"For unto you is born this day in the city of David
who is Christ the Lord."
In recent years flash mobs have become a thing. In an unlikely place, such as a mall or random street corner, someone starts to sing or dance. In a matter of minutes, mobs of people join in and thrill the onlookers with the random acts of fine arts.
The Bible tells us of a similar experience that occured in the meadows outlining Bethlehem 200 years ago. A flash mob of angels sprung up out of nowhere to give a bunch of measly shepherds a rich taste of heaven's aesthetics.
The first notes to ring out were simple and pointed, "For unto you is born this day...a Savior."
Just as stunning are the designated recipients of this great message. The angelic announcement did not come to the religious elite or the political movers and shakers. To the contrary, the profound declaration was given to the lowest and meanest of society.
We romanticize the ancient shepherds today. Christmas cards and nativity scenes depict them as noble gents. But this couldn't be further from the truth.
Shepherds were a despicable bunch. They were renown liars and cheats. So notorious were they for their schemes that their testimony would not be accepted in a court of law.
Add to their crooked ways the fact that they were always considered "unclean." In the fields it was virtually impossible to keep ceremonially clean (but one wonders if such a shady bunch really cared about the law or its cleanliness anyway).
Thus we must grasp the significance of this heaven sent revelation: to you a Savior is born.
Oddly enough, these double dealing scoundrels were the ones God chose to be the first to attest to the Messiah's coming.
Is that not God's thing though: He offers salvation to the chief of sinners; then He turns these untrustworthy crooks into His witnesses.
Let it be remembered this Christmas season that God's grace is downright scandalous. He invites the unworthy and the incorrigible into His kingdom. He freely forgives the liar and the hypocrite. He pardons the sin and gladly transforms the useless into His sacred tools of good.
New Year's Eve
Join us as we ring in the new year in good old Hopewell style! Feel free to come or go whenever you want. We'll hang out and fellowship, and have a short time of prayer to inaugurate the new year.
Food: Pizza, drinks, and place settings are provided by the church. Please bring a side and/or dessert to share.
Fun: We have a gym and a room for 'less rowdy' fellowship. Please bring your board games, frisbees, balls, and whatever fun activities you'd like to share.
Be sure to invite your friends and RSVP to Kim!
"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
A Greater Treasure
A medical doctor recently said that socialistic healthcare is inevitable. His rationale was a simple deduction,
"People are too scared to die; they will therefore spend every cent of other people's money in order to stay alive."
This quote is not only insightful for our present political direction, it is also expressive of what characterizes an earthly minded person.
Christians are supposed to be heavenly minded people. Their treasure is in heaven and their hearts are knit to that place where God resides.
As such, the Christian's mind should generally turn towards heaven. He will regularly reminisce upon its nature, excellence, glory, and blessedness.
His mind will naturally flit there. It is a subject that fills him with wonder, sparks his curiosity, and inflames his heart's desires.
Thus, the idea of death is radically different for us than it is for our current culture. We do not scrape and claw with every ounce of our energy (and every penny of our neighbor) to to maintain our mortal existence. We are well prepared to die and let nature take its course.
Unlike the unbeliever, we happily leave an inheritance to our children's children. Doctors and hospitals do not need to eat up our life savings, for we have a greater treasure to inherit in the world to come.
While a Christian will not ever think to speed death along, he does have a healthy anticipation of it. For to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Or, in the words of the 19th c. English preacher, John Angell James,
He would instantly dissolve his ties with earth and, leaving his family and connections, fly the next moment to his eternal home. He is willing to wait as long as it is His heavenly Father's will to detain him upon earth, but he is willing to leave all and go to God whenever it is judged proper by Him to decide that he should go up to the mount and die.
In the advent season, our minds may all the more be raptured and caught up into the skies. We will likely think of his second coming and how our lives will be radically changed when he parts the clouds:
There will always be those who see death as a curse to be avoided. However, we as Christians have a different attitude. For those of us in Christ, death truly comes a blessing. When this mortal life is done, we shall die to sin and revel in the riches of heaven.
Jolly Ol' Christmas Time
Join us this Friday December 13 @ 7pm at Hedstrom for a joyous time of fellowship. You'll have a merry time of song, music, Scripture, & entertainment. Families may bring a finger food / appetizer to share afterwards if able.
Baptism & New Member Reception
This Lord's Day we will have the blessed opportunity to receive the Keener family into membership. Josiah Ott will also be making his formal profession of faith and will be baptized during the service.
Do you pray? Okay, good. Now let me ask you this: How do you pray? Do you pray with the firm confidence that the Lord will certainly hear and answer your prayers?
