Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 28 December 2014 Sunday, Dec 21 2014 

MVOPC 28 December 2014 – Rev. Stephen Michaud preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 26 “Tell Out, My Soul, the Greatness of the LORD”

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 10:16-18

Hymn of Preparation: 194 “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 7:10-14

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

Sermon: Receive Our Immanuel

Hymn of Response:  225 “Once in Royal David’s City”

Confession of Faith:  Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 217 “All My Heart This Night Rejoices”

PM Worship:

Sermon Text: Micah 5

Adult Sunday School: No Sunday School Today

Shorter Catechism Q/A #79.

Q. Which is the tenth commandment?

A. The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (12/22) Read and discuss Matthew 1:18-25. Let’s focus on verse 19:

And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

We get that breaking off the betrothal rather than celebrating marriage with a woman who apparently cheated on him was a just act by a just man – but how is this connected with Joseph resolving to divorce her quietly to avoid putting Mary to shame? It turns out that Joseph was not merely a religious man he was a godly man. Micah 6:8 makes clear what being a man of God truly demands. Micah 6:8:

He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love mercy,

and to walk humbly with your God?

Do you want to know what that looks like? Look closely at Joseph. In the midst of all his pain and confusion, Joseph did justice, he loved mercy, and he walked humbly with his God. It would not be easy. Nearly everyone in his town would think that Joseph had been guilty of fornication. But Joseph chose to suffer the abuse of his fellow men in order to seek the praise of God. Do you want to be that sort of man of God? We will not get there simply be affirming that mercy is good while professing true things about God. Instead, by God’s grace, we will need to LOVE mercy and we will need to WALK humbly with our God. The gift of that first Christmas gives us every reason to do so. Read or sing Hymn 26 “Tell Out, My Soul, the Greatness of the LORD” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would cause you to respond to His love by doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with Him.

Tuesday (12/23) Read and discuss Luke 1:26-38. This story is about Jesus. The Bible does give us a great deal of information about many people, but they are in the biblical narrative primary to help us see: (1) Who God is; and (2) How we should respond to and live in light of who God is. Today’s passage is no different. The Lutheran scholar Arthur Just, Jr. points out that “the brevity of the sketch of Mary as a person is arresting; the only significant piece of information is her status as a ‘virgin,’ which is referred to twice in 1:27. The weight of the text falls not on Mary herself, but upon her miraculous conception.” Just goes on to show that he literary structure of this passage forms a chiasm with the virgin conception at the center framed by the designations of the Messiah whom she would conceive:

A1. Mary is going to conceive.

B1. Designations of the Messiah

Jesus

The child will be great

Son of the Most High

King over the house of Jacob forever

C. The virgin will conceive.

Mary’s question: “How will this be, since

I do not know a man?”

Gabriel’s answer: “The Holy Spirit will come

upon you, and the power of the Most

High will overshadow you.”

B2.  Designations of the Messiah

The child to be born will be holy.

He will be called the Son of God

A2. Elizabeth has conceived in her old age.

As this structure makes clear, even in the section on the virgin birth, the emphasis is on the involvement of the Holy Spirit in conceiving the Messiah and not upon Mary herself. Matthew is keeping Christ where He belongs – at the center. Prayer: Pray for the Roman Catholic Church that they would become centered on Jesus Christ and that they would come to embrace the Gospel in its purity and power.

Wednesday (12/24) Read and discuss Isaiah 7:10-14. Alec Motyer writes:

“Promises, promises!!” we say, mockingly, when we know or suspect that promise is not going to be kept! But when the LORD makes promises he means them, he means to keep them, and he means his people to trust them as they plan the future. He looks to us to obey his commands; he looks to us to trust his promises. Indeed it is as we trust his promises that we find ourselves able to obey his commands: it’s called ‘the obedience of faith’. Abraham is the father of those who believe (rom. 4:11). Genesis 15:3-6 tells how he ‘simply’ believed what God had promised: Romans 4:18-22 reveals how totally his faith rested on the word of promise, taking account of everything that stood against it; Hebrews 11:17-19 describes how he held to the promise even when it was challenged by death itself. And he was proved right. … Is that not the way to tackle every problem – to look up to our almighty, ever-loving God and say ‘I trust you’? [Ahaz fell down at] this very point. It was natural to fear the stronger northern powers; it was logical to want to do something about Jerusalem’s water supply. But it was not the reaction of a believer to whom the LORD had said ‘it won’t happen’. Faith, indeed, would teach a different logic: your enemy sounds impressive (Aram … Damascus) but what does it amount to? Only Rezin and Remaliah’s boy! Apply the same reasoning to Jerusalem and we arrive at the ‘House of David’, the repository of God’s promises, and behind that the King of all kings who has promised his city security! Faith is not a ‘leap in the dark’; it is a leap into the light, decision on the basis of evidence.

Read or sing Hymn 194 “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Prayer: Ask that some of your unbelieving family, friends, and neighbors would understand the gospel for the first time and embrace Christ this Christmas season.

