Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 25 February 2018 Sunday, Feb 18 2018 

25 February 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 92 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

Confession of Sin

Almighty and everlasting God, Glorious Creator of all things, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; We have sinned against Your holy Name, by failing to glorify You in our lives as your redeemed children. Our unthankfulness extends to every thought and deed, as well as to our failure to thank you with our lips. We have not lived to the praise of the glory of Your grace. We have not esteemed the reproach of Jesus Christ our Savior to be greater than the riches of this world. We have failed to estimate the infinite cost of the salvation won for us at the cross through the shed blood of Jesus. We have not been faithful to You as You have been faithful to us in all things. Father, forgive us for our ingratitude through the reconciling sacrifice of Jesus Christ our all-sufficient Mediator, we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Titus 2:11-14

Hymn of Preparation:  260 “Were You There?”

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 53:1-12

New Covenant: John 19:38-42

Sermon: The Burial

Hymn of Response: 252 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship

OT: 2 Samuel 4:1-12

NT: Hebrews 10:19-31

The Murder of Ish-Bosheth

Shorter Catechism Q/A #28

Q. Wherein consisteth Christ’s exaltation?
A. Christ’s exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/19) Read and discuss John 19:38-42. Leon Morris writes:

John tells us that Joseph was “a disciple,” as does Matthew, though that Evangelist expresses it slightly differently: he says that Joseph “had been disciple.” Neither Mark nor Luke speaks of him as a disciple, but  both say that he was looking for the kingdom of God, which amounts to much the same thing. The Synoptists add other information. Joseph was wealthy, and a member of the Sanhedrin. Luke tells us both that he was a “good and righteous man” and that he had not given his consent to the action of the Sanhedrin when Jesus was condemned. John has none of this information. He concentrates on the facts that Joseph was a secret disciple and that he was active in securing the burial of Jesus. Secret disciples are not described in glowing terms in 12:42-43, but clearly Joseph had now come out of hiding and by going to Pilate had in some sense allied himself to the group of Jesus’ followers. It is, of course, possible that he would be seen not so much as a disciple as a Jew who was anxious to see that Jewish burial customs be followed, for the Jews took very seriously the obligation to see that burials were carried out properly. But under the circumstances Joseph could scarcely have done what he did without its being known that he was a disciple of the crucified Jesus.

To go to Pilate and ask for the body took courage, as Mark makes clear (Mark 15:43; he went in to Pilate “boldly”). And it probably explains Jesus’ honorable burial. Criminals were not normally given the burial accorded to upright citizens; they were buried without ceremony in a common grave. But Joseph was clearly an important citizen, and when he made the request for the body Pilate was quite ready to let him have it.

Read or sing 92 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” Prayer: Please lift up those in our congregation who are struggling with the flu or with other illnesses.

Tuesday (2/20) Read and discuss Read John 19:28-37. When John points out that Scripture says “They will look upon Him whom they pierced,” he is referring to Zechariah 12:10. There the LORD says:

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”

There are two key things to take note of:

  1. First, the LORD begins by saying that He “pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy.” That is, the LORD is going to lead them to repentance and give them new hearts. These are not people who are destined to terrifying judgement. These are people who are being redeemed to dwell in the House of the LORD forever.
  2. Second, unlike the nations in Revelation 1:7 who are wailing over their own plight, these converted Jews will look “on Him whom they have pierced” and “they will mourn for him, … tenderly … as one mourns for an only child.” That is, they will be mourning out of compassion for Christ who suffered like this at the hands of their fellow Jews.

Rather than looking forward to a time of terror, Zechariah is magnifying the grace of the Messiah in that even though most of the Jews rejected Christ at His first coming and cried out for His death – by God’s grace, at Christ’s Second Coming, most of the Jewish people, although not necessarily all of them, will have been converted. Speaking in terms of corporate solidarity with the Jewish people throughout the ages, “they will look upon Him whom they pierced,” they will mourn that they had caused His suffering, but they will be mourning as those confess that Christ’s grace is greater than their sin – and that He loved me, and gave Himself for me. And then we remember our Lord’s prayer from the cross: “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do!” Read or sing Hymn: 260 “Were You There?” Prayer: Give thanks that when most Jews rejected Jesus at His first coming that this didn’t mean the end of God’s Ancient people – but that He has a future for converted Jews inside His Church.

Wednesday (2/21) Read and discuss Isaiah 53:1-12. R. Reed Lessing writes:

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

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

Prayer: Please lift up those students and families who have been traumatized by the recent shooting in Florida.

Thursday (2/22) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:19-31. Karen Jobes writes:

When I was young in my Christian faith, in the emotional excitement of having come to Christ, feeling the relief of sins-forgiven and the warmth of fellowship with like-minded believers, I wondered why the book of Hebrews was so adamant about perseverance. What was there to persevere? The Christian life was so exciting, so fun, so fulfilling. But now, decades later, I realize that various seasons of life as we age b ring new challenges to the faith. Even without persecution for being a Christian, there are times when a believer might wonder if the gospel of eternal life in Jesus Christ is true, or perhaps whether it is relevant for life’s deepest challenges. Disappointed hopes and dreams, the again and death of parents, siblings, and spouses with all of dying attendant indignities, the continued waywardness of a child or loved one, addictions of various kinds, broken relationships, one’s own health and mortality – all of these personal circumstances can challenge one’s faith in the goodness of God and the reality of his promise in Christ. And then there are the perennial episodes of evil in our world – wars, genocides, horrific crimes, global economic woes, and catastrophes of nature. It is against all the vicissitudes of life that the book of Hebrews encourages believers to keep on in the faith, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Heb 12:2), who endured the most unjust torture to free us from the fear of death (Heb 12:15), and therefore freeing us from our fears of life.

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

Friday (2/23) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 4:1-12. Tony Cartledge writes:

In one sense, this story highlights the way in which God is able to work out his purpose through persons who are both good and bad. Rechab and Baanah are two of the most repugnant characters in all of the Bible. They committed a horrible crime. Yet God’s purpose superseded even their despicable deed as David demonstrated that his kindom would be a different sort.

On a more intimate level, the cruel wrong wreaked by Rechab and Baanah speaks to the reader about the importance of judging opportunity correctly and responding appropriately. The two brothers from Beeroth came from an opportunistic family. When Saul’s zealous purge forced the Giveonites to fleed from their ethnic tetrapolis, the family of Rimmon moved into the vacated city of Beeroth. Rechab and Baanah were also professional opportunists. As captains of raiding parties, it was their job to look for situations in which a bold, quick strike could reap great rewards.

So it is not surprising that the two brothers saw Abner’s death and David’s rise as a golden opportunity to make themselves rich by engineering Ishbaal’s assassination. There is no evidence of political intrigue in this story, no suggestion that Rechab and Baanah were acting in behalf of any nationalistic or ethnic group. They, like Saul and his descendants, were Benjaminites, but kinship was no obstacle to their greed. The narration suggests that their cold-blooded murder of Ishbaal was carried out with precision, and without hesitation. For these opportunists, it was all in a day’s work.

Read or sing Hymn 252 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you the moral courage to pass on apparent opportunities when they involve doing evil in order to “get ahead.”

Saturday (2/24) Read and discuss John 19:38-42. Leon Morris writes:

People sometimes surprise us. You never know how they will turn out. There was a mother who happened to meet the teacher of her young son. “I’m Johnny’s mother,” she said, and then, “Is that bragging or apologizing?” The mother evidently was not too sure about her boy but was prepared for the worst. People, including small boys, sometimes develop in ways other than we would anticipate.

Nicodemus was perhaps like that. He did not turn out as we might have expected from the earlier references to him. Not only did he associate himself with Joseph, but he came “brining a mixture of myrrh and aloes.” These were evidently to be used in the burial. The Jews did not embalm bodies in the Egyptian manner, which involved mutilation by the removal of the viscera. Instead they washed the body, anointed it, and wrapped it. It was the Jewish custom to put such spices as Nicodemus brought in the folds of the linen about the body. The combination of myrrh and aloes is not found in any New Testament passage other than this, though it does occur in Psalm 45:8 and in the Song of Songs 4:14. Myrrh was one of the gifts the Wise Men brought to the infant Jesus, while aloes were put with Jesus’ body on the Friday, though they refer to the women as preparing spices for use on the Sunday morning. They could not have been unaware what Nicodemus had brought, but evidently they wanted to add their own personal tribute to their dead Messiah.

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

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Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 18 February 2018 Sunday, Feb 11 2018 

18 February 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 103:8-10

Hymn of Preparation:  259 “Hark! the Voice of Love and Mercy”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 34:1-22

New Covenant Reading: John 19:28-37

Sermon: That You May Believe

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

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Diaconal Offering

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love is This”

PM Service

OT: 2 Samuel 4:1-12

NT: Hebrews 10:19-31

The Murder of Ish-Bosheth

Shorter Catechism Q/A #27

Q. Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist?
A. Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/12) Read and discuss John 19:28-37.  Edward Klink writes:

With one word (in Greek), his final word, Jesus declares the completion of the work assigned to Him by the Father. Done! Finished! Jesus completed it all. His “thirst” is what gives us complete satisfaction. By giving up His spirit, we have received the Spirit. The person and work of Jesus has fulfilled the OT Scriptures. To the smallest detail it is completed – all things for all people for all time. … With one word all sin is paid in full. With one word the ruler of this world is defeated. With one word creation regains its hope. With one word death is defeated. With one word life is redefined. With one word the love of God is made manifest. Everything makes sense because of this one word. At the moment the Word of God spoke this single word, a new creation “happened,” just as it did at the original creation.

Read or sing 679 “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at the Presbyterian Church of Cape Cod.

Tuesday (2/13) Read and discuss Read John 19:16-27. Let’s look at the end of verse 24 through verse 27:

So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

One of the most horrible things for a parent to contemplate or experience is the death of a beloved child. I can’t even imagine the anguish that Mary endured watching her eldest son having His life snuffed out through a brutal death on the cross. Nevertheless, the focus of these verses is not the pain that Mary endured by what Jesus did about it. As William Barclay observes:

There is something infinitely moving in the fact that Jesus in the agony of the Cross, in the moment when the salvation of the world hung in the balance, thought of the loneliness of His mother in the days when He was taken away.

And yet, I think it is important for us to notice that Jesus doesn’t call Mary His mother. Once again, Just as He had done before He turned the water into wine – Jesus calls Mary “woman.” This is a polite and honorable term – but it also reframes the relationship. Jesus is not primarily speaking to Mary as her Son – but as her Savior and Lord. His brothers haven’t yet come to a living faith, so Jesus commits Mary to the care of His beloved disciple – and from that very hour – John took Mary into his care. It is remarkably touching, that with the salvation of the world hanging in the balance, Jesus pressed through His own agony to provide for the needs of Mary as she endured an anguish that goes beyond words. Please don’t think of this as a touching extra. This is, in fact, a crucial aspect of what Christ was doing. Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t you see that I am engaged in this massive cosmic business. I don’t have time to worry about the care of each one of My sheep by name.” For the cosmic work of Christ was designed precisely to meet the deepest personal needs of each and every one of us. Jesus didn’t simply die for the sins of the world in the abstract. He died for each of you by name. Read or sing Hymn: 259 “Hark! the Voice of Love and Mercy” Prayer: Give thanks that Almighty God loves you personally.

Wednesday (2/14) Read and discuss Psalm 34:1-22. Gerald Wilson writes:

We too often identify divine blessing with “getting the goods” in one way or another. “How blessed” we think is the one who is financially secure or well respected, or whose family is well balanced and happily trouble free. We thank God for the blessings of health, comfortable living, and even national security. In doing so we rightly acknowledge how much all aspects of our lives depend on God.

The trouble is that we may come to associate divine blessing exclusively with such external evidence. The people of Jesus’ day struggled with this sort of thinking. If a child was born blind, it had to mean that someone had sinned, because certainly God would not visit such pain and suffering on the righteous (John 9:1-12). Jesus’ answer is shocking, both to his hearers and those of us who read the account now: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned … but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (9:3). The blind man was not suffering as the consequence of his sin but so that his suffering could serve a deeper divine purpose and significance.

This does not mean that we never suffer as a consequence of our own distorted decisions and sinful actions. Certainly alcoholism, uncontrolled rage, deceit, sexual promiscuity, and dishonesty – to name but a few of our sinful failings – can pay back severe and destructive consequences on us and all those around us. But to equate all suffering with the consequences of sin is to miss the point Jesus made so long ago, both in the account of the blind man and in the Beatitudes: The righteous suffer undeservedly, but in their suffering they have opportunity to glorify God and to receive his blessing!

Prayer: Please lift up the Supreme Court of the United States in prayer.

Thursday (2/15) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:19-31. Verse 25 warns us to not neglect the gathering of ourselves today as is the manner of some. N.T. Wright comments:

So, then, we are to come to worship God – not just in private, though private worship and prayer is enormously important, but in public as well. The danger of people thinking they could be Christians all by themselves was, it seems, present in the early church just as today, and verse 25 warns against it. This may well not be due to people not realizing what a corporate thing Christianity was and is, nor yet because they were lazy or didn’t much like the other Christians in their locality, but because, when there was a threat of persecution (as will become clear later in this chapter) it’s much easier to escape notice if you avoid meeting together with other worshippers. Much safer just not to turn up.

There’s no place for that, declares Hebrews. Every Christian needs the encouragement of every other Christian. Everyone who comes through the door of the place of worship, whether it be a house in a back street or a great cathedral in a public square, is a real encouragement to everyone else who is there. This is part of the way, along with an actual word of encouragement when necessary, in which we can ‘stir up one another’ to work hard at the central actions of Christian living, ‘love and good works’ (a deliberately broad phrase to cover all sorts of activities). And we need this encouragement all the more, as verse concludes, as we believe that we are drawing closer to the great day when, with Jesus’ reappearance, God will complete his work of new creation.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to help you focus on giving even greater encouragement to your brothers and sisters in Christ as you join them for corporate worship this weekend.

Friday (2/16) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 4:1-12. David, like all of us, was a flawed human being. But his life is also marked out by a devotion to the LORD. Unlike Saul before him and Solomon after him David never deviated from worshipping Yahweh and Yahweh alone. What was the key to David’s fidelity? One likely answer is that David cultivated the virtue of gratitude. Note well his words in verse 9: “Yahweh, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity.” When David thought about the LORD, he thought about how the LORD had delivered him. That is a great practice for us to cultivate as well. Dale Ralph Davis writes:

Kings have no corner on the principle that gratitude nurtures fidelity; it has always proven the safeguard for all Christ’s flock. About AD 155 Polycarp of Smyrna was arraigned before the authorities and required to call Caesar ‘Lord’ and burn the requisite pinch of incense. Polycarp refused. The consul assured him that he had wild beasts and would feed Polycarp to them if he refused. ‘Send for them,’ Polycarp replied. ‘If you despise the wild beasts,’ threatened the consul, ‘I will send you to the fire; swear and I will release you: curse the Christ.’ This stirred Polycarp’s stellar response: ‘Eighty and six years have I served Christ, and he has done me now wrong; how then can I blaspheme my King who has saved me?’ The words are different; the principle is the same; the result is the same. Gratitude provides an excellent antidote for idolatry.

Read or sing Hymn 257 “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” Prayer: Please pray for our new book studies which begin tomorrow.

Saturday (2/17) Read and discuss John 19:28-37. R.C. Sproul writes:

The Jews were concerned because it was a preparation day for the Sabbath, and the next day was a high Sabbath. If the bodies of the condemned men hung on their crosses overnight, the land would be defiled (Deut. 21:23), and that would have major repercussions for the Sabbath observances. So the Jews asked Pilate to order the soldiers to break the men’s legs. With their legs broken, the crucified men would not be able to elevate their chests and gain any breath, so they would die quickly from asphyxiation. The Jews were not concerned with putting Jesus out of His misery; they were concerned about the purity of the feast. They had just killed the One for whom the feasts were established in the first place, but they did not want to be guilty of violating the Old Testament law against bodies hanging on crosses overnight on the preparation day.

Pilate granted the Jews’ request in this instance, so the soldiers broke the legs of one of the robbers, then broke the legs of the other. But when they came to Jesus, they found He was already dead, having died much sooner than was normal in crucifixion. Thus, they did not break His legs, but one of the soldiers jammed his spear into Jesus’ side, perhaps to ensure that He was dead, and blood and water poured out.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 11 February 2018 Sunday, Feb 4 2018 

11 February 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

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

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: Colossians 1:11-14

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

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 22:1-31

New Covenant Reading: John 19:16-27

Sermon: The King of the Jews

Hymn of Response: 254 “Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed”

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 310 “Rejoice, the Lord is King”

PM Service

OT: 2 Samuel 3:20-39

NT: Matthew 5:21-26

David Mourns for a Wicked Man

Shorter Catechism Q/A #26

Q. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/5) Read and discuss John 19:16-27.  Edward Klink writes:

It is fitting that just inches above the head of Jesus, as if it were a crown, rested a sign – intentionally called “a title” (v. 19) by the narrator – which declared in every necessary language … that Jesus was the King. The ironic reality of the title above the cross is clear. The political gerrymandering and rhetorical wrangling between the authorities of Jerusalem and Rome ended with a climatic, Scripture-like declaration that was so true that only the reader could comprehend its fullness: the crucifixion of Jesus is his exaltation (cf. 3:14). This declaration of the kingship of Jesus was the simultaneous announcement of the judgment of the world and the victory of God. The cross announces that “the LORD reigns” and “will judge the peoples with equity” (Ps 96:10). For this reason, Christians speak of Jesus as both Savior and Lord, for the cross is both the source of redemption and the scepter of his rule, through which he “hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). One day people from every nation and government, both slave and sovereign, will bow their knees and confess with their tongues that Jesus Christ is Lord – not in spite of the cross but because of it.

Read or sing 5 “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Lift up someone who doesn’t know the LORD and pray that he or she will bow the knee and confess Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Tuesday (2/6) Read and discuss Read John 19:1-15. Verses 10 and 11 read:

So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

In effect, Pilate is saying: “How dare you? Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know how much power I have over you? Caesar is the true Lord over this world and I represent Caesar to you.” Jesus replies:

“You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

There are three things to pay attention to in Christ’s reply:

  1. First, while Pilate imagines that his authority comes from Rome. Jesus is making clear that Pilate’s power ultimately comes from God – and therefore it is to God that he will give an account.
  2. Second, Pilate notes that because the authority rulers have comes from the true God; he who handed Jesus over to Pilate – whether this is simply the High Priest or the religious leaders taken collectively has the greater sin. Why would this be so? It is because to whom much is given much is required. Israel and her religious leaders had a special responsibility to represent God. After all, they – like we in the Church – were entrusted with the very word of God.
  3. But third, please notice that Jesus also convicts Pilate of sin. That is, Jesus is putting Himself in the place of Judge over Pilate and declaring Pilate to be guilty.

Now we see the profundity and power of our Lord’s response. Pilate was saying: “Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know how much power I have over you? Caesar is the true Lord over this world and I represent Caesar to you.” Jesus responds by saying: “Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you know how much power I have over you? Yahweh is the true Lord over this world and I represent Yahweh to you. … And I am declaring that you are guilty of sin.” Read or sing Hymn: 251 “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus is the true Lord of this world.

Wednesday (2/7) Read and discuss Psalm 22:1-31. Today’s psalm begins with jarring abruptness: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from the cry of my groaning?” We are naturally drawn into the psalmist’s agony and wonder what he could have done that led the LORD to abandon him like this. Then we come to the cross and find these very lips on the lips of Jesus – the only intrinsically righteous man who has ever lived – and we are dumbfounded. Why? How could it be that He would suffer like this? The great sixteenth century Anglican, Richard Hooker, answers this question perhaps as well as is humanly possible:

Let men count it folly, or frenzy, or whatever. We care for no knowledge, no wisdom in the world but this, that man has sinned and God has suffered, that God has been made the sin of man and man is made the righteousness of God.

Why was He forsaken? Jesus chose to be forsaken for you. As we meditate on this prophetic psalm, written a millennium before the cross, we enter into the horror of what the King of glory suffered for His people. Yet that isn’t the end of the story. We should remember that Psalm 22 begins with our Lord’s cry of dereliction but that is not how it ends. Verse 23 calls the people of God to praise “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither has He hid His face from Him; but when He cried unto Him, He heard (v. 24).” Indeed, the last nine verses of the psalm are a celebration of the Lord’s victory. Surely Jesus knew this when He cried in agony from the cross. As unfathomable as His suffering was; Jesus knew that it was a suffering unto victory. Prayer: Please pray for those in our congregation who are suffering from physical infirmities.

Thursday (2/8) Read and discuss Matthew 5:21-26. Sinclair Ferguson writes:

Animosity is a time bomb; we do not know when it will ‘go off.’ We must deal with it quickly, before the consequences of our bitterness get completely out of control. Most human relationships that are destroyed could have been preserved if there had been communication and action at the right time. Jesus says that the right time is as soon as we are conscious that we are at enmity with our brother (Matthew 5:23).

One further point should be noted from this section. Jesus urges us to seek reconciliation when “your brother has something against you” (5:23), or when “your adversary … is taking you to court” (5:25). Jesus is telling us that we should, as far as possible, remove all basis for enmity. But He is not urging us to share every thought in our hearts during the process of reconciliation. Our secret thoughts and sins will not be sanctified by telling others about them. Doing so has led many Christians (and those they have spoken to) into unhappy situations. Jesus is not telling us to “hang out our dirty linen in public,” but rather to deal urgently and fully with all breakdowns in fellowship before they lead to spiritual assassination.

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

Friday (2/9) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 3:20-39. Tony Cartledge writes:

Abner’s death was a blow to David not only because of his apparent appreciation for the man who had once been David’s own commanding officer, but because of the serious complications that Abner’s assassination brought to his quest for kingship. A lesser man than David might not have recovered from the blow, but the narrator wants us to understand that David is no ordinary man.

David is both wise and quick-witted. As a result, he engineers a brilliant recovery, turning Abner’s earth to his own advantage by publicly cursing Joab (without removing his valuable general from office), and by engaging in loud lamentation for Abner as he honored the fallen enemy with a state funeral fit for a king. Trouble reared its ugly head before him, but David found a way to rise above it.

How could David continue his remarkable pattern of facing difficulty and actually gaining strength from it? The narrator does not say, but the implication is clear: It is because Yahweh is with him. David can overcome even the roughest of obstacles, can walk through the valley of the shadow of death, because the LORD is with him.

The Apostle Paul underscored the same reality when he said, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). Even bad things can work together for good, but only when we are working together with God.

Read or sing Hymn 254 “Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed” Prayer: Give thanks that Christ is building His Church!

Saturday (2/10) Read and discuss John 19:16-27. R.C. Sproul writes:

The passage is full of indignities. Notice first of all that the soldiers divided Jesus’ clothes among themselves. They were able to do this because Jesus had been stripped. Prisoners were crucified naked. This practice stemmed from the ancient notion that the worst form of humiliation that could be imposed on an enemy was to strip him of his clothing. Frequently, when the Romans were victorious in battle, they paraded the officers of the conquered army through the streets bare naked to reduce them to total shame. If you can bear it, in all probability the Son of God was made a public spectacle in the shame of nakedness, following the ancient custom.

A prisoner who was executed normally had five articles of clothing. The tunic, which was a seamless garment, was the undergarment. The four soldiers divided Jesus’ other articles of clothing among themselves, but the tunic presented a problem for them. Because the tunic had been made with no seam, it was significantly valuable, and they didn’t want to lessen its value by cutting it into four pieces. Therefore, they decided to cast lots for it, winner take all.

The indignity also was prophesied (Ps. 22:18). John does not say that the Roman soldiers got together and said, “We should gamble for His garments His clothes and we want to make sure that the Scriptures are fulfilled down to the last detail.” No, this is John’s editorial comment, pointing out that the soldiers, when they went through this act of gambling for the garments of Christ, unknowingly and involuntarily were fulfilling the precise details of the Old Testament prophesies concerning the death of the Messiah. John is zealous to help his reader understand that what happened on the cross was not an accident of history, but it came to pass through the invisible hand of a sovereign Providence.

Read or sing Hymn: 310 “Rejoice, the Lord is King” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 4 February 2018 Sunday, Jan 28 2018 

4 February 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Zechariah 3:1-5

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

Old Covenant Reading: Exodus 14:1-12

New Covenant Reading: John 19:1-15

Sermon: We Have No King but Caesar!

Hymn of Response: 585 “Take My Life and Let it Be”

Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 570 “Faith of Our Fathers!”

PM Service

OT: 2 Samuel 3:1-19

NT: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

For the LORD Has Promised

Shorter Catechism Q/A #25

Q. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A. Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/29) Read and discuss John 19:1-15.  N.T. Wright comments:

Jesus warns Pilate that, though he holds delegated authority, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t real evil afoot. But this is a million miles away from the view that the chief priests have painted themselves into. The real sting in this passage comes at the end. In order to reject the claim of Jesus to be the true reflection of their one true God, they find themselves driven back into the arms of pagan empire. ‘We have no king but Caesar!’

It’s a devastating thing to hear, coming from the lips of the official representatives of Judaism. The scriptures, songs and revolutionary slogans of Judaism had spoken for a thousand years of its God as the true king, of the coming Messiah as God’s true king, and of pagan rulers as a sham, a pretense, a bunch of trumped-up idolaters. What would Isaiah have said to the chief priests? How would they feel, next time they heard the psalms sung in the Temple? What would they say to the crowds, many of whom had supported Jesus precisely because they hope he would be the king who would free them from Caesar?

The questions haven’t gone away. They still float in the air in our puzzled world. Who is the world’s true lord? What authority have governments, and how does that relate to the authority of God? Sometimes, when people don’t want Jesus as Lord, they find themselves driven, like the chief priests, into some form of pagan empire.

Pagan empires come in various forms. It may appear as the totalitarianism which claims divinity, and hence absolute allegiance, for itself. Or it may appear as the liberal democracy which banishes ‘God’ from its system altogether, and then regards itself as free to carve up the world to its own advantage without moral restraint. Either way, the choice becomes stark. Are we with Pilate – nervously allowing himself to be maneuvered into dangerous compromise? Are we with the chief priests – pressing home a political advantage without realizing that we are pushing ourselves backwards towards complete capitulation? Or are we with Jesus – silent in the middle, continuing to reflect the love of God into his muddled and tragic world?

Read or sing 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you a courageous disciple who will stand for Christ no matter what.

Tuesday (1/30) Read and discuss Read John 18:28-40. In verses 31 and 32 we read:

Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

Pilate must have thought: “Wow. I’ve known for a long time how corrupt Annas and his family are – but I never imagined that they would be asking me to have someone executed – without even the pretense of a legal charge.” Yet, John focuses our attention not on Pilate but on Jesus:

This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

Have you ever wondered why the New Testament writers make such a big deal out of the fact that Jesus was crucified? One obvious point is that it was a very public and very brutal way to die – but there is more to it than that. In Galatians 3:13, the Apostle Paul writes:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

The point Paul is making is that Christ didn’t simply die – as astonishing as it would be for a perfectly sinless man to die. Christ died under the curse of God. Paul is appealing back to the Torah, specifically to Deuteronomy 21:23. The idea of hanging someone on a tree went something like this: Suppose that a man murders someone else. Then justice is done by executing the murder. There is a certain balance to the punishment – a life for a life. But what do you do with the Hitlers of this world? The most we can do here on earth is to put them to death – that is to carry out capital punishment. But nobody can look at the millions of Jews who were executed, and the tens of millions who lost their lives through World War II, and then say: “Well Hitler is dead – I guess everything is balanced out.” So, under Old Testament law, someone who committed such a ghastly set of crimes would be hung up on a tree until nightfall. It was a way of saying, “LORD, we have done everything we can to establish justice – but we lack the power to bring true justice about – so we are turning this particularly heinous sinner over to your Almighty wrath.” That leaves us with two profound paradoxes:

  1. First, any faithful Jew who considered the crucifixion of Christ would have immediately thought of Deuteronomy 21:23 and concluded that Jesus was not only cursed by Pontius Pilate – He was in fact under the curse of God. And that faithful Jew would have been right. But the remarkable part of this paradox is that Jesus wasn’t being cursed for His own crimes – for as Isaiah 53 puts it: “He had done no violence neither was any deceit found in His mouth.” Jesus was cursed by God – not for His sins – but for ours.
  2. Second, the fact that Jesus foretold this reminds us of who is really in charge. Anyone looking upon the back and forth conflict between Pilate and the Chief Priests would have wondered about who was ultimately going to win the power struggle – but it turns out that the unassuming Jewish carpenter whom they were fighting over was actually the One who was in charge of all their destinies. Pilate is the Governor – but Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords – and if Pilate would only recognize who Jesus was – he would have fallen on his face and worshipped Him.

Read or sing Hymn: 558 “That Man Is Blest Who, Fearing God” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make our elected officials in Congress faithful and wise in how they carry out the responsibilities of their offices.

Wednesday (1/31) Read and discuss Exodus 14:1-14. How good is God as a strategist? That may seem like an odd question, but it relates directly to many of the disappointments we have in life.  We want to get to A. From our standpoint it is quite obvious that we need to do B and C in order to get to A. Yet, doing B and C seems impossible. In fact, the harder we try to do B and C the more events seem to conspire against us. Still, A seems like a really good goal. Then we remember that God is working all things according to the counsel of His will and wonder what in the world He is doing.  Today’s passage is a reminder that God sees things far more clearly than we do. From a human point of view, the LORD’s first command makes no sense at all. He maneuvers the people of Israel into a place where they will be easily trapped and slaughtered by the Egyptian army. So when Pharaoh has a change of heart and decides pursue his recently released slaves, the Jewish people rebel against Moses:

Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, “Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!”

When you are longing for the good old days of being a slave you should know that something has gone horribly wrong. More fundamentally, the Jewish people were confusing their inability to do anything about their circumstances with God’s inability. In fact, their focus on Moses reveals that they were not thinking about God at all.  Yet, the LORD had arranged events precisely so that He would be glorified in the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt and so that the Israelites wouldn’t need to lift as much as a finger in their own defense. While we shouldn’t expect God to miraculously part the sea in our lives – the principle remains the same.  A wonderful illustration of this can be found in the remarkable work of the China Inland Mission. After the mission had born extraordinary fruit, and had become famous, a man asked Hudson Taylor why he thought God had chosen him to begin this work. Taylor responded, “I imagine that God looked through all the earth searching for someone so insignificant that no one would think the success of the mission was dependent upon him. When he came to me He said, ‘he’s insignificant enough – he’ll do.’” As you think about your life this week, perhaps you need to spend some time contemplating not where you can use your strengths to glorify God but where God is using your weakness to glorify Himself. The LORD knows what He is doing and He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we might ask or even think. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would teach you to be content with where He has placed you while you learn to boast in Him.

Thursday (2/1) 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. Prayer: Thank the Holy Spirit for His work of progressive sanctification in your life.

Friday (2/2) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 3:1-19. Dale Ralph Davis writes:

[The Abners of this world] don’t disappear. We meet more of them in Scripture. Not bearing Abner’s name – only his disposition. For example, Simon the magician in Acts 8 was the premier convert in Samaria under Philip’s ministry. Went the whole nine yards – profession of faith and baptism. Then, when Peer and John came, he flew his flag, offering to pay them well if they would give him the power to bestow the fifth of the Holy Spirit when he would lay his hands on someone (Acts 8:18-19). True, the coming of the gospel under Philip had eclipsed Simon’s popularity, but here was a chance for Simon to work within the gospel establishment and win his reputation back.

Whether 2 Samuel 3 or Acts 8, Christian workers must be alert to their own Abner-mentality. Our orthodox line about supporting Christ’s kingdom may only be a cover for using it. As we sing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’, we realize there are many mercenaries in the ranks. And even faithful preachers for example, who desire to proclaim and make plain God’s truth, know there are times when they seem more concerned with whether God’s people will be impressed with them, like them, congratulate and dote over them. Abner is not far away from any of us.

Read or sing Hymn 585 “Take My Life and Let it Be” Prayer: Lift up our Sunday school teachers and pray that the LORD would cause their efforts to be effective in the lives of our covenant children.

Saturday (2/3) Read and discuss John 19:1-15. Commenting on verses 4 and 5, R.C. Sproul writes:

After Jesus had endured this mockery and mistreatment, He was taken back to Pilate. John writes:

Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.” Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”

Jesus was taken before the crowd with all the trappings of the soldiers’ mockery still in place, and Pilate proclaimed that phrase that has come down through church history loaded with weighty theological import: “Ecce Homo,” which means, “Behold the Man!” Obviously, we can’t pry into Pilate’s mind and extract the precise intent of that famous phrase. It may be that Pilate was saying to those who were watching this spectacle: “Look at His humiliation. How can anyone perceive this man as a threat?” If that is what Pilate had in mind, he could not escape the invisible hand of Providence that was working in that moment. In a supreme irony, the One who was standing in the costume of a fool was not only the incarnation of God but portrait of perfect humanity. This was what man was created to be. This was the second Adam standing in front of this crowd. When Pilate said, “Behold the Man,” the people in the crowd should have looked on Him and said, “Yes, here is man as God intended him to be, as God designed him to be, man with no fault in him.”

Read or sing Hymn: 570 “Faith of Our Fathers!” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 28 January 2018 Sunday, Jan 21 2018 

28 January 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 10:10-13

Hymn of Preparation:  310 “Rejoice, the LORD is King”

Old Covenant Reading: Ezekiel 45:18-25

New Covenant: John 18:28-40

Sermon: The Governor and the King

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 646 “Jesus Thou Joy of Loving Hearts”

PM Service

OT: 2 Samuel 2:12-32

NT: Matthew 26:47-56

Shall the Sword Devour Forever?

Shorter Catechism Q/A #24

Q.  How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A. Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/22) Read and discuss John 18:28-40.  Chuck Swindoll writes:

Once an accusation was made, the defendant was interrogated. This was his opportunity to tell his side of the story. Pilate asked Jesus the pertinent question, presumably because he already knew the official charge against Jesus. It’s likely that Pilate had witnessed Jesus’ triumphal entry just days earlier [or, at least, that he had been given reports of the matter]. He wanted to know if Jesus was, in fact, in the process of overthrowing the government in Judea. Jesus’ answer revealed a fundamental truth about the universe: it was about to change.

Pilate wanted to know if Jesus was a threat to the rule of Rome. He was, but not in the way Pilate feared. Kingdoms of earth are founded on power – military might, intellectual prowess, political cunning, financial abundance, [and] social advantage. The Kingdom of Heaven is founded on truth, and the arrival of the Messiah on a lonely Bethlehem night was nothing short of an invasion. Now, sometime before death and before Christ returns in power, each individual must choose which kingdom he or she will serve: the kingdoms of earth or the kingdom of God, kingdoms founded on power or the kingdom founded on truth.

Jesus reassured Pilate, in effect, “Not to worry, Mr. Procurator. Because My Kingdom is founded on truth, not power, My followers are not arming for a physical war.”

Pilate spurned Jesus’ choice for truth over power. “What is truth?” indeed! The Roman world was not much different from ours today. Pilate didn’t rise to power and prominence by championing the cause of truth. The Romans were relentlessly pragmatic. Truth is the tool of expediency. In their minds, “history is written by the victors” and truth is whatever the powerful say it is. But according to Jesus, choosing between truth and expediency is how one chooses which kingdom he or she wills serve.

Read or sing 53 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” Prayer: Lift up someone you care about who has not yet bowed the knee to Jesus, and pray that he or she would, by God’s grace, choose Jesus over the passing pleasures of sin.

Tuesday (1/23) Read and discuss Read John 18:12-27. The rooster is going to crow … but it is not going to have the last word. When we reflect on Peter denying his Lord while warming himself by the fire of those who hated Jesus – we should remember the power of our sense of smell when it comes to our memories. Undoubtedly, Peter would never smell a charcoal fire again without remembering his cowardice that night – when three times he denied His Lord and Savior. But by God’s grace, that is not the only thing the aroma of burning charcoal would bring to Peter’s memory. At the end of his account of the Gospel, John paints a beautiful picture of how Jesus restored and recommissioned Peter three times – undoubtedly making clear to Peter that His grace was greater than Peter’s sin. In that passage, John makes a point of saying in verse 9:

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.

Why would Jesus be cooking over charcoal and why would John go out of his way to us that He was? I think the answer is simple this: This resurrection scene is the other side of Peter’s betrayal. For the rest of Peter’s life, every time he smelled a charcoal fire he would remember the three times that he had betrayed his Lord. But he would also remember how the Lord had three times restored him – and how the risen Son of God had tenderly made him breakfast over a charcoal fire. I hope that you will remember that too. Your sins are great. But Christ’s love and grace are greater. The Kingdom of God would not advance because of Peter’s faithfulness but because of Christ’s. And yet, by God’s grace Peter would become a mighty weapon in the hands of the Living God. Peter would boldly proclaim Christ at Pentecost. Peter would be the human instrument through which the Samaritans and then the Gentiles would be grafted into the Church. The Peter who cowered before the servant girl would stand before the Council and the High Priest and boldly declare that he and his fellow Apostles must obey God rather than man. The same Peter who had failed so miserably would by the Holy Spirit became the Rock who would restore his brethren. By God’s grace, the rooster would crow … but the rooster would not have the last word. For the final word belongs to Jesus. Read or sing Hymn: 310 “Rejoice, the LORD is King” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would cause you to have less confidence in yourself and more confidence in Him.

Wednesday (1/24) Read and discuss Ezekiel 45:18-25. Doug Stuart writes:

Social justice is never enough. People must be more than merely right with each other. They must be right with God. Thus the chapter goes on from concerns for land distribution and proper weights and measures to prescriptions for keeping the system of offerings above reproach and regular.

Ezekiel’s vision does not include provisions for all of the offerings and feasts. If it did, the vision would be much longer, as a perusal of the offering and feast laws in chapter after chapter of the Book of Leviticus makes clear. Instead, we have here a sampling of regulations for offerings and feasts; suggestive rather than exhaustive, intended to give a flavor of the sacrificial calendar obediently kept in the restoration era. …

And what is the point of it all? Very simply it is this: God comes first. The first money you make is God’s. The best time you have is God’s. The primary affection you have must be god’s. Even the first of your “vacation” days – right after planting in the spring (Passover) or harvest in the autumn (Tabernacles) are God’s. It is not biblical to think, as many do, that we set aside whatever tithe or percentage we choose for the LORD and keep the rest for ourselves. The Bible says that we set aside the first, best, and primary for God and only then keep the rest for ourselves. His is the best, ours is the rest.

Prayer: Pray for the children of our congregation that they would learn to put God first in all things.

Thursday (1/25) Read and discuss Matthew 26:47-56. R.T. France writes:

Jesus’ protest over the manner of his arrest serves to underline the contrast between the Jerusalem establishment, which depends on stealth and physical force, and Jesus’ open and nonviolent presentation of his claims in the temple courtyard. They have failed to silence him in public debate, so instead they have resorted to coercion, avoiding a public arrest because of their fear of crowd reaction (26:5). So they are treating him like a “bandit,” probably meaning simply a common thief, thought if this is the term Josephus would regularly use for the violent supporters of Jewish nationalism, more generally known as the Zealots. If Matthew has the latter usage in view, its modern equivalent might be “terrorist.” In view of Jesus’ clear repudiation of the bandit image here, it is ironical that he would eventually end up crucified along with two such bandits.

Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Pilgrim Presbyterian Church in Dover, NH.

Friday (1/26) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 2:12-32. Calvin writes:

Abner said, “How could I dare look in the face of your brother, Joab?” Now why should he care about that? He was Joab’s mortal enemy, so he should have been seeking his destruction instead. Yes, but then we are shown that when he saw himself conquered, he was prepared to make peace with the house of David and gain their favor. Abner was willing to desert his master, and he finally did so.

Let us learn, therefore, that when men do not have a good foundation, they will involve themselves in all sorts of iniquity and will go from bad to worse. However much they may protest their innocence, they still continue adding sin to sin, until they go so far that God puts a bridle on them. Now that should teach us not to do anything against our conscience. For when we begin to do some evil, even though we think it will all be over son and will not last long, yet we are voluntarily throwing ourselves into the snares of the devil, and God will pay us the wages that we have earned. One evil will cause another and we will spin a long thread. It will be like a chain which has many links, in that offenses will attach themselves endlessly one to another. Therefore, let us learn to keep ourselves strictly under the control of the fear of God, so that we may never permit ourselves to start some evil, and then go on and do still worse.

Read or sing Hymn 246 “Man of Sorrows! What a Name” Prayer: Please lift up the Annual Meeting of our congregation as we meet this evening.

Saturday (1/27) Read and discuss John 18:28-40. R.C. Sproul writes:

Note that the Jews who brought Jesus to Pilate did not go into the Praetorium lest they should be defiled and thus be prevented from eating the Passover. This verse raises a question. I tis possible that Jesus had eaten the Passover the night before. So why were these Jews worrying about eating the Passover? The Passover feast lasted seven days, and in order to participate in the entire feast, the priests and the officials had to maintain complete cleanliness from all forms of defilement. To enter the pagan residence of Pilate would have brought them into defilement, preventing them from participating in the whole feast. So they turned Jesus over to the Praetorian guard and stayed outside. These men were scrupulous to avoid any ritual defilement even while they were carrying out the most vile act of human history. As they delivered the Lamb of God to the slaughter, they made sure their hands were ceremonially clean.

What does this tell us? Here were people who paid attention to the minute details of religion while their hearts were far from God. When we read the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament prophets, we are told over and over again that God sometimes hates religion. When does He hate it? When it is offered from hearts that are faithless. These Jews went through all the motions, maintained all the rituals, and kept themselves totally clean while they crucified the Son of God. Of course, we can look back from our vantage point in the twenty-first century and say what hypocrites these people were, but we need to look at ourselves, because we crucify the Son of God afresh every time we honor Him with our lips while our hearts are far from Him. Instead of looking disdainfully at these people who betrayed Jesus, we have to see ourselves in that crowd, because this is what fallen humanity is like. This is what fallen humanity does. Religion without faith is a deadly thing.

Read or sing Hymn: 646 “Jesus Thou Joy of Loving Hearts” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 21 January 2018 Sunday, Jan 14 2018 

21 January 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 4:14-16

Hymn of Preparation:  662 “As the Hart Longs for Flowing Streams”

Old Covenant Reading: Exodus 22:16-31

New Covenant Reading: John 18:12-27

Sermon: The Rooster Crows

Hymn of Response: 248 “Ah, Holy Jesus, how Hast Thou Offended”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Diaconal Offering

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Till He Come”!

PM Service

OT: 2 Samuel 2:1-11

NT: Luke 19:11-27

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

Shorter Catechism Q/A #23

Q. What offices doth Christ execute as our redeemer?
A. Christ, as our redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/15) Read and discuss John 18:12-27.  Chuck Swindoll writes:

John mentions the LORD’s trial before Caiaphas, who officially held the position of high priest. Unfortunately, just didn’t fare any better in this trial than the last. While the hearing appeared more legitimate – conducted by the actual high priest and attended by several members of the Sanhedrin – it violated many of the same rules. The trial was held in secret, at night, and in the high priest’s palace instead of the council’s meeting hall. Furthermore, no advocate for the accused had been provided and the council pressed the case against Jesus rather than impartially weighing evidence.

To maintain at least the appearance of propriety, the council disbanded before daylight. According to their rules, the members were to meet in pairs, share a sparse meal, and discuss the case exhaustively in preparation for a final ruling the following day. Instead, they took turns abusing the accused. Meanwhile, out in the courtyard, Peter fulfilled His Master’s prophecy. Two more denials completed his failure.

As John’s account of this first trial comes to a close, we see how Jesus will respond to the injustice of the next five. The LORD accepted that He would not receive justice from human beings. He knew that the world was – then as now – polluted with sin and ruled by corrupt people. So He did not expect justice from the courts, nor did He seek the approval of people for affirmation. Instead, the Son submitted to the will of the Father, who permitted injustice to advance His plan. Jesus simply and directly spoke truth in response to valid questions, and He refused to allow anger or bitterness to distract anyone from seeing it – should anyone truly desire to – and He entrusted Himself to the One who will ultimately judge every soul righteously.

Read or sing 57 “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti, many of whom live in very difficult economic circumstances in a land filled with spiritual darkness. Ask the LORD to call many people from this island nation into His kingdom.

Tuesday (1/16) Read and discuss Read John 18:1-11. Jesus asks them: “Whom do you seek?” Verses 5 and 6:

They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Facing down an armed mob that is seeking His arrest, Jesus boldly answers: “I am He.” In fact, his answer is bolder than the translators are letting on. In an effort to provide a smooth translation in modern English, the translators have blunted the force of what Christ is saying. Jesus doesn’t give the three-word answer: “I am He.” Jesus only uses two words: “ἐγώ εἰμι” … “I Am!” This is the seventh and climatic “I Am” statement in the Gospel According to John. Earlier in John’s account of the Gospel we heard Jesus say: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me;” And, “I am the Light of the World.” Here Jesus simply answers: “I Am.” To understand this statement, we have to go back to Exodus when the LORD delivered His people out of Egypt – out of the house of bondage. In Exodus chapter 3, when the LORD first calls Moses to rescue His people from Egypt, Moses asks a natural question. Moses says:

 “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”

Do you remember how the LORD responded?

The LORD said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

With the title “I AM”, the LORD was revealing Himself as the One who has life and the power of being in Himself. We all have life only because God gives it to us. There was a time when we didn’t exist and it is only because of God that we live, and move, and have our being. The LORD isn’t like that. He always was, always is, and always will be. He has the power of existence – of life – intrinsically in Himself. He is the great “I AM.” When the LORD identified Himself in this way, He was making a claim to extraordinary power. He was in effect saying: “Egypt may look powerful to you. But there was a time when they were not and there will be a time when their Empire will be consigned to the dustbin of history. I am not like that. Lift your eyes and discover what real power is like. Lift your eyes and behold your God.” And then, … through a series of plagues and then by parting of the Red Sea and the drowning of the Egyptian Army, the LORD made good on His claim. Substitute Rome for Egypt, and Jesus is standing before this cohort and claiming the very same power. They come out, armed to the teeth, to arrest an unarmed Rabbi – and He simply says the word and they all fall backwards to the ground. If the Roman soldiers and the Jewish Temple Police thought that they had more than enough force to arrest Jesus of Nazareth then they were sadly mistaken. All the armies that have ever marched could not stand for a moment before the Great “I Am.” Read or sing Hymn: 662 “As the Hart Longs for Flowing Streams” Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus used His matchless power not to rescue Himself but to rescue His Disciples.

Wednesday (1/17) Read and discuss Exodus 22:16-31. Commenting on verses 20 through 26, the Jewish scholar Nahum Sarna writes:

Four social groups especially vulnerable to exploitation are now singled out as being the object of God’s special concern. They are the stranger, the widow, the orphan, and the poor. The Torah here enjoins sensitivity to their condition not simply out of humanitarian considerations but as a divine imperative. Insensitivity is consequently sinful, a violation of a commandment that expresses God’s will. A striking feature of the Hebrew legal formulation is the manner in which the audience is addressed in the singular and the plural, following the pattern of the Decalogue. It recognizes both the individual and society as equally responsible and accountable for the terms of the covenantal relationship between God and Israel. Social evil is thus a sin against humanity and God.

The seminal importance of these laws in the religion of Israel is apparent from their frequent reiteration in the biblical literature, as well as by the twin motives that actuate them: Israel’s empathetic regard for the disadvantaged of society should be stimulated by her own historical experience (v. 20); God’s concern arises out of His essential nature, His intolerance of injustice, and His compassionate qualities.

Those humanitarian stipulations may have been set down after the preceding cultic laws in order to establish a contrast between the moral corruption of paganism (vv. 17-19) and the moral nature of the God of Israel. In addition, they serve to inculcate the idea that the rejection of the non-Israelite religious practices (v. 19) has no bearing on the inalienable right of the alien to civilized treatment free of victimization.

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD is compassionate toward the most vulnerable in society. Ask that LORD that He would cause you to share in this concern.

Thursday (1/18) Read and discuss Luke 19:11-27. Richard Phillips writes:

The first two servants gave a favorable report and were abundantly rewarded. …

Notice, first, that when Jesus returns and calls his servants to account, a good report is one that speaks of increase to his kingdom. One servant had earned a tenfold profit and the other a fivefold profit, and they both received the Lord’s approval. Second, we observe the disproportion between what he servants earned for the king and the reward the king gave them. For earning ten minas the first servant was given charge of ten cities, a colossal reward that shows Christ’s grace in dealing with his own. The Bible says that God will judge the church, but look at this judgment! The reward is out of all proportion to what has been accomplished. The king was not bound to give any reward; all that they had was from him and for him. Yet his judgment overflows with super abounding grace!

Third, we see that there is a comparative relationship between what the servants earned and what they received. The one who gained a tenfold increase is rewarded with ten cities; the one who gained fivefold received five cities. Jesus explains the principle guiding this dispersal, as Matthew 25:21 puts it: “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” …

This puts a different light on the seemingly small responsibilities the LORD gives us now. So many of us think there is little import to the way we live, our use of money and time and abilities, our participation in the church and witness to the world. But this parable makes plain that there is a direct relationship between our present fidelity and diligence and our future scope for service to the LORD. Hudson Taylor put it best, saying, “A little thing is a little thing, but faithfulness in a little thing is a big thing.”

Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you faithful in matters both small and great.

Friday (1/19) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 2:1-11. Robert Chisholm writes:

With Saul’s death, David’s path was open to the throne of Israel. This next part of the unfolding story (2:1-5:5) tells how David fulfills his destiny and ascends the throne. This is a distinct literary unity, marked out by an inclusion. It begins with David being anointed in Hebron by the men of Judah (2:1-4) and ends with all Israel coming to Hebron and anointing him king over the entire nation (5:1-5). In between, the narrator tells how Benjamite opposition is eliminated, but not by any wrongdoing on David’s part.

After Saul’s death, David does not try to seize the throne. He first asks the LORD if he should even return to Judah, and when he does, in response to the LORD’s positive reply, the men of Judah come to him and anoint him king. Saulide opposition to David is in time removed, but the narrator is quick to absolve David of any wrongdoing. David commends the men of Jabesh Gilead for their loyalty to Saul, and he tries to maintain a nonaggression policy against the house of Saul. Abner eventually transfers his loyalty to David and recognizes David’s divine calling (3:17-18), only to be murdered by Joab. Benjamite assassins murder Isho-bosheth, whose death David swiftly avenges. David does not endorse the murders of Abner and Ish-bosheth, and the narrator absolves him of complicity in their deaths.

Read or sing Hymn 248 “Ah, Holy Jesus, how Hast Thou Offended” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Jaffrey Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Saturday (1/20) Read and discuss John 18:12-27. Edward Klink writes:

Peter exemplifies the paradox of Christian discipleship. Our spiritual life finds its source not in good intentions but in the Good Shepherd, who willingly gave himself for us. The denials of Peter depict with glaring detail how the creation of the children of God was never intended to be based upon the merit of the blood, flesh, or will of humanity but is “from God” alone (1:13). This does not deny what Jesus says to his questioners in v. 21, that the church is to be his witnesses. It is to say rather that our witness cannot stand on its own but can only be a response to what Christ has already done on our behalf. Christian discipleship is not best defined as a work or action done for God but as action done in response to God and his work.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 14 January 2018 Sunday, Jan 7 2018 

14 January 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 130:3-4

Hymn of Preparation:  184 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 75:1-10

New Covenant Reading: John 18:1-11

Sermon: Shall I Not Drink the Cup?

Hymn of Response: 498 “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners!”

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 305 “Arise, My Soul, Arise”

PM Service

OT: 2 Samuel 1:1-27

NT: Romans 13:1-7

Be Subject to the Governing Authorities

Shorter Catechism Q/A #22

Q. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/8) Read and discuss John 18:1-11. Chuck Swindoll writes:

Their destination was their customary retreat, a walled garden on the Mount of Olives, perhaps on the Western slope overlooking the Holy City. The Synoptic Gospels tell us that He went there to pray and to prepare Himself for the awful ordeal He was about to endure. …

According to Matthew, Jesus prayed approximately three hours, after which Judas arrived with a small army of Roma soldiers and temple guards. The Greek word speira, translated “cohort,” is a technical term used to designate a specific subgroup of fighting men within the Roman army. At the time of Jesus, a “cohort” consisted of 480 fighting men, not including officers and support personnel. … The fact that these troops were combined with officers of the temple guard is no insignificant detail. The authority of the temple enforced its will through the might of Rome. Moreover, the fact that they came with lanterns and torches tells us the mount was shrouded in darkness, perhaps around three or four in the morning.

Naturally, they never would have known Jesus’ whereabouts were it not for Judas. The temple officials had tried to seize Him on several other occasions, but He eluded their grasps in the temple, or multitudes of witnesses discouraged His would-be abductors, or He kept His movements a secret. Once they found an inside man willing to betray Jesus, however, they could seize Him without witnesses.

Had they succeeded earlier, the temple authorities might have simply ambushed and murdered Jesus and few would have noticed Him missing. But just days earlier, Jesus had entered the city with multitudes shouting, “King of Israel!” and “Hosanna!” which means “Save [us] now!” to murder Him would implicate them in wrongdoing and turn Jesus into a martyr. He had become too popular. First, they would need to discredit Him and turn the common man against Him.

Read or sing 38 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” Prayer: Please pray for the people of Iran during this tense time in their country. Ask the Christians in Iran would gain greater freedom of religion.

Tuesday (1/9) Read and discuss Read John 17:20-26. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most powerful. The Shorter Catechism tells us that the chief purpose of our lives is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But how exactly do we do that? This isn’t simply one of many purposes for our lives. To glorify and enjoy God is the chief purpose for our lives. But unless we move from stating this truth to figuring out how to put it into practice – it will simple remain an abstract principle … or an answer to a theological question … that has little impact on how we live. How do we live so that we will “glorify God and enjoy Him forever”? Here is the simple but powerful truth: Because God the Son took to Himself a true human nature, the chief end of the man Christ Jesus is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. We can therefore see what glorifying and enjoying God looks like – by seeing how Jesus does it. Naturally, this doesn’t simply mean that we are called to imitate Jesus. After all, Jesus glorified God by walking on water, raising the dead, and dying for the sins of the world. You are neither called nor able to do any of those things. Nevertheless, in today’s passage, Jesus reveals three specific ways in which He is seeking to glorify and enjoy God both so that we can take comfort from His work and so that we can also align ourselves with His purposes. It is that second application which I wish to drive home this morning. If we align ourselves with our Lord’s purposes in this passage we will concretely be working to fulfill the chief purpose for which we were created and redeemed. Read or sing Hymn: 184 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” Prayer: Pray for a greater manifestation of the genuine unity in Christ that is enjoyed by believers.

Wednesday (1/10) Read and discuss Psalm 75:1-10. The LORD’s sovereignty is a great comfort to the people of God. Therefore, this truth is one that we should not only learn it is one that we should sing. Allen P. Ross writes:

Psalm 75 makes it clear that the LORD sets his appointed time of justice when He puts the wicked to shame and lifts up the righteous. Judgment and salvation, then, are the two aspects of divine justice. And they will be realized, not only from time to time, but ultimately at the end of the age when God will judge the entire world. In the meantime, the faithful must endure the arrogance and wickedness of the world. But as Kidner puts it, “patience and suffering are not the end of the story: there will be a time for power without aggression, and glory without pride.” For the righteous praise the LORD; and because of this the righteous warn the people of the world. One way to word an expository idea is to say: Because God has set a time to destroy the wicked of the world and exalt the righteous, the righteous should praise him for his mighty works and warn the world of the coming judgment. The righteous, people who have humbled themselves and put their faith in the LORD, can look back through time and see how God has held wickedness in check by His mighty acts, how He has frequently delivered His people, and how he has often reversed the situations of the arrogant and the humble. This not only builds up their confidence for the future deliverance, but provides them with enough reason for praise. But each of these judgments was also a harbinger of the great judgment to come, and so the wicked, those who have refused to submit to the LORD by faith, must be warned that there is an end.

Prayer: Please lift up the young people of our congregation as they get going on their second semester of school.

Thursday (1/11) Read and discuss Romans 13:1-7. Michael P. Middendorf writes:

With the coming of Christ, the people of God are no longer identified with a specific national or ethnic group as was true of Israel in OT times. A Paul rites, this transformed community of faith exists in numerous places under the civil control of a wide variety of local authorities, all currently subordinate to the auspices of imperial Rome.

“Paul thus approached the relation of church and state not as a Sadducee who lived from the advantages of the state, nor as a Zealot who lived to overthrow the state, nor as a Pharisee wo divorced religion from the state, nor as a roman citizen for whom the state was an end in itself (James R. Edwards).”

Instead, Paul insists that a higher authority exists from whom all governments derive their power and to whom governing authorities remain accountable. And believers clearly owe their ultimate allegiance to God. Yet Paul reinforces the divine role of authorities in their earthly sphere of influence. He calls believers to be not only submissive (13:1, 5) but also supportive.

Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at the Presbyterian Church of Cape Cod.

Friday (1/12) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 1:1-27. Dale Ralph Davis writes:

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was not bashful about putting his views on child-rearing into print (e.g. his Emile), and he alleged that no one enjoyed playing with children more than himself. When then did he abandon the five babies he had by his mistress Therese? In Rousseau appearance and reality, publication and practice, did not mesh.

It was the same with the Amalekite who came panting and heaving into David’s outpost at Ziklag. He wore all the signs of genuine grief – clothes torn, dirt on his head (v. 2). He had come from the Philistine-Israelite conflict on Mt. Gilboa, located about eighteen miles southwest of the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee. The Philistines had carried the day and had trounced Israel. King Saul had been severely wounded and, not wanting the Philistine to have the delight of slowly torturing him to his end, had fallen on his own sword. It was a dark, dark day for Israel. Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s friend, was killed. Life was bleak and dark and bloody and grey in the kingdom of God.

And everything about this Amalekite seemed to reflect Israel’s disaster. After all, no one will traipse over eighty miles unless one is in earnest about something. The trip would have taken him several days. But it doesn’t take David long to conclude he is a murderer, and it doesn’t take the reader long to find out that he is, more accurately, a liar. Not that he wasn’t sincere. He was – about getting a government job.

This passage raises the question David faced in 1 Samuel 24-26: How is the kingdom go come into David’s hands? Will he wait for it to come as Yahweh’s gift or seize it by his own initiative? Apparently, the Amalekite held that there were times when Yahweh’s promises (if he knew of them) required a slight push (v. 10). Neither David nor the narrator agrees with this position. The story as we have it seems to say that kingdom principles must govern kingdom life, and we see several of those principles operating in this text.

Read or sing Hymn 498 “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners!” Prayer: Ask the LORD to guide you so that you would not only seek to achieve the right goals but that you would seek to achieve them in a way that honors the LORD.

Saturday (1/13) Read and discuss John 18:1-11. Edward Klink writes:

The narrative depicts with clarity and precision the purpose and authority of Jesus as he is approached by a collection of Jewish and Roman (and satanic) authorities who seek to arrest him. According to the Gospel of John, no external authority arrested and bound Jesus in the garden east of Jerusalem, for Jesus surrendered himself by his own authority and according to his own plan. Through this [passage] the reader is introduced to the start of “the hour” (2:4) of Jesus Christ and is given insight into the nature and purpose of his sacrificial death on the cross.

Read or sing Hymn: 305 “Arise, My Soul, Arise” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 7 January 2018 Sunday, Dec 31 2017 

7 January 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 103:1-3

Hymn of Preparation:  252 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 7:1-21

New Covenant Reading: John 17:20-26

Sermon: That God’s Love Might Be in Us

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

Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 708 “O Love, That Wilt Not Let Me Go”

PM Service

OT: Psalm 126:1-6

NT: 1 John 1:1-4

The Great Joy and Chief Concern of the Redeemed

Shorter Catechism Q/A #21

Q. Who is the redeemer of God’s elect?
A. The only redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/1) Read and discuss John 17:20-26. Edward W. Klink writes:

The prayer of Jesus reveals that the mission of God involves not only the sending of the Son by the Father but also the sending of the church by the Son. Although the Son and the church participate in the one mission of God, their roles can be distinguished by the noticeably different senders. The Son performs the Father’s assignment whereas the church receives the assignment from the Son. Thus, the church does not duplicate the mission of the Son (e.g., his sacrificial death) – nor can it, but it instead both a result and extension of the mission of Christ to the world. The church is not only created by the mission of God but facilitates it by becoming a living testimony of God to the world.

For this reason Christ, just moments before completing His mission on the cross, offered a prayer of consecration for His church, dedicating it to God the Father for His purposes and protection and entrusting it to the persevering presence of the Spirit. Christ dedicated Himself to this very purpose (v. 19) and offers the disciples to God as an extension of His own person and work. The mission of God therefore is neither an option for the church nor an add-o to its already established purpose and program. The mission of God embraces the church, and this periscope exhorts the church to live “sent,” like Christ Himself.

Read or sing 80 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee” Prayer: Rejoice greatly in the salvation the LORD has provided for you in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday (1/2) Read and discuss Read Galatians 2:15-21. Paul has been arguing that, though the ceremonial law served the good purpose of guiding the Old Testament Jews to Christ, Gentiles who had already embraced the Messiah did not need to keep it. A Judaizer might object at this point: If the ceremonial law is good, shouldn’t we keep it and encourage the Gentile believers to keep it as well? Isn’t Paul, by telling the Gentiles that they don’t have to keep the law simply encouraging them to lead lawless – that is sinful – lives? Paul shows that he grasps the force of this argument when he writes:

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!  18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.

Paul’s dense rebuttal in verse 17 is a bit tricky to unpack. It seems to be working like this: Paul begins with an imaginary interlocutor who is suggesting that seeking to be justified in Christ apart from keeping the law will lead to lawless behavior. Paul then points out that he has never argued justification is by abandoning the law – that is by becoming lawless – justification is by embracing Jesus Christ. But Christ is not a servant of sin. This means that the person clinging to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, instead of living a lawless life, will actually for the very first time be leading a life that is genuinely pleasing to God. Paul will famously pick this theme up in chapter 5 where he writes:

 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

To put this in the context of verse 17, we might paraphrase Paul’s argument like this: “If you are worried that being justified by faith in Christ alone will lead to lawless behavior, you haven’t yet grasped who the Messiah is in whom we are trusting and how faith in Him transforms the way we live.” Read or sing Hymn: 252 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would cause the fruit of the Spirit to be more evident in your life in the year ahead.

Wednesday (1/3) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 7:1-16. Today’s passage contains four main ideas even though the ESV breaks it down into three paragraphs:

  • Verses 1-5 instruct the Israelites to remain entirely separated from the peoples of the Promised Land. There is an emphasis in verse 5 on destroying the symbols of their pagan religions.
  • Verses 6-11 point out why the Israelites are distinct from the people they are about to conquer. It isn’t that they are intrinsically better than these pagan nations. Rather, it is simply the fact that the Living God had set them apart to Himself.

Paul Gilchrist writes:

“The reason for the conquest is Israel’s character by virtue of covenantal relation. There is no room for compromise, for Israel is in covenant relationship with the great King as a holy people, a treasured possession. Israel’s special status is by virtue of election – chosen by God, not because of any inherent greatness but solely because of God’s love and the oath-bound promise made to Abraham. God’s sovereignty is also expressed in his faithfulness (v. 9), whereby He keeps His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.” … Such a high calling is often accompanied by pride and boastfulness (problems which Moses deals with in chaps. 8-10). Israel is not to presume on God’s covenant love and grace, for carelessness only leads to destruction as a further exhibit of God’s justice.”

  • Verses 12-15 give the LORD’s promised blessings if Israel will but obey His laws and commands. As we contemplate Israel’s ongoing failure to obey God in the Old Testament we should remember that this is one of the things that they forfeited through their disobedience.
  • Verse 16 repeats the command to Israel that they are to utterly destroy the nations that are already in the Promised Land.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to grant you wisdom to see where you are being salt and light in the world and where the world is pressing you into its mold.

Thursday (1/4) Read and discuss 1 John 1:1-4. Christianity is far more than a religious or a philosophical system. This can be seen when we compare Christianity to some other religions. Consider Buddhism. If historical investigation conclusively proved that Mahatma Buddha never lived what difference would that make to Buddhism?  It would make no difference whatsoever. Buddhism is not based on anything that any person ever was or did. It is a system of religious philosophy suggesting how someone should live in the present. What about Islam? Would it make any difference to Islam if Mohammed never lived? In one sense the answer is yes. Islam claims that Mohammed is Allah’s prophet – so if he never lived that would be a problem for Islam. On the other hand, Mohammed is not necessary for Islam. God, being absolutely sovereign according to Islamic theology, could have chosen someone else to represent him. Christianity isn’t like that. Jesus is not merely the great Teacher about life – He is the Life! This means that Christians are not merely seeking higher stages of enlightenment – we are those, who through God’s grace, have been brought into a shared-life with God Himself. This has two immediate yet profound ramifications. (1) First, it is mistaken to understand Biblical teaching primarily in contrast to other religions. The contrast is not simply between different world-views and private practices but between different kingdoms (Remember the message of John the Baptist and Jesus: “The Kingdom of God is at hand!”). At the time of Moses, the contrast was not primarily between Yahweh and Ra but between Yahweh and Pharaoh. Likewise, in the New Testament, the contrast is not between Jesus and Zeus but between Jesus and Caesar. Grasping this truth will revolutionize the way we read the Bible. (2) Second, to use the phrase of St. Cyprian, it means that “there is ordinarily no salvation outside of the visible Church.” While the term ordinary admits to exceptions – it would be foolish to assume that we are such exceptions. The Apostle John makes this point clear when he links having fellowship/shared-life with the Apostles (and the community united with the Apostles – a.k.a. the Church) directly with having “fellowship/shared-life the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” The Church is the blood-bought bride of Christ. It is a priceless gift to be made one of its members. Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has grafted you into His Church family.

Friday (1/5) Read and discuss Psalm 126:1-6. John Calvin writes:

“Restore our fortunes, O LORD.” This verse contains a prayer that God would gather together the residue of the captives. All the Jews, no doubt, had a door opened to them, and perfect liberty granted to them, to come out of the land of their captivity, but the number of those who partook of this benefit was small when compared with the vast multitude of the people. Some were kept from returning by fear, and others by sloth and want of courage, on seeing such perils at hand as rather to lie torpid in their own filthiness, than to undertake the hardship of the journey. It is probable also that many of them preferred their present easy and comfort to their eternal salvation. What the prophet Isaiah had foretold was no doubt fulfilled (10:22) that although the people were in number as the sand of the sea, yet only a remnant of them should be saved. Since, then, many openly refused the benefit when it was offered them, and as there were many difficulties and impediments to be encountered by those who availed themselves of this liberty of sounder judgment and of a more intrepid heart, who dared to move a foot – and even they with reluctance – it is no wonder that the prophet requires the Church still to make supplication to God for the bringing back of the captivity. Along with this, the state of those who had already returned is also to be noted; for their land being in the possession of strangers, who were all their inveterate and sworn enemies, they were no less captives in their own country than among the Babylonians. It was therefore necessary, on a twofold account, that the church should earnestly beseech God to gather together such as were dispersed; first that he would give courage to the timid, awaken the torpid, cause the besotted to forget their pleasures, and stretch forth his hand to be a guide to all; and, secondly, that he would settle the body of the people who had returned in liberty and ease.

Read or sing Hymn 610 “‘Take Up Your Cross,’ the Savior Said” Prayer: Please lift up the Sunday school teachers in our congregation in prayer.

Saturday (1/6) Read and discuss John 17:20-26. R.C. Sproul writes:

In his introduction to the English translation of Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, C.S. Lewis tells of perusing the writings of great Christians from history during his student days. He read Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Thomas a Kempis, and others, and while he recognized that all of these people had certain nuances of differences between them, he couldn’t get over the oneness that kept coming through their testimony as to the truth of the gospel.

Jesus prayed that those who would believe on Him would have a unity that unbelievers could see, that they might learn various things. He asked the Father that believers would be “made perfect in one … that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” The love, concern, and compassion that we have one for another should be so atypical of the world that they serve as definitive proof that Jesus was not merely a great moral teacher but the second person of the Trinity, sent by God. This unity should also testify to the world that God loves believers just as He loves Christ. The clear demonstration of a supernatural work of going on in the midst of the people of God shows the love, favor, and grace of God.

Read or sing Hymn: 708 “O Love, That Wilt Not Let Me Go” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 31 December 2017 Sunday, Dec 24 2017 

31 December 2017 The Rev. Gary Moore Preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Luke 1:76-79

Hymn of Preparation:  55 “To God Be the Glory”

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 24:1-27:13

New Covenant Reading: Revelation 21:1-8

Sermon: Two Cities

Hymn of Response: 47 “God the Lord is King”

Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Til He Come”!

31 January 2017 The Rev. Gary Moore Preaching

OT: Hosea 6:1-10

NT: Philippians 3

Where to From Here

Shorter Catechism Q/A #20

Q. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a redeemer.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (12/25) Read and discuss Isaiah 25:6-9. Alec Motyer writes:

Reading and rereading Isaiah 25:6-9 it is impressed on us that this is one of the Bible’s high spots: ultimate, eternal reality, is a banquet, with no expense spared, every provision made and, lest there should be anything to mar our enjoyment of it, every tear dried. And this is no mere flight of prophetic fancy or some ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ pie in the sky. It is confirmed by Jesus and reiterated by one who was, so to speak, allowed to be there, the seer John caught up to heaven and shown its delights. Isaiah gives us three aspects of the heavenly banquet to ponder: first, it is characteristic of our God to have such an end in view, to bring us to the enjoyment of it, and to spread all of his heavenly riches out for our participation – ‘This is our God’ (v. 9a). Secondly, this is what salvation is. Eternal bounty, the pure hilarious joy of the Lamb’s wedding breakfast, ‘the shout of them that triumph, the song of them that feast.’ ‘We exult in his salvation’ (v. 9). Thirdly, it is a matter of confident and patient expectancy, a call to the upward and onward gaze, the eye trained on the skies for outcome.

Read or sing 32 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” Prayer: Rejoice greatly in the salvation the LORD has provided for you in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday (12/26) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 15:12-28. First Corinthians contains a lengthy section where Paul is simply going point by point correcting errors in doctrine or practice that he has heard exist within the Church at Corinth.  The problem is quite straightforward.  Some members of the Corinthian church were denying the resurrection (v. 12).  It is helpful to remember that Corinth is a city in Greece and most of the congregation would have absorbed parts of the Greek philosophical tradition without even thinking about it.  One strikingly anti-Biblical aspect of much Greek philosophy is that it denigrated the physical in favor of the spiritual.  Some Greeks actually referred to the human body as a tomb that was encasing and holding down the person’s spirit.  The ultimate goal in such a worldview was to become liberated from this tomb as a disembodied spirit. Paul engages the Corinthians with a simple argument. If there is no resurrection of the body è then Christ wasn’t bodily raised either (v. 16).  According to verses 17-19, what are the consequences for believers if Christ has not been raised? The surprising thing, given the Biblical emphasis on the bodily resurrection of both Christ and believers, is that the resurrection has frequently been marginalized in Christian thinking.  In our own day it is still common to hear Christians speak about souls being saved instead of people being saved.  Furthermore, if you ask many Christians for their view of life after death – they rarely get past heaven.  But as Bishop N.T. Wright likes to put it, “Heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world.” Here is a glorious truth: Christ is not rescuing disembodied souls from a sinking ship as though the material creation wasn’t good. The victory of Jesus Christ over Satan, sin, and death on behalf of His people includes the promised redemption of all creation.  As Paul says elsewhere, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:22-23)”.  The twin pledges we have for this sure hope are that (1) Christ has already been bodily raised and glorified in history; and (2) God has given us the Holy Spirit as a down payment of the redemption to come. Read or sing Hymn: 55 “To God Be the Glory”  Prayer: Please pray for our young children that they would all embrace the glorious truth that Christ has been raised for our justification and even now sits enthroned at the Father’s right hand.

Wednesday (12/27) Read and discuss Revelation 21:1-8. The Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. That may come as a bit of a surprise to those of us who think that paradise restored might be something like a beach in Hawaii. So is Tim Keller right when he says, “If you don’t like cities you are not going to like the new heavens and the new earth”? Well, not exactly. What cities provide is an opportunity for large numbers of people to easily interact with one another for good or for ill. On the positive side, the degree of interaction and specialization that cities provide promotes economic growth through trade, exceptional educational opportunities, and generally the highest forms of a civilization’s culture. On the downside, social deviants who are shamed into behaving better in small towns are able to find peer groups in large cities that will affirm their perversions as though they were good. So, large modern cities like New York and London produce the extremes of human culture. On the one hand there is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, financial and business centers, and world class universities. On the other hand there are gangs, slums, homeless people, and every manner of perversion imaginable. But what if all the negative things were to be taken away and we were left with only the upside of cities? That is what God is promising to do in this passage:

And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. … He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. … To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Yet, the most important thing about this city will not be its beauty or even that all its citizens will be entirely free from sin. The most important thing about the New Jerusalem is that God Himself will dwell there with His people:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. … The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD is committed to making His home with His people.

Thursday (12/28) Read and discuss Hosea 6:1-3. The sharp warnings that the people of Israel were receiving about their sin, and the coming judgment this demanded, were an invitation for them to turn from their wayward behavior and back to God. This is also the reason why these warnings have been recorded in Scripture with the difference that judgments incurred by others are intended to lead us to repentance. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:11: “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” Lest we presume on God’s future grace, and use this as an excuse to go on sinning in the present, we must remember that (1) We are not guaranteed any tomorrows in this life nor that God’s Spirit will continue striving with us if we continue to rebel against Him; and (2) This passage is teaching the steadfast love of God in contrast to the fickleness of Israel. This is precisely why we should keep being turned back to God every day of our lives. Doug Stuart helpfully writes:

It must be remembered, however, that the song is an expression of hope. Israel does not control Yahweh. The song praises His consistency and dependability, but when and how He would eventually heal and bandage are not specified.

Israel’s hope is based on covenant promise. Hosea knows that Yahweh will never utterly reject His people. He may heal and bandage a people quite distant in time, only a “remnant” of the present nation, but such a return will surely take place. The fulfillment of the song is thus implicitly reserved for another generation than the one who heard Hosea sing it. Its confidence is based partly on the awesome boast of Yahweh in Deuteronomy 32:39: “I put to death and bring to life; I wound and I heal.” Pray for a non-Christian you know that the LORD would grant him or her the grace to truly repent.

Friday (12/29) Read and discuss Philippians 3:17-21. Richard Melick, jr. writes:

Paul stated that “our citizenship is in heaven.” The metaphor had rich meaning to the Philippians. Immediately their thoughts would have turned to an analogy with their earthly citizenship. They were proud of their Roman citizenship, but the analogy would have conveyed more. Philippi was an outpost colony, and, interestingly, Paul was at the home base in Rome. Regularly they awaited news from the capital to know how to conduct their business. When Paul said that they belonged to a citizenship, he spoke directly to them. Though they belonged to a city, the political entity spanned several geographical areas. Similarly, the church was an outpost of an entity which had its own capital, heaven. Although “citizenship” may call to mind a place, Paul used it of a people. They awaited the Savior from [where they held] that citizenship. He would come with power sufficient to subdue everything and with ability to transform their bodies to be like His. They would naturally associate subduing power with a Roman emperor, but transforming power was unique to Christ. Once again, Paul spoke of the resurrection as the climax of his Christian experience. By implication the false teachers would not share in the resurrection of the just because their expectations were earthly rather than heavenly.

Read or sing Hymn 47 “God the Lord is King” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would give you an even greater desire to meditate upon and to understand His word.

Saturday (12/30) Read and discuss Isaiah 27:1-13. Alec Motyer writes:

The LORD will have his own way: what he wants to happen; his promises will be kept; his will achieved; his future brought to pass. This is the message of Isaiah 27. It is the third time Isaiah has spoken of the LORD’s vineyard: in 3:13-15, the vineyard was savaged by bad rulers and the vineyard people crushed; in 5:1-7, the vineyard was the subject of every possible divine care and attention but its people failed to produce the justice and righteousness the LORD wished, yielding only rotten fruit. But he LORD never abandons any project he has undertaken, not only against human mismanagement, but also against what is to us the insurmountable obstacle of our own sinfulness – and, in 27:1, additionally against all that Satan can hurl at him. For our extreme encouragement it is written in his book that the vineyard is weed free, the divine Gardener is in full command, every need is supplied, and those who were once the ‘stink-fruit’ people are now filling the whole earth with fruitfulness. Imagine it! Just think what it is to experience the security and stability of a rooted place of existence (v. 6a) with all the changes and chances and fluctuations of the present world things of the past; to be at last the LORD’s fruitful people, bringing forth, eternally and universally, to his glory. And all of this is because (as the centerpiece of the chapter indicates) the price of our iniquity has been paid, sin has been removed (v. 9) and the presence and hostile strength of our soul’s enemy has been crushed forever (v. 10).

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 24 December 2017 Sunday, Dec 17 2017 

24 December 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 5:1-2

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

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 52:1-10

New Covenant: Matthew 2:1-12

Sermon: Kings Great and Small

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 195 “Joy to the World”

PM Worship – Joint Christmas Eve Service with First Calvary Baptist Church

OT: Isaiah 55:1-7

NT: Luke 2:1-20

Glory to God in the Highest

Shorter Catechism Q/A #19

Q. What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (12/18) Read and discuss Matthew 2:1-12. How excited these religious experts must have been to hear the news! They couldn’t be sure that the Magi were right that the Messiah had been born, but they knew where He would be born – in Bethlehem. Thankfully, Bethlehem was just six miles south of Jerusalem. Because Jerusalem is elevated, you can actually see Bethlehem from there. The religious leaders could walk to Bethlehem in less than 90 minutes … and if the story the Magi told were false … they could be home by dinner. And what if the Magi were right? Four centuries of silence from God would end with the Messiah coming into the world right in their own back yard. Surely, everyone there who could still walk would walk, or better run, all the way to Bethlehem to see if the Messiah had come. Well, at least some of the religious leaders would go and check it out – wouldn’t they?  Not at all! It turns out that not a single one of the religious leaders made this six mile trip. The Magi who had already traveled nearly 900 miles to worship the new born king would travel the last six miles alone. When Herod asked the religious leaders where the Messiah would be born they knew the right answer. It rolled right off of their tongues. They were experts in the law. But they were more concerned about being right than about being righteous. Regretfully, religious leaders are frequently like that. What about you? The question we need to answer this isn’t “What about them?” It is “What about us?” Almighty God is moving heaven and earth so that Jesus Christ will be worshipped among every tribe, tongue, and people; yet some of those with the greatest spiritual privilege are failing to do so. Will you respond with anger like Herod, with indifference like the religious leaders, or will you by faith come and worship Him? Read or sing 203 “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” Prayer: Please pray for the world-wide-mission of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church as we seek to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Tuesday (12/19) Read and discuss Matthew 1:18-25. In order to understand the solution you have to understand the problem. What was it like to conceive of yourself as being part of the LORD’s chosen people when He hadn’t returned to Zion for more than four centuries? What was it like for a Jewish carpenter to live under the thumb of brutal Roman overlords (both Herod and his son Archelaus were unusually brutal compared to most Roman rulers)? What was it like to live in Judah when the majority of your fellow Jews had grown cold in the faith? C.S. Lewis beautifully captures this struggle when he describes Narnia without Asland (Jesus) as “always winter but never Christmas”. Yet, first century Judah wasn’t without some joys. There was still a remnant and Joseph was about to be married to a woman who by all accounts appeared to be a particularly godly woman. Then Joseph’s entire world came crashing down: She’s pregnant! How could that possibly be? All of his hopes and dreams had gone up in ashes. Nevertheless, Joseph seeks to be a man of God who does “justice, loves mercy, and walks humbly with his God (Micah 6:8).” It would not be easy. Nearly everyone in his town would think that Joseph had been guilty of fornication. But Joseph chose to suffer the abuse of his fellow men in order to seek the praise of God. Because of the astonishing news that he would be the step-father to Immanuel – Joseph (and all of the rest of us) have reason to sing joy to a world in a world that often seems like it is always winter and never Christmas. This week, as you take time to celebrate the coming of our LORD, remember to rejoice with a grateful heart. And remember to look forward in hope to the day when it will never be winter but it will always be Christmas. For you will dwell in the immediate presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. And you will be like Him, for you will see Him as He is. Read or Sing Hymn: 208 “O Come, All Ye Faithful” Prayer: Ask the LORD to keep reforming your desires so that you will increasingly seek His praise while the grip of the world on your heart diminishes.

Wednesday (12/20) Read and discuss Isaiah 52:1-10. On the Fourth of July Americans celebrate Independence Day to commemorate when our nation first declared itself to be a sovereign power. Yet, even a cursory familiarity with history makes it difficult to paint the British Empire as tyrannical oppressors. Israel could only have wished that they had been “oppressed” in this way. Isaiah had lived through the assaults of the Assyrians, who were among the most brutal people who had ever lived. Then he prophesied of Judah being taken into the Babylonian captivity. While the Babylonians were more civilized than the Assyrians, they did force the majority of the Jewish people to move more than five hundred miles away to a strange land where they would have to do whatever the king of Babylon told them to do. Yet, Isaiah 52 is promising a freedom from this bondage. More than mere freedom, Israel would be lifted up and exalted. Isaiah was promising a second Exodus where the people would be delivered not only to freedom and security but to being the LORD’s true people:

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

When would this glorious event take place? If we stopped reading here we could easily imagine that this might take place in the fifth century B.C. when the LORD would bring Israel back into their land. But if we keep reading through Isaiah 52 and 53 we see that this freedom, security, and joy is intimately tied up with the substitutionary death of the Suffering Servant. It is only with Christ’s victory over Satan, sin, and death that the Second Exodus is truly accomplished. Living on this side of redemption accomplished, let us lift our voices to sing of Christ’s victory and let us rejoice in the Good News that He brings. Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at the Presbyterian Church of Cape Cod.

Thursday (12/21) Read and discuss Isaiah 55:1-7. R. Reed Lessing writes:

Where is God to be found? Those who “seek” Yahweh can rest assured that they will find Him where He promises to be. The Jerusalem Temple was the place where He caused His name to dwell. However, after it was destroyed, where was He located? In light of Yahweh’s advent as Shepherd (Isaiah 40:11) and His return to Zion (52:8), He invites people to seek Him where He dwells forever: in Jesus, the Servant, the Son and Heir of David. He is present in His enduring and efficacious Word. Those who search the Scriptures will find that they testify to Christ. He is the Word incarnate and the new temple. Those who seek Him in Scripture, Holy Baptism, and His Supper do find Him. The opposite is to lust after idols. He alone gives life, while false gods bring only death.

When can God be found? The writer to the Hebrews emphasizes that “the day of salvation” is “today”, so do not procrastinate. Gregory of Nyssa asks: “Do you want to know the opportune time to seek the LORD? The simple answer is: all your life.”

Prayer: Pray for a loved one or a friend who does not know Christ that he or she would come to genuine saving faith this Christmas.

Friday (12/22) Read and discuss Luke 2:1-20. In his sermon on this passage Calvin said:

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

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

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

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

Saturday (12/23) Read and discuss Matthew 2:1-12. This passage introduces four major themes in the Gospel according to Matthew: (1) First, Jesus will be a Royal Messiah; (2) Second, God is controlling all the events through His providential hand; (3) Third, the Gentiles are going to be included among the Messiah’s people; and (4) Fourth, Jesus is the fulfillment of much Old Testament prophesy. Today we will look at the contrast between the Magi and the rulers of Israel. It is striking that the LORD led the Magi to travel over long distances on very incomplete information to pay homage to the new born King. This points forward to the fact that the whole world will one day worship Him (cf. Rev. 21:24, 26). Magi, in the ancient world, were a priestly cast of magicians and astrologers who were supposed to be the “wise men” of the country. They were therefore consulted by civil rulers and often used for diplomatic missions. They may have been familiar with some of the Hebrew Bible, but they didn’t know about Micah 5:2 for they follow the natural surmise that a king would be born in a capital and head off to Jerusalem. It doesn’t surprise us that the paranoid Herod would be deeply disturbed by the news of a newborn King; but we shouldn’t miss that all Jerusalem was troubled with him. So Herod gathers together the chief priests and the teachers of the law and inquires where the Messiah was to be born. They don’t miss a beat: “In Bethlehem of Judea” they reply, “for this is how it has been written by the prophet.” They all know the correct answer, but here is the amazing part: Although Bethlehem is only 6 miles from Jerusalem – not one of the chief priests or scribes bothers to go with the Magi to see where the Christ was to be born. The contrast is striking: Some traveled great distances and offered up gold and precious spices to worship Jesus while others wouldn’t even make the two hour walk to see Him. “This antithesis carries through the gospel: the redemptive influence of Jesus will extend far beyond the confines of Jerusalem to the far corners of the earth, yet those closest to Jesus will reject him (Grant Osborne).” Read or sing Hymn: 195 “Joy to the World” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

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