Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 11 October 2015 Sunday, Oct 4 2015 

MVOPC 11 October 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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: Galatians 2:20

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

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 16:1-11

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 6:9-12

Sermon: Inherit the Promises

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

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 1:1-25

NT: 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

The LORD He is God!

Adult Sunday School: Interpreting the Moral Law: Part II

Shorter Catechism Q/A #12

QWhat special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created?

A. When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (10/5) Read and discuss Hebrews 6:9-12. N.T. Wright tells the following story:

Sir Francis Drake was one of the many Englishmen who became famous during the reign of Elizabeth I. He sailed round the world, crossed the Atlantic many times, was involved in numerous sea battles in various parts of the world, was twice a member of parliament, and perhaps most famously, defeated the Spanish armada when it came to attack England in 1588. There are many well-known stories about him: how he insisted on finishing a game of bowls even though the armada was in sight; how he spread his cloak over a muddy puddles so that the queen could walk over it without getting her feet wet; how he once tried to claim California as a British possession.

No so well known, perhaps, but significant in revealing one of the secrets of his life, filled as it was with remarkable achievements, is a prayer he wrote which is still in frequent use in churches today. It sums up more or less exactly the message of the passage of the middle of Hebrews 6:

O LORD God, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavor any great matter, grant us also to know that it is not the beginning, but the continuing of the same, until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true glory; through Him who for the finishing of thy work laid down His life for us, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen

What Drake said there about great works which had to be attempted – he might have been thinking of another long and dangerous sea voyage, or the numerous tasks he undertook to improve the lot of the people living in south-west England – Hebrews says about the entire enterprise of living as a Christian. What matters is not so much the beginning, important thought that obviously is, but continuing, carrying on until the thing is thoroughly finished.

Read or sing Hymn 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Please pray for the stated meeting of our Presbytery which begins in two weeks and all the preparations that are currently underway.

Tuesday (10/6) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 4:32-40. Americans love great experiences. We spend enormous amounts of time and money pursuing special experiences while on vacation. Of course, some of the most dramatic experiences of our lives caught us entirely be surprise. Yet, if we consider the three or four most striking experiences that we’ve ever had – we would have to admit that they pale in comparison to what Moses is describing in these verses. Imagine what it must have been like to walk through the Red Sea on dry land only to witness the Egyptian army drowning behind you. Imagine what it would have been like to hear the LORD Himself thunder out of the cloud of fire. Or imagine eating food (manna) that was sent down from heaven day-after-day. These events, and many others, were simply extraordinary. But what did the LORD do these things? In the twentieth century it has become increasingly common to place the focus on Israel’s liberation as though God was pointing to the political liberation of all mankind. Yet, this is not what the passage actually says. Instead we read a twofold purpose: (1) First, these things were revealed so that we would know that the LORD alone is God and also so that we would know something of His power and character; (2) Second, these things were revealed so that we would obey His commandments. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would gather new people into this congregation who would benefit by becoming a part of this particular local church family.

Wednesday (10/7) Read and discuss Psalm 16:1-11. This Psalm can seem difficult to interpret until we see how David’s prophesy about the resurrection of the Messiah undergirds the confidence he has in both this life and the life to come. This Psalm can be outlined like this:

  1. 1-2: David’s Relationship to God.
  2. 3-4 The Immediate Result of David’s Relationship with God.
  3. 5-9 David’s Present Blessings
  4. 10-11 David’s Future Hope

Where interpreters tend to get tripped up is in seeing how verses 10-11 relate to the rest of the Psalm. Some think that, since verses 1-9 relate to David’s personal experiences, verses 10-11 must focus on David’s personal experiences as well. But the Apostles Peter and Paul both quote verse 10 and both state that it applies specifically to Jesus and not to David (Acts 2:25-31; 13:35-36). Other interpreters wrongly assume that because verse 10 applies to Jesus that the whole Psalm must also be about him and not about David. While this is a more plausible interpretation it is probably better to see the Psalm as arising out of David’s own experience of being abandoned by men with David rejoicing that He will never be abandoned by His Lord. How does the idea that the Psalm arises out of David’s own abandonment fit together with the truth that verse 10 is a prophesy about Jesus? The answer is to recognize that David’s confidence for the future was not based upon God’s unmediated relationship with David but upon the mediated relationship that David had with God through the LORD’s Messiah. David looked forward (as we look back) to the coming Messiah who would fight Satan, sin, and death on his behalf. The vindication of the Messiah through the resurrection would therefore be David’s vindication as well. In this life David was guided by God (v. 7), guarded by God (v. 8), and gladdened by God (v. 9). All of this rested on the simple confidence He had that Jesus would be triumphant. As those who live on this side of the empty tomb we should be able to say with even greater confidence: “Jesus has won! Lord, You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Read or sing Hymn 94 “How Firm a Foundation” Prayer: Give thanks for Christ’s victor and the guarantee of our ultimate victory in Him.

Thursday (10/8) Read and discuss Genesis 1:1-25. Genesis 1 is about God. That may not be obvious from all the debates regarding the length of the days of creation in Genesis 1, but if we read Genesis 1 through the eyes of the Exodus generation we will see that it is primarily a revelation of who God is. As the Israelites, and the mixed multitude with them, were leaving Egypt they were not debating about the age of the earth or about how long it took God to create the world. But they were journeying to a strange land and wondering about their future there. All the other Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern cultures were polytheistic and undoubtedly many of the Israelites would have imbibed some of that understanding of the way the world works – even if they did not worship these so-called gods. Against this backdrop, Genesis 1:1 begins with a statement of God’s absolute and exhaustive sovereignty for He created everything that exists (creation ex nihilo). The LORD simply speaks and all of creation is subject to His decrees. This has continuing ramifications throughout world history. There are many people, including many Christians, who think that the LORD only makes claims on those who claim to be His followers. We have even seen the strange idea develop in evangelicalism of people “making Jesus Lord.” But what Genesis 1:1 reminds us of is that since God is the creator of all things and all people – all people owe Him absolute and unswerving loyalty. This exhaustive sovereignty of God is a great comfort to those who trust Him. For the Israelites, it meant that Yahweh was sovereign over the land that they were going too and therefore that He was entirely able to deliver the Promised Land into their hands. The same is true of us. The details of the future are unknown to each of us, but our Lord holds that future in His hands and is both willing and able to deliver on every promise He has ever made. Read or sing Hymn 92 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus is working all things together for the good of those who love Him.