Thursday (12/25) Read and discuss Psalm 32:1-11. A story has often been told, I don’t know if it is true, of the terrible scare that a woman received one day coming home from a supermarket. It was just another day of picking up some groceries. She put them in her trunk, jumped into the front seat, and started to head home. Then she noticed a pick-up truck race out of the parking lot behind her. At first she was startled but then she became worried. It seemed like the man driving the truck was following her. As she came up to a yellow light she decided to gun the engine and race through – but the man in the pick-up ran the red light, nearly causing an accident, in order to stay behind her. With her heart pounding she raced into her driveway at home only to have the pick-up fly up behind her. As she leaped from her car the large man driving the pick-up was almost on top of her … when he threw open the car’s back door and pulled a man out of the back-seat who had been stalking this woman. All along, the man that appeared to be the threat was actually the one that was rushing to save her! Today’s psalm reminds us that we sometimes view God like the man in the pick-up truck. We are afraid to go to Him with our struggles and sins and so our “bones waste away” and our strength is “dried up”. Yet, when through His grace we finally turn to Him, the LORD washes away our guilt, shelters us from the storm, and makes our hearts glad. Read or sing Hymn 225 “Once in Royal David’s City” Prayer: Give thanks for the gift of God in a manger.

Friday (12/26) Read and discuss Micah 5:1-15.  Commenting on verses 10-15, Gary Smith writes:

This passage addresses three modern cultural trends that people in the church need to take a stand on: the tendency of nations and individuals to anchor their hopes for the future on the military strength of a nation; the belief that any religious expression will be honored by God and provide a legitimate hope for the future; and the contention that a loving God would not establish his rule by punishing people who look at things a little differently from the biblical way.

Although there is nothing wrong with having an army, religious beliefs, or a positive view of God’s character, every conceptualization of reality (especially spiritual reality) is in danger of being incomplete, unbalanced, culturally biased, or half-true. Such ideas may have the form, vocabulary, or flavor of true faith in God but in actuality be deceptive and misleading. Of course, some tolerance of religious diversity is necessary for people from different backgrounds and belief systems to live together in peace, but toleration should not be seen as approval of behavior and beliefs that are inconsistent with what God has said. Micah is clear: Either you listen to what God has said and follow it, or you will have to answer to God Himself (5:15).

Prayer: Lift up those who are struggling with emotional pain because of ruptured relationships.

Saturday (12/27) Read and discuss Matthew 1:18-25. For some reason, when Christians think about the Exodus we tend to focus on the deliverance out of the bondage of Egypt – what Israel was rescued from – rather what Israel was being rescued for. Perhaps it is the dramatic nature of the plagues and crossing the Red Sea that has etched this part of the story so clearly in our minds. But the LORD wasn’t simply delivering Israel out of the House of Bondage so they could go their own way. The LORD delivered Israel so that they, out of the all the nations of the earth, would be His own treasured possession. The LORD would pitch His tent and dwell in the midst of Israel. He would be their God and they would be His people.

Christians frequently have the same lapse in our thinking when it comes to the work of Christ. We frequently talk as though the primary point of Christ dying for our sins is that we would not go to hell. Let me be clear, not suffering eternally suffering the punishment our sins deserve is a really good thing. But if we were to stop thee we would miss the main point. Jesus didn’t merely save us from something – He saved us to something. He redeemed us so that we would be His own treasured possession; so that we would become part of His family. Christ redeemed us so that we would live with Him forever.

All of this is shown in the two names the Angel of the LORD announces for Mary’s child: Jesus and Emmanuel. This Christmas, surely you will remember the first command: “You shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Let’s remember the second name as well: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Indeed, Matthew begins with the promise that Jesus would be Immanuel – God with us. It ends with Jesus promising us this: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Read or sing Hymn: 217 “All My Heart This Night Rejoices” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 21 December 2014 Sunday, Dec 14 2014 

MVOPC 21 December 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 203 “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

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: Romans 5:1-2

Hymn of Preparation: 208 “O Come, All Ye Faithful”

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 52:1-10

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 2:1-12

Sermon: Kings Great and Small

Hymn of Response: 230 “Thou Who Wast Rich beyond All Splendor”

Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 195 “Joy to the World”

PM Worship:

OT Reading: Jeremiah 31:15-34

NT: Reading: Matthew 2:13-23

The True Israel

Adult Sunday School: No Sunday School Today

Shorter Catechism Q/A #78

Q. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbor’s good name.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (12/15) Read and discuss Matthew 2:1-12. This passage introduces four major themes in the Gospel according to Matthew: (1) First, Jesus will be a Royal Messiah; (2) Second, God is controlling all the events through His providential hand; (3) Third, the Gentiles are going to be included among the Messiah’s people; and (4) Fourth, Jesus is the fulfillment of much Old Testament prophesy. Today we will look at the contrast between the Magi and the rulers of Israel. It is striking that the LORD led the Magi to travel over long distances on very incomplete information to pay homage to the new born King. This points forward to the fact that the whole world will one day worship Him (cf. Rev. 21:24, 26). Magi, in the ancient world, were a priestly cast of magicians and astrologers who were supposed to be the “wise men” of the country. They were therefore consulted by civil rulers and often used for diplomatic missions. They may have been familiar with some of the Hebrew Bible, but they didn’t know about Micah 5:2 for they follow the natural surmise that a king would be born in a capital and head off to Jerusalem. It doesn’t surprise us that the paranoid Herod would be deeply disturbed by the news of a newborn King; but we shouldn’t miss that all Jerusalem was troubled with him. So Herod gathers together the chief priests and the teachers of the law and inquires where the Messiah was to be born. They don’t miss a beat: “In Bethlehem of Judea” they reply, “for this is how it has been written by the prophet.” They all know the correct answer, but here is the amazing part: Although Bethlehem is only 6 miles from Jerusalem – not one of the chief priests or scribes bothers to go with the Magi to see where the Christ was to be born. The contrast is striking: Some traveled great distances and offered up gold and precious spices to worship Jesus while others wouldn’t even make the two hour walk to see Him. “This antithesis carries through the gospel: the redemptive influence of Jesus will extend far beyond the confines of Jerusalem to the far corners of the earth, yet those closest to Jesus will reject him (Grant Osborne).” Read or sing 203 “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus came to take away our sins and to take us to Himself.