I want you to pray, and I want you to pray OUTRAGEOUS prayers. When I say outrageous, I mean prayers that would seem to be completely absurd and virtually impossible. World impacting, life changing, kingdom exploding type prayers.
Because you will be heard and God will answer!
How do I know? Because God challenges us to pray. In Psalm 27:8 he says, "Seek my face." This is what I call a 'promissory command.' God commands you to seek his face. It is an obligation that put us under a mandate. But the command implies a promise: God will answer.
God commands us to seek him because he is ready to be found. He will answer our prayer and bring his power and grace to bear on our situation.
The New Testament provides the echo and extended commentary on this verse: Ask, seek, knock. For whoever asks will receive, whoever seeks will find, and whoever knocks, to him the door will be opened.
This command (and implied promise) gives warrant to our prayers. We can be encoruaged to pray. And we can be encouraged to pray for spectacular things.
So be absurd. Ask for the outrageous.
Don't be bashful. God tells us to seek his face.
John Knox was known to pray, "Lord, Give me Scotland or I'll die." He wanted the whole nation to be taken over by the Reformational ideas he was preaching. Was that ludicrous? Absolutely! And God was happy to answer in asounding ways.
Bloody Mary (i.e. Mary, Queen of Scots) said, "I fear the prayers of Knox more than all the armies of England." She feared that protestantism would roll through England and that she'd be unseated by the finger of God simply because a man was passionately pleading with God for the transformation of the nation.
The Heidelberg Catechism cites Psalm 27:8 in its 116th Q&A. It says that we should"
"be firmly assured that, notwithstanding how unworthy we are of it, God will, for the sake of Christ our Lord, certainly hear our prayer, as he has promised us in His Word."
I pray that you may pray with the confidence that no prayer bounces off the ceiling. May this also increase and enrich your prayer life.
Pray with Spurgeon (.pdf)
Is your prayer life feeling dry? Maybe what you need is a little variety! What better way to spice up your prayer life than praying the prayers of Charles Spurgeon? This ebook contains many prayers composed by Spurgeon. Using it in your daily devotions can bring edification and nuance to your prayer life.
Life is hard. Sometimes you need help dealing with your issues. That's precisely what God's Word does. If you're dealing with "stuff," schedule a time to talk to one of our leaders. They will gladly help you find the way.
"During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him..."
John 13:2 ESV
This Lord's Day we will begin a new study in the gospel of John. We'll be looking at the upper room narative, in particular (chapters 13-17).
As I began my studies, I was struck by how much of chapter 13 is devoted to (of all people) Judas, the Betrayer. Almost a third of the verses center around this fiend of a man.
Even more interesting were the comments by John Gill in reference to verse 2. Gill picks apart what happened to Judas and shows us how his fall into perdition was begotten. Gill gives us an anatomy of Judas' seduction and shows us how each of us should take care to not follow the same route into oblivion.
"Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall." We do good to heed this instruction and consider how Judas, a man chosen by Christ and designated to the high office of apostle, was seduced into becoming a Satanic force.
1. Your status means nothing: Judas may have held the most significant ecclesiastical office, but that did not provide any security to his heart. Jesus had chosen him to be an apostle (a leader, a teacher, a miracle worker, etc) and invested him with profound authority. Nevertheless, he was but a man filled with evil appetites. Thus he was not immune from the vilest of temptations.
We do well to remember that no matter our standing, we are constantly dependent upon divine grace to remain faithful. We may climb the corporate ladder or attain a place of prominence within the church, but we are still sons of Adam. We must therefore seek God's favor constantly, asking for Him to guard our hearts and deliver us from the evil.
2. It can happen anytime / anywhere: The verse says that it was "during supper" (or possibly soon before the meal) that Judas' determined to betray our Lord.
There he was, in the presence of Christ himself, enjoying the Passover holiday. He was involved in a rite of worship. It was a religious festival where almost every dinner movement had some sort of spiritual lesson.
Despite the holiness of the occasion, the devilish thought darted into his mind. While hymns were sung, Satanic suggestions echoed in his ears and calcified his heart.
"No place and company can preserve persons from the evil suggestions of the devil," says Gill. So we must remember that though we enter a church building or participate in a worship service, we are still susceptible to untold folly.
The only protection we have is the gracious assistance of the Spirit upholding and preserving us at all times.
3. Your festering sin can open the door to greater misdeeds. Gill points out that in the previous chapter Judas was in a huff over the fact that Jesus was anointed with precious oil. Satan took this opportunity and used it to his diabolical advantage.
"Do not let the sun go down on your anger, lest you give the devil a foothold." Judas illustrates the words of Eph. 4:27.