Friday (10/9) Read and discuss 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. Scott Hafemann writes:

From Paul’s perspective, God’s power and glory are not abstract theological postulates, but realities to be experienced. Conversion and transformation are brought about not by putting two and two together and making the right decision, but by an encounter with the living God. Men and women are created anew when they come face to face with the presence of God’s Spirit. Our attempts to psychologize Paul’s thought or to relegate it to the realm of feelings are not a reflection of Paul’s perspective, but a reaction to the poverty of our own knowledge of God.

Thus, in drawing out the contemporary significance of Paul’s theocentric worldview, we need to keep in focus the ways in which Paul sees the glory of God in Christ at work among the church. Otherwise, it is simply too easy to become enamored with the false glory of the health and wealth gospel. In our day and age, as in Paul’s, the moral transformation into God’s character pictured in 3:18 and the endurance in the midst of adversity modeled in 4:1-8 seem too mundane to be miraculous. To consider health more important than holiness, however, is to slight God himself and his work in bringing about the new creation in our midst. For Paul, the reality of the resurrection is already being inaugurated in the conversion of believers into the body of Christ.

As a result, the power of Christ in establishing his reign as the Son of God is already taking hold in the lives of believers, who, as children of God, wage war against the flesh. And the return of Christ will consummate God’s kingdom with the resurrection of those who are owned by God, as signified by the down payment of the sanctifying Spirit in their lives. We thus live in the overlapping of the ages (the kingdom is here, but not yet here in all its fullness). The life of faith therefore takes place within the context of the suffering of God’s people, who, being “saved in hope” (Rom. 8:17-25), live and endure by the power of the Spirit while they await the future consummation.

In view of this emphasis on growth in holiness and the endurance of faith as the present demonstration of God’s power, there is a twofold application of Paul’s thought to the experience of Christians in general. (1) Paul’s portrayal of his apostolic ministry calls us to accept his authority and embodiment of the gospel as legitimate. There is a dangerous tendency among Christians to pick and choose their religious authorities according to their likes and dislikes. For many today, Paul is no longer popular. Nonetheless, his claim to authority throughout these chapters is unmistakable. To reject his person and message is to reject the gospel of Christ. As challenging as Paul’s message may be, we turn away from it at our own peril.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to stretch you and cause you to grow in your Christian life.

Saturday (10/10) Read and discuss Hebrews 6:9-12. Tom Schreiner writes:

The author [of Hebrew] mixes together encouragement and rebuke in the letter. Believers need warnings and admonitions to remain faithful, but at the same time they also need encouragement. The readers are reminded that their obedience is not trivial or forgettable. God notices what they do in their everyday lives. He knows whether they truly love his name, and that love is expressed in service for the saints. All believers should continue such love and service to the end. The Christian life is a journey that requires patience and continued faith. The reward of eternal life will not be given to those who drop out of the race. Retribution will be meted out for those who cease loving God and fellow believers. Hence we need to be provoked to be diligent until the final day. We must not give in to spiritual torpor. The flames of spiritual life should be fanned by trusting the promises of God.

Read or sing Hymn: 528 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 4 October 2015 Sunday, Sep 27 2015 

MVOPC 4 October 2015 – Rev. Stephen Michaud Preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 360 “When in His Might the LORD”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Hymn of Preparation: 551 “How Blest is He Whose Trespass”

Old Covenant Reading:  Isaiah 61:1-3

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 5:1-4

Sermon: Loud Cries and Tears

Hymn of Response: 552 “From out of the Depths I Cry, O LORD, to Thee”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 518 “Christ, of All My Hopes the Ground”

PM Worship: Silas Schreyack Teaching

Adult Sunday School: Jason Donald Teaching: War of Words

Shorter Catechism Q/A #11

Q. That are God’s works of providence?

A. God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (9/28) Read and discuss Matthew 5:1-4. Sinclair Fergusson writes:

Through the prophet Isaiah, the LORD had promised comfort (strength, vitality) to His people in exile. The second half of that prophecy envisages God’s people in captivity to the kingdom of this world. It pictures God bringing about a new exodus of His people and leading them back into the Promised Land. And so it begins, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people” (words so familiar from Handel’s “Messiah”).

In Isaiah 61:1-3 (the entire passage seems to lie behind the Beatitudes), this promise reaches its climax in the words of the coming Messiah:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. … to bind up the brokenhearted, … to comfort those who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (italics added)

These words were fulfilled in Jesus. He read them in the synagogue in Nazareth, and added, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:`16-21). The blessings of the new exodus are ours in Christ.

Read or sing Hymn 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Give thanks that you have been delivered in principle, and will surely be delivered in fact, because you are united with Christ by faith.

Tuesday (9/29) Read and discuss Matthew 5:1-3. James Montgomery Boice writes;

There must be an emptying of a person before there can be a filling by God. There must be a true poverty of spirit. But this is unnatural to man, and therefore, impossible. We must, therefore, add that nothing but a direct confrontation with the holy, just, and loving God will produce it.

You see, it is never possible to create a true poverty of spirit by looking within or by looking around at other people. The human heart is corrupt. And because of it you will always latch upon someone who is worse in some respect than yourself. You will find someone who is prouder than you are, and although you may still be quite proud you will congratulate yourself on being humble. You will find someone who has strong fits of temper, and although you too have a temper you will congratulate yourself on being more moderate in your temper than he. So it will go with all the failings that make you less perfect than Jesus Christ and therefore the fit object of His mercy and salvation.

