Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 4 September 2016 Sunday, Aug 28 2016 

MVOPC 4 September 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

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

Old Covenant Reading: Jeremiah 31:1-14

New Covenant Reading: John 2:1-12

Sermon: New Wine

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

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Til He Come”!

PM Worship

Quarterly Hymn Sing

Adult Sunday School: Saint Augustine

Shorter Catechism Q/A #58

Q. What is required in the fourth commandment?

A. The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy sabbath to himself.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (8/29) Read and discuss John 2:1-12. R.C. Sproul writes:

There is some important symbolism involved in Jesus’ transformation of water into wine. At one point, Jesus took note of the different reactions of the Jewish leaders to His ministry and that of John the Baptist. We saw earlier that John had come in garb reminiscent of the Old Testament prophet Elijah, and that he lived in the wilderness and ate locusts and wild honey. There has been some speculation that John the Baptist may have taken the Nazirite vows, which would have required him to abstain from wine. In short, John came in a spirit of austerity. But Jesus went to dinners with publicans and participated in feasts and other celebrations, such as the wedding in Cana; as Jesus put it, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking” (Luke 7:34a). Much the same was true for the disciples of John and the disciples of Jesus. Jesus explained that it was appropriate for John and his followers to be in a mode of total abstinence because he carried out his ministry while the Bridegroom was not present, but Jesus was the Bridegroom, so it was appropriate for Him and for His disciples to celebrate (Luke 5:34-35). The Bridegroom had come, so it was time for the party to start, and the use of wine was symbolic of that celebration.

Read or sing Hymn 55 “To God Be the Glory” Prayer: Please pray for our year-long Intern Dan Borvan and his wife Marcy as they arrive in Massachusetts today.

Tuesday (8/30) Read and discuss John 1:35-51. With great excitement Andrew brings his brother to meet Jesus. But before he can introduce them Jesus says:

 “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

Do you see how Jesus is revealing His glory? That is an astonishing display of authority. Think how bizarre it would have been if the first time you came to this church the pastor said: “From now on you will be called Frank” or “You will be called Mary.” Well, it’s even stranger than that with Simon. We have no record of anyone ever being called Peter prior to Jesus giving that name to Simon the son of John. We might catch the force of this better if we heard Jesus saying: “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Rock.” Jesus is saying: “I have the authority to rename you because I have complete authority over you.” In some profound way, our identities and our names are wrapped up in one another. Over time our names cease to be simply the labels by which we are known – they are an integral part of our identity. There are three times in the modern America where people change their names. The first is an effort to cross over language barriers. It is very common, for example, for people in America who were given Chinese or Korean names at birth to adopt English names that their American friends can call them. Second, when people convert to Islam as adults they commonly adopt a Muslim name. Think of Cassius Clay taking on the name we all know him by today – Muhammad Ali. Third, it is still common for women to take their husband’s last name in marriage to symbolize that the two have become one flesh. The last two of these, conversion and marriage, both involve a significant change in a person’s identity. These are very personal decisions. But Jesus is saying: I have authority to change your name and therefore your identity without ever stopping to ask you for permission – because I am Lord. That really is an astonishing display of Christ’s authority. Read or sing Hymn 257 “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” Prayer: Give thanks that you bear the title Christian and have been baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday (8/31) Read and discuss Jeremiah 31:1-14. O. Palmer Robertson writes:

The judgment of exile is inevitable. The words of God’s prophets to this effect will surely be fulfilled, because the LORD is “watching” over His word. But beyond uprooting will be replanting. That this “planting” involves” the “seed of men and of animals” hints at the prospect of a new cosmic beginning. Not just Israel, but the world will take on a different form.

But what ongoing hope could a people have when God has so clearly announced His intention to drive a rebellious nation out of their land? If disobedience had ruined them once, what would prevent the recurrence of the same tragedy again? Jeremiah explains that as all redemptive history was structured in the past by divinely initiated covenants of grace, so the future expectations of God’s people will rest in the establishment of a new covenant with even fuller manifestations of grace (31:31-34).

Even as the nation totters on the brink of devastation, this new covenant provides a future hope for Israel and involves points of continuity with past covenantal dealings as well as points of radical newness. The Torah of the LORD shall be in effect; but now this law shall be inscribed on the hearts of God’s people rather than on cold stone tablets. Sins shall be removed, but apart from the repetitious offering of sacrifices. Knowledge of the LORD shall be the essence of the new covenant relations, but no teachers shall be needed to inculcate this knowledge.

The ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy concerning restoration according to the provisions of this new covenant cannot be satisfied by a purely physical return of Jewish peoples to the geographical territory of Palestine, such as that which occurred in the last half of the twentieth century. That type of return was accomplished at the end of the Jeremiah’s specified seventy years. But the rejuvenation of the heart along with the restoration of the entire earth by the replanting of the seed of man and beast can alone fulfill the expectations of the new covenant prophecy.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by become part of our church family.

Thursday (9/1) Read and discuss Romans 5:1-11. Commenting on verses 3-5, R.C. Sproul writes:

Tribulation puts muscle on our souls. Tribulation makes it possible for the people of God to persevere rather than to give up. Tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character (v. 4). An easy life does nothing to produce character. Character is forged in the crucible of pain. Character is built when we have no alternative but to persevere in tribulation. Those who come out on the other side are those in whose souls God has built character. The result of character is hope (v. 4) – there it is again. Authentically joyful people are those who know where their hope is. They have been through the crucible. They have been through afflictions, persecution, and rejection from their friends. They have been through pain. They have identified with the humiliation of Christ. They have been crucified with Christ and raised in his resurrection and now participate in his exultation. That is the hope that Christian character produces.

What about the result of that hope? Here is the best part: Now hope does not disappoint (v. 5). Other translations say that hope “does not make us ashamed.” It is embarrassing that the world’s idea of hope is to invest it in some particular enterprise only to see that enterprise fail. When it fails we are dashed to pieces, but the hope that we have from God will never disappoint. It will never embarrass us. We will never have to be ashamed for putting our confidence and trust in Christ. If you put your trust in anything else but Christ you are destined for disappointment and embarrassment. Hope in Christ is the only hope that never shames us. The New Testament tells us that if we are not in the faith, if we do not believe, we are without hope and destined ultimately to disappointment.

Read or sing Hymn 58 “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright” Prayer: Lift up the Sunday school teachers in our church as a new season of Sunday school gets underway this weekend.

Friday (9/2) Read and discuss Acts 22:12-21.  James Montgomery Boice writes:

When Paul speaks of his past we are reminded that apart from the single fact that he persecuted Christians Paul never thought of his background as something about which he needed to be ashamed. On the contrary, he spoke of it favorably. In Romans 9 he wrote about the advantages of being a Jew, saying, “Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ.” In Philippians he spoke more personally: “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews: in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”

Paul uses some of the words that appear in Philippians in this account, which means that this must be the way Paul was accustomed to talking about his conversion. He was a pure-blooded Jew, and he was zealous for the traditions of his fathers. He emphasizes this zeal, saying that he was trained by the famous Rabbi Gamaliel. Everybody in Jerusalem would have known who Gamaliel was. Paul was not ashamed of his Jewish background, because God had chosen the Jewish people. Every spiritual advantage in history before the coming of Jesus Christ was with Judaism, and Paul was not afraid to acknowledge it. …

Yet, in spite of the fact that he had this heritage, in spite of the fact that he had been trained in the law – the law God gave for our benefit to restrain evil and direct us to the Messiah – Paul had been woefully off base because he had been trying to do as a Jew the same thing the Gentiles had been trying to do with their own non-biblical religions. He had been trying to establish a righteousness on his own that because he was a sinner was no true righteousness. He had been rejecting the salvation God provided.

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has clothed you with the perfect righteousness of Christ if you are trusting in Him.

Saturday (9/3) Read and discuss John 2:1-12. John Calvin writes:

It may be doubted [that Mary] expected or asked anything [miraculous] from her Son, since he had not yet performed any miracle; and it is possible that, without expecting any remedy of this sort, she advised him to give some pious exhortations which would have the effect of preventing the guests from feeling uneasiness, and that the same time relieving the same of the bridegroom. I consider her words to be expressive of earnest compassion; for the holy woman, perceiving that those who had been invited were likely to consider themselves as having been treated with disrespect, and to murmur against the bridegroom, and that the entertainment might in that way be disturbed, wished that some means of soothing them could be adopted. …

It is a remarkable passage certainly; for why does [Jesus] absolutely refuse to his mother what he freely granted afterwards, on so many occasions to all sorts of persons? Again, why is he not satisfied with a bare refusal? Why does he reduce her to the ordinary rank of women and not even deign to call her mother? This saying of Christ openly and manifestly warns people to beware lest, by too superstitiously elevating the honor of the name of mother in the Virgin Mary, they transfer to her what belongs exclusively to God. Christ, therefore, addresses his mother in this manner, in order to lay down a perpetual and general instruction to all ages: that his divine glory must not be obscured by excessive honor paid to his mother.

Read or sing Hymn: 254 “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 28 August 2016 Sunday, Aug 21 2016 

MVOPC 28 August 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

Hymn of Preparation:  234 “Tell Me the Story of Jesus”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 2:1-12

New Covenant Reading: John 1:35-51

Sermon: The King and His Subjects

Hymn of Response: 235 “All Glory, Laud, and Honor”

Confession of Faith:    Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 26:12-35

NT: 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

Bittersweet

Adult Sunday School: Saint Augustine Goes to Rome

Shorter Catechism Q/A #57

Q. Which is the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (8/22) Read and discuss John 1:35-51. John Calvin writes:

When Nathanael calls him king of Israel, though his kingdom extends to the remotest bounds of the earth, the confession is limited to the measure of faith. For he had not yet advanced so far as to know that Christ was appointed to be king over the whole world, or rather, that from every quarter would be collected the children of Abraham, so that the whole world would be the Israel of God. We to whom the wide extent of Christ’s kingdom has been revealed ought to go beyond those narrow limits. Yet following the example of Nathanael, let us exercise our faith in hearing the word, and let us strengthen it by all the means that are in our power; and let it not remain buried but break out into confession.

Read or sing Hymn 55 “To God Be the Glory” Prayer: Please lift up the people of Louisiana who have seen their homes devastated by flooding.

Tuesday (8/23) Read and discuss John 1:29-34. It is only when we are overwhelmed with the sense that we deserve the never ending outpouring of the wrath of Almighty God – that we begin to understand just how wonderful John’s words are: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” How does Jesus take away our sin? The great Scottish theologian Donald Macleod points us to the Old Testament background for this expression. Macleod writes:

… in order [for our guilt] to be carried away the burden must first be carried.  … the idea of bearing or carrying sin is prominent in the Old Testament, where it clearly means bearing the guilt of sin, answering for it or suffering its consequences.

Leviticus 5:1, for example, lays down that if a witness refuses to testify ‘he shall bear his iniquity.’ Similarly, anyone who commits incest will bear their iniquity.

In this light, the words of the Baptist in [verse] 29 can only mean that Christ bears away the sin of the world by taking responsibility for it, suffering for it and, eventually, dying for it (Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement, p. 67).

Jesus carries our guilt away by first taking it unto Himself. As Paul bluntly puts it in Galatians 3:13:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us …

Mankind rebelled against God, we stuck our fists in God’s face and told Him to “get lost”; yet instead of sending all of us to our just punishment – God took on a true human nature in order to bear our sins and to die in our place. Read or sing Hymn 257 “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” Prayer: Ask the LORD to bring visitors to our congregation who be blessed by joining with our church family.

Wednesday (8/24) Read and discuss Psalm 2:1-12. In Genesis 12 God promises Abraham that He will bless those who bless him, and curse those who curse him.  This promise is rooted in the nature and office of Abraham’s Seed – Jesus Christ.  Ultimately all of humanity will be divided into those who are crushed as Christ’s enemies and those who have been redeemed by His blood and brought into His family as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Psalm 2 begins with the nations raging against the LORD and His Anointed – and therefore bringing cursing upon themselves as God had promised to Abraham. The Psalm has four evenly balanced sections:

Verses 1-3:      The nations rebel against the LORD and His Anointed

Verses 4-6:      The LORD responds to His opponents

Verses 7-9:      The Messiah tells what the LORD has promised to Him

Verses 10-12:  The Psalmist tells the nations how they should respond

If we focus on verses 4-6, we might be tempted to read this Psalm primarily as a Psalm of judgment.  But the announcement of the coming judgment is actually a gracious warning and call to repentance.  The purpose of the Psalm is to comfort God’s people by reminding them that God’s plans are never hindered by the evil rulers of this world and that the LORD’s Messiah will eventually possess the nations to the end of the earth (v. 8). It is true that the nations will only find lasting peace and joy when they submit to the LORD and His Messiah; but that is precisely what this Psalm is calling all who hear it to do. “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him (v. 12).” Prayer: Lift up the young people of our congregation as they head back to school over the next week.

Thursday (8/25) Read and discuss 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. Scott Hafemann writes:

Paul’s full-orbed definition of suffering speaks against those who, whether in Paul’s day or our own, attempt to limit the kinds of suffering that can legitimately be experienced by those who are filled with the Spirit. In such a “health and wealth gospel,” those who truly live by faith may be persecuted, but they will not be subject to emotional illness, physical sickness, or financial distress. Yet the general terminology Paul uses in this context to describe affliction, together with his own experiences of physical suffering, persecution, natural depravations, economic hardships, and the emotional distress of anxiety makes such a limitation impossible.

At the same time, Paul never glorifies suffering per se. There is no evidence that he sought it or encouraged others to do so, as if it were a sign of special spirituality. Hence, the emphasis among some of the early church fathers on actively seeking martyrdom as the highest form of Christian witness is a dangerous misapplication of Paul’s view of suffering. For Paul, suffering is not intrinsically good, nor is it a Christian virtue. Rather, suffering is a page in the textbook used in God’s school of faith. It is not suffering itself that teaches us faith, but God, who uses it as a platform to display his resurrection power in our lives, either through deliverance from suffering or by comfort within it.

Read or sing Hymn 58 “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD uses suffering and hardship in our lives for our good and for His glory as He manifests His resurrection power in our lives.

Friday (8/26) Read and discuss Genesis 26:1-35. Tremper Longman writes:

Kent Hughes helpfully points out how in this story God makes it clear to Isaac that he was present to him in the past (“the LORD has been with you,” v. 28), is with him in the present (“I am with you,” v. 24), and will be present to him in the future (“I will be with you and bless you,” v. 3). He goes on to say that “Isaac’s growth in awareness of the dynamic all-presence of God in his life lifted him from cowardice to confidence. Isaac recovered from the disgrace of passing off Rebekah as his sister as he stood tall amidst the hostile Philistines and prospered.”

Isaac’s world was a hostile one. He was a sojourner in a land where at least initially had no power or control over his circumstances. But, you know his world is no different form anyone else’s. In this story, no one had more power than Abimelech, but thanks to Isaac’s lie and God’s desire to protect him, Abimelech’s kingdom was struck by disease over when he had no control.

Whether we are a helpless sojourner or a powerful political figure or business leader, we live in a dangerous world, and it is perfectly natural to live in fear. We don’t want to be hurt, physically, emotionally, or in any way. Some people try to protect themselves by amassing money and power, but we have already seen that that does not work. What can give us peace to live in a dangerous present as we face an uncertain future? Only the knowledge that god has been with us, is with us, and will be with us.

Jesus understands that as He promised His disciples that He would be with them till the end of the ages (Matthew 28:20).

Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Jaffrey Orthodox Presbyterian Church that they would be effective in reaching out into their community with the gospel.

Saturday (8/27) Read and discuss John 1:35-51. Erasmus writes:

Now so that the extraordinary integrity of John the Baptist might shine forth more, he did not regard it sufficient to have diverted the zeal of the people from himself to Christ; he also seeks to transfer his own disciples from himself to Christ. For on the day following the things which we have just related, which were done before the people, John again was standing with two of his disciples. But Jesus was walking to and fro not far from there. … Christ was walking to and fro, as always progressing to something greater, gathering disciples of his heavenly teaching from all sides. Therefore, when the standing John was looking at the walking Jesus, not ignorant of the fact that Jesus thirsted for the salvation of mankind and was seeking to obtain suitable disciples for his sublime teaching, he turned to two disciples who were standing by their teacher, and in order to hand them over to Jesus, a better teacher than himself, he pointed to Jesus with his finger saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, about whom I have now borne witness so often. He alone takes away all the sins of the whole world. I have prepared you for him.”

Read or sing Hymn: 254 “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 21 August 2016 Sunday, Aug 14 2016 

MVOPC 21 August 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 55 “To God Be the Glory”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 10:19-22

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

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 53:1-12

New Covenant Reading: John 1:29-34

Sermon: Behold the Lamb!

Hymn of Response: 58 “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 254 “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed”

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 26:1-11

NT: Galatians 4:21-31

Like Father Like Son

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School This Week

Shorter Catechism Q/A #56

Q. What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?
A. The reason annexed to the third commandment is that however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (8/15) Read and discuss John 1:29-34. F.F. Bruce writes:

The designation with which [John the Baptist] greets Jesus’ appearance is startling – at least, it must have been so to those who heard it for the first time. To us the designation ‘Lamb of God’ is so familiar in Christian speech and art that we can scarcely realize how strange it must have been in the ears of John’s audience. Many attempts have been made to discover the back the background of John’s phraseology, and even if the complete background could be discovered it would not entirely account for the New Testament usage, which has a new and creative element to it. …

Among possible antecedents for John’s language we might think of the lamb to be provided by God, mentioned by Abraham in Genesis 22:8, or of the Passover lamb, which was evidently in the Evangelist’s mind in the passion narrative (cf. John 19:36). … [It is also likely that] behind John’s language may be discerned the Servant of the LORD who suffered ‘like a lamb that is led to the slaughter’ and gave Himself as ‘an offering for sin’ (Isaiah 53:7, 10).

Read or sing Hymn 55 “To God Be the Glory” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in Venezuela that they would shine like brilliant stars in the midst of a collapsing culture and government – and that many of their neighbors would come to truly know Jesus Christ.

Tuesday (8/16) Read and discuss John 1:19-28. The Gospel of John does not draw our attention to the meaning of John’s Baptism. Instead it focuses like a laser beam on the testimony that John gives about Jesus Christ. Look at Verses 26-28:

They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

John is telling them: “Stop asking who I am and pay attention to what I am saying.” The important thing isn’t who I am but who it is that is coming after me. Prepare the way to meet Him! John wasn’t trying to get people to follow him. He was trying to get people to follow Jesus. This is a good thing to remember in our own day when electronic media can encourage pastors and churches to brand themselves. Mark Driscoll actually referred to himself as “the brand” in his former church. But, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “we preach not ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for His sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).” With one striking image, John makes clear once again how far the one coming after him would surpass him in every way. John said: “I am not even worthy to untie strap of the sandals that are on His feet.” There was actually a saying amongst the Rabbis, that “a disciple should be willing to perform any act for his teacher that a slave would perform accept to remove the sandals from his feet or to wash the master’s feet.” This saying helps us grasp how radical it would be when, at the Last Supper, Jesus – the Rabbi – would wash His disciple’s feet. We should remember that a person’s feet could become absolutely filthy in ancient Israel. So it was considered demeaning to wash the filth from the fields and the streets from someone’s feet. Only a slave, or someone who wanted to profess their willingness to serve, would do such a thing. But John is saying: The One coming after me is so great – that I am not ever worthy perform this lowly task of a slave – I am not even worthy to loosen the strap of His sandal. That is the testimony of John the Baptist about Jesus. Read or sing Hymn 257 “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” Prayer: Please lift up those in our congregation who suffering with physical ailments and afflictions.

Wednesday (8/17) Read and discuss Isaiah 53:1-12. Every year around New Year polls are taken to reveal whom Americans most admire. Year after year the most admired man in America is the President of the United States. Does this mean that we consistently enjoy the good fortune of the most admirable man in American being our President? That might be nice but a more likely explanation is that the grandeur of the office of the President rubs off on its occupant. The President dominates the news media in a way that no other individual can. If you want other people to admire you it certainly helps if you live in the White House. That’s what makes Jesus’ arrest so surprising. Judas had to work out a signal with the guards so that they would know which of the Galileans to arrest (It would have been a major embarrassment if they had arrested Peter by mistake!). This reveals something truly astonishing about the Incarnation. God chose to be born into a modest working class family. Jesus didn’t have fancy robes or an entourage that made it clear how important He was. He didn’t even look different from the other Galilean men of His day. As Isaiah 53:2 put it, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.” God so fully identified with us that Christ even looked just like any other first century Jewish male. And through this identification with us, He suffered what we deserved in our place. If someone were told what Jesus had suffered in the last few days of His life, he or she would naturally wonder what sort of horrendous deeds Jesus must have committed to suffer like this.

                        But He was wounded for our transgressions;

                                    He was crushed for our iniquities;

                        upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

                                    and with His stripes we are healed.

Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus humbled Himself that we might be exalted with him.

Thursday (8/18) Read and discuss Galatians 4:21-31. John Calvin writes:

This Jerusalem [the Jerusalem from above] is not shut up in heaven, nor are we to look for it outside this world. The church is spread over the whole earth, where it is a pilgrim. It is said to be from heaven because it originates in heavenly grace. The children of God are born not of flesh and blood but by the power of the Holy Spirit. The heavenly Jerusalem is the mother of believers because she has the incorruptible seed of life deposited in her. By this means she forms us, cherishes us in her womb and brings us to light. She has the milk and food by which she continually nourishes her offspring. Anyone who refuses to be a child of the church desires in vain to have God as his Father. It is only through the ministry of the church that God begets children for himself and brings them up through adolescence to maturity.

Read or sing Hymn 58 “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD uses suffering and hardship in our lives for our good and for His glory as He manifests His resurrection power in our lives.

Friday (8/19) Read and discuss Genesis 26:1-11. James Montgomery Boice writes:

It is a strange thing. God had appeared to Isaac to say that he would bless him. He said that he would make his descendants as numerous as the stars in sky, that he would give all the lands promised to his father Abraham, and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. Yet here was Isaac, worrying whether God could preserve his life in the Philistines territory. Strange? Yes, but no stranger than our own failure to trust God to care for us. Isaac probably knew of only a few miracles – the Creation, the Flood, the miracle of his own conception. But ourselves? We know of many. We have the entire Old Testament, with its many great deeds and miracles. We also have the New Testament. We confess belief in the fulfillment of Scripture in Jesus’ miraculous life: the virgin birth, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. We believe in Pentecost. We acknowledge the tremendous miracle of the new birth. yet when trouble comes, we fear for our safety and often sin because of that fear.

Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Jaffrey Orthodox Presbyterian Church that they would be effective in reaching out into their community with the gospel.

Saturday (8/20) Read and discuss John 1:29-34. Donald McLeod writes:

The Baptist describes him as ‘bearing away’ the sin of the world: putting a distance between the world and its sin in a manner reminiscent of the scapegoat, which on the Day of Atonement carried all the sins of the people to a solitary place in the distant desert (Lev. 16:22). This is the clear import of the verb ὁ αἴρων [“the One taking away”] in John 1:29, but in order to be carried away the burden must first be carried.  … the idea of bearing or carrying sin is prominent in the Old Testament, where it clearly means bearing the guilt of sin, answering for it or suffering its consequences. Leviticus 5:1, for example, lays down that if a witness refuses to testify ‘he shall bear his iniquity’ (ESV, NIV, ‘will be held responsible’). Similarly, anyone who commits incest will bear their iniquity (Lev. 20:19-20). In this light, the words of the Baptist in John 1:29 can only mean that Christ bears away the sin of the world by taking responsibility for it, suffering for it and, eventually, dying for it. He is, uniquely and archetypically, the sin-bearing Lamb.

Read or sing Hymn: 254 “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 14 August 2016 Sunday, Aug 7 2016 

MVOPC 14 August 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 55:7-9

Hymn of Preparation:  196 “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5

New Covenant Reading: John 1:19-28

Sermon: A Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness

Hymn of Response: 193 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Til He Come”!

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 26:1-11

NT: Galatians 4:21-31

Like Father Like Son

Adult Sunday School: Saint Augustine

Shorter Catechism Q/A #55

Q. What is forbidden in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh himself known.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (8/8) Read and discuss John 1:19-28. Desiderius Erasmus writes:

Here, because John was speaking to those skilled in the Law, lest he seem to claim for himself what he was out of human temerity, he taught them from the very prophesy of Isaiah, well known to the Pharisees, both that he was nothing other than the forerunner of Christ and that the Lord himself was now present, whom they should have received with pure hearts, whom they themselves, blinded by envy, ambition, and pride, were to crucify: “I, he says, “am not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor one of the prophets called back into this world. Yet I have not taken up this office on my own authority, because many years ago I was destined for this office by God’s authority. I am he concerning whom Isaiah wrote, ‘A voice of one crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the LORD.’ You see the desert; you hear the voice of one crying out. What is more, cast aside worldly lusts, prepare your hearts for his coming so that he may come as your Savior. Moses foreshadowed him to you The prophets predicted that he would one day come. I show him now coming to you.

Read or sing Hymn 53 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” Prayer: Please pray for those in our congregation who are dealing with significant physical or emotional challenges.

Tuesday (8/9) Read and discuss John 1:14-18. John tells us that “The Word became flesh and he pitched His tent (i.e. Tabernacled) amongst us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” What exactly is “glory.” The Old Testament word for glory carries the idea of weightiness or great significance. This weightiness can make other things fade into insignificance by comparison. We sing this truth when we sing:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

That is what the weightiness of glory does to us. I trust that you have all had experiences like that. As you contemplate the glory of God revealed in Jesus Christ – other matters that once seemed so urgent or significant suddenly seem far less so. But is that all there is to “glory”? Is that what John meant when he wrote: “We beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”? If we didn’t know anything about the life of Jesus, we might imagine that the revelation of God’s glory in the Messiah would be something like what Isaiah saw in the Temple when the LORD called him to be a prophet. Isaiah writes:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Isn’t that what you think about when you think of the Glory of God? Yet, apart from the brief exception of the Mount of Transfiguration, which only three Disciples witnessed, this is NOT how Jesus revealed the Father’s glory. Instead, Jesus reveals God as being meek and lowly of heart. He chose to be born in a manger. He worked in a carpenter’s shop as a boy. It was said of Jesus: “A bruised reed He would not break and a smoldering wick He would not put out.” The paradox is that Jesus displayed God’s glory by displaying strength and weightiness through humility and even what appeared to be weakness. Jesus, Himself, will speak of the Son of Man being lifted up – that is exalted – on the cross. The cross, which superficially looked like a display of weakness, was actually a great demonstration of the glory of God – as the Son of God trampled Satan, sin, and death under foot. The glory that Christ reveals in the Gospel of John is the glory of God’s grace and truth – and the fullest manifestation of that glory comes at the cross. Read or sing Hymn 196 “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you the right perspective that His glory as it is revealed in Jesus Christ would be the weightiest thing in your life.

Wednesday (8/10) Read and discuss Isaiah 40:1-11. Alec Moyter writes:

The most wonderful thing about these verses is not the beauty of their expression (though that in itself would have been enough), nor the attractiveness of what they reveal (though, again, that would suffice), but the place where they come. Doom has been pronounced on Hezekiah (39:6-7), and with it the death knell seems to have been sounded for all Isaiah’s glittering predictions of a coming king. At this darkest of moments, the call goes out to speak the word of comfort, to proclaim hardship finished and sins forgiven, to announce that Yahweh himself is on his way with worldwide significance, that his word and promises can never fail, and that Zion’s people are the flock he has worked for and now holds in his tender care. This is the LORD undefeated even by our most grievous sin; the LORD who never calls back the word he has spoken, and who cannot be deflected from its fulfilment! … The Sovereign God is never more sovereign than in the work of mercy and salvation, and it is those who know they have most signally erred and strayed from his ways, who, within the blessed arena of salvation, feel most gently the warmth of his shepherding arms around them, and know themselves for sure to be the lambs of his flock.

Read or sing Hymn 193 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Island Pond Baptist Church as they search for a new pastor.

Thursday (8/11) 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 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.

What if you are trying to be free and you are not changing at all? One possibility is that you are not a Christian. … But things aren’t so simple for Christians either. For we see in this very passage that Christians are tempted to go back under the law and return to the slaver from which they were freed. So, matters are complex, for believers struggle with sin as well, and yet God has promised that believers will enjoy substantial, significant, and observable victory over sin (even if Christians will not in this life enjoy perfection).

Read or sing Hymn 230 “Thou Who Wast Rich beyond All Splendor” Prayer: Please lift up the people of Venezuela as their nation’s economy collapses.

Friday (8/12) Read and discuss Genesis 26:1-11. Iain Duguid writes:

The fundamental issue at stake here is a familiar one: Can God be trusted to fulfill his promises and protect Isaac? God had just promised to be with Isaac, giving him offspring, lands, and blessing (Gen 26:4). So there was no question as to God’s commitment to him. The question was whether Isaac has the faith to believe God and let the chips fall where they may or adopt a strategy of deception to give God a little assistance.

In this case, like his father before him, Isaac gave in to the temptation to speak misleading half-truths to protect himself. Looking after his life had become more important to him than obeying God. The irony is that the God whom he is so reluctant to trust with his life is the same God who provided a lamb to take his place on the altar of Mount Moriah. If God was able to deliver Isaac’s life from the upraised knife of his father, would he not also deliver Isaac from the dangers of everyday life in a pagan society? Had he learned nothing from the experience? But before we judge Isaac too harshly, we need to examine our hearts. How often do you and I fail to obey God when something far less significant than our lives is at stake? We frequently choose the way of self-protective deception for the sake of mere comfort or pleasure or reputation, forgetting the love of God demonstrated in the Lamb he provided to take our place on the cross of Calvary. If God did not spare his Son but freely gave him up for us, can we not trust him with our lives?

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would make you more and more a person of integrity where our word is completely trustworthy.

Saturday (8/13) Read and discuss John 1:19-28. F.F. Bruce writes:

The emphatic ‘I baptize in water’ prepares the reader for the mention of someone else who will baptize in a different medium. For the moment John does not speak of this different baptism, but he does speak of the one who will administer it. He is the one for whom John is preparing the way as forerunner, the one who is coming after him. By all accounts the forerunner is less important than the person for whom he prepares the way; John underlies his own relative unimportance in comparison with the Coming One by saying that he is unfit even to perform such a lowly service as untying his sandal-strap for him. ‘Every service which a slave performs for his master’, said one rabbi, ‘a disciple will perform for his teacher, except to untie his sandal-strap’ Even that menial service John thought himself unworthy to perform for the Coming One. But in fact, in preparing the way for that Coming One, John was discharging a far more honorable ministry than any of his hearers could have realized.

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 7 August 2016 Sunday, Jul 31 2016 

MVOPC 7 August 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 21 “Sing Praise to 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: Romans 8:1-4

Hymn of Preparation: 162 “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”

Old Covenant Reading: Exodus 34:1-9

New Covenant Reading: John 1:14-18

Sermon: Immanuel

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

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 242 “Not All the Blood of Beasts”

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 25:19-34

NT: Romans 9:1-13

The Older Shall Serve the Younger

Adult Sunday School: Saint Augustine

Shorter Catechism Q/A #54

Q. 54. What is required in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word and works.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (8/1) Read and discuss John 1:14-18. D.A. Carson writes:

[Jesus’ is the supreme revelation. If we are to know God, neither rationalism nor irrational mysticism will suffice: the former reduces God to mere object, and the latter abandons all controls. Even the revelation of antecedent Scripture cannot match this revelation, as the epistle to the Hebrews also affirms in strikingly similar categories: ‘In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times an in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son’ (Heb. 1:1-2). The Word, God’s very Self-expression, who was both with God and who was God, became flesh: he donned our humanity, save only our sin. God chose to make himself known, finally and ultimately, in a real historical man; ‘when “the Word became flesh”, God became man’ (F.F. Bruce).

Read or sing Hymn 21 “Sing Praise to the Lord!” Prayer: Pray for someone you know who does not yet know the LORD that they would quickly come to love Jesus as their own Savior and Lord.

Tuesday (8/2) Read and discuss John 1:6-13. Verses 12-13 read:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

There is a great division, here, between those who reject Jesus and those who receive Him. When Jesus comes into the world He creates a crisis. “A crisis is a circumstance that demands a decision and separates those who decide this way from those who decide that [way].”The presence of the Light of Christ forces us to choose either for or against Him – and then to face the consequences of that choice. But what, or Who, causes men and women to differ in their responses? Is the difference found inside of us or outside of us? As John will make clear in chapter 3, the dark impetuous to reject the Light is found inside each and every one of us. But the LORD, in His sovereign grace, will grant some of His enemies new life from above. He will cause them, He will cause us, to be born-again. It is interesting that most of those who embrace the truth that God’s sovereign grace is the cause of our new life in Christ – choose to defend this Biblical teaching from Paul’s letter to the Romans. It turns out that this great truth is taught throughout the Bible and nowhere is it taught more forcefully or clearly than in John.

How were we born again? John says …

 … who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

These “three negative phrases exclude any notion that to become a child of God originates from any human intent or act (Weinrich, John, p. 148).” John is telling us plainly how we moved out of the Kingdom of Darkness and into the Kingdom of His Beloved Son. … God did it! Read or sing Hymn 162 “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” Prayer: Give thanks with a grateful heart for the LORD’s mercy and grace in delivering you out of the Kingdom of Darkness and into the Kingdom of His Beloved Son

Wednesday (8/3) Read and discuss Exodus 34:1-9. Doug Stuart writes:

God’s instruction to Moses to prepare two new stone tablets and his promise to write the Ten Words/Commandments on these new tablets just as he had on the former ones conveys a most welcome message: God had decided to forgive the Israelites and accept them once again as his covenant people, and he would renew his covenant with them, through which all sorts of blessings would once again be theirs. Like an employer saying to a previously dismissed employee, “Welcome back to the company. Let me show you to your work station” or a judge saying to a person whose punishment has been completed, “You’re free to go and resume your former life,” God said to Moses and through him to Israel, in effect: “Bring some new tablets. Let’s put the covenant back in force.”

Read or sing Hymn 180 “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story” Prayer: Lift up those in our congregation who are caring for elderly parents.

Thursday (8/4) Read and discuss Romans 9:1-13. Sometimes even Christians, in a man-centered way, exalt their own freedom of choice at the expense of God’s freedom of choice. This is not only an error in thinking, it is an error that undermines grasping God’s amazing grace in our lives. John Murray puts it like this:

The sovereignty of grace is implicit in its nature. If grace excludes the constraint of human merit, if its whole constraint and explanation reside in God, it must be of his free good pleasure. It is well to note the emphasis which the Scripture places upon this fact of sovereign will. When it speaks of the riches of God’s grace (Eph. 1:7) and of what will redound ‘to the praise of the glory of his grace’ (Eph. 1:6), it is then that we find the reiterated reference to ‘the good pleasure of his will’, to ‘the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure’, and to ‘the purpose of him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his will’ (Eph. 1:11). To dissociate grace in its source, progress, or fruition from pure sovereignty of will is to annul not only its character but also that by which its exercise is conditioned. And Paul’s teaching here is the reproduction of our Lord’s – ‘even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight’ (Matt 11:26).

Read or sing Hymn 230 “Thou Who Wast Rich beyond All Splendor” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Friday (8/5) Read and discuss Genesis 25:19-34. Iain Duguid writes:

Isaac was, in the fullest sense of the phrase, a chip off the old block. In fact, the few events of his life that Scripture records for us are a great deal like his father’s life. His life is, in Yogi Berra’s memorable phrase, “déjà vu all over again.” The result of this juxtaposition is that we can see clearly the ways in which he shared his father’s strengths and weaknesses.

First, there was the same problem of a barren wife, threatening the fulfillment of God’s promise of numerous descendants (Gen 25:21). Then, like his father before him, he as raced with famine. God’s promised land seemed unable to support him, and he had to decide whether to stay there or leave it for the perennially greener pastures of Egypt. In that situation of weakness, Isaac encountered the same temptation that his father had of passing off his wife as his sister in order to protect his life (Gen 26:1-11). Subsequently he was involved in quarreling between his herdsmen and those of an ally, Abimelech, over scarce resources, a conflict that closely mirrors the earlier conflict between the herdsmen of Abraham and Abimelech. Isaac’s life is thus in a sense a rerun of the life of Abraham.

Isaac’s life is not merely a compilation album of Abraham’s greatest hits, however. Rather, in Isaac’s replaying of Abraham’s experience we also see God’s faithfulness extended to a new generation. The promise to Abraham was valid for Isaac also. That surely was an important lesson for the original audience of the Book of Genesis, the wilderness generation, who stood with Moses on the brink of the Promised Land. They had not personally experienced the exodus out of Egypt; they had to rely on their fathers’ testimony for that. Would the God who had done great things for their fathers also do great things for them, so that they might conquer the land? The answer was that just as Isaac could count on the God of Abraham, so also the God of Moses would continue to be with his people as they attempted to conquer the land under Joshua.

Prayer: Please pray for tomorrow’s church picnic.

Saturday (8/6) Read and discuss John 1:14-18. Commenting on verse 16, Martin Luther writes:

This is one of the golden texts in Saint john; it is on par with the one we have already discussed: the Son of God is “the true Light, which lights every one that cometh into the world.” Therefore, whoever does not acknowledge Christ and believe in him, and dos not make him his or her own, is and remains a child of wrath and of damnation, no matter what that person is called or what that person is. But if a person is to find mercy, Christ alone must be the means. He alone makes us paupers rich with his superabundance, expurges our sins with his righteousness, devours our death with his life and transforms us from children of wrath, tainted with sin, hypocrisy, lies and deceit, into children of grace and truth. Whoever does not possess this Man possess nothing.

Read or sing Hymn: 242 “Not All the Blood of Beasts” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 31 July 2016 Sunday, Jul 24 2016 

MVOPC 31 July 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

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: John 14:1-3

Hymn of Preparation: 11 “Now Blessed Be the Lord Our God”

Old Covenant Reading: Malachi 4:1-6

New Covenant Reading: John 1:6-13

Sermon: Witness and Light

Hymn of Response: 58 “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Til He Come”!

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 25:1-18

NT: Romans 9:6-18

Rounding Out the Story

Adult Sunday School: Saint Augustine

Shorter Catechism Q/A #53

Q. 53. Which is the third commandment?
A. The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (6/20) Read and discuss John 1:6-13. F.F. Bruce writes:

In all three Synoptic Gospels [i.e. Matthew, Mark, and Luke] the record of Jesus’ public ministry is introduced by an outline of the ministry of John the Baptist. In the Acts of the Apostles the ministry of John plays a similar part in Peter’s address in the house of Cornelius (10:37) and in Paul’s synagogue address in Pisidian Antioch (13:24 f); and when the question arises of filling the vacancy created in the ranks of the twelve by the defection of Judas, Peter’s condition for the replacement is that he must be ‘one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John’ (1:21 f). This Evangelist is faithful to the pattern of the primitive preaching: all its essential elements are reproduced in his record. The life which was the light of men was first publicly manifested on earth when witness was borne by the man sent from God, whose name was John.

In this Gospel John is never identified as ‘the Baptist’. Our Evangelist is careful to distinguish other figures in his narrative who bear the same name – as when he distinguishes ‘Judas not Iscariot’ (14:22) from Judas Iscariot – but no other John than the Baptist is named by him [Simon Peter’s father was named John, so Peter is called “Simon son of John” four times in the Gospel]. The traditional explanation of the non-mention of the other John in this Gospel is that the only other John in Jesus’ circle, John the son of Zebedee, had a major responsibility for the production of the work. It is difficult to think of a better one.

Read or sing Hymn 1 “All People That on Earth Do Dwell” Prayer: Please pray for the upcoming elections in the U.S. as the Democratic National Convention gets underway today.

Tuesday (6/21) Read and discuss John 1:1-5. In verse 3 we are told:

All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

This verse may seem almost a bit redundant. After all, if Jesus is fully God then quite obviously He is the Creator of all things. Well sometimes repetition is important. As every teacher knows – repetition is the mother of learning. Nevertheless, I think John is doing more than helpfully driving home the point that Jesus is in fact fully God. John’s experience of Jesus didn’t begin in eternity past. It began when John the Baptist pointed him to a human being – to a fellow Jewish man of around 30 years of age – and said: “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” We don’t begin by knowing God and then add Jesus into the picture. We begin by knowing Jesus and then realizing with Thomas that he who has seen Jesus has seen the Father. The danger with this is that we can easily end up dragging God down to merely human dimensions. John wants us to remember, when we see Jesus hanging on the cross, that hanging there was the Word who created the tree on which he hung. He created the dirt in which the post of the cross was buried. He created the Sun, the moon, and all the stars that filled the sky. He even created the very people who would put Him to death. When we come to Jesus in prayer we should remember that we are coming to the One through whom everything exists and that apart from Jesus – there is not a single thing which has been made that He did not make. If we do this, we will discover that the love of God for us is all the more astounding. When Christ bids you to His table to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, it is good to meditate on this truth: The God who created everything that exists holds out the bread to you and says: “Take! Eat! This is My body, given for you.” Who can begin to fathom such love? The God through whom uncountable galaxies have been created, took on a true human nature to give His life for the life of the world. Read or sing Hymn 11 “Now Blessed Be the Lord Our God” Prayer: Lift up our brothers and sisters at Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead, NH as they look for a new pastor.

Wednesday (6/22) Read and discuss Malachi 4:1-6. O. Palmer Robertson writes:

Does Malachi’s reference to Elijah’s return demand an actual reincarnation of the ancient prophet? Will the old Elijah who ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot return to earth as the consummate forerunner of the coming of the LORD? Nothing in the historical experience of the old covenant scriptures anticipates such a development. At other points the prophets predict a day in which David will return as king in Israel (Hos. 3:5; Ezek. 34:23, 37:24). Yet the expectation is not that a reincarnate David will return to rule over Israel, thereby superseding the dominion of the promised Messiah who was to be greater than David. Instead, these prophecies anticipate the coming of a king with the mind and the spirit of David who will reign over God’s universal people.

It is in this framework that the new covenant identification of John the Baptist as “Elijah” is to be understood. The disciples ask Jesus why their teachers of the law say that Elijah must come before the Messiah appears. The point of reference is clearly Malachi’s prophecy concerning god’s sending of his servant Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6). Jesus replies that the teachers of the law are correct: “Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished.” As a result of Jesus’ explanation, the disciples understood that he was referring to John the Baptist. By his ministry, John fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy concerning the return of Elijah.

Read or sing Hymn 180 “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD gave us the Bible that we would have His word readily available to teach us and to guide us on our way.

Thursday (6/23) Read and discuss Romans 9:6-18. Frequently, people confuse the categories of “fair” and “just.” To treat everyone fairly implies that we will treat people in similar situations in similar ways. To treat everyone justly means that we will give everyone what they deserve. Suppose, a businessman hires a dozen teenagers to help him clean up his warehouse. He promises to pay everyone $12 per hour. The finish their work in four hours. Justice demands that he pay each of his workers $48. But what if he gives 11 of his workers $48 and one of his workers $100. By giving one of his employees more money than the rest the business owner was not being fair. On the other hand, nobody could (rightly) claim that he was being unjust – because he gave everyone what he or she was due. Understanding this principle will clear up a great deal of misunderstanding about God’s sovereign grace in salvation. R.C. Sproul puts it like this:

God in his sovereign disposition of grace interrupts our life while we are alienated from him, dead in sin and trespass, and the Holy Spirit comes and quickens us from death to life and changes the disposition of our heart. Where formerly Christ seemed repugnant, now he is the sweetest thing in the world. We rush to him, we choose him, we embrace him, and we trust him, because God in his grace has given us the pearl of great price. If God does that for us, is he obligated to do it for everybody? If the president of the United States exercises executive clemency and pardons somebody in prison, is he then obligated to pardon everybody? No. What Jacob got was grace; what Esau go was not injustice. God withheld his mercy from Esau – mercy to which Esau had no claim – but the withholding was not an act of injustice on God’s part. Jacob got mercy; Esau got justice. The elect get grace; the non-elect get justice. Nobody gets injustice.

Read or sing Hymn 58 “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright” Prayer: Please pray for the people of Venezuela as their economy and most of their way of life has collapsed.

Friday (6/24) Read and discuss Genesis 25:1-18. Tremper Longman writes:

Genesis 25:12 introduces the short [account] of Ishmael by explaining that he is the son of Abraham through Hagar the Egyptian. As the previous narrative has made abundantly clear, he is not the one through whom the covenant promises would continue from Abraham to the following generations. Even so, the narrative does not simply drop interest in Ishmael. Indeed, the narrator treats the non-elect son Ishmael before turning attention to the elect son Isaac, a pattern that we will also see with Esau and Jacob. At her moment of desperation in the desert after having been turned out by Abraham and Sarah, God had assured Hagar that he would “make him into a great nation” (21:18). Indeed, as Kaminsky has pointed out “the non-chosen sibling (in this case Ishmael) is not necessarily excluded from all divine favor. Ishmael, while not the chosen child and thus excluded from the covenant, does receive some of the elements of the original Abrahamic promise in Gen 12: being blessed, being fruitful, and becoming a great nation.”

Prayer: Ask the LORD to bring about a just peace in the Middle East and that many people there would come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

Saturday (6/25) Read and discuss John 1:6-13. In verse 11 we are told that “His own people did not receive Him.” John Calvin comments:

Here is displayed the absolutely desperate wickedness and malice of human beings; here is displayed their execrable impiety, that when the Son of God was manifested in the flesh to the Jews, whom God had separated to himself from the other nations to be his own heritage, he was not acknowledged or received. This passage also has received various explanations. For some think that the Evangelist speaks of the whole world indiscriminately; and certainly there is no part of the world which the Son of God may not lawfully claim as his own property. According to them the meaning is “When Christ came down into the world, he did not enter into another person’s territories, for the whole human race was his own inheritance.” But I approve more highly of the opinion of those who refer it to the Jews alone; for there is an implied comparison, by which the Evangelist represents the heinous ingratitude of people. The Son of God had solicited an abode for himself in one nation; when he appeared there, he was rejected; and this shows clearly the awfully wicked blindness of people.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 24 July 2016 Sunday, Jul 17 2016 

MVOPC 24 July 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 86:12-15

Hymn of Preparation:  102 “All Glory Be to Thee, Most High”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 36:1-12

New Covenant Reading: John 1:1-5

Sermon: God Lightens Our Darkness

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

Confession of Faith:    Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 24:28-67

NT: Colossians 1:3-14

About His Master’s Business

Adult Sunday School: Saint Augustine & Arianism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #52

Q. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (7/18) Read and discuss John 1:1-5. Leon Morris writes:

The high point is recorded in the third affirmation [of verse 2]: “the Word was God.” Nothing higher could be said: all that may be said about God may fitly be said about the Word. This statement should not be watered down. Moffat renders, “the [Word] was divine.” While the English probably means much the same as does that of the NIV, the emphasis is different, and such translations are no improvement. John is not merely saying that there is something divine about Jesus. He is affirming that he is God, and doing so emphatically as we see the word order in Greek.

If that is a staggering affirmation to us, there is no reason for thinking that it was any less so to the Jewish author of this Gospel. To the Jews of the day monotheism was more than a belief commonly held. It was a conviction to be clung to with fierce tenacity. The Jews might be ground down under the heel of the roman conquerers, but they could do more than hate their military superiors. They could despise them. The Romans were no more than ignorant idolaters, and, crass folly, believed in many gods! The Jews knew with an unshakeable certainty that there was, there could be, only one God. When John says, “the Word was God,” his words must be understood in the light of Jewish pride in monotheism. Even though this writer regarded monotheism as a central tenet in his religion he yet could not withhold from the Word the designation “God.”

He says “the Word was God,” not “God was the Word.” The latter would have meant that God and the Word were the same; it would have pointed to an identity. But John is leaving open the possibility that there may be more to “God” than the “Word” (clearly he thought of the Father as God, and his later references indicate a similar status for the Spirit). But he lays down unequivocally that nothing less than “God” will do for our understanding of the Word.

We should perhaps notice that John refers to Jesus as God again in verse 18 and in 20:28. If the present passage refers to Jesus in his pre-incarnate state as God, verse 18 takes up the thought for the incarnate Word and 20:28 for the risen Christ. John thus asserts the deity of his Lord at three very important places in his narrative.

Read or sing Hymn 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Please lift up the people of Turkey as they live with the consequences of last weekend’s failed coup attempt.

Tuesday (7/19) Read and discuss Ruth 4:13-22. Remember the basic plot line of the book of Judges. That period in Israel’s history was marked by a downward spiral of rebellion against God. The pattern was a simple one. The people would fall into rebellion; then the LORD would send judgment to punish them for their rebellion; in spite of the judgment – the people as a whole would not repent and seek the LORD with all their hearts – nevertheless, the LORD would have compassion on His people and send them a “Judge” to deliver them from the persecutions that they faced. Each time this cycle repeated, the people just seemed to get worse and worse. Why would this time be any different? Sure the LORD had given relief from the famine. He had also blessed Boaz and Ruth – two of His choicest servants. But if the people went back to their old ways why would this time be any different? Was Israel simply doomed to an endless cycle of judgment and deliverance without ever getting to Happily Ever After?

The answer comes when we find Amazing Grace in a Genealogy. Verse 18-22:

Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.

This genealogy is God’s answer to the dreadful refrain found in the book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The genealogy makes clear that Almighty God was NOT waiting for His people to get their act together. Instead, He was preparing the way for a deliverer – a man after His own heart – to be the Shepherd-King over His people Israel. Read or sing Hymn 102 “All Glory Be to Thee, Most High” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD raise up not only David but ultimately Jesus to be the Shepherd-King over all Creation.

Wednesday (7/20) Read and discuss Psalm 36:1-12. James Montgomery Boice writes:

The conclusion of the psalm is a prayer in which David prays for others who know God and are upright (v. 10) and for himself that he may be preserved from evildoers (v. 11). So confident is he of this final deliverance that the psalm closes with a prophetic glimpse of the wicked who, in his vision, “lie fallen –thrown down, not able to rise” (v. 12).

What is the final application of the psalm? It is what we have already seen in verse 7. What distinguishes the righteous from the wicked are not the good deeds of the godly (though they inevitably express their right relationship to God by good deeds), but rather that they, in distinction from the wicked, have taken refuge under the shadow of God’s wings. The words “find refuge” mean to flee for refuge, like a man guilty of manslaughter fleeing from the avenger of blood. They mean to flee with haste and intensity, stopping for nothing, until by the full thrust of our entire natures we find safety and deliverance beneath the wings and in the unfailing mercy of Almighty God.

That mercy is to be found in Jesus Christ. He said of Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). The masses of Jesus’ day missed that great blessing and perished. The masses miss them today. Do not be one of them. Come to Jesus now.

Read or sing Hymn 103 “Holy God, We Praise Your Name” Prayer: Please pray for the people of Nice, France as they recover from the recent terrorist attack there.

Thursday (7/21) Read and discuss Colossians 1:3-14. Paul E. Deterding writes:

Paul’s thanksgiving for his readers’ salvation segues into intercession for the ongoing soteriological benefits and nurture that they need. The apostle prays that his readers may have all the blessings of “wisdom” and “knowledge,” These terms describing a relationship with Jesus Christ. These benefits come by way of the Word of God and affect one’s entire being. The one with God’s gift of “wisdom” is in a favorable status before God. As a consequence of his being transformed, he is able to do those things (good works) that characterize a life pleasing to the LORD.

This transformation of one’s being shows itself by a number of things: the Christian bears the fruit of good works in his conduct. He increases (grows) in his knowledge of (and faith in) God. He is empowered by God to have endurance and patience in his life. He gives thanks to God with joy for the favorable status before God which he has received in Jesus Christ.

This favorable status is described in a number of ways: inheritance, rescue, rule, redemption, forgiveness. In its own way, each of these concepts denotes what one has through knowledge of (and faith in) Christ. Paul’s prayer is not only that his readers may continue in these, but also increase in them through an increase of their faith in Christ.

Read or sing Hymn 188 “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting” Prayer: Lift up some specific individuals in our congregation and pray that they would grow in faith and therefore in their personal sanctification.

Friday (7/22) Read and discuss Genesis 24:28-67. Dale Ralph Davis writes:

What is at stake here in Isaac’s getting his wife? Why, the whole promise – and kingdom-plan of God. There will be no people of God in this world if Isaac doesn’t marry and start having kids. But what else does the text show us? Did you hear the last line of verse 67? The story isn’t only about Yahweh’s plan but about human need. Isaac is not a mere cog in God’s plan for the world, but he is a hurting person for whom God cares. And why does he hurt? He misses his mother. He aches because of her death and absence. There may well have been a very close bond between Isaac and Sarah. So what does God do? He gave Isaac someone to love, a wife, Rebekah. And someone to love him back. Yahweh stooped down to begin to fill up the hole in Isaac’s life. Yahweh is the God of the big plan and of the individual need. The huge emotional vacuum in Isaac’s life mattered to Yahweh. When you are among the covenant people of God you are not lost in a massive crowd; Yahweh always sees his individual servants.

Prayer: Lift up the young people of our congregation and pray that they would have a productive and enjoyable Summer

Saturday (7/23) Read and discuss John 1:1-5. William Weinrich writes;

According to Augustine, Life and Light refer to the creative knowledge of God and the illumination of human reason that allow man to perceive divine wisdom in the created order. Luther rightly objected that “this interpretation is not appropriate in connection with this Gospel passage, since only the light of grace is being preached here.” Luther related this passage to the preaching of the Light “to the descendants of Abraham and generations that followed.” Our analysis suggests that 1:4b specifically has the ministry of Jesus in mind. Throughout the Gospel narrative, the incarnated Word is the source of Life and Light because he himself is the Life and the Light (Jn 14:6; 8:12). Yet, Luther’s insight is correct. Christ is Life and Light as the Teacher/Rabbi whose teaching has himself as its sole object. He is the Way and the Life (Jn 14:6; 1 Jn 5:20). Indeed, to be a disciple of Jesus is to walk the way of Him who is the Way. The OT understanding of life involves movement and act; life is that which is lived. Therefore, life, even “eternal life,” is not merely contrasted to physical life. Life is that existence that acts in accordance with the will and purpose of God.

In the Gospel of John …, “life,” is “the life by which God Himself lives.” The son possesses this life from the Father and has come into the world to give life to humankind (Jn 10:10). This life is given when those who believe receive the Spirit and become children of God. Therefore, Jesus, as the Life, is also the Way that is to be lived. Thus we can see the importance of the incarnation, which is already indicated in these verses. By becoming flesh, the Word becomes himself the human form of the divine life. The Word Incarnate is the living will of God who speaks as His Father speaks and who works as His Father wills (Jn 12:49) and therefore reveals eternal life.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 17 July 2016 Sunday, Jul 10 2016 

MVOPC 17 July 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 5:6-8

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

Old Covenant Reading: Ruth 4:13-22

New Covenant Reading: Acts 13:13-25

Sermon: The Coming King

Hymn of Response: 441 “Jesus Shall Reign”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

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

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 24:1-27

NT: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Seeking Israel’s Mother

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch Today – No Sunday School

Q. What is forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshiping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (7/11) Read and discuss Ruth 4:13-22. Iain Duguid writes:

In the cartoon movie Antz, most of the action follows the small-scale life of a neurotic worker ant (Woody Allen) in his quest to win the love of a princess ant. But as the movie ends, the camera pans outward to show the audience that the narrower action had been taking place in Central Park in the heart of New York. Thus we are invited to consider the parallels between the lives of the ants in the movie and the lives of the real people around them.

The genealogy with which the Book of Ruth closes serves a similar narrative function. At the end of the book we discover that God has in all of this been pursuing bigger plans than bringing together two worthy individuals. What looked like a simple story of personal emptiness filled and personal needs met turns out to be God’s way of meeting a far greater need. The story that opened with the statement “In the days when the judges ruled” loses with the genealogy of Israel’s most famous king: “Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.” This genealogy links the events of the story with the line that would build the house of Israel more than any family since the time of Jacob, the line of David. God used all of these events to bring about his own goals that were so much bigger than any of the characters involved in the story could possibly have imagined. The elders’ blessing that sought lasting renown for Boaz were remarkably fulfilled long after his death, with the birth of King David.

Read or sing Hymn 457 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” Prayer: Please pray for the people of Dallas, Minnesota, and Baton Rouge, after last week’s tragic shootings.

Tuesday (7/12) Read and discuss Ruth 4:1-12. Today’s passage ends with the Elders and the People pronouncing a beautiful blessing:

Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the LORD will give you by this young woman.”

The benediction consists of three parts: a blessing on Ruth, a blessing on Boaz, and a blessing on his household. It is beautiful that the Elders and People of Bethlehem would ask that Ruth be like Rachel and Leah. As Daniel Block points out:

This extraordinary statement demonstrated unequivocally that Ruth had been fully integrated into the community and the history of Israel. Their blessing signaled the completion of her transformation; they wished that she who had arrived as a Moabite outsider would take her place among the matriarchs of the nation.

Isn’t that what the LORD has done for us as well. Most of us present this morning are Gentiles by birth. As Paul tells us in Ephesians chapter 2:

… remember that you were at [one] time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Second, the crowd blesses Boaz by asking that his name would become renowned in Bethlehem. They saw that Boaz was willing to be considered a nobody in order to honor the LORD and to bless Naomi and Ruth. They wanted this honorable man to be remembered as a somebody – that even decades or centuries later his name would be still be renowned in the little town of Bethlehem. Their intent was good but their vision was a bit small; for more than 3,000 years later the Living God has made the name of Boaz famous – even to the ends of the earth. Finally, the Elders and the People pronounce a blessing on Boaz’s household. They say:

… may your house be like the house of Perez

You have probably never said that to anyone, and you may not even remember exactly who Perez was. But this blessing fittingly calls the story of Genesis 38 to mind. There we see that Tamar, who had no children through her first husband before he died, gave birth to Perez through Tamar. There are definitely some PG and R-rated aspects to that story – but the important thing is that they are connecting Ruth to Perez the son of Judah (also known as Israel) because Perez is an ancestor of Elimelech’s clan in Bethlehem. They are saying: Just as the LORD gave many generations of important descendants through the widow Tamar … may the LORD grant many generations of important descendants through the widow Ruth whom you are now taking as your lawfully wedded wife. And that is exactly what the LORD would do for Boaz and Ruth. He would fulfill all three of these blessings in ways that were far beyond the wildest imaginations of those who first offered them. Read or sing Hymn 101 “Come, Thou Almighty King” Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus sought us and bought us – even at the cost of His own life.

Wednesday (7/13) Read and discuss Acts 13:13-25. N.T. John Stott writes:

In this brief recapitulation of the history of Israel from the patriarchs to the monarchy, Paul’s emphasis is on God’s initiative of grace. For he is the subject of nearly all the verbs. God chose our fathers, he made the people prosper … in Egypt, and then with mighty power he led them out. In the desert he endured their conduct, and in Canaan he overthrew seven nations and gave their land to his people. All this took about 450 years, Paul adds, pausing for breath. It is a round number, of course, and is probably intended to include 400 years in exile, forty in the desert, and ten in conquering the land. After the settlement God gave them judges, God gave them Saul as their first king, and then God made David their king, calling him ‘a man after my own heart.’ Now having reached David, Paul jumps straight to the promised Savior Jesus, who was descended from David, and mentions John the Baptist as his immediate forerunner, who pointed away from himself to Jesus. Paul is now able to follow the Baptist’s example and direct his hearers’ attention to the same Jesus.

Read or sing Hymn 180 “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story” Prayer: Give thanks for the LORD’s sovereign grace in redeeming sinners like us and making us children in His family.

Thursday (7/14) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. Richard Hays writes:

Paul reintroduces the servant metaphor here, but now with a different purpose. In 3:5-9, his point was that God’s servants are all serving a single common purpose; in 4:1-5, however, his point is that he and the other apostles, as God’s servants, are accountable to not one but God. The thing that matters is not whether they are winning popularity contests among the Corinthians but whether they are trustworthy, that is, whether they are following their master’s instructions. Thus, their status as servants sets them free from having to court favor in the church. This may seem paradoxical to us, but within the social world of Paul’s time, his point was perfectly understandable: Servants or slaves of powerful masters often enjoyed positions of considerable delegated authority, being charged with major administrative responsibility for affairs of the household. Paul’s image of the steward evokes this picture of the slave-in-charge. (In a world where there are no longer slaves in charge of big households, we might think analogically of the foreman in charge of a construction crew or the chief of staff in the White House.) The same picture of the trustworthy servant appears in a parable of Jesus: “Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives” (Luke 12:42-43). To be a “servant of Christ” (1 Cor. 4:1) is, in Paul’s symbolic world, a position of privilege and authority. Thus, Paul uses this image to assert his independence from the Corinthians’ judgments of him and his exclusive accountability to the Lord.

Read or sing Hymn 441 “Jesus Shall Reign” Prayer: Pray that the young people of our congregation would grow up knowing that they always owe their first loyalty to the LORD and that they would have the courage and wisdom to seek the praise of God over the praise of mere men.

Friday (7/15) Read and discuss Genesis 24:1-27. Bruce Waltke writes:

After an introductory statement of Abraham’s age, showing the father’s urgent need to secure a bride for his son, the scene develops geographically, chronologically, and logically through four settings, Abraham commissions his servant in his household; the servant providentially meets Rebekah at a well in Nahor in Aram Naharaim; in Bethuel’s household, the family consents to the marriage (24:28-61); in the Negev, Rebekah and Isaac meet and as married couple enter into Sarah’s tent (24:62-67).

Driving each scene of the Abraham narrative is the implicit question: How will God carry out his incredible promises? Abraham has been promised immeasurable seed that will bless the earth. What woman will the LORD find for Isaac to further this promise? How will he overcome the inevitable human stumbling blocks? This masterfully written scene has all the tension of a classic love story. The readers never doubt that somehow the hero and heroine will find each other, yet with each plot twist they hold their breath. Abraham makes the servant swear by “the LORD” that he will secure Isaac a bride from his own family and not from the Canaanites. The servant’s first words – “What if the woman is unwilling?” – express the constant tension in Biblical narrative. What kind of faith will each character embrace, and how will God overcome human folly? The servant’s oath to Abraham commits him to a long and risky venture that Abraham says depends upon the “angel of the LORD” for success. At the well of Nahor the servant’s success depends upon the LORD to identify the bride in answer to his prayer. In Bethuel’s household, the servant must convince the family that his encounter with Rebekah was a providential answer to his prayer. Their acceptance seems secure until they fail to follow through on their commitment and leave the decision to Rebekah. In a moment of dramatic tension thy ask Rebekah, “Will you go with this man?” she responds, “I will go,” and the tension dissipates – a delightful confirmation of what we knew all along. The narrative confirms that this is a divinely designed marriage as the eyes of Isaac and Rebekah providentially encounter each other in their meeting.

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has given us both His word and the Holy Spirit to guide our steps.

Saturday (7/16) Read and discuss Ruth 4:13-22. Daniel Block writes:

The book and this genealogy demonstrate that in the dark days of the tribal chieftans as recounted in the book of Judges the chosen line was preserved, not by heroic exploits by deliverers or kings, but by the good hand of God, who rewards good people with a fullness beyond all imagination. These characters could not know what long range fruit their compassionate and loyal conduct toward each other would bear. But the narrator knew. With this genealogy he declared the faithfulness of god in preserving the family that would bear the royal seed in troubled times and in rewarding the genuine godliness of his people. I only the rest of the nation had demonstrated such covenant faithfulness at the same time! In this genealogy the names of Boaz and Obed are indeed proclaimed far beyond Bethlehem and Israel, to the ends of the earth.

But the narrator could not know what implications the piety of these characters would have on generations of his own people that would come after him. If only he could have known that in the glorious providence of God, the [covenant loyalty] of Boaz and Ruth and Naomi would have laid the groundwork for the history of salvation that extends far beyond his own time and place. AS the genealogy of Matthew 1 indicates, one greater than David comes from the loins of Boaz. In the dark days of the tribal chieftans the foundations were laid for the line that would produce the Savior, the Messiah, that is the Redeemer of a lost and destitute humanity.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 10 July 2016 Sunday, Jul 3 2016 

MVOPC 10 July 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 44 “How Great Thou Art”

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: Ephesians 1:7-10

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

Old Covenant Reading: Ruth 4:1-12

New Covenant Reading: Titus 2:11-14

Sermon: Redemption and More

Hymn of Response: 701 “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It!”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 22:20-23:20

NT: Hebrews 11:8-16

Death and Dominion

Adult Sunday School: Saint Augustine Part II

Shorter Catechism Q/A #50

Q. What is required in the second commandment?

A. The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (7/4) Read and discuss Ruth 4:1-12. Daniel Block writes:

Boaz had demonstrated that, in determining to provide security for Ruth, he was driven by a concern for her well-being, rather than external legal prescriptions. While no law in the Torah prescribed how he should have responded to Ruth’s demand that he marry her, recognizing her stellar moral character, acknowledging his kinship with her through marriage, and concerning himself with her care, Boaz willingly acceded to her request. … Boaz embodied both loyalty and righteousness. … his fundamental ethical nobility determined his response to the plight of Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. Here was a man who lived by the dictum: “Guided by the law, but driven by the Spirit.”

… As we look back on the entire drama, there is a particular dimension of Boaz’ righteousness that deserves a closer look, namely his unrestrained generosity. Boaz’ generous spirit is reflected in the goodwill that existed between him and his field laborers, between him and the Elders of Bethlehem, and more specifically between him and Peloni Almoni. Although Boaz was eager to marry Ruth himself, he willingly invited the primary [redeemer] to claim her if he so desired. His final act of charity to his fellow citizens may have been his greatest: he married Ruth the Moabite to secure the name and the estate of his deceased relatives.

Read or sing Hymn 44 “How Great Thou Art” Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you an even greater generosity of spirit.

Tuesday (7/5) Read and discuss Daniel 5:13-31. Daniel is about God. Each scene in the book highlights aspects of God’s character. Whether or not this is good news depends entirely on whether or not you have a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Chapter one highlighted God’s faithfulness and sovereignty in bringing Israel into captivity and in His preserving a faithful remnant there. Chapter two contrasted the LORD with Babylon’s idols. The LORD is the only God who sees, the LORD is the only God who speaks, because the LORD is the only God there is. In chapter three we saw how the LORD is the God who rescues His people. In chapter four we saw the LORD’s manifold grace toward Nebuchadnezzar in transforming him from a proud idolater into one who worships the true and living God. Today’s chapter highlights the LORD’s sovereign judgment. We should never treat God’s amazing grace as a license to go on in open rebellion against Him. With astonishing speed, judgment fell upon both Belshazzar and upon the Babylonian Empire. In one night of judgment it was all over. At first this might seem to be entirely about law and judgment, but it also contains good news. Americans can miss this because we are the world’s super-power – at least for now. But most Christians throughout history have known what it meant to have a super-power that was oppressing them and therefore they have a better sense than we do of the deliverance that comes when that kingdom is torn down. Furthermore, the act of destroying Babylon and handing over the kingdom to the Media-Persian Empire should remind us of the vision from Daniel chapter two. The LORD is not only writing this book, He is the author of history. The LORD is moving history forward toward the day when the angle will shout: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” Read or sing Hymn 622 “I Waited for the Lord Most High” Prayer: Select one area of your life and pray that Christ’s rule would be manifested more clearly there.

Wednesday (7/6) Read and discuss Titus 2:11-14. N.T. R. Kent Hughes writes:

Grace “teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions,” but it also instructs us to live in assent to God’s requirements. Such assent constrains Christians “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives” (v. 12b). The first two terms in this list could fairly be called the antithesis of ungodliness and worldly passions (mentioned previously in the verse). The earlier, negative terms were about unrighteousness and the lack of restraint. These first two of the positive terms are about control of passions (i.e., righteous constraint on one’s own impulses) and uprightness (i.e., righteous conduct in dealing with others). …

If being a Christian only required self-control over our passions and “upright” behavior before others, we might get the idea that the Christian life was only a matter of living according to certain rules or performing in an acceptable way. By adding the word godly to the ways grace teaches us to live, the apostle reminds us that the Christian life is one of dependence on God. Godliness is not a consequence of human resolution or willpower. It is a relationship with God that results in a life honoring to God. Thus, taking the three positive characteristics taught by grace in order, we learn that the life of grace is comprehensive – involving oneself, one’s relationship to others, and one’s relationship with God

Read or sing Hymn 180 “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story” Prayer: Please pray for the people of Venezuela as their country continues to unravel politically and economically.

Thursday (7/7) Read and discuss Hebrews 11:8-16. Tom Schreiner writes:

[Hebrews] highlights here that faith trusts in God for the future. Abraham left Ur even when he didn’t know where God was calling him to live. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died without seeing the promises realized in their fullness, but they didn’t mock the promises of God or dismiss them as fantasies. They trusted that God had a heavenly homeland for them, a heavenly city. So too, when the LORD summoned Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, he didn’t shrink back in unbelief. He continued to believe that God would fulfill his promises through Isaac and came to the conviction that God would raise him form the dead if need be. So too, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph on their deathbeds didn’t see God’s promises fulfilled; but they spoke about the future in confidence and faith, convinced God would do what he said. Faith trusts God for the future and believes, no matter how improbable it seems, that God will fulfill what he promised.

Read or sing Hymn 701 “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It!” Prayer: Please pray for the young people in our congregation that they would have productive and enjoyable Summers.

Friday (7/8) Read and discuss Genesis 22:20-23:20. Iain Duguid writes:

Sarah died old and full of years, and the age of 127, living in the Promised Land (Gen. 23:2). She did not suffer a long illness. She did not die a tragic death in the prime of life. Yet, in one sense, death is always a tragedy. There is always a sense of sadness and loss on the part of those left behind. There is a sense that this is not how it was supposed to be in the beginning. So Abraham mourned for his wife and wept over her. Mourning is not inappropriate, nor are feelings of sadness at someone’s death, even among those of us who expect the resurrection of the dead. Sometimes people give the impression that Christians should be impervious to suffering and should live in in an uninterrupted state of happiness. They say, “You’ve lost your job? Well, praise the LORD anyway,” or “Your mother died? You must be glad that she is now with the LORD.” We are apparently not supposed to feel any sadness – or at least not let it show. Our unwritten slogan is “Real Christians don’t cry.”

The Bible, however, has a different perspective. When Jesus saw the sorrow that Martha and Mary were experiencing because of the death of their brother Lazarus, he was deeply moved (John 11:33). When he saw the tomb, he wept too (v. 35), even though he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. We also grieve when a loved one dies, though not as those who do not share our resurrection hope. The sense of loss at our separation is real, even though it is only a temporary separation.

Abraham and Sarah in many ways demonstrated the principle enunciated in Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Their marriage, in fact, was the first godly one of which we get a glimpse in the Bible. They left home and family behind in a united pursuit of God’s calling. Then, many years later, half of union was called into God’s nearer presence. Of course, the fact that they had a godly marriage doesn’t mean that they never had any disputes or arguments. We’ve already looked at one of their strong disagreements (Gen 21:10-11)! Very likely, there were others that the Scriptures don’t mention. Sometimes, too, they led each other astray. Sarah led Abraham off the straight and narrow by suggesting that he take Hagar as a concubine. The shoe was on the other foot when Abraham hid the fact that he was married to Sarah. They were by no means perfect, but they were one flesh, and so Abraham mourned and wept when Sarah was taken from him.

Prayer: Lift up the married couples in our congregation and ask the LORD to guide husbands and wives to greater mutual love and joy as they show forth Christ’s steadfast love in their marriages.

Saturday (7/9) Read and discuss Ruth 4:1-12. Iain Duguid writes:

As the chapter opens, we see that Boaz wasted no time in seeking a resolution on Ruth’s behalf: “Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, ‘Turn aside, friend; sit down here.’ And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, ‘Sit down here.’ So they sat down” (Ruth 4:1-2). The town gate was the place where meetings were held and legal business was transacted. There Boaz soon encountered the mysterious stranger, the “man with no name.” In fact, the story goes to some lengths not to give his name; when Boaz summons him over he literally says, “Come over here, peloni almoni,” a rhyming but meaningless phrase that is roughly equivalent to our “Mr. So-and-So.”

Once Boaz had his quarry seated in front of a panel of witnesses, the elders of the people, he immediately broached the subject of their kinswoman Naomi and her future: “then he said the redeemer, ‘Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, “But it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.” If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you’” (Ruth 4:3-4). Boaz is really saying something like this: “Naomi has a field. She needs to sell it to raise money to live on. If there were a kinsman redeemer, however, he could buy the field and keep it in the family. Of course, the buyer would ultimately get to add the property to his own inheritance, provided that there are no children involved. You are first in line … are you interested? This seemed like such a promising opportunity that the kinsman redeemer instantly agreed.

But then Boaz sprang the surprise on him: “the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance” (Ruth 4:5). “Oh, by the way,” Boaz was saying. “One more thing: When you acquire the field, along with it comes Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the dead man whose field it was. You must marry her in order to raise up a child for the dead man whose field it was. You must marry her in order to raise up a child for the dead man, a child who will inherit the field when he grows up.” All of a sudden, the kinsman redeemer changed his mind: “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.” Mr. So-and-So backed away from the deal faster than a man faced with a coiled rattlesnake. What a moment before had seemed to be a “can’t miss” real estate deal – taking care of an old lady in return for the long-term payoff of a field – had suddenly become an investment nightmare. If there were to be a child from the relationship with Ruth, the redeemer would lose the field and there would be no benefit to his own children and estate to compensate for the costs involved in taking care of Naomi and Ruth. In other words, Mr. So-and-So was interested in ministry to the poor only if there was a payoff for himself and his family. Costly ministry without any personal payoff? Forget it!

Read or sing Hymn: 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 3 July 2016 Sunday, Jun 26 2016 

MVOPC 3 July 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 8:10-12

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

Old Covenant Reading: Ruth 3:1-18

New Covenant Reading: Luke 18:1-8

Sermon: At The Threshing Floor

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

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 22:1-19

NT: Hebrews 11:17-19

A Tested Faith, A Glorious Type

Adult Sunday School: An Introduction to Saint Augustine

Shorter Catechism Q/A #49

Q. Which is the second commandment?
A. The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Suggested Preparations 

Monday (6/27) Read and discuss Ruth 3:1-18. Iain Duguid writes:

Naomi now started to consider Ruth’s needs. Living with her mother-in-law could never be an ideal situation. Ruth needed a husband and a home of her own. This was not exactly a new observation: it was, after all, the reason why Naomi had told Ruth to go home in chapter 1, back to a place where she might be more likely to find such a place of rest with a husband of her own. Naomi had even asked the LORD to provide such a place for both of her daughters-in-law in Moab. She told Ruth that this was still what she wanted. “My daughter,” she said, “should I not seek rest for you, that it may be well with you?” (Ruth 3:1). But who in Bethlehem would provide a place of rest for an outsider, especially a foreigner like Ruth? … Taking on a Moabite wife would probably have been at least socially awkward, if not worse. A man might end up as a social outcast, spurned by decent society. Who would be willing to undertake such a risk?

Naomi thought she knew the answer: “Is not Boaz our relative, with whose young women you were? See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor” (Ruth 3:2). Boaz was a man of character. He was a relative of Naomi. He was a man who had already shown himself willing to make costly provision for the poor and needy. Indeed, the reference to him as “a close relative of ours, one of our redeemers” in the previous chapter may already have started Naomi’s mind moving the direction of Boaz’s marriage potential as a solution to all of their problems.

But how exactly could a woman make such a delicate proposal? Ruth could hardly walk up to Boaz in the middle of the field, drop to one knee and say, “Marry me!” Moreover, it was now close to the end of the wheat harvest, six to eight weeks after the first encounter between Ruth and Boaz, and there seemed to be little progress in their relationship. However, Naomi had an idea to jumpstart things. She said to Ruther, “Wash therefore and anoint yourself, and put on your cloak and go down to the threshing floor, but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. But when he lies down, observe the place where he lies. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down, and he will tell you what to do?” That night, when the winnowing was over and the workers had finished eating and drinking, Boaz would be sleeping out with the pile of grain, guarding it through the night. Naomi’s instructions to her daughter-in-law went along these lines: “Ruth, get washed, put on your best clothes, splash on some perfume, and apply some makeup. Go see where he lies down, and then lie down next to him. He will tell you what to do next.”

Read or sing Hymn 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render” Prayer: Give thanks that the Living God has cast the corner of His garment over His people, taken us to Himself, and is committed to providing for and protecting us.

Tuesday (6/28) Read and discuss 1 John 4:17-5:3. Karen Jobes writes:

The cross of Jesus delivers us from the coming judgment and frees us to live and love as God created us to do. The NT is full of ethical and moral principles, but John’s writings are strangely void of anything other than the command to love one another. In fact, John says, a person is self-deceived who claims to love God but is indifferent toward His church. So many in our modern society see themselves as spiritual, but have disdain for the church and organized religion. While churches and denominations certainly have their flaws and problems, it is an oxymoron to think that one can love and worship God in splendid isolation from the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is only in community with others who have received God’s atoning love in the cross of Christ that one can truly love God. It is only in the ups and downs of relationships with other believers that one has the opportunities to love.

Read or sing Hymn 598 “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” Prayer: Ask the LORD to knit the members of our church family more closely together.

Wednesday (6/29) Read and discuss Luke 18:1-8. David Garland writes:

The parable confirms the Pauline injunctions to pray without ceasing, to persevere in prayer, and to devote yourselves to prayer. But it may be easily misinterpreted to mean that God eventually wears down and responds to persistence. The message is not that it pays to pester God because God eventually will respond, or that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Instead, the point is that God, who demands justice and is sympathetic to the plight of His people, will bring final vindication. Believers may boldly plead with God in prayer, “Your reign come,” and know that they are not dealing with an apathetic, wicked crook who metes out favorable decisions to the highest bidder. They pray to a loving, caring God who has promised deliverance and has the power to accomplish it. The difference is that Christians are not like the widow and God is not like the judge. Believers do not approach God as though they were bag ladies. They are identified as “the elect” and already have a relationship with God. Will God not vindicate His elect?

The widow in the parable has no other connections, no other options. The judge is her only hope. As the widow determinedly casts her future hopes in the hands of this judge, so Christians must place all of their hope in God as the only hope they have.

Read or sing Hymn 180 “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story” Prayer: Lift up President Obama as he leads the United States in the midst of many pressing challenges.

Thursday (6/30) Read and discuss Hebrews 11:17-19. Peter O’Brien writes:

Our author explains the faith that led Abraham to sacrifice his son willingly. He was so sure that God would perform what he had promised that he attempted to offer Isaac, convinced that God could raise the dead. The promise of Genesis 21:12 (“It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned”) may have motivated Abraham to offer up his son as a gift to God. Perhaps, too, the result of his own experience of the power of God to triumph over death in relation to his own body (Heb. 11:12; Rom. 4:19-21) persuaded him that God was able to overcome death in the case of his son. But whatever factors were involved, Abraham was convinced of God’s ability to raise the dead. Our author’s statement to this effect is not an unwarranted reading of the Genesis narrative. When Abraham left his servants behind, while he and Isaac were going to the place of sacrifice, he said to them, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham expected to return with Isaac, and since he intended to sacrifice his son in obedient to God, the only way this could happen was through God’s restoring Isaac’s life.

Read or sing Hymn 670 “If Thou Should Suffer God to Guide Thee” Prayer: Give thanks that Christ’s resurrection guarantees that all who trust in Him will one day be raised incorruptible.

Friday (7/1) Read and discuss Genesis 22:1-19. Walter Bruggemann writes;

The life of Abraham, then, is set by this text in the midst of the contradiction between the testing of God and the providing of God; between the sovereign freedom which requires complete obedience and the gracious faithfulness which gives good gifts; between the command and the promise; and between the word of death which takes away and the word of life which gives. The call to Abraham is a call to live in the presence of this God who moves both toward us and apart from us. Faithful people will be tempted to want only half of it. Most complacent religion will want a God who provides, not a God who tests. Some in bitterness will want a God who tests but refuse the generous providing. Some in cynical modernity will regard both affirmations as silly, presuming we must answer to none and rely upon none, for we are both free and competent. But father Abraham confessed himself not free of the testing and not competent for his own provision.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to use the challenges in your life to lead you to greater maturity in your walk with Him.

Saturday (7/2) Read and discuss Ruth 3:1-18. Iain Duguid writes:

Ruth agreed to her mother-in-law’s plan and put it into effect – up to a point. Later that night, she found herself alone watching events at the threshing floor: “And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came softly and uncovered his fee and lay down” (Ruth 3:7). The party was over, and it had been a good evening. After a long day of work, and a long night of feasting, Boaz must have been feeling very good about life. So he went and lay down at the end of the grain pile and fell fast asleep. In the middle of the night, though, something disturbed him – perhaps the cold air on his now exposed lower extremities. He rolled over, reaching for his blanket, and discovered to his amazement a woman there. “At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and behold, a woman lay at his feet!” (Ruth 3:8).

Under the circumstances, “Who are you?” was a natural enough question for Boaz to ask. Ruth responded, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant for you are a redeemer” (Ruth 3:9). Here is where Ruth’s actions diverged from her mother-in-law’s instructions. Instead of leaving the situation dangerously ambiguous, as a woman of character Ruth wanted to make her intentions clear right from the outset. Her goal was a commitment to marriage, not a single night of passion. In the ancient world, such a commitment was symbolized by the gesture of covering someone with corner of one’s robe, roughly equivalent to the giving of an engagement ring in our culture (compare Ezek. 16:8).

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

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