Wednesday, October 31, 2018

2018.10.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 6

Questions for Littles: What has been done to the city of Jericho, according to v1? What does Yahweh tell Joshua He has done with Jericho in v2? How many times are they to go around the city each day for six days (v3)? How many times will they go around the seventh day (v4)? What will the priests do with their ram’s horns on that day? What will all the people do at that point (v5)? And what will happen when the people shout? Which direction should each man go, when the wall falls down? What went behind the armed men and the priests as they marched around the city? What did the people not do at all during the march around the city on each of the first six days (v10)? Yet what did the priests do continually each of the six days (v13-14)? What did Joshua finally tell them to do in v16? What instruction do we find out about in v17? Why isn’t it likely that this was the first time that this instruction was given? What are they warned not to take at all in v18? What are they commanded to do with the items in v19? What are those items? Whose sparing is mentioned in v17, then again in vv22-23, and then again in v25? What curse is pronounced in v26? How does v27 summarize the point of this entire chapter?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we find at the end that Joshua chapter 6 was evidence that the Lord was with Joshua. Well, if that’s the main point, then what is this chapter telling us about the Lord?

First, it’s telling us that the Lord is powerful. Jericho’s doing it right: the city is shut up securely. Israel’s doing it wrong: having daily parades. But it doesn’t matter—so great is the exceeding power of the Lord that His “giving Jericho into Israel’s hand” is the only thing that matters from a military strategy perspective.

Second, it’s telling us that the Lord is gracious and faithful. Yes, we can see this in the fact that these newly circumcised, Passover-celebrating, manna-no-longer-eating children of a faithless and wicked generation are here conquering a great city. But, we can see it most of all in whom the Lord saves right out of the wall. The whole wall falls down except, presumably, the section of it that is Rahab’s house. And whom is the Lord saving? A harlot. And according to what is He saving her? According to promise. The Lord is gracious and faithful.

Finally, this passage is telling us that the Lord is holy. He is holy, holy, holy. Sinners deserve ultimate destruction. Everything that belongs to them is defiled and deserves destruction. Even little children and livestock. We may have a hard time with this, but that is only because we do not properly value the holiness of the Lord. It just highlights His grace to Israel and Rahab for us to see what all of us sinners deserve. He is holy, and worship and treasure are to be set apart to Him!

Joshua’s fame spreads as someone who has Yahweh with him. And may the Lord ever spread the fame of His church in the same way—not that we are great and impressive, but that we are a people in whose life the Lord is shown to be powerful, gracious, faithful, and holy!
What was one time when you were overwhelmed by how holy the Lord is?
Suggested songs: ARP32 “What Blessedness” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

2018.10.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Matthew 28:18-20

Questions for Littles: Who came and spoke to them? How much authority has been given to Him? Which authority has been given to Him? What are they to make, therefore? By what two actions are disciples made? Into what single name are they baptized? What are they taught to do with Jesus’s commands? How many of them? Who is with them always, as they make disciples? Even until when? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Matthew 28:18-20.

This is commonly called the great commission, but we can see from the beginning of the passage that it is Jesus’ great mission. It is, after all, what Jesus does with all of the authority in heaven and on earth.

What would you do with all of the authority in heaven and on earth? What Jesus does is sustain His disciples in making disciples. This is what disciples do: make disciples.

There are two things that Jesus commands here for making a disciple. The first is baptizing. Mark them as belonging to Him. Notice the singular name (not here plural, as three names, but singular as one tri-fold name): the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Triune God puts His name upon someone to make that person a disciple.

But they are made disciples not only by baptizing but by teaching. Again, let us notice something very subtle: it is not merely the commandments of Christ that are being taught here. This is not something that can be fulfilled in a classroom. Rather, it is the observation of the commands that is to be taught. This is not merely a way of thinking, but a way of life.

So—Jesus declares His authority, tells them what He wants them to do under that authority, and leaves them to get to it? No, no, no! Just as the commission is Jesus’s mission that He pursues by His authority, so also the success of the baptizing and teaching relies not upon themselves but upon Him.

This is one great reason why it’s so glorious when we see the fruit of one’s baptism and instruction—that he who receives the mark of Christ begins more and more to live His live according to the commands of Christ. It’s glorious because Jesus highlights this fruitfulness as indicative of the fact that He is STILL with His church.

Week by week, month by month, Jesus announces, “I am STILL with my church!” A covenant child professes his faith, and Jesus announces, “I am STILL with my church.” A father learns to lead his family, and Jesus announces, “I am STILL with my church.” A woman overcomes her habitual gossip, and Jesus announces, “I am STILL with my church.” An elderly widower serves others in peace and joy, and Jesus announces, “I am STILL with my church.”
Where are you currently growing? What is Jesus still with you to help you do?
Suggested songs: ARP180 “Christ Shall Have Dominion” or TPH424 “All Authority and Power”

Monday, October 29, 2018

2018.10.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:20-23

Questions for Littles: What is God doing at the beginning of v20? What does He say? What does He command to fly above the earth? Did they exist yet? Before the face of what do they fly? From what did God create the great sea creatures (v21)? What else did He create from nothing? What did the waters do with them? According to what were they created? According to what were the winged birds created? What did God do them in v22? And what did He command them to do? Then what came (v23)? And then what came? And what did that conclude? 
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we heard about “the great sea creatures.”

The word translated “sea creature” is elsewhere translated “Leviathan.” Among Israel, and the nations that surrounded them, unbelievers commonly thought of the Leviathan as an almost-mythical beast that was a physical manifestation of an evil god.

In the book of Job, where Job feels that everything is against him, and (even though Job didn’t know it) it was in fact Satan who had attacked him, one of the things of which God reminds Job is that Leviathan is under His absolute control.

Here, the Lord does not merely mention a single leviathan, but He uses the plural, leviathans. This isn’t some being of greatness to rival God. It’s a creature that is to be fruitful and multiply like the other creatures. In fact, it’s not just leviathans, but great leviathans in v21.

God delights to make impressively large fearsome creatures. Not so that we will be so fearful of the creature that we treat it like some kind of great demon. But so that we will see the impressive creation and be all the more impressed with its sovereign, almighty Creator.

Yes, in comparative size and strength, we may be closer to the minnows than the great leviathans. But that’s just it, isn’t it: not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from our God. He commanded the minnows to be fruitful and multiply because He delights in them as His creatures.

How much more with you, dear Christian? Though you feel ever so small, He has revealed Himself here already as God of the small. And small though you be, He not only created You in His own image, but He has taken upon Himself your humanity to save you. He is Lord over the great for the sake of the small. He is working all things for your good!
What great problems have you feeling small? How does Genesis 1:21 help you?
Suggested Songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH244 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

Saturday, October 27, 2018

2018.10.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:20-23

Questions for Littles: What is God doing at the beginning of v20? What does He say? What does He command to fly above the earth? Did they exist yet? Before the face of what do they fly? From what did God create the great sea creatures (v21)? What else did He create from nothing? What did the waters do with them? According to what were they created? According to what were the winged birds created? What did God do them in v22? And what did He command them to do? Then what came (v23)? And then what came? And what did that conclude?
In the Scripture for tomorrow’s sermon, we’ll be hearing about God “bara”-ing again: creating from nothing. Whether it’s ancient near-eastern religions or “modern” science, so many have tried to explain the great variety and abundance of life as coming from the sea.

But Scripture tells us the reason that there is such an abundance and variety—NOT because the sea has such power to produce life, but because God commanded that abundance to exist there, then created it out of nothing to exist there.

Have you ever seen a school of fish on a nature show or a giant flock of birds during migration? There can be no doubt that the sea and the sky are FULL of thriving life. But rather than being an indication that the sea is very “fertile,” it is a display of our Lord’s delight in abundant life.

In fact, the Lord commands these new creatures to be fruitful and to multiply. When we hear the same thing to man on Day 6, we will understand that the Lord wants this world to be FULL of image-bearing, God-glorifying, in-God-delighting people.

There’s a how-much-more argument here. God is already displaying His delight in multiplying abundance on day four. Now, if that was true of birds and fish, how-much-more is it true of man on day six?

Why emphasize this point? Because we live in a world where anti-theists—and, sadly, even many professing Christians—speak and act as if there are already too many people in the world. Christians should be a people who choose people over rare insect ecosystems, children over possessions and vacations, who fight abortion and euthanasia with all that they are—who love life.
What kind of people are you most likely to despise? How should that change?
Suggested Songs: ARP8 “Lord, Our Lord” or TPH8B “Lord, Our Lord, in All the Earth”

Friday, October 26, 2018

2018.10.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 5:16-23

Questions for Littles: Whom were the Jews persecuting (v16)? What did they seek to do to Him? Why? Who answers them (v17)? Whom does He say is still working? Who is working now? Whom do the Jews seek all the more to kill in v18? Why-what did they think He had broken? With whom did Jesus make Himself equal? Who answers them in v19? What can Jesus do without His Father? How much of what the Father does, does Jesus do? What is the Father’s attitude toward the Son (v20)? What does the Father show the Son? How were Jesus’s coming works going to compare to healing the man who had been paralyzed for 38 years? What does v21 say the Father does? To whom does the Son give life? Whom does the Father judge (v22)? To Whom has all judgment been committed? Whom must everyone honor (v23)? If someone doesn’t honor Jesus, whom else do they not honor?
In the Gospel reading this week, the Holy Spirit overwhelms us with Christ’s glory.

First, Jesus is equal with God. Because the Jews had understood Him rightly, Jesus doesn’t correct their idea but infuriates them even more by making several more claims to equality with God!

Second, Jesus is One with God. First, He says that His actions are actually God’s actions (the Son can do nothing of Himself), but far more amazingly, God’s actions are actually His actions (whatever the Father does, the Son also does in like manner). This is astonishing. To all mere men, God says “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so much higher are My ways than your ways and My thoughts than Your thoughts.” We cannot even know “whatever the Father does.” Jesus claims not only to know all the works of God but to do all the works of God.

Third, the Father loves the Son. Everything the Father does, He does out of love for the Son! How can anyone ever be lost while clinging to Christ?!

Fourth, the Son’s will determines who will be saved. Yes, the Father has chosen the elect in His Son. But the Son has also chosen to give life to whomever He will. Here is a level of God’s sovereignty so great that many professing believers refuse even to attribute it to the Father. But here, Christ claims this sovereign will for Himself.

Fifth, the Son is at least as honored as the Father. This is the very reason that the Father has committed all judgment to Him!

Finally, NO ONE who fails to acknowledge Jesus as everlasting God will be acknowledged to honor the Father.

Now Jew is ever saved except by believing in Jesus. No one from any other religion whatsoever can be saved. All religions (cults) that claim to accept the Bible while denying the eternal Godhood of Christ are utterly false and cannot honestly consider Him even a good teacher since they so completely disagree with Him on this point. Islam. Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mormonism.

Even Roman Catholicism is utterly bankrupted by this passage. Who could possibly pray to Mary or any saint when they can pray to such a Christ? Even worse—what mere human’s works could we ever add to the works of Christ to improve them? Such rubbish thoughts are from the pit of Hell.

Finally, dear Christian, do you see how loved you are? The Father who loves and honors His Son the way that this passage describes has chosen You in the Beloved (cf. Eph 1:3)! The Son, whose special display of His own divinity is to choose to whom to give life, has chosen to give You whatever spiritual life You have! How infinitely great is Christ’s love for you! How infinitely great is Christ’s worthiness for you! Rest in Him as all of your righteousness and salvation, and you will surely be saved!
How are you developing the mental habit of dwelling upon and remembering Christ’s love and worthiness?
Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”

Thursday, October 25, 2018

2018.10.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 11:17-34

Questions for Littles: Was the Corinthians’ coming together making it better or worse (17)? What was the first reason that coming together for church was actually hurting them instead of helping them (18)? What is one reason that God allows these divisions—these factions—in the church (19)? Whose Supper, then, were they not eating (20)? Because whose supper were each of them taking (21)? From whom did Paul receive these instructions about the Supper (23)? What did Jesus take on the night He was betrayed (23)? When He gave thanks, what did He do with it (24)? What did He say? When did He take up the cup (25)? What did He say about it? What do eating the bread and drinking the cup proclaim (show forth) (26)? And for how long? If someone eats or drinks in the wrong way (“an unworthy manner”) of what are they guilty (27)? What is someone to do about the way he takes the Lord’s Supper (28)? What happens to us if we are wrong about that (29)? What was happening to them because they were taking wrong (30-32)? What should we do at the Lord’s Supper, when we come together to eat (33)? If we are hungry for food, what are we to do (34)? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learn about the Lord’s Supper—one of the great gifts that the Lord Jesus uses to bless us in worship. But, it was hurting the Corinthians instead of helping them. Why? Because everyone was seeking their own interests (v21). It was a spill-over from the division in their church (v18) that God was using to expose the hearts of some who were not even believers (v19).

But even believers were getting caught up in this division and self-interest. v32 tells us that some who were being judged with death were those who would not be condemned with the world. That doesn’t surprise us. Believers are sinners. We nurse bitterness, color others ugly with our words.

But of course the Lord’s Supper must never be the place for this. Jesus was betrayed for His church. Jesus died for this church. And Jesus gives Himself to His church, at the Lord’s Supper in particular. When He is giving Himself to us, we must not come to the table for anything else. And when He is giving Himself to our brothers and sisters, we must not come to the table with hearts divided against them.

He gives us bread to eat. But He tells us that He is feeding us upon Himself. He gives us a cup to drink. But He tells us that this is a covenant pledge—an action of announcing and confirming His bond with us and our bond with Him.

So, if we are just trying to have a snack, or trying to display ourselves, or make ourselves feel a certain way… then we are ignoring Jesus. And if we aren’t recognizing that the ones taking the Supper with us were so precious to Him that He is doing the same for them, then we are ignoring Jesus.

And if we are ignoring Jesus at the Lord’s Supper, we are not just guilty of a procedural error, or momentary gluttony, or even failing to reconcile with a brother. If we are ignoring Jesus at the moment that He is giving Himself to us as fruit of His work on the cross, then we are sinning against the body and blood of Jesus.

This is the great self-examination as we come to the table. It’s not trying to figure out if we’re spiritual enough, or repentant enough, or believing enough. It’s a questioning of whether we are coming because we know ourselves to be sinners, and we know Christ to be our only hope. It’s a questioning of whether as we come, we will look to Christ by faith and rejoice that He gives Himself to our brothers and sisters, as well as to us.
Why do you take the Lord’s Supper? What are you looking for as you take? Are you also thinking about your brothers and sisters who are taking the supper? With whom do you need to reconcile, so that you can rejoice for them? 
Suggested songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or TPH201 “’Twas on That Night When Doomed to Know”

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

2018.10.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 5:13-15

Questions for Littles: Where was Joshua by? What did he see? What did the Man have in His hand? What did Joshua ask? What did the Man answer in v14? Whose army was He commanding? What does Joshua do? What does Joshua ask? What does the Commander of Yahweh’s army tell Joshua to do (v15)?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, Joshua meets the God of the bush on Mount Sinai.

It’s a surprising meeting. The Lord has exalted Joshua in the eyes of Israel, so what Joshua needs more than anything is to be humbled before the God of Israel.

Rachael’s been waiting in her Jericho-wall-apartment for going on four chapters now. The invasion has been postponed by one dramatic event after another. And now… as Joshua is right by Jericho…

The Captain of Yahweh’s army appears. Joshua begins from a position of strength, “Are you for us, or for our enemies?” It’s a challenge from someone who is confident. Really, Joshua expects the answer to be one or the other. But the surprising answer is, “No.”

No? No. You might think that He would answer, “I am for you.” After all, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And it is true, the Lord would be fighting for Israel. But that is not the point of this particular interview. The point is that God’s allegiance to His people is never in question. What is in question, however, is God’s people’s allegiance to Him.

Joshua gets the message and falls on his face, worshiping. Don’t let that be lost upon you. By the time Joshua asks the next question, he is already on his face, worshiping.

What message can be so important that the Captain of Yahweh’s hosts would personally appear to deliver it to Joshua, now that he is by Jericho? Is it some last-minute intel from the city? Is it a last-minute tweak of strategy?

No. It’s a wardrobe command. Remove your sandals. There are a couple of surprising things here. First, Joshua’s feet aren’t even on the ground! Second, why would Yahweh show up to tell Joshua that the ground is holy, when the ground wasn’t even holy until Yahweh made this appearance?

The point is clear: far more important than any knowledge of Jericho, far more important than any knowledge of strategy, is the knowledge of the greatness of the holiness of God. Do you have that knowledge, dear believer?

Are you, first and foremost, awed and dwarfed by the white-hot holiness of the Lord? Or are you perhaps preoccupied with trying to figure out what’s going on in the circumstances of your life? Or coming up with a strategy of how to change those circumstances? The most important thing for any of us to know is the holiness of the Lord!                     

Our greatest danger is not on earth. It is the holiness of God against which we have sinned. Our only help is not on earth. It is our holy Redeemer who sits at God’s right hand! Unless we are convinced of God’s infinite holiness, we will miss the Redeemer and suffer infinite, eternal wrath.
How and when do you intentionally acquaint and affect yourself with the holiness of God?
Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or TPH230 “Holy, Holy, Holy”

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

2018.10.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 73

Questions for Littles: How does the Psalm summarize its teaching in v1? But what does the Psalmist immediately admit about himself, concerning faith in God’s goodness, in v2? What are some things that he had noticed about the wicked in vv3-12? What did he conclude about himself and his godliness in v13? What circumstance from v14 had led him to decide that there was no point in being godly? But what would he have done if he had spoken like that out loud (v15)? When he tried to figure this out, what happened (v16)? What ended up making the difference (v17)? Whose end does he understand in v17-20? What does he conclude had been his problem in vv21-22? Who is always with him? Who will receive him into glory? Whose end is he learning about now? What does that teach him about what to value in v25? What does that teach him about whom to depend upon in v26? What will happen to those who are far from God (v27)? What is good in v28? What is the ultimate purpose of trusting in the Lord in v28? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 73:17-28.

Here, we learn the value of true worship—because it teaches us what a true life of thanksgiving looks like.

It looks like remembering what our end could have been (losing everything we have on earth, and falling into destruction as we are condemned by God).

It looks like remembering what our end is instead (enjoying the glorious holiness of God forever and ever).

It looks like realizing that we have, now already, Him who is the heavenliness of heaven. We are continually with Him! It is He who holds us by our right hand! It is He who guides us with His counsel! Who is He? The glorious One who will receive us into His own glory.

It looks like concluding that if we have Him, we have already, now, in heaven and earth, more property than we could ever hope to desire. God is our portion forever.

It looks like concluding that if we have Him, we have already, now, more power than we could ever fear to need. God is the strength of our heart.

Is God near to us? Then we have not kept our hands clean in vain. Are we far from God? Then we are on the cusp of eternal destruction.

Why have we trusted in God? Not so that we can get all the other earthly stuff that we love, but so that we can realize and tell all that God is more glorious and worthy than all else combined!
What trials do you have right now? What earthly things do you desire? How does God compare? How has your life been showing a desire to tell others His praise?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion, Lord”

Monday, October 22, 2018

2018.10.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:14-19

Questions for Littles: Who commanded lights to exist in the firmament (v14)? What were the lights to divide? What else would these lights mark off? What did God command that they would give onto the earth (v15)? How many great lights did God make (v16)? Which would rule the day? Which would rule the night? What did He make “also”? Where did God set them (v17)? To do what? What did they rule over (v18)? And what did they divide? And what did God see? Then what happened (v19)? And then what? And what did this conclude?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we noticed that the Lord created this greater light, lesser light, and billions of stars and doesn’t bother to give a single one of them a name. Is it because He does not take a special ownership over them? Of course not. He gives them commands—even for busywork. He assigns them a job serving the rest of His creatures.

This, of course, was in direct opposition to the imaginations of unbelievers who saw the sun, moon, and stars as powerful gods to be worshiped and feared. The Lord is emphasizing that there is no other god. He is the almighty Lord, the sovereign One who works all things according to the counsel of His will.

In our culture today, people tend to find their security or take their pleasure in technology. We tend to live for entertainment. We fear government, or otherwise put our hope in it, as if it were some kind of god. Perhaps the most subtle god we trust in and serve is ourselves: “believe in yourself” is the ultimate doctrine preached by many.

Let us learn to look up into the sky. We know now the size and magnificence of these servants that the Lord has hung in the sky for us. Our God is infinitely superior to them. He alone is worth fearing. He alone is worthy of worship.

And, most of all, it is He who has given Himself for us and to us. Let the sun, moon, and stars take our attention to the cross of Jesus Christ, where the sun went dark. God announces His power and love for us in Christ with every sunrise, sunset, beautiful moon, and shining star!
What do you tend to fear instead of the Lord? Trust? Find pleasure in?
Suggested Songs: ARP136 “Thank the Lord for Good Is He” or TPH136 “O Thank the Lord, for He Is Good”

Saturday, October 20, 2018

2018.10.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:14-19

Questions for Littles: Who commanded lights to exist in the firmament (v14)? What were the lights to divide? What else would these lights mark off? What did God command that they would give onto the earth (v15)? How many great lights did God make (v16)? Which would rule the day? Which would rule the night? What did He make “also”? Where did God set them (v17)? To do what? What did they rule over (v18)? And what did they divide? And what did God see? Then what happened (v19)? And then what? And what did this conclude?
In the Scripture for tomorrow’s sermon, we’ll be hearing about God’s creation of the sun, moon, and stars.

Of course, He doesn’t even mention the sun or moon by name, and the creation of untold trillions (or more) of stars is mentioned almost as an afterthought. These things were all worshiped as gods by the cultures that surrounded the Israelites. But here, they are just little lights embedded in the floor under God’s throne.

There’s not even a competition between man’s idol-impostors and the one, true God. Those creatures which man worshiped for their necessary usefulness are actually provisions from God.

In God’s providence we depend (humanly speaking) upon light. And we very much need to be able to mark time to remember things. And the cycle of the seasons is physically and mentally essential for us. The cycle of years does the same for us on a long-term basis.

So, from the Lord’s own account of day four, we learn that what others worship as gods, the Lord created to be our servants—generous provisions from a loving Creator. But there’s this language of ruling over the day and ruling over the night. Notice that these lights do NOT rule over man. Man does not yet exist, and when he does, God will command him to take dominion over all of the living creatures.

Rather, the lights that govern day and night demonstrate that God builds order into His creation and establishes governors to maintain that order. Within God’s created order, ruling is a matter of service.
What are some different kinds of rulers? How do they serve those they rule?
Suggested Songs: ARP8 “Lord, Our Lord” or TPH8B “Lord, Our Lord, in All the Earth”

Friday, October 19, 2018

2018.10.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 5:1-15

Questions for Littles: Where did Jesus go during the feast in v1? What gate was the pool beside (v2)? What was the pool called? How many porches did it have? What kind of people lay in these porches (v3)? What were they waiting for? What does v4 say they were waiting for an angel to do to the water? And then what would happen to the first person who entered? How long had the man in v5 had his infirmity? Who saw him lying there in v6? What did Jesus ask the man? What does the man answer in v7? What does the man apparently not believe that Jesus can do? What does Jesus command the man to do in v8? How long did it take for the man to be healed (v9)? What day of the week was it? What do the Jews tell the man that he shouldn’t be doing (v10)? But whom does the man say told him to take up his bed and walk (v11)? What did they want to know (v12)? Why didn’t the man know (v13)? Who found the man in v14? What did Jesus tell the man to stop doing? What did Jesus say would happen if he didn’t? What did the man depart and do in v15?
In the Gospel reading this week, we have an account of absolute mercy.

