Thursday, May 31, 2018

2018.05.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 1:26-31

Questions for Littles: How many wise according to the flesh are called (v26)? How many mighty are called? How many noble are called? Why has God chosen the foolish things of the world (v27)? Why has God chosen the weak things of the world? Why has God chosen the base things of the world, and the things are despised, and the things which are not (v28)? What does God want no flesh to do in His presence (v29)? How did we come to be in Christ Jesus (v30)? What four things is Christ Jesus for us? In what (whom!) should we glory, instead of ourselves (v31)? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, God lowers our self-esteem. He reminds us that the world considers us foolish. He reminds us that, humanly speaking, we are weak. We are unimpressive, and of little earthly account.

The sooner that we just admit this about ourselves, the sooner we can get to the (literally) glorious reason for this: so that our only glory will be the Lord Himself! At the end of the day, the more we try to retain some wisdom, strength, goodness, or any other quality worthy of admiring, the less we will admire the Lord alone.

Sadly, many of us have not gotten this message. As individuals, we think that we will be so impressive to our unbelieving friends that they will just want to become Christians on the spot after they meet us! We harbor secret suspicions that if our fellow church members would just be a little more impressive, we’d be able to get more people to stick. Or even worse, we build up an entire array of programs and strategies for looking impressive, and think that it’s actually a good thing when people come and stay for them!

If only we would, more often, take out the 1Corinthians 1:26-31 mirror and take a good long look and say, “the only thing genuinely impressive about me is Jesus.” If only we would, more often, take out the 1Corinthians 1:26-31 mirror and take a good long look and say, “the only thing genuinely impressive about our congregation is Jesus—and He is the only thing that can ever be genuinely impressive about us.”

Is Jesus’s glory so small that we think we can add to it, or feel that it needs adding to? Do we think that we do anyone a favor by displaying ourselves, when they could have Christ displayed to them instead? Would it be healthy if they were drawn to us, when they would not have been drawn to Christ?

Here is God, the eternal Son, who has become a man; and, as a man, He has become for us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption! Glory!!! Surely, if one is not moved by this, it matters little if we can get him to think that we are warm, welcoming, and have much to offer him!

May the Lord save us from ourselves and our self-esteem… so that we may have eyes fully open to the glory of Christ, and rejoice in His glory among us!
Of what are you tempted to be impressed about yourself or your church? How does this passage remind you to think about it instead? What are you hoping will draw people to Christ? If that is your hope, then how will you go about evangelizing them?
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or HB132 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

2018.05.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:1-27

Questions for Littles: In what condition do we find Abraham in v1? Whom does Abraham call, and what does he make him swear not to do (v2-3)? What does he make him swear to do (v4)? What possible problem does the servant ask about in v5? Whom does Abraham say will provide this wife? How many camels does the servant take? What does he ask to be the sign of the right woman for Isaac’s wife? When does Rebekah arrive (v15)? How does she look (v16)? What does the servant do (v17)? How does she respond? For how many camels is she drawing water? Even though his sign had been exactly fulfilled, what was the servant still observing in v21? What gifts did the man produce in v22? What questions did he ask in v23? What action does the man take when he custody of another (v24-27)?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, there’s a problem. Abraham is old, well advanced in age, and Yahweh has blessed Abraham in all things. That doesn’t sound like a problem, except…. His heir is unmarried. Isaac needs a wife!

Now, it cannot be just any wife. We saw what happened in Genesis 6 when the godly married from the wrong people! But the nearest approved relative is way out in Mesopotamia. Abraham cannot go there. So he sends a servant.

The Lord shows His great mercy, to Isaac, to Abraham and to the servant by directing the servant right to the spot where he needed to be.

Then the servant asks for the sign… that if he asked the girl for water, she would offer to draw water for the camels also. That may just sound polite to you, but here’s a foreigner with ten camels—it would be no small effort!

Isn’t it interesting, though, that even after the girl says this, the servant still watches and remains silent “so as to know whether Yahweh had prospered his journey or not”? For Abraham’s servant the fulfilment of a sign was no substitute for good character.

But there she was, not only beautiful but running back and forth with those pitchers of water until each of those ten camels had completely replenished its water supply! Not only that, she was willing to extend hospitality to him as well.

There is much to be admired in Rebekah’s character. And we would do well to raise daughters to be such as she appears to be in this text, and to encourage our sons to marry women with character like this.

However, let us not miss the main point, as promised earlier in the passage by Abraham, and repeated by the servant now in v27. “Blessed by Yahweh, God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His steadfast love and faithfulness toward my master.”

This, ultimately, is from where come good marriages and the preservation of covenant families across generations: the faithful love of our covenant God! Do you have children whom you hope to see grow godly and marry godly? Train them well, but look to and hope in the Lord for them!
To whose faithfulness do you look for your good marriage? What are you doing to pursue it?
Suggested songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or HB106 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

2018.05.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 22:27-31

Questions for Littles: Who will remember and turn to the Lord (v27)? Who will worship before Him? To whom does the kingdom belong (v28)? Who rules over the nations? Who will eat and worship (v29)? Who will be before Him? What can’t people do for themselves? Who will serve the Lord, according to v30? Whom should each generation tell about the Lord? To what people will they declare His righteousness (v31)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin all came from Psalm 22:27-31. As we have been learning recently, this was part of the joy set before Christ, for which He was able to endure the cross.

As our Lord suffered the penalty of our sin, He was sustained by the hope of Christian worship assemblies, in which He would declare His Father's name to His brethren and sing His Father's praise (cf. Ps 22:22-26).

The Lord delights in our Lord's Day services as a partial fulfillment of that, as congregations on earth join that perfect worship of the great congregation in glory. We hope to hear more about that, by God's help, in morning worship on June 3rd.

But, even more, there is coming a day when the Lord will have gathered in His people from all nations to the end of the earth, and all families throughout history. And it is then that the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 22:27-31 will have been completed.

From now until that day, there are two great tasks that we can undertake to participate in the glorious spread of the gospel: missionary work, in which we spread the gospel to parts of the world that it has not yet gone, but more and more by recounting to our children the great deeds of the Lord, and that they charge their children to do the same, who will do so with their own children, etc.

Perhaps some of us will be surprised that it is this transmitting of the gospel from one generation to the next that is emphasized in a section that begins with vv27-29. But let us not be: God invented the family and loves to work through it. He created human fatherhood and childhood to mimic something about Himself.

That’s right… when you have family worship, you are bringing about that thing that was such a joy to Christ, that it is what sustained Him upon the cross! Doesn’t that make you want to not miss a single opportunity to tell your children of the Lord? God grant that we would make the most of our time with them!
What members of the next generation are you telling about Christ? When/how?
Suggested songs: ARP162 “All Ends of Earth” or HB501 “The Ends of All the Earth Shall Hear”

Monday, May 28, 2018

2018.05.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:12-13

Questions for Littles: What things that hang down are we to strengthen (v12)? What feeble things are we to strengthen? What kind of paths are we to make for our feet (v13)? What will God use this to do for whatever is lame? 
In the sermon this week, we learned how to respond to God’s determined work to make us holy. We do whatever the One who is doing this work says to do. In this case, our Fatherly God commands us to do the difficult and painful.

