Living for the Lord in a Canaanite Culture
I am the Lord your God.
You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them.
I am the Lord your God."
Our culture is obsessed with sex and sexuality, but, then again, so is the Bible.
Sex and sexuality are the lead headlines on virtually ever news outlet. No streaming service would be complete if some LGBTQ+ scene, plot, or reference had not been inserted in each of its shows. You can't even say hello to a stranger without fearing retaliation for not using their preferred pronoun.
Yet, despite the obsession with these topics, our culture couldn't be more confused about them.
In less than a week we've seen men taking over in women's sports, a man being regarded as the woman of the year, a woman supreme court nominee not knowing the definition of her own gender. These were but a few of such stories spinning off the news reel.
This is where Scripture offers us good news. Scripture doesn't play bashful when it comes to the issue of intimacy. It also speaks profusely in its pages about human sexuality.
One may say that the Scriptures are just as obsessed about the issues clogging our culture today. The only difference is that the Bible speaks with authority and clarity, as well as frequency.
One must never forget that the Israelites lived in the sexual sloughs of Egypt and Canaan. The early church grew up and blossomed in the midst of the decline of Rome, which was overly infatuated with eroticism.
As a result, the Bible doesn't treat the issues as taboo. God has let his voice be heard on the matter in order to deal with such a time as this.
Whether it be temple prostitutes or an impassioned Shulammite, the Scriptures contain all the spirit informing, hormone inducing, eye raising, cheek blushing details we may need in order to gain understanding, enjoyment, and fulfillment in regards to our sex life.
So, despite feeling like we may be losing the culture war, we as Christians can be stout hearted and of good courage. The answers our culture are looking for lie with us because we possess the truth regarding the human body and its divine design for intimacy.
We shall tackle some of these issues over the next few editions of the Hopewell Weekly. For now, though, we can simply rejoice in the fact that "the Lord is our God."
Furthermore, we can affirm our calling to "not do as they do" in Egypt and Canaan. We must follow the statues and rules of the Lord and walk in them, knowing that our purity will testify that the God we serve is himself the very embodiment of purity.
The Lord has done great things for us!
We were blessed to have several of our young people profess faith and be baptized this past March. May the grace of our God only continue to abound!
Good Friday Service
Join us on Good Friday (April 15) as we meditate upon the seven last words of Christ from the cross and reflect upon his atoning work. The service, which will go from 6:30-7:30 pm, will consist of Scripture readings, music, and a brief meditation.
The Spirituality of a Confessional Church
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering."
Hopewell is unique among churches in the Ashland area as we are a "confessional church." This is the fourth article in a series which is examining what this means and why it is important.
Be sure to check out parts 1, 2, and 3.
Confessional churches are, shall we say, different. Often there is a certain feel to them. That's because the confessions typically create a unique culture. As we come to this final article on the subject of a confessional church, it may be good to think about the vibe that is produced in the church as a result of subscribing to the confessions.
Here is a quick rundown of just a few of the characteristics that are common to confessional churches:
1. Vigorous, doctrinal preaching - The Confessions are, above anything else, a high commitment to the Scriptures. They summarize, what we "confess" to be true. That usually plays out in the pulpit.
The depth of faith contained in these doctrinal standards enriches the level of teaching that occurs from week to week. Congregation members often gain a great deal of edification through the preaching of the Word and find it to be quite substantial for their souls.
2. Solid Ministers of the Gospel / Leadership - One reason why the teaching ministry is such a blessing is because confessional churches expect a well trained minister. Congregations expect their ministers to not only be thoroughly trained in the confessions themselves, but they must also be adeptly acquainted with the Scriptures that undergird them, the history that surrounds them, and the practices that they set forward.
To put it another way, confessional churches have high standards. That transposes into a high standard for those who preach and serve as elders in the church. The laity, having bulked up on Biblical and confessional material, probably isn't going to settle for any ole schlub being in a position over them.
3. Reverence & Listening - In a Pentecostal church, you will likely see people bouncing away in the aisles. In a Fundamentalist church, you may see a loud, sweaty preacher. In a Confessional church you will likely see a degree of quiet stillness.
This is not the "frozen chosen" as many jokingly call it. To the contrary, it is active engagement coupled with reverence. The confessions set forward the greatness of God and focus upon his majestic being. The confessions teach us to listen to God speak in and through his Word. The natural product is that the congregation quiets themselves so that they may revere God and give adequate attention to the means of grace.
4. Means of Grace - I had never heard this term prior to being in a confessional church. But the confessions talk a great deal about how God brings his saving grace to bear on his people.
Christ accomplished our salvation and the Spirit applies it. But the Spirit works to grow us in this grace by means of the reading and preaching of God's Word, the sacraments, prayer, etc.
As these things are conveyed in the confessions, it naturally leads the congregation to give specific attention to these means of grace, both in the corporate context of worship, and in individual homes.
