Friday, July 31, 2020

God Sees All, Works It for God, and Tells Us about It (Family Worship lesson in Genesis 31:1–16)

Pastor teaches his family tomorrow's Hopewell @Home passage. In Genesis 31:1–16, God reveals to Jacob that He has seen all that has been done to him, and has been working it for good. Thus, He calls His own back to a life of faith in Him, clinging to Him and His promises in Christ.

Jesus's Pity, Purity, Power, and Prophecy-fulfillment (Family Worship in Luke 7:11–17)

Pastor teaches his family from today's Hopewell @Home passage. In Luke 7:11–17, we have a marvelous portrait of Jesus's pity in His compassion, His purity in being able to make us clean, His power (especially by His Word) to overcome our weakness and death, and His fulfillment of prophecy. He is the One of Whom Moses said that a prophet like he would arise from among his brethren. Jesus is the One in Whom all of God's promises—and especially that He would be with us—find their "yes" and "amen."

2020.07.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 7:11–17

Questions from the Scripture text: How long after healing the centurion’s servant does Luke 7:11 happen? Where does Jesus go? Who goes with Him? Who else? To what does He come near in Luke 7:12? What was happening there? How many sons did the dead man’s mother have? How many husbands did she now have? Who else was with her? What does Luke 7:13 call Jesus? What did He see? What did He feel? What did He say? What does He come to in Luke 7:14? What does He do to it? What do those carrying it do? What does Jesus say? How does Luke 7:15 describe the one who obeys what Jesus commands? What two things does He do? To whom does He present him? What comes upon all (Luke 7:16)? What do they do? What two things do they say? Where else were these things said (Luke 7:17)?
Behold the pity, purity, power, and praise of our Redeemer!

Behold His pity. This is quite different from the previous healing, where a delegation entreated Him to do something. No one here asks Him to do anything. Here, He acts simply out of the abundance of goodness that is in Him. “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her.” And she was in need of compassion. She had been brought very low, losing both her husband and her only son.

Ordinarily, it is not compassionate to tell the bereaved not to weep. Jesus Himself wept for the bereaved (cf. John 11:33–35).  But our Lord’s “do not weep” was not a superficial “chin up” with nothing more than a pat on the back or a sympathetic embrace to support it. He could support it by removing the cause for weeping. And so will He do with all of His dear ones!

Behold His purity. It shocks the pallbearers, and they stop. Can anyone who is clean touch the unclean (corpses were unclean as were lepers, cf. John 5:13) without being defiled? But the purity of our Lord is such that He cannot be defiled. He can eat and drink with sinners (cf. John 5:29–32). He can touch lepers. He can even touch the dead! If we come by faith, we need not shrink from drawing near Him. He has purity enough for Himself and for purifying us!

Behold His power. His Words are not just to be obeyed, but they themselves give the power to obey. We are deluded when we think that we are able to obey the Lord Jesus. But here there can be no illusion. The young man is dead, and being carried out to be buried. But our Lord and His Words carry within them all power necessary to obey them. So it is with us at the first, when He commands us to spiritual resurrection unto faith in Him. And so it is with us, all along the way, that the same Word by which He instructs us is powerful to enable us to obey Him.

Behold His praise. There can be no doubting that it happened. Many of his disciples were there, and a large additional crowd that followed Him (Luke 7:11), as well as another large crowd from the city (Luke 7:12). And, though we know not whether their hearts were changed, still their verbal response rightly responded to the Lord Jesus. He is the prophet like Moses (Luke 7:16, cf. ). And God had visited His people by Him—in fact, He is God! The report goes everywhere (Luke 7:17), even as at the end every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess Him to be Lord. Shall we not so confess Him now and always? Let us be quick to respond as the angels continually respond!
In what do you most need the Lord’s compassion? For what command do you most need His power? How are you developing the habit of continual praise?
Suggested songs: ARP146 “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah” or TPH239 “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven”

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Spiritual Sacrifices of a Holy Priesthood Who Serve in a Spiritual Temple (1Pet2:4–5 Prayer Devotional)

As those who offer spiritual sacrifices weekly, by faith, in the true tabernacle in heaven, let us diligently pursue holiness and be hungry for that Word by which we are built up as a spiritual house.

Jesus's Idea of a Spiritual Gifts Church (Family Worship lesson in Ephesians 4:11)

Pastor leads his family in today's Hopewell @Home passage. In Ephesians 4:11, Jesus has given Himself first as a gift. And He has given each believer the gift of being a gift. Since we must walk in this calling according to the truth of His mind, instead of the futility of our own mind, His first gifts among men were those through whom the Holy Spirit wrote the Scriptures, and those by whom these written Scriptures are proclaimed both outside and inside the church. Elders are gifts from Jesus to enable us to be stable, helpful theologians with one another.

2020.07.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 4:11

Questions from the Scripture text: What four types of officers/gifts does Ephesians 4:11 tell us that Jesus has given? 
What is a “Holy Spirit” church or a “spiritual gifts” church? What is an “equipping” church? What is an “active” church or an “every member ministry” church?

These are important questions, not only because the section in Ephesians 4:11-16 establishes this as the soil in which worthily walking (cp. Ephesians 4:1 vs Ephesians 4:17) grows up. But also, because in our broader church context, in the past several generations, these ideas have taken on meanings that are unrecognizable by and indeed in tense incompatibility with what the New Testament teaches.

So, we’re going to slow down and work through them carefully.

What does a church that is full of the Holy Spirit look like? What are the first and primary gifts that the Lord Jesus gives? That’s what Ephesians 4:11 is emphasizing to us, and the answer is pretty simple: a church that is full of the Holy Spirit is a church that is full of accurate Bible teaching and application, and that is accurately teaching and applying the full Bible.

Jesus’s giving apostles to the church is already familiar to us in this letter. To them, he adds the prophets of the post-ascension church—those through whom the final words of God came. And evangelists, those who become the first to take the words of the apostles and prophets to a region (such as Philip, Acts 21:8 and Timothy, 2 Timothy 4:5), even up to missionaries and church planters of this day.

We notice that these are all Word-centered officers. Preaching, teaching, and writing officers. Theologians by whom the ascended Christ, through His unifying Spirit, keeps us grounded and growing in the indispensable truths about the hope of our calling, about our Lord, about our faith, about all that is signified and accomplished in our baptism, about God the Creator/Ruler/Redeemer Who is also life-begetting, character-defining, all-providing Father.

It is specifically the apostles and prophets, as extensions of Himself the Cornerstone, whom the Lord Jesus has given as the foundation of the church. So how does the Holy Spirit build upon that foundation? How does the Holy Spirit build upon Christ? Through the application and implementation of that Word (which is what elders do as pastors), especially through proclamation of that Word and instruction in that Word (which is what elders do as teachers). This is how the Spirit builds. This is how He equips and makes effective the other gifts whether of “church member” and the specific gifts of “wife,” “husband,” “child,” “parent,” “slave,” “master,” “widow,” or whatever other role His Providence assigns to us in this life.