And yet, you need not look to other men for the basis of a self-evaluation. You may look to God as you see Him reflected in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. There you will learn a true humility, … You will say as Isaiah did when he saw God, “Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isa. 6:5). C.S. Lewis once wrote of this experience, “Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good – above all, that we are better than someone else – I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether (Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 96, 97).”

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would grant you the humility of self-forgetfulness so that you would focus on others.

Wednesday (9/30) Read and discuss Isaiah 61:1-11. Alec Motyer writes:

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

Read or sing Hymn 94 “How Firm a Foundation” Prayer: Please pray for the Syrian refugees.

Thursday (10/1) Read and discuss 2 Kings 6:24-33.  J.B. Phillips wrote a book with one of the most memorable titles of all time: Your God is Too Small. This is a message that Americans need to take to heart because the majority of Americans today are pagans.  That may sound like an outlandish assertion. Almost no one in the U.S. describes themselves as being pagan.  Furthermore, if you have the opportunity to travel outside the U.S. long enough, someone will  inevitably ask you: “How could a Christian county like the U.S. do such-and-such?” So which is it? Is America a Christian or a pagan nation? Two things are at the heart of all pagan religions: (1) First, pagan religions view god or the gods as being powerful but limited. They don’t recognize that the Living God spoke the universe into existence, parted the Red Sea, crushed Satan on the cross, and will one day judge the living and the dead. (2) Second, pagan religion revolves around the concept of quid pro quo rather than grace. If the worshipper does the right religious activity to “honor” the so-called god, than that god was supposed to bless his or her worshipper with fertility, wealth, protection, etc … As we turn to today’s passage, it doesn’t surprise us that Ben Hadad would be a pagan – after all, he was the king of Syria. Yet, we shouldn’t let Ben Hadad off the hook too easily. He had the witness that God leaves to all men through creation. He had sent his chief General, Naaman, off to Israel as a leper and he had received him back with skin as healthy as that of a young boy (and Naaman was giving all the glory to Yahweh). Furthermore, when Ben Hadad sent his army to capture Elisha – Yahweh had delivered that army into the hands of Israel and then had mercifully set it free. Ben Hadad didn’t lack for evidence of the true God, but in the hardness of his heart he exchanged the truth for a lie. What is surprising in this passage is that the people of Israel and Israel’s king were acting like pagans as well.  Note well that the king of Israel was wearing sackcloth as an outward sign of repentance – but when things didn’t get better, on his timetable, he was ready to give up on the LORD and to remove the head from the man of God.  It is as though he were saying: “I tried repentance, and it didn’t work!”  Of course this means that the king hadn’t repented at all. Repentance is turning from doing things your way to doing them God’s way – and therefore we can set no preconceived temporal benefits that we somehow must receive for doing so.  This lead us back to the scary assertion about most Americans being pagans. Is it not the case that most Americans think that religion is a good thing so long as it meets your felt-needs? But this idea is the very heart of paganism. True Christians are willing to sing with Martin Luther: “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still. His Kingdom is forever!” What causes the Christian to be able to do this while the pagan doesn’t. By God’s grace the Christian has come to know God and have a sense of His greatness. Read or sing Hymn 92 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Island Pond Baptist Church as they look for a new pastor.

Friday (10/2) Read and discuss 2 Kings 7:1-20. This passage is about grace and faith. The LORD dramatically delivered the besieged city of Samaria, but how would people appropriate that divine gift. Just before the deliverance came, Elisha told the king’s messenger that there would be dramatic relief from their suffering in just twenty-four hours. Dale Ralph Davis helpfully observes:

But it was still too much for the royal aide to believe. Hence he was given a word of judgment (v. 2) that excluded him from the enjoyment of the promise. Note how the Old Testament expects and demands faith (just like the New). But it’s crucial to note what sort of faith it demands. It requires that we believe what Yahweh has promised. We are not called to have some general faith that God will do unheard of, bizarre, or unlikely things – as though if we only squeeze our eyes shut, clasp our hands tight, and pump up enough faith to believe, then God will do whatever we want. You may want to believe that God will drop a twelve-foot long, four foot wide pickle on your church wiener roast, along with a twenty-gallon pot of ketchup. But I doubt he’ll do it, not because God doesn’t seem to flaunt pickles on steroids but because he hasn’t promised to supply strange condiments for your church picnic. But if God promises deliverance, however wild it may seem, we are required to believe it. We must believe what Yahweh says no matter how unlikely.

As our Confession of Faith puts it:

  1. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.
  2. By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.
  3. This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would lead you to trust Him more and more.

Saturday (10/3) Read and discuss Matthew 5:1-4. Sinclair Fergusson writes:

Our mourning over sin involves our sense of guilt and shame, our experience of regret and separation from God. But Jesus Christ is the One who lifts up the heads o His people (Psalm 3:3). He comes to us in His grace and power, puts His hand under our chin and says, “Lift up your eyes, sorrowing one; look on Me. I am the Resurrection and the Life. In Me there is forgiveness and pardon. Through Me you are being brought into fellowship with the Father. You need not carry the burden of the mourning through life, hoping against hope that one day it will be removed. No! I have taken that burden. There is comfort now. Put aside the garments of mourning. Rejoice! Be comforted!”

Jesus illustrated this beatitude in his parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Jesus pictured both men at prayer. The Pharisee spoke publicly and proudly of his achievements. No mourning for him! By contrast, the tax collector was too ashamed to lift up his eyes to Heaven. He stood at a distance from everyone else, beat his breast, and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Jesus said the tax collector went home justified before God.

Can you imagine the stunned silence among the hearers? Jesus had obviously bungled the conclusion of His story.

