Revised Worship Guide for 2 November 2014 Thursday, Oct 30 2014 

Due to Pastor Booth being ill, there will be a change to this week’s order of worship. Rev. Stephen Michaud, a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), will be preaching on Sunday morning and Elder Jager will be teaching on Psalm 7 in the evening. It may interest you to know that Rev. Michaud was formerly the Assistant Pastor of the First Congregational Church in Merrimack, NH which will be, Lord willing, formally uniting with the OPC this coming December.

MVOPC 2 November 2014 – Rev. Stephen Michaud preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”

Confession of Sin

Almighty and most merciful Father;  We have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep.  We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.  We have offended against Your holy laws.  We have left undone those things which we ought to have done.  And we have done those things which we ought not to have done;  and there is no health in us.  But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.  Spare those, O God, who confess their faults.  Restore those who are penitent;  According to Your promises declared to mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord.  And grant, O most merciful Father;  For His sake;  That we may hereby live a godly, righteous, and sober life;  To the glory of Your holy name.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 53:4-5

Hymn of Preparation: 660 “O God beyond All Praising”

Old Covenant Reading: Genesis 3:1-7

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 4:1-11

Sermon: You Can Overcome Temptation!

Hymn of Response: 136 “Thy Word Have I Hid in My Heart”

Confession of Faith:  Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 644 “May the Mind of Christ My Savior”

For the evening service Elder Jager will be teaching on Psalm 7.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 2 November 2014 Sunday, Oct 26 2014 

MVOPC 2 November 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Confession of Sin

Almighty and most merciful Father;  We have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep.  We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.  We have offended against Your holy laws.  We have left undone those things which we ought to have done.  And we have done those things which we ought not to have done;  and there is no health in us.  But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.  Spare those, O God, who confess their faults.  Restore those who are penitent;  According to Your promises declared to mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord.  And grant, O most merciful Father;  For His sake;  That we may hereby live a godly, righteous, and sober life;  To the glory of Your holy name.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 1:18

Hymn of Preparation: 286 “Worship Christ, the Risen King!”

Old Covenant Reading: Genesis 15:1-6

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 3:1-9

Sermon: By Faith

Hymn of Response:  642 “Be Thou My Vision”

Confession of Faith:  Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Till He Come!”

PM Worship:

OT: Isaiah 56:1-8

NT: Revelation 3:7-13

Patient Endurance

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 51-54: Christ’s Exaltation

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 71

71.What is required in the seventh commandment?

A. The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech and behavior. 

Monday (10/27) Read and discuss Galatians 3:1-9.  One of the arguments the Judaizers probably made was that Paul was arguing for something new whereas the ceremonial law had been given through Moses fourteen centuries or so earlier. That is part of the reason why Paul appeals to Abraham who received the promises of God long before Moses was ever born. John Chyrsostom put it like this:

For since they were perturbed by the greater antiquity of the law and the fact that faith came after the law, he destroys the surmise of theirs, showing that faith is older than the law. That is obvious from Abraham, since he was justified before the appearance of the law. …. “The one who gave the law,” he says, in effect “was the one who decreed before the law was given that the Gentiles should be justified.” And Paul does not say “revealed” but “preached the gospel” [beforehand to Abraham]. So that you may understand that even the patriarch rejoiced in this kind of righteousness and greatly desired its advent.

Read or sing Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise” Prayer: Please pray for the college students in our congregation, as they face the potentially most stressful part of their semester, that they would not be thrown out of balance in the spiritual lives.

Tuesday (10/28) Read and discuss Colossians 3:5-17. This is a matter of life and death. It’s that serious. Paul doesn’t say: “Work hard to keep from sin grabbing too great a foothold in your life.” Nor does he say, “It’s important to take a balanced approach to life – pursue holiness but don’t become a fanatic.” The LORD through His Apostle is commanding us to “put to death our earthly desires. But how are we to do this? It is essential that we understand the difference between behavior modification and a genuine putting to death of our sinful natures. When people struggle with destructive addictions in their lives such as gambling, pornography, or alcohol abuse; they often are encouraged to get into a support group that uses a twelve-step approach to behavior modification. If such programs are not expressly Christian, it is quite possible that they will help a person overcome one particular addiction without helping them overcome sin or draw nearer to God at all. Here are three key differences between simple behavior-modification and actual sanctification:

  1. The first step in a 12 step program is to confess that you have a problem. So far so good. The problem comes when people make this problem their fundamental identity (e.g. “I am an alcoholic”). By contrast the Christians most fundamental identity is his or her relationship with Jesus Christ. As we saw last week – “Christ is our life.” It is therefore fundamentally wrong for Christians to hyphenate their identity.
  2. Second, it is easy for people in 12 step programs to define success almost entirely in terms of not doing the negative thing (e.g. “I have been sober for 4 ½ years”). This is a trap that Christians can easily fall into as well. But the purpose of weeding out the sinful impulses and behaviors of the Christians life is to the end that we would bear MUCH fruit and be conformed increasingly into the likeness of Christ.
  3. Third, to the degree that a non-Christian is successful in behavior modification he or she will almost certainly feel his or her need of Christ less. By contrast, genuine sanctification produces humility and a greater dependence upon God.

This leads us back to one of the central truths we observed in Colossians 3:1-4: The most basic thing we must make sure of in trying to live the Christian life is that we are genuinely converted. Prayer: Give thanks that Christ wants to bear much fruit in your life. Pray that He would cause you to abide in Him that this would come to pass.

Wednesday (10/29) Read and discuss Genesis 15:1-6. What do you do when life doesn’t seem to be working out the way that you had planned? Abram had received both promises and deliverance from the LORD, but he was also without a male heir which was necessary for the fulfillment of the most important promise – that through Abraham’s seed the Messiah would come. Iain Duguid writes:

Abram was discovering that God’s promises continually demand faith from us to bridge the reality gap. But what are you to do when you feel you don’t have enough faith? What are you to do when you fear that your grasp on God’s promises is slipping? Abram began to fear that he would never see his promised posterity, and that his present earthly portion would be all that he would ever receive from God. Now many people would have been satisfied with that. Life had been good to Abram. Materially, he had prospered greatly. But Abram was not content with the good life. He hungered to see God’s purpose and promise fulfilled.

I find Abram’s hunger to see God’s promises become a reality very challenging. What are your goals for the next year, or the next five years? Will you be content simply to say, “Life has been good”? Will you be satisfied simply to prosper materially? Or do you hunger and thirst after righteousness? Do you burn to see God’s kingdom advancing in and through you? That is what is at issue here. Abram was not simply looking for an heir to whom he could leave what he had accumulated. Eliezer of Damascus would have served that purpose. Nor was he simply in love with babies, in search of a cuddly Abram Junior with a heart-melting smile. He wanted to see God’s purpose of blessing the whole world through him carried out. Is it too much to say that he was looking for the promised seed of Genesis 3:15, the one who would come and crush the Serpent’s head once and for all? From where would this promised Savior come? How would God fulfill His promises?

Read or sing Hymn: 562 “All to Jesus I Surrender” Read or sing Hymn 286 “Worship Christ, the Risen King!” Prayer: Please pray for those who are struggling with ruptured relationships that the LORD would bring healing.

Thursday (10/30) Read and discuss Isaiah 56:1-8. This portion of Isaiah comes after the promise of the coming Suffering Savior who will bear the sins of God’s people (see especially Isaiah 53).  According to Isaiah 56:1-2, how should people respond to this announcement of amazing grace? Have you ever been concerned that you are an outsider and not worthy of full membership into God’s family? This has been a common concern among Gentile converts throughout History.  What assurance does the LORD give to us in verses 3-7 that we really do belong in His household of faith? Paul picks up on this theme in Ephesians 2:13 where he writes: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Praise God! According to Isaiah 56:8, what sort of people is the LORD gathering into His Kingdom? There are two groups: (1) the outcasts of Israel; and (2) “others”. Ironically, Jesus was frequently accused of being a friend of Israel’s outcasts – as though this was a mark against Him. If only Christ’s accusers realized that He was fulfilling this very verse from Isaiah by doing so. It is worth noticing that verse 8 concludes with God’s commitment to gather still others to Him. The Church has sometimes presented God as off in a distance while we engage in missionary activity.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Verse 8 reminds us that we have been redeemed by and serve a missionary God. Read or Sing Hymn: 642 “Be Thou My Vision” Prayer: Please pray for the missionary outreach of the OPC in Japan.

Friday (10/31) Read and discuss Revelation 3:7-13. How do we deal with adversity? The Church in Philadelphia was called to “hold fast.” Perseverance in the face of adversity is a central (and difficult!) aspect of the faithful Christian life. James Hamilton gives us a powerful example of such perseverance:

Charles Simeon pastured Trinity Church in Cambridge, England, for fifty-four years. He preached his first sermons there on November 10, 1782. The congregation did not want him. For five years they refused to allow him to be the Sunday afternoon lecturer, giving it instead to the assistant pastor they had wanted the church hierarchy to appoint over them. When that man left after five years, the church gave the lecture to another man for the next seven years, all the time refusing to allow Simeon to lecture on Sunday afternoons. Simeon responded by holding a Sunday evening service later than the Sunday afternoon lecture. People from the town began to come. The church wardens locked the doors, leaving people crowding in the street. Simeon had a locksmith open the doors, but when the wardens again locked the doors, he dropped the evening service. Only after twelve years did the church invite Simeon to be the Sunday afternoon lecturer.

On Sunday mornings, the pewholders refused to come to church and locked their pew doors, refusing to allow others to sit in their personal pews. Simeon personally funded and set up seats in the aisles and nooks and corners, but the church wardens removed them, throwing them out of the building. Simeon attempted to visit the members of the church, but few doors would open to him. The opposition continued for ten years, and the historical records indicate that Simeon was helped by a legal decision in 1792, to the effect that pewholders could not lock their pews and stay away indefinitely.

What sustained Charles Simeon? John Piper writes, “Simeon exerted his influence through sustained biblical preaching year after year. This was the central labor of his life. … Simeon preached in the same pulpit for fifty-four years. … through extraordinary opposition and trials.”

It is easier to admire than to imitate the type of perseverance through hardship that Simeon maintained for such a long period of time. Prayer: Ask the LORD to cause you to be longsuffering in the cause of Christ.

Saturday (11/1) Read and discuss Galatians 3:1-9. John Calvin writes:

The faith of Abraham was counted to him as righteousness. We msut explain what Paul means here by faith and by righteousness and then say why faith is the cause of justification. … Faith is not mere belief … but involves a relation to the Word of God that enables people to rest and trust in God. … Righteousness is not something we have in ourselves but that we obtain by imputation, in that God accounts our faith as righteousness. We are therefore said to be justified by faith, not because faith infuses into us some habit or quality but because we are accepted by God. Faith is only the instrumental cause of our justification. Properly speaking, our righteousness is nothing but God’s free acceptance of us, one which our salvation is founded. … Righteousness is not a quality inherent in human beings but the pure gift of God, and it is possessed by faith only. It is not even a reward for our faith, because faith is only the means by which we receive what God freely gives. We are justified by the grace of God, Christ is our righteousness, the mercy of God is the cause of our righteousness, righteousness has been obtained for us by the death and resurrection of Christ, righteousness is bestowed on us through the gospel, we obtain righteousness by faith. … The person who is justified by faith has no righteousness of his own but is totally dependent on the grace of God alone.

