Monday, May 21, 2018

Psalm 22:27-28 - May 27 Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Praise

This coming Lord's Day, the first part of the worship worship service will be from the closing stanzas of Psalm 22. This "crucifixion psalm" has come up several times recently, because it recounts for us that joy which was set before Christ, and for which He endured the cross.

As our Lord suffered the penalty of our sin, He was sustained by the hope of Christian worship assemblies, in which He would declare His Father's name to His brethren and sing His Father's praise (cf. Ps 22:22-26).

The Lord delights in our Lord's Day services as a partial fulfillment of that, as congregations on earth join that perfect worship of the great congregation in glory. We hope to hear more about that, by God's help, in morning worship on June 3rd.

But, even more, there is coming a day when the Lord has gathered in His people from all nations to the end of the earth, and all families throughout history. And it is then that the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 22:27-31 will have been completed.

Lord's Day morning, May 27, we will look forward to that day with joy, even as we have a foretaste of it in the Lord's Day worship assembly. Won't you join us for that?

Lord-willing, these will be our Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Praise:

+ GOD CALLS US TO WORSHIP BY HIS WORD
(Elder) All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.
Psalm 22:27

+ WE OBEY, CALLING UPON HIM IN PRAYER
(Bold)
Lord—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—Yours is the kingdom.
You rule over us, and indeed over all the nations.
Sit enthroned upon our praises this morning,
And help us by the ministry of Your Holy Spirit,
Which we ask through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,
And Your people in this place say… AMEN!!
From Psalm 22:28

+ WE SING GOD’S PRAISE – HB501 The Ends of All the Earth Shall Hear

2018.05.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:3-4

Questions for Littles: Whom are we to consider (v3)? What did He endure? From whom? What will considering Him keep us from becoming? Unto what point have they not resisted (v4)? Against what are they striving? 
In the sermon this week, we received a word for a situation that we all go through: weariness and discouragement of soul. What can we do to keep weariness and discouragement at bay?

Consider Him.

It’s important to see that this is a continuation of the instruction in v2: “looking unto Jesus, the pioneer and guaranteed completer of our faith.”

Last week, we heard from vv1-2, that as we look unto Jesus, by faith, sitting at the right hand of the throne of God, we see the One who is at work in us, and whose handiwork every case of true faith has ever been.

Now, vv3-4 remind us that this exalted One has been not only where we are, but lower. Not only are we to consider Him, but we are to consider Him

Who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself.

What sinners? The crowd that said, “His blood be upon us and our children”? Yes. But not just the way you might think. Because some of those people, fifty days later, cried out, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Since this is the letter to the Hebrews, some of those people were likely in the congregation that first received it.

But they went from “Brethren, what shall we do?” to repenting and believing, to putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit of God… the same Spirit that teaches us to call God our Father and testifies that we are the children of God. (cf. Romans 8:13-17)

So what we have, when we take all these Scriptures together, is that Jesus endured hostility from sinners to save them from more than just the penalty of their sin. He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God and kept on saving us from sin… from the power of our sin and from the presence of our sin.

Jesus is the Finisher of our faith, and that finish comes, sometimes, through pain. Since He is suffering through it with us, let us be all the more strengthened to suffer through it with Him!
What are you suffering through right now? Who suffers through it with you? Why?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”

Saturday, May 19, 2018

2018.05.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:1-2

Questions for Littles: By what are we surrounded (v1)? What two things should we lay aside? With what are we to run the race? Unto whom should we be looking (v2)? What has Jesus done with our faith? What was set before Jesus? What did He endure for that joy? What did Jesus despise? Where has He sat down?
In this week’s sermon text, we heard about the race that we have to run, and the difficult obstacles that hold us back—those weights and sins that we are to lay aside.

How are we to do this? It’s a “how” question with a … That’s right! A “who” answer! … “Looking to Jesus.”

Why look to Jesus? Well, in the first place (literally), because He’s the One who started our faith to begin with. The word that’s used isn’t just a word for getting the ball rolling. It’s a word for blazing a trail, cutting a path for the first time… He is personally and powerfully invested in your life!

And, in the last place (literally), we look to Jesus because when the last weight is laid aside, and the last sin is stripped away, it will be the Lord Jesus who has brought about every last bit of our sanctification.

Why? Because He loves to do it. Jesus went to the cross, considering it a small price to pay, because bringing glory to God was a large reward to gain. He rejoices to sit at the right hand of the throne of God. He rejoices to work faith in us, and to perfect faith in us.

And we should love to do it to. Don’t look to yourself, nor be discouraged by weakness. Look to Him, and be emboldened by strength. Don’t look to yourself, nor grieve over earthly enjoyments that you wish that you had. Look to Him, and be thrilled by the idea of experiencing His joy (cf. Jn 15:11, 16:24, 1Jn 1:4).

Finally, we should not only want to grow in grace for our own enjoyment. We should love to grow in grace for the Lord Jesus’s enjoyment. Don’t you love your Savior? Doesn’t it thrill you that He gets joy out of your running the race? Look to Him and to His joy!
What is the most difficult thing you’re going through? Is His joy bigger?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Friday, May 18, 2018

Don't Forget the Church Work Day Tomorrow!

Even chores are a joy, when done unto the glory of God, and all the more, when done in fellowship together! The following is a note from the deacons. We plan to begin around 8:30a.m. 
We plan to get several projects and clean up completed around the church and fellowship hall tomorrow.
The biggest tasks are to weed/mulch around both buildings, finish priming and painting the stairwell and install the Men’s Restroom dividers. 
General cleaning is needed and people, weather and time permitting there are other miscellaneous tasks/projects needing to be completed. 
Thanks to those who came out last Saturday and hoping to see many of you tomorrow. 
The Deacons

2018.05.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 14:32-41

Questions for Littles: To what place did they come in v32? What did Jesus tell the disciples to do? What was Jesus going to do? Whom did Jesus take with Him in v33? What did He begin to do? How sorrowful did Jesus tell them that He was (v34)? What does He tell them to do? Where did Jesus go in v35? What did He do there? What did He pray? What did Jesus first ask His Father to do in v36? Nevertheless, what does Jesus ask the Father to do? What does Jesus come and find the disciples doing in v37? Whom does Jesus single out to ask a question? What question does He ask? What command does Jesus give them in v38a? What warning does He give them in v38b? What did Jesus do in v39? What words did He speak? What did He find them doing again in v40? What did He do and say a third time in v41? What does Jesus tell them has come? What did He say was happening to the Son of Man? What does Jesus tell them to do in v42? Why?
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus was just as exhausted as His disciples. He was troubled, deeply distressed, exceedingly sorrowful.

How did the disciples respond? By sleeping. How did Jesus respond? By praying.

When push came to shove, there was something that Jesus wanted most of all: His Father’s ear.

Jesus knew that He had to go to the cross. He had set His face toward Jerusalem. He had told His disciples, over and over again, that He had to go and be crucified. So, is this prayer really an attempt to get out of the cross? No! For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.

But it was something that required endurance because of the greatness of the pain. So Jesus seeks refuge in His Father’s ear. He throws Himself down before His Father. He calls Him His Abba. He uses words of pleading: “if it is possible! … All things are possible for You!.” But He also uses words of trust: “not what I will, but what You will.”

Of course, God will always do His perfect will. But one of the reasons that He brings us to prayer is to remind us not only that His will is perfect, but that He is our Abba who cares very much for our pain in the midst of enduring that which is good and perfect but hard.

Of course, much more important than His being our great example in this situation was what Jesus was doing with His suffering, precisely so that we would never do it, and because we could not ever do it. The Son of Man was not a sinner. But He would suffer and die for our sins. Trusting in a Father who would forsake Him for our benefit. What a Savior, and what a salvation!
What times of prayer do you have set aside for falling upon Father’s ear?
Suggested songs: ARP143B “O Lord, My Spirit Fails” or HB398 “Sweet Hour of Prayer”

Thursday, May 17, 2018

2018.05.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 1:10-17

Questions for Littles: By what does Paul plead with them (v10)? What does he ask them to speak? What kind of mind should they have? What kind of judgment? What has Chloe’s household reported (v11)? What have they been saying, according to v12? What questions does Paul ask in v13? What is Paul glad about in vv14-16? What did Christ not send him to do (v17)? What did Christ send him to do? But not in what way? Why? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, an apostle pleads with the brethren by the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This must be something important! What is he pleading for? Christian unity!

Now this is the point at which some start nodding their heads. Surely, they think, this means that we shouldn’t emphasize doctrine so much.

But let us look at the kind of unity for which the Scripture here pleads:

Speak the same thing.

