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”