Read or Sing Hymn 426 “Till He Come!” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 26 October 2014 Sunday, Oct 19 2014 

MVOPC 26 October 2014 – Dr. Rev. Gregory Reynolds preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 38 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”

Confession of Sin

O You whose chosen dwelling is the heart that longs for Your presence and humbly seeks Your love:  We come to You to acknowledge and confess that we have sinned in thought and word and deed;  We have not loved You with all our heart and soul, with all our mind and strength;   We have not even loved our neighbor as ourselves.  Deepen within us our sorrow for the wrong we have done, or for the good we have left undone.  But You, O Lord, are full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy;  there is forgiveness with You.  Restore to us the joy of Your salvation;  Bind up that which is broken, give light to our minds, strength to our wills and rest to our souls.  Speak to each of us the word that we need, and let Your Word abide with us until it has wrought in us Your holy will.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 130:7-8

Hymn of Preparation: 22 “O That I Had a Thousand Voices”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 126:1-6

New Covenant Reading: John 16:16-24

Sermon: Restore Us, O Lord

Hymn of Response: 360 “When in His Might the LORD”

Confession of Faith:   Heidelberg Catechism            Q/A 1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 364 “Let Children Hear the Mighty Deeds”

PM Worship: OT: Isaiah 29:13-24 NT: Revelation 3:1-6 Not What You Think You Are

Adult Sunday School: Chosen & Called

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 70

70.Which is the seventh commandment?

A. The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery. 

Monday (10/20) Read and discuss Psalm 126:1-6.  John Calvin writes:

“Restore our fortunes, O LORD.” This verse contains a prayer that God would gather together the residue of the captives. All the Jews, no doubt, had a door opened to them, and perfect liberty granted to them, to come out of the land of their captivity, but the number of those who partook of this benefit was small when compared with the vast multitude of the people. Some were kept from returning by fear, and others by sloth and want of courage, on seeing such perils at hand as rather to lie torpid in their own filthiness, than to undertake the hardship of the journey. It is probable also that many of them preferred their present easy and comfort to their eternal salvation. What the prophet Isaiah had foretold was no doubt fulfilled (10:22) that although the people were in number as the sand of the sea, yet only a remnant of them should be saved. Since, then, many openly refused the benefit when it was offered them, and as there were many difficulties and impediments to be encountered by those who availed themselves of this liberty of sounder judgment and of a more intrepid heart, who dared to move a foot – and even they with reluctance – it is no wonder that the prophet requires the Church still to make supplication to God for the bringing back of the captivity. Along with this, the state of those who had already returned is also to be noted; for their land being in the possession of strangers, who were all their inveterate and sworn enemies, they were no less captives in their own country than among the Babylonians. It was therefore necessary, on a twofold account, that the church should earnestly beseech God to gather together such as were dispersed; first that he would give courage to the timid, awaken the torpid, cause the besotted to forget their pleasures, and stretch forth his hand to be a guide to all; and, secondly, that he would settle the body of the people who had returned in liberty and ease.

Read or sing Hymn: 38 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” Prayer: Please pray for the Presbytery of New York and New England which meets today.

Tuesday (10/21) Read and discuss Read Galatians 2:15-21. Paul has been arguing that, though the ceremonial law served the good purpose of guiding the Old Testament Jews to Christ, Gentiles who had already embraced the Messiah did not need to keep it. A Judaizer might object at this point: If the ceremonial law is good, shouldn’t we keep it and encourage the Gentile believers to keep it as well? Isn’t Paul, by telling the Gentiles that they don’t have to keep the law simply encouraging them to lead lawless – that is sinful – lives? Paul shows that he grasps the force of this argument when he writes:

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!  18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.

Paul’s dense rebuttal in verse 17 is a bit tricky to unpack. It seems to be working like this: Paul begins with an imaginary interlocutor who is suggesting that seeking to be justified in Christ apart from keeping the law will lead to lawless behavior. Paul then points out that he has never argued justification is by abandoning the law – that is by becoming lawless – justification is by embracing Jesus Christ. But Christ is not a servant of sin. This means that the person clinging to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, instead of living a lawless life, will actually for the very first time be leading a life that is genuinely pleasing to God. Paul will famously pick this theme up in chapter 5 where he writes:

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

To put this in the context of verse 17, we might paraphrase Paul’s argument like this: “If you are worried that being justified by faith in alone you haven’t yet grasped who the Messiah is in whom we are trusting and how faith in Him transforms the way we live. Prayer: Please pray for the Presbytery of New York and New England should wrap up around dinner tonight.

Wednesday (10/22) Read and discuss Isaiah 29:13-24. One of the most frightening warnings in all of Scripture comes from the lips of Jesus when He declared: ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)” Two things make this text so frightening. (1) First, the expression ‘Lord, Lord” is a Semitic idiom that is a repetition of personal endearment. The people saying this are not merely addressing Jesus with a respectful title; they are addressing Jesus as though they had a close personal relationship with Him. (2), Second, Jesus tells us that many will be in this condition on the last day. How can that possibly be? Today’s passage from Isaiah gives us the answer. The profession of these individuals is hypocritical.  “…this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me.” Thankfully, this passage also provides some ways of discovering if we are merely hypocritical worshippers before it is too late.  Verse 13 tells us that the supposed worship of the hypocrites is based on a “commandment taught by men”.  Here is the first test, are we engaged in religious activity to receive the approval of other people or are we seeking God in His word – in order to know and love Him better? The second test, found in verse 15, is closely related to this. Hypocrites believe that they can keep some of their thoughts and behaviors secret from God. Therefore looking good becomes more important than being good. What a foolish way to think and live! As verse 16 puts it, “will the thing formed say of Him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?” Yet, for those who truly love the Holy One of Israel, this passage brings great news. The LORD will overthrow the hypocrites who try to lord it over and oppress the meek. Indeed, the promise of this passage is developed in the Beatitudes to tells us that “the meek will inherit the earth” as God’s gift (NB: The meek inherit the earth, they do not conquer it). Read or sing Hymn: 562 “All to Jesus I Surrender”. Read or sing Hymn 22 “O That I Had a Thousand Voices” Prayer: Please pray for Al and Laurie Tricarico in Nakaale, Uganda. Pray that new believers in Karamoja will grow in grace and in the knowledge of their Lord.  Pray that the gospel would spread more rapidly among the Karimoja people.

Thursday (10/23) Read and discuss John 16:16-24. N.T. Wright comments:

Jesus’ disciples are about to be plunged into a short, sharp and intensely painful period that will be like a moment of birth. Jesus will be taken away; but they will see him again. ‘Not long from now, they won’t see him; not long after that, they will see him again.’ His death and resurrection are the necessary events that will lead to his ‘going to the father’ and his ‘sending of the spirit’. These are extraordinary, cataclysmic events, the like of which the world has never seen before. The disciples can hardly prepare properly for them; but Jesus wants to warn them anyway.

It’s all happening because, with Jesus’ death and resurrection, a new world – the new world – is indeed being born. That is what John wants us to grasp. This isn’t just a matter of Jesus saying ‘there’s trouble coming, but it will be all right afterwards’. It’s a matter of seeing that when we find ourselves, a few chapters from now, at the foot of the cross, and then when we find ourselves after that with Mary Magdalene in the Easter garden, we shouldn’t miss the significance of these events. They are not merely strange, shocking and even unique. They are the visible sign that God’s new world really is coming to birth.

Read or Sing Hymn: 360 “When in His Might the LORD” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who will be blessed by uniting with our church family and whose gifts would be used to build up this local body of believers.

Friday (10/24) Read and discuss Revelation 3:1-6. One of the interesting features of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 is that those churches which appear the best are actually the worst and those which appear most miserable are actually the most faithful. The church in Sardis has a reputation for being filled with life. If you had asked people in ancient Asia Minor what a vital church looked like they would have pointed you to the church in Sardis. But Christ’s verdict is different. He bluntly declares, “but you are dead.” The lesson in this for us is clear. Will we seek to have our reputation enhanced before men or with our Savior? What was the church at Sardis to do? Jesus doesn’t call them to develop even more innovative programs He calls them to return to first things. They were to remember “what you received and heard.” That is, they are to return to trusting God for His gift and to focus on salvation being by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. Thankfully, there are still a few in Sardis who were believers but even they are warned to strengthen what little there remains of a true church. The warning of Christ coming like a thief in the night has sometimes been misunderstood to refer to His Second Coming, but is actually a warning about a specific judgment that He will come and bring on this local church. As Stephen Smalley observes:

First, the final advent of Christ cannot be said to depend on the vigilance of the church at Sardis. Second, similar commands to repent, in the face of an alternative coming of Christ, are issued to the communities at Ephesus (Rev. 2:5 and Pergamum (2:16). In both cases the reference is to an imminent and historical advent of the Lord in judgment (“I will visit and remove your lampstand from its place”).

Provocatively, Jesus doesn’t seem to be holding out hope for the church as a whole to repent. Instead He is calling individual Christians there to be an exception in the midst of a dying church. He promises them that they who go against the grain of their decaying local church will enjoy eternal life with Him. This reminds us that we do not need to run with the crowd – even when the crowd bears the name of the Christian Church. God grants us the grace to be an exception to our generation and to walk faithfully with Him if we will be trust Him and rely upon His grace. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would grant you the courage to stand on His word no matter how unpopular that may become.

Saturday (10/25) Read and discuss Psalm 126:1-6. Verses 4-5 have been a great comfort to God’s people throughout the ages. Willem VanGemeren writes:

Suddenly the short but intensive prayer of v. 4 is answered, as though by prophetic assurance. Yes, God has promised, and he will be true to his promise (cf. Hag. 2:19)! The psalm contains a perpetual assurance to God’s people that his word is true. The LORD will turn the “tears” into “songs of joy” (v. 5). Though work may be laborious and the results uncertain, the LORD will be with his people in their various endeavors so as to bless them.

The assurance of God’s blessing is also an encouragement to be responsible. The people were not to sit idly by, waiting for God to come through. They had to go out and sow, praying that the LORD would be faithful. The phrase “seed to sow” (v. 6) is reminiscent of Haggai’s encouragement to the people to sow whatever little they had left, for the LORD would bless them. Today, with our abundance of seed companies and supplies, we forget that an ancient Israelite had to “lose” his seed before he could gain crops. He had to sink his fortune into the soil and hope for an increase, but the outcome was uncertain. If his sowing did not pay off, he might not have enough seed to sow in the next season, he might suffer great financial loss, and he and his family might go hungry.

