Saturday, June 29, 2019

2019.06.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 13

Questions for Littles: Who left from where in Genesis 13:1? To what part of the promised land did they go? What was Abram’s financial condition (Genesis 13:2)? To where did he end up returning (Genesis 13:3)? What was in that place (Genesis 13:4)? What did Abram do there? Who went with Abram (Genesis 13:5)? What did he have? What problem did this create (Genesis 13:6-7)? Who initiates to stop the strife in Genesis 13:8? Who suggests that Lot get the first choice (Genesis 13:9)? What did Lot lift his eyes to see (Genesis 13:10)? What did he choose (Genesis 13:11)? Where did Abram dwell (Genesis 13:12a)? Where did Lot dwell (verse 12b)? Of what problem does Genesis 13:13 inform us? What (whom) does Abram have instead of fertile land (Genesis 13:14a)? What does Yahweh promise him (Genesis 13:14b-Genesis 13:17)? In Genesis 13:18, where does Abram go, and what does he do there? 
It’s one thing to rejoice over God’s gracious gifts to us. But how does the extent to which we cling to those things compare to the extent to which we cling to God? That’s the question that we get answered about Abram in this text. In Egypt, God had increased Abram’s wealth in livestock, silver, and gold. But, He had increased Abram’s wealth in something even more important: repentance from sin and faith toward God.

That’s the point of Genesis 13:4. Abram is back to the faith he had at the first. And Abram is back to the worship that he offered at first. And that’s going to serve him well, because he’s about to have strife with the only family that he has in the world. God’s good blessings cause a spiritual challenge in Genesis 13:6-7, but the stumbling of  Genesis 12:10-20 has receded back into the background. Abram doesn’t need his possessions, so long as he has his God. The Canaanites and Perizzites are still in the land. It’s not land-possession time yet. That’s for Abram’s seed, and he doesn’t yet have any.

So, by his faith in God’s taking care of him and God’s promises to him, Abram is freed to give Lot the choice of the “best” land. Lot makes a terrible choice on many counts. To keep multiplying his possessions, Lot is willing to pitch his tent as far as “exceedingly wicked and sinful” Sodom.

But that’s the lesser half of his folly. Lot’s own sin was enough already to sink him deeper than the grave, even if he never became associated with the people of that city. What he needed was the one in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed. What he needed was Christ. But he was willing to give up staying with Abram in order to feed his flocks better.

What are we willing to give up of our connection with Christ in order to (so we think) maintain or increase our prosperity in this life? How many of us skip personal worship or take a portion of the Lord’s Day for earthly priorities in order to enjoy a little more entertainment or work a little bit more to prosper ourselves? With whom are we willing to associate? What lies and exaggerations are we willing to tell, or truths are we willing to conceal? How much inconvenience is too much to participate more in the life of the church?

It was not technically wrong for Lot to pitch his tent in the Jordan valley. What was wrong was all the decision-making behind it. How often do we ignore the values behind our decision-making while carefully justifying our actions?

On the other side was Abram. It was ok for him to have the browner landscape, because he had God Himself. And he who has God has, literally, everything. Because everything in existence belongs to Him. And everything yet to exist. He makes promises about the future, because that belongs to Him too. Even seemingly impossible promises like innumerable descendants to a man with a barren wife.

But most of all, having God means having God Himself in Christ. Abram’s view of what he has is much greater at the altar in Genesis 13:18 than it was during the tour throughout the land. God has given Himself to sinners at the cost of the blood of a substitute!
What might change in your daily and weekly habits if the Lord Himself is your chief Blessing? 
Suggested Songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion”

Friday, June 28, 2019

2019.06.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 14:8-14

Questions for Littles: Who speaks in John 14:8? What does he ask Jesus to show them? What is the first question that Jesus asks in response (John 14:9)? What is the second? What is the third (John 14:10a)? What is Jesus saying about Himself in all these questions? What does Jesus say about His words? What does He say about His works? What does Jesus command them to believe in John 14:11? What have demonstrated this truth? What does Jesus say will be done by those who believe in Him (John 14:12)? Why will they be able to do this? Whom will they ask in Whose Name (John 14:13-14)? Who will answer this request (verses 13 and 14)? Why will He answer (verse 13)?
Jesus is the full revelation of God. There’s nothing more of God to see than can be seen in Jesus. That’s the point that He makes to Philip.

But it’s not just His words to Philip. Jesus says that His being in the Father and the Father’s being in Him has been the point of all of His words (John 14:10a). He has never spoken anything by Himself. And Jesus’s identity with the Father has also been the point of all of His works (John 14:10b through John 14:11).

Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in Jesus. One of the great points of the gospel has been the revelation of the Trinity.

This is also the point of prayer. We ask God for things in prayer. And Jesus makes it clear in John 14:13 and John 14:14 that we are to ask in His Name. What does this mean?

Well, in the first place, it means that we prioritize Jesus’s priorities. John 14:12 tells us that this means to do greater works than He did in His earthly ministry. But this comes in the context of John 14:10-11, doesn’t it? What was the point of the works? To show that Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in Jesus! The truth of the matter is that by the end of Jesus’s ministry, very few understood or believed that about Him. But through the ministry of the weak apostles, an innumerable multitude would in fact come to understand Jesus that way and believe in Him as God!

The second thing that it means to ask in Jesus’s Name is to believe that Jesus Himself is the One who answers. “I will do it,” Jesus says in John 14:13. Again in John 14:14, Jesus says, “I will do it.” When we ask God in Jesus’s Name, we are expecting that Jesus is the God who answers! This is the ultimate exercise of faith in Jesus as the One who is one with the Father.
Whom do you hope will come to know Jesus as God? How does that shape your praying “in His Name”? Whom are you expecting to answer those prayers?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”

Thursday, June 27, 2019

2019.06.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 13:1-6

Questions for Littles: How many times has Paul been to Corinth (2 Corinthians 13:1)? What does he tell them about resolving the discipline cases that he plans to address? What will he not do, this time around, when he comes (2 Corinthians 13:2)? Of what were they seeking proof (2 Corinthians 13:3)? What did they think about Paul? What should they have thought about Christ instead? What happened to Christ in His weakness (2 Corinthians 13:4)? But what is His condition now? And what is the believer’s condition in this life? But what will their condition be in the future? How? What does the apostle tell them to do in 2 Corinthians 13:5? Of what are they looking for evidence? What would it mean if they don’t find any? What is he sure that they will know (2 Corinthians 13:6)? 
What difference does believing in the power of Christ make?

For one, it means taking sin seriously—both in the church (2 Corinthians 13:1) and in ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:2). The apostle insists that they proceed formally and judicially. Unrepented sin in the church demands formal discipline.

Just as before (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:1-6), the apostle reminds them that Christ has revealed the greatness of His power by what He has done in them (2 Corinthians 13:3-4). And, if He is so powerful, then we must not trifle with Him.

Sadly, there are many who never even consider whether there is evidence of their new life in Christ. If we confess that Christ is powerful, can we really be satisfied with completely unchanged lives?

But we have an apostolic command to assess and test ourselves. Some will speak against this. They think it is some kind of performance assessment. But it’s not performance that we are assessing, but reality. Not “how well are you doing for Christ,” but rather, “is Christ actually in you?”

If we don’t value Christ enough to care about the real answer to that question, then the temptation is to consider the one who calls us to task (or charges us with something before the church) as if they are claiming illegitimate authority. And, to be sure, there are people who really do abuse their authority in the church. But the apostle makes it clear here that there is also legitimate authority in the church—not just his own, but others’: “you will know that we are not illegitimate.”

