Thursday, February 28, 2019

2019.02.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 4:1-7

Questions for Littles: What have Paul and his companions received for their ministry (2 Corinthians 4:1)? What do they not lose? What does he call the things that they have renounced in 2 Corinthians 4:2? In what do they refuse to walk? How do they refuse to handle the word of God? Instead, what do they do with the truth? To what aspect, then, of every man, do they commend themselves? In whose sight? What may happen to their gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3a)? But to whom would it be veiled (2 Corinthians 4:3b)? What does 2 Corinthians 4:4 call the devil? What has he done to those who are perishing? What do they not do? What does this veil keep them from seeing? Who is Christ, according to verse 4? What, then, do Paul and his companions not preach (2 Corinthians 4:5)? What do they preach? How do they consider themselves? Who does the work (2 Corinthians 4:6)? What else has He done about 4000 years prior? In whom else has He already done this spiritual counterpart to that work? Where does He shine? What light does He give? In whose face is the knowledge of this glory received? By what kind of vessel is this treasure conveyed (2 Corinthians 4:7)? What does this show?
In this week’s Epistle reading, the apostle explains why his ministry is not generally impressive to all. One might have (wrongly) expected that the ministry of an apostle would be impressive to anyone.

Paul’s ultimate response is that God alone is the impressiveness of the work, and those who are not impressed with Him are not going to find anything else to be impressed with in his ministry (2 Corinthians 4:7). This doesn’t bother him, because his ministry is not his idea or his pride. It as an assignment of God by the mercy of God. It may seem to be going poorly, but if it is of God, then there is no reason to lose heart!

Ironically, the apostle refers to superficially impressive ministry as “the hidden things of shame.” There is a way of handling the Word of God that looks impressive on the outside, but what you cannot see is that it is man-derived and man-dependent. But the apostles are not concerned with commending themselves to men’s admiration. They are concerned with commending themselves to men’s consciences. O that we would learn to see our life as an assignment from God and deal earnestly with others as those who will have to stand before Him!! How this might help us to stop living for their applause!

Will such a ministry have a hundred percent conversion rate? No and yes. In one sense, no. There are those who are perishing. And if the Lord has not atoned for them, and is not going to regenerate them, then what exactly are we supposed to be able to do about that? It is not just that they are unable to see God’s glory. It is also that they are not permitted. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says that God has set things up this way because He refuses to shine the light of the gospel upon them.

But in another sense, yes. Such a ministry will have a hundred percent conversion rate. For, the Lord is all powerful. He spoke light itself into existence. And He can speak spiritual light into existence in the hearts. And He does, because in the case of His elect, He is determined to give them the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ!
What kind of ministry should we look for in the church? Whom should we be looking to make it effective? With whom should we aim at being impressed? What aims and approaches are incompatible with this?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

2019.02.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 16:1-17:18

Questions for Littles: Whose inheritances are described in this section (Joshua 16:1-4)? Which tribe, specifically, beginning in Joshua 16:5? Toward what did it go in Joshua 16:6? Where did it end in Joshua 16:7? Toward what did it go in Joshua 16:8? Where did it end? Whose inheritance was this? Where else did they have cities (Joshua 16:9)? What deficiency was there in their inheriting (Joshua 16:10)? Whose inheritance is described, beginning in Joshua 17:1? Who is mentioned first? Why? What did he receive? Who else receive a lot in Joshua 17:2? What problem did Zelophehad have (Joshua 17:3)? Whose descendant was he? Who come to Eleazar and Joshua in Joshua 17:4? Of what do they remind the high priest and the prophet? How many shares total does Manasseh receive (Joshua 17:5)? What had increased their total shares (Joshua 17:6)? What were their borders in Joshua 17:7-9? What tribes did they border (Joshua 17:10)? Where else did they have towns (Joshua 17:11)? What deficiency do we see again in Joshua 17:12-13? What complaint do Ephraim and Manasseh make in Joshua 17:14? On what grounds? What does Joshua say that they should do if these grounds are valid (Joshua 17:15)? How do they respond to that (Joshua 17:16)? And what is Joshua’s counter-response (Joshua 17:17-18)?
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we move from the inheritance of Judah to the inheritance of Joseph. This is a reminder that the Lord’s mercy and generosity are according to His undeserved grace, not according to human convention or tradition. Joseph was the second-youngest of the children. Even Judah was not the oldest. But inheritance of land and role in the Lord’s work are graces that are assigned by the Lord.

Furthermore, Ephraim is the greater of the two, even though he was the younger of the two. This continues a theme in Genesis that followed Seth, Isaac, Jacob, and now Ephraim. Over and over again throughout that book, and now here, God says “My goodness to you is all of grace.”

Yet, we see that God by His grace not only hands us things, but intends to sustain us in what we are called to do. In Joshua 17:16, Ephraim and Manasseh complain that it will be difficult to take the additional land that God is giving them, and the prophet’s response is, “yeah, but you’ll do it anyway.” How many children (and church members) could benefit from such a frank, loving response today?!

Of course, the fact that the Lord does things through us, sustaining us by grace, leaves us unsurprised when we see that sometimes we stumble and fall short in our part. Both Ephraim and Manasseh failed to drive out completely the Canaanites in their territories, and this would end up being a thorn in their side later on. The Lord is not surprised: in His providence, He permits us to see how faulty we are. Not so that we might blame Him (since the fault is entirely ours), but so that we might learn to be grateful for even the smallest successes in our duty (since the success is entirely from Him!).

Of course, this is setting us up to see that our ultimate inheritance must be earned, gained, and fulfilled by someone who does not fall short. The greater Joshua. Even Yeshua Himself. Praise Jesus!
Where have you fallen short? What are you going to do about that? Upon whom must you depend in this? What does that dependence look like? For what must you not even try to work, but only depend upon Him? How should we respond to His grace in either case?
Suggested songs: ARP130 “Lord, from the Depths” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

2019.02.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 4:1-13

Questions for Littles: Who did not enter God’s rest according to Hebrews 4:6? During whose time was there another chance to enter that rest (Hebrews 4:7)? Therefore, who had not given them rest (Hebrews 4:8)? What continues now (Hebrews 4:9), as long as some have the opportunity to enter God’s rest (Hebrews 4:10)? What is required for us to enter that rest (Hebrews 4:11a)? What would make us fall (Hebrews 4:11b)? What living, powerful thing do we need to respond to now (Hebrews 4:12)? Whom are we before, during preaching, and what will we have to give before Him later (Hebrews 4:13)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin all came from Hebrews 4:6-12. Here, we can see a glorious component of God’s original purpose for the Sabbath: to hold before Adam the promise of something even better than Eden. This is part of the covenant that Hosea 6:7 tells us that Adam broke. Not only had God given Adam that life in the garden; God also used the Sabbath to set before him the promise of an eternal life that was so much better that it could be called God’s own rest.

