Each week we webcast Lord's Day Sabbath School at 10a, morning public worship at 11a, and p.m. singing and sermon at 2:30p (sermon at 3:30); and the Weds. Prayer Meeting at 6:30p

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

2020.06.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 85

Read Psalm 85
Questions from the Scripture text: For what purpose was this Psalm written (superscript)? What historical work had the Lord done (Psalm 85:1)? What did this mean that He had done toward His people’s sin (Psalm 85:2)? What did it mean that He had done toward His own anger (Psalm 85:3)? What do His people need again in their current situation (Psalm 85:4-5)? What do they need the Lord to do to them (Psalm 85:6a)? So that they can do what (verse 6b)? What do they ask to see (Psalm 85:7a)?  What do they ask to receive (verse 7b)? What do they hope to hear (Psalm 85:8)? From what do they hope that this will keep them? Of what are they confident (Psalm 85:9a)? Why is His salvation near (verse 9b)? What meet together in Psalm 85:10a? What kiss in verse 10b? From where do what things come in Psalm 85:11? Who gives all of this (Psalm 85:12a)? What, even, responds (verse 12b)? How, then, will He conduct Himself (Psalm 85:13a)? How, then, will we conduct ourselves (verse 13b)?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from Psalm 85 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with The Lord Will Come and Not Be Slow.

God has given us a great privilege to address Him in prayer. At the heart of this Psalm, in Psalm 85:4–7, is a raw, urgent crying out for mercy, for God to relent from His disciplinary hand upon His people.

The Psalm reflects upon how this request is in keeping with God’s glorious and gracious forgiving character (Psalm 85:1-3). But, apparently they have been turning back to folly (end of Psalm 85:8), and times of painful discipline have fallen upon them again.

But there is a greater privilege even than speaking to God. It is to have God speak to us. The transition point is when the psalmist says, “I will hear what God, Yahweh, will speak” (verse 8a).  Ultimately, what God speaks here (and, ultimately, what God speaks in Scripture as a whole) is the gospel: mercy and truth and righteousness and peace all being in agreement about saving sinners (Psalm 85:10-11).

This is the glory of Christ and His cross: that through Him and through sinners’ faith in Him, God can be both just and the justifier of sinners (cf. Romans 3:26). In this way, the righteous God can keep being righteous (Psalm 85:13a), while mercifully counting sinners righteous and then transforming them in the way of righteousness (verse 13b)
When do you avail yourself of the privilege of speaking to God? And of hearing Him?
Suggested songs: ARP85B “I’ll Hear What God, the Lord, Will Say” or TPH85 “You Were Pleased to Show”

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Church as the Multicolored Display of God's Glorious Wisdom (2020.06.28 Evening Sermon in Ephesians 3:10–13)

The multicolored glory that God displays by the church to the angels is also the ground of much boldness for Christians as they: address an unbelieving world, access the throne of grace, and assess their and other believers' troubles

God's Sustaining and Surprising Grace (2020.06.28 Morning Sermon in Genesis 29:1–12)

God sustains believers in doing more than they can do, as He works in their lives to do more than they can ask or think

Biblical Clarity on Race and Racism, Part 2 (2020.06.28 Sabbath School)

The second half of a lesson on race and racism. Accepting the idea that humanity is not one race dismantles the foundation for understanding and believing the gospel. Only the gospel can undo the hatred or vainglory that we sometimes call "racism," and justice in order to be just must follow God's law without reference or preference to any ethnicity.

2020.06.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 29:1–12

Questions from the Scripture text: To where does Jacob come in Genesis 29:1? What does he see in Genesis 29:2? What would happen there (Genesis 29:3)? What kinds of things is he asking about in Genesis 29:4-6? What does he tell them to do, once they have identified Rachel to him (Genesis 29:7)? Why do they say that they can’t (Genesis 29:8)? What happens in Genesis 29:9? What does Jacob do (all by himself?!), when he sees Rachel (Genesis 29:10)? How does he respond to her personally in Genesis 29:11? What does he tell her in Genesis 29:12? Whom does she tell? What does Laban do in Genesis 29:13? How does Jacob answer him? What, then, does Laban say to Jacob in Genesis 29:14?
Jacob has achieved his objective. By God’s grace, he has come to Padan Aram and seen the daughter, sheep, and flock “of Laban his mother’s brother” (Genesis 29:10, cf. Genesis 27:43, Genesis 28:2).

It’s pretty amazing. He began the chapter, literally just trying to lift his feet, and he may not know it but all of the things that are here referred to as being “of Laban his mother’s brother” will eventually be his.

God’s plan was greater than could be hoped for from Jacob’s abilities or their circumstances. And truly the same is often true for believers now. God’s plan was greater than Jacob could have imagined. And truly the same is often true for believers now.

But, even for all the emphasis on Laban’s daughter and Laban’s flocks, God’s plan was infinitely more than to give them to Jacob. Because what God was doing through Jacob was bringing Christ into the world to save sinners. Yes, in earthly things God does in fact do all things well. But, the ultimate story of His peoples lives are how He is bringing them to Himself through faith in Christ, and how He is using them to bring others to Himself through faith in Christ.
What about your current circumstances doesn’t seem promising? Who is using them for what?
Suggested songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious way”

Saturday, June 27, 2020

2020.06.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 29:1–14

Questions from the Scripture text: To where does Jacob come in Genesis 29:1? What does he see in Genesis 29:2? What would happen there (Genesis 29:3)? What kinds of things is he asking about in Genesis 29:4-6? What does he tell them to do, once they have identified Rachel to him (Genesis 29:7)? Why do they say that they can’t (Genesis 29:8)? What happens in Genesis 29:9? What does Jacob do (all by himself?!), when he sees Rachel (Genesis 29:10)? How does he respond to her personally in Genesis 29:11? What does he tell her in Genesis 29:12? Whom does she tell? What does Laban do in Genesis 29:13? How does Jacob answer him? What, then, does Laban say to Jacob in Genesis 29:14
We are coming into a section of Genesis in which God is going to do His people much good, especially through events that are rife with their own sin. This emphasis will continue all the way into the last chapter, where we see Joseph say, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

By making His appearance to Jacob immediately before these events, God underscores that what brings about the blessing of Jacob in the coming chapters is not Jacob's ingenuity or ability, but God's faithfulness, wisdom, and power. 

And it is important for us to see the emphasis here upon the sovereign providence of God, so that in the next passage we neither excuse or imitate the sin that He overrules for good.

That sovereign providence is the theme of this passage.

God moves His servant's feet... the heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Genesis 29:1 literally tells us that Jacob “lifted his feet.” It’s the only place the Hebrew Bible uses that language about going on a journey, and it underscores Jacob’s smallness and weakness. We are reminded by the name of the destination “the land of the people of the east,” and the interview in Genesis 29:4-6, that Jacob hasn’t been here before and isn’t exactly sure where he is going.

God strengthens His servant's hands... God strengthens him beyond expectation. The implication of Genesis 29:8 is that moving the stone is not a one-man job. But when Rachel arrives, Jacob matter-of-factly does it all by himself! Is the weakling of Isaac’s family as strong as multiple men of Haran? Did Jacob somehow employ cleverness to be able to do it? The text is silent on the “how” as far as Jacob himself goes. The intention is for us to see that God is with Jacob just as he had promised at Bethel.

God sustains His servant's heart... in the relief and gush of emotion, we see how great was the pressure upon Jacob through which God had carried him. Sometimes, in the moment, we put on a brave face. Or, perhaps, we are too preoccupied with the situation in front of us to reflect upon how it is affecting us psychologically and emotionally. For Jacob, this is really the first moment of relief since Mama slapped the goatskins on his arms, and it all comes gushing out in Genesis 29:11. In light of Genesis 28:10–22 and the other aspects of Genesis 29:1–12, we can see that the Holy Spirit is highlighting that it is the Lord who has sustained him and held him together.

God has worked similarly before (Isaac), and will work similarly again (Moses). It is useful to see parallels in God's other work, not because we should be always figuring out "what God is doing" in our situation, but because we should be remembering "what God Himself is like" in every situation, and that the God who was working then and is working now is doing it all as part of the same plan to glorify Himself in Christ through the gospel!

Believers go places in life where they are unfamiliar, and even where they end up in a different place than they intended. Believers come through situations in which they look forward and don’t know how they’re going to make it, then look back and don’t know how they could have. Believers are often under such pressure that only divine strength holds them together. Passages like this one encourage us on the front end by pointing us to the sovereign providence and grace of our Lord, and humble us on the back end, reminding us that to Him belongs all the praise.
In what current situation do you need to remember that the primary story in all of it is God’s wisdom and power, as He faithfully carries out His plan and promises in Christ?
Suggested songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH446 “Be Thou My Vision”

Friday, June 26, 2020

The Sovereign God Graciously Sustains His Saints (Family Worship in Genesis 29:1–12)

Pastor teaching his family tomorrow's Hopewell @Home lesson. In Genesis 29:1–12 the Lord piles on the evidence that Jacob is sustained by sovereign grace, so that we are prepared to see God's mercy in the passages that follow, without following His people's wicked examples.

True Blessedness and Warnings against False Blessedness (Family Worship lesson in Luke 6:20–26)

Pastor teaching his family tomorrow's Hopewell @Home Scripture. In Luke 6:20–26, Jesus addresses especially the gathering of His disciples, many of whom are genuinely converted and need to learn to rejoice in what God accomplishes for them in the sufferings of this life; but also, many of whom are unconverted, and must diagnose it by their dwelling much upon earthly comforts and pleasures, before they find themselves agonizing in Hell alongside the false prophets of old.

2020.06.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 6:20–26

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Jesus do with His eyes in Luke 6:20? Whom does He say are blessed in verse 20? Why? Who are blessed in Luke 6:21a? Why? Who are blessed in verse 21b? Why? Who are blessed in Luke 6:22-23? What kinds of things are done to them? Why? How should they respond? Why? Upon whom does Jesus pronounce woe in Luke 6:24? Why? Upon whom in Luke 6:25a? Why? Upon whom in verse 25b? Why? Upon whom in Luke 6:26? Why?
The objects of God’s blessing sound rather pitiable: poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, cast out as evil. So much for “your best life now”!

But, it’s important to note that it is specifically disciples who are blessed in such a condition. Because it is specifically disciples who have the kingdom of God, who shall be filled forever, who shall laugh forever, to whom everything is done for the Son of Man’s sake, and who have a great reward in heaven.

But, there is a danger among the disciples. Even members of Christ’s church may be those who do not have these things, who do not ultimately find their blessedness in Christ. If we find our blessedness in wealth, fullness, entertainment, and praise, Jesus has a message for us: “Woe unto you!”

Are we willing to listen to that? Now, it is true that each of us finds too much love for those things in our hearts. But believers are bothered by this—and even bothered that we are not enough bothered by this!

But, if our idea of blessedness is in the current circumstances described in Luke 6:24-26, rather than the future circumstances (and current blessedness!) described in Luke 6:20-23, then let us heed the warning, and instead embrace Christ Himself as our blessedness…

… lest we discover to our horror that though among the disciples in this life (cf. verse 20a), we shall not find ourselves among them in the next.
What current troubles do you have? What does God use to remind us that He Himself is our current and eternal blessedness? What use are you making of His means to do so?
Suggested songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH464 “The Beatitudes”

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Pastor leading his family in Thursday's "Hopewell @Home." In Ephesians 3:10–13, the apostle doesn't want the Ephesians to be disheartened by his trouble, because he considers it a glorious assignment to be involved in the display of God's multicolored wisdom even to the holy angels! Such troubles are not cause for timidity but rather boldness before men and confidence in our access to God.

2020.06.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 3:10–13

Questions from the Scripture text: What is being made known (Ephesians 3:10)? By whom? To whom? Where? According to what (Ephesians 3:11)? How was this purpose accomplished? What do we have in Christ (Ephesians 3:12)? Through what? What, therefore, does the apostle ask (Ephesians 3:13)? For whom is he suffering these troubles? So that they may have what?
Ephesians 2:6–7 told us that one of the reasons for seating us in the heavenly places was so that in the ages to come God would display (in us) the exceeding riches of His grace in Christ Jesus.

Now the apostle marvels at his own ministry, which isn’t just announcing among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8), but also making the church into a display unto the heavenly beings of the “multicolored” [literally translated] wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). Sometimes, we hear people talk about what a “watching world” sees, and we rightly desire to be light. But the darkness hates the light. Believers who worry too much about their image before men would do well to meditate upon how we are also God’s display of His own wisdom before the angels!

Hidden in God from all eternity (Ephesians 3:9a), and the reason for creating all things (verse 9b), the existence of the gospel church displays that the purpose of God in Christ Jesus our Lord has now been accomplished (Ephesians 3:10)!

It can be difficult to persist in serving the Lord under the ordinary ministry of the elders (Ephesians 4:11–16), in the battle of sanctification (Ephesians 4:17–24), and the complexities of relationships in the congregation (Ephesians 4:25–32) and to the world (Ephesians 5:1–14), especially when it gets down into the daily slog in marriage (Ephesians 5:22–33), parenting (Ephesians 6:1–4), and work (Ephesians 6:5–9).

So, the apostle sets before us the cosmic significance of our ordinary sanctification (both here in Ephesians 3:10 and later in Ephesians 6:10–20) to bring us back to Christ Himself, and the now-revealed mystery of God’s grace to us in Him. This—God’s plan from eternity to glorify Himself in Christ by being gracious to us—is what gives us not only boldness in life, but even confidence when we approach God Himself (Ephesians 3:12). It would do us good, in the midst of the daily grind, to reflect often upon the eternal plan that is being carried out in our serving God as beloved children.

This is why the apostle, rather than losing heart at his own trouble, has just rattled off 13 verses of amazement at the grace of God toward him in giving him this ministry. And this is why he doesn’t want them to be distracted by his troubles either. He knows their Christian affection for him, but what he wants them to see in his imprisonment is not  the light and momentary affliction but the eternal weight of glory that it is accomplishing (Ephesians 3:13, cf. Romans 8:18–232 Corinthians 4:15–18).

May the Lord bless our daily worship in our homes and weekly worship in the assembly, such that we may live our lives in this world with eyes and hearts that feast upon this glory of God in Christ that is the purpose of all things!
In what situation do you find it most difficult to remember that God has planned this for His glory in Christ? How will you go about reminding yourself of this from passages like this one?
Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Habitual Prayer Prepares Us to Pray at God's Command (2020.06.24 Prayer Meeting Lesson)

Since Scripture teaches us that suffering is a providential assignment to pray, we must be in a habit of true, biblical prayer in order to be ready for that duty when the time comes.
Pastor leading his family in Wednesday's "Hopewell @Home." 1Samuel 11 teaches us that even with an imperfect king, God's Spirit is what empowers him to lead God's people, whom that same Spirit gives the fear of the Lord, unto salvation. How much more, when our King is Christ!

2020.06.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read 1 Samuel 11

Questions from the Scripture text: Who encamps against whom in 1 Samuel 11:1? How do the men of Jabesh respond? What “condition” does Nahash propose (1 Samuel 11:2)? What do the elders of Jabesh request in 1 Samuel 11:3? What in particular are they looking for? To where do the people come in 1 Samuel 11:4? And how do those people respond? Who else hears in 1 Samuel 11:5? What does he ask? What happens to him in 1 Samuel 11:6? What effect does the Spirit have upon him? What does he send and say to Israel in 1 Samuel 11:7? With what result? What does he do to them in Bezek (1 Samuel 11:8)? How many are there? What word do they send to Jabesh (1 Samuel 11:9)? What do they, therefore, say to Nahash (1 Samuel 11:10)? How does the battle go in 1 Samuel 11:11? What do the people say to Samuel in 1 Samuel 11:12? What do they want to do? Why doesn’t Saul think this is a good idea (1 Samuel 11:13)? What does Samuel suggest instead? Where do they go, and what do they do to Saul before Whom (1 Samuel 11:15)? What else do they do before Yahweh?
This is a chapter of reversals. Yes, we see Nahash’s violence return upon his own head, but if we’ve been paying attention through Judges and 1 Samuel, we see the great difference that the Spirit of God (1 Samuel 11:6) makes. Saul becomes the anti-Saul. Gibeah becomes the anti-Gibeah. And a nation of those who, for generations, each did what was right in his own eyes, is invited back to Gilgal to roll away their reproach once more.

