Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 30 November 2014 Sunday, Nov 23 2014 

MVOPC 30 November 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 5 “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing”

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: Psalm 106:43-45

Hymn of Preparation: 461 “Not What My Hands Have Done”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 111:1-10

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 3:15-22

Sermon: The Priority of Covenant Grace

Hymn of Response:  460 “Amazing Grace!”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”

PM Worship:

OT: Ezekiel 2:1-10

NT: Revelation 5:1-14

Worthy is the Lamb

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 59-61 – Whom Does Christ Save?

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 75

 75.What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?

A. The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbor’s wealth or outward estate.

Monday (11/24) Read and discuss Galatians 3:15-22.  Paul’s argument that the Promise was given 430 years before the Law and therefore could not depend on the Law is so simply that small children can understand it and it utterly devastates the position of the Judaizers and legalists everywhere. Martin Luther writes:

God acted properly in giving the promise such a long time before the law, so no one can claim that righteousness comes through the law and not through the promise. If he had wanted us to be justified through the law he would have given it 430 years before the promise, or at least at the same time. But he was completely silent about the law for 430 years, during which time he spoke only about the promise. Therefore the blessing and the gift of righteousness came before the law, through the promise, and the promise is superior to the law. The law does not abrogate the promise but the other way around.

Read or sing Hymn: 5 “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Pray for the people of the Ukraine as they deal with the Russian occupation of part of their nation.

Tuesday (11/25) Read and discuss Galatians 3:10-14. As Paul has made abundantly clear, salvation is entirely God’s gift to us. Our membership as full first-class members of God’s family is by grace alone, through faith alone, because it is of Christ alone.

What do we do with this? Three things:

  1. First, meditating on this passage ought to fill us with gratitude that Jesus has provided everything for our salvation. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said: “The heart of Christian theology is grace and the heart of Christian ethics is gratitude.” Indeed, the Heidelberg Catechism is organized into three sections (1) Guilt; (2) Grace; and (3) Gratitude. If you are struggling with diminished gratitude to God in your own life don’t try to work up being more grateful. Instead, focus on your guilt and the grace of God that took it all away. Focus on Christ bearing every sin that you will ever commit so that He could call you “sister” or “brother” – and the gratitude will come.
  2. Second, let’s ask the LORD to examine us to see if we are highways for His grace or if we have become roadblocks to His plan to bless the world through the Seed of Abraham. We can subtly, and not so subtly, begin to communicate to our children and others that God loves them and accepts them when they are behaving but not when they are misbehaving. But what is that but to teach that their acceptance before God is dependent upon their performance rather than the finished work of Christ? Let’s pray that the LORD would continue to transform us into the likeness of Christ that we would truly serve as highways for His grace.
  3. Third, remember to apply the message about God’s all-sufficient grace in Jesus Christ to your own life. We can easily be robbed of the joy of the Christian life by falling into a performance trap that says “You can be happy in Jesus when you know more and obey more fully.” But, if you are in Christ, you are already as loved and accepted by God this very moment as you will be a million years from now in the New Heavens and New Earth. You neither fully know nor fully obey but you are fully known, fully accepted, fully loved in Jesus Christ. Jesus is calling you to lay down your burdens and to trust Him in the present for the cares of this day and for your future as well. Jesus is calling “Come unto Me all ye who are weary and heavy laden, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light, and you will find rest for your souls.” Come … and find your joy in

Prayer:  Give thanks that God both knows you fully and loves you completely in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday (11/26) Read and discuss Psalm 111:1-10. How do we build our faith? One of the ways the LORD uses to build our confidence about His faithfulness in future is our praise and thanksgiving for His faithfulness in the past and present. Prayers of praise and thanksgiving renew our faith through the very act of offering them up to the LORD. Why not slowly read through this psalm slowly pausing to make it personal to your own life? A few comments on the last verse may be helpful. John Phillips writes:

  1. The psalmist tells us where wisdom starts: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” That was the basic premise in the wisdom literature of the Hebrew people. To abandon the fear of the LORD is to open the door to every wicked philosophy which the mind of man is capable of devising.
  2. The psalmist tells us why wisdom stands: “A good understanding have all they that do His commandments.” The expression “a good understanding” can be rendered “good success.” “Excellent insight have all they that do those things” is Ratherham’s rendering.
  3. The psalmist tells us when wisdom sings: “His praise endures forever.”

O worship the King all glorious above,

O gratefully sing His power and His love.

Our shield and Defender, the Ancient of days,

Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

Read or sing Hymn: 461 “Not What My Hands Have Done” Read or sing Hymn 286 “Worship Christ, the Risen King!” Prayer: Lift up our brothers and sisters at our new church plant Providence OPC in West Lebanon, NH.

Thursday (11/27) Read and discuss Ezekiel 2:1-10. At the heat of our calling simply this: the LORD calls us to be faithful. If you are looking for a saying to post on your mirror you might want to consider this: “Faithfulness is Success.” Iain Duguid writes:

What do the models of Jesus and Ezekiel tell us about our efforts in evangelism and missions? In the first place, surely they challenge the common notion in the church that “bigger is always better.” There is a lot of pressure from many quarters in our times to measure success in terms of numbers. Whether it is evangelistic crusades that speak of thousands of “decisions for Christ” or popular books that suggest that adopting certain methodologies will inevitably bring church growth, the “bigger is better” philosophy reigns in much of the contemporary church.

In support of this doctrine, the biblical image of the harvest is pressed into service. It is asserted on the one hand that the faithful Christian will inevitably be the fruitful Christian, seeing many people brought to Christ, and on the other hand that fruitlessness should determine strategy, so that the maximum number of harvesters are sent to where the fruit is ripe. On this approach, the primary goal of missions and evangelism is to see the world come to Christ.

The call of Ezekiel (and some of the other prophets) should challenge this simplistic assumption. He is specifically called and sent to a people who have been unresponsive in the past and will be unresponsive in the future. Not only that, but God tells the prophet that if he had sent him to the Gentiles, a far greater response to his preaching would have occurred. The faithfulness of this man’s ministry cannot be measured in numerical terms. The primary goal of his ministry is not to see people converted but to bring glory to God by preaching (and modeling) the message he has been given.

Read or Sing Hymn: 460 “Amazing Grace!” Prayer: Give thanks for our country and pray that her future would be one with religious freedom.

Friday (11/28) Read and discuss Revelation 5:1-14. In the first century, important legal scrolls were normally sealed with wax and stamped with an official seal that only authorized persons could open. The opening of such seals on a will was where the concept of “probate” originated. A very important scroll, such as the will of the Emperor, would be sealed with seven seals. The book of Revelation is using this imagery, which would have been well known to its original audience, to dramatically present the plans of God both to bless and to bring judgment upon the world.  The only problem is that no-one is found worthy to open the scrolls.  Don’t skip too quickly over John’s loud weeping in verse 4.  If God’s plans to execute justice are never carried out – then the universe would be a fundamentally immoral and meaningless. As the Apostle Paul put it, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die (1 Corinthians 15:32).” But the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David has conquered – and was able to open the seals. Turning to see the Lion, John meets the striking image of a Lamb as though slain. This juxtaposition of images, with the Lamb as though slain being on the throne, vividly portrays how Christ’s victory came through His own death. It is as though Jesus opens the seals of His own will and the blessings which His people inherit in Him are announced – principally that we have been made a kingdom and priests to our God. Yet, this is done in such a way that the focus is not shifted from Christ to us – but to His eternal glory.  Salvation is for our good, but it is for His glory. Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Saturday (11/29) Read and discuss Galatians 3:15-22. Calvin writes:

Hereupon, Paul concludes that ‘if the inheritance be of the law; it is no more of promise’. The fact is that everything was granted to Abraham by faith, which brings us to the conclusion that in our endeavors to obtain favor in the eyes of God, the law has no influence. The praise for our salvation must be rendered to God alone. Paul highlights two things here by this word ‘inheritance’. One is that whatever God has promised us is a result of his bounty alone, for an inheritance is not given on the same basis as a salary. When a father grants an inheritance to his children, he may say, ‘See how I have worked for you! See the result – now you can have all my wealth!” But all this blessing is only because of the blood-tie; in this way, he labors and goes to great pains to provide for those who are committed to his care. Since even our human inheritances are free, we must ensure that we do not view eternal life as wages that we have earned by our merits. Why not? Because that too is an inheritance. This is the first point: all conception of man’s worth is excluded. For when a man makes his children his heirs, he does not expect them to have achieved some great task, or to be especially attractive, or to have this or that gift. No; it is enough that they are his children and that he desires to provide for them.

Read or Sing Hymn 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 23 November 2014 Sunday, Nov 16 2014 

MVOPC 23 November 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

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

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 2:17-18

Hymn of Preparation: 457 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 27:9-26

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 3:10-14

Sermon: Cursed

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

Confession of Faith:  Q/A 1 Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 164 “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”

PM Worship:

OT: Ezekiel 1:1-28

NT: Revelation 4:1-11

Coronation and Enthronement

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

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 74

 74. What is required in the eighth commandment?

A. The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.

Monday (11/17) Read and discuss Galatians 3:10-14.  Commenting on today’s passage Calvin writes:

The law holds everyone under its curse. … The sentence of the law is that anyone who has transgressed any part of it is accursed. Is there anyone alive who has kept it all? No, and so everyone stands condemned under the law. … In the present corruption of our nature, we lack the ability to keep the law and this is a curse. Thus it is an accident that the law curses us, but it is also something inevitable. The blessing that it offers is unobtainable because of our depravity, and so we are struck with the curse.

Read or sing Hymn: 30 “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” Prayer: Please pray for the OPC Mission in Uganda.

Tuesday (11/18) Read and discuss Galatians 3:1-9. Tom Schreiner writes:

The great Reformation teaching that justification, being right before God, is by faith alone is clearly taught in this text. Abraham was not justified on the basis of his obedience to God. He was declared to be right with God when he believed God’s promise. His righteousness came not by working for God but by believing in God.

The same is true for all of Abraham’s genuine children. Right standing with God comes from receiving what God has given us in Christ. This message is the greatest news of all, for Luther was on target in saying that we are simul justus et peccator (justified and at the same time a sinner). As Christians we are aware of the continuing presence of sin in our lives. There is never an excuse for sin, and yet even the most mature Christians continue to sin in multiple ways (James 3:2). If we claim that such is not true of our lives, then we do not know ourselves as God knows us. When we realize how far short we fall as believers, the good news that we are justified by faith alone is a great comfort for us, for our righteousness does not reside in ourselves but in Christ risen and crucified.

Prayer: Give thanks that God has chosen to reckon Christ’s perfect record of obedience to you!

Wednesday (11/19) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 27:9-26. J.G. McConville writes:

The curse sequence in 27:15-26 expresses the solemnity of the undertaking that Israel makes on entering the covenant. It therefore directly reinforces the formal commitment given in 26:18, and corresponds to solemn covenantal undertakings such as Exod. 19:7; 24:3; 7. …

The format of the sequence is drawn from the sphere of the cultic assembly of Israel, and is based on the need to protect the people from the contamination of undetected and unpunished capital crimes. In this respect it is analogous to the ritual prescribed for the unknown homicide in 21:1-9, and can be regarded as having the same purpose, ‘to purge yourselves of the guilt for innocent blood.’

These considerations about the setting and purpose of the curses begin to answer the question why Deut. 27 contains only curses and not blessings also. The curses are part of a ritual in which Israel takes upon itself the full implications of their promise to be Yahweh’s people. It explains why a genre that has kinship with law, and bears on the behavior of individuals within the community, can appear as part of a ritual concerning the whole people. The people are answerable under the covenant for their adherence in its entirety to the covenant. The absence of a blessing section arise from the fact that it is not the place of Israel to utter blessing on itself. The stance of the two sets of tribes in relation to Mts Ebal and Gerizim is a silent witness to both blessing and curse, but the only voices heard are those of the Levites who utter the words of commitment to – and on behalf of – all the people.

Read or sing Hymn: 457 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” Read or sing Hymn 286 “Worship Christ, the Risen King!” Prayer: Please pray for the parents in our congregation that they would not grow weary in seeking to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the LORD.

Thursday (11/20) Read and discuss Ezekiel 1:1-28. Iain Duguid writes:

The message of judgment is indeed never popular to proclaim. Some contemporary churches have completely removed any mention of sin and its consequences from their messages on the grounds that it turns people away. One pastor recently described the goal of his church’s “seeker services” in the following terms: “In a non-threatening atmosphere, the ‘seekers’ share a delightful thought provoking hour in which they are introduced to the person of Jesus Christ.” It is doubtful that Ezekiel would have described his encounter with the Living God as “a delightful thought provoking hour”; the reality of God’s presence created, on the contrary, a threatening atmosphere. It is never comfortable for sinners to stand in the presence of an angry God. But in exile, when all that has meaning and value is torn away, people do not seek entertainment but reality; what they require is not so much to have their thoughts provoked as to have their hard questions answered. Perhaps this is one reason why we find the book of Ezekiel so hard to grasp today in our Western culture, with our delusions of adequacy. We are more used to reading the Bible as a kind of self-help manual, which provides ten top tips for cultivating the roses in our spiritual garden.

But the world through which we walk is not a safe place. It is a wilderness walk, in which every turn of the road brings into view new challenges and dangers. It is a world where things break down and fall apart, even for the best of people. It is a world marred by sin – your own sins and the sins of others. Without a recognition of sin and the curse that lies on our world because of sin, the brokenness of life does not make any sense. You are left with the dilemma that either God is good but not powerful enough to avert life’s disasters, or that God is not good. The Bible shows us a third possibility: God is both good and all-powerful, but because of human sin the world is under God’s curse.

Read or Sing Hymn: 455 “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” Prayer: Please pray for the Session and Hospitality Committee of our church as they meet this evening.

Friday (11/21) Read and discuss Revelation 4:1-11. The book of Revelation is given to encourage Christians who are facing persecution to persevere in faith and faithfulness until the end. The challenge is that we walk by faith and the persecution can be seen and felt. So the LORD gives us a glimpse into heaven so that His people can be strengthened by the way things really are. It can be easy to get lost in the book of Revelation by focusing on the details. While the details are important, we should first focus on grasping the big picture. Today’s reading can be dividing into two parts:

  1. Verses 1-6a focus on the One who is seated on the throne.
  2. Verses 6b-11 focus on the worship that the One seated on the throne receives.

If we allow ourselves to get caught up in this vision, the sufferings of this present age will truly begin to seem like light and temporary afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:17). As N.T. Wright astutely observes, this vision ought to motivate and inform both our daily and our corporate worship:

Many have guessed, probably rightly, that these songs and prayers are similar to those which the earliest Christians used, though the logic of John’s vision is not that what he sees in the heavenly dimension is merely reflecting what is going on in the life of the church, but rather that what he sees in heaven is what ought to be going on here on earth. Heaven is in charge; heaven gives the lead. It isn’t simply ‘the spiritual dimension of what we happen to choose to do.’

Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Saturday (11/22) Read and discuss Galatians 3:10-14. Calvin writes:

Christ was hanged, which means he came under a curse, but not because of anything he had done to deserve it. Either he was crucified for nothing, or else our curse was laid on him so that we might be delivered from it. Paul does not say that Christ was cursed but he was a curse, which means that the curse of everyone was placed on him. How can a beloved Son be cursed by his Father? Here there are two things to be considered, not only in the person of Christ but also in his human nature. The one is that he was the spotless Lamb of God, full of grace and blessing. The other is that he took our place and became a sinner, subject to the curse, not in himself but in us, in a way that made in necessary for him to act in our name. He could not be outside God’s grace, but he endured his wrath. How could he reconcile the Father to us if he regarded the Father as an enemy? How could he have freed us from God’s wrath if he had not transferred it from us to himself? Therefore he was smitten for our sins and knew God as an angry judge.

Read or Sing Hymn 164 “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 16 November 2014 Sunday, Nov 9 2014 

MVOPC 16 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:  Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 426 “Till He Come!”

PM Worship:

OT: Psalm 34:1-22

NT: Revelation 3:14-22

True Riches

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 73

73.Which is the eighth commandment?

A. The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal. 

Monday (11/10) Read and discuss Galatians 3:1-9.  The Apostle Paul appeals to the Galatian’s own experience in verse 3:Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” That is, having become a new creation in Christ by the power of God do you think that you will be made complete in your own power through mere human effort?  Tom Schreiner writes:

One of the most important verses for the Christian life is verse 3. Many believers are taught that justification is by faith alone while sanctification is by faith and works, as if sanctification were a cooperative effort between ourselves and the LORD. Such a perspective may be misleading. Believers do not begin the Christian life by faith and through the Spirit and then continue it by works and through the flesh. Sanctification is lived out in the same way as justification (though it does not follow from this that justification and sanctification are the same thing, as too many claim today!). It is by faith alone and through the Spirit alone.

Such a view does not lead to the conclusion that good works are unnecessary, but all good works are the fruit of faith and evidence of the powerful work of the Spirit. Believers please God when they trust him for everything that comes their way, knowing that he has been faithful to forgive their sins and that he will provide everything they need. Paul argues here that progress in the Christian life does not differ from how we began the Christian life. In both instances the believer trusts God and does not rely on the flesh or on any native ability to produce good works.

Read or sing Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise” Prayer: Please pray for the people of the Ukraine who continue to live in fear of Russian incursions and occupation.

Tuesday (11/11) Read and discuss Proverbs 3:1-8. Today’s passage contains what is perhaps the best known of all the Proverbs:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

As beautiful as these words are, we should acknowledge how difficult they are in practice. In fact, it is unnatural for us to “not lean on (our) own understanding”. Whose judgment should I trust if not my own? We sing “I Surrender All” but often want to hold back and only surrender on our own terms. We overcome this problem only by receiving the gift of God’s own self-revelation. Once we come to personally know God as not only all-knowing and all-powerful, but also as your own loving heavenly Father, than the only rational thing we could do is to trust His word over our own suppositions and judgments.  This means that the key to growing in faith is not in focusing on faith but in coming to know Him better. There is a second lesson from this passage that is particularly applicable to parents. Proverbs 1:8-3:4 is largely about an earthly father passing along the wisdom he has gained to his son. This is a great thing to do. But notice that the goal isn’t to get the son to trust his earthly father’s judgment but to trust the LORD. Parenting isn’t about teaching our children to do things our way, it is about teaching our children to trust in the LORD and to do things His way. Prayer: Ask the LORD to lesson your confidence in yourself and to increase your confidence in Him.

Wednesday (11/12) Read and discuss Genesis 15:1-6. Living by faith is hard. As Walter Bruggemann observes:

Abraham and Sarah were called out of their barrenness (11:30) by God’s powerful word (12:1). Their pilgrimage of hope had begun on no other basis than the promise of Yahweh (12:1-4a). The promise of Yahweh stood over against the barrenness. But when we arrive at chapter 15, the barrenness persists. That barrenness (which the promise has not overcome) poses the issue for this chapter. The large question is that the promise does delay, even to the point of doubt. It is part of the destiny of our common faith that those who believe in the promise and hope against barrenness nevertheless must live with the barrenness. Why and how does one continue to trust solely in the promise when the evidence against the promise is all around? It is this scandal that is faced here. It is Abraham’s embrace of this scandal that makes him the father of faith.

Since living by faith while living with barrenness is so hard, we might imagine that coming to faith is some sort of heroic achievement. Such a conclusion runs entirely contrary to both Genesis and Galatians. Once again, Walter Bruggemann helps point us in the right direction:

The new reality of faith for Abraham must be accounted as a miracle form God. The faith of Abraham should not be understood in romantic fashion as an achievement or as a moral decision. Rather, the newly ready Abraham is a creature of the word of promise. The situation of Abraham is paralleled to the confession of Peter (Matt. 16:16-17). Abruptly and without explanation of cause, Peter makes the same leap in his confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The gospel narrative also wants to ponder the question: How does such a man come to such a confession? How is faith possible in the life of unfaith? The response of Jesus indicates the miracle which faith is:

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

That is how this faith of Abraham is. He did not move from protest (vv. 2-3) to confession (v. 6) by knowledge or by persuasion but by the power of God who reveals and causes his revelation to be accepted. The new pilgrimage of Abraham is not grounded in the old flesh of Sarah nor the tired bones of Abraham, but in the disclosing word of God.

Read or sing Hymn: 286 “Worship Christ, the Risen King!” Read or sing Hymn 286 “Worship Christ, the Risen King!” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would cause your entire church family to joyfully persevere in the faith.

Thursday (11/13) Read and discuss Psalm 34:1-22. James Montgomery Boice writes:

When I was living in Switzerland in the mid-1960s, I had a friend for whom the first half of Psalm 34:8 was probably her favorite passage in the Bible: “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” She liked the strong physical quality of it and probably, because she was liturgically inclined, viewed its best fulfillment in the communion service.

I do not think this verse is about communion, though that is not an inappropriate application of the principle. But my friend was certainly right in this, that the verse encourages us to try God out, almost physically, just as we would some great treat or delicacy. Does that seem indelicate or impious to say? To compare God to good food? Maybe. But although God is more than this image suggests, he is certainly not less. Our problem is not that we think of him too literally but that we do not think of him literally enough. Moreover, as far as the communion service goes, the eating of the broken bread and the drinking of wine is to teach us that that God becomes as literally a part of us by faith as food becomes a part of our bodies by the eating of it.

How does God become a part of you, a part of your thinking, of what you really are? It is by faith, and faith means believing God and acting upon that belief. In other words, ti is exactly what David is speaking of in this stanza, though in other words. He wants us to act on what we know of God and his goodness, for only then will we actually experience for ourselves how good God truly is.

“I found Him to be good,” says David. “He delivered me from all my fears and enemies, and provided for me too. I want you to experience his provision as I have.”

Read or Sing Hymn: 642 “Be Thou My Vision” Prayer: Ask the LORD to bring visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Friday (11/14) Read and discuss Revelation 3:14-22. David Chilton writes:

The city of Laodicea was proud of its three outstanding characteristics: Its great wealth and financial independence as an important banking center; its textile industry, which produced ‘a very fine quality of world-famous black, glossy wool’, and its scientific community, renowned not only for its prestigious medical school, but also for an eye-salve which had been well-known since the days of Aristotle. Using these facts to illustrate the problems in the church, Christ cites the general attitude of the Laodecean Christaisn: “You say: I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” In reality, despite the church’s wealth and undoubted social standing, it was ineffectual, accomplishing nothing for the kingdom of God. It is not a sin for a church (or an individual) to be rich – in fact, God wants us to acquire wealth (Deut. 8:18). What is sinful is the failure to use our resources for the spread of the kingdom. When a relatively poor church such as that at Smyrna was having a rich effect upon its community, there was no excuse for Laodicea’s impotence. Her problem was not wealth, but disobedience: “You do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”

Yet, in grace, Christ makes an offer of mercy: “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich; and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye-salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. The symbolism here should be obvious. True faith and genuine works of obedience are spoken of in Scripture in terms of jewelry, and especially gold; nakedness is symptomatic of disobedience [and a lack of righteousness] (Gen. 3:7), whereas being clothed in white robes is a symbol of righteousness, with regard to both justification and sanctification; and blindness is a symbol for man’s impotence and fallenness apart from God’s restoration of him to true sight – the godly, mature ability to judge righteous judgment.

Prayer: Lift up our brothers and sisters at the Orthodox Presbyterian Church of Cape Cod.

Saturday (11/15) Read and discuss Galatians 3:1-9. Tom Schreiner writes:

The great Reformation teach that justification, being right before God, is by faith alone is clearly taught in this text. Abraham was not justified on the basis of his obedience to God. He was declared to be right before God when he believed God’s promise. His righteousness came not by working for God but by believing in God.

The same is true for all of Abraham’s genuine children. Right standing with God comes from receiving what God has given us in Christ. This message is the greatest news of all, for Luther was on target in saying hat we are simul justus et peccator (justified and at the same time a sinner). As Christians we are aware of the continuing presence of sin in our lives. There is never an excuse for sin, and yet even the most mature Christians continue to sin in multiple ways (Jas 3:2). If we claim that such is not true of our lives, then we do not know ourselves as God knows us. When we realize how far short we fall as believers, the good news that we are justified by faith alone is a great comfort to us, for our righteousness does not reside in ourselves but in Christ [crucified and risen].

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

No Worship Guide This Week Sunday, Nov 2 2014 

Due to Pastor Booth’s illness there will not be a Worship Guide this week. Lord willing, both the Worship Guide and Pastor Booth will return next week.

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.

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