Read or Sing Hymn 364 “Let Children Hear the Mighty Deeds” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 19 October 2014 Sunday, Oct 12 2014 

MVOPC 19 October 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 295 “Crown Him with Many Crowns”

Confession of Sin

O eternal God and merciful Father, we humble ourselves before your great majesty, against which we have frequently and grievously sinned.  We acknowledge that we deserve nothing less than eternal death, that we are unclean before you and children of wrath.  We continually transgress your commandments, failing to do what you have commanded, and doing that which you have expressly forbidden.  We acknowledge our waywardness, and are heartily sorry for all our sins.  We are not worthy to be called your children, nor to lift up our eyes heavenward to you in prayer.  Nevertheless, O Lord God and gracious Father, we know that your mercy toward those who turn to you is infinite; and so we take courage to call upon you, trusting in our Mediator Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Forgive all our sins for Christ’s sake.  Cover us with his innocence and righteousness, for the glory of your name.  Deliver our understanding from all blindness, and our hearts from all willfulness and rebellion, we pray through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 143:1-12

New Covenant Reading: Romans 5:1-11

Hymn of Preparation: 521 “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”

Sermon Text: Galatians 2:15-21

Sermon: Justified in Christ

Hymn of Response:  455 “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”

Confession of Faith:  Q/A 1 Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This”

PM Worship: NT: Revelation 2:18-29 – Hold Fast What You Have

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 69

69.What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?

A. The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.

Monday (10/13) Read and discuss Galatians 2:15-21.  John Calvin writes:

Paul is explaining how we, who are dead to the law, live to God. Grafted into the death of Christ, we derive a secret energy from it, as the shoot does from the root. Being crucified with him, we have been set free from the curse and guilt of the law, because Christ has nailed those things to his cross. To set that deliverance aside is to nullify the cross of Christ. But let us remember that we are delivered from the yoke of the law only when we are united with Christ. …

Paul does not live by his own life but is animated by the secret power of Christ. Just as the soul quickens the body, so Christ imparts life to his members. … Christ lives in us in two ways. First, he governs us by his Spirit and directs all our actions. Second, he grants us a share in his righteousness so that, wince we can do nothing by ourselves, we are accepted in him by God. The first is linked to regeneration and the second to the free acceptance of righteousness. …

The foundation on which faith rests is the love and death of Christ, and it is by this that its effect must be judged. How does it come about that we live by the faith of Christ? Because he loved us and gave himself for us. The love with which Christ embraced us led him to unite himself to us. He completed this union by his death. By giving himself for us, he suffered in our stead. … It is not enough to regard Christ as having died for the salvation of the world; each individual must claim the effect and possession of this grace personally. … Faith makes us partakers of everything it finds in Christ. … He gave himself as the price of our redemption. … No words can [fully] express what this means, for who can find language to declare the excellency of the Son of God?

Read or sing Hymn: 295 “Crown Him with Many Crowns” Prayer: Give thanks to the LORD that He loved you so much that He paid the price to redeem you.

Tuesday (10/14) Read and discuss Read Galatians 2:11-14. As we read today’s passage we should remember that while these events took place in Antioch Paul was using these events to further his argument in Galatians that circumcision and keeping the ceremonial law is not required for Gentiles to be first class citizens in the Kingdom of God. In chapter 1 Paul had argued that he had received the Gospel and his Apostolic authority directly from the risen Christ. So the Galatians had to receive it. To embrace the Gospel Paul preached was to embrace Christ and the reject Paul’s Gospel was to reject Christ. In chapter 2 Paul showed how he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Peter and James teaching the very same gospel. How does today’s passage advance this argument?

  1. First, notice that Peter initially fully embraced the uncircumcised Christians in Antioch. Verse 12: “For before certain men came from James, Peter was eating with the Gentiles; …” This shows that Peter agreed with Paul that neither circumcision nor the kosher food laws were necessary for Gentile believers to be fully accepted as first class members of the Kingdom of God.
  2. Second, notice that there was never any difference in theology between Peter and Paul. Paul doesn’t accuse Peter of bad theology or of apostasy, Paul accuses Peter of hypocrisy. This reinforces the fact that there was no divide between the gospel Paul taught and the gospel taught by the other Apostles.
  3. Third, Peter’s repentance reinforced the point that the message of the gospel is more important than the messenger.
  4. Finally, remember that Paul wasn’t writing to the Galatians to prove that he was right. Paul was writing to the Galatians to encourage them to turn back – that is to repent – and to walk “in step with the truth of the gospel.” What better way to do this than to show that the Apostle Peter had repented and done the same thing?

Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you the grace to repent quickly when you realize that you are in the wrong.

Wednesday (10/15) Read and discuss Psalm 143:1-12. Discouragement and Depression are among the most difficult challenges to overcome. As verses 3-4 make clear, David was intimately familiar with these challenges:

For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.  4 Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.

We are not surprised that David turns to the LORD with his problems. Perhaps the more pressing question is why we find this so hard to do. One of the biggest barriers is that we have bought in to Satan’s lie that we must choose between holiness and happiness. That is, we hesitate in turning to the LORD because, although we know that is the right thing to do, we don’t believe that doing so will bring us greater joy. Phillips comments:

How reluctant we are to surrender unconditionally to the will of God. Satan deceives us. He says, “if you let God have His way, He’ll send you to serve in a leper colony” … or  “You will never again have any more fun.” Satan, liar that he is, persuades us in our subconscious minds that God’s will is bad, unacceptable, and irksome.

So, David surrendered to God’s will – be it victory and vindication, or defeat, disgrace, and death. God’s will be done. Whatever it was, David felt sure he would get to know God better if he did His will. He would know more of His nearness (“Thou art my God”), more of His nature (“Thy Spirit is good”), more of His name (“for Thy name’s sake”).

Read or sing Hymn 521 “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would bring visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Thursday (10/16) Read and discuss Romans 5:1-11. Commenting on verses 3-5, R.C. Sproul writes:

Tribulation puts muscle on our souls. Tribulation makes it possible for the people of God to persevere rather than to give up. Tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character (v. 4). An easy life does nothing to produce character. Character is forged in the crucible of pain. Character is built when we have no alternative but to persevere in tribulation. Those who come out on the other side are those in whose souls God has built character. The result of character is hope (v. 4) – there it is again. Authentically joyful people are those who know where their hope is. They have been through the crucible. They have been through afflictions, persecution, and rejection from their friends. They have been through pain. They have identified with the humiliation of Christ. They have been crucified with Christ and raised in his resurrection and now participate in his exultation. That is the hope that Christian character produces.

What about the result of that hope? Here is the best part: Now hope does not disappoint (v. 5). Other translations say that hope “does not make us ashamed.” It is embarrassing that the world’s idea of hope is to invest it in some particular enterprise only to see that enterprise fail. When it fails we are dashed to pieces, but the hope that we have from God will never disappoint. It will never embarrass us. We will never have to be ashamed for putting our confidence and trust in Christ. If you put your trust in anything else but Christ you are destined for disappointment and embarrassment. Hope in Christ is the only hope that never shames us. The New Testament tells us that if we are not in the faith, if we do not believe, we are without hope and destined ultimately to disappointment.

Read or Sing Hymn: 455 “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” Prayer: Ask the LORD to give wisdom to the world health authorities as they try to combat the Ebola outbreak.

Friday (10/17) Read and discuss Revelation 2:18-29. Louis Brighton writes:

Jezebel stands for and represents the sin of syncretism, a universalistic belief that all religions are of value and are able to be of benefit before God. In the pluralistic society of the Greco-Roman world, in which many religions were believed to be acceptable before God, this syncretism of religious ideas was a particular threat to the Christian community. …

The Lord of the church in His patience urges those who are practicing this sin and are influencing others toward it to repent. He gives them time to do so. In order to help lead them to repent he lays affliction upon them. For those whom he loves, he chastens and disciplines, even painfully so at times in order that they might avoid the coming fearful judgment. It is clear that, though the LORD chastens, it is not His will that sinners die but that they repent and live in God’s forgiving grace (Ezek 18:23, 32). But those who do not repent will suffer his judgment now and eternally. This judgment will now be seen by others as a warning and as a witness to the truth that the Lord Christ alone searches the hearts and thus is able to exercise God’s judgment.

The “depths of Satan” is another way of referring to the teaching and sin of Jezebel. The sins of syncretism and universalism deny the uniqueness of Christianity – the only true and saving knowledge of God. They are lies of Satan, perhaps even the lie, by which he attempts to subvert the truth of Jesus Christ. As for those Christians of Thyatira who, though severely tested by this sin, held firm to their Christian witness, the LORD will not further burden them – perhaps in the sense that he would not test them further. They have suffered enough. Instead, they are exhorted to hold on faithfully until their LORD returns. Those who thus hold on and conquer do so by holding to the works of Jesus Christ, namely, his redeeming death and triumphal resurrection for their eternal well being. These works of Christ they also exhibit to others in their Christian witness and life.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you a heart of undivided loyalty.

Saturday (10/18) Read and discuss Galatians 2:15-21. John Calvin writes:

Paul accuses the false apostles of this, because they were not satisfied with Christ alone. Unless we renounce everything else and embrace Christ alone, we reject the grace of God. Paul’s meaning is this: “If we could produce a righteousness of our own, Christ has suffered in vain. He suffered to obtain it for us, but why should we have to go to him if we could get it for ourselves? If the death of Christ is out redemption, then it follows that we were captives. If it is a payment then we were debtors. If it is atonement, then we were guilty. If it is cleansing, then we were unclean. Anyone who ascribes his cleansing, pardon, atonement, righteousness or deliverance to works nullifies the death of Christ.

Read or Sing Hymn 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 12 October 2014 Sunday, Oct 5 2014 

MVOPC 12 October 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 1 “All People That on Earth Do Dwell”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Romans 4:20-25

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 119:89-104

New Covenant Reading: 2 Peter 3:1-18

Hymn of Preparation: 304 “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say”

Sermon Text: Galatians 2:11-14

Sermon: Bold to Rebuke, Humble to Repent

Hymn of Response:  644 “May the Mind of Christ My Savior”

Confession of Faith:  Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 252 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

PM Worship: Revelation 2:12-17 – A Few Things Against You

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 46-50: Christ’s Voluntary Humiliation

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 68

68.What is required in the sixth commandment?

A. The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others.

Monday (11/6) Read and discuss Galatians 2:11-14.  We must be diligent to not cause others to stumble by the way we live. Many things are indifferent in themselves, but if we use our attachment to things indifferent in a way that separates us from our brothers and sisters in Christ or makes them feel inferior – than we are not walking in the love of Christ. Martin Luther comments:

It was a serious matter for Peter to be accused by Paul, but he seems to have borne it patiently and even to have been grateful for the rebuke. There are many who have the gospel but not the truth of the gospel. Peter, Barnabas, and the other Jews had it but did not apply it correctly. On the one hand they were preaching it, but on the other hand they were establishing the law by the hypocrisy of their practice. … There was nothing wrong with Jewish customs in themselves, but observing them for the sake of conscience is a denial of Christ and a perversion of the gospel.

Read or sing Hymn: 1 “All People That on Earth Do Dwell” Prayer: Please pray for the Supreme Court of the United States that they would be imbued with wisdom and moral courage.

