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Saturday, June 1, 2019

190601FW Gen 11:10-32 - Zeroing in on Jesus

An example of a family worship teaching time in Genesis 11:10-32

2019.06.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 11:10-32

Questions for Littles: Whose genealogy does Genesis 11:10 begin? What happens to the lengths of the lives between Genesis 11:10 and Genesis 11:25? How many sons of each generation are specifically named? How many of Terah’s children are named (Genesis 11:26)? What does Genesis 11:27 begin to tell about? Which grandson does verse 27 name? Which son dies before his father (Genesis 11:28)? Where? Who take wives in Genesis 11:29? What fact is noted about Sarai (Genesis 11:30)? Whom does Terah not take with him in Genesis 11:31? From where did they begin? To where were they going? But where did they end up? How many years, total, did Terah live (Genesis 11:32)?
Some Bible genealogies are more selective than others. Sometimes, they are giving an overview of a tribe or a clan. This one is much more focused. It’s a treasure hunt for the Seed, from Genesis 3:15, who will crush the serpent’s head. Yes, the earth is being populated, but it’s not really about that. Not like in chapter 10. Each generation is like a multi-directional intersection, and the route to God’s promised Redeemer must turn down just one of them.

And how we need that Redeemer! Five hundred. Four hundred. Two hundred. One hundred. The Holy Spirit is not giving us the “and he died” of chapter four, but that much is made perhaps even more obvious by the rapidly dropping length of life. Man has sinned, and the wages of sin are chasing him down.

When we get to Genesis 11:26, and three of Terah’s sons are named, we have a clue that something big is coming. More of Genesis will be spent on Abraham than what has been written the rest of human history thus far. We’re about to take a big step in understanding how God plans to redeem sinful man.

Indeed, lest the children of Abraham who first received this book be over-proud, one part of how God plans to save is already coming into focus: through weakness. Obviously, if He is planning to save through the Seed of the woman, it will have to be through weakness. The seed of the woman are dying younger and younger!

This is reinforced by that short-but-not-subtle announcement in Genesis 11:30: “But Sarai was barren; she had no child.” This next “big step” in the plan of salvation is going to have to be despite man’s weakness, not through any illusion of his strength.

And when the Holy Spirit gives us the humility to be honest with ourselves, these features of today’s Scripture resonate with us. Because we are not the redeemer. Only Christ is. And, in fact, we don’t really give Him something to work with, but in ourselves, we are challenges that He gloriously overcomes.
Why do you need Christ? Why must it be Christ, specifically, that you need?
Suggested Songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or TPH265 “In Christ Alone”

Friday, May 31, 2019

Reformation: the True Unity-Project (2019.05.31 Hopewell Herald Pastoral Letter)


Dear Congregation,

In Genesis 11:1-9, we saw that man’s plan was to be united in our own way, in one another’s presence, for our own praise. God broke that up, but not because He did not intend for us to be united.

At Pentecost, people of many different tongues heard preached, in their own language, the gospel of Jesus Christ. This continued to be a sign of the authentic preaching of the gospel until the John 16:12-15 promise was completed. And to this day, the Scriptures continue to be translated into every tongue on earth.

This is one reason that Bible translation was a direct outcome and primary focus of the Reformation. The Reformation was a unity project. Man-made religion had allowed for the illusion of unity, but it had fractured the church from the Lord, and any common ground came at the expense of having forged a unity that God hates. And so the Lord had judged that “church” with centuries of bitter rivalry, murder, and slavery to the most heinous sins.

When, in His mercy, the Spirit of God brought about the great Reformation of the 16th century, the most important unity enjoyed a restoration: the unity between Christ and His church. And this unity was something that God blessed so that, even across denominations and language barriers, the more believers aimed at being thoroughly biblical in every way, the more they were genuinely united with one another.

Today, we live in an age of fracture that urgently calls for a new commitment to the true unity of biblical Reformation. And, we have another heavenly opportunity to enjoy that unity on the coming Lord’s Day. For, it is then that congregations of nearly every tongue on earth will be worshiping with the same Scriptures to read and sing and pray and hear preached, enjoying the same sacraments as instituted and directed by the same Lord.

In fact, from all over the earth, those who worship as prescribed in Scriptures will be meeting at the heavenly Zion, with the angels in festal gathering, and the souls of the just made perfect—yea even with our Mediator whose blood, from the throne, speaks better than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:18-24)!

This is the true and great unity. OF COURSE the Nimrod-led, worldwide consortium could not actually build a tower whose top was in the heavens. But, we have a High Priest who has passed through the heavens (Hebrews 4:14-16). And He has sprinkled us clean with His blood for access and opened a new and living way for us to get through the veil—even that way which is His own flesh (Hebrews 10:19-22).

In the weekly Lord’s Day assemblies, there is a unity of heaven and earth that bridges all divisions of tongues. And if we value Christ, and His flesh and blood, in a biblical way, then we will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:23-25).

Isn’t it wonderful? The Lord’s Day assembly offers a unique opportunity to be united with the congregation in Heaven—while worshiping in 21st century American English!

Looking forward to enjoying this unity with you,

Pastor

190531FW Jn 13:1-17 - Christ's Almighty, Cleansing, Disciple-making Love

An example of a family worship teaching time in John 13:1-17

2019.05.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 13:1-17

Questions for Littles: What did Jesus know had come (John 13:1)? What had He done up until this point? Up until what point did He continue to do it? What had ended in John 13:2? What had the devil already done? But what did Jesus know that the Father had done (John 13:3)? What did He know about where He came from? What did He know about where He was going? What did He begin to do in John 13:4-5? Who questioned Him about it in John 13:6? What did Jesus say that Peter could not yet do (John 13:7)? How does Peter respond to that (John 13:8)? But what does Jesus say Peter cannot have without being washed by Him? Now, what does Peter want washed in John 13:9? What explanation does Jesus give for not needing to have more washed in John 13:10? How does John 13:10-11 show that He is especially talking about spiritual cleansing? In what way are believers cleansed already in this life? In what way do they still need to be cleansed? What question does Jesus ask in John 13:12? What does He affirm in John 13:13? What does He say they ought to do for one another in John 13:14? What has He given us (John 13:15a)? So that we would do what? If we do not humble ourselves to service, Whom are we claiming to surpass in greatness (John 13:16)? Who, among those who know these things, are blessed (John 13:17)?
Truly knowing who Jesus is will lead to self-denying service of others.

It’s pretty amazing to read just what it was that led Christ to “gird Himself with a towel.”

He knew that His hour had come. He was about to go to the cross, rise again, and ascend into heaven to sit down at the right hand of the majesty on high. So, what does He do? Take off his good clothes and assume the towel-garment of a foot-washing servant.

He knew that the Father had given all things into His hands. So, what does He do? He takes a water basin into those all-authoritative hands.

He knows that He has come from God. That is to say: He knows that He is the everlasting God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, that there was no time when He was not, that He is very God of very God. So what does He do? He begins washing the dirt off of the feet of dirt-beings.

He knows that He is going to God. That is to say: He knows that He is about to take His seat on the throne, even in His human nature. So what does He do? Kneel before a bunch of dirty sinners, one-by-one.

Peter didn’t know the greatness of the things in our little list above, but even he knew that this was way beneath Jesus. If only he wasn’t stupid enough to blurt something out immediately after Jesus had told him that he wasn’t able to understand it yet.

But the amazing thing here is Christ. He knew that this was infinitely beneath Him. But He also knew that it was absolutely necessary for us. We need Him to cleanse us from sin’s guilt at the cross. We need Him to stoop down into our lives and cleanse us from sin’s presence.

Why does He do so? Love. That’s the John 13:1 answer. He loved them to the end. He loved them enough to wash feet. But that was just the tip of the massive iceberg of cross-bearing love. And that’s the model that He left for us. Not just to “know” stuff. But to be like Him, and respond to what we know by Christ-loving, brethren-loving self-sacrificial love!
Where do you learn more about Jesus? What do you do with what you learn?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH463 “O the Deep Love of Jesus”

Thursday, May 30, 2019

190530FW 2Cor 11:1-15 - True Apostolic Christianity vs Satanic Apostolic Christianity

An example of a family worship teaching time in 2Corinthians 11:1-15

2019.05.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

Questions for Littles: In what does the apostle urge them to bear with him in 2 Corinthians 11:1? What does he feel toward the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:2)? What kind of jealousy? To how many husbands had he betrothed them? What did this make them and to whom? Now what does the apostle feel in 2 Corinthians 11:3? What was a previous example of someone getting God’s people to over-complicate things? From what was the apostle concerned that their minds might be corrupted? What name were the false preachers preaching (2 Corinthians 11:4)? What did they claim to give the Corinthians to receive? What did they claim to offer the Corinthians to accept? What did they even claim to be (2 Corinthians 11:5)? What did Paul not do as well as the super-apostles (2 Corinthians 11:6a, cf. 2 Corinthians 4:2)? But in what was the apostle *not* untrained? And who had seen the proof of that? What had Paul not received from the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:7)? Who enabled him to minister there (2 Corinthians 11:8)? What did he refuse to be to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:9)? Though they thought being an unpaid preacher was a knock against him, how did the apostle think of it in 2 Corinthians 11:10? From 2 Corinthians 11:11, what do some of them even have appeared to say is the reason he took no salary from them? But of what is he cutting off the super-apostles (2 Corinthians 11:12)? What kind of apostles are they, really (2 Corinthians 11:13)? Who was the pattern for this kind of false transformation (2 Corinthians 11:14)? Instead of being according to their appearance, according to what will the false apostles’ end be (2 Corinthians 11:15)?
In this passage, we find out a little more about how some Corinthians were getting the idea that it was OK to just keep going in their sins and not repent. There were actually so-called “super apostles” claiming that Christ, by His Spirit, in His gospel permitted and encouraged this.

That’s the real problem when someone comes up with supposedly Christian formulations that tolerate or even promote going on in sin. Not merely because it gets Christians into bad stuff.

But because a Christ who leaves you in your sin or doesn’t mind it is a false christ.

And a Spirit who is not at war with your sin is a false spirit.

And a gospel that does not liberate you from your sin’s control, and engage you against your sin in combat, is a false gospel.

These are not just nitpicky theology arguments. This is the absolute heart of the gospel. The sin-tolerators often dress it up in gospel language. Christ. The Spirit. The Gospel. Grace (cf. Romans 6:1). But it is exactly the opposite. Satan. Deception. Corruption.

Marriage can be difficult, but it’s not that complicated. Your husband is the only one for you, and there is no excuse for unfaithfulness to him. Christianity is difficult, but it’s actually not that complicated. Christ is the only One for you, and there is no excuse for unfaithfulness to Him. Anything that offers an excuse for unfaithfulness just isn’t Christianity.
What sins do you have a tendency to tolerate? Whom has Jesus given to help you?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH187 “I Belong to Jesus”

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

2019.05.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 3:7-11

Questions for Littles: Who did evil in Judges 3:7? In whose sight? What did they forget? What did they do, that showed that they “forgot” Him? What was hot in Judges 3:8? From Whom? Against whom? Into whose hand did Yahweh sell them? How long did they serve him? To whom did the children of Israel cry out (Judges 3:9)? What did Yahweh raise up for them? What did the deliverer do? What was his name? Who was his father? Who was his uncle? Who came upon him in Judges 3:10? What did he do to Israel? To what did he go out? What did Yahweh deliver into his hand? For how many years did the land have rest? But what happened to Othniel, son of Kenaz (Judges 3:11)?
Many people are interested in the dynamics of history. What led to such and such a nation rising up? How did so and so become king over this other area? Etc. There’s a temptation here to delve into how it is that Cushan-Rishathaim from Mesopotamia ends up extending his rule into Canaan. And in a sense, that’s what the passage is about, but not in the way one might think.

Because the dynamic of the history here is that Yahweh rules history. However else this king may think he has ascended to power and taken over Canaan, the ultimate fact of the matter is that he is a tool. A tool in the hand of a very (hotly!) angry God.

Now, it’s interesting that Judges 3:9 only tells us that Israel cried out to Yahweh. In the Old Testament, this phrase by itself does not indicate repentance; in the few places in which it is connected to repentance, it requires some other phrase to add that meaning. So we have a hotly angry Lord, Whom they have forgotten, and to Whom they are crying out in the midst of worshiping the Baals and Asherahs!

And what does the hot-angry Lord do? He raises up a deliverer for them. Certainly not according to their repentance, but rather according to His mercy. Deliverance is messy business; he had to go out to war to do it. But he was given the Spiritual gift of doing so.

On the whole, it’s pretty amazing at the extent of the Lord’s grace. This people who did evil in His sight and betrayed Him spent only eight years in bondage, and He promptly raised up a deliverer by whom He brought them into forty years of rest!

Still, there are limitations to this deliverer. One is obvious, at the end of Judges 3:11. He died. By the end of Judges, we’ll be aching for a deliverer that can never die. The other is not quite as obvious but just as necessary. Othniel could deliver them from “Cushan-double-evil,” but the true bondage to evil was less to a Mesopotamian king and more to their own wickedness, guilt, and misery. Who can deliver from that?
Considering how God was with the unrepentant whose deliverer was Othniel, what reasons do you have to be hopeful of a greater and more permanent salvation? What sin do you fall into, in which you most need to remember that hope?
Suggested songs: ARP130 “Lord, from the Depths” or TPH503 “From Depths of Woe”

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

190528FW 1Chr 29:10-15 - The Generous Privilege of Worship

An example of a family worship teaching time in 1Chronicles 29:10-15

2019.05.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Chronicles 29:10-15

Questions for Littles: Who blessed Yahweh (1 Chronicles 29:10)? Before whom? What characteristics of God does 1 Chronicles 29:11 praise? What does it remind us belong to Him? Over whom is He exalted as Head? From whom do riches come (1 Chronicles 29:12)? From whom does honor come? From whom does greatness come? From whom does strength come? So, since they had all these things, from Whom had the things come, and what did they do (1 Chronicles 29:13)? From whom had the willingness come (1 Chronicles 29:14)? From of what (Whose) things had they given? What did David confess that they were before the Lord (1 Chronicles 29:15)? Who else had been homeless? What did he confess that our days on earth are like? What do we not have, except from God alone? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin came from 1 Chronicles 29:10-15.

This prayer of exuberant praise doesn’t come at the building of the temple… David was not permitted to be the one who built the temple. Rather, it comes after taking an offering for the building.

I wonder if we respond like this when others give… I wonder if we respond like this when we give: recognizing that everything already belonged to God anyway, and that the real gift is that God would give us not just the means to give, but the willingness to do so!

Do we see the offering bags going around and praise God with all our hearts that He has moved in our hearts and lives to give to Him?

Do we consider everything that we receive as already belonging to Him so that we respond with great thanksgiving and joy when we are able to give some as an act of worship?

And, rather than being proud that we have given something, are we instead humbled that otherwise homeless, helpless, and hopeless people such as we are might have a home, and a help, and a hope in our God?

Whenever we worship God in any way, whatever we give of heart or mind or voice is given according to the same principles. The Lord gives us the gift of being able to give Him worship!

May the Lord stir us up to give, and may He stir us up to praise and thank Him for our giving.
What are you able to give to God in worship? Will you? And will you turn around and praise Him for enabling you to do so? 
Suggested songs: ARP50B “O You, My People, Hear” or TPH185 “We Give Thee But Thine Own”

Monday, May 27, 2019

2019.05.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ 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”