Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 30 September 2018 Sunday, Sep 23 2018 

30 September 2018 – The Rev. Gary Moore Preaching

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 233 “O Father, You Are Sovereign”

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 78:38-39

Hymn of Preparation: 536 “Jesus Calls Us”

Old Covenant Reading: Luke 5:1-11

New Covenant Reading: Exodus 3:1-11

Sermon: The Calling of Simon

Hymn of Response: 272 “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say”

Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1 (p. 872)

Doxology (Hymn 568)

Closing Hymn: 466 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”

OT: 1 Samuel 12:1-25

NT: Luke 14:24-33

Marks of a Disciple

Shorter Catechism Q/A #59

Q. Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly sabbath?
A. From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian sabbath.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (9/24) Read and discuss Luke 5:1-11. What causes a man or woman to recognize his or her sinfulness and to fall on his or her knees before God? Many Christians would respond to this question by suggesting that it is the preaching of the law. There is some truth in this – but only some. First of all, we face the problem that sinners often subvert God’s law by turning into an abstract morality. J. Gresham Machen points out this paradox to us:

As it is, they are turning aside from the Christian pathway; they are turning to the village of Morality, and to the house of Mr. Legality, who is reported to be very skillful in relieving men of their burdens. Mr. Legality has indeed in our day disguised himself somewhat, but he is the same deceiver as the one of whom Bunyan wrote. “Making Christ Master” in the life, putting into practice “the principles of Christ” by one’s own efforts – these are  the new ways of earning salvation by one’s own obedience to God’s commands. And they are undertaken because of a low view of a lax view of what those commands are. So it always is: a low view of law always brings legalism in religion; a high view of the law makes a man a seeker after grace.

At the heart of the difference between a low and a high view of the law is whether or not we see the glorious Lawgiver behind that word. It is a vision for the majesty of God which causes men to fall to their knees. This is true whether the entrance to that revelation comes from law or from grace. In fact, in the mystery of God’s providence, far more people seem to be broken of their self-righteousness by an understanding of God’s grace than by an understanding of the law. In today’s passage, Peter gains a glimpse into the otherness of Jesus when his nets are filled to bursting. This vision causes Peter to recognize, not only Christ’s inherent greatness, but also his own sinfulness. Luther writes:

Peter is to become a different man; and a greater miracle is to be wrought in him than in the draught of fishes. The sermon which Christ had previously preached form the boat now first began to have its effect upon him.

Read or sing Hymn 233 “O Father, You Are Sovereign” Prayer: Please pray for revival and reformation right where we live in New England.

Tuesday (9/25) Read and discuss Romans 4:16-25.  In verse 17, speaking of Abraham, Paul continues …

… as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Please etch this truth into your thinking. What does Abraham believe? Paul is still talking about Genesis 15, before Abram had his name changed to Abraham and while Abraham was still childless. The LORD appeared to Abram in a vision and said:

“Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

So, what exactly was it that Abram believed? We could say that Abram believed the promise of God, but please notice that both Genesis 15 and Romans 4 say not “What?” but “Who?” Abraham believed God. Saving faith is not simply believing things about God. It is trusting God Himself that He is both able to perform what He said and faithful to the promises which He makes. Intellectual assent to specific truths is essential but by itself it is insufficient. It is not enough to believe things about God – you must personally trust the LORD. Read or Sing Hymn 536 “Jesus Calls Us” Prayer: Please pray for someone you know who has yet to make a public profession of faith that the LORD would lead him or her to truly embrace Jesus by faith.

Wednesday (9/26) Read and discuss Exodus 3:1-15. Doug Stuart writes:

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

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

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

Thursday (9/27) Read and discuss 1 Samuel 12:1-25. Rick Philips writes:

We might honor Samuel’s legacy by recounting all the things that made him great. But a better way to honor him would be to look through him to see reasons why Jesus Christ is a better Savior, King, and Mediator, in whom we may find all that we need for the eternal salvation of our souls.

First, while the people asked Samuel to mediate on their behalf with God, we have the privilege of approaching God’s throne through the mediation of Jesus. For all his virtue, Samuel remained a sinner; even he could not ultimately stand before God on his own merits. … Jesus is no mere holy man; he is the God-man. Immanuel, which means “God with us,” God the Son who took up flesh to bring his people to God. By virtue of who Christ is and what he has done, Paul states, “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Jesus is the one completely sinless man, who does not need his own Savior before the holy law of God, and who as the Son of God is therefore able to offer his death for the forgiveness of everyone who believes in him and calls on God’s name through his salvation.

Second, Jesus is a better mediator than Samuel because he never grows old and feeble. Under Israel’s monarchy, even the best of kings grew old and ultimately died, so the people had to tremble at what awaited under the new regime. But the kingdom of God knows no such anxiety. Jesus our King, who died for our sins, has risen from the grave into eternal resurrection life. The writer of Hebrews thus exults that Jesus’ priesthood is eternal, and the same is true of his offices as Prophet and as King; he reigns “permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

Read or sing Hymn 272 “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus ever lives to make intercession for you and for all of His sheep.

Friday (9/28) Read and discuss Luke 14:25-33. William Hendriksen writes:

What the Savior demands in Luke 14:26 and other passages is complete devotion, the type of loyalty that is so true and unswerving that every other attachment, even that to one’s own life, must be subjected to it.

What an alien wishes to become a citizen of the United States of America he must renounce allegiance to his native land and take an oath of loyalty to the country of his choice. This does not mean that he cannot continue to think highly of the nation to which he has said Farewell, but it does mean that from now on he must serve “the land of the free and the home of the brave. Even far more absolute and unconditional must be the loyalty which citizens of the kingdom of God sustain toward their heavenly country and its “Lord of Lords and King of kings.” If a person is unwilling to tender that unconditional devotion, then, says Jesus, “he cannot be my disciple.”

Read or sing Hymn 466 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” Prayer: Please pray for the Rev. Gary Moore, who will be preaching for us this weekend.

Saturday (9/29) Read and discuss Luke 5:1-11. Arthur A. Just writes:

The teaching of Jesus and the miraculous catch of fish bring Peter to his knees before Jesus; he confesses that he is a sinful man. He, like the demons in 4:34, recognizes that Jesus is “the Holy One of God.” But God has come in Jesus not to condemn, but to bring about a new creation. As in the infancy narrative, where the presence of God moves from the temple to the person of Jesus, the evangelist is suggesting to the hearer that there is a shift here in the location of the presence of God. He is now in the boat! Peter wants Jesus to leave because Peter is a sinner. While being drawn to Jesus through the miracle, Peter also wants Jesus to depart from him, because he knows he is unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence. Awe has gripped Peter – indeed everyone who saw the great catch (James and Jon are named in particular). Jesus’ response, “Do not fear,” is His word of absolution to Peter. The miracle of bringing fish into the boat is the miracle of making the unworthy sinner fit to stay in the presence of the holy God. It is the miracle of the forgiveness of sins. …

Luke concludes the call of Peter by showing that Jesus’ absolution was received in faith, for Peter and for some of the others perform their first act of discipleship. Because Jesus is moving on, the church goes with Him, and these newly called disciples desire to be with Jesus. The focus of Luke’s ecclesiology is now on Jesus, the Anointed One.

Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

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Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 23 September 2018 Sunday, Sep 16 2018 

23 September 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 234 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Confession of Sin

Almighty and everlasting God, Glorious Creator of all things, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; We have sinned against Your holy Name, by failing to glorify You in our lives as your redeemed children. Our unthankfulness extends to every thought and deed, as well as to our failure to thank you with our lips. We have not lived to the praise of the glory of Your grace. We have not esteemed the reproach of Jesus Christ our Savior to be greater than the riches of this world. We have failed to estimate the infinite cost of the salvation won for us at the cross through the shed blood of Jesus. We have not been faithful to You as You have been faithful to us in all things. Father, forgive us for our ingratitude through the reconciling sacrifice of Jesus Christ our all-sufficient Mediator, we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: John 14;1-3

Hymn of Preparation: 447 “Christ, of All My Hopes the Ground”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 115:1-18

New Covenant: Romans 4:16-25

Sermon: That the Promise Might Stand

Hymn of Response: Psalm 115A

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 852)

Doxology (Hymn 568)

Closing Hymn: 435 “Not What My Hands Have Done”

PM Worship

OT: 2 Samuel 21:15-22

NT: 2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Mighty Men and the Lamp of Israel

Shorter Catechism Q/A #58

Q. What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy sabbath to himself.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (9/17) Read and discuss Romans 4:16-25. James Montgomery Boice writes:

The first attribute of God that Abraham fixed his mind on was God’s truthfulness, the fact that God does not lie. Later, Paul will write this to his friend and co-worker Titus, saying explicitly that our faith is in “God, who does not lie” (Titus 1:2). The truthfulness of God is an underlying assumption in these verses from Romans, and certainly in the life of Abraham as a whole. The truthfulness of God was basic to Abraham’s faith in God’s promise. If God were not truthful, the promise would have meant nothing to Abraham and would mean nothing to anyone else. It would be only empty words. But because God is truthful, the promise is true and can be trusted implicitly.

Abraham was willing to act on his conviction that God is always truthful. When God told Abraham (Abram) to leave his own land and go to a land that he would show him, Abraham believed God and “set out from Haran.”

When God promised him that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven, saying “so shall your offspring be,” Abraham “believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

When God renewed the promise of a son in Abraham’s old age, Abraham believed God again and accepted his name changes, as well as the rite of circumcision, to show that he believed Him.

Confidence in the truthfulness of God contributed to Abraham’s victory in the greatest test of his life: the demand by God that he sacrifice his son on Mount Moriah. Abraham reasoned that since God had promised a numerous posterity through Isaac and since Isaac had not yet married or had children, to keep His word God would have to raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham proceeded on the basis of this faith and was about to perform the sacrifice when God stopped him.

Such complete confidence is vital to any individual’s proper relationship to God, since we cannot know, come to, or please God unless we have faith in or believe Him (cf. Heb. 11:6).

Read or sing Hymn 234 “The God of Abraham Praise” Prayer: Please pray for our neighbors in North Andover, Lawrence, and the surrounding towns who are suffering so deeply from last week’s gas fires and explosions.

Tuesday (9/18) Read and discuss Romans 4:13-15.  For example, in Genesis 17 the LORD makes this promise:

I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

Did you notice whom the LORD promised to give the land of Canaan to? He didn’t say, “to you, that is to your offspring” as though the promise was only going to be fulfilled to Abraham in his offspring. The LORD explicitly says: “to you” and “to your offspring.” So here is the key question: “When did Abraham receive the Promised Land?” … The answer is: “Not yet.” Abraham was not having “his best life then” … or as certain false teachers might say: “His best life now!” The LORD was promising Abraham the Land of Canaan far off in the future after the LORD would raise him from the dead. As Hebrews 11 puts it:

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.” … And then skipping down a few verses

… “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”

In order to rightly understand the Land Promise that God made to Abraham, we have to understand that it was not of a transient possession in this life – but of an eternal possession in the age to come. The physical possession of the Promised Land by Jews in the Old Testament was not the fulfillment of the Promise, in its fullest sense, it was merely a pointer and a type of what God had planned and promised for Abraham and all were of the faith of Abraham in the future. If you get this one big point, everything else should fall quickly into place. Read or Sing Hymn 447 “Christ, of All My Hopes the Ground” Prayer: Ask the LORD to help you live today in light of eternity.

