Each week we LIVESTREAM the Lord's Day Sabbath School at 10a, Lord's Day morning public worship at 11a, and Lord's Day p.m. singing (3p) and sermon (3:45), and the Midweek Sermon and Prayer Meeting at 6:30p on Wednesday

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Keeping the Marriage Bed a Mystery until Marriage and Then Private within Marriage [Family Worship lesson in Proverbs 30:18–20]

Pastor leads his family in a selection from “the Proverb of the day.” In these three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that we may either enjoy the marriage bed as gloriously designed by God to be known only between a man and his wife, or else assert ourselves as our own gods with our own pseudo-morality.
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Sign, Words, and Power from the God Who Saves Us from Start to Finish [Family Worship lesson in Acts 10:1–11:18]

Who is saving whom and how? Acts 10:44-11:18 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these forty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that it is God Who grants repentance to life, by the pouring out of His Spirit, the gift of Whom He affirms and signifies by the pouring of water in baptism.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.07.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 10:44–11:18

Read Acts 10:44–11:18

Questions from the Scripture text: What was Peter still doing (Acts 10:44)? What did the Holy Spirit do? Who were astonished (Acts 10:45)? What is the Holy Spirit called here? What had been done with this Gift onto whom? How did the Jews know that the Spirit had been poured upon these Gentiles (Acts 10:46)? What does Peter question whether it could be forbidden them in Acts 10:47? What would be done to them with this water? In what manner had they received the Holy Spirit? What does he command be done (Acts 10:48)? In what Name? What did they ask Peter to do? What two groups heard what in Acts 11:1? Where had Peter come in Acts 11:2? What were the Jews called here again (cf. Acts 10:45)? What was their specific complaint (Acts 11:3)? Where does Peter start his explanation (Acts 11:4-5)? What had he seen in the vision (Acts 11:5-6)? What command did he receive (Acts 11:7)? How had he responded (Acts 11:8)? But what did the voice answer about Peter’s exception to the command (Acts 11:9)? How many times did this happen (Acts 11:10)? When does Acts 11:11 occur? What happened? Who still had to command Peter at this point (Acts 11:12)? And what did the Spirit tell him not to do? How many “of the circumcision” came along? What did they all enter? Whom had the man seen (Acts 11:13)? What had the angel said to do? What had the angel said that Peter would do (Acts 11:14)? Who would be saved by these words? What happens as Peter begins preaching (Acts 11:15)? What does the Holy Spirit do? Whose word does Peter now remember (Acts 11:16)? With what had John baptized? And what did Jesus say would happen by the pouring and falling oat of the Holy Spirit? What had God done when (Acts 11:17)? Whom did Peter say that he would be withstanding if he forbade the water (verse 17b, cf. Acts 10:47)? How do they respond to hearing these things (Acts 11:18)? Whom do they glorify? How do they describe these Gentiles’ being saved?

Who is saving whom and how?  Acts 10:44-11:18 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these forty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that it is God Who grants repentance to life, by the pouring out of His Spirit, the gift of Whom He affirms and signifies by the pouring of water in baptism.

Faith comes by the pouring of the Spirit. Peter is telling them about believing (Acts 10:43), when suddenly it becomes apparent that the believing itself has happened. We had seen in Acts 9:34 and Acts 9:40 the power of the Word to give what it commands. Now we find out more specifically who applies that power: the Holy Spirit. He fell upon them (Acts 10:44b). He is a Gift Who was poured out upon them (Acts 10:45). It is the Lord Jesus Who did this pouring (Acts 11:16, cf. Mark 1:8, John 1:33, Acts 1:5), when the Holy Spirit fell upon them (Acts 11:15).

Faith is not immediately visible. But the Spirit makes them see His work by hearing. This time, it is Gentiles speaking in language that they do not know, probably Aramaic (Acts 10:46)—though those “of the circumcision” were astonished by it, the evidence was clear enough that they could not deny it!

So God demands that His church baptize with water. The Spirit has been given, been poured, and fallen. Peter asks, “Can anyone forbid (hinder, refuse, withhold) water that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47). In Acts 11:15, he describes that time, “the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.” 

We learn more of what’s behind Paul’s question in Acts 11:17. To not apply water in physical baptism, just as the Lord Jesus has applied the Spirit in spiritual baptism, is to “withstand God.” This is one reason why baptism could not be delayed. 

Though there are those who are baptized and later receive the Spirit (cf. Acts 19:5–6), when it is plain that someone has been brought to faith, there is a strong, urgent obligation to baptize him. The church is required to affirm on earth what Jesus does from heaven. The church is required to imitate with water what Christ does with His Spirit, to signify the method by which we are brought to faith and repentance. The church affirms this publicly for the honor of God and the strengthening of our faith. We need assuring that salvation is God’s divine work, and God helps us not only by the Word and by the Supper but also by the sacrament of Christian Baptism.

This baptizing glorifies God for being pleased to add to His church from all nations. God’s people, His church to use Stephen’s word about them from Acts 7:38, had been marked off by circumcision. Twice in our passage, believing Jews are called “those of the circumcision” (Acts 10:45, Acts 11:2) implying that they were still thinking of God’s people at that way. In fact, they less upset that Peter had baptized Gentiles than that he had entered the Gentile house and ate with the Gentiles (Acts 11:3). This was an error that Peter himself and even Barnabas would get carried into later (cf. Galatians 2:11–13).

But we are not of the circumcision, which belonged as a spiritual ordinance to just the one nation. Christ’s church can be called “of baptism,” which belongs as a spiritual ordinance to people of all nations. Baptism helps us do more than be sure that it is Christ Who saves; it turns our hearts to praise. “They glorified God, saying ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life’” (Acts 11:18). It is God Who decides who will repent. It is God Who grants repentance. And He is granting it to people from all nations. Each baptism we attend should stir up not only our faith but our praise!

If you believe in Jesus, how did that happen? If you don’t, then how can it happen? What must the church do with someone whom God adds to her? What are two ways that we should respond to Baptism?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You Who have poured out Your Spirit to give repentance and faith. Forgive us for when we are closed hearted toward anyone in Your church. Grant unto us to treasure them as marked off to Yourself, and to look to You for grace to complete the sanctifying and glorifying of us all in Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP67 “O God, Give Us Your Blessing” or TPH424 “All Authority and Power”


Friday, July 29, 2022

Properly Recognizing the Gospel Choice before Us in Every Moment [Family Worship lesson in Proverbs 29:6]

Pastor leads his family in a selection from “the Proverb of the day.” In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that every moment offers us a choice between life and death. Sin promises joy, but can only rob us of it. Righteousness—living by faith in Christ for the love of Christ by the law of Christ—is the actual path to joy.
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Hope in Jesus's Heavenly Help Strengthened by His Earthly Sign of Baptism [Family Worship lesson in Matthew 28:16–20]

Pastor leads his family in a passage that supplements the morning sermon for the coming Lord's Day. Matthew 28:16–20 shows how Jesus exercises power in the conversion of sinners on earth and gives baptism as a sign that it is He Who is doing this from heaven.
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God's Society Values His Image in Humanity and His Honor in Authority [Family Worship lesson in Exodus 21:12–27]

What will God’s new society be like? Exodus 21:12–27 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these sixteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Israelite society was to apply God’s moral law by having a civil law that guarded and valued His image in human life and His honor in established authorities.
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2022.07.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 21:12–27

Read Exodus 21:12–27

Questions from the Scripture text: What crime does Exodus 21:12 address? What penalty does it require? What distinction does Exodus 21:13 make? Where can this accidental killer go? But for murder, what place isn’t even safe (Exodus 21:14)? For what does Exodus 21:15 prescribe the death penalty? For what does Exodus 21:16 prescribe the death penalty? For what does Exodus 21:17 prescribe the death penalty? What penalty and restitution must be made if death does not result from an attack (Exodus 21:18-19)? Who is punished similarly, even if there was cause (Exodus 21:20)? What does Exodus 21:21 imply that the servant was refusing to be/do? What further protections are servants given, even if there was cause for their being struck (Exodus 21:26-27)? For what would men be punished, even if there was no other harm at all (Exodus 21:22)? What two parties conclude the amount of the punishment? To what extent are they punished for any harm to the child (Exodus 21:23-25)? 

What will God’s new society be like?  Exodus 21:12–27 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these sixteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Israelites were to apply God’s moral law by having a civil law that guarded and valued His image in human life and His honor in established authorities. 

