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

MVOPC 28 September 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 10:16-18

Old Covenant Reading: Jeremiah 23:23-32

New Covenant Reading: Acts 9:10-31

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

Sermon Text: Galatians 1:11-24

Sermon: Authentic Messenger, Authentic Gospel

Hymn of Response: 642 “Be Thou My Vision”

Confession of Faith:   Heidelberg Catechism            Q/A 1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still, My Soul”

 

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

 

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do not listen to these prophets when

    they prophesy to you,

    Filling you with futile hopes.

They are making up everything they say.

    They do not speak for the LORD!

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

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

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

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

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

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVOPC 21 September 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Old Covenant Reading: Judges 2:1-15

New Covenant Reading: 1 Peter 1:13-25

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

Sermon Text: Galatians 1:6-10

Sermon: No Other Gospel

Hymn of Response:  570 “Faith of Our Fathers”

Confession of Faith:  Q/A 1 Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This”

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

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

Suggested Preparations

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

65.What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVOPC 14 September 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great Is They Faithfulness”

Confession of Sin

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

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8

New Covenant Reading: Acts 9:1-19

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

Sermon Text: Galatians 1:1-5

Sermon: God’s Messenger, God’s Message

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

Confession of Faith:  Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

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

Adult Sunday School: Understanding the Book of Revelation Part III

Suggested Preparations

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

64.What is required in the fifth commandment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVOPC 7 September 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 55:7-9

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 27:1-13

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

Hymn of Preparation: 44 “How Great Thou Art”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 27:14-34

Sermon: Regulated Giving

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

Confession of Faith:  Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

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

Adult Sunday School: Understanding the Book of Revelation

Suggested Preparations

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

63.Which is the fifth commandment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do not be quick with your mouth,

   do not be hasty in your heart

   to utter anything before God.

God is in heaven

   and you are on the earth,

   so let your words be few.

As a dream comes when there are many cares,

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

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 31 August 2014 Sunday, Aug 24 2014 

MVOPC 31 August 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

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 8:1-4

Old Covenant Reading: Proverbs 11:1-9

New Covenant Reading: Romans 4:1-25

Hymn of Preparation: 162 “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”

Sermon Text:  Leviticus 26:14-46

Sermon: Rebellion and Judgment

Hymn of Response: 167 “When Morning Gilds the Skies”

Confession of Faith:   Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 562 “All to Jesus I Surrender”

PM Worship: 1 Samuel 30:1-31 – Disaster Averted

Adult Sunday School: Understanding the Book of Revelation

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 62

Q. 62.What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?

A. The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, his challenging a special propriety in the seventh, his own example, and his blessing the sabbath day. 

Monday (8/25) Read and discuss Leviticus 26:14-46.  John Currid writes:

On account of the sin of Adam and the continuing depravity of every human being, all humanity stands in a broken covenant relationship with God. Every human being is deserving of God’s wrath, which is given some detail in the passage before us. None of us can stand before God and say that we are righteous and that we have kept the covenant. We are by nature children of wrath. But thanks be to God, who has taken away the wrath from coming on his people! As the apostle Paul so eloquently states, ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith’ (Gal. 3:13-14). In other words, the way that God’s people receive the many blessings of the covenant is by being in Christ. It is his work, indeed his death, on the cross that has taken away the curse and brought blessing to the people of God. Apart from him, nothing but curse awaits. Will you turn to him this very day?

Read or sing Hymn: 38 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” Prayer: Please lift up the President of the United States, and other world leaders, as they try to grapple with the best way to respond to the wicked behavior of the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq.

Tuesday (8/26) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 26:1-13. In today’s passage, the LORD promises a rather comprehensive series of blessings to Israel if they will trust Him and walk in His ways. This means that it is critical for us to understand what faith and faithfulness actually look like lest we miss out on these blessings. The marks of faith and faithfulness are unfolded for us in verses 1 and 2. Negatively, the people are not to make idols or images that they bow down to. Positively, they are to reverence the LORD’s Sabbaths and His Sanctuary. The critical thing for us to see is that these commands are not so much about being good they are about being His. They are about trusting God alone with an undivided heart. This is what Jesus means in the New Testament when He says: “Blessed are the pure in heart.” To be pure in heart means to not be divided in ultimate loyalties between God and other lesser things. To reverence the Sabbath means that we trust the LORD to be a good father who will provide for all our needs so that we don’t have to endlessly be striving on the treadmill of life. It has been wisely said that: “Even if you win the rat-race you are still a rat.” So what’s the point? Who aspires to simply be the #1 rat? The LORD calls us to something better. He wants us to learn to trust Him and to rest in His provision. Finally, delighting in the sanctuary means that we are seeking to know God rather than use Him for our own agendas. To reverence His sanctuary is to say with David in Psalm 27:

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  2 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.  3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.  4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

This is a prayer that the LORD answers. This is a prayer that should be regularly on our lips and a desire that should regularly be in our hearts. Prayer: Please pray for the special meeting of Presbytery which is being held this afternoon at Second Parish in Portland, Maine.

Wednesday (8/27) Read and discuss Proverbs 11:1-9. Anthony Selvaggio writes:

Throughout the mid-to-late 1990s, Enron Corporation was an apparent paragon of business excellence. Once a simple and stodgy natural-gas company, Enron had transformed itself into a high-tech powerhouse engaging in such trendy businesses as Internet bandwidth and electronic energy trading. As a result of this stunning transformation, Enron’s stock price soared, and the company soon became a darling of Wall Street.

Just one problem, Enron’s riches were built on a foundation of deceit. Essentially, the company’s top executives had begun keeping two sets of books. Through a variety of “creative” accounting strategies, they were able to defraud Enron’s workers, customers, and investors by making the company appear vastly more profitable than it really was. When the fraud was finally revealed it resulted in one of the largest bankruptcies in American history. Thousands of people lost their jobs and their life savings. How ironic that Enron’s corporate logo was a crooked “E,” for it was the crookedness of upper management that ultimately led to the company’s collapse. Due to a lack of business ethics, Enron had imploded.

One might say that the book of Proverbs effectively predicted the collapse of Enron. “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out. He who winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin” (Proverbs 10:9-10). This describes well what happened at Enron. The company’s top leadership walked a crooked path and were found out. … Enron had built its house upon the sand, and great was its fall. The executives were eventually divested of their ill-gotten wealth and convicted of criminal offenses – chattering fools, come to ruin.