We must remember that Satan loves warm coals of sin. He will not let them smolder and die out. He takes advantage of it and stokes the irksome attitude to achieve greater villany.
If you can do anything to resist the devil, it is this: Repent quickly and subdue anger. Kill the beast of sin before the Beast of Sin kills you.
As we consider how Judas was seduced, we may learn from his mistakes. We are not ignorant of the wiles of the devil and we can steer clear of them. And, as we seek the Lord's favor and strive to maintain a godly comportment, we can have hope of remaining true to God.
Are you interested in becoming a member of Hopewell? It is a way to make your commitment to Christ more visible and enjoy more of the benefits of Christ's care. Feel free to check out the process for becoming a member on our website. Then let us know your interest; we'd love to talk with you about it.
We'd love for you to join us for worship. If you are looking for a church home, or just a place to learn about Christianity in general, we invite you to visit us Sundays at 10:30 am. We meet in the conference room at Hedstrom Plastics (100 Hedstrom Drive).
Have you ever had the feeling that you missed worship, despite having sat through the entire service? You sang the songs and were there, but it was like driving in open country: you look back and don't remember the last several miles.
It may be that you leave with a blank sheet because you were not properly prepared to engage in it. Worship is much like anything else in that regard. If you just run into a grocery store without a lot of forethought, you're likely going to miss a few things you should have gotten.
How much more true is this in regards to worship, that sacred time of meeting with God?
When the Israelites were to meet with God, they didn't just waltz up to the foot of Mt. Siani. They took two days to consecrate themselves. Washings, meditation, reflection, prayer, repentance, not to mention tidying up any items pertaining to the household and work.
In the NT we read about the "Day of Preparation." (Luke 23:54) Jesus' body was hurriedly stowed away in the tomb because the Sabbath was about to start. The Israelites recognized they needed to get ready for the Sabbath. It was so important that they denominated the Friday before as the "Day of Preparation."
The same holds true for us. Scripture encourages us to maximize worship through intentional acts of preparation. How do we do that? Here are some suggestions:
1. Plan your work and work your plan: Don't let the household chores flow over to Sunday. Make a point to get all your work (occupational and household chores) done prior to Sunday. That way it's not hanging over your head and consuming your mind while you are supposed to be concentrating on things of a more divine nature.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Ex. 20:8
2. Get a good sleep: Everybody knows that "Saturday night live" makes for "Sunday morning dead." By all means, have a great time on Saturdays and enjoy an evening out, but make a habit of getting to bed in good time. A good 7-8 hours of sleep will help keep your eyelids from drooping and your brain from dragging.
3. Devote to Devotions: Just because you're going to church doesn't mean you should skimp on Bible time. Athletes are encouraged to visualize their performance prior to games; to mentally go through their footwork and "get stoked" for the game. In a similar way, taking time to read, reflect, pray, and sing Saturday night or Sunday morning will prime your heart for the main event.
4. Monitor the Mouth: As with any day, a healthy breakfast is vital for one's attention. Binging on donuts or sweets the night before will likely reduce your ability to participate in worship in an engaging fashion.
5. Concentrate on Contrition: Humility breeds worship and repentance paves the way for it. For God can't dwell with sin. Being that this is so, it's always good at the end of a week to look back and take an inventory of the ways you've fallen short. You then can confess these things and fulfill James' admonition to "draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.".
6. Reconcile: You're going to have spats and quarrels, but you shouldn't bring that baggage into worship with you. Scripture behooves you to settle matters quickly and prior to bringing your sacrifice of praise. When you do this, not only will you be honoring God's command, but your mind will be free from replaying the argument in a million ways.
7. Rise & Shine: Sunday is for sleeping in because it is a day of relaxation, right? Sure, but don't get too carried away. You want to leave enough time for your morning routine and for getting out the door in good time. Nothing ruins worship like driving like a wild hyena and shuffling in late to the pews.
8. Pray for the Service: Your time in worship depends quite a bit on the faulty vessels up front. If you really want them to perform well, pray for them. The music and ministry of the Word come with greater beauty and meaning when they are padded with your supplications.
"Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored." 2 Thess. 3:1
9. Come Eagerly & Expectantly: Let's not forget that we must tune our attitudes. God's probably going to descend in thick clouds and fire, but you can still find Him if you're looking for Him. Even the worst service can be beneficial if we seek the Lord and the things He would have for us there.
"My soul longs, yes faints, for the courts of the Lord." Ps. 84:2
10. Invite others: No, this is not a cheap way to get you to help grow the church. It is a true means of preparation. When you invite someone, you are planning ahead. You are getting in the "church groove." And besides, there's nothing better than knowing a buddy is going to be there with you in worship.
