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.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 25 December 2016 Sunday, Dec 18 2016 

MVOPC 25 December 2106

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 203 “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

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: Luke 1:76-79

Hymn of Preparation:  208 “O Come, All Ye Faithful”

Old Covenant Reading: 2 Chronicles 36:17–23

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 1:1–2:20

Sermon: The Invading King

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

Confession of Faith:    Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 195 “Joy to the World”

PM Worship

OT: Isaiah 43:1-21

NT: Matthew 28:18-20

Hitting the Marks

Adult Sunday School: No Sunday School Today

 

Shorter Catechism Q/A #74

Q. What is required in the eighth commandment?

A. The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (12/19) Read and discuss Matthew 2:1-12. How excited these religious experts must have been to hear the news! They couldn’t be sure that the Magi were right that the Messiah had been born, but they knew where He would be born – in Bethlehem. Thankfully, Bethlehem was just six miles south of Jerusalem. Because Jerusalem is elevated, you can actually see Bethlehem from there. The religious leaders could walk to Bethlehem in less than 90 minutes … and if the story the Magi told were false … they could be home by dinner. And what if the Magi were right? Four centuries of silence from God would end with the Messiah coming into the world right in their own back yard. Surely, everyone there who could still walk would walk, or better run, all the way to Bethlehem to see if the Messiah had come. Well, at least some of the religious leaders would go and check it out – wouldn’t they?  Not at all! It turns out that not a single one of the religious leaders made this six mile trip. The Magi who had already traveled nearly 900 miles to worship the new born king would travel the last six miles alone. When Herod asked the religious leaders where the Messiah would be born they knew the right answer. It rolled right off of their tongues. They were experts in the law. But they were more concerned about being right than about being righteous. Regretfully, religious leaders are frequently like that. What about you? The question we need to answer this isn’t “What about them?” It is “What about us?” Almighty God is moving heaven and earth so that Jesus Christ will be worshipped among every tribe, tongue, and people; yet some of those with the greatest spiritual privilege are failing to do so. Will you respond with anger like Herod, with indifference like the religious leaders, or will you by faith come and worship Him? Read or sing 203 “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” Prayer: Please pray for the world-wide-mission of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church as we seek to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Tuesday (12/20) Read and discuss Matthew 1:18-25. In order to understand the solution you have to understand the problem. What was it like to conceive of yourself as being part of the LORD’s chosen people when He hadn’t returned to Zion for more than four centuries? What was it like for a Jewish carpenter to live under the thumb of brutal Roman overlords (both Herod and his son Archelaus were unusually brutal compared to most Roman rulers)? What was it like to live in Judah when the majority of your fellow Jews had grown cold in the faith? C.S. Lewis beautifully captures this struggle when he describes Narnia without Asland (Jesus) as “always winter but never Christmas”. Yet, first century Judah wasn’t without some joys. There was still a remnant and Joseph was about to be married to a woman who by all accounts appeared to be a particularly godly woman. Then Joseph’s entire world came crashing down: She’s pregnant! How could that possibly be? All of his hopes and dreams had gone up in ashes. Nevertheless, Joseph seeks to be a man of God who does “justice, loves mercy, and walks humbly with his God (Micah 6:8).” It would not be easy. Nearly everyone in his town would think that Joseph had been guilty of fornication. But Joseph chose to suffer the abuse of his fellow men in order to seek the praise of God. Because of the astonishing news that he would be the step-father to Immanuel – Joseph (and all of the rest of us) have reason to sing joy to a world in a world that often seems like it is always winter and never Christmas. This week, as you take time to celebrate the coming of our LORD, remember to rejoice with a grateful heart. And remember to look forward in hope to the day when it will never be winter but it will always be Christmas. For you will dwell in the immediate presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. And you will be like Him, for you will see Him as He is. Read or sing Hymn 208 “O Come, All Ye Faithful” Prayer: Ask the LORD to keep reforming your desires so that you will increasingly seek His praise while the grip of the world on your heart diminishes.

Wednesday (12/21) Read and discuss 2 Chronicles 36:17–23. Bill Arnold writes:

The chronicler’s work ends with the edict of Cyrus of Persia. The edict signals the end of the exile, the release of the Jews, and Cyrus’s support for rebuilding the Temple. By ending on this note, the author shed a ray of hope across the Books of Chronicles. The Temple lay in ruins, but God had begun to “hear from heaven” and to “heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). If the returnees would follow the good examples of David, Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah, God would bless them again.

The paragraph is paralleled by Ezra 1:2-3. It serves as a tag at the conclusion, marking the beginning of the restoration period and directing the reader to continue reading in the Book of Ezra.

Prayer: Give thanks that God always hears the prayers of those who are trusting in Jesus Christ.

Thursday (12/22) Read and discuss Matthew 28:18-20. Grant Osborne writes:

The task of the church is not just to evangelize but to disciple the world for Christ. A huge error has occurred over the last two hundred years in the missionary movement. Our task is, of course, to reach the world with the gospel message of salvation, but too many denominations and mission organizations have been content to give little more than salvation messages. The Great Commission makes it clear that this is not enough. Every single person who is won to Christ must be anchored in Christ and taught how to live for Christ in day-to-day decisions.

Christianity is a practical, ethical religion, and we cannot separate the secular form the sacred [as though we can be disciples in the latter but not in the former] … This sis the mission for the church, and there is no excuse for shallowness. Consider many Third World churches with little opportunity often find depth: the shallowness there is the fault of the mission organizations that have given too little priority to (1) the education and training of the leaders in those countries, and (2) the development and publication of good literature for those countries.

Read or sing Hymn 193 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” Prayer: Give thanks that we are part of a connectional church which seeks to proclaim the whole counsel of God’s word on the mission field for the sake of discipling the nations.

Friday (12/23) Read and discuss Isaiah 43:1-13. Chapter 42 of Isaiah spells out in stark terms Israel’s rebellion and their failure to be what God had called them to be as His people:

            Hear, you deaf,

                        and look, you blind, that you may see!

            Who is blind but my servant,

                        or deaf as my messenger whom I send?

            Who is blind as my dedicated one,

                        or blind as the servant of the LORD?

Things might seem virtually hopeless, but God was unwilling to let man’s rebellion have the last word. Commenting on today’s passage, Willem VanGemeren writes:

Israel’s formation was not a mistake. God elected (“created,” “formed”) Israel. He made them to be his people by calling them to be his. He loves his people and will do anything to redeem them. Regardless of how difficult the circumstances or how far he has to bring his people, he is with them. He is their God by covenant, the Holy One who has consecrated them, their Redeemer. He will give up Seba (a region south of Ethiopia) in exchange for the remnant of his people, his “sons” and “daughters,” who are called by his name (vv. 6-7). Thus, both the experience of rejection and the affirmation of redemption are the outworking of God’s will, and are expressions of his fatherly concern for his children.

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would use the Christmas holiday to bring first-time visitors to our congregation.

Saturday (12/24) Read and discuss Matthew 2:1-12. This passage introduces four major themes in the Gospel according to Matthew: (1) First, Jesus will be a Royal Messiah; (2) Second, God is controlling all the events through His providential hand; (3) Third, the Gentiles are going to be included among the Messiah’s people; and (4) Fourth, Jesus is the fulfillment of much Old Testament prophesy. Today we will look at the contrast between the Magi and the rulers of Israel. It is striking that the LORD led the Magi to travel over long distances on very incomplete information to pay homage to the new born King. This points forward to the fact that the whole world will one day worship Him (cf. Rev. 21:24, 26). Magi, in the ancient world, were a priestly cast of magicians and astrologers who were supposed to be the “wise men” of the country. They were therefore consulted by civil rulers and often used for diplomatic missions. They may have been familiar with some of the Hebrew Bible, but they didn’t know about Micah 5:2 for they follow the natural surmise that a king would be born in a capital and head off to Jerusalem. It doesn’t surprise us that the paranoid Herod would be deeply disturbed by the news of a newborn King; but we shouldn’t miss that all Jerusalem was troubled with him. So Herod gathers together the chief priests and the teachers of the law and inquires where the Messiah was to be born. They don’t miss a beat: “In Bethlehem of Judea” they reply, “for this is how it has been written by the prophet.” They all know the correct answer, but here is the amazing part: Although Bethlehem is only 6 miles from Jerusalem – not one of the chief priests or scribes bothers to go with the Magi to see where the Christ was to be born. The contrast is striking: Some traveled great distances and offered up gold and precious spices to worship Jesus while others wouldn’t even make the two hour walk to see Him. “This antithesis carries through the gospel: the redemptive influence of Jesus will extend far beyond the confines of Jerusalem to the far corners of the earth, yet those closest to Jesus will reject him (Grant Osborne).” Read or sing Hymn: 195 “Joy to the World” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 18 December 2016 Sunday, Dec 11 2016 

MVOPC 18 December 2016

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: Romans 5:1-2

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

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 34:1-22

New Covenant Reading: Luke 1:46-55

Sermon: The Magnificat

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 196 “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”

PM Worship

OT: Leviticus 11:24-47

NT: 1 Peter 1:13-21

Prepared for Holiness

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #73

Q.Which is the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (12/12) Read and discuss Luke 1:46-55. Arthur Just writes:

Jesus is the ultimate reversal of God as the Creator come to his creation as creature. As the Father exalted Jesus in his humility, so now Jesus will exalt those of low estate. Simeon will expand this motif when he says that Jesus “is destined for the fall and resurrection of many in Israel., and a sign to be spoken against” (2:34), and so will Jesus when he cites Psalm 118 to the scribes and chief preists. “What, therefore, is this that is written, ‘The stone that the builders rejected, this has become the head of the corner’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be dashed to pieces; on whomsoever it falls, it will crush him” (20:17-28). “Christ was powerless on the cross: and yet there He performed His mightiest work and conquered sin, death, world, hell, devil, and all evil” This is the language of Jesus’ beatitudes and woes (6:20-26) and the nature of his ministry as he goes to the sick and sinners (tax collectors and prostitutes) instead of the health and self-righteous (Pharisees and chief priests). Jesus’ entire ministry of table fellowship shows the Great Reversal. When he sits down with tax collectors and sinners, with the five thousand, with the Twelve at the Last Supper, with the Emmaus disciples after the resurrection, the presence of God at table with the hungry fills them with good things. Jesus, the humble child in the womb of this humble servant, shows God’s hospitality to the world by coming to those who expect it least and brining them salvation.

Read or sing Hymn 2 “God, my King, thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send Reformation to New England.

Tuesday (12/13) Read and discuss Isaiah 52:1-10. On the Fourth of July Americans celebrate Independence Day to commemorate when our nation first declared itself to be a sovereign power. Yet, even a cursory familiarity with history makes it difficult to paint the British Empire as tyrannical oppressors. Israel could only have wished that they had been “oppressed” in this way. Isaiah had lived through the assaults of the Assyrians, who were among the most brutal people who had ever lived. Then he prophesied of Judah being taken into the Babylonian captivity. While the Babylonians were more civilized than the Assyrians, they did force the majority of the Jewish people to move more than five hundred miles away to a strange land where they would have to do whatever the king of Babylon told them to do. Yet, Isaiah 52 is promising a freedom from this bondage. More than mere freedom, Israel would be lifted up and exalted. Isaiah was promising a second Exodus where the people would be delivered not only to freedom and security but to being the LORD’s true people:

Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I.”

When would this glorious event take place? If we stopped reading here we could easily imagine that this might take place in the fifth century B.C. when the LORD would bring Israel back into their land. But if we keep reading through Isaiah 52 and 53 we see that this freedom, security, and joy is intimately tied up with the substitutionary death of the Suffering Servant. It is only with Christ’s victory over Satan, sin, and death that the Second Exodus is truly accomplished. Living on this side of redemption accomplished, let us lift our voices to sing of Christ’s victory and let us rejoice in the Good News that He brings. Read or sing Hymn 36 “Lord, Thou hast Searched me” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at the Presbyterian Church of Cape Cod.

Wednesday (12/14) Read and discuss Psalm 34:1-22. Alec Motyer writes:

The heading throws an interesting light on Psalm 34. It agrees with 1 Samuel in attributing David’s escape from the Philistines to his clever stratagem of pretending to be deranged. In this it contrasts sharply with content of the psalm, but in a way which is both easy and fascinating to explain. One does not need much imagination to think what a good story David would have made of his pretending loopiness, and how he fooled his way out of danger in Gath. So think of him recounting his cleverness yet once more, when suddenly it came over him that in face there was a ‘real’ story hidden inside the ‘good’ story – a real story of prayer made and prayer answered. Yes, he had played the madman, yes he had written up insulting graffiti about Achish on the doors, yes he had made his personal behavior unacceptable, but he had also prayed, he had also looked ceaselessly to Yahweh. He had looked, he had cried out, he had found his God to be near at hand in the hour of terror – and wasn’t that the real story? Wasn’t that what he ought to be telling his friends? Not boosting his own cleverness telling the tale, … [For] there is no situation from which the ‘downtrodden’ – those at the bottom of life’s heap – cannot cry out and be heard, because Yahweh’s eye never flickers from watching over His servants, His ear is ever open to their cry. There is no situation where He is anything but ‘near’ (18), with his mobile home pitched alongside so as always to be with us (7). There is no situation where his face is not set against our adversaries to cut them down (16). The life-changing way is to look to him (5), to taste the sweet savor of His goodness (8), to “Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then have nothing else to fear …” The story within the story is the one to listen to, and it is written for our learning in Psalm 34.

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD is always attentive to the cries of His people.

Thursday (12/15) Read and discuss Leviticus 11:24-47. Read and discuss Leviticus 11:24-47. Commenting on verse 24 and following, Walter Kaiser writes:

At this point in the chapter, a change is apparent. Thus far the discussion has been about what is clean or unclean. But other types of questions come to mind as well. What happens if someone accidentally touches something unclean? What is one to do about dead things? And on and on go the questions.

This reminds us that Leviticus is not given to Israel so that they can rightly judge the things of this world. Leviticus is given to Israel because God wants them to be fit for dwelling in His presence. The issue of being fit to dwell in God’s presence has not changed in the New Testament even  though virtually all of the ceremonial law has passed away (we still have a far simpler ceremonial law related to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). The Old Testament ceremonial laws were like training wheels to help us understand the abiding principles. Paul makes this point in the third chapter of Galatians:

So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Read or sing Hymn 47 “God the Lord is King” Prayer: Please pray for the Officers Training which will be held this evening and on Saturday morning.

Friday (12/16) Read and discuss 1 Peter 3:8-17. We live in a visual culture where Movies and Television are dominant forms of communication. We take sayings like “a picture is worth 1,000 words” to be virtually true by definition. This leads Christians to embrace sayings such as St. Francis of Assi’s “Always preach the gospel, if necessary use words.” This is to misunderstand how communication works at a very basic level. Visual communication is strong on emotional impact but verbal communication is necessary to convey many types of meaningful content. One linguists professors drives home this point with a simple illustration: Try conveying “the cat sat on the mat” with a picture. That is pretty easy – except what you actually conveyed was “a cat” not “the cat”. Now try using a picture to convey “the cat is not on the mat”, “the cat was on the mat”, or “the cat likes to be on the mat”. These are actually very simply ideas yet it is essentially impossible to convey them through a drawing without using words. This has clear ramifications for Christian theology. You can convey that “a man died on the cross” using a picture. But you cannot convey that “Jesus, who is both God and man, died on the cross for your sins.” That takes words. This leads us to a key point in today’s passage. If sinners are going to be saved, they need to hear the good news about Jesus Christ. Living a life that reflects the gospel and praying for the lost may open up opportunities for us to tell people about Jesus – but we still need to tell them about Jesus. When should we be ready to do this? Peter says we should always be ready. This requires the courage the flows from a prior commitment to honor Christ in our hearts:

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you wise in the way you speak about Him to others.

Saturday (12/17) Read and discuss Luke 1:46-55. John Calvin writes:

So from whatever quarter opposition may come – whether the devil should try his hardest, and the wicked aid and abet him – nothing can deny God the victory or overpower his arm. Nor must we imagine that God needs us or our righteousness to assist him, or that we need the help of the saints and angels in paradise. What is needed is that we rest content in God’s power and that we glorify him, knowing that all is from him. That, in sum, is what Mary reveals to us here.

This is a truth which applies not only to ourselves, but to the way the world itself works. The fact is that nothing exists apart from the providence of God. However many the changes through which we pass, all have their origin there, and there is no trouble which befalls men or any other creature which is not sent from on high. Of course the devil will do all he can to wreak havoc. The wicked, too, will give vent to such rage as to confound heaven and earth, seeming to bring everything undone. Many other things may occur which could so cloud our sight that we might think God was no longer in control. For all that we must accept the conclusion which Mary reaches in this verse: god works with the strength of his arm. And although his arm is not directly visible to us, it can be apprehended by faith. We are therefore assured that whatever befalls us, and form whatever quarter it may come, God guides and governs. We could not, in fact, move so much as a finger if he did not control us and exercise his power.

Read or sing Hymn: 54 “Hallelujah! Raise, O Raise” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 11 December 2016 Sunday, Dec 4 2016 

MVOPC 11 December 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 2 “God, my King, thy Might Confessing”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 86:5-7

Hymn of Preparation:  36 “Lord, Thou hast Searched me”

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 35

New Covenant Reading: Mark 8:22-26

Sermon: Seeing is Believing

Hymn of Response: 47 “God the Lord is King”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 54 “Hallelujah! Raise, O Raise”

PM Worship

OT: Daniel 9:24-27

NT: 1 Peter 1:10-12

Salvation Foretold

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #72

Q. What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?
A. The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words and actions.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (12/5) Read and discuss Mark 8:22-26. We have reached a turning point in the Gospel according to Mark. Structurally, it is difficult to know whether this passage best goes with what the preceding narratives or those that come after. Making such a determination is not particularly important. What is helpful to recognize is that from this passage through 11:1 Mark is narrating the journey of Jesus and His disciples from Galilee in the north until their arrival in Jerusalem. The emphasis of Jesus undergoes a significant change at this point. There are far fewer miracles recorded (only the healing of two blind men and the casting out of a demon) and the teaching focuses almost exclusively upon the disciples. Furthermore, after 8:31 Jesus increasing speaks of His own death. There are two key points that should be seen from this passage: (1) First, Jesus leads the blind man away from the crowd and even out of the village (v. 23!) before miraculously healing him. Clearly Jesus is doing the miracle for the benefit of the man while giving the sign for the benefit of His disciples. (2) Jesus is continuing to reveal who He is in the most dramatic fashion.  We have already noted several times how the opening of the eyes of the blind is particularly linked in OT prophesy with the coming of the Messiah. It is also worth meditating on a portion of Psalm 146:

5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.

The identification of the LORD as the one who opens the eyes of the blind gives Christ’s miracles an additional force. Clearly Yahweh was at work in Jesus’ ministry. Indeed, Jesus can rightfully be called Yahweh. This repeated demonstration of who He is (through the miracles of giving sight to the blind) leads up to Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ (8:29). Read or sing Hymn 2 “God, my King, thy Might Confessing” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send Reformation to New England.

Tuesday (12/6) Read and discuss John 6:1-15. Consider the world’s favorite Psalm, Psalm 23, which begins: “The LORD is my Shepherd. I shall not be in want.” How does that fit with those portions of your life that you view from the standpoint of scarcity – even areas where you currently seem to be entirely lacking in the resources that you need? Here is what John 6 and Psalm 23 do NOT mean: They do not mean that God is going to magically multiple resources to give you everything you want as though the Creator of the Universe is a genie in the bottle who keeps saying: “Your wish is my command.” God is saying something far more profound to us in today’s passage than that. The LORD is saying: “If you ever have to get rid of your car and live in an unfurnished attic, Jesus will be right there with you. … And the Jesus who be right there with you is full of compassion, and He is both willing and able to provide exceedingly abundantly above all that you could ask or even imagine. Therefore, if Jesus chooses to leave you without something that you really, really, want, it is because He is doing something better for you and something better with you.” Isn’t that the very thing that Psalm 23 goes on to say:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Read or sing Hymn 36 “Lord, Thou hast Searched me” Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus is your Good Shepherd.

Wednesday (12/7) Read and discuss Isaiah 35. Alec Motyer writes:

Sometimes even Isaiah excels himself! He was a master wordsmith and poet; in chapter 35 he is at his highest and best. But if the beauty of Isaiah’s words and thoughts thrill us, how great is our excitement when we realize that he is writing about us! We are the enigmatic ‘them’ and ‘they’ (vv. 1, 2, 8), the anonymous ones around whom the poem moves, because we are the redeemed and ransomed (vv. 9-10) with whom it ends. The ‘ransomed’ (v. 10) are those for whom the price has been paid; the ‘redeemed’ (v. 9) are those with whom the Lord, the divine next-of-kin, has identified himself, saying to us: ‘What is your problem? Give it to me. What is your need? I will meet it. What is your burden? Lay it on my shoulders.’ That is the way with … the kinsman-redeemer. He bears it all, pays it all, does it all. He the doer, we the recipients. But now that we know who the ‘them’ and ‘they’ are, follow through what Isaiah says about them, about us. First, whatever our circumstances appear to be (the desert, the parched land, v. 1), we may confidently expect to be provided for. No other eye but ours, the eye of faith, will see the blossoming, but the blossom will be there. Secondly, we endure as seeing him who is invisible, (Heb. 11:27). In every situation, in every place, the glory of the LORD is present – and, remember, his glory is not an abstract ‘something’, the LORD’s glory is the LORD in all his glory, with us, recognized by faith, all along the way. Thirdly, to the outward eye, the road may seem full of twists and turns, but it is a protected pathway from which no hazard can dislodge the pilgrim (v. 9). It is a ‘highway’ (v. 8), running in a straight line from conversion to glory. And, finally, the end is guaranteed: emphasize the verb, ‘the redeemed shall come’. Everything that made the journey a sad experience will take to its legs; every unalloyed delight that slipped like soap out of the pilgrim’s grasp will be finally possessed. Zion admits no disappointment.

Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Island Pond Baptist Church as they look for a new pastor.

Thursday (12/8) Read and discuss Daniel 9:20-27. Today’s passage has been interpreted in a bewildering variety of ways. Is there any hope that we can get it right? Absolutely! We should remember that this vision is also a part of God’s word that is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).” The key is to begin with one of the most fundamental (yet, oddly frequently ignored) principles of interpreting any passage: CONTEXT. That is, we need to remember that vv. 20-27 are God’s response to Daniel’s prayer in verses 3-19. Iain Duguid helps us grasp this when he writes:

This prayer is the context in which the vision comes to Daniel, a context that has often been overlooked in interpreting the vision. As we saw in our last study, Daniel tells us that he had been pondering Jeremiah’s prophecy of a seventy-year period of exile and subjection to the Babylonians and to their king, after which God would judge the Babylonians, and his people would return to their land to rebuild the temple. Daniel’s prayer took place during the first year of King Darius, immediately after the Babylonian empire had fallen to the Medes and the Persians. He recognized that the Babylonians and their king had been judged by God, fulfilling the first part of Jeremiah’s prophecy. So Daniel prayed that God would now fulfill the second part as well, restoring his people to their land in his mercy and grace and showing favor again to the desolate sanctuary in Jerusalem. Daniel acknowledged that God had judged his people and his sanctuary for their sin, just as faithfulness to the Sinai covenant demanded. Yet that same Sinai covenant also held out the prospect of a new beginning after the punishment of exile, a new beginning in which the Lord would circumcise the hearts of his people and give them hearts that long to obey him (see Deut. 30:1-6).

Indeed, as Daniel read the words of Jeremiah, he would also have read more prophecies that spoke of that promised new beginning. Jeremiah announced that God would make a new covenant with his people that would be different from the covenant that they broke through their sin, a covenant that would finally fulfill Deuteronomy’s promise of hearts that desired to obey the LORD:

“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD.

“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jer. 31:31-33)

Daniel was praying for the fulfillment of these promises of the transformation of the people of God. He longed to see them changed from sinners to a holy people with God dwelling in their midst and to see Jerusalem restored through the coming of the messianic king.

We therefore have our first key to understanding the vision: Daniel is asking, “Will you inaugurate the New Covenant when You bring Your people back to the Promised Land.”

Read or sing Hymn 47 “God the Lord is King” Prayer: Please lift up our congregation’s youth group in prayer.

Friday (12/9) Read and discuss 1 Peter 1:10-12. Karen Jobes writes:

Peter concludes that just as the sufferings of Jesus were followed by glories (1:11), those who suffer for the name of Christ will also find glories when Jesus appears. Whatever suffering the Christians of Asia Minor have experienced is to be understood as a part of that redemptive plan foretold long before to the prophets. This is to be a strong word of encouragement to them not to give up on Christ. Peter’s understanding of the solidarity of Christ with his followers may explain Peter’s use of the plural [for “sufferings” and “glories”] – Christ’s suffering and his glory extended to his followers.

According to Peter, the revelation of the sufferings and subsequent glories of the Messiah given to the prophets is ultimately intended for the benefit of a later generation. The relationship between the prophets’ message for that later generation and its meaning for their own time is understood by recognizing that the same Spirit is at work in both. The Spirit of Christ revealed the sufferings of Christ to a particular prophet in a particular generation so that as the prophet addressed the people and issues of his own time, he did so from an eschatological viewpoint that proleptically knew of the suffering and glories of the Messiah before they became historical realities. Because of this forewitness, the prophets could offer to their own generation counsel that presupposed the ultimate triumph of God’s redemptive purposes because the prophets had witnessed it, even though they themselves lived in times that would call that confidence into question.

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has given us to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Saturday (12/10) Read and discuss Mark 8:22-26. At first glance, this might seem like one of the oddest miracles that Jesus ever performs. After leading the blind man out of the village, Jesus heals the man in two stages. After the first stage, the formerly blind man can see other men – but they appear to him like trees walking (i.e. he can’t see very well). Then Jesus acts again and grants the man perfect sight. Since Jesus was and is quite capable of healing completely by simply saying the word – why would He heal in this rather unusual manner.  Once we understand that Christ was performing this sign primarily for the benefit of His disciples the answer becomes obvious. Let’s remember that the language of blindness is often used metaphorically in the Bible to refer to spiritual blindness (e.g. Isaiah 6:9-10). In our passage Jesus is physically healing this man in a manner that points to how He is opening the eyes of His disciples.  By His grace, very soon they will have their spiritual sight opened to be able to see – but they too will see in a rather fuzzy manner.  It won’t be until after the resurrection that their spiritual vision will become completely clear. This most unusual two-stage miracle sets the stage for God opening the minds and hearts of Christ’s disciples to recognize that He is the Messiah – while not yet understanding that He is also God nor grasping that the Messiah came to die. Yet, it is important for us to realize that this is not simply about Christ’s first disciples it is about us. This passage teaches us how we should think about our fellow Christians and about ourselves.  If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you can look back on what you believed 10 years ago and be astonished at how naïve you were. Yet, we can also be surprisingly intolerant of those who hold to the errors that we held just a decade earlier.  Furthermore, none of us is close to arriving.  As the Apostle Paul plainly put it, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).” This leads to an obvious question, why doesn’t Jesus give us instant understanding now just as He frequently performed instantaneous and complete healings? A significant part of the answer is that the LORD wants us to learn to live together in our weakness where our mutual love covers a multitude of sins because we are receiving grace and love from Him. The truth is, throughout the last two thousand years, the Church has developed a pretty miserable track record in this area.  Great harm has been caused in the Church by those who refused to acknowledge that we all currently “see in a mirror dimly”. Read or sing Hymn: 54 “Hallelujah! Raise, O Raise” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 4 December 2016 Sunday, Nov 27 2016 

MVOPC 4 December 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great Is They Faithfulness”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 53:4-5

Hymn of Preparation:  55 “To God Be the Glory”

Old Covenant Reading: Numbers 11:1-15

New Covenant Reading: John 6:1-15

Sermon: Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

Hymn of Response: 642 “Be Thou My Vision”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Til He Come”!

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 32:1-21

NT: Revelation 7:9-17

The Fear of Man and the Fear of the LORD

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #71

Q. What is required in the seventh commandment?
A. The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech and behavior.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (11/28) Read and discuss John 6:1-15. William Hendrickson writes:

Jesus was never at a loss what to do. From the very beginning he knew just how he was going to provide. His heart was filled with love. Did this mob spoil his need for rest and quiet? Were they earthly-minded thrill seekers? Did Jesus know that they were yearning for a political Messiah, and that they would reject the true Messiah? Of course, he knew! Nevertheless, he provided bread for them, as much as they wanted. When one studies this miracle, the question occurs: which virtue shires forth most gloriously; Christ’s love or his power?

Read or sing Hymn 32 “Great Is They Faithfulness” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at the Presbyterian Church of Cape Cod.

Tuesday (11/29) Read and discuss John 5:30-47. How does the Father bear witness to the Son? The first thing that Jesus mentions is the works – that is the miraculous signs – which the Father has given the Son to do. These signs were not subtle or hard to understand. As Nicodemus said to Jesus when he came to Him at night:

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

The religious establishment confronting Jesus was not ignorant of these things either. Remember that their confrontation with Jesus began when he healed a man who had been lame for 38 years and gave him the ability to walk. Not only was that an astonishing miracle, it was specifically a Messianic miracle. As the Prophet Isaiah foretold regarding the Messiah:

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

The Father appointed the miracle of healing this lame man for Jesus precisely as a witness to who His Son was and is. Yet they would not believe. What about you? Do you receive the Father’s witness to Jesus or do you stand with the Jewish religious establishment who hardened their hearts against Him? Read or sing Hymn 55 “To God Be the Glory” Prayer: Please lift up the young people in our congregation and pray that they would grow in their knowledge and love of the LORD.

Wednesday (11/30) Read and discuss Numbers 11:1-15. We all struggle with contentment at different times in our lives. One of the keys to godly contentment is simply a matter of priorities. We are often discontent over the lack of short-term pleasures when God is giving us eternal riches (and using our short-term struggles for our good and His glory). Which is more important? In today’s passage we witness a continuation of startling discontentment on the part of those the LORD led out of Egypt in the Exodus. When the LORD sent Moses to deliver His people they reproached him for Pharaoh’s abusive response to Moses’ words. They complained that God had brought them out into the wilderness so that they would die there. Believe it or not, they actually complained about the food that the LORD was miraculously providing them. Their problem was not food, nor was it the wilderness, their problem was their hard carnal hearts that could not see beyond transient fleshly desires to the fact that the LORD was delivering them out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land. Gary North explains:

They were in a situation in which they were totally dependent on God: the wilderness. It should have been clear to them that God was sustaining them. The natural environment surely wasn’t. Yet they still complained. They though they deserved more blessings. They insisted that the blessings in Egypt had been greater than the blessings in the wilderness. But they had been slaves in Egypt. This fact they ignored. They placed liberty low on their personal scale of values; their memory of leeks and onions was high on that list. So, the absence of the leeks and onions loomed large in their consciousness. Their liberty under Moses required God’s sustaining grace, best manifested in the manna. This sign of their dependence they resented.

Their problem was not the absence of leeks and onions. Their problem was their list of priorities. A man exchanges a bit of this for more of that. God had provided them with water from rocks and manna from the ground, and this had cost them nothing: free grace. They should have responded with thanksgiving. But they could not swallow the manna contentedly because they could not enjoy the blessings of liberty under God contentedly. They placed liberty at the bottom of their list of priorities: they placed food at the top. Paul wrote of this mentality: “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things (Phil. 3:19).”

Prayer: Ask the LORD to sanctify your hopes that they would be centered on Jesus Christ and on the City whose Builder and Maker is God.

Thursday (12/1) Read and discuss Revelation 7:9-17.  Mitchell Reddish writes:

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

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

Read or sing Hymn 642 “Be Thou My Vision” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Friday (12/2) Read and discuss Genesis 32:1-21. Iain Duguid writes:

Do you see the message that God is trying to get across to Jacob? It is that he need not resort to slippery strategies in the face of obstacles, no matter how overwhelming they appear. Instead he should trust in the unseen forces of God. Just as God had protected him against the wrath of Laban, so he could be trusted to protect him against any threat from Esau.

That is a tough lesson for all of us to learn, I suspect. How often do you and I take account of the unseen forces that are working behind the scenes to establish God’s plans? We are easily overwhelmed by the opposition we can see, and we so easily forget the unseen hosts of the Lord. Like Elisha’s servant, we need to have our eyes opened to see past the horses and chariots of our earthly opponent to the horses and chariots of fire that are all around us (2 Kings 6:15-17). If only we really understood, with Elisha, that “those who are with us are more than those who are against us,” or to put it in the language of the apostle John, “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Armed with that assurance, we would be ready to take on the world for God and to overcome. Our natural preference is to have a visible army defending us rather than an invisible one, but such is not the nature of our spiritual experience. Here we live by faith, the substance of things hope for, the assurance of things unseen (Heb. 11:1). So too must Jacob.

Prayer: Please lift up the congregational Christmas party this evening, that we would build each other up as we enjoy a time of laughter and fellowship together.

Saturday (12/3) Read and discuss John 6:1-15. William Weinrich observes:

The Gospel of John alone records the crowd’s reaction to the miracle of the feeding and the filling of the twelve baskets. The Synoptic reports give no hint of this popular response to Jesus’ sign. Robinson notes “the political and paramilitary dimensions of this messianic meal.” He wonders whether the five thousand “men” does not imply that there were only males, and he opints to the parallel in Acts 21:38, where Paul’s Greek frees him from the suspicion that he was the Egyptian who had recently started a revolt and had “led a force of four thousand assassins [the Greek used means “four thousand men who are assassins]. Be that as it may, messianic pretenders in the first century were a constant feature of the political tension between the Jews and their Roman occupiers. That the crow intended to make Jesus “king” is perhaps clarified by the report of Josephus that the country “was a prey to disorder, and the opportunity induced numbers of persons to aspire to sovereignty.” Moreover, the nearness of the feeding miracle to the Passover would have elicited nationalistic feelings associated with the hope that a second Moses would arise to free Israel from its contemporary pharaohs. It may well be that mention of “the prophet” in John 6:14 refers to the expectation that God would raise up a Moses-like prophet to usher in the messianic age (Deut 18:15-18). Moreover, it was thought that a second gift of manna would accompany the coming of the Messiah.

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 27 November 2016 Sunday, Nov 20 2016 

MVOPC 27 November

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: Hebrews 10:19-22

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

Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-19

New Covenant Reading: John 5:30-47

Sermon: Many Witnesses, One Lord

Hymn of Response: 297 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name!”

Confession of Faith:    Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 246 “Man of Sorrows! What a Name”

PM Worship

OT: Psalm 66

NT: 1 Peter 1:3-9

Faith that Endures

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #70

Q. What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?

A. The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (11/21) Read and discuss John 5:30-47. John Calvin writes:

When Christ says that Moses wrote concerning him, this needs no long proof with those who acknowledge that Christ is the end and soul of the Law … I acknowledge, indeed, that there are few in which Moses expressly mentions Christ; but what was the use of the Tabernacle, and sacrifices, and all the ceremonies, but to be figures drawn in conformity to the pattern which was showed to him on the mountain? Thus, without Christ, the whole ministry of Christ vanishes. Again, we see how he continually reminds the people of the covenant of the ancestors which had been ratified in Christ, and even how he makes Christ to be the principal subject and foundation of the covenant. Nor was this unknown to the holy ancestors, who had always their eyes fixed on the Mediator.

Read or sing Hymn 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Please pray for the people of Venezuela as they live through a complete collapse of their economy.

Tuesday (11/22) Read and discuss John 5:19-29. Verses 28 and 29 read:

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Our Lord is making clear that His authority over life and death does not stop at the grave. In Psalm 139 David marvels:

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

Jesus is saying: That is true of Me! I am co-extensive with and perfectly aligned with My Father – because I am in fact God. I have absolute authority over life and death and the Father has entrusted all judgment to Me so that you will honor Me even as you honor Him. Read or sing Hymn 304 “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” Prayer: Give thanks to Jesus that He truly reveals the Father to us.

Wednesday (11/23) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 18:15-19. J.G. McConville writes:

The declaration that Yahweh will raise up a prophet like Moses now comes in direct contrast to the vivid picture of the practices of the other nations. The contrast is achieved by a repetition of the word ‘listen’, which thus makes a connection between vv. 9-14 and 15-19. The promise is made starkly, with the word “prophet” places in the strong initial position. The emphasis is on the prophet. It is by this means that Yahweh will speak, not by others. The immediate qualification of the prophet, as of the king, is that he shall be an Israelite (and therefore free from the taint of foreign religion). Only then is he likened to Moses.

Prayer: Pray for someone who may be struggling with being alone for the holidays.

Thursday (11/24) Read and discuss Psalm 66.  Allen P. Ross writes:

The central theological point of the psalm is that God demonstrates his sovereignty by delivering his people from the bondage of the world. For this the faithful offer their praise in the sanctuary; and because of this the faithful call on the people of the world to acknowledge the great things the LORD has done for his people. The saving acts of God for which the faithful praise are without number; but the greatest acts of deliverance such as the Exodus, stick in the mind of the people of God forever. And because these acts involve victory over other nations, those nations must acknowledge the sovereignty of the LORD. This emphasis in Psalm 66 certainly was valid for ancient Israel; but like the psalms around it there is also an eschatological element here, for the prophets anticipated that the nations would come to faith in the LORD. So today our praise for God’s greatest saving act in which he delivered us from the bondage of sin through the death of Jesus Christ (in fulfillment of the typology of the Exodus) should be presented to the world in the form of a call for them to acknowledge by faith this great Savior.

Read or sing Hymn 355 “We Are God’s People” Prayer: Ask the LORD to bless our nation with peace and a revitalization of biblical Christianity as many Americans set aside this day for giving thanks.

Friday (11/25) Read and discuss 1 Peter 1:3-9. Simon Kistemaker writes:

When we learn that our names are mentioned in a will, we know that we have a share in an inheritance described in that will. Often we do not know the value of that inheritance. We have to wait for the death of the testator and for legal transactions and financial settlements. After the period of waiting is over, however, the value of the inheritance often has diminished. Also, the distribution of the inheritance frequently causes jealousy and strife.

By contrast, our eternal inheritance is a constant source of happiness. From the moment of our salvation we are filled with joy. Granted that we possess our inheritance in principle now, we know that when we leave this earthy scene we receive our full inheritance. We are unable to comprehend the value of this inheritance, for “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Furthermore, we cherish that gift in perfect harmony with all believers in the presence of our living testator, Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to use the mailing from our Outreach Committee to bring new visitors to our church.

Saturday (11/26) Read and discuss John 5:30-47. Speaking of the people and things that witness to who Jesus is, R.C. Sproul writes:

I don’t think the last of this is heard until we go to the book of Acts, to the account of Paul’s address to the philosophers at Mars Hill in Athens. Paul declared, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Paul cited a change in historical circumstances. He said: “There was a time when God was forbearing with your pagan religion and with your ignorance. God was merciful. He was patient. He put up with this for a long time. But now He commands you to repent.” How different Paul’s approach was from modern techniques of evangelism. The one essential of modern evangelism is the invitation. Bu the apostle did not say, “but now God invites all men to repent.” Why? Because you can decline an invitation with impunity, but you cannot refuse God’s command to repent with impunity.

Paul went on to say that God commands repentance “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Paul brought up the resurrection of Christ. Do we want more testimony or evidence than that? We’re not going to get it. God said: “I’ve made it clear to the whole world that this is my only begotten Son, and the days of patience and forbearance are over. Now I command you all to come to Him because I’m going to judge the whole world through Him, and I have already proven Him to be the judge by raising Him from the dead.”

Read or sing Hymn: 184 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 20 November 2016 Sunday, Nov 13 2016 

MVOPC 20 November 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Ephesians 2:13-16

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

Old Covenant Reading: Daniel 7:9-14

New Covenant Reading: John 5:19-29

Sermon: One Who Raises the Dead

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

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

PM Worship

OT: Genesis 31:17-54

NT: 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

Jacob’s Exodus: Part II

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism

Shorter Catechism Q/A #69

Q. What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?

A. The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (11/14) Read and discuss John 5:19-29. Andreas Kostenberger writes:

In the present section Jesus develops further his statement of verse 17, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” In particular, Jesus defends himself against the following two charges: (1) he is a Sabbath-breaker; (2) he is blaspheming, because he claims a unique, equal relationship with God (v. 18). What is Jesus’ line of defense?

Essentially, he elaborates on the nature of his relationship with God the Father. Jesus claims that everything he (the Son) does he is able to do only because he has seen the Father do it first. This “apprenticeship analogy” may well be rooted in Jesus’ own earthly experience of learning the trade of carpentry from his adoptive father Joseph. …

Jesus thus identifies his “work” with that of his Father, that is, God. God’s work did not cease at creation, Jesus insists; he contuse to be active; and Jesus himself co-labors with his Father (5:17). Doing God’s work is Jesus’ highest priority. But how does that relate to Jesus’ healing a man on a Sabbath? The answer is this: the one who created the Sabbath has authority over it; he determines its purpose, its use, and its limitations.

Read or sing Hymn 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Please pray for the healing of our nation after our very divisive election.

Tuesday (11/15) Read and discuss John 5:1-18. Verse 17 reads:

But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

It is helpful to know that there had been a long-running debate among the Pharisees over the question: “Does God keep the Law?” On the one hand, if the Law is holy, just, and good it would seem natural that the Lord of Glory – who is entirely Holy – would therefore keep the Law perfectly. But there was an obvious problem: If God completely rested on the Sabbath day the entire Universe would go out of existence. Every Rabbi knew that the LORD’s providential care for creation and for His people never ceased. “God was active all the time, on Sabbath days as much as on ordinary days (F.F. Bruce).” So rather than explain to the religious establishment that they were missing the whole point of the Sabbath day – something that He will do elsewhere – Jesus says:

“My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

This must have been shockingly and deeply offensive to those who heard Him. It is true that Rabbis had come up with all manner of explanations for how God could both be eternally at rest – in the eternal Sabbath, yet always working; but one thing all these explanations had in common was that they only work for God. Jesus was not claiming to be the son of God in the way that all of Israel was known as God’s Son. He was not claiming to be the son of God in the way that all the anointed kings of Israel were said to be “sons of God.” Jesus was claiming to be none other than God the Son, the eternal God come in the flesh. This would be utter blasphemy; indeed, one of the worst forms of blasphemy – for a mere man to make himself equal with God … it would be utterly blasphemy except that it is entirely true. And because it is true, instead of being blasphemy, the words of Jesus stand as part of the greatest news that has ever been told. Jesus is our Immanuel. God for us and God with us. Read or sing Hymn 304 “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” Prayer: Give thanks that, instead of remaining off at a distance, our LORD delights to dwell in the midst of His people.

Wednesday (11/16) Read and discuss Daniel 7:9-14. Andrew Steadman writes:

Daniel’s vision climaxes with the installation of the Son of Man as eternal king. The vision is essentially ended with 7:14. Therefore, at this point, it is appropriate to compare the enthronement of the son of Man in Daniel 7 with other passages in the OT that speak of the enthronement of the Messiah.

Two psalms are particularly relevant, and they follow much the same pattern as Daniel’s vision: Psalms 2 and 110. Both of these psalms speak of the decree of God concerning Messiah’s installation as King. While not every element in Daniel is present in these two psalms nor is every element in the psalms present in Daniel, these three passages present complementary pictures of the enthronement of the Messiah. Jesus explicitly connects Psalm 110 and Daniel 7 in Matthew 26:64 and Mark 14:62. …

One major variation appears in Daniel 7: the Messiah is not pictured as ruling until after the beasts are shorn of their power, whereas in these two psalms the Messiah’s reign begins the process of defeating the nations. However, the difference Is one of emphasis. The psalms wish to emphasize that the Messiah’s reign with God has already begun. Daniel, by contrast, is emphasizing the eschatological dimensions of the kingdom that that the saints will inherit.

The same two themes can be found in the NT. They correspond to the “now” but “not yet” tension that characterizes all biblical eschatology. Jesus rules already now, and his kingdom of grace is now present among his people. Yet Jesus has not yet returned in power. At some time in the future, he will come on the clouds of heaven to reign in power and glory. His people still on earth look forward to inheriting the kingdom in the future when they finally shall be delivered from all suffering and persecution.

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

Thursday (11/17) Read and discuss 2 Corinthians 4:7-18.  John Piper writes:

The renewing of his heart comes from something very strange: it comes from looking at what he can’t see. … This is Paul’s way of not losing heart: looking at what you can’t see. What did he see? A few verses later in 2 Corinthians 5:7, he says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” This doesn’t mean that he leaps into the dark without evidence of what’s there. It means that the most precious and important realities in the world are beyond our physical senses. We “look” at these unseen things through the gospel. By the grace of God we see what Paul called “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). We strengthen our hearts – we renew our courage – by fixing our gaze on the invisible, objective truth that we see in the testimony of those who saw Christ face to face.

Read or sing Hymn 355 “We Are God’s People” Prayer: Please pray for our Officer Training as the men meet tonight and Saturday morning.

Friday (11/18) Read and discuss Genesis 31:17-54. Iain Duguid writes:

Against all the odds, however, in spite of the trickery of Jacob and the trickery of Laban, they ultimately departed from one another in peace, establishing a covenant between them. The making of this covenant marks a change in their relationship. They were no longer employer and employee, patron and client, but now were two equals.

Yet there is also something uneven about the way that covenant is formulated. Laban framed it in the form of his religious understanding, swearing by the God (or gods) of Abraham and the God (or gods) of Nahor. Laban thought of these authorities as distinct and plural gods, as the plural verb form in the Hebrew shows. It seems that Laban’s gods were the gods of the way out there and the way back when. He swore, if you like, by Grandma and Grandpa’s gods, the generic gods of his culture. Jacob, however, took his oath not in the name of the gods of Abraham’s father but the God of Abraham’s son, Isaac (Gen 31:53), the God of his experience at Bethel, the God who had been watching over him the whole time (Gen. 31:42).

Perhaps this God was not yet fully the God of Jacob. Jacob’s experience of God was not yet complete. But he at least recognized him as the God who has intervened in history in a real way. He followed the God who had called Abraham to leave his country and go to the Promised Land, who had chosen Isaac to carry that promise, and who had called Jacob to bear that promised blessing and had been with him on his journey. That calling was not something to be borne lightly, nor was that relationship one of chummy equality. This God is an awesome God; hence the appropriateness of the name the Fear of Isaac. This is a God who is capable of demanding the greatest sacrifice of all, the sacrifice of a beloved only son. Jacob’s awareness of God was a far more personal experience than that of his uncle Laban.

Prayer: Please lift up the young people of our congregation.

Saturday (11/19) Read and discuss John 5:19-29. R.C. Sproul writes:

Jesus said, “the Father judges no one” (v. 22a). Please do not read this verse and conclude that there is no judgment. Jesus did not say that. He went on to explain that the Father “has committed all judgment to the Son” (v. 22b). The Father doesn’t judge because He has delegated the task of judging the world to the Son.

Sobering words follow. Jesus declared that the Father delegated the task of judging to the Son so that “all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (v. 23). Western culture tells people they can believe in anything they want to believe in, that we all worship the same God, that we can come to God by any means we choose, and that we can reject Jesus and still have the Father. No, we cannot honor the Father without honoring the Son, and the Father has appointed a day when He will judge the world by the One whom He has appointed to be the Judge, who is Christ (Acts 17:31). So those who do not honor Christ fail to honor the Judge whom God has appointed.

[What Jesus said next to the Jewish leaders must have shocked them.] He was on trial, as it were, but He said to them: “You’re talking to the judge. You’re talking to the Lord of the Sabbath. You’re talking to the One before whom you will stand in judgment. You’re talking to the One to whom the Father has given the power of life in Himself. If you won’t honor Me, you cannot honor the Father.”

Read or sing Hymn: 184 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

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