Saturday, September 22, 2018

2018.09.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:1

Questions for Littles: When does this verse start? Who is already there? What did He create? From what did He create them?  
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learned not only the terms upon which we may study the creation (see Monday), but also the actual subject of our study, and therefore the goal of our study.

The entire Bible is a theological book. It is a book given not to unbelievers but to the community of the redeemed. In it, God is not just giving His people pointers about how to live, but relating to them—engaging them to Himself, revealing Himself to them, and requiring things from them.

Genesis, too, is a theological book. In it, God establishes His glory and our purpose; recounts our fall into sin; promises our salvation; displays the Hell that we deserve; and begins to show what He is like in His dealings with sinners who are being redeemed.

The theological character of the book is apparent right from the beginning (literally!). “In the beginning God.” This is not a book that was left behind on a rock like a user’s manual in the glove-box of a new car. This is a love-note from the designer to the bride—all about how it is from Him and for her. It is far more about Him than it is about His creation.

As such, the point of the book is not for us to start a creation science research group (thought we may be appropriately thankful for those who debunk the lies by which the knowledge of God is attacked). Rather, the point of the book is adoration. Worship, love, service, obedience.

Genesis 1:1 is all about God. It cries out, “Behold your God!”

And it goes further than that. It teaches us that everything is all about God. Everything in the first heaven? About God! Everything in the second heaven? About God! Everything on earth? About God! The rest of the chapter will declare, “And all that is in them!”

Including you and me, and your neighbors. And especially the church.
How do you daily remind yourself that everything is all about God?
Suggested Songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or TPH98A “O Sing a New Song to the Lord”

Friday, September 21, 2018

2018.09.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 4:1-15

Questions for Littles: What did Jesus know that the Pharisees had heard (v1)? Where did Jesus leave Judea to go (v3)? Through where does v4 say He needed to go to get there? What city did Jesus come to in v5? Where did Jesus sit in v6? By what? At what time? How did He feel from His journey? Who came to draw water (v7)? What did Jesus ask her? Where had the disciples gone (v8)? What does the Samaritan woman ask Him (v9)? What two things does Jesus say that she doesn’t know in v10? What does He say that she would have done if she did know? From where does the woman point out that Jesus is ill-equipped to draw this living water (v11)? What does she ask Him in v12? What does Jesus point out in v13? But what does He say about the person who drinks the water that He gives them (v14)? What will the water that He gives them become? How does the woman answer in v15? What does she never want to have to do again?
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus is leaving Judea as the heat gets turned up. But there is something that He has to do.

It wasn’t a logistical necessity. Jews went from Judea to Galilee while going around Samaria, instead of through it, all the time. But our passage uses a little Greek particle that means something was absolutely necessary. This was not a necessity of geography but a necessity of mission, a necessity of purpose.

It’s high noon when an exhausted Jesus sits down by the well. No time to be drawing water—which is perhaps why this woman, who has had four husbands and hasn’t even bothered to marry the fifth man, would come by herself.

But here she meets someone who talks about never being thirsty again. That sounds great. She’d love to never again have to come out to the well to draw water.

But she doesn’t know that the gift of God is everlasting life. And she doesn’t know that the One who asks for a drink is God Himself in the flesh, who has come not to get from her something but to give to her everything.

Many people don’t know this about Christ. They think that He has come to demand one thing or another. Perhaps, more accurately, they know that they will have to give up their entire life to Him if they receive Him.

But they haven’t wrestled with the fact that they deserve Hell. And they haven’t learned that God offers them eternal life as a gift instead. They haven’t reasoned out the fact that Jesus is the living God, and that He has no need of anything from us—so that it is His role to give Himself, and ours to worship Him for it, whether in an hour of set apart worship, or an entire life that is lived as worship.
Have you learned what the gift of God is, and who it is that gives it?
Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH351 “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”

Thursday, September 20, 2018

2018.09.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 8

Questions for Littles: What is the next topic about which they seem to have written (v1)? What, apparently, had they presented as the primary support for being able to eat this meat (cf. v4-6)? But what does knowledge by itself do? And what does love use knowledge to do? If we are impressed with our knowledge, what does that show about what we know (v2)? What is more important than what we know (v3)? What truths about God (and idols) does the apostle affirm in vv4-6? But what happens if someone who isn’t sure of the truth about idols eats meat offered to one (v7)? And what can’t food do for us (v8)? But what might it do to the weak (v9)? If the people “with knowledge” do something, what might those without knowledge do (v10)? And what might the consequences be (v11)? Against whom does the “knowledgeable” brother sin in this case (v12)? What extraordinary sacrifice would the apostle be willing to make for his brother (v13)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learn about the proper use of theological “knowledge.” This is an important lesson in the age of cage stage Calvinists in internet arguments, who all of a sudden discover that some rules they had been following were man-made, and are now determined to make great display of themselves drinking and smoking as much as possible at every opportunity.

There’s not just knowing. There’s knowing rightly and knowing wrongly. It’s the difference between being a blowfish (puffed up) and a general contractor (builds up). And, ironically, flaunting your newfound liberty can itself be an indicator that you are more about what you know than the fact that God knows you (v3). This isn’t the first time we’ve thought about how people make enjoyment of their liberty into an even sneakier form of legalism!

What are we doing with our knowledge? Rejoicing that God loves us, and loves our believing brothers and sisters? Figuring out how we can best serve and help and build up brothers and sisters who do not have the same knowledge?

Or are we rationalizing a lack of care for the effect we may be having upon another—while indulging ourselves in delusions of superiority the entire time?

Once we are confident that God has delivered us from a man-made rule like “don’t eat meat” or “don’t drink alcohol,” v8 reminds us that there is nothing particularly godly in going ahead and indulging ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with eating that steak—and I heartily recommend that you enjoy it to the glory of God (cf. 10:31).

BUT if your brother is about to suffer spiritual ruin, because he is convinced that it’s wrong, but seeing his “knowledgeable” brother is encouraging him to do it anyway—then it’d be better if you never visited the butcher again!

Christ gave Himself for that brother. So be careful, lest your words say “eating a steak doesn’t mean anything,” but your actions be interpreted by 1Cor 8:11-12 to say, “Christ’s death doesn’t mean anything.”
Whom do you know that has less theological knowledge? How are you using your knowledge to love them?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH405 “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

2018.09.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 1:10-18

Questions for Littles: Whom did Joshua command in v10? How long would be until they crossed the Jordan (v11)? What were they going to possess? Who was giving it to them? What did Joshua say to the two and a half tribes who had already received their inheritance east of the Jordan (v13,ff)? What had the Lord given them, in addition to land (v13b)? Who were to remain behind (v14)? But what were their men to do? What was the Lord giving to their brethren (v15)? When that was complete, what were the men of the two and a half tribes to return to their own land to do? How did the men of the two and a half tribes answer Joshua (v16)? Whom did they claim that they had heeded in all things (v17)? Whom did they pray would be with Joshua? What did they say they would do to anyone who disobeyed the commander in chief (v18)? What familiar “command” did they give to Joshua at the end of v18?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, preparations begin for crossing the Jordan. It is a good reminder of how obedience to the Lord works in the Christian life.

Israel as a whole, and the two-and-half tribes in particular, were not to obey because the promised land was a reward for obedience. They were not even to obey because their actions were what would get them the land. They were to obey because Yahweh was their God, and they were to obey because Yahweh was giving them the land as a gift, and whatever part He gave them was a necessary privilege in the process of His giving them everything that He had promised.

This is an excellent corrective to much of our wrong thinking in the Christian life. We don’t obey because we are trying to earn things from God. He loves to reward us, and He adds this to help us. But our obedience is first a function of loving relationship. Yahweh is our God. Yahweh in the flesh, Yeshua, Jesus Christ, is our Redeemer King. And we love to obey Him for that reason.

Just as the Lord would do much that was miraculous in the battles for the promised land, our entire Christian life depends upon the Holy Spirit’s continuous working of miracles in us. And yet, the Lord has also appointed to us particular duties in the process. We obey not because it depends upon us, but because He has given us the privilege of having this part!!
What obedience do you have trouble with? How might this perspective help?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH1B “How Blest the Man”

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

2018.09.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 4:1-20

Questions for Littles: What was Jesus doing by the sea? Why did he have to get into the boat? How did He teach them (v2)? What is the seed (v14)? Where did the first group of seed fall in v4? What happened to it? What does v15 say happens to the word in their heart immediately after they hear it? Where did the second group of seed fall in v5? What happened at first? But then what happened to it in v6? How do the stony ground people receive the Word (v16)? But what happens when trouble or persecution comes (v17)? Where did the third group of seed fall in v7? What happened to it? What does v19 say that the cares and pleasures of the world do to the Word? Where did the fourth seed fall in v8? What did it produce? What does Jesus say is required for hearing in v9? Who apparently needed to hear, since they need to ask in v10? What does Jesus say He is giving them in v11? What do the parables show that hearers cannot do on their own in v12? What three things does this group do with the Word in v20?
This week’s Invocation and Confession of sin came from Mark 4:3-20. Here, Jesus teaches us some things that surprise us at first, until we admit to ourselves the truth about our spiritual condition.