This, then, is one of the purposes for which the Lord Jesus has established legitimate authority, discipline, and judicial process in His church. Christ is a legitimate Savior, who makes a legitimate difference in those whom He saves, and He wants us to know whether or not we are legitimate Christians!
When and how do you examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith?
Suggested songs: ARP32A-B “What Blessedness” or TPH32B “How Blessed Is He Whose”

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

2019.06.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 6

Read Judges 6
Questions for Littles: What did the children of Israel do in Judges 6:1? How did the Lord respond? What was the oppression of the Midianites and Amalekites like (Judges 6:2-6)? What does the Lord first send in response to Israel’s crying out (Judges 6:7-10)? What was Gideon doing in the winepress and why (Judges 6:11)? Who appeared to him (Judges 6:11-12)? What did He tell Gideon? How does Gideon respond (Judges 6:13)? Whom do Judges 6:14 and Judges 6:16 identify as the Angel of the Lord? How does the Lord answer Gideon’s complaint (Judges 6:14)? And what is Gideon’s response (Judges 6:15)? What is the Lord’s answer to this second complaint (Judges 6:16)? What does Gideon ask for in Judges 6:17? What does he propose to do in Judges 6:18? What does Gideon do in Judges 6:19-20? How does the “Angel” receive the sacrifice (Judges 6:21)? Then what does He do? What does Gideon do when he realizes what has just happened (Judges 6:22)? Of what does the Lord then assure him (Judges 6:23)? What does Gideon finally build in Judges 6:24? What two things does the Lord tell Gideon to tear down in Judges 6:25? What does He tell him to build in Judges 6:26? How many men does Gideon take just to do this (Judges 6:27)? What does he still do out of fear? How do the men of the city respond in the morning (Judges 6:28-30)? Who has to stick up for Gideon against them (Judges 6:31-32)? What does Gideon’s dad say? Who gathered in Judges 6:33? Who came upon Gideon in Judges 6:34? Who gathered to him (Judges 6:34-35)? Even after this, what does Gideon ask in Judges 6:36-37? What does God do (Judges 6:38)? What does Gideon still ask, even after this (Judges 6:39)? What does God do (Judges 6:40)?
“You have not obeyed my voice.” The Lord flat out tells them why all this is coming upon them in Judges 6:10. We would not be out of line to expect total destruction to fall upon them for that.

Instead, the Angel of Yahweh (who also turns out to be Yahweh Himself) shows up to appoint a rather reluctant savior. Gideon’s hospitable, at first, but not believing or worshipful. It isn’t until the Lord consumes the meal with unnatural fire that Gideon realizes that it really is the Lord. By then, it is too late, and Gideon freaks out, because he knows that he deserves to die.

Still, it takes a direct command from Yahweh to get Gideon to tear down false worship and build a true altar to the true God. And even with that, he amasses a little army of men to do it with him, and does it only under cover of night. We find ourselves thinking that God could hardly have chosen a more ill-equipped deliverer for Israel.

Amazingly, the man who was so afraid of men seems rather bold with God. Complaining not once but twice. Demanding a sign not once but twice. It’s quite shocking, really, how bold he is to display that he is not taking God at His Word.

That Word really ought to have been enough. “Surely, I will be with you” (Judges 6:16), and “[My] peace will be with you” (Judges 6:23). What more could one ask for? Well, Gideon asked for more. But, he becomes a Scripture-mirror in which we can see what our own hearts are like when we question God or make demands of Him.

But we are not the only ones (or the main ones) that we see in this Scripture. Behold the patience of God with His unbelieving, unfaithful servant! Since He owes us absolutely nothing, let us be amazed at every extra comfort and assurance that He gives us!
In what situation are you tempted to doubt that God is accomplishing good for you?
Suggested songs: ARP11 “My Trust Is in the Lord” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

2019.06.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 4:1-11

Questions for Littles: Who is just like a slave (Galatians 4:1)? For how long? What is he, really? What does his father appoint until the right time (Galatians 4:2)? What were believers under in Galatians 4:3? What time came that put an end to that (Galatians 4:4)? Whom did God send forth? Of whom was the Son born? Under what was the Son born? Whom was the Son sent to redeem (Galatians 4:5)? That believers might receive what? What did God do to believers because they are sons (Galatians 4:6)? Whose Spirit is sent? Into what is He sent? What does He do there? What are believers, no longer, after the sending of Christ (Galatians 4:7)? What are they now? What did unbelievers do before they were converted (Galatians 4:8)? What changed that (Galatians 4:9a)? To what are they now turning (verse 9b)? What does Galatians 4:10 identify as the “beggarly elements” of verse 9b? What is the apostle afraid might be true, since they have returned to this (Galatians 4:11)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, Confession of Sin, Song of Adoration, and Announcement of the Gospel came from Galatians 4:1-11.

This passage tells us about two ages. The age before Jesus came was the age of observance of a church calendar—one invented by God as a guardian and steward until the time that He would send Jesus. These are the “elementary” things mentioned in Galatians 4:3, the weak and beggarly things of Galatians 4:9, that get called out explicitly in Galatians 4:10.

This earthly/elementary church calendar was replaced, when Jesus came. He had to observe them, just as He had to be born under them (Galatians 4:4). But one big reason for His coming was to get believing Jews out from under this calendar from the law (Galatians 4:5a) and into the superior age of the pouring out of the Spirit (Galatians 4:5b to Galatians 4:6) who makes our hearts to cry out to God as Father.

For a Jew to go back to God’s ceremonial calendar would have been the equivalent of renouncing their inheritance in Christ (Galatians 4:7). It’s even worse for those who have been adopted into God’s family from outside the church altogether (Galatians 4:8-10). Why would those who go from strangers to sons desire to follow relapsing Jews into slavery?

How serious is it that they would go for identifying with a church calendar? The apostle actually declares that he fears that his gospel work among them may have been wasted. Such externals, not belonging to the age of the Son and the Spirit of the Son, are in competition with the reality of the Holy Spirit convincing our hearts of our adoption.
What religious rites has Jesus instituted for the age of the Spirit? What rites are people tempted to observe in addition? With what reality are these in competition?
Suggested songs: ARP103B “Bless the LORD, My Soul” or TPH394 “Eternal Spirit, God of Truth”

Monday, June 24, 2019

2019.06.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:10-20

Questions for Littles: What happened in the land (Genesis 12:10)? What did Abram do? Why? Where was he in Genesis 12:11? To whom did Abram speak? What did he tell her that he knows? Whom did he think would see her (Genesis 12:12)? What did he think they would do to him? What did Abram ask Sarai to do (Genesis 12:13)? What did he hope would happen? Where did Abram arrive in Genesis 12:14? What did the Egyptians see? Which Egyptians saw her in Genesis 12:15? What did they think? Whom did they tell? What happened to her? How did Pharaoh treat Abram (Genesis 12:16)? Why? What did Abram end up possessing? What did Yahweh do to Pharaoh in Genesis 12:17? Because of whom? Of what does verse 17 remind us about Sarai? Whom did Pharaoh call in Genesis 12:18? What does Pharaoh ask him (Genesis 12:18-19)? What does Pharaoh tell Abram to do? What does Pharaoh command his men to do to Abram (Genesis 12:20)?    
Believers fail spectacularly. Based upon God’s promises and Abram’s response, he’s been the most promising offspring of the woman so far. Based upon what Galatians 3 tells us about Abraham as a model of faith, we’ve been set up to expect him to be a hero. But here he is doubting God’s ability to take care of him, leaving the promised land, trusting himself to save his own life when he hadn’t trusted God, leading his wife into lying, and getting lectured by the Egyptian dictator poster boy for wicked men.

In light of all of that, there is something stunningly missing from the text. Any outright criticism of Abram. Amazingly, there are commentators who think that this means that maybe Abram wasn’t wrong to go to Egypt—or even to mastermind the sister-lie. But to miss the greatness of his stumbling is to miss the point of the passage: the “greaterness” of God’s grace!

Look at what God is doing, while the human hero is falling flat on his face. “He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels… Yahweh plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues… So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had.”

God plagues Pharaoh with great plagues and gets Pharaoh to load His people up with the prosperity of Egypt and send them away. Sound familiar? Yes, Abram’s faith is a template for ours, but it is God Himself who is the star of this text, of the whole Bible, and indeed of all history and redemption.

Closer to home, God is the star of your life. He is on record as treating believers according to the worthiness of Christ, not the consistency of their faith. Those who believe in Christ like Abraham believed also stumble spectacularly like Abram stumbled. But this is the nature of grace. In God’s willingness to bless, He has provided Christ, and in His ability to bless He rules and overrules all things for our good. Does this excuse stumbling? Absolutely not! That response is exactly the opposite of repentance and faith. But what it does for the one who stumbles in his repenting and stumbles in his believing is to take his focus off of his stumbling and redirect it back to his gracious God. Dear stumbling believer, let this passage redirect your focus to the God whose grace is for stumbling believers!
How have you stumbled spectacularly? How are you able to keep repenting and believing?
Suggested Songs: ARP182 “Revive Us” or TPH435 “Not What My Hands Have Done”

Saturday, June 22, 2019

2019.06.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:10-20

Questions for Littles: What happened in the land (Genesis 12:10)? What did Abram do? Why? Where was he in Genesis 12:11? To whom did Abram speak? What did he tell her that he knows? Whom did he think would see her (Genesis 12:12)? What did he think they would do to him? What did Abram ask Sarai to do (Genesis 12:13)? What did he hope would happen? Where did Abram arrive in Genesis 12:14? What did the Egyptians see? Which Egyptians saw her in Genesis 12:15? What did they think? Whom did they tell? What happened to her? How did Pharaoh treat Abram (Genesis 12:16)? Why? What did Abram end up possessing? What did Yahweh do to Pharaoh in Genesis 12:17? Because of whom? Of what does verse 17 remind us about Sarai? Whom did Pharaoh call in Genesis 12:18? What does Pharaoh ask him (Genesis 12:18-19)? What does Pharaoh tell Abram to do? What does Pharaoh command his men to do to Abram (Genesis 12:20)?
If Genesis 12:4-9 showed us Abram’s faith, these verses show that he is still flawed.

A moment ago, Abram was believing that Yahweh would give the land of Canaan to his offspring, even though it was humanly impossible for him even to have offspring at that time. Now, he’s not trusting Yahweh to feed him in a severe famine.

A moment ago, Abram was believing that Yahweh would take care of him in a new land. Now, Abram is in another new land, but rather than trusting in Yahweh, he’s hatching a plan not only for himself to lie, but for his wife to tell a lie that would cause him to be an adulterer.

It had to be humiliating for the generation that first received the book of Genesis from Moses’s pen. They had just been delivered from Egypt through the various hardenings of that Pharaoh’s immoral heart. But, here in Genesis 12, they read about a previous Pharaoh having to rebuke Abram. God grant to us to be humble about ourselves and our earthly heroes!

But God also grant to us to be amazed at Him and adore Him. He protects Sarai from committing adultery. He enriches Abram. He humbles Pharaoh. And He does this all while Abram is in in the midst of sin. How powerful and merciful is our God!
In what situations that you have messed up has the Lord done good to you?
Suggested Songs: ARP90A “Lord, You Have Been” or TPH234 “The God of Abram Praise”

Friday, June 21, 2019

2019.06.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 13:36-14:7

Questions for Littles: To whom does Peter speak in John 13:36? What does he ask Him? Does Jesus tell Peter where He is going? What does Jesus say that Peter cannot do now? What does Jesus say that Peter will do afterward? What does Peter ask in John 13:37? What does he announce? What does Jesus ask in John 13:38? What does Jesus announce—what will happen before a rooster crows? What does Jesus say immediately after verse 38 (John 14:1). In Whom does Jesus tell them to believe? In Whom else? Where does Jesus tell them there are many rooms (John 14:2)? Why is Jesus going there? What will Jesus do later (John 14:3)? Why? What two things does Jesus say that they know in John 14:4? Who says that they do not know either of these things (John 14:5)? What does Jesus say is the Way to where He is going (John 14:6)? What does Jesus say is the Truth about where He is going? What does Jesus say is the life by which they may follow to where He is going? When does Jesus say that they know the Father and have seen the Father (John 14:7)?
This passage sounds like it is about a place. It’s a “where” question: “Lord, where are You going?” But this question doesn’t have just one “Who” answer, but two “Who” answers.

The first “Who” answer is Jesus’s Father. Peter, and all disciples, are entirely unreliable. They will abandon Jesus tonight. But His Father has never abandoned Him. Even before Jesus became a man, from all eternity, the Father and the Son have lived in mutual love. This is what is going to make the cross so devastating!

But the love of the Father and the Son for One Another doesn’t stop with them. The Father’s house doesn’t have one dwelling place but many. And, Jesus’s ultimate goal isn’t just to be with the Father. It’s to have the disciples with Him with the Father. Jesus is the second “Who” answer to the where question.

Thomas is pretty amazing. Jesus has just finished saying that they know both where He is going (the Father) and the way to get there (Jesus Himself) (John 14:4). Then, Thomas instantly says exactly the opposite of what Jesus says (John 14:5). This is what leads to one of the most memorized verses in Scripture.

But this verse is saying even more than “believing in Jesus is how to get to heaven.” Rather, it is saying that the Father is heaven. And Jesus is heaven. And Jesus is the way to the Father. Because Jesus and the Father are One. So, those who have Jesus do not have to wait until glory to have heaven. They have begun already to have their heaven!

No one has seen God at any time. Jesus, the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father—He has fully revealed Him (John 1:14)!
How can you have heaven now? In what moments do you most experience this?
Suggested songs: ARP157 “Immortality & Resurrection” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”

Thursday, June 20, 2019

2019.06.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 12:11-21

Questions for Littles: What does the apostle say he has become in 2 Corinthians 12:11? Who has commended him? Who should have commended him? Whom was the apostle not at all inferior to? But what does he call himself? What had he performed among them in 2 Corinthians 12:12? What were the signs of an apostle? What did the apostle fail to do to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12:13)? What is he hoping to do now (2 Corinthians 12:14)? What does he not what? What does he want instead? How does he describe his relationship with them? What is he willing to do for them (2 Corinthians 12:15)? How have the Corinthians responded to all the things that the apostle has done for them in love? What did he not do to them (2 Corinthians 12:16)? But what did the apostle do to them? What did neither he nor Titus nor the unnamed brother (Luke?) do to them (2 Corinthians 12:17-18)? But Whose opinion of the apostle is much more important than the Corinthians’ opinion (2 Corinthians 12:19)? What does he call them at the end of verse 19? At what is he aiming in all things? What does he fear (2 Corinthians 12:20)? What kinds of things is he hoping there will not be? Who would be humiliated by this (2 Corinthians 12:21)? Over whom would the apostle mourn?
Love. True love. That’s what this passage is about.

The apostle has been badly treated, but his goal is not to be treated well or thought of well. True love cares about others’ good even more than for others to feel good about them. He doesn’t want anything from them. He wants the wellbeing of them themselves.

True love doesn’t begrudge service. There are many who serve tirelessly, and the apostle does spend and be spent. But he doesn’t just serve tirelessly. He serves gladly. True love is glad to spend and be spent, even if he isn’t recognized by anyone but the Lord.

True love doesn’t just want its dear ones to receive good. It wants them to do good. What the apostle fears most for them is not that they would have hardship, but rather that they would be sinful. Contentious. Jealous. Wrathful. Selfishly ambitious. Gossipers. Conceited.

But we sin. What can true love do for us then? Well, the true love of the apostle really has its start as the true love of God (2 Corinthians 12:21). And God’s true love, and the apostle’s true love, aims at the Corinthians’ repentance. That’s what true love really wants: to see its dear ones turn away from sin!
Who truly loves you? What do they want for you? Whom do you truly love?
Suggested songs: ARP32A-B “What Blessedness” or TPH32B “How Blessed Is He Whose Trespass”

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

2019.06.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 5

Read Judges 5
Questions for Littles: Who are singing in Judges 5:1? In the song, who was leading Israel in Judges 5:2? What did the people do? Who gets the praise for this? To whom is Judges 5:3 addressed? What are they supposed to listen to? Whose vigorous action is described in Judges 5:4-5? What was life in Israel like in Judges 5:6-7? How had Israel responded (Judges 5:8)? What other verse does Judges 5:9 sound like? What do Judges 5:10-12 say to do about the righteous acts of Yahweh? What details of the battle are given in Judges 5:13-23? Who is blessed in Judges 5:24-27? Who is mocked in Judges 5:28-30? Who must perish (Judges 5:31)? What will happen to those who love God? 
Israel learns to sing about the Lord’s righteous acts in this passage. The song starts off with a very vigorous description of the action of Yahweh in Judges 5:4-5. He’s not just going to battle. He’s ruling and shaking heaven and earth. He’s not just the “God of Israel.” He is “Sinai”—referring to when He burned and shook the mountain.

Israel was a mixed bag. It’s ironic that Barak would get to sing about leaders willingly leading, since he was such a coward. But, Ephraim, Machir, Zebulun, Issachar, and Naphtali did alright for their part. On the other hand, Reuben thought hard about helping, but decided to stay home with the flocks. Dan and Asher were too busy with their business on ships and the coast.

When the battle details themselves surface in the song, it sets us up for a big comparison/contrast of two women. Jael, Mrs. Heber, is the most blessed among women. The description of her execution of Sisera is a slow motion, blow-by-blow, hero story. Jael is contrasted with the mother of Sisera. Mommy is waiting by the window trying to figure out why it’s taking him so long to come home from what was supposed to be a light day of mopping up Israelites.

What is it that produces such a contrast? Judges 5:31 give us the answer. The Lord takes sides. But having the Lord on your side doesn’t just turn you into a tent peg wielding assassin. That was kind of specific to Jael. But when verse 31 generalizes, it gives us a different single symptom of Yahweh befriending someone: He makes that person to love Him. And that’s just the beginning. Once He starts the work, it’s like the early dawn sunrise: it is the guarantee of a love for God that will surely reach full strength!
Where does love for God come from? Then how can you get more?
Suggested songs: ARP32A-B “What Blessedness” or TPH428 “Tis Not I That Did Choose Thee”

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

2019.06.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 6:1-7

Questions for Littles: In what year did Isaiah see this (Isaiah 6:1)? Whom did he see? Where? What filled the temple? Who stood above the throne (Isaiah 6:2)? How many wings did each have? What did each do with those wings? What did they cry to one another (Isaiah 6:3)? By what were the door posts shaken (Isaiah 6:4)? With what was the temple filled? What did Isaiah say about himself (Isaiah 6:5)? What were his lips like? What had his eyes done? What did one of the seraphim do in Isaiah 6:6? What did he have to use to take the coal from the altar? To what did he touch it (Isaiah 6:7)? What did he say had been done when the coal touched Isaiah’s lips? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, Confession of Sin, Song of Adoration, and Announcement of the Gospel came from Isaiah 6:1-7. This is a familiar passage about the great glory of God. Uzziah had been king for more than fifty years, but he was not the great king. The Lord is not only high, but higher than high: high and lifted up. So great is His glory, that the temple is not even standing-room-only. It is no-room-for-anyone-to-stand. You mayn’t step upon the King’s robe, and the train of His robe fills the temple!

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

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

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

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

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

There is a very important passage in John 12, where John 12:40 quotes Isaiah 6:10 of this chapter, and then says about Jesus in John 12:41, “These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” Who is the Him? Yahweh of hosts (Isaiah 6:3). Here’s yet another declaration by Scripture that Jesus is Jehovah, the Christ is Yahweh Himself!

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

Monday, June 17, 2019

2019.06.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:4-9

Questions for Littles: What did Abram do at the beginning of Genesis 12:4? Why? Who went with him? How old was he? From where did he depart? Who and what else did Abram take (Genesis 12:5)? To where did they come? Through what land did Abram pass (Genesis 12:6)? To what place? As far as what object? Who were then in the land? Who appeared to Abram in Genesis 12:7? What did He say? How did Abram respond? To which mountain did he then move (Genesis 12:8)? What did he build there? What did he do with it? What was Abram doing in Genesis 12:9? In what direction?    
Joshua 24:2 tells us where Abraham came from, not only physically but spiritually. Before this chapter, he was serving other gods. So, what happens in Genesis 12:4-9 isn’t just good. It’s literally miraculous. Faith like this doesn’t come from the heart of a lost idolater. It takes divine power.

Of course, that’s another problem. Sinners don’t deserve for divine power to help them. Sinners deserve for divine power to destroy them.

But verses 4-9 tell us that Abram obeyed Yahweh’s words. That he was in Canaan but not of Canaan. That worship was suddenly his top priority.

That’s grace. A completely undeserved and impossible turnaround. Blessing for someone who deserves only curse. Spiritual life for someone who only has death from himself.

It was grace that produced obedience. As Genesis 12:5 implies, there would have been a lot of logistics involved in Abram’s move. But, the primary thing Genesis 12:4 tells us is that the move was “as Yahweh had spoken to him.” God grant us the grace to have our choices ruled instantly, completely by His Word.

It was grace that strengthened Abram to resist the pressure to be like the world around him. He even targets “the oak of the teacher” in Genesis 12:6. The Canaanites were then in the land, and at a place that would have been important to their religion, Abram sets up an altar and worships Yahweh. God grant us the grace to serve Him in exactly those parts of life where the world around us offends Him most.

It was grace that made worship Abram’s top priority. What did Abram do in Shechem? A lot of things, but the only one that Genesis 12:7 tells us about is that he worships in response to God’s promise of something impossible—that the seed of a man who has no seed will inherit the land. What did Abram do between Bethel and Ai? Obviously much more than just “pitch a tent,” but the only thing that Genesis 12:8 tells us is that he worships. The main thing in Abram’s life has become worship. God grant us the grace to make worshiping Him the main thing in our life, regardless of what all the other things are.
What are some changes that you would make if you decided to “tear off the bandaid” and obey God instantly on things that you’ve been sluggish or slow to do thus far? What would your day look like if worship was the highest priority? What would your week look like?
Suggested Songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion”

Saturday, June 15, 2019

2019.06.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:4-9

Questions for Littles: What did Abram do at the beginning of Genesis 12:4? Why? Who went with him? How old was he? From where did he depart? Who and what else did Abram take (Genesis 12:5)? To where did they come? Through what land did Abram pass (Genesis 12:6)? To what place? As far as what object? Who were then in the land? Who appeared to Abram in Genesis 12:7? What did He say? How did Abram respond? To which mountain did he then move (Genesis 12:8)? What did he build there? What did he do with it? What was Abram doing in Genesis 12:9? In what direction?
So often, when studying Scripture, there arises a “what” question with a “Who” answer. The Lord Himself is so often the power upon Whom something rests or the purpose for Whom something is done, or the actual pleasure in Whom we are to delight. And the Bible constantly reorients us toward Him.

Well, that’s exactly the word for us in Genesis 12:4-9. In the first three verses, Scripture reorients our focus, as we look for the serpent-crushing Seed, to center upon Abram and his family. Now, in these next six verses, following Abram reorients our attention unto the Lord with “where” questions that have “Whom” answers. We have known since Genesis 12:1 that the Lord Himself is the real answer to the question of where Abram is going—“the place that I will show you.” Now we find that the Lord Himself is the primary feature of every place that Abram goes.

Genesis 12:4 begins to highlight this by saying, “as Yahweh had spoken to him.” Genesis 12:5-6 are logistics that keep us moving: map history from Abram’s navigation software. But the distinguishing landmark by which we know that he arrives is “Then Yahweh appeared to Abram.” The Scripture tells us one thing about this appearance: that Yahweh promised the land to Abram.

In the ordinary course of the history, we would expect, “and there Abram pitched his tent.” But this is no ordinary man, and this is no ordinary history. Abram knew the reality that the Holy Spirit would later carry his descendant Moses to write in Psalm 90, “Yahweh, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” Instead of “there he pitched his tent, we have “there he built an altar to Yahweh, who had appeared to Him.”

To be sure, there is tent-pitching. Genesis 12:8 tells us that Abram moved to the mountain between Bethel and Ai and pitched his tent. But in the course of this account, verse 8 serves to show that wherever there is tent-pitching for Abram, there is also altar-building and Yahweh-worshiping. And not just personal worship. Look at all those people in Genesis 12:5. This is family worship! At this point in the history, one might even call it corporate worship.

There is a picture for us here in the story of our own lives. Tents are temporary, mobile structures. They go along with Abram. What he leaves behind as he “journeys” is a string of altars. Our dwelling is temporary (regardless of felt-permanence). The Lord’s worship is permanent (regardless of felt-brevity). It’s not just that our lives are all about Him. Rather, our lives are all about recognizing and responding to the reality that all of everything is always about Him! “Yahweh, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.”
What does the consistency of your personal/family worship say about how your life is oriented?
Suggested Songs: ARP90A “Lord, You Have Been” or TPH234 “The God of Abram Praise”

Friday, June 14, 2019

2019.06.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 13:31-35

Questions for Littles: What has Judas just done at the beginning of John 13:31? What does Jesus say is now happening to Him? What does He say is done unto God through Him? Since God is glorified in Christ, what will God do for Christ (John 13:32)? When? What does Jesus call them in John 13:33? What does He tell them will only be happening for a little while longer? What had Jesus told the Jews? To whom does He now say it? In John 13:34, what does His imminent departure become the occasion for commanding? What will people know when they see the apostles keeping this commandment (John 13:35)
It’s difficult to be left behind, even when you know that your dear one is only gone temporarily and only for a great reason. We’ve just celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Wives who waited for husbands to return longed to receive that embrace, to return that eagerly planted kiss. As they did so, everyone at the port would know that was her husband, and she is his wife.

There’s something similar going on here between Christ and His disciples. He’s about to leave for the best of reasons. The most God-glorifying event in history—redemption of sinners through the blood-atonement and wrath-enduring of Jesus—is about to take place. “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”

And then God is about to respond by seating a Man on the very throne of heaven. “If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.”

There will not be centuries and millennia of waiting before Jesus sits on the throne. There will, however, be millennia of waiting before the disciples can throw their arms around Him—before they can publicly and physically reciprocate His love. People won’t be able to observe them with (for instance) head placed upon His chest to say, “Aha! This one is His disciple!”

To be sure, there is a very close love between them. That’s what He means when He calls them “little children”—something that John later picks up in addressing those whom he pastors in his letters. But these dear ones won’t be able to be with Jesus to display their affection. “Where I am going, you cannot come.”

So Jesus gives them the New Commandment. The commandment that this particular apostle will later call “the new commandment that is not really new, but that we [the New Testament church] have had from the beginning [the night Jesus was betrayed!]” (cf. 1 John 2:1-11). “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Note the form of this “new” commandment is not so much in the form of the Ten Commandments as it is in the form of the two greatest commandments. Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love one another as I have loved you. In the context, we can see Whom it is that we are really loving when we do so. Christ Himself.

During the time of His absence, the Lord Jesus receives as personally done unto Him whatever is done to His church. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” (Acts 9:4, Acts 22:7). So, when we take an affectionate interest in one another, sacrificially serve one another, warmly greet one another, etc., we are making public displays of affection. For Christ. And all can see Whom it is that we love. Whom it is that we follow. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

More importantly to us, Christ knows it. Christ receives it personally. Whatever you do to the least of these His brethren (Matthew 25:40), He receives as done unto Him. One day, we will have glorified bodies in which to wait upon, serve, and dote upon our Redeemer. Until then, we may focus upon loving Him in our loving of one another.
What opportunities do you currently have in your own congregation to show love to Jesus?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Thursday, June 13, 2019

2019.06.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 12:1-10

Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
Questions for Littles: What does the apostle say is not profitable (2 Corinthians 12:1)? Whom does he say he knows (2 Corinthians 12:2)? To where was this man caught up? What is not even known about his trip (2 Corinthians 12:3)? What kind of place was it (2 Corinthians 12:4)? What kinds of things were said there? Of whom would the apostle boast (2 Corinthians 12:5)? Of whom would he not boast? What would the apostle be speaking if he did boast (2 Corinthians 12:6)? But why would the apostle still not boast? What was the thorn in the flesh to prevent from happening (2 Corinthians 12:7)? Whom do we discover, in verse 7, had been the one to whom was given the revelations from 2 Corinthians 12:2-4? Whose messenger was the thorn? What did it do to the apostle? What was the apostle’s response (2 Corinthians 12:8)? How many times? How did the Lord respond in 2 Corinthians 12:9? In what, then, did the apostle decide to boast? What, then, would rest upon him? What five things does he specifically name as giving him pleasure in 2 Corinthians 12:10? For Whose sake? When is the apostle strong?
It’s kind of a strange thing to place extra emphasis upon, by an unnecessary repetition: “whether in the body or out of the body I do not know.” The point seems to be that the apostle is so far from deserving credit for the revelation that he experienced that he does not even know in what manner he was there or received it. So, there is much praise due unto God and His amazing work, but none at all to the powerless man upon whom or through whom that work is done.

That’s a tough lesson to learn. Sometimes, we’re frustrated with ourselves that we might learn something reading the Bible, but discover that we haven’t really learned it, when the very thing that we had resolved against on our knees, comes right out of our hearts as soon as we stand up on our feet.

But our God is not surprised. Our Heavenly Father knows our weakness and gives us what we need to. Whether that painful, temporary discipline to produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness and requisite holiness (cf. Hebrews 12:3-11). Or that thorn in the flesh to keep even his apostle humble. If the one whose mind and pen the Holy Spirit used to write the Scripture needed suffering to train the character of his soul, why would we think that merely reading that Scripture would be enough for us?

The Lord knows the suffering that we need. We might hate it because it exposes our weakness, but isn’t that exactly the point, according to our Scripture today? One of the great reasons for our suffering is for us to be reminded of and feel our weakness. It is in our weakness that the Lord’s strength fulfills one of its great aims: to be displayed in us, because it is our only true source of true strength. God’s sufficient grace, after all, is not only blessing for those who deserve only curse, but also strength for those who have only weakness.

And what strength it is! Don’t we say, “how strong!” when we see someone who can take pleasure in infirmities? Pleasure in reproaches? Pleasure in needs? Pleasure in persecutions? Pleasure in distresses?

But that’s what we say in response to our own infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions, and distresses. They force us to look away from ourselves and to Christ instead. And, looking to Him, we say, “how strong!”
What opportunities (weakness) is your life currently presenting you to look to Christ and say, “how strong!” How will you be reminding yourself to take that opportunity?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH435 “Not What My Have Done”

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

2019.06.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 4

Read Judges 4
Questions for Littles: What has just happened (Judges 4:1)? What did the children of Israel do again? What did Yahweh do again (Judges 4:2a)? Into whose hands? Who was the commander of their army? What did Israel do again in Judges 4:3? Why? Who was doing the work of judging Israel (Judges 4:4)? What was her actual role? But for what were the children of Israel coming to her (Judges 4:5)? Whom did she call in Judges 4:6? Who had commanded Barak to do what? Whom else was Yahweh going to bring to Mount Tabor and for what purpose (Judges 4:7)? How does Barak answer (Judges 4:8)? How does Deborah answer such cowardice (Judges 4:9)? Where does Barak take the ten thousand men, and Deborah (Judges 4:10)? Who else was there (Judges 4:11)? Whom does Yahweh bring there (Judges 4:12)? With what and whom (Judges 4:13)? Who ends up having to give the command to attack (Judges 4:14)? Who wins the battle (Judges 4:15)? What does Barak do, when he sees how things are going (Judges 4:16)? But where does Sisera go (Judges 4:17)? Who else is there? Whom does she go out to meet (Judges 4:18)? What does she say to him? What does she do for him Judges 4:19-20? Why can’t Sisera see her coming? What does she do (Judges 4:21)? Whom does she go out to meet now (Judges 4:22)? What does she tell him and show him? What had God done by all of this (Judges 4:23-24)?
Israel is still being Israel—wicked. And Yahweh is still being Yahweh—patiently, compassionately delivering. And that is exactly why Barak’s laziness (not judging, so that a prophetess had to take up that task) and cowardice (refusing to go up to the battle unless security-blanket-Deborah came along with him) is so offensive. Because it is the Lord Himself who delivers. When the Lord is the One who is always accomplishing His saving plan, we all ought to have courage and diligence to fulfill whatever roll He has given us.

We can see, explicitly and implicitly, that the Lord is the One who delivers. Explicitly, the Lord says that He is the One who will deploy even Jabin’s army commander (Judges 4:7). The Lord says that He is the One who will give Sisera into Barak’s hand (verse 7). Judges 4:9 says that the Lord is the One who will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. Judges 4:14 says the Lord is the One who has delivered Sisera. The Lord is the one who has gone out before Barak (verse 14). The Lord is the one who routes Sisera in Judges 4:15. God is the one who subdued Jabin, king of Canaan (Judges 4:23).

Even implicitly, there’s that bit of trivia way back in Judges 4:11 about the relocation of a Kenite loner. He took off on his own and “pitched his tent.” Kenites were metalworkers, and there’s a possible implication here of what kind of pegs were used in this tent-pitching. But whether metal or wood, this tent-pitching would eventually become pretty important. If a peg can hold down a tent on the windy slopes of Tabor, it can surely be used to play a rousing game of “pin the Hazorite commander's head to the dirt.”

Sure, Heber the Kenite probably just thought he was increasing his real-estate holdings all those years ago, but at the very same time, Yahweh was putting all the pieces in place to deliver Israel. 900 iron chariots is nothing against one Hebrew gal with a peg and a hammer. And the Living God.

This is the problem in all of our anxiety and all of our laziness. It is God’s ability to handle the situation that we are really doubting. It is God’s assignment to us that we are really shirking. If we are lacking in faith or zeal, we will find near the root of our rebellion a rather small view of God Himself. God forgive us! May the Lord increase our confidence in His sovereign power, wise planning, and loving purpose!
Where do we get big views of God? What are your daily and weekly habits for obtaining them?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH539 “Am I a Soldier?”

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

2019.06.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

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 (verse 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?  
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. In this passage, 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 TPH209 “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright”

Monday, June 10, 2019

2019.06.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:1-3

Questions for Littles: Who is speaking to whom in Genesis 12:1? From where does He tell Abram to leave? Whom does He tell him to leave? What does He tell him to leave? To where does He tell him to go? Into what does Yahweh promise to make him (Genesis 12:2)? What does He promise to do to him? What does He promise to do to Abram’s name? What does He promise to do through Abram? Whom does Yahweh promise to bless (Genesis 12:3)? Whom does He promise to curse? Which families of the earth will find their blessing in him?    
Yahweh tells Abram to lose everything. Humanity had been divided, and each had his identity in his country, family, and father’s household—a term that described a community structure rather than a physical building structure. And the Lord says, “Get out from all of these.”

Where is Abram to go? The Lord doesn’t even say. He only says, “A land that I will show you.” The Lord has selected it. The Lord will be there. The Lord will be the One to show it to him. That’s all Abram needs to know. There’s no destination address for him to put into his GPS. There’s only the knowledge that the mind and the voice that lead him there are those of the Lord Himself, and the destination is more person than place. The Lord Himself is the only true blessedness.

Of course, if the Lord is all of Abram’s blessedness, then the Lord’s means are the only means of blessedness. After all, God alone can give Himself. There is nothing the creature can do to manipulate or control the Creator. We cannot give God to ourselves or to anyone else. God alone can give Himself. And so we can only receive Him in the way that He chooses to give Himself. Faith—dependence upon God is the only way to receive Him.

Therefore, obedience must be how faith is expressed. Doing what we please, or what we think will work, is the very opposite of dependence upon the Lord. If something else is our blessedness—a particular feeling, state of mind, “success” in life, possession, status, etc.—then our own ideas about God and spiritual life and admirable living may get us there. But if the Lord Himself is our blessedness, then only the Lord can determine how we get there.

This is why the first act of obedience is actually not an act at all. It is passive. It is to rely upon Christ and what He has done instead of upon anything that we do. We can see that in our text too. God doesn’t just promise to bless Abram. He makes Abram himself a blessing, the one means by whom all the families of the earth will be blessed. Abram—by being the one through whom the Christ comes—is the only true means of blessedness.

How wonderful is the mercy of God! Every family on earth deserves the flood treatment. But now, through Abram, every family on earth will be receiving the ark treatment instead. No family will be excluded. Yet, it is precisely the fact that the blessing will come through Abram that means that not everyone will be saved.

Those that embraced the ark were blessed in the flood. Those that rejected the ark were cursed in the flood. Those that bless Abram as father in the faith are blessed. Those that reject him are cursed. Those that rejoice over the day of Abram’s seed, Jesus, just as Abram rejoiced, are blessed; those who reject Christ are cursed (cf. John 8:54-58, John 3:36). Through Abram, in Jesus, there is blessing for all families of the earth without discrimination, but not without exception. All who fail to embrace Christ will perish.

All of this to a surprising end. Man had desired to make a name for himself (Genesis 11:4), even though only the name of God is worthy of all glory and honor and praise! God had demonstrated this spectacularly at Babel. But now God turns around and proposes to do for Abram that of which Abram is totally unworthy. That which would be the height of wickedness for Abram to seek for himself. God Himself promises to make Abram’s name great. And God includes all who bless Abram in this promise. By the time Jesus has done what is required to obtain blessing for those who deserve only curse, He will have secured for Himself that Name that is above every name. That Name at which every knee in heaven and earth bows. That Name at which every tongue in heaven and earth confesses that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. And, gloriously, that Name which He has put upon us. The greatest name anyone, from any family of the earth can have, is “Christian.” God gives the greatest possible Name to those who deserve to have no good name at all!
What does this passage hold before you as the true blessedness? What else seems to compete with this in your heart—what do you find yourself seeking as your great blessing?
Suggested Songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion”

Saturday, June 08, 2019

2019.06.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:1-3

Questions for Littles: Who is speaking to whom in Genesis 12:1? From where does He tell Abram to leave? Whom does He tell him to leave? What does He tell him to leave? To where does He tell him to go? Into what does Yahweh promise to make him (Genesis 12:2)? What does He promise to do to him? What does He promise to do to Abram’s name? What does He promise to do through Abram? Whom does Yahweh promise to bless (Genesis 12:3)? Whom does He promise to curse? Which families of the earth will find their blessing in him?
This blessing is an extraordinary explosion of grace. There is no evident reason for God’s choosing to show it. As we recently heard from Joshua 24, Terah and Abram and Nahor were idolaters in Ur of the Chaldeans. In fact, the only distinguishing characteristic of Abram so far is that he hasn’t begotten anybody. Everyone else has, but Abram’s wife is barren.

Well, Abram’s qualifications may be small—non-existent, really. But the promise itself is massive. It’s one thing to have a promise that starts out with making him into a great nation. It’s a whole other level to promise that he will be the one through whom all the families of the earth will find their blessing.

Of course, this too is a reminder that God is selective. For, it’s not every last member of every family on earth that will be blessed. Genesis 12:3 plainly says that some will be cursed. In fact, up to this very day in history, the vast majority have fallen  into the “cursed” category. For, they have indeed rejected great Abram’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Many, indeed, of his own descendants according to the flesh have done so. That’s not new. The apostle wrestled with that reality in Romans 9-11.

So, God’s unmerited, totally gracious, totally free election is on spectacular display in bringing only some to faith in Jesus And, this same unmerited, gracious, freely electing love is on spectacular display in choosing Abram to be the one through whom the Lord brings Jesus into the world.

But what is it to which they (and we, if we are believers) have been elected? Primarily to lose everything else in order to have the Lord Himself. To count the Lord as more than everything else put together.

Abram is told to leave country. To leave family. To leave the established foundation and heritage of his father’s house. To lose his inheritance. To go where? “The land that I will show you.” That’s not even a place! It’s not so much a destination as it is a location in the presence of a Person.

Of course, the promises include regaining what is lost many times over, but those things are not to be immediately obtained. At first, all Abram will have is the Lord Himself. Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. That’s what He was called to then. That’s what believers have been called to ever since. That’s what you are called to now.
What have you lost for Christ? What have you gained? Whose idea was this to begin with?
Suggested Songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH234 “The God of Abram Praise”

Friday, June 07, 2019

2019.06.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 13:18-30

Questions for Littles: Has Jesus been saying that all His disciples were clean (John 13:18)? What does He say that He knows—how had they come to be clean? What does Jesus say must be fulfilled from Psalm 41:9? When is He telling them about His betrayal (John 13:19)? Why did He tell them this—what will it accomplish, when it comes about? Whom does Jesus say someone receives, if he receives one of His apostles (John 13:20)? Whom else do they receive? What does Jesus say more plainly in John 13:21? What do the disciples do to one another in John 13:22? About what are they perplexed? What was one of the disciples doing in John 13:23? Who tells that disciple to ask (John 13:24)? In what posture is John, when he asks (John 13:25)? Whom does Jesus say the betrayer is in John 13:26a? To whom does He give the bread (verse 26b)? Who enters Judas at that point (John 13:27a)? What does Jesus say to him (verse 27b)? What did the disciples (amazingly) still not know in John 13:28? What did some of them think Jesus was telling Judas to do (John 13:29)? What did Judas do (John 13:30)? When? With what comment does verse 30 end?
It’s a good thing that the Lord Jesus is in total control, because the disciples are pretty clueless, and none of us has good reason to think that we would have fared better.