Tuesday (11/7) Read and discuss Read Galatians 2:1-10. The Apostle Paul has been arguing for his independence from the Jerusalem Apostles to make the point that he received the gospel and his Apostolic authority directly from the risen Christ. In today’s passage Paul goes on to show that he and the Jerusalem Apostles stood shoulder to shoulder with one another proclaiming the very same gospel. Paul knew that the leaders in Jerusalem agreed with him in principle, but it was important that the Jerusalem Church not drift into assuming that keeping the ceremonial law was really necessary for full membership among God’s people. So Paul forces the issue by taking Titus with him. Titus will go on to become an important leader in the earlier church but at this time he is a nobody. The only importance Titus has for this trip to Jerusalem was that he was an uncircumcised Gentile who had put his faith in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, Titus is critical to this story. If Paul simply held a theological discussion with the rest of the Apostles, the outcome of that discussion would be open to interpretation. It could be retold in ways that would favor one point of view or another. Titus forces issues down to a binary choice: Either Titus would need to be circumcised or he wouldn’t. Because Titus was not required to be circumcised he became the living embodiment of Paul’s teaching. If anyone wondered what ALL the Apostles thought about the necessity of Gentile Christians being circumcised you could just point that person to Titus. Prayer: Pray for the people of Hong Kong and Mainland China that the protests in Hong Kong would lead to greater freedom rather than repression.

Wednesday (11/8) Read and discuss Psalm 119:89-104. The most famous verse from this wonderful psalm is almost certainly: “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” John Calvin comments:

In this verse the Psalmist testifies that the Divine Law was his schoolmaster and guide in leading a holy life. He thus, by his own example, prescribes the same rule to us all; and it is highly necessary to observe this rule; for while each of us follows what seems good in his own estimation, we become entangled I inextricable and frightful mazes. The more distinctly to understand his intention, it is to be noted, that the word of God is set in opposition to all human counsels. What the world judges right is often crooked and perverse in the judgment of God, who approves of no other manner of living, than that which is framed according to the rule of his law. It is also to be observed, that David could not have been guided by God’s word, unless he had first renounced the wisdom of the flesh, for it is only when we are brought to do this, that we begin to have a teachable disposition. But the metaphor which he uses implies something more; namely, that unless the word of God enlighten men’s path, the whole of their life is enveloped in darkness and obscurity, so that they cannot do anything else than miserably wander from the right way; and again, that when we submit ourselves with docility to the teaching of God’s law, we are in no danger of going astray.

Read or sing Hymn 304 “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you an even greater hunger and thirst for His word.

Thursday (11/9) Read and discuss 2 Peter 3:1-18. Denial is not only a river that runs through Egypt – it is one of the most popular ways by which people deal with unpleasant realities. Those who refuse to turn from their rebellion against God naturally seek to deny the severe consequences of their continued rebellion.  So they mock the followers of Christ: “You Christians talk of Jesus coming again, but since the creation of the world everything keeps going along exactly as it always has.” Note well that this is deliberate ignorance on the part of unbelievers. According to verse 5 they are suppressing the twin truths that God created the world by His word and once destroyed it in the days of Noah by a universal flood. As believers, we can also rejoice in additional truths about Christ’s Second Coming. First, the reason for the apparent delay in His return is simply a revelation of Christ’s patience and longsuffering. The day of salvation is not yet in the past. We can still pray and witness for the sake of the salvation of loved ones and strangers alike. Secondly, we do not need to look away from the Day of Judgment. Clothed in Christ’s righteousness, “we are waiting for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” Read or Sing Hymn: 644 “May the Mind of Christ My Savior” Prayer: Rejoice in the longsuffering of the LORD yet pray that our children would not be presumptuous about His longsuffering but recognize that today is the day of salvation for them.

Friday (11/10) Read and discuss Revelation 2:12-17. Mitchell Reddish writes:

The charge against the … Christians [in Pergamum], that they practiced fornication, is probably metaphorical and not to be understood literally as sexual immorality. Biblical writers often use sexual imagery to describe religious unfaithfulness. To be unfaithful to God is to commit religious adultery. John uses sexual imagery in this way elsewhere in Revelation. The heretical group in the church at Pergamum was similar to the group at Ephesus. Both are called Nicolaitans. The difference lies in the church’s response to these people. The Ephesian church was diligent in resisting the menace of the Nicolaitans, whereas the church at Pergamum permitted their practices. The church at Pergamum needed to repent and see the danger in what they were doing. Their lax attitude was endangering the integrity of their faith and would result in a visit from Christ in judgment upon the Nicolaitans.

It may be worth adding that, although the Bible frequently uses the image of sexual immorality and marital unfaithfulness as images about the unfaithfulness of God’s people to the LORD – we shouldn’t be surprised that unfaithfulness to God and sexual immorality frequently go together. Sexual immorality, after all, has at its root an unwillingness to live our lives under the Lordship of Christ. Prayer: Ask the LORD to work greater fidelity into all of your relationships with other people – and with Him as well!

Saturday (11/11) Read and discuss Galatians 2:11-14. As a general rule we should involve as few people as possible when confronting the sins of others. Yet, sometimes, the public nature of the sin requires a public rebuke. Saint Augustine puts it like this:

That [Paul] rebuked him “before all” was necessary, in order that everyone might be bettered by his rebuke. For it was not expedient to correct in secret an error that was doing public harm. It should be added that in his steadfastness and charity Peter, to whom the LORD had said three times, “Do you love Me? Feed My sheep,” was very ready to bear this rebuke from a [fellow Apostle] for the salvation of the flock. For the one who was being rebuked was himself more remarkable and difficult to imitate than the one rebuking. For it is easier to see what one should correct in others than to see what ought to be corrected in oneself. It is easier to correct others by admonishing and rebuking than to be corrected readily even by yourself, let alone by another, still less if you add another “before all.”

Read or Sing Hymn 252 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 5 October 2014 Sunday, Sep 28 2014 

MVOPC 5 October 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 12 “Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim”

Confession of Sin

Almighty and most merciful Father;  We have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep.  We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.  We have offended against Your holy laws.  We have left undone those things which we ought to have done.  And we have done those things which we ought not to have done;  and there is no health in us.  But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.  Spare those, O God, who confess their faults.  Restore those who are penitent;  According to Your promises declared to mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord.  And grant, O most merciful Father;  For His sake;  That we may hereby live a godly, righteous, and sober life;  To the glory of Your holy name.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 78:38-39

Old Covenant Reading: 2 Chronicles 19:1-7

New Covenant Reading: Colossians 3:1-11

Hymn of Preparation: 310 “Rejoice, the Lord Is King”

Sermon Text: Galatians 2:1-10

Sermon: Our Freedom in Christ

Hymn of Response:  679 “ ’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”

Confession of Faith:  Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Til He Come”!

PM Worship: Revelation 2:8-11 – Be Faithful Unto Death

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 45: Christ the King

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 67

67.Which is the sixth commandment?

A. The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.

Monday (9/29) Read and discuss Galatians 2:1-10.  One of the challenges in the Christian life is determining when we should just go along for the sake of peace and when we need to dig our heels in and take a principled stand. There is no simple decision tree that we can consult and knowing which to day when may not be immediately obvious. For example, the Apostle Paul personally has Timothy circumcised yet publicly refuses to allow Titus to be circumcised. Why was it so important that Titus not be circumcised and what can we learn from that fact? Martin Luther explains:

The controversy did not turn on what the works of the law were, since it was still possible for Christians to perform them, … so long as they did not trust in them for their salvation. It was this point which was at issue – were the works of the law necessary or not? The necessity of the law passed away with the coming of Christ because it was originally instituted as a witness to that event. … The other apostles, and even Paul and Barnabas, sometimes did what the law commanded, particularly when they were among fellow Jews, but they did not think that they were necessary, since faith in Christ was sufficient.

Read or sing Hymn: 12 “Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine who continue to wrestle with such uncertainty as Russia seeks to keep them from receiving natural gas.

Tuesday (9/30) Read and discuss Read Galatians 1:11-24. The Christians in Syria and Cilicia weren’t glorifying God because Paul was so good but because he was so bad. Paul was a trophy to God’s grace and a personal demonstration of the power of God to save even the chief of sinners. Remember that before his conversion Paul was wrecking havoc on the Church. Paul was dragging women as well as men off to prison and he had consented to the stoning of Stephen. Christians would have looked at the pre-converted Saul of Tarsus in manner similar to the way we might look at a leader of ISIS today. Surely if there was any contemporary who was beyond hope it was Saul. … but God … but God in His mercy personally stopped Saul in his tracks and made him a trophy to His grace. When we grasp this we will understand more clearly understand why Luther described evangelism as nothing more than one beggar telling another beggar where he found food. Evangelism is not about our being such wonderful vessels of Gods grace that the packaging makes you want to sample what’s inside. We are but earthen vessels. Evangelisms flows from our being such surprising objects of and recipients of God’s grace.. When we grasp that we like Paul are trophies to God’s grace precisely because we are so undeserving, our outreach to unbelievers will sound less like “Come join us, we have it all figured out” and more like:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now I’m found, twas blind but now I see.

We sing that. In fact it is the world’s most popular hymn. Let’s live this week as though we believed it. Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD saved a wretch like you!

Wednesday (10/1) Read and discuss 2 Chronicles 19:1-11. Andrew Bowling writes:

The LORD’s rebuke for Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Ahab comes from Jehu, the son of Hanani. The rebuke seems harsh because, humanly speaking, this alliance is the cornerstone of Judah’s renewed prosperity and power. Perhaps the word ‘love’ (v. 2) is the key. Limited cooperation with Israel might have been acceptable, but a diplomatic marriage with Israel’s idolatry is not. Or, perhaps the prophet intends to condemn any cooperation whatsoever with Ahab.

Jehoshaphat takes personal initiative in leading the countryside to revival. Jehoshaphat’s royal judges either replace or supplement the courts of elders at the city gates (v. 5). He also delegates authority to Levitical judges who interpret the law of God. An increasingly centralized and mercantile society demands a greater consistency and centralization in the interpretation of laws. Jehoshaphat exhorts his officials fist, to remember that they represent God, not the state (v. 6), and, second, to warn the people not to sin.

Read or sing Hymn 310 “Rejoice, the Lord Is King” Prayer: Ask the LORD to regularly remind you that with all your lesser loyalties your highest loyalty must be to Him.

Thursday (10/2) Read and discuss Colossians 3:1-11. With today’s passage, the tone of Paul’s writing noticeably shifts. It will help us get more out of the rest of the letter if we understand why this is so and, also, where he is going. Dick Lucas points us in the right direction:

From now on, until 4:6, the tone of Paul’s letter is one of sustained exhortation. It is characteristic of the apostle’s method of teaching to arrange his material in this way, and to follow an exposition of Christ and he gospel with an explanation of what it means to live in the world consistently with such truth. He refuses to teach the doctrines of faith without insisting that they be translated into corresponding behavior and conduct.

Nor does the apostle call his hearers to a new way of life until they have understood what it means to be new persons in Christ. Paul is no mere moralist. For him there cannot be substantial goodness without godliness. If he is right here, it must follow that those standards of behavior, and that quality of life, that we have been accustomed to describe as Christian, cannot in the end survive a serious erosion of Christian standards of belief.