Wednesday (9/19) Read and discuss Psalm 115:1-18. Commenting on verse 3a, “Our God is in heaven”, John Calvin writes:

The faithful, when they place God in heaven, do not confine him to a certain locality, nor set limits to his infinite essence, but they deny the limitation of his power, its being shut up to human instrumentality only, or its being subject to fate or fortune. In short, they put the universe under his control; and, being superior to every obstruction, he does freely everything that may seem good to him. This truth is still more plainly asserted in the subsequent clause; he does whatever pleases him. God, then, may be said to dwell in heaven, as the world is subject to his will, and nothing can prevent him from accomplishing his purpose.

That God can do whatsoever he pleases is a doctrine of great importance, provided it be truly and legitimately applied. If we would derive advantage from this doctrine, we must attend to the import of God’s doing whatsoever he pleases in heaven and on the earth. And, first, god has all power for the preservation of his Church, and for providing for her welfare; and, secondly, all creatures are under his control, and therefore nothing can prevent him from accomplishing all his purposes. However much, then, the faithful may find themselves cut off from all means of subsistence and safety, they ought nevertheless to take courage from the fact, that God is not only superior to all impediments, but that he can render them subservient to the advancement of his own designs. This, too, must also be borne in mind, that all events are the result of God’s appointment alone, and that nothing happens by chance. This much it was proper to premise respecting the use of this doctrine, that we may be prevented from forming unworthy conceptions of the glory of God, as men of wild imaginations are wont to do. Adopting this principle, we ought not to be ashamed frankly to acknowledge that God, by his eternal counsel, manages all things in such a manner, that nothing can be done but by his will and appointment.

Prayer: Rejoice that the God who rules heaven and earth has become your Father in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thursday (9/20) Read and discuss 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3. John Stott writes:

Paul asks for prayer that he and his missionary companions may be delivered from wicked and evil men. It is one thing for the gospel to win friends who embrace it; it is another for the evangelists to be rescued from its enemies who oppose it. Since he uses the definite article, Paul seems to have a particular group in mind, perhaps the Jewish opponents of the gospel in Corinth … The reason they reject the gospel is that not everyone has faith or (because of the definite article) ‘the faith’. The latter is an objective body of belief, the former the faculty of believing it. But, Paul adds immediately, the Lord (i.e. Jesus) is faithful. In Greek, as in English, there is a deliberate play on the words faith and faithful. Indeed, by this contrast Paul is expressing his conviction that the faithlessness of human beings cannot possibly overturn the faithfulness of God, as shown in his covenant commitment to his people and his word.

God’s faithfulness to His word is a recurring theme in the Old Testament. It was written of Samuel, for example: ‘The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and He let none of his words fall to the ground.” Again, God said to Jeremiah at the time of his call: “I am watching to see that My word is fulfilled.” He had made a similar promise to Isaiah: ‘My word … will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.’ Paul shares this assurance. True, there was opposition from ‘evil men’, and behind them from ‘the evil one’ himself. True also, they were engaged in spiritual warfare and so needed spiritual weapons: Paul had to preach and the Thessalonians needed to pray. Yet behind his preaching and their prayers stood the faithful Lord Himself, who watches over His word, and who confirms it by His Spirit in the hearers’ hearts, so that it works in them effectively.

Read or sing Psalm 115A Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has given us His word and that we have accurate translations of this word in our own languages.

Friday (9/21) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 21:15-22.  Today’s passage is just a simple listing of battles that Israel won against the Philistines, but it also functions as a testimony to the faithfulness of the LORD. The LORD had promised that He was raising up David to defeat the Philistines and these four battles are added to the others where David defeated the Philistines. The success that David had in defeating the Philistines can be seen in the fact that they never invade Israel during Solomon’s entire reign. We also see that David had inspired a remarkable degree of loyalty from some very capable men. Tony Cartledge writes:

The love of David’s men for their leader is made especially evident in 21:15-17, where Abishai comes to David’s rescue and saves him from death at the hands of the Philistine Ishbi-benob. “Then David’s men swore to him, ‘You shall not go out with us to battle any longer, so that you do not quench the lamp of Israel.’” David’s supporters knew that their love for David also benefitted the kingdom as a whole. David, like a beautiful oil lamp, managed to bring the light of God’s hope for Israel into focus as no one had before. Their service to David was also service to God.

Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Jaffrey Presbyterian Church.

Saturday (9/22). Read and discuss Romans 4:16-25. N.T. Wright comments:

The last verse of the chapter anticipates something Paul is going to do throughout chapters 5 through 8. He rounds off every stage of the argument in this section with a reference to Jesus. This isn’t a mere pious gesture, smuggling in a mention of Jesus in case we thought he’d forgotten about him. It shows, rather, what the whole argument is all about. It brings us back home to the source and power of Paul’s thought. In this case, it draws together what has been underneath the whole of the previous four chapters. Jesus was handed over because of our trespasses; in other words, the massive human evil which has disfigured the world came together and, in the cross, was dealt with as I deserved, in judicial condemnation. He was raised because of our justification, our being declared ‘in the right’, when Jesus was raised from the dead god was not only saying ‘he really was my son,’ bur also ‘all those who believe in Him really are My people’

Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 16 September 2018 Sunday, Sep 9 2018 

16 September 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 236 “To God Be the Glory”

Confession of Sin

O eternal God and merciful Father, we humble ourselves before your great majesty, against which we have frequently and grievously sinned. We acknowledge that we deserve nothing less than eternal death, that we are unclean before you and children of wrath. We continually transgress your commandments, failing to do what you have commanded, and doing that which you have expressly forbidden. We acknowledge our waywardness, and are heartily sorry for all our sins. We are not worthy to be called your children, nor to lift up our eyes heavenward to you in prayer. Nevertheless, O Lord God and gracious Father, we know that your mercy toward those who turn to you is infinite; and so we take courage to call upon you, trusting in our Mediator Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Forgive all our sins for Christ’s sake. Cover us with his innocence and righteousness, for the glory of your name. Deliver our understanding from all blindness, and our hearts from all willfulness and rebellion, we pray through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen

Assurance of Pardon: Galatians 2:20

Hymn of Preparation:  404 “The Church’s One Foundation”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 72:1-20

New Covenant Reading: Romans 4:13-15

Sermon: Who Will Inherit the Earth?

Hymn of Response: 411 “Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns”

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Diaconal Offering

Doxology (Hymn 568)

Closing Hymn: 421 “Christ Shall Have Dominion”

PM Worship

OT: 2 Samuel 21:15-22

NT: 2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Mighty Men and the Lamp of Israel

Shorter Catechism Q/A #57

Q. Which is the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment is, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (9/10) Read and discuss Romans 4:13-15. R.C. Sproul writes:

If God had not set any standards or imposed obligations on us, then we would be autonomous. We would be free to do whatever we want to do. As Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky said “If there is no God, all things are permissible.” We live in a society that seeks to banish the very concept of sin from human consciousness, but in order to do that we must first banish God from the equation.

In setting forth the shorter catechism, the Westminster divines provided a simple definition of sin. The question in the catechism asks, “What is sin?” The answer given is, “Sin is any want of conformity there unto or transgression of the law of God.” That gets at it succinctly. The somewhat archaic language in the phrase simply means “a lack of conformity to the law of God.” If God imposes a law or a rule for our behavior, saying, “You shall do this” or “You shall not do that,” we fail to conform to his standard of righteousness if we don’t conform to the law or if we disobey that commandment. In one sense, this failure to conform calls attention (not always but sometimes) to what we call “sins of omission.” We commit sins of omission when we fail to do those things that we ought to have done, things that God commands us to do. Not only are there negative failures or omissions, but there are also sins of commission, actual transgressions of the law of God. …

Paul will labor this point a little more fully in chapter 5, and it is one that needs to be labored. Our culture lives in such a spirit of lawlessness that even Christians do not spend much time thinking about the law of God, sometimes going so far as to think that even having laws is beneath the dignity of God’s love or his goodness. He is the one who made us, the one who rules us, and the one who is sovereign over us, and there is nothing more perfectly rational than that a just and holy God should declare what is his will. There is nothing at all unjust or irrational about a God who imposes standards and obligations upon his creatures. That is what we learn in the law – what God requires of us.

Read or sing Hymn 236 “To God Be the Glory” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has given us His Torah as a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths.

Tuesday (9/11) Read and discuss Romans 4:9-12.  Many Jews in Paul’s day, including apparently a number of Jewish-Christians, were treating circumcision as an act of obedience. As you read through Romans and Galatians you will notice that Paul uses the expression “works of the law” in a number of critical places. For example, back in chapter 3, Paul wrote:

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

And again …

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

It turns out then when the Jews of Paul’s day spoke about the works of the law, at the very top of their list was circumcision. That is, they saw circumcision as something that marked out the man who was circumcised as being better than the man who was not circumcised. That is, as Paul makes clear in Galatians, they were boasting in their flesh. But that is the very opposite of what circumcision was intended to do. Not to be too graphic, but circumcision is a ceremonial cutting off of the flesh which points to the inadequacy of fallen human flesh to be pleasing to God. To the degree that circumcision points at all to the boy or man who has been circumcised – it shouts that this person is unable to be vindicated in God’s courtroom based on his own performance. Do you realize that baptism proclaims this very same truth? Baptism is a symbolic washing with water. What does that say about the person being baptized? It says that left to him or herself – that person is unclean. Thankfully, the ceremonial cutting off of the flesh in circumcision doesn’t merely point to the inadequacy of the person being circumcised – it points outside of the person to the cutting off of Jesus Christ on the cross. While the ceremonial cutting off of a tiny bit of sinful flesh doesn’t justify anyone, it points forward to the actual cutting off of the spotless Lamb of God – whose life-giving death is the ground of justification for everyone who believes. Read or Sing Hymn 404 “The Church’s One Foundation” Prayer: Please lift up the Muslims who are being placed in re-education camps in China. Pray also for the peace of the Christian Church in China.

Wednesday (9/12) Read and discuss Psalm 72:1-20. Allen P. Ross writes:

Here a psalm has been included that looks to the future of the monarchy. The petitions in this prayer reflect the needs of the nation, for the nation never had a king that did these things. In fact, there has never been a truly righteous king or a righteous government in the history of the world. And the world needs a righteous king.

So this is a prayer that God will so bless the future king that his reign will be a righteous reign. But since the descriptions used in the petitions are found throughout the prophets and the psalms as descriptions of the coming messianic age, this prayer becomes eschatological. That is, it is a legitimate prayer expressing a legitimate need, but it will only be fulfilled in the Messiah. The Messiah will reign over a kingdom on earth in which righteousness and justice will thrive, the land will produce its bounty in abundance, and all the nations of the earth will submit to his authority and be blessed through him. The prayer of this psalm draws in some of the great prophesies of the reign of the Messiah on earth, which the New Testament confirms will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ when he returns to earth at his second coming. While he now sits enthroned at the right hand of the Majesty on High, as Scripture depicts it, he has not yet put all things under submission, righteousness does not fill the earth, and the whole world groans, waiting for the day of redemption. The petitions of this psalm, for one, will be fulfilled in the coming messianic kingdom.

Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus will come again to fully establish His Kingdom on earth.

Thursday (9/13) Read and discuss 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. When the going gets tough, the tough get going! That’s easier to say than to do. Yet, we are not only called but commanded to be courageous. One suspects that many Christians are surprised the first time they read Revelation 21:8 to discover which sin heads the list of those whose destiny is the lake that burns with unquenchable fire:

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

So, where do we get the courage we need to remain faithful? Murray Harris helpfully summarizes the three sources of such courage that Paul reveals to us in this passage:

Paul mentions three sources of divine comfort: assurance that he would become a possessor of a superior form of habitation (v. 1), an awareness that in giving the Spirit as the pledge of transformation God had committed himself to complete the good work of renewal he had begun (v. 5), and knowledge that death involves departure to Christ and leads to ‘walking in the realm of sight (vv. 7-8). The tone of 5:1-10 is not one of cringing fear arising from human uncertainties but of buoyant assurance born of divine certainties.

All three of these sources of courage are important and belong together. What Paul is calling Christians to have is a truly eternal perspective on our present circumstances. As he had told the Corinthians in the previous chapter: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” Read or sing Hymn 411 “Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns” Prayer: Ask the LORD to help you live today in light of eternity.

Friday (9/14) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 21:15-22.  Andrew Steinmann writes:

We are told that David became fatigued. Perhaps this was a combination of his more advanced age – he was no longer the young David who led Saul’s troops against the Philistines – and the Philistines’ targeting of David as the key person to slay. We are told that Ishbibenob attacked David, intending to kill him. The author emphasizes this Philistine’s weapons, especially his bronze spear, which weighted three hundred shekels or about seven and a half pounds. This was a heavy weapon, but it still weighed only half as much as Goliath’s spear (1 Sam 21:17). Yet this time David needed help, and Abishai provided it.

This apparently was too much of a risk for David’s troops to tolerate, and their oath reinforced their determination that the king was not to lead his troops into battle any longer. They mentioned that David’s death would be the extinguishing of “Israel’s lamp.” This is a reference to David as the bearer of the messianic promise. The “lamp” of David would continue to be Israel’s hope until Christ, the light of the world, would be born to provide Israel’s eternal “light” and to be the “lamp” of the new Jerusalem.

Read or sing Hymn 421 “Christ Shall Have Dominion” Prayer: Please lift up the OPC mission in Uganda.

Saturday (9/15) Read and discuss Romans 4:13-15. N.T. Wright comments:

I had an angry email today from a Jewish Christian who objected strongly to something I had said, very cautiously, about the current problems in the Middle East. (I lived and worked in Jerusalem some years ago, and I still have friends in various parts of the bewildering mixture of ethnic and religious groups.) The main point my correspondent was making was that God gave the land to Israel, and that the promise had been reaffirmed in our own day. Nothing should therefore stand in the way of Israel’s security and, by implication, the expansion of its territory to include all the occupied West Bank of the Jordan.

This is obviously a hot topic, and it looks to continue that way (alas) for some time. But I raise it here because it relates directly to what Paul is doing in verse 13 (to which I directed my correspondent in reply). The promise to Abraham and his family, Paul says, was that he would inherit – the world! This is breathtaking. Again and again in Genesis the writer declares that God promised Abraham the piece of territory then known as the land of Canaan, roughly the ‘holy land’ as we know it now. Later writings sometimes expanded this to include everything between the Red Sea and the River Euphrates, far away to the north-east; but Canaan remained the focus. Even when writers much nearer Paul’s time expanded the idea of a ‘holy land’ still further, it was still centered on the original promised territory.

For Paul, however, and indeed for the whole New Testament, the idea of a holy land, in terms of one strip of territory over against all others, has simply vanished. In its place are the beginnings of a completely transformed idea of land: that the whole world – in Romans 8 the entire creation – is claimed by God as ‘holy land,’ and is promised to Abraham and his family as their ‘inheritance.’ This is one of the most breathtaking revisions of standard Jewish thinking we can imagine. It is certainly as important as the decision not to require circumcision for Gentile converts. It is of course closely cognate with that dramatic revision of Jewish expectations. The privilege of geography, as of birth, counts for nothing in the new world ruled over by the crucified and risen Messiah.

Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 9 September 2018 Sunday, Sep 2 2018 

9 September 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 238 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee”

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: 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Hymn of Preparation:  403 “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken”

Old Covenant Reading: Genesis 17:1-14

New Covenant Reading: Romans 4:9-12

Sermon: Why Circumcision?

Hymn of Response: 244 “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 851)

Doxology (Hymn 568)

Closing Hymn: 425 “How Sweet and Awesome is the Place”

REMINDER: The Hymns for AM Worship are from the new Trinity Psalter-Hymnal. Why not read them over and familiarize yourself with them before morning worship this Sunday?

PM Worship

OT: 2 Samuel 21:1-14

NT: James 5:7-12

The Cost of Taking the Name of the LORD in Vain

Shorter Catechism Q/A #56

Q. What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?
A. The reason annexed to the third commandment is that however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (9/3) Read and discuss Romans 4:9-12. Arland Hultgren writes:

Paul raises a question, asking whether the “blessing” of which David speaks in the psalm applies only to persons who have been ritually circumcised, or whether it could apply to the uncircumcised as well. In order to answer the question, Paul refers to texts in Genesis once more. He points out that Abraham was declared righteous before he had been circumcised. That means, in effect, that Abraham was circumcised while he was still a Gentile. The implication to be drawn is that even the uncircumcised can be justified as they accept the promises of God, the gospel.

Paul uses a fascinating argument. The passage where Abraham is declared righteous is at Genesis 15:6. That passage precedes the commandment concerning circumcision (Gen 17:10-14) and the actual circumcision of Abraham (17:24). There is no indication in Genesis concerning the age of Abraham at the event of 15:6, when he was declared righteous, but there is a notice concerning his age at the time of his circumcision, and that is that he was 99 (17:24). Between these two events there is one indicator of age, and that is that at the time Ishmael was born, Abraham was 86 (16:16). According to rabbinic tradition, Abraham was 70 years old at the time that the promise of 15:6 was given, which was also the time that he was declared to be justified. [If that is right, it] means that Abraham was a justified-by-faith Gentile for twenty-nine years prior to his circumcision. Whether that tradition existed at the time of Paul, and whether he was aware of it or not, cannot be known. What is certain is that Paul was aware of the general time-frame, and he made a point of it, namely, that the promise to Abraham, and the declaration of his righteousness by faith in the divine promise, was prior to his circumcision. Therefore, circumcision was not a precondition for righteousness.

Read or sing Hymn 238 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Jaffrey Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Jaffrey, NH.

Tuesday (9/4) Read and discuss Romans 4:1-8.  What exactly is faith? Is the justified person clothed in faith so that faith itself is the radiant clothing which replaces the filthy clothing of our sins? As Paul might say, “Don’t even entertain such an outrageous and wicked thought!” Regrettably, many Christians do entertain this entirely false notion. But do you see that this actually turns your faith into a good work?  And if a person’s faith is a type of substitute good work, so that a person is clothed in his or her own faith in a way that makes the person righteous, then what sort of people does God justify? The only answer possible is that He justifies those good people who believe. But does the LORD look at believers and say: “Those people are such good people because they believe Me, and they believe in My Son.” Well what does the rest of the verse say?

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.

When you believe, you do not become a good person who merits reward from God. You are an ungodly person whom God has justified by clothing you, not with your faith, but with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Faith is the instrument of your justification, but it is not the ground or the basis for your justification. Read or Sing Hymn 403 “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” Prayer: Please pray for the Session as it means tonight.

Wednesday (9/5) Read and discuss Genesis 17:1-14. Dale Ralph Davies writes:

What is the significance of circumcision? If it is ‘a sign of the covenant’ what does it signify? Well, it’s hard to get away from the idea that it signifies promises. You note that Yahweh’s promises infect the whole context of the circumcision section. That is, verses 9-14 (circumcision) are surrounded with Yahweh’s promises (vv. 4-8 and 15-21), promises fore and aft, we might say. Alec Motyer said that whenever Abraham would look upon that sign in his body, he would say, ‘I am the man to whom God has made promises.’ That is true, and yet this circumcision is also Abraham’s response to the covenant promises and to Yahweh’s command and it would also indicate that he is marked out for the God who made the promises – he is ‘branded’ as belonging to the God who makes promises. Perhaps it’s something like a husband’s wedding band. On the one hand, he can look at it and say, ‘I am the man to whom promise have been made’; on the other, he could say, ‘I am marked out as belonging to another.’ In this latter sense, Abraham might say, ‘I am not my own; I belong to another, for I am branded with the identity mark of the covenant God.’

Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has put His name upon you and claims you as your own.

Thursday (9/6) Read and discuss James 5:7-12. It is a simple fact of life: One of the great keys to achievement is persistence and the ability to delay gratification. Regrettably, American culture has embraced instant gratification as a virtue that even impacts our very young children. In one study, “Priscilla Blinco gave large groups of Japanese and American first graders a very difficult puzzle and measured how long they worked at it before they gave up. The American children lasted, on average, 9.47 minutes. The Japanese children lasted 13.93 minutes, roughly 40 percent longer (Malcolm Gladwell).” This persistence gap is one of the reasons why Americans lag so badly behind places like Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, and Japan in Math. We also need to squarely face the spiritual implications of this shortcoming. Since the wages of sin are death sinning is obviously an irrational thing to do … yet we all continue to sin. The reason isn’t because sin is better but because it is immediate. James is calling us to work hard for a season like farmers who must wait for the day when the crops will come in. Patience and persistence in the face of hardship has always been a tough sell so James gives us two significant pieces of encouragement: (1) First, against the backdrop of eternity with the LORD, our time of waiting for the harvest is actually quite short (In a similar vein, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:17 that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”). (2) Second, we should consider the character of the LORD that He “is compassionate and merciful”. Be patient and persistent. It is worth it. Read or sing Hymn 244 “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” Prayer: Ask the LORD to grant you patience in your work and confidence in the eventual harvest.

Friday (9/7) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 21:1-14.  Dale Ralph Davis writes:

Does the seven-man execution here violate the principle of justice laid down in Deuteronomy 24:16? I don’t think so. That law regulated individual criminal cases. Here the situation is much broader. Saul did not trample on the Gibeonite covenant merely as an individual. He was king of Israel. In his office as king his deeds had an official character. As king, the people were represented in him. Hence his offence had a representational as opposed to an individual character, and to that extent involved Israel in the guilt. The offence itself was national as opposed to individual, for the covenant with Gibeon (Josh. 9) was sworn by Israel’s leaders on behalf of the whole people. Should the covenant be broken all Israel would be liable for it, even if only one man (Saul) was the primary instigator. ‘The few instances where punishment of children was legally sanctioned were not criminal cases but those involving offenses against God, such as violation … of national oaths (Jeffrey H. Tgay, Deuteronomy).”

