Wednesday, September 30, 2020

2020.09.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 18:17–30

Read 1 Samuel 18:17–30

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Saul offer to David in 1 Samuel 18:17a? What does verse 17b tell us was the reason? How does David respond (1 Samuel 18:18)? What does Saul end up doing instead (1 Samuel 18:19)? What new information does 1 Samuel 18:20a give us? How does Saul feel about this (verse 20b)? Why does Saul think this is good (1 Samuel 18:21)? Whom does Saul get to help him in his plan, unbeknownst to them (1 Samuel 18:22)? But how does David respond to them (1 Samuel 18:23)? To whom do they report this (1 Samuel 18:24)? What way does Saul suggest for David to “earn” being the king’s son-in-law (1 Samuel 18:25a)? What is Saul trying to do (verse 25b)? How does David feel about this (1 Samuel 18:26)? How much of the dowry does he fulfill (1 Samuel 18:27)? What does Saul do? What does Saul now know (1 Samuel 18:28a)? What does his daughter do (verse 28b)? What two things result from this (1 Samuel 18:29)? What situations proceed to happen (1 Samuel 18:30a)? How does David do in these situations (verse 30b)? With what result (verse 30c)?

The main theme of this passage is Saul’s plans to use the Philistines to get rid of his David problem (1 Samuel 18:171 Samuel 18:211 Samuel 18:25). He thinks that if he trades David a bride for infantry service, he can shed a few crocodile tears at David’s military funeral. 

Apparently, daughter Merab is not among those women of Israel who find the young Bethlehemite irresistible (1 Samuel 18:19, cf. 1 Samuel 18:7), but Saul finds a willing taker in his other daughter, Michal (1 Samuel 18:20). 

Still, there is the problem of David’s humility (1 Samuel 18:23); he’s apparently the only one in Israel who doesn’t buy into that hit song from 1 Samuel 18:7 that’s been topping the charts. (How often a believer may be preserved by not buying into his own popularity or praise!). So, Saul comes up with the solution of demanding the infantry service up front (1 Samuel 18:25)—perhaps he can have the funeral without ever having to go through the wedding!

But David easily comes up with double the number of Philistine skins (1 Samuel 18:27), because Saul’s biggest problem isn’t man. It’s that Yahweh was with David (1 Samuel 18:28), something that he should have known all along (cf. 1 Samuel 16:18; 1 Samuel 17:37; 1 Samuel 17:45–471 Samuel 18:14). First the lion and the bear, then Goliath, now two hundred more Philistines… one gets the idea that it isn’t Saul’s smartest move to become “David’s enemy all his days” (1 Samuel 18:29).

So also now with those who make enemies of Christ and His church. That church, on the other hand, can rejoice that the Lord Jesus Himself is “Yahweh with us.” Resting upon Him, we can face any enmity with humility, peace, and courage.

How do you know if God is with you? Who is an enemy to you? What does humility call for in that situation? What does courage call for? How, ultimately, will it end up?

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge” or TPH515 “More Than Conquerors”

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Cosmic Battle for Believer's Mouths, Hearts, and Vocations (2020.09.27 Evening Sermon in Ephesians 4:25–30)

The Holy Spirit and the devil are at war. Wherein does this battle rage? Not in the stuff of movies but in the stuff of everyday life: congregational life and worship, marriage, parenting, and vocation. But in these six verses specifically, we see the necessity of both "putting off" and "putting on" in godly speech, godly anger, and godly labor.

2020.09.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:18–29

Read Hebrews 12:18–29

Questions from the Scripture text: How does Hebrews 12:18-20 describe the mountain that we have not come to? When the people heard the sound of the trumpet and the voice of the words, for what did they beg (Hebrews 12:19)? What had been commanded to do to a beast if it touched the mountain (Hebrews 12:20)? Who else said that he was exceedingly afraid and trembling (Hebrews 12:21)? To what mountain have we come (Hebrews 12:22)? To whose city have we come? What else is that city called? Of whom are there an innumerable company there? What is the church there called (Hebrews 12:23)? Where are they registered? Who is the Judge of all? What verdict has He declared about the spirits in the church of the firstborn? What else has been done to these just men? To whom else does Hebrews 12:24 tell us we have come? Of what is Jesus the Mediator? What speaks better than the blood of Abel? What are we to “see to” in Hebrews 12:25? What are we not to refuse? Where was the mountain from which God spoke before? Where is the mountain from which He speaks now? What two places is the Lord shaking with New Covenant preaching (Hebrews 12:26)? Since this is the last time, what are the only things that will remain when this age of preaching is done (Hebrews 12:27)? Who is receiving a kingdom (Hebrews 12:28)? What cannot be done to this kingdom? What must we have? What do we do by that grace? What three things does verse 28 tell us about the worship that we should be offering? What does Hebrews 12:29 tell us about our God?