That last line is something we see playing out in Western churches right now. Western Christianity frequently operated in the twentieth century under the principle “deeds not creeds.” Today we are seeing these same churches abandoning any semblance to Biblical morality or as Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans: “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” It is also important for us to realize that the flip side of this proposition is also true. If people seek to have sound theology that they don’t put into practice, they will inevitably lose not only lose their theology they will lose the presence of God. As Jesus says to the church in Ephesus “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent (Revelation 2:5). Read or Sing Hymn: 679 “ ’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” Prayer: Please pray for the Northern Bible Study as it meets this evening.

Friday (10/3) Read and discuss Revelation 2:8-11. Mitchell Reddish writes:

The message to the church at Smyrna is free of criticisms. The church received only praise, warning, and encouragement. Although the city of Smyrna was commercially prosperous, its Christian inhabitants apparently did not share in its wealth. The cause of their poverty is not mentioned. The church at Smyrna may have drawn its adherents from the poorer class, or their poverty may have resulted from economic discrimination against Christians by the inhabitants of Smyrna. Materially poor as they were, they were nonetheless spiritually rich.

The major problem confronting the church at Smyrna was antagonism from the Jewish population of the city. The tone of the message indicates that the antagonism was severe. Jewish violence against the church apparently continued into the next century, as evidenced by the second-century letter from the church at Smyrna describing the death of Polycarp. This letter, known as The Martyrdom of Polycarp, states that the Jews of Smyrna joined with their neighbors in cheering for the death of Polycarp, even helping to gather wood for the fire of his execution.

The conflict with the Jews in Smyrna called forth a harsh verbal attack. In John’s eyes, such a people were not true Jews, but were a “synagogue of Satan” (2:9). They forfeited the right to be called Jews because of their attacks on the church. They claimed to be a synagogue of God, but in reality they were servants of Satan. The reader must be careful not to generalize this invective as a blanket condemnation of all Jews. John condemns the Jews at Smyrna (as well as those at Philadelphia, 3:9) for their persecution of the church, not because they are Jews. …

As difficult as this time of tribulation may have been, John interpreted the experience constructively. The persecution would be a time for the testing of the church’s faith. The time of affliction would be brief (“ten days,” that is, an indeterminate, short period) but may result in death for some of the faithful. They were not to fear, however, because Christ will reward the faithful with eternal life. Those so rewarded will escape “the second death”, that is, exclusion from participation in God’s final kingdom.

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has promised to cause His people to persevere to the end.

Saturday (10/4) Read and discuss Galatians 2:1-10. When we make moral decisions we can easily telescope everything down to what it means for us. We may go along with certain activities because “it’s no skin off my back” but we need to also consider how our example may impact other people. We find this principle coming up repeatedly in the New Testament. For example, the question of whether or not Christians should eat food which had been sacrificed to idols must include the impact that this practice might have on both unbelievers and weaker brothers. In today’s passage Paul talks about refusing to compromise with respect to freedom in Christ precisely because of how such compromise would have impacted the Gentile Christians. John Calvin explains:

Paul would not have lost his own liberty if he had surrendered to them, but his example would have hurt others. … The thing to keep in mind in all matters of indifference is edification. When false brethren wanted to lead the saints into bondage, it was their duty not to give in to them. By “the truth of the gospel” Paul meant its purity. The false apostles did not [openly] abolish the gospel completely but corrupted it with their own ideas. This always happens when we depart from the simplicity of Christ.

Take a minute to think about how you act with matters that are indifferent. Are you enjoying the freedom that you have in Christ? Do your behaviors promote the freedom that your brothers and sisters have in Christ or are they encouraging people to come into bondage to man-made traditions? Read or Sing Hymn 426 “Til He Come”! Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 28 September 2014 Sunday, Sep 21 2014 

MVOPC 28 September 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”

Confession of Sin

O You whose chosen dwelling is the heart that longs for Your presence and humbly seeks Your love:  We come to You to acknowledge and confess that we have sinned in thought and word and deed;  We have not loved You with all our heart and soul, with all our mind and strength;   We have not even loved our neighbor as ourselves.  Deepen within us our sorrow for the wrong we have done, or for the good we have left undone.  But You, O Lord, are full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy;  there is forgiveness with You.  Restore to us the joy of Your salvation;  Bind up that which is broken, give light to our minds, strength to our wills and rest to our souls.  Speak to each of us the word that we need, and let Your Word abide with us until it has wrought in us Your holy will.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 10:16-18

Old Covenant Reading: Jeremiah 23:23-32

New Covenant Reading: Acts 9:10-31

Hymn of Preparation: 309 “Rejoice, the Lord is King”

Sermon Text: Galatians 1:11-24

Sermon: Authentic Messenger, Authentic Gospel

Hymn of Response: 642 “Be Thou My Vision”

Confession of Faith:   Heidelberg Catechism            Q/A 1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still, My Soul”

 

PM Worship: Revelation 2:1-7 – Recapturing Our First Love

 

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 44: Christ our High Priest

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 66

66.What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?

A. The reason annexed to the fifth commandment is a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God’s glory and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment. 

Monday (9/22) Read and discuss Galatians 1:11-24.  Tom Schreiner writes:

We learn from these verses that the gospel is ultimately derived not from human beings but from God himself. In other words, the gospel represents a transcendent word from God – a word from above that speaks authoritatively and infallibly to human beings. Hence, rejection of the gospel amounts to a repudiation of what God himself has communicated. Paul labors to teach here that the gospel did not originate with him, and indeed it was contrary to his own view of reality, since he was convinced that faith in Christ was a perilous delusion.

Indeed, Paul’s call and conversion function as significant evidence of the truth of the Christian faith. What can account for the radical transformation of a man who was implacably opposed to Jesus Christ and early Christians? As Paul explains here, there was no human reason for him to subscribe to the Christian faith. He thought he was like Phinehas and Elijah of old – a valiant warrior contending in God’s name for the truth. He envisioned himself as a modern manifestation of the Maccabean heroes, who resisted apostasy with zeal in their own day. More than that, he was celebrated for his zeal and prowess in Judaism. Therefore, the only explanation for his call and conversion is the miraculous intervention of God. Paul’s conversion has only one explanation: God himself. From a human standpoint, it was exceedingly unlikely.

It is important to realize that our zeal and sincerity do not mean that we are necessarily right. We can be zealous for something and yet be zealously wrong. I remember as a young boy I was one of the last to believe in Santa Claus! I was zealous for the truth of his existence, but I was wrong. Furthermore, we can become zealous for a cause and get out of balance. I know of a pro-life activist who was incredibly committed to life. But he ended up leaving his wife for another woman and moved to another state and bought an expensive house. His zeal of the cause of life was not truly rooted in the gospel, and he ignored his responsibility to his wife.

We also learn from this text that the gospel we proclaim is a divine gospel. It is a heavenly gospel in that it comes from the Father. We can be assured that a gospel that comes from God himself is true, that it cannot be dismissed as a human invention. Why should we believe in the Christian faith? We should believe in it because it is true. It reflects God’s view of reality, and God’s view is indisputably true since he is the creator of all reality.

Read or sing Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Give thanks that we can have complete confidence in God’s gospel, because it comes from the LORD who is  entirely trustworthy.

Tuesday (9/23) Read and discuss Read Galatians 1:6-10. In his Apostolic astonishment Paul is grabbing a hold on the Galatians and telling them to wake up. He begins by letting them know what is at stake when the drift away from the gospel that he had preached to them. He tells them plainly that to abandon the Gospel is to abandon God. Paul doesn’t simply say: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting what I taught you.” Instead, He writes: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him.” To abandon the gospel – the good news of the victory of God in Jesus Christ over Satan, sin, and death on behalf of His people – is to defect from being Christ’s disciple. It is to desert the Living God who called you. In our doctrinally indifferent age, few Christians in North America make this connection. We easily imagine that people with all sorts of different views about what the true gospel is are still in right relationship with God. But Paul’s plain, even blunt, teaching in this passage makes clear that such a notion is entirely and dangerously false. Perhaps the problem is our tendency to think about doctrines, like the doctrine of justification, in abstract terms. If we do that, we can imagine that justification by faith alone is simply a matter of getting the wording of the formula right. But justification by faith alone is simply another way of saying justification by Christ alone. When you put your head on the pillow at night, are you trusting in Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins and your acceptance with God or are you trusting in Christ plus something else? If you are trusting Christ plus circumcision, or Christ plus the Virgin Mary, or Christ plus good works, or Christ plus good doctrine – then you are in perilous danger of abandoning the person of Christ. Prayer: Ask the LORD to cause the Biblical gospel to sound forth from the pulpits of New England.

Wednesday (9/24) Read and discuss Jeremiah 23:16-32. The LORD is so kind to His people that it is possible for sinners to be attracted to the temporal blessings the LORD offers without being drawn to God Himself. This is precisely what the false teachers of our day, like the false prophets in Jeremiah’s day, offer to attract a crowd. They promise people some of the benefits of following God without calling people to commit themselves to the LORD whose blessings they seek. There are two chief problems with this: (1) First, God is not a means to something other than Himself. Knowing the LORD is the end for which we have been created and the great blessing of which all the lesser blessings are merely pointers. (2) Second, the LORD will not pour out His temporal blessings upon idolaters. So, through Jeremiah, God graciously warns the people:

Do not listen to these prophets when

    they prophesy to you,

    Filling you with futile hopes.

They are making up everything they say.

    They do not speak for the LORD!

How should we deal with such false teachers? First, we can normally recognize them by the fact that they focus almost exclusively on YOU and the benefits that God is promising to YOU rather than on the glory of God. Consider the book titles of one contemporary bestselling author: Your Best Life Now; Become a Better You; and It’s Your Time. One does not need to earn a Ph.D. in Theology to realize that such a teacher is not primarily seeking the glory of God. Spiritual discernment is normally not a particularly complex matter. If we are growing in our love for Jesus, and seeking to walk in a manner that brings glory to God, such false teaching will normally be glaringly obvious. Second, we must remember that God’s word is a fire and a mighty hammer that smashes the rocks to pieces (v. 29). We don’t need to be particularly clever. We need simply to cling to God’s word. As verse 28 says:

Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord.

Read or sing Hymn 309 “Rejoice, the Lord is King” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would grant discernment to the young people in our congregation that they would not be turned away to follow false teachers.

Thursday (9/25) Read and discuss Acts 9:10-31. Everyone wants to be accepted and valued by at least one group of people. We find this truth in the famous theme song to the hit T.V. show Cheers:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

This song touches a chord in us precisely because we don’t always feel this sense of acceptance and belonging that each of us longs for. Well if you think that you have it bad, consider the Apostle Paul. After he was converted:

  1. The Jews in Damascus turn against Paul and want to kill him. They are so committed to Paul’s death that he has to escape the city by being let down from the city’s walls in a large basket.
  2. No need to fear! Surely Paul will be able to find comfort from his fellow believers in Jerusalem, right? Actually, they were too terrified of Paul at first to let him join with them. They thought it was all a trick and that Paul hadn’t truly been converted.
  3. Thankfully Barnabas has the courage to embrace Paul and to introduce him to the Apostles. Paul then uses his skill in Greek and in the Scriptures to proclaim Christ to the Greek speaking Jews (“Hellenists”) in Jerusalem. The result? Now the Greek speaking Jews want Paul dead as well. I wonder if Paul didn’t start wanting to go to a place where no-one knew his name!

