Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 20 April 2014 Sunday, Apr 13 2014 

MVOPC 20 April 2014 – Easter

Call to Worship: Pastor: “Christ is Risen!” Congregation: “He is Risen Indeed!”

Opening Hymn: 286 “Worship Christ the Risen King!”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Colossians 1:11-14

Old Covenant Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 28:1-10

Hymn of Preparation:268 “Welcome, Happy Morning!”

Sermon Text:  1 Corinthians 15:1-28

Sermon: Lord Triumphant

Hymn of Response: 276 “Up from the Grave He Arose”

Confession of Faith:   Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 277 “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”

PM Worship:1 Samuel 17:41-58 – Venturing Forth in the Name of the LORD

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #43

Q. 43. What is the preface to the ten commandments?
A. The preface to the ten commandments is in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Monday (4/14) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 15:1-28. While all truth is equally true, not all truth is equally important. Paul begins today’s passage by reminding the Corinthians of the gospel he had preached to them. He then writes:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

These facts were of such importance that Jesus Himself revealed them to Paul as He had previously revealed them to many eyewitness and especially to the 11 remaining Disciples who would become Apostles.  The critical nature of this truth only becomes evident when we realize that the truly astonishing thing in this passage is not that Jesus rose from the dead but that He died in the first place.  At one point in His earthly ministry, Jesus challenged His critics by asking: “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” If I were to ask such a question every hand in the room could go up; but no one could ever legitimately raise such a charge against Jesus. Yet, (1) if Jesus was utterly without sin; and (2) death is the punishment for sin; (3) Why did Jesus die? As Paul, and the entire New Testament make clear – “Christ died for our sins”.  The reason Christ’s death is of such great importance to us isn’t only because of our Lord’s own intrinsic worth but because He died united with us and in our place. But this means that He also rose united with us guaranteeing our future bodily resurrection and life forever with Him. As Christians we will continue to suffer from the travails of this world. But we can face tomorrow with courage and hope. For …

            Christ has died!

            Christ is risen!

            Christ will come again!

Read or sing Hymn: 286 “Worship Christ the Risen King!” Prayer: Give thanks for the certainty of your future resurrection.

Tuesday (4/15) Read and discuss Matthew 21:1-11. Jesus was in complete command of the situation. Even in the smallest details, our Lord was orchestrating the events surrounding His “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem.  On the one hand, what Jesus did should strike us as a bit unusual. Wherever we have encountered Jesus up to this point He has always been on foot. He walked everywhere. Now, suddenly, that was going to change. The King was going to ride into Jerusalem while accepting the Messianic hosannas of the crowd. But why would He ride on a donkey? Jesus didn’t need Madison Avenue to tell Him that a Messiah riding on a white stallion would have been far more impressive. So why did He choose the colt of a donkey? Imagine for a moment that two men were riding into Washington D.C. claiming to be the President of the United States. The first man arrives in a row of tanks all sealed up and ready for battle. The second man arrives in an open limousine waiving to the crowds. Clearly the second man is the President who is coming to his own town and to his own people.  Likewise, Jesus enters Jerusalem not to wage war against His people but to go into battle on their behalf. Yet, unlike the fickle crowds, Jesus knows with certainty that a battle will take place and that anyone riding into battle on a colt is going to get slaughtered. That is where the meekness of the King is so clearly on display. Christ’s meekness is true strength that will be exercised for the sake of others.  He rides into Jerusalem not to overthrow the religious establishment or the Roman overlords but to be crushed by them.  He embraces the crushing weight of God’s wrath against sin on the cross so that through His death Satan, sin, and death would be swallowed up in Him. To the very end Christ was true to His mission: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).” Let us look to the One meekly and resolutely riding on a donkey – and behold our Lord and our God. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would bring visitors to our church who would be blessed by becoming a part of our congregation.

Wednesday (4/16) Read and discuss Ezekiel 37:1-14. The following story is told from the old Soviet Union before the Berlin wall fell:

The communist lecturer paused before summing up. His large audience listened fearfully. ‘Therefore,’ he said, ‘there is no God; Jesus Christ never existed; there is no such thing as a Holy Spirit. The Church is an oppressive institution, and anyway it’s out of date. The future belongs to the State; and the State is in the hands of the Party.’

He was about to sit down when an old priest near the front stood up. ‘May I say two words?’ he asked (It’s three in English, but he was of course speaking Russian). The lecturer disdainfully, gave him permission. He turned, looked out over the crowd, and shouted: ‘Christ is risen!’ Back came the roar of the people: ‘He is risen indeed!’ They’d been saying it ever Easter for a thousand years; why should they stop now?

In this story we are reminded how subversive Easter is to all the tyrannies of this world. Tyrants all base their power on the ability to kill. “They claim to have the keys of death and hell, but they’re lying. Where the tyrants’ power runs out, God’s power begins. He raises the dead (N.T. Wright).” Today’s passage reminds us of the explosive nature of this truth. Even the Bible believing Church sometimes tones down and domesticates the explosive nature of Christ rising from the dead in the middle of history. We rightly speak of Easter as the source of our spiritual life and our hope for the future. Christ’s resurrection does mean those things, but it is also about far more than our private spiritual lives. Today’s passage speaks of the entire nation of Israel being nothing but dry dead bones. God steps in and sovereignly gives them new life. This new life is not merely individual and private – it is corporate and powerful. Ezekiel sees the whole house of Israel being reconstituted as a mighty army. It is a foretaste of the transformative event that crashed into the world when Christ conquered the last enemy and rose triumphantly from the grave.  More than a rescue plan, Easter morning is the proclamation and the beginning of God’s new creation. “It declares that, after all, God is God, and that His kingdom shall come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Easter speaks of a world reborn (N.T. Wright).” It is easy to become discouraged when we dwell on our culture or the state of the Church in our country; but for God’s people the decisive victory has already been won. The pain of this world is real and so we rightly weep. Yet, because Christ is risen we can look forward in confidence to the day when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and we will dwell in His house forever. And because He lives, we can courageously live as His people in the world today – paradoxically as a meek yet mighty army. Read or sing Hymn 268 “Welcome, Happy Morning!” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would send revival and reformation to New England.

Thursday (4/17) Read and discuss Matthew 28:1-10. Easter is a time when everyone should feel good. At least that is what the world thinks. A generation ago it was common for many people to get new clothes that they wore for the first time on Easter Sunday. Churches are filled, familiar hymns are sung, spring is in the air, and the message is about victory over death. Who wouldn’t be happy on a day like that? The only problem is that this isn’t what happens when people first encounter the reality of the risen Christ.  When an angel from the LORD appears to the guards, they become frozen in fear like dead men. Hagner puts it neatly when he writes: “The irony is not to be missed: the ones assigned to guard the dead themselves appear dead while the dead now have been made alive.” Rather than being a cool breeze across our face on a hot summer’s day, encountering an actual angel and experiencing the reality of Christ’s resurrection brought devastating terror to the guards.  Furthermore, they had every right to be terrified. Not only were they sinners in the presence of true holiness, their pretensions to being in control were instantly unmasked.  Having forgotten this truth, modern Americans expend an enormous amount of energy and money trying to convince ourselves that we really have everything under control. Sure, we need to tinker with the economy and health care from time to time – but for the most part we can manage just fine thank you very much.  Today’s passage reminds us how deluded such a notion is. Once the illusion of being in control was stripped away the guards became paralyzed with fear.  We should notice that the women were also afraid. The greeting from the angel is best translated “Stop being afraid”.  Additionally, the first words of Jesus to the women after greeting them was “Do not be afraid”. Their world has also been instantly turned upside down. But there the similarities between the women and the guards would end. The fear of the women, and all true disciples, would soon be turned into joy that no one could take away. Easter, rather than being a great unifying event for all mankind, radically divides followers of Christ from the rest of the world. The proclamation “Christ is risen!” is indeed the greatest news imaginable – but only for those who have put their trust in Him. Read or Sing 267 “The Day of Resurrection!” Read or sing Hymn 276 “Up from the Grave He Arose” Prayer: Lift up the young children in our church and pray that the LORD would grant each of them saving faith.

Friday (4/18) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 17:41-58.  Mark Boda writes:

We know the rest of the story well as David defeats the great Goliath, breaking the confidence of the philistines and propelling the Israelites to defeat their retreating enemy. But the narrator of the story does not end the story there. In a surprising move he concludes the narrative by ushering us back to a scene at an earlier point in the story. In verses 55-56 he grants us the vantage point of Saul watching the young David as he goes out to encounter Goliath and commissioning his general to investigate the boy’s background. Then in verses 57-58, the general brings David to Saul for an interview. The significance of this conclusion to the David and Goliath story is that it reminds us that this story is not ultimately about David and Goliath, but rather about David and Saul. There is David standing face to face with Saul with Goliath’s head in David’s grasp.

Prayer: Lift up President Obama, the Congress, the Supreme Court, and all who are in positions of civic leadership and ask that they would be granted both wisdom and moral courage.

Saturday (4/19) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 15:1-28. A very strange thing seems to have happened in Corinth. There were members of the church who apparently were doubting or even denying that there would be a future resurrection of our bodies. We shouldn’t imagine that they were envisioning some sort of future annihilation where everything ended at death.  This wasn’t modern America where unbelievers can feel comfortable in a liberal church.  These were people who were (in some sense) placing their trust in Jesus for a better life in the age to come. Yet they had allowed secular philosophy to alter their understanding of Biblical anthropology. That is, they had lost sight of the fact that God made matter good and that our physical bodies are an important part of our humanity. Why would they do this? It was common in some parts of Greek philosophy to hope for the deliverance of the human spirit from the body.  The spirit was seen as noble and good while the body was seen as decaying and limiting. In fact, some philosophers called the body the tomb of the soul.  Oddly, many Christians in modern America have let this idea creep into their own thinking. If you were to ask many individuals about what they expect after they die – they will vaguely talk about heaven and, if you listen closely, it will sound like a surprisingly immaterial place. But this is not the goal for which we have been created or redeemed. As one New Testament scholar likes to put it, “Heaven is important but it’s not the end of the world.” If we die prior to the Second Coming, we will in fact pass directly into the presence of the LORD while our bodies remain buried in the ground. This will be a glorious experience but it is not the end of our redemption. Scripture teaches that we will then be looking forward to the redemption of our bodies so that in glorified bodies we will live in a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness will dwell. This truth is so important that Paul actually argues from Christ’s resurrection to the resurrection of our bodies. Is this the way you think about the body God has given to you? Read or Sing Hymn 277 “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 13 April 2014 Sunday, Apr 6 2014 

MVOPC 13 April 2014 – Palm Sunday

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”

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: Isaiah 44:21-23

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 48:1-14

New Covenant Reading: Revelation 1:1-8

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

Sermon Text: Matthew 21:1-11

Sermon: The King of Glory Comes

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

Confession of Faith:   Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

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

PM Worship:1 Samuel 17:31-40 – Some Trust in Chariots

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism Q/A 17:How Did God Create Man?

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #42

Q. 42. What is the sum of the ten commandments?
A. The sum of the ten commandments is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves.

Monday (4/7) Read and discuss Matthew 21:1-11. Matthew’s focus on the colt may seem disproportionately long. What’s the big deal about this colt? There are two key points that we shouldn’t miss. First, we should notice that Jesus is in complete command of the situation.  He gives clear directions. When His directives are carried out things transpire exactly as Jesus says they will. It is important to recognize how unusual it is to simply go up and take someone else’s colt (If you have seen many “Westerns” you will know that on the American frontier horse thieves were shot). Jesus anticipated the problem the Disciples would face and gave them exact directions: “say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” This could also be translated, “It’s Lord has need (of it) and will send it back immediately”. Jesus is reminding us that ultimately He owns everything. The person who had title to this colt only held it as a steward of the Lord’s property. This is an astonishing claim of authority on the part of Jesus. He was claiming to be the true owner of everything and therefore to be Yahweh Himself. Second, by choosing to ride into Jerusalem on a colt Jesus was self-consciously identifying with the prophesied Messianic King of Zechariah 9:9. The crowd will prove remarkably fickle, and even the Disciples will not fully understand until after He is raised from the dead, but Jesus never wavers in His vocation. He enters Jerusalem with the knowledge that He is the true King of Israel. Read or sing Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Please pray for the people of Afghanistan as they have elected a new President in the face of threats of violence from the Taliban.

