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

Saturday, August 15, 2020

2020.08.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 31:36–55

Read Genesis 31:36–55

Questions from the Scripture text: How did Jacob feel (Genesis 31:36)? What did he do to Laban? What does he ask? What does he challenge Laban to do in Genesis 31:37? How long has Jacob been with Laban (Genesis 31:38)? What did the female livestock not do? What did Jacob not do? Why did he have to bear the loss of one torn by beasts (Genesis 31:39)? What did Jacob go through for all this (Genesis 31:40)? How long did Jacob work for Laban for what (Genesis 31:41)? What has Laban done? How does Jacob explain that Laban is not sending them away empty-handed (Genesis 31:42)? What two things has God seen? What does Jacob say this explains? What does Laban now claim about the daughters (Genesis 31:43)? What does he now claim about the children? What does he claim about the flock? What does he now propose in Genesis 31:44? What does Jacob set up in Genesis 31:45? What does he tell everyone to gather in Genesis 31:46? What Aramean and Hebrew name do Laban and Jacob give the rocks (Genesis 31:47-48)? What else does Laban call it (Genesis 31:49)? Why? Whom does he call upon to watch between the two of them? What does he chare Jacob not to do (Genesis 31:50)? To what does Laban now call attention in Genesis 31:51? What other function does it receive in Genesis 31:52? Whom does Laban call upon to judge in Genesis 31:53? What does he call Him? By what name does Jacob swear? What two things do they then do in Genesis 31:54? What does Laban do in the morning (Genesis 31:55)?  

Laban was not after his household idols so much as he was after everything that Jacob had (Genesis 31:43). But God had protected Jacob, so now Laban is reduced to having to establish a covenant with Jacob; otherwise, he would end up harming his own daughters and grandchildren (Genesis 31:44). 

Laban has encountered a god who is far greater than his own, and he immediately makes use of this knowledge, calling Yahweh as witness as they swear a covenant with one another. Although Laban continues to be a polytheist (‘judge’ in Genesis 31:53 is plural—“the god of Nahor” is not Yahweh!), the solemnity of such an oath is not lost on Jacob, who swears only “by the Fear of his father Isaac.”

God has demonstrated almighty power in protecting His people. When we whom He has saved take an oath before Him and in His Name, it is the most profound of promises. We are enabled to do so, because we are trusting Him with what comes of us. Jacob is an example of that here. Laban has deeply wronged him (Genesis 31:41), but the God of Abraham has done him good (Genesis 31:42). 

The godly should be the quickest to make peace, and the most reliable with whom to covenant.

What promises have you made before God and man? How are you doing at keeping them? How can you?

Suggested songs: ARP15 “Within Your Tent, Who Will Reside?” or TPH22B “All You That Fear Jehovah’s Name”

Friday, August 14, 2020

Worshiping God by His Means (2020.08.14 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

 Hopewell Herald – August 14, 2020

Dear Congregation,

Many of you are in the neighborhood of 1Samuel 4, as you read via the M’Cheyne plan. This passage has an important application for a congregation who are committed to the means of grace because they are the means by which Christ grows us in Himself by His Spirit.

The ark of the covenant of God (v4, etc.) was a wonderful gift. It contained covenantal items (the tablets of the law, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s budded rod). But, more than that, it resided in the Holy of Holies, and its lid was the mercy seat, and the cloud that arose when the high priest put the fire in his incense shovel mimicked the glory cloud. Indeed, as they say in v4, it was the place where Yahweh communicated Himself to them, “Yahweh of hosts who dwells between the cherubim.”

But there is a danger of confusing the Lord Himself with the means by which He communicates Himself to us.

Reading, preaching, praying, singing, the Supper, the Lord’s Day itself. All of these are means by which the Lord communicates Himself to us, conforms us to Himself, and delights us in Himself.

But it is also possible to treat each one the way that Israel treated the ark. As if the means of God’s grace are themselves God or His grace. But, as many of our fathers have wisely said, “the best of means are means at best.”

The reason all of these means are wonderful is that it is Christ Himself who has appointed them and uses them. When we come to the means, what we should really be doing in our hearts is coming to Him Himself, by means of those means.

Let us so conduct ourselves in such sincerity and truth unto God that it would make a confused or lying accuser of anyone who would say, “these are their gods” (cf. 7–8).

Looking forward to coming to Him together with you,


2020.08.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 7:36–50

Read Luke 7:36–50

Questions from the Scripture text: Who asked Jesus to do what in Luke 7:36? Where did Jesus do that? Who found out that Jesus was there (Luke 7:37)? What did she bring? Where did she stand (Luke 7:38)? What was she doing? What did she begin to do? How did she wipe them? What two things did she do after that? Who saw this (Luke 7:39)? To whom did he speak? About Whom did he speak? What is he questioning about Jesus? What did he think Jesus should know? What did he think made the woman different from himself? Who answers the Pharisee’s internal talk (Luke 7:40)? In the parable what are the two debts that are forgiven (Luke 7:41-42)? What question does Jesus ask? How does Simon answer (Luke 7:43)? What does Jesus say Simon did not do for Him (Luke 7:44)? What does Jesus say the woman did for Him? What does Jesus say Simon did not give Him (Luke 7:45)? What has the woman continually given Him (verse 45)? What does Jesus say Simon hadn’t done (Luke 7:46)? What has the woman done? What does Jesus say about the number of her sins in Luke 7:47? What does Jesus say about the status of her sins? What has she done much? Who has loved little? So what does this mean about Simon’s forgiveness? What does Jesus say to the woman (Luke 7:48)? To whom does He not say this? Who ask what in Luke 7:49? What does Jesus say to whom in Luke 7:50?

What is a good way to tell that you’ve been forgiven? For those whose eternal souls are at stake, there are few questions more important than that one. And Jesus here gives an answer: by whether you love Him much.

One imagines that Simon the Pharisee comes away from this thinking that Jesus did, after all, know the great difference between the woman and the others at the table (Luke 7:39). After all, Jesus is saying, Simon didn’t have much to be forgiven, right? Or so Simon thought.

But that would be a great mistake. How very much—infinitely much, since we have sinned continuously against the infinity of God’s glory—each of us needs to be forgiven! There’s actually no such thing as someone who has been forgiven little. Either you’ve been forgiven much, or you haven’t been forgiven at all.

So, the woman has two great advantages over the Pharisee. She knows, painfully and deeply, that she needs to be forgiven of very much. And, she knows that for the forgiveness of people like her is exactly why Jesus has come. Simon, however, thinks that he doesn’t need much forgiveness, and that Jesus has only come as a teacher.

Whose advantages (or disadvantages) do you have? Not just out loud in your thoughts (or family worship), but in your heart of hearts? 

Well, how do you respond to Jesus? With love and adoration that just can’t seem to stop expressing themselves? Perhaps you are dull hearted and easily distracted—and my the Holy Spirit help us all with such afflictions—but still, when you do particularly think of Him, what is your response? Does your heart gush with love? Do your hands move to do whatever they can for His body, the church? Do you lose the inhibitions of worrying about what others are thinking, if only you can just serve your Redeemer well?

What are some of the ways in your heart and life that “loving Jesus much” can be seen?

Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH496 “My Jesus, I Love Thee”

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Praying in View of the End of All Things (1Peter 4:7 Prayer Meeting Devotional)

We must pray as those who know that God will soon end our opportunity for service under persecution.

2020.08.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 4:14

Read Ephesians 4:14

Questions from the Scripture text: What is the ministry of our pastor-teacher given to us by Jesus to stop us from being? Otherwise, what would various ‘winds’ of doctrine do to us? What else would do this to us? What do some men practice to unsettle believers’ doctrine? 

This week’s Ephesians text is one little verse, but it is a hugely important and overlooked point. 

We desperately need theological stability.

We want to be united! We want to know Christ! We want to be filled with Christ! These are the praiseworthy goals of Ephesians 4:13, at which each of us aim in our ministry to all the others (Ephesians 4:12b), and for which we need the constant mending by the ministry of faithful shepherd-teachers (Ephesians 4:11-12a).

But why do we need this constant mending?

Because without it, we are like unstable toddlers. We’ve all seen a wobbly little one, just learning to walk. But the wobbler in this picture has an additional problem: he’s in a boat on a wavy sea during a storm!

This is how the apostle likened the doctrinal instability of believers who did not avail themselves of the ministry of faithful shepherd-teachers, and things have certainly not improved in the 21st century!

Unified Christians are theologically stable. Christ-like Christians are theologically stable. Christ-filled Christians are theologically stable. Here is a value of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament that is rejected and contradicted by many in the church today. But, when the two are at odds, a believer knows with whom to agree. 

How are you availing yourself of the theologically-stabilizing ministry of faithful shepherd-teachers? Can you identify a sound and stable summary of the doctrine that you believe?

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A Solemn Warning Against Provoking God (Family Worship in 1Samuel 15:24–35)

Pastor leads his family in today's Hopewell @Home Scripture, 1Samuel 15:24–35. Some come to this passage to set v29 against v35 on the issue of the immutability of God's eternal decree. But neither is talking about this, so those who do so miss two critical lessons. (1) There is a point of no return, where God closes the door to repentance, v29. (2) Sin is extremely offensive to the living and holy God, v35. Taken together, this passage is a solemn warning to take sin seriously and not provoke God.

2020.08.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 15:24–35

 Read 1 Samuel 15:24–35

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Saul say he has done (1 Samuel 15:24)? What was this sin? But whom does he really blame? Where does he want Samuel to go (1 Samuel 15:25)? Why won’t Samuel go (1 Samuel 15:26)? What does this suggest about the genuineness of Saul’s “repentance” in 1 Samuel 15:24-25? What does Samuel turn to do in 1 Samuel 15:27? What does Saul do? What happens? What does Samuel say is torn (1 Samuel 15:28)? Who does the tearing? From whom? What is Yahweh going to do with it? What does Samuel call God in 1 Samuel 15:29? What will God not do? What else? Why not—what is He not? What statement does Saul repeat in 1 Samuel 15:30? And how does he repeat his previous request? How does Samuel respond this time (1 Samuel 15:31)? What does Saul do? What does Samuel ask for at the worship service (1 Samuel 15:32)? What is Agag thinking to himself? But what does Samuel say to him (1 Samuel 15:33)? What does Samuel do? Before Whom? Where? Then where does Samuel go (1 Samuel 15:34)? And where does Saul go? And where does Samuel go no more (1 Samuel 15:35)? Until when? But what does Samuel do for Saul? And what does Yahweh say about His having made Saul king?

1 Samuel 15:29 and 1 Samuel 15:35 seem to be at odds with each other. But, when we step back, we can understand the truth of each and see that they are not really in conflict.

In verse 29, Samuel is telling Saul that the decision to reject him is final. Saul has grown accustomed to second chances and thought that he would get them forever. But, there is a point of no return with the Lord. This is most obvious at the final judgment, which is… well… final. But, there is also such a thing as someone who has had chance after chance and is finally hardened, and the Lord leaves him to himself (cf. Hebrews 6:6). Whenever someone—even who claims Christianity—rejects God in something, he takes his eternal soul into his hands, because he has no guarantee that he will be able to repent later. Let our hearts be sensitive to Him, and let us not take for granted His great patience with us.

Verse 35 gives us the human (Samuel) and divine sides of the same grief. Sin is wicked and brings great misery. The godly hate it and grieve over it. And the Lord is grieved by it and takes vengeance upon it. The word for “regretted” is the same as “sorry” in Hebrews 6:6. The worst thing about our sin is not the violence that it does to ourselves, or even to others. The worst thing about our sin is that it grieves God and is directly opposite to the purposes for which He created us.

If we are people who have grown desensitized to our sin by strategic misuse of real truth about glorious grace, this passage re-sensitizes us to take our sin seriously and to sorrow over it. In so doing, it keeps us tender toward a gracious Savior, Whose salvation we come to appreciate all the more!

What sins in your life have you begun to brush off, rather than taking them seriously?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH119W “Lord, Let My Cry Before You Come”

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Real Reconciliation 1 — Applying the Cross to Offenses (2020.08.16 Sabbath School lesson)

This week, we started in on how to reconcile offenses among believers, beginning with a reminder that is only with believers that real reconciliation can take place to begin with. It is an application in the present of the reality that Christ has already reconciled us, and a participation in the ultimate fulfillment of that reality. We began distinguishing between things that need not be confronted at all and those that do, and what to do when the confrontation is necessary. We'll pick up with that next week.

Maintenance on Members for Ministry unto Maturity in Christ (2020.08.09 Evening Sermon in Ephesians 4:12–13)

Jesus has given us shepherd-teachers to do continual Word-maintenance upon us. We need this maintenance, because we are to be used in each other's lives to make us think like Christ, know Christ Himself, and be like Christ by being filled with Christ.

YOU Are the Moron! (Only the Real God Really Saves) — 2020.08.09 Morning Sermon in Genesis 31:17–35

It is moronic to trust in or live for things that cannot even sustain themselves. Laban and Rachel's idols cannot save. Only the God of Jacob's father, the Living God, can!

2020.08.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Timothy 1:7–10

 Read 2 Timothy 1:7–10

Questions from the Scripture text: What has God not given us (2 Timothy 1:7)? Of what three things has He given us a Spirit? What, then, must we not do with the testimony of our Lord (2 Timothy 1:8)? Of what (whom) else should Timothy not be ashamed? What should he share? With whom? For what? According to what? What two things has God done for us (2 Timothy 1:9)? With what kind of calling has He called us? What was His saving and calling us not according to? What two things were they according to? In Whom was this grace given to us? When was it given? When was it revealed (2 Timothy 1:10)? By what? What has Jesus abolished? What two things has Jesus brought to light? Through what?

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from 2 Timothy 1:7–10 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Eternal Spirit, God of Truth.

One of the most common commands in Scripture is to fear not. But, we are unable to obey this command in ourselves, for we have received a spirit of fear from our first father, Adam. “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid” (Genesis 3:10). As sinners, we have lost holy fear and live instead in a constant trembling at what might happen—and especially of what men might think of us or do to us.

But if Timothy was going to stir up the gift of God that was given him in the calling of his ordination (2 Timothy 1:6), he could hardly afford to worry about what others might think. And, if we are going to be faithful in each of our callings, we must avoid the trap of the fear of man. So, how can we be delivered from a spirit of fear?

God has given us a new nature, and the ministry of His Holy Spirit, Who grows our new selves in power, love, and sound mind. Power gives us the courage to stand before others. Love is more “power”-full. Out of love to God, we are willing and even honored to suffer or die for Him. And a sound mind calculates everything from an eternal perspective—unwilling to trade lasting and genuine treasure for the fleeting and light fleshly pleasures or praises of men.

To this, the apostle adds a reminder of the gospel in 2 Timothy 1:8-10. The sufferings of the Christian life are not just “better than we deserve”—as if we deserve extremely badly and are receiving a lot that is fair-to-middling. No, we deserved Hell, and God has given us life and immortality—together with the privilege of glorifying Christ by suffering well with Him, which privilege we will count a high and great honor for unending ages!

Courage. Love to God. Bringing biblical, eternal wisdom to bear on our actions. That is how recipients of such a glorious grace should live!

What trials are you in? How does power help you in them? How does love help you? How does “sound mind”?

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH394 “Eternal Spirit, God of Truth”

Monday, August 10, 2020

2020.08.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 31:17–35

 Read Genesis 31:17–35

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Jacob do in Genesis 31:17? What does he carry away (Genesis 31:18)? What point does this verse make multiple times? To whom does he leave to go? To where? What had Laban gone to do (Genesis 31:19)? So, what does Rachel do? What does Jacob do (Genesis 31:20)? How does verse 20 explain saying that Jacob “stole” (same word as with Rachel in verse 19) away? Toward where did he head (Genesis 31:21)? How many days did it take for Laban to find out (Genesis 31:22)? Whom does he take (Genesis 31:23)? How long does it take him to overtake Jacob? Who comes to Laban in Genesis 31:24? How? What does He say to him? Where does Laban overtake Jacob (Genesis 31:25)? What does he ask Jacob (Genesis 31:26)? To what does he compare Jacob’s escape? What word does he again (cf. Genesis 31:19Genesis 31:20) use about Jacob’s secret escape in Genesis 31:27? What does he say he would have done for Jacob if he had told him? What else does he say that he wishes he had a chance to do (Genesis 31:28)? What does he say is in his power (Genesis 31:29)? What reason does he give for not doing anything to him? What does he call God? What had God said? What reasoning does Laban give for Jacob’s leaving (Genesis 31:30)? But what question does he now ask? What answer does Jacob give for running secretly (Genesis 31:31)? What does Jacob propose about the stolen gods (Genesis 31:32)? But what did he not know? Whose tents did Laban check first (Genesis 31:33)? Whose did he check last? Into what had Rachel put the gods (Genesis 31:34)? What did she do with the saddle? What did Laban do? What did he not do? What does Rachel say to her father in Genesis 31:35? What does she claim is her reason for not rising? What did he do? What did he not do?

In Genesis 31:30, Laban calls the little images that Rachel has taken “gods.” Apparently, these are the gods that Laban used for divination (Genesis 30:27, cf. Ezekiel 21:21). Perhaps Rachel thinks she can keep daddy from divining where Jacob has gone. That sounds ridiculous—almost as ridiculous as worshiping gods that can be stolen.

In the original, Genesis 31:21 tells us that Jacob stole something much more precious. It literally says, “Jacob stole the heart of Laban the Aramean.” And, in Genesis 31:26, he asks, “Why have you done this and stolen my heart?”

The little figures that would end up making a lumpy camel saddle for Rachel weren’t Laban’s only idol. His flock, his daughters, even all his property were what he lived for, what he found his joy in. And Yahweh had given them all to Jacob (cf. Genesis 31:9Genesis 31:16). Laban’s gods make a pathetic picture in this passage, but Laban himself makes a deeply sad picture.

Idolatry isn’t just foolish and fruitless, but it also corrupts. Laban obviously intended Jacob harm. He nearly says as much in Genesis 31:29, Jacob says that was his fear in Genesis 31:31, and ultimately God’s intervention (Genesis 31:24Genesis 31:29bGenesis 31:42b) confirms it. How often the wicked live their whole lives in something else, instead of the Lord, and end up willing to commit yet more wickedness rather than lose their idols!

And sometimes, it is actually our wickedness that endangers us of losing our idols. This is what happens to Jacob in Genesis 31:32. He calls down a sentence of death upon he knows not whom—but it turns out to be Rachel, the one whom he has idolized unto the hurt of many thus far. God builds the suspense by reminding us that it was Rachel, and then by the providential course which the search takes from Jacob’s tent, to Leah’s, and finally Rachel’s.

Rachel’s statement could either mean that she is pregnant or having her cycle. It seems that there are more than nine months before Benjamin’s birth (cf. Genesis 33:19), and the phrase is more often associated with a woman’s cycle, making everything that she sits upon unclean. This adds the final insult to injury, for she has plopped herself down right on top of Laban’s gods!

Oh how wretched is idolatry, that can avail nothing, and brings its adherents into such wickedness. But the true and living God gives every mercy that both the righteous and the wicked receive, and belonging to Him and following Him leads us into godliness.

What are you in danger of making an idol out of in your life? What do you do to guard against that?

Suggested songs: ARP16A “Keep Me, O God” or TPH16A “Preserve Me, O My God”