Monday, May 27, 2019

2019.05.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read Genesis 11:1-9

Questions for Littles: How many languages did the whole earth have (Genesis 11:1)? What were they doing together in Genesis 11:2a? What did they find in Shinar? What did they do there? What building method did they come up with in Genesis 11:3? What did they want to build (Genesis 11:4)? Where would its top be? What did they hope that this would do for them? What did they hope that this would prevent? Who went where in Genesis 11:5a? What does He observe about them in Genesis 11:6a? What idea of theirs does verse 6b say the Lord seeks to prevent? How does the Lord’s speech in Genesis 11:7 resemble the people’s speech in Genesis 11:3 and Genesis 11:4? Who wins the competition between Genesis 11:8 and Genesis 11:4? What “name” did the people end up making for themselves (Genesis 11:9, cf. verse 4)?    
Often, while we are telling ourselves that we would like to know God’s plan for us, the hard truth about our hearts is that we’re trying to figure out how God can fit into or facilitate our plans for ourselves. We’re not alone, the whole of humanity had fallen entirely into this error in Genesis 11. They wanted to follow their plan, in one another’s presence, for their own praise. But truly, we exist to follow God’s priorities, in God’s presence, for God’s praise.

God’s priority for us was for us to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with little replicas of Jesus Christ. Their plan was to stick in one place. And, if they were going to do that, then that would necessarily have put limits upon their multiplying.

And it was one another’s presence that they were emphasizing. They had one language and one speech. They resolutely determined NOT to be spread out over all the earth. Twice, they say to one another, “Come let us.” And the Holy Spirit lines that up right next to God’s own, “Come, let Us” in Genesis 11:7. While it is laughable that they could build a tower up to the presence of God, yet the language of, “Yahweh came down” reminds us that the Lord didn’t have to go anywhere to do this. How often we forget that we are continually in the presence of the living God!

Indeed, when we remember that we are always in His presence, it will help slow down our foolish desires to “make a name for ourselves.” This didn’t do a lot for Nimrod, whose reputation was literally “before Yahweh” in Genesis 10:9 (could even be translated, “in Yahweh’s face”!). But, God helping us, we should not be so foolish as to attempt to make a display of ourselves if we remember that we are always before His face.

We were created to live according to God’s priorities, in God’s presence, for God’s praise. If we’re full of our own priorities, then our plans won’t really be about Him, regardless of how anxious we think we are “to know God’s will.”

We were created to live primarily in God’s presence. If we forget about His always seeing us, we will be preoccupied by what others see, and our hearts will be ruled either by fear of man or a desire for men’s praise (which is also a form of fear of man!).

And we were created to live entirely for God’s praise. We simply cannot truly live for the glory of God and at the same time aim at having people also be impressed with us.
When you plan (do you plan?), how do you remind yourself of the Lord’s priorities? What habits do you have in place to keep yourself mindful of the Lord’s presence? By what habits do you train your heart to aim only, always at the Lord’s praise?
Suggested Songs: ARP33B “The Lord by His Word” or TPH33 “With Joy Let Us Sing”

Saturday, May 25, 2019

2019.05.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read Genesis 11:1-9

Questions for Littles: How many languages did the whole earth have (Genesis 11:1)? What were they doing together in Genesis 11:2a? What did they find in Shinar? What did they do there? What building method did they come up with in Genesis 11:3? What did they want to build (Genesis 11:4)? Where would its top be? What did they hope that this would do for them? What did they hope that this would prevent? Who went where in Genesis 11:5a? What does He observe about them in Genesis 11:6a? What idea of theirs does verse 6b say the Lord seeks to prevent? How does the Lord’s speech in Genesis 11:7 resemble the people’s speech in Genesis 11:3 and Genesis 11:4? Who wins the competition between Genesis 11:8 and Genesis 11:4? What “name” did the people end up making for themselves (Genesis 11:9, cf. Genesis 11:4)?  
Who will be ultimate, man or God? That’s the question.

Twice, they say “Come, let us” (Genesis 11:3 and Genesis 11:4). But it is the Lord’s “Come, let us” in Genesis 11:7 that succeeds.

God had said “to dust you shall return.” They decided to try to ascend to heaven. But while they can’t ascend to heaven, Yahweh “comes down” because He is everywhere.

God said to fill the earth. The people stuck together, journeyed together, dwelt together, and aimed specifically at not being “scattered abroad over the face of all the earth.” Genesis 11:8-9 twice emphasize that Yahweh “scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

God said “let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” But their making aimed not at bringing glory to God’s Name, but rather making a name for themselves.

And so God made a name for them. Babel. Commemorating not the way that they prevented themselves from being scattered across the faith of the whole earth, but instead commemorating the way that God humbled them and did exactly what they were trying to prevent.

Man makes his plans, but it is the plan of the Lord that prevails. Man cannot lift himself out of the death that he deserves. But one day, God Himself would come all the way down to be a man and do for us, as Christ, what none of us could do.

What name will we have upon us? If we aim at making a name for ourselves, we will end only with shame. But if we humble ourselves and trust in Christ alone for His glory alone, we will see that the Lord has given Himself for us, in order to put His name upon us, and glorify the name “Yahweh saves” above all other names.
What are your most important duties? What should your ultimate goal be in each of those duties? What competing goals are you tempted to have instead?
Suggested Songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or TPH98A “O Sing a New Song to the Lord”

Friday, May 24, 2019

2019.05.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 12:42-50

Questions for Littles: Many of whom believed in Jesus (John 12:42)? Why didn’t they confess Him—of whom and what were they afraid? Why, really, didn’t they confess Him—what did they love more than what (John 12:43)? Who cries out in John 12:44? Whom do we believe in, when we believe in Jesus? Whom do we see, when we see Jesus (John 12:45)? Without Jesus as our light to show us the Father, in what would we abide (John 12:46)? What does Jesus not personally do during His time in the world (John 12:47)? What will judge them (John 12:48)? On what day? And Who will be the judge then? Whose Word do we hear, when we hear Jesus (John 12:49)? What do these words give (John 12:50)?
Believers grieve over our slowness and coldness to serve Christ and identify with Him. So, let us learn to beware the praise of men! This is what kept even those who believed from confessing Christ.

The biggest difficulty in preferring God’s praise over man’s is that we see men all the time, but we cannot lay our eyes upon God. Even those who had seen Jesus, heard Jesus, and believed Jesus in our passage… they cared more about what those Pharisees thought—Pharisees whom they would see all the time on the street, and by whom they couldn’t stand to be shunned.

So, Jesus cries out and says that He has come to even out the problem of perceiving men but not perceiving God. Believing in Christ is the way to believe in God. Seeing Christ is the way to see God. Hearing Christ is the way to hear God.

This is our one opportunity before we arrive at the judgment. We don’t deserve an opportunity. Without Christ, we’re in darkness. That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can see or know about God. Like a beautiful painting in a pitch black room, we just have no capacity for seeing Him. But He tells us in John 12:46 that He has come as a light in the world.

