Saturday, April 14, 2018

2018.04.14 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 coming sermon’s text, we find the psalmist in a truly horrible situation. There’s no comfort for his soul. Even his initial remembrance of God troubles him (v3), and he says that it is God Himself who is holding his eyelids open.

What is the situation that is troubling him so much?

We don’t know, and that’s a great blessing. Not needing to know the details of the situation means that this psalm is holding out to us a comfort that applies to every situation. It is like that wonderful truth in 2Corinthians 1:3-5… because God is the God of all comfort, when He comforts us in our trouble, it enables us to point to Him as comfort in any trouble.

Whatever our trouble is, the comfort remedy is the same. So, it doesn’t matter what the psalmist’s situation was. What matters was his solution.

Consider God’s character through God’s track record. Sometimes, it is not from the storm, but directly in the midst of it, that the Lord is saving His people and leading them by the hand.

What does it look like to be led gently by our shepherd? Sometimes, it looks like thundering, lightning, and earthquakes. Sometimes, it looks like being backed up against the sea, with the most powerful enemy on earth surrounding us, enraged and bent upon our destruction.

We don’t need to be able to see the way out. We don’t need it to feel comfortable and look pleasant. We just need to know whom we are with: the God who does wonders, who declares His strength, who led His people by the hand through the Red Sea. WHO HAS GIVEN HIMSELF FOR US AT THE CROSS.

Ultimately, there has never been anything so horrifying as Christ’s cross. Yet, it was exactly there that the Lord was doing His greatest saving work. Whatever your trouble, dear Christian, consider God’s character through His track record: a track record that must take you ultimately to the cross!
What situation keeps you up at night? How will you remember the cross at those times?
Suggested Songs: ARP77A “My Voice to God, Aloud I Plead” or HB112 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Friday, April 13, 2018

2018.04.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 12:38-44

Questions for Littles: Of what class of people are those of whom Jesus says to beware in v38? What do they desire to wear? What do they love to receive in the marketplace? What do they desire in the synagogues (v39)? What do they desire at feasts? What do they do to widows’ houses (v40)? Why do they make long prayers? What kind of condemnation will they receive? Where was Jesus sitting in v41? What did he see? What did many who were rich do? Then who came in v42? What did she throw in? Whom did He call to Himself in v43? Whose gifts did He say the widow’s gifts surpassed? Out of what had others put in (v44)? Out of what did the widow put in? How much of it? What did she need it for?
In the Gospel reading this week, the Lord Jesus points out to us one bad example and one good example.

It is important to notice this use of examples. We know, theologically, that the only righteousness we have is that which Christ works in us, which we do by faith in Him. But this does not disqualify having eminent believers as role models. Jesus points them out; Paul by the Holy Spirit even says, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”; and, the book of Hebrews tells us to follow (literally, “mimic”) the faith of our elders (Heb 13:7).

There are also negative examples that Scripture sets before us as warnings. Here, Jesus gives us one: people who are all about themselves. Interestingly, the specific ones that He chooses in this case are scribes. Bible experts. Those who spent their entire time copying and studying the Bible. It is as if to say: do not think that church membership, spiritual exercises, or even church office prevent someone from needing a warning such as this one!

No, this warning is for all of us: watch out for being all about yourself. For seeking your own image, your own popularity, your own reputation, your own honor, your own pleasure. Be especially aware of how you treat the most vulnerable people (like widows, unborn babies, or foreigners). Be especially careful of your motivations (why DO you pray the way that you do?). The more into yourself that you are the greater your condemnation!

It’s also interesting to see who the good example is in this case. It’s someone that would otherwise have been invisible. On our own, we aren’t likely to say, “if only I could be down to my last two pennies, and have no one else in the world who loves me enough to take care of me—then I could be a really good spiritual example.” It takes the teaching of our Lord Jesus to point out such things to us.

Since the Lord has no actual need of what we give to Him, it is the level of self-denial that most glorifies Him. Praise God for all those rich people who put so much in! That was God’s means of providing for God’s work. But the one who gave the most was the one who gave away what she actually needed for herself to live off of.
What opportunity to serve or give has arisen recently, in which you would actually have to deny yourself in order to do it? Will you do it?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Thursday, April 12, 2018

2018.04.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 15:1-13

Questions for Littles: With what ought the strong to bear (v1)? Whom ought they not to please? Whom should they please (v2)? For what purpose? Leading to what goal? Who else did not please Himself (v3)? What did He endure for God’s sake? For whom were Scriptures about former believers written (v4a)? Through what, from the Scriptures, do we have what (v4b)? What title of God does v5 use? What does v5 pray that we would be? According to whom? So that we may do what (v6)? If we are to offer such worship, what must we do (v7)? Just as Who else has done to whom? Unto what purpose? What does v8 call the Jews? What does it say that Jesus has done for them? To confirm what? What does He cause the nations (Gentiles) to do (v9a)? Who does this with them (v9b)? And who else (v10)? How many nations do this (v11)? What relationship does Isaiah say that Jesus, the root of Jesse, has with the nations (Gentiles), according to v12? What title of God does v13 use? What does it pray that He would fill us with? Unto what end? By what power?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we have the grand conclusion to the body of Paul’s letter to the Romans. While there is much to be gleaned from the editorial comments that follow, and even the greetings that he appends, this passage is the climax.