On the contrary! He was speaking to “some who were confident in their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else” (Luke 18:9). Jesus was teaching that the man who mourns over his sin – contrary to all expectation – is not condemned but pardoned. That is blessedness beyond anyone’s expectation.

Read or sing Hymn: 528 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 27 September 2015 Sunday, Sep 20 2015 

MVOPC 27 September 2015 – Rev. Stephen Michaud Preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 57 “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah, O My Soul”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

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

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 1:1-6

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 5:1-3

Sermon: Rich Poverty

Hymn of Response: 144 “Father of Mercies, in Your Word”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 279 “Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands”

PM Worship:

OT: Psalm 9

NT: 2 Peter 3

Adult Sunday School: Greg Montemurro Teaching

Shorter Catechism Q/A #10

Q. How did God create man?
A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (10/5) Read and discuss Matthew 5:1-3. John Stott writes:

To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty, indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before God. For we are sinners, under the holy wrath of God, and deserving nothing but the judgment of God. We have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to buy the favor of heaven.

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to the cross I cling;

Naked, come to thee for dress;

Helpless, look to thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly;

Wash me, Savior, or I die.

This is the language of the poor in spirit. We do not belong anywhere except alongside the publican in Jesus’ parable, crying out with downcast eyes, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ As Calvin wrote: ‘He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God, is poor in spirit.

To such, and only to such, the kingdom of God is given. For God’s rule which brings salvation is a gift as absolutely free as it is utterly undeserved. It has to be received with the dependent humility of a little child. Thus, right at the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contradicted all human judgments and all nationalistic expectations of the kingdom of God. The kingdom is given to the poor, not the rich; the feeble, not the mighty; to little children humble enough to accept it, not to soldiers who boast that they can attain it by their own prowess. In our Lord’s own day it was not the Pharisees who entered the kingdom, who thought they were rich, so rich in merit that they thanked God for their attainments; nor the Zealots who dreamed of establishing the kingdom by blood and sword; but publicans and prostitutes, the rejects of society, who knew they were so poor they could offer nothing and achieve nothing. All they could do was to cry to God for mercy; and he heard their cry.

Read or sing Hymn 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters in the war torn nation of Syria.

Tuesday (10/6) Read and discuss Hebrews 6:1-8. Today’s passage is commonly raised in debates around whether or not genuine believers can lose their salvation. We should begin by acknowledging that Hebrews is one of the more difficult books in the New Testament to interpret and this passage is one of the most contested passages in the book of Hebrews. What then is the responsible thing to do? Sometimes, when we can’t tell with certainty what a passage is teaching, it can be helpful to rule out what a passage is not teaching. Given that many passages in the Bible seem to forcefully present the idea that genuine believers will never lose their salvation we should rule out the possibility that this passage is teaching that they can. Let me give two examples. In John chapter 10 Jesus says:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  30 I and the Father are one.”

Jesus establishes the security of believers in the love and power of both Himself and His heavenly Father. Furthermore, Jesus plainly declares: “and they will never perish.” It is hard to see how our Lord could have been any plainer. Similarly, in Romans chapter 8 Paul writes:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

This is commonly called “the golden chain of salvation” because the logic of the passage is that the chain is never broken. Everyone God foreknows He predestines. Everyone God predestines He also calls and so on. Nobody makes it all the way down to being justified only to lose their salvation and not be glorified. In fact, did you notice what Paul says about our predestination? He writes:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, …

That is, God didn’t simply predestine us to the beginning of our salvation but to the end of it – when we would be fully conformed to the likeness of Christ. Given that the Bible has many passages like this that seem to strongly teach that genuine believers cannot lose their salvation it would be a mistake to try and interpret a difficult passage like Hebrews 6 to teach that they can. Furthermore, trying to understand Hebrews 6 verses 4 through 7 as though they were teaching that genuine believers could lose their salvation doesn’t even fit with the rest of the book of Hebrews. The rest of Hebrews 6 goes on to say in verse 9: “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things- things that belong to salvation.” And in verse 11 the readers are encourage as part of their move to spiritual maturity to gain “the full assurance of hope until the end.” The warnings of the present passage, instead of warning that genuine believers can lose their salvation, are intended to serve the purpose of leading the readers to the place of full assurance that they are and ever will be children of the Living God. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would lead you and your loved ones to a “full assurance of the hope until the end.”

Wednesday (10/7) Read and discuss Psalm 1:1-6. The first Psalm is so important to the Christian life that it is well worth memorizing so that you can meditate upon it throughout the day. Allen P. Ross explains the central message of the psalm:

By drawing a contrast between the righteous and the ungodly, the psalmist instructs believers not to live the way the world lives, not to take spiritual, moral, or ethical advice from unbelievers, and not to join them in their profane enterprises; rather, believers must study the word of God in order to live an untarnished and productive life for God, and that life will be evidence of a living faith that will see them through the judgment, when God judges the wicked. …

For believers, the application is obvious: they must spend time meditating on God’s word so that they may live a distinct and productive spiritual life for God, and in the process find assurance that God knows them and will preserved them through the judgment. To unbelievers the message is urgent: they must come to faith in the Lord, because if they live their lives without faith in him or his word, not even their good deeds will count and they will not survive the judgment to come.

Read or sing Hymn 94 “How Firm a Foundation” Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you a deeper hunger for His word that you would more consistently meditate upon His word throughout the day.

Thursday (10/8) Read and discuss Psalm 9. Allen P. Ross writes:

The psalm in many ways focuses on God’s sovereign rule over the affairs of men. The psalmist thinks of his own experience of vindication when God judged the wicked, and from there he looks forward to what it all prefigures, a great and final judgment to come. The LORD is the champion of the weak and afflicted who trust in him, and he will one day bring justice into the world by putting the oppressors in their place. Their place will be Sheol, their native element.

The message of the psalm is timeless. It may be worded as follows: Because God has demonstrated that he is the righteous judge of the world, believers may trust in him now for protection from the wicked and confidently pray for the final vindication in the judgment to come.

