Aug 12, 2018
Hebrews 10:19-11:1 “Confident Faith”
Every party requires some measure of planning.  Food and beverages have to be bought and prepared, decorations purchased and displayed.  In many instances, gifts are also involved, which need to be acquired and wrapped for later opening.  People need to be invited to the big event too so that the celebration can happen with others. In our journey through the book of Hebrews, a great deal of preparation has been taking place.  The author has been laying the foundation for the audience of a great celebration of faith in Jesus Christ, which starts TODAY!  As we open Scripture together this morning, we look in wonder at all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ and come confidently into worship, through faith, knowing that He has prepared a way for us back to God. Questions to take home:
  1. Reflect back on the summer so far.  What has been the most impactful thing you have learned from the book of Hebrews?  How has it impacted your life and your walk with Christ? Share that with someone close to you!
  2. What is faith?  How does the author describe faith here in the book of Hebrews?  What is the impact of faith here and what has been the impact of faith in your life?
  3. Chapter 11 in Hebrews is known as the “faith hall of fame,” and is full of stories in the Bible of faith in action.  Pick a few to read about in Scripture this week, maybe one a day. How is their faith confirmed in their lives? How does their story speak to you?  What can we learn from them?
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  • Aug 12, 2018Hebrews 10:19-11:1 “Confident Faith”
    Aug 12, 2018
    Hebrews 10:19-11:1 “Confident Faith”
    Every party requires some measure of planning.  Food and beverages have to be bought and prepared, decorations purchased and displayed.  In many instances, gifts are also involved, which need to be acquired and wrapped for later opening.  People need to be invited to the big event too so that the celebration can happen with others. In our journey through the book of Hebrews, a great deal of preparation has been taking place.  The author has been laying the foundation for the audience of a great celebration of faith in Jesus Christ, which starts TODAY!  As we open Scripture together this morning, we look in wonder at all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ and come confidently into worship, through faith, knowing that He has prepared a way for us back to God. Questions to take home:
    1. Reflect back on the summer so far.  What has been the most impactful thing you have learned from the book of Hebrews?  How has it impacted your life and your walk with Christ? Share that with someone close to you!
    2. What is faith?  How does the author describe faith here in the book of Hebrews?  What is the impact of faith here and what has been the impact of faith in your life?
    3. Chapter 11 in Hebrews is known as the “faith hall of fame,” and is full of stories in the Bible of faith in action.  Pick a few to read about in Scripture this week, maybe one a day. How is their faith confirmed in their lives? How does their story speak to you?  What can we learn from them?
  • Aug 5, 2018Hebrews 9:1-10:18 “Holy Place”
    Aug 5, 2018
    Hebrews 9:1-10:18 “Holy Place”
    There are two seasons in Michigan: winter and road construction. Most of us, at one point in our lives, have been impacted by road construction. Those detours can be incredibly annoying, eating up valuable vacation time or making us late for work. However, we understand that, when best way is closed for construction or repair, another way is needed if we are to reach our destination.
     
    In the beginning, God’s presence dwelled with His children in the garden of Eden. They spoke together, walked together, and lived in perfect relationship, all until sin entered the world. When that happened, the way to God was closed and another way, a detour was set up. This detour is seen most clearly in Scripture in the Tabernacle and Temple. Yet, Hebrews points out that we must not see this detour as the best route, but only a temporary version to the main route built in Jesus Christ.
     
    Questions to take home:
    The Tabernacle/Temple were constructed in such a way as to teach about the pathway back to God’s presence, with many rituals and sacrifices involved. What are some things that we do in our lives to work/earn our own way back to God rather than trusting in Jesus Christ?
     
    Blood was used in the sacrifices to symbolize repentance, forgiveness, and washing; it was a reminder that something had to die in order for there to be life for the sinner. How does Jesus’ sacrifice differ from the animal sacrifices? How does the significance of Jesus blood and sacrifice impact your life?
     
    Today we take communion, drawing on the themes of sacrifice, blood, and God’s presence. How do these things fit into the elements of communion? What significance do you think they have and what does taking communion teach us?
  • Jul 29, 2018Hebrews 8:1-13 “New Covenant”
    Jul 29, 2018
    Hebrews 8:1-13 “New Covenant”
    When I was young, my parents loved to collect antiques.  When we were on vacation, we would have to stop at antique stores in practically every town we visited.  I could never really understand why. Such old things have very little functional use and essentially just sat around in their house, on a shelf, as decoration.  Never would we have dreamed of using them; we had newer, better things. In Hebrews 8, the author applies Jesus’ ministry as the Great High Priest to God’s covenant relationship with His people.  Jesus institutes a New Covenant with God’s people, one that applies grace where once the Law condemned. Though obsolete, the Old Covenant does still serve a purpose in helping us to understand the nature of God’s relationship with His people and the immeasurable grace that is offered to us in Jesus Christ. Questions to take home:
    1. Unlike the priests of the Old Testament, Jesus ministers as the Great High Priest in heaven.  How does His presence there benefit us as the mediator of the New Covenant? What does this change in our lives?
    2. Both covenants are intimately related to God’s work in freeing His people from bondage.  Are there places in which you experience bondage your life? How does Jesus’ establishment of the New Covenant offer you freedom from that bondage?
    3. The author of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34.  How do you see this passage being fulfilled in Jesus?  Are there elements of this that you see coming true in your life as well?  How do those things impact the way we live our lives as God’s people?
  • Jul 22, 2018Hebrews 7:1-28 “Who is this Melchizedek?”
    Jul 22, 2018
    Hebrews 7:1-28 “Who is this Melchizedek?”
    How many times have you changed a light bulb in your life?  I’m quite sure that I’ve lost count. Over time, every light bulb in the world will wear out and need to be replaced, no matter how new, expensive or fancy.  In fact, this is a basic reality that we face with pretty much everything that we experience in life. Today’s Scripture passage talks about this reality in terms of the Old Testament priesthood.  Priests would serve, but only for a limited time due to the nature of human life. Even the oldest, wisest, and holiest of priests would eventually pass on and be replaced.  All, that is, except for Jesus. Our Great High Priest is eternal; there is no need for an upgrade or a replacement because Jesus takes on this role and fulfills it for all eternity! Questions to take home:
    1. We live in a throwaway society, one which values the latest and greatest of everything.  How does Hebrews 7 challenge that cultural influence when it comes to faith? What does knowing that Jesus is our eternal Great High Priest change in your life?
    2. The Old Testament priesthood worked hard, thinking their work would eventually bring them perfection.  They didn’t understand that their role was to point forward to the Messiah. In what ways to Christians act the way the priests did?
    3. For hundreds of years, churches have rotated through leaders, taking advantage of different gifts and strengths to spur them on.  Hebrews says that Jesus, however, “truly meets our needs.” What does this mean for us as Christians? As a church?
    4. Though not directly addressed, Hebrews assumes a familiarity with the act of tithing, referencing Abraham's gift to God after he was blessed.  How does the Genesis 14 narrative and Hebrews 7 inform or challenge our understanding of and commitment to giving and stewardship?
  • Jul 15, 2018Hebrews 5:11-6:20 “Steak or Milk?”
    Jul 15, 2018
    Hebrews 5:11-6:20 “Steak or Milk?”
    Have you ever heard the joke where the comedian says that he love the 1st grade because it was the best four years of his life?  When delivered well, it is quite humorous mostly because we know that this is not how it is meant to be. No one is expected to enter school, work, or even a relationship and then remain at the most elementary levels of understanding; progression and maturation are expected. In what could be seen as a rather confusing set of verses, today the author of Hebrews challenges the audience to move forward in their faith.  For too long, Scripture says, they have been content with “spiritual milk,” and need to grow up and eat “solid food.” In the same way that we would not wish our children to only be drinking milk and needing their diaper changed at the age of 5, we too should strive toward a deeper, growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Questions to take home:
    1. 1 Corinthians 3 and 1 Peter 2 also record their respective authors talking about “spiritual milk” and the need to grow in their faith.  What are some elementary teachings that you are holding on to in your life?  How could steps be taken to move forward from them?
    2. The author of Hebrews encourages the audience that they should be “teachers” rather than learners.  Are their people in your life that God is calling you to reach out to? How do you “teach” about Jesus in your life?
    3. After some difficult words, the author also encourages the audience that they can do better and cites the faith of Abraham in the promises of God as an example to follow.  Do you have a spiritual mentor in your life? How have they helped you grow in your faith? Have you taken the time to share that with them?
  • Jul 8, 2018Hebrews 4:14-5:10 “Great High Priest”
    Jul 8, 2018
    Hebrews 4:14-5:10 “Great High Priest”
    Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you are a “go-between” or a third party for two people dealing with conflict?  If so, you know that you are tasked with communicating information from person A to person B and also for relaying information from person B to person A.  In essence, you are representing each person to the other because direct communication has proven too difficult for them. The second section of Hebrews talks at length about Jesus being the “Great High Priest.”  In the Old Testament, priests were the intermediaries, the “go-betweens” between God and His people.  Sin had cut off direct communication and so priests were called to stand in the gap, as it were. Ultimately, however, these human priests were a foreshadowing of the role Jesus would play as the Great High Priest, the one who would perfectly represent both God and humanity. Questions to take home:
    1. What does it mean to intercede for someone (if you aren’t sure, definitely look it up!)?  Jesus is our intercessor before God in every aspect of our lives. What does this mean for us as God’s people and what impact does it have on our lives and Christian walk?
    2. We have talked about Jesus being both 100% DIvine and 100% Human.  How does this reality amplify Jesus as our advocate, mediator, and Great High Priest?
    3. Jesus, both fully human and fully divine, ascended into heaven and is seated right now at the right hand of God, interceding and mediating for us before God.  What benefits do you think this has for us? For more info, lookup Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 46-49!
  • Jul 1, 2018Hebrews 4:1-13 “Sabbath Rest”
    Jul 1, 2018
    Hebrews 4:1-13 “Sabbath Rest”
    I remember when I was young, we could only play in the backyard on Sundays  My brother and I could only hope that neighbor kids came over looking for us; we couldn’t go looking for them.  I also remember a family down the street who didn’t let their kids do anything on Sundays, and their neighbors across the street who made their kids play in the front yard, just to stick it to everyone else. This sort of Sabbath observance, one in which strict adherence for the sake of image, is exactly what the Jewish people faced.  Forced by the Pharisees’ law, they were forced to not do most things so as to not accidentally “work” on the sabbath. The point, however, that the Sabbath observance was originally intended to make was one that ultimately pointed toward the ultimate, eternal rest that we are granted through faith in Jesus Christ, a gift from God and not something we can build for ourselves by any work, or lack thereof. Questions to take home:
    1. Do you have a funny memory about Sunday practices from your youth?  What did you learn from that? How does it differ from what you feel or believe now?  What changed?
    2. Why do you think God instituted the Sabbath when He was done creating the universe?  What purpose did it serve? What purpose does it serve now?
    3. Ultimately, the Sabbath observance points forward to Jesus and the eternal rest we have because of His work, grace, and salvation.  Do you think that observance of the/a Sabbath is still something we ought to follow? Why or why not? How does your answer impact the way you live your life?
  • Jun 17, 2018Hebrews 2:5-18 “Incarnational Impact”
    Jun 17, 2018
    Hebrews 2:5-18 “Incarnational Impact”
    Have you ever heard the saying “before you judge a person, walk a mile in their shoes”?  This expression is an encouragement to consider, and possibly even enter into a person’s experience before you judge their actions, choices, or lifestyle.  The musical Les Miserables carries this theme, amongst others, as it follows the life and impact of a once poor, but now wealthy man vs. the man of the law.  One’s actions are feared while the other’s changes lives. Jesus is God; yet He literally put on human flesh and shared completely in our humanity.  The creator of the universe stood on the sod He created looking up at stars He had set in place and felt… everything.  He experienced our life, our temptations, and our sufferings and as such, He can help us in those same experiences in our own lives.  Jesus also took on sin and death, conquering them so that we who are also human would no longer be subject to them! Questions to take home:
    1. Have you ever had someone offer you advice for a situation to which they had no context, experience, or understanding?  How did that make you feel? Did you follow it? What aspects of their advice were helpful or harmful?
    2. Has anyone ever told you (or maybe have you told someone) “I know exactly how you feel?”  What is trying to be conveyed in a statement like this? What do we mean when we say something like this and what would be a better way to communicate it?
    3. Jesus experienced humanity in its fullness yet far too often we tend to minimize Jesus’ humanity for the sake of His divinity.  Why do you think this is? What benefit is it to us to remember that Jesus is also fully human?
  • Jun 10, 2018Hebrews 1:1-2:4 “Hebrews: The Book of Better Things”
    Jun 10, 2018
    Hebrews 1:1-2:4 “Hebrews: The Book of Better Things”
    Our culture seems to always be on the hunt for the best.  We crave it, demand it, and will, in some cases, even pay exorbitant amounts of money for it.  Whether it’s the T.V. competition shows like The Voice or America’s Got Talent or technology, with it’s newest, latest, and greatest, our culture never settles for anything less than the best. Throughout Scripture, God continually reveals to His people His plan for their salvation.  Where there were once great positions like prophets, priests, and kings, Jesus came. The deep truth of those offices is that they pointed to Christ.  He is the best; there is no better. Jesus is the better thing, the best thing. In spite of all we look for to fulfill us, Jesus is there offering true fullness, life, and salvation! Questions to take home:
    1. What is the “best” thing that you own?  What about that thing makes it so great?  How do you treat that thing differently than other things that are yours?
    2. Do you find yourself looking for new things all the time?  Maybe those are necessities, or “toys” of some sort? Why do you think North American culture is so obsessed with newness and has such disregard for old things?
    3. The book of Hebrews opens with a profound statement of the supremacy of Jesus over and above all things, the fulfillment of everything that Scripture says, and the living embodiment of God.  With that said, does He take that supreme place in our daily lives? How do we (or don’t we) live this out on a daily basis?
  • Jun 3, 2018Revelation 3:14-22 “Hot and Cold”
    Jun 3, 2018
    Revelation 3:14-22 “Hot and Cold”
    A glass of ice water on a hot summer day is so refreshing; maybe you’ve experienced this in the last week.  In a different season, however, there is nothing better than a hot beverage on a cold winter’s day. Both have their place, are useful and enjoyable in the right environment.  What isn’t enjoyable? An expectation shattering, disappointing, room-temperature beverage when you were expecting something else. The church in Laodicea knew all about lukewarm water.  The city was fed by aqueducts that spanned many miles bringing once hot or cold water to the city lukewarm.  What the church didn’t realize, however, is that this had also happened to them spiritually. Years of complacency had left them blind to their lackluster pursuit of God.  In His place were worldly things that made the city great, but were (and are) simply shadows and dust compared to Christ. Questions to take home:
    1. Jesus’ introduction in this letter is related to Colossians 1:15-20.  Do you see similarities between these two passages? What characteristics of Jesus are present here?  What can we learn from them and apply to our own lives?
    2. The church in North America has been described as “lukewarm.”  Do you think that is generally true? If so, what do you think has led us to this?  How do we avoid complacency in the life of Hopkins Community Church?
    3. Jesus relates rebuke (reprimand) and disciple with the image of Him standing at the door and knocking.  How have you experienced this combination of things in your own life? Are there things, right now, that God is challenging in your life that are getting in the way of you letting Jesus in?
  • May 27, 2018Revelation 3:7-13 “Open Door”
    May 27, 2018
    Revelation 3:7-13 “Open Door”
    Every now and then I get some sort of weird motivation to clean literally everything I see.  You’d probably never guess it if you saw my office desk during the week. When that feeling hits, though, there is practically nothing that can stop me and anything (or anyone) that tries is met with staunch resistance. Jesus’ words to the church in Philadelphia reflect the perseverance that the church had shown.  Through trials and persecution, they held fast to their faith and now opportunities were before them to advance the Kingdom and spread the Gospel.  Unlike my cleaning rampage, though, this door was not open because of their hard work or strength of character, but rather because of the Holy Spirit’s work in and through the church and their obedience to the Gospel. Questions to take home:
    1. Of all the letters at the beginning of Revelation, this one might be voted “most likely to be written to Hopkins.”  How has this church experiences past issues that have shaped who we are now? Do you feel we have done a good job “patiently enduring?”  How and why?
    2. Jesus says in verse 10, “I will keep you from the hour of trial…”  This phrase can also be translated “I will keep you through the hour of trial…”  What do you think the difference is between these two statements?  Both are true; how does this truth impact your life?
    3. Jesus is the one who holds the keys to the Kingdom of God, opening doors that no one can shut.  Where has He opened doors in your life to spread the Gospel? What do you think He is opening doors in Hopkins for us to share God’s love?
  • May 13, 2018Revelation 2:18-29 “Tolerating Jezebel”
    May 13, 2018
    Revelation 2:18-29 “Tolerating Jezebel”
    Queen Jezebel is one of the more reviled characters in the Old Testament narratives.  She was a foreign princess that married King Ahab who was renowned for doing “more evil than anyone before him.”  Scripture records that Ahab considered it “trivial to commit sins” and that his marriage to Jezebel encouraged the worship of Baal and Asherah, idols and gods of other nations, leading God’s people astray. It can easy to dismiss an Old Testament story like this as both past and irrelevant.  Yet there are many things in our culture today that seek to draw us away from God. The question of conformity is one that Jesus poses once again to the Church in His letter to Thyatira.  In our lives, are we transforming into the image of Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit? Or are we conforming to what the world has to offer us? Questions to take home:
    1. Do you have a Jezebel in your life?  Perhaps it is not a specific person, maybe it is a hobby or passion, a desire that is out of order?  How does this person/thing impact your life?
    2. Read 1 Corinthians 8.  What clarity does this add to Jesus’ words to the church in Thyatira?  Are there times when we participate in worldly things that may cause others in our lives to go astray?  What might those things be in your life?
    3. God's words here are like a parent trying to protect His children against those trying to negatively influence them.  Can you relate? What things do you try to protect your loved ones from? What things do you think God is trying to protect you from?
  • May 6, 2018Revelation 2:12-17 “Speaking of Sin”
    May 6, 2018
    Revelation 2:12-17 “Speaking of Sin”
    No one really likes to talk about sin.  It’s uncomfortable on just about every level.  When we hear about the things that we do that are contrary to God’s desires for us, we see in ourselves the things that we don’t like.  Whether it was small compromises that led to large cycles of sin in our lives or the everyday failings that we experience, it’s never pleasant to see ourselves in that mirror. Jesus has no problem addressing sin head on though.  He was quick to call out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, quick to call out many of the churches in the book of Revelation, and more importantly, quick to give His life as a sacrifice for our sin too.  This truth of God’s grace and mercy, seen in Jesus Christ, is the place from which sin is called out, and repentance called for, and forgiveness is freely extended. He is the righteous judge and the loving God who graciously invites and makes possible for His children to experience new and renewed life. Questions to take home:
    1. Sin is a very unpopular topic, even in church, in today’s culture.  Why do you think this is? How comfortable are you when it comes to talking about sins you struggle with?
    2. Repentance is another topic that doesn’t often get talked about.  Why do we avoid this topic so much too? Do you think there is a link between our avoidance of these subjects?  If so, what do you think that link is?
    3. Balaam is the Biblical poster-child for enticing God’s people to sin.  The enemy is always at work, trying to draw us into sin, often in subtle and seemingly insignificant ways.  How has the enemy been at work in your life like this? What does repentance look like in that situation?
  • Apr 29, 2018Revelation 2:8-11 “When All Else Fails”
    Apr 29, 2018
    Revelation 2:8-11 “When All Else Fails”
    The city of Smyrna was known widely as the “crown of Asia.”  Seated on top of a giant hill, boarding the sea, it’s fortifications looked like a crown from a distance; the city layout and lifestyle reflected this title quite readily as well.  They prided themselves on their opulence and on their loyalty to the Roman empire. The letter to the church in Smyrna, by contrast, reveals a church that is under duress, experiencing pressure, persecution, and poverty.  Interestingly, though, the word “Smyrna” comes from the Hebrew word for Myrrh, a plant that is not so great looking on the outside. However, when pressed and crushed, it releases a wonderful scent and oil that is known for its healing properties. Questions to take home:
    1. The United States is known for its worldly wealth and advancement.  Do you think that we, the Church, sometimes leans more the riches of our country than we do the riches of Christ?  How?
    2. Jesus’ words to the persecuted church are not ones that promise comfort, but instead promise victory.  How do you think that we sometimes trade “victory” for “comfort” in the midst of struggles in our lives?  Do you think we do this in church too?
    3. Ultimately, Jesus encouragement to the church of Smyrna is to be faithful.  What do you think this looks like for them? What pressure or persecution does our church face?  What does faithfulness look like for us?
  • Apr 22, 2018Revelation 2:1-7 “First Love”
    Apr 22, 2018
    Revelation 2:1-7 “First Love”
    Do you remember your first car?  First relationship? First house?  First childhood friend? There are so many emotions that are attached to the details about the “firsts” of our lives, even the ones we would consider more negative.  But what about now? Do you think about your car or your house now the way you did you did at first? Life can take on a rather mundane feel to it after a while.  Creating a space to live and call your own disintegrates into chores and upkeep.  Your first vehicle, the physical symbol of freedom and adulthood, crumbles into oil changes and maintenance.  Jesus, speaking to the church in Ephesus, points out that the life faith can also just become an exercise of “going through the motions.”  Do you remember what it was like, when you first met Jesus? Questions to take home:
    1. What is one “first” in your life that you can remember really well?  What things can you remember about it? Why do you think it was so exciting?  How do you feel about it now?
    2. Do you remember when you first met Jesus as your Savior?  What did it feel like? What are two or three words you would use to describe it?  What about now?
    3. John’s letters are to churches; how do you think a church can lose it’s “first love”?  What things get in the way? How do you think we might struggle with this at HCC?