Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2018.01.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 13:2-18

Questions for Littles: What was Abram very rich in (v2)? Where did Abram return, after having been rebuked for his trip to Egypt and his conduct there (v3-4)? And what did he do, when he returned to Bethel? What did Lot have (v5)? Why couldn’t they dwell together (v6)? What happened between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen (v7)? Who wanted this strife to end in v8? What did he propose in v9? What did Lot see about the plain of the Jordan (v10)? Whom did he choose to live there (v11)? Where in the plain did Lot dwell (v12)? Toward where did he pitch is tent? What comment does the Lord make about this place in v13? Who spoke to Abram in v14? What did He promise to him in v14-15? What else did He promise in v16? What did He command Abram in v17? Where did Abram go in v18? What did he do there?
The passage for this week’s Old Testament reading presents to us a humbled Abram. When he comes back to the land to which the Lord had originally commanded him, he goes all the way back to the place that the Lord had brought him at first. And he worships.

In fact, the passage is bookended by worship at Bethel and worship at Mamre. In between, the man who has been humbled before God is also humbled before others.

No longer is he seeking to preserve his own skin by taking advantage. Rather, he is trusting the Lord to take care of him, and avoiding strife by inviting his nephew to have the first pick of the land.

Sadly, Lot sought to improve his earthly circumstances rather than abandoning his wealth to stay with his uncle. Abram wasn’t just family; he was the man to whom and in whom the covenant promises had been made. If it comes down to choosing between a fortune and being with God’s Mediator, then what shall we choose? Lot chose poorly.

Eventually, we find him in the cities of the plain… and at last, alas, toward Sodom! What would come of him and his family from all of this? He would end up losing all of his earthly treasures anyway. And worse things too.

For Abram, however, trusting the Lord is rewarded. We know that Abram could see the plain from his new home (cf. 19:27-28). The Lord promised it all to him, both his area and Lots, and everywhere else!

Here, then, is the choice that faces each of us: live in humble dependence upon the Lord that leads to avoiding strife and enjoying blessing? Or, live for earthly treasure in the moment, slowly sliding toward Sodom?
With whom do you have strife? Before whom should you be humbling yourself as the beginning of a remedy for that strife?
Suggested songs: ARP78A “O Come, My People” or HB89 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

2018.01.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Samuel 7:3-12

Questions for Littles: To whom was Samuel speaking (v3)? What did he tell them to do with all their hearts? What did they have to put away? What would they need to prepare, if they were to serve the Lord only? What did Samuel promise, as God’s prophet, would happen if they did this (v3)? How do the people respond in v4? Then what does Samuel offer to do in v5? Even though the people have changed their ways, what do they do and say in v6? And what does Samuel do there? What do the Philistines do, when they realize that Israel is gathered in one place (v7)? And what do the people, now all the more, ask Samuel to do in v8? What does Samuel do, first, before he prays in v9? How does this verse describe his praying? What was Samuel doing in v10? How did the Lord respond? What did the Israelites do in v11? What did Samuel set up in v12? 
This week’s Invocation and Confession of sin came from 1Samuel 7:3-12, a point at which the Lord had severely humbled the Israelites. He had killed more than fifty thousand of them. This was so unbelievable that a few Hebrew manuscripts went ahead and deleted the fifty thousand and just left the seventy!

The question in 6:20 is one that we all need to ask: “Who is able to stand before Yahweh, this holy God?” And there are three good answers here.

The first good answer is: those who come to God through His appointed Mediator. Samuel, here, is acting as a prophet, as a priest, and even as a ruler of sorts (a judge). He is a foreshadowing of Jesus. Who is able to stand before the holy God? The one who comes to Him in Jesus.

The second good answer is: those for whom there is an atoning sacrifice. Again, this looks forward to Jesus. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The third good answer is: certainly not God’s enemies! The holiness of God, and His almighty power, are great comforts to those who belong to Him in Jesus Christ. We know that no enemy, however powerful, can stand before Him.

At some point, every single one of us is actually going to stand before the holy God. Will we do so, as those who are coming to Him through Jesus Christ, our Prophet, Priest, King, and Atoning Sacrifice? Or will it be as an enemy who is about to perish? Lord, bring us to faith in You!
If you were to stand before the Lord, the holy God, today… could you?
Suggested songs: ARP32A-B “What Blessedness” or HB281 “How Blessed Is He Whose Trespass”

Monday, January 29, 2018

2018.01.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 8:1-6

Questions for Littles: Who has the kind of High Priest that v1 describes? Where is He seated? In what sanctuary (holy place) and tabernacle does He serve (v2)? Who erected it? What is every high priest appointed to offer (v3a)? Therefore, which High Priest had to offer something (v3b)? Where do priests offer their gifts according to the [Levitical] law (v4)? Of what were those earthly things a copy and shadow (v5a)? Whom had God shown this pattern on a mountain (v5b)? What kind of ministry has Jesus obtained (v6a)? Of what is He the Mediator (v6b)? Upon what was that covenant established (v6c)?
The Scripture for the sermon this week, we continued to learn about how Jesus ministry in Heaven connects to His church on earth. His once-for-all sacrifice was just part of this amazing ministry.

The Lord Jesus, even seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, continues to offer gifts! We’ve already learned about some of these worship offerings: declaring God’s name to us (2:12a), singing God’s praise in the midst of us (2:12b), offering to God His faith and faithfulness as ours (2:13a), presenting those whom He has redeemed in glory (2:13b), receiving tithes (7:4-10), and offering prayers for us (7:25, cf. 5:7).

Preaching, singing, confessing the faith, tithing, and praying… what does that sound like? Well… it doesn’t sound like animal offerings, grain offerings, drink offerings, oil candles, burning incense, annual festivals, etc. Those things belonged to shadows that were done in a copy.

Now, a shadow and a copy cannot exist without the real thing. And they give a shape, a picture, so that someone who looks at them can have some appreciation for the real thing.

It was always Christ that a true Jewish believer was trusting in—not the copies or shadows themselves. Now that He has come and is making the real offerings in glory, there is no need for the shadows or copies any more.

As we trust in Jesus, and especially every week, as we worship Him and worship through Him, we are celebrating our perfect Mediator!
Instead of celebrating the shadows, what (Whom!) should we celebrate?
Suggested Songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Saturday, January 27, 2018

2018.01.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:26-28

Questions for Littles: Who is the High Priest who was fitting for us (v26a)? What five things in v26 describe how and why Jesus is fitting? What does Jesus not need to do daily (v27a)? What did Jesus do once for all (v27b)? What kind of men did the law appoint as priests (v28a)? What appointed a perfected Son forever (v28b)?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we learned not only that Jesus’s priesthood is firm and forever, but also that it is fitting and finished.

It was a frightful thing to be a High Priest in the Old Testament. The spiritual health of the nation depended upon his remaining ceremonially clean so that he could offer the proper sacrifices. But there were so many ways, lurking around every corner for him to become unclean!

Have you ever wondered why the Lord would make it so difficult? One reason is so that we can more wonderfully and clearly see how exactly and completely suitable Christ is as our High Priest.

He is holy. The word here is not the normal word for holiness, which emphasizes being set apart, but rather morally pure and superior.

He is harmless. It is impossible for Him to do anything that is evil.

He is undefiled. There isn’t the slightest spot of guilt or uncleanness in Him.

He is separate from sinners. Having ascended into heaven, it is impossible that He could ever be stained by us.

He is higher than the heavens. Having ascended into heaven, it is impossible that He could ever be brought down by us.

So, not only was He able to finish in one afternoon sacrifice what fourteen hundred years of repeated sacrifices didn’t begin, but when Jesus had done that He sat down at the right hand of majesty. Why?

Because He is the Son of God and has a right to the throne!

