Saturday, December 14, 2019

2019.12.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:10-21

Questions from the Scripture text: What did the servant take (Genesis 24:10)? How many? Why was he able to take so much? To what region did he go? To what city? Where did he make the camels kneel (Genesis 24:11)? When? Who did what at that time? To Whom does he speak in Genesis 24:12? What does he call Him? What does he ask for himself? Unto whom does he ask God to show steadfast love? What does he tell God in Genesis 24:13? What does he assume that God has appointed (Genesis 24:14)? How does he ask to be able to identify her? When does he see Rebekah (Genesis 24:15)? From whose family is she? What is she carrying? What does she look like (Genesis 24:16)? What else do we learn about her? What does she do? What does the servant do at the beginning of Genesis 24:17? What does he ask? What does she say in Genesis 24:18? What does she do? What does she propose to do in Genesis 24:19? How many camels would this be? Until they have drunk how much? In what manner does she empty the pitcher in Genesis 24:20? At what pace does she return to the well? For how many camels does she draw? Who gazes at her (Genesis 24:21)? How does he remain? What is he learning?
It's very interesting to observe Abraham’s eldest servant praying. Scripture refers to believers as the true children of Abraham who have the faith of Abraham in the Lord Jesus. So, what might the prayer life look like of one who spent his life in Abraham’s household, and was Abraham’s closest confidant?

First, a life of believing prayer is consistent with a life of planning and action. This is Abraham’s oldest servant, but he oversees quite the caravan—ten camels, carrying goods, all the way to Mesopotamia. There is a misconception among some that earnest and genuine prayer is somehow wedded to declining to plan ahead or exert oneself vigorously—as if spontaneity and inactivity are somehow of the essence of a life of prayer. But Abraham’s servant here displays careful planning and vigorous action.

Second, believing prayer is tied to who God is and what God has promised. Consider the address in Genesis 24:12, “Yahweh, God of my master Abraham… show covenant love (kessed) to my master Abraham.” It is the Lord who has revealed Himself as the One who makes covenant with Abraham to bring redemption to the world in him. Now, the servant’s prayer for success is not merely brought in the context of an immediate connection between him and God, but in a relationship that is mediated through the Lord’s appointed covenant representative.

On this side of Pentecost, we have more claim to a direct connection with the Lord—we have His Spirit dwelling in us, and His Spirit is a “spirit of adoption” to us (cf. Romans 8:15), who trains our souls to call upon God as our “Abba, Father.” But even with this direct connection, the New Testament consistently tells us to pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ—coming to God through Him, our appointed covenant representative who is not merely a man on earth who will die, but a resurrected Man in heaven who will never die. Believing prayer is deeply conscious of coming to God as the Lord who has committed Himself to us in Christ, accomplished our redemption in Christ, and is now bringing about all that Christ has earned and accomplished.

Third, believing prayer tells God both our circumstances and our desires. Perhaps you have heard the question, “If God already knows what He is going to do, why pray?” But, since it is the God who already knows what He is going to do who has commanded us to pray, we can draw the conclusion that He has planned to do what He will do as a response to our praying. Thus, He reveals Himself as One who listens to His people’s voices, who cares to hear from us and to take action as a function of His love for us and response to us. The faith that this servant has learned in Abraham’s household expresses itself in telling God his circumstances (Genesis 24:13), and making very specific requests (Genesis 24:14).

Fourth, believing prayer assumes that God is already answering. Rebekah appears before he finishes speaking (Genesis 24:15), but in Genesis 24:17 the servant proceeds with the very specific request that he had made. To the believer, it makes all the sense in the world that God was already carrying out His response to our prayer before we even made it! This is the prayer that does not doubt (cf. James 1:2-8).

Finally, believing prayer embraces the freedom of God to answer according to His perfect will, over and above the details of our particular requests. Consider Abraham’s servant in Genesis 24:21—as he considers Rebekah. He does not reason that since the details of the circumstances are as he asked that she is automatically a proper wife for Isaac. He is observing to see whether she is indeed the kind of woman that Isaac should marry. We too should be careful not to determine what God wants us to do by a superstitious identifying of signs (requested signs or otherwise), but only by God’s revealed will in His Word!
What might you do differently in prayer after observing Abrahamic faith as it prays?
Suggested songs: ARP65A “Praise Awaits You, God” or TPH234 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Friday, December 13, 2019

God's Recipe for Courageous Christians (2019.12.13 Pastoral Letter from the Hopewell Herald)

The following is the pastoral letter from today's Herald. You can click the red link in the upper-lefthand corner to receive the Herald, and other occasional congregational communications, via email.