God values His own image in human life. We already knew the commandment (cf. Exodus 20:13) and even the penalty (cf. Genesis 9:6) that are in force in all societies: murderers must be executed (Exodus 21:12). Accidental killing (Exodus 21:13) is different because it isn’t an assault on God’s image. But murder being an attack upon God, even the place of mercy—God’s altar—is not safe for the murderer (Exodus 21:14). And if his victim does not die, he is kept alive to work and pay for whatever harm has come, as long as that harm continues (Exodus 21:18-20). 

This valuing of God’s image holds true, even in the case of servants. Exodus 21:16 again clarifies (cf. our previous devotional in Exodus 21:1–11) that slavery in Israel was different than the power-based manstealing by which slavery has existed throughout the history of fallen man. Those who tried to have this sort of slavery were to be executed. But when a man sold himself into slavery to pay a debt, he was agreeing to act as property (Exodus 21:21), and even to be physically corrected when he did not. Verse 21 does not teach that a man who wishes to own an object for beating can purchase a man for that purpose, but rather implies that the struck servant was not operating according to the agreement. Even so, for a slave who deserved punishment, the master who was severe enough that the slave lost an eye or tooth would lose his slave (Exodus 21:26-27). And the master would forfeit his own life, if he was severe enough that the slave lost his life.

This valuing of God’s image holds true, especially in the case of the pregnant and preborn. The woman and child in Exodus 21:22 are bystanders, so their harm would have fallen into the case of Exodus 21:13. But God’s special regard for them requires complete vengeance, even and especially for the child in the womb (Exodus 21:23-25). And when premature birth results, there doesn’t even have to have been other harm. The husband/father is given a blank check, restrained only by the judges, to demand whatever he wants in restitution! In the 21st century, the so-called “civilized” world has so set itself against God in its treatment of the pregnant and preborn as to show itself most uncivilized and condemn itself to death.

God values His own honor in His established authorities. Sprinkled into these cases of capital crimes are the one who strikes his father or his mother (Exodus 21:15) and even who “merely” curses his father or his mother (Exodus 21:17). As we considered in the fifth commandment (cf. Exodus 20:12), what is at stake here is not only submission and obedience, but honor from the heart. By executing such children, God not only reminds all that it is His authority that is behind all legitimate authority, but He protects the society of His people from being slowly infected and destroyed from within by the rebellious.

How should nations punish murder? For whose lives should they have a special regard? Whose authority should a nation acknowledge behind all authorities? What should the church do with children who attack or curse their parents (hint: not execution, since it doesn’t have the sword)?

Sample prayer: Lord, forgive us for how little we have valued Your image in men and Your honor in authority. Conform our hearts to Yours, and give us nations and churches whose laws and actions reflect the same, we ask, through Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP184 “Adoration and Submission” or TPH164 “God Himself Is with Us”

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Realizing that We're in a Battle, and Who Wins it, and with What Weapon [Family Worship lesson in 2Thessalonians 3:1–5]

What is the main issue in Christian life and ministry? 2Thessalonians 3:1–5 looks forward to the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God glorifies His Word in our lives and ministries by using it to direct our hearts in that persistent love that keeps obeying Him, despite all efforts of men and demons to dissuade us.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.07.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Thessalonians 3:1–5

Read 2 Thessalonians 3:1–5

Questions from the Scripture text: With what word does 2 Thessalonians 3:1 begin? What does the apostle call them? What does he ask them to do? For whom? What does he say is doing the running? What are they to pray would happen to the Word among the apostolic team? Among whom else is the Word of the Lord being glorified? From what men do they ask to be delivered (2 Thessalonians 3:2)? What do unreasonable and wicked men not have? Who, however, is faithful (2 Thessalonians 3:3)? What two things will He do for the Thessalonians? What does the apostolic team have concerning them (2 Thessalonians 3:4)? In Whom is this confidence? About what are they confident? Into what two things does the apostle pray/pronounce that the Lord would direct their hearts (2 Thessalonians 3:5)? Whose love? Whose patience?

What is the main issue in Christian life and ministry?  2 Thessalonians 3:1–5 looks forward to the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God glorifies His Word in our lives and ministries by using it to direct our hearts in that persistent love that keeps obeying Him, despite all efforts of men and demons to dissuade us.

The battle for obedience. Not all have faith. This statement in 2 Thessalonians 3:2 is obvious enough (especially in light of 2 Thessalonians 1:8) that he is almost certainly referring to those in the church (as the man of sin himself is “in the temple of God” in 2 Thessalonians 2:4). What do these unreasonable and wicked men do? They attempt to prevent the apostolic team from preaching the Word as they have been called to do (2 Thessalonians 3:1). In this, they are like the evil one (end of 2 Thessalonians 3:3), who attempts to prevent believers from doing what God’s Word commands (end of 2 Thessalonians 3:4). There is a battle on for proclaiming the Word. There is a battle on for obeying the Word. And if we are not on the right side of this battle, then we are on the wrong side of it.

By Whom the battle is won. Believers exert themselves in the Christian life, so it is important for us to be reminded that we are not the ones who win the battle. It is by the Lord that His Word runs swiftly, and by the Lord that His Word is glorified. This is why 2 Thessalonians 3:1 is a prayer request. 

It is by the Lord that hearts persevere in that love of God that produces obedience (cf. 1 John 5:1–5). This is why 2 Thessalonians 3:5 is a benediction/prayer request. Further, by the parallel, we discover that this love for God comes from God, just as our steadfastness comes from Christ. We do not have these in ourselves; they must come from Him. Not all have faith (2 Thessalonians 3:2), but those who do have faith get it from the faithful God (2 Thessalonians 3:3). Obedience comes from the heart, and it is the Lord Who directs the believer’s heart (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

Through what He wins the battle. Sadly, I’ve heard people who love learning and obeying the Bible be accused of idolizing the Bible. Well, if glorifying the Bible were wrong, God Himself would be guilty, according to 2 Thessalonians 3:1, and that wonderful statement we often quote from Psalm 138:2, “You have magnified Your Word above all Your Name.” God glorifies His Word by making it the means through which Christian life and ministry advances. 

How are you battling for the Word to be proclaimed and heard? How are you battling to obey the Word? How does your prayer life reflect that God must win these battles? How do your Bible-reading and preaching-hearing habits reflect that God has appointed His Word as the means by which He wins?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for the fellowship that you gave the Thessalonians and the apostolic team in the battle for the Word to be proclaimed, heard, believed, and obeyed. Forgive us for when we are not aware of that battle or participating in it ourselves. Make Your Word to run, and direct our hearts into love from You and steadfastness from Christ, so that Your Word may be glorified in us through Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH244 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”


Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Perfect Laws for Managing a Different Sort of Slavery among a Society of Sinners [Family Worship lesson in Exodus 21:1–11]

What will God’s new society be like? Exodus 21:1–11 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eleven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Israelites were to apply God’s moral law by having a civil law that blessed, rewarded, and fostered righteousness even in a fallen world.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

What God Showed Ahab: God's Great Patience, Purpose, Power, and Prescription in a Great Persecution [Family Worship lesson in 1Kings 20]

What controls the histories of nations and armies? 1Kings 20 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these forty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord’s purpose in the history of nations and armies is to make Himself known to His people.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.07.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Kings 20