Tuesday (4/8) Read and discuss Leviticus 18:1-30. The big idea in today’s passage is: Don’t be like the pagans around you! The LORD is reminding Israel, not only of the sexually immoral way Egypt and the Canaanites lived but also that He had brought them into judgment and condemned them. As Moses would later tell Israel right before they crossed into the Promised Land, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days” Verses 6-18 appear to be focusing on various sexual sins but the goal is actually the health and well-being of the family. In order to protect the development of healthy relationships, the LORD has put other relationships entirely off limits. Here’s the point: A sister is supposed to be a support to her sister’s marriage and not a rival for the husband’s affections. A child is supposed to be able to grow up with as much safety and purity in a home as possible, without ever being considered the possible object of sexual desire by his or her relatives. The answer to the question “How old is old enough?” is Never! God has set that type of relationship, where a brother would marry a sister or a widow would marry her son – off limits – precisely to safeguard the healthy nurturing relationships that are supposed to exist within the extended family. How do we put these truths into practice? The most significant response to today’s passage ought to be grace driven obedience in our own lives. As I never tire of saying: You can be an exception to your generation. No matter what the surrounding culture chooses to do you can say: “As for me and my house – we will serve the LORD.” Prayer: Ask for the LORD to grant you greater moral courage.

Wednesday (4/9) Read and discuss Psalm 48:1-14.  Why is the Church beautiful? Traveling through Europe, even unbelievers stop to enjoy the splendor of her historic cathedrals. There is something transcendent about how they lift out thoughts and emotions to that which is far beyond the routine which makes up most of our lives. Yet, the Church is not buildings – and if it were we would have to confess that most places of worship are far more pedestrian than this handful of magnificent cathedrals. Sometimes Christians gather in barns or storefronts while a few even worship in elementary school cafeterias. But if buildings don’t make the Church beautiful, what does? Today’s psalm answers that question by bringing us back to ancient Jerusalem. The truth is that Jerusalem ancient Jerusalem was a relatively small city. It paled in comparison to ancient Rome or Babylon, yet Jerusalem (like the Church) had one distinguishing mark – it was chosen by God as the place where He would particularly manifest His name. As verse 3 makes clear, rather than the city be a shelter for the Great King – the King turns out to be the fortress for the city. It might seem that the Church would be an easy target for the powerful of this world. Even Christians sometimes believe this lie. But as God fought for Israel against the Egyptians and Babylonians so He defends His Church from all His and our enemies. What makes the Church beautiful is that the LORD dwells in her midst and He grants “unfailing love (v. 9)” to all who, by His grace, have become citizens of this new city. Read or sing Hymn 309 “Rejoice, the Lord is King” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at First Presbyterian Church in Ipswich.

Thursday (4/10) Read and discuss Revelation 1:1-8. The book of Revelation is often approached as a mysterious book that cannot be fully understood even after much study. Actually, most of the book is quite straightforward once we understand its purpose.  The book of Revelation was written to encourage Christians to be faithful while facing persecution. If every time you open the book of Revelation you remind yourself that it was written to encourage Christians to be faithful while facing persecution – you will find that the passage is much easier to grasp and apply.  The Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation while exiled on the island of Patmos.  While being persecuted by the rulers of this world, John was comforted by a vision of the King of Kings.  What has made the book so confusing for many people is that they have been told that Revelation is primarily a series of predictions about events that are going to happen in our future. This is wrong on two counts.  First, Jesus explicitly says that the revelation concerns “things that must soon take place (1:1)” and that “the time is at hand (1:3)”.  The book’s original audience was the church in the first century and it primarily reveals what the LORD will do on their behalf.  Secondly, the ultimate encouragement from the book comes not from decoding what event each vision corresponds to, but from its portrait of Jesus Christ as “the ruler of the kings of the earth (1:5)” who fully vindicates His own people.  According to verses 5-6, why can we be confident that Jesus will protect and vindicate us? Another common misunderstanding of the book of Revelation is that it predicts a future tribulation (it is true that there will always be tribulations for Christians prior to Christ’s return), but notice that in verse 9 the Apostle John says that he is in the tribulation.  As you meditate upon the extraordinary portrait of Jesus presented in verses 12-20, remember that Jesus is also presented as the One who is dwelling with His churches.  For all who are His disciples, this awesome King of Kings is our Good Shepherd. Read or sing Hymn 317 “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD is your Shepherd.

Friday (4/11) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 17:31-40.  Richard Phillips writes:

If the battle is the LORD’s, what are the weapons with which God would have His people step forward into battle? The apostle Paul answered, pointing to the Word of God: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every loft opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Coupled with God’s Word is the power of prayer. Paul writes of spiritual warfare: “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph. 6:17-18).

This is precisely how God’s champions have shaken the world and cast down strongholds in generations past. John Calvin stood in Geneva’s pulpit with a Bible alone, and God raised up a new Jerusalem for the Reformation. John Knox prayed, and Mary, Queen of Scots, trembled. William Wilberforce stood fast on biblical truth before the assembled powers of political calculations and commerce, and God used him to beak the slave trade in England. Like the heroes who have gone before us, and like David departing from Saul to face giant Goliath, our great need today is simply faith: faith in God’s Word, faith in God’s grace to answer prayer, faith in God’s power to uphold His people and preserve the honor of His name, and faith that the battle belongs to the Lord and must be fought with His weapons.

Prayer: Please lift up the women’s retreat for the women of our Presbytery which is taking place this weekend.

Saturday (4/12) Read and discuss Matthew 21:1-11. The air was electric. Vast crowds were making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar. There would be family reunions, there would be feasting, but most importantly there would be the celebration of the Exodus. If past is prologue, the celebration of the LORD’s mighty deliverance of Israel out Egypt – the greatest empire of its day – naturally turned Jewish hearts to long for national deliverance from their Roman overlords. How long would they have to wait? When would the Kingdom of God truly come? Some of the pilgrims thought they had a candidate in mind.  “You don’t spread cloaks on the road – especially in the dusty, stony Middle East! – for a friend, or even a respected senior member of your family. You do it for royalty (N.T. Wright).” Suddenly people start shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna” is a prayer to God meaning “save us” – but it had through use also taken on overtones of praise. As Jesus prepares to enter Jerusalem the crowd treats Him like Israel’s true king who is about to deliver them. Could it be that many would recognize Jesus for who He really was? Sadly this turns out to be nothing more than a moment of enthusiasm without any real substance. By the time Jesus arrives at the Temple He seems to be either alone or simply with His closest Disciples. The shouts of adoration quickly faded and within a week the crowd would be shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” This is the way that it has always been with those who have not yet received new life from God. On the one hand, everyone is happy to celebrate a “messiah” who will bless their agenda. After all, who doesn’t want to be delivered from bad health, financial woes, or eternal punishment? But what happens when people discover that, instead of blessing our agendas, Christ calls us to adopt His agenda? The fickleness of the crowds reminds us not to confuse religious enthusiasm with true faith – even if the enthusiasm is ours. Read or Sing Hymn 429 “Let Thy Blood in Mercy Poured” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 6 April 2014 Sunday, Mar 30 2014 

MVOPC 6 April 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise”

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: Micah 17:18-20

Old Covenant Reading: Genesis 29:1-30

New Covenant Reading: 1 Corinthians 5:1-11

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

Sermon Text: Leviticus 18:1-30

Sermon: God and Family

Hymn of Response:  115 “All Creatures of Our God and King”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 441 “Jesus Shall Reign”

PM Worship:1 Samuel 17:1-30 – Courage is a Virtue

Adult Sunday School: The Lost World of Genesis One

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #41

Q. 41. Why was our mediator called Jesus?
A. Our mediator was called Jesus, because he saveth his people from their sins.

Monday (3/31) Read and discuss Leviticus 18:1-30. We don’t want to miss the forest for the trees. A superficial reading of this chapter could make it sound like a somewhat tyrannical and nit-picky deity is simply throwing his weight around by giving detailed regulations regarding sexual relationships. But that isn’t what the LORD is like at all. Derek Tidball explains:

The call begins as God reminds his people who he is, using the words, ‘I am the LORD your God.’ The phrase, or its shorter version, ‘I am the LORD’, reads to us as if God is asserting his authority right at the start and, given that the phrase is repeated a further five times in the chapter (4, 5, 6, 21, 30), doing so in a heavy-handed manner. It sounds as if he is saying, ‘I’m the boss; do what I say, or else …’ But that is not the intent of these words. In addressing his people like this, God is using his personal name and speaking with them out of a committed and intimate relationship. He is using the name that is associated primarily with his promise to deliver Israel from Egypt. It communicates not so much his authority and right to command, as his ‘incomprehensible grace’. He is the God who is faithful to his promises. The title is closely tied to his action in saving his people in the exodus. Beyond that, as Wenham notes, the name is mostly used when Israel is invited to imitate her God, a God who in his very essence is holy.

Here, then, God is using a name that would remind them of the great things he had done for them and the close binding relationship they had entered into in the covenant. It was not a name to crush them by the assertion of overwhelming authority but a name to uplift them by the recollection of overwhelming grace. The same name is used in Exodus 20:2, at the head of the Ten Commandments. His words are not laws to be grudgingly obeyed because God has imposed them on his reluctant people, but principles to live by as a response to God’s saving action in their lives, in the knowledge that obeying them will lead to a fuller and more wholesome way of life.

First, then, in the giving of these regulations about sexual practices, there is a call to Israel to be loyal to the gracious God who set them free, by being like him.

Read or sing Hymn: 345 “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken” Prayer: Please lift up those who are suffering with the loss of loved ones.

Tuesday (4/1) Read and discuss Leviticus 17:1-16.  One of the central truths of the Bible is that while grace is free to us it is unfathomably costly to God. While struggling to understand the details of the saying in verse 11 that “the life of a creature is in the blood” we can fail to notice the emphasis of the words that follow: “I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves.” As Derek Tidball puts it:

“God does not require from us what we cannot give, but graciously overcomes our poverty and spares our lives by providing an alternative sacrifice in our place. He did it for Abraham on Mount Moriah, when a ram was provided in place of Isaac.  … As a result, Abraham renamed the place “The LORD will Provide.” And He provided for us, at the same location, centuries later, when He supplied His own Son as the ultimate sacrifice of atonement.”

Significantly, verse 11 gives one of the central reasons why we are to be respectful of the blood of animals. It is precisely because their spilled blood in the sacrificial system pointed forward to Christ giving Himself up for us on the cross. If we treat the former casually we may be prone to treat the latter casually as well. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would cause His name to be hallowed in your home, in your school or workplace, and in the community in which you live.

Wednesday (4/2) Read and discuss Malachi 2:10-16.  It is easy when living in a culture where courts and legislative bodies are radically redefining marriage to forget this basic truth: Marriage comes from God. Walter Maier comments:

Because marriage comes from God above and not from man or beast below, it involves moral, not merely physical problems. A sin against the commandment of purity is a sin against God, not simply the outraging of convention, the thoughtlessness of youth, the evidence of bad taste. The Savior tells us that, when God’s children are joined in wedlock, they are united by God, and beneath he evident strength and courage and love that this divine direction promises there is a penetrating, ominous warning. Those who tamper with God’s institution have lighted the fuse to the explosive of retributive justice. Marriage is so holy that of all social sins its violation invokes the most appalling consequences. Sodom and Gomorrah were burned out of existence because of the vile disregard of the holiness of marriage. David’s rule over Israel was blackened by his marital follies and by the royal lust that forgot God and dedicated itself to raging passion.

