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Saturday, February 2, 2019

2019.02.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Timothy 2:19

Questions for Littles: How firm is the foundation described in this verse? Whose foundation is it? What has God given it / put on it to confirm that it is true? Of what does this seal consist? Whose knowledge is referred to by the first saying of this “seal”? What does the Lord know? Whose activity is described in the second saying of this “seal”? What do those who name the name of the Lord do?
In the Scripture for tomorrow’s sermon, we learn what it is that makes the difference for those whose “faith” is not overthrown by the lies taught by heretics. Hymenaeus and Philetus were teaching falsehood (vv17-18), and there were many such false teachers (v16), but Timothy was to be concerned primarily with what God thought of his ministry (v15a), and to focus upon explaining the Scriptures correctly.

Why is it that a minister must be concerned primarily with what God thinks of his ministry, and focus upon explaining the Scriptures correctly? Because these are the means of the preservation of believers that God Himself has appointed, and their safety belongs to God Himself.

After all, v19 tells us, “the solid foundation of God stands.” Now, this can mean that the solid foundation is something that comes from God. Even more so, as we look at our verse, the Holy Spirit is telling us that the foundation of true believers is God Himself. For, they came to be believers because God has chosen them. This is the first part of the seal that marks them out as His: “The Lord knows those who are His.”

You see, while it has become common to think of salvation as coming by our knowing the Lord, the Scripture emphasis is actually much more upon how salvation comes by the Lord’s knowing us. He initiates. He plans. He atones. He revives. He justifies. He sanctifies. He preserves. He saves.

This is the great difference: the Lord Himself. Are we sinful? Yes of course! That is why the second part of the seal—the part that shows the first part—is that we are departing from sin, that we are doing battle against it. We do so not in order to become the Lord’s, but because we already belong to Him.

There are many that name the name of Christ. If you are doing this devotional, you are probably one of them. But are you departing from iniquity? And are you doing so because you belong to Him, and because you know that this is His plan for you and His power at work in you? Salvation belongs to the Lord, and He will preserve all who are His!
Who determined that you would be saved? How is He doing it? Why is this certain? 
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths” or TPH130A “Lord, from the Depths to You I Cry!”

Friday, February 1, 2019

2019.02.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 8:21-30

Questions for Littles: Who is speaking in v21? Where does He say that He is going? Who will seek Him? What will happen to prevent them from ever getting where He is? What do the Jews think Jesus might do (v22)? From where does Jesus say that they are (v23)? From where does Jesus say that He is? What do they have to believe about Jesus in order not to die in their sins (v24)? What do they ask Him in v25a? How does He answer? From whom does Jesus say His words and judgments about the Jews truly comes (v26)? What did they not understand (v27)? When did Jesus say that they would understand that He is God, who does everything in conjunction with His Father (v28)? Who is with Jesus (v29)? Who has not left Him alone? What things does Jesus always do? What did many do in v30? When? 
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus states pretty bluntly one of the implications of the fact that He is God who has come to save the ones believing in Him.  That necessary implication is that if you don’t believe that He is God, you will die in your sins.

This should shut down, once and for all, any question whether theology of the Trinity or theology of Christ is important. You must believe in the true Christ, or you will die in your sins.

Who, then, is the true Christ? He is the One who is from above, who has existed from eternity as God, before He became a man on earth (v23). He is the One who was sent by the Father and whose words are the words of the Father (vv26-27). He is the One whose divine nature as the one, living, and true God was demonstrated most upon the cross (v28). He is the One whom the Father is always with, because He always has done what pleased Him (v29).

That last line of verse 29 bears repeating, “The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” Does that not make it all the more haunting to hear Christ say on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me”?!

The answer is obvious. I have not always done the things that please God. You have not always done the things that please God. And so, when God made Him who knew no sin to be sin with our sinfulness, God forsook Him. Likewise, when you and I believe into Him, God counts and credits us as righteous for His sake. And now the logic works the other direction: if we are in Christ, God can never leave us! (cf. Rom. 8)
Why did God forsake Christ? What, then, will He do to you if you are not in Christ?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH268 “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”

Thursday, January 31, 2019

2019.01.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 1:15-22

Questions for Littles: How did Paul intend to come to them before (v15)? What did he intend for them to have? Where did he intend to go (v16)? And where did he intend to stop, both on the way there and on the way back? Where did he hope they would help him go afterward? What did he not do lightly (v17)? What does he say about how easily he changes his mind? Who is the perfect example of faithfulness and consistency (v18)? And what is the perfect example of God’s faithfulness (v19)? How many of the promises of God are “yes” in Jesus (v20)? And in how many of them are “Amen”? To whose glory? Through whom? Who establishes believers in Christ (v21a)? And who has anointed the officers (v21b)? What has God done to confirm His Word to us (v22a)? Whom has God given for a similar purpose (v22b)? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, the apostle is beginning to explain how careful, intentional, and purposeful he had been in skipping his previous visit to Corinth. But this gets him onto God’s own carefulness, intentionality, and purposefulness: in other words, God’s faithfulness.