So, the first answer as to what a church full of the Holy Spirit looks like is that there is a lot of preaching, teaching, and shepherding by the elders. The Ephesians knew this perhaps best of all. The apostle taught theology class in Ephesus every day for two years (cf. Acts 19:8–10). Enough early manuscripts contain the scribal insertion that this took place from the fifth to tenth hours to warrant a footnote in the ESV. Though the hours may not be inerrant Scripture, it seems likely that these manuscripts are relating something that the church in Ephesus (still existing at the time of their writing) knew to be true.

Five hours of Bible and theology class every day, when people got off work due to the heat—spending it in the school of Tyrannus instead at home reading false religion (cf. Acts 19:19), or engaged in Diana/Artemis worship (cf. Acts 19:24–27), or engaged in hours of political rioting (cf. Acts 19:34).

This was how the church in Ephesus had started. They spent their entire midday break in theology school. This was the love that they had at first (cf. Revelation 2:4), the first works that Jesus commanded them to return to (Revelation 2:5).

Now, does Jesus expect us to spend five hours a day in theology school? Perhaps not. But perhaps so. Do we have less leisure time than the first century Ephesians did? The truth of the matter is that between Ephesians 4 and Acts 19 and Ephesians 2:1–7, we have a composite biblical picture of how a biblically Spirit-filled church spends a large chunk of its time: under Bible-preaching from Christ’s appointed officers and Bible-teaching from Christ’s appointed officers, so that in the rest of their time they will be Bible-living.
How much time do you spend meditating upon the Word in a day? In a week? In your attending upon the Word, how are you making specific use of the Pastor-Teachers that Jesus has given to you for that purpose?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH23A “The Lord’s My Shepherd”

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

2020.07.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 14:47–52

Questions from the Scripture text: What had Saul established (1 Samuel 14:47)? Over whom? Against which six nations and their kings did he fight (1 Samuel 14:47-48)? What is all this fighting said to have accomplished at the end of verse 48? How many sons and daughters of Saul are mentioned here (1 Samuel 14:49)? What were their names? How many wives are mentioned here (1 Samuel 14:50, cf. 1 Samuel 21:8)? What was her name? What other official is named in verse 50? What was his relation to Saul? What does this make their fathers’ relation to one another (possibly through Saul’s mother)? Who was Saul’s father (1 Samuel 14:51)? Who was Ner’s father? What did Saul have with whom, during all of his days as king (1 Samuel 14:52)? How many of whom did Saul take for himself?
This passage has the flavor of a news report or an encyclopedia entry. From the standpoint of what men generally think kings are for (cf. 1 Samuel 8:19–20), Saul did pretty good. He successfully defended Israel on all sides (1 Samuel 14:47-48), and maintained an elite standing army, under a trusted command (1 Samuel 14:50-51) to counter the continuous Philistine threat (1 Samuel 14:52).

It’s a surprisingly positive summary statement. But that’s part of the point, isn’t it? Sure, some of the point is that God was willing to deliver the people through the king, despite their treachery in asking for one (cf. 1 Samuel 8:71 Samuel 10:191 Samuel 12:12)—what grace! But surely having a positive note sandwiched between chapters 13–14 and 15–16 heightens the contrast.

God isn’t looking for success but submission, not conquest but compliance—for disciples after His own heart (cf. 1 Samuel 13:141 Samuel 14:7; Acts 13:22).

When we judge by outward appearance, we might be impressed with the ungodly. Cain’s line (cf. Genesis 4:20–22) and the wicked in the days of Noah (cf. Genesis 6:4) were men of renown. But to Scripture, to the believer, to God… the final assessment is that they were wicked and cursed. Surely that is our overall impression of Saul and his kingship. And the positivity of this passage just highlights it by contrast.

What are we running after with our lives? What do we put our heart, and plans, and time and money into? If it’s just the kind of stuff that goes into a man’s-perspective summary of our lives, we have wasted our earthly life and should question whether we have any eternal life at all.

Praise God that the ultimate King that He has provided is our righteousness before Him! And, let us by His Spirit and Word, seek to have our hearts conformed to His, that we too may be people after God’s own heart.
What pursuits in your life threaten to compete for attention with the pursuit of godliness in your life?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or TPH446 “Be Thou My Vision”

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Being the Church for Jesus's Sake: Seeking the Glory Due to Him for the Incarnation (2020.07.26 Evening Sermon in Ephesians 4:8–10)

The Chief Cornerstone of the church is Jesus—Who descended into the womb in His humiliation, and then after He had given Himself as the first and great Gift to the church, has given believers also the gift of being gifts. We follow His design for the church, because He deserves His glory in the church!

Getting Rich Eternally in Jesus: God's Patience in Perfecting Us (2020.07.26 Morning Sermon in Genesis 30:25–43)

God overrules both enemies' persecution and believers' own remaining sin, as He patiently brings them into the fullness of what Christ has won for them.

2020.07.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 16:5–28

Questions from the Scripture text: Where is Jesus going now (John 16:5)? What aren’t the disciples asking? What effect has His saying this had upon them (John 16:6)? What does Jesus say is to their advantage (John 16:7)? What advantage do they get from Jesus going away? Of what three things will the Spirit convict the world when He comes (John 16:8)? Why of sin (John 16:9)? Why of righteousness (John 16:10)? Why of judgment (John 16:11)? What does Jesus still have to say to whom (John 16:12)? Why doesn’t He do so now? Who will speak them to the things to come (John 16:13)? When? Whom will He glorify (John 16:14)? What will He take? To whom will He give it? What things belong to Jesus (John 16:15)? What will happen after a little while (John 16:16)? What will happen after another little while? Why? Who have a hard time understanding this (John 16:17-19)? What will they be doing when they don't see Him (John 16:20)? What will the world be doing? But what will happen to their sorrow? What illustration does Jesus give, in John 16:21, of sorrow being turned into joy? When will the disciples’ hearts rejoice (John 16:22)? For how long? Whom does He say they will ask to have their joy full (John 16:23-24)? What will happen when they ask? How has Jesus spoken to them just now about the cross and resurrection (John 16:25, cf. John 16:21)? When He speaks to them more plainly, about Whom will He speak? What will they do in that day (John 16:25-26)? Who loves them directly (John 16:27)? How can they know that? From where did Jesus come (John 16:28)? Where is Jesus going?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from John 16:5–28 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Holy Ghost, Dispel Our Sadness!

What a gift the Holy Spirit is! He is very God of very God, the third Person of the Trinity. And in Him, we have both the Father and the Son, and all that is theirs (John 16:14-15).

Through the apostles, the Holy Spirit has completed giving us all that Jesus says to us (John 16:12-13), a work that He had begun by the prophets of old (cf. 1 Peter 1:10–11). And in all these Scriptures, New and Old, He was always glorifying Christ (John 16:14a, cf. John 5:39; Luke 24:25–27; 1 Peter 1:12).

Indeed, He is the One who convinces us (John 16:8) that sin is dealt with by believing in Jesus (John 16:9), that righteousness through faith is assured because Jesus is risen and ascended (John 16:10), and that Jesus having ascended means that Satan is condemned and defeated (John 16:11).

So, it is with this Christ-exalting, Scripture-exposing, Truth-convincing power that the Holy Spirit comes to us in such a great fellowship with us that it is better even than if Jesus had stayed with us (John 16:5-7)!

The Holy Spirit’s ministry is the key to Christian joy. Not by giving insider knowledge or the ability to see into the spirit world. And certainly not by causing us to behave in a manner that looks drug-induced or demon possessed. No, the key to Christian joy is the Holy Spirit enabling us to see by faith (not sight) our Lord Jesus, ascended and sitting in glory.

Sorrow fills the heart of the believer who cannot get sight of the Lord Jesus (John 16:5), but as the Holy Spirit fulfills that ministry described in John 16:7-14, He turns our sorrow to joy (John 16:20-22). When we realize that Jesus who died and was buried has now risen and ascended to the Father (John 16:16-19), we are sure not only that we belong to Christ, but that in Christ we belong to the Father Himself, Who also personally hears our prayers (John 16:23-26), loves us (John 16:27), and sent Christ for us (John 16:28).

This is the great ministry of the Holy Spirit—to give to us fellowship with our Triune God, by means of His Word, unto our everlasting joy!
Based on this passage, if you are hoping to have joy in the Holy Spirit, what means should you expect Him to bless to that end and how? What should you be doing, and in what way?
Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song” or TPH392 “Holy Ghost, Dispel Our Sadness”

Monday, July 27, 2020

2020.07.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 30:25–43

Questions from the Scripture text: What event triggers Jacob’s request in Genesis 30:25? Where does he ask to be sent? What does he ask to be given (Genesis 30:26)? What point does he make for his request? What does Laban ask in Genesis 30:27? What reason does he give for his request? What offer does he make in Genesis 30:28? What point does Jacob make about the livestock in Genesis 30:29-30? What does Jacob say that he does not want to do (Genesis 30:31)? What does he request to receive instead (Genesis 30:32)? Why does he suggest that this will be a good way of dividing between the two (Genesis 30:33)? How does Laban answer in Genesis 30:34?  Whom would we expect (based upon verse 32) is taking the action in Genesis 30:35? Whom do we discover is actually doing it in Genesis 30:36? What does Jacob do in Genesis 30:37-38? What result does this have in Genesis 30:39? What does he do with the two flocks in Genesis 30:40? How did he decide when to do what in Genesis 30:41-42? What was the result for Jacob in Genesis 30:43
Could it really be that God’s chosen one would toil for so long and still have nothing? That’s our question at the end of Genesis 30:30, when even Jacob is just seeing himself as a useful worker, but we are thinking about God’s covenant and how feebly it seems to be getting along so far. In God’s faithfulness, there are a bunch of boys now; but, how will they be taken care of?

By this time, Jacob had served at least fourteen years, but had nothing material to show for it. In fact, as he had come Laban to be known as a hard man, the request for his wives and children in Genesis 30:26 was not altogether certain. Genesis 31:43 opens our eyes to the fact that Laban did, in fact, consider the children to be rightfully his! (Children born in servitude were considered by many to belong to the master and not the servant, cf. Exodus 21:4 and other contemporary writings like the Nuzi documents).

So, Jacob insists upon the completeness of his service (Genesis 30:26b) and that the wives and children are his (verse 26a), and tells Laban to send him away. He’s basically arguing that he’s no ordinary servant.

The demand seems to take Laban by surprise. His literal response is, “If—please!—I have found grace in your eyes—I have divined that Yahweh blesses me because of you! Name your wage unto me, and I give.” Or at least that’s what Laban wants Jacob to think.

This is the second time that Laban makes an offer like this. We remember what he did with the wife—now wives. And sure enough, Laban is ready in Genesis 30:34-36 to take advantage of Jacob’s proposal in Genesis 30:31-33. In fact, he can hardly contain his pleasure at such an apparently na├»ve proposal, “Behold! May it be!” (Genesis 30:34a).

Genesis 30:37-42 has been the occasion of many old wives’ tales about how vivid images upon a mother while conceiving will impress themselves upon her offspring. This is not only ridiculous, but misses the point of this long and drawn out part of the passage. Yahweh Himself explains in Genesis 31:10–13 that He told Jacob that He was the One who miraculously made the streaked/speckled/spotted appear (remember, Laban had removed them! ... Genesis 30:36) to mate with the females.

What Jacob does in response to the dream is either an obedient response of faith that Yahweh had commanded (but Jacob does not tell his wives), or a silly attempt at trying to take some of the credit for himself after Yahweh had told him what would happen. Either way, the point is the same: this rather intricate procedure is not at all naturally able to produce this result; the usefulness is not in the action taken, but in the God who Himself is acting!

The same can be said of reading a very old book. Or pouring a little water on a baby’s head. Or eating a bit of bread and drinking a bit of wine. Is this how the dead are transformed or the powerless gain strength? Yes, because God commanded it. And not because the thing in itself does it, but because it is His Word. His sacrament. His Spirit who powerfully uses them to faithfully keep His promises. It’s all about Him!

So, is it possible that God’s chosen one would toil for so long and still have nothing? Genesis 30:43 answers the question. “Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous.” That may or may not be materially true for us in the short term. But, if we genuinely have Christ, it will be spiritually true for us—in an increasing (if originally small) way in this life, and perfectly so in the life to come!
What situation, earthly or spiritual, seems stacked against you? What means has God ordained for your care in that situation? How have you been employing those means? Whom do you trust to make them work?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH105C “O Praise the LORD, His Deeds Make Known”

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Increase Your Desire for Baptisms by Diligence in Improving Your Own! (2020.07.25 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – July 25, 2020

Dear Congregation,

We were blessed to attend upon the sacrament of baptism this past Lord’s Day. Among the many thoughts that this has fostered for me is that this doesn’t happen often enough.

Many of us, as we have begun to prepare better for the Supper, and attend better upon the Supper, and respond better to the Supper, have longingly desired to move to a biblical frequency (weekly) of taking that Supper together. When we go weeks without it, we feel famished of it; and, how dreadful it is if we happen to miss one and must wait two full months!

Why are we not longing more for the sacrament of baptism? Surely, if we view covenant children as Scripture does, we should be eager for the Lord to add them to us. And in this way, we ought to longingly desire to see more of their baptisms. Surely, if we view the bringing in of those who are far off as Scripture does, and if we love the souls of lost men, and the glory of Him Who is the Redeemer of those souls, we ought to longingly desire to see more of their baptisms.

But I wonder if one of the ways that the Lord grows us up into connecting these theological dots to form a picture of longing desire in our hearts is by our attending better upon the sacrament itself.

Ever powerfully and succinctly condensing Scripture truth, our Larger Catechism says this about our attending upon Baptism:
Q. 167. How is baptism to be improved by us?
A. The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others;

by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein;

by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements;

by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament;

by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and

by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.

Did you take the time, and put in the effort, to do these things before last week’s baptisms? With them fresh upon your mind, were you able to renew and stoke these heart-actings-upon-God by faith during the administration of it? Did you reflect later upon what had transpired with the three who were baptized, meditating upon the effects of the Lord having also done the same to you?

Baptism is a means of God’s grace! Just as you have discovered that, in approaching the Supper in a biblical way, He has been faithful to make it effectual to your benefit. So will you discover that improving your own baptism in a biblical way, He will be faithful to increase your benefit and joy from it.