Read or sing Hymn 582 “My Hope Is Built” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would strengthen the families within our congregation.

Thursday (4/3) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 5:1-11. Who you think you are will radically impact how you choose to live. Paul begins today’s passage with the startling accusation “that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.” One striking aspect of this charge is that the word translated “pagans” literally simply means “gentiles”. In this deft way Paul is reminding the Corinthians that, in one sense, they are no longer gentiles. They have been cut out of the pagan nations and grafted into the Israel of God. They have been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son – and so are all who have put their trust in Jesus. The astonishing new status of Christians as God’s own treasured possession ought to radically alter the way that we live. This is why Paul drives home his point using an image drawn from the Passover. Just as the first Passover marked out the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross marks out our deliverance from this fallen world. We are therefore to celebrate (keep the feast) in sincerity and truth. There is one other aspect of who we are that we shouldn’t miss in this passage. We are vulnerable. Although redeemed, we are still sinners in a fallen world. One key reality of our life together as a church is that fellowship with other Christians who are pursuing to walk in the paths of righteousness strengthens each of us in our own walk with the LORD. On the other hand, to engage in close fellowship with those who are brazenly trampling the blood of Christ underfoot by defiantly living in sin is very likely to corrupt the entire church family. If someone came into our church, or into the school of your children, with a highly contagious and destructive disease you would insist on separation. Sin that is being flaunted rather than mortified is like that. For both the good of the sinner and the good of the whole church such sin must be dealt with. Read or sing Hymn 644 “May the Mind of Christ My Savior” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would bring visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Friday (4/4) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 17:1-30. Robert Chisholm writes:

David’s faith is exemplary. In the face of a physically imposing, seemingly invincible enemy, he refuses to focus on what he hears and sees on the battlefield. He places his faith in the living God, who has proved himself trustworthy in David’s experience. As frail human beings, who are so easily influenced by our physical senses, we are prone to let the challenges of the present swallow up what we have learned in the past and paralyze us. David’s faith does not allow this to happen. He remembers how God has delivered him from powerful predators, and he is convinced in the past will be repeated in the present. David is obviously skilled with the weapons of a shepherd, including the deadly sling. But he does not brag about those skills and place false confidence in them. He realizes that it is the Lord who empowers him for battle and gives him the nerve and presence of mind to use his training and weapons effectively. For David, the LORD is worthy of complete trust, for he is the living, active God, who determines the outcomes of battles and gives his people victory and salvation. In teaching this passage, we should follow David’s lead and highlight the LORD’s power rather than David’s heroism or skill.

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would decrease the extent that you place trust in yourself and increase the trust that you place in Jesus Christ.

Saturday (4/5) Read and discuss Leviticus 18:1-30. John Kleinig writes:

The laws in Leviticus 18 affirm the sexual integrity of the families of God’s people, with the sexual union between husband and wife at its core. They protect the natural flow of life through the family from generation to generation. While these laws were given to OT Israel, they express God’s will for all peoples in all times and places. God punished the Canaanites, for example, for indulging in the sexual sins prohibited here. The prohibitions against incest, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality continue to apply to God’s NT people and indeed to all people.

Christ and his apostles reaffirm those laws and also reapply them to fit the life of the church, deepening them in keeping with the new situation created by the death and resurrection of Christ. Both Christ and his apostles presuppose that the new people of God will not live in the same way and follow the same sexual practices as the their pagan neighbors. In fact, the attitude of Christians toward sexuality distinguishes them as the holy people of God (1 Cor 6:14-20). Since they have been joined to Christ through the Word and Sacraments, they are members of Christ’s body. Their bodies are temples of the indwelling Holy Spirit now, and the same God who raised Jesus will raise their bodies on the Last Day. Sexual immorality does not just damage them physically, mentally, and socially, but it desecrates their holiness and defiles members that belong to Christ. “You were bought at a price; therefore glorify God with your body!” (1 Cor 6:20).

Read or Sing Hymn 649 “More Love to Thee, O Christ” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 30 March 2014 Sunday, Mar 23 2014 

MVOPC 30 March 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 345 “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken”

Confession of Sin

Eternal and Almighty Father, we acknowledge and confess before Your holy majesty, that we are poor sinners;  conceived and born in guilt and in corruption, prone to evil, unable of ourselves to do any good;  who, because of our depravity, transgress without end Your holy commandments.  Therefore we have drawn upon ourselves, by Your just sentence, condemnation and death.  But, O Lord, with heartfelt sorrow we repent and deplore our offenses!  We condemn ourselves and our evil ways, with true penitence beseeching that Your grace may relieve our distress.  Be pleased then to have compassion upon us, O most gracious God, Father of all mercies, for the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.  And, in removing our guilt and our pollution, grant us the daily increase of the grace of Your Holy Spirit;  that, acknowledging from our inmost hearts our own unrighteousness, we may be touched with sorrow that shall work true repentance;  and that Your Spirit, mortifying all sin within us, may produce the fruits of holiness and righteousness well-pleasing in Your sight;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Assurance of Pardon: Joel 2:12-13

Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 12:1-14

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 10:19-39

Hymn of Preparation: 582 “My Hope Is Built”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 17:1-16

Sermon: Respecting the Blood

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

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 649 “More Love to Thee, O Christ”

PM Worship: 1 Samuel 16:14-23 – The Valiant Singing Servant

Adult Sunday School: The Lost World of Genesis One

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #40

Q. 40. What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?
A. The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience was the moral law.

Monday (3/24) Read and discuss Leviticus 17:1-16. Today’s passage marks out a transition in the book of Leviticus. Derek Tidball comments:

Chapter 17 is a bridge. It connects the first part of Leviticus, which is mainly concerned with ritual matters, to the second part, mainly concerned with ethical matters. The former has to do with holiness within the sanctuary, and the latter with holiness outside the sanctuary. This chapter shares the earlier agenda and continues to show an interest in matters to do with sacrifice and with blood. But it begins to open the door to the sorts of issue that will increasingly occupy the attention of the chapters that follow, as for example, when it focuses on what the Israelites do in the open fields.

Chapters 17-26 are often referred to as ‘the Holiness Code’. Their central theme is found in 19:2: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.’ The absence of any specific language about holiness in chapter 17 has led some to deduce that it does not belong in the Holiness Code but should be seen as the conclusion of the section on matters of sacrifice and purity. But the absence of explicit vocabulary is unimportant where the implicit meaning is clearly about living a holy life.

Read or sing Hymn: 345 “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken” Prayer: Please pray for the seminary students at Westminster Seminary in California that they would pursue holiness with even more zeal than they pursue knowledge.

Tuesday (3/25) Read and discuss Leviticus 16:1-34.  Today’s passage is very theologically rich. Let’s narrow our focus to look only at the “scapegoat” that is led out into the wilderness:

  1. First, it is helpful to know that the word “Azazel” simply means “goat that is led out” or “goat that is sent out.” A bunch of odd interpretations have been given to this name, which we will be wise to avoid.
  2. Second, the High Priest confessed the sins of the people over this goat symbolically transferring the guilt of the people to the goat.
  3. Third, it is helpful to realize that the two goats function together with each telling part of the same story. The goat that is sacrificed gives us a picture of how atonement is made while the goat led out into the wilderness dramatizes the results of atonement having been made.
  4. Fourth, we can grasp this result by imagining a mother – let’s call her Elizabeth – holding the hand of her young son Joshua as he watches these events unfold. Joshua naturally flinched and drew back when the first goat was sacrificed. This was a bloody business. It was also an opportunity for Elizabeth to teach her son that the wages of sin are death and that God was sending a substitute to die in our place. She would then explain why the High Priest was confessing the sins of the people over the second goat. Perhaps their ensuing conversation would sound something like this:

JOSHUA: “Mama, why is that man leading the goat out of the Tent of Meeting?”

ELIZABETH: “Just watch.”

JOSHUA: “Mama, he’s taking the goat away. Where is he taking him?”

ELIZABETH: “Just keep watching. Can you see the goat?”

JOSHUA: (Standing on tip-toe). I can barely see him. … I’m not sure … Mama, I can’t see the goat anymore. Is he going to bring them back?”

ELIZABETH: No my son. That’s the whole point. God has removed our guilt from us and He will never hold it against us ever again. It’s gone!

Prayer: Give thanks that, “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.  (Psalm 103:12 NKJV).”

Wednesday (3/26) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 12:1-14. God’s chosen people are not to be like the nations the LORD was judging in the land of Canaan. Therefore they were to utterly destroy all the places where those nations had worshipped their idols. Furthermore, Israel was warned not to simply follow their imaginations in worship. They were not to be a people with “everyone doing what is right in his own eyes (v. 8).” For, to enter into God’s rest required trusting the LORD’s ways and worshipping Him as He had prescribed. It still does. Part of the plan for Israel was that corporate worship would be centralized once they had settled in the Promised Land. Gordon McConville observes:

In contrast to this false worship [of the Canaanites] the LORD had chosen a place at which His Name should be remembered. The place is not identified. Location itself is not important, but only that it is the LORD’s. In Israel’s history it would be a number of places in succession, especially Shiloh and Jerusalem.

The command to go to the place has in mind the regular worship of Israel. Verse 6 gives a list of sacrifices and offerings which will form part of that regular worship. The list here is not exhaustive, but a kind of summary of Israelite worship. The burnt offering was offered as a whole to the LORD on the altar; other kinds of sacrifice were largely consumed by worshipper and priest. The reasons for offering sacrifice might vary.

The dominant note in this worship is to be joy. Verse 7, in fact, offers insight into the vision of Deuteronomy: a united people rejoicing in worship in the presence of its one God [emphasis added].

In the New Covenant era the central sanctuary of the Church is where our High Priest reigns in heaven. We gather in individual congregations around the world united with our Head. Nevertheless, the description of worship found in today’s passage can rightly be ascribed to us: “a united people rejoicing in worship in the presence of its one God.” Read or sing Hymn 582 “My Hope Is Built” Prayer: Please pray for those who are suffering through personal loss that they would find comfort in Jesus.

Thursday (3/27) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:19-39. If we love someone, we warn them when they are in serious danger – even if that person doesn’t want to hear our warnings. Christ love His people with an everlasting love, and therefore the Bible is filled with warnings that are intended to guide us back to the narrow way which leads to eternal life. Verses 26-31 of today’s passage are among the sharpest warnings in the entire Bible. Knowing that they are warnings from the Shepherd who loves us, we ought to give them careful attention. Bruce Barton explains:

Those who reject Christ and deliberately continue to sin will receive a terrible punishment, worse than those who refused to follow the Old Covenant. Those who treated the Old Covenant in this way received physical death. Those who treat the New Covenant (and Christ) with contempt, however, will receive something far worse than physical death. Because the blessings under the New Covenant are greater, there awaits even greater punishment for those who scorn it. The book of Hebrews issues a strong warning and gives three specific indictments against these people. They have …

  1. trampled the Son of God. To refuse to accept the sacrifice of His life on our behalf is to show contempt and disdain for Christ. The word for “trample underfoot” is vivid and conveys strong antagonism. See Matthew 5:13 where salt that loses its flavor is “trampled underfoot.” The person who treats Christ’s death for sin as worthless deserves great punishment. This indictment is particularly strong because the book of Hebrews has built the case for the superiority of the Son of God.
  2. treated the blood of the covenant as if it were common and unholy (or “defiled”). The “blood of the covenant” refers to Christ’s blood and thus to His death. The importance of the blood has been established in previous verses, just as blood established the Old Covenant. To treat something holy as if it were defiled would have been seen as a terrible sin by these Jewish readers. Since blood ratified the covenant, to reject the consecrated blood of Christ was the ultimate rejection. The person who treats the holy blood of Christ as if it were common and unholy deserves great punishment!
  3. insulted and enraged the Holy Spirit (in other translations, “Spirit of grace”) who brings God’s mercy to His people. We read in 9:14, “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!” (NRSV). The sacrifice of Christ is tied with the Holy Spirit; therefore, to scorn Christ’s sacrifice is to insult and enrage the Holy Spirit. “Insult” and “enrage” are two words used to convey the meaning of one strong Greek word. To enrage the Holy Spirit means to reject Him arrogantly. He is the Spirit of grace; the Holy Spirit is a person, not just a force or influence. To reject Him is to cut off the means of God’s acceptance. This is equivalent to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 12:31-32). Deserving of great punishment is the person who insults the Holy Spirit who brings mercy!