Be perfectly joined together in the same mind.

Be perfectly joined together in the same judgment.

This is decidedly not a situation of people being ok with a wide range of theological differences on important subjects!! Instead, this is a call for greater emphasis upon doctrine, so that everyone can be brought to the same conclusions.

The Bible does NOT celebrate doctrinal diversity, and neither should we!!

The stakes are high. The honor of Christ’s name and Christ’s cross are on the line.

The apostle goes so far as to say that he is glad that the only way that someone could honor him in this way is by making a mistake.

I wonder if you or I are like that: relieved when we don’t get much honor, because that means Jesus gets all of it? Relieved when a very unimpressive-sounding sermon is used mightily… because that shoes that Christ’s cross had the power, and we didn’t do much.
What opportunities are you taking to understand Scripture and theology better?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

2018.05.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 22:1-19

Questions for Littles: What do vv1, 7, and 11 have in common? What long description does v2 make of Isaac? What do the instructions of Genesis 22:2 have in common with the instructions of Genesis 12:1? What time of day does Abraham get up in v3? What chore does he have to do before they leave? How many days does it take to get near the spot (v4)? Whom does Abraham say will go, and whom does Abraham say will come back (v5)? What question does Isaac have (v7)? What answer does Abraham give (v8)? What is Abraham going to do in v10? Who stops him (v11)? What does God say that He knows in v12? Why? What does Abraham see in v13? What does he do with it? What does Abraham call the place (v14)? After Abraham worships, what does the angel of Yahweh do a second time (v15)? By whom does God swear (v16)? What does God promise about the number of Abraham’s offspring (v17a)? What does God promise about the power of Abraham’s offspring (v17b)? What does God promise about the blessedness of Abraham’s offspring (v18)? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we heard about the great almost-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. It is a very touching scene. “Father” “Here I am, my son” … how much it must have pained Abraham to do this.

And yet, he was certain that God would resurrect Isaac, even He should be killed. He tells the young men that they would both be coming back, and that’s exactly what happens in v19. He told Isaac that the Lord would provide for the burnt offering, and the Lord does provide in v13.

Then something curious happens. Before the Lord announces the blessing upon Abraham, there is a bit of an interlude. It would have taken a while to properly slaughter and drain an animal for the sacrifice. And yet, the Lord waits until Abraham has finished worshiping to respond with the blessing.

This is because the lesson is not so much in Abraham’s trusting the Lord as it is in the Lord’s provision. After all, the name of the mountain is not “Abraham will obey” but rather “Yahweh will provide.” It is the sacrifice of the ram, not the almost-sacrifice of Isaac that is in most central focus.

This, of course, is because the passage is primarily about Christ Himself. God’s Son. God’s only-begotten Son, whom He loves. God gave Him for us, and it is in this that we know love!

And so, God swears by Himself, since there is no one and no thing greater than Himself to swear by: the promised substitute will come from Abraham’s own flesh.
What place does worship have in your life? Does your worship show that  it is all about what God has done, and not about what you have done?
Suggested songs: ARP152 “Faith and Peace” or HB199 “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed”

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

2018.05.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Revelation 4:8-11

Questions for Littles: How many wings do the four living creatures have (v8)? Of whom does this remind you, from Isaiah 6? But of what are these creatures full around and within? How often do they take a rest? What are they doing all this time without rest? What, specifically, do they say about God three times? And then what do they say about God? And then what? How does v9 begin? So, how often is v10 happening? Who falls down before Him who sits on the throne (v10)? What else do they do? What do they do with their crowns? Of what do they say the Lord is worthy (v11)? Why?
This week’s Call to Worship and Prayer for Help came from Revelation 4:8-11. Here, we have a window into the praise of heaven, and what we find is the most amazing creatures (v8-9), and the most honored among glorified humanity (v10-11) praise God for things that are only true of God, and not even the most glorified creature.

First, God is holy. He alone has holiness inherent to Himself. The only way anything else becomes holy is by association with Him, by being set apart unto Him or near Him. We should be amazed at
His holiness. These amazing creatures do not rest, day or night, in amazement at His holiness. They never tire of the holiness of God. They never begin to find it boring.

Similarly, only God is Almighty. Everything and everyone else is limited in power, and dependent upon God for their very existence from one moment to the next.
And only God is eternal—without any beginning. He just was.

It seems to be to this that the elders are responding when they answer, with praise of their own, the praise of the four living creatures. When they hear that God is the only eternally existent being—that He had no beginning at all—they are reminded that He alone is the Creator of all things. Everything literally owes its existence to Him.

And that, of course, includes us. There is no honor or recognition or authority that we have, except that which ultimately belongs to Him, and we must lay it at His feet! So, let us learn not only to be impressed with Him, but also (importantly) to be unimpressed with ourselves!
Of what are you most often tempted to be proud of yourself?
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or HB137 “Blessing and Honor and Glory and Power”

Monday, May 14, 2018

2018.05.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:1-2

Questions for Littles: By what are we surrounded (v1)? What two things should we lay aside? With what are we to run the race? Unto whom should we be looking (v2)? What has Jesus done with our faith? What was set before Jesus? What did He endure for that joy? What did Jesus despise? Where has He sat down?
In the sermon this week, we heard about a group who are joining the heroes of faith that we have been learning about in chapter 11: us!

It is important that we get that sense: that glory is where “our people” are. It is so easy to look around at the people we rub elbows with every day and think of them as our people…

We are tempted to want to fit in here, when we should be thinking about being made fit for glory

We are tempted to want to be liked here, when we should be ravishing our hearts upon Christ’s everlasting love

We are tempted to want to be admired, when we should be adoring God’s glory.

There are lesser things that compete for our hearts. They are not sinful in and of themselves, but they weigh us down like wearing a lead suit. Habits. Hobbies. Little indulgences. Pass-times. Even certain friendships that we know keep us quite earthly-minded.

Then there are sins. And sin always turns our hearts away from God, against God. They are little claims to the throne. Little lies. A little gossip. A little laziness. A little lust. Indulging some bitterness or hostility in our hearts. Like vines, wrapping themselves around a runner’s leg, these don’t just slow us down but trip us up so we fall on our faces.

We lay aside weight, and run a little bit, and we are amazed to find that weight is back. We lay aside the sin, and run a little bit, and we are amazed to find that the sin is back.

Well, let’s not be amazed. Obviously, this was not a one-time thing. Otherwise, we would not be commanded to run with endurance.

It’s a race worth running, and there are real obstacles, but we have that promise that we will inherit the promises with them. Therefore, we also, let’s run!
What weights in your life keep you from living more zealously for Christ?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”

Saturday, May 12, 2018

2018.05.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:35-40

Questions for Littles: What did the women at the beginning of v35 do? What happened to the other people in v35? What were they hoping to obtain? What happened to the believers in v36? What happened to the believers in v37? What does v38 say was not worthy of these believers? Where did they live? What did all of these obtain (v39)? But what did they not receive? What has God provided for us (v40)? With whom will all of these believers be perfected? 
In the second half of this week’s sermon text, we heard about how the Lord’s work in our lives isn’t always to give us what others would call successes.

Yes, there were women who received their dead raised to life again. But you know what happened to those sons and daughters and brothers? They died again.

But there is a better resurrection coming: a rising from the dead that will be permanent. And that resurrection isn’t just better because it is permanent. It is better because it is a resurrection in a new world, with the full enjoyment of the God and His glory.

That’s the resurrection that is worth being tortured. That’s the resurrection that is worth being mocked. That’s the resurrection that is worth being scourged. That’s the resurrection that is worth going through every physical and spiritual trouble.

Oh, dear reader, how much the Lord has enabled other believers to endure! And what do we endure for having Christ as our Lord and Master? Giving up worldly priorities of pleasure, entertainment, relaxation? Being mocked, disliked, or even just thought weird? Maybe losing our wealth, our job, some earthly rights and privileges?

What is there that is too valuable to give up for the Lord? It’s not even worthy of us, let alone of Him!

Let us lose all and have Him!
What would it cost you, if you decided to be more devoted to Christ? Are you willing to give it up? How does it compare to the value of enjoying Him?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Friday, May 11, 2018

2018.05.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 14:27-31

Questions for Littles: When they arrive at the Mount of Olives, whom does Jesus say will be made to stumble (v27)? Because of whom will they stumble and when? What happens to the Shepherd? What happens to the sheep? Who will go before them to Galilee (v28)? What did Peter say would not happen, even if everyone else was made to stumble (v29)? What does Jesus say to Peter will happen before the rooster crows twice (v30)? How does Peter respond (v31)? Who else responded the same way? 
In the Gospel reading this week, the last supper has been eaten, the hymn has been sung, and Jesus and the disciples are at the Mount of Olives.