Next week’s Prayer for Help comes from Hebrews 12:18–29 that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with For All the Saints.

This passage describes that glorious assembly that the Lord Jesus addresses from heaven. In it, our consuming-fire God (Hebrews 12:29) brings us near to Himself (Hebrews 12:22-23), having been sprinkled by His own blood (Hebrews 12:24), that we may worship Him with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28).

And here, He teaches us to rejoice over the innumerable company of angels (Hebrews 12:22) and that church of the firstborn that includes the spirits of just men made perfect (Hebrews 12:23)—“all the saints who from their labors rest.” 

Here, we have evidence of the faithfulness of our God. Even after being justified through faith in Christ, they were sinners just as we still are. But the Lord kept them, and they have now been perfected. We, too, shall be perfected one day, and permanently enter into that assembly.

For now, however, we join with them once per week in what ought to be our greatest experience of Christian unity this side of heaven. That unity is forged through gospel simplicity. Singing Scripture, so that it is truly Jesus Who sings in the assembly (cf. Hebrews 2:12), and saints from all lands and all ages—and even in glory—would be able to participate from the heart. Hearing Scripture, so that we may know that it is truly Jesus Who speaks to us from heaven. Praying from Scripture, so that we may know that these are prayers that are offered up by our Mediator (Hebrews 12:24). 

These are the ordinary means by which He brought them to faith, grew them in the faith, and kept them in the faith. These are the means by which He brings us, grows us, and keeps us. And these are the means by which they worshiped Him, and we now worship Him together with them. This power and goodness of God, and unity of the church, is sacrificed whenever something manmade is added to His worship. Such personal or cultural preferences and traditions (preferences that got old) end up excluding Christians who could have gladly worshiped with us if we had simply stuck to the Bible, and unwittingly increasing the distance between our worship and that glorious assembly in heaven that we have opportunity to join. Perhaps if we thought more carefully about that assembly, and enjoyed more deeply Christ’s power and faithfulness toward them, it would help us worship the Lord more purely according to His Word.

What do you need the Lord to do for you that He has done for the saints in glory? How did He do it for them? How does this encourage you that He will do it for you?

Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH408 “For All the Saints”


Monday, September 28, 2020

The Importance of God's Day of Worship (2020.09.27 Sabbath School lesson in "The Day of Worship")

A study of chapter 2 of Dr. McGraw's "The Day of Worship": The Importance of God's Day of Worship. The Sabbath is about what God set it apart FOR, not about what God set it apart FROM. And He highlights, throughout Scripture, just how serious He is about its holiness.

The Sins of the Saved Still Have Consequences (2020.09.27 Morning Sermon in Genesis 33:18–34:6)

Much real misery comes from believers' folly and sins. In God's good and wise providence, much rests upon principled rejection of worldliness and faithful initiative in our duties.

2020.09.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 33:18–34:6

Read Genesis 33:18–34:6

Questions from the Scripture text: To what city does Jacob come safely in Genesis 33:18? In what land was it? From what land had he come? Where does he pitch his tent? Of whom does this remind us (cf. Genesis 13:12)? What does Jacob buy in Genesis 33:19 (cf. Genesis 23:15–20; Joshua 24:32)? How much does Jacob pay for it (cf. Genesis 23:15)? What does Jacob do there (Genesis 33:20)? What does he call it? About whom does Genesis 34:1 tell us? Where does she go? Why? Who sees her in Genesis 34:2? What is his status? What does he do with her? How does the end of verse 2 judge what was done? But what was the feeling of Shechem’s soul toward her (Genesis 34:3)? And what does verse 3 say that he did to her? And how does it say that he spoke to her? To whom does Shechem speak in Genesis 34:4? And for what does he ask? What other father has heard something (Genesis 34:5a)? What does he (not!) do? What does Hamor, however, do already in Genesis 34:6?

Jacob has obeyed Genesis 31:3 quite literally, and returns to the first place in the land where God appeared to father Abraham (Genesis 33:18, cf. Genesis 12:6). It is in the promised land, the land of Canaan (verse 18). He does as father Abraham did and buys a parcel of land (Genesis 33:19, cf. chapter 23). He does as father Abraham did and builds an altar (Genesis 33:20, cf. Genesis 12:7, Genesis12:8, Genesis13:18). And he follows through on the promise “Yahweh will be my God” (cf. Genesis 28:21), calling the altar, “God [is] the God of Israel.”

This is all very encouraging, and we rejoice at God’s grace to impossibly helpless sinners. For, we are such, too!

But just as we learn here to have hope, by God’s grace, for sinners, we also learn here to be serious about the sins of saints. For, Jacob’s folly in this passage has grievous consequences.