The turn in the flow comes from v17 to v18, where he is explaining that he doesn’t make plans lightly or change his mind easily. This characteristic, he says, is like God. The Lord had famously said that He is not a man that He should change His mind (Cf. Num 23:19). Rather, God’s yes is yes, and His no is no, and His plan is His plan, and His purposes will all be accomplished.

This discussion of God’s faithfulness brings him to an even more favorite topic: Christ Himself. For, Christ is really the One upon whom all the promises of God center. He alone reverses the Fall. He alone atones for our sin. He alone is our worthiness for any blessing at all. So, literally, every good promise that God has made has its “yes” in Christ.

Do you marvel at God’s faithfulness to His promises? If so, give Him frequent “Amens,” whenever you consider His good promises! This is one of the main reasons that He promises anything: to fulfill it in Christ, so that we will say “Amen,” and He will be glorified through us.

He already knows that He is faithful. But He makes special display of the glory of His faithfulness, when He brings it home to our hearts, and puts a God-glorifying “Amen” on our lips! So, He establishes our hearts in Christ, making us sure of the Savior. He seals us both by His Spirit and by baptism, which physically displays this spiritual sealing. And His Spirit works in our hearts, assuring us that the promise is unbreakable until the day that it is finally fulfilled!
Which of God’s promises is most precious to you? How does it get its “yes” in Christ?
Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry Before You Come” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

2019.01.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 14:1-5

Questions for Littles: Who were inheriting the areas in this passage (v1)? In what land were the areas? Who distributed this inheritance to them? How were specific areas selected (v2)? Who had commanded this? By whose hand? For whom? Who had given inheritance to the other two and a half tribes (v3)? What tribe received no inheritance at all? How were there still twelve tribe areas, since the Levites didn’t have one (v4)? How was it decided how to divide the land (v5)?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we again have a summary of the giving of the lands. This time, the emphasis is really on gift and inheritance. Of course, inheritance is a kind of gift. It is received not as earnings or wages or even deservings, but rather by virtue of a relationship and the generosity of another.

So v1a reminds us that the children of Israel inherited. And v1b reminds us that the land was distributed to them, and that this was given as an inheritance. Again, v2 begins by calling it an inheritance.

And the fact that it was by lot cannot mean “random chance” in the Bible but rather “selected by God’s providence alone.” Again in v3a, “Moses had given the inheritance…” And in v3b, “to the Levites he had given no inheritance…”

So the emphasis here is not that the land had been taken. Rather, the emphasis is upon the fact that the land was being given.

And though Eleazar and Joshua are named, it is really Moses who, humanly speaking, looms large over this passage, being named in three of the five verses. Of course, this is because Moses was the great representative of God—the prophet like whom One would some day arise as the Messiah.

But Moses is only at the center “humanly speaking.” It is Yahweh Himself who is the great Giver in this Scripture. And it’s not just a gift. It’s a commandment. There is not just generosity here. There is authority.

I wonder if you have learned to take comfort in that, dear Christian. Do you recognize that what you receive from the Lord comes not only from His tender, fatherly affection, but also from His almighty, kingly power and authority?

We are moved to great love and gratitude by His generosity. But let us also be moved to great peace and confidence by the authority with which He commands our inheritance!
What claim do you have upon an inheritance from God? How? Who is your representative?
Suggested songs: ARP180 “Christ Shall Have Dominion” or TPH89B “My Song Forever Shall Record”

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

2019.01.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 46

Read Psalm 46
Questions for Littles: Who is our refuge and strength (v1a)? What else is He (v1b)? What, therefore, won’t we do (v2a)? When (v2b)? And when else (v2c)? And when (v3a)? And when (v3b)? What was one event when these things literally happened? What water from v4 is not water of judgment? Whose city does this river make glad? What else does v4 call this city? Who is in the midst of her (v5a)? What does this keep from happening to her? Who helps her (v5b)? When? What happened when the nations raged (v6a)? What happened when the Lord just uttered His voice (v6b)? Who is with us (v7a, v11a)? What is our refuge (v7b, v11b)? What are we encouraged to do (v8a)? In this case, what works specifically are we to behold (v8b)? And v9? What are these raging and warring nations commanded to do (v10a)? Who wins this battle for supremacy among the nations (v10b)? In all the earth (v10c)?  
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin all came from Psalm 46. Here is a great psalm of confidence in the Lord. If God is our refuge—where we go to be safe—and our strength, then what danger should really cause us to fear?

Really, there is only one that comes close. The judgment and wrath of God Himself. This is the danger that removes the earth. This is the danger that casts mountains into the sea. The flood (and the burning of fire at the return of Christ) are utterly terrifying.

But think about the flood. Who, in the flood, had God as his refuge and strength? To whom was God the present help in trouble? This is the great safety of Noah. Not the ark. But Him who is causing the devastation, destruction, and desolation beneath the ark.

Did you catch that in v8? “Come, behold the works of the Lord.” What works? “Who had made desolations in the earth.” The world-destroying power of God is actually a comfort to those who know that this world-destroying power is for them, not against them.

If by having God as our refuge, we have faced down God’s own wrath, then what have we to fear from men, and governments, and armies, and nations? There were plenty of those in place, when the earth had been “filled with violence” in Genesis 6, and God destroyed them all with one great stroke. Just so—it can be fearful when nations rage and kingdoms move. But our God’s power is such that the mere uttering of His voice makes the earth to melt!

“Yahweh of Hosts” is a name that highlights this. Not only is He the Creator of all, so that everything depends upon Him, but one of the things that He created are the angel armies—the hosts—that are under His command. But He is not just our God of unlimited power, He is our God of amazing grace!

“God of Jacob” is a name that highlights this. He doesn’t use the name “Israel,” that covenant name of faith. No, there is plenty of “Jacob” left in believers in this life. That name, of course, highlighted how Jacob was a heel-grasper, who from the womb lived by his wits: manipulating, tricking, and stealing however he could to get his way. This was anything but a man of faith.

No, God does not shrink from identifying Himself with people who need such grace as we do. He is a God of amazing grace!
What current situations seem most difficult? How will you remember God’s power in it? 
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge” or TPH46A “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength”

Monday, January 28, 2019

190128FW Genesis 4:1-5 - The Difference between a Cain and an Abel

An imperfect, but hopefully helpful, example of a family worship lesson in Genesis 4:1-5

2019.01.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 4:1-5

Questions for Littles: What did Adam do to Eve in v1? What did she do? What does she say? What does she name the second son (v2)? What does he do? What job does Cain do? How long does Cain take to bring an offering (v3)? How long does it take Abel to bring his offering (v4)? Which offering does he bring? What does Yahweh think of Abel and Abel’s offering? What did Yahweh think of Cain and Cain’s offering (v5)?
In the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we have the sober reminder that since all children of believers are born sinners, each must be saved through his own faith from sin and guilt and Hell.

We don’t find out that “Cain was of the evil one” (cf. 1 Jn 3:12) until we see the fruit of his life. From the beginning, his parents are hopeful. Eve, who has received that name because she is the mother of all the living, triumphantly names her son “Cain” (gotten/gained/ acquired), declaring that it is in conjunction with Yahweh that she has gotten him.

Yet, the fruit of his life begins to appear long before he becomes the first murderer. The timing of Cain’s offering does not bode well. Most English translations say something like “in the course of time” at the beginning of v3. Literally, it is “at the end of days.” Yahweh is an afterthought to Cain, getting the leftovers. Abel, however, brings unto the Lord the first and the best.

What made the difference between the two? Hebrews 11:4 tells us: faith. It was not so much what kind of sacrifice. After all, the Lord would later command grain and drink offerings, and indeed Jesus affirms even the tithing of spices. No, the reason that it was a more excellent sacrifice is that it was offered by confidence in God’s promised salvation.

Cain, however, is not hoping in God’s salvation, but in his own performance. He expects God to be grateful for these afterthought/least portions that he has brought. How do we know? Because when God does not show the regard for his offering that Cain expects, Cain becomes angry and sullen.

Children of believing homes must learn to be grateful to God for His mercy in placing them there. But let them guard against being impressed with themselves or desiring that others would be impressed with them. Instead, let them see that God’s salvation is for God’s glory—displaying Himself as infinitely worthy by mercifully saving those who are infinitely unworthy. Let them come by faith, for it is Christ Himself whom God regards!
What do you offer God? Why? How? Why would He have regard for your offering?
Suggested Songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness” or TPH435 “Not What My Hands Have Done”