Saturday, October 31, 2020

Being Fruitful and Multiplying (2020.10.31 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – October 31, 2020

Dear Congregation,

In this past week’s sermon passage, we got the answer to the question: after struggling and stumbling so much with remaining sin, could Jacob still enjoy blessing? Could Jacob still be useful?

The text reoriented us by changing the subject of the sentence. God still can and still will bless Jacob. God still can and still will use Jacob. He is God Almighty.

The persistence of God’s blessing and purpose is not just a guarantee but a calling. In this case, “Be fruitful and multiply.” We noted that this was the original command to Adam (and all humanity), and has now been repeated to Noah, Abraham, and Jacob.

And it still stands as our chief command. Our chief calling.

But what if you are past child-bearing age? Or if it is not in God’s ordaining for your life that you be married or have children?

Yes, dear Christian, it is still your chief calling. And perhaps you would recognize this more easily if we modify slightly our vocabulary: it is your chief commission.

We hear the echo of “I am God Almighty” in our Redeemer’s “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me.”

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” with [renewed] image-bearers is the same as to say, “Going into all the earth, make disciples of all nations by baptizing them and by teaching them to keep all that I have commanded you.”

Every Christian has a serving, encouraging, edifying duty to the rest of his or her congregation. As we learn in this week’s Ephesians text, public worship is central to this duty. When we prepare for it, and whatever else we can do to help others be ready for it, is part of the fulfillment of “be fruitful and multiply” and “make disciples.”

And, as you encourage and accommodate the covenant children of the congregation, you participate in the growth of the church. To this, we must add always praying for our unbelieving neighbor, always being ready to give an answer for our hope, always living as unashamed light and hoping that those who are darkness will not only be exposed but transformed into light themselves by the life of Christ.

Further, Hopewell is not called merely to church growth but church multiplication. It is a blessing to have a worship room that maxes out around 150 worshipers. As the Lord blesses His means not only to our spiritual growth but unto the converting and bringing in of those whom He is saving, we should be identifying where those whom He is bringing in live, so that we can be planning where to plant our daughter church. After 200 years of God’s faithfulness, let us be responding to how the Lord presented Himself in the passage last Lord’s Day. He is God almighty. He is carrying out His plan of redemption by that almighty power. And He commands that we, in dependence upon Him, would be fruitful and multiply.

Looking forward to worshiping Him with you in those means which He promises to bless unto that end,


2020.10.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 35:16–36:43

Read Genesis 35:16–36:43

Questions from the Scripture text: Where do they go in Genesis 35:16? Where are they about to arrive? But what happens to whom? What does the midwife say in Genesis 35:17? What was departing (Genesis 35:18)? Why? What did she call his name? What did his father call him? What happened to Rachel (Genesis 35:19)? By where? Who does what in Genesis 35:20? What does Genesis 35:21-22 call him? Where does he go? What happens in verse 22? Whom does Genesis 35:22-26 describe? To whom does Jacob come, where, in Genesis 35:27? How old was Isaac (Genesis 35:28)? What four things happen to Isaac in Genesis 35:29? Who buried him? Whose genealogy does chapter 36 give us? Whom does Genesis 36:2-3 describe? Who bore whom where, in Genesis 36:4-5? Then where did Esau go, with whom, in Genesis 36:6-8? Whom does Genesis 36:9-14 list? In what way is this list organized? What are they now called in Genesis 36:15-19? What nation inhabited Seir before the Edomites (Genesis 36:20)? What are their sons called in the list in Genesis 36:20-30? What kings begin to be listed from Genesis 36:31? What time period does this list of kings cover (Genesis 36:31b)? What are the names in Genesis 36:40-43 called (cf. 1 Chronicles 1:51–54)? How is the land described in Genesis 36:43? Who is the last person mentioned in the chapter?

The unifying theme of this extended section of transition is death. Deborah has just died (Genesis 35:8), and now Rachel dies. Isaac dies. And the kings of Edom from now until the time of 1 Samuel die.

Parents are dying people, and their children are dying people. There is an appropriate symmetry to Rachel dying as she gives birth to Benjamin. Even his two names (son of my affliction, son of my right hand) remind us of how desperately the children of Adam need Christ, because in him we all sinned and died. 

So, her soul is departing (Genesis 35:18), which reminds us that much more important than how Benjamin comes into the world will be his condition when he has departed from it. Our first self-care must be the care of our souls. Our first care of our children must be the care of their souls. How sad that it isn’t until he is departing (cf. Genesis 49:4) that Jacob takes any action concerning the soul-threatening sin of his son Reuben (Genesis 35:22). Parents and their children die; so let them live with a care for eternal souls.

For, believers die, but Christ takes away the sting of it. Genesis 35:29 tells us that “Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, old and full of days, and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.” It’s very important to see what happens with his soul. In between his death and his burial, “he was gathered to his people.” 

Your soul will be gathered to your people when you die, but which of the two peoples will that be? The seed of the serpent or the seed of the woman? Are you in Christ? Are His people your people in this life? When you die, you will be gathered to your people. Relationships with believers in this life can be tough, because we are still sinners. But there is a sinless fellowship with one another—and, especially, a sinless fellowship and enjoyment of our God and our Redeemer—that comes at death for believers.

Unbelievers die. The line of Edom are, generally speaking, unbelievers. It is sobering to read a list of names where each represents a clan of people who have died in their sin. Since Scripture focuses so much upon the covenant people, we can be forgetful that there are nations perishing in their sin. What missionary zeal should arise in our hearts, when the Lord brings them to remembrance! Hearing about Edom ought to make us long for the gospel age, in which reconciliation and salvation goes out to the nations. But here we are in that age. Are we living like we are in that age?

Finally, kings die. Of the line of Edom, it is especially the kings (Genesis 35:31–38) whose deaths are mentioned. This ought to be comforting to Israelites who were often in conflict with, or persecuted by, Edomites. Do not fear them. They can only kill the body. And they themselves die. “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:10).

On the other hand, this is a good caution against putting our hope in kings. Or presidents. Or supreme court justices. Suppose we were to get all of the men whom we would like in every one of these positions. What then? “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Yahweh his God” (Psalm 146:3–5). Even if we were to get every man we wanted in every position, the Lord could immediately remove them. 

Kings die. Neither be afraid of them, nor put your hope in them.

What does prioritizing eternal souls look like in our thought life? In our everyday life? Of what men are you tempted to be overly afraid? In what men are you tempted to place too much of your hope?

Suggested songs: ARP146 “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah” or TPH159 “Abide with Me”

Friday, October 30, 2020

2020.10.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 9:27–36

Read Luke 9:27–36

Questions from the Scripture text: About whom does Jesus speak in Luke 9:27? What does he say some of them will not do before what? How long after verse 27 does Luke 9:28 take place? Whom does He take? Where? To do what? What two things change in Luke 9:29? What happens to His robe? Who appear in Luke 9:30? What do they do with Him? How do they appear (Luke 9:31)? What do they speak about? How does it describe His departure happening? Where? What had been the condition of Peter and those with him (Luke 9:32)? When this changes, what do they see about Him? Whom else do they say? What were they about to do in Luke 9:33? Who speaks to Whom? What does he say about being there? What does he suggest they make? For whom? Why is he speaking this way? What is Peter still doing in Luke 9:34? What comes? What does it do? How do they feel? What comes out of the cloud (Luke 9:35)? Whom does the voice say Jesus is? What does the voice tell them to do to Jesus? When the voice ceases, who is there (Luke 9:36)? What do the disciples do now? Whom do they tell, when, about what?

