Monday, April 30, 2018

2018.04.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:23-28

Questions for Littles: Who was saved by faith in v23? Whose faith did God use to save him? What did Moses’s parents do with him? What didn’t they feel about the king’s command? What did Moses refuse in v24? What did Moses choose in v25? Instead of what? What did Moses think was more riches than the treasures of Egypt? What did Moses abandon in v27? Of what was he not afraid? Whom did Moses’s faith see? What did Moses do by faith in v28? What would have happened if he didn’t?
In the sermon this week, we continued hearing about faith in action. Up to this point, we have learned much about about faith: faith believes that God is; faith believes that God rewards those who seek Him; faith believes that God Himself is the great reward that He gives; faith holds on to God’s promises as if they are the thing promised; faith lives in certainty of the resurrection.

Now, in v23, we find a strange statement: by faith Moses was hidden. Moses is the beneficiary of the faith exercised in this verse, but he’s not the one who exercised it. He did, however, grow into a very similar faith.

If we read too quickly, we could miss the parallel between the end of v23 and the first half of v27. Moses’s parents weren’t afraid of the king’s command. Later, Moses doesn’t fear the wrath of the king.

There is a wonderful lesson here on parenting by faith. First, the Lord uses the faith of Moses’s believing parents to bless their son. It’s a wonderful story, how the Lord actually makes Pharaoh pay Moses’s mother to nurse the baby he had commanded should die.

Later, the Lord reproduces the faith of his parents in Moses himself. This faith is not merely a willingness to do the right thing no matter what. This faith is to value belonging to Christ, and to bring glory to Christ, above all other things.

The “passing pleasures” in v25 are not small in the world’s eyes. Egypt was on top of the world, and Pharaoh’s family is on top of Egypt. Those “passing pleasures” are the greatest pleasures that earthly life has to offer.

The riches of the “treasures of Egypt” were so great that it wasn’t just people from that age who valued those riches so highly. Even to this day, anything found in a Pharaoh’s tomb is front-page news and the stuff of legends!

But Moses knows a richer treasure than all the treasure of Egypt: getting insulted. Of course, the value is in how/why he is insulted: with the insults of Christ. Here, so many of us are timid about being too overtly Christian, lest we be insulted. And Moses valued it more than the treasures of Egypt!

Moses may not have been afraid of Pharaoh, but there was One of whom he was afraid. The one in the bush. The one who slayed the firstborn. The one who drowned the entire Egyptian army.
Faith doesn’t just value God’s rewards. It fears God’s wrath and employs God’s remedies.
What is God’s greatest reward? What is His great remedy for the wrath that we deserve?
Suggested Songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Saturday, April 28, 2018

2018.04.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:20-22

Questions for Littles: Whose faith does v20 describe? Whom did Isaac bless by faith? Concerning what did Isaac bless them? Whose faith does v21 describe? When does he demonstrate that faith? Whom does he bless? What else does he do when he blesses them? Whose faith does v22 describe? When does he demonstrate that faith? Of what does he make mention? Concerning what does he give instructions? 
In the second half of week’s sermon text, the demonstration of faith shifts from reflection of God’s love to confidence in God’s power. Abraham didn’t actually have to see Isaac resurrected on Mount Moriah, because the Lord prevented him from slaying his son.

In these three verses, the man exercising faith most certainly needs to be sure of resurrection. First, there’s Isaac, who thought he could die any moment (cf. Gen 27:2). Even at that point, Isaac is fighting the Lord’s words from when the twins were still in the womb. Yet, when he realizes that God’s word cannot be undone, the Lord strengthens his faith, and Isaac blesses his sons with sure, resurrection-hope.

Then, there’s Jacob. Jacob, who was terrified for his life of Esau not once but twice. Jacob, who was devastated when he thought Joseph was dead. Jacob, who was devastated when he thought Benjamin was dead. Jacob had treated death like an insurmountable obstacle his whole life. Now, he’s sitting on his literal death-bed, but he’s not devastated; he’s worshiping. He’s blessing his grandsons and bowing his head in worship over the top of his staff.

Finally, there’s Joseph. Joseph has been certain of his future in this life ever since he had those dreams as a boy. But this verse isn’t about his future in this life. This verse is about what comes after his death: the exodus, just as God has promised.

But Joseph is sure of a future for more than Israel. He’s sure of a future for himself. Joseph knows that even after he dies, and his body has decomposed, he won’t be done with his bones yet.

And he wants Israel to know it too. He wants them to hope not in the promised land in Canaan, but in the Lord as their dwelling place. He wants them to trust God not merely for rewards in this life, but for an everlasting life of the never-ending reward that is the Lord Himself.

He plans on glorifying and enjoying God forever, soul AND body. And, dear reader, the Holy Spirit has given us this passage so that you would too.
What plans do you have for your body at death? Whom will it teach what?
Suggested Songs: ARP30 “O Lord, I Will Exalt You” or HB209 “Thine Is the Glory”

Friday, April 27, 2018

2018.04.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 14:1-11

Questions for Littles: What day was in two days (v1)? What feast was beginning? How did the chief priests and scribes seek to take Jesus? What did they want to do to Him? But when did they say not to do it (v2)? Why not then? In what city was Jesus in v3? In whose house? What had Simon been? What does that imply Jesus had done for him? With what did a woman come to him in v3? What was in the flask? What did she do with it? How did some of them respond in themselves (v4)? What did they say? For how much could the spikenard have been sold (v5)? What did they do to the woman? What does Jesus tell them to do to her (v6)? What does He ask them? What does He say about her? Whom does Jesus say they should have been more concerned about serving (v7)? For what did Jesus say she had anointed His body (v8)? What does Jesus say will happen wherever the gospel is preached (v9)? To whom does Jesus go then (v10)? To do what? How did they feel, when he came to them (v11)? What did they promise to give him? So, what did Judas seek?
In the Gospel reading this week, we see coming out of people’s hearts what is truly precious to them. There are the chief priests and scribes, whose position and praise are precious to them.

They would be glad to outright murder Jesus, but want to do it in a way that doesn’t cause a ruckus. Not only might a riot get them in trouble with Rome, but we can tell from the fact that they are trying to use trickery that they are trying to get this done without having the people turn on them.

Dear reader, how much do we love the opinions of others and positions of respect? God grant that we would treasure Jesus more!

Then there are the “some” of v4. It’s not just Judas. There were several who just didn’t adore Jesus enough to consider the expensive perfume well-spent on Him. At the very least, they could have used it to get “credit” for helping the poor.  Of course, Judas is the poster boy for caring too much about money and not enough about Jesus.

But let us not think that we could never end up like Judas. A conviction about the usefulness of money can too easily turn into too strong a desire for it. We cannot love both God and money!

Instead, let us learn from Simon to be continually mindful of how Jesus has saved us, and from the woman to give our very best to engaging the Lord Himself, not just serving Him in engaging others.

But let us most of all learn from Jesus. Whenever we have opportunity to come to His feet and adore Him, let’s take it. Other duties we will always have with us.

