Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 29 March 2015 Sunday, Mar 22 2015 

MVOPC 29 March 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 2 “O Worship the King”

Confession of Sin

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

Hymn of Preparation: 257 “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 22:1-18

New Covenant Reading: John 19:16b-37

Sermon: Him Whom They Pierced

Hymn of Response:  263 “Lift High the Cross”

Confession of Faith:  Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This”

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 7:14-25

NT: Revelation 11:1-14

The Two Witnesses

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 74: What is Adoption?

Shorter Catechism Q/A #91

Q. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?

A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (3/23) Read and discuss John 19:16b-37. Western cultures tend to approach the Scriptures from the standpoint of the courtroom and therefore tend to pay more attention to those parts of Scripture that speak of legal guilt or righteousness. Eastern cultures tend to focus more on shame and honor than Western cultures do. People from these cultures are particularly attuned to the incongruity of the perfect Son of God being subjected to shame. We should train ourselves to pay attention to both aspects of Scripture. In today’s passage Jesus is subjected to great degradation. R.C. Sproul writes:

This passage is full of indignities. Notice first of all that the soldiers divided Jesus’ clothes among themselves. They were able to do this because Jesus had been stripped. Prisoners were crucified naked. This practice stemmed from the ancient notion that the worst form of humiliation that could be imposed on an enemy was to strip him of his clothing. Frequently, when the Romans were victorious in battle, they paraded the officers of the conquered army through the streets bare naked to reduce them to total shame. If you can bear it, in all probability the Son of God was made a public spectacle in the shame of nakedness, following the ancient custom.

A prisoner who was executed normally had five articles of clothing. The tunic, which was a seamless garment, was the undergarment. The four soldiers divided Jesus’ other articles of clothing among themselves, but the tunic presented a problem for them. Because the tunic had been made with no seam, it was significantly valuable, and they didn’t want to lessen its value by cutting it into four pieces. Therefore, they decided to cast lots for it, winner takes all.

This indignity also was prophesied (Ps. 22:18). John does not say that the Roman soldiers got together and said, “We should gamble for His garments because it says in the Jewish Scriptures that someone is going to cast lots of His clothes and we want to make sure that the Scriptures are fulfilled down to the last detail.” No, this is John’s editorial comment, pointing out that the soldiers, when they went through this act of gambling for the garments of Christ, unknowingly and involuntarily were fulfilling the precise details of the Old Testament prophesies concerning the death of the Messiah. John is zealous to help the reader understand that what happened on the cross was not an accident of history, but it came to pass through the invisible hand of a sovereign Providence.

Read or sing Hymn 2 “O Worship the King” Prayer: Please pray for the people of Syria who are being devastated by a brutal civil war.

Tuesday (3/24) Read and discuss Galatians 6:11-18. At the end of the day what really matters? Paul answers this question in verse 15: “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” Notice Paul’s balance. With the coming of Christ we don’t move from Jew good/Gentile bad to Gentile good/Jew bad – “neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision.” What matters is that God has brought about new creation through the person and work of Jesus Christ and by placing our trust in Him we participate in this new creation. “The Jews in Paul’s day often looked forward to a ‘new creation’ that would follow the destruction or renewal of the world. What the Jews eagerly anticipated, for Paul has already arrived in [Jesus] Christ (Andrew Das).” History has dramatically turned on a hinge. All ‘simply human’ factors become meaningless in the face of God’s world-transforming work in His Son Jesus Christ. To place confidence in the flesh reveals that we have totally missed what God has done. As Paul would later write in 2 Corinthians chapter 5:

…, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

That’s what matters for you both today and for the rest of your life. Are you in Christ and therefore a participant in His new creation – or are you separated from Christ and part of the world that is passing away? If you put lipstick on a pig – it’s still a pig. If you put the shiny veneer of religious activities on the decaying corpses of a fallen world – they are still dead. What we need is not new makeup but new life – and that life is in God’s Son Jesus Christ and in Christ alone. Prayer: Give thanks that God gives new life to all who are united with His Son.