Tuesday (12/16) Read and discuss Matthew 1:18-25. In order to understand the solution you have to understand the problem. What was it like to conceive of yourself as being part of the LORD’s chosen people when He hadn’t returned to Zion for more than four centuries? What was it like for a Jewish carpenter to live under the thumb of brutal Roman overlords (both Herod and his son Archelaus were unusually brutal compared to most Roman rulers)? What was it like to live in Judah when the majority of your fellow Jews had grown cold in the faith? C.S. Lewis beautifully captures this struggle when he describes Narnia without Asland (Jesus) as “always winter but never Christmas”. Yet, first century Judah wasn’t without some joys. There was still a remnant and Joseph was about to be married to a woman who by all accounts appeared to be a particularly godly woman. Then Joseph’s entire world came crashing down: She’s pregnant! How could that possibly be? All of his hopes and dreams had gone up in ashes. Nevertheless, Joseph seeks to be a man of God who does “justice, loves mercy, and walks humbly with his God (Micah 6:8).” It would not be easy. Nearly everyone in his town would think that Joseph had been guilty of fornication. But Joseph chose to suffer the abuse of his fellow men in order to seek the praise of God. Because of the astonishing news that he would be the step-father to Immanuel – Joseph (and all of the rest of us) have reason to sing joy to a world in a world that often seems like it is always winter and never Christmas. This week, as you take time to celebrate the coming of our LORD, remember to rejoice with a grateful heart. And remember to look forward in hope to the day when it will never be winter but it will always be Christmas. For you will dwell in the immediate presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. And you will be like Him, for you will see Him as He is. Prayer: Lift up the Session of our church as it meets this evening.

Wednesday (12/17) Read and discuss Isaiah 52:1-10. On the Fourth of July Americans celebrate Independence Day to commemorate when our nation first declared itself to be a sovereign power. Yet, even a cursory familiarity with history makes it difficult to paint the British Empire as tyrannical oppressors. Israel could only have wished that they had been “oppressed” in this way. Isaiah had lived through the assaults of the Assyrians, who were among the most brutal people who had ever lived. Then he prophesied of Judah being taken into the Babylonian captivity. While the Babylonians were more civilized than the Assyrians, they did force the majority of the Jewish people to move more than five hundred miles away to a strange land where they would have to do whatever the king of Babylon told them to do. Yet, Isaiah 52 is promising a freedom from this bondage. More than mere freedom, Israel would be lifted up and exalted. Isaiah was promising a second Exodus where the people would be delivered not only to freedom and security but to being the LORD’s true people:

Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I.”

When would this glorious event take place? If we stopped reading here we could easily imagine that this might take place in the fifth century B.C. when the LORD would bring Israel back into their land. But if we keep reading through Isaiah 52 and 53 we see that this freedom, security, and joy is intimately tied up with the substitutionary death of the Suffering Servant. It is only with Christ’s victory over Satan, sin, and death that the Second Exodus is truly accomplished. Living on this side of redemption accomplished, let us lift our voices to sing of Christ’s victory and let us rejoice in the Good News that He brings. Read or sing Hymn 208 “O Come, All Ye Faithful” Prayer: Lift up someone who does not yet know the LORD and pray that Christ call him or her to become one of His people.

Thursday (12/18) Read and discuss Luke 2:1-20. In his sermon on this passage Calvin said:

We must regard ourselves as poor, helpless souls until we are comforted and made glad by the gospel. We should not look for peace anywhere else. Woe to us if we do! For if complacency were to lull us into a false sense of security, the devil would at once overwhelm us, entangling us in his snares and nets. We would be his prisoners, enslaved to him. Here, then, is a word worth remembering: We can never really rejoice until we are sure God loves us and is favourable to us, undeserving though we are. On that foundation we must build. Otherwise all our joys will turn to tears and to the gnashing of teeth.

The angel, however, announces not merely news of joy, but of great joy which will be for all the people. We should weigh these last words carefully. For if they were not there, we might think that what Luke records was only for the shepherds’ benefit. Instead, joy is something which will be poured out on all the people. The angel means of course the Jews, the chosen people. Now, however, as Paul says, the partition has been broken down, and Christ through the preaching of the gospel proclaims peace to those who were once far off, and peace to those who were near. the Jews were linked by covenant to God, who adopted them in the person of Abraham and who confirmed their adoption by giving them the Law. But now God has drawn near to us who were once far from him, and has determined to make the message of reconciliation universal.

Since the angle invites us to rejoice at the coming of Christ, not in any ordinary way but with unbounded delight, let us make the most of the message. What can we say about this joy? If we involve ourselves in worldly pleasures and are wholly absorbed by our own wants, we will never rejoice in the grace of Christ. Let the shepherds instead be our example. Their earthly lot did not change, despite the fact that they had heard the angel’s word and had witnessed the birth of God’s Son. They went back to their flocks exactly as before; they continued to live as poor men, guarding their herds. In terms of the flesh and of this passing world they gained nothing form the privilege which we read about here. For all that, they were full of joy. Theirs is a lead we should follow. For although the gospel might earn us neither wealth nor fame, and although it might not bring us gratification or amusement, nevertheless we should be glad that we are the objects of God’s favour. That is where true blessing and happiness lie, and where real rest is found.

Read or sing Hymn 230 “Thou Who Wast Rich beyond All Splendor” Prayer: Pray that the LORD would grant you the contentment that flows from finding your joy in Him.

Friday (12/19) Read and discuss Matthew 2:13-23.  Today’s passage is structured around three Old Testament passages and how they relate to Jesus. Because we know who Jesus is, we tend to not be surprised by these passages – but they are written in such a way that the attention is cast upon the baby (e.g. “take the child and his mother”). The most surprising of the Old Testament passages which Matthew uses is the first one taken from Hosea 11:1:

                        When Israel was a child, I loved him,

                                    and out of Egypt I called my son.

At first it may seem puzzling why the LORD would apply this passage to the baby Jesus. Yet, in this puzzle we discover a profound bit of theology. The remnant of Israel would ultimately come down to just one righteous person – Jesus so that He could be and do precisely what the nation had failed to be or accomplish. Israel was to be the servant of the LORD and a light to the gentiles – but they failed. Now the true Servant of the LORD (cf: Isaiah 53) would bring about true redemption and be the light of the world. God chose to reveal this truth by having Jesus recapitulate a portion of Israel’s history. Prayer: Please pray for those who are struggling financially as a result of the difficult economy we have wrestled with over the last for years. Pray that they would not mourn over what they do not have, but as we celebrate Christ’s birth realize that in Jesus we have the greatest gift of all.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 14 December 2014 Sunday, Dec 7 2014 

MVOPC 14 December 2012

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render”

Confession of Sin

Almighty God, Who are rich in mercy to all those who call upon You;  Hear us as we humbly come to You confessing our sins;  And imploring Your mercy and forgiveness.  We have broken Your holy laws by our deeds and by our words;  And by the sinful affections of our hearts.  We confess before You our disobedience and ingratitude, our pride and willfulness;  And all our failures and  shortcomings toward You and toward fellow men.  Have mercy upon us, Most merciful Father;  And of Your great goodness grant that we may hereafter serve and please You in newness of life;  Through the merit and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Titus 2:11-14

Hymn of Preparation: 194 “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 7:1-14

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

Sermon: You Shall Call His Name Jesus

Hymn of Response: 196 “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 211 “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

PM Worship:

OT Reading: Isaiah 9:1-7

NT: Reading: Matthew 4:12-17

On His Shoulders

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 63: The Visible Church – Part II

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #77

Q.What is required in the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness-bearing.

Monday (12/8) Read and discuss Matthew 1:18-25. One of the most moving contemporary songs about Christmas is called “Joseph’s Song” by Michael Card. This song looks at the extraordinary reality of Jesus growing up as a little boy through the eyes of his adoptive father. At one point the song has Joseph sing:

Father show me where I fit
into this plan of yours
How can a man be father

to the Son of God
Lord for all my life I’ve
been a simple carpenter
How can I raise a king, How
can I raise a king

As overwhelming as this may have seemed to Joseph, it pales in comparison to the decision he had to make when he received the astonishing news: Mary was pregnant! Legally, Joseph and Mary were already married. Normally marriages were arranged so that the man would be between 18 and 20 and the woman in her early teens. Joseph was in the process of trying to establish himself financially for his soon to be family. He would almost certainly have been in the process of physically building the home (perhaps a room on his parents’ house) for where he could take Mary and start their life together. As he fitted the stones together and erected the beams he must have constantly been dreaming about what their new life as a couple would be like. Now it was over before it ever really began. Mary was pregnant and not by him. This crisis dramatically reveals what sort of man Joseph was in three key decisions:

  1. First, Joseph, because he was a righteous man sought to divorce Mary quietly. Whatever plans and dreams Joseph had needed to put aside in order for him to live consistently with the law of God. Please notice that Scripture does not pit being righteous against being compassionate. Joseph did not seek to torment Mary for her supposed sin by making her a public disgrace. He chose to do the right thing in a compassionate way.
  2. Second, God chose to override Joseph’s decision. The Angel of the LORD appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that, in spite of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph was to marry her anyway. We will look at what the Angel of the LORD told Joseph on Saturday.
  3. Third, Joseph chose to obey God’s word. There is a beautiful touch in how Joseph does this. In verse 25 we are told that “he called his name Jesus.” In naming Jesus, Joseph claimed him as his own son. We are prone to pass over this fact too easily but we shouldn’t forget that the Angel of the LORD appeared only to Joseph in a dream. He did not appear to the whole town. Taking Mary to be his wife would open Joseph up to the scorn of all his neighbors. Undoubtedly, most of them would think that Jesus was Joseph’s son born under illicit circumstances. But Joseph chose to suffer the contempt of man for a time because he was committed to seeking His praise not from man but from God. Joseph was a righteous man. “Mary’s obedience in Luke 1 is the same, so we see what kind of pious, God-fearing parents Jesus had, who are models for us all (Grant Osborne).”

Read or sing 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render” Prayer: Please pray for the troubled nation of Syria that continues to be torn apart by civil war.

Tuesday (12/9) Read and discuss Galatians 3:23-29. According to Paul, the Mosaic Law served as a “guardian.” In the Greco-Roman world this “guardian” would be a slave assigned to young boys from the time they were 6 until 16. They were to keep the child out of trouble, bring them to school, and implement appropriate discipline if the child stepped out of line. When the young man came of age at 16, he no longer had a guardian to watch over and discipline him – rather he was expected to have the maturity to discipline his own life in order to live as a respectable Roman man.

