Saturday, May 30, 2020

2020.05.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:23–25

Questions from the Scripture text: Where does Isaac go in Genesis 26:23? Who appears to him (Genesis 26:24)? When? What does He call Himself? What does He tell Isaac not to do? Why? What does He say that He will do? How does Isaac respond now (Genesis 26:25)? Upon what does he call? What else does he do there? 
This is an interesting appearance of the Lord. It’s really the last bit of the narrative about digging of wells, as we can see by the conclusion of Genesis 26:25. This turns out to be the only well named in this chapter that keeps its name from Abraham.

Yahweh last appeared to Isaac in Genesis 26:2, and made promises to him (Genesis 26:3-5). Things did not go so well with Isaac spiritually after that, at first (Genesis 26:6-11). But then, the Lord grew him beyond all human expectation (Genesis 26:12-22). Now, the promise in Genesis 26:24 seems to be a good summary of the previous promise, with a little more emphasis on Abraham.

Isaac has been doing well now, and we might think that the Lord would appear with some commendation to him like what was given to Abraham after his test in Genesis 22:16–18, while Abraham was living in this exact same spot. But the Lord continues to turn Isaac’s attention away from himself and back to the Lord.

Here, God actually calls Himself, “the God of your father Abraham.” And, His covenant to bless future generations comes from this identity: “I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.”

God reminds Isaac that His covenant relationship with him begins from before Isaac and continues to after Isaac. Sometimes, we want God’s relationship with us to emphasize our moment, our life, our walking with Him. But, there is actually something wonderfully enduring to know that we are in a covenantal line that begins from long before us and belongs “to a thousand generations.” Regular doses of humility are like vitamins that maintain spiritual health.

It is this God of enduring grace across generations, this God of faithfulness to His promises, this God who has successfully preserved other sinners (Abraham) through faith… it is this God who meets Isaac in the moment of his life: “I will be with you.” And it is this same God who is with us.

Isaac has had experience now of disobeying the instruction not to fear (Genesis 26:6-11), and also of responding in faith (Genesis 26:12-22). But Yahweh is appearing to him again. The new appearance reminds us that our growth in Christ is not continually and linearly upward. Isaac still needs to be reminded. He has other things ahead of him, in which he must heed the instruction, “Do not fear; only believe.”

Last time, we have no reference to Isaac responding with worship. This time, the response in Genesis 26:25 reminds us much of his father, whom we frequently saw building altars to call upon the name of the Lord who had appeared to him. We even remember him calling upon “the name of Yahweh, the Everlasting God” right here, at Beersheba (Genesis 21:33).

This worship is not only a most appropriate response to God, as Abraham himself previously had done; it is also a faith-building exercise. Here is a man who has been growing, but is not done yet. Here is a man who must continue not in fear but in faith. And, here he is strengthening that faith through worship. Let us, to whom promises have also been made, and who similarly have more of our life in this world before us, respond with worship to our God and His promises. And may God use that worship to strengthen our faith!
What promises has God made to you? How will you respond in a way that honors Him and builds faith?
Suggested songs: ARP44A “O God, We Have Heard of Your Works” or TPH243 “How Firm a Foundation”

Friday, May 29, 2020

2020.05.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 5:33–39

Questions from the Scripture text: About whose disciples do they ask (Luke 5:33)? What activities do they ask about? What are Jesus’s disciples doing instead? What does Jesus ask in Luke 5:34? What days does Jesus say are coming (Luke 5:35)? What does Jesus say no one does in Luke 5:36? What does He say that no one does in Luke 5:37? Where must new wine be put (Luke 5:38)? How does Jesus explain their dislike for the New Covenant discipleship of Him (Luke 5:39)? 
The scribes and Pharisees apparently did not even realize that Jesus was telling them that they were the unwell sinners who need healing and repentance, because they figured that they were doing pretty well “fasting often and making prayers” (Luke 5:33).

Because true interaction with the Lord involves particular actions, it is easy for people to focus upon the actions/habits/rituals of Christianity rather than how we are to interact with the Lord Himself in them. A similar thing happens in the next passage, when they think that they are keeping Sabbath properly, but they are missing the Lord Himself on His Sabbath, when He is standing right in front of them (Luke 6:1–5).

Luke (and Jesus) redirect our focus to Him Himself. The main issue is: are you relating correctly to the Bridegroom, and His current relative position to you?

We ought to be seeking after fellowship with Christ, grieving when He is distant, rejoicing when He makes Himself known to us and near to us in His ordinances, and always longing for His return and the full enjoying of all that He has earned.

Fasting and praying are not just mourning over our own condition (though we certainly ought to do so in our fasting and praying). They are also acts of worship and means of fellowship that our Lord has given us with Himself. We do them, not because they earn us anything, and not even only because they are right, but especially because they are one way in which the Lord Jesus gives us to draw near to Him and find that He draws near to us.

It really is an amazing thing to have direct interaction with Christ, and it is no wonder that Levi and his friends were rejoicing in their fellowship with the Redeemer. But people who are accustomed to their religion being all about the external forms and actions themselves may not respond well to this idea of direct interaction with the Lord Jesus.

Jesus is our Immanuel. In Him, God Himself has come near. We are now all as priests unto God. It’s a glorious change! But it’s not one that those who are accustomed to externalism and formalism are necessarily comfortable with. It stretches them too far (Luke 5:36-38), or just tastes too differently from what they’re used to (Luke 5:39). And they are suspicious of anyone whose practices are regulated by Christ rather than tradition (Luke 5:33).

But it is essential that we make this stretch, and it is essential that we come to love this taste. Biblical Christianity is full of habits and practices—Jesus said as much in Luke 5:35. But the point of Sabbath-keeping. Or fasting and praying. Or Bible reading. Or Scripture-regulated worship. Or family worship. Or any of the other habits and practices of biblical Christianity… is to have our life in belonging to Christ Himself and fellowshipping with Christ Himself directly in each of these habits and practices.

May the Lord grant unto us that we would find it most comfortable and enjoyable to have union and communion with Jesus at the heart of all of the religious practices that He has commanded!
What Christ-commanded religious practices do you do? How does your soul interact with Him in them?
Suggested songs: ARP63 “O God, You Are My God” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Thursday, May 28, 2020

2020.05.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 2:14–18

Questions from the Scripture text: What is the peace between the Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14)? What has Jesus done to them? What has He broken down? What did He do to the enmity (Ephesians 2:15)? How? What had sealed this enmity? What has Christ done to it? What has He created in Himself? To Whom has He reconciled them (Ephesians 2:16)? How? What did this put to death? What did He come and preach (Ephesians 2:17)? To whom? What do we both have (Ephesians 2:18)? Through Whom? By Whom? To Whom?
When we are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, He is honored as the only way that guilty and helpless sinners could be reconciled to a holy God. When we refuse to be reconciled to God, or try to be reconciled in some other way, Christ is dishonored.

What then, if believers refuse to be reconciled to one another? Ephesians 2:14 tells us that He Himself is our peace. When Christ died on the cross, He fulfilled and obsoleted the ceremonial code, including the holiness code that emphasized the alienation and enmity between Jew and Gentile. By giving us access to the Father in one Spirit, Christ brings us near to one another.

So, if we refuse to be reconciled, or try to be reconciled in some other way, we dishonor Christ. What personal bitterness or prejudice could be worth that?

On the other hand, when we are reconciled to God through Christ, we rejoice in Him who has killed the enmity between us and God. And when we are reconciled to one another through Christ, we rejoice in Him who has killed the enmity between us.

It makes one wonder why we don’t delight in reconciliation more. Something that brings honor to Christ. Something that increases our joy in Christ. Something that takes bitterness and misery out of our lives.
With whom do you have the opportunity to be reconciled for the honor and enjoyment of Christ?
Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH87A “Zion, Founded on the Mountains”

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

2020.05.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 8:9–22

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Yahweh tell Samuel to heed (1 Samuel 8:9)? How must Samuel forewarn them about their request? What did Samuel tell the people who had asked him for a king (1 Samuel 8:10)? What is the first thing that he says the king will take (1 Samuel 8:11)? For what kinds of things (1 Samuel 8:11-12)? What is the second thing that he says the king will take (1 Samuel 8:13)? For what? Which fields, vineyards, and olive groves will he take (1 Samuel 8:14)? For what? What else will he take (1 Samuel 8:15)? For whom? What else will he take (1 Samuel 8:16)? For what? What else will he take (1 Samuel 8:17)? What will he make Israel into? How will Israel end up responding (1 Samuel 8:18)? How will Yahweh respond then? What do the people not do (1 Samuel 8:19)? What do they say? What is the first reason they want a king (1 Samuel 8:20)? What else do they want a king to do? What did Samuel do with all these words of the people (1 Samuel 8:21)? What did Yahweh tell him to do? And what did Samuel say to the men of Israel (1 Samuel 8:22)?
What a terrible thing it is to have any king but Christ! But still, we clamor to be ruled by sinners because of our delusions about what they can do for us.

The Lord had already told Samuel that they were rejecting Him because they didn’t want to be ruled by Him (1 Samuel 8:7). We know the good and gracious God whom they are rejecting as King, but the Lord also wants them to know what kind of kings sinners make: self-interested men, who take the people’s children and things.

This, of course, is not the purpose of civil government. It is in fact to do things like judge (reward good and punish evil) and oversee civil defense (cf. 1 Samuel 8:20, Romans 13). It is a mercy of God that nations have civil government as a method of mitigating evil in this world. And, the more that people in government serve God and fulfill His design for their role according to His law, the more that civil government will be a blessing.

Israel had a perfect King already. The living God. Earthly government cannot “fight our battles”—it can only use us to fight battles, that may or may not be in our own best interest. But the Lord Himself can most certainly fight for us. Indeed, through Christ, we have full confidence that He does so, whether through means, above them, or even without them.

Thankfully, we are looking forward to a perfect King—the King prophesied in places like 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 72. Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is God, who has given His Son instead of taking ours, who gives us all things instead of taking them. And He will be King forever and ever over an entire New Heavens and New Earth. Indeed, He is already King of kings.

This ought to make us rejoice that Christ is King now, and long for the day when all lesser authority joyfully obeys Him. But, if we love Christ and submit to Him, and if we love our neighbor and what’s good for him, we will also pray and work toward government that submits to Christ.
How are you praying for Christ’s kingship in your own country? How are you working toward it?
Suggested Songs: ARP72A “God, Give Your Judgments to the King” or TPH417 “Jesus Shall Reign Where'er the Sun”

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

2020.05.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Corinthians 2:1–5

Questions from the Scripture text: How did Paul not come to them (1 Corinthians 2:1)? What did he come declaring instead? What was he determined not know (1 Corinthians 2:2)? What, alone, was he determined to know? What about Christ did he emphasize? How did Paul present himself before them in 1 Corinthians 2:3? What did his preaching appear to be missing, to some (1 Corinthians 2:4)? But with what did that preaching come? What did this keep them from putting their faith in (1 Corinthians 2:5a)? What did it ensure that they would put their faith in (verse 5b)? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from 1 Corinthians 2:1–5 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name.

In this passage, we are challenged about what we put our faith in, and what we lead others to put our faith in. Praise God for faithful churches, and praise God for faithful ministers. But, our passage leaves us with the clear message that if people come away from us thinking, “what a great church!” or “what a great minister!” then we have not truly achieved our aim. Rather, we should desire that they come away thinking, “What a great God!” and “What a great Savior!” and “What a great salvation!”

Paul is still encouraging them to embrace their ordinariness—to embrace their unimpressiveness. Not only does this ensure that all the glory goes to God (as we learned in last week’s passage), but it also redirects people’s faith.

If the Lord takes us from people, would they say, “Oh no! What shall we do?” Or, have we been determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified, so that they can receive a message similar to Joshua chapter 1: “Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, be strong and courageous for [God] is with you.”

How we present ourselves to those to whom we minister is, in the economy of God’s providence, a significant factor in determining upon what they come to depend. Will they end up with faith in the wisdom (or, perhaps thoughtfulness or goodness or togetherness, or ?) of men? Or will they end up with faith in the power of God?

Paul didn’t preach cleverly assembled sermons full of catchy turns of phrase. He preached plain doctrine about how God became man to save, and did so not by being impressive but rather by being executed.

In fact, he preached such sermons that one would say, “Come on, Paul… it would take a miracle from God for that sermon to bring someone to faith!”

And that is exactly the point, isn’t it? Paul came and preached plainly about Jesus so that when the people believed, all would know for sure, “This can be a demonstration only of the Spirit and power of God!”

Isn’t this what we want most, when we witness, or when we have others preach and teach to us: not that there would be a great presentation that gives us a memorable encounter with men, but instead that there would be a plain gospel presentation, that Christ would be clearly seen, and that there would be a glorious encounter with God.

Let us so act and so speak as to have this as our great aim!
How can you be presenting Jesus more plainly and yourself less impressively to others?  
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or TPH375 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”

Monday, May 25, 2020

2020.05.24 P.M. Exhortation—Ephesians 2:11–13, "Equipped by Remembering (New)Creation, Commonwealth, Covenant, & (Union w/)Christ"

We are equipped to walk in good works by remembering that we are new creatures in Christ, that we have been brought into the common wealth of God's people, that God has bound us to Himself by covenant, and that all this has been done for us by union with Christ.

2020.05.24 Morning Sermon—Genesis 26:12–22 "Fruitful Grace: God's Powerful and Merciful Material and Spiritual Provision"

We must look to God to provide for us all that is necessary materially and spiritually, in His unlimited power and unmerited favor, which He offers in Christ. [PDF] [MP3]

2020.05.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:12–22

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Isaac do in Genesis 26:12? How much did he reap? How did this happen? Of what was this the beginning (Genesis 26:13)? To what extent did it continue? What did he have (Genesis 26:14)? How did the Philistines feel about this? What did they do in Genesis 26:15? What did Abimelech say and do to Isaac in Genesis 26:16? Where did Isaac go in Genesis 26:17? What did he do in Genesis 26:18? What else in Genesis 26:19? Who quarreled over these wells (Genesis 26:20)? What does he call the well in response (verse 20)? What does he do in Genesis 26:21? What do they do? What does he call the well in response? What does he do in Genesis 26:22? What does he call this new well? Why? Whom does he recognize as doing what for him?  
What astonishing material fruitfulness! Everything is stacked against Isaac. He’s a livestock farmer, not a crop farmer. He’s used to the hill country, not the lowlands. It’s the middle of a famine. But he reaps one-hundred-fold in the first year! That’s more than enough for himself, and the brisk grain market enables him to purchase flocks, herds, and servants. 

Genesis 26:13 emphasizes the increase of Isaac, literally: “And the man became great, and continuing he continued and became great until he became exceedingly great.” 

But this fruitfulness was not just material; it was also spiritual. Just as there is no other explanation for Isaac’s grain crop, there is also no other explanation for the shift in Isaac’s character.

In the previous passage, the man through whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed had almost brought guilt upon Gerar. In this passage, he departs peaceably from the city, and interacts exceedingly peaceably with the herdsmen in the countryside.

Isaac now has a huge logistical task on his hands. In Genesis 26:16, Abimelech had complained that Isaac was too numerous. The city and its area couldn’t support both him and the Philistines. So, now he moves into the countryside and finds the old wells stopped up. He’s giving them the old names, but they’re about to get new ones related to the herdsmen claiming one after another of them. 

Isaac needs the water! And, he’s mighty. He could easily take it by force. If he is too great for Gerar city, he is also too great for its herdsmen. But he doesn’t. He is trusting Yahweh (finally!). He keeps digging them and digging them until finally the herdsmen have enough water for themselves (that Isaac has now provided), and one for himself. Rehoboth. “Wide.” 

No longer is Isaac acting out of self-interest, putting his own skin ahead of everyone like he had earlier (even ahead of Rebekah). He acts in great selflessness, great patience, great persistence, great diligence… all out of great faith in the Lord to take care of him. Praise God!

And that’s exactly the point. Praise God. Only He can make land fruitful like Isaac’s crops had been. Only He can make a sinner’s heart and life fruitful like Isaac. Can’t He (and doesn’t He!) do the same for His people today? Whatever your material needs; your Father knows and is abundantly able. Whatever the difficulty of your spiritual challenges; your Father is more than able by His Spirit, and the life and character of His Son, to form and sustain in you great spiritual fruitfulness!
What material needs do you have right now? What spiritually challenging circumstances are you in? 
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH534 “Fill Thou My Life, O Lord My God”

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Necessity of Good Works Sends Us Running Back to Grace (2020.05.23 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – May 23, 2020

Dear Congregation,

After last week’s considerations of necessary and instrumental (NOT meritorious!) good works in Gen 26:5 and Eph 2:10, it was gratifying and moving to hear someone say, “I have had a real hard time with the idea of good works, but I hear what you’re saying in these passages, and I know it’s true, but it’s just so hard for me because I struggle so much.”

This is gratifying, because the good works of believers honor the Lord and glorify Christ for the difference that He makes in those whom He redeems. But it’s moving, because I so strongly feel the pain of that struggling!

This is why it’s so important to see not only Isaac’s failures in last week’s morning sermon Scripture passage, but especially God’s surprising mercy. The Bible tells us the truth about ourselves, and it’s not a flattering truth. But the Bible also tells us the truth about Christ, and it’s a GLORIOUS truth!

It is well and good for us to feel our struggle, if it gives us yet another opportunity to turn away from ourselves and to the Lord in repentance. Isaac is going to continue to have his ups and downs for the next several passages, but the Lord is faithful and persevering in His great power and great mercy!

Indeed, once our time of weakness and remaining sin is concluded, we will leave behind these opportunities for repentance. For then, we will be continuously, lovingly and thankfully focused upon Christ.

For now, however, let us rejoice over every opportunity for us struggling believers to be pointed back to our Lord’s great power and mercy in the lives of repenting sinners. In tomorrow morning’s passage, we will see Isaac’s surprising failure give way to an even more surprising spiritual recovery. Praise be to the God whose power and mercy so work in the lives of a struggling believer like Isaac!

And like us, praise God. Looking forward to worshiping Him together in this passage with you,

In Gen 26:12–22, we find earthly fruitfulness in the midst of famine, and spiritual fruitfulness in a great turnaround from backsliding, that can each only be explained by the infinite, eternal, and unchangeable power and goodness of God—power and goodness that, in Christ, are operative in the lives of believers.

2020.05.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:12–22

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Isaac do in Genesis 26:12? How much did he reap? How did this happen? Of what was this the beginning (Genesis 26:13)? To what extent did it continue? What did he have (Genesis 26:14)? How did the Philistines feel about this? What did they do in Genesis 26:15? What did Abimelech say and do to Isaac in Genesis 26:16? Where did Isaac go in Genesis 26:17? What did he do in Genesis 26:18? What else in Genesis 26:19? Who quarreled over these wells (Genesis 26:20)? What does he call the well in response (verse 20)? What does he do in Genesis 26:21? What do they do? What does he call the well in response? What does he do in Genesis 26:22? What does he call this new well? Why? Whom does he recognize as doing what for him?
Although Isaac had given much evidence of his remaining sin, the Lord was merciful and faithful to prosper him both materially and spiritually.

We’re usually less keen to see spiritual fruitfulness, so the Holy Spirit sharpens our vision by how extraordinary is the material fruitfulness. When Jesus teaches the parable of the soils, “a hundredfold” represents maximum-imaginable-fruitfulness (cf. Matthew 13:8).

So this would be a remarkable crop by anyone at any time. But it isn’t by anyone; it’s by a man who up until that time had focused primarily upon livestock. And it isn’t any time; it’s in the midst of a famine (cf. Genesis 26:1). This is, apparently, how these crops went far beyond feeding his clan and his herds and flocks, to enabling him to procure the great wealth described in Genesis 26:13-14. Considering that wealthy Abraham (Genesis 24:35) had left Isaac all that he had (Genesis 24:36, Genesis 25:5), the fact that this crop-in-famine takes Isaac to a new level of prosperity tells us that he is now extremely wealthy indeed!

Thus, by Isaac’s material fruitfulness, we are enabled to see the greatness of the spiritual fruit as well. He is content to walk by faith in the steps of his father, Abraham (cf. Genesis 26:18). And, surely his water needs were very great during this famine. But, at great cost to himself, he gave up well after well that he had dug again. If he was too mighty for Gerar itself (Genesis 26:16), certainly he was too mighty for its herdsmen (Genesis 26:20), and could have retained the wells by force.

But we see what enabled him to value and pursue peace so much—he trusted that it was Yahweh who was making room for him, Genesis 26:22. What a turnaround from the lack of faith that led to fear that led to lying that endangered before God an entire nation, in Genesis 26:6-10!

Just as with the crop fields, there is only one valid explanation for the spiritual fruitfulness: undeserved grace from God! And truly, all of our material fruitfulness comes by grace and mercy. And, all of our spiritual fruitfulness comes by grace and mercy.
What has God given you materially? What has God given you spiritually?
Suggested songs: ARP65B “The Far and Distant Peoples” or TPH429 “Come Thou Fount”

Friday, May 22, 2020

In repentance, we must turn from sin and self to follow Christ. Like Levi, we must yield ownership of ourselves and our life entirely to Christ. Unlike the scribes and Pharisees, we must see ourselves as incurable sinners who need Christ to deliver us from our sins' guilt and power.

2020.05.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 5:27–32

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom did Jesus see, where, in Luke 5:27? What did Jesus say to him? What did Levi leave (Luke 5:28)? Where did he go? What did Levi give Jesus (Luke 5:29)? Where? Who else were there at the feast? Who also were there in Luke 5:30? Against whom did they complain? What were they asking? Who answers in Luke 5:31? How does He describe Himself? Whom does He say need Him? Whom has He not come to call (Luke 5:32)? Whom has He come to call? To what?
In Himself, Jesus offers us joy that sin can never give and righteousness that sinners can never produce.

Jesus’s life-giving words in Luke 5:27, “Follow Me,” convinced Levi of this. Two words convinced Levi to “leave all” (Luke 5:28).

Now, Luke 5:29 tells us that Levi still had things—“his own house” and the means by which to give Jesus “a great feast.” But Jesus informs us in Luke 5:32 what this leaving-following action was. Levi was one of those “sinners” whom Jesus came to “call to repentance.”

Jesus had offered Levi, in Himself, joy that sin could never give. If we are attached to the pleasures that we can get elsewhere, will we be willing to “leave all” for Christ? May He grant that His Word would break us free from the power of such attachment to pleasure.

But we also need to be broken free from attachment to the idea of our own righteousness.

It was “their scribes” (Luke 5:30, i.e., the scribes of the “great number of tax collectors and others”) who complain against His disciples. They ask a question, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

And notice that Jesus doesn’t argue against this description. Their scribes weren’t wrong; they were well-acquainted with their people’s sins. As happens apart from grace, however, over-acquaintance with the sins of others results in under-acquaintance with their own sins. These scribes and Pharisees didn’t realize that they are the “sick” mentioned in Luke 5:31 and the “sinners” mentioned in Luke 5:32.

God save us from such a terrible thing as to look down upon others with a censorious spirit! These men mistook who Christ is, because looking down upon others had caused them to be mortally mistaken about themselves. To turn from sin to Christ for joy, we must know our sinfulness so that we will turn from self to Christ for righteousness.
Whom are you tempted look down upon? Why is this so dangerous for you?
Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry” or TPH179 “Forgive Our Sins, As We Forgive”

Thursday, May 21, 2020

In Eph 2:11–13, we learn that we are driven to walk in good works by the gifts and privileges of our new life in Christ, of our membership in the commonwealth of the church, and of our covenantal bond to God.

2020.05.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 2:11–13

Questions from the Scripture text: What is the initial/primary command at the beginning of Ephesians 2:11? What does the apostle say that they were in the flesh (verse 11)? What are they called? In what and how were “the Circumcision” circumcised? When they were Gentiles in the flesh, Whom were they without (Ephesians 2:12)? From what had they been aliens? What had been their relationship to the covenants of promise? What did they not have? What were they without in the world? What are they now in (Ephesians 2:13), as opposed to when they were in the flesh in Ephesians 2:11)? What has happened to them, in contrast to their being far off? By what had they been brought near? 
Hopefulness in Christ obligates us to holiness in Christ. Christians have been brought into a citizenship with responsibilities: “Be holy, for I am holy.”

The Israelites knew this; the Lord had constituted them into a commonwealth (Ephesians 2:12), the word means “a people held together by a common citizenship”), brought near not only to one another but especially to God in the covenants of promise.

Going back to Ephesians 2:10 then, we are given three foundations of believers’ duty to holy living: creation, commonwealth, covenants. We are a people created for these good works. We are a commonwealth of people who have been separated from the rest of the world to be holy together. And we are a people who have been joined unto God by covenant, and must live as those who are bound unto Him and His holiness.

But despite this great obligation to live a life that is set apart unto God, according to the law of God, and for the glory of God, our passage will not allow us to think that we live this way in order to show our worthiness or earn anything from the Lord.

For, Ephesians 2:10-12a are bookended by grace. It was by grace that we were saved through faith that God gave us (Ephesians 2:8-9), and it was the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13) that has brought us into this position of holiness from a place of alienation from God and hopelessness (Ephesians 2:12b).

Praise be to our God of grace! And how shall we thank Him? By this life of holiness for which He has created us new in Christ Jesus, and brought us into the commonwealth of His people, and covenanted us to Himself by His promises!
What do you spend most of your time doing? What does holiness look like in that?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace!”

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

In 1Sam 8:1–8, Samuel's sons warn us against greed, Samuel himself warns us against pride, and the elders of Israel warn us against rebellion. God gives them what they want as an act of judgment and discipline, but in the midst of it He is bringing salvation in Christ!

2020.05.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 8:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: What is Samuel’s age in 1 Samuel 8:1? What did he do (1 Samuel 8:1-2)? What didn’t his sons do (1 Samuel 8:3)? What did they do? Who gathered in 1 Samuel 8:4? How many of them? To whom? Where? What did they tell him about himself (1 Samuel 8:5)? About his sons? What did they request? For what purpose? How did Samuel feel about this (1 Samuel 8:6)? What does Yahweh tell Samuel to do in 1 Samuel 8:7? What reason does He give? Whom have they rejected? What did they not want? What does Yahweh say is behind their request in 1 Samuel 8:8
Everyone in this passage is wicked, except Yahweh.

Yes, Samuel is a believer, but believers sin. How very many otherwise exemplary saints in Scripture fail as fathers! Perhaps Samuel was a godly father, and his children still “did not walk in his ways,” 1 Samuel 8:3. That does happen. We know more about the actual failings of fathers like Isaac, Eli, and David.

But this still does not explain why Samuel would make such sons judges. Even a child is known by his deeds, and now Samuel is old (1 Samuel 8:1). Surely he would know by now the character of his sons! Why would he appoint such men as judges instead of other biblically qualified men?

1 Samuel 8:7 fills us in: Samuel took the elders’ rejection of his sons as a rejection of himself—evidently, he had thought that by appointing his sons, he could continue to exert some control over their judgments. It’s no wonder, then, that he is “displeased” in 1 Samuel 8:7. We sinners are easily offended when we feel that we have been rejected.

Sadly, we have a high capacity for self-deception. The Holy Spirit Himself tells us that Joel (“Yahweh is God”) and Abijah (“Yahweh is my Father”) were not living up to their names. Doubtless, “all the elders of Israel” (1 Samuel 8:4) felt self-righteously justified in their offense—and thus in their request.

Often, it is when we are right about someone else’s sinfulness that we can be blindest to our own—consider the Pharisees and scribes who failed to see the sinner in the mirror, in part because they saw tax collectors and sinners all around them. Jesus doesn’t say that they were wrong about others; rather, He indicates that until they understand themselves to be sinners, they will never be able to see Him as the Savior He came to be.

But, the request of these elders was not so justifiable as they might have imagined. 1 Samuel 8:8 puts them in the company of people with whom Yahweh says He was disgusted (cf. Psalm 95:10). In 1 Samuel 8:7, Yahweh declares the real object of the elders’ sinful hearts: they don’t want Yahweh to rule over them.

Taken as a whole, verse 7 says something pretty amazing. God actually gives Israel a king as a punishment for their rejection of Him. But, from that kingship will come David and David’s greater Son. So, we discover that for the unconverted, the Israelite kingdom is punishment for sin. Yet, for the believers, that same kingdom brings them Christ in the long-term. It is a painful sort of temporary discipline, as we will learn in the next passage, but it is one through which the Lord will do them some earthly good, and every eternal good!

Whether we are tempted by pride to trust our own control over God’s ways like Samuel, or to overlook our own rebellious hearts because we can see others’ sin so clearly like the elders of Israel, let us be free to own up to our sin by holding to this marvelous grace of God.

God sees our sin clearly, and does things to bring it to our attention. But at the same time, He is working in all of history and the history of our lives, to bring the salvation of Christ to all who hope in Him! With a God of such grace as this toward sinners such as we are, we are free to own up to it, turn from it to Christ for full and free forgiveness, and commit by His grace to battle against that sin.

Whose sin do you think you see pretty clearly right now? What sins of your own might you be missing or tempted to downplay?

Suggested Songs: ARP51AB “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?

Pastor takes his youngest catechism child through the Westminster Shorter Catechism answer for May 24. One of our joys on the Lord's Day is preparing for public worship by hearing the congregation's children recite their catechism question for the week.
Hebrews 10:11–18 presents Christ to us in the perfect sufficiency of His sacrifice and perfect superiority of His power and victory. When we are overwhelmed by sin's guilt or power, we must look to Christ, our victorious Priest-King.

2020.05.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 10:11–18

Questions from the Scripture text: What kind of sacrifices does every priest repeatedly offer (Hebrews 10:11)? What can they never do? How many sacrifices did this one offer (Hebrews 10:12)? For how long is it good? Where did He sit down? What is He waiting for (Hebrews 10:13)? What has He done forever to those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14)? Who witnesses to us (Hebrews 10:15)? What did He say the Lord would make with us (Hebrews 10:16)? What would He put on our hearts? What would He write on our minds? What would He not remember anymore (Hebrews 10:17)? What does our forgiveness mean will no longer happen (Hebrews 10:18)?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from Hebrews 10:11–18 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Hail the Day That Sees Him Rise.

As we see in Ephesians 1:19–2:7, one of the wonders of Christ’s ascension to the high throne of heaven is that this has occurred in human flesh, in His office as our Mediator, so that Jesus sits on heaven’s throne not merely as our Representative, but in mystical union with us.

No other priest’s sacrifice could ever take away sins (Hebrews 10:11), but His one sacrifice as our Priest has put away our sins forever (Hebrews 10:12a). And, it is as our Priest that He has also taken His royal seat at the right hand of God (verse 12b), and as our Priest that He rules while His enemies are made His footstool (Hebrews 10:13).

Yes, we are still sinners, because we are still being sanctified (cleansed, made holier in heart and conduct, Hebrews 10:14b). But even in this still-being-sanctified condition, we have been “perfected forever.” The word translated “perfected” is related to the word translated “it is finished” on the cross. The phrase means that Christ has completed, in a continual way that can never be interrupted, everything that is necessary for us.

And the apostle follows this amazing application of the significance of Christ’s ascension by quoting from the Old Testament to show that this ongoing sanctifying work (Hebrews 10:16, cf. Jeremiah 31:33) was prophesied in Scripture to occur during a time when our forgiveness had been completed (Hebrews 10:17, cf. Jeremiah 31:34).

Sometimes, as believers who are still being sanctified, we may feel overwhelmed by the power of our sin. At those times, we must remember that it is the ascended Christ who is sanctifying us, so it shall surely succeed.

Sometimes, as believers who are still being sanctified, we may feel overwhelmed with a sense of the guilt of our sin. At those times, we must remember that it is the ascended Christ who has completed all that is necessary for complete forgiveness of our sins.

And sometimes, as believers who are still being sanctified, we can grow lazy or careless about growing in holiness. May God grant unto us at those times a faith-glimpse at our ascended, reigning Priest and King, so that confidence and joy and gratitude and worship and submission would all combine to stir us up to the sanctifying work that is His current mission in our hearts and lives.
What sin are you currently struggling against? When you are discouraged (or have grown complacent) what might you do for help in the struggle? 
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH371 “Hail the Day That Sees Him Rise”

Monday, May 18, 2020

2020.05.18 Hopewell Harbinger

The following is the copy of this week's Harbinger. If you'd like to get it weekly in your email, click the red link on the left.
Hopewell This Week, May 18-23, 2020

A note from the Deacons:
Please pass on our gratitude for all who came out to work this past Saturday. We made great progress on several projects! 

We realize this coming weekend is Memorial Day weekend and many may have plans but for those that don’t and would like some additional “fun fellowship” we do plan to work from 8 am to 12N with a lunch provided for all who can come out.

Here’s a list of items completed in no particular order.
·         Charlie, Russ, and crew almost got completed with the deck but have just a bit to finish up. Very impressive work with some additional needed repair on the manse!
·         Sam’s crew almost finished the screened porch framing as well but still has a bit of framing and staining before we can add the screen. If 2-3 people could stain while the trim gets finished, we could get the screen on later in the morning.
·         Ruth Anne and company got the upstairs FH room de-cluttered, primed and one coat of paint on most of the walls. Another coat needs to be applied.
·         Samuel, Thomas and Craig got the west wall of the church pressure washed with a big assist from the Roudens’ scraping the lower section. We do have cleanup to do picking up paint chips and scrapings out of the flower bed, grass and walk paths ... and maybe still in some hair or on ball caps!  This will be tedious but may be a great project for smaller hands, particularly in the cool of the morning shade on that side of the building. If anyone has a paint sprayer and knows how to use it, we could get a lift rented and prime the wall. However, that may be for another day.
·         Dawn, Liz, and team finished the Shed paint job. We have a little trim work to do on the door and it should be complete.
·         Jim and Lowry got the remainder of the property cut and groomed nicely. I think they enjoy machines that go vroom!
·         Jeremiah and Doug got the stairwell stained, one coat of finish and mounted with assistance from Mr. Wenneker. Major thinking went into getting this accomplished!  Only item left to get Occupancy permit is replacing the front door. We thought we had a solution but still looking to get it done.
·         Mr. Wenneker also got Pastor Hakim’s workout bench built.
·         General cleaning was also accomplished by many.
·         The Hakims were gracious hosts with all the activity around the manse and provided pizza for dinner. More slices kept appearing in our box after we’d already eaten it. It seemed miraculous!

Thanks to all who showed up. I know I’ve missed naming all who came and helped in a big way. Others ran “errands” for us filling in gaps of needed supplies and food.  It was a joy to see so many young men and women pitch in and support our efforts and doing so cheerfully. Everyone was needed and contributed.

Let Tim Heldman know by text or email if you will be able to make it this Saturday morning. If you can, please plan to stay for lunch! 

In grateful appreciation,
The Hopewell ARP Deacons

P.S. - Also, let us know if you have a paint sprayer. Thanks!

▫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 26:1–11, Surprisingly Failing Saints Turned Back to God by His Surprising Mercies ), and also for the audio of the Lord’s Day p.m. exhortation (Ephesians 2:8–10, God's Grace Glorified in Our Salvation from Start to Finish)

Prayer MeetingWednesday, May 20, at 6:30p.m. The prayer meeting folder is available at (prayer meeting is also live-streamed at both and

Congregational WorkdaySaturday, May 23. (see the Diaconate’s letter above)

Lord’s Day, May 24:
9:50 a.m. Breakfast line. If you are getting breakfast from the line, we’d like to get that going a little earlier. If you’re not yet comfortable with that, you are welcome to bring your own breakfast
10 a.m. Study Class. We’re studying how Scripture teaches the doctrines that have been summarized in our church’s confession. This week, we’ll continue studying election.
11 a.m. Public Worship. The holy assembly on the Lord’s Day.  
Children’s Catechism for May 24
Q30. What is meant by "transgression"? A. Doing what God forbids.

Shorter Catechism for May 24
Q38. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection? A. At the resurrection, believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.

Songs for May 24 morning service: 
TPH371 “Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise”   
ARP78B “O Come, My People, to My Law” 
TPH534 “Fill Thou My Life, O Lord My God”

A.M. Sermon Text for May 24: Genesis 26:12–22
▫12:45 p.m. Catechism Class
▫12:45 p.m. Tea/Chocolate/Coffee Fellowship
▫1 p.m. Fellowship Meal
2:30 p.m. Psalm/hymn Sing. Even if they do not come for lunch, please invite other believers to this time of praise and sung encouragement in the Word of God.
3:30 p.m. Church Family Devotional. Ephesians 2:11–13.

Memory Verse for May 24
(Genesis 26:22) And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

2020.05.17 P.M. Exhortation—Ephesians 2:8–10, "God's Grace Glorified in Our Salvation from Start to Finish"

God's grace is glorified in our salvation from start to finish—both in a justification that is not at all through anything that we do, and in sanctification where we do things that we ourselves could never have done, but are the vintage of God's new-creation workmanship in us.

2020.05.17 Morning Sermon—Genesis 26:1–11 "Surprisingly Failing Saints Turned Back to God by His Surprising Mercies"

Believers often stumble in surprising failure, but the Lord often shows them surprising mercy to turn them back to Himself.
In Genesis 26:1–11, Isaac was afraid, but God showed surprising mercy that should stir up faith to inspire confidence and goodness to inspire the worship of gratitude. It is this life of confidence in God and life of worship unto God that overcomes fear.

2020.05.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:1–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What happened in the land (Genesis 26:1)? When had this happened before? Where (to whom) did Isaac go? Who appeared to him in Genesis 26:2? What did He have to tell him not to do? What did He tell him to do (Genesis 26:3)? Whom does Yahweh say will be with Isaac? What does He say He will give to Isaac’s descendants? What does He say He will perform? What else will Yahweh do to Isaac’s descendants (Genesis 26:4)? What will He give them? What would happen in one of his seed? What reason does Yahweh give in Genesis 26:5 for making such promises? Where did Isaac dwell (Genesis 26:6)? Who ask about whom in Genesis 26:7? What does Isaac say? Why? How much time passes before his lie is exposed (Genesis 26:8)? Who sees him “Isaacing” Rebekah? What does Abimelech ask in Genesis 26:9? What reason does Isaac give? What does Abimelech say that Isaac might have done to them (Genesis 26:10)? 
How mercifully God protects us from dangers earthly and spiritual! In this passage, He graciously spares Isaac in the midst of both the famine of food and his own faithless fearfulness.

Isaac was supposed to be the one in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, but he almost became the one who led Gerar into incurring God's curse (Genesis 26:10)!

It’s amazing how weak we can be. Yahweh has literally just appeared to Isaac and made great promises to him in Genesis 26:2-4. Yahweh has underlined to Isaac how Abraham’s grace-sustained obedience was necessary and instrumental in bringing about these promised blessings.

But Isaac’s fear of the Philistines had outweighed his fear of God. And Isaac’s confidence in his cleverness had outweighed his confidence in the promises of God. Let us be grateful to God that He has allowed us to see Isaac’s amazing weakness, for our own confidence in God and fear of God often fail us.

But more than that, let us be grateful to God that He has allowed us to see His own faithfulness even in the midst of Isaac’s failing. As the Lord had said to a previous Abimelech (cf. Genesis 20:6), it is God who keeps the Philistines from touching Rebekah.

Isaac fails to protect his own wife—he ought to have been willing to die if he must in order to protect her. But the Lord protected her. Isaac fails to protect the Philistines from sinning. But the Lord protected them.

And the Lord even protects Isaac from any revenge by the Philistines. Rather than take vengeance on the man who had brought them into such danger, Abimelech actually threatens vengeance on his own people if they should harm Isaac.

What a wonderful thing the Lord does by putting this into the heart and mouth of the Philistine king! But this underlines for us the failure of Isaac’s faith. The Philistines whom he so feared conducted themselves quite nobly with him, and this was always within the scope of God’s abilities and intentions toward him. Truly, duty is ours, and events are God’s. We have only to trust and obey this God who shows amazing grace to amazing sinners.
What situation is testing your trust in God? Whom should you fear and trust the most?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH22B “All You That Fear Jehovah’s Name”

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Worship Fulfills Christ's Perfect Desires (2020.05.16 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – May 16, 2020
Dear Congregation,

As I write, my heart is gladdened by the sound of fellowship wafting down the hallway to my study. What a joy it is that God’s bringing us near to Himself in Christ has also brought us near to one another.

There is a great Christian fellowship in recreation together, but I think that every time we have one of these workdays, we are reminded that there is a fellowship of a different (and in some ways superior) quality in working together. And there is a fellowship of a truly heavenly quality in worshiping together, when the worship is truly governed by God’s Word unto God’s glory.

In the Ephesians passage for this week’s Hopewell @Home (the May 24 morning service/afternoon exhortation), we are reminded that when God creates us new in Christ, He makes us part of a commonwealth of people who are joined to one another, and a covenant people who are joined to Him.

Having had some aspects of our worship curtailed a bit these last couple months has only heightened the gratitude for being able to enjoy it together. Although we are all called as Christians to think of one another, it is my actual vocation to look forward to and prepare for our times together. This is especially a blessing to me because that which I do imperfectly and finitely, our Lord does infinitely with reference to His divine nature and even perfectly with reference to His human nature.

What a wonderful thing to have reinforced to me (and which I now wish to reinforce to you)—the desire and delight of our Lord to have fellowship with us in all things, and especially as He gathers us to Himself in worship, and through Himself unto the Father!

Looking forward to this fulfillment of His perfect desires (and our grace-given, though yet imperfect desires!),


2020.05.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:1–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What happened in the land (Genesis 26:1)? When had this happened before? Where (to whom) did Isaac go? Who appeared to him in Genesis 26:2? What did He have to tell him not to do? What did He tell him to do (Genesis 26:3)? Whom does Yahweh say will be with Isaac? What does He say He will give to Isaac’s descendants? What does He say He will perform? What else will Yahweh do to Isaac’s descendants (Genesis 26:4)? What will He give them? What would happen in one of his seed? What reason does Yahweh give in Genesis 26:5 for making such promises? Where id Isaac dwell (Genesis 26:6)? Who ask about whom in Genesis 26:7? What does Isaac say? Why? How much time passes before his lie is exposed (Genesis 26:8)? Who sees him “Isaacing” Rebekah? What does Abimelech ask in Genesis 26:9? What reason does Isaac give? What does Abimelech say that Isaac might have done to them (Genesis 26:10)?
Our growth in grace comes in fits and starts, and sometimes with surprising backslidings, but God mercifully persists with us.

Even after God has graciously grown us for a time, we sometimes show a shocking capacity for reverting. We would expect Genesis 26:1 to say, “there was a famine in the land, and Isaac prayed to Yahweh.”

This is what we have seen him doing before. We meet him in the evening, and he is in the field meditating before God. For twenty years his wife is barren, and he pleads with Yahweh for her, and Yahweh grants his plea. So, when there is a famine in the land, we expect to Isaac take his hunger and doubt and uncertainty to the King of kings—not Abimelech king of the Philistines in Gerar.

In fact, from Yahweh’s opening line in Genesis 26:2, it seems that Isaac was even inclined to go further, down to Egypt. And even when he stays in the land (Genesis 26:3aGenesis 26:6a), because Yahweh mercifully accommodates him in telling him to do so (Genesis 26:2c), Isaac still operates out of fear. Perhaps he is concerned that, having fathered Jacob, his usefulness had expired. But, after the grand promises in Genesis 26:3-4, it is a deep disappointment to read in Genesis 26:6, “for he was afraid.”

Surely, Isaac knew the history of how Abraham had wound up receiving a mortifying rebuke from Pharaoh. Maybe Isaac remembered that Yahweh came to Abimelech’s ancestor in a vision and announcing, “You are a dead man.” Certainly, Abimelech seems to be concerned about having such an interview with the Lord (cf. end of Genesis 26:10).

Whatever he remembered or didn’t, Isaac had come to the wrong conclusion. Not only was he wrongly afraid of Abimelech, but he failed to fear Yahweh. He seems to have been wrong on both counts. Abimelech cares about being guilty before God (verse 10), and charges his people to treat them properly (Genesis 26:11). And, whether the Lord prevented the Philistines by fear or mere providence (cf. Genesis 20:6), after they had been there “a long time” (Genesis 26:8), and still no one had taken Rebekah.

Eventually, Isaac is himself with his wife; verse 8 literally says that Isaac was “Isaacing” Rebekah his wife. Because his name means laughter, some translations say he was “laughing” with her. The jig is up, and his lie is exposed. But by God’s mercy, even Abimelech is merciful, and Isaac is spared. May the Lord grant that fear of Him would drive out from us fear of man, and that even if we do backslide, He would be merciful to us and grant that others too would be merciful to us.
What are you currently tempted to fear? How might you sin, if that fear overcomes fear of God?
Suggested songs: ARP56B “You Have Recorded All My Ways” or TPH2B “Why Do Heathen Nations Rage?”