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”