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”