Now, here’s the question: how can you see Jesus? How can you have Him as your light? Look carefully at verse 46 again. “I have come as a Light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And what does He use to give this faith? Look at John 12:47, “if anyone hears My words and does not believe…”

It is the hearing that is appointed to trigger faith. It is the faith by which we have light. Just as Romans 10 says, “How can they believe Him whom they have not heard? … Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

One chance before the judgment. Pray God to give you faith through the hearing of the Word, and put yourself as often as you can under the preaching of that Word!
What opportunities do you have to hear preaching? How do you need God to use them?
Suggested songs: ARP19B “The Lord’s Most Perfect Law” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”

Thursday, May 23, 2019

2019.05.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 10:7-18

Questions for Littles: What does the apostle ask them in 2 Corinthians 10:7? Of what does he suggest that some of them are convinced? What should a person conclude about the apostle if he has included about himself? What could the apostle boast more about without being ashamed (2 Corinthians 10:8)? For what purpose did Jesus give the apostle that authority? What does he understand will be the (incorrect) response of some to this authority (2 Corinthians 10:9)? What are some Corinthians saying about Paul and his letters (2 Corinthians 10:10)? What does he warn them that his presence will be like when he comes (2 Corinthians 10:11)? What is the apostle NOT doing by asserting this authority (2 Corinthians 10:12)? What is the standard by which someone would have to commend himself? Whose appointment, then, is the basis for this authority that the apostle is appointing (2 Corinthians 10:13)? To whom did his authority especially apply (2 Corinthians 10:13-14)? What was the first display of this authority (end of 2 Corinthians 10:14)? With whom else does he hope to have such a relationship (2 Corinthians 10:15-16)? By whose help? Whose glory is extended by such an approach to authority and ministry (2 Corinthians 10:17)? And what does the Lord graciously do for those in such a ministry (2 Corinthians 10:18)? 
What does it mean to belong to Jesus? Is it just to feel bad about a select number of sins and warm and fuzzy about Him? That’s what it seems like among many today. The Corinthians also wanted to define what it meant to belong to Jesus.

They wanted to define it as selecting their own authorities (or, more likely, just having no authority at all—as our flesh rebelliously desires!). But the apostle said that if we are Christ’s, then we need to recognize that Christ is the One who has appointed for us particular people to oversee us (2 Corinthians 10:7-8 and 2 Corinthians 10:13-14). Not only is rejecting their authority a personal rebellion against Christ, but it is also harmful to ourselves, since the Lord Jesus has set these authorities over us “for edification and not for destruction” (2 Corinthians 10:8).

The apostle wants to make sure that they understand that he is not saying that he himself is anything great (2 Corinthians 10:12). Rather, following Jesus’s plan for how the church is led/overseen/shepherded is a necessary conclusion of believing that Jesus alone is great (2 Corinthians 10:17).

If this is the case, then we will recognize the church that we are in, and the ministry that we have in it, are assignments from God (2 Corinthians 10:13). This is the noble duty in which the apostle is inviting the Corinthians to participate in 2 Corinthians 10:15-16: “the Lord is giving you a Lord-appointed opportunity to be used by Him to bring the gospel to other regions!”

Whether to other regions, or here at home, the question is: “are you Christ’s?” And if you are Christ’s…
Are you striving to be led by those whom He has given you for that purpose? And are you laboring for the building up of any whom He has given to you to lead? And are you convinced that all the honor for any ministry belongs to Him alone? And are you eager to participate in any ministry He gives you in whatever way He allows you—even if it’s just to support others whom He is sending? 
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH187 “I Belong to Jesus”

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

2019.05.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read Judges 2:6-3:6

Questions for Littles: Who dismissed the people in Judges 2:6? When did the people serve Yahweh (Judges 2:7)? Who dies in Judges 2:8? Where do they bury him (Judges 2:9)? What significant piece of information does Judges 2:10 give us about the next generation? What do these “children of Israel” do in Judges 2:11a? Whom do they serve? Whom do they forsake (Judges 2:12a)? What had Yahweh done (verse 12b)? Whom did they follow? To what did they provoke the Lord? Whom did they serve (Judges 2:13)? What was hot against Israel in Judges 2:14? So, what did the Lord do? According to Judges 2:15, what had the Lord said and sworn to do? How did Israel respond? With what beautiful word does Judges 2:16 begin? Whom did Yahweh raise up? To do what? But how did Israel respond after they were delivered (Judges 2:17)? What did Yahweh do with each judge (Judges 2:18)? For how long? For what reason? When the judge would die, what would Israel do (Judges 2:19)? What was hot against Israel in Judges 2:20? What long-lasting penalty did He pronounce against them in Judges 2:21 and Judges 2:23? What would the presence of these nations test (Judges 2:22 and Judges 3:4)? What does Judges 3:1 tell us that it is about to list? What had this new generation of Israelites not known? What ten nations are named in Judges 3:3 and Judges 3:5? What summary statement gives us the results of the test” in Judges 3:6.
This passage describes a pattern that follows through the rest of the book of Judges: Israel descends into wickedness; God gives them over to their enemies; God raises up a deliverer; when the deliverer dies, Israel descends back into their wickedness; and, so on. But this passage also gives us some important theological comments on the features of the pattern.

One is the Lord’s “hot anger” in Judges 2:11 and Judges 3:20. The Lord’s mercifully saving them and bringing them out of Egypt does not mean He has compromised His standards. And the Lord does not compromise His standards in the slightest bit when He saves us either!

Another important feature is the Lord’s faithfulness. Yahweh being “against them for calamity” in Judges 2:15 is “as Yahweh had said, and as Yahweh had sworn.” The Lord has promised to be faithful not just in covenant blessing but also in covenant curse. And, He has promised to us that if we are true believers, then whatever pain is necessary to bring us back into line, He will faithfully inflict upon us (cf. Hebrews 12:3-17).

Third, we see Yahweh’s compassion. He is “moved to pity by their groaning” (Judges 2:18). In light of the hotness of His anger, and the faithful reliability of His painful punishments for them, the tender compassion of the Lord is all the more stunning!

Fourth, we see part of His purpose for leaving things in our lives that might compete with Him for our affection and devotion. Judges 2:22 and Judges 3:4 tell us that these are opportunities for our hearts to express their allegiance. Living in a national culture or church culture in which there are religious observances that are made up by man is a test “whether they will keep the ways of Yahweh” (Judges 2:22) and “whether they would obey the commandments of Yahweh” (Judges 3:4). The failure goes all the way to Matthew 15:9 (and even the present day, retaining the name Ashtoreth/Ishtar/Eostre, Judges 2:13), where Jesus calls all worship of God vain (empty and blasphemous), when the precepts of men are observed as commandments. The Lord sometimes leaves impurity around us simply to test whether we will have His commandments be our only ultimate authority.

The repeated refrain throughout the book will be, “And there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” The book of Judges will demand to know of us whether we are satisfied for being saved out of crises from time to time, or whether instead we will know the Lord, and rejoice to be ruled always and only by King Jesus!
How much of you does King Jesus demand? Where could this most be improved? 
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH1A “That Man Is Blest”

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

2019.05.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 17:16-26

Questions for Littles: Who are both “not of the world” in John 17:16? Since believers are not of the world, what does Jesus pray to have happen to them in John 17:17? What does He pray would be used to sanctify them? Who sends whom in John 17:18? Who sanctifies Himself in John 17:19? For what purpose? For whom does Jesus clarify that He is praying in John 17:20? What does He ask, specifically at the beginning of John 17:21? Who is the model for “being One”? In whom should believers be One? What effect does Jesus pray that this would have? What has Jesus given them (John 17:22a)? What, specifically, is it that the world knows and sees in John 17:23? Where does Jesus ask that we would be in John 17:24a? What does He ask that we would see (verse 24b)? What prime example of this glory does He give in verse 24c? What does Jesus call His Father in John 17:25? What does He say about the world in relation to His Father? What has Jesus declared to believers (John 17:26a)? What does He pray would be in them? Whom does He pray would be in them?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin came from John 17:16-26. Here is a wonderful, holy eavesdropping upon Christ praying for believers. He is about to go to the cross, and He is praying for the very things for which He is about to die. “I sanctify Myself so that…” What does He ask?