This is the point at which the Lord Jesus decides to tell the disciples that they are all going to stumble. This is the point at which the Lord Jesus decides to tell them that while He, the Shepherd, is being struck, they the sheep will abandon Him and scatter.

What is the Lord doing? Well, one thing He is doing is letting them know that their forsaking Him won’t be a surprise. He knows it is coming. It is written in Scripture. They are, after all, sheep. It is beyond their capability to lead themselves.

But another thing that He is doing is pointing those sheep away from themselves and back to Himself. When we stumble, the tendency is to get fixated upon how we have failed and how poorly we have done. But to fixate upon ourselves is itself a failure.

What Jesus does here is say, “Even after I die, I am still your Shepherd. Death cannot stop me. I will rise again. When I rise again, follow me to Galilee.”

And isn’t He doing something similar for you, dear believer? Don’t you see here that your failures never surprise your Master? He already knew you were going to stumble. And He loved you and gave Himself for you anyway. It has never been about how well you would come to serve Him in this life. It has always been about Him being your Shepherd, who lays down His life for His sheep.

Even if our stumbling is one of pride—having thought that we had everything under control—let us not be surprised. For, it was not just Peter but all eleven faithful disciples who “said likewise” in their pride (v31).

Our patient Lord knew even that we would be proud. It is, after all, why He was determined to go to the cross the next day. He did it to take upon Himself, instead of us, the penalty that we deserve for all of our sins.

But He has risen. And He has gone before us. Not just to Galilee but to Glory. And, as He says in John, if He goes, it is to prepare a place for us, and He will return again to gather us.

Whenever we stumble, dear believers, let us take our eyes off of ourselves, fix them upon Christ, and renew our zeal in following Him!
In what way(s) have you stumbled recently? How will you now set eyes back upon Christ?
Suggested songs: ARP51A-B “God, Be Merciful to Me” or HB282 “God, Be Merciful to Me”

Thursday, May 10, 2018

2018.05.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 1:1-9

Questions for Littles: Through what was Paul called to be an apostle (v1)? What does he say that the Corinthian church is in Christ Jesus (v2)? What are they called? To whom else is this letter written? With what two things does Paul greet them in v3? For what does Paul thank God in v4? What had the grace of God done for them (v5)? Whose testimony had been confirmed in them (v6)? In what did they not come short (v7)? For what were they eagerly waiting? What would Jesus do until the end (v8)? What would they be like in the day of Christ? Who is faithful (v9)? Who had called them into the fellowship of Christ? Who is Christ to Him? Who is Christ to us?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we began 1Corinthians. The two letters to the Corinthian church identify some of the most shocking sins, errors, and flaws about any church known to Scripture, so it is helpful to consider some of the things that Paul says about them here right at the beginning.

Yes, there is one sense in which he is writing as an impossible, and thus has inspiration to help with his letter in a way that we do not. But, he also models for us what we call “the judgment of charity”: giving a believer the benefit of the doubt as long as they are a member in good standing, precisely because God’s ongoing covenant with His church on earth, and statements about it.

Here, the apostle says several things to highlight that this is what is behind his glowing thanksgivings for such a church as this is.

They are the “church of God.” Whoever else is in that church, however else it is identified, the most important thing about it is that it belongs to God.

They are the “sanctified” in Christ Jesus. That means set apart, consecrated, or holy.

How did they come to be set apart? Because the Lord Himself has called them saints. And Paul’s work and word are not just for the saints that he likes or prefers. Rather, they are for “all who in every place call on the name of Jesus.”

We, too, may not decline to love, respect, and serve any church members simply upon the basis of liking them less or judging them worse.

They confess to eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is not for today that they are blameless, but on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

They are not only in fellowship with us but with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Did you catch the pattern? The main thing about other believers is not how they relate to us ourselves. Rather, it is in how they relate to our Lord Jesus Christ. Though they may have various serious problems, as long as they maintain a formal covenant relationship as a member in good standing of a true church, they are to be treated that way! (They even have a “right” to undergo church discipline, as we shall soon see)
Whom do you have a more difficult time loving, respecting, and serving in the church?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

2018.05.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 21:22-34

Questions for Littles: Who come and speak to Abraham (v22)? What is the first thing that they say? What do they ask Abraham to swear that he will do (v23)? What does Abraham say that he will do in v24? But then what does Abraham do in v25? What reason does Abimelech give for  not having done something about his servants’ taking Abraham’s well (v26)? What does Abraham give to Abimelech in v27? Did he owe Abimelech these things? What is he making with Abimelech? What does Abraham do with seven other ewe lambs (v28)? Who asks about the lambs (v29)? What does Abraham say Abimelech must do with them (v30)? To what do they witness? When Abimelech and Phichol leave, what does Abraham do (v33)? What does Abraham call Yahweh here? What does v34 tell us that Abraham did, and for how long? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we see how the Lord continued to preserve the line of the Messiah, even when Abraham was a stranger in a strange land.

Part of how the Lord did this was through Abraham’s own respectful but careful dealings with the wicked who currently possessed the land. Yes, the Lord had said that He would punish the Canaanites for their sins, but that wasn’t Abraham’s job.

Abraham’s job was to live at peace, without compromise, and to provide well for his own. He deals shrewdly, re-possessing his well. But he also deals respectfully, making the covenant, and giving covenant gifts.

When all is said and done, Abraham now has some recognized sojourner status in the land. And he plants a tree that has enough longevity that when his descendants return from Egypt, that tree would still be there.

Abraham was looking forward beyond his death to forever-blessings from God. After all, it is one thing to be in covenant with a Philistine king (more like a mayor of a Philistine city-state). It is a different thing altogether to be in covenant with the “everlasting God” who provides for and protects us.

After Abimelech and Phichol take off, the real business begins: Abraham worships.

So, let us learn to interact well with our neighbors, and since it is the Lord who provides for and protects us, let us never forget Him but rather make it the main business of our lives to worship!
With whom do you need to be interacting wisely, as part of the Lord’s care for you?
Suggested songs: ARP7A “O Lord My God, I Take Refuge” or HB112 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

2018.05.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Chronicles 29:11-15

Questions for Littles: Who blessed Yahweh (v10)? Before whom? What characteristics of God does v11 praise? What does it remind us belong to Him? Over whom is He exalted as Head? From whom do riches come (v12)? From whom does honor come? From whom does greatness come? From whom does strength come? So, since they had all these things, from Whom had the things come, and what did they do (v13)? From whom had the willingness come (v14)? From of what (Whose) things had they given? What did David confess that they were before the Lord (v15)? Who else had been homeless? What did he confess that our days on earth are like? What do we not have, except from God alone?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Prayer of Confession all came from 1Chronicles 29:11-15.

This prayer of exuberant praise doesn’t come at the building of the temple… David was not permitted to be the one who built the temple. Rather, it comes after taking an offering for the building.

I wonder if we respond like this when others give… I wonder if we respond like this when we give: recognizing that everything already belonged to God anyway, and that the real gift is that God would give us not just the means to give, but the willingness to do so!

Do we see the offering bags going around and praise God with all our hearts that He has moved in our hearts and lives to give to Him?

Do we consider everything that we receive as already belonging to Him so that we respond with great thanksgiving and joy when we are able to give some as an act of worship?

And, rather than being proud that we have given something, are we instead humbled that otherwise homeless, helpless, and hopeless people such as we are might have a home, and a help, and a hope in our God?

Whenever we worship God in anyway, whatever we give of heart or mind or voice is given according to the same principles. The Lord gives us the gift of being able to give Him worship!

May the Lord stir us up to give, and may He stir us up to praise and thank Him for our giving.
What are you able to give to God in worship? Will you? And will you turn around and praise Him for enabling you to do so?
Suggested songs: ARP50B “O You, My People, Hear” or HB312 “We give Thee but Thine Own”

Monday, May 7, 2018

2018.05.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:29-34

Questions for Littles: What did the nation of Israel pass through as dry land (v29)? Who were not able to do so? What did the Israelites do for seven days (v30)? What happened to the walls of Jericho? What did not happen to Rahab (v31)? What happened to those who were disobedient? What kinds of people are named in v32? What kinds of things did God do in response to their faith in v33-34? 
In the sermon this week, we heard how the difference between those with faith and those without it isn’t something in them. The difference is in the Lord.

Both the Israelites and the Egyptians attempt to cross the Red Sea. Both think that they are going to make it. The difference is that one goes, trusting in the Lord, and the others go in opposition to the Lord. Faith isn’t the willingness to try something just based upon hope. Instead, faith is the confidence that the Lord is absolutely faithful.

Then with Jericho, there’s the people in the city. They are trusting in the wall. And the people outside the wall, what are they trusting in? Are they trusting in marching around the wall? No! They are trusting in Him who told them to do it. Again, the difference is that one group has the Lord, and the other group have everything else.

Again, with Rahab, there are those who are scared to death of the Lord but still resist Him (cf. Josh 2:8). v31 calls them “those who were disobedient.” Rahab is loyal to the spies of Yahweh’s people, because she believes that Yahweh is the only true God (cf. Josh 2:11). And she becomes the beneficiary of a greater miracle than the walls of Jericho falling down: her little sliver of the wall stays up!

The spies hadn’t known how the Lord would conquer the city. If they had, their plan would have been a very bad one! But the difference is not in our plans. It’s in our Lord. Sometimes, that difference results in what even the world would call spectacular successes.

Those are the kinds of things that vv33-34 describe. All those things are ones that we know from Scripture that the Lord did for His people and through His people. And He is the same Lord today. We must live, trusting in Him, that He is still able and often willing to do unbelievable things through and for those who believe in Him!

Yet, none of these things compare to what we will receive with them. Even if we never have a success like the ones listed of the judges and kings and prophets, we know that we shall have something greater—something that after all those victories, they were still looking forward to: being made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God forever.

This is what the Lord has promised us. This is what Christ has earned for us. And this is what we are sure of by faith.
What situation are you going through, in which God is working it out for your good because you are His? What is the difference between hoping that you will be strong enough in it and hoping that God will accomplish whatever is best in it?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Saturday, May 5, 2018

2018.05.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:29-31

Questions for Littles: What did the people pass through by faith in v29? What happened to the Egyptians when they tried? What fell down by faith in v30? What had the people done for seven days by faith? Who was saved by faith in v31? What was she? What did she do to Israel’s spies? 
In the second half of this week’s sermon text, we have two great examples of God making a distinction by faith: the crossing of the Red Sea and the fall of Jericho.

There are some who would have considered what the Egyptians did an act of faith. They tried to do the impossible, after all. They were in the same place. At the same time. Walked the same path. Under the same circumstances.

But they were not trusting in the Lord, and they were not the Lord’s people. The Lord makes a distinction.

In the second example, the wall that fell is perhaps not as amazing as the part of the wall that stayed up. It’s interesting, isn’t it, the scarlet thread that they arranged with Rahab as a signal? The spies had no idea how God was going to take down Jericho. Otherwise, they would have just said, “we’ll remember which part you live in by the fact that the Lord left it standing.”

Rahab certainly wasn’t morally superior to those who were saved. The Lord simply brought her to faith in Himself. This passage makes it clear that God wants us to remember this, when it reminds us that she is “the harlot” while simply referring to the other citizens of Jericho as “those who were disobedient.”

The Lord makes a distinction, and it’s not in us. It’s in Him. His people in this passage don’t really do much that is amazing. In fact, in this passage, Israel is just doing a whole lot of walking.

Rahab’s big mention is that “she received the spies with peace” … but receiving men carefully or secretly was part of her previous, sinful life as well—something she had done many times to earn the title “harlot.”

This time, of course, was different. This time, it was because she believed that the Lord is God, and in Him alone is power and salvation.

But it’s helpful for us to see how exemplary biblical faith can demonstrate itself in the most ordinary things.

Dear believer, the life of faith extends even to taking a walk and extending hospitality. Faith isn’t a matter of doing amazing things. It’s a matter of trusting an amazing God.
What ordinary things will you be doing this week? What does it look like to do them trusting in the Lord? Thanking the Lord? Serving and obeying the Lord?
Suggested Songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear the Lord” or HB310 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

Friday, May 4, 2018

2018.05.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 14:12-26

Questions for Littles: What day was it in v12? What did the disciples want to know? Who had already arranged with a man to have a large upper room furnished and prepared (v13-16)? What did they do that evening (v17-18)? What did Jesus tell them that one of them would do (v18)? What did each one of them want to know (v19)? What two things did Jesus say about His betrayer in v20? What does v21 say happened just as was written? What does Jesus say would have been better for His betrayer? What did Jesus do during this meal (v22-24)? What did Jesus say He wouldn’t do again until He did it new in the kingdom? How did they conclude their time together at the last supper (v26)?
In the Gospel reading this week, we see how Jesus was executing a plan to save sinners.

From v12, it is plain that the disciples thought they were going to serve Jesus—that they would make plans and arrangements and carry it out in service of Him. But the Scripture piles it on to demonstrate that it is Jesus who has done all of the planning and arranging.

Jesus has already arranged with the master of the man carrying the pitcher of water. The “guest room” is a large room. It’s already furnished. It’s already prepared. What do the disciples do? They find things just as Jesus had said, and they “prepare” the already-furnished and already-prepared room.

Then there’s the betrayer, who is supposed to be the one making all the sneaky arrangements. But Jesus blunts it by stating plainly “the Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him.” It’s not Judas who is arranging the cross. God has been arranging it since history began.

And Jesus makes clear that He is intentionally offering Himself in the Supper. They had seen Him distribute bread many times. But this time, He takes that distribution as an opportunity to explain what He is doing on the cross the next day. He’s not being trapped by His enemies. He’s intentionally handing over His body for them.

Indeed, the reason that the New Covenant requires the shedding of such precious blood is because Jesus’s covenant people are made exclusively of sinners. They’re such bad sinners that, when Jesus says that one of them is going to betray Him, every one of them know that it could be himself.

And each of us knows that about ourselves, don’t we? We are those for whom He has given His body. We are those to whom He gives the cup of blessing, exchanging it for the cup of wrath that we deserve.

Was Jesus’s death plotted by His enemies? Much more than that, Jesus’s death was plotted by Jesus for us sinners! That’s what this passage is announcing to us in flashing neon lights! When we are tempted to worry, let us remember not only that the Lord Jesus rules and overrules in all things, but that He does so in the same love in which He intentionally, determinedly, went to the cross for us.
What are you going through that you need to remember is controlled by Christ in His self-sacrificing love for us? Whom do you know who is going through something in which they desperately need to remember this? What are you going to do about this?
Suggested songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or HB448 “Twas on That Night”

Thursday, May 3, 2018

2018.05.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 16:17-27

Questions for Littles: What kind of people should the Roman church members take note of (v17)? To what is division-causing and offense-causing contrary? What should the Roman church members do with these people? What kind of words do such division-causers use (v18)? What does the Lord want us to be wise in (v19)? In what does He want us to be simple? Who is soon going to crush whom under believers’ feet (v20)? What blessing does Paul give at the end of v20 and again in v24? Who else greets them in vv21-23? According to what is God able to establish them (v25)? What has happened with this gospel, according to v26? Whom is Paul praising in vv25-27? What does he use the last words of this great letter to do?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we come to the end of the book of Romans.

Of all the applications with which he could have concluded, Paul chooses to warn them to avoid people who cause divisions and offenses.

Is someone speaking ill of others in the church? Don’t listen to them. Avoid them. Are they trying to get you to be offended at them? Don’t listen to them. Avoid them.

The doctrine that we have learned is that the church is one body with many members. The doctrine that we have learned is to live at peace with all men, as far as possible.   The doctrine that we have learned is how Christ has given Himself out of love for the us. The doctrine that we have learned is to deal lovingly with those with whom we disagree.

Sadly, it is not a new problem that people stir up strife and create lines of division in the churches. And we know from other passages (2Cor 2:8-11; 1Pet 5:5-9; etc.) that this is a chief strategy of Satan himself.

Thankfully, we need only heed the Lord’s instructions, because we do so in the knowledge and confidence that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet!

Interestingly, the conclusion of the letter is itself an example of two things that strengthen the church against division: greetings and praise.

One of the things that division-causers do is to refuse to interact with whomever they are dividing from. It’s difficult to maintain hostility with a brother with whom you are interacting.

Another thing that they do is stop worshiping. They might attend bodily and not mentally. Or, they might start skipping altogether. But they do not enter into the eager, passionate kind of praise that we see in vv25-27. Offense and division are maintained by taking ourselves too seriously. And a wonderful antidote to this is taking the praise of God’s glory far more seriously!