Like Lot toward Sodom (Genesis 13:12), Jacob tries to get the benefits of pitching his tent toward Shechem (Genesis 33:18). And he ends up with similar results. Dinah goes out to see “the daughters of the land”—a phrase that reminds us that they are wicked and under judgment (cf. Genesis 15:16; Genesis 24:3; Genesis 26:34–35; Genesis 28:1).

This covenant father Jacob put his covenant daughter Dinah in a place where she falls prey to her own curiosity to intermingle with the daughters of the land (Genesis 34:1). Indubitably, this path to her romance with Shechem (Genesis 34:2-3) is similar to the path that Lot’s daughters took to being betrothed to men of Sodom.

Worldliness in even otherwise godly and believing fathers—or even just carelessness about permitting worldliness among their children—can have painful consequences indeed. They may go to glory, but will they go with their children? Or will their children perhaps come at last with them, through a path of much unnecessary pain and misery?

We noted in Genesis 30:15–16 that it was the wives, and especially Rachel, who were running the show at home. Now, it seems to be the sons (Genesis 34:5, cf. Genesis 34:7Genesis 34:13) who are doing so. Shechem and Hamor seem oblivious to the idea that anything sinful has been done—they’re Canaanites, after all. In fact, the sincerity of Shechem (Genesis 34:3-4) puts the deception of the sons of Jacob (Genesis 34:13) to shame. And the initiative of Hamor (Genesis 34:6) puts the passivity of Jacob (Genesis 34:5) to shame.

The result is going to cost Simeon and Levi their morality as they become murderers (Genesis 34:25), the Shechemite men their lives (Genesis 34:26), the brothers generally their morality as plunderers of the murdered (Genesis 34:27-29), and Jacob his honor and sense of safety in the land (Genesis 34:30).

Oh, fathers, let us see how much rests upon—in the wise providence of God—faithful rejection of worldliness in our homes and faithful initiative in our duties. Let us not be content to have “fire insurance” as believers and families that are Christian in name. But let us seek God for grace to grow and preserve us in godliness that we might lead our homes well, honoring God and doing good to our children!

What are some ways that your entertainment, leisure time, or companion choices endanger your family? What is one of your duties that you could be more active in, but you are tempted to let someone else in your home take the initiative on?

Suggested songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear” or TPH128B “Blest the Man Who Fears”

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Clinging to Christ Required for Proper Listening to Christ (2020.09.26 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – September 26, 2020

Dear Congregation, 

Tomorrow’s morning sermon passage is a difficult one. It challenges us (and especially fathers) on worldliness, harmful permissiveness (especially with our daughters), and passivity. 

It’s crushing to wrestle seriously with such issues apart from a hearty gospel hope, not only in Christ’s forgiveness, but also in His power and determination to cleanse us and grow us—and in His marvelous mercy to spare us so often and so much from the consequences of our folly and sin. 

If we come to consider the real consequences of our sin without this hope, the temptation will be to dismiss the instruction and warning of the Scripture text as legalism or judgmentalism. 

But, if we come hoping in Christ, we come rejoicing that He is the righteousness that is counted for us, and that He is determined to make us like Himself by His Spirit. 

This rejoicing over what Christ is doing, coupled with a godly sorrow over what sin we have done and what sin remains in us, strengthens us to repentance. 

We are enabled to “work out or salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) because we rejoice that He is the One who works in us, both to will and to work, according to His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). And we know that He who has begun the good work will bring it unto completion (Phil 1:6)—AND that His Word is the very means by which He does this work (John 17:17)! 

So, let us come to Him, clinging to Him in that gospel that enables us to take seriously all of His instruction for our lives, without sliding into the false pride or crippling discouragement of legalism, or denying our Master and harming others by antinomianism. 

And, trusting Him to bless His means to us and our children, let us come with a desire to love Him with all our heart and our neighbors (especially those nearest neighbors in our own homes) as ourselves. 

Looking forward to coming to Him, while clinging to Him, together with you, 


2020.09.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 33:18–34:6

Read Genesis 33:18–34:6

Questions from the Scripture text: To what city does Jacob come safely in Genesis 33:18? In what land was it? From what land had he come? Where does he pitch his tent? Of whom does this remind us (cf. Genesis 13:12)? What does Jacob buy in Genesis 33:19 (cf. Genesis  23:15–20; Joshua 24:32)? How much does Jacob pay for it (cf. Genesis 23:15)? What does Jacob do there (Genesis 33:20)? What does he call it? About whom does Genesis 34:1 tell us? Where does she go? Why? Who sees her in Genesis 34:2? What is his status? What does he do with her? How does the end of verse 2 judge what was done? But what was the feeling of Shechem’s soul toward her (Genesis 34:3)? And what does verse 3 say that he did to her? And how does it say that he spoke to her? To whom does Shechem speak in Genesis 34:4? And for what does he ask? What other father has heard something (Genesis 34:5a)? What does he (not!) do? What does Hamor, however, do already in Genesis 34:6?