Read or sing Hymn 644 “May the Mind of Christ My Savior” Prayer: Please pray for Pleasant Mountain OPC which is our mission work in Bridgton, Maine.

Friday (3/28) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 16:14-23. What a wonderful providence! David has been anointed to be Saul’s replacement and yet he has also been chosen to ease the king’s troubled spirit through his musical abilities. The latter service would have given David the opportunity to see how the monarchy under Saul functioned in an up-close and personal way. Undoubtedly these experiences would have been used by the LORD to help prepare David for the time when he would be king. Richard Phillips comments:

Remarkably, it was by Saul’s own command that the man anointed by God to replace him was brought to the royal court. Remember, things were happening for a reason! In Saul’s presence, David would be schooled in matters of state and have opportunities to reflect on the practice of leadership. The change of scenery must have been a major adjustment for young David, moving from the pastoral setting outside Bethlehem to the intense and spiritually challenged setting of Saul’s court. If the Psalms are any reflection, the experience deepened David’s faith and exposed him to the wide varieties of human experience, all of which may be brought before the LORD in prayer.

David’s job was to play the lyre when Saul was in an evil mood, and David performed this well: “Whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him” (1 Sam. 16:23). Saul could be truly restored only through repentance, but in the meantime, David’s ministry helped bring him a measure of calm to the king and to those who needed to interact with him.

Seeing firsthand the effects of Saul’s hardened heart toward the LORD must have made a great impression on David. Perhaps it was the warning received in these early days that made David so willing in later years to humble himself before the LORD and repent of his sins. David would learn what it meant to have God’s hand heavy upon him, with his spirit groaning day and night because of sin (Ps. 32:3-4). But David had learned what to do when this happened. He relates, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

Prayer: Give thanks for God’s sovereign providence by which He so wondrously carries out His plan for human history.

Saturday (3/29) Read and discuss Leviticus 17:1-16. Today’s passage breaks down into five paragraphs which all have something to say about blood. Let’s just look at the beginning of the chapter where the LORD forbids offering sacrifices away from the Tent of Meeting. Derek Tidball writes:

The first action that is forbidden is the slaughtering of any ox, lamb, or goat – domestic livestock that were the principal animals offered in the sacrifices – anywhere except in front of the tabernacle of the LORD (v. 4). The command is repeated twice in different forms, first in verses 1-7 and then again in verses 8-9. It is backed up by the most serious penalties invoked against those who contravened it: such people shall be considered guilty of bloodshed; they have shed blood and must be cut off from their people.

As we will see when we look at this passage in more detail on Sunday, the passage was not actually forbidding the butchering of animals in towns away from the Tent of Meeting. The term used for killing these animals (shahat) makes it much more likely that ritual killing was in view. That is, today’s passage is forbidding the offering up of sacrifices except for where the LORD would put His name and establish His altar. The right way to worship God was determined by the LORD Himself and not by the imaginations and desires of His creatures. Read or Sing Hymn 649 “More Love to Thee, O Christ” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 23 March 2014 Sunday, Mar 16 2014 

MVOPC 23 March 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

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: 1 John 2:1

Old Covenant Reading: Exodus 30:1-10

New Covenant Reading: Romans 3:21-31

Hymn of Preparation:  84 “Under the Care of My God, the Almighty”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 16:1-34

Sermon: The Day of Atonement

Hymn of Response: 693 “Blessed Assurance”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed, p. 846

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 420 “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing”

PM Worship: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 – Do You See What God Sees?

Adult Sunday School: Creation

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #39

Q. 39. What is the duty which God requireth of man?
A. The duty which God requireth of man is obedience to his revealed will.

Monday (3/17) Read and discuss Leviticus 16:1-34. The Day of Atonement is a very important part of the OT ceremonial law. It also touches on so many things that it can be difficult to get our arms wrapped around the chapter as a whole. When we grapple with passages like this, one of the most helpful things that we can do is to take out a pad of paper and simply outline the passage. When we do so we will end up with something like this:

A. Review of the death of Nadab and Abihu (v. 1).

B. Instructions for the High Priest’s preparation (vv. 2-10).

C. Description of wiping away impurity from …

    • … the Holy of Holies (vv. 11-15)
    • … the Holy Place (vv. 16-17)
    • … the courtyard (vv. 18-19)
    • … the community by means of the scapegoat (vv. 20-22)

D. Closing Rituals (vv. 23-28).

E. A lasting ordinance (vv. 29-34).

This outline helps us see the progression of cleansing that moves from the Holy of Holies outward until everyone in the camp of Israel has been cleansed. When we dive into the details of the chapter we can better see how those details fit into the big idea of the passage if we keep this outline in mind. Read or sing Hymn: 1 “All People That on Earth Do Dwell” Prayer: Please pray for the people of the Ukraine and that the LORD would grant wisdom to world leaders as they grapple with the challenges of this nation.

Tuesday (3/18) Read and discuss Leviticus 13:47-59.  What’s wrong with the world? That is an inevitable question that everyone must grapple with. Nobody wakes up in the morning and imagines that the world is perfect in every way. The pain of broken relationships, crime, poverty, and disease make it clear that something is terribly wrong with the world – but what exactly is it? The way we answer that question will have a profound impact on how we view the world and how we choose to live. This is an idea with very real-world consequences. Marxists have tended to answer this question by suggestion the chief problem with the world is the mal-distribution of wealth. A small group of people control the means of production and redistributing wealth will solve many of the world’s ills. Such an analysis turns out to be radically superficial. No society has ever overcome the biggest problems that we face simply be redistributing wealth and Marxism was used as an ideology to oppress half the world’s population. Eventually the nations which sought to build a worker’s paradise based on this solution to the world’s problems ended up having to build walls not to keep people out but to keep people in. Today’s passage points us in another direction. It makes clear that the problems in the world are not simply in our social structures but they run to and flow out of the core of our beings. We, as it were, leak uncleanness. Blood and semen both symbolize life. The chapter focuses on the reproductive organs which are not only very intimate to us – they symbolize the way the LORD brings new human life into the world – and today’s passage tells us that in the very discharge of semen or blood, related to our reproductive organs, the Ancient Jewish people would become unclean. Perhaps the most striking thing in today’s passage is to realize how frequently people would become ceremonially unclean. You can almost imagine people saying: “I made it an entire week without becoming ceremonially unclean!” This is God’s design. He was making it clear to them and to us that sin and living in a world marked by the corrupting influences of sin is something that we should always keep in mind. It also reminds us that the solution to these problems is not going to come from us (How could it if we are unclean at the core of our beings) but it must come from outside of us. Thankfully, God has acted in Jesus Christ to bring about the salvation that we could never provide for ourselves. As sinners, our blood marks us out as unclean, but by His blood we have been washed whiter than snow. Prayer: Please pray for the members of New Covenant OPC as they continue to look for new churches to unite with.

Wednesday (3/19) Read and discuss Exodus 30:1-10. The smoke rising from the incense altar represented the prayers of the people to God. We can easily imagine that our prayers are always good and acceptable until we remember that they are the prayers of sinners. We therefore need for our prayers to be cleansed by the blood of Christ in order for them to be acceptable to God. Doug Stuart writes:

For this altar too a sin-removal ceremony was required, on the analogy of the sanctification of the bronze altar (29:36-37). It was done annually, by way of the blood from the Day of Atonement offering, the details of which are described in Lev. 16, where the cleansing of the incense altar is not specifically mentioned but is included in the overall description of using blood from a bull and a goat to “cleanse” the furniture of the tabernacle. The statement at the end of v. 10, “It [masculine singular] is most holy to the LORD,” refers in all likelihood to the incense altar itself (masculine singular0 rather than to the process of cleansing it annually since the process was simply the means to making and keeping the altar “most holy,” that is, fully belonging to God and fit for the use he prescribed for it.

Read or sing Hymn 84 “Under the Care of My God, the Almighty” Prayer: Please lift up the long-term unemployed in our county and ask that the LORD would open up opportunities for them to earn a living through the labor of their own hands.

Thursday (3/20) Read and discuss Romans 3:21-31. Today’s is one of the most important passages in the entire Bible. It is worthy of repeated meditation. C. Marvin Pate comments:

A number of theological truths confront us in Romans 3:21-26. First, God is just and justifier, holy and loving. The cross demonstrates this to be so. Second, God is fair: if all have sinned and fall short of his righteousness, then through faith in Jesus Christ all [all = all types, classes, and ethnicities] can be saved. As the old saying goes, “The ground at the foot of the cross is level.” Third, the major theological point that Paul makes here is that the promised restoration of Israel is now occurring in Christ. Various notions make that clear: God’s righteousness is his faithfulness to the covenant with Israel; redemption from exile and judgment is now available in Christ; the anticipation in the law and the prophets of Israel’s deliverance is here, and with it the new covenant. Yet Paul reveals some surprises regarding the restoration of Israel. He long-awaited new covenant means a break with the old covenant. The restoration of Israelis based on faith in Jesus Christ, not on the law of Moses and its sacrificial system. The restoration of Israel includes Gentiles; indeed, from Paul’s day until ours it is composed largely of Gentiles. Finally, Jews who do not believe in Christ remain under the judgment aspect of the righteousness of God.

Read or sing Hymn 693 “Blessed Assurance” Prayer: Ask the LORD that He would bring visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Friday (3/21) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Richard Phillips writes;

What is true of worship is true of life in general, that we must repent of the idolatry of “keeping up appearances.” How many people in our society place themselves deeply into debt simply so that their lifestyle may give the false appearance of affluence? How many worthless (or nearly so) products are dressed up before consumers with false and misleading advertisements? Of all the world’s many idolatries, few are greater than the idolatry of outward appearances. God’s people are called to repent of this way of thinking, which if allowed to persist may endanger our very souls. After all, it was the Pharisee in Christ’s parable who went home unjustified because he paraded his appearance of righteousness before the LORD, as if God could not see his unclean heart (Luke 18:11-14). Focusing on his outward appearance, he never sought the righteousness that comes only through faith in Christ.

More positively, we gain much instruction from young David’s anointing as Israel’s king. We do not know how much Samuel told David or his father on this occasion, but we do know that God had David anointed many years before he would actually take up the royal office. Why would the LORD do this? The best answer is that God knows that high callings require early preparation.

Prayer: Please pray for Carl Truman and the Theology Conference that begins this evening in Manchester, NH.

Saturday (3/22) Read and discuss Leviticus 16:1-34. The scapegoat points to Christ bearing our sins outside the camp. Philip Eveson writes:

The scapegoat ritual portrays in a vivid way the other aspect of this special sin offering. Taking the live goat, on whose head the high priest had placed his hands as he confessed ‘all the iniquities … all the transgressions … all their sins’ [and sending the goat out] to ‘an uninhabited land … in the wilderness’ pictures not only the transfer of sin to a substitute, but the removal of sin’s burden and guilt. ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us’ (Ps. 103:12).

Again, the law prepares us for Christ, who was led out of the city to the place of desolation where he experienced the curse of God for us. ‘He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us’ (2 Cor. 5:21). All the sins of his people were laid on Jesus and he took them away. John the Baptist rightly declared as he saw Jesus coming, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29).

Read or Sing Hymn 420 “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 16 March 2014 Sunday, Mar 9 2014 

MVOPC 16 March 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

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: Titus 2:11-14

Old Covenant Reading: 1 Samuel 21:1-6

New Covenant Reading: Mark 5:25-34

Hymn of Preparation:  32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

Sermon Text: Leviticus 15:1-33

Sermon: Leaking Impurity

Hymn of Response: 689 “Be Still, My Soul”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed, p. 846

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 688 “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!”

PM Worship: 1 Samuel 15:24-35 – Why Do the Righteous Weep?

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch: No Sunday School Today

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #38

Q. 38. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?
A. At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.

Monday (3/10) Read and discuss Leviticus 15:1-33. Many Jews would never find themselves unclean due to a skin disease, but all adults would have found themselves periodically unclean due to bodily emissions. Significantly, the person in such cases was not made unclean by outside influences but was being revealed as unclean from the inside out. This law pointed to the truth that we all need to be cleansed from our sin nature to dwell in the presence of a holy God. Philip Eveson writes:

By drawing attention to the uncleanness of genital emissions the law symbolically emphasizes that in the very procreation of life, human beings are impure. Sinners can only produce sinners. None of us is born neutral. Before we are sinners in action we are sinners in nature (Ps. 51:5). Purification from genital emissions first of all indicates the need for a washing that can deal with our sinful natures. The once common cleansing rite was the washing with water. Even in the case of normal sexual relationships bating in water was necessary. Our human natures are polluted and only the washing of regeneration can make us clean. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the inner cleansing takes place. For sinful actions or sins of omission we need the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from all sin.

Read or sing Hymn: 12 “Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim” Prayer: Please lift up the young adults in our congregation who are attending college or trying to get started in their careers.

Tuesday (3/11) Read and discuss Leviticus 14:33-57. Today’s passage reveals the LORD’s commitment to creating a clean home for His people that is entirely free from corruption. Thankfully, Israel’s failure was not the end of the story. God would redeem and restore creation. We see this when our Lord comes to His Father’s House and finds moneychangers treating the Temple as though it were an emporium. John’s account of the story goes like this:

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

But what exactly was Jesus doing? Was He, as it were, scraping the walls of the Temple clean in order to leave it standing? Or, was He enacting a parable of the coming destruction that the Temple would face? From His actions in driving the money-changers out of the Temple it is impossible to tell. But later He will make clear to His Disciples that not one stone of the Temple would be left upon another. Jesus was exercising His authority as High Priest and declaring that this corrupted House made out of vast stones would be torn down so that a new Temple made of living-stones could be raised up in its place.

It has been suggested, and I think rightly so, that Christ’s action in cleansing and then condemning the Temple are based on today’s passage in Leviticus chapter 14. What makes this comparison so striking is that the corruption of the Temple was not from the symbolic corruption of mold but the actual corruption of human beings who were so given over to greed that they defiled the courts of the LORD’s House for the sake of a few shekels of silver.

Here’s one intriguing twist on the story. It is possible, although not necessary, to understand that Jesus actually cleansed the Temple twice – Once at the beginning of His public ministry and once right before He was crucified. If that is the case, then the first cleansing would have been to see whether or not the corruption had grown back. The second time our Lord drove the money changers out of the Temple would have made clear that the Temple in Jerusalem had become intrinsically corrupt and needed to be destroyed. Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our church as they meet this evening.

Wednesday (3/12) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 21:1-6. Robert Chisholm writes:

According to priestly ritual, this “bread of the Presence” has been placed before the Lord, but it is then replaced with fresh bread on the Sabbath. Once the bread is removed from the Lord’s presence, the Aaronic priests are to eat it in a holy place. Since David is in a desperate situation, Ahimelek is willing to bend the rules, provided David and his men have kept themselves consecrated for battle by refraining from sexual contact with women.

This story contains two ideas that are rather strange to us. First, we may find it odd that the soldiers are to maintain themselves pure for battle when warfare is one of the lease pure things that men ever enter into. The reason was because the LORD fought for Israel. Since the LORD was going out to battle with the army the military camp would be treated like the Tent of Meeting. Second, how could relations with women have anything to do with being fit for battle? The answer is found in seeing the military camp like the Tent of Meeting. The issue was not morality, for the marriage bed is undefiled. The issue at stake was ceremonial purity and one of the things that made a person temporarily ceremonially unclean was the discharge of bodily fluids. So, by maintaining their ceremonial cleanliness for battle, David’s men would also be ceremonially clean and therefore able to eat the Bread of the Presence. Read or sing Hymn 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness” Prayer: Please continue to lift up the people of the Ukraine as their nation is on the brink of a fresh crisis.

Thursday (3/13) Read and discuss Mark 5:21-43. Scholars call passages such as this one Markan sandwiches.  Mark frequently begins a story, interrupts it with another story, and then completes the original story.  The two narratives are then to be interpreted in light of each other. Today we will be looking at the inside of the sandwich – the woman suffering with physical illness for 12 years.  One twentieth century Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, made quite a name for himself by distinguishing between I-It and I-Thou relationships.  An I-It relationship is the kind of relationship that you have with your computer or your car.  These things exist to be used by you.  There is nothing wrong with I-It relationships, but you wouldn’t want to have one with your children, parents, or spouse.  One of the terrible things that has happened in Western materialistic cultures is that we are prone to turn person to person (I-Thou) relationships into I-It relationships. Now, it is certainly possible that this desperate woman in our passage would have been quite happy to have an I-It relationship with Jesus if that resulted in her being healed. But Jesus isn’t happy with that sort of relationship. Jesus doesn’t want to simply be the hidden source of great things in our lives; He wants to have a vital relationship with His people.  This leads to something that can easily be misunderstood: Why does Jesus ask, “Who touched Me?” We should not jump to the conclusion that Jesus was startled by something and didn’t know what was happening.  Jesus, like His Father, often asked questions for other reasons.  For example, when God asks “Adam where are you?” it isn’t as though God had suddenly lost track of Adam and Eve’s location.  Furthermore, even if Jesus didn’t know exactly what had happened, He could have simply smiled to Himself and thanked His Father for healing whoever had touched Him – but then the healed woman would have remained in an I-It relationship with Jesus.  Christ asks this question to bring the woman into a face-to-face personal relationship with Him. In the Kingdom of God, miracles are never an end in themselves. They are a means of revealing who God is so that we will enter into a personal relationship with Him so that we will learn to trust Him more and more.  So Jesus does not address her as His patient but tenderly as daughter – with the affirmation that her trust in Him had saved her. Read or sing Hymn 689 “Be Still, My Soul” Prayer: Give thanks that the Living God desires to have a personal relationship with you.

Friday (3/14) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 15:24-35. Today’s passage once again reveals that while Saul is religious the goal of his religion is not to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. When Nathan confronts King David with his sin David repents and writes Psalm 51. When Samuel confronts Saul with God’s judgment upon his sin Saul shows that he is committed to the outward appearance of godliness while denying its reality. Richard Phillips puts it like this:

Saul responded to this news in characteristically worldly fashion: “Then he said, ‘I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may bow before the LORD your God’” (1 Sam. 15:30). Knowing nothing of God’s grace, Saul sought only to shore up his public appearance. Samuel relented at this plea, either because he had compassion on wretched Saul or else because he had been concerned for the power vacuum that might occur if Saul were deposed before the new king was revealed.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you a tender heart that would be quick to repent of sin.

Saturday (3/15) Read and discuss Leviticus 15:1-33. John Currid writes:

Two biblical stories in particular reflect the teaching of Leviticus 15. The first is found in Genesis 31:33-35, in which Laban is searching for his stolen gods in Rachel’s tent. Rachel has taken them, and she has hidden them beneath a saddle upon which she is sitting. She says to Laban that she cannot rise because she is in the way of women, a common epithet for menstruation. According to ancient Near-Eastern law … Rachel is unclean. Laban, of course, would not touch the saddle on which she is sitting because the impurity would be transferred to him. The great irony is that Laban, the great deceiver, is being deceived by his own daughter.

The second story concerns a woman who has a long-term severe hemorrhage. It is found in three Gospels (Matt. 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48). This woman has had a flow of blood for twelve years and, thus, she has been cloistered from the temple worship for those many years – she has not been able to rid herself of the disease or the ritual uncleanness that goes with it. She has visited many doctors and spent all the money that she had for a cure. It is not by her own power or her own activity that she is healed, but only by the power of Christ.

Read or Sing Hymn 688 “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 9 March 2014 Sunday, Mar 2 2014 

MVOPC 9 March 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 66:1-4

Opening Hymn: 44 “How Great Thou Art”

Confession of Sin

O great and everlasting God, Who dwells in unapproachable light, Who searches and knows the thoughts and intentions of the heart;  We confess that we have not loved You with all our heart, nor with all our soul, nor with all our mind, nor with all our strength;  Nor our neighbors as ourselves.  We have loved what we ought not to have loved;  We have coveted what is not ours;  We have not been content with Your provisions for us.  We have complained in our hearts about our family, about our friends, about our health, about our occupations, about Your church, and about our trials.  We have sought our security in those things which perish, rather than in You, the Everlasting God.  Chasten, cleanse, and forgive us, through Jesus Christ, who is able for all time to save us who approach You through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for us.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 103:8-10

Old Covenant Reading:  Psalm 84:1-12

New Covenant Reading: Mark 2:13-17

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

Sermon Text: Leviticus 14:33-57

Sermon: There is No Place Like (a clean) Home

Hymn of Response: 460 “Amazing Grace”

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 172 “Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder”

PM Worship: 1 Samuel 14:47-15:23 – Better than Sacrifice

Adult Sunday School: Creation: Part II

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #37

Q. 37. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A. The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.

Monday (3/3) Read and discuss Leviticus 14:33-57. Philip Eveson writes:

Just as ‘leprosy’ in humans is a pointer to the sad effects of sin in spoiling our lives and separating us from God and others, so ‘leprosy’ in houses is a reminder of the way human sin has led to a disfigured and distorted creation. The creation ‘was subjected to futility’ and under ‘the bondage of corruption’ (Rom. 8:20-22). Not only do we humans need rescuing, the very creation needs releasing from the effects of sin and God’s judgment.

Just as the purification ritual for the cleansing of a house and its ‘atonement’ is similar to the ritual for healed humans to be brought back into the holy community, so the atoning death of Christ is effective not only for believing sinners to be members of God’s heavenly city, but for the very creation itself to be reconstituted so that God may be as much at home on the earth as in heaven. By his cross, Jesus has reconciled all things to himself. Our Lord died to bring about a new heaven and earth. As we are delivered from the bondage of corruption. Believers groan, eagerly awaiting the redemption of the body, and the creation also groans, looking with keen expectation for the new creation.

Read or sing Hymn: 44 “How Great Thou Art” Prayer: Please pray for the people of the Ukraine as Russian troops occupy the eastern part of their country.

Tuesday (3/4) Read and discuss Leviticus 14:1-32.  It is a painful thing to be left on the outside looking in on the group that you want to be a part of. Exclusion from the group is particularly meaningful when that group is the family of God. Up until the coming of Christ this was the position of all Gentiles by birth. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians chapter 2:

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called  the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands – remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

You were alienated and hopeless, but in Christ Jesus you have been called, cleansed, and commissioned to serve the Living God. That’s what today’s passage is all about. We begin with the leper who has been excluded from the camp of Israel and cut off from access to the Tabernacle where the LORD had set His special presence. There was nothing that he or she could do to restore this broken relation with God unless the LORD acted. Significantly, the priest had to come to the cleansed leper outside the camp just as Christ left the true sanctuary in heaven to live with sinners in order to redeem us and to call us into His Kingdom. The ceremony with the two birds reminds us that our life (symbolized by the bird which is dipped in the blood of the other and set free) is dependent upon the death of another. Interestingly, this cleansing right is followed by a seven day ceremony that is analogous to the ordaining of priests. We are not cleansed merely to keep us from going to hell. We are commissioned to represent Christ in this world and to work for the praise of His glory and the discipling of the nations. Prayer: Give thanks that you have been cleansed by the grace of God in Christ and ask that the LORD would make you more diligent as a disciple.

Wednesday (3/5) Read and discuss Psalm 84:1-12. Psalm 84 can be outlined in four movements:

  1. Verses 1-4: Longing for the Courts of the LORD
  2. Verses 5-7: The Blessings of Pilgrims Who are Away from these Courts
  3. Verse 8: Prayer for God’s Blessing on the King
  4. Verses 9-12: Longing for the Courts of the LORD

As the conclusion of the Psalm makes clear, the psalmist’s longing for the Courts of the LORD is actually a longing for the LORD Himself. “He longs for God, because God alone can give His people favor and honor (Willem Van Gemeren).” The psalm gives voice to our desire for enjoying the LORD’s presence, shelter, beauty, and grace. It expresses our spiritual longing using moving physical metaphors. As we read in verse 2: “My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.” C.S. Lewis nicely reflects this desire when he writes:

I have rather – though the expression may seem harsh to some – called this the ‘appetite for God’ than ‘the love of God.’ The ‘love of God’ too easily suggests the word ‘spiritual’ in all those negative or restrictive senses which it has unhappily acquired. … [The appetite for God] has all the cheerful spontaneity of a natural, even a physical desire.

We can be grateful that the psalmist included verses 5-7 lest we would simply bemoan the fact that we are not currently home in the LORD’s Courts. There is strength for us on the pilgrimage. While not yet dwelling with unceasing joy in God’s presence we do enjoy His refreshing grace on our journey so long as we remember that it is a pilgrimage. Being on a pilgrimage is not simply a matter of being away from God’s Courts – it is about heading towards God’s Courts while on His mission. We are on a pilgrimage in the spirit of Hebrews 11:14-16:

For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.  15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.  16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Read or sing Hymn 457 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” Prayer: Give thanks for the LORD’s presence in your daily life.

Thursday (3/6) Read and discuss Mark 2:13-17. It is helpful to read this passage in light of the broader ministry of Jesus as the Messiah.  The passage begins with Jesus’ teaching and preaching.  We know that His teaching centered on the coming of the Kingdom of God and what that meant.  Recently, He had preached the Sermon on the Mount.  One of the obvious questions to ask is: “Who had the Messiah come to call into His kingdom?”  The startling answer that Jesus gives in this passage is that He came to call horrible sinners like Levi.  Keep in mind that Levi really was a scoundrel.  Jesus didn’t come announcing that Levi was acceptable just as he was.  Jesus came and called Levi to repent and follow Him.  What was the response? The Gospel according to Luke tells us that Levi left everything and followed Jesus (Luke 5:28).  It is worth noting that Levi was also called Matthew.  He became one of Jesus’ Apostles.  By very good tradition, he also became the author of the Gospel According to Matthew and a missionary to India. This passage challenges us in at least two ways: (1) First, it challenges us in terms of our ministry to others.  When we look at sinners in the world, those whom we would not like to spend time with, we need to remember that Jesus called precisely such people to repent and become His followers.  So should we. (2) Second, like the Pharisees, we need to acknowledge that we too are in need of the Great Physician.  The good news is that Jesus came to save sinners like us. What a Friend we have in Jesus! Read or sing Hymn 460 “Amazing Grace” Prayer: Please pray that the LORD would lead visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by becoming part of our church family.

Friday (3/7) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 14:47-15:23. Richard Phillips writes:

Saul’s defense of his actions reminds us that obedience to God requires unpopular actions. When Samuel pointed out the bleating of sheep and the lowing of oxen, Saul replied, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.” Notice how Saul speaks “of the people” and “they” when it comes to disobedience, but when it comes to obedience, the terminology suddenly becomes inclusive: “we”! In this way, Saul argues that he had devoted most of the Amalekite possessions, except those that the people thought should be kept for themselves, which happened to be “the best of the sheep and of the oxen. “ In a suspicious explanation, Soul piously adds that they were spared so as to be offered as a sacrifice to the LORD.

Saul’s behavior reminds us that spiritual leaders who would seek God’s blessing must be willing to obey the Bible’s commands even when they are unpopular. Paul exhorted Timothy that along with false teachers and imposters, the church will be plagued with people who “will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Timothy should nonetheless “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed” and faithfully “preach the word.” An example to avoid was given by Aaron, Moses’ brother and Israel’s first high priest, when he presided over the making and worship of the golden calf. When Moses returned from the mountaintop, livid, Aaron provided an immortal and perennial explanation for leadership failure: “You know the people, that they are sent on evil” (Ex. 32:22).

Saul was cut from the same cloth as Aaron and many other failed leaders who did not obey the LORD because they feared the scorn of the people. Saul would have honored God in obedience only if he had forbidden the people to take the Amalekites’ sheep and oxen and insisted that all things be done in accordance with God’s actual commands. The same is true of pastors, parents, and individual Christians today, who honor God truly when they insist that all things be done in accordance with God’s clear commands in the Bible.

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would work the obedience of faith more deeply into the warp and woof of your life.

Saturday (3/8) Read and discuss Leviticus 14:33-57. John D. Currid writes:

Again, we are reminded that holiness means wholeness. Thus, if a house is disfigured because it has fungus, then it is considered unclean and impure. The Hebrews are reminded of holiness even in their houses, and they are set apart by the buildings in which they live.

Derrett suggests that Jesus’ cleansing of the temple may be analogically based on Leviticus 14 and the cleansing of an unclean house. Jesus calls the temple the ‘house of God’ in each of the cleansing passages in the Gospels. He prophesies that the house will be torn down. He empties the temple of impurity and uncleanness by driving out the money changers. And, finally, it is clear that the house cannot be salvaged and thus, ti will be taken down stone by stone.

Read or Sing Hymn 172 “Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 2 March 2014 Sunday, Feb 23 2014 

MVOPC 2 March 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”

Confession of Sin

Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men;  We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have  committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against Your Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly Your wrath and indignation against us.  We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings;  The remembrance of them is grievous unto us;  The burden of them is intolerable.  Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;  For Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past;  And grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please You in newness of life, To the honour and glory of Your name;  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.                                                

Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 10:19-22

Old Covenant Reading: 2 Kings 5:1-14

New Covenant Reading: Luke 17:11-19

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

Sermon Text: Leviticus 14:1-32

Sermon: Restoring the Outcasts

Hymn of Response: 648 “My Jesus, I Love Thee”

Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 688 “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!”

PM Worship: 1 Samuel 14:24-46 – A Foolish Father

Adult Sunday School: Creation

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #37

Q. 37. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A. The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.

Monday (2/24) Read and discuss Leviticus 14:1-32. It may seem odd that the cleansed leper would need to shave off all of his hair. After all, hair was not intrinsically unclean. A little reflection will make clear that shaving off all the hair would reveal that the man or woman had been entirely cleansed. It was an act of transparency to make clear that there were no hidden sores or skin diseases under the hair. One suspects that it would have added to how memorable the rite of restoration was to both those who had been cleansed and to their family and friends. Derek Tidball writes:

Once the initial ceremonies were over, the person to be cleansed is permitted back into the camp but is still not ready to resume a normal place within it; only a partial resumption of relationships is permitted to start with. For seven days persons in this condition must stay outside their tent. After a week they were required to shave off any … hair, bathe their bodies and launder their clothes. The act of shaving would ensure that no possible remaining sore or skin irritation could be hidden from anyone: it was an act of transparency. The bathing spoke of washing away the past with its scars and regrets, and of the cleansing of any lingering dirt brought in from outside the camp. The risk of contaminating one’s family and spreading disease needed to be avoided at all costs. The seven days – the time taken to create the world and inaugurate the priesthood of Aaron – indicated that what was happening was, in truth, a further act of creation. The healed person was being reborn.

Read or sing Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Please pray for the people of the Ukraine as their nation teeters on the verge of chaos and violence.

Tuesday (2/25) Read and discuss Leviticus 13:47-59.  The point of pure clothing becomes obvious once we understand the way clothing functioned symbolically in Israel. The three chief things clothing symbolized were (1) First, he covering of our nakedness and shame. This is not simply about our physical nakedness but our vulnerability and guilt before God until He covers us; (2) Second, clothing could serve as a sign of authority or a sign of the right to inherit as the firstborn son; and (3) Third, clothing could symbolize our acceptance with God. Let’s look at this function use our Lord’s parable from Matthew chapter 22:

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The point of this parable is clear: It is not enough to appear like you are a follower of Jesus. You must make every effort to be sure that you have received Christ by faith and are clothed in His righteousness. Apart from this gift of clothing you can have no lasting place in the Kingdom of God. Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has clothed you in the righteousness of Jesus Christ guaranteeing that you will forever be acceptable in His beloved Son.

Wednesday (2/26) Read and discuss 2 Kings 5:1-14. Sometimes God’s grace comes to us in the most surprising ways. Consider Naaman. Before he was converted, Naaman could easily have imagined that he had risen up through the ranks on his own merits. Yet, the LORD was at work in all of this. Even after Naaman was already a general, the LORD elevated him in the eyes of Syria’s king by giving Naaman victory in battle over Israel. Second, God gave Naaman leprosy. This may seem more like a judgment than a gracious gift, but that just goes to show how surprising grace can be.  Naaman’s leprosy creates the felt need which leads him, not only to physical healing, but to a true relationship with the Living God.  One suspects that this happens far more often than is commonly realized.  Only eternity will reveal how many people visited a church because they were lonely, depressed, or in dire financial condition only to hear the gospel and be brought into God’s family. Third, God graciously arranged that the Jewish servant girl that Naaman captured would turn out to be one out of the tiny remnant of true believers within Israel. Furthermore, this young Jewish girl knew of Elisha and had the compassion and courage to urge her mistress to tell her husband that he could find grace with the Man of God who was in Samaria.  This passage reveals one more bit of grace in a most surprising package.  What would you be willing to give up if you knew that God was going to use that to lead the President of Iran or Saudi Arabia into a saving relationship with Jesus?  Surely, Syria successfully raiding Israel and taking a young girl captive was entirely bad news to the young girl – wasn’t it?  Yet through that very real human tragedy God was positioning her to be a key instrument by which He would show His saving grace to a Gentile military commander. Take a moment to consider some of the surprising ways in which God’s grace is coming to you – and through you.    Read or sing Hymn 455 “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” Prayer: Please pray for our nation’s leaders that they would seek to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with the Living God.

Thursday (2/27) Read and discuss Luke 17:11-19. William Hendricksen writes:

It is clear that Jesus was grieved because only one of the ten cleansed lepers returned to give praise to God. Think of it: only one out of ten, and that one not a Jews but a Samaritan! This shows that although the Jews, as a nation, had been blessed far above any other nation, yet here a group of Jews allow a Samaritan to surpass them in praising God and giving thanks.

There must have been an argument. It is hard to believe that without revealing his intentions the Samaritan had suddenly left the group to return to Jesus. The probability – almost certainty – is that he had urged the others to return with him. But no, they refused.

Yes, the refusal of nine pained Jesus. What is often overlooked is the humility revealed in his double question, “Were none found to return and give praise to God ….” He does not even add, “and to thank me.” He is deeply concerned about the fact that his Father in heaven did not receive the praise due to him. He says nothing about himself. …

Jesus, having received the offering of a thankful heart and thankful lips, dismisses the Samaritan with the familiar words – “Your faith has made you well.”

Read or sing Hymn 648 “My Jesus, I Love Thee” Prayer: Please pray for our Sunday school teachers as they help to teach our children the faith which has once and for all been delivered to the saints.

Friday (2/28) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 14:24-46. Religion and faithfulness are not necessarily the same things. An outside observer might note Saul’s ordering of a fast during battle and his building of an altar and conclude that he was a very religious king. Perhaps, but he wasn’t a faithful king. Rick Phillips comments:

One of the unintended evils of Saul’s foolish vow involved the sin of his famished soldiers in violating Israel’s food regulations. Despite their physical weakness, the Israelites had pursued the enemy from Michmash to Aijolon (1 Sam 14:31), a distance of twenty miles over rugged terrain. By the day’s end, the soldiers were so starved that they “pounced on the spoil and took sheep and oxen and calves and slaughtered them on the ground.” The problem was that they “ate them with the blood” (14:32). Because blood was a symbol of life, the Israelites were not permitted to eat meats that had not yet had the blood drained out of them (this was usually done by hanging the meats: see Lev. 19:26). …

Once again, Saul was  keen to make an impression by his outward show of religion. This was, as he saw it, a perfect opportunity to display his religious worthiness. Accordingly, when he was informed that “the people are sinning against the LORD by eating with the blood” (1 Sam 14:33), Saul responded with zeal. Scolding as “treacherous” the soldiers who had violated God’s law in sheer desperation because of Saul’s oath, the king immediately took charge. Every man was to “bring his ox or his sheep and slaughter them” on the great stone that Saul had rolled into their camp. “Do not sin against the LORD by eating with the blood,” he adjured them. Finally, after the fast had provoked the mess of his army’s sin against the LORD, Saul made proper mess facilities, “so every one of the people brought his ox with him that night and they slaughtered them there” (14:34).

Flush with this success in external religious observance, Saul “built and altar to the LORD,” presumably using the stone on which the animals had already been slaughtered. The text adds the suggestive note: “it was the first altar that he built to the LORD.” Henry offers the sage comment that “Saul was turning aside from God, and yet now he began to build altars, being most zealous (as many are) for the form of godliness when he was denying the power of it.” In all these actions, Saul showed no sign of penitence toward God, grieving over sin, or a real zeal in honoring the LORD. “He feels only that his own interests as king are imperiled. It is this selfish motive that makes him determine to be more religious.”

Prayer: Ask the LORD to search your heart and strip away religious hypocrisy that you would walk before Him with integrity and joy.

Saturday (3/1) Read and discuss Leviticus 14:1-32. One of the striking things about the ceremony for restoring healed lepers was the similarity between it and the ordination service for Aaron and his sons. Both took seven days and both involved putting the sacrificial blood on the right ear, the right thumb, and the big toe of the right foot. These similarities are not merely coincidental. Derek Tidball writes:

The ritual of anointing inevitably reminds one of the anointing of Aaron as high priest of Israel, by which he was consecrated to the LORD’s service; a similar purpose must be signified here. Ears, hands, and feet are dedicated anew to the Lord. Cleansed people are not only put back in a right standing with God, are not only purified from all sin and guilt, and do not only signal their confidence that God accepts them by their offering of voluntary sacrifices; they are also re-commissioned as servants of the LORD to fulfill an active role of obedience among God’s covenant people. The rites of purification, then, were not essentially about providing individuals with a sense that their sin was forgiven, or emotional reassurance, or even the experience of a personal audience with God, and more than our salvation in Christ is essentially about such subjective experiences. They were about restoring broken individuals to their place among those who were busy in the service of God. These rites took once wounded, now healed soldiers, re-commissioned them to active service, and sent them back to the front to engage once more in battle.

Read or Sing Hymn 688 “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 23 February 2014 Sunday, Feb 16 2014 

MVOPC 16 February 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 65 “Before Jehovah’s Awesome Throne”

Confession of Sin

Eternal and Almighty Father, we acknowledge and confess before Your holy majesty, that we are poor sinners;  conceived and born in guilt and in corruption, prone to evil, unable of ourselves to do any good;  who, because of our depravity, transgress without end Your holy commandments.  Therefore we have drawn upon ourselves, by Your just sentence, condemnation and death.  But, O Lord, with heartfelt sorrow we repent and deplore our offenses!  We condemn ourselves and our evil ways, with true penitence beseeching that Your grace may relieve our distress.  Be pleased then to have compassion upon us, O most gracious God, Father of all mercies, for the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.  And, in removing our guilt and our pollution, grant us the daily increase of the grace of Your Holy Spirit;  that, acknowledging from our inmost hearts our own unrighteousness, we may be touched with sorrow that shall work true repentance;  and that Your Spirit, mortifying all sin within us, may produce the fruits of holiness and righteousness well-pleasing in Your sight;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 86:5-7

Old Covenant Reading: Zechariah 3:1-10

New Covenant Reading: Revelation 3:1-6

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

Sermon Text: Leviticus 13:47-59

Sermon: Well Dressed?

Hymn of Response: 642 “Be Thou My Vision”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

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

PM Worship: 1 Samuel 14:1-23 – The Battle Belongs to the LORD

Adult Sunday School: The Work of Creation

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #35

Q. 35. What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

Monday (2/17) Read and discuss Leviticus 13:47-59. Clothing provides one of the most important types of symbolism used in the Bible. When Adam and Eve are naked and ashamed after sinning against the LORD, they try to cloth themselves with fig leaves but  the LORD mercifully clothes them with animal skins as a sign that He has taken away (or at least covered over) their reproach. Clothes can also be a sign of the right to inherit. When we look at the story of Joseph it is easy for modern Westerners to imagine that his “coat of many colors” was simply a sign of emotional favoritism by his father but it almost certainly meant more than that. The expression “many colors” comes from the ancient Greek translation the Septuagint but the Hebrew probably means “richly ornamented.” It is used elsewhere for designating royalty (e.g. princess Tamar in 2 Sam 13:18-19) and probably means that Jacob is placing Joseph in the pre-eminent spot among his sons to take over as head of the family when Jacob dies. In a similar manner, the LORD clothes His people by reckoning the perfect righteousness of Christ to us. This is described in the Bible as white clothing and symbolizes our right in Christ to inherit with Him. Clothing does more than make the man, it equips men and women for eternity with God. Read or sing Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Give thanks that we have been made heirs of the Kingdom of God entirely through His grace.

Tuesday (2/18) Read and discuss Hebrews 4:14-18.  You may work in a building or attend a school which has a painting hanging in the lobby. It is quite possible to walk past this painting hundreds of times without ever really noticing what the artist was attempting to convey. We can do this with Scripture too. Paradoxically, the more familiar a passage of Scripture sounds to us the more likely we are to let it wash over our ears without actually grasping what God is trying to teach us. One way to overcome this tendency is to pay extra attention to those words which organize the logical argument of the passage. Let’s see what happens when we do this with Hebrews 4:14-16:

SINCE

  1. We have a High Priest in heaven who is infinitely greater than Aaron; and
  2. Our sinless High Priest sympathizes with our weaknesses.

THEREFORE

  1. Let us hold firmly to the faith we profess; and
  2. Let us approach the throne of grace in confidence.

SO THAT

  1. We may receive mercy; and
  2. (We may) find grace in time of need.

Points 5 and 6 reflect our felt needs. We all know that we need mercy and grace. Points 3 and 4 tell us what we should do to obtain that mercy and grace. Points 1 and 2 tell us why we can have complete confidence that, if we respond to God’s initiative by doing points 3 and 4, we will receive these blessings from our gracious LORD. This leads to one very important conclusion: If we want to strengthen our faith and improve our prayer lives we should start by focusing on how great and sympathetic a High Priest we have in Jesus Christ our Lord. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would grant you greater boldness in prayer.

Wednesday (2/19) Read and discuss Zechariah 3:1-10. Today’s passage contains a beautiful message about the comfort Christians should gain from the Doctrine of Election. While amateur theologians often treat the Doctrine of Election as something to speculate about, that is not what the Bible in general, nor Zechariah 3 in particular, does with this truth. From today’s passage believers should see how the doctrine of election gives us confidence against the assaults of the world and Devil. The purposes of the Sovereign LORD will stand. A right understanding of the doctrine of election will also lead to humility and greater faithfulness rather than to presumption:

  1. Joshua had been a failure as a leader and none of us would have chosen him to run our organizations, let alone to be High Priest, yet God did choose him. We need to understand that God sometimes chooses not only people whom we wouldn’t, He chooses people whom we would openly reject. We need to remember that we are not the LORD, but fellow servants, and to be open to whatever instruments God chooses to sue for His purposes.
  2. The image of a brand being plucked out of the fire is an important one for the Christian to remember. We should never be proud of the fact that God chose us, because it was a shear act of mercy on His part. We need to remember that left to ourselves; we would rightly be consigned to the flames. The Biblical doctrine of election leads to humility and gratitude for God’s amazing grace.
  3. The doctrine of election taught in Zechariah chapter 3 reminds Christians that electing grace leads to greater faithfulness and not to complacency. The flow of ideas in Zechariah 3 is: Election (verse 2) => Cleansing/New Pure Vestments (vv. 4-5) => a Commission for Faithfulness (vv. 6-7). In the same way, when a Christian becomes aware that God has graciously chosen him or her, he or she should see that this leads to walking in paths of righteousness.

Read or sing Hymn 455 “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” Prayer: Pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq who continue to be persecuted for their faith.

Thursday (2/20) Read and discuss Revelation 3:1-6. One of the interesting features of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 is that those churches which appear the best are actually the worst and those which appear most miserable are actually the most faithful. The church in Sardis has a reputation for being filled with life. If you had asked people in ancient Asia Minor what a vital church looked like they would have pointed you to the church in Sardis. But Christ’s verdict is different. He bluntly declares, “but you are dead.” The lesson in this for us is clear. Will we seek to have our reputation enhanced before men or with our Savior? What was the church at Sardis to do? Jesus doesn’t call them to develop even more innovative programs He calls them to return to first things. They were to remember “what you received and heard.” That is, they are to return to trusting God for His gift and to focus on salvation being by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. Thankfully, there are still a few in Sardis who were believers but even they are warned to strengthen what little there remains of a true church. The warning of Christ coming like a thief in the night has sometimes been misunderstood to refer to His Second Coming, but is actually a warning about a specific judgment that He will come and bring on this local church. As Stephen Smalley observes:

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

Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t seem to be holding out hope for the church as a whole to repent. Instead He is calling individual Christians there to be an exception in the midst of a dying church. He promises them that they who go against the grain of their decaying local church will enjoy eternal life with Him. This reminds us that we do not need to run with the crowd – even when the crowd bears the name of the Christian Church. God grants us the grace to be an exception to our generation and to walk faithfully with Him if we will be trust Him and rely upon His grace. Read or sing Hymn 648 “My Jesus, I Love Thee” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters from New Covenant OPC in Newton as they seek to find new church homes.

Friday (2/21) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 14:1-23.  Jonathan was an extraordinary man. By God’s grace he was both faithful and a man of faith. In today’s passage he models both. Dale Ralph Davis writes:

Jonathan clearly indicates the basis of his [faith]. Faith arises in such a situation because it looks not to circumstances but to God. Note again his words: Clear conviction about God (“for nothing can keep Yahweh from saving”) produces great expectations of God (“perhaps Yahweh will act for us”) and recognizes God’s “normal” manner of working (“by many or by few,” i.e., through His servants). Jonathan is not trusting his own daring scheme. He does not say, “Perhaps Yahweh will act for us, we are rather clever.” If anything, his daring is an expression of his trust in Yahweh, a trust rooted in truth about Yahweh.

Yet the beauty of Jonathan’s faith is its imagination (“Come, let us go … perhaps Yahweh will act for us”); and the beauty of that imagination in its balance (“perhaps”). It is as Jonathan says, “God can do mighty works with very small resources, and God may be glad to do it in this case; and how can we know, dear armor-bearer, unless we place ourselves at his disposal?” How refreshing to hear Jonathan’s “Who knows” – who knows what Yahweh will do? There is no limit to how he can save! He has no need of at least six hundred trembling men!

And how refreshing to hear Jonathan’s “perhaps.” “Perhaps Yahweh will act for us.” Many in our own day think otherwise. They think that to say “perhaps” cuts the never of faith, that if faith is faith it must always be certain, dogmatic, and absolutely positive. Faith, however, must not be confused with arrogance. Jonathan’s “perhaps” is part of his faith. He both confesses the power of Yahweh and retains the freedom of Yahweh. Faith does not dictate to God, as if the LORD of Hosts is its errand boy. Faith recognizes its degree of ignorance and knows it has not read a transcript of the divine decrees for most situations. All this, however, does not cancel but enhances its excitement. Who knows what this omnipresent God may be delighted to do against these uncircumcised Philistines!

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would grant you greater boldness in sharing the gospel with non-Christians.

Saturday (2/22) Read and discuss Leviticus 13:47-59. On Monday we saw that clothing could function as a sign of inheritance. This meant, of course, that clothing corrupted by mold or diseases would function as a sign of disinheritance. On Wed, when we looked at Zechariah 3 we read:

Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.

What were these filthy garments? They were Joshua’s own thoughts and deeds. He was entirely unfit to stand before the LORD for himself, and particularly as the High Priest for the nation, clothed solely in His own righteousness. As Isaiah had already put it:

But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

Yet, the good news is that the LORD offers to exchange our garments. To remove our filthy rags to wear on His person so that we would be clothed in garments bleached white in His own blood. As we read in Revelation chapter 7:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Read or Sing Hymn 688 “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 16 February 2014 Sunday, Feb 9 2014 

MVOPC 16 February 2014

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 65 “Before Jehovah’s Awesome Throne”

Confession of Sin

Eternal and Almighty Father, we acknowledge and confess before Your holy majesty, that we are poor sinners;  conceived and born in guilt and in corruption, prone to evil, unable of ourselves to do any good;  who, because of our depravity, transgress without end Your holy commandments.  Therefore we have drawn upon ourselves, by Your just sentence, condemnation and death.  But, O Lord, with heartfelt sorrow we repent and deplore our offenses!  We condemn ourselves and our evil ways, with true penitence beseeching that Your grace may relieve our distress.  Be pleased then to have compassion upon us, O most gracious God, Father of all mercies, for the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.  And, in removing our guilt and our pollution, grant us the daily increase of the grace of Your Holy Spirit;  that, acknowledging from our inmost hearts our own unrighteousness, we may be touched with sorrow that shall work true repentance;  and that Your Spirit, mortifying all sin within us, may produce the fruits of holiness and righteousness well-pleasing in Your sight;  through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 86:5-7

Old Covenant Reading: Zechariah 3:1-10

New Covenant Reading: Revelation 3:1-6

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

Sermon Text: Leviticus 13:47-59

Sermon: Well Dressed?

Hymn of Response: 642 “Be Thou My Vision”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

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

PM Worship: 1 Samuel 13:1-23 – The King as Fool

Adult Sunday School: No Sunday School – Fellowship Lunch

Suggested Preparations

CATECHISM Q/A FOR THE WEEK: Shorter Catechism #34

Q. 34. What is adoption?
A. Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of, the sons of God.

Monday (2/10) Read and discuss Leviticus 13:47-59. Philip Eveson writes:

Why all this detailed legislation on what to a modern reader seems so pernickerty? The summary statement (13:50) provides the clue, along with all the other laws in this section (Lev. 11-15). The priests are instructed ‘to pronounce it clean or to pronounce it unclean’. As we saw earlier, their task is ‘to distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean’ (10:10). This entire chapter on ‘leprous’ conditions is about the priest declaring what is clean and what is unclean. It was on the basis of the symptoms that the person or material was declared clean or unclean. If the trouble appeared to be serious and long-lasting, causing the person or the material to appear abnormal and decayed, and if it was deep-seated, it was unclean because it was incompatible with life and with what was complete.

In Leviticus we are taught that holiness is associated with wholeness of life. Any visible permanent signs of degeneracy and abnormality were incompatible with the most wholesome, holy God, the author of life. They were clear physical indications of impurity. To preserve the holiness of the tabernacle that lay at the centre of the clean camp of Israel where the holy God ordained that he would be present with his people in a visible and felt way, it was necessary to remove from the camp those individuals and articles which were obviously and physically unwholesome, They spoiled the wholeness of the camp. These outward requirements reminded the people of what happened when the first human couple sinned and were removed from the paradise of God.

The legislation also taught the people the deep theological truth that only what is pure and wholesome can come near the presence of the pure and holy God. This part of God’s word speaks to us today, as we can sometimes become slack in our view of who God is and casual in our approach to him.

Read or sing Hymn: 65 “Before Jehovah’s Awesome Throne” Prayer: Please lift up those who work in the nursery of our congregation.

Tuesday (2/11) Read and discuss Leviticus 13:1-46.  Living in a fallen world is hard. We regularly face sickness, physical pain, broken relationships, and futility in our work. Worse, our sins have separated us from God and we all live under the just sentence of death. As Christians, we rightly focus on our guilt before our Holy King and the amazing grace of God in Christ who has taken our guilty upon Himself and washed us clean in His own blood. Nevertheless, it would be a significant mistake to reduce God’s plan of salvation simply to Christ taking our guilt away and reckoning His perfect record of obedience to us. Augustus Toplady was right when he wrote the first stanza of Rock of Ages:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee; let the water and the blood, from thy riven side which flowed, be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and pow’r.

In fact, we can go even farther than that. Christ’s work of salvation is designed not only to cleanse us from the guilty and power of sin, it is designed ultimately to remove the presence and the consequences of sin. Christ cares about your holiness and he also cares about your wholeness. What does this have to do with today’s passage? Everything! We should start by reminding ourselves that the categories of “clean” and “unclean” in the Pentateuch are not the same as “holy” and “unholy” or “righteous” and “sinful”. To be clean in the Pentateuch means that a person has a wholeness that is consistent with dwelling in God’s presence where there is life and joy. Thankfully, because of the finished work of Christ, we can confidently look forward to the day when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, when all our relationships will be wholesome and life affirming, when we will dwell in the presence of the LORD where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our church as it meets this evening.

Wednesday (2/12) Read and discuss Zechariah 3:1-10. Today’s passage is one of the most dramatic uses of unclean (“filthy garments”) and clean clothing (“pure vestments”) to symbolize spiritual truth in all the Bible. The vision of Zechariah 3 opens like a court scene with Satan as the prosecuting attorney. Satan is going to accuse Joshua of being unclean (unrighteous) and therefore unfit to represent God.  Ultimately Satan’s accusation is against God for choosing such a morally unfit people.  Does Satan have to make up charges against Joshua or can He simply state the facts? In verse 2, we have the LORD saying “the LORD rebuke you Satan”.  This is best understood as Jesus saying “the LORD (God the Father) rebuke you Satan”.  How does Jesus describe Joshua? Do you think of yourself as a brand plucked from the fire? Does the LORD say that He “loves Joshua just the way he is” or does He do something dramatic for Joshua (v. 4-5)? What does the LORD do for all the people at the end of verse 9? Read or sing Hymn 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has clothed us with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Thursday (2/13) Read and discuss Revelation 3:1-6. One of the great temptations we face as Christians is to substitute the appearance of walking with the LORD for the reality. The church in Sardis had a good reputation, but the One who walks in the midst of the candlesticks knows the full truth about them – and about us. He sees that the church in Sardis has fallen asleep in the light so He calls them to “Wake up!” Yet, Christ acknowledges that there are few in Sardis who remain faithful. These are described in language reminiscent of Leviticus 13 as those “who have not soiled their garments.” To them Jesus promises to clothe them in white and to confess them before His Father in heaven. The consequences are far too high for us to substitute the appearance of being Christ’s disciples for the reality of walking faithfully with Him. Read or sing Hymn 642 “Be Thou My Vision” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would send revival to New England and that he would bring about sound clear conversions among the unconverted ministers in our area.

Friday (2/14) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 13:1-23.  Richard Philips writes:

What exactly was Saul’s sin? The obvious answer was that he made the sacrifice without authority to do so. Only a properly ordained priest could offer the burnt offering that would secure God’s favor. But given the dire national circumstances that Saul was facing, is it possible that God would be more concerned with the proper ritual for the offering of his sacrifices than with Saul’s need to get moving with organizing the war? The answer is “Yes.” The sacrificial offerings of the priesthood were more important than the king’s pursuit of the war. What we do in worship reveals our beliefs about who God is and what he wants, so that our obedience in worship should receive priority in our lives. The sacrifices Saul desecrated were holy, and they dealt with holy things, such as God’s wrath against our sin and his atoning work in Christ for our forgiveness. Objectively, it was more important for God to be worshiped properly than for Israel to survive its war.

At the same time, Saul’s obedience to God’s command would have gained the help of the Almighty, who is more than able to defend his people against all enemies. Had not Samuel warned them, above all else, to fear the LORD (1 Samuel 12:24)? William Blaikie writes: “God was willing to defend and rule His people as of old, if only they had due regard to Him and His covenant.” This realization “should have made Saul doubly creful to act at this crisis in ever particular in the most rigid compliance with God’s will.”

Several aspects of Samuel’s rebuke apply to us. First, we notice that foolishness consists of violating the command of the LORD. The proverb states, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). Saul violated this very precept in making the offering violate the command of God. But it is never right to violate the command of God, who is sovereign over all circumstances and saves his people who trust in him. This applies to Christians today in matters such as child-raising, dating, marriage, and the use of time and money. Whereas our society encourages independence in children, the Bible commands obedience to parents. Whereas the world applauds sexual indulgence in dating, God requires purity and self-control. So it goes in virtually every other aspect of life. When secular ideas conflict with the teaching of God’s Word and especially with its clear commands, they are to be seen as dangerous folly. As Samuel said to Saul, so it could be said of us when our “wisdom” leads us to violate God’s Word: “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which he commanded you” (1 Sam. 13:13).

Prayer:  Ask the LORD to make your more responsive and obedient to His revealed will.

Saturday (2/15) Read and discuss Leviticus 13:47-59. John Currid writes:

The clothing that a person wore could keep him or her from access to the temple grounds, from the worship of God and from fellowship with others of the covenant people. Unclean things simply had no place in the religious ritual of the Hebrews. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that in the Scriptures clean and white clothes often signify purity. For example, in John’s vision of the heavenly tabernacle he sees seven angels come out of the sanctuary ‘clothed in linen, clean and bright’ (Rev. 15:6). He also sees the heavenly armies that follow Christ ‘clothed in fine linen, white and clean’ (Rev. 19:14). And how does one truly have white and clean clothing? Ironically, the person must be washed in the blood of the Lamb – it is he who makes us and our clothing clean.

Read or Sing Hymn 679 “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” Prayer: Please pray for tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

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