Wednesday (3/25) Read and discuss Psalm 22:1-18. Today’s psalm begins with jarring abruptness: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from the cry of my groaning?” We are naturally drawn into the psalmist’s agony and wonder what he could have done that led the LORD to abandon him like this. Then we come to the cross and find these very lips on the lips of Jesus – the only intrinsically righteous man who has ever lived – and we are dumbfounded. Why? How could it be that He would suffer like this? The great sixteenth century Anglican, Richard Hooker, answers this question perhaps as well as is humanly possible:

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

Why was He forsaken? Jesus chose to be forsaken for you. As we meditate on this prophetic psalm, written a millennium before the cross, we enter into the horror of what the King of glory suffered for His people. Yet that isn’t the end of the story. We should remember that Psalm 22 begins with our Lord’s cry of dereliction but that is not how it ends. Verse 23 calls the people of God to praise “For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither has He hid His face from Him; but when He cried unto Him, He heard (v. 24).” Indeed, the last nine verses of the psalm are a celebration of the Lord’s victory. Surely Jesus knew this when He cried in agony from the cross. As unfathomable as His suffering was; Jesus knew that it was a suffering unto victory. Read or sing Hymn 257 “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” Prayer: Give thanks for Christ’s victorious substitutionary death.

Thursday (3/26) Read and discuss Exodus 7:14-25. Some modern commentators try to seek naturalistic explanations of every miracle in the Bible. We should realize two things about such attempts: (1) First, they are a flat out attack on the God of the Bible as insisting miracles don’t happen is a denial of the personal God who created all things and remains sovereign over them. (2) Second, they clearly don’t fit what is actually being claimed in Scripture. That is, rather than being “explanations” they are simply denials of what the Bible says. W.H. Gispen writes:

Verse 17 is formally introduced to impress Pharaoh: “This is what the LORD says”, which is later to become a favorite expression of the prophets, and proof that Moses was a prophet. “By this you will know that I am the LORD,” cf. 5:2; 7:5. It reminded Pharaoh particularly of his arrogant remark in 5:2 and was in this respect a call to repentance, threatening, designed to persuade. Moses and Aaron indeed asserted themselves with authority (cf. 7:1), a marked change from their attitude in chapter 5.

The threat Moses had to convey is reminiscent of 4:9, except that what was promised there was more limited in nature, merely a sign and not a plague, since it was intended for Israel. The “serpent” for the Israelites became a “large serpent” for the Egyptians. But now Moses had to inform Pharaoh that not merely some, but all of the water in the Nile, and even all the waters of Egypt (cf. v. 19) would be changed into blood. Thus this wonder also took on larger dimensions for the Egyptians and became a true destructive attack. The text clearly indicates that real blood was meant and not merely the annual phenomenon of the so-called “Red-Nile.” It could not have made much of an impression on the Egyptians if all that happened was merely what happened every year from June through October or December, when the Nile before and during its flooding took on a red color, probably due to chalk particles that gave the water a blood-red color, especially when the sun shone on it. Besides, the “Red Nile” was to Egypt’s advantage, since this period of flooding was what made the land fertile. Verse 18 indicates that the fish in the Nile would also die which did not happen during the “Red Nile.” It was rather the “Green Nile,” caused by plant remains in the water prior to the Red Nile that was harmful, although even then the fish did not die, certainly en masse.

Read or sing Hymn 263 “Lift High the Cross” Prayer: Praise the LORD for His exhaustive sovereignty.

Friday (3/27) Read and discuss Revelation 11:1-14. Sometimes people imagine that this passage teaches a new physical Temple is going to be built in Jerusalem. Given that the Temple is seen as genuinely belonging to the true God there are significant theological problems with this understanding. A better approach is explained by N.T. Wright:

John’s measuring of the Temple (which echoes similar prophetic actions in Ezekiel 40 and Zechariah 2) has nothing to do with the Jerusalem Temple, or with the heavenly temple/throne room of chapters 4 and 5. By the time John was writing – indeed, this was true from very early on in the Christian movement – the followers of Jesus had come to see themselves as the true temple, the place where God now lived through His powerful Spirit. John is commanded to mark out this community so that, as in chapter 7, it may be protected against ultimate harm. However, there is another sense in which the community – seen here in terms of the ‘outer court’ – is to be left vulnerable. The pagan nations will trample it for three and a half years (a symbolic number, half of the ‘seven’ which stands for completeness, here broken down into 42 months or 1260 days). Just as Ezekiel’s measuring of his visionary temple was a way of marking out the place where God was going to come to dwell, so John’s marking out of this human temple, this community, is a way of signaling God’s solemn intention to honor and bless this people with His presence.