Did the woman know she was anointing Him for His burial? Probably not. And you and I don’t know what He will do in response to our prayers, or in our own hearts and minds as we worship Him. What we do know is that He has taught us here to place adoring Him at the top of our priority lists!
When do we have opportunity to engage Jesus Himself? What are some (possibly good) things that we allow to get in the way of those opportunities.
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Thursday, April 26, 2018

2018.04.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 16:1-16

Questions for Littles: Whom does Paul commend to them in v1? What does he ask them to do for her (v2)? Whom does he say to greet in v3? What had they done (v4)? Who meet in their house (v5)? What does he call Epaenetus? What had Mary done (v6)? Whom did the apostles consider noteworthy, according to v7? What does he call Amplias (v8)? Who was Urbanus (v9)? And what does he call Stachys? What does he say about Apelles (v10)? Whose household are they to greet? Who is Herodion (v11)? Which of the household of Narcissus are they to greet? What have Tryphena and Tryphosa done (v12)? How about Persis? What does he call Rufus (v13)? What does he call Rufus’s mother? Whom else does he say to greet in v14-15? How are they to greet one another (v16)? Who else greets them?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we might have been surprised by the sheer volume of text used for personal greetings. Considering that it contains everything that we need for faith and practice, the Bible is a pretty short book. It’s efficient. Nothing is wasted. When something is repeated, that’s important. When a large amount of text is spent upon something, that’s important. Now, when a large amount of text is spent upon something that doesn’t seem at first like it would be important… we’re about to learn that something is more important than we thought.

So, one of the main things that we learn from this passage is that greeting one another is important. We can see many of the reasons why in the “middle” verses. We are fellow workers. We risk for one another. We work for one another. We have been through much together. We share a mutual love. We are like family.

But it is at the bookends that we are reminded of the strongest reasons to make sure that we greet one another. At the beginning of the passage, we learn that affectionate greetings are something that is owed to those who are called saints—literally, “holy ones.” These greetings are given “in the Lord.”

And then, at the end of our passage, we are told to greet one another with a holy kiss—a kiss that is reserved for those whom God has set apart for Himself.

Do we long to renew fellowship with one another and make certain to greet one another affectionately? Let us learn to do so for all of these good reasons!
What opportunities do we have for greeting one another in the Lord?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

2018.04.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 21:1-7

Questions for Littles: Who visited Sarah (v1)? Just as what (according to what) did the Lord visit Sarah and do for Sarah? What did Sarah bear for whom (v2)? At what time did she do so? Who named the son (v3)? Who bore the son? What did Abraham name him? What did Abraham do to Isaac in v4? At what age? Why? How old was Abraham when Isaac was born to him (v5)? What did Sarah say God had made her to do (v6)? What did she say others would do with her? What question does Sarah ask in v7? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, the Word of God reigns supreme.

The Lord is perfectly faithful, therefore He does whatever He says.

The Lord said that He would visit Sarah, and He visited Sarah.

The Lord said that He would give Sarah a child, and He gave Sarah a child.

The Lord told Abraham a specific time that Sarah would bear a son, and it was at that specific time that Sarah bore their son.

And the Lord also works by means of giving us His Word to follow and obey as our privilege in His service.

The Lord told Abraham to call the boy’s name Isaac (cf. 17:19), and Abraham called the boy’s name Isaac.

The Lord commanded that Abraham circumcise his son on the eighth day, and Abraham circumcised him on the 8th day.

Indeed, the rhetorical question in v7 is crying out for this glorious answer. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Why, that’s exactly what the Lord had said to Abraham!

Dear believer, why should we be weak in faith, when ever single thing that the Lord has ever promised has come to pass? He is faithful to keep all His Word!

And, dear believer, shall we shrink back from doing any thing that the Lord commands? Isn’t obedience just the enjoyment of the privilege that God has given us of participating in His work?
What changes would you make if you valued the Word more than you do?
Suggested songs: ARP119M “O How I Love Your Law!” or HB253 “How I Love Thy Law, O Lord”

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

2018.04.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 6:35-51

Questions for Littles: What did Jesus call Himself in v35? What will those who come to Him never do? What will those who believe in Him never do? What does Jesus say the people who have seen Him still aren’t doing in v36? Who will come to Jesus (v37)? What will Jesus by no means do to the one who comes to Him? What had Jesus come down from heaven to do (v38)? What does the Father will Jesus should do with all whom He has given to Him (v39)? Whom does the Father will to have everlasting life and be raised up at the last day (v40)? Why did the Jews complain about Him (v41)? What did the people call Jesus and note about His parents (v42)? What did Jesus tell them not to do in v43? What has to happen for someone to come to Jesus (v44)? What will Jesus do with them on the last day? What does v45 say is written? From whom have those who come to Jesus heard and learned? Who has seen the Father (v46)? Who has everlasting life (v47)? What does Jesus say about Himself again in v48? What does Jesus say will not happen to those who eat this bread (v49-50)? What does Jesus call Himself in v51? Who will live forever? What is the bread that He will give? For what will Jesus give His flesh? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Prayer of Confession, and Assurance of the Gospel all come from John 6:35-51. This passage is one of the most important for understanding what Jesus means by eating His flesh and drinking His blood.

It is the one who comes to Him that will never hunger. It is the one who believes in Him that will never thirst. So, eating Jesus’s flesh and drinking Jesus’s blood is to come to Him and to believe in Him.

There’s just one difficulty: no one comes to Jesus unless the Father drags him to Jesus (v44). The Father is the One who makes us to hear about Jesus and learn about Jesus (v45).

But, as we consider the passage, this really isn’t a difficulty. If we were to come to Jesus on our own, our coming to Him would never be dependable. With even our coming to Jesus being God’s own work, His saving us is absolutely sure.

All that the Father gives to Jesus WILL come to Jesus. The one who comes to Jesus will NOT be cast out. Jesus will lose not a single one of them.

Those who want to argue about Jesus’s ability to do what He says puts themselves in the place of the murmuring people in our passage. Rather than struggle against what the Scripture says about Jesus, let us heed what Jesus tells us. Let us come to Him! Let us believe in Him! And let us give Him all the glory for granting to us to be able to!
If only God can do something, what should we do, if we want Him to do it?
Suggested songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness” or HB402 “I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew”

Monday, April 23, 2018

2018.04.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:17-19

Questions for Littles: Who was tested in v17? What did he do when tested? What did v17 refer to him as having received? Whom did he offer up? What does v17 call his son? According to v18, what was said of Isaac? What did Abraham conclude (v19)? From what did Abraham, in a figurative sense, receive Isaac?
In the sermon this week, we heard about the testing of faith. If faith was something that we produced in ourselves, that would be a scary idea: God testing our faith. But we don’t produce it in ourselves. Faith is a gift of God. And, of course, God already knows exactly what is in us.

Taken all together, those truths mean that God’s testing us isn’t for Him to see if our faith is good enough. Instead, it’s for Him to show us what He has done in us. And that’s a great blessing, because part of the weakness of our faith is that we have a difficult time seeing the genuine work that He is doing in us.

So, it is with great interest that we see what the Lord brought out of Abraham as a demonstration of his faith: love that mirrors the Lord’s and confidence in the resurrection.

We love Him because He first loved us. And in these three verses, we see that Abraham’s love of God is a lovely reflection of God’s love. The Holy Spirit uses a very special and specific word for the son who was offered up: “only-begotten.” Nowhere else but Christ is this word used. And, although figuratively, the verse takes pains to use the phrase “raise from the dead” to talk about Abraham receiving Isaac back from the dead.

See what the Lord was doing in Abraham? See what the Lord is doing in you, dear Christian? We know that we don’t have it in us to love Him like we wish we did. But that’s just the point: it’s not in us. It’s in Him. He works His own love in our hearts!

This is just part of His keeping the promise that He would be our God, and that we would be His people. Behold what manner of love—that we should be called His children! And He is working in our hearts to give us that family resemblance.

Yes, there are times of testing when we stumble. But His work is ongoing and incomplete. There are also those times of testing where He surprises us with how much He has already done. And then, there is that glorious promise which must be fulfilled: although what we will be has not yet appeared, because we will see Him as He is, we can be sure that… at the last… we shall be like Him (1Jn 3:1-2).
How are you being tested right now? To whom must you look for what you need inside you to pass? How do we go about looking to Him for that?
Suggested Songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or HB239 “Come, Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove”

Saturday, April 21, 2018

2018.04.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:17-22

Questions for Littles: What did Abraham do by faith, when he was tested (v17)? What does v17 call Abraham—what had he received? What did “he who had received the promises” do? What had been said of the son whom Abraham offered (v18)? What did Abraham conclude that God was able to do (v19)? From what did Abraham figuratively receive Isaac back (v19)? What did Isaac do by faith in v20? When did Jacob bless Joseph’s sons by faith (v21)? When did Joseph mention the exodus by faith (v22)? Concerning what did he give instructions by faith?
In the coming sermon’s text, we learn the kind of hope that is obtained by those who believe that God is their home.

We have three of the same key figures—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—in this passage as we did in the previous one. Whereas in the previous passage we were considering how these men were glad to dwell in tents because God Himself was their permanent home, now we see how they were enabled to deal with death by this same faith.

Jesus makes the point that these men are evidence of the resurrection because “God is not God of the dead but of the living” (cf. Mark 12:26-27). Here, we see their resurrection hope put on display.

God had made Abraham a promise concerning Isaac that meant that even if Isaac died, got had to bring him back to life. God’s promise is so sure because it is bank-rolled by His faithfulness and power. God refuses to let death stop Him, and indeed it cannot.

By the time Isaac comes to bless Jacob and Esau concerning what would come after Isaac’s death, their household is a colossal mess of sinful partiality, deception, and even murderous intention. But God has made promises, and though he had to be brought kicking and screaming to give the blessings that he did, Isaac ultimately blesses his sons on the basis of those promises.

Jacob is dying, but all of a sudden the man who was doom and gloom for decades is optimistic. Why? Because when he leans upon his staff on his death bed, he is cornered into considering to what really comes after death. And the answer is: everything that God has promised.

Finally, Joseph’s short verse is full of confidence that comes from being sure that God will keep His promises. He is confident that Israel will return from Egypt. He is confident that, long after the flesh has gone from his bones, he still won’t be done with them.

So I wonder, dear reader, do you have this hope that is stronger than death? Do the plans that you have made regarding the end of this life reflect a confidence that death is not the end? Let us not be those most pitiable who hope as if in this life only! (cf. 1Cor 15:19)
What difference does it make in daily life that God is your hope not just for now but forever?
Suggested Songs: ARP30 “O Lord, I Will Exalt You” or HB209 “Thine Is the Glory”

Friday, April 20, 2018

2018.04.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 13

Questions for Littles: With what two things were the disciples so impressed in v1? What does Jesus tell them about these two things in v2? Which four come to him in v3? What do they ask in v4? What is the first sentence of Jesus’s answer in v5? What kinds of things does Jesus say they will hear about in v6-7? But what does He stay is still not yet? What else does He say will come (v8)? But for what should they watch out (v9)? What must happen before the end can come (v10)? Who will speak through the apostles when they are on trial (v11)? What else will happen to them (v12-13)? What are they to do when they see the abomination that Daniel talked about where he is not supposed to be (v14)? How hastily should they leave (v15-18)? How bad is the trouble that they are escaping (v19)? For whose sake does the Lord limit that trouble (v20)? Then, what should they still not believe (v21-23)? What kinds of things will happen at the true end (v24-27)? When will the “all these things” of v6-23 take place (v28-30)? But when will the “those/that day(s)” of v24-27 take place (v31-32)? Instead of trying to figure out the time, what should they be paying close attention to (v33-37)? What is it impossible for us to know?
In the Gospel reading this week, the disciples are very impressed with the temple, but Jesus throws a wet blanket upon their enthusiasm by informing them that it would be utterly destroyed. They jump to the conclusion that He must be talking about the end of the world, so their follow-up question is to know when that is coming.

Jesus spends the next thirty-plus verses telling them, “You can’t know.” But of course He says more than that. His main message is to watch themselves.

They could in fact know when the Lord was about to destroy Jerusalem in a great tribulation. Jesus gives them a sign, something that had happened before, when Daniel prophesied it.

In that case, Greek general Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated the temple, and there was a vicious sacking of Jerusalem. What would happen at the hands of Roman General Titus in 70 A.D. would be even worse, but follow a similar pattern.

Jesus tells them that when they see this history repeating itself, they are to run for the hills. The Christians did so, and the Jews considered themselves abandoned by their relatives, and never forgave them for it.

But even then, His main command is “watch yourselves” (v9). Be careful of your hearts. Be careful of your tongues. Your job is to testify by the power of the Spirit, despite enduring the hardest things you can think of—not to calculate the end of the world. You have what you need to escape the Fall of Jerusalem, so now watch yourselves!

That’s essentially the broader message for the rest of us between 70 A.D. and God-only-knows-when. That’s literally the timing of the second coming. Even the Son, in His human nature, does not know that day and hour. So, it’s so far above our spiritual pay grade, that we cannot even see it from here.

Instead, let us remember that we have a Master who is returning we-know-not-when. And let us spend every second between now and then serving Him the way we will wish we had when He appears!
What is one way that you will implement to better serve your Master?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Thursday, April 19, 2018

2018.04.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 15:14-33

Questions for Littles: What is Paul confident that the members of the church in Rome are full of and able to do (v14)? In what manner has he still written to them (v15)? What is Jesus offering to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit (v16)? Through whom is Christ accomplishing this (v17-19)? Where has Paul aimed to preach the gospel (v20)? Whom does Paul hope to help see (v21a)? Whom does Paul hope to help to understand (v21b)? What has this quest of taking the gospel to new places also hindered, according to v22? When does Paul plan to come to Rome (v23-24)? Whom does he hope will help him get to Spain? Where is he going at the time that he writes this letter (v25)? Who had given an offering for poor Christians in Jerusalem (v26)? Who had received spiritual blessings from whom (v27)? What does Paul need to complete before going to Spain (v28)? Where will he stop along the way? With what does he hope to come to Rome (v29)? What does he plead with them to do (v30)? What two specific prayer requests does he give in v31? What two in v32? What benediction does he pronounce upon them in v33 
In this week’s Epistle reading, Paul is beginning to wind down his letter to the Roman church. We learn from this section several things that characterize relationships among believers who highly esteem one another.

  1. First, believers who esteem one another tell one another so. Looking at Paul’s statement in v14, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it is quite obvious that he highly esteemed the Roman Christians.
  2. Second, believers who esteem one another speak boldly to one another as a form of service assigned to them by God for their brethren’s good (v15).
  3. Third, believers who esteem one another give all the glory and credit to Christ, for whatever fruit He brings out of their ministry (v18).
  4. Fourth, believers who esteem one another have a great desire to spend time together (v22-23).
  5. Fifth, believers who esteem one another encourage one another with reports of what God is doing (v26-27).
  6. Sixth, believers who esteem one another hope to receive help from one another to serve the Lord (v28).
  7. Seventh, believers who esteem one another hope to be a great blessing unto one another (v29).
  8. Eighth, believers who esteem one another strive together in prayer for one another (v30).
  9. Ninth, believers who esteem one another hope to refresh one another with fellowship (v32).