One of today’s Scripture readings on the M’Cheyne plan is 2Chronicles 15.

To Israel (as both a nation and a church), Yahweh sent a prophet to say, “The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law; but when in their trouble they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them” (2Chr 15:2-4). The Lord Jesus speaks similarly to churches in Revelation 2-3.

So, how will we respond to this reminder? What was its effect in the life of Asa? “And when Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and removed the abominable idols from all the land.”

He took courage. Undoubtedly, courage was needed, as his actions would be unpopular. But it was the Word of God, announcing how mercifully God responds to repentance, that God used to give Asa courage.

This, too, is the aim of the warnings/invitations in the letters to the churches in Revelation: that we might take courage to overcome our fears and all other resistance to faithfulness to Christ (cf. Rev 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:26, 3:5, 3:12, 3:21, 21:7).

As Christians, we need the Word of God, to press into us the reality of the unseen world, so that we will walk by faith and not by sight. It is difficult to do so. Asa couldn't see the living God. The first century church couldn't see the ascended Christ seated in glory. 

Do we desire to live corum deo, “before the face of God”? Do we desire the courage to be so mindful of Him that earthly fears and resistance fade? Do we desire to live courageously?

Then, here is one means toward that end. God sends His Word to sharpen our view of the seriousness of His threats. God sends His Word to sharpen our view of the strength and certainty of His merciful response to repentance. God sends His Word to bring the unseen world into focus, and push all competition into the background.

And never is this more true than when we worship Him by that Word, and visit that unseen world by faith in the Lord’s Day assembly (Heb 12:18-29).

Looking forward to doing so together,

Pastor

2019.12.15 Worship Booklet now available

The link to the Worship Booklet has been updated. It contains instruction for preparing for the Lord's Supper, so that we may come to His table in the manner that His Word directs. May the Lord bless its use to you!

2019.12.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 1:1-4

Questions from the Scripture text: What have many attempted to do (Luke 1:1)? What two types of people had delivered these things (Luke 1:2)? What kind of understanding does Luke have as he writes (Luke 1:3)? What kind of account is he writing? To whom is he writing? What does Luke want him to know (Luke 1:4)? What does he want him to be certain about?
Christianity is a religion of facts and reality. Theophilus has been instructed (more literally, “catechized,” Luke 1:4). What does God use to increase his experiential confidence (“know the certainty”) in what he believes? Historical facts: “set in order a narrative” (Luke 1:1) and “orderly account” (Luke 1:3).

God the Son became a man, lived a perfectly righteous life while displaying Himself to be the promised Savior and God-man, then died an accursed death as He gave His life as a ransom for sinners. This is an event of history. He has risen from the dead, and by His Spirit He is bringing sinners unto saving faith in Himself. This is a present reality. And this is the substance of Christianity.

What does Christ use to bring us to this faith? His Word. Some traditions have made much of the apostles—putting them on another level of sainthood from the ordinary Christian, even praying to them and venerating them. This is not what the evangelist does in Luke 1:2. Like John at the end of his own gospel (cf. John 21:24), Luke teaches us to value the apostles especially as “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.” They testify to the history, and their testimony is the appointed instrument of Christ.

In fact, the word translated “from the very first” in Luke 1:3 can mean that with reference to time, but its most basic meaning is “from above.” It sure seems to fit better with a “perfect” (literally, “accurate”) understanding that it has come from above—Luke, here, is telling us that by whatever means he learned these things, he is writing them with an accuracy that is the result of divine inspiration. We can take him not at his word, but at God’s Word.

If our Christianity is just feelings about God, or habits we practice, or even a system of theology, we will not read the Gospel of Luke correctly. Surely, Scripture stirs up to certain feelings about God that it tells us that we should have, and it commands and inspires certain habits that we must practice, and it teaches us a system of theology to which it urges us to hold. But, if we are listening to the Scripture, we find none of these at the center of our Christianity. Rather, at the center we find Christ Himself—what He has done, and who He is.