Saul becomes the anti-Saul. The man who was last seen emerging from his hiding spot among the baggage (cf. 1 Samuel 10:22) is now cutting two oxen into pieces and threatening all of Israel to do the same to theirs if they don’t show up to battle (1 Samuel 11:7). He’s taking charge, dividing the people into three companies in 1 Samuel 11:11 and overruling the united voice of the people in 1 Samuel 11:12-13.

Gibeah becomes the anti-Gibeah. What had been Sodom-in-Israel in Judges 19–21 is now called “Gibeah of Saul in 1 Samuel 11:4, a place from which righteousness and deliverance come, rather than wickedness and curse.

And a people who had been wandering spiritually and morally for generations, came back to the place where they had repented after the generation of wandering in the wilderness (cf. Joshua 5:1–12). Gilgal had gotten its name for the “rolling away” of the reproach of God’s people in circumcision, and now God’s prophet calls them back there to renew the kingdom (1 Samuel 11:14-15).

What filled the Israelites with the fear of Yahweh (1 Samuel 11:7), so that they might see the salvation of Yahweh (1 Samuel 11:13), and rejoice before Yahweh with His appointed sacrifices (1 Samuel 11:15)? What anti-Sauled Saul and anti-Gibeahed Gibeah? “The Spirit of God rushed [lit.] upon Saul” (1 Samuel 11:6).

And so it must be with us. Believers are no longer in Adam but in Christ, but we need to be conformed to the image of the new Man, the last Adam. How do we become anti-us, by comparison to what we were? The Spirit lusts against the flesh. It is the Holy Spirit of God, who accomplishes the work of God, giving us the fear of God, and the deliverance of God, and the joy of God! (cf. Galatians 5:16–25)
What work do we need the Spirit to do in us? By what means does the Spirit work?
Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Race and Racism, Part 1 (2020.06.21 Sabbath School)

Scripture emphasizes the unity of the human race in the one blood of Adam and the one image of God. The idea of "race" that we have is an artificial, human construct—and not a very good one at that. Overemphasizing lines of demarcation along ethnic or cultural differences takes "boundaries and times" implemented by God for redemption and turns them into occasions for hate and pride instead.

"The Grace, Depth, and Eternal Goodness of the Ministry of the Mystery of the Gospel" (2020.06.21 p.m. Exhortation from Ephesians 3:7–9)

Ministry in the gospel is an assignment by grace to show bottomless depths of an eternal goodness.

"The God Who Meets Us, and Is with Us, in Christ" (2020.06.21 Morning Sermon from Genesis 28:10–22)

God reveals Himself to believers in Jesus and is with believers in Jesus
Pastor leading his family in Tuesday's "Hopewell @Home." Revelation 21:1–8 teaches us that God is cleansing us from sin, because He's preparing us for a perfect world. You can listen to the entire family worship session at his Facebook page.

2020.06.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Revelation 21:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: Of what did John see new ones in Revelation 21:1? What had happened to the first ones? What was no more? What did he see coming down in Revelation 21:2? How was this city prepared? What did John hear in Revelation 21:3? What did it say about God’s dwelling? What does it say about His relationship with them? What will God do for them in Revelation 21:4? What four things will no longer exist? Why? Who speaks in Revelation 21:5? What does He say—Who makes all things new? What does He tell John to do? Why? Of what does Revelation 21:6a remind you (John 19:30)? What does the Lord call Himself? What will He give to whom? What does He call believers in Revelation 21:7? What will they inherit? What will be their relationship with God? What is the first thing that He calls unbelievers in Revelation 21:8? What other categories of sinners are named in verse 8? In what do they have their part? What does He call it at the end of the verse? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from Revelation 21:1–8 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Lo, What a Glorious Sight Appeared.

There’s a good—and glorious!—reason that God is making His people holy. It’s because He intends that we would be His tabernacle, His dwelling place, the center of His display of Himself and His presence in all of the new creation (Revelation 21:3).

Heaven and earth are passing away, and there will be new ones that replace them (Revelation 21:1). The sea won’t be returning (verse 1b), and there won’t be any need for the sun or moon (cf. Revelation 21:23Revelation 21:25Revelation 22:5). But most of all, the Lord will not permit anything that grieves either us (Revelation 21:4) or Him (Revelation 21:8) in this new creation.

One of the things that trouble the church these days is those who suffer from false identity. They have remaining sin, so they identify themselves with that sin, like the folks in v8. But that is not the identity of a Christian. The identity of a Christian is that of a forgiven, adopted child of God (cf. 1 John 3:1); and, though he hasn’t grown fully into it yet, a Christian will be pursuing that end, which is sure to come (Revelation 21:7, cf. 1 John 3:2–3).

Believers are already super-conquerors (cf. Romans 8:37), who are guaranteed by the bloodsealed promises of God that they will one day be described as those who have overcome (Revelation 21:7).

Sanctification is difficult, but these are the marvelous and effective beauty treatments by which the Lord is adorning us for Himself as a bride for her wedding day (Revelation 21:2), and when what we shall be is revealed, all of the new creation will gasp at the glorious beauty of the bride!

Ultimately, however, the glory is not the bride’s but Christ’s. Our great contribution to this final beauty and glory? Need. Thirstiness (end of Revelation 21:6). It is Christ Who is the beginning and the end. It is Christ Who gives of the fountain of the water of life. And He gives it without cost, so that even in this last day, when His work is done, and our sinfulness is gone, all who behold that glory may know that it is entirely from Christ!

Believers who struggle with their sin (and those who really ought to be struggling harder!) would do well to join Asaph in considering our end (cf. Psalm 73:13–28).

The Holy Spirit gives us this glimpse in Revelation 21, so that we will not think “in vain I have kept my hands clean,” but will say, “for me, what is good is to be near to God”; and thus, we will look forward to being rid of sin, and to God wiping away every tear from our eyes, and finally banishing death/sorrow/crying/pain (Revelation 21:4).

But most of all, we will look forward to, “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God […] He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:3Revelation 21:7).
When do you get glimpses of “your end”? What does that teach you to value most of all? How does it help you in the pursuit of “purifying yourself even as He is pure”?
Suggested songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH384 “Lo, What a Glorious Sight Appeared”

Monday, June 22, 2020

2020.06.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 28:10–22

Questions from the Scripture text: From where did Jacob go toward where (Genesis 28:10)? What time of day was it in Genesis 28:11? And what did he do? What did he see set on earth and reaching to heaven in Genesis 28:12? Who stood above Jacob in Genesis 28:13? How did He identify Himself? What did He promise to give to Jacob? What would God do to Jacob’s descendants (Genesis 28:14a)? What will God do through Jacob’s Descendant (verse 14b)? What personal promise does God make, in conjunction with these other promises (Genesis 28:15)? How long does God say that He will be with him? How long will this end up actually taking? What does Jacob say when he wakes up (Genesis 28:16)? What impact does this have upon him (Genesis 28:17)? What does he now do with his “pillow stone” (Genesis 28:18)? And what does he call the place (Genesis 28:19)? What does he vow to do (Genesis 28:21b)? Based upon the certainty that God will do what (Genesis 28:20-21a)? What does he propose as the essential elements of his religion (Genesis 28:22)? 
The Lord is always working in His people’s lives, whether they can see it or not. Other than the words to Rebekah about Jacob while he was still in the womb, we haven’t heard much explicitly from God up to this point in the account of his life. And, considering the way that everyone have been conducting themselves, it seems that they were rather forgetful of God, too!

Finally, when God’s sovereign providence overwhelmed Isaac in chapter 27, he seemed to begin to remember God, as borne out by the words of his second shot at the blessing in Genesis 27:3-4. But we still hadn’t seen any indications of spiritual life from Jacob.

Now, he’s gone about 60 miles in a day, taking nothing but his staff with him—literally running for his life from Esau. And God gloriously appears and declares that He is with Jacob. We know—from the teaching of the whole Bible, and especially from what Jesus says in John 1:51that it is specifically in Jesus Christ Himself that God is with him (and with us!).

