Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 29 May 2016 Sunday, May 22 2016 

MVOPC 29 May 2016

Call to Worship: Isaiah 40:1-5

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

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: Isaiah 55:7-9

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

Old Covenant Reading: Ruth 1:6-22

New Covenant Reading: Romans 8:18-30

Sermon: The Emptying of Naomi

Hymn of Response: 562 “All to Jesus I Surrender”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Till He Come”!

PM Worship: – Elder Jager Teaching

Adult Sunday School: There is Sunday School Today

Shorter Catechism Q/A #44

Q. What doth the preface to the ten commandments teach us?

A. The preface to the ten commandments teacheth us that because God is the Lord, and our God, and redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (5/23) Read and discuss Ruth 1:6-22. Many people read Old Testament narratives looking for heroes and villains. The problem is that the Bible frequently contains stories involving ordinary human beings who are a bit of both. Commenting on verses 13 and 14 Daniel Block writes:

Naomi’s disposition toward her lot in life is exposed. Naomi is a bitter old woman who blames God for her crisis. Naomi feels that she is the target of God’s overwhelming power and wrath. The divine hand that had struck Egypt with plagues, destroyed a generation of Israelites in the land of Canaan (Judges 2:14) was now stretched out against her. The reader may not have recognized the earlier famine in Bethlehem, her family’s exile in Moab, the deaths of her husband and sons, and the barrenness of her daughters-in-law as evidences of the hand of God, but Naomi is clear about the cause of her troubles.

Many readers of biblical narrative tend to idealize or idolize the human characters, but in the context Naomi’s comment is troubling. The same person who had earlier implored Yahweh to be as gracious to her daughters-in-law as they had been to her and to provide them with the security in the house of a husband turns around and accuses God of making her life bitter. Her comments offer no hint of human causation behind her tragedies. Instead of repenting of her own and her people’s sin, she accuses God of injustice toward her. … Her faith is apparently not as mature or orthodox as some would think. This conclusion is confirmed by the next verse.

Read or sing Hymn 5 “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Ask the LORD to guard your heart against bitterness.

Tuesday (5/24) Read and discuss Ruth 1:1-6. What was Elimelech thinking when he decided to leave the Promised Land to sojourn amongst the wicked Moabites? For one thing he thought that the plans were temporary. Look at verse 1 again with me:

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.

The word “sojourn” points to the short term nature of Elimelech’s plans. He wasn’t planning on leaving Bethlehem permanently. This was just a temporary step until times were better and until Elimelech could get his family back on better footing financially. Surely that is what Elimelech told himself.

If you had asked him on his way out of Israel: “Hey, Elimelech – how long will you be gone?” Elimelech would not have replied, “I may never come back. In fact, I’m planning on dying in Moab, having my sons marry Moabite women, and then dying outside the Promised Land just like me.”

He would have said: “I’ll be back soon. Maybe by next harvest.” Of course when Lot choose to pitch his tents near Sodom he wasn’t planning on living out his golden years as a broken man in a cave either. Let that be a warning to us. “There is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is death.” It is foolish to think that compromising our walk with God for an apparent pay-off will be worth it – when the future is so uncertain to us.

As Americans we are particularly prone to self-help religion – so this is a warning that we in this room particularly need to hear. Many Americans actually think that the saying “the Lord helps those who help themselves” is in the Bible. So when we come to a crossroad in life we are conditioned by our heritage to rely on what we can see or what we imagine that we might do.

The temptation is to presume that we can compromise our walk with God in the present – just for a few years – and then once we have taken care of whatever it is that we are concerned about –  well then we will get back on track with zealously following the LORD in the future … or so we kid ourselves. So, we consider taking a job or going to college where there isn’t a good local church. It will only be for a few years, we say. Or we organize our lives around entertainment and getting rich rather than worship, service, and fellowship with God’s people – only to wake up one day and discover that our children are married to pagans or that we are dying without actually having ever zealously lived for God. Read or sing Hymn 559 “Father, I Know That All My Life” Prayer: Ask the LORD to unmask those areas in your life where you are rationalizing away the fact that you are not fully committed to following Jesus.

Wednesday (5/25) Read and discuss Romans 8:18-30. Verses 28 through 30 are frequently called “the golden chain of salvation.” This is because the promises are so precious and because there are no broken links in the chain. Everyone whom God sets His love upon (“Those whom He foreknew…”) arrives all the way at the end of the chain as glorified saints in heaven. Robert Haldane writes:

In looking back on this passage, we should observe that, in all that is stated, man acts no part, but is passive, and all is done by God. He is elected and predestined and called and justified and glorified by God. The apostle was here concluding all that he had said before in enumerating topics of consolation to believers, and is now going on to show that God is “for us,” or on the part of the people. Could anything, then, be more consolatory to those who love God, than to be in this manner assured that the great concern of their salvation is not left in their own keeping? God, even their covenant God, hath taken the whole upon himself. He hath undertaken for them. There is no room, then, for chance or change. He will perfect that which concerneth them.

Read or sing Hymn 605 “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” Prayer: Give thanks for the sovereign and faithful grace of God in which we can safely rest all of our hopes.

Thursday (5/26) Read and discuss Galatians 4:21-31. Paul brings the Galatians back to the foundational story of Abraham for a reason. The whole dispute has been over how the Galatians could be full first-class citizens in the Kingdom of God and heirs of the promises that God had made to Abraham. Paul will vigorously fight for the entire rest of his life for the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. That is, Paul will insist that God only has ONE family made up of Jew and Gentile together in Christ. The Judaizers are suggesting that there may be two people of God. A first-class Jewish people of God and a sort of second class Gentile people of God who don’t step up and keep the commandments of the Mosaic covenant. Paul in effect is saying: If you want to go there – let’s go there. Abraham after all had two sons: Ishmael and Isaac. You know that story. The LORD had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. Indeed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his seed. Yet, Abraham and Sarah were growing old and Sarah still hadn’t given Abraham the promised and needed son. So Sarah came up with a plan that seems to have been viable in the ancient Hittite culture in which they were living. She would give Abraham her slave-girl Hagar and if Hagar bore Abraham a son – that son would be counted as though he were Sarah’s own son and would become Abraham’s heir. This all seemed reasonable to them. It was in Abraham and Sarah’s power to enact this plan and it did result in Hagar giving birth to Ishmael. But God was not at all interested in having His plans fulfilled by what Abraham and Sarah were able to do in their own power. The LORD returned to Abraham and told him that the promised Seed would come through Sarah. This was so unbelievable that they named him Isaac which means “laughter.” That’s a wonderful name and it reflects the fact that Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born and Sarah was 90. This was an act entirely of God’s power and grace and not something that Abraham or Sarah could do in their own strength. Read or sing Hymn 562 “All to Jesus I Surrender” Prayer: Ask the LORD to guard your heart and those of our church family against the poison of legalism.

Friday (5/27) Read and discuss Leviticus 25:1-10. Phillip Eveson writes:

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

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

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

Saturday (5/28) Read and discuss Ruth 1:6-22. Iain Duguid writes:

The gospel shows us that this grace is not merely for covenant insiders who have lost their way. It is now for men and women from all nations and backgrounds, the unclean as much as the kosher, the unwashed as well as the religious. Black and white, male and female, Jewish and Gentile, all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). There are no more Moabite outsiders in the light of the cross. All are welcome to come, whatever their background, and to be received into the family of God. The grace of God that we have received is to be extended by us to others, so that all may hear the good news of redemption in Christ.

It is deeply convicting that in Ruth it is the former pagan who has more passion for Israel’s God than has the child of the covenant, who heard of his dealings with his people from her earliest days. Perhaps those of us who have grown up in the church can easily lose sight of the awesome preciousness of the grace of God, and cease to be amazed at his love for us. It becomes familiar and loses its freshness, whereas those to whom this is new news are more easily moved by it.

Whether we grew up in the church or were converted as adults, can we be content to have only a little passion for our God and for the spread of his fame? Can we mutter a conventional blessing on those who still have not heard of Christ and leave it at that? … For most of us in this modern world … the other cultures have come to us where we live. The Moabites are now our neighbors, waiting to see if we are concerned enough about them to minister to them in Christ’s name.

Read or sing Hymn: 644 “May the Mind of Christ My Savior” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 22 May 2016 Sunday, May 15 2016 

MVOPC 22 May 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: 2 Chronicles 7:14

Hymn of Preparation:  559 “Father, I Know That All My Life”

Old Covenant Reading: Ruth 1:1-5

New Covenant Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Sermon: Tragedy and Abandonment

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

Confession of Faith:    Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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


PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 20:1-18

NT: Acts 3:11-26

Returning to Our Former Sins

Adult Sunday School: There is Sunday School Today

Shorter Catechism Q/A #43

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

Suggested Preparations

Monday (5/16) Read and discuss Ruth 1:1-5. Iain Duguid writes:

The first chapter of the Book of Ruth is the story of choices made and choices seemingly thrust upon people, about roads traveled or left untraveled. It is about the long-term consequences of the decisions we make. Often the consequences are not what we expected and anticipated, but our lives nonetheless bear the mark of the decisions we have made and the defining moments we have faced. The Book of Ruth shows us that our actions have consequences. However, our lives are not simply the consequence of the various decisions we have made and the vents that have occurred, as if the universe were a giant supercomputer into which we feed all of the variables and come out with a predictable answer. There is a mysterious X-factor that is evident in the Book of Ruth – a variable that has the power to change everything. It is the grace of God, which directs the outcomes of those decisions and events according to his sovereignty and good purpose for his people. The grace is not always evident to the players in the game at the time. But it is always there, whether acknowledged or unacknowledged. Ultimately, for Christians, the grace of God is always the defining element in our lives.

Since Ruth is such a short and beautifully written book, I would encourage you to read all four chapters together in one setting in order to get the big picture fixed in your thinking. As we begin the book with the first 5 verses – we do not yet see the grace of God. What we see is the Lord’s judgment on Israel through famine and on Elimelech’s family through bareness and death. But by the end of the book, Naomi’s emptiness has been filled, Ruth has been given a resting place under both the wing of Yahweh and her godly husband Boaz, and the dreadful period of the Judges is brought an end with the genealogy which leads to King David. These three blessings are all of God’s grace. Perhaps there is great merit in the Jewish practice of reading Ruth at Pentecost – which we can see as not only the joyful time of harvest but of the blessing of God with us in the person of the Holy Spirit. Read or sing Hymn 53 “Praise to the LORD, the Almighty” Prayer: Ask the LORD to fix your hope on the City that is to come and not on seeking to maximize pleasure in the short term.

Tuesday (5/17) Read and discuss Acts 3:1-10. It made for a stark contrast. Here was a poor beggar, lame from birth, sitting in the Temple courts seeking pity from his fellow Jews. The scene is made more poignant when we realize that he was sitting at the Beautiful Gate. This gate was covered in silver and gold. The contrast could not have been any sharper. Day after day people would pass by gazing at the lavish beauty of the Temple and of this gate while being confronted with the sad reality of infirmity and poverty that stains our daily lives. R.C. Sproul writes:

The man saw Peter and John about to come into the Temple, and he asked for alms. “And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, ‘Look at us.’” Imagine that you are in that man’s place, and in your pain and debiliate4d state, two strangers come by and make eye contact. That in itself is significant. Watch what people do with their eyes when they see a beggar on the street. The most normal human reaction to the presence of a beggar is to look the other way, as if the person doesn’t exist. If any man was accustomed to watching people approach him and look the other way, it was this poor beggar. But when Peter and John came, they did not avert their gaze. They looked directly at him. They made eye contact with him and they emphasized that eye contact by saying to him, “Look at us.”

“So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.” The man looked at Peter and John, watching their hands, watching for the wallet, watching for the money that was about to come, in a state of eager anticipation. On this occasion Peter expressed the immortal words, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

One of the interesting things about a lame man being in the Temple courts by the Beautiful Gate is that he had to go up hill and up stairs to get there. Obviously, other people had helped him. Day after day they had carried him up the stairs to the place where he begged. Day after day people walked by. He would have been a well known beggar and there would have been multiple witnesses that could attest that he had truly been lame. This is why the religious leaders will later say:

What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.

Prayer: Lift up the young people in our congregation as they make preparations to transition to Summer jobs and other activities.

Wednesday (5/18) Read and discuss 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1. The theme of today’s passage is summed up in chapter 7 verse 1: “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Starting at 6:14 we have a particular application of this theme: “Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” Christians are not merely like non-Christians except that we happen to go to church on Sunday. Christians are set apart to the LORD. For a Christian to become yoked with non-Christians, of necessity, creates a relationship that tugs at our devotion to God. If the question was: “How can someone go from being a committed disciple of Jesus to being lukewarm in his or her faith?” A good answer would be: “Become unequally yoked.” This teaching naturally applies directly to our most important relationship – marriage. Yet, we should realize that the application is broader. We ought to be careful about entering into any binding long-term relationships with non-believers where our identities are wrapped up in that relationship. This doesn’t mean that a Christian attorney couldn’t join a law firm made up of hundreds of attorneys with diverse religious commitments – but it should caution that same attorney about starting a partnership with just one other non-Christian. The nature and demands of starting a new business, along with the very close relationship that two partners must have to make such a venture successful, may lead a Christian to minimize those areas where their beliefs are different from one another – namely their commitment to Christ. Read or sing Hymn 559 “Father, I Know That All My Life” Prayer: Thank the Holy Spirit for His work of progressive sanctification in your life.

Thursday (5/19) Read and discuss Acts 3:11-26. N.T. Wright describes the scene in today’s passage like this:

Peter, launching into an impromptu address, and eager perhaps to deflect attention from himself in such a prominent place as the Temple (where Jesus himself had taught great crowds only a few weeks before), takes care to refer to God in rather a dramatic, almost formal way: ‘The God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob – the God of our ancestors.’ Why does he do it like that?

The way of referring to God is actually a quotation. It comes from the book of Exodus (3:6). It’s a famous passage, and Peter and his hearers would know it and would understand the point of the reference. Jesus himself had quoted it when debating with the Sadducees in the Temple a few weeks earlier (Luke 20:37), and he certainly intended that people should pick up the context of the passage. The point is this: Exodus 3 is the moment when God calls Moses, at the burning bush, and tells him to go back from the desert into Egypt and to lead his people out from slavery into freedom. God assures Moses that this isn’t just some odd experience he’s having: this really is Israel’s God speaking, Abraham’s God, the God who made promises to the ancestors of the presently enslaved Israelites and is now about to make those promises come true. Peter, quoting this passage, is saying, ‘It’s happening again!’

Peter, in other words, is doing what all the early Christians did all the time. Faced with a question to which the answer is something to do with Jesus, he goes back in his mind to the Exodus. That was when God acted spectacularly to fulfill his promises and rescue his people. That was when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, when they came through the water, when they were given the law, when they went off in search of their own inheritance. All these themes jostle together in the New Testament, clustering around the question of who Jesus is and how it is that God acts through him. And, again and again, we get the sense: when we look at Jesus, and see what happens through his name, it is as though like Moses, we are standing by the burning bush, seeing something spectacular, which ought to say to us that the creator God, the God of Abraham, is living and active and keeping his promises once again.

Read or sing Hymn 455 “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” Prayer: Please pray for Pilgrim Presbyterian Church in Dover, NH who will be voting on calling a pastor this coming Sunday.

Friday (5/20) Read and discuss Genesis 20:1-18. Iain Duguid writes:

In contrast to Lot, who settled down to a life of compromise with the inhabitants of the land, Genesis 20:1 shows us that Abraham was still an alien in the Promised Land, moving from place to place. He had not forgotten that this world was not his home. So far, so good. Yet his lifestyle was not without its dangers. As he wandered around without the protection of a clan structure or an overlord, the possibility of exploitation or even death at the hands of those in whose land he lived was always there. This risk was probably especially high whenever he moved to a new area. Significantly, in Genesis 20:1, we find Abraham going farther south and west than before, into the region of the Negev. He was now wandering on the fringes of the Promised Land, which always seemed to be a place of danger for the patriarchs.

In any event, any relocation inevitably leads to a time of uncertainty. In many instances, transitions provide opportunities for temptation. When you are uprooted and have to deal with a whole new set of circumstances and people, you tend to go back to habitual ways of dealing with problems. Those habitual ways are very often wrong! Abraham was often afraid that someone would kill him and marry Sarah. That was not an unreasonable fear in his circumstances; it was not unheard of for those with power to use it to steal form powerless. But to deal with his fear, he had developed a strategy of lying about her identity. As verse 13 makes clear, this was not merely an occasional lapse under pressure; it has become a regular modus operandi. Abraham had instructed Sarah, “Everywhere we go, say of me, ‘He is my brother.’”

Shouldn’t Abraham have known better than that? He had the promise of God. He was supposed to be living by faith. Whatever happened to his earlier attitude of “God said it; I believe it; that settles it?” Yet isn’t that precisely the problem that faces most believers living in the reality gap? Our problem is not so much with the fundamental doctrines of God’s sovereignty and care, or with the “big issues” of our walk with God. Rather, our problem is with the practical application of the promises of God to the details and difficulties of our daily walk.

Prayer: Spend a few minutes thinking about where you may be particularly vulnerable to compromise or to falling back into old sinful patterns and then ask the LORD to renew your mind and your walk.

Saturday (5/21) Read and discuss Ruth 1:1-5. Iain Duguid writes:

Elimelech’s choices were not equal choices, theologically speaking, in the way that the choice of city in which to live might be for us. We can perhaps serve the LROD equally well in New York or New Orleans, in Atlanta or Acapulco or Amsterdam. However, God had delivered his people from Egypt and brought them to the land of Canaan as a special place for them to live. God had called Elimelech to live in Bethlehem. He therefore had no business leaving there to go anywhere, least of all Moab. For Israel, Moab was known for several things, none of them good. The Moabites had originated out of an incestuous relationship between Lot and his older daughter; their king Balak had hired Balaam to curse Israel when they came out of Egypt; their women had been a stumbling block to Israel in the wilderness seducing them to the worship of false gods; and they had recently oppressed the Israelites in the days of Eglon (Judges 3). Does this sound like the place to go in order to raise a godly family?

Before he left the Promised Land and went to a place like Moab, Elimelech’s very name should have given him pause, for it literally means “my God is king.” It appears, however, that God was no more king in Elimelech’s heart than he was in the hearts of his fellow countrymen (see Judges 21:25). There was no king in Elimelech’s life, and therefore, like so many others in the days when the judges ruled, he chose to do what was best in his own eyes. Instead of following the path of repentance and faith, trusting the LORD to provide for his needs, he moved to follow what seemed to be the best prospects of supporting his family, humanly speaking. He chose the road to Moab.

Read or sing Hymn: 644 “May the Mind of Christ My Savior” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 15 May 2016 Sunday, May 8 2016 

MVOPC 15 May 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 55 “To God Be the Glory”

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: Romans 1:16-17

Hymn of Preparation: 251 “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”

Old Covenant Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-20

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 13:9-25

Sermon: Sharing Christ’s Reproach

Hymn of Response: 610 “‘Take Up Your Cross,’ the Savior Said”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

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

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 19:23-38

NT: 2 Peter 2:1-10

Don’t Waste Your Life

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School Today

Shorter Catechism Q/A #42

Q. What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?

A. The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience was the moral law.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (5/9) Read and discuss Hebrews 13:9-25. Simon Kistemaker writes:

The last chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews gives the letter a personal touch. The writer reveals his pastoral concerns for the believers and makes his desire known to be in their midst again.

The content of the chapter does not consist of some loosely connected exhortations. The writer encourages the readers to express their Christian love in the social context of their day: love for the brothers and sisters in the LORD, love toward the traveler in need of a roof over his head at night, and loving compassion and empathy for prisoners and people who are mistreated. From the love for the neighbor in the narrow and broad senses, the writer moves to the love in the home; that is, the bond of marriage, the husband’s relationship to his wife and vice versa. He includes the admonition not to love money, but to be content and trust God. The first section of this last chapter, then, delineates the requirements of the summary of the law, in reverse order: love your neighbor as yourself, and love the LORD your God.

In the second part of the chapter the author enumerates some ecclesiastical duties and concerns. He beings with an exhortation to remember those leaders whose service on earth has ended. Imitate their faith, he says, and look at the lives they lived. From the topic of church leaders the author goes to that of doctrine. Stay away from doctrines that deviate from the truth. Rather, consider the work of Jesus, who suffered and died in disgrace outside the city gate. Thankfulness for salvation comes to expression by confessing God’s name, doing good deeds, and sharing with others. Church leaders and church members ought to work together harmoniously so that the obedience of the members is a source of joy to the leaders.

The last section of the chapter includes a personal request for prayer, a beautifully worded benediction, an announcement of the writer’s intended visit accompanied by Timothy, greetings to leaders and people of the church, and greetings from Italian friends. The letter ends with the final greeting, “Grace be with you all.”

Read or sing Hymn 57 “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make your brothers and sisters in our congregation men and women of prayer.

Tuesday (5/10) Read and discuss Read Leviticus 20:1-27. One of the things that today’s passage does is that it helps reform our thinking to appreciate what God thinks is most important. We naturally grow up learning to value those things that our culture values and to condemn those things our culture condemns. In some cultures being respective to parents or others in positions of authority is considered to be very important. In other cultures, it is almost considered a right-of-passage for teenagers to become dismissive of their parents. Of course, what we want to adopt is not simply our culture’s priorities but God’s. One barrier to have our thought reformed in this way is the common but erroneous notion that the Old Testament law attaches the death penalty to almost anything. This could lead us to reading today’s passage and unconsciously responding: “Sure, the LORD gives the death penalty to those who practice witchcraft and those who curse the parents – but the Pentateuch gives the death penalty for all sorts of relatively minor offenses.  It turns out that the Torah actually only assigns the death penalty in 17 cases. As Derek Tidball has pointed out, this means that there were a lot more things that a person could be put to death for in medieval England than in ancient Israel. This also means that those things which the LORD assigned capital punishment to in the OT ought to get our attention. These are sins which God puts at the top of His list in terms of how destructive they are to society living in harmony and reflecting His character into this world. As you read through today’s passage ask yourself: “Do I see these sins the same way that God does?” Prayer: Ask the LORD to continue to reform your thinking in accordance with His perfect and holy word.

Wednesday (5/11) Read and discuss Zephaniah 3:14-20. Alec Motyer writes:

There is a compelling simplicity about Zephaniah’s message: he has only one topic, and he never digresses from it. His book opens with a vision of world disaster, embracing both the outside world and the professing people of God. He identifies this disaster as “the day of the LORD” and calls for preparation. His next concern is to show this day in action, shattering the nations but merited equally by Jerusalem. Unexpectedly – as if forcing itself into the prophet’s consciousness – the day also has a spark of hope, and the remainder of the prophesy is concerned with how this comes about. Zephaniah has handed down this message of doom and hope in a shapely, stylish form. It is a coherent, compelling eschatological vision.

The fact that the disaster is called the “Day of the LORD” should remind us that this is not simply some inevitable result of natural forces but the work of our personal and absolutely sovereign Lord. Today’s portion of Zephaniah shows that this is actually good news for those who trust in Him. The destruction of God’s enemies is salvation for God’s people. Commenting on the conclusion to Zephaniah’s short book, O. Palmer Robertson writes:

So the book of Zephaniah ends where it begins. The prophet opened with a scene of cataclysmic overthrow. The whole order of the cosmos would be reversed in the judgment of the great Day of Yahweh. The prophet closes with another scene of cosmic scope. The earth shall be reconstituted in the glorious new order achieved by a return to the land on a proportion never before realized. The ultimate of blessing in the covenant joins with the ultimate of cursing to consummate the entirety of the historical process.

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

Thursday (5/12) Read and discuss 2 Peter 2:1-10. Gene Green writes:

It is not so evident why Lot is called “righteous,” given that he chose to settle in Sodom, outside the land of promise, and especially since he offered his daughters to the men who clamored for the celestial visitors to be brought out so that they might “know them.” The claim that Lot was righteous may be attributed to Abraham’s dialogue with the messengers, in which he seeks deliverance for the city if there are a sufficient number of righteous residents. While not enough righteous were found to spare Sodom, Lot himself was delivered, implying that at least he was righteous. …

Many authors have decried the reprehensible nature of Lot’s action and have demonstrated that his character was ambiguous at best, even as it is presented by the Genesis narrative. … The principal flaw with viewing Lot as a wholly righteous man is that it does not deal with the increasingly negative characterization of Lot in the preceding narratives … and in his subsequent actions concerning his daughters. In each of the texts Lot is portrayed as selfish and as increasingly absent from the promise made by YHWH to Abraham – he takes the good land around Sodom outside the land of the promise, Canaan. To suddenly see him now as a paragon of virtue is suspicious to say the least.

Instead of focusing on the balance of Lot’s actions, it is better to see that he was in fact a genuine believer in Yahweh and that he was, therefore, justified by faith. Lot’s life, then, serves both as an encouragement and as a warning. It wouldn’t surprise us to see the LORD rescue Abraham but it is encouraging to see Him rescue someone like Lot who made such a mess of his life. On the other hand, Lot’s life serves as a warning that it is possible for genuine believers to waste their lives by acting on the lust for those things which can be seen. Read or sing Hymn 94 “How Firm a Foundation” Prayer: Ask the LORD to keep you from wasting your life by focusing your love on those things which will pass away.

Friday (5/13) Read and discuss Genesis 19:23-38. Tremper Longman writes:

This story is the second one where a biblical character gets into trouble through overindulgence of alcohol. Noah drank too much and Ham “saw his father naked.” Here on two occasions, Lot’s daughters go him drunk and he impregnated them. Both events connect the overuse of alcohol with illegitimate sex, not an uncommon connection even today. These biblical stories clearly warn about the dangers of alcohol.

But do they lead us to the conclusion that any consumption of alcohol is bad? The biblical answer is no. We find the use of wine in positive as well as negative contexts. Remember that Melchizedek, the king of Salem, brought wine and bread to Abraham (Gen 14:18). God blesses Jacob, thinking he is Esau, by saying “May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness – an abundance of grain and new wine” (Gen 27:28). In his blessing on Judah, Jacob says “He will tether his donkey to a vine, his cold to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk” (Gen 49:11-12). More examples could be given, but we will conclude this paragraph by citing Psalm 104:15, which praises God as the one who provides “wine that gladdens human hearts.”

The problem is not with wine per se, but a lack of self-control in drinking it. Like with many things, overindulgence is the problem, a serious problem and Noah and Lot are prime examples. And it is a real danger for everyone. God’s good gift of alcohol is so enjoyable that it can be addictive.

Proverbs will speak of wine as a sign of God’s blessing (“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all our crops, then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with the new wine,” 3:9-10). … But Proverbs also addresses the dangers of addiction and overuse. … Excessive alcohol lowers inhibitions and dulls decision making and leads to bad acts, a lesson taught King Lemuel by his mother: “It is not for kings, Lemuel – it is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave been, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.”

Prayer: Ask the LORD to help you to enjoy His good gifts rather than to abuse them.

Saturday (5/14) Read and discuss Hebrews 13:9-25. N.T. Wright comments:

The crowning glory of this final passage is the great blessing in verses 20 and 21, which is still used regularly in many churches, especially in the Easter season. The writer has not, up to this point, made much of the actual resurrection of Jesus, though he has assumed it throughout. He has chosen to concentrate more on his sacrificial death on the one hand, and his going on our behalf into the heavenly sanctuary on the other. But both of these only make the sense they do because Jesus was raised from the dead, as the whole New Testament insists on page after page. And here, in drawing together the lines of thought in the letter as a whole, this finally becomes explicit.

God ‘led up’ Jesus, back from the world of the dead, demonstrating that he was indeed ‘the great shepherd of the sheep.’ His blood, shed on the cross has become the sacrificial blood which inaugurates the new covenant, the ultimate bond between God and his people, the agreement between them which brings in the ‘age to come’ for which Israel has longed. That what ‘eternal’ really means: not just ‘going on forever and ever’ (which sometimes sounds a bit boring), but ‘in relation to God’s new age,’ in which there will be new tasks, new possibilities, new creative challenges.

Nor do we have to wait for ‘life after death’ for these to begin. God desires to accomplish them, at least in a preliminary way, through his people even in the present. That’s why this blessing goes on to pray that God will ‘put you into proper condition in every good work to do his will’ (verse 21). When someone is getting ready to do a great task, they are trained up and kitted out for it, whether it’s a lawyer getting ready to work in the courtroom, a plumber needing all the tools of the trade or, like my friend, a bishop getting ready to take on responsibility for part of God’s church. Hebrews is praying that, whatever task each Christian is called to undertake, God will equip him or her fully for it, not only outwardly but also inwardly, so that he or she will ‘perform,’ or accomplish, whatever will be pleasing in his sight.

Read or sing Hymn: 441 “Jesus Shall Reign” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 8 May 2016 Sunday, May 1 2016 

MVOPC 8 May 2016 – The Rev. Stephen Michaud Preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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

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: Matthew 1:18-21

Hymn of Preparation: 99 “My Song Forever Shall Record”

Old Covenant Reading: Micah 6:6-8

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 5:1-7

Sermon: Helpful Mercy

Hymn of Response: 78 “O Bless the LORD, My Soul”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Micah 7

NT: Ephesians 2:11-22

Trust in the LORD!

Adult Sunday School: Jason Donald Teaching

Shorter Catechism Q/A #41

Q. Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?

A. The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (5/2) Read and discuss Matthew 5:1-7. Robert Harris writes:

Consider that what you give to the poor, you do but lend to the LORD. There is nothing lost that is laid out in this way. It may be more properly said to be laid up than laid out, for God will be your paymaster. He is the poor man’s surety. He will repay it; you are but God’s purse-bearers. Neither is it any otherwise here than if some great gentleman should bid his servant to give a poor person six pence; the servant does no more than lay it out, being sure to receive it again of his master. Even so it is here: the LORD seems to say unto us, “There’s such a one in need; give him six pence; supply his needs; let him have what will serve his turn, and I will become your paymaster for it again.”

Read or sing Hymn 457 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” Prayer: Ask the LORD to increase your generosity of heart.

Tuesday (5/3) Read and discuss Exodus 12:14-28.  The Exodus is the most important event in the history of Israel and therefore Passover was its most important celebration. With that in mind, it can be instructive to think about some of the ways in which the Exodus and Passover correlate to the New Exodus that takes place with the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord’s Supper:

  1. Both Passover and the Lord’s Supper are instituted before the events that they signify. In this way they become not merely memorials of but part of their respective exodus narratives.
  2. The events of both the first Exodus and the New Exodus are so significant that they both change the calendar. The Passover marks out the first month of the Jewish calendar while the Resurrection of Jesus moves the Sabbath Day to Sunday.
  3. While the Passover and the Lord’s Supper both signify the salvation of individuals they are celebrated in community with other people. The Passover was to be celebrated with a family large enough to eat a lamb. If your family was not large enough to do this you had to join with another family. Later, once the Levitical Priesthood was established, the Passover was to be celebrated in community. Likewise, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper takes place when the church is gathered together.
  4. While it was possible to participate in the first Passover Meal without having one’s heart right with God, the failure to participate would have put the family in jeopardy of losing their firstborn son. The imagery is quite straightforward. The Passover Lamb represents Jesus Christ. Either God’s firstborn Son dies for the family or the family’s firstborn son must die. So it is with the Church and the Lord’s Supper. While it is possible to participate in the Lord’s Supper without having one’s heart right with God, the failure to participate (whether through excommunication without repentance or simply a disregard for the Church Christ died for) marks a person out as being under God’s judgment.

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has given us the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to regularly refresh us spiritually with fresh grace and to re-center our thinking on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wednesday (5/4) Read and discuss Micah 6:6-8. If the three most important elements in real estate are location, location, and location; then the three most important elements for rightly interpreting Scripture are context, context, and context. Today’s passage is famous for memorably explaining what the LORD requires of us – but what exactly is the context which will help us understand what Micah is getting at. Interestingly, the name of the book gives us a clue. Micah means “Who is like Yahweh?” and one of the chief goals of the book is to glorify the LORD by drawing our attention to how far He exceeds anyone or anything on earth: “Who is like Yahweh?” If we simply keep reading the book after today’s passage we come to three verses that are perhaps the very best commentary on today’s passage. Micah chapter 7 verses 18-20:

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.  19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.  20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.

Do you see the connection? While nobody is “like Yahweh” in His glory; Micah 6:6-8 is calling us to show the character traits that are like the character of Yahweh in Micah 7:18-20. Human beings were created in God’s image to reflect His perfect character into the world. The LORD is calling His people back to this very task. This is one of the things that Christ does and, amazingly, the LORD has committed Himself to conforming us to His likeness. Micah 6:6-8 is calling us to live in light of what we will one day be fully like because Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Read or sing Hymn 99 “My Song Forever Shall Record” Prayer: Ask the LORD to bring visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with this particular church family.

Thursday (5/5) Read and discuss Ephesians 2:11-22. Clinton Arnold points out that this section of Ephesians teaches us at least 4 vital lessons:

  1. God is near;
  2. Jesus has created a new community;
  3. The blood of Christ is the basis for reconciliation to God and the source of peace for the new community; and
  4. The era of the New Covenant has dawned and the era of the Mosaic Covenant is over.

Let’s hear what Professor Arnold has to say about the third of these points:

Paul firmly roots peace with God and peace with one another in the work of Jesus Christ: “by the blood of Christ” (2:13), “by his flesh” (2:14e), and “through the cross” (2:16a). Christ is the one who created the new humanity, who reconciled us to God (and to one another), and who serves as the foundation stone of the new temple. And now Jesus is actively engaged in proclaiming this good news of peace with God through his messengers with a view to building the temple into an even greater structure.

Because of his great work, Jesus deserves our praise and devotion. The cost to him was so significant that we should not hesitate in the least to make sacrifices in joining with him in his endeavor to build the church – not only through proclamation of the good news (and thereby adding stones), but also in expending great effort in peacemaking within the body of Christ.

Read or sing Hymn 78 “O Bless the LORD, My Soul” Prayer: Pray for the peace in our Church which flows from each of us being reconciled to Jesus Christ.

Friday (5/6) Read and discuss Micah 7. Gary Smith writes:

[With verse 7 comes] and abrupt change of attitude and focus. Once the prophet moves his attention to God instead of the troubles all around him, a new sense of hope wells up inside. I interpret the “I” who is speaking in verse 7 as the prophet Micah. Beginning with verse 8 he is apparently confessing the sins of Jerusalem, not his own (cf. Ezra 9 and Daniel 9), and expressing hope for the nation.

Verse 7, then, becomes a key focal point for repositioning the prophet’s mental perspective on God’s sovereign control of life. Micah’s concentration on God rather than his problems enables him to see a ray of hope for the future. The “watchman”/prophet (7:4) will “watch” (7:7) for Yahweh his God, for there is no other possible source of life. He will wait, trusting that his saving God will act. God will hear his prayers and understand his situation, for he pays attention to His people when they cry to Him for help. These statements describe the deep personal relationship Micah has with God, reveal his dependence on God, and demonstrate that his confidence is not just wishful thinking. Therefore, he can face the future with assurance, for God is there with him.

Prayer: Give thanks that you can wait in confidence for the day that the LORD will vindicate all who have placed our trust in Him.

Saturday (5/7) Read and discuss Matthew 5:1-7. Sinclair Ferguson writes:

We often speak of showing mercy. But what is mercy? Is it kindness, perhaps? Mercy includes kindness, but it is more than that. Someone has expressed the difference quaintly, but fairly accurately: Kindness is a friend calling when you are well. Mercy is a friend calling when you are sick.

The best illustration of the meaning of mercy is found in the parable of the Good Samaritan. At the end of the parable Jesus asks which of the three passers-by proved to be a neighbor to the man who was attacked by robbers. An expert in the law replies, “The one who had mercy on him.” The Samaritan illustrated the meaning of mercy.

Two things should be noted here if the Samaritan is an example of what we are to be to others. Mercy relieves the consequences of sin the lives of others (both sinners and those sinned against). The Samaritan took responsibility for the injured man. He ministered to his broken and bruised body and did everything he could to provide for restoration and healing. He did not deal with the cause of the man’s need by chasing the robbers (it was not justice he sought). He did no complain about the failure of society to meet the man’s need (it was not social failures he protested). Rather the Samaritan sought to work in the context of the immediate need set before him, and to bring relief.

Of course there is a place for seeking justice. And there is room for concern when society fails n its duty towards the needy. But neither of these things is the exercise of mercy. Mercy is getting down on your hands and knees and doing what you can to restore dignity to someone whose life has been broken by sin (whether his own or that of someone else).

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 1 May 2016 Sunday, Apr 24 2016 

MVOPC 1 May 2016 – Mr. David Koenig Teaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

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: Deuteronomy 4:29-31

Hymn of Preparation: 642 “Be Thou My Vision”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 73

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 6:25-34

Sermon: A Sure Place to Stand

Hymn of Response: 94 “How Firm a Foundation”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 441 “Jesus Shall Reign”

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 19:1-22

NT: Matthew 11:20-30

Judgment and Deliverance

Adult Sunday School: The Tenth Commandment

Shorter Catechism Q/A #40

Q. What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?

A. The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience was the moral law.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (4/25) Read and discuss Matthew 6:25-34. Grant Osborne writes:

Matthew does not intend a totally passive approach to life. It is trust in the provision of God rather than an absence of working to meet our needs. It is trust in God to guide us and provide for us, not a lazy Christianity, that is in view. The emphasis is on the anxiety that a lack of dependence on God produces. Moreover, this promise that God will give “all these things” to us is no guarantee that hard times will never befall us. Rather, it means that in the hard times God will be guiding our steps and making sure that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28).

When John said “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1), he did not mean a troubled heart was a sin, for Jesus himself had a troubled heart (John 11:33); 12:27; 13:21). Rather, he meant that real trust in God will enable us to overcome such anxiety (14:2). The troubled heart will only become a sin when it is allowed to dominate our lives, so that possessions become our god and constant anxiety is the result.

Read or sing Hymn 57 “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul” Prayer: Please pray for the Presbytery of New York and New England as it meets today and tomorrow.

Tuesday (4/26) Read and discuss Hebrews 13:1-6. The best commentary and perhaps the most convicting application of this idea comes from the lips of Jesus. In Matthew 25 Jesus tells of the final judgment. He says:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.  34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’  41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,  43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’  45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Each and every one of us would do whatever we possibly could to minister to Jesus if we knew that he was hungry, thirsty, naked, or in prison. Jesus says – “Then minister to the least of His brothers and sisters who are suffering in these ways – just as we would minister unto Him.” Prayer: Please pray for safe traveling for the Elders and Ministers of our Presbytery as they drive home this evening.

Wednesday (4/27) Read and discuss Psalm 73. Alec Motyer writes:

Psalm 73 contains one of the most rhapsodic and uplifting passages in the whole Psalter, and, indeed, there is hardly need for anything beyond letting their rhythms and sentiments sink into our souls. But, hoping to help and not hinder this process, look at some of the detail of these verses. They are the heart of the message of the psalms. Asaph is weighing things in the balance: what can he reckon in his favor as compared with the ‘wellbeing’ of the ungodly which so troubled him. There are, indeed, things which we find in our heavenly ‘balance sheet’ – and which we should constantly prize. First and foremost is peace with God (23a), that we are constantly accepted, welcomed, retained in his presence. ‘Peace with God’, the firstfruits of Calvary (John 20:19), our unchangeable inheritance in Jesus.

Then there is security in his keeping – he who has gripped us by our hands (23b). … Thirdly, there is the problem of ‘the future all unknown’. To us who cannot foresee what the end of this morning will bring, there is the comfort that everything that happens does so in conformity to and by the direction of his ‘counsel’ (24a). What is impenetrable to us (the future) is an already drawn up map lying before him (Ephesians 1:3-4); 2:10; Philippians 1:29-30). We can never over-exalt the sovereignty of God: he is truly God – the God in charge. And we need to remind ourselves that this is even especially so when things turn out either other than we expect or would wish. He is always on our side; always implementing his ‘counsel’. All this is store of pure gold entered to our account; yet he finest gold is yet to come. There is that which even the life-assurance man dare not mention by name when he delicately suggests ‘if anything should happen’. But he Bible has no such hesitations. It knows all about ‘afterwards’, the future’ it calls it the ‘glory’ (24b). Our gracious God is not only for earth; he is our guarantee of heaven (25-26).

Read or sing Hymn 642 “Be Thou My Vision” Prayer: Give thanks that you are entirely and eternally secure in your heavenly Father’s hands.

Thursday (4/28) Read and discuss Matthew 11:20-30. Michael Wilkins writes:

The self-serving agenda of those who question the motives of the messengers eventually leads them to reject Jesus, and the smugness of their hardened heart leads them to impending eternal judgment. This was the fate of the people in Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum (11:20-24), and it is the fate of those today whose privileged position leads them to question Jesus’ identity and message. This the sad story often found within liberal Christian academia, where scholars may have been raised in churches where they confessed Jesus as Savior but whose increasing secularism leads them into a profound skepticism about Jesus.

New Testament scholar Robert Funk, founder of the infamous Jesus Seminar, tells of his own journey, which led him from a youth where he confessed Jesus as his personal Savior, to the point where in his early adulthood he rejected a life of ministry and later ultimately rejected Jesus as any kind of divine Savior. He prefers instead to create a picture of Jesus that conforms more comfortably with his modernist agenda, smugly contending that those who continue to believe in the Jesus of the New Testament and the creeds of the church are “compliant, mindless adherents of the received tradition.” His is a sad commentary.

A very different new Testament scholar, Dale Brunner, warns all who have had the privilege of experiencing the risen Christ’s miraculous presence to see whether they have given him his rightful place in our lives. Capernaum seems to have had a sort of town motto based on Isaiah 14:13, “lifted up to the skies” (11:23), indicating perhaps a sense of civic pride in having Jesus’ ministry based in their city, but they smugly rejected him as their Messiah. In the same way, modern countries that have been privileged to experience Jesus’ miraculous presence through the work of the church and Word and who may even boast, “In God We Trust,” as we do in American, are called to account for what we have done with Jesus.

Read or sing Hymn 94 “How Firm a Foundation” Prayer: Ask the LORD to keep you from growing complacent in your walk with Him or from taking His grace for granted.

Friday (4/29) Read and discuss Genesis 19:1-22. Tremper Longman writes:

Lot’s experience is one with which many of us can identify. Let’s remember that, as Calvin said, the Bible is a mirror of the soul. As we read it, we discover how we are doing in terms of our relationship with God. Are we moving toward God or away from him?

When we read historical narrative, it is typical for us to identify with the characters and often find that our own experience is reflected in their actions. The best character in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is Lot, and he is only relatively better. We certainly can question his integrity as he offers his virgin daughters in place of the “strangers” to whom he offers hospitality. Lot stands out from his fellow citizens, but he has … been influenced by the company he has kept. God promised Abraham that he would not judge Sodom if there were ten righteous in the city. But there are not even ten, and even Lot cannot be described as righteous expect in relative terms.

That said, God graciously, and because of Abraham, determined to remove Lot and his family (wife and daughters) from the judgment that was about to fall on the city. Even so, Lot is surprisingly reluctant to be rescued! When God’s angels tell him to hurry and get out of the city (v. 15), he hesitates, and the angels have to forcibly drag him out of the city. He also does not trust the angels to take him to safety but begs them to let him go to a small nearby town. Zoar.

The angels react by grabbing Lot by the wrist and dragging him out of town. They even acceded to his request to go to the small nearby town.

Many of us can identify with Lot. God saves us, but we are reluctant to leave the pleasures of our previous life even when we know that to stay means we will be destroyed. The story of Lot points out the folly of a life that wants to dwell in sin. If Lot had stayed, he would have died in the conflagration of judgment that came on the city. And thereby we too are warned against keeping one foot in our previous life when God wants to bring us to safety.

Prayer: Please pray for Mr. David Koenig who will be preaching for us this coming Sunday. Mr. Koenig is the Stated Pulpit Supply for Pilgrim Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Dover, NH. Pilgrim Presbyterian Church will be holding a special meeting of its congregation next month to vote on whether to call Mr. Koenig to be their next pastor.

Saturday (4/30) Read and discuss Matthew 6:25-34. Michael Wilkins writes:

Jesus teaches how his disciples can live securely in the middle of their daily difficulties. The way for them to attend to their personal life is to prioritize their values so that nothing in this world supplants God as their Master (6:19-24) and Provider (6:25-34). This is accomplished overall as they “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (6:33). If their base of security is in earthly treasures, then no matter how much “concern” they have they will never be able to satisfy their needs. If they place their security in their heavenly Father, he will naturally take care of all their needs.

Read or sing Hymn: 441 “Jesus Shall Reign” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 24 April 2016 Sunday, Apr 17 2016 

MVOPC 24 April 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: John 1:29

Hymn of Preparation: 257 “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 27:1-14

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 13:1-6

Sermon: Now What?

Hymn of Response: 642 “Be Thou My Vision”

Confession of Faith:   Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 18:16-33

NT: Hebrews 4:1-16

Abraham’s Priestly Intercession

Adult Sunday School: The Tenth Commandment

Shorter Catechism Q/A #39

Q. 39.What is the duty which God requireth of man?

A. The duty which God requireth of man is obedience to his revealed will.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (4/18) Read and discuss Hebrews 13:1-6. Bruce Barton writes:

Money cannot give security; only God can truly help us. While we are not guaranteed to have earthly possessions, we are guaranteed that God is our helper. He watches over his people and gives them what they need. Every believer, along with the psalmist (see Psalm 118:7), can say with confidence that the LORD is my helper. It must have been wonderful for these Jewish believers to realize that, when they became believers, the promises in the psalms could still be used as songs of praise!

When we are confident that God is our helper, we need not be afraid. If the king of the universe is on our side, what can mere mortals do? Granted, humans can take our possessions, mistreat us, throw us into prison, or even kill us. But Jesus has said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28 NRSV). Humans cannot hurt our souls or affect our salvation. With God as our helper, we truly have nothing to fear! Death will only bring us that much sooner into God’s immediate presence. Believers need not be afraid.

Read or sing Hymn 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness” Prayer: Please lift up the people of Southern Japan as they seek to recover from two earthquakes last week.

Tuesday (4/19) Read and discuss Hebrews 12:18-29. Verses 25-27 read:

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.  26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”  27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken- that is, things that have been made- in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain

N.T. Wright says it well:

Sinai is replaced in the new covenant promises, not with a calm, flat transition to God’s new world, but with something even more tumultuous; not only an earthquake but also, so to speak, a heavenquake. As Revelation 21 insists, for there to be a new heavens and a new earth the present heavens, as well as the present earth, must undergo their own radical change, almost like a death and a new birth.

There are two main points for us to get:

  1. First, this present world is temporary. This is a point the author of Hebrews made at the beginning of his letter. In chapter 1 we read:

And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”

We all know that this is true. If we were given a multiple choice test this morning we would all check the box which says “This world is temporary.” The question isn’t whether or not we know in our heads that the present age is passing away – but whether or not we are living as though it were true.

The remarkable and tragic reality is that, though life is uncertain and death is certain, the vast majority of Americans – including church going Americans – appear to be living as though death was uncertain. Beloved, “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:17 ESV).”

So as verse 29 reminds us: “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, …”

  1. Second, to whom much is given much is required. As we have received a far greater revelation in the New Covenant we will be held to a higher standard. As we were told all the way back in Hebrews chapter 2:

For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,  4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The LORD has blessed us richly. Let us respond by trusting Him fully. Prayer: Ask the LORD to fix your thinking increasingly on those things which are eternal.

Wednesday (4/20) Read and discuss Psalm 27:1-14. Gerald Wilson writes:

The stronghold of my life. How do we find a rock solid place of confidence when all else is swirling about us? It is this ability to stand confidently that sets the faithful apart and gives testimony to the presence of God in our lives. Where or to whom do you go when life seems too much to handle? Perhaps to your spouse or a close friend, a trusted minister, your parents? For the psalmist, God is the stronghold of his life – the secure place when all else fails.

Too often human relationships fail – because they are human. Many of us have felt betrayed or abandoned by friends, spouses, and even parents. … When we place our hopes and reliance on fallible human beings, we are bound to experience failure. When all our human resources are so unreliable, where do we turn for unshakeable support?

According to our Psalmist, Yahweh is the one reliable support – the one who accepts us even “though my father and mother forsake me” (27:10). There is no more crushing experience than for a child to be abandoned by his or her parents. Orphan children – even those adopted by loving and caring families – are often obsessed to know why their birth mother “abandoned” them. … Many abandoned children who have been unable to answer the questions of their birth and loss of parental love have found in God a loving parent who does not forsake them.

Read or sing Hymn 257 “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” Prayer: Give thanks to your heavenly Father that His love for you is a steadfast love that will last for all eternity.

Thursday (4/21) Read and discuss Hebrews 4:1-16. Bruce Barton writes:

Through his death on the cross, our great High Priest, Jesus, opened access to God. Now people can approach God directly because of Jesus’ sacrifice for sins. Because Jesus gave his life to do this for us, let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace. This verse is an open invitation to regard God as a great ally and true friend. Yes, God occupies a throne, a seat of power and authority, but it is a throne of grace, not a throne of greed or domination. The term “throne of grace” describes the constant care and love offered to God’s undeserving children. God’s grace is a characteristic of his reign. Our ability to approach God does not come from any merit of our own but depends entirely on him.

Believers can “come boldly” and confidently to this throne, for the king is our Father, who loves us as his children. At God’s throne, we will not receive anger or be ignored; instead, we will obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. God is not only concerned with converting people and collecting disciples; he also cares and nurtures those children who are his own. He listens to our needs. No request is insignificant, and no problem is too small for the one who sits on the throne of grace. … No matter what the problem, no matter what sin caused the need, God promises to help us at just the right time – His time. This doesn’t mean that God promises to solve every need the moment we come to Him. Nor does it mean that God will erase the natural consequences of any sin that was committed. It does mean, however, that God listens, cares, and will answer in His perfect way, in His perfect timing.

Read or sing Hymn 642 “Be Thou My Vision” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Pilgrim Presbyterian Church as they seek to call a new pastor.

Friday (4/22) Read and discuss Genesis 18:16-33. Iain Duguid writes:

In his prayers, Abraham didn’t claim his own merit or standing before God as the reason why his requests should be granted. He recognized that he had none: he was but “dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27). Whereas Jesus would in his High Priestly Prayer refer to his own authority and glory in the presence of the Father (John 17:2, 5). Abraham appealed simply to God’s just character: “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25). However Abraham didn’t suggest that God would be unrighteous to take vengeance. In our own day, there are many who think that Sodom and Gomorrah should have been spared, not because of their goodness, but because evil doesn’t really deserve judgment. By contrast, Abraham simply argued that it would be unjust to include the righteous in the fate of the wicked.

Prayer: Please pray for the men of our Presbytery as they finish their preparations for meeting next Monday and Tuesday.

Saturday (4/23) 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: 644 “May the Mind of Christ My Savior” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 17 April 2016 Sunday, Apr 10 2016 

MVOPC 17 April 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 44 “How Great Thou Art”

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 103:17-18

Hymn of Preparation: 563 “What Kind of Man Can Live in the World”

Old Covenant Reading: Exodus 20:1-21

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 12:18-29

Sermon: Not a Tame Lion

Hymn of Response: 691 “It Is Well with My Soul”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 693 “Blessed Assurance”

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 18:1-15

NT: Romans 12:9-21

Hospitality and Laughter

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Shorter Catechism Q/A #38

Q. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?

A. At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (4/11) Read and discuss Hebrews 12:18-29. Tom Schreiner writes:

In [verses 18-24] the author picks up another common theme in the book. Free and confident access to God is granted in the new covenant rather than in the old. Those under the old covenant were afraid to draw near to God on Mount Sinai, and they were terrified as God met them in a thunderstorm and an earthquake, emphasizing his holiness and judgment. Those under the new covenant now come into God’s presence boldly. They come to God who is the judge of all with boldness because of Jesus’ blood, which cleanses them from all sin. They are already members of the city of God, of the heavenly Jerusalem. They are already participating in heavenly worship with the angels and are members of the heavenly and eschatological assembly of God.

Prayer: Give thanks for the blessings that are ours in Christ on this side of the cross and the empty tomb.

Tuesday (4/12) Read and discuss Hebrews 12:12-17. Don’t miss out! That is the heart of today’s passage: Don’t miss out on the gift of God that can be yours in Christ Jesus.

We all know what missing out is like. For example, on March 13, 1986 Microsoft Corporation “went public” – which means that individuals like you and I could have invested our money in the company’s stock. Back then I was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps getting my unit ready for some desert-warfare training. I didn’t really have any money – but I thought about trying to scrape $1,000 together to invest in Microsoft – because you could just tell that this was going to be big. … But life is busy. I could always get around to investing later, right? So I headed out to the desert then I went on deployment to the Philippines. … I never did get around to buying stock in Microsoft. Did I miss out? Well $1,000 invested in Microsoft in 1986 would be worth more than half-a-million dollars today – and that doesn’t include all the dividends that it the company has paid. So, financially at least – I missed out … So is life.

We also miss out on relationships. There is that young woman that we didn’t have the courage to ask out. There is that friendship that you never struck up. There is that person you admired that you wish would have been a mentor to you – but you never asked. On the negative side, there were those hurt feelings with a friend or relative that we never dealt with … we always imagined that we would get to it later … but later never came.

There are many things we miss out on in life, but Hebrews is telling us to make sure that we don’t miss out on the one thing that matters most: Don’t miss out on the gift of God that is yours in Christ Jesus our Lord. … Apply yourself. Focus on this one thing. Don’t miss out on the best and most important gift that you will ever be offered. Today’s passage contains two pointed and loving warnings:

  1. Don’t imagine that you have received the gift of God if you are not running the race with your eyes fixed upon Jesus; and
  2. Don’t imagine that you can always decide to follow Jesus later. Today is the day of salvation for you.

So …

…. let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Read or sing Hymn 44 “How Great Thou Art” Prayer: Ask the LORD to grant you increased zeal in running the race of that is set before you with your eyes fixed upon Jesus.

Wednesday (4/13) Read and discuss Exodus 20:1-21. Doug Stuart writes:

Hearing God speak audibly was frightening for the Israelites – so much so that they demanded that thereafter Moses should always relay God’s words to them. This makes considerable sense in light of the consistent biblical witness to the ear-shattering volume of the voice o God. In all other cases where God is recorded as speaking audibly, the sound is described as deafeningly loud. Moses was somehow able to endure God’s voice, presumably by special divine grace, but the average Israelite found it so terrifying that he wanted nothing more of it. It was not merely the sound of God’s words, of course, that had such an effect: “The people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke,” and that combination of sensory data along with the voice of God itself was too much for them, so “they trembled with fear” and “stayed at a distance.” …

This phenomenon is a reflection of the contrast between God’s holiness and human sin. He cannot abide sin in his presence, so the closer he is to a sinner, the more difficult it is for the sinner to survive. Thus the full glory of personal contact with God that awaits believers in heaven is not yet manifest. Christ has shown the glory of God in human dress; the indwelling Holy Spirit brings the person of God into the very spirit of every believer but he arrives in a gentle, inviting manner, not a forcing, overpowering manner. Thus Paul could warn against quenching the Spirit because human beings can, indeed, take negative advantage of the Spirit’s limited, restricted presence and simply refuse to give active place to Him at all.

Read or sing Hymn 563 “What Kind of Man Can Live in the World” Prayer: Praise the LORD for His awesome majesty.

Thursday (4/14) Read and discuss Romans 12:9-21. C. Marvin Pate writes:

Several theological insights greet the reader of Romans 12:9-21. First, the key characteristic of the Christian life is love, towards God, the family of God, and even one’s enemies. Second, if the perpetrators of harm upon Christians do not repent, God will avenge His children. But that task belongs to God, not to Christians. Third, 12:9-21 delineates how love is to be shown: (a) love toward God expresses itself in devotion; (b) love toward others, especially believers, is demonstrated by selflessness; (c) love toward enemies is shown not by retaliating, but by caring for them with deeds of kindness. This type of threefold love brought great success to the early church and will do so to the modern church as well.

Read or sing Hymn 691 “It Is Well with My Soul” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would send visitors to our congregation.

Friday (4/15) Read and discuss Genesis 18:1-15. Iain Duguid writes:

Abraham is the only person in the Old Testament to receive the title “friend of God” (2 Chron 20:7; Isaiah 41:8). Striking, isn’t it? Abraham the failure became known as God’s friend. How did that happen? The answer is, as every Christian knows from his own experience, by the amazing grace of God. Only grace – free, undeserved grace – can enable an imperfect person to dwell in the presence of the perfect God. Only grace permits the unholy to approach the Most Holy and be called his friend. God’s relationship with those whom he has created is not limited to giving the distant, tolerant smile that you might bestow on an earnest, hard working spider. Rather, he wants to call us his friends. This is the astonishing message of the New Testament. The relationship that Abraham had with God in the Old Testament is now opened up to you and me. Jesus said to his disciples,

You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:14-15)

What’s so special about a friend? A friend is someone to whom you open your heart. A friend is someone who knows not just what you are doing, but why you are doing it. Abraham, the friend of God, was the man to whom God opened his heart and with whom he shared his thoughts.

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD calls us His friends and reveals Himself to us.

Saturday (4/16) Read and discuss Hebrews 12:18-29. Tom Schreiner writes:

We learn from Hebrews that warnings are salutary for the Christian life. The admonitions and warnings have a great urgency, for the warning is not from earth but from heaven, and if those warned on earth didn’t escape, then it stands to reason that those warned from heaven will never escape. A new world is coming. The present world will be shaken so that only the unshakeable world remains. That unshakeable world is nothing less than the kingdom of God, which will certainly come and be consummated. Hence believers should be grateful and full of awe and reverence, realizing that God is a consuming fire, one who destroys all who are opposed to him.

Read or sing Hymn: 693 “Blessed Assurance” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 10 April 2016 Sunday, Apr 3 2016 

MVOPC 10 April 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Proverbs 28:13

Hymn of Preparation: 622 “I Waited for the Lord Most High”

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 35:1-10

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 12:12-17

Sermon: Don’t Fail to Obtain Grace

Hymn of Response: 558 “That Man Is Blest Who, Fearing God”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 17:15-27

NT: Colossians 2:6-15

Laughter and Obedience

Adult Sunday School: The Ninth Commandment – Part II

Shorter Catechism Q/A #37

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

Suggested Preparations

Monday (4/4) Read and discuss Hebrews 12:12-17. Simon Kistemaker writes:

Society today fosters individualism, and this trait, unfortunately, has also taken hold in the church. Even though we lustily sing, “We are not divided, all one body we,” each one goes his own way. …

The message of the Epistle to the Hebrews is relevant today. As members of the body of Christ, we must do everything in our power to prevent fellow members from drifting away from God and his Word. We have the solemn responsibility to guard against signs of unbelief and disobedience, to promote peace and holiness, and to further the cause of unity and harmony in the church. Peter puts it succinctly: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).

Prayer: We frequently and rightly pray for the physical and financial needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ, but their spiritual needs are more important. Take some time today to pray for the spiritual growth and sanctification of some specific members of our church family.

Tuesday (4/5) Read and discuss Hebrews 12:4-11. Verses six through eight tell us that we ought to see the hardships and pains that come our way as reminders of how much the LORD cares about our spiritual development. Look there with me – beginning at verse 6:

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”  7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

Consider something as simple as declining eyesight. Most of us, as we move through middle age will discover that our eyesight becomes weaker and this can be a regular reminder that our bodies are declining. We may eventually need to have surgery and we may lose the ability to easily do things that we once took for granted.

If we didn’t know that we belonged to God in Jesus Christ as His own treasured possession – this would be nothing but discouraging. How then should we see the same physical decline as Christians? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. First, we should remember that God is not merely aware of our declining eyesight – our physical decline is all part of His perfect plan for our lives.
  2. Second, we should be reminded that this like – like all physical infirmities – is a consequence of humanities rebellion against God. Critically, we should remember that as Christ removed our guilt on the cross we can look forward to a day in the New Heavens and the New Earth when all our physical infirmities will be removed. Something as simple as declining eyesight can remind us of the transience of this world and that we have been redeemed for a better New Creation. Therefore we ought not to live as though this present age is permanent.
  3. Third, our physical infirmities should remind us to be dependent upon God rather than on the things and the abilities which He has given to us. Isn’t this what the LORD told the Apostle Paul? Three times Paul plead with the LORD to take away his thorn in the flesh. And the LORD responded: “My grace is sufficient for you.” Beloved, we are to learn the same thing from our own struggles. Suffering reminds us to lean upon Jesus Christ and to discover anew that He is more than sufficient.
  4. Fourth, in light of the second and third point, our physical infirmities should remind us that God loves us and that He is treating us as sons. Adults frequently are willing to treat children other than their own in ways that simply make them happy in the moment. If we were allowed to, we would give them a piece of candy just to see them smile and be grateful. The child’s actual parents, because they love the child, are not simply trying to get their son or daughter to smile for a moment – they are looking out for their child’s long term interests. So they will insist that their daughter eat her vegetables and that their son study rather than watch T.V. precisely because they love their children. So it is with God.

Read or sing Hymn 53 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” Prayer: Give thanks that the Father loves you and is dedicated to conforming you into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday (4/6) Read and discuss Isaiah 35:1-10. In order to rightly understand this passage we have to remember Isaiah’s original call to be a prophet.  Isaiah was given an extraordinary vision of God’s glory. Isaiah responded by volunteering to be God’s messenger to proclaim the holiness of God to Israel. The LORD then commissioned Isaiah with these surprising words:

And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing,  but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

Because of their rebellion, God chose not to bring revival to Israel in Isaiah’s day.  His preaching would bear no immediate fruit. Yet, chapter thirty-five holds out the promise of a coming day when God will bring great blessings upon His people. In verses 1-2 He promises to change their environment. In verses 3-4, He says that we should comfort and encourage one another to live faithfully in the present in light of the future deliverance.  The really remarkable part comes in verse 5 where God promises He will reverse the hardheartedness of the people revealed in Isaiah’s original call. The opening of the eyes of the blind and unstopping the ears of the deaf in chapter 35 is a direct reversal of the condition of the people in Isaiah 6:9-10. This casts a great deal of light upon the miracles of Jesus. When He opens the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, He is not merely doing remarkable miracles. Jesus is doing signs that point to the fact that He is the Messiah and beginning the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesies.  The end of Christ’s work is found in verses 7-10 where all things are made new in holiness and security for God’s people. Read or sing Hymn 622 “I Waited for the Lord Most High” Prayer: Lift up the elderly members of our congregation and pray that the LORD would give them the grace to finish well.

Thursday (4/7) Read and discuss Colossians 2:6-15. The cross of Christ reveals an amazing paradox. At the very point when Jesus was being publicly shamed in His crucifixion, He was freeing His people and disarming and shaming the evil forces that are arrayed against us. How can this be? In the words of the beloved hymn, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, Jesus “breaks the power of cancelled sin”. We see in verse 14 that Jesus cancelled “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” This was the greatest weapon that Satan and the demons held against us. They could bring accusations against us of cosmic treason and demand the death penalty. This fear of death, and the judgment that would follow, is the fear that all tyrants exploit. Yet, by bearing the full penalty of our sin on the cross, this weapon of our enemies has been utterly taken away. Second, the LORD gives us new life by His Spirit. Notice that we are “made alive together with Him (v. 13).” Christ’s own life is a guarantee of our everlasting life with God. Not only that, the Holy Spirit is given to us so that we are no longer in bondage to the power of sin as we were before. We are now enabled by the Spirit to “more and more die unto sin and to live unto righteousness.” Read or sing Hymn 558 “That Man Is Blest Who, Fearing God” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with us and whose gifts would build up our church family.

Friday (4/8) Read and discuss Genesis 17:15-27. Iain Duguid writes:

This relationship with God is a relationship that affects your children also. I meet many people who tell me that they want their children to be free to decide for themselves what they think about religion when they grow up. One lad told me that she keeps books from a cult alongside the Bible on her children’s bookshelf, so that they will be free to make up their own minds when they get older. But the message of the Bible is that we are not free to choose our own gods in the way we choose our favorite brand of laundry detergent. It is not simply a matter of “finding the religion that works for you”; it is a matter of surrendering to the covenant-keeping God or facing the consequences. When God chose Abraham, he didn’t choose just him; he chose his children as well. God is not only the God of Abraham, but also the God of Isaac and Jacob. That is why Abraham was to circumcise his children; they needed to know that they were not free to choose their own gods. They were to receive the sign of the covenant to show them that they were part of the covenant people. They belonged to the one true God, and they were to submit to him.

Did circumcision save them? Absolutely not. Ishmael was circumcised on the same day as Abraham (Gen 17:26), yet he showed no evidence of a heart renewed by grace. Although he bore the sign of the covenant, he was not ultimately part of God’s covenant people. As he grew up, he lived “in the face of” God’s covenant people (16:12), not in friendship with them. As Genesis 17:19-20 makes clear, although God’s blessing rested on Ishmael and his descendants, his covenant was with Isaac and his descendants. In a similar way, circumcision pointed Israel’s children to the one covenant God who alone could save them. If they trusted in him, like their father Abraham, they would find refuge in him. But if they refused that God and rebelled against him, their very circumcision would testify against them. They too would be cut off as Ishmael was.

Prayer: Give thanks that God has marked you out as His own treasured possession by putting His name upon you in baptism.

Saturday (4/9) Read and discuss Hebrews 12:12-17. Tom Schreiner writes:

It is unclear what Esau sought. The pronoun “it” could refer to either repentance or the blessing since both are feminine nouns. … The NIV is probably on target “Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.” “It was his loss, not his profanity, that he mourned (Westcott).” Even if the reference is to repentance rather than to blessing, the meaning doesn’t change greatly since repentance was the means to obtain the blessing. Esau wanted the blessing, but the time had passed. The author isn’t saying God doesn’t allow people to repent even if they wish to. His point is that the time passed when Esau could repent, and he doesn’t want the same to happen to the readers. As Koester says,

This passage is designed to awaken people to danger, not to make them give up hope. Warning is the counterpart to promise; both pertain to the future. Warnings disturb people, while promises encourage them, but together they serve the same end, which is encouraging people to persevere in faith.

Read or sing Hymn: 670 “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 3 April 2016 Sunday, Mar 27 2016 

MVOPC 3 April 2016

Call to Worship: Isaiah 40:1-5

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: Romans 6:23

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

Old Covenant Reading: Proverbs 3:1-12

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 12:4-11

Sermon: God the Disciple Maker

Hymn of Response: 570 “Faith of Our Fathers!”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 441 “Jesus Shall Reign”

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 17:1-14

NT: Galatians 3:15-29

The Covenant of Circumcision

Adult Sunday School: The Ninth Commandment – Part II

Shorter Catechism Q/A #36

Q. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification?
A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (3/28) Read and discuss Hebrews 12:4-11. Tom Schreiner writes:

The readers [of Hebrews] could overestimate the difficulties they have encountered thus far. They haven’t suffered martyrdom. They need a fresh and revised perspective on the difficult circumstances they are encountering. God is disciplining them just as a father disciplines his children. When God disciplines us, we are called upon to endure, to obtain the benefit of the discipline being meted out. Discipline isn’t a sign of God’s disfavor but his love. It is designed to produce holiness and righteousness in God’s children. So even though there is present pain, the readers should look at the long-term gain and embrace the discipline as an indication of God’s love. Believers are prone to apostasy if they become unduly discouraged. They must strengthen their hands and feet and continue to run the race.

Read or sing Hymn 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render” Prayer: Ask (In sympathy with Proverbs 30:8-9) that the LORD would neither give you extraordinary material blessings or lead you to the place of crushing disappointment, but that He would meet your needs in a way which reminds you that every good gift comes from your heavenly Father.

Tuesday (3/29) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 1:9-18. The promises were tangibly being fulfilled. The LORD had promised The Land to Abraham as well as descendants as numerous as the sand on the seashore or the visible stars in heaven. As the nation of Israel is about to cross the Jordan River, Moses reminds them of how numerous they had become: “The LORD your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven.” This fulfillment should have greatly encouraged every person who would journey into the Promised Land. The promise of a vast seed to Abraham once seemed unimaginable – but the LORD had done it. From now on, whenever they heard God’s question to Abraham in Genesis 18:14, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” – They could shout a resounding “No!” and point to their own numbers as proof. Still, God in His grace had given Israel more than vast numbers. During the trials in the wilderness, the LORD had established a representative government of Elders to manage the nation’s civic affairs.  Rather than starting from scratch, they would enter the Promised Land with a government already in place. One only has to consider the trials of modern countries that have been forged out of war to see what a great blessing this was. Nevertheless, the best structures are never a replacement for righteousness.  What Israel (and every nation) needed more than strong formal institutions, were capable and righteous men who would seek justice rather than self-aggrandizement.  So Moses reminds them of what God had commanded through him:

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

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

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

Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you an even more faithful man or woman of God.

Wednesday (3/30) Read and discuss Proverbs 3:1-12. Verse 2 presents benefits that every person would like to enjoy – a long and prosperous life. Interestingly, this can be paraphrased by the Vulcan greeting in Star Trek: “Live long and prosper.” Apparently, we imagine that even alien civilizations would desire these blessings. Nevertheless, these blessings are not automatic but are tied to a series of things that those seeking these blessings ought to do. Andrew Steinmann comments:

The promises attached to these six invitations paint a picture of God’s faithful people who are constantly experiencing life’s best: long life, health, success, and wealth. However, other passages in Proverbs as well as many other biblical books plus our own personal observations tell us that even the most faithful believers do not always encounter such things [in this life]. Some of the most pious of God’s people have hardships that seem to fly in the face of these promises. Christ himself possessed no material wealth and as crucified in the prime of his earthly life. His ministry appeared to be a failure on Good Friday, and to some even on Easter Sunday (cf. Luke 24:10-11, 19-24). Most of his apostles were martyred, and few could be considered a success by worldly standards. …

We must add another important observation: None of us follows the advice of these six invitations perfectly. We as sinners often fall short of having the trust in God that we ought to have. Thus we cannot claim these promises by our merits, but only by the grace of God given to us in the merits of Christ, who kept God’s Law perfectly and grew in wisdom. As people who remain sinners as long as we remain in this life, we cannot expect or demand that we receive the benefits of these promises fully in this life. We also fail to recognize the extent of the blessings we already have, especially when we compare ourselves with those who have more. Yet we also know that all God’s promises are yes in Christ (2 Cor 1:20), and we who are heirs of those promises shall receive their benefits in full on the Last Day.

Read or sing Hymn 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” Prayer: Lift up President Obama and his cabinet and ask that the LORD would grant them wisdom, moral courage, and grace as they seek to fulfill the demands of their respective offices.

Thursday (3/31) Read and discuss Galatians 3:15-29. Paul has been arguing that salvation is not by law keeping but entirely as a gift of God’s grace. This raises a natural question which Paul himself asks in verse 19: “Why then the law?”

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

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

Read or sing Hymn 570 “Faith of Our Fathers!” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Friday (4/1) Read and discuss Genesis 17:1-14. Dale Ralph Davies writes:

What is the significance of circumcision? If it is ‘a sign of the covenant’ what does it signify? Well, it’s hard to get away from the idea that it signifies promises. You note that Yahweh’s promises infect the whole context of the circumcision section. That is, verses 9-14 (circumcision) are surrounded with Yahweh’s promises (vv. 4-8 and 15-21), promises fore and aft, we might say. Alec Motyer said that whenever Abraham would look upon that sign in his body, he would say, ‘I am the man to whom God has made promises.’ That is true, and yet this circumcision is also Abraham’s response to the covenant promises and to Yahweh’s command and it would also indicate that he is marked out for the God who made the promises – he is ‘branded’ as belonging to the God who makes promises. Perhaps it’s something like a husband’s wedding band. On the one hand, he can look at it and say, ‘I am the man to whom promise have been made’; on the other, he could say, ‘I am marked out as belonging to another.’ In this latter sense, Abraham might say, ‘I am not my own; I belong to another, for I am branded with the identity mark of the covenant God.’

Prayer: Think about your baptism and how it marks you out as belonging to the people of God.

Saturday (4/2) Read and discuss Hebrews 12:4-11. N.T. Wright comments:

It may come as a shock to many Christians to discover that there lies ahead of them a life in which God, precisely because he is treating us as sons and daughters, will refuse to spoil us or ignore us, will refuse to let us get away forever with rebellion or folly, with sin or stupidity. He has his ways of alerting his children to the fact that they should either pause and think again, or turn round and go in the opposite direction, or get down on their knees and repent. … Some people may be shocked to think of God being involved in such comparative trivia. All I can say is that I’d rather be in the hands of a father than a distant, faceless, careless bureaucrat.

Read or sing Hymn: 441 “Jesus Shall Reign” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 27 March 2016 Sunday, Mar 20 2016 

MVOPC 27 March 2016 – Easter

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

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 103:11-13

Old Covenant Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 28:1-10

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

Sermon Text:  1 Corinthians 15:1-28

Sermon: Lord Triumphant

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

Confession of Faith:   Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 16:1-16

NT: Luke 12:22-31

Man’s Folly Overcome by God’s Mercy

Adult Sunday School: Extended Time of Fellowship – No Sunday school

Shorter Catechism Q/A #35

Q. What is sanctification?

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

Suggested Preparations 

Monday (3/21) Read and discuss Matthew 28:1-10. Easter is a time when everyone should feel good. At least that is what the world thinks. A generation ago it was common for many people to get new clothes that they wore for the first time on Easter Sunday. Churches are filled, familiar hymns are sung, spring is in the air, and the message is about victory over death. Who wouldn’t be happy on a day like that? The only problem is that this isn’t what happens when people first encounter the reality of the risen Christ.  When an angel from the LORD appears to the guards, they become frozen in fear like dead men. Hagner puts it neatly when he writes: “The irony is not to be missed: the ones assigned to guard the dead themselves appear dead while the dead now have been made alive.” Rather than being a cool breeze across our face on a hot summer’s day, encountering an actual angel and experiencing the reality of Christ’s resurrection brought devastating terror to the guards.  Furthermore, they had every right to be terrified. Not only were they sinners in the presence of true holiness, their pretensions to being in control were instantly unmasked.  Having forgotten this truth, modern Americans expend an enormous amount of energy and money trying to convince ourselves that we really have everything under control. Sure, we need to tinker with the economy and health care from time to time – but for the most part we can manage just fine thank you very much.  Today’s passage reminds us how deluded such a notion is. Once the illusion of being in control was stripped away the guards became paralyzed with fear.  We should notice that the women were also afraid. The greeting from the angel is best translated “Stop being afraid”.  Additionally, the first words of Jesus to the women after greeting them was “Do not be afraid”. Their world has also been instantly turned upside down. But there the similarities between the women and the guards would end. The fear of the women, and all true disciples, would soon be turned into joy that no one could take away. Easter, rather than being a great unifying event for all mankind, radically divides followers of Christ from the rest of the world. The proclamation “Christ is risen!” is indeed the greatest news imaginable – but only for those who have put their trust in Him. Read or sing Hymn 286 “Worship Christ the Risen King!” Prayer: Ask the LORD to lead you to live every day in light of the Resurrection of Jesus.

Tuesday (3/22) Read and discuss Jeremiah 29:1-7.  We live in a fragmented and pluralistic culture. How should we engage the non-Christian culture that is all around us? Today’s passage brings us to a time when much of Israel had been dragged off to live in Babylon.  How the LORD told them to live in Babylon has a great deal to teach us about how we should live in New England. (1) Wrong ways to respond: ASSIMILATION. Babylon’s basic strategy for dealing with the foreign nation’s within their empire was to encourage them to adopt Babylonian beliefs and practices. The name for this is assimilation.  You will recall from reading Daniel that this included sending Israel’s best and brightest youth to Babylonian schools. Yet most of the forces that lead to assimilation are more subtle.  They simply hold out the opportunity to get ahead in a new culture if you will only give up your own distinctive beliefs and practices to just fit in. Assimilation is so effective because it can be accomplished very gradually in steps that individually may seem insignificant. TRIBALISM.  A second wrong way to respond was being advocated by the false prophets in Jeremiah’s day.  They were telling Israel to band together and remain as separate from Babylonian society as possible. Furthermore, they were to approach Babylonian civilization as something to exploit for themselves while waiting for God to destroy the evil nation. One of the most basic choices we make in a relationship is between thinking that Other is there for YOUR benefit or YOU are there for the OTHER’s benefit. The false prophets were encouraging Israel to choose the first option and to get as much as they could from those who had brought them into captivity. Perhaps the greatest attraction of this approach to relating to hostile culture is that it can “protect” us from the very real danger of being assimilated. Yet, God tells Israel that He wants them to do something else entirely. (2) God’s approach was to tell Israel to, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” That is, God wanted His people to maintain their identity as His people while living in the midst of Babylon and by seeking to be a blessing to Babylon. Let’s face it; this is really hard to do.  We need resources that are far beyond our own in order to live this way. Thankfully God has given us these resources in Jesus Christ. We have been blessed to be a blessing even to our enemies.  We must be in the world and not of it. Because we are Christ’s we must seek the welfare even of those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Prayer: Ask the LORD to protect you and your entire Church Family from the temptation to assimilate to those parts of our culture which are hostile to the LORD.

Wednesday (3/23) Read and discuss Ezekiel 37:1-14. The following story is told from the old Soviet Union before the Berlin wall fell:

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

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

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

Thursday (3/24) Read and discuss Luke 12:22-31. David Garland writes:

The warning against anxiety and the command to store up treasure in heaven through almsgiving draws the lesson to be learned from the negative example of the rich fool. Lowery comments: “The imperative to relinquish and redistribute wealth grows out of the assurance that God provides sustenance and beauty sufficient for good life. Generosity flows from confidence in God’s willingness and ability to provide.”

A harvest is a miraculous gift from God, but the farmer did not treat his bumper crop as an opportunity for sharing with others from God’s bounty but as an occasion to keep more for himself and to hedge against future bad harvests. Such actions are rooted in fear that one may not have enough. “Fear,” as Lowery notes, “breeds obsession with survival. It is a small step then to idolatry, the vain attempt to substitute certitude for faith, to find security in that which can be controlled rather than which simply must be trusted.” By contrast, “faith sees the abundance as surplus to be shared, because God can be trusted to provide enough next year, as well.” When the world is divided up between the have-mores and the have-nothings, the love of neighbor should determine the answer to the question, “What shall I do with my surplus?”

Jesus allows that material things are necessary for life (12:16, 22-32), but a greater abundance of these things does not lead to a greater abundance of life. Nor does it lead to greater peace and security. Instead, as Bultmann notes, “the person who supposedly has the world at his disposal is [often] its victim.” That person is often confused about what is really important in life. That is why Paul advises in 1 Cor 7:31 that one should “use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.” The man in the parable learns too late that the only possessions worth having and storing up are those that death cannot snatch away. He also never gets to enjoy his “good things.” The truth is that greater happiness derives from the experience of sharing things with others than from miserly attempts to accumulate and to stash them away.

Read or sing Hymn 276 “Up from the Grave He Arose” Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus has committed to providing you with everything you need in order to live a life that glorifies Him.

Friday (3/25) Read and discuss Genesis 16:1-16. Iain Duguid writes:

Hagar was fortunate. In the wilderness, she met a better friend, the angel of the LORD. Like Eve before her, she found that her sin and failure were not the end of the story. The LORD was out there in the wilderness looking for the wanderer. In his gentle but firm approach, the angel fo the LORD provided a classic model for evangelism: with a few brief words, he convicted Hagar of her sin of rebellion, pointed out the helplessness of her condition apart from Abram and his house, and assured her of both safe passage on her return and future blessing. Hagar was promised a son who would be great, the first of many descendants. In this gracious encounter by the well, we are reminded of another woman who met the LORD beside a well, the woman of Samaria (John 4). She too found that the LORD saw right through her, even to the depths of her sin, yet was still seeking to turn her into a true worshipper.

Like Israel in Egypt, Hagar cried out in her misery and was heard by the LORD (Gen. 16:11; cf. Ex 3:7). Indeed, in Sarai’s oppression of her Egyptian maid there is a miniature picture in reverse of the suffering and oppression that Israel would later undergo in Egypt. But the similarities between Hagar’s situation and the later one of the Israelites only highlight the difference between the commands that the LORD gave concerning each. Whereas God said to Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” he said to Hagar, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her” (Gen 16:9). One had t find freedom by leaving the house of bondage, while the other could only find freedom by reentering the house of bondage. Hagar was sent back simply because there was no blessing to be found apart from Abram and his seed. Painful though the way of submission may have been, there was no other way for Hagar to receive the blessing of God.

Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead, NH as they look for a new pastor.

Saturday (3/26) Read and discuss Matthew 28:1-10. Michael Wilkens writes:

The women heed the urgent directive from the angel to go quickly to tell the disciples of Jesus’ resurrection. They came to the tomb expecting to find the death of their hopes, but now everything is turned upside down, and even their wildest dreams pale beside the astonishing message that Jesus has been raised. Their reaction is one of “fear,” but yet of “great joy.” The empty tomb, the appearance and message of the angel, and the urgency of informing the disciples produce fear. Moreover, the uncertainty of the future also produces fear of the unknown. These women disciples probably only have a faint awareness of all that this means, but they have followed Jesus long enough to know where it has gotten him – rejection from his own people and death. Their own lives will never be the same.

Yet there is great joy. Something deep within them is beginning to recognize that all they hoped for in Jesus is actually beginning to come true. These women knew just enough of what the future now may hold, for the prediction of Jesus’ resurrection has been fulfilled. Jesus is alive. Their future now includes the risen Jesus, the long-anticipated and now fully realized Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world.

Read or sing Hymn: 277 “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

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