And it does not surprise us that Romans’s chief end is to glorify God. It ends with worship. It climaxes with worship. The opening verses are full of commands not to reproach one another, but bear with one another, and see how we can be used to build up one another. But these all have a purpose: so that we may with one mind and with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s all about worship.

The argument of the letter opened up with the fact that the wrath of God was already displayed against such wicked creatures who had failed to worship the Creator (1:18-25). It moved through the amazing salvation by merciful grace that God has provided for sinners such as we are. Then it reminded that the response to such mercy must be an entire existence of worship (12:1).

And now we learn why so very much time has been spent, in chapters 12-14, on relationships in the body of Christ. God’s purpose in salvation is not merely that a multitude of associated individuals might worship similarly. Rather, His purpose is that Jesus Christ Himself would lead a united congregation of Jews and Gentiles, all believers from all places and all times, in one massively united worship of God.

Won’t that be glorious to be a part of? It will literally be the most glorious event we ever experience! This is our hope. And, as the Lord fills us with all joy and peace in believing, we become more and more likeminded to one another, and we see Him bringing about that great purpose for which He has saved us.

Yes, it does take a literal miracle for us to be over-full (abound) with such hope. But that is why He has given us His all-powerful Holy Spirit for that task. His power is displayed not when believers have ecstatic seizures or burst into gibberish, but when they are filled with joy and peace, and offer united worship to glorify God who gave His Son to be our Savior and our Lord. This is the great work of the power of the Holy Spirit!
Whom could you welcome more or increase connection with, in your church?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

2018.04.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 19:30-38

Questions for Littles: Where did Lot go from Zoar? Where did he dwell? Who was with him? Why did he move? Where did they dwell? Who told to whom the idea in v31-32? What did they not have in the cave (v31)? What did they know they would have to do to their father to make him commit such a great wickedness (v32)? What did Lot not know in v33 and again in v35? What two peoples came out of this? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we find that although Lot was able to get his daughters out of Sodom, he was not able to get Sodom out of his daughters. They come up with a plan of great wickedness, and the Moabites and Ammonites would go on to be a great torment to Israel for more than a thousand years.

It didn’t have to be this way. Lot chose to make his family’s dwelling in the cities, and in the city of Sodom itself. He could have gone elsewhere and trusted the Lord. He could even have sold off his livestock and remained with godly Abraham. Among all the godly men trained up in his household, how many good suitors there might have been for the daughters of Lot!

Of course, Lot knew this. After his Sodom experience, it wasn’t long before he noticed the immorality of the people of Zoar. He reasoned that this city’s days were numbered as well, and so he was afraid to stay there.

Now what does he do? If only he had gone to live with Abraham! Instead, he literally runs for the hills and moves into a cave with his daughters. It is there that their moral upbringing in Sodom finds occasion to display itself.

We may think that we are getting our children education opportunity. Or financial opportunity. Or social opportunity. But let us never do so at the cost of making the wicked into their constant companions. We may, too late, get our children away from the evil, only to find it now impossible to get the evil out of our children!

I suppose that it was to Lot’s credit that his daughters knew that they would have to get him passed-out drunk before he would allow them to be immoral with him. But, let’s not give him too much of that credit.

After all, shouldn’t his righteousness have included being unwilling to drink enough that he would begin to compromise his judgment? Let alone drinking enough not to know that someone was laying with him or what was happening?

We are reminded of Noah and begin to note that here is a place where many otherwise godly men have fallen. Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls! 2Peter 2:7-9, which reminds us that Lot was righteous and godly, glares like a neon warning sign here. Let no man think himself strong enough to dabble with the sin of drunkenness!!
With which of the two great sin-dangers in this passage are you uncareful?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or HB300 “Take Time to Be Holy”

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

2018.04.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 23

Questions for Littles: Who is our Shepherd (v1)? What shall we not do? In what does He make us to lie down (v2)? Beside what does the Lord lead us? What does He restore (v3)? In what paths does the Lord lead us? For what reason? Through what valley will we walk (v4)? What will we not fear? Why—who is with us? What two things of His comfort us in v4? What does the Lord prepare for us (v5)? Where? What does He do to our head? What happens to our portion of the cup of blessing? What shall goodness and steadfast love surely do (v6)? How many of the days of our lives will they do this? Where will we dwell/return forever?  
This week’s Prayer for Help and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 23.