The point about parables in general is actually the same as the point of the parable of the soils: left to themselves, our hearts are not good soil!

To a believer, parables often seem so obvious! But that’s just the point, according to Jesus in v12. The simplicity of using basic, earthly illustrations for spiritual truth is to show just how hard our hearts are that we can see and hear, but not perceive or understand!

There aren’t any exceptions to this. Even the disciples didn’t understand the parable at first (v10), and Jesus implies in v13 that this is the easiest of parables. The key is in one glorious word in v11: “given.”

The disciples didn’t have it in themselves to know the mystery of the kingdom of God. It had to be given to them. For any of us to see and perceive, it has to be given to us. For any of us to hear and understand, it has to be given to us. For any of us to turn and be forgiven, it has to be given to us.

Look at all of the dangers to our hearts! Sometimes our heart is like no soil at all. The Word goes in one ear and out the other. Any distraction can make us forget immediately what we had read in devotions or heard in the sermon.

At other times, our hearts are mostly stone with some soil. We love to hear the sermon or read the Scripture devotionally, and we may even think about it a bit—but it’s never really the controlling factor of our hearts or minds, and the smallest bit of trouble makes us decide to abandon biblical thinking or living.

Then there are the times when we hear the sermon, or study the Scripture, and we agree with it and go along with it for a while. But there are other things that are just as important to us too, and eventually something comes along to turn us away. Either a care of the world comes along, and worry makes us “wiser than God”—we go in for what we think will work instead of what God says to do. Or perhaps a pleasure of the world presents itself—or was already there—and in the end, we just can’t give it up to love and serve and obey Jesus with our whole life.

What’s the solution? Just give God your whole heart! Well, it may be that simple, but that’s very different from being easy. In fact, it’s impossible. It has to be given to us. Let us watch against all those weaknesses and defects of heart, but at the end of the day we must ask God to give us good ones!
Take time right now to confess the weakness of your heart, and asking the Holy Spirit to soften it
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH173 “Almighty God, Your Word Is Cast”

Monday, September 17, 2018

2018.09.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:1

Questions for Littles: When does this verse start? Who is already there? What did He create? From what did He create them? 
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learn the terms upon which we may study and think about the origins of all things.

First, it is impossible for us to reason from the evidence of what we see in the creation backward to the process by which it was created. The word for create, here is בָּרָ֣א (bara). There are many words in Hebrew for “create”—words meaning to form, cut, build, arrange, and make from other things. But this particular “creation” word is only ever used of God. It means to create from nothing.

We are very creative, but we must use materials that exist already, and even the ideas in our minds are built upon things that we have already experienced. We just don’t have a point of reference for what it means to create from nothing. We must also remember that the creation itself was cursed for man’s sake in the Fall (Gen 3:17), and that in Genesis 8:22 God restored to the created order a continuity that had been disrupted in the flood.

We simply do not have access to either the process by which “bara” happened or the way creation was before Genesis 8:22.

Second, without any valid basis in the created things for drawing conclusions about the creation process, we are left only with eyewitness accounts. And there is only one Eyewitness, and the account that He has given us is the Scripture.

“In the beginning, God.” Full stop. He is the only One there. In fact, He does not create man until day six. Therefore, we are entirely dependent upon Him to tell us what happened.

Reading the Bible, like other acts of worship, is practice at not being God. Are we willing to submit? Are we willing to acknowledge that God alone can tell us about how creation happened? Will we be thankful that He has told us about it? Or will we, without valid reason, decide to formulate our own theories?
How would you respond to a sincere believer who tries to convince you of theistic evolution?
Suggested Songs: ARP19A “The Skies Above Declare” or TPH250 “I Sing the Almighty Power of God”