Each week we webcast Lord's Day Sabbath School at 10a, morning public worship at 11a, and p.m. singing and sermon at 3p (sermon at 3:45); and the Weds. Prayer Meeting at 6:30p

Thursday, April 30, 2020

2020.04.29 Prayer Meeting Devotional: Christians Are Those Who Come to God through Jesus, Our Complete Savior (Heb 7:25)

Each week at the Prayer Meeting, we have a Scripture lesson from the text which will call us to prayer during public worship on the following Lord's Day morning. In Hebrews 7:25, we learn that Jesus is a complete Savior. In Him are justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification, and all other saving benefits. He prays for us, and shapes us to be like He is—people of prayer who come to God through Him.
In Ephesians 1:20–23, we learn that the power by which God works in us is the same power by which our resurrected Redeemer bodily ascended to the throne of the third heaven in paradise. What grace God has given us, that this power makes us the glorious Bride of this glorious One!

2020.04.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 1:20–23

Questions from the Scripture text: In Whom did God’s mighty power work (Ephesians 1:20)? When? At what did He seat Him? In which places? Far above what for things (Ephesians 1:21)? And above which names? At what times? What has God put where (Ephesians 1:22a)? As what did He give Christ, and to whom (verse 22b)? What two things does Ephesians 1:23 call the church? What does verse 23 call Him? 
What is the exceeding greatness of God’s power toward us (Ephesians 1:19)? The same power by which He raised Christ from the dead. And, greater still—the power by which He seated Christ at His right hand in the heavenly places. This power did not merely restore life to a body and raise it from the grave. It raised this body and transported it through the heavens to the very throne of glory!

How far? Above all principality and power and might and dominion. Above the vast angel armies, above the most blazing of the seraphim, the most powerful of the cherubim, the highest of the arch angels. Above the living creatures and the whole holy host.

And the power that seated Christ there is the power that works in Ephesian believers. And American believers. Whom the Lord has joined to Jesus by faith.

It’s astonishing and humbling. Jesus is Head over all things, but the Lord has given Him as Head to the church. All things are under His feet, but we ourselves are His body. His beloved bride, as chapter 5 will teach. Hallelujah!

In His role as our Mediator, God has granted that Christ would be completed by His bride. Not that there is anything lacking in Him, but that He has chosen to take us as His very own body, of His flesh and of His bone. By reminding us that Jesus “fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23), the Scripture reminds us that it would be a great blasphemy if we were the ones who claimed to be the “fullness of Him.”

But we are not the ones who claim it. God is the One who declares it. God is the One who designed it. God is the One who did it. How great is His love toward us, and How great is that power by which His love has decided to work in us!
For what part of your sanctification do you most need reminded of God’s powerful work in you?
Suggested songs: ARP8 “Lord, Our Lord” or TPH29A “Now unto the Lord, All You Sons of the Mighty”

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

In 1 Samuel 6:1–12, we learn (1) to respond to Providence by repentance and faith, (2) the inestimable value of God's Word, (3) how greatly God Himself values His own glory.

2020.04.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 6:1–12

Questions from the Scripture text: Where was the ark of Yahweh and for how long (1 Samuel 6:1)? For whom did the Philistines call (1 Samuel 6:2)? What did they ask? What did the Philistine religious experts say not to do (1 Samuel 6:3)? What did their priests say they should offer? What follow-up question is asked in 1 Samuel 6:4? And what do the priests answer to offer as a trespass offering? Why (1 Samuel 6:4-5)? What did they think that this would give to the God of Israel? From what three objects did they hope He would lighten His hand? What question do their priests now ask the Philistines in 1 Samuel 6:6? What kind of cart do they say to use (1 Samuel 6:7)? What kind of cows do they say to hitch to it? Where do they say to take their calves? What do they say to do with the cart (1 Samuel 6:8)? And for what do they say to watch (1 Samuel 6:9)? What do they say to conclude, based upon the result? What do they do in 1 Samuel 6:10-11? And what is the result in 1 Samuel 6:12?
In this passage, the Lord both vindicates His Name and also shows surprising mercy to the Philistines. Their priests’ and diviners’ ideas are offensive to Him of course. Golden tumor idols and golden rat idols as a trespass offering?! Putting Him to the test with calf-separated milk cows pulling an untested cart in the wrong direction?!

But the Lord condescends (stoops down) to fulfill their “sign” and sends those cows straight to Beth Shemesh, lowing all the way.

Even Philistines know that devastation comes from the hand of the one, true God. They learned the lesson of Pharaoh and Egypt, asking one another, “Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts?” We must shake our heads when Philistine idolaters are better at understanding and responding to the providence of God than nations where profession of the true religion once abounded. Better even, perhaps, than much of what calls itself the “evangelical church.”

For, the Lord afflicts us, and rather than seeking how we may have offended Him and what He seeks from us, we merely seek relief from the affliction. We fill our prayers with requests for deliverance, rather than repentance—and that’s when we pray at all. The bulk of our effort is spent not crying out to heaven but figuring out how to navigate the situation on earth.

But God does highly prize the glory of His Name and has a history of surprising displays of marvelous grace. This doesn’t encourage us to engage in Philistine-style idolatry and sign seeking, but surely it should drive us into Scripture to rest upon the Lord’s glorious grace and do according to all His good commands!
By what situations has the Lord gotten your attention? What has your response primarily been?
Suggested Songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH557 “Great King of Nations, Hear Our Prayers”

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

2020.04.28 Hopewell Harbinger

Hopewell This Week, April 27–May 2, 2020

▫Attached is a pdf of Lord’s Day’s Worship Booklet, complete with Hopewell @Home devotionals for this week, in addition to 8.5x11's of the memory verse and catechism questions that can be used as posters to help with memory work.

▫The link is now active for audio and pdf outline of the Lord’s Day morning sermon (Genesis 25:1–18 Kingdom Blessings, Now and Forever)

Every day at 9a.m. Joint prayer with the rest of the ARP Synod for repentance and revival in light of the current chastening providence of God.

Prayer Meeting, Wednesday, April 29, at 6:30p.m. The prayer meeting folder is available at http://bit.ly/harpc200429pm

Changes for Lord’s Day, May 3:

What Is Sanctification?

Pastor takes his youngest catechism child through the Westminster Shorter Catechism answer for May 3.
Even after we have been justified and adopted, for our salvation to be complete, we must be sanctified and glorified. Jesus is able to do all of this because He lives forever and intercedes on the basis of a sufficient sacrifice.

