Saturday, September 29, 2018

2018.09.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:2

Questions for Littles: What part of the heavens and earth from v1 does v2 now focus upon? What two things describe the condition of the earth at that time? What was upon the face of the deep? Who was there? What was He doing?
In the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we meet the Holy Spirit.

Here, God is displaying His glory. And He is doing so especially in the Person and work of the Word, who is featured in the act of creation—God creating by His Word.

This is also what God does in redemption. He displays His Son, the exact imprint of His nature, the One in whom all the fullness of the godhead dwelt bodily, as the brightness of His own glory.

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has fully revealed Him.

And in both revelations of Himself in the Son—in creation and in redemption—God the Holy Spirit is the One who loves to bring about this display of the glory of Christ.

There He is in our text, hovering over the water—waiting, waiting, waiting for the Word to proceed from the Father, that He might immediately bring to effect whatever the Word has said.

And there He is in our lives, hovering over the Word—waiting, waiting, waiting as He brings us to read it, or brings us to hear it, or brings to hear it preached, that He might immediately work it into our hearts as into fertile soil and make the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shine in the face of Jesus Christ!

When God is going to create Man, He breathes His Spirit into his nostrils. When God is going to write His Word, He carries men along by His Spirit, so that every word is God-breathed (lit. Spirited). When God is going to create the world, it is His Spirit who hovers over the water to display the glory of God!
Who is the Holy Spirit, and if you are a Christian, what’s He doing in your life?
Suggested Songs: ARP8 “Lord, Our Lord” or TPH393 “Spirit of God, Dwell Thou within My Heart”

Friday, September 28, 2018

2018.09.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 4:16-26

Questions for Littles: Whom does Jesus tell the woman to bring (v16)? Why isn’t she able to do so (v17)? How many husbands has she had (v18)? Is the man she is living with now even her husband? What does the woman say to change the subject (v19)? To what subject does she change (v20)? What question does she ask? Which option does Jesus choose, from her options for a worship place (v21)? But whom does Jesus say had it right (v22)? Now what is the place of worshiping the Father (v23)? How can we get there (v24)? Whom does the woman say she is waiting for, to straighten her out on this issue (v25)? What does Jesus say about Himself in v26? 
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus provokes the woman at the well into changing the subject, directing her onto a glorious path that takes her through one of the most important statements in the Bible about how we worship to one of the most important statements in the Bible about Whom we worship.

She doesn’t really intend the “how” we worship question so much as the “where” we worship question. But that’s really the issue every Lord’s Day, isn’t it? Where you worship (which church) is going to determine how you worship.

Well, the problem for the woman is that she wants to go where God is, but Jesus rather easily dismisses that possibility. God is Spirit. He doesn’t live on a mountain or in a big house in Jerusalem. Yes, as the Jews rightly understood, God chose to make that house the place where He made His presence known and felt for a long time, but that time’s just come to an end, which means that’s not the answer anymore.

If that time has ended, what time has come? And more importantly for us, what is the answer to the where question now? That brings us to the how question: in Spirit and in truth. If God is Spirit, our feet (or cars or spaceships) can’t get us to Him. Only His Spirit can get our spirits there.

And, He has appointed a particular vehicle for this weekly journey to glory: the truth. His Word is truth. Yes, it can also mean sincerely, but it is even more important that we worship by that which is sincerely God’s than that we do so by intentions and actions that are sincerely ours. The former is 100% possible and effective; the latter would be impossible and ineffective and a terrible means by which to hope to worship well.

The woman doesn’t seem to get it, so she gives kind of a verbal shrug: when the Christ comes, He’ll explain it all. And that’s when Jesus drops the biggest truth yet: not only is He the Christ, but He declares it using a phrase once heard on that very mountain that is so dear to her: I AM. Jesus isn’t just Christ. He’s God in the flesh.
How must we worship? Whom must we worship? Who can teach us what this means?
Suggested songs: ARP184 “Adoration and Submission” or TPH271 “Blessed Jesus, at Your Word”

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Pastoral Letter from the 2018.09.27 Hopewell Herald


Beloved,

Have you ever felt taken for granted? It may be helpful to us to be on the receiving end, so that we might marvel at the Lord’s patience with and forgiveness of us. After all, we continuously take Him for granted for something much greater than “just” His continual physical care and protection.

As we heard [in the morning sermon], all this week long, God the Holy Spirit has been dwelling with us and in us, exerting day-one power to give us light that we might know the glory of God in Christ.

In fact, it has been this way ever since He first gave us spiritual life, that we might be united to Christ through faith.

And, yet, so many of us live with rather little regard for this continuous and glorious work. Worse, sometimes we indulge a way of thinking that if He would just do things that are more scintillating in the moment, that would be a “real” display of the Spirit.

