Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 5 March 2017 Sunday, Feb 26 2017 

MVOPC 5 March 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Joel 2:12-13

Hymn of Preparation:  94 “How Firm a Foundation”

Old Covenant Reading: Ezekiel 18:14-20

New Covenant Reading: John 9:1-7

Sermon: Making All Things New

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

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 37:12-36

NT: 1 John 3:11-18

Shattered Dreams

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #84

Q. What doth every sin deserve?

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

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/27) Read and discuss John 9:1-7.  N.T. Wright comments:

If something in the world seems ‘unfair’, but if you believe in a God who is both all-powerful, all loving and all-fair, one way of getting round the problem is to say that it only seems ‘unfair’, but actually it isn’t. There was after all some secret sin being punished. This is a comfortable sort of thing to believe if you happen to be well-off, well-fed and healthy in body and mind. (In other words, if nobody can accuse you of some secret previous sin.)

Jesus firmly resists any such analysis of how the world is ordered. The world is stranger than that, and darker than that, and the light of God’s powerful, loving justice shines more brightly than that. But to understand it all, we have to be prepared to dismantle some of our cherished assumptions and to let God remake them in a different way.

We have to stop thinking of the world as a kind of moral slot-machine, where people put in a coin (a good act, say, or an evil one) and get out a particular result (a reward or a punishment). Of course, actions always have consequences. Good things often happen as a result of good actions (kindness produces gratitude), and bad things often happen through bad actions (drunkenness causes car accidents). But this isn’t inevitable. Kindness is sometimes scorned. Some drunkards always get away with it.

In particular, you can’t stretch the point back to a previous ‘life,’ or to someone else’s sins. Being born blind doesn’t mean you must have sinned, says Jesus. Nor does it mean that your parents must have sinned. No: something much stranger, at once more mysterious and more hopeful, is going on The chaos and misery of this present world is, it seems, the raw material out of which the loving, wise and just God is making his new creation.

Read or sing 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render” Prayer: Pray for someone you know who is blind, deaf, or otherwise suffering from severe physical disadvantages and ask that he or she would know the comfort of the LORD.

Tuesday (2/28) Read and discuss John 8:48-59. It is terrifying to contemplate these Jewish religious leaders standing face-to-face in front of the Living God while they hurl blasphemous charges against Him. Nevertheless, I am grateful that their rebellious challenge is recorded in Scripture for Jesus takes this occasion to make a remarkable statement about His own person. Verse 58:

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

If Jesus had said, “Before Abraham was, I was” He would have been making an astonishing statement. Each of you realizes that there was a time when you did not exist. Not a single person in this room was alive in 1900. Not one of you. If one of you were to tell me after the service that before George Washington went to Valley Forge you were already alive – I would tell you that you ought to see a psychiatrist – or at least that you needed to get some sleep. But, we should realize that there are a whole class of people alive right now who were alive before George Washington, before the Apostle Paul, and even before Abraham. We call these individuals Angels. If Jesus had said, “Before Abraham was, I was” He might be making the astonishing claim that He was like Michael the Archangel – a being of great power created by God many, many centuries ago. But that is decidedly not what Jesus says. Instead Jesus says: “Before Abraham was, I am.” This is nothing short of Jesus claiming to be God. Jesus was not simply a very special messenger from God. Jesus is God Himself who took to Himself a true human nature. This is the title that the LORD used back when He met with Moses at the burning bush. Moses was understandably shaken by the encounter and the startling commission the LORD had laid upon him.

[So] Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

Every Jew knew this story by heart. The Jewish religious leaders had challenged Jesus by asking Him: “Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus says: “Here is your answer.” Do you remember when the LORD met with Moses at the burning bush and revealed Himself as “I AM.” Of course you do! Well, that’s Me. I am the Great “I AM.” Read or sing Hymn 94 “How Firm a Foundation” Prayer: Give thanks that God Himself has become your Savior.

Wednesday (3/1) Read and discuss Ezekiel 18:14-20. Iain Duguid writes:

When I was growing up, two of the top three things we were never allowed to say were, “It’s not my fault,” and, “It’s not fair.” (The other was, “I couldn’t help it.”) Those very phrase are, in effect, what Ezekiel’s contemporaries were saying to God by using the parable about the fathers having eaten sour grapes and the children having their teeth set on edge. As they suffered the discipline of God in Exile, their first response was, “This is not our fault,” which in turn led logically to the accusation, “God, that’s not fair.” Ezekiel’s response is to affirm that, along with previous generations, it is indeed their fault. It is not God’s unfairness but their sin that is the problem. They are simply in denial about the true nature of their case. But Ezekiel doesn’t take away their excuses in order to leave them crushed under the full impact of God’s law. He pleads with them even now to turn and live.

Prayer: Pray for your workplace or school that the LORD’s name would be hallowed there.

Thursday (3/2) Read and discuss 1 John 3:11-18.  Do we walk the walk or do we just talk the talk? The answer to that question depends entirely upon whom we love. Cain loved himself. He couldn’t stand the idea that his brother would somehow be more acceptable or more honored before the LORD than he was.  Faced with God’s own call for him to repent, Cain chose to kill his brother out of envy rather than to humble himself before God. Now it might be tempting to be grateful that we are not like that. Few of us will ever kill our brother the way Cain did. So, grading on a curve, maybe we are not doing so bad. That is one of the services provided by Adolf Hitler to fallen humanity – each rebellious sinner can say: “Well, I’m not as bad as Hitler.” But John won’t let us off the hook so easily. First of all, God doesn’t grade on a curve. Secondly, John puts the questions squarely in front of us: “Do you really love your brother?” John takes us back to the only Person who has ever fully loved in this way. John writes, “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” As dramatic as actually laying down our life for our brothers might be, in one sense taking this command only in a woodenly literal sense lets us largely off the hook. After all, there are not likely to be many (probably not any) times in your life when either you must die or your brother or sister in Christ must die.  John speaks of this dramatic act of love as a way of introducing the challenging reality of sharing our material goods with our brothers and sisters who are in need. How do we love in deed and in truth? Sometimes it is simply with a bag of groceries or a blanket. Read or sing Hymn 524 “Thy Works, Not Mine, O Christ” Prayer: Ask the LORD to bring visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family and whose gifts would build up this local body.

Friday (3/3) Read and discuss Genesis 37:12-36. Tremper Longman writes:

Right from the beginning of the Joseph narrative we have witnessed the tremendous envy that the brothers feel toward Joseph. Joseph has something that they desire: their father’s special love. We have already described the wrongness of Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph. In a word, it elicits the envy of the brothers toward Joseph.

What is envy but “the desire for what another has that we don’t have. It is resentful desire (Allender and Longman).” The brothers certainly resent Joseph, and they do so obsessively. They can’t get him and his privileged family life out of [their minds]. …

The brother’s envy-driven rage toward Joseph is obvious, but what about toward God? While it is not as clearly articulated as it is in the story of Cain and Abel, we see it in the brothers’ unwillingness to control their hatred toward their brother. They are not content with what God has given them and so they lack trust in God and use malicious means in order to remove the source of their envy. …

How do we handle envy then? Again, we turn to the psalmist for an answer. The composer of Psalm 73 wrote the song after he had come to grips with his envy. After all, the psalm begins with “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (73:1). The latter part of the psalm explains that his obsessively envious heart was calmed by going into the presence of God. He goes to the sanctuary, where during the Old Testament period, God made his special presence known, and he realized that God was with him and that the prosperity of the wicked was only apparent and short lived, not real.

Those of us who live in the twenty-first century encounter many things that can evoke our envy. We are exposed to the lives of the rich and powerful on television shows; constant advertisements play on our desires for more and better luxury items. No matter how much money and how many possessions we have, there is always an appetite for more. Like the psalmist we need to go into he presence of God and have our priorities corrected. If we have a vibrant relationship with God what else do we need?

Prayer: Ask the LORD to root envy out of your life.

Saturday (3/4) Read and discuss John 9:1-7. Chuck Swindoll writes:

As soon as Jesus finished correcting the faulty theology of His disciples, He declared, “I am the Light of the world,” and then He gave the man sight. He spat on the ground, mixed it with the substance of man’s creation (Gen. 2:7), and then smeared the clay over this man’s eyes. In this one act, Jesus asserted His authority over disabilities, sin, bad theology, religion, the temple, the Sabbath, and even the religious authorities who opposed Him. And he had this opportunity because an infant came into the world decades earlier without the ability to see.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 26 February 2017 Sunday, Feb 19 2017 

MVOPC 26 February 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Titus 2:11-14

Hymn of Preparation:  599 “Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us”

Old Covenant Reading: Exodus 3:1-15

New Covenant Reading: John 8:48-59

Sermon: One Greater Than Abraham

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

Confession of Faith:    Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship

OT: Isaiah 53:1-12

NT: 1 Peter 2:11-25

A Pilgrim’s Life

Adult Sunday School: Special Meeting of the Congregation – No Sunday School Today

Shorter Catechism Q/A #83

Q. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?
A. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

Suggested Preparations 

Monday (2/20) Read and discuss John 8:48-59.  R.C. Sproul writes:

Do you see the two points Jesus has made to the Pharisees? He said: “Don’t tell Me you’re children of Abraham, because if you were children of Abraham, you would do the things that Abraham loved; but you hate the things that Abraham loved. And don’t claim to be children of God, because if you were children of God, you would love the things of God; but you hate the things of God.”

This kind of teaching comes like a freight train against the basic beliefs of American culture. We’re told that God has many faces and that we can choose to believe in Mohammed, Buddaha, Confucius, or any of those avatars, as well as Jesus. In fact, it doesn’t matter what we believe, just as long as we’re sincere. Not so, according to Jesus. If we reject Christ, we reject the Father. We cannot have the Father and not have the Son, and we cannot have the Son and not have the Father; because the Father sent the Son.

Read or sing 34 “The God of Abraham Praise” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Island Pond Baptist Church as they search for a new pastor.

Tuesday (2/21) Read and discuss John 8:30-47. Jesus promises to liberate those who abide in His teaching. Instead of embracing this gift, the crowd is indignant because they imagine that they are already free. We face the same problem when talking about pursuing righteousness in the modern world. Our non-Christian neighbors imagine that living according to God’s word is bondage and that doing whatever they feel like is true freedom. Yet, no matter how popular this false view of freedom might become, it is still a rather pathetic definition of freedom. Let me give you a silly example to illustrate how such a view of freedom is terribly detrimental to achieving a happy and productive life: Imagine you have a friend who just purchased a brand new Honda Accord. You see your friend beginning to put diesel fuel into his gar which is designed for unleaded gasoline. So, you warn him that doing this is going to ruin his car … but he shoots back: “You are just in bondage to all those rules the manufacturer is laying on you. Unlike you, I’m free to use any type of fuel in my car that I want to!” Do you know what is going to happen to your friend? Your friend is going to be the proud owner of a brand-new Honda Accord with a burned-out engine. If he chooses the so-called “freedom” of putting the wrong fuel into the car he is going to quickly ruin it. If you, by contrast, follow all the recommended servicing on your Honda Accord you will likely be able to put 200,000 miles or more on it. Now why would anyone call your friend’s foolish behavior “freedom” while calling your wise behaving “bondage”? But that is precisely what the world does with respect to God. Everything that exists except for God has been created by God. The Manufacturer has told us how things are supposed to work. If we refuse to follow His directions, we are like your foolish friend who insisted on his so-called freedom to put the wrong fuel into his car. But wouldn’t it be better to say that the wisdom to put the right fuel in the car is actually what produces the greatest level of both freedom and happiness? This is also true for living all of life in accordance with God’s word. Read or sing Hymn 599 “Savior, like a Shepherd Lead Us” Prayer: Please pray for the Foreign Missions Committee of our denomination as it meets today and tomorrow.

Wednesday (2/22) Read and discuss Exodus 3:1-15. Doug Stuart writes:

By authorizing Moses to say, “I AM/CAUSE TO BE” has sent me to you,” God made Moses his ambassadorial representative, that is, prophet, assigned to speak on his behalf to the Israelites. They would have recognized, if they perceived the situation correctly, that what he said was not of his own making but was the word of Yahweh, the God of their forefathers.

What had just been revealed in terms of the divine name was now reiterated [in verse 15] with connection to the Patriarchs, so that the Israelites in Egypt would be able to properly draw the conclusion that Moses was no coming to them in the name of a new god but the true God of old, the God their own ancestors worshiped, and thus the God who should logically be their national deliverer. God also made clear that the third-person form of his name, Yahweh, was to be employed immediately (since no human could use it properly in the first-person form) and would identify him to his people for the generations thereafter.

Prayer: Please pray for the teenagers in our congregation that they would grow in their commitment to Christ and that the LORD would be using them to impact their peer groups for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

Thursday (2/23) Read and discuss James 3:13-18. Commenting on verse 18, J.A. Moyter writes:

James takes his gardening metaphor seriously. Peace is the soil and those who make peace are the green-fingered gardeners. The only way in which this clear picture needs any further explanation is to say that our usage narrows unduly the meaning of those who make peace, for we call peacemakers those who have a ministry or gift of helping others to compose their differences. H. Alford is correct in seeing here those who ‘work peace’, or ‘peace-workers’. They are those whose whole life, ministry, influence and relationships are peace-creating. They are those who are out for peace in the fellowship, as Acts 15 and 21 reveal James himself to have been.

Once more we need to ask ourselves if we really believe this. Is it not too surprising? Do we find it recommended as a way of Christian growth in our churches? Certainly, the idea of Christian growth is not neglected by any manner of means: there is a suggestion here, an experience there, a crisis to pass through, a new touch from God to receive, a special blessing into which to enter. But how often do we hear of a harvest of righteousness sown in peace by those who prize and promote peace? How very important Christian fellowship is! A harmonious fellowship of believers is the soil out of which grows the whole life that is pleasing to God.

Read or sing Hymn 670 “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by becoming part of our church family.

Friday (2/24) Read and discuss Genesis 37:1-11. James Montgomery Boice writes:

In Hebrews the author of that deep study warns us about allowing a “bitter root” to grow up in our lives “to cause trouble and defile many” (Heb. 12:15). It is a good warning. For it is precisely this that turned the sons of Jacob into would-be fratricides. At the beginning they probably did not have their hearts set on Joseph’s murder. But they envied him, and envy eventually gave way to hatred that gave way to a plot against his life.

The text says, “His brothers were jealous of him” (Gen. 37:11), a judgment Stephen echoed in his great speech before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:9). Envy (or jealousy) means “ill will occasioned by another’s good fortune.” It involves a superiority in the one envied and resentment by the person who envies. It is terribly destructive. The bible says, “Envy rots the bones” (Prov. 14:30). James wrote, “Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16).

The chief reason is that envy is an angry resistance to God’s decrees. Consequently it is ultimately resentment of God and hatred of him. This is the essential issue in the matter of Joseph’s dreams. The brothers had envied him before this, as the narrative says. They envied him for his good qualities, which revealed their evil ones, and because of his father’s choice of Joseph to assume the rights of the firstborn. But this was not merely resentment of these circumstances. Ultimately God is responsible for circumstances; so the brothers’ envy was essentially a resentment of what God had done and was doing, as the dreams show.

Prayer: Pray for the Special Meeting of our congregation this coming Sunday.

Saturday (2/25) Read and discuss John 8:48-59. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the richness and profundity of what Jesus is saying that we can forget to apply His words to our own lives. When that happens, we need to stop and preach God’s word to our own hearts in the mostly simple and direct way possible. R.C. Sproul says it well when he writes:

Disciples of Christ abide in His Word. Those who abide in His Word know the truth and are free. By contrast, the unregenerate are in bondage to sin and desire to do Satan’s wishes. These stark contrasts emerge from this debate between Jesus and the Pharisees. Where do you stand? Are you abiding in God’s Word and growing in the truth? Or are you in bondage to do Satan’s wishes? Abide in God’s Word that you might be free indeed

Read or sing Hymn: 598 “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 19 February 2017 Sunday, Feb 12 2017 

MVOPC 19 February 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 103:8-10

Hymn of Preparation:  463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”

Old Covenant Reading: Exodus 18:1-9

New Covenant Reading: John 8:30-47

Sermon: The Truth Will Set You Free

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still My Soul”

PM Worship

OT: Isaiah 53:1-12

NT: 1 Peter 2:11-25

A Pilgrim’s Life

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School Today

Shorter Catechism Q/A #82

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

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

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/13) Read and discuss John 8:30-47. Edward W. Klink writes:

An important distinction needs to be made between the biblical depiction of freedom and the contemporary use of the term. The OT understood freedom in very concrete terms. The emphasis on freedom offered by the exodus narrative and beyond was not, surprisingly, freedom from slavery. The Bible expects slavery in the sense that all people will serve something (cf. Rom 6). Freedom in the bible is not a contrast between freedom and slavery but between an inappropriate master (Pharaoh; sin) and an appropriate master – God (cf. Exodus 9:14). It was freedom for something more than freedom from something. The freedom about which the exodus is the paradigmatic instance of liberation from degrading bondage for the endless service of the God who remembers his covenant, redeems from exile and oppression, and gives commandments through which the people of God are sanctified. This is the biblical notion of freedom about which Jesus speaks. If you are not a disciple of Jesus (v. 31), then by implication you serve the tyrant of sin (vv. 21, 24, 34).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not just about who a person was, a sinner dying in their sins, but also about who a person can become. In this [passage], God declares that the person who believes becomes a “true disciple” (v. 31), is defined by truth (v. 32), is free from sin (vv. 32-36), and is given an eternal inheritance into the family of God (v. 35). These are large-scale biblical ideals, beginning all the way back with Abraham and finding their ultimate expression in and through Jesus Chris.

Read or sing 38 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” Prayer: Pray for the wisdom and safety of your family, friends, and neighbors as we navigate the heavy snowfalls.

Tuesday (2/14) Read and discuss John 8:21-29.  Self-righteousness is one of the biggest obstacles to religious people getting saved. Commenting on verse 22, Casper Cruciger writes:

Do you see how stubborn wickedness operates? They receive such a sad threat which should have driven them to tears and true repentance. But instead they respond with mocking grimaces and bitter sarcasm. “Will he kill himself?” It is as if they are saying, “Because he wants to hide himself so that we cannot follow him, what tricks is he preparing? Will he kill himself so he won’t be found anywhere? These are the poisonous voices of Christ’s enemies that mock and jeer at him even when he is hanging on the cross for humankind: “If he is the Son of God, let him save himself and come down from the cross.” Thus, here, urged to repent and to have faith, they ridicule him with poisonous words. “By all means, let him go wherever he wants, let him kill himself, let him perish, let him see whether anyone will seek him.” This is the way the company of priests and Pharisees respond to the Messiah sent by God. They cannot bear to be stripped of the glory of their own righteousness. They reject the accusation of blindness and the accusation that they do not know how to reach God. They see themselves honored with titles of the church and the people of God, and glorying in this, they haughtily and fearlessly mock the voice of the gospel which accuses them of unbelief and warns them of punishment and God’s judgment.

Read or sing Hymn 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” Prayer:

Wednesday (2/15) Read and discuss Exodus 18:1-9. Douglas Stuart writes:

The testimony of God’s people as to his actions in their lives on their behalf has always been an effective component of evangelism. Was Moses consciously seeking to convert his father-in-law to faith in the true and only God, Yahweh? Absolutely. He would surely have been a poor son-in-law and host … to have done otherwise since he now knew for sure that Yahweh was the supreme God and that the “gods” and men of the known world’s superpower, Egypt, were entirely subject to his power. Moses probably spent a good many hours recounting to Jethro the entire story that we know in written form as Exod 4:27-17:16, and it is not at all improbable that such a full oral review may have been part of the process by which God prepared Moses to become the writer of the book of Exodus. A tendency exists in the modern evangelical “testimony” to emphasize only victorious, successful parts of one’s experience as a believer. Note how something of the opposite prevails in Moses’ discussion with Jethro: he told him “about all the hardships they had met along the way,” not to the exclusion of telling him “how the LORD had saved them” but with a proper balance of the difficulties and the deliverances, lest his potential convert wrongly think that God does not allow his people to face many dangers and trials in the process of their ultimate deliverance. “How the LORD had saved them” does not therefore refer specifically to salvation from sin in the present context but does help establish the character of Yahweh as a saving, rescuing God who acts to keep his people from being destroyed. Later in Exodus the focus will shift from God’s saving his people from physical danger to his saving them from sin by teaching them how to be holy and preserve his holiness, but that is not yet the topic here.

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD is “a saving, rescuing God who acts to keep His people from being destroyed.”

Thursday (2/16) Read and discuss Isaiah 52:13-53:12. R. Reed Lessing writes:

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

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

Read or sing Hymn 188 “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting” Prayer: Ask that the LORD’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven in some specific area of your life.

Friday (2/17) Read and discuss 1 Peter 2:11-25. American public discourse, particularly about political issues, has become increasingly shrill and mean spirited over the past couple of decades. Regretfully Christians have often been as much a part of the problem as part of the solution. But what is the solution? Does God call us to abandon the civil debate in order to remain unstained by the struggles that take place within the political arena? Absolutely not! In today’s passage Peter commands Christians to engage the wider culture and He also tells us how the LORD would have us do so. First of all, rather than being conformed to the world we are “to abstain from carnal desires that wage war against the soul (v. 11).” Rather than rushing past this point as though it were obvious, we ought to recognize that the most important thing we do for the sanctification of our culture is to pursue God’s will in our own lives. Second, we are to be subject to those in authority by honoring those to whom honor is due.  Third, we should remember that God’s plan is not that we overcome evildoers with sharp and clever rhetoric but with good deeds (v. 15).  What makes this so difficult is that it is a long term strategy. A clever one-liner gives instant satisfaction. The testimony of Christian charity may take generations. Nevertheless, God’s plan has the added benefit that it cannot possibly fail. When we think how hostile the Roman Empire was to the expanding Church, it is interesting that “neither (Peter) nor any other NT writer mounts a frontal attack on the social structures of the time, such as slavery (Jobes).”  But this doesn’t mean they were doing nothing to transform society.  As Miraslav Volf, who personally experienced the pain of growing up in Communist Yugoslavia, has written:

The call to follow the crucified Messiah was, in the long run, much more effective in changing the unjust political, economic, and familial structures than direct exhortations to revolutionize them would ever have been. For an allegiance to the crucified Messiah – indeed, worship of a crucified God – is an eminently political act that subverts a politics of dominion at its very core.

We need to take the long view of simple but clear obedience to the LORD. More than time is on our side. The God who created time calls us to such faithfulness and promises to make it bear much fruit. Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you patience in the midst of adversity and confidence that Christ’s victory on the cross will be manifested in His victory in this world.

Saturday (2/18) Read and discuss John 8:30-47. Commenting on verse 44, R.C. Sproul writes:

Here we learn what is meant by spiritual bondage, by bondage to sin. Notice how Jesus describes it. He did not say, “You do the works of the Devil,” so that they could maybe appear on judgment day and say: “Lord, I’m sorry, but the Devil made me do it. What could I do? He’s more powerful than I am.” Instead, Jesus said, “You do the works of the Devil because you want to do the desires of the Devil.” By nature we are Satan’s willing slaves, volunteers in the kingdom of darkness. By nature we love the darkness rather than the light because we want to do the desires of Satan. That’s what sin is. Sin is not simply making bad choices or mistakes. Sin is having the desire in our hearts to do the will of the enemy of God. Paul made this very point to the Ephesians: “And you He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom we also once conduced ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Eph 2:1-3). This is a picture of the bondage from which Jesus delivered us; a bondage of desiring to carry out Satan’s wishes.

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 12 February 2017 Sunday, Feb 5 2017 

MVOPC 12 February 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 45 “How Great Thou Art”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Colossians 1:11-14

Hymn of Preparation:  171 “Fairest Lord Jesus”

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 42:1-9

New Covenant Reading: John 8:21-29

Sermon: The One from Above

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

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Til He Come”!

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 37:1-11

NT: James 3:13-18

Finding Hope in Unexpected Places

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #81

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

Suggested Preparations 

Monday (2/6) Read and discuss John 8:21-29. Chuck Swindoll writes:

[In today’s passage] Jesus repeats His indictment of the Pharisees from 7:33-36, saying they would never see heaven because they did not know God. And again the religious elite took Him literally. So, Jesus explained His meaning in simple literal language. “Below” is the realm of fallen creation. “Above” is the heavenly realm in which no sin can exist. Those born below are doomed to die in their sin and then suffer eternal punishment for their deeds (3:3). Those born from above are holy, and therefore, will not suffer judgment. Jesus is from above because He is God. His statement is rendered “I am He” (v. 24); however, the Greek is simply ego eimi, “I AM,” the classic self-designation of God. …

When asked “Who are You?” Jesus replied, “[From] the beginning that which I am saying to you.” But again, because of their willful blindness, the Pharisees failed to understand Jesus’ reference to the Father (cf: 3:13).

If you take time to review 3:3-21, you will find a striking resemblance between this discourse and the Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus.

Read or sing 45 “How Great Thou Art” Prayer: Please pray for the Supreme Court of the United States.

Tuesday (2/7) Read and discuss John 8:12-20.  Jesus has just declared that He is the Light of the world. Now what kind of argument do you need for light? If you walk outside under the noon-day sun or if you come into a well-lit room, the only people who might question whether or not there is light are blind people. The existence of light is not something you conclude at the end of a long argument, you either see things because there is light or you don’t. To stand in front of the Light of the World and to question whether or not He is light says nothing about Jesus but it says a great deal about the Pharisees. Their very own words reveal that they are spiritually blind. Nevertheless, Jesus goes on to give to reasons why His testimony about Himself is valid. Look at verse 14 with me:

Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.”

I don’t think that our Lord is appealing merely to the fact that He knows more than the Pharisees do. I think that He is drawing their attention to a qualitative difference between who He is and who they are. By pointing to the fact that He has come from heaven and that He has gone to heaven Jesus is pointing, admittedly without great detail here, to the fact that He is the King. The laws for how the King’s subjects should consider the testimony of other subjects of the Sovereign simply don’t apply to the King Himself. The King’s word is to be accepted simply because He says it.

Step back for a moment and think how you present an argument for anything. The normal way that we make an argument is that we argue from things that we think are highly certain to things that, at least at first, seem less certain. So, if a person steps on the scale at his doctor’s office and the doctor notes that he has gained five pounds since last year; what will the doctor do if the patient insists that he hasn’t gained any weight and the doctor’s scale must be broken. He might check the scale, but even before he does that he is going to quite reasonably assume that the scale is correct because the scale is much more reliable than the memory of his or her patients. If we knew that the doctor’s scale had been carefully calibrated and maintained, then the fact that it says someone weighed 182 pounds would probably be sufficient evidence for all of us to say: “The matter is settled. he weighs 182 pounds.” We treat the matter as settled because we have confidence that the scale is reliable. So why don’t we do this with the testimony of human beings when it comes to very important matters, like testimony in a murder trial? The answer is straightforward: On the one hand, human beings are both fallible and morally unreliable. On the other hand, the matter in question is too important to be decided on the basis of the testimony of a single fallible and morally unreliable person. Jesus is telling the Pharisees: “That is why you need to have at least two witnesses to establish something so important. It is because you are fallible and morally unreliable – but I’m not like you. I have come from heaven and I am going to heaven so My word needs nobody else to back it up.” Read or sing Hymn 171 “Fairest Lord Jesus” Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our church and for the Outreach Committee as they meet this evening.

Wednesday (2/8) Read and discuss Isaiah 42:1-9. R. Reed Lessing writes:

Isaiah sets forth Yahweh’s coming intervention. This is all God’s doing, and he announces it through his “herald of glad tidings” (40:9; 41:27). However, in a manner consistent with the OT and NT, this turn of events will be enacted by human agency. Yahweh’s plan included Israel. But the nation worshiped other gods (cf. 42:8) and therefore fell short of its servant calling.

The sin of idolatry is also prominent in the NT. Achtemeier writes: “Investigating the problem of idolatry in the NT is a bit like examining an iceberg. All that is visible is the tip – the vocabulary of idolatry is not all that prominent in the NT literature – yet underlying what is visible is a vast bulk.” One type of idolatry is Jewish traditionalism. In Mark 7:6-7, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 29:13: “Well did Isaiah prophesy concerning you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Vainly do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” The Jews of Jesus’ day were “far from” God because they abandoned the substance and spirit of the OT and replaced the God of Israel with the worship of their fabricated traditions. In like manner, Paul’s comment “their god is their belly” (Phil 3:19)” is most probably  a reference to their preoccupation with human made traditions concerning all kinds of cleansings associated with eating.” …

We are admonished to “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor 10:14) because it is incompatible with life in Christ. Indeed, there will be no idolaters in the new Jerusalem (Rev 21:8; 22:15). Worshipping anyone or anything other than the triune God is a heinous sin that enslaves its victims; many stubbornly refuse to repent no matter how severe the judgment becomes as a result of their sin (Rev 9:20-21). Christian conversion is a turning aside from idols to serve the living God. Only God the Holy Spirit has the power to break the stranglehold of idolatry and turn the heart to believe in Jesus.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to keep you not only from crass and external forms of idolatry but from the idolatry of the heart.

Thursday (2/9) Read and discuss James 3:13-18. Doug Moo writes:

There is, first of all, the “wisdom” that is “earthly, unspiritual, of the devil” (v. 15). It is characterized by “bitter envy” and “selfish ambition” (v. 14). The word envy could also be translated “jealousy” and probably connotes here the prideful spirit of competition for favor and honor that so often disturbs our churches. “Selfish ambition” translates a single Greek word that can best be defined by noting its apparently only pre-Christian usage: Aristotle uses it to describe and condemn the selfishly motivated “party politics” in the Athens of his day. Where these attitudes exist, “disorder” and all kinds of evil will be the result (v. 16). On the other hand, there is the wisdom from above. It is characterized not by a selfish desire to have one’s own way, but by “humility” (3:13). And like genuine faith, it manifests itself in deeds, producing a godly and loving life-style. Most of all, James suggests, true wisdom brings peace. This is the focus of the list of virtues attributed to true wisdom in verse 17. And verse 18, with its promise of “a harvest of righteousness” to those who are peacemakers, underscores the point Jesus likewise commended the “peacemakers” and promised them that they would be called “sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). The truly wise person will not be proud, arrogant, or quarrelsome; he will be humble, unselfish, and peaceable.

Read or sing Hymn 162 “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you into a peacemaker.

Friday (2/10) Read and discuss Genesis 37:1-11. Tremper Longman writes:

Jacob is best known as a deceiver; I deed his very name evokes a Hebrew idiom which means “he deceives.” However, deception is not Jacob’s only habitual sin. Jacob also demonstrates the ugly consequences of an illegitimate favoritism.

Jacob’s favoritism starts with his love and his treatment of Rachel over Leah. Granted, Leah was imposed on Jacob by the scheming Laban; however, from what we know Leah is not at for the situation. As far as we know, Jacob’s treatment of Leah never stepped over the line to physical abuse, but it meant that Leah led a lonely, sad life.

We are even more disturbed by Jacob’s treatment of his children. Here, his favoritism for Rachel over Leah extends to their children. Jacob not only shows that he favors Joseph over his brothers by giving the gift of an ornate robe, but also by his speech and actions throughout the whole Joseph narrative. As far as we can see, Jacob never stepped back from demonstrating favoritism towards Rachel’s children, first Joseph and then later Benjamin.

Favoritism involves preferential treatment of some over others particularly in relationships that should be equal. Polygamy is not God’s ideal, but even here the later Mosaic law calls for equal treatment of a man’s multiple wives (Exodus 21:10-11). When it comes to children, they should all be treated with equal love in word and deed.

Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Jaffrey Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Jaffrey, NH.

Saturday (2/11) Read and discuss John 8:21-29. R.C. Sproul writes:

The Bible speaks of two ways of dying. The people of God, the saints of the old and New Testaments, die in faith, and their deaths are precious in the sight of God (Ps. 116:15). All of those who die in faith enter that place God has prepared for His people from the foundation of the world. The only other way one can die is to die in one’s sins. The Bible makes it clear that we’re all sinners, but when the Bible speaks of being in sin or in faith, it is talking about the state of our souls before God. A person who has no faith, the unconverted person, remains in sins, and the worst calamity that could ever befall a human being is to die in that state. But for those who die in faith, there will be eternal blessing.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 5 February 2017 Sunday, Jan 29 2017 

MVOPC 5 February 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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

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: Zechariah 3:1-5

Hymn of Preparation:  304 “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say”

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 9:1-7

New Covenant Reading: John 8:12-20

Sermon: The Light of the World

Hymn of Response: 476 “The Light of the World is Jesus”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 35:16-29

NT: Romans 6:15-23

Gathered to His People

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #80

Q. What is required in the tenth commandment?

A. The tenth commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbor, and all that is his.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/30) Read and discuss John 7:53-8:11Please note, this is a longer explanation than you normally find in the Worship Guide. If you normally read the worship guide with your family I would encourage you to simply read John 7:53-8:11 or John 8:12-20 and then read through the following comments on your own. You may have noticed that this moving story is not the sermon text for this week. It turns out that this story was almost certainly not part of the Gospel According to John. Intriguingly, although this story was almost certainly not part of John, and therefore not part of God’s word, it is very likely that it is a genuine story about something which Jesus actually did. We have similar stories from the early Church including one from Papias who was a disciple of the Apostle John. Certainly there is nothing in this story which doesn’t completely fit with everything that we know about Jesus. So, how did it end up in John’s Gospel and how do we know that it wasn’t in the original?

While we can’t know for sure how this story made its way into some later manuscripts of John’s Gospel, a good guess goes something like this: Someone wrote this story in the margin of a manuscript just the way that many of you currently write notes in your Bibles. A later copyist, and remember there were no printing presses in the first ten centuries of the church, copied the marginal story into his manuscript as though it were part of the text. Future copies of this manuscript, and all subsequent copies contained this story which made its way into the small handful of manuscripts that were behind the King James Version of the Bible.

How do we know that this story wasn’t in the original? Unlike Erasmus (a contemporary of Luther) who put together a Greek New Testament with very little manuscript evidence; we now have thousands upon thousands of manuscripts along with early translations into numerous foreign languages and tens of thousands of sermons and letters which quote from the Bible. Through a science known as “text-criticism” we can reconstruct what the original manuscripts were with an extraordinary degree of confidence. We can say without any hesitation that there is no doctrine of Christian that hangs on any questionable textual variant. Normally, what is in question amounts to nothing other than spelling differences. So, how do we know that what we call John 7:53-8:11 was not part of the original? As D.A. Carson points out:

  1. This passage is not found in any of the earliest and best manuscripts of the Gospel According to John.
  2. The earliest translations of John into Syriac, Coptic, Old Latin, Old Georgian, and Armenian do not contain these verses but go directly from what we call John 7:52 to John 8:12 (remember there were no verse numbers back then).
  3. All the early church Fathers omit this narrative: in commenting on John, they pass immediately from 7:52 to 8:12.
  4. No Eastern (native Greek speaking) Father cites the passage before the tenth century.

The only reasonable conclusion we can draw from these facts is that this story was not in John’s Gospel as he wrote it. That is, it is not part of the word of God. Let’s remember that we are not ‘taking this passage out of the word of God.’ We are simply recognizing that Erasmus, and those immediately after him, had access to very few manuscripts and it is amazing that they were able to do such a good job with them. After all, you can be a perfectly fine Christian if you had nothing but the King James Version of the Bible. But we should also be grateful that the LORD has given us such wonderful access to information and tools. We should not despise this blessing by sticking our heads in the sand. Please feel free to talk with Pastor Booth further about this matter. Read or sing 58 “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright” Prayer: Give thanks for the astonishing blessing that each of us can have a personal copy of the Word of God.

Tuesday (1/31) Read and discuss John 7:25-52.  We should realize that the water ceremony during the Feast of Tabernacles not only pointed back to the Exodus it pointed forward to the New Exodus spoken of by the Prophets. In particular, I want to draw your attention to Ezekiel chapter 47 verses 1 through 12.  Ezekiel is a prophet who lives through the Babylonian exile. Later in the book that bears his name, the LORD tells us about a future Temple that will be built when the LORD restores His people. When we come to Ezekiel chapter 47 we witness a most remarkable vision. Water is coming out of the Temple. Pure, life-giving, or you might say “Living Water.” As the water flows out of the Temple bringing blessings to the arid land, the river gets deeper and deeper the further it goes. Then picking up in verse 9 we read:

And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.

Do you see it? Ezekiel is saying that when the Messianic age dawns, life giving or “Living Water” will flow out of the Temple and give life where-ever it goes. Then in John chapter 7, Jesus stands up in the midst of celebrating this promise and He says: “I am that Temple.” And “all who come to me will become stones in that Temple as well.” Is that not what our Lord is saying? Yes, that is what our Lord is saying. He shouts:

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

Do you thirst? May the LORD make all of us thirsty for this gift. Do you thirst? Then come to Jesus right now. Come to Jesus with open and empty hands and ask that He would give Himself to you as the Bread of Life and that He would give you the life-giving water of the Holy Spirit. Read or sing Hymn 304 “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD gives the Holy Spirit to everyone who believes in Jesus.

Wednesday (2/1) Read and discuss Isaiah 9:1-7. King Uzziah was an exceptional ruler. This is something that should not be taken for granted either in ancient Israel or in the modern world. To be led by a wise and godly ruler is a great blessing.  Furthermore, Uzziah reigned for 40 years.  Most of the people living in Israel at the time of his death had never lived under another king. Now Uzziah was dead. Would Israel revert to wicked rulers or even to chaos? Would her next king try to fleece the sheep rather than protect them? Isaiah tells us that “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” When the earthly king was dead and gone, Isaiah saw the King of Kings who lives and reigns forever.  So what? What good does it do us if there is a perfect ruler way off in a distance while we have to live with wicked rulers down here on earth?  First of all the Biblical portrait of God is of a Sovereign who is actively involved in even the apparently smallest aspects of creation – so that He cares even for the sparrows and the hairs on your head (Luke 12:6).  Secondly, our passage declares the glorious news that the LORD Himself is coming down to be with us as Immanuel – which means “God with us”. Rather than history moving from bad to worse, or even in cycles, God is guiding history forward.  With the coming of Christ He has established a new visible reign on earth. According to verse 7, will this righteous government be defeated by the kingdoms of this world? According to the end of verse 7, how committed is the LORD to bringing about His own righteous reign on earth? Looking around, we do not yet see everything under Christ’s righteous rule.  While the Kingdom of God has come there are still many who love the darkness more than the light. Let us give thanks that this is not the end of the story. Prayer: Ask that the LORD’s name would be hallowed in your life, in your home, and in your school or workplace.

Thursday (2/2) Read and discuss Romans 6:15-23. What was the Messiah given the name Jesus? This name is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua which means “Yahweh is salvation”. That makes sense to us. After all, Jesus is our wonderful Savior. Yet many evangelicals conceive of Christ’s work of salvation primarily in terms of Jesus saving us from hell. Interestingly, that is not how the New Testament presents Christ’s work. Instead, when an angel appeared to Joseph he announced:

Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

As we sometimes sing, “He breaks the power of canceled sin.” At the very moment you first believe God justifies you by reckoning Christ’s perfectly righteous life to your account. This is only the beginning. Because Jesus is not divided, to embrace Christ is to embrace the whole Christ (i.e. to submit to Jesus as both Savior and Lord). Therefore, everyone who is truly born again of necessity is being sanctified. Doug Moo helpful divides the two regimes that Paul is talking about into the following two categories:

     The Old Regime                                       The New Regime

              Adam                                                        Christ

       Sin                                            Righteousness; obedience

      Death                                                         Life

      Law                                                            Grace

      Flesh                                                          Spirit

The key thing to realize is that we cannot pick and choose from each menu those things that we would like to embrace. We are either under the Old Regime or the New. If we are in Christ then we are new creations. This is true in principle and a significant part of our Christian lives is simply a matter of living out in practice what we already are because of our relationship to God the Father, Christ our Savior and Lord, and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Read or sing Hymn 476 “The Light of the World is Jesus” Prayer: Give thanks that in Christ you are a new creation!

Friday (2/3) Read and discuss Genesis 35:16-29. Iain Duguid writes:

In many ways, Jacob’s key role in god’s plan was at an end. With Isaac’s death, we end the history of the patriarchal period and come to the beginning of the history of Israel proper. The appearance of God to Jacob at Bethel marks the end of the revelation to the patriarchs. God will not directly reveal himself to man again until he meets with Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3). That doesn’t mean that God is not active, however. Far from it! He intervenes and overrules repeatedly in the life of Joseph to secure the long-term future of his people. He continues to direct events through dreams and interpretations and various other forms of providence. But there is no more face-to-face contact between God and his people. They now have to live on the strength of the promises once delivered to the saints.

Prayer: Please pray for the men’s retreat as it meets in Camp Shiloh.

Saturday (2/4) Read and discuss John 8:12-20. Chuck Swindoll writes:

The temple treasury was located in the Court of Women; according to some historians, it consisted of thirteen large, trumpet-shaped, bronze receptacles. The small mouth of each trumpet bore a sign to indicate the purpose for the money collected. Naturally, the size of each person’s offering could be heard as dropped cons clattered against the bronze. Every evening during the Festival of Booths, just after the evening sacrifice and before sunset, priests entered the Court of Women to light two (some historians say four) giant chandelier-like lampstands.

Perhaps as the priests began to set each hanging lamp aflame, Jesus declared, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness.” Note how the statement is exclusive. He didn’t say I’m a light – one among many – but the light, the one and only source of truth. Later, He would invite a crowd of listeners to become children of the light through belief (12:36), and He one predicted the future of His disciples by saying, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14).

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 29 January 2017 Sunday, Jan 22 2017 

MVOPC 29 January 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: 1 John 1:6-9

Hymn of Preparation:  304 “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say”

Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 1:9-18

New Covenant Reading:  John 7:25-52

Sermon: A Great Division

Hymn of Response: 570 “Faith of Our Fathers”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 35:1-15

NT: Ephesians 4:17-32

Becoming Israel

Adult Sunday School: War of Words – Jason Donald teaching

Shorter Catechism Q/A #79

Q. Which is the tenth commandment?

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

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/23) Read and discuss John 7:25-52. R.C. Sproul writes:

Through the pages of the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit appears frequently. It was the Holy Spirit who anointed the prophets, anointed the priests, and anointed the king. It was the Holy Spirit who changed the hearts of unbelievers in the Old Testament and made them the people of God. As it is today, so it was then – there was no regeneration, no salvation, apart from the operation and ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was present in the Old Testament, but the anointing of the Spirit for power was limited to a few individuals, such as Moses, Samson, or Elijah.

During Israeli’s wilderness wanderings, Moses once became so distressed over the complaints of the people that he asked God to take his life. In response, God told Moses to bring seventy elders to the tabernacle, where God would take from the Spirit that was upon Moses and distribute it to the elders so that they might help Moses bear the burden of ministry. When the Spirit came upon these men, they prophesied. However, two men, Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp, but they began to prophesy. Moses’ assistant, Joshua, was very upset, and he said to Moses, “Moses, my lord, forbid them.” Moses replied: “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!”

The cry of Moses became a prophecy on the lips of Joel, who spoke the word of the LORD, saying, “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on al flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” This great outpouring of the Spirit came at the Day of Pentecost, when all heaven broke loose and the Spirit descended on the church. With the Spirit’s coming, that which Martin Luther called the priesthood of all believers became a reality – every member of the community of faith was endowed by the Holy Spirit, empowered from on high to participate in the ministry of Christ’s kingdom. If you are a Christian, you have received the Holy Spirit. You are an anointed person, fit to be used of God for the furtherance of the kingdom of Christ.

Read or sing 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has filled you with the Holy Spirit and made you into a living-stone in His new Temple.

Tuesday (1/24) Read and discuss John 7:1-24.  With so many people rejecting Jesus we might wonder how anyone could know whether or not He was the Messiah and that what He was teaching was the direct teaching from God. In verse 17 Jesus gives the answer:

If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

If you have never thought this through before, these words should revolutionize how you think about theology. Jesus is saying: The way that you can know whether or not I am the Messiah is determined by whether or not you want to do God’s will. Do you get that? Please note that Jesus is not saying: “In order for anyone to receive Me as His Savior He must first want to receive Me as His Savior.” That is true enough – even as it is rather trite. What Jesus is saying instead is this: Before you can even know if I am someone whom You should want as Your Lord and Savior – you must first want to obey God. It turns out that obtaining true knowledge about Jesus is first and foremost a matter of the heart. If you grasp this truth it will bring about a reformation in the way you approach theology – so I want to flesh it out a bit.

  1. First, knowledge in general – and true knowledge of God in particular – are gifts from God. When the Apostle challenges the Corinthians with the questions: “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” He is speaking specifically about theological knowledge. “Knowledge in general – and true knowledge of God in particular – are gifts from the LORD.”
  1. Second, the LORD gives true knowledge of Himself to those who love Him and therefore who want to respond faithfully to what He reveals. Consider these words from John chapter 14:

Jesus tells His Disciples:

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Do you see it? According to Jesus true knowledge of God is a gift – and it is a gift that God gives to those who love Him and who manifest this love through obedience. Read or sing Hymn 304 “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” Prayer: Please pray for the people of Syria whose nation has been destroyed by a civil war.

Wednesday (1/25) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 1:9-18. Eugene Merrill writes:

The role of the judges in this early stage of Israel’s history is unusually well spelled out here. They were to hear cases involving fellow Israelites and even between Israelites and aliens, and they must render a just verdict. Moreover, they must not be influence by social status. The Hebrew idiom here means literally “do not regard faces,” that is, do not be impressed by the reputation or actual standing of parties who are subject to judgment. Indeed, such persons can be intimidating, so Moses went on to say to the judges, “Do not be afraid of the face of men.” One might even render the last phrase, “Do not be afraid of human faces (that is of men),” for the next clause emphasizes that judgement belongs to God. Since he is absolutely sovereign and furthermore knows the true guilt or innocence of parties in judgment, he, not human litigants is to be feared.

This suggests that fairness in judgment is a theological as well as legal matter. There may be the need for due process at the practical and human level, but the ultimate standard of righteousness and justice is that which inheres in the character of God himself. Therefore, when human capacity for equitable judgment reaches its limits, appeal must be made ultimately to God. Israel’s judges were to recognize this and conduct their legal proceedings in light of their accountability to him.

If they reached a stalemate, Moses said, they could appeal to him for adjudication of difficult cases. Moses’ unique role of prophetic mediator between God and the people qualified him to translate their concerns to God and render God’s every decision to them (cf. Num 12:6-8).

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

Thursday (1/26) Read and discuss Ephesians 4:17-32. Old habits are hard to break. Many of us have tried to quit smoking or consuming excessive amounts of caffeine or attempted to lose weight only to discover that it is much easier to do in theory than in practice. This is one reason why we make such an effort to encourage our children to start building healthy patterns of behavior while they are young. Most of the adult Christians in Ephesus didn’t have that luxury. They had grown up as pagans and had ingrained patterns of thinking and behavior that were not consistent with their high calling to be members of Christ’s body the Church. What were they to do? Should they find a psychiatrist who would help them blame everything on their parents? Should they despair and say: “What do you expect, given that I spent most of my life as a pagan?” Paul says: “Absolutely not!” They were to “put off … (their) former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts and be renewed in the spirit of (their) minds.” They were to “put on the new man which was created according to God in righteousness and true holiness.” This would be demanding work that required and requires constant vigilance. Nevertheless, they and we have been called to this. We have come to know Christ and to be known by Him and we have been filled with the Holy Spirit for just this purpose. We should not despair when we discover that pressing on in holiness is a difficult business. Instead we should rejoice that God is rescuing us from our former lives and beginning to transform us into the likeness of His Son. Read or sing Hymn 570 “Faith of Our Fathers” Prayer: Please pray for the OPC and PCA ministers in our area as they gather today in Manchester, New Hampshire for a time of prayer, study, and fellowship.

Friday (1/27) Read and discuss Genesis 35:1-15. Iain Duguid writes:

What kind of future may we expect for Israel’s children, based on the hints we have already seen? They have not made an auspicious start. First it was Simeon putting an unsuspecting city to the sword. Then we found Reuben sleeping with his father’s concubine. Whatever will they think of next? Well, how about selling their least favorite brother as a slave, and Judah sleeping with his daughter-in-law, having mistaken her for a prostitute? They are not a promising group, are they? What nation ever had a less positive impression on its ancestors than Israel? They are in truth Jacob’s children. But that’s the point, isn’t it? God can take people like these and use them to do his will, and ultimately to create his church. As Joseph put it in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” God’s sovereign purpose prevails even in the lives of wicked people.

This is the wonderful truth of relentless grace. God’s plan does not depend on him finding suitably willing and holy implements to employ. He is able to accomplish his purposes even with the most deeply flawed individuals. Even sinners cannot stand in his way and frustrate him. Where is that more vividly seen than on the cross? There, though Satan did his worst, though God’s people and the Gentiles allied themselves against him, all they were able to do was what God had planned all along. God’s work of redemption was accomplished! Christ’s perfect life was offered up as an acceptable sacrifice to God the Father in our place. By that act, we are saved. Jacob and all of his spiritual children are redeemed by sovereign, relentless grace.

Prayer: Please pray for the Annual Meeting of our congregation as we gather this evening.

Saturday (1/28) Read and discuss John 7:25-52. Gary Burge writes:

On the last feast day, numerous ceremonies involving sacrifice and ritual water could be viewed at the temple. Reading Zechariah 9-14 the priests portrayed how in the eschaton everlasting fountains would flow from Jerusalem. Pitchers of water from the Gihon Spring were poured on the altar as the Hallel psalms were sung (Psalms 113-118). This was especially meaningful since at this time of year water was scarce in Israel and people feared drought.

In this setting Jesus sweeps up this symbolism and announces that he is the source of true drink. John 7:38 has always posed difficulties for interpreters. The New International Version makes the believer the one in whom living water is flowing. But the Greek can be punctuated another way: “if anyone thirsts, let him come to me; and let him drink, who believes in me.” This reading is best. It means that Jesus is the source of the eschatological Tabernacle’s water. Jesus is the source of the Spirit. In 19-34 we may even have a symbol of this flowing when Jesus is glorified (v. 39b).

Read or sing Hymn: 585 “Take My Life and Let it Be” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 22 January 2017 Sunday, Jan 15 2017 

MVOPC 22 January 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 10:10-13

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

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 19:9-18

New Covenant Reading: John 7:1-24

Sermon: Who Knows?

Hymn of Response: 355 “We Are God’s People”

Confession of Faith:    Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 34:1-31

NT: Revelation 18:1-24

Violation and Violence

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #78

Q. 78.What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbor’s good name.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/16) Read and discuss John 7:1-24. Edward Klink writes:

The stark contrast between the natural affinity between brothers in the ancient world and the rejection – not just the lack of reception – displayed between Jesus and his brothers allows the reader to see the depth of the conflict between the darkness and the light (1:5). What makes this conflict most shocking is that it is the last place one would have expected to find it. One may fight against the whole world, but one’s family would be the last to be reckoned the enemy. Yet in the family of Jesus the war was inevitable. The reason was made clear in v. 7: Jesus’s brothers were not really his brother; they belonged to the family of the world. They shared the same biological mother, but they were not children of the same Father.

The Christian finds no greater kinship than in the family of God. It is one’s Father, the heavenly Father, who alone gives ultimate definition to “family.” There is only one blood relation that ultimately matters – the blood of Christ. This is not to disparage biological families but simply to take heed of their fallibility and shaky foundation. This pericope exhorts us to align ourselves to our brother, Jesus Christ. When we are separated from Him, it is not Christ who separated from us, it is we who have separated from Him. Ironically, when the world or even our biological families begin to hate us on account of Christ, it is then that we know that we are home, residents of the family of God.

Read or sing 12 “Exalt the LORD, His Praise Proclaim” Prayer: As our nation celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day, pray that in the Church we would live out the reality that all in Christ are brothers and sisters without regard to race, gender, nationality, or socio-economic status.

Tuesday (1/17) Read and discuss John 6:60-71.  Jesus makes clear, that in the visible Church, even amongst those who may appear to be His closest disciples – there are those who will deny and betray Him. There are two great blessings that flow from this truth. First, and most obviously, it was necessary for Jesus to be betrayed so that He could die for the sins of His people. This betrayal was the most wicked act that had ever been perpetrated – an act so wicked that Jesus here calls Judas a devil and elsewhere says that it would have been better for Judas if he had never been born. And yet, this most wicked act of a man was part of the perfect and glorious plan of God to bring about the salvation of all His people. This is why at Pentecost, Peter would declare:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

It is rightly said that only God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick. At the end of this great Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus is making clear that the wicked betrayal of one of the inner circle of disciples was not a surprising tragedy – but part of the perfect plan of God. Second, we are sometimes rattled when prominent Christians – in particular well known pastors and teachers – renounce the faith they formerly taught. Jesus is preparing us for those moments. If even one of the twelve could betray Jesus, we should be saddened but not shaken by the betrayal of modern apostates. Read or sing Hymn 345 “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” Prayer: Ask the LORD to cause all the members of our church family to persevere in faith until the end.

Wednesday (1/18) Read and discuss Leviticus 19:9-18. Derek Tidball writes:

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

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

It may be helpful to recognize that the issues of holiness and social capital naturally belong together. Since holiness means being set apart as belonging to (or dedicated to) God; and living a life of holiness means living in light of belonging to God and therefore reflecting God’s character into the world; we shouldn’t be surprised that when the members of a community reflect God’s character into the world this leads to society functioning better. In fact, if everyone reflected God’s character perfectly we would be in a Garden civilization like that of the New Heaven and Earth. We, of course, are incapable of doing that ourselves – but one day Christ Himself will bring that to pass. Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has set apart the children of one or more believing parents as holy and pray that the LORD would sovereignly call all the children in our church to a genuine faith in Jesus Christ.

Thursday (1/19) Read and discuss Revelation 18:1-24. N.T. Wright observes:

John does not say that the gold, silver, precious stones and the rest were bad things which nobody should have celebrated place in the New Jerusalem of chapter 21. Rome was able to bring all these fine commodities, listed in verses 12-14, from the ends of the earth. Among the things John mentions are goods that would have come from India, China, and Africa, as well as Arabia, Armenia and beyond. This was truly a world-wide-trade.

But the giveaway point comes at the end of verse 13. John has built up a marvelous catalogue of luxury goods as well as the basics of trade – flour, wheat, cattle and so on. But then, right at the end, we find the horror. Among the goods are bodies – yes, human lives. When you worship idols, the idols demand sacrifices. When you worship Mammon the money god (or Mars the war-god; or Aphrodite the sex-goddess), they will demand sacrifices all right. And some of those sacrifices will be human. Here, in the middle of this lament over Babylon, we find one of the many places in the New Testament where a small but significant note of implacable protest is raised against the entire system upon which the ancient world was built. Slavery – the buying, selling, using and abusing of human beings as though they were on par with gold and silver, ivory and marble (except that you could ill-treat them in a way you would never do with your luxury jewels and furnishings!) – was the dark thread that ran through everything else. Slavery was to the ancient world, more or less, what steam, oil, gas, electricity and nuclear power are to the modern world. Slavery was how things got done. Life was almost literally unthinkable without it.

Read or sing Hymn 355 “We Are God’s People” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Pilgrim Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Dover, NH.

Friday (1/20) Read and discuss Genesis 34:1-31. This shocking chapter has led to several diverse interpretations. At the least we should see that Israel was at risk both in terms of cultural accommodation and also in terms of scandalous acts of violence being perpetrated against them by the Canaanites. Bruce Waltke writes:

The narrator censures the rape by his terminology: “violated” (34:2), “defiled” (34:5), “grief” and “disgraceful in Israel” (34:7). For that reason, he gives the sons as his agents the last word to express his own point of view: “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?” Neither Shechem nor Hamor find anything offensive about the rape. Now that Shechem truly loves her, they overlook the offense and only want to negotiate a financial settlement for the marriage. Jacob here is sadly comparable to the Canaanites. He shows no moral indignation and wants only to settle the matter prudently. With the sons, however, the narrator affirms that it is a moral outrage in Israel that should be punished.

Prayer: Please pray for the officer training as the men meet tomorrow morning.

Saturday (1/21) Read and discuss John 7:1-24. Chuck Swindoll writes:

The Feast of Tabernacles is a weeklong celebration. On the third or fourth day of the celebration, Jesus stood in the temple to teach – not unusual for a rabbi. The teacher’s credibility, however, depended heavily on his educational pedigree. Who trained him? With which school is he associated? Gamaliel? Shamai? John the Baptizer? The religious authorities (not the common Jews) felt astonished, not because He could read and write; most Jewish men could. Nor did they object to His having the hubris to teach without a degree. But they could not understand how He could amass such knowledge without seminary training, as it were.

Jesus responded with a stinging rebuke, based on elementary logic. Those who are intimately knowledgeable with the ultimate source of truth (God) will have no trouble spotting other truth tellers. Moreover, people who care about the truth do not care about credentials so long as the truth is taught. He then offered another standard by which to judge the qualifications of a teacher: his obedience to previously revealed truth, the law.

This is an ironic turn. The religious officials were angry with Jesus and had rebuked Him for breaking with tradition, manmade rules they had substituted for the law of Moses. With this statement, Jesus turned the tables. He accused them of seeking to kill Him despite their own violation of the law.

Read or sing Hymn:

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 15 January 2017 Monday, Jan 9 2017 

MVOPC 15 January 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 4:14-16

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

Old Covenant Reading: Ezekiel 36:22-32

New Covenant Reading: John 6:60-71

Sermon: He Who Has Words of Life

Hymn of Response: 353 “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still My Soul”

PM Worship

OT: Psalm 119:89-112

NT: 1 Peter 1:22-25

The Enduring Word

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School Today

Shorter Catechism Q/A #77

Q. What is required in the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness-bearing.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/9) Read and discuss John 6:60-71. N.T. Wright comments:

I once went to a lecture that was supposed to be an introduction to philosophy. It quickly appeared that the great philosopher wasn’t interested in introducing the subject, but in talking about it at a high level to the small group of postgraduates who already knew the basics and wanted to go further. I didn’t go back.

That was not, I think, the problem in verse 60. It wasn’t that Jesus was talking at too abstract a level – though no doubt there were some who found their heads spinning after the long discussion in the Capernaum synagogue. It was more that what he had said made a huge hole in their world-view, and when that happens some people prefer not to think about it any more. If you go to a meeting where someone demolishes the way you’ve been brought up to think, and offers you instead a way of looking at the world which though convincing, will be extremely costly, you may well find good reasons to be somewhere else next time the preacher comes to town.

Several of his hearers, then, continue to grumble – continuing the theme of the Israelites grumbling in the wilderness, even while the Exodus was proceeding, and God was feeding them with manna. The new teaching was ‘difficult’ in the sense that it was demanding not just to get you mind round it but to get your heart and soul into it. For anyone brought up in one of the varieties of first-century Judaism, all that Jesus had said was demanding in every sense, but most particularly in that, whereas they might have been prepared to follow a prophet like Moses, or a would be Messiah, as long as such figures kept within the bounds of the agendas and aspirations they had had in mind, the thought of someone who would speak as Jesus had spoken was too much.

Read or sing 5 “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Please pray for President Obama and his family as he prepares to leave office and to start a new season in his life.

Tuesday (1/10) Read and discuss John 6:35-59.  If the metaphor about eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood is really about believing in Him, why does Jesus bother with this long and rather demanding discourse? So, what are these words teaching us? Let me suggest three main points:

  1. First, eating is both a very tangible and a very personal activity. One of the problems with words like “faith” and “belief” is that people can imagine that raising their hands, nodding their heads, or signing a card all demonstrate faith – when they may be nothing more than the most superficial types of assent. Just as there is a difference between naming a bunch of foods that you like and actually committing to eating one specific meal at a restaurant; there is a difference between saying nice things about Jesus and committing yourself personally to Him. Our Lord’s words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood should make clear that a polite nod in His direction is insufficient. Jesus is demanding that we personally commit ourselves to Him as “our only hope in life and in death.”
  1. Second, think about our Lord’s choice of the word “flesh.” What must happen to an animal in order for you to eat its flesh? Before you eat the flesh of an animal, its blood has to be shed – that is the animal has to be put to death. Isn’t that what Jesus is repeatedly teaching the crowd in this lengthy discourse. When He says: “… the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Isn’t Jesus telling them that He is going to die that those who would believe in Him would have eternal life? Sometimes people have tried to reduce believing in Jesus to believing in His person. But we cannot separate who Jesus is from what He has done. Saving faith lays hold not of an abstract concept of a Messiah, but of the real historical Jesus who on the first Good Friday died that you and I might live. The language of eating Christ’s flesh makes clear that saving faith is centered not just on Christ but on Christ crucified.
  1. Third, eating and drinking are necessary for life. As I mentioned last week, we face a small barrier to get over in order to understand what Jesus means. In the ancient world – bread was known as the “staff of life.” It was the staple diet of everyone who lived in Israel. We no longer think of bread like this. Bread is just one of the dozens of foods that we may eat. If, for some reason, we couldn’t eat bread for the next four months we would all be fine. If you told a first century Jew that he wasn’t going to have bread for four month he or she would see this as a death sentence. With that in mind we can see what Jesus is saying. Jesus is saying: “Just as physical bread sustains your physical life … I am the spiritual bread that will provide and sustain your life with God.” If you do not have physical bread that means physical death. If you do not have Jesus Christ that means spiritual death. That is how the analogy works.

Read or sing Hymn 650 “I Will Sing of My Redeemer” Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our congregation as it meets this evening.

Wednesday (1/11) Read and discuss Ezekiel 36:22-32. This passage is written while the LORD’s people are in exile and this reality creates a problem. Other nations, who wouldn’t have understood that God was judging His people for their rebellion against Him, could easily have imagined that the God of Israel was not very powerful. Why should they turn to worship the LORD when He couldn’t even protect His own people from exile at the hands of those who served other gods? One “solution” would be for the LORD to restore His people and thereby reveal His own power – but how could He do this without compromising His own holiness? Old Testament scholar Doug Stuart helps us grasp God’s solution to this dilemma when he writes:

The clear promise of a general return from exile is proclaimed in verse 24. But how can a holy God reward a notoriously unholy people in this way? Will the Lord simply bring them back to Canaan to sin again as they had always done? The answer contains a condition for the restoration of Israel that demonstrates that such a restoration is intended not for ethnic Israel that but for a new people” they will be made pure by God’s miraculous action (v. 25). Sprinkled with holy water symbolizing their acceptance by God for worship, they will also be given a new mind (“heart”) and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (vv. 26-27). This is, of course, the language of conversion. Change of mind is exactly what the New Testament term for repentance means; the new mind is the converted mind that will love and follow Christ and keep God’s commands faithfully, as also predicted for the new covenant age by the prophet Jeremiah (31:33-34). The fact of the Spirit of God indwelling all who are converted is a dramatically different picture of people’s relationship to the Spirit than that of the old covenant, in which the Spirit was occasionally given to some people, often temporarily (cf. 1 Sam 16:14).

In the new covenant age, people and God will once again be united. Having turned to God and received the righteousness He alone offers, the new Israel will enjoy bounty and respect. They will also have a conscience about the past, hating the sin, including idolatry, that characterized the previous era (v. 31). The Lord will bring this about. Israel won’t be able to do it. They can only receive, not produce righteousness. Furthermore, God will accomplish this purification and renewal of His people for His own sake, not theirs. They don’t deserve it in the slightest. A nation that has done almost nothing during its history to honor God hardly deserves honor in return. But a God who has determined that His glory and saving power should be known in the whole world is willing to redeem a people not otherwise worthy of redemption. For in so doing, He invites sinners everywhere to repent and turn to Him for rescue from their sin. In other words, Ezekiel’s prophecy is making the point that God’s control of Israel’s history is not focused so much on Israel as it is on the world as a whole. Israel is an example to others – all others – of the power and mercy of God. Israel deserves only to be ashamed of itself; God deserves to be honored everywhere, within and without ethnic Israel.

Prayer: Give thanks that our heavenly Father works all things according to the counsel of His own will.

Thursday (1/12) Read and discuss Psalm 119:89-112. Alec Moyter writes:

Recall that Jesus said ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15). Was he thinking particularly about Psalm 119? Probably not, but there is no better summary of the central thrust of these verses. Obedience is the required proof not only of our commitment to the word of God – his revealed truth – but our love for God himself. The psalm says so; Jesus says so. Take then, almost at random what Psalm 119 says here about relating to God’s truth: ‘meditation all day’ (97); consistency in our ‘walk’ because his word is his teaching (102); emotional delight (103); the use of revealed truth as light on life’s pathway (105) and resource (first port of call, so to say) in life’s threats (107, 109); truth memorized (109); concern for the whole truth (115); seeking God’s upholding so that we may obey – and undeviating concentration on his word (117); … I need to ask, ‘How do I stand in the light of all this – and, by the way, how do you stand?’ The fact of the matter – calling us all to a reassessment of ourselves and our daily use of our Bibles – is that the Word of God and the God of the Word are inseparables.

Read or sing Hymn 353 “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord” Prayer: Ask the Holy Spirit to bring about greater conformity between your life and God’s revealed will.

Friday (1/13) Read and discuss 1 Peter 1:22-25. Simon Kistemaker writes:

The news media have given the term born again a degree of prominence which it had never attained in earlier times. Yet with all the publicity, countless people still do not understand the term. What does the Bible say about rebirth?

The New Testament teaches that rebirth is an act of God in the heart of man. In the process of birth man is passive, but as soon as he is born again man is active. The effects of his rebirth are evident in respect to his intellect, his emotions, and his moral disposition. God gives new life to man and man immediately demonstrates the new life in thought, word, and deed.

How do I know that I am born again? Here are three telltale marks. First, if I am born again, I have morally purified myself and with my new heart I strive to obey God’s Word. Next, I dedicate my new life to obeying God by loving him and my fellow man. And finally, because of my rebirth, I have innumerable spiritual brothers and sisters.

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

Saturday (1/14) Read and discuss John 6:60-71. N.T. Wright comments:

The mention of the ascension of the Son of Man is designed to say: maybe you need to come to terms with the fact that the one you are now dealing with is equally at home in heaven and on earth. He is a citizen of both. He is, after all, the Word made flesh. If that is so, it makes sense to suppose that this flesh, and this blood, are somehow vehicles of the inner life of the Word. The flesh by itself, of course, would be irrelevant, as verse 63 says. But when the flesh is indwelt by the life of God, of the Word who is God, it makes sense to speak of it in the way that Jesus has done. Though the ascension as an event remains a mystery in John’s gospel (Jesus speaks of it in 20:17, but it is not described), it is clearly important for John, here and elsewhere, to affirm that Jesus’ body, not just his ‘spiritual’ life, was and remains the place where the Word took up permanent residence.

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 8 January 2017 Sunday, Jan 1 2017 

MVOPC 8 January 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 130:3-4

Hymn of Preparation:  94 “How Firm a Foundation”

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 54:1-17

New Covenant Reading: John 6:35-59

Sermon: The Father’s Will

Hymn of Response: 642 “Be Thou My Vision”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Til He Come”!

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 33:1-20

NT: Romans 7:13-25

Close Encounters

Adult Sunday School: The Work of the Committee on Christian Education (Rev. Danny Olinger)

Shorter Catechism Q/A #76

Q. Which is the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/2) Read and discuss John 6:35-59. Those listening to Jesus were appalled at His teaching that He was the bread of life. Yet as William Hendrickson observes …

In his answer Jesus does not try to tone down his earlier statements. He strengthens them, so that what seemed impossible at first seems absurd now. Instead of speaking merely about the necessity of eating his flesh, Jesus no speaks about the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. To the Jews drinking blood was very repulsive. Nevertheless, had they known their scriptures thoroughly, they would also have recognized the symbolism which Jesus employed. They would have known that the blood, viewed as the seat of life, represents the soul and is without intrinsic value for salvation apart from the soul. The language of Lev. 17:11 is very clear on this point: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.” It is clear, therefore, that when Jesus speaks about eating his flesh and drinking his blood he cannot have reference to any physical eating or drinking. He must mean: “He who accepts, appropriates, and assimilates my vicarious sacrifice as the only ground of his salvation, remains in me and I in him.”

Read or sing 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Many people begin the New Year with a series of resolutions about what they are going to do. While there are many things for Christians to do, give thanks that Jesus has completely washed away your sins and that you can rest in His finished work.

Tuesday (1/3) Read and discuss John 6:16-40. God had multiplied the bread and the fish as a sign. The crowd should have traced the supernatural provision of food back to the goodness and astonishing power of Jesus. That is, the crowd should have seen the miracle and believed in Jesus. But they didn’t do that. Instead they were getting the relationship between Jesus and the physical bread exactly backwards. Instead of seeing the arrow as pointing from the physical bread to Jesus, they saw the arrow as pointing from Jesus to what they really wanted – the physical bread. It isn’t as though they didn’t see Jesus as valuable. They thought Jesus was so valuable that they wanted to make Him their King. The problem was that they saw Jesus as valuable only because of the physical goods He could provide for them. Jesus healed the sick and gave them free food, but they didn’t desire Jesus Himself as their greatest good and they weren’t thinking in spiritual terms at all. This form of idolatry, where the people can appear to be seeking Jesus or otherwise “religious”, is rampant in our own day. This idolatry is at the very heart of the so called “health and wealth” gospel – which is no gospel at all. Indeed, even many evangelical churches that would explicitly condemn the heresy taught by someone like Joel Osteen are still trying to sell Christianity in our culture by telling people that they will have better marriages, more successful children, or a whole range of things other than Jesus. Let me state the problem plainly: If you want to use God rather than love God you are an idolater. Sadly, this sort of idolatry is actually being promoted by people who call themselves ministers and organizations which call themselves churches. Please don’t misunderstand me: When we cling to Jesus Christ, God is delighted to frequently give us many other blessings as expressions of His love for us. We ought to enjoy those blessings with grateful hearts. But here is the key point: We ought to enjoy the blessings that God gives us expressions of His love for us rather than viewing God as someone to be used for the sake of gaining those material benefits – when it is those material benefits rather than God that our hearts truly crave. Saint Augustine gives this powerful illustration. Augustine writes:

It’s as if a bridegroom were to give a ring to his bride, and she came to value the ring more than the one who gave it. By all means let her love the bridegroom’s gift, but if she were to say, “The ring’s enough for me, I don’t want to see his face,” what sort of woman would this be? Who wouldn’t consider her an adulteress in her heart? … Well then, God gave you all these things, so love him who made them! There’s something more that he wants to give you himself, who made these things. Even though they are made by Go, if you love them and you disregard him and love the world, won’t your love be counted adulterous?

Read or sing Hymn 94 “How Firm a Foundation” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you faithful and to keep you faithful until the end.

Wednesday (1/4) Read and discuss Isaiah 54:1-17. Alec Motyer writes:

The truth about God the Creator runs far beyond what happens in Genesis 1:1-2, yet so often that is where our thinking stops: God the Creator started everything off. Well of course he did, but in the Bible the Creator not only begins everything, he also maintains everything in its existence – which is why Isaiah speaks of him as ‘the creating One’; he also controls everything in its operations (54:16-17), and guides everything to His intended goal. He begins, maintains, controls, and guides – everything, all the time. He is God, in truly executive rule of His world. This is why it is important in Psalm 121:1-2 to remember that, when we face coming dangers, we do so in the Creator’s world – help comes from Yahweh, maker of heaven and earth. It all happens ‘on His patch’, ‘on His watch’. The problem, danger, or trouble we face is part of what he begins, maintains, controls and guides.

Prayer: Please pray for the young people in our congregation as they transition back to school.

Thursday (1/5) Read and discuss Romans 7:13-25. Why is life as a Christian so challenging? Many people ask this question. One of the comforting things about Romans 7 is that it reminds us that our struggles don’t make us substandard Christians. The Apostle Paul fairly late in his Christian life tells us that he was still deeply wrestling with sin. From one point of view, the struggle actually begins when we receive new life from God. As C. Marvin Pate points out: “The struggle in the Christian life is normal. It means that the entrance of the new nature into the believer at conversion no longer allows sin to go unhindered.” Martin Luther famously discussed this reality under the Latin title simul justus et peccator. That is, the Christian is simultaneously justified and a sinner. Pate continues to explain this passage under three points:

First, the law is good, but Paul (and all of humankind) is evil. Second, Paul nevertheless deeply desires to do the good. Third, he does the bad anyway because sin drives him to do so. The discussion of two laws in 7:21-24 registers a similar plight. Thus, because the age to come has dawned, Paul and all Christians are in Christ and possess the Spirit and therefore have a desire and a capacity to serve God. But because the age to come is not complete, the law of the sinful flesh still resides in the believer’s heart, hampering the attempt to obey God. But rather than bring the Christian to despair, such a struggle signals the good news that the believer is, after all, a citizen of the age to come, even though the kingdom of God is not complete. Moreover, in Romans 8 Paul asserts that the indwelling Spirit’s power can make the difference in the believer’s life for godliness. The Holy Spirit can succeed in leading Christians into a life of holiness in a way the Old Testament law could not. This too is a sign that the age to come has dawned in Jesus the Messiah.

Read or sing Hymn 642 “Be Thou My Vision” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Amoskeag Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Manchester, NH.

Friday (1/6) Read and discuss Genesis 33:1-20. Iain Duguid writes:

Jacob’s new heart for God and for his brother is clearly seen in what he said to Esau in Genesis 33:10: “To see your face is like seeing the face of God.” There’s a phrase that is packed with meaning. On the one hand, more than anything else in this world to be in a right relationship with the one whom he had wronged. It was as desirable as seeing the face of God. On the other hand, however, seeing the face of God is an extremely dangerous business. Not many people see God and live. That is why in Genesis 32:30 Jacob exclaimed in amazement, “I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” Jacob knew that he was taking a similar risk in following through with his determination to put things right with Esau. He brother had sworn to kill him last time they saw each other. He could in geographical terms have reentered the Promised Land without encountering his brother, but not in spiritual terms. He had to be put right with Esau, and he was willing to risk his life to do it. And lo, wonder of wonders, he not only saw the face of God and lived, he also saw his brother’s face and lived to tell the tale. Amazing! What is more, he did so not by his strength, not through some cunning trick, but in weakness and humility, seeking humbly to make restitution for the wrong he had done.

But reconciliation does not always lead to living side by side. Esau apparently wanted Jacob to join him in Seir, outside the Promised Land. Jacob didn’t want to go with him there, nor should he have gone with him, given his summons by God to return to the Promised Land. The child of promise cannot go and live alongside those who are outside the line of blessing, who live outside the land of blessing. He was right to refuse Esau’s invitation.

Prayer: Please pray for our Presbytery’s officer retreat which will be held today and tomorrow.

Saturday (1/7) Read and discuss John 6:35-59. One indication of how slow we are to believe is how frequently we find Christ either repeating or restating something. John Calvin comments:

[Jesus] often repeats the same thing, because nothing is more necessary to be known; and everyone feels with what difficulty we are brought to believe it, and how easily and quickly it passes away and is forgotten. We all desire life, but in seeking it, we foolishly and improperly wander about in circuitous roads; and when it is offered, the greater part disdainfully reject it. For who is there who does not contrive for himself or herself life out of Christ? And how few are there who are satisfied with Christ alone? It is not a superfluous repetition, therefore, when Christ asserts so frequently that he alone is sufficient to give life. For he claims for himself the designation of bread, in order to tear from our hearts all fallacious hopes of living. Having formerly called himself the bread of life, he now calls himself the living bread, but tin the same senses, namely, life-giving bread.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 1 January 2017 Sunday, Dec 25 2016 

MVOPC 1 January 2017

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 44 “How Great Thou Art”

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 103:1-3

Hymn of Preparation:  358 “For All the Saints”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 78:1-31

New Covenant Reading: John 6:16-40

Sermon: This is the Work of God

Hymn of Response: 146 “Break thou the Bread of Life”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 647 “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds”

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 32:22-32

NT: John 13:1-17

Wrestling for a Blessing

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #75

Q. What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?

A. The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbor’s wealth or outward estate.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (12/26) Read and discuss John 6:16-40. Edward Klink writes:

When Jesus speaks of eating his flesh and blood, he speaks of the transfusion of his life for theirs. The Gospel beings and ends with this focus on life. This pericope summarizes everything God wants to declare about Jesus (“that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ”; 20:31a) and everything God wants to offer to the reader (“that … you may have life in his name”; 20:31b). This pericope challenges human identity at its most foundational level. But it is also a remarkable offer of an unimaginable gift – the life of God exchanged for the lifelessness of humanity. This pericope and the Gospel as a whole are not dealing with trifles or playing with allusions to the Lord’s Supper by means of signs and symbols but are speaking about life and death, the present moment and eternity. And through the witness of the narrative of this Gospel, the God of the universe rebukes the sinful rebellion and self-righteousness of the reader (Jew or not!) and challenges them to embrace his Son by faith, a work of gracious “drawing” he has already begun.

Read or sing 44 “How Great Thou Art” Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus gave His life for the life of the world and that, in particular, He gave His life for you.

Tuesday (12/27) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 4:12-22. The most precious thing that the people of God have is the presence of the LORD in their midst. Regretfully, sinners easily take even the greatest of blessings for granted and assume that it will simply always be this way no matter what we do. Today’s passage grabs us by the shoulder, shakes us, and reminds us that we are not to take the LORD for granted. Richard Phillips explains:

If we think this withdrawal of God’s presence is only an Old Testament phenomenon, then we should remember the seven letters of Jesus to the churches of Asia, in which the exalted Christ threatened to remove the lampstands of wayward churches (Rev. 2-3). Individual believers are likewise warned not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Eph. 4:30) through ungodly living, suggesting that Christians may experience God’s absence as a form of discipline. The Westminster Confession of Faith asserts, “True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it; by falling into some special sin, which woundeth the conscience, and grieveth the Spirit” (WDF 18:4). In David’s prayer of repentance, he begged God: “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps 1:11).

What causes God to remove the manifestation of His glory? The example of Eli and his sons shows that God is angered by sacrilege committed by His people in worship, as the wicked priests stole from the offerings brought to God and committed sexual sins at the tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22). Isaiah would later level a similar charge against the worship in Jerusalem: “This people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me” (Isa. 29:13). Rather than allow His own people to despise His holy presence in corrupt worship, God sent the ark into the hands of the Philistines to be despised by pagans instead. So false worship that despises God’s holiness is a cause for the removal of God’s glory.

Read or sing Hymn 358 “For All the Saints” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you holy, for the LORD your God is holy.

Wednesday (12/28) Read and discuss Psalm 78:1-31. Allen P. Ross writes:

The psalm is a review of the rebellion and unbelief of the nation of Israel up to the time of the choosing of David and Jerusalem, and all this in spite of the wonderful and gracious acts of God on their behalf. But it was an unending cycle: God did wonders for the people, and the people rebelled anyway; but in spite of their rebellion, God had compassion on them and delivered them, only to see them rebel again. Critical to the message of the psalm is the use of “remember” and “forget,” used for God and used for the people. They forgot God and his wonderful works, but God did not forget them. The psalm reminds us that even though we prove unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself; he made a covenant, and he proved faithful to that covenant, even though the people did not, and for their lack of faith they lived a life of vanity, waiting for death.

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD’s “faithfulness endures to all generations (Psalm 119:90).”

Thursday (12/29) Read and discuss John 13:1-17. Chuck Swindoll writes:

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

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

Read or sing Hymn 146 “Break thou the Bread of Life” Prayer: Ask the LORD to work the genuine strength of true humility into your character.

Friday (12/30) Read and discuss Genesis 32:22-32. Iain Duguid writes:

Jacob’s new name, Israel, is just that: a radically new name, marking a radical change in his nature. Unlike Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah, his new name is not a variant and an extension of what has gone before but rather a transformation. His lifelong attempt to gain the promised blessing by ingenuity and striving rather than by grace had now to be abandoned. But perhaps because that sanctifying transformation is partial in all of us in this life, so also was Jacob’s name change. Unlike Abraham and Sarah, who once given their new names, never reverted to their old ones, Jacob was from now on Jacob and Israel. The biblical text alternations between the two designations for the patriarch not because it comes to us from two different sources, as scholars have sometimes argued, but because Jacob/Israel has two warring natures. In the language of Martin Luther he is simul justus et peccator – at the same time justified and sinner. God’s work is established in principle in his life, as the new name Israel clearly declares, but it would take a lifetime for that principle to work itself out in fullness. As long as he lived on earth, part of him would still be Jacob.

Prayer: Please lift up the Sunday school teachers in our congregation as they participate in our shared responsibility to disciple the whole congregation.

Saturday (12/31) Read and discuss John 6:16-40. Edward Klink writes:

[This portion of God’s word] was carefully crafted so as to reflect inappropriate expressions of disbelief or dissatisfaction in God through allusions ot the Israelites in the wilderness as they complained and argued with Moses and, therefore, with God. As Hoskyns describes it, by their grumpbling against Jeus in this periscope, “They preserve the genuine succession of unbelief.” Like their forefathers, the Jews were opposing God himself. The rebuke by Christ serves to exhort the reader to avoid bringing against God any categories of unbelief, including elements of arrogance or human wisdom. So often we think we have words for God, or we would like him to hear how we think he should view a situation – often our own situation, so as to get a different result. … This is neither reality nor the mark of Christian discipleship. The disciple of Jesus willingly declares, “Be Thou my Vision,” and really means it; not because the Christian has no intellect or foresight, but because his reason and foresight have found their true source and substance.

Read or sing Hymn: 647 “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

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