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 30, 2018

2018.06.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 13:5-6

Questions for Littles: What is our conduct to be without (v5)? With what are we to be content? What has God said to us? Who is our helper (v6)? What will we not do? Who can do nothing, ultimately, to harm us?
In this week’s sermon text, we hear not only about whom to love, but also how to love. How can we go about giving of ourselves to and for others?

The key to the correct conduct is a condition of the heart: no covetousness and full contentment. But how can we find this contentment?

By looking unto Jesus, the Forger and Finisher of our faith—to consider Him who endured such hostility against Himself. He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

When we realize that He has given Himself to us (and, therefore, all other things along with Himself), we are freed from slavery to selfishness.

What more can we add to ourselves that we do not already have? Instead, we now have the privilege of pouring ourselves out for others and knowing that we lose nothing in the bargain.

Of course, this doesn’t come naturally to us. So, the Holy Spirit prescribes some theological self-preaching. Like the depressed Psalmist in Psalm 42-43, the covetous believer has a little mini-sermon by which he may address his weak soul. There, it was, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Hope now in God, for I will yet praise Him. He is my help and my God. Here, it is similar: “Yahweh is my helper. I will not fear. What can man do to me.”

Blessed is the one whose help is the God of Jacob (Psalm 146:5)! Yes, we have had our name changed to Israel (God wrestles), but we so often still act like Jacob (heel-grabber; scoundrel). God has committed Himself to us, and gets down in the muck to be our help anyway. He is the God of Jacob.

Since this is the case, let us continually put ourselves in mind of the fact that He refuses to leave us or forsake us. The more we learn to live before the face of God, the less we will indulge discontentment or covetousness!
When do you tend to be discontent? How will you remind yourself of Christ at these times? What does your “self-preaching” life look like these days?
Suggested Songs: ARP146 “Praise the Lord” or TPH257 “Children of the Heavenly Father”

Friday, June 29, 2018

2018.06.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 15:40-16:8

Questions for Littles: Who were looking on when Jesus died (v40)? What had these women done during Jesus’s ministry in Galilee (v41)? Who asked for Jesus’s body (v42-43)? What did Pilate verify with the centurion (v44-45)? In what did Joseph wrap Jesus’s body (v46)? Where did he lay him, and what did he do to the door? Who observed this (v47)? When the Sabbath was past, what did the women do (v1)? When did they come to the tomb (v2)? What were they asking themselves (v3)? What did the solution turn out to be (v4)? Whom did they find in the tomb (v5)? What did he tell them that Jesus had done (v6)? Whom did he tell the women to tell (v7)? What did they do and say instead (v8)?
In the Gospel reading this week, we follow Mary, Mary, and Salome as they keep track of everything that is happening with the Lord and His body.

Evidently, these were women of some means, for they had followed Him and ministered to Him during His ministry, and they had the means of purchasing the spices to anoint Him now.

Let us learn from them the blessedness of being always busy in service, for we never know when our service will become an occasion upon which the Lord makes us witnesses to a great work of His.

There were things that they could not do—like make so bold as to request the body themselves (the Lord sent Joseph of Arimathea to do that), and especially they could not roll the stone away (the Lord Himself did that). But what they could do, they did.

Let us not, however, miss that the primary actor in their story is not themselves but the Lord. He is always a step ahead of them—even having the angel waiting, ready to instruct them. When the women are still afraid and running away not telling anyone, Jesus comes upon them and instructs Mary further, and she tells the disciples.

In all our service of the Lord and pursuit of Him, let us be mindful that it is truly He that is pursuing and employing us. Our risen Savior sits on the throne of glory, ruling over all things. Hallelujah!
How are you serving the risen King? How has He gone ahead to help you?
Suggested songs: ARP157 “Immortality and Resurrection” or TPH358 “Sing Choirs of New Jerusalem”

Thursday, June 28, 2018

2018.06.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 3:9-17

Questions for Littles: To whom do the fellow-workers belong (v9)? To whom does the building belong? What was given to Paul so that he could build (v10)? What was he privileged to lay? Of what must future builders take heed? What other foundation can be laid (v11)? What foundation has been laid? With what might one build (v12)? But by what will the building be tested (v13)? What will believers receive if their building endures (v14)? Through what will we all be saved (v15)? What is the church (v16)? Who dwells there? What will God do to the one who does the church harm (v17)? Why? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learn that there is much more at stake in ministry than satisfying the opinions of men. The workers don’t belong to the church; they belong to the Lord. What pastor fears his congregation? What pastor indulges competitive thoughts about other pastors? Let him remember that as a worker, he belongs to his Master—regardless of whom else he might be working with. And let him further remember that the work does not belong to him but to his Lord!

In one sense, this is a great comfort. The Lord will surely accomplish all that He has planned to accomplish!! That’s a cause for humility too—if the outcome is guaranteed before we begin, and sustained by grace while we labor, is there really any room at all for boasting? Absolutely not.

In another sense, this is a great caution. Because it is only the Lord’s eternal work that will stand the fire of the transition from time to eternity. v15 isn’t describing the fire of judgment. It is a reference to the fact that when the Day comes that we enter eternity, then at last we will see what fruit was eternal, and the results may be surprising indeed.

What is the solution? An endless cycle of vision statements, surveys, statistical analyses, and performance reviews? To listen to the ministry experts you sure would think so! No, rather. The answer is Bible study that gets put into action.

The Lord has only one foundation: Jesus Christ. And He has already been laid down by the apostles and prophets. And the Lord also has His own building materials: gold, silver, precious stones. Oh, there is a temptation to embellish with whatever we can. Organizations, affinity groups, programs and the like may make for a much larger structure, but they will not survive into eternity.

So what? Isn’t the only point to “get saved.” Of course not! The great point is to glorify God! And we should cherish the opportunity to serve Him in bringing Him that glory!!

And the second point is like it—to do good to others. The horrifying part about potentially seeing an entire life’s ministry go up in smoke is that the fruit of that ministry was being measured in people, eternal souls. Shall we really hate them so thoroughly as to sacrifice them on the altar of our own self-importance and job satisfaction (or volunteer ministry satisfaction)?!

Let us build the Lord’s church only, ever, with the Lord’s materials given in Scripture: the ordinary means of grace. Our ever-merciful and over-generous Lord even super-adds another incentive: rewards. If our work endures, we will receive a reward. Not because of how well we have done in ourselves—but because whatever genuine good is done is always done in Christ, and He Himself is the worthiness of the work. But, still, the Lord gives us rewards!

There are those who, even understanding it in this way, shrink back from the idea that the Lord gives rewards to His people for service well-done in this life. But it is such a repeated point in Scripture, that we will leave them to argue it out against the Holy Spirit. Instead, accepting this truth at His Word, let us marvel at His grace and generosity, and see how richly He has laid before us motivations to serve according to His instructions rather than our imaginations!
What service are you doing in the building of Christ’s church? From where in the Bible is your method?
Suggested songs: ARP119I “According to Your Word, O Lord” or TPH402 “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation”

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

2018.06.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 25:19-28

Questions for Littles: Whose genealogy is this (v19)? How old was Isaac when they got married (v20)? Why did Isaac plead with Yahweh (v21)? How did Yahweh respond? Looking at v26, how long had Isaac pleaded, and how long did it take Yahweh to respond? What were the children doing within Rebekah (v22)? What did she do about it? What did Yahweh say was within her womb (v23)? Whom did Yahweh say would be stronger—whom did Yahweh say would serve the other? What did the first twin who came out look like, and what did they call him (v25)? What did his brother do when he came out, and what did they call him (v26)? As the boys grew, what was Esau like (v27)? What was Jacob like? Who was Isaac’s favorite and why? And who was Rebekah’s favorite?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we continued to follow the line of promise, from which Jesus Christ, the Savior, would eventually come. And, we continued to see both man’s sinfulness from which we need to be saved, as well as evidence of God’s gracious work by which He is saving us.

Isaac and Rebekah serve as a warning to us here in v28. As he gets older, Isaac is such a slave to his appetite that it twists his heart. Here, he plays favorites with his children—and even picks his favorite child by his favorite food! Eventually, he won’t even be able to indulge his plan to thwart God about the blessing without satisfying his food craving first. Rebekah too has her favorite in Jacob, the gentler boy, as mothers are tempted to do. More on her later though.

But they weren’t always like that. The Lord had graciously worked in their lives for many years. Let us be warned not to rest upon prior grace, but to always be pressing forward in our walk with the Lord! For twenty years, Isaac’s solution to their childlessness was to pray for his wife. Not blame. Not manipulation. Prayer.

And this had its effect upon his wife. The man whom she had met while he was out praying in the evening prayed for her, cycle after cycle, month after month—more than two hundred months! So, when her pregnancy made her bemoan her very existence, she too prayed.

And the Lord answered. The Lord doesn’t always answer when we ask, “why?” But He did this time. Two nations were in her womb—well, it certainly felt like that, didn’t it! But then again—two peoples. And they were already in a battle. One would be stronger than the other.

Interestingly, as the boys grew up, Rebekah’s faith would be tested. Will Jacob really turn out to be stronger? Will the people of Esau really turn out to be the servants of the people of Jacob? What the Lord’s word had said, and what Rebekah’s eyes seemed to prove were opposites. It may in fact be that, in this particular case, her special favor to Jacob wasn’t favoritism, but faith. Are we willing to trust God’s word over our eyes?

In what situation could you be choosing to pray instead of blaming another?
What is a situation in which you have promises from the Lord, but your eyes seem to be saying something else?
Suggested songs: ARP4 “Answer When I Call” or TPH522 “Behold the Throne of Grace!”

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

2018.06.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 87

Questions for Littles: Where is the foundation of Yahweh’s city (v1)? Whose gates does He love the most (v2)? What kinds of things have been spoken of His city (v3)? From what nations will there be people who know the Lord (v4)? Where will it be said that this one and that one were born (v5)? Who will establish Zion? What will the Lord record about those who know Him from among the peoples (v6)? What do the priestly musicians say (v7)? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 87. Here, we see the devotion of God to His covenant people. He loves the gates of His city—that which defines the going out and coming in, that which sets the boundaries.

It is evident that He takes pleasure in pointing to the new birth of each believer from every nation. Like a father, proudly certifying the birth of His precious child, the Lord is seen (or, better, heard) here, announcing the registration of each one whose name is written in the book of life.

Looking at the list of nations that He singles out in v4, it is evident that He takes special pleasure in the salvation of those from the “toughest” countries. Is anything too hard for God? He loves to give a great salvation.

And what the Lord loves to celebrate, His people love to celebrate. This is not merely a private reflection for us to savor by ourselves. When the priestly musicians are enlisted to mimic the statements of Godin v7, we see that this is a subject of praise for the public worship of the people of God.

Isn’t this the true response to God’s election? God’s choice? God’s effectual calling that gives us the new birth? To praise Him who has done it! (not to argue over whether we think it was fair of Him to save us—of course it wasn’t; it was mercy!).

In particular, let’s give our attention again to the first two lines. Who is the foundation of the city of God? Who is the gate by which alone one may enter Zion? Of course, it is Christ! And this is the answer to why the Lord is so enthusiastic about His church—because it is the church of His Son!!
How does your love for the church imitate God’s? Do you love it for the same reason? Do you love the display of the truth of sovereign grace?
Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH87A “Zion, Founded on the Mountains”

Monday, June 25, 2018

2018.06.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 13:1-4

Questions for Littles: What kind of love are we to let continue (v1)? Whom else are we to love, according to v2? Whom have some entertained? Whom are we to remember as if right there with them (v3)? How is marriage to be treated (v4)? What is to be kept pure? Whom will God judge?
In the sermon this week, we heard about the various loves that mark a believer who is preparing for glory. Each of the objects of Christian love in vv1-4 have something to do with our destination in the glory of our Lord.