Read or sing Hymn 425 “How Sweet and Awesome is the Place” Prayer: Pray for the young people in our congregation as they get reengage with school.

Saturday (9/8) Read and discuss Romans 4:9-12. C.E.B Cranfield writes:

Abraham’s circumcision is characterized as the seal, that I, the outward and visible authentication, ratification and guarantee, of the righteousness by faith which was already his while he was still uncircumcised. It seems quite probable, though it is not certain, that the custom of referring to circumcision as a seal was already well established in Judaism by Paul’s time. The words imply that Abraham’s circumcision, while it did not confer a status of righteousness on him, was nevertheless valuable as the outward and visible attestation of the status of righteousness which he already possessed.

Cranfield is undoubtedly correct in terms of how circumcision functioned for Abraham and this is all we need to know to follow Paul’s argument in Romans 4. But if we want to understand how circumcision functioned in redemptive history we need to make a very careful distinction: Circumcision was not a sign and seal of faith. Circumcision was a sign and a seal of the righteousness that comes by faith. This should be obvious from the fact that Abraham was commanded to circumcise his children when they were 8 days old, long before they could possibly make a public profession of faith. For both believing Jews like Abraham, and for their covenant children, circumcision was intended to lead them to look outside of themselves in faith to the LORD who had made the promises. They were not supposed to look at themselves and say, “I have the seal of righteousness (i.e. circumcision) in my flesh, so I’m all set.” Instead they were to see circumcision as a sign of the gracious God who was promising them an alien righteousness when they trusted Him and His promises (an alien righteousness is a righteousness that comes from outside of us that we receive as a gift). Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 2 September 2018 Sunday, Aug 26 2018 

2 September 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 239 “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

Hymn of Preparation:  Psalm 32B

Old Covenant Reading: Genesis 15:1-6

New Covenant Reading: Romans 4:1-8

Sermon: To the One Who Does Not Work

Hymn of Response: 434 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone”

Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1 (p. 872)

Doxology (Hymn 568)

Closing Hymn: 433 “Amazing Grace”

REMINDER: The Hymns for AM Worship are from the new Trinity Psalter-Hymnal. Why not read them over and familiarize yourself with them before morning worship this Sunday?

PM Worship

OT: 2 Samuel 20:1-23

NT: Luke 12:22-34

The Fragile but Indestructible Kingdom

Shorter Catechism Q/A #55

Q. What is forbidden in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh himself known.

Suggested Preparations 

Monday (8/27) Read and discuss Romans 4:1-8. R.C. Sproul writes:

Abraham was one hundred years old, and his wife was barren, but God said that Sarah would have a child. Eliezer of Damascus would not be Abraham’s heir; one from Abraham’s loins would be his heir (see Gen. 15:2). Abraham looked at himself and his wife and saw a hopeless situation. “How can I possibly believe that promise?” Then he looked at the One who made the promise and realized instantly that there was nothing hopeless about it. The only thing hopeless was the idea that the promise would not come to pass, because it is impossible for God to lie. It is impossible for God to break a promise.

In our sin, we project onto the character of God our own character. We break promises, and we live in the midst of people who break promises routinely. Therefore, we question how, since we are so accustomed to broken promises, we can trust this One who promises us things against all earthly evidence. How could Mary believe the announcement of the angel Gabriel, who told her that she would bring forth a child? She asked, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God”. The angel was not talking about the power of men here. He was talking about the author of the universe. With Him all things in this world are possible, and Mary said, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Satan has never performed a miracle in his life. He does not have the power to perform miracles. All his attempts at miracles are counterfeits because he does not have the power that God alone possesses. The one whom Abraham believed is the God who can create ex nihilo, who can bring something out of nothing, who can bring life out of death. Satan could have gone to the tomb of Lazarus and cried, “Come forth” until he lost his voice, but not a grain of life would have stirred in that corpse because Satan does not have the power to bring life out of death. Satan could speak into the void and with all his energy say, “Let there be light,” but not a candle-watt of light would appear. He cannot bring something out of nothing.

These words make it clear that the key to a growing and vibrant faith is to focus on the One in whom our faith is rightly placed. To know Him is to trust Him. Read or sing Hymn 239 “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Pilgrim Presbyterian Church in Dover, NH.

Tuesday (8/28) Read and discuss Romans 3:27-31.  Verse 31 has proven to be a real challenge to many preachers and other theologians.

Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Anyone who has taught extensively will immediately recognize that this is not a hypothetical objection being spun out of Paul’s fertile imagination. As he presented the true doctrine of Justification apart from the works of the law – Paul must have heard over and over again the objection that this was watering down or even overthrowing the Law of God which had become so precious to the Jewish people. Does Justification by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone overthrow the Law! Paul responds with the most forceful denial that can be made with the Greek language: “By no means!” Or as I pointed out a few weeks ago, this we can best capture the force of what Paul is saying through a paraphrase: Does Justification in Christ alone apart from any merit on our part nullify the Law? Paul responds: “Don’t even entertain such an outrageous and wicked thought!” But of course, people were doing that very thing. And yet, it turns out that it was those who were opposing Paul were nullifying the law while the doctrine of free justification in Christ actually establishes the Law … in the sense that it presents the Law for what it truly is. Let’s see why this is so in three easy steps:

  1. Step 1: God is Holy. Nobody that Paul was writing to would deny this basic truth which is so powerfully taught throughout the Old Testament as well as in the New.
  2. Step 2: The moral law isn’t arbitrary. It is an expression of the LORD’s own holy character. Again, no committed Jew or Christian in the first century would deny this basic truth.
  3. Step 3: See which view of Justification actually fits with the fact that God is perfectly holy and that, rather than being arbitrary the Law of God perfectly conforms with God’s own holiness.

That is simple, and it is also absolutely devastating to anyone who doesn’t embrace Justification by grace alone apart from the works of the Law. For every approach that seeks to have human-law keeping as a part of the perfect righteousness which God requires of us runs into the buzz saw of what the Law actually says. Let’s just consider the Tenth Commandment – the commandment against coveting. Immediately we notice that the Tenth Commandment doesn’t say: “Work on coveting less than your neighbors do.” It says, “Thou shalt not covet.” But everyone attempting to contribute to their own justification through law keeping, has to bend the Law so that it is no longer requires perfect obedience. The Law ceases to be Law and simply becomes an aspirational guide. The irony, therefore, is that Paul’s opponents are the ones who are nullifying the Law. By contrast, once we acknowledge that Justification is entirely the free gift of God based entirely on who Jesus is and what He has done for us, then we are free to present the Law as it truly is – the perfect expression of God’s own holy character. Read or Sing Hymn Psalm 32B Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has given us His word to serve as a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our paths.

Wednesday (8/29) Read and discuss Genesis 15:1-6. Living by faith is hard. As Walter Bruggemann observes:

Abraham and Sarah were called out of their barrenness (11:30) by God’s powerful word (12:1). Their pilgrimage of hope had begun on no other basis than the promise of Yahweh (12:1-4a). The promise of Yahweh stood over against the barrenness. But when we arrive at chapter 15, the barrenness persists. That barrenness (which the promise has not overcome) poses the issue for this chapter. The large question is that the promise does delay, even to the point of doubt. It is part of the destiny of our common faith that those who believe in the promise and hope against barrenness nevertheless must live with the barrenness. Why and how does one continue to trust solely in the promise when the evidence against the promise is all around? It is this scandal that is faced here. It is Abraham’s embrace of this scandal that makes him the father of faith.

Since living by faith while living with barrenness is so hard, we might imagine that coming to faith is some sort of heroic achievement. Such a conclusion runs entirely contrary to both Genesis and Galatians. Once again, Walter Bruggemann helps point us in the right direction:

The new reality of faith for Abraham must be accounted as a miracle form God. The faith of Abraham should not be understood in romantic fashion as an achievement or as a moral decision. Rather, the newly ready Abraham is a creature of the word of promise. The situation of Abraham is paralleled to the confession of Peter (Matt. 16:16-17). Abruptly and without explanation of cause, Peter makes the same leap in his confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The gospel narrative also wants to ponder the question: How does such a man come to such a confession? How is faith possible in the life of unfaith? The response of Jesus indicates the miracle which faith is:

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

That is how this faith of Abraham is. He did not move from protest (vv. 2-3) to confession (v. 6) by knowledge or by persuasion but by the power of God who reveals and causes his revelation to be accepted. The new pilgrimage of Abraham is not grounded in the old flesh of Sarah nor the tired bones of Abraham, but in the disclosing word of God.

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

Thursday (8/30) Read and discuss Luke 12:22-34. David Garland writes:

The warning against anxiety and the command to store up treasure in heaven through almsgiving draws the lesson to be learned from the negative example of the rich fool. Lowery comments: “The imperative to relinquish and redistribute wealth grows out of the assurance that God provides sustenance and beauty sufficient for good life. Generosity flows from confidence in God’s willingness and ability to provide.”

A harvest is a miraculous gift from God, but the farmer did not treat his bumper crop as an opportunity for sharing with others from God’s bounty but as an occasion to keep more for himself and to hedge against future bad harvests. Such actions are rooted in fear that one may not have enough. “Fear,” as Lowery notes, “breeds obsession with survival. It is a small step then to idolatry, the vain attempt to substitute certitude for faith, to find security in that which can be controlled rather than which simply must be trusted.” By contrast, “faith sees the abundance as surplus to be shared, because God can be trusted to provide enough next year, as well.” When the world is divided up between the have-mores and the have-nothings, the love of neighbor should determine the answer to the question, “What shall I do with my surplus?”

Jesus allows that material things are necessary for life (12:16, 22-32), but a greater abundance of these things does not lead to a greater abundance of life. Nor does it lead to greater peace and security. Instead, as Bultmann notes, “the person who supposedly has the world at his disposal is [often] its victim.” That person is often confused about what is really important in life. That is why Paul advises in 1 Cor 7:31 that one should “use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.” The man in the parable learns too late that the only possessions worth having and storing up are those that death cannot snatch away. He also never gets to enjoy his “good things.” The truth is that greater happiness derives from the experience of sharing things with others than from miserly attempts to accumulate and to stash them away.

Read or sing Hymn 434 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” Prayer: Please lift up the young people of our congregation as they return to school.

Friday (8/31) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 20:1-23.  Dale Ralph Davis gives us a sober warning as we consider how the problems in today’s passage continue throughout Church history. Writing about Sheba he asks:

By why is this scoundrel such a scoundrel? Because he is rejecting Yahweh’s chosen. He is rebelling – and calling the northern tribes to rebel – against Yahweh’s anointed king and breaking the covenant that bound the king and the northern tribes in mutual loyalty. Perhaps Sheba could whitewash his deed alleging that Judah’s nasty words had caused him emotional distress or that David’s politicking smacked of gross favoritism. All of which would not alter his crime: rebelling against covenant kingship and, in so doing, rebelling against Yahweh.

