Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018.01.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:1-9

Questions for Littles: Who spoke to Abram in v1? What did He tell him to get out of? From whom did He tell him to go? To where did He tell him to go? What did God promise to make Abram into (2a)? What else did He promise to do (2b)? What did He promise to make great (2c)? What (whom!) did God promise to make a blessing? Whom did God promise to bless (3a)? Whom did God promise to curse (3b)? How many families of the earth would be blessed in Abram (3c)? How did Abram depart (4a)? Who went with him (4b)? How old was Abram when he departed from Haran (4c)? Whom did Abram take (5a)? What did Abram take (5b)? Where did they go? To what place did Abram pass through (6a)? How far did he go (6b)? Who were in the land (6b)? Who appeared to Abram (7a)? To whom did He promise to give the land (7b)? What did Abram build there? To whom? Where did Abram move from there (8a)? Where did he pitch his tent (8b)? What did he build there (8c)? What did he use the altar to do (8d)? What did he continue to do in the same manner (9a)? In what direction (9b)? 
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we come to what many refer to as “the call of Abram.” Abram and his family were still in Haran, where Terah’s journey toward Canaan had come to a permanent end. After Terah dies, Yahweh speaks to Abram, explaining to him why this wasn’t far enough.

Haran was still close enough to be considered his country. There were extended family still there. This was not a place of godliness (cf. Josh 24:2). This was not a place of faith. Abram’s was to be a life of faith that rested upon great promises.

Where does God call Abram to go? “a land that I will show you.” That’s a faith requirement isn’t it? Let a husband propose that family move to his wife. Husband: “honey, we’re moving.” Wife: “really, to where, dear?” Husband: “a land that I will show you.” Wife: “you know that’s not an actual name of a place, don’t you, dear?”

Perhaps Abram and Sarai had just such a conversation. The command comes with little in terms of immediate details about Abram’s new life, but with big promises. God basically promises to identify Himself with Abram now—taking personally whatever others do to Abram, and placing Abram and his family right at the center of His saving plans in the world.

Faith believes the promises. Faith doesn’t demand details. Faith does “just as Yahweh has spoken” (v4). Faith also does something else…

Faith worships. Abram gets to Shechem, where he finds out that it will actually be his descendants that receive the land and not he himself. And Abram worships. Abram goes east of Bethel. And worships.

He built no house. He built no city. He built altars to call upon the name of Yahweh. Priorities. First things first. Faith believes and obeys. And faith worships!
How can you tell that worship is the most important part of your life?
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or HB26 “O Worship the King All Glorious Above”

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Prayer Meeting tomorrow, 7p.m.

Prayer Meeting tomorrow at 7p.m. The folder for it is now available at https://goo.gl/i9LP9t -- as usual, we will be praying through the different major themes using the next particular Scripture focus identified in Matthew Henry's Method for Prayer (see https://goo.gl/cJEZeh)

2018.01.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 2:16-21

Questions for Littles: By what is a man not justified (v16)? By what is a man justified? Into whom have we believed? Who shall be justified by the works of the law? What are we ourselves found to be, even while we seek to be justified by Christ (v17)? Does this make Christ a servant (minister) of sin? If we build again what we destroyed, what do we make ourselves into (v18)? What did we do through the law (v19a)? Why did we die to the law (v19b)? With whom have we been crucified (v20)? Who no longer lives? Who lives in us? How do we live the life that we now live in the flesh? What has the Son of God done for us? What must we not then set aside (v21)? Through what do those who set aside grace say that righteousness comes? If righteousness does come through the law, then what else is true (end of v21)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Galatians. This was one of the passages from which they came. False teachers had come to the Galatian church and insisted that believers had to maintain their right standing with God by keeping God’s law, and particularly circumcision.

In this passage, Peter had come up to Galatia and at first would eat with the Gentiles. But then, when some men came from the primarily Jewish church in Jerusalem (pastored by James the brother of Jesus, v12), Peter all of a sudden separated himself—not wanting to appear to be rejecting the law of circumcision by eating with the uncircumcised.

What a mess—and not just because feelings might be hurt. No, this was a much worse than that. He was making a mess of the gospel! Paul saw this happening, and rebuked Peter to his face, and today’s verses come from that speech.

We know that a man is made right with God only by what Jesus has done. That’s why, in order to be right with God, we believed into Jesus Christ (v16)! Apparently, some had come along and said that if that’s our theology, then Christ just gives us an excuse to sin and becomes a servant (minister, v17) of sin.

Paul announces that that is hogwash on two counts. First of all, hoping that the works of the law will maintain our right standing with God is “rebuilding what I had destroyed” (v18). That would be to set back up again a standard that we will never in this life keep. It would only result in making ourselves back into transgressors before God.

After all, it was the law that demanded that we be executed for our transgression. It was the law that refused to allow us to have spiritual life. It was the law that said, “Being made able to live unto God is a privilege that you don’t even deserve!” We had to die unto the law in order to live to God (v19)!