Prayer: Lift up our brothers and sisters at Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead, NH.

Saturday (3/28) Read and discuss John 19:16b-37. One of the problems we have in rightly reading the Bible is that we naturally tend to identify with the heroes in any story. Yet, Christ’s death was a substitutionary death. He, though innocent, died in the place of those who were guilty. If we want to identify with someone we will have to look for someone who, though guilty, was spared. The man who best fits that bill is Barabbas. That man was an insurrectionist. When we consider that Jesus was crucified between two insurrectionists (some translations say two thieves) we realize that these three men were probably co-conspirators in the very same capital crime. Yet, Jesus would die in the place of Barabbas to symbolize His death for guilty people like you and me. Chuck Swindoll writes:

In the quest to devise the most painful mode of execution possible, no one exceeded the Romans’ capacity for cruelty. The Romans reserved their variation of crucifixion for slaves, deserters, revolutionaries, and only the worst criminals – people considered less than human. Cicero wrote, “To bind a Roman citizen is a crime, to flog him is an abomination, to slay him is almost an act of murder: to crucify him is – what? There is no fitting word that can possibly describe so horrible a deed.” Crucifixion gave the Romans extraordinary opportunity to inflict agony along with humiliation. Therefore, it became “one of the strongest means of maintaining order and security. Governors imposed this servile punishment especially on freedom fighters who tried to break away from Roman rule.”

So, imagine Pilate’s surprise when the angry mob demanded an innocent man take the place of a guilty man on a cross. Imagine Barabbas’s shock! As he sat on death row listening to the trial, he couldn’t hear Pilate’s side of the conversation. All he could hear was the roaring crowd in the distance: “Barabbas! … Away with Him, Away with Him, Crucify him!”

Barabbas must have felt overcome with dread upon hearing the guards approach his cell. I can only imagine his utter amazement to feel his shackles fall from his hands. He must have felt overwhelming relief as soldiers led him to the end of the cell block and out into the light of day. His just punishment had been passed over. He was free!

I sometimes wonder, what if Barabbas had said, “Freedom? I appreciate the offer, but I’d rather suffer the most excruciating death imaginable?” No one in his or her right mind would decline the offer to avoid death on a cross. So, why do people reject the opportunity to avoid eternal torment in a place of eternal death? Why would anyone refuse to accept the free gift of eternal life, purchased for them by the suffering and death of Jesus Christ in their place?

What has been your response to the offer of grace?

Read or sing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 22 March 2015 Sunday, Mar 15 2015 

MVOPC 22 March 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

Opening Hymn: 44 “How Great Thou Art”

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: Joel 2:12-13

Hymn of Preparation: 599 “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us”

Old Covenant Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 6:11-18

Sermon: What Counts?

Hymn of Response: 642 “Be Thou My Vision”

Confession of Faith: Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 537 “Take Time to Be Holy”

PM Worship:

OT: Amos 3:1-15

NT: Revelation 10:1-11

A Strong Angel and a Little Scroll

Adult Sunday School: The Doctrine of Justification: Part II

Shorter Catechism Q/A #90

Q. How is the word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?

A. That the word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation and prayer; receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (3/16) Read and discuss Galatians 6:11-18. Tom Schreiner writes:

What matters in life, Paul reminds us here, is the new creation. Our future inheritance does not involve a disembodied existence. We will not float on clouds in the sky in an ethereal and immaterial sphere. We will be raised from the dead and enjoy the coming physical new heavens and new earth. The curse that blights the present world will be lifted, and “sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isa 35:10). The groaning of the present creation will cease, and the liberty promised to the children of God and to the created order will dawn. The promise of a new creation teaches us that issues like circumcision and uncircumcision do not ultimately matter. Rituals and human practices are not fundamental; what is important is whether someone is a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).

