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, August 10, 2019

2019.08.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 16

Questions for Littles: Who is the primary subject of Genesis 16:1? Whose wife is she? What has she not done? What does she possess? To whom does Sarai speak in Genesis 16:2? What explanation does she give for not having borne children? What solution does she come up with? What does verse 2 say that Abram did? Who is, again, the main subject in Genesis 16:3? How long had Abram dwelt in Canaan? What happened when he followed Sarai’s advice (Genesis 16:4)? When she had conceived, what happened to Sarai in her eyes? Whom does Sarai blame for her becoming despised (Genesis 16:5)? What does she call for to happen? What does Abram say in Genesis 16:6? What does he permit Sarai to do? How does Sarai treat Hagar? What does Hagar do, when she is treated badly? Who intervenes in Genesis 16:7? Where does He find her? What does He call her in Genesis 16:8? What does He ask her? What answer does she give? What two things does the Angel of Yahweh command her in Genesis 16:9? What does He promise her in Genesis 16:10? What does He tell her about her baby in Genesis 16:11? What does He command her to do to her baby? Why? What does He tell her about her baby in Genesis 16:12? What does Hagar call Him in Genesis 16:13? What was the well called (Genesis 16:14)? Where is it? What does Hagar do in Genesis 16:15? What does Abram do? From where would he have learned to name the boy this? How old was Abram when Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:16)?
What a difficult thing patience is—even for those who have the certainty of God’s Word! But let us beware of our impatience. Ten years in the promised land, and Sarai was ready to improvise to force the issue with God’s plan and promises. Individuals, couples, families, and churches often come to a point where they say, “we’ve been trying it God’s normal way, and that isn’t working; so we need to try something new.” Impatience and unbelief can lead to “creative” disobedience.

And there’s all sorts of disorder in this passage. Abram failing to lead his house, as Sarai runs the show. Sarai mistreating her maid. Hagar failing to be faithful and submit to her anyway.

But there is One who is faithful and merciful. Yahweh, who doesn’t owe any of them anything, listens to the affliction of a maid—even though that affliction has come about as the direct result of sin. He is God who listens (Ishmael). He is God who sees (El-roi). He is God who cares for sinners—not because they are worthy of it, but because He is merciful to the unworthy for the sake of His love, and His Christ whom He has promised in that love!
In what area do you feel that you have been faithful with little fruit to show for it? How does it help you to remember that the Lord is always being faithful to you, whether you see results yet or not?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Friday, August 09, 2019

2019.08.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 11:27-12:12

Questions for Littles: To where did they come again in Mark 11:27? Where was Jesus walking? Who came to Him? What did they ask Him (Mark 11:28)? What did Jesus tell them they would have to do if they wanted Him to answer them (Mark 11:29)? What does He ask them (Mark 11:30)? Why didn’t they want to say “from heaven” (Mark 11:31)? Why didn’t they want to say “from men” (Mark 11:32)? So, what do they answer (Mark 11:33)? And what does Jesus say? In what did Jesus then begin to speak to them (Mark 12:1)? What is this parable about? Where does the owner of the vineyard go? What does he do at vintage-time, when there should be grapes ready (Mark 12:2)? What do they do to the servant (Mark 12:3)? What do they do with the second servant (Mark 12:4)? And the third (Mark 12:5)? How many sons did the owner have (Mark 12:6)? What did the vinedressers say among themselves in Mark 12:7? What do they do to the son (Mark 12:8)? What does Jesus say that the owner will do in Mark 12:9? What Scripture quote does He say in Mark 12:10-11? About whom did the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders know that Jesus had spoken this parable (Mark 12:12)
In the Gospel reading this week, we feel the buildup of pressure that leads to the cross. The chief priests, the scribes, and the elders have all joined forces now. The scribes and the elders were very hostile to Rome, while the chief priests were very friendly to Rome, who had permitted them to continue operating the temple. The others saw the priests as sellouts.

But, these groups can finally agree on something. They hate Jesus and want to destroy Him. When they come and ask the question about authority, it is a catch-22 for Jesus. If He claims a divine authority to act against the temple order, as currently overseen by Rome, it would be a crime of rebellion against Rome, and punishable by death.

If He somehow claimed Roman authority to do it, then the scribe/elder party would consider his sellout on the level of blasphemy for desecrating the temple, and they would execute Jesus for that. In the end, this was, indeed, the charge that they were trying to line up (false!) testimony to prove--that Jesus had spoken against the temple and Moses. But Jesus confessed Himself to be the Son of God, and so they based the blasphemy charges upon that instead.

In the parable, Jesus exposes just how bad this really is. They know that He is from God. The very thing that they are trying to get Him to admit is that God has invested Him with His own authority to give God the fruit that He has always sought from Israel.

They know, and they want to destroy Him anyway. But notice who is afraid, and who is in control here. They come to trap Jesus with a question, and He traps them with one instead. They are out to destroy Jesus, but Jesus is not the One who is afraid. Rather, twice it says that they are afraid of the people/multitude.

Jesus is in control, and that’s super-important.

It means that the cross was not some tragic miscalculation or accident. It was not the Jews or the Romans or even the Devil overpowering Jesus. It was Jesus, intentionally, in control, laying down His life for His people. It is so important, dear reader, that you see how powerful and in control Jesus is, as He goes to the cross. Behold Him who laid down His life for sinners!
When have you felt out of control? Who is really in control of that? What else has He done for you, of which He was in complete control? What does this mean He is doing now? 
Suggested songs: ARP118D “Now Open Wide” or TPH404 “The Church’s One Foundation”

Thursday, August 08, 2019

2019.08.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 9:30-10:13

Questions for Littles: Who did not pursue righteousness (Romans 9:30)? To what have they attained? What kind of righteousness? Who were pursuing a law of righteousness (Romans 9:31)? To what have they not attained? Why not—how did they not seek it (Romans 9:32a)? How did they seek it (verse 32b)? Over what did they stumble (verse 32c)? Who was the stone they stumbled over (Romans 9:33)? What would they have to do with Him in order not to be put to shame? What was Paul’s heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel (Romans 10:1)? What did they have for God (Romans 10:2)? But what was this zeal not according to? Of what were they ignorant (Romans 10:3a)? So what did they seek to establish? To what, then, were they not submitting? Who is the end of the law for righteousness (Romans 10:4a)? For whom (verse 4b)? What does Moses write about righteousness from the law (Romans 10:5)? What does the righteousness of faith tell us not to say in Romans 10:6? What would that be to do? What does it tell us not to say in Romans 10:7? What would that be to do? What does it say in Romans 10:8? How does this word of faith come to be near us (verse 8b)? What do we do with this Word (Romans 10:9)? What do we do with the heart (Romans 10:10a)? What do we do with the mouth (verse 10b)? Who will not be put to shame (Romans 10:11)? Between whom is there no distinction on this truth (Romans 10:12)? Who will be saved (Romans 10:13)? 
In this week’s epistle reading, we have a diagnosis of how it came to be that so few Jews were being saved—which turns out to be an important warning about how it could come to be that some among us would not be saved.

Long story short: the Jews wanted to help their own right standing before God. They were running hard after that law of righteousness. But that was a problem, because what they needed to do was stop and stand entirely upon the Rock of salvation that God was providing—Jesus Christ and His righteousness.

What happens, though, if you’re running hard and there’s an unexpected rock in the middle of the path? You trip hard and fall on your face. So what do these Jews do? They get up and just keep on running!

Now, we should run hard after the law to honor God, to please God, to express our love for God. But we must never ever think that we may do so to be right with God. Just what would we think we could ever add to what Jesus has done?

Did He need our help to become incarnated as a Man? Did we ascend into heaven to bring Christ down? Did He need our help to be resurrected from the grave? Did we descend into the depths do bring Christ up from the dead?

You and I can no more make ourselves right with God than we can help Jesus with His incarnation or resurrection. What are we to do then? Believe in our hearts the truth about Christ that we hear preached—a belief that expresses it in worship and witness, confessing with our mouth those very truths:

Incarnation: Jesus Christ is not just a man, but the Lord God Himself who has become man. Resurrection: God raised Him from the dead. He truly died a sacrificial death and was raised on account of our justification.

We don’t help Jesus make us righteous. We believe and confess that Jesus alone—in opposition to any idea of anything adding to Him—makes us righteous. Let us never try to add a single thing to this, or else we will be put to shame. Not the shame of embarrassment before men, but the shame of horror at the judgment when we would be condemned!