One final thought: It is vital that we remember to use Proverbs 11 to instruct us and not as a measuring rod to evaluate others. These truths were written down for our instruction. Read or sing Hymn 162 “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” Prayer: Ask the LORD to cause you to engage in all your business affairs with transparent integrity.

Thursday (8/28) Read and discuss Romans 4:1-25. R.C. Sproul writes:

Abraham was one hundred years old, and his wife was barren, but God said that Sarah would have a child. Eliezer of Damascus would not be Abraham’s heir; one from Abraham’s loins would be his heir (see Gen. 15:2). Abraham looked at himself and his wife and saw a hopeless situation. “How can I possibly believe that promise?”Then he looked at the One who made the promise and realized instantly that there was nothing hopeless about it. The only thing hopeless was the idea that the promise would not come to pass, because it is impossible for God to lie. It is impossible for God to break a promise.

In our sin, we project onto the character of God our own character. We break promises, and we live in the midst of people who break promises routinely. Therefore, we question how, since we are so accustomed to broken promises, we can trust this One who promises us things against all earthly evidence. How could Mary believe the announcement of the angel Gabriel, who told her that she would bring forth a child? She asked, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God”. The angel was not talking about the power of men here. He was talking about the author of the universe. With Him all things in this world are possible, and Mary said, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Satan has never performed a miracle in his life. He does not have the power to perform miracles. All his attempts at miracles are counterfeits because he does not have the power that God alone possesses. The one whom Abraham believed is the God who can create ex nihilo, who can bring something out of nothing, who can bring life out of death. Satan could have gone to the tomb of Lazarus and cried, “Come forth” until he lost his voice, but not a grain of life would have stirred in that corpse because Satan does not have the power to bring life out of death. Satan could speak into the void and with all his energy say, “Let there be light,” but not a candle-watt of light would appear. He cannot bring something out of nothing.

These words make it clear that the key to a growing and vibrant faith is to focus on the One in whom our faith is rightly placed. To know Him is to trust Him. Read or Sing Hymn: 167 “When Morning Gilds the Skies” Prayer: Please pray for our missionary work in the troubled country of Haiti.

Friday (8/29) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 30:1-31. Dale Ralph Davies writes:

Because hordes of Amalekites are not on our list of most feared phenomena we are apt to consider David’s victory a minor episode. The text, however, will not allow us to do this, for it stresses that David’s victory is central and complete. … We must … deal with the way verses 18-22 emphatically insist on David’s total recovery of all that had been lost: David delivered all Amalek had taken, including his two wives, nothing was missing, whether young or old, sons or daughters, plunder – whatever. In case we missed the point, the writer summarizes: “David recovered all” (v. 19b, emphasis in Hebrew; our colloquialism, ‘the whole shooting match,’ catches the idea). The writer pounds the point home in order to highlight the fidelity of Yahweh to his previous word, “You will certainly deliver” (v. 8). And he did – fully and totally (vv. 18-19).

Yet David himself catches the importance of the victory in a single line, his greeting to the various elders of Judah “Here’s a gift for you from the plunder of Yahweh’s enemies” (v. 26). We are prone to regard the Amalekites as only Israel’s enemies. … But because they are Israel’s enemies they are Yahweh’s enemies; and because they have mangled his flock they must deal with it Shepherd. We do not merely have an ancient altercation here between Israel and Amalek. Rather this conflict is symptomatic of the greater war. There are Yahweh’s people and there are Yahweh’s enemies; there are two kingdoms, the kingdom of Yahweh and the kingdom of this world; there are two humanities, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. And here in 1 Samuel 30 Yahweh’s enemies have been trounced! This victory then is not an episode but a promise, a scale-model scenario of how it will be when Yahweh makes the Davidic Messiah’s enemies his footstool (Ps. 110:1).

Prayer: Give thanks that Christ’s absolute victory over His enemies has already been accomplished and will one day be fully visible for everyone to see.

Saturday (8/30) Read and discuss Leviticus 26:14-46. Philip Eveson writes:

The prophets were not only biblical in presenting the curses to the people, they were also biblical in presenting a message of hope to a humbled and subdued people. A future is held out to them after the final curse of total defeat and exile. Just as the LORD remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and acted to deliver Israel from the Egyptian bondage, so he promises to act again (26:42, 45). AS there are conditions that relate to the series of blessings and curses, so a condition is set at the commencement of this passage of hope. They are urged to confess the sinfulness of their own treacherous disloyalty and that of their ancestors in living so contrary to God’s standards, to acknowledge that God has rightly punished them by removing them to the land of their enemies and to turn to God in humbleness of heart. If they show these marks.

Read or Sing Hymn 562 “All to Jesus I Surrender” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 24 August 2014 Sunday, Aug 17 2014 

MVOPC 24 August 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise”

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: John 14:1-3

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 1:1-6

New Covenant Reading: Romans 6:15-23

Hymn of Preparation: 65 “Before Jehovah’s Awesome Throne”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 26:1-13

Sermon: Does the LORD Always Bless Obedience?

Hymn of Response: 672 “Trust and Obey”

Confession of Faith:   Heidelberg Catechism            Q/A 1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 426 “Till He Come”!

PM Worship: 1 Samuel 29:1-11 – A Narrow Escape

Adult Sunday School: Understanding the book of Revelation

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism 61:

Q. 61. What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words or works, about our worldly employments or recreations.

Monday (8/18) Read and discuss Leviticus 26:1-13.  John Currid writes:

The lavish promises of blessing given to Israel in this passage never came to pass in the history of Israel in their fullest sense. Israel was consistently disobedient to the covenant treaty between themselves and Yahweh. Because of that habitual noncompliance, the later prophets predicted that these promises would not be fulfilled until the eschaton. Ezekiel, in particular, draws on the very images of this Levitical passage to point to the future. He pronounces that one day God’s people will be free from harmful beasts (Ezek. 34:25), and that they will not be exploited by other nations (Ezek. 34:28). In addition, it will be a time of great abundance in rain and in crop yield. At that time God will cause his people to be fruitful and multiply. The Immanuel principle will be central to their existence.

