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Saturday, June 15, 2019

2019.06.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:4-9

Questions for Littles: What did Abram do at the beginning of Genesis 12:4? Why? Who went with him? How old was he? From where did he depart? Who and what else did Abram take (Genesis 12:5)? To where did they come? Through what land did Abram pass (Genesis 12:6)? To what place? As far as what object? Who were then in the land? Who appeared to Abram in Genesis 12:7? What did He say? How did Abram respond? To which mountain did he then move (Genesis 12:8)? What did he build there? What did he do with it? What was Abram doing in Genesis 12:9? In what direction?
So often, when studying Scripture, there arises a “what” question with a “Who” answer. The Lord Himself is so often the power upon Whom something rests or the purpose for Whom something is done, or the actual pleasure in Whom we are to delight. And the Bible constantly reorients us toward Him.

Well, that’s exactly the word for us in Genesis 12:4-9. In the first three verses, Scripture reorients our focus, as we look for the serpent-crushing Seed, to center upon Abram and his family. Now, in these next six verses, following Abram reorients our attention unto the Lord with “where” questions that have “Whom” answers. We have known since Genesis 12:1 that the Lord Himself is the real answer to the question of where Abram is going—“the place that I will show you.” Now we find that the Lord Himself is the primary feature of every place that Abram goes.

Genesis 12:4 begins to highlight this by saying, “as Yahweh had spoken to him.” Genesis 12:5-6 are logistics that keep us moving: map history from Abram’s navigation software. But the distinguishing landmark by which we know that he arrives is “Then Yahweh appeared to Abram.” The Scripture tells us one thing about this appearance: that Yahweh promised the land to Abram.

In the ordinary course of the history, we would expect, “and there Abram pitched his tent.” But this is no ordinary man, and this is no ordinary history. Abram knew the reality that the Holy Spirit would later carry his descendant Moses to write in Psalm 90, “Yahweh, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” Instead of “there he pitched his tent, we have “there he built an altar to Yahweh, who had appeared to Him.”

To be sure, there is tent-pitching. Genesis 12:8 tells us that Abram moved to the mountain between Bethel and Ai and pitched his tent. But in the course of this account, verse 8 serves to show that wherever there is tent-pitching for Abram, there is also altar-building and Yahweh-worshiping. And not just personal worship. Look at all those people in Genesis 12:5. This is family worship! At this point in the history, one might even call it corporate worship.

There is a picture for us here in the story of our own lives. Tents are temporary, mobile structures. They go along with Abram. What he leaves behind as he “journeys” is a string of altars. Our dwelling is temporary (regardless of felt-permanence). The Lord’s worship is permanent (regardless of felt-brevity). It’s not just that our lives are all about Him. Rather, our lives are all about recognizing and responding to the reality that all of everything is always about Him! “Yahweh, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.”
What does the consistency of your personal/family worship say about how your life is oriented?
Suggested Songs: ARP90A “Lord, You Have Been” or TPH234 “The God of Abram Praise”

Friday, June 14, 2019

2019.06.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 13:31-35

Questions for Littles: What has Judas just done at the beginning of John 13:31? What does Jesus say is now happening to Him? What does He say is done unto God through Him? Since God is glorified in Christ, what will God do for Christ (John 13:32)? When? What does Jesus call them in John 13:33? What does He tell them will only be happening for a little while longer? What had Jesus told the Jews? To whom does He now say it? In John 13:34, what does His imminent departure become the occasion for commanding? What will people know when they see the apostles keeping this commandment (John 13:35)
It’s difficult to be left behind, even when you know that your dear one is only gone temporarily and only for a great reason. We’ve just celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Wives who waited for husbands to return longed to receive that embrace, to return that eagerly planted kiss. As they did so, everyone at the port would know that was her husband, and she is his wife.

There’s something similar going on here between Christ and His disciples. He’s about to leave for the best of reasons. The most God-glorifying event in history—redemption of sinners through the blood-atonement and wrath-enduring of Jesus—is about to take place. “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”

And then God is about to respond by seating a Man on the very throne of heaven. “If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.”

There will not be centuries and millennia of waiting before Jesus sits on the throne. There will, however, be millennia of waiting before the disciples can throw their arms around Him—before they can publicly and physically reciprocate His love. People won’t be able to observe them with (for instance) head placed upon His chest to say, “Aha! This one is His disciple!”

To be sure, there is a very close love between them. That’s what He means when He calls them “little children”—something that John later picks up in addressing those whom he pastors in his letters. But these dear ones won’t be able to be with Jesus to display their affection. “Where I am going, you cannot come.”