We are so foolish. Jesus reminds us in v14 what the real evil is (not weakness but wickedness) and what the real danger is (not that we might become ill, but that we might burn in Hell).

But here’s a great multitude, hoping for magic at a place called “House of Mercy” (Bethesda).
God Himself, now man, walks among them—come to suffer Hell on the cross for our sin. And when He asks a man if he wants to be healed, the man answers that he doesn’t have anyone to shove him into the pool fast enough.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t wait for the man to recognize who He is or ask Him to help. Jesus just heals him. Pure, simple, sovereign grace.

Sadly, the foolishness continues. Even after Jesus heals the man, the man quickly turns upon Him. Jesus warns him to repent of his sin, and rather than trusting in Jesus, the man turns around and commits the greatest possible sin: betraying Christ.

Dear believer, have you made a habit of displaying your foolishness? Even after Christ has revealed Himself to you? Even after He has healed you? Here is a glorious truth: Christ’s grace is relentless. It will keep pursuing you.
How did you last royally mess up with Christ? What is He still doing anyway?
Suggested songs: ARP32A-B “What Blessedness” or TPH32B “How Blest Is He Whose Trespass”

Thursday, October 18, 2018

2018.10.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 11:1-16

Questions for Littles: What does Paul say, in reference to chs 7-10, and also now for 11 (v1)? For what does the apostle praise them in v2? Who is the head of every man (v3)? Who is the head of woman? Who is the head of Christ? Whom does a man dishonor if he prays or prophesies with his head covered (v4)? Whom does a woman dishonor if she prays or prophesies with her head uncovered (v5)? What would this be “one and the same” as? What is shameful (v6)? What should be done for her, if she finds herself in this shameful situation? But what must a man not do (v7)? Why? Whose glory should be displayed in worship, and whose glory should not? Who is from whom, according to v8? Who was created for whom, according to v9? What kind of symbol must be on a woman’s head (v10)? Because of whom? Who is not independent of whom (v11)? In whom is this true? From whom is woman (v12)? Through whom does a man now come? From whom are all things? What does the apostle ask in v13? What answer does he expect? What does the apostle ask in v14? What answer does he expect? What does nature itself teach us? What is a glory to a woman, according to v15? For what was her hair given to her? Who else is to observe this custom (v16)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we have a passage about glory and honor. Worship is all about the glory of God, and He has established a particular order for displaying that glory, which He spells out in v3.

He has also, generally, providentially provided women with a display of their particular place in that order: longer hair. But there is also an accommodation for a woman who is providentially unable to grow that hair. She is not robbed of her symbol of authority. She may wear a head covering.

Do the roles of men and women make women less valuable? Absolutely not! The Lord has made both of them essential and valuable in both nature (v12) and the church (v11).

The real question here is whether we are going to accept God’s order, and whether we are glad to display God’s glory. As always, if we come up with our own order, or attempt to display our own glory, we will dishonor our head, and bring shame to ourselves.

When we gather as a church, let us seek to do things God’s way, since we are there for God’s glory!
What are some worship differences between God’s way and man’s way? 
Suggested songs: ARP179 “The Church’s Doxology” or TPH564 “Now Blessed Be Jehovah God”

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

2018.10.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 5:1-12

Questions for Littles: What did the kings of the Amorites and the kings of the lowland Canaanites hear that Yahweh had done (v1)? For whom? What happened to their hearts as a result? What did they not have in them any longer? What did Yahweh tell Israel to do “at that time” (v2)? What did Joshua do (v3)? What did that place end up being called? What happened to the war-aged males who came out of Egypt (v4)? Who had been circumcised (v5)? Who had not been? How long had Israel walked in the wilderness (v6)? What had happened during that time? Why? But what does Joshua do with their sons (v7)? What did they do when they had finished circumcising all the people (v8)? For how long? What did God declare that He had done (v9)? What did they call the place? What did Israel do there (v10)? From what did they eat the day after the Passover (v11)? What kind of food was there? What ceased the day after they had eaten (v12)? What did they have instead?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we are astonished by grace.

It’s not really proper to say that those who were circumcised were orphans. The Lord had exercised great grace toward them by prolonging the lives of their parents. Though they deserved immediate execution, the Lord allowed them to fall slowly in the wilderness.

However, they were something worse than orphans. They were spiritual orphans. The Lord famously pronounces judgment upon them as having rebellious hearts (Ps 95) and hard hearts (Heb 3-4). And that hardness of heart is seen in more than just their one-time buying into the report of the spies. Their whole lives long, they had not circumcised their children.

They had not submitted themselves as belonging to the Lord. They had not submitted their children as belonging to the Lord. They had not obeyed God’s covenant command for God’s covenant sign. The Lord had almost killed Moses for disobeying this command (cf. Ex 4:21-26)! They had not recognized the sin of their hearts, and that they needed God to cut away their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh and remove from them their guilt by the shedding of blood.

Now, here is something sobering. How would we look by the same measure? Especially when so much of the church commits the error of viewing baptism as a testimony that we make about God and how we have believed in Him, rather than a testimony that God makes about us and how He has saved us.

But aren’t those of us who understand the sign better even more culpable? Are we living as those whom God has set aside as holy unto Himself? Are we treating His covenant children in our homes as His own—spending all day, every day, training them up in trusting and loving and obeying and serving their Lord? Is it possible that there is so little thought of Him and His Word that our children are spiritual orphans of physically living parents?

But here’s the sweetness of our passage: the Lord is gathering these spiritual orphans to Himself. He has melted the hearts of their enemies, whereas their earthly parents’ hearts had melted before their enemies. And now He gathers them to Himself and circumcises them, whereas their earthly parents had neglected to do so. Finally, He feeds them something much greater than manna. Manna was a stop-gap measure until they ate the blessed fruit of kept promises in the promised land!

Whether for ourselves or for our children: the solution to our unfaithfulness is our faithful God!
How does your life show submission to God’s signs? What is your hope—your faithfulness or His?
Suggested songs: ARP78B “O Come, My People” or TPH243 “How Firm a Foundation”

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Audio Recording of Study Class on Principles for Correct Bible Study (Hermeneutics)

Usually, the study hour doesn't make for riveting listening. On October 7, however, we were studying one of the most important subjects for Christians (and one upon which there is so little clear teaching): how to study the Bible.

In God's good providence, that morning's sermon turned out to be a good case study for applying the three main considerations for good Bible interpretation:
(1) The immediate literary context: how does this passage fit into this book of the Bible? What type of literature is this? What do the words mean, in context, and how do the verb tenses inform us of what is being communicated here, particularly, and also within the overall teaching of this Bible book? etc.
(2) The original historical context: how was the Lord interacting with His people who first received this book? Do we know who the human author was, and who the first human audience was? If so, what do we know about their circumstances, as they received this part of the Bible? What was God teaching them about Himself and doing in their lives? What was He teaching them about themselves and what He wanted them to do? Since God never changes, what considerations about their particular place in the history of redemption inform us of what we can take away from this passage about the answers to those questions about them that might apply in our own lives?
(3) The theology of this passage in the context of the Bible as a whole (a.k.a. "The analogy of faith"): Since Scripture is the only authoritative interpreter of Scripture... what other passages treat the same subjects as this one? How do they help us understand this passage better? How does this passage help us understand those passages better?

If we have a healthy ministry of preaching and teaching, the elders (and especially the teaching elders) will be modeling correct handling of the Word of God for us, and we will be increasing our skill in applying these principles/considerations to our own Bible study. How blessed will be the children who grow up in a home where dad is leading them through the Scriptures, read and understood in this biblical fashion!

That's the basic content of the class, but you may also find it helpful to listen to audio of the class teaching and interaction:

Once you are thinking about these three things, here is the sermon that immediately followed the class. See if you can identify how each one of the three types of considerations helped us understand something about the meaning of the text and its application to our lives:

2018.10.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 6:1-7

Questions for Littles: In what year did Isaiah see this (v1)? Whom did he see? Where? What filled the temple? Who stood above the throne (v2)? How many wings did each have? What did each do with those wings? What did they cry to one another (v3)? By what were the door posts shaken (v4)? With what was the temple filled? What did Isaiah say about himself (v5)? What were his lips like? What had his eyes done? What did one of the seraphim do in v6? What did he have to use to take the coal from the altar? To what did he touch it (v7)? What did he say had been done when the coal touched Isaiah’s lips?   
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Isaiah 6:1-7. This is a familiar passage about the great glory of God. Uzziah had been king for more than fifty years, but he was not the great king. The Lord is not only high, but higher than high: high and lifted up. So great is His glory, that the temple is not even standing-room-only. It is no-room-for-anyone-to-stand. You mayn’t step upon the King’s robe, and the train of His robe fills the temple!

The attendants of this King are “burning ones” (what “seraphim” literally means)—these are literally creatures of flame. Still, they are dwarfed and awed by the Holy-Holy-Holy One. They mayn’t stand, so they hover. They mayn’t look, so they cover their faces. Their feet are unworthy to be seen.

They cry to one another with such force that this heavenly temple of this glorious vision is shaken by their voices. This is no earthly shack, but still the praise of God makes it tremble as in an earthquake. Such is the crying out about the holiness of God that it causes a heaven-quake!!

It’s no wonder, then that Isaiah was concerned about how he had used his lips up to this point. As he hears the flame creatures, he realizes the one great purpose for which lips exist, and he realizes further that his own use of his lips has fallen so far short of this purpose that his very existence is self-destructive. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God… but all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God… so, woe is me, for I am undone!”

It is a conclusion that we must all reach now, from God’s Word, by God’s Spirit, lest we arrive at the throne ourselves on that Great Day, and hear that judgment pronounced by Him who sits upon it! Of course, the glory of the holiness that is on display is matched by an equally glorious display of mercy. A hovering seraph, who has been waiting for the King to will him into motion, flies into action. He takes a coal so hot that a flame-being must use tongs to handle it, and touches it to Isaiah’s lips.

That might sound like a recipe for lip-annihilation, but that is not the result. Rather, it is lip-atonement. The reason is truly astonishing: He who sits upon the throne was the sacrifice upon whom the fire of the wrath of the altar of God had been spent.

There is a very important passage in John 12, where v40 quotes v10 of this chapter, and then says about Jesus in v41, “These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” Who is the Him? Yahweh of hosts (Isaiah 6:3). Here’s yet another declaration by Scripture that Jesus is Jehovah, the Christ is Yahweh Himself!

And He is Yahweh upon whom was poured all of God’s hatred and holy wrath against sin, for everyone who believes in Him. Oh, dear reader, I certainly hope that is you. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and You shall be saved!
Have you believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ as the true and Living God who gave Himself for you? 
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH341 “Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed”

Monday, October 15, 2018

2018.10.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:9-13

Questions for Littles: Who told the waters under the heavens to be gathered together into one place (v9)? What would appear when they did? Who called to the dry land with its new name (v10)? What did He call it? Who called to the gathering together of the waters with their new name? What did He call it? What did God see about the earth and the seas? What command does God give about the earth in v11? What did God command that the herb/plant would yield/produce? What kind of seed would it produce? What did God command that the fruit tree would yield? What would be in the fruit? What kind of fruit and seed would a fruit tree produce? What did the earth bring forth in v12? How much time passes between v11 and v12? What did God see about the three types of things that the earth brought forth? Then what two things happened (v13)? And what did this conclude?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learned that God puts His creation in a position to thrive as well as giving it the power to thrive.

We know that this doesn’t mean that the creatures are left to themselves and their own power. Scripture tells us that God upholds all things by the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). God works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).

So, why does God create means for His creatures to thrive? Why not just make things happen immediately and miraculously?

Our God reveals Himself as One who delights in creating means to an end, and then blessing those means to that end. He has appointed means, and He honors them.

What are God’s means for your physical health? We trust in God for physical health—yes, by praying for it, but also by eating well and exercising and sleeping properly, etc.

What are God’s means for your spiritual growth? We trust in God for spiritual health—yes, by praying for it, but also by reading His Word daily, and praying according to His Word, and by keeping the Lord’s Day with its public and private exercises of worship.

God appoints means, and He honors them. What are His means for saving and growing your children? What are His means for growing His church?
Why isn’t it “trusting” God to “let go and let God”? What IS trusting in God?
Suggested Songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd”

Saturday, October 13, 2018

2018.10.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:9-13

Questions for Littles: What did God command to gather into one place in v9? What did He command to appear? What did God call the dry land (v10)? What did God call the gathering of the waters? What did God see in v10? What did God command the earth to bring forth in v11? According to what was it determined what type of seed each grass or plant or tree would produce? What did God see about this in v12? What did evening and morning bring a conclusion to (v13)? 
In the Scripture for tomorrow’s sermon, we will be hearing about God’s creation of the all of the amazing, thriving vegetation in our world. All of this plant life needs two things: place and power.

First, God gives it a place. He commands the water to gather in one place and reveal the dried out land. He commands the land itself to bring forth all of the grass, and all of the plants, and all of the trees. When we marvel at all the different types of soil that are perfect for so very many types of plants, we marvel at the power and wisdom of God.

And we need to apply this to our own place, too. The country into which we were born. The family into which God brought us. The church in which He makes us to grow up. Sometimes, we may be tempted to give ourselves credit for putting ourselves in a place or position to do well. But there is enough in our lives to affirm what we see here in Scripture, in the creation of all of the vegetation: God created the place for us and put us there.

Second, God gives the vegetation power to reproduce. Did you notice that God’s Word makes the ground produce the plants? Usually, it’s seeds that do that! So, God shows that He is ultimately the One who enables the plants to reproduce. He doesn’t just give them the seeds; He does the same work later with seeds that He did at first with His Word.

Now—whether with His Word in our spiritual lives, or any other success or fruitfulness that comes from us, don’t we know that the same is true? The Lord gives us means, and He expects us to make use of them. But He also teaches us to recognize that He is the One who makes them effectual. So, we need to put all our trust in Him (not us!) and give all praise to Him (not us!)
How does trusting help against fear? How does praising help against pride?
Suggested Songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or TPH551 “We Plow the Fields”

Friday, October 12, 2018

2018.10.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 4:43-54

Questions for Littles: How many days did Jesus stay with the Samaritans who were believing in Him (v43)? Where did He go after that? What had Jesus Himself testified (v44)? But what does v45 say the Galileans did? What had they seen? To where did Jesus come again in v46? What had He done there before? What kind of man did He meet there? What had happened to the nobleman’s son? Where was the son? What did the nobleman ask Jesus to do in v47? What did Jesus say to him in v48? But what did the nobleman say was about to happen to his son (v49)? What did Jesus tell the man in v50? And what did the man believe? What did the man’s servants come tell him in v51? At what moment had the son been healed? Who believed in Jesus as a result of this? What does v54 call Jesus’s healing of the nobleman’s son?
In the Gospel reading this week, we were reminded that Jesus’s miracles were not just to make people feel better or live longer before they died. Jesus’s miracles were signs. They announced who He is.

Yes, there is healing love here for a desperate father and a sick son. But there is something more. There is saving love for a household of sinners.

We must never think that Jesus is being rude, when He says things like, “Unless y’all see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” Our Lord is perfectly full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, including gentleness and kindness.

The fact of the matter is that it’s true. We are a hard-hearted people. But did you notice that the nobleman believed before his son had been healed? What was it that caused the man to believe?
It was “the word that Jesus spoke to Him.”