He asks that we would be sanctified—that we would have holier thoughts, feelings, choices, words, and actions. Why? So that we would be in our lives more and more the children of heaven, from which we have had a new birth. The believer is “not of the world.” The self that was is gone. The new one is born from above.

He asks that we would sit under preaching. “I have declared Your name to them” (John 17:26) is the same language as Hebrews 2:12. This is what He uses to sanctify us (cf. Ephesians 5:25). Jesus literally died for, and prays for, that we would sit under preaching on the Lord’s Days. And can we so easily take a pass on it?

He asks that we would be one. One in not being of the world—this is no request for careless inclusiveness! One in the truth that we hear preached—this is no request for doctrinal flexibility! One in the Father and the Son—this is no request for politely ignoring errors about Christ or personal identities in which He does not have the chief place. And it is precisely this kind of unity, that is almost the opposite of what so many today call unity, that Jesus prays would have an evangelistic effect. May they be so united in being so radically different from the world, “that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21)!

The truly uniting factor in the church can be seen in John 17:22: the glory of Christ. Those who see and value the glory of Christ above all else will not be lax about holiness or truth or hearing preaching or devoted living. Christ’s glory is simply too reality-shaping for those things. Rather, as believers more and more realize the glory of Christ—that He indeed is the living God, in an eternal Unity of infinite love with the Father and the Spirit (John 17:24)—the more we will realize that the love with which we are loved is the very infinite love that God has in Himself and for Himself (John 17:23)!!

When believers are careless about holiness, truth, hearing preaching, or devoted living, they willingly relinquish what Jesus died for and prays for: fuller knowledge of Christ’s glory and infinite, divine love.

After all, the Father is a righteous Father, which means that the world cannot possibly know Him (John 17:25). When Jesus makes Himself and His Father known to a believer, then the love of Jesus and even Jesus Himself come to be in that believer, and the believer comes to treasure righteousness and his righteous Father (John 17:26).
If we are to be united in the way that Jesus prays in this passage, then what things need to become the most important things in your life? How can that happen?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”

Monday, May 20, 2019

2019.05.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read Genesis 10

Questions for Littles: From whom does Genesis 10:1 begin to tell the story of what was begotten from them? Of what major event does this verse remind us? Whose offspring does Genesis 10:2-5 tell us about? How does Genesis 10:5 summarize who these descendants ended up being? What four different ways of categorizing them does verse 5 name? Whose offspring does Genesis 10:6-20 tell us about? What names and places do you recognize from these verses? What do you know about these names and places? What does Genesis 10:8 tell us about Nimrod? Before whose face did Nimrod display his mightiness (Genesis 10:9)? Do you think that God was impressed? What was the very first city of Nimrod’s kingdom (Genesis 10:10)? On which son of Ham does Genesis 10:15 focus? What did we learn about him in Genesis 9:24? What four different ways of categorizing Ham’s descendants does Genesis 10:20 name? Whose offspring does Genesis 10:21-31 tell us about? Of all of whose children is he the father (Genesis 10:21)? What happened in Peleg’s days? What four different ways of categorizing Shem’s descendants does Genesis 10:31 name? What three ways of categorizing Noah’s descendants does Genesis 10:32 mention? What came from them, how, and when?  
“Now this is the genealogy…” this phrase appears several times in the book of Genesis. It is related to the word for “beget” and the word for “child.” Literally, it means “this is what came from.” What came from the sons of Noah? Everyone. All of us.

You’ve probably heard of humanity referred to as all one family, with God as our Father. Well, that’s partly right. We are all one family, one blood (cf. Acts 17:26). But fallen humanity has rejected God as Father and chosen the devil instead (cf. John 8:42-44!!). So, while it is true that we are all family in Noah, this actually reminds us that we need a way back into the family of God. The way through Adam is closed by sin and wrath. The only way is Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, who became a Man to be the last Adam (cf. Acts 17:27-31).

On the one hand, we must reject all ethnic racialism—whether hardening our hearts (or words or actions) against someone on the basis of ethnicity, or blaming others for our problems based upon our ethnicity and theirs.

On the other hand, we must confess that our truest brothers and sisters aren’t the ones who have the same blood in our veins. They are the ones who rest upon the same blood for forgiveness of sins. The ones who call God, “abba” by the same indwelling Spirit. These are family in an infinitely greater way than unbelievers can ever be. And Scripture tells us that this is ultimately not just estrangement but enmity. We know that we are to love our enemies. But, as they describe that our views of everything are completely incompatible with theirs, let us not expect them to conclude that they must love us!

You can see this in Nimrod, especially. Babel and Assyria are the hall of fame of the eventual enemies of God’s people (there are a bunch more in that list). And Nimrod—well, in front of Yahweh’s face, Nimrod was all about his impressiveness, not God’s. These two are always at odds. If we are full of ourselves, we will not be desperate to depend upon Christ and be full of Him. Nimrod. Pharisees. 21st century Americans. Being full of self gets in the way of trusting in Christ. And Christ is the great divider of humanity.

Everyone who reads Genesis 10 has ancestors in the text. Think about them. What did each of those men pass on to his children? What did their children pass on? We pass on our blood. But, as we have seen in this passage, there is something much more important to pass on: faith in Jesus Christ. Only the Spirit can give it, but if we are asking with words for the Spirit to give our children faith, let us also be asking by employing the means that the Spirit has appointed through which He gives that faith: Word, sacrament, and prayer!
Who are in your (extended) blood family? What are the most important ways to love them? Who are your closer family? What are the most important ways in which they are your family?
Suggested Songs: ARP72B “Nomads Will Bow” or TPH72A “Now Blessed Be the Lord”

Saturday, May 18, 2019

2019.05.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read Genesis 10

Questions for Littles: From whom does Genesis 10:1 begin to tell the story of what was begotten from them? Of what major event does this verse remind us? Whose offspring does Genesis 10:2-5 tell us about? How does verse 5 summarize who these descendants ended up being? What four different ways of categorizing them does verse 5 name? Whose offspring do Genesis 10:6-20 tell us about? What names and places do you recognize from these verses? What do you know about these names and places? What does Genesis 10:8 tell us about Nimrod? Before whose face did Nimrod display his mightiness (Genesis 10:9)? Do you think that God was impressed? What was the very first city of Nimrod’s kingdom (Genesis 10:10)? On which son of Ham does Genesis 10:15 focus? What did we learn about him in Genesis 9:24? What four different ways of categorizing Ham’s descendants does Genesis 10:20 name? Whose offspring do Genesis 10:21-31 tell us about? Of all of whose children is he the father (Genesis 10:21)? What happened in Peleg’s days? What four different ways of categorizing Shem’s descendants does Genesis 10:31 name? What three ways of categorizing Noah’s descendants does Genesis 10:32 mention? What came from them, how, and when?
Genesis 10 is sometimes referred to as “the table of nations,” and Genesis 10:5Genesis 10:20Genesis 10:31, and Genesis 10:32 tell us that these are what are listed here. Verse 32 literally says, “These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to what was begotten from them, in their nations. And from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood.” The word “genealogies” is often used to translate the Hebrew word that literally means, “what was begotten from them.”