Sadly, it’s possible to know about and see God’s salvation, and be a member of His church, and still miss out on God’s glorious rest. It may be difficult for us to see this in Hebrews 4:3, which is quoting again from Psalm 95, “So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest.”

We might at first think that God was talking about their missing out on entering the land that had been promised to Abraham. But Hebrews 4:8 makes an important point. The children of that generation did possess that land. But still, 500 years later, God is warning them in Psalm 95 to listen to preaching in corporate worship so that they will enter His rest.

This brings us back to the point of the Sabbath. Hebrews 4:4 sounds silly at first. God rested? Did creation make Him tired? He could have created billions of universes, in an instant, with His Word. What does it mean that God rested? It means that God gave the Sabbath as a way of inviting man into the fellowship of God’s rest. God’s rest was not for God; it was for us.

As glorious as the Sabbath itself is, Hebrews 4:5 proceeds to tell us that it is a taste of something to come, a rest that is yet to enter into. When does a man enter that rest? When our work, our time, in this life is done (Hebrews 4:10). Until then, we are to keep the weekly Sabbath (Hebrews 4:9, the word ‘rest’ is a different word than through the rest of the passage, that specifically means a rest every seventh day).

And how are we to keep it in a believing (Hebrews 4:3) and diligent (Hebrews 4:11) way? By being softhearted toward Christ’s razor sharp, piercing, discerning Word, as He addresses us, week by week, in the worship of God (Hebrews 4:12). As we sit before Him on earth, He addresses us in glory.

Whenever we are sitting there, let us remember that one day we must leave this life behind and stand before Him who sits on the throne of glory. If we really trust in Him, and believe in Him, then what we do with His Word will show it!
What do you do during the sermons in church? What can you do to listen more carefully? What has your interaction with the Lord looked like during services? What should it look like?
Suggested songs: ARP19B “The Lord’s Most Perfect Law” or TPH153 “O Day of Rest and Gladness”

Monday, February 25, 2019

2019.02.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 6:1-5

Questions for Littles: Who began to multiply (Genesis 6:1)? Where? Who were born to them? Who saw the daughters of men in Genesis 6:2? What did they see about them? What did they take? For whom? How were they selected? Who responds to this in Genesis 6:3? What does He say that His Spirit will not do forever? What does He say that man is? How long does He give man? What three things does Genesis 6:4 tell us about the children that came from these marriages? But what does Yahweh see (Genesis 6:5)? How much wickedness? In what parts of their lives? And how many of those intentions? How often?
In the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we encountered a surprising change in the course of mankind. If the first four verses were taken out, the passage would flow well, except for there would be no explanation for how we got to the place that the Lord looks down on the earth and sees almost entirely unregenerate men.

Things seemed to be going so well. There was an entire line of godly men who had begun calling upon the name of the Lord from the time at which Enosh was born. There was an entire line of godly men, who walked with God like Noah (Genesis 6:9)—Enoch doing so to the point that he didn’t even die, and God took him. There was an entire line of godly men who looked forward, like Noah’s father, to the son who would undo the curse.

Where did the line go? Down the drain of poor marriage choices. The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful and took as their wives whomever they chose. Like the children of Israel with the Moabites in Numbers 31, like Solomon with the foreign women who turned his heart away from the Lord (1 Kings 11), like the returned exiles with Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13), so here in Genesis 6, poor marriage choices bring a quick downfall of the godly. And so it has often been throughout history, so that the apostle must solemnly warn the church about it in 1 Corinthians 7.
What kind of person should a believer be? What kind of person should a believer marry? What is the danger if you don’t marry someone who is wholehearted after the Lord? 
Suggested Songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH128B “Lord, from the Depths to You I Cry!”

Saturday, February 23, 2019

"Don't Let the History Evangelists Outdo You!" -- Pastoral Letter from the 2019.02.24 Hopewell Herald

Hopewell Herald – February 23, 2019

Dear Congregation,

I was impressed recently by a gentleman in the Small Town Diner in Mt. Pleasant.

There I was, having breakfast with a friend, and one of us had said something that might loosely imply that we care about southern history, or even just had ideas that may be consistent with federalism as originally constituted in our nation.

It wasn’t long before this man was standing at our table, asking us about ourselves, and sharing his joy with us. The joy of having discovered his southern roots and ideals while living in the north as a northerner, and having moved down and learned so much since then. Before he left the table, he had provided us some literature and invited future contact.

Oh, that we would be like this with our Redeemer!

Have we not also realized that we were once living under the sway of our own rebellion? Did not the Lord completely change our mind, bring us to our senses as His dear lost children who had been hungering for the pigs’ slop, and come running to us, throw His arms ‘round us, and gather us back into the home?

Is this not our joy—and is not growing in our knowledge of Him not our privilege? And telling others of it, and inviting them to do so as well—is this not our mission?

Would that, if we were in a restaurant and overheard someone say something that might suggest a point of contact, we would:
·        Politely introduce ourselves
·        Find out something about them
·        Share briefly why we were so glad to hear what we did from them
·        Offer some material that shares with them the joy of Him whom we have discovered—and, in our case, who is the One who laid hold of us
·        Invite future contact for the comparing of notes, sharing of joy, and joining in mission

Of course, if we are to be steady in our “fanaticism,” we will have to be filling up constantly on the joy of Christ and His having redeemed us. This means an entire day, every week, filling up on the joy of the Lord and His gospel. And several times a day, privately and with our small-group/growth-group (family!), filling up on the joy of the Lord and His gospel.

Should the history buffs really be better evangelists than the Christians? God grant unto us that they would not be!

Looking forward to filling up with you tomorrow,


Read more in the weekly Hopewell Herald

2019.02.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 6:1-5

Questions for Littles: Who began to multiply (Genesis 6:1)? Where? Who were born to them? Who saw the daughters of men in Genesis 6:2? What did they see about them? What did they take? For whom? How were they selected? Who responds to this in Genesis 6:3? What does He say that His Spirit will not do forever? What does He say that man is? How long does He give man? What three things does Genesis 6:4 tell us about the children that came from these marriages? But what does Yahweh see (Genesis 6:5)? How much wickedness? In what parts of their lives? And how many of those intentions? How often?
In the Scripture for tomorrow’s sermon, we see how quickly godliness can evaporate via poor spouse choices. After last week’s expressions of gospel faith in the line of the godly, we should be horrified to see the results of these unequally yoked marriages.

Notice how these marriages came about. The sons of God, the line of the godly, take wives from the wrong group of maidens. They go outside the covenant to “the daughters of men.” And they take wives according to the wrong criteria—the only thing that we are told that they are noticing is “that they are beautiful” (and not with the adornment of modesty, good works, or a gentle and quiet spirit, as the Scripture defines a woman’s true beauty!). Finally, they take wives independently. They take for themselves whomever they chose. There is no taking of counsel here, no sense of continuing the covenant line under the wisdom of covenantal forebears… just the picking of a wife according to personal fancy.

So, what is the result of choosing wives from the wrong line, according to the wrong criteria, via a foolish process? We go from the sons of God calling upon the name of the Lord, walking with the Lord, and living by gospel hope, to a situation where on the entire earth there was one man who was a man of grace. One converted man on the face of the earth!

Never mind, that this was the age of giants, physically and metaphorically. Mighty men. Men of renown. Is the Lord supposed to be any more impressed with that than He was with the line of Cain? All He saw was wicked in themselves, or righteous in Christ. And a wrong approach to marriage choices had filled the earth with those who were outside of Christ, aliens to the church, strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world (cf. Ephesians 2:12).
What is your plan for helping the rising generation to make good spouse choices?
Suggested Songs: ARP127 “Unless the Lord Build…” or TPH128B “Blest the Man  Who…”

Friday, February 22, 2019

2019.02.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 9:35-10:6

Questions for Littles: Who seeks whom in John 9:35? What does He ask him? What does he ask Him back (John 9:36)? In what two ways has Jesus revealed Himself to the man (John 9:37)? How does the man respond (John 9:38)? Whom does Jesus judge in what ways (John 9:39)? How do the Pharisees immediately put themselves on the wrong side of that equation (John 9:40)? According to Jesus, what keeps them from being forgiven (John 9:41)? What are they missing by believing that they are not needy (John 10:1)? What does their missing of the door reveal them to be? Who did humble Himself to be the shepherd (John 10:2)? Who connects the Shepherd and the sheep (John 10:3)? How is it that the sheep come to follow the Shepherd (John 10:3-4)? Whom won’t the true sheep follow (John 10:5)? How was this conversation demonstrating its own point (John 10:6)?
In the Gospel reading this week, we find again how deadly pride is. The man who has been healed from blindness freely admits his own ignorance of Christ, and the Lord Jesus gently directs him to Himself. The Pharisees are sure that they are not needy of anything, and the Lord Jesus declares that this is the very reason that their sin will remain.

Of course, the Lord Jesus is not needy at all. Philippians 2 puts it this way, “He did not consider equality with God something at which He would have to grasp.” However, He who is God Himself was willing to humble Himself. This is how He used His authority (as we will find out in next week’s passage): to lay His life down for the sheep.

Satan had tempted Christ to come into His kingdom through another means than the cross. Just bow down and receive all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. But the way up (name exalted above all names) is the way down (humbled Himself to the point of death on the cross), and the Doorkeeper opened to Him. God gave Christ His sheep. His own. Whom He calls by name. Whom He leads out. Whom He makes to know His voice.

Ultimately, our pride will kill us, unless we are His sheep, whom the Father gives to Him, and to whom He speaks with His shepherding voice. Let us cry out to Him to be merciful to us, with this all-powerful, saving mercy!
How do you remember and express that you are continually needy of Christ?
Suggested songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”

Thursday, February 21, 2019

2019.02.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 3:7-18

Questions for Littles: What ministry was written and engraved on stones (2 Corinthians 3:7)? How glorious was it? But what was happening to that glory? What ministry is more glorious (2 Corinthians 3:8-10)? What is happening to this ministry and its glory (2 Corinthians 3:11)? How should a minister speak, if he expects that the glory of his ministry will increase and last (2 Corinthians 3:12)? Who was not so bold (2 Corinthians 3:13)? What evidence was there, during the apostle’s day, that the ministry of the commandments had not been able to do the Israelites lasting, spiritual good (2 Corinthians 3:14-15)? How can this veil be taken away (2 Corinthians 3:16)? To whom, ultimately, do we turn, when we turn to Christ (2 Corinthians 3:17)? And what does the Lord, the Spirit, give us? And what do we see, when our blindness is removed (2 Corinthians 3:18)? And what effect does this have upon us? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learn the secret to the apostle’s boldness with the Corinthians. He is joyously hopeful about what God is doing through his ministry. Can you imagine a minister who claims that what he is doing is more glorious than when Moses went up the mountain, met with God, and then came back down with the Ten Commandments, engraved on stone by the finger of God?

Well, every true gospel ministry is in fact more glorious than that! God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to be the instrument that the Holy Spirit uses to take away spiritual blindness and make dead hearts into live ones. And this is great incentive for ministers to be very bold preachers.

It is also great incentive for all of us to be very bold hearers! For, what is it that happens when, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, we listen to the Word preached? We get to see the glory of the Lord! In fact, when we turn to Jesus, we are not just turning to a Man who atoned for us. We are turning to God Himself, in Christ.

Christ is fully God and fully man, and we do not turn to a nature, but a Person. And, when we turn to Him, we turn to the Triune God. It is at this point that Scripture emphasizes especially the Third Person of the Trinity. When we turn to Jesus, we turn to the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit’s great work, as He opens our eyes and enlivens our hearts, isn’t just to enables us to “behold His glory as of the only-begotten of the Father,” but also to transform us into that same glory as His adopted brothers and sisters. This is the glorious freedom of the children of God!

Now, if you know that this is what God the Holy Spirit is doing during preaching, then wouldn’t you expect ministers to be bold preachers, and congregations to be bold hearers?
Whom should you expect to “see” in preaching? What should you expect to be happening to you? What kind of preaching should you expect from a minister who knows this?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

2019.02.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 15:13-63

Questions for Littles: Who took the land of the father of the Anakim (Joshua 15:13-15)? How did he determine who would be worthy of his daughter (Joshua 15:16-17)? Yet, who seemed to be the stronger of the pair (Joshua 15:18-19)? What did she want, since she had been given (along with her husband) dry land to the South? Whose inheritance is described in Joshua 15:20-63? How many cities and villages total did they inhabit? Yet, whom had they not yet driven out when Joshua was written (Joshua 15:63)? 
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we see that the work of God is varied, yet faithful.

The Lord is keeping His promise to bless and multiply the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And He is keeping His promise to supply them with cities that they did not themselves have to build.

How does He do this?

Well, in part, by enabling an 85 year old man to defeat the father of the Anakim—a race of mighty giants.

And, in part, through a battle-contest for a wife. And, how interesting that this warrior Othniel, who wins the battle contest, does appear to have met every bit of his match in Achsah, daughter of Caleb. Not only is the asking for the springs of water her idea, but it turns out that she is the one who follows through in Joshua 15:19.

Furthermore, there’s a reminder built into this giant list of names. Every city name would have been precious to the descendants of the many families that inherited that city. We might stumble over the list and find it tedious, but we would not if our family’s inheritance was represented in one of those cities! God’s faithfulness to His general promises to His people includes separate faithfulness and generosity to every single one of His people.

Finally, there’s a hint at faithfulness to come—that God is reserving the defeat of the Jebusites as part of how He will bring honor to King David. Not unlike how the crushing of the serpent’s head is being reserved for the bringing of honor to King Jesus.
What promises has God made to you in Christ?
What are some of His appointed ways of keeping those promises?
What are some surprising providential ways that He has kept them?
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or TPH245 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

2019.02.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 3:7-19

Questions for Littles: Whom does Hebrews 3:7 tell us spoke the words in Hebrews 3:7-11? What did the people in 7b hear? What did they do with their hearts (Hebrews 3:8)? What did God think of that (Hebrews 3:10a)? What did God swear (Hebrews 3:11)? What should we watch out for about our hearts (Hebrews 3:12)? Who else helps us resist being hardened (Hebrews 3:13)? Of whom have we become partakers already if we hold our confidence (Hebrews 3:14)? What do those who are partakers of Christ continually hear in this life (Hebrews 3:15)? What people heard God and rebelled (Hebrews 3:16)? With whom was God angry for forty years (Hebrews 3:17)? To whom did God swear that they would not enter His rest (Hebrews 3:18)? Why didn’t they enter (Hebrews 3:19)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin all came from Hebrews 3:7-4:5. Here, we see what Scripture says about itself: “as the Holy Spirit says.” It is the Holy Spirit who has spoken Scripture. The very words of Psalm 95, in Hebrews 3:7-11, are the words of God the Holy Spirit.

And, when these words are properly opened in preaching, it is the Lord Jesus who addresses us. We have already seen in Hebrews 2:12 that it is Jesus who declares God’s name in the gatherings of the church. Now, Hebrews 3:12 makes it clear that Psalm 95 has a current application to us in Christ’s New Testament church.

We need to bring soft hearts to the preaching of the Word. If the people who saw God’s salvation from Egypt could still fail to enter heaven because of unbelief, then just knowing about salvation in Jesus does not mean we will be saved (Hebrews 3:16).

We must soften our hearts, when we hear God’s Word (Hebrews 3:13). The Holy Spirit gives us an immediate clue about what that looks like, when He warns that hard hearts come “through the deceitfulness of sin.” He gives us another clue, when He points out in Hebrews 3:17 that those who had perished did so because of sin; and, again in Hebrews 3:18, when He points out that they did not obey.

So… if we want to be saved, we just need to obey?

Not quite. Obedience is what comes out of the heart, but look at Hebrews 3:12 and Hebrews 3:19 to see where the disqualifying disobedience came from: unbelief. Those who fell in the wilderness (verse 19) fell because of their sin, but that sin was the fruit of unbelief. So, what verse 12 warns us against isn’t just disobedience.

Rather, verse 12 warns against having an evil heart of unbelief. This is the greatest problem with our disobedience; it says: “I don’t trust, You, Lord, that You have my best interests in mind… or, perhaps, that You know how to accomplish my best interests.” That is the sound of an “evil heart” that “departs from the living God.” In other words, obedience doesn’t save. Clinging to God in Christ is what saves!
How does a soft heart during preaching show that you are clinging to God? What are some things that get in the way of our listening to preaching with a soft heart? 
Suggested songs: ARP184 “Adoration and Submission” or TPH152 “Safely through Another Week”

Monday, February 18, 2019

2019.02.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 4:25-5:32

Questions for Littles: What does Eve name the son in Genesis 4:25? Why? By what name were men called in Genesis 4:26? In whose likeness was Adam made (Genesis 5:1)? In whose likeness was Seth begotten (Genesis 5:3)? What happened to nearly all of the men in chapter 5? What did Enoch do after he begot Methuselah (Genesis 5:22)? What happened to him instead of dying (Genesis 5:24)? What did Noah’s dad hope that he would bring (Genesis 5:29)?
In the Scripture for this week’s sermon, the Holy Spirit teaches us about the twin family-realities of our fallenness and God’s grace.

Bearing children reminds us that we are fallen. Adam fell from his original state, created in God’s image and according to God’s likeness. So, when at the age of 130, Adam father Seth “in his own likeness, after his image” (Genesis 5:3), it is a sobering reminder that this is not exactly the image and likeness in which man was first created. All parents have seen this in their children—our own sin being borne out in their characters as well. And what we see in the spirit, we also see in the body. Not just they have their father’s nose or their mother’s eyes—but that they die their parents’ death. It’s the refrain of this chapter: “and he died… and he died… and he died…”

But, bearing children also reminds us of God’s grace. There was something about Seth becoming the father of Enosh that led Adam and Seth and Enosh to call on (or by) the Name of Yahweh together. It was a mercy that multiple generations were being born. And the responsibility of caring for eternal souls was great. Later, something happens to Enoch, when we begets Methuselah. Genesis 5:21 says that Enoch “lived” 65 years. But then, after he begets Methuselah, Genesis 5:22 changes the verb (in contrast to all the other accounts in this chapter): Enoch “walked with God” three hundred years. Again, fatherhood was something that the Lord used to turn their hearts toward the Lord.

We can even see this in the names of the children. Eve gave Seth the name “appointed,” recognizing and submitting to the fact that this child belongs to God. Lamech called his son Noah, or “rest,” expressing gospel hope in the one who would reverse the curse.
How is it evident that gospel hope—despite the fall—is the center of your home life?
Suggested Songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness” or TPH130A “Lord, from the Depths to You I Cry!”

Saturday, February 16, 2019

2019.02.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 4:25-5:32

Questions for Littles: What does Eve name the son in Genesis 4:25? Why? By what name were men called in Genesis 4:26? In whose likeness was Adam made (Genesis 5:1)? In whose likeness was Seth begotten (Genesis 5:3)? What happened to nearly all of the men in chapter 5? What did Enoch do after he begot Methuselah (Genesis 5:22)? What happened to him instead of dying (Genesis 5:24)? What did Noah’s dad hope that he would bring (Genesis 5:29)? 
In the Scripture for tomorrow’s sermon, we see that the Lord did in fact appoint another seed in the place of Abel. In fact, it is with the establishing of Seth’s line that men begin to be called by the name of Yahweh (more literal reading of Genesis 4:26).

Though this family line has been known up until this point as the “seed of the woman,” Genesis 4:26 and Genesis 5:1-3 make it clear that we are also to know them as the “sons of God.”

This is exactly the point of Luke, by the Holy Spirit, in Luke 3:38. Adam was in the likeness of God, and Seth is in the likeness of Adam, and the way Genesis 5:3 speaks of Seth implies that this is something that is distinguishing him from Cain.

Indeed, this is a line of gospel hope.

Eve expresses it by the name Seth (“appointed”).

Seth’s family expresses it once Enosh is born, calling by the name of the Lord.

Enoch expresses it, once Methuselah is born, his entire life being a walking with God at that point.

Even “good” Lamech expresses it, naming his son Noah (“rest”), as he looks for the reversing of the effects of the fall.

Yet, despite all of this gospel hope, there is one great problem in chapter 5: they all keep dying. Eight times, we see that frightful conclusion, “and he died.” Did the hope of everyone but Enoch end up perishing?

Of course not. But this does set us up to expect something about the promised serpent-Crusher: He is going to have to do something about death! And He has.

We can think comfortably, now, about our bodies turning to dust. We go into the ground mortal and corruptible, and we will come back out of that ground incorruptible and immortal, like Christ’s own resurrection body. In HIM is fulfilled the hope of the gospel!
How are you a son of Adam? Are you also a son of God? How—in whom?
Suggested Songs: ARP116A “How Fervently I Loved the Lord” or TPH358 “Sing, Choirs of New Jerusalem”

Friday, February 15, 2019

2019.02.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 9:1-34

Questions for Littles: Who saw the blind man in John 9:1? What did the disciples ask (John 9:2)? What was Jesus’s answer (John 9:3)? How did Jesus heal him (John 9:6-7John 9:11)? What day was it (John 9:14)? What do some of the Pharisees decide that Jesus has done wrong (John 9:14-16)? What do others say? Whom do the Jews refuse to believe at first? What do his parents say, and why (John 9:20-23)? What does the whole group seem to have concluded about Jesus by John 9:24? What does the former blind man know? What does he think is marvelous? What do they say about him and do to him, despite Jesus’s testimony about the reason for the man’s blindness?
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus cures one man’s blindness, and exposes a host of others’.

It’s a sad irony. In the opening verses, Jesus directly testifies that the man being born blind was not because of a particular sin, but only for the glory of God in Jesus’s works. But then, at the end of today’s portion, the Pharisees condemn the man as being “completely born in sins” and put him out of the synagogue.

The Pharisees are blind about this man. And of course, they are blind about Jesus, whom they call a sinner as well. The only ones that they think are good are themselves. Blind again! “Are you teaching us?” they ask. You see the implication: we aren’t sinners; we’re the ones who notice that everyone else is.

I suppose that if there’s a man who was an expert on the plight of those born blind, it would have been this man. After all, he had a vested interest in knowing whether that had ever been healed. But he says, “since the world began, it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind.” It is no wonder that Jesus calls Himself the light of the world.

This was the work that He had come to do: to show that He had brought the salvation of God, and to accomplish the salvation of God. And indeed, there is nothing that could be more appropriate for a Sabbath!

One thing that often goes unnoticed in this passage is Jesus’s statement that there is a time coming when the miraculous sign-works that He is performing will no longer be done. “Night is coming when no one can work.” He is the light of the world, and any sign-works that are done are revelations of Him—that He is from God.

As He says elsewhere: even if they didn’t believe the words, they should still have believed on account of the works!
What do you believe about Jesus? Has He opened your eyes to see your sin, or are you still blind? Has He opened your eyes to see Him, or are you still blind?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH268 “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”

Thursday, February 14, 2019

"Jesus took all our Hell on the cross" (what the descent clause really means) -- Pastoral Letter from the 2019.02.14 Hopewell Herald

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Dear Congregation,

When we come to the table on the coming Lord’s Day, one of the things that we will want to come having done is examine ourselves. “Am I believing in Christ as He is offered to me in the gospel?” That’s a question that we need to be asking ourselves, and indeed, it is a question that we answered publicly, when we first professed our Christian faith.

This is the focus of the Athanasian Creed, which begins, “Whosoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith,” and ends, “This is the catholic faith, that one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.”

One of the many blessings of our new Psalter-Hymnal is having the Athanasian Creed ready to hand. Up to this point, we have been confessing the Nicene Creed at the table. The Athanasian creed is more developed than that of Nicaea (325) and declares carefully those truths about the Trinity that we have been studying from Scripture in the Education Hour, as acknowledged by the elders who gathered at the councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451).

In the Reformation, reforming churches wished to demonstrate that they were not inventing some new religion, but still confessed the same historic, biblical faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. So, they retained and confessed such creeds as the Athanasian Creed.

One problem, however, was that as a result both of Roman Catholic contentment to keep the masses (pun intended) in the dark, and the accumulation of contra-biblical Roman Catholic teachings, many in the churches had come to believe that Christ’s human soul went to Hell upon His burial, rather than being dismissed to the paradise of His Father’s hands from the cross.

So, would the Reformed improve the language of the creed, at the cost of appearing to introduce new doctrine in order to correct this erroneous thinking? They chose instead to retain the language, and correct misconceptions by teaching.

So, we are again blessed to have the Trinity Psalter Hymnal. When you read the “descent clause” in the Athanasian Creed on p854 on the Lord’s Day, you may notice a footnote referring you to Heidelberg Catechism 44 (p879), Canons of Dort 2.4 (p904), and Westminster Larger Catechism 50 (p945).

Heidelberg and Dort explain the descent clause the same way that Calvin did—that the confessing of Christ’s humiliation in the “Apostles’ Creed” was not ordered by chronology but rather by intensity—that although He finished (as He Himself declared) enduring Hell upon the cross before He was buried, yet that pouring out of God’s wrath was His humiliation’s greatest extent and so it is named last.

Westminster explains the descent clause historically, basically saying that this was the language used to describe not a place that He went, but His body’s spending three days in the grave under the power of death.

It is vitally important that we believe these two things—that Christ suffered all of the Hell that our souls deserved by the time that He said “it is finished,” and that He indeed continued under the power of death for three days, and on the third day rose again.

As we approach the table, confessing this together, let each of our hearts resoundingly say, “I believe this!” And let us show forth Christ’s death, as we feed upon Him by faith.

Looking forward to Word, sacrament, and prayer with you,


2019.02.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 2:12-3:6

Questions for Littles: What did Paul come to Troas to do (2 Corinthians 2:12)? Who opened that door? But how did Paul feel about it (2 Corinthians 2:13)? Why? So, then what did he do? How was God leading him all this time (2 Corinthians 2:14)? What was God spreading through him? Whom else does God lead in this way? What kind of fragrance are we unto God (2 Corinthians 2:15)? Among whom? What kind of aroma are we to those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 2:16)? And what kind of aroma to those who are being saved? From Whom have we received this task (2 Corinthians 2:17)? Before Whom do we conduct this task? To whom, and from whom, does the apostle therefore need no recommendation (2 Corinthians 3:1)? What letter of recommendation has been provided him (2 Corinthians 3:2)? By Whom (2 Corinthians 3:3)? With what, instead of ink? Upon what, instead of stone? Through whom have we come to have such a ministry (2 Corinthians 3:4)? From whom can we have what it takes for such a ministry (2 Corinthians 3:5)? What (Who!) is the key for such a ministry as this (2 Corinthians 3:6)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we find out what the victorious Christian life and ministry looks like.

It looks, in part, like having a messed up church that sorrowfully hard letters at one moment, and then another letter just to remind them to forgive and to show their love at another.

The victorious Christian life looks, in part, like being somewhere that you know God has opened up for you, but finding that your spirit is so restless that you just have to go elsewhere.

The victorious Christian life looks , in part, like being an aroma of death to people who are perishing and knowing that your choice is either to become a “peddler of the word of God” or to come to terms with the fact that God does nothing wrong by withholding His life-giving Spirit from some who hear us.

The victorious Christian life looks, in part, like having God’s miraculous work in our hearers being a letter of commendation from Him—that those who criticize us don’t care to read.

“Now thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ!

How shall we enjoy this victorious procession through life? By focusing upon Him who opens the doors. Him who spreads through us the fragrance of knowing Him. Him who smells upon us the fragrance of His beloved Son. Him who makes us to “smell like” Himself. Him who makes us smell like life itself to those whom He saves through us. Him from whom we have this ministry. Him in whose sight we have this ministry. Him who allows our hearts to rejoice in what He sometimes does with us through His Spirit. Him who has given us fellowship with Christ in this ministry. Him who is our sufficiency for it!

What is the key to ministry? An all-consuming focus upon Him!
What service has Jesus assigned to you at this point in your life? What is the key to that ministry? By what habits in your life does He foster this all-consuming focus upon Him?
Suggested songs: ARP108A “God, My Heart Is Steadfast” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

2019.02.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 15:1-12

Questions for Littles: Whose territory does this passage describe (Joshua 15:1)? What is their southern boundary? Where does it begin (Joshua 15:2)? What two other bodies of water mark it at the end (Joshua 15:4)? What is its east border (Joshua 15:5)? How far does that go? What land features tend to mark its northern border in Joshua 15:7-8? What topographical features in Joshua 15:9-11? What is its western border (Joshua 15:12)?
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we continue through one of the thickest, most tedious-to-read sections of Joshua.

With what is it so thick? With what is reading it so tedious? With the faithfulness and mercy of God! The faithfulness of God, because God is keeping His promises. In particular, in this section, Judah is the greatest of the tribes, as promised. We are preparing to hear that the scepter ends up in Judah, and that it will not be lost until Shiloh, God-with-us in the Person of Jesus, comes.

But this is also a lesson in the mercy of God, because this faithfulness on God’s part is so very good and wholly undeserved. We can see the goodness in all of the provision that is implied in all of these topographical features. The Salt Sea. The Nile. The Mediterranean. The Jordan. Each of these bodies of water have something unique to offer, whether salt, fish, papyrus, commerce, irrigation, and more.

Then there are the valleys—fertile places where rich soil has been deposited ever since the flood. And the mountains—more varied climates, with important wood and mineral resources, not to mention that excavating and clearing them produces natural strongholds for military purposes.

So, as we simply follow the border around Judah, to the uninitiated 21st century American it sounds like a bunch of irrelevant names for tripping over or slogging down in, as we dutifully plug away through the Bible. But, if we have a good doctrine of Scripture, we know that these words are God-breathed and profitable.

Paying careful attention quickly pays off. This is the tribe that Jesus comes from, and that alone is worth the cost of pushing through this passage. The King is coming! The Savior is on His way! And the immediate context piles up the riches for us. Not every location is one that we know Christ to have visited. But every location is both a reminder that He has been here for us, and a reminder that God’s mercy to His people in those locations extends two thousand years in each direction from Christ.
What are the current boundaries of God’s blessing to you? How does Judah enclose another kind of blessing for you altogether? When/how do you meditate on these goodnesses from God?
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or TPH245 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

2019.02.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Matthew 12:1-8

Questions for Littles: On what day was Jesus going through the grain fields (Matthew 12:1)? Why did His disciples begin to pluck heads of grain to eat (verse 1)? What did the Pharisees claim that the disciples were breaking (Matthew 12:2)? Of whom else’s hunger does Jesus remind them in Matthew 12:3? Why would the priests give that crowd their own bread (Matthew 12:4)? Who worked on the Sabbath according to Matthew 12:5? What made their work lawful? Who is greater than the temple (Matthew 12:6)? What did the Pharisees value more than sacrifice (Matthew 12:7)? What does God value more? Who calls Himself the Lord of the Sabbath in Matthew 12:8? What else does He call Himself in verse 8?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin all came from Matthew 12:1-8. Jesus is going through grain fields on the Sabbath. Based upon His earlier Sabbath movements, it doesn’t surprise us that He is on His way to worship, or mercy ministry, or in this case both. Jesus is perfectly consistent (Matthew 12:9, cf. Luke 4:16).

You know who isn’t consistent? We’re not. And the disciples are often the best examples for that. Except for the suffering and death of Christ, there is one area in which they are pretty consistent, though: sticking to Jesus.

And that’s what the Sabbath is all about. Sticking with Jesus (cf. John 6:68). The disciples weren’t harvesting on the Sabbath; they were gleaning. The Pharisees were wrong about the law. But they were wrong about something more serious, and Jesus points it out: they were wrong about Him.

The disciples were with Jesus, just like David’s friends were with David. Those friends got hungry because they were with the Lord’s anointed, and the priests treated them like their own family. These disciples are hungry because they are with the Lord’s Anointed, capital A, the Messiah, the Son of David. And in order to spend Sabbath with Jesus, whatever is necessary to feed them is righteous.

Then there is work that is necessary to enable people to worship. At one time, that was Levites in the temple. Today, it’s police, firemen, EMTs, and others whose service keeps us safe and free to worship on the Lord’s Day. Temple worship was a great gift in its time, but Lord’s Day worship in Christ is infinitely greater.

How is it that the Pharisees missed the glorious gift that God has given us in Jesus Christ? Jesus says that it’s because they don’t know what is meant by “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” They suffered from the exact same problem as the Jews in Isaiah 58. God didn’t want their misery. He wanted their mercy in response to His mercy!

Oh, dear Christian, what a merciful Lord and Savior we have! What a glorious day the Sabbath is, to spend with Him in worship and mercy. Those other things that make it possible—let’s do them!
How do you spend the Lord’s Day with Jesus? What has to be done to free us up to do so?
Suggested songs: ARP118D “Now Open Wide the Gates” or TPH151 “Lord of the Sabbath, Hear Us Pray”

Monday, February 11, 2019

2019.02.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 4:6-24

Questions for Littles: Who was talking to Cain? What two questions did the Lord ask Cain in Genesis 4:6? What further question did God ask Cain in Genesis 4:7? What is the assumed answer to that question? What did the LORD say lies at the door, if Cain does not do well? What did He say sin desired? What did He say that Cain should do instead? With whom did Cain speak in Genesis 4:8? Where were they in verse 8? What did Cain do? Who talked to Cain again in Genesis 4:9? What did He ask Cain? What was Cain’s first response? Was that true? Secondly, what did Cain ask the Lord? What is his implied answer to that question? What question does the Lord now ask Cain in Genesis 4:10a? What declaration does the Lord make in Genesis 4:10b? What judgment does God pronounce in Genesis 4:11? What does Genesis 4:12 say in explanation of what this curse means? What will Cain have to do, since he will no longer be able to farm successful? Now what complaint does Cain make in Genesis 4:13? What does he put at the center of his complaint in Genesis 4:14? From Whose face did he complain that he would be hidden? What ironic complaint does he make at the end of verse 14—what is he afraid that someone might do to him? What does the LORD say will happen to whomever kills Cain (Genesis 4:15)? What does the LORD do to him so that everyone will know not to kill him? What does Cain do as soon as he goes out from the presence of the LORD (Genesis 4:16-17)? How does this compare to Genesis 4:12? How many wives does Lamech take (Genesis 4:19)? What do their children accomplish (Genesis 4:20-22)? What does Lamech brag about in Genesis 4:23-24?
In the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we saw first, that sin kills the sinner; second, that sin attacks God; third, that sin spurns grace, and fourth, that sin may be disguised in earthly glory.

Sin kills the sinner. Cain was angry at God, but God was trying to help Cain see his true enemy: his sin. Sin desired to dominate him, and what he needed to do was destroy it. Kill it. But, he couldn’t, because he was not hoping in Christ and was not led by the Spirit. He chose the sin that was killing him over the Lord who was being merciful to him.

And sin attacks God. Satan was unable to harm God, so he went after people who are made in the image of God. Satan was the murderer from the beginning, and Cain ended up being his first ultimate victim. Not only does Cain literally commit murder, assaulting God’s image, but then he blames God Himself in verse 9. It was the Lord who was Abel’s keeper, as verse 10 shows (cf. Proverbs 22:22-23). It is because sin is against God that God says, “vengeance is Mine; I will repay.”

Therefore, sin spurns grace. One of the main features of the passage was God’s mercy to Cain. The Lord warns and rebukes him. And the Lord does not immediately destroy him. And the Lord even puts a mark of protection upon him. But every good that the Lord does to him ends up testifying against him, because he does not repent.

Finally, sin may be disguised in earthly glory. Cain builds the first city (in defiance of his punishment!). Lamech is a ladies’ man, who writes hymns to himself. His children are successful farmers, musicians, engineers, and beauty queens.
How are you battling sin? How is God’s patience leading you to repentance?
Suggested Songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness” or TPH130A “Lord, from the Depths to You I Cry!”

Saturday, February 09, 2019

"Evangelism by Way of Recurring Conversation Relationships" - 2019.02.07 Hopewell Herald Pastoral Letter

Dear Congregation,

With great sadness, I read a report this week that a Barna study concluded that approximately half (47%) of “practicing Christian Millennials” agree at least somewhat that “it is wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.” (quoted from the Barna website)

Horrors. We certainly have differing definitions of “practicing Christian”!

If you don’t believe that those who are outside of Christ are going to Hell; or, if you don’t care that people are going to Hell; then, you are not at all a practicing Christian.

Closer (I hope?!) to home, I’m afraid that many of us practicing Christians are yet Christians who are out of practice. When was the last time you told the simple truth that you, like all other humans on earth, are a Hell-deserving sinner who is yet sure of God’s everlasting blessing and favor unto you because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and righteousness for you?

One way that you can prepare to tell the gospel is by establishing “recurring conversation relationships.” Same place. Same time. Maybe every day. Maybe every week. Two or three sentences at a time.

We interact so little now, in our culture, that the briefest of encounters make up a large amount of our social contact. The grocery line (if you don’t self-checkout!). The gas station. The drive-thru. The mailman.

What regular interactions do you have? What more could you have, if you were intentionally cultivating them? You have an opportunity, one encounter at a time, to find out one or two sentences about their life. To think about them and pray for them during the intervening time. To ask them about it next time you see them. To let them know that you are praying for them. To learn when something out of the ordinary occurs. To pray for that. To share your joy over the gospel of Christ, when you have opportunity to say something.

Of course, for this last idea—the sharing of your joy over the gospel—you need to meditate upon that joy and foster it. If you just plan on saying something about the joy of the gospel, that’s not the same as sharing actual joy, is it? In order to share your joy, you need to be rejoicing!

And aren’t we silly that it may take something like being prepared for evangelism to get us to spend time at the beginning of each day cultivating joy in Christ over what He has done for us, and who He is to us? After all, it is this joy, that drives loving Him because He first loved us, which drives serving and obeying Him and not finding it burdensome

We just might find that the development of these habits will be used of God to improve every area of our Christian practice!

Looking forward to our weekly gathering in which we rejoice in Christ by His living Word,


190209FW Genesis 4:6-24 - Getting Killed by Sin or Killing Sin by Grace?

An example of a family worship lesson in Genesis 4:6-24

2019.02.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 4:6-15

Questions for Littles: Who was talking to Cain? What two questions did the Lord ask Cain in Genesis 4:6? What further question did God ask Cain in Genesis 4:7? What is the assumed answer to that question? What did the LORD say lies at the door, if Cain does not do well? What did He say sin desired? What did He say that Cain should do instead? With whom did Cain speak in Genesis 4:8? Where were they in Genesis 4:8? What did Cain do? Who talked to Cain again in Genesis 4:9? What did He ask Cain? What was Cain’s first response? Was that true? Secondly, what did Cain ask the Lord? What is his implied answer to that question? What question does the Lord now ask Cain in Genesis 4:10a? What declaration does the Lord make in Genesis 4:10b? What judgment does God pronounce in Genesis 4:11? What does Genesis 4:12 say in explanation of what this curse means? What will Cain have to do, since he will no longer be able to farm successful? Now what complaint does Cain make in Genesis 4:13? What does he put at the center of his complaint in Genesis 4:14? From Whose face did he complain that he would be hidden? What ironic complaint does he make at the end of Genesis 4:14—what is he afraid that someone might do to him? What does the LORD say will happen to whomever kills Cain (Genesis 4:15)? What does the LORD do to him so that everyone will know not to kill him?
In the Scripture for tomorrow’s sermon, the Lord begins with mercy to Cain. We have noticed that whenever the Lord confronts us with our sin, and with the wicked condition of our hearts, it is a mercy unto us. Here, we can see that mercy not by the good that comes when Cain receives the Lord’s correction, but by the harm that comes when he rejects it. Be killing sin, or it will be killing you. Stomp out your sin, or it will dominate you. That’s the gist of Genesis 4:7 (which helps us understand how dreadful is the curse in Genesis 3:16!).

But Cain rejects the Lord’s warning, kills his brother, showing that while the first Adam has gone on to faith in the last Adam, the first Adam’s son Cain is still dead in his sins in the first Adam. In fact, his response is very similar. First of all, he lies when he says, “I do not know.” Second, he blames God. We do have a duty to defend our neighbor. It is part of “love your neighbor as yourself.” Young men, in particular, ought to be taught this duty. But we are not in the end the keeper of our neighbor. We are not, in the end, even the keepers of ourselves. God is! Cain is saying, “why are You asking me? You’re the One who failed to protect him” (!!!)

But, just like the wicked tend to do, when Cain receives a rather merciful (much less than what he deserved) punishment, he begs for the very protection that he accuses God of having failed to provide Abel—even disingenuously (but accurately!) claiming that the worst part of the punishment was being banished from the face of  the Lord. And the Lord actually grants him that protection. O, the inexplicable mercy of God—even to those who are perishing!
When does the Lord rebuke you? How do you respond? Where can you get help to do so?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths” or TPH130A “Lord, from the Depths to You I Cry!”

Friday, February 08, 2019

190208FW John 8:31-59 - Knowing Our Slavery to Know Our Savior

A very imperfect, but hopefully helpful, example of a family worship lesson in John 8:31-59.

2019.02.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 8:31-59

Questions for Littles: Who is speaking in John 8:31? To which Jews is He speaking? In what did they need to abide? What would this show about them? What would they then know (John 8:32a)? What would the truth that they know do for them? What do they claim about themselves in John 8:33? What are they mad that Jesus said to them? But what slavery was Jesus talking about (John 8:34)? What could a slave not do (John 8:35a)? Who can stay in a house forever (John 8:35b)? Who is it that John 8:36 now says is offering to make us free? How genuine is this freedom? What does Jesus say that He “knows” in John 8:37? What are they seeking to do? Why? What is Jesus speaking (John 8:38a)? What does He say that they are doing (John 8:38b)? Whom do they claim for their father in John 8:39? What does Jesus say that they would have done if they actually were Abraham’s children? But what does Jesus say that they are doing instead (John 8:40)? Now whom do they claim as a Father in John 8:41? What does Jesus say that they would do if God were their Father (John 8:42)? What does Jesus give as the reason that they do not understand Him (John 8:43)? Whom does Jesus now plainly say is their father (John 8:44)? What does he call the devil in the middle of John 8:44? What kind of speech does He point out is the devil’s natural speech? Of what else is the devil a father? What does Jesus give as the reason for their not believing Him (John 8:45)? What does He challenge them to do in John 8:46? What does He give as an explanation for their inability to hear Him (John 8:47)? Now what accusation do they make in John 8:48? Whom does Jesus say their problem truly is with (John 8:49-50)? What does Jesus promise to those who keep His Word (John 8:51)? How do the Jews respond to this (John 8:52-53)? What does Jesus proceed to say about Abraham’s opinion on the matter (John 8:54-56)? What do the Jews challenge back (John 8:57)? What claim does Jesus make in John 8:58? What do they unsuccessfully try to do in John 8:59
In the Gospel reading this week, we have an encounter with Jesus that sets us up nicely for our upcoming sermon in Genesis 4:6-15. Jesus is offering freedom from sin. Freedom from its mastery (whoever commits sin is a slave of sin). Freedom from its consequences (whoever keeps my Word will not taste death). Freedom from its presence (a welcome into the household of the holy God).

But we do well to see how it is that these people—who are identified at the beginning of the reading as those who had believed in Him (!!!)—came to be unsuccessful would-be murderers of him by the end of the passage. They refused to see their sin. They claimed their church membership and family lines (we are children of Abraham!). They claimed a special understanding or relationship with God (we have one Father, even God!).

But these claims were all so that they wouldn’t need to be freed by Jesus. If we are uncomfortable with the idea of desperately needing Jesus and having hope only in Him and not at all in ourselves, then we are in great spiritual danger. God Himself has become a man to save us! It is impossible that there could be salvation in any other way. So, unless we believe that Jesus is the Lord who created heaven and earth and who revealed Himself in the bush, we will most certainly perish in our sins!
Who is Jesus? Why did He have to be fully God and fully man? What does this say about you?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH268 “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”

Thursday, February 07, 2019

190207FW 2Cor 1:23-2:11 - Christ's Stops Satan through Our Fellowship

An imperfect, but hopefully helpful, example of a family worship lesson in 2Corinthians 1:23-2:11

2019.02.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11

Questions for Littles: Whom does the apostle call as witness against his soul (2 Corinthians 1:23)? Why had he stopped coming to Corinth? What did the apostle NOT have (2 Corinthians 1:24a)? With whom did they work? For what? By what did they stand (2 Corinthians 1:24b)? What had the apostle determined within himself (2 Corinthians 2:1)? What did he not want to do to them (2 Corinthians 2:2)? What was he hoping they would do for him? What did he not want to happen when he came (2 Corinthians 2:3)? What ought he have had from them? How did he expect them to respond to his own joy? Out of what had he written to them (2 Corinthians 2:4a)? With what? And what quantity of affliction and anguish? And what quantity of tears? But what was not the purpose of this? And what was the purpose of the writing? Who really was the cause of the grief (2 Corinthians 2:5)? What did the majority do (2 Corinthians 2:6)? What does the apostle tell them to do now in 2 Corinthians 2:7? Why? What does he urge them to do in 2 Corinthians 2:8? What had been another purpose of his previous letter (2 Corinthians 2:9)? And since they had obeyed, what does he say that they he will do if they have done it (2 Corinthians 2:10)? Why—who would like for them not to have forgiven? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we see more of the misunderstanding that had occurred in the Corinthian church, what was the source of it, and what were the dangers of it.

Evidently, there were some who claimed that Paul not having come, but had written a grievous letter instead, was some kind of nastiness on Paul’s part. So, the apostle bares his heart a bit to them—expressing his longing for their joy and how he had hoped (as now has apparently been accomplished) that they would respond to the letter by obedience, so that when they again met in light of the repentance that had come about, this meeting would be one of great joy!

In fact, Paul says that the problem isn’t so much that the letter grieved them or the original offender. The problem is that the sin and rebellion of the offender threatened everyone with the necessary grief of the letter and the even greater possible grief of what would happen if the letter had not been obeyed.

But grief is not in and of itself desirable, and this one had now served its purpose. The congregation had punished the offender, and there had been repentance (cf. chapter 7). Now there is a new danger that threatens their joy: half-hearted reconciliation.

So the apostle is commanding forgiveness and comfort to keep the repentant offender from being over-sorrowful. And there is a command to demonstrate affection so that they not be left open to attacks of Satan, who trades in distancing believers from one another (cf. 1 Peter 5). May the Lord grant us good grief as necessary, and yet restoration of affection and prevention of distancing ourselves from one another, lest Satan successfully attack us!
What measures do you take to make sure that you maintain as close a love and as genuine a joy as possible between you and the other members of the church? Have you ever received a hard letter from or had a hard conversation with someone in spiritual authority over you? Did you obey? Why is it important to obey quickly? Why is it important, when there is repentance and obedience, to reconcile quickly?
Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry Before You Come” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”