In addition, the teaching on the new creation shows us that our work in this world is significant. The created world is not a necessary evil. It is the good and beautiful work of God, and hence our work in this world has significance. Every painting, every building, every meal made, and every work of landscaping image the work of our Creator and must not be dismissed as insignificant. The current world order is passing away. Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a futility in our work in this world.

There is both continuity and discontinuity with the world to come, and hence we must not think that our labor in this world will ever bring in the new heaven and new earth. Any utopian scheme is destined to fail before the arrival of the new creation. We must beware of the siren song of human perfectibility, which sings the chorus that we can enjoy paradise during the present evil age. As believers we are to be optimistic but realistic, full of faith and hope without denying the curse that still rests on the present world.

Read or sing Hymn 44 “How Great Thou Art” Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our church as it meets this evening.

Tuesday (3/17) Read and discuss Galatians 6:6-10. What does it mean to “sow to the flesh?” In chapter 5 verse 19 and following Paul writes:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,  20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,  21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

At a minimum this means that sowing to the flesh involves engaging in these activities or in thoughts and behaviors that stir up our sinful desires to do such things. This is important to get straight because many Christians seem to think that sowing to the flesh involves simply enjoying the material blessings of God in this world. That is wrong and it dishonors the God who generously gives to His people.  When the LORD throws a party we shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying ourselves. Paul knew how to be abased and he knew how to abound and we should learn to do both as well. So enjoying a nice car or skiing in the Alps with thanksgiving to God is not sowing to the flesh while envying other people for doing so is. Of course, there are some activities, such as viewing pornography, which are intrinsically sinful. Anyone who doesn’t think engaging pornography is sowing to the flesh is simply self-deceived. But most of our actions aren’t that straight forward. Take recreation for example: It is perfectly fitting that Christians would enjoy recreation like playing games and telling stories. You might enjoy reading Homer’s Odyssey or watching a basketball game or a drama on T.V. Those activities aren’t, or at least aren’t necessarily, a matter of sowing to the flesh. On the other hand, it seems pretty clear to me that if a man watches 30 hours of basketball per week while ignoring his wife and children he is both sinning by doing so and sowing to the flesh in the process. So how can we know the difference? If we simply stop to honestly ask the question: “Am I sowing to my flesh in this choice?” We will not have great difficulty in coming up with the right answer. Remember Paul’s words: “The works of the flesh are evident.” That is, they are plain. The challenge isn’t how tricky it is to figure out whether or not we are sowing to the flesh. The challenge is seeking grace to avoid rationalizing why we are doing so. One motivation to help is our LORD’s clear warning that if we sow to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption. Let us apply ourselves to sowing the Spirit and by the Spirit let us put to death the works of the flesh. Prayer: Ask the LORD to loosen the grip that your selfish desires have upon you.

Wednesday (3/18) Read and discuss Ezekiel 37:1-14. The following story is told from the old Soviet Union before the Berlin wall fell:

The communist lecturer paused before summing up. His large audience listened fearfully. ‘Therefore,’ he said, ‘there is no God; Jesus Christ never existed; there is no such thing as a Holy Spirit. The Church is an oppressive institution, and anyway it’s out of date. The future belongs to the State; and the State is in the hands of the Party.’

He was about to sit down when an old priest near the front stood up. ‘May I say two words?’ he asked (It’s three in English, but he was of course speaking Russian). The lecturer disdainfully, gave him permission. He turned, looked out over the crowd, and shouted: ‘Christ is risen!’ Back came the roar of the people: ‘He is risen indeed!’ They’d been saying it ever Easter for a thousand years; why should they stop now?

