Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 23 April 2017 Sunday, Apr 16 2017 

MVOPC 23 April 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”

Confession of Sin

Most merciful God, Who are of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and hast promised forgiveness to all those who confess and forsake their sins;  We come before You with a humble sense of our own unworthiness, acknowledging our manifold transgressions of Your righteous laws.  But, O gracious Father, Who desires not the death of a sinner, look upon us, we beseech You, in mercy, and forgive us all our transgressions.  Make us deeply sensible of the great evil of them;  And work in us a hearty contrition;  That we may obtain forgiveness at Your hands, Who are ever ready to receive humble and penitent sinners; for the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, our only Saviour and Redeemer.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 6:23

Hymn of Preparation:  103 “Holy God, We Praise Your Name”

Old Covenant Reading: Ezekiel 36:22-32

New Covenant Reading: John 10:22-42

Sermon: My Sheep Hear My Voice

Hymn of Response: 131 “Children of  the Heavenly Father”

Confession of Faith:    Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Til He Come”!

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 41:1-36

NT: Luke 12:35-46

Blessed Servants

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #91

Q. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (4/17) Read and discuss John 10:22-42.  R.C. Sproul writes:

Here is a very simple illustration of a biblical concept. A strong father is walking with his three-year-old son besides a dangerous railroad track. There are two ways the father can protect the son. He can reach out his hand and say to the little boy, “Now listen, son, hold on tightly to my hand, because if you let go you could fall onto the tracks and be killed.” Of the father can say, “Son, give me your hand,” and he takes the boy’s hand and holds on to him. Thus, the father holds on to the son rather than the son holding on to the father. Which is the surer method?

Jesus said no one can snatch His sheep out of His hand. We are secure, not because we hold tightly to Jesus but because He holds tightly to us. Jesus said: “Every one of My sheep is going to have eternal life. They will never perish – I’m going to see to it. I give them eternal life. They will never perish – I’m going to see to it. I give them eternal life, and nobody will snatch them out of My hand.” This is a tremendous promise that affords great comfort, but it is a promise only God could make.

Read or sing 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Ask that the children in our congregation would all come to a genuine faith in Jesus and therefore know that they are secure in His hands and in the hands of their heavenly Father.

Tuesday (4/18) Read and discuss Acts 2:22-41. Why did God become man? Today’s passage gives us at least seven reasons:

Why did God become man?

  1. God became man in order to fully reveal God’s character and will.
  2. God became man in order to trample our guilt under foot at the cross and to cast our sins into the depths of the sea.
  3. God became man to triumph over death in history so that we who trust in Him can confidently await our own resurrections and glorification.
  4. God became man so that the man Christ Jesus would rule over the universe and so that all those redeemed in Christ would one day share in that rule.
  5. God became man so that He could fill the Church which He had cleansed with the Holy Spirit … that God Himself would dwell in us and empower us to be His witnesses.
  6. God became man to make the wickedness of our rebellion appear exceedingly wicked in order to convict us of our sin and lead us to repentance. And …
  7. God became man to gather for Himself a vast multitude of redeemed people from every tribe, tongue, and nation who will glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Read or sing Hymn 103 “Holy God, We Praise Your Name” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at the Presbytery Church of Cape Cod as they prepare to host the Spring Stated Meeting of our Presbytery next week.

Wednesday (4/19) Read and discuss Ezekiel 36:22-32. This passage is written while the LORD’s people are in exile and this reality creates a problem. Other nations, who wouldn’t have understood that God was judging His people for their rebellion against Him, could easily have imagined that the God of Israel was not very powerful. Why should they turn to worship the LORD when He couldn’t even protect His own people from exile at the hands of those who served other gods? One “solution” would be for the LORD to restore His people and thereby reveal His own power – but how could He do this without compromising His own holiness? Old Testament scholar Doug Stuart helps us grasp God’s solution to this dilemma when he writes:

The clear promise of a general return from exile is proclaimed in verse 24. But how can a holy God reward a notoriously unholy people in this way? Will the Lord simply bring them back to Canaan to sin again as they had always done? The answer contains a condition for the restoration of Israel that demonstrates that such a restoration is intended not for ethnic Israel that but for a new people” they will be made pure by God’s miraculous action (v. 25). Sprinkled with holy water symbolizing their acceptance by God for worship, they will also be given a new mind (“heart”) and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (vv. 26-27). This is, of course, the language of conversion. Change of mind is exactly what the New Testament term for repentance means; the new mind is the converted mind that will love and follow Christ and keep God’s commands faithfully, as also predicted for the new covenant age by the prophet Jeremiah (31:33-34). The fact of the Spirit of God indwelling all who are converted is a dramatically different picture of people’s relationship to the Spirit than that of the old covenant, in which the Spirit was occasionally given to some people, often temporarily (cf. 1 Sam 16:14).

In the new covenant age, people and God will once again be united. Having turned to God and received the righteousness He alone offers, the new Israel will enjoy bounty and respect. They will also have a conscience about the past, hating the sin, including idolatry, that characterized the previous era (v. 31). The Lord will bring this about. Israel won’t be able to do it. They can only receive, not produce righteousness. Furthermore, God will accomplish this purification and renewal of His people for His own sake, not theirs. They don’t deserve it in the slightest. A nation that has done almost nothing during its history to honor God hardly deserves honor in return. But a God who has determined that His glory and saving power should be known in the whole world is willing to redeem a people not otherwise worthy of redemption. For in so doing, He invites sinners everywhere to repent and turn to Him for rescue from their sin. In other words, Ezekiel’s prophecy is making the point that God’s control of Israel’s history is not focused so much on Israel as it is on the world as a whole. Israel is an example to others – all others – of the power and mercy of God. Israel deserves only to be ashamed of itself; God deserves to be honored everywhere, within and without ethnic Israel.

Prayer:  Every year many people attend worship services on Easter out of tradition but who do not know the LORD. Pray that God would use the news of the resurrection that they heard last Sunday to effectually call many of these visitors into His Kingdom – and that many would decide to return to worship with God’s people this coming Sunday.

Thursday (4/20) Read and discuss Luke 12:35-46. Americans are a competitive people. We tend to put a lot of emphasis on our relative level of success compared to the success enjoyed by our friends and neighbors. That is, we tend to focus on the horizontal. Jesus, by contrast, is emphasizing our vertical relationship with God. Instead of calling us to compare ourselves with our neighbors, Jesus is calling us to remember whose servants we are and to seek to be faithful to Him. This would be easier to do if life were a sprint, or if we knew for certain that the LORD was going to return this coming September and we could mark on our calendars the date when we would give an account for our stewardship of all the gifts and resources that God has placed into our hands – but that is not the way our lives are arranged. As David Garland writes:

It is more difficult to serve faithfully, to hope steadfastly, and to wait patiently when the timetable is uncertain. But as Summers claims, “The ultimate test of genuine faith is the demonstration of faith through a life of fidelity.” Jesus’ instructions particularly apply to how church leaders should carry out their duties. Vigilance is required, but also responsible service. As good servants, they should perform their duties not only when they are under the watchful eye of the their master but also when he is absent. Church leaders are required to be watchful (Acts 20:26-31a) but also faithful and reliable (Eph 6:21; Col 1:7).

Read or sing Hymn 131 “Children of the Heavenly Father” Prayer: Please pray for Silas as he flies to Orlando to interview at Reformed Theological Seminary. Silas will also be examined at Presbytery next Tuesday to come under the care of the Presbytery as someone who is seeking to prepare for ordained ministry.

Friday (4/21) Read and Genesis 41:1-36. James Montgomery Boice writes:

I suppose that there is not a character in all the Bible who experienced such sudden and radical reversals of fortune as did Joseph. One day he was his father’s favored son, destined to inherit his authority and wealth; the next day he was cast into a cistern, menaced by death, and then sold into Egypt as a slave. In Egypt Joseph gradually rose to a position of authority in Potiphar’s household; but in an instant his affairs were reversed and he found himself set in irons in the prison of the captain of the guard. One day he had hopes of deliverance through his friend the chief cupbearer; but that day was succeeded by many other days of discouragement and despair. Then within hours he was suddenly shaved and clothed and in the court of Pharaoh.

Sudden reversals are difficult for most of us, for our eyes are not constantly on God as Joseph’s were. When we experience a sudden reversal for the worse, we are despondent. We think God has abandoned us, and we become bitter. When we experience a sudden reversal for the better, we are arrogant. Instead of thinking that God has abandoned us, we sometimes abandon God in our thinking and become quite secular. It is a rare Christian who can enjoy sudden prosperity and keep his or her spiritual life on course.

Joseph was one of those rare persons. When he was in prison he did not forget God. When the chief cupbearer and the chief baker told him why they were troubled, Joseph replied, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” Here, before the mightiest monarch of his day, it is the same thing. Pharaoh told Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

Joseph shot back, “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

Prayer: Please lift up Dan as he finishes preparations to pursue licensure at next week’s Spring Stated Meeting of Presbytery.

Saturday (4/22) Read and discuss John 10:22-42. N.T. Wright comments:

Christian confidence about the future beyond death, …, is not a matter of wishful thinking, a vague general hope, or a temperamental inclination to assume things will turn out all right. It is built firmly on nothing less than the union of Jesus with the Father – one of the main themes of this whole gospel. It is interesting to observe that where, in Christian thinking, people have become unclear about Jesus’ close relation to the father, they have often become unclear also on the certainty of Christian hope, and vice versa.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 16 April 2017 Sunday, Apr 9 2017 

MVOPC 16 April 2017 – Easter

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

Opening Hymn: 286 “Worship Christ the Risen 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: Psalm 103:11-13

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

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 16:1-11

New Covenant Reading: Acts 2:22-41

Sermon: This Jesus God Raised Up

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

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

PM Worship

OT: Daniel 1:1-21

NT: 1 Peter 2:11-25

Pilgrim Faithfulness

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School Today

Shorter Catechism Q/A #90

Q. How is the word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?
A. That the word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation and prayer; receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (4/10) Read and discuss Acts 2:22-41.  Eckhard Schnabel writes:

The offer of forgiveness of sins through Jesus is another core belief of Christians. As a result of the life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus, the former means of atonement for sins – temple sacrifices, immersion for ritual purification, obedience to the law – are no longer effective. As the last days have arrived with the coming of the Messiah, forgiveness comes only through Jesus Christ. Although Peter does not elaborate here on Jesus’ atoning death, he emphasizes that the crucifixion was part of God’s plan of salvation.