Sometimes we slouch into thinking that our growth in Christ will be linear, but sinners and salvation are more complex than that. This passage presents real progress, as far as Jacob is concerned, but rather troubling shortcomings as well. We learn to rejoice over God’s genuine work in sinners that He is saving, while raising the alarm about how damaging remaining sin can be, while we are still in the process of being sanctified.

First, we see the real progress of Jacob. v18 establishes it with geography: the Padan Aram period is over, and the patriarch is back in the land of promise, “the land of Canaan.” Genesis 33:19 establishes it with real estate: “and he bought the parcel of land.” There are echoes of Abraham here, buying the field of Mamre from the sons of Heth. Now it is Jacob buying literally “the field” from the sons of Hamor. 

And Genesis 33:20 establishes it not only with worship—again, this is reminiscent of Abraham, who has erected altars all over the promised land—but especially with the name of the God who is worshiped: “Elohe Israel” (“the God of Israel”). No longer is the focus on God as his father’s God and his grandfather’s God, but very specifically Jacob’s own God, Who has given him a new identity in relationship to Himself, “Israel.”

But, among these reminders back toward what was good with Abraham, the Holy Spirit also gives us an alarming mixture of reminders of Lot and of some of the shortcomings of Abraham. One can hardly see Jacob pitching his tent toward Shechem without seeing the reflection of Lot pitching his tent toward Sodom back in Genesis 13:12. And how disastrous this ended up for both men’s daughters! 

And just as we see Jacob proceed to be shamed in some respects as a husband and father, by comparison to Shechem and Hamor, we can hear the echoes of Abraham before Pharaoh or Abimelech, and Isaac before the other Abimelech, with the heads of wicked states justly taking issue with the other patriarchs. 

Jacob’s relationships with Leah and Rachel (not to mention Zilpah and Bilhah) have not been described in such wholehearted terms as Shechem’s soul clinging for all it’s worth to Dinah, or loving her and speaking to her heart. Jacob heard that his daughter had been brought low by her unclean romance (Genesis 34:5), but kept silent until back came. Hamor outshines this passivity by going straight to Jacob as soon as he hears his son’s request.

So, on the one hand, we are encouraged to be reminded that our struggles in sanctification are not news. Even when we have seen real spiritual progress among God’s people, great folly and sin have remained, and the capacity for astounding stumblings (e.g., David, others). But on the other hand, when we see what comes of this we are also solemnly warned of the disastrous consequences that may come from this remaining sin, and by this warning we are urged by the Holy Spirit to stay in lock-step with Him in the war against our flesh!

What evidence is there of spiritual progress in your life? How are you fighting against what remains from your flesh?

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH219 “O Worship the King”

Friday, September 25, 2020

Being Impressed with Jesus to the Core of Your Being (Family Worship, Luke 8:22–39)

No one who truly encounters Christ finds Him boring. How strongly are you responding to the Lord Jesus? Pastor leads his family in today's "Hopewell @Home" passage. In these eighteen verses, we learn that if we are truly encountering Christ, we will respond either with profound terror or profound comfort, joy, gratitude, love, service, and witness.

2020.09.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 8:22–39

Read Luke 8:22–39

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Jesus get into in Luke 8:22? With whom? What does he propose? What does Jesus do as they sail (Luke 8:23)? What comes down on them? What happens to the boat? What do the disciples do in Luke 8:24? What do they say? What does Jesus do? What does Jesus say? What do the wind and water do? What does Jesus ask them in Luke 8:25? How do the disciples respond to this question? What question do they ask one another? Of what are they now afraid? Where does the sailing trip take them (Luke 8:26)? Who meets Jesus, when He steps onto land (Luke 8:27)? What are some evidences of this demonic activity? What does he do when he sees Jesus (Luke 8:28)? What does he call Jesus? What does he beg Jesus? What had Jesus already done (Luke 8:29)? What had the demon often done? What does Jesus now ask in Luke 8:30? And how does he answer? Why? What are they begging Jesus in Luke 8:31? What else was there (Luke 8:32)? What do they now beg Jesus? What does Jesus do? What do the demons do (Luke 8:33)? What do the now-possessed swine do? Who sees this in Luke 8:34? What do they do? What do those who hear do (Luke 8:35)? What do they find? How do they respond (end of verse 35)? Who also tell them what in Luke 8:36? With what are they now seized, and what do they plead (Luke 8:37)? What does the delivered man now plead (Luke 8:38)? What does Jesus do to him? About Whose great doings does Jesus command him to tell (Luke 8:39)? About whose great doings does he tell?

The Lord Jesus is scary powerful. The disciples thought wind and waves were scary (Luke 8:23-24) until they met the One who could command them (Luke 8:25). The Gadarenes must have thought the demonic man described in Luke 8:29 was scary, until they met the One who had delivered him and were seized with great fear (Luke 8:37). 