There is a very important lesson for us in these events. Being chosen by God and set apart for His service does NOT mean that life will be easy or that you will be universally appreciated. Yet, it is also important to realize that these hardships did not hinder in the least the LORD’s plans to make Paul into a fit instrument. It is true that God crushed Saul’s pride when Jesus struck him blind on the road to Damascus. It is true that the LORD continued to crush the Apostle Paul through much suffering throughout his ministry. It is also true, as John MacArthur reminds us, that “From the ashes of Saul’s old life would arise the noblest and most useful man of God that the world has ever known.” If that isn’t enough for you in the face of your own personal sufferings, then remember this: There is a place, an eternal home, where everyone will know your name and always be glad that you came. There is a place where you will be completely accepted and loved. You just aren’t there yet. Read or Sing Hymn: 642 “Be Thou My Vision” Prayer: Lift up those who are lonely and ask that the LORD would grant them meaningful friendships.

Friday (9/26) Read and discuss Revelation 2:1-7. David Chilton writes:

Ephesus was a hotbed of Jewish occultism and magical arts (Acts 19:13-15, 18-19). Throughout the world of the first century, apostate Judaism was accommodating itself to numerous pagan ideologies and heathen practices, developing early strains of what later came to be known as Gnosticism – various hybrids of occult wisdom, rabbinical lore, mystery religion, and either asceticism or licentiousness (or both), all stirred up together with a few bits and pieces of Christian doctrine. …

Yet, despite all the multiform depravity within Ephesus (cf. Eph. 4:17-19; 5:3-12) the Lord Jesus Christ had established His Church there (Acts 19); and in this message He assures the angel of the congregation that He holds the seven stars in His right hand, upholding and protecting the rulers whom He has ordained: “He fills them with light and influence,” says Matthew Henry’s Commentary; “He supports them, or else they would soon be falling stars.” He also walks in the middle of the lampstands, the churches, guarding and examining them, and connecting them to one another through their unity in Him. “I will put My dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people (Lev. 26:11-12).”

Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in the Middle East who are living with such great turmoil and hardship.

Saturday (9/27) Read and discuss Galatians 1:11-24. Paul is in the very awkward position of having to defend himself, that is his Apostolic authority, in order to defend the gospel. Paul therefore defends himself not by making much of himself but by making little. Paul makes it absolutely clear that he didn’t ascend to that Apostolic office but, while he was fiercely fighting against the Church of God, Jesus came down and changed his life. John Calvin comments:

Here Paul is not speaking about the subject of his preaching but the purpose of his own mind. Of course, the teaching corresponds to the disposition of the teacher.  In his previous life, Paul had received great praise, but those who are determined to serve Christ faithfully must despise the favor of people. The church will always contain wicked hypocrites and wicked people who prefer their own desires to the Word of God. Even good people are sometimes tempted by the Devil to be angry at the faithful warnings of their pastor. We must therefore not be alarmed at any kind of offense, as long as we do not drive weak minds away from Christ.

Read or Sing Hymn 689 “Be Still, My Soul” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 21 September 2014 Sunday, Sep 14 2014 

MVOPC 21 September 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 30 “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past”

Confession of Sin

O eternal God and merciful Father, we humble ourselves before your great majesty, against which we have frequently and grievously sinned.  We acknowledge that we deserve nothing less than eternal death, that we are unclean before you and children of wrath.  We continually transgress your commandments, failing to do what you have commanded, and doing that which you have expressly forbidden.  We acknowledge our waywardness, and are heartily sorry for all our sins.  We are not worthy to be called your children, nor to lift up our eyes heavenward to you in prayer.  Nevertheless, O Lord God and gracious Father, we know that your mercy toward those who turn to you is infinite; and so we take courage to call upon you, trusting in our Mediator Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Forgive all our sins for Christ’s sake.  Cover us with his innocence and righteousness, for the glory of your name.  Deliver our understanding from all blindness, and our hearts from all willfulness and rebellion, we pray through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Old Covenant Reading: Judges 2:1-15

New Covenant Reading: 1 Peter 1:13-25

Hymn of Preparation: 49 “More Love to Thee, O Christ”

Sermon Text: Galatians 1:6-10

Sermon: No Other Gospel

Hymn of Response:  570 “Faith of Our Fathers”

Confession of Faith:  Q/A 1 Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This”

PM Worship: Revelation 1:9-20 – The Son of Man

Adult Sunday School: The Building Committee will give a presentation on steps toward putting up our own church building. We will also enjoy a fellowship lunch together today.

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 65

65.What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of, or doing anything against, the honor and duty which belongeth to every one in their several places and relations.

Monday (9/15) Read and discuss Galatians 1:6-10.  In today’s passage the Apostle Paul expresses grave concern that the Galatians are turning away from the Biblical gospel to a substitute that is in fact no gospel at all. Why would anyone do that? First, it will help us to understand what verse 10 is getting at. Paul is making clear that he is seeking approval and praise from God and not for man. This points to the fact that preaching and believing the gospel can lead to the scorn and disapproval of man. But why should that be the case? Put simply, it is that God saves wicked people. In our pride, we want to believe that the LORD chose us because we are something special when, in fact, the only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin that makes salvation necessary. As Luther wrote when meditating on the penitential Psalms:

Therefore, God accepts only the forsaken, cures only the sick, gives sight only to the blind, restores only the dead, sanctifies only the sinners, gives wisdom only to the unwise fools. In short, He has mercy only on those who are wretched, and gives grace only to those who are not in grace. Therefore no proud saint, no wise or just person, can become God’s material, and God’s purpose cannot be fulfilled in him. He remains in his own work and makes a fictitious, pretended, false, and painted saint of himself, that is, a hypocrite.

Luther’s observation contains a pointed application for us as we work our way through Galatians in the coming months: If we find ourselves thinking “How could they? I would never do or believe anything like that!” we need to realize that we are in danger of moving away from the gospel which is only good news to bad people who have turned from themselves to Jesus. Read or sing Hymn: 30 “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters who are suffering with significant health issues.

Tuesday (9/16) Read and discuss Read Galatians 1:1-5. Verses 4-5 remind us that all glory rightly belongs to God. This is one of the consequences of the authentic Biblical gospel: It brings grace and peace to us and gives all glory to God. Distortions of the gospel, not only among the churches in Galatia but throughout church history, nearly always involve people trying to take some of the glory for themselves. Saint Augustine commenting on verses 4-5 writes:

How much more, therefore, ought men not to claim the credit for themselves if they perform any good work, when the very Son of God in the Gospel said that He sought not His own glory. Nor had He come to do His own will but the will of Him who sent Him! This will and glory of the Father the apostle now commemorates, that he also, by the example of the Lord who sent him, may indicate that he seeks not his own glory or the performance of his own will in the preaching of the gospel, just as he says a little later, “if I were to please men, I should not be a servant of Christ.”

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would make you more humble not by causing you to think poorly of yourself but by causing you to think about the needs of others and the glory of God more often.

Wednesday (9/17) Read and discuss Judges 2:1-15. The gospel – that is the good news of the victory of God in Jesus Christ over Satan, sin, and death on behalf of His people – is at the pulsating heart of Christianity. Furthermore, the gospel is not just a necessary element of Christianity but is so central that it informs every other aspect of Christian doctrine and life. Regretfully, there are many organizations bearing the title “church” which not only don’t have the gospel out their pulsating center but who have either substantially distorted or even denied the biblical gospel. The way that this common happens is: (1) One generation is enthralled with the gospel; (2) The next generation assumes the gospel. That is, when we talk about the gospel everyone simply nods and assumes that we are all on the same page – while our real passions lie elsewhere. I suspect that much of the evangelical church in the U.S. is in this position. One sign of the fact that we tend to “assume the gospel” comes from Christian publishing. For example, books about eschatological speculation and how Christianity can make me more “successful” dramatically outsell books about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus; (3) Third, the next generation drifts away from the gospel. We see an Old Testament example of this pattern in today’s passage. Once Joshua’s generation entirely died out a generation arose “who knew neither the LORD nor what He had done for Israel.” How do we prevent that from happening in our congregation? Part of the answer is that we remain entirely dependent upon the grace of God. If the LORD does not pour out His Spirit upon our children and our grandchildren than nothing we can do will keep the fire of devotion burning. Nevertheless, there is something critical that we can pursue. The most important thing we can do to pass on the gospel to the next generation is not to be found in catechizing, teaching, and preaching – as important as these things are. The most important thing we can do is to maintain our own passion for the gospel and to quickly repent when we are led away to focus on other lesser things. Read or sing Hymn 49 “More Love to Thee, O Christ” Prayer: Pray for the children of our congregation that they would not take the gospel for granted but grow up loving Christ with a godly passion.

Thursday (9/18) Read and discuss 1 Peter 1:13-25. Suffering for your faith is hard. We have all been inspired by our brothers and sisters who have been willing suffer greatly, or even to lay down their lives, for the cause of Christ and His gospel. Yet, perhaps we have allowed slogans such as “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” too roll to easily off our tongues. Often such sentiments are expressed most easily by those who have never spent a night in jail or been beaten for their faith. The truth is, suffering for your faith is hard. Today’s passage draws our attention to a rarely contemplated truth: Jesus gave us a pattern to show us how we are to suffer for the faith.  While Christ’s pattern of suffering would repay detailed study, there are four main points of application from His example for modern Christians:

  1. Jesus didn’t seek to suffer. In the early Church, and occasionally throughout history, there have been those who have actually pursued suffering in Christ’s name. Perhaps they did this simply out of bad theology or perhaps they did so out of the hope that their willingness to suffer would mark them out as particularly devoted followers of Jesus. In either case, such actions are unbiblical. Christ Himself did not seek to suffer.
  2. Jesus sought to avoid suffering. We often focus on the end of Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane where He prayed “nevertheless, not My will but Thy will be done.” We should focus on this. Yet, we shouldn’t miss the fact that Jesus, who was the only perfect man, also prayed “If it is possible, remove this cup from me.” Rather than reflecting cowardice, this is precisely what the Law requires. Q/A 135 of the Larger Catechism begins: “The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others …” For some reason, many Christians miss this and think there is something selfish about looking out for your own well being when in fact it is your duty to do so.
  3. Jesus chose pleasing His Father over avoiding suffering. While avoiding harm to ourselves is a duty it is not our ultimate duty. If we seek to fulfill the two great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbors this will inevitably involve at least some suffering. Yet, suffering should only be the necessary side effect of trying to please our Father in a fallen and sin filled world. Suffering should never be pursued for its own sake.
  4. Jesus endured suffering by entrusting Himself to His Father. “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” If we must suffer for the gospel, it is a wonderful encouragement to remember that we are in God’s hands and that He will ultimately vindicate us completely while using our suffering for His glory and for the good of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Read or Sing Hymn: 570 “Faith of Our Fathers” Prayer: Pray for our brothers and sisters in China that they would grow in grace and in doctrinal knowledge. Ask the LORD to keep them from being drawn away from the gospel by the increasing desire to get rich which is spreading through the Chinese culture.

Friday (9/19) Read and discuss Revelation 1:9-20. Christians are not immune from suffering.  This is so obvious that all Biblical Christians must acknowledge that suffering is a part of the Christian life.  Nevertheless, there is a rather large school of theology in the United States that gains some of its popularity by promising that God will rapture His people out of harm’s way before things get too bad.  This school teaches that Christians will experience tribulation but they will not have to go through the Tribulation. To this way of reading the Bible; both the Kingdom of God and the Tribulation are entirely in our future. Yet, this passage from Revelation tells quite a different story. Verse 9 begins with John telling the churches in Asia Minor that he is their “brother and companion in the Tribulation and Kingdom and perseverance which are in Christ Jesus.” John didn’t face the reality of radically severe suffering and persecution through escapism.  Instead John presents our comfort and perseverance flowing from a vision of Jesus. Since John was one of the witnesses to the Transfiguration, I wonder if he had a bit of déjà vu when He saw the glorified Christ with “His face like the sun shining in its strength.” Certainly, John’s response was the same in both instances.  We have grown so accustomed to discussing the fear of the LORD in terms of “reverential awe” that we may forget how terrifying it is for a sinful man to encounter the unveiled glory of God. Yet, it is Jesus Himself who tells John to not be afraid. Remarkably, this glorious King has triumphed over the gates of hell (v. 19) and is sovereignty caring for His Church for the sake of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (v. 20). The message is absolutely clear.  We do not deal with the threats and torments of this world by minimizing them and pretending that they are less trying than they really are. We overcome this world by fixing out eyes upon Jesus. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by becoming a part of our local church family and whose gifts would be used to build up this congregation.

Saturday (9/20) Read and discuss Galatians 1:6-10. Tom Schreiner writes:

We … see in Paul’s bracing words the exclusivism of the gospel. Many in our world today embrace pluralism (salvation may be gained through all religions) or inclusivism (people may be saved through Christ, even though they have never heard the gospel). … In a world where tolerance is valued and the rigidity of the past generations is rejected, we are inclined to go to the other extreme.

Is it the cast the Paul’s anathemas here seem to be ill-mannered and unloving? Such sentiments reveal how far we have strayed from the biblical witness, indicating that our churches have not rightly balanced the doctrines of God’s holiness and his love. We must beware of becoming cranks, and it is hope that we do not adopt such a theology because we are judgmental, negative, and cynical. We must have the courage to proclaim that there is only one name by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12) and that human beings come to God only through Jesus (John 14:6), we will doubtless give assurance of salvation to people who are heading for final judgment. Nothing can be more unloving than granting false assurance to the perishing.

How does this apply practically? We must have courage to tell those with whom we work and those who live in our neighborhoods that if they are not trusting in Jesus Christ as the crucified and risen one, they are not saved. How much easier it is to smile and to say nothing and to think we just show we are Christians by how nice we are.

Read or Sing Hymn 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 14 September 2014 Sunday, Sep 7 2014 

MVOPC 14 September 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great Is They Faithfulness”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 10:19-22

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8

New Covenant Reading: Acts 9:1-19

Hymn of Preparation: 317 “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying”

Sermon Text: Galatians 1:1-5

Sermon: God’s Messenger, God’s Message

Hymn of Response:  646 “Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts”

Confession of Faith:  Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 386 “God Be With You Til We Meet Again”

PM Worship: Revelation 1:1-8 – The Alpha and Omega

Adult Sunday School: Understanding the Book of Revelation Part III

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 64

64.What is required in the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors or equals. 

Monday (9/8) Read and discuss Galatians 1:1-5.  At a typical rate of speaking you can read Paul’s entire letter to the Galatians out loud in just 12 minutes. As we begin this new series, I would encourage you to do that at least once in order to get a feel both for the letter’s energy and also the shape of Paul’s argument. The letter begins with great energy as Paul immediately launches in to defending his apostolic authority as coming directly from God. Some modern readers are turned off by the great passion and, in particular, the energetic denunciations which are found throughout the letter. Yet, sixteen centuries ago Saint John Chrysostom wisely observed:

[The first verse] is full of great passion and strong sentiment; and not the prologue only, but as it were, the whole letter. For always to speak mildly to those who are being taught even when they need vehemence, is not the part of a teacher but a corrupter an enemy.

Paul will later rhetorically ask the Galatians: “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth (Gal. 4:6)?” Whether they knew it or not, Paul’s willingness to courageously engage them with the gospel made him the best friend that the Galatians had. Read or sing Hymn: 32 “Great Is They Faithfulness” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would confirm your commitment to His truth and that you would cling to His word rather than the passing fads of this world (even when those fads enter the Church!).

Tuesday (9/9) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 27:1-34. Today’s passage is about our grateful response to God’s prior grace. It may seem odd, at first blush, that the LORD would give Israel a lengthy chapter regulating their grateful response. Shouldn’t gratitude simply run free? Well the problem is that we can easily commit ourselves to some dramatic act of gratitude in the moment only to regret doing so later on. The chapter can be divided into two parts. The first part of the chapter deals with regulations around consecrating ourselves, our animals, or our land to the LORD. These were very lavish gifts and remind us that God’s amazing grace towards us may call us to respond with a gesture of gratitude that the watching world – including many in the church – simply will not understand. Consider, for example, Mary anointing Jesus with a perfume that was worth nearly a year’s wages.  This is entirely inexplicable apart from who Jesus is and what He would do for her. We ought to think through our own lives to see how much of them can be explained only because we know who Jesus is and are grateful for what He has done for us. The second part of the chapter forbids offering to the LORD that which is already His. The firstborn of a flock, that which was already previously devoted to the LORD, and tithes, all belonged to the LORD already. So to make a show out of giving them to the LORD as an act of gratitude would simply be a hypocritical farce. Where does this leave us? It reminds us that while making such generous vows can be a good thing we should not rush to do so. Ecclesiastes tells us that it is better to never make a vow than to make such a vow only to break it. Furthermore, we should be very careful not to whip up the emotions of other people so that they make commitments that they will later regret and, perhaps, try to back out of. It is best to keep both our and their generosity between just the giver and God. Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you a grateful heart that regularly gives thanks for the manifold ways in which Jesus blesses you.

Wednesday (9/10) Read and discuss Isaiah 6:1-8. Bryan Beyer writes:

Isaiah responded to this great vision of God’s majesty as so many others who experienced God’s presence did – with great fear (Ex 3:6; Rv 1:17). The Hebrew expression translated “Woe is me!” emphasizes Isaiah’s feeling of utter ruin.

The vision of God’s glory thus had a twofold result. It revealed the depths of God’s majesty and splendor, but it also revealed the depths fo Isaiah’s uncleanness. He felt as if he couldn’t go on.

Isaiah confessed that he, a man of unclean lips, lived among a people with the same fault (6:5). Lips shape speech and speech reveals what lies in one’s heart and mind. The prophet stood as a sinner in the midst of a sinful nation; neither he nor the people of Judah could stand before this holy God.

Isaiah cried, “My eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”  (6:5 NASB). People coming into the king’s presence naturally would dress themselves with the finest clothes they had. They would want to make as good an impression as possible. But Isaiah knew he had nothing with which to impress his heavenly Sovereign. The King of kings knew him for what he was, and he also knew the people of Judah for what they were. Their sinfulness contrasted sharply with his holiness, just as their lowly estate contrasted sharply with his regal majesty.

The clash of God’s holiness with Isaiah’s uncleanness brings the reader to a powerful tension point in the call narrative. How could a holy God establish a relationship with this soon-to-be prophet? He could not unless he dealt with the problem of Isaiah’s sin. Indeed, it is precisely this issue that lies at the heart of the Christian faith today (Rom 3:21-26).

Read or sing Hymn 317 “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying” Prayer: Ask the LORD to grant New England a fresh realization of His holiness and to use this to lead are region to revival and reformation.

Thursday (9/11) Read and discuss Acts 9:1-19. Sometimes Ananias gets a bad rap for not simply jumping up and doing what the Lord commanded him to do. Yet, would any of us have acted any differently? As far as the young Jesus Movement was concerned Saul was arch enemy number one. Nevertheless, as N.T. Wright reminds us, the Lord was firm in His Sovereign choice and of using Ananias to welcome Saul into His family:

The way the Lord made it clear to Ananias that it would be all right is very telling.

‘He is praying;’ yes, but all Pharisees prayed, all devout Jews prayed. That by itself didn’t tell Ananias anything except that Saul might well be stoking up his religious fervor in preparation for the assault on Jesus’ followers. Ah, but – ‘He has seen a vision; and it’s a vision about you! He doesn’t know you, Ananias, but in his vision someone with your name is coming to lay hands on him so that he can see again.’ A vision about a vision; this is getting complicated, but Ananias takes the point. He is still worried, though: we all know why Saul has come here, we all know what he’s already done in Jerusalem, and you’re asking me to go and see him?

But at this point Ananias discovers something which the rest of us had not yet been told – though Paul, telling the story later in Acts, includes it as part of the initial vision on the road. The Lord is calling Saul for a particular task. The time has come for the message about the one true God, the Jewish good news of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to be told to the wider world, the world of pagans, Gentiles, people who know nothing and care less about this God. And the person to do this task, to spearhead the work of getting the message out to those outside the law, must be the one who most clearly of all others of his generation, had been the most keen to stamp the message out. Nobody must ever be able to say that people took the message to the Gentiles because they weren’t bothered about Israel and its traditions, or because they didn’t understand how important the law itself really was. No: when you want to reach the pagan world, the person to do it will be a hard-line, fanatical, ultra-nationalist, super-orthodox, Pharisaic Jew. And then they say that God doesn’t have a sense of humor.

Jewish humor, of course. And like much Jewish humor, it makes a lot of sense too. Ananias saw that sense, knew he had to obey, and went and did so. ‘Just go,’ said the Lord, and he did. In addition, significantly, the Lord informs Ananias that he himself will show Saul what he will have to face. He, too will have to suffer, indeed will face constant suffering, for the sake of the Name. Nobody will be able to say that he, or the other apostles, was in this business for the sake of a comfortable life, or for human glory, power or wealth. When God calls someone, said Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he bids them come and die. So it was with Saul; so it was with Ananias; so it is with us.

Read or Sing Hymn: 646 “Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts” Prayer: Ask the LORD to grant you joy in your salvation even as you take up the cross daily to follow Him.

Friday (9/12) Read and discuss Revelation 1:1-8. The book of Revelation is written to Christians who were being both oppressed and marginalized throughout the Roman Empire. Yet the chief comfort the book offers God’s people is not freedom from persecution and hardship but a vision of Christ Jesus our Lord. Commenting on verses 5 and 6 James Hamilton writes:

In the middle of verse 5 John begins a doxology that will carry through verse 6. This doxology is addressed to Jesus, and John summarizes what Jesus has done for his people in three statements; then in response to these things he ascribes glory to Jesus.

John addresses the doxology “To him who loves us” (1:5b). This is the first thing Jesus has done for his people. Notice that this statement is made in the present tense. Jesus loves his people. Jesus’ love for his people led him to lay down his life, and what Jesus accomplished by laying down his life is identified in the final words of verse 5: “and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” This is the second thing Jesus has done for his people. The blood of Jesus frees us from our sins in the sense that his death cancels our obligation to pay the penalty of our sins to the Father. Those who sin deserve to die. Death is separation from God. Jesus died that death so that his people could be reconciled to God and live. Jesus’ death was a penal, substitutionary atonement. The word penal points to the fact that he paid the penalty. The word substitutionary means he died in the place of his people as their substitute. The word atonement means that his death reconciled men to God.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to revive many of the lethargic churches in New England by causing their ministers to proclaim the substitionary atonement with clarity and power.

Saturday (9/13) Read and discuss Galatians 1:1-5. Since the letter of Galatians focuses on calling the Galatian Christians back to the true gospel, we are not surprised to see Paul emphasizing the substitutionary atonement (“who gave Himself for our sins”) right at the beginning of the letter. Commenting on verses 3 and 4, Martin Luther writes:

Every one of these words is particular and emphatic. Paul is saying that the law and human will do not matter unless we believe that Christ died for our sins. … Note the word “our” – there is no point believing that Christ died for other people but not for us as well. Believing this is what will justify you because it will make Christ dwell and reign in you. … Note that we are not saved because we wanted to be, but because it was God’s will for us.

Read or Sing Hymn 386 “God Be With You Til We Meet Again” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 7 September 2014 Sunday, Aug 31 2014 

MVOPC 7 September 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render”

Confession of Sin

Almighty and most merciful Father;  We have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep.  We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.  We have offended against Your holy laws.  We have left undone those things which we ought to have done.  And we have done those things which we ought not to have done;  and there is no health in us.  But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.  Spare those, O God, who confess their faults.  Restore those who are penitent;  According to Your promises declared to mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord.  And grant, O most merciful Father;  For His sake;  That we may hereby live a godly, righteous, and sober life;  To the glory of Your holy name.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 55:7-9

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 27:1-13

New Covenant Reading: Acts 4:32-5:11

Hymn of Preparation: 44 “How Great Thou Art”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 27:14-34

Sermon: Regulated Giving

Hymn of Response:  188 “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting”

Confession of Faith:  Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 429 “Let Thy Blood in Mercy Poured”

PM Worship: 1 Samuel 31:1-13 – The Death of Saul

Adult Sunday School: Understanding the Book of Revelation

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 63

63.Which is the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment is, Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. 

Monday (9/1) Read and discuss Leviticus 27:1-13.  A chapter on regulating vows may seem like a really low key way to end a book. Yet, as Philip Eveson reminds us, faithfulness in vow keeping is an essential aspect of both a well functioning society and the Christian life:

People are quick to denounce politicians who make promises in their party manifestos and then fail to deliver when they are elected, but what about ourselves? Did we make vows at the time of our conversion or baptism, or when we became members of a local church? Have we kept them? And what about our marriage vows? Maybe we have made commitments that we now regret and we seek ways of backing out of them. This chapter makes it clear that when you make a commitment to God, it is a serious undertaking and must not be entered into lightly.

Chapter 27 divides up into three sections: (1) Today’s passage focuses on vows concerning people and animals; (2) Verses 14-25 focus on vows concerning consecrated houses and lands; (3) The chapter concludes by dealing with exceptions to consecrated items. Read or sing Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render” Prayer: Please lift up Pleasant Mountain OPC, our mission work in Bridgton, ME, in prayer as they transition to a season without a pastor.

Tuesday (9/2) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 26:1-13. It is critical that we recognize what this is not saying: The LORD is not saying, “If you ever sin here is how I am going to hammer you.” The Living God is not running around with a human sized fly-swatter just waiting for us to slip up so He can smack us. Notice the strong language that describes those who will receive these curses: “You spurn my statutes” and “your soul abhors my rules.” Such individuals are not disciples who slip up they are not followers of God at all. Let’s look at this issue from a different perspective: What would the opposite of spurning God’s statutes and abhorring His rules look like? Clearly, it would involve delighting in the Law of the LORD and meditating on it day and night. But it would not look like sinless perfection. Yes, faith and faithfulness do actually result in greater conformity to God’s law – but faith would also reveal itself in regular repentance. For the justified sinner in Ancient Israel this would mean availing him or herself to the sacrificial system which took up so much of the earlier part of the book of Leviticus.  God would be glorified precisely through showing mercy to His people while maintaining His perfect righteousness through accepting the substitutionary sacrifice which was judged in the sinner’s place. This contains a tremendous lesson for us. In our remaining sin, most of us unreflectingly imagine that we most glorify God by being better and demonstrating that we need less of His mercy than other people do. The Bible teaches something radically different: God is glorified when we repent and magnify His mercy and grace to a sinner as wicked as me. John Piper is undoubtedly correct to teach that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” but I would like to offer an addendum: God is most glorified in us when we sing:

“Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.

  Foul I to the fountain fly wash me Savior or I die”

Let’s take the promised blessings and curses of this chapter seriously this week. Let us do so by thanking Him with grateful hearts, by seeking to walk in His ways, and by confessing our sins along with the absolute and comprehensive sufficiency of our Savior. Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our church as it meets this evening.

Wednesday (9/3) Read and discuss Leviticus 27:14-25. Derek Tidball writes:

A tremor of apprehension about the offering of voluntary gifts to God runs right through this chapter. The currents of religious emotion flow strongly, and it is all too easy to be swept away by them in the midst of a ceremony or celebration, and rashly promise what is later regretted. Genuine emotion can also give way too easily to ostentatious display. In an effort to prove our devotion to God (and perhaps even to convince ourselves of it), we can fall victim to the need for extravagant gestures. Cool reflection may subsequently make us seek a way of delivering on our promises without paying the full costs involved. One route to bargain spiritually is to count a gift twice and give God what already belongs to Him, in the pretence that it is really a new, voluntary gift.

Today’s passage rules out this duplicitous practice with respect to the firstborn, devoted things, and the tithe – which already belong to Him. We need to be careful, as Jesus warned us, not to do our giving in a way to be seen by men. We should also be careful not to manipulate the emotions of others in an effort to get them to give more. Let everyone give to the LORD from a cheerful and thankful heart. Read or sing Hymn 44 “How Great Thou Art” Prayer: Ask the LORD to remove hypocrisy from your heart and actions.

Thursday (9/4) Read and discuss Acts 4:32-5:11. Today’s passage has two movements. The first reveals great grace. The second reveals great fear. This pattern has often been repeated in history. First, there is genuine Christian revival which leads to new devotion and a new way of life. Second, this is often followed by people who want to be seen as participating in this new way of life while still clinging to the way they were before. Such hypocrisy can have devastating consequences for the Church. In this instance, God used this hypocrisy to declare His own holiness. There are several important aspects of both the grace and the hypocrisy found in this passage that are worthy of sustained contemplation. For now, with the aid of N.T. Wright, let us simply look a bit further at the issue of lying:

The real, deep-level problem about lying is that it misuse, or abuses, the highest faculty we possess: the gift of expressing in clear speech the reality of who we are, what we think, and how we feel. … Instead of allowing God’s spirit to have free rein through our faculties, so that we praise God in words or sounds which enable us to stand (however briefly) at the intersection of heaven and earth, when we tell lies we not only hold heaven and earth apart; we twist earth itself, so that it serves our own interests. Lying is, ultimately, a way of declaring that we don’t like the world the way it is and we will pretend it is somehow more the way we want it to be. At that level, it is a way of saying that we don’t trust God the creator to look after his world and sort it out in his own time and way. And it is precisely the claim of the early church that God the creator has acted in Jesus Christ to sort the world out and set it to right. Those who make that claim, and live by that claim, must expect to be judged by that claim.

We should not imagine that this is something that only other people wrestle with. Undoubtedly, one of the reasons why great fear came upon everyone was because we all recognize the temptation toward religious hypocrisy within our own hearts. The issue is what we do with such temptations. Ananias and Sapphira conspired to commit a pre-meditated fraud upon the church. Instead of doing this, we need to keep turning back to the LORD with tender consciences. That is why the very first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses reads: “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He called us to repent, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.” Read or Sing Hymn: 188 “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq who are suffering severe persecution at the hands of ISIS.

Friday (9/5) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 31:1-13. While we will be interrupting our study of First and Second Samuel at the end of the first book, it is helpful to remember that this is not the end of the story and to learn from how David responds to the news of Saul’s death in Second Samuel. Robert Chisholm writes. This will help us as we grapple with applying today’s passage to our own lives:

Even though Saul’s death is the result of divine discipline and clears the way for David to take the throne, David does not celebrate. David has expected the LORD to deal decisively with Saul and has even appealed to God for vindication, but when Saul’s death finally arrives, David does not gloat or express any kind of vindictive satisfaction. Instead, he eulogizes Saul and mourns for his death. For David, Israel’s loss outweighs any personal gain he might derive from Saul’s death. His reaction is a reminder that the demise of God’s rebellious servants is to be lamented, not celebrated. After all, the LORD chose and anointed Saul, and Saul won victories for Israel and delivered the nation from its enemies on several occasions. His demise is tragic and antithetical to God’s ideal for Saul. But lamentation is appropriate for other reasons. Saul’s demise has broader consequences. Three of his sons dies as well, including Jonathan, David’s faithful friend and covenant partner. In fact, divine discipline humiliates the entire community, and the reality of Israel’s loss and humiliation grips David at a deep emotional level. In the end, the demise of God’s rebellious servants is to be lamented, because it shatters God’s ideal for the individual, often causes innocent people to suffer as well, and brings shame to the entire covenant community.

Prayer: Please pray that the LORD would bring visitors to our congregation who be blessed by uniting with our church and whose gifts would be used to build up this particular local church.

Saturday (9/6) Read and discuss Leviticus 27:26-33. Derek Tidball writes:

The Israelites realized that they had much for which to thank God. He had brought them ‘from slavery to freedom, from sorry to joy, from mourning to festivity, from darkness to great light, and from bondage to redemption. Having done so, he remained their faithful covenant friend, who continued to forgive, guide, protect, provide for, prosper and rule over them and their families. For all this they wanted to express gratitude. To do so adequately meant they felt the need to go beyond what was required by law and give offerings freely and from the heart. If they felt gratitude, how much more should we, who can see the full wonder of God’s love for us in the cross of Jesus Christ? Religious should be a matter … of love. If we truly understand the cost and meaning of anything we are told to do, and may well involve extravagant gestures of giving. We shall seek, not to scrape by, gaining a mere pass mark in obedience, but to excel in our zeal for the LORD. We shall not skimp on our giving, but contribute to the LORD’s work generously, even sacrificially.

Yet, in expressing our devotion, we need to be wise. Well intended vows made with enthusiasm in the heat of the moment during wonderfully intense periods of worship can return to haunt us. But having made the promise to God, we dare not go back on our word. Qohelet, the teacher, in a passage that could be a commentary on Leviticus 27, warned of the trap into which we can easily fall:

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. God near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.

Do not be quick with your mouth,

   do not be hasty in your heart

   to utter anything before God.

God is in heaven

   and you are on the earth,

   so let your words be few.

As a dream comes when there are many cares,

   so the speech of a fool when there are many words.

Read or Sing Hymn 429 “Let Thy Blood in Mercy Poured” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.