But here He has been. In all faithfulness. In all love. And yes, in all power. Applying to us all of the life and blessing of belonging to God in Christ!

What a faithful friend and divine Servant He has been in attending us. Is it not a glimpse of His divine character that we see in the Redeemer—towel around the waist, and foot-washing bowl at hand?

What may we do to honor the Holy Spirit? We may put away the works of the flesh, as He works in us His fruit. We can, by Him, put to death the deeds of the body. We can call unto God as our abba, and groan forward toward that adoption-day that will be the redemption of our bodies and the revealing of the sons of God. We can relate to one another with kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness rather than grieving Him.

And, most of all, we can behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, as we give up our hearts to the beatific vision in this display that God makes of Himself in the gospel: 
We can come to worship and behold God’s glory in Christ in the singing. We can come to worship and behold God’s glory in Christ in the praying. We can come to worship and behold God’s glory in Christ in the reading. We can come to worship and behold God’s glory in Christ in the preaching.

We can come to worship and behold God’s glory in Christ.

Looking forward to doing so with you,

Pastor

2018.09.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 9

Questions for Littles: What evidences does Paul give in v1-2 of his spiritual credentials? What does he claim to have a right to do in v3-4? What does he claim to have a right to do in v5-6? What does he claim to have a right to do in v7-14? Of how many of these rights has the apostle taken advantage (v15)? What would he rather do than lose the privilege of having given up these rights? Why does he preach the gospel, according to v16? With what has he been entrusted (v17)? What is his reward? What does the apostle make himself to others (v19)? How many others? Why? What rights does he give up for whom in vv20-22? Why? What would happen to Paul if he was not practicing self-denial (v23-27)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, the apostle presents himself as an example of someone who gladly denies himself what he has a right to, out of love for others.

Remember that in chapter 8, those Corinthians who thought they were pretty advanced in knowledge claimed thereby to be absolved in eating whatever meat they wanted from whatever source they pleased.

Are they really so advanced? Paul lays out credentials that dwarf theirs. Do they have rights? Paul has far more. Not only does he have a right to eat and drink anything that anyone else does, but he has a right to have the churches buy it for him. He has a right to bring along a wife who is a sister in Christ. He has a right to have the church buy all the food that it would take to feed him, his wife, and all their beautiful little children.

So, why isn’t Paul making use of all of these rights? Because it is his privilege to display that he’s preaching only because God is making him, and not because this is a means by which God has given him to feed his family.

You see what the apostle is telling the Corinthians (and us) here: just because you have a right to do something doesn’t make it loving (ch 8) or wise, or even properly self-serving (ch 9). It can actually be one of our greatest privileges to give up our rights—to practice a self-denial that says, “I could have appropriately availed myself of this or that right, but instead I am enjoying the reward of showing that I don’t belong to myself. I belong to Jesus.”

This is what is behind the “all things to all people” section of this chapter—an oft abused passage. This does not at all justify compromising theologically or morally one iota. To do so would be to take “I might save some” in v22 as if it is really we who do the saving. Rather, the apostle is recognizing that the God who saves has appointed preaching the gospel as a means, and therefore the apostle is willing to sacrifice his own rights (to Roman legal protection, to ceremonial freedom, to Jewish pride, etc.) in order to preach. The idea that this is permissive of some moral or theological compromise would be to say that one must employ offending God as part of depending upon God. Ludicrous.

Finally, we see that self-denial for God’s glory and self-denial for others’ good is essential to running the Christian race. The apostle even admits that if he is not practicing this self-denial, it may be possible that he is not in the race at all!
Do you belong to Jesus? How can you claim the reward of showing it? Are you running a self-denial race?
Suggested songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or TPH501 “Lord, Speak to Me, That I May Speak”

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

2018.09.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 2

Questions for Littles: How many men does Joshua send out (v1)? Who finds out about the spying mission in v2? Whom does the King either know or assume has the men (v3)? What does the woman say that the men had done (v4-5)? But what had she done with them (v6)? What new problem do the men have at the end of v7? What does the woman profess to know in v9? What evidence does she give in v10? What does she confess about God in v11? Whom does she ask the men to save in v12-13? How are the men able to get out of the city with the gate shut (v14-16)? What do they tell her that she has to do, if she (and those with her) is going to be spared in the battle (v17-19)? What else could forfeit her life (v20)? When they give their report, what is Joshua’s response (v24)?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we find a tale of three mercies.

First, there is God’s mercy to the spies in sparing their lives. Second, there is God’s mercy to Rahab in receiving a way of escape from a destruction that she knew was coming. Third, there was God’s mercy to Joshua in encouraging him about the faintheartedness of the people of Jericho.