Jesus Himself—His incarnation and death and resurrection—is the greatest sign and wonder. And we and our whole households should believe in Him because of it. And we have that same glorious thing that the Lord used to bring the nobleman to faith: the word that Jesus speaks to us.
Where do we find Jesus’s Word? When, especially, does He speak it to us?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”

Thursday, October 11, 2018

2018.10.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 10:14-33

Questions for Littles: What should we flee (v14)? What are we sharing in if we take of the cup of blessing (16a)? What are we sharing in, if we take of the bread that we break (16b)? What did the people of Israel share in when they ate of the sacrifices (v18)? What, rather than “idols,” were actually receiving the sacrifices of the Gentiles (v20)? If they knowingly ate meat that was sacrificed there, with what would they be having fellowship? And if they were having fellowship with demons, from what was it necessary to prevent them from partaking (v21)? If the church allows willful, unrepentant sinners to continue taking the Lord’s Supper, what does it do to the Lord (v22)? Whose consciences would we deny ourselves to preserve (v23-29)? But, when it’s between us and God, rather than asking where the food came from, what should we be doing instead (v30)? What should our goal be in eating or drinking (v31)? What example did Paul set of how to do things to the glory of God (v32-33)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learned one shocking reason why it is so dangerous to participate in idolatrous worship or practice: doing so actually brings us into fellowship with demons.

Let us not assume that we are any harder to trick than the Gentiles were of old. Demons are still quite capable of fooling people into participating with them. That’s not just personally dangerous to ourselves, but the Scripture here says that if the church permits us to come to the Lord’s Table in that condition, then we are provoking Him to jealousy!

However, it is wonderfully true that the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. If we don’t have reason to think that particular food, or drink, or any other kind of blessing is specifically a part of idolatrous worship, then we are free to receive it from the Lord.

There’s just one catch—if we receive everything as from the Lord, then we ought to be a thoroughly thankful people!

A thankful people will, obviously, give thanks. A thankful people will also seek the wellbeing of others, and do our best not to tempt them to violate their consciences. A thankful people will try not to make anyone stumble, because it is seeking their salvation unto the glory of God!
What are some ways that you do things unto the glory of God in your life?
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or TPH538 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

2018.10.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 4

Questions for Littles: How many men were they supposed to pick (v1-2)? What were they supposed to do (v3)? Who would ask about the stones in the future (v6)? Where did they set up the stones (v9)? Where were the stones at the time that the book of Joshua was written? What was the Lord doing to/for Joshua on that day (v14)? What happened as soon as the priests’ feet touched the dry land again (v18)? According to v24, why did the Lord dry up both the Red Sea and the Jordan?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we learned that the Lord loves us and cares to help us with our foolishness and easiness to forget His goodness, power, and salvation.

Not only does He bring the people across the Jordan in a miraculous way, but the Lord commands and emphasizes their making memorial of that miraculous salvation.

Oh how we need this merciful reminder from the Lord—precisely because we so easily forget! And there are at least three reasons for us to be so sure to remember:

First, we need to remember so that we can teach our children. Believers’ lives are filled with weekly Lord’s Days, sacraments, daily family worship, discipline and instruction, and more. All of it forces us to remember and gives them an opportunity to ask about what it all means to us.

Second, we need to remember because in all of these things, Jesus Christ is exalted before our eyes. Joshua doesn’t just have the same name as Jesus. He has the same role as Jesus: the appointed Savior of the people of God. Of course, Jesus is infinitely more of a Savior than Joshua. So, how much more important it is that He would be exalted in our sight, and that we would honor and obey Him!

Third, we need to remember so that we would tell others. It is our job to tell others about the mighty hand of the Lord and to encourage one another to fear Him as well (v24).
What is a daily way that we tell children about what the Lord has done for us? What is a weekly way that we tell children about what the Lord has done for us? How do you respond to Jesus’s salvation in your life? Whom do you tell about Christ?
Suggested songs: ARP78B “O Come, My People” or TPH550 “Let Children Hear the Mighty Deeds”

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Camp Fire from the Camp Out

Someone suggested that the congregation might like to see a clip of the fire from the campout last week. Well... here it is. But as we learned in the sermon, the more impressive site was all those beautiful (though imperfect) believers--not only created in the image of Him whose throne sits upon the firmament, but now being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, who sits upon that throne, even in His humanity! Hallelujah!

2018.10.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 2:10-18

Questions for Littles: Who is everything for? Who is everything from? Who is bringing many sons to glory? Who perfected Jesus through suffering? Who is the Captain of our salvation? Who makes Christians holy? What is Jesus not ashamed to call us? Who declares God’s Name to us and sings God’s praise in the midst of the church assembly? Who has given us to Jesus as children of God? How does Jesus destroy the devil? Who has helped the descendants of Abraham? Whom did Jesus have to be made like? What kind of High Priest is Jesus? What has He done about His people’s sins? What can He do, since He has been tempted and suffered? Whose name does preaching declare in the church’s worship? Who is declaring God’s name in that preaching? What does He call the people of the church? Whom does v13 talk about trusting God in the church’s worship? When we come to worship, Who brings us to God? What does He call us, when He presents us with Himself and says, “Here I am…”? Who has given His children to Jesus, in order that Jesus would bring us to worship?  
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Hebrews 2:10-18. We hear in v10 that it is God who is bringing many sons to glory. And, we hear in v11 that it is Jesus who is getting us ready for that glory by making us holy. What a blessing to know this! God commands us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. God commands us to put to death our sin. God commands us to walk in a manner worthy of being called Christian.

But God also tells us that Jesus is the One who is making us holy, and that God is the One who has adopted us as His children, and who is bringing us to glory. Can they possibly fail? As Philippians 1:6 says, “being confident of this very thing: that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Finally, and most importantly, we hear in v17 that Jesus made propitiation for our sins. What does this mean? It means that on the cross, Jesus so completely suffered the wrath of God for our sin, that there is absolutely none of it left for us; it means that the only thing left for us from God is favor. Jesus has completely earned our forgiveness; we cannot earn any of it. Jesus has completely earned our blessing; we cannot earn any of it. He made propitiation for our sins!

God chose who would be saved. God gave us as a gift to Jesus. Jesus paid for all of our sins. Jesus is making us holy for glory. God is bringing us to glory as His children. From start to finish, all of our salvation is from the Lord!

The middle verses of our passage focus upon what we do when we get there. And that is: have a glorious family worship service! Except in glory, it’s not the Father leading family worship. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the One whom we are worshiping. And the Son is leading that worship!

Jesus had to become a man just like we are, except without sin, in order to save us. And when we believe in Jesus, we are adopted to become children like He is. So, Jesus became flesh and blood like we are. And He was tempted like we are. And He suffered in our place. And we are made sons like He is. And made holy like He is. And we will come to glory as He has.

But our passage says even more than that one day we will be perfected and enter glory. Just like Paul writes to the Ephesians, these verses are also talking about our being seated with Jesus already in the heavenly places (cf. Eph 2:6). We are especially able to see this if we compare 2:11-13 with 12:18-29.

When we obey the command in 10:19-25 not to neglect congregational worship, we join the worship assembly already in glory!

Here is something literally glorious about preaching: Jesus is the One who declares God’s name in the preaching (v12a)! How very careful the preacher on earth must be to proclaim and apply only what the Scripture says, if Jesus is the preacher from heaven! The preacher must not put his words into Jesus’ mouth, but the other way around.

Here is something literally glorious about congregational singing in worship: Jesus is the one singing God’s praise in the midst of the assembly (v12b)! How careful we should be to sing only Christ’s thoughts from Scripture, if He is the singer in our worship! We must not put our words in His mouth, but the other way around.

But how can sinners such as we are appear in glory week by week? Here is something literally glorious about our coming to God in worship: Jesus presents us there in Himself (v13b), and it is even Jesus’ own faith that is being counted for us while we are there (v13a)!
What is Jesus getting you ready for? Why is He doing so? How is He getting you ready?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Monday, October 08, 2018

No Session Meeting Tonight--Postponed to the 15th

No Session Meeting Tonight--Postponed to the 15th

2018.10.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:6-8

Questions for Littles: What did God command to exist in v6? What would the firmament be between? What would it do to the waters? What new information does v7 give us? What does God call the firmament (v8)? What makes day two? 
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learned that God spends an entire day of creation on something that almost never again gets mentioned: the firmament.

Here is something that turns out to be a display to us of the throne of God.

It is, first of all, a throne of glory. After Genesis 1, the next place that we see the raquiya (firmament) is in Psalm 19:1 and Psalm 150:1, and then not again until four times in Ezekiel 1:22-26. The last two times are Ezekiel 10:1 and Daniel 12:3.

Take the time to read each of those passages. You will see that every one of them is describing a special display of the glory God. In a couple places, it is specifically connected to God’s “sanctuary” and God’s “throne.”

The firmament is, second of all, a throne of judgment. As God “saw that it was good” last week, we learned about God that He makes judgments and distinctions. There is, perhaps, no book in the Bible where this is more clear than the book of Ezekiel (even though the name “Daniel” means “God is my Judge”!). And it is here, when God appears seated on the throne of the cherub-chariot, in judgment over His people (and all other peoples, cf. Ezek chs. 25-32), that we hear the most about a firmament… this interesting thing that He spent an entire day of creation on. The firmament is a throne of glory and a throne of judgment.

But finally, the firmament is a throne of grace. We know that already, of course. We come to God’s throne in Jesus Christ, and find Christ Himself seated on that throne. Hallelujah! And, the people of Israel, as they first received Genesis 1, would have done so knowing that when God broke that separation of the waters, the flood had come—but also that God had spared Noah and promised never to send such a judgment again. He spent a day of creation creating that separation. And then in the covenant of grace, He promised to maintain it. God’s throne is a throne of grace!
How are you bowing before God’s glory? God’s judgment? God’s grace!
Suggested Songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH2B “Why Do Heathen Nations Rage?”

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Walking with God, Who Meets Us in His word (Pastoral Letter from the 2018.10.05 Hopewell Herald)

Dear Congregation,

We’ve been learning about God, the everlasting Creator, as we study His own account of how He created, and think about why He created in that way.

This past Lord’s Day, we read and heard, “And God said…”

God relates to us by His Word. With limited time in a sermon, we focused especially upon how this is because He relates to all of His creatures through THE Word, the eternal Son, our Lord Jesus.

But we could well have made a study of how the Lord relates to us via the words on the pages of Scripture. The words through which He makes us alive, the words through which He brings us to faith, the words through which He ministers His continual fellowship to us, the words through which He fits us for glory, making us holy.

Oh that we would learn to look for Him and interact with Him by serious study of these words and continual reflection upon them! Rather than groping blindly after God with disorganized longings of the heart, we can diligently and passionately employ the means that He Himself has described by which He relates to us.

“You have magnified Your Word above all Your Name”—Psalm 138:2.

Of all the ways that God makes Himself known to us—of all of the instances of “His Name”—God has given His Word the very first place.

Is that reflected in the way that you approach each day? I pray often that it would be reflected in the way that we approach each week: that each Lord’s Day, we would worship Him by means of His Word (read, sung, prayed, preached, even seen/smelled/touched/tasted by means of the Supper), and that the entire rest of the week would flow out of this day with Him.

Then, as the week begins to come to a close, we begin to anticipate eagerly another Lord’s Day in the Lord’s Word, making effort to prepare in a way that will enable us to attend to Him in His Word with as little distraction from it as possible.

We’re coming to another Lord’s Day now. Won’t you prepare with me?


Christian Meditation Helps Us in Sanctification, Fellowship, and Evangelism (from the 2018.10.05 Hopewell Herald)

Christian Meditation: Dwelling upon God's Word
One of the things that we haven’t talked about much as a congregation is the practice of Christian meditation. No—not the mental zoning out that is borrowed from various forms of manmade spirituality. But that meditation of which the Psalms often speak—dwelling upon and extended consideration of the Scriptures.

Its Effect upon Fellowship: Building One Another up in the Word
While the practice is, of course, a great blessing to our own souls, it also has a value-added effect for fellowship and evangelism. What is continually on our minds will be readily on our lips. So, when we interact with one another, we will have material for making our fellowship an occasion of intentionally celebrating God’s goodness together or committing to God’s service together.

Its Effect upon Evangelism: a Ready Path to Speaking of Christ (just by thinking about the sermon)
But this works well for evangelism as well. One of the things that keeps us from talking to others about our Redeemer as the love and joy of all our life is that if we are honest, we are not thinking of Him enough. Another thing that keeps us from talking about Christ to others is that we are not sure what to say.

Meditating upon Him by means of His Word addresses both of these deficiencies.
Each week, pick one phrase or sentence in the sermon text that gets explained in a way that really comes home to you. Whether it’s a pleasant truth that has sweetened many days for you in the past, or something that you just learned/realized for the first time in the sermon, write that phrase down and carry it with you. Reflect upon it throughout the week.
Then, when someone asks how you’re doing, or what’s new, or gives you the opportunity some other way, you will be well-prepared to say, “I was just thinking about how Jesus…”

Also a Ready Path to Inviting Others to Hopewell
And if you happen to be in conversation with someone who doesn’t go to Hopewell, you can tell them where you heard that recently, and hand them an invitation card.

These cards are available on the back table in the worship room. I suggest that you write down your own name and phone number and give them an invitation with a warm smile. You can also mention that the sermon you were talking about will be linked/streamable/downloadable right from Hopewell's homepage.

2018.10.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:6-8

Questions for Littles: What did God command to exist in v6? What would the firmament be between? What would it do to the waters? What new information does v7 give us? What does God call the firmament (v8)? What makes day two?
In the Scripture for tomorrow’s sermon, we learn something rather odd.
God spends an entire day creating just the firmament. Creating light and day and night—that makes sense to take a day. Sea and dry land. That seems pretty significant as well.

Well, if you come to similar conclusions as mine, then we need to remember that when something strikes as odd in Scripture, it’s because of some fault in us—in this case, it would be because we don’t appreciate what this firmament is.

Literally, it means a “beaten out thing”… the name implies intentionality, care, craftsmanship—and also hardness and smoothness (hence the English word FIRMament).

Helpfully, the word doesn’t appear that often in the Hebrew Old Testament. In fact, its next significant use outside of this chapter is Psalm 19, Psalm 150, and then in Ezekiel and Daniel. Most of the rest of those occurrences have to do with the very throne of God—certainly not what we ordinarily mean by the atmosphere.

So, we are on the lookout for something rather extraordinary. And that brings us to the waters. What are these waters? The waters below end up being great oceans of the earth. And the waters above?

We don’t need to wonder about them. In a few short chapters, God is going to open windows in the heavens (Gen 7:11). This is more than just clouds starting to pour. It is the release of the wrath of God.

So what was the firmament? The protection of God. Safety from His wrath to highlight the greatness of His patience—even with those who will perish. Now that’s no small thing, is it?
How have you been responding to God’s patience and protection?
Suggested Songs: ARP121 “I Lift My Eyes and See the Hills” or TPH121A “I Lift My Eyes Up to the Hills”

Friday, October 05, 2018

2018.10.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 4:27–42

Questions for Littles: Who arrived in v27? What did they marvel at? What did the woman do with her waterpot in v28? Where did she go? What did she say to the people (v29)? What did she say Jesus had told her? What did she ask about Him? How did the people respond (v30)? What were the disciples urging Jesus to do (v31)? What did Jesus say to them in v32? What did the disciples wonder in v33? What did Jesus say His food is in v34? What does Jesus tell them to lift their eyes and see (v35)? What does the one who reaps these fruits gather (v36)? Whom has Jesus sent to reap (v37-38)? Who believed in Him (v39)? Why? What did these Samaritans urge Him to do (v40)? How long did Jesus stay with them? How many else believed (v41)? Why? What did they say to the woman (v42)? What did they now know about Jesus?
In the Gospel reading this week, there’s eating and harvesting.

But neither are what they seem. You see, it’s not just that the Lord Jesus uses illustrations from real life in order to make His teaching easier to understand. It’s much more than that.