And, I suspect, that one of these benefits will be an increased desire to see more of them. An increased crying out for the blessing of covenant children. An increased faithfulness in the duties by which He brings them to faith and applies to them the full and eternal blessings of the covenant. An increased “truthing” among one another (tune in to the sermon on Ephesians 4:15 in a couple weeks!) and especially unto the lost, that we might see them brought to faith in Jesus Christ, added to His church, and baptized.

Perhaps, in working on improving our baptisms, not only in times of its administration to others, but also in times of temptation (cf. WLC 167 above), we can be looking to God to give us a biblical increase in the frequency of that sacrament as well!

Looking forward to worshiping Him with you in the other means of grace tomorrow,


2020.07.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 30:25–43

Questions from the Scripture text: What event triggers Jacob’s request in Genesis 30:25? Where does he ask to be sent? What does he ask to be given (Genesis 30:26)? What point does he make for his request? What does Laban ask in Genesis 30:27? What reason does he give for his request? What offer does he make in Genesis 30:28? What point does Jacob make about the livestock in Genesis 30:29-30? What does Jacob say that he does not want to do (Genesis 30:31)? What does he request to receive instead (Genesis 30:32)? Why does he suggest that this will be a good way of dividing between the two (Genesis 30:33)? How does Laban answer in Genesis 30:34?  Whom would we expect (based upon verse 32) is taking the action in Genesis 30:35? Whom do we discover is actually doing it in Genesis 30:36? What does Jacob do in Genesis 30:37-38? What result does this have in Genesis 30:39? What does he do with the two flocks in Genesis 30:40? How did he decide when to do what in Genesis 30:41-42? What was the result for Jacob in Genesis 30:43?
It seems that Rachel finally bears Joseph after Jacob’s fourteenth year serving Laban (Genesis 30:25). He believes that he should be free to go and requests the official end to his hired service to Laban (Genesis 30:26). But Laban (Genesis 30:27) and Jacob (Genesis 30:29-30) both agree that Laban’s flock has prospered under Jacob’s hand.

Now that the Lord has prospered Jacob with a household, Jacob needs to make that household prosper (end of verse 30). But, he has come to know Laban to be a ruthless man, and we know from Exodus 21:4 (and other ancient near eastern documents) that it was widely accepted that children born to a man while in servitude do not necessarily leave with the man when the time of his service is done. There is some question over whether he will be able to take his own children with him, but the answer ends up being put off until Genesis 31:43, which occurs in the wake of Genesis 31:29.

Laban actually doesn’t even ask Jacob to stay (notice the italics on “stay” in Genesis 31:27 of the NKJV). He just asks to renegotiate the wages. “And Laban said to him, ‘Please, if I have found favor in your eyes—I have divined that Yahweh has blessed me because of you.’ And he said, ‘name your wages to me, and I will give.’” He avoids the question of Jacob leaving entirely.

It is interesting that Jacob, who gave lip-service to God’s opening and closing the womb in Genesis 31:2, puts so much conniving effort into making the strongest of the sheep and goats turn out speckled and spotted for himself (Genesis 31:37-42). Indeed, we’re not even sure that what Jacob did had anything to do with the prosperity of Genesis 31:43 (The NKJV’s “thus” is just a vav conjunction “and” at the beginning of the first word).

But, Jacob is Jacob after all. And, he has spent 14 years in the house of the great swindler, Laban, who has continued his dishonest ways in Genesis 31:34-36.

The great message of this passage, like so many that precede it in the book of Genesis and specifically in Jacob’s life, is that God is faithfully and generously keeping His promises by great grace and mercy and certainly not through any strength or worthiness on Jacob’s part.

Against Laban’s attempt to minimize Jacob’s gains, the Lord prospered him.

Over-against his own combination of manipulativeness, silliness, and superstition, the Lord was merciful to him. Oh that we would see ourselves rightly, so that we might see His mercy rightly!
How has God been merciful to you? What are some examples of why you don’t deserve it, or what He has overcome in order to give it to you? Why doesn’t this excuse foolishness or sin?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”

Friday, July 24, 2020

2020.07.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 7:1–10

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Jesus conclude in Luke 7:1? Where did He then enter? To whom does Luke 7:2 introduce us? What did he have? How did he feel about this bondslave (lit.)? What was happening to his bondslave? About what had he heard (Luke 7:3)? Whom did he send? What did they plead? To Whom did they come (Luke 7:4)? In what manner did they beg? What particular reasoning did they give? What did they say in favor of his deservingness (Luke 7:5)? What does Jesus do in Luke 7:6? Whom does the centurion send? What do they tell Jesus not to do? What does the centurion think of himself with respect to Christ? Of what else had he thought of himself unworthy (Luke 7:7)? What does he ask Jesus to do instead? What does he believe will happen? What was the centurion under (Luke 7:8)? What did he have under him? What did those under him do out of respect to those over him? How did Jesus respond to hearing this (Luke 7:9)? To whom did He speak? What did He say He had not found? Where did He say that He had not found it? To where did the sent ones return (Luke 7:10)? What did they find?
Luke 7:9 stops us in our tracks. “When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him.” It catches our attention when Jesus is impressed by something. Jesus goes on to say that He found this man’s faith to be particularly great.

That is high commendation. Wouldn’t you like to have faith that Jesus Himself calls “great”?!

So, let us look closely at what the centurion says in Luke 7:8. What we find is that faith in Jesus is not only faith that He has authority to command, but also that (in His human nature, as our Mediator) He is under the authority of heaven. Just as Rome was the authority behind everything that the centurion commanded his soldiers, so also God Himself is behind everything that Jesus does in His human nature (remembering, of course, that Jesus is also God).

The centurion’s commands and actions are that of a Rome-man. The empire commanded his soldiers whatever the centurion commanded.

This explains why the centurion considered himself unworthy either to have Jesus come to him (Luke 7:6) or to have Jesus receive him (Luke 7:7). Amazingly, he considered the Jewish elders (Luke 7:3) and his friends (Luke 7:6) more worthy than himself. This corresponds well to how his bondslave (doulos) would be “dear to him” (Luke 7:2). And how marvelous that this centurion knew that Jesus, the compassionate, would be more moved by unworthiness than worthiness. Certainly, the elders he sent didn’t understand this (cf. Luke 7:4-5).

So, what is this marvelous faith? Faith that considers self unworthy. Faith that considers others more worthy. But especially faith that sees Jesus’s human actions as the actions of a divine Person—that knows that it was with God’s own blood that He has purchased the church (cf. Acts 28:20)!
What does your faith believe about yourself? About others? About Jesus and His actions?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Praying as Dear Children of a Holy Judge and Father (1Pet 1:17 Prayer Devotional)

1Peter 1:17 teaches us to pray because God is our Father Who is always available, able, and willing; because God is our Judge Who rules over all and has justified us in Christ; because we need His help for doing works that accord with His judgment; and, because we need His help to resemble Christ well in our limited time on earth.