In the context of his Pentecost sermon, which explains the coming of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness of sins and salvation are linked with the transforming and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit and with the acknowledgment of Jesus’ lordship on the heavenly throne. Forgiveness of sins is not simply a benefit that I find advantageous. Forgiveness of sins involves acknowledging that Jesus is Lord over my life, that God calls me to himself, and that the transforming power of the Holy Spirit is at work in my life.

Read or sing 286 “Worship Christ the Risen King!” Prayer: Ask the LORD to bless the celebration of Easter to lead many people in our region back to church.

Tuesday (4/11) Read and discuss Psalm 1. The Psalmist compares the wicked to chaff. This is not an image that we should quickly pass over to meditate on the more positive aspects of the Psalm. This image is a powerful warning to us against living a life for anything other than God. James Montgomery Boice writes:

The picture here is of a threshing floor at the time of the grain harvest. The threshing floors of Palestine are on hills that catch the best breezes. Grain is brought to them, is crushed by animals or by threshing instruments that are drawn over it, then is pitch high into the air where the wind blows the chaff away. The heavier grain falls back to the threshing floor and is collected. The chaff is scattered or burned, and it is what the psalmist says those who live wickedly are like.

The wicked are like chaff in two senses. Chaff is worthless, and chaff is burned. This pictures the futile, empty, worthless life of the godless, as well as their inevitable judgment.

Read or sing Hymn 268 “Welcome, Happy Morning!” Prayer: Pray for someone you know who has yet to embrace Jesus Christ and ask that the LORD would quickly bring him or her to Himself.

Wednesday (4/12) Read and discuss Psalm 16:1-11. This Psalm can seem difficult to interpret until we see how David’s prophesy about the resurrection of the Messiah undergirds the confidence he has in both this life and the life to come. This Psalm can be outlined like this:

  1. 1-2: David’s Relationship to God.
  2. 3-4 The Immediate Result of David’s Relationship with God.
  3. 5-9 David’s Present Blessings
  4. 10-11 David’s Future Hope

Where interpreters tend to get tripped up is in seeing how verses 10-11 relate to the rest of the Psalm. Some think that, since verses 1-9 relate to David’s personal experiences, verses 10-11 must focus on David’s personal experiences as well. But the Apostles Peter and Paul both quote verse 10 and both state that it applies specifically to Jesus and not to David (Acts 2:25-31; 13:35-36). Other interpreters wrongly assume that because verse 10 applies to Jesus that the whole Psalm must also be about him and not about David. While this is a more plausible interpretation it is probably better to see the Psalm as arising out of David’s own experience of being abandoned by men with David rejoicing that He will never be abandoned by His Lord. How does the idea that the Psalm arises out of David’s own abandonment fit together with the truth that verse 10 is a prophesy about Jesus? The answer is to recognize that David’s confidence for the future was not based upon God’s unmediated relationship with David but upon the mediated relationship that David had with God through the LORD’s Messiah. David looked forward (as we look back) to the coming Messiah who would fight Satan, sin, and death on his behalf. The vindication of the Messiah through the resurrection would therefore be David’s vindication as well. In this life David was guided by God (v. 7), guarded by God (v. 8), and gladdened by God (v. 9). All of this rested on the simple confidence He had that Jesus would be triumphant. As those who live on this side of the empty tomb we should be able to say with even greater confidence: “Jesus has won! Lord, You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Prayer:  Give thanks for Christ’s victor and the guarantee of our ultimate victory in Him.

Thursday (4/13) Read and discuss Daniel 1:1-21. One of the purposes of the book of Daniel is to show us how to live by faith when times are tough. Daniel and his friends had been taken captive by the Babylonians and were being put through a type of re-education camp.  The purpose of this training was to shift the way these Jewish boys thought about the world and to have them embrace the Babylonian culture. While Christians in North America have not undergone this sort of persecution, as Iain Duguid points out, we still need to wrestle with the very same issues:

As citizens of heaven, Christians live as aliens and strangers in a land that is not their own, and there are times when the world’s enmity to the people of God becomes evident. The hostility of the world is often shown in the efforts it makes to squeeze us into its mold. It wants to make us conform to its values and standards and not to stick out from the crowd. The pressure is on us, in school and at work, to be like everyone else in the way that we dress and the language that we use. We are expected to laugh at certain kinds of jokes and gossip about certain kinds of people. If we want to get on and be promoted in the world of business, we are pressured to leave our values and religious beliefs at the front entrance and to live a lifestyle entirely assimilated to the business community. We are expected to value the things the surrounding culture values, to pursue passionately its glittering prizes, and generally to live in obedience to its idols. We have to choose daily whether to be part of this world in which we live, or to take the difficult path of standing against it.

How do you cope in the midst of the brokenness and alienation that is life here on earth? What truths can you cling to when the jagged edges of existence are twisting against you and cutting into your flesh? What do you need to know to live a life of faith in an alien world, a world that is frequently a place of sickness and pain, of broken relationships and bitter tears, of sorrow and death? These are the questions to which the Book of Daniel will give us the answers. It is a book written to God’s Old Testament people, Israel, when they were experiencing the brokenness and pain of life in exile, far away from home. It was designed to encourage them in their walk with God, who was with them in the midst of their pain.

Read or sing Hymn 276 “Up from the Grave He Arose” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters who live in predominantly Islamic countries. Ask that the LORD would protect them from harm, but also that He would strengthen them to face even the severest persecution by trusting in Him. Pray that Christ would open doors for the building of His Church in those areas that seem most mired in the darkness of Islam.

Friday (4/14) Read and 1 Peter 2:11-25. John Calvin writes:

[Peter] lays down the way in which the evil-speaking of the unbelieving is to be restrained, namely by well-doing. In this expression he includes all the duties of humanity and kindness which we ought to perform towards our neighbors, Among these is included obedience to magistrates, without which peace among men cannot be cultivated. If anyone objects that the faithful will never be so careful to do good, that they will not be evil spoken of  by the unbelieving, the obvious answer is that the Apostle here does not in the least exempt them from insults and reproaches. He means that they will have no occasion to slander, however much they may desire it. In case anyone objects further that unbelievers are not worthy of so much regard that God’s children should form their life plan to please them, Peter expressly reminds us that we are bound by God’s command to shut up their mouths.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to grant you a good witness amongst your unbelieving neighbors, fellow-students, and co-workers.

Saturday (4/15) Read and discuss Acts 2:22-41.  People, including Christians, have often struggled with the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Many have asked: “If God ordains whatsoever comes to pass, how can we still be held responsible for our actions?”  The Biblical answer to this question is called the doctrine of concurrence.  This fancy word simply means that God and men can be working in the exact same circumstance but for entirely different reasons.  The classical text for this is in Genesis 50:20 where Joseph tells his brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”  The most important application of the doctrine of concurrence is in understanding what took place on the cross.  On the cross, God was doing the good work of redeeming His people from sin.  Yet, according to Acts 2:23, how were those who contributed to Jesus death to be considered? Christ’s crucifixion was not a giant misunderstanding.  It was the deed of lawless men against the clear evidence that God had provided to testify that He was the Messiah (Acts 2:22).  Now Peter calls on three additional pieces of evidence.  In v. 24 Peter draws the crowd’s attention to the fact that God had raised Jesus from the dead (of which the Disciples are witnesses – v. 32).  Second, Peter draws their attention to the prophetic teaching through David that Jesus had fulfilled.  Third, Peter connects what the crowd is experiencing in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to Christ’s enthronement in heaven (v. 33ff).  Notice that Peter ends this sermon in a less than flattering way.  Having demonstrated that Jesus is in fact both the LORD and the Messiah, he ends by reminding the crowd that they had crucified Him.  Cut to the heart, they cry out asking how they can escape the judgment that they so clearly deserve.  This is why grace is so amazing.  All they needed to do, all that we need to do, is to turn from our sins to Christ in faith.  When we do this we are promised not only the forgiveness of sins but the gift of the Holy Spirit whereby God comes to dwell not only with us – but in us. 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 9 April 2017 Sunday, Apr 2 2017 

MVOPC 9 April 2017 – Mr. Silas Schreyack Preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

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: John 3:16-17

Hymn of Preparation:  347 “The Church’s One Foundation”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 1:1-6

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 5:1-12

Sermon: The Blessed Life

Hymn of Response: 297 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name!”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 246 “Man of Sorrows! What a Name”

PM Worship

OT: Gen 2:18-3:21

NT: 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

Rebels With a Cause

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #89

Q. 89.How is the word made effectual to salvation?
A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (4/3) Read and discuss Psalm 1:1-6.  The first Psalm is so important to the Christian life that it is well worth memorizing so that you can meditate upon it throughout the day. Allen P. Ross explains the central message of the psalm:

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

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

Read or sing 4 “All Praise to God Who Reigns Above” Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you a deeper hunger for His word that you would more consistently meditate upon His word throughout the day.

Tuesday (4/4) Read and discuss John 10:1-21. Edward Klink writes:

It is not just the image of the Shepherd that is significant for the church but the nature of the shepherding. This periscope depicts not merely a shepherd who is willing to risk himself for the protection of the his sheep but a shepherd who intentionally “lays down” his life for his sheep. That is, this periscope declares that the shepherding of this shepherd is rooted in and springs from the cross. This shepherd is not one who is merely willing to die; on his own accord he must die. For this shepherd is not one who might have to save the life of his sheep if a thief or wolf happen to approach, but he must save the life of his sheep – for they are already dead (Rom 5:12)! This shepherd is giving life to his sheep. This is a very different kind of shepherd and therefore a very different kind of shepherding.

Read or sing Hymn 347 “The Church’s One Foundation” Prayer: Lift up the children of our congregation and the Sunday school teachers who are investing into their lives.

Wednesday (4/5) Read and discuss Matthew 5:1-12. John Stott writes:

To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty, indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before God. For we are sinners, under the holy wrath of God, and deserving nothing but the judgment of God. We have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to buy the favor of heaven.

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to the cross I cling;

Naked, come to thee for dress;

Helpless, look to thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly;

Wash me, Savior, or I die.

This is the language of the poor in spirit. We do not belong anywhere except alongside the publican in Jesus’ parable, crying out with downcast eyes, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ As Calvin wrote: ‘He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God, is poor in spirit.

To such, and only to such, the kingdom of God is given. For God’s rule which brings salvation is a gift as absolutely free as it is utterly undeserved. It has to be received with the dependent humility of a little child. Thus, right at the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contradicted all human judgments and all nationalistic expectations of the kingdom of God. The kingdom is given to the poor, not the rich; the feeble, not the mighty; to little children humble enough to accept it, not to soldiers who boast that they can attain it by their own prowess. In our Lord’s own day it was not the Pharisees who entered the kingdom, who thought they were rich, so rich in merit that they thanked God for their attainments; nor the Zealots who dreamed of establishing the kingdom by blood and sword; but publicans and prostitutes, the rejects of society, who knew they were so poor they could offer nothing and achieve nothing. All they could do was to cry to God for mercy; and he heard their cry.

Prayer:  Ask the LORD to work in you the genuine humility of being poor in spirit.

Thursday (4/6) Read and discuss Genesis 3:8-24. Adam’s response to the LORD is stunning in its arrogance: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Adam is clearly trying to shift the blame to his wife and in the process seems to be indicting the LORD Himself. We might expect that God Almighty would wipe such a rebel from the face of the earth and to send him to everlasting punishment, but what the LORD does is even more surprising than what the man had done. James Montgomery Boice writes:

But all is not lost, though at times it may seem to be. Although sin grows worse and with it sin’s troubles, God is unchanged and his mercy endures from generation to generation.

We see it in the judgment of Eve and Adam. It is true that Eve and those women who follow her were subjected to pain in childbearing, but sorrow is afterward forgotten for “joy that a child is born into the world” (John 16:21). One fo those births produced the Savior. Again a woman enters into conflict with her husband, but this is not with one who is a stranger or even her enemy but one who loves her and to whom submission is often sweet. As for the man, though the ground is cursed for his sake, the land is nevertheless not made entirely unproductive but rather “yields its fruit in season” (Psalm 1:3). Although God curses the ground, he also sends rains and snows to water it, “making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater” (Isaiah 55:10). Man sweats, but he revives again. He dies, but he rises to life everlasting.

In the final analysis, the greatest mercy of God is seen, not in God’s mitigation of our punishment, but in his taking the full curse of the punishment of our sin on himself at Calvary, which is why Adam and Eve were not cursed. Did sin bring pain in childbirth? No pain is equal to that of Jesus who travailed in pain in order that he might bring forth many children into glory (Hebrews 2:10). … Do we know sorrow? He was “a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). Did sin bring death? Jesus tasted “death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).

In short, Jesus took our curse, as Paul says in writing to the Galatians: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

Read or sing Hymn 297 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name!” Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus voluntarily took the penalty we deserved so that we could receive the eternal blessings that He deserved.

Friday (4/7) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. One of the greatest joys and privileges that we have as God’s people is to gather in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus in order to worship the Triune God. Corporate worship should therefore reflect the truth that our chief end to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. As Paul had just finished telling the Corinthians, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” From the beginning of chapter eight right through to 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul has been applying this axiom about pursuing God’s glory to the challenge of idolatry. With today’s passage he shifts to applying it to right worship within the Church. As we will see in the coming weeks, Paul is very concerned that the Church in Corinth be marked out by unity in the Holy Spirit. After all, having been accepted in Jesus Christ each of us has equal standing before God and each of us belongs to each other in His family. Yet, not any old approach to equality will do. There is the apparent equality achieved by Mao Zedong when all of the Chinese were required to wear the identical simple and drab clothing. There is the equality of everyone being forced to play the same musical instrument. But neither of these is God’s idea of unity. From the life in the Garden of Eden before sin to life in the New Heavens and the New Earth, God has created and redeemed His people to have the unity of an orchestra. We all play different parts and together we become something far more interesting and beautiful than we could ever be on our own. That is the way it is with gender as well. God made us male and female so that the genders would complement each other. Let each of us embrace what God has created and redeemed us to be.  The LORD loves this sort of diversity and so should we. Prayer: Please pray for the Supreme Court of the United States.

Saturday (4/8) Read and discuss Psalm 1:1-6. John Calvin writes:

The Psalmist does not simply pronounce those happy who fear God, but designates godliness by the study of the law, teaching us that God is only rightly served when his law is obeyed. I tis not left to every man to frame a system of religion according to his own judgment, but the standard of godliness is to be taken from the Word of God. From his characterizing the godly as delighting in the law of the LORD, we may learn that forced or servile obedience is not at all acceptable to God, and that those only are worthy students of the law who come to it with a cheerful mind, and are so delighted with its instructions, as to account nothing more desirable or delicious than to make progress therein. From this love of the law proceeds constant meditation on it.

Read or sing Hymn: 246 “Man of Sorrows! What a Name” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 2 April 2017 Sunday, Mar 26 2017 

MVOPC 2 April 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 44:21-23

Baptism of Ryan Pellerin

Hymn of Preparation:  605 “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 23:1-6

New Covenant Reading: John 10:1-21

Sermon: The Good Shepherd

Hymn of Response: 599 “Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love is This?”

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 40:1-23

NT: Hebrews 13:1-6

What Can Man Do to Me?

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #88

Q. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption, are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (3/27) Read and discuss John 10:1-21.  R.C. Sproul writes:

Yet another of Jesus’ “I Am” sayings appears here: “I am the good shepherd.” Here, Jesus contrasted Himself not with the thief and the robber, but with the hireling. Sometimes people took care of their own sheep, but sometimes, if they were too busy with other things, they hired others to look after their sheep. But since tending the sheep was just a job for the hireling, the sheep usually did not receive the same kind of tender care they received from their true shepherd. When the master of a flock is tending his own sheep and a wolf threatens, he stands in the gap and uses his rod to beat off the attack. If necessary, he lays down his life for his sheep, for they are his. Not so with a hireling. He doesn’t own the sheep, so if he sees a wolf coming, he flees. He thinks: “My life is worth more to me than these sheep. Let the wolves have them.”

Read or sing 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness” Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus is not like the hirelings but is the Good Shepherd who is willing to lay down His life for His sheep.

Tuesday (3/28) Read and discuss John 9:35-41. Everybody loves a good story about a great reversal of fortune – where the proud are brought low and the humble are exalted. Consider the classic fairy-tale … Cinderella. There are variations on this classic fairy-tale told from France to China and from the Middle East to Great Britain. One telling of the story goes something like this:

There was a poor girl, named Cinderella, who loses her mother at a tender young age. Tragically, her father marries a self-absorbed woman – the stereotypical “evil step-mother” who treats Cinderella with cruelty rather than love. To heap injury upon insult, her new step sisters also treat Cinderella with great cruelty so that she is little more than a slave in her own home. Then, one day, the King throws a grand ball in honor of his son the Prince. An announcement is sent through all the kingdom that, at this ball, the Prince will pick the woman who will become his wife. Cinderella, of course, has nothing to wear. But her Fairy Godmother magically appears and transforms the rags Cinderella is wearing into beautiful radiant clothing. She tells Cinderella to enjoy the ball, but warns her that the spell will be broken at midnight and all her clothing will be turned back into rags. So, Cinderella goes to the ball, catches the Prince’s eye, and he falls head-over-heals in love with her. They lose all track of time, until the clock strikes midnight and Cinderella darts out of the ball before her radiant garments turn back to rags. But the Prince loves Cinderella. So, he searches throughout the entire Kingdom until at last he finds her. They get married and live happily ever after.

That’s a wonderful story. No wonder stories like this are told in nearly every culture. But the best part of this story is that for Christians the story is entirely true. Of course, we begin from a much lower place than the oppressed young Cinderella. We begin spiritually blind and at enmity with God. And it costs our Prince far more than some diligent searching in order to take us as His own. Yet, in the end, the Prince of Glory does take His Church to be His own, we are exalted to be joint heirs with Christ, and to live with Him happily ever after. On a smaller scale, this is the story which is being told in John chapter 9. The chapter begins with a man born blind and even Christ’s own Disciples thinking that his terrible suffering must be deserved in some way. Perhaps his parents were particularly egregious sinners or perhaps this man was being punished for his own wickedness. But Jesus corrects His Disciples. Then He creates new eyes for the man out of the dirt – and for the very first time – this man could see everything that was going on around him. Now, as the chapter ends, it is the Pharisees who claim to see everything who turn out to be spiritually blind. And Jesus bluntly declares: “Because you say, ‘We can see,’ your guilt remains.” By contrast … The formerly blind man has been given both physical and spiritual sight. He has grown to understand that Jesus was a good man and even a Prophet who spoke for God. He has come to commit himself to being one of Jesus’ disciples, and now at the end of the chapter … the healed man comes to place where He worships the Lord. He is glorifying God and will surely enjoy Him forever. By the end of the chapter, the great reversal is made complete. Read or sing Hymn 605 “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” Prayer: Give thanks that as you cling to Jesus Christ you can be certain that one day you will be exalted to reign with Him forever.

Wednesday (3/29) Read and discuss Psalm 23:1-6. D.A. Carson helpfully reminds us that the model by which we understand something largely determines what we see. For example, how do you think about the Church? If you think of the Church as an organization, you will focus on management and programs. If you think of the Church as a family, you will focus on relationships. If you think of the Church as the pillar and foundation of the truth, you will focus on teaching and the proclamation of the Apostolic Gospel. All of these models are valid. We are therefore to see the Church through all of these models (and many others) rather than reducing it down to our favorite model. One obvious question that this raises is what primary metaphor to you use as a model for thinking about God?  Frequently, in the Psalms, God is referred to as Creator and King. He is also referred to using abstract language like “Rock” and “Fortress”. In Psalm 23 David selects a metaphor that would have been very personal. He likens God to a Shepherd.  Remember that David himself had been a shepherd as a boy and continued to think of his own kingship as a type of shepherding of the people of Israel.  As a good shepherd, David cared for and defended the sheep with great courage.  As David told Saul before going out to fight against Goliath:

“Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!”

With this in mind, perhaps the most striking word in the psalm is “my”. It doesn’t entirely shock us that the Creator of the Universe would be the Shepherd of the whole flock of Israel. What is astonishing is that He personally cares for each one of His sheep. As we confess in the Heidelberg Catechism: “Without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation.” This is a beautiful truth. It is also one that leads all thoughtful readers to ask: Is the LORD my Shepherd the way that He was David’s Shepherd? Prayer:  Give thanks that the LORD cares for each of His sheep personally – even you!

Thursday (3/30) Read and discuss Hebrews 13:1-6. Tom Schreiner writes:

The author gives practical admonitions to a community facing persecution and distress. They should remember that they are a family and show brotherly love to one another. What it means to be a Christian is to show hospitality to brothers and sisters, caring for and supplying the needs of other believers. At the same time there is a solidarity with believers who are imprisoned. They were not to ignore them to avoid getting in trouble themselves. We are to care for those who are being persecute, knowing the pain of physical suffering. The Christian church should be characterized by sexual purity and faithful marriages, realizing that God will judge those who turn to sexual sin. At the same time there is no need to worry about money and daily provisions. Believers should be content and satisfied, knowing God will never forsake us. No enemy or opponent can finally deprive us of what we need, for the LORD is our helper. We need not fear, for human beings can do nothing apart from God. He is always the LORD in every situation, caring for us and providing every need.

Read or sing Hymn 599 “Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us” Prayer: Give thanks that since the LORD is your Helper you do not need to fear what mere human beings can do to you.

Friday (3/31) Read and discuss Genesis 40:1-23. James Montgomery Boice writes:

After he had interpreted the dream of the cupbearer, showing that he would soon be restored to his position as Pharaoh’s honored officer, Joseph said something that was quite human: “When all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon” (vv. 14-15). Some commentators criticize Joseph for this, arguing that he should not have appealed in this way to a clear unbeliever but should instead have left his case before God. I do not agree with them. For one thing, I am sure that Joseph did present his case to God. For another, there is nothing wrong with doing whatever is humanly possible to avoid difficulty and improve one’s condition. If Joseph had possessed access to an Egyptian court, he would have been entirely justified in appealing to it against the injustice of his imprisonment. Paul later did the same thing in his appeal to Caesar from his imprisonment at Caesarea.

But for Joseph, deliverance was not to come in this fashion. As I say, there was nothing wrong with his asking the cupbearer to remember him when he was restored to Pharaoh’s favor. Yet deliverance did not come from the grateful memory of a pagan butler (who was actually ungrateful) but from God.

It may be that way in your life. You may be trying to extricate yourself from difficulty by every means at your disposal and may have found that everything you do is unavailing. In your case, as it was with Joseph, deliverance may have to come directly from God. Why? I do not know the whole answer to that question. But I do know that when we are helped by another person we are naturally grateful to that person and see him or her as the cause of our good fortune. But when we have failed in all human ways and are then delivered by God, we are filled with a holy awe of God and find ourselves to be deeply delighted in him. That end may be worth many years of suffering.

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

Saturday (4/1) Read and discuss John 10:1-21. Chuck Swindoll writes:

Jesus’ statement is strong “I AM”, paired with the phrase “good shepherd,” which is particularly emphatic in Greek. What follows is a clear foreshadowing of the persecution he will suffer and a strong affirmation of His substitutionary death on behalf of His believers. Just as important is His acknowledgement that truth always has been a lightning rod for evil; nevertheless, He will not flinch as evil strikes Him with all the power of hell. As the Creator, he cannot be overpowered by anything. Yet He will voluntarily suffer and die to carry out the Father’s redemptive plan.

This sets Jesus apart from the religious leaders of the people, who supposedly shepherd the people of God. Whereas He is selfless, they are selfish. Whereas He will lay down His life for the sheep, they will abandon all to save themselves. Whereas Jesus lived in complete obedience to the Father, they obeyed their own lusts.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 26 March 2017 Sunday, Mar 19 2017 

MVOPC 26 March 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

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

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

Hymn of Preparation:  305 “Arise, My Soul, Arise”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 18:31-50

New Covenant Reading: John 9:35-41

Sermon: The Crisis Jesus Brings

Hymn of Response: 353 “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord”

Confession of Faith:    Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 469 “How Sweet and Awesome is the Place”

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 39:7-23

NT: Romans 1 Peter 3:13-17

Being Good in a Bad World

Adult Sunday School: War of Words – Jason Donald Teaching

Shorter Catechism Q/A #87

Q. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (3/20) Read and discuss John 9:35-41.  Chuck Swindoll writes:

Jesus declared that His purpose for coming to earth was not to hold people accountable for sin or to sit in judgment; He will do that upon His return. Each encounter with Jesus became a moment of truth, however, in which the individual’s response to the Light revealed his or her eternal destiny – the true nature of good and evil are exposed when subjected to the light of Christ.

The point was not lost on the Pharisees, who challenged Jesus with the question, “We are not blind too, are we?” The structure of the question in the original language indicates that the person asking anticipates a negative response. In other words, the Pharisees expected Jesus to say, “Why, no, of course you are not blind.” But Jesus didn’t cooperate – He knew them to be spiritually blind.

Jesus’ response forms a paradox. Those who are spiritually blind do not think they are missing anything and therefore they deny their need. Those who “see” are those who admit their need for spiritual sight. Spiritually blind people conceal their sinfulness in order to bluff themselves and everyone else into thinking they have no need of salvation. People with spiritual sight readily recognize their own sinfulness and their desperate need for a Savior.

Read or sing 5 “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Pray for a friend or family member who does not yet know Christ, that the LORD would open his or her eyes to who Jesus is and what He has done for His people.

Tuesday (3/21) Read and discuss John 9:24-34. I suspect that when we read stories like this, where the healed man is so courageous, or those about men like Daniel in the Old Testament, many of us think: “It would be great to be at the place in life where I could be bold like these men. If I wasn’t in debt, had a hefty savings account, or perhaps even a rather healthy investment portfolio – then I could … indeed I almost certainly would … fearlessly stand up for what I believe … just like these men did.” Do you ever think like that? … “If I were less vulnerable in terms of my career or my finances I would be more courageous?” … Here’s the truth: No, you wouldn’t be more courageous. The one absolutely essential ingredient for courage is fear. It doesn’t take any courage at all to do something that you are not afraid of. Furthermore, if you wait until you are financially – or otherwise – independent before you are willing to stand unequivocally for Jesus then you aren’t really trusting in God. You would be trusting in God and your money … and perhaps more in the latter than you would like to admit. Consider the healed man. He is entirely vulnerable in terms of his human circumstances – yet he clings to God trusting that if God is for Him, then he doesn’t have to worry about who is against him.

It is by trusting God when doing so seems most costly that we are most loudly and clearly ascribing the greatest worth to Him. That is, God is glorified when we choose to suffer afflictions for the sake of faithfulness to Jesus Christ. And here is the amazing part! As painful as that might be, and let me be clear – it very well may be painful, it turns out that this choice is still the pathway to greatest blessing. As we read earlier from Romans chapter 8:

We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Read or sing Hymn 305 “Arise, My Soul, Arise” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters a the Presbyterian Church of Cape Cod.

Wednesday (3/22) Read and discuss Psalm 18:31-50. Alec Motyer writes:

For the most part, the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament comes as an occasional ‘filling’ to a particular person for a particular task – corresponding to the filling with the Spirit in the New Testament, where Peter, for example, was filled with the Spirit on at least three occasions ot cater for some special situation, but it was different for David. In his case, the Holy Spirit was a continuous presence and reality. David’s initial experience as Spirit-endowed man – … This is what we would logically expect – Saul’s anointed successor is moving towards his destiny. But then everything goes wrong! Royal favor becomes jealousy; jealousy becomes murderous hate; David takes to his heels and to the hills! Not because the Holy Spirit has withdrawn, but because he was there, shaping everything according to the will of God. We forget all this to our cost. It is always the same, because it has to be so. The Spirit and the flesh are at war (Galatians 5:17); ‘through much tribulation’ we enter God’s kingdom (Acts 14:22). No sooner was the Lord Jesus anointed with the Spirit at His baptism, and assured of his divine Sonship, then he was led by that same Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The Holy Spirit and conflict belong together. David needed that his hand be taught for war; he needed to bend a bow of bronze; he needed that his feet be like a deer if he was ever to attain his destined high places. And for all this Yahweh was his teacher, his strength, and his enabler.

Prayer: Please lift up Dan Borvan today as he defends his doctoral dissertation.

Thursday (3/23) Read and discuss 1 Peter 3:13-17. Stephen Motyer writes:

These verses are among the most difficult in the whole New Testament, because Peter refers to traditions and stories obviously familiar to his readers, but unfortunately not to us. Yet the overall message is clear. Peter tells us that if we are called to suffer for what is right, we must look to Jesus, who suffered for our sins and through that suffering has come to a place of supreme authority, raised over all the powers of evil that seem so overwhelming to the persecuted Asian Christians. Jesus suffered, though he was righteous and if we will now set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts and follow in his footsteps we can be delivered from the fear of our persecutors, confident that through suffering we will share his victory. In the meantime we must bear witness to our hope, by both word and deed, remembering that our baptism was our pledge to God to live with good consciences before him.

Read or sing Hymn 353 “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord” Prayer: Give thanks that you have been filled and sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Friday (3/24) Read and discuss Genesis 39:7-23. Iain Duguid writes:

At least, giving in to sin is as simple as that. Resisting sin is an entirely different story. If the problem is with our hearts and not our circumstances, then resisting sin will require more than simply staying at a distance from tempting situations. It will require a change in our hearts, which is something we cannot do for ourselves. We cannot simply decide to turn over a new leaf and just stop sinning; we need to be given a new heart with new desires. If there is one lesson to be learned from the experience of Old Testament Israel, it is this: having God’s perfect law and a powerful experience of God’s deliverance is not enough. As the LORD reminded Israel through the prophets, they needed new hearts. Ultimately, the reason why Joseph was able to say no to such a powerful temptation was the work of God. Just as the presence of God with Joseph enabled him to prosper in everything he did for Potiphar, so too it was because the LORD was with him that he was able to say, “How can I do such a thing and sin against God?” That though did not come from himself; it came from God.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you a greater sense that you are living all of your life in His presence.

Saturday (3/25) Read and discuss John 9:35-41. N.T. Wright comments:

The chapter about the man born blind comes to its conclusion with the complete reversal of where it had started. The chapter began with the disciples assuming that because someone was born blind either he or his parents must have been guilty of sin. Jesus opposed that view, heald the man and then warded off the challenge from those who objected to him doing it on the Sabbath. Now the chapter ends with his accusers claiming to see everything clearly when in fact they can’t. And Jesus’ comment on their condition is that, though blindness itself isn’t and indication of sin, claiming to be able to see when you can’t certainly is. ‘Because you say, “We can see,” your guilt remains.’

Read or sing Hymn: 469 “How Sweet and Awesome is the Place” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 19 March 2017 Sunday, Mar 12 2017 

MVOPC 19 March 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

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

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: Micah 7:18-20

Hymn of Preparation:  32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 34:1-22

New Covenant Reading: John 9:24-34

Sermon: Give Glory to God

Hymn of Response: 708 “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still My Soul”

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 39:1-6

NT: Romans Acts 7:1-16

Given Favor with Both God and Man

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Shorter Catechism Q/A #86

Q. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (3/13) Read and discuss John 9:24-34.  Chuck Swindoll writes:

At the beginning of the inquisition, the man maintained a neutral stance concerning Jesus. The question of Jesus’ identity and whether He was a sinner didn’t concern him. He knew only what his experience told him: once he was blind, now he could see. By the end, however, the Pharisees’ absurd quest to condemn Jesus merely pushed the man closer to genuine belief. His final response to the Pharisees could not have been more different from that of the invalid by the Bethesda Pool (5:11-15).

The contrast between the man and the Pharisees cold not have been more conspicuous either, a fact he highlighted in his final speech. The religious leaders knew the Scriptures better than anyone, and they had been trained in Hebrew history and theology. Yet the man born blind had no difficulty putting the facts together to arrive at an obvious conclusion. His response rested on the very theological traditions the Pharisees held most dear.

By the end of the inquisition, the Pharisees had no option but to set aside the facts and then play their trump card: their superior position of power. In my experience, it is a clear admission of defeat when someone starts quoting from his or her resume in the midst of a debate. It’s even clearer when that person resorts to the use of power to silence his or her opponent. The Pharisees essentially admitted, “We don’t have an answer, so we’ll excommunicate him.”

Read or sing 30 “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” Prayer: Ask the LORD to grant you the courage to stand for Him in the face of opposition.

Tuesday (3/14) Read and discuss John 9:8-23. The healed man’s parents found stability, security, and peace in a network of relationships that all ran through the synagogue. When push came to shove, they were unwilling to severe themselves from this support system in order to stand with their son and with Jesus. We should realize how powerful these relationships are in our own lives. Peer pressure is a reality for adults every bit as much as it is for teenagers. So how should we as God’s people deal with the pressure we might face from our network of relationships?

  1. First, a really bad answer: We can try to live our lives so that we never become that connected to other people. As Paul Simon sings: “I am a rock. I am an Island. A rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.” Well, it’s a great song – precisely because Simon is making clear that this a terrible and empty way to live. You were created to be in relationship both with God and with other people. Cutting yourself off from other people won’t make you holy. It will make you empty.
  2. A second answer is much better: We must be prepared with Martin Luther to sing: “Let goods and kindred go” and mean it. We ought to commit right now to say with Joshua, that no matter what everyone else does, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Over the coming weeks, we will be looking at the life of Joseph in evening worship. It is astonishing to realize how faithful Joshua was even though he was entirely cut off for many years from any other Jews. If necessary, we are called to do the very same thing. Nevertheless, let me suggest that this is not where we ought to start.
  3. Instead, there is a third answer for us that is immensely practical. Make sure that you are cultivating friendships with other Christians. I don’t mean with people who merely check the box “Christian” on surveys – I mean – make sure that you are cultivating friendships with other people who genuinely love the LORD – with people who imperfectly but truly are trying to seek first the Kingdom of God.

Read or sing Hymn 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness” Prayer: Ask the LORD to help you cultivate a few deep relationships with committed Christian friends.

Wednesday (3/15) Read and discuss Psalm 34:1-22. Alec Motyer writes:

The heading throws an interesting light on Psalm 34. It agrees with 1 Samuel in attributing David’s escape from the Philistines to his clever stratagem of pretending to be deranged. In this it contrasts sharply with content of the psalm, but in a way which is both easy and fascinating to explain. One does not need much imagination to think what a good story David would have made of his pretending loopiness, and how he fooled his way out of danger in Gath. So think of him recounting his cleverness yet once more, when suddenly it came over him that in face there was a ‘real’ story hidden inside the ‘good’ story – a real story of prayer made and prayer answered. Yes, he had played the madman, yes he had written up insulting graffiti about Achish on the doors, yes he had made his personal behavior unacceptable, but he had also prayed, he had also looked ceaselessly to Yahweh. He had looked, he had cried out, he had found his God to be near at hand in the hour of terror – and wasn’t that the real story? Wasn’t that what he ought to be telling his friends? Not boosting his own cleverness telling the tale, … [For] there is no situation from which the ‘downtrodden’ – those at the bottom of life’s heap – cannot cry out and be heard, because Yahweh’s eye never flickers from watching over His servants, His ear is ever open to their cry. There is no situation where He is anything but ‘near’ (18), with his mobile home pitched alongside so as always to be with us (7). There is no situation where his face is not set against our adversaries to cut them down (16). The life-changing way is to look to him (5), to taste the sweet savor of His goodness (8), to “Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then have nothing else to fear …” The story within the story is the one to listen to, and it is written for our learning in Psalm 34.

Prayer: Give thanks that since God is for us, the world cannot prevail against us.

Thursday (3/16) Read and discuss Acts 7:1-16. John Stott writes:

It is no accident that Stephen describes Yahweh as the God of glory, for his ‘glory’ is his self-manifestation, and Stephen is about to give details of how he made himself known to Abraham. He appeared to him first while he was still in Mesopotamia, specifically in Ur of the Chaldeans, while he and his family ‘worshipped other gods’. Yet even in that idolatrous context God appeared and spoke to Abraham, telling him to uproot himself from his home and people and migrate to another country which he would later show him. … So Abram left Ur and settled in Haran. But from there God sent him on the next state of his journey to the land of Canaan. He gave him no inheritance in it, however, not even a foot of ground, but instead promised that his descendants (though at the time he had no child) would possess the land. At the same time, even they would not inherit it immediately, for first they were to be strangers in a country not their own, where they would be both enslaved and ill-treated for four hundred years. Even during their cruel servitude God had neither forgotten nor forsaken them; he intervened to punish the nation which had enslaved them and so to rescue them from their bondage.

Read or sing Hymn 708 “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Providence OPC in West Lebanon, NH. Ask the Lord to raise up men of God who can serve as ordained officers in this congregation.

Friday (3/17) Read and discuss Genesis 39:1-6. Walter Brueggemann writes:

In verses 1-6 things happen quickly and decisively even though there is no real narrative of events. Within these few verses, the Hebrew slave is catapulted to the peak of the empire. The visible agent is his Egyptian master.

But the real cause is this other One: “The LORD was with Joseph” (v. 2). We will hear the name of the LORD in this narrative four times in parallel formulae. The affirmation that the LORD is with Joseph is made twice at the beginning and twice at the end. Three times the result of the formula of accompaniment is prosperity, success (vv. 2, 3, 23). In those flat, undeveloped assertions, everything is said that needs to be said. This affirmation is the decisive claim of the entire narrative. So far as this narrative is concerned, everything is explained. It is not claimed that because of Yahweh everything will work out. Nor is it promised that the key actor will be easily saved from trouble. But the narrator offers an understanding of reality that is an alternative to every imperial presupposition of control. … The text witnesses to the hidden life-giving power of God at work in the midst of imperial death. This is not cheap grace. Nor is it a deus ex machina. But is, nonetheless, the claim upon which everything hangs. It is that affirmation, before and behind which shapes the encounter of verses 7-20.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to convert the unbelieving pastors in New England or to remove them from His pulpits and replace them with true men of God. Pray that the LORD would send forth His gospel with power throughout our region.

Saturday (3/18) Read and discuss John 9:24-34. N.T. Wright comments:

The story crackles with irony, as the Pharisees unwittingly say all sorts of things which, from John’s point of view, tell against them.

‘Give God the glory!’ they say to the man born blind – meaning, it seems, ‘if you have indeed been healed, it must have been God’s doing alone, and nothing to do with Jesus.’ But John wants us to see that the man is giving God the glory, precisely by sticking to his story and insisting that Jesus had healed him. God must have been working through Jesus, he insists. No other explanation seems possible.

‘We know he’s a sinner,’ they say. They mean, of course, that Jesus appears to have broken the Sabbath (though whether healing someone, or making clay out of mud and spittle to do so constituted Sabbath-breaking remains dubious). What they mean is this. If Jesus is a Sabbath-breaker, and hence a sinner, he can have nothing to do with God. But John wants us to see that Jesus’ action in healing the man is the clearest indication that this view of the Sabbath is itself wrong. God is doing a new thing, opening up his new world of healing and hope. The Pharisees’ insistence on staying within their own self-imposed interpretation of the law only shows how drastically they are themselves out of tune with God’s plan.

It is important to realize that the Pharisees were wrong about the Law. The problem wasn’t that they loved the Law too much but that they loved and understood it too little. As Jesus says elsewhere, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” Acts of mercy were always appropriate on the Sabbath. Read or sing Hymn: 689 “Be Still My Soul” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 12 March 2017 Sunday, Mar 5 2017 

MVOPC 12 March 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 57 “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul”

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: 1 John 2:1

Hymn of Preparation:  345 “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 9:1-20

New Covenant Reading: John 9:8-23

Sermon: Division and Fear

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

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 528 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 38:1-30

NT: Luke 20:27-40

More Righteous Than I

Adult Sunday School: War of Words Jason Donald Teaching

Shorter Catechism Q/A #85

Q. What doth God require of us that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin?

A. To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (3/6) Read and discuss John 9:8-23.  R.C. Sproul writes:

The Pharisees asked the healed man’s parents two simple questions: “Is this your son?” and “How can he now see?” A third question is implied: “Is it true he was born blind?” The parents affirmed that the man was their son and that he had been born blind, but as to how he had come to see, they professed not to know. This is an incredible manifestation of corruption. How many years had these people agonized over the sightless condition of their son? He was their own flesh and blood. What a crushing blow it is to bring a child into the world and discover that the child cannot see, and that there’s no hope that the child will ever see. Put yourself in the place of a parent who brings such a child into the world and imagine helping that child grope through the darkness year after year. Then imagine that, one afternoon after that child has grown to adulthood, the child walks into your house and says, “Mother, Father, I can see!” You’d want to crawl over glass to thank the One who made this possible. But not these parents. They professed ignorance and told the Pharisees to ask their son, for he was old enough to answer for himself.

John does not leave us to guess why these parents were so reticent to speak of their son’s healer. The Pharisees, he writes, had issued an edict that anyone who confessed that Jesus as the Messiah would be excommunicated from the synagogue. That was a serious threat, and the parents feared that crediting Jesus with the miracle of their son’s healing might well be judged as a confession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah.

Read or sing 57 “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul” Prayer: Ask that LORD to strengthen you that you would confess Christ before men no matter the cost.

Tuesday (3/7) Read and discuss John 9:1-7. It is critical that we see this miracle not simply as a remarkable sign. It was that of course. As we the formerly blind man will soon argue: “Since the foundation of the world it has never been known that a man born blind was given his sight.” Yet, what Jesus did was not simply an astonishing miracle, it was specifically a Messianic miracle. In Isaiah 42, the LORD directly addresses the Messiah and says:

            “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;

I will take you by the hand and keep you;

I will give you as a covenant for the people,

a light for the nations,

to open the eyes that are blind,

to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,

from the prison those who sit in darkness.

This means that by opening the eyes of this man born blind, Jesus was giving compelling evidence that He was in fact the Messiah. Furthermore, the fact that this is a Messianic miracle should lead us to realize that what Jesus was doing was about far more than restoring a man’s physical sight. As we will see in the coming weeks, Jesus opened this man’s physical eyes as a step toward opening his spiritual sight and given him eternal life. Read or sing Hymn 345 “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our Church as it meets this evening.

Wednesday (3/8) Read and discuss Psalm 9:1-20. Allen P. Ross writes:

The psalm in many ways focuses on God’s sovereign rule over the affairs of men. The psalmist thinks of his own experience of vindication when God judged the wicked, and from there he looks forward to what it all prefigures, a great and final judgment to come. The LORD is the champion of the weak and afflicted who trust in him, and he will one day bring justice into the world by putting the oppressors in their place. Their place will be Sheol, their native element.

The message of the psalm is timeless. It may be worded as follows: Because God has demonstrated that he is the righteous judge of the world, believers may trust in him now for protection from the wicked and confidently pray for the final vindication in the judgment to come.

There are two ways this psalm may be directed. One is that people hearing this psalm may have to acknowledge that they are part of those who are being prayed against in this psalm – they may have a share in the oppression of others, either on a small scale or by being part of powerful nations. Passages such as this should inspire believers to relieve the suffering and the affliction of others when they have the opportunity to do so.

The other way this Psalm may be directed is the straight-forward meaning of the text. Any individual believers who are oppressed by wickedness in high or low places will find strength and comfort from this psalm to pray for relief and vindication. They will certainly understand the plight of others who have been afflicted, and join in their ancient prayer, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”

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

Thursday (3/9) Read and discuss Luke 20:27-40.   Thomas Schreiner writes:

The Sadducees were an aristocratic group who were the most powerful political faction in Palestine. Thy rejected both the oral tradition of the law to which the Pharisees adhered and belief in the resurrection or angels. They relied only on the Old Testament Scriptures for their theology, focusing especially on the Torah. In this episode they try to show that the doctrine of the resurrection is ridiculous. Referring to the custom of levirate marriage (a man marries his deceased brother’s wife who is childless to raise up children for his brother), they imply that a future resurrection is out of the question. If a wife had seven such husbands, to which husband would she be married in the resurrection? Jesus’ answer has two parts. (1) The Sadducees fail to see the discontinuity between this age and the age to come. Marriage and procreation are a vital part of earthly life to preserve the human race, but in the coming kingdom their will be no institution of marriage. People will be like angels. This doesn’t necessarily mean that sexual differences will be obliterated, nor does it mean that human beings and angels will be exactly alike. It means that human beings will be like angles in at least one way – neither will marry. (2) What Jesus has said weakens the Sadducean objection. But now he moves to the Scriptures to demonstrate His case. If Exodus 3:6 says that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then the patriarchs must continue to live.

Read or sing Hymn 644 “May the Mind of Christ My Savior” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at the Presbyterian Church of Cape Cod.

Friday (3/10) Read and discuss Genesis 38:1-30. James Montgomery Boice writes:

There are a number of important application to this story, as most commentators have recognized. First, it is a lesson about sin, for it shows how one sin inevitably leads to another and how at last most sins are found out. (Of course, at the final judgment every sin will be exposed and all facts known.) Judah’s sin of marrying an unbelieving woman led to his breaking his obligation to Tamar and eventually to his easy morality. Moreover, it affect others. No doubt his wife’s corruption was passed on to his sons. His sin with Tamar eventually involved her in public disgrace and great danger.

Do not think, if you are tempted to sin (as Judah was or in some other way), that you will escape sin’s consequences. Sin has tentacles, and you will be entangled in them. David’s sin with Bathsheba (adultery) led to sin against Uriah (murder), and the outworking of the evil eventually affected the whole nation.

Yet, great as Judah’s sin was, it is evident that God also worked in the situation for good, since from this incest came Perez, one of the ancestors of the Lord Jesus Christ. Is it not strange that Christ should trace his ancestry through this illicit son of Judah rather than through Joseph, who is so much like Christ and is so dominant in the final portions of the Book of Genesis?

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD is working all things for our good and for His glory.

Saturday (3/11) Read and discuss John 9:8-23. N.T. Wright comments:

When Jesus heals the man, John clearly intends us to see the action as one of the moments in the gospel when God’s truth and the world’s life come rushing together into one. ‘I am the light of the world’, says Jesus in verse 5, sending our minds back yet once more to the Prologue: ‘life was in him, and this life was the light of the human race’ (1:4). As the passage goes on, we see part of what it means that ‘the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness didn’t overcome it’. John’s gospel is pushing us forward in heart and mind towards God’s new creation, the time when God will make all things new.

At the start of the book of Genesis, God was faced with chaos. HE didn’t waste time describing the chaos, analyzing it or discussing whose fault it was. Instead, he created light; and, following the light, a whole new world. So here, John wants us to understand, Jesus is doing ‘the works of the one who sent him’. A new chaos is on the way – the ‘night’, the darkness, when Jesus will be killed and the world will seem to plunge back into primal confusion. But at the moment he is establishing the new world of light and healing. After the chaos of Good Friday and Holy Saturday, he will bring the new creation itself into being with the light of the first Easter Day (John 20:1).

Read or sing Hymn: 528 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 5 March 2017 Sunday, Feb 26 2017 

MVOPC 5 March 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render”

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: Joel 2:12-13

Hymn of Preparation:  94 “How Firm a Foundation”

Old Covenant Reading: Ezekiel 18:14-20

New Covenant Reading: John 9:1-7

Sermon: Making All Things New

Hymn of Response: 524 “Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 37:12-36

NT: 1 John 3:11-18

Shattered Dreams

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #84

Q. What doth every sin deserve?

A. Every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/27) Read and discuss John 9:1-7.  N.T. Wright comments:

If something in the world seems ‘unfair’, but if you believe in a God who is both all-powerful, all loving and all-fair, one way of getting round the problem is to say that it only seems ‘unfair’, but actually it isn’t. There was after all some secret sin being punished. This is a comfortable sort of thing to believe if you happen to be well-off, well-fed and healthy in body and mind. (In other words, if nobody can accuse you of some secret previous sin.)

Jesus firmly resists any such analysis of how the world is ordered. The world is stranger than that, and darker than that, and the light of God’s powerful, loving justice shines more brightly than that. But to understand it all, we have to be prepared to dismantle some of our cherished assumptions and to let God remake them in a different way.

We have to stop thinking of the world as a kind of moral slot-machine, where people put in a coin (a good act, say, or an evil one) and get out a particular result (a reward or a punishment). Of course, actions always have consequences. Good things often happen as a result of good actions (kindness produces gratitude), and bad things often happen through bad actions (drunkenness causes car accidents). But this isn’t inevitable. Kindness is sometimes scorned. Some drunkards always get away with it.

In particular, you can’t stretch the point back to a previous ‘life,’ or to someone else’s sins. Being born blind doesn’t mean you must have sinned, says Jesus. Nor does it mean that your parents must have sinned. No: something much stranger, at once more mysterious and more hopeful, is going on The chaos and misery of this present world is, it seems, the raw material out of which the loving, wise and just God is making his new creation.

Read or sing 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render” Prayer: Pray for someone you know who is blind, deaf, or otherwise suffering from severe physical disadvantages and ask that he or she would know the comfort of the LORD.

Tuesday (2/28) Read and discuss John 8:48-59. It is terrifying to contemplate these Jewish religious leaders standing face-to-face in front of the Living God while they hurl blasphemous charges against Him. Nevertheless, I am grateful that their rebellious challenge is recorded in Scripture for Jesus takes this occasion to make a remarkable statement about His own person. Verse 58:

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

If Jesus had said, “Before Abraham was, I was” He would have been making an astonishing statement. Each of you realizes that there was a time when you did not exist. Not a single person in this room was alive in 1900. Not one of you. If one of you were to tell me after the service that before George Washington went to Valley Forge you were already alive – I would tell you that you ought to see a psychiatrist – or at least that you needed to get some sleep. But, we should realize that there are a whole class of people alive right now who were alive before George Washington, before the Apostle Paul, and even before Abraham. We call these individuals Angels. If Jesus had said, “Before Abraham was, I was” He might be making the astonishing claim that He was like Michael the Archangel – a being of great power created by God many, many centuries ago. But that is decidedly not what Jesus says. Instead Jesus says: “Before Abraham was, I am.” This is nothing short of Jesus claiming to be God. Jesus was not simply a very special messenger from God. Jesus is God Himself who took to Himself a true human nature. This is the title that the LORD used back when He met with Moses at the burning bush. Moses was understandably shaken by the encounter and the startling commission the LORD had laid upon him.

[So] Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

Every Jew knew this story by heart. The Jewish religious leaders had challenged Jesus by asking Him: “Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus says: “Here is your answer.” Do you remember when the LORD met with Moses at the burning bush and revealed Himself as “I AM.” Of course you do! Well, that’s Me. I am the Great “I AM.” Read or sing Hymn 94 “How Firm a Foundation” Prayer: Give thanks that God Himself has become your Savior.

Wednesday (3/1) Read and discuss Ezekiel 18:14-20. Iain Duguid writes:

When I was growing up, two of the top three things we were never allowed to say were, “It’s not my fault,” and, “It’s not fair.” (The other was, “I couldn’t help it.”) Those very phrase are, in effect, what Ezekiel’s contemporaries were saying to God by using the parable about the fathers having eaten sour grapes and the children having their teeth set on edge. As they suffered the discipline of God in Exile, their first response was, “This is not our fault,” which in turn led logically to the accusation, “God, that’s not fair.” Ezekiel’s response is to affirm that, along with previous generations, it is indeed their fault. It is not God’s unfairness but their sin that is the problem. They are simply in denial about the true nature of their case. But Ezekiel doesn’t take away their excuses in order to leave them crushed under the full impact of God’s law. He pleads with them even now to turn and live.

Prayer: Pray for your workplace or school that the LORD’s name would be hallowed there.

Thursday (3/2) Read and discuss 1 John 3:11-18.  Do we walk the walk or do we just talk the talk? The answer to that question depends entirely upon whom we love. Cain loved himself. He couldn’t stand the idea that his brother would somehow be more acceptable or more honored before the LORD than he was.  Faced with God’s own call for him to repent, Cain chose to kill his brother out of envy rather than to humble himself before God. Now it might be tempting to be grateful that we are not like that. Few of us will ever kill our brother the way Cain did. So, grading on a curve, maybe we are not doing so bad. That is one of the services provided by Adolf Hitler to fallen humanity – each rebellious sinner can say: “Well, I’m not as bad as Hitler.” But John won’t let us off the hook so easily. First of all, God doesn’t grade on a curve. Secondly, John puts the questions squarely in front of us: “Do you really love your brother?” John takes us back to the only Person who has ever fully loved in this way. John writes, “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” As dramatic as actually laying down our life for our brothers might be, in one sense taking this command only in a woodenly literal sense lets us largely off the hook. After all, there are not likely to be many (probably not any) times in your life when either you must die or your brother or sister in Christ must die.  John speaks of this dramatic act of love as a way of introducing the challenging reality of sharing our material goods with our brothers and sisters who are in need. How do we love in deed and in truth? Sometimes it is simply with a bag of groceries or a blanket. Read or sing Hymn 524 “Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ” Prayer: Ask the LORD to bring visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family and whose gifts would build up this local body.

Friday (3/3) Read and discuss Genesis 37:12-36. Tremper Longman writes:

Right from the beginning of the Joseph narrative we have witnessed the tremendous envy that the brothers feel toward Joseph. Joseph has something that they desire: their father’s special love. We have already described the wrongness of Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph. In a word, it elicits the envy of the brothers toward Joseph.

What is envy but “the desire for what another has that we don’t have. It is resentful desire (Allender and Longman).” The brothers certainly resent Joseph, and they do so obsessively. They can’t get him and his privileged family life out of [their minds]. …

The brother’s envy-driven rage toward Joseph is obvious, but what about toward God? While it is not as clearly articulated as it is in the story of Cain and Abel, we see it in the brothers’ unwillingness to control their hatred toward their brother. They are not content with what God has given them and so they lack trust in God and use malicious means in order to remove the source of their envy. …

How do we handle envy then? Again, we turn to the psalmist for an answer. The composer of Psalm 73 wrote the song after he had come to grips with his envy. After all, the psalm begins with “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (73:1). The latter part of the psalm explains that his obsessively envious heart was calmed by going into the presence of God. He goes to the sanctuary, where during the Old Testament period, God made his special presence known, and he realized that God was with him and that the prosperity of the wicked was only apparent and short lived, not real.

Those of us who live in the twenty-first century encounter many things that can evoke our envy. We are exposed to the lives of the rich and powerful on television shows; constant advertisements play on our desires for more and better luxury items. No matter how much money and how many possessions we have, there is always an appetite for more. Like the psalmist we need to go into he presence of God and have our priorities corrected. If we have a vibrant relationship with God what else do we need?

Prayer: Ask the LORD to root envy out of your life.

Saturday (3/4) Read and discuss John 9:1-7. Chuck Swindoll writes:

As soon as Jesus finished correcting the faulty theology of His disciples, He declared, “I am the Light of the world,” and then He gave the man sight. He spat on the ground, mixed it with the substance of man’s creation (Gen. 2:7), and then smeared the clay over this man’s eyes. In this one act, Jesus asserted His authority over disabilities, sin, bad theology, religion, the temple, the Sabbath, and even the religious authorities who opposed Him. And he had this opportunity because an infant came into the world decades earlier without the ability to see.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 26 February 2017 Sunday, Feb 19 2017 

MVOPC 26 February 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Titus 2:11-14

Hymn of Preparation:  599 “Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us”

Old Covenant Reading: Exodus 3:1-15

New Covenant Reading: John 8:48-59

Sermon: One Greater Than Abraham

Hymn of Response: 670 “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee”

Confession of Faith:    Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 598 “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah”

PM Worship

OT: Isaiah 53:1-12

NT: 1 Peter 2:11-25

A Pilgrim’s Life

Adult Sunday School: Special Meeting of the Congregation – No Sunday School Today

Shorter Catechism Q/A #83

Q. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
A. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

Suggested Preparations 

Monday (2/20) Read and discuss John 8:48-59.  R.C. Sproul writes:

Do you see the two points Jesus has made to the Pharisees? He said: “Don’t tell Me you’re children of Abraham, because if you were children of Abraham, you would do the things that Abraham loved; but you hate the things that Abraham loved. And don’t claim to be children of God, because if you were children of God, you would love the things of God; but you hate the things of God.”

This kind of teaching comes like a freight train against the basic beliefs of American culture. We’re told that God has many faces and that we can choose to believe in Mohammed, Buddaha, Confucius, or any of those avatars, as well as Jesus. In fact, it doesn’t matter what we believe, just as long as we’re sincere. Not so, according to Jesus. If we reject Christ, we reject the Father. We cannot have the Father and not have the Son, and we cannot have the Son and not have the Father; because the Father sent the Son.

Read or sing 34 “The God of Abraham Praise” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Island Pond Baptist Church as they search for a new pastor.

Tuesday (2/21) Read and discuss John 8:30-47. Jesus promises to liberate those who abide in His teaching. Instead of embracing this gift, the crowd is indignant because they imagine that they are already free. We face the same problem when talking about pursuing righteousness in the modern world. Our non-Christian neighbors imagine that living according to God’s word is bondage and that doing whatever they feel like is true freedom. Yet, no matter how popular this false view of freedom might become, it is still a rather pathetic definition of freedom. Let me give you a silly example to illustrate how such a view of freedom is terribly detrimental to achieving a happy and productive life: Imagine you have a friend who just purchased a brand new Honda Accord. You see your friend beginning to put diesel fuel into his gar which is designed for unleaded gasoline. So, you warn him that doing this is going to ruin his car … but he shoots back: “You are just in bondage to all those rules the manufacturer is laying on you. Unlike you, I’m free to use any type of fuel in my car that I want to!” Do you know what is going to happen to your friend? Your friend is going to be the proud owner of a brand-new Honda Accord with a burned-out engine. If he chooses the so-called “freedom” of putting the wrong fuel into the car he is going to quickly ruin it. If you, by contrast, follow all the recommended servicing on your Honda Accord you will likely be able to put 200,000 miles or more on it. Now why would anyone call your friend’s foolish behavior “freedom” while calling your wise behaving “bondage”? But that is precisely what the world does with respect to God. Everything that exists except for God has been created by God. The Manufacturer has told us how things are supposed to work. If we refuse to follow His directions, we are like your foolish friend who insisted on his so-called freedom to put the wrong fuel into his car. But wouldn’t it be better to say that the wisdom to put the right fuel in the car is actually what produces the greatest level of both freedom and happiness? This is also true for living all of life in accordance with God’s word. Read or sing Hymn 599 “Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us” Prayer: Please pray for the Foreign Missions Committee of our denomination as it meets today and tomorrow.

Wednesday (2/22) Read and discuss Exodus 3:1-15. Doug Stuart writes:

By authorizing Moses to say, “I AM/CAUSE TO BE” has sent me to you,” God made Moses his ambassadorial representative, that is, prophet, assigned to speak on his behalf to the Israelites. They would have recognized, if they perceived the situation correctly, that what he said was not of his own making but was the word of Yahweh, the God of their forefathers.

What had just been revealed in terms of the divine name was now reiterated [in verse 15] with connection to the Patriarchs, so that the Israelites in Egypt would be able to properly draw the conclusion that Moses was no coming to them in the name of a new god but the true God of old, the God their own ancestors worshiped, and thus the God who should logically be their national deliverer. God also made clear that the third-person form of his name, Yahweh, was to be employed immediately (since no human could use it properly in the first-person form) and would identify him to his people for the generations thereafter.

Prayer: Please pray for the teenagers in our congregation that they would grow in their commitment to Christ and that the LORD would be using them to impact their peer groups for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Thursday (2/23) Read and discuss James 3:13-18. Commenting on verse 18, J.A. Moyter writes:

James takes his gardening metaphor seriously. Peace is the soil and those who make peace are the green-fingered gardeners. The only way in which this clear picture needs any further explanation is to say that our usage narrows unduly the meaning of those who make peace, for we call peacemakers those who have a ministry or gift of helping others to compose their differences. H. Alford is correct in seeing here those who ‘work peace’, or ‘peace-workers’. They are those whose whole life, ministry, influence and relationships are peace-creating. They are those who are out for peace in the fellowship, as Acts 15 and 21 reveal James himself to have been.

Once more we need to ask ourselves if we really believe this. Is it not too surprising? Do we find it recommended as a way of Christian growth in our churches? Certainly, the idea of Christian growth is not neglected by any manner of means: there is a suggestion here, an experience there, a crisis to pass through, a new touch from God to receive, a special blessing into which to enter. But how often do we hear of a harvest of righteousness sown in peace by those who prize and promote peace? How very important Christian fellowship is! A harmonious fellowship of believers is the soil out of which grows the whole life that is pleasing to God.

Read or sing Hymn 670 “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by becoming part of our church family.

Friday (2/24) Read and discuss Genesis 37:1-11. James Montgomery Boice writes:

In Hebrews the author of that deep study warns us about allowing a “bitter root” to grow up in our lives “to cause trouble and defile many” (Heb. 12:15). It is a good warning. For it is precisely this that turned the sons of Jacob into would-be fratricides. At the beginning they probably did not have their hearts set on Joseph’s murder. But they envied him, and envy eventually gave way to hatred that gave way to a plot against his life.

The text says, “His brothers were jealous of him” (Gen. 37:11), a judgment Stephen echoed in his great speech before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:9). Envy (or jealousy) means “ill will occasioned by another’s good fortune.” It involves a superiority in the one envied and resentment by the person who envies. It is terribly destructive. The bible says, “Envy rots the bones” (Prov. 14:30). James wrote, “Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16).

The chief reason is that envy is an angry resistance to God’s decrees. Consequently it is ultimately resentment of God and hatred of him. This is the essential issue in the matter of Joseph’s dreams. The brothers had envied him before this, as the narrative says. They envied him for his good qualities, which revealed their evil ones, and because of his father’s choice of Joseph to assume the rights of the firstborn. But this was not merely resentment of these circumstances. Ultimately God is responsible for circumstances; so the brothers’ envy was essentially a resentment of what God had done and was doing, as the dreams show.

Prayer: Pray for the Special Meeting of our congregation this coming Sunday.

Saturday (2/25) Read and discuss John 8:48-59. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the richness and profundity of what Jesus is saying that we can forget to apply His words to our own lives. When that happens, we need to stop and preach God’s word to our own hearts in the mostly simple and direct way possible. R.C. Sproul says it well when he writes:

Disciples of Christ abide in His Word. Those who abide in His Word know the truth and are free. By contrast, the unregenerate are in bondage to sin and desire to do Satan’s wishes. These stark contrasts emerge from this debate between Jesus and the Pharisees. Where do you stand? Are you abiding in God’s Word and growing in the truth? Or are you in bondage to do Satan’s wishes? Abide in God’s Word that you might be free indeed

Read or sing Hymn: 598 “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 19 February 2017 Sunday, Feb 12 2017 

MVOPC 19 February 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

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

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: Psalm 103:8-10

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

Old Covenant Reading: Exodus 18:1-9

New Covenant Reading: John 8:30-47

Sermon: The Truth Will Set You Free

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still My Soul”

PM Worship

OT: Isaiah 53:1-12

NT: 1 Peter 2:11-25

A Pilgrim’s Life

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School Today

Shorter Catechism Q/A #82

Q. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?

A. No mere man since the fall is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them in thought, word and deed.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/13) Read and discuss John 8:30-47. Edward W. Klink writes:

An important distinction needs to be made between the biblical depiction of freedom and the contemporary use of the term. The OT understood freedom in very concrete terms. The emphasis on freedom offered by the exodus narrative and beyond was not, surprisingly, freedom from slavery. The Bible expects slavery in the sense that all people will serve something (cf. Rom 6). Freedom in the bible is not a contrast between freedom and slavery but between an inappropriate master (Pharaoh; sin) and an appropriate master – God (cf. Exodus 9:14). It was freedom for something more than freedom from something. The freedom about which the exodus is the paradigmatic instance of liberation from degrading bondage for the endless service of the God who remembers his covenant, redeems from exile and oppression, and gives commandments through which the people of God are sanctified. This is the biblical notion of freedom about which Jesus speaks. If you are not a disciple of Jesus (v. 31), then by implication you serve the tyrant of sin (vv. 21, 24, 34).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not just about who a person was, a sinner dying in their sins, but also about who a person can become. In this [passage], God declares that the person who believes becomes a “true disciple” (v. 31), is defined by truth (v. 32), is free from sin (vv. 32-36), and is given an eternal inheritance into the family of God (v. 35). These are large-scale biblical ideals, beginning all the way back with Abraham and finding their ultimate expression in and through Jesus Chris.

Read or sing 38 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” Prayer: Pray for the wisdom and safety of your family, friends, and neighbors as we navigate the heavy snowfalls.

Tuesday (2/14) Read and discuss John 8:21-29.  Self-righteousness is one of the biggest obstacles to religious people getting saved. Commenting on verse 22, Casper Cruciger writes:

Do you see how stubborn wickedness operates? They receive such a sad threat which should have driven them to tears and true repentance. But instead they respond with mocking grimaces and bitter sarcasm. “Will he kill himself?” It is as if they are saying, “Because he wants to hide himself so that we cannot follow him, what tricks is he preparing? Will he kill himself so he won’t be found anywhere? These are the poisonous voices of Christ’s enemies that mock and jeer at him even when he is hanging on the cross for humankind: “If he is the Son of God, let him save himself and come down from the cross.” Thus, here, urged to repent and to have faith, they ridicule him with poisonous words. “By all means, let him go wherever he wants, let him kill himself, let him perish, let him see whether anyone will seek him.” This is the way the company of priests and Pharisees respond to the Messiah sent by God. They cannot bear to be stripped of the glory of their own righteousness. They reject the accusation of blindness and the accusation that they do not know how to reach God. They see themselves honored with titles of the church and the people of God, and glorying in this, they haughtily and fearlessly mock the voice of the gospel which accuses them of unbelief and warns them of punishment and God’s judgment.

Read or sing Hymn 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” Prayer:

Wednesday (2/15) Read and discuss Exodus 18:1-9. Douglas Stuart writes:

The testimony of God’s people as to his actions in their lives on their behalf has always been an effective component of evangelism. Was Moses consciously seeking to convert his father-in-law to faith in the true and only God, Yahweh? Absolutely. He would surely have been a poor son-in-law and host … to have done otherwise since he now knew for sure that Yahweh was the supreme God and that the “gods” and men of the known world’s superpower, Egypt, were entirely subject to his power. Moses probably spent a good many hours recounting to Jethro the entire story that we know in written form as Exod 4:27-17:16, and it is not at all improbable that such a full oral review may have been part of the process by which God prepared Moses to become the writer of the book of Exodus. A tendency exists in the modern evangelical “testimony” to emphasize only victorious, successful parts of one’s experience as a believer. Note how something of the opposite prevails in Moses’ discussion with Jethro: he told him “about all the hardships they had met along the way,” not to the exclusion of telling him “how the LORD had saved them” but with a proper balance of the difficulties and the deliverances, lest his potential convert wrongly think that God does not allow his people to face many dangers and trials in the process of their ultimate deliverance. “How the LORD had saved them” does not therefore refer specifically to salvation from sin in the present context but does help establish the character of Yahweh as a saving, rescuing God who acts to keep his people from being destroyed. Later in Exodus the focus will shift from God’s saving his people from physical danger to his saving them from sin by teaching them how to be holy and preserve his holiness, but that is not yet the topic here.

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD is “a saving, rescuing God who acts to keep His people from being destroyed.”

Thursday (2/16) Read and discuss Isaiah 52:13-53:12. R. Reed Lessing writes:

Words collapse before the enormity of the Fourth Servant Song. What language shall we borrow to summarize its breadth and length, its height and depth? The text takes us on a journey beginning with our Lord’s eternal relationship with his Father – the exalted state to which he will return (52:13) – down to his state of humiliation as our sin-bearer through the events during Holy Week (52:14-53:10), then up through the empty tomb on Easter, the justification of the many, and his ascension and session at the right hand of the Father, where he ever lives to intercede for us (53:11-12).

The Song begins with the final result: “behold, my Servant will succeed; he will rise, be exalted, and be very high” (52:13). In Isaiah, the combination of the verbs translated as “rise’ and “be exalted” describes only one other person and that is Yahweh: “in the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD seated on a throne, high and lifted up” (6:1). He receives the cry of the seraphim: “holy, holy, holy” (6:3). Isaiah calls him “the King, Yahweh of armies” (6:5). The Servant and Yahweh are one and the same. The Servant embodies the totality of the divine glory. “For in him [Christ] all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:9).

Read or sing Hymn 188 “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting” Prayer: Ask that the LORD’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven in some specific area of your life.

Friday (2/17) Read and discuss 1 Peter 2:11-25. American public discourse, particularly about political issues, has become increasingly shrill and mean spirited over the past couple of decades. Regretfully Christians have often been as much a part of the problem as part of the solution. But what is the solution? Does God call us to abandon the civil debate in order to remain unstained by the struggles that take place within the political arena? Absolutely not! In today’s passage Peter commands Christians to engage the wider culture and He also tells us how the LORD would have us do so. First of all, rather than being conformed to the world we are “to abstain from carnal desires that wage war against the soul (v. 11).” Rather than rushing past this point as though it were obvious, we ought to recognize that the most important thing we do for the sanctification of our culture is to pursue God’s will in our own lives. Second, we are to be subject to those in authority by honoring those to whom honor is due.  Third, we should remember that God’s plan is not that we overcome evildoers with sharp and clever rhetoric but with good deeds (v. 15).  What makes this so difficult is that it is a long term strategy. A clever one-liner gives instant satisfaction. The testimony of Christian charity may take generations. Nevertheless, God’s plan has the added benefit that it cannot possibly fail. When we think how hostile the Roman Empire was to the expanding Church, it is interesting that “neither (Peter) nor any other NT writer mounts a frontal attack on the social structures of the time, such as slavery (Jobes).”  But this doesn’t mean they were doing nothing to transform society.  As Miraslav Volf, who personally experienced the pain of growing up in Communist Yugoslavia, has written:

The call to follow the crucified Messiah was, in the long run, much more effective in changing the unjust political, economic, and familial structures than direct exhortations to revolutionize them would ever have been. For an allegiance to the crucified Messiah – indeed, worship of a crucified God – is an eminently political act that subverts a politics of dominion at its very core.

We need to take the long view of simple but clear obedience to the LORD. More than time is on our side. The God who created time calls us to such faithfulness and promises to make it bear much fruit. Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you patience in the midst of adversity and confidence that Christ’s victory on the cross will be manifested in His victory in this world.

Saturday (2/18) Read and discuss John 8:30-47. Commenting on verse 44, R.C. Sproul writes:

Here we learn what is meant by spiritual bondage, by bondage to sin. Notice how Jesus describes it. He did not say, “You do the works of the Devil,” so that they could maybe appear on judgment day and say: “Lord, I’m sorry, but the Devil made me do it. What could I do? He’s more powerful than I am.” Instead, Jesus said, “You do the works of the Devil because you want to do the desires of the Devil.” By nature we are Satan’s willing slaves, volunteers in the kingdom of darkness. By nature we love the darkness rather than the light because we want to do the desires of Satan. That’s what sin is. Sin is not simply making bad choices or mistakes. Sin is having the desire in our hearts to do the will of the enemy of God. Paul made this very point to the Ephesians: “And you He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom we also once conduced ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Eph 2:1-3). This is a picture of the bondage from which Jesus delivered us; a bondage of desiring to carry out Satan’s wishes.

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

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