There are two ways this psalm may be directed. One is that people hearing this psalm may have to acknowledge that they are part of those who are being prayed against in this psalm – they may have a share in the oppression of others, either on a small scale or by being part of powerful nations. Passages such as this should inspire believers to relieve the suffering and the affliction of others when they have the opportunity to do so.

The other way this Psalm may be directed is the straight-forward meaning of the text. Any individual believers who are oppressed by wickedness in high or low places will find strength and comfort from this psalm to pray for relief and vindication. They will certainly understand the plight of others who have been afflicted, and join in their ancient prayer, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”

Read or sing Hymn 92 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” Prayer: Please pray for the Sunday school teachers in our congregation.

Friday (10/9) Read and discuss 2 Peter 3:1-13. Denial is not only a river that runs through Egypt – it is one of the most popular ways by which people deal with unpleasant realities. Those who refuse to turn from their rebellion against God naturally seek to deny the severe consequences of their continued rebellion.  So they mock the followers of Christ: “You Christians talk of Jesus coming again, but since the creation of the world everything keeps going along exactly as it always has.” Note well that this is deliberate ignorance on the part of unbelievers. According to verse 5 they are suppressing the twin truths that God created the world by His word and once destroyed it in the days of Noah by a universal flood. As believers, we can also rejoice in additional truths about Christ’s Second Coming. First, the reason for the apparent delay in His return is simply a revelation of Christ’s patience and longsuffering. The day of salvation is not yet in the past. We can still pray and witness for the sake of the salvation of loved ones and strangers alike. Secondly, we do not need to look away from the Day of Judgment. Clothed in Christ’s righteousness, “we are waiting for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” Prayer: Please pray for the Rev. Stephen Michaud who will preaching in our congregation the next two Sunday mornings.

Saturday (10/10) Read and discuss Matthew 5:1-3. Michael Wilkins writes:

The “poor” are those who have encountered unfortunate circumstances from an economic point of view, but also persons who are spiritually and emotionally oppressed, disillusioned, and in need of God’s help. Those who have experienced the harsh side of life in which deprivation and hunger are their regular lot have no resources of their own to make anything of their lives. This also includes those who recognize that they can produce no spiritual or religious self-help before God. They are spiritually bankrupt. We hear this in the psalmist as he cries out in Psalm 4o:17:

Yet I am poor and needy,

   May the Lord think of me,

You are my help and my deliverer,

   O my God, do not delay.

This attitude of humility in the harsh realities of life makes a person open to receive the blessings of the kingdom of heaven.

… “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of God belongs to those who know they have no resources, material or spiritual, to help themselves before God. These are the “poor” to whom Jesus has come to announce “good news” (11:5) and to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs. This first beatitude undercuts the predominant worldview that assumes that material blessings are a sign of God’s approval in one’s life and that they automatically flow from one’s spiritual blessings. Instead, Jesus teaches that the norm of the kingdom of heaven is spiritual bankruptcy, unlike the spiritual self-sufficiency that was characteristic of the religious leaders. Jesus’ disciples will experience their most complete personal fulfillment as they draw on the resources of the kingdom of heaven to guide their lives.

Read or sing Hymn: 528 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 20 September 2015 Monday, Sep 14 2015 

MVOPC 20 September 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 10:19-22

Hymn of Preparation: 94 “How Firm a Foundation”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 65:1-13

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 6:1-8

Sermon: No Way Back

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

Diaconal Offering

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 528 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”

PM Worship:

OT: Isaiah 55:1-13

NT: Revelation 22:8-21

Come, Lord Jesus!

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Shorter Catechism Q/A #9

QWhat is the work of creation?

A. The work of creation is God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (9/14) Read and discuss Hebrews 6:1-8. N.T. Wright comments:

When [the author of Hebrews] speaks of ‘falling away’, and of ‘crucifying God’s son all over again’, the writer seems to have in mind people who have belonged to the church, who have taken part in its common life, but who then decide it isn’t for them, abandon their membership, and join in the general public contempt for the faith. This raises an interesting question, which the writer doesn’t pursue here: is it possible first to become a genuine Christian and then to lose everything after all? To this question Paul, in Romans 5-8 gives the emphatic answer ‘No!’, and advances detailed arguments to prove the point. In the present passage the writer quickly goes on to say that he doesn’t think his readers come into the category he’s describing, but he doesn’t unpack the wider theological question. The normal way of holding what he says together with what Paul and other imply is that the people described in verses 4 and 5 are people who have become church members, and have felt the power of the gospel and the life that results from it through sharing the common life of Christian fellowship, but who have never really made it their own, deep down inside. When he says in 12:15, ‘Take care that nobody lacks God’s grace,’ he seems to envisage such a category of people. But he doesn’t press the point. Nor should we press him for answers to questions he wasn’t asking.

We should, rather, let him pose his sharp and uncomfortable question directly to us. Are we – or are some within our Christian fellowship – in danger of turning our backs on the faith, and joining in the general tendency gospel and the church? Are we lining up with those who hold firm to their original faith and hope, or with those who, like Peter by the charcoal fire, are ready to deny that they have anything to do with Jesus?

Read or sing Hymn 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Please pray for the refugees who are fleeing Syria.

Tuesday (9/15) Read and discuss Hebrews 5:11-14. The pursuit of spiritual maturity requires sustained effort from each and every one of us. Consider the blessed man of Psalm 1: There we read:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;  2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

That isn’t easy or automatic. It is hard to separate ourselves from the scoffers when everything in us is crying out that we want to belong. And note when the blessed man meditates on the word of God. He doesn’t have merely a casual familiarity with some of the Bible’s stories. “His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The Bible in its main message is a book that most Christians can understand for themselves if they simply read it, apply it, and avail themselves to tools like the notes in a good study Bible that explain difficult terms and help us bridge the gaps between the modern world and the ancient cultures in which God’s word was originally given. That said, the Bible is not a book that you can just pick up from time-to-time, read for 15 minutes, and think that you are going to understand its message let alone have the wisdom to apply it to your life. The Bible consistently assumes that believers will devote themselves to regularly hearing God’s word and then chewing on what we have heard throughout the day. Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Pilgrim Presbyterian Church in Dover, NH.