2020.07.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 4:8–10

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Ephesians 4:8 quote from Psalm 68? What does Ephesians 4:9 teach from the “he ascended” (cf. Psalm 139:15)? To where has He ascended (Ephesians 4:10a, cf. Ephesians 1:20–21)? What does He do from there, verse 10b, cf. Ephesians 1:23, 2:19)?
God’s plan to call each believer to a different part in His church is ultimately a plan to glorify His Son.

But how could His Son ascend? Isn’t He, from all eternity and from the beginning of creation, above all creatures? Ephesians 4:8-9 reasons that, for Psalm 68:18 to be true of God, the incarnation would have to happen.

For God to be able to ascend, God would “first have to descend into the lower parts of the earth.” This phrase in Ephesians 4:9 is borrowed from Psalm 139:15, “My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.”

Isn’t it glorious to know that Psalm 139 is a Messianic Psalm about Christ taking the role assigned to Him—to be made like us? And Christ perfectly hated the wicked, taking His own hatred out upon Himself, for all those upon whom He had set His love.

Having succeeded in a perfectly obedient life and fully atoning death, He not only rose again in victory but also ascended in that victory “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21).

Thus, God has indeed ascended (having first descended), just as prophesied in Psalm 68:18. Hallelujah!

And what is He doing from His glorious seat? Ruling and overruling all things for His church (Ephesians 1:22), which is His body (Ephesians 1:23), the fullness of Him who fills all things (Ephesians 4:10, cf. Ephesians 1:23) and especially fills that church with all the fullness of God (cf. Ephesians 3:19).

Surely, it is a great wonder that God the Son has become a creature, descended into a womb to become a man. But the emphasis in this wonder isn’t upon the humility of His filling a womb in the past. Its emphasis is upon the glory of His presently filling the church from His super-exalted seat in glory (Ephesians 1:10)! There is a resurrected Man (Who is God!) sitting upon the throne of heaven!!

Believers need to see by faith—by being convinced of the truths of these Scriptures—the great glory that is in the church… even a church that yet requires us to be longsuffering toward one another and bear with one another in love (cf. Ephesians 4:2).
When, in our lives, do we fellowship with and dwell upon Him who descended and ascended?
Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or TPH370 “A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing”

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

2020.07.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read 1 Samuel 14:24–46

Questions from the Scripture text: How do the men of Israel feel in 1 Samuel 14:24? Why—what had Saul done? What had the people not done? To what does the army come in 1 Samuel 14:25? What do they find there (1 Samuel 14:26)? What didn’t the people do? Why not? What does Jonathan do in 1 Samuel 14:27? With what result? What does one of the people say to him in 1 Samuel 14:28? What does Jonathan say that his father had done (1 Samuel 14:29)? What does Jonathan wish the people had done (1 Samuel 14:30)? What would have happened in that case? What had the people done 1 Samuel 14:31? How did this make them feel? What did they do, in 1 Samuel 14:32, when victory had been secured? Why was this a problem (1 Samuel 14:33)? What does Saul ask for in verse 33b? What was the purpose of the stone (1 Samuel 14:34)? What did Saul build in 1 Samuel 14:35? What did he propose in 1 Samuel 14:36? What do the people say? What does the priest say? Of whom did does Saul ask counsel in 1 Samuel 14:37? What doesn’t God do? What does Saul assume is the reason for this (1 Samuel 14:38)? What does he propose to do (1 Samuel 14:39)? What does he do to find out whom to blame (1 Samuel 14:40-42)? Whom does it end up being? What does Saul ask Jonathan in 1 Samuel 14:43? What does he decide to do in 1 Samuel 14:44? But how do the people answer, and what do the people do (1 Samuel 14:45)? Where do the respective armies/commanders go in 1 Samuel 14:46?
Our sin can turn a day of salvation (1 Samuel 14:23) into a day of distress (1 Samuel 14:24). Saul, who failed to wait for Samuel’s sacrifice in 1 Samuel 13:9–13 has employed the rejected house of Ichabod (1 Samuel 14:3) to overcompensate with unrequired priestly services (1 Samuel 4:18–19) to go with his unrequired and foolish oath 1 Samuel 14:241 Samuel 14:29-30.

In fact, after Yahweh had saved them anyway (1 Samuel 14:231 Samuel 14:44-45), Saul was more committed to his manmade religious ideas than justice to save the life of his son who hadn’t even heard the oath (1 Samuel 14:43, cf. 1 Samuel 14:27a).

This is the great danger, when the principle of our religion is “do whatever seems good to you,” which becomes something of a refrain in 1 Samuel 14:36 and 1 Samuel 14:39. That’s an apt summary of how Saul has been operating. And, too often, it is an apt summary of the worship and service of the church.

But, if our trust is that Yahweh is saving us, we will be content to offer Him as religious service exactly whatever He has commanded, then go out and serve and obey, knowing that He is free to do all His holy will, and that He is pleased to do us good by His own grace for His own glory. That was how Jonathan was operating (cf. 1 Samuel 14:6), in stark contrast to his own father.

The real question for us is if that is how we are operating. Do we believe that the Lord accomplishes all, by Christ’s finished work and the Spirit’s application of that work? Are we content to offer as worship, and do for discipleship, merely those things that He has commanded? Do we then obey and serve in the world, with the daring and diligence to know that the Lord will surely accomplish His own will?

Much religiosity has as its foundation unbelief and fear like Saul’s and can result in resisting the Lord Himself and endangering the very best of His people. May the Lord protect us from it!
What is your religious life like? What daring and diligent things has trusting Christ’s success freed you to do?
Suggested songs: ARP131 “My Heart Is Not Exalted, Lord” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

2020.07.20 Session Meeting Digest

Hopewell Session Meeting Digest
Stated Meeting, July 20, 2020
The Session continues to be grateful for your prayers, service, and encouragements. We had a number of observers come this month. If you would like to do so next month, perhaps to learn how things go, or just to pray for us as we meet, please note that next month’s meeting is August 10. You are welcome to attend in person, but if you wish to do so via Zoom, please contact Elder Mangum. The following are some highlights of important items and actions from this month’s regular (stated) meeting.

2020.07.21 Hopewell Harbinger

Hopewell This Week, July 20–26, 2020
(attachments not available in the online version; to receive via email, click the red link at the left)
From Elder Mangum (you may contact him with any questions that you may have; this is the same course that was taught at Hopewell last fall, and all who participated in it found it quite worthwhile): The Combat Lifesaver Course is taught to every person who enters the U.S. Army. The Course teaches the soldier how to keep himself and his buddies alive until Medic or other medical personnel are available. The context is trauma such as gunshot wounds, shrapnel wounds, etc. My organization, Combat Edge, teaches this “First Aid” Course to civilians. Much personal study is required prior to the course. The Course will be taught Saturday, August 29, 2020, at the American Legion Hall in Columbia, TN (8am-5pm). Any adult who wishes to take this course please contact me, Dr. Samuel Richardson, by phone or text at 931-398-8971, or Voice call 601-668-1144. Advance Registration is required.

The Session of elders met last night for the regular monthly meeting. The “Session Meeting Digest” is attached.