The last days have truly been inaugurated by the first coming of Jesus Christ – the kingdom is here! And Jesus is the covenant-keeper, the only one who could ever be obedient to the requirements of the divine treaty. By his work, the blessings of the covenant have come on him and on those who belong to him. Yet eh blessings of eh covenant have not been fully applied to the people of God as of yet. We await the final appearance of Christ when all the blessings of the covenant will be completely applied and realized.

Read or sing Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise” Prayer: Please lift up our mission among the Karamojan people in Uganda.

Tuesday (8/19) Read and discuss Jeremiah 1:1-10. Several modern action movies have used the destruction of our nation’s capitol building or the White House as symbols of great turmoil and fear. This isn’t a new idea. The first readers of the book of Jeremiah would have experienced the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. This wasn’t a movie where they would be rescued by super-heroes 90 minutes later. This was the painful reality which marked most of their lives. Where can we find courage and hope in times like that? What we need is someone or something which is stronger and more certain than our passing though painful circumstances, and that is precisely what happens to Jeremiah when the LORD lays a hold of him in today’s passage. The LORD speaks to Jeremiah and says:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

and before you were born I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

God is in control and He is personally involved in both the life of Israel but also the individual lives of men like Jeremiah. As the book of Jeremiah unfolds, the LORD will reveal that the sins of His people are behind the intense suffering that they are experiencing. This is actually good news because it means that when the LORD puts away their sins He will also be restoring them to the fullness of His blessing. God mercifully leads His people to the place of repentance and confession of sin in order to bless us once again. As the Holy Spirit tells us in First John:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our church as it meets this evening.

Wednesday (8/20) Read and discuss Psalm 1:1-6. The first Psalm is so important to the Christian life that it is well worth memorizing so that you can meditate upon it throughout the day. Allen P. Ross explains the central message of the psalm:

By drawing a contrast between the righteous and the ungodly, the psalmist instructs believers not to live the way the world lives, not to take spiritual, moral, or ethical advice from unbelievers, and not to join them in their profane enterprises; rather, believers must study the word of God in order to live an untarnished and productive life for God, and that life will be evidence of a living faith that will see them through the judgment, when God judges the wicked. …

For believers, the application is obvious: they must spend time meditating on God’s word so that they may live a distinct and productive spiritual life for God, and in the process find assurance that God knows them and will preserved them through the judgment. To unbelievers the message is urgent: they must come to faith in the Lord, because if they live their lives without faith in him or his word, not even their good deeds will count and they will not survive the judgment to come.

Read or sing Hymn 65 “Before Jehovah’s Awesome Throne” Prayer: Pray that the LORD would send new visitors to our church who would be blessed by uniting with our congregation.

Thursday (8/21) Read and discuss Romans 6:15-23. What was the Messiah given the name Jesus? This name is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua which means “Yahweh is salvation”. That makes sense to us. After all, Jesus is our wonderful Savior. Yet many evangelicals conceive of Christ’s work of salvation primarily in terms of Jesus saving us from hell. Interestingly, that is not how the New Testament presents Christ’s work. Instead, when an angel appeared to Joseph he announced:

 Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

As we sometimes sing, “He breaks the power of canceled sin.” At the very moment you first believe God justifies you by reckoning Christ’s perfectly righteous life to your account. This is only the beginning. Because Jesus is not divided, to embrace Christ is to embrace the whole Christ (i.e. to submit to Jesus as both Savior and Lord). Therefore, everyone who is truly born again of necessity is being sanctified. Doug Moo helpful divides the two regimes that Paul is talking about into the following two categories:

The Old Regime                                   The New Regime

       Adam                                                       Christ

       Sin                                            Righteousness; obedience

      Death                                                         Life

      Law                                                            Grace

      Flesh                                                          Spirit

The key thing to realize is that we cannot pick and choose from each menu those things that we would like to embrace. We are either under the Old Regime or the New. If we are in Christ then we are new creations. This is true in principle and a significant part of our Christian lives is simply a matter of living out in practice what we already are because of our relationship to God the Father, Christ our Savior and Lord, and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Read or Sing Hymn: 672 “Trust and Obey” Prayer: Give thanks that in Christ you are a new creation!

Friday (8/22) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 29:1-11. It is necessary in corporate worship for us to look at relatively small portions of Scripture week after week. It is therefore, important, that we step back from time-to-time to read larger portions of God’s word so we can see how the individual passages fit together. Richard Phillips writes:

The historical books of the Bible are not bare records of past events, but theologically and pastorally shaped narratives. To this end, they are written with remarkable skill, employing careful construction for the sake of suspense and meaning. One example is the narrative flow of 1 Samuel chapters 24 through 26, which present David as growing in grace while Saul declines in depravity. An even better example is chapters 27 to 31, where the sacred historian shapes the timeline to make his point with subtlety.

To see this narrative craftsmanship, we should line up the action in the final chapters of 1 Samuel. In chapter 27, David seeks salvation from Saul’s malice by turning to the Philistines. In chapter 28, Saul seeks salvation from God’s rejection by turning to an occult medium. In chapter 29, David is saved from the Philistines; in chapter 31, Saul is destroyed by the Philistines. The point of this arrangement is no that David is wiser or more virtuous than Saul (though undoubtedly he is). The point, rather, is that David’s relationship with the God of grace makes the vital difference. David is saved from his error, while Saul, having turned his heart away from the LORD, is destroyed in his folly. The lesson of these chapters is summarized by David in Psalm 118: “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. … The LORD has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death” (Ps. 118:14, 18).

Prayer: Please pray for the Supreme Court of the United States.

Saturday (8/23) Read and discuss Leviticus 26:1-13. Philip Eveson writes:

The greatest blessing of all is to experience the presence of God. This supreme gift is conveyed by the pictures of the tabernacle and the Garden of Eden. The glory cloud of fire and smoke that had accompanied Israel thus far and that had recently rested on the newly constructed tabernacle was symbolic of his special presence (Exod. 40). Instead of God being so sickened by them that he would want to abandon them, they are assured of this presence when they enter the land and erect the tabernacle. The reference to God walking about among his people is a reminder of the fundamental loss that our first parents experienced when they were removed from the earthly paradise. Israel in the land of Canaan under the Lord’s blessing would reflect the conditions that existed in the Garden of Eden before the Fall.