2020.04.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:25–27

Questions from the Scripture text: What is Jesus able to do (Hebrews 7:25)? How far/much? Whom is He able to save to the uttermost? What does He always do? What office does Jesus have (Hebrews 7:26)? What five qualities make Him perfectly suitable/fitting to be our High Priest? What did other high priests have to do and how often (Hebrews 7:27)? What did Jesus not need to do at all? What is the difference in the frequency of His sacrifice for His people’s sins? What is the difference in what was offered?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from Hebrews 7:25–27 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with Not All the Blood of Beasts.

We need more saving than just having the slate clean with God. We need to be made suitable for the glory that Jesus has earned for us. We need much help and deliverance in this life. We need ultimate deliverance at death and then again at the resurrection.

Our Lord Jesus is able to do all of these because of the indestructibility of His life and because of the infinite value of His sacrifice. He is not prevented by death from continuing His work (cf. Hebrews 7:23), but rather “always lives” to intercede for us. He has no sin of His own that would require sacrifice, and the sacrifice that He gave for our sins was Himself—a sacrifice rich enough to be once for all.

Our salvation includes so much more than justification that Scripture can say that it is “nearer to us now than when we first believed” (cf. Romans 13:11). And we may rejoice to know that Christ’s life is abundantly powerful and His sacrifice abundantly valuable for all of it!
What do you need Jesus to do for you right now? In the future? How do you know that He can?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH354 “Not All the Blood of Beasts”

Monday, April 27, 2020

2020.04.26 Morning Sermon—Genesis 25:1–18, "Kingdom Blessings, Now and Forever"

When we live by faith in Christ, we see life on earth as saturated with covenant blessings that are dwarfed by God's blessing at our death, and then again at our resurrection. [mp3] [pdf]
When we live by faith in Christ, we see life on earth as saturated with covenant blessings that are dwarfed by God's blessing at our death, and then again at our resurrection

2020.04.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 25:1–18

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Abraham do in Genesis 25:1? How many sons did Keturah bear him (Genesis 25:2)? How many grandsons do Genesis 25:3-4 mention? To whom did Abraham give his entire estate (Genesis 25:5)? How does Genesis 25:6 refer to Keturah (and Hagar) by comparison to Sarah? What did he do with all his other sons? How long did Abraham live (Genesis 25:7)? How does Genesis 25:8 describe him? What two things happen to Abraham in verse 8? What third thing happens to him in Genesis 25:9? Who bury him where? How did they get the field (Genesis 25:10)? Who else was buried there? What continued after Abraham died (Genesis 25:11)? Whose genealogy does Genesis 25:12 begin? How many sons of Ishmael do Genesis 25:13-15 name? What else does Genesis 25:16 tell us about them? How long did Ishmael live (Genesis 25:17)? What three things happen to Ishmael in verse 17? Who is with him at his death (Genesis 25:18)?  
The Lord sometimes gives His people great earthly blessing. Abraham had 16 sons and grandsons from Keturah. Ishmael had 12 sons who became great princes in cities at he heart of settlements that were nations. Abraham had enough to give presents to all of these and still have the fullness of his estate to give to Isaac.

Abraham, however, knows that all of the earthly blessings are nothing in comparison to eternal covenant blessings. This had been his complaint in chapter 15, that his eventual death renders all other blessings pointless. But God had promised the Offspring who would solve the death problem. Since then, Abraham’s resurrection hope has governed his life, even to the point of that land purchase of which Genesis 25:9-10 remind us, the cave in which his own body is now laid.

And the passage holds before us the promise of something even more than resurrection. Both Abraham and Ishmael breathe their last; their bodies cease to function. And both Abraham and Ishmael die; their souls depart (cf. Genesis 35:18). And both of their bodies are buried by those left behind.

But there is one more thing that happens to each of them. They are “gathered to their people.” This is covenantal language for the destination of their departed souls. In Scripture, it is only used of these two, and then later of Isaac (Genesis 35:29), of Jacob (Genesis 49:33), and finally Aaron (Numbers 20:26) and his brother Moses (Numbers 27:13).

But, Jesus Himself refers to this intermediate state as “Abraham’s bosom” (cf. Luke 16:22). David says that his covenant child has gone there in 2 Samuel 12:23. And Paul rejoices in the wonderful, post-ascension truth that what had been called “Abraham’s bosom” is now the presence of the resurrected Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6–8).

So, the Lord does sometimes bless His people in earthly things. Believers do not despise wealth, inheritance, even earthly influence. These all are, at various times, even covenant blessings. But there are two blessings in this passage that come not just to some of the Lord’s people, but all of them: the intermediate state and the resurrection. And these blessings dwarf the earthly blessings.

You can more easily see Ishmael’s son’s nations, and even the great property that Abraham gives to his descendants (and especially Isaac). But, if by the Spirit’s work in us, we walk by faith rather than by sight, we will see that “being gathered to our people” and the hope of the resurrection are far greater than any earthly or temporary blessing. And we will live in this world with the strength and joy that belongs to only such as have this hope!
What earthly blessings has God given you? What better blessings? What should you live for now?
Suggested Songs: ARP90B “O Teach Us How to Count Our Days” or TPH234 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Affliction and Worship That Turn Our Hearts Toward Him (2020.04.25 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)


Hopewell Herald – April 25, 2020

Dear Congregation,

From last week’s sermon text, we learned that all our comforts, great and small, come in the same love, wisdom, and power that gave us Christ.

In tomorrow’s passage, the Holy Spirit teaches about the intermediate state of the believer at death, and the hope of the resurrection.

This is a reminder that all of our sufferings, and even our death, also come to us in the same love, wisdom, and power that gave us Christ.

This is why the most troubling thing for a biblically-minded believer is when we lose our sense of communion with God or our affection for other believers as the bride of Christ. These are heavenly-world, and next-world, blessings that the Lord has given us to being enjoying in this world.

It speaks to the weakness of our faith that we feel the loss of other things so much more easily and intensely than the loss of communion with God. Indeed, afflictions may be what He uses to stir up our hearts toward Himself, so that we would say, “it was good for me that I was afflicted.”

But suffering isn’t the only thing that He uses to stir up our hearts toward Himself. He says that if we call His day a delight, then He will make us to delight in Him. And in the Lord’s Day assembly, He gathers us to Himself in glory, and presents Himself unto us, in an unique way.

Let us seek to be strengthened in our faith tomorrow, so that fellowship with the living God in Jesus Christ would be the great thing in our lives that makes us to live in His world as those who belong to Him!

