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)

Saturday, September 19, 2020

A Better Altar (2020.09.18 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – September 18, 2020

Dear Congregation,

As we come to the table tomorrow, I hope that you will be examining yourself beforehand so that you can come with joy at your Lord’s feeding you, confirming His covenant to you, and granting to you to show forth His death until He comes.

Hebrews 13:10 speaks of us as having an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. The implication, of course, is that Jesus as our true Tabernacle, has given us the right to eat from His altar.

There won’t be an earthily impressive tent or temple. There won’t be fire and roasting meat. But what there will be is Christ Himself—Who, without moving from the throne of glory communicates Himself to us on earth by means of the faith that His Spirit gives us.

Those who do not have this faith will find it rather unimpressive. But those who have faith will find that Christ Himself is the impressiveness of His Supper, just as He Himself is the glory and substance of all New Testament worship.

Looking forward to that worship and supper together with you,

Pastor

2020.09.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 33:1–17

Read Genesis 33:1–17

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Jacob see in Genesis 33:1? Into what three groups does he divide the wives and the children (Genesis 33:1-2)? Who goes first (Genesis 33:3)? What does he do? But what does Esau do in Genesis 33:4? Then whom does he see, and what does he ask (Genesis 33:5)? How does Jacob describe his children? What do the three groups do in Genesis 33:6-7)? What, then, does Esau ask about in Genesis 33:8? How does Jacob answer? What does Esau say he has in Genesis 33:9? What does he tell Jacob to do? What does Jacob tell Esau to do (Genesis 33:10)? What does he say about seeing Esau’s face? How does this relate to Genesis 32:13–32? What does Jacob tell Esau to do in Genesis 33:11? Why? What does Esau propose in Genesis 33:12? What objection does Jacob make in Genesis 33:13? What suggestion does he make in Genesis 33:14? What promise does he make/imply? What suggestion does Esau make in Genesis 33:15, and how does Jacob respond? Where does Esau go in Genesis 33:16? Where does Jacob go in Genesis 33:17? What does he do there? What does he call it?

Up through Genesis 33:2, Jacob has put the maidservants and their children in the most vulnerable position and Rachel and Joseph in the safest. But then he takes for himself the dangerous lead, making slow progress with all of the (seven) bowings (Genesis 33:3). By contrast, Esau runs in a manner that reminds us of the father in the parable of the prodigal son, falling on Jacob’s neck and kissing him (Genesis 33:4).

Esau, for his part, does seem not only loving (verse 4), but content or even grateful (Genesis 33:9). But, Jacob doesn’t trust him. He makes an excuse not to go together (Genesis 33:13), an excuse not to have any of Esau’s men accompany him (Genesis 33:15), and even a promise to meet him in Sier that he does not end up keeping (Genesis 33:16-17). 

Jacob cannot go to Seir, because he must journey to the land of promise, where he reestablishes himself in a home (Genesis 33:17). For Jacob, his contentment is not merely a matter of his having “enough” as Esau says in Genesis 33:9, but a matter of his having “all” (Genesis 33:11). How does he have “all”? Because what he has is not merely family and flocks but the grace of God (Genesis 33:5Genesis 33:11).

The grace of God is more than everything else together—so much so that we have the almost surreal experience in verse 11 of hearing Jacob plead with Esau for Esau to take his blessing. What a turnaround from their interaction up to this point! But we understand the reasoning from Genesis 33:10 (which would have sounded like mere flattery in Esau’s ears). 

Jacob refers to Esau’s favor (literally “grace”), offers him a present (literally “offering”), and even says that seeing his face is like seeing God’s face. It is this last bit that clues us into what Jacob is thinking. He needs nothing, because he has seen the true God’s face and survived by the true God’s grace. He is able to give the present/offering to Esau to make peace, because it all belongs to God anyway. Jacob’s shrewdness enables him to make peace because he trusts in God’s grace (cf. Luke 16:1–9).