In this final part of the blessing God’s response mirrors Israel’s obligation: ‘If you walk …. I will walk’ (26:3, 12). Israel’s walk means a way of life that is committed to doing God’s will, whereas God’s walk involves his active, watchful care over them. Echoes of God’s covenant with Abraham are picked up in the formula which declares that the LORD will ‘be your God, and you shall be my people’ (26:12). This personal relationship between God and Israel lies at the very heart of the divine covenant. In this the agreement is unlike the ancient political treaties but more akin to a marriage, a theme that is later used by the prophet Hosea.

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

Sunday, Aug 3 2014 

As we do not know what passages of Scripture Rev. Tindall and Professor Petter will be preaching on the Worship Blog will be taking a two week hiatus and returning on August 18th.

 

This coming Sunday evening, Elder Bacon will be teaching Micah chapter 4:

 

Micah 4:1-13  ESV It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it,  2 and many nations shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.  3 He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore;  4 but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.  5 For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.  6 In that day, declares the LORD, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away and those whom I have afflicted;  7 and the lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time forth and forevermore.  8 And you, O tower of the flock, hill of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, the former dominion shall come, kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem.  9 Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in you? Has your counselor perished, that pain seized you like a woman in labor?  10 Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you shall go out from the city and dwell in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued; there the LORD will redeem you from the hand of your enemies.  11 Now many nations are assembled against you, saying, “Let her be defiled, and let our eyes gaze upon Zion.”  12 But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor.  13 Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion, for I will make your horn iron, and I will make your hoofs bronze; you shall beat in pieces many peoples; and shall devote their gain to the LORD, their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth.

 

On the evening of August 17th,  Elder Jager will be teaching Psalm 6:

 

Psalm 6:1-10 ESV TO THE CHOIRMASTER: WITH STRINGED INSTRUMENTS; ACCORDING TO THE SHEMINITH. A PSALM OF DAVID. O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.  2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.  3 My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD- how long?  4 Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.  5 For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?  6 I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.  7 My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.  8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.  9 The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer.  10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 3 August 2014 Sunday, Jul 27 2014 

MVOPC 3 August 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 4 “All Praise to God Who Reigns Above”

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 8:10-12

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 25:23-46

New Covenant Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Hymn of Preparation: 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”

Sermon Text:  Leviticus 25:47-55

Sermon: God Cares for the Poor through His People

Hymn of Response: 80 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee”

Confession of Faith:   Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship: 1 Samuel 28:3-25 – When Yahweh is Your Enemy

Adult Sunday School: Jesus Christ Mediator and Prophet: Larger Catechism 41-43

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #58

Q. 58. What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy sabbath to himself.

Monday (7/28) Read and discuss Leviticus 25:23-46.  Philip Eveson writes:

The poor person in this section has probably become a tenant farmer, renting his former farmland from the creditor and therefore continuing the make a living under the creditor’s authority and protection. In this case, where the creditor has the upper hand, he must remember that, though the Israelite may be in the same kind of state as a resident alien and foreign tenant, he not only deserves the sort of courtesies shown to them but he is actually ‘your brother,’ a member of God’s holy nation, ‘one of your brethren.’ Therefore the creditor must not charge him interest on debts owed, or sell food to him for a profit, as was allowed in the case of foreigners. In other words, the whole covenant community was to consider itself a family, caring for each other as brothers and sisters, with no one taking advantage of a fellow Israelite’s calamity in order to make a quick gain. Loaning money for business enterprises is quite a different situation from the one envisaged here. The poor are not to be exploited.

They are also to remember that they live under the all-seeing eye of God. Any unbrotherly action, even if it lies outside the jurisdiction of the courts, will not go unpunished by God. They are called to fear God. Devotion to God is an important motive in showing compassion towards fellow countrymen in distress. It is an expression of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. To further impress upon the people the importance of these laws, God identifies himself as the one who revealed himself in all his glorious majesty at the time of the Exodus, who acted graciously towards them by redeeming them from Egyptian slavery to bring them into the land of promise and who entered into a special relationship with them to be their God. In a similar way, new-covenant people are to behave generously towards all, and especially to believers. The early Christians were quick to take up the principle of helping poor widows and the needy saints in Jerusalem.

Read or sing Hymn: 4 “All Praise to God Who Reigns Above” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in Iraq as they continue to suffer horrible persecution and crimes against humanity by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Tuesday (7/29) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 25:1-23. One of the most striking things about today’s passage is realizing that there is no evidence that Israel ever celebrated the Sabbatical Year and the Year of  Jubilee prior to the Babylonian exile in 586 B.C. Of course, even if Israel began to rigorously practice the Sabbatical Year and the Year of Jubilee they would only be embracing a sign as it pointed forward to a far greater fulfillment for which the remnant longed. Then, one day, …

… [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.  17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,  18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,  19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Our Lord was announcing that He is the reality that the Law and the Prophets were pointing forward to. Jesus is our Jubilee! In Him we have perfect freedom and the redemption of our sins. … But, and this is a critical but, that is only true for those who love and trust Him. Where does this leave us? It leaves us with the knowledge that today’s passage is about becoming dependently wealthy. It is about recognizing that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it even entered into the hearts of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him. The LORD is that generous and that good.  Jesus owns everything. That is wonderful news for those who love and trust Him and it is dreadful news for those who refuse to trust Him. And there is only one question that you must answer: Which are you? Prayer: Ask that the LORD would stretch your faith so that you would rest more and more in Him.

Wednesday (7/30) Read and discuss Leviticus 25:47-55. Philip Eveson writes:

This piece of legislation emphasizes that both the people of Israel and the land of Canaan belong solely to the Lord. Neither the one nor the other can be sold permanently. Individual Israelites and portions of the land may be leased for a certain period of time under special conditions, but neither can be sold. The people and the land belong together in the purposes of God. In the next chapter we see how the final covenant curse affects this union and the future realization of God’s promises.

