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Saturday, March 14, 2020

"I Encourage You to Trust Christ and Love One Another" — the pastoral letter from the 2020.03.14 Hopewell Herald


Hopewell Herald – March 14, 2020

Dear Congregation,

What a difference a week can make in the lives of such frail creatures as we are—how very different we are from our eternal and unchangeable God who Himself can be affected by nothing!

John 13:34–14:2 says,
34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
36 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?”
Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.”
37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.”
38 Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.
14:1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

Our hope is not in what we can do for the Lord Jesus (as Peter was prone to feel, v37), but in what the Lord Jesus has done for us. And, Him being our hope produces a couple different fruit in this passage:
(1) Not letting our hearts be troubled, but rather believing
(2) Loving one another self-sacrificially

I hope that you will indulge me in giving some counsel in these areas, speaking individually and personally as an individual pastor, and not in a “formal” way on behalf of the Session.

First, let not your hearts be troubled.
If you are not ill, and not at heightened risk (heart/lung disease, diabetic, immunosuppressed), I encourage you to attend public worship. True loving of one another begins first with loving the Lord our God with all that we are, a summary of the first table of the law: the Whom of worship (1st commandment), the what of worship (2nd), the manner of worship (3rd), and the when of worship (4th). Worship is what we were made for, and public worship, specifically—see the devotional on 1Pet 2 in the worship booklet—is what we were saved for.
If you are ill, I encourage you to consider refraining temporarily (more on that later) at this time from public worship, but there are many other things that I encourage you to do.
If you are ill, you may wish to participate online. The live webcast is available during the service at http://bit.ly/harpclive. There is also a link to the worship booklet directly from that page to help you participate as fully as possible. As part of your praying to God during worship, ask Him to restore your/our ability to gather all together.
▫If you are not ill, I encourage you to note who is missing and contact them to encourage them and pray for them. If they are self-quarantining, you may wish to run errands for them, cook for them, etc., and invite others to do the same.
▫If you are ill, I encourage you to take extra time during your illness to pray for others and to encourage them. Missing the assembly means, in part, missing our primary chance to stir one another up to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24-25). Make and take other, lesser chances to do so.
▫If you are ill, I encourage you to call the pastor (and/or other elders) to pray with you. This is a primary function of their office, and a primary part of that function (James 5:14). I will take all necessary precautions not to come into contact with a single droplet and to cleanse completely before and after. If you insist, we can have that prayer remotely, but at least do that much. Do not tell yourself, “this is not the time”—this is precisely the time.
▫I encourage you to consider the type of testimony for Christ that you are commanded to have as you interact with others, and how it will free you to love and serve them. Immediately before telling us to be anxious for nothing but to pray that God’s peace would guard our hearts and minds (Phil 4:6–7), the apostle tells us that the nearness of the Lord should produce in us a gentleness (i.e. moderation/peacefulness/reasonableness) that all men may see (Phil 4:5).
▫I encourage you to pray that as your hope is evident, you may have opportunity to give an answer for that hope (cf. 1Pet 3:15 in light of the difference between believers and unbelievers in vv8-14, especially the command not to be troubled). Practice telling the truth about what Jesus has done (this is the gospel) that has done this for you (which is your good testimony, but not the gospel). Many may become ill. Some may die from it. All will die, and all will stand before Jesus, and all need to repent and believe.

Second, love one another self-sacrificially
▫I encourage you to do things that tend toward the preservation of your life and others. As our Larger Catechism summarizes in answer 135, “The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by […] patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic [medicine], sleep, labor, and recreations; […] comforting and succoring the distressed [...]” (abbreviated for length).
▫I encourage you to
do what you can to not get sick or get others sick. Some advice from physician and ARP pastor Neil Stewart, “Be prudent, wash your hands regularly, elbow bump religiously, avoid mass gatherings, and keep your distance (6ft) from people, especially those who are sick. Avoid gyms also and strenuous work outs (they lower your immune response significantly for at least a couple of hours). Take a nice long walk at noon (sunlight is your friend). Oh, and get plenty of sleep.”
If you have cough, fever/chills, runny nose, or have likely exposure to droplets from those who do, I encourage you not to attend any gatherings. Yes, this is a sacrifice, but it is on account of others, and especially some of the weakest among us.
▫I encourage you to
sit in family units. I happen to believe that this is always appropriate and healthy for those who recognize that the Lord deals with us covenantally in this life. Now, there is the added rationale of your already being exposed to one another anyway.
▫I encourage you to
observe good spacing in seating.
▫I encourage you to
observe good spacing during conversations—and to have them in places that allow others good space to enter, exit, get around, etc. Let’s try not to bottleneck important traffic areas.
▫I encourage you to
practice making your delight to see one another evident in your facial expression and the tone of your voice. This will be good to have improved, even after normal handshaking and hugging and holy kisses have been resumed.
▫I encourage you to be quick to let the deacons know of any practical needs of yourself and other members. The resources of the church are given by Christ for this purpose.
▫I encourage you to
be quick to let the deacons know of any practical needs outside the church. As they lead us in stewarding our things well, it will be good for them to know of specific ways that we can each be loving our neighbors.
▫I encourage you to pray for the elders and deacons and each member of the church to fulfill our ministry well.

Q:  What is your only comfort in life and death?
A:  That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins and delivered me from all the power of the devil and so preserves me that without the will of my Heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.
Heidelberg Catechism 1

Thank you for putting up with such a long, and rather unusual, note this week. May the Lord grant unto all of us faith and hope to not let our hearts be troubled, along with love for Him with all our hearts, love for our neighbors as ourselves, and love for one another as He has loved us.

Pastor

LORD'S DAY – March 15, 2020

10 a.m. Breakfast and Study Class
FREE (and great) full breakfast provided. We’ll be continuing to consider the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the believer.

11 a.m. Morning Worship
Children’s Catechism for March 15
Q20. How do you know that you have a soul? A. Because the Bible tells me so.

Shorter Catechism for March15
Q28. Wherein consisteth Christ's exaltation? A. Christ's exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.


Hymns and Psalms
+ SONG OF ADORATION — TPH306 "To Us a Child of Hope Is Born"          
+ HOLY SCRIPTURE PUBLICLY SUNG — ARP100 "All Earth, With Joy"
+ SONG OF RESPONSE — TPH400 "Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me"

Basis of first portion of worship service

Scripture Readings
Old Testament – 1Samuel 2:22–26
Epistle – Ephesians 1:3–4
Gospel – Luke 3:1–6

Sermon Scripture text and topic
We will be hearing from Galatians 5.

Coffee Time and Catechism Class
All are encouraged to proceed from the Chapel into the Fellowship Hall for coffee and refreshments, while the children have their catechism lesson.

Food Fellowship
Each Lord’s Day, there is more than enough at the Fellowship Meal for all to stay and eat together. During the meal we have an open mic time, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries together, reciting our memory verse for the week, and with various members sharing about the ministries that the Lord has them involved in and whatever else is on their minds and hearts. There’s always enough for everyone, so please stay even if you don’t bring anything. Others bring extra precisely because they’d love for you to stay!

▫Memory Verse for March 15
(
Galatians 5:17) For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

2:30p.m. Church-Family Worship
The weekly p.m. service includes an extended singing time of favorites selected by the congregation, a Scripture teaching time from “the epistle reading,” and elder-led prayer. All are welcome to this worship time!


Hopewell this Month

Hopewell’s Presbytery Prayer Focus for March:
Lincoln Memorial ARP in Fayetteville, TN

March Psalm of the Month
ARP100 All Earth, with Joy

Upcoming Events
•March 21, Men’s Discipleship Breakfast
•March 23, Monthly Session meeting
•October 2-4, HARPC 200th Anniversary Celebration

Smooth Stones from a Babbling Brook
(Internet links of the week)
▪ An eleven year-old article with an excerpt on how Calvin and other pastors ministered during various plagues in Geneva

Congregational Prayer Requests (new/updates in bold)
▪ Alan McClelland and his ministry at Ft. Rucker
Comfort and strength through the advancement of the gospel in the wake of the tornadoes in Middle Tennessee
▪ Comfort and provision for the LeeAnn Billings family as they grieve
▪ Rebecca Sterling’s new shunt and tube to properly drain brain fluid
▪ Pray for the Jeffers family, whose granddaughter Isabelle (14) and then her mother Norma both attempted suicide; there’s a long way to go medically, financially, and especially spiritually for all involved; please keep praying for them and for Sue’s ministry to them
▪ Pray for Kacey and family, going through difficult trial
▪ Pray with D&L L for her 85yo mother, who has a small blockage and needs a procedure for it in the next couple weeks
▪ Pray with KC for her acquaintance Linda who doesn’t seem to know the Lord, and just lost 21 year old son; and, for sister Diane and her husband Frank, who need a living faith in Christ; and for friend Patty, a believer, that she will continue to do well after treatment for uterine cancer
▪ Pray with D&M G that her mother would continue healing well and not smoking; for Sean; for Jeremiah and Julianna; for Jordan & Atlanta whose twins are due mid-April
▪ Pray with W&C G for her mother’s health and caregivers; and for spiritual (and total) well-being of son Greg
▪ Pray with J&H H for his father’s cancer and recovery from bypass surgery, and sweetness in his parents’ remaining time together; for his youngest brother; for sister-in-law’s recovery from cancer treatment
▪ Pray for James Heard to make good choices and to walk with an serve the Lord in this next phase of his life.
▪ Pray with H&K H for their health (especially Karen’s back, which keeps getting reinjured, and their schedule which it affects) and for many of their loved ones; needing Christian fellowship: her grandmother and father, widow Hope w/4 children, Brown family of 7 (wayward son Nicholas); needing health: her mom, sister Lisa, Martina, Donna, Joyce; needing spiritual life: Velvet and Reagan (lost their sister/daughter to a brutal murder), neighbors Shawn, Merlin, & children; other widows: Libby, Naomi (w/daughter Stacia), Stephanie (w/many children, were missionaries); friend Andrea’s New Age friends; Charles & Robert to be able to forgive; friends w/family problems: Dave, Lee, Melodie, Cole; spiritual growth and wife for friend Scott; their family’s evangelism, recently firefighter Dalton; Riggs to grow mighty in the Lord
▪ Pray with R&M J for Meredith, young daughter of M’s college friend Ashely (and husband Brad), who’s taking medicine to shrink her brain tumor
▪ Pray with O&A L for her unbelieving mother w/heart condition, and brother w/lung cancer.
▪ Pray with CM for his sister Ginger, diagnosed with an aggressive and advanced leukemia, and for Sheriff’s Reserve James Wilson, and his wife Andra’s cancer
▪ Pray with C&T P for wisdom for him about what to do with two good career choices, and for the conversion of her brother Todd
▪ Pray with D&K R for their family’s growth in godliness, especially dying to self, godly speech, and Lord’s Day keeping; for Micah, Rachel, and baby girl due in July; and pray for Hannah’s and Noah Martyn’s thriving and fast recovery; and for local pastor/constable Darryl Thrasher, who has an aggressive, malignant brain tumor
▪ Pray with GR for friend Abby to come to faith in Christ
▪ Pray with JeR for believing friend Jeanette Cary’s CHF, Fibromyalgia, & slow-healing wound
▪ Pray with J&S R for her nephew, who needs life in Christ; and for her and her family in the loss of her father, especially spiritual impact on her sisters and nephews; and for her sister Rebecca’s pregnancy, in acute abdominal pain 6 months along; and for his parents in coping with his father’s Parkinson’s; and for friends’ baby Arianna needing kidney surgery and just 9lbs
▪ Pray with S&V Y for 12yo Peyton, a relative of theirs from an unbelieving family, who has leukemia, and for Mike Barnette, who had open heart surgery March 3, and another surgery March 13 for complications
▪ Please pray with Lincoln Memorial ARP in Fayetteville, TN, throughout the month of March
▪ Please pray for the TN-AL Presbytery to be enabled to plant a faithful church with the resources available and earmarked for that purpose
▪ Please pray for all ARP presbyteries, churches, and agencies
▪ Please pray for our nation, state, community and all the officials thereof 

Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship, is by God required of all men: and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of his Spirit, according to his will, with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and, if vocal, in a known tongue. (WCF 21.3)