▫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 links are now active for the Sabbath School class (Racial Reconciliation, Part 3: True Peace Found Only in Christ),  morning sermon (Eph 4:1–7, “The High Calling, Heavenly Congregation, and Humble Conduct of Church Members”), and evening sermon (Genesis 30:1–24, “The Gospel of Grace: Salvation by God's Goodness Alone and God's Power Alone”) from yesterday, as well as last week’s Prayer Meeting lesson (James 5:16b–18, “The Prayer of Faith That Works and Accomplishes Much”).

The Gospel of Grace: Salvation by God's Goodness Alone and God's Power Alone (2020.07.19 Evening Sermon in Genesis 30:1–24)

Jacob is wicked and weak. Rachel is wicked and weak. Leah is wicked and weak. Every single one of the fathers of the tribes of Israel is an example of wickedness or weakness or both.

Racial Reconciliation, Part 3: True Peace Found Only in Christ (2020.07.19 Sabbath School Lesson)

True reconciliation has already been accomplished by Christ, and is applied in the lives of believers. Only believers can genuinely love. And their love can genuinely cover over one another's sins because those sins have been forgiven at the cross, those sins are being used by God for good, and those sins are soon going to be eradicated.

2020.07.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 5:1–25

Questions from the Scripture text: In what does the apostle command them to stand fast (Galatians 5:1)? Who has given us our freedom? What does the apostle again call submission to the Jewish church calendar and ceremonies? What are they considering doing, according to Galatians 5:2? How much will Christ profit them, if they seek spiritual value in circumcision? And if a man is circumcised because he feels a religious obligation to, what else is he indebted to do (Galatians 5:3)? What two things does Galatians 5:4 say have happened to those who attempt to be justified by law? Through Whose power did we come to faith (Galatians 5:5)? What do we eagerly expect to receive by this faith? What two things avail nothing, according to Galatians 5:6? What, in Christ Jesus, is effective? How does the apostle describe their former Christian walk in Galatians 5:7? What question does he now ask? From whom does the apostle say that their new ideas have not come (Galatians 5:8)? What does Galatians 5:9 call additions to the Christian religion that do not come from God? What do such additions do to the rest of one’s Christianity? What does the apostle have confidence will be their response to his letter (Galatians 5:10a)? But what does the apostle say will happen to the one who holds to these additions? What have some, apparently, been saying that Paul still teaches (Galatians 5:11a)? But what is he suffering for preaching as sufficient without circumcision? To what does the apostle equate the idea that circumcision has spiritual value (Galatians 5:12)? What does the apostle call them in Galatians 5:13? To what does he say they have been called? What does he warn them against using their liberty as? For what should they use their liberty? Through what may we serve one another? Does Galatians 5:14 argue for disregarding the law? How does it say to fulfill the law? What does he warn them against doing to one another in Galatians 5:15? What does he warn them will happen if they do this? Looking back at verse 15, what would be the outcome of walking according to the flesh? By what (Whom!), instead (Galatians 5:16), does the apostle urge them to walk? What would they then not fulfill? Against what does the flesh set its desire (Galatians 5:17)? Against what does the Spirit set His desire? What is the relationship between the flesh and the Spirit? What does the believer end up not doing? What are believers not under, if they are led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:18)? Which works are evident (Galatians 5:19)? What sixteen specific works do Galatians 5:19-21 mention? How does Galatians 5:21 end the list? When does the apostle say that he is telling the church? Before what—of what event is he speaking? Is this the first time that he tells them? About whom is he especially speaking at the end of verse 21? What will they not do? Which works had been covered in Galatians 5:19-21? Whose desires are against these (cf. Galatians 5:17)? What does Galatians 5:22 call the list in these verses? How many aspects of the (singular!) fruit are named? Which aspects are conditions of the heart? Which govern relation toward others? Which govern one’s relation to himself? How do these relate to God’s laws? To Whom do some people belong (Galatians 5:24)? What have those who genuinely belong to Christ done? In Whom do those who belong to Christ live (Galatians 5:25)? What must they also do in the Spirit? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from Galatians 5 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Come, O Come, Thou Quickening Spirit.

This chapter highlights that it is Christ who has freed us, and the Spirit who is applying Christ to us by producing love in us (Galatians 5:1–6). Manmade rules or rituals bring us back into slavery, because they take us away from Christ’s cross to self-trust and self-atonement (Galatians 5:7-15).

Contrary to this, the Spirit does not indulge our flesh but opposes it, and we must also (Galatians 5:16-21), trusting in Him and trusting in Christ, Whom He applies to us. As the Spirit applies Christ to us, the first principle of the fruit that He produces in us is love (Galatians 5:6Galatians 5:14Galatians 5:22), together with all of the other aspects of Christ’s character in one whose life is the Spirit-fruit of Christlikeness (Galatians 5:22-23).

A Christian can be neither one who trusts in self or lives for self, but rather one who is Christ’s (Galatians 5:24), trusting in Him and walking with Him by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25)!
To which do you think you are more prone: trusting in self or living for self? How is each of these inconsistent with how God saves/sanctifies? For your own particular spiritual/theological weakness, of what about Jesus or His Spirit do you need to be reminding yourself?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH391 “Come, O Come, Thou Quickening Spirit”

Monday, July 20, 2020

The High Calling, Heavenly Congregation, and Humble Conduct of Church Members (2020.07.19 Morning Sermon from Ephesians 4:1–7)

Ephesians 4:1–7 is a transition that builds upon the glory of God in the church, upon which the apostle has been expounding for three members. Because being a part of Christ's building/body, and participating in Christ's project of building/growing that building/body, is to dwell upon the glory of God among those in whom He has invested His own glory... the manner of our conduct as we participate in the building ought to be humble, gentle, enduring, and patient.

2020.07.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 4:1–7

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle call himself in Ephesians 4:1? What does he beseech them to do? According to what? By what three characteristics is such walking marked (Ephesians 4:2a)? What does such walking do (verse 2b)? What does such walking endeavor to keep (Ephesians 4:3a)? By what have they been bound (verse 3b)? What six things do Ephesians 4:4-5 tell us all believers have in common? Upon what final commonality does Ephesians 4:6 focus, and what does it say about Him? What was given to each believer (Ephesians 4:7a)? Who measured out gifts to each (verse 7b)?
The various callings of church members are all glorious. The apostle had referred to his being imprisoned as a result of the dispensation of God’s grace given to him (Ephesians 3:2) and the role of preaching Christ to the nations as a grace that was given to him (Ephesians 3:8).

Now, he is going to be talking about the one equipping that we all receive (Ephesians 4:8-16) for a kind of life in the world (Ephesians 4:17-24, Ephesians 5:1–16) and in the church (Ephesians 4:25–32, Ephesians 5:17–21) that is expressed in each of our particular callings—whether in marriage (Ephesians 5:22–33), childhood and parenting (Ephesians 6:1–4), or the workplace (Ephesians 6:5–9). Of these particular callings he says in Ephesians 4:7, “to each of us grace was given according to the [portioning out] of Christ’s gift.”

So, the apostle has a calling as an apostle. And each of us have particular callings.

But we also all have one glorious calling—the calling of being a member of Christ’s church, a citizen, a family member, part of God’s glorious house (Ephesians 2:19–22). The church is both a building that is being built upon Christ, and a body that is growing up into Christ (Ephesians 4:15–16). And being a member of the church of the Triune God is the number one calling of every believer.

