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, October 24, 2020

2020.10.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 35:9–15

Read Genesis 35:9–15

Questions from the Scripture text: Who appears to Jacob in Genesis 35:9? How does verse 9 describe the timing of the appearance? What else did He do to Jacob? What did God say his name is (Genesis 35:10)? How long would it be his name? What would his name be now? What did God say about Himself in Genesis 35:11? What does He command Jacob to do? What will proceed from him? Who will come from his body? What does God give him in Genesis 35:12? To whom else did He give it? What did God do then in Genesis 35:13? What does Jacob set up in Genesis 35:14? What two things does he pour on it? What did Jacob call the name of the place (Genesis 35:15)? Why? 

God appeared to Jacob. AGAIN. God spoke to Jacob. AGAIN. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. AGAIN. 

Will it take this time?

The reason that we want to ask that question is that Jacob, despite moments of real faith by real grace, sure seems to be acting more like a Jacob (heel grabber) than an Israel (God wrestles). 

But that’s just the way that believers’ spiritual lives often seem to go. There are amazing moments of being convinced of God’s Word—of knowing Him and His power and His love in the gospel, and of being stirred up with love for Him. And then there are those moments where it seems like we haven’t made three steps’ worth progress in grace.

Thankfully, it doesn’t ultimately depend upon us. The sticking-power of our new identity in Christ is found ultimately in God’s identity. “I am God Almighty.”

The first time we heard that, Abram hadn’t heard from God for 13 years after the Hagar incident. Was there hope for Abram after such a grave error? Yes there was: “I am God Almighty; walk before Me and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1).

Now, Jacob has slouched himself and his family into a dreadful spiritual condition. So, the Lord brings him back into worship and fellowship (Genesis 35:1-8). What hope is there for such a stumbling believer to make progress in grace? “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 35:11).

So, when your slouching and stumbling make you wonder if there’s hope for someone who has been shown as much grace as you, and yet seems at times to have made as little progress as you, the answer is not in you. It’s in Him. He is God Almighty. And it is upon His power and purpose and plan and promise that your growth and salvation ultimately depend.

When the Lord reminds us of that, we ought to worship Him, just as Jacob did. And, when the Lord brings us to worship Him, He reminds us that it is upon Him that our progress in grace and ultimate salvation depend.

What part of your life could most use repentance and/or renewal?

How can/will that come about?

Suggested songs: ARP80 “Hear, O Hear Us” or TPH413 “Revive Thy Work, O Lord”


Friday, October 23, 2020

2020 General Synod Report (2020.10.23 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – October 23, 2020

Dear Congregation,

Thank you for your prayers. Synod has made this a long week, but the Lord has been very merciful. Having come from a denomination in which such meetings were almost never encouraging, it is a great blessing and encouragement to be able to give you a good report.

For more than thirty years, the Lord has been granting to the ARP reformation back to our original confession and catechisms in many areas of doctrine and worship. That reformation is ongoing, and this week it began to extend to the area of ecclesiology.

Specifically, we began to move back toward the nature of a Synod as we confess it in WCF 31.2.
“It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same: which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in his Word.”

For several generations, during the time of slide and wandering in the ARP, more and more ministry has been centralized and bureaucratized at the Synod level—in addition to many things that were not even really ministry. But, we confess from Scripture that Synods primarily answer thorny theological and judicial questions. In the Bible, it is the local church and the bodies of local churches formed in presbyteries, that join together in ministry.

This week, the General Synod acted to extract itself from the business of operating a pension plan, and to form a committee for the restructuring of the Synod in a manner that is more Presbyterian.

The Synod’s theology committee presented a draft of a new (and very good) edition of the Book of Discipline.

An unbiblical recommendation from the Synod’s worship committee was rejected by the Synod.

Finally, the Synod received several memorials (communications) from various presbyteries on important theological questions, which will be studied and reported back to next year’s General Synod meeting. This, in conjunction with the nomination of several good men to the Synod’s theology committee, bodes well for next year’s Synod. This includes such subjects as whether Scripture permits women to serve as deacons and whether Sessions have the prerogative to cancel the public worship of God on the Lord’s Day or administer the Lord’s Supper “virtually.”

Many other discussions and actions occurred, and the business took much longer than expected, but I (and, I am sure, Elder Rentschler) am very grateful to you for your prayers and encouragement, and to our Redeemer for His great mercy to us.

I am very much looking forward to being home with you for the public worship of God on the Lord’s Day. It's always odd when I have a mid-week trip. The congregation hardly knows that I've been gone, but it always feels to me like an extended exile from which I'm so glad to return.

Longing to worship with you again in the spirit of Psalm 42:4,

Pastor

2020.10.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 9:18–26

Read Luke 9:18–26

Questions from the Scripture text: Who was with Jesus at first in Luke 9:18? What was He doing? Who joined Him? What did He ask them? What three responses do they give in Luke 9:19? What does He now ask them in Luke 9:20? Who answers? What does he say? How does Jesus respond to this in Luke 9:21? What four things does He say must happen to Whom in Luke 9:22? To Whom does Jesus speak in Luke 9:23? What will those about whom He speaks desire in verse 23? What three things that does He say they must do? Who will lose his life (Luke 9:24)? Who will save it? What can a man gain without profit (Luke 9:25)? When will it not profit him? How does Jesus describe the destroyed or lost man in Luke 9:26—of Whom is that man ashamed? Of what is that man ashamed? Who will be ashamed of him? When? What three glories does Jesus mention in connection with that day?

“Just think of all that you can have in this life, if you come to Jesus!” I heard many such presentations of Christ when I was younger. But here comes Jesus in this passage and says, “Take up your cross for My sake… lose your life for My sake…”

Yes, we gain more than we could ever lose, but only if we view Christ as worth infinitely more than anything else.

And that’s just the point of Luke 9:26. Are we ashamed of Christ? Let us remember the day when He is coming in His glory. Let us remember the glory of His Father. Let us remember the holy angels. 

Let us remember that the ones whose opinions we should least care about in all existence are the very ones before whom we are tempted to be ashamed. Jesus equates those who are ashamed of Him before them to those who lose their lives by trying to save it (Luke 9:24), those who are destroyed or lost (Luke 9:25), and those of whom the Son of Man will be ashamed in the last day (Luke 9:26).

Finally, note that little phrase in verse 26, “and My words.” Quite often, believers allow themselves to be intimidated in conversation about right and wrong, about the exclusivity of Christianity, about anything in the Scriptures. But we must remember that these are Christ’s personal words, and He takes it personally if we are ashamed of plain Bible teaching.

So, let us make sure that not only our lips on the Lord’s Day, but our lives and lips when we are out among unbelievers would answer the question of “Who do you say Jesus is?” by “the Christ of God”!

What circumstances in your life most test your allegiance to Jesus and His words?

Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH375 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”


Thursday, October 22, 2020

2020.10.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 5:15–17

Read Ephesians 5:15–17

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the apostle say to walk in Ephesians 5:15? Not as what? But as what? What are they to be doing (Ephesians 5:16)? Why? What does he say not to be (Ephesians 5:17)? What does he tell them to understand? 

Sometimes someone has a distinctive walk. That’s what’s behind the biblical use of this word, ‘walk’, for one’s life before the Lord. Throughout the Old Testament, then in Jesus’s description of the narrow v.s. the broad way, and then finally here (Ephesians 4:1Ephesians 4:17Ephesians 5:1Ephesians 5:8Ephesians 5:15).

Here, the Christian’s distinctive gait, distinctive walk, is that of wisdom. “Circumspectly” means “looking around carefully.” It has become popular to talk about “living intentionally.” No one should be more intentional than a Christian, who should be putting in the effort to discover what pleases God (Ephesians 5:17, cf. Ephesians 5:10) and always evaluating our direction and progress as we look around (Ephesians 5:15). 

This effort is a costly investment. These are not days in which people prize wisdom, in which people live for the Lord and for eternity. “Redeeming” (Ephesians 5:16) describes purchase. The Bible uses the word to talk about Jesus purchasing us from the curse of the law. If you don’t want to lose the time that you have for pleasing the Lord, you are going to need to be purchasing that time by finding out what pleases the Lord and walking circumspectly.

Just as in Ephesians 5:10, there is emphasis here upon our minds. In verse 10, we were told to scrutinize and seek out whatever pleases God. Here in Ephesians 5:17, the command is to perceive or have insight.

Part of understanding God’s will is understanding that He wants our minds, our understandings. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this (foolish, evil, unfitting, unfruitful) world, but be transformed. How? By the renewing of your minds! Romans 12:2

What should your walk look like? It should look like purchasing time by finding out from the Bible what are things that please God, and then being aware of how your walking compares to what the Bible says, so that you can purchase that time by doing it.

How do you use work time? Down time? Worship/Lord’s-Day time? What effort do you put into evaluating those choices? By what standard do you evaluate them?

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

2020.10.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 21:1–9

Read 1 Samuel 21:1–9

Questions from the Scripture text: To where did David come (1 Samuel 21:1)? To whom? How did Ahimelech feel about meeting David? What does he ask David? Whom did David say had sent him (1 Samuel 21:2)? How does He explain lack of details in his story? How does he explain being alone? For what does he ask in 1 Samuel 21:3? What does the priest say he does not have (1 Samuel 21:4)? What does he say that he does have? On what condition does he say he will give it to David? What answer does David give about the young men (1 Samuel 21:5)? What does he say about the vessels (bodies) of the young men? What does David say is the current condition of the bread? What does the priest give him (1 Samuel 21:6)? Why was this bread available now? Who was there that day (1 Samuel 21:7)? Before/by Whom had he been detained? What was his name? What was his ethnicity? What was his job? For whom does it repeat that he worked? For what does David ask in 1 Samuel 21:8? How does he explain not having his own with him? What sword does the priest offer him (1 Samuel 21:9)? Why does he offer him that particular one? What does David say about it and what to do with it?

The bread of the presence is a simple, marvelous thing. It’s simple, because it is bread. It’s marvelous because it represents God’s constant provision for His people. And ultimately, it is a picture of how dead sinners can be sustained in real spiritual life—only by Christ, Who is the Bread of life.

And David desperately needs life at this point! Ahimelech can sense this, as his knocking knees in 1 Samuel 21:1 attest. Why would David be alone? Shouldn’t he have some sort of government retinue? David’s story (and situation) is so bad that he actually claims to be on such an urgent government mission that he forgot to bring sword or food. And you can’t know why… because… uh… Top Secret! Yeah, Top Secret, that’s it!

The Lord’s servant is in need of the most basic of provision. And that’s exactly the situation in which the servant’s Lord displays Himself as the One who constantly provides.

David might have lost sight of it for a moment, but we can see it hiding under the cloth behind the ephod. Remember that day when all you needed for facing Goliath was Name of Yahweh? There may be no sword so great as that of Goliath. But the Name of the Lord is a surer weapon still.

The Lord has continued to ordain desperate situations for His people. But He has also continued to give both “our daily bread” and “the Bread of life that comes down out of heaven that one may eat of it and not die.”

Awful things may happen. Doeg the Edomite will be used to send some saints to glory. But we can face them all in the Name of the Lord, by His basic everyday provision, and especially by His provision of Christ.

What desperate situations have you been in? Upon what provision do you need to learn to rely and be content, to prepare for desperate days yet to come?

Suggested songs: ARP63 “O God, You Are My God” or TPH202 “Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face”