Is Christ Himself the center of your Christian life?
How important to you are historical facts about Jesus? Who is He? What has He done? How does He increase our confidence in Him? What use are you making of it?
Suggested songs: ARP19B “The LORD’s Most Perfect Law” or TPH170 “God in the Gospel of His Son”

Thursday, December 12, 2019

2019.12.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 5:1-6

Questions from the Scripture text: In what does the apostle command them to stand fast (Galatians 5:1)? Who has given us our freedom? What does the apostle again call submission to the Jewish church calendar and ceremonies? What are they considering doing, according to Galatians 5:2? How much will Christ profit them, if they seek spiritual value in circumcision? And if a man is circumcised because he feels a religious obligation to, what else is he indebted to do (Galatians 5:3)? What two things does Galatians 5:4 say have happened to those who attempt to be justified by law? Through Whose power did we come to faith (Galatians 5:5)? What do we eagerly expect to receive by this faith? What two things avail nothing, according to Galatians 5:6? What, in Christ Jesus, is effective?
The freedom that is being described here comes in the context of having made our transition from being under the guardian to having come into our inheritance (cf. Galatians 4:1-4, Galatians 4:9). The apostle’s point is twofold.

First, we should be embracing and celebrating the change that Christ brought from the slavery of outward forms to the sonship of simpler but fuller and more direct knowledge of God in Christ. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free!”

Second, if instead of embracing the change that Christ brought, we begin again to add external forms, we will be bringing ourselves back under that former slavery. The word translated “be entangled” has the sense “come under the control of.” We are easily entangled, easily controlled, by forms and patterns and practices in religion—and even the ones that point us to Christ quite easily take Christ’s place.

This is why the apostle warns them, “if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.” Why? Is uncircumcision a superior condition? Galatians 5:6 says that uncircumcision avails nothing! The problem is that it is the living Christ Whom we are to know and interact with in all our religion, which means that those things in which He has not currently appointed to give Himself become worse than worthless—they become competition to Christ and enslaving. Therefore, “If you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.”

The time had passed for circumcision (and other things, cf. Galatians 4:10-11) to keep God’s people focused upon the Christ to come. Attaching any religious value to circumcision would be to try to go back to that law as if it were possible to be saved by the forms that had been given by Moses—something that was never possible even at the time of Moses. This is what the apostle means when he says that becoming circumcised would obligate them to keep the whole law (Galatians 5:3), and that seeking standing before God in this way is to become “estranged from Christ” (Galatians 5:4).

Are we already what we ought to be? No! There is that holiness without which we will not see the Lord (cf. Hebrews 12:14). When we see Him, we will be like Him, and when that is our hope, we are devoted to purifying ourselves as He is pure (cf. 1 John 3:1-3). The question here is not whether or not there should be effort or growth in the Christian life.

The question is: how does that happen? If it’s not by circumcision, then is it by uncircumcision? Galatians 5:5-6 answers that it is neither of these things, but that the faith by which we have received righteous standing in Christ also depends upon the Spirit to give us the righteous character of Christ—something that is energized (made effective, “working” in verse 6) not by law but by love.
What are some things that man has added to “Christianity” that Christ hasn’t? What do Galatians 5:2 and Galatians 5:4 warn us will be the effect of practicing such things in addition to the current means by which Christ gives Himself to us and works in us? What place does love of Christ have in your own daily Christian walk? Where does Scripture say it comes from? What does Scripture say it does?
Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Ruth 2:18-23 - "Clinging to the Redeemer"

An audio recording of a sample family worship lesson in today's Hopewell @Home Passage. Empathizing with Naomi's joy over Ruth's knowing Boaz as a redeemer conditions our hearts for the greater joy of knowing Jesus, our infinitely greater Redeemer!

2019.12.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ruth 2:18-23

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Ruth do with the 20 lb of barley grain that she had harvested and threshed (Ruth 2:18)? What did she do with her leftovers from lunch? What questions does this prompt from her mother-in-law (Ruth 2:19)? What does she assume that someone has done for Ruth? With whom does Ruth say she had worked? Upon whom does Naomi call to bless Boaz (Ruth 2:20)? Whom does Naomi say that the Lord has not forgotten? What information does Naomi now give to Ruth about Boaz? And what additional information does Ruth supply in Ruth 2:21? What is Naomi’s opinion of the situation (Ruth 2:22)? What does she tell Ruth not to let happen? How does Ruth respond to this advice (Ruth 2:23)?
Ruth has brought back quite a haul. Not only does she have around 20 pounds of freshly threshed barley grain, but she gives her mother-in-law her lunch leftovers. Naturally, Naomi would like to know from where all of this came. Surely someone has taken notice of Ruth (Ruth 2:19a)!

The news is better than Naomi had thought: Ruth reports that her benefactor was Boaz (verse 19b), which immediately calls forth exclamations of praise of Yahweh (Ruth 2:20). No longer does she speak of the Lord as smiting her, but rather remembering both her and her departed loved ones—probably, specifically, Mahlon or Chilion (we don’t know which had been Ruth’s husband!).