Jesus invented eating. He’s the Creator. Jesus invented harvesting. But there’s eating and then there’s eating. Jesus says that His human life isn’t sustained nearly as much by bread as it is by a desire to do the will of God. O that our lives would be sustained by a desire to do God’s will!

Jesus then turns to them and their work. What should they be looking for as a reward for their work? Pay? Food? No—joy. Joy that belongs to everyone involved. Joy that is everlasting.

Joy like the woman gets. The woman that they marvel that Jesus would even speak to her. They ask a question: “who is this woman?” And the answer is marvelous: “this woman is the harvester of some and the sower of others, who is about to be an example of what the disciples should aspire to be like!”

And I hope that you and I shared in that joy too—especially as we read v42. They know and delight in Christ for their own experience of Him. Praise the Lord! And they know that He’s not just the “Christ” who will give them directions to worship, but is the Savior of the world. Hallelujah!
What is the food that sustains you? How are you working for eternal joy?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH438 “I Love to Tell the Story”

Thursday, October 04, 2018

2018.10.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 9:27–10:13

Questions for Littles: What possibility had Paul suggested in 9:27, if he wasn’t willing to deny himself for the sake of others? What privilege had their fathers had in 10:1? What privilege in v2? What privilege in v3? What privilege in v4? Who was the Rock? But what happened to them (v5)? What had they lived for (v7)? What had they done (v8)? Against whose patience had they sinned (v9)? What else had they done (v10)? Why had all these things happened (v6, 11)? Who should take heed lest he falls (v12)? Who makes an escape for us (v13)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we’re confronted with how terrible it is when someone who claims to be a believer does not live a life of self-denial.

Chapters 8-9 made the point that living to please ourselves fails to love others. But now chapter 10 is making a much more serious point. If we live to indulge ourselves, it is a direct attack upon God.

Even if we are church members, who have been baptized and take the supper (v1-4), living self-indulgently makes us idolaters. If when we sit down, it is to please ourselves with food and drink, and when we rise up, it is to please ourselves with play, then we are idolaters of the worst kind: idolizing ourselves.

If we indulge our appetites (v8), put Christ to the test (v9), and complain when we cannot have whatever we want (v10), then we are failing to learn from Israel’s example.

Would we love others well? Would we honor Christ with not just our lips but our hearts and lives also? Then we must deny ourselves! The “way out” of which v13 speaks is a way out of living in order to please ourselves.

Amazingly, v13 is its own answer! How does the Lord lead us away from living to please ourselves? By this very passage, 1Cor 10:1-13… or, even better, all of chapters 8-10.

The Holy Spirit takes His Word and presses it into our hearts. And that Word says, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls!”
How have you been denying yourself in order to live for the Lord?
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or TPH538 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

2018.10.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 3

Questions for Littles: What were the people to be following (v1-3)? At what distance (v4)? Why that distance? What does Joshua tell the people to do to themselves (v5)? Why? What does Joshua tell the priests to do (v6)? What does Yahweh tell Joshua that He is going to do (v7)? Why? What does He tell Joshua to command the priests to do (v8)? What does Joshua tell the Israelites to come do in v9? What does Joshua say that v10 is showing? What does he tell them to set apart in v12? What does he tell them is going to happen in v13? What did the Jordan river usually do at this time (v15)? But what happens in vv16-17? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we find not just a miracle but the reason for it.

The Lord tells Joshua that this miracle is about exalting Joshua in the eyes of Israel as He had done with Moses. The crossing of the Jordan, of course, reminds us of the crossing of the Red Sea.

But notice that the servant of the Lord—even after being told that this is about increasing others’ esteem of him—does not give in to pride or narcissism. The Lord being with the His servants is really about the praise and glory of the Lord, not the servant.

So Joshua announces that this miracle is a sign of God’s being with them and surely driving out from before them all of the peoples of the promised land.

He reminds them that the ark belongs to Yahweh, Lord of all the earth. Joshua points out that it’s not himself that they are following, but Yahweh. This was the point in v4, wasn’t it? The Lord goes ahead of them. They don’t know the way, but He does. He is leading them.

There are situations in life where we are led by the Lord’s servants, humanly speaking. And in those situations, we need to be both esteeming those servants highly, as the Lord intends for us to do, AND to be recognizing that ultimately it is the Lord who is leading us.

And there may be situations in life where we are the servants who are doing the leading. Whether others rightly honor us or not, let us remember always to be following after Him and pointing them to Him!
Whom has the Lord given you as a leader? Whom has He given you to lead?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH525 “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us”

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

2018.10.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 6:12-20

Questions for Littles: What were some Corinthians saying they were allowed to do (v12)? What were they saying the stomach is made for (v13)? But whom does Paul warn them will destroy it? For whom does the body exist? And what will God do with us that He has already done with the Lord Jesus (v14)? Of what are our bodies members (v15)? Of what must we not make them members (v15-16)? In what way are we one with the Lord Jesus (v17)? How should we respond to sexual immorality (v18)? Against what do we sin in sexual immorality? But what is this our body (v19)? How did God claim His right to us (v20)? What should we do with both our body and our spirit? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from 1Corinthians 6:12-20. Here we find a couple sayings that sound wise, and were going around the Corinthian church. “All things are lawful for me,” they said. I’ve heard a version of this, where those who profess faith in Christ say, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” By that, they mean, “I can do whatever I want, since I’ve got forgiveness in Jesus.”

But that’s not how someone who actually has forgiveness thinks. Rather, the one whose heart has been opened to the Lord and forgiven by the Lord wants to live in the way that glorifies the Lord and keeps him free from sin.

Another thing that they were saying was, “Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods.” They were justifying their gluttony by saying, “this is the way God made us—that’s what stomachs are for!”

But the apostle reminds us that we are not in fact the way that God made us. Sin and death have entered the world, and the fact that our bodies will soon lie in the grave is a reminder that our impulses are full of sin now.

But the Corinthians were even using such excuses to tell themselves that it was ok to visit prostitutes. They were taking the temple of the Holy Spirit, the blood-bought possession of the Lord Jesus Christ—themselves—and joining it to a prostitute!

It is a sad fact that, as Christians, we think so much about how we can best enjoy ourselves rather than how we can best glorify God. But living for ourselves is theft. Our whole selves—body and soul—have been bought with the blood of Jesus Christ. We must live in the way that glorifies Him!
What must you stop that you’ve been doing? What must you do instead? 
Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH340 “There Is a Fountain”

Monday, October 01, 2018

2018.10.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:3-5

Questions for Littles: How did God make the light (v3)? What did God see in v4? What did He see about it? How did God respond to the light being good? What did God do to the light in v5? What did God call the darkness? What two things came after the naming of the day and night? What did all of that constitute?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learn many things about our God.

First, He reveals Himself as One who relates to His creation verbally. God uses words to create. He invented words. We speak because He speaks.

But this means much more for us than it does for the light. Because He also calls the Second Person of the Trinity “the Word.” Yes, we learn from the New Testament that God created everything through Christ. So, we do have that in common with the light.

But light wasn’t created in God’s image like you were. And light hasn’t sinned against God like you have. And light doesn’t deserve Hell like you do. So the Word didn’t become light—He did not materialize and energize as photons and visible, electromagnetic radiation. No, the Word became flesh because you are flesh.

The fact of the matter is that whether you want to or not, you will relate to God through Jesus Christ. It is appointed for man to die once and then after that the judgment (Heb 9:27). And the judgment throne before which we will sit belongs to Christ (2Cor 5:9-11).

Kings and nations plot in vain trying to exert their will on the world, but God has determined that He will relate to all things through His Son (Psalm 2). He is the anointed who will shatter His enemies with an iron rod.

But there is good news. Christ is also the One whom we may kiss—that is, to Whom we may submit—in order to escape His wrath. Indeed, “blessed are all who put their trust in Him. The question, then, is…
How are you relating to Jesus Christ? Are you trusting in Him? Worshiping Him? Obeying Him? Serving Him? Ignoring Him? Resisting Him?
Suggested Songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH2B “Why Do Heathen Nations Rage?”