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, September 29, 2018

2018.09.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:2

Questions for Littles: What part of the heavens and earth from v1 does v2 now focus upon? What two things describe the condition of the earth at that time? What was upon the face of the deep? Who was there? What was He doing?
In the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we meet the Holy Spirit.

Here, God is displaying His glory. And He is doing so especially in the Person and work of the Word, who is featured in the act of creation—God creating by His Word.

This is also what God does in redemption. He displays His Son, the exact imprint of His nature, the One in whom all the fullness of the godhead dwelt bodily, as the brightness of His own glory.

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has fully revealed Him.

And in both revelations of Himself in the Son—in creation and in redemption—God the Holy Spirit is the One who loves to bring about this display of the glory of Christ.

There He is in our text, hovering over the water—waiting, waiting, waiting for the Word to proceed from the Father, that He might immediately bring to effect whatever the Word has said.

And there He is in our lives, hovering over the Word—waiting, waiting, waiting as He brings us to read it, or brings us to hear it, or brings to hear it preached, that He might immediately work it into our hearts as into fertile soil and make the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shine in the face of Jesus Christ!

When God is going to create Man, He breathes His Spirit into his nostrils. When God is going to write His Word, He carries men along by His Spirit, so that every word is God-breathed (lit. Spirited). When God is going to create the world, it is His Spirit who hovers over the water to display the glory of God!
Who is the Holy Spirit, and if you are a Christian, what’s He doing in your life?
Suggested Songs: ARP8 “Lord, Our Lord” or TPH393 “Spirit of God, Dwell Thou within My Heart”

Friday, September 28, 2018

2018.09.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 4:16-26

Questions for Littles: Whom does Jesus tell the woman to bring (v16)? Why isn’t she able to do so (v17)? How many husbands has she had (v18)? Is the man she is living with now even her husband? What does the woman say to change the subject (v19)? To what subject does she change (v20)? What question does she ask? Which option does Jesus choose, from her options for a worship place (v21)? But whom does Jesus say had it right (v22)? Now what is the place of worshiping the Father (v23)? How can we get there (v24)? Whom does the woman say she is waiting for, to straighten her out on this issue (v25)? What does Jesus say about Himself in v26? 
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus provokes the woman at the well into changing the subject, directing her onto a glorious path that takes her through one of the most important statements in the Bible about how we worship to one of the most important statements in the Bible about Whom we worship.

She doesn’t really intend the “how” we worship question so much as the “where” we worship question. But that’s really the issue every Lord’s Day, isn’t it? Where you worship (which church) is going to determine how you worship.

Well, the problem for the woman is that she wants to go where God is, but Jesus rather easily dismisses that possibility. God is Spirit. He doesn’t live on a mountain or in a big house in Jerusalem. Yes, as the Jews rightly understood, God chose to make that house the place where He made His presence known and felt for a long time, but that time’s just come to an end, which means that’s not the answer anymore.

If that time has ended, what time has come? And more importantly for us, what is the answer to the where question now? That brings us to the how question: in Spirit and in truth. If God is Spirit, our feet (or cars or spaceships) can’t get us to Him. Only His Spirit can get our spirits there.

And, He has appointed a particular vehicle for this weekly journey to glory: the truth. His Word is truth. Yes, it can also mean sincerely, but it is even more important that we worship by that which is sincerely God’s than that we do so by intentions and actions that are sincerely ours. The former is 100% possible and effective; the latter would be impossible and ineffective and a terrible means by which to hope to worship well.

The woman doesn’t seem to get it, so she gives kind of a verbal shrug: when the Christ comes, He’ll explain it all. And that’s when Jesus drops the biggest truth yet: not only is He the Christ, but He declares it using a phrase once heard on that very mountain that is so dear to her: I AM. Jesus isn’t just Christ. He’s God in the flesh.
How must we worship? Whom must we worship? Who can teach us what this means?
Suggested songs: ARP184 “Adoration and Submission” or TPH271 “Blessed Jesus, at Your Word”

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Pastoral Letter from the 2018.09.27 Hopewell Herald


Beloved,

Have you ever felt taken for granted? It may be helpful to us to be on the receiving end, so that we might marvel at the Lord’s patience with and forgiveness of us. After all, we continuously take Him for granted for something much greater than “just” His continual physical care and protection.

As we heard [in the morning sermon], all this week long, God the Holy Spirit has been dwelling with us and in us, exerting day-one power to give us light that we might know the glory of God in Christ.

In fact, it has been this way ever since He first gave us spiritual life, that we might be united to Christ through faith.

And, yet, so many of us live with rather little regard for this continuous and glorious work. Worse, sometimes we indulge a way of thinking that if He would just do things that are more scintillating in the moment, that would be a “real” display of the Spirit.

But here He has been. In all faithfulness. In all love. And yes, in all power. Applying to us all of the life and blessing of belonging to God in Christ!

What a faithful friend and divine Servant He has been in attending us. Is it not a glimpse of His divine character that we see in the Redeemer—towel around the waist, and foot-washing bowl at hand?

What may we do to honor the Holy Spirit? We may put away the works of the flesh, as He works in us His fruit. We can, by Him, put to death the deeds of the body. We can call unto God as our abba, and groan forward toward that adoption-day that will be the redemption of our bodies and the revealing of the sons of God. We can relate to one another with kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness rather than grieving Him.

And, most of all, we can behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, as we give up our hearts to the beatific vision in this display that God makes of Himself in the gospel: 
We can come to worship and behold God’s glory in Christ in the singing. We can come to worship and behold God’s glory in Christ in the praying. We can come to worship and behold God’s glory in Christ in the reading. We can come to worship and behold God’s glory in Christ in the preaching.

We can come to worship and behold God’s glory in Christ.

Looking forward to doing so with you,

Pastor

2018.09.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 9

Questions for Littles: What evidences does Paul give in v1-2 of his spiritual credentials? What does he claim to have a right to do in v3-4? What does he claim to have a right to do in v5-6? What does he claim to have a right to do in v7-14? Of how many of these rights has the apostle taken advantage (v15)? What would he rather do than lose the privilege of having given up these rights? Why does he preach the gospel, according to v16? With what has he been entrusted (v17)? What is his reward? What does the apostle make himself to others (v19)? How many others? Why? What rights does he give up for whom in vv20-22? Why? What would happen to Paul if he was not practicing self-denial (v23-27)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, the apostle presents himself as an example of someone who gladly denies himself what he has a right to, out of love for others.

Remember that in chapter 8, those Corinthians who thought they were pretty advanced in knowledge claimed thereby to be absolved in eating whatever meat they wanted from whatever source they pleased.

Are they really so advanced? Paul lays out credentials that dwarf theirs. Do they have rights? Paul has far more. Not only does he have a right to eat and drink anything that anyone else does, but he has a right to have the churches buy it for him. He has a right to bring along a wife who is a sister in Christ. He has a right to have the church buy all the food that it would take to feed him, his wife, and all their beautiful little children.

So, why isn’t Paul making use of all of these rights? Because it is his privilege to display that he’s preaching only because God is making him, and not because this is a means by which God has given him to feed his family.

You see what the apostle is telling the Corinthians (and us) here: just because you have a right to do something doesn’t make it loving (ch 8) or wise, or even properly self-serving (ch 9). It can actually be one of our greatest privileges to give up our rights—to practice a self-denial that says, “I could have appropriately availed myself of this or that right, but instead I am enjoying the reward of showing that I don’t belong to myself. I belong to Jesus.”

This is what is behind the “all things to all people” section of this chapter—an oft abused passage. This does not at all justify compromising theologically or morally one iota. To do so would be to take “I might save some” in v22 as if it is really we who do the saving. Rather, the apostle is recognizing that the God who saves has appointed preaching the gospel as a means, and therefore the apostle is willing to sacrifice his own rights (to Roman legal protection, to ceremonial freedom, to Jewish pride, etc.) in order to preach. The idea that this is permissive of some moral or theological compromise would be to say that one must employ offending God as part of depending upon God. Ludicrous.

Finally, we see that self-denial for God’s glory and self-denial for others’ good is essential to running the Christian race. The apostle even admits that if he is not practicing this self-denial, it may be possible that he is not in the race at all!
Do you belong to Jesus? How can you claim the reward of showing it? Are you running a self-denial race?
Suggested songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or TPH501 “Lord, Speak to Me, That I May Speak”

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

2018.09.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 2

Questions for Littles: How many men does Joshua send out (v1)? Who finds out about the spying mission in v2? Whom does the King either know or assume has the men (v3)? What does the woman say that the men had done (v4-5)? But what had she done with them (v6)? What new problem do the men have at the end of v7? What does the woman profess to know in v9? What evidence does she give in v10? What does she confess about God in v11? Whom does she ask the men to save in v12-13? How are the men able to get out of the city with the gate shut (v14-16)? What do they tell her that she has to do, if she (and those with her) is going to be spared in the battle (v17-19)? What else could forfeit her life (v20)? When they give their report, what is Joshua’s response (v24)?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we find a tale of three mercies.

First, there is God’s mercy to the spies in sparing their lives. Second, there is God’s mercy to Rahab in receiving a way of escape from a destruction that she knew was coming. Third, there was God’s mercy to Joshua in encouraging him about the faintheartedness of the people of Jericho.

Focusing on Rahab, we find that there has already been a much greater mercy than simply the logistics of surviving the Israelite invasion. God has convinced her mind and changed her heart.

She sees and hears the frightened gossip, and draws a conclusion: this is the work of God! How does she know? Because those other things that God has done were not just an indication that the Israelites have better gods than the Egyptians. Rather, she has come to the conclusion that Yahweh is the only true God. He is God of heaven above and earth beneath. There is no room for other gods!

So, she wants them to swear by the Yahweh when they make their promises, and she asks them to show steadfast love (“kindness”—kessed—in v12).

All of the suspense in the story—the manhunt, the sealing of the doors of the city, etc.—it ramps up the anticipation so we can hear this great profession of faith and say, “Now this… THIS is real salvation!”
From what earthly trouble do you need saved? How does it compare to Hell?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH340 “There Is a Fountain”

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

2018.09.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 119:97-107

Questions for Littles: What does the psalmist love (v97a)? How often does he think about it (97b)? What do God’s commandments do for the psalmist (98a)? When does the psalmist have access to them (98b)? More than whom does he have understanding (99a)? How did this come about (99b)? More than whom does he understand (100a)? How did this come about (100b)? What has he been restraining (101a)? In order to be doing what (101b)? From what has he not departed (102a)? Who has kept him from departing (102b)? What is his experience in repeating and mulling over God’s words to himself all the time like this (103)? What does the psalmist get from God’s precepts (104a)? What does this lead him to do (104b)? How does God’s word function in directing what he does and where he goes (105)? What is one kind of worship that the psalmist has exercised in response to God’s Word in worship (106)? What does the psalmist experience in life (107a)? By what means does he hope that Yahweh will heal and strengthen and energize him (107b)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 119:97-107.

Here is a picture of the believer’s life. If we had time to study the rest of the Psalm, we would find that this is not only a picture of Jesus Christ’s heart toward God as our own righteousness, but that there are many confessions of sin and cryings out for forgiveness—things that Jesus could only sing and pray as He considered His union with us (since He had no sin of His own to confess or be forgiven—just as we have no righteousness of our own to claim or plead).

We don’t see it often anymore—thankfully, as it was harmful and disgusting—but one used to frequently see men with a big bulge of something in their mouths that they were continually chewing on, chewing on, chewing on… sucking every bit of ‘goodness’ out of. Even little boys loved to do it—not tobacco but “big league chew” bubble gum.

That’s the picture in v103 of what it’s like for the believer to meditate upon (mumble to oneself, mull over, continually work through) God’s Word. It’s like sucking on honey. If we are going to have real, life-changing wisdom, then continual mulling over God’s Word is what’s needed far more than information (v99) or time (v100). And of course, mulling over words that demand action ought always to lead to putting it into action—even if it requires physically restraining our feet.
What is your practice for getting into God’s Word every day? What use do you make of it the rest of the day? How about weekly in corporate worship?
Suggested songs: ARP119M “O How I Love Your Law!” or TPH175 “Your Law, O God, Is Our Delight”

Monday, September 24, 2018

2018.09.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:2

Questions for Littles: What part of the heavens and earth from v1 does v2 now focus upon? What two things describe the condition of the earth at that time? What was upon the face of the deep? Who was there? What was He doing?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we were introduced to the Holy Spirit.

It’s very interesting that God doesn’t create everything all at once. He certainly could have. Instead, He restrains the immediate exercise of His full creative power to create in “slow motion” as it were.

He’s revealing Himself, and He wants us to pay attention as He does so, so that we might know Him better. So, one of the first things that He does is shock us: “and the earth was chaotic and purposeless.”

Doesn’t that shock you? It certainly does not seem like our God. Isn’t our God a God of order? How can He make something that is chaotic? Isn’t our God a God of purpose? How can He make something that is purposeless? Isn’t our God a God of light? How can the whole earth be shrouded in darkness?

Well, there’s an easy answer to that question. He’s not done yet. By the end of this day, God is going to have created light out of darkness, which gets a “very good” declaration from Him.

And yes, He still has to separate the waters from the waters, and the water from the land, but there is something—or, rather, Someone—whose presence in the midst of the process already indicates that this is good: the Spirit of God.

God is revealing Himself as the One who brings order out of chaos. God is revealing Himself as the One who brings meaning out of purposelessness. God is revealing Himself as the One who brings light out of darkness. And God is revealing that the Person of the Godhead who causes all of these things is God the Holy Spirit!
Where in your life is there chaos, emptiness, or darkness? If you are a believer, what is God doing in all of that? Which Person, most prominently?
Suggested Songs: ARP143B “O Lord, My Spirit Fails” or TPH393 “Spirit of God, Dwell Thou within”

Saturday, September 22, 2018

2018.09.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:1

Questions for Littles: When does this verse start? Who is already there? What did He create? From what did He create them?  
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learned not only the terms upon which we may study the creation (see Monday), but also the actual subject of our study, and therefore the goal of our study.

The entire Bible is a theological book. It is a book given not to unbelievers but to the community of the redeemed. In it, God is not just giving His people pointers about how to live, but relating to them—engaging them to Himself, revealing Himself to them, and requiring things from them.

Genesis, too, is a theological book. In it, God establishes His glory and our purpose; recounts our fall into sin; promises our salvation; displays the Hell that we deserve; and begins to show what He is like in His dealings with sinners who are being redeemed.

The theological character of the book is apparent right from the beginning (literally!). “In the beginning God.” This is not a book that was left behind on a rock like a user’s manual in the glove-box of a new car. This is a love-note from the designer to the bride—all about how it is from Him and for her. It is far more about Him than it is about His creation.

As such, the point of the book is not for us to start a creation science research group (thought we may be appropriately thankful for those who debunk the lies by which the knowledge of God is attacked). Rather, the point of the book is adoration. Worship, love, service, obedience.

Genesis 1:1 is all about God. It cries out, “Behold your God!”

And it goes further than that. It teaches us that everything is all about God. Everything in the first heaven? About God! Everything in the second heaven? About God! Everything on earth? About God! The rest of the chapter will declare, “And all that is in them!”

Including you and me, and your neighbors. And especially the church.
How do you daily remind yourself that everything is all about God?
Suggested Songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or TPH98A “O Sing a New Song to the Lord”

Friday, September 21, 2018

2018.09.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 4:1-15

Questions for Littles: What did Jesus know that the Pharisees had heard (v1)? Where did Jesus leave Judea to go (v3)? Through where does v4 say He needed to go to get there? What city did Jesus come to in v5? Where did Jesus sit in v6? By what? At what time? How did He feel from His journey? Who came to draw water (v7)? What did Jesus ask her? Where had the disciples gone (v8)? What does the Samaritan woman ask Him (v9)? What two things does Jesus say that she doesn’t know in v10? What does He say that she would have done if she did know? From where does the woman point out that Jesus is ill-equipped to draw this living water (v11)? What does she ask Him in v12? What does Jesus point out in v13? But what does He say about the person who drinks the water that He gives them (v14)? What will the water that He gives them become? How does the woman answer in v15? What does she never want to have to do again?
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus is leaving Judea as the heat gets turned up. But there is something that He has to do.

It wasn’t a logistical necessity. Jews went from Judea to Galilee while going around Samaria, instead of through it, all the time. But our passage uses a little Greek particle that means something was absolutely necessary. This was not a necessity of geography but a necessity of mission, a necessity of purpose.

It’s high noon when an exhausted Jesus sits down by the well. No time to be drawing water—which is perhaps why this woman, who has had four husbands and hasn’t even bothered to marry the fifth man, would come by herself.

But here she meets someone who talks about never being thirsty again. That sounds great. She’d love to never again have to come out to the well to draw water.

But she doesn’t know that the gift of God is everlasting life. And she doesn’t know that the One who asks for a drink is God Himself in the flesh, who has come not to get from her something but to give to her everything.

Many people don’t know this about Christ. They think that He has come to demand one thing or another. Perhaps, more accurately, they know that they will have to give up their entire life to Him if they receive Him.

But they haven’t wrestled with the fact that they deserve Hell. And they haven’t learned that God offers them eternal life as a gift instead. They haven’t reasoned out the fact that Jesus is the living God, and that He has no need of anything from us—so that it is His role to give Himself, and ours to worship Him for it, whether in an hour of set apart worship, or an entire life that is lived as worship.
Have you learned what the gift of God is, and who it is that gives it?
Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH351 “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”

Thursday, September 20, 2018

2018.09.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 8

Questions for Littles: What is the next topic about which they seem to have written (v1)? What, apparently, had they presented as the primary support for being able to eat this meat (cf. v4-6)? But what does knowledge by itself do? And what does love use knowledge to do? If we are impressed with our knowledge, what does that show about what we know (v2)? What is more important than what we know (v3)? What truths about God (and idols) does the apostle affirm in vv4-6? But what happens if someone who isn’t sure of the truth about idols eats meat offered to one (v7)? And what can’t food do for us (v8)? But what might it do to the weak (v9)? If the people “with knowledge” do something, what might those without knowledge do (v10)? And what might the consequences be (v11)? Against whom does the “knowledgeable” brother sin in this case (v12)? What extraordinary sacrifice would the apostle be willing to make for his brother (v13)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learn about the proper use of theological “knowledge.” This is an important lesson in the age of cage stage Calvinists in internet arguments, who all of a sudden discover that some rules they had been following were man-made, and are now determined to make great display of themselves drinking and smoking as much as possible at every opportunity.

There’s not just knowing. There’s knowing rightly and knowing wrongly. It’s the difference between being a blowfish (puffed up) and a general contractor (builds up). And, ironically, flaunting your newfound liberty can itself be an indicator that you are more about what you know than the fact that God knows you (v3). This isn’t the first time we’ve thought about how people make enjoyment of their liberty into an even sneakier form of legalism!

What are we doing with our knowledge? Rejoicing that God loves us, and loves our believing brothers and sisters? Figuring out how we can best serve and help and build up brothers and sisters who do not have the same knowledge?

Or are we rationalizing a lack of care for the effect we may be having upon another—while indulging ourselves in delusions of superiority the entire time?

Once we are confident that God has delivered us from a man-made rule like “don’t eat meat” or “don’t drink alcohol,” v8 reminds us that there is nothing particularly godly in going ahead and indulging ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with eating that steak—and I heartily recommend that you enjoy it to the glory of God (cf. 10:31).

BUT if your brother is about to suffer spiritual ruin, because he is convinced that it’s wrong, but seeing his “knowledgeable” brother is encouraging him to do it anyway—then it’d be better if you never visited the butcher again!

Christ gave Himself for that brother. So be careful, lest your words say “eating a steak doesn’t mean anything,” but your actions be interpreted by 1Cor 8:11-12 to say, “Christ’s death doesn’t mean anything.”
Whom do you know that has less theological knowledge? How are you using your knowledge to love them?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH405 “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

2018.09.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 1:10-18

Questions for Littles: Whom did Joshua command in v10? How long would be until they crossed the Jordan (v11)? What were they going to possess? Who was giving it to them? What did Joshua say to the two and a half tribes who had already received their inheritance east of the Jordan (v13,ff)? What had the Lord given them, in addition to land (v13b)? Who were to remain behind (v14)? But what were their men to do? What was the Lord giving to their brethren (v15)? When that was complete, what were the men of the two and a half tribes to return to their own land to do? How did the men of the two and a half tribes answer Joshua (v16)? Whom did they claim that they had heeded in all things (v17)? Whom did they pray would be with Joshua? What did they say they would do to anyone who disobeyed the commander in chief (v18)? What familiar “command” did they give to Joshua at the end of v18?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, preparations begin for crossing the Jordan. It is a good reminder of how obedience to the Lord works in the Christian life.

Israel as a whole, and the two-and-half tribes in particular, were not to obey because the promised land was a reward for obedience. They were not even to obey because their actions were what would get them the land. They were to obey because Yahweh was their God, and they were to obey because Yahweh was giving them the land as a gift, and whatever part He gave them was a necessary privilege in the process of His giving them everything that He had promised.

This is an excellent corrective to much of our wrong thinking in the Christian life. We don’t obey because we are trying to earn things from God. He loves to reward us, and He adds this to help us. But our obedience is first a function of loving relationship. Yahweh is our God. Yahweh in the flesh, Yeshua, Jesus Christ, is our Redeemer King. And we love to obey Him for that reason.

Just as the Lord would do much that was miraculous in the battles for the promised land, our entire Christian life depends upon the Holy Spirit’s continuous working of miracles in us. And yet, the Lord has also appointed to us particular duties in the process. We obey not because it depends upon us, but because He has given us the privilege of having this part!!
What obedience do you have trouble with? How might this perspective help?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH1B “How Blest the Man”

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

2018.09.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 4:1-20

Questions for Littles: What was Jesus doing by the sea? Why did he have to get into the boat? How did He teach them (v2)? What is the seed (v14)? Where did the first group of seed fall in v4? What happened to it? What does v15 say happens to the word in their heart immediately after they hear it? Where did the second group of seed fall in v5? What happened at first? But then what happened to it in v6? How do the stony ground people receive the Word (v16)? But what happens when trouble or persecution comes (v17)? Where did the third group of seed fall in v7? What happened to it? What does v19 say that the cares and pleasures of the world do to the Word? Where did the fourth seed fall in v8? What did it produce? What does Jesus say is required for hearing in v9? Who apparently needed to hear, since they need to ask in v10? What does Jesus say He is giving them in v11? What do the parables show that hearers cannot do on their own in v12? What three things does this group do with the Word in v20?
This week’s Invocation and Confession of sin came from Mark 4:3-20. Here, Jesus teaches us some things that surprise us at first, until we admit to ourselves the truth about our spiritual condition.

The point about parables in general is actually the same as the point of the parable of the soils: left to themselves, our hearts are not good soil!

To a believer, parables often seem so obvious! But that’s just the point, according to Jesus in v12. The simplicity of using basic, earthly illustrations for spiritual truth is to show just how hard our hearts are that we can see and hear, but not perceive or understand!

There aren’t any exceptions to this. Even the disciples didn’t understand the parable at first (v10), and Jesus implies in v13 that this is the easiest of parables. The key is in one glorious word in v11: “given.”

The disciples didn’t have it in themselves to know the mystery of the kingdom of God. It had to be given to them. For any of us to see and perceive, it has to be given to us. For any of us to hear and understand, it has to be given to us. For any of us to turn and be forgiven, it has to be given to us.

Look at all of the dangers to our hearts! Sometimes our heart is like no soil at all. The Word goes in one ear and out the other. Any distraction can make us forget immediately what we had read in devotions or heard in the sermon.

At other times, our hearts are mostly stone with some soil. We love to hear the sermon or read the Scripture devotionally, and we may even think about it a bit—but it’s never really the controlling factor of our hearts or minds, and the smallest bit of trouble makes us decide to abandon biblical thinking or living.

Then there are the times when we hear the sermon, or study the Scripture, and we agree with it and go along with it for a while. But there are other things that are just as important to us too, and eventually something comes along to turn us away. Either a care of the world comes along, and worry makes us “wiser than God”—we go in for what we think will work instead of what God says to do. Or perhaps a pleasure of the world presents itself—or was already there—and in the end, we just can’t give it up to love and serve and obey Jesus with our whole life.

What’s the solution? Just give God your whole heart! Well, it may be that simple, but that’s very different from being easy. In fact, it’s impossible. It has to be given to us. Let us watch against all those weaknesses and defects of heart, but at the end of the day we must ask God to give us good ones!
Take time right now to confess the weakness of your heart, and asking the Holy Spirit to soften it
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH173 “Almighty God, Your Word Is Cast”

Monday, September 17, 2018

2018.09.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:1

Questions for Littles: When does this verse start? Who is already there? What did He create? From what did He create them? 
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learn the terms upon which we may study and think about the origins of all things.

First, it is impossible for us to reason from the evidence of what we see in the creation backward to the process by which it was created. The word for create, here is בָּרָ֣א (bara). There are many words in Hebrew for “create”—words meaning to form, cut, build, arrange, and make from other things. But this particular “creation” word is only ever used of God. It means to create from nothing.

We are very creative, but we must use materials that exist already, and even the ideas in our minds are built upon things that we have already experienced. We just don’t have a point of reference for what it means to create from nothing. We must also remember that the creation itself was cursed for man’s sake in the Fall (Gen 3:17), and that in Genesis 8:22 God restored to the created order a continuity that had been disrupted in the flood.

We simply do not have access to either the process by which “bara” happened or the way creation was before Genesis 8:22.

Second, without any valid basis in the created things for drawing conclusions about the creation process, we are left only with eyewitness accounts. And there is only one Eyewitness, and the account that He has given us is the Scripture.

“In the beginning, God.” Full stop. He is the only One there. In fact, He does not create man until day six. Therefore, we are entirely dependent upon Him to tell us what happened.

Reading the Bible, like other acts of worship, is practice at not being God. Are we willing to submit? Are we willing to acknowledge that God alone can tell us about how creation happened? Will we be thankful that He has told us about it? Or will we, without valid reason, decide to formulate our own theories?
How would you respond to a sincere believer who tries to convince you of theistic evolution?
Suggested Songs: ARP19A “The Skies Above Declare” or TPH250 “I Sing the Almighty Power of God”

Saturday, September 15, 2018

2018.09.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 1:3-14

Questions for Littles: Of Whom is God the Father (v3)? With what spiritual blessings has He blessed us? Where? In Whom? What else did God do to/for us in Christ (v4)? When? For what end purpose/result? To what has He predestined us (v5)? By what means? According to what reason? For what further/ultimate purpose (v6)? What did He make us by that grace? What do we have through His blood (v7)? According to the riches of what? What has He made known to us (v9)? Where/in-Whom did He purpose His good pleasure? In whom did He plan to gather together all things (v10)? For when did He plan this to happen? What did we obtain in Christ (v11)? How many things does God work according to the counsel of His will? What was God’s purpose for the first believers’ trusting in Christ (v12)? What brought about the Ephesians’ faith (v13)? How were they sealed when they believed? What is the Holy Spirit to us (v14)? Until when? Unto what ultimate purpose?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learned what happened at the beginning of time. God created the heavens and the earth.

But that brought up the question: Why? Why did God create the heavens and earth?

The answer, of course, goes back into eternity. God had predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.

But how could this come about? How could creatures come to be united to the God the Son, the Creator? Because God, who had chosen us to be holy and blameless before Him in love refused to allow us to perish in our sin.

This adoption in everlasting love has its own “why” purpose. To the praise of the glory of His grace (v6).

His giving us the inheritance of being like Him and with Him forever has the same purpose. That believers would be to the praise of His glory (v12).

When at last we are displayed as the blood-purchased possession of Christ, it will also be unto the same purpose. To the praise of His glory (v14).

This is the chief end of man: that the elect would glorify God by eternally enjoying Him as His own dear children!
Have you trusted in Christ? Are you living to bring glory to His grace?
Suggested Songs: ARP32A-B “What Blessedness” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Friday, September 14, 2018

9-Sep-18 AM Sermon - Genesis 1:1 - Christ, Our Creator

2018.09.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 3:22-36

Questions for Littles: Where did Jesus and His disciples go in v22? What were they doing? Who else was baptizing (v23)? What do John’s disciples and the Jews start arguing about (v25)? What do they come and tell John in v26? What does John say is the only way a man can receive something (v27)? Whom did John say was not the Christ (v28)? How does John feel about Jesus becoming the center of attention (v29)? What does John say must happen to Jesus (v30)? To himself? From where did John say Jesus had come (v31)? Who (unless they are born again) receives Jesus’ testimony (v32)? If someone does receive His testimony, what does he certify (v33)? What words does Jesus, sent from God, speak (v34)? What has the Father given into the Son’s hand (v35)? What does the one who believes in the Son have (v36)? What will the one who does not believe in the Son not see? What abides on him instead?
In the Gospel reading this week, John the Baptizer reminds us of the truth that a man can only have what God gives him.

This was true of John’s popularity. His disciples were so worried about that popularity, but John simply wanted to serve his role. God gave him that role.

This was true of Christ’s inheritance as the Mediator. The Father loves the Son. Everything belongs to the Son already as God. But, even in His human nature, Jesus is above all, and the Father has given all things into His hand. Nations can rage, and kings and peoples can plot in vain, but it is God who wills that everything belong to Jesus Christ (cf. Ps 2).

And it’s true of us. Unless God gives us new birth, we do not receive the testimony of Christ. We must have that new birth, so that we may be able to believe and have everlasting life.

Of course, the gracious will of God is the safest place for us to have our salvation rest. If it were left to us, v32 would be the end of our story. We would simply refuse His testimony, because we are evil. God would be perfectly righteous to have His wrath abide upon us forever.

But He’s also perfectly righteous to satisfy that wrath upon a substitute—Himself. So that He can be infinitely gracious to give us everlasting life!
Have you learned to be glad that your salvation rests in God’s will, not yours?
Suggested songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths” or TPH351 “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”

Thursday, September 13, 2018

2018.09.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 7:36-40

Questions for Littles: How might a man think he is behaving toward his unmarried daughter (v36)? What does he not do if he lets her marry her betrothed? But how does the father do (in that current situation in Corinth, cf. v26) who has determined in his heart to keep his daughter (v37)? So in that current situation, which one does better—the father who keeps his daughter, or the one who lets her marry (v38)? What may a wife do if her husband dies (v39)? What is the requirement about her remarriage? Again, in the current situation in Corinth, which is better for the woman whose husband dies (v40, cf. 26-28)? Whom does Paul have, by whom he is writing?
In this week’s Epistle reading, the apostle finishes up his answer to what some of the Corinthians had written to him about marriage being a bad thing. It most certainly is not, since marriage is the difference from God looking at the creation and saying, “not good,” unto God looking at the creation and finally saying, “very good.”

However, the apostle has highlighted for the Corinthians a couple situations in which it might be advisable to refrain from or postpone marriage. One is what he has referred to as “the present distress,” referring to a temporary situation in Corinth at the time. The other is when one wants to be free to be sacrificed for other ministry, 24 hours/day.

There are two more groups in Corinth at the time that need advice. First, he addresses fathers of daughters. If what Paul has said about the present distress, what about fathers of eligible and even betrothed daughters?

There is an important balance here. It is obvious, in v36-37, that a father has authority over whether he gives his daughter in marriage. Care over her is his privilege, and another may not take it up unless he gives it. Yet it is important to note that his concern must ultimately be for her good—and particularly that she would be married in good season and under advantageous circumstances. Like all biblical authority in the church and home, it is an authority of compassion, service, and equipping.

Second, what about those women who have come into the sad estate of having no headship. They were faithful wives, but then their husbands died. Elsewhere, the apostle encourages the to marry if they are young enough (cf. 1Tim 5:9-14). But here in 1Corinthians 7, he has been making application to their current circumstances of trial. As with a father’s decision-making, so also the apostle in v40 aims at what will be more for her happiness in the Lord.

Such is the character of our God, who has called us to joy (v40) and peace (v15).
What marriages does your behavior affect? How will you use that influence?
Suggested songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear” or TPH549 “O Gracious Lord”

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

2018.09.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 1:1-9

Questions for Littles: Who had just died (v1)? Whose servant was he? To whom did Yahweh speak? Whose assistant had Joshua been? What does Yahweh call Moses in v2? Where does He command Joshua to go? Whom does He command Joshua to take? What does God call the land in v2? What has God done with every place that the feet of the Israelites will step on (v3)? To whom had He told this? What were the boundaries of their territory going to be (v4)? Who would be able to stand before Joshua (in battle, v5)? Why not? What does God command Joshua in vv6, 7, 9? What does God remind Joshua in v6 to help him be strong? What does God tell Joshua to do with his strength and courage in v7? What must Joshua do if he is going to obey (v8)? What will the result of his obedience be? Again, in v9, why should Joshua be strong and courageous?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we moved to a different book, since we’ll now be hearing sermons from Genesis.

Joshua begins with a funeral of sorts. Moses, the servant of Yahweh is dead. The one who stood up to Pharaoh. The one who led them out of Egypt. The one who led them across the Red Sea. The one who interceded successfully, when God was about to destroy Israel for the golden calf.

That’s a big loss. How do they move on from something like that? Well, the best of men are still men at best. All the good that Moses did, he did by grace, because Yahweh was with him. Moses was just the servant of Yahweh. And Yahweh isn’t dead.

In fact, He’s with Joshua. And He promises to stay right there. Joshua will have the presence of Yahweh and the Word of Yahweh, wherever he goes.

Of course, the Lord doesn’t just have promises for Joshua. He also has commands for Him—the first of which is to trust those promises! Be strong and courageous! But to do what? Answer: whatever the Lord says to do.

Since true biblical strength is trust in the Lord, we find its expression not so much in gritty hardness as in solid faithfulness. Meditating on God’s Word day and night. Doing whatever the Bible says without departing to the left or to the right. So a life of confidence is demonstrated by obedience—because if the Lord is making everything work for good, then we don’t have to!
What habits do you have in place for always meditating upon God’s Word?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH1B “How Blest the Man”

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

2018.09.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 11:33-12:13

Questions for Littles: Whose wisdom is deeply rich (v33)? Whose knowledge is deeply rich? Whose judgments are unsearchable? Whose ways are past finding out? What has no one known (v34)? What has no one become? What has no one done first (v35) so that the Lord has never “repaid” anyone? Of whom are all things (v36)? Through whom are all things? To whom are all things? What is to be given unto God forever? What are we to do by the mercies of God (12:1)? What are we to present to Him? As what kind of sacrifice? What kind of service is this? To what are we not to be conformed (v2)? By what are we to be transformed? When we live this way, what do we prove about God’s will? Through what does Paul speak in v3? What does he tell us not to do? How does he tell us to think? What has God dealt to each of us a measure of? What do we, as many members, form all together (v4-5)? Of whom are we members (end of v5)? What gifts are listed in v6-13? For each one, consider whether it is a gift that only some believers have, or whether it is a gift that all believers have (parents will have to do and explain this for you).
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Romans 11:33-12:13.

In this passage, we go from purpose to particulars.

We go from overflowing expressions of worship (11:33-36) to an entire life of worship (12:1). Every day, we are to be offering our bodies unto God as living sacrifices.

We go from hearing about God’s deep wisdom and knowledge, and unsearchable judgments and ways, to living according to God’s Word, and making our lives a testimony to how perfect His will is (12:2).

We go from the reminder that everything is from God and for God (11:36, 12:3) to living that way (12:4-13). This is the ultimate meaning of spiritual “gifts”—not that we each have one or two or more special things that are gifts—but that these things and everything else about us are gifts from God for the rest of the church.

We see in the list that some of the “gifts” are unique to some believers. But others are things that all believers are commanded to do. The point is this: rather than think highly of ourselves, let us realize that we are a gift from God to our brethren, and let us be sure not to withhold anything!
Whom do you serve in the church? Whom could you serve more? How?
Suggested songs: ARP8 “Lord, Our Lord” or TPH405 “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”

Monday, September 10, 2018

2018.09.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Colossians 1:13-22

Questions for Littles: From what has God conveyed us (v13)? Into whose kingdom has God conveyed us? What do we have in Him (v14)? Through what? What is this redemption? Of what is Jesus the image (v15)? Over what is He the firstborn? What was created by Him (v16)? Where? Especially which ones? What is Jesus before (v17)? What do all things do “in Him”? Over what is He the head (v18)? Who is the beginning? From among whom is He the Firstborn? Why? In whom did it please God to make all of His fullness dwell (v19)? What did God decide to reconcile to Himself in Christ (v20)? Through what did Jesus make peace? How were we alienated and enemies (v21)? What has happened to us now? In what condition does He plan to present us (v22)? 
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we were introduced to the whole of Scripture by the words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Then, in Colossians 1, we read that all things were created by Christ. All things were created through Christ. All things were created for Christ.

The One who has qualified us for our inheritance is Himself the heir over all creation—the firstborn over all creation. The One who shed His blood to redeem us—who shed His blood for the forgiveness of our sins—is the One who created us, who created blood, and against Whom we had sinned.

The marvelous thing is that God chose to give His Son the first place over all things precisely by making peace for us through the blood of His cross.

We were God’s enemies—committing wicked works. Man brought the entire creation under curse. And God’s response? To reconcile all things to Himself through the blood of Christ’s cross—all believers from all ages, and even the very earth that had been cursed because of us.

Taking all of these things together, in this passage, we learn something extraordinary. Salvation is not some plan B because things had gone unexpectedly.

Creating us, knowing what we would choose and do, was plan A. Because saving us at the cost of Himself was plan A. He put His glory on display in the creation—in part, to die for our despising of it… because the ultimate display of His glory was to come as our Redeemer!
Have you given yourself up to the Creator who died to redeem sinners?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or TPH431 “And Can It Be”

Saturday, September 08, 2018

2018.09.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 20:25-32

Questions for Littles: What will the Ephesian elders never see again (v25)? Of what does Paul say he is innocent (v26)? Why—what has he not shunned to declare to them (v27)? To whom must the elders take heed to first (v28)? To whom else must they take heed? Who has made the elders overseers? What are the overseers to do the church? Whose church is it? How did He get it? What danger does v29 warn against? What danger does v30 warn against? What is the example for how watchful the elders are supposed to be, and how watchful was he (v31)? To what is Paul commending/entrusting them, with all of these instructions (v32)? What is it able to do?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learned God’s plan for getting us all the way home.

At the end of the passage, the apostle says that he commends them to God and to the word of His grace. If we have been paying attention in Scripture, everywhere we see this truth: God alone can save, which salvation therefore must be only by grace; and, He has determined to do so by means of His Word.

Furthermore, this Scripture gives us even more details about the manner in which God works in us by His Word. God the Son has purchased the church by His own blood. Now, God the Holy Spirit has made some redeemed sinners into overseers, so that they might shepherd that church.

What do these overseer-shepherds need to do? Declare to the flock the whole counsel of God.

But it’s not exactly that simple. There are savage wolves that come in among the flock and devour them. The shepherds must go around amongst the flock, checking to see that Christ’s blood-bought ones are fed properly and protected properly.

Also, there are elders who will say things that stray from the Scriptures, and draw people after themselves instead of after the Savior. So, it is a necessary part of the care of the flock for elders to maintain their own souls, and to study, and to keep one another accountable.

This is, ultimately, what it means to entrust oneself to God and the Word of His grace: to be a truly biblical Presbyterian.
How have you enlisted the elders’ help to avoid spiritual/theological danger?
Suggested Songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd”

Friday, September 07, 2018

2018.09.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 2:23-3:21

Questions for Littles: Whom did many at the feast believe in (v23)? But what didn’t Jesus do (v24)? Why—what did He know? What Pharisee came to see him (v1)? At what time of day (v2)? How does Jesus answer Nicodemus’s opening compliment (v3)? What question does Nicodemus ask in v4? By what does Jesus say we must be born in v5-6? Where does the wind blow, and in whom therefore does the Spirit work (v8)? What does Nicodemus ask in v9? By what is Jesus amazed in vv10-12? Where was the Son of Man, and where did He go (v13)? What must happen to the Son of Man, and how can someone have eternal life (v15-16)? Why did God send His Son into the world (v17)? Why is the one who does not believe condemned already (v18)? Why do men love darkness rather than light (v19-20)? When someone who does the truth comes to the light, what can be seen about his deeds (v21)?
In the Gospel reading this week, we hear about a most important subject concerning our happiness: how a man can avoid being destroyed, but instead have eternal life with Jesus Christ.

The problem is actually originally found in the people at the feast: we are rotten from the inside out. This was why Jesus did not entrust Himself to them: He knew what was in man. The people believed in Him; Nicodemus acknowledges Him to be a good teacher from God, but none of them are saved, yet. Why not?

Because only the Holy Spirit can save, and He cannot be manipulated any more than we can change which way the wind will blow. He will work in whomever He will. Of course, Nicodemus knew that Jesus meant spiritual rebirth—but that’s offense to think about. Is there really nothing salvageable in me? Nothing good at all? Must I be completely remade? Don’t I just need a touch-up here and there?

Until the Spirit convicts us, we avoid having the light of God’s truth shine on us, because we enjoy the false narrative that our deeds aren’t so bad. Everyone practicing evil hates the light. The idea that we need an entirely new spiritual life to be saved was as ridiculous to the honored Pharisee as the idea of climbing back into his mother to be reborn.

But that is the case: there is nothing good in us at all. That is why salvation is only by trusting in the crucified Christ. That is why the only good works are only those works that have been done in God, after one has come to faith in Christ.

The great news in this passage is not so much that one must be born again as it is that the Holy Spirit does in fact give this new birth! Have you had this birth? Is Christ all your hope? Are your good deeds only done by His life in you?
Why did you need to be completely remade by God the Holy Spirit? Have you?
Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH391 “Come, Thou Quick’ning Spirit”

Thursday, September 06, 2018

2018.09.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 7:17-35

Questions for Littles: Who has distributed to each of us our situation (v17)? What is one thing that we do not need to change (v18)? What is it that actually matters (v19)? How should we consider our current circumstances (v20)? What is another thing that we do not need to change (v21)? What two, opposite things are we at the very same time, in Christ (v22)? But what, especially, should we NOT become (v23)? About what does the apostle not have a direct quote from Jesus (v25)? Because of what, at that time, was it good for a man to remain single (v26)? But what should married men, still at that time, not have sought (v27)? During such times, what would marrying bring (v28)? What kinds of things are not as important as serving the Lord as well as possible in the present form of this world (v29-31)? And, yet, what must a married man place as his top priority in the Lord’s service (v32-33)? What must a married woman place as her top priority in the Lord’s service (v34)? Again, what is the main point of the apostle’s instructions in this section (v35)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we receive a pretty big corrective to one of the lies that we tell ourselves: “If only I change [this] or [that] thing in my circumstances, then I’ll really be set up to serve the Lord properly.”

The problem with that kind of thinking is that it secretly blames God for our current poor service, because our circumstances themselves are a calling from God in which to serve. Circumcision, uncircumcision, slave, free—callings from God. That is to say: our cultural and place in society is a calling from God, and our economic status is a calling from God.

Now, we shouldn’t seek to place ourselves under any more obligation than necessary to others, lest we intentionally limit ourselves from certain avenues of service to the Lord (v23). But our intentionally doing something is quite different from God having providentially done it (v24)!

Still, there is wisdom to be exercised in each particular circumstance. According to v26, the Corinthians were going through some significant distress—one in which it would not be wise to try to start a family.

And there is wisdom to be exercised in every circumstance on this side of glory—recognizing that this life is our last chance to serve the Lord before the eternal age arrives. Therefore, let us see every temporary thing (yes, even marriage, cf. Mat 22:30!) not as an end in itself, but as an occasion in which we are to serve the Lord—marriage, grief, and possessions are all occasions for serving the eternal God in a temporary world (v29-31)!

Therefore, the reasoning of the rest of the chapter is that there are certain avenues of service that are open to the unmarried, but in which the married would be very limited. The husband’s first place of service is his wife, and the wife’s first place of service is her husband (v33-34).
What are your circumstances? What would it mean for you to serve the Lord in them? What distractions have you added that are getting in the way of more service?
Suggested songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear” or TPH538 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

2018.09.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 29:31-30:24

Questions for Littles: Who opened Leah’s womb (v31)? Why? What does Leah call her first son (v32)? Why? What does she call her second son (v33)? Why? What does she call her third son (v34)? Why? What does she call her fourth son (v35)? Why? What is different about this fourth name? Whom does Rachel blame for her having no children (30:1)? Whom does Jacob point out is actually in charge of whether she bears children (v2)? What plan does Rachel come up with in v3? Where have we seen this before? Who goes along with it (v4)? What is the result in v5? What does Rachel claim about this son in v6? What does she name the son? What does she name the second son (v8)? Why? Now who is coming up with the same sinful plan (v9)? What does she name the son in v11? Why? What does she name the son in v13? Why? What had Rachel apparently been able to prevent Leah from doing (v15)? How did Leah get her to relent? Who obediently went along with the arrangement in v16? Why/how did Leah conceive (v17)? What does she name this son (v18)? Why? What does she name her sixth son (v20)? Why? What is different about her next child (v21)? Who acts in v22? What does she say in v23? What name does she give the son in v24? Why—what did she say?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we find something of an arms race. Sons were very valuable for their labor/productivity/earning, for their military worth, and especially for carrying on the family line—especially when the salvation of the world depends upon that family line!

Here we are in the third generation of the Abrahamic covenant, and we’ve just had one son that remained in the covenant, and then again one son that remained in the covenant, and now BOOM—in just a handful of verses (and wives?!?!!) 11 covenant sons (with one more to come).

The whole thing is deeply sad, starting with an unloved wife, and the handmaid method of increased fertility, and the passive husband who just does whatever his wives say—right down to allowing Rachel to control the bedroom rotation roster. We feel badly for Leah on the names of the first three, and maybe a little bit proud of her for Judah. But names like Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Issachar just seem so out of line! In fact, the passage as a whole is almost enough to make us sick.

But the astonishing thing is that despite the wickedness of man than fills the passage up, there is a thread of God’s grace running all the way through it. He is noticing who is unloved. He is answering Leah’s prayers, and then Rachel’s.

How can the holy, holy, holy God do so for such sinners as we see them to be here? The answer is in the purpose of multiplying these sons to begin with: to form the nation into which God’s own Son can be born as the Son of Man. God can be merciful to sinners, because He is so lovingly determined to be merciful that He Himself is preparing to enter into the world to bear their sin!

Dear believer, this is exactly what He has done for us! If we could honestly see our sin as it really is, we would find it as ugly and sick as the arms race in the passage. Shall we not then also see the wonderful grace of God that is the great thread that runs through our life?
What are some good things God has done for you lately? Why would/did He?
Suggested songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

2018.09.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 35

Questions for Littles: What will happen to the wilderness, wasteland, and desert for God’s people (v1-2)? What ultimate glory and excellency will they see (v2)? What should His people do while they wait (v3-4)? Who will come with a vengeance? What will He do to His people? How does He describe this salvation in terms of their eyes (v5)? Their ears? Their ability to walk (v6)? Their tongue? Into this picture of new life from v7, what do we see appear in v8? What is the highway called? Who cannot pass over it? What will not be there (v9)? But who will walk there? What will the ransomed be doing as they return to Zion (v10)?  What will be on their heads? What will they obtain? What will flee away?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Isaiah 35.

This chapter uses colorful imagery to describe the salvation that Jesus Christ brings to His people.

Surely, without Him, it feels like we are in a wilderness, a wasteland, a desert of parched ground. But once His salvation is completed in and for us, we shall find that He has made our experience one of eternal, lush, vibrant life.

Surely, without His Spirit, we are blind, deaf, lame, and mute. Is this not the great reason for Jesus performing miracles on such physically afflicted people during His earthly ministry? He was declaring Himself to be the Savior-Redeemer-God of Isaiah 35. Therefore, He points to these exact things, when John the Baptizer’s disciples come and ask if He is the Christ. Only Christ adds, “and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

Look at the reward that He has in store for us—to be perfectly safe forever, to view the glory and excellency of our God, to have only singing and joy and never sighing or sorrow!

Therefore, we heed the instruction in vv3-4. Trusting in Him, and knowing that He will finish His work, we strengthen the weak hands and straighten the wobbly knees, and determine to be strong and not fear.

Our God will surely save us, and bring us into everlasting life and joy!!
In what current situation do you need to remember that Jesus is saving you?
Suggested songs: ARP16A “Keep Me, O God” or TPH170 “God in the Gospel of His Son”

Monday, September 03, 2018

2018.09.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 20:16-24

Questions for Littles: Where couldn’t Paul visit, since he was in a hurry (v16-17)? What did he ask for their elders to do instead? What was the first thing that Paul reminded them about in v18? How had he served the Lord (v19)? How had many tears and trials happened to him? What did he keep back from them (v20)? What had he done instead? In what two settings did he teach them? To which groups of church members did he conduct such a ministry (v21)? What were the two primary things that he preached? Where is he going now (v22)? What has the Holy Spirit said awaits him there (v23)? What does he care about more than what happens to himself (v24)? What two things does he want to finish? With what attitude? And what is the ministry that he received, and from whom?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, Paul establish the top priority for the Ephesian church going forward: preaching and teaching ministry in public and from house to house.

How high a priority is this? Paul is in a great hurry to get to Jerusalem—such a hurry that he can’t spare the time to go into Ephesus. Instead, he sends word ahead, and the Ephesian elders come meet him on the coast. As the elders are on their way to Miletus, they (and we) are primed to expect something very important indeed.

This is only heightened, with Paul’s introduction about how they knew his devotion to the ministry, despite the many hardships that he faced. What was so important that he had them come out to them now? What was so important that he had been willing to suffer so many tears and trials.

The ministry of the Word. In public. And from house to house.

Notice the way he puts it: he had kept back nothing that was helpful. What is it that God uses to help us? The proclamation of the Word. This is what we need more than anything else. Preaching and teaching the Word must be our elders’ priority, and hearing and heeding that preaching and teaching must be our congregation’s priority.

Two more things to note, briefly, about this preaching ministry (1) its location: in public and from house to house; (2) its content: repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ.

In public+households is a simple recipe, but sadly not always followed. In fact, rather few churches in our time have this from-house-to-house pastoral ministry of the elders. One would think that the biblical term “shepherd” would be clear enough in implying that the elders need to be spending time out among and directing the sheep. Even so, here we have clear teaching that this ought to be so. Let us make this a priority for the kind of ministry that we seek from them!

Finally, repentance and faith both need to be preached. The whole of Scripture needs to be preached. The law needs to be preached—not just to unbelievers but to believers who need to know how to go about living unto God. But a ministry that only preaches this will lead people either into pride or despair over how they think they are doing.

The gospel, faith toward Jesus Christ, must also be preached: not only is He the only righteous standing we can ever have before God, but His life is also the only spiritual life that we can ever have for living unto our God who has saved us. Similarly, if this is the only thing that is preached, then we leave out much of Scripture. Paul reminded the Ephesian elders that he had proclaimed both, that they must proclaim both, and so must we have both proclaimed.
Where do your elders pastor you? How are you responding to each type of preaching (repentance and faith)?
Suggested Songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH175 “Your Law, O God, Is Our Delight”

Saturday, September 01, 2018

2018.09.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Matthew 16:18-28

Questions for Littles: What name does Jesus give Simon (v18)? What does Jesus say He will build upon the rock of Peter’s confession? What won’t prevail against the church? What will Jesus give to Peter (v19)? What will have been bound in heaven? What will have been loosed in heaven? What were the disciples not supposed to tell yet (v20)? What did Jesus begin to show the disciples about Himself in v21? How did Peter respond (v22)? Now what does Jesus call Peter in v23? Of what is Peter not being mindful? Of what is he being mindful instead? What does Jesus say we must take up in order to follow Him (v24)? What will happen to the one who desires to save his life (v25)? What will happen to the one who gives his whole life up to Christ? Suppose that, by living for yourself, you could gain the whole world—what does v26 say about whether or not that’s worth it? According to what will we be rewarded on the last day (v27)? What did Jesus say some of those standing there would see before they tasted death (v28)?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learned what Moses and Elijah already knew, and what Peter, James, and John would find out—that the eternal glory of Christ, and the privilege of knowing and enjoying Him in that glory… that these things are worth infinitely more than anything and everything that this world has to offer us.

We easily forget this. Peter takes four verses to go from being commended as the one whose confession of Christ is exactly the foundation upon which Christ will build His church to the one whose counsel to Christ comes from the very pit of Hell.

Let that get through our thick skulls and cold hearts: the temptation to live for comfort comes from the pit of Hell.

Just as Jesus insisted that He would go to the cross to pay for our sins, so also He insists that in order to follow Him, we would take up the cross of our own. We must do works that correspond to reward for which we hope.

That is to say: the days of living for myself are done, and from here on, I will live only for Christ. That old way is crucified. Now, I live only by faith. Jesus’s way by Jesus’s life. Who cares what I might miss out on in this life? I shall have, instead, not only the wellbeing of my eternal soul, but its immeasurable pleasure in His unimaginable glory!
In what part of your life is obedience to Jesus most uncomfortable?
Suggested Songs: ARP32B “Instruction I Will Give to You” or TPH541 “The Son of God Goes Forth to War”