This is a most amazing piece of legislation to safeguard against abject poverty. Scholars of various backgrounds are agreed that these laws were the most humane and socially advanced in the ancient Near East. Indeed, we could add that they are the most enlightened laws in any society, past or present. They were intended to prevent the wealth of the nation from accumulating in the hands of a few. …

The sad fact is that it did not work, not because the laws were unsound, but because of Israel’s failure to obey. Despite God’s goodness towards them and the motives for obedience that are spelled out in the legislation, the Israelites failed to honor their obligations. These laws remained an unfulfilled ideal. The prophets warn those who ‘join house to house, who add field to field, till there is no place where they may dwell alone in the midst of the land’ (Isa 5:8), or who ‘sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals’ (Amos 2:6).

Read or sing Hymn 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” Prayer: The war on poverty announced by President Johnson has not eradicated poverty in our country which is one of the wealthiest nations in the history of the world. Pray that the LORD would work in our nation so that we would find ways to genuinely lift many families out of poverty.

Thursday (7/31) Read and discuss 2 Corinthians 8:1-15. Scott Hafemann writes:

The example of the Macedonians is still instructive today. In a radical role reversal of the world’s values, the abundance of their poverty, fueled by the riches of their joy in God, led to a wealth of generosity. We usually think of “fund raisers” as encouraging those who can afford to give to give more; in the Macedonian churches those who had nothing begged to give. Why? Paul’s answer is the grace of God. Indeed, the “also” of 8:7 shows that giving is just as much a spiritual gift of grace as any of the other charismatic gifts the Corinthians had received. Giving is not merely an expression of compassion for the needy. Nor is it simply a reflection of our own concern. Rather the spiritual gift of grace as any of the other charismatic gifts the Corinthians had received. Giving is not merely an expression of compassion for the needy. Nor is it simply a reflection of our own concern. Rather, the spiritual gift of giving to others is to be the reflex of our own joy in the grandeur of God’s gift to us in Christ. As we have seen, the Macedonians’ joy led to giving, not the other way around. For this reason, throughout Paul’s discussion, the collection is termed a “grace” and a “ministry!”

Read or Sing Hymn: 80 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would grant you a generous heart.

Friday (8/1) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 28:3-25. Dale Ralph Davies writes:

The most hopeless misery in all of life is to be abandoned by God. What the narrative had already reported Saul himself miserably confirms in verse 15: “I am in terrible distress; the Philistines are fighting against me, and God has turned away from me and does not answer me any more, not by prophets or by dreams.” Certainly as king, responsible for the leadership of Yahweh’s people, Saul would normally have the privilege of Yahweh’s direction for battle. Now, however, he can hear the shouts of the Philistines but not the voice of Yahweh. He faces the crisis of his life and God has nothing to say to him. Some of the saddest words in all Scripture are printed in 1 Samuel 28:15.

Samuel explains that Yahweh is carrying out what Samuel had previously declared – tearing the kingdom from Saul and giving it to his neighbor (here David is openly identified as Saul’s replacement; v. 17). Why is Yahweh mute? Samuel harks back to the episode of chapter 15: “As you did not listen to the voice of Yahweh and did not carry out his hot anger against Amalek – therefore, Yahweh has done this thing to you today” (v. 18). Samuel picks up the key word from chapter 15, to “listen,” to “hear.” There Saul confirmed the tragic tendency he had show in chapter 13. In chapter 15 he tailored Yahweh’s command to his own and the people’s preferences. Saul would have called it accommodation; Samuel called it rebellion. Saul thought it prudence; Samuel labeled it stubbornness. Perhaps Saul like to think he had only reinterpreted Yahweh’s word; Samuel charged that he had simply rejected Yahweh’s word (see 15:22-23). “You did not listen.” That is the explanation for Yahweh’s absence.

The text is not gentle but it is clear: If you despise God’s word he will take it from you. If you persistently refuse to obey God’s speech you will endure God’s silence.

Prayer: Please pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel.

Saturday (8/2) Read and discuss Leviticus 25:23-46. John Currid writes:

In Exodus 21:3-4, the laws of the six-year indenture preclude the release of the bound worker’s family if they are acquired during his servitude. They must remain with the master. But in the year of jubilee, everyone is released who has not taken a vow of permanent servitude. All of them will return to the clan, and to the familial land holdings that have also been released during the jubilee.

Bound employees are not to be dealt with ‘harshly’. This is a rare term in the Old Testament, but it is used in Exodus 1:13 of the type of affliction imposed on the Israelites by the Egyptians. A sense of irony dominates: Israel is not to treat here servants in the manner that the Egyptians had treated them.

The theological foundation for the way in which the Hebrews deal with servants is set out here. The Hebrews are God’s ‘servants’, or ‘slaves’; they are his property. He took them out of slavery in Egypt to become his servants/slaves. That is an important concept – the only permanent and true master that a Hebrew has is God. Daube puts it this way: ‘So as a result of God’s intervention the children of Israel, from being slaves to the Egyptians, become slaves to God – in analogy to ancient social usage; and now the societal protection given by the law is rested on that change of master, on the Israelites having passed under divine rule which, essentially precludes any other.’

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 27 July 2014 Sunday, Jul 20 2014 

MVOPC 27 July 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 53 “Praise to the LORD, the Almighty”

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: Romans 3:21-26

Old Covenant Reading: Jeremiah 34:1-22

New Covenant Reading: John 8:31-38

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

Sermon Text: Leviticus 25:1-23

Sermon: Jubilee!

Hymn of Response: 460 “Amazing Grace”

Confession of Faith:   Heidelberg Catechism            Q/A 1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Til He Come”!

PM Worship:1 Samuel 27:1-28:2 – A Dangerous Ploy

Adult Sunday School: The Incarnation: Larger Catechism 37-40

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #57

Q. 57. Which is the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Monday (7/21) Read and discuss Leviticus 25:1-23.  John Currid writes:

The film Glory describes the history of the 54th Massachusetts infantry, an all-black unit during the American Civil War. In one of the most poignant scenes, the unit is marching through South Carolina, which had been the first state to secede from the union and upheld black slavery. As the black troops are marching through one town, a bunch of black youngsters run up to the troops and cheer. A character played by Morgan Freeman turns to the children and says, ‘Run on home and tell your parents that the jubilee has come!’