This is the High Priest whom the word of the oath has appointed for us. The more we exalt Jesus Christ, and consider Him in His current glory on high, the more we’ll realize how absolutely sure our salvation is in Him!
What gets in the way of our realizing and remembering how great is the current glory of Christ? What can we do get a better grasp of it?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or HB132 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”

Friday, January 26, 2018

2018.01.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 9:1-13

Questions for Littles: Some of whom, did Jesus say, would not taste death until they saw the kingdom of God having come with power (v1)? How many days later does v2 occur? Who takes disciples up the mountain? Whom does He take? Who is transfigured before them? What happens to His clothes in v3? Who appear in v4? With whom are they talking? Who jumps into the conversation in v5? What does He suggest they do? Why did he say this (v6)? What comes and overshadows them (v7)? What comes out of the cloud? What does the voice say? What suddenly happens (v8)? Until when does Jesus command that they should tell no one the things they had seen (v9)? What did they question (v10)? What do they ask Him (v11)? And what does He ask them in response (v12)? What does He say happened when the Elijah prophet came (v13)?
In the Gospel reading this week, the Lord is still dealing with us about our false expectations of what it will be like to be His disciples. The passage is closely connected to the preceding one in chapter 8, where Peter takes it upon himself to pull Jesus aside and correct Him (!) for saying that He had to suffer and die.

On this particular occasion, Jesus’s glory is revealed in a physical way, and Moses and Elijah appear to them, and they are talking with Jesus. What does Peter do? He says the first thing he can think of: “We should have a campout!”

The Scripture even emphasizes that he said this precisely because he didn’t know what to say. Here’s an idea: if you don’t know what to say, then don’t say anything at all! God takes over the conversation and gives Peter some advice: if the beloved Son of God is in the conversation, you just shut your mouth and listen. “Hear Him!”

What does He say? “I’m going to rise from the dead.” They are so resistant to the idea of His death that they don’t understand what He means by “risen from the dead”!

So, they ask Him a Bible question. The scholar theologians of the day interpreted Scripture to say that Elijah would come before the Christ (cf. Mal 4:5-6). So the disciples, now convinced that Jesus is the Christ, wonder why Elijah hadn’t come.

Notice how Jesus points out their inconsistency before He answers. It’s like He’s saying, “So, you’ll take the Scripture seriously when it says that Elijah comes first, but you’re determined not to take it seriously when it says that the Messiah must suffer?”

I’m afraid we are often like Peter and the others: very intrigued by some fine question in the Scripture, while neglecting other things that are most plain and necessary. This most of all: this glorious Lord Jesus suffered and died for sinners!
Does your attitude toward suffering in the Christian life match up with the passage that led to this discussion in the first place?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or HB366 “Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right”

Thursday, January 25, 2018

2018.01.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 9:1-13

Questions for Littles: What does Paul say in v1, even though he is writing Scripture as an apostle? After making statements like that, what does he say in v2? Finally, when we get to v3, what amazing thing does he say (“accursed” means condemned to Hell) that makes us understand why he would lead with vv1-2? What are some of the privileges that the Israelites had, in vv4-5, that yet had not led to many of them believing in Jesus and being saved? Why wasn’t it the case, then, that the word of God had taken no effect (v6)? Who are not all Israel? Who are not all Abraham’s seed (offspring, v7)? Which children are the children of God (v8)? What was the word of promise (v9)? What things were the same for Jacob and Esau (v10-11)? But what did God say to her in v12 (Cf. Gen 25:23)? And what does God ultimately say of Jacob and Esau (v13)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learn how it is that the same people can come from the same family, and learn the same theology, and go to the same church, and hear the same preaching… and some of them are saved, but some of them aren’t. Some of them grow, and some of them never do, only having appeared to belong to the Lord.

It is the “purpose of God according to election” so that it will be “not of works but of Him who calls” (v11).

Of course, by the time Paul is talking like this in Romans, it is unthinkable that we would ever say of God’s judgments, “That’s not fair!” Remember Romans 1:18-3:20? Well, I suppose if we look down to vv20-24, we can see that some people would still make that complaint. But of course they are wrong. We all deserve to go to Hell. None of us  deserve to be saved.

In fact, that’s the point of vv4-5, isn’t it? Even with all those advantages, we are so wicked and hard-hearted that without God working an immediate miracle upon our hearts, we will not turn and believe!

So, it is only the determined, selecting love of the Lord that can save anyone at all.

Does this doctrine make someone a calculating, cold-hearted theologian? Absolutely not! Just look at the opening three verses, and the expression of love from the apostle writing this!! It makes us so grateful to have been saved so completely by grace that we willingly acknowledge that we don’t deserve it and have broken hearts for all who are perishing!
Whom do you know that is currently rejecting Christ? How have you been able to see that your heart is breaking for them? How does the fact that God alone can do anything about it present itself in your prayer life?
Suggested songs: ARP4 “Answer When I Call” or HB402 “I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew”

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

2018.01.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:10-13:1

Questions for Littles: What was in the land (v10a)? Where did Abram go (v10b)? Where were they when Abram told Sarai his plan (v11)? What did he think that the Egyptians might do (v12)? What did he ask Sarai to do (v13)? What did the Egyptians see in v14? Whom did the princes of Pharaoh tell about her (v15)? What happened to Sarai? How did Pharaoh treat Abram (v16)? Why? What did Abram have? What did Yahweh do to Pharaoh (v17a)? Why? What did Pharaoh somehow figure out was the reason for the plagues (v18)? Who is rebuking whom in v18-19? What did Pharaoh do in v20? Where’d Abram go (v1a)? Who went with him (v1b)? 
The passage for this week’s Old Testament reading must have been humbling for Moses and the Israelites who were with him.

It isn’t difficult for us to surmise that they considered themselves to be great moral superiors to Pharaoh, and perhaps even think that the plagues that the Lord sent upon Egypt were somehow indications of their own superiority.

But here is father Abram on the receiving end of a very correct and scathing rebuke from Pharaoh himself. And the “great plagues” from Yahweh in v17 aren’t because Pharaoh was wicked, but because Abram was!

And then there is Pharaoh, sending Abram back to the promised land. That’s a mite bit less dignified than when Yahweh had called him! But Abram hadn’t valued the land. He got a little hungry and wanted to head for Egypt.

Sound familiar? It should! Because that’s exactly the response of the generation that first received this book of the Bible, when they got hungry in the wilderness.

And aren’t we a little too much like them ourselves? Sanctification plummets when we’re hungry, or tired, or busy, or uncomfortable. We don’t value the covenant blessings of God over temporary good feelings.

We come up with plans to stop other people from sinning—by ourselves sinning. Notice that it was a judgment against Abram that the plan worked!

Of course, the good news is that Abram wasn’t saved by works. He was saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And so may you and I be!
When has the Lord used the wicked to humble you? Did you learn your lesson?
Suggested songs: ARP78A “O Come, My People” or HB89 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

2018.01.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 2:19-22

Questions for Littles: What are we no longer (v19a)? What are we now (v19b)? Upon what foundation has this house been built (v20a)? Of whom are these apostles and prophets an extension (v20b)? When the building is fitted together this way, what does it grow into (v21)? For whom is this temple a dwelling place (v22)? How is it that God dwells in us? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Ephesians. Today’s devotional considers one of those passages from which they came. At this point in Ephesians, the apostle has just been talking about how the Lord has reconciled not only sinners to Himself, but especially how in Himself, He has reconciled sinners to each other.

This turns out to be important not only for our own well-being and interaction, but especially because of what the Lord has intended for us to be since before the world even began: monuments to the praise of His glorious grace! (see 1:6, 1:12, 1:14).

Why is it so important that we no longer be foreigners but rather fellow citizens of the same kingdom? Why is it so important that we no longer be strangers but rather members of the same household?

Why is it so important that we be able to say of the folks in the church, more than we would say of anyone else, “these are my people, and this is my family”?

Because the temple of the glory of the Lord is being built by Christ’s fitting us together in Himself. If we refuse to be fitted together—if we resist one another, refuse to cover over things in love, treat one another with contempt or even just indifference… if we are harsh, or take offense easily, or fail in gentleness and tenderheartedness… if we keep a record of wrongs or refuse to believe all things and hope all things… then like Sanballat and Tobias of old, we are setting ourselves up against construction progress on the temple of the Lord.

Nothing can be added to the foundation now. The apostles and prophets—extensions of the Lord Jesus who is the cornerstone—have come and gone. There is no other building; the Lord has chosen this one for Himself.

How petty would we have to be to value our pride over the glory of the Lord Himself? How short-sighted would we have to be to give little value to the Lord growing and building us into Himself so that we may be the dwelling place of God in the Spirit?!

Lord, help Your church to see that glory to which You have called us!
What are you doing to help or to hinder the unity of the church?
Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or HB437 “The Church’s One Foundation”

Monday, January 22, 2018

2018.01.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:20-25

Questions for Littles: Who wasn’t Jesus made priest without (v20)? What did the others become priest without (v21a)? Who swore an oath to Jesus that He would be priest forever (21b)? Who has become surety of our covenant (v22)? Of what kind of covenant has He become surety for us? Why were there many priests in the previous covenant (v23)? Who continues forever (v24)? Why is Jesus’s priesthood unchangeable? Who is able to save those who come to God through Him (v25a)? How completely is He able to save them (v25b)? Why is He able to save them to the uttermost? 
The Scripture for the sermon this week reminded us again of how Jesus was made our Great High Priest with the solemn oath that the Lord swore in Psalm 110. That, of course, took us back to 6:13-20, where we learned that this swearing of an oath is for our sakes, because God wants us to be sure and confident about Christ.

This week’s passage built upon that, repeating the part about the oath at both the start and end of the passage, and pointing to Jesus as our surety. That word means that if it is through Jesus that we have come to God, then Jesus is the One who backs us up in our relationship with God!

So Jesus’s priesthood is firm.

And it is forever.

That might not sound revolutionary to us, but it certainly was so to the Hebrews who went from one high priest, to another, to another. Why? Because they kept dying!

But even when the Lord Jesus had died on account of all of our sins, He couldn’t stay dead. He was raised from the dead on account of our having been made right with God. And He can never die again.

Therefore, He is able to save us completely—He cannot fail to save us, and nothing else can stop Him. Why? Not just because of how long He is living, but also because of what He’s doing with that forever-life: interceding for us.

Jesus didn’t just die for us once. He is living for us. Forever! And there is nothing surer than that.

Beloved, you can be confident in Him. Hallelujah!
Into what uncertain situation do you need this reminder of Jesus’s sure salvation?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Saturday, January 20, 2018

2018.01.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:17-19

Questions for Littles: What does Scripture testify (v17)? For how long is Jesus a priest? According to what/whose order is Jesus a priest? What happened to the former commandment (v18)? Why is the former commandment annulled (canceled)? What made nothing perfect (v19)? What did Jesus’s priesthood bring in? What do we do through this better hope?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we heard about how Jesus’s priesthood gives us final and full access to God in worship. That surer hope that last week’s passage (6:19-7:10) taught us about is the “better hope” through which 7:19 says we now draw near to God.

It is true that the tabernacle and the ceremonial law were great gifts—special provision through which sinful men could draw near to God in worship. But if these did not have Jesus to look forward to, they never would have worked at all.

In fact, 7:18 tells us why these had to be done away with: they were weak and unprofitable. In other words, our ability to enter God’s presence as sinners is more than a special tent (tabernacle) or house (temple) could provide, and the uncleanness and guilt of our sin is more than the holiness code or sacrifices could do anything about.

To put it bluntly with v19, the ceremonial law made nothing perfect. Just as the moral law could define morality perfectly but could not make us a single bit more moral ourselves, the ceremonial law could not actually give us forgiveness of sins, or make us holy, or obtain for us an eternal judgment verdict.

But, as we confessed with the elementary things of Christ (6:1-3), Jesus has done all of these things. And it is Jesus who is the anchor of our souls, the Forerunner who is most surely bringing us to glory (6:19-20).

Where the ceremonial law was weak, Jesus is strong. Where it could do no real good to those who followed it, Jesus does every possible true good to those who come to God through Him.

When we draw near to God through Jesus, as taught in His Word, we can be absolutely sure that we are finally and fully accepted, and that His work in us will most certainly be completed. This way of drawing near to God will never be annulled!
During what weekly activity does God’s congregation draw near to Him in Jesus? When else may draw near to God in Jesus? What does that look like?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or HB132 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”

Friday, January 19, 2018

2018.01.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 8:22-38

Questions for Littles: Where did Jesus come in v22? What did they beg Jesus to do to the blind man? What did Jesus do by touching the man’s hand in v23? Then what did Jesus do to the man’s eyes? When Jesus put His hands on the man again, what did He ask? How did the man answer (v24)? What does Jesus do when He touches the man the third time (v25)? Where does Jesus send the man in v26? What does He tell him not to do? Where are Jesus and the disciples, when they have the conversation in v27-33? What does Jesus ask them first (v27)? What do they answer (v28)? What does He ask them in v29a? What does Peter answer (29b)? What does He warn them in v30? What does He begin to teach them in v31? What does Jesus do to Him in v32? What does Jesus call Peter in v33? What explanation does Jesus give for that? Whom does He call to Himself for the rest of the lesson in v34? What does He say someone who desires to follow Him must do? Whom does He say will lose his life in v35? For what purpose does He say we should lose our life? What will we lose if we gain the whole world by being ashamed of Christ (v36-37)? Of whom must we not be ashamed (v38)? Of what must we not be ashamed? If are ashamed of Jesus and His words now, who will be ashamed of us and when?
In the Gospel reading this week, we face the fact that the Lord has His own plan and His own timing that are quite different from what we would do with our lives.

We know that Jesus doesn’t even need to touch the blind man to heal him. But Jesus takes him by the hand, puts His hands on the man’s eyes, and puts His hands on the man’s eyes again. That’s three different touchings, in addition to a leading out of town, a spitting on the eyes, and a raising up of the man’s face.

So many steps! Why? Because it’s the wisdom of Jesus to do it that way and in that much time.
Then there’s the warning of the man not to go into town or tell anyone from town. And there’s His strictly warning the disciples not (yet) to tell anyone that He is the Christ(!). Why? Because it’s the wisdom of Jesus to do it that way at that time.

Of course, we’re tempted to disagree with Him. In fact, the more we think that we know about Him, the more serious it seems that this temptation can be. It is specifically Peter, who has confessed Jesus as the Christ, who is suddenly so sure of himself that he earns being called Satan(!!).

And, often, it is we who have walked with the Lord and known His love and wisdom in other situations, who suddenly find ourselves most bewildered when His plan for our current situation is very different than we would have expected.

A cross? A world of people scorning me? What have I done to cause this?! The answer may be: nothing at all. It may in fact be that we’ve been given that cross and that scorn not for the sake of some error in our conduct but precisely for the sake of Jesus and His Word.

Let’s not give into the lie that if we just treat people well enough, they will like us. Jesus teaches us to expect the opposite. It’s the wisdom of Jesus to do it in this way at this time. Let us learn to be able to say, “It is the Lord; let Him do as seems best to Him!”
In what current situation in your life has the Lord’s wisdom puzzled you?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or HB366 “Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right”

Thursday, January 18, 2018

2018.01.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 8:28-39

Questions for Littles: Which things do we know work together for good (v28)? To whom do they work together for good? What did God also do to those whom He foreknew (29a)? To what did He predestine them (29b)? For what reason (29c)? What did He do for those whom He predestined (30a)? What did He do for those whom He called (30b)? What did he do for those whom He justified (30c)? Who is for us (31)? Who can (successfully) be against us? What (Whom!) did God not spare (32a)? What did God do with His Son for us? What will God give to us together with Him? What does God do instead of bringing a charge against His elect (33)? What does Jesus do, instead of condemning us (34)? What are some of the things that are not able to separate us from the love of Christ (35, 38-39)? What is one of the reasons that such things happen (36)? So, what is going on in the midst of these things (37)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we come to what is a favorite Scripture for many, many believers. All things must work together for our good. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. These are the things that make hearts swell up with joy and praise.