Often we think of the Transfiguration as a glorious vision. But the point of the event isn’t so much Jesus’s appearance as it is Jesus’s words.

In Luke 9:26, He had warned of being ashamed of His words. Now, He says that there are some standing there who will not taste death until they see the kingdom (Luke 9:27), eight days after which statement, He takes Peter, John, and James up the mountain to pray (Luke 9:28).

But the message that they ultimately receive when they “see the kingdom of God” is actually, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” The very words of Christ in Scripture are more sure, more glorious than even His transfigured appearance on the mountain (cf. 2 Peter 1:18–19, which literally say that the prophetic word is “more sure”).

Peter, as he often does, plays the part of our representative saint. With Jesus, Moses, and Elijah there, for some reason he thinks it’s his place to speak up in order to keep them from parting (Luke 9:33). The text even notes that he didn’t know what he was doing.

We’re like Peter—not humble enough about ourselves and our well-intended but misguided ideas, and nowhere nearly enough impressed by our Lord Jesus. Moses was a great prophet. Elijah was a great prophet. But Jesus is infinitely above both. Of Him God says, “This is My beloved Son.” 

To us, as to Peter, God says, “hear Him!” Though we ought to be grateful for God’s servants, let us be sure that it is the Lord Jesus Himself Whom we hear and revere. And let none of us ever be preoccupied that “our voice” would be heard but rather earnest that Christ’s voice would be heard. Let us not desire that others would be impressed with us, or fall into being overly impressed with others, but let us all desire the glory of Christ and be impressed with Him!

With whom are you too impressed? What activities need to take a back seat to private reading of Scripture, family reading/teaching of Scripture, and the hearing of Scripture preached in public worship?

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”

Thursday, October 29, 2020

2020.10.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 5:18–21

Read Ephesians 5:18–21

Questions from the Scripture text: What must we not be (Ephesians 5:18)? With what? What does verse 18 call drunkenness? With what are we to be filled instead? Unto this end, what are we to do with one another (Ephesians 5:19)? In what three things are we to speak to one another? In what action are we to do this speaking? Doing what in our heart? To Whom? As we sing to one another, what else are we doing (Ephesians 5:20)? To Whom? In What? As we speak to one another in this way, and we are being spoken to, what are we to be doing to one another (Ephesians 5:21)? In What? 

Almost every reader of these devotionals would immediately join in the command not to be drunk with wine. This is the “put off” portion of command. Drunkenness leads to dissipation, which is the exact opposite of self-control—a recklessness that falls easily into any and every sort of sin.

But the “putting on” is every bit as much as a command. Being filled with the Spirit is not a higher state to which some believers finally attain. Rather, it is a command that is set in parallel cooperation with “do not be drunk with wine.” Our Lord commands every single believer to be filled with the Spirit.

Now, let us not get the wrong idea. Being filled with the Spirit is not something that we can “accomplish.” This is a commandment, but it is a passive commandment. “Be filled.” In other words, we are commanded to something that only the Spirit Himself can do. We might paraphrase it, “let the Holy Spirit fill you.”

Thankfully, in the next three verses, there are several participial verbs by which the Spirit Himself tells us the means by which He fills us, before going on in the next twenty-one verses to describe what that Spirit-filled life will look like.

“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19a). Earlier in the letter, the apostle said that the risen, victorious Lord gives gifts to equip every joint to supply something and every member to do its share. What is a great part of that share? Public worship. Singing in public worship. Singing various kinds of Scripture (each of these terms comes from superscripts of different types of Psalms in the Greek translation of the Old Testament that they were using in Ephesus). Since the Spirit Himself fills us through our speaking to one another in the singing in public worship, you are commanded to attend. You are commanded to sing. And the Spirit Himself honors His means by filling you through that singing—not necessarily by making you feel very spiritual, but rather by making His Word to dwell in you more richly (cf. Colossians 3:16).

“Singing and making melody in your heart” (Ephesians 5:19b). Ordinarily, musical tunes energize the singing. We have all felt that. But that is not the accompaniment to the singing in Christian public worship. The accompaniment is the heart of the Christian, more specifically the grace of Christ in the heart (cf. Colossians 3:16). We understand this even better when we realize that it is Christ Himself Who sings through our brethren, and Who speaks through us to our brethren (cf. Hebrews 2:12). When this passage commands us to be filled with the Spirit, part of what it commands us to do is to realize that Jesus has not only given to us what to sing, but that He Himself is powerfully working to make those words of His to dwell richly in us while we sing. The command “Be filled with the Spirit” is a command to have a particular view of congregational singing.

“Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). The Spirit wars against the flesh, and as He wars against “fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, […] filthiness, foolish talking, and coarse jesting” (Ephesians 5:3–4a), with what does He displace these things that are put off? The Spirit displaces them with the putting on of “giving of thanks” (verse 4b). So, what is the Spirit’s own incubator for this thanksgiving that is to saturate out conversations with one another and to saturate our view of our lives under God? The Spirit incubates this thankfulness in the singing of the congregation, as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself expresses His own perfect thankfulness and joy through our mouths and in our hearts (Ephesians 5:20). 

“Submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). Who leads worship at your church? In one sense, the correct answer to that question is “the risen, ascended Lord Jesus leads worship from the throne.” Hallelujah! In a subordinate sense, the answer to that question is “the shepherd-teachers whom that Jesus has given for leading and teaching His church” (cf. Ephesians 4:11). But, in a very real and true sense, under Christ and His governance through those elders, the entire congregation is called to lead within the context of the singing. This is one reason that some current trends in public worship music, in addition to profaning the worship of God by offering what is according to the design of men instead of the command of God… these trends harm the congregation’s discipleship by removing this dynamic of each of us leading all the others, and each of us being led by all the others, during congregational song. 

And how dreadful for us to diverge from the Spirit’s directives for congregational song! Here, the Holy Spirit tells us that our submission to one another in this corporate singing is part of how He fills us—part of how we obey the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. So, if we decide instead to sing (or have musical performance) that is according to what feels most spiritual to us, we tragically give up the actual filling of the almighty Holy Spirit for a powerless and worthless feeling of spirituality. In our singing, we can only “submit to one another in the fear of God” if it is that God’s word being sung in that God’s way.

What a marvelous thing is congregational song in public worship! In it, we obey that wonderful command, “Be filled with the Spirit”!

What is happening when your church sings in public worship on the Lord’s Day? What are some things that you should be doing during that singing? 

Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

God's Powerful, Wise, and Merciful Providence (Family Worship in 1Sam 21:10–22:5)

What hope do believers have, when they are foolish or overmatched? Pastor leads his family in today's "Hopewell @Home" passage. In these ten verses, we learn that God powerfully, wisely, and mercifully works all things for believers' good.