Strengthen those hands that hang down. Strengthen the feeble knees. Make straight paths for your feet. These are marching orders. Things for us to do. But let us not make the mistake of turning the Christian life into a life of toughing it out because our obedience will make everything better.

We don’t follow these commands because we have been left to train ourselves. We follow these commands because the Lord is training us. This passage isn’t talking about toughing it out. To be sure, there is determination here, but it is a determination that is based upon God’s strength, not ours.

It is not our obedience that makes everything better. Rather, it is God who is producing our obedience by making us better. This is why He chastens us, according to vv3-11. And this is why we obey what He says to do. As v10 tells us, He’s making us holy. As v13 tells us, He’s healing us.

So often, as we struggle, we feel the hanging down, and feebleness, and lameness. If we are looking unto ourselves and considering ourselves, then the command to strengthen and make straight will just plunge us into despair. Yet, so many try that, thinking that they are obeying the commands in vv12-13.

God deliver us from this deadly half-obedience to the instruction in this text! Looking unto Jesus, strengthen and make straight. Considering Him who endured the hostility, strengthen and make straight!

But let us not miss that this passage also cuts the other way. There are many who say, I’m not going to work at holiness, because… I’m looking unto Jesus. Or, I’m not going to make a straight path of obedience to follow, because… I’m considering Him who endured the hostility.

This passage just doesn’t allow us to think like that. Those who look unto Him, and consider Him, are looking unto and considering the One who both is working in us, and also commands us to work.
Which mistake do you find yourself more likely to make: looking unto yourself for strength, as you follow Scripture instruction for life? Or excusing a laziness about the Christian life by dressing that laziness up by telling yourself that you are looking to Jesus?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”

Saturday, May 26, 2018

2018.05.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:5-11

Questions for Littles: What speaks to us as sons (v5)? Whose chastening and rebuke do we receive? How shouldn’t we respond? Whom does God chasten (v6)? Whom does God receive? When is God dealing with us as sons (v7)? What does v7 assume that all fathers will do with their children? If we have no chastening in our lives, then what aren’t we (v8)? How does v9 assume that children will treat their fathers? Of what does v9 call God the Father, and how does this relate to v3? Why does God discipline us (v10)? How does chastening seem for the present (v11)? What does it produce? 
In this week’s sermon text, we learned some comforting things about the uncomfortable situations in our lives.

First, our lives are never out of control. Well, sure, they are always out of our control. Any idea that we are ever in control is a lie that we tell ourselves. And, often, it’s the uncomfortable times that the Lord uses to expose the lie.

But the Lord is always in control. So, v5-6 call those uncomfortable times the “chastening,” “rebuke,” and even “scourging” of the Lord. But now we’ve gone from “lest you become discouraged” in v3 to a command “do not be discouraged” in v5.

Do not be discouraged! Why?

Reason 1: the Lord loves you. He loves you enough to do whatever is necessary to produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Reason 2: the Lord receives you. Actually the word in v6 is more than that. He welcomes you. He takes you in. but sin cannot enter heaven. Heaven has a war against sin. That’s why righteousness is a peaceful fruit. That’s why being delivered from the ongoing presence of sin is worth whatever it takes.

Reason 3: the Lord treats you as a son. Being discouraged by His providence actually dishonors our heavenly Father and despises our fatherly God.

Does it not seem best to us? What is that next to the fact that it is what seems best to Him (v10)?

You may be in an uncomfortable situation now. If not, and if you live a bit longer, you will be in an uncomfortable situation soon enough. How do I know? Because the Scripture says that if you are without discipline, you’re not a true son.

And it’s guaranteed to be painful, v11. But do you know what else is guaranteed? The peaceful fruit of righteousness. The whole point of this isn’t the pain. It’s your true Father loving you and taking you to be with Himself forever
What uncomfortable situation are you in or have been in? What is your Father doing in it?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Friday, May 25, 2018

2018.05.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 14:42-52

Questions for Littles: Whom does Jesus tell them is coming in v42? Then who appears immediately, while He is still speaking (v43)?  What signal had Judas given them (v44)? How did Judas think Jesus would be led away? What does Judas do in v45? What does the mob do in v46? And what does one of the three who were with Jesus do (v47—we know it was Peter from John 18:10). Whom does Jesus address in v48? What does He ask them? In v49, what explanation does Jesus give for why He had to be taken this way? When they heard this, what did the disciples do in v50? What was one young man still trying to do in v51, when he was seized? What does that young man do when seized?
In the Gospel reading this week, we see Jesus betrayed, betrayed, and betrayed.

He knows that these betrayals are coming. As He says, “the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” He said of Judas, “See, My betrayer is at hand.” He had told the disciples that they would all abandon Him, and then in v50 “they all forsook Him and fled.”

But there is one more betrayal, albeit subtle. Notice that in this gospel, the Holy Spirit does not tell us that Jesus healed the servant’s ear, or even that Jesus said anything to Peter.

Instead, the entire focus is on the fact that the swords and clubs were unnecessary. The only problem with that is that Peter used his sword even though they were hopelessly outnumbered.

Isn’t it ironic? Peter, who had been warned that he would betray Jesus, probably thought that he was making a grand stand. And, in its own foolhardy way, it was kind of brave. But while Peter thought that he was defending Jesus’s well-being, what he didn’t realize is that he was betraying Jesus’s character.

“Have you come out, as against a robber…” Jesus says. And Peter acted exactly as if it was that kind of situation. As far as this particular gospel is considered, there’s a severed ear to prove it.

Jesus is not like the false god of Islam, who needs His people to kill in His behalf. He can defend Himself. He is not like the false philosophies of the world, whose adherents argue until they are blue in the face. He has sovereign power to change the hearts of those who disbelieve Him.

In fact, Jesus doesn’t need us at all. But He does give us the privilege of living as those who have hope, and of giving a ready and good answer for that hope. It is a weighty thing to have His name upon us. How will our lives reflect upon Him?

We hope that we will never be in danger of betraying Him like Judas, but is there a possibility that we may end up betraying Him like Peter? May He give us grace to live in such a way as brings honor to His name!
Where do unbelievers see you? How could you bring more honor to Christ at those times?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or HB498 “Heralds of Christ”

Thursday, May 24, 2018

2018.05.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 1:18-25

Questions for Littles: What is foolishness to those who are perishing (v18)? To whom is the message of the cross the power of the cross? What has God done to the wisdom of this world (v20)? Through what did the world not know God (v21)? Through what did God save those who believe? What do Jews request (v22)? What do Greeks seek? But what do we preach (v23)? To whom is Christ crucified a stumbling block? To whom is Christ crucified foolishness? Who is the power of God and the wisdom of God, to those who are called (v24)?  
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learn about how God is the One who has decided how to save. And He has made it all about His Son.

There are some who would make it all about their experience. They are looking for the dramatic—for a sign, like the Jews.