Based upon his responses to this appearance of God, Jacob has a long way to go in learning how to respond to the presence of God. Here, he is more impressed by how dangerous God is to him as a sinner, rather than by how gracious God is as his Savior. Jacob exclaims, “Surely Yahweh is in this place, and I did not know!” The implication is that if he had known, he wouldn’t have profaned the place by doing something so mundane as sleeping.

Genesis 28:17 goes on to tell us that he was afraid. It’s entirely appropriate to tremble before God and to worship. But outside of stones of witness such as at Mizpah (Genesis 31:45–54) and Shechem (Joshua 24:27), there’s not much reason in Scripture to think that God approves of Jacob’s response. There’s no indication that God ever accepted the stone as His “house” (Genesis 28:22), and God forbids His people to worship Him by sacred pillars.

It’s safe to say that Jacob wasn’t impressed enough by the grace in God’s promise to him. We see this show up in his vow, “If God will be with me, etc…” These are the very things that Yahweh has just promised to him (Genesis 28:20-21, cf. Genesis 28:15)!

In truth, much of the Christian life is being appropriately impressed by the great holiness and glory of God—while being that much more impressed by the fact that He is gracious to us, and having confidence that He indeed is with us and keeping us wherever we go.
What evidence is there in your life that you are duly impressed with the dangerous holiness of God? And what evidence is there that you are just as impressed by, and confident in, God’s grace to you? What means has He given us to grow in each of these? 
Suggested songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH164 “God Himself Is with Us”

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Exploring Race and Finding Jesus (2020.06.20 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)


Hopewell Herald – June 20, 2020

Dear Congregation,

It’s amazing to think that the Eternal, Blessed, only True and Living God has made us in His image! Certainly, this is one of the truths that is most under attack in our day.

In our studies together, the Lord has woven together for us Genesis 28:10–22 (and God’s promise to be with believers) with Ephesians 2–3 (and God’s eternal plan to unite all believers as a dwelling place for Himself in Christ) and Revelation 21:1–8 (and God’s dwelling place being with man).

At the heart of each of these is Jesus Christ as our Immanuel, God-with-us.

The days of the fallen creation are numbered, because God’s “Plan-A” has always been to unite all things in Christ unto His glory in a New Heavens and New Earth.

Though we are one race in Adam, that race is now in rebellion against God and therefore hatred toward one another. But God has given Christ not only as our Immanuel, but also as the last Adam, in Whom there is a new, redeemed race.

Believers are reconciled to God and reconciled to one another. When we are commanded to love one another, we are not trying to produce something new, but rather embracing and living something that is already a reality in Christ, as we battle against and kill whom we were in Adam.

Tomorrow morning in the class (10 a.m.), we are beginning our mini-series on topics that arise out of current events. The first topic will be “race” and “racism,” which I hope will enable us to think and speak clearly at a time where the culture and much of the church either doesn’t know what to think or even is actively embracing utter nonsense.

More than that, I hope that we will see the great privilege that God has given us to be created in His image, and the even greater privilege of being redeemed and re-created into His image in Christ!

Looking forward to doing so with you,

Pastor

2020.06.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 28:10–22

Questions from the Scripture text: From where did Jacob go toward where (Genesis 28:10)? What time of day was it in Genesis 28:11? And what did he do? What did he see set on earth and reaching to heaven in Genesis 28:12? Who stood above Jacob in Genesis 28:13? How did He identify Himself? What did He promise to give to Jacob? What would God do to Jacob’s descendants (Genesis 28:14a)? What will God do through Jacob’s Descendant (verse 14b)? What personal promise does God make, in conjunction with these other promises (Genesis 28:15)? How long does God say that He will be with him? How long will this end up actually taking? What does Jacob say when he wakes up (Genesis 28:16)? What impact does this have upon him (Genesis 28:17)? What does he now do with his “pillow stone” (Genesis 28:18)? And what does he call the place (Genesis 28:19)? What does he vow to do (Genesis 28:21b)? Based upon the certainty that God will do what (Genesis 28:20-21)? What does he propose as the essential elements of his religion (Genesis 28:22)?
God mercifully goes with us through the paths of believers’ lives because He has determined from before time began that we would be His, and that He would be ours, in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Depending on where by Beersheba was his starting point, Jacob went approximately 60 miles to arrive at Bethel. Even with nothing but his staff (cf. Genesis 28:10), that’s a long way to go. No wonder he does ok with a stone for his pillow!

Here he is in extreme need, perhaps having gone that far that quickly because he is worried that Esau is following hot on his trail, but he soon realizes that there is a greater danger from someone that he can never outrun: God Himself.

So much unnecessary worrying is done, so much thoughtless and sinful living done, because we forget that we are always before God’s face.

It was silly of Jacob to think that the place itself was special. Although there would later be a school of prophets at Bethel, it would also be a place of much manmade religion, with one of Jeroboam’s calves being set up there. We have no indication from God that He accepted the stone in Genesis 28:22 as “His house.”

Surely, one of the great points that the Holy Spirit makes here is that we are always before the face of God. Indeed, notice that the first angels mentioned in Genesis 28:12 are the ones who are ascending, as if coming off of duty from tracking with Jacob all day long. There is an entire unseen world of God’s presence and power, of which we are ordinarily ignorant.

And Christ is right at the heart of it. In John 1:51, Jesus affirms to Philip that the glorious spiritual realm that he cannot see intersects with our everyday reality precisely in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We know that the promises in Genesis 28:13-15 are promises that have their “yes” and “amen” in the Lord Jesus Christ. And it is in Jesus Christ that the Lord never leaves us or forsakes us—for, He will not have finished doing what He spoke to Jacob until all the ransomed host are perfectly happy and perfectly holy in a New Heavens and New Earth where righteousness dwell. And it is in the Lord Jesus that the Lord Jesus is with us not only in these massive, eternal ways but also in the every day things like bringing us back home after a long journey (verse 15), and giving us food and clothing (Genesis 28:20).

So, let us not make ignorant and man-devised vows like Jacob does. But rather, trusting that God is with us for eternal and earthly blessing in the Lord Jesus, let us worship and serve Him in the ways that He has commanded in the Lord Jesus!
In what situation in your life right now, do you most need to be remembering that you are before the face of God, and to be clinging to and serving God in our Lord Jesus Christ?
Suggested songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH446 “Be Thou My Vision”

Friday, June 19, 2020

2020.06.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 6:12–19

Questions from the Scripture text: Where did Jesus go in Luke 6:12? To do what? For how long? Whom did He call to Himself when day came (Luke 6:13)? How many did He choose from among them? What did He call them? What are the names of these apostles (Luke 6:14-16)? Whom does verse 16 last name? What did he become? Then what did Jesus do with these 12 (Luke 6:17)? Who else were with them (Luke 6:17-18)? And what happened to them? What was the whole multitude trying to do (Luke 6:19)? Why? 
Our Lord Jesus here shows Himself to be our Model, our Master, and our Means.

The Lord Jesus is our Model. Though He is God, with both a fully human nature and also a gully divine nature, He is not presumptuous or proud in His humanity.

Behold what He does, as He is about to begin His church in earnest, selecting from among His disciples those whom He will call to be the apostles that are the foundation (layers) of His church.

Surely He is God. Surely, His choice cannot ultimately fail. And yet, He glorifies His Father by embracing the weakness and submission of His humanity, staying up all night in prayer. Now, it is against all reason to say that here the Spirit lays down a rule that we must always spend all night in prayer. Or, perhaps, that we must ever do so—though, surely, the church would be in a healthier place if it had men and women who did sometimes do so!

But, the Lord is an example to us of submission to God and dependence upon God, that all we do would be done with prayer for it, and the greater the duty before us, the more we should give ourselves to prayer for it. The Lord Jesus is our Model.

The Lord Jesus also shows Himself here to be our Master. It is He who chooses one disciple for one role, and not another for another role. Some complain that Christ has chosen only men for the offices of the church. But He is the Master, let Him choose whom He will! Will we also complain on behalf of all the men who are not chosen for their roles? God forbid!

