Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 14 February 2016 Sunday, Feb 7 2016 

MVOPC 14 February 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Joel 2:12-13

Hymn of Preparation: 693 “Blessed Assurance”

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 51:1-6

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 11:7-12

Sermon: Faith and the Future

Hymn of Response: 499 “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still, My Soul”

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 11:10-12:9

NT: Galatians 3:1-9

Abraham the Pilgrim

Adult Sunday School: The Sixth Commandment

Shorter Catechism Q/A #29

Q. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/8) Read and discuss Hebrews 11:7-12. Simon Kistemaker writes:

Faith has its counterpart in obedience. Faith and obedience are two sides of the same coin. Abraham learned that faith and obedience go together, especially at the time when God called him to sacrifice his son Isaac.

Note this sequence: Abraham believed and loved God, who promised him a son. After many years of waiting, Abraham received this promised son and loved him. Then God called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. If Abraham sacrificed Isaac, we would keep God but lose his son. If he disobeyed God, Abraham would keep his son but lose God. Abraham chose to obey God, and thus he placed the problem of loving his son of the promise in the hands of God. He believed that God could raise Isaac from death. In short, Abraham’s life with God bore the motto Trust and Obey.

Read or sing Hymn 34 “The God of Abraham Praise” Prayer: Ask the LORD to lift high His reputation through the way that you live today.

Tuesday (2/9) Read and discuss Hebrews 11:1-7.   Tom Schreiner writes:

Faith looks to what is unseen, trusting in the promise of God. Faith isn’t irrational. It believes in a God who truly created the world, who rescued Enoch from death and Noah from the flood. But faith doesn’t see these things from the beginning. It believes God will reward those who seek him. It trusts God, as Abel did, even though death is the immediate consequence. Faith doesn’t rely on the contemporary events or perceptions but puts its trust and hope in the word of God and in his promises for his people.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to give a clear and deep faith to the children of our congregation.

Wednesday (2/10) Read and discuss Isaiah 51:1-6. Bryan Beyer writes:

Isaiah 51 begins with a threefold challenge: look to the past, look to the future, and look to the present. The LORD has done great things in the past and will do great things for his people in the future, so they can trust him for the present. Isaiah’s prayer then follows, along with God’s response to that prayer.

[In verses 1-3] Isaiah addressed those in his audience who wanted to pursue the LORD and his righteousness. They could receive encouragement by looking to the past.

Isaiah took them back to their roots. He reminded them how the LORD had created their nation through an elderly couple – Abraham and Sarah – who were unable to have children. Yet God blessed them and gave them Isaac, from whom came Jacob and his sons. God’s hand on the nation was evident from the beginning; he would not leave them now.

Isaiah also challenged his hearers to look to the future. First, he described the justice that would come for all nations (51:4-5). God’s law would become a standard for all peoples, and they would look to him for justice. And the Gentiles would actually become part of God’s people. Prophetic words such as these emphasize again that God’s desire to reach the nations is not exclusively a New Testament concept.

Second, Isaiah called everyone to reflect on God’s power (51:6). The LORD had created heaven and earth, but both of these would pass away one day. His salvation and righteousness, however, would last forever, as would those who had placed their trust in him.

Read or sing Hymn 693 “Blessed Assurance” Prayer: Lift up those in our congregation who are struggling with physical ailments.

Thursday (2/11) Read and discuss Galatians 3:1-9. Tom Schreiner writes:

The great Reformation teaching that justification, being right before God, is by faith alone is clearly taught in this text. Abraham was not justified on the basis of his obedience to God. He was declared to be right with God when he believed God’s promise. His righteousness came not by working for God but by believing in God.

The same is true for all of Abraham’s genuine children. Right standing with God comes from receiving what God has given us in Christ. This message is the greatest news of all, for Luther was on target in saying that we are simul justus et peccator (justified and at the same time a sinner). As Christians we are aware of the continuing presence of sin in our lives. There is never an excuse for sin, and yet even the most mature Christians continue to sin in multiple ways (James 3:2). If we claim that such is not true of our lives, then we do not know ourselves as God knows us. When we realize how far short we fall as believers, the good news that we are justified by faith alone is a great comfort for us, for our righteousness does not reside in ourselves but in Christ risen and crucified.

Read or sing Hymn 499 “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me” Prayer: Give thanks for the righteousness which comes from God because of Jesus Christ that we receive entirely as a gift.

Friday (2/12) Read and discuss Genesis 11:10-12:9. Iain Duguid writes:

Make no mistake; what we see here in Genesis 12 is nothing short of a new beginning for mankind. In the first eleven chapters of Genesis, we observe the slow, steady, shocking spread of sin from its origin in the Garden of Eden. Five times in these chapters, God’s solemn curse is pronounced upon sin and sinners, replacing the original blessing upon life in the Garden. But now God begins the process of re-creating for himself a people by pronouncing a fivefold blessing upon Abram. God will bless Abram and turn him into the very embodiment of blessing, a living model of what blessing should be. In the same way that Babe Ruth is “Mr. Baseball,” Abram will be “Mr. Blessing.” What the builders of the tower of Babel sought to do in their own behalf and failed to accomplish – to establish a lasting city and thus make a name for themselves – God will do for Abram. God will make him into a nation and make his name great. Through his obedience, Abram will bring blessing to the whole world: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God’s original plan of blessing for the whole world will be brought to fruition through Abram’s obedience. The way of blessing that was once marked by the Tree of Life and then by Noah’s ark is now marked by identification with Abram and his seed. Abram is promised a heady mixture of power, prestige, and status.

Prayer: Pray for the continued unity and closeness of our congregation as we enjoy a church game night this evening.

Saturday (2/13) Read and discuss Hebrews 11:7-12. N.T. Wright comments:

The faith of Abraham and Sarah, which is celebrated in this passage, is faith that the creator God is also the covenant God; that the particular promises made  to this one family, at a time when they seemed flatly impossible, were backed up by the power which made the world. Verses 1-6 thus stand by the power which made the world. Verses 1-6 thus stand behind verses 8-12, and give body to the idea of ‘faith’ which this chapter is all about. It isn’t just that Abraham and Sarah thought they heard a strange being speaking to them and decided to believe it, but rather that the God they came to know was the creator God, the absolutely trustworthy one, the one who could give life where there was none (verses 11 and 12). This will be further developed in the next section.

Working back from the verses about Sarah, then, we find the promise to Abraham concerning the land. Just as Sarah was called to believe that God would give her a child even though she was elderly and barren, Abraham had been called to believe that God would give him a homeland even though he was a wandering stranger, a nomad with no fixed abode. And. of course, though Abraham and Sarah did indeed have a son, they never came to possess for themselves the land which God promised them. All they had was the cave which Abraham bought as a burial place. For the rest, they were living on God’s promise.

That, of course, is what Hebrews wants its readers to learn to do. ‘Faith’ here is not a general religious attitude to life. It’s not simply believing difficult or impossible things for the sake of it, as though simple credulity was itself a virtue. The faith in question, as becomes increasingly clear through the chapter, is the faith which hears and believes the promise of God, the assured word from the world’s creator that he is also the world’s redeemer, and that through the strange fortunes of Abraham’s family he is working to build … the city which is to come.

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 7 February 2016 Sunday, Jan 31 2016 

MVOPC 7 February 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Titus 2:11-14

Hymn of Preparation: 94 “How Firm a Foundation”

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 26:1-8

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 11:1-6

Sermon: What Faith Really Means

Hymn of Response: 501 “Just As I Am, without One Plea”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 11:1-9

NT: Acts 2:1-21

God Humbles the Proud

Adult Sunday School: The Fifth Commandment: Part II

Shorter Catechism Q/A #28

Q. Wherein consisteth Christ’s exaltation?

A. Christ’s exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/1) Read and discuss Hebrews 11:1-6. In verses 4 and 5 the author of Hebrews gives us two examples of what living by faith looks like. We will look at the example of Abel today and the example of Enoch on Saturday. Verse 4:

By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

Interestingly, Genesis 4 never mentions Abel’s faith. It is through the choices that Abel made that the author of Hebrews can tell that “by faith, Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain did.” Cain’s unbelief is obvious. Even when the LORD warns him that sin is crouching at the door seeking to devour him, Cain refuses to listen to the word of God. Instead Cain murders his brother in cold blood. But how can we tell that Abel was living by faith. In Genesis chapter 4 verses 3 and 4 we read:

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.  4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.

Please note that Cain was not entirely irreligious. Cain shows up at the same location as Abel and he engages in offering up a sacrifice. Yet, the key word for Cain is the word “some.” “Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.” It is as though he looked around and grabbed a few things and said – “This should do.” By contrast, “Abel brought fat portions” that is the very best portions “from some of the firstborn of his flock. Have ever stopped to think about what giving the first fruits of a flock or harvest means? To give the first animals and the first of the harvest leaves you with nothing but the promise that the LORD will take care of you. There is a world of difference between paying all of your bills and then giving what is left over to the LORD and giving to the LORD off of the top. The latter honors God by demonstrating that He comes first in your life – that is He is worthy of the very best – but it also honors the LORD by declaring that He is a trustworthy Father who takes care of those who seek first His Kingdom and its righteousness. Most of us are not farmers, so we don’t give the firstborn animals and the first fruits of our harvest, but we can still make giving for the sake of the Kingdom of God the very first item in our budgets. As I often tell people, “Tithing is not God’s way of raising money it is His way of raising children.” Almighty God, after-all, doesn’t need our money. But by devoting our first and our best to the LORD we show forth our love for Him and our trust in Him – and the process of giving in this way actually refocuses the affections of our hearts. As Jesus Himself said: Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Read or sing Hymn 361 “O Praise Ye the LORD” Prayer: Ask the LORD to cause you and your church family to seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness.

Tuesday (2/2) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 5:1-8.  Who you think you are will radically impact how you choose to live. Paul begins today’s passage with the startling accusation “that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.” One striking aspect of this charge is that the word translated “pagans” literally simply means “gentiles”. In this deft way Paul is reminding the Corinthians that, in one sense, they are no longer gentiles. They have been cut out of the pagan nations and grafted into the Israel of God. They have been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son – and so are all who have put their trust in Jesus. The astonishing new status of Christians as God’s own treasured possession ought to radically alter the way that we live. This is why Paul drives home his point using an image drawn from the Passover. Just as the first Passover marked out the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross marks out our deliverance from this fallen world. We are therefore to celebrate (keep the feast) in sincerity and truth. There is one other aspect of who we are that we shouldn’t miss in this passage. We are vulnerable. Although redeemed, we are still sinners in a fallen world. One key reality of our life together as a church is that fellowship with other Christians who are pursuing to walk in the paths of righteousness strengthens each of us in our own walk with the LORD. On the other hand, to engage in close fellowship with those who are brazenly trampling the blood of Christ underfoot by defiantly living in sin is very likely to corrupt the entire church family. If someone came into our church, or into the school of your children, with a highly contagious and destructive disease you would insist on separation. Sin that is being flaunted rather than mortified is like that. For both the good of the sinner and the good of the whole church such sin must be dealt with. Prayer: As results of the Iowa Caucuses come in and the nation readies itself for a series of primaries, ask the LORD to remind His people that we are not to put our trust in earthly princes nor imagine that a politician can deliver us from all of our problems.

Wednesday (2/3) Read and discuss Isaiah 26:1-21. Alec Moyter writes:

Inheriting as we do the classification of the Bible into two ‘testaments’, people still ask – and quite a few people at that – why we need to bother with the Old Testament. It is one of the greatest, most important and most thrilling discoveries to find that the Bible is not two testaments but one book – one Jesus people, one divine purpose in Christ, one consistent revelation of God, one world, and (oh what joy!) one way of salvation. Isaiah 26 is a good place to start in order to feel the truth of all this. The citizens of the City of Salvation are those who are ‘right with God’, a relationship which shows itself in a reliable life-style (v. 2). Those who are right with God enjoy his peace, because they have put their trust in him (v. 3), and this faith gives them eternal security (v. 4). The people of faith are, in themselves, without resources (poor) and without strength (downtrodden) but because their God has cast down the strong city of the enemy they can enter into his victory and trample down their foes (vv. 5-6). Their life in this world is one of the changes and chances – they have security, not immunity (vv. 8a, 16-17) – but they know that their life is not ‘chance’ but ruled by divine decision (‘judgment’ v. 8), and through thick and thin their deepest longing is to know God (v. 8). They live in a hostile, unresponsive world (v. 10), but their eternal expectation is sure. By contrast with unbelievers (v. 14), the people of the city, the people of peace and faith, look forward to a resurrection that is resurrection indeed, not the shadowy life of the soul dislocated from the body, but the whole person resurrected (v. 19). And until that day comes, they are the Passover people, safe under the blood of the lamb (v. 20).

Read or sing Hymn 562 “All to Jesus I Surrender” Prayer: Give thanks that you are secure in the love of God and that every sin you will ever commit has been washed away by the finshed work of Christ on the cross.

Thursday (2/4) Read and discuss Acts 2:1-21. R.C. Sproul writes:

When we look at this text of what happened at Pentecost, particularly in light of Pentecostalism in our day, almost all the attention goes to the phenomenon of glossolalia, the speaking in tongues, which I do not want to minimize or underestimate, but I want us to focus on two other dimensions, the sound and the sight of what happened on Pentecost, because therein we see it great significance.

What happened on Pentecost was the rushing pneuma (Spirit/wind) of God. The mighty power of the Holy Spirit came roaring through a room filled with people whom Jesus had selected to be there to receive power from heaven to fulfill their mission in this world, and they heard the wind. What they saw was fire, tongues of fire, appearing over each one’s head. This was no ordinary wind. This was the wind of God, a theophany, a visible manifestation of the invisible God. The most common visible manifestation of God in the Old Testament was through fire. In the Midianite wilderness, the theophany was a bush burning but not consumed, and out of that fire God spoke to Moses and changed the course of history. When God led the children of Israel through the wilderness, He did so through a pillar of cloud and a pillar of smoke, or fire. The judgment throne of God that went across the sky, the whirlwind into which people were caught up, was a chariot of fire, so much so that the New Testament tells us, “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). When God gave the law to the people at Mount Sinai, flames were visible on the mountain, symbolizing the power of the transcendent majesty of God.

Here is the amazing part. Instead of the fire simple descending upon a distant mountain, the fire of the Holy Spirit descended and remained upon Christ’s disciples. We are now a special place where God manifests Himself to the world. Read or sing Hymn 25 “O Light that Knew No Dawn” Prayer: Give thanks for the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Friday (2/5) Read and discuss Genesis 11:1-9. Bruce Waltke writes:

The cities that Nimrod built replicate Babel and its tower. They represent the human spirit to achieve significance and security through their collective technology, independently from God. At the heart of the city of man is love for self and hatred of God. The city reveals that the human spirit will not stop at anything short of usurping God’s throne in heaven. Today, self-idolizing humanity is storming outer space, hoping to subdue even the heavenly bodies, and through genetic engineering has the potential to clone and shape humanity according to its own imagination. What had historically been the prerogative of God alone has now come under the dominion of depraved humanity. The prospect is frightening.

In and of itself, the construction of cities does not cause the LORD’s displeasure; for example, Israel celebrates holy Jerusalem. Rather God censures the human pride and security that people attach to their cities. B contrast, Abraham was content to be a wandering Aramean with God (Deut 26:5), looking for a city with foundations, “whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10). As a reward, God gave him and all who, like him, honor God’s name, an enduring name. The Babelites, in their longing for a humanly constructed, human-glorifying city, earn for themselves the ignominious name “Confusion”

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

Saturday (2/6) Read and discuss Hebrews 11:1-6. On Monday we looked at how Abel lived by faith. Today we consider the example of Enoch. Hebrews chapter 11 verse 5:

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.

It can make our day, or even our week, to be commended by someone we really admire. But don’t you want most of all to be “commended as one who pleased God.” Hebrews says: Consider Enoch. Enoch was commended by God because of His faith. In fact, the LORD dramatically commended Enoch by taking Enoch up into heaven without Enoch ever having to die. How can we be commended like Enoch? All that Genesis 5 tells us about Enoch is this:

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah.  22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.  23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years.  24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

As with Abel, Genesis makes no explicit mention of Enoch’s faith. Instead, Genesis shows us Enoch’s faith by repeatedly telling us that “Enoch walked with God.” What does it mean to “walk with God”? The simplest explanation is also the best: Enoch walked with God because they liked each other’s company and they were both going in the same direction. What about you? Do you enjoy God’s company and are you heading in the same direction as He is? Read or sing Hymn: 40 “God is Our Refuge and Our Strength” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 31 January 2016 Sunday, Jan 24 2016 

MVOPC 31 January 2015 – The Rev. Stephen Michaud preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 361 “O Praise Ye the LORD”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: 1 John 1:6-9

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

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 37:1-11

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 5:1-5

Sermon: Strong Meekness

Hymn of Response: 25 “O Light that Knew No Dawn”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 40 “God is Our Refuge and Our Strength”

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 9:18-29

NT: 1 Timothy 5:1-26

Honor Your Father …

Adult Sunday School: Adult Sunday School – Greg Montemurro Teaching

Shorter Catechism Q/A #27

Q. 27.Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist?

A. Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/18) Read and discuss Matthew 5:1-5. Grant Osborne writes:

The first four beatitudes deal primarily with a total reliance on God. Each provides an aspect of that sense of dependence. We begin with those who are humble before God, who have realized their absolute need to put their trust wholly in him. They seek their treasure in heaven, not on earth (Matt 6:19-21), and have placed all earthy concerns secondary to following him. Then there are those who “mourn” under both oppression and guilt for sin and who thereby turn to God for help and forgiveness. Hey grieve under both physical (mainly poverty) and spiritual (mainly sin) needs but turn to God rather than their own resources.

Too few Christians sincerely grieve for sin; we have become hardened not just to the sin around us but even more sadly to the sin within us. He “meek” are the ones who turn the other cheek and go the extra mile for the sake of others, who are so attuned to God that they do not react aggressively when hurt by others. Those who crave “righteousness” again seek justice when wronged but also want to live rightly before God. As Keener says, “these humble people are also those who yearn for God above all else (cf. Zeph 2:3).” This is exemplified in the three sections on almsgiving, prayer, and fasting in 6:1-18; they must be done entirely to please God, not to look pious to others.

Read or sing Hymn 361 “O Praise Ye the LORD” Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you both a deepened sense your dependence upon Him and the confident assurance that He is able and willing to carry you.

Tuesday (1/19) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:32-39. Hebrews is urging us on: “Don’t let go of your confident trust in Jesus Christ. Don’t let your confidence in God’s promises fail. For if you remain faithful then and only then you will receive your great reward. “Remember where you came from” and “Remember what is necessary.” To drive home this point, Hebrews appeals to the dramatic story of the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk. Look at verses 37 and 38 with me:

For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”

These lines are quoted as though the original recipients of Hebrews would be intimately familiar with Habakkuk’s story – but we might need a little filling in. Habakkuk was a faithful Jew living at a dark time in Israel’s history right before the Babylonian exile. Habakkuk looked around at the Church of His day and saw how utterly corrupt everything had become and he was appalled. So he cried out to the LORD saying: “LORD, why don’t you do something?” God heard his cry and let Habakkuk know that He was about to do something – He was about to bring severe judgment on Judah by sending the Babylonians to wreck havoc on the nation and to take the people into captivity. This perplexed and disturbed the prophet greatly. He could have understood if the LORD were to bring judgment upon Israel through a righteous people – but the Babylonians were even worse than his fellow Jews. So, Habakkuk boldly asked for the Almighty to explain Himself. The LORD’s answer was that Habakkuk need not worry. Almighty God would take care of the Babylonians as well and ultimately He will fulfill His promises to Israel. But the call on Habakkuk’s life was not to be God’s Monday morning quarterback – but to trust the LORD. In those famous words that are quoted three times in the New Testament:

The just shall live by faith.

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would cause you to be gripped even more by the gospel that you would live with a confident faith in God’s promises.

Wednesday (1/20) Read and discuss Psalm 37:1-11. Commenting on verses 7 and 8, Allen Ross writes:

In [this] section the call to persevere is strengthened by the reminder of the prospect of coming retribution. The first two verses issue the call, repeating the warning ‘fret no.’ The first line calls for the people to be still before the LORD and wait patiently – the silent expectation clearly antithetical to anxieties and frustrated desires. The idea of being still is a calm resignation that leaves itself in the hands of God; the idea of waiting patiently is the expectation of God’s intervention. So against the ever present turmoil of anxious living and in contrast to the scheming of evil-doers, which seems to be succeeding, the righteous are to stop and to wait for the LORD to provide for them and protect them. After all, it is as Jesus said, people cannot add a day to their span of life by such anxieties (Matt. 6:27). So the admonition is repeated: do not fret. Now the text explains more about the evil-doers, for they are those who prosper – no one would worry about or envy an evil-doer who was a failure in everything – and those who carry out evil schemes. The evil-doers for a time prosper through their evil schemes; to fret over them is certainly short-sighted.

But the instruction goes beyond this. The righteous are instructed to turn away from anger and forsake wrath, because it only leads to doing evil, the very thing they faced from others. To live with intense vexation and jealousy can lead to anger, and anger over the wrong things will produce acts that are like those of the evil-doers, or reprisals that use tactics just as evil.

Read or sing Hymn 562 “All to Jesus I Surrender” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at our church plant in Danvers, Massachusetts.