These people generally stumble at the cross. It isn’t a great experience to them, even though Jesus told them that it would be the “sign of Jonah,” for Himself to be in the earth for three days, this is just too unexpected, and too pathetic.

There are others who would make salvation all about their cleverness. They are looking for a theory or philosophy—for “wisdom,” like the Greeks.

These people generally scoff at the cross. God became a man? So that He could die? And then He un-died? To people looking for a life-theory or philosophy, dwelling on the cross just sounds utterly ridiculous and irrelevant!

But those who are being saved—whose eyes and heart the Lord has opened—know that the cross is actually the greatest example of both. It is the greatest experience in the world to come to know the One who died for you on the cross. It is the greatest display of wisdom in history that the living God has come up with a way to save sinners.

There are many practical matters to deal with in Corinth. And the apostle will deal with them. But all the way through, He will keep tying everything back to the message of the cross. Whether his readers are pleased with that tells us all about them: whether they are perishing or being saved.
How about you? Do you love to hear the message of the cross? Does it sound to you like the greatest experience that you could ever have of the power of God? Does it sound to you like the greatest display that there could ever be of the wisdom of God? If you cannot honestly answer that it is so, then do not sit their trying to quibble with this devotional in your heart. Instead, ask God that for the sake of Christ, He would make you spiritually alive! 
Suggested songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths” or HB199 “Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed”

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

2018.05.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 22:20-23:20

Questions for Littles: Whose family is described in vv20-24? Whose age at death is given in v1 (the only woman in the Bible whose age at death is recorded)? What is Abraham looking for, for the first time since they came to Canaan? How much does he end up paying for it? What does He do with the field and the cave?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we see Abraham valuing the resurrection.

He’s not just looking forward to getting a new, improved body. If that were so, it would have been enough to bury his wife in someone else’s field.

But Abraham’s hope of the resurrection was tied to the covenant promises of God. And those promises said that God would be giving him that land as a possession.

In the end, Abraham ends up paying a king’s ransom—more than ten times what Judas takes for betraying Christ. But the silver is not important. He is trusting God to be his shield, and his very great reward.
What do your end-of-life plans say about your hope in God’s promises?
Suggested songs: ARP157 “Immortality and Resurrection” or HB425 “For All the Saints”

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

2018.05.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 89:1-10

Questions for Littles: Of what will the psalmist sing (v1)? What would he make known with his mouth? How big are God’s mercy and faithfulness (v2)? With and to whom is this mercy found (v3-4)? What two assemblies, in which two places, especially praise Him (v5-7)? Whom does God scatter, as a part of His faithfulness (v8-10)? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 89:1-10.

This Psalm begins by presenting us with something similar to what we have seen in Hebrews 2 and Hebrews 12… two worship assemblies in harmonious agreement with one another—one in heaven and one on earth.

What do the most glorious angels all agree upon? That none of them are even to be compared to the Lord.

Marvelously, those who surround the throne hold Him in reverence for His steadfast love (mercy) and faithfulness. That is to say that, even from the perspective of the holy angels, God’s redemption of His people on earth is at the center of all His glorious works.

And a big part of this is the Lord scattering His enemies. Yes, the Lord is full of love and mercy, and He is perfectly faithful. But that means that He is also full of hate: hatred of sin!

If we have known that God, who by right could have destroyed us, has instead given Himself to save us, then this psalm gives us instruction about what should be one of the main ways that we respond to His redeeming love and faithfulness: go to church. Participate in the assembly of the saints. Gather with the congregation on earth that joins the worship assembly in Heaven.
When you’re amazed at God’s mercy and faithfulness to save you by Christ’s cross, do you think, “I can’t wait to go to church?”!
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or HB137 “Blessing and Honor and Glory and Power”

Monday, May 21, 2018

Psalm 22:27-28 - May 27 Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Praise

This coming Lord's Day, the first part of the worship worship service will be from the closing stanzas of Psalm 22. This "crucifixion psalm" has come up several times recently, because it recounts for us that joy which was set before Christ, and for which He endured the cross.

As our Lord suffered the penalty of our sin, He was sustained by the hope of Christian worship assemblies, in which He would declare His Father's name to His brethren and sing His Father's praise (cf. Ps 22:22-26).

The Lord delights in our Lord's Day services as a partial fulfillment of that, as congregations on earth join that perfect worship of the great congregation in glory. We hope to hear more about that, by God's help, in morning worship on June 3rd.

But, even more, there is coming a day when the Lord has gathered in His people from all nations to the end of the earth, and all families throughout history. And it is then that the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 22:27-31 will have been completed.

Lord's Day morning, May 27, we will look forward to that day with joy, even as we have a foretaste of it in the Lord's Day worship assembly. Won't you join us for that?

Lord-willing, these will be our Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Praise:

(Elder) All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.
Psalm 22:27

Lord—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—Yours is the kingdom.
You rule over us, and indeed over all the nations.
Sit enthroned upon our praises this morning,
And help us by the ministry of Your Holy Spirit,
Which we ask through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,
And Your people in this place say… AMEN!!
From Psalm 22:28

+ WE SING GOD’S PRAISE – HB501 The Ends of All the Earth Shall Hear

2018.05.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:3-4

Questions for Littles: Whom are we to consider (v3)? What did He endure? From whom? What will considering Him keep us from becoming? Unto what point have they not resisted (v4)? Against what are they striving? 
In the sermon this week, we received a word for a situation that we all go through: weariness and discouragement of soul. What can we do to keep weariness and discouragement at bay?

Consider Him.

It’s important to see that this is a continuation of the instruction in v2: “looking unto Jesus, the pioneer and guaranteed completer of our faith.”

Last week, we heard from vv1-2, that as we look unto Jesus, by faith, sitting at the right hand of the throne of God, we see the One who is at work in us, and whose handiwork every case of true faith has ever been.

Now, vv3-4 remind us that this exalted One has been not only where we are, but lower. Not only are we to consider Him, but we are to consider Him

Who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself.

What sinners? The crowd that said, “His blood be upon us and our children”? Yes. But not just the way you might think. Because some of those people, fifty days later, cried out, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Since this is the letter to the Hebrews, some of those people were likely in the congregation that first received it.

But they went from “Brethren, what shall we do?” to repenting and believing, to putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit of God… the same Spirit that teaches us to call God our Father and testifies that we are the children of God. (cf. Romans 8:13-17)

So what we have, when we take all these Scriptures together, is that Jesus endured hostility from sinners to save them from more than just the penalty of their sin. He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God and kept on saving us from sin… from the power of our sin and from the presence of our sin.

Jesus is the Finisher of our faith, and that finish comes, sometimes, through pain. Since He is suffering through it with us, let us be all the more strengthened to suffer through it with Him!
What are you suffering through right now? Who suffers through it with you? Why?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”

Saturday, May 19, 2018

2018.05.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:1-2

Questions for Littles: By what are we surrounded (v1)? What two things should we lay aside? With what are we to run the race? Unto whom should we be looking (v2)? What has Jesus done with our faith? What was set before Jesus? What did He endure for that joy? What did Jesus despise? Where has He sat down?
In this week’s sermon text, we heard about the race that we have to run, and the difficult obstacles that hold us back—those weights and sins that we are to lay aside.