He also asserts Himself over us by the title that He gave to their office: “apostles.” Sent ones. Emissaries who are so bound to His charge that they may only speak and act as He has given them to do, and their speech and actions in their office are received as if Christ Himself has done it. The Lord Jesus is our Master.

Finally, the Lord Jesus shows Himself here to be our Means. There are all manner of people, from all manner of places, with all manner of needs. Regardless of the type of person, Christ’s power is their answer. Regardless of where they are from, Christ’s power is their answer. Regardless of the type of need, Christ’s power is their answer.

Christ Himself is the means by which Christians live the Christian life. It is the power that goes out from Him that the Spirit is applying, as He grows us (and uses us) by the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ!

If it seems “over spiritual” to us to spend much time in prayer, let us shut our mouths about it and look to Him instead. Christ is our Model.

If our role in the church or in our family in this season of our life seems either overwhelming or inglorious, let us shut our mouths about it and look to Him instead. Christ is our Master.

And if we are tempted to go our own way—underemphasizing consistency and sincerity in the means of grace or even acting as free agents from His church and His officers—then let us arrest ourselves and come back to that which He has appointed. Christ Himself is the only Means by which we can live the Christian life.
What is your calling right now in your home? What is your calling right now in the church? How is Christ your Model, Master, and Means in those callings?
Suggested songs: ARP131 “My Heart Is Not Exalted, Lord” or TPH284 “Ye Servants of God”

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Living by God's Promises and Power instead of Our Plans and Pride (2020.06.17 Prayer Meeting Lesson in James 4:13–16)

The life of the ungodly is about the promises that he has made to himself and his plans to fulfill them. Prayer, however, is exactly the opposite. It lays hold of God's promises that He has made to us, and of His power and intent to fulfill them. It seeks not its own will, but "Thy will be done," and sees in itself not power but the need to receive every day and its bread as a gift from God.
The ministry of the gospel mystery was a GRACIOUS GIFT to Paul, in which he proclaimed the UNSEARCHABLE RICHES of Christ that come to us in the ETERNAL GOODNESS of God that aimed at the gospel from even before the creation.

2020.06.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 3:7–9

Questions from the Scripture text: Who had become a minister of the gospel (Ephesians 3:7)? According to what (cf. Ephesians 3:2)? By what? What does the apostle call himself in Ephesians 3:8? For what duty was this grace given him? How does he summarize the content of what he preaches among the nations? What stewardship (lit.) does this make all the elect to see (Ephesians 3:9)? Where was this mystery hidden, from when? Through Whom had God created all things in the first place? 
Ministry in the gospel is an assignment by grace to show bottomless depths of an eternal goodness.
First, ministry in the gospel is an assignment by grace. The apostle, who calls himself literally “the lesser least of all the saints,” says that he became a minister “according to the gift of the grace of God” (Ephesians 3:7), when “grace was given” (Ephesians 3:8) him.

Believers often think that if they tell others about Jesus, it will fall flat because of how unimpressive they are in the history of their character and conduct so far. They are correct about themselves, but that is part of the point. Ministry, as with Christ’s own righteousness which is our only standing before God, is a gift of the grace of God.

Believers also often think that they are “not up to” showing Jesus to others. But even the apostle could only proclaim Christ to others “by the effective working of [God’s] power” (Ephesians 3:7). We are not all called to be ministers of the gospel in the official (office) sense, but surely it is true that in all of your living for Christ in whatever part you do have, your part also is only by the gracious and “effective working of His power.”

Second, ministry in the gospel is an assignment to show bottomless depths. One wonders if we sometimes tune the apostle, because he always seems to be engaging in hyperbole. Our fault in that is that this apostle, even by the Holy Spirit, finds it quite impossible to exaggerate the riches of Christ to us.

Other things that have been described to us in glowing terms have always fallen short and disappointed. But here, it is the terms that must fall short. The apostle summarizes his job as to “preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” It is something that we may dive into, and explore—one unfolding world of wonder after another—but never reach (or even see!) the bottom. On the receiving end of such a ministry, we repeatedly and continually find ourselves saying, “Amazing! Wonderful! Our God, and His gospel of His Son is still more glorious than I had ever imagined!”

Finally, ministry in the gospel proclaims an eternal goodness. As the apostle shows to all “the stewardship of the mystery” (Ephesians 3:9), he traces back the chain of custody of this glorious news. Previously, he had said that “in other ages it was not made known to the sons of men” (Ephesians 3:5). Now, he goes back beyond “the beginning of the ages” and finds that this plan of salvation goes back into God Himself.

The picture is a glorious one, and we strain to consider it. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, sharing divine delight in a plan to save unto the Father, in the Son, by the Spirit—which will come of necessity through one people, but will be out of generosity unto all the people.

And it was this eternal plan to glorify God by grace that initiated creation itself, in which God “created all things through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:9). Everything that happens (including the full) from creation until now is so that redeemed sinners may see the glory of God in the unsearchable riches of the glory of Christ!

What gives meaning to our life, and significance to every role in which we find ourselves, is its participation in the plan and purpose of God in all of creation and history!
When do you ordinarily experience wonder at the riches of Christ? By what means has God appointed for you to experience that wonder, and to grow in your wonder at Christ? How will you be availing yourself of these opportunities to do so?
Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH377 “Join All the Glorious Names”

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

2020.06.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 10:17–27

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom did Samuel call the people in 1 Samuel 10:17? Where? Whose words was He delivering (1 Samuel 10:18)? What does He say that He has done? But what does He say that they have done (1 Samuel 10:19)? Despite what? By doing what? What does He now command them to do (end of verse 19)? Who had come near in 1 Samuel 10:20? Who was chosen? Who came near in 1 Samuel 10:21? What family was chosen? What man was chosen? What logistical problem did this present? Who solved this “game” of “hide and seek” in 1 Samuel 10:22? What did they observe about Saul, when they had retrieved him (1 Samuel 10:23)? What does Samuel ask the people in 1 Samuel 10:24? How do they respond? What does Samuel remind them in 1 Samuel 10:25 (cf. Deuteronomy 17:14–20)? Where did Samuel send the people? Where does Saul go (1 Samuel 10:26)? Who goes with him? Why? What does 1 Samuel 10:27 call the complainers? What is their complaint? What do they do/not do? How does Saul respond? 
The Lord’s people are a mess, but the Lord is gloriously merciful.

The passage reminds us that they have rejected their God in asking for this king (1 Samuel 10:19), but as the lot clearly falls down to Saul, everyone can see that God has picked for them just the “man” for the job (1 Samuel 10:24)? Israel’s a mess, but Yahweh is merciful.

They can’t even find the biggest guy in the land, but Yahweh Himself outs Saul from among the baggage (1 Samuel 10:21-22). Israel’s a mess, but Yahweh is merciful.

They can’t even agree (1 Samuel 10:27a) on this man, who’s the obvious (humanly speaking) choice (God’s, not theirs) for king. But in God’s providence, Saul isn’t just giant but also (for now) patient (verse 27b).  Israel’s a mess, but Yahweh is merciful.

Even though Saul doesn’t end up being what he ought to be, the Lord faithfully gives him His Word concerning kings (1 Samuel 10:25a, cf. Deuteronomy 17:14–20), and does use him to deliver His people (cf. chapter 11, 1 Samuel 10:11 Samuel 9:16). The Lord’s people are a mess, but the Lord Himself is gloriously merciful!

Now, we don’t aim to be a mess. The Lord is worthy of the best worship and service and obedience. But, we still are. Our life is not just a life of continually renewed faith, but also of continually renewed repentance. And through it all, the Lord always chooses what is best for us, always does by His strengthy what we can’t do in our utter weakness, always faithfully gives us the Word that we need to correct the sinners that we are.

So, let us keep turning to Him, because He is worthy. And He is able. And He is gloriously merciful!
In what situation are you most “a mess” right now? In what situations are the Lord’s people a mess right now? From this passage, what do you expect that the Lord is doing in all those situations?
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

2020.06.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Revelation 7:9–15

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom did the apostle see in Revelation 7:9? In what were they clothed? What were they crying out in Revelation 7:10? With what kind of voice? Who respond to this in Revelation 7:11? What do they do? What do they say in Revelation 7:12? Who asks John a question in Revelation 7:13? How does John answer in Revelation 7:14? Whom does the elder say they are? In what have they washed their robes? Where are they (Revelation 7:15)? What do they do? When? What does “He who sits on the throne” do? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from Revelation 7:9–15 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Blessing and Honor and Glory and Power.