First, we are to love the immediate family. Let brotherly love continue. That means the whole family. The church is our family now. They will be our family forever. This has been a theme throughout the book, ever since chapter 2 showed us Jesus, presenting us in heaven as the children who had been given to Him to retrieve, and to bring home.
Oh, how we should love the members of our congregation! Each one! We’re family.

Second, we are to love the extended family. Elsewhere, Scripture tells us that we are to do good to all, but especially to the household of faith. Here, the command not to forget the love of strangers is followed up by the idea that these particular strangers may turn out to be angels—possibly calling to mind Abraham’s hospitality, but probably referring to hosting Christians whom we don’t know whether they may turn out to be a preacher, who can bring the Word to us.

Third, we are to remember suffering family. We might be separated from them in their suffering, such as those specifically named here—those in prison. But, whenever and wherever Christians—our family—are being mistreated, we are to remember them as if we were chained to them. We are all going through whatever pain is necessary as Father prepares us for Home.

Finally, we are to give our best efforts to our family family. It is a wonderful thing when our household is part of the household of believers. And there is no more precious saint on earth to love than our wives. The Lord gives a triple-reminder here of how much marriage—and the family that is built around one—is the vital unit of earthly congregations and of the church as a whole. First, He has declared marriage honorable. Second, He emphasizes the necessity of keeping it pure. Third, He announces frightful judgments against those who defile it.

Beloved, let us love one another!
What members of the family of God do you most need to work on loving?
Suggested Songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Saturday, June 23, 2018

2018.06.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:29

Questions for Littles: Who is a consuming fire? Whose God is He?
In this week’s sermon text, we were reminded that it is no small thing to approach God in worship. The concluding verse of that text alludes to three places in Scripture to remind us that the glory of worship is actually the glory of the living God Himself.

The first place to which it alludes is Sinai. We know this of course, because it is the nearest conflagration of fire to our passage, being mentioned earlier in the passage. But whether at the time of the ten commandments, or earlier in Moses’s experience of the bush, there is one detail that tells us that these are not the primary allusion here: in neither of those Sinai fires did the Lord actually consume what was on fire.

The second place that this “consuming fire” image takes us is the whole burnt offering. It was the first and primary offering in the system of worship that the Lord had commanded under the Mosaic covenant. You couldn’t have any other kind of worship without the offering in which the entire bull would be entirely burnt by a fire whose intensity would have to be achieved to accomplish that.

But, just as the bull is an inferior substitute as a glimpse of Christ, so also the burnt offering’s consuming fire is an inferior substitute as a glimpse of the wrath of God. How great and consuming is the wrath of God, and it is every bit as central to His character as love is! We love to quote 1John 4:8, “God is love.” How much do we love to quote Hebrews 12:29, “God is wrath.” Our God is a consuming fire!

And how much more amazing is His love to us now than it was before we began to grasp that truth?

The third, and most pointed, place to which this verse points us is Leviticus 10 and the cautionary demise of Nadab and Abihu. Consecrated priests, on a consecrated day, using consecrated pans, to offer consecrated incense. What could be wrong about that?

One thing: God had not told them to perform this act of worship. God calls it strange fire, and goes on to explain what made it strange, “which He had not commanded them” (Lev 10:1). Now, consider vv2-3 in light of the passage before us this week:

“So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’ ”

Oh, dear reader, how necessary it is that we remember the divine simplicity. Our God is who He is—not in parts or pieces but a glorious divine simplicity. So when we come to Him, let us come to Him in the manner appropriate to His nature as love and His nature as a consuming fire!
How do God’s holiness and wrath magnify His grace to you? How does this affect how we worship?
Suggested Songs: ARP7B “God Is My Shield” or HB11 “Holy, Holy, Holy!”

Friday, June 22, 2018

2018.06.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 15:16-39

Questions for Littles: What did the soldiers put on Jesus’s head (v17)? What did they say in v18? What did they do to him in v19? To what place did they bring him (v22)? When they offered Him wine with painkiller in it, what did He do (v23)? What were they doing with His clothes (v24)? What was the charge against Him (v26)? What does v28 give as the explanation for the two robbers being crucified with Him? What did those who passed by do (v29)? Who else blasphemed and mocked Him (v31-32)? What happened for three hours (v33)? What did Jesus say at the ninth hour (v34)? What happened in v37? And what happened to the veil of the temple (v38)? What did the centurion say and why (v39) 
In the Gospel reading this week, we come to the climax of the gospel of Mark, and indeed the crisis point of all human history.

Truly this Man was the Son of God! God became a man to die for men so that we might come safely near His holiness. God opened that new way through the veil—the flesh of Jesus Christ.

This is the answer to that question that Jesus quoted from the beginning of Psalm 22. Jesus was forsaken so that we could be forgiven and call the Holy God our Father.

We are horrified by the mocking of the soldiers—the whole garrison gathering together for the crown of thorns, the mocking salute, caning Him in the head, spitting on Him, and offering Him mock worship. We are horrified by the passers by, wagging their heads and blaspheming Him. We are horrified by the chief priests making even belief in Him a point of mockery. We are horrified by those who were crucified with Him reviling Him.

But, to be honest with ourselves, we are not so horrified with these things as we ought to be even with our own sin. And that is part of the point, in the blessed wisdom of the Holy Spirit: do you see what sin is? Do you see what sin does?

No wonder such a sacrifice would have been required to atone for it! And what a glorious wonder indeed that the Holy One would give Himself for such sinners as we are!! Amazing love, how can it be that Thou, my God should’st die for me?!
What has God given us to keep the cross of Christ fresh on our minds and hearts?
Suggested songs: ARP22A “My God, My God” or HB199 “Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed”

Thursday, June 21, 2018

2018.06.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 3:1-8

Questions for Littles: How couldn’t Paul speak to the Corinthians (v1)? In what two ways did he speak to them? To what does he compare the spiritual food he gave them (v2)? Why didn’t he give them solid food? What proof does he give them that they are still fleshly minded in v3? What does this envy, strife, and division look like (v4)? What are Paul and Apollos called in v5? What did the Lord give to each one? What does Paul do in v6? What does Apollos do? What does God do? Which of these is “something” according to v7? What is the relationship between the planter and the waterer (v8)? According to what will each receive his reward? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we were reminded of the two unflattering options for those who foster party-spirit in the church. Either they are acting like the most infantile believers possible, or they are acting as if they are not believers at all, but still in their flesh—what the NKJV calls “carnal.”

We’ve met them before—people who either make themselves or someone else the litmus test for favor in the church. Either you are for them, or you are for the other guy, but the way they describe it, you can’t be for both.

It’s no wonder that Paul says that when someone is thinking like this, they have to go all the way back to square one and start over with the gospel as if they are just now hearing it for the first time.

If we don’t realize that God’s work in this world is all about God, all about Christ, and that the best of men are still servants at best… then how can all of our hope be in God? How can all of our hope be in Christ?

Paul is basically calling them out for their own inability to recognize the wisdom in his preaching. As we go along in 1-2Corinthians, we realize that there were many in that church who preferred the false “super-apostles” to the genuine apostle, Paul. One of the reasons was because they thought their preaching sounded much wiser than Paul’s.

But Paul has just finished saying that since the wisdom of his preaching is Holy-Spirit-wisdom, only Holy-Spirit-people are able to receive it. And now he says that is exactly why the majority of the congregation at Corinth could not receive it. Yes, the same congregation that he has generally acknowledged under the title “saints” just two short chapters ago.

This is a frightening condition: to have quenched the Spirit to the point that we act so fleshly that our behavior is indistinguishable from unbelievers.

How is it with you, dear reader? Is there some believer that you so identify with (or so identify against!) that you make them a litmus test of unity and familiarity? Do you not see how to make so much of them is to make little of Christ? To make little of God? God spare us from such a mindset!

Let us instead rejoice in all of the Lord’s work, giving special attention to whatever we have the privilege of serving in—knowing that the fruit belongs to God, but that He rewards us for our labor in whatever part He has assigned to us (for the sake of His grace in Christ!).

Let us rejoice in Him! And let us prepare to feed upon the solid food that is only digestible through that rejoicing.
How do you work at staying connected with everyone in the church and not just one group?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

2018.06.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 25:1-18

Questions for Littles: What did Abraham get in v1? How many sons did she bear him (v2)? Thinking about Abraham’s life so far, why is this so amazing? What did Abraham give to Isaac (v5)? What does v6 call Hagar and Keturah? What did he give their sons? Where did he send them? How long did Abraham live (v7)? What point does v8 make about this age? Yet, how does this compare in length to some of his ancestors? To whom was he gathered in v8? Then what happened to him in v9? Who buried him? To whom did the special blessing of God pass on (v11)? Where did Isaac dwell? Whose genealogy do we have in vv12-18? How many princes came from him? How long did he live? To whom was he gathered in v17?  
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we have the transition from Abraham to Isaac. Notice the great blessings that continue to fall upon Abraham and everyone connected with him. Between the ages of 137 (when Sarah died) and 175, Abraham remarries and proceeds to have six more sons. Considering the fact that he was considered old for having children at 100, this is pretty amazing!

And he has enough to give gifts to Ishmael and to all of them without making a significant dent in his possessions, because after that it can still be said, “He gave all that he had to Isaac.” Isaac, of course, isn’t just his son; Isaac is the son of the promise.

So, there is blessing that attends everyone connected with Abraham, but the main blessing without which the rest would matter little goes to the one from whom the Christ will come: Isaac.

The Holy Spirit also gives us a clue here that Ishmael is a believer in the Savior who will come through Isaac. Yes, God blesses Ishmael greatly, and just as promised (cf. Gen 17:20), 12 princes come from Ishmael.

But the real blessings are Ishmael’s hope in the resurrection, as he returns to participate in burying Abraham with Isaac, and then what happens at Ishmael’s own death. When Abraham dies, it first tells us that he was gathered to his people, and then that he was buried by his sons.

This “being gathered to his people” doesn’t, therefore, refer to burial. Sarah was the only one in that cave, and the gathering was something that happened when his spirit departed, not when his body was committed back to the earth.

Therefore, when we see the same phrase used of Ishmael in v17, we don’t understand it of burial either. He breathed his last, died, “and was gathered to his people.” Who are his people? Well, one of them is his father, Abraham, who preceded him in death by 46 years. Ishmael’s soul departed to where Abraham’s soul had departed.

It is precious that, despite his rocky start, Ishmael did not allow jealousy or spite to keep him from hoping in Christ. We too might wish to have a central role in the work of God on earth, but those things are up to the providence of God. What is far more important for us is that we would be hoping in Christ Himself, who is THE center of all of God’s saving work. Then, at our deaths, we will be gathered to our people—the people who trust in Jesus!
Who are “your people” who have gone before you? Who are “your people” now on earth?
Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or HB435 “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

2018.06.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Colossians 1:9-22

Questions for Littles: With what did Paul pray that the Colossians would be filled (v9)? How did he pray that they would walk (v10)? With what did he pray that they would be strengthened (v11)? Who has qualified us for this (v12)? From what has God delivered us, and into what has God conveyed us (v13)? Through what do we have redemption (v14)? What is this redemption (v14b)? Of what is Jesus the image (v15a)? Over what is Jesus the firstborn (v15)? What was made by Him and why (v16)? What is Jesus before (17a)? In whom do all things consist (17b)? Of what is Jesus the head (v18a)? Why (18c)? What pleased the Father (v19)? What things did God reconcile to Himself (v20)? By whom? How did He make peace? In what were we once alienated and enemies (v21)? What has He now done to us? In what (v22a)? Through what? To do what? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Confession of Sin, and Assurance of the Gospel came from Colossians 1:9-22.

The passage begins with prayer, and quickly moves to where good prayers quickly move: the person and work of Jesus Christ. How can sinners such as we are be filled with the knowledge of His will and walk worthy of the Lord, being strengthened with all might? The only answer is: by the redemption through Christ’s blood.

Really, that’s the only answer to how we can do anything. The Scripture teaches us that apart from Jesus we can do nothing. We must be crucified with Christ so that it would no longer be we who live but Christ who lives in us. The live that we live, we must live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.

And who is this Christ? Very God of very God. The Creator of all things, the reason for all things, the goal of all things, the Sustainer of all things, the One in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells. What an amazing phrase that is: everything that God is, He is!

And what has this Christ done? Reconciled all things to Himself. Made peace through the blood of His cross. Reconciled sinners in the body of His flesh through death. And (past tense certainty of future even result) presented us holy and blameless and above reproach in His sight. This is the work of Christ. Halleluah!!

So, everything we ask for within the will of God depends on this Christ who is this glorious Person and has done this glorious work.

But let us not fail to notice one more thing about Him: all of heaven and earth throughout all of history is all about Jesus, and Jesus is about His church. He is the head of the body. The church is attached to Christ and identified with Him. Therefore, the church is not some peripheral organization or optional benefit. As Christ’s own focus in all creation and history, she must have a central focus in all of our life as well!
How much do your prayers dwell upon Christ? What place does His church have in your life?
Suggested songs: ARP16A “Keep Me, O God” or HB435 “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”

Monday, June 18, 2018

Introducing the "Pastor's Memory Challenge"!

Each week, during the fellowship time after worship, we purpose to have an "open mic" time for congregational sharing, but only a few have taken advantage of this time up to this point.

So, each week, we are going to be having a congregational memory verse. Yes, just one verse--baby steps! The children have been reciting their catechism answers for us for years--time for the adults to step up and start reciting some memory work of their own! Head on over to hopewellarp.org (or check out the back of this week's Hopewell @Home) to see the memory verse for the coming Lord's Day!

Each week, the verse will be a main verse from the morning sermon passage. Over the course of a sermon series, you will memorize your way through the key verses of a book, with each verse tied in your memory to the preaching of that passage. What a blessing to have the theology and application of entire books of the Bible ready to hand!

One week at a time.

So, as soon as folks are seated for the meal, one of the elders will step up to the mic and give you your golden opportunity to recite your verse for the week. When Scripture memory is done, we'll sing and pray in thankfulness for the birthdays and anniversaries of the week, and the ice will be broken for anyone who has something else that they would like to come to the mic and share.

2018.06.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:28

Questions for Littles: Who is receiving a kingdom (v28)? What cannot be done to this kingdom? What must we have? What do we do by that grace? What three things does v28 tell us about the worship that we should be offering?
In the sermon this week, we heard about how we respond rightly to our Redeemer in His worship. The Lord’s Day worship of a Christian congregation is full of Jesus’s Word, because He is using it to “shake off” what will not remain.

Christian congregational worship is an other-worldly experience that turns our attention up to heaven and forward to the New Heavens and New Earth. It is the weekly invasion of the genuinely glorious into our mundane lives.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, …

This reality demands three things of our worship: that it be acceptable, that it be dignified in manner, and that it be awed in spirit.

First, we are to worship God acceptably. This is the great lesson of the last third or so of the book of Exodus and the entire book of Leviticus, but especially of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10. Only what God has commanded for worship is acceptable to Him in worship. We must never think that God will be pleased simply because we mean well, are sincere, or feel worshipful.

Second, we are to worship God in a dignified manner. That is what the word translated ‘reverent’ communicates. This is not an occasion for lightness. This is not an occasion for over-familiarity. We must not be casual, laid back, flippant, or glib. This is one great reason to dress well for worship. While true worship is the greatest occasion that we have in this life for joy, there is good reason here to be restrained in the outward demonstrations of that joy. When in the presence of true greatness, one takes extra care not to draw attention to himself.

Third, we are to worship God in an awed spirit. We should be astounded at Him, and participate each week with a renewed sense and depth of wonder. We are not surprised that God, who has commanded reverence for our outward manner, would make the same requirement of our hearts before the sentence is complete. Throughout Scripture, the Lord addresses both, but the emphasis is always upon the heart.

If we do not marvel at God’s glory, His holiness, His justice, His power, and His wrath, then we will appreciate none of His other attributes enough either. Love and grace and compassion are all the more amazing when we consider the infinite weightiness of Him from whom they come, and who gave Himself both for us and to us!

But, ultimately, there is one thing that we need above all others. We need grace. Our original nature pushed down upon the knowledge of God, refusing to acknowledge Him or give Him thanks. If we are going to worship acceptably, reverently, and in awe, we must have grace! Let us ever be employing the means of grace, and especially coming to the throne of grace, to find His grace to help us in the time of need of corporate worship!
What are you going to do differently about worship, having carefully considered this Scripture?
Suggested Songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or HB11 “Holy, Holy, Holy!”

Saturday, June 16, 2018

2018.06.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:28-29

Questions for Littles: Who is receiving a kingdom (v28)? What cannot be done to this kingdom? What must we have? What do we do by that grace? What three things does v28 tell us about the worship that we should be offering? What does v29 tell us about our God?  
In this week’s sermon text, we learned how to worship in services where the Lord Himself is using His Word to give us an unshakeable kingdom.

There certainly is instruction about worship here. God, to whom we come, is not making Zion smoke, shake, and burn. But this does not make New Testament worship any less intimidating or serious than Sinai. In fact, it is exactly the opposite, because in New Testament worship, we come all the way to the Living God, and He is a consuming fire!

The fact that our God is a consuming fire means three things for our worship. First, we must worship acceptably. Is it too obvious to point out that if the Holy Spirit tells us to worship acceptably, then there is unacceptable worship as well?

In fact, needing a command to worship acceptably implies that our default mode is to worship in a way that does not please God. Let us learn, then, never to offer worship that is from ourselves, but only that worship that has been specifically commanded by God.