So Jesus gives them the New Commandment. The commandment that this particular apostle will later call “the new commandment that is not really new, but that we [the New Testament church] have had from the beginning [the night Jesus was betrayed!]” (cf. 1 John 2:1-11). “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Note the form of this “new” commandment is not so much in the form of the Ten Commandments as it is in the form of the two greatest commandments. Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love one another as I have loved you. In the context, we can see Whom it is that we are really loving when we do so. Christ Himself.

During the time of His absence, the Lord Jesus receives as personally done unto Him whatever is done to His church. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” (Acts 9:4, Acts 22:7). So, when we take an affectionate interest in one another, sacrificially serve one another, warmly greet one another, etc., we are making public displays of affection. For Christ. And all can see Whom it is that we love. Whom it is that we follow. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

More importantly to us, Christ knows it. Christ receives it personally. Whatever you do to the least of these His brethren (Matthew 25:40), He receives as done unto Him. One day, we will have glorified bodies in which to wait upon, serve, and dote upon our Redeemer. Until then, we may focus upon loving Him in our loving of one another.
What opportunities do you currently have in your own congregation to show love to Jesus?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Thursday, June 13, 2019

2019.06.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Questions for Littles: What does the apostle say is not profitable (2 Corinthians 12:1)? Whom does he say he knows (2 Corinthians 12:2)? To where was this man caught up? What is not even known about his trip (2 Corinthians 12:3)? What kind of place was it (2 Corinthians 12:4)? What kinds of things were said there? Of whom would the apostle boast (2 Corinthians 12:5)? Of whom would he not boast? What would the apostle be speaking if he did boast (2 Corinthians 12:6)? But why would the apostle still not boast? What was the thorn in the flesh to prevent from happening (2 Corinthians 12:7)? Whom do we discover, in verse 7, had been the one to whom was given the revelations from 2 Corinthians 12:2-4? Whose messenger was the thorn? What did it do to the apostle? What was the apostle’s response (2 Corinthians 12:8)? How many times? How did the Lord respond in 2 Corinthians 12:9? In what, then, did the apostle decide to boast? What, then, would rest upon him? What five things does he specifically name as giving him pleasure in 2 Corinthians 12:10? For Whose sake? When is the apostle strong?
It’s kind of a strange thing to place extra emphasis upon, by an unnecessary repetition: “whether in the body or out of the body I do not know.” The point seems to be that the apostle is so far from deserving credit for the revelation that he experienced that he does not even know in what manner he was there or received it. So, there is much praise due unto God and His amazing work, but none at all to the powerless man upon whom or through whom that work is done.

That’s a tough lesson to learn. Sometimes, we’re frustrated with ourselves that we might learn something reading the Bible, but discover that we haven’t really learned it, when the very thing that we had resolved against on our knees, comes right out of our hearts as soon as we stand up on our feet.

But our God is not surprised. Our Heavenly Father knows our weakness and gives us what we need to. Whether that painful, temporary discipline to produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness and requisite holiness (cf. Hebrews 12:3-11). Or that thorn in the flesh to keep even his apostle humble. If the one whose mind and pen the Holy Spirit used to write the Scripture needed suffering to train the character of his soul, why would we think that merely reading that Scripture would be enough for us?

The Lord knows the suffering that we need. We might hate it because it exposes our weakness, but isn’t that exactly the point, according to our Scripture today? One of the great reasons for our suffering is for us to be reminded of and feel our weakness. It is in our weakness that the Lord’s strength fulfills one of its great aims: to be displayed in us, because it is our only true source of true strength. God’s sufficient grace, after all, is not only blessing for those who deserve only curse, but also strength for those who have only weakness.

And what strength it is! Don’t we say, “how strong!” when we see someone who can take pleasure in infirmities? Pleasure in reproaches? Pleasure in needs? Pleasure in persecutions? Pleasure in distresses?

But that’s what we say in response to our own infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions, and distresses. They force us to look away from ourselves and to Christ instead. And, looking to Him, we say, “how strong!”
What opportunities (weakness) is your life currently presenting you to look to Christ and say, “how strong!” How will you be reminding yourself to take that opportunity?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH435 “Not What My Have Done”

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

2019.06.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 4

Read Judges 4
Questions for Littles: What has just happened (Judges 4:1)? What did the children of Israel do again? What did Yahweh do again (Judges 4:2a)? Into whose hands? Who was the commander of their army? What did Israel do again in Judges 4:3? Why? Who was doing the work of judging Israel (Judges 4:4)? What was her actual role? But for what were the children of Israel coming to her (Judges 4:5)? Whom did she call in Judges 4:6? Who had commanded Barak to do what? Whom else was Yahweh going to bring to Mount Tabor and for what purpose (Judges 4:7)? How does Barak answer (Judges 4:8)? How does Deborah answer such cowardice (Judges 4:9)? Where does Barak take the ten thousand men, and Deborah (Judges 4:10)? Who else was there (Judges 4:11)? Whom does Yahweh bring there (Judges 4:12)? With what and whom (Judges 4:13)? Who ends up having to give the command to attack (Judges 4:14)? Who wins the battle (Judges 4:15)? What does Barak do, when he sees how things are going (Judges 4:16)? But where does Sisera go (Judges 4:17)? Who else is there? Whom does she go out to meet (Judges 4:18)? What does she say to him? What does she do for him Judges 4:19-20? Why can’t Sisera see her coming? What does she do (Judges 4:21)? Whom does she go out to meet now (Judges 4:22)? What does she tell him and show him? What had God done by all of this (Judges 4:23-24)?
Israel is still being Israel—wicked. And Yahweh is still being Yahweh—patiently, compassionately delivering. And that is exactly why Barak’s laziness (not judging, so that a prophetess had to take up that task) and cowardice (refusing to go up to the battle unless security-blanket-Deborah came along with him) is so offensive. Because it is the Lord Himself who delivers. When the Lord is the One who is always accomplishing His saving plan, we all ought to have courage and diligence to fulfill whatever roll He has given us.

We can see, explicitly and implicitly, that the Lord is the One who delivers. Explicitly, the Lord says that He is the One who will deploy even Jabin’s army commander (Judges 4:7). The Lord says that He is the One who will give Sisera into Barak’s hand (verse 7). Judges 4:9 says that the Lord is the One who will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. Judges 4:14 says the Lord is the One who has delivered Sisera. The Lord is the one who has gone out before Barak (verse 14). The Lord is the one who routes Sisera in Judges 4:15. God is the one who subdued Jabin, king of Canaan (Judges 4:23).

Even implicitly, there’s that bit of trivia way back in Judges 4:11 about the relocation of a Kenite loner. He took off on his own and “pitched his tent.” Kenites were metalworkers, and there’s a possible implication here of what kind of pegs were used in this tent-pitching. But whether metal or wood, this tent-pitching would eventually become pretty important. If a peg can hold down a tent on the windy slopes of Tabor, it can surely be used to play a rousing game of “pin the Hazorite commander's head to the dirt.”

Sure, Heber the Kenite probably just thought he was increasing his real-estate holdings all those years ago, but at the very same time, Yahweh was putting all the pieces in place to deliver Israel. 900 iron chariots is nothing against one Hebrew gal with a peg and a hammer. And the Living God.

This is the problem in all of our anxiety and all of our laziness. It is God’s ability to handle the situation that we are really doubting. It is God’s assignment to us that we are really shirking. If we are lacking in faith or zeal, we will find near the root of our rebellion a rather small view of God Himself. God forgive us! May the Lord increase our confidence in His sovereign power, wise planning, and loving purpose!
Where do we get big views of God? What are your daily and weekly habits for obtaining them?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH539 “Am I a Soldier?”

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

2019.06.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Questions for Littles: What have Paul and his companions received for their ministry (2 Corinthians 4:1)? What do they not lose? What does he call the things that they have renounced in 2 Corinthians 4:2? In what do they refuse to walk? How do they refuse to handle the word of God? Instead, what do they do with the truth? To what aspect, then, of every man, do they commend themselves? In whose sight? What may happen to their gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3a)? But to whom would it be veiled (verse 3b)? What does 2 Corinthians 4:4 call the devil? What has he done to those who are perishing? What do they not do? What does this veil keep them from seeing? Who is Christ, according to verse 4? What, then, do Paul and his companions not preach (2 Corinthians 4:5)? What do they preach? How do they consider themselves? Who does the work (2 Corinthians 4:6)? What else has He done about 4000 years prior? In whom else has He already done this spiritual counterpart to that work? Where does He shine? What light does He give? In whose face is the knowledge of this glory received?  
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. In this passage, the apostle explains why his ministry is not generally impressive to all. One might have (wrongly) expected that the ministry of an apostle would be impressive to anyone.

Paul’s ultimate response is that God alone is the impressiveness of the work, and those who are not impressed with Him are not going to find anything else to be impressed with in his ministry (2 Corinthians 4:7). This doesn’t bother him, because his ministry is not his idea or his pride. It as an assignment of God by the mercy of God. It may seem to be going poorly, but if it is of God, then there is no reason to lose heart!

Ironically, the apostle refers to superficially impressive ministry as “the hidden things of shame.” There is a way of handling the Word of God that looks impressive on the outside, but what you cannot see is that it is man-derived and man-dependent. But the apostles are not concerned with commending themselves to men’s admiration. They are concerned with commending themselves to men’s consciences. O that we would learn to see our life as an assignment from God and deal earnestly with others as those who will have to stand before Him!! How this might help us to stop living for their applause!

Will such a ministry have a hundred percent conversion rate? No and yes. In one sense, no. There are those who are perishing. And if the Lord has not atoned for them, and is not going to regenerate them, then what exactly are we supposed to be able to do about that? It is not just that they are unable to see God’s glory. It is also that they are not permitted. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says that God has set things up this way because He refuses to shine the light of the gospel upon them.

But in another sense, yes. Such a ministry will have a hundred percent conversion rate. For, the Lord is all powerful. He spoke light itself into existence. And He can speak spiritual light into existence in the hearts. And He does, because in the case of His elect, He is determined to give them the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ!
What kind of ministry should we look for in the church? Whom should we be looking to make it effective? With whom should we aim at being impressed? What aims and approaches are incompatible with this? 
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH209 “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright”

Monday, June 10, 2019

2019.06.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:1-3

Questions for Littles: Who is speaking to whom in Genesis 12:1? From where does He tell Abram to leave? Whom does He tell him to leave? What does He tell him to leave? To where does He tell him to go? Into what does Yahweh promise to make him (Genesis 12:2)? What does He promise to do to him? What does He promise to do to Abram’s name? What does He promise to do through Abram? Whom does Yahweh promise to bless (Genesis 12:3)? Whom does He promise to curse? Which families of the earth will find their blessing in him?    
Yahweh tells Abram to lose everything. Humanity had been divided, and each had his identity in his country, family, and father’s household—a term that described a community structure rather than a physical building structure. And the Lord says, “Get out from all of these.”

Where is Abram to go? The Lord doesn’t even say. He only says, “A land that I will show you.” The Lord has selected it. The Lord will be there. The Lord will be the One to show it to him. That’s all Abram needs to know. There’s no destination address for him to put into his GPS. There’s only the knowledge that the mind and the voice that lead him there are those of the Lord Himself, and the destination is more person than place. The Lord Himself is the only true blessedness.

Of course, if the Lord is all of Abram’s blessedness, then the Lord’s means are the only means of blessedness. After all, God alone can give Himself. There is nothing the creature can do to manipulate or control the Creator. We cannot give God to ourselves or to anyone else. God alone can give Himself. And so we can only receive Him in the way that He chooses to give Himself. Faith—dependence upon God is the only way to receive Him.

Therefore, obedience must be how faith is expressed. Doing what we please, or what we think will work, is the very opposite of dependence upon the Lord. If something else is our blessedness—a particular feeling, state of mind, “success” in life, possession, status, etc.—then our own ideas about God and spiritual life and admirable living may get us there. But if the Lord Himself is our blessedness, then only the Lord can determine how we get there.

This is why the first act of obedience is actually not an act at all. It is passive. It is to rely upon Christ and what He has done instead of upon anything that we do. We can see that in our text too. God doesn’t just promise to bless Abram. He makes Abram himself a blessing, the one means by whom all the families of the earth will be blessed. Abram—by being the one through whom the Christ comes—is the only true means of blessedness.

How wonderful is the mercy of God! Every family on earth deserves the flood treatment. But now, through Abram, every family on earth will be receiving the ark treatment instead. No family will be excluded. Yet, it is precisely the fact that the blessing will come through Abram that means that not everyone will be saved.

Those that embraced the ark were blessed in the flood. Those that rejected the ark were cursed in the flood. Those that bless Abram as father in the faith are blessed. Those that reject him are cursed. Those that rejoice over the day of Abram’s seed, Jesus, just as Abram rejoiced, are blessed; those who reject Christ are cursed (cf. John 8:54-58, John 3:36). Through Abram, in Jesus, there is blessing for all families of the earth without discrimination, but not without exception. All who fail to embrace Christ will perish.

All of this to a surprising end. Man had desired to make a name for himself (Genesis 11:4), even though only the name of God is worthy of all glory and honor and praise! God had demonstrated this spectacularly at Babel. But now God turns around and proposes to do for Abram that of which Abram is totally unworthy. That which would be the height of wickedness for Abram to seek for himself. God Himself promises to make Abram’s name great. And God includes all who bless Abram in this promise. By the time Jesus has done what is required to obtain blessing for those who deserve only curse, He will have secured for Himself that Name that is above every name. That Name at which every knee in heaven and earth bows. That Name at which every tongue in heaven and earth confesses that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. And, gloriously, that Name which He has put upon us. The greatest name anyone, from any family of the earth can have, is “Christian.” God gives the greatest possible Name to those who deserve to have no good name at all!
What does this passage hold before you as the true blessedness? What else seems to compete with this in your heart—what do you find yourself seeking as your great blessing?
Suggested Songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion”