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

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD God Omnipotent reigns!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 2 August 2015 Sunday, Jul 26 2015 

MVOPC 2 August 2015 – Stephen Tindall preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 110 “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 8:10-12

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

Old Covenant Reading:  Isaiah 61:1-11

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 5:13-15

Sermon: Freedom in Christ

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Isaiah 61:1-11

NT: Revelation 19:1-10

The Spirit of Prophesy

Adult Sunday School: Greg Montemurro Teaching

Shorter Catechism Q/A #2

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

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will rejoice greatly in the LORD,

My soul will exult in my God;

For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,

He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,

As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVOPC 26 July 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render”

Confession of Sin

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

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

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 95:1-11

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 3:7-13

Sermon: Right Now!

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

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still, My Soul”

PM Worship:

OT: Joshua 24:14-27

NT: Hebrews 11:29-31

Whom Will You Serve?

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

Shorter Catechism Q/A #1

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verses 3-4:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer: Please lift up President Obama in prayer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The remedy to this deceitfulness of sin is absolutely clear. We need to keep short accounts with God and to not accept drifting as being somehow normal. And notice that verse 13 doesn’t simply send each of us to our own quiet places to work this out. Instead, we are commanded to “exhort one another every day.” In other words: “You are your brother’s keeper.” Read or sing Hymn: 689 “Be Still, My Soul” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 19 July 2015 Sunday, Jul 12 2015 

MVOPC 19 July 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 94 “How Firm A Foundation”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 3:21-26

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

Old Covenant Reading: Numbers 12:1-16

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 3:1-6

Sermon: Better Than Moses

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

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

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

19 July 2015

Hymns: 44, 92, 101, 648

OT: Jeremiah 51:25-64

NT: Revelation 18:9-24

In a Single Hour

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday school

Shorter Catechism Q/A #107

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVOPC 12 July 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great Is They Faithfulness”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 1:16-17

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

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 22:1-31

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 2:10-18

Sermon: Jesus Our Brother

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

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 353 “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord”

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 19:1-6

NT: Revelation 18:1-8

Come Out of Her My People

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 84-85: Death

Shorter Catechism Q/A #106

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVOPC 5 July 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Titus 3:4-7

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

Old Covenant Reading:  Psalm 8:1-9

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 2:5-9

Sermon: For a Little While

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Daniel 7:15-28

NT: Revelation 17:9-18

For He is Lord of Lords

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

Shorter Catechism Q/A #105

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVOPC 28 June 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

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

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 26:14-33

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 2:1-4

Sermon: Listen Up!

Hymn of Response: 439 “Christ Shall Have Dominion”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 441 “Jesus Shall Reign”

PM Worship:

OT: Psalm 137:1-9

NT: Revelation 17:1-8

Babylon the Great

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

Shorter Catechism Q/A #104.

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVOPC 21 June 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Matthew 1:18-21

Hymn of Preparation: 170 “Fairest Lord Jesus”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 102:1-28

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 1:5-14

Sermon: Your Throne, O God

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

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still, My Soul”

PM Worship:

OT: Ezekiel 38:1-23

NT: Revelation 16:10-21

It is Done!

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday school

Shorter Catechism Q/A #103

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

Suggested Preparations 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Jesus is better than Moses.

            Jesus is better than Aaron and the Levitical Priesthood.

            Jesus is better than Joshua.

            Jesus is better than the angles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVOPC 14 June 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 1:16-17

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

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 2:1-12

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 1:1-5

Sermon: Far Greater

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

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Til He Come”!

PM Worship:

OT: Psalm 79:1-13

NT: Revelation 16:1-9

True & Just are His Judgments

Adult Sunday School: The 2015 General Assembly

Shorter Catechism Q/A #102

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

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday (6/10) Read and discuss Psalm 2:1-12. In Genesis 12 God promises Abraham that He will bless those who bless him, and curse those who curse him.  This promise is rooted in the nature and office of Abraham’s Seed – Jesus Christ.  Ultimately all of humanity will be divided into those who are crushed as Christ’s enemies and those who have been redeemed by His blood and brought into His family as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Psalm 2 begins with the nations raging against the LORD and His Anointed – and therefore bringing cursing upon themselves as God had promised to Abraham. The Psalm has four evenly balanced sections:

Verses 1-3:      The nations rebel against the LORD and His Anointed

Verses 4-6:      The LORD responds to His opponents

Verses 7-9:      The Messiah tells what the LORD has promised to Him

Verses 10-12:  The Psalmist tells the nations how they should respond

If we focus on verses 4-6, we might be tempted to read this Psalm primarily as a Psalm of judgment.  But the announcement of the coming judgment is actually a gracious warning and call to repentance.  The purpose of the Psalm is to comfort God’s people by reminding them that God’s plans are never hindered by the evil rulers of this world and that the LORD’s Messiah will eventually possess the nations to the end of the earth (v. 8). It is true that the nations will only find lasting peace and joy when they submit to the LORD and His Messiah; but that is precisely what this Psalm is calling all who hear it to do. “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him (v. 12).” Read or sing Hymn 164 “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” Prayer: Please pray for the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church as it finishes its work today and for safe travels for all those involved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 7 June 2015 Sunday, May 31 2015 

MVOPC 7 June 2015 – Rev. Stephen Tindall preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn:

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 55:7-9

Hymn of Preparation:

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

New Covenant Reading: John 13:1-17

Sermon: Jesus Washes Disciples Feet

Hymn of Response:

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn:

PM Worship: Elder Peter Bacon teaching

Adult Sunday School: Jason Donald teaching

Shorter Catechism Q/A #101

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

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

Suggested Preparations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As indeed he says in Hosea,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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