Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 5 July 2015 Sunday, Jun 28 2015 

MVOPC 5 July 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Titus 3:4-7

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

Old Covenant Reading:  Psalm 8:1-9

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 2:5-9

Sermon: For a Little While

Hymn of Response: 49 “More Love to Thee, O Christ”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Daniel 7:15-28

NT: Revelation 17:9-18

For He is Lord of Lords

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 82-83: Communion in Glory

Shorter Catechism Q/A #105

Q. What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
A. In the fifth petition, which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, we pray that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (6/29) Read and discuss Hebrews 2:5-9. N.T. Wright comments:

How can something that’s happened to Jesus, all by himself, be relevant for the rest of us? … [Here’s how:] Jesus is the representative of His people. In a parliamentary democracy, voters in each area elect someone to represent them in the central councils of state. They can’t all be there themselves (in the way that all citizens could be present, and could speak and vote, in the small city of ancient Athens, the birthplace of democracy); so they find an appropriate way of appointing someone who is there on their behalf, carrying their hopes and fears, their needs and aspirations, in his or her own person. Thus, because the representative is there and they are not, he or she also acts as their substitute, doing for them what, for various reasons, they can’t do for themselves.

Something like this is going on again and again in the New Testament when writers speak of Jesus both as Israel’s Messiah and the world’s true Lord. Jesus represents Israel, as it’s Messiah; and, since Israel was designed, in God’s purpose, to be the people who would represent the whole world, he also represents that much larger community. As a result, he can stand in for them, doing for them what they couldn’t do for themselves. Hebrews here puts it in a nutshell: in His suffering of death, Jesus has, by God’s grace, been enabled ‘to taste death on behalf of everyone.’ A good deal of the letter will now be devoted to explaining how this comes about, and what it means. For the moment, we should simply celebrate the fact, which is central to all Christianity, that in Jesus God has already dealt with death on our behalf, and is already ruling the world as its rightful Lord.

Read or sing Hymn 30 “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” Prayer: Please pray for President Obama that he would not be overwhelmed by the pressing demands of his office but that he would lead our nation with wisdom and moral courage.

Tuesday (6/30) Read and discuss Hebrews 2:1-4. What does neglecting our salvation look like? Jesus once told a parable that paints a picture of what such neglect looks like. He said:

“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.  17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’  19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’  20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’  21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’  22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’  23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.  24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.'”

Pay attention to those excuses. They were all about good things. Fields, and oxen, and wives are all gifts from God. Nobody said: “Please excuse me while I go and rob my neighbor” or “please excuse me while I sell cocaine.” And that is true of your life as well. Most of you will be tempted to neglect Christ not for things that are intrinsically evil but for things which in the right context – and received with thankfulness to God – are genuinely good. What are those things in your life? What are the things your mind keeps turning to when you are not trying to focus on anything in particular? There is a high likelihood that this is what has a hold of your heart. Now remember Hebrews chapter 1: Jesus is better! Prayer: Please pray for the members of our congregation who are on or traveling to short-term mission works this week.

Wednesday (7/1) Read and discuss Psalm 8:1-9. Commenting on verses 6-9 Calvin writes:

From the dominion over all things which God has conferred upon men, it is evident how great is the love which he has borne towards them, and how much account he has made of them. As he does not stand in need of anything himself, he has destined all the riches, both of heaven and earth, for their use.

It is certainly a singular honor and one which cannot be sufficiently estimated, that mortal man, as the representative of God, has dominion over the world, as if it pertained to him by right, and that to whatever quarter he turns his eyes, he sees nothing wanting which may contribute to the convenience and happiness of his life. Now there is no doubt, that if there is anything in heaven or on earth which is opposed to men, the beautiful order which God had established in the world at the beginning is now thrown into confusion. The consequence of this is, that mankind, after they were ruined by the fall of Adam, were not only deprived of so distinguished and honorable an estate, and dispossessed of their former dominion, but are also held captive under a degrading and ignominious bondage. Christ, it is true, is the lawful heir of heaven and earth, by whom the faithful recover what they had lost in Adam; but he has not yet actually entered upon full possession of his empire and dominion. What is here said by David will not be perfectly accomplished until death be abolished. There remains the hope of a better state than the present.

Read or sing Hymn 345 “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters and Grace OPC in Fall River as they grieve over the sudden death of their pastor.

Thursday (7/2) Read and discuss Daniel 7:1-28. Reading Daniel as a complete book, it is easy to see the close parallels between the vision the LORD gave to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter 2 and the vision that He gave to Daniel in today’s passage. Both speak of four kingdoms and they are clearly both speaking about the same four kingdoms: Babylon; Media-Persia; Greece; and Rome. Nevertheless, the images used of these kingdoms are different from each other. In today’s passage these kingdoms are portrayed as four ferocious beasts which are devouring their prey. This is a distortion of God’s purpose for human civil government. The LORD had originally given Adam and Eve a mandate to rule, tend, and spread the Garden of Eden. This was an integral aspect of what it means for human beings to be created in the image of God.  As God’s image bearers we are to make His invisible attributes visible through the just and careful administration of the world.  When human beings give themselves over to sin, they distort this image bearing in a beast-like direction. If we grasp this truth we will gain insight into one of the things that Christ did through His incarnation. By conquering Satan, sin, and death; and being enthroned as the glorious Son of Man, Jesus restores God’s original plan that a man would have dominion over creation as His image bearer. This is one of the reasons why the New Testament describes Jesus as “the image of the invisible God.” In Christ, we too are being restored to this role which we will carry out fully in the New Heavens and the New Earth. Read or sing Hymn 49 “More Love to Thee, O Christ” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you a more faithful reflection of His perfect rule in the Universe.

Friday (7/3) Read and discuss Revelation 17:9-18. Denis Johnson writes:

The irony of Babylon’s fall magnifies the incomparable power and wisdom of God. The beast and its allies, raging in hostility toward the Lamb and His bride, will be the weapons that God uses to bring down the harlot, who was once the beast’s royal consort. “For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, an by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled” (17:17). If there is one thing in all the world that the rebels do not want to do, it is the purpose of God. But they are helpless to keep that sovereign purpose out of their hearts, to protect their minds from invasion by the LORD God Almighty. In doing what they want to do, hating the harlot and ripping her to pieces, they are doing precisely what God wants. And in gathering to wage their war against the Messiah, they are merely assembling for their own execution.

Prayer: Give thanks to the LORD for His exhaustive sovereignty and how He governs all things for our good and for His own glory.

Saturday (7/4) Read and discuss Hebrews 2:5-9. Tom Schreiner writes:

Psalm 8, quoted in Hebrews 2, considers the majesty of God and the wonders of the created world. What role do apparently insignificant human beings have in a world so vast and magnificent? The psalmist answers, as he reflects on the creation account in Genesis 1-2, that God appointed human beings to rule the world for God. Even though they are now lower than angels, the whole world is destined to be subject to human beings. The author of Hebrews quotes this psalm (Heb. 2:6-8) and then comments on it. He acknowledges that presently the world is not under the control of human beings. The sway of death over all demonstrates that human beings suffer under the dominion of hostile powers. Human beings have failed, beginning with Adam and Eve, in their quest to domesticate the world for God’s praise. The world has become a wreck instead of a blessing.

The failure of human beings is not the end of the story. Jesus is the representative human being. He succeeded where the rest of the human race has failed. In that sense, he is the true human being, the only one who has genuinely lived the kind of life that humans were intended to live under God. Hebrews emphasizes in the strongest possible terms the true humanness of Jesus, both as the son of Adam (humanity) and as the son of David. As a human being, Jesus was temporarily lower than angels he is now “crowned with glory and honor” (Heb. 2:9). Jesus now sits at God’s right hand as the exalted man (Heb. 1:3, 13) since he has fully atoned for sin and his work is completed. The rule always promised to human beings has commenced with Jesus’ exaltation.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 28 June 2015 Sunday, Jun 21 2015 

MVOPC 28 June 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: 2 Chronicles 7:14

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

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 26:14-33

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 2:1-4

Sermon: Listen Up!

Hymn of Response: 439 “Christ Shall Have Dominion”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 441 “Jesus Shall Reign”

PM Worship:

OT: Psalm 137:1-9

NT: Revelation 17:1-8

Babylon the Great

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 79-81: Assurance of Salvation

Shorter Catechism Q/A #104.

Q. What do we pray for in the fourth petition?
A. In the fourth petition, which is, Give us this day our daily bread, we pray that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (6/22) Read and discuss Hebrews 2:1-4. Tom Schreiner writes:

The reason for the elegant theological argument in 1:1-14 now surfaces. The author warns the readers that they should not drift away from the message they received. The main point of the paragraph is the warning given to the readers. Connections between this paragraph and chapter 1 surface; both emphasize that God has spoken through the son, and thus the readers must heed what was proclaimed to them. Verses 2-4 explain why the warning is so crucial. In verses 2-3 we have an argument from the lesser to the greater. If those who violated the word given by angels were punished with earthly punishments, those who reject such a great salvation will experience even more dire consequences. When we put the pieces together, the main point of the paragraph can be summarized as follows: pay attention and don’t drift away from the message proclaimed by the Son, for there is no escape for those who neglect such a great salvation. The paragraph concludes with an affirmation of the truth received. It was “spoken by the LORD” and confirmed by eyewitnesses. Signs and wonders and other miracles attested to the truthfulness of the revelation. The readers should have no doubts about the veracity of the revelation and therefore must not turn away from the truth.

Read or sing Hymn 5 “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Please lift up those in our congregation who are suffering with significant health challenges.

Tuesday (6/23) Read and discuss Hebrews 1:5-14. In this portion of Hebrews the author is focusing on one basic truth: Jesus is better than angels. Jesus isn’t just a little bit better than angels. He is qualitatively better. While Jesus is the Creator angels are creatures. Indeed one of the reasons that angels were created was so that they would worship Jesus Christ. In verse the author of Hebrews clinches His argument with a quotation from Psalm 110:

And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

If this argument sounds familiar, it is probably because it is one that Jesus used when talking with the Pharisees in the Temple courts. In Matthew 22:41 and following we read:

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’?  If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

The author of Hebrews uses the same argument, not to silence his audience, but to call them back to the Church and a full devotion to Jesus Christ. The contrast is simple and powerful: Jesus reigns. Angels serve. Therefore Jesus is far more exalted than the angels. Prayer: Please pray for the work of the Boardwalk Chapel in Wildwood, New Jersey.

Wednesday (6/24) Read and discuss Leviticus 26:14-33. Philip Eveson writes:

The prophets were not only biblical in presenting the curses to the people, they were also biblical in presenting a message of hope to a humbled and subdued people. A future is held out to them after the final curse of total defeat and exile. Just as the LORD remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and acted to deliver Israel from the Egyptian bondage, so he promises to act again (26:42, 45). As there are conditions that relate to the series of blessings and curses, so a condition is set at the commencement of this passage of hope. They are urged to confess the sinfulness of their own treacherous disloyalty and that of their ancestors in living so contrary to God’s standards, to acknowledge that God has rightly punished them by removing them to the land of their enemies and to turn to God in humbleness of heart. If they show these marks of repentance then God will act in accordance with his covenant promises to Abraham, promises that include ‘the land.’

Read or sing Hymn 193 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” Prayer: Lift up the Supreme Court of the United States that the nine Justices would be given wisdom and moral courage to carry out their high offices.

Thursday (6/25) Read and discuss Psalm 137:1-9. Today’s passage is both a sad and a violent psalm that mediates on the persecution and suffering of God’s people who are in exile. Willem Van Gemeren writes:

Lament and sorrow focus on the profound love for Zion, which is not separate from love for God. For the exiles, love for God and for Jerusalem were intertwined because of the Temple. Though the Temple was in ruins, the godly community, possibly remembering Solomon’s prayer for those in exile (1 Kings 8:48-49), focused its attention on Jerusalem.

Loyalty lies in remembering (v. 1) instead of forgetting (v. 5). The godly could not forget Jerusalem and everything it stood for – covenant, temple, the presence and kingship of God, atonement, forgiveness, and reconciliation. They vowed never to forget God’s promises and to persevere while waiting for the moment of redemption. As part of the vow, the godly took on themselves a formula of self-cursing: “may my right hand wither” and “may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth.”

Read or sing Hymn 439 “Christ Shall Have Dominion” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Friday (6/26) Read and discuss Revelation 17:1-8. Denis Johnson writes:

From the beginning of the vision Babylon’s reign over earth’s kings and residents is portrayed as seduction to sexual immorality, but this is a pervasive prophetic metaphor for spiritual infidelity, that is, idolatry. The description of the harlot’s wealth, her making the nations drunk, her boastful self-confidence, and her collapse are derived from ancient prophecies against pagan nations that idolized their own politico-military power and against Tyre, which boasted in its affluence through trade. We have seen that the beast portrays Rome from the perspective of its physical threat to the church through violence but that it also transcends Rome, being a composite of all four beasts/kingdoms in Daniel 7. So also the harlot Babylon shows us Rome from the perspective of the spiritual threat of compromise through economic seduction, yet she also transcends Rome and encompasses every expression of the idolatry that worships economic prosperity and cultural achievement, whether in Nineveh, Chaldean Babylon, Tyre, Rome, or later entrepreneurial empires.

Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Amoskeag Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Manchester, NH.

Saturday (6/27) Read and discuss Hebrews 2:1-4. N.T. Wright comments:

The central contrast in this passage, obviously, is between the law of Moses, given through angels, carrying warnings and penalty clauses for those who disobeyed it, and the message concerning Jesus. Modern Western Christians have often seen this contrast in terms of the law as a threatening thing and the gospel of Jesus as a soothing, comforting, healing thing. There’s much truth in that, but if we forget the other side of it we make the gospel a mere cosy blanket instead of the bracing, challenging, life-changing thing it really is. If the king, the president, the emperor, the prime minister, or whoever is important in your country, sent you a message by a special messenger, you would pay attention, wouldn’t you? But, if he turned up in person to see you, you wouldn’t just pay attention; you would feel your world was turning upside down. Well, the law was a message from the one true God, sent through the special messengers (the angels). But in the message of the gospel the King Himself has come to speak to us directly. What will happen if we say we’re too busy, we can’t be bothered to come and speak to him, we’re reading a nice book and can’t tear ourselves away just now?

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 21 June 2015 Sunday, Jun 14 2015 

MVOPC 21 June 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Matthew 1:18-21

Hymn of Preparation: 170 “Fairest Lord Jesus”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 102:1-28

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 1:5-14

Sermon: Your Throne, O God

Hymn of Response: 181 “We Come, O Christ, to You”

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still, My Soul”

PM Worship:

OT: Ezekiel 38:1-23

NT: Revelation 16:10-21

It is Done!

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday school

Shorter Catechism Q/A #103

Q. What do we pray for in the third petition?
A. In the third petition, which is, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven, we pray that God, by his grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey and submit to his will in all things, as the angels do in heaven.

Suggested Preparations 

Monday (6/14) Read and discuss Hebrews 1:5-14. Frank Theilman writes:

In his contrast between God’s speech through the Scriptures and His speech through His Son, the author has already described that Son as the one through whom He made and sustained the universe. He is the … “radiance” of God’s glory and has the “imprint” of his essential nature. The author now engages in an exegesis of a series of biblical passages, primarily from the Psalms, to show that the close connection between God and His Son makes the Son superior to the angels. …

The author first demonstrates from the Scriptures the vast difference between the relationship that the Son has with God and the relationship which the angels have with God. The author makes this clear by punctuating this paragraph with three explicit statements of contrast between the Son and the angels:

  • “For to which of the angels did God ever say …” (1:5)
  • “In speaking of the angels He says …” (1:7)
  • “But to which of the angels did God ever say …” (1:13)

Between these explicit statements of contrast the author weaves seven biblical quotations that together demonstrate the superiority of the Son to angles in two basic ways: [First,] Jesus is the Royal and Exalted Son. [Second,] Jesus is the Divine and Eternal Agent of Creation.

Read or sing Hymn 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render” Prayer: Please lift up those in our church family who are suffering.

Tuesday (6/15) Read and discuss Hebrews 1:1-5. Though Hebrews addresses a wide variety of the challenges that we face in following Jesus, the core audience of the letter seems to be Jewish Christians who are wrestling with the temptation to go back into Judaism. Why would that be? Two thousand years later, when Christianity is the largest religion in the world, it can be difficult to see why Jewish Christians would want to abandon the Church. But in the first century Christians met in small groups, they lacked prestige, they lacked beautiful buildings and highly regarded schools, and they lacked official recognition by the Roman Empire as being a legitimate religion with legal protections. By contrast, every significant city in the Roman Empire had at least one well established synagogue. The Temple in Jerusalem, one of the most beautiful and impressive buildings ever erected, still stood as a focal point for religious life – and behind that stood 1,800 years of the LORD talking with, disciplining, and delivering His people. You may catch a bit of this temptation today when a Roman Catholic joins the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The former has St. Peter’s cathedral in the Vatican, the University of Notre Dame, Fordham, Georgetown, and 2,000 years of history. Even the local Catholic Church may be a beautiful stone or brick building that seats more than a 1,000 people. One day, sitting in the cafeteria of an elementary school as part of denomination that most people have never even heard of, such an individual can feel the pull to return to what seems so much grander. And returning to Rome would make so many family members happy! First century Jewish Christians felt all this and much more as their kinsmen according to the flesh urged them to abandon this “Jesus cult” to return to the religion of their fathers. How would Hebrews address this temptation? For one thing, Hebrews plainly warns that turning back means turning back to our own destruction. It also holds out heroes of the faith to inspire us to run the same race with enthusiasm and joy. For example, Hebrews 11 describes Moses, who …

 refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,  choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

Such images inspire us. They make us think: “I want to be like that!” But far more than any other remedy for the temptations we face, Hebrews offers a single antidote: “Jesus is better!”

            Jesus is better than Moses.

            Jesus is better than Aaron and the Levitical Priesthood.

            Jesus is better than Joshua.

            Jesus is better than the angles.

Whatever else you might be tempted to place your hope in for happiness in this life and the life to come – Jesus is far better! Prayer: While you cannot know anyone or anything better than Jesus, pray that the Holy Spirit would cause you to know Jesus better.

Wednesday (6/17) Read and discuss Psalm 102:1-28. This Psalm begins with deep distress. Verses 3-11 paint a picture that could lead many of us to the brink of complete despair. Then verse 12 begins with that wonderful word “but.” No matter how bad our circumstances, the LORD is greater than our troubles and both willing and able to deliver us. Indeed, the circumstances of verses 3-11 could lead non-Christians to hopelessness but the psalm concludes with great hope. Commenting on verse 28 Willem Van Gemeren writes:

The future of the godly is tied up with God himself and with his promises. The psalmist praises the LORD in that he will be true to “the children of your servants.” They and their descendents will “dwell” and be “established” in the LORD’s presence. Such is the confidence of the covenantal care of the LORD.

The LORD magnificently showed His fidelity to His promises when He restored the people from exile under Cyrus and when He sent Jesus the Messiah to restore humanity to Himself. God the Father is able to bring “many sons to glory”; and to this end He sent Jesus, His Son, to be the author of salvation. As the Savior is perfect, so is His salvation. What the psalmist longed for has been experienced in time, as the faithful servants of God have testified. But as long as God’s servants suffer, this psalm is appropriate for all who long for the fullness of salvation, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.

Read or sing Hymn 170 “Fairest Lord Jesus” Prayer: Give thanks for the certainty that one day we will be delivered not only from the power of sin but the presence of sin as well.

Thursday (6/18) Read and discuss Ezekiel 38:1-23. Commenting on this passage, Iain Duguid writes:

God is going to win. This may seem a simple, even simplistic, point, but it is central to the thrust of the God narrative. No matter how big the opposition, how well organized they are, how powerful their weaponry, or how paltry the resources of God’s people, ultimately the plans of God’s enemies will come to nothing. As in Psalm 2, the nations may conspire together and the kings of the earth take a stand against God, but all their posturing causes mirth rather than worry in the heart of the Most High. Ultimately, no matter what Satan throws against the church, the full number of the elect from the north and south and east and west will be brought in and will sit down together at God’s table to share in the heavenly feast.

God’s victory means the ultimate destruction of all those who oppose him. God and his army end up as a massive array of corpses, scattered on the face of the earth. Their weaponry is useless against God’s cosmic arsenal of fire and earthquake, hailstones and burning sulfur (38:19-22). Those who came to plunder will end up themselves plundered. Once again adopting the language of Psalm 2, God will be terrified in God’s wrath, dashed in pieces like pottery, and destroyed along the way. … We need to take seriously his admonition: “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

Read or sing Hymn 181 “We Come, O Christ, to You” Prayer: Ask that the LORD’s name would be hallowed in your life, in your family, and in your workplace or school.

Friday (6/19) Read and discuss Revelation 16:10-21. Louis Brighton writes:

Finally, the enormity of the destruction caused by God’s judgment is emphasized by the unimaginable depiction of fantastic hailstones so large that they each weigh a hundred pounds. While the earth’s surface and its cities are being shaken and demolished, so that human beings flee in terror for safety but find none, the earth and its inhabitants are further afflicted by hailstones so large that it is difficult to think any human being or animal or plant could survive (Yet some people apparently do, for they blaspheme God in 16:21). Whether such hail is only a metaphor for God’s punishing judgment or whether such physical hail attends his coming presence in judgment – or both – the result is the same. For the hail emphasizes the climax of God’s divine wrath in his anger of the sins and rebellion of humankind. In the OT God sometimes punished the enemies of his people on earth with hail. In imagery that is close to what john sees here … Ezekiel saw how God promised to destroy God and his evil host just before the End. When God will be judged and destroyed, God in His wrath will send an earthquake so that all life on the face of the earth will tremble, mountains will be thrown down, and torrents of rain, accompanied by hailstones and burning sulfur, will pour down upon this great enemy of God’s people.

Despite the evidence furnished by God’s plagues, signifying the punishing actions of his judgment, the enemies of his saints do not repent. Even at the very punishing presence of God coming to bring this world to its end, climaxed by the hailstones, there is no change of heart toward God. For people “blasphemed God” on account of his judgment at the End. Their adherence and allegiance to the dragon and his henchmen is unshaken. They stubbornly hold to what the unholy trinity represents, even to the bitter end. “Their Faustian bargain has transformed them into blasphemers who carry out to the end the beast’s hatred of God (Robert Mounce).” And they even do this in the face of eternal suffering in hell.

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

Saturday (6/20) Read and discuss Hebrews 1:5-14. Karen Jobes writes:

The announcement that the Son is God who will co-rule with the Father forever is presented in contrast to the power of the angels to show their inferiority to the Son. Hebrews describes the Son as heir of all things, the agent and sustainer of creation, the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact representation of his nature in order to argue that the Son is superior first to the angles and second to Israel’s greatest prophet, Moses. What is said of the Son in Hebrews 1 could not be said of any of the angels, who are but servants of God who worship the Son and minster to those who will inherit salvation.

Many in the ancient world, and not a few in our modern times,  might argue that because Jesus was a man, he must be inferior to the angels, because human beings are inferior to angels in power, position, and access to God’s presence. … In this worldview, the angels would have been considered far superior both in power and purity in comparison to the human being Jesus. The author of Hebrews corrects this falsehood first by revealing the true nature of the Son. He then explains that despite their power and position, the angels are not to rule the world to come; rather, the ruler will be from the race of human beings, who, despite being “made a little lower” than the angels, have “everything under their feet.” Yet at the present time, the author of Hebrews concedes, it sure looks like angels are superior, because “we do not yet see everything subject” to humankind. But what do we see? Praise God, “we … see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while” but who is now “crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death.” The human incarnation of the Son does not make Him inferior to the angels; rather, it makes Him uniquely qualified to accomplish God’s plan to redeem humanity from the curse of death on humankind because of their sin. The incarnate Son did what no angel could ever do – He died. And because of that He is in fact superior to the angels despite being fully human.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 14 June 2015 Sunday, Jun 7 2015 

MVOPC 14 June 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 1:16-17

Hymn of Preparation: 164 “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 2:1-12

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 1:1-5

Sermon: Far Greater

Hymn of Response: 167 “When Morning Gilds the Skies”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Til He Come”!

PM Worship:

OT: Psalm 79:1-13

NT: Revelation 16:1-9

True & Just are His Judgments

Adult Sunday School: The 2015 General Assembly

Shorter Catechism Q/A #102

Q. What do we pray for in the second petition?

A. In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come, we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (6/8) Read and discuss Hebrews 1:1-5. N.T. Wright observes:

[The] opening sentence isn’t just a rhetorical flourish. It tells us clearly how the argument of the whole letter is going to run. Again and again we start with a passage from the Old Testament, and the writer shows us how it points forwards to something yet to come. Again and again the ‘something’ it points forward to turns out to be Jesus – Jesus, as in this passage, as God’s unique son, the one who has dealt with sins fully and finally, the one who now rules at God’s right hand, the one to whom even angels bow in submission.

The next passage will develop this last point more fully. But we should notice, before we go any further, that the passages our writer quotes in verse 5 are two of the Old Testament passages the early Christians used most frequently when they were struggling to say what had to be said about Jesus. Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14 both speak of the Messiah, the ultimate Son of David, as God’s own special son. Like all the early Christians, the writer of this letter begins his thinking with the belief that Jesus was and is the Messiah, Israel’s true king. Everything else follows from that.

Read or sing Hymn 12 “Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim” Prayer: Ask that the Holy Spirit would exalt Jesus Christ in your community, workplace, home, and your own life.

Tuesday (6/9) Read and discuss Luke 18:1-8. Parables can be surprisingly difficult to interpret. If we keep two matters in mind, we will be far more likely to grasp what the LORD intends to teach us. We will look at the first principle for interpreting parables today and the second on Saturday. First of all, parables are not allegories. Most parables (though not all) only have one main point. If we treat parables like short versions of Pilgrim’s Progress we will end up wondering about the unjust judge and how this man represents God the Father. But what are we to make of the fact that this judge cares neither about justice nor his fellow man but only that this woman will stop annoying him? Does this man really represent our heavenly Father? Of course not! Instead we should recall these words of Jesus from Matthew chapter 7:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

With this in mind we can see that Jesus is trying to teach us about continuing to persevere in prayer over an extended period of time. The woman kept bringing her requests to the judge because he was the only one, humanly speaking, who could grant her request. Christ is encouraging us to do the same thing in bringing our requests to our heavenly Father. This means that the fundamental orientation of our lives should be one of dependence upon God. As today’s passage begins, “we ought always to pray and never to give up.” Prayer: Lift up our national political leaders and ask that the LORD would cause them to become increasingly dependent upon Him.

Wednesday (6/10) 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).” Read or sing Hymn 164 “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” Prayer: Please pray for the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church as it finishes its work today and for safe travels for all those involved.

Thursday (6/11) Read and discuss Psalm 79:1-13. Asaph understands that the LORD has used the Gentiles to bring His righteous judgment upon His chosen people. This Psalm is a plea that He would forgive their sins, relent in this judgment, and bring judgment on the Gentiles who refuse to honor the LORD as God. What is the basis for this request? Commenting on verse 10 Calvin writes:

God extends his compassion towards us for this own name’s sake; for, as he is merciful, and will have our mouths stopped, that he alone may be accounted righteous, he freely pardons our sins. But here, the faithful beseech him that he would not allow his sacred name to be exposed to the blasphemies and insults of the wicked. From this we are taught that we do not pray in a right manner, unless a concern about our own salvation, and zeal for the glory of God, are inseparably joined together in our exercise.

Read or sing Hymn 167 “When Morning Gilds the Skies” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would cause His name to be honored in our culture.

Friday (6/12) Read and discuss Revelation 16:1-9. Dennis Johnson writes:

Iain Duguid has summed up the life of Abraham as “living in the gap between promise and reality.” The description fits Abraham and us, his spiritual children down through history. God’s promises are sure, but by their nature as promises they point our faith forward to wait in hope for fulfillment yet to come. Abraham shows us what it means to “live by faith.” Realities that he would not see before dying – a seed who would bring blessings to all nations, a homeland secure from all enemies – became the lodestar by which Abraham navigated his life.

Scripture offers another perspective on Abraham’s waiting in the gap for promises to be fulfilled. As believers wait for God to turn his promises into joyful reality of blessing, so God waits to turn his threats against unbelievers into the grave reality of judgment. Abraham will not take possession of Canaan in his day; but his descendants, after four centuries of slavery, will return to receive the land of promise. The delay – the gap – is not only because God calls Abraham and his children to live by faith, not sight. It is also because the land’s current occupants have not “filled to the brim” their quota of wrath-deserving wickedness. God promises Abraham, “then in the fourth generation [your descendents] will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” God has, as it were, a vessel of justice into which the Amorites are pouring their evil, idolatry, and violence, until the foul brew reaches the bowl’s brim and overflows in a flood of divine wrath. …

These two time gaps are concurrent: Abraham must wait for God to close the gap between the promise and the reality of blessing because God will wait to close the gap between the threat and reality of condemnation. … The vision of the fifth seal unveiled this divinely planned coincidence: the martyrs’ lament, “How long until you avenge our blood?” receives the surprising answer, “Not until the number of martyrs is filled up.” The vindication and relief of the suffering church will coincide with the completion of its enemies’ violent aggression the slaughter of the last martyr. … The outpouring of seven bowls, brimful of the wrath of the ever-living God, will bring the seven last plagues on people who are at home in this sin-cursed earth. These plagues are last because in them God’s wrath is completed, his unrivaled reign is revealed, and his oppressed people are avenged.

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

Saturday (6/13) Read and discuss Hebrews 1:1-5. Tom Schreiner writes:

Jesus is the culmination of God’s revelation. The OT Scriptures point to him and are fulfilled in him. We see in the introduction of Hebrews that Jesus is the prophet, priest, and king. He is the prophet, for God’s final word is spoken by him and in him alone. He is the priest by whom final cleansing of sins is accomplished. He is the king who reigns at God’s right hand. The last days have arrived in Jesus and the final word has been spoken, and hence there will be no further revelation until Jesus’ return. The great revelatory events have taken place in Jesus’ ministry, death, resurrection, and exaltation. Believers do not need any other word from God for their lives. They are to put their faith in what God has revealed in and through Jesus the Christ.

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 June 2015 Sunday, May 31 2015 

MVOPC 7 June 2015 – Rev. Stephen Tindall preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn:

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 55:7-9

Hymn of Preparation:

Old Covenant Reading:  Hosea 1:1-11 & 3:1-5

New Covenant Reading: John 13:1-17

Sermon: Jesus Washes Disciples Feet

Hymn of Response:

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn:

PM Worship: Elder Peter Bacon teaching

Adult Sunday School: Jason Donald teaching

Shorter Catechism Q/A #101

Q. What do we pray for in the first petition?

A. In the first petition, which is, Hallowed be thy name, we pray that God would enable us and others to glorify him in all that whereby he maketh himself known; and that he would dispose all things to his own glory.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (6/1) Read and discuss John 13:1-17. Chuck Swindoll writes:

When Jesus laid aside His outer garment, handled Himself like a slave, and bowed low to wash His disciples’ feet, He taught His men several important lessons about humility, not the least of which is that humility is an action, not simply an attitude. One does not feel humble or think humble thoughts. In fact, a person of genuine humility has no thought of self at all. Humility is a behavior, and in its purest form, involves little emotion, except perhaps affection. With that in mind, allow me to draw a few principles from Jesus’ lesson on humility:

  1. Humility is unannounced. Jesus didn’t rise from the table and boldly announce, “I am now going to demonstrate humility.” He simply began washing feet. Once someone calls attention to his or her deed of service, it has become contaminated with pride. One doesn’t announce a humble deed, either before or after it is done. (Jesus broke this rule after washing the disciples’ feet for the sake of instruction, but it was the only time that He did).
  2. Humility is being willing to receive service without embarrassment. One usually feels embarrassed by deeds of service because he or she perceives the normal “rules” of status or rank have been breached. In Peter’s mind, only the lesser should serve the greater. Jesus inverted this worldly norm. The “greatest” in the kingdom of God serves and receives with no thought of status, worth, or rank.
  3. Humility is not a sign of weakness. Jesus did not serve His disciples because He was weak, needed their goodwill, desired their approval, or coveted their loyalty. Jesus, none other than almighty God, bowed low to serve the people He loved. He washed those twenty-four feet because they were dirty and needed washing.
  4. Humility does not discriminate. Jesus washed the feet of every man in the room, including those of Judas; the man He knew had already made plans to betray Him. Jesus didn’t line up the disciples in order of closeness, or loyalty, or any other standard. He didn’t wait for the traitor among them to depart on his evil mission before washing their feet. He washed the feed that needed washing, without favoritism or prejudice.

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would work genuine humility into your life.

Tuesday (6/2) Read and discuss 2 Corinthians 11:1-15. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians is a remarkably personal letter. The great Apostle fears that he is losing his influence over the Corinthians and that they are veering toward a path where they could make shipwreck of their souls. Scott Hafemann writes:

Desperate situations demand desperate measures. Paul knows it has become necessary to boast like his opponents. Nevertheless, boasting “in the way the world does” (11:18; lit., “according to the flesh”) makes him extremely uncomfortable. This is reflected in that his justification for engaging in such foolish boasting lasts from 11:1-21z, while his initial expression of foolish boasting itself occupies only two verses (11:21b – 23b)!

In 11:1-4, Paul begins his justification for boasting like a fool by expressing his desire that the Corinthians “put up with” him as he does so for the reasons given in verses 204. Since they are already “putting up with” the false apostles so easily, they should bear with Paul too (see vv. 4, 19, 20). This is irony. Paul does not really want them to be so patient with foolishness. But if they can “put up” with the opponents, who are truly fools, then they should be able to “put up” with Paul when he plays the fool.

In mounting this plea, Paul is not expressing jealousy over being rejected. As their “father” in the faith he supports this drastic request by reminding the Corinthians that he has pledged them to be Christ’s bride. It is Paul’s “paternal” relationship to the Corinthians and their ensuing “marriage” to Christ, not their rejection of him in and of itself, which explains his “jealousy.” According to Jewish betrothal customs in the New Testament era, a father pledged his daughter to her future husband and was responsible for her purity until the marriage took place (cf. Deut. 22:13-24). In the same way, Paul is fighting for the faithfulness of the Corinthians because of their current temptation to commit spiritual adultery.

The key is to realize that Paul’s first two concerns are: (1) That Christ would be glorified through the sanctity of His bride; and (2) That the Corinthians would be faithful to Christ. This is a remarkable example of suffering love where the goal is not self-aggrandizement but the benefit of others. Prayer: Ask the LORD to conform our congregation both corporately and individually increasingly to the likeness of Christ.

Wednesday (6/3) Read and discuss Hosea 1:1-11. Hosea served as a prophet primarily during the last half of the eighth century B.C. This is approximately one century after Elisha’s ministry which we are looking at during our morning worship services. Regretfully, the people have Israel have not turned back to their God in the interim. In fact a central theme of Hosea’s ministry is the spiritual adultery which Israel is committing by running after Baal. The first three chapters of the book of Hosea are what the entire book tends to be known for: Hosea is called by God to take a wife of harlotry. Hosea is to act out the part of God who is married to an unfaithful wife. Many people, including John Calvin, have recoiled at the terrible position that this puts Hosea into. Nevertheless, while it is true that the prophets generally suffered terribly, we should remember that Hosea was simply revealing the way that the LORD Himself was being mistreated and abused by the people whom He had redeemed from Egypt and to whom He had given the Promised Land.  The history of Hosea and Gomer begins with the naming of three children which symbolizes the future of the nation of Israel:

  1. First there isJezreel: “And the LORD said to him, ‘Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.’”
  2. Second there isLo-Ruhamah which means “No Mercy”: “And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all.” The LORD’s mercy is so abundant that it is hard to imagine what it would mean if He simply stopped forgiving us. This dreadful thought was about to become a reality for rebellious Israel.
  3. Third there isLo-Ammi which means “Not My People”: “And the LORD said, ‘Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.’” God was divorcing His people because of their spiritual adultery and abandoning them to the care of their false gods which were no gods at all.

As bleak as this is, and it is bleak, those familiar with the New Testament will recognize hope in that last name even before reading further in Hosea. God’s plan to redeem a people to Himself was not thwarted by the rebellion of sinful men. The Jews of the Northern tribes will be made like Gentiles, but a multitude of their descendents would ultimately be grafted back into Christ’s Church. As Paul writes in Romans 9:25-26:

As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’

and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”

“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’

there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

Prayer: Please pray for the General Assembly of our Denomination which begins today.

Thursday (6/4) Read and discuss 2 Kings 5:19b-27. Are you covetous? Be careful how you answer that. Covetousness and duplicity go hand in hand. Gehazi, the servant of the Elisha, had seen the wealth that Naaman had brought with him from Syria. Surely after he was cured of leprosy he would give much or all that wealth to Elisha and, Elisha being a man of God, would freely share these gifts with others – perhaps even with his servant Gehazi! But Elisha let Naaman go scot-free. So Gehazi pursues Naaman and fabricates a story about two servants of the prophets who need clothing and some money. Furthermore, he does this in Elisha’s name. Naaman, out of his generosity, is more than happy to meet this need. In fact, he insists on giving more than what Gehazi asked for. Gehazi’s scheme seemed to be “working”.  Regretfully, sin has a habit of snowballing. When confronted by Elisha, Gehazi once again turns to lying – but this time he is found out.  It may seem like a very simple lesson to learn but it is one that each of us needs to take to heart.  As soon as we feel like we cannot be completely honest about what we are doing we should stop and take stock. Often such reflection will reveal that our motives are wrong. We need to quickly repent of such motives before they lead us into a downward spiral of further sin. Lest we take such moments too lightly, we should remember our LORD’s words to Cain: “Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Read or sing Hymn 257 “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would grant you forgiveness in all your circumstances.

Friday (6/5) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 1:9-18. The promises were tangibly being fulfilled. The LORD had promised The Land to Abraham as well as descendents as numerous as the sand on the seashore or the visible stars in heaven. As the nation of Israel is about to cross the Jordan River, Moses reminds them of how numerous they had become: “The LORD your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven.” This fulfillment should have greatly encouraged every person who would journey into the Promised Land. The promise of a vast seed to Abraham once seemed unimaginable – but the LORD had done it. From now on, whenever they heard God’s question to Abraham in Genesis 18:14, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” – They could shout a resounding “No!” and point to their own numbers as proof. Still, God in His grace had given Israel more than vast numbers. During the trials in the wilderness, the LORD had established a representative government of Elders to manage the nation’s civic affairs.  Rather than starting from scratch, they would enter the Promised Land with a government already in place. One only has to consider the trials of modern countries that have been forged out of war to see what a great blessing this was. Nevertheless, the best structures are never a replacement for righteousness.  What Israel (and every nation) needed more than strong formal institutions, were capable and righteous men who would seek justice rather than self-aggrandizement.  So Moses reminds them of what God had commanded through him:

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

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

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

Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you more of a man or woman of God.

Saturday (6/6) Read and discuss John 13:1-17. Earlier in His ministry, Jesus had made clear to His disciples that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).” But the disciples just didn’t get it. Commenting on John 13 Andreas Kostenberger writes:

Incredibly, Jesus’ followers were not convinced by these words. As the account of the footwashing in John 13 makes clear, they needed more than mere verbal instruction – they needed an object lesson, a visual, practical demonstration of what Jesus’ teaching looked like in action. Are they so different from many of us today?

The object lesson was not for the church to institute a sacrament of footwashing – this would be to institutionalize what was meant by Jesus only as an example of the kind of attitude he sought to promote. “Washing one another’s feet” should be taken rather as an emblem of lowering oneself to meet another’s need whatever that need happens to be at a particular moment. In the Upper Room, the need of the hour was clean feet. In your and my life, the need may take on a virtually limitless number of forms. We must be perceptive and caring in order to identify such needs and then meet them as we are able.

It is worth noting that Jesus washing the Disciple’s feet was not merely an example of humble service it was also a portrait of His incarnation where Christ humbled Himself to wash us clean of our sins only to take back up His mantle of glory (See Philippians 2:5-11). Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 31 May 2015 Sunday, May 24 2015 

MVOPC 31 May 2015 – Stephen Tindall Preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn:

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Deuteronomy 4:29-31

Hymn of Preparation:

Old Covenant Reading:  Lamentations 3:1-66

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 18:21-35

Sermon: The Unforgiving Servant

Hymn of Response:

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn:

PM Worship: Silas Schreyack teaching

OT: Isaiah 42:1-9

NT: Matthew 11:25-30

The Yoke of Rest

Adult Sunday School: Jason Donald teaching

Shorter Catechism Q/A #100

Q. What doth the preface of the Lord’s prayer teach us?

A. The preface of the Lord’s prayer, which is, Our Father which art in heaven, teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (4/25) Read and discuss Matthew 18:21-35. Jesus begins His parable by introducing a man who owed the king a vast sum of money. How much did he owe? The amount Jesus gives is more than fifteen times the amount of taxes collected in all Judea in 4 BC! It was worth more than all the gold used in building Solomon’s Temple. His hearers couldn’t even conceive of that much money. To put the matter in modern terms it is though our Lord said: “There was a man who owed the king trillions of dollars.” Or to put it bluntly: “You can’t count that high.” The astonishing thing is that this king (representing the King) mercifully forgives this man the entire amount. Christ’s point is absolutely clear: Each of us owes God an incalculable debt that can’t be paid off in dollars or Swiss francs. It is a debt that can only be paid through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. It costs us nothing, because it cost God everything. Those who have truly received such forgiveness must respond with a forgiving spirit to all who ask for it as well. The truth is, even the vilest offenses against us are trivial in comparison to what God has completely forgiven us of. To refuse to bring about a restored relationship by freely forgiving all who ask reveals that we have never truly been grasped by the grace of God. Such pretenders, unless they repent, will in fact have to bear the weight of their sins for all eternity. Read or sing Hymn 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you a peacemaker.

Tuesday (4/26) Read and discuss Proverbs 4:10-19. In verses 11-12 Solomon writes:

I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.  12 When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble.

These verses introduce us to a key theme in Proverbs – that is the description of life as a walk on a path. Just in these two verses we have the words “way”, “paths”, “walk”, “step”, and “run.” This is such a fitting metaphor because most of our lives are not about really dramatic events. We live simply by putting one foot in front of another. Yet, walking also gets us somewhere. It just takes time. Here’s the point: It really matters in the long run which path you are on. If you start in Boston, whether you are walking to New York City or to Stowe, Vermont will not make much of a difference for the first couple of days that you are walking. Eventually the two journeys will diverge substantially and ultimately you will end up in two very different locations. That’s how it is with wisdom and foolishness too. At first, it might not seem like a big deal whether you are being kind or mean, generous or selfish, pure or flirting with the world; but over time these different journeys become more and more distinct and ultimately one ends in destruction while the other ends in eternal life with God. Prayer: Ask the LORD to keep turning you back onto the straight and narrow way that leads to life.

Wednesday (4/27) Read and discuss Jeremiah 29:1-7.  We live in a fragmented and pluralistic culture. How should we engage the non-Christian culture that is all around us? Today’s passage brings us to a time when much of Israel had been dragged off to live in Babylon.  How the LORD told them to live in Babylon has a great deal to teach us about how we should live in New England. (1) Wrong ways to respond: ASSIMILATION. Babylon’s basic strategy for dealing with the foreign nation’s within their empire was to encourage them to adopt Babylonian beliefs and practices. The name for this is assimilation.  You will recall from reading Daniel that this included sending Israel’s best and brightest youth to Babylonian schools. Yet most of the forces that lead to assimilation are more subtle.  They simply hold out the opportunity to get ahead in a new culture if you will only give up your own distinctive beliefs and practices to just fit in. Assimilation is so effective because it can be accomplished very gradually in steps that individually may seem insignificant. TRIBALISM.  A second wrong way to respond was being advocated by the false prophets in Jeremiah’s day.  They were telling Israel to band together and remain as separate from Babylonian society as possible. Furthermore, they were to approach Babylonian civilization as something to exploit for themselves while waiting for God to destroy the evil nation. One of the most basic choices we make in a relationship is between thinking that Other is there for YOUR benefit or YOU are there for the OTHER’s benefit. The false prophets were encouraging Israel to choose the first option and to get as much as they could from those who had brought them into captivity. Perhaps the greatest attraction of this approach to relating to hostile culture is that it can “protect” us from the very real danger of being assimilated. Yet, God tells Israel that He wants them to do something else entirely. (2) God’s approach was to tell Israel to, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” That is, God wanted His people to maintain their identity as His people while living in the midst of Babylon and by seeking to be a blessing to Babylon. Let’s face it; this is really hard to do.  We need resources that are far beyond our own in order to live this way. Thankfully God has given us these resources in Jesus Christ. We have been blessed to be a blessing even to our enemies.  We must be in the world and not of it. Because we are Christ’s we must seek the welfare even of those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). Prayer: Please pray that you, and your brothers and sisters at Merrimack Valley Presbyterian Church, would be wise as we engage and are confronted by a culture that is increasingly hostile to Biblical Christianity.

Thursday (4/28) Read and discuss Acts 8:14-24. Is there a Church or are there only churches? Today’s passage reminds us that unity is one of the marks of Christ’s Church. Philip had been preaching the gospel in Samaria. Because we are used to hearing about the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” we are prone to get the wrong idea. We might imagine that the Samaritans were the type of people that the typical Jew would just love to have fellowship with. Yet, this is to miss the point of Christ’s parable. Part of understanding our Lord’s use of a Samaritan as the one who actually does God’s will is to recognize that Samaritans were despised by the Jews. The Samaritans were the ones you could simply count on to be leading grossly immoral lives. In fact, many Jews would take the long way when traveling from Jerusalem to Galilee simply to avoid running into the Samaritans. Yet, Philip had preached the gospel in Samaria and some of them seemed to have come to faith (v. 16 tells us that some of them had been baptized). So the group of Apostles sent off Peter and John to investigate this situation. Recognizing that they were genuinely converted, Peter and John prayed for them and the Samaritans received the gift of the Holy Spirit. We see here the early stages of the fulfillment of the Christ’s words: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).” David Peterson observes that “this event is comparable to Acts 10:44-48, where the coming of the Holy Spirit is a sign that God wants to include believing Gentiles on the same basis as believing Jews in the benefits of the new Covenant (cf. 11:15-18). On both occasions, there is a stunning break with traditional cultural and religious barriers, as the Spirit draws Samaritans, and then Gentiles, together with Jews into the fellowship of Christ.” Regrettably, whenever God’s power is displayed there always seems to be someone who wants to use God rather than to worship Him. We should note the sharp response the Apostle gives to Simon when he offers money in exchange for the ability to give the Holy Spirit to whomever he laid hands on: “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!” Simon missed that the Holy Spirit is Lord. That is, the Holy Spirit is both a person who is sovereign over us. As this passage makes clear, thinking that we can use God as though He were a force that we can control is not a simple misunderstanding it is a damnable (in the literal sense of that term) heresy. Read or sing Hymn 263 “Lift High the Cross” Prayer: Please lift up our Sunday School teachers that they would be effective in teaching our children the faith which has once and for all been delivered to the saints.

Friday (4/29) Read and discuss Hosea 4:7-14. Have you ever noticed how much worse your sins look on other people? This may be part of the reason for God’s unusual statement in verse 14:

            I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore,

            nor your brides when they commit adultery;

            for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes

            and sacrifice with cult prostitutes,

            and a people without understanding shall come to ruin.

Of course, the daughters and wives of these men will suffer with the nation and will be judged for their sins. Yet, the focus is upon the men. Why? The charge against these men seems to have arisen in a context in which they wanted faithful wives and daughters even though they themselves were being unfaithful. As young women today sometimes discover, young men may want to “sow their wild oats” but they generally don’t want to marry the young women they were sowing their wild oats with. God refuses to bless his double- standard. A second aspect of this charge is the realization that, like the priests, fathers and husbands functioned (and function) as covenant heads.  A lack of faithfulness within a family is not always a man’s fault but it is always a man’s responsibility (assuming that there is a husband or father within the nuclear family).  In fact, God has so ordered covenant relationships that truly godly and faithful husbands and fathers tends to strongly lead to godly and faithful wives, daughters, and churches. This, of course, is a generalization. Hosea himself is a godly husband with a faithless bride. Nevertheless, I suspect that you cannot think of a single church which is filled with godly and faithful men where half of their wives skip church and the children are unruly. Among other things, this passage reminds us that God has not only placed a responsibility of covenant headship upon men – He also blesses the faithfulness of His servants as they, in faith, take up this responsibility. Prayer: Ask the LORD to send revival and reformation to New England.

Saturday (4/30) Read and discuss Matthew 18:21-35. Grant Osborne writes:

God expects us to apply our experience of divine forgiveness to our relationships and to show mercy and forgiveness to others even when they don’t deserve it. After having been forgiven of at least 600,000 sins, to refuse to forgive one sin against us by another member of the community is a serious transgression. A willingness to forgive must be labeled a basic characteristic of true discipleship. Christ is unequivocal on this point.

Clearly those who are bitter and refuse to forgive a wrong they have experienced are under indictment from God and will be punished. Yet it must also be admitted that forgiveness is not an easy thing to do, especially when one has undergone serious wrongs like physical or sexual abuse. Christ is not saying that forgiveness must be instantaneous. It is a process often demanding a great deal of time and counseling. Still, mercy and forgiveness would at all times be the goal for which we strive. Moreover, this is a community and not just an individual responsibility; reconciliation must be the goal of all, and when we are deeply hurt, we need the counsel and help of our brothers and sisters in the church family.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 24 May 2015 Sunday, May 17 2015 

MVOPC 24 May 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

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 1:29

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

Old Covenant Reading: Proverbs 4:10-27

New Covenant Reading: 1 Peter 4:1-11

Sermon: The Righteous Life

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

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still, My Soul”

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 15:1-18

NT: Revelation 15:1-8

The Song of Moses

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 77: Wherein do Justification and Sanctification Differ?

Shorter Catechism Q/A #99

Q. What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer?

A. The whole word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called the Lord’s prayer.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (5/18) Read and discuss Proverbs 4:10-27. Paul Koptak writes:

While it is certainly true that consequence follow out of the choices one makes, wise living does not bring about the good life. Rather, it keeps one from getting lost. It points out the folly of choosing evil as though it were some path to gain and instead reveals it for what it is, a true loss of life and character. The wisdom of Proverbs would have us follow the ways of the LORD, not because we are empty but because we are full. It seems to me that we often live in the poverty of riches, knowing that we have a lot but believing we are poor because we don’t have as much as someone else. Wisdom wants us to follow the ways of the LORD because we have been richly blessed and are in danger of giving it away through folly, like Esau’s birthright, sold for a pot of stew.

The teaching of this chapter challenges us to a life of discipline, both in being open to correction but also in practicing self-discipline that guards what one thinks, says, and does, because guarding those things guards life. At first look, the motivations of this chapter seem to appeal only to the young man’s self-interest. But with a closer look at the topics of violence and perverse speech it becomes clear that the life that is guarded belongs to the young man and his family and his community. We need never think that we seek wisdom solely for the good she brings us. Rather, Wisdom gives her blessings to our families and churches through us.

Read or sing Hymn 32 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” Prayer: Ask the LORD to grant you growth in Biblical wisdom.

Tuesday (5/19) Read and discuss Psalm 33:1-22. The main point of verses 1-3 is obvious: Having the LORD as your God is the best possible news. It should lead us to exuberant praise. We are to praise God thankfully, thoroughly, and thoughtfully. Four quick comments and applications:

  1. First, for all the wonderful things that LORD has been doing with our congregation, one of the areas where we have obvious room for growth is in celebrating with enthusiastic joy. We sometimes joke about Presbyterians being the frozen-chosen; but we should realize that the Bible calls us to “Shout for joy to the LORD.” Let’s do that.
  2. Second, verse three speaks of “Playing skillfully on the strings.” When we understand who the LORD is and what He has done we realize that we should offer Him our very best. Sometimes we talk about worship as though the LORD were a doting grandmother who is thrilled with whatever noise her grandchildren make instead of producing music. Let me say, I have no doubt that this is exactly how the LORD feels about the 3 and 4 year olds who are just making joyous noises to their Creator. But, we should be clear, that offering up excellence to the LORD in worship should be a natural – or perhaps better – a super-natural desire of every maturing saint.
  3. Third, this is one of the many psalms that speak about worshiping the LORD with musical instruments. In the history of the Reformed Church there have been many people – including John Calvin – who have insisted that musical instruments are really for the Old Testament and all singing in the New Covenant Church should be a cappella. What’s interesting about that is that nearly every person who argues that musical instruments have no place in New Covenant worship also advocates exclusive psalmody. Now I know this is nothing like an airtight argument: But it strikes your pastor as odd to think the LORD wants us to sing Psalm 33 about worshiping Him with musical instruments while He is simultaneously forbidding us to actually use any musical instruments in the process. Doesn’t it make more sense to see such psalms as an endorsement of worshiping the LORD with musical instruments? I think it does.
  4. Fourth, verse three says that we are to “Sing to Him a new song.” The Bible frequently uses the language of “singing a new song” but it may not be entirely evident what the phrase means. It doesn’t necessary mean that all of the content of the song has to be new – that singing hymns from 500 or 1500 years ago or singing psalms from three-thousand years ago is somehow not fitting for worship. It might be better if we translated this expression “Sing to Him a fresh” The idea is that our worship should not be just rote repetition but filled with a fresh pouring out of our hearts and minds to the LORD in worship as we focus on communing with our Savior in the present.

Prayer: Pray that the LORD would give you even greater joy in your salvation and that this joy would overflow in exuberant praise.

Wednesday (5/20) Read and discuss 1 Peter 4:1-11. “Pagans in the first century viewed Christians as killjoys (Jobes).” After all, Christians refused to participate in orgies and drinking parties or to attend gory gladiator fights or risqué Roman theatre. Some things never change! This was (and is) a particularly difficult environment for those who became Christians as adults. Their former friends would mock them for their new found piety and regularly try to tempt converts (especially new converts) to Christianity back into their former pagan lifestyle.  Peter addresses this difficulty with a theology that could be displayed on two bumper stickers. First, “Remember Noah” (referring back to 1 Peter 3:20).   It is true that the Christians are under the judgment of the pagans, but the whole world is under the judgment of God.  Human judgments are not the last word. Undoubtedly, many of those who mocked Noah would have been thrilled to get in the ark once the flood came. Peter is reminding his readers that the time of decision is today – before the final judgment (of which the Flood is a type which serves to warn and instruct us) comes. The second bumper sticker is more obvious: “Remember Jesus”. Yet, Peter has something quite specific about the life and ministry of Jesus in mind. Jesus was willing to suffer the unjust treatment of His fellow countrymen in order to do the will of God. If we are true followers of Jesus we must be willing to do the same thing. While it is a glorious truth that Jesus suffered the wrath of God against sin so that His people will not have to; it is not the case that Christ’s suffering makes all of our suffering unnecessary. It is precisely because “Christ suffered in the flesh” that we are to “arm (ourselves) with the same way of thinking”. This does not mean that we are to seek suffering. Peter is simply insisting that Christians will live “no longer for human passions but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:2).” If we simply “Remember Noah” and “Remember Jesus” our choices should be clear. Read or sing Hymn 558 “That Man Is Blest Who, Fearing God” Prayer: Please lift up our Sunday school teachers that they would be effective in teaching our children the faith which has once and for all been delivered to the saints.

Thursday (5/21) Read and discuss Exodus 15:1-18. Doug Stuart writes:

Three great biblical themes conclude the song: God’s creation of a people (v. 16b), God’s eternal holy dwelling place as the home for that people (v. 17), and the eternal reign of God supreme over all things (v. 18).

With regard to creation of a people, it is important to remember that the Bible does not suggest that God finished his creation with the events described in the first chapters of Genesis. Rather, creation continues with the creation of Israel, alluded to here in the song, the new creation that came about through the work of Christ and the great re-creation at the end of the present age. God’s creation continues in stages, one of which was accomplished through the exodus and the subsequent incorporation of Israel as God’s covenant people at Sinai. That is the stage of which the song speaks especially.

With regard to the theme of God’s eternal holy dwelling as the proper and expected home for God’s people, a topic already raised in part in v. 13, the song adds elements such as the idea that God “will bring them in and plant them.” … It is clear from the song that Israel knew it was going to a mountainous land (in contrast to Egypt, which is in most of its topography very flat) and that God’s sanctuary would be established on a mountain there. When God finally chose the threshing-floor-capped Mount Zion as the place for a permanent sanctuary, it was in fulfillment of this expectation. Zion is envisioned here as the place of God’s inheritance, that is, permanent personal real property. It is from this sort of language that one begins to trace the biblical theme of heaven as the ultimate Jerusalem. It was not the case that Israelites chose Mount Zion to build a temple there, and God honored their choice. Just the opposite was the case – he chose the site, and they merely responded according to what his “hands established.”

The final verse of the song is a sort of recapitulation of the lessons it states throughout. God is supreme over all other beings and forces. And the Israelites, still in the process of getting to know him and about him and to use his newly revealed name, Yahweh, to distinguish him from all other gods and idols, were expected to come increasingly to realize that he is eternal and that their association with him had eternal consequences. The New Testament develops this concept in greater detail, especially with the added emphasis on God’s people sharing his reign. The unstoppable, uninterruptible, eternal reign of God is a widely represented topic in the Bible and an assurance to all who place their faith in him.

Read or sing Hymn 598 “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” Prayer: Please pray for the Home Mission Committee of our Presbytery that they would be both wise and energetic in planning for evangelism and church planting throughout northern New York and New England.

Friday (5/22) Read and discuss Revelation 15:1-8. N.T. Wright observes:

Now, in a fresh visionary twist, John sees that the heavenly throne room which is also the heart of the heavenly temple has a ‘tabernacle of witness’ within it. This ‘tabernacle’ has been opened, not to let Moses or anyone else in, but to let out the angels who were carrying the seven last plagues, not for Egypt but for Babylon and for the world that had fallen for her seductions.

As with the Tabernacle in Exodus, as with Isaiah’s vision in the Temple (Isaiah 6), and as with Solomon’s dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8), the presence of God is shrouded in smoke, making it impossible for ordinary comings and goings. This is a solemn moment. The new song is exuberant, and heartfelt. Deliverance has occurred. But now we are homing in on the greatest showdown of them all. We left the dragon and the two monsters behind, two chapters ago. They have drawn many into their destructive ways. It is time, now, for the destroyers to be destroyed. This is the purpose of the seven last plagues, and of the cataclysmic judgments which followed them.

Prayer: Please lift up President Obama and ask that the LORD would grant him great wisdom in dealing with numerous extraordinary challenges around the world and that the LORD would also lead President Obama and his family to find true rest and renewal in Jesus Christ.

Saturday (5/23) Read and discuss Proverbs 4:10-27. Andrew Steinmann writes:

Proverbs 4:23-25 speaks of ways that the son should guard his heart. The unusual phrasing of 4:23 accents the diligence with which the son should do these things. That the son needs to guard his heart refers to his spiritual, emotional, and intellectual life as well as his ability to critically evaluate situations and use his will. The reason for this mandate is that the source of life comes from it. While the NIV and a number of commentators understand 4:23 as saying that the heart itself is the source of life, the Hebrew text clearly says that “the source of life” comes “from” the heart.

This is an allusion to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who through the Word of God … dwells in the heart of each believer and flows forth with life-giving power. The power of the Spirit is what will enable the son to follow his father’s advice. He needs to guard his heart so that he does not grieve and abandon the Spirit, the source of life. The NT affirms that the Spirit gives life, and drawing on this biblical language, the Nicene Creed confesses that the Holy Spirit “is the Lord and giver of life.”

The way to guard one’s heart is explained in Proverbs 4:24-25. First, 4:24 invites the son to turn away from sinful speech. While many versions (e.g., NIV, NRSV) understand this as only instructing the son not to say inappropriate things, the Hebrew text is more ambiguous. It says that the son must avoid a perverse mouth and keep corrupt lips far away. This certainly means that the son himself is not to speak such things, yet it can also mean that the son is not to be where others speak such language, and he is to avoid those who teach false doctrine and espouse perverse ideas (Romans 16:&1-18). The ambiguity is probably intended: the son is counseled not to speak lies and falsehoods, which originate from the devil, and he is also not to place himself where pernicious speech can be heard so that he does not learn and believe it. Then Proverbs 4:25 reminds the son to stay focused on his course in life, looking in front of him and not allowing his eyes to wander in other directions. It functions as a transition to the closing of this address, which reintroduces the metaphor of path.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 17 May 2015 Sunday, May 10 2015 

MVOPC 17 May 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 103:17-18

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

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 33:1-22

New Covenant Reading: Revelation 4:1-11

Sermon: Our Strength and Our Shield

Hymn of Response: 92 “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

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

PM Worship:

OT: Joel 3:1-16

NT: Revelation 14:14-20

Reaping the Harvest for Wrath

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Shorter Catechism Q/A #98

98.What is prayer?

A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (4/11) Read and discuss Psalm 33:1-22. Verses 13-15 read:

The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man;  from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.

John Calvin comments:

The Psalmist still proceeds with the same doctrine, namely, that human affairs are not tossed here and there fortuitously, but that God secretly guides and directs all that we see taking place. Now he here commends God’s inspection of all things, that we on our part may learn to behold, and to contemplate with the eye of faith, His invisible providence. There are, no doubt, evident proofs of it continually before our eyes; but the great majority of men, in their blindness, imagine that all things are under the conduct of blind fortune.

Read or sing Hymn 5 “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Jaffrey Presbyterian Church in Jaffrey, NH.

Tuesday (4/12) Read and discuss Psalm 19:1-14. Why do we sin? When we boil it down to its most basic level the reason why we sin is because, at least at the moment of sinning, we think that sinning will bring us greater happiness and benefits than not sinning. It really is that simple. Here is the rub: Even though knowing, loving, and reflecting God is infinitely more to be desired than anything the world can offer – merely affirming a lot of true things about God will not keep us from committing presumptuous sins. Only actually rejoicing in the goodness and greatness of the LORD will do that. We need to taste and see that the LORD is good. We need to continually mediate about who He is and what He has done. Nobody rejoices in the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ displayed on the cross while committing presumptuous sins. Nobody simultaneously delights in the wonder of knowing God as the Creator and Judge of all things while committing presumptuous sins. Finding our greatest joy in God is mutually exclusive with sin. This means that the most powerful means the Holy Spirit uses for our sanctification is showing us that knowing and loving Jesus is infinitely better than anything the world, the flesh or the Devil could offer. Imagine being offered one of two vacations. The first is in crime ridden Camden New Jersey. The second is Hawaii. The FBI says that Camden is one of the most dangerous cities in America. Camden is a burned out area plagued by drugs, homelessness, violent crime, and poverty. If you have to drive through Camden, you do so with your doors locked and your windows rolled up. This is not the kind of place where you would stop to get a bite to eat. So why would someone choose to vacation in Camden rather than in Hawaii? Nobody would do this if they were actually bringing to mind what Hawaii is like. That’s the way that presumptuous sin is in our lives as well. The only reason why we engage in presumptuous sins is because we aren’t bringing to mind how much better it is to know, love, and reflect Jesus Christ. Knowing, loving, and reflecting God is not just better than Camden. It’s better than Hawaii too. Let us take time to make God our greatest treasure this week. Prayer: Give thanks that the Living God desires to have a relationship with you and that He has made that relationship possible through the work of His Son and the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday (4/13) Read and discuss Revelation 4:1-11. The book of Revelation is given to encourage Christians who are facing persecution to persevere in faith and faithfulness until the end. The challenge is that we walk by faith and the persecution can be seen and felt. So the LORD gives us a glimpse into heaven so that His people can be strengthened by the way things really are. It can be easy to get lost in the book of Revelation by focusing on the details. While the details are important, we should first focus on grasping the big picture. Today’s reading can be dividing into two parts:

  1. Verses 1-6a focus on the One who is seated on the throne.
  2. Verses 6b-11 focus on the worship that the One seated on the throne receives.

If we allow ourselves to get caught up in this vision, the sufferings of this present age will truly begin to seem like light and temporary afflictions (2 Corinthians 4:17). As N.T. Wright astutely observes, this vision ought to motivate and inform both our daily and our corporate worship:

Many have guessed, probably rightly, that these songs and prayers are similar to those which the earliest Christians used, though the logic of John’s vision is not that what he sees in the heavenly dimension is merely reflecting what is going on in the life of the church, but rather that what he sees in heaven is what ought to be going on here on earth. Heaven is in charge; heaven gives the lead. It isn’t simply ‘the spiritual dimension of what we happen to choose to do.’

Read or sing Hymn 230 “Thou Who Wast Rich beyond All Splendor.” Prayer: Pray that the name of Jesus Christ would be hallowed in your heart, in your family and in your workplace.

Thursday (4/14) Read and discuss Joel 3:1-16. Doug Stuart writes:

From the perspective of the covenant, God’s prophets proclaimed a foreseeable but indefinitely scheduled future. [This passage] addresses an important interest of the people of Jerusalem, threatened by an invasion and perhaps a siege. What was the ultimate fate that they, their city, and their country would meet? Would the enemy prevail, destroy them, annex their territory, and exile them forever? Would their various enemies, past and present, end up having succeeded at international lawlessness, while the remainder of Israel – Judah and Jerusalem – disappeared as an entity in the community of nations? Would Yahweh ever again be worshiped on Mount Zion? Were the invasion, drought, and desolation so graphically described in chapters 1 and 2 the beginning of the end of a city, state, and people? Where was Yahweh? Would his Day of rescue ever come?

The chapter provides a reassuring answer to these questions. A great final judgment will take place, one that will vindicate those faithful to Yahweh and punish those opposed to his purposes and his people. He will establish himself forever in his people’s capital with all they need to live securely and joyously.

[This passage] is also Christian eschatology. The Day it describes is one we await as well. The final eternal era will be unmarred by opposition to God’s purposes or people. He will be everywhere supreme and will reign from his holy city. Its river will give life, all as Joel foretold.

The guarantee of eventual vindication is a great sustenance to God’s people to remain faithful and to continue to trust.

Read or sing Hymn 92 “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” Prayer: Give  thanks that as believers we can already be certain of our final vindication because it depends on Christ’s performance rather than our own.

Friday (4/15) Read and discuss Revelation 14:14-20. Some very fine New Testament scholars have attempted to understand this passage in terms of a joyful harvest rather than a tremendous and fearsome act of God’s judgment. The problem with these attempts should be obvious: Verse 19 speaks of the winepress as “the great winepress of the wrath of God.” This clearly links back to verses 9 and 10:

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

We should understand verses 14-20 as a continuation of the description of the judgment that the LORD will pour out on His enemies. The fact that some scholars balk at understanding these verses 14-20 as a picture of God’s judgment is itself instructive. Almost to a man (all the scholars I have seen take this position are men) they balk at how brutal this passage is when considered as a passage of judgment. One commentator called such a view of God’s wrath “sub-Christian.” But isn’t this admittedly graphic image of God’s judgment simply a fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies about the Day of the LORD? Philip Edgcumbe Hughes observes:

The imagery of the treading of the winepress of divine wrath is present in Isaiah 63:1-6, a passage of graphic intensity in which the LORD whose will has been disregarded and mercy despised responds to the question, ‘Why is thy apparel red, and thy garments like his that treads the wine press?, by saying: ‘I have trodden the wine press alone. … For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption has come. … I trod down the peoples in my anger, I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.’ To the same effect the LORD says in Joel 3:13: ‘Go in, tread, for the wine press is full. The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.’ In his vision St. John sees the ultimate reality of what is presaged in these prophecies.

Prayer: Please pray that the LORD would lead visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Saturday (4/16) Read and discuss Psalm 33:1-22. James Montgomery Boice writes:

The conclusion of the psalm strikes an entirely different note than was heard at the start. The opening verses call for joyful and loud praise to God. At the end the tone is quiet, as God’s people, who have now reflected on his power and goodness to them, declare their intentions to ‘wait in hope for the LORD’ and ‘trust in his holy name.’ That is the natural thing to do. For if God is powerful and good, as he is declared to be, it is foolish not to trust him.

In Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Treasury of David there is a story credited to Edward Calamy about a young boy who was at sea during a dangerous storm. The passengers were frightened and at their wits’ end, but he was not disturbed at all. In fact, he was even cheerful. The others asked how he could be cheerful when they seemed in danger of losing their lives. He replied that the pilot of the ship was his father, and he knew his father would take care of him.

In this life a confidence such as that might be misplaced. For, however loving a skillful a human father might be, there are always dangers in life that are beyond us, and no one is able to guarantee the physical, much less the spiritual safety of another. Yet with God there can be no misplacing of confidence, no error of trust. How could there be? God has made the entire universe by his mere word and by the breath of his mouth. He foils the evil plans, not merely of individuals but of nations. God’s purposes prevail. His plans prosper. Besides, he constantly looks upon the affairs of this world to care for his people – to bless, defend, preserve, and prosper them. No one who trusts in this God is ever disappointed. No one who waits in the trusting hope will be let down. Alexander Maclaren said rightly, “Hands, lifted empty to heaven in longing trust, will never drop empty back and hang listless, without a blessing in their grasp.”

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 10 May 2015 Sunday, May 3 2015 

MVOPC 10 May 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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

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 6:23

Hymn of Preparation: 111 “This is My Father’s World”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 19:1-14

New Covenant Reading: Romans 1:18-23

Sermon: The Heavens Declare

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Isaiah 34:1-17

NT: Revelation 14:6-13

A Call for Endurance

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 76: “Repentance unto Life”

Shorter Catechism Q/A #97

Q. What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s supper?

A. It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (4/4) Read and discuss Psalm 19:1-14. How much should we hold teachers accountable for the success of their students? The extremely complex network of factors that impact student success make this a hot question for school boards, colleges, and even in our national politics. But what if God is the teacher? Is it ever God’s fault that people don’t come to know and carryout His will for their lives? Psalm 19 can reasonably be divided into three sections. In verses 1-6 David meditates upon God’s revelation through nature. The key point is that the LORD reveals His glory through nature and He reveals this glory everywhere. No one will ever be able to argue on the final day that they didn’t have enough evidence to commit themselves to God. The rejection of God isn’t due to a lack of evidence but to the fact that sinners, apart from God’s grace, don’t like the God who is there and who is revealing Himself to them. As Paul would later put it in Romans chapter 1:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

In verses 7-11 David meditates on the perfection, sweetness, purity, and enduring value of God’s special revelation that we now have collected in the Christian Bible. David is grateful for this extraordinary gift. He realizes that any failure to appropriate this gift and to walk in its light is entirely his own fault. Therefore, David asks the LORD in verses 8-14 to forgive and turn him even for where he is wandering from the path without realizing it (“cleanse thou me from secret faults” – KJV). He prays that God would protect and keep him, and that the LORD would make David’s words and thoughts pleasing in His sight. That should be the prayer of each and every one of us. Read or sing Hymn 53 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” Prayer: We naturally pray for people who are struggling or facing particular hardships. Today would you pray for some people you know who seem to be doing well? Thank the LORD for the blessings that He is bringing into their lives and pray that they would continue to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday (4/5) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 15:1-28. What difference does Christ’s resurrection make in your life? What about the way you live as a husband, wife, son, or daughter; about the way you pursue your vocation in the world or interact with our neighbors only makes sense because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead? To put the matter bluntly: Christ is risen – so what? There are two key answers to this question. First, we must ask – What does it mean to Jesus that He was raised from the dead?  We remember that He was put to death for blasphemy and insurrection precisely because He claimed to be the Son of God and the Messiah of Israel. The religious leaders conspired to put Jesus to death but the resurrection is nothing less than God overturning humanity’s verdict.  By raising Jesus from the dead God was vindicating Jesus and declaring that He was and is everything that He had claimed to be.  So, for example, in Romans 1:4 Paul tells us that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead”.  Clearly this means that we should worship Jesus as our God. Second, in order to get out what Christ’s resurrection means for us we must remember why he died.  As Paul tells us at the beginning of today’s passage: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures”. Yet, since He died because of His union with us He was also raised in union with us – and we have already in principle been raised with Him. Because this is so, we can have confidence that everything we ever do by faith in Jesus will be of lasting value. When we honor our parents, even when they are sinning, we know that our Lord who sits on the throne of glory is honored by our faithfulness. We can have complete confidence that He will one day wipe away all the tears from our eyes removing us not only from the power of sin but from its very presence. We know that when we pray for the expansion of His Kingdom or simply invite someone to Church that, invested with all authority in heaven and on earth, Jesus is building His Church and the gates of hell cannot stand against Him.  And when we pour out our hearts in prayer, we know that our High Priest in heaven listens to and answers every petition that we ever make. Prayer: Give thanks that Christ is our perfect High Priest who has opened the doors to the Holy of Holies for us to call upon God any hour of any day.

Wednesday (4/6) Read and discuss Romans 1:18-23. James Montgomery Boice writes:

No one likes to talk about the wrath of God, particularly if it is thought of in relation to ourselves. But if we have to think about it, as our study of Romans 1:18-20 obviously forces us to do, we find ourselves reacting generally in one of two ways. Either (1) we argue that wrath is unworthy of God, a blotch on His character, and therefore a mistaken notion that should be abandoned at once by all right thinking people; or (2) we reply by denying that we merit God’s wrath, that we do not deserve it.

The second reaction is the more serious of the two. So it is the one Paul tackles in the development of his argument for the need we all have of the Christian gospel.

Romans 1:18-20 contains three important concepts, which together explain why the wrath of God against men and women is justified. The first is wrath itself. It is being revealed from heaven against the ungodly, Paul says. The second is the suppression of the truth about God by human beings, a point picked up and developed more fully in verses 21-23. The third idea is God’s prior revelation of Himself to those very people who suppress the truth about Him. These concepts need to be studied in inverse order, however. For when they are considered in that order – revelation, suppression, and wrath – they teach that God has given a revelation of Himself in nature sufficient to lead any right-thinking man or woman to seek him out and worship Him, but that, instead of doing this, people suppress this revelation. They deny it so they do not have to follow where it leads them. It is because of this willful and immoral suppression of the truth about God by human beings that the wrath of God comes upon them.

Read or sing Hymn 111 “This is My Father’s World” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in Syria whose country is being torn apart by civil war.

Thursday (4/7) Read and discuss Isaiah 34:1-17. The opening of today’s passage is rather shocking to modern men and women in the West. As C.S. Lewis observed, modern Westerners assume that man is on the bench and God is in the dock (in the dock = the place where the accused stood during the trial). Today’s passage reminds us how utterly mistaken this modern idea is. Willem Van Gemeron comments:

Isaiah returns to the theme of God’s anger against the world. God’s judgment will effect complete destruction, leaving the world uninhabited.

In powerful language Isaiah calls upon all nations to hear the Word of God. All nations are the objects of the Lord’s anger. The judgment is likened to a great slaughter or sacrifice (vv. 1-2). On earth the slain will be everywhere; corpses will stink and blood will cover the mountains. In heaven constellations will disappear.

Isaiah focuses on Edom as representative of the nations. Yahweh’s judgment on Edom will be similar to what he will do to the whole world. Edom is under the “ban” of the LORD (v. 5c). The term ban expresses Yahweh’s decree to destroy a people for his own purposes. The sword will pierce Edom and fill the country with blood as though a great sacrifice has taken place. The day of God’s judgment is the day of vengeance on his enemies and of the vindication of his people.

After people and animals are destroyed, the land itself will become worthless and desolate forever because of the brimstone and pich that will cover it (v. 10). It will revert to a wilderness with thorns and nettles, a place fit only for animals.

All things will be subject to God’s judgment. When Yahweh comes in judgment there will be no way of escaping. Yet there is the promise that those who belong to Yahweh are heirs of the new age.

Read or sing Hymn 321 “Great God, What Do I See and Hear!” Prayer: Pray for the young people in our congregation that they would be able to finish the school year with enthusiasm and joy.

Friday (4/8) Read and discuss Revelation 14:6-13. The Book of Revelation is intended to strengthen believers in the face of persecution so that they will persevere in faith and faithfulness to the end. Today’s passage does this by contrasting the salvation of the redeemed in vv. 1-5 with the judgment of God’s enemies in vv. 6-11. Verses 12-13 provide the application. This may all seem very simple until we remember both how enticing and threatening the world can seem. James Hamilton writes:

Do you need motivation to keep the commandments of God and to keep believing in Jesus? Brand your brain with the images of the redemption of the faithful and the punishment of the wicked in 14:1-11. Do you need help fighting the temptations of the world? Ask God to bring to mind the fall of Babylon and the wine of God’s wrath that those who worship the beast will drink. When Babylon tempts you, think of how she will fare on the Day of Judgment. When the beast calls for your worship, think of the torment his worshippers will experience in the presence of the Lamb. Think of the fact that they will never rest, day or night. Think of the fact that the smoke will rise forever. Endure in keeping the commands of God and believing in Jesus by seeing the outcome of the things that would tempt you to disobedience and unbelief.

Trusting in Jesus and obeying God’s commands may get you killed by Satan. But the temporary suffering before death and death itself will be overcome by God’s resurrection power. Consider what John says in 14:13: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” The voice from Heaven blesses those who are killed because they obey God and believe in Jesus. They are blessed because they will not suffer God’s wrath. Then the Spirit chimes in and says that unlike those who worship the beast, those who are killed for obedience to God and faith in Jesus will “rest.” And the Spirit also says that “their deeds follow them, “which means that everything we do in obedience to God’s commands and out of faith in Jesus will be remembered before God on the Day of Judgment.

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

Saturday (4/9) Read and discuss Psalm 19:1-14. This psalm beautifully refutes one of the most common errors in our day regarding the Law of the LORD. Reformed Christians speak of three uses of the law. The first use of the law is that it serves as both a mirror for our performance and a measuring line of perfect righteousness. As such, the law drives self-righteous people away from themselves and to Jesus Christ. Regretfully, the law-gospel distinction has been distorted in many Lutheran and Reformed circles (along with others) to teach that when the law reveals how far we fall short of God’s standards; it drives us away from the law and to the gospel.  If enough qualifiers are added to this assertion it turns out to be true – but without the qualifiers it can lead us to a fundamentally mistaken understanding of God’s law. Thankfully, Psalm 19 corrects this misunderstanding. Please look once again at verses 7-11 with a few key words highlighted:

7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

You will see that God’s law is portrayed in the most positive light. Rather than destroying us, God uses it to revive our souls (v. 7). Instead of causing us to flee from the law to the gospel, Psalm 19 portrays God’s law as something to be desired. Indeed His laws are sweeter than honey to the believer. Is the law to be valued only in that it reveals our inability to keep them and therefore reveal our need for Christ? By no means! Verse 11 tells us that “in keeping them there is great reward”. The LORD does graciously use the law to drive people from self-sufficiency back to Christ. But when we come to Christ we discover that He has not left us to figure out everything for ourselves. He gives us His law so that we might know what loving God and our neighbor actually looks like – to the end that we would actually do so. Read or sing Hymn: 469 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 3 May 2015 Sunday, Apr 26 2015 

MVOPC 3 May 2015

Call to Worship:

Opening Hymn: 156 “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon:Psalm 103:11-13

Hymn of Preparation: 76 “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven”

Old Covenant Reading:  Exodus 20:4-6

New Covenant Reading: John 4:5-26

Sermon: Pure Worship

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

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 88 “With Grateful Heart My Thanks I Bring”

PM Worship:

OT: Zephaniah 3:9-20

NT: Revelation 14:1-5

A New Song for the Blameless

Adult Sunday School: The Gift of Evangelism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #96

Q. What is the Lord’s supper?

A. The Lord’s supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (4/27) Read and discuss John 4:1-42. Chuck Swindoll writes:

As John told the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, he consciously emphasized the sharp distinction between the attitudes and actions of Jesus and those of His disciples. Their dissimilarity is especially clear in the interlude between His conversation with the woman and His greeting the townspeople. While the woman witnessed to the town leaders, the Lord impressed on His disciples the urgent need for laborers to harvest souls ripened by the Holy Spirit. The disciples illustrate several attitudes that frequently keep us from entering the fields of harvest. Three come to mind:

  1. We are put off by prejudice or bigotry. The disciples saw Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman – to them, she was as low on the social ladder as one could descend – and they simply could not believe it. Let’s face it; we care about the salvation of some people more than others. And though it’s hard to admit, we hope that some despicable souls never escape the darkness of hell. Our Creator, however, doesn’t rank people on a scale of worthiness. We are all unworthy of salvation.
  2. We are consumed by the mundane details of life. The disciples couldn’t stop thinking about food long enough to notice their Master’s excitement. They left Him weary, hungry, and thirsty from travel; they returned to find Him brimming with energy. Anyone the least bit perceptive should have set aside the food and asked the Lord what made Him so cheerful. … We spend most of our day dealing with the so-called necessities of life: fixing meals, keeping schedules, making a living. When was the last time you set aside time and made specific plans to share the god news at work or with someone you have befriended in the neighborhood?
  3. We are lulled into inaction by the promise of tomorrow. The disciples didn’t appreciate the urgency of their call. Jesus used a popular catchphrase among farmers in His day, “Four months, and then the harvest,” to rouse them into action. He said in effect, “Not four months … NOW! The time is now!”

Read or sing Hymn 156 “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You” Prayer: Please pray for the Presbytery of New York and New England that is meeting today and tomorrow in Cape Cod.

Tuesday (4/28) Read and discuss Psalm 32:1-11. Today’s passage is a Psalm of instruction about confessing our sins. In order to grasp the message we need to think clearly about the different aspects of sin. In verses 1-2 we see David use three different words that bring out aspects of the problem: (1) Sin; (2) Transgression; and (3) Iniquity:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

  1. First, the term translated “sin” means missing the mark or falling short of a standard. God establishes a standard and whenever we fail to measure up to that standard that is sin. In the broad sense, God’s standard for us is perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience. When we think about that standard we realize that our failure to meet God’s requirement is not like getting a 98 or a 99 out of 100 on an exam. Compared to God’s requirement that we have perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience it should be clear that we fail to measure up every hour of every day – and that we are in serious trouble. “Sin” is falling short of the standard established by God.
  2. Second, the term translated “transgression” involves a rebellion against God’s standards and therefore against the LORD Himself. For example, the LORD commands us not to steal – we know that stealing is wrong – but we refuse to listen to what God has commanded. That is transgression. The LORD tells us that sexual relations outside of marriage are wrong. But many people go and do it anyway. That is transgression. Regretfully, we are increasingly living in a culture that insists that nobody – not even God – has a right to tell you what to do … particularly in terms of your own thoughts, your own choices, and your own body. In the political sphere that might make sense. Just because something is a bad idea, or even morally wrong, doesn’t mean that it should be a crime. So you might favor decriminalizing drug use because you don’t want the civil government preventing people from making such choices or using vast resources to investigate, arrest, and punish people who do make such choices. That’s a perfectly reasonable position. But we have undergone a radical shift in our society over the past half century where we have moved not simply to the place where people argue that such personal choices should be legal but that such choices are by definition moral and that nobody – not even God – can tell you what you have to do with your own body. In this way our culture is actually encouraging – or at least greasing the skids – for people to engage rebellion against the divine Law giver. The Bible calls such rebellion against God’s revealed will “Transgression.”

If you are familiar with the very helpful definition of “sin” in the Shorter Catechism you may have noticed that it is built on the meaning of these two words translated “sin” and “transgression.” The Catechism says: “Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God.”

  1. That’s an excellent definition, and it is one worth memorizing, but David goes on to use a third word: “Iniquity.” Iniquity carries the idea of being twisted or bent. It is a word that helpfully reminds us that sin is not merely something “out there” but something that distorts who we were created to be.

David uses all three terms – sin, transgression, and iniquity – because He wants to make clear that God’s solution for sin is as comprehensive as the problem. If sin were a minor problem we could get by with a modest response. But sin is a radical problem so the LORD has provided an even more radical solution. Prayer: Give thanks to the LORD that He has compressively dealt with the problem of our sin.

Wednesday (4/29) Read and discuss Exodus 20:4-6. Idolatry is foolish. This raises the question: Why would anyone do it? Part of the answer is that idolatry is selfish, easy, and convenient. Old Testament scholar Doug Stuart explains:

SELFISH: Idolatry was an entire materialistic system of thinking and behavior, sometimes called the “fertility cult,” built on the idea that the gods could do virtually anything but feed themselves. The one sort of “hold” or advantage humans had over the gods was the ability to feed them. Accordingly, it was felt that if one fed a given god, that god was in turn obligated to use his power on behalf of the feeder-worshipper. Not much else was required; if you fed a god adequately and regularly, that god would, in ‘quid pro quo” fashion, bless you in return with abundance of crops, fertility of cattle.

EASY: Frequency and generosity of worship (offering sacrifices) were the sole significant requirements of faithful idolatrous religion. Idolatry minimized the importance of ethical behavior. Ritual provision of food to the gods was important; keeping a divinely revealed covenant was not. At Sinai the Israelites took upon themselves the obligation to love as a holy people, subjecting themselves to obedience to hundreds of individual commandments so as to conform their lives ethically to Yahweh’s will, including the faithful offering of sacrifices to the true God. By contrast, idolatry was easy, requiring sacrifices but little else.

CONVENIENT: Deuteronomy 12:2 requires that Israelites “destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods.” Comparably, 1 Kings 14:23 reports of Israelite idolaters that “they also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under ever spreading tree.” These ubiquitous idol shrines allowed worshipers to take a sacrifice to the god or goddess of their choice virtually any time of day, any day of the week, and at a location nearby any place they happened to be. By contrast Yahweh’s covenant required all Israelites to report to a single, central location three times a year, necessitating costly and time-consuming travel for many and prohibiting worship anywhere in the land but that single, approved sanctuary.

The attraction of religion that is selfish, easy, and convenient has not gone away. In fact, there are many so-called churches who are peddling precisely this sort of thing while calling it Christianity. The thing we need to remind ourselves about such selfish, easy, and convenient substitutes for Biblical Christianity is that they are false and empty. They reduce our lives to something terribly small when we were created to be joint-heirs of the universe with Jesus Christ; and they have absolutely no power to save us from our sins. Read or sing Hymn 76 “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” Prayer: Please pray for the people of Nepal as they recover from this past weekend’s devastating earthquake.

Thursday (4/30) Read and discuss Zephaniah 3:1-20. Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah who was the last good king in Judah (Josiah reigned 640-609 B.C.). Because of the strong linguistic parallels between Zephaniah and the book of Deuteronomy which was recovered in 622 B.C., it is very likely that the book of Zephaniah was written between 622 and 609 B.C. Israel, in the north, had already been taken into captivity by the Assyrians a century earlier.  Now God had raised up good King Josiah to bring reform to Judah. Nevertheless, “it should not be supposed that a people committed to the worship of idolatrous gods would give up their practices very easily (O. Palmer Robertson).” So the LORD raised up the prophet Zephaniah to support Josiah’s attempted reformation. The primary message that the LORD sends through Zephaniah is a warning of judgment. We need to hear this warning and take it to heart because we live in a culture that takes the holiness of God far too lightly – even in the Church.  God warns “What sorrow awaits rebellious, polluted Jerusalem, the city of violence and crime!” The evil state in Judah is evidenced in both its civil and religious leaders (v. 3-4). But is this not also a description of our own age? In spite of claiming to be engaged in public service – the terms “politician” and “self-serving” have become increasingly redundant.  Is the situation any better among the clergy? Is it not the case that many pastors in America have become self-serving and disobey the LORD’s clear instructions for shepherding His people? Yet, there is good news in all of this. “The LORD is still in the city (v. 5).” The crass disobedience and idolatry of the leaders and people alike will result in judgment – but judgment is not the end of the story.  God will not allow sin to have the last word.  In His grace, the LORD of Hosts will bring judgment for the purpose of purifying and gathering a people for His own name who will worship the LORD together (v. 9). The LORD Himself will purify the people of God (v. 11). He will cause His true people to rejoice (v. 14) and He will live among us (v. 15)! All of this should cause us to flee from our sins to seek God in Jesus Christ with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Read or sing Hymn 12 “Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim” Prayer: Ask the LORD to increasingly sanctify His church.

Friday (5/1) Read and discuss Revelation 14:1-5. We can sometimes entirely miss the way cultures other than our own use metaphors and literary allusions. For example, today’s passage speaks of the 144,000 as virgins. Was the first thing that jumped into your mind “warriors”? Probably not, but N.T. Wright explains why perhaps it should:

It is because they are elite warriors that (strictly within the bounds of the symbolism John is using) he speaks of them as ‘celibate’ or ‘virgins’. Ancient Israel had a clear policy about going to war; if war was justified, war was also holy, and those who fought in it had to obey special rules of purity, including abstention (for the time) from sexual relations (e.g. Deuteronomy 23:9-10; 1 Samuel 21:5). As usual, we need to be clear about the symbol and the reality to which it points. In the symbol, this body consists of a hundred and forty-four thousand; they sing a new song; they have abstained from sexual relations. They are, in other words, the ideal representatives of the people of God, permanently ready for battle. In the reality to which this symbol points, they are in fact a great company which nobody could count; … and some of them may be married and some single – but all are permanently ready for the real battle, which is the engagement with the [beasts] and their demands, an engagement which may mean at any moment that they will be required to suffer or even to die.

Prayer: Please lift up the possible building plans for our church and the meeting of our congregation this evening to discuss that building project.

Saturday (5/2) Read and discuss John 4:5-26. When the Samaritan woman realizes that Jesus is a prophet, she immediately turns the subject away from her personal life to a long standing religious debate. N.T. Wright explains:

Her reaction to this is a classic example of what every pastor and evangelist knows only too well. Put your finger on the sore spot, and people will at once start talking about something else. And the best subject for distracting attention from morality is, of course, religion.

I can hear the voices again and again. ‘Well, we used to go to the church in town, but then my aunt said we should go with her, and then I didn’t like the minister’s wife, and now we’ve stopped going altogether.’ ‘Of course, my mother was Catholic and my father was Protestant, so I grew up not really knowing who I was.’ ‘Well, I was brought up a Methodist, but then my sister and I used to go to the Baptist youth club, and then when we moved away I never really knew anyone.’

And here, two thousand years ago, the same tone of voice. ‘I was brought up to think that this mountain, here in Samaria, was God’s holy mountain. But you Jews think yours is the right one.’ Implication: we can’t both be right, maybe nobody knows, maybe nothing is certain, and maybe (the hidden punchline of the argument) the morality we were taught is equally uncertain.

They are all excuses and they are all irrelevant. God and the church aren’t the same thing. God’s claim on every human life – and God’s offer of a new kind of human life for all who give up the stagnant water and come to him for the living variety – is absolute, and can’t be avoided by questions about which church people think they should go to any more than Jesus’ claim on this woman’s moral conscience could be avoided by the debate, already hundreds of years old, as to whether Mount Zion, in Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim, in Samaria, was the truly holy mountain.

In fact, part of the point of Jesus’ mission, to bring the life of heaven to birth on earth, was that from now on holy mountains wouldn’t matter that much. This wasn’t a new insight. When Solomon dedicated the Temple a thousand years before, he was quite clear that heaven itself wasn’t big enough for God, so that one single building couldn’t hope to contain him. Holy buildings, and holy mountains, are at best signposts to the real thing. If they become substitutes for it, you’re in trouble. That way lies idolatry, the worship of something that isn’t God as if it were.

Read or sing Hymn: 88 “With Grateful Heart My Thanks I Bring” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

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