Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 1 March 2015 Sunday, Feb 22 2015 

MVOPC 1 March 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

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

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: 605 “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 1:1-6

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 5:16-26

Sermon: Keep in Step With the Spirit

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

Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 441 “Jesus Shall Reign”

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 7:14-25

NT: Revelation 8:6-13

Woe to the Earth Dwellers

Adult Sunday School: Theology and History

Shorter Catechism Q/A #86

Q. What is faith in Jesus Christ?

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

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/23) Today’s passage is rightly famous for what Paul says about the fruit of the Spirit. Note the singular “fruit”. Unlike the gifts of the Spirit, every Christian is intended to manifest all of the different aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. It is a wise use of our time to prayerfully consider this list while seeking the LORD to cause this fruit to grow in our lives. On the other hand, the very fame of this passage may cause us to miss the forest for the trees. That is, we can become so focused on the individual manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit that we miss the argument that Paul is actually making. One practical way to get around this is to simply replace all the details with a marker so that the argument stands out more clearly. We will use XXX for the bad stuff and SSS for those things that relate to the Holy Spirit:

            But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: … XXX … I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is … SSS …; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

            If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Now, by marking the imperatives in bold, we can see that Paul’s basic argument is this:

Imperative: Walk/Keep in step with the Spirit.

Reason 1:  Because the flesh and the Spirit are at war with one another.

Reason 2: Because those who are given over to the works of the flesh will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Reason 3: Because this is an important aspect of being a child of God and a member of His family the Church: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Once we see the underlying argument that Paul is making, we can return to read the passage with greater understanding. Read or sing Hymn 30 “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would take the things that you are learning from His word and cause you to walk in them by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday (2/24) Read and discuss Galatians 5:6-15. There is a great deal for us in today’s passage, but perhaps the most important thing to learn is this: You were not only set free from something and for something. You were set free from something and for Someone. If you take the Holy Spirit out of the equation the only options left are legalism or licentiousness. Apart from being born again and having a personal relationship with the Father and the Son through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit – the natural way that we will try to maintain the illusion of order, beauty, and moral virtue is by building a new fence made out of either man made rules or a misapplication of the Law of God. Jesus provides a better way. Through His life, death, and resurrection Jesus has set us free from the bondage of trying to vindicate ourselves before God on the basis of our own performance. But that isn’t all that Jesus has done. You have been set free not only from something but for something. Jesus and the Father have also sent the Holy Spirit to dwell with and in us to empower us to a new life where we can genuinely love our neighbors, not to earn God’s approval, but as our response to the grace that we have already received in Jesus Christ. That is why Paul writes in 2 Corinthians chapter 3:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Good theology is not enough. The purpose of good theology is so that we would not merely know more about God but that we would know and love Him. So let us cultivate our relationship with the Triune God this week through prayer, praise, and listening to Him speak to us through His word. And let us remember, that it is “For freedom [that] Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would grant you the courage to stand for His truth and the humility to accept everything that He teaches.

Wednesday (2/25) Read and discuss Psalm 1:1-6. The first Psalm is so important to the Christian life that it is well worth memorizing so that you can meditate upon it throughout the day. Allen P. Ross explains the central message of the psalm:

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

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

Read or sing Hymn 605 “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt. There have been reports of large numbers of Egyptians converting to Christianity in an environment where converting from Islam could result in physical attacks and even death. Ask that the LORD would be a shield around these new converts and that they would be but the first-fruits of a much larger harvest.

Thursday (2/26) Read and discuss Exodus 7:14-25.. Doug Stuart writes:

Prominent in the structure of this first plague account is the emphasis on God’s involvement in Pharaoh’s stubbornness. Verses 14 and 22-23 … [remind] the reader that Moses knew directly from God that Pharaoh would be resistant and that he would not be moved easily, even by things supernatural. The last verse of [this section], something of a postscript, briefly answers the reader’s logical question, “How then could the Egyptians survive since their drinking water came from the Nile?” By reason of that final verse, the first plague is shown to be a severe annoyance more than a life-threatening disaster, reflecting the sort of severity level one might expect of the opening plague – a shot fired across Egypt’s bow, as it were.

The Nile is mentioned six times by name here and also referred to by terms like “water” and “river,” in addition to the description in v. 19 of “the waters of Egypt,” then delineated in that verse to be sure that the reader realizes that every surface source of water was affected by the plague in the same manner as was the Nile. Thus “blood was everywhere in Egypt”, and no Egyptian could escape the effect of this plague. No longer were the mighty acts of God confined to demonstrations for a private audience. Now all the citizens of the nation began to feel the effect of God’s wrath, and the pressure began to ratchet up on Pharaoh. It was one thing for him to ignore a display intended to convince him of God’s power but another to ignore the cries of his people for one of their most basic needs, water to drink.

In considering the story of the first plague, it is important to bear in mind that the Egyptians understood the Nile to be a god. Their pantheistic view of the universe considered all things to be partakers of the divine, and things that moved to be obviously divine in their essence. The ultimate victory of the only true God, Yahweh, over the many false gods of the Egyptians began with the humiliation of the Nile. The nation’s great waterway and source of life was turned odious and made into a source of death, demonstrating the sovereign power of the God of Israel and the subordinate impotence of the Nile.

Read or sing Hymn 103 “Holy God, We Praise Your Name” Prayer: Ask that the LORD’s name would be hallowed in your thoughts and in interactions with family, friends, and co-workers.

Friday (2/27) Read and discuss Revelation 8:6-13. It can be difficult to grapple with the LORD sending such terrible plagues upon the earth. N.T. Wright helps point us in the right direction to understanding what God is doing:

“Many people want to serve God,” said the sign outside the church, “but only in an advisory capacity.” And this is one of the moments in Revelation when some at least would give rather firm advice to the one who sits on the throne: “Don’t do it! What is the meaning of this wanton destruction?” …

[Why would we ask this?] As a wise old writer put it, “You haven’t yet considered the seriousness of sin.” Even after a century of war, terror and high-tech genocide, we are still included, in the Western world at least, to pretend to ourselves that the world has really become quite a pleasant place, with ‘evil’ merely a blip on the horizon with which we can deal easily enough. However great the contrary evidence, this modern myth of the eradication of evil through ‘enlightenment’, leaving only a few minor mopping-up operations (preferably in far-away places) before Utopia finally arrives, has taken such a hold on popular imagination that any idea of God having to do anything powerful and destructive to address the problem is regarded as far too drastic, far too dramatic. But none of the early Christians, and certainly not Jesus himself, would have colluded with this glossing over of the seriousness of evil.

Prayer: Please pray for the Church in China that our brothers and sisters would grow in theological stability and that they would continue to zealously share the good news of Jesus Christ with their neighbors.

Saturday (2/28) Read and discuss Galatians 5:16-26. Paul is entirely realistic about the struggles of the Christian life but that doesn’t mean that Christians should be pessimistic about either our effectiveness or our real growth in holiness in the present age. Tom Schreiner explains:

We must not think … that Paul’s view of the Christian life is fundamentally pessimistic. The gift of the new age, the Holy Spirit, now belongs to believers. Believers who live by the Spirit will not carry out the flesh’s desires. Those who yield to the Spit will not live under the dominion of law and sin. A new quality of life (5:22-23) is the result of the Spirit’s work. The old age no longer reigns over believers. The old Adam has been crucified with its passions and desires, so that the flesh no longer enslaves believers.

In other words, believers enjoy a substantial, significant, and observable victory in their new life in Christ. Since believers live in the interval between the already and not yet, perfection is not their portion. Yet believers now have the first fruits of the Spirit and are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), and hence Paul is fundamentally optimistic about the new life that is possible for saints.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 22 February 2015 Sunday, Feb 15 2015 

MVOPC 22 February 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

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: 1 John 1:6-9

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

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 19:9-18

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 5:7-15

Sermon: Resist Spiritual Bondage

Hymn of Response: 535 “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus!”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 7:14-25

NT: Revelation 8:6-13

Woe to the Earth Dwellers

Adult Sunday School: Theology and History

Shorter Catechism Q/A #85

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

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

PLEASE NOTE: As we were snowed out the past two Sundays we already have looked at this week’s passages in some detail. If you haven’t been following along with the Worship Guide you may want to follow one of the previous two weeks of Guides to prepare for this Sunday’s worship services. Otherwise, let’s mix things up this week by looking at some selected Q/As from the Heidelberg Catechism on the Lord’s Prayer. Please use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide for how you pray for yourself, your family and friends, your church, and the broader world this week.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/16) Lord’s Day 45

Q & A 116

Q. Why do Christians need to pray?

A.Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.

And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit
only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly,

asking God for these gifts
and thanking God for them.

Q & A 117

Q. What is the kind of prayer that pleases God and that he listens to?

A. First, we must pray from the heart to no other than the one true God, revealed to us in his Word, asking for everything God has commanded us to ask for.

Second, we must fully recognize our need and misery, so that we humble ourselves in God’s majestic presence.

Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation: even though we do not deserve it, God will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord.

That is what God promised us in his Word.

Q & A 118

Q. What did God command us to pray for?

A. Everything we need, spiritually and physically, as embraced in the prayer Christ our Lord himself taught us.

What is this prayer?

A. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen.

 

Tuesday (2/17) Lord’s Day 46

Q & A 120

Q. Why did Christ command us to call God “our Father”?

A. To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer what should be basic to our prayer— a childlike reverence and trust that through Christ God has become our Father, and that just as our parents do not refuse us the things of this life, even less will God our Father refuse to give us what we ask in faith.

Q & A 121

Q. Why the words “in heaven”?

A. These words teach us not to think of God’s heavenly majesty as something earthly, and to expect everything needed for body and soul from God’s almighty power.

 

Wednesday (2/18) Lord’s Day 47

Q & A 122

Q. What does the first petition mean?

A. “Hallowed be your name” means: Help us to truly know you, to honor, glorify, and praise you for all your works and for all that shines forth from them: your almighty power, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and truth.

And it means,

Help us to direct all our living—

what we think, say, and do—

so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us
but always honored and praised.

Lord’s Day 48

Q & A 123

Q. What does the second petition mean?

A. “Your kingdom come” means : Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you. Preserve your church and make it grow. Destroy the devil’s work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your holy Word. Do this until your kingdom fully comes, when you will be all in all.

 

Thursday (2/19) Lord’s Day 49

Q & A 124

Q. What does the third petition mean?

A. “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” means:

Help us and all people

to reject our own wills
and to obey your will without any back talk.
Your will alone is good.

Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to,

as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.

Lord’s Day 50

Q & A 125

Q. What does the fourth petition mean?

A. “Give us this day our daily bread” means:

Do take care of all our physical needs so that we come to know that you are the only source of everything good, and that neither our work and worry nor your gifts can do us any good without your blessing.

And so help us to give up our trust in creatures
and trust in you alone.

 

Friday (2/20) Lord’s Day 51

Q & A 126

Q. What does the fifth petition mean?

A“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” means: Because of Christ’s blood, do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are, any of the sins we do or the evil that constantly clings to us.

Forgive us just as we are fully determined, as evidence of your grace in us, to forgive our neighbors.

Lord’s Day 52

Q & A 127

Q. What does the sixth petition mean?

A. “And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one” means: By ourselves we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment. And our sworn enemies — the devil, the world, and our own flesh — never stop attacking us.

And so, Lord, uphold us and make us strong with the strength of your Holy Spirit, so that we may not go down to defeat in this spiritual struggle, but may firmly resist our enemies until we finally win the complete victory.

 

Saturday (2/21) Q & A 128

Q. What does your conclusion to this prayer mean?

A. For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever” means: We have made all these petitions of you because, as our all-powerful king, you are both willing and able to give us all that is good; and because your holy name, and not we ourselves, should receive all the praise, forever.

Q & A 129

Q. What does that little word “Amen” express?

A. “Amen” means:

This shall truly and surely be!

It is even more sure

that God listens to my prayer

than that I really desire

what I pray for.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 15 February 2015 Sunday, Feb 8 2015 

MVOPC 15 February 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

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: 1 John 1:6-9

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

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 19:9-18

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 5:7-15

Sermon: Resist Spiritual Bondage

Hymn of Response: 535 “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus!”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 7:14-25

NT: Revelation 8:6-13

Woe to the Earth Dwellers

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Shorter Catechism Q/A #85

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

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

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/9) Read and discuss Galatians 5:7-15. Tom Schreiner writes:

True freedom must never be equated with natural human desires. Human beings as sons and daughters of Adam conceive of freedom as a removal of all constraints so that we are able to do whatever we want. Freedom for Paul, however, cannot be equated with natural desire, for the latter is the product of the flesh and a human will turned in upon itself.

Human beings are truly free when they are no longer under the domino of natural desires. Freedom does not come by giving in to selfish desire but, paradoxically enough, is found when believers serve others. Those who are constrained by natural desires are not free but slaves, whereas those who live in love are liberated to serve others, so that slavery to the will of God is perfect freedom. Such freedom will only be perfectly realized in the new creation, for then believers will always and only desire to do the will of God. Perfect submission to God’s will means perfect freedom.

Read or sing Hymn 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness” Prayer: Lift up the children of our congregation and pray that they would come to know the true freedom of trusting and following Jesus Christ.

Tuesday (2/10) Read and discuss Psalm 37:1-40. Today’s Psalm begins by talking about envy. John Piper gives this commonsense definition of what envy is:

So, in a sentence, envy is a mingling of a desire for something with the resentment that another is enjoying it and you are not. Things aren’t going so well for you, but things are going well for them; and it just gnaws away at you sometimes. Why does it go so well for that person when it doesn’t go so well for me?

For most Christians, envy is private sin. We know how ugly envy looks so we don’t bring it out into the open. Yet, we are all tempted from time to time to wish that we were doing better in some area in our lives the way so-and-so is doing.  It can be particularly grating when we see a person who is cutting the moral corners in life and yet seems to be reaping only the benefits of his wrongdoing? Allowing envy to fester can therefore corrupt our lives as well. The psalmist gives us two straightforward reasons why we shouldn’t do this:

  1. Consider the wrongdoer’s ends. “They will soon fade like grass and wither like the green herb.”
  2. If we commit our way to the LORD and trust in Him we can be certain that He will act on our behalf. Ultimately, those who befriend faithfulness will be publicly displayed as righteous and rewarded by God Himself.

It might be helpful when we are tempted to envy to remember our Lord’s promise: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Those who grasp for what is not theirs, end up losing everything. Those who trust in the Lord, end up receiving what they could never possibly earn. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would make you meek like Jesus.

Wednesday (2/11) Read and discuss Leviticus 19:1-18. John Currid writes:

Holiness is a way of life, and every area of life is subject to holiness. That is clear in this chapter, in which so many different aspects of the life of the Hebrew are to be conducted in a holy, distinct way. We see the following spheres treated in the chapte: the area of family (19:3), the sacrificial system (5-8), the economy (9-10), the social dimension (11-14, 17-18), the judicial setting (15-16) and worship (4). No area of life is unaffected by the concept of holiness: from vocation to vacation, all of life is to be brought under the lordship of God and to be lived according to His statutes.

This teaching is no less true today than it was for the Hebrews so many thousands of years ago. Peter, when speaking to the church throughout the world, made the following statement: ‘As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:14-16).

Read or sing Hymn 310 “Rejoice, the Lord is King” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make your relationship with Him mark out every area of your life.

Thursday (2/12) Read and discuss Exodus 7:14-25. Doug Stuart writes:

In these verses is described the actual first plague, the changing of all surface water in Egypt (nearly all of it being in or from the Nile) to blood. Six considerations should be kept in mind in the analysis of this plague: (1) “Blood” is a color in Hebrew as well as a substance. … (2) No special theological overtone is present relative to the “blood” here; it is not foreshadowing of “the blood of Christ that flows” or any such thing. (3) The important punishment element in the plague is neither the substance nor the color but the pollution of the water, rendering it not merely undrinkable for humans but deadly for fish. (4) Yahweh’s implied control over the Nile (the Nile river “god”) could hardly have been missed by any thoughtful Egyptian considering the meaning of this plague. (5) Aaron’s staff was not merely a simple visual device by a symbolic reminder that God, not Aaron or Moses, was actually performing the miracle of the plague. (6) The plague may well have imitated a natural phenomenon by which some parts of the Nile sometimes turned reddish, but it does not appear to have been merely a natural phenomenon in light of the immediacy of the result and its extent. …

As [verse 25] indicates, the plague of blood lasted only seven days. Virtually all commentators have observed that the plagues appear to have increased in intensity from first to last. How, then, could the plague be regarded as the least threatening of the ten? The answer is that this plague involved not the changing of water into real blood (which would be so huge an environmental pollution of Egypt that its effects would be far more threatening to life than some of the later plagues) but the temporary reddening and contamination of the Nile and other surface water in a way that made the Nile undrinkable and killed the fish. This plague functioned more as a severe frustration to the Egyptians than as a threat to life. Fish died from this plague, but humans and other animals did not.

Read or sing Hymn 535 “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus!” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family and whose gifts would build up our congregation.

Friday (2/13) Read and discuss Revelation 8:6-13. Mitchell Reddish writes:

After the scene of heavenly worship in 8:1-5, John returns to the seven angels to whom the trumpets had been given. They are standing ready, waiting for the command to blow their trumpets. The structure of this section parallels that of the seven seals. As with the seals, the first four events in the series are grouped together, followed by the fifth and sixth events. Prior to the seventh event of the series, an interlude occurs, which in both series consists of two parts. The seventh and final event in each series reveals a scene set in the heavenly throne room.

Like the seven seals, the seven trumpets set into motion divine judgments upon the earth. As already noted, these events should be undersood not as completely new calamities, but as different ways to portray God’s eschatological judgments upon the world. The two series overlap rather than follow one another chronologically. The trumpet judgments depict an intensification of the divine judgments. Whereas the destruction brought about by the opening of the seals was primarily limited to humans, the destruction from the trumpet blasts affects the entire universe: the earth (8:7), the oceans (8:8-9), fresh water 8:10-11), the heavenly bodies (8:12), and people (9:1-20). A further intensification occurs in the number of people affected by the punishments. Whereas the opening of the fourth seal resulted in the death of one-fourth of the inhabitants of the earth, the blowing of the sixth trumpet causes the death of one third of humanity. In neither case should John’s language be taken literally. This is poetic, dramatic language, rather than the language of mathematical precision. As Eugene Boring has stated: “John works with the imagination, not calculators.” The increase from one-fourth to one-third adds to the dramatic tension of the story and indicates that the end is drawing nearer. The reader senses the forward movement in this eschatological drama.

The events heralded by the trumpets are modeled after the Egyptian plagues described in the book of Exodus. In this regard they are similar to the seven bowl plagues of chapters 15 and 16. An exodus motif figures prominently in the Apocalypse, for John recognizes in the Roman emperor a new Pharaoh who has enslaved and oppressed the people of God. As the journey from Egypt was preceded by divine plagues of judgment against the land of Egypt, a new series of plagues will bring God’s judgment upon a disobedient and recalcitrant world.

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

Saturday (2/14) Read and discuss Galatians 5:7-15. Tom Schreiner writes:

We can become enslaved to something by emphasizing our freedom. Some Christians go to movies that they cannot handle but excuse it by emphasizing their freedom. Others become enslaved to alcohol by emphasizing their freedom, and suddenly they find themselves getting drunk. Others may even defend smoking marijuana by emphasizing their so-called freedom. I have heard a person even defend looking at pornography by appealing to freedom. Truly the siren song of freedom can become a platform for the flesh.

What is true freedom? Paul tells us what true freedom is. We are living by grace if we don’t become angry when we disagree with one another. If we shout and yell to win arguments, we are not secure in the gospel. We have to prove we are right. But if we live by grace, we can firmly state the truth and even restate it if necessary and leave the results to God.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 8 February 2015 Sunday, Feb 1 2015 

MVOPC 8 February 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

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: 1 John 1:6-9

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

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 19:9-18

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 5:7-15

Sermon: Resist Spiritual Bondage

Hymn of Response: 535 “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus!”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 7:14-25

NT: Revelation 8:6-13

Woe to the Earth Dwellers

Adult Sunday School: Theology and the Forces of History

Shorter Catechism Q/A #85

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

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

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/2) Read and discuss Galatians 5:7-15. It is always tempting to compromise just a little bit with the legalists in the hopes that a controversy will go away. Isn’t that how it works in politics? Each side agrees to something they don’t like so that they can arrive at something that both sides can live with. Paul explains in today’s passage that compromising the Gospel isn’t like that. Giving in a little to the legalists now will naturally lead to further compromises in the future. N.T. Wright explains:

Leaven is small but powerful. If you’re making a loaf of bread you need leaven to make it rise, but only a few grains will do for the entire loaf. Put in those few grains, and the loaf won’t be partly leavened and partly not; the leaven will work its way swiftly through the whole thing. Behind this familiar cooking image is the tradition, equally familiar to Paul, of keeping the Passover with unleavened bread, recalling the Israelites’ swift departure from Egypt. Leaven was (and still is) banished altogether from Jewish kitchens at Passover time. ‘Leavening the lump’ became an obvious picture for compromise. Paul’s point is that if the Galatians give in on this one thing, i.e., circumcision, they won’t simply be all right in everything else, with one little blemish; this mistake will be like leaven, and will change everything.

Read or sing Hymn 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness” Prayer: Please pray for the safety of our church family in the winter weather we are experiencing.

Tuesday (2/3) Read and discuss Galatians 5:1-6. Prayer: Commenting on verse 1, Andrew Das writes:

Paul admonishes the Galatians to “stand firm.” The “then” relates the admonition in the second half of 5:1 to the indicative statement in the first half of the verse: “For freedom Christ has set us free.” A genuine status of freedom always precedes and grounds the imperative. Christian behavior always results from a changed status and a relationship with God; Christian behavior does not earn that status. Maintaining both Paul’s indicative – who we are in Christ – and his imperative – how we are to behave in Christ – will prevent the twin dangers of self-righteousness and libertinism. Christ is the only agent capable of freeing people from the enslaving powers of this evil world. The indicative draws attention to Christ’s completed and sufficient work. At the same time, the imperative reminds the believer that he or she is still caught in the conflict between the two ages, the now and the not yet. A reality is dawning in Christ that is not yet fully realized. Every believer can attest for himself or herself the daily fight against sin, but the decisive victory in this larger cosmic struggle has already been won. The justified believer must “stand firm,” then, “for freedom.” This is a freedom from slavery under the Law, but such freedom is also for a new reality, a reality which Paul will elaborate in the remainder of the chapter.

Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our church as it meets this evening.

Wednesday (2/4) Read and discuss Leviticus 19:1-18. Derek Tidball writes:

Sociologists are increasingly speaking of the need for ‘social capital’ if a society is to function smoothly. Any society needs more than financial capital and physical infrastructure in order to be prosperous; it also needs quality social relationships and secure networks that share a common set of values. A society that has made a good investment in social capital will not be one in which people are distrustful and suspicious of one another or one that has to devote endless resources to dealing with crime. It will be comfortable to live in, and its members will enjoy sharing common resources. It will function much more efficiently than those in which society’s social capital is low. The fear of many today is that the social capital of all cultures of advanced individualism is disappearing fast. From one viewpoint, Leviticus 19 is about how every member of a community can invest in its social capital.

Yet, we must be careful not to advance down this particular road too fast. For though the laws of Leviticus 19 will lead to the creation of a wholesome community and the banking of wonderful reserves of social capital this is not the chapter’s raison d’etre. The rules are designed first and foremost not as a matter of social convenience but as a matter of divine holiness. They arise from God’s invitation to be holy because I the LORD your God, am holy.

It may be helpful to recognize that the issues of holiness and social capital naturally belong together. Since holiness means being set apart as belonging to (or dedicated to) God; and living a life of holiness means living in light of belonging to God and therefore reflecting God’s character into the world; we shouldn’t be surprised that when the members of a community reflect God’s character into the world this leads to society functioning better. In fact, if everyone reflected God’s character perfectly we would be in a Garden civilization like that of the New Heaven and Earth. We, of course, are incapable of doing that ourselves – but one day Christ Himself will bring that to pass. Read or sing Hymn 310 “Rejoice, the Lord is King” Prayer: Ask the LORD to give our congregation a clearer vision of His holiness and glory.

Thursday (2/5) Read and discuss Exodus 7:14-25. Doug Stuart writes:

Prominent in the structure of this first plague account is the emphasis on God’s involvement in Pharaoh’s stubbornness. Verses 14 and 22-23 … [remind] the reader that Moses knew directly from God that Pharaoh would be resistant and that he would not be moved easily, even by things supernatural. The last verse of [this section], something of a postscript, briefly answers the reader’s logical question, “How then could the Egyptians survive since their drinking water came from the Nile?” By reason of that final verse, the first plague is shown to be a severe annoyance more than a life-threatening disaster, reflecting the sort of severity level one might expect of the opening plague – a shot fired across Egypt’s bow, as it were.

The Nile is mentioned six times by name here and also referred to by terms like “water” and “river,” in addition to the description in v. 19 of “the waters of Egypt,” then delineated in that verse to be sure that the reader realizes that every surface source of water was affected by the plague in the same manner as was the Nile. Thus “blood was everywhere in Egypt”, and no Egyptian could escape the effect of this plague. No longer were the mighty acts of God confined to demonstrations for a private audience. Now all the citizens of the nation began to feel the effect of God’s wrath, and the pressure began to ratchet up on Pharaoh. It was one thing for him to ignore a display intended to convince him of God’s power but another to ignore the cries of his people for one of their most basic needs, water to drink.

In considering the story of the first plague, it is important to bear in mind that the Egyptians understood the Nile to be a god. Their pantheistic view of the universe considered all things to be partakers of the divine, and things that moved to be obviously divine in their essence. The ultimate victory of the only true God, Yahweh, over the many false gods of the Egyptians began with the humiliation of the Nile. The nation’s great waterway and source of life was turned odious and made into a source of death, demonstrating the sovereign power of the God of Israel and the subordinate impotence of the Nile.

Read or sing Hymn 535 “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus!” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD triumphs over all the so-called gods of this world.

Friday (2/6) Read and discuss Revelation 8:6-13. It can be difficult to grapple with the LORD sending such terrible plagues upon the earth. N.T. Wright helps point us in the right direction to understanding what God is doing:

“Many people want to serve God,” said the sign outside the church, “but only in an advisory capacity.” And this is one of the moments in Revelation when some at least would give rather firm advice to the one who sits on the throne: “Don’t do it! What is the meaning of this wanton destruction?” …

[Why would we ask this?] As a wise old writer put it, “You haven’t yet considered the seriousness of sin.” Even after a century of war, terror and high-tech genocide, we are still included, in the Western world at least, to pretend to ourselves that the world has really become quite a pleasant place, with ‘evil’ merely a blip on the horizon with which we can deal easily enough. However great the contrary evidence, this modern myth of the eradication of evil through ‘enlightenment’, leaving only a few minor mopping-up operations (preferably in far-away places) before Utopia finally arrives, has taken such a hold on popular imagination that any idea of God having to do anything powerful and destructive to address the problem is regarded as far too drastic, far too dramatic. But none of the early Christians, and certainly not Jesus himself, would have colluded with this glossing over of the seriousness of evil.

Prayer: Please pray for the Church in China that our brothers and sisters would grow in theological stability and that they would continue to zealously share the good news of Jesus Christ with their neighbors.

Saturday (2/7) Read and discuss Galatians 5:7-15. Tom Schreiner writes:

Paul’s word of assurance in 5:10 provides confidence that the LORD will finish the good work he has begun. The LORD saves and continues to preserve until the end those whom he has called. Therefore, the confidence of believers is not ultimately in themselves but in the LORD, who summoned them to himself. Believers look away from themselves to Christ and trust his promise that he will keep all those who have entrusted their lives to him. When believers turn inward and contemplate their own resources, they know that they do not have the wherewithal to continue in the faith. In many texts, of course, believers are exhorted to continue to the end and to remain immoveable in the things of the LORD. Ultimately, however, assurance of obtaining a heavenly reward comes from the LORD himself. He strengthens his own so that they do not turn from the LORD who rescued them from this present evil age.

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

Sunday, Jan 25 2015 

MVOPC 1 February 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 10:10-13

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

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 25:1-10

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 5:1-6

Sermon: Stand for Freedom

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

Confession of Faith:  Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Till He Come”!

 

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 8:1-15

NT: Revelation 8:1-5

Prayer Matters

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 67-68 – Effectual Calling

Shorter Catechism Q/A #84

QWhat doth every sin deserve?

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

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/26) Read and discuss Galatians 5:1-6. Commenting on verse 1, Martin Luther writes:

Paul urges the godly not to be drowsy or smug but to fight bravely against Satan, so that he may not take away the freedom won for them by Christ. Christ has set us free from the eternal wrath of God – free in our conscience. We are made safe and free from the law, for just as the wrath of God can no longer terrify us, so the law cannot condemn or accuse us either. Therefore our spirits must be trained so that when they become aware of the law’s accusations, the terrors of sin, the horrors of death and the wrath of God, they will reject these things and put the freedom of Christ in their place, which is the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, life and the eternal mercy of God.

Read or sing Hymn 34 “The God of Abraham Praise” Prayer: Ask the LORD to guard your heart and those of our church family against the poison of legalism.

Tuesday (1/27) Read and discuss Galatians 4:21-31. Paul brings the Galatians back to the foundational story of Abraham for a reason. The whole dispute has been over how the Galatians could be full first-class citizens in the Kingdom of God and heirs of the promises that God had made to Abraham. Paul will vigorously fight for the entire rest of his life for the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. That is, Paul will insist that God only has ONE family made up of Jew and Gentile together in Christ. The Judaizers are suggesting that there may be two people of God. A first-class Jewish people of God and a sort of second class Gentile people of God who don’t step up and keep the commandments of the Mosaic covenant. Paul in effect is saying: If you want to go there – let’s go there. Abraham after all had two sons: Ishmael and Isaac. You know that story. The LORD had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. Indeed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his seed. Yet, Abraham and Sarah were growing old and Sarah still hadn’t given Abraham the promised and needed son. So Sarah came up with a plan that seems to have been viable in the ancient Hittite culture in which they were living. She would give Abraham her slave-girl Hagar and if Hagar bore Abraham a son – that son would be counted as though he were Sarah’s own son and would become Abraham’s heir. This all seemed reasonable to them. It was in Abraham and Sarah’s power to enact this plan and it did result in Hagar giving birth to Ishmael. But God was not at all interested in having His plans fulfilled by what Abraham and Sarah were able to do in their own power. The LORD returned to Abraham and told him that the promised Seed would come through Sarah. This was so unbelievable that they named him Isaac which means “laughter.” That’s a wonderful name and it reflects the fact that Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born and Sarah was 90. This was an act entirely of God’s power and grace and not something that Abraham or Sarah could do in their own strength. Prayer: Lift up our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine.

Wednesday (1/28) Read and discuss Leviticus 25:1-10. Phillip Eveson writes:

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

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

Read or sing Hymn 679 “ ’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” Prayer: Ask the LORD to bring visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Thursday (1/29) Read and discuss Exodus 8:1-15. Doug Stuart writes:

[The] final section of the story of the second plague demonstrates God’s gracious willingness to respond to Moses’ intercessory prayer (vv. 12-13), reminds the hearer/reader of the enormity of the plague (vv. 13-14), and affirms that all happened consistent with God’s control of Pharaoh’s actions, as predicted by God in the first place. …

These verses describe the power of prayer, when a faithful servant of the one true God prays in accordance with his Master’s will. Moses might have had good reason to assume that the frogs would eventually go away on their own, but he had certainly not been notified by God that they would die off on the day Pharaoh specified. Accordingly, he prayed earnestly for a result that from his point of view, at least, was not guaranteed but in faith that the LORD would do what he asked if his prayer were proper. It was, and the frogs died off suddenly enough that they could be gathered in heaps to decompose and smell, as v. 14 indicates. According to God’s already announced plan, this plague was not what would cause Pharaoh to release the Israelites. It would in fact meet with no success in light of God’s making Pharaoh stubborn, so v. 15 reminds the reader, in effect that “there’s much more to come before God is finished with Egypt and its king.”

Read or sing Hymn 252 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would give the President of the United States and other world leaders great wisdom and resolve as they confront the evil of ISIS.

Friday (1/30) Read and discuss Revelation 8:1-5. This passage intimately connects the prayers of the saints with astonishing judgments that the Sovereign God is sending into the world. We shouldn’t imagine that we will be able to dissect and neatly chart how this works out. The images we are being shown are intended to motivate our prayers while inspiring us with a sense of awe. N.T. Wright explains:

If prayer from on earth is presented by means of the golden censer, the immediate answer is given in the same way. The angel, having offered the incense, now fills the censer with fire from the altar and throws it on the earth. Until evil has been judged, condemned and radically uprooted from the earth, the only word that earth as a whole can hear from heaven is that of judgment. The ‘thunder, rumblings, lightning and earthquake’ come at the close of each section of the book, picking up from their initial appearance in front of God’s throne. Here they appear at the close of the seven seals; at 11:19, after the seven trumpets have sounded; and at 16:18, once the seven bowls of wrath have been poured out. We are to understand that the commerce between heaven and earth, though vital for God’s purpose and central to his eventual plan (21:1-8), will always be a matter of awe and wide-eyed wonder, and in the present time a matter for proper fear and trembling. Only the foolish and arrogant think they can scale the heights of heaven on their own behalf (Genesis 11). God remains sovereign, and as long as earth remains the haunt of evil, his answer to it must be fire. Jesus himself declared that he had come ‘to throw fire upon the earth’ (Luke 12:49). Here the angel with the golden censer continues the lamb’s strange work.

Prayer: Pray for someone in our congregation that he or she would grow to understand the riches of Christ more fully.

Saturday (1/24) Read and discuss Galatians 5:1-6. How do we resist the siren call of legalism? Knowing the truth of God’s word is certainly an important weapon in winning the battle to stand fast in the freedom which Christ has purchased for us. The great early church preacher, John Chrysostom suggests another important weapon in our battle against legalism – that is stirring up our love for Christ. He writes:

He strikes them here with a great blow by showing that it is their failure to be rooted in love for Christ that has given entrance to this error. For what is looked for is not only faith but also faith abiding in love. It is as though he said, “Had you loved Christ as you ought, you would not have insulted your deliverer.” And here he also alludes obliquely to those who have plotted against them, showing that if they had love for them they would not have dared to do this. He also wishes to amend their lives through this saying.

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 25 January 2015 Sunday, Jan 18 2015 

MVOPC 25 January 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 4:14-16

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

Old Covenant Reading: Genesis 21:8-21

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 4:21-31

Sermon: Born Free?

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

Confession of Faith:  Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This”

PM Worship:

OT: Psalm 121:1-8

NT: Revelation 7:9-17

The Great Rescue

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 64-65: The Invisible Church

Shorter Catechism Q/A #83

 Q. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?

A. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/19) Read and discuss Galatians 4:21-31. Tom Schreiner writes:

We need to remind ourselves that if we are Christians, we are already free. We are called to live out the freedom that is already ours and not to turn back to slavery. We are to live under grace instead of under the law. What are some signs that we are living under grace? One sign is that we are not devastated when we are criticized or snubbed by others. If we are devastated, we are still subtly living by the law, for our god is receiving the approval of others. We are living by grace if we can rest in being passed over for a job that we thought we should have received. If we live by the law and focus on ourselves, we become resentful and angry because we have been passed over. But if we live by grace, we rest in God’s purposes, even if we think others made a mistake.

Read or sing Hymn 53 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would work godliness with contentment even more deeply into your life.

Tuesday (1/20) Read and discuss Galatians 4:8-21. When Paul first met the Galatians it was because some significant physical ailment kept him from going where he originally planned to travel. It is possible that this physical ailment is also what Paul elsewhere refers to as his “thorn in the flesh” given to keep him humble. We can’t identify this ailment with certainty, but the guess – and it is no more than that – which has the best support in Paul’s own writings, is that Paul suffered from some sort of eye problem. This fits, for example, with verse 15 where Paul says that, if it were possible, the Galatians would have been willing to tear out their eyes and give them to him. Nevertheless, in spite of Paul’s physical weakness, the Galatians welcomed him with deep love and respect. We shouldn’t minimize the negative impact that Paul’s physical affliction might have had on his effectiveness as a messenger – at least according to worldly standards. Imagine the next Presidential election. If one of the candidates always had pus running out of one of his eyes and needed regular accommodations for his vision problems do you think he or she would still have a chance of winning? Whatever you want the answer to be you know that the actual answer is that such a candidate would have virtually no shot of winning simply on the basis of his or her physical appearance. We want leaders who appear strong and healthy not those who appear weak or frail. We don’t want leaders with pus running out of their eyes. Yet, that was how Paul appeared when he first brought the gospel to the Galatians and he frankly admits in verse 14 that his condition was a trial to the Galatians – yet they passed this trial with flying colors. The word “trial” here could also be translated “temptation.” The Galatians could have been tempted to turn away from Paul because he appeared to be such a weak leader – when in fact they embraced the gospel Paul preached recognizing that the LORD had poured the riches of the gospel into clay pots.  We ought to remember that he still does. I suspect that Paul is doing something more than just recounting his personal history. He is doing more than reminding the Galatians of the close bond that they shared with him. His personal story shows the contrast between Biblical Christianity and what Mike Horton calls “Power Religion.” Power religion says: “We’re impressive. If you come and join us you can be impressive too.” Power religion is widespread in the evangelical world where Christianity can be marketed as a way of having better relationships, well behaved and respectable children, and of gaining social upward-mobility. How different this is from our Savior’s words when He said: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send a revival and reformation to New England.

Wednesday (1/21) Read and discuss Genesis 21:8-21. The dramatic story of Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac is one of the most gripping stories in the Bible. What is sometimes forgotten is that Abraham had previously sent away his first-born son Ishmael. Why was that necessary? Iain Duguid explains:

For the sake of the promise, Abraham had to commit himself fully to Isaac. Neither natural concern for the welfare of those whom he loved nor tentativeness on his part could be allowed to hold him back. Sometimes people hold themselves back from fully obeying the call of God because of family concerns. They say to themselves, “If I go out as a missionary, how will  I find a spouse?” or “Who will take care of my parents?” or “What will happen to my children?” The answer is that God is able to take care of these things, as many can testify from their own experience. In the words of Jesus, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be give to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). God answered Abraham’s natural concern for Ishmael’s welfare by promising that Ishmael’s offspring would become a nation.

Sometimes people hold themselves back out of fear. They want a reserve plan in case God’s way doesn’t work out. But God demands an all-or-nothing commitment to the promise. You can’t keep a foot in both camps. So God repeated His promise to Abraham as the reason he should listen to his wife: “Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”

Read or sing Hymn 309 “Rejoice, the Lord is King” Prayer: Pray for the young people in our congregation that they would plant both feet firmly in the Kingdom of God.

Thursday (1/22) Read and discuss Psalm 121:1-8. We ought to rejoice every day that the LORD will not let our foot slip. John Calvin writes:

Here the prophet, in order to recall the faithful to the right path, and to defeat the influence of all the allurements which are wont to distract their minds, affirms that whatever advantages worldly men are accustomed to desire or hope for from the world, true believers will find abundantly and at hand in God alone. He not only attributes power to God, but also teaches that he is so affectionate towards us, that he will preserve us in all respects in perfect safety. As often as the power of God is extolled, there are many who immediately reply, “It is very true that he can do such and such things if he is inclined, but we do not certainly know what his intention is.” In this passage, therefore, God is exhibited to the faithful as their guardian, that they may rest assured with assured confidence on his providence. As the Epicureans, in imagining that God has no care whatever about the world, extinguished all piety, so those who think that the world is governed by God only in a general and confused manner, and believe not that he cherishes them with a special care of his believing people, leave men’s minds in suspense, and are themselves kept in a state of constant fluctuation and anxiety. In short, never will the hearts of men be led in good earnest to call upon God, until a persuasion of the truth of this guardianship is firmly fixed in their minds. … Now, although it often happens that the faithful stagger, yes, are even ready to fall altogether, yet as God sustains them by his power, they are said to stand upright. And as amidst the dangers which ever moment threaten us, it is difficult for us to get rid of all anxiety and fear, the prophet at the same time testifies, that God keeps watch unceasingly over our safety.

Read or sing Hymn 691 “It is Well with My Soul” Prayer: Please pray for Igreja Presbiteriana Brasileira em Lowell which, Lord willing, will become a particularly congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church this coming Sunday evening.

Friday (1/23) Read and discuss Revelation 7:9-17. Mitchell Reddish writes:

Right from the start, this is a scene of joyous celebration. John does not envision a small gathering of a select few. God has thrown a party, and the attendees are packed wall to wall! This is in stark contrast to the view expressed in another apocalyptic writing that was likely penned within 5 to 10 years of the writing of Revelation. In 2 Esdras, the writer expressed the view that the number of the saved would be very small. God has “made this world for the sake of many, but the world to come for the sake of only a few.” …. John’s vision of a God who welcomes a massive crowd of faithful servants is reminiscent of Jesus’ joy-filled parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son.

The great crowd of the faithful has joined the heavenly throng who surround the throne of God and the Lamb. They are robed in white, the color of victory, celebration, and purity. The palm branches that each person holds indicate the festive nature of this gathering, for palm branches were symbols of celebration and victory.

Prayer: Please pray for the annual meeting of our congregation which will take place tonight.

Saturday (1/24) Read and discuss Galatians 4:21-31. Paul’s use of allegory in today’s passage has frequently been abused by Bible teachers throughout history. John Calvin points us in a more sober direction when he writes:

As there were two mothers in the house of Abraham, so there are two also in the church of God. Doctrine is the mother by whom God begets us. It is twofold, legal and evangelical. The legal begets children to bondage, so it is symbolized by Hagar.

Paul admits that he is using the Old Testament passage, which on the surface has nothing to do with his argument, as an allegory. Origen and many others who followed him seized on this as an excuse to twist Scripture this way and that. They claimed that the literal sense is too mearger and poor and that underneath it there lay deeper mysteries that can only be extracted by allegory. … For many centuries no one was regarded as clever if he could not subtly distort the Word of God in this way. … I acknowledge that Scripture is a rich and inexhaustible fount of all wisdom, but I deny that its fertility consists in the various meanings that anyone may fasten onto it at his pleasure. The true meaning of Scripture is the natural and simple one.

So what can we say about Paul’s assertion? He certainly did not mean that Moses wrote the story with the intention that it should be used as an allegory. What he is saying is that there is a relevance in the story to the present case. His comparison does not deny the literal meaning of the original text but shows that it presents he image of the church in a figurative way. The house of Abraham was the true church in its time, and so the events that happened in it are types intended for us. Just as there was an allegory in circumcision, in sacrifices, and in the whole Levitical priesthood, as there is today in our sacraments, so there was also in the house of Abraham. The word allegory has different meanings, as John Chrysostom recognized, and in Paul’s usage it did not involve a departure from the literal sense of the text.

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 18 January 2015 Monday, Jan 12 2015 

MVOPC 18 January 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render”

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: Psalm 86:5-7

Hymn of Preparation: 100 “Holy, Holy, Holy”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 119:137-144

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 4:12-21

Sermon: Paul’s Appeal

Hymn of Response: 570 “Faith of Our Fathers”

Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

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

PM Worship:

OT: Psalm 16:1-11

NT: Revelation 7:1-8

Sealing the Saints

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Shorter Catechism Q/A #82

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

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

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/12) Read and discuss Galatians 4:12-21. Commenting on verse 19, John Calvin writes:

This is a remarkable passage on the efficacy of the ministry. Of course, it is the work of God that we are begotten and born, but because He employs a minister and preaching as His instruments for that purpose, He ascribes to them what is His, thus joining the power of His Spirit with the activity of people. Let us always remember that when compared with God, a minister is nothing and can do nothing, but because the Holy Spirit works effectively through him, the praise and renown of acting is also transferred to him. … If ministers want to be something therefore, let them labor to form Christ [in others], not themselves.

Read or sing Hymn 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render” Prayer: Please pray for the people of Northeast Nigeria who are being brutally attacked by Boko Haram.

Tuesday (1/13) Read and discuss Galatians 4:8-13. When faithful Jews in 200 B.C. followed the Mosaic Law they were NOT trusting in “the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world” they were honoring God and attending to the Lord’s means of grace. Why couldn’t the Judaizers, even if they were misguided, be seen as trying to do the same thing? The reason is that they were trying to use the Law unlawfully. The Old Testament law was NEVER intended to be a means whereby God’s people would achieve or demonstrate their own intrinsic righteousness. The Law reveals the righteousness of God and the sinfulness of humanity. Martin Luther put it like this:

Being justified by the Law is like counting money from an empty purse; eating and drinking from an empty dish and cup; looking for strength and riches where there is only weakness and poverty; and trying to spend 100 gold pieces when you don’t even have a penny.

That’s Paul’s message in Galatians, isn’t it? Righteousness before God and acceptance with God come only through God’s gift in Jesus Christ. Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our Church and the Hospitality Committee of our Church as they meet this evening.

Wednesday (1/14) Read and discuss Psalm 119:137-144. Willem VanGemeron writes:

[This section of the Psalm] begins with an affirmation of the LORD’s righteousness and ends with an affirmation of His word. Between these affirmations, the psalmist laments his troubles. The excellence of the LORD and His word is adversely affected by the troubles and disgrace of His saints. The psalmist calls attention to his need by praying that the LORD will establish righteousness in His world.

The LORD is “righteous” in His distribution of rewards and punishments, as well as in His vindication of the godly. Everything reveals that He is righteous and therefore, like the LORD Himself, His revelation is just and true. His statutes are righteous, trustworthy, tested, true, and everlasting.

Trust in the reliability of God’s word is directly proportionate to one’s trust in the LORD Himself. The conviction that the LORD is righteous and faithful, as is His word, evokes a response of great devotion. The “zeal” increases as the adversities increase, so that one becomes worn out. The psalmist takes seriously the presence of sin in this world. His adversaries ignore God’s laws, whereas he does not forget them. Instead, he loves and finds his delight in them Yet he feels himself to be insignificant and rejected by his people. Moreover, his loyalty to the LORD and his devotion to godliness have gone unrewarded. Instead, troubles have come his way.

In his anguish the psalmist holds on to faith in the LORD, who is able to help and has confirmed so in His promises. Though he does not yet see the outcome of his present troubles, the psalmist knows his God to be righteous, His word to be righteous and faithful, and His promises to have been tested repeatedly in redemptive history. He knows in whom he has put his trust; therefore, he does not challenge the LORD’s integrity but prays humbly that he may understand so that he may be revived in his inner being.

Read or sing Hymn 100 “Holy, Holy, Holy” Prayer: Ask the LORD to revise and refresh you by granting you understanding as you meditate upon His word.

Thursday (1/15) Read and discuss Psalm 16:1-11. This Psalm can seem difficult to interpret until we see how David’s prophesy about the resurrection of the Messiah undergirds the confidence he has in both this life and the life to come. This Psalm can be outlined like this:

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

Where interpreters tend to get tripped up is in seeing how verses 10-11 relate to the rest of the Psalm. Some think that, since verses 1-9 relate to David’s personal experiences, verses 10-11 must focus on David’s personal experiences as well. But the Apostles Peter and Paul both quote verse 10 and both state that it applies specifically to Jesus and not to David (Acts 2:25-31; 13:35-36). Other interpreters wrongly assume that because verse 10 applies to Jesus that the whole Psalm must also be about him and not about David. While this is a more plausible interpretation it is probably better to see the Psalm as arising out of David’s own experience of being abandoned by men with David rejoicing that He will never be abandoned by His Lord. How does the idea that the Psalm arises out of David’s own abandonment fit together with the truth that verse 10 is a prophesy about Jesus? The answer is to recognize that David’s confidence for the future was not based upon God’s unmediated relationship with David but upon the mediated relationship that David had with God through the LORD’s Messiah. David looked forward (as we look back) to the coming Messiah who would fight Satan, sin, and death on his behalf. The vindication of the Messiah through the resurrection would therefore be David’s vindication as well. In this life David was guided by God (v. 7), guarded by God (v. 8), and gladdened by God (v. 9). All of this rested on the simple confidence He had that Jesus would be triumphant. As those who live on this side of the empty tomb we should be able to say with even greater confidence: “Jesus has won! Lord, You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Read or sing Hymn 570 “Faith of Our Fathers” Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you greater joy as you meditate on the victory Christ has won on behalf of His people.

Friday (1/16) Read and discuss Revelation 7:1-8. Mitchell Reddish writes:

It is crucial that the reader understand this protection that is granted the people of God. John does not envision literal, physical protection for the faithful. As the scene of the martyrs under the altar indicates, John expects that fidelity to the cause of Christ may cost a person his or her life. God’s people are not exempt from trouble and suffering. In fact, in typical apocalyptic fashion, John expects persecution of the faithful to become even more severe during the last days. John has no special “rapture” theology whereby the faithful are exempt from the pains and sufferings of the world. The Lamb who conquers is victorious through the path of suffering. The way of the Lamb is the way of the cross. Those who would be faithful to the Lamb cannot expect that their treatment should be any better than His. No, the protection afforded the faithful is spiritual protection. In spite of what happens, the people of God are secure in the arms of God. As Eugene Boring has commented, “Faithful Christians are preserved through (not from!) the great persecution that is about to be unleashed upon them.”

Prayer: Pray for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East many of whom are suffering persecution for their faith.

Saturday (1/17) Read and discuss Galatians 4:12-21. Tom Schreiner writes:

The progress of the gospel is accompanied by the suffering of its messengers. Such has been the story throughout church history, and God intended that it be so. When the world sees that Christians are willing to suffer and die for their faith, it understands that something incredibly precious (i.e. someone wonderfully delightful) is at stake. Tertullian rightly said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, that the church advances as it proclaims a crucified Lord and lives a crucified life. The beauty of Christ is reflected in the humble and glad suffering of its messengers. No one delights in suffering inherently, but if suffering begets complaining and grumbling, the distinctiveness of the Christian faith is lost. It is the gladness and courage of the messengers, despite the pain in their bodies, that heralds the goodness of the gospel to the world.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 11 January 2015 Sunday, Jan 4 2015 

MVOPC 11 January 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 103:1-3

Hymn of Preparation: 321 “Great God, What Do I See and Hear!”

Old Covenant Reading: Jeremiah 10:1-10

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 4:8-11

Sermon: Religion True and False

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Joel 2:1-11

NT: Revelation 6:9-17

The Day is Coming!

Adult Sunday School: Finding and Following our Vocations – Part I

Shorter Catechism Q/A #81

Q. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?

A. The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/5) Read and discuss Galatians 4:8-11. Tom Schreiner writes:

This paragraph assists us in putting together a theology of conversion. Before one becomes a believer, one is enslaved to that which is not the true God. Elsewhere Paul teaches that unbelievers are enslaved to sin. They are dead in trespasses and sin, under the dominion of the world and the devil, and carried along by their fleshly desires. Therefore, conversion is described as redemption, as being freed from the mastery and tyranny of sin. Such liberation is the work of the Lord, and hence all praise belongs to Him for the stunning deliverance accomplished.

Paul also describes conversion here in terms of knowing God. Believers are no longer alienated from the God of the universe. Marvelously and wondrously we are said to know him, and surely that also means that we love him. A new relationship has commenced, a new love has dawned, a new Lord is the passion of our lives. Conversion is not marked merely by doing what God commands; it manifests itself in an intimacy with God, a love for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yet knowing God cannot finally be attributed to the initiative of believers. Before believers come to know God in a saving way, the LORD knew them first. He sets His covenantal favor on them and has elected them to be His children. … Paul regularly reminds believers of their election to grant them comfort and strength and to remind them that all praise belongs to God for their salvation. Salvation is not ultimately due to human choice or exertion but it is the work of the sovereign Lord.

Read or sing Hymn 12 “Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim” Prayer: Ask the LORD to remove the tyranny of needing to please yourself from your life.

Tuesday (1/6) Read and discuss Luke 4:16-30. How do you respond to the truth of God’s sovereign grace? The people of Christ’s home town flew into a violent rage when Jesus taught them this doctrine.  In fact, they became so furious that they tried to throw our Lord from a cliff. What was it about this teaching that ignited such a response? One New Testament scholar has wisely suggested:

Luke says that the people ‘were astonished at the words of sheer grace that were coming out of his mouth.’ Sometimes people have understood this simply to mean, ‘they were astonished at what a good speaker he was.’ But it seems more likely that he means ‘they were astonished that he was speaking about God’s grace – grace for everybody, including the nations – instead of grace for Israel and fierce judgment for everyone else.’

The problem for these Jews was not that they denied salvation was by grace. Their problem was that they would not acknowledge that salvation was by grace alone. Jesus points to the radical nature of God’s grace by introducing times when God demonstrated His amazing grace to gentiles while passing over the nation of Israel. They had misunderstood the promises that God had made to Abraham. Perhaps they imagined that, since God had promised to bless all of the families of the earth through Abraham’s Seed, the LORD was somehow bound to bless Israel in order to bless the nations. But God’s plan to bless the nations would not, and will not, be thwarted by the rebellion of His covenant people (either in the OT or in the Church). In fact, the examples of Elijah and the widow as well as Elisha and Naaman illustrate that God was bringing grace to the Gentiles at the very time He was judging Israel. Yet that is not the end of the story. As Paul would write in Romans 11:11-12:

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

Prayer: Pray for the salvation of the Jewish people.

Wednesday (1/7) Read and discuss Jeremiah 10:1-10. Israel’s experience of exile has some resonance with the Church today that is scattered among the nations. Our presence among non-Christians is part of God’s plan that we would be salt and light to the world. Yet, our presence among unbelievers places us in the “risky” position where instead of our being salt and light to them we might easily begin to absorb the world’s false ideas about God, reality, and the purpose of life. Terrance Fretheim comments:

The opening section addressed as it is to the house of Israel, proclaims a word about God and idols pertinent to any time and place. Yet, their content suggests that this is a word especially appropriate for exilic readers, surrounded as they were by idolatrous worship. A special concern to separate the people of God out from these nations and their idolatrous practices is evident.

This interest in the nations contributes to an even more comprehensive theme of the section, namely, creation. The distinction between Israel’s God and the false gods of the nations is specified especially in terms of the created order. The idols are products made by human artisans from the things that Israel’s God has created in the first place – wood from forests, silver, and gold. The idols are silent and inactive; they cannot move or speak or give instruction or walk or make anyone afraid. They cannot even do evil, let alone good … God is the living God and eternal; the idols are neither. Moreover, God not only created the world in the first place, God continues to be actively engaged in creative activity.

Read or sing Hymn 425 “A Child of the King” Prayer: Lift up our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine.

Thursday (1/8) Read and discuss Joel 2:1-17. Doug Stuart writes:

The proper response to the unstoppable invasion is unstinting repentance. There is a great sense of urgency here exemplified in the two calls for alarm (vv. 1, 15) and the rapid-fire imperatives of verses 15-16. Yahweh’s people, cooped up hopelessly in Jerusalem as the overwhelming army (Yahweh’s own!) relentlessly approaches, must realize that their only hope to escape extinction is an all-out appeal by the total populace. Their sins may have been great, but so is Yahweh’s mercy. Indeed, he is by nature a forgiving God who can change His intent.

But the repentance must be absolutely genuine. It should involve the proper formal actions (here fasting, open sorrow, concerted prayer) but must also involve a true change of will/mind and a turning away from disobedience to firm loyalty to Yahweh. Even then, the nation’s fate is not certain. But restoration becomes a true possibility if the people evidence true conversion.

And, of course, part of Yahweh’s nature is compassion on the sinful. He does not have to forgive, but he does. From the point of view of the New Covenant, he did not have to give His only Son for the sins of the world, but He did. And on the basis of the One who became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21), the father’s compassion is always assured to the truly penitent (1 John 1:9).

Read or sing Hymn 528 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would bring someone close to you into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Friday (1/9) Read and discuss Revelation 6:9-17. Mitchell Reddish writes:

With the opening of the fifth seal, a new scene unfolds situated not on earth, but in heaven. John sees under the heavenly altar the souls of the martyrs who cry to God for vindication. These are people who, like Antipas at Pergamum, were faithful witnesses for God. They were willing to sacrifice their lives rather than perjure themselves by falsifying their testimony. Although this scene is in heaven, it is the result of actions that have occurred on earth, the place where the martyrs were persecuted and killed. This scene continues the description of the eschatological woes depicted in the opening of the first four seals. …

Why are the martyrs under the heavenly altar? This imagery was likely suggested by Leviticus 4:7, which states that the blood of the sacrificial bull is to be poured out at the base of the altar. In Hebrew thought, the life or soul was in the blood; thus the “souls” of the martyrs who have been sacrificed to God lie under the heavenly altar.

To those who did not have the spiritual insight of John, the deaths of the faithful Christians appeared only as meaningless losses of life. John sees beyond the surface, however, and interprets their deaths as meaningful sacrifices offered to God. Eugene Boring noted, “The chopping-block of the Roman executioner has become a cosmic altar. Christians who refused to sacrifice to the image of the emperor are nonetheless Christian priests who sacrifice themselves on the true altar of God.”

Prayer: Ask the LORD to turn your life into a great act of worship.

Saturday (1/10) Read and discuss Galatians 4:8-11. Johannes Brenz writes:

Even if neither Christ nor the gospel has much honor in this world, it is nevertheless true that in God’s eyes there is nothing greater, more magnificent or more honorable. For a start, the gospel is the greatest assurance, confirmed as it is by many miracles and arguments. Second, God did not ordain this present world as the one in which the true majesty of Christ and his kingdom would shine forth, but he set aside the next world for this. This world will perish; heaven and earth will pass away. “Behold, I create a new heaven and a new earth,” God says. Therefore whatever honor Christ and his kingdom may or may not have in this world, nothing is more certain than that his true majesty will be revealed in due time and so no one should be discouraged by the fact that right now he appears to be downtrodden and humiliated.

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 4 January 2015 Sunday, Dec 28 2014 

MVOPC 4 January 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 10:19-22

Hymn of Preparation: 425 “A Child of the King”

Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 30:1-10

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 4:1-7

Sermon: Now We Are Sons

Hymn of Response:  528 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”

Confession of Faith:  Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Til He Come”!

PM Worship:

OT: Zechariah 1:1-17

NT: Revelation 6:1-8

Four Seals and Four Horsemen

Adult Sunday School: Union With Christ (Jonathan Coppeta teaching)

Shorter Catechism Q/A #81

Q. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?

A. The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (12/29) Read and discuss Galatians 4:1-7. Christ submitted to the Law in order to free us from the curse of the Law against lawbreakers. John Calvin writes:

Paul shows that the time ordained by God’s providence was seasonable and fit. The right time for the Son of God to be revealed to the world was for God alone to determine. … The Son who was sent must have existed before, and from this his eternal deity is proved. Christ is therefore the Son of God sent forth from heaven. Paul says that he was born of a woman because he put on our nature, which means that he now has two natures. … He became subject to the law, in spite of his right to be exempt from it, … in order to obtain freedom for us. A free man redeemed a slave by making himself a surety; by putting the chains on himself he took them off the other. In the same way, Christ chose to submit to the law in order to gain an exemption for us. However, we are not so exempted from the law by Christ’s benefit that we no longer owe any obedience to its teaching and can do what we please. It remains the perpetual rule of a good and holy life. We are redeemed from subjection tot eh law because it is no longer the same as it once was.

With that last sentence, Calvin is simply making clear that the law remains a guide in our lives to show us what the will of God is for us. What has been taken away is the curse of the law. The law no longer has any ability to condemn us. Read or sing Hymn 12 “Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim” Prayer: Ask the LORD to show you the goodness of His instruction.

Tuesday (12/30) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. The early church fathers frequently used a striking image for the Church by comparing it to Noah’s Ark. There is much to be said in favor of this image. One wit has suggested that, like the Ark, if it wasn’t for the storm raging outside none of us could stand the smell on the inside. Thankfully, that is not the universal experience of Christians. The reason why the Ark imagery can be so helpfully is because when the LORD saves people He grafts them into His family. In spite of contemporary Western attitudes the time honored saying is clearly Biblical: “Ordinarily there is no salvation outside of the Church.” Nevertheless, all images are subject to abuse. The comparison of the Church to Noah’s Ark is helpful for directing people toward joining the Church but is perverted if we come to imagine that this means everyone within the Church is in fact saved.  Instead of such a scheme teaching salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, it teaches that salvation is by formal church membership.  This view has returned time and again to plague Christ’s Church. In the Middle Ages this view spawned the idea of implicit faith. Where the priests and well educated might be expected to have a personal faith in Jesus the laity could be saved without personally having faith in God or an understanding of what He had done in sending His Son simply be being church members and thereby sharing in the faith of the whole Church.  Obviously such a view is not taught in the Bible. Amazingly, a variant of this view has broken out in North America in the 21st century amongst some who are on the fringes of Reformed Christianity. This variant wants to insist on the objectivity of membership within the covenant community. Some of these men are simply recovering a high view of the Church while others seem to be downplaying the need for individual regeneration and explicit personal faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul’s answer to this view is uncompromising. In effect he asks: “Have you never read your Bibles?” Virtually every adult whom the LORD delivered from Egypt died in the wilderness due to their unbelief. Furthermore, most of Israel’s history from the time of Joshua to the time of the Babylonian exile was marked out by immorality and idolatry.  Privilege meant responsibility it did not guarantee salvation. “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.” Let us heed this example and cling to Christ out of genuine confidence in Him. Prayer: Pray for the people of the Ukraine as their country remains under partial Russian occupation and the economy has virtually collapsed.

Wednesday (12/31) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 30:1-10. The book of Deuteronomy largely consists of a series of sermons given by Moses to prepare the people of Israel for entering the Promised Land. The book has a covenant structure which largely follows the Hittite Treaty pattern. This is because Yahweh has entered into a treaty (covenant) with His people Israel. Remember the basic treaty structure is:

  1. The LORD rescued Israel from their bondage in Egypt entirely as an act of His grace. He gave them water to drink and manna to eat in the wilderness. Now He was bringing them into the Promised Land. They didn’t earn or merit any of these things. They were all gifts of God’s grace. The LORD’s covenants with people always begin with His gracious provision.
  2. As God’s people the Israelites were to live in a certain way that reflected the fact that they were now His people. In terms of the legal stipulation, the centerpiece was the Ten Commandments. Even more fundamentally, they were to live by trusting the LORD. That is, they were to live by faith.
  3. The preceding chapters of Deuteronomy have laid out the blessings that would come from living by faith (i.e. obedience) and the curses that would come from spurning the LORD (disobedience).

Sadly, verse 30 begins not by looking forward to the blessings that Israel will enjoy in the Promised Lands but to their being exiled from the Land because of their faithlessness. Here is where the LORD “breaks” the Hittite Treaty pattern in His covenant with Israel. Under the Hittite Treaty structure disobedience meant death with no possibility of restoring the relationship. But today’s passage tells us that repentance and a restoration of the relationship between God and man is possible. No! Today’s passage says much more than this. It says that the LORD, through His sovereign grace will bring repentance to pass. Note well that the LORD not only responds to repentance. He is the One who gives repentance by circumcising the hearts of those He calls to Himself (v. 6). That is why the Shorter Catechism defines repentance unto life in these words:

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

Read or sing Hymn 425 “A Child of the King” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would not only turn you from sin but that He would cause you to repeatedly flee to Christ.

Thursday (1/1) Read and discuss Zechariah 1:1-17. Commenting on verse 6, James Montgomery Boice writes:

[Chapter 1, verse 6] of Zechariah’s message tells of a past generation: “Then they repented and said, ‘The LORD Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.” He is not speaking about the generation that perished in the destruction of Jerusalem, but their successors, those who saw the hand and justice of God in what happened. This is the spirit Zechariah wants to see in the remnant before he begins to unfold the visions that constitute the bulk of his book.

If we had only Haggai to go on, we might assume, however wrongly, that God was interested most of all in the temple, that is, in buildings. But this is not the case. True, God had given instructions about this building. But most of all, God was interested in the people to whom He had given this work, and He was concerned that they be truly surrendered to Him. Luther saw this and wrote: “This, then, is a brief outline of this first sermon of Zechariah: he first wishes to make the people pious and God-fearing by means of threats and promises; and in order to frighten them, he offers them the example of their fathers. For while they are to build the temple and the city of Jerusalem and do good deeds like these, he first wants them to be pious so that they might not think that God would be satisfied with their work of building the temple and the city, as their fathers had thought that it was good enough if they sacrificed. No, my good man, rather than all good works he wants faith and a heart converted to him. That is all he is interested in. This must come first and be preached first: ‘Return to me, and after that build me a temple,’ and not, ‘First build me a temple, and after that return to me.’ Good works inflate us and make us proud, but faith and conversion humble us and make us despair of ourselves (Luther: Lectures on the Minor Prophets).”

Read or sing Hymn 528 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” Prayer: Ask that the LORD will open up fresh opportunities for missionaries to proclaim the gospel in Cuba.

Friday (1/2) Read and discuss Revelation 6:1-8. Mitchell Reddish writes:

The first four seals form a distinct group. The opening of each of these seals unleashes a horse and rider who thunder across the stage, presenting one of the most memorable scenes from the book of Revelation, “the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Each horse is a different color – white, red, black, and pale green. The source of the four horsemen imagery is Zechariah 1:7-17 and 6:1-8. Zechariah 1:7-17 describes a vision of several horsemen (the exact number is not stated) or red, sorrel, and white horses who have been sent out by God on a reconnaissance patrol of the earth. The vision proclaims a message of assurance that the temple in Jerusalem (destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC) will soon be rebuilt, and Jerusalem will again be God’s chosen city. Although not stated, the vision also perhaps implies judgment on the nations that have made God angry by their treatment of the people of Judah. The second text describes four chariots, each drawn by horses of a different color (red, black, white, and dappled gray), sent out on patrol in all four directions over the earth. They represent messengers from the divine council who will establish peace and justice in the world.

John has borrowed his imagery of horsemen and colored horses from these two visions, but in his typical fashion he has altered the imagery and made it his own [Pastor Booth: It would be better to say that Jesus has altered the imagery. After all, John is seeing all this in visions given to Him by the Lord]. For John, the four horsemen are not messengers of assurance or world order, but rather they symbolize the cataclysmic destruction that will precede the end. As each seal is broken, John hears one of the four living creatures around the throne cry out, “Come!” On the one hand, this cry serves a practical purpose of calling each rider onto the stage. More importantly, however, it connects with the anticipated coming of Christ in 22:7, 12, 17, 20. The coming of the four horsemen brings judgment and punishment. But this, too, is part of the coming of Christ. The events set in motion by the opening of the scroll and the cries “Come!” are both bad news and good news, judgment and grace.

Prayer: Give thanks that, for those who trust in Jesus, the coming of Christ both in history and at the end of history is entirely good news.

Saturday (1/3) Read and discuss Galatians 4:1-7. Tom Schreiner writes:

Believers also enjoy the privilege of being God’s sons and daughters. No privilege is greater than being part of God’s family. Those who belong to his family are also his heirs. So many in our society today come from families that are dysfunctional, and every family is defiled by sin. Every human family (Eph 3:15), however, points to a greater family and to a perfect Father, a Father who loves us and out of love for us sent his own Son for our salvation. He has freed us from the sin that enslaves us and granted us his Spirit, so that we can embrace him as our beloved Father.

Perhaps you as a reader grew up in a family where you were unloved or even abused. It can be difficult, coming from such a background, to understand what it means for God to be your Father. You need to remind yourself daily as you meditate on God’s word that God is very different from your father (and perhaps your mother as well). Soak yourself in the truth that God loves you and that you have a thrilling future and a ahope. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the true nature of your Father in heaven, so that you gladly give yourself to him.

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 28 December 2014 Sunday, Dec 21 2014 

MVOPC 28 December 2014 – Rev. Stephen Michaud preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 10:16-18

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

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 7:10-14

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

Sermon: Receive Our Immanuel

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

Confession of Faith:  Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

Sermon Text: Micah 5

Adult Sunday School: No Sunday School Today

Shorter Catechism Q/A #79.

Q. Which is the tenth commandment?

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love mercy,

and to walk humbly with your God?

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

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

A1. Mary is going to conceive.

B1. Designations of the Messiah

Jesus

The child will be great

Son of the Most High

King over the house of Jacob forever

C. The virgin will conceive.

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

I do not know a man?”

Gabriel’s answer: “The Holy Spirit will come

upon you, and the power of the Most

High will overshadow you.”

B2.  Designations of the Messiah

The child to be born will be holy.

He will be called the Son of God

A2. Elizabeth has conceived in her old age.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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