How are we to do this? It’s a “how” question with a … That’s right! A “who” answer! … “Looking to Jesus.”

Why look to Jesus? Well, in the first place (literally), because He’s the One who started our faith to begin with. The word that’s used isn’t just a word for getting the ball rolling. It’s a word for blazing a trail, cutting a path for the first time… He is personally and powerfully invested in your life!

And, in the last place (literally), we look to Jesus because when the last weight is laid aside, and the last sin is stripped away, it will be the Lord Jesus who has brought about every last bit of our sanctification.

Why? Because He loves to do it. Jesus went to the cross, considering it a small price to pay, because bringing glory to God was a large reward to gain. He rejoices to sit at the right hand of the throne of God. He rejoices to work faith in us, and to perfect faith in us.

And we should love to do it to. Don’t look to yourself, nor be discouraged by weakness. Look to Him, and be emboldened by strength. Don’t look to yourself, nor grieve over earthly enjoyments that you wish that you had. Look to Him, and be thrilled by the idea of experiencing His joy (cf. Jn 15:11, 16:24, 1Jn 1:4).

Finally, we should not only want to grow in grace for our own enjoyment. We should love to grow in grace for the Lord Jesus’s enjoyment. Don’t you love your Savior? Doesn’t it thrill you that He gets joy out of your running the race? Look to Him and to His joy!
What is the most difficult thing you’re going through? Is His joy bigger?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Friday, May 18, 2018

Don't Forget the Church Work Day Tomorrow!

Even chores are a joy, when done unto the glory of God, and all the more, when done in fellowship together! The following is a note from the deacons. We plan to begin around 8:30a.m. 
We plan to get several projects and clean up completed around the church and fellowship hall tomorrow.
The biggest tasks are to weed/mulch around both buildings, finish priming and painting the stairwell and install the Men’s Restroom dividers. 
General cleaning is needed and people, weather and time permitting there are other miscellaneous tasks/projects needing to be completed. 
Thanks to those who came out last Saturday and hoping to see many of you tomorrow. 
The Deacons

2018.05.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 14:32-41

Questions for Littles: To what place did they come in v32? What did Jesus tell the disciples to do? What was Jesus going to do? Whom did Jesus take with Him in v33? What did He begin to do? How sorrowful did Jesus tell them that He was (v34)? What does He tell them to do? Where did Jesus go in v35? What did He do there? What did He pray? What did Jesus first ask His Father to do in v36? Nevertheless, what does Jesus ask the Father to do? What does Jesus come and find the disciples doing in v37? Whom does Jesus single out to ask a question? What question does He ask? What command does Jesus give them in v38a? What warning does He give them in v38b? What did Jesus do in v39? What words did He speak? What did He find them doing again in v40? What did He do and say a third time in v41? What does Jesus tell them has come? What did He say was happening to the Son of Man? What does Jesus tell them to do in v42? Why?
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus was just as exhausted as His disciples. He was troubled, deeply distressed, exceedingly sorrowful.

How did the disciples respond? By sleeping. How did Jesus respond? By praying.

When push came to shove, there was something that Jesus wanted most of all: His Father’s ear.

Jesus knew that He had to go to the cross. He had set His face toward Jerusalem. He had told His disciples, over and over again, that He had to go and be crucified. So, is this prayer really an attempt to get out of the cross? No! For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.

But it was something that required endurance because of the greatness of the pain. So Jesus seeks refuge in His Father’s ear. He throws Himself down before His Father. He calls Him His Abba. He uses words of pleading: “if it is possible! … All things are possible for You!.” But He also uses words of trust: “not what I will, but what You will.”

Of course, God will always do His perfect will. But one of the reasons that He brings us to prayer is to remind us not only that His will is perfect, but that He is our Abba who cares very much for our pain in the midst of enduring that which is good and perfect but hard.

Of course, much more important than His being our great example in this situation was what Jesus was doing with His suffering, precisely so that we would never do it, and because we could not ever do it. The Son of Man was not a sinner. But He would suffer and die for our sins. Trusting in a Father who would forsake Him for our benefit. What a Savior, and what a salvation!
What times of prayer do you have set aside for falling upon Father’s ear?
Suggested songs: ARP143B “O Lord, My Spirit Fails” or HB398 “Sweet Hour of Prayer”

Thursday, May 17, 2018

2018.05.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 1:10-17

Questions for Littles: By what does Paul plead with them (v10)? What does he ask them to speak? What kind of mind should they have? What kind of judgment? What has Chloe’s household reported (v11)? What have they been saying, according to v12? What questions does Paul ask in v13? What is Paul glad about in vv14-16? What did Christ not send him to do (v17)? What did Christ send him to do? But not in what way? Why? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, an apostle pleads with the brethren by the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This must be something important! What is he pleading for? Christian unity!

Now this is the point at which some start nodding their heads. Surely, they think, this means that we shouldn’t emphasize doctrine so much.

But let us look at the kind of unity for which the Scripture here pleads:

Speak the same thing.

Be perfectly joined together in the same mind.

Be perfectly joined together in the same judgment.

This is decidedly not a situation of people being ok with a wide range of theological differences on important subjects!! Instead, this is a call for greater emphasis upon doctrine, so that everyone can be brought to the same conclusions.

The Bible does NOT celebrate doctrinal diversity, and neither should we!!

The stakes are high. The honor of Christ’s name and Christ’s cross are on the line.

The apostle goes so far as to say that he is glad that the only way that someone could honor him in this way is by making a mistake.

I wonder if you or I are like that: relieved when we don’t get much honor, because that means Jesus gets all of it? Relieved when a very unimpressive-sounding sermon is used mightily… because that shoes that Christ’s cross had the power, and we didn’t do much.
What opportunities are you taking to understand Scripture and theology better?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

2018.05.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 22:1-19

Questions for Littles: What do vv1, 7, and 11 have in common? What long description does v2 make of Isaac? What do the instructions of Genesis 22:2 have in common with the instructions of Genesis 12:1? What time of day does Abraham get up in v3? What chore does he have to do before they leave? How many days does it take to get near the spot (v4)? Whom does Abraham say will go, and whom does Abraham say will come back (v5)? What question does Isaac have (v7)? What answer does Abraham give (v8)? What is Abraham going to do in v10? Who stops him (v11)? What does God say that He knows in v12? Why? What does Abraham see in v13? What does he do with it? What does Abraham call the place (v14)? After Abraham worships, what does the angel of Yahweh do a second time (v15)? By whom does God swear (v16)? What does God promise about the number of Abraham’s offspring (v17a)? What does God promise about the power of Abraham’s offspring (v17b)? What does God promise about the blessedness of Abraham’s offspring (v18)? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we heard about the great almost-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. It is a very touching scene. “Father” “Here I am, my son” … how much it must have pained Abraham to do this.

