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Saturday, February 8, 2020

2020.02.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 103:13-22

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the Lord pity those who fear Him (Psalm 103:13)? What does He remember about us (Psalm 103:14)? What is the length and effect of a man’s life like (Psalm 103:15-16)? What two things in Psalm 103:17 have exactly the opposite length and effect? What are three characteristics of those who are recipients of this mercy and righteousness (Psalm 103:17-18)? Where is the Lord’s throne (Psalm 103:19), and how does this relate to man’s composition (cf. Psalm 103:14)? Upon whom does Psalm 103:20 call to praise Him? What does Psalm 103:21 call them? What do they have in common with the people from Psalm 103:17-18? Upon whom does Psalm 103:22 (a-b) call to praise Him? Upon whom does the last line of the Psalm call to praise Him?
God is God, and we are not.

And unbelievers are just about the only creatures who fail to acknowledge it.

God acknowledges it (Psalm 103:14-16), and so He is patient, long-suffering, merciful, and compassionate (Psalm 103:13).

Despite their comparative strength to us (Psalm 103:20a), the angels acknowledge that God is God and they are not, for they do His Word (verse 20b), heed His Word (verse 20c), comprise armies of servants (Psalm 103:21) (a-b), and do His pleasure (verse 21b).

Indeed, all His works, everywhere, know that God is God, that it is His dominion, and so they praise Him (Psalm 103:22) (a-b).

So, it is the height of arrogance and wickedness that man, who is but dust—and who must return to that dust for his sin!—thinks that he is something.

But our merciful God is a Forgiver of sinners (Psalm 103:8-12), even to the extent that when He forgives us, He transforms us—His mercy and righteousness produce in us our fear of Him (Psalm 103:17b), our living as those who are bound to Him by covenant (Psalm 103:18a), and our focus upon both understanding and doing whatever He commands (verse 18b).

Praise be to God, Who exercises almighty power and bottomless mercy into bringing us back to the place where we live in hearty acknowledgement of the fact that He is God and we are not! And when He has done—and is doing—that work in us, we join the chorus of all creation from the mightiest angel to the lowliest creature.

Do I have an eternal soul that He has redeemed? Then let me bless Him with it!
What evidences of God’s forgiving, transforming work do you see in your life? Under what circumstances, and how often, are you admonishing your own soul to give Him His due praise? When/how do you do so?
Suggested songs: ARP103B “Bless the Lord, My Soul” or TPH239 “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven”

Friday, February 7, 2020

2020.02.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 2:15-20

Questions from the Scripture text: Where did the angels go (Luke 2:15)? What did the shepherds say to one another? Whom did they say had made it known to them? In what manner did they go (Luke 2:16)? Whom did they find? Where was the Baby lying? What was this lying place significant (cf. Luke 2:12)? What did they do when they had seen Him in His lying place (Luke 2:17, cf. Luke 2:11)? What response did they get (Luke 2:18)? What did Mary do (Luke 2:19)? What were the shepherds doing as they returned (Luke 2:20)? For what? According to what? 
It was granted to these shepherds to recognize the significance of God being a speaking God. At the end of Luke 2:15 they say, “which the Lord has made known to us.”

The sign that is given to confirm the identity of the Child is fulfilled. And, “when they had seen,” what is it that they make known? “The saying which was told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17).

Others hear (Luke 2:18). All marvel at what was told. The shepherds praise for what they heard (and the sign they had seen that confirmed what the heard). As it was told them (Luke 2:20).

“As it was told them” (verse 20). There are many times that the Scripture says something along these lines—"just as some prophet (or angel, or the Lord) had said,” or “according to the word of such and such,” or “to fulfill what was written by so-and-so,” or many other such statements.

Scripture is insistent that we know our God as a speaking God. That we read—and especially hear—His intentions toward us. So that when His power and love to save sinners is fulfilled, we will also see His planning (that we might praise and ponder His purposes), and His communication (that we might praise and ponder His stooping down to interact with us), and the perfect reliability of His Word (that we might praise and ponder His truthfulness and faithfulness).