"I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord.'" Ps. 122:1
Now that you know how to get ready for worship, come and fill your soul! Join us this Sunday at 10:30 am for a blended worship. We're located in the conference room at Hedstrom Plastics.
No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
This past week we saw crazy amounts of rain. It's likely that some of it ended up in your basement. For others, much of it ended up in your basement.
If that latter, it likely had some devastating effects: it ruined carpet, equipment, and leaves the lingering possibility of mildew build up.
Then there's the clean up, the bills, and the ever so tight fisted insurance guy with whom you have to deal.
This is just one example of the various providences that come our way on a daily basis. If this wasn't your experience, you can no doubt fill in the blank with your own horror story.
Let's pause here and get some perspective. Put on your Biblical lenses and consider what has happened. Weigh these events from God's point of view:
"The Lord withholds no good thing from them that walk uprightly."
If you translate the double negative, it means that God is astoundingly liberal in his goodness. When it comes to His children, He is a fountain that gushes with radical generosity.
You may need to read it again and again to convince yourself. Most do not see the Lord in this light. Typically our theology of God and His goodness is quite impoverished. We see Him as gaunt and comparable to Pharoah's skinny cows.
This ought not to be so. Scripture is clear: God withholds no good thing from his people. The blessings of His covenant are secured in Christ and "the Lord has promised good to me."
Do you think something bad has happened? Do you feel that heaven is against you? Think again.
It is not possible for God to hold back any good from you. The gate of His eternal benevolence is open wide to you and it ever flows in your direction.
You will say, "Why then do I not have riches and health and honor? Why are these good things withheld from me? All I have is a basement full of water!"
If God has given you such things, it was for your good. He is to be praised for it. If He withholds them, it is for your blessed welfare. They would not serve your betterment and advancement in life.
God would rather have you stoop under the pains and difficulties of trials. He would rather cultivate in you humility, dependence, and faith. These are His gems and treasures; they have greater profit than those things which your carnally crave.
Even as you stand in the ankle deep waters of your basement, remember that before you are overflowing buckets of his generosity. So too is the peace of mind that you may have in the midst of it.
Ashland Christian Health Center
This month we are collecting donations for our friends at the Ashland Christian Health Center. Items include: Manilla envelopes, legal size (non-window) envelopes, reams of colored copy paper, rolls of paper towels, Depends pull ups (esp. larger sizes XL and 2 XL), and $20 visit vouchers.
This ministry serves those who lack or have little insurance coverage by providing affordable medical care. Learn more about ACHC
Family Day @ the Lillo's
Come join the fun this Saturday (July 27)! We'd love to have your fellowship as we swim, eat, and hang out. Lunch is scheduled for 1pm, but you can join us anytime in throughout the afternoon. Friends are welcome!
Membership @ Hopewell
Are you interested in membership at Hopewell? Is a young one ready to make a profession of faith / be baptized? We'd love to have that conversation or help you learn more.
Whoever conceals his transgression will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
We have our own version of this proverb. It goes like this: It's my way or the highway.
Yet, when it comes to stubborn persistence in sin, we must recognize that God is not tolerant. He demands holiness in the inward parts.
If someone tries to cover their sin, and does not confess and forsake it, the Lord, you may be sure, will withhold his favorable kindness.
"No sin is too great for him to forgive, but no sin is too small for him to overlook either," said the great commentator, Charles Bridges.
You can easily see how it is excused. It is only a small sin, it is not flagrant or scandalous. It will not do any harm!
Tell that to Adam. A mere bite of an apple plunged all mankind into a world of sin and misery. Ananias and Sapphira know that their concealment had significant penalties attached to it.
When sin is not adequately repented of, the Lord will not allow one to prosper. Death is the wages of sin, and God will allow it to wreak its cursed havoc among those who coddle it.
It's miserable regressions can come in different ways:
Any one or a combination of these pains are the just deserts of sin. The Lord will save the sinner, but the sinner must apply the means God has appointed. He must confess and forsake his sin.
So do yourself a favor. When your sin is brought to your attention, take it to the Lord. Flee from it and find reprieve from its devastating effects. Enjoy the fruit that comes by means of confessing and forsaking it.
What is Reformed Theology?
What makes Hopewell distinct? One of the most significant factors is our commitment to Reformational theology. You can get to know our beliefs through this wonderful study series by RC Sproul. (Available in audio & video)
Suggest a Song
Is there a song you've been wanting to sing in worship? Do you have a tune you'd like to see if we can add to our repertoire? We're always open to your suggestions. Just let us know what you'd like & we'll see what we can do!