Which is somewhat tiring to the reader of 2 Samuel. We’ve been through chapters of this already with Absalom. And the same revolt in principle goes on and on in the so-called evangelical church. There people are perfectly happy to be in a church that has a ‘high view’ of the authority of the Bible. But let a married woman find another man she prefers to her husband, or a husband who has gotten close to another man she prefers to her husband, or a husband who has gotten close to another woman at work and wants to ditch his wife, and somehow the authority of the bible doesn’t matter. Or someone has been wronged by another. It has too much, the wound too deep, the offense too vicious – the one could never be reconciled to the other, even though the offender is repentant and seeks forgiveness. No – impossible. Point out to the offended that he’d better never pray the Lord’s Prayer again (Matt. 6:12) and that Jesus gives no option but to reconcile (Matt. 6:14-15; Luke 17:3-4). Too bad for the Lord’s Prayer and too bad for Jesus. His rage is too precious to him. Rightful authority can simply go down the tube. There are Shebas in the church; some of them are evangelicals of the stricter sort. They rebel against rightful authority; they are determined to go their own way, to call their own shots; they lift up their hand against the King.

Read or sing Hymn 433 “Amazing Grace” Prayer: Ask the LORD to give you a tender heart that is quick to repent and which delights to walk in the ways of the LORD.

Saturday (9/1) Read and discuss Romans 4:1-8. James Montgomery Boice writes:

Paul’s opponents would have argued that Abraham was saved by keeping the law and by being circumcised, but we know from Paul’s teaching, both in Galatians and Romans, that he would have answered by reciting the historical sequence of events. The verse that says that Abraham was justified by faith is in Genesis 15. But circumcision is not introduced until years later, as recorded in Genesis 17. And the law was not given until the time of Moses, four hundred years after that. Since Abraham was declared to be a justified man before either the law or circumcision, it is certain that he was not justified on the basis of his conformity to either.

Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 26 August 2018 Sunday, Aug 19 2018 

26 August 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 224 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”

Confession of Sin

Almighty and everlasting God, Glorious Creator of all things, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; We have sinned against Your holy Name, by failing to glorify You in our lives as your redeemed children. Our unthankfulness extends to every thought and deed, as well as to our failure to thank you with our lips. We have not lived to the praise of the glory of Your grace. We have not esteemed the reproach of Jesus Christ our Savior to be greater than the riches of this world. We have failed to estimate the infinite cost of the salvation won for us at the cross through the shed blood of Jesus. We have not been faithful to You as You have been faithful to us in all things. Father, forgive us for our ingratitude through the reconciling sacrifice of Jesus Christ our all-sufficient Mediator, we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 10:19-22

Hymn of Preparation:  227 “How Great Thou Art”

Old Covenant Reading: 1 Chronicles 29:10-22

New Covenant: Romans 3:27-31

Sermon: God Over All

Hymn of Response: 229 “Holy God, We Praise Your Name”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 351 “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”

REMINDER: The Hymns for AM Worship are from the new Trinity Psalter-Hymnal. Why not read them over and familiarize yourself with them before morning worship this Sunday?

PM Worship

OT: 2 Samuel 19:8b-43

NT: Luke 16:1-9

King Again

Shorter Catechism Q/A #54

Q. What is required in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word and works.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (8/20) Read and discuss Romans 3:27-31. One of the important things about putting together a hymnal is that the tunes must match the words of the hymns. Believe it or not, you can sing Amazing Grace to the tune used for the Coca-Cola jingle – but doing so radically distorts what John Newton was intending this hymn to convey. If we think of the Old Testament Torah as the Hymn, we can see that Paul was now singing that hymn to a very different tune than he had sung as a Pharisee. The Pharisees, and many other Jews of his day had sung this hymn as though keeping the Law was the means by which they would be justified on the last day. When they heard Paul singing the same Hymn to the tune of grace alone through faith alone they accused him of abandoning the Hymn – that is abolishing the Law – but nothing could be further from the truth. N.T. Wright comments:

Are we abolishing the law? No, of course not! We are setting it to a far better tune, a tune that in fact God himself has written for it. It was never meant to be fulfilled ‘by works’ in the way that the Pharisees and others had attempted. It was always designed to be sung to the tune called ‘faith.’ Paul is often imagined to have had a negative view of the law, but one of the reasons he writes Romans is to make clear that that is wrong. The law always was God’s law, and it is not abolished. Instead, it is fulfilled in a way [that had been lost to the majority of Jews in Paul’s day]. This is the tune that makes the best sense of the words.

Read or sing Hymn 224 “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters at Providence OPC in West Lebanon, NH.

Tuesday (8/21) Read and discuss Romans 3:21-26.  Outside of church, you will probably never hear the word “propitiation.” But you are going to have to learn it – since there really isn’t a satisfactory alternative. Some translators, out of a good desire to translate the Bible into language that we are familiar with, have tried alternatives such as “sacrifice of atonement” and “expiation.” But, in addition to not really getting across what the Holy Spirit is saying through Paul; when is the last time you were trying to buy a hotdog at a baseball game and you heard someone in line talking about “a sacrifice of atonement” or “expiation”? Unless you are going to the ballpark with Dan, I suspect the answer is “Not very often.” So, let’s be grateful that we need to learn far fewer technical words to understand the Bible than we do to learn Physics or Chemistry. And let’s buckle down and learn this word – which is one of the most important words that you will ever come to know. In the Bible, a “propitiation” is something that makes God look upon a person or group of people with favor and delight. When God puts forward Jesus as a propitiation, He is putting away your sins. But He is not simply bringing you from under His holy wrath to some sort of neutral position. Because of the redemption that has been accomplished for you in Jesus Christ, the moment you believe in Jesus you are transformed from being a child of wrath to being a child whom God the Father profoundly loves and with whom He is well pleased.” What does Almighty God think when He thinks about you? If you are in Christ by faith, then God thinks that – as to your legal standing – you are perfectly righteous; and as to your person – He delights in and loves you. He really does! Read or Sing Hymn 227 “How Great Thou Art” Prayer: Give thanks for the astonishing grace which you have received in Christ Jesus your Lord.

Wednesday (8/22) Read and discuss 1 Chronicles 29:10-22. Andrew Bowling writes:

David leads in corporate prayer by reciting a psalm. Its theme, the sovereignty of God, occurs frequently in Chronicles. Greatness, power, majesty, authority, and wealth; all these belong to God. This is the God whom David is praising and to whom David and the people give their offerings.

Having praised God with a psalm, David offers a prose commentary on the incongruity of feeble insignificant men “giving” to an infinitely wealthy, powerful, sovereign God. The insignificance of man is stated in powerful graphic language. David and the people are merely returning to God what is already his. David prays that deep sincerity in the people’s ritual life will continue.

Prayer: Please pray for our missionaries who are working with the Karamojan people in Uganda.

Thursday (8/23) Read and discuss Luke 16:1-9. David Garland writes:

The children of this age are smarter than the children of light when it comes to acting in their best interests. They are motivated by self-interest and self-preservation and concern themselves only with this world. The sons of light should be concerned about the world to come, but they act more like the rich man in the parable that follows. If the children of light understood what their true self interest is, they would be motivated by it to act no less decisively and boldly than the children of this age, and they would then concentrate their energies on serving others. They would use whatever worldly opportunities they have to attain otherworldly ends by helping the needy in this world.

The agent in this parable only thinks in terms of how to make his life in the here and now comfortable after he has to give an account of his earthly stewardship. Christians know that all will have to give an account to God. We should focus our energies on doing what is pleasing to God.

Read or sing Psalm 85 Prayer: Please lift up the college students in our congregation as they get ready to begin their Fall semester.

Friday (8/24) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 19:8b-43.  Tony Catledge writes:

David’s encounter with Shimei is an example of both personal discipline and political agility. Shimei had cursed David on his departure from Jerusalem, but now he comes to beg David’s forgiveness. The reader might like to think that David freely offered a pardon from the goodness of his heart, but the fact that Shimei was accompanied by 1,000 Benjaminites cannot be overlooked. Even if David did not fear the possibility of battle with Shimei’s allies, he could not risk alienating such a significant segment of his support. So his public oath to not harm Shimei came under some obvious duress. It was, however, an astute move. David was able to put aside his personal affront for the sake of the larger goal.

David’s meeting with Mephibosheth tested his patience as well as his wisdom. As Solomon would later be challenged to choose between two women with competing stories, David was faced with two men who told opposing tales: Ziba had insisted that Mephibosheth remained in Jerusalem when David fled because he had hoped that Absalom would return the throne to the house of Saul. Mephibosheth, on the other hand, now came to claim that he stayed in Jerusalem only because he was crippled and the treacherous Ziba had refused to saddle his mount. Mephibosheth had carefully neglected his personal hygiene as evidence of his betrayal. David had grated to Ziba all Mephibosheth’s estate in their earlier exchange, but ow he was uncertain what to do. Unable to decide between them and unwilling to devote more time to a peripheral matter, David pronounced that Ziba and Mephibosheth should split the land.

Read or sing Hymn 351 “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” Prayer: Ask the LORD to grant you wisdom for some particular area of your life that you are struggling with.

Saturday (8/25) Read and discuss Romans 3:27-31. James Montgomery Boice writes:

The most pernicious ground of all for human boasting is faith. This is a particular danger for the evangelical. For the most part the evangelical knows that he (or she) is not saved by works – he has been taught that since his youth. Unusually he does not trust in his feelings, though he thinks rather highly of them. He is even willing to give upon on extensive biblical knowledge or sound doctrine as ground for his hope. But it is entirely different with faith. Faith is the distinguishing mark of the evangelical. So even though he does not want to boast – and it really pains him to do so – when pressed in his doctrine the evangelical will admit that in the final analysis the reason he is going to be in heaven, and another person is not, is that he believe God and trusted Jesus while those who are perishing spurned him.

Sometimes evangelicals express their ideas in the following fashion. They say that God first gave the law to see if anyone could keep it. But since no one did or can, God now comes to us with a slimmed-down or much facilitated gospel, as if he were saying: “I know you can’t keep my law. So let me ask instead for something you can do. Just believe in Jesus. If you believe in Jesus I will save you.”

I am sure that by now you can see clearly what is wrong with that idea. If that is the way God operates, faith becomes a work – something you or I do on the basis of which we are saved – and there is ground for boasting. We may not want to boast. But if we are in heaven a million years from now and someone comes up to us and asks why we are there and another person is not, and if we are pressed about it, we will have to admit that we are there because we had faith and the other person had none. Faith is our distinguishing mark. So, although we may not want to boast, honesty will compel us to boast just a little.

But that is not what faith is. Listen to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on this subject:

Faith is nothing but the instrument of our salvation. Nowhere in Scripture will you find that we are justified because of our faith; nowhere in Scripture will you find that we justified on account of our faith. The Scripture never says that. The Scripture says that we are justified by faith or through faith. Faith is nothing but the instrument or the channel by which this righteousness of God in Christ becomes ours. It is not faith that saves us. What saves us is the Lord Jesus Christ and his perfect work. It is the death of Christ upon Calvary’s Cross that saves us. It is his perfect life that saves us. It is his appearing on our behalf in the presence of God that saves us. I tis God putting Christ’s righteousness to our account that saves us. That is the righteousness that saves; faith is but the channel and the instrument by which his righteousness becomes mine. The righteousness is entirely Christ’s. My faith is not my righteousness and I must never define or think of faith as righteousness. Faith is nothing but that which links us to the Lord Jesus Christ and his righteousness.

Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 19 August 2018 Sunday, Aug 12 2018 

19 August 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 222 “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”

Confession of Sin

O eternal God and merciful Father, we humble ourselves before your great majesty, against which we have frequently and grievously sinned. We acknowledge that we deserve nothing less than eternal death, that we are unclean before you and children of wrath. We continually transgress your commandments, failing to do what you have commanded, and doing that which you have expressly forbidden. We acknowledge our waywardness, and are heartily sorry for all our sins. We are not worthy to be called your children, nor to lift up our eyes heavenward to you in prayer. Nevertheless, O Lord God and gracious Father, we know that your mercy toward those who turn to you is infinite; and so we take courage to call upon you, trusting in our Mediator Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Forgive all our sins for Christ’s sake. Cover us with his innocence and righteousness, for the glory of your name. Deliver our understanding from all blindness, and our hearts from all willfulness and rebellion, we pray through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.

Assurance of Pardon: Isaiah 55:7-9

Hymn of Preparation:  265 “In Christ Alone”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 85:1-13

New Covenant Reading: Romans 3:21-26

Sermon: Both Just and Justifier

Hymn of Response: Psalm 85

Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments

Diaconal Offering

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 209 “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright”

REMINDER: The Hymns for AM Worship are from the new Trinity Psalter-Hymnal. Why not read them over and familiarize yourself with them before morning worship this Sunday?

PM Worship

OT: 2 Samuel 18:19-19:8a

NT: Revelation 21:1-4

Almost Failing

Shorter Catechism Q/A #53

Q. Which is the third commandment?
A. The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (8/13) Read and discuss Romans 3:21-26. R.C. Sproul writes:

There is no such thing as cheap grace. The gospel is not simply an announcement of pardon. In justification, God does not merely decide unilaterally to forgive us our sins. That is the prevailing idea, that what happens in the gospel is that God freely forgives us of sin because he is such a loving dear, wonderful God, and it does not disturb him that we violate everything that is holy. [But] God never negotiates his righteousness. God will never lay aside his holiness to save us. God demands and requires that sin be punished. That is why the cross is the universal symbol of Christianity. Christ had to die because, according to God, the propitiation had to be made; sin had to be punished. Our sin has to be punished.

In the drama of justification, God remains just. He does not set aside his justice. He does not waive his righteousness; he insists upon it. We cannot be justified without righteousness, but the glory of his grace is that this justice is served vicariously by a substitute that he appointed. God’s mercy is shown in that what saves us is not our righteousness. It is someone else’s. We get in on someone else’s coattails – that is grace. That somebody, our Redeemer, is perfectly righteous and has fulfilled the justice of God for us perfectly. That is the glory of justification. God demonstrates that he is both just and justifier. If all he did was maintain his righteousness without extending the imputation of that righteousness to us, he would not be the justifier. He is both just and justifier, which is the marvel of the gospel.

Read or sing Hymn 222 “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” Prayer: Give thanks that Jesus gave His life for the life of the world and that, in particular, He gave His life for you.

Tuesday (8/14) Read and discuss Romans 3:9-20.  As one New Testament scholar has pointed out: Appealing to the Law as a way of escape, is like appealing to the Police Officer who caught us red-handed in the act of committing the crime. Rather than vindicating us, the Law causes us to put our hands over our mouths – as a visible way of declaring that we have absolutely nothing to say in our own defense. But God’s purpose for His people is not that we would put our hands over our mouths to the end that we would be crushed under the weight of our sins – but that we would turn from trying to vindicate ourselves so that we would be justified entirely by God’s grace in Jesus Christ our Lord. But there’s the rub: Grace. As odd as it might sound, people don’t like receiving things entirely by grace, because fallen human beings want to take credit for the things which they have. If you pay attention, you will notice that people have a lot of problems with receiving things entirely as gifts of God’s free grace.  Just the other day, I walked down to the “Reed’s Ferry Market” – this is a convenience store down the street from where we live – and I grabbed a bottle of diet coke. While I waited at the counter, I saw the woman, who I think owns the place, outside happily chatting with an elderly gentleman who was giving her some freshly picked corn. She came in beaming ear-to-ear. As she placed the corn down on a chair, she said: “I wonder what I did to deserve that?” Hoping that this might be an opportunity to talk with her about Jesus, I replied: “Maybe you didn’t have to do anything. Maybe this was just his kindness and grace to you.” Do you know what she did next? I am not making this up. Instead of celebrating the kindness of one of her customers, this very pleasant woman started recounting to me some of the good things that she had done recently as though the Universe was just paying her back for being a basically good person. Well, I don’t know the state of that woman’s soul. But I do know that John Owen is entirely correct about every single human being on the face of the earth:

“Until men know themselves better they will care very little to know Christ at all.”

That is God’s purpose for today’s passage, that you would come to know yourself better and therefore entrust yourself body and soul to your faithful Savior Jesus Christ. Read or Sing Hymn 265 “In Christ Alone” Prayer: Please lift up the young people in our congregation who have yet to make a public profession of faith. Ask that the LORD would grant them a true and lively faith and that they would confidently profess Christ in this world all the days of their lives.

Wednesday (8/15) Read and discuss Psalm 36:1-12. James Montgomery Boice writes:

The conclusion of the psalm is a prayer in which David prays for others who know God and are upright (v. 10) and for himself that he may be preserved from evildoers (v. 11). So confident is he of this final deliverance that the psalm closes with a prophetic glimpse of the wicked who, in his vision, “lie fallen –thrown down, not able to rise” (v. 12).

What is the final application of the psalm? It is what we have already seen in verse 7. What distinguishes the righteous from the wicked are not the good deeds of the godly (though they inevitably express their right relationship to God by good deeds), but rather that they, in distinction from the wicked, have taken refuge under the shadow of God’s wings. The words “find refuge” mean to flee for refuge, like a man guilty of manslaughter fleeing from the avenger of blood. They mean to flee with haste and intensity, stopping for nothing, until by the full thrust of our entire natures we find safety and deliverance beneath the wings and in the unfailing mercy of Almighty God.

That mercy is to be found in Jesus Christ. He said of Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). The masses of Jesus’ day missed that great blessing and perished. The masses miss them today. Do not be one of them. Come to Jesus now.

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

Thursday (8/16) Read and discuss Revelation 21:1-8. The Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. That may come as a bit of a surprise to those of us who think that paradise restored might be something like a beach in Hawaii. So is Tim Keller right when he says, “If you don’t like cities you are not going to like the new heavens and the new earth”? Well, not exactly. What cities provide is an opportunity for large numbers of people to easily interact with one another for good or for ill. On the positive side, the degree of interaction and specialization that cities provide promotes economic growth through trade, exceptional educational opportunities, and generally the highest forms of a civilization’s culture. On the downside, social deviants who are shamed into behaving better in small towns are able to find peer groups in large cities that will affirm their perversions as though they were good. So, large modern cities like New York and London produce the extremes of human culture. On the one hand there is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, financial and business centers, and world class universities. On the other hand there are gangs, slums, homeless people, and every manner of perversion imaginable. But what if all the negative things were to be taken away and we were left with only the upside of cities? That is what God is promising to do in this passage:

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

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

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

Read or sing Psalm 85 Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family and whose gifts would build up our church.

Friday (8/17) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 18:19-19:8a.  John Woodhouse writes:

This episode in the history of David’s kingdom is a powerful display of the problem that David’s kingdom could not resolve. The king himself was a sinner, as were his sons and his subjects. In particular, Absalom was a rebel. Justice demanded one thing. David’s love for Absalom longed for something else. Remarkably, David’s helpless cry anticipated the solution that would one day be provided. “Would I had died instead of you,” David wept (18:33). I do not imagine that David was conscious of the significance of these words. However, when the great son of David eventually came, he came to die instead of his enemies – “a ransom instead of many,” as he said (Matthew 20:28).

Read or sing Hymn 209 “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright” Prayer: Ask the Holy Spirit to bring about greater conformity between your life and God’s revealed will.

Saturday (8/18) Read and discuss Romans 3:21-26. Since salvation is entirely the free gift of God, it can be absolutely certain. James Montgomery Boice writes:

If salvation is by human works, then human works (or a lack of them) can undo it. If I can save myself, I can unsave myself. I can ruin everything. But if salvation is of God from beginning to end, it is sure and unwavering simply because God is himself sure and unwavering. Since God knows the end from the beginning, nothing ever surprises him, and he never needs to alter his plans or change his mind. What he has begun he will continue, and we can be confident of that. Paul expressed this confidence in regard to the church at Philippi, saying that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 12 August 2018 Sunday, Aug 5 2018 

12 August 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 219 “O Worship the King”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 8:1-4

Hymn of Preparation:  503 “From Depths of Woe I Raise to Thee”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 36:1-12

New Covenant Reading: Romans 3:9-20

Sermon: None Righteous, Not Even One

Hymn of Response: 507 “Thy Mercy, LORD, Is What I Need”

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 204 “A Parting Hymn We Sing”

REMINDER: The Hymns for AM Worship are from the new Trinity Psalter-Hymnal. Why not read them over and familiarize yourself with them before morning worship this Sunday?

PM Worship

OT: 2 Samuel 18:1-18

NT: 1 John 2:15-17

Absalom’s Monument

Shorter Catechism Q/A #52

Q. 52. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (8/6) Read and discuss Romans 3:9-20. N.T. Wright comments:

In Paul’s world, if you were on trial and had nothing more to say in your defense, you put a hand over your mouth as a sign. Sometimes court officials would strike the prisoner on the mouth to indicate that their mouths ‘should be stopped’, in other words, that they were obviously guilty and should not be attempting to defend themselves. So when Paul says ‘that every mouth may be stopped’ he is imagining not only that the Jews have joined the Gentiles in the dock but that all of them together are left without any defense. The whole world is accountable to God: all people are obviously guilty, and must now face God as their judge.

This, then, is the main point of the present passage: to finish off the job of rounding up the whole human race before its Creator and finding it guilty.

Read or sing Hymn 219 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering through a terrible crisis in Venezuela.

Tuesday (8/7) Read and discuss Romans 3:1-8. Paul is insistent. How could you imagine that God was not a great giver who extended extraordinary privileges to His covenant people – when He entrusted them with His very own words? Let give you an illustration. Not far from here stands Harvard University which is arguably the finest university in the entire world. A few of you may have studied there and all of us have a sense of just how competitive it is to get in. Imagine that Harvard changed its admission policy so that it was it was still incredibly competitive to get in for most people, but if you were the child of an alumni you would both be admitted automatically and given a free four-year scholarship to attend the school. If you were one of those children, wouldn’t you consider that to be an extraordinary privilege and blessing? I hope that you would. But what if you heard a few children of other alumni grumbling that this wasn’t much of a privilege after all. One of them told you that when her acceptance letter came in the mail she just burned it up – and she didn’t understand why some people were so excited about being the children of Harvard alumni since it never did her the slightest bit of good. Then you heard another young adult tell you that he was admitted, but he just drank beer and refused to study – and he never learned a thing at Harvard. Would these sorts of experiences lead you to conclude that the privilege was no big deal, or would you conclude that these people had foolishly tossed away something that was incredibly valuable? Well Paul is saying: “Do you know what is far more valuable than going to Harvard and listening to the words of some really highly educated human beings? It is coming to Church week after week and hearing the words of the Living God.” And God gives you this privilege to all of you who were born into a family with one or more believing parents apart from anything that you have done or could do. Do you see that LORD is good and His gifts are exceedingly valuable? At the very top of this list, Paul says chiefly that we have been entrusted with the very words of God. Read or Sing Hymn 503 “From Depths of Woe I Raise to Thee” Prayer: Ask the LORD to fill you with gratitude for the wonderful blessings that He has given to you.

Wednesday (8/8) Read and discuss Psalm 36:1-12. James Montgomery Boice writes:

The conclusion of the psalm is a prayer in which David prays for others who know God and are upright (v. 10) and for himself that he may be preserved from evildoers (v. 11). So confident is he of this final deliverance that the psalm closes with a prophetic glimpse of the wicked who, in his vision, “lie fallen –thrown down, not able to rise” (v. 12).

What is the final application of the psalm? It is what we have already seen in verse 7. What distinguishes the righteous from the wicked are not the good deeds of the godly (though they inevitably express their right relationship to God by good deeds), but rather that they, in distinction from the wicked, have taken refuge under the shadow of God’s wings. The words “find refuge” mean to flee for refuge, like a man guilty of manslaughter fleeing from the avenger of blood. They mean to flee with haste and intensity, stopping for nothing, until by the full thrust of our entire natures we find safety and deliverance beneath the wings and in the unfailing mercy of Almighty God.

That mercy is to be found in Jesus Christ. He said of Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). The masses of Jesus’ day missed that great blessing and perished. The masses miss them today. Do not be one of them. Come to Jesus now.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to work in all the children of our congregation that they would long to be gathered to Christ under the shelter of His wings.

Thursday (8/9) Read and discuss 1 John 2:15-17. Karen Jobes writes:

Preachers have the reputation of railing against society’s evils by identifying specific behaviors that are destructive and sinful – things such as drunkenness, addictions, or sexual immorality. While it is true that those behaviors are not of God, John’s thinking in this passage strikes at a much deeper level. The three evils he lists are not to be narrowed to three specific vices – as if “the desire of the flesh” was all about illicit sex and pornography – but John insists instead that we question the reigning value system of all of contemporary life at its roots. It is not enough to say that sexual immorality is wrong, or that pride is wrong, or that we must not covet material possessions. While all that is true, they are only symptoms of the much deeper problem of “the world’s” alienation from God. All human values, ethics, and morality that are defined by fallen people are fatally flawed because they are built on false premises about reality.

People who reject the knowledge that “God is light” reject God’s sovereign prerogative to define the standard of human values and morality. Even if not an atheist at the philosophical level, anyone who rejects God’s rule of life in some aspect of their behavior is to that extent an atheist in practice. The underlying problem is a radical autonomy of the human spirit that insists on being its own god. And the result is each person “doing what is right in their own eyes” (cf. Judges 21:25) in a world that no longer has a uniform basis for law and morality. That is the way of “the world” as John uses the term.

His first imperative is, therefore, foundational for all others that will follow: do not love the world. Do not adopt the world’s attitudes and ways of life with respect to God. For the attraction to human autonomy is a rejection of and therefore, a failure to love God. There is no love for God in the one who loves the unbridled desires of the flesh for food, drink, and sex. There is no love for God in the one who places the highest value on material things of this life that can be bought and sold but who undervalues the invisible things like love, faithfulness, and goodness. There is no love for God in the one who feels so self-satisfied and secure in the life they have built on their own accomplishments and wealth that they have no need for God.

Read or sing 507 “Thy Mercy, LORD, Is What I Need” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters at Providence OPC in West Lebanon, NH.

Friday (8/10) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 18:1-18.  Dale Ralph Davis writes:

Absalom happened to find himself in front of some of David’s men (v. 9). He didn’t intend the appearance; but shrub and forest make normal military movements torturous and all sorts of harum-scarum surprises occur. It was an unplanned disaster, an accident our common parlance calls it. And it led to an accident, for as Absalom hurries off he and his mule go under a large terebinth or oak and – was he looking back? – Absalom’s head is slammed into the fork of some large, low branches and only the mule keeps going.

Who knows how severely injured he was? But he dangles safely until Joab arrives. Joab shoves three shafts or darts into Absalom’s mid-section – the wounds are surely mortal, but the coup de grace is left for Joab’s adjutants. They ‘heaved him into a deep pit in the forest and piled over him a very high heap of stones.’

There may be more than meets the eye in this note about Absalom’s burial place in verse 17. McCarter’s comment is to to the point:

This is the burial of an accursed man. Compare: (1) Joshua 7:26, where Achan, having been stoned to death for his sacrilege (Joshua 7:15), is buried under ‘a large pile of stones’; (2) Joshua 8:29, where the king of Ai, having been hanged on a tree, is thrown into a pit and covered with ‘a large pile of stones’; (3) Joshua 10:27, where five enemy kings, having been put to death and hanged from trees, are thrown into a cave, the mouth of which is then covered with large stones. Abishalom [sic] is accursed as a fratricide and rebel, and he too was hanged on a tree (cf. Deut 21:23).

Read or sing Hymn 204 “A Parting Hymn We Sing” Prayer: Please pray that the LORD would send revival and reformation to New England.

Saturday (8/11) Read and discuss Romans 3:9-20. R.C. Sproul writes:

From our perspective, there are good deeds, but if we define goodness the way God does, the verdict comes out a little differently. From a biblical standpoint, there are two aspects to a good deed. When God weighs our actions, he weighs whether they correspond outwardly to his law. God requires honesty, and we are honest if we do not cheat on our income taxes or steal. It is good that we do not steal; it is good that we do not cheat – so far, so good. We have that external conformity to the law of God. However, when God evaluates our behavior not only does he judge the outward action, but he also considers the work, the inward motivation. Therefore, for people to do good in God’s sight, they not only have to do something that externally conforms to his law, but they also must be motivated in that action by a heart that is trying to please God, a heart that loves him completely, with the whole mind.

Nobody, apart from God’s grace ever does this. Therefore, the unbeliever sins in ever thought and deed that he or she ever has or does. But, we should also note that as Christians – are deeds do not have to be perfect in order to be considered good. Our Confession of Faith 16.6 puts it like this: “Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections. (emphasis added)” Therefore, Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 5 August 2018 Sunday, Jul 29 2018 

5 August 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 216 “Praise to the LORD, the Almighty”

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 86:12-15

Hymn of Preparation:  243 “How Firm a Foundation”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 51:1-19

New Covenant Reading: Romans 3:1-8

Sermon: Let God be True

Hymn of Response: Psalm 51C

Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 205 “Bread of the World in Mercy Broken”

REMINDER: The Hymns for AM Worship are from the new Trinity Psalter-Hymnal. Why not read them over and familiarize yourself with them before morning worship this Sunday?

PM Worship

OT: 2 Samuel 17:1-29

NT: Matthew 6:25-34

The Plan of God in the Plans of Men

Shorter Catechism Q/A #51

Q. 51. What is forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment forbiddeth the worshiping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (7/30) Read and discuss Romans 3:1-8. R.C. Sproul writes:

There is no greater advantage for anyone than to be within earshot of the Word of God. I have mentioned that I was reared in a liberal church. The minister did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. He denied the miracles of the New Testament, and his sermons exhibited that skepticism. However, part of the liturgy in that church every Sunday was the reading of the text of the Bible. Everything that went before the reading of the Bible and everything that went after it was distortion and heresy. Still, in spite of the minister – not because of him – I was sitting under the Word of God. That was the advantage to me. When I became a Christian, it was through the testimony of the Word of God. In preparation for my call to conversion, the Word of God was at work in my life.

God has chosen the foolishness of preaching as his method of saving his people, and he has invested his power in the Word. The power is not in the preacher. The power is not in the program. The power is not in the liturgy. The power is in the Word because it is attended by the Holy Spirit. The Word can cut through our minds and hardened hearts; it can pierce our souls and bring us to Christ. There is much advantage where the Word of God is preached, just as there was advantage to the Israelites in possessing the oracles of God.

Read or sing Hymn 216 “Praise to the LORD, the Almighty” Prayer: Please pray for the troubled nation of North Korea and also that world leaders would be able to find a way forward towards a peaceful, prosperous, and free future.

Tuesday (7/31) Read and discuss Romans 2:25-29. Paul is primarily addressing the Jewish Christians in Rome and he is talking about the Spirit wrought faith of their Gentile brothers and sisters in Christ. And He is saying: The very people you are looking down upon are those whom God Himself is praising. And you are praising your fellow Jews according to the flesh – who are outwardly Jewish – but who do not possess the circumcision of the heart. Even though these men and women – unless they repent – stand under the condemnation of God. Such things ought not to be. Indeed, I am calling you to repent – to turn from your condemning attitudes toward your Gentile brothers and sisters and to embrace them for what they truly are – new Creations in Jesus Christ – and joint heirs with you of the Kingdom of God. This is the goal which Paul has been driving towards. The genuine unity that believers already have in Jesus Christ is to be manifested in our deep love for one another and for a sense of wonder that God has done this astonishing work – not only for us – but for all our brothers and sisters as well. The reality of being brought into God’s family must, therefore, transcend and relativize all of our other ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic connections. Read or Sing Hymn 243 “How Firm a Foundation” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family and whose gifts would be used to build up the body.

Wednesday (8/1) Read and discuss Psalm 51:1-19. Allen P. Ross writes:

We, like the psalmist, can and must have complete cleansing before we can fully and freely serve God in any capacity. Our eternal destiny may not be in doubt when we sin, and neither was David’s because he appealed to that covenant relationship, but our fellowship and service will be. God will not tolerate unconfessed sin, but will discipline for it. And if we harbor unconfessed sin in our lives, we cannot teach sinners about forgiveness, we cannot praise God, we cannot come to his table, and we will not have the joy that we knew when we were walking with the LORD. We may still try to do these things without finding forgiveness, but it will be hypocrisy, and therefore not accepted or blessed by God.

Prayer: Please lift up the Session of our church as it meets this evening.

Thursday (8/2) Read and discuss Matthew 6:25-34. Grant Osborne writes:

Matthew does not intend a totally passive approach to life. It is trust in the provision of God rather than an absence of working to meet our needs. It is trust in God to guide us and provide for us, not a lazy Christianity, that is in view. The emphasis is on the anxiety that a lack of dependence on God produces. Moreover, this promise that God will give “all these things” to us is no guarantee that hard times will never befall us. Rather, it means that in the hard times God will be guiding our steps and making sure that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28).

When John said “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1), he did not mean a troubled heart was a sin, for Jesus himself had a troubled heart (John 11:33); 12:27; 13:21). Rather, he meant that real trust in God will enable us to overcome such anxiety (14:2). The troubled heart will only become a sin when it is allowed to dominate our lives, so that possessions become our god and constant anxiety is the result.

Read or sing Psalm 51C Prayer: Ask the LORD to grant you a tender heart that would be quick to fully repent of sins as soon as you are convicted over them.

Friday (8/3) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 17:1-29.  Andrew Steinmann writes:

Since Ahithophel had proposed a strategy to defeat David, which Absalom had not requested, he had Hushai summoned. He asked whether Ahithophel’s scheme ought to be implemented. Husai’s reply contains masterfully worded rhetoric designed to seduce the vainglorious Absalom into rejecting Ahithophel’s advice. Hushai focused on what Absalom and Israel knew and would do. Instead of letting Ahithophel claim the victory, Absalom would be credited with the triumph because of his personal presence. Hushai used four similes compared to Ahithophel’s one. … He avoided directly criticizing Ahithophel’s untested leadership of an attack force on the battlefield, opting instead to emphasize the combat experience of David and his troops. David’s utter defeat was envisioned with catastrophic hyperbole. In short, Hushai successfully counteracted Ahithophel’s advice first by fooling Absalom with his ruse of loyalty in 16:16-19 and then by his persuasive speech as a tested veteran of combat. He appealed to his and Absalom’s shared knowledge of the enemy’s character.

Read or sing Hymn 205 “Bread of the World in Mercy Broken” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would help you to overcome those areas in your life where you find it difficult to trust Him.

Saturday (8/4) Read and discuss Romans 3:1-8. Doug Moo writes:

The Jewish tendency to think that the covenant made them secure from all threat of judgment has parallels in the Christian church. I happen to believe that the genuine Christian does have security, that is, if we have truly come to know Christ, we can be absolutely certain that we will appear before him in glory.

But belief in “eternal security,” as we sometimes call it, is open to abuse. (1) Some people may think that they are secure when they are not because they have never truly come to faith. They have “walked up the aisle,” raised their hand at an invitation, or been baptized – but they have never truly submitted to Christ as Lord. Such people are not “secure” in Christ. We need to help them understand what real conversion is and challenge each professed believer to make sure that his or her profession matches the spiritual reality. (2) But even genuine Christians can err in this matter. God’s Word does, I believe, promise that he will infallibly bring to eternal glory those who are truly his. But that Word also makes clear that our eternal glory is contingent on a life of obedience. To be sure, some theologians try to minimize or even dismiss that latter idea. But too many texts (e.g. 8:12-13) make this point quite clear. Bringing together in one neat package God’s promise to keep us secure with the need for us to be obedient in order to enjoy that promise is not easy.

Theologians have spent much time debating over just how to do it. But our point here is a relatively simple one: Believers should not so presume on their “security” that they fail to make every effort to bring their lives into obedience to Christ. It is precisely for this reason that many contemporary theologians and preachers prefer the slogan “perseverance of the saints” to “eternal security.” For the former contains the reminder that the saints need to persevere if they expect to attain glory.

Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 29 July 2018 Sunday, Jul 22 2018 

29 July 2018

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 116 “For the Beauty of the Earth”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 10:16-18

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

Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 30:1-6

New Covenant Reading: Romans 2:25-29

Sermon: The Praise of God

Hymn of Response: 649 “More Love to Thee, O Christ”

Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 561 “LORD Speak to Me that I May Speak”

PM Worship

OT: 2 Samuel 16:15-23

NT: Ephesians 6:1-4

Dishonoring His Father

Shorter Catechism Q/A #50

Q. What is required in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his word.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (7/23) Read and discuss Romans 2:25-29. R.C. Sproul writes:

I was reared in a very liberal church but nonetheless we were required to go through catechism class. There were about thirty of us in the class, and when it was all over, we had to be examined in front of the whole congregation. We all passed the test, and on Maundy Thursday we were confirmed. After our confirmation we had our first Communion. I remember afterward standing in the foyer of the church, and one of my buddies asked what I had thought about it. They had given us paper-thin wafers, and I said, “The stuff tasted like fish food,” and we all laughed. A woman turned to me and said, “How can you talk about Communion like that?” I thought, What’s the big deal? I had obviously trampled on something sacred to her. Despite three months of catechism, of giving a credible profession of faith before the elders, and taking my first Communion, I did not have the slightest understanding of what the Lord’s Supper is all about.

I have kept in touch with some who were in that class with me, and I know of only two who are professing Christians today. It is assumed we are in the kingdom of God just because we were baptized, joined a church, or got confirmed. We look on outward appearances; God looks on the heart. In the final analysis, the circumcision or baptism that matters [most] is that of the heart. I am not saying that we should do away with the external – Jesus made it clear that we are to use the signs of the covenant for the world to see. But we must always remember that they do not save us [apart from faith]. Our justification, as we will see, is by faith alone. My mother’s faith cannot save me, nor can my father’s or my sister’s or my wife’s. I have to have it, and it has to be in the heart.

Read or sing Hymn 48 “O LORD Most High With All My Heart” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would give you a tender hear that would love Him all the days of your life.

Tuesday (7/24) Read and discuss Romans 2:17-24. But here is the key thing that I want you to get. Paul doesn’t simply rummage around in the Old Testament for some verse that makes this point. For one thing, there are hundreds and hundreds of Old Testament passages that make this point. When Paul writes: “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” He is quoting from Isaiah 52:5 – and he is doing so precisely because Isaiah 52 and 53 lay out the case that he wants his readers in Rome to understand. What comes after Isaiah 52:5? … Just so you don’t think I wasted 8 years in graduate school, I’m going to tell you … It’s Isaiah 52:6 and 7. There the LORD says:

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

                        How beautiful upon the mountains

                                    are the feet of him who brings good news,

                        who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,

                                    who publishes salvation,

                                    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Do you see it? God’s answer is not to tell the Jews that they need to straighten up and fly right. God’s answer to the Jews, behaving so badly that they cause God’s name to be blasphemed amongst the Gentiles, is not to tell them that they need to try harder. God’s answer is to announce the Gospel. Isaiah and Paul join their voices to thunder across the centuries that “We are to glory in Jesus Christ and to place no confidence in [our own] flesh.” Read or Sing Hymn 100 “Holy, Holy, Holy!” Prayer: Ask the LORD to cause you to glory in Christ and in Christ alone!

Wednesday (7/25) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 30:1-6. The book of Deuteronomy largely consists of a series of sermons given by Moses to prepare the people of Israel for entering the Promised Land. The book has a covenant structure which largely follows the Hittite Treaty pattern. This is because Yahweh has entered into a treaty (covenant) with His people Israel. Remember the basic treaty structure is:

  1. The LORD rescued Israel from their bondage in Egypt entirely as an act of His grace. He gave them water to drink and manna to eat in the wilderness. Now He was bringing them into the Promised Land. They didn’t earn or merit any of these things. They were all gifts of God’s grace. The LORD’s covenants with people alwaysbegin with His gracious provision.
  2. As God’s people the Israelites were to live in a certain way that reflected the fact that they were now His people. In terms of the legal stipulation, the centerpiece was the Ten Commandments. Even more fundamentally, they were to live by trusting the LORD. That is, they were to live by faith.
  3. The preceding chapters of Deuteronomy have laid out the blessings that would come from living by faith (i.e. obedience) and the curses that would come from spurning the LORD (disobedience).

Sadly, chapter 30 begins not by looking forward to the blessings that Israel will enjoy in the Promised Lands but to their being exiled from the Land because of their faithlessness. Here is where the LORD “breaks” the Hittite Treaty pattern in His covenant with Israel. Under the Hittite Treaty structure disobedience meant death with no possibility of restoring the relationship. But today’s passage tells us that repentance and a restoration of the relationship between God and man is possible. No! Today’s passage says much more than this. It says that the LORD, through His sovereign grace will bring repentance to pass. Note well that the LORD not only responds to repentance. He is the One who gives repentance by circumcising the hearts of those He calls to Himself (v. 6). That is why the Shorter Catechism defines repentance unto life in these words:

Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.

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

Thursday (7/26) Read and discuss Ephesians 6:1-4. Thomas Winger writes:

Paul’s [concern], therefore, despite its legal appearance, is more concerned with promise and blessing than with obedience, reward, and punishment. What is crucial is that he sees God at work in the institution of marriage and family. Parents are to be honored and children cared for because they are set in order by God and convey his gifts. In this perspective Paul is rooted in the OT itself. His appeal to the Fourth Commandment as “the first commandment with a promise” is not unique. Other Jewish theologians had appealed to the promise inherent in the commandment. …

… Paul’s appeal to the promise contained in the Fourth Commandment is not an end int itself. All the commandments stem from the First. To violate any commandment is to lack the fear, love, and trust of God. To steal, for example, is to refuse to trust that God has provided everything one needs for this body and life. To commit adultery is to reject God’s provision of a wife or husband, thus, to reject God. So also, to obey the Fourth Commandment is to obey the First, for by heeding father and mother, children are acknowledging and trusting the God who placed their parents over them.

Prayer: Please pray for our missionaries in Uraguay.

Friday (7/27) Read and discuss 2 Samuel 16:15-23.  Hushai’s words are brilliantly ambiguous. They count on the fact that Absalom, with his narcissism, will interpret them one way – while Hushai, in his heart, means something very different. John Woodhouse writes:

Husahai’s insistence that he will belong to the one “whom the LORD … has chosen” (v. 18) must have been taken by Absalom as a remarkable endorsement of his aspirations. Absalom had not been so bold as to make that claim, but I am sure he did not mind at all if someone else (especially Hushai) made it for him. However, for Hushai the one “whom the LORD has chosen” would always be David.

The reference to the one whom “this people and all the men of Israel have chosen” obviously meant Absalom, if you heard it with Absalom’s ears. Had he not stolen their hearts and been acclaimed king “throughout all the tribes of Israel”? However, Husai had a longer memory and knew that “all the tribes of Israel” through “all the elders of Israel” had “anointed David king over Israel.”

Therefore, when Hushai said, “With him I will remain” (16:18). Absalom understood it as a pledge of loyalty to him as the new chosen one. Hushai’s secret meaning, however, was that his heart and soul would always be “with” David.

Read or sing Hymn 598 “Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would make you a man or woman of great moral courage.

Saturday (7/21) Read and discuss Romans 2:25-29. John Stott writes:

If the Jews’ possession and knowledge of the law did not exempt them from the judgment of God, neither did their circumcision. To be sure, circumcision was a God-given sign and seal of his covenant with them. But it was not a magical ceremony or a charm. It did not provide them with permanent insurance cover against the wrath of God. It was no substitute for obedience; it constituted rather a commitment to obedience. Yet the Jews had an almost superstitious confidence in the saving power of their circumcision. Rabbinic epigrams expressed it. For example, “Circumcised men do not descend into Gehenna,” and “Circumcision will deliver Israel from Gehenna.”

How does Paul counter this false assurance? He begins with an epigram of his own: Circumcision has value if you observe the law. He does not deny the divine origin of circumcision, but he relativizes its value on the ground that he who is circumcised ‘is required to obey the whole law.’ For circumcision is the sign of covenant membership, and covenant membership demands obedience. On this basis, namely that circumcision and the law belong together in God’s covenant, Paul now makes two bold complementary statements. On the one hand, if you who are circumcised break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. On the other hand, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? We may perhaps express Paul’s double assertion in terms of two simple equations. Circumcision minus obedience equals uncircumcision, while uncircumcision plus obedience equals circumcision.

Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

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