This passage paints a beautiful picture of what it should be like when people who believe the gospel that is taught in Romans are in relationship with one another. And it gives us a checklist for loving one another well in the church—and across churches—today.
Whom in the church could you be doing a better job of loving? Which of the items on this list will you seek to improve with them? 
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

2018.04.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 20

Questions for Littles: Where did Abraham end up in v1? What did he say about Sarah there (v2)? What did Abimelech the king do? What does God say to Abimelech in a dream (v3)? What does Abimelech say back to God (v4-5)? Who had kept Abimelech from sinning (v6)? What does God say Abimelech has to do (v7)? What does he need Abraham to do for him? Who lectures whom for his wickedness in v9? What excuse does Abraham give in v11? How does this compare with v8? What other excuse does Abraham give in v12-13? What does Abimelech do in v14-16 to show that Sarah is returned with honor, and not as someone who has been used? What does Abraham do in v17? How does the Lord respond in v17-18?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we see that the prayers of a righteous man avail much. We also see that the sins of a righteous man can cause much harm.

Imagine, hundreds of years later, being an Israelite in constant warfare with the Philistines, and tempted to look down upon them as irredeemable wasters, and then you read v20. There’s Father Abraham on the receiving end of a stinging, accurate rebuke, and making himself look even worse with his ridiculous excuses.

But there is also the Lord looking out for his interests. The Lord is keeping Abraham’s wife from being violated. The Lord is terrifying the local king on Abraham’s behalf. The Lord is calling Abraham His prophet. The Lord is listening to Abraham’s prayers.

What is going on here? Grace. Abraham’s growth in faith and holiness comes in fits and starts, sometimes with pretty significant setbacks. Does that sound familiar?

Yes, these are opportunities to repent and look anew to God for forgiveness and for strength to redouble effort against sin.

But these are also opportunities to remember that it is God’s absolutely free choice to show favor that is the only ultimate cause of salvation. Just look at what we being-saved people sometimes look like… even Abimelech has a word of rebuke for us! And our Lord patiently listens to our prayers anyway.

The prayers of a righteous (by grace!) man avail much.
Of what sin do you need to repent? Why would God still listen to your prayers?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or HB300 “Take Time to Be Holy”

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

2018.04.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2Corinthians 5:12-6:3

Questions for Littles: What opportunity was Paul giving the Corinthians (v12)? What kind of people were the Corinthians dealing with? What did the Corinthians need to be able to say about Paul, for their own sakes (v13)? Whose love was pressing and pushing Paul to speak this way (v14)? What is true if One died for all (v14)? How does v15 describe the life of those who have died in Christ—for whom do they live? According to what are they not to regard anyone, including Christ (v16)? If someone is in Christ, what is true about him (v17)? Who has done this (v18)? What is this change called a ministry of? What was it necessary not to impute to them, if they were going to be reconciled to God? What do Christ’s ambassadors plead (v20)? For what reason did God make Him who knew no sin to be sin (v21)? What are Paul and his companions pleading with them not to do in 6:1? What day is the day when you hear how Jesus died so that we could be forgiven and begin to live for Him instead of ourselves (v2)?
This week’s Prayer for Help and Confession of Sin came from 2Corinthians 5:12-6:2. Here, we learn that a critical part of the gospel is the good news that we no longer have to live for ourselves.

Yes, forgiveness is entirely by grace alone—by that glorious substitution in v21. God made Christ, who had not sinned at all, to be punished on the cross as sin itself, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. This is why when we believe in Jesus, our sins are not imputed—that is, not counted—against us (v19).

But this is just the beginning. It was the guilt of these sins that kept us from receiving the glorious gift of being made new creatures. Jesus took the guilt, and He makes us new creatures.

This is why v15 tells us that the reason that He died for us was that we should no longer live for ourselves but for Him. To be made holy is a gift that we don’t deserve. So Jesus took upon Himself what we deserve, so that we could be made holy!

This is why someone who claims to be forgiven but not holy is literally playing with the fire of Hell. 6:1 calls this kind of thinking “to receive the grace of God in vain.” The word translated “vain” here is the same as the word translated “foolish” in most translations of James 2:20, and both are describing the same person: the one who claims to have a saving faith that doesn’t produce serving faithfulness.

Paul is literally begging the Corinthians not to think this way. It’s a salvation issue. “Today is the day of salvation!” he says. “Live like those whose chief desire is to please the Lord before whom you will one day stand!”

This is a word that aims at the perfection of His finished work in us, but knows that we will not have that perfection in this life. For us in the here and now, it’s a word about priorities. What are your priorities? For whom are you living? Is your sin an enemy whose days are numbered? Or is thinking about Christ an irritation or inconvenience to you because you’d really like to just keep living for yourself?
What is one way that you could be living for Him who died for you and rose again?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Monday, April 16, 2018

2018.04.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 77

Questions for Littles: To whom did he cry, with what? What was this crying out like (vv2-3)? What troubles him in v3a? Who was holding his eyelids open (v4)? What couldn’t he do because of how troubled he was (v4b)? What did he try to remember in response (v5-6, v10-12)? What did he conclude was absolutely impossible (v7-9)? Why is it impossible that God’s love and grace would fail (v13-14)? What is the greatest example of this (v15)? What Old Testament display of saving power was a primary picture of the cross (v16-20)? What does this psalm describe as the nature of the strong east wind at the Red Sea (vv16-19, cf. Ex 14:21)? Yet, amidst all this trembling, flashing, and thundering, how does v20 describe what God was doing?
In the sermon text this week, God highlighted the Exodus, when He “led His people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”

Our attention spans are pretty short, so we might miss out on the amazement of seeing that last verse in light of the first. The psalmist himself communicates that amazement by the repetition in the first line… “with my voice!”

The God who parted the Red Sea listens to the sound waves being compressed out of our mouths! And not just our voices, but my voice. To be sure, this is a Psalm for corporate worship. We learn as much in the superscript (which is v1 in the Hebrew), where the Chief Musician receives the assignment of incorporating this Psalm into the worship of the people of God.

But one of the things that the people of God are learning together in this Psalm is that the Lord listens to each of us individually. I cried out to God with MY voice, to God with MY voice; and He gave ear to ME… MY trouble… MY hand… MY soul… I remembered… I complained… MY spirit… and so on.

It can be terrifying, when going through a difficult time, to think that God is having personal dealings with us. So, here is a Psalm set in one of the Psalmist’s most difficult times. And we see that one of the reasons that God put him through this was so that he would learn that God personally listens to the sound of his voice.

It is an amazing thing to be one of the people of God. The Creator of all that exists heeds the sound of my voice. I speak, and it moves the Hand that rules over all things and overrules in all things.

Do you know that amazement? Has it occurred to you, in the most difficult of circumstances, that the Lord is prompting you unto prayer, so that you may learn by experience that you have the ear of Him whose Hand rules over all?
In what situation in your life is God teaching you to call on Him with your voice?
Suggested Songs: ARP77A “My Voice to God, Aloud I Plead” or HB385 “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

Saturday, April 14, 2018

2018.04.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 77

Questions for Littles: To whom did he cry, with what? What was this crying out like (vv2-3)? What troubles him in v3a? Who was holding his eyelids open (v4)? What couldn’t he do because of how troubled he was (v4b)? What did he try to remember in response (v5-6, v10-12)? What did he conclude was absolutely impossible (v7-9)? Why is it impossible that God’s love and grace would fail (v13-14)? What is the greatest example of this (v15)? What Old Testament display of saving power was a primary picture of the cross (v16-20)? What does this psalm describe as the nature of the strong east wind at the Red Sea (vv16-19, cf. Ex 14:21)? Yet, amidst all this trembling, flashing, and thundering, how does v20 describe what God was doing?
In the coming sermon’s text, we find the psalmist in a truly horrible situation. There’s no comfort for his soul. Even his initial remembrance of God troubles him (v3), and he says that it is God Himself who is holding his eyelids open.