The historical incident of the freedom of black slaves in America is not the biblical jubilee. But it should also be noted that even in the Old Testament there is not one historical episode recorded that involves the jubilee – for all we know, it may never have been celebrated in ancient Israel. But that does not mean that some in Israel did not long for it. In fact, the prophet Isaiah predicts that one is coming who will inaugurate the jubilee, and this Suffering Servant says:

The Spirit of the LORD is upon me,

Because the LORD has anointed me

To bring good news to the afflicted;

He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,

To proclaim liberty to captives,

And freedom to prisoners;

To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD,

And the day of vengeance of our God;

To comfort all who mourn,

To grant those who mourn in Zion,

Giving them a garland instead of ashes,

The oil of gladness instead of mourning …

The fulfillment of this prophesy of the coming one is seen in the New Testament with the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In his first public ministry occurring in Nazareth, recorded in Luke 4, Jesus quotes this passage from Isaiah 61, and then says, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

Read or sing Hymn: 53 “Praise to the LORD, the Almighty”Prayer: Ask the LORD to help you rejoice in the freedom you have in Him and to liberate you to hold the property He has entrusted you with loosely.

Tuesday (7/22) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 24:10-23. Verse 11 reads: “and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed.” The first word translated “blasphemed” conveys the idea of attacking God’s name and the term translated “cursed” conveys treating God’s name as a light or vaporous thing. While these two ideas go together I want to focus on the second one for a moment. The Hebrew word for “glory” carries the idea of “weightiness.” When we glorify God we treat Him as weighty or of utmost significance. The word translated “cursed” in the ESV means the exact opposite of that. It is to dishonor God by treating Him as “lightweight” or “insignificant.” We need to feel how wrong it is to treat God and His name in this way – and I’m not sure that we get it. Evangelicals clearly grasp how wrong it is to curse God but do we then turn around and treat Him as lightweight – something to joke about or to compare to consumer products? Isn’t it wrong to turn the tag line of Budweiser  “This bud’s for you” into “This blood’s for you” or to re-write the Coca-Cola logo with Jesus being the real thing? Beloved – we ought not to trifle with God in this way. The fact that the LORD required the death penalty for those who blaspheme His name should remind us of how serious an offense this is as well as His call on our lives to glorify Him in everything we do and say. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would exalt His name in your home and community and that He would begin with you.

Wednesday (7/23) Read and discuss Jeremiah 34:1-22. The Babylonian captivity is a type of reverse exodus. In the great exodus out of Egypt, the LORD freed His people from bondage so that they could worship Him in freedom in the Promised Land. Part of the way Israel was to ascribe worth to God was through setting free their slaves every seventh year as a way of celebrating how the LORD had set them from slavery in Egypt. The people refused to do this and so the LORD took away their freedom and expelled them from the Promised Land. Terence Fretheim writes:

The reason that the law regarding the release of slaves (see Deut 15:12-18) is used to illustrate the people’s sinfulness may be evident in the explicit reference to the exodus from Egypt and God’s liberation of Israel from its slavery (v. 13). By not attending to this law in particular the people are violating their own history with God. God (“I myself”) had made it possible for Israel to be freed from slavery in Egypt and had made a covenant with them, which entailed a law regarding freedom for their slaves after a six-year period. This law was specifically motivated by the call to “remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt” (Deut 15:15). Disobedience of this law on the part of the Israelites demonstrates that the exodus – God’s act of freeing them when they were slaves – no longer motivates their action or shapes their lives.

This linkage to the exodus suggests that disobedience of this law regarding the treatment of slaves is not just one illustration among others that could have been used, as if to say that to break one law is to break them all. This law and Israel’s specific covenantal commitment regarding its enforcement goes to the heart of their identity as the people of God: they were once slaves and God did not renege on a personal commitment to deliver them from slavery. Their violation of this law, together with their fickle commitment to covenants made, also demonstrates the need for a new saving act of God, promised in no little detail in the immediately preceding chapters.

Read or sing Hymn 457 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” Prayer: Pray for peace in Israel.

Thursday (7/24) Read and discuss John 8:31-38. Commenting on this passage, N.T. Write observes:

So Jesus is offering – we might have thought – what everybody in Israel was longing for! Freedom at last! And at an even deeper level than they had imagined. Surely this will catch people’s attention, especially with those who, as John says, have now come to believe that he really is the Messiah?

Surprisingly, no. They hear straight away that he is offering a freedom which goes far beyond the national hope of freedom from Rome, and they react against the idea. ‘How can you say such a thing? We are Abraham’s children, and we’ve always been free!’

Jesus doesn’t point out, as he might have done, that the foundation of their national life and faith was not just Abraham but the Exodus which had taken place after their national slavery in Egypt. He goes straight to the heart of what he means. There is a worse slavery than that which they had suffered in Egypt, or the semi-slavery they were suffering under the rule of Rome. It is the slavery that grips not only individuals but also groups, nations, and families of nations. It is the slavery we know as ‘sin.’

The trouble with saying that out loud is that many people in the Western world are bored of hearing about sin. They think it just means offences against someone else’s old-fashioned morality, often in matters to do with sex. But that’s far too small-minded a view. Sexual sins matter, of course; they matter very much. They can destroy a person, a marriage, a family, a community. But there is more to sin than sex, and sin as a whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. When people rebel against God in whatever way, …individuals and societies alike become enslaved just as surely as if every single one of them wore chains and was hounded to work every day by a strong man with a whip.

So what is the truth, and how can it set people free, then and now?

Throughout John’s gospel the answer is clear: Jesus himself is the truth. But we mustn’t forget that the Jesus who is described as the truth is the Jesus of the whole story John is telling, and above all the Jesus who dies on the cross as the supreme act of love, the act in which the father’s glory is finally revealed.

Read or Sing Hymn: 460 “Amazing Grace” Read or sing Hymn 570 “Faith of Our Fathers!” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our congregation and whose gifts would be used to build up the local body.

Friday (7/25)Read and discuss 1 Samuel 27:1-28:2. Today’s chapter is not a highlight in David’s illustrious career. Although the LORD had repeated delivered him from Saul, David imagines that he needs to take decisive actions to avoid being killed. So, David takes his family and 600 men and returns to Achish the Philistine king. Robert Chisholm comments:

Convinced that Saul will never really abandon his quest to kill him, David, for the second time in the story, seeks asylum with Achish, the Philistine king of Gath. On the first occasion David was alone, got cold feet, and left in fear. But on this second occasion, he has his own private army with him. He offers his services to Achish as a mercenary and border guard. Achish assigns him to Ziklag, located about twenty-five miles south-southwest of Gath.