Read 1 Kings 20

Questions from the Scripture text: Who gathered whom in 1 Kings 20:1? Who were with him? What did they have? Where did he go? What two things did he do there? Whom did he send to whom (1 Kings 20:2)? What did they say—what three things did he claim (1 Kings 20:3)? How did Ahab answer (1 Kings 20:41 Kings 20:7)? What did the messengers next demand (1 Kings 20:5-6)? What does Ahab tell his people Ben-Hadad is seeking (1 Kings 20:7)? How do they answer Ahab (1 Kings 20:8)? So how does he answer Ben-Hadad (1 Kings 20:9)? Now how does Ben-Hadad respond (1 Kings 20:10)? How does Ahab respond to this bluster (1 Kings 20:11)? What were the 1 Kings 20:1 coalition doing when they heard Ahab’s response (1 Kings 20:12)? What does Ben-Hadad tell them to do? Who suddenly approaches Ahab in 1 Kings 20:13? What will Yahweh do? Why? For what particular instructions does Ahab ask in 1 Kings 20:14? How many leaders and people does he have (1 Kings 20:15)? What is the 1 Kings 20:1 coalition doing at what time of day in 1 Kings 20:16? Whom does Ahab send out first (1 Kings 20:17)? Who see them? What does Ben-Hadad say to do (1 Kings 20:18)? Who were with each young leader (1 Kings 20:19)? What they each do (1 Kings 20:20)? What do the Syrians do? And Israel? But where does Ben-Hadad go? What is the outcome (1 Kings 20:21)? What news does the prophet now give Ahab (1 Kings 20:22)? Who speak in 1 Kings 20:23? To what do they attribute Israel’s win? What strategy do they suggest (1 Kings 20:24-25)? What happens in the spring (1 Kings 20:26-27)? What does Israel’s army look like (verse 27)? What do the Syrians do? What is Yahweh going to do (1 Kings 20:28)? Why? How long until the battle is engaged (1 Kings 20:29)? How many do Israel kill? Where do the rest go (1 Kings 20:30)? Who kills how many of them? Where does Ben-Hadad go? Now what do his servants tell him (1 Kings 20:31)? And what do they suggest? What do they do in 1 Kings 20:32? How does Ahab answer? What are they encouraged to do by this answer (1 Kings 20:33)? To what agreement do they come (1 Kings 20:34)? Who says what to whom in 1 Kings 20:35? By what word? What does the man (not) do? What does the prophet say will happen (1 Kings 20:36)? What happens? How does the second try go (1 Kings 20:37)? For what did the prophet need his injury (1 Kings 20:38)? What story does he tell whom in 1 Kings 20:39-40? What sentence does the king pronounce? Now what does the prophet do (1 Kings 20:41)? And what does Ahab see? For what sin is Ahab finally condemned (1 Kings 20:42)? How does Ahab respond (1 Kings 20:43)? 

What controls the histories of nations and armies?  1 Kings 20 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these forty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord’s purpose in the history of nations and armies is to make Himself known to His people.

Behold the patience of God! Even after the drought (1 Kings 17:1–18:2), the competition on Carmel (1 Kings 18:3–40), and the prophet’s run in front of Ahab (1 Kings 18:41–46), Ahab has refused to be directed by the Word of God. Now, the Lord gives him another opportunity to be led by His Word. His providence brings an army so great that Ahab quickly gives up Israel’s wealth and future (1 Kings 20:3–41 Kings 20:7), and He has reduced Israel to a total leadership of 232 and total army of 7000 (1 Kings 20:15).

This level of adversity is what finally softens Ahab so that when the prophet comes in 1 Kings 20:13, Ahab’s response in 1 Kings 20:14 is finally to seek from the Lord detailed instructions for what to do. Perhaps you have experienced this as many have: mercy from God so great as to put you through whatever severity is necessary to turn you to His Word as all of the ideas and orders by which you live.

Compared to the Aramean coalition, whose strength literally made them drunk (cf. 1 Kings 20:121 Kings 20:16), Ahab and Israel had been sobered by their weakness. Praise the Lord for when He patiently sobers us by weakness.

Behold the purpose of God! The prophet doesn’t just come with predictions in 1 Kings 20:13 and 1 Kings 20:28. He comes with the Lord’s purpose: “and you shall know that I am Yahweh.” Perhaps the stupid theology to which God has given over the Arameans (1 Kings 20:23) is a reflection of Ahab’s own. But Ahab is king over God’s covenant people. His state-sponsoring of Baal and Asherah worship (cf. 1 Kings 18:19) contradict the special purpose of the special people whom God gave him to rule: to know Yahweh and make Him known (cf. Deuteronomy 4:5–10).

Behold the power of God! He defeats a great horde twice, with a small band in 1 Kings 20:19-21 and with two little flocks of soldiers who kill 100,000 Arameans in 1 Kings 20:29. And just in case we are tempted to credit the small band, the Lord uses precisely zero Israelites to kill 27,000 in 1 Kings 20:30. When we see His ultimate power, we are reminded that our job is not to be powerful ourselves, but just to do what He commands us and trust that He will work all things for good.

Behold the prescriptions of God! He decides how we glorify Him. The word “merciful” in 1 Kings 20:31 is that word that, when used of God, speaks of His covenant love. Ahab may have had some indication that this reputation was being factored into the display and negotiations in 1 Kings 20:31-33. And perhaps Ahab saw the concessions in 1 Kings 20:34 as a gift from God to restore His people’s fortunes. 

But it is God Who decides how we will bring Him honor and glory. Our job is just to obey Him. When God said all this great multitude in 1 Kings 20:28, He meant it. We must never rationalize incomplete obedience by thinking that it would somehow bring honor to God or prosper His people. This is a sadly timely message for the church in the West. And in our individual lives, too, we must trust the Lord to see to His glory and our good, as we make it our business to give complete and consistent obedience.

How serious is the Lord about this? After all that Ahab has done, the action by which he forfeited his life and the survival of the northern kingdom was sparing Ben-Hadad’s life (1 Kings 20:42). This, then, becomes a great theme for us in God’s dealing with the kings of Israel (cf. 1 Samuel 15:20–29). Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (cf. 1 Samuel 15:23), and Ahab becomes its most recent poster-boy in 1 Kings 20:43 (“sullen” there translates a word that means “rebellious”). 

God requires complete obedience, and He Himself provides the King Who gives it (cf. 1 Samuel 15:28)—Christ! As we trust that Christ has done it in our behalf, and that God is now pressing us into the shape of our Redeemer, let us seek to offer our Lord complete obedience in our redeemed lives.

How has God been patient with you? What difference does it make to you to know that His purposes in all of your circumstances include making you to know Him? What is an area in your life in which you are especially tempted to offer incomplete obedience?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise Your patience with people like Ahab, where You keep giving them undeserved opportunities to be led by Your Word. Forgive us for how stubbornly we can continue to follow our own inclinations, when You keep calling us to be led by Your Word. Truly, it is arrogant to think that we can bring good outcomes in any other way than obeying You. So, forgive us for when our hearts and minds begin to rationalize incomplete obedience. Thank You that Christ’s complete obedience is counted for us through faith in Him. By Your Spirit, keep remaking us into His likeness we pray in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH1B “How Blessed the Man”


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Standing Fast in Every Good Word and Work by Being Held Fast by the Triune God [Family Worship lesson in 2Thessalonians 2:15–17]

What enables a Christian to stand fast? 2Thessalonians 2:15–17 looks forward to the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that we are made to stand fast in God’s teaching, from God’s love, lived out by God’s work.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

How Personal Provision in Present Predicaments Produces Permanent Praise [Family Worship lesson in Psalm 61]

How does having an overwhelmed heart lead to overwhelming praise? Psalm 61 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God Himself helps our hearts find refuge in Him, so that we will both realize the permanently great security we have in Him and therefore commit to permanent praise of Him.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.07.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 61

Read Psalm 61

Questions from the Scripture text: Into whose hands was this Psalm committed (superscript)? Who wrote it? What is its first request (Psalm 61:1a)? What is its second (verse 1b)? From where is the psalmist doing what (Psalm 61:2a)? How does his heart feel (verse 2b)? What does he ask God to do when this happens (verse 2c)? What two things has God been for him (Psalm 61:3)? Where does he hope to abide (Psalm 61:4a)? For how long? In what shelter will the Psalmist take refuge (verse 4b)? Who has heard what (Psalm 61:5a)? What has God given him (verse 5b)? To whom does this heritage belong? What will God do for him as king (Psalm 61:6a)? For how long (verse 6b)? How long will he abide where (Psalm 61:7a)? What two things does he ask God to prepare (literally “count out”) for him (verse 7b)? What would this covenanted love and faithfulness do for him? What will the psalmist do (Psalm 61:8a)? For how long? For what purpose (verse 8b)?

How does having an overwhelmed heart lead to overwhelming praise? Psalm 61 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God Himself helps our hearts find refuge in Him, so that we will both realize the permanently great security we have in Him and therefore commit to permanent praise of Him.

Present predicament. The first line in Psalm 61:2 suggests that the circumstance of this Psalm was one of the many times that David was on the run, or perhaps in the midst of a difficult military campaign like with Psalm 60. But the occasion of the Psalm has more to do with his heart: he is overwhelmed (feels like fainting). When have you felt like this, dear believer? Be comforted that not only did David and the Lord Jesus (Who is prophesied by this Psalm) experience the same, but one of the reasons that they did is so that the Holy Spirit could give you this to pray and to sing. The Lord knows both your circumstances and your faintness, and He makes provision for you.

Personal (and permanent) preservation. Ultimately, that provision is Himself. The shelter is not a place but a Person. Not only is the Lord Himself the rock/refuge/tower/tent/hideout (Psalm 61:2-4), but He Himself leads us there (verse 2c)! Many a believer has had this experience—not being able to see any light or hope, but then the Holy Spirit Himself brings to mind the Lord Whom you have known from His Word and in your life. Now if God Himself is helping you find God Himself as your help, how long will that last? Forever!