Oh, dear reader, let us maintain unity by clinging tightly to whatever Scripture teaches! And let us avoid division-causers, taking time to greet one another, and eagerly and passionately praising God together!
Whom do you know that gossips about church members? What would God have you do?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

2018.05.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 21:8-21

Questions for Littles: What did Abraham do for Isaac on the day he was weaned (v8)? What was Hagar’s son doing at the party (v9)? What does Sarah want Abraham to do? What does God tell Abraham to do? What does god say about Isaac in v12? What does He promise to do with Ishmael in v13? What problem to Hagar and Ishmael run into when Abraham sends them away? What does God promise Hagar that He will do? And what does God do for her in v19? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, a bratty-kid situation escalates quickly.

We’re not really surprised that Ishmael is a brat. It fits what has been prophesied about him. Our best guess at weaning age for Isaac is somewhere in the ballpark of 3 years old, which puts Ishmael at 17. And there he is at his little brother’s party mocking him.

What we are surprised about is when God says “listen to her voice.” That hasn’t gone so well, thus far in Genesis. The first time a man took his wife’s counsel, the fall happened.

And v9 very intentionally reminds us of another significant moment in which Abraham had listened to Sarah. Instead of just saying “Ishmael,” the text says, “the son of Hagar” … “the Egyptian” … “whom she had born to Abraham.” It’s a triple reminder of Sarah’s foolish and sinful plan for producing the child of promise.

So, when God says, “listen to her voice,” it perhaps takes us by surprise. What reason does God give for this? “For in Isaac your seed shall be called.” This is not a new promise. We have seen it before. But God is saying here that there is something about Isaac’s place as the son of promise that is harmed so long as this teasing, mocking older brother remains.

Ultimately, however, it’s not Abraham’s voice that God is listening to here. It is God’s voice. And God distinctly displays Himself as the Promise-Keeper in this passage. He promises Abraham that He would make a nation out of Ishmael in v13. And He promises Hagar the same thing in v18.

Then, God opens her eyes. After He has made the promise, He immediately enables her to see just a small part of how He is going to fulfill that promise. There’s years’ more promise-keeping in v20-21, but we can see the point.

It may take another 1600 years before Isaac’s descendant saves His people from their sins. But it will surely happen. The Lord is the Promise-Keeping God!
What promises has God already kept in your life? What promises has God already kept in sending Christ for us? In what current situation do you need to be reminding yourself of God’s promises, and God’s promise-keeping?
Suggested songs: ARP89A “The Lovingkindness of the Lord” or HB112 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

2018.05.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 37:3-11

Questions for Littles: Whom should we trust (v3a)? What should we do? When they lived in the promised land, what were they feeding on (v3b)? In what (Whom!) shall we delight ourselves (v4a)? If He is our delight, then what will we receive (v4b)? In whom are we to trust (v5)? What does He bring forth if we trust in Him (v6)? What three commands in v7 describe what it means to trust Him? What three things does v8 identify as the opposite of trusting in Him? What will happen to evildoers (v9a, 10)? What will happen to those who meekly wait upon the Lord (v9b, 11)? 
This week’s Prayer for Help, Prayer of Confession, and Assurance of the Gospel all come from Psalm 37:3-11.

There are so many deceivers out there who appeal to our desire to fulfill our own pleasures and our own plans. But that’s exactly the opposite of what our Scripture passage teaches us.

“The Lord will give me the desires of my heart!” That’s what we all want to hear, right? But what exactly are those desires? Earlier in v4, those desires are pre-defined: “Delight yourself in the Lord.” What desires will He give me? Desire for Him Himself!

How about the idea that the Lord gives me strength and ability to accomplish my grand plans for my life? “He shall bring it to pass”! But what is He bringing to pass? Earlier in v5, He makes it clear that this is a promise that God will fulfill His plans, not ours. We entrust ourselves to Him and His plan.

So He generally tells us that He will give us Himself and that He will carry out His plans. But, what specifically does He plan to give us? Something that He knows is infinitely valuable, but we would not value if His grace hasn’t changed our hearts: righteousness.

Righteousness is a glorious gift, because God is perfectly just. If He doesn’t give us righteousness, then His justice will ultimately demand our destruction, and we cannot ultimately receive any other blessing.

So, how do we know if we are trusting in the Lord? What does that trust look like? v7 contains the answer: trusting looks like resting. Those who think that everything depends upon them wear themselves out trying to make happen whatever they want to happen. Those who know that it all depends upon the Lord do not wear themselves out trying to force things their way. They rest. They rest in Him.

Trusting the Lord also looks like waiting patiently. If we already know that the Lord is making all things work out according to His perfect plan for us, we don’t need to see the fruit of it right away. We can wait. Patiently.

There are, however, some dead giveaways for weak faith. At the top of the list? Anger and wrath. If we’re easily riled up, that shows that we don’t have confidence in what the Lord is doing. And, of course, fretting. How can we worry and stress over the future if we know that it’s in the Lord’s hands?

Dear reader, you and I both just reflected upon how easily we are angered and how easily we fret, and we have the same place to go for help. The Lord Himself will help our unbelief! Yes, our faith is weak. But, when we find that we don’t trust God enough, we can still trust Him to help us trust Him!
What situation is testing your trust? What do you do, if you’re trusting God to help you trust?
Suggested songs: ARP37A “Do Not Be Angry” or HB374 “Be Still My Soul; the Lord Is on Thy Side”

Monday, April 30, 2018

2018.04.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:23-28

Questions for Littles: Who was saved by faith in v23? Whose faith did God use to save him? What did Moses’s parents do with him? What didn’t they feel about the king’s command? What did Moses refuse in v24? What did Moses choose in v25? Instead of what? What did Moses think was more riches than the treasures of Egypt? What did Moses abandon in v27? Of what was he not afraid? Whom did Moses’s faith see? What did Moses do by faith in v28? What would have happened if he didn’t?
In the sermon this week, we continued hearing about faith in action. Up to this point, we have learned much about about faith: faith believes that God is; faith believes that God rewards those who seek Him; faith believes that God Himself is the great reward that He gives; faith holds on to God’s promises as if they are the thing promised; faith lives in certainty of the resurrection.

Now, in v23, we find a strange statement: by faith Moses was hidden. Moses is the beneficiary of the faith exercised in this verse, but he’s not the one who exercised it. He did, however, grow into a very similar faith.

If we read too quickly, we could miss the parallel between the end of v23 and the first half of v27. Moses’s parents weren’t afraid of the king’s command. Later, Moses doesn’t fear the wrath of the king.

There is a wonderful lesson here on parenting by faith. First, the Lord uses the faith of Moses’s believing parents to bless their son. It’s a wonderful story, how the Lord actually makes Pharaoh pay Moses’s mother to nurse the baby he had commanded should die.

Later, the Lord reproduces the faith of his parents in Moses himself. This faith is not merely a willingness to do the right thing no matter what. This faith is to value belonging to Christ, and to bring glory to Christ, above all other things.

The “passing pleasures” in v25 are not small in the world’s eyes. Egypt was on top of the world, and Pharaoh’s family is on top of Egypt. Those “passing pleasures” are the greatest pleasures that earthly life has to offer.

The riches of the “treasures of Egypt” were so great that it wasn’t just people from that age who valued those riches so highly. Even to this day, anything found in a Pharaoh’s tomb is front-page news and the stuff of legends!

But Moses knows a richer treasure than all the treasure of Egypt: getting insulted. Of course, the value is in how/why he is insulted: with the insults of Christ. Here, so many of us are timid about being too overtly Christian, lest we be insulted. And Moses valued it more than the treasures of Egypt!

Moses may not have been afraid of Pharaoh, but there was One of whom he was afraid. The one in the bush. The one who slayed the firstborn. The one who drowned the entire Egyptian army.
Faith doesn’t just value God’s rewards. It fears God’s wrath and employs God’s remedies.
What is God’s greatest reward? What is His great remedy for the wrath that we deserve?
Suggested Songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Saturday, April 28, 2018

2018.04.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:20-22

Questions for Littles: Whose faith does v20 describe? Whom did Isaac bless by faith? Concerning what did Isaac bless them? Whose faith does v21 describe? When does he demonstrate that faith? Whom does he bless? What else does he do when he blesses them? Whose faith does v22 describe? When does he demonstrate that faith? Of what does he make mention? Concerning what does he give instructions? 
In the second half of week’s sermon text, the demonstration of faith shifts from reflection of God’s love to confidence in God’s power. Abraham didn’t actually have to see Isaac resurrected on Mount Moriah, because the Lord prevented him from slaying his son.

In these three verses, the man exercising faith most certainly needs to be sure of resurrection. First, there’s Isaac, who thought he could die any moment (cf. Gen 27:2). Even at that point, Isaac is fighting the Lord’s words from when the twins were still in the womb. Yet, when he realizes that God’s word cannot be undone, the Lord strengthens his faith, and Isaac blesses his sons with sure, resurrection-hope.

Then, there’s Jacob. Jacob, who was terrified for his life of Esau not once but twice. Jacob, who was devastated when he thought Joseph was dead. Jacob, who was devastated when he thought Benjamin was dead. Jacob had treated death like an insurmountable obstacle his whole life. Now, he’s sitting on his literal death-bed, but he’s not devastated; he’s worshiping. He’s blessing his grandsons and bowing his head in worship over the top of his staff.

Finally, there’s Joseph. Joseph has been certain of his future in this life ever since he had those dreams as a boy. But this verse isn’t about his future in this life. This verse is about what comes after his death: the exodus, just as God has promised.

But Joseph is sure of a future for more than Israel. He’s sure of a future for himself. Joseph knows that even after he dies, and his body has decomposed, he won’t be done with his bones yet.

And he wants Israel to know it too. He wants them to hope not in the promised land in Canaan, but in the Lord as their dwelling place. He wants them to trust God not merely for rewards in this life, but for an everlasting life of the never-ending reward that is the Lord Himself.

He plans on glorifying and enjoying God forever, soul AND body. And, dear reader, the Holy Spirit has given us this passage so that you would too.
What plans do you have for your body at death? Whom will it teach what?
Suggested Songs: ARP30 “O Lord, I Will Exalt You” or HB209 “Thine Is the Glory”

Friday, April 27, 2018

2018.04.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 14:1-11

Questions for Littles: What day was in two days (v1)? What feast was beginning? How did the chief priests and scribes seek to take Jesus? What did they want to do to Him? But when did they say not to do it (v2)? Why not then? In what city was Jesus in v3? In whose house? What had Simon been? What does that imply Jesus had done for him? With what did a woman come to him in v3? What was in the flask? What did she do with it? How did some of them respond in themselves (v4)? What did they say? For how much could the spikenard have been sold (v5)? What did they do to the woman? What does Jesus tell them to do to her (v6)? What does He ask them? What does He say about her? Whom does Jesus say they should have been more concerned about serving (v7)? For what did Jesus say she had anointed His body (v8)? What does Jesus say will happen wherever the gospel is preached (v9)? To whom does Jesus go then (v10)? To do what? How did they feel, when he came to them (v11)? What did they promise to give him? So, what did Judas seek?
In the Gospel reading this week, we see coming out of people’s hearts what is truly precious to them. There are the chief priests and scribes, whose position and praise are precious to them.

They would be glad to outright murder Jesus, but want to do it in a way that doesn’t cause a ruckus. Not only might a riot get them in trouble with Rome, but we can tell from the fact that they are trying to use trickery that they are trying to get this done without having the people turn on them.

Dear reader, how much do we love the opinions of others and positions of respect? God grant that we would treasure Jesus more!

Then there are the “some” of v4. It’s not just Judas. There were several who just didn’t adore Jesus enough to consider the expensive perfume well-spent on Him. At the very least, they could have used it to get “credit” for helping the poor.  Of course, Judas is the poster boy for caring too much about money and not enough about Jesus.

But let us not think that we could never end up like Judas. A conviction about the usefulness of money can too easily turn into too strong a desire for it. We cannot love both God and money!

Instead, let us learn from Simon to be continually mindful of how Jesus has saved us, and from the woman to give our very best to engaging the Lord Himself, not just serving Him in engaging others.

But let us most of all learn from Jesus. Whenever we have opportunity to come to His feet and adore Him, let’s take it. Other duties we will always have with us.

Did the woman know she was anointing Him for His burial? Probably not. And you and I don’t know what He will do in response to our prayers, or in our own hearts and minds as we worship Him. What we do know is that He has taught us here to place adoring Him at the top of our priority lists!
When do we have opportunity to engage Jesus Himself? What are some (possibly good) things that we allow to get in the way of those opportunities.
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Thursday, April 26, 2018

2018.04.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 16:1-16

Questions for Littles: Whom does Paul commend to them in v1? What does he ask them to do for her (v2)? Whom does he say to greet in v3? What had they done (v4)? Who meet in their house (v5)? What does he call Epaenetus? What had Mary done (v6)? Whom did the apostles consider noteworthy, according to v7? What does he call Amplias (v8)? Who was Urbanus (v9)? And what does he call Stachys? What does he say about Apelles (v10)? Whose household are they to greet? Who is Herodion (v11)? Which of the household of Narcissus are they to greet? What have Tryphena and Tryphosa done (v12)? How about Persis? What does he call Rufus (v13)? What does he call Rufus’s mother? Whom else does he say to greet in v14-15? How are they to greet one another (v16)? Who else greets them?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we might have been surprised by the sheer volume of text used for personal greetings. Considering that it contains everything that we need for faith and practice, the Bible is a pretty short book. It’s efficient. Nothing is wasted. When something is repeated, that’s important. When a large amount of text is spent upon something, that’s important. Now, when a large amount of text is spent upon something that doesn’t seem at first like it would be important… we’re about to learn that something is more important than we thought.

So, one of the main things that we learn from this passage is that greeting one another is important. We can see many of the reasons why in the “middle” verses. We are fellow workers. We risk for one another. We work for one another. We have been through much together. We share a mutual love. We are like family.

But it is at the bookends that we are reminded of the strongest reasons to make sure that we greet one another. At the beginning of the passage, we learn that affectionate greetings are something that is owed to those who are called saints—literally, “holy ones.” These greetings are given “in the Lord.”

And then, at the end of our passage, we are told to greet one another with a holy kiss—a kiss that is reserved for those whom God has set apart for Himself.

Do we long to renew fellowship with one another and make certain to greet one another affectionately? Let us learn to do so for all of these good reasons!
What opportunities do we have for greeting one another in the Lord?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

2018.04.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 21:1-7

Questions for Littles: Who visited Sarah (v1)? Just as what (according to what) did the Lord visit Sarah and do for Sarah? What did Sarah bear for whom (v2)? At what time did she do so? Who named the son (v3)? Who bore the son? What did Abraham name him? What did Abraham do to Isaac in v4? At what age? Why? How old was Abraham when Isaac was born to him (v5)? What did Sarah say God had made her to do (v6)? What did she say others would do with her? What question does Sarah ask in v7? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, the Word of God reigns supreme.

The Lord is perfectly faithful, therefore He does whatever He says.

The Lord said that He would visit Sarah, and He visited Sarah.

The Lord said that He would give Sarah a child, and He gave Sarah a child.

The Lord told Abraham a specific time that Sarah would bear a son, and it was at that specific time that Sarah bore their son.

And the Lord also works by means of giving us His Word to follow and obey as our privilege in His service.

The Lord told Abraham to call the boy’s name Isaac (cf. 17:19), and Abraham called the boy’s name Isaac.

The Lord commanded that Abraham circumcise his son on the eighth day, and Abraham circumcised him on the 8th day.

Indeed, the rhetorical question in v7 is crying out for this glorious answer. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Why, that’s exactly what the Lord had said to Abraham!

Dear believer, why should we be weak in faith, when ever single thing that the Lord has ever promised has come to pass? He is faithful to keep all His Word!

And, dear believer, shall we shrink back from doing any thing that the Lord commands? Isn’t obedience just the enjoyment of the privilege that God has given us of participating in His work?
What changes would you make if you valued the Word more than you do?
Suggested songs: ARP119M “O How I Love Your Law!” or HB253 “How I Love Thy Law, O Lord”

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

2018.04.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 6:35-51

Questions for Littles: What did Jesus call Himself in v35? What will those who come to Him never do? What will those who believe in Him never do? What does Jesus say the people who have seen Him still aren’t doing in v36? Who will come to Jesus (v37)? What will Jesus by no means do to the one who comes to Him? What had Jesus come down from heaven to do (v38)? What does the Father will Jesus should do with all whom He has given to Him (v39)? Whom does the Father will to have everlasting life and be raised up at the last day (v40)? Why did the Jews complain about Him (v41)? What did the people call Jesus and note about His parents (v42)? What did Jesus tell them not to do in v43? What has to happen for someone to come to Jesus (v44)? What will Jesus do with them on the last day? What does v45 say is written? From whom have those who come to Jesus heard and learned? Who has seen the Father (v46)? Who has everlasting life (v47)? What does Jesus say about Himself again in v48? What does Jesus say will not happen to those who eat this bread (v49-50)? What does Jesus call Himself in v51? Who will live forever? What is the bread that He will give? For what will Jesus give His flesh? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Prayer of Confession, and Assurance of the Gospel all come from John 6:35-51. This passage is one of the most important for understanding what Jesus means by eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

It is the one who comes to Him that will never hunger. It is the one who believes in Him that will never thirst. So, eating Jesus’s flesh and drinking Jesus’s blood is to come to Him and to believe in Him.