In this story we are reminded how subversive Easter is to all the tyrannies of this world. Tyrants all base their power on the ability to kill. “They claim to have the keys of death and hell, but they’re lying. Where the tyrants’ power runs out, God’s power begins. He raises the dead (N.T. Wright).” Today’s passage reminds us of the explosive nature of this truth. Even the Bible believing Church sometimes tones down and domesticates the explosive nature of Christ rising from the dead in the middle of history. We rightly speak of Easter as the source of our spiritual life and our hope for the future. Christ’s resurrection does mean those things, but it is also about far more than our private spiritual lives. Today’s passage speaks of the entire nation of Israel being nothing but dry dead bones. God steps in and sovereignly gives them new life. This new life is not merely individual and private – it is corporate and powerful. Ezekiel sees the whole house of Israel being reconstituted as a mighty army. It is a foretaste of the transformative event that crashed into the world when Christ conquered the last enemy and rose triumphantly from the grave.  More than a rescue plan, Easter morning is the proclamation and the beginning of God’s new creation. “It declares that, after all, God is God, and that His kingdom shall come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Easter speaks of a world reborn (N.T. Wright).” It is easy to become discouraged when we dwell on our culture or the state of the Church in our country; but for God’s people the decisive victory has already been won. The pain of this world is real and so we rightly weep. Yet, because Christ is risen we can look forward in confidence to the day when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and we will dwell in His house forever. And because He lives, we can courageously live as His people in the world today – paradoxically as a meek yet mighty army. Read or sing Hymn 599 “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and ask that the LORD would strengthen them to live courageously as His people at a time of great uncertainty and economic hardship.

Thursday (3/19) Read and discuss Amos 3:1-15. R.K. Harrison writes:

God had chosen the Israelites above all other peoples. They were thus unique, and destined to serve as witnesses to the existence and power of the one, true, living God. God chose the Israelites because of his absolute sovereignty and freedom, basing His election upon His love for them, as demonstrated in His varied provisions for their overall welfare. …

God’s chosen people, however, have repudiated separation from unholy things so essential to their election, and have participated in the sins of paganism. The Israelites think that, as God’s elect people, they have all the rights and privileges of such a position with none of the responsibilities. Because the covenant is reciprocal, God insists upon His own rights, one of which is that of punishing sin and apostasy in the nation.

The covenantal concept is seen in the reference to two people walking together (v. 3. Such a close relationship can be impaired by unfavorable circumstances, in this case the blatant repudiation by Israel of the covenant’s provisions. The mention of the roaring lion reminds the reader of Amos 1:2. … God’s roaring should serve as a warning to Israel of imminent disaster, ushered in by the nation’s enemies who will execute divine vengeance upon them. The attack will be marked by the alarm trumpet blown in the city, which will settle decisively the destiny of God’s disobedient people.

Read or sing Hymn 642 “Be Thou My Vision” Prayer: Pray for the young people in our congregation who have yet to make a public profession of faith that they would come to a clear understanding of the gospel and become committed to planting both feet in the Kingdom of God.

Friday (3/20) Read and discuss Revelation 10:1-11. After the demonic activity which we have seen with the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments, today’s passage is a refreshing change of pace. N.T. Wright explains:

The angel described at the start of this chapter bursts onto the scene in a blaze of light, all the more welcome after the gloom and horror of the previous section. He comes from heaven with God’s word for the earth, dressed in a cloud which we may suppose, is the sign that God himself is present but hidden in this message. The rainbow over his head reminds us of the throne-vision of chapter 4, and of the ancient biblical echoes awoken there. His face is like the sun, as was that of the Son of Man in the first chapter, and his feet, like fiery pillars, remind us of the pillar of fire in the desert, the flaming sign of God’s personal presence. This is no ordinary angel, and when he speaks we know why: his voice is like a lion roaring. He comes with the words of the lion-lamb, the Messiah. He embodies the sovereignty of the creator God over the whole creation: the sea and the land (verses 2, 5) are the two spheres of ‘earth,’ as heaven and earth are two spheres of the whole creation and male and female are the two spheres, as it were, of the animal world. It could hardly be made clearer that the message he brings is from the creator, since in verse 6 he swears and oath by the one who made heaven, earth, and sea and all that they contain. Any suggestion, then, that the message he brings will collude with the forces of destruction and declare that the present world is a piece of trash, to be thrown away and replaced with something completely different, is ruled out. When God’s mystery is complete, it will be the fulfillment of creation, not its abolition.

Prayer: Lift up our brothers and sisters at Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead, NH.

Saturday (3/21) Read and discuss Galatians 6:11-18. Tom Schreiner writes;

Paul makes clear in Galatians that believers are the children of Abraham and the true circumcision. They are the true Israel of God (6:16). Is this a supersessionist view that leaves [ethnic] Israel behind? Space is lacking to investigate all the issues adequately here, but we must integrate what Paul says about Israel in Galatians with Romans 9-11.

Of course, [Romans] is the subject of exegetical debates as well! Here I can only state my conclusion: Paul promises that there is a future, end-time salvation of ethnic Israel. Does such a promise contradict what Paul teaches in Galatians and in Ephesians, where the church of Jesus Christ consists of both Jews and Gentiles united in Christ? Does Paul inconsistently reintroduce a special place for Israel after repudiating such in Galatians? Is Israel promised a salvation apart from the gospel? The answer to all these questions is no. The future salvation of Israel does not contradict the unity of Jews and Gentiles in Christ, for Jews who are saved become part of the church of Christ. When Jews put their faith in Jesus Christ, they do not become part of a new entity, but belong to the new assembly of the redeemed along with their Gentile brothers and sisters.

Nor is there any salvation of Israel apart from the gospel. The future salvation of Israel will occur when they put their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. But is there favoritism here? Certainly not! The salvation of anyone is due to God’s electing grace according to Romans 9-11. Why God chooses some and not others is hidden in the counsel of His will. If God has decided to show mercy to a great number of Jews at the end of history, that is His prerogative.

As believers, then, we celebrate our unity in Christ Jesus. We are brothers and sisters in the family of God. We are one body and belong to one another. Therefore, we are called upon as believers to love and care for one another, to bear one another’s burdens as Paul instructs us in Galatians (6:2). May the world see that we are Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another!

Read or sing Hymn: 537 “Take Time to Be Holy” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 15 March 2015 Sunday, Mar 8 2015 

MVOPC 15 March 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 4 “All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above”

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: Titus 2:11-14

Hymn of Preparation: 358 “For All the Saints”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 107:1-43

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 6:6-10

Sermon: You’re Going to Reap What You Sow

Hymn of Response: 359 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 688 “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!”

PM Worship:

OT: Jeremiah 1:11-19

NT: Revelation 9:13-21

The Fiery Riders

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Shorter Catechism Q/A #89

Q. How is the word made effectual to salvation?

A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching, of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (3/9) Read and discuss Galatians 6:6-10. Tom Schreiner writes:

The importance of giving in order to assist others is highlighted by the attention Paul spends on it in this brief letter. … Here believers are commanded to support widows who are related to them. The failure to lend such support is considered a denial of the faith, and Paul identifies those who refuse to help needy widows in their families as worse than unbelievers (1 Tim 5:8). In other words, those who do not assist family members in need are not authentic believers. The text on windows confirms the principle of hierarchy seen in Gal 6:10. Believers should use their resources to help their families first. …

Generous giving is not optional according to Paul. It is a prime indication that one is walking in the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, and sowing to the Spirit. Indeed, we could say that generosity is one of the fruits of the Spirit, even though it is not listed in 5:22-23. Surely the list of the fruit of the Spirit is not comprehensive.

The importance of helping fellow believers is also emphasized by Paul’s concern for the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. The collection was a major issue for Paul. … What it means to live in the Spirit is to demonstrate concern and care for others, and supplying physical needs is the most concrete way to do so. Hence, Paul ties how believers spend their money to their future eschatological reward. Those who are generous will receive eternal life on the last day, while those who are stingy and self-absorbed will face judgment.

Read or sing Hymn 4 “All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above” Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq who living with the terror of ISIS.

Tuesday (3/10) Read and discuss Galatians 6:1-5. In verse 2, Paul shifts from helping those ensnared in sin to bearing one another’s burdens. He writes:

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

What are burdens? Burdens are anything that is weighing a brother or sister down