Wednesday (9/16) Read and discuss Psalm 65:1-13. Coming home is an idea that evokes a sense of security and warmth in most of us. This is also true of our relationship with the LORD. Gerald Wilson comments:

Perhaps one of the most beautiful images used in the psalms is the joyous hope of “dwelling” in the house of God. To experience the hospitality of Yahweh as host was the ultimate in luxury and honor and provided a sense of security as well. It is unlikely that all these references suggest the actual possibility of pilgrims “dwelling in the house of God.” More likely the metaphor expresses the longing of the passionate worshipper for the nearness of god and the sustaining practices of worship associated with the Temple.

Perhaps the longing cry of Psalm 84:10 best captures the urgency of this desire: “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” The pilgrim having experienced the glory of the Temple, the restoration of its worship, and the nearness of God experienced in its precincts, now faces the long journey home, perhaps never to return. He or she is almost willing to take up the menial status of doorkeeper in order to remain forever in the center of God’s sustaining presence.

Read or sing Hymn 94 “How Firm a Foundation” Prayer: Ask the LORD to set your heart on eternity rather than on the passing pleasures of sin.

Thursday (9/17) Read and discuss Isaiah 55:1-13. Alex Motyer writes:

Looking back is not always a tonic! A Sunday school class years ago, with not much evidence of results; a bible class or club for youngsters, with memories of difficulties but not much to show for all that effort. Maybe door to door visitation: what a hard and stony furrow! Did anyone listen? Was anyone won for Christ? Of course that is never the whole story, but some days it seems so – and when those days come, where are we to turn? Turn to Isaiah 55:11. Let it be never so true that we tried to share the Word of God and saw nothing for it, and our opportunity is now long gone and irrecoverable: the Word we shared is not ours but his; our chance is gone, but not his. No one loves the Word of God more than the God whose word it is, and he, the eternal, almighty, impeccably faithful Lord, has pledged that his Word will never be fruitless, never come back empty handed. When we speak of God’s Word as a ‘living Word’, this is the reality of which we speak. First, it comes from his mouth: like the ‘Let there be light’ of Genesis 1:3 – ‘and there was light!” His word is full of creative power to achieve what the Word expresses. Secondly, God’s Word is his personal messenger. It goes where he ‘sends’ it and achieves what he commands it. Thirdly, it cannot but hit its target, do its work. So then, those children, young people, and door-openers of long ago, those passers-by at the open air meeting, that ‘chance’ fellow in the next seat in the bus who accepted a tract, that seemingly cold, unresponsive congregation in hall or church – did they hear the Word of God? From his mouth, through us, was the great messenger sent? Have no fear: as with Jeremiah (1:12), so with us, the Lord is ‘ever awake, watching over my word to perform it.’ All will be well, indeed, more than well.

Read or sing Hymn 92 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD is committed to producing fruit through each and every one of His disciples.

Friday (9/18) Read and discuss Revelation 22:8-21. N.T. Wright comments:

The spirit awakens in one and another, in the cloister and in the church, in the war zone and the throne room, in the island of exile and the house of torment, in the hearts of men and women, in the dreams of little children, even on the bishops’ bench and in the scholar’s study, the prayer, the cry, the song, the hope, the love: Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.

The letter – it always was a letter, as well as a prophecy and a revelation – ends as it should, with a closing greeting. ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all’ (verse 21). But, however conventional, this greeting now carries the freight of the entire book. It is dense with a thousand images of ‘grace’, pregnant with the power of the word ‘Lord’ when spoken under the nose of Caesar, sparkling in the still-open invitation to ‘you all’, and above all delicious with the name, the name that is now exalted high over all, the name of the slaughtered lamb, the name of the one we love and long to see. This book has been a revelation of Jesus, a testimony to Jesus, an act of homage to Jesus. This word. This book. This prophecy. …. Coming soon. This Jesus.

Prayer: Please pray for the young people of our congregation that they would grow up to be men and women of God.

Saturday (9/19) Read and discuss Hebrews 6:1-8. Tom Schreiner writes:

The author strongly warns the readers in [these verses]. The spiritual sluggishness and infancy of the readers is not a neutral state, nor can they continue to live as spiritual infants. They must get to the place where they can digest solid food. In other words they must progress on to maturity so that the fundamental teachings of the faith do not need to be repeated constantly. In verses 4-8 the author explains why the readers should go on to maturity, for if those who have experienced such astonishing blessings fall away and crucify again the Son of God, then there is no room for repentance for them. He compares the readers to land refreshed by the rain falling upon it. If the land produces fruit, it is blessed by God. But if the land yields weeds, then the land will be rejected and is near the time when it will be cursed. Ultimately, it will be burned. So too, if the readers do not progress on to maturity, but fall always, then they, like the land, will be rejected and cursed by God. There will be no hope for them on the final day.

Read or sing Hymn: 528 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Sunday, Sep 6 2015 

MVOPC 13 September 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise”

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: Isaiah 55:7-9

Hymn of Preparation: 521 “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”

Old Covenant Reading: Proverbs 1:20-33

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 5:11-14

Sermon: A Call to Maturity

Hymn of Response: 570 “Faith of Our Fathers!”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still, My Soul”


PM Worship:

OT: Ezekiel 47:1-12

NT: Revelation 21:22-22:7

Life With God

Adult Sunday School: Rules for Interpreting and Applying God’s Moral Law

Shorter Catechism Q/A #8

Q. How doth God execute his decrees?
A. God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (9/7) Read and discuss Hebrews 5:11-14. The author of Hebrews breaks off his argument about Christ being a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek because he doubts that his hearers can actually follow his argument because they have not be diligent students of Scripture who vigorously apply God’s word to their lives. It might be tempting to imagine with a much higher degree of formal education that we in the modern West wouldn’t encounter this problem. But sadly that is not the case. N.T. Wright comments:

So why is it, in the twenty-first century as in the first, that so many Christians are not only eager to stay with a diet of milk, but actually get cross at the suggestion that they should be eating something more substantial? This is a question that has puzzled and bothered me for years. In my own country I meet a settled prejudice, even among people who are highly intelligent in other areas, who work in demanding professions, who read serious newspapers and magazines and who would be ashamed not to know what was going on in the world, against making any effort at all to learn what the Christian faith is about. As a result we find, both inside the churches and outside, an extraordinary ignorance of who Jesus really was, what Christians have believed and should believe about God and the world, how the entire Christian story makes sense, what the Bible contains, and, not least, how individual Christians fit in, and how their lives and their thoughts should be transformed by the power of the gospel. There are many places in the world where there is a great hunger to know all these things, and an eagerness to grasp and take in as much teaching as one can. Some Christians are indeed eager and ready for solid food. But I deeply regret that, in many churches in Western Europe at least, it seems that the most people can be persuaded to take on board is another small helping of warm milk.

Read or sing Hymn 34 “The God of Abraham Praise” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would give you the heart and discipline to become a fully committed and maturing disciple.

Tuesday (9/8) Read and discuss Hebrews 5:1-10. At first blush, verses 8 and 9 can be a bit confusing:

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.  And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, …

What does it mean that Jesus “learned obedience” and was “made perfect”? Wasn’t Jesus always obedient and perfect? Yes, He was. But learning obedience here doesn’t mean that He learned to obey, it means that Jesus learned what it was like to be obedient in a fallen world by experiencing suffering for the sake of obedience.

Come with me, for a moment, to my former life in the Marine Corps. Imagine we have just completed 14 hours of desert warfare training in 29 Palms, California. I shout: “Good job. Hit the showers.” When everyone puts away their gear and gets cleaned up are you impressed by their obedience? Probably not. But what if I could take you back 30 minutes earlier? It was over 110 degrees all day and we all have fine sand in every pore of their bodies. We have been at this for more than half a day and the final thing we are doing is practicing our response to an ambush. Frankly, everyone is exhausted. Then I shout: “Not quite. Let’s run that drill one more time.” And you watch as every single Marine musters the energy and enthusiasm to throw themselves entirely into that drill. I suspect that it is then that you would be impressed with their obedience.

Hebrews is making clear that Jesus understood this second type of obedience and to a depth that none of us ever will. In chapter 12, Hebrews will remind its readers that in their struggle against sin they have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. But here in chapter 5 we are reminded that Jesus did shed blood in order to do His Father’s will. Even before Jesus went to the cross, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He sweat as it were great drops of blood in anguished prayer. Yet He showed His unswerving commitment to obey His Father with the words “Nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done.”

This active obedience was necessary for Jesus to be made complete as our Savior. As our Mediator, Jesus makes continual intercession for us with God the Father. That is necessary but it is not sufficient. In order to be reconciled to God we need both to possess the righteousness of perfect obedience to His revealed will and to pay for all our previous transgressions. By perfectly obeying the Father, as our representative, and then suffering the punishment that our offenses deserved – Jesus became more than a Mediator. He “became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” Prayer: Please pray for the Session and the Diaconate of our congregation as they meet this evening.

Wednesday (9/9) Read and discuss Proverbs 1:20-33. The book of Proverbs is not an ancient version of Franklin’s almanac. It is not merely a collection of pithy sayings that will help you make better decisions on the horizontal plain. Proverbs is about man’s relationship with God. That is why the book begins by telling us that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” Likewise, we need to understand that the “fool” in Proverbs is not someone who lacks an expensive education. As Eugene Merrill writes:

The fools and simpletons to whom wisdom appeals are not the intellectually or educationally deficient but people of all kinds who, not knowing God, live in ignorance of sin. Her invitation, then, is actually an invitation to come and know the true and living God, whom to know is to have a radical change of life and direction. Such persons have succumbed to dame folly, the archenemy and diametric opposite to lady wisdom. She is consistently viewed as a prostitute or an unfaithful wife who is bent on enticing young men by her guileful charms. Wisdom’s concern is to warn against the allurements of the adulteress and to offer a better alternative – peace and joy and life (2:16-19).

Read or sing Hymn 521 “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in the war torn nation of Syria.

Thursday (9/10) Read and discuss Ezekiel 47:1-12. Iain Duguid writes:

The image of a life-giving stream flowing from the sanctuary is ubiquitous in the Scriptures, from the opening chapters of Genesis (Gen 2:10-14) to the closing chapter of Revelation. Revelation 22 features a river similar in many respects to that of Ezekiel 47, which flows from the throne of God and the Lamb out to nourish the (single) tree of life, whose fruit appears every month and whose leaves are “for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:1-2). The motif is also attested in mythological literature from the ancient Near East. Yet because of the frequent use of this motif, it would be easy to overlook what is distinctive about Ezekiel’s use.

The most striking aspect of Ezekiel’s river is that, unlike the other rivers of life, it starts out as an insignificant trickle and only ends up as a thunderous torrent after a distance. This is something that no upheaval in the topography of Palestine can accomplish literally. What is more, it is precisely this growth from insignificant beginnings that the prophet is instructed to observe. In the language of his later colleague, the lesson is that he should not despise the day of small things (Zechariah 4:10). Though the work of God starts out in tiny, seemingly insignificant ways, it will ultimately accomplish God’s goals with unstoppable power. In a similar way the tiny mustard seed, to which Jesus likened the kingdom of God, grows to become a might tree (Matthew 13:31).