On his first visit to Gath, David deceived Achish into thinking he was insane. On this second occasion, David again deceives Achish. After convincing Achish to assign him to a relatively distant outpost, where he can operate free from the king’s scrutiny, David raids the nearby non-Israelite peoples to acquire food and provisions for his men and their families. However, David reports to Achish that he is raiding Judah and its allies (the Kenites), so that the king will think he has transferred his loyalties from his homeland to Achish. To ensure that Achish does not discover what he is really up to, David leaves no survivors among his victims. This account supports the narrator’s defense of David by showing that he does not really become a traitor to Israel. Though he moves to Philistine territory and even claims to kill Judahites and Kenites, he is really killing the enemies of Israel.

Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine that the LORD would protect them and cause them to be a blessing to their neighbors. Ask also that the LORD would establish a just peace in this troubled nation.

Saturday (7/26) Read and discuss Leviticus 25:1-23. Phillip Eveson writes:

Jesus uses the words of Isaiah 61:1-2 to announce the commencement of this new age of Messiah. He came to deal with the deep underlying causes of all the troubles and struggles of society. Jesus did not read the part of the paragraph from Isaiah that spoke of vengeance, for he had come not to judge the world but to save it. The jubilee age that began with Christ’s first coming will find its grand consummation at his second coming with the resurrection of the body and the ‘restoration of all things’ (Acts 3:21). Then the Lord’s rule will be seen in all its fullness and glory and the old cures will finally be removed. This hope is not a pipe dream, but is based solidly on what happened to Jesus himself, who died to bear the curse and rose to be the guarantee and living proof of all that the prophets and apostles have promised.

The church of Jesus Christ therefore has something very wonderful and exciting to announce to a sad world enslaved by the dark powers of the Evil One. Individual Christians can also be involved in relieving poverty and exercising their democratic rights in bringing pressure to bear on governments and commercial organizations to show more understanding and to act in a just and honorable way towards peoples and nations in dire distress. They should be in the forefront in their concern for social justice, as they have been, and still are, in bringing relief and showing compassion to those with physical and mental ailments and disabilities. But the Christian’s greatest service to a needy world, and certainly the primary task of the church of Jesus Christ, is to proclaim the good news of a Redeemer who delivers from sin and Satan and who sets us on the road to glorious future beyond this present world order.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 20 July 2014 Sunday, Jul 13 2014 

MVOPC 20 July 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 44 “How Great Thou Art”

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: Exodus 34:5-7

Old Covenant Reading: 1 Chronicles 17:16-27

New Covenant Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

Hymn of Preparation: 100 “Holy! Holy! Holy!”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 24:10-23

Sermon: Safeguarding God’s Name

Hymn of Response:  101 “Come, Thou Almighty King”

Confession of Faith:  Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 585 “Take My Life and Let It Be”

PM Worship:1 Samuel 26:1-25 – The Righteous Future King

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #56

Q. 56. What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?
A. The reason annexed to the third commandment is that however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment.

Monday (7/14) Read and discuss Leviticus 24:10-23.  Derek Tidball writes:

The incident reported here is one of only two narrative interludes in the book of Leviticus. It occurred when a half-Israelite, whose father was Egyptian but whose mother was an Israelite, blasphemed the Name with a curse. The details of the curse are not repeated for us, but it was obviously considered a serious infringement of the third commandment by those who heard it. George Knight suggests that the offender must have been more than merely using God’s name as a swear-word, and ‘was actually trying to destroy the faith of the people of Israel by saying that Yahweh, the Lord, was not like his name. He would therefore be insinuating that the ideal of the covenant was a lot of nonsense. Blasphemy was high treason against God.

The man was held in temporary custody (a rare reference in the Old Testament to incarceration) until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them. Again, the details are missing. How were they to determine the will of the LORD? It reads as if the will of the LORD came directly to Moses rather than by Aaron’s using the Urim and Thummim. Whatever the means of communication, the verdict was that the man should be subjected to the death penalty. The offence was a capital crime, since it dishonored God and undermined the whole basis of Israel’s identity and calling. An offence of this nature, though primarily an offence against God, was also ‘an offence against the state that depended on him.’ So he was taken out and stoned to death by the entire assembly of Israel, probably acting through the tribal leaders and representatives. It made no difference that the man was not a pure Israelite. Full Israelite, half Israelite, or alien, the brazen insolence shown to the sacred name of God and all that it stood for could in no way be tolerated. The sacred name must be safeguarded.

Read or sing Hymn: 44 “How Great Thou Art”Prayer: Please lift up the troubled nation of Syria in prayer asking that the LORD would establish a just peace and that His people would be able to freely worship Him.

Tuesday (7/15) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 24:1-9. In Genesis 12 we read that the LORD called Abraham. We will only understand this call if we set it against the backdrop of Adam’s rebellion against God and the LORD’s commitment to reversing the curse. The LORD promises Abraham: : “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So, we shouldn’t be surprised to find the LORD promising to bring Abraham’s descendents into a Land Flowing with Milk and Honey. Beyond that, the LORD makes astonishing promises to Israel. Consider these words from Deuteronomy 28 right before they were to enter the Promised Land:

And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.  2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.  3 Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field.  4 Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock.  5 Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. … 8 The LORD will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.  9 The LORD will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in his ways. …  And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.  12 The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands.

That is what today’s passage is all about. The bread symbolized God’s provision for Israel and NOT Israel’s provision for God. This is one of the fundamental differences between Biblical religion and nearly all pagan religions. In paganism, the people provide for the gods while in Biblical religion the true and Living God provides for His people. As Isaiah put it in Isaiah 64:4 “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” Prayer: Please pray for Session of our church as it meets this evening.

Wednesday (7/16) Read and discuss 1 Chronicles 17:16-27. The establishment of the Davidic Covenant is one of the great turning points in redemptive history. As today’s passage clearly reveals – David is overwhelmed at the LORD’s grace toward him. Andrew Bowling writes:

David, as we should do, approaches God in prayer, in awe of what God has done for him. He fosters no pride in his own accomplishments or greatness; his boasting is in God. David then repeats two of the great themes of Old Testament theology: (1) God’s unique work in choosing a nation for his special possession; and (2) God’s great signs and wonders. David accepts the covenant and desires its permanence.

When we rightly apprehend what the LORD has done for us in Christ we are also overwhelmed by what He has done for us. Then, no matter how the LORD might use us to further His Kingdom, we realize that it is entirely of His grace which leaves no room for human boasting. Read or sing Hymn 100 “Holy! Holy! Holy!” Prayer: Ask the LORD to overwhelm you with a sense of the grace that is yours in Jesus Christ.

Thursday (7/17) Read and discuss 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12. Sometimes we struggle with seeing the relatively just suffering terribly while those who appear to be more wicked seem to be living the highlife – even while they are persecuting God’s people. This struggle can be found in the Psalms and in every age of the Church. In today’s passage the Apostle Paul addresses this reality. John Stott writes:

On the one hand, Jesus had taught that suffering was the unavoidable path to glory, both for himself and for his followers. Similarly, Paul had insisted that it is only through many tribulations that we can enter God’s kingdom, and that only if we share in Christ’s sufferings will we ever share in his glory. So suffering and glory, tribulation and the kingdom, belong inseparably to one another. Therefore, since God was allowing the Thessalonians to suffer, they could know that he was preparing them for glory. Their suffering was itself evidence of the justice of God, because it was the first part of the equation which guaranteed that the second part (glory) would follow.

On the other hand, although God was allowing the persecutors some rope, it was evidently in the Thessalonians that he was especially at work. He was on their side, sustaining and sanctifying them. He was using their persecutions aas a means through which to develop their faith, love and perseverance, in contrast to the prejudice, anger and bitterness of their persecutors, and so was preparing them for his eternal kingdom. By these qualities they were not ‘made worthy’ (RSV) of the kingdom, in the sense of deserving it, but they were counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which they were suffering. …

Indeed, because God is just, he will vindicate them publically one day. He will reverse the fortunes of both groups, the persecutors wand the persecuted when Christ comes. He will pay back trouble to the trouble-makers and will give relief (from affliction) to those who have been afflicted, including the apostles. … We see the malice, cruelty, power and arrogance of the evil men who persecute. We see also the sufferings of the people of God, who are opposed, ridiculed, boycotted, harassed, imprisoned, tortured and killed. In other words, what we see is injustice – the wicked flourishing and the righteous suffering. It seems completely topsy-turvy. We are tempted to inveigh against God and against the miscarriage of justice. ‘Why doesn’t God do something?’ we complain indignantly. And the answer is that he is doing something and will go on doing it. He is allowing his people to suffer, in order to qualify them for his heavenly kingdom. He is allowing the wicked to triumph temporarily, but his just judgment will fall upon them in the end. Thus Paul sees evidence that God’s judgment is right in the very situation which we might see nothing but injustice.

Read or Sing 101 “Come, Thou Almighty King” Prayer: Please pray our mission work among the Karamojan people.

Friday (7/18)Read and discuss 1 Samuel 26:1-25. This passage repeats an important theme we saw earlier in chapter 24 when David cut off the corner of Saul’s garment but refused to kill the king: David would not stretch out his hand against the LORD’s anointed to gain the throne through unjust means. Today’s passage, however, also shows David’s remarkable daring in going into Saul’s camp. We are also told that the LORD made it possible for David and Abishai to move freely through Saul’s camp by sending a deep sleep upon Saul’s army. Tony Cartledge elaborates:

David dared to cut a corner from Saul’s robe in the cave above En-gedi, but here he chooses to take Saul’s personal spear and water jar, both of which stood at Saul’s head. Earlier narratives often showed Saul with his spear in hand as a symbol of his power. More than once, Saul had hurled his spear at David. Undoubtedly, David would have found some special satisfaction in taking from Saul his status symbol. The water jug was a personal item that David also took as an obvious symbol that Saul had been in David’s power. Anyone who could pull the sword out of the ground at Saul’s head also could have plunged it through his neck. Anyone who could have taken Saul’s water jar also could have smashed it over his head. David would later return the spear but not the water jar. Perhaps he kept it as a personal trophy, a reminder of Yahweh’s blessing, and a token of greater victories yet to come.

Prayer: Pray for the youth of our congregation that they would both delight in the Summer and make good use of this time away from school.

Saturday (7/19) Read and discuss Leviticus 24:10-23. On Monday we looked at the particular case of the blasphemer recounted in verses 10-16. Today we will look at how this particular case led to a consideration of the entire law. Derek Tidball writes:

The general principle of law is known as the lex talionis: life for life … fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Justice was to be based on the principle of exact reciprocity. This law fulfilled a number of purposes. It emphasized, as other laws in Leviticus had previously done, the sacredness of life. No-one could take a life without surrendering his own, although due allowance was made for the difference between premeditated murder and manslaughter. … The law was also designed to set a limit on the punishments meted out, to check the unleashing of vengeance and to forestall the igniting of spirals of retaliation. If an eye was lost, no-one had the right to take a life in return, or to blow up and house and render a family homeless. The punishment had to be equal to the crime, not more, not less. The punishment also had to be administered on behalf of the community and the offended parties by the courts and magistrates. This was not a charter for taking the law into one’s hands.

There are two clarifications which are important to take note of: (1) First, the law did not literally mean that eyes were to be put nor that hands were to be cut off. This was a figurative way of saying that the punishment must fit the crime; (2) Second, it is very important to remember that these are principles for the State to use in dealing with crimes and not for individuals to use in dealing with their neighbors. That latter error had crept into Judaism by the time of Christ and Jesus took pains to correct that error in the Sermon on the Mount:

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42 ESV)

Regretfully, some Christians have taken Christ’s teaching and reversed the error. While Jesus was teaching that we aren’t to treat our neighbor the way civil governments are supposed to through the courts, some Christians have imagined that we are now to operate our courts on the basis of the personal morality that Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. The right way of holding both parts of the teaching of God’s word together is to remember that civil courts are to focus on justice while interpersonal relationships are to focus on mercy and grace. Read or Sing Hymn 585 “Take My Life and Let It Be” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

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