Focusing on Rahab, we find that there has already been a much greater mercy than simply the logistics of surviving the Israelite invasion. God has convinced her mind and changed her heart.

She sees and hears the frightened gossip, and draws a conclusion: this is the work of God! How does she know? Because those other things that God has done were not just an indication that the Israelites have better gods than the Egyptians. Rather, she has come to the conclusion that Yahweh is the only true God. He is God of heaven above and earth beneath. There is no room for other gods!

So, she wants them to swear by the Yahweh when they make their promises, and she asks them to show steadfast love (“kindness”—kessed—in v12).

All of the suspense in the story—the manhunt, the sealing of the doors of the city, etc.—it ramps up the anticipation so we can hear this great profession of faith and say, “Now this… THIS is real salvation!”
From what earthly trouble do you need saved? How does it compare to Hell?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH340 “There Is a Fountain”

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

2018.09.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 119:97-107

Questions for Littles: What does the psalmist love (v97a)? How often does he think about it (97b)? What do God’s commandments do for the psalmist (98a)? When does the psalmist have access to them (98b)? More than whom does he have understanding (99a)? How did this come about (99b)? More than whom does he understand (100a)? How did this come about (100b)? What has he been restraining (101a)? In order to be doing what (101b)? From what has he not departed (102a)? Who has kept him from departing (102b)? What is his experience in repeating and mulling over God’s words to himself all the time like this (103)? What does the psalmist get from God’s precepts (104a)? What does this lead him to do (104b)? How does God’s word function in directing what he does and where he goes (105)? What is one kind of worship that the psalmist has exercised in response to God’s Word in worship (106)? What does the psalmist experience in life (107a)? By what means does he hope that Yahweh will heal and strengthen and energize him (107b)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 119:97-107.

Here is a picture of the believer’s life. If we had time to study the rest of the Psalm, we would find that this is not only a picture of Jesus Christ’s heart toward God as our own righteousness, but that there are many confessions of sin and cryings out for forgiveness—things that Jesus could only sing and pray as He considered His union with us (since He had no sin of His own to confess or be forgiven—just as we have no righteousness of our own to claim or plead).

We don’t see it often anymore—thankfully, as it was harmful and disgusting—but one used to frequently see men with a big bulge of something in their mouths that they were continually chewing on, chewing on, chewing on… sucking every bit of ‘goodness’ out of. Even little boys loved to do it—not tobacco but “big league chew” bubble gum.

That’s the picture in v103 of what it’s like for the believer to meditate upon (mumble to oneself, mull over, continually work through) God’s Word. It’s like sucking on honey. If we are going to have real, life-changing wisdom, then continual mulling over God’s Word is what’s needed far more than information (v99) or time (v100). And of course, mulling over words that demand action ought always to lead to putting it into action—even if it requires physically restraining our feet.
What is your practice for getting into God’s Word every day? What use do you make of it the rest of the day? How about weekly in corporate worship?
Suggested songs: ARP119M “O How I Love Your Law!” or TPH175 “Your Law, O God, Is Our Delight”

Monday, September 24, 2018

2018.09.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:2

Questions for Littles: What part of the heavens and earth from v1 does v2 now focus upon? What two things describe the condition of the earth at that time? What was upon the face of the deep? Who was there? What was He doing?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we were introduced to the Holy Spirit.

It’s very interesting that God doesn’t create everything all at once. He certainly could have. Instead, He restrains the immediate exercise of His full creative power to create in “slow motion” as it were.

He’s revealing Himself, and He wants us to pay attention as He does so, so that we might know Him better. So, one of the first things that He does is shock us: “and the earth was chaotic and purposeless.”

Doesn’t that shock you? It certainly does not seem like our God. Isn’t our God a God of order? How can He make something that is chaotic? Isn’t our God a God of purpose? How can He make something that is purposeless? Isn’t our God a God of light? How can the whole earth be shrouded in darkness?

Well, there’s an easy answer to that question. He’s not done yet. By the end of this day, God is going to have created light out of darkness, which gets a “very good” declaration from Him.

And yes, He still has to separate the waters from the waters, and the water from the land, but there is something—or, rather, Someone—whose presence in the midst of the process already indicates that this is good: the Spirit of God.

God is revealing Himself as the One who brings order out of chaos. God is revealing Himself as the One who brings meaning out of purposelessness. God is revealing Himself as the One who brings light out of darkness. And God is revealing that the Person of the Godhead who causes all of these things is God the Holy Spirit!
Where in your life is there chaos, emptiness, or darkness? If you are a believer, what is God doing in all of that? Which Person, most prominently?
Suggested Songs: ARP143B “O Lord, My Spirit Fails” or TPH393 “Spirit of God, Dwell Thou within”