Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 6 September 2015 Sunday, Aug 30 2015 

MVOPC 6 September 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

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: Romans 8:1-4

Hymn of Preparation: 305 “Arise, My Soul, Arise”

Old Covenant Reading:  Psalm 110:1-7

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 5:1-10

Sermon: Loud Cries and Tears

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Isaiah 60:1-22

NT: Revelation 21:9-21

The New Jerusalem

Adult Sunday School: Extended Fellowship This Morning – No Sunday School

Shorter Catechism Q/A #7

Q.What are the decrees of God?
A. The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (8/31) Read and discuss Hebrews 5:1-10. For sinners to approach a holy God is a terrifying thing. Let’s remember that, after they sinned, Adam and Eve first tried to hide from the LORD. But today’s passage tells us that, in Christ, we are now encouraged to approach the throne of grace with boldness. What changed? Calvin comments:

The basis of this confidence is that the throne of God is not marked by a naked majesty which overpowers us, but is adorned with a new name, that of grace. This is the name that we ought always to keep in mind when we avoid the sight of God. … The glory of God cannot but fill us with despair; such is the awfulness of his throne, no. Therefore, in order to help our lack of confidence, and to free our minds of all ears, the apostle clothes it with grace and gives it a name which will encourage us by its sweetness. It is as if he were saying, “Since God has fixed on His throne … a banner of grace and of fatherly love towards us, there is no reason why His majesty should ward us off from approaching Him.”

Read or sing Hymn 32 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters and China that they would continue to gain additional religious freedoms and that they would continue to cling to the gospel.

Tuesday (9/1) Read and discuss Hebrews 4:14-16. Imagine that you are swimming in a river when you realize that the currents are overpowering you and pulling you out into the middle of the rapids. The current is just too strong for you. There is no way that you can make it back to the shore. That’s the bad news. The really bad news is that the river you’re swimming in is the Niagara River and you are heading towards the Falls. Part of you is shouting: “Don’t panic!” while another part is thinking “If there was ever a good time to panic – this is it!” Suddenly, a rope splashes down right next to you. You reach out and seize the rope in your grip. You have never clung to something so tightly in all your life. Then you turn to see your savior and your heart sinks. The guy holding the other end of the rope is fifty feet behind you in the middle of the river. He may be very sympathetic to your plight but he lacks the position and the power to actually do you any good. If you cling to this rope the two of you will simply go over the Falls together. So, you look to the shore but there is nobody there. All you see is an enormous brown bear. The bear is firmly on the shore, and it possess great power, but the bear is more interested in the birds and the berries than the two men who are about to plummet to their deaths as they are washed over Niagara Falls. While the man had sympathy he lacked position and power. While the bear has position and power he lacks sympathy. You realize that if you are going to get rescued you need someone who has all three. The human condition is a lot like that. We are each being swept along by the currents of a world that is in rebellion against God. Being sinners ourselves, we have no power to extricate ourselves from the current in order to bring ourselves safely to the dry land. If we are going to be rescued will need that rescue to come from outside of us – and we will need a Savior who has position, power, and sympathy for our plight. Today’s passage is about how we do have such a Savior – and His name is Jesus Christ. Prayer: Please lift up Christ Church PCA in Concord, New Hampshire as they begin the process of looking for a new pastor.

Wednesday (9/2) Read and discuss Psalm 110:1-7. This passage is the most frequently quoted psalm in the New Testament. It remarkably points to the fact that the Messiah would be more than a mere human being and also to the uniting of the Royal and Priestly offices in a single person. Given these facts, perhaps it isn’t surprising that this psalm is used in diverse ways to drive home the truth of who the Christ was and is. John Phillips writes:

We find it quoted in Matthew 22:41-46 to confound. The political-religious spectrum of Hebrew unbelief had focused on Christ in order to trap Him into saying something incriminating. The Herodians try to catch Him with a loaded political question, the Sadducees with a thorny religious question, and the Pharisees with a difficult moral question. (Jesus) turned the tables on them, however, by asking a question based on the opening verse of Psalm 110, quoting it to confound, to silence those who were trying to trap Him in His speaking.

We find it quoted in Acts 2:34-35 to convict. At the end of his lengthy Pentecostal sermon, Peter drove home the damning charge (that the Jews had murdered their Messiah) by quoting from Psalm 110. The Holy Spirit used the quotation and its application to bring about conviction of sin and immediate repentance in the lives of many of those present.

We find it quoted in Hebrews 1:13 to confirm. The author of this epistle has made the point that Christ is far superior to the angels, and to clinch the argument he falls back on Psalm 110. “To which of the angles said He at any time, Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool?”

Read or sing Hymn 598 “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would make you tender hearted so that you would easily be both convicted and comforted by His word.

Thursday (9/3) Read and discuss Isaiah 60:1-22. R. Reed Lessing writes:

God’s glory comes. Freely, it comes. Apart from anything we do or say, it still comes to us in Jesus Christ! We are called to faithfulness, not so that kingdom glory will come, but because its advent is imminent (cf. Isaiah 56:1). Divine light cannot be humanly generated. We can only arise and shine because our Light has already come (John 1:4-9; 1 John 2:8) and is coming again (Rev 1:4-7, 14-16). Luke writes: “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Luke 2:9). Simeon celebrates: “A light to lighten the Gentiles, and a glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:32). The Magi marvel: “We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Matt 2:2). What a light show! Majesty arrived in the midst of the mundane. The most holy God appeared in the flesh in the presence of cattle manure. Divinity entered the world on the floor of a stable, through the worm of a (teenage) virgin, and in the presence of a lowly carpenter.

Jesus is the Light of the world, who took on flesh so that he might take you into his arms, heal your hurts, forgive your filth, and destroy your darkness. The Son of God became a human being, not to demonstrate the innocence of infancy, but to live the life we could not and to die our death so we need not. Here is dazzling light, brilliant light, and eternal light. No wonder the Nicene Creed confesses that Jesus is “God of God, Light of Light.”

But would Christ’s betrayal on Good Friday, his shed blood, and his hasty burial extinguish this light? Not on your life! “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). And there is more light to come! When Christ returns, he promises to take us to the new Jerusalem where “night will not exist anymore, and the will not have need of the light of the lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shine light upon them” (Rev 22:5; cf. Isaiah 60:19-20).

Read or sing Hymn 708 “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go” Prayer: Please lift up the students, particularly the new students, at Westminster Seminary in California as they prepare for a lifetime of ministry.

Friday (9/4) Read and discuss Revelation 21:9-21. Cornelius Venema writes:

Consistent with our argument that the life of the redeemed in the new creation will be rich and diverse, one of the descriptions in the book of Revelation speaks of the rich inheritance that awaits God’s people. In Revelation 21, John’s vision of the new heaven and earth includes a vision of the nations walking together by the light that is the Lamb. The nations will walk together and, the vision adds, ‘the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it [the holy city]’ (verse 240. According to this vision, the rich diversity of peoples, together with the works and accomplishments of those who have been among the leaders of the nations, will contribute significantly to the glory and splendor of the new heaven and earth.

Since the language of this vision does not elaborate upon the meaning fo this inheritance of God’s people, we are left to surmise what it might mean. It has been plausibly suggested that it describes the way the new creation will receive all the appropriate fruits of human culture and development that have been produced throughout the course of history. Every legitimate and excellent fruit of human culture will be carried into and contribute to the splendor of life in the new creation. Rather than the new creation being a radically new beginning, in which the excellent and noble fruits of humankind’s fulfillment of the cultural mandate are wholly discarded – the new creation will benefit from, and be immensely enriched by, its receiving of these fruits. Far from being an empty and desolate place, the new creation will be enriched with the sanctified fruits of human culture. Nothing of the diversity of the nations and peoples, their cultural products, languages, arts, sciences, literature, and technology – so far as those are good and excellent – will be lost upon life in the new creation. Life in the new creation will not be a starting over, but a perfected continuation of the new humanity’s stewardship of all of life in the service of God.

Prayer: Please lift up President Obama in prayer.

Saturday (9/5) Read and discuss Hebrews 5:1-10. N.T. Wright comments:

The point is that Jesus, having died and been raised from the dead, was then exalted, in the ascension, through all the different layers of ‘the heavens’, right to the very heart, to the throne of the father himself. He didn’t, in other words, simply go to a convenient resting place in some spiritual sphere where he could remain, satisfied with having accomplished his earthly work. He went right to his father’s inner courtroom, in order that by representing us there, by interceding for us with the father, he might continue to implement the work he had accomplished on earth. Once again, Paul says something similar, this time in Romans 8:34.

So when we come to pray to the heavenly father, we are not shouting across a great gulf. We are not trying to catch the attention of someone who has little or no concern for us. Verse 16 puts it like this: we are coming to ‘the throne of grace’ (that’s a way of saying (a) that we’re coming to the throne of God and (be) that we must now think of God as the God of grace), and we may and must come boldly and confidently. This isn’t arrogance. Indeed, if we understand who Jesus is, what he’s done and what he’s still doing on our behalf, the real arrogance would be to refuse to accept his offer of standing before the father on our behalf, to imagine that we had to bypass him and try to do it all ourselves. What is an offer, for those who come to God through Jesus, is ‘mercy and grace’: mercy, to set us free from the sin and folly in which we would otherwise sink completely; grace to strengthen us and set us on our feet for our own lives of service and witness.

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 30 August 2015 Sunday, Aug 23 2015 

MVOPC 30 August 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

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: John 14:1-3

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

Old Covenant Reading: Daniel 6:1-28

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16

Sermon: Grace Favors the Bold

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still, My Soul”

PM Worship:

OT: Isaiah 55:1-13

NT: Revelation 21:1-8

All Things Made New

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 98-99: Understanding and Applying the Moral Law

Shorter Catechism Q/A #6

Q.  How many persons are there in the godhead?
A. There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (8/24) Read and discuss Hebrews 4:14-16. Bruce Barton writes:

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

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

Read or sing Hymn 32 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would make you a man or woman of prayer.

Tuesday (8/25) Read and discuss Hebrews 4:11-13. Hebrews 4:12-13 is one of the best known sections of the letter. To see how these verses fit into the argument of Hebrews as a whole we need to understand their context and that context is provided for us in verse 11:

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

For the last chapter and a half Hebrews has been encouraging us to enter God’s rest by trusting Him while holding out the Wilderness generation as a sobering warning. For although they had ALL been delivered from Egypt by the LORD’s mighty power – the only adults who both left Egypt and entered the Promised Land were Joshua and Caleb. And why didn’t they enter the Promised Land? Hebrews 3:18 says: “They were unable to enter because of unbelief.” This naturally brings us to the word of God. If I were to say “I trust someone but I don’t trust what she says” you would all realize that I am speaking nonsense. To trust someone means that we trust what they say. The same is true of the LORD. To believe God is to trust what He says. If we ignore God’s word we make clear that we don’t think God is important. If we disbelieve God’s word, either in word or deed, we make clear that when push comes to shove we don’t think God is ultimately trustworthy and we don’t trust Him. That is why the common evangelical notion of trying to identify the minimum doctrinal content of what a person has to believe in order to be saved is so misguided. To trust God as God means that you (at least in principle) trust everything that the word of God says without any exceptions. Our Confession of Faith puts it like this:

By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein.

Remember that the Wilderness generation wasn’t denying that God existed nor were they making false doctrinal claims about the Trinity or the Deity of Jesus Christ. What they failed to do was to trust God by taking Him at His word that He would provide for them and bring them safely into the Promised Land if they would only place their trust in Him. Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine who continue to live with the challenge of Russian interference in their national affairs.

Wednesday (8/26) Read and discuss Daniel 6:1-28. The finish is critical to any race. No athlete wants to jump out to an early lead only to drag across the finish-line in last place gasping for air. In fact, that sort of performance is actually quite embarrassing. In a race, finishing well is important. Finishing well is important in life too. Today’s reading brings us to most famous story from the entire book of Daniel. Yet, ironically, it has often presented in the Church in ways that miss two of the key aspects of the story:

  1. First, this story from Daniel’s life is often presented as a great example for young people – and it is that. Yet, we shouldn’t forget that Daniel is no longer a young man. He has been in exile for most of his life and is now in his seventies or eighties. This isn’t simply an inspiring story for young Christians; today’s passage is a model of how a person finishes well trusting God to the end of his life.
  2. Second, the events of this story are so dramatic that we can easily imagine that Daniel was engaging in a unique and a heroic activity. What actually happened was that Daniel simply kept on being faithful in the same way he had for the past several decades. Daniel didn’t need to come up with something innovative at the moment of crisis – he simply kept praying to God as was his regular practice and the LORD used this ordinary faithfulness to do something which was truly extraordinary.

Read or sing Hymn 598 “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at the First Presbyterian Church in Ipswich as they make plans to start a new work in Danvers, Massachusetts.

Thursday (8/27) Read and discuss Isaiah 55:1-13. The LORD is taking a desolate land and transforming it into His a beautiful wooded area. “Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up (v. 13).” How is He going to do this? Is the LORD only going to using the choicest people from among humanity? By no means! God is promising through Isaiah that He will do these things through His omnipotent word (v. 10-11). Well then, who can take part in this new creation? Verses 1 and 2 speak of two different groups of people – both of which are freely invited to partake of God’s bounty.  The first group is thirsty and broke.  In the desert of Israel being thirsty has a force that modern Americans almost never experience.  There can come a time when a person so longs for water that he or she would literally give anything to have some. Yet God says, “Come and drink – even if you have no money! Come take your choice of wine or milk – its all free!” Those three beverages – water, milk, and wine – meet different human needs.  When you are desperately thirsty all you want is water.  In that condition, milk and wine would be almost undrinkable. Milk meets our need for nourishment.  This is particularly true for children growing up (Americans are the only people who continue to consume meaningful amounts of milk through adulthood). Wine is a gift from God to make our hearts glad. It is important to realize that the LORD is calling people to receive the spiritual equivalents of water, milk, and wine.  He is not simply calling us to a different life but to a more abundant life – and He gives it all to us for free. The second group of people, unlike the first, seems to actually have money – yet they are spending it on all the wrong things. There are two different ways to understand this group and it is difficult to decide between the two choices since both represent Biblical truths that are taught elsewhere.  One interpretation is that this group realizes that they have thirst but they also have resources and they are using those resources to try and quench their spiritual thirst everywhere else but with God.  To use modern examples, it is not uncommon for people to try to fill up the emptiness they feel in their lives with drugs or entertainment. Indeed, one of the most significant books of the last 25 years was by Neil Postman and it has the haunting title Amusing Ourselves to Death. God is saying to such people, “Why are you spending your resources on what cannot possibly satisfy you.” Or as Augustine later put it, “LORD, You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” The second interpretation is closely related but is even more pointed in that it views the money in this passage as the spiritual riches that were entrusted to them by virtue of being part of God’s covenant people. In this interpretation, the second group is seen as people who possess true spiritual riches and are squandering it by committing adultery with the world. On either interpretation, the astonishing thing is that God doesn’t respond by sending fire and brimstone from heaven to consume such people (aren’t you glad?). Instead, the LORD rings out an open ended invitation for them (and us) to come to Him to become recipients of His everlasting love and covenant faithfulness. Read or sing Hymn 708 “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go” Prayer: Please lift up the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Friday (8/28) Read and discuss Revelation 21:1-8. The Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. That may come as a bit of a surprise to those of us who think that paradise restored might be something like a beach in Hawaii. So is Tim Keller right when he says, “If you don’t like cities you are not going to like the new heavens and the new earth”? Well, not exactly. What cities provide is an opportunity for large numbers of people to easily interact with one another for good or for ill. On the positive side, the degree of interaction and specialization that cities provide promotes economic growth through trade, exceptional educational opportunities, and generally the highest forms of a civilization’s culture. On the downside, social deviants who are shamed into behaving better in small towns are able to find peer groups in large cities that will affirm their perversions as though they were good. So, large modern cities like New York and London produce the extremes of human culture. On the one hand there is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, financial and business centers, and world class universities. On the other hand there are gangs, slums, homeless people, and every manner of perversion imaginable. But what if all the negative things were to be taken away and we were left with only the upside of cities? That is what God is promising to do in this passage:

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

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

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

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

Saturday (8/29) Read and discuss Hebrews 4:14-16. Having Jesus as our High Priest is an essential aspect of Christianity. N.T. Wright comments:

So what did the writer mean by priesthood, and how does this set him up for his portrait of Jesus?

He expounds the regular Jewish view, rooted in the ancient scriptures: the priest, and particularly the high priest, is there to be a bridge between the people and God. On the one hand, he has a liturgical and ceremonial role, offering gifts and sacrifices. These are not designed to twist God’s arm, as though what humans do could put God in their debt, but to thank God for creation and covenant, and to express and embody God’s atoning for their sins. On the other hand, he has what we would call a pastoral role, looking after people, sympathizing with them, getting alongside them and making the idea of the ‘bridge’ a reality in their experience. Of course, ordinary priests themselves are sinners, and must therefore offer sacrifices in relation to their own sins as well as those of the people.

This creates the double context which the writer will now explore. First, Jesus is the culmination of this idea of priesthood. He is the priest par excellence. Second, however, he is far superior to any previous priest. He can do all that they do – including sympathizing with human weakness – but he belongs to a different sort of priesthood, one which we can rely on totally and forever. This continues to be the main theme for the next three chapters, and it bears a good deal of pondering. Do you really dare to lean all the weight of your faith and hope on Jesus? Do you trust him that much?

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 23 August 2015 Sunday, Aug 16 2015 

MVOPC 23 August 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 94 “How Firm A Foundation”

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: Psalm 86:12-15

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

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 119:89-104

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 4:11-13

Sermon: Sharper Than Any Two-edged Sword

Hymn of Response: 524 “Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 699 “Like a River Glorious”

PM Worship:

OT: Isaiah 65:17-25

NT: Revelation 20:7-15

The Final Judgment

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 94-97: God’s Moral Law Today

Shorter Catechism Q/A #5

 Q. Are there more Gods than one?

A. There is but one only, the living and true God.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (8/17) Read and discuss Hebrews 4:11-13. Commenting on today’s passage, N.T. Wright observes:

So what is it exactly that God’s word is supposed to do? And how can we respond to its challenge?

Well, part of the point of the verses 12 and 13 is that it’s going to do its work, and you can’t escape! But clearly a lot of people do escape for the moment at least, presumably either by staying out of earshot of it – making sure they don’t open a Bible too often, and don’t listen to sermons or even general chatter about Jesus if they can help it – or firmly ignoring anything they do hear. But part of what the is passage seems to be saying is that you can’t escape in the end; that if you imagine you can slide along in unbelief and slip by unnoticed into the ‘rest’ that God has promised his faithful people, God’s word will find you out, will pierce through and disclose what’s really going on, the secret thoughts, plans and intentions that you make the real center of your life. Everyone must sooner or later give an account of themselves. At that moment, if never before, all will be revealed.

But the thrust of the passage, though obviously intended as a warning, can also lead to great encouragement. If this is going to happen sooner or later, you had much better get on with it. If you have a choice between letting the doctor examine you right away, uncomfortable thought it may be, and waiting until he or she can do a post-mortem on you after it’s too late, it’s wise to go for the first. If you open yourself, day by day and week by week, to the message of the scripture, its grand sweep and its small details, and allow the faithful preaching of Jesus and his achievement to enter your consciousness and soak down into your imagination and heart, then the admittedly uncomfortable work of God’s word will be happening on a regular basis, showing you (as we say) where you really are, what’s going on deep inside.

Read or sing Hymn 94 “How Firm A Foundation”  Prayer: Please pray for those in our church who are struggling in close family relationships that they would experience peace, love, and joy.

Tuesday (8/18) Read and discuss Hebrews 4:1-10. In today’s passage, the Holy Spirit is calling us to fear unbelief and to make sure that we are entering God’s rest by faith – but what exactly is faith? We shouldn’t take for granted that everybody knows what Biblical faith is. In fact, there are few terms where the Biblical meaning and popular usage are so radically at odds with one another as with the term “faith.”

Our culture uses the term “faith” to basically mean religious opinion or even prejudice. Our culture contrasts “faith” to “knowledge” as though “faith” by definition is unsubstantiated opinions. But believing something without good reason to do so is not Christian faith it is simply credulity. Christian faith is with good reason! Faith is trusting the Living God who is, and who has shown Himself to be, entirely trustworthy.

Related to our culture’s understanding that “faith” is unsubstantiated religious opinion is the notion that faith is merely a matter of assent. That is why, when Americans are surveyed, we hear the pollsters tell us that something like 90% of Americans believe in God. That is, some 90% of Americans are saying: “Sure, why not, I suppose that there is some sort of higher power.” Many of these individuals, biblically speaking, are called unbelievers. In the words of Romans 1:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Biblical faith is not the mere notion that God exists it is trusting the Living God whom everyone in fact already knows that He exists. Biblical faith is not mere assent to a proposition but trust.

Our Shorter Catechism puts together these two aspects of Biblical faith when it says: “Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.”

Faith is not a leap into the darkness of our imaginations but stepping into the light of God’s revelation. And faith is not merely assenting to the fact of God’s self-revelation in Christ but involves our receiving and resting upon Christ alone for our salvation.

Do you trust Jesus like that? If so, then you are entering into God’s rest. If not, heed the warning of today’s passage to fear unbelief lest any of you fail to enter God’s promised rest. Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Island Pond Baptist Church as they look for a new pastor.

Wednesday (8/19) Read and discuss Psalm 119:89-104. The most famous verse from this wonderful psalm is almost certainly: “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” John Calvin comments:

In this verse the Psalmist testifies that the Divine Law was his schoolmaster and guide in leading a holy life. He thus, by his own example, prescribes the same rule to us all; and it is highly necessary to observe this rule; for while each of us follows what seems good in his own estimation, we become entangled I inextricable and frightful mazes. The more distinctly to understand his intention, it is to be noted, that the word of God is set in opposition to all human counsels. What the world judges right is often crooked and perverse in the judgment of God, who approves of no other manner of living, than that which is framed according to the rule of his law. It is also to be observed, that David could not have been guided by God’s word, unless he had first renounced the wisdom of the flesh, for it is only when we are brought to do this, that we begin to have a teachable disposition. But the metaphor which he uses implies something more; namely, that unless the word of God enlighten men’s path, the whole of their life is enveloped in darkness and obscurity, so that they cannot do anything else than miserably wander from the right way; and again, that when we submit ourselves with docility to the teaching of God’s law, we are in no danger of going astray.

Read or sing Hymn 193 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” Prayer: Please lift up President Obama and pray that he would not only govern wisely but that the weight of his office would not unduly hinder his responsibilities as a husband and a father.

Thursday (8/20) Read and discuss Isaiah 65:17-25. R. Reed Lessing writes:

When overwhelmed with the latest natural disaster, personal setback, family hurt, genocidal atrocity, or violent revolution, we are invited to look beyond our present tears and behold our future home in Yahweh’s new heavens and new earth. In 65:17-25 we see the End, with a capital “E.” In the End, Yahweh will vindicate his people and restore all things; then finally and forever death will be dead. If this were not so, if life were random without any divine plan and death had the final word, then nothing would make sense. But Biblical faith insists that on the Last Day everything that is so wrong will finally be made right. Cosmic crumbling will give way to cosmic renewal.

Creation plays a major role throughout Isaiah’s “vision” (1:1). The heavens are pitched like a tent, but they will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and its inhabitants will die like gnats. The heavenly lights will grow dim, the sky will be rolled up like a scroll, and the earth will be depopulated. But creation is also summoned to break forth with joy because of Yahweh’s coming salvation, for he will restore his Israel.

On the Last Day, God is not going to annihilate everything he has made. He will raise our present earthly bodies and transform them. “The inheritance promised to those who enter the kingdom of God inaugurated by Jesus Christ includes a renewed earth (Holwerda, Jesus and Israel).” God won’t start from scratch as in the first creation, which began with no life and contained no people for the first five days. Instead, those God has claimed in the old creation will be reclaimed and restored. Yahweh will remake us and his world. Commenting on Isaiah 65:17-25, Luther writes: “He [God] is not speaking only of the spiritual heaven, but He makes all things new, spiritual and physical.”

But the bliss of this New Jerusalem takes place only after Yahweh has purged the community. Inhabitants in the restored order include only “my people, who seek me,” because they are “servants” of the Servant, that is to say, Yahweh’s chosen and elect.

Read or sing Hymn 524 “Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ” Prayer: Please lift up the young people of our congregation and ask that they would enjoy the remaining days of Summer and then make a good transition back to school.

Friday (8/21) Read and discuss Revelation 20:7-15. While discussing “the Book of Life” N.T. Wright comments:

In any case, the most important book is ‘the book of life’. John has mentioned this several times before (3:5; 13:8; 17:8), where it is said to be the lamb’s book of life, and to have been written before the foundation of the world. This is a vivid way of safeguarding the truth taught by Jesus in John’s gospel, ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you,’ as well as by Paul in Romans 8:28-30 and elsewhere. But this, like justification by faith, is subject to the proviso that if there is choosing being done, it is God who chooses, and the God who chooses is the triune God who works as father, son and spirit, not as a blind watchmaker or a celestial bureaucrat. When God chooses, he also redeems; when God chooses and redeems, he also works in people’s lives; and the miracle of divine-human relationship, from the very beginning, has always been that human thought, will and action is somehow enhanced, rather than being cancelled out, by the divine initiative and power. To say less than this would be to leave John’s picture of the books as merely a puzzle. To say more would be to wander off into large theological questions to which Revelation gives no attention.

Prayer: Give thanks to the LORD that you have ready access to His word in your own language.

Saturday (8/22) Read and discuss Hebrews 4:11-13. Tom Schreiner writes:

In context the author highlights the efficacy of God’s word. Nothing can withstand its power. As Hughes says, “Our author is not concerned to provide here a psychological or anatomical analysis of the human condition, but rather to describe in graphic terms the penetration of God’s word to the innermost depth of a man’s personality.

A focus on the inherent potency of God’s word is confirmed by the last phrase in the verse. God’s word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” God’s word penetrates to the core of the human heart, for God’s word represents God Himself. Just as God knows our thoughts and attitudes, so God’s word judges our thoughts and intentions. God knows reality so that he knows whether we are believing or disbelieving, obeying or disobeying.

Read or sing Hymn: 699 “Like a River Glorious” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 16 August 2015 Sunday, Aug 9 2015 

MVOPC 16 August 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: Romans 5:6-8

Hymn of Preparation: 180 “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story”

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 58:1-4

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 4:1-10

Sermon: A Rest for the People of God

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

Diaconal Offering

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

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

PM Worship

OT: Isaiah 24:14-23

NT: Revelation 20:1-6

The Millennium

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Shorter Catechism Q/A #4

Q. What is God?
A. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (8/10) Read and discuss Hebrews 4:1-10. Kent Hughes writes:

We must keep [the] subtle distinction between belief and trust clear if we are to understand what kind of faith is necessary to have rest in this life. New Testament scholar Leon Morris says that faith here in Hebrews 4:2 is “the attitude of trusting God wholeheartedly.” So we must understand that the opening line of verse 3, which says, “Now we who have believed enter that rest,” specifically means, “we who have wholeheartedly trusted enter that rest.” Thus, it is spelled out in no uncertain terms that faith that please God is belief plus trust.

Belief, the mental acceptance of a fact as true, will simply not bring rest to any soul. Acknowledging that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of the world will not give us rest. Trust in him is what gives rest to our souls. “Trust brings rest,” says Alexander Maclaren, “because it sweeps away, as the north wind does the banded clouds on the horizon, all the deepest causes of unrest.” First, trust in Christ’s sacrificial death begins our rest by giving us rest from the burden of guilt for our sins and gnawing conscience. Second, trust in His character as an almighty God and loving Savior gives us rest as we place our burdens on Him. Just as a child sleeps so well in his parent’s arms, so we rest in God.

The principle is so simple: the more trust, the more rest. There is not a fretful soul in the world who is trusting. “The message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combing it with faith” (v. 2) – and so it is with us. Our belief or unbelief makes all the difference.

Read or sing Hymn 5 “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Ask the LORD to grow your faith.

Tuesday (8/11) Read and discuss Hebrews 3:14-19. Christianity is not one of those places where you can “fake it till you make it.” Man may look on outward appearances but the LORD looks on the heart. Today’s passage is a clarion call for each of us to check our own hearts to make sure they are not growing cold, that we are not growing distant, and that we are not drifting away from Christ and His Church. There are many ways that you might check your heart. You may take some time to think about your prayer life and to re-commit yourself to regularly meeting with and pouring out your heart to the LORD. You may want to consider whether your Bible reading has grown stale and to recommit yourself to listening to your Savior’s voice in His word. But we shouldn’t miss the specific probing question raised by Hebrews chapter 3. Are we showing that we trust God’s word by believing what He tells us to believe and doing what He tells us to do. Don’t consider this question as though it were an abstract and hypothetical question. Ask yourself: “When the world, the flesh and the Devil shout ‘turn left’ and the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture says ‘turn right’ – what do you do?” Then remember the way Jesus Christ concluded the Sermon on the Mount. He said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’  24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Prayer: Ask the LORD to cause you to be like the person who builds on the rock by believing Christ’s words and putting them into practice in your daily life.

Wednesday (8/12) Read and discuss Isaiah 24:14-23. Willem Van Gemeren writes:

Isaiah returns again to the theme of universal judgment. The words in verse 16b are variously translated as “woe to me,” “I waste away,” or “a secret to me.” The prophet represents all God’s children, yearning of the day of redemption, and yet fearing the momentary expression of God’s great wrath on earth. It is a day full of “terror and pit and snare” from which no one can escape. It is likened to a violent earthquake and a universal flood and is similar to Noah’s flood. All powers, spirits, demons, and forces of evil will be cast out of heaven and imprisoned in a “dungeon.” Then the kingdom of God will be established with great triumph. The ultimate purpose of the judgment is that Yahweh alone may reign over this earth. The picture of Yahweh, the LORD of Hosts, reigning from Mount Zion and sharing His glory with all His elders, is a beautiful picture which anticipates the visions of the Apostle John, as he describes the glory of the LAMB on his throne, surrounded by the elders (Rev. 4:10; 5:8-14).

Read or sing Hymn 180 “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story” Prayer: Lift up our national leaders and pray that they would increasingly reflect God’s just rule as they carry out their weighty responsibilities.

Thursday (8/13) Read and discuss Isaiah 58:1-4. Commenting on verse 4, R. Reed Lessing writes:

Religious fasting that ends up with people fighting? What brought this about? The community was disintegrating because some were fasting rather than facing the sticky issues of their own selfishness and oppression. What do manipulative fasting and malevolent fighting have in common? Both are the result of worship that is anthropocentric. If worship converges on me, then relationships will follow the same strategy. “I am only in this relationship for what I can get out of it, not what I can give.” When devotion to Yahweh is driven by this attitude, it distorts our fellowship with others as well. Luther comments on this text:

Thus every hypocrite, most zealous for his own works, is the worst kind of tyrant and the most poisonous snake, and so they can hide their poison under an appearance of godliness, but meanwhile they are burning with zeal for revenge and for doing evil. There is nothing but to pass judgment, to disparage, and to do injury even in the best things.

Whereas the fast in Nineveh resulted from repentant belief in the preached Word and brought about Yahweh’s gracious intervention (Johan 3), this fast in Isaiah 58 only accomplished more community fragmentation and pain. The only thing that matters is economic profit.

Read or sing Hymn 345 “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make our congregation a people that is generous in our time with and encouragement of one another.

Friday (8/14) Read and discuss Revelation 20:1-6. Today we come to the only passage in the Bible which explicitly speaks of the millennium. This fact, and the reality that Revelation is a symbolic book which Christians have found difficult to interpret for more than 19 centuries, should lead us to not build an entire system of theology out of these few verses. In the late nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century, several denominations began to make the interpretation of these verses a test of orthodoxy. Thankfully, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church has resisted that temptation. That said, many of you would like to know a bit more about how why the vast majority of Reformed Christians have rejected pre-millennialism. While the following is rather long for a Worship Guide post, it summarizes one of the key issues in grappling with this passage:

Why do I assert that we are already in the Millennium? The question is simply a matter of when Satan was or will be bound. The only place where the 1,000 years is explicitly mentioned in Scripture is in Revelation 20:1-3:

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Premillennialists look at the world and say, “Of course Satan isn’t bound, look at what a mess the world is right now.” Or, to use Chuck Smith’s line, “If Satan is bound he must be on a very long leash.” The key thing to notice is that premillennialists are not providing a Biblical justification for their view – they are simply assuming that if Satan were bound things would be different than they are.

It is better to interpret Scripture by Scripture:

  1. First, notice that Revelation 20 doesn’t say that Satan is bound so that he can’t do anything. It says that Satan is bound “so that he might not deceive the nations anymore”. The word “nations” also means “gentiles”. Up until the coming of Christ, God had largely allowed Satan to have free reign over all the nations/gentiles and only built his hedge around a tiny people group of Hebrews in a little strip of land we now call Palestine. With the coming of Christ the gospel goes to the ends of the earth and gathers vast numbers of gentiles into His flock.
  2. In Matthew 12:26-28 Jesus, responding to the charge that He is casting out demons by the power of Satan, says: “And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.” Jesus is claiming that His plundering of Satan’s (the strong man’s) house demonstrates that He has bound Satan.
  3. When Jesus calls Paul, He specifically tells him that He is sending Paul to the gentiles in a way that links this to plundering Satan’s kingdom. Luke 26:17-19: “But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’”
  4. It is therefore not surprising that Paul would tell the Roman Christians: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your fee (Romans 16:20).” Jesus, having won the decisive victory over Satan on the cross is advancing His kingdom in history.
  5. Of course, the relationship between evangelism and plundering Satan’s kingdom is foreshadowed in our Lord’s earthly ministry. For example, Luke 10:17-20 reads: “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’”

A great deal more could be said, but this is probably sufficient to make the point. Jesus brought in the Kingdom and we live in the age between the Kingdom being inaugurated and the Kingdom being consummated. This has an important impact on how we actually live out our Christian lives. When we engage in the great commission, what hope could we possibly have if Satan were not in some sense bound? But Jesus declares wonderful news before He commissions us to labor in spreading the gospel. He says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” That is a great truth to meditate on in the morning before you head out to take on the challenges of the day. Prayer: Give thanks that the consummation of Christ’s victory is certain.

Saturday (8/15) Read and discuss Hebrews 4:1-10. James warns us of the foolishness of being hearers of God’s word who never put it into practice:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

Think how foolish it would be for a man to look in the mirror and see that his tie is on crooked and he has a bit of dinner on his jacket who walks out of the men’s room without doing anything about it. James is saying, that is a picture of the foolishness of a person who looks at God’s word and sees that his life doesn’t fit God’s design in one way or another – yet closes his or her Bible without putting God’s word into practice. Today’s passage from Hebrews illustrates the same point by referring back to the wilderness generation. They saw the LORD’s mighty signs and heard His word – but they didn’t trust God and therefore put His word into practice. Tom Schreiner comments:

Both the readers and the wilderness generation were the recipients of good news, but the proclamation of God’s saving good-news did not benefit the wilderness generation because they failed to believe. The author reminds the readers that the proclamation of the good news has no inherent benefit. Simply hearing the gospel will not guarantee that they enter God’s rest on the last day. After all, the wilderness generation heard the good news about entrance into Canaan, but they never entered the land. They heard what God promised, but they were not united with those (like Joshua and Caleb) who heard the message in faith. The wilderness generation is repeatedly held up to the readers as a warning on account of their disbelief. Merely hearing the good news does not guarantee future security. The message heard is only useful if it is believed. Otherwise, it remains an abstraction rather than a living reality.

Read or sing Hymn: 535 “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus!” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 9 August 2015 Sunday, Aug 2 2015 

MVOPC 9 August 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: Ephesians 1:7-10 Hymn of Preparation: 184 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 9:1-12 New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 3:14-19 Sermon: No Turning Back! Hymn of Response: 248 “Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended!” Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments Doxology (Hymn 732) Closing Hymn: 469 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place” PM Worship OT: Isaiah 63:1-6 NT: Revelation 19:11-21 Faithful and True Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 91-93: The Moral Law – Part I Shorter Catechism Q/A #3 Q. What do the Scriptures principally teach? A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (8/3) Read and discuss Hebrews 3:14-19. Sometimes a caricature is passed off as the real thing. For example, the Christian life is sometimes presented as simply a call to “be good.” But the issue that Hebrews is challenging is far more basic than that. Hebrews is addressing the problem of people not trusting God. F.F. Bruce writes:

When the scripture already quoted says, “Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,” to whom is God speaking? Who were the people who turned a deaf ear to his voice and so provoked him to anger? It was those who came out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses, those who had experienced God’s redeeming power. When the writer asks, “And with whom was he vexed for forty years?” to which generation does he refer? To that generation which witnessed his mighty works, and nevertheless rebelled against him – that “evil congregation” against which sentence was passed: “As I live, says Yahweh, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in the wilderness.” And who were the people to whom he swore in his wrath that “they would not enter his rest”? Those who, having covenanted to obey him, proved repeatedly disobedient, and showed themselves to be “a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness.”

It was unbelief, faithlessness, then, that kept them out of the Promised Land. They had enjoyed God’s delivering mercy in the Exodus, and had heard him speak when he gave the law at Sinai; but those initial experiences did not keep them from dying in the wilderness, or guarantee their safe arrival in Canaan. The moral must have been plain enough to the recipients of the epistle. For they too had experienced the redeeming power of God; they too had the promise of the homeland of the faithful to look forward to; but one thing could prevent them from realizing that promise, just as it had prevented the mass of the Israelites who left Egypt from entering Canaan – that one thing was unbelief.

Read or sing Hymn: 53 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” Prayer: Please pray for the people of Syria as their nation continues to be torn apart by the ravages of civil war.

Tuesday (8/4) Read and discuss Mark 11:20-25. There are three keys to investing in real estate: Location! Location! Location! This idea carries over to interpreting written documents were the three keys are: Context! Context! Context! Ignoring this rule, the “health and wealth” teachers wrench verse 24 out of its context to make it seem like you have the power within yourself to call new realities into being (e.g. to have a new BMW) simply if you can work up enough faith. Most Christians instinctively know that this is wrong – but also struggle to explain why this is not what verse 24 says.  Here’s why: Context! (1) The immediate context of verse 24 is Christ’s response which takes up verses 22-25.  Jesus begins by telling His disciples: “Have faith in God” and He ends by speaking of our need to be forgiven by God. Put simply, the context unequivocally tells us that we are praying to the personal Sovereign LORD and not demanding wishes from a genie in a bottle. (2) The broader context of the Bible also addresses this issue by making explicit what is implicit in verse 24: “whatever” is intended to open the disciples up to praying for things that seem difficult or impossible from a human point of view. “Whatever” is implicitly qualified by the assumption that the disciples (who have been told to “trust in God”) will want to be praying in accordance with God’s will. This is made explicit in passages like 1 John 5:14: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”  The power lies neither in the greatness of our faith nor in the greatness of our prayers but in the greatness of the God to whom we are praying. “The man who bows his head before the hidden glory of God in the fullness of faith does so in the certainty that God can deal with every situation and any difficulty and that with him nothing is impossible (William Lane).” Read or sing 44 “How Great Thou Art”. Prayer: Please lift up the Session of our congregation as it meets this evening.

Wednesday (8/5) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 9:1-12. Gordon McConville writes:

The Israelites had refused even to try to go into the land because of the great size and strength of its people, who included the gigantic Anakites. The LORD now assured the people that he would overcome even these terrible enemies (as he had defeated Sihon and Og in the Transjordan). Nevertheless, the people themselves must still act. Notice the balance between he will destroy them and you will drive them out (3b).

In ch. 8 Moses spoke of the change from poverty to wealth, and the moral dangers that change would bring. Then he turned to another change in Israel’s life, from oppressed people to conquerors. The temptation that this might bring was the idea that God had given them the land because they were better (more ‘righteous’) than other peoples. To believe this would have been another king of ingratitude for God’s goodness in blessing them. Moses showed, therefore (4-6), that they would conquer the other nations, not because of their righteousness, but for two quite different reasons: for the sake of God’s promise to the forefathers, and because of the other nations’ wickedness. And to reinforce the point, he went on to say that in fact the Israelites were far from being ‘righteous’; on the contrary their record showed that they were stiff necked, or stubbornly resistant to God’s way for them.

Read or sing Hymn 184 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” Prayer: Please pray that the LORD would send a deep and lasting revival to New England.

Thursday (8/6) Read and discuss Isaiah 63:1-6. The image of this passage is striking, and for some, unsettling. But as the Lutheran scholar R. Reed Lessing points out, we ought not to ignore what God is revealing in this portion of His word:

Isaiah’s violent images of God are unsettling. We are more accustomed to seeing Yahweh as our Shepherd (Psalm 23), Redeemer (Job 19:25), and light (Psalm 27:1). We delight in the promise of the virgin-born Immanuel, the Son bearing divine names who will reign on the throne of David forever and usher in the new creation that will be our peaceful eternal home. A loving God, some argue, would overlook the sins of all, let bygones be bygones, and indiscriminately let everyone into the new aeon (universalism).

It is tempting to create a god in our image, in our own likeness, to make a god who is soft on sin and easy on those who break his commandments. But this is not the God of the Bible. To be sure, the Suffering Servant bore the iniquity of all and is the universal guilt offering. Therefore Yahweh is gracious and merciful, “slow to anger”, but at the same time (in the same verses!) he wrathfully takes vengeance on his enemies, whom ‘he certainly cannot declare innocent” (Nah 1:3). Yahweh’s Servant justifies the many and intercedes for the transgressors. But those who are not the Servant’s “offspring”; are outside his covenant of grace and are liable to eternal judgment.

To soften the truth of God’s vengeance is to acquiesce to the present corrupt state of our world. If we accept the status quo and put up with whatever happens, then we have no hope for the demise of evil – and of evildoers – or for God’s restoration of the redeemed. But such hopelessness does not comport with Holy Scripture. Jesus gives us the Lord’s Prayer, wherein we ask, “Deliver us from the evil one.” Our enemies are not abstractions, but are personal, and God must vanquish them personally. All attempts to domesticate the LORD Yahweh are bound to fail. The day is coming when he will finally and fully deliver us from all perpetrators of evil (Rev 20:10-15).

Read or sing Hymn 248 “Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended!” Prayer: Ask the LORD to prevent you from creating gods in your own image. Pray that He would cause you to see Him in all His glorious spender.

Friday (8/7) Read and discuss Revelation 19:11-21. Dennis Johnson writes:

As at earlier points in Revelation, a new vision cycle begins as John sees heaven opened. When John was called to enter the door opened in heaven to view the enthroned One and the Lamb, he glimpsed God’s purposes at work in providential control of the traumas and forces of history (seals, trumpets). When the temple of God in heaven was opened (11:19), it was the prelude to visions exposing the deep, cosmic conflict that lies behind the changing tides of political and social trends and events (heavenly woman and child, dragon, beasts). When the sanctuary of the tent of testimony in heaven was opened (15:5), the completion of God’s wrath destroyed earth’s deluded and defiant residents (bowls, harlot). Now in the opened heaven John sees the victorious champion of the church: Jesus the Son of Man, the faithful and true Witness, the Word of God, the messianic King, the Lamb, the Lord of lords, and King of kings.

Jesus’ appearance, names, and companions call believers to rest our hope confidently and completely in his almighty power to vindicate his saints and eradicate his enemies. The presentation of his appearance begins with the white horse on which he is mounted (19:11). … White horses symbolize triumphant military achievement. Even before John’s eyes are lifted from the mount to its rider, we are assured that this Warrior will win. “His eyes are a flame of fire”, as they were when he appeared as “one like a son of man” (1:14). None can hide from his heart-piercing gaze (2:18). On his head are “many diadems”, conveying visually his infinite authority and dominion, as does his name, “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” The dragon appeared with seven diadems, pretending to universal rule (12:3), and the beast to which the dragon gave his power, throne, and authority had ten diadems (13:1). But numbers symbolize comprehensive authority, but this rider far excels them with his many diadems.

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD God Omnipotent reigns!

Saturday (8/8) Read and discuss Hebrews 3:14-19. A good illustration can really help us fix an idea in our minds and in our imaginations. Today we will consider an illustration from N.T. Wright, which is somewhat longer than typical, precisely because it is so effective in helping us apply today’s passage to our own lives. Wright says:

Nobody wants to fall asleep while driving a car. But a remarkable number of people do it.

In the U.K. at least, there are now signs on the major roads that warn motorists of the danger of sleepy driving. ‘Tiredness can kill, they say. You’d think it would be obvious; fancy hurtling down the road at 70 miles per hour while being sound asleep. The newspapers have recently reported that the courts are going to impose much more severe penalties for people who have gone to sleep at the wheel and cause serious or fatal accidents.

But I know how it happens. Two or three times in my life I have found myself, of necessity, driving late at night after a long, tiring day. Even if you stop regularly and drink a lot of coffee, there comes a point when the whole body is sending signals to the brain, to the imagination, to the will, whispering louder and louder that it wouldn’t matter if you just shut your eyes for a moment … it would only be for a minute or two … after all, the car’s going quite merrily just now, surely it can do without you for just a couple of seconds.

And, of course if you give in at that moment you are in real danger, and so is everyone else anywhere near you on the road. But the point I’m making is that, while nobody gets into the car with the aim of falling asleep halfway to their destination, the physical effects of tiredness include the deceitful whispers that tell you it’ll be all right really, nothing bad will happen, you might as well nod off for minute. And when those whispers happen, one of the things you need is clear thinking. You need to recognize the state you’re in, and take quick and decisive action.

Recognizing the state you’re in spiritually and morally is something few Christian teachers have had anything to say about in recent years, at least in the parts of the church where I work. We have heard so much about ‘following your own spiritual path’, and ‘continuing your own journey of faith’, that we can easily get the impression that should merely do whatever feels best at the time, and hope that it’ll all work out somehow. Well, it may, but it may not. There are times in Christian living which correspond to those moments of sudden sleepiness in the car, times when for whatever reason there is a persuasive whisper in your ear telling you that you might as well take a break now, that it doesn’t really matter if you give in to this temptation, that you don’t need to make an effort in prayer or reading the Bible or taking thought and care for your neighbors or working for God’s justice in the world. It all seems so much effort. It would be much easier to slack off for a bit …

When you find yourself thinking like that, you need to do the mental and spiritual equivalent of stopping the car, getting out, having a cup of coffee and doing some brisk physical exercise, or even getting some proper rest (like going on a retreat – which is perhaps the equivalent of stopping at a wayside hotel for the night). And the point of the present passage, continuing the exposition of Psalm 95, is that we need this spiritual discipline all the way through our lives to the very end. As verse 14 insists, we need to keep a firm, tight grip on our original confidence. If we aren’t quite as wide awake as we were when we set off, we need to take steps to get ourselves back into that condition. Otherwise, in spiritual language, our hearts will become hard and bitter (verse 15) – the spiritual equivalent of nodding off to sleep while driving.

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 2 August 2015 Sunday, Jul 26 2015 

MVOPC 2 August 2015 – Stephen Tindall preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 110 “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah”

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: Hebrews 8:10-12

Hymn of Preparation: 305 “Arise, My Soul, Arise”

Old Covenant Reading:  Isaiah 61:1-11

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 5:13-15

Sermon: Freedom in Christ

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 585 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

PM Worship:

OT: Isaiah 61:1-11

NT: Revelation 19:1-10

The Spirit of Prophesy

Adult Sunday School: Greg Montemurro Teaching

Shorter Catechism Q/A #2

Q. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (7/27) Read and discuss Galatians 5:7-15. Tom Schreiner writes:

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

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

Read or sing Hymn 5 “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Ask the LORD to cause you to use the freedom you have in Christ to enjoy His blessings and to advance His Kingdom.

Tuesday (7/28) Read and discuss Hebrews 3:7-13. If you have ever watched predators attack a herd of animals in Africa you know that they never take down the heard. What they do is try to separate off one of the animals from the protection of the herd and then devour that particular straggler. Our spiritual enemies follow the same strategy with us. It is very hard to bring down a group of committed Christians who are stirring each other up in the faith – but left to ourselves we are quite vulnerable to assaults of the world, the flesh and the Devil. Commenting on verse 13, F.F. Bruce writes:

Let them be vigilant therefore, and encourage one another with might and main to be steadfast in their faith, during the present time of probation. While this time lasts, each succeeding day is a fresh “Today” in which they may heed the psalmist’s warning to hear the voice of God and render him heart-obedience. The exhortation to mutual encouragement was wise: in isolation from fellow-believers each individual among them was more liable to succumb to the subtle temptations which pressed in from so many sides, but if they came together regularly for mutual encouragement the devotion of all would be kept warm and their common hope would be in less danger of flickering and dying. In isolation each was prone to be impressed by the specious arguments which underlined the worldly wisdom of a certain measure of compromise of their Christian faith and witness; in the healthy atmosphere of the Christian fellowship these arguments would be the more readily appraised at their true worth, and recognized as being so many manifestations of “the deceitfulness of sin.” Where the right path lies clear before the eyes, a disinclination to follow it can be reinforced by many beguiling lines of rationalization; but to surrender to them results in a hardening of the heart, a reduced sensitivity of conscience, which makes it more difficult to recognize the right path on a subsequent occasion. But in a fellowship which exercised a watchful and unremitting care for its members the temptation to prefer the easy course to the right one would be greatly weakened, and the united resolution to stand firm would be correspondingly strengthened.

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would use you to stir up other believers in our church family to greater faith and faithfulness.

Wednesday (7/29) Read and discuss Isaiah 61:1-11. Alec Motyer writes:

How blithely we read ‘for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross …’ (Heb 12:2), and many have been heard to say that the ‘joy’ in question was the crown that awaited him. [Perhaps}, but Isaiah says it was the joy of saving us. We think of the intended humiliation and actual pain of the crown of thorns, but to the Lord Jesus it was a bridegroom’s priestly head-dress (61:10). We picture the bedraggled and bloodstained seamless robe that he wore to Calvary, but to him it was a wedding garment! His Calvary-joy was wedding-day joy. He was winning his bride. … This is how much we mean to him. His wedding garments were ‘salvation’ and ‘righteousness,’ says Isaiah (61:10). In the Bible, clothing speaks of capacity and commitment. When the LORD showed himself to Joshua as an armed man (Joshua 5:13), it was to display his warrior might and his commitment to win the LORD’s wars. Jesus was dressed in ‘salvation’ because he alone has power to save (Acts 4:12), and because he is personally committed to the work of saving us. He wore the robe of righteousness, first because he is the perfectly righteous Jesus who knew no sin, did no sin, and in whom there was no sin. Only the sinless can bear the sins of others. Secondly, he was omitted to doing the righteousness – the righteous will – of God, to ‘fulfill all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15). And thirdly, the salvation he has accomplished is itself a righteous work: the whole law of God is totally satisfied in the price paid, the penalty accepted and endured. Righteousness without salvation would mean our eternal condemnation; salvation without righteousness would not be acceptable to the inviolable holiness of God. Jesus is all-perfect, all-sufficient, all-loving.

Read or sing Hymn 193 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” Prayer: Please pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Iran.

Thursday (7/30) Read and discuss Isaiah 61:1-11. Commenting on verse 3, R. Reed Lessing writes:

The Anointed Servant does not simply throw words at his faithful remnant. Rather, his performative speaking accomplishes what his words announce. He promises – indeed he gives – the best for the worst. The motif of reversal is signaled through the threefold use of “instead.” Similar oracles in Isaiah 60-62 highlight this change. However, in 61:3 the exchange motif is heightened. It’s as though the people are dressed for a funeral. They are wearing ashes and weeping over the loss of a loved one. But, wonder of wonders, the funeral clothes will be swapped for wedding garments! The mourner, with ashes on his head and wrapped in sackcloth, crushed in spirit with despair, becomes the party goer with a beautiful headdress, smelling of costly oil, and wearing a garment of praise. Jesus says that when he is raised from the dead the disciples will experience a similar radical reversal: “You will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy” (Jn 16:20).

Read or sing Hymn 439 “Christ Shall Have Dominion” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Providence, OPC – our mission work in West Lebanon, NH.

Friday (7/31) Read and discuss Revelation 19:1-10. Dennis Johnson writes:

With the kingdom comes the wedding. With the destruction of the harlot comes the presentation of the bride. John’s vision of the bride will not occur until Revelation 21:9; but, as the harlot was first mentioned in 14:8 and then revealed in 17:1, so the bride is announce before her entrance. The heavenly celebration is not primarily backward looking, exulting over fallen enemies; it is forward looking, anticipating the consummation of love between God’s people and the Lamb, their bridegroom. The bride’s identification as symbolic of God’s faithful followers is seen from the start in the “fine linen, bright and clean” that is given her as her wedding dress. This pure linen is reminiscent of the white robes given the martyrs as they await their vindication (6:11) and celebrate their salvation (7:9, 13-14). It pictures “the righteous acts of the saints,” accomplished through faith in the Lamb, in faithfulness to the Lamb (19:8). Such “righteous acts,” if referring to the believ3rs’ obedient actions and pursuit of spiritual purity, are not our personal achievement. This fine linen wedding garment is given to the bride by her Groom, as the background in Isaiah 61:10 makes clear:

I will rejoice greatly in the LORD,

My soul will exult in my God;

For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,

He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,

As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to cause the youth in our church to live for eternity and not just for what feels good at the moment.

Saturday (8/1) Read and discuss Galatians 5:7-15. Tom Schreiner writes:

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

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

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 26 July 2015 Sunday, Jul 19 2015 

MVOPC 26 July 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Leviticus 26:44-45

Hymn of Preparation: 650 “I Will Sing of My Redeemer”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 95:1-11

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 3:7-13

Sermon: Right Now!

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

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still, My Soul”

PM Worship:

OT: Joshua 24:14-27

NT: Hebrews 11:29-31

Whom Will You Serve?

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 89-90: Final Judgment

Shorter Catechism Q/A #1

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (7/19) Read and discuss Hebrews 3:7-13. Psalm 95 contains a commentary on the wilderness wonderings of the Exodus generation. Hebrews picks up this commentary and applies it to those in the Christian Church. N.T. Wright observes:

The Psalm is a great call to worship and praise. It opens with a lively invitation to sing and make a joyful noise. It celebrates the fact that Yahweh is a great God, the king of all possible gods. He is the rock of our salvation, the creator of heaven and earth; he is the shepherd and we are the sheep. Our response ought to be to fall down and worship him. But with verse 7 the mood changes. The Psalmist, writing many centuries after the Exodus, warns that a new day is dawning in which it will matter decisively whether or not the people who hear this call to worship obey it or not. God had warned the people in the wilderness that, if they grumbled and rebelled and put him to the test, they wouldn’t be allowed to enter his ‘rest’ – in other words, to find their settled home in the Promised Land. In the same way, says the Psalmist, you now are facing a choice: either worship and serve the same God, or run the risk of missing out on the ‘rest’ which is promised to you in turn.

The challenge becomes more urgent with the word ‘Today’, the point in the Psalm at which the quotation begins, and the point to which Hebrews returns several times, both in this passage and later. Along with the other early Christians, the writer believed passionately that God had acted once for all in Jesus the Messiah, and that as a result the new day had dawned for which Israel had been waiting. They had been living in what you might call ‘tomorrow mode’ for long enough; now it was ‘today mode’, the moment when suddenly it was all happening. If only they would remember that, they would stay on track.

There is much more exploration of Psalm 95 to come in the following passages. But notice especially the application Hebrews makes at once, in verses 12 and 13. The writer is all too aware that within every Christian community, even in the first generation, there were some who were in danger of going along with the others for the sake of companionship, but whose hearts weren’t really in it. They were like people coming on a snowy mountain walk because they were with friends, but who hadn’t really thought about what clothes they would need or what food to bring. So, when things got difficult, their heart would fail them, because it had never really believed in the venture in the first place. Even two or three such people on a mountain walk, let alone in a Christian fellowship, can cast a real shadow over everything else. Nobody likes to drag along a grumbling companion when you should all be giving yourselves wholeheartedly to the task in hand.

Read or sing Hymn 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render” Prayer: Please pray for the people of Greece who continue to suffer through a devastating financial crisis.

Tuesday (7/20) Read and discuss Hebrews 3:1-6. In today’s passage, the author of Hebrews shows that Jesus is greater than Moses (1) for while Moses is part of the house – Jesus is the Builder of the house; and (2) While Moses is a faithful servant in the house – Jesus as the Son is over the house.

Verses 3-4:

For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses- as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.  4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)

That analogy seems straight forward enough: The builder of a house is worthy of greater honor than the house that he builds; but there is something really interesting going on here. In verse 4, the author of Hebrews says: “but the builder of all things is God.” That could almost seem like a change of subject. I thought the point of the argument was that Jesus is building the house. How does this fit together? Three thoughts:

  1. First, it is helpful to see the connection between the expressions “house,” “household of faith,” and “Temple.” The term for temple in Hebrew simply means “Big house.” The identical word is used for King David’s palace that is used for what we call “Solomon’s Temple.” The reason why this is important to see is that the Temple in Jerusalem was simply the symbolic Palace where the King – that is God – dwelt in the midst of His people. As we have already seen in Numbers 12, the Old Testament like the New refers to the people of God as “His house” or “His household of faith.” These two ideas come together at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fills, not a Temple made of stones, but the people of God as the New Covenant Temple. Quite clearly it is God who is building this house.
  1. Second, while it is right to say “God is building this house”, that is, the Temple. Every Christian reader of Hebrews in the first century would have been aware of the words of Christ at Caesarea Philippi. Peter had confessed that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of the Living God; then Jesus said:

Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

So, clearly, while God is building the House which is the Church – Jesus is also the One who is building the Church.

  1. Third, Hebrews regularly brings together truths like this precisely to make the point that Jesus is God. Jesus is not only an Apostle from God; He is the Apostle who is

Prayer: Please lift up President Obama in prayer.

Wednesday (7/21) Read and discuss Psalm 95:1-11. John Phillips writes:

The names Meribah and Massah take us back to the story of the exodus. We turn first to Exodus 17:1-7. There we read of Israel at Rephidim. Pharaoh’s hosts had been swept away in the waters of the Red Sea, and Israel was on the march. The people came to Rephidim, but they were desperate because they were thirsty and there was no water. Already they had forgotten the mighty miracles which had liberated them from Egypt. Was God going to allow them now to die of thirst? Of course not! But the unbelieving people rose up in revolt against Moses: “Give us water that we may drink. … Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” They were so infuriated they were ready to stone Moses. Then God told him to smite the rock in Horeb, and from that smitten rock the living waters flowed. Moses, however, “called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD,  saying, ‘Is the LORD among us, or not?’” That was at the beginning of the wilderness journey.

Read or sing Hymn 650 “I Will Sing of My Redeemer” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Iran who practice their faith under very difficult conditions.

Thursday (7/22) Read and discuss Hebrews 11:29-31. If you were going to create a roll of believers who were noteworthy for their faith and you were looking at a period of thousands of years – what sort of people would you include? Would you include a prostitute? Today’s passage reminds us that the sins of our past are no obstacle to faith and faithfulness in the present. Tom Schreiner writes:

 The destruction of Jericho is intertwined with the story of Rahab’s preservation. When the Israelite spies came to Jericho, Rahab hid them from the men of Jericho and informed them how they could escape safely (Joshua 2), and thus Rahab and all who were in her house were spared when the city was destroyed (Joshua 6:22-25). It was never forgotten that Rahab was a prostitute, but she was a prostitute who was delivered from her evil, for she trusted the LORD and gave herself to Him. We have a hint here that a sordid past does not preclude one form enjoying forgiveness and a future reward. Her faith manifested itself in believing in the LORD’s word and in sending away the spies in peace. Rahab is another person who trusted the LORD in a time of danger. How improbable it seemed that ragtag army could defeat the walled city of Jericho, and yet Rahab exposed herself to danger in concealing the spies. Mosser bay be right in seeing Rahab as the climatic example in chapter 11. She represents someone who was willing to leave her own society and culture and to align herself with the people of God. In other words she functions as a model for the readers since she was willing to go “outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:13) and to suffer the reproach of being identified with the people of God.

Read or sing Hymn 562 “All to Jesus I Surrender” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Jaffrey, OPC in Jaffrey, NH.

Friday (7/23) Read and discuss Joshua 24:14-27. Adolf Harstad writes:

Following Joshua’s imperative call for Israel – if she decides to forsake her LORD, then to chose which worthless idols she will serve (24:15a) – is Joshua’s own declaration of the choice God has led him to make (24:15b). His affirmation at the end of the verse is one of the “choicest” statements of the entire Bible. Before all Israel he sounds this clear trumpet blast that has stirred God’s people for some three and a half millennia: “But I and my house – we shall serve the LORD!” His words are a bold and unashamed profession of faith in the LORD nad commitment to Him and His covenant. Even if Joshua has to stand alone against all Israel and the surrounding pagan nations – as he and Caleb indeed did earlier (Num 14:1-9) – he will serve the LORD.

Joshua includes his “house” in his resolve to serve the LORD. A house divided cannot stand. Joshua’s house stands firm because it stands on Yahweh, the Rock of Israel. In union it confesses boldly, and united it stands.

The Scriptures include many examples of a man using his role as the head of his house to lead those under his spiritual care in serving the LORD as he himself does. The NT records conversions where a person led a whole household to faith and salvation. For example Cornelius was told by an angel that “you and all your household” would be saved, and Acts 10 records the account of their baptism. In a similar way, Lydia and her household were baptized into the Christian faith. Paul and Silas told the Philippian jailer, “Believe on the LORD Jesus and you will be saved – you and your house, and he, together with all who were his, were immediately baptized. … Tragically, the Scriptures also include examples of a man leading his household into disaster.

Prayer: Lift up the young people in our congregation and pray that the LORD would cause each of them to clearly and decisively choose to stand for Him.

Saturday (7/25) Read and discuss Hebrews 3:7-13. Rationalizing away our shortcomings and sins is a temptation that we all face. Such rationalizing makes us exceedingly vulnerable because instead of listening to those who are trying to turn us back onto God’s paths we end up thinking about these godly sisters and brothers as though they were cold hearted and judgmental. N.T. Wright comments:

There is such a thing as ‘the deceitfulness of sin’, and it’s very powerful. You start by allowing yourself the apparent luxury of doing something small which you know you shouldn’t but which you think doesn’t matter. When it becomes a habit, you stop thinking it’s wrong at all. If the question is raised, you are ready with rationalizations: everyone does it, this the way the world is now, you mustn’t be legalistic, no good being a killjoy. This creates a platform for the next move: here’s something else which a while ago you would have sunned as certainly wrong, but it’s quite like the thing you’ve got used to, so maybe … And before too long you’re rationalizing that as well. And once the mind has been deceived, the habit will continue unchecked.

The main problem with which Hebrews is concerned, and with it the main deceit, is the question of whether or not we continue to follow and trust Jesus, or whether we will be content to drift, with our initial belief fading away to a memory, and our hope dissolving like the energy of the snowbound walkers. ‘Maybe we should never have come; maybe this mountain doesn’t have a summit anyway …’

The remedy to this deceitfulness of sin is absolutely clear. We need to keep short accounts with God and to not accept drifting as being somehow normal. And notice that verse 13 doesn’t simply send each of us to our own quiet places to work this out. Instead, we are commanded to “exhort one another every day.” In other words: “You are your brother’s keeper.” 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 19 July 2015 Sunday, Jul 12 2015 

MVOPC 19 July 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 94 “How Firm A Foundation”

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: Romans 3:21-26

Hymn of Preparation: 648 “My Jesus, I Love Thee”

Old Covenant Reading: Numbers 12:1-16

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 3:1-6

Sermon: Better Than Moses

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

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 188 “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting”

19 July 2015

Hymns: 44, 92, 101, 648

OT: Jeremiah 51:25-64

NT: Revelation 18:9-24

In a Single Hour

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday school

Shorter Catechism Q/A #107

Q. What doth the conclusion of the Lord’s prayer teach us?
A. The conclusion of the Lord’s prayer, which is, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever, Amen, teacheth us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power and glory to him. And in testimony of our desire, and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (7/13) Read and discuss Hebrews 3:1-6. Commenting on verse 1, N.T. Wright says:

Now we see where the argument of the letter so far has been going. … That the purpose which God was working out through the long years of Israel’s history, with Moses and the Exodus among the key founding people and moments, really has reached its goal with Jesus. This means that those who belong to Jesus, in the present, really are ‘God’s holy ones (verse 1 – a title which would before this have been reserved for Jews who were strict in their adherence to the Law of Moses, or for the angels themselves). They really do ‘share the call from heaven’, that is, from God.

This isn’t simply a call to invite them t ‘go to heaven.’ As we shall see near the end of the letter, the writer envisages a whole new creation, just like the other New Testament writers do. Rather, it’s a call from heaven, the call which comes through the risen and ascended Jesus rather than through the angels who gave the law. He is, as verse 1 puts it, the ‘apostle,’ that is, the one ‘sent from God’; and, as we saw before, he is the ‘high priest,’ who represents God to the people and the people back to God. And the whole Christian movement, with Jesus as its apostle and high priest, can be summed up in a phrase typical of Hebrews, here at the end of verse 1: ‘our confession of faith.’

Read or sing Hymn 94 “How Firm A Foundation” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Jaffrey OPC in Jaffrey, NH.

Tuesday (7/14) Read and discuss Hebrews 2:10-18. Today’s passage is filled with practical good news for us. In it we see that Jesus identified so closely with us that we are rightly called His sisters, His brothers, and His children. He cares about us as members of His very own family. Second, today’s passage shows us that Jesus identified with us precisely so that He would destroy the power of the Devil and liberate us from the tyranny of the fear of death and subsequent judgment. As we read in Romans 8:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Third, today’s passage makes clear that Jesus, our High Priest, fully understands the pain of suffering in this world and the dread of future suffering for clinging to His Father’s call upon His life. Not only does Jesus understand the temptations we face in wanting to escape suffering – He is able to do something about them.  “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” This reminds us that the glorious Messiah is the suffering Messiah. They are the one and the same Jesus Christ. Finally, there is the astonishing truth that God the Son did all these things voluntarily and therefore revealed the full character of our God as both righteous and merciful, as all powerful yet willing to suffer in our place. Beloved, do you want to more fully know the Almighty Creator who spoke the Universe into existence? Do you want to more fully know “the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who dwells in unapproachable light”? Then do this one thing: Look to the cross – and behold your God! For the suffering Messiah is also the glorious Messiah. He is Jesus Christ – true man and fully God over all. He is both! Prayer: Ask that the Holy Spirit would cause Christ crucified to be exalted in New England.

Wednesday (7/15) Read and discuss Numbers 12:1-16. Complaining about our circumstances and how other people have it better than we do is a common sin. Interestingly, there is no hint in the passage that Moses knew anything about Miriam’s complaining. But the LORD knew! How foolish it is for us to imagine that we can keep our complaining about our circumstances secret from the one before whom every heart is laid bare. It is not enough for us to try to keep our complaining under wraps. We are called to cultivate contentment in our lives as we learn to trust the LORD for His good provisions in all things. Two other things are worth observing in today’s passage. (1) First, Miriam and Aaron seem to be acting out of either racism or ethnic pride in condemning Moses for marrying a Cushite woman (While Cush is the name of the oldest son of Ham this name also means “black” and suggests that the Cushite woman was a black African). It may be helpful to see that the LORD has always stood against this sort of racism. (2) Second, today’s passage reminds us of the unique role Moses held as the fountainhead of the prophets and the mediator of the Mosaic covenant. Hebrews 3:2 will pick up on the teaching of today’s passage that Moses was faithful in all his house to make clear that Jesus, who is over the house as the house’s builder, is even greater than Moses. This continues our theme in Hebrews of Jesus being better. Here’s the point: If Miriam would get leprosy for challenging Moses, how much greater condemnation is deserved by those who would challenge Jesus? Read or sing Hymn 648 “My Jesus, I Love Thee” Prayer: Please lift up the people of Greece as they struggle through a long economic crisis.

Thursday (7/16) Read and discuss Jeremiah 51:25-64. Commenting on the assurance that the LORD offers to the exiles in verses 45-49, Terrence Fretheim writes:

This unit begins with God’s call to the exiles (“My people”!) to come out of Babylon. By fleeing from the city they will save themselves from the wrath of the LROD, now directed against Babylon and not Israel. The exiles are not to be fainthearted or dissuaded by all the rumors about violence that thrive among them, probably due to the instability of the Babylonian empire in its last years. The days are surely coming when the judgment announced against Babylon and its images will come to pass. All Babylon will be put to shame and the city will be filled with the slain. When Babylon’s fall occurs, at the hands of the destroyer form the north, a victory shout will be heard round the world, indeed even from the hosts of heaven. The fall of Babylon is a global event, with earth shaking significance. The unit concludes (v. 49) with the now familiar reason why Babylon must fall; it must fall because of the slain of Israel (see 9:1) and the slain of all the other nations that Babylon has conquered.

Read or sing Hymn 535 “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus!” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Pleasant Mountain OPC in Bridgeton, ME who are without a pastor.

Friday (7/17) Read and discuss Revelation 18:9-24. Denis Johnson writes:

The strong angel’s act of throwing a great millstone into the sea shows that Babylon’s fall is permanent and irremediable. Jeremiah had been instructed to write on a scroll the calamities that were to come on Babylon and then to tie the scroll to a stone and throw it into the Euphrates, the river in which Babylon prided herself, declaring, “Just so shall Babylon sink down and not rise again because of the calamity that I am going to bring upon her” (Jer. 51:60-64). In John’s vision the weight of the millstone, a massive boulder turned slowly by oxen to grind grain, underscores the impossibility of Babylon’s rising from the depths of the sea of judgment in which she is submerged, never to be found again.

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would grant you clarity of vision about how the world tries to steal your affections and dreams.

Saturday (7/18) Read and discuss Hebrews 3:1-6. Central to today’s passage is the idea of the people of God being the house or household of God. N.T. Wright comments:

Most first-century Jews, faced with the idea of ‘God’s house,’ would think at once of the Temple. But Hebrews, again like Paul, and also like some other radical Jewish groups of the period thought of the true ‘house’ not as a building of bricks and mortar but as a community of people.

The people who make up this house are described in verse 6 as a bold, confident family. There is no room here for the rather mealy-mouthed confession of faith one sometimes hears in the Western world (‘some of us feel drawn to follow Jesus,’ implying that we might be wrong and that plenty of other people are doing just fine doing other things). Either you believe that God’s new world has come to birth in Jesus and is there, waiting for us, as a solid and definite hope – which means you can be bold in living and acting on that basis, and can make sure and confident claims about it. Or you haven’t really understood what Christianity is all about. This isn’t a recipe for arrogance, using the gospel as an excuse for the kind of pride which covers up our own insecurities. Rather, it’s a matter of cheerful celebration, knowing that the gospel and the hope it brings has nothing to do with our achievements, and everything to do with God’s love and grace.

It may be worth adding that the idea of God’s house being the people and not the Temple is an idea found in the Old Testament as well as in the new. Consider these words from 2 Samuel 7 where the LORD establishes the Davidic covenant:

Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.  9 And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.  10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly,  11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

Read or sing Hymn: 188 “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 12 July 2015 Sunday, Jul 5 2015 

MVOPC 12 July 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great Is They Faithfulness”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 1:16-17

Hymn of Preparation: 347 “The Church’s One Foundation”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 22:1-31

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 2:10-18

Sermon: Jesus Our Brother

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

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 353 “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord”

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 19:1-6

NT: Revelation 18:1-8

Come Out of Her My People

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 84-85: Death

Shorter Catechism Q/A #106

Q. What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
A. In the sixth petition, which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (7/6) Read and discuss Hebrews 2:10-18. It is an astonishing truth that Jesus would identify with us as our older brother. N.T. Wright comments:

Some while ago there was a movie by the name of A River Runs through It. It told of the story of two brothers growing up in the beautiful Montana countryside. The older one was quiet, studious, and hard-working: he got a good job and became a respected man in the community. His tearaway younger brother was great fun, but was always getting into scrapes, pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable. He ended up associating with people who led him deeper and deeper into trouble, and was finally killed in a brawl. His older brother couldn’t help him. They had grown too far apart.

It was a moving and tragic story, and the most tragic thing about it was this: the older son saw what was happening to his beloved younger brother, and there was nothing he could do about it. He couldn’t reach him. He couldn’t come to where he was and rescue him.

The point of the present passage is that Jesus, the older brother of a much larger family, could and did come to where his siblings were, wallowing in the land of sin and death. He identified with them, shared their fate, and thereby rescued them from it. Above all other passages in early Christian writings, this one speaks most fully about Jesus as the oldest brother, the firstborn, of a large family (Paul mentions this too, for instance in Romans 8:29, but doesn’t develop it so thoroughly). It encourages us to see Jesus not as the kind of older brother whom we resent because He’s always getting things right and being successful while we’re always getting things wrong and failing, but as the kind of older brother who, without a trace of patronizing or looking down his nose at us, comes to find us where we are, out of sheer love and goodness of heart, and to help us out of the mess.

Read or sing Hymn 32 “Great Is They Faithfulness” Prayer: Please pray for the nation of Greece as the people of Greece are suffering through great financial hardships and uncertainty about the future.

Tuesday (7/7) Read and discuss Hebrews 2:5-9. We see that Jesus, by taking on sinless human flesh in the midst of a fallen world, for a little while occupied the place of being lower than the angels. But now, we see Jesus risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, and seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. In His resurrection and in His glorified body Jesus has already moved in the present to the status and reality that all believers will enjoy in the future. Here is the remarkable thing: Jesus has already gone as our trailblazer, as our champion, to fulfilling the role that human beings were originally created to enjoy in having dominion over the entire creation. That’s what the expression “crowned with glory and honor” mean in this passage. This is the fulfillment of the vision from Daniel 7:13 and following where Daniel says:

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

That has already taken place when Christ ascended to the right hand of God the Father. The new thing is not that the Second Person of the Trinity would have such dominion and authority – but that this authority would be held and exercised by the man Christ Jesus. Today’s passage from Hebrews is announcing the astounding message that what is true of Jesus now, with respect to this dominion, will one day be true of all those who trust Him and love His appearing. We will be joint heirs with Christ. And if you can believe it – and you should – we will be joint rulers with Christ as well. Prayer: Ask that the Holy Spirit would cause you to live more and more in light of your vocation to serve as an ambassador for reconciliation in the present and a joint heir and co-ruler with Christ in the future.

Wednesday (7/8) Read and discuss Psalm 22:1-31. Today’s psalm begins with jarring abruptness: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from the cry of my groaning?” We are naturally drawn into the psalmist’s agony and wonder what he could have done that led the LORD to abandon him like this. Then we come to the cross and find these very lips on the lips of Jesus – the only intrinsically righteous man who has ever lived – and we are dumbfounded. Why? How could it be that He would suffer like this? The great sixteenth century Anglican, Richard Hooker, answers this question perhaps as well as is humanly possible:

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

Why was He forsaken? Jesus chose to be forsaken for you. As we meditate on this prophetic psalm, written a millennium before the cross, we enter into the horror of what the King of glory suffered for His people. Yet that isn’t the end of the story. We should remember that Psalm 22 begins with our Lord’s cry of dereliction but that is not how it ends. Verse 23 calls the people of God to praise “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither has He hid His face from Him; but when He cried unto Him, He heard (v. 24).” Indeed, the last nine verses of the psalm are a celebration of the Lord’s victory. Surely Jesus knew this when He cried in agony from the cross. As unfathomable as His suffering was; Jesus knew that it was a suffering unto victory. Read or sing Hymn 347 “The Church’s One Foundation” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Jaffrey OPC in Jaffrey, NH.

Thursday (7/9) Read and discuss Exodus 19:1-6. Read and discuss Exodus 19:1-25. It is striking that this entire chapter is given over to preparing to hear from the LORD. This shows both the seriousness with which we are to treat the Living God and also the seriousness with which we are to treat His Law. In order to grasp the Law it is necessary for us to remember that God had called Israel to be a Kingdom of Priest. They had the extraordinary vocation of being instruments for the reconciliation of the world to its Creator. Israel failed in this vocation but the LORD has given the very same calling to His Church. It is therefore vital that we understand what this vocation entails: Doug Stuart explains:

Israel’s assignment from God involved intermediation. They were not to be a people unto themselves, enjoying their special relationship with God and paying no attention to the rest of the world. Rather, they were to represent him to the rest of the world and attempt to bring the rest of the world to him. In other words, the challenge to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” represented the responsibility inherent in the original promise to Abraham in Gen 12:2-3: “You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you … and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Priests stand between God and humans to help bring the humans closer to God and to help dispense God’s truth, justice, favor, discipline, and holiness to humans. Israel was called to such a function. How? The answer is not spelled out in the present context, but it surely was to take place in four ways: (1) Israel would be an example to the people of other nations, who would see its holy beliefs and actions and be impressed enough to want to know personally the same God the Israelites knew. (2) Israel would proclaim the truth of God and invite people from other nations to accept him in faith as shown by confession of belief in him and acceptance of his covenant, as Jethro had already done. (3) Israel would intercede for the rest of the world by offering acceptable offerings to God and thus ameliorate the general distance between God and humankind. (4) Israel would keep the promises of God, preserving his word already spoken and recording his word as it was revealed to them so that once the fullness of time had come, anyone in the whole world could promptly benefit from that great body of divinely revealed truth, that is, the Scriptures.

Read or sing Hymn 254 “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed” Prayer: Lift up the young people in our congregation and pray that they would have an enjoyable and productive summer.

Friday (7/10) Read and discuss Revelation 18:1-8. We should be careful to not think of each scene in Revelation as a self-contained discrete story. Today’s passage brings us all the way back to the LORD’s plans for creation and shows how He is eliminating everything that stands in the way of ultimately having creation fulfill its original purpose. N.T. Wright explains:

Cities … were often seen as the result of humans extending their civilizing reach into previously uncharted territory. John would have understood this from a biblical perspective: the Garden of Eden was the start of a project in which the humans were commanded to bring God’s fruitful rule to bear upon the world. Creation was designed to be a garden city, a place where the delights of human community and the delights of glorious countryside somehow combined – a balance that has proved harder and harder to maintain.

We shall see John’s own vision of this ideal city at the end of the book. But for the moment we are shown its opposite: the city which tried, like Babel of old, to make itself The Place, the summit of human achievement, by its own efforts and to its own glory – and which ends up shrinking to a shell, with the wild desert creeping back into its palaces, it temples, its fine streets and shops and courtyards. Creation will reclaim what arrogant humans had through to construct. Babylon will become a place for demons, for unclean spirits, for birds and monsters of all the wrong kinds.

And this, John says, is good news – just as the destruction of Babel, and the confusion of tongues (Genesis 11) was good news. The angel who shouts out that Babylon has fallen (echoing Isaiah 21:9 and Jeremiah 51:8) is bringing the news that human arrogance and oppression, and the wanton luxury and vice to which they lead, will not have the last word. God will have the last word, and creation itself will hear this word as a word of freedom, a sigh of relief, a flood of glorious light (verse 1) let in upon a darkened dungeon.

Prayer: Give thanks that Christ’s triumph over His enemies is absolutely certain.

Saturday (7/11) Read and discuss Hebrews 2:10-18. Commenting on verse 15, Tom Schreiner writes:

The second purpose for Jesus’ becoming a human being is explained here. He became a man to dethrone the devil who had the power of death. But the Son also took on humanity so that through his death he would free those who were captive to the fear of death all their lives. Psalm 8 proclaims that human beings were made to rule the world for God, but instead of exercising domino over the world, they are subject to slavery. For death casts a shadow over the entirety of life, hovering like a specter over every dimension of existence. Death means that human beings do not reign but are ruled over by a foreign power, for they fear their eventual demise that comes inexorably upon them. In every moment of happiness, death is our dark shadow, reminding us that our joy is short-lived.

Jesus, however, has freed those who are his brothers and sisters from the fear of death. The author doesn’t fully unpack his argument here, but he apparently believes that death can only be defeated through a human being. Hence, Jesus had to become a human being to destroy death. It wasn’t enough for Jesus to become human. He had to endure death himself. Death would only die through the death of a human being. Through Jesus’ death those who are part of Jesus’ family are freed from the fear of death. If Jesus’ death frees his brothers and sisters from the dominion and fear of death it seems that he dies in their place. The death they deserve he took upon himself so that they are now free from the fear of death that haunts human existence.

Read or sing Hymn: 353 “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

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.

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