The Word of God is His means of communicating to us not merely information, but indeed Him Himself in His many and marvelous attributes. And so Christianity has always been and must always be a Word religion, and a mind religion, if there is ever to be any real relationship or transformation. As Psalm 138:2d says, God has exalted His Word above all His name—it is His favorite way to communicate Himself and particularly His steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 138:2c).

This steadfast love and faithfulness are translated into the Greek by that same pair of words as “grace and truth” in John 1:14. It is what we see when we see Jesus, to whom that verse refers as the Word who was made flesh. And how has God granted unto us to see Him? Through His Word!

So, when we come to read our Bibles, or have our dad or husband open the Word with us, or hear the Scriptures taught and preached in the congregation, we need to have the attitude of the shepherds. It is not just angels have said something. But the Lord is making something known to us through these words. And most of all, He is making Himself—His power and love and wisdom and mercy and faithfulness and all of His glorious attributes—known to us… and especially in His Son and salvation through Him.

These are the things to ponder up in our hearts like Mary and for which to glorify and praise God like the shepherds!
When you hear and read the Bible, how will you think about it and respond to it?
Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH438 “I Love to Tell the Story”

Thursday, February 6, 2020

2020.02.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 6:1-5

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle call them in Galatians 6:1? What brothers need restoration? What brothers should do it? Why would only a specifically “spiritual” (cf. Galatians 5:23) brother be able to do it in the spirit commanded in verse 1? Considering the lists in Galatians 5:19-21 and Galatians 5:22-23, to what might the “spiritual” brother in verse 1 be “tempted,” and what is he supposed to be doing about it, while he restores his brother? How does the first half of Galatians 6:2 describe this effort of helping a brother out of the violation in which he has been caught up? What does this fulfill (cf. Galatians 5:14) in opposition to the temptation at the end of verse 1 (cf. Galatians 5:13-17)? What shouldn’t anyone think about himself (Galatians 6:3)? To whom should we be comparing whatever maturing in grace we have experienced (Galatians 6:4)? And, when each maturing believer considers himself before God, what does he still find (Galatians 6:5)?
There’s something that happens, when the Holy Spirit is maturing in us His multi-faceted fruit from Galatians 5:22-23. We become more and more supportive of our brothers, who believe in the same Christ, and walk by the same Spirit, and are engaged in the same battle.

This is why, when a brother is caught up in a violation (“overtaken in any trespass”), it really needs a brother who is marked by a spirit of gentleness to come alongside and help.

First, he must be a “spiritual” brother—that is that the helper himself is someone who walks with the Holy Spirit. How would someone who is not already in an alliance with the Holy Spirit against his own flesh enter rightly into an alliance with his brother, and that same Holy Spirit, against his brother’s flesh?

And, since both are sinners, it is especially the “gentleness” aspect of the Spirit’s fruit that is necessary for the process. This is needed for the sinner who is receiving the help, since when we are caught up in a sin, we are already primed for hostility and resistance to help. But it is also needed for the sinner who is giving the help, “considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”

If we can’t enter into the process with the idea that we are alongside a weakened and wounded dear one, helping him bear up under the challenges of his battle, then we are not following that second great commandment—as Christ summarized it and was quoted in Galatians 5:14—“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” How self-deceiving—and, indeed, self-defeating—it would be if we were convinced that we were helping a brother with his flesh, in the very act of indulging our own (cf. Galatians 5:13-21)?!

The great red flag for us is if we think that we are something. The fact of the matter is that we are nothing. In Galatians 6:3, the apostle (and the Spirit who carried him!) was misaligned with the religious self-esteem gurus of our time. He bluntly tells us that we are nothing, and that any other conclusion or feeling is merely self-deception.

And the self-deception of feeling ourselves to be something is especially dangerous when trying to help a brother with his sin. If we do that, we will run afoul of Galatians 6:4, and rather than thanking God for His mercy as He grows us—who are nothing—in grace, we will end up feeling and praying like the Pharisee, “I thank you, God, that I am not like this other man.” Truly, if we are honest before the face of God, rather than self-deceivingly comparing ourselves to others, each of us will see our own load (Galatians 6:5), and not fall into that self-deception that we are qualified to bear our brother’s burden because our own burden is less.

God grant unto us to be continually engaged in battling our own flesh, so that our own weakness and dependence would be continuously before us! Thus continuously humiliated, the Spirit-fruit of gentleness will be ripening so that we may be useful to our brothers rather than harmful to both ourselves and to them.
What fleshly aspects have you been battling? How has this been emphasizing to you that you are nothing? In light of what this passage teaches: if you do start to feel that you are superior to a brother, what would be a good way to cultivate renewed humility and gentleness?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

2020.02.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 1:9-18

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Hannah do in 1 Samuel 1:9? After what? Where? What kind of meal would this have been? Who was there? Where was he sitting? How did she feel (1 Samuel 1:10)? What did she do unto the Lord? What was she doing while she prayed? What kind of prayer does 1 Samuel 1:11 describe? What does she ask for the Lord to do? If He answers, what does she promise to the Lord that she will do? What was Eli watching (1 Samuel 1:12)? But where was Hannah speaking (1 Samuel 1:13)? What couldn’t Eli hear? What did he think? What did Eli ask in 1 Samuel 1:14? What did he command! How does Hannah answer with respect to her own spirit (1 Samuel 1:15)? What had she not done? What had she done? What does she call a woman who would let herself be drunk (1 Samuel 1:16)? What is her explanation in verse 16 for the manner of her speech? Now what does Eli tell her to do (1 Samuel 1:17)? And what blessing does he pronounce on her? What is Hannah willing to do now (1 Samuel 1:18, cf. end of 1 Samuel 1:7)? What can no longer be seen on her face?
The Lord Jesus’s sacrifice was on display in the sacrifices at the tabernacle in Shiloh. And the Lord Jesus’s priesthood was on display in the high priesthood of Eli in Shiloh.

Now, Eli couldn’t hear Hannah pray, but we both watch and listen, and find that she is an example unto us of how faith clings to Christ. She is not satisfied for mere outward formalities of worship. The animals are slaughtered, sacrifices offered, and ceremonial meal is going. Everyone else eats and drinks, but Hannah doesn’t eat until 1 Samuel 1:18.

Why? She must have heart-dealings with the Lord first. Her soul is bitter (1 Samuel 1:10), so she speaks in her heart (1 Samuel 1:13), and she pours out her soul (1 Samuel 1:15). There is no hint here of the idea that New Testament religion is all inward and spiritual (the Lord wants our actions and manner too!), while Old Testament religion was all outward and formal (the Lord stirred up believers hearts and inner being toward Himself then, too!).

Consider that at the end of 1 Samuel 1:18, Hannah is eating, and all is well with her heart-revealing face. What has changed? Has she conceived? Has the Lord remembered her? No, those things don’t happen until back in Ramah. But she has had opportunity to pour herself out to Him, and His appointed mediator has taken up her case to God and pronounced God’s blessing to her. Her circumstances haven’t changed, but the reality of God’s covenant grace literally transforms the face of the very same set of circumstances.

Now, if Hannah can lay hold of God this way, and go from grief to gladness by vigorously engaging Him to whom she came through the blood of bulls and the mediation of Eli, how much more ought we to freely and vigorously pour ourselves out to God? We come through the shed blood of Jesus, and the personal high-priestly ministry of our risen Redeemer! Shall we not take any bitterness of soul that we have, and pour our souls out to God through Him, and be relieved of our anguish even before the circumstance resolves?!
When did you last pour out your soul unto the Lord? When might you do so?
Suggested Songs: ARP102A “To This My Prayer” or TPH520 “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

2020.02.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 103:1-12

Questions from the Scripture text: What or whom is the Psalmist commanding to bless the Lord (Psalm 103:1)? With how much of what is within him is he to obey this command? How many times does he give himself this command (Psalm 103:2a)? What is he not to forget (verse 2b)? What is the first benefit not to forgive (Psalm 103:3a)? What is the second (verse 3b)? The third (Psalm 103:4a)? The fourth (verse 4b)? What is one of the tender mercies of God (Psalm 103:5a)? What effect does it have (verse 5b)? What does the Lord do for the oppressed (Psalm 103:6)? What has He done for His people (Psalm 103:7)? What four aspects of His character does He highlight in Psalm 103:8? Of what does this make the Psalmist confident, with respect to the Lord’s anger (Psalm 103:9)? With respect to our sins and punishment (Psalm 103:10)? What point is Psalm 103:11 making about the greatness of God’s mercy? What point is Psalm 103:12 making about the completeness of His forgiveness? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration come from Psalm 103:1-12 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing. The Psalm commands us, at its beginning and end, to bless the Lord with our soul. And, to that purpose, it calls upon us to remember all of His benefits.

These benefits include the healing of all of our diseases, the redeeming of our lives from destruction, crowning us with steadfast love and compassion, satisfying our mouths with good things, and renewing our youth.

Ultimately, however, every single other blessing must come by way of the forgiveness of our sins. We are unworthy of the least benefit, but the Lord loves to display the greatness of His compassion, His grace, His patience, and His mercy (Psalm 103:9). This makes believers prime candidates for the display of these characteristics.

Sinners such as we are have need of higher-than-heavens unthwartable love (Psalm 103:11) and geographically immeasurable guilt removal (Psalm 103:12).

Every single blessing we receive shouts that God has not dealt with us according to our sins but according to His salvation—not according to our character but according to His. And so, let us not fail to praise and thank Him for even the least blessing. Unto people such as we are, the least blessing is an extension of the greatest grace!
What ‘small’ blessings of yours could be frequent reminders of infinite grace? 
Suggested songs: ARP103B “Bless the Lord, My Soul” or TPH103E “O Come, My Soul”

Monday, February 3, 2020

2020.02.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 1:1-4

Questions from the Scripture text: When had God spoken (Hebrews 1:1)? In what ways had God spoken? By whom? When has God spoken in Hebrews 1:2? By Whom? What has He appointed Him to be? What did He do through Him? Of what is the Son the brightness (Hebrews 1:3)? Of what is He the express image? What does the Son uphold? By what? When did He sit down? Where? What had He become (Hebrews 1:4)? What had He obtained? How? 
God seeks worshipers by Christ, because He seeks a specific kind of worship—that which comes to Him in a way that is consistent with His nature (John 4:16-26).

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth. And those who draw near to God must regard Him as holy by coming to Him only through Christ, and those specific means by which the Lord has given to us to come through Him (Leviticus 9:18-10:3).

In fact, the Lord says that in order to draw near to God with the heart, and to offer Him worship that is not vain, we must not mix the traditions of men in with the commandments of God, as if our ideas could come through Christ in the same way as God’s commands do (Matthew 15:1-20).

Not surprisingly, we have found that Christ is at the center of all of these big Scripture truths about God’s people’s holy assemblies of worship. So, the Holy Spirit begins with the glory of Christ as He inspires the writer of this entire Bible book urging us not to forsake the assembly; but, to come with confidence, boldness, assurance, reverence, and awe.

As He takes us to that conclusion, He presents the Lord Jesus to us as the One who preaches in the assembly, as the One who sings in the assembly, as the One who leads the assembly, as the One who has qualified us to assemble, as the One who mediates our prayers in the assembly, and as the One who presents to us His own flesh and blood in the assembly.

The more we learn about what God has commanded in worship, the more He turns our attention to the incomparable glory of Christ, and the incorruptible value of His priestly sacrifice that undergirds His priestly work in leading our worship. The more we see the glory of Christ, the more we will value this worship that the Lord has designed! And the more we participate in this kind of worship, the more we will see the glory of Christ!

This is the purpose of all creation, all providence, and all redemption. And this is the true and increasing desire of every genuine believer: the displaying and delighting-in of the glory of Christ! Praise be to God for thus designing the holy assemblies of His church.
What should you be focusing upon during corporate worship? What should you believe to be happening during corporate worship? What should you want from it?
Suggested Songs: ARP22C “I’ll Praise You in the Gathering” or TPH281 “Rejoice the Lord Is King”