This is why the manner of our conduct (something that should be similar for each of us, regardless of the particular calling) is the first thing that he deals with before he gets to treating the matter of our conduct (particular actions, Ephesians 4:17–6:9).

Our character comes from this glorious calling to be part of the glory-temple that God has planned to build for Himself in Christ from before time began. This temple, this body, is a single unit, an organic whole being built by the Holy Spirit, so our conduct toward each other needs to reflect that the Spirit is joining us together by means of the peace that Christ has won for us with God and one another (end of Ephesians 4:3, cf. Ephesians 2:14–18). We need to respond to one another not according to the feelings of the moment, but according to the glorious reality of what Christ has done on the cross, what the Spirit is doing in applying it to us, and what we as a body/building shall be at the last when the Lord’s work is done in us.

If we are obsessed with God’s gloriousness, and see other church members as united to Christ, this compels us to “lowliness and gentleness.” If we are acting toward one another as we will wish we had, when we are all perfected in glory, then we will be “longsuffering and bearing with one another” now.

Our faith looks back to God’s testimony about Christ’s finished work, and our baptism is God’s testimony about the method and certainty of the Spirit’s applying that work to us and finishing that work in us and in His whole church—all of whom receive the same testimony from God.

And, if our God and Father, Whose glory is the ultimate purpose of all things, is especially glorified by our longsuffering and bearing with one another, let us be mindful of the fact that this life is our last opportunity for that. Once our brothers and sisters are perfected, they will no longer be sinning against us and giving us this avenue by which to bring this particular glory to God!

Oh, let us be more impressed by God, His glory, and His gospel than by any other factor in how we think of, speak about, and act toward anyone in the body of Christ!
About whom do you most need the reminders about what Christ has done for them, what the Spirit is doing in them, and the Father’s glory in giving His Son and Spirit? How are you going to be reminding yourself? What action are you going to take to reinforce these reminders?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Saturday, July 18, 2020

2020.07.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 30:1–24

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Rachel see (Genesis 30:1a)? What was her initial solution (verse 1b)? What does Jacob acknowledge (Genesis 30:2)? What does Rachel suggest and implement (Genesis 30:3-4)? To what effect (Genesis 30:5)? What does she say about the name she gives her son (Genesis 30:6)? What does she name the next son and why (Genesis 30:7-8)? Who implements the new method in Genesis 30:9-10? What does she name that son and why (Genesis 30:11)? What does she name the next one and why (Genesis 30:12-13)? Who ends up wanting something from whom and how in Genesis 30:14? How does Leah turn this to her advantage (Genesis 30:15)? Who is taking orders about all this in Genesis 30:16? To Whom has Leah apparently been talking about this (Genesis 30:17)? What does He do? What does she name him and why (Genesis 30:18)? What happens again in Genesis 30:19? What does she name him and why in Genesis 30:20? Whom does she bear in Genesis 30:21? What does God do in Genesis 30:22? To whom has Rachel been talking, and what does He do? What does she say in Genesis 30:23? What does she name him and why in Genesis 30:24?
This passage is basically an arms race. How does Israel finally get going? We’ve been squeaking along—the covenant line barely surviving from one generation to the next, as just one son extends the church on earth.

Suddenly, there are twelve sons and a daughter! How?

Certainly not by man’s ability. Infertility often strains a marriage (cf. Genesis 30:1). It so quickly exposes the helplessness of our humanity. As Jacob exasperatedly says (and Joseph will reassuringly say in Genesis 50:19), “Am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 30:2).

And certainly not as a response to man’s godliness. Rachel resurrects an old family technique for covenant-line-propagation, when she gives Bilhah to Jacob. As if two wives wasn’t sinful enough or miserable enough. And she has the audacity to name they boy on presumption of vindication by God (Genesis 30:5)?! May God preserve us from the folly of taking His providential mercy as if it were judicial approval!

Rachel’s provocations become the occasion for the stumbling of Leah, who follows her sister’s (and great-grandma-Sarah’s) lead (Genesis 30:9). Gad’s name (Genesis 30:11) seems to be a response to Napthali in Genesis 30:8.

Jacob, who started all this mess with his myopic pursuit of Rachel in the previous chapter, presents the pathetic picture of a passive man, engulfed in his own ungodliness, leading a house of ungodliness—or, rather, being dominated by the women who are actually running things. We don’t know whether to weep or mock him, when Leah notifies him that he has been hired out for the night (Genesis 30:16), and apparently Leah is able to repeat the transaction later (Genesis 30:19).

The most amazing thing is that God is bearing so patiently with all of this sin. That God actually listens to Leah in Genesis 30:17 and remembers and listens to Rachel in Genesis 30:22. How astonishing! Not by man’s ability but God’s, not by man’s worthiness but by God’s faithfulness, the covenant line is multiplied. And not in a cold, detached, distant sort of way. But by His remembering and hearing them, even in the midst of their wretched sin. How astonishing!
What worship response do you give God for grace toward you like what we see in this passage? What repentance response do you give Him for it? What are examples of things that He did for you that were over-against both your inability and your unworthiness?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”

Friday, July 17, 2020

Am I in Spiritual Warfare? Yes! (2020.07.17 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – July 17, 2020

Dear Congregation,

I received a question about spiritual warfare this week (this person was “feeling resistance” during prayer) and thought that there might be many of us who could use some clear biblical thinking about the topic.

From Genesis 3 on, Scripture is teaching us about God's sure victory over Satan and how it applies to and involves us.

So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
Genesis 3:14–15

One of the main ways that God distinguishes Himself from us in His deity is by how completely unchallenging He finds spiritual warfare to be. So, in His famous interview with Job, putting Job in his place, much of the Lord’s discourse (chs. 40–41) focus upon behemoth and leviathan, which were real creatures but also emblematic of the power and of the devil. They are so fearsome! Yet, the Lord rules over them all.

So also Scripture teaches us that God bends even the wickedness and wicked actions of the devil to do whatever is good for His people (Ps 74:14). The devil’s attacks upon Job became the means by which already-godly Job grew dramatically in his knowledge of the Lord. When Satan attacks Christ in the wilderness, his temptations become the occasion by which Christ is qualified as our Mediator, being tempted as we are in every way (except without sin). When Satan enters Judas to attack Christ’s life, the ensuing crucifixion is the means by which Christ is exhibited as a propitiation and redeems us by His blood. How great and continual is Christ’s victory and Satan’s eating dust!

But the period of Satan being permitted even to be used in this way quickly draws to a close. The crushing of Satan is joined to the restoration of God's forgiven people in Isaiah 27. This is the same idea as in Rom 16:19–20, where the Lord tells His people to be wise about goodness, and simple about evil, since He Himself is about to crush Satan under our feet.

We know that Satan attacks, particularly by weakening the fellowship of the church. So, in 2Cor 2:11, if a church nurses bitterness instead of forgiving and showing affection, it becomes susceptible to the devices of the devil. And, 1Tim 3:6–7, a young believer who might become puffed up and bring shame upon the church, should not be made an elder, even if he has the other characteristics. Because humility is essential for both elders and church members (1Pet 5:1–7), lest a believer become disconnected from the flock and become easy prey to the prowling lion (1Pet 5:8).