It’s interesting that the story of the dividing itself comes afterward, in chapter 11. It seems that the Holy Spirit would like for us to see the effect that the sins of Noah and Ham had, just by the familiar names in Ham’s line and especially in Canaan’s. Mizraim (Egypt), Cush (Ethiopia), Nimrod (Babel, Assyria, Nineveh), Canaan (Sidon, Heth, Jebusite, Amorite, Girgashite, Hivite, etc., and then Sodom, Gomorrah, and company). All from one “little” sin! Ah, but don’t we learn here that there is no such thing as a “little” sin?

From the covenant line—the line of Shem—comes a great-grandson through his third-named son named (H)eber… father of the Hebrews. His son Peleg is mentioned, and will come up again later in Genesis 11:16-18. For now, Peleg’s claim to fame is that Babel happened while he was covenant head. A rather unimpressive beginning. But that’s just the point. There’s no reason for the favor of God to be shown to this people, except the freely bestowed love of God: “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8a).

In the end, Genesis 10 makes us say of curse, “Ah, sin is precisely how this happened!” And of blessing, “there is no explanation for how this happened by the unmerited love of God!!”
How did you come to be under God’s curse? How can you come to be under His blessing?
Suggested Songs: ARP32A-B “What Blessedness” or TPH265 “In Christ Alone”

Friday, May 17, 2019

2019.05.17 Hopewell Herald Pastoral Letter - How to Be Blessed, and Blessed How Much?

The following is the pastoral letter from this week's "Hopewell Herald." The Herald includes much more information about the church and its activities, a congregational prayer reminder list, and often with links to helpful resources from the web. If you would like to receive the herald, please email church@hopewellarp.org to let us know!


Dear Congregation,

How do we come to be blessed, and how blessed will we be? The answers are bound up in that wonderful pronouncement from the morning text on the 12th, “Blessed be Yahweh, God of Shem!”

Shem was son of Noah and brother of Ham. He couldn’t come to be blessed by doing better than Ham. He had the same nature as Ham. But just as chapter 6 told us, “Grace found Noah,” so also now the end of chapter 10 tells us, “Grace found Shem and joined him to the ever-blessed God.”

How did Shem come to be joined to God? Through faith in Jesus Christ. What blessing would Japheth find in the church (the tent of Shem)? The blessing of finding that God belongs to him, and he belongs to God, through faith in Jesus Christ.

Is that your blessedness? That God is your God, and you are His through faith in Jesus Christ? For children of the first Adam, that is the only true blessedness that we can have.

Christ was not in the first Adam. Instead, He is a brand new start—an entirely new humanity. Not only does Jesus have all blessedness in Himself as truly God, but as truly Man He is also the representative through Whom all in Him have Yahweh as their God. And their Father!

That answer the question, “How do we come to be blessed?” But how about the question, “How blessed are we, when we come to be blessed?” The answer: blessed with the blessedness of God Himself, precisely according to the worthiness of Jesus, in whom alone we are blessed.”

The New Covenant is not in our blood. It’s in Christ’s. Its blessings aren’t secured by us. Rather, He secures us in Himself, and He secures all of the blessings for us. Those who believe in Jesus receive not merely some blessing, and not only great blessing, but literally every blessing in Heaven (cf. Eph 1:3).

“Blessed be Yahweh, God of Jesus… and may all of us dwell in the tents of Jesus!” He has given Himself to us, body and soul. He has secured for us all of the blessings of the New Covenant in His blood. This is what the Spirit represents to us at the Lord’s table. This is what the Spirit seals to us at the Lord’s table. This is what the Spirit applies to us at the Lord’s table.

As you examine yourself in preparation for the Supper on the Lord’s Day, here is the great thing to ask: is Christ my God, and is God my God through Christ? Have I turned from serving self to serving Christ? And—since this turning can never give me Christ Himself—have I turned from trusting in self to trusting Christ?

If the answer is yes; if you have true (though, of course, deeply flawed!) repentance and faith; then, come to the table seeking that the Spirit would press into your heart, “Blessed is the Lord who, in Christ, has joined Himself to me as my God!”

Eager to enjoy the displaying, sealing, and applying of this glorious reality with you,

Pastor

190517FW John 12:37-41 - Displaying Christ's Glory: Whom and What Isaiah Saw

An example of a family worship teaching time in John 12:37-41

2019.05.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 12:37-41

Questions for Littles: What had Jesus done before the people (John 12:37)? How many of them? But what did they not do? So that what would be fulfilled (John 12:38)? What is quoted from Isaiah 53 in verse 38? For what is this chapter famous? What is quoted from Isaiah 6 in John 12:40? For what is this chapter famous? When does John 12:41 say that Isaiah said these things—whose glory had he seen? Whose glory does Isaiah 6 describe? What does verse 41 say is being displayed about Christ in Isaiah 53?
In the gospel reading this week, we have an explanation for why the people (cf. John 12:34) still did not believe in Jesus. God gave them over to their blind eyes and hard hearts so that they could not be forgiven. It is difficult for us to swallow just righteous action on God’s part—precisely because we understand that we do not deserve to be forgivable; we have no right to the means of forgiveness, because we have no right to the forgiveness itself. Was God unfair? Of course not! This just shows how glorious it is that through giving Christ to die for a specific people, He made them righteous without sacrificing His own righteousness!

And there are two other glorious wonders here, which we can see if we are paying attention to John 12:41: “These things [plural!] Isaiah said when he saw His [Christ’s] glory [!!!] and spoke of Him.”

First, because of the plural in verse 41, we know that this refers both to the quote from Isaiah 53, and to the quote from Isaiah 6. So, in each of these cases, Isaiah had seen Christ’s glory and spoken of Christ.

This is amazing with reference to Isaiah 53, because this is the great chapter about the suffering of the Messiah. But the apostle tells us that as the prophet was seeing these things, he was seeing Christ’s glory!! This is just what Jesus has said in John 12:23 and John 12:32. His being lifted up on the cross is the greatest display of His glory that ever there was. Here, He is shown to be at least as great as the sins of His people, all of which sins are as weighty as the glory that they despise!

And, verse 41 is amazing with reference to Isaiah 6, because of what it means for whom Isaiah saw on the throne in the year that king Uzziah/Azariah died! It was Christ whom Isaiah saw enthroned, high and lifted up, with the burning angels hiding their faces from Him! How great is the glory of Him who glorified Himself most by His dying for our sins!!