Pastor

2020.04.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 25:1–18

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Abraham do in Genesis 25:1? How many sons did Keturah bear him (Genesis 25:2)? How many grandsons do Genesis 25:3-4 mention? To whom did Abraham give his entire estate (Genesis 25:5)? How does verse 6 refer to Keturah (and Hagar) by comparison to Sarah? What did he do with all his other sons? How long did Abraham live (Genesis 25:7)? How does Genesis 25:8 describe him? What two things happen to Abraham in verse 8? What third thing happens to him in Genesis 25:9? Who bury him where? How did they get the field (Genesis 25:10)? Who else was buried there? What continued after Abraham died  (Genesis 25:11)? Whose genealogy does Genesis 25:12 begin? How many sons of Ishmael do Genesis 25:13-15 name? What else does Genesis 25:16 tell us about them? How long did Ishmael live (Genesis 25:17)? What three things happen to Ishmael in verse 17? Who is with him at his death (Genesis 25:18)?
Sometimes, our perception of God’s promises in our lives is that they come true rather slowly.

Between Keturah’s six sons, and their ten grandsons, and Ishmael’s twelve sons who are princes of peoples, perhaps even by the time that Ishmael dies, the descendants of Abraham are many.

But “through Isaac shall your seed be called” (Genesis 21:12). This is why Abraham leaves his entire estate to Isaac and sends the rest of his sons away (Genesis 25:6). One wonders why it is just he and Ishmael who bury him (Genesis 25:7-11), but there are many reasons, and the text simply doesn’t tell us. It does, however produce a stark contrast with the rather large gathering implied for Ishmael in Genesis 25:18.

The effect of the contrasts between Abraham’s burial vs. Ishmael’s, and Ishmael’s progeny v.s. Isaac’s current childlessness, is to communicate that the covenant line again hangs by a thread. This has been a theme throughout Genesis, and will continue to be. Not only through Genesis, but throughout the history of God’s people. Not only in Scripture, but throughout church history.

But it is not the number of threads that matter, but the nature of the thread. The “Isaac thread” is not Isaac himself, but the faithfulness of the God who has determined to bring His promises through Isaac. Tensile strength: infinite.

So, yes, God’s promises seem to be coming true slowly. But there is nothing more sure.

And we see that, ever so subtly, in two different ways. The first is the language of “being gathered to his people”—something said of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and Aaron in the Scriptures. In Genesis 25:8-9, it is apparent that this is something other than death or burial, likely what Christ refers to in Luke 16:22 as “being gathered to Abraham’s bosom.” Believers do not perish at death, but the Lord receives their souls into a state of blessing until the resurrection (cf. Matthew 8:11, Psalm 73:23–24).

And that is a message that our passage announces against the backdrop of the thread by which the promise hangs. Where is his body laid? Next to his wife’s. In the only piece of covenant land that the covenant people formally own. A grave cave. Purchased in the hope of the resurrection.

God’s promises sometimes seem to be coming true rather slowly, sometimes seem to hang by a thread. But they are as sure as the faithfulness of the God who has promised, and as sure as the Christ in Whom those promises all have their “yes” and “amen” (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:18–22).
What situation threatens to shake your confidence in God’s promises? Why mustn’t you let it?
Suggested songs: ARP116AB “How Fervently I Love the Lord” or TPH234 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Friday, April 24, 2020

Jesus exercises the same glorious authority in His preaching in our churches on the Lord's Days as He did in the sign-accompanied preaching on the Sabbaths in the synagogues of Galilee

2020.04.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 4:31–44

Questions from the Scripture text: Where did Jesus go in Luke 4:31? What was He doing on what occasions? How did they respond to His teaching (Luke 4:32)? Why? What kind of man did He meet at church (Luke 4:33)? What was the man calling Him and asking Him (Luke 4:34)? What did Jesus command the demon to do (Luke 4:35)? Now what were they amazed at (Luke 4:36)? What was the result of these things (Luke 4:37)? Where did Jesus go after church (Luke 4:38)? What was happening with Simon’s wife’s mother? Of Whom did they make request concerning her? What did Jesus do in Luke 4:39, and with what result? What did she do when she was healed? What time of day was it in Luke 4:40? Now who came, and what did Jesus do? What else happened to many (Luke 4:41)? What were the demons saying, and how did Jesus respond? What did Jesus do, when, at the beginning of Luke 4:42? Where did the crowd go? What were they trying to do? What did Jesus say that He had come to do instead (Luke 4:43)? And what was He doing where (Luke 4:44)?
The Lord Jesus came with victorious power to defeat Satan and his kingdom, which is what the demons themselves focus upon in Luke 4:34Luke 4:41. But Christ’s focus is elsewhere, silencing their acknowledgments of Him and refusing to answer their questions (Luke 4:35Luke 4:41).

The Lord Jesus came with healing power to undo the effects of the curse in people’s lives. And this is what the people eventually focus upon, as we see them there in Luke 4:40, coming the moment Sabbath is over to get healed, and in Luke 4:42 trying to prevent Jesus from leaving. But Christ’s focus is elsewhere, insisting that He depart to other cities to focus on another thing.

And what was His focus in His earthly ministry? Preaching the kingdom of God in their churches on the Sabbaths. Indeed, they were amazed at this preaching, not guessing but declaring, not the opinions of a man but the authoritative Word of God (Luke 4:32). Probably Luke 4:18-21, from the previous passage, is a good example of this kingdom preaching—declaring Himself to be the promised King and Savior.

This is the way of the Lord—to honor His Word. He declares His great works beforehand through His prophets (cf. Amos 3:7). He created all things by His Word (cf. Psalm 33:6–9). He upholds all things by His Word (cf. Hebrews 1:3). He works faith by His Word (cf. Romans 10:14–17). And it is by His Word that He works effectively in those whom He has brought to faith (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:13).

And so it comes as no surprise that when the Word became flesh in order to redeem us by His blood, He preceded that atoning work by that preaching ministry that Isaiah 61 had prophesied. During His ministry on earth, Jesus went to church on Sabbath and preached His gospel of salvation. And even now, in His ministry from heaven, Jesus preaches in the churches on His Lord’s Day Sabbath, proclaiming His gospel of salvation (cf. Hebrews 2:1–4Hebrews 2:12, Hebrews 4:2–9, Hebrews 12:22–26).

The Lord Jesus is a glorious Healer, a victorious King, and an atoning Redeemer! And He places great emphasis upon His own preaching as a means by which He applies all of these benefits to us. Let us be disciples who follow Him by being taught and keeping all that He has commanded!
In which activity, especially, does Jesus preach to you? When/how else do you get His Word?
Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry before You Come” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”

Thursday, April 23, 2020

2020.04.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 1:15–19

Questions from the Scripture text: What two things had the apostle heard back about the Ephesian church (Ephesians 1:15)? How did he respond to this news (Ephesians 1:16)? To Whom did he pray, and what does he call Him in Ephesians 1:17? What did he pray God would give them—what does he call the Spirit here? What does he pray that the Spirit would do to their understanding? What two things would they come to know in Ephesians 1:18 if their understanding is thus enlightened? What additional thing would they come to know in Ephesians 1:19?
Believers have lots of room for growth. Here was a church of such faith and love as to occasion apostolic thanksgiving to God—how we ought to join the Lord, and the angels, and the apostles in thanking God for whatever faith and love we hear about!

But they still had room to grow, and so the apostle who thanked God for them also prayed for them a prayer to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory.” He addresses his prayer in such a way as to remember and remind us of the great power that He is enlisting.

By that power, the apostle seeks the working of the Spirit to help the Ephesian believers’ minds. He refers to the spirit here as “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” For what work of the Spirit does he ask? That the third Person of the Trinity would give light to they eyes of their understanding.

We learn here that for spiritual growth, there must be theological growth. Spiritual growth is more than theological growth, but it does not exist without the other. This is because there are at least these three things that we should always be growing in understanding:

The hope of His calling. There is stability and joy that comes from growing in our understanding both that it is He who called us, and what glory it is to which He has called us.

The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. There is wonder and worship that comes from growing in our understanding of how He has valued us and taken us to be His.

The exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power. There is confidence and zeal that comes from growing in our understanding of how it is by His almighty power that He worked faith in us, and by that same almighty power that He is still working in us.

Believers have lots of room for growth, which comes by growing in understanding these things.
What place does theological growth have in your prayers? And what place in your efforts?
Suggested songs: ARP19B “The Lord’s Most Perfect Law” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

2020.04.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 5:6–12

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Yahweh do to whom, while His ark was in the house of Dagon (1 Samuel 5:6)? What did the people of Ashdod say in 1 Samuel 5:7? Whom did they gather in 1 Samuel 5:8, what did they ask, and what was their answer? Where did they take it? What did Yahweh do there (1 Samuel 5:9)? What did the people of Ekron say that the other Philistines had sent them the ark to do (1 Samuel 5:10)? Now, who gathered, and what did they decide (1 Samuel 5:11)? What had God done to the people of Ekron (1 Samuel 5:11-12)?
How very different Yahweh is from Dagon, and from all manmade religion (i.e., Idolatry). The true and living God simply does not need the help of man.

How foolish Israelites are, when they think that they can harness the power of the Lord through uninstructed use of the furnishings He has given them to worship Him. How foolish Philistines are, when they think that the power of the Lord can be overcome by the power of Dagon or mitigated by location in one or another Philistine city.

What 34,000 Israelites had died trying to do, the Lord accomplishes by Himself with little fanfare and no assistance, devastating Ashdod and Gath and Ekron, the three greatest of the five major Philistine cities. He is what the Philistines feared, after all, the God who singlehandedly destroyed the great Egyptian empire. And yet, Israel (and Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas in particular) had not properly feared this God, carelessly provoking Him as they had at Sinai in the incident of the calf, and as Eli’s family had a history of doing in the day that Nadab and Abihu were ordained.

And what fools we would be if we did not recognize how easily we do the same. When we have problems in our lives—or in our families, or in our churches—let us remember that the Lord can do His work all by Himself, as He did in the cities of the Philistines. He does not need our help. Rather, He has appointed means—yes, things like training and weapons and strength for armies, and other appropriate means to other situations.

But the greatest means are found more directly in our relationship with Him: repentance to turn away from the sin that despises Him, and from which He is determined to cleanse us; obedience that honors Him, and which He is pleased to honor; faith that clings to Christ, so that He is glorified in carrying us through, and glorified in what He brings out of it; prayer in which we acknowledge all of these things before Him, and He responds to us according to His character and the relationship that He has given us with Himself.

When those are the great and foundational means that we are employing in our life as a whole, we will be prepared to employ means uprightly—not innovating in worship or the church, not manipulating or depending upon men or ourselves, but trusting and obeying the God who does not need our help!
What are you concerned about? What use are you making of the “greatest” means? What other means are you employing in faith and obedience?
Suggested Songs: ARP146 “Praise the Lord” or TPH146 “Praise the Lord! My Soul, O Praise Him!”

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

2020.04.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 53:1–6

Questions from the Scripture text: What two questions do Isaiah 53:1 ask? With what word does Isaiah 53:2 begin? So, what is this report that is the revelation of God’s saving arm? Like what kind of plant would the Messiah grow (verse 2a)? Out of what kind of ground (verse 2b)? What does verse 2 assure us would not be true about the Messiah physically? How would men treat Him (Isaiah 53:3a)? What would He experience (verse 3b)? How would we respond to His sorrow and grief? But whose grief and sorrow is He actually carrying (Isaiah 53:4)? And who, would men think, was punishing the Messiah? But for whose transgressions was He wounded (Isaiah 53:5a)? For whose iniquities was He bruised? For whose peace was He chastised? Whom did He heal by His stripes? What had we done (Isaiah 53:6)? And who was it that laid our guilt upon the Messiah instead?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and reading of the Gospel come from Isaiah 53:1–6 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with Man of Sorrows! What a Name.

For a few reasons, this passage lends itself well both to crying out to God for help and for confessing our sin to Him. It is easy to see why these verses work so well for both of those purposes.

First, Isaiah 53:1 is a perfect verse for a prayer for help in worship. It reminds us that in worship, when God’s Word is announced, His strong arm of salvation is being put on display. But it also reminds us that the ability to believe the Word as it is taught and preached is not something that we automatically have. In fact, God has to supernaturally give us the ability to believe!

Then, Isaiah 53:2-6 are some Scripture verses that perhaps, of the entire Bible, lend themselves most easily to a confession of sin. Look at how great our sin is, in what it cost. Sorrow! Grief! The striking and wounding and bruising of God! Chastisement! Stripes!

But don’t just look at what our salvation from sin cost. Look at Whom it costed those things!! Here is the ugliness of our sin best seen—

And what a rich mercy that we get to see our sin most clearly, precisely in the very picture of the love and salvation of Christ for sinners. For, we may gaze at this picture without minimizing the greatness of our guilt upon the one hand, but also without despairing over that greatness on the other. The Lord has laid upon Him our iniquity!
How does the cross help you face your sin? When was the last time you consciously did this? 
Suggested songs: ARP22A “My God, My God” or TPH352 “Man of Sorrows! What a Name”

Monday, April 20, 2020

2020.04.22 Prayer Meeting Folder and Webcast

The Prayer Meeting Folder for the coming Wednesday evening is now available. There will be a webcast (audio only) of the devotional and of Pastor-led prayer, beginning around 6:30 p.m. both at the webcast page and at Hopewell's Facebook Page.

2020.04.19 Morning Sermon—Genesis 24:59–67, "God of All Comfort"

As the Lord carries out an eternal plan to give His adopted children infinite and eternal comfort, He exercises the same love and wisdom and power to fill each of their lives with a multitude of other comforts. [mp3] [PDF outline]

2020.04.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:59–67

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does Bethuel’s household send away in Genesis 24:59 (cf. Genesis 24:61)? Whom does Bethuel’s household bless in  Genesis 24:60? What blessing do they give her? Where was Isaac in  Genesis 24:62? What was he doing in  Genesis 24:63? What did he see? Who sees him in  Genesis 24:64, and what does she do? What had she asked in  Genesis 24:65? What did the servant say? What did she do? What does the servant tell Isaac in  Genesis 24:66? Where does Isaac bring her ( Genesis 24:67)? What does she become? What does he do for her? What does she do for him?   
God cannot change; He exists in an eternally perfect simplicity—an eternal, simple perfection. Therefore, He does nothing partially or by halves. He exerts all of who He is, all the time, in every action.

This is high theology that can bring us deep comfort, when we consider the closing portion of Genesis 24. God is bringing Isaac a wife who will comfort him in the loss of his mother. And He is doing so in the same love and wisdom and power in which He is bringing, through Isaac, Christ into the world to save sinners, that they may be the adopted children of God!

We are reminded that, with such a God as this, we don’t have to choose between eternal, gospel comforts and detailed situational comforts. What is He doing in my life right now? Whatever is necessary to produce in me the holiness that will both qualify me to enter into, and equip me to enjoy, the perfect blessedness that is mine in Christ!

But I have specific pains, specific griefs. And God is also addressing those. Giving me fellowship with Himself in them by prayer and the sympathy of Christ. Arranging events to produce good that has not even occurred to me at this point, and other good that I may never even discover. He is clothing flowers, and feeding birds—not one of whom falls to the ground apart from Him. But I am His adopted child in a way that they are not, and He has numbered the hairs on my head. He knows everything I need before I ask, but He loves to display Himself as a Father who is interested in hearing my voice, and responds with compassion and mercy. He has given me the privilege of my prayers being the occasion that “moves” (as it were) His almighty hand.

How blessed, then, are the prayers and efforts of believers! Here, we see Isaac out in the field in the evening, strolling and meditating. His prayers are joining in the work of God’s almighty love and wisdom and power. Here, we see the long, strenuous effort of Abraham’s servant coming to fruition. His efforts are joining in the work of God’s almighty love and wisdom and power to bring a wife for one of His sons and a husband for one of his daughters.
Dear Christian, are you growing weary in long-offered prayers or prolonged and strenuous work? Look at the cross in which we have the greatest display of God’s love and wisdom and power toward you! And know that in your prayers and your efforts, you are participating in a work of that same love and wisdom and power. For what are you in danger of wearying as you pray and work? What can refresh you in this? 
Suggested Songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or TPH128 “Blessed the Man That Fears Jehovah”

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Looking Forward with Joy to Our Redeemer's Fertilizing and Fruit-Provoking Work (2020.04.18 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – April 18, 2020
Dear Congregation,

What stock have you and your household taken of your repentance this week? 

What is being done that ought not to be? What ought to be done that isn’t? 

In your hour-to-hour living, what place belongs to the knowledge of Christ, trust in His goodness, obedience to His commands, and service unto His glory?

We heard last week from His Word that, by certain moments and seasons of His providence, He means to arrest our attention upon whether we are bearing the fruit of repentance.

Surely, He is making holy all those whom He has brought to faith in Christ, and whom He is bringing to glory (Phlp 1:6; Heb 12:14; 1Jn 3:2).

And He presses us now not only to ask the question whether we are they, but also to respond to His glorious patience and mercy with renewed love and zeal, in dependence upon His grace (1Jn 3:3; 2Pet 1:2–11).

It is especially by His Word read, and especially by His Word preached in the Lord’s Day assembly, that He works by His grace to bring us at last into His rest (Heb 3:7–4:13; 10:19–25; 12:18–29).

So, let us each take stock of where we need to be growing, and let us look forward with joy to our Redeemer’s fertilizing and fruit-provoking work in His worship tomorrow,

Pastor

2020.04.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:59–67

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does Bethuel’s household send away in Genesis 24:59 (cf. Genesis 24:61)? Whom does Bethuel’s household bless in Genesis 24:60? What blessing do they give her? Where was Isaac in Genesis 24:62? What was he doing in Genesis 24:63? What did he see? Who sees him in Genesis 24:64, and what does she do? What had she asked in Genesis 24:65? What did the servant say? What did she do? What does the servant tell Isaac in Genesis 24:66? Where does Isaac bring her (Genesis 24:67)? What does she become? What does he do for her? What does she do for him?
The Lord cares for His people in things great and small. Here, He has overseen the obtaining of a bride for the son of promise. He is bringing the Christ into the world.

And we see that in the benediction. Rebekah’s family says, “Our sister, may you be thousands of rebebah [multitudes].” It’s a clever play on words, for the sending away of their dear one. But it’s also an echo of the blessing from when Isaac had been spared on Mt. Moriah, “blessing I will bless you, and multiplying [harbah] I will multiply [arbeh] your descendants […] and your descendants shall posses the gate of their enemies” (cf. Genesis 22:17). It’s as if they are saying, “May all the Messianic promises about your fiancĂ© and you come true!”

The Lord has His eye to His great saving plan, and by that plan the great and ultimate good of all His people. But He also has His eye to the everyday care of His people. The finding of a good wife. The comforting of a man who, three years after his mother’s death, still takes a stroll with God every evening in his sorrow.

Isaac has struck out on his own, leaving Abraham back in Hebron. But, he has taken his mother’s tent with him (perhaps, living in it himself), and has not been comforted for her loss (Genesis 24:67). We (and Rebekah, her nurse, her maids, Abraham’s servant, and his men) find Isaac out in the field in the evening.

It’s likely that the text intends for us to view this time of meditation (and, perhaps, strolling) as his normal habit. Certainly, he is a man of prayer. Doing the math from Genesis 25:20 and Genesis 25:26, we discover that the “pleading” in Genesis 25:21 describes twenty years of responding to his wife’s barrenness by prayer. Isaac will soon become a cautionary tale for allowing our spiritual vigor to lapse in old age, but thus far we see the Lord providing for His servant’s comfort by stirring him up to prayer and by answering that prayer.

And what an answer to prayer! The parallel language in Genesis 24:63 and Genesis 24:64 of Isaac lifting his eyes and looking, and Rebekah lifting her eyes and seeing, implies that this occurs at the same time. Each has been some time in intense expectation of the other. She had heard the servant’s stories, he was undoubtedly sharing in the servant’s prayers, and now the expectations were being realized.

Love at first sight! Rebekah surely seems to be hoping for a particular answer in Genesis 24:65. Isaac must have been delighted with the account of Rebekah’s character given in Genesis 24:66. And the tent of the matriarch of the clan is empty no more. Rebekah takes her place as the bride of the covenant head. But the conclusion of the passage focuses on something that took place not in Isaac’s home, but in his heart: Isaac was comforted. The God who is bringing Christ into the world is the God of all comfort: both the eternal and infinite, and also the circumstantial, but just as real, to His people.
About what do you need comfort? What greatest comfort, and also small ones, has God given?
Suggested songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear” or TPH128 “Blessed the Man That Fears Jehovah”

Friday, April 17, 2020

2020.04.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 4:14–30

Questions from the Scripture text: In what (Whom) did Jesus return (Luke 4:14)? To where? What went through all the surrounding region? What did He do where (Luke 4:15)? What did all do? To where does He come in Luke 4:16? What had He done there? Where did He go on what day? What did He do there? What book was handed to Him (Luke 4:17)? What text did He find when He opened the book (Luke 4:18-19)? Who was upon Him (verse 18)? What did the Spirit anoint Him to preach to whom? Whom did the Spirit send Him to heal?  What else did the Spirit send Him to proclaim (verses 18–19)? What does He do in Luke 4:20? What does He say is happening in Luke 4:21? What do they all do in Luke 4:22? What do they ask? What does He tell them they will say (Luke 4:23)? What does Jesus say will happen to no prophet (Luke 4:24)? To whom had Elijah been sent instead of whom (Luke 4:25-26)? To whom was Elisha sent instead of whom (Luke 4:27)? How did the synagogue respond (Luke 4:28)? What did they do to Him, and what did they try to do to Him (Luke 4:29)? But what did Jesus do (Luke 4:30)?
The same Spirit who had led Jesus to glorify God in the midst of suffering and temptation empowered Jesus in His preaching, as He taught in the synagogues, Sabbath by Sabbath (Luke 4:15Luke 4:16Luke 4:31Luke 4:44). Let us learn to depend upon the Spirit of Christ, wherever His providence takes us. Not all of us preach, but all of us must have our hearing be with the faith that only the Spirit can give, and it is through many tribulations that we must be attended by the Spirit until we enter the kingdom of God.

How does Jesus apply Isaiah 61:1–2? By declaring Himself to be the Messiah (“anointed”) of whom it speaks, and declaring His hearers to be the poor, brokenhearted, imprisoned, and bound to whom that Messiah would speak. “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

That was the first line (“began to say to them”) of the gospel sermon that Isaiah 61:1 said He would preach. The gospel is the good news of who and what Jesus is, against the backdrop of the bad news of who and what we are, precisely because He came to undo what we became and did in Adam and since Adam.

It must have been a marvelous sermon about God’s mercy to those who are helplessly bound in sin and misery. They “marveled at the gracious words.” But it wasn’t the marveling of worship. They were more committed about whom they thought Him to be (Joseph’s son, Luke 4:22) than whom He preached that He was (the anointed One, the Messiah, Luke 4:18).

And Jesus announces to them that they will mock Him (Luke 4:23) with an insult that will get echoed even at His cross (cf. Luke 23:35). And why? Because they are not only mistaken about Him; they are mistaken about themselves. God saves the surprising (the widow from Zarephath, Naaman the Syrian), not the deserving. If we view ourselves as needy (widow or leper, Luke 4:25-27) but also perhaps partially deserving “in Israel,”), then we have mistaken ourselves.

Impressively, the congregation understood what Jesus was saying about them. But did they repent of their mistake? Did they cry out, “we were wrong about You, our Messiah! And about ourselves who are wholly undeserving!”? No, they were “filled with wrath” (Luke 4:28), and tried to kill Him. How will we respond when Jesus tells us that we are worse than we thought?
How do you respond to Scripture saying how bad you are? What’s this do to your view of Jesus?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH431 “And Can It Be”

Thursday, April 16, 2020

2020.04.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 1:13–14

Questions from the Scripture text: Who also trusted in Christ (Ephesians 1:13)? After they heard what? What else was done to them, once they had believed? Of what is the Holy Spirit a guarantee (Ephesians 1:14)? Until what does the Holy Spirit seal/guarantee believers? Unto what?
How glorious is Christ who died for us!

How glorious is Christ who has given us His Word of truth!

How glorious is Christ, who has purchased our inheritance for us!

How glorious is Christ, who seals us with His Holy Spirit!

How glorious is Christ, whose Spirit guarantees our inheritance until its redemption!

This has been the theme of Ephesians 1:3–14. This is the theme of our salvation. How glorious is Christ!
What has Christ done for you? How often do you think of His glory? How do you respond?
Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH375 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

"Hopewell This Week" (2020.04.15 Hopewell Harbinger)

Hopewell This Week, April 13–18, 2020

▫Attached is a pdf of Lord’s Day’s Worship Booklet, complete with Hopewell @Home devotionals for this week, in addition to 8.5x11's of the memory verse and catechism questions that can be used as posters to help with memory work.

▫Since the Harbinger is a little later this week, also attached are the Session Meeting Digest from Monday as well as tonight’s Prayer Meeting Folder.

▫There are a couple of updates from the Session in the Digest

▫The link is now active for audio and pdf of the Lord’s Day morning sermon (Luke 13:1–9 How Jesus Wants You (and Everyone) to Respond to COVID (and all Calamity))

Every day at 9a.m. Joint prayer with the rest of the ARP Synod for repentance and revival in light of the current chastening providence of God.

Wednesday, April 15, at 7p.m. Live webcast of the Prayer Meeting devotional and led-prayer. The prayer meeting folder will be available at http://bit.ly/harpclive

Children’s Catechism for April 19
Q25. What did God promise in the covenant of works? A. To reward Adam with life if he obeyed him.

Shorter Catechism for April 19
Q33. What is justification? A. Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

Songs for April 19 morning service: 

TPH341 "Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed"   

ARP119N “Your Word’s a Lamp” 

ARP045B "Daughter, Incline Your Ear"

A.M. Sermon Text for April 19: Genesis 24:59–67

▫Memory Verse for April 19
(Genesis 24:67) Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.


Today's Hopewell @Home lesson is from the first serial reading on the coming Lord's Day, 1Samuel 5:1–5. When God humiliates our idols, we need to be grateful and respond by abandoning them, not trying to "go back to normal" or creating ways to keep them. The recording of pastor's family's entire worship time (after catechizing) is available [on Facebook]

2020.04.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 5:1–5

Questions from the Scripture text: Where did the Philistines take the ark (1 Samuel 5:1)? Into whose house did they set it (1 Samuel 5:2)? By whom did they set it? At what time did the people of Ashdod wake (1 Samuel 5:3)? Where did they find Dagon, and what was he doing? What did they do to Dagon? When did they arise the next day (1 Samuel 5:4)? Where was Dagon? What was he doing? What had happened to him? How did the priests and worshipers of Dagon respond to this, long term (1 Samuel 5:5)? 
The Philistines thought Dagon had won the battle of the gods (cf. 1 Samuel 4:7). But, as we will painfully find out if the Lord is merciful enough to bring us to our knees in this life, He abides no competition.

The first lesson is pretty obvious. You can try to prop your god up, but it will end up on its face, and if you keep going, it’ll lose its hands and its head. Your money can’t love you back, and it will sprout wings and fly away. Fame is empty and vanishes quickly. Legacies get forgotten. Laid up possessions just wait until calamity takes them, or even just a foolish descendant. Your sin cannot give you deep joy, and even its light pleasure cannot last long—ultimately, apart from Christ, that sin will bring the wrath of God upon you forever and ever.

The second lesson is only slightly more subtle. We have a hard time giving up our idols. What a ridiculous and hard-heartedly wicked tradition arises in 1 Samuel 5:5! Their idol has been humiliated and destroyed, and still there are priests who serve him and worshipers who frequent his temple. They even treat as holy the threshold on which their god was humiliated! We are so stubbornly wicked—even when God’s mercy knocks our idol on its face, we tend to double down and press on in living for it anyway. God help us!
What have you been depending upon or delighting in that has failed you lately?
Suggested Songs: ARP42A “As Pants the Deer” or TPH42C “As Thirsts the Hart for Water Brooks”

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

2020.04.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 15:24–38

Questions from the Scripture text: What were they doing with His clothes (Mark 15:24)? What was the charge against Him (Mark 15:26)? What does Mark 15:28 give as the explanation for the two robbers being crucified with Him? What did those who passed by do (Mark 15:29)? Who else blasphemed and mocked Him (Mark 15:31-32)? What happened for three hours (Mark 15:33)? What did Jesus say at the ninth hour (Mark 15:34)? What happened in Mark 15:37? And what happened to the veil of the temple (Mark 15:38)?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration come from Mark 13:24–38 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed.

Truly, Jesus was numbered with transgressors, and not just the robbers on His right and left. The irony is rich: soldiers casting lots beneath His cross for what they wanted, but He is hanging above them giving that which they need infinitely more.

The inscription above His cross said “King of the Jews,” which His enemies hated, but in reality the inscription told only part of the truth. The inscription could have read, “The Living and True God.” This is what brings three hours of dark (Mark 15:33) Simply astonishing.

Many pass by and blaspheme in Mark 15:29, whom He is saving by His blood above them, and whom He will bring to faith by His Spirit in several weeks at Pentecost. Then there are the priests, in Mark 15:31, from among whom many will be saved at the end of Acts 6.

The question of the text is on Jesus’s lips in Mark 15:34, “Why have You forsaken Me? And the answer is given from heaven to earth in Mark 15:38: to open the way to the Holy of Holies for sinners such as all of these! Sinners such as you, dear reader. The True and Living God went through literal Hell to grant entry into the Holy of Holies for selfish gamblers, ruthless robbers, and other mocking blasphemers who would come to believe in Him. Sinners like you. Astonishing.
Have you believed in Christ? What use are you making of access to the holy God?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH341 “Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed”

Monday, April 13, 2020

Today's Hopewell @Home lesson is from yesterday's morning sermon text, Luke 13:1–9. In calamity, God displays His wrath, patiently and persistently provoking fruitless church members to produce fruit, or else reveal that they are perishing in their sins. The recording of pastor's family's entire worship time (after catechizing) is available [on Facebook]

2020.04.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 13:1–9

Questions from the Scripture text: What did some people tell Jesus about in Luke 13:1? What does Jesus recognize that these people had concluded about those who died (Luke 13:2)? What does Jesus say should have, instead, been their conclusion (Luke 13:3)? Concerning what other event does Jesus challenge them concerning their conclusions (Luke 13:4)? What same conclusion does He teach them to draw in Luke 13:5? To what does Jesus compare an unrepentant person in Luke 13:6? What does the property owner say to do with the fruitless tree in Luke 13:7? What does the caretaker say that He will do first in Luke 13:8? What will be done if it still bears no fruit (Luke 13:9)?  
How should we respond to plagues? Government oppression? Economic disaster? Or other calamities?

It seems, from Jesus’s question in Luke 13:2 that they assumed that what had happened to the Galileans was punishment for some specific sin of theirs. And we know that in both the Old and New Testaments, the Lord did threaten and carry out particular punishments upon His people at particular times. So, maybe we have wondered if when something hard comes upon us, whether that’s a particular quid pro quo for a particular sin.

But unless the Lord has threatened something particularly, we do not have good ground to assume a direct relationship. There are many reasons that believers suffer, including to increase God’s wrath against their enemies, to have fellowship with Christ, to know their own weakness, to be sanctified and prepared for glory, and even just to glorify God.

But there is one thing that we must always do, with any kind of calamity: remember God’s wrath, repent of our sin, and cling to Jesus Christ. By introducing the second calamity (Luke 13:4), and saying the same thing about it (Luke 13:3Luke 13:5), the Lord Jesus makes clear that this is an all-purpose application. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Jesus says that what we are to see is that God is very angry with sin. Look what sin has brought! And this is just the slightest display of it. Sin doesn’t just deserve for us to be slaughtered by Roman provincial governors or have towers fall upon us. It deserves the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire, together with undying worms that consume us from the inside out forever. Every calamity is a reminder of this.

But we are also to see that glorious word, “unless.” That the Lord is patiently calling us unto repentance. He is giving us opportunity to believe. And He is grabbing our attention and stimulating us to cling to Christ and bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

Calamities, says our Lord, function like the Lord digging down around us and fertilizing us to produce fruit. He is patiently provoking us to repentance. The question, then, is what will He find this effort has produced?
Of what do you personally need to repent? Your family? Your church? Your country?
Suggested Songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH340 “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood”

Saturday, April 11, 2020

2020.04.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 13:1–9

Questions from the Scripture text: What did some people tell Jesus about in Luke 13:1? What does Jesus recognize that these people had concluded about those who died (Luke 13:2)? What does Jesus say should have, instead, been their conclusion (Luke 13:3)? Concerning what other event does Jesus challenge them concerning their conclusions (Luke 13:4)? What same conclusion does He teach them to draw in Luke 13:5? To what does Jesus compare an unrepentant person in Luke 13:6? What does the property owner say to do with the fruitless tree in Luke 13:7? What does the caretaker say that He will do first in Luke 13:8? What will be done if it still bears no fruit (Luke 13:9)?
All of God’s judgments against everyone demand that each of us ask of ourselves the question, “Am I repenting or perishing?”

We’re tempted to ask “which particular sins did the particular sufferers commit to bring this upon them?” That’s the thinking of the people that Jesus answers in Luke 13:2.

But Jesus’s answer is clear. All sin deserves this. And, apart from repentance (which cannot come without faith in Him), all sinners will get this and worse. Jesus is telling us that such judgments are just a picture in time of what every single sinner receives at God’s judgment. We will all die, but that’s not the worst of it. We die, because God is righteously angry. We die, because we deserve Hell. And, if we don’t turn from our sin to trust in Christ, that is exactly what we will get.

And just so we don’t think that the slaughter of the Galileans is the only such event which we should understand this way, the Lord Jesus proposes another—not Galileans this time but Judeans, not at the hand of a man, but in a clearer lashing-out of the providence of God.

We live in an age where the news reporters continuously confront us with disasters. Sometimes, it’s a real disaster. Sometimes it’s manufactured. But the cumulative effect is the same: we’ve been numbed into ignoring such reminders unto repentance.

And what does this repentance look like? It looks like bearing fruit. It looks like God identifying us as a tree that has been grafted into Jesus, because we’re starting to bear Jesus-type-fruit. In fact, He’s pretty clear in the parable that if we don’t bear this fruit, then we will be cut down (and, the implication is, cast into the fire).

This is frightening for us who have been just coasting along—satisfied to have some nice feelings about Jesus, to define for ourselves what makes a Christian life look or feel Christian. Maybe we’ve made rather little study of what the fruit is that the Lord looks for from us. Maybe we’ve been bothered rather little by whether or not that fruit is growing in/on us.

But, behold the patience of our God! He has not cut us down. In fact, He keeps bringing things into our lives to stimulate a jump-start of our fruit growth. By the breaking into time of God’s wrath and judgments, He digs around us and fertilizes us. He urges us to bear the fruit of repentance.

If you have Christ and are alive, you will bear that fruit, and bless the patience and persistence of your God. But if you continue as you have always done, God’s justice will be all the more glorified by this patience, when at last He cuts you down and casts you into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and His angels.
How can you know what fruit God looks for in you? What are some examples of its growing?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

Friday, April 10, 2020

2020.04.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 4:1–13

Questions from the Scripture text: With Whom was Jesus filled and led, and into where (Luke 4:1)? What happened there for how long, and what did Jesus do and feel (Luke 4:2)? What does the devil now question in Luke 4:3, and what does he suggest in that questioning? How does Jesus answer in Luke 4:4? Where does the devil take Him, and what does He show Him in Luke 4:5? What does the devil offer to Jesus for doing what (Luke 4:6-7)? What does Jesus command the devil in Luke 4:8, and why? Where does the devil take Jesus in Luke 4:9, and what does he again question? What does he quote (Luke 4:10-11)? But how does Jesus insist upon interpreting these Scriptures (Luke 4:12)? At this point, what has the devil ended, and what does he do until when (Luke 4:13)?
Christ is the Son who perfectly trusts and obeys, submitting to God’s determination of when and how God will fulfill His Word.

At His baptism, the Father declared from heaven, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).  And then the evangelist reminded us in Luke 3:23–38 that Jesus came into the world to be the perfect human “son” that Adam had failed to be, and the promised son of God that God had promised to be a son of Abraham and a son of David.

Now, the devil comes to challenge that notion: “If You are the Son of God” in Luke 4:3, and again in Luke 4:9, “If You are the Son of God.”

After 40 days in the wilderness, where He was led by the Holy Spirit, Jesus is suffering from hunger. And that’s just the beginning of the suffering. We know where Peter got the idea of a Kingdom without suffering in Matthew 16:22, because Jesus gives him the same response in Matthew 16:23 that He gives to the devil himself in Luke 4:8, “Get behind Me, Satan!”

Satan offers sonship without suffering. Satan offers glory without suffering. Satan offers suffering on our own terms—not “nevertheless not My will but Thine be done” but rather, “Here’s how I want You to prove it, God.”

Praise be to God, the Lord Jesus is our righteousness, and He rejected all of these Satanic offers! And may He work the same mind in us as well: to suffer trustingly, if it comes at the hand of Him who has given us fellowship with Him in every word that proceeds from His mouth; to suffer greatly, if that is the part that He has assigned to us in the bringing of His kingdom; and, to suffer on His terms, doing whatever part He has assigned to us, and trusting that He will always keep every word of what He has promised is His own part.
How have you suffered? How much does that change God’s word to and purpose for you?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH231 “Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right”

Thursday, April 09, 2020

2020.04.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 1:11–12

Questions from the Scripture text: What have believers obtain in Christ (Ephesians 1:11)? When was this determined to happen? Whose purpose decided this? How many things does He work according to this purpose? What is this purpose called at the end of verse 11? What, then, was the purpose of bringing the first (and the rest!) of the predestined ones to believe in Jesus (Ephesians 1:12)? 
Our inheritance is guaranteed. We don’t need to struggle to get good things from God. He has been planning to give us literally everything for literally forever.

This frees us to live for our purpose, which is clear: the praise of God’s glory. Our God “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11), aiming at this praise of His glory. So, we too pursue our inheritance by aiming at that same praise of His glory.

This praise is the reason for which God brought that first generation to trust in Christ (Ephesians 1:12). And everyone whom He has brought to faith since then, He has also brought to faith in Christ for the praise of His glory.

Christ is at the heart of all of this. Our purpose is in Christ, that inheritance is in Christ, our trusting is in Christ, and that glory is in Christ. God grant us to live with a single eye to Him!
What more might you feel that you need from God than He has given you? What are some things that you really desire in life—how do they relate to or compare to bringing Him glory?
Suggested songs: ARP8 “Lord, Our Lord” or TPH214 “Sing Praise to God, Who Reigns Above”