Thursday (1/21) Read and discuss 1 Corinthians 10:23-33. God’s Law is holy and good but how can a person keep the whole Law in his head? We clearly need a good summary of the Law to help us organize our thinking. One time a lawyer (that is an expert in the Jewish law) asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied by asking: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Our Lord was basically saying, “You’re supposed to be an expert in God’s Law. Why are you asking Me this question? It isn’t as though the LORD has kept His will secret from you.” The lawyer then summed up God’s instruction like this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Anyone familiar with the Old Testament will realize that this scholar simply took two sayings from the Pentateuch and put them together (Loving “your neighbor as yourself” is from Leviticus 19:18 and is NOT a new idea in the New Covenant). Jesus told the man that he was correct. He gave the right answer! Good for him. The only problem is this: What does loving one’s neighbor actually look like? To answer that question, Jesus told a parable:

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Two points: (1) First, it is important not to miss how Jesus ends this parable. He doesn’t say, “Go and understand this.” He says, “Go and do this.” Jesus expects us to put the lessons of this parable into practice. (2) In today’s passage from 1 Corinthians Paul is showing us what “do likewise” looks like in a different setting. Genuine love for God and love for neighbor is driving everything that Paul is saying. They should drive us as well.  Read or sing Hymn 25 “O Light that Knew No Dawn” Prayer: Please lift up those in our congregation who are recovering from surgery.

Friday (1/22) Read and discuss Genesis 9:18-29. James Montgomery Boice writes:

Since this story is told by God and not be a mere human author; it follows that it is true – that Noah did fall. Therefore, anyone can fall. If Noah sinned, we are surely not exempt from it.

This judgment needs to be strengthened, however, for the point of the story is not merely that anyone can fall but that everyone does. If this story existed by itself apart from the rest of the Book of Genesis, it wuld make the fist point but not necessarily the second. It would say that anyone can fall but not that all do. However, the story is not isolated. It occurs in the context of a book in which the deterioration of character is traced in personage after personage and the message of the book as a whole seems to be: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12). …

There is this lesson too. Noah was six hundred years old when the flood came, so he had lived righteously before God for a long time. In his youth and for most of his life he as “blameless among the people of his time.” But now, in his latter years, he mars that earlier record. Is this a unique incident? Not at all. It is merely one good example of the fact that many in the Bible were strong in living for God when they were young but departed from the will of God when they were older. Moses sinned late in his life by striking the rock and taking some of God’s glory to himself, as a result of which he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land. David sinned with Bathsheba when he was in his fifties. Solomon departed from the will of God when he was old. It has been thus for many. Past success does not provide power for future victory. So although we cry “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (Eccles 12:1), we have to cry “Remember him in middle age and in old age as well.” None of us is ever past temptation or the need of God’s sustaining grace.

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

Saturday (1/23) Read and discuss Matthew 5:1-5. Michael J. Wilkins writes:

The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States is one of the most memorable statements in American history. It states succinctly the ethos of the nation to be, and provides a summarization of the articles of the constitution to follow. It gives insight to the intention of the framers of the Constitution, the details of which are enumerated in the articles. The preamble is a hint that the Constitution would be a boldly original attempt to create an energetic central government at the same time that the sovereignty of the people was preserved.

In a similar manner, the Beatitudes serve as a sort of preamble to the Sermon on the Mount, but they are an even more memorable treasure for humanity. They give a succinct statement of the ethos of the kingdom of heaven that Jesus has announced and summarize the principles of kingdom life that he will articulate in the Sermon that follows. We find in them an abstract of Jesus’ history-altering intention for establishing the kingdom of heaven as well as a clue to Matthew’s organization of the Gospel. The Beatitudes are a radically bold statement of Jesus’ intent to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth, which will bring true peace and freedom or all who dare to follow him as his disciples. It is through those disciples that his kingdom will bring blessing to all the peoples of the earth.

Read or sing Hymn: 40 “God is Our Refuge and Our Strength” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 24 January 2016 Sunday, Jan 17 2016 

MVOPC 24 January 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 10:10-13

Hymn of Preparation: 49 “O Lord, Thou Judge of All the Earth”

Old Covenant Reading: Habakkuk 1:1-2:4

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 10:32-39

Sermon: No Turning Back

Hymn of Response: 321 “Great God, What Do I See and Hear!”

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Till He Come”!

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 8:20-22

NT: Galatians 2:15-21

Worship and Promise

Adult Sunday School: Adult Sunday School – The Fifth Commandment

Shorter Catechism Q/A #26

Q. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?

A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/18) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:32-39. N.T. Wright, commenting on today’s passage, says:

These verses, in fact, give us a clearer indication than almost anyone else in the letter of the situation which the readers were confronting. Right from the start they had faced terrible times, just like the Christians in Acts 8 or 1 Thessalonians 2. Indeed, the readers of this letter may include some of those very people, or others who had become Christians at the same time; after all, Paul tells us that he had himself been a persecutor of the church (Galatians 1:13 and elsewhere), and that was in the very early days; he himself was then persecuted by his own fellow Jews, as he describes graphically in 2 Corinthians 11. We don’t have to look too far, alas, to see contemporary examples of the same thing. Wherever a regime exists which claims absolute power and regards Christian faith and witness as a threat, Christians will come under attack, as we saw with Eastern European Communism in the cold war years, and have seen again with the situation in China and in many Muslim countries. Many Christian readers today know exactly what it’s like to suffer public ridicule and physical abuse, to stand alongside those who suffer it, and to find their property being looted and the authorities looking on and doing nothing.

The writer insists, though, that such horrible and frightening moments are to be seen – and, he says, were seen by those early Christians – as themselves sign of hope. The outrageous lawlessness of plundering other people’s property with apparent sanction from the authorities is a pointer to the fact that, new age in which God will give his people a ‘better possession’ (another use of ‘better’, which as we saw is one of Hebrews’ favorite words). This steers us towards the great picture of the next chapter, in which the writer will draw our attention to the way in which the heroes of Old Testament faith were looking forward to the new world that God would make, in which they would obtain the true inheritance.

Read or sing Hymn 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Please pray for Julie Pearson as she has surgery for her broken hip today.

Tuesday (1/19) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:19-31. Today’s passage teaches us that with great privilege comes great responsibility. Both our great privilege and our great responsibility flow from and to the main point of the entire letter that Jesus is better. The Author of Hebrews has spent ten chapters telling us that Jesus is better. The Old Covenant was good, but the New Covenant that Jesus has inaugurated is better. Moses was good, but Jesus is better. Aaron and the Levitical Priesthood were good, but Jesus is far better. The Privileges that Christ brings to us – specifically are free access to the throne of grace and the fact that Jesus Himself is ceaseless representing us before the Father – are almost beyond what our imaginations can grasp. With great privilege comes great responsibility. Let us joyfully embrace both.

Let us embrace our Christ bought privileges …

… by drawing near to God in worship and in prayer;

… by holding fast to the confession of our hope in Jesus Christ;

… and by gathering together regularly to stir up one another to love and good works.

And let us value our Savior as being far above anything that this present world can offer us. In the words that Martin Luther taught us to sing:

Let goods and kindred go. This mortal life also. The body they may kill. God’s truth abideth still. His Kingdom is forever!

Let us joyfully cling to our precious Savior. No turning back. No turning back. Prayer: Ask the LORD to cause every member of our congregation to cling to Jesus and to never turn back from following Him.

Wednesday (1/20) Read and discuss Habakkuk 1:1-2:4. James Montgomery Boice writes:

Habakkuk 2:4 is the central revelation of this important and quite contemporary prophecy. The verse is God’s answer to the questions Habakkuk raised in the opening sections of his book. Habakkuk was troubled by ungodliness in Israel. But when God revealed that He was about to use the Babylonians to punish His people, Habakkuk asked how God could use the ungodly to punish those more righteous than themselves. It was a daring moral question, for Habakkuk was aksing whether God was doing right. The prophet waited intently and apprehensively before the answer came.

The answer, which begins with 2:4 and continues to the end of the chapter, has to do with God’s judgment upon the Babylonians. Just because the foreign army would pride itself on its strength and have a moment of triumph over Israel in its conquests did not mean that the Babylonians were justified in God’s sight. They were not. So judgment was going to fall on them too.

The wonderful thing about this chapter, however, is not the large part of it that speaks of judgment on the Babylonians (vv. 6-20) but rather the one verse (v. 4) that speaks of the life of the believer in a time of crisis: “The righteous will live by his faith.” This is a great text. … It is so important that it is picked up by the New Testament writers, twice by Paul (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11) and once by the author of the Book of Hebrews (Hebrews 10:38).

Read or sing Hymn 49 “O Lord, Thou Judge of All the Earth” Prayer: Please lift up the seniors at Westminster Theological Seminary in California as they head into their final semester of academic training for ministry and continue to seek internship opportunities or a first call to Pastoral Ministry.

Thursday (1/21) Read and discuss Genesis 8:20-22. Allen Ross writes:

After the flood, Noah could see that, in addition to the wrath of God on earth, there was also redemption and restoration. No human ever experienced this truth so strongly. How could Noah best express his gratitude to God? According to Maurice, he wanted to say, “We confess that Thou hast made us rulers; helps us to govern; we know that the world can crush us; help us not to fear it, but Thee; we are sure that we have rebelled against Thee; we bless Thee that Thou upholdest us and unites us to Thee.”  The true worshipper, who by God’s grace escaped the catastrophe, thus confessed his submission to and dependence on God through sacrificial worship. The foundation of this sacrifice is laid in God’s fixed purpose to assert righteousness in the world, to bring men and women out of a wrong state and to establish them in a true state. In a word, God restored human dependence on him by making people aware of their impotence. By his sacrifice Noah expressed his submission to the gracious government of God in his life and in his world; by it he confess the evil in himself and his fellows, which had brought ruin upon the world; and by it he acknowledged the wonder of the wisdom of God in redeeming and restoring life. God would say again and again that the human heart was only evil continually. But when people expressed their faith and submission through sacrifice, God would smell the sweet aroma and say again and again that he was well pleased and that he would dwell with them and be their God.

Read or sing Hymn 321 “Great God, What Do I See and Hear!” Prayer: Please lift up the mothers of young children within our congregation.

Friday (1/22) Read and discuss Galatians 2:15-21. John Calvin writes:

Paul is explaining how we, who are dead to the law, live to God. Grafted into the death of Christ, we derive a secret energy from it, as the shoot does from the root. Being crucified with him, we have been set free from the curse and guilt of the law, because Christ has nailed those things to his cross. To set that deliverance aside is to nullify the cross of Christ. But let us remember that we are delivered from the yoke of the law only when we are united with Christ. …

Paul does not live by his own life but is animated by the secret power of Christ. Just as the soul quickens the body, so Christ imparts life to his members. … Christ lives in us in two ways. First, he governs us by his Spirit and directs all our actions. Second, he grants us a share in his righteousness so that, wince we can do nothing by ourselves, we are accepted in him by God. The first is linked to regeneration and the second to the free acceptance of righteousness. …

The foundation on which faith rests is the love and death of Christ, and it is by this that its effect must be judged. How does it come about that we live by the faith of Christ? Because he loved us and gave himself for us. The love with which Christ embraced us led him to unite himself to us. He completed this union by his death. By giving himself for us, he suffered in our stead. … It is not enough to regard Christ as having died for the salvation of the world; each individual must claim the effect and possession of this grace personally. … Faith makes us partakers of everything it finds in Christ. … He gave himself as the price of our redemption. … No words can [fully] express what this means, for who can find language to declare the excellency of the Son of God?

Prayer: Please pray for the Annual Meeting of our congregation scheduled for this evening.

Saturday (1/23) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:32-39. Tom Schreiner writes:

In 10:19-25 believers are encouraged to draw near and to hold fast, but here they are threatened and warned about falling away. Believers need to be warned and comforted so that both the carrot and the stick are used as pastoral tools. One can’t renounce Christ and still expect to receive forgiveness of sins. The punishment for those who apostatize will be terrifying. The punishment is great because the sin is heinous since it involves trampling the Son of God, scorning his blood, and despising the Holy Spirit. The things of God can’t be belittled without horrific consequences. The author lovingly warns the readers about the judgment to come, urging them to avoid it by staying true to their confession.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 17 January 2016 Monday, Jan 11 2016 

MVOPC 17 January 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 4:14-16

Hymn of Preparation: 309 “Rejoice, the Lord is King”

Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 32:28-47

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 10:19-31

Sermon: Therefore – Let Us Worship!

Hymn of Response: 317 “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 8:1-19

NT: Luke 3:1-22

God Remembers

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School Today

Shorter Catechism Q/A #25

Q. How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A. Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/11) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:19-31. Verse 25 warns us to not neglect the gathering of ourselves today as is the manner of some. N.T. Wright comments:

So, then, we are to come to worship God – not just in private, though private worship and prayer is enormously important, but in public as well. The danger of people thinking they could be Christians all by themselves was, it seems, present in the early church just as today, and verse 25 warns against it. This may well not be due to people not realizing what a corporate thing Christianity was and is, nor yet because they were lazy or didn’t much like the other Christians in their locality, but because, when there was a threat of persecution (as will become clear later in this chapter) it’s much easier to escape notice if you avoid meeting together with other worshippers. Much safer just not to turn up.

There’s no place for that, declares Hebrews. Every Christian needs the encouragement of every other Christian. Everyone who comes through the door of the place of worship, whether it be a house in a back street or a great cathedral in a public square, is a real encouragement to everyone else who is there. This is part of the way, along with an actual word of encouragement when necessary, in which we can ‘stir up one another’ to work hard at the central actions of Christian living, ‘love and good works’ (a deliberately broad phrase to cover all sorts of activities). And we need this encouragement all the more, as verse concludes, as we believe that we are drawing closer to the great day when, with Jesus’ reappearance, God will complete his work of new creation.

Read or sing Hymn 30 “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” Prayer: Please lift up the leaders of the Anglican Communion as they meet this week to deal with issues of church unity and faithfulness to God’s word.

Tuesday (1/12) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:11-18. In verse 18, the Holy Spirit, now speaking through the author of Hebrews, adds:

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

This closes off forever a possibility that first century Jewish Christians would naturally have been tempted to embrace: Why can’t we have both? Why can’t we both have Jesus and continue to enjoy the Old Covenant sacrificial system? In addition to the express command of God, the theological reasoning behind the fact that we can’t have both is quite straightforward. Jesus brought an end to the Levitical sacrifices and any continuing sacrifices would imply that what Jesus accomplished was somehow incomplete. The only way to grant Christ all the glory that He is due is to insist, as we sing, that:

Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.

This is why Luther, Calvin, and the other Reformers were willing to divide with the papacy over the single word “alone.” The Pope and those who would become the Roman Catholic Church all heartily assented that Christ, grace, and faith were absolutely necessary for salvation. But they also condemned the fundamental Biblical teaching that salvation was by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. But in that word “alone” lies the glory that is due to our Lord and Savior and in that word “alone” lies the full security that you are and ever shall be forgiven. Prayer: Give thanks for the finished work of Christ.

Wednesday (1/13) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 32:28-47. Eugene Merrill writes:

The seriousness of Israel’s obligation can be seen in the emphatic words of the charge in v. 46. “Take to heart” is a command in the strongest force, one that leaves no room for equivocation. Moreover, the use of the personal pronoun “I” with the particle rendered as “I have solemnly declared” [in the NIV] intensifies the sense of personal interest on the LORD’s part. It was he, the sovereign God, who had laid these mandates on them. Finally, Moses pointed out that the words of covenant requirement were not “idle” words, flippant or offhanded matters of opinion (v. 47). Rather than being empty and worthless words they were, in fact, words that led to life. The same sentiment appears earlier in Deuteronomy, where the point is made that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut 8:3). By feeding on them, that is, by obeying them explicitly, Israel could face the prospect of long life in the land of promise.

Read or sing Hymn 309 “Rejoice, the Lord is King” Prayer: Ask the LORD to bring visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Thursday (1/14) Read and discuss Genesis 8:1-19. Jeff Niehaus writes:

When the time comes for the Flood to recede, we read, “God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark” (Gen. 8:1). The meaning here is not that God forgot or could forget anything he then later remembers. Rather, the phrase is a covenantal one, which indicates that God has now taken up the subject of Noah and the animals and that it is time to do the next thing with and for them. We read the same of God’s dealings with others who are in covenant with him: “And God remembered Abraham” and brought Lot out of the catastrophe of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:20) just as he remembers Noah and brings him out of the catastrophe of the Flood: “and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (Exod. 2:24; cf. Exod. 6:5) when he hears the groaning of Israel and begins to work their deliverance through Moses. So we find that the phrase can appear in signal cases when God is about to begin some (redemptive) act on the basis of a covenantal commitment.

Professor Niehaus, along with nearly all other Old Testament scholars, are right to talk about the LORD remembering His covenant but we shouldn’t forget that this is a deeply personal commitment both for God and for man. After all, verse 1 does not read: “God remembered His promise” or “God remembered His covenant” but “God remembered Noah.” The LORD remembers you too! Read or sing Hymn 317 “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying” Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our church as it meets this evening.

Friday (1/15) Read and discuss Luke 3:1-22. Arthur Just writes:

One cannot understand the gospels or the Christian Gospel without first understanding the baptism of Jesus. Jesus now takes humanity’s place to receive the wrath of God against sin. The first step in the fulfillment of John’s prediction that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (3:16) is attained with Jesus’ baptism. From this moment, Jesus stands in solidarity with sinful humanity. He, therefore, stands for us under the wrath of God, wrath that will culminate in his crucifixion for the sins of the world. The placement of this wrath upon Jesus in his baptism is prepared for by John’s baptism of repentance to the forgiveness of sins and his preaching of the coming wrath of God. God’s wrath burns the chaff in an unquenchable fire. Jesus takes his place as a sinner alongside of sinners, even though he has committed no sin. He subjects himself to the fire of divine wrath. Jesus’ ministry is framed by two baptisms: his baptism in water and Spirit begins his journey to his bloody “baptism” on the cross (12:49-50). The presence of the Trinity at Jesus’ baptism affirms that Jesus is the Son of God and that he is the one chosen to accomplish the messianic task of substitutionary atonement on the cross.

Prayer: Please lift our brothers and sisters at Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead as they seek a new minister.

Saturday (1/16) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:19-31. Tom Schreiner writes:

As believers we have rest and peace of heart through Jesus’ blood. We know our sins aren’t held against us and that we have access to God himself. We rejoice in Jesus our great priest who has offered the final and definitive sacrifice for sins and intercedes for us as the living one. Because we are cleansed from our sins, we can draw near to God with confidence, boldness, and joy. Shame and guilt are no longer ours. We must also hold on to the faith until the end, knowing that God will never abandon us, that he will be faithful to all the promises given to us. Finally, we should consider how to encourage other believers to love and good works and perseverance. Those who abandon the fellowship of the Christian church by failing to attend are in danger of the final judgment. Perseverance is not merely a private matter. It is also reflected in whether believers meet corporately with one another. Refusing and failing to meet regularly with other believers corporately calls into question whether someone truly belongs to God. It is not simply a nice thing for Christians to do. It is necessary preparation for the Day of Judgment.

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 10 January 2016 Sunday, Jan 3 2016 

MVOPC 10 January 2016

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

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: Psalm 130:3-4

Hymn of Preparation: 455 “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 103:1-22

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 10:11-18

Sermon: What God Forgets

Hymn of Response: 80 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 689 “Be Still, My Soul”

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 7:1-24

NT: 1 Peter 3:13-22

Salvation and Judgment

Adult Sunday School: The Fourth Commandment – Part II

Shorter Catechism Q/A #24

Q. How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?

A. Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/4) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:11-18. Commenting on today’s passage, N.T. Wright observes:

Many of us in the modern world do our work sitting down. I’m sitting down at a desk as a I write this; I’m aware that my posture isn’t perfect, that I’m in danger of getting stiff shoulders, and that if I took more time to walk around, let alone to do more strenuous exercise, I’d probably be fitter and healthier for it. Accountants and lawyers do much of their work sitting down. Business people spend long hours at their desks. Many shopkeepers sit at a till. When we stand up, it’s a sign that work is over for the moment and we’re off to do something else.

For much of the world, though, and for much of history, the act of sitting down meant that you had finished work, not that you were beginning it. In a world where most working people labored in the fields or in energetic crafts like building, only a few sat down. Most people stood to work and sat to rest. That is the contrast which Hebrews is making here between the priests who (in his day) still served under the old dispensation, offering regular sacrifices in the Temple, and the position Jesus has now taken after completing his work. They all stand daily at their duties (verse 11); he has finished his work, and now sits at God’s right hand (verse 12). He doesn’t have to offer his sacrifice anymore; he’s done it, and it’s complete.

Read or sing Hymn 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Jaffrey, OPC in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.

Tuesday (1/5) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:1-10. The LORD’s promise of a New Covenant in Jeremiah 31 includes this wonderful assurance: “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” This promise powerfully contrasts with the merely ceremonial cleansing offered by the sacrifice of bulls and goats. The Levitical Sacrifices brought the sins of the people to remembrance both before God and men. But God promises in the New Covenant that He “will forgive [our] iniquity, and … remember [our] sins no more.” It is important for us to clarify what exactly is meant by our remembering or God forgetting our sins. After all, it isn’t as though now that you are a Christian you are unaware that you continue to sin. Every Sunday morning, we all confessed our sins together at the beginning of corporate worship. When we do this, none of us is thinking: “I have no idea what these people are talking about. I can’t remember having committed any sins.” That’s not what you were thinking, was it? In a similar way, when the LORD talks about forgetting our sins it isn’t as though the Divine memory suddenly went blank. “Remembering” in this usage has the idea of remembering against. Regretfully, sometimes when people are struggling in a marriage, when the husband or wife says something critical their spouse will reply by saying: “Yes, but you …” and then going on to dredge up some embarrassing or painful thing that their husband or wife once did. That’s what it means to remember something against another person … and please don’t do that with each other – that is really harmful.  To forgive and forget doesn’t mean that you never remember the event. It means that you commit to not remembering the event against each other. To have your sins brought to remembrance through the Levitical sacrificial system meant that you weren’t done with them yet. You still had to offer a fresh sacrifice for fresh sins … and you were reminded of this by the fact that you yourself could not enter into the LORD’s throne room with requests but had to be represented there – just once per year – by another human being who was appointed to that task by God. This is fundamentally different than what I tell you nearly every week in the Assurance of Pardon. No matter what the specific aspect of assurance a particular passage is teaching us, I almost always conclude by saying something like:

On the authority of God’s word I have the high and holy privilege of saying to each and every one of you who has confessed your sins trusting in Christ and Christ alone for your salvation: “Your sins are, and ever shall be, forgiven.”

Do you feel the force of that “and ever shall be forgiven”? Not only every sin that you have ever committed but every sin that you will ever commit in the future has already been washed from your record by the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews is saying: Why would you want to abandon the full forgiveness of sins in Christ to return to the age of foreshadowing, where even the sacrifices needed to ceremonially cover over your sins brought the guilt of your sins back to remembrance? Prayer: Give thanks that though your sins were red like crimson – Jesus has washed them white as snow.

Wednesday (1/6) Read and discuss Psalm 103:1-22. This beautiful Psalm brings great comfort to Christians and it also tells us where we ought to find our comfort in times of distress. John Calvin writes:

The Psalmist leaves nothing to men to rely upon but the mercy of God; for it would be egregious folly to seek a ground of confidence in themselves. After having shown the utter emptiness of men, he adds the seasonable consolation, that, although they have no intrinsic excellence, which does not vanish into smoke, yet God is an inexhaustible fountain of life, to supply their wants. This contrast is particularly observed; for whom does he thus divest of all excellence? The faithful who are regenerated by the Spirit of God, and who worship him with true devotion, these are the person he leaves nothing on which their hope may rest but the mere goodness of God. As the Divine goodness is everlasting, the weakness and frailty of the faithful does not prevent them from boasting of eternal salvation to the close of life, and even in death itself.

Read or sing Hymn 455 “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Thursday (1/7) Read and discuss Genesis 7:1-24. James Montgomery Boice draws three important lessons from today’s passage:

First, when the LORD shut Noah and his family up in the ark, they were totally secure and thereby become an illustration for us of the believer’s perfect security in Jesus Christ. The rains would come. The floods would rage. But nothing would touch these who had been sealed in the ark by Jehovah. It is interesting that God did not say, “Noah, it is time to shut the door. Get your sons to help you slide it closed and throw the lock.” The LORD does not place the safety of His people in others’ hands. He himself throws the lock. It is said of him, “What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open” (Rev. 3:7). The shutting in of Noah was the equivalent of our being sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). Like him, we are not only saved; we are secure as well.

Second, there is a lesson of God’s great race. The last thing we are told in this story before the waters actually begin to come is that “the LORD shut him in.” Presumably this was done at the last possible moment. Noah had been preaching God’s righteousness, man’s sin, and the coming of the great flood for 120 years. He had experienced no success whatever. As he and his family went into the ark and waited there for the rains to begin falling, they would have been taunted by those who remained outside. These had not believed Noah. They were refusing to believe now. But still the door to the ark remained open, and any who wanted to could have gone inside. What great grace! What magnificent forbearance on the part of God! Since Noah had believed and had gone in, no one who stood without could say that the possibility of belief was closed to him. “Whoever willed” could come.

So also today. All who will may come. Many do not, but none of these can say that the possibility of repentance from sin and turning to Christ are beyond them.

Finally, there is a lesson in that there is an end to grace. Grace is great, but it is not unending. If it is spurned, the day of reckoning eventually comes. For one final week the door stood open. Bu the week ended, the door was closed, and the flood came. The same God who opens doors is himself the door (John 10:7, 9). He also closes doors and refuses to open them – when the time for grace is gone.

Read or sing Hymn 80 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee” Prayer: Ask the LORD of the harvest to send revival and reformation to New England.

Friday (1/8) Read and discuss 1 Peter 3:13-22. The LORD tangibly applies a sign of His covenant grace upon us through the sacrament of baptism. Intriguingly, Peter ties baptism together with both Noah’s flood and God’s plan for salvation in Jesus Christ. Karen Jobes writes:

Peter is … saying that baptism itself does not remove moral filth once and for all so that Christians need not be concerned with how they live. Rather, he reminds his readers that at baptism they pledged to live in relationship with God, which would result in good consciences before him. Therefore, he can exhort them to continue to live, even under persecution, in a way that honors their baptism. The reference to baptism is important in Peter’s argument that it is better to suffer unjustly for doing good than to suffer for doing evil. …

The efficacy of water baptism is completely dependent on Christ’s resurrection, and so the three redemptive elements of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension frame this passage. Therefore, the discourse on baptism is not a digression from Peter’s main point but is where the objective accomplishment of redemption is brought to bear on the very real and pressing life situation of Peter’s readers.

Prayer: Please up those in our congregation who are struggling with physical infirmities.

Saturday (1/9) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:11-18. Commenting on today’s passage, N.T. Wright comments:

When we look to see where Jesus is now, and what he’s doing, we discover, not that he needs to die over and over again, like the regular repeated sacrifices offered in the Temple; nor, indeed, that he is again and again presenting his sacrifice to the father, as though he needed to do that repeatedly within the heavenly sanctuary. It is true, of course, as we saw in 7.25, that the continuing work of Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary is now to ‘make intercession for’ his people. He is there ‘on our behalf’ (9.24). But he is no longer at work; no longer sacrificing or offering his sacrifice. That was done once and for all, and is finished and complete. He has taken his seat, signifying that his principal work is over.

The writer intends that his readers should find this enormously comforting. What Jesus has done, in dying as a sacrifice for us, to procure the complete forgiveness of sins spoken of in Jeremiah, and to establish God’s new covenant with us, is complete. It does not need adding to, let alone repeating. To suggest either of these would be to suggest that there was something incomplete, something left undone which Jesus didn’t quite manage to do the first time round. When as Christians we look for assurance that we have truly been forgiven, we don’t look – we shouldn’t look – at anything we do, at anything the church does, at anything Christian ministers, clergy, priests or whoever do. We look back to the even outside Jerusalem on that dark Friday afternoon, and thank God for what was accomplished fully and finally on our behalf.

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 3 January 2016 Sunday, Dec 27 2015 

MVOPC 3 January 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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

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: Psalm 103:1-3

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

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 40:1-17

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 10:1-10

Sermon: Sanctified Once For All

Hymn of Response: 172 “Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 6:9-22

NT: 2 Peter 2:1-10

The End of All Flesh … But Not Quite

Adult Sunday School: The Fourth Commandment – Part I

Shorter Catechism Q/A #23

Q. What offices doth Christ execute as our redeemer?

A. Christ, as our redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (12/28) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:1-10. Simon Kistemaker writes:

For readers of Jewish origin who considered the law of God their most precious possession, the author’s assertion – “the law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming” – must have been astounding. If the law was their treasured possession, it would be difficult to imagine that far more desirable things were in store for them. The writer of Hebrews calls these things “the realities themselves,” and he explains that they consist of Christ and his redemptive work. Writing to Jewish readers in Colossae about religious observances, Paul says almost the same thing. He writes, “These [regulations] are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col 2:17).

By quoting and applying the verses from Psalm 40, the author of Hebrews shows that Christ has come to do God’s will. In doing that will, Christ offered his body as a sacrifice, fulfilled the requirements of the Aaronic priesthood, and terminated the Levitical sacrifices. If Christ had fulfilled only the demands of the Aaronic priesthood, however, there would not have been a new covenant. The writer of Hebrews teaches that after Christ had offered himself without blemish to God, he became the mediator of a new covenant. He cleansed the consciences of the members of this covenant, “so that we may serve the living God!” (9:14). This refers to a higher priesthood that is eternal; it is called the priesthood in the order of Melchizedek. Christ fulfilled the requirements of this priesthood in his dedication to do God’s will.

Read or sing Hymn 12 “Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim” Prayer: Please lift up Providence OPC our mission work in Hanover, NH.

Tuesday (12/29) Read and discuss Hebrews 9:23-28. Verses 24-26 present two critical contrasts between Christ and the Levitical Priesthood. First, unlike the Levitical Priests who ministered in the earthly copy – Jesus entered into heaven itself – into the very presence of God on our behalf. Second, unlike the never-ending stream of Levitical sacrifices – Christ offered Himself up just once. We will unpack this second point a bit in a moment – and much more (Lord willing) next week. But it would be helpful for us to pause and think about the imagery of Jesus entering the Tabernacle of Heaven “on our behalf.” Many evangelicals get a bit nervous at this point because they want to insist that Jesus didn’t offer Himself up in heaven but on the cross. As far as that goes, this is a perfectly fine point to make – but it also misses how sacrifices were offered in the Old Testament. Animals were neither put to death on the altar nor on the mercy seat – but the consequences of the sacrifices were offered in both places. Let me say that again: “Animals were neither put to death on the altar nor on the mercy seat – but the consequences of the sacrifices were offered in both places.” This symbolism pointed to the fact that, though Jesus was crucified on earth, “outside the camp”, the consequences of His sacrifice would be presented before Almighty God – not merely on earth – but in the throne room of heaven. The key thing to notice, at the end of verse 24, is that Jesus hasn’t merely gone into heaven to be with God the Father. Jesus now appears in the presence of God “on our behalf.” The argument is from the lesser to the greater. If saints under the Mosaic Covenant found comfort in knowing that the Levitical High Priest was interceding on their behalf in the earthly Tabernacle; how much greater comfort should we enjoy knowing Jesus Christ Himself is in the presence of God “on our behalf”? Augustus Toplady put it like this:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

That’s good! That is a comfort you should know if you are placing your confidence in Jesus Christ … For Jesus is in the presence of God the Father on your behalf. Prayer: Give thanks for the assurance that Jesus has removed both the guilt and the filth of our sin.

Wednesday (12/30) Read and discuss Psalm 40:1-17. In verses 1-3, David recounts six things that the LORD did in rescuing him out of a difficult circumstance. Then in the second half of verse three he tells of interesting consequence of being rescued by the LORD:

Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.

It turns out that our experience of falling into distress and being rescued by God has an evangelistic purpose. This is an example of God working all things for the good of His people and for His own glory. It answers the question of why such bad things happen to us – when the LORD who loves us is in absolute control of everything. Put simply: God glorifies Himself by overcoming our poverty with His riches. The truth of verse 3 also unmasks a substantial misunderstanding in much of North American evangelicalism. When we try to attract people to our churches we often do so by putting our “best foot forward” so that the world can see what an attractive and “successful” group of people we are. Of course, we insist, “We couldn’t have done it without God.” But what we commonly end up communicating is that the LORD is a great partner – or as the bumper sticker puts it – “God is my co-pilot.” The Bible, by contrast, doesn’t present God as our partner but as our Sovereign Lord and as our Savior. So David says: When people find out what a mess I made of my life, or how my enemies were triumphing over me, and then see how the LORD rescued me – that MANY of them “will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.” Please remember this. God isn’t glorified because our church is filled with the best looking and best dressed people who all pretty much have our acts together. God glorifies Himself by overcoming our poverty with His riches – and He uses this to bring MANY people to the place where they “put their trust in” Him. Read or sing Hymn 463 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation.

Thursday (12/31) Read and discuss Genesis 6:9-22. Jeff Niehaus writes:

The flood has an end in two senses. It has an end or goal in view: the extermination of all God’s foes and of the environmental system (the world) that sustained them. But it also has an end in the sense that it comes to an end. And when it does, the dry land emerges once again, just as it did in Genesis 1. The parallel is real and not merely literary. When God brought the Flood, he returned the globe to a preemergent state – that is, the state in which it found itself before God caused the dry land to emerge from the waters. Only after the land emerged did life appear on it. By bringing the Flood, God has reversed the condition of the earth and made it what it originally was. So now, again, there are no land creatures in existence except for Noah “and those with him in the ark” (Gen. 7:23). When God causes dry land to reemerge from a global ocean, it will be an act of recreation, a making of a new earth, and this act is introduced with an evocative term: “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded” (Gen 8:1). The term for wind here is the word that can also mean “spirit/Spirit”, and it appears in the creation account when the “Spirit from God hovered over the face of the deep before God separated the land from the water (Gen. 1:2). The narrative seems to allude to God’s original act and thereby indicate the “new creation” aspect of the Flood waters’ retreat.

Read or sing Hymn 172 “Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder” Prayer: Please lift up President Obama and ask the LORD to grant him wisdom and moral courage as he enters his last year in office.

Friday (1/1) Read and discuss 2 Peter 2:1-10. The roots of the word “verdict” can be traced back to the Latin verus (true) and dictum (speech). The idea is that, after hearing all of the evidence and arguments, someone in authority declares what is right. He or she speaks the truth about the matter in question. After being barraged with misinformation in the recent political campaigns, we all instinctively long for the person who will speak the plain unvarnished truth. Even more than this, we all long for a judge who will speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and who also has the authority and power to right all the wrongs. The LORD is precisely this sort of judge. Verses 4-10 of today’s passage present a set of if-then conditional clauses.  The logic of the argument functions like this: Sine all of the “if” statements have been fulfilled than the “then” statement must be true:

  1. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, …
  2. if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;
  3. if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and
  4. if he rescued righteous Lot, …
  5. then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

The Living God is the just Judge whom we long for. This means that those who rebel against Him cannot possibly escape judgment. Thankfully, it also means that all who trust in Him will be completely vindicated. Prayer: Please pray for a friend or family member that does not know the Lord. Pray that the LORD would awaken them to the peril of their situation and that the only means of rescue is through Jesus Christ.

Saturday (1/2) Read and discuss Hebrews 10:1-10. Ray Steadman writes:

That none of his readers should miss this important point the writer takes pains o indicate clearly, in verses 8-10, the meaning of the quotation from Psalm 40. He acknowledges that though God authorized the animal sacrifices of the past, he did not delight in them. Then he stresses the fact that Christ deliberately set himself to do the will of the Father, though he knew it would lead to pain and separation. Intimations of Gethsemane are certainly present in these words, though it was on the cross that they were fully carried out. Here the writer also declares that the death of Jesus, by fulfilling the will of the Father, completely replaces the provision of animal deaths which had provided some degree of forgiveness before. Finally, he announces the only possible conclusion: It is by the fulfillment of the will of God in the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ … that we … have been made holy. The Greek expression for made holy indicates action with a lasting effect. We have been made holy by the death of Jesus, and we remain holy even though we struggle with daily weakness and sin. This should be borne in mind when we come to the statement in 12:14, “without holiness no one will see the LORD.” It is a holiness obtained by faith, not by self-righteous effort, and it is not lost by momentary failure.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 27 December 2015 Sunday, Dec 20 2015 

MVOPC 27 December 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 86:5-7

Hymn of Preparation: 247 “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 16:1-19

New Covenant Reading: Hebrews 9:23-28

Sermon: It is Finished

Hymn of Response: 251 “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Till He Come”!

PM Worship:

OT: Genesis 6:1-8

NT: Hebrews 11:1-7

Where Sin Abounded …

Adult Sunday School: Extended Fellowship – No Sunday School

Shorter Catechism Q/A #22

Q. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?

A. Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (12/21) Read and discuss Hebrews 9:23-28. Simon Kistemaker writes:

The Epistle to the Hebrews is an epistle that features contrasts; in every chapter and in numerous verses, the author compares Christ with angels, Moses, Aaron, or the Levitical priesthood. In this particular section, he shows the unsurpassable excellence of the high-priestly work of Christ. A high priest was appointed to represent the people before God, but the actual time he spent in God’s presence was minimal; it occurred only once a year on the Day of Atonement. Our great high priest entered heaven once and stays forever in the presence of God as our mediator, advocate, intercessor, and guarantor.

Moreover, the high priest had to present animal blood before God in the Most Holy Place. His own blood would have been unworthy because he himself was a sinner. But even animal blood had only a limited effect, for the high priest had to appear before God every year again with additional blood. The writer of Hebrews somewhat later observes, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:4). The sacrifice of of Christ’s blood, whoever, has lasting effect. It terminates the ruling power of sin in the mind of man (Rom 8:2). Christ’s blood cleanses the church, so that he is able to present it “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish … holy and blameless” (Eph 5:27). And the blood of Christ wipes the record clean: a sinner forgiven by God stands before him as if he had never sinned at all.

Read or sing Hymn 38 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” Prayer: Please pray for the war torn nation of Syria.

Tuesday (12/22) Read and discuss Matthew 2:1-12. How excited these religious experts must have been to hear the news! They couldn’t be sure that the Magi were right that the Messiah had been born, but they knew where He would be born – in Bethlehem. Thankfully, Bethlehem was just six miles south of Jerusalem. Because Jerusalem is elevated, you can actually see Bethlehem from there. The religious leaders could walk to Bethlehem in less than 90 minutes … and if the story the Magi told were false … they could be home by dinner. And what if the Magi were right? Four centuries of silence from God would end with the Messiah coming into the world right in their own back yard. Surely, everyone there who could still walk would walk, or better run, all the way to Bethlehem to see if the Messiah had come. Well, at least some of the religious leaders would go and check it out – wouldn’t they?  Not at all! It turns out that not a single one of the religious leaders made this six mile trip. The Magi who had already traveled nearly 900 miles to worship the new born king would travel the last six miles alone. When Herod asked the religious leaders where the Messiah would be born they knew the right answer. It rolled right off of their tongues. They were experts in the law. But they were more concerned about being right than about being righteous. Regretfully, religious leaders are frequently like that. What about you? The question we need to answer this isn’t “What about them?” It is “What about us?” Almighty God is moving heaven and earth so that Jesus Christ will be worshipped among every tribe, tongue, and people; yet some of those with the greatest spiritual privilege are failing to do so. Will you respond with anger like Herod, with indifference like the religious leads, or will you by fall come and worship Him? Prayer: Lift up the young people in our congregation and pray that they would come to make a clear commitment to trusting and following Jesus.

Wednesday (12/23) Read and discuss Leviticus 16:1-19. John Kleinig writes:

The NT teaches that the death of Jesus is to be understood in the light of the Day of Atonement. Thus the Synoptic Gospels relate that when Jesus died, the veil of the temple was split from top to bottom. This showed what Jesus had accomplished by his death. As a result of his self-sacrifice, the way into the Father’s presence lay open to all his disciples,. In the OT era only the high priest, on day per year, could enter the Holy of Holies. But because of the death of Jesus, all peoples at all times have open access to God the Father through faith in Him.

In Romans 3:25 Paul alludes to the Day of Atonement to describe the purpose of Christ’s death. God appointed Jesus as the new ἱλαστήριον [hilasterion], the ‘mercy seat,’ the place of atonement and God’s gracious presence. Through his blood Jesus gained redemption for sinners. Those who trust in his blood are justified by grace. So Jesus is both the place of atonement and the priest who makes atonement before God with his blood. God justifies those who have faith in Jesus and grants them access to his gracious presence (Rom 5:1-2).

The book of Hebrews elaborates on this. The high priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. There he performed the rite of atonement in God’s presence. But that access was limited and temporary. His work prefigured the ministry of Jesus who fulfilled what the high priest had begun on that day. By his death Jesus offered himself as the perfect sin offering for the whole world so that, exalted by God, he could enter the heavenly sanctuary with his blood and open the way for his brothers into the divine presence.

Read or sing Hymn 247 “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” Prayer: Lift up those who are lonely that they would find joy in Christ and in their church family this Christmas season.

Thursday (12/24) Read and discuss Genesis 6:1-8. James Montgomery Boice writes:

Could a blacker picture of the utter depravity of man in his rebellion against God ever be painted? It is hard to think so. Yet just at this point, when the black thunderclouds of God’s wrath against human sin are at their most threatening, a small crack appears. Grace shines through, and the promise of a new day dawns.

The older, Authorized Version says, “Noah found grace.” But whether the word “grace” or the word “favor” is used to translate the Hebrew term, the significant thing is that this is the first appearance of the idea in the Bible. It is true, of course, that Adam and Eve also found grace when they sinned; justice alone would have sent them into outer darkness forever. Seth and Enoch and all the others found grace. But here for the first time grace is explicitly mentioned. Since this is said of a time when the evil of a degenerate race was at its zenith, it indicates that so long as life lasts, regardless of the extent of the evil, there is always opportunity to find God’s grace where alone it can be found, namely, in the work of Jesus Christ in dying for his people’s salvation. Noah may not have known details about that future work of Christ. But he looked forward to the deliverer and ordered his life accordingly.

Notice that Noah did not earn grace. Noah found grace. He was willing to accept God’s judgment on his sinful and rebellious nature and place his hope in the Savior. It is the same today. We have no claim on God. We have not earned anything but his just wrath and our eventual destruction. But we can find God’s grace in Christ.

Read or sing Hymn 251 “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” Prayer: Please pray that the LORD would send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Friday (12/25) Read and discuss Hebrews 11:1-7. Tom Schreiner writes:

Noah functions as [an] example in the author’s portrait of faith. God instructed Noah about what was not yet seen, informing him that the entire world would be destroyed by a flood. Noah exercised faith and thus was persuaded that what was not yet seen would become a reality. We have already seen that faith rests in and is convinced by the unseen promises of God (11:1). Faith can’t “see” how the world was created but trusts that God made all things. Noah had no conception of the torrent of destruction that would descend on the world, but he believed in what God said even though he had never beheld it. In the same way the readers should look to the unseen and believe that what God promised would be realized.

In “godly fear” … Noah believed what God said, and since he was convinced a judgment was coming, he constructed an ark for the deliverance of his household. The readers should imitate Noah, for deliverance for them is not just physical but relates to whether they will enter the heavenly city. Noah condemned the world by his faith because he showed that he trusted God, had given himself to God, and belonged to God. He didn’t give himself over to evil as the culture of his day had. He submitted his will to God. And thus he received a right relationship with God “that comes by faith.” The world was condemned because it wasn’t rightly related to God, and its inhabitants weren’t rightly related to God because they didn’t trust in him or obey him.

Prayer: Please lift up those who serve our congregation by working in the nursery.

Saturday (12/26) Read and discuss Hebrews 9:23-28. Today’s passage summarizes and recapitulates much of the argument that the author of Hebrews began in chapter seven. Everything revolves around the fact that Jesus is both a better sacrifice and priest than was provided in the Old Testament ceremonial law. Robert Rayburn puts it like this:

The author distinguishes the earthly ceremonies and sanctuary from the heavenly sphere of his priestly work. The principle of true salvation is not the oft-repeated Levitical rituals but the once-for-all, eternally effective self-sacrifice of Christ, sufficient to cover all the sins of all the called for all time. “End of the ages” suggest that human destiny and the purpose of history pivots on this single event. As men die but once, so he who took the place of men (2:14, 17) dies but once, but with eternal effect; however, the full manifestation and development of this await Christ’s return.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 20 December 2015 Sunday, Dec 13 2015 

MVOPC 20 December 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 53:4-5

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

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 52:1-10

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 2:1-12

Sermon: Kings Great and Small

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

Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 195 “Joy to the World”

PM Worship:

OT: 2 Samuel 7:4-17

NT: Matthew 9:27-34

Jesus, Son of David

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Shorter Catechism Q/A #21

Q. Who is the redeemer of God’s elect?
A. The only redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (12/14) Read and discuss Matthew 2:1-12. This passage introduces four major themes in the Gospel according to Matthew: (1) First, Jesus will be a Royal Messiah; (2) Second, God is controlling all the events through His providential hand; (3) Third, the Gentiles are going to be included among the Messiah’s people; and (4) Fourth, Jesus is the fulfillment of much Old Testament prophesy. Today we will look at the contrast between the Magi and the rulers of Israel. It is striking that the LORD led the Magi to travel over long distances on very incomplete information to pay homage to the new born King. This points forward to the fact that the whole world will one day worship Him (cf. Rev. 21:24, 26). Magi, in the ancient world, were a priestly cast of magicians and astrologers who were supposed to be the “wise men” of the country. They were therefore consulted by civil rulers and often used for diplomatic missions. They may have been familiar with some of the Hebrew Bible, but they didn’t know about Micah 5:2 for they follow the natural surmise that a king would be born in a capital and head off to Jerusalem. It doesn’t surprise us that the paranoid Herod would be deeply disturbed by the news of a newborn King; but we shouldn’t miss that all Jerusalem was troubled with him. So Herod gathers together the chief priests and the teachers of the law and inquires where the Messiah was to be born. They don’t miss a beat: “In Bethlehem of Judea” they reply, “for this is how it has been written by the prophet.” They all know the correct answer, but here is the amazing part: Although Bethlehem is only 6 miles from Jerusalem – not one of the chief priests or scribes bothers to go with the Magi to see where the Christ was to be born. The contrast is striking: Some traveled great distances and offered up gold and precious spices to worship Jesus while others wouldn’t even make the two hour walk to see Him. “This antithesis carries through the gospel: the redemptive influence of Jesus will extend far beyond the confines of Jerusalem to the far corners of the earth, yet those closest to Jesus will reject him (Grant Osborne).” Read or sing Hymn 34 “The God of Abraham Praise” Prayer: Please lift up President Obama and ask that the LORD would grant him special wisdom and moral courage as he leads our nation.

Tuesday (12/15) Read and discuss Matthew 1:18-25. In order to understand the solution you have to understand the problem. What was it like to conceive of yourself as being part of the LORD’s chosen people when He hadn’t returned to Zion for more than four centuries? What was it like for a Jewish carpenter to live under the thumb of brutal Roman overlords (both Herod and his son Archelaus were unusually brutal compared to most Roman rulers)? What was it like to live in Judah when the majority of your fellow Jews had grown cold in the faith? C.S. Lewis beautifully captures this struggle when he describes Narnia without Asland (Jesus) as “always winter but never Christmas”. Yet, first century Judah wasn’t without some joys. There was still a remnant and Joseph was about to be married to a woman who by all accounts appeared to be a particularly godly woman. Then Joseph’s entire world came crashing down: She’s pregnant! How could that possibly be? All of his hopes and dreams had gone up in ashes. Nevertheless, Joseph seeks to be a man of God who does “justice, loves mercy, and walks humbly with his God (Micah 6:8).” It would not be easy. Nearly everyone in his town would think that Joseph had been guilty of fornication. But Joseph chose to suffer the abuse of his fellow men in order to seek the praise of God. Because of the astonishing news that he would be the step-father to Immanuel – Joseph (and all of the rest of us) have reason to sing joy to a world in a world that often seems like it is always winter and never Christmas. This week, as you take time to celebrate the coming of our LORD, remember to rejoice with a grateful heart. And remember to look forward in hope to the day when it will never be winter but it will always be Christmas. For you will dwell in the immediate presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. And you will be like Him, for you will see Him as He is. Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in Canada as they seek to spread the gospel in an increasingly secular culture.

Wednesday (12/16) Read and discuss Isaiah 52:1-10. On the Fourth of July Americans celebrate Independence Day to commemorate when our nation first declared itself to be a sovereign power. Yet, even a cursory familiarity with history makes it difficult to paint the British Empire as tyrannical oppressors. Israel could only have wished that they had been “oppressed” in this way. Isaiah had lived through the assaults of the Assyrians, who were among the most brutal people who had ever lived. Then he prophesied of Judah being taken into the Babylonian captivity. While the Babylonians were more civilized than the Assyrians, they did force the majority of the Jewish people to move more than five hundred miles away to a strange land where they would have to do whatever the king of Babylon told them to do. Yet, Isaiah 52 is promising a freedom from this bondage. More than mere freedom, Israel would be lifted up and exalted. Isaiah was promising a second Exodus where the people would be delivered not only to freedom and security but to being the LORD’s true people:

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

When would this glorious event take place? If we stopped reading here we could easily imagine that this might take place in the fifth century B.C. when the LORD would bring Israel back into their land. But if we keep reading through Isaiah 52 and 53 we see that this freedom, security, and joy is intimately tied up with the substitutionary death of the Suffering Servant. It is only with Christ’s victory over Satan, sin, and death that the Second Exodus is truly accomplished. Living on this side of redemption accomplished, let us lift our voices to sing of Christ’s victory and let us rejoice in the Good News that He brings. Read or sing Hymn 306 “Jesus, My Great High Priest” Prayer: Pray for our college students as they visit home over the Christmas break that this would be a time of mutual encouragement between them and their families.

Thursday (12/17) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 7:4-17. Scholars have long noted that the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants bear striking resemblance to ancient “Royal-Grant Treaties.” As Eugene Merrill explains, “The fundamental premise of the royal grant was its disposition by a superior party to an underling on no grounds other than the good will of the benefactor. The recipient had not initiated the grant, he had no right to expect it, and he had no way of guaranteeing its permanence.” Merrill later applies this concept to today’s passage:

The election of David to kingship was a matter entirely outside his own merits or machinations. Centuries before he was born, he was ordained to the office to which in God’s time he was eventually anointed. The same is true of the covenant that certified his election and spelled out for him the benefits he could expect and the responsibilities incumbent on him. David had no sooner offered to build a house for the Lord than the Lord declined the offer, extending to David instead the promise that he would build him a house. To underscore his sovereign and unconditional grace to David, the Lord reminded him of his calling to begin with: “I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over My people Israel.” There is no hint here of David’s having met conditions either to be chosen king or to receive the covenant about to be spelled out.

The blessings to follow the covenant relationship were many:

  1. The Lord would make David’s name (i.e., reputation) great.
  2. He would provide Israel a safe and secure dwelling place.
  3. He would establish a house (i.e., dynasty) for David.
  4. David’s house and kingdom would be everlasting.
  5. There was only one note of warning – “When he (David’s son) does wrong, I will discipline him with a human rod” – but that was quickly followed by the strongest of assurances: “But My faithful love will never leave him as I removed it from Saul.”

Read or sing Hymn 308 “Jesus Paid It All” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Friday (12/18) Read and discuss Matthew 9:27-34. Isaiah prophesied of the coming Messiah:

Isaiah 35:5-6: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; …”

Today’s passage shows how Jesus fulfilled these prophesies in a miraculous manner. Many people imagine that if unbelievers would just see such miracles then they would come to trust in God. It turns out that this isn’t so. What the miracles do is push people toward a crossroad which makes clear that they cannot remain neutral with respect to Jesus. This is true today whenever people hear about Jesus or things related to the gospel. Grant Osborne puts it like this:

The crowds increasingly hold Jesus in awe, while the leaders increasingly reject and oppose him. It is common to think that “seekers” are neutral, interested yet not read to make a commitment. This is sometimes true, but we must remember that every service or Christian activity they attend, they leave having reject Christ again. As such they grow increasingly hardened to the gospel, gradually shifting from a crowdlike attitude to a leaderlike attitude. Neutrality is not an option!

Prayer: Ask the LORD to work in the lives of the young children in our congregation that each and every one of them would come to the place of firmly committing themselves to Jesus Christ.

Saturday (12/19) Read and discuss Matthew 2:1-12. On Monday we looked at the contrast between Israel’s earthly rulers and the Magi. Today we will look at the contrast between God/Jesus and Herod the Great. Herod was a paranoid and power hungry leader. Caesar Augustus once quipped that he would rather be Herod’s pig than his son. For, although Herod wouldn’t eat pork, he had put both his wife and his two sons to death out of fear that they were plotting against him. Herod’s entire approach to life was to cling to everything he could while destroying anything he imagined could be a threat. His approach to the Magi was neither to bless them nor to dismiss them but to use them. Herod treated other people as though they were things. By contrast, Jesus chose to leave the courts of heaven to be born in a humble family. Herod was focused on what he could get. Jesus was focused on what He could give. Nevertheless, the passage leaves us with absolutely no doubt about who is in charge. God had planned this moment from before the foundations of the world. He had predicted it through His prophet Micah. He was supernaturally guiding these gentile Magi to His Son through a special star, and He would warn them in a dream to not return to Herod. The paranoid Herod may have thought that he was in charge, but the unfolding events demonstrated that all the details of history are securely in the hands of the King of Kings. The passage also has clear echoes of Ezekiel 34:11-16. The false shepherds have scattered God’s people. But the Messiah has come at last to shepherd the nation back to God and to bring the gentiles into God’s one flock. Or to shift to the imagery from Daniel, in Christ, God had set up the stone that would grow into a great mountain that would ultimately fill all the earth. Read or sing Hymn: 246 “Man of Sorrows! What a Name” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 13 December 2015 Sunday, Dec 6 2015 

MVOPC 13 December 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

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: Luke 1:76-79

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

Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 7:1-14

New Covenant Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

Sermon: You Shall Call His Name Jesus

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

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

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

PM Worship:

OT: Isaiah 9:1-7

NT: Luke 1:56-80

Benedictus

Adult Sunday School: The Third Commandment

Shorter Catechism Q/A #20

Q. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?

A. God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a redeemer.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (11/30) Read and discuss Matthew 1:18-25. One of the most moving contemporary songs about Christmas is called “Joseph’s Song” by Michael Card. This song looks at the extraordinary reality of Jesus growing up as a little boy through the eyes of his adoptive father. At one point the song has Joseph sing:

Father show me where I fit
into this plan of yours
How can a man be father

to the Son of God
Lord for all my life I’ve
been a simple carpenter
How can I raise a king, How
can I raise a king

As overwhelming as this may have seemed to Joseph, it pales in comparison to the decision he had to make when he received the astonishing news: Mary was pregnant! Legally, Joseph and Mary were already married. Normally marriages were arranged so that the man would be between 18 and 20 and the woman in her early teens. Joseph was in the process of trying to establish himself financially for his soon to be family. He would almost certainly have been in the process of physically building the home (perhaps a room on his parents’ house) for where he could take Mary and start their life together. As he fitted the stones together and erected the beams he must have constantly been dreaming about what their new life as a couple would be like. Now it was over before it ever really began. Mary was pregnant and not by him. This crisis dramatically reveals what sort of man Joseph was in three key decisions:

  1. First, Joseph, because he was a righteous man sought to divorce Mary quietly. Whatever plans and dreams Joseph had needed to put aside in order for him to live consistently with the law of God. Please notice that Scripture does not pit being righteous against being compassionate. Joseph did not seek to torment Mary for her supposed sin by making her a public disgrace. He chose to do the right thing in a compassionate way.
  2. Second, God chose to override Joseph’s decision. The Angel of the LORD appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that, in spite of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph was to marry her anyway. We will look at what the Angel of the LORD told Joseph on Saturday.
  3. Third, Joseph chose to obey God’s word. There is a beautiful touch in how Joseph does this. In verse 25 we are told that “he called his name Jesus.” In naming Jesus, Joseph claimed him as his own son. We are prone to pass over this fact too easily but we shouldn’t forget that the Angel of the LORD appeared only to Joseph in a dream. He did not appear to the whole town. Taking Mary to be his wife would open Joseph up to the scorn of all his neighbors. Undoubtedly, most of them would think that Jesus was Joseph’s son born under illicit circumstances. But Joseph chose to suffer the contempt of man for a time because he was committed to seeking His praise not from man but from God. Joseph was a righteous man. “Mary’s obedience in Luke 1 is the same, so we see what kind of pious, God-fearing parents Jesus had, who are models for us all (Grant Osborne).”

Read or sing Hymn 14 “New Songs of Celebration Render” Prayer: Please ask the LORD to send revival and reformation to our communities in New England.

Tuesday (12/1) Read and discuss Hebrews 9:11-22. Do you sometimes feel guilty? Of course you do and that is a gift from God. A guilty conscience is intended to lead us to repentance and to make reconciliation with our neighbors whom we have offended. But what do you do with a guilty conscience after that? You can’t bring a lamb to the Temple to sacrifice it – so what do you do? I have noticed that what many Christians do is they choose to feel bad about what they have done. Nobody would ever put it this way, but many Christians act as though the way to deal with a guilty conscience is by handing our sins over to Jesus and feeling bad about them – as though feeling bad contributes to our forgiveness. But such an approach doesn’t honor God. Instead it makes it seem as though Christ’s sacrifice is insufficient to bring about your complete forgiveness and that we need add something to His work – our own feeling bad about what we have done. The bigger the sin the longer we feel bad about it. Hebrews, like the rest of the New Testament, points us in a different direction. The reason why the blood of Christ cleanses our consciences is because, on the cross, Jesus washed away all of our actual guilt. Jesus doesn’t pay some of our debt. He doesn’t pay most of our debt. On the cross Jesus cried out “it is finished” which could also be translated “Paid in full.” Jesus paid all of your debt. So once you have repented and sought reconciliation with your neighbor you never need to feel guilty about what you did again. Isn’t that good news? Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our congregation as it meets this evening.

Wednesday (12/2) Read and discuss Isaiah 7:1-14. One time C.S. Lewis was talking with a colleague in his study at Oxford when a group of students began singing Christmas carols outside his window. His colleague condescendingly said something like, “These are Oxford University students. Don’t they realize that virgins don’t give birth?” To which Lewis dryly replied, “Don’t you think they already know that?” Odd, isn’t it, that, having heard the Christmas story so often, people sometimes forget what a spectacular miracle the virgin conception was? Indeed, it was nothing less than a new creation of the Second Adam. Over the past two centuries many have attempted to strip the miraculous from Scripture. One place where such “scholars” seem to have gained traction is with respect to Isaiah 7:14. At first this may seem odd. Since Matthew and Luke clearly and repeatedly declare that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived in her womb, what is the point of arguing that Isaiah 7:14 merely speaks of a young woman giving birth and not a virgin? The answer is that it is extremely embarrassing to liberals that God would promise the virgin concept seven centuries before it happened. Oddly, many conservatives have tended to take the liberals at their word and have become very tentative at suggesting that Isaiah 7:14 speaks of the virgin conception of Christ. Nevertheless, there are really strong (even compelling) reasons for holding to the traditional understanding:

  1. Although liberals have repeatedly asserted that the Hebrew word ‘alma simply means “young woman” no one has ever produced a single example in either biblical or extra-biblical Hebrew where the person referred to was not a virgin. As the Old Testament scholar J. Alec Motyer observes: “Wherever the context allows a judgment, ‘alma is is not a general term meaning ‘young woman’ but a specific one meaning ‘virgin’.”
  2. The Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek (done in the two centuries prior to Christ) translates ‘alma with the Greek term parthenon which everyone recognizes means virgin. This is the same term used by Matthew and Luke in the New Testament to record Christ’s virgin conception.
  3. Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 as being about the birth of Jesus.
  4. Consider how dramatic a sign the LORD promises to Ahaz: “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” As Homer Hailey put it, what is in view is “a sign so momentous that only Jehovah could give it.” Then ask yourself this question: “How dramatic a sign is it that a young woman would bear a son?” The fact is, not only would a young woman bearing a son not be a particularly dramatic sign – it wouldn’t be a sign at all. Young woman have children the natural way all the time.
  5. If we keep reading from Isaiah 7 through chapter 9 we can trace some interesting details about the child that will be born to this woman: (1) He will be called Immanuel – meaning “God with us” (7:14); (2) In 8:8 he is called Immanuel again and the Land is described as His (3) It is impossible to separate this child from the description in Isaiah 9:6-7 where the child is also described Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. There simply is no way that an ordinary child in Isaiah’s time could have fulfilled all of this – even as a type of the Christ who was to come.

“Following these pointers, we have a sign that lives up to its promise. Heaven and earth will be truly moved. Isaiah foresaw the birth of the divine son of David and also laid the foundation for understanding the unique nature of his birth (Motyer).” Read or sing Hymn 194 “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Prayer: Give thanks for the astonishing gift of Immanuel – God with us.

Thursday (12/3) Read and discuss Isaiah 9:1-7. King Uzziah was an exceptional ruler. This is something that should not be taken for granted either in ancient Israel or in the modern world. To be led by a wise and godly ruler is a great blessing.  Furthermore, Uzziah reigned for 40 years.  Most of the people living in Israel at the time of his death had never lived under another king. Now Uzziah was dead. Would Israel revert to wicked rulers or even to chaos? Would her next king try to fleece the sheep rather than protect them? Isaiah tells us that “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” When the earthly king was dead and gone, Isaiah saw the King of Kings who lives and reigns forever.  So what? What good does it do us if there is a perfect ruler way off in a distance while we have to live with wicked rulers down here on earth?  First of all the Biblical portrait of God is of a Sovereign who is actively involved in even the apparently smallest aspects of creation – so that He cares even for the sparrows and the hairs on your head (Luke 12:6).  Secondly, our passage declares the glorious news that the LORD Himself is coming down to be with us as Immanuel – which means “God with us”. Rather than history moving from bad to worse, or even in cycles, God is guiding history forward.  With the coming of Christ He has established a new visible reign on earth.  According to verse 7, will this righteous government be defeated by the kingdoms of this world? According to the end of verse 7, how committed is the LORD to bringing about His own righteous reign on earth? Looking around, we do not yet see everything under Christ’s righteous rule.  While the Kingdom of God has come there are still many who love the darkness more than the light. Let us give thanks that this is not the end of the story. Read or sing Hymn 30 “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” Prayer: Ask that the LORD’s name would be hallowed in your life, in your home, and in your school or workplace.

Friday (12/4) Read and discuss Luke 1:56-80. Phil Ryken writes:

Nothing is more wonderful for a sinner than to receive mercy. As Zechariah thought about how wonderful it was, he made a comparison. He imagined a group of pilgrims on a long journey. As they traveled through the wilderness, they were overtaken by darkness. Far from the safety of home, they were exposed to the terrors of night: vicious animals and violent enemies. They sat “in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). This was Israel’s situation during the dark days before Christ was born. It is the situation we are all in until we are saved. We are sitting n the darkness of our sin, waiting for death to devour us.

All that long night the pilgrims wondered whether they would ever make it to the morning. They prayed for deliverance, waiting for the dawn. Then they saw it on the horizon: the first glimmer of the morning light. It was the sunrise of their salvation. In earlier days people would have called it the “dayspring” – the dayspring of deliverance. Zechariah said, “the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79; cf. Isa 9:2; 60:1-3; Mal. 4:2). With the coming of the light, the pilgrims were able to find their way.

After darkness, light – that is what it means to be saved. Salvation is like the first glimmer of dawn after the blackest night. Until we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we are still living in the darkness of unforgiven sin. But when we trust Him, as Zechariah did, His light comes into our lives and we are able to see our way. Believe in Jesus; the dark night of your sin will be over, and the dayspring of His light will rise in your heart.

Prayer: Lift up one of your unbelieving friends or family members and pray that the LORD would cause him or her to genuinely embrace Jesus this Christmas season.

Saturday (12/5) Read and discuss Matthew 1:18-25. The story of Christ’s miraculous conception is beautiful and moving, but does it really make any difference in the way that we think? A surprising number of New Testament scholars treat the virgin conception as a nice story that we could very well get on without. But they are wrong. At the heart of today’s passage is the truth of Jesus’ title Immanuel – God with us. Consider the rich theology found in the Angel’s message to Joseph on why he should still take Mary to be his wife. We should remember that all his life Joseph had been called Joseph bar Jacob (which means Joseph the son of Jacob). Yet the Angel immediately introduces messianic overtones by calling him Joseph son of David. Then he says:

            Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife,

            for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit,

            and she will give birth to a son,

            and you are to call his name Jesus

            for he will save his people from their sins.

Furthermore, this was going to fulfill the word of God which was given through the prophet Isaiah:

            Look, a virgin will conceive and give birth to a son.

            And they will call his name ‘Immanuel,’

                                                          which means ‘God with us.’

This passage makes it clear that Jesus’ origins (the Greek word is “genesis”) come uniquely from God and that in Christ we will experience God’s saving presence. It is not without meaning that Matthew begins his account of the Gospel with the origins of the one called Immanuel (which means “God with us”). The very last words of Matthew come from our Lord when He tells His disciples: “Look, I am with you always, even until the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).” Read or sing Hymn: 196 “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

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