Why such a response? Because, as Naomi says at the end of verse 20, Boaz is their “close relative”—goel in Hebrew, “kinsman-redeemer.” Those in near enough relation to be called a goel had four responsibilities. (1) buy back any land that has been sold out of the clan (Leviticus 25:23-25), (2) buy back relatives who have become slaves by debt (Leviticus 25:47-49), (3) prosecute and avenge murder of any relatives (Numbers 35:16-19), and (4) marry a brother’s widow, if he died without an heir, so that their firstborn would be the heir of the brother (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).

It is this last duty of the redeemer that is most pertinent to Ruth and Naomi’s situation. Back in Ruth 1:11-13, Naomi had basically implied that no one back in Israel would ever do this for her daughters-in-law, sarcastically suggesting that she herself would have to remarry and have more sons for Ruth and Orpah. But now, Boaz, a relative close enough to be a redeemer, has shown favor toward Ruth!

Naomi urges Ruth to commit wholeheartedly to gleaning in Boaz’s field and not even meet anyone else. Ruth takes her advice, and stays for what would have been about three months of harvest. If this first day ended up being an average day, she could have harvested and threshed as much as 1500 lbs! This could have been sold for enough to make them quite comfortable, if not wealthy.

A Christian immediately recognizes his Redeemer here. The One who obtains for us all that we lost. The One who pays our debt and rescues us out of slavery. The One who has crushed the serpent’s head, and who avenges all wrongs done to us. And the One who is willing to take as His bride a church of those who are utterly disqualified—about whom the idea that one would have pity on her and marry her should have been laughable. And yet the Lord Jesus, our Redeemer, has taken us to Himself. Praise be unto the Lord, who has not forsaken His steadfast love to us in Christ!
Thinking of the four types of redemption that the goel was to do, in what ways have you personally needed Jesus do be your Redeemer? What has He done? Is He yours?
Suggested Songs: ARP183 “Under His Wings” or TPH265 “In Christ Alone”

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

2019.12.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 1:14-18

Questions from the Scripture text: What did the Word become (John 1:14)? What does this mean the Word had been before? When the Word became flesh, what did He do? What did the evangelist (John) behold? What kind of glory did they behold in the enfleshed Word? What did this glory mean that He was full of? Who bore witness of Him? Why did John the Evangelist say that Jesus was preferred to him (John 1:15)? From what have we received (John 1:16)? What did we receive from His fullness? What was given through Moses (John 1:17)? Through Whom did grace and truth come? Who has seen God (John 1:18)? When has someone seen God? Who has declared (exegeted) God? Where is this Son that declares God? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration come from John 1:14-18 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with Wondrous King All Glorious. This passage emphasizes that Jesus is God’s full and clear revelation of Himself.

No one has seen God at any time. In fact, we cannot see God, because He is invisible Spirit. But later in this book, Philip is going to ask to see the Father, and Jesus is going to answer, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

Jesus’ point in John 14:9 is the same as John’s point in our little passage. Jesus is the complete revelation of the Father. There is nothing un-Jesus-like in God. If you have seen Jesus, there is nothing more left to see of God. Once you’ve seen Jesus, there is no longer any ground whatsoever to wish that you could see the Father.

Wow!! Of course, that wasn’t the first time that such a request was made. Moses had asked God to show Himself too, and when God did, He announced His own name in Exodus 34:6, “Yahweh, Yahweh God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” When that last phrase was translated into Greek, it was exactly the phrase at the end of our John 1:14 today.

Jesus is Yahweh, who declared His name to Moses on the mountain! That’s what verse 14 is saying. And of course John 1:15 says that He is eternal. And John 1:16 says that He is the God of our salvation—all of our salvation—by grace upon grace. Moses came down from the mountain with the Law, but in Jesus Christ, Yahweh Himself has come down to us—all of that glory now inseparably joined to a human nature forever.

Oh, the wonder of this clause: “The Word became flesh”! If your chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then there is nothing more central to your existence and your purpose than to know, worship, and enjoy this Jesus Christ—our Savior and our God.
What are some religions that claim to worship the same God as we do? Why don’t they really do so? Why is it important to increase our theological knowledge and skill?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken” or TPH280 “Wondrous King All Glorious”

Monday, December 9, 2019

2019.12.09 Hopewell Harbinger

Hopewell This Week, December 9-14
(click the red link in the upper-left of this page, if you wish to subscribe email to the Harbinger, Herald, and infrequent/urgent prayer requests and announcements)

▫An updated copy of yesterday’s worship booklet is at the link. Many thanks to Kathy Collins, who keeps the Hopewell @Home flowing seamlessly on the website, for her help with this! Also available are 8.5x11's of the memory verse and shorter catechism question that can be used as posters to help with memory work, along with images of the songs for next Lord's Day.


WEDNESDAY, PRAYER MEETING, 7p.m.
SATURDAY, MEN'S BREAKFAST, 6:30p.m.

Children’s Catechism for December 15
Q7. In how many persons does this one God exist? A. In three persons.


Songs for December 15: 
TPH280 "Wondrous King, All Glorious" 
ARP102B "My Days Like Evening’s Shade" 
TPH518 "Come, My Soul, with Every Care"

A.M. Sermon Text for December 15: Genesis 24:10-21
P.M. Exhortation Text for December 15: Galatians 5:1-6

LORD'S SUPPER in Morning worship on the 15th. You may wish to prepare for it by examining yourself in light of this document.

▫Memory Verse for December 15
(Genesis 24:21) And the man, wondering at her, remained silent so as to know whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or 

Genesis 24:1-9 - Married by Faith

Audio from yesterday's sermon, as we follow it up in today's devotional.

2019.12.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:1-9

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Genesis 24:1 tell us about Abraham, to introduce this incident? How does the second half of the verse summarize Abraham’s condition/ circumstance? To whom does Abraham speak in Genesis 24:2? What does Abraham tell him to do? By whom must he swear (Genesis 24:3)? What must he swear not to do? Where must he go (Genesis 24:4)? To whom must he go? What must he get from them? What hypothetical problem does the servant propose in Genesis 24:5? What does he ask that he should do in such a case? What does Abraham strictly forbid him to do in Genesis 24:6? What has Yahweh done to Abraham (Genesis 24:7)? What has Yahweh promised to Abraham? What is Abraham confident that Yahweh will do? But what does Abraham say to do, even if this does not happen (Genesis 24:8)? What does the servant do in Genesis 24:9?
Scripture presents marriage to us as a wonderful thing. It was invented by God for the imaging of God (cf. Genesis 1:27), for the comfort and joy of man (Genesis 24:67, cf. Genesis 2:18), for the multiplication of godly offspring (cf. Genesis 1:28Genesis 2:18, Malachi 2:14-15), and even for the display of how Christ is with His church (cf. Ephesians 5:31-32). But what happens when we’re not directed by the Lord in our view and practice of marriage?

We’ve had one dreadful example of that already in Genesis 6. There, the promising godly line of Seth, who called upon the name of Yahweh (or perhaps better translated “were called by the name of Yahweh,” cf. Genesis 4:26) married not according to these purposes, but according to their own whim and their own idea of pleasure. “the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.”

So, Abraham comes up with a way to find Isaac a wife that goes along with all that God has told him. The Canaanites are wicked and under God’s curse, but also Abraham and his descendants must remain sojourners, which means that they cannot return to their family’s land (Genesis 24:7, cf. Genesis 15:13-21).

Thankfully, Abraham’s faith about marriage is not only that it would be directed by God, but that it would also be dependent upon God. He trusts that God will direct the servant’s way and work the situation out (Genesis 24:7), but also that God is wise enough to have His own plan that Abraham has not anticipated (Genesis 24:8). We can also see the implication that he is trusting that God has been doing a work of grace in a young lady’s heart somewhere for his son—and indeed we will soon see some of the fruit of that work when the servant meets Rebekah. God providentially works in our circumstances, just as He also works in our hearts by His grace. This is what frees Abraham to keep his instructions to his servant so laser-focused upon doing this according to the direction of God. The servant wants to know what to do if it doesn’t work out (Genesis 24:5), but the idea that it won’t ultimately work out isn’t even on Abraham’s radar. Just obedience is.

And ultimately, this is because our marriages, like everything else that there is, exist to glorify God. He is “Yahweh, the God of heaven and the God of the earth” (Genesis 24:3). He is “Yahweh God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house, etc.” (Genesis 24:7). He will be glorified in what occurs, but will we be devoting ourselves to and delighting ourselves in His glory? This is a question that can be applied to any situation—how necessary, then, that it would be the primary question when it comes to something to which He has given such an important place as marriage!
What does God want out of your future or present marriage? Even if you never marry, how can you participate in other believers’ pursuing marriage in God’s way? What aspect of your life have you been approaching as existing primarily to please you?
Suggested Songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or TPH128B “Blest the Man That Fears Jehovah”