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

Saturday, June 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”