By referring to himself as “the king” in Psalm 61:6a, David alerts us to the fact that the hope and heritage of this Psalm belong by right to Christ. Certainly, the Lord Jesus had much occasion to cry out to God, including the greatest occasion ever. And it is He who conquered death in His resurrection and intercedes for us now by the power of His indestructible life (Psalm 61:6-7a, cf. Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 7:16). When God is your shelter, you will abide there forever (Psalm 61:7a). And when it is in the forever-King that you have shelter, it will be forever.

Permanent praise. Psalm 61:5a, Psalm 61:8b frame in the second half of the Psalm with the idea of vows. Already, the psalmist has realized how permanent his preservation will be since it is God Himself. So, he turns his attention from what he needs from God to his response to God, and he commits to praise that corresponds to the Lord’s preserving of him. 

The “inheritance” in Psalm 61:5 is being counted out (the literal word, translated “prepare” in our version) in Psalm 61:7b. What is that inheritance? The mercy (ḳessed, covenant love) and truth (emmet, faithfulness) that is keeping him even now. Every day, forever, he will be praising God’s Name for these (Psalm 61:8a–b). 

And since this is already a day in which he has them, he will praise God’s Name for them now. In the space of just eight verses, the Holy Spirit has brought him (and us!) from an overwhelmed heart to overwhelming praise.

When has your heart been overwhelmed? Who can help you to your shelter then? To what shelter does He lead you? What do you find there? For how long? How do you respond? For how long?

Sample prayer:  O God, lead us to Yourself as our Rock. Make us to know that our safety is not in a place but in a Person. Open our eyes to know You and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent. For, this is eternal life. Count out for us the inheritance of Your covenanted love and faithfulness. And, provoke our hearts to respond with committed and everlasting praise, for we ask it through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP61A “O God, Hear My Cry” or TPH61B “O Hear My Urgent Cry”


Monday, July 25, 2022

An Unique Slavery in God's New Society: an Oasis of Righteousness in a Fallen World [2022.07.24 Evening Sermon in Exodus 21:1–11]


The Israelites were to apply God's moral law by having a civil law that promoted righteousness even in a fallen world.

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God's Method (Hearing a Man Speak Words) and Message (Who Jesus Is and What He Has Done) [2022.07.24 Morning Sermon in Acts 10:1–43]


God's method for giving repentance and faith is His Word preached, and God's message is Who Jesus is and what Jesus has done.

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How Can I Overcome Lust? Part 2 of 3 [2022.07.24 Sabbath School]

"How Can I Overcome Lust" Part 2 of 3 in the RHB series, "Cultivating Biblical Godliness"
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The Good News of the One Whose Baptizing Actually Saves (Family Worship lesson in Mark 1:1–8)

What is the gospel good news about, and how does baptism display it? Mark 1:1–8 corresponds to Peter’s memory in Ac 11:15–18 of our sermon text on the coming Lord’s Day (no midweek sermon this week, as Pastor will be at FBC). In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Christ Himself pours out His Holy Spirit upon us to give us union with Christ Himself and all His benefits.
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2022.07.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 1:1–8

Read Mark 1:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: Of what is this a beginning (Mark 1:1)? Of whose gospel, in particular, is it the beginning—what three things is He called? Where had the next couple verses been written originally (Mark 1:2)? What would the Lord send before the Christ’s face? What is the messenger doing? Whose way, specifically, was the messenger to prepare (Mark 1:3)? What two things did John come doing (Mark 1:4)? What did his baptism promise? How effective was this preaching (Mark 1:5)? How impressive was John (Mark 1:6)? Whom did he say would be far more impressive (Mark 1:7)? What baptism would He give to truly accomplish what John’s could only point forward to (Mark 1:8)? 

What is the gospel good news about, and how does baptism display it? Mark 1:1–8 corresponds to Peter’s memory in Acts 11:15–18 of our sermon text on the coming Lord’s Day (no midweek sermon this week, as Pastor will be at FBC). In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Christ Himself pours out His Holy Spirit upon us to give us union with Christ Himself and all His benefits. 

In the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learn immediately what kind of writing Mark has written. It is a gospel. It is good news. And it is good news about Jesus, whose name means, “the Lord saves.” And it is good news about the Christ, which is a title that means, “anointed One.” And it is good news about the Son of God, which means that here is One who is not created by God, but rather begotten of God—One who is very God of very God… One who is God Himself.

This is good news about how the Lord God became a man that He might save us as the anointed One. Such an One about whom we need to hear such news deserves someone to announce that He is here. And that’s what the Baptizer was doing. He was preparing the way for the Savior by announcing what it was from which we need saving: our sins. That is to say that He preached repentance.

The Baptizer announced repentance, but it couldn’t take away sin. Have you ever even tried just to stop sinning? We can’t. Not in this life. And not at all on our own. In repentance, we recognize sin for what it is, and determine our whole selves against it. Repentance includes feeling sorry against our sin, but it is much more than sorry-feeling. It’s also declaration of war! But still, there are sin’s guilt and sin’s power that against us. 

What’s the good news (gospel)? That there is remission of sin—the canceling of sin from our account with God. And it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ because He doesn’t just wash us with water as a sign that this canceling of sin can happen. No, Jesus Christ washes us with His own Holy Spirit. This is why Christian water-baptism is different from John’s water-baptism (cf. Acts 19:1–7). 

By His Spirit, Christ actually cleanses us. The Holy Spirit unites us, through faith, to Jesus Christ. Christ’s death becomes ours, satisfying for the guilt of our sin.
Christ’s obedience becomes ours, earning every possible blessing for us.
Christ’s status becomes ours, bringing us into our adoption as God’s children.
Christ’s life becomes ours, so that the life live, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Christ’s Spirit, Whom He has poured upon us, works all of this in our lives (cf. Galatians 3:26–27; Romans 6:1–4, Romans 8:3–17)!

Who is the Holy Spirit? Who gives Him to sinners? To which ones? What does He do in their lives? 

Sample prayer:  Lord Jesus, the best news that we have ever heard is that You have saved sinners, and that You Yourself apply this salvation by Your Holy Spirit. Thank You for helping our weakness by giving us baptism with water to assure us of Your baptizing by Your Spirit. Please use Your Word and Your sacrament by Your Spirit to stir up our faith in You, we ask in Your own Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51AB “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH392 “Holy Ghost, Dispel Our Sadness”


Sunday, July 24, 2022

Theology Simply Explained — WSC45 What Is the First Commandment

Pastor walks his children through Westminster Shorter Catechism question 45: Which is the first commandment? The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
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Saturday, July 23, 2022

2022.07.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 10:44–11:18

Read Acts 10:44–11:18

Questions from the Scripture text: What was Peter still doing (Acts 10:44)? What did the Holy Spirit do? Who were astonished (Acts 10:45)? What is the Holy Spirit called here? What had been done with this Gift onto whom? How did the Jews know that the Spirit had been poured upon these Gentiles (Acts 10:46)? What does Peter question whether it could be forbidden them in Acts 10:47? What would be done to them with this water? In what manner had they received the Holy Spirit? What does he command be done (Acts 10:48)? In what Name? What did they ask Peter to do? What two groups heard what in Acts 11:1? Where had Peter come in Acts 11:2? What were the Jews called here again (cf. Acts 10:45)? What was their specific complaint (Acts 11:3)? Where does Peter start his explanation (Acts 11:4-5)? What had he seen in the vision (Acts 11:5-6)? What command did he receive (Acts 11:7)? How had he responded (Acts 11:8)? But what did the voice answer about Peter’s exception to the command (Acts 11:9)? How many times did this happen (Acts 11:10)? When does Acts 11:11 occur? What happened? Who still had to command Peter at this point (Acts 11:12)? And what did the Spirit tell him not to do? How many “of the circumcision” came along? What did they all enter? Whom had the man seen (Acts 11:13)? What had the angel said to do? What had the angel said that Peter would do (Acts 11:14)? Who would be saved by these words? What happens as Peter begins preaching (Acts 11:15)? What does the Holy Spirit do? Whose word does Peter now remember (Acts 11:16)? With what had John baptized? And what did Jesus say would happen by the pouring and falling of the Holy Spirit? What had God done when (Acts 11:17)? Whom did Peter say that he would be withstanding if he forbade the water (verse 17b, cf. Acts 10:47)? How do they respond to hearing these things (Acts 11:18)? Whom do they glorify? How do they describe these Gentiles’ being saved?

Who is saving whom and how?  Acts 10:44-11:18 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these forty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that it is God Who grants repentance to life, by the pouring out of His Spirit, the gift of Whom He affirms and signifies by the pouring of water in baptism.

Faith comes by the pouring of the Spirit. Peter is telling them about believing (Acts 10:44), when suddenly it becomes apparent that the believing itself has happened. We had seen in Acts 9:34 and Acts 9:40 the power of the Word to give what it commands. Now we find out more specifically who applies that power: the Holy Spirit. He fell upon them (Acts 10:44b). He is a Gift Who was poured out upon them (Acts 10:45). It is the Lord Jesus Who did this pouring (Acts 11:16, cf. Mark 1:8, John 1:33, Acts 1:5), when the Holy Spirit fell upon them (Acts 11:15).

Faith is not immediately visible. But the Spirit makes them see His work by hearing. This time, it is Gentiles speaking in language that they do not know, probably Aramaic (Acts 10:46)—though those “of the circumcision” were astonished by it, the evidence was clear enough that they could not deny it!

So God demands that His church baptize with water. The Spirit has been given, been poured, and fallen. Peter asks, “Can anyone forbid (hinder, refuse, withhold) water that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47). In Acts 11:15, he describes that time, “the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.” 

We learn more of what’s behind Paul’s question in Acts 11:17. To not apply water in physical baptism, just as the Lord Jesus has applied the Spirit in spiritual baptism, is to “withstand God.” This is one reason why baptism could not be delayed. 

Though there are those who are baptized and later receive the Spirit (cf. Acts 19:5–6), when it is plain that someone has been brought to faith, there is a strong, urgent obligation to baptize him. The church is required to affirm on earth what Jesus does from heaven. The church is required to imitate with water what Christ does with His Spirit, to signify the method by which we are brought to faith and repentance. The church affirms this publicly for the honor of God and the strengthening of our faith. We need assuring that salvation is God’s divine work, and God helps us not only by the Word and by the Supper but also by the sacrament of Christian Baptism.

This baptizing glorifies God for being pleased to add to His church from all nations. God’s people, His church to use Stephen’s word about them from Acts 7:38, had been marked off by circumcision. Twice in our passage, believing Jews are called “those of the circumcision” (Acts 10:45, Acts 11:2) implying that they were still thinking of God’s people at that way. In fact, they less upset that Peter had baptized Gentiles than that he had entered the Gentile house and ate with the Gentiles (Acts 11:3). This was an error that Peter himself and even Barnabas would get carried into later (cf. Galatians 2:11–13).

But we are not of the circumcision, which belonged as a spiritual ordinance to just the one nation. Christ’s church can be called “of baptism,” which belongs as a spiritual ordinance to people of all nations. Baptism helps us do more than be sure that it is Christ Who saves; it turns our hearts to praise. “They glorified God, saying ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life’” (Acts 11:18). It is God Who decides who will repent. It is God Who grants repentance. And He is granting it to people from all nations. Each baptism we attend should stir up not only our faith but our praise!

If you believe in Jesus, how did that happen? If you don’t, then how can it happen? What must the church do with someone whom God adds to her? What are two ways that we should respond to Baptism?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You Who have poured out Your Spirit to give repentance and faith. Forgive us for when we are closed hearted toward anyone in Your church. Grant unto us to treasure them as marked off to Yourself, and to look to You for grace to complete the sanctifying and glorifying of us all in Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP67 “O God, Give Us Your Blessing” or TPH424 “All Authority and Power”


Friday, July 22, 2022

2022.07.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 21:1–11

Read Exodus 21:1–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What are “these” (Exodus 21:1)? What is Moses to do with them? Whom might they end up buying (Exodus 21:2)? How long would he serve? What happens in the seventh year? What if he became a servant by himself (Exodus 21:3)? What if he had been married when he came in? But what if his master gives him a wife (Exodus 21:4)? What other option does the servant have in this case (Exodus 21:5-6)? What affection must there be between him and his master? His wife? His children? How long will he be a “servant” in that case? What may a man do with his daughter (Exodus 21:7)? But what is the implication of what is happening in this case (Exodus 21:8)? And what if the recipient is not taking her as a wife for himself (verse 8)? And what if he took her as a wife for his son (Exodus 21:9)? Even if he does not marry her, what portion and place is she to have in the household (Exodus 21:10)? And if he refuses, then what (Exodus 21:11)?

What will God’s new society be like?  Exodus 21:1–11 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eleven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Israelites were to apply God’s moral law by having a civil law that blessed, rewarded, and fostered righteousness even in a fallen world. 

The beginning of Israel’s civil case law. God has already declared His moral law that is to govern their hearts and actions before His face. But He has also now gathered Israel as a church and a nation. As a church, they would need ceremonial law. As a nation, they would need civil laws. Unsurprisingly, even before Sinai we have seen the need for various regulations and for hearing and deciding cases among the people.

Now, with Moses receiving from God the ongoing instructions, this passage begins “these are the judgments which you shall set before them.” In this formula, the word ‘judgments’ (or “ordinances”) refers to case laws based upon previous laws that have established foundational principles. 

Slavery goes first. This surprises us, but it was probably less surprising to them. God had introduced the Ten Commandments reminding them that He brought them out of the house of bondage. Now, He introduces the case law by showing just how different this new society would be. We don’t have the option of thinking judgmentally about God’s civil laws; rather, we can acknowledge as Christ did that laws responding to or managing sin are not necessarily laws that condone or approve that sin (cf. Matthew 19:8).

Our society could learn something from theirs about dealing with debt and economic hardship. For instance, this system required the debtor to labor for the good of his creditor and the creditor to care for the needs of his debtor. But even our post-Christian society is superior in this area to the other societies of their time. In them (as in Egypt), manservants were treated worse than beasts, and maidservants were kept for violating and abusing. Here, then, was a place where they could quickly learn just how distinctive were the principles of their new society, principles like: liberty, love, and dignity.

Liberty. Six years max. Many embark on a college/grad education that takes longer and buries them in crippling debt. When the seventh year comes for a Hebrew servant, he doesn’t go back to his debt but has a fresh start. This was revolutionary!

Love. If a master wanted to keep a servant, he had a path forward for that. Treat him in a way that fostered love. And then, if he’s single, find him a wife that he will love. The servant doesn’t have to take her, of course. And he knows the risks, that if he leaves this master, he would lose this wife. The strangeness of the regulation gets in our way a little. But if we think about it a little, we can see what this case law is encouraging—even for the six years.

Dignity. For a female servant, the implication in Exodus 21:8Exodus 21:9 is that she is taken as a wife (either for himself or for his son). Here too, however, there must be love, and if not love at least dignity. Otherwise, she is either released (if she was to be his, Exodus 21:8) or adopted (if she was to be his son’s, Exodus 21:9). And the implication in her release from marriage is that she continues with just as much status as if she had continued as the wife (Exodus 21:10).

Liberty, love, and dignity as foundational principles for governing slavery? This is obviously not the sort of slavery about which we are accustomed to thinking about or reading about. Rather, it is a way of dealing with economic realities in a fallen world among people who have been redeemed (and therefore, liberty), who acknowledge that marriage is a divine institution (and therefore, love), and who recognize about every human that he is made in the image of God (and therefore dignity).

What three principles underlay these regulations for slavery? Where did they come from? What did they say about this society as compared to others? Where should Christian nations find the principles for their laws?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we are so selfish that we forget about Your glory in thinking about economics and laws. Forgive us, and grant unto us to think about these things from Your Word instead of from our flesh, with priorities and principles that come from Who You are and what You have done for us. For we ask it through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP184 “Adoration and Submission” or TPH164 “God Himself Is with Us”


Thursday, July 21, 2022

Through Whom and How God Began to Overthrow a Wicked Dynasty (Family Worship lesson in 1Kings 19:19–21)

How does God bring down evil dynasties? 1Kings 19:19–21 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eighteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God often does great things through simple people and resolved commitment.
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2022.07.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Thessalonians 2:15–17

Read 2 Thessalonians 2:15–17

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle call them in 2 Thessalonians 2:15? What two commands does he give them? To what are they to hold fast? By what two methods were these traditions taught? To Whom does 2 Thessalonians 2:16 appeal? By what four words is He called, and what does each imply? To Whom else does it appeal? What does it call Him? Whom has the Father, specifically, loved? What two things has Jesus given them in behalf of the Father? What sort of consolation? What sort of hope? By what mechanism or principle? What does he pray that Jesus would do to their hearts (2 Thessalonians 2:17)? In what two things does he pray that Jesus would establish (strengthen) them?

What enables a Christian to stand fast?  2 Thessalonians 2:15–17 looks forward to the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that we are made to stand fast in God’s teaching, from God’s love, lived out by God’s work. 

Hold on to God’s teaching. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, we heard that we have been set on the path to glory by the loving, eternal intentions of God toward them. That’s the end and the beginning, but what are we to do in the moment? A great part of the Christian life is just standing (cf. Ephesians 6:13–14!). With a glorious eternal end guaranteed by everlasting electing love, that’s what the apostle commands them to do: stand! But how?

By holding onto traditions. Now, we must not think that these are traditions of men, as if things might be added centuries later to which 2 Thessalonians 2:15 applies. The word ‘traditions’ points not to the idea that these teachings come from man, but that these teachings come from God. They came by Word (“logos”) and by epistle. This is special revelation. The Holy Spirit using ordained servants to proclaim words that are from Jesus Christ. And not words that are just for the Thessalonians, but words that are to continue to be handed on.

Christian ministry is teaching-based ministry. The Christian life is a teaching-based life. Standing comes by holding on to the teaching that is from Jesus.

Be held onto by God’s love. In Philippians 3:12, the apostle talks about pressing on to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of him. There is a similar “mutual holding” going on here. The Thessalonian brethren can hold onto God’s Word, because it is the Triune God Who holds onto them.

Grammatically, the verbs are singular, so the “Himself” in 2 Thessalonians 2:16 underlines to us that it is especially the Son Who has loved us. He is the Lord: YHWH, the Creator, the covenant God, the God of the bush in Exodus 3, the One Who pours out His Spirit and upon Whose Name we call to be saved from Joel 2. He is Jesus, YHWH Who saves. He is the Christ: the prophet like Moses, the Priest forever like Melchizedek, the forever-king from the line of David. And it is He Himself Who loved us. Who gave us everlasting consolation (paraklesis) and good hope by grace. 

We can hold onto the Word because everlasting, Triune love holds onto us in the Lord Jesus Christ!

In which God works in our works. This Triune love does a Triune work. The Son has given everlasting “paraklesis” (2 Thessalonians 2:16) in which He “parakletes” their hearts (beginning of 2 Thessalonians 2:17), which of course reminds us that He does so especially by His Spirit. In this, He acts in conjunction with “our God and Father.” 

But our standing is not inactivity. No, we are to speak every good word. And, we are to do every good work. And the work of the Triune God in comforting our hearts doesn’t make us passive but rather strengthens us in speaking and doing every good thing.

How do you distinguish what transitions to hold onto? Why is it that for these specific traditions, you can hope to have strength? How does the passage set this dependence over/against passivity?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for how often we feel like giving up, giving in, or becoming passive and inactive. Remind us that not only are we required to hold onto Your Word, but we may be assured of speaking every good word and doing every good work because You, our Triune God have loved us and strengthen us.

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH243 “How Firm a Foundation”


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Divine Sovereignty Brings Pressure, Purpose, and Praise to Our Problems (Family Worship lesson in Psalm 60)

When God seems to have turned against us, where can we find hope? Psalm 60 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twelve verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that our hope in troubled times is that God has taken us to be His own, and that He ultimately takes the whole world to be His own.
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2022.07.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Kings 19:19–21

Read 1 Kings 19:19–21

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Elijah do, when the LORD finished talking (1 Kings 19:19)? Where did he go (cf. 1 Kings 19:16b)? Whom did he find there? What was Elisha doing? What does Elijah do? What does Elisha do (1 Kings 19:20)? But what does he ask to do first? How does Elijah respond to this? Then what does Elisha do instead (1 Kings 19:21)? Using what? For whom? With the means and materials of his old life out of the way, what does Elisha now do? What does he become?

How does God bring down evil dynasties?  1 Kings 19:19–21 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eighteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God often does great things through simple people and resolved commitment.

The reinvigorated faith of Elijah. Last week, in the first eighteen verses, we met a prophet who had a dim view of the effectiveness of his ministry so far. But God reminded him that he is just one servant among seven thousand even at that moment (1 Kings 19:18), and that he would yet be used to ordain a triumverate of enemy-exterminators (1 Kings 19:16-17) in following generations. 

How do we know that this Word took effect? Because Elijah immediately set his GPS for Abel Meholah. Elisha was supposed to be the final member of the triumverate, mopping up whomever the other two couldn’t. And that’s where Elisha was from, according to 1 Kings 19:16. So Elijah arrives in town, gets directions to the Shaphat farm, finds a young man attending his particular ox in the plowing, and throws his coat onto him as a way of conscripting him as prophet-in-training and chief hand-washer (end of 1 Kings 19:21, cf. 2 Kings 3:11). 

Sometimes, we come to worship deflated but are reminded that we belong to God, as does the fruit of our work. A good response is just to proceed with whatever our particular calling is. Going home, loving our wife, teaching our children, working our job, resuming attendance upon the public means of grace whenever they are offered. When we trust that God is using our lives, we resume the things that God says that He is using.

The simple man that the Lord is pleased to use. The 2 Kings 3:11 reference above shows the humility into which Elisha entered as servant in 1 Kings 19:21. But our little passage also shows us a simple, hard-working man. Certainly, his family came from some wealth. Twenty-four oxen (twelve yoke, 1 Kings 19:19) is nothing to sniff at, and it took two of them to feed the entire household at Elisha’s going-away party (1 Kings 19:21). But despite the number of servants available, the son is plowing the field, attending personally to one of the twelve oxen that are in use. 

All callings are dignified because in God’s providence they are callings. And often it is the Lord’s way to take someone who has been diligent and faithful in little (like attending to a plowing ox) and call him to something else little (like handwashing). And then sometimes, the Lord calls him who was faithful in little and entrusts him with much (like becoming the chief prophet). 

The wholehearted commitment that the Lord gives His servant. It’s significant that Elisha asks to kiss his parents. Rather than read stalling into 1 Kings 19:20, it is better to read eagerness. He wants to give dad and mom the definitive goodbye. In contact, Elijah seems to indicate that there’s no reason to think that the throwing of the mantle would forbid this. In fact, the anointing referred to in 1 Kings 19:16 is not described yet as having taken place.

Furthermore, by slaughtering the particular oxen to which he was assigned and using that particular yoke for the food prep, Elisha renounces his former calling and way of life. He is giving up everything to become a servant. Such commitment comes from the Lord. If we have it, let us bless His Name for it. If we lack it, let us take our lesson here and look to the Lord to make us live with wholehearted commitment in whatever particular callings He has given us in home, church, and nation.

In all of this, the main message is that the plan of God described in 1 Kings 19:15-18 is being carried out. And though He has not appeared to us to tell us His plan for our own life and its part in His work, aren’t we still sure that He is doing it? So let us not despise the day of small things but be grateful when He gives us reinvigorated faith, simple duties, and wholehearted commitment. The LORD is at work by these things!

What are your particular callings in life? When your diligence or commitment sags, where can you go for encouragement? Whose plans are you hoping to see fulfilled by your daily efforts in life?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for calling Elijah and Elisha for specific works and giving them the faith and commitment to obey promptly and completely. Give us such faith, too! Give us such commitment, too!  Forgive us for when discouragement dulls our zeal, or when we are unwilling to let go of other attachments to do what we know from Your Word that You have commanded. And work in us according to Your good will, in which we ask You to use us and make our lives bear the fruit that You intend, in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH551 “We Plow the Fields”


Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Rightly Responding to Being Associated with God and Instructed by God (Family Worship lesson in Romans 2:17–24)

What is a first, right response to our covenant status and instruction? Romans 2:17–24 looks forward to the this week’s midweek sermon. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that when we have been associated with God and instructed by God, one of our chief uses of that instruction is to follow it in such a way as to bring honor to Him.
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Theology Simply Explained — WSC44 Prefacing the Ten Commandments into Its Place

Pastor walks his children through Westminster Shorter Catechism question 44: What doth the preface to the Ten Commandments teach us? The preface to the Ten Commandments teacheth us that because God is the LORD, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all His commandments.
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2022.07.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 60

Read Psalm 60

Questions from the Scripture text: Into whose hands was this Psalm originally placed (superscript)? Who wrote it for what primary use? To what historical event was it attached? Whom does Psalm 60:1 address? What two things does verse 1a–b say God has done? Why (verse 1c)? For what does verse 1d ask? What else do Psalm 60:2a–b say God has acted against? In what ways? For what does verse 2c ask? How does Psalm 60:3 describe Israel? What hope does this already give? But what two things has God done to “His people”? Yet, what great thing had He previously done (Psalm 60:4a)? For whom? For what purpose (verse 4b)? For what other purpose (Psalm 60:5a)? For what two things does verse 5b ask? In what has God spoken (Psalm 60:6a)? What will He do (verse 6b)? What other two things (verse 6d)? What two places/peoples belong to Him (Psalm 60:7a)? And what two for honorable use (verse 7b–c)? And what two for more common use (Psalm 60:8a–b)? Who/where else is His (verse 8c)? What will they do? What does David now ask in Psalm 60:9? What is the answer to his question (Psalm 60:10)? But what is the problem, if he is looking forward to the Lord doing this? Why isn’t he looking for help elsewhere (Psalm 60:11)? Of what outcome is he sure (Psalm 60:12)? Through Whom? How?

When God seems to have turned against us, where can we find hope? Psalm 60 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twelve verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that our hope in troubled times is that God has taken us to be His own, and that He ultimately takes the whole world to be His own.

Divine sovereignty makes our troubles more difficult. The knowledge that God rules and overrules all things means that things don’t just happen to us. God is active and operating in them. This was the great trouble for Job. Even if he had known of Satan’s direct involvement, it would not have resolved the Lord’s sovereign oversight. 

So also for David in this Psalm. It is the God Who has been acting in David’s battle defeats (Psalm 60:1a–c). It is God Who has acted against His promised land (Psalm 60:2a–b). It’s God Who has brought pain and confusion to His own people (Psalm 60:3). The problem has been not that Mesopotamia, Syria, and Edom have been against them but that God has (Psalm 60:10)!

Divine sovereignty gives divine purpose to our troubles. But if this is the case, then we know some of God’s purposes in our pain. He has faithfully acknowledged His people as His own, so we know that is part of what He is doing (Psalm 60:4). If He has brought His people into difficulty, part of the reason is to display His love as He delivers them (Psalm 60:5a). If He has brought His people to the point of crying out to be saved, it is partly so that they can know that He hears them when they cry (verse 5b).  He intends to rejoice over them (Psalm 60:6b). He even brings us into situations that prove that God alone can be our help (Psalm 60:11b).

Showing His commitment. Showing His love. Showing His hearing us. Showing His rejoicing over us. These are all wonderful divine purposes in the sufferings of His people, praise God!

Divine sovereignty brings divine praise through our troubles. He is holy (Psalm 60:6a); He acts for Himself. So, His people need to be apportioned and measured as His own inheritance (Psalm 60:6-7a). He decides what to do with each. That’s the picture presented by His selecting Ephraim as a helmet in verse 7b and Judah as a scepter in verse 7c. This is done not in spite, but in joy! 

Even the enemies are described as those whom God is in the process of appropriating for His own service. God, of course, needs no washpot (Moab, Psalm 60:8a) or footrest (Edom, verse 8b). Neither does He need helmet or scepter. But even for more common service, it is an honor to a nation when the Lord turns them from being an enemy to being a servant.

God’s purpose of His praise must be realized. In the midst of difficulty, Psalm 60:12 is still the believer’s confidence.

How does it help to remember that your troubles are more about God than they are about You? What are some difficulties that You are in? What are some of God’s purposes in those difficulties?

Sample prayer:  O Lord, we bless Your Name for raising Your banner over us, and displaying it in Your faithfulness. How sweet it is to know that we are Your beloved, and that You hear us! And how marvelous that You would rejoice over us and give us a particular part in bringing You glory! Give us help from Yourself, even now for worshiping You, for whatever comes from us is useless. But You have given Yourself to us by Your indwelling Spirit, Who unites us to Christ, in Whose Name we pray, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP60B “God in His Holiness Declared” or TPH60 “You, O God, Reject and Spurn Us”

Monday, July 18, 2022

God Wants Us to Draw Near to Him in Reverence, Repentance, and Remembrance (2022.07.17 Evening Sermon in Exodus 20:18–26)


God's display of holiness is not meant to scare us off but to amaze us at His gospel and ensure that we come to Him only through Christ and in a manner appropriate to such a God as He is.

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God Shows No Partiality: He Sovereignly Gathers His Elect from All Nations (2022.07.17 Morning Sermon in Acts 10:1–43)


Christ is actively working to give faith, through preaching, to all for whom He died.

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How Can I Overcome Lust? Part 1 (2022.07.17 Sabbath School)

"How Can I Overcome Lust" Part 1 of 3 in the RHB series, "Cultivating Biblical Godliness"
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2022.07.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 2:17–24

Read Romans 2:17–24

Questions from the Scripture text: What is the reader called, upon whom the apostle is specifically focusing now (Romans 2:17)? Upon what is he resting? In Whom does he make his boast? What does he know (Romans 2:18)? What does he approve? From what is he instructed? What two things is he confident that he is in comparison to others (Romans 2:19)? What two more things is he confident that he is in comparison to others (Romans 2:20)? What does he have in the law? Whom should he be teaching (Romans 2:21)? Whom should he be examining for theft? Whom should he be examining for adultery (Romans 2:22)? Whom should he be examining for idolatry? By what question can he evaluate whether his boasting in the law is unto the honor of God (Romans 2:23)? What happens to the name of God on account of such a man (Romans 2:24)? Among whom does this happen? How had this concept been previously communicated?

What is a first, right response to our covenant status and instruction?  Romans 2:17–24 looks forward to the this week’s midweek sermon. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that when we have been associated with God and instructed by God, one of our chief uses of that instruction is to follow it in such a way as to bring honor to Him. 

The kind of person to whom the apostle is speaking here. In Romans 2:17-20, the apostle gives us an eleven phrase catalog of the attributes of the sort of person to whom he is speaking. It basically boils down to this: someone who is associated with God and instructed by God.

He is associated with God. He is called a Jew. He rests on the law; from the context, he thinks that just having it and hearing it (cf. Romans 2:13) gives him safety and security. He makes his boast in God. Even if his heart is far from God, he is still the sort who draws near with the lips. He knows that God’s greatness ought to be his theme, and he makes others think that it is his theme, and maybe believes that it is himself.

He is instructed by God. He knows, approves, is instructed, guides, is a light, an instructor, a teacher, having the shape/formula of the truth. He’s very impressed with this, as others are blind, in darkness, foolish, and babies. 

What this kind of person would do, if these things are genuinely true. There really are people whom God sets apart to Himself from the world and whom God instructs. It would be a mistake to say that there aren’t. What, then, is the apostle’s point in the questions that make up Romans 2:21-23? He’s asking diagnostic questions to help the man in Romans 2:17-20 assess whether these things are genuinely true about himself.

The necessity of learning for ourselves first. “You, therefore who teach another, do you not teach yourself?” Here is a great help for recognizing whether we are genuinely instructed by God. If the wisdom is from God and His Word, then we come before Him with a keen recognition that by comparison to Him and His Word, it is I who am blind. I who am in darkness. I who am foolish. I who am a baby. I come in gratitude, humility, and expectation—thankful for what He has given but knowing that there is so much yet to be overcome, in which to grow, etc. But, if my coming to Scripture is largely an exercise in reaffirming how correct I already am, then I am exposed as self-wise rather than God-instructed.

The necessity of examining ourselves first. “You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?” This would be a shocking question to most pharisaical Jews. And the question about adultery even more so. And the question about robbing temples even more! But God’s law is very searching and exceedingly broad. As the apostle just finished pointing out (Romans 2:16), it touches even the secrets of men. 

When we begin to approach it the way that Jesus did in Matthew 5:13–7:12, we realize that it especially addresses the heart that God alone can see. Rather than saying “of course not!” to all of the questions in Romans 2:21-22, we ought to be asking ourselves how it is that we are breaking these commandments from our hearts. He who lacks humility makes himself less useful to others not more. It is the one who has practiced dealing with sin in his own heart who is actually useful to his brother. Having dealt with the log, he can help with the speck.

Self-righteousness betrays a disregard for God and His honor. It’s not just God Who can see our hypocrisy. The unkept heart inevitably shows through. When Romans 2:24 adds “as it is written,” it shows that God has been diagnosing this as a problem for a long time. We are fools if we think that our hypocrisy will stay hidden. And if we try to live this way, we show that we don’t really care about the honor of God. For the man who is false before God knows that he will eventually be exposed before men as false, and then he will bring shame upon the Name of his God. 

We can tell ourselves that our boasting is in God. But if we aren’t actively caring about how we honor Him from the heart in our obedience, then we can be sure that we do not really care about honoring Him in our theology. If we are using God as an excuse to feel superior to others, then we are false. And when this falseness is exposed, God’s honor bears the brunt of it.

So the last great question isn’t just, “do I teach myself?” or “do I examine myself?” but “do I really love God and His honor?” What a hard question; praise God the answer for Christ is “Yes!” And the more the Spirit works in us, the more that will be our answer too.

If you are really instructed by God, what will your experience of Bible study and hearing preaching be like? What is the difference between asking yourself “do I do this” and “how am I doing this”? How does loving God’s honor affect how you approach the Bible? How you approach other people?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for setting us apart to Yourself and instructing us. Help us to remember that by setting us apart to Yourself, You have made what we do to reflect upon You. So give us genuine humility under Your Word, genuine gratitude for whatever work You do in us, genuine desire for more of that work, and genuine praise of You in our hearts and on our lips. For we ask it through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

 

Saturday, July 16, 2022

2022.07.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 10:1–43

Read Acts 10:1–43

Questions from the Scripture text: Who was where (Acts 10:1)? What position did he hold? In what group? What sort of man was he spiritually (Acts 10:2)? Whom else did he lead in this? What did he do to people? In what manner? What did he do to God? How often? At what time did he see what (Acts 10:3)? What did the angel say? How did Cornelius feel (Acts 10:4)? What did he ask? What did the angel say about him? What did the angel tell him to do (Acts 10:5)? Where would this Simon Peter be found (Acts 10:6)? What would Simon Peter do? Whom does Cornelius call in Acts 10:7? What does he do with them (Acts 10:8)? To where are they drawing near in Acts 10:9? Where does God’s providence take Peter at this moment? What hour is it? What does he start to feel at this time (Acts 10:10)? What are the Tanner’s servants still doing? What happens to Peter? What does he see in Acts 10:11? What are in the sheet (Acts 10:12)? Which kinds? What preparation and action is he commanded in Acts 10:13? What objections does he make in Acts 10:14 (both to the kinds, and to the inadequate food prep)? But what does the voice now say about these objections (Acts 10:15)? How many times does Peter persist in his resistance (Acts 10:16)? What does God finally do with the sheet-full of animals in the vision? Now what is Peter doing in Acts 10:17? Who have just done what? What do they do when they get to Simon’s house (Acts 10:18)? Who already knows, and how (Acts 10:19)? What does the Spirit command him to do (Acts 10:20)? To not do? Why? What does Peter do in Acts 10:21? What does he ask? What do they answer in Acts 10:22? What does Peter do that day (even in the Tanner’s house, Acts 10:23)? What does he do the next day? Who go with him? Where do they enter in Acts 10:24? Who is waiting? What has he done? What does Cornelius now do in Acts 10:25? But what does Peter do and say in Acts 10:26? What happens in Acts 10:27? How does he explain why he’s ok with this in Acts 10:28? What does he ask again in Acts 10:29? How does Cornelius describe the circumstances of his vision (Acts 10:30)? How does he summarize the content of the vision (Acts 10:31-32)? What does he conclude is the purpose of his gathering (Acts 10:33)? What does Peter conclude is God’s point to himself (Acts 10:34)? From where does he conclude Cornelius’s righteousness had come (Acts 10:35)? What word does he conclude Cornelius must hear and heed for this acceptance (Acts 10:36)—where had it been sent, what had been preached in it, and through Whom? Where was it proclaimed (Acts 10:37)? After what had been preached? What had God done (Acts 10:38)? And what had Jesus done? What had Peter witnessed being done to Jesus, by whom, in return (Acts 10:39)? But what had God then done (Acts 10:40)? To whom had God shown Jesus openly (Acts 10:41)? And what had Jesus commanded the apostles to do (Acts 10:42)? Testifying to what? What had the prophets witnessed that Jesus would at the judgment (Acts 10:43)? Through what means/mechanism?

How does God save those whom He saves?  Acts 10:1-43 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these forty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God decides whom to save, gives them teachable hearts, sends them the truth about Jesus, and forgiving their sins through faith in Him.

God decides whom to save. Some think that this is partiality, but our passage presents it as exactly the opposite. Peter feels almost hard-wired to reject Gentiles, but we see him lodging them in Acts 10:23 then entering a crowd of them in Acts 10:27. What is his explanation? “God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28) … “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34). There is only one explanation for someone “fearing Him and working righteousness” (Acts 10:35): this person has been accepted by God.

There are many providences by which this is demonstrated in the text. The angel coming to Cornelius. The rooftop vision given to a hungry apostle, and his thrice denial (!) of the command to set aside the ceremonial regulations of the Mosaic administration. The timing of the vision and the arrival of the messengers.

God gives them teachable hearts. Peter was living up to his rocky name. It took the thrice-denial vision and some meditation (Acts 10:19a) just to get him ready for the direct command of the Spirit in Acts 10:20. But the Spirit Who commanded no doubting had also given him no doubting.

As to Cornelius, centurion of the Roman cohort, what can one say? From where did this lover of God and men get his love? He feared God in action with fasting and prayer and good works. He loved men in action, not only their bodies (almsgiving) but their souls (leading his household in fear of God, Acts 10:2; and gathering as many as he could influence to hear about God’s salvation). He was so ready and humble for the Word of God that he mistakenly bowed before the messenger in Acts 10:25, and his readiness to hear not the words of men but as “present before God” in Acts 10:33 is what actually provokes Peter’s confession in Acts 10:34.

But let us not forget the rest of the household. And what a large household it was! They, too, had been brought by God’s providence into a particular household, and then into a particular room, to hear particular preaching on a particular day. This was God’s selective providence to them, every bit as much as the visions had been to the others.

God sends them the preaching of the truth about Jesus. The flesh is obsessed with the sensory and spectacular. It is much impressed by things like the visions that Cornelius and Peter have in our passage. But the visions are servants of the Word. Cornelius’s vision is all a setup for him to hear the Word. Peter’s vision is a setup for him to speak the Word. 

What God could have done by the visions, He chooses to do instead by the sending of a preacher and the preaching of that Word. God is the One Who has joined together the preaching of the Word and faith in Jesus Christ. What God has joined together let no man separate! We must honor preaching as He has honored it. And we must look for His power through preaching, rather than through means that might make more sense to our foolish, fleshly, and arrogant hearts.

And what is it that is proclaimed? That He has made peace with men through Jesus the Christ, the Lord of glory Who came to earth to be the anointed one (Acts 10:36). This anointing from heaven was displayed by a baptism on earth (Acts 10:37-38). And it was fulfilled in Jesus’s ministry (Acts 10:38), murder (Acts 10:39), and manifest resurrection (Acts 10:40-41). He showed Himself openly in eating and drinking (Acts 10:41) and continues to show Himself openly in preaching (Acts 10:42).

God forgives sins through faith in Christ. Yes, the last great part of the truth about Jesus is that He is the Judge of the living and the dead (end of Acts 10:42). But the witness of the whole Scripture is that those who believe in Him receive forgiveness of their sins. When they believe that He is indeed the Lord, Who became the Anointed (the Christ), to live perfectly, die atoningly, and rise almightily… when through His Name (His person, His work, through Him Himself) they look to God for forgiveness, they receive it!

God doesn’t save based upon ethnicity. He saves based upon His pleasure, in which He providentially brings people to hear Jesus preached, and gives them hearts to believe in Him!

Who decides who will be saved? What does He do in order to save them? Where can you hear this Jesus proclaimed? Where can you get a teachable heart with which to hear and from which to believe?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You that there is no partiality with You. Instead, You save entirely by grace, through faith in Christ. Help us to value preaching as Your appointed method of exercising Your saving power. Make us to sit under it as often as we have opportunity in Your providence, and give us receptive hearts as often as we sit under it. Forgive us through Christ, the great Judge and our resurrected Redeemer, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP67 “O God, Give Us Your Blessing” or TPH517 “I Know Whom I Have Believed”

Friday, July 15, 2022

Three Displays of God's Glory as the Measure of God's Wrath (and Grace!) (2022.07.13 Midweek Sermon in Romans 2:12–16)


Whether one is a heathen, a Jew, or a Christian, what he knows abundantly declares that his sin is inexcusable, and the wrath that it deserves is unendurable. But the one who knows Christ alone as his atonement and righteousness knows that God's grace to him is even greater.

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