When Jesus was talking to the woman at the well about the glorious worship that He was bringing into effect, He affirmed that the Jews worshiped what they knew, “because salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Now, we see the innumerable multitude of those clothed in white (Revelation 7:9)—the kind of what that can only be bleached in by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:13-14), saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Our Lord Himself, and His blood, is that salvation that came from the Jews, and this is the worship to which the Old Testament shadows looked forward. The heavens are resounding with this—what is the innumerable multitude doing? Crying out with a loud voice! The scene here is deafening to mortal ears!! “SALVATION IS OF OUR GOD WHO SITS ON THE THRONE, AND OF THE LAMB!!”

In fact, this is so much the subject of heaven’s worship that ALL the angels and their elders (we can see by Revelation 7:13-14 that these are angel elders) fall on their faces in response to the salvation-praise of the redeemed!

And what has our salvation gained for us? The privilege of serving Him day and night in His glorious presence—AND the privilege of His making His dwelling place among them. When we sing, Blessing and Honor and Glory and Power, we will be sampling the eternally glorious privilege that awaits us!
What is the first and great service that Christ’s servants render unto Him?
Suggested songs: ARP146 “Praise the Lord” or TPH381 “Blessing and Honor and Glory and Power”

Monday, June 15, 2020

2020.06.14 Evening Sermon—Ephesians 3:1–6, "Writers, Receivers, Revealer, and Substance of the Mystery of the Gospel"

Paul is amazed at the grace that has made him a writer of the mystery of the gospel, and the Ephesians recipients of the mystery of the gospel, by the Spirit Who is the Revealer of the mystery of the gospel about Christ, Who is the Center of the mystery of the gospel.

2020.06.14 Morning Sermon—Genesis 26:34–28:19 "Blessedness by Unstoppable, Unassistable, Unimprovable, Undeterrable, Unfakeable Grace"

In a passage where God is the only "good guy," the Holy Spirit proclaims to us that blessedness comes only in Christ, and only by unstoppable, unassistable, unimprovable, undeterrable, unfakeable grace.

2020.06.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:34–28:9

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does Esau take as wives in Genesis 26:34? What do Isaac and Rebekah think of them (Genesis 26:35; Genesis 27:46–28:2; Genesis 28:8)? Whom does Esau take as wife in Genesis 28:9? What was Isaac’s condition (Genesis 27:1–2)? What does he want to do for Esau (Genesis 27:4)? But what does he need Esau to do for him first (Genesis 27:3-4)? Who was listening (Genesis 27:5)? And what plan does she share with whom (Genesis 27:6-10)? What concern does Jacob have about this in Genesis 27:11-12? What does Rebekah suggest as a solution to that (Genesis 27:13)? Upon whose activity do Genesis 27:14-17 focus the most, as the plan is carried out? How do you know, from Genesis 27:18-24 that Isaac is actually pretty suspicious? What is Jacob even willing to do in his deceit in Genesis 27:20? With what things is Isaac quite pleased in Genesis 27:25-27? How does this relate to the first set of blessings in Genesis 27:28? What is the focus of the blessings in Genesis 27:29? How soon does Esau come in (Genesis 27:30)? Of what do Genesis 27:31-32 remind us? What are his and Esau’s reactions in Genesis 27:33-34? What does Esau now want (Genesis 27:35-36)? Why doesn’t Isaac think this is possible (Genesis 27:37-38)? Where does Isaac bless Esau to dwell (Genesis 27:39)? What relief does Esau’s blessing in Genesis 27:40 occasionally provide from Genesis 27:29? What does Esau plan to do when Jacob dies (Genesis 27:41)? What is Rebekah’s new plan for this situation (Genesis 27:42-45)? How does she initiate the new plan in Genesis 27:46? What does Isaac do, openly and conscientiously, in Genesis 28:1? Where is he sending him? What does he call God in Genesis 28:3? From where is the language of this blessing taken (Genesis 28:3-4, cf. chapters 12, 17, 22, 26)? How does Esau try to increase his own blessing in Genesis 28:6-9
In our previous look at this passage, we noted that God’s blessing comes only by that grace in Christ which is unstoppable, unassistable, unimprovable, and unfakeable.

We also here have a glimpse of how God’s grace in Christ is unlosable.

Isaac’s sin against God is great. He directly goes against God’s Word. We all know who Esau is, so when Genesis 27:1 says, “his older son,” it reminds us that this is directly against the words of Yahweh in Genesis 25:23, “the older shall serve the younger.”

Indeed in Genesis 27:29 when Isaac thinks that he is blessing Esau, he seems to have this directly in mind when he says, “Be master over your brethren, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you.”
This is a shocking rebellion from a man who had begun so well!

But what is more shocking is God’s grace to him. Through Rebekah’s new plan to send Jacob out of Esau’s reach, God gives His sinning servant another chance to bless his son. Isaac has not lost his redemption, because that is something that is planned in Christ and secured in Christ, and can never be lost.

But God’s unlosable grace also super abounds to give him another opportunity to serve the Lord conscientiously in the blessing of his younger son. This time, Isaac’s focus is not on reversing God’s words in Genesis 25, but in reinforcing God’s words in the blessing of Abraham. And God heard him, and fulfilled that blessing in bringing Christ into the world!

How marvelous is our God! Not only is His grace unlosable, because it is in Christ; but, He often gives us second and third and fifty-sixth chances to serve Him, as we repent from our blackslidings into sin!

When you see your sin, cling to Christ, in whom God’s blessing by grace is unlosable. And, coming in repentance, seek from this God of grace that He might yet use you in His mission to bring His redemption in Christ to all to whom it belongs!
How have you stumbled? Did you repent? What new opportunity do you have to serve?
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

Saturday, June 13, 2020

When the Foundations Are Destroyed, What Can the Righteous Do? (2020.06.14 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)


Hopewell Herald – June 13, 2020

Dear Congregation,

When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? Psalm 11:3–4 asks and answers this timely question: the Lord is on His holy throne.

In a different way, our (much longer than usual) passage for tomorrow morning’s sermon does the same. It holds before us God’s unyielding determination to bless all who belong to Him through Christ. Whatever else occurs, God’s grace is unstoppable, unassistable, unimprovable, unlosable, and unfakeable.

Only those who have this confidence can be freed from fear of circumstances and failure to respond to God in thanksgiving and love by a life of zealous service unto Him, and a life of zealous love and service unto brother and neighbor.

So the first thing, as always, is to get a proper view of our God Himself in His worship!

Looking forward to doing so with you,

Pastor
God's unstoppable, unassistable, unimprovable, unlosable, unfakeable grace overcomes the weakness and wickedness of His saints.

2020.06.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:34–28:9

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does Esau take as wives in Genesis 26:34? What do Isaac and Rebekah think of them (Genesis 26:35; Genesis 27:46–28:2; Genesis 28:8)? Whom does Esau take as wife in Genesis 28:9? What was Isaac’s condition (Genesis 27:1–2)? What does he want to do for Esau (Genesis 27:4)? But what does he need Esau to do for him first (Genesis 27:3-4)? Who was listening (Genesis 27:5)? And what plan does she share with whom (Genesis 27:6-10)? What concern does Jacob have about this in Genesis 27:11-12? What does Rebekah suggest as a solution to that (Genesis 27:13)? Upon whose activity do Genesis 27:14-17 focus the most, as the plan is carried out? How do you know, from Genesis 27:18-24 that Isaac is actually pretty suspicious? What is Jacob even willing to do in his deceit in Genesis 27:20? With what things is Isaac quite pleased in Genesis 27:25-27? How does this relate to the first set of blessings in Genesis 27:28? What is the focus of the blessings in Genesis 27:29? How soon does Esau come in (Genesis 27:30)? Of what do Genesis 27:31-32 remind us? What are his and Esau’s reactions in Genesis 27:33-34? What does Esau now want (Genesis 27:25-36)? Why doesn’t Isaac think this is possible (Genesis 27:37-38)? Where does Isaac bless Esau to dwell (Genesis 27:39)? What relief does Esau’s blessing in Genesis 27:40 occasionally provide from Genesis 27:29? What does Esau plan to do when Jacob dies (Genesis 27:41)? What is Rebekah’s new plan for this situation (Genesis 27:42-45)? How does she initiate the new plan in Genesis 27:46? What does Isaac do, openly and conscientiously, in Genesis 28:1? Where is he sending him? What does he call God in Genesis 28:3? From where is the language of this blessing taken (Genesis 28:3-4, cf. chapters 12, 17, 22, 26)? How does Esau try to increase his own blessing in Genesis 28:6-9?
Through the sinful chaos in this passage the Spirit teaches us that God’s grace to us is unstoppable, unassistable, unimprovable, and unfakeable.

First, God’s grace is unstoppable because it comes by His own plan and power.  Nothing that Isaac could come up with can stop Genesis 25:23 from coming true. Joseph’s brothers cannot stop God from blessing and using him. Satan himself cannot unconvert Job or prevent Jesus from completing His mission to save. In fact, everything they do ends up being used by God to carry out His gracious plan! The same is true with God’s gracious plan to save each believer, and to glorify Himself in each of their walking with Him.

Second, God’s grace is unassistable, because He doesn’t need our help. Rebekah goes into full problem-solving mode, trying to figure out how to trick Isaac into blessing Jacob instead. How ridiculous! The Lord had made a promise concerning Jacob, of which she could have reminded her husband (see the previous paragraph!), and it was impossible for this promise to fail.

Her unbelieving conclusion that God’s plan needed a little help led not only to her own sin, but also to Jacob’s sin (which curse she of course cannot take upon herself!), even to the point of the blasphemy in Genesis 27:20, attaching the name of Yahweh to a lie!! When we jump into pragmatism as a form of problem-solving, rather than seeking to follow strictly according to what God requires of us in His Word and leaving the result to Him, we open ourselves to all sorts of well-intended but ultimately evil actions.

Third, God’s grace is unimprovable. Since Isaac tried to makes Esau’s blessing over-against Jacob’s, there was no real blessedness left for Esau, once the two of them realized what had happened. The blessing of God in Christ is so great, that once it is given, what more can be left? In fact, it includes such great defeat of all of His enemies that the only hope of being blessed is to be included in His own blessing. How great is God’s unimprovable grace to us in Christ! Indeed, when God gives Isaac a second chance, and he intentionally and conscientiously pronounces a blessing on Jacob in Genesis 28:3–4, he uses words from chapters 12, 15, 17, 22, and 26 that remind us that truly the heart of this blessing is that God Himself is giving Himself to Abraham and all who are with Abraham in his faith in the promised Seed, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, God’s grace to us is unfakeable. We almost feel badly for Esau as Isaac tries to come up with a blessing for him: “you’ll live outside where all the good stuff that ultimately belongs to your brother is, and every once in a while you’ll get tired of him and successfully rebel, only to bring upon yourself the curse at the end of Genesis 27:29” (Genesis 27:39–40). We almost feel badly for Esau as he realizes that Hittite wives are the very opposite of the path to blessing, so he hurriedly goes out and gets himself an Ishmaelite too (Genesis 28:9). But any attempt to imitate blessedness apart from Christ cannot produce genuine blessedness. His blessing is unfakeable, and we need to pursue belonging to Christ: first, last, and everywhere in-between. In such a life, everything becomes blessing. Without such a life, nothing can be blessing.

Glory and praise and thanksgiving and love and service be unto our God of unstoppable, unassistable, unimprovable, unfakeable grace!
Of whose grace are you jealous? In what situations might you not be trusting that God is already bringing good out of it? In what parts of life are you more focused upon increasing what good the Lord gives you, than you are upon enjoying Him and His goodness in His good things? 
Suggested songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH446 “Be Thou My Vision”

Friday, June 12, 2020

The Christ-hating Pharisees saw the Sabbath as a burden to be borne. But the sinner-loving Lord demonstrated that His Day is a blessing, and His Word has in it the power to enable us to keep His blessed commands!

2020.06.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 6:6–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What day of the week was it in Luke 6:6? Where did Jesus go, and what did He do? How was one of the men there afflicted? Who were watching Jesus closely (Luke 6:7)? What did they expect that He might do? What did they want to do? What did Jesus know (Luke 6:8)? What did He tell the man with the withered hand to do? What did Jesus ask the scribes and Pharisees in Luke 6:9? What does He do first in Luke 6:10? Then what does He do? How do the scribes and Pharisees respond in Luke 6:11a? What do they discuss?
Perhaps it is because his gospel most particularly targets the Gentiles, who had not previously had God’s Word and its instruction about the Sabbath, that Luke focuses so much upon our Lord’s keeping of the Sabbath (His custom of always attending public worship on the Sabbath), and the glorious development brought to our Sabbath-keeping by His coming and redemptive work.

In Luke 6:1–5, the Spirit emphasized to us that the Sabbath is kept holy by spending it in fellowship with the Lord of the Sabbath, on His day—that the Lord’s Day is especially for communing with Jesus. At one point, that meant that if He was in a grainfield, you should be in that grainfield. Now that He sits on the throne of glory, it means that we ought to spend the day especially in the means by which He most draws near to us, and by which He gives us to draw near to Him—especially that holy assembly that He leads from His seat in glory!

Now in Luke 6:6–11, the Spirit focuses not so much upon the content of the day as upon the pleasantness of it. Because Jesus is the ever-blessed God, who gives Himself to us to bless us, and gives all other blessing to us, we must see the Lord’s Day as a day in which He is seeking to do us the greatest good, and in which we should rejoice both to receive that good and be an instrument by which it comes to others.

The scribes and Pharisees began this particular Sabbath day looking for an opportunity to accuse Jesus (Luke 6:7) and ended it looking for an opportunity to harm Jesus (Luke 6:11). But they knew our Redeemer to be One who was always looking for an opportunity to do good to others. They knew that the sight of a man with a withered hand might be something that Jesus’s compassion refused to resist (Luke 6:6-7a, cf. John 11:5–6, John 11:14–15John 11:21John 11:32). 

The Pharisees saw the Sabbath as a burden that must be borne to show thee greatness of their zeal. But the Scripture teaches that the Sabbath is a gift that has been given to dispense God’s great goodness to us. Building upon what He had revealed about Himself on the previous Sabbath in Luke 6:1–5, Jesus now puts to them and to us the question: “just what do you think I, the Lord of the Sabbath, created it for in the first place? To heal or to harm, to save or to kill?”

If we have Pharisaical attitudes toward others that spend the Lord’s Day looking for reasons to accuse them, let us grieve to observe that this goes hand in hand with the Pharisees’ attitude toward the Lord of the Sabbath—viewing it as a burden that He has lain upon us rather than one of the greatest gifts that He gives us in this season of our walking with Him.

When we desire for others to keep the Lord’s Day well, let us do so as those who see the Lord’s law as something magnificently pleasant, and who wish for others to enjoy this pleasantness too!
How can we learn the pleasantness of keeping the Lord’s Day as something sacred and holy? What will our attitudes about it be like, the more we grow in this? How might we describe it to others, or encourage them to keep the day, if this is how we feel about the 4th commandment?
Suggested songs: ARP92 “It’s Good to Thank the Lord” or TPH153 “O Day of Rest and Gladness”

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Resisting the Devil by Drawing Near unto God in Prayer (James 4:7–9, 2020.06.10 Prayer Meeting Devotional)

The devil flees when we resist him by submitting to God and drawing near to God. In drawing near, we must turn away from those sins and disproportionate pleasures that have occupied our hands, hearts, and minds. But, when we come thus in humiliation, we find that rather than shrinking back from us in condemnation, God Himself draws near to us in grace!
We ought to rejoice in whatever stewardship God gives us in His Spirit's glorious work of bringing people from all nations to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

2020.06.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 3:1–6

Questions from the Scripture text: Whose prisoner does the apostle call himself in Ephesians 3:1? For whom? How does the apostle describe his call to be apostle to the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:2)? What did God make known to the apostle (Ephesians 3:3)? How did God make it known to him? How does he expect the Ephesians to learn it (Ephesians 3:4)? When was the mystery of Christ not made known to whom (Ephesians 3:5a)? And by Whom has it now been made known to whom (verse 5)? Who would be heirs (Ephesians 3:6)? With whom and of what? Of what would they be partakers? Through What?
This passage brings up (again, cf. Ephesians 1:9) the mystery of the gospel—not a spooky secret that we have to figure out, but rather a deep truth that we can only know by God’s revealing it to us.

It is this glorious mystery that is going to provoke the apostle first to prayer in Ephesians 3:14, and then to exhortation in Ephesians 4:1, ff. The apostle begins to say, “for this reason,” and he will pick up that line of thought again in verse 3:14 with “I bow my knees…” And the apostle begins to say, “I, the prisoner of Christ Jesus,” which he will pick up again in verse 4:1 with, “beseech you to walk.

But before he gets to those things, he is going to reflect upon how marvelous it is that he even knows this mystery, can pray this prayer, and can make these exhortations. In these six verses, he presents to us himself as the writer of the mystery, all (and especially Gentile) believers as the receivers of the mystery, the Spirit as the revealer of the mystery, and Christ as the revealed One in the mystery.

Paul is the writer of the mystery. How glorious! At one point, his life-mission was to make into his prisoner anyone who honored Christ as Lord. Now, he is content to be made a prisoner for the sake of Christ (Ephesians 3:1), who is his Lord. At one point, he despised the Gentiles as worthless. Now, he preaches the gospel by which the Lord gathers them in as His treasured people. What glorious grace God has shown to Paul!

And the Gentiles are the receivers of the mystery. God is now telling them with full clarity what He had previously told only in darker shadows even to the Jews. Paul wrote briefly of it in Ephesians 1:9, but now he is opening up this wonderful truth that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, even the Gentiles are of the same body, and even the Gentiles are partakers of the promise. What God began to promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 has turned out to be a glorious blessing indeed upon all the nations!

Further, the apostle tells us of the Spirit, Who is the Revealer of this mystery that he is writing and the Gentiles receiving. It is God the Spirit Who has revealed the mystery to the apostle (Ephesians 3:3) and God the Spirit Who has revealed the mystery to the other apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:5), and by implication God the Spirit Who is revealing the mystery through what Paul is writing (verse 3). Paul knew that his letters, which were to be read in the churches just as the other Old Testament writings, were Spirit-inspired Scripture. What a glorious thing it is to have our copies of the written Word of God, the revelation of the mystery of God, by the very Spirit of God!

Finally, the apostle writes of Him who is revealed in the mystery. Many focus on the Gentiles as the “content” of the mystery. And it is a wonderful discovery that the Spirit here makes to us of just how abundant is the world-wide international spread of God’s redemption in the gospel age. But, the mystery itself is the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:4)—that the promise is partaken of in Christ through the gospel (Ephesians 3:6). In this sense, the mystery is something new and glorious to the Jews, even as much as to the Gentiles. God Himself has become our Redeemer; God Himself is the cornerstone of His own temple, having become a Man in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And, it is by virtue of the fact that salvation comes through union with Christ that we become “fellow heirs, of the same body.” Salvation is through Christ, Who is God in the flesh, come to unite us to Himself, in Himself. Hallelujah!

No wonder that, before getting on to how this makes him pray, and how this calls for us to live, the apostle first spends a little time, urging us to remember and reflect upon the glorious mystery of the gospel!
Why is it amazing that your people (whomever they are) would be included in the church? Who is speaking to you when you read the Bible, or hear it truly preached? In Whom are you redeemed?
Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH87A “Zion, Founded on the Mountains”

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Lord shows Saul, and us, that He has appointed His servants for their part in His plan to redeem His own inheritance. And they can carry out their role only by His Spirit not their strength, and only in obedience to His Word not their supposed wisdom.

2020.06.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 9:25–10:16

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Samuel and Saul do after the feast at the high place (1 Samuel 9:25)? Where was Saul staying, and what happened the next morning (1 Samuel 9:26)? What did they do with the servant and why in 1 Samuel 9:27? What did Samuel do to Saul in 1 Samuel 10:1a? What did he say Yahweh had done, and what does he call Saul (verse 1b)? Whom does he tell him he will find where (1 Samuel 10:2)? What will the two men say his dad is worried about? Then whom will he meet where (1 Samuel 10:3)? What will they have with them? What will they give him (1 Samuel 10:4)? Then to which hill will he come (1 Samuel 10:5)? Whom will he meet there? What will they have? What will they be doing? What will happen to Saul (1 Samuel 10:6)? Then where must Saul go (1 Samuel 10:7-8)? Who will meet him there? When? To do what? What did God give Saul in 1 Samuel 10:9a? What happened (verse 9b)? What did Saul do in 1 Samuel 10:10? And what did those who knew him think of this (1 Samuel 10:11-12) What did they ask? What Saul do after prophesying (1 Samuel 10:13)? What did Saul’s uncle ask him in 1 Samuel 10:14? How does Saul answer? What else does Saul’s uncle ask in 1 Samuel 10:15? What does Saul tell him (1 Samuel 10:16)? What doesn’t Saul tell him?
In the strange account of Samuel’s anointing, the Lord teaches us that He works by His Spirit and Word.

God works by His Spirit. That’s the point of all of this strangeness. It must have been odd to the servant (1 Samuel 9:27) when Saul returned maybe dripping with oil, and definitely smelling “anointed.” But Saul was meant to connect that anointing with the most astonishing event of his day: when Saul the shy guy suddenly became a prophet at the center of attention.

Samuel had told Saul that these events were going to happen in details that ordinary huckster fortune-tellers would never have included. But he included one thing that could not be verified by observation: that it would be the Spirit of Yahweh (1 Samuel 10:6) Who would produce that which confused all who observed or heard it (1 Samuel 10:11-12). What they couldn’t guess, Saul definitively knew: this was only by the Spirit of God, wielding the power of God.

In our baptisms, when the water is poured upon us, the Lord tells us the same thing about our coming to faith, or growing in grace: this is only by the Spirit of God, wielding the power of God. Saul was to reign as king and deliver God’s people, not by Saul’s might or Saul’s power, but by God’s Spirit (cf. Zechariah 4:6).

But God the Spirit most often exercises His power not in showy displays but ordinary obedience. Our flesh tends to prefer the scintillating over the steady and faithful. So, it is very important that we receive the message of this text about how God honors His Word. God’s Spirit especially works by His Word.

Saul is about to be king over the most important (though not the most impressive) nation on earth. But he is to operate in patient obedience to what comes out of the mouth of the prophet. God will now be ruling His people by a king, but He will be ruling His king by His Word through His prophet (1 Samuel 9:271 Samuel 10:8).

Samuel could have given Saul the subsequent instructions right then. But, God wanted Saul to experience seven days of waiting (verse 8), seven days’ worth of feeling in every fiber of his being that he needs the Word of God and must submit to the prophet of God, if he’s really going to live and rule by the power of God from the Spirit of God.

Our Lord Jesus, who is our righteousness, did this perfectly. He waited upon His Father’s pouring out His Spirit to begin His public ministry, and then He did only that which came at His Father’s initiative and Word (cf. John 5:19, John 8:29, John 12:49). He constantly referred with complete submission to God’s Word, and often said or did things “so that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”

We who would live in union with this Christ, who would live by God’s power as wielded by God’s Spirit, must do so through steady and faithful obedience to God’s Word!
Where do you find God’s words, as you seek to live by God’s power? What are you doing in order to know His Word better? What are you doing to live by what you know?
Suggested Songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH429 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

2020.06.08 Session Meeting Digest

Hopewell Session Meeting Digest
Stated Meeting, June 8, 2020
The Session is grateful for your prayers, service, and encouragements. The following are some highlights of important items and actions from this month’s regular (stated) meeting.

▪The elders continue to study the Scriptural teaching on delighting in the Lord in and by means of His day. Each month, Elder Patterson assigns to each elder a portion of that month’s chapter in the book, The Day of Worship. This month’s chapter was on thinking through the idea of “Legalism” in connection with the 4th commandment and the Christian life: