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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 ▫ 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 ▫ 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 ▫ 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”

Monday, May 6, 2019

2019.05.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 9:8-17

Questions for Littles: Who spoke to Noah (Genesis 9:8)? Who was with Noah? What is established in Genesis 9:9? Who establishes the covenant? Whose covenant is it? With what two groups is it established in verse 9? Who else benefits from the covenant (Genesis 9:10)? What covenantal benefit does the Lord promise here (Genesis 9:11)? In Genesis 9:12, what does God say He is going to give to show His covenant? What is that sign that He uses to show the covenant (Genesis 9:13)? Who puts it there? Whose bow is it? Who brings clouds over the earth (Genesis 9:14)? What happens every single time there is a cloud? How does God respond to the bow (Genesis 9:15)? What is in the cloud (Genesis 9:16)? What does God do to the bow? How does God respond to the bow? To whom, specifically, does God now speak in Genesis 9:17? What, specifically, does God point out in this verse? 
Genesis 9:8-11 begins and ends with a statement that God is establishing (affirming/ strengthening) His covenant with Noah and his sons. A covenant binds two parties together in an agreement as strong as death. Now that God has displayed His wrath, He highlights for Noah that every moment that a flood is not occurring is a moment of grace. God binds Himself to interact with the entire creation as a God of grace. But how can He do that, when man is so wicked? The answer is, literally, in the clouds.

Genesis 9:12-17 makes up the second portion of our passage, and it begins and ends not this time with the covenant itself, but more specifically with the sign of the covenant. In this case the sign is a bow, bent part toward heaven, string toward the ground, lethal weapon aimed at God Himself.

This is how God can be a God of grace toward us. Because at some point, He is going to satisfy His wrath upon Himself. He will have to become a man to do it. He will have to unite Himself to sinners to do it. But He will punish their sins upon Himself. So, He chooses the bow as a sign to respond to. There will never again be a bow-less cloud. Until the last day, God will continually respond to the reminder of His Son’s sacrifice by holding back His wrath.

But He doesn’t just remind Himself. He is reminding us that He remembers. This is why the Word is always attached to a covenant sign. God tells Noah what He is doing so that Noah will rejoice at the sign. Whenever he sees the sign, Noah can rejoice that God absorbs His own wrath in order to show us grace. Whenever he sees the sign, Noah can rejoice that God is determined not only to act graciously but that Noah would be assured of God’s grace.
What signs has God given the church? What do they display about how He shows us grace? How do they help us be sure of God’s salvation? Why is faith in Jesus necessary for this?
Suggested Songs: ARP111A “O Praise the Lord” or TPH111A “Praise to the Lord! I Will Extol Him”