But whoever believes on Jesus Christ, the resurrected Lord, will not be put to shame but saved!
What are you tempted to think helps you stay right with God? Why mustn’t you add to Christ? 
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH265 “In Christ Alone”

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

2019.08.07 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 can have, from any family of the earth, 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”

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

2019.08.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 89:1-10

Questions for Littles: Of what will the psalmist sing (Psalm 89:1)? What would he make known with his mouth? How big are God’s mercy and faithfulness (Psalm 89:2)? With and to whom is this mercy found (Psalm 89:3-4)? What two assemblies, in which two places, especially praise Him (Psalm 89:5-7)? Whom does God scatter, as a part of His faithfulness (Psalm 89:8-10)? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 89:1-10.

This Psalm begins by presenting us with something similar to what we have seen in Hebrews 2 and Hebrews 12… two worship assemblies in harmonious agreement with one another—one in heaven and one on earth.

What do the most glorious angels all agree upon? That none of them are even to be compared to the Lord.

Marvelously, those who surround the throne hold Him in reverence for His steadfast love (mercy) and faithfulness. That is to say that, even from the perspective of the holy angels, God’s redemption of His people on earth is at the center of all His glorious works.

And a big part of this is the Lord scattering His enemies. Yes, the Lord is full of love and mercy, and He is perfectly faithful. But that means that He is also full of hate: hatred of sin!

If we have known that God, who by right could have destroyed us, has instead given Himself to save us, then this psalm gives us instruction about what should be one of the main ways that we respond to His redeeming love and faithfulness: go to church. Participate in the assembly of the saints. Gather with the congregation on earth that joins the worship assembly in Heaven.
When you’re amazed at God’s mercy and faithfulness to save you by Christ’s cross, do you think, “I can’t wait to go to church!”? 
Suggested Songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or TPH89B “My Song Forever Shall Record”

Monday, August 05, 2019

2019.08.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 20:16-19

Questions for Littles: What will the owner of the vineyard do to the vinedressers (Luke 20:16)? What will He do with the vineyard? What did Jesus’s hearers say to this? What is the first thing that Luke 20:17 says Jesus did to them? What did He then ask them about? What had the builders in the OT quote rejected? What did the rejected stone become? What will some do to that stone (Luke 20:18a)? What will happen to them? What will the stone do to some people (verse 18b)? What will happen to them? Whose desire does Luke 20:19 describe? What did they desire to do? When? Why did they desire to do this? Why didn’t they carry out their desire?
What if the way the Lord decides to do things in His church is not the way that we would like? This was the problem for the chief priests and scribes, and I dare say that it is sometimes a problem for us. But they were just the tenants, while the vineyard belongs to God. They were just the builders, while the building belongs to God. We are members, but the body belongs to God.

Of course, the bigger problem is when we decide to go ahead and try to do things as we prefer instead. Ultimately, this led to the rejection (and even abuse and murder) of many of God’s prophets—climaxing in the murder of Christ Himself.

But rejecting God’s way never works. All of the abuse that Jeremiah took couldn’t keep the exile from coming. And all of the abuse and murder that the prophets (and ultimately Christ) took only resulted in God’s taking His church away from national Israel and giving it to the nations instead. They could reject Christ; but they would only succeed in their own rejection, because Christ would be the Chief Cornerstone whether they desired it or not.

There’s far too much power struggle in churches—as if any man made agenda at all can ever succeed. But if we attempt to get our own way, rather than gladly pursuing and submitting to what Scripture instructs, Luke 20:18 warns us that we are waging a double-losing battle. First of all, as we attack Christ’s way, we ourselves will end up being the ones broken, regardless of any appearance of ministry success or congregational success. Second, Christ doesn’t just take these things lying down. He will come again, this time in vengeance, and fall upon all who have opposed Him and harmed His church. And His vengeance will be frightful!

Luke 20:19 gives us two characteristics that may indicate to us whether we are giving into this mindset of the chief priests and scribes. First, if hearing the Scripture applied to us produces not repentance from our self-seeking but wrath against the scriptural admonishment, we are indulging the kind of heart that is capable of murdering Christ! Second, if we “fear the people,” then perhaps it is because we are following a human agenda rather than God’s.

What shall we do? We who hope only in Christ for our salvation must yield to His authority in His church. He may injure our pride by preaching a gospel that says that it is not our works that save us but only His. He may offend us by flipping over the tables of our traditions. But this is His prerogative, His authority. He is the Chief Cornerstone. And all proper spiritual building is built only in accordance with Him.
In what ways can you submit to Jesus’s authority in His church? How have you done this?
Suggested Songs: ARP118D “Now Open Wide the Gates” or TPH118B “The Glorious Gates”