There’s just one difficulty: no one comes to Jesus unless the Father drags him to Jesus (v44). The Father is the One who makes us to hear about Jesus and learn about Jesus (v45).

But, as we consider the passage, this really isn’t a difficulty. If we were to come to Jesus on our own, our coming to Him would never be dependable. With even our coming to Jesus being God’s own work, His saving us is absolutely sure.

All that the Father gives to Jesus WILL come to Jesus. The one who comes to Jesus will NOT be cast out. Jesus will lose not a single one of them.

Those who want to argue about Jesus’s ability to do what He says puts themselves in the place of the murmuring people in our passage. Rather than struggle against what the Scripture says about Jesus, let us heed what Jesus tells us. Let us come to Him! Let us believe in Him! And let us give Him all the glory for granting to us to be able to!
If only God can do something, what should we do, if we want Him to do it?
Suggested songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness” or HB402 “I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew”

Monday, April 23, 2018

2018.04.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:17-19

Questions for Littles: Who was tested in v17? What did he do when tested? What did v17 refer to him as having received? Whom did he offer up? What does v17 call his son? According to v18, what was said of Isaac? What did Abraham conclude (v19)? From what did Abraham, in a figurative sense, receive Isaac?
In the sermon this week, we heard about the testing of faith. If faith was something that we produced in ourselves, that would be a scary idea: God testing our faith. But we don’t produce it in ourselves. Faith is a gift of God. And, of course, God already knows exactly what is in us.

Taken all together, those truths mean that God’s testing us isn’t for Him to see if our faith is good enough. Instead, it’s for Him to show us what He has done in us. And that’s a great blessing, because part of the weakness of our faith is that we have a difficult time seeing the genuine work that He is doing in us.

So, it is with great interest that we see what the Lord brought out of Abraham as a demonstration of his faith: love that mirrors the Lord’s and confidence in the resurrection.

We love Him because He first loved us. And in these three verses, we see that Abraham’s love of God is a lovely reflection of God’s love. The Holy Spirit uses a very special and specific word for the son who was offered up: “only-begotten.” Nowhere else but Christ is this word used. And, although figuratively, the verse takes pains to use the phrase “raise from the dead” to talk about Abraham receiving Isaac back from the dead.

See what the Lord was doing in Abraham? See what the Lord is doing in you, dear Christian? We know that we don’t have it in us to love Him like we wish we did. But that’s just the point: it’s not in us. It’s in Him. He works His own love in our hearts!

This is just part of His keeping the promise that He would be our God, and that we would be His people. Behold what manner of love—that we should be called His children! And He is working in our hearts to give us that family resemblance.

Yes, there are times of testing when we stumble. But His work is ongoing and incomplete. There are also those times of testing where He surprises us with how much He has already done. And then, there is that glorious promise which must be fulfilled: although what we will be has not yet appeared, because we will see Him as He is, we can be sure that… at the last… we shall be like Him (1Jn 3:1-2).
How are you being tested right now? To whom must you look for what you need inside you to pass? How do we go about looking to Him for that?
Suggested Songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or HB239 “Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove”

Saturday, April 21, 2018

2018.04.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:17-22

Questions for Littles: What did Abraham do by faith, when he was tested (v17)? What does v17 call Abraham—what had he received? What did “he who had received the promises” do? What had been said of the son whom Abraham offered (v18)? What did Abraham conclude that God was able to do (v19)? From what did Abraham figuratively receive Isaac back (v19)? What did Isaac do by faith in v20? When did Jacob bless Joseph’s sons by faith (v21)? When did Joseph mention the exodus by faith (v22)? Concerning what did he give instructions by faith?
In the coming sermon’s text, we learn the kind of hope that is obtained by those who believe that God is their home.

We have three of the same key figures—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—in this passage as we did in the previous one. Whereas in the previous passage we were considering how these men were glad to dwell in tents because God Himself was their permanent home, now we see how they were enabled to deal with death by this same faith.

Jesus makes the point that these men are evidence of the resurrection because “God is not God of the dead but of the living” (cf. Mark 12:26-27). Here, we see their resurrection hope put on display.

God had made Abraham a promise concerning Isaac that meant that even if Isaac died, got had to bring him back to life. God’s promise is so sure because it is bank-rolled by His faithfulness and power. God refuses to let death stop Him, and indeed it cannot.

By the time Isaac comes to bless Jacob and Esau concerning what would come after Isaac’s death, their household is a colossal mess of sinful partiality, deception, and even murderous intention. But God has made promises, and though he had to be brought kicking and screaming to give the blessings that he did, Isaac ultimately blesses his sons on the basis of those promises.

Jacob is dying, but all of a sudden the man who was doom and gloom for decades is optimistic. Why? Because when he leans upon his staff on his death bed, he is cornered into considering to what really comes after death. And the answer is: everything that God has promised.

Finally, Joseph’s short verse is full of confidence that comes from being sure that God will keep His promises. He is confident that Israel will return from Egypt. He is confident that, long after the flesh has gone from his bones, he still won’t be done with them.

So I wonder, dear reader, do you have this hope that is stronger than death? Do the plans that you have made regarding the end of this life reflect a confidence that death is not the end? Let us not be those most pitiable who hope as if in this life only! (cf. 1Cor 15:19)
What difference does it make in daily life that God is your hope not just for now but forever?
Suggested Songs: ARP30 “O Lord, I Will Exalt You” or HB209 “Thine Is the Glory”

Friday, April 20, 2018

2018.04.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 13

Questions for Littles: With what two things were the disciples so impressed in v1? What does Jesus tell them about these two things in v2? Which four come to him in v3? What do they ask in v4? What is the first sentence of Jesus’s answer in v5? What kinds of things does Jesus say they will hear about in v6-7? But what does He stay is still not yet? What else does He say will come (v8)? But for what should they watch out (v9)? What must happen before the end can come (v10)? Who will speak through the apostles when they are on trial (v11)? What else will happen to them (v12-13)? What are they to do when they see the abomination that Daniel talked about where he is not supposed to be (v14)? How hastily should they leave (v15-18)? How bad is the trouble that they are escaping (v19)? For whose sake does the Lord limit that trouble (v20)? Then, what should they still not believe (v21-23)? What kinds of things will happen at the true end (v24-27)? When will the “all these things” of v6-23 take place (v28-30)? But when will the “those/that day(s)” of v24-27 take place (v31-32)? Instead of trying to figure out the time, what should they be paying close attention to (v33-37)? What is it impossible for us to know?
In the Gospel reading this week, the disciples are very impressed with the temple, but Jesus throws a wet blanket upon their enthusiasm by informing them that it would be utterly destroyed. They jump to the conclusion that He must be talking about the end of the world, so their follow-up question is to know when that is coming.

Jesus spends the next thirty-plus verses telling them, “You can’t know.” But of course He says more than that. His main message is to watch themselves.

They could in fact know when the Lord was about to destroy Jerusalem in a great tribulation. Jesus gives them a sign, something that had happened before, when Daniel prophesied it.

In that case, Greek general Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated the temple, and there was a vicious sacking of Jerusalem. What would happen at the hands of Roman General Titus in 70 A.D. would be even worse, but follow a similar pattern.

Jesus tells them that when they see this history repeating itself, they are to run for the hills. The Christians did so, and the Jews considered themselves abandoned by their relatives, and never forgave them for it.

But even then, His main command is “watch yourselves” (v9). Be careful of your hearts. Be careful of your tongues. Your job is to testify by the power of the Spirit, despite enduring the hardest things you can think of—not to calculate the end of the world. You have what you need to escape the Fall of Jerusalem, so now watch yourselves!

That’s essentially the broader message for the rest of us between 70 A.D. and God-only-knows-when. That’s literally the timing of the second coming. Even the Son, in His human nature, does not know that day and hour. So, it’s so far above our spiritual pay grade, that we cannot even see it from here.

Instead, let us remember that we have a Master who is returning we-know-not-when. And let us spend every second between now and then serving Him the way we will wish we had when He appears!
What is one way that you will implement to better serve your Master?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Thursday, April 19, 2018

2018.04.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 15:14-33

Questions for Littles: What is Paul confident that the members of the church in Rome are full of and able to do (v14)? In what manner has he still written to them (v15)? What is Jesus offering to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit (v16)? Through whom is Christ accomplishing this (v17-19)? Where has Paul aimed to preach the gospel (v20)? Whom does Paul hope to help see (v21a)? Whom does Paul hope to help to understand (v21b)? What has this quest of taking the gospel to new places also hindered, according to v22? When does Paul plan to come to Rome (v23-24)? Whom does he hope will help him get to Spain? Where is he going at the time that he writes this letter (v25)? Who had given an offering for poor Christians in Jerusalem (v26)? Who had received spiritual blessings from whom (v27)? What does Paul need to complete before going to Spain (v28)? Where will he stop along the way? With what does he hope to come to Rome (v29)? What does he plead with them to do (v30)? What two specific prayer requests does he give in v31? What two in v32? What benediction does he pronounce upon them in v33 
In this week’s Epistle reading, Paul is beginning to wind down his letter to the Roman church. We learn from this section several things that characterize relationships among believers who highly esteem one another.

  1. First, believers who esteem one another tell one another so. Looking at Paul’s statement in v14, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is quite obvious that he highly esteemed the Roman Christians.
  2. Second, believers who esteem one another speak boldly to one another as a form of service assigned to them by God for their brethren’s good (v15).
  3. Third, believers who esteem one another give all the glory and credit to Christ, for whatever fruit He brings out of their ministry (v18).
  4. Fourth, believers who esteem one another have a great desire to spend time together (v22-23).
  5. Fifth, believers who esteem one another encourage one another with reports of what God is doing (v26-27).
  6. Sixth, believers who esteem one another hope to receive help from one another to serve the Lord (v28).
  7. Seventh, believers who esteem one another hope to be a great blessing unto one another (v29).
  8. Eighth, believers who esteem one another strive together in prayer for one another (v30).
  9. Ninth, believers who esteem one another hope to refresh one another with fellowship (v32).

This passage paints a beautiful picture of what it should be like when people who believe the gospel that is taught in Romans are in relationship with one another. And it gives us a checklist for loving one another well in the church—and across churches—today.
Whom in the church could you be doing a better job of loving? Which of the items on this list will you seek to improve with them? 
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

2018.04.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 20

Questions for Littles: Where did Abraham end up in v1? What did he say about Sarah there (v2)? What did Abimelech the king do? What does God say to Abimelech in a dream (v3)? What does Abimelech say back to God (v4-5)? Who had kept Abimelech from sinning (v6)? What does God say Abimelech has to do (v7)? What does he need Abraham to do for him? Who lectures whom for his wickedness in v9? What excuse does Abraham give in v11? How does this compare with v8? What other excuse does Abraham give in v12-13? What does Abimelech do in v14-16 to show that Sarah is returned with honor, and not as someone who has been used? What does Abraham do in v17? How does the Lord respond in v17-18?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we see that the prayers of a righteous man avail much. We also see that the sins of a righteous man can cause much harm.

Imagine, hundreds of years later, being an Israelite in constant warfare with the Philistines, and tempted to look down upon them as irredeemable wasters, and then you read v20. There’s Father Abraham on the receiving end of a stinging, accurate rebuke, and making himself look even worse with his ridiculous excuses.

But there is also the Lord looking out for his interests. The Lord is keeping Abraham’s wife from being violated. The Lord is terrifying the local king on Abraham’s behalf. The Lord is calling Abraham His prophet. The Lord is listening to Abraham’s prayers.

What is going on here? Grace. Abraham’s growth in faith and holiness comes in fits and starts, sometimes with pretty significant setbacks. Does that sound familiar?

Yes, these are opportunities to repent and look anew to God for forgiveness and for strength to redouble effort against sin.

But these are also opportunities to remember that it is God’s absolutely free choice to show favor that is the only ultimate cause of salvation. Just look at what we being-saved people sometimes look like… even Abimelech has a word of rebuke for us! And our Lord patiently listens to our prayers anyway.

The prayers of a righteous (by grace!) man avail much.
Of what sin do you need to repent? Why would God still listen to your prayers?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or HB300 “Take Time to Be Holy”

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

2018.04.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2Corinthians 5:12-6:3

Questions for Littles: What opportunity was Paul giving the Corinthians (v12)? What kind of people were the Corinthians dealing with? What did the Corinthians need to be able to say about Paul, for their own sakes (v13)? Whose love was pressing and pushing Paul to speak this way (v14)? What is true if One died for all (v14)? How does v15 describe the life of those who have died in Christ—for whom do they live? According to what are they not to regard anyone, including Christ (v16)? If someone is in Christ, what is true about him (v17)? Who has done this (v18)? What is this change called a ministry of? What was it necessary not to impute to them, if they were going to be reconciled to God? What do Christ’s ambassadors plead (v20)? For what reason did God make Him who knew no sin to be sin (v21)? What are Paul and his companions pleading with them not to do in 6:1? What day is the day when you hear how Jesus died so that we could be forgiven and begin to live for Him instead of ourselves (v2)?
This week’s Prayer for Help and Confession of Sin came from 2Corinthians 5:12-6:2. Here, we learn that a critical part of the gospel is the good news that we no longer have to live for ourselves.

Yes, forgiveness is entirely by grace alone—by that glorious substitution in v21. God made Christ, who had not sinned at all, to be punished on the cross as sin itself, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. This is why when we believe in Jesus, our sins are not imputed—that is, not counted—against us (v19).

But this is just the beginning. It was the guilt of these sins that kept us from receiving the glorious gift of being made new creatures. Jesus took the guilt, and He makes us new creatures.

This is why v15 tells us that the reason that He died for us was that we should no longer live for ourselves but for Him. To be made holy is a gift that we don’t deserve. So Jesus took upon Himself what we deserve, so that we could be made holy!

This is why someone who claims to be forgiven but not holy is literally playing with the fire of Hell. 6:1 calls this kind of thinking “to receive the grace of God in vain.” The word translated “vain” here is the same as the word translated “foolish” in most translations of James 2:20, and both are describing the same person: the one who claims to have a saving faith that doesn’t produce serving faithfulness.

Paul is literally begging the Corinthians not to think this way. It’s a salvation issue. “Today is the day of salvation!” he says. “Live like those whose chief desire is to please the Lord before whom you will one day stand!”

This is a word that aims at the perfection of His finished work in us, but knows that we will not have that perfection in this life. For us in the here and now, it’s a word about priorities. What are your priorities? For whom are you living? Is your sin an enemy whose days are numbered? Or is thinking about Christ an irritation or inconvenience to you because you’d really like to just keep living for yourself?
What is one way that you could be living for Him who died for you and rose again?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Monday, April 16, 2018

2018.04.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 77

Questions for Littles: To whom did he cry, with what? What was this crying out like (vv2-3)? What troubles him in v3a? Who was holding his eyelids open (v4)? What couldn’t he do because of how troubled he was (v4b)? What did he try to remember in response (v5-6, v10-12)? What did he conclude was absolutely impossible (v7-9)? Why is it impossible that God’s love and grace would fail (v13-14)? What is the greatest example of this (v15)? What Old Testament display of saving power was a primary picture of the cross (v16-20)? What does this psalm describe as the nature of the strong east wind at the Red Sea (vv16-19, cf. Ex 14:21)? Yet, amidst all this trembling, flashing, and thundering, how does v20 describe what God was doing?
In the sermon text this week, God highlighted the Exodus, when He “led His people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”

Our attention spans are pretty short, so we might miss out on the amazement of seeing that last verse in light of the first. The psalmist himself communicates that amazement by the repetition in the first line… “with my voice!”

The God who parted the Red Sea listens to the sound waves being compressed out of our mouths! And not just our voices, but my voice. To be sure, this is a Psalm for corporate worship. We learn as much in the superscript (which is v1 in the Hebrew), where the Chief Musician receives the assignment of incorporating this Psalm into the worship of the people of God.

But one of the things that the people of God are learning together in this Psalm is that the Lord listens to each of us individually. I cried out to God with MY voice, to God with MY voice; and He gave ear to ME… MY trouble… MY hand… MY soul… I remembered… I complained… MY spirit… and so on.

It can be terrifying, when going through a difficult time, to think that God is having personal dealings with us. So, here is a Psalm set in one of the Psalmist’s most difficult times. And we see that one of the reasons that God put him through this was so that he would learn that God personally listens to the sound of his voice.

It is an amazing thing to be one of the people of God. The Creator of all that exists heeds the sound of my voice. I speak, and it moves the Hand that rules over all things and overrules in all things.

Do you know that amazement? Has it occurred to you, in the most difficult of circumstances, that the Lord is prompting you unto prayer, so that you may learn by experience that you have the ear of Him whose Hand rules over all?
In what situation in your life is God teaching you to call on Him with your voice?
Suggested Songs: ARP77A “My Voice to God, Aloud I Plead” or HB385 “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”