Many of us have memorized this Psalm from our childhood, but I wonder how many of us consider what this Psalm meant to our Lord Jesus in His childhood, and even on into His adulthood.

It’s amazing that Jesus Christ Himself needed much of the care described in this chapter. To be sure, He did not sin or stray, but He was and is fully human—like us in every way, except without sin. He would experience being hungry, thirsty, weary, tired, lonely, and attacked. But, as He grew in wisdom, a big part of that wisdom would be seeing the goodness of God everywhere and delighting in that goodness.

Would that we were like our Redeemer, beholding God’s goodness to us everywhere, in everything, all the time!

It is truly astonishing that the heart of this Psalm’s comforts was withheld from our Savior. When He looked for His Father to be with Him in the valley of the shadow of death, He cried out instead the title line from the previous Psalm, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?!” He was forsaken in the valley that we, who deserve to be forsaken there, would instead have Him with us to comfort us so that we shall not fear.

Of course, Jesus knew that it would be so, and still the gospels tells us that “the Son of man came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many,” and that “He set His face toward Jerusalem.”

This is because Jesus knew Himself also to be the Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for His sheep. Every one of these beautiful statements about the Shepherds loving care finds its resounding echo in the heart of our Redeemer. He is not just our pattern but our Shepherd!

He who “upholds all things by the word of His power,” is upholding all of those things with the heart of goodness and provision of the Shepherd in this Psalm. More than that, He is upholding us by His own resurrection life in us, being worked out by His own Holy Spirit who has taken us up as His dwelling.

It is no wonder that “we know that all things work together for good” for those who love God and have been called according to His purpose. But let us learn, with v6, to delight in His character and His presence—to delight in Him Himself—even more than in His gifts!
What valley of yours is being sweetened by God’s presence because Christ willingly went to the cross? How will you remind yourself of this?
Suggested songs: ARP23A “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or HB338 “He Leadeth Me”

Monday, April 9, 2018

2018.04.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:8-16

Questions for Littles: How did Abraham obey (v8)? To what place was he called to go? What did he not know at the time? In what manner did Abraham dwell in a foreign country (v9)? In what did he dwell with Isaac and Jacob? What were they with them? For what kind of structures/city did he wait instead (v10)? What did Sarah need, in order to conceive (v11)? What did she judge about whom? What was Abraham’s condition when he fathered Isaac (v12)? How is the greatness of the multitude of his descendants described? From where does this language come (cf. Gen 15:5; Gen 22:17)? What did all of these people do in faith (v13)? What had they not received? From where did they see the promised things? Of what were they sure? What did they embrace? What did they confess? What did they declare plainly (v14)? What country were they not seeking (v15)? How do we know that? What kind of country do they desire (v16)? When are they doing this desiring? Of what is God not ashamed? What has He prepared for them?
In the sermon text this week, we learned that a big part of biblical faith has to do with where (Whom!) we consider home.

Abraham is called to go to a place. But he doesn’t even know where that place is (v8)—only who is calling him. When he gets there, he puts down no roots, but rather goes on a life-long, multi-generational camping trip.

Now, we might think that his hope is on the day that the people return from Egypt and take Canaan, but earlier in the book, we already learned that Joshua did not bring the people into their promised rest (4:8-11).

On the contrary, this is no man-made city at all. That’s the nature of faith, isn’t it? It’s not trusting that I will be able to do something, but that God will do something for me. The builder of the city and country that Abraham hoped for is God Himself.

Sarah didn’t stir herself up to a great achievement by faith; no, she believed that God was faithful to do what He promised, and then God did in her what He had promised.

We need to come to terms with the fact that Biblical faith is not the “confidence in God that I can accomplish ___________.” Whatever we fill into that blank, we will be quite disappointed when it comes time for us to die. But “these all died in faith not having received the promises.”

How does that work? Biblical faith is for someTHING that is eternal, because biblical faith is in someONE that is eternal. That’s where our passage is taking us, because it points us to a hope that is not only beyond death, but one that is specifically called heavenly.

What is this heavenly homeland? That’s a what question with a who answer! That’s what the end of v16 is getting at. The “city” that God has prepared for us is the one in which He is the primary feature. He is in the center of that city. He is the light of that city.

Moses understood this. He never entered the promised land. By the end of his life, the people of Israel had only ever been sojourners and slaves. But it is his psalm, psalm 90, that confesses, “Lord, YOU have been our dwelling place in all generations.”

Dear reader, is your hope that the Lord God Himself is your forever-home?
What temporal earthly hopes do you have that need to be put in their place behind the eternal enjoyment of God as the ultimate object of your biblical faith?
Suggested Songs: ARP90A “Lord You Have Been Our Dwelling Place” or HB216 “Jesus, Lover of My Soul”