Read or sing Hymn 570 “Faith of Our Fathers!” Prayer: Give thanks for the fact that Christ is expanding the Kingdom of God with unstoppable power.

Friday (9/11) Read and discuss Revelation 21:22-22:7. N.T. Wright comments:

The whole of Christian theology is based on the goodness of creation, yet the goodness of creation consists partly in this, that it points beyond itself to the new creation. It isn’t the case that the new creation was an afterthought, a Plan B once the first creation had gone so badly wrong. Human sin has meant that God’s eventual design has had to be arrived at by a long, winding and often tear-stained and blood spattered route, the most important tars and blood being those of God himself, in the person of the lamb. But, as with the triumphant conclusion of Exodus, so with Revelation, the goal is achieved by the power of sheer mercy and grace, the mercy and grace through which creation is not abolished but fulfilled, not thrown away and replaced but renewed from top to bottom.

The mystery then unfolds a step further. For most of Revelation, ‘the nations’ and their kings have been hostile. They have shared in the idolatry and economic violence of Babylon; they have oppressed and opposed God, his purposes and his people. But the earlier hints of God’s wider redeeming purpose now come fully into play. The witness of the martyr-church in chapter 11 resulted in the nations, which had been raging against God, coming instead to give him glory (11:13). Now here they come in procession, in the long fulfillment of the scriptural promises … that God’s glory would fill the whole earth! … Here they come, brining their glory into the city through the wide open gates. The city itself is not a tableau, a static picture with people simply gazing at the glorious golden streets or indeed at God himself and the lamb. It is a bustling community, filled with activity, as the nations come to worship and do homage.

John is careful to add the warning that this inclusivity specifically does not stretch to those who practice abomination or tell lies. This is necessary for the same reason that one does not allow smoking in a library or the playing of radios in a concert hall. That which ruins the beauty and holiness of God’s new city is ruled out by definition.

Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Igreja Presbiteriani Brasileira Em Melrose in Melrose, Massachusetts.

Saturday (9/12) Read and discuss Hebrews 5:11-14. N.T. Wright comments:

What is the maturity, then, which [the author of Hebrews] has in mind? This is the second half of the bracing challenge. People who are ready for ‘solid food’ are people who are ‘skilled in the word of God’s justice’ (verse 13), people who have had their spiritual, intellectual and emotional faculties trained by experience and practice to tell good from evil (verse 14). The word for ‘justice’ is a tricky one whenever we meet in the New Testament; it’s often translated ‘righteousness’, but that gives people the impression that it’s all about behaving yourself in a rather self-consciously religious fashion, which certainly isn’t what Hebrews (or the other early Christians) had in mind. ‘Justice’ doesn’t quite catch the full flavor either, but at least it makes the point that the purposes of God in the gospel are focused on God’s longing to put the world to rights, and to pout people to rights as part of that work. What the writer here longs for I that people should become proficient in understanding and using the entire message of God’s healing, restoring, saving justice. He wants them to know their way around the whole message of scripture and of the gospel, to be able to handle this message in relation to their own lives, their communities and the wider world, and to see how all the different parts of God’s revelation fit together, apply to different situations and have the power to transform lives and situations.

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 6 September 2015 Sunday, Aug 30 2015 

MVOPC 6 September 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 8:1-4

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

Old Covenant Reading:  Psalm 110:1-7

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 5:1-10

Sermon: Loud Cries and Tears

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Isaiah 60:1-22

NT: Revelation 21:9-21

The New Jerusalem

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

Shorter Catechism Q/A #7

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer: Please lift up President Obama in prayer.

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

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

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

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 30 August 2015 Sunday, Aug 23 2015 

MVOPC 30 August 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: John 14:1-3

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

Old Covenant Reading: Daniel 6:1-28

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16

Sermon: Grace Favors the Bold

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still, My Soul”

PM Worship:

OT: Isaiah 55:1-13

NT: Revelation 21:1-8

All Things Made New

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

Shorter Catechism Q/A #6

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 23 August 2015 Sunday, Aug 16 2015 

MVOPC 23 August 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 94 “How Firm A Foundation”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 86:12-15

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

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 119:89-104

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 4:11-13

Sermon: Sharper Than Any Two-edged Sword

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

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 699 “Like a River Glorious”

PM Worship:

OT: Isaiah 65:17-25

NT: Revelation 20:7-15

The Final Judgment

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

Shorter Catechism Q/A #5

 Q. Are there more Gods than one?

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVOPC 16 August 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 5:6-8

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

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 58:1-4

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 4:1-10

Sermon: A Rest for the People of God

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

Diaconal Offering

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

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

PM Worship

OT: Isaiah 24:14-23

NT: Revelation 20:1-6

The Millennium

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Shorter Catechism Q/A #4

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is better to interpret Scripture by Scripture:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVOPC 9 August 2015 Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5 Opening Hymn: 53 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” Confession of Sin Almighty God, Who are rich in mercy to all those who call upon You;  Hear us as we humbly come to You confessing our sins;  And imploring Your mercy and forgiveness.  We have broken Your holy laws by our deeds and by our words;  And by the sinful affections of our hearts.  We confess before You our disobedience and ingratitude, our pride and willfulness;  And all our failures and  shortcomings toward You and toward fellow men.  Have mercy upon us, Most merciful Father;  And of Your great goodness grant that we may hereafter serve and please You in newness of life;  Through the merit and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. Assurance of Pardon: Ephesians 1:7-10 Hymn of Preparation: 184 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 9:1-12 New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 3:14-19 Sermon: No Turning Back! Hymn of Response: 248 “Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended!” Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments Doxology (Hymn 732) Closing Hymn: 469 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place” PM Worship OT: Isaiah 63:1-6 NT: Revelation 19:11-21 Faithful and True Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 91-93: The Moral Law – Part I Shorter Catechism Q/A #3 Q. What do the Scriptures principally teach? A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD God Omnipotent reigns!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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