Why is it that there are so many cults that refuse to believe that Jesus is Yahweh? Or that Jesus died a sacrificial death for His people? Because we wall deserve John 12:40. Christ’s glory is wonderfully clear, if we have eyes to see it. So, if we are starting to grasp it with our heads, but still having difficulty appreciating it in our hearts, we know where to go for better vision and understanding and faith—to God Himself! Won’t you ask Him to give you these for the glory of Christ?
Who is Jesus? What two things did Isaiah see Him doing and see His glory? How can you see that glory?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”

Thursday, May 16, 2019

2019.05.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 10:1-6

Questions for Littles: Who is speaking in 2 Corinthians 10:1? What kind of speaking is it? Whom does he remind them is also meek and gentle? How was Paul’s manner among them? How is his manner while absent from them? What is he begging them in 2 Corinthians 10:2? With whom would he have to be bold? How do the apostles not battle (2 Corinthians 10:3)? What are their weapons not (2 Corinthians 10:4a)? What kind of power do they have (verse 4b)? What do the weapons do to strongholds? What do the weapons do to arguments (2 Corinthians 10:5)? What else do the weapons cast down? What do the weapons do to every thought? What is the apostle ready to do (2 Corinthians 10:6)? When will he do it?  
In a church context in which church discipline is almost unheard of, this passage may not make much sense. The apostle is leading up to his visit with gentleness in a letter, hoping that he will not have to be bold in person. Back in 1 Corinthians 4:21, he had given them a similar option—implying that it really is not up to him. Church discipline is so demanded by Christ that if there is not repentance, the under-shepherd has no choice but to use the rod.

Apparently, there are some in Corinth who don’t take this very seriously. This connects well with the experience of those who live in days in which people who are in danger of discipline just jump to another church.

But the apostle highlights this as a grave mistake. For, though he is a mere man, his ministry is Christ’s ministry. After all, Christ by His Spirit has used Paul’s plain speaking of the truth to take down the darkness and bondage inflicted by the devil himself. There are no powers or ideas that can survive a battle against the words of Jesus.

If this is true of the words of Jesus, then it must also be true of the discipline of Jesus. Apostles and elders are not only to teach authoritatively, but they are also to lead authoritatively. “Let no one disregard you,” the apostle would tell the elder that he later mentors (cf. Titus 2:15).

This, of course, is not license to be brash and heavy-handed. If the authority that is exercised is Christ’s, then let the manner that leads up to it be “the meekness and gentleness of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:1), and let it be conducted by someone who is pleading not to have to do (2 Corinthians 10:2) what he is yet ready to do (2 Corinthians 10:6).

How sad it is that very few are the churches in which there is such authority, or such manner in exercising it, or such reluctance to have to do so. For each of these are different types of displays of Christ, the Good Shepherd. The church exists to display His glory!
What would it look like for you to expect the results of preaching or discipline to be supernatural?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH244 “A Mighty Fortress”

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

190515FW Judges 1:27-2:6 - Incomplete Obedience or Repentance Is None At All

An example of a family worship teaching time in Judges 1:27-2:6

2019.05.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read Judges 1:27-2:6

Questions for Littles: What did Manasseh not do in Judges 1:27? With how many villages and their inhabitants? What reason is given? What had happened in the time to which Judges 1:28 refers? What did Israel do? What didn’t they do? What did Ephraim not do in Judges 1:29? What did Zebulon not do in Judges 1:30? With whom? But what did they do? What did Asher not do in Judges 1:31? To whom? What didn’t Naphtali do in Judges 1:33? To whom? But what did they do to them? What was done to Dan from their own territory in Judges 1:34? When they became stronger, what did they do (Judges 1:35)? Whom did all of these tribes end up having living among them (Judges 1:29Judges 1:32Judges 1:33)? What had been done at Gilgal in Joshua 5:10-12? Who comes up from there now in Judges 2:1? What had he forbidden Israel to do (Judges 2:2)? What had He commanded Israel to do? Of what does He now accuse them? What does He say that He won’t do now (Judges 2:3)? What will the Canaanites become to Israel? What will their gods become unto Israel? How do the children of Israel respond in Judges 2:4? And what do they call the place (Judges 2:5)? And what do they do there? How does Judges 2:6 clue us into the fact that this sequence of events actually came before Judges 1:1-26?
We’re tempted, when we read the rest of the book of Judges, to see it as a downhill slide from a golden age of faithfulness under Joshua to the pits of despair by the time we get to the “Eli & Sons” priestly administration with which 1 Samuel begins. The problem with that is the jarring revelation in Judges 2:6, “And when Joshua had dismissed the people…”

We’ve turned back the clock. Judges 2:6-9 basically ends up covering the same ground as Joshua 24:29-31. So, although the people did in fact serve the Lord during the lifetime of Joshua and his contemporary elders, the seeds of their rebellion were already there. They were lazy.

Repeatedly, we see that the Canaanites were determined (Judges 1:27 and Judges 1:35). Repeatedly, we see that even when Israel could have followed God’s commands, they preferred receiving tax money over rendering obedience (Judges 1:28Judges 1:30Judges 1:33Judges 1:35). Sure, they worshiped Yahweh, but when push came to shove, laziness and greediness were more important than uncomfortable separation from the world (Judges 2:2a) or the offensive and difficult work of shattering all man-made worship (verse 2b).

So the Lord announces to them that He will bring upon them the consequences of their choices. And what do they do? Cry. Not all sorrow is godly sorrow. Sometimes, we cry because we got caught or because we feel badly about the consequences. But, if it doesn’t produce repentance—a change of course, then it is not godly sorrow (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:10).

This all puts Judges 1:1-26 into a different perspective. What had appeared to be “minor” flaws in an otherwise reasonably good start now look rather ghastly: it’s more of the same rebellion that earned Weepingville its name. It’s the threatened judgment of Judges 2:3 beginning to be carried out.

The Lord wants whole hearts. Devoted obedience with diligence and contentment (cf. 1 Timothy 6:6-11). And, when we see our sin and its consequences, wholehearted sorrow that produces fruit that is in keeping with repentance (cf. Matthew 3:8 and Luke 3:8). Are we lazy? Greedy? What does our “repentance” look like?
In what parts of your Christian life do you shrink back from doing what requires diligence and strength? In what ways are you careless about having your mind and heart shaped by the world? What consequences have you seen from this? How have you responded to those consequences?
Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

2019.05.15 Prayer Meeting Folder

Click [here] for a PDF of tomorrow's prayer meeting folder. As you can see from the schedule on the folder, we have a brief devotional (from the upcoming Lord's Day morning "call to prayer") by which we seek for the Spirit to stir us up to prayer by the Scriptures, and then we simply pray together for an hour. The praying in each section loops through the corresponding sections in Matthew Henry's Method for Prayer. This week's devotional is in Romans 1:8-10. Having worked through most of the passages in the Psalms explicitly about our calling upon the Lord and His hearing us, we turn now to begin working through the prayers that we find in the apostolic letters.