It’s not surprising, then, that the “classic” spiritual warfare passage comes at the end of the letter to the Ephesians, in which we have already seen such a glorious theology of the church these last few months.

Ephesians 6:10–20 and the warfare/armor of God is actually one bookend to an extended spiritual warfare section, with Eph 5:3–16 as the other bookend. This section describes the clash between the unclean kingdom of darkness and the saints who are children of light.

But, what are the “books” between these two bookends? Where, primarily, does the battle take place for us? Public worship (5:17–21), marriage (5:22–33), childhood and parenting (6:1–4), and the workplace (6:5–9).

When we study 6:10–20 to understand how to use the weapons of our warfare, for battling well in these areas, we find that it basically boils down to always always clinging to the gospel of Christ, and always always praying.

On balance, the great part of our warfare is to live in a godly manner in all the ordinary spheres of life, while resting and rejoicing in Christ's finished work in our behalf in the past, together with the certainty of His forthcoming final victory.

In these ways, we resist the devil and he flees from us (James 4:6–7). In other ways, the Lord permits him to attack us, when it is for our good (2Cor 12:7–9).

But it is especially by clinging to the shed blood of Jesus as the heart of all our verbal and life testimony that we overcome—ultimately winning, even if we are killed in the meantime (Rev 12:11, cf. Rom 8:35–39).

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
Revelation 12:11

Looking forward to that part of the battle that is our corporate worship,


2020.07.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 6:46–49

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Jesus say they call Him in Luke 6:46a? With what is their calling Him this inconsistent (verse 46b)? What kind of person does Jesus say, in Luke 6:47, that He is about to illustrate? What does the man in the illustration do (Luke 6:48a)? What happens to him—and what does not happen to him—and why (verse 48b)? How does Jesus summarize the unbeliever in Luke 6:49a? What is Jesus’s illustration for him (verse 49b)? And what is Jesus’s illustration for what will happen to him (verse 49c)?
Are we justified by faith apart from works? That’s a very carefully worded question, and it may surprise you that the answer is “no.”

We are justified only by what Jesus has done in the finished work of His life, death, and resurrection. But this justification never happens in someone who does not proceed to love, learn from, and obey the Lord Jesus. No one ever receives half a Christ. The same Jesus who justifies always sanctifies and glorifies.

Still, the problem of people calling Jesus “Lord” but not obeying Him as Master (which “Lord” means), is an old one. Here, we see that it was already happening early in His earthly ministry.

Absolutely, Jesus is a rock, a foundation, that whoever is built upon Him is saved from destruction. But building upon Him is more than an idea or a feeling. It’s a reality that expresses itself not just in “coming” to Him (Luke 6:47a), but also in “hearing His sayings” and “doing them.” It seems pretty obvious that if you don’t trust Him enough to trust what He says and obey Him, that your “trust” is more fantasy than reality.

But, praise God, Jesus is real. And He really gives faith to people that they may come to Him. And hear His sayings. And do them. If this is how Jesus describes the ones that He is saving from destruction, then let us pray God the Spirit that this would be how we may honestly be described.
What parts of your life most need to be brought into line with what Jesus says for you to do?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH174 “The Ten Commandments”

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Prayer of Faith That Works and Accomplishes Much (Jam 5:16–18 Prayer Mtg Lesson)

Prayer through genuine faith in Christ is always effective. It always works. It accomplishes much, even in the praying of it. This is the truth in Jesus, and must override any earthly-minded assessment of whether a prayer "worked."

The Proper Manner of Church Members (Family Worship lesson in Ephesians 4:1–7)

Pastor teaches his family today's Hopewell @Home lesson in Ephesians 4:1–7. Though believers may have different particular callings in life, they each have the glorious calling to be a member of the body of Christ. Recognizing the great glory of what we have in common produces a humble and forgiving manner of conduct with one another.

2020.07.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 4:1–7

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle call himself in Ephesians 4:1? What does he beseech them to do? According to what? By what three characteristics is such walking marked (Ephesians 4:2a)? What does such walking do (verse 2b)? What does such walking endeavor to keep (Ephesians 4:3a)? By what have they been bound (verse 3b)? What six things do Ephesians 4:4-5 tell us all believers have in common? Upon what final commonality does Ephesians 4:6 focus, and what does it say about Him? What was given to each believer (Ephesians 4:7a)? Who measured out gifts to each (verse 7b)?
The apostle who is the prisoner of the Lord has been given a remarkable grace in his office and calling (Ephesians 4:1Ephesians 4:7; cf. Ephesians 3:1–2, Ephesians 3:7–8). But he is not the only one with such an office and calling. To each of us grace is given, as Christ Himself—the chief cornerstone—has measured gifts out from Himself unto the rest of the building, the rest of the body, the rest of the nation, the rest of the family (Ephesians 4:7, cf. Ephesians 2:19–22). Whatever else a Christian does from 9–5 M–F (or whatever your ‘vocation’ is), there is the glorious calling of church member.

There are various duties of church members that we hear about in several places in the next three chapters. But, whatever the matter or substance of our role in the body, we are all called to the same manner or character of walking: lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.

We notice that the sevenfold list of things in which we are “one” in Ephesians 4:4-6 are all realities that exist already, realities to which the apostle has already largely testified in this letter. This helps us to notice that Ephesians 4:3 isn’t telling us to make peace, but rather to keep it. God Himself has already made the peace. God has created the church as Christ’s body. God has given to each member His same Holy Spirit. God has given each member the same hope—adoption and inheritance as His eternally blessed sons. God is the same Lord over all. God has given the same faith in the same gospel. God has placed the same sign upon all.

The unity of the church, then, is not something that we produce, but that exists in God Himself. The list crescendos until it climaxes on the “One God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in us all” (Ephesians 4:6, MT).

So this unity exists, but it demands a response. It demands the response of each of us functioning as church members, which we will see later. But even before we see what we are to do as church members, the apostle presents us with the manner in which we are to do it.

Lowliness, considering others better than ourselves and generosity of spirit toward them. Gentleness, strength under control, not a flimsy tolerance of wrong ideas and practices, but yet a kindly and compassionate manner of interaction even when loving the Lord and the brethren in a holy intolerance of all that is against Him and them. Longsuffering/bearing with one another, having a long endurance and high “pain tolerance” in relationship with one another.

As we will see later in this book, a genuinely biblical “spiritual gift inventory” would look like: submitting to the teaching of the elders, shoring up our doctrine unto stability, expressing real love by building one another up in Bible truth, living for eternity, being a Christ-transformed wife / husband / parent / employee  /boss whose conduct is heavenly light over against the satanic darkness of this age.

Oh that even above any spiritual gift inventory—this calling with which we were called—we would each devote ourselves unto the “still more excellent way” of walking in the manner described here in Ephesians 4:2-3. When we don’t, we treat as worthless the glorious realities of Ephesians 4:4-5—and God Himself, Ephesians 4:6. God forbid!
With whom in the congregation do you need to most work on “keeping the unity of the Spirit”?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”