But it is faith that joins us to Jesus so that we are crucified with Him (20a). It is faith that joins Jesus to us, so that our new life is lived by His life in us and through us (20b). It is faith that clings to the love of Jesus and knows that it has Him (20c).

So, maintaining a righteous standing with God by works doesn’t work. And even worse, it doesn’t treasure Christ and cling to Him. In fact, it says, “I don’t need grace; He died for no reason.” What a terrible thing it is to try to maintain our standing with God by works!
What obedience to God are you most tempted to think is maintaining your right standing with Him?
Suggested songs: ARP32A-B “What Blessedness / Instruction I Will Give to You” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”

Monday, January 15, 2018

Worship Preview for January 21: Lord's Supper, new Psalm of the Month

Lord's Supper this coming Lord's Day (21-Jan-08)!

Just a reminder to come prepared to partake, and also that when we come to the table, any offerings that you bring in cash are received into the deacon's fund for helping the poor and needy.

It also means that it's time for a new Psalm of the Month. This month is Psalm 27:7-10 (a.k.a. 27C in the Blue), to the tune St. Peter (https://goo.gl/pkWMRC):

O hear my voice, LORD, when I cry,
And answer me in grace.
When You said, "Seek my face," my heart
Said, "LORD, I'll seek Your face."

O do not cause Your face to be
Concealed from me, I pray.
Treat me, Your servant, without wrath;
Do not turn me away.

For You have surely been my help,
Do not abandon me;
Do not forsake me now, I pray,
O God who rescues me.

My father and my mother both
May leave me all alone,
But surely then the LORD Himself
Will take me as His own.

Also, as long as the book of Hebrews is opening up Psalm 110:4 in the sermon texts, we will be responding to the sermon by singing Psalm 110B. May the Lord grant that our children would grow up, exulting in Christ as their forever-king-priest, with that Psalm often on their lips, bringing Him to mind.

2018.01.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:11-16

Questions for Littles: Through what did perfection NOT come (v11)? Under what did the people receive the law? If perfection were through the Levitical priesthood, what would not have been needed? What was changed, when Jesus was acknowledged as the begotten Son of Psalm 2 and 110 (v12)? What else was changed, of necessity? Who belongs to another tribe than Levi (v13)? What had no man from that tribe done before? Who made this change of priesthood and law evident by arising from Judah (v14)? How much did Moses speak of Judah, concerning the priesthood? What made the change of priesthood and law far more evident (v15)? According to what did our Lord NOT come as a priest (v16a)? According to what DID our Lord come as a priest (v16b)?
The Scripture for the sermon this week dove even deeper into what it means for our walk with God that Jesus is “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” In last week’s passage, we heard that Jesus’s new priesthood gives us a surer hope. In this week’s, we hear that Jesus’s priesthood produces full and final access to God in worship. And in next week’s, we will hear that Jesus’s priesthood secures a better covenant.

The ceremonial law, which God gave through Moses, did not bring in perfection. That is to say that it could not accomplish the final, full, and complete relationship that God intended to form between Himself and His people.

Jesus, the new Melchizedekian Priest, shows that the ceremonial law that the people received under the Levitical priesthood was a temporary measure (v11). The ceremonial law taught the people how to be ready and clean and acceptable to draw near to God. The ceremonial law provided the way in which they could draw near to God. The ceremonial law taught them what to do when they were there.

So, it’s not surprising that this ceremonial law was precious to the people, along with the Levitical priesthood and the order of Aaron. These are great blessings. But they were imperfect. The Levites and priesthood of the Old Testament could not fully or finally bring the people near to God.

When the Jesus’s new priesthood appears, then all of these change: how to be acceptable for worship, and where to go for worship and what to do there. God made this abundantly clear, because our Lord arose from Judah (v14).

There was no command to any human to ordain Jesus (16a). Instead, there is something far superior: an endless life (16b). How long will Jesus’s blood and righteousness be what makes us acceptable as worshipers? As long as Jesus’s life!

How long will the right way of worshiping be with Jesus as the preacher, and Jesus leading the singing, and Jesus receiving the tithe, and Jesus pronouncing the blessing? As long as Jesus’s life!

Christian worship is no longer tied to a particular building, with particular furniture, and clergy of a particular ethnicity. It is tied to our great Priest in glory, and His endless life!
How does the simple worship of the NT show that Jesus is better than all the priests that ever came before Him? What happens when we fancy-up worship again ourselves?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Saturday, January 13, 2018

2018.01.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:1-10

Questions for Littles: What two titles did Melchizedek have (v1)? Whom did he meet? When? What did Abraham give him (v2)? What was the translation of his name? What does “king of Salem” mean? What things did he not have (v3)? What did it show about him that even the patriarch would give him a tenth (v4)? Who had a commandment to receive tithes from Israel (v5)? But who received tithes from Abraham and blessed him (v6)? But what did Abraham have (end of v6)? What does this mean about Melchizedek: which one is better, the one who blesses or the one who is blessed (v7)? What does v8 say Melchizedek is not? Who is the One now, of whom it is testified, “He lives”? Who else paid tithes to Melchizedek (v9-10)? What does this say about him?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we learn about someone who is better than Abraham.

That was shocking to a Jew to hear. The way they got Jesus sentenced to death was by accusing Him of preaching against Moses and the temple. The way they got Stephen executed was by accusing him of preaching against Moses and the temple.

And now Scripture is going to tell us about someone better than father (patriarch) Abraham who received the promises? Has it forgotten how great he was?! No, actually, it reminds us in the midst of the passage that he is the patriarch, the recipient of the promises!

How can Melchizedek be better? Well, there are some early clues. First, His name translates to “King of Righteousness.” Abraham had to have sacrifices for sin because he is unrighteous. Second, his title might not mean “King of the place called Jerusalem—city of peace” … rather, the place may have gotten its name because he is the “King of Peace.” After all, that hill was currently called Moriah, and the city up there was currently called Jebus.

King of peace? Abraham wasn’t king of anything. And he didn’t have much peace. In fact, he was a sojourner in the land. Then, there was the fact that Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek. v5 implies that this was somehow commanded by God, and v6-10 make very clear that this shows that God Himself considered Melchizedek better.

Finally, if we went back to Genesis 14, we would learn more about this blessing. Not only does Melchizedek bless Abraham, but Abraham learns how to think and speak (v22-23) by listening to Melchizedek (v18-19). It’s fair to say that, after Genesis 14, we spend the entire Bible looking for the reappearance of this eternal, infinitely great, King of righteousness and peace!
How does Jesus as ‘King’ inform our view of ourselves? How do we respond to this info?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or HB132 “All Hail the Power”

Friday, January 12, 2018

2018.01.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 8:11-21

Questions for Littles: What are the Pharisees seeking from Jesus as they dispute with Him and test Him (v11)? How does Jesus respond even before He talks (12a)? What does He say after He sighs like this (12b)? Where does He go now? What had the disciples forgotten (v14)? How many loaves did they have with them? If five loaves fed five thousand families, how many could Jesus feed with one loaf? What does Jesus warn them to watch out for in v15? Why do the disciples think He said this (v16)? What does this show Jesus about their understanding and their hearts (v17-18)? What questions does He ask them, and how do they answer, in v19-20? What question does He leave them with in v21? 
In the Gospel reading this week, everyone is disappointing Jesus.

First, the Pharisees exasperate Him by asking for a sign. When someone says, “I don’t believe you. Prove it,” the problem isn’t necessarily that the one who isn’t believing doesn’t have enough evidence. Jesus had shown plenty signs.

We want to distance ourselves from the Pharisees, and say, “See! They hated Him so much that they still refused to believe in Him!” But does Jesus say that it was specifically the Pharisees who were asking for a sign?

Jesus says that this problem was one that belonged to their generation as a whole! And if it was a problem that was limited to the Pharisees, how would the warning in v15 make sense?

That brings us to His disappointment with the disciples. A parallel passage tells us at the end that they later understood that He was warning them about the teaching of Pharisees. The Holy Spirit has Mark leave that part out so that their lack of understanding will be front and center.

It’s kind of humiliating actually: “Do you mean you guys still can’t count to 12 or count to 7?” “Do you mean that you guys can’t remember all the way back to like… yesterday?”

But that’s just the point. No sign is necessary for the Pharisees or for the disciples or for Herod, because Jesus has given more than ample demonstration of Himself!

And this is true not only in Scripture but even in your own life, isn’t it dear Christian? How can you not count and recognize and remember how He continually spares you from the consequences of your sin, continually treats you according to His own love, based upon what His own righteousness deserves?
What might our hearts be secretly insisting that Jesus “would really do” if He is our Savior?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Nations Rage?” or HB369 “How Firm a Foundation”

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018.01.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 8:15-27

Questions for Littles: What spirit did we not receive (15a)? To not do what? What Spirit did we receive (15b)? What does He make us cry out? Who bears witness with us (16)? What does He testify? What three things do we do jointly with Christ, according to v17? What do we have in the present time (18)? With what are they not worthy to be compared? Where will this glory be revealed? Who(what) is eagerly waiting for this revelation (v19)? What was it subjected to (20)? Who subjected it? In what did He subject it? When the children of God are revealed from what will creation be delivered (21)? Into what? What does the whole creation do (v22)? Who else groans (v23)? What does our groaning wait for? If we are still hoping for this, what do we not yet do (v24)? How do we wait for it (v25)? Who else groans (v26)? With what is He helping us as He groans in this way (26a)? According to whose will is this groaning intercession (v27)? And who listens to this groaning of the Spirit’s mind?
In this week’s Epistle reading, there is a whole lot of groaning going on. The whole creation is groaning. We are groaning. The Holy Spirit is groaning.

That might sound like a bad thing at first, until we realize that the Holy Spirit is doing it too. What is going on here? There is a sense in which we are already saved (v24). But there is a real sense in which our salvation is not yet complete (cf. 13:11).

We aren’t resurrected yet. Our bodies are not glorious yet. And these are reminders that we are still in the midst of that struggle from the second half of chapter 7. Remaining sin—now there’s a reason for some groaning!

But we’re not groaning in fear. We’re groaning in hope. The creation is groaning in hope. Its bondage to corruption is time-limited. When “the big reveal” that God has made us His children happens, the entire creation will be remade. Until then, God has subjected it to futility.

But at the day of resurrection, we won’t just be revealed to be physically indestructible. We’ll be revealed to have been made perfectly holy like our daddy. We will be revealed to be the sons, the children, of God.

This is why the Spirit does not make us to grown in anxiety or fear—as if the work of God in us might never make any progress… as if it wasn’t genuinely on its way to being completed at the last. No, He is a Spirit of adoption to us. He trains us to call God, “daddy”—not in the sense of taking God lightly, but rather in the sense of taking holiness seriously.

We already know that as joint-hears with Christ, we will be jointly-glorified with Christ. The glory that is coming is not merely a glory that will be revealed to us but a glory that will be revealed in us. And that’s the comparison in v18. That’s what the suffering is being used by God to produce.

The Holy Spirit is praying that we would be made like Jesus, so that we can enjoy bringing to Him that glory forever! He groans that we would not continue as we are. And we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit also groan. And the whole creation groans. And God will do it! He’ll finish the work!
How do your prayers groan toward holiness and resurrection? What trial is this passage sweetening?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or HB369 “How Firm a Foundation”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2018.01.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 11:10-32

Questions for Littles: With whom does the genealogy start in v10? Whom do you recognize in the family at the end of the genealogy in v26? What do you notice about the ages of the men as we go along? Comparing this genealogy of the line of the promise to the one in chapter 5, what point about each of the men is interestingly missing? What are we reminded about Abram’s origins in both v28 and v31? What point does v30 make about Sarai? Where had Terah planned to go (31b)? But what happened to him (32)?
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we move rather quickly from the flood to Abram. We know from the earlier part of the chapter that some pretty exciting things happened during this time. And, this happened pretty quickly.

In fact, doing the math, Abram was born only some 295 years, give or take (depending upon whether Nahor or Haran might have been born before him). That means that he may have already been alive at the time of Babel (depending upon when in Peleg’s 239 years Nimrod “began” his kingdom at Babel. It also means that Shem was alive for Abraham’s entire life and could well have known Jacob.

The effects of the fall weigh heavily upon this chapter. The lengths of the men’s lives are decreasing. The incident at Babel hangs in the background. Haran dies even before his own father. Sarai is not obeying the command “be fruitful and multiply” not by choice, but because she is barren. It is a hard, broken world.

We may find v31 in particular interesting. Was 12:1 not the first time, and Abram not the first person, whom God had called to Canaan? Why was Terah all of a sudden going there? The text is simply silent.

Things are not spiritually much better than they are physically. We might be able to draw conclusions—since Shem’s clan stuck around with Ham all they way down until v18 and Peleg. But Joshua 24:2-3 makes it explicit: Terah had not brought Abraham up in the Lord, but rather serving other gods.

Sometimes, even in the line of promise, even in the covenant line, a clean break has to be made if the generations of the family are going to go back to serving the Lord. The generations of Shem may have moved away from the Lord, but the Lord had not moved away. He was still faithfully bringing about His promises. He was still faithfully committed to that family—even when there were generations at a time that were not committed to Him!
What ancestors of yours were believers? For what descendants of yours are you concerned? How does God’s covenant faithfulness strengthen you to prayer and labor for their souls?
Suggested songs: ARP90A “Lord, You Have Been” or HB111 “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2018.01.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 72

Questions for Littles: Whose Psalm was this? What did he want God to give to the king (v1a)? To the king’s Son (1b)? Whom would the king judge with what (2a, 2b)? And what would respond by imitating Him (3a, 3b)? What kinds of people would He especially help and oppose (v4, 12-14)? How long would His kingdom have this impact (v5)? How great would be His effect upon the people (v6-7a,b)? And for how long (7c, 17)? How large would His kingdom be (v8)? Whom would it include (v9, 10, 11)?? What prophecy, in particular is fulfilled about Him (9b)? What will be done for Him (15)? And how will creation respond (16)? What is the ultimate result of the kingdom described in this Psalm (v18-19)? Of what is this Psalm a summary and climax (v20)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Psalm 72.

Although as the Psalms are arranged in our Bibles, this one comes fairly early on, it is worth recognizing that v20 causes us to consider it a great climax in the Psalter, and that v18-19 cause us to consider its subject matter to be the wondrous things that only Yahweh God can do, and that are the greatest cause of His being glorified forever and filling the earth with His glory.

So, pretty quickly, we’ve moved beyond the possibility that this is Solomon praying, “Dear Lord, help me to be a good king.” He’s not just praying for a kingly son of David. He’s praying for “The” Kingly Son of David…

Whose rule would be not just over Israel, but over the whole earth. And who would not just reign for a good long while, but forever and ever. And not only over men, but over all of creation in such a way that it actually undoes the Fall—for mountains and hills, but also for the interaction of people during His reign. He would ultimately raise up the poor and oppressed and needy, and bring down all oppressors.

Bringing down oppressors is a duty of all kings. Raising up all the poor and needy is an impossibility unless the fall itself is undone. Jesus Himself said, “the poor you will always have with you.”

But undoing the fall is exactly what this king would do. v9 tells us that this is the serpent’s-head-crusher that this Psalm is talking about. The One before whom the serpent would go on his belly. The One before whom the serpent would eat dust all his days.

This Psalm is about Jesus, our forever King whose salvation is God’s most wondrous work!
What result of this Psalm haven’t come yet? How are you praying, praising, and working for it?
Suggested songs: ARP72B “Nomads Will Bow” or HB496 “Jesus Shall Reign”

Monday, January 8, 2018

2018.01.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 6:19-20

Questions for Littles: How does this hope function for our souls? What kind of anchor is it? Where does our hope enter? Who has entered there for us? What has He become? For how long? 
The Scripture for the sermon this week began by taking up the idea of “the hope set before us.” This is the hope of which God Himself wants us to be more sure, as we learned in the previous passage. So, it’s pretty important to answer the question: what hope is it?

Is it the hope that I will feel better about myself? Have less trouble in this life? Stop having to worry about money? Do better at relationships? Those are some of the hopes that people have, and we too often hear preaching that present such things as the hope that is set before us.

Well, the hope that we have is described here as an anchor. Wait… what? I want to be free! I want to move! What do you mean an anchor? Anchors just drag me down!

Not this anchor. You see, it depends upon where the anchor is. This particular anchor drags us up. It refuses to let us aim too low, remaining stubbornly stuck where it is. And where is it? In the Presence behind the veil.

Now that’s inviting… you might even say enticing. A veil is meant to keep you out. A veil is meant to hide your view. And indeed, before Christ it was forbidden to enter the Holy of Holies or even to see it. Not because God isn’t generous, but because entering or viewing is dangerous for sinners. It’s a recipe for being killed, being incinerated by the fire of His holiness!

So, the High Priest would enter for you. The High Priest would enter instead of you. This enticing veil? Yes, it stirs up your curiosity, but there was another anchor before. The rope around his leg. He wasn’t there steadfast, immovable. He was in danger himself, ready to be dragged out if he died before the holiness.

Not so with our Lord Jesus Christ. He is High Priest forever. Death has no claim on Him, because He already defeated it. Holiness is not dangerous to Him, because He is the Holy One.

And He is not there instead of us. He is there ahead of us. He is there because He is bringing us there. He has won for us an indestructible life. He has earned for us not only that we be counted holy, but that we also then be made holy to prepare us to enter with Him!
How does the fact that our entrance depends entirely upon Christ make us sure that we will enter at last? How does this being our hope reprioritize your goals that you are hoping for?
Suggested Songs: ARP16B “I’ll Bless the LORD” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Saturday, January 6, 2018

2018.01.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 6:13-18

Read Hebrews 6:13-18
Questions for Littles: To whom had God made a promise (13a)? By whom did He swear this promise (v14)? After what did Abraham obtain the promise (v15)? To whom did God show more abundantly the unchangeableness of His promise (v17)? How did He show this more abundantly (end of v17)? What is it impossible for God to do (v18)? What do God’s unchangeable counsel and unchangeable oath give to us? What are we who have fled for refuge enabled, by this strong consolation, to lay hold of?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we learned not only how to seek assurance of our belonging to God in Christ, but also the fact that God desires for us to have this assurance.

How do we know that God wants us to have this assurance? Because He swears an oath about it!
Now, that sounds a little strange to us.

We understand why husbands and wives swear vows to each other. And we understand why judges and government officials take oaths before God. And we understand why church members take vows and oaths.

But… God? Isn’t it pretty much impossible for Him to lie? Aren’t His plans and promises unchangeable?

Yes, and the passage says both of these things. But let us consider v17 more closely. It is not that God was making the word or promise more sure. Rather, he was showing more abundantly how sure they already are. It is the display of the certainty, not the certainty itself, that is magnified here.

And why? v18 tells us: to give us strong consolation. If we have fled for refuge to the Lord, it does not honor Him for us to continue always in a condition of nervous uncertainty about our spiritual state. Rather, it honors Him that those who are seeking refuge in Him, would find in that refuge a strong consolation.

So the Lord accommodates our weakness. He makes allowance for how doubting and shaky our faith can often be. And He piles onto His promises with covenant oaths. He did this several times with Abraham, but the one quoted here is from that extraordinary incident on the mountain where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac.

He has continued to do so with us, giving us a New Covenant in which the sacrifices are not bulls and goats, appointed by God for the certainty of believers, but the very blood of Jesus Christ Himself. The washing of His blood and pouring out of His Spirit signified in baptism. The covenant meal, complete with the Cup that is the New Covenant in His blood. These are forms of covenantal assurance, pointing to and united with the oaths of the living God Himself.

By means of Word and Sacrament, God answers our weakness with a strong consolation, so that we will lay hold of the hope set before us. Hallelujah!
How often do you reflect upon your baptism as a covenant sign? How does God’s appointment of the Supper as a covenant sign strengthen your certainty about His promises?
Suggested Songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Friday, January 5, 2018

2018.01.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 7:24-8:10

Questions for Littles: Into what region did Jesus go in v24? What couldn’t He do? Why not—who found Him (v25)? What ethnicity was the woman (v26)? What did Jesus imply about her in v27? Did she deny it in v28? How did she respond? What does Jesus say is a result of her response in v29? What did the woman find when she went home (30)? To what region does Jesus then go in v31? Interestingly, in this Gentile region, what does He say in Aramaic in v34? In addition to regaining his hearing, what other miracle does the man in v35 experience? What does He command them in v36 (something He usually commands in Jewish territory)? What do people say about Him in v37 (that demonstrates that though Gentiles, they had Messianic expectations)? What size multitude had Jesus gathered now, even in this Gentile territory (8:1)? What did Jesus have on the multitude in v2? How long had they stayed with Him, even without food? Why would some of them have passed out on the way home, if He sent them away to eat (v3)? Why didn’t the disciples think they had any other options (v4)? How many loaves did they have (v5)? What did Jesus command the multitude to do in v6? What two things does Jesus do with the loaves before giving them to the disciples? What else did they have (v7)? How much did these people who hadn’t eaten for three days eat (v8)? How many, of what size baskets of leftovers, did they take up? How many had eaten? To what (Jewish) region did Jesus now go (v10)?
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus goes into Gentile territory and shows that He is making for Himself children from among the Gentiles too.

First, we find Him in Tyre and Sidon, coastal trade-port cities with terrible reputations for wickedness. In fact, these cities often find themselves targets of condemnation in the Minor Prophets, and even appear in Jesus’ pronouncements against the Jewish cities on Galilee.

There, a woman somehow finds out that He is there and comes to ask Him to save her daughter from the control of a demon. The woman is a Gentile, and Jesus basically says, “Don’t you know that I’m a Jewish Messiah who came to a Jewish nation?” In fact, His word picture for her and her daughter is “dogs” as opposed to “children.”

However, this woman’s love for her daughter and faith in Christ foster a humility that doesn’t take offense at this but rather insists that Christ has more than enough grace for all. Jesus recognizes this and tells her that her daughter has been healed.

Jesus moves on to the Decapolis—a region populated by Gentiles and Samaritans, but we find in v37 especially that there are many here expecting the Christ. He was prophesied to make the deaf to hear and the mute to speak, and here Jesus does both in one case. Those who are expecting Messiah say, “He has done all things well.”

And He has, dear Christian. He has fulfilled every prophecy and completed every task of the Messiah. He is a victorious and complete Savior. You may cling to Him with absolute confidence!

The final episode may be the strongest statement that Christ is a Messiah for the Gentiles every bit as much as the Jews. The Jews had recognized whom He was claiming to be, when He fed a multitude in the wilderness.

Now, there is a multitude who is willing to stay with Him without food for three days (their willingness a small miracle in itself), but this one is Gentile. What does He do? Reproduce the wilderness feeding, still with seven large baskets left over. Jesus is a more-than-abundant Savior for the whole world!!
Have you ever wondered if Jesus is a Savior for you? What’s it look like for you to cling to Him anyway?
Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or HB132 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name!”

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018.01.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 8:5-14

Questions for Littles: According to what are you living, if you set your mind on the things of the flesh (5a)? According to what are you living, if you set your mind on the things of the Spirit? What is it for us if we are fleshly (“carnally”) minded (6a)? What is it for us if are spiritually minded (6b)? Why is being fleshly minded enmity against God (v7)? What can’t those who are in the flesh do (v8)? What else is true about someone, if he does not have the Spirit of Christ (v9)? If we are in Christ, are we controlled by our dead flesh or His alive Spirit (v10)? Who dwells in us, if we belong to Christ (11a)? What did God do with Christ’s physically dead body? What will He do with our spiritually dead bodies? Through whom will God do this (end of v11)? What are we, according to v12a? To whom (v14)? What will happen if we live according to the flesh (v13a)? How can we put to death the deeds of the body (13b)? What will happen then? What is true of every one of the children of God (v14)? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we heard about the same battle as in 7:14-24, but with one great difference: the struggle is now being considered in light of why it is a struggle for the believer.

Believers struggle against sin because we have been made alive by the Holy Spirit to hate it, and we are living with that mindset. Our sin bothers us—including the sin of not bothering us enough. The reason that it bothers us that our sin doesn’t bother us as much as it should is because of the Holy Spirit!

Now, if we are primarily frustrated that the sin is making us feel guilty, or that its consequences are inhibiting our pleasure, or that we are not able to sin as much as we would like… that is to have the mind set upon the flesh. In that case, battle is not because we are saved, but it is a false battle precisely because we do not have our mind set upon the Spirit.

Now, let us not miss an important connection in 8:6-8… the spiritual man’s mind is subject to the law of God. The law is the clearly defined description of what pleases God, and it is precisely because the fleshly minded don’t care to keep it that they cannot please God.

Here then, is a great work of God the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers: He works in us a resurrection (v11)—He takes hearts that were dead to God and His law, and makes us alive for battle against sin… alive for obedience to God’s law… alive for pleasing God.

Who enjoys this marvelous work of the Spirit? Every single believer, from the moment he becomes a believer (9b, 14). Praise be to God!
What sin are you struggling against? Where do you see your love for God, His law, and pleasing Him?
Suggested songs: ARP119M “O How I Love Your Law!” or HB310 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018.01.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 11:1-9

Questions for Littles: Who had one language and speech (v1)? Who journeyed from the east (v2)? What did they find in Shinar? What did they decide to build (v4)? Where would its top be? What did they want to use the power to make for themselves? What did they say that they did not want to happen to them (end of v4)? Who came to see the city (v5)? What did the Lord say were “one” in v6? What did He decide to do in v7? What was the city called (9a)? Why? What had happened to them by the end of v9? 
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we come to Babel, which we were told in last week’s passage was the beginning of Nimrod’s kingdom.

God had said, “Let us make man in our image” (1:26) and commanded him “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (1:28). Then, by chapter 6, it was not the beautiful image of God with which man had filled the earth, but rather with violence (6:11, 13).

After the flood, again, God commands, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (9:1), reminding us again that it is especially because man is in the image of God (9:6) that he is to “be fruitful and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth and multiply in it” (9:7).

But Nimrod is all about Nimrod, not about the image of God. Under his leadership, men say not, “let us glorify God as His image and obey Him,” but rather “let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (11:4).

Here is direct, defiant disobedience. Indeed, every sin has some of this in it, “I will be my own god, and do it my own way!” But here, it is the whole of humanity making it their single mission.

Sadly for the descendants of Shem and Japheth, they were part of this because they neglected one of God’s most important promises and principles: separation between the believing and unbelieving, that ‘enmity’ that God promised to bring between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman (3:15). When the family of Seth ignored this and intermarried with the family of Cain (6:1-2), it led to the flood.

And now what observation does the Lord make about the Shemites and the Japhethites under the leadership of Nimrod? “Indeed, the people are one” (11:6). How sad for believers in every age who wish to be friends with the world! Do we not yet see that friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4)?

Let us then behold the glorious grace of God! Once again, He says, “let us...” Where man had refused to fill the earth with the image of God, now God does so in one great stroke. “So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth […] from there Yahweh scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth” (v8, 9).

Not until Pentecost, when people from all the nations would begin to be reunited in the image of God, would this confusion of tongues begin to be undone—God maintaining by grace what men ruined by sin!
What can we do to participate in the valuing and spreading of the (renewed!) image of God on the earth?
Suggested songs: ARP162 “All Ends of Earth Will Turn to Him” or HB501 “The Ends of All the Earth Shall Hear”

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Prayer Meeting Tomorrow, January 3! (click on link below for the prayer guide)

Have you been considering whether some things need to move up in priority for you and other things down?

Gentle reader, I commend to you the corporate prayer meeting!

We are wholly dependent upon (and utterly undeserving of) the mercy of God for every good thing we need as individuals, households, church, and community. Shall we not carve out some time each week to call upon His Name together?

Scripture is full of precept and example of it for us!

Whether you are able to gather physically, or only in mind and heart, we will be praying from 7p.m. to 8p.m. tomorrow according to [this plan].

Each week, we vary the focus slightly within each section, using Matthew Henry's excellent guide, A Method for Prayer--which simply collects and arranges Scripture priorities in prayer in a manner that is easy for us to translate into a manual for our own praying.

If you're planning to gather in person, try to be there by 7p.m. In order to accommodate families' weeknight schedules, we strive to stick to the schedule and finish by 8!

2018.01.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 46

Questions for Littles: Who is our refuge and strength (1a)? What else is He (1b)? What, therefore, won’t we do (2a)? When (2b)? And when else (2c)? And when (3a)? And when (3b)? What was one event when these things literally happened? What water from v4 is not water of judgment? Whose city does this river make glad? What else does v4 call this city? Who is in the midst of her (v5a)? What does this keep from happening to her? Who helps her (5b)? When? What happened when the nations raged (6a)? What happened when the Lord just uttered His voice (6b)? Who is with us (7a, 11a)? What is our refuge (7b, 11b)? What are we encouraged to do (8a)? In this case, what works specifically are we to behold (8a)? And v9? What are these raging and warring nations commanded to do (v10a)? Who wins this battle for supremacy among the nations (10b)? In all the earth (10c)? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Psalm 46.
Here is a great Psalm of confidence in the Lord. If God is our refuge—where we go to be safe—and our strength, … then what danger should really cause us to fear?

Really, there is only one that comes close. The judgment and wrath of God Himself. This is the danger that removes the earth. This is the danger that casts mountains into the sea. The flood (and the burning of fire at the return of Christ) are utterly terrifying.

But think about the flood. Who, in the flood, had God as his refuge and strength. To whom was God the present help in trouble? This is the great safety of Noah. Not the ark. But Him who is causing the devastation, destruction, and desolation beneath the ark.

Did you catch that in v8? “Come, behold the works of the Lord.” What works? “Who had made desolations in the earth.” The world-destroying power of God is actually a comfort to those who know that this world-destroying power is for them, not against them.

If by having God as our refuge, we have faced down God’s own wrath, then what have we to fear from men, and governments, and armies, and nations? There were plenty of those in place, when the earth had been “filled with violence” in Genesis 6, and God destroyed them all with one great stroke. Just so—it can be fearful when nations rage and kingdoms move. But our God’s power is such that the mere uttering of His voice makes the earth to melt!

“Yahweh of Hosts” is a name that highlights this. Not only is He the Creator of all, so that everything depends upon Him, but one of the things that He created are the angel armies—the hosts—that are under His command. But He is not just our God of unlimited power, He is our God of amazing grace!

“God of Jacob” is a name that highlights this. He doesn’t use the name “Israel” that covenant name of faith. No, there is plenty of “Jacob” left in believers in this life. That name, of course, highlighted how Jacob was a heel-grasper, who from the womb lived by his wits: manipulating, tricking, and stealing however he could to get his way. This was anything but a man of faith.

No, God does not shrink from identifying Himself with people who need such grace as we do. He is a God of amazing grace!!
What current situations seem most difficult to you? How will you remember God’s power for you?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge” or HB381 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength”

Monday, January 1, 2018

2018.01.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 6:9-12

Questions for Littles: Of what is the writer confident according to v9? What do these better things accompany? What is God not unjust to do (v10)? What two things have they done toward God’s name? To whom is this ministry toward God’s name done? What does the writer desire (v11)? Unto what are they to show diligence? What are they not to become (12a)? Whom are they to imitate instead (12b)?
The Scripture for the sermon this week is dripping with love.

First, there is the way the writer addresses his readers: “beloved.” He has just spoken to them a very difficult word:

a threatening word to suggest that this could happen to some of them,

a frightening word of how one can end up being abandoned by God,

and a profoundly sad word of how this happens to people precisely because Jesus comes to mean quite little to them.

There is, therefore, something precious and instructive here about the word, “beloved.” The firmness of the threat makes its tenderness that much more precious. Let us see the character of our God here, whose word it ultimately is.

Often, He is a Father who is exercising the best of His goodness and wisdom in assigning to us that which is difficult.

Sometimes a hard word like the one in vv4-8, sometimes a messenger from Satan (2Cor 12:7-10), sometimes a form of discipline (Heb 12:5-14), but always from Him who has from all eternity considered us His “beloved.”

Therefore, it is an instructive word, because it teaches to us something about how we ought to conduct ourselves. The more difficult a thing we must say, the more tender must be our affectionate manner of address, that we may imitate the character and wisdom of our Lord!

Ultimately, this love is the source of the apostolic confidence about them, because it is a love that God has not only shown to them (reproducing it in the apostle), but it is also a love that God has reproduced in them (reproducing it toward other believers).

What is the work and labor for God that He will surely not ignore? It is a “work and labor of love toward His name” (v10). How does this love toward His name show itself? By “ministry to the saints” (v10)—those people whom the Lord has declared “holy” (“saints”) by identifying them with Himself.

This, ultimately is the key to stirring up our own confidence and assurance: not navel-gazing introspection to assess whether we feel loving enough, but rather “showing the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.”

In the diligent effort of loving God’s name, and therefore working hard to serve His people, we find that He is the One producing love in our hearts, and therefore He strengthens our assurance that He is the One who has granted unto us repentance.

We do not thereby earn our way to glory. The “promises” are still gained by “inheriting.” However, the demonstration of the family resemblance, by the Father’s Spirit within us assures us that the inheritance rightly belongs to us.
To whom should you especially express tender love? What work of service to the saints do you do?
Suggested Songs: ARP16A “Keep Me, O God” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”