2020.10.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 21:10–22:5

Read 1 Samuel 21:10–22:5

Questions from the Scripture text: From whom did David flee in 1 Samuel 21:10? To whom? Of what do Achish’s servants remind him in 1 Samuel 21:11? Who heard them (1 Samuel 21:12)? How did he respond? What did he start doing (1 Samuel 21:13)? What does Achish say in 1 Samuel 21:14? What three things does he ask in 1 Samuel 21:14-15? Then where did David go in 1 Samuel 22:1? Who heard about it? What did they do? What three kinds of people does 1 Samuel 22:2 say also gathered to David? What did David become toward them? How many of them were there? To where does David go in 1 Samuel 22:3? To whom? What did David ask the king of Moab to do for whom? Until when? What did David do in 1 Samuel 22:4? How long did they stay with the king? Who spoke to David in 1 Samuel 22:5? What did he tell him not to do? Where did he tell him to go? Where did he go?

From an earthly perspective, this seems to be a passage about how hotly Saul’s enmity pursues David, but from a biblical perspective it is really a passage about how hotly the Lord’s covenant love pursues David (cf. Psalm 23:6).

We can see how much David feels the pressure from Saul. 

He shows up in Goliath’s hometown (1 Samuel 21:10, cf. 1 Samuel 17:4), carrying the sword that could not be mistaken for any other (1 Samuel 21:9). The situation quickly escalates, because even the Philistines remember the recent hit song in 1 Samuel 21:11 (cf. 1 Samuel 18:6–8), but with much less fondness than the ladies of Israel. Not only is David “very much afraid” (1 Samuel 21:12), but by the time he is working on his award for best actor in Gath, 1 Samuel 21:13 tells us that he is “in their hands” (implying that he has been arrested/detained).

So, how does David get out of there? A little graffiti on the doors and spit in the beard (verse 13), and Achish is wondering why they’re straining the budget by bringing another social services case into state custody (1 Samuel 21:14-15).

We might be tempted to see it as some combination of desperate tactics and regal gullibility. But David himself attributes it to Yahweh hearing his cries in compassion (cf. Psalm 34, superscript) and exercising divine power to protect him (cf. Psalm 56). His response is not to write a manual for hostages but to lead the worship of God’s people.

Next stop is the cave of Adullam. It doesn’t seem to be very secret. His brothers and all his father’s house hear of it (1 Samuel 22:1). But they are also joined by about four hundred of every sort of societal outcast (1 Samuel 22:2). So, again, this is not exactly a smashing success for David the tactician. Rather, it is the strong God of Psalm 142 (cf. superscript) who is helping the servant whose persecutors are too strong for him.

But caves aren’t great for David’s parents, who are already advanced in age (1 Samuel 22:3, cf. 1 Samuel 17:12), so David seeks out other arrangements. It is not as odd as we might think that David takes his parents, Jesse and Mrs. Jesse, to Moab for help. Other kingdoms (Israel and Philistia) have proved rather dangerous, and Jesse grew up upon the knees of grandma Ruth—a Moabitess. 

In hindsight, we can see the marvelous wisdom and love of God in the providence of the famine in the days of Elimelech, and in providing this Moabitess ancestress, so that an elderly couple has a place of refuge in hard times (1 Samuel 22:4).

Finally, the prophet Gad comes out of nowhere (1 Samuel 22:5). It is actually a pretty frequent occurrence in Scripture for a prophet to come out of nowhere. But that’s kind of the point. They don’t come out of nowhere. They come from God, Whose Word is one of His great provisions to His people. Several times now, David’s expectations have not been realized. So, it is a mercy that God sends His prophet to encourage His servant that He is still with him, and to give him guidance that he can be sure of.

On the whole, each of these four episodes contributes to one overall theme: God’s covenant love is hotly pursuing His servant. Ultimately, this is true of all who are found in great David’s greater Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. If you are His, then His covenant love is hotly pursuing you!

In what difficult situations are you finding yourself? How can you know that God’s covenant love is hotly pursuing you in them? How does this affect how you think of those situations or act in them?

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Have You Missed God's Best?: the Persistence of His Promises (2020.10.25 Morning Sermon in Genesis 35:9–15)

God's forgiveness in Christ means that the repenting believer can be sure not only of that forgiveness, but also of ongoing blessing and purpose in his earthly life, and perfect blessing and service in his eternal life.

Purchasing Time for Jesus by Self-Awareness and Scripture-Awareness (2020.10.25 Evening Sermon in Eph 5:15–17)

The apostle commands us to purchase time for our good Lord during the present evil age. The purchase price is the effort that it takes to be aware of ourselves and aware of God's Word.

Day of Worship 5, Worldliness (2020.10.25 Sabbath School)

Sabbath School lesson in Ryan McGraw's "The Day of Worship." In Chapter 5, we consider how our worldliness shapes what we view as restful and joyous.

2020.10.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 32

Read Psalm 32

Questions from the Scripture text: What three things has the blessed one contributed to his blessedness (Psalm 32:1–2)? What has he finally stopped doing about his transgression/sin/iniquity (verse 2b)? What had he attempted to do about it before (Psalm 32:3)? But what had the Lord caused him to feel? What was upon David and when (Psalm 32:4a)? What did it feel like was happening to his life within him (verse 4b)? What did David do then (Psalm 32:5)? To Whom? What will who do when (Psalm 32:6a-6b)? What can the godly know will not come near him to destroy him (verse 6c–d)? Why can’t anything ultimately harm David (Psalm 32:7a-7b)? With what will God surround him—how is he to respond to being delivered (verse 7)? What will God do to David in Psalm 32:8a? Why is the guidance in verse 8b so good/sure? What does He tell us not to be like in Psalm 32:9a? What don’t they have (verse 9b)? What must be done to them (verse 9c) to get them to do what (verse 9d)? What will come to the wicked (Psalm 32:10a)? Who is the opposite of the wicked (verse 10b)? What surrounds him? What is this believer called in Psalm 32:11a? What two things is he commanded to do? In Whom? And what is the believer called in verse 11b? What is he commanded to do in that verse? 

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Prayer of Confession all come from Psalm 32:4–11, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with We Gather Together.

Blessed is the man who is forgiven! That’s easy for us to say. We love to be forgiven. But there are some things involved in that forgiveness that we don’t ordinarily like so much.

Blessed is the man whom the Lord chastens! We need that chastening, because the reflex of the flesh is to lie (Psalm 32:2bPsalm 32:3a) to ourselves and God about the greatness of our guilt and offense. Perhaps we are well-enough instructed to say, “blessed is the man whom the Lord chastens!” But can we say, “the Lord is lovingly bringing me to blessing” if we fill in the particular details of Psalm 32:3–4?

Blessed is the man whom the Lord makes to feel like his bones are rotting away inside him (Psalm 32:3a). Blessed is the man who is made to groan all day long (verse 3b). Blessed is the man upon whom the Lord makes his hand heavy (Psalm 32:4a). Blessed is the man who feels as if his body has been sucked dry of all moisture, all life (verse 4b). It just doesn’t have that ring to it.

And yet, it is precisely the intensity with which the Lord makes us to feel our sin that makes the intensity of our joy at the forgiveness that is given in Psalm 32:5. Further, when we realize the greatness of the wrath from which we have been saved (Psalm 32:6c), we become sure that the God who has saved us from that will surely save us from everything (verse 6). 

Indeed, not only will He provide a shelter, but He Himself will be our shelter (Psalm 32:7). We can be like Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail—surrounded by the songs of God’s deliverance while still in the midst of the danger. Blessed is the believer who is in trouble!

How slow we are to see the blessing of God in our chastening and our troubles. And, horses and mules that we can be (Psalm 32:9), we are even slow to see His blessing in His instruction (Psalm 32:8a). To have His instruction is to be guided by His perfectly seeing eye, rather than our own limited and inaccurate perspective (verse 8b). But, living by God’s instruction is not merely to live correctly; it is even to draw near to God Himself (verse 9d)!

Indeed, consider the command with which the Spirit concludes this Psalm: “Be glad in Yahweh and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” What a happy command. When the Lord overcomes our resistance to Him, He frees us to see the blessedness of every part of belonging to Him!

When have you been blessed as a result of feeling the Lord’s hand heavy upon you for your sin? What commands of the Lord do you most need help to see as a blessing not a burden?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH415 “We Gather together”

Monday, October 26, 2020

2020.10.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 35:9–15

Read Genesis 35:9–15

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

Jacob and his family sinned grievously in chapter 34. In Genesis 35:1–7, the Lord brought Jacob near by sacrifice to show that the guilt of his sin would be put on a substitute—Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, hallelujah!

So, the penalty has been paid, but what damage has been done to the promises of God? None at all! He is God Almighty, El Shaddai, and He will overcome Jacob’s Jacob-ness to bring about the complete fullness of everything that He has promised.

Here, God really reiterates two sets of promises. The first is the blessing made at the river Jabbok in chapter 32. The second is the promise that God had made to Abraham at the beginning of chapter 17. Praise God that He is strong to overcome both the guilt and the consequences of our sin. His promises are not dependent upon us at all. 

What were these promises?

When Jacob crossed the Jabbok and the Lord met him and wrestled him (Genesis 32:22–27), the Lord had blessed him by saying, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed […] and He blessed him there” (Genesis 32:28Genesis 32:29). 

Now, with a fair amount of backsliding and sin under Jacob’s belt since then, the question arises: what of the promise implied in that name change and that blessing by the river Jabbok? “Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, ‘your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.’ So He called his name Israel” (Genesis 35:9–10). In other words, the blessing relies upon the character and purpose of God in a way that will overcome even such great and consequential sin as Jacob’s and his family’s!

This has been a problem before. Abraham had failed spectacularly in the Hagar/Ishmael experiment in chapter 16. Thirteen years had passed. Had Abraham’s failure inhibited God’s declared intent to use him? When Scripture gives us the first recorded words of God in 13 years, He comes and says, “I am God Almighty […] I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you […] also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger…” (Genesis 17:1Genesis 17:6Genesis 17:8). Now, in chapter 35, God comes to Jacob with the same introduction and makes the same promises, “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land” (Genesis 35:11–12). 

In other words, the promise that God made in the wake of Abraham’s failings is undiminished in the wake of Jacob’s failings. Why? Because now in Genesis 35, as then in Genesis 17, Jacob’s (as Abraham’s) walking before God depended upon the power of that God before Whom he was to walk. 

When weak Noah gets off the boat, when weak Abraham has just stumbled, and when weak Jacob has just stumbled, God is able to say, “be fruitful and multiply”—not merely to make more people, but to fill the earth with a new humanity, in the image of God through their re-creation in Jesus Christ. God’s people, and God’s promises, depend upon God’s Almighty power. It does not absolve us of duty: this is a command that God gives Jacob in Genesis 35:11. But it does present to us the means by which we are to work, and the grounds upon which we are assured: God’s Almighty power.

What are you commanded to do in your roles in life right now? How will you be able to walk in that role in a way that honors the Lord? Upon what can your hope for fruitfulness be assured?

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH413 “Revive Thy Work, O Lord”

Saturday, October 24, 2020

2020.10.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 35:9–15

Read Genesis 35:9–15

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

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

Will it take this time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can/will that come about?

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

Friday, October 23, 2020

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

Hopewell Herald – October 23, 2020

Dear Congregation,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2020.10.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 9:18–26

Read Luke 9:18–26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 22, 2020

2020.10.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 5:15–17

Read Ephesians 5:15–17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

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

Read 1 Samuel 21:1–9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

2020.10.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ezekiel 37:11–14

Read Ezekiel 37:11–14

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the Lord call Ezekiel in Ezekiel 37:11? Whom does He say the bones are? What have they been saying about their hope and prospects? How does that relate to the dryness of the bones? What does the Lord tell Ezekiel to do to the bones (Ezekiel 37:12)? In Whose Name is he to speak? What does Yahweh say He will open?  What will He cause them to do? To where will He bring them? What will they then know (Ezekiel 37:13)? What will He put in them (Ezekiel 37:14)? What effect will this have? What does He now call the place where He will place them? What two things will they then know that Yahweh has done? 

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Prayer of Confession all come from Ezekiel 37:11–14, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Revive Thy Work, O Lord.

God’s Word can bring us to the point of despair, if we are understanding it correctly.

Apart from Christ, we have no more life in us than dry, dead bones. Apart from Christ there is no hope whatsoever. Apart from Christ, we ourselves are cut off from God and the life of God (cf. Ephesians 4.18).

One of the great mistakes that people make about themselves is to think that (or feel like) they have life or hope. God’s Word, rightly understood, will remove this illusion.

What is it, then, that gives the dry bones life? In part, it is the living, active, life-giving Word of God in the prophet’s mouth.

But it is not bare preaching of those words that gives life (Ezekiel 37:12aEzekiel 37:13a). This life comes by the preaching of those Words as attended by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

It is God Himself that opens the graves. It is God Himself that raises them up (verse 12b, verse 13b). He puts His Spirit in them (Ezekiel 37:14a). His Spirit makes them live (verse 14b). 

Christianity is a religion of the Bible because it is a life that can only exist or continue by the almighty power of God. 

So on the one hand, if you desire to have Christian life or grow in Christian life,  you will be always in the Bible and especially always sitting under faithful preaching.

And on the other hand, we need to guard against attending upon the Word in a mechanical way, as if merely understanding and implementing it can produce life in us. Rather we should attend upon the Word looking to God the Holy Spirit to work life in us by His resurrection power, and expecting that He will do so.

With what mindset and expectations do you read the Bible or sit under faithful preaching?

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH413 “Revive Thy Work, O Lord”

Monday, October 19, 2020

2020.10.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 35:1–8

Read Genesis 35:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: Who speaks to Jacob in Genesis 35:1? Where does He tell him to go? What does He tell him to do there? How does God describe Himself in verse 1? What does Jacob say to whom in Genesis 35:2—what three things does he command? Where does he say that they are going in Genesis 35:3, to do what? What does he call God in this verse? What do they all give Jacob in Genesis 35:4? What does he do with them? What keeps the cities around them from pursuing them in Genesis 35:5? To where does Jacob come in Genesis 35:6? In what land? Who else comes there? What does Jacob build there (Genesis 35:7)? What does he call the place? Why? Who dies there (Genesis 35:8)? Where do they bury her? What do they call the place?

After not hearing from God at all in chapter 34, chapter 35 begins, “And God said.” We would be justified in wincing a little… this is going to be painful.

Or is it? Well, yes it will be… if you happen to be the choicest lamb in Jacob’s herd.

Amazingly, God comes to this backsliding, stumbling father whose spiritual failings have been so catastrophic for so many, and welcomes—really, commands(!)—him back into fellowship. 

God to Jacob in Genesis 35:1: Go to Bethel and make an altar.

Jacob to his household in Genesis 35:3: Let’s go to Bethel, where I’ll make an altar.

God to us in Genesis 35:6-7: So Jacob came to Bethel and built an altar.

Coming to God via His altar provokes our repentance. When we know we are going to partake of His holy sacrifice, we do things like put away our idols, purify ourselves spiritually, and take whatever earthly measures are necessary to prepare and to show reverence. (Genesis 35:2)

Coming to God via His altar is the proper response to the goodness of God. He has answered our distress. He has been with us in the way. (Genesis 35:3)

Coming to God via His altar preserves our remembering. It is there that God recalls to us how He has been with us, and the promises that He has made to us. (Genesis 35:7)

Coming to God via His altar progresses our redemption. In all of this, God was pointing Jacob to Christ, stirring up the faith of the faltering patriarch. And God has given us an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. Christ brings us to His table. The sacrifice is no longer dead; He feeds us upon Himself from His throne in glory. He strengthens our faith in Himself. He assures us of His covenant and gladdens us in His covenant benefits.

What a gracious God we serve, who brings His stumbling saints to His altar, and His table to worship Him!

What are some ways that God’s weekly calling back to you to worship Him help you in your Christian walk?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH413 “Revive Thy Work, O Lord”

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Light that Walks Fruitfully, Studies Diligently, and Exposes Fearlessly (2020.10.18 Evening Sermon in Ephesians 5:8–14)

By God's Spirit of adoption in us, we are to walk fruitfully as children of light. This requires studying diligently to know as much as we possibly can of what pleases the Lord. And, when living this way threatens to be uncomfortable because it exposes those who are darkness, we must be willing to do that exposing—both grateful for our own having been exposed at some point and hoping that by exposing others through us, Christ will be transforming others from being darkness into being light.

Day of Worship 4, Revisiting Isaiah 58: a Day Set Apart for Whatever God Says to Do (2020.10.18 Sabbath School)

Sabbath School lesson in Ryan McGraw's "The Day of Worship." In Chapter 4, we revisit Isaiah 58, to look especially at how the prohibitions of the chapter redirect us from a day for what pleases us to a day for what God has been pleased to set it apart for.

Coming to the Lord's Table in the Way the Lord Says (2020.10.18 Lord's Supper Table Lesson)

We worship by the Lord's Supper because Jesus commanded us to do so, and we must come in the way that He says to do so.

Purposes and Benefits of Worship that Hinges upon His Altar (2020.10.18 Morning Sermon in Genesis 35:1–8)

God's relationship to His people hinges not upon His anger, but upon His altar—and that altar is Christ, through Whom He brings His people into fellowship with Himself, and upon Whom He feeds them.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

2020.10.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 35:1–8

Read Genesis 35:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: Who speaks to Jacob in Genesis 35:1? Where does He tell him to go? What does He tell him to do there? How does God describe Himself in verse 1? What does Jacob say to whom in Genesis 35:2—what three things does he command? Where does he say that they are going in Genesis 35:3, to do what? What does he call God in this verse? What do they all give Jacob in Genesis 35:4? What does he do with them? What keeps the cities around them from pursuing them in Genesis 35:5? To where does Jacob come in Genesis 35:6? In what land? Who else comes there? What does Jacob build there (Genesis 35:7)? What does he call the place? Why? Who dies there (Genesis 35:8)? Where do they bury her? What do they call the place? 

God is the true Hero of the story of any believer’s life.

He reminds Jacob of this in Genesis 35:1, referring back to when He had appeared to Jacob in chapter 28, and made promises which He has now kept. Jacob, however, hasn’t held up his end—as rather hideously exposed both in chapter 34 and now in Genesis 35:2 and Genesis 35:4, where we discover that he knows that there are foreign gods being worshiped in his home that he has done nothing about until now. Even Genesis 35:8 is a subtle reminder of the sin out of which the Lord has saved Jacob. In Genesis 27:44, Rebekah had suggested that they would see each other again in a few days, but she is never mentioned again. He didn’t get to bury his mother; only Deborah, his mother’s nurse.

But, behold the grace of God! Even after all God has done for Jacob, and Jacob persisting in this level of sin, God is still bringing Jacob near to Himself to worship. The altar is at the center of the passage. 

God commands the altar in Genesis 35:1

The need to come to the altar is what demands the repentance in Genesis 35:2 and Genesis 35:4. Jacob explains in v3, “I will make there an altar to God.” He reminds them of God’s goodness to that point. The implication is that they cannot come before this holy and good God with their lives defiled by idols.

It is so that they can safely build the altar at Bethel in v7 that God protects them in their way in Genesis 35:5-6.

It is comparatively easy to recognize that God’s worship is an appropriate response to His grace. Here, we are also meant to see that God’s worship itself is a gift from Him by that grace. 

In His grace, He is patient with us and willing to have us come near. In His grace, He protects and provides for us so that we are able to come. And then in His grace, God displays Himself to us and reminds us that He is the great Hero of His people’s story.

To what goodness of/by God should you be responding to with worship? How does His worship provoke you to repentance? How does His worship preserve your remembrance of His goodness?

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

Friday, October 16, 2020

2020.10.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 9:12–17

Read Luke 9:12–17

Questions from the Scripture text: What time was it (Luke 9:12)? Who came to Jesus? What did they tell Him to do? Why? What does He tell them to do instead (Luke 9:13)? What challenge do they say is a problem with this? How many men were there (Luke 9:14a)? What does Jesus tell them to do? How do the disciples respond (Luke 9:15)? What four things does Jesus do to the loaves and fish in Luke 9:16? Who set them before the multitude? What do all do (Luke 9:17)? How much do they eat? What are taken up afterward?

When the Lord Jesus had sent His disciples to preach, He taught that they should live by the generosity of those to whom they ministered (Luke 9:2–5).  Now, He teaches them that they also should be generous to those to whom they minister.

This can be a difficult thing for all believers (not just pastors and elders), since around the world and throughout history so many of them have been poor. But, we learn that even when we have little, our Lord would have us to be generous with it. 

There are twelve of them (Luke 9:12), and they only have five loaves and two fish (Luke 9:13). But, it was not from ignorance of how much they had that the Lord Jesus told them, “You give them something to eat,” but rather to show that we should be hospitable without being grudging (cf. 1 Peter 4:9). 

Ultimately, blessing comes from heaven, just as Jesus demonstrated even by His looking up to heaven in Luke 9:16. And, His means of providing is often to pass it through one another’s hands so that while He is the One making the abundant provision, we have the privilege of participating by a generous spirit. 

He had the disciples sit the people down (Luke 9:14), so that they might be put in the place of leading the people to expect that they would be fed by Jesus. And, the Lord put the blessed and broken food into the disciples’ hands, so that they might be put in the place of generosity and distribution.

Christ is able to make a little bit abound. And, He gives us a sweet fellowship when He makes us to depend upon Him together in tight circumstances, and when He grants to us to be generous toward one another in tight circumstances.

It is then, also, that He glorifies Himself and His generosity and power and wisdom, when these are the means by which He is pleased to provide for us. Let us learn to desire to see this part of His glory, so that when we have little, we help one another to cheerfully hope in Christ. And, let us learn to be generous toward one another with what little we have, that Christ may be glorified for His rich abundance.

How have you been helping others to be thankfully expectant toward Jesus? How have you been exercising generosity and hospitality? How has Jesus abundantly provided for you?

Suggested songs: ARP112 “O Praise the Lord” or TPH112 “O Praise the LORD! That Man Is Blest”

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Darkness Exposed by Light and Changed into It (Family Worship in Eph 5:8–14)

Why should believers so eagerly both find out and do whatever pleases the Lord? Pastor leads his family in today's "Hopewell @Home" passage. In these seven verses, we learn that Christ exposes that we are darkness to make us into darkness-exposing light.

Praying in the Holy Spirit to Build Ourselves Up (201014 Prayer Meeting Lesson in Jude v20–21)

Let us pray not according to our impulses but according to the Holy Spirit's written Word. Let us pray not in our power, but depending upon the Holy Spirit's power in our weakness. Let us pray in confidence that the Holy Spirit is also praying for us! Let us pray in the Holy Spirit!

Covenant Bonds in the Blood of Jesus (Family Worship in 1Samuel 20)

What is stronger than the blood and love that hold a family together? Pastor leads his family in yesterday's "Hopewell @Home" passage. In these forty-two verses, we learn that while God has created our families to hold together in bonds of love and blood, there is a greater bond in the covenant love and blood of the Lord Jesus.

2020.10.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 5:8–14

Read Ephesians 5:8–14

Questions from the Scripture text: What were the Ephesians before (Ephesians 5:8)? What are they now? How should they walk? In what three things is the fruit of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:9)? What are they to find out (Ephesians 5:10)? With what are they not to have fellowship (Ephesians 5:11a)? What should their conduct do instead (verse 11b)? What is shameful even to speak of (Ephesians 5:12)? What does the light do to those things (Ephesians 5:13)? What two things are we commanded to do by the light of Christ in Ephesians 5:14? 

The apostle has been teaching us that Christ’s salvation is a life-transforming salvation. Believers are a new creation (Ephesians 2:10), with a new calling (Ephesians 4:1), and a new character (Ephesians 5:1). 

The contrast between the old and the new is put quite starkly in Ephesians 5:8—not just that we were once in darkness, but that we ourselves were darkness. Not just that we have come into the light, but that we ourselves are now light. 

When he tells us to walk as children of light, He is picking up on the fact that the God of Whom we are beloved children (Ephesians 5:1) is the God Who is light, and in Whom there is no darkness at all (cf. 1 John 1:5). “Now that you are light,” says the apostle, “keep making step by step in your forward progress as lightlings.”

So, what does a lightling look like as it walks? It’s fruitful. The Spirit of God, the Spirit Who is producing light in us, bears fruit in us: all goodness, righteousness, and truth. The fruit of consistency with God’s character, God’s standards, and God’s Word. The kinds of things that we should determinedly discover, constantly finding out whatever pleases the Lord (Ephesians 5:10).

Lightlings do works (Ephesians 2:10) that are fruit of the Spirit’s light in them. But those who are still darkness do works that have none of this fruit in them at all—unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). Everything that we do is either a fruit of light, or else it is an unfruitful work of darkness. So, when lightlings and darklings come across one another, the fruitlessness of the darkness is exposed by the fruitfulness of the light. 

This is an uncomfortable thing for those who are darkness. It’s hard to be someone in whom the miracle of new creation has not taken place, when everyone around you is popping out light-fruit. The temptation for those who are lightlings is to “tone it down” to make it easier for the darkness to be around them. 

But to tone it down is to stifle the fruit, to hide the light, and even to have some share in the darkness continuing to be unfruitful. Are we really willing to have a share in the kind of thing that it is even shameful to speak about (Ephesians 5:12)? 

Or, would you rather have a share in that exposing of darkness that Jesus uses to actually turn darkness into light (Ephesians 5:13)? 

Christ is that awakening, resurrecting, shining light described in Isaiah 51:17, Isaiah 52:1, Isaiah 60:1–3. And when He saves us, He turns us into lightlings that expose others as darkness Whom He may save and transform into light. 

So, don’t shrink back from bearing that light-fruit and the discomfort that can come to the darkness when it is exposed. Instead, since He has transformed you into light, SHINE!

Around whom are you embarrassed to shine by walking in goodness and righteousness and truth? Whom should you seek to please when around those people? How is this actually good for those people?

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Praising & Led by Jesus on Earth as They Do in Heaven (Family Worship in Rev 19:1–9)

For what do they praise God in heaven? Who leads them in this worship? Pastor leads his family in yesterday's "Hopewell @Home" passage. In these nine verses, we learn that in glory, glory, the God-Man leads worship as they praise His judgments, vengeance, faithfulness, and grace. We, too, rejoice to be led by Him in our assemblies on the Lord's Days, even as we walk through all of the events through which He displays these glories of His.

2020.10.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 20

Read 1 Samuel 20

Questions from the Scripture text: What does David want to know about in 1 Samuel 20:1? What do they disagree about in 1 Samuel 20:2-3)? What does Jonathan offer in 1 Samuel 20:4? What test does David propose in 1 Samuel 20:4-7? How does he challenge Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:8? How does Jonathan answer (1 Samuel 20:9)? What part of the plan does David ask about in 1 Samuel 20:10? Where do they go in 1 Samuel 20:11? What will Jonathan do if it is good news (1 Samuel 20:12)? Whom will Jonathan send if it is bad news (1 Samuel 20:13)? For what promise of kindness (covenant love) does Jonathan ask (1 Samuel 20:14-15)? Who cuts the covenant in 1 Samuel 20:16? What does he say? Who vows in 1 Samuel 20:17? Why? What details does Jonathan add to the plan in 1 Samuel 20:18-22? Who will be the one who comes now, in either case? What will he do? How will David know if there is safety (1 Samuel 20:21)? How will he know if it is dangerous (1 Samuel 20:22)? How does Jonathan refer to the covenant (1 Samuel 20:23)? How long does it take Saul to notice David’s absence at the New Moon feast (1 Samuel 20:24-27)? Whom does he ask about it? What does Jonathan say as David’s excuse (1 Samuel 20:28-29)? How does Saul answer Jonathan (1 Samuel 20:30)? What reason does Saul give Jonathan for why David needs to die (1 Samuel 20:31)? What does Jonathan ask in 1 Samuel 20:32, and how does Saul respond (1 Samuel 20:33)? Now how does Jonathan respond—what specifically grieves him, despite what Saul has just done (1 Samuel 20:34)? Which scenario from 1 Samuel 20:20-22 does Jonathan play out in 1 Samuel 20:35-40? What does David do in 1 Samuel 20:41? What do they both do? Who weeps more? In what condition does Jonathan tell David to go in 1 Samuel 20:42? Why does he say they are able to do this?

King Saul’s obsession with being in control actually ends up with him trying to kill (in 1 Samuel 20:33) the son for whose sake just moments earlier (in 1 Samuel 20:31) he had claimed to need to dispose of David. Not only has Saul lost control of the kingdom, but he has lost control of himself.

Thankfully, Scripture constantly teaches us that it is not the apparently powerful rulers of the earth who are actually in control. It is ultimately God’s covenant—His binding commitment of Himself to sinners whom He would save for Himself in Jesus—that is ultimately in control. It is what Yahweh is doing that matters, and what matters most about what we do is its being done before the face of Yahweh. The Lord who rules and overrules everything in accomplishing His plan of redemption is in control of history as a whole and of every particular moment.

David and Jonathan know this. Back in 1 Samuel 18:3, they had cut a covenant with one another, and we see throughout this chapter that while they navigate what to do about Saul, their great hope for both this life and the next is that Yahweh is in control.

In 1 Samuel 20:8, when asking Jonathan to help him figure out what kind of danger he’s in, David asks him to deal “kindly” (ḳessedly, “according to covenant love”) with him “for you have brought your servant into a covenant of Yahweh with you.”

In 1 Samuel 20:12, when telling David how he plans to help him, Jonathan says, “Yahweh God of Israel!” will witness (the fact that the Lord witnesses them is actually implied; the words “is witness” do not appear in the original).

In 1 Samuel 20:13, Jonathan calls for Yahweh to judge him if he is unfaithful, and blesses David with the blessing that Yahweh would be with him. And in 1 Samuel 20:14, he requests in return that David would show him the covenant love of Yahweh. So, in 1 Samuel 20:16, when Jonathan cuts a new covenant with David’s household, he says “Let Yahweh require it at the hand of David’s enemies.”

When expressing the accuracy or reality of what he is describing, in 1 Samuel 20:31 Samuel 20:21 Jonathan says, “as Yahweh lives.” And even before they find out what Saul is going to do, the way Jonathan expresses his being bound to David by covenant in 1 Samuel 20:23 is, “Yahweh be between you and me forever.”

So, when they discover David’s peril, and they are saying their goodbye, Jonathan says, “Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of Yahweh, saying, ‘May Yahweh be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever’” (1 Samuel 20:42).

David and Jonathan do what they have to do. They figure out the danger. They say the goodbye that is necessary to respond to it. But, it is ultimately before the face of their covenant God and in dependence upon their covenant God that they live. Not out of fear of Saul’s power and attempt at control, but out of confidence in the Lord’s power and absolute control.

Who seem to be the powerful controllers in our world? What are some legitimate precautions to take? Who is really in control, and what is He doing? How, and to whom, have you been bound to show covenant love before God and in dependence upon God?

Suggested songs: ARP80 “Hear, O Hear Us” or TPH426 “How Vast the Benefits Divine”

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

2020.10.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Revelation 19:1–9

Read Revelation 19:1–9

Questions from the Scripture text: Whose voice did the apostle hear in Revelation 19:1? What were they saying? What four things did they attribute to the Lord our God? For what specifically (Revelation 19:2) were they praising her? What had she done to the earth? What had she done to His servants? What do they praise the Lord for in Revelation 19:3? Who, specifically, fall down in Revelation 19:4? From where does the voice come in Revelation 19:5? What does He say to do? With what words does He further describe “His servants”? Which ones are to participate in this praise? What is the response to this command in Revelation 19:6? What does their combined voice sound like? For what characteristic of God are they praising Him? What do they urge one another to feel in Revelation 19:7? What do they urge one another to give to God? On what occasion—what has come? Who has made herself ready? How had she done this—what had been granted to her (Revelation 19:8)? What is the “fine linen” here? To whom does the angel in Revelation 19:9 speak? What does he tell him to do? Who are blessed? What does the angel say about this statement?

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Prayer of Confession all come from Revelation 19:1–9, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns.

The reign of king Jesus is glorious and certain. He sits on the throne already, and He has told us in advance about the defeat of those who oppose Him and His saints. 

But Jesus doesn’t just defeat the wicked who hate Him and His church. He judges them “with righteous judgments.” 

Revelation 19:2 is part of joyous worship and celebration, but it is a sobering reminder of the realities through which the Lord is bringing us in our lifetime. For the Lord Jesus to judge the kingdom of Satan, the harlot, for corrupting the earth, there must be a time in which the earth is corrupted. For the Lord Jesus to avenge upon the harlot the blood of the saints, there must be a time during which they are murdered by the harlot.

So, in passages like this one, the Lord reminds us that He is already sitting on the throne. The Judge who inflicts the final punishment and vengeance is the Lord who rules and overrules even now. But He is not a passive heavenly Spectator.

There’s a first person possessive pronoun in Revelation 19:5 that should thrill us: “praise our God, all you His servants.” The worship of heaven is being led not by someone from the multitude around the throne, but by Someone who sits upon the throne.

When we come to public worship services that we have learned (from places like Psalm 22, Hebrews 2, Hebrews 12, etc.) are personally led by Jesus from glory, part of what we are doing is entering into His holy triumph. Even in the age of a corrupted earth and the slaughter of saints, Jesus already reigns. And He reigns in the same wisdom and love and power that we will be praising when He judges the great harlot.

So, when we come to the public worship on the coming Lord’s Day, let us “shout, for the blessed Jesus reigns”!

Where do you see the corruption of the earth. How are believers being attacked, or even killed? What is Jesus doing right now, while that happens? What will He ultimately do about it in the end?

Suggested songs: ARP72B “Nomads Will Bow” or TPH411 “Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns”

Monday, October 12, 2020

Presuppositions of Isaiah 58:13–14: Gift of Gospel Joy, Not Demand of Legal Misery (2020.10.11 Sabbath School)

We continue through Ryan McGraw's helpful little book, "The Day of Worship," by considering those presuppositions with which the Spirit-inspired prophet expects us to read Isaiah 58:13–14. We find that a well-kept Sabbath is a special indicator of the gospel age, in which God's people know Him to be One Who loves to give joy (as opposed to demanding or enjoying our misery)

Fighting Sexual Sin, and All Sin, by Thankfulness and Reverence to God (2020.10.11 Evening Sermon in Ephesians 5:3–7)

The dear children of God ought not look like (and don't look like) the sons of disobedience. Those who are forgiven begin to think and speak and act in the way that is fitting for saints. And thanksgiving is a most fitting way of thinking and speaking, which thanksgiving also combats fornication, uncleanness, and covetousness.

2020.10.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 34

Read Genesis 34

Questions from the Scripture text: Whose daughter does Genesis 34:1 say Dinah is? Whom did she go out to see? Who saw her (Genesis 34:2)? What three ways is he described here? What three things does he do with her? What three further things does Genesis 34:3 mention about him toward her? To whom does he speak in Genesis 34:4? What does he ask? Who hears about Dinah’s defiling in Genesis 34:5? Why does he remain silent? Who comes to whom in Genesis 34:6? To do what? Who come in Genesis 34:7? How do they feel? What does verse 7 say is a disgraceful thing? What does Hamor say about Shechem in Genesis 34:8? What does he ask? For what else does he ask in Genesis 34:9-10? What does Shechem add in Genesis 34:11-12—what is he willing to do for what? Who answer in Genesis 34:13? What is the nature of their answer? What do they say that they cannot do (Genesis 34:14)? And why? What do they suggest is the one thing that needs to be changed for the two to become as one people (Genesis 34:15-16)? What leverage do they threaten if the Hivites do not get circumcised? Where do Hamor and Shechem go in Genesis 34:20? With whom do they speak? What do they tell them (Genesis 34:21-23)? What is the response (Genesis 34:24)? Who do what, when, in Genesis 34:25? What makes them able to do this? Whom do they kill in Genesis 34:26? What do they do? Who else come in Genesis 34:27? And what do they do? What seven things are specifically mentioned in Genesis 34:28-29? Who talks to whom in Genesis 34:30? Whom does he say they have troubled? Whom does he say is few in number? Against whom does he say they will gather? Whom does he say they will kill? Whom does he say they will destroy? What do they ask in Genesis 34:31?

What an ugly picture this chapter paints of Israel (Jacob) himself—the ultimate patriarch of that people who would bear his name. By the end of the chapter, he’s moaning at how dreadful this has all been for him (Genesis 34:30), but nearly everyone else has fared worse, and he’s done precious little to stop it. Dinah has been defiled by fornicating with Shechem. Hamor and Shechem (and the rest of the city) have been murdered. Simeon and Levi have fared even worse, having become murderers. The rest of the fathers of the tribes have become wicked deceivers and vile plunderers. An entire city of children and women have been taken captive as the slaves of these murderers and plunderers. And Jacob has done nothing to prevent any of it—only whined about it afterward as if he has been some kind of victim in all of this.

But what a glorious picture this paints to us of God and His Word.

Surely, this is one of the ways His Word shows itself to be genuine. It is unthinkable that Israel would include such an account of its father and of the fathers of the twelve tribes. But the Bible tells us the truth about these men. And about ourselves. There is no “power of positive thinking” in the Bible. Only amazing-er grace for amazing sinners.

And when we ask, “Can these really be the sort of people out of whom the Lord would build His church,” the answer is, “these are exactly the sort of people out of whom the Lord has built His church!” It is not unlike the ignorant, selfish, contentious bunch that were chosen for apostles, or that last and least of the apostles who got his start as being the most venomous opponent in the land against Christ and His church—the chief of sinners.

The more that we are amazed at our sin, the more that we are more amazed at God’s grace. 

When we first fled to Christ and trusted in Him, we knew ourselves to be hell-deserving and Him to have endured that Hell despite His righteousness. 

But, as we have walked with Him, we have often come up against places in His Word that brought us to a clearer understanding and deeper appreciation of how bad our sin is. For the believer, this is a godly sorrow that has multiple marvelous effects: we are more impressed with Christ’s righteousness, we are more dependent upon Christ’s atonement, we are more grateful for the perfect godliness to which we will finally be brought, and we are more cautious against that sin that remains.

Behold the mercy and patience and power of God—that He would save and bear with and perfect such sinners as His people are!

What is one way that you know your sin now, more than when you first came to believe in Jesus? What does this show you about God, and how does this help you trust and love Him more?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH413 “Revive Thy Work, O Lord”

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Amazing Sinners Saved by Amazing-er Grace (2020.10.11 Morning Sermon in Genesis 34)

God Himself is the only true Hero of the salvation story. Those whom He saves are rather amazing sinners, but salvation is the story of His even more amazing grace.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

2020.10.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 34

Read Genesis 34

Questions from the Scripture text: Whose daughter does Genesis 34:1 say Dinah is? Whom did she go out to see? Who saw her (Genesis 34:2)? What three ways is he described here? What three things does he do with her? What three further things does Genesis 34:3 mention about him toward her? To whom does he speak in Genesis 34:4? What does he ask? Who hears about Dinah’s defiling in Genesis 34:5? Why does he remain silent? Who comes to whom in Genesis 34:6? To do what? Who come in Genesis 34:7? How do they feel? What does verse 7 say is a disgraceful thing? What does Hamor say about Shechem in Genesis 34:8? What does he ask? For what else does he ask in Genesis 34:9-10? What does Shechem add in Genesis 34:11-12—what is he willing to do for what? Who answer in Genesis 34:13? What is the nature of their answer? What do they say that they cannot do (Genesis 34:14)? And why? What do they suggest is the one thing that needs to be changed for the two to become as one people (Genesis 34:15-16)? What leverage do they threaten if the Hivites do not get circumcised? Where do Hamor and Shechem go in Genesis 34:20? With whom do they speak? What do they tell them (Genesis 34:21-23)? What is the response (Genesis 34:24)? Who do what, when, in Genesis 34:25? What makes them able to do this? Whom do they kill in Genesis 34:26? What do they do? Who else come in Genesis 34:27? And what do they do? What seven things are specifically mentioned in Genesis 34:28-29? Who talks to whom in Genesis 34:30? Whom does he say they have troubled? Whom does he say is few in number? Against whom does he say they will gather? Whom does he say they will kill? Whom does he say they will destroy? What do they ask in Genesis 34:31?

What a grievous display Jacob and his family make of themselves in this passage. 

Dinah’s “the daughter of Leah,” but she wants to see “the daughters of the land.” What is the fashion of the day? What do they enjoy? How do they do things? Don’t look now, Israelite girl, but prince Shechem likes you—all the girls would kill to be in your place! 

Hamor is receptive toward his son (Genesis 34:4) and diligent in taking action (Genesis 34:6), and humble in manner of address (Genesis 34:8). He is well spoken (Genesis 34:9-10) and a good leader (Genesis 34:20-24).

But Jacob is none of these things. His fatherhood of Dinah in Genesis 34:1 sounds like merely a matter of genetics. He declines to speak (Genesis 34:5) not out of wisdom but leaving that entirely to his sons (Genesis 34:13). And even when the episode is over, he seems to care little for what has happened to the men of Shechem, or to his sons (morally), or to his daughter—in Genesis 34:30, he is obsessed almost entirely with his own plight and disadvantage!

The Lord tells us what to think of Shechem in Genesis 34:19, “he was more honorable than all the household of his father.” He may not know what “ought not to be done” (Genesis 34:7), but he is sincere as a Hivite can be in the love and affection (not violence) of Genesis 34:2-4Genesis 34:8Genesis 34:11-12Genesis 34:19.

And what the Lord tells us about Shechem is the opposite of what He tells us about the sons of Jacob. They are all wicked deceivers (Genesis 34:13) and expert and ruthless plunderers (Genesis 34:27-29), and two of them are even conscienceless murderers (Genesis 34:25-26, cf. Genesis 49:5–7)!

What a dreadful display of Dinah, and Jacob, and the sons of Israel! Sometimes the divine origins of Scripture are obvious. What people or religion would describe themselves this way in their origin story?

There are some portions of Scripture that shock us with how bad the church can be. In them the Lord does with us as He did with Ezekiel saying, “Do you this? I will show you yet more abominations than these!” And, He gives us a tour of the wickedness of the people.

When we think about it with respect to ourselves, we are amazed at what we are outside of Christ. We are humbled, so that we would not to think of any difference between us and the wicked as coming from ourselves. We are warned, so that we would not take lightly the potential for our remaining sin to spiral out of control. 

But we are especially to think about such passages with respect to our God. Behold His mercy, that He would set His love upon such wicked ones as these. Behold His patience, that He would bear with both individual believers and entire churches—here, the entire church in the world at the time!—and continue His saving work in history and the world. Behold His power, that He would overcome such sin in His people. With what marvelous grace the Lord works in and bears with His church!

Where are you taking your sin lightly? Upon whom are you in danger of looking down and despising? In what struggle with sin are you most encouraged by God’s patience and mercy shown here?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace!”