And yet, he was certain that God would resurrect Isaac, even He should be killed. He tells the young men that they would both be coming back, and that’s exactly what happens in v19. He told Isaac that the Lord would provide for the burnt offering, and the Lord does provide in v13.

Then something curious happens. Before the Lord announces the blessing upon Abraham, there is a bit of an interlude. It would have taken a while to properly slaughter and drain an animal for the sacrifice. And yet, the Lord waits until Abraham has finished worshiping to respond with the blessing.

This is because the lesson is not so much in Abraham’s trusting the Lord as it is in the Lord’s provision. After all, the name of the mountain is not “Abraham will obey” but rather “Yahweh will provide.” It is the sacrifice of the ram, not the almost-sacrifice of Isaac that is in most central focus.

This, of course, is because the passage is primarily about Christ Himself. God’s Son. God’s only-begotten Son, whom He loves. God gave Him for us, and it is in this that we know love!

And so, God swears by Himself, since there is no one and no thing greater than Himself to swear by: the promised substitute will come from Abraham’s own flesh.
What place does worship have in your life? Does your worship show that  it is all about what God has done, and not about what you have done?
Suggested songs: ARP152 “Faith and Peace” or HB199 “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed”

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

2018.05.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Revelation 4:8-11

Questions for Littles: How many wings do the four living creatures have (v8)? Of whom does this remind you, from Isaiah 6? But of what are these creatures full around and within? How often do they take a rest? What are they doing all this time without rest? What, specifically, do they say about God three times? And then what do they say about God? And then what? How does v9 begin? So, how often is v10 happening? Who falls down before Him who sits on the throne (v10)? What else do they do? What do they do with their crowns? Of what do they say the Lord is worthy (v11)? Why?
This week’s Call to Worship and Prayer for Help came from Revelation 4:8-11. Here, we have a window into the praise of heaven, and what we find is the most amazing creatures (v8-9), and the most honored among glorified humanity (v10-11) praise God for things that are only true of God, and not even the most glorified creature.

First, God is holy. He alone has holiness inherent to Himself. The only way anything else becomes holy is by association with Him, by being set apart unto Him or near Him. We should be amazed at
His holiness. These amazing creatures do not rest, day or night, in amazement at His holiness. They never tire of the holiness of God. They never begin to find it boring.

Similarly, only God is Almighty. Everything and everyone else is limited in power, and dependent upon God for their very existence from one moment to the next.
And only God is eternal—without any beginning. He just was.

It seems to be to this that the elders are responding when they answer, with praise of their own, the praise of the four living creatures. When they hear that God is the only eternally existent being—that He had no beginning at all—they are reminded that He alone is the Creator of all things. Everything literally owes its existence to Him.

And that, of course, includes us. There is no honor or recognition or authority that we have, except that which ultimately belongs to Him, and we must lay it at His feet! So, let us learn not only to be impressed with Him, but also (importantly) to be unimpressed with ourselves!
Of what are you most often tempted to be proud of yourself?
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or HB137 “Blessing and Honor and Glory and Power”

Monday, May 14, 2018

2018.05.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:1-2

Questions for Littles: By what are we surrounded (v1)? What two things should we lay aside? With what are we to run the race? Unto whom should we be looking (v2)? What has Jesus done with our faith? What was set before Jesus? What did He endure for that joy? What did Jesus despise? Where has He sat down?
In the sermon this week, we heard about a group who are joining the heroes of faith that we have been learning about in chapter 11: us!

It is important that we get that sense: that glory is where “our people” are. It is so easy to look around at the people we rub elbows with every day and think of them as our people…

We are tempted to want to fit in here, when we should be thinking about being made fit for glory

We are tempted to want to be liked here, when we should be ravishing our hearts upon Christ’s everlasting love

We are tempted to want to be admired, when we should be adoring God’s glory.

There are lesser things that compete for our hearts. They are not sinful in and of themselves, but they weigh us down like wearing a lead suit. Habits. Hobbies. Little indulgences. Pass-times. Even certain friendships that we know keep us quite earthly-minded.

Then there are sins. And sin always turns our hearts away from God, against God. They are little claims to the throne. Little lies. A little gossip. A little laziness. A little lust. Indulging some bitterness or hostility in our hearts. Like vines, wrapping themselves around a runner’s leg, these don’t just slow us down but trip us up so we fall on our faces.

We lay aside weight, and run a little bit, and we are amazed to find that weight is back. We lay aside the sin, and run a little bit, and we are amazed to find that the sin is back.

Well, let’s not be amazed. Obviously, this was not a one-time thing. Otherwise, we would not be commanded to run with endurance.

It’s a race worth running, and there are real obstacles, but we have that promise that we will inherit the promises with them. Therefore, we also, let’s run!
What weights in your life keep you from living more zealously for Christ?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”

Saturday, May 12, 2018

2018.05.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:35-40

Questions for Littles: What did the women at the beginning of v35 do? What happened to the other people in v35? What were they hoping to obtain? What happened to the believers in v36? What happened to the believers in v37? What does v38 say was not worthy of these believers? Where did they live? What did all of these obtain (v39)? But what did they not receive? What has God provided for us (v40)? With whom will all of these believers be perfected? 
In the second half of this week’s sermon text, we heard about how the Lord’s work in our lives isn’t always to give us what others would call successes.

Yes, there were women who received their dead raised to life again. But you know what happened to those sons and daughters and brothers? They died again.

But there is a better resurrection coming: a rising from the dead that will be permanent. And that resurrection isn’t just better because it is permanent. It is better because it is a resurrection in a new world, with the full enjoyment of the God and His glory.

That’s the resurrection that is worth being tortured. That’s the resurrection that is worth being mocked. That’s the resurrection that is worth being scourged. That’s the resurrection that is worth going through every physical and spiritual trouble.

Oh, dear reader, how much the Lord has enabled other believers to endure! And what do we endure for having Christ as our Lord and Master? Giving up worldly priorities of pleasure, entertainment, relaxation? Being mocked, disliked, or even just thought weird? Maybe losing our wealth, our job, some earthly rights and privileges?

What is there that is too valuable to give up for the Lord? It’s not even worthy of us, let alone of Him!

Let us lose all and have Him!
What would it cost you, if you decided to be more devoted to Christ? Are you willing to give it up? How does it compare to the value of enjoying Him?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Friday, May 11, 2018

2018.05.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 14:27-31

Questions for Littles: When they arrive at the Mount of Olives, whom does Jesus say will be made to stumble (v27)? Because of whom will they stumble and when? What happens to the Shepherd? What happens to the sheep? Who will go before them to Galilee (v28)? What did Peter say would not happen, even if everyone else was made to stumble (v29)? What does Jesus say to Peter will happen before the rooster crows twice (v30)? How does Peter respond (v31)? Who else responded the same way? 
In the Gospel reading this week, the last supper has been eaten, the hymn has been sung, and Jesus and the disciples are at the Mount of Olives.

This is the point at which the Lord Jesus decides to tell the disciples that they are all going to stumble. This is the point at which the Lord Jesus decides to tell them that while He, the Shepherd, is being struck, they the sheep will abandon Him and scatter.

What is the Lord doing? Well, one thing He is doing is letting them know that their forsaking Him won’t be a surprise. He knows it is coming. It is written in Scripture. They are, after all, sheep. It is beyond their capability to lead themselves.

But another thing that He is doing is pointing those sheep away from themselves and back to Himself. When we stumble, the tendency is to get fixated upon how we have failed and how poorly we have done. But to fixate upon ourselves is itself a failure.

What Jesus does here is say, “Even after I die, I am still your Shepherd. Death cannot stop me. I will rise again. When I rise again, follow me to Galilee.”

And isn’t He doing something similar for you, dear believer? Don’t you see here that your failures never surprise your Master? He already knew you were going to stumble. And He loved you and gave Himself for you anyway. It has never been about how well you would come to serve Him in this life. It has always been about Him being your Shepherd, who lays down His life for His sheep.

Even if our stumbling is one of pride—having thought that we had everything under control—let us not be surprised. For, it was not just Peter but all eleven faithful disciples who “said likewise” in their pride (v31).

Our patient Lord knew even that we would be proud. It is, after all, why He was determined to go to the cross the next day. He did it to take upon Himself, instead of us, the penalty that we deserve for all of our sins.

But He has risen. And He has gone before us. Not just to Galilee but to Glory. And, as He says in John, if He goes, it is to prepare a place for us, and He will return again to gather us.

Whenever we stumble, dear believers, let us take our eyes off of ourselves, fix them upon Christ, and renew our zeal in following Him!
In what way(s) have you stumbled recently? How will you now set eyes back upon Christ?
Suggested songs: ARP51A-B “God, Be Merciful to Me” or HB282 “God, Be Merciful to Me”

Thursday, May 10, 2018

2018.05.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 1:1-9

Questions for Littles: Through what was Paul called to be an apostle (v1)? What does he say that the Corinthian church is in Christ Jesus (v2)? What are they called? To whom else is this letter written? With what two things does Paul greet them in v3? For what does Paul thank God in v4? What had the grace of God done for them (v5)? Whose testimony had been confirmed in them (v6)? In what did they not come short (v7)? For what were they eagerly waiting? What would Jesus do until the end (v8)? What would they be like in the day of Christ? Who is faithful (v9)? Who had called them into the fellowship of Christ? Who is Christ to Him? Who is Christ to us?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we began 1Corinthians. The two letters to the Corinthian church identify some of the most shocking sins, errors, and flaws about any church known to Scripture, so it is helpful to consider some of the things that Paul says about them here right at the beginning.

Yes, there is one sense in which he is writing as an impossible, and thus has inspiration to help with his letter in a way that we do not. But, he also models for us what we call “the judgment of charity”: giving a believer the benefit of the doubt as long as they are a member in good standing, precisely because God’s ongoing covenant with His church on earth, and statements about it.

Here, the apostle says several things to highlight that this is what is behind his glowing thanksgivings for such a church as this is.

They are the “church of God.” Whoever else is in that church, however else it is identified, the most important thing about it is that it belongs to God.

They are the “sanctified” in Christ Jesus. That means set apart, consecrated, or holy.

How did they come to be set apart? Because the Lord Himself has called them saints. And Paul’s work and word are not just for the saints that he likes or prefers. Rather, they are for “all who in every place call on the name of Jesus.”

We, too, may not decline to love, respect, and serve any church members simply upon the basis of liking them less or judging them worse.

They confess to eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is not for today that they are blameless, but on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

They are not only in fellowship with us but with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Did you catch the pattern? The main thing about other believers is not how they relate to us ourselves. Rather, it is in how they relate to our Lord Jesus Christ. Though they may have various serious problems, as long as they maintain a formal covenant relationship as a member in good standing of a true church, they are to be treated that way! (They even have a “right” to undergo church discipline, as we shall soon see)
Whom do you have a more difficult time loving, respecting, and serving in the church?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

2018.05.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 21:22-34

Questions for Littles: Who come and speak to Abraham (v22)? What is the first thing that they say? What do they ask Abraham to swear that he will do (v23)? What does Abraham say that he will do in v24? But then what does Abraham do in v25? What reason does Abimelech give for  not having done something about his servants’ taking Abraham’s well (v26)? What does Abraham give to Abimelech in v27? Did he owe Abimelech these things? What is he making with Abimelech? What does Abraham do with seven other ewe lambs (v28)? Who asks about the lambs (v29)? What does Abraham say Abimelech must do with them (v30)? To what do they witness? When Abimelech and Phichol leave, what does Abraham do (v33)? What does Abraham call Yahweh here? What does v34 tell us that Abraham did, and for how long? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we see how the Lord continued to preserve the line of the Messiah, even when Abraham was a stranger in a strange land.

Part of how the Lord did this was through Abraham’s own respectful but careful dealings with the wicked who currently possessed the land. Yes, the Lord had said that He would punish the Canaanites for their sins, but that wasn’t Abraham’s job.

Abraham’s job was to live at peace, without compromise, and to provide well for his own. He deals shrewdly, re-possessing his well. But he also deals respectfully, making the covenant, and giving covenant gifts.

When all is said and done, Abraham now has some recognized sojourner status in the land. And he plants a tree that has enough longevity that when his descendants return from Egypt, that tree would still be there.

Abraham was looking forward beyond his death to forever-blessings from God. After all, it is one thing to be in covenant with a Philistine king (more like a mayor of a Philistine city-state). It is a different thing altogether to be in covenant with the “everlasting God” who provides for and protects us.

After Abimelech and Phichol take off, the real business begins: Abraham worships.

So, let us learn to interact well with our neighbors, and since it is the Lord who provides for and protects us, let us never forget Him but rather make it the main business of our lives to worship!
With whom do you need to be interacting wisely, as part of the Lord’s care for you?
Suggested songs: ARP7A “O Lord My God, I Take Refuge” or HB112 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

2018.05.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Chronicles 29:11-15

Questions for Littles: Who blessed Yahweh (v10)? Before whom? What characteristics of God does v11 praise? What does it remind us belong to Him? Over whom is He exalted as Head? From whom do riches come (v12)? From whom does honor come? From whom does greatness come? From whom does strength come? So, since they had all these things, from Whom had the things come, and what did they do (v13)? From whom had the willingness come (v14)? From of what (Whose) things had they given? What did David confess that they were before the Lord (v15)? Who else had been homeless? What did he confess that our days on earth are like? What do we not have, except from God alone?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Prayer of Confession all came from 1Chronicles 29:11-15.

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

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

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

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

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

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

May the Lord stir us up to give, and may He stir us up to praise and thank Him for our giving.
What are you able to give to God in worship? Will you? And will you turn around and praise Him for enabling you to do so?
Suggested songs: ARP50B “O You, My People, Hear” or HB312 “We give Thee but Thine Own”

Monday, May 07, 2018

2018.05.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:29-34

Questions for Littles: What did the nation of Israel pass through as dry land (v29)? Who were not able to do so? What did the Israelites do for seven days (v30)? What happened to the walls of Jericho? What did not happen to Rahab (v31)? What happened to those who were disobedient? What kinds of people are named in v32? What kinds of things did God do in response to their faith in v33-34? 
In the sermon this week, we heard how the difference between those with faith and those without it isn’t something in them. The difference is in the Lord.

Both the Israelites and the Egyptians attempt to cross the Red Sea. Both think that they are going to make it. The difference is that one goes, trusting in the Lord, and the others go in opposition to the Lord. Faith isn’t the willingness to try something just based upon hope. Instead, faith is the confidence that the Lord is absolutely faithful.

Then with Jericho, there’s the people in the city. They are trusting in the wall. And the people outside the wall, what are they trusting in? Are they trusting in marching around the wall? No! They are trusting in Him who told them to do it. Again, the difference is that one group has the Lord, and the other group have everything else.

Again, with Rahab, there are those who are scared to death of the Lord but still resist Him (cf. Josh 2:8). v31 calls them “those who were disobedient.” Rahab is loyal to the spies of Yahweh’s people, because she believes that Yahweh is the only true God (cf. Josh 2:11). And she becomes the beneficiary of a greater miracle than the walls of Jericho falling down: her little sliver of the wall stays up!

The spies hadn’t known how the Lord would conquer the city. If they had, their plan would have been a very bad one! But the difference is not in our plans. It’s in our Lord. Sometimes, that difference results in what even the world would call spectacular successes.

Those are the kinds of things that vv33-34 describe. All those things are ones that we know from Scripture that the Lord did for His people and through His people. And He is the same Lord today. We must live, trusting in Him, that He is still able and often willing to do unbelievable things through and for those who believe in Him!

Yet, none of these things compare to what we will receive with them. Even if we never have a success like the ones listed of the judges and kings and prophets, we know that we shall have something greater—something that after all those victories, they were still looking forward to: being made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God forever.

This is what the Lord has promised us. This is what Christ has earned for us. And this is what we are sure of by faith.
What situation are you going through, in which God is working it out for your good because you are His? What is the difference between hoping that you will be strong enough in it and hoping that God will accomplish whatever is best in it?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Saturday, May 05, 2018

2018.05.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:29-31

Questions for Littles: What did the people pass through by faith in v29? What happened to the Egyptians when they tried? What fell down by faith in v30? What had the people done for seven days by faith? Who was saved by faith in v31? What was she? What did she do to Israel’s spies? 
In the second half of this week’s sermon text, we have two great examples of God making a distinction by faith: the crossing of the Red Sea and the fall of Jericho.

There are some who would have considered what the Egyptians did an act of faith. They tried to do the impossible, after all. They were in the same place. At the same time. Walked the same path. Under the same circumstances.

But they were not trusting in the Lord, and they were not the Lord’s people. The Lord makes a distinction.

In the second example, the wall that fell is perhaps not as amazing as the part of the wall that stayed up. It’s interesting, isn’t it, the scarlet thread that they arranged with Rahab as a signal? The spies had no idea how God was going to take down Jericho. Otherwise, they would have just said, “we’ll remember which part you live in by the fact that the Lord left it standing.”

Rahab certainly wasn’t morally superior to those who were saved. The Lord simply brought her to faith in Himself. This passage makes it clear that God wants us to remember this, when it reminds us that she is “the harlot” while simply referring to the other citizens of Jericho as “those who were disobedient.”

The Lord makes a distinction, and it’s not in us. It’s in Him. His people in this passage don’t really do much that is amazing. In fact, in this passage, Israel is just doing a whole lot of walking.

Rahab’s big mention is that “she received the spies with peace” … but receiving men carefully or secretly was part of her previous, sinful life as well—something she had done many times to earn the title “harlot.”

This time, of course, was different. This time, it was because she believed that the Lord is God, and in Him alone is power and salvation.

But it’s helpful for us to see how exemplary biblical faith can demonstrate itself in the most ordinary things.

Dear believer, the life of faith extends even to taking a walk and extending hospitality. Faith isn’t a matter of doing amazing things. It’s a matter of trusting an amazing God.
What ordinary things will you be doing this week? What does it look like to do them trusting in the Lord? Thanking the Lord? Serving and obeying the Lord?
Suggested Songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear the Lord” or HB310 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

Friday, May 04, 2018

2018.05.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 14:12-26

Questions for Littles: What day was it in v12? What did the disciples want to know? Who had already arranged with a man to have a large upper room furnished and prepared (v13-16)? What did they do that evening (v17-18)? What did Jesus tell them that one of them would do (v18)? What did each one of them want to know (v19)? What two things did Jesus say about His betrayer in v20? What does v21 say happened just as was written? What does Jesus say would have been better for His betrayer? What did Jesus do during this meal (v22-24)? What did Jesus say He wouldn’t do again until He did it new in the kingdom? How did they conclude their time together at the last supper (v26)?
In the Gospel reading this week, we see how Jesus was executing a plan to save sinners.

From v12, it is plain that the disciples thought they were going to serve Jesus—that they would make plans and arrangements and carry it out in service of Him. But the Scripture piles it on to demonstrate that it is Jesus who has done all of the planning and arranging.

Jesus has already arranged with the master of the man carrying the pitcher of water. The “guest room” is a large room. It’s already furnished. It’s already prepared. What do the disciples do? They find things just as Jesus had said, and they “prepare” the already-furnished and already-prepared room.

Then there’s the betrayer, who is supposed to be the one making all the sneaky arrangements. But Jesus blunts it by stating plainly “the Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him.” It’s not Judas who is arranging the cross. God has been arranging it since history began.

And Jesus makes clear that He is intentionally offering Himself in the Supper. They had seen Him distribute bread many times. But this time, He takes that distribution as an opportunity to explain what He is doing on the cross the next day. He’s not being trapped by His enemies. He’s intentionally handing over His body for them.

Indeed, the reason that the New Covenant requires the shedding of such precious blood is because Jesus’s covenant people are made exclusively of sinners. They’re such bad sinners that, when Jesus says that one of them is going to betray Him, every one of them know that it could be himself.

And each of us knows that about ourselves, don’t we? We are those for whom He has given His body. We are those to whom He gives the cup of blessing, exchanging it for the cup of wrath that we deserve.

Was Jesus’s death plotted by His enemies? Much more than that, Jesus’s death was plotted by Jesus for us sinners! That’s what this passage is announcing to us in flashing neon lights! When we are tempted to worry, let us remember not only that the Lord Jesus rules and overrules in all things, but that He does so in the same love in which He intentionally, determinedly, went to the cross for us.
What are you going through that you need to remember is controlled by Christ in His self-sacrificing love for us? Whom do you know who is going through something in which they desperately need to remember this? What are you going to do about this?
Suggested songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or HB448 “Twas on That Night”

Thursday, May 03, 2018

2018.05.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 16:17-27

Questions for Littles: What kind of people should the Roman church members take note of (v17)? To what is division-causing and offense-causing contrary? What should the Roman church members do with these people? What kind of words do such division-causers use (v18)? What does the Lord want us to be wise in (v19)? In what does He want us to be simple? Who is soon going to crush whom under believers’ feet (v20)? What blessing does Paul give at the end of v20 and again in v24? Who else greets them in vv21-23? According to what is God able to establish them (v25)? What has happened with this gospel, according to v26? Whom is Paul praising in vv25-27? What does he use the last words of this great letter to do?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we come to the end of the book of Romans.

Of all the applications with which he could have concluded, Paul chooses to warn them to avoid people who cause divisions and offenses.

Is someone speaking ill of others in the church? Don’t listen to them. Avoid them. Are they trying to get you to be offended at them? Don’t listen to them. Avoid them.

The doctrine that we have learned is that the church is one body with many members. The doctrine that we have learned is to live at peace with all men, as far as possible.   The doctrine that we have learned is how Christ has given Himself out of love for the us. The doctrine that we have learned is to deal lovingly with those with whom we disagree.

Sadly, it is not a new problem that people stir up strife and create lines of division in the churches. And we know from other passages (2Cor 2:8-11; 1Pet 5:5-9; etc.) that this is a chief strategy of Satan himself.

Thankfully, we need only heed the Lord’s instructions, because we do so in the knowledge and confidence that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet!

Interestingly, the conclusion of the letter is itself an example of two things that strengthen the church against division: greetings and praise.

One of the things that division-causers do is to refuse to interact with whomever they are dividing from. It’s difficult to maintain hostility with a brother with whom you are interacting.

Another thing that they do is stop worshiping. They might attend bodily and not mentally. Or, they might start skipping altogether. But they do not enter into the eager, passionate kind of praise that we see in vv25-27. Offense and division are maintained by taking ourselves too seriously. And a wonderful antidote to this is taking the praise of God’s glory far more seriously!

Oh, dear reader, let us maintain unity by clinging tightly to whatever Scripture teaches! And let us avoid division-causers, taking time to greet one another, and eagerly and passionately praising God together!
Whom do you know that gossips about church members? What would God have you do?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

2018.05.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 21:8-21

Questions for Littles: What did Abraham do for Isaac on the day he was weaned (v8)? What was Hagar’s son doing at the party (v9)? What does Sarah want Abraham to do? What does God tell Abraham to do? What does god say about Isaac in v12? What does He promise to do with Ishmael in v13? What problem to Hagar and Ishmael run into when Abraham sends them away? What does God promise Hagar that He will do? And what does God do for her in v19? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, a bratty-kid situation escalates quickly.

We’re not really surprised that Ishmael is a brat. It fits what has been prophesied about him. Our best guess at weaning age for Isaac is somewhere in the ballpark of 3 years old, which puts Ishmael at 17. And there he is at his little brother’s party mocking him.

What we are surprised about is when God says “listen to her voice.” That hasn’t gone so well, thus far in Genesis. The first time a man took his wife’s counsel, the fall happened.

And v9 very intentionally reminds us of another significant moment in which Abraham had listened to Sarah. Instead of just saying “Ishmael,” the text says, “the son of Hagar” … “the Egyptian” … “whom she had born to Abraham.” It’s a triple reminder of Sarah’s foolish and sinful plan for producing the child of promise.

So, when God says, “listen to her voice,” it perhaps takes us by surprise. What reason does God give for this? “For in Isaac your seed shall be called.” This is not a new promise. We have seen it before. But God is saying here that there is something about Isaac’s place as the son of promise that is harmed so long as this teasing, mocking older brother remains.

Ultimately, however, it’s not Abraham’s voice that God is listening to here. It is God’s voice. And God distinctly displays Himself as the Promise-Keeper in this passage. He promises Abraham that He would make a nation out of Ishmael in v13. And He promises Hagar the same thing in v18.

Then, God opens her eyes. After He has made the promise, He immediately enables her to see just a small part of how He is going to fulfill that promise. There’s years’ more promise-keeping in v20-21, but we can see the point.

It may take another 1600 years before Isaac’s descendant saves His people from their sins. But it will surely happen. The Lord is the Promise-Keeping God!
What promises has God already kept in your life? What promises has God already kept in sending Christ for us? In what current situation do you need to be reminding yourself of God’s promises, and God’s promise-keeping?
Suggested songs: ARP89A “The Lovingkindness of the Lord” or HB112 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

2018.05.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 37:3-11

Questions for Littles: Whom should we trust (v3a)? What should we do? When they lived in the promised land, what were they feeding on (v3b)? In what (Whom!) shall we delight ourselves (v4a)? If He is our delight, then what will we receive (v4b)? In whom are we to trust (v5)? What does He bring forth if we trust in Him (v6)? What three commands in v7 describe what it means to trust Him? What three things does v8 identify as the opposite of trusting in Him? What will happen to evildoers (v9a, 10)? What will happen to those who meekly wait upon the Lord (v9b, 11)? 
This week’s Prayer for Help, Prayer of Confession, and Assurance of the Gospel all come from Psalm 37:3-11.

There are so many deceivers out there who appeal to our desire to fulfill our own pleasures and our own plans. But that’s exactly the opposite of what our Scripture passage teaches us.

“The Lord will give me the desires of my heart!” That’s what we all want to hear, right? But what exactly are those desires? Earlier in v4, those desires are pre-defined: “Delight yourself in the Lord.” What desires will He give me? Desire for Him Himself!

How about the idea that the Lord gives me strength and ability to accomplish my grand plans for my life? “He shall bring it to pass”! But what is He bringing to pass? Earlier in v5, He makes it clear that this is a promise that God will fulfill His plans, not ours. We entrust ourselves to Him and His plan.

So He generally tells us that He will give us Himself and that He will carry out His plans. But, what specifically does He plan to give us? Something that He knows is infinitely valuable, but we would not value if His grace hasn’t changed our hearts: righteousness.

Righteousness is a glorious gift, because God is perfectly just. If He doesn’t give us righteousness, then His justice will ultimately demand our destruction, and we cannot ultimately receive any other blessing.

So, how do we know if we are trusting in the Lord? What does that trust look like? v7 contains the answer: trusting looks like resting. Those who think that everything depends upon them wear themselves out trying to make happen whatever they want to happen. Those who know that it all depends upon the Lord do not wear themselves out trying to force things their way. They rest. They rest in Him.

Trusting the Lord also looks like waiting patiently. If we already know that the Lord is making all things work out according to His perfect plan for us, we don’t need to see the fruit of it right away. We can wait. Patiently.

There are, however, some dead giveaways for weak faith. At the top of the list? Anger and wrath. If we’re easily riled up, that shows that we don’t have confidence in what the Lord is doing. And, of course, fretting. How can we worry and stress over the future if we know that it’s in the Lord’s hands?

Dear reader, you and I both just reflected upon how easily we are angered and how easily we fret, and we have the same place to go for help. The Lord Himself will help our unbelief! Yes, our faith is weak. But, when we find that we don’t trust God enough, we can still trust Him to help us trust Him!
What situation is testing your trust? What do you do, if you’re trusting God to help you trust?
Suggested songs: ARP37A “Do Not Be Angry” or HB374 “Be Still My Soul; the Lord Is on Thy Side”