2019.05.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read Exodus 20:1-17

Questions for Littles: Who spoke these words (Exodus 20:1)? How many of them? Who is God (Exodus 20:2a)? What had He done for them? What were they not to have in front of His face (Exodus 20:3)? What were they not to make (Exodus 20:4)? What were they not to do with such images (Exodus 20:5)? What reason does God give from His character? What does He call making an image of Himself? Upon how many generations will He visit such iniquity? What does He call the keeping of this commandment in Exodus 20:6? What does He show to those who do so? To how many generations? What does God call “bearing His Name lightly” in Exodus 20:7? What will Yahweh not do for someone who does this? What is the first word/command in Exodus 20:8? Which particular day is it that we are to remember? For what purpose are we to remember it? In order to keep the Sabbath holy, on which days should we have it in mind (Exodus 20:9)? To Whom does the Sabbath belong (Exodus 20:10)? How much work should we do on it?  Who else should not work on it? What else should not work on it? What explanation does Exodus 20:11 give for the pattern of “six and one”? What did the Lord create? How much of it? How long did He take to do this? What did He do on the seventh day? What two things did the Lord do to the Sabbath day? What must one do with father and mother (Exodus 20:12)? How does God promise to bless the keeping of this commandment? Who is giving them the land? What does Exodus 20:13 forbid doing? What does Exodus 20:14 forbid doing? What does Exodus 20:15 forbid doing? What does Exodus 20:16 forbid doing? What things are especially marked out as forbidden to covet in Exodus 20:17? What doesn’t verse 17 forbid coveting?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin came from Exodus 20:1-17. These words were first spoken from the mountain by the very voice of God, then written in tablets of stone, by the very finger of God (meaning that God did not use any creaturely agency to make the words appear). Here is the great foundational statement of all moral law!

The first four commandments are summarized in the first and greatest commandment, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” The other commandments are summarized in the second commandment, which is like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

In Romans 13:8-10, the apostle tells us that these commandments and love are the perfect definitions of one another. More importantly, Romans 13:11-14 tells us that these commandments describe the wicked darkness from which we have been saved, and the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ that has been counted for believers, and into which likeness believers are now being shaped. The following is our prayer of confession, following Scripture’s own teaching about what each of these commandments mean (You can also see a good summary of them in Westminster Shorter Catechism 40-84!). As you review it, consider what perfect obedience Christ has acted on our behalf, what we ought to be striving after now, and what we shall be like, when His work in us is done!

Lord God, we have lived in dependence upon and devotion to ourselves. We have worshiped in the way that we prefer. We have taken your Name lightly. We have filled Your holy day with our thoughts, words, and works. We have rebelled against authority in our hearts and resisted in our actions. We have despised those who were created in Your image. We have indulged fleshly appetites over keeping holy commitments. We have sought to acquire possessions in ways that You have not appointed. We have spoken deceitfully and harmed others’ names. We have had discontented, grumbling, craving hearts. Your good and pleasing and perfect law exposes how wicked and miserable and destructive is our remaining sin, which we so often commit. In Christ, You have given us His sacrifice to put away our guilt, and Your own righteousness to stand for us as our righteousness. Forgive us, we pray, through Jesus Christ, AMEN.
Which commandments did you find most convicting to review? What has Christ done about that in His own life? What can He do about it in your life? What does He use to do that? What are you going to do about, then?
Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry before You Come” or TPH174 “The Ten Commandments”

Monday, May 13, 2019

2019.05.13 Hopewell Harbinger

Hopewell This Week, May 13-18

▫A Hopwell @Home for this week is available here.

Prayer Meeting, Wednesday, May 15, 6:30p.m. in the Fellowship Hall.

Men's Breakfast, Saturday, May 18, 6:30a.m. in the Fellowship Hall.  

Children’s Catechism for May 19
Q. 122. How many sacraments are there? A. Two.

Shorter Catechism for May 19
Q. 92. What is a sacrament? A. A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.

Songs for May 19: TPH175 "Your Law, O God, Is Our Delight," ARP121 "I Lift My Eyes and See the Hills," TPH72A "O God, Your Judgments Give the King"

Morning Sermon Text for May 19: Genesis 10
Evening Sermon Text for May 19: 2Corinthians 10:7-18

Lord's Supper on May 19

▫Memory Verse for May 19
(Genesis 10:32These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood.  

2019.05.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read Genesis 9:18-29

Questions for Littles: Who were Noah’s sons who went out of the ark (Genesis 9:18)? Of whom was Ham the father? What happened to the whole earth from these three (Genesis 9:19)? What did Noah begin to be in Genesis 9:20? What did he plant? What did he drink (Genesis 9:21)? How much? What did he end up doing? Who saw (Genesis 9:22)? What did he do about it? What did Shem and Japheth do about it (Genesis 9:23)? How did they walk? Where did they turn their faces? From what did Noah “awake” in Genesis 9:24? What did he know? Whom did he curse in Genesis 9:25? What was he to be? To whom? Whom did he bless in Genesis 9:26? By what title did he call Yahweh? Whom did he prophesy to be Shem’s servant? Whom did he prophesy for God to enlarge in Genesis 9:27? In whose tents would Japheth dwell? Who would be his servant? How long did Noah live after the flood (Genesis 9:28)? How many years total did he live (Genesis 9:29)? Then what happened?  
This passage announces to us that it is our family’s story, “from these the whole earth was populated.” That’s a problem for us, because it concludes with, “and he died.” That’s discouraging and encouraging at the same time. It’s discouraging, because it reminds us that we are descended from the first Adam, through another covenant head whom we find drunk and naked in this passage, and in both of whom we deserve death and bring all the more upon ourselves through our own sins.

But the conclusion is also encouraging, because it takes us back to chapter 5, where we saw that over and over again, as we looked forward to the Seed of the woman Who would crush the serpent’s head. The line of the Savior seemed to be doing so well, until those opening verses of chapter 6, through which we ended up in a place where only Noah, from his entire generation, was right with God by grace. From just one in all the earth, we’re back up to 100% through a flood that brought both wrath and salvation!

But, there must be constant vigilance to believe in Jesus and live as those who belong to Him. We, like Noah, can turn the greatest blessings into instruments of the greatest curse. Noah went out of the ark—salvation blessing! “From these the whole earth was populated”—reminder of God’s commitment to re-fill the earth with those made in His image. Noah began to be a farmer—literally, “man of the dirt”… that same dirt that God promised not to curse ever again, and which brought forth not only thorns and thistles but grapes—blessing of the covenant of grace! But rather than use the wine for all of those glorious things for which God created and gave it, Noah uses it as an occasion for great sin, and more specifically one great sin that leads very quickly to many other great sins—in this case the sin of uncovering nakedness by exposing (Noah) or looking (Ham). Noah may have been chosen by God to get us through the flood, but he certainly can’t be the one in which we escape the curse or stand at the judgment.

And there’s a hint at Who this is going to be in our passage. The Savior has to be a man, the seed of the woman. But He is also God. For, it is not blessed be Shem but rather “blessed be Yahweh.” Shem’s blessedness does not come so much in being Noah’s son. Ham had that, and look at what he ends up bringing upon his own son! Shem’s blessedness isn’t even in being in himself. Rather, his blessedness is in belonging to the Lord Himself. Even Japheth, who finds his blessing as a covenantal member of Shem’s household, must find his blessing not so much in Shem, but in Shem’s God.

At last, there must be One who does have blessedness in Himself. And that One is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the substance—the reality, the “true stuff”—of covenantal blessings. And, if we are to enjoy that which is displayed and promised in that covenant; and, if we and our children are to be included among the covenant people on earth; then, we must be joined by faith to Jesus Christ, that we may have Him who is the substance of the covenant. The outward form is not enough for those so guilty and wicked as we are!
How does one become part of the last Adam instead of the first? In which Adam are you?
Suggested Songs: ARP179 “Now Blessed Be the Lord” or TPH564 “Now Blessed Be the Lord”

Saturday, May 11, 2019

190511FW Gen 9:18-29 - How to Be Blessed: Christ Is Adam's Children's Only Hope

An example of a hopefully-faithful but comfortably imperfect family worship teaching time in Genesis 9:18-29

2019.05.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read Genesis 9:18-29

Questions for Littles: Who were Noah’s sons who went out of the ark (Genesis 9:18)? Of whom was Ham the father? What happened to the whole earth from these three (Genesis 9:19)? What did Noah begin to be in Genesis 9:20? What did he plant? What did he drink (Genesis 9:21)? How much? What did he end up doing? Who saw (Genesis 9:22)? What did he do about it? What did Shem and Japheth do about it (Genesis 9:23)? How did they walk? Where did they turn their faces? From what did Noah “awake” in Genesis 9:24? What did he know? Whom did he curse in Genesis 9:25? What was he to be? To whom? Whom did he bless in Genesis 9:26? By what title did he call Yahweh? Whom did he prophesy to be Shem’s servant? Whom did he prophesy for God to enlarge in Genesis 9:27? In whose tents would Japheth dwell? Who would be his servant? How long did Noah live after the flood (Genesis 9:28)? How many years total did he live (Genesis 9:29)? Then what happened? 
This passage begins by introducing itself as our family history. “From these, the whole earth was populated.” After 120 years ark building, followed by the flood, Noah finally gets to settle down as a farmer (literally, “a man of dirt”). And God’s promise to restrain the curse holds true. Noah’s vineyard produces, which is throughout Scripture, an indication of God’s favor and blessing.

So far so good, but if we are looking for better things from this humanity reboot than we got from the original Adam, the history takes a discouraging turn. Noah doesn’t just drink a little wine. He gets drunk. How drunk? He has to “awaken from his wine” in Genesis 9:24.

Bad leads to worse, when Ham sees his father’s nakedness. Later, all manner of the most perverted sin will be summarized under the phrase “uncovering nakedness” (cf. Leviticus 18). Yet, Ham not only indulges this sin but at the very least dishonors his father and invites his brothers into doing so as well.

Their action is a strong rebuke to Ham: not only covering the nakedness, but doing so both walking backward and turning their faces away.

Perhaps Noah surprises us, when he doesn’t say, “Cursed be Ham,” but rather, “Cursed be Canaan.” Perhaps more than any other generation, this one was aware of how much rested upon their children. And Ham brings curse down upon Canaan’s entire line for a few moments of sin. It’s so easy to throw away that which matters so much for that which offers so little. All sin is like that, but especially the type of sin Ham committed. Professing believers are trashing their lives and legacies for it in droves today.

Notice that the blessing and the curse are not balanced. Noah doesn’t bless Shem (or a son of Shem). He blesses God Himself. To be sure: this is a great blessing to Shem, but Shem’s blessedness is bound up in belonging to God. Shem’s blessedness is not based upon his performance, but upon being favored to belong to the God of grace in Christ.

It is an extraordinary blessing that God would be known as “the God of Shem,” just as later patriarchs would be honored by their covenantal to “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Even for Japheth, blessing would be in having Shem as his covenantal representative. To be sure, Shem is a sinner. He will die, just as Noah does at the end of this passage. But God’s grace is stronger than sin and stronger than death. And our covenant representative Jesus is no sinner at all, and death could not hold Him!
How do you protect your eyes from sin like Ham’s? How do you protect others’ eyes? Who is the blessed One with whom God has most identified Himself? How do you identify with Him?
Suggested Songs: ARP179 “Now Blessed Be Jehovah God” or TPH265 “In Christ Alone”

Friday, May 10, 2019

2019.05.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read John 12:23-36

Read John 12:23-36
Questions for Littles: How does Jesus answer the disciples who brought Him the Greeks (John 12:23)—what hour has come? What does He then say has to happen to a grain of wheat in order to be productive (John 12:24)? Who will lose his life (John 12:25a)? Who will keep it for eternal life (verse 25b)? Upon talking about going to His death, what does Jesus say His servants must do (John 12:26)? Who will honor those who follow and serve and are found with Jesus? What then does Jesus say about His soul (John 12:27a)? What request does He refuse to make? What request does Jesus make instead (John 12:28a)? What comes from heaven at that point? What does it say? Who couldn’t figure out what the voice was (John 12:29)? But for whom did Jesus say that the voice had spoken (John 12:30)? What does Jesus say is about to happen to the world (John 12:31a)? To its “ruler” (verse 31b)? How does He plan to initiate drawing all to Himself (John 12:32)? What did He mean by His being lifted up from the earth (John 12:33)? How did the people respond to the idea that He would depart (John 12:34)? What does Jesus urge them to do now (John 12:35)? What would happen to them without the light (Him)? How does He define this “walking” in John 12:36? What would they become if they believe in the light (Him)? What did He do as soon as He had said this?
In the gospel reading this week, Jesus equates His own being glorified (John 12:23) with the glorifying of His Father’s name (John 12:28). The connection is that Jesus is the greatest revelation of the glory of His Father. He and His Father are One.

In order to glorify His Father, the Son has become a Man who must die in order to be fruitful (John 12:24). He must not love His life (John 12:25) but aim at His purpose (John 12:27b), even when His soul is troubled by the intensity of what He must endure (verse 27a).

What is astonishing is that it’s not just Jesus who will do this. Only Jesus can atone for sin. But He is going to reproduce this attitude in His followers (John 12:26a) and even make them into little displays of His glory (verse 26b).

In fact, God has been waiting for the crucifixion of Jesus, the lifting up of Jesus as a dsplay of God’s glory between Heaven and earth, to usher in a new age of His work in men (John 12:33). So far, there has been a spiritual protection that existed only among a small nation of Jews. Now, wherever people are drawn to Christ, the devil will lose his foothold (John 12:31-32).

The people hearing Him in our passage, however, have been hesitant to believe in Him. He doesn’t seem to be lining up with what they think that they know (John 12:34). Jesus’s warning to them is that following Him is the only way to truly know anything (John 12:35). He tells them that their time to walk in His light is short (John 12:36a), then highlights to them its shortness by promptly hiding Himself from them (verse 36b).
How have you been holding yourself back from Jesus? How would your life look different if you really lived like someone who believes that He is the living God?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”

Thursday, May 9, 2019

190509FW 2Corinthians 9 - Godliness That Displays Christ unto His Glory

An example of a hopefully-faithful but comfortably imperfect family worship teaching time in 2Corinthians 9

2019.05.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 9

Questions for Littles: What does the apostle say that he doesn’t even really need to write about (2 Corinthians 9:1)? About what has he boasted to the Macedonians (2 Corinthians 9:2a)? Whom has their zeal stirred up (verse 2b)? Why has he sent the brethren (2 Corinthians 9:3)? When would the apostle like for the Corinthians to have their part of the gift ready (2 Corinthians 9:4-5)? Of what Proverbs 11:24 principle does he remind them in 2 Corinthians 9:6? How much does he tell each to give (2 Corinthians 9:7a)? To which two ways of giving does he assume this will be opposite (verse 7b)? Which way of giving should be the result (verse 7c)? Who loves that kind of giver? What about what we need—who will supply that (2 Corinthians 9:8)? How often? How much sufficiency? In what situations? For what purpose? What does Psalm 112 say that god-fearing man does (2 Corinthians 9:9)? Who is the One who enables him to do this? For what kinds of people does the Lord supply and multiply what they need (2 Corinthians 9:10)? What does the apostle say is God’s reason for richly supplying the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 9:11)? What does he repeatedly say abounds back to God (verse 11, 2 Corinthians 9:122 Corinthians 9:13)? And what do the recipients of the gift end up doing for the givers of it (2 Corinthians 9:14)? What gift created these connections and makes all of this giving and praying and thanking and praising possible (2 Corinthians 9:15)?
I think that most of us who profess Christ would genuinely like to be people in whose actions and lives the glory of Jesus is seen and known. However, we imagine to ourselves that it requires some heroic effort that is just out of our reach.

That’s not the picture given in our epistle passage this week. Rather, the Scripture tells us that God has already abundantly supplied us, and He will continue to abundantly supply us. We have only to be generous with whatever He has given us, and follow His law.

Now, that last part is important. The text describes this as the fruit of “righteousness”—a word and idea that can’t just be defined as what people think is right, but only as what God Himself says is right. And here, as in other places, God prioritizes the needs of the saints in the supplying of material neediness. Did they have no poor in Corinth? It was a major city, with major sin; of course they did! But it was the saints in Judea who were the aim of “every good work.” And other parts of the Scripture, such as 1 Timothy 5 and the requirement to care for one’s own house, must direct the amount and target of our sacrificial giving.

We can see the ultimate reason why this is: the purpose of this giving is “thanksgiving to God (2 Corinthians 9:11)… many thanksgivings to God (2 Corinthians 9:12)… they glorify God (2 Corinthians 9:13).”

Here is both a reason that such giving is primarily to believers (only they know the true God in Jesus Christ, so that their thanksgiving abounds readily and properly), and also a reason that giving to unbelievers must always always be drowned in gospel announcement of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done (not just a compulsory word or two—for, how else will they connect it to the indescribable gift?)!

It is actually God’s gift to us in Christ that all that we have and all that we are can genuinely belong to Jesus—that we can act in every moment as if it belongs to Jesus and use every possession as if it belongs to Jesus. We don’t deserve to live such lives of worship unto Him. And this is a glorious fellowship beyond what we deserve to have with one another. But even these are just side benefits to the great and indescribable gift—Jesus Himself.
What part does thanksgiving have in your life? Who sacrificially gives of himself for you, and how/when do you pray for him/her? What time/possessions could you really be giving?
Suggested songs: ARP112 “O Praise the Lord” or TPH187 “I Belong to Jesus”

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

190508FW Judges 1:1-26 - The Beginnings of Unfaithfulness

An example of a hopefully-faithful but comfortably imperfect family worship teaching time in Judges 1:1-26

2019.05.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 1:1-26

Questions for Littles: After what does this take place (Judges 1:1)? What do the Israelites ask the Lord? Whom does the Lord say shall go up (Judges 1:2a)? What has the Lord done (verse 2b)? Whom do Judah invite to go along (Judges 1:3)? What does Yahweh do (Judges 1:4)? Whom do they defeat in Judges 1:5? What do they do to their king (Judges 1:6)? Who else had done this to whom (Judges 1:7)? What other city do they take (Judges 1:8)? Where else does Judah gain victories, and whom else do they defeat (Judges 1:9-10)? Whose land is taken at this point (Judges 1:11-15)? How does he get someone to conquer it for him (Judges 1:12)? Who does it (Judges 1:13)? Who makes a special request of Caleb (Judges 1:14)? What does she ask (Judges 1:15a)? What does he give her (verse 15b)? Who goes with Judah at this point (Judges 1:16)? Who else’s region does Judah help conquer (Judges 1:17-18)? How does Judges 1:19 explain all of this success? What surprising explanation does verse 19 give for the inability to conquer the lowland? What did Benjamin fail to do, even though they had conquered Jerusalem (Judges 1:21)? Where were the Benjamites successful (Judges 1:22)? How did they do that (Judges 1:23-25)? Where did the spy that they released go, and what did he do (Judges 1:26)? 
The first 26 verses of the book of Judges sound promising, but they are part of a larger section in the first 2 chapters that introduce the theme of Israel’s failures. The Lord is making promises and keeping them, but there are small inadequacies here and there on Israel’s part that are indications of trouble to come.

Judah is specifically delegated by God, but asks Simeon to come with him. Somewhere, their dependence upon Yahweh and devotion to Yahweh breaks down. It’s not like the text believes that iron chariots are stronger than the living God (Judges 1:19).

Benjamin, too, fails to drive the Jebusites out (Judges 1:21), even though the Lord is with them (Judges 1:22). They also unilaterally repeat the sin of permitting a Canaanite to live, and he promptly establishes a new Canaanite city-state (Judges 1:26).

Whatever victory they have is from the Lord. This is reflected in the symmetrical justice upon Adoni-Bezek (cf. Judges 1:7), the fulfilled promise to Caleb, and the “presence” statements of Judges 1:19 and Judges 1:22. But there is a lot of failure here, and the text directly connects it to disobedience.

We are getting ready for an entire book of hearing that though they follow the Lord when it seems convenient, these people are basically all “doing what is right in their own eyes.” And that is a danger that faces every generation of the church: simply following the Lord about as far as seems convenient to us, but when it boils down to it, really just “doing what is right in our own eyes.” The frightening thing is what this means for us; the book of Judges will be explaining it as a consequence of the fact that “there was no king in Israel.” But, considering who is supposed to be our King, God have mercy and grant that it could not be fairly said of us that we are following only as far as seems convenient!
In what parts of life are you following Christ only as far as seems convenient?
Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry before You Come” or TPH187 “I Belong to Jesus”

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

190507FW Mar 4:1-20 - Good-Soil Listeners Submit and Devote Themselves to God's Word

An example of a hopefully-faithful but comfortably imperfect (complete with shushing of noisy baby!) family worship teaching time in Mark 4:1-20

2019.05.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read Mark 4:1-20

Questions for Littles: What was Jesus doing by the sea (Mark 4:1)? Why did he have to get into the boat? How did He teach them (Mark 4:2)? What is the seed (Mark 4:14)? Where did the first group of seed fall in Mark 4:4? What happened to it? What does Mark 4:15 say happens to the word in their heart immediately after they hear it? Where did the second group of seed fall in Mark 4:5? What happened at first? But then what happened to it in Mark 4:6? How do the stony ground people receive the Word (Mark 4:16)? But what happens when trouble or persecution comes (Mark 4:17)? Where did the third group of seed fall in Mark 4:7? What happened to it? What does Mark 4:19 say that the cares and pleasures of the world do to the Word? Where did the fourth seed fall in Mark 4:8? What did it produce? What does Jesus say is required for hearing in Mark 4:9? Who apparently needed to hear, since they need to ask in Mark 4:10? What does Jesus say He is giving them in Mark 4:11? What do the parables show that hearers cannot do on their own in Mark 4:12? What three things does this group do with the Word in Mark 4:20
This week’s Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin came from Mark 4:1-20. 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 Mark 4:12. 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 (Mark 4:10), and Jesus implies in Mark 4:13 that this is the easiest of parables. The key is in one glorious word in Mark 4:11: “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 ask the Holy Spirit to soften it.
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH173 “Almighty God, Your Word Is Cast”