Second, we are to worship with reverence. The word means something like modestly, or respectfully, or properly. So, not only are we to worship with particular content, but we are also to worship in a particular style. Joy and zeal are not the same thing as showiness or lack of restraint.

Third, we are to worship with awe. Some translations say, “godly fear,” and certainly fear or even terror can be meant by this word. When we come to worship, it should be in wonder and amazement at the greatness and holiness and power and justice of God. This is more than a matter of external style as in the previous word. This is about the condition of our hearts.

So yes, there certainly is instruction about worship here. But the primary command is not to worship acceptably with reverence and awe. The primary command is actually, “Let us have grace.” Yes, some translations substitute “thankfulness” here, which is an alternative meaning for the same word. But, from the context, “grace” is the better reading.

That’s what we desperately need: grace. How do we have that grace? In large part by receiving the Word that He speaks. And then, of course, by prayer—an expression of dependence upon the Lord and His grace. Indeed, it seems that the point here is that worship itself is the place where we get the grace to worship well—not just in the assembly but in life as a whole. Dear believer, with such worship as God has designed for us, let us have grace to worship, that we may receive grace in worship!
Are you able to worship God well on your own? How do you show that you need grace?
Suggested Songs: ARP95B “Today If You Will Hear His Voice” or HB29 “O Come, and Sing Unto the Lord”

Friday, June 15, 2018

2018.06.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 15:1-15

Questions for Littles: To whom did they take Jesus in v1? What does Pilate ask Him in v2? What does Jesus answer, in v3, to all the accusations of the chief priests? Now what does Pilate ask in v4? And what does Jesus answer in v5? What effect does this have upon Pilate? What custom did Pilate have at the feast (v6)? What had Barabbas done (v7)? When the people begin crying out for a prisoner release in v8, what does Pilate ask them in v9? Why? What did he know about the chief priests’ real reason for handing Jesus over (v10)? Who stirred up the crowd In v11? Whom did they get the people to ask for? What question does Pilate ask in v12? And what do the people answer (v13)? What new question does Pilate ask in v14? What is the response? What did Pilate want to do (v15)? So, what did he end up doing? 
In the Gospel reading this week, Pilate helps us to ask all the right questions.

Is Jesus the King of the Jews? Jesus answers this question. He is, in fact, the promised forever-King from the line of David. Against the backdrop of that truth, we see just how ugly is this treason and blasphemy.

Does Jesus answer nothing? He is not trying to escape the cross. For this reason He came into the world. He is saving us from our sins!

Do we want our King? What a good question. Obviously, Jesus was very popular with the crowds, or else v10 wouldn’t make any sense. So there is a sad reminder here how easily we can break our allegiance to Christ out of a desire to please others, or when they place pressure upon us.

What was done to Christ? They crucified Him like a murdering terrorist, and they let the murdering terrorist go free instead.

What evil has He done? None at all! He is the spotless Lamb of God, who goes to His death only to pay the penalty for the sins of all who would ever believe upon Him.

So, allow me to take a page out of Pilate’s book and ask you a question: what will you do with Jesus? This is a King who demands a response. Will you yield yourself up to Him? Will you entrust yourself unto Him? Will you commit yourself to serving Him?
How do you go about reminding yourself of the cross and responding to it in your daily life? What physical or mental habits could improve your practice?
Suggested songs: ARP22A “My God, My God” or HB199 “Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed”

Thursday, June 14, 2018

2018.06.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 2:6-16

Questions for Littles: What kind of wisdom do Paul and his partners not speak (v6)? To what are the rulers of this age coming? Whose wisdom does Paul speak (v7)? When had God ordained it? For what purpose? How many of the rulers of that age knew that wisdom (v8)? What wouldn’t they have done if they had known it? What hadn’t man’s eye seen, ear heard, or heart considered (v9)? Through what (Whom!) has God revealed them (v10)? From where, alone, can come the knowledge of the things of God (v11)? So, whom must believers receive if they are to know the things of God (v12)? So, what wisdom does Paul speak (v13)? For what kind of people? What kind of person cannot receive them (V14)? Why not? How are they discerned? But who has the resources to judge all things (v15)? What is the expected answer to the question, “who has known the mind of the Lord” (v16)? What is the surprising actual answer at the end of that verse? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learn about the most glorious thing that we can know, and about the only way that we can know it.

Sometimes, I have heard people take v9 to mean something like when 1John 3:2 says, “It has not been revealed what we shall be”—that is, about some future glory. But that most certainly is not the case here. Rather, the Holy Spirit is saying here that what the rulers of this age did not know is that God had prepared to give Himself, the Lord of glory, for those who love Him.

This is the extraordinary that eye hadn’t seen, ear heard, nor heart considered. No, God had kept the details of this glorious gospel gift hidden from the eyes and ears and minds of men.

This is the most glorious thing that we can know. The Lord of glory has given Himself for sinners! Even with the access and instruction that we have, we do not really wrap our minds around this: the Lord of glory was crucified for me! For this, we must have the active working of the Holy Spirit.

When we say that “the only way we can know” this amazing gospel truth is by the work of the Spirit, we mean more than just that the Spirit has to come up with the words.

Certainly that is true, which is what vv10-12 are all about. ONLY the Spirit knows the things of God. ONLY THROUGH the Spirit has God revealed the truth to us. And the greatest part of that truth, the heart of that truth, is “the things that have been freely given to us by God.” Behold how good and generous is our God that the height of the revelation of His glory would be how He has given Himself for us!

But just as the work of the Spirit is the only way that we could have had the Scriptures, so also the work of the Spirit is the only way that we can come to believe them. The natural man does not receive them. Rather, the Scriptures are spiritual for spiritual (how v13 literally ends): Holy-Spirit-given words for Holy-Spirit-helped people.

And how does the Holy Spirit help us? By giving to us that which is Christ’s. Not only Christ’s words, as promised in John 16, but also even Christ’s mind, as we see here in v16! The Lord gave Himself for us once for all at Calvary, and He continually gives Himself to us by the working of His Holy Spirit. Praise the Lord!
How does your habit/practice of Bible reading reflect the necessity of the Spirit’s work in it?
Suggested songs: ARP119C “That I May Live and Keep Your Word” or HB260 “The Spirit Breathes upon the Word”

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

2018.06.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:50-67

Questions for Littles: Who answered Abraham’s servant in v50? What did they say (50-51)? How did Abraham’s servant respond (v52)? Who received what in v53? What did the servant and his men do that night (v54)? What did he say in the morning? What did her brother and mother want (v55)? But how does he respond (v56)? Whom do they decide to ask (v57)? What does she say (v58)? What blessing do they give her as she departs (v60)? How do Rebekah and her maids travel (v61)? What does Isaac do in the evening (v63)? What does Rebekah ask (v65)? What does the servant tell Isaac in v66? Where does Isaac take Rebekah (v67)? What does she become? What effect does this have on Isaac after his mother’s death?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we find something that isn’t all that unusual: a believer’s wedding becomes an occasion for unbelievers to get some exposure to the gospel.

First, there’s Laban (and Bethuel). We’re almost surprised that Behtuel is alive when he says something in v50. Laban seems to have been running everything up until this point. But of course, Laban has been studying how to talk to Abraham’s servant ever since Rebekah recounted her experience as well.

Now, “Come in, blessed of Yahweh!!!!” has turned into “The thing comes from Yahweh!!!!”… all the while with at least one eye firmly focused on the stash of goodies that Abraham’s servant still hasn’t yet distributed.

Then there’s the family’s blessing in v60. They obviously have heard the promise about Abraham having innumerable descendants and possessing the gate of his enemies. This last promise was one that we heard about for the first time after the almost-sacrifice in Genesis 22:17, so we have good reason to believe that the house of Bethuel has heard more than just the amazing story of Yahweh prospering the servant’s journey. Indeed, they have heard about the Lord’s sacrificial substitute.

The whole thing seems to have gotten Rebekah pretty nervous. All of a sudden, she’s betrothed, and her family is singing Messianic war songs about her! It’s a bit more than she bargained for in her good deed at the city well. Perhaps this is behind her decision in v58, which seems to have surprised her family. Then, in v64, the English translations give us the rather tidy “dismounted” in place of the Hebrew’s rather clumsy “fell off.” There are other words to use for dismounting. This seems to have a bit of nervous-bride written all over it. You’ve heard of being nervous for a blind date… what about a blind marriage?

Well… what about that blind marriage? It is working out pretty well for Isaac, considering the quality of woman that Abraham’s servant has secured. And v63 has us thinking that it is working out pretty well for Rebekah too. Oh that all our covenant daughters would have husbands who are in the habit of meditating (on the Lord) in the evening! It will serve her well, when she comes to need 20 years of prayer for barrenness.
When distant relatives intersect your life, do they necessarily find it about the Lord and His gospel? What such occasion do you have coming up? What can you say or do at that time to make it so?
Suggested songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or HB106 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

2018.06.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Peter 2:4-10

Questions for Littles: What did men do with Jesus Christ, the living stone (v4)? What had God done? Who else are living stones (v5)? What are these stones for building? What are to offer to God?  Through what (Whom!) are our spiritual sacrifices made acceptable? Where had God told about this beforehand (v6)? Who will by no means be put to shame? To whom is Jesus precious (v7, cf. v4)? What did the disobedient builders do to Him? To what were they disobedient (v8a)? How did this come about (v8b)? What four glorious things does v9 call us? For what purpose did God make us into this? Whose praises do we proclaim?  
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from 1Peter 2:4-10. It’s a helpful passage to have in the same week as our particular reading from the gospel of Mark, where we literally see the “builders” rejecting Christ, who is our Chief Cornerstone.

Now, it is obvious that we should aim to receive and submit to Christ, rather than reject and attack Him like the builders did. We need continual reminding to condition our hearts properly toward Him, so it’s a blessing to have that reminder in our passage.

But there is something else wonderful that I would like to point out here: how belonging to God in Christ makes us more and more like Him.

Our heavenly Father holds Christ dear and precious (v4), and when He calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light, we too come to consider Christ as precious (v7)?

Jesus is a living stone (v4), and so also we are living stones (v5).

Just as Jesus was chosen by God and precious (v4), so also in Him we are a chosen generation (v9).

The Lord loves to produce in us the many evidences and examples of how we belong to Him, and now we are His.

So, the question for us is: do we love to bring our Cornerstone glory by acting as a holy nation? Do we recognize that one of the primary purposes of our salvation is that we would proclaim His praises?

The Lord would have had every right to appoint us to a disobedience that we would willingly enter into as sinners. But instead, He has made us His people, and He has given us His mercy.
In what part of your worship or thought life do you acknowledge that God chose you simply out of His mere goodness, and not for any good thing in you?
Suggested songs: ARP4 “Answer When I Call” or HB402 “I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew”

Monday, June 11, 2018

2018.06.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:25-27

Questions for Littles: What are we to “see to” in v25? What are we not to refuse? Where was the mountain from which God spoke before? Where is the mountain from which He speaks now? What two places is the Lord shaking with New Covenant preaching (v26)? Since this is the last time, what are the only things that will remain when this age of preaching is done (v27)?
In the sermon this week, we considered the responsibility in sermon-hearing, the relationship in sermon-hearing, and the redemption in sermon-hearing. As we follow up together in this devotional, I wonder—what practical steps are we going to take in response to this passage?

What are we going to do about the fact that we are responsible for good sermon-hearing? The command is not “do not refuse Him who speaks,” but rather “See to it” that you do not refuse… It’s the way you talk to someone who is in charge of something, who is responsible for it. “See to it that…”

So, what gets in the way of our hearing sermons with ready, responsive hearts? And what are we going to do… during the service? That morning before it? The night before? The afternoon after? The day after?

This responsibility in sermon-hearing is all the more important because of the relationship in sermon-hearing. Here is another subtle nuance in the text before us this morning. It doesn’t merely say, “don’t refuse what is spoken.” Rather, it says, “Don’t refuse Him who speaks.”

When we resist the Word, faithfully preached, in the gathered Lord’s Day worship, we aren’t just refusing a true statement or even a powerful statement. If we resist the proper preaching in public worship, we are refusing a Person—and that Person is our Lord and God Jesus Christ.

What a serious thing it is, then, not just to listen to Him in the preaching, but to respond to Him, from the heart, with action in our lives! Shall we not love Him whose blood has spoken so excellently for us, and who then speaks weekly to us?

Isn’t “whether we are going to refuse Him” a much greater issue than “whether we will benefit” from the preaching? Both are  stake in what we do with the preaching—Lord, make us a people who are weekly changed by the preaching of Your Word!

Finally, with what expectations do we come to this redemptive preaching? Christ’s Word is shaking us free of things that are fleeting and worthless. It’s a weekly reset, fixing our focus back upon those things which cannot be shaken.

Do we come, expecting to spend an hour, and then returning with the same priorities as before? Or, do we expect a shake-up, presenting our hearts with an openness and expectation that some disproportion in our minds/hearts/lives is about to be remedied? May we come with a motto like Calvin’s, “My heart I offer Thee, Lord, promptly and sincerely!”
What are you going to do differently this week: before, during, and after the preaching?
Suggested Songs: ARP95B “Today If You Will Hear His Voice” or HB253 “How I Love Thy Law, O Lord!”

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”

Saturday, June 02, 2018

2018.06.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:14-17

Questions for Littles: What are we to pursue with all people (v14)? What will we not see the Lord without? In what manner are we to be looking (v15)? What are we watching that people would fall short of? What might spring up and cause trouble? Who would become defiled? What kind of person was Esau (v16)? How did he show that he was profane? What did he want afterward (v17)? How did he seek this and with what?
In this week’s sermon text, we learned that we respond to the Lord’s work in our lives by putting forth effort of our own. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work, according to His good pleasure (Phil 2:12-13). Here, in the second half of our sermon passage, we discover what that work looks like.

First, it looks like pursuing peace with all. This is accomplished by loving our neighbor as ourselves and loving one another as Christ has loved us. Of course, love does no wrong to its neighbor, so what does love do? It fulfills the law.

We obey this instruction to pursue peace with all when we honor those in authority over us; and, refuse to murder even in our hearts; and, refuse to indulge fleshly appetites outside their God-given proper place in our lives; and, refuse to steal; and, refuse to bend words to our advantage; and, refuse to covet. It is by this discipline of heart and mouth and hand that we pursue peace with all.

Of course, it’s not just with men that we need peace. So, we must pursue that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. We must treat Him as holy, as we live always before His face. We must treat His worship as holy, worshiping only in the way that He has commanded. We must treat His name as holy, neither speaking it nor bearing it lightly. We must treat His day as holy, taking up the whole of the day in worship, and those duties of necessity and mercy that enable us to worship.

How intensely should we be following God’s law? “Looking carefully”—overseeing ourselves. It’s a verb form of the word for “overseer” or “bishop” or “ruler.” Rule yourself in godliness, dear Christian!

If we don’t live this way, then it isn’t the root of holiness and happiness that we are putting down, but rather the root of bitterness. And God save us from putting that root down! Esau didn’t think ahead; he lived in the moment; he just satisfied his desire. But oh the bitterness that he reaped! When it came time to lose that blessing that he wanted to inherit, he wept bitterly trying to get his father to change his mind!

How very many sins there are that look enticing in the moment, but great is the bitterness that is suffered by the one who commits them! But we are not moving toward bitterness. Rather, we are moving toward blessedness, and the Lord is producing in us the peaceful fruit of righteousness!
What place does God’s law have in your life? When do you read it? How do you follow it?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Friday, June 01, 2018

2018.06.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 14:53-65

Questions for Littles: To whom did they lead Jesus away (v53)? Who were assembled with him? Who followed at a distance (v54)? Where did he end up? With whom did he sit? What were the chief priests and all the council seeking (v54)? What did they want to do with Jesus? What did they find? Who bore false witness against Him (v56)? What was the problem with their testimony? What did some finally testify that they had heard Jesus say (v58)? What was still a problem with their testimony (v59)? How did Jesus answer (v60-61a)? Whom did the high priest finally ask Jesus if He is (61b)? How did Jesus answer (v62)? What did the high priest tear (v63)? Of what does he accuse Jesus (v64)? What did they all say Jesus deserved? What kinds of things did they begin to do to Jesus?
In the Gospel reading this week, we heard about the trial of Jesus at the high priest’s house. We can smell their rotten sham of a trial a mile away. How is it that all of these important men were already out of bed in the middle of the night, and gathered in assembly like this? It wasn’t even technically legal for them to meet at this hour! Of course, they were all in on it, so they knew ahead of time to be there.

Then, there’s all the false witnesses who couldn’t get their stories straight. How difficult is it to practice saying the same thing? But the Lord would have us see the great folly in persisting with Christ.

Isn’t it ironic that they attempted to use testimony about Jesus tearing down the temple and rebuilding it in three days? Jesus, of course, had been speaking of His body (cf. John 2:19-22). The irony is that they were in the very process of helping Him to fulfill that prophecy.

Eventually, Jesus testifies about Himself, and they respond not just with condemnation but with ugly mocking and mistreatment.

The shocking thing about the mistreatment in v65 is that we know that v62 is true. He who could have destroyed them with blazing glory instead permitted Himself to be beaten and ridiculed by them—all for our sake!

Next week, we will hear what Peter was doing outside, but I suspect that you know. How wonderful, then, that Jesus was inside suffering this for him!
Who is the One who has suffered for you? What has He suffered for you? How often do you remember this?
Suggested songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or HB199 “Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed”