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, March 06, 2021

On Not Being a Hand/Foot/Eye that Needs Cutting Off (2021.03.06 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – March 6, 2021

Dear Congregation,

As I was reading Mark 9:33–50 this morning, vv42–47 struck me forcefully again. They’re meant to do so. Expositions of passages like these often immediately run to how this was just figurative, as if there is a real danger of people deciding to gouge and maim themselves.

But that’s a mistake. Though the passage is not endorsing physical gouging and maiming, the use of the illustration is meant to be shocking. So we need to be shocked.

Furthermore, it needs to be within the context of the passage that we apply the shock.

The disciples had been arguing about who would be the greatest (v34), but Jesus had responded by saying that we are to regard the children who are His with the intensity of regard that we have for Him (v36–37).

John tries to apply this to someone who hasn’t supported the apostles (v38). After all, if what is done to one of Christ’s little children is so significant, then what about what is done to the apostles? Jesus does affirm that what is done to them matters (v41, though not to respond vindictively, v39–40), but He immediately brings their attention back to the little one who is still in his arms (v42, cf. v36).

That’s the context for vv42–48, where He repeatedly emphasizes the permanence and intensity of Hell. A culture of pride puts our children in danger of hell.

We are the hand and the foot and the eye of v43, 45, 47. God forbid that we should become the occasion of our children being cast into hell!

Let us sacrifice our pride. Is it really more important to us how highly others regard us?

Are we really willing that they would learn from us to try to appear rich in spirit, rather than come to God as poor in spirit and with hunger and thirst and meekness before Him?

Are we really willing to put our own comfort or amusement ahead of that daily worship and all-day discipleship to which He has called us for the sakes of their souls (cf. Deut 6, Eph 6)?

Are we really willing to nurse personal offenses that keep our children from the  corporate worship of God and the fellowship of the saints that are designed by Christ as instruments through which He brings them to faith and grows us in faith (cf. Eph 4, Heb 10)?

Consider Jesus holding that little child. Never had anyone held a child so lovingly as our Savior. Consider His repeating over and over, with that child in His arms, the greatness of the spiritual danger if we will not sacrifice ourselves for them.

On the other hand, consider your children. And the rest of the precious children of our congregation. Isn’t it marvelous that our Lord has given us such a role in His bringing them to faith and building them up in it? How much this work matters to Him! What a great privilege is ours!

Looking forward to exercising that privilege with you,


2021.03.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 47:13–27

Read Genesis 47:13–27

Questions from the Scripture text: What wasn’t there, and where (Genesis 47:13)? Why? With what result? What did Joseph gather up (Genesis 47:14)? For what? Where did he bring it? What happened where (Genesis 47:15)? Who asked for what? What did Joseph ask in return (Genesis 47:16)? With what result (Genesis 47:17)? At the end of that year, what did they say was the only thing left (Genesis 47:18)? What did they propose (Genesis 47:19)? For what two purposes? What did Joseph buy (Genesis 47:20)? What happened to the land? Where did he move the people (Genesis 47:21)? Whose land did he not buy (Genesis 47:22)? Why didn’t they sell? What did Joseph give the people (Genesis 47:23)? To do what with it? How much did they have to give Pharaoh (Genesis 47:24)? How did the people describe this arrangement (Genesis 47:25)? What did they ask to be? What became a permanent law (Genesis 47:26)? Who was doing what, and where, all this time (Genesis 47:27)?

Many who are first will be last, and many who will be last will be first. This passage would have been rather stunning to the Israelites under Moses. Nearly all of wealthy and powerful Egypt is being impoverished and enslaved (Genesis 47:14–26), while the comparatively poor and powerless Israelites are prospering and multiplying (Genesis 47:27).

The life they had been born into was very different. By the time their generation came, it was the Hebrews who had been impoverished and enslaved. But then again in the Exodus, as the Hebrews were being freed, they would again be suddenly enriched (cf. Exodus 3:22, Exodus 11:2–3, Exodus 12:35–36).

Here is something that the Lord has often done in history: brought great reversals to wean us off of prosperity and power in this world and warm our hearts to value the prosperity and power of the world to come. Indeed, in His great sermon on kingdom living (Matthew 5–7), the Lord Jesus teaches us to embrace our lowliness now as bringing great blessedness in the great reversal to come:

3    “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
        For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4    Blessed are those who mourn,
      For they shall be comforted.

5    Blessed are the meek,
      For they shall inherit the earth.

6    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
      For they shall be filled.