5. Sacramental piety - Confessional churches have a well developed theology of baptism and the Lord's Supper, and, as a result, put a significant emphasis on them in worship services.
The confessions themselves were written in response to a lot of the abuses of the sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church. Thus they spend a lot of time explaining the biblical teaching regarding them.
In sum, the confessions tell us that the sacraments are not merely pictures of the gospel or memorials for reflection. Rather they are lively declarations of the gospel. As such they are means of grace which press the validity of God's promises in a vivid manner and help us progress in our battle against sin.
6. A Covenantal Perspective - The idea of covenant is one of the most prominent themes of Scripture. The confessions have captured this fundamental teaching in their records and communicate it effectively throughout their pages.
Even though the Westminster and London Confessions have some slight nuances on the subject of covenant theology, they both concur when it comes to the basics: All humanity have become covenant breakers as a result of Adam's fall and deserve death. But the Lord redeems his people through the covenant of grace.
This covenantal perspective helps make the gospel all that much more central in the context of God's people. It also serves to give students of the confessions an enriched understanding of God's call to faithful obedience.
Admittedly, many non confessional churches may have some of the same distinctives. There's no doubt about that. But there is also no doubting the fact that the confessions foster a certain culture within the church. They set forward a unique spirituality and shape the practices and piety of those congregations which truly embrace them.
Join the Bee - Registration is Open!
The National Bible Bee engages young people in the memorization and study of God’s Word. Through this program our young people are united in bonds of fellowship, spiritually challenged, and strengthened in Christ. Register today to lock in your savings and your child's growth. Learn more about the Bee.
Register under hosts Rachel Johnson, Tara Beechy, or Michelle Naylor.
Overcome Anxiety for Good
For the last several weeks Hopewell has dug deeply into the issue of anxiety and shown how the Lord can deliver his people from it. If you or someone you know struggles with the issue of anxiety, be sure to check out the messages.
And join us this Lord's Day as we conclude this series as we contemplate "How Can We Keep from Becoming Anxious?"
Come join us in the land of social media!
What a blessed time remembering the Lord's promises to cleanse and receive sinners. May this memorial live on and continually stir us up to faith and obedience.
I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, 'Give up,' and to the south, 'Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth.'
Hopewell was blessed to participate in Mansfield's annual pro-life walk/rally again this year. The Richland Source provided coverage of the event and highlighted some of Hopewell's involvement.
We might note that the RS article does need some modification. Those who participated numbered well over 100 people.
[The following article was submitted by Matt Timmons, Hopewell's teaching elder, as a letter to the editor in Ashland's newspapers. It's aim was to help combat the rising problem of drug & heroin addiction in the Ashland area. For assistance with addiction recovery contact Matt or visit our addictions page.]
Heroin and drug use are the number one problems facing the Ashland area today. Reports of their destruction come out daily and drug related deaths are skyrocketing.
But users and their families should know that deliverance is possible. There is a way to escape the cult of addiction and religion of substance abuse. It is by turning to Jesus Christ, and beginning to worship the true and living God.
We’ve been conditioned to think that the answer to addiction is found in a twelve step program, a stint at a recovery facility, or better law enforcement tactics. But the ultimate solution is not in behavioral modification, educational programs, or conditioning. The only real and lasting remedy is wholesale religious conversion.
While we can be thankful for the existence of such programs we must recognize that something deeper is at stake. Addiction, at its most fundamental level, is a cult. It is primarily a religious issue having to do with servitude and worship.
The Bible says that we are either slaves to God or to something else. A slave of God will serve the Lord and have Him as the supreme object of his delight. An idolater will serve some other object (such as drugs, drink, sex, etc.) and will find his primary delight in it.
This is the nature of addiction. The drink or drug becomes your master. It once served you; it relieved your pain or gave you a little pleasure. But now it rules you. You have come to feel that you cannot live without it. You crave it, throw your money at it, and give it an absurd amount of attention.
It has become your religion.
It is deeper than mere appetite. It is a matter of faith. For the drug has become the object of trust: It is relied upon for happiness. It promises to save, fulfill, and relieve your pains. You believe in it and rely upon it as the only hope of satisfaction.
The worship is further seen in that the addict can’t bring himself to stop. Addicts will try to stop, but they can’t. The drug has become an idol to whom they are religiously devoted. It is the dominant force in their life.
If an addict is to be helped, he must acknowledge that he does not have a drug problem per se. He must admit that he has a faith problem. It is not so much about what is injected, smoked, or swallowed as much as it is about what is worshiped, adored, and served.
Thus, the road to recovery (i.e. redemption) lies in religious conversion. It is by repentance and turning to the one who is the one and only living God, the one who offers true life and eternal salvation.
All in all, the cleansing of the veins and clearing of the mind begins with a cleansing of the heart and clarity on the issue of idolatry.