And we see here what wonderfully sure things they are.

God’s love is sure, because it goes back before time. God “foreknowing” His elect is not some form of divine cheating by sneaking a peek at the end. It’s talking about knowing in terms of a relationship: He loved us before the world began (cf. Eph 1:3-6). It was this love, that He simply decided to set upon us, that led to our being predestined.

God’s love is sure, because it is in Christ and for His sake. God loves the glory of His Son, and He has determined that for the Son’s great glory, He would be displayed as the firstborn of many brothers and sisters who have been shaped to look like Him. We’re predestined to bring Christ glory!

God’s love is sure, because His law now demands that it continue. We have been justified with Christ’s righteousness. The One who makes the charges at the judgment is the One who has justified us (33). The One who condemns at the judgment is the One who has taken our condemnation and is continually pleading our case (34).

God’s love is sure, because its most infinite gift has already been given, and it is irrational to think that anything else could possibly be held back (32).

There are many things that come into our lives that threaten to shake our joy in God’s love. But, when we consider them in the light of the teaching in these verses, that threat quickly dissolves.

We realize, instead, that even if we are like sheep being slaughtered, it is for His sake. It is because we are joined to Him in that love from which we can never be separated. It is most certain that this love will prevail with us, and that we will prevail in the trial. Even before the trial ends, we can know already that we are more than conquerors!

Election and predestination are not dry, dusty doctrines for theological fuddy-duddies. They are the foundation of sure, victorious love!
In what current circumstance do you most need to cling to the cross and God’s electing love?
Suggested songs: ARP4 “Answer When I Call” or HB402 “I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew”

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018.01.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:1-9

Questions for Littles: Who spoke to Abram in v1? What did He tell him to get out of? From whom did He tell him to go? To where did He tell him to go? What did God promise to make Abram into (2a)? What else did He promise to do (2b)? What did He promise to make great (2c)? What (whom!) did God promise to make a blessing? Whom did God promise to bless (3a)? Whom did God promise to curse (3b)? How many families of the earth would be blessed in Abram (3c)? How did Abram depart (4a)? Who went with him (4b)? How old was Abram when he departed from Haran (4c)? Whom did Abram take (5a)? What did Abram take (5b)? Where did they go? To what place did Abram pass through (6a)? How far did he go (6b)? Who were in the land (6b)? Who appeared to Abram (7a)? To whom did He promise to give the land (7b)? What did Abram build there? To whom? Where did Abram move from there (8a)? Where did he pitch his tent (8b)? What did he build there (8c)? What did he use the altar to do (8d)? What did he continue to do in the same manner (9a)? In what direction (9b)? 
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we come to what many refer to as “the call of Abram.” Abram and his family were still in Haran, where Terah’s journey toward Canaan had come to a permanent end. After Terah dies, Yahweh speaks to Abram, explaining to him why this wasn’t far enough.

Haran was still close enough to be considered his country. There were extended family still there. This was not a place of godliness (cf. Josh 24:2). This was not a place of faith. Abram’s was to be a life of faith that rested upon great promises.

Where does God call Abram to go? “a land that I will show you.” That’s a faith requirement isn’t it? Let a husband propose that family move to his wife. Husband: “honey, we’re moving.” Wife: “really, to where, dear?” Husband: “a land that I will show you.” Wife: “you know that’s not an actual name of a place, don’t you, dear?”

Perhaps Abram and Sarai had just such a conversation. The command comes with little in terms of immediate details about Abram’s new life, but with big promises. God basically promises to identify Himself with Abram now—taking personally whatever others do to Abram, and placing Abram and his family right at the center of His saving plans in the world.

Faith believes the promises. Faith doesn’t demand details. Faith does “just as Yahweh has spoken” (v4). Faith also does something else…

Faith worships. Abram gets to Shechem, where he finds out that it will actually be his descendants that receive the land and not he himself. And Abram worships. Abram goes east of Bethel. And worships.

He built no house. He built no city. He built altars to call upon the name of Yahweh. Priorities. First things first. Faith believes and obeys. And faith worships!
How can you tell that worship is the most important part of your life?
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or HB26 “O Worship the King All Glorious Above”

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Prayer Meeting tomorrow, 7p.m.

Prayer Meeting tomorrow at 7p.m. The folder for it is now available at -- as usual, we will be praying through the different major themes using the next particular Scripture focus identified in Matthew Henry's Method for Prayer (see

2018.01.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 2:16-21

Questions for Littles: By what is a man not justified (v16)? By what is a man justified? Into whom have we believed? Who shall be justified by the works of the law? What are we ourselves found to be, even while we seek to be justified by Christ (v17)? Does this make Christ a servant (minister) of sin? If we build again what we destroyed, what do we make ourselves into (v18)? What did we do through the law (v19a)? Why did we die to the law (v19b)? With whom have we been crucified (v20)? Who no longer lives? Who lives in us? How do we live the life that we now live in the flesh? What has the Son of God done for us? What must we not then set aside (v21)? Through what do those who set aside grace say that righteousness comes? If righteousness does come through the law, then what else is true (end of v21)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Galatians. This was one of the passages from which they came. False teachers had come to the Galatian church and insisted that believers had to maintain their right standing with God by keeping God’s law, and particularly circumcision.

In this passage, Peter had come up to Galatia and at first would eat with the Gentiles. But then, when some men came from the primarily Jewish church in Jerusalem (pastored by James the brother of Jesus, v12), Peter all of a sudden separated himself—not wanting to appear to be rejecting the law of circumcision by eating with the uncircumcised.

What a mess—and not just because feelings might be hurt. No, this was a much worse than that. He was making a mess of the gospel! Paul saw this happening, and rebuked Peter to his face, and today’s verses come from that speech.

We know that a man is made right with God only by what Jesus has done. That’s why, in order to be right with God, we believed into Jesus Christ (v16)! Apparently, some had come along and said that if that’s our theology, then Christ just gives us an excuse to sin and becomes a servant (minister, v17) of sin.

Paul announces that that is hogwash on two counts. First of all, hoping that the works of the law will maintain our right standing with God is “rebuilding what I had destroyed” (v18). That would be to set back up again a standard that we will never in this life keep. It would only result in making ourselves back into transgressors before God.

After all, it was the law that demanded that we be executed for our transgression. It was the law that refused to allow us to have spiritual life. It was the law that said, “Being made able to live unto God is a privilege that you don’t even deserve!” We had to die unto the law in order to live to God (v19)!

But it is faith that joins us to Jesus so that we are crucified with Him (20a). It is faith that joins Jesus to us, so that our new life is lived by His life in us and through us (20b). It is faith that clings to the love of Jesus and knows that it has Him (20c).

So, maintaining a righteous standing with God by works doesn’t work. And even worse, it doesn’t treasure Christ and cling to Him. In fact, it says, “I don’t need grace; He died for no reason.” What a terrible thing it is to try to maintain our standing with God by works!
What obedience to God are you most tempted to think is maintaining your right standing with Him?
Suggested songs: ARP32A-B “What Blessedness / Instruction I Will Give to You” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”

Monday, January 15, 2018

Worship Preview for January 21: Lord's Supper, new Psalm of the Month

Lord's Supper this coming Lord's Day (21-Jan-08)!