The children of Jacob—the children of Israel—needed to understand this. God had spared them from Himself at the Passover. He had been gracious to them, and He would provide for them. Not only should they have trusted Him, but they should have been willing even to be generous with one another.  

And what of us—the children of God in Christ? We, most of all, see how God has spared us from Himself in Christ! We, most of all, ought to see all that we have is God’s graciousness to us. We, most of all, ought to be able to be generous with others out of faith in God. 

How has God saved you from Himself? What else has He given you by this grace? What does this free you to do?

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH23A “The Lord’s My Shepherd”


Friday, September 18, 2020

2020.09.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 8:19–21

 Read Luke 8:19–21

Questions from the Scripture text: Who came in Luke 8:19? What couldn’t they do? Why? Where did some tell Him that they were (Luke 8:20)? What did some tell Him that they wanted? How, instead, does He identify His mother and brothers—what do they hear, and what do they do (Luke 8:21)?

The tension that this passage produces has a wonderful resolution. Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers, are among the believers in the fledgling church in Acts 1:14; and, two New Testament books (James and Jude) are written by men who are standing outside the door in Luke 8:19–21.

What this passage makes clear is that it was the work of God’s grace in their hearts that truly brought them near to the Man who had grown up in a house with them. As things stand in Luke 8, Jesus identifies those who are hearing His Word in the way that Luke 8:14-18 commend are His true mother and brothers.

This means something wonderful about the relationship that the Lord Jesus brings us into by His Word. The people inside with Him thought that the people standing outside were Jesus’s close kin. What a great honor the Lord declared, when He notified them that they were nearer kin!

And this honor is more than just a title. Perhaps Jesus shared facial features or mannerisms with Mary and the others outside. But the distinguishing feature of Christ was His love for, submission to, and living perfectly according to God’s Word. It is family resemblance to Him that His Spirit produces by means of His Word.

Theology and obedience have fallen upon hard times in the churches. But, if we see that “hearing God’s Word and doing it” is a family privilege bestowed upon us in Jesus and with Jesus, then love for Him will help us come to value theology and obedience as He does.

How does being Christ’s family and displaying Christ’s likeness motivate you? What difference will it make for you now, in how you pursue theology and obedience in your life?

Suggested songs: ARP95B “Today, If You Will Hear His Voice” or TPH119V “Lord, Let My Cry before You Come”


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Joy and Liberty in Prayer through Asking Anything and Everything God Wills (1John 5:15 Prayer Devotional)

What liberty and joy we would have in prayer, if we did it from Scripture that we might know that it is according to His will, and if we therefore didn’t have a shadow of a doubt that we are receiving what we ask for! And, how greatly is this liberty and joy magnified, when we learn to ask for so large a thing as for the greatest thing that there can be: “Hallowed be Thy Name.” And how persistently is this liberty and joy renewed, when we learn to ask continually for even the smallest of things: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

2020.09.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 4:17–25

 Read Ephesians 4:17–25

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the apostle introduce Ephesians 4:17? How does he say they should no longer walk? How do the Gentiles walk? What of theirs is darkened (Ephesians 4:18)? From what were they alienated? Because of what that was in them? And because of what in their heart? What were they past (Ephesians 4:19)? To what had they given themselves over? What did they work? What does Ephesians 4:20 say they had done with Christ? Whom had they heard (Ephesians 4:21)? By Whom had they been taught? What is in Jesus? What are they to put off, concerning what (Ephesians 4:22)? What happens to the old man, according to what? How may we be renewed (Ephesians 4:23)? What are we to put on (Ephesians 4:24)? From where did this new man come? In what was he created? What are we to put away, therefore (Ephesians 4:25)? What are we to do with our neighbor? Why? 

Why is our theological learning from Christ’s Word and Christ’s undershepherds (Ephesians 4:11-12), and our theological maturity and stability (Ephesians 4:13-14), and our theological fellowship and ministry unto one another (Ephesians 4:15-16) such a necessity for the growth of the church in Christ?

Because our growth in Christ and walk with Him is, in large part, a function of the mind.