What is the situation that is troubling him so much?

We don’t know, and that’s a great blessing. Not needing to know the details of the situation means that this psalm is holding out to us a comfort that applies to every situation. It is like that wonderful truth in 2Corinthians 1:3-5… because God is the God of all comfort, when He comforts us in our trouble, it enables us to point to Him as comfort in any trouble.

Whatever our trouble is, the comfort remedy is the same. So, it doesn’t matter what the psalmist’s situation was. What matters was his solution.

Consider God’s character through God’s track record. Sometimes, it is not from the storm, but directly in the midst of it, that the Lord is saving His people and leading them by the hand.

What does it look like to be led gently by our shepherd? Sometimes, it looks like thundering, lightning, and earthquakes. Sometimes, it looks like being backed up against the sea, with the most powerful enemy on earth surrounding us, enraged and bent upon our destruction.

We don’t need to be able to see the way out. We don’t need it to feel comfortable and look pleasant. We just need to know whom we are with: the God who does wonders, who declares His strength, who led His people by the hand through the Red Sea. WHO HAS GIVEN HIMSELF FOR US AT THE CROSS.

Ultimately, there has never been anything so horrifying as Christ’s cross. Yet, it was exactly there that the Lord was doing His greatest saving work. Whatever your trouble, dear Christian, consider God’s character through His track record: a track record that must take you ultimately to the cross!
What situation keeps you up at night? How will you remember the cross at those times?
Suggested Songs: ARP77A “My Voice to God, Aloud I Plead” or HB112 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Friday, April 13, 2018

2018.04.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 12:38-44

Questions for Littles: Of what class of people are those of whom Jesus says to beware in v38? What do they desire to wear? What do they love to receive in the marketplace? What do they desire in the synagogues (v39)? What do they desire at feasts? What do they do to widows’ houses (v40)? Why do they make long prayers? What kind of condemnation will they receive? Where was Jesus sitting in v41? What did he see? What did many who were rich do? Then who came in v42? What did she throw in? Whom did He call to Himself in v43? Whose gifts did He say the widow’s gifts surpassed? Out of what had others put in (v44)? Out of what did the widow put in? How much of it? What did she need it for?
In the Gospel reading this week, the Lord Jesus points out to us one bad example and one good example.

It is important to notice this use of examples. We know, theologically, that the only righteousness we have is that which Christ works in us, which we do by faith in Him. But this does not disqualify having eminent believers as role models. Jesus points them out; Paul by the Holy Spirit even says, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”; and, the book of Hebrews tells us to follow (literally, “mimic”) the faith of our elders (Heb 13:7).

There are also negative examples that Scripture sets before us as warnings. Here, Jesus gives us one: people who are all about themselves. Interestingly, the specific ones that He chooses in this case are scribes. Bible experts. Those who spent their entire time copying and studying the Bible. It is as if to say: do not think that church membership, spiritual exercises, or even church office prevent someone from needing a warning such as this one!

No, this warning is for all of us: watch out for being all about yourself. For seeking your own image, your own popularity, your own reputation, your own honor, your own pleasure. Be especially aware of how you treat the most vulnerable people (like widows, unborn babies, or foreigners). Be especially careful of your motivations (why DO you pray the way that you do?). The more into yourself that you are the greater your condemnation!

It’s also interesting to see who the good example is in this case. It’s someone that would otherwise have been invisible. On our own, we aren’t likely to say, “if only I could be down to my last two pennies, and have no one else in the world who loves me enough to take care of me—then I could be a really good spiritual example.” It takes the teaching of our Lord Jesus to point out such things to us.

Since the Lord has no actual need of what we give to Him, it is the level of self-denial that most glorifies Him. Praise God for all those rich people who put so much in! That was God’s means of providing for God’s work. But the one who gave the most was the one who gave away what she actually needed for herself to live off of.
What opportunity to serve or give has arisen recently, in which you would actually have to deny yourself in order to do it? Will you do it?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Thursday, April 12, 2018

2018.04.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 15:1-13

Questions for Littles: With what ought the strong to bear (v1)? Whom ought they not to please? Whom should they please (v2)? For what purpose? Leading to what goal? Who else did not please Himself (v3)? What did He endure for God’s sake? For whom were Scriptures about former believers written (v4a)? Through what, from the Scriptures, do we have what (v4b)? What title of God does v5 use? What does v5 pray that we would be? According to whom? So that we may do what (v6)? If we are to offer such worship, what must we do (v7)? Just as Who else has done to whom? Unto what purpose? What does v8 call the Jews? What does it say that Jesus has done for them? To confirm what? What does He cause the nations (Gentiles) to do (v9a)? Who does this with them (v9b)? And who else (v10)? How many nations do this (v11)? What relationship does Isaiah say that Jesus, the root of Jesse, has with the nations (Gentiles), according to v12? What title of God does v13 use? What does it pray that He would fill us with? Unto what end? By what power?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we have the grand conclusion to the body of Paul’s letter to the Romans. While there is much to be gleaned from the editorial comments that follow, and even the greetings that he appends, this passage is the climax.

And it does not surprise us that Romans’s chief end is to glorify God. It ends with worship. It climaxes with worship. The opening verses are full of commands not to reproach one another, but bear with one another, and see how we can be used to build up one another. But these all have a purpose: so that we may with one mind and with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s all about worship.

The argument of the letter opened up with the fact that the wrath of God was already displayed against such wicked creatures who had failed to worship the Creator (1:18-25). It moved through the amazing salvation by merciful grace that God has provided for sinners such as we are. Then it reminded that the response to such mercy must be an entire existence of worship (12:1).

And now we learn why so very much time has been spent, in chapters 12-14, on relationships in the body of Christ. God’s purpose in salvation is not merely that a multitude of associated individuals might worship similarly. Rather, His purpose is that Jesus Christ Himself would lead a united congregation of Jews and Gentiles, all believers from all places and all times, in one massively united worship of God.

Won’t that be glorious to be a part of? It will literally be the most glorious event we ever experience! This is our hope. And, as the Lord fills us with all joy and peace in believing, we become more and more likeminded to one another, and we see Him bringing about that great purpose for which He has saved us.

Yes, it does take a literal miracle for us to be over-full (abound) with such hope. But that is why He has given us His all-powerful Holy Spirit for that task. His power is displayed not when believers have ecstatic seizures or burst into gibberish, but when they are filled with joy and peace, and offer united worship to glorify God who gave His Son to be our Savior and our Lord. This is the great work of the power of the Holy Spirit!
Whom could you welcome more or increase connection with, in your church?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

2018.04.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 19:30-38

Questions for Littles: Where did Lot go from Zoar? Where did he dwell? Who was with him? Why did he move? Where did they dwell? Who told to whom the idea in v31-32? What did they not have in the cave (v31)? What did they know they would have to do to their father to make him commit such a great wickedness (v32)? What did Lot not know in v33 and again in v35? What two peoples came out of this? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we find that although Lot was able to get his daughters out of Sodom, he was not able to get Sodom out of his daughters. They come up with a plan of great wickedness, and the Moabites and Ammonites would go on to be a great torment to Israel for more than a thousand years.

