Each week we webcast Lord's Day Sabbath School at 10a, morning public worship at 11a, and p.m. singing and sermon at 2:30p (sermon at 3:30); and the Weds. Prayer Meeting at 6:30p

Saturday, June 09, 2018

2018.06.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:22-24

Questions for Littles: To what mountain have we come (v22)? To whose city have we come? What else is that city called? Of whom are there an innumerable company there? What is the church there called (v23)? Where are they registered? Who is the Judge of all? What verdict has He declared about the spirits in the church of the firstborn? What else has been done to these just men? To whom else does v24 tell us we have come? Of what is Jesus the Mediator? What speaks better than the blood of Abel? 
In this week’s sermon text, we heard not only about the mountain to which we haven’t come (Sinai, apart from Christ); but, we also heard about the mountain to which we have come.

The flow of the chapter has been: “we’re surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses… and our Father is doing everything necessary to get us ready for glory… so we too should be making every effort toward holiness… since we have come not to Sinai but to Zion.”

God stirs us up in the pursuit of holiness by the greatness of these glorious worship services on the Lord’s Day.

First, it is not a mountain with smoke and fire at the top. It is not a touchable mountain that we are to stay away from, but a spiritual mountain upon which the Lord Jesus is taking us all the way to the top. And what we find there is a city where we belong.

It’s our Father’s city. And it’s full of angels, which this book already taught us are servants who minister to those who are inheriting salvation (1:14). And these angels are not assembled for war, but for a great celebration.

With whom else do we worship, when the Lord carries us by faith to heaven in the Lord’s Day Assemblies? The church of the firstborn. What we can’t see in English is that the word “firstborn” is plural. Here is something strange: everyone in Christ’s church has the status of a firstborn! This is a place of glory and honor for us!

It is also a place of security. The rights of the firstborn have been legally recorded in heaven. And God, the judge of all, has declared the members of this assembly to be just—officially “not guilty” in the court of God. In fact, the souls in glory have not just been forgiven, they have already been perfected. God’s salvation is sure, and it works!

This is the main message that we hear in Christian worship. To be sure, it is not the only message. As we will be reminded once again in v25, we are not to refuse Him who speaks. But, before we hear anything else, we are to hear His blood.

Abel’s blood was terrible news. God observed it. God responded to it. His justice refused to ignore it. These all indicated that God is a God of wrath against sin. Jesus’s blood, however, tells good news. And it does a better job of talking than Abel’s does. Whatever sin testifies against us, Jesus’s blood talks louder, testifying of our redemption.
How does your approach to Lord’s Day Worship take into account these glories?
Suggested Songs: ARP95B “Today If You Will Hear His Voice” or HB29 “O Come, and Sing Unto the Lord”

Friday, June 08, 2018

2018.06.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 14:66-72

Questions for Littles: Who was below in the courtyard in v66? Who came up to him? What did she see him doing (v67)? What did she say to him in v67? How did Peter answer her (v68)? Where did he go? What happened then? Who saw him again in v69? This time, to whom did she identify Peter? How did Peter respond this second time (v70)? A little later, who identified him? What did they suggest was proof? How did Peter respond this third time in v71? Then what happened the second time in v72? What did Peter remember that Jesus had said to him? What did Peter do now, when he remembered it in his thoughts? 
In the Gospel reading this week, we were reminded how easily we fall into sin. Peter had been so determined to die with Christ, if that’s what it took to stick with Him, and now he falters before the scrutiny of a servant girl.

Apparently, there wasn’t much using hiding it. The servant girl knew his face—which is not surprising, considering how popular Jesus had been. v67 seems to imply that even the manner in which he warmed himself stood out.

Then, there was the problem of the accent. He was one of those redneck northern hillbillies, and he sure sounded like it! This last fact was what set him off, cursing and swearing like a sailor.

Perhaps the most frightening thing about how easily we fall into such great sin is the bit about the rooster crowing two different times. How can it be that Peter wouldn’t take the hint after the first crowing? But it seems that he only remembers Jesus’s warning/prediction after the second one is complete!

How often we, too, miss the warning signs about the sin into which we are sliding.

Behold the patience of the grace of God, and the powerful working of Jesus’s intercession. Unlike Judas, Peter would recover from this. He would be restored. He would strengthen the brethren. Why? Because although Satan had asked to sift the disciples like wheat, Jesus had prayed specifically for Peter, specifically for this restoration.

Dear Christian, do you identify yourself in Peter’s sin? Then pay attention to Christ’s part in all of this, and identify Peter’s Master as your own dear Savior too. He ever-lives to intercede for us! Praise the Lord!
From what sin is Jesus praying that you would be restored?
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or HB282 “God, Be Merciful to Me”

Thursday, June 07, 2018

2018.06.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 2:1-5

Questions for Littles: How did Paul not come to them (v1)? What did he come declaring instead? What was he determined not know (v2)? What, alone, was he determined to know? What about Christ did he emphasize? How did Paul present himself before them in v3? What did his preaching appear to be missing, to some (v4)? But with what did that preaching come? What did this keep them from putting their faith in (v5a)? What did it ensure that they would put their faith in (v5b)? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we are challenged about what we put our faith in, and what we lead others to put our faith in. Praise God for faithful churches, and praise God for faithful ministers. But, our passage leaves us with the clear message that if people come away from us thinking, “what a great church!” or “what a great minister!” then we have not truly achieved our aim. Rather, we should desire that they come away thinking, “What a great God!” and “What a great Savior!” and “What a great salvation!”

Paul is still encouraging them to embrace their ordinariness—to embrace their unimpressiveness. Not only does this ensure that all the glory goes to God (as we learned in last week’s passage), but it also redirects people’s faith.

If the Lord takes us from people, would they say, “Oh no! What shall we do?” Or, have we been determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified, so that they can receive a message similar to Joshua chapter 1: “Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, be strong and courageous for [God] is with you.”

How we present ourselves to those to whom we minister is, in the economy of God’s providence, a significant factor in determining upon what they come to depend. Will they end up with faith in the wisdom (or, perhaps thoughtfulness or goodness or togetherness, or ?) of men? Or will they end up with faith in the power of God?

Paul didn’t preach cleverly assembled sermons full of catchy turns of phrase. He preached plain doctrine about how God became man to save, and did so not by being impressive but rather by being executed.

In fact, he preached such sermons that one would say, “Come on Paul… it would take a miracle from God for that sermon to bring someone to faith!”

And that is exactly the point, isn’t it? Paul came and preached plainly about Jesus so that when the people believed, all would know for sure, “This can be a demonstration only of the Spirit and power of God!”

Isn’t this what we want most, when we witness, or when we have others preach and teach to us: not that there would be a great presentation that gives us a memorable encounter with men, but instead that there would be a plain gospel presentation, that Christ would be clearly seen, and that there would be a glorious encounter with God.

Let us so act and so speak as to have this as our great aim!
How can you be presenting Jesus more plainly and yourself less impressively to others?
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or HB132 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

2018.06.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:28-49

Questions for Littles: Where, now, do we see Rebekah running in v28? Whom is she telling about Abraham’s servant’s outpouring of praise, “Blessed be Yahweh… etc.”? Who responded quickly (v29)? What had Laban seen that motivated his quick/diligent response (v30)? What had he heard, that formed the type of response? What does he say to the servant in v31? What was given to the servant in vv32-33? What did he refuse to do at first and why? How does the servant summarize Abraham’s life for the last 60 years or so (v34-36)? What assignment does he tell them about in v37-38? What does he bring up as a possibility of how she might respond in v39, or how the family might respond in v41? What extraordinary event does he tell them about in vv42-46? What major question does he now put to them in v49.
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we have the recounting of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. What a life Abraham has had since last Nahor’s family had seen him! And Abraham’s servant tells the story the right way: it is all about God’s blessing, God’s steadfast love, God’s faithfulness.

This is the primary reason, after all, for coming all this way to seek a wife for Isaac: allegiance to this God who had loved Abraham and taken his entire household as His special people was the first and greatest consideration for choosing a wife.

This, of course, did not mean that the wife had no choice in the matter. The servant plainly presents the possibility of her giving a veto, and then also of the family giving a veto. There is no mechanically forced submission to the mystical here.

And it did not mean that the wife choice was “by sign alone.” The sign itself was designed to discover kindness and diligence. And the method of presentation was designed to bring out of them a religious response of worship and submission to Yahweh. All of these are important factors.

But, ultimately, the great question that the servant puts is this: “Yahweh be praised for His perfect steadfast love and faithfulness! Now, will you also be loving/loyal and faithful?” His question in v49 literally asks, “Now if you will distribute kessed (steadfast love) and emmet (faithfulness) to my master, tell me.”

Of course, we smell trouble when we observe Laban carefully. The name of Yahweh may be on his lips, but there are dollar signs in his eyes. How easily the love of money sneaks into our hearts and lives and robs us of sincerity in our consecration unto the Lord! But the problem with Laban will not manifest itself fully until later with Jacob.

Even then, however, in the hint of treachery to come, doesn’t this give us a stronger reminder of the difference between God and men? Like the black felt background to the diamond of God’s character, Laban’s sliminess announces, “Look at how perfectly loving and faithful the Lord is with His people!”

As we approach marriage choices for the next generation of believers, let it be our great desire that the outcome would announce unto all: “Look at the perfect love and faithfulness of my God!!
List some ways God has been loving and faithful to you. What would God being "loving and faithful" to you look like in a spouse search?
Suggested songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or HB106 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

2018.06.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 67

Questions for Littles: Upon whom does v1 ask God to be merciful and to cause His face to shine? But then among which nations does v2 hope this will make His salvation to be known? And how many of the peoples do v3 and v5 expect will come to praise God? How will all these come to feel about all this (v4)? What else will respond well at the time when all the peoples have been brought to saving (and praising!) faith (v6a)? Whose God is the God that blesses us, if we are believers (v6b)?
This week’s Call to Worship and Prayer for Help came from Psalm 67. The end of the Psalm is God blessing us as a result of all the nations and people having been brought to faith. But how does the Psalm get to that end?

There is a desire in this Psalm that God’s mercy and blessing to us would be so great that everyone would hear about it. I wonder, when we pray for such blessing, how much of our desire is looking forward to the Lord’s missionary use of it.

But that is the great desire here: for God’s way and salvation to be known. Isn’t that a wonderful way of putting it? It places the priority of emphasis right were it belongs: on the desire for God to be glorified. Yes, love of neighbor means that we rejoice in his salvation. But that is the secondary love.

Even more than thinking, “Oh that men might be saved!,” we ought first to be thinking, “Oh that God would be glorified!” The two are not mutually exclusive; the Lord delights to save. But the way we think about it reveals the priorities of our hearts. Would we pray for a friend’s salvation, “that Your way may be known in that house, and Your salvation among all the families of that neighborhood!”?

But God isn’t just glorified in the fact of saving people, He’s also the object of all of their praise. vv3 and 5 are bookends of praise around the crown jewel of v4. Four times, in these two book ends, comes the great shout, “Let the peoples praise You!!”

Why will they praise like this? v4 gives the answer: because God has made them glad, and the praise that they sing, they sing out of the joy of their hearts. God has preserved and vindicated His righteousness while saving us. This is the great marvel of the cross!

Do we praise like that—out of richly felt joy, and focused on the rich doctrine of His judgement, righteousness, and justice (cf. Rom 3:25-26)?
What is a higher priority for you, your comfort or God’s glory? How do you know?
Suggested songs: ARP67 “O God, Give Us Your Blessing” or HB493 “Lord, Bless and Pity Us”

Monday, June 04, 2018

2018.06.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:18-21

Questions for Littles: Describe the mountain in v18-20 (the one that we have not come to)? When the people heard the sound of the trumpet and the voice of the words, for what did they beg (v19)? What had been commanded to do to a beast if it touched the mountain (v20)? Who else said that he was exceedingly afraid and trembling (v21)?
In the sermon this week, we heard at first about what Sinai is like without Christ.

Now, those last two words are very important, because Sinai was not without Christ. The Ten Commandments begin with an announcement of salvation: covenant relationship (“I am the Lord, Your God”) and divine redemption (“who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery”). And though Moses was exceedingly terrified as a sinner before God, his hope in God’s mercy proved true—precisely because God acted according to His saving purposes toward us in Christ.

But what would Sinai—what would God’s law—be like without Christ? It’s a perfect law. It’s an holy law. It’s a just law. So, what is that like?

Terrifying. Horrifying. There can be nothing more frightening than the Law without Christ. It looks like a mountain—immense, immovable, unclimbable. And who would want to climb it? For, it burned with fire and smoked and shook.

Sometimes, sinners who are pushing down on the knowledge of God say things like, “If I could just see Him” or like Thomas and the risen Lord, “if I could just touch Him, I would believe.” No. No they wouldn’t believe.

Or, how about, “If I could just hear God speak to me…” Really? The people who heard His voice apart from faith in Christ begged that they would never have to hear Him again.” It is not some kind of magically inspiring experience. It is absolute terror to be before someone so holy that even a beast—just for being a creature—would be executed for coming near Him without holiness.

Apart from faith in Christ, if we could meet God, up close and personal, it would be horrifying and devastating. We would be sure that the very next thing to come is fiery punishment from the Lord. It would be with us as with Isaiah, “Woe is me! I am undone!”

But thankfully, just as there was atonement for Isaiah, there is atonement for us. We have Christ. When we come to His commandments, we don’t even come to Sinai. We receive His commands at Zion.

As He did with Thomas, Christ comes to us in gentleness, and in resurrection power He presents to us the marks of our redemption, and we fall at His feet and say, “My Lord and My God.” This is how we are to come to His commands!
Which response do you tend to have to God’s law: fear or joy? Does this tell you that you are coming to His law with faith in Christ? Or without Christ at all?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”