It is in the futility of their mind that the Gentiles walk (and in which we are no longer to walk), Ephesians 4:17.

Having their understanding darkened is a great harm that has come to them as a result of being alienated from the life of God (Ephesians 4:18a).

Ignorance is what we have from ourselves, apart from Christ.

Blindness is the natural/original condition of the heart.

If these things are not addressed, we will lose the ability to feel shame at what is lustful, or filthy, or covetous (Ephesians 4:19).

Over-against this breakdown of the mind (cf. Romans 1:18Romans 1:19Romans 1:20Romans 1:21Romans 1:22Romans 1:25Romans 1:28), our passage presents:

Christ as someone Whom we “learn” (Ephesians 4:20)

Christ as someone Whom we “hear” (Ephesians 4:21a) by the means He has provided in Ephesians 4:11.

Christ as someone by Whom we are “taught” (Ephesians 4:21b)

Christ as someone in Whom all “truth” is based and to Whom all truth connects (verse 21c)

So we see the apostle piling up the language of the mind in connection with Jesus. And if it’s a corrupt mind that leads to the conduct of Ephesians 4:19, then we are not surprised that putting off that conduct (Ephesians 4:22) and putting on the new man (Ephesians 4:24) is described in terms of putting off what is according to “deceitful” lusts and putting on that which is in “true” righteousness and holiness.

We are to be renewed in the spirit of our “mind” (Ephesians 4:23).

And the first instruction about our conduct toward one another is:

Put away “lying,” (Ephesians 4:25a) and

Let each one of you speak “truth” with his neighbor (verse 25b).

Christian life is preeminently theological life. Christian growth is preeminently theological growth. Are you called to be a rigorous theologian? You are, if you are a Christian!

How are you nurturing your mind in Scripture and doctrine? How is it shaping your conduct?

Suggested songs: ARP19B “The Lord’s Most Perfect Law” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

2020.09.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 17

 Read 1 Samuel 17

Questions from the Scripture text: What was the arrangement of the camps of the Philistines and Israelites in 1 Samuel 17:1–3? Who went out from the Philistines (1 Samuel 17:4)? What was he like (1 Samuel 17:4-7)? What challenge did he make (1 Samuel 17:8-10)? How do Saul and Israel respond (1 Samuel 17:11)? What is Jesse’s condition (1 Samuel 17:12b)? What are his sons doing at this time (1 Samuel 17:12-14)? What did David sometimes do (1 Samuel 17:15)? What does Jesse have him do on one of these occasions (1 Samuel 17:17-19)? What is happening when David arrives (1 Samuel 17:20-23)? How do the men of Israel respond (1 Samuel 17:23-24)? What additional info do they give us in 1 Samuel 17:251 Samuel 17:271 Samuel 17:30? Why is David incredulous at this reward offer (1 Samuel 17:26)? Who is irritated at this, and what does he say (1 Samuel 17:28-29)? Who hears and sends for David (1 Samuel 17:31)? What does David say to him (1 Samuel 17:32)? But what does Saul say (1 Samuel 17:33)? What has David done (1 Samuel 17:34-36), and why is he certain that this will be the same (1 Samuel 17:36-37a)? How does Saul respond (verse 37b)? What does Saul try to give him, and why doesn’t it help (1 Samuel 17:38-39)? What does David take instead (1 Samuel 17:40)? What does the Philistine think of David (1 Samuel 17:41-42)? What does he say to/about him (1 Samuel 17:43-44)? How does David respond in 1 Samuel 17:45? What does he say Yahweh will do, and what does David say that he himself will do (1 Samuel 17:46)? What will this assembly then know (1 Samuel 17:47)? How does David respond when the Philistine approaches (1 Samuel 17:48)? What does he do in 1 Samuel 17:49? But what did David not have (1 Samuel 17:50)? So, whose does he use to do what in 1 Samuel 17:51? And how do the Philistines respond? How do the Israelites respond (1 Samuel 17:52-53)? What does David do with the Philistine’s head (1 Samuel 17:57)? Armor (1 Samuel 17:54)? What (kind of odd, considering chapter 16) question does Saul ask Abner in 1 Samuel 17:55 and David in 1 Samuel 17:58?

This is one of the most famous stories in the Bible, and in a way that’s the challenge for us: is our view of God being formed from 1 Samuel—and the rest of Scripture—in such a way that what we see here is not so much the famousness of the details, the actors, the actions, and the outcomes, but rather… is what we see most of all the fame—the honor and glory—of our God?

We’ve had Saul (1 Samuel 9:2) and Eliab (1 Samuel 16:6–7) described to us as physically impressive, so the Holy Spirit has prepared us not to be as impressed with Goliath as everyone else is. Israel, Philistia, Saul, Eliab, and Goliath himself all seem quite impressed with him. But David’s big problem is that none of them seem to be impressed enough with God (1 Samuel 17:261 Samuel 17:36). Goliath, Saul, and Eliab may be on different sides, but they all seem to agree about David, because they’re all failing to see the greatness of David’s God.

Let us not make the same mistake—whether with Goliath, or with David. It’s God with Whom David was impressed when it came to the lion and the bear (1 Samuel 17:39), and it’s God with Whom David expects us all to be impressed by the time this is over (end of 1 Samuel 17:46). If we come away satisfied with being impressed with David, 2 Samuel is going to end up to be a rather deflating experience. 

But, if we come away impressed with God, we will come away impressed by far more than the courage He worked in David through faith in Himself. We will come away sobered that He does not take despising Him lightly. We will come away encouraged that He destroys all of His and our enemies. We will come away remembering that this was one event, among many, by which He Himself was coming in Christ to be our Savior. We will come away reverencing and trusting and worshiping. 

1 Samuel 17 is not telling us to identify our Goliaths, or even so much to be swift and courageous like David, so much as to behold our God, and trust in Him, and honor and serve Him, regardless of what faces us or comes to us in the process.

How is God being underestimated by the culture? By the church? By your own heart?

Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred”


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Saved by Almighty Christ from Our Greatest Danger (2020.09.13 Morning Sermon in Genesis 32:13–32)


Until we have struggled with God as our greatest threat, and come out of it blessed through Christ, we have not yet begun to realize just how much danger we are actually in. Once we are safe in Christ, we have just begun to realize how there are no dangers that can ultimately harm us.

No Joint Left Dislocated: Every-member Theological Health for the Growth of the Body (2020.09.13 Evening Sermon in Ephesians 4:16)

Since our growth comes only from Christ, we can only grow in His way. And what is His way of growth? We've been learning in Ephesians 4:11–16 that it's theological and corporate. And that corporate emphasis is very strong in v16. Every joint supplies something. Not all joints are the same, but no one ever thought that even the slightest dislocated joint was unimportant! If we want to grow, and we want to do it Jesus's way, we need to be noticing the joints and parts that aren't coming along with the rest of the body, and do what we can to help them come along with us under the ministry of the Word that Jesus has supplied in v11.

The General Importance of the Sabbath (2020.09.13 Sabbath School Lesson in The Day of Worship by Ryan McGraw)

Sabbath School lesson in chapter 1 of Dr. Ryan McGraw's "The Day of Worship."

2020.09.14 Session Meeting Digest

Hopewell Session Meeting Digest

Stated Meeting, September 14, 2020

The Session continues to be grateful for your prayers, service, and encouragements. The following are some highlights of important items and actions from this month’s regular (stated) meeting.

▪Pastor Hakim led the devotional from Ephesians 4:17–25, noting 12 different words used to communicate the necessity of a theologically-focused ministry. This is because the Lord Jesus—who Himself is our only righteousness before God—is also the only source of true spiritual life, health, growth, or goodness for us (v20–21 and “the life of God” in v18). And, His design is that these things come to us firstly through the understanding/mind. The outcome, when Jesus is truly working out His life in us is a putting off of the old man, and a putting on of the new man. So, the ministry that we elders have been called to is a Christ-sustained-and-saturated, theologically-driven-and-focused, life-transforming-and-forming ministry.

The Treasurer reported a significant month-over-month decrease in the checking balance. This was almost exactly the amount of the cost of the sidewalk project. We would need a couple thousand more dollars to be able both to side the west wall of the Chapel and to upgrade the main entrance of the Fellowship Hall to code. We’re grateful to God for the continued, faithful, and generous provision—including the provision of the grace of giving—that comes in the same boundless generosity that has given us Christ, the indescribable gift.

Although there was no official report from the deacons, the Session noted that the sidewalk project has been received very well and has been a great blessing to many. It was also providentially ready for this past Lord’s Day’s Middle Tennessee monsoon.

We received a request to donate to Bonclarken and are responding that we are praying for the camp and for all churches that are struggling through the recent season. The Session continues to be concerned for the effects upon faithful churches and encourage you to keep up prayer for them. We are grateful for the Lord’s gentle mercy to Hopewell in the midst of it all.

The Session is inviting Pastor MacClelland back to preach on another Lord’s Day soon, October 25 if he is able.

Josiah’s teaching of the Sabbath School class was roundly commended. We’re grateful to God for him and the other men who are making trial of teaching gifts and joyfully looking forward to their teaching.

We are looking forward to the conference. The trap shoot fellowship was confirmed with alternative activities in the Fellowship Hall. Each of you are reminded to make specific invitations to specific people to come celebrate the Lord and His grace.

Elder Patterson is unable to make it to this week’s Presbytery meeting, so the Session delegated Elder Mangum to go in his place. The meeting begins with a worship service at 7p.m. at Fayetteville ARP on Friday, and you are all encouraged to attend. 1720 Huntsville Hwy, Fayetteville, TN 37334.

As usual, there was discussion of a number of shepherding matters, as well as much prayer. One couple that has been struggling came and talked to the Session about it. The Session noted the need to renew commitment to regular shepherding visits, and are grateful for their coming. Anyone who has spiritual difficulty of any kind is encouraged to enlist the aid of the pastor or one of the other elders and not wait for one of the (what should be) routine visits. There is no one who is as “for you” as these men, and especially the Redeemer whose method of shepherding you is through them.

Thank you for praying for us!

Pastor James
Moderator

2020.09.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 2:19–22

 Read Ephesians 2:19–22

Questions from the Scripture text: What are we no longer (Ephesians 2:19a)? What are we now (verse 19b)? Upon what foundation has this house been built (Ephesians 2:20a)? Of whom are these apostles and prophets an extension (verse 20b)? When the building is fitted together this way, what does it grow into (Ephesians 2:21)? For whom is this temple a dwelling place (Ephesians 2:22)? How is it that God dwells in us? 

Next week’s Prayer for Help comes from several passages in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with The Church’s One Foundation.

Today’s devotional considers one of those passages from which they came. At this point in Ephesians, the apostle has just been talking about how the Lord has reconciled not only sinners to Himself, but especially how in Himself, He has reconciled sinners to each other.

This turns out to be important not only for our own well-being and interaction, but especially because of what the Lord has intended for us to be since before the world even began: monuments to the praise of His glorious grace! (see Ephesians 1:6Ephesians 1:12Ephesians 1:14).

Why is it so important that we no longer be foreigners but rather fellow citizens of the same kingdom? Why is it so important that we no longer be strangers but rather members of the same household?

Why is it so important that we be able to say of the folks in the church, more than we would say of anyone else, “these are my people, and this is my family”?

Because the temple of the glory of the Lord is being built by Christ’s fitting us together in Himself. If we refuse to be fitted together—if we resist one another, refuse to cover over things in love, treat one another with contempt or even just indifference… if we are harsh, or take offense easily, or fail in gentleness and tenderheartedness… if we keep a record of wrongs or refuse to believe all things and hope all things… then like Sanballat and Tobias of old, we are setting ourselves up against construction progress on the temple of the Lord.

Nothing can be added to the foundation now. The apostles and prophets—extensions of the Lord Jesus who is the cornerstone—have come and gone. There is no other building; the Lord has chosen this one for Himself.

How petty would we have to be to value our pride over the glory of the Lord Himself? How short-sighted would we have to be to give little value to the Lord growing and building us into Himself so that we may be the dwelling place of God in the Spirit?!

Lord, help Your church to see that glory to which You have called us!

What are you doing to help or to hinder the unity of the church?

Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH404 “The Church’s Foundation”


Monday, September 14, 2020

2020.09.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 32:13–32

 Read Genesis 32:13–32

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Jacob send to Esau, once he had prayed (Genesis 32:13–15)? In what manner were they to approach (Genesis 32:16)? What did he anticipate Esau asking each group (Genesis 32:17)? What were they to say (Genesis 32:18-20a)? What did Jacob hope that this would accomplish (verse 20b)? Who stayed with Jacob that night (Genesis 32:21-24a)? But what happened with him (verse 24b)? What did the Man do to Jacob (Genesis 32:25)? What did He ask Jacob to do in Genesis 32:26? What did Jacob want Him to do first? What does the Man ask in Genesis 32:27? What does the man change his name to in Genesis 32:28? What did Jacob ask in Genesis 32:29? How does the Man answer? What else does the Man do? What does Jacob conclude from this in Genesis 32:30? What does he call the place? What does he note about his life? Whom does he finally join across the river in Genesis 32:31? In what manner was he walking? By what (odd?) practice did Jacob’s descendants acknowledge this occasion (Genesis 32:32)?

Jacob thought that he was now facing his greatest danger ever: Esau and 400 men. 

The first time that he had encountered God, he hadn’t realized the safety that he was in. He had run all day from Esau with nothing but his staff, but when he had his vision, he saw the angels ascending and descending—a shift change, as it were, of the glorious beings whom God had appointed to him. And also God Himself, who spoke to Jacob the great promises that Jacob himself has just remembered in Genesis 32:9Genesis 32:12.

But Jacob has taken God for granted, and as a result he has not realized the danger that he is in. He thinks that Esau is his greatest danger ever, but he has been continually in a much greater danger: the wrath of God due unto his sin. And this is a danger that he is infinitely less equipped to survive.

This is the great lesson of the wrestling. Jacob has cried out to God for deliverance, and God responds by making him sleepless, exhausted, and disabled. These would be bad enough if he is to face Esau, but ultimately they don’t make much difference for facing God. 

A man could not face God in perfect physical condition, and this is because each of us begins in irreparable spiritual condition: both guilty before God’s wrath and also with hearts that are deceitful above all things (unknowable) and desperately wicked (unfixable).

What can be done for such men?

There is only one answer: God must struggle for us. This is what Jacob realizes has happened (Genesis 32:30), when the “Man” refuses to tell him his name and blesses him (Genesis 32:29). At once, Jacob realizes how great was the danger (that is now behind him) and that the only explanation for his survival is not the greatness of his strength or effort or persistence, but that God has been gracious to him—that God has struggled on his behalf.

This is what Christ has done for us. He has endured what we deserve from God. God has exhibited Him as the propitiation for our sins (Romans 3:25), and if God has done this for us, then we may know both that His love is determined to give us all things and also that (with Him having struggled for us) His justice now demands to give us all things (Romans 8:32).

So, God renames Jacob “Israel,” “God struggles,” saying “for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Jacob hasn’t met Esau yet, but he has already prevailed. For, God has preserved him from his greatest danger, and God will surely preserve him in and through his encounter with Esau, everything else, and death itself.

If you know that God has preserved you from His own wrath, out of love that gave you Christ Himself and made Christ yours, you can know this with everything that you ever face, even and especially death itself!

Have you faced the truth of your danger from God’s wrath? How can you ever survive it?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH456 “Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners”