Pilate? What custom did Pilate have at the feast (v6)? What had Barabbas done (v7)? When the people begin crying out for a prisoner release in v8, what does Pilate ask them in v9? Why? What did he know about the chief priests’ real reason for handing Jesus over (v10)? Who stirred up the crowd In v11? Whom did they get the people to ask for? What question does Pilate ask in v12? And what do the people answer (v13)? What new question does Pilate ask in v14? What is the response? What did Pilate want to do (v15)? So, what did he end up doing? 
In the Gospel reading this week, Pilate helps us to ask all the right questions.

Is Jesus the King of the Jews? Jesus answers this question. He is, in fact, the promised forever-King from the line of David. Against the backdrop of that truth, we see just how ugly is this treason and blasphemy.

Does Jesus answer nothing? He is not trying to escape the cross. For this reason He came into the world. He is saving us from our sins!

Do we want our King? What a good question. Obviously, Jesus was very popular with the crowds, or else v10 wouldn’t make any sense. So there is a sad reminder here how easily we can break our allegiance to Christ out of a desire to please others, or when they place pressure upon us.

What was done to Christ? They crucified Him like a murdering terrorist, and they let the murdering terrorist go free instead.

What evil has He done? None at all! He is the spotless Lamb of God, who goes to His death only to pay the penalty for the sins of all who would ever believe upon Him.

So, allow me to take a page out of Pilate’s book and ask you a question: what will you do with Jesus? This is a King who demands a response. Will you yield yourself up to Him? Will you entrust yourself unto Him? Will you commit yourself to serving Him?
How do you go about reminding yourself of the cross and responding to it in your daily life? What physical or mental habits could improve your practice?
Suggested songs: ARP22A “My God, My God” or HB199 “Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed”

Thursday, June 14, 2018

2018.06.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 2:6-16

Questions for Littles: What kind of wisdom do Paul and his partners not speak (v6)? To what are the rulers of this age coming? Whose wisdom does Paul speak (v7)? When had God ordained it? For what purpose? How many of the rulers of that age knew that wisdom (v8)? What wouldn’t they have done if they had known it? What hadn’t man’s eye seen, ear heard, or heart considered (v9)? Through what (Whom!) has God revealed them (v10)? From where, alone, can come the knowledge of the things of God (v11)? So, whom must believers receive if they are to know the things of God (v12)? So, what wisdom does Paul speak (v13)? For what kind of people? What kind of person cannot receive them (V14)? Why not? How are they discerned? But who has the resources to judge all things (v15)? What is the expected answer to the question, “who has known the mind of the Lord” (v16)? What is the surprising actual answer at the end of that verse? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learn about the most glorious thing that we can know, and about the only way that we can know it.

Sometimes, I have heard people take v9 to mean something like when 1John 3:2 says, “It has not been revealed what we shall be”—that is, about some future glory. But that most certainly is not the case here. Rather, the Holy Spirit is saying here that what the rulers of this age did not know is that God had prepared to give Himself, the Lord of glory, for those who love Him.

This is the extraordinary that eye hadn’t seen, ear heard, nor heart considered. No, God had kept the details of this glorious gospel gift hidden from the eyes and ears and minds of men.

This is the most glorious thing that we can know. The Lord of glory has given Himself for sinners! Even with the access and instruction that we have, we do not really wrap our minds around this: the Lord of glory was crucified for me! For this, we must have the active working of the Holy Spirit.

When we say that “the only way we can know” this amazing gospel truth is by the work of the Spirit, we mean more than just that the Spirit has to come up with the words.

Certainly that is true, which is what vv10-12 are all about. ONLY the Spirit knows the things of God. ONLY THROUGH the Spirit has God revealed the truth to us. And the greatest part of that truth, the heart of that truth, is “the things that have been freely given to us by God.” Behold how good and generous is our God that the height of the revelation of His glory would be how He has given Himself for us!

But just as the work of the Spirit is the only way that we could have had the Scriptures, so also the work of the Spirit is the only way that we can come to believe them. The natural man does not receive them. Rather, the Scriptures are spiritual for spiritual (how v13 literally ends): Holy-Spirit-given words for Holy-Spirit-helped people.

And how does the Holy Spirit help us? By giving to us that which is Christ’s. Not only Christ’s words, as promised in John 16, but also even Christ’s mind, as we see here in v16! The Lord gave Himself for us once for all at Calvary, and He continually gives Himself to us by the working of His Holy Spirit. Praise the Lord!
How does your habit/practice of Bible reading reflect the necessity of the Spirit’s work in it?
Suggested songs: ARP119C “That I May Live and Keep Your Word” or HB260 “The Spirit Breathes upon the Word”

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

2018.06.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:50-67

Questions for Littles: Who answered Abraham’s servant in v50? What did they say (50-51)? How did Abraham’s servant respond (v52)? Who received what in v53? What did the servant and his men do that night (v54)? What did he say in the morning? What did her brother and mother want (v55)? But how does he respond (v56)? Whom do they decide to ask (v57)? What does she say (v58)? What blessing do they give her as she departs (v60)? How do Rebekah and her maids travel (v61)? What does Isaac do in the evening (v63)? What does Rebekah ask (v65)? What does the servant tell Isaac in v66? Where does Isaac take Rebekah (v67)? What does she become? What effect does this have on Isaac after his mother’s death?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we find something that isn’t all that unusual: a believer’s wedding becomes an occasion for unbelievers to get some exposure to the gospel.

First, there’s Laban (and Bethuel). We’re almost surprised that Behtuel is alive when he says something in v50. Laban seems to have been running everything up until this point. But of course, Laban has been studying how to talk to Abraham’s servant ever since Rebekah recounted her experience as well.

Now, “Come in, blessed of Yahweh!!!!” has turned into “The thing comes from Yahweh!!!!”… all the while with at least one eye firmly focused on the stash of goodies that Abraham’s servant still hasn’t yet distributed.

Then there’s the family’s blessing in v60. They obviously have heard the promise about Abraham having innumerable descendants and possessing the gate of his enemies. This last promise was one that we heard about for the first time after the almost-sacrifice in Genesis 22:17, so we have good reason to believe that the house of Bethuel has heard more than just the amazing story of Yahweh prospering the servant’s journey. Indeed, they have heard about the Lord’s sacrificial substitute.

The whole thing seems to have gotten Rebekah pretty nervous. All of a sudden, she’s betrothed, and her family is singing Messianic war songs about her! It’s a bit more than she bargained for in her good deed at the city well. Perhaps this is behind her decision in v58, which seems to have surprised her family. Then, in v64, the English translations give us the rather tidy “dismounted” in place of the Hebrew’s rather clumsy “fell off.” There are other words to use for dismounting. This seems to have a bit of nervous-bride written all over it. You’ve heard of being nervous for a blind date… what about a blind marriage?

Well… what about that blind marriage? It is working out pretty well for Isaac, considering the quality of woman that Abraham’s servant has secured. And v63 has us thinking that it is working out pretty well for Rebekah too. Oh that all our covenant daughters would have husbands who are in the habit of meditating (on the Lord) in the evening! It will serve her well, when she comes to need 20 years of prayer for barrenness.
When distant relatives intersect your life, do they necessarily find it about the Lord and His gospel? What such occasion do you have coming up? What can you say or do at that time to make it so?
Suggested songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or HB106 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

2018.06.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Peter 2:4-10

Questions for Littles: What did men do with Jesus Christ, the living stone (v4)? What had God done? Who else are living stones (v5)? What are these stones for building? What are to offer to God?  Through what (Whom!) are our spiritual sacrifices made acceptable? Where had God told about this beforehand (v6)? Who will by no means be put to shame? To whom is Jesus precious (v7, cf. v4)? What did the disobedient builders do to Him? To what were they disobedient (v8a)? How did this come about (v8b)? What four glorious things does v9 call us? For what purpose did God make us into this? Whose praises do we proclaim?  
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from 1Peter 2:4-10. It’s a helpful passage to have in the same week as our particular reading from the gospel of Mark, where we literally see the “builders” rejecting Christ, who is our Chief Cornerstone.

Now, it is obvious that we should aim to receive and submit to Christ, rather than reject and attack Him like the builders did. We need continual reminding to condition our hearts properly toward Him, so it’s a blessing to have that reminder in our passage.

But there is something else wonderful that I would like to point out here: how belonging to God in Christ makes us more and more like Him.

Our heavenly Father holds Christ dear and precious (v4), and when He calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light, we too come to consider Christ as precious (v7)?

Jesus is a living stone (v4), and so also we are living stones (v5).

Just as Jesus was chosen by God and precious (v4), so also in Him we are a chosen generation (v9).

The Lord loves to produce in us the many evidences and examples of how we belong to Him, and now we are His.

So, the question for us is: do we love to bring our Cornerstone glory by acting as a holy nation? Do we recognize that one of the primary purposes of our salvation is that we would proclaim His praises?

The Lord would have had every right to appoint us to a disobedience that we would willingly enter into as sinners. But instead, He has made us His people, and He has given us His mercy.
In what part of your worship or thought life do you acknowledge that God chose you simply out of His mere goodness, and not for any good thing in you?
Suggested songs: ARP4 “Answer When I Call” or HB402 “I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew”

Monday, June 11, 2018

2018.06.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:25-27

Questions for Littles: What are we to “see to” in v25? What are we not to refuse? Where was the mountain from which God spoke before? Where is the mountain from which He speaks now? What two places is the Lord shaking with New Covenant preaching (v26)? Since this is the last time, what are the only things that will remain when this age of preaching is done (v27)?
In the sermon this week, we considered the responsibility in sermon-hearing, the relationship in sermon-hearing, and the redemption in sermon-hearing. As we follow up together in this devotional, I wonder—what practical steps are we going to take in response to this passage?

What are we going to do about the fact that we are responsible for good sermon-hearing? The command is not “do not refuse Him who speaks,” but rather “See to it” that you do not refuse… It’s the way you talk to someone who is in charge of something, who is responsible for it. “See to it that…”

So, what gets in the way of our hearing sermons with ready, responsive hearts? And what are we going to do… during the service? That morning before it? The night before? The afternoon after? The day after?

This responsibility in sermon-hearing is all the more important because of the relationship in sermon-hearing. Here is another subtle nuance in the text before us this morning. It doesn’t merely say, “don’t refuse what is spoken.” Rather, it says, “Don’t refuse Him who speaks.”

When we resist the Word, faithfully preached, in the gathered Lord’s Day worship, we aren’t just refusing a true statement or even a powerful statement. If we resist the proper preaching in public worship, we are refusing a Person—and that Person is our Lord and God Jesus Christ.

What a serious thing it is, then, not just to listen to Him in the preaching, but to respond to Him, from the heart, with action in our lives! Shall we not love Him whose blood has spoken so excellently for us, and who then speaks weekly to us?

Isn’t “whether we are going to refuse Him” a much greater issue than “whether we will benefit” from the preaching? Both are  stake in what we do with the preaching—Lord, make us a people who are weekly changed by the preaching of Your Word!

Finally, with what expectations do we come to this redemptive preaching? Christ’s Word is shaking us free of things that are fleeting and worthless. It’s a weekly reset, fixing our focus back upon those things which cannot be shaken.

Do we come, expecting to spend an hour, and then returning with the same priorities as before? Or, do we expect a shake-up, presenting our hearts with an openness and expectation that some disproportion in our minds/hearts/lives is about to be remedied? May we come with a motto like Calvin’s, “My heart I offer Thee, Lord, promptly and sincerely!”
What are you going to do differently this week: before, during, and after the preaching?
Suggested Songs: ARP95B “Today If You Will Hear His Voice” or HB253 “How I Love Thy Law, O Lord!”