Paul is saying that the Mosaic Covenant functioned in an analogous manner in the development of the people of God. When Israel was an adolescent it needed to be hemmed in and disciplined so that the people of God would internalize the lessons of redemptive history. A look at the history of Israel around the Babylonian exile gives us a glimpse into how this worked in practice. All the way back in the Pentateuch the LORD had clearly revealed to His people the consequences of rebelling against His instructions. Nevertheless, it was the experience of God demonstrating His covenant faithfulness in discipline by sending Israel into exile followed by demonstrating His covenant faithfulness in showering compassion on the remnant that returned which radically changed national behavior. Prior to the return from exile, the idolatry of Jews going after the Baals and Ashtoreth was common in Israel. After the experience of exile and return this particular sin was eradicated from national life. In this sense, post-exilic Israel was more mature than pre-exilic Israel.

Of course, the most momentous turning point in redemptive history came with the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul is making clear to the Galatians, and to us, that with the coming of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Church has moved from adolescence to maturity and therefore we no longer need the guardian of the ceremonial law.

Indeed, in Christ, we are ALL sons of God. We are not merely servants, nor are we trainees, but sons – and therefore heirs according to the promises.

Why then would the Galatians, or Christians today, want to go back to being under the guardian of the ceremonial law. That would be as ridiculous as a 19 year old telling his parents that he wants to be treated like a seventh grader. It is every bit as ridiculous – but even more destructive. Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you wisdom to live today in light of eternity.

Wednesday (12/10) Read and discuss Isaiah 7:1-14. One time C.S. Lewis was talking with a colleague in his study at Oxford when a group of students began singing Christmas carols outside his window. His colleague condescendingly said something like, “These are Oxford University students. Don’t they realize that virgins don’t give birth?” To which Lewis dryly replied, “Don’t you think they already know that?” Odd, isn’t it, that, having heard the Christmas story so often, people sometimes forget what a spectacular miracle the virgin conception was? Indeed, it was nothing less than a new creation of the Second Adam. Over the past two centuries many have attempted to strip the miraculous from Scripture. One place where such “scholars” seem to have gained traction is with respect to Isaiah 7:14. At first this may seem odd. Since Matthew and Luke clearly and repeatedly declare that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived in her womb, what is the point of arguing that Isaiah 7:14 merely speaks of a young woman giving birth and not a virgin? The answer is that it is extremely embarrassing to liberals that God would promise the virgin concept seven centuries before it happened. Oddly, many conservatives have tended to take the liberals at their word and have become very tentative at suggesting that Isaiah 7:14 speaks of the virgin conception of Christ. Nevertheless, there are really strong (even compelling) reasons for holding to the traditional understanding:

  1. Although liberals have repeatedly asserted that the Hebrew word ‘alma simply means “young woman” no one has ever produced a single example in either biblical or extra-biblical Hebrew where the person referred to was not a virgin. As the Old Testament scholar J. Alec Motyer observes: “Wherever the context allows a judgment, ‘alma is is not a general term meaning ‘young woman’ but a specific one meaning ‘virgin’.”
  2. The Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek (done in the two centuries prior to Christ) translates ‘alma with the Greek term parthenon which everyone recognizes means virgin. This is the same term used by Matthew and Luke in the New Testament to record Christ’s virgin conception.
  3. Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 as being about the birth of Jesus.
  4. Consider how dramatic a sign the LORD promises to Ahaz: “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” As Homer Hailey put it, what is in view is “a sign so momentous that only Jehovah could give it.” Then ask yourself this question: “How dramatic a sign is it that a young woman would bear a son?” The fact is, not only would a young woman bearing a son not be a particularly dramatic sign – it wouldn’t be a sign at all. Young woman have children the natural way all the time.
  5. If we keep reading from Isaiah 7 through chapter 9 we can trace some interesting details about the child that will be born to this woman: (1) He will be called Immanuel – meaning “God with us” (7:14); (2) In 8:8 he is called Immanuel again and the Land is described as His (3) It is impossible to separate this child from the description in Isaiah 9:6-7 where the child is also described Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. There simply is no way that an ordinary child in Isaiah’s time could have fulfilled all of this – even as a type of the Christ who was to come.

“Following these pointers, we have a sign that lives up to its promise. Heaven and earth will be truly moved. Isaiah foresaw the birth of the divine son of David and also laid the foundation for understanding the unique nature of his birth (Motyer).” Read or sing Hymn 194 “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Prayer: Give thanks that God chose to be born as a human baby to live with us, to live for us, and to redeem us.

Thursday (12/11) Read and discuss Matthew 4:12-17. David Garland writes:

Jesus returns (lit. “withdraws”) to the Galilee region to begin His ministry. “Withdraw” has been used several times already in Matthew, and in each case the “withdrawing” is associated with some negative issue. Here the negative issue is the imprisonment of the John the Baptist. We might assume that Jesus withdraws from the area of John’s arrest to distance himself from danger. But when we realize that Herod Antipas ruled the region of Galilee, Jesus is not going to Galilee to escape danger from him. Herod’s capital city, Tiberius, is only eight and a half miles down the coast of the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum, the base of Jesus’ ministry. One commentator even suggests that Jesus goes to the center of Herod’s realm of authority as a challenge to him. Whether or not this is the case, Jesus is certainly not fleeing danger.

An ominous plot is unfolding. Jesus’ temptations have alerted us to the spiritual conflict that rages between the Father’s plan and Satan’s opposition. John the Baptist’s scathing attack on the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the Sadducees warns us about the religious collision between the message of the gospel and the activities of the religious establishment. Matthew’s allusion to the arrest of John cautions us that there is political conflict between the hopes of the people of Israel and the rule of the Roman occupiers. Jesus undertakes His Galilean ministry in the teeth of a gathering storm.

Read or sing Hymn 196 “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would use the good news of Jesus which is found in so much Christmas music and Christmas cards to bring unbelieving family members and friends into His family.

Friday (12/12) Read and discuss Isaiah 9:1-7.  King Uzziah was an exceptional ruler. This is something that should not be taken for granted either in ancient Israel or in the modern world. To be led by a wise and godly ruler is a great blessing.  Furthermore, Uzziah reigned for 40 years.  Most of the people living in Israel at the time of his death had never lived under another king. Now Uzziah was dead. Would Israel revert to wicked rulers or even to chaos? Would her next king try to fleece the sheep rather than protect them? Isaiah tells us that “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” When the earthly king was dead and gone, Isaiah saw the King of Kings who lives and reigns forever.  So what? What good does it do us if there is a perfect ruler way off in a distance while we have to live with wicked rulers down here on earth?  First of all the Biblical portrait of God is of a Sovereign who is actively involved in even the apparently smallest aspects of creation – so that He cares even for the sparrows and the hairs on your head (Luke 12:6).  Secondly, our passage declares the glorious news that the LORD Himself is coming down to be with us as Immanuel – which means “God with us”. Rather than history moving from bad to worse, or even in cycles, God is guiding history forward.  With the coming of Christ He has established a new visible reign on earth.  According to verse 7, will this righteous government be defeated by the kingdoms of this world? According to the end of verse 7, how committed is the LORD to bringing about His own righteous reign on earth? Looking around, we do not yet see everything under Christ’s righteous rule.  While the Kingdom of God has come there are still many who love the darkness more than the light. Let us give thanks that this is not the end of the story.  Prayer: Lift up the children of our congregation and pray that each of them would become committed followers of Jesus Christ.

Saturday (12/13) Read and discuss Matthew 1:18-25. The story of Christ’s miraculous conception is beautiful and moving, but does it really make any difference in the way that we think? A surprising number of New Testament scholars treat the virgin conception as a nice story that we could very well get on without. But they are wrong. At the heart of today’s passage is the truth of Jesus’ title Immanuel – God with us. Consider the rich theology found in the Angel’s message to Joseph on why he should still take Mary to be his wife. We should remember that all his life Joseph had been called Joseph bar Jacob (which means Joseph the son of Jacob). Yet the Angel immediately introduces messianic overtones by calling him Joseph son of David. Then he says:

            Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife,

            for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit,

            and she will give birth to a son,

            and you are to call his name Jesus

            for he will save his people from their sins.

Furthermore, this was going to fulfill the word of God which was given through the prophet Isaiah:

            Look, a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son.

            And they will call his name ‘Immanuel,’

                                                          which means ‘God with us.’

This passage makes it clear that Jesus’ origins (the Greek word is “genesis”) come uniquely from God and that in Christ we will experience God’s saving presence. It is not without meaning that Matthew begins his account of the Gospel with the origins of the one called Immanuel. The very last words of Matthew come from our Lord when He tells His disciples: “Look, I am with you always, even until the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).” Read or sing Hymn: 211 “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 7 December 2014 Sunday, Nov 30 2014 

MVOPC 7 December 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Ephesians 2:13-16

Hymn of Preparation: 92 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

Old Covenant Reading: Hosea 1:1-11

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 3:23-29

Sermon: Abraham’s Family

Hymn of Response:  34 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Confession of Faith:   Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This”

PM Worship: No Evening Worship This Week – We will be celebrating Christmas on the Common from 2PM – 4PM

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 62-63: The Visible Church

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism # 76.

Q76. Which is the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Monday (12/1) Read and discuss Galatians 3:23-29.  In today’s passage, Paul is using the literary device called metonymy where one idea is referred to using the name of something related to it. An example in modern English would be to call a business executive a “suit.” Paul uses the term “law” to refer to the Mosaic covenant and the term “faith” to refer to the New Covenant. John Calvin explains:

Paul is not speaking only of ceremonies or of the moral law but of the whole dispensation by which the LORD governed his people under the old covenant. It became a subject of dispute as to whether the form of government instituted by Moses had any power to provide righteousness. Paul compares the law first with a prison and then with a schoolmaster. As both metaphors plainly show, the nature of the law was such that it could remain in force only for a certain time.

Faith means here the full revelation of those things that were hidden under the darkness and shadow of the law. … The doctrine of faith was attested by Moses and all the prophets, but it was manifested with less clarity then, so that Paul calls the new covenant the time of faith, though relatively and not absolutely. …. The law did not remove the people of the old covenant from faith, but it kept hold of them so that they would not wander away from it. … They were besieged on all sides by the curse, but locked up as they were in the prison of the law, they were protected from it. In this way, Paul shows that the prison of the law was actually of spiritual benefit.

Read or sing Hymn: 5 “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Please lift up Ralph and Julie Pearson.

Tuesday (12/2) Read and discuss Galatians 3:15-22. Paul has been arguing that salvation is not by law keeping but entirely as a gift of God’s grace. This raises a natural question which Paul himself asks in verse 19: “Why then the law?”

Paul’s initial answer flatly contradicts the Judaizer’s position. They imagined that the Law was a means of showing how good they were. Paul says in effect, you have it backwards, the Law was added because God’s covenant people were and are so bad. If you spend any time at all telling non-Christians about the gospel you know that this is the great offense. Our non-Christian neighbors are quite happy about the prospect of going to heaven. They are surprisingly content with the very high ethical standards which the Bible holds forth – even if they disagree with certain specific commandments. What they simply cannot stomach, apart from God’s grace, is acknowledging that they are morally and spiritually bankrupt; that they cannot pick themselves up by their own bootstraps; that the only thing they can contribute to their own salvation is the sin which makes it necessary.  But these are all things that the Law of God is designed to teach us. Can we be more specific about what Paul meant by “It was added because of the transgressions”? There are three possibilities:

  1. First, the Law was given to restrain Israel’s sin. Law is sometimes used in this way. Those of you who are my age might remember that Singapore once had a terrible drug problem that was destroying their society. So they implemented exceptionally tough anti-drug laws and they enforced them vigorously – including putting people to death for dealing in drugs. Very quickly the drug problem withered away. The Law didn’t change people’s hearts but it did change their behavior. That is one possible use of the Law.
  2. Second, Paul could be referring to the way the ceremonial law functioned by pointing away from individual morality to the need for a substitute. I’m reminded of a time when John Gerstner was guest preaching at a church and they asked him if he would administer the sacrament of baptism. They then told him that their church had developed their own special practice of using a white feather to sprinkle the water on the child. Instead, of saying something like “What’s wrong with you people?” – as I might have done. Gerstner had the good sense to ask a few questions. First, he asked: “What does the feather stand for?” He was told it stood for the purity of the child. Then he asked: “What the water in baptism represents?” Before they could say “The washing away of sins” they knew they were in trouble. So it was with the Old Testament ceremonial law. Anyone who approached the Tabernacle or Temple thinking that Israel was distinguished as being better than other nations because of their conspicuous faithfulness in keeping the law of God would have been confronted with an obvious question: “Then why are all these animals being sacrificed?”
  3. While both of these uses of the Law are possible I don’t think that they are primarily what Paul has in mind. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t part of the answer. As the distinguished Reformed Theologian John Frame reminds us, one of the most common errors in theology is to assume the false dichotomy of either-or when God is teaching both-and.
  4. Third, nevertheless, I think the primary idea Paul has in mind when he writes that the Law was added on account of transgressions is that the Law was added precisely to show that Israel couldn’t keep it. While there is sin apart from Law, the Bible makes clear that transgressions only occur when people are given specific laws that they fail to keep. So while the Law doesn’t make people more sinful it does make their sins – which are now actual transgressions of God’s law – more obvious. What good is that? It takes away boasting and drives people to Christ to seek salvation in His righteousness rather than in their own. Theologians commonly refer to this as “the first use of the law.” Please realize what a great blessing this use of the Law is. The first use of the Law is one in which the Law serves the promise precisely by showing us our need to be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone.

Prayer:  Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Jaffrey OPC in Jaffrey, NH that they would be effective in reaching their community with the gospel.

Wednesday (12/3) Read and discuss Hosea 1:1-11. Hosea served as a prophet primarily during the last half of the eighth century B.C. This is approximately one century after Elisha’s ministry which we are looking at during our morning worship services. Regretfully, the people have Israel have not turned back to their God in the interim. In fact a central theme of Hosea’s ministry is the spiritual adultery which Israel is committing by running after Baal. The first three chapters of the book of Hosea are what the entire book tends to be known for: Hosea is called by God to take a wife of harlotry. Hosea is to act out the part of God who is married to an unfaithful wife. Many people, including John Calvin, have recoiled at the terrible position that this puts Hosea into. Nevertheless, while it is true that the prophets generally suffered terribly, we should remember that Hosea was simply revealing the way that the LORD Himself was being mistreated and abused by the people whom He had redeemed from Egypt and to whom He had given the Promised Land.  The history of Hosea and Gomer begins with the naming of three children which symbolizes the future of the nation of Israel:

  1. First there isJezreel: “And the LORD said to him, ‘Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.’”
  2. Second there isLo-Ruhamah which means “No Mercy”: “And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all.” The LORD’s mercy is so abundant that it is hard to imagine what it would mean if He simply stopped forgiving us. This dreadful thought was about to become a reality for rebellious Israel.
  3. Third there isLo-Ammi which means “Not My People”: “And the LORD said, ‘Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.’” God was divorcing His people because of their spiritual adultery and abandoning them to the care of their false gods which were no gods at all.

As bleak as this is, and it is bleak, those familiar with the New Testament will recognize hope in that last name even before reading further in Hosea. God’s plan to redeem a people to Himself was not thwarted by the rebellion of sinful men. The Jews of the Northern tribes will be made like Gentiles, but a multitude of their descendents would ultimately be grafted back into Christ’s Church. As Paul writes in Romans 9:25-26:

As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’

and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”

“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’

there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

Read or sing Hymn: 461 “Not What My Hands Have Done” Read or sing Hymn 286 “Worship Christ, the Risen King!” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD reversed the judgment His people deserved so that “where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there [we are now] called ‘sons of the living God.’”

Thursday (12/4) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 1:9-18. The promises were tangibly being fulfilled. The LORD had promised The Land to Abraham as well as descendants as numerous as the sand on the seashore or the visible stars in heaven. As the nation of Israel is about to cross the Jordan River, Moses reminds them of how numerous they had become: “The LORD your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven.” This fulfillment should have greatly encouraged every person who would journey into the Promised Land. The promise of a vast seed to Abraham once seemed unimaginable – but the LORD had done it. From now on, whenever they heard God’s question to Abraham in Genesis 18:14, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” – They could shout a resounding “No!” and point to their own numbers as proof. Still, God in His grace had given Israel more than vast numbers. During the trials in the wilderness, the LORD had established a representative government of Elders to manage the nation’s civic affairs.  Rather than starting from scratch, they would enter the Promised Land with a government already in place. One only has to consider the trials of modern countries that have been forged out of war to see what a great blessing this was. Nevertheless, the best structures are never a replacement for righteousness.  What Israel (and every nation) needed more than strong formal institutions, were capable and righteous men who would seek justice rather than self-aggrandizement.  So Moses reminds them of what God had commanded through him:

And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s.’

In our own technocratic age, we need to remind ourselves of this truth not only for civil government but also for the vitality of the Church as we by God’s grace fulfill the Great Commission. In the justly famous words of E.M. Bounds:

We are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, and new organizations to advance the Church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the gospel. This trend of the day has a tendency to lose sight of the man or sink the man in the plan or organization. God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than of anything else. Men are God’s method. The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.

Read or Sing Hymn: 460 “Amazing Grace!” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would make you a man or woman of prayer.

Friday (12/5) Read and discuss Acts 2:13-21. For all the discussion about the work of the Holy Spirit over the past 40 years, there is still a great deal of confusion about exactly what the work of the Holy Spirit looks like. A good place to start is for us to look at what Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would do. In John 16:13-14 Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” This means that we should see two things whenever the Holy Spirit is active in a church: (1) The people will be growing in their knowledge of God’s word; and (2) Jesus will be glorified. This may involve dramatic emotional displays on the part of the believers – but it also might not. To put the matter bluntly, people rolling in the aisle or barking like dogs may be a sign of emotional manipulation or mental instability, but they are not signs that the Holy Spirit is at work. Commenting on verse 21, R.C. Sproul writes:

Peter was not concerned about the meaning of the tongue-speaking, the glossolalia; he was concerned about the significance in redemptive history of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the whole community. He went on to proclaim the life and ministry of Christ … There were about three thousand on that day whose hearts were moved by the Word of God, who put their trust in Christ.

A lot of churches today are excited about the Holy Spirit, and that is fine; but the danger of that is to misunderstand the mission of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit always points beyond Himself to Christ. If you are in a Spirit-filled church that does not focus on the ministry of Christ, you are not in a Spirit filled church. It is that simple. The Holy Spirit is sent to empower the church to bear witness to Christ, to apply the work of Christ on the cross in terms of its redemptive significance to all who believe. The Father sends, the Son accomplishes, and the Spirit applies the work of Christ. On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit was poured out without measure, and the focus was on Christ.

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would send revival and reformation to New England.

Saturday (12/6) Read and discuss Galatians 3:23-29. Luther writes:

If the law increases transgressions, it appears to nullify the goodness of the one who made the promise. That would indeed be the case if the promise rested on the law, but in fact it rests solely on the truthfulness of the one who made the promise. For this reason, the law is not against the promises of God. When the law reveals sin and proves that no one can be justified through it, it forces people to look for the fulfillment of the promise [some other way]. Far from being antagonistic to the promises of God, the law commends them and makes us see why they are so desirable.

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

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

MVOPC 30 November 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 106:43-45

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

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 111:1-10

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 3:15-22

Sermon: The Priority of Covenant Grace

Hymn of Response:  460 “Amazing Grace!”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”

PM Worship:

OT: Ezekiel 2:1-10

NT: Revelation 5:1-14

Worthy is the Lamb

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

Suggested Preparations

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

 75.What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?

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

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

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

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

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

What do we do with this? Three things:

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

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

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

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

O worship the King all glorious above,

O gratefully sing His power and His love.

Our shield and Defender, the Ancient of days,

Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVOPC 23 November 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 2:17-18

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

Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 27:9-26

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 3:10-14

Sermon: Cursed

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

Confession of Faith:  Q/A 1 Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Ezekiel 1:1-28

NT: Revelation 4:1-11

Coronation and Enthronement

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

Suggested Preparations

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

 74. What is required in the eighth commandment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVOPC 16 November 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 1:18

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

Old Covenant Reading: Genesis 15:1-6

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 3:1-9

Sermon: By Faith

Hymn of Response:  642 “Be Thou My Vision”

Confession of Faith:  Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 426 “Till He Come!”

PM Worship:

OT: Psalm 34:1-22

NT: Revelation 3:14-22

True Riches

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Suggested Preparations

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

73.Which is the eighth commandment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Worship Guide This Week Sunday, Nov 2 2014 

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

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

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

MVOPC 2 November 2014 – Rev. Stephen Michaud preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 53:4-5

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

Old Covenant Reading: Genesis 3:1-7

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 4:1-11

Sermon: You Can Overcome Temptation!

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

Confession of Faith:  Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

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

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

MVOPC 2 November 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 1:18

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

Old Covenant Reading: Genesis 15:1-6

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 3:1-9

Sermon: By Faith

Hymn of Response:  642 “Be Thou My Vision”

Confession of Faith:  Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Till He Come!”

PM Worship:

OT: Isaiah 56:1-8

NT: Revelation 3:7-13

Patient Endurance

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

Suggested Preparations

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

71.What is required in the seventh commandment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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