Jesus is in control of whom He makes clean. He knows whom He has chosen (John 13:18).

Jesus is in control of who betrays him. He literally gives the bread in John 13:26 to fulfill the quotation of Psalm 41:9 in verse 18.

Jesus is even sovereign over Satan, who apparently has to wait for the cue in John 13:27.

Jesus is in control of the timing, as He shows by the command of verse 27.

He had said earlier that “the night comes when no one can work” (John 9:4). But Jesus is doing some of His best work, “and it was night” (John 13:30).

The disciples? They’re perplexed (John 13:22). Even the one literally laying his head on Jesus’s chest doesn’t seem to get it. At least Peter realized that he’d filled his “speaking out of turn” quota for the moment (cf. John 13:6John 13:8, and John 13:9). But, he would certainly pick it up soon. Then, when Jesus had just told them that He was identifying Judas as the betrayer, they thought that maybe he was leaving on some important diaconal mission.

For our part, we can be thankful that Jesus is in control. No one takes His life from Him. He lays it down of His own accord. He has authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. And, He knows exactly for whom He lays it down: His sheep.
How does it help you to know that Jesus is in control of your spiritual life?
What other situations in life right now are you most glad that He is in control?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH280 “Wondrous King, All Glorious”

Thursday, June 06, 2019

2019.06.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 11:16-33

Questions for Littles: What does the apostle think of boasting (2 Corinthians 11:16)? What action on the apostle’s part is not part of “imitate me as I imitate Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:17)? According to what do many boast (2 Corinthians 11:18)? And who has been putting up with them (2 Corinthians 11:19)? But into what are those boasters bringing the Corinthians who listen to them (2 Corinthians 11:20)? What are they bold to do the Corinthians? Who hadn’t been bold enough in the past (2 Corinthians 11:21a)? How will he be now (verse 21b)? What credentials does the apostle present in 2 Corinthians 11:22? What counter-intuitive credentials in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27? What is a trial to him on top of all of these (2 Corinthians 11:28)? What happens in the churches that bothers him so much (2 Corinthians 11:29)? What does the apostle boast about (2 Corinthians 11:30)? Whom does he call as a witness in 2 Corinthians 11:31? What additional detail do we learn about the escape from Damascus in 2 Corinthians 11:32? How had Paul escaped (2 Corinthians 11:33)?
If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then boasting is the epitome of folly. You’d have to be a Nimrod to think highly of yourself before the face of Yahweh.

But the Corinthians had been visited by Nimrods-a-plenty, and they had liked it. They were eating up the teaching of the visiting “super-apostles” that were bringing them into the bondage of indulging in sin (cf. Romans 6:16). These fancy preachers were very costly to keep around, arrogant about themselves, abusive to the Corinthians—and such is the way of the proud. Who would want to be like them?

Well… the Corinthians, apparently. You can see a mirror-opposite to their “your best life now” message in Paul’s “boasting.” Yes, he has been given many providential privileges (cf. the list in 2 Corinthians 11:22). But, the story of his true apostleship has been mostly “your best life later” and “how to make enemies and irritate people (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Yet, rather than treat others badly, he valued them so much that their spiritual condition was a bigger concern to the apostle than all of his own genuinely pressing earthly concerns.

The success story of a believer is not so much that he lives a valiant life, but rather that he rests in, and is devoted to, a valiant Lord. It’s more hiding in baskets than sticking it to bureaucrats. Because the best glory is to know and show Christ Himself as glorious in even the most unimpressive people and difficult situations.

Are you unimpressive, and finding yourself often in difficulty? Congratulations! You are ripe for resting in Christ, being conformed to His own suffering life on earth, and being consumed with His glory to boast about in the midst of your weakness.
Of what are you tempted to be proud? What weakness or trouble has the Lord brought into your life, that you might find Christ glorious instead?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH435 “Not What My Hands Have Done”

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

190605FW Judg 3:12-31 - The Lord Who Saves in the Icky Details of Life

An example of a family worship teaching time in Judges 3:12-31

2019.06.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 3:12-31

Questions for Littles: What did the children of Israel do (again!) in Judges 3:12? Whom did Yahweh strengthen? Against whom? Why? Whom did Eglon of Moab gather to himself (Judges 3:13)? What did they do? How long did Israel serve Eglon (Judges 3:14)? What did the children of Israel do in Judges 3:15? What did Yahweh do? Whom did Yahweh raise up? Whose son was Ehud? Of what tribe? What other detail does it tell us about him? What did Israel send by his hand? What did Ehud make for himself (Judges 3:16)? What style dagger was it? How long was it? Where did he fasten it? To whom did Ehud bring the tribute (Judges 3:17)? What do we learn about Eglon in verse 17? What did Ehud do, when he had presented the tribute (Judges 3:18)? Where did he go (Judges 3:19)? What did he say he had for the king? What did the king say and do to his attendants? Where were they in Judges 3:20? From whom did Ehud say the message was? What did Ehud do in Judges 3:21? How far did it go in (Judges 3:22)? What came out? How did Ehud make his exit (Judges 3:23)? What had he done to the doors? What did Eglon’s servants think that the king might be doing in Judges 3:24? How long did they wait (Judges 3:25)? What did they find, when they finally opened the door? Where was Ehud by this time (Judges 3:26)? What did he do in Judges 3:27? Where, and to do what, did Ehud lead the children of Israel in Judges 3:28? How many did they kill in Judges 3:29? How long did the land have rest (Judges 3:30)? What judge’s deliverance does Judges 3:31 summarize?
This, at first, seems like a potty room story. Between Eglon covering his feet in the cool room, Saul covering his feet in the cave, and Elijah suggesting that Baal may have gone aside to do the same in 1 Kings 18, we have the beginnings of a potty room theology of salvation. This potty room episode is particularly unmentionable: instead of something coming out of the entrails, by one swift and sneaky move, Ehud performs some lefthanded surgery on the Moabite king, and the entrails themselves come out. The Lord saves, even through the unmentionable parts of life.

That’s encouraging for me to know. Our house has some epic novels in it, and our life includes some dignified moments. But we also have a potty book for the one year old to be “inspired” by, and dignified time is dwarfed by the amount spent on the ramifications of that inspiration. It’s encouraging to know that the Lord’s constant, saving work occurs not just in moments on the top of the mountain but also in the continual slog down in the muck.

Add to this our growing list of interesting weapons. In this chapter we have a homemade, 18-inch, double-edged, concealed-carry dagger, and Shamgar’s ox-goad that would have been eight feet long with a handle on the wide end and a point at the other to show the ox that you meant business. And Judges will present us with several more odd tools of deliverance. But, here too, there is a point being made. The Lord saves by many or by few, by traditional weapons or unique conversation pieces. At the end of the day, it must ultimately be the Lord Himself who saves.

And, that’s the point of the passage, isn’t it? Yahweh is still being Yahweh who saves. Of course, Israel is still being Israel. Doing evil when they feel they can (Judges 3:12). Crying out when they’ve had enough (Judges 3:15). Still no mention of repentance. And they’ll still be being Israel in another 98 years when the Ehud saga is over (cf. Judges 4:1). It’s going to take something more than an Ehud or a Shamgar to bring any change there. The Judges period is serving its purpose in increasing the urgency of our appetite for Christ to be our Redeemer.

But, in the meantime, the Lord is still there. In every detail. Watching. Listening. Delivering. Preserving. Chastening. And also judging and destroying. He is the Lord. To those who don’t belong to Him, in dependence upon Christ and His sacrifice, that should be a terrifying thought. He will never take a break being the Lord who continually acts for the sake of His glory in Jesus. But to weary believers whose lives are more mucky potty room than fine china and ballrooms, it’s a precious reality. He is our Savior in all the tiniest details.
Is the Lord’s continual presence a threat to you or a comfort? In which parts of your life do you most need to remember that He is there watching? That He is there saving?
Suggested songs: ARP139B “Where Can I from Your Spirit Flee?” or TPH250 “I Sing the Almighty Power of God”

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

190604FW Heb 2:10-18 - Knowing and Experiencing Jesus's Likeness to His Brethren

An example of a family worship teaching time in Hebrews 2:10-18

2019.06.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 2:10-18

Questions for Littles: Who is everything for? Who is everything from? Who is bringing many sons to glory? Who perfected Jesus through suffering? Who is the Captain of our salvation? Who makes Christians holy? What is Jesus not ashamed to call us? Who declares God’s Name to us and sings God’s praise in the midst of the church assembly? Who has given us to Jesus as children of God? How does Jesus destroy the devil? Who has helped the descendants of Abraham? Whom did Jesus have to be made like? What kind of High Priest is Jesus? What has He done about His people’s sins? What can He do, since He has been tempted and suffered? Whose name does preaching declare in the church’s worship? Who is declaring God’s name in that preaching? What does He call the people of the church? Whom does Hebrews 2:13 talk about trusting God in the church’s worship? When we come to worship, Who brings us to God? What does He call us, when He presents us with Himself and says, “Here I am…”? Who has given His children to Jesus, in order that Jesus would bring us to worship?   
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Hebrews 2:10-18. We hear in Hebrews 2:10 that it is God who is bringing many sons to glory. And, we hear in Hebrews 2:11 that it is Jesus who is getting us ready for that glory by making us holy. What a blessing to know this! God commands us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. God commands us to put to death our sin. God commands us to walk in a manner worthy of being called Christian.

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

Finally, and most importantly, we hear in Hebrews 2:17 that Jesus made propitiation for our sins. What does this mean? It means that on the cross, Jesus so completely suffered the wrath of God for our sin, that there is absolutely none of it left for us; it means that the only thing left for us from God is favor. Jesus has completely earned our forgiveness; we cannot earn any of it. Jesus has completely earned our blessing; we cannot earn any of it. He made propitiation for our sins!

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

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

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

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

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

Here is something literally glorious about preaching: Jesus is the One who declares God’s name in the preaching (Hebrews 2:12a)! How very careful the preacher on earth must be to proclaim and apply only what the Scripture says, if Jesus is the preacher from heaven! The preacher must not put his words into Jesus’ mouth, but the other way around.

Here is something literally glorious about congregational singing in worship: Jesus is the one singing God’s praise in the midst of the assembly (verse 12b)! How careful we should be to sing only Christ’s thoughts from Scripture, if He is the singer in our worship! We must not put our words in His mouth, but the other way around.

But how can sinners such as we are appear in glory week by week? Here is something literally glorious about our coming to God in worship: Jesus presents us there in Himself (Hebrews 2:13b), and it is even Jesus’ own faith that is being counted for us while we are there (verse 13a)!
What is Jesus getting you ready for? Why is He doing so? How is He getting you ready? 
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Monday, June 03, 2019

190603FW Gen 11:10-32 - Christ-Driven History and Living

An example of a family worship teaching time in Genesis 11:10-32

2019.06.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 11:10-32

Questions for Littles: Whose genealogy does Genesis 11:10 begin? What happens to the lengths of the lives between Genesis 11:10 and Genesis 11:25? How many sons of each generation are specifically named? How many of Terah’s children are named (Genesis 11:26)? What does Genesis 11:27 begin to tell about? Which grandson does Genesis 11:27 name? Which son dies before his father (Genesis 11:28)? Where? Who take wives in Genesis 11:29? What fact does Genesis 11:30 note about Sarai? Whom does Terah not take with him in Genesis 11:31? From where did they begin? To where were they going? But where did they end up? How many years, total, did Terah live (Genesis 11:32)?    
To some, genealogies may seem boring; but, there are many to whom the study of genealogies is very interesting. It depends, in large part, upon how invested we are in that particular family line. But this genealogy should be interesting to every one of us; because, if we are not personally invested in it, we will perish in our sins. This is because this genealogy is sending us hurtling toward Christ.

Whereas in chapter 10, the genealogy named several children from each generation, this list gives us just one—even though it tells us that the father kept begetting sons and daughters for hundreds of years—the one who takes us a step closer to Jesus Christ.

Why is He so important to us? Well, in part because we deserve to be condemned by God’s justice and punished by God’s wrath. The last time we saw God narrowing the focus to just one family, He literally executed everyone else. We all still deserve it—even the line from Shem to Abram deserves it. But, they are not being wiped off the earth. They are being permitted to build families and cover the earth. The Lord leaves them, because the Lord intends to save them through Christ. Every one of us deserves wrath. We need a Redeemer who can take our guilt away.

Another reason that Jesus is so important to us is that we need a Redeemer stronger than death. The refrain from chapter 5 is missing: and he died… and he died… and he died. But the reality is there and intensifying. The age at death keeps dropping from the 600s to the 400s, 200s, 100s. By Psalm 90:10, Moses will say that man lives 70, maybe 80 years. This death crisis must come to an end! Every one of us will die. We need a redeemer stronger than death.

Finally, we rejoice to read this genealogy, because even as the Scripture takes us toward Christ, it reminds us that in order to reserve the glory for Jesus, God is pleased to use the weak in His plan of salvation. Other genealogies have been those who are impressive from an earthly perspective. This one doesn’t have any such impressiveness to boast. Then, at the end, after all of this begetting, we meet Abram and Sarai. But there’s no begetting for them. The ones from whom will come the Christ have not fertility to offer the Lord but barrenness.

The Lord is pleased to use weakness. All the glory be to God alone!
What do you deserve? How will your life end? What has God done about this? Besides sins of which you must repent, what human weakness do you have to offer God?
Suggested Songs: ARP32A-B “What Blessedness” or TPH435 “Not What My Hands Have Done”

Saturday, June 01, 2019

190601FW Gen 11:10-32 - Zeroing in on Jesus

An example of a family worship teaching time in Genesis 11:10-32

2019.06.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 11:10-32

Questions for Littles: Whose genealogy does Genesis 11:10 begin? What happens to the lengths of the lives between Genesis 11:10 and Genesis 11:25? How many sons of each generation are specifically named? How many of Terah’s children are named (Genesis 11:26)? What does Genesis 11:27 begin to tell about? Which grandson does verse 27 name? Which son dies before his father (Genesis 11:28)? Where? Who take wives in Genesis 11:29? What fact is noted about Sarai (Genesis 11:30)? Whom does Terah not take with him in Genesis 11:31? From where did they begin? To where were they going? But where did they end up? How many years, total, did Terah live (Genesis 11:32)?
Some Bible genealogies are more selective than others. Sometimes, they are giving an overview of a tribe or a clan. This one is much more focused. It’s a treasure hunt for the Seed, from Genesis 3:15, who will crush the serpent’s head. Yes, the earth is being populated, but it’s not really about that. Not like in chapter 10. Each generation is like a multi-directional intersection, and the route to God’s promised Redeemer must turn down just one of them.

And how we need that Redeemer! Five hundred. Four hundred. Two hundred. One hundred. The Holy Spirit is not giving us the “and he died” of chapter four, but that much is made perhaps even more obvious by the rapidly dropping length of life. Man has sinned, and the wages of sin are chasing him down.

When we get to Genesis 11:26, and three of Terah’s sons are named, we have a clue that something big is coming. More of Genesis will be spent on Abraham than what has been written the rest of human history thus far. We’re about to take a big step in understanding how God plans to redeem sinful man.

Indeed, lest the children of Abraham who first received this book be over-proud, one part of how God plans to save is already coming into focus: through weakness. Obviously, if He is planning to save through the Seed of the woman, it will have to be through weakness. The seed of the woman are dying younger and younger!

This is reinforced by that short-but-not-subtle announcement in Genesis 11:30: “But Sarai was barren; she had no child.” This next “big step” in the plan of salvation is going to have to be despite man’s weakness, not through any illusion of his strength.

And when the Holy Spirit gives us the humility to be honest with ourselves, these features of today’s Scripture resonate with us. Because we are not the redeemer. Only Christ is. And, in fact, we don’t really give Him something to work with, but in ourselves, we are challenges that He gloriously overcomes.
Why do you need Christ? Why must it be Christ, specifically, that you need?
Suggested Songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or TPH265 “In Christ Alone”