In future articles we will explore more of the religious nature of addiction and how the Christian faith provides a means of escape. In the meantime, addicts (and affected loved ones) can explore the recovery helps that Hopewell offers at hopewellashland.com.
Ashland is just like the rest of America in that it is seeing many of its young people slip away from the faith. The Millennial Generation may have been raised in a Christian home or in a conservative area, but their worldview is far from Christian.
Starting January 22 Hopewell will start a DVD series from Wretched Radio called "Untethered." This series of six episodes will examine the mind of the Millennial Generation and show how we may best reach them with the gospel.
We want to invite you to join us for a rich time of fellowship & uplifting entertainment at our upcoming Christmas program.
Our families will be edifying one another through music, songs, and their other gifts and graces. Finger foods will also be available to enjoy afterwards.
The program is scheduled for December 11th at 6:30 pm and will be held at our regular meeting place in Ashland. Dress is casual.
In honor of Reformation Day some families from Hopewell will be watching the Luther movie (2003).
The movie will start around 6:30 pm on Saturday Oct. 29th. Families are also invited to join us for dinner before hand (5 pm).
RSVP to Matt if you'd like to come (email, 937-947-8086).
We've had a tremendous time studying what a gospel based church looks like in the book of 1st Timothy. It has been a rich time in God's word. Now we are looking forward to what is ahead in the book of Ezra.
We chose the book of Ezra because it is a book of new beginnings. It is about a people joining together by God's grace to become a people of worship and faith. That is exactly where we are at as a church in Ashland. The members of Hopewell have been joined together by God to establish a place of worship in Ashland.
The Hopewell gang enjoyed a splendid day in Willard, enjoying the many graces of fellowship.
Our first highlight was having the blessed opportunity to see three of our young people baptized. We were all exceedingly glad to have the promises of grace reaffirmed through in the service and for these young people's personal profession of faith
After the baptisms the congregation spent the day together swimming, eating, playing games, and enjoying fellowship together. The Lord blessed us with superb weather and by solidifying the bonds of unity.
What do you do when your children are put in harms way by a corporate giant's push to promote immorality? You stand for righteousness and hold forth the truth of God's Word.
That is exactly what a few of Hopewell's members did this past weekend. One of our families organized a protest at the Target store in Ontario. Approximately 50 people from other churches in Ashland and Richland counties accompanied the families from Hopewell.
The local newspapers picked up the story and served to highlight the great testimony all that much more. You can read about it in the Richland Source.
The families of Hopewell Church, along with a handful of visitors, joined together in their first morning worship service this past Lord's Day. All expressed joy and were greatly edified by the time spent in the presence of God.
During the service 9 young people made a first time public profession of faith. Teaching elder Matt Timmons gave a message entitled, "Professing the Faith" for the occasion. The message was drawn from 1 Timothy 6:12, "Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."
Prior to the service Timmons noted that a handful of families gathered together 200 years ago to form the first church in Ashland. These families were also dedicated to the Reformed faith and had taken the name "Hopewell Church."
A new pulpit was constructed for the service by member Dave Lillo. Others were acknowledged for having a hand in making the service possible.
We recognize most of all the sovereign hand of God and the immense grace of His Son in allowing us the blessed opportunity to gather together.
The Hopewell congregation is excited to begin morning worship services on May 15th. We want to invite you to join us as we come together to give homage to our Almighty Savior!
The services will begin at 10:30 am and we will be meeting at the conference room at Hedstrom Plastics (100 Hedstrom Drive). We are truly delighted to have this as our venue. It is a great location! As you can see from the pics below, the space is beautiful, spacious, warm, and bright!
If you are not able to join us for morning worship, we'd still love to have you come participate in our evening services (6:30pm). We've had a wonderful time in fellowship with friends from a number of different churches around town. It has been a great blessing to be able to worship together. It truly is a celebration of our union in Christ, despite our belonging to different churches.
This Lord's Day we invite you to come out for our first A Capella hymn night at Hopewell. Bring your friends and your singing voices as we unite to sing the deep truths of our faith.
Our plan is to go "unplugged" once a month in order to allow our musicians a regular break. We want them to enjoy worship and have a Sabbath rest from their duties so they can refresh themselves in the Lord.
Therefore, you can plan on the fourth Sunday as "A Capella Hymn Night." What a wonderful time to sing together!
Remember: 6:30 pm at Heritage Baptist Church (401 Center Street in Ashland, Ohio).
This past weekend we at Hopewell Church held our first worship service! About 100 people from all around Ashland came together to sing, pray, and hear the proclamation of God's word.
We are exceedingly glad to have had the opportunity to join together with others who wanted to dedicate their Sunday evening to the Lord and we look forward to their continued fellowship over the upcoming months and years!
We are also ever thankful for our brethren at Heritage Church for allowing us to use their facility. Their generosity is amazing and we pray that the Lord would return the kind favors in abundance!
Soli Deo Gloria!