7    Blessed are the merciful,
      For they shall obtain mercy.

8    Blessed are the pure in heart,
      For they shall see God.

9    Blessed are the peacemakers,
      For they shall be called sons of God.

10  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
      For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

(Matthew 5:3–12)

In what ways has the Lord surprisingly blessed you? In what ways has He surprisingly humbled you? 

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH464 “The Beatitudes”

Friday, March 05, 2021

The Sort of Life Whose Dying Is Gain (Family Worship in Philippians 1:19–21)

Can you know for sure that you will be delivered from a trial? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. In these three verses, we learn that you can know it—if both your living and your dying are forms of deliverance. When our greatest hope and desire is to magnify Christ, then we can live boldly as those who know that in addition to all the deliverances of this life, death itself will be infinite gain for us.

2021.03.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Philippians 1:19–21

Read Philippians 1:19–21

Questions from the Scripture text: What is the apostle’s level of confidence about this (Philippians 1:19)? For what does he know that this will turn out? Through what two things? According to what sure hope/expectation of his (Philippians 1:20)? With how much boldness does he aim at magnifying Christ? In what of his? By what two things? To him, what is it, to live (Philippians 1:21)? What is it to die?

Would you like to know that every situation will turn out for your deliverance? Would you like to know that you will never be put to shame? Would you like to know that you will always achieve your goal? Would you like to know that for you, dying will be gain? The apostle knows all of these things, and he shares his secret with us: for him, to live is Christ.

If Christ is everything to your life, every situation ultimately turns out for your deliverance. In this particular case, Paul faced two possible deliverances. The one deliverance, the apostle hoped would come through their prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. What a wonderful thing praying for one another must be, that the Bible yokes it here in conjunction with the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ! We cannot always know for our situation what the apostle knew about his; the Scripture calls us to love not our lives even unto death.

But there is a second deliverance that Paul has in mind here, as demonstrated by his saying “this will turn out for my deliverance” with words that came from Job 13:16 in his Greek Old Testament. It is the deliverance that will come at the judgment when he faces God. The deliverance that Christ had won for him already. With Christ as his everything, he could be sure that he would ultimately be delivered. You can have this confidence for yourself too. Everyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved (cf. Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). 

If Christ is everything to your life, you can have with the apostle an “earnest expectation and hope that in nothing [you] shall be ashamed” (Philippians 1:20). How did he know this? Because the Scripture tells us that none who trust in Him will be put to shame. That trust will never fail. For I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day (cf. 2 Timothy 1:12). And not only will you not be ashamed at the judgment, but you need not be ashamed even in this life…

If Christ is everything to your life, you can know that you will always achieve your goal. That’s because, if “to live is Christ” for you, then your aim is that Christ will be magnified in your body. Well, if we live for Him, then He is magnified regardless of the circumstances in which we do so; in fact, when we live for Him in harder circumstances, that serves to magnify Him all the more! And if we die faithfully, He is magnified both in the manner in which we die, and the fact that our soul both immediately goes to Him and also will be reunited with a resurrected body in the last day. O Christian, make it your goal that Christ be magnified, and you shall always achieve it!

If Christ is everything to your life, you can know that dying is gain. It is an odd thing that so many who resent or resist the idea of living a Christ-consumed life would comfort themselves with fairytales of going to heaven, when it is a Christ-consumed place. Such a person would not find heaven pleasant, and ought not be confident that he is going there. Indeed, if you refuse to say that “to live is Christ,” then your death will be an unimaginable catastrophe, and you cannot say in truth that “to die is gain.” 

But O, if Christ is everything to your life, such that your distance from Him and remaining sin against Him are your greatest pains, how great will be your gain at death when you are ushered into His presence in the very moment at which your appetite for Him is purified and perfected!

In what daily activities are you least mindful of Christ being everything to you? How can that change?

Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion, Lord, with Thee” 

Thursday, March 04, 2021

The God Whose Praise Provokes Our Prayers (Prayer Meeting Lesson in Psalm 9)

In Psalm 9, our confidence to pray and our goal in praying come from the praise of God's salvation, justice, eternality, and faithful mercy.

2021.03.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 14:1–24

Read Luke 14:1–24

Questions from the Scripture text: Where did Jesus go in Luke 14:1? To do what? When? What did the Pharisees do? Who else was there (Luke 14:2)? To whom does Jesus speak in Luke 14:3? What does Jesus ask them? What do they do (Luke 14:4a)? What does Jesus do (verse 4b)? Now what does He ask them (Luke 14:5)? What were they unable to do (Luke 14:6)? What did He tell them now (Luke 14:7)? What prompted it? What situation was the parable about (Luke 14:8)? What did He tell them not to do? Why not (Luke 14:8-9)? What did He tell them to do instead (Luke 14:10a)? Why (verse 10b)? What principle did this teach (Luke 14:11)? To whom does He now speak (Luke 14:12)? What does He tell him not to do? Why not? What does He tell him to do instead (Luke 14:13)? Why (Luke 14:14a)? When will such deeds be repaid (verse 14b)? How does one of the table guests respond to this idea (Luke 14:15)? What is the parable about, with which Jesus responds (Luke 14:16)? Whom does the host send to whom to say what (Luke 14:17)? What did they begin to make (Luke 14:18)? What were their excuses (Luke 14:18-20)? How did the master respond (Luke 14:21)? Whom did he say to go bring instead? What was the servant’s report (Luke 14:22)? What did the master say to do to whom where (Luke 14:23)? Why? What about those who were originally invited (Luke 14:24)?

When we’re consumed with earthly things, we won’t know how to keep the earthly Sabbath. The ruler of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1) had no problem having Jesus over for dinner on the Sabbath, and truly Jesus’s efforts to evangelize the Pharisees were not less than the effort expended to heal the man with dropsy.

But they could not see what they had in front of them: the Lord of the Sabbath Himself. The One for Whom they were made. The only One by Whom they could be redeemed. The One Whose glory defines the purpose of our redemption and Whose fellowship defines the pleasure of our redemption.

But the spiritually dull religionists around the table couldn’t see Him. They could only see their self-over-estimated expertise in the law and self-over-estimated goodness at keeping what they thought it said. But those who do not love the Lord with all their heart cannot know truly what it is to love their neighbor as themselves. How easily Jesus bursts the balloon of their self-impressed-ness so easily. They cannot answer the simple question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

Once they are not able to answer Him, He tells them two parables. The first (Luke 14:7-14) teaches that their self-impressed-ness sets them up for humiliation. They are exalting themselves (Luke 14:11a) by inviting whoever seems important (Luke 14:12), which leads to humiliation. They invited Jesus because they thought it exalted them. But they should have been focused on doing good to people like the man with dropsy, because their repayment is already guaranteed in the resurrection.   

The second parable (Luke 14:15-24) teaches that they need to be more concerned with whether they are going to be at the Lord’s dinner on His climactic Day than they are with what He does at their dinner on His weekly day. Earthly-mindedness (Luke 14:18-20) gets in the way of valuing fellowship with Christ above all pleasures and will keep people out of the kingdom altogether.

When we live to glorify Christ instead of self, we know the purpose of the Sabbath, of this life, and of our eternal blessedness. And when we live to enjoy Christ in all earthly things and above all earthly things, we know the pleasure of the Sabbath, and of this life, and of our eternal blessedness.

What do your Lord’s Day habits say about how much Jesus’s glory really is your purpose and Jesus’s fellowship really is your pleasure? How might you improve keeping the day? 

Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or TPH152 “Lord of the Sabbath, Hear Us Pray”

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Our Speaking, Saving, Sovereign God and King (Family Worship in 2Samuel 5:17–25)

What does God show about Himself, as He saves through His promised King? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. In these nine verses, we learn that God displays Himself as the speaking and guiding God, the mightily delivering God, and the manifoldly wise God.

2021.03.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Samuel 5:17–25

Read 2 Samuel 5:17–25

Questions from the Scripture text: Who heard what in 2 Samuel 5:17 (cf. 2 Samuel 5:3)? What did they do? And who heard of that? And what did he do? Where else did the Philistines go (2 Samuel 5:18)? Of Whom does David inquire (2 Samuel 5:19)? What two specific questions does he ask? What combined answer does Yahweh give? What does 2 Samuel 5:20 now call the Valley of Rephaim? How did it get that name? What did the Philistines abandon as they were fleeing (2 Samuel 5:21)? Who did what with them? What did the Philistines do (again!?!) in 2 Samuel 5:22? What did David do again (2 Samuel 5:23)? What was Yahweh’s answer this time (2 Samuel 5:23-24)? What was the result (2 Samuel 5:25)?

Saul tried to do things his own way (1 Samuel 13, 15), and Israel suffered. So God provided for Himself a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, 1 Samuel 15:28), by whom He promised to save His people (cf. 2 Samuel 3:18). Now, in 2 Samuel 5:17–25, we get our first taste of that salvation by the hand of the newly anointed (cf. 2 Samuel 5:3) king. 

The Philistines have heard about the anointing (2 Samuel 5:17a) and think they’d better make a preemptive strike against this newly united Israel. They go hunting for David (verse 17b), David takes up a fortified position, the Philistines hole up in Rephaim (2 Samuel 5:18), and the ensuing conflict teaches us several remarkable things about our God.

Our God is the speaking, guiding God. First, David is the anti-Saul. We have seen him inquire of Yahweh several times (e.g. cf. 1 Samuel 23:2, 2 Samuel 2:1), and as king he continues to do the same. One of the ways that God works in our lives is by giving us the guidance of His Word and giving us the desire to seek that guidance. He reminds us here that He is the speaking, guiding God.

Our God is the powerful, delivering God. It was Yahweh who broke through the Philistines like a breakthrough of water (2 Samuel 5:20). It was Yahweh who went before David to strike the camp of the Philistines (2 Samuel 5:24). David “defeated” them in verse 20, and “drove back the Philistines” in 2 Samuel 5:25, but these battles are reminiscent of the conquest, in which Yahweh did much of the battling Himself.

Finally, our God is the wisely and creatively planning God. Idols are the creations of man (2 Samuel 5:21), but God Himself is the great Author and Creator. So, when David faces an identical situation (2 Samuel 5:22, cf. 2 Samuel 5:18), Yahweh gives a very different answer (2 Samuel 5:23, cf. 2 Samuel 5:19). Who is dull and wicked enough to find Him boring? Even the cue of “the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees” (2 Samuel 5:24) is so interestingly creative! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And His truth is always the same. But His work can be marvelously varied.

And even having saved us by David’s greater Son, God still guides and delivers His people in His wise and interesting plan! He is worthy of your inquiry, and your trust, and your praise.

Where can you find God’s Word? How should you respond to His power? To His wisdom/creativity?

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH195 “Shine Thou Upon Us Lord”

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

The Kingdom, Its King, and His Mission (Family Worship in John 3:1–17)

Did Jesus come from God to usher in the kingdom? Pastor leads his family in tomorrow’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. In these seventeen verses, we learn that the kingdom is an eternal kingdom that belongs to the next age, that the King is God the Son Who became man, and that His mission was to come to die for sinners.

2021.03.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 3:13–17

Read John 3:13–17

Questions from the Scripture text: Who has ascended to heaven (John 3:13)? Who came down from heaven? What did Moses lift up in the wilderness (John 3:14)? Who must be lifted up? What happens when someone believes (John 3:15)? Why did God give His only begotten Son (John 3:16)? What will not happen to those who believe in Him? What will they have? What was not the reason that God sent His Son into the world (John 3:17)? What was the reason?

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Prayer of Confession all come from John 3:13–17, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with As When the Prophet Moses Raised

How can you enter the kingdom? Jesus knew that’s what Nicodemus was after (John 3:1-3), but Nicodemus didn’t understand that he was asking about a heavenly kingdom—and that entering it requires of us, while on earth, a heavenly birth (John 3:4-12). 

Who can ascend to heaven (John 3:13)? Only the One Who is from heaven! Israel in the wilderness could do nothing to escape death, but God lifted up a salvation (the serpent in the wilderness, John 3:14a) to which they could look and live. The evangelist here tells us that this pointed forward to Christ, Who would be lifted up (verse 14b) for sinners to believe in and be saved (John 3:15). 

What is this “believing”? The comparison to the bronze serpent from Numbers 21 makes it plain. This “believing” is to helplessly look to Christ, Who is given to us by God as the Savior Who has all salvation in Himself.

Why would God save helpless sinners? Is there anything in them that convinces Him to do so? No—even that is not in them. It is something in Him that sends Christ. For God so loved the world (John 3:16).

By Whom does God save? By His Son (verse 16), Who is Himself. That which is begotten of man is man. That which is begotten of God is God. “only begotten” here translates a single Greek word that makes it clear that within the Godhead, there is just the One Who is begotten. 

We mustn’t say more than the Bible at this point. God is One. He has one essence. But the one God exists in three persons. It belongs to the Father to beget. It belongs to the Son to be begotten. It belongs to the Father and the Son to send forth the Spirit. It belongs to the Spirit to proceed from the Father and the Son. 

But the bottom line for us in this passage is this: the Man to Whom we must look for all of our salvation is One Who is God from all eternity, but Whom God gave (verse 16) by sending Him into the world (John 3:17). 

We would expect God, when He comes into the world of sinners, to condemn them. Indeed, we know that when Jesus the God-Man returns, He will do just that. But this is not why He was originally sent into the world. He was first sent to save sinners, whom He brings into this salvation by sending His Spirit to give them the faith to look to Him and live!

Why do you need a Savior from heaven? Why do you need a heavenly birth in order to believe in Him?

Suggested songs: ARP25A “To You I Lift My Soul” or TPH449 “As When the Prophet Moses Raised ”

Monday, March 01, 2021

Rejoicing Always in the Always-Good Lord (2021.02.28 Evening Sermon)

How to rejoice, even when there are very real, very serious griefs

Blessed to Bless the Nations (2021.02.28 Morning Sermon in Genesis 46:31–47:12)

The world's actions are blessed to us by our God in His providence, and it is especially so that we can glorify Him by being a blessing spiritually to all the world.< br />

"Of Sanctification" part 8, WCF 13.3.3–4 — Progress and Perfection (2021.02.28 Sabbath School)

and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

2021.03.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 46:31–47:12

Read Genesis 46:31–47:12

Questions from the Scripture text: Who speaks to whom (Genesis 46:31)? What does Joseph tell them he’s going to do? What will he tell Pharaoh is their occupation (Genesis 46:32)? What will Pharaoh ask them (Genesis 46:33)? What are they to say (Genesis 46:34)? Where will Pharaoh give them to dwell (verse 34)? Why? What does Joseph go and tell Pharaoh in Genesis 47:1? How many brothers did he select (Genesis 47:2)? To do what? What does Pharaoh ask (Genesis 47:3)? What did they ask (Genesis 47:4)? To whom does Pharaoh speak in Genesis 47:5? What does he say has happened? What does Pharaoh call Goshen in Genesis 47:6? Where does he say for the brothers to live? What does he say for them to do? Whom does Joseph now bring in (Genesis 47:7)? Who blesses whom? What does Pharaoh ask Jacob (Genesis 47:8)? What does Jacob do (Genesis 47:9)? How does he describe his life? As compared to whose? What does Jacob do in Genesis 47:10? Then what? Where did Joseph situate them (Genesis 47:11)? With what did he provide them (Genesis 47:12)? According to what?

The bulk of the passage is focused upon the plan to get the family assigned to Goshen (Genesis 46:31–34) and the successful execution of that plan (Genesis 47:1–6Genesis 47:11–12). We’ve been anticipating this ever since Genesis 45:10Genesis 45:18-19. Joseph knows how to leverage both their skill (Genesis 46:32) and their stink (end of Genesis 46:34), and even which brothers should make the presentation (Genesis 47:2). It goes off without a hitch (Genesis 47:6), even landing them some extra duties (and probably perks, which Joseph probably anticipated). 

But the bulk of the passage is not the heart of the passage. The heart of the passage is Pharaoh’s interview with Jacob. The greater blesses the lesser (cf. Hebrews 7:7), so if we’re thinking in fleshly terms then we might be surprised that rather than falling on his face (cf. Genesis 43:26, Genesis 44:14), Jacob’s opening move is to bless Pharaoh (Genesis 47:7). 

It may also have surprised Pharaoh, since his first words are, “how old are you?!” (Genesis 47:8). It’s tempting to hear complaint in Jacob’s response—especially since we know him so well, but the word “evil” can just mean difficult and uncomfortable, and indeed the earthly ease and prosperity of Abraham and Isaac were great by comparison (end of Genesis 47:9). And there’s a clue here, when he says “the days of the years of my sojourning” that Jacob has become more mindful of resurrection (cf. “I will also surely bring you up again,” Genesis 46:4) and eternal life. This life is, by comparison, just a pilgrimage, just a sojourning. 

And it is part of Jacob’s blessedness unto Pharaoh that he would teach him this. How great is the danger to our souls of wealth and comfort and power; and therefore, how great the danger to Pharaoh’s soul (as we discover in the hardness of heart of the subsequent Pharaoh in the opening chapters of Exodus). So it is with even more richness that Jacob follows this with another blessing in Genesis 47:10. Strikingly, the end of verse 10 implies that this was the entire interview!

Strikingly, but ultimately not surprisingly. For, this is the purpose of the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—now called, “Israel.” It is a family of sinners, but a family through which will come a Savior. A Savior whose salvation and blessing dwarf any length of earthly life or any hardness of earthly life! A Savior who is not just for Jacob but for Pharaoh, not just for Israel but for Egypt, not just for the family of Abraham, but in Whom all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12:3, Genesis 28:14) and all the nations of the earth blessed in him (Genesis 18:18, Genesis 22:18, Genesis 26:4).

Indeed, all who come into God’s Israel are to be a blessing. They are to be salt and light. They are to make disciples. God may use the Egypts of the world to preserve and prosper them, earthly speaking; but, their ultimate purpose is to be a blessing of Christ to them! If you are in Christ, that is the purpose of your sojourn in this world, too!

Through what unbelievers does the Lord preserve and prosper you, earthly speaking? To whom are you a blessing by what various actions of obedience and service unto the Lord? 

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH424 “All Authority and Power”