It didn’t have to be this way. Lot chose to make his family’s dwelling in the cities, and in the city of Sodom itself. He could have gone elsewhere and trusted the Lord. He could even have sold off his livestock and remained with godly Abraham. Among all the godly men trained up in his household, how many good suitors there might have been for the daughters of Lot!

Of course, Lot knew this. After his Sodom experience, it wasn’t long before he noticed the immorality of the people of Zoar. He reasoned that this city’s days were numbered as well, and so he was afraid to stay there.

Now what does he do? If only he had gone to live with Abraham! Instead, he literally runs for the hills and moves into a cave with his daughters. It is there that their moral upbringing in Sodom finds occasion to display itself.

We may think that we are getting our children education opportunity. Or financial opportunity. Or social opportunity. But let us never do so at the cost of making the wicked into their constant companions. We may, too late, get our children away from the evil, only to find it now impossible to get the evil out of our children!

I suppose that it was to Lot’s credit that his daughters knew that they would have to get him passed-out drunk before he would allow them to be immoral with him. But, let’s not give him too much of that credit.

After all, shouldn’t his righteousness have included being unwilling to drink enough that he would begin to compromise his judgment? Let alone drinking enough not to know that someone was laying with him or what was happening?

We are reminded of Noah and begin to note that here is a place where many otherwise godly men have fallen. Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls! 2Peter 2:7-9, which reminds us that Lot was righteous and godly, glares like a neon warning sign here. Let no man think himself strong enough to dabble with the sin of drunkenness!!
With which of the two great sin-dangers in this passage are you uncareful?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or HB300 “Take Time to Be Holy”

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

2018.04.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 23

Questions for Littles: Who is our Shepherd (v1)? What shall we not do? In what does He make us to lie down (v2)? Beside what does the Lord lead us? What does He restore (v3)? In what paths does the Lord lead us? For what reason? Through what valley will we walk (v4)? What will we not fear? Why—who is with us? What two things of His comfort us in v4? What does the Lord prepare for us (v5)? Where? What does He do to our head? What happens to our portion of the cup of blessing? What shall goodness and steadfast love surely do (v6)? How many of the days of our lives will they do this? Where will we dwell/return forever?  
This week’s Prayer for Help and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 23.

Many of us have memorized this Psalm from our childhood, but I wonder how many of us consider what this Psalm meant to our Lord Jesus in His childhood, and even on into His adulthood.

It’s amazing that Jesus Christ Himself needed much of the care described in this chapter. To be sure, He did not sin or stray, but He was and is fully human—like us in every way, except without sin. He would experience being hungry, thirsty, weary, tired, lonely, and attacked. But, as He grew in wisdom, a big part of that wisdom would be seeing the goodness of God everywhere and delighting in that goodness.

Would that we were like our Redeemer, beholding God’s goodness to us everywhere, in everything, all the time!

It is truly astonishing that the heart of this Psalm’s comforts was withheld from our Savior. When He looked for His Father to be with Him in the valley of the shadow of death, He cried out instead the title line from the previous Psalm, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?!” He was forsaken in the valley that we, who deserve to be forsaken there, would instead have Him with us to comfort us so that we shall not fear.

Of course, Jesus knew that it would be so, and still the gospels tells us that “the Son of man came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many,” and that “He set His face toward Jerusalem.”

This is because Jesus knew Himself also to be the Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for His sheep. Every one of these beautiful statements about the Shepherds loving care finds its resounding echo in the heart of our Redeemer. He is not just our pattern but our Shepherd!

He who “upholds all things by the word of His power,” is upholding all of those things with the heart of goodness and provision of the Shepherd in this Psalm. More than that, He is upholding us by His own resurrection life in us, being worked out by His own Holy Spirit who has taken us up as His dwelling.

It is no wonder that “we know that all things work together for good” for those who love God and have been called according to His purpose. But let us learn, with v6, to delight in His character and His presence—to delight in Him Himself—even more than in His gifts!
What valley of yours is being sweetened by God’s presence because Christ willingly went to the cross? How will you remind yourself of this?
Suggested songs: ARP23A “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or HB338 “He Leadeth Me”

Monday, April 09, 2018

2018.04.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:8-16

Questions for Littles: How did Abraham obey (v8)? To what place was he called to go? What did he not know at the time? In what manner did Abraham dwell in a foreign country (v9)? In what did he dwell with Isaac and Jacob? What were they with them? For what kind of structures/city did he wait instead (v10)? What did Sarah need, in order to conceive (v11)? What did she judge about whom? What was Abraham’s condition when he fathered Isaac (v12)? How is the greatness of the multitude of his descendants described? From where does this language come (cf. Gen 15:5; Gen 22:17)? What did all of these people do in faith (v13)? What had they not received? From where did they see the promised things? Of what were they sure? What did they embrace? What did they confess? What did they declare plainly (v14)? What country were they not seeking (v15)? How do we know that? What kind of country do they desire (v16)? When are they doing this desiring? Of what is God not ashamed? What has He prepared for them?
In the sermon text this week, we learned that a big part of biblical faith has to do with where (Whom!) we consider home.

Abraham is called to go to a place. But he doesn’t even know where that place is (v8)—only who is calling him. When he gets there, he puts down no roots, but rather goes on a life-long, multi-generational camping trip.

Now, we might think that his hope is on the day that the people return from Egypt and take Canaan, but earlier in the book, we already learned that Joshua did not bring the people into their promised rest (4:8-11).

On the contrary, this is no man-made city at all. That’s the nature of faith, isn’t it? It’s not trusting that I will be able to do something, but that God will do something for me. The builder of the city and country that Abraham hoped for is God Himself.

Sarah didn’t stir herself up to a great achievement by faith; no, she believed that God was faithful to do what He promised, and then God did in her what He had promised.

We need to come to terms with the fact that Biblical faith is not the “confidence in God that I can accomplish ___________.” Whatever we fill into that blank, we will be quite disappointed when it comes time for us to die. But “these all died in faith not having received the promises.”

How does that work? Biblical faith is for someTHING that is eternal, because biblical faith is in someONE that is eternal. That’s where our passage is taking us, because it points us to a hope that is not only beyond death, but one that is specifically called heavenly.

What is this heavenly homeland? That’s a what question with a who answer! That’s what the end of v16 is getting at. The “city” that God has prepared for us is the one in which He is the primary feature. He is in the center of that city. He is the light of that city.

Moses understood this. He never entered the promised land. By the end of his life, the people of Israel had only ever been sojourners and slaves. But it is his psalm, psalm 90, that confesses, “Lord, YOU have been our dwelling place in all generations.”

Dear reader, is your hope that the Lord God Himself is your forever-home?
What temporal earthly hopes do you have that need to be put in their place behind the eternal enjoyment of God as the ultimate object of your biblical faith?
Suggested Songs: ARP90A “Lord You Have Been Our Dwelling Place” or HB216 “Jesus, Lover of My Soul”

Saturday, April 07, 2018

2018.04.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:8-16

Questions for Littles: What did Abraham do “by faith” in v8? What did he not know? What did he do by faith in v9? With whom did he dwell in tents? What was he waiting for (v10)? What did Sarah receive by faith in v11? What did she, by faith, come to judge about God? Who was the first to use the phrases in the second half of v12 (cf. Gen 15:5; Gen 22:17)? What happened to all of these people, in faith (v13)? What had they received? Of what were they sure? But what was their condition on the earth until death? What do those who confess themselves strangers on earth plainly say that they are seeking (v14)? What country was not the country that they were referring to as their home (v15)? What is the better country of which they were citizens (v16)? What is God not ashamed to be called?
In the coming sermon’s text, we see something about the “when” of faith’s hope, something about the “where” of faith’s hope, and something about the “who” of faith’s hope.

First, we see something about the “when” of faith’s hope. Abraham lived his entire life without receiving the promised land. Sarah lived her entire life without receiving the promised land. Isaac lived his entire life without receiving the promised land. Jacob lived his entire life without receiving the promised land.

These all died, still believing. Where they disappointed? I wonder if you or I would be disappointed if we lived a very long life, hoping in a promise, and came to our deaths, still not having received it. Faith clings to an eternal, all-powerful God. It does not worry if a long time—or even this entire life—has passed, and we still haven’t received all that we hope for.

Second, we see something about the “where” of faith’s hope. And that “where” is not here. If there’s ever been a promise that seemed this-life-earthy, it would have been the land promise. People still refer to Palestine as the “promised land” or the “holy land.”

But we discover in this passage that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were looking forward to a land that they would not receive in this life. In fact, they were looing forward to what we now call the New Heavens and the New Earth—in which they would inherit not just Palestine, but the whole world.

Are you looking forward to inheriting the whole world with them? Biblical faith doesn’t view one set of promises for the Jews and another for the Christians. It is not particularly interested in the tract of land belonging to the current nation-state called “Israel.” Rather, it looks forward to inheriting the New Heavens and New Earth, and all that they contain—which we will do right alongside those who have gone before (cf. v38-39).

Finally, we see something about the “who” of faith’s hope. In the end, the “when” of eternity, and the “where” of the New Heavens and New Earth comes down to the “who” of God Himself. A big part of biblical faith is “judging Him faithful” (cf. v11).

v16 is the most extraordinary part of God’s promises to which biblical faith clings. “God is not ashamed to be called their God.” It’s not just that God is building a dwelling for us to call our own. It is that God is preparing to dwell with us, and that He Himself is now called our own!

As we have seen before: one of the most important parts of biblical faith is coming to the conclusion that God Himself is His own best gift to us. He is our shield and our exceedingly great reward!
What blessings had you hoped for from God that you have not yet received? How do they compare with the eternal, universal, and personal promises to which biblical faith clings?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB126 “In Sweet Communion”

Friday, April 06, 2018

2018.04.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 12:13-37

Questions for Littles: What did the leaders send Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to do (v13)? What question do they ask in v14? How does Jesus answer in v15-17? How do they respond to Him (end of v17)? What do the Sadducees say (v18)? What crazy question do they have (v23)? What two problems does Jesus tell them they have in v24? What do we not do in the resurrection (v25)? Of whom is God the God (v27)? What does that mean about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (v26)? Who comes to Jesus in v28? What does he ask? How does Jesus answer (v29-30)? What does Jesus add to the answer in v31? How does that scribe respond to Jesus (v32-33)? What does Jesus say to the man in v34? What did no one dare to do after that?
In the Gospel reading this week, we learn something about government, something about marriage, and something about religion—all because people are trying to trap Jesus.

First, they try to trap Jesus between God and the government—as if He had to choose to honor either one or the other. But, our Lord exposes how ridiculous this is: government exists because God ordained it. There are coins with Caesar’s head on them, because God has permitted Caesar to reign in the first place!

People today make the same mistake as Jesus’s questioners. They set God and government over against each other. Though there may be times when government commands us to disobey God, and then we have to choose obedience to Christ… except for such times, Christians ought to be the best citizens in the land.

We know that government didn’t just happen because some people wanted to control other people. We know that it exists by the authority of God as a gift from God. This is also the reason why corrupt government is so offensive—it’s a sin against government’s God-given purpose! So, we should pay our taxes.

Then, we learn something about marriage. The Sadducees’ scenario is a doozy. They are truly scoffers of what they don’t understand. And Jesus puts them in their place. Because they weren’t holding to the Bible closely enough, their view of God was way too small. They were the “liberal progressives” of their day.

But, it is in Jesus’s response to their question that we definitively learn that there is no marrying in the resurrection. We will be like the angels, whose identity is bound up in being “the heavenly host [i.e. ‘army’].” So, too, Christians will be members of one great collective: a church, a temple, a house, a body… A BRIDE!

When we reach the wedding supper of the Lamb, we arrive at the reality to which marriage has always pointed forward. May the Lord give us marriages that point forward to Him, and may we rejoice to think of the day when we shall be presented to Him, unified, as one glorious Bride for Him!

The last question seems to have been a sincere one. When Jesus answers not just the greatest commandment, but the two greatest, it seems as if a light goes on in the scribe’s mind (heart) in v32-33. He realizes that God doesn’t actually delight in the burning of animal flesh, but in obedience that comes from love!

Notice, however, Jesus’s statement. He doesn’t tell the man that he is in the kingdom. He tells him that he is not far from the kingdom. Why? Because even if we know that what God wants is obedience from love, we still have the problem of being completely unable to do that! The last piece is to recognize that Jesus alone can or has ever done this.
What are some of your toughest questions for Jesus? What do the Scriptures have to say in answer? Have you asked your dad/elder/pastor what the Bible says? 
Suggested songs: ARP119M “O How I Love Your Law” or HB260 “The Spirit Breathes upon the Word”

Thursday, April 05, 2018

2018.04.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 14

Questions for Littles: Whom are we to receive (v1a)? What are we not to do with him (v1b)? What does the weak person believe (v2)? What should the strong person not do with the weak (v3a)? What should the weak person not do with the strong (v3b)? Who will make a Christian stand (v4)? What other part of the Jewish law was a point of difference for the weak and strong (v5)? Whether it’s days or foods, unto Whom should we be acting upon what we believe from the Bible (v6)?  To whom don’t we live (v7)? To whom don’t we die? To whom do we live (v8)? To whom do we die? To what end did Christ die and rise again (v9)? What two wrong ways of treating our brother must we avoid (v10)? What Scripture helps us remember not to raise ourselves up against another (v11)? What will each of us give (v12)? What must we not do to one another anymore (13a)? What must we not put in our brother’s way (v13b)? What is unclean of itself (v14a)? To whom is it unclean (v14b)? If we eat something that grieves our brother, what are we no longer doing (v15)? In that case, even if we are doing good, how will It be spoken of (v16)? What is the kingdom of God not about (17a)? What is it about (17b)? Whom must we serve in the things upon which we cannot agree (18)? What should we pursue (v19)? What should we be careful not to do (v20)? When is it good not to eat or drink (v21)? But, if we understand well enough to eat and drink, how/where should we do so (v22)? What happens when someone whose faith isn’t as strong goes ahead and acts according to the stronger person’s conscience (23)? What happens whenever we act but not out of faith?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we come to one of the issues that troubled Gentile Christians, and one of the issues that troubled Jewish Christians. Gentile Christians were reluctant to eat meat after they converted. The vast majority of meat in Roman cities—and particularly in Rome itself—was “cooked” in pagan sacrifices.

When a Gentile departed from paganism, he had an understandable aversion to going back to eating meat. Jews, however, knew that idols were nothing, and were perfectly ok with eating meat. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about this, he told them that they are correct in saying that there aren’t actually other gods… but He did imply that demons pose as false Gods (cf. 1Cor 10:19-33).

The same conclusion is reached in both places: whatever you come to understand from Scripture, live by that Scripture. And make it your goal to live publicly in a way that will help your brothers and sisters in Christ serve their Lord Jesus.

On the flip side were the Jews to whom it was very important to keep the various church-calendar days that God had invented. Perhaps it was even more important to them, now that they knew these days pointed to Christ. As we’ve learned about that shadow calendar from Hebrews, it is plain that the “strong” did not observe those days. Ironically, in America today, there are a number of Gentiles who keep the Jewish shadow calendar!

But eating or not eating, and keeping feasts or not keeping feasts, are not the dangers that this chapter is warning against. Rather, the dangers are either to despise the weaker brother because he doesn’t see the connections in the Bible, or to judge the stronger brother because we think there are things still in effect that Scripture teaches have actually stopped.

In either case, the danger is not that we won’t be right about the issue. The danger is that we would not treat our brother rightly about the issue. Let us learn to walk in love and to be very careful not to cause our brother to stumble!
What rules do you follow that others in the church don’t? What rules do others in the church follow that you do not? Are you well-convinced from Scripture, or just pleasing yourself? How might you be in danger of treating others badly over this issue?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

2018.04.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 19:12-29

Questions for Littles: What did the “men” ask Lot (v12)? What they tell him to do with them? What were they going to do to the place (v13)? Why? What did his sons-in-law think of this warning (v14)? When did the “angels” urge lot to get up and go (v15)? Why (end of v15)? What did Lot do (v16)? What did the “men” do? Why? What did He say to Lot in v17? Why didn’t Lot think he could make it to the mountains (v19)? What did he ask for in v20? What does He say to him about that city in v21? Why? Who was going to destroy the city (v22)? Who rains down brimstone and fire (v24)? Who looks back (v26)? What happens to her? Who else goes out early in the morning (v27)? To what place does he go? Toward where does he look (v28)? What does he see? Why did God send Lot out of the cities (v29)?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we see the covenant mercies of God toward His people for His mediator’s sake.

First, we see that these are covenant mercies. The language of God “remembering” Abraham is covenant language. It’s not just saying that God didn’t suffer a case of forgetfulness. It’s saying that God was acting upon His established relationship with Abraham.

Also, the fact that it is specifically Abraham that God is “remembering” here reminds us that this is covenantal. Though the Lord tells us in Peter that Lot was righteous, he is presented here as having a federal representative stand for him: Abraham.

But, in noticing that this is covenantal mercy, let us not forget that this is mercy!
v16 announces the reason for the hand-holding, arm-pulling urgency: Yahweh was being merciful to him. Lot acknowledges that this is grace (favor) and mercy in v19? The Lord tells him that He has graced (favored) him, v19.

Later, in 2Peter 2:7-9, the Lord will give His own authoritative application of this passage to us: the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under their punishment.

This is especially true for us now, because we have infinitely better than Abraham for covenant Mediator now. We have the Lord Jesus Christ!
What is God remembering when He remembers His covenant with you in Jesus? What trouble do you currently find yourself in that He is saving you out of?
Suggested songs: ARP196 “Waiting for the Lord” or HB369 “How Firm a Foundation”

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

2018.04.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 3:13-21

Questions for Littles: Who has ascended to heaven (v13)? Who came down from heaven? What did Moses lift up in the wilderness (v14)? Who must be lifted up? What happens when someone believes (v15)? Why did God give His only begotten Son (v16)? What will not happen to those who believe in Him? What will they have? What was not the reason that God sent His Son into the world (v17)? What was the reason? Who is not condemned (v18)? What has already happened to him who does not believe? Why? What has come into the world (v19)? Why did men love darkness rather than light? What do those who practice evil hate (v20)? Why doesn’t he come to the light? Why does the one who does the truth come to the light(v21)?
This week’s Prayer for Help and Confession of Sin came from John 3:12-21. This passage includes one of the most familiar verses in the Bible. It’s a great reminder that salvation is all about the love of God.

The serpent that Moses raised in the wilderness was in response to a plague that God had sent upon the people for their sin. They deserved what was coming upon them. But God set before them a reminder of their guilt and His mercy for them just to look at, and they would not die from the venomous bite.

Of course, that was just a snake bite and an earthly death. Frightful to be sure, but nothing compared to the eternity of Hell that we actually deserve. For that, real payment had to be made, and the Lord Jesus came to do exactly that: to be our real and complete payment for sin.

But the mechanism by which we receive this far greater healing is similar to that of the bronze serpent: look to Him. Look to and hope in God’s provided remedy for your sin and guilt!

Yes, it hurts to have our sin brought out into the light. It hurts to look at the cross and know that’s how enormous our guilt is.

But it is also a great joy to look at the cross and know that our guilt has been put away there for god. Our deeds have been done in God! They are accepted as righteous, not because we have done them perfectly, but because God has put away all our guilt at Christ’s cross, and has produced in us whatever good there is, by Christ’s own resurrection life.
What does it look like to “come to the light” of the cross? What do we see there?
Suggested songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness” or HB198 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

Monday, April 02, 2018

2018.04.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 23:50-24:12

Questions for Littles: Of what was the Joseph in v50 a member? What kind of man was he? What had he not done (v51)? Where was he from? For what was he waiting? To whom did Joseph go (v52)? For what did he ask? What did Joseph do with the body of Jesus (v53)? What was that day (v54)? Who followed after (v55)? What did they observe? What did they do when they returned (v56)? Why didn’t they take the spices and oils immediately to the tomb? What day did they return (24:1)? What time? Of day? What did they bring to the tomb? What did they find when they got there (v2)? What did they not find when they went in (v3)? How did they feel about this (v4)? Who stood by them? How did the women feel now (v5)? What did they do? What do the two men ask them? What do the two men say in v6? Why isn’t Jesus there? What do they tell the women to remember? What do the women then do in v8? What do the women do when they return (v9)? Which women were they (v10)? What did their words seem like to the apostles (v11)? Who rose and ran to the tomb (v12)? When he stooped own, what did he see? How did he respond?
In the sermon text this week, we were reminded again of the wonderful reliability of Jesus’s words. He had told the disciples what seemed impossible. “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”

The women hadn’t taken these words to heart, so they were “greatly perplexed” in v4. The disciples hadn’t taken these words to heart, so even after the women report, “they did not believe them.”

Let us not put ourselves at such a disadvantage. Let us believe the words of Jesus! It is not for no reason that 1Corinthians 15 tells us that He died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and was raised again on the third day according to the Scriptures.

The Lord has given us His words so that we will be fully sure of that which is hardest to believe: that through Jesus’s sacrifice, our ungrateful, wicked sins really and truly are forgiven by the holy, holy, holy Lord.

Yes, the resurrection is an historical fact. The change that came over these disciples, even unto death, would be evidence enough of that. There’s no way that the church gets to where it is now, from how those disciples started out, if the resurrection didn’t happen.

But we have something even firmer than that logic: the words of Jesus Himself. And these are the words that tell us that He was raised because we had been forgiven fully!
What are some other Bible promises that are almost too amazing to believe? How does Jesus’s keeping His Word about the resurrection help you to believe them?
Suggested Songs: ARP16B “I’ll Bless the Lord” or HB209 “Thine Is the Glory”