Saturday, February 23, 2019

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


Hopewell Herald – February 23, 2019

Dear Congregation,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking forward to filling up with you tomorrow,

Pastor


Read more in the weekly Hopewell Herald

2019.02.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 6:1-5

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 21, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

2019.02.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 15:13-63

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

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

How does He do this?

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

2019.02.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 3:7-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

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