If we are at all genuinely interacting with the Lord Jesus, we will be overwhelmed by His greatness. That’s the unifying theme of all of these short pictures of our Lord. Against the backdrop of His glorious greatness, the Holy Spirit gives us many types of responses in the various ones whom He encounters.

Terrified, doomed, and begging to be permitted to continue in wickedness. That’s the demons. There are many who say that they believe, but do worse than demons, who at least tremble. God have mercy on those who seem largely unimpressed/unaffected by Christ! And those who are trying to figure out how their sinning can be uninterrupted by Jesus, let them know that they are basically demonic.

Terrified, but just wanting to pretend that this Jesus doesn’t exist. Out of sight, out of mind. That’s what the Gadarenes wanted Jesus to be. And there are many who do this with the true Christ—even by filling their head with a sentimentalized, mushy, docile version of Him. They hide from the true Redeemer-Lord-King-God Jesus by sending Him away from their mind/hear/life by having instead a cosmic boyfriend, teddy-bear, or genie-in-a-bottle that they call by the same name.

Terrified, wondering, but still asking for help, and still sticking with Him. This summarizes the disciples’ response. They are with Him, and they know that He can help, and they know that He wants to, but they are still easily shaken by circumstances. And their view of Him is small enough that they sometimes find it jarring to encounter the greatness of His power and authority. The differences between the disciples and the Gadarenes is that they go along with Him, trembling at Him but continuing in wonder at Him and trying to know Him more, as He truly is.

Awed, rejoicing, and telling others. This is where the disciples will eventually end up, but it’s where we find the delivered demoniac already. The Gadarenes thought they were rid of Christ, but here comes the delivered man announcing what great things Jesus had done for him (Luke 8:39b). He has rightly identified Jesus Himself as God, who has done these great things (verse 39a).

What does your (non?)response to Jesus’s greatness tell you about where you are? How would you come to where you need to be?

Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH219 “O Worship the King”

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Gladdening the Spirit and Fighting the Devil in Putting on and Putting Off (Family Worship in Ephesians 4:25–30)

Are you grieving the Spirit or gladdening Him? Fighting the devil or giving him opportunity? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” devotional. In these six verses, we learn that fighting alongside the Spirit in sanctification requires both putting off and putting on in every area.

Certainty and Joy in Praying for Sanctification

Since we can be sure that the Lord will complete His sanctifying work in our brothers, praying for it is something that we are obligated to do, and in which we may have assurance and joy.

2020.09.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 4:25–30

Read Ephesians 4:25–30

Questions from the Scripture text: What are we to put away altogether in Ephesians 4:25? But what can we sometimes do without sinning in Ephesians 4:26a? What is one key to this righteous anger (verse 26b)? If we don’t manage our anger properly, to whom do we give place (Ephesians 4:27)? Who else must stop what he was doing altogether (Ephesians 4:28a)? What should he do instead (verse 28b)? What kind of work should he do? What should he hope to do with his earnings (verse 28c)? What shouldn’t we let proceed from our mouth (Ephesians 4:29a)? What should we let proceed (verse 29b)? That it may do what? Whom must we not grieve (Ephesians 4:30a)? What has been done by Him, for what (verse 30b)? 

There’s a cosmic tug of war in every Christian’s life and thought. The Holy Spirit is always with us, since it is by Him that we have been sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30), and the devil is always ready to take whatever ground we are foolish and wicked enough to give him (Ephesians 4:27). If we aren’t mindful of both, we can end up living quite ignorantly of the cosmic war that rages in the ordinary context of our living out the mind and life of Christ in us (cf. chapters 5–6)

There can be no neutrality in this war. It is not enough to put on the quality from Christ by His Spirit; you must put off the corresponding quality from the old man. It is not enough to put off the corresponding quality from the old man; you must put on the new man as well. This verses give us four examples of this putting off and putting on. The putting off helps the putting on. The putting on helps the putting off.

Three things are to be put away entirely: lying, stealing, and corrupt speech.

Not only are we to put away lying; we are to intentionally pursue speaking truth with one another, in light of what we learned in Ephesians 4:11-16 about how the body functions. 

Not only are we to stop stealing, cold turkey, but the new man cares about what kind of job he has (“working with his hands what is good”—hands here being a synecdoche for any and all of his own faculties) and what he does with his earnings (focusing not merely on provision for himself, but especially upon provision for others: family, extended family, church, extended church family, neighbors, etc.)

Not only are we to cut off entirely the flow of a single corrupt word, but the new man is crafting good words that impart grace, because he knows (again, from the body-function lesson in verses 11–16) how needful this is for the hearers’ being built up in Christ.

Interestingly, anger is not one of those things that we are to put off entirely. If we think about it a little, this becomes obvious because, whereas Scripture tells us that God cannot lie (cf. Titus 1:2) and that all His Words are pure words (cf. Psalm 12:6, Proverbs 30:5), the same Bible actually teaches us frequently that God is angry (cf. Psalm 7:11, etc.). 

So, Ephesians 4:26 actually begins with the command to be furious (the word can mean trembling with anger or even enraged). If we are never furious, we have made little progress in being renewed in the spirit of our mind (cf. Ephesians 4:23). Righteous anger, however, is the opposite of stewing resentment or bitterness (Ephesians 4:26b) that leaves us especially prone to the devil (Ephesians 4:27, cf. 2 Corinthians 2:10–11, 1 Peter 5:6–8).

In each of these cases, we are to fight both against the devil and with the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:16–18), rejoicing that the Spirit cannot fail to win this tug-of-war for the believer’s mind and conduct.

What are you currently working to put off/on? What do you correspondingly need to put on/off?

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

2020.09.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 18:1–16

Read 1 Samuel 18:1–16

Questions from the Scripture text: When David is done debriefing with the king, who sees him, and how does he respond (1 Samuel 18:1)? What does Saul put a stop to at that point (1 Samuel 18:2)? What do Jonathan and David do (1 Samuel 18:3a) and why (verse 3b)? What five things does Jonathan give David in 1 Samuel 18:4? Where does David go (1 Samuel 18:5)? What does he do? Whom is he over? How is he received? By whom? From what was David returning in 1 Samuel 18:6? Who had come out from where? What were they doing? Whom were they meeting? But what did they say in their singing and dancing (1 Samuel 18:7)? How did Saul feel about this (1 Samuel 18:8)? Why? What did he begin to do on that day (1 Samuel 18:9)? What happened on the next day (1 Samuel 18:10)? What Saul doing under this spirit? Who did what and why? But what was different this time? What did Saul do, and why, in 1 Samuel 18:11? How many times? Who was afraid of whom in 1 Samuel 18:12? Why? What does Saul do out of this fear (1 Samuel 18:13a)? Where does he put David instead? What does David do (1 Samuel 18:14a)? How/why (verse 14b)? Who recognizes this as the cause, and how does he respond (1 Samuel 18:15)? How do all Israel and Judah respond (1 Samuel 18:16)? 

Beloved, let us look to God for grace to guard our hearts against jealousy. We’ve known for a couple chapters now that the Lord is against Saul. What a dreadful thing—to have the Lord against you! And what does the Lord use, here, to bring down the one against whom He has set Himself? 

Jealousy: “David has their hearts, which makes him an enemy of my crown” (1 Samuel 18:8). Never mind that it was to Saul that they were coming out with joy and song and dance (1 Samuel 18:6), and that they attributed the slaying of thousands unto him (1 Samuel 18:7), and that it is implied praise to him that he has chosen David as his righthand man (1 Samuel 18:21 Samuel 18:5). 

Jealousy is irrational; that’s how it works—especially when we think beyond our circumstances to the truth that we brought nothing into this world (1 Timothy 6:7), and that everything that we are or have is the grace of God to us to begin with (1 Corinthians 4:7).

But what if the world is irrationally against us, as Saul was against David? David’s faith operates understandingly; it is the opposite of jealousy. Then let us seek to have the same strength as this passage emphasizes about David: that the Lord is with us (1 Samuel 18:121 Samuel 18:14). And let us seek to respond with the same skill as this passage emphasizes about David: that we would behave wisely (literally, “understandingly” in 1 Samuel 18:51 Samuel 18:141 Samuel 18:15). 

Jealousy is much concerned with whether circumstances or people seem to be for us. Faith says, “the Lord is for me, and knowing this frees me to live for the Lord.” If you are a Christian, this is the fundamental reality of your life: “The Lord is with me in Jesus Christ.” And if that is true, this is the fundamental response of your life: “Let me live for the Lord according to the understanding that His Word gives.”

How do you decrease focus upon people’s opinion and increase focus upon God’s favor?

Suggested songs: ARP56B “You Have Recorded All My Ways” or TPH515 “More Than Conquerors”

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

2020.09.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 26:6–12

Read Psalm 26:6–12

Questions from the Scripture text: In what does the psalmist wash his hands (Psalm 26:6a)? But what does this enable him to approach (verse 6b)? With what voice does he proclaim something there (Psalm 26:7a)? Of what does he tell in this proclaiming (verse 7b)? What has the psalmist loved in Psalm 26:8a? What else does he call it (verse 8b)? By contrast, where doesn’t he want to be gathered (Psalm 26:9a)? What else does he call them, and what do they endanger (verse 9b)? What does he expect to find in their hands (Psalm 26:10a)? And what in their right hand (verse 10b)? But what does the psalmist need to walk in instead (Psalm 26:11a)? How would this happen (verse 11b)? On what footing would this put him (Psalm 26:12a)? And what would the ultimate response to this be (verse 12b)?

Next week’s Prayer for Help comes from Psalm 26:6–12 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord.

The hand-washing station stood halfway between the tabernacle tent and the altar for sacrifice. Psalm 26:6-8 rejoice over public worship and the preparation for it. God’s mercy is presented to him at the altar of sacrifice. God’s glory is presented to him in “the tabernacle of Your glory” as Psalm 26:8 literally calls it. And washing hands according to God’s Word is the first step toward each.

The Old Testament believer, then, came to worship in the same way we do: not by the merit of how well he had done but by looking to Jesus. In baptism, Jesus has held out to us His cleansing of us in innocence as at the laver. In the supper, Jesus has held out to us His sacrifice as at the altar. And Jesus Himself is our Immanuel—God who has tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory (cf. John 1:14).

The danger of being gathered to the world, and endangering our life by them or being like them, is set forth in Psalm 26:9-10, before the Psalm returns us in Psalm 26:11-12 to the joyous gathering with God’s people unto their redeeming, merciful God.

Though it is coming to God through Christ that saves, the separation from the world and rejection of its sin always accompanies it. The way that we say this theologically is that “only faith saves, but faith is always accompanied by repentance.” Or you may have heard it put, “justified by faith alone, but justifying faith is never alone.”

In this Psalm, it’s put in terms of thanksgiving and love and desire. The holy Lord and the sinful worldlings are at such complete odds that love for and delight in the Lord cannot coexist with keeping the company of worldlings.

But aren’t we worldlings? This is why we need redemption and grace (Psalm 26:11). It is Jesus who has saved us from being worldlings by washing us, atoning for us, and uniting us to Himself through faith!

Who are your companions? What does this say about your trust in and desire for Jesus?

Suggested songs: ARP26 “Lord, Vindicate Me” or TPH405 “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord”

Monday, September 21, 2020

Life from Christ via Theology (2020.09.20 Evening Sermon in Ephesians 4:17–25)

Those who are still in Adam are spiritually brain-dead and alienated from the life of God. If we are to put off the old man and put on the new man, we need that life of God that Christ gives to us, as One Whom we learn and hear, and by Whom we are taught. Theological instruction is central to the mission of the church, because the church is Christ's mission, and this is Christ's method.

Feeding Together on Earth upon the Lord Jesus in Heaven (2020.09.20 Lord's Supper Table Lesson in 1Cor 11:22–34)

It's not a household meal; it's a church meal. Christ calls His church to wait for one another, because they are to feed together upon Him.

Graciously Upheld by the Assurance of Grace (2020.09.20 Morning Sermon in Genesis 33:1–17)

By giving Himself in Jesus, the Lord has assured believers of all of His promises. This does not preclude preparations, but it does establish the priorities of being a blessing to others, and pursuing the Lord's promises in and through us.

Jesus Changed the Weekly Sabbath to the First Day, Just As He Had Taught Us to Expect (2020.09.20 Sabbath School Lesson)

All of Scripture taught us to expect that when redemption came by the Lord of the Sabbath, He would restore His church to a weekly first-day Sabbath. And that is exactly what Christ and His Spirit did in the church, and commanded the church.

2020.09.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 33:1–17

Read Genesis 33:1–17

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

Jacob had made many preparations, but the Lord displays His great power and faithfulness in the surprising behavior of Esau. We almost couldn’t have hoped for such a display—murderous-hearted Esau running and embracing and falling on his neck and kissing Jacob? Appearing with the same forgiveness and affection as the father in the parable of the prodigal son (cf. Luke 15:20)?

But this is what God can do, even with an unbeliever. The heart of the king is in God’s hand like water, to direct it however He will (cf. Proverbs 21:1). And so are the hearts of Esau, and anyone who threatens you. What an encouragement this response must have been to Jacob!

Indeed, we hear Jacob say twice (Genesis 33:5Genesis 33:11) that God has dealt graciously with him. Surely, the behavior of Esau confirmed to him the words of the Lord who had blessed him at the end of the previous night’s wrestling. When Esau asks about the various companies of gifts that Jacob had sent, Jacob uses the same word (“favor” in Genesis 33:8Genesis 33:10) to ask Esau to be gracious toward him as God has. 

But Jacob knows that he has the only favor that ultimately matters: God’s graciousness toward him. This is what is behind his statement in verse 10. If it were mere flattery toward Esau, it would be an unthinkable blasphemy after the events of the previous night. Rather, Jacob seeing Esau being favorable toward him is the evidence that God actually has smiled His face upon Jacob this day, just as He had blessed him the previous night.

So, whereas God causes Esau to consider what he has as enough (Genesis 33:9), so that he will be favorable toward Jacob, the Lord does even better for Jacob, who knows that he has all (Genesis 33:11, literally translated, where NKJV says “enough”). Indeed, he has the favor of God Himself, and this is better than either the birthright or the blessing that he had previously stolen from his brother. So, we actually hear him saying, “please, take my blessing (verse 11). What an astonishing turnaround!

For Jacob’s part, the blessing includes peace with Esau, but he needs nothing from Esau. What he needs is to remain in the promised land, and so he reasons with Esau to go on ahead, even though what Jacob ultimately intends to do is to stay in Canaan, where God has called him (cf. Genesis 31:3, Genesis 32:9).

Every believer can now have the same confidence that Jacob did in this passage. Since God has truly committed Himself to our blessing in Christ, we can be sure that we have all things (cf. Romans 8:32). He is able either to give us the favor that we could least hope to obtain from others, or to bless us even through their greatest hostility. But, we know that He works all things for our good. And it is this blessing that enables us to conduct ourselves with humility and generosity even to those who would otherwise have been our greatest enemies!

With whom do you need God to give you favor? In what situation do you most need to remember that God is giving you all things? How do you know that God is doing so?

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”

Saturday, September 19, 2020

A Better Altar (2020.09.18 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – September 18, 2020

Dear Congregation,

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

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

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

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

Looking forward to that worship and supper together with you,


2020.09.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 33:1–17

Read Genesis 33:1–17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 18, 2020

2020.09.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 8:19–21

 Read Luke 8:19–21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 17, 2020

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

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

2020.09.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 4:17–25

 Read Ephesians 4:17–25

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blindness is the natural/original condition of the heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

2020.09.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 17

 Read 1 Samuel 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020.09.14 Session Meeting Digest

Hopewell Session Meeting Digest

Stated Meeting, September 14, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for praying for us!

Pastor James

2020.09.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 2:19–22

 Read Ephesians 2:19–22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 14, 2020

2020.09.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 32:13–32

 Read Genesis 32:13–32

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can be done for such men?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 12, 2020

"On Being Presbyterian" (2020.09.12 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – September 12, 2020

Dear Congregation, 

Please see Karen’s announcement about conference food below. Also, the Conference PDF is attached, as well as being available at and prominently linked from the Hopewell website. 

If you’ve got friends who are interested in learning what a Presbyterian is, or maybe you yourself are wondering, the anniversary conference is a great opportunity for that. 

The word comes from the word presbyter, elder. In a church (Presbyterian’s prefer the word “church” to “denomination”) name, it basically means that we believe that the Lord Jesus shepherds and teaches His church through a plurality of elders in a particular congregation, and gives churches in a region accountability through meetings (which they call “courts”) in that region. 

Sometimes, you might hear “higher” court, but to understand it the way Presbyterians mean it, it is better to think in terms of “broader” court. It’s very important to note that there is no office above elder at all—that all the elders in a congregation or a region are on equal footing before Christ and submit to him by submitting to their brother elders. 

We see that in the New Testament, the elders sat in Session (the word “Session” means “sitting” and refers to when the elders are seated as a body to govern, rather than functioning as individuals or informally as a group) with the apostles at the first “General Assembly” in Acts 15. And, the apostle Peter refers to himself as a fellow-elder with them in 1Peter 5:1. So, depending upon how large is the region that the elders are coming from, you might hear these broader courts referred to as Presbytery, Synod, or General Assembly. (By retaining the name ‘Synod’, it implies that the ARP is still hoping to be reunited with other Reformed Presbyterian synods into a General Assembly!) 

So basically, a Presbyterian is a Christian who sees that in the Bible, Jesus has a particular way of leading His church. You might also hear us called ‘Reformed’—which refers to the fact that there are many things that Jesus has a particular way of doing, that had been lost by the “Roman Catholic” church in the centuries leading up to the “Reformation.” 

All branches of the Reformation agreed that Jesus has a particular way of speaking to His church (through the Bible, sola scriptura) and that Jesus has a particular way of saving sinners (by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus)—and that no mere man should ever be honored above all the others (to God’s glory alone, soli deo Gloria). 

But the Reformed branch (holding to one of the Reformed Confessions, such as our Westminster Confession or the Belgic Confession, etc.) saw even more than that in the Bible. Jesus has a particular way of conducting the worship of His church. Jesus has a particular way of growing Christians and making them more and more like Himself. Jesus has a particular way that He wants us to live. This is why our confession and catechisms (and other Reformed confessions) go into so much detail about the means of grace and the law of God. 

I’ll stop spoiling Dr. Willborn’s lectures now, but it is really a great instance of Christ’s merciful grace that He has kept (and even, when necessary, returned) Hopewell walking according to His truth these 200 years. And, as we thank Him and celebrate that grace, we will be simultaneously reminded of what He calls us to be and do. 

Of course, one of those things is a day that He has set apart as holy for His worship, in which He gives us a weekly celebration of Himself and reformation of ourselves, praise God! 

Looking forward to that day and that worship together with you,