Just a reminder to come prepared to partake, and also that when we come to the table, any offerings that you bring in cash are received into the deacon's fund for helping the poor and needy.

It also means that it's time for a new Psalm of the Month. This month is Psalm 27:7-10 (a.k.a. 27C in the Blue), to the tune St. Peter (

O hear my voice, LORD, when I cry,
And answer me in grace.
When You said, "Seek my face," my heart
Said, "LORD, I'll seek Your face."

O do not cause Your face to be
Concealed from me, I pray.
Treat me, Your servant, without wrath;
Do not turn me away.

For You have surely been my help,
Do not abandon me;
Do not forsake me now, I pray,
O God who rescues me.

My father and my mother both
May leave me all alone,
But surely then the LORD Himself
Will take me as His own.

Also, as long as the book of Hebrews is opening up Psalm 110:4 in the sermon texts, we will be responding to the sermon by singing Psalm 110B. May the Lord grant that our children would grow up, exulting in Christ as their forever-king-priest, with that Psalm often on their lips, bringing Him to mind.

2018.01.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:11-16

Questions for Littles: Through what did perfection NOT come (v11)? Under what did the people receive the law? If perfection were through the Levitical priesthood, what would not have been needed? What was changed, when Jesus was acknowledged as the begotten Son of Psalm 2 and 110 (v12)? What else was changed, of necessity? Who belongs to another tribe than Levi (v13)? What had no man from that tribe done before? Who made this change of priesthood and law evident by arising from Judah (v14)? How much did Moses speak of Judah, concerning the priesthood? What made the change of priesthood and law far more evident (v15)? According to what did our Lord NOT come as a priest (v16a)? According to what DID our Lord come as a priest (v16b)?
The Scripture for the sermon this week dove even deeper into what it means for our walk with God that Jesus is “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” In last week’s passage, we heard that Jesus’s new priesthood gives us a surer hope. In this week’s, we hear that Jesus’s priesthood produces full and final access to God in worship. And in next week’s, we will hear that Jesus’s priesthood secures a better covenant.

The ceremonial law, which God gave through Moses, did not bring in perfection. That is to say that it could not accomplish the final, full, and complete relationship that God intended to form between Himself and His people.

Jesus, the new Melchizedekian Priest, shows that the ceremonial law that the people received under the Levitical priesthood was a temporary measure (v11). The ceremonial law taught the people how to be ready and clean and acceptable to draw near to God. The ceremonial law provided the way in which they could draw near to God. The ceremonial law taught them what to do when they were there.

So, it’s not surprising that this ceremonial law was precious to the people, along with the Levitical priesthood and the order of Aaron. These are great blessings. But they were imperfect. The Levites and priesthood of the Old Testament could not fully or finally bring the people near to God.

When the Jesus’s new priesthood appears, then all of these change: how to be acceptable for worship, and where to go for worship and what to do there. God made this abundantly clear, because our Lord arose from Judah (v14).

There was no command to any human to ordain Jesus (16a). Instead, there is something far superior: an endless life (16b). How long will Jesus’s blood and righteousness be what makes us acceptable as worshipers? As long as Jesus’s life!

How long will the right way of worshiping be with Jesus as the preacher, and Jesus leading the singing, and Jesus receiving the tithe, and Jesus pronouncing the blessing? As long as Jesus’s life!

Christian worship is no longer tied to a particular building, with particular furniture, and clergy of a particular ethnicity. It is tied to our great Priest in glory, and His endless life!
How does the simple worship of the NT show that Jesus is better than all the priests that ever came before Him? What happens when we fancy-up worship again ourselves?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Saturday, January 13, 2018

2018.01.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:1-10

Questions for Littles: What two titles did Melchizedek have (v1)? Whom did he meet? When? What did Abraham give him (v2)? What was the translation of his name? What does “king of Salem” mean? What things did he not have (v3)? What did it show about him that even the patriarch would give him a tenth (v4)? Who had a commandment to receive tithes from Israel (v5)? But who received tithes from Abraham and blessed him (v6)? But what did Abraham have (end of v6)? What does this mean about Melchizedek: which one is better, the one who blesses or the one who is blessed (v7)? What does v8 say Melchizedek is not? Who is the One now, of whom it is testified, “He lives”? Who else paid tithes to Melchizedek (v9-10)? What does this say about him?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we learn about someone who is better than Abraham.

That was shocking to a Jew to hear. The way they got Jesus sentenced to death was by accusing Him of preaching against Moses and the temple. The way they got Stephen executed was by accusing him of preaching against Moses and the temple.

And now Scripture is going to tell us about someone better than father (patriarch) Abraham who received the promises? Has it forgotten how great he was?! No, actually, it reminds us in the midst of the passage that he is the patriarch, the recipient of the promises!

How can Melchizedek be better? Well, there are some early clues. First, His name translates to “King of Righteousness.” Abraham had to have sacrifices for sin because he is unrighteous. Second, his title might not mean “King of the place called Jerusalem—city of peace” … rather, the place may have gotten its name because he is the “King of Peace.” After all, that hill was currently called Moriah, and the city up there was currently called Jebus.

King of peace? Abraham wasn’t king of anything. And he didn’t have much peace. In fact, he was a sojourner in the land. Then, there was the fact that Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek. v5 implies that this was somehow commanded by God, and v6-10 make very clear that this shows that God Himself considered Melchizedek better.

Finally, if we went back to Genesis 14, we would learn more about this blessing. Not only does Melchizedek bless Abraham, but Abraham learns how to think and speak (v22-23) by listening to Melchizedek (v18-19). It’s fair to say that, after Genesis 14, we spend the entire Bible looking for the reappearance of this eternal, infinitely great, King of righteousness and peace!
How does Jesus as ‘King’ inform our view of ourselves? How do we respond to this info?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or HB132 “All Hail the Power”

Friday, January 12, 2018

2018.01.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 8:11-21

Questions for Littles: What are the Pharisees seeking from Jesus as they dispute with Him and test Him (v11)? How does Jesus respond even before He talks (12a)? What does He say after He sighs like this (12b)? Where does He go now? What had the disciples forgotten (v14)? How many loaves did they have with them? If five loaves fed five thousand families, how many could Jesus feed with one loaf? What does Jesus warn them to watch out for in v15? Why do the disciples think He said this (v16)? What does this show Jesus about their understanding and their hearts (v17-18)? What questions does He ask them, and how do they answer, in v19-20? What question does He leave them with in v21? 
In the Gospel reading this week, everyone is disappointing Jesus.

First, the Pharisees exasperate Him by asking for a sign. When someone says, “I don’t believe you. Prove it,” the problem isn’t necessarily that the one who isn’t believing doesn’t have enough evidence. Jesus had shown plenty signs.

We want to distance ourselves from the Pharisees, and say, “See! They hated Him so much that they still refused to believe in Him!” But does Jesus say that it was specifically the Pharisees who were asking for a sign?

Jesus says that this problem was one that belonged to their generation as a whole! And if it was a problem that was limited to the Pharisees, how would the warning in v15 make sense?

That brings us to His disappointment with the disciples. A parallel passage tells us at the end that they later understood that He was warning them about the teaching of Pharisees. The Holy Spirit has Mark leave that part out so that their lack of understanding will be front and center.

It’s kind of humiliating actually: “Do you mean you guys still can’t count to 12 or count to 7?” “Do you mean that you guys can’t remember all the way back to like… yesterday?”

But that’s just the point. No sign is necessary for the Pharisees or for the disciples or for Herod, because Jesus has given more than ample demonstration of Himself!

And this is true not only in Scripture but even in your own life, isn’t it dear Christian? How can you not count and recognize and remember how He continually spares you from the consequences of your sin, continually treats you according to His own love, based upon what His own righteousness deserves?
What might our hearts be secretly insisting that Jesus “would really do” if He is our Savior?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Nations Rage?” or HB369 “How Firm a Foundation”

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018.01.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 8:15-27

Questions for Littles: What spirit did we not receive (15a)? To not do what? What Spirit did we receive (15b)? What does He make us cry out? Who bears witness with us (16)? What does He testify? What three things do we do jointly with Christ, according to v17? What do we have in the present time (18)? With what are they not worthy to be compared? Where will this glory be revealed? Who(what) is eagerly waiting for this revelation (v19)? What was it subjected to (20)? Who subjected it? In what did He subject it? When the children of God are revealed from what will creation be delivered (21)? Into what? What does the whole creation do (v22)? Who else groans (v23)? What does our groaning wait for? If we are still hoping for this, what do we not yet do (v24)? How do we wait for it (v25)? Who else groans (v26)? With what is He helping us as He groans in this way (26a)? According to whose will is this groaning intercession (v27)? And who listens to this groaning of the Spirit’s mind?
In this week’s Epistle reading, there is a whole lot of groaning going on. The whole creation is groaning. We are groaning. The Holy Spirit is groaning.

That might sound like a bad thing at first, until we realize that the Holy Spirit is doing it too. What is going on here? There is a sense in which we are already saved (v24). But there is a real sense in which our salvation is not yet complete (cf. 13:11).

We aren’t resurrected yet. Our bodies are not glorious yet. And these are reminders that we are still in the midst of that struggle from the second half of chapter 7. Remaining sin—now there’s a reason for some groaning!

But we’re not groaning in fear. We’re groaning in hope. The creation is groaning in hope. Its bondage to corruption is time-limited. When “the big reveal” that God has made us His children happens, the entire creation will be remade. Until then, God has subjected it to futility.

But at the day of resurrection, we won’t just be revealed to be physically indestructible. We’ll be revealed to have been made perfectly holy like our daddy. We will be revealed to be the sons, the children, of God.

This is why the Spirit does not make us to grown in anxiety or fear—as if the work of God in us might never make any progress… as if it wasn’t genuinely on its way to being completed at the last. No, He is a Spirit of adoption to us. He trains us to call God, “daddy”—not in the sense of taking God lightly, but rather in the sense of taking holiness seriously.

We already know that as joint-hears with Christ, we will be jointly-glorified with Christ. The glory that is coming is not merely a glory that will be revealed to us but a glory that will be revealed in us. And that’s the comparison in v18. That’s what the suffering is being used by God to produce.

The Holy Spirit is praying that we would be made like Jesus, so that we can enjoy bringing to Him that glory forever! He groans that we would not continue as we are. And we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit also groan. And the whole creation groans. And God will do it! He’ll finish the work!
How do your prayers groan toward holiness and resurrection? What trial is this passage sweetening?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or HB369 “How Firm a Foundation”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2018.01.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 11:10-32

Questions for Littles: With whom does the genealogy start in v10? Whom do you recognize in the family at the end of the genealogy in v26? What do you notice about the ages of the men as we go along? Comparing this genealogy of the line of the promise to the one in chapter 5, what point about each of the men is interestingly missing? What are we reminded about Abram’s origins in both v28 and v31? What point does v30 make about Sarai? Where had Terah planned to go (31b)? But what happened to him (32)?
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we move rather quickly from the flood to Abram. We know from the earlier part of the chapter that some pretty exciting things happened during this time. And, this happened pretty quickly.

In fact, doing the math, Abram was born only some 295 years, give or take (depending upon whether Nahor or Haran might have been born before him). That means that he may have already been alive at the time of Babel (depending upon when in Peleg’s 239 years Nimrod “began” his kingdom at Babel. It also means that Shem was alive for Abraham’s entire life and could well have known Jacob.

The effects of the fall weigh heavily upon this chapter. The lengths of the men’s lives are decreasing. The incident at Babel hangs in the background. Haran dies even before his own father. Sarai is not obeying the command “be fruitful and multiply” not by choice, but because she is barren. It is a hard, broken world.

We may find v31 in particular interesting. Was 12:1 not the first time, and Abram not the first person, whom God had called to Canaan? Why was Terah all of a sudden going there? The text is simply silent.

Things are not spiritually much better than they are physically. We might be able to draw conclusions—since Shem’s clan stuck around with Ham all they way down until v18 and Peleg. But Joshua 24:2-3 makes it explicit: Terah had not brought Abraham up in the Lord, but rather serving other gods.

Sometimes, even in the line of promise, even in the covenant line, a clean break has to be made if the generations of the family are going to go back to serving the Lord. The generations of Shem may have moved away from the Lord, but the Lord had not moved away. He was still faithfully bringing about His promises. He was still faithfully committed to that family—even when there were generations at a time that were not committed to Him!
What ancestors of yours were believers? For what descendants of yours are you concerned? How does God’s covenant faithfulness strengthen you to prayer and labor for their souls?
Suggested songs: ARP90A “Lord, You Have Been” or HB111 “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

2018.01.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 72

Questions for Littles: Whose Psalm was this? What did he want God to give to the king (v1a)? To the king’s Son (1b)? Whom would the king judge with what (2a, 2b)? And what would respond by imitating Him (3a, 3b)? What kinds of people would He especially help and oppose (v4, 12-14)? How long would His kingdom have this impact (v5)? How great would be His effect upon the people (v6-7a,b)? And for how long (7c, 17)? How large would His kingdom be (v8)? Whom would it include (v9, 10, 11)?? What prophecy, in particular is fulfilled about Him (9b)? What will be done for Him (15)? And how will creation respond (16)? What is the ultimate result of the kingdom described in this Psalm (v18-19)? Of what is this Psalm a summary and climax (v20)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Psalm 72.

Although as the Psalms are arranged in our Bibles, this one comes fairly early on, it is worth recognizing that v20 causes us to consider it a great climax in the Psalter, and that v18-19 cause us to consider its subject matter to be the wondrous things that only Yahweh God can do, and that are the greatest cause of His being glorified forever and filling the earth with His glory.

So, pretty quickly, we’ve moved beyond the possibility that this is Solomon praying, “Dear Lord, help me to be a good king.” He’s not just praying for a kingly son of David. He’s praying for “The” Kingly Son of David…

Whose rule would be not just over Israel, but over the whole earth. And who would not just reign for a good long while, but forever and ever. And not only over men, but over all of creation in such a way that it actually undoes the Fall—for mountains and hills, but also for the interaction of people during His reign. He would ultimately raise up the poor and oppressed and needy, and bring down all oppressors.

Bringing down oppressors is a duty of all kings. Raising up all the poor and needy is an impossibility unless the fall itself is undone. Jesus Himself said, “the poor you will always have with you.”

But undoing the fall is exactly what this king would do. v9 tells us that this is the serpent’s-head-crusher that this Psalm is talking about. The One before whom the serpent would go on his belly. The One before whom the serpent would eat dust all his days.

This Psalm is about Jesus, our forever King whose salvation is God’s most wondrous work!
What result of this Psalm haven’t come yet? How are you praying, praising, and working for it?
Suggested songs: ARP72B “Nomads Will Bow” or HB496 “Jesus Shall Reign”

Monday, January 08, 2018

2018.01.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 6:19-20

Questions for Littles: How does this hope function for our souls? What kind of anchor is it? Where does our hope enter? Who has entered there for us? What has He become? For how long? 
The Scripture for the sermon this week began by taking up the idea of “the hope set before us.” This is the hope of which God Himself wants us to be more sure, as we learned in the previous passage. So, it’s pretty important to answer the question: what hope is it?

Is it the hope that I will feel better about myself? Have less trouble in this life? Stop having to worry about money? Do better at relationships? Those are some of the hopes that people have, and we too often hear preaching that present such things as the hope that is set before us.

Well, the hope that we have is described here as an anchor. Wait… what? I want to be free! I want to move! What do you mean an anchor? Anchors just drag me down!

Not this anchor. You see, it depends upon where the anchor is. This particular anchor drags us up. It refuses to let us aim too low, remaining stubbornly stuck where it is. And where is it? In the Presence behind the veil.

Now that’s inviting… you might even say enticing. A veil is meant to keep you out. A veil is meant to hide your view. And indeed, before Christ it was forbidden to enter the Holy of Holies or even to see it. Not because God isn’t generous, but because entering or viewing is dangerous for sinners. It’s a recipe for being killed, being incinerated by the fire of His holiness!

So, the High Priest would enter for you. The High Priest would enter instead of you. This enticing veil? Yes, it stirs up your curiosity, but there was another anchor before. The rope around his leg. He wasn’t there steadfast, immovable. He was in danger himself, ready to be dragged out if he died before the holiness.

Not so with our Lord Jesus Christ. He is High Priest forever. Death has no claim on Him, because He already defeated it. Holiness is not dangerous to Him, because He is the Holy One.

And He is not there instead of us. He is there ahead of us. He is there because He is bringing us there. He has won for us an indestructible life. He has earned for us not only that we be counted holy, but that we also then be made holy to prepare us to enter with Him!
How does the fact that our entrance depends entirely upon Christ make us sure that we will enter at last? How does this being our hope reprioritize your goals that you are hoping for?
Suggested Songs: ARP16B “I’ll Bless the LORD” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Saturday, January 06, 2018

2018.01.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 6:13-18

Read Hebrews 6:13-18
Questions for Littles: To whom had God made a promise (13a)? By whom did He swear this promise (v14)? After what did Abraham obtain the promise (v15)? To whom did God show more abundantly the unchangeableness of His promise (v17)? How did He show this more abundantly (end of v17)? What is it impossible for God to do (v18)? What do God’s unchangeable counsel and unchangeable oath give to us? What are we who have fled for refuge enabled, by this strong consolation, to lay hold of?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we learned not only how to seek assurance of our belonging to God in Christ, but also the fact that God desires for us to have this assurance.

How do we know that God wants us to have this assurance? Because He swears an oath about it!
Now, that sounds a little strange to us.

We understand why husbands and wives swear vows to each other. And we understand why judges and government officials take oaths before God. And we understand why church members take vows and oaths.

But… God? Isn’t it pretty much impossible for Him to lie? Aren’t His plans and promises unchangeable?

Yes, and the passage says both of these things. But let us consider v17 more closely. It is not that God was making the word or promise more sure. Rather, he was showing more abundantly how sure they already are. It is the display of the certainty, not the certainty itself, that is magnified here.

And why? v18 tells us: to give us strong consolation. If we have fled for refuge to the Lord, it does not honor Him for us to continue always in a condition of nervous uncertainty about our spiritual state. Rather, it honors Him that those who are seeking refuge in Him, would find in that refuge a strong consolation.

So the Lord accommodates our weakness. He makes allowance for how doubting and shaky our faith can often be. And He piles onto His promises with covenant oaths. He did this several times with Abraham, but the one quoted here is from that extraordinary incident on the mountain where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac.

He has continued to do so with us, giving us a New Covenant in which the sacrifices are not bulls and goats, appointed by God for the certainty of believers, but the very blood of Jesus Christ Himself. The washing of His blood and pouring out of His Spirit signified in baptism. The covenant meal, complete with the Cup that is the New Covenant in His blood. These are forms of covenantal assurance, pointing to and united with the oaths of the living God Himself.

By means of Word and Sacrament, God answers our weakness with a strong consolation, so that we will lay hold of the hope set before us. Hallelujah!
How often do you reflect upon your baptism as a covenant sign? How does God’s appointment of the Supper as a covenant sign strengthen your certainty about His promises?
Suggested Songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Friday, January 05, 2018

2018.01.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 7:24-8:10

Questions for Littles: Into what region did Jesus go in v24? What couldn’t He do? Why not—who found Him (v25)? What ethnicity was the woman (v26)? What did Jesus imply about her in v27? Did she deny it in v28? How did she respond? What does Jesus say is a result of her response in v29? What did the woman find when she went home (30)? To what region does Jesus then go in v31? Interestingly, in this Gentile region, what does He say in Aramaic in v34? In addition to regaining his hearing, what other miracle does the man in v35 experience? What does He command them in v36 (something He usually commands in Jewish territory)? What do people say about Him in v37 (that demonstrates that though Gentiles, they had Messianic expectations)? What size multitude had Jesus gathered now, even in this Gentile territory (8:1)? What did Jesus have on the multitude in v2? How long had they stayed with Him, even without food? Why would some of them have passed out on the way home, if He sent them away to eat (v3)? Why didn’t the disciples think they had any other options (v4)? How many loaves did they have (v5)? What did Jesus command the multitude to do in v6? What two things does Jesus do with the loaves before giving them to the disciples? What else did they have (v7)? How much did these people who hadn’t eaten for three days eat (v8)? How many, of what size baskets of leftovers, did they take up? How many had eaten? To what (Jewish) region did Jesus now go (v10)?
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus goes into Gentile territory and shows that He is making for Himself children from among the Gentiles too.

First, we find Him in Tyre and Sidon, coastal trade-port cities with terrible reputations for wickedness. In fact, these cities often find themselves targets of condemnation in the Minor Prophets, and even appear in Jesus’ pronouncements against the Jewish cities on Galilee.

There, a woman somehow finds out that He is there and comes to ask Him to save her daughter from the control of a demon. The woman is a Gentile, and Jesus basically says, “Don’t you know that I’m a Jewish Messiah who came to a Jewish nation?” In fact, His word picture for her and her daughter is “dogs” as opposed to “children.”

However, this woman’s love for her daughter and faith in Christ foster a humility that doesn’t take offense at this but rather insists that Christ has more than enough grace for all. Jesus recognizes this and tells her that her daughter has been healed.

Jesus moves on to the Decapolis—a region populated by Gentiles and Samaritans, but we find in v37 especially that there are many here expecting the Christ. He was prophesied to make the deaf to hear and the mute to speak, and here Jesus does both in one case. Those who are expecting Messiah say, “He has done all things well.”

And He has, dear Christian. He has fulfilled every prophecy and completed every task of the Messiah. He is a victorious and complete Savior. You may cling to Him with absolute confidence!

The final episode may be the strongest statement that Christ is a Messiah for the Gentiles every bit as much as the Jews. The Jews had recognized whom He was claiming to be, when He fed a multitude in the wilderness.

Now, there is a multitude who is willing to stay with Him without food for three days (their willingness a small miracle in itself), but this one is Gentile. What does He do? Reproduce the wilderness feeding, still with seven large baskets left over. Jesus is a more-than-abundant Savior for the whole world!!
Have you ever wondered if Jesus is a Savior for you? What’s it look like for you to cling to Him anyway?
Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or HB132 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name!”

Thursday, January 04, 2018

2018.01.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 8:5-14

Questions for Littles: According to what are you living, if you set your mind on the things of the flesh (5a)? According to what are you living, if you set your mind on the things of the Spirit? What is it for us if we are fleshly (“carnally”) minded (6a)? What is it for us if are spiritually minded (6b)? Why is being fleshly minded enmity against God (v7)? What can’t those who are in the flesh do (v8)? What else is true about someone, if he does not have the Spirit of Christ (v9)? If we are in Christ, are we controlled by our dead flesh or His alive Spirit (v10)? Who dwells in us, if we belong to Christ (11a)? What did God do with Christ’s physically dead body? What will He do with our spiritually dead bodies? Through whom will God do this (end of v11)? What are we, according to v12a? To whom (v14)? What will happen if we live according to the flesh (v13a)? How can we put to death the deeds of the body (13b)? What will happen then? What is true of every one of the children of God (v14)? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we heard about the same battle as in 7:14-24, but with one great difference: the struggle is now being considered in light of why it is a struggle for the believer.

Believers struggle against sin because we have been made alive by the Holy Spirit to hate it, and we are living with that mindset. Our sin bothers us—including the sin of not bothering us enough. The reason that it bothers us that our sin doesn’t bother us as much as it should is because of the Holy Spirit!

Now, if we are primarily frustrated that the sin is making us feel guilty, or that its consequences are inhibiting our pleasure, or that we are not able to sin as much as we would like… that is to have the mind set upon the flesh. In that case, battle is not because we are saved, but it is a false battle precisely because we do not have our mind set upon the Spirit.

Now, let us not miss an important connection in 8:6-8… the spiritual man’s mind is subject to the law of God. The law is the clearly defined description of what pleases God, and it is precisely because the fleshly minded don’t care to keep it that they cannot please God.

Here then, is a great work of God the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers: He works in us a resurrection (v11)—He takes hearts that were dead to God and His law, and makes us alive for battle against sin… alive for obedience to God’s law… alive for pleasing God.

Who enjoys this marvelous work of the Spirit? Every single believer, from the moment he becomes a believer (9b, 14). Praise be to God!
What sin are you struggling against? Where do you see your love for God, His law, and pleasing Him?
Suggested songs: ARP119M “O How I Love Your Law!” or HB310 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

2018.01.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 11:1-9

Questions for Littles: Who had one language and speech (v1)? Who journeyed from the east (v2)? What did they find in Shinar? What did they decide to build (v4)? Where would its top be? What did they want to use the power to make for themselves? What did they say that they did not want to happen to them (end of v4)? Who came to see the city (v5)? What did the Lord say were “one” in v6? What did He decide to do in v7? What was the city called (9a)? Why? What had happened to them by the end of v9? 
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we come to Babel, which we were told in last week’s passage was the beginning of Nimrod’s kingdom.

God had said, “Let us make man in our image” (1:26) and commanded him “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (1:28). Then, by chapter 6, it was not the beautiful image of God with which man had filled the earth, but rather with violence (6:11, 13).

After the flood, again, God commands, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (9:1), reminding us again that it is especially because man is in the image of God (9:6) that he is to “be fruitful and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth and multiply in it” (9:7).

But Nimrod is all about Nimrod, not about the image of God. Under his leadership, men say not, “let us glorify God as His image and obey Him,” but rather “let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (11:4).

Here is direct, defiant disobedience. Indeed, every sin has some of this in it, “I will be my own god, and do it my own way!” But here, it is the whole of humanity making it their single mission.

Sadly for the descendants of Shem and Japheth, they were part of this because they neglected one of God’s most important promises and principles: separation between the believing and unbelieving, that ‘enmity’ that God promised to bring between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman (3:15). When the family of Seth ignored this and intermarried with the family of Cain (6:1-2), it led to the flood.

And now what observation does the Lord make about the Shemites and the Japhethites under the leadership of Nimrod? “Indeed, the people are one” (11:6). How sad for believers in every age who wish to be friends with the world! Do we not yet see that friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4)?

Let us then behold the glorious grace of God! Once again, He says, “let us...” Where man had refused to fill the earth with the image of God, now God does so in one great stroke. “So Yahweh scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth […] from there Yahweh scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth” (v8, 9).

Not until Pentecost, when people from all the nations would begin to be reunited in the image of God, would this confusion of tongues begin to be undone—God maintaining by grace what men ruined by sin!
What can we do to participate in the valuing and spreading of the (renewed!) image of God on the earth?
Suggested songs: ARP162 “All Ends of Earth Will Turn to Him” or HB501 “The Ends of All the Earth Shall Hear”

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Prayer Meeting Tomorrow, January 3! (click on link below for the prayer guide)

Have you been considering whether some things need to move up in priority for you and other things down?

Gentle reader, I commend to you the corporate prayer meeting!

We are wholly dependent upon (and utterly undeserving of) the mercy of God for every good thing we need as individuals, households, church, and community. Shall we not carve out some time each week to call upon His Name together?

Scripture is full of precept and example of it for us!

Whether you are able to gather physically, or only in mind and heart, we will be praying from 7p.m. to 8p.m. tomorrow according to [this plan].

Each week, we vary the focus slightly within each section, using Matthew Henry's excellent guide, A Method for Prayer--which simply collects and arranges Scripture priorities in prayer in a manner that is easy for us to translate into a manual for our own praying.

If you're planning to gather in person, try to be there by 7p.m. In order to accommodate families' weeknight schedules, we strive to stick to the schedule and finish by 8!

2018.01.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 46

Questions for Littles: Who is our refuge and strength (1a)? What else is He (1b)? What, therefore, won’t we do (2a)? When (2b)? And when else (2c)? And when (3a)? And when (3b)? 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 (5b)? When? What happened when the nations raged (6a)? What happened when the Lord just uttered His voice (6b)? Who is with us (7a, 11a)? What is our refuge (7b, 11b)? What are we encouraged to do (8a)? In this case, what works specifically are we to behold (8a)? And v9? What are these raging and warring nations commanded to do (v10a)? Who wins this battle for supremacy among the nations (10b)? In all the earth (10c)? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin 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 to you? How will you remember God’s power for you?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge” or HB381 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength”

Monday, January 01, 2018

2018.01.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 6:9-12

Questions for Littles: Of what is the writer confident according to v9? What do these better things accompany? What is God not unjust to do (v10)? What two things have they done toward God’s name? To whom is this ministry toward God’s name done? What does the writer desire (v11)? Unto what are they to show diligence? What are they not to become (12a)? Whom are they to imitate instead (12b)?
The Scripture for the sermon this week is dripping with love.

First, there is the way the writer addresses his readers: “beloved.” He has just spoken to them a very difficult word:

a threatening word to suggest that this could happen to some of them,

a frightening word of how one can end up being abandoned by God,

and a profoundly sad word of how this happens to people precisely because Jesus comes to mean quite little to them.

There is, therefore, something precious and instructive here about the word, “beloved.” The firmness of the threat makes its tenderness that much more precious. Let us see the character of our God here, whose word it ultimately is.

Often, He is a Father who is exercising the best of His goodness and wisdom in assigning to us that which is difficult.

Sometimes a hard word like the one in vv4-8, sometimes a messenger from Satan (2Cor 12:7-10), sometimes a form of discipline (Heb 12:5-14), but always from Him who has from all eternity considered us His “beloved.”

Therefore, it is an instructive word, because it teaches to us something about how we ought to conduct ourselves. The more difficult a thing we must say, the more tender must be our affectionate manner of address, that we may imitate the character and wisdom of our Lord!

Ultimately, this love is the source of the apostolic confidence about them, because it is a love that God has not only shown to them (reproducing it in the apostle), but it is also a love that God has reproduced in them (reproducing it toward other believers).

What is the work and labor for God that He will surely not ignore? It is a “work and labor of love toward His name” (v10). How does this love toward His name show itself? By “ministry to the saints” (v10)—those people whom the Lord has declared “holy” (“saints”) by identifying them with Himself.

This, ultimately is the key to stirring up our own confidence and assurance: not navel-gazing introspection to assess whether we feel loving enough, but rather “showing the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end.”

In the diligent effort of loving God’s name, and therefore working hard to serve His people, we find that He is the One producing love in our hearts, and therefore He strengthens our assurance that He is the One who has granted unto us repentance.

We do not thereby earn our way to glory. The “promises” are still gained by “inheriting.” However, the demonstration of the family resemblance, by the Father’s Spirit within us assures us that the inheritance rightly belongs to us.
To whom should you especially express tender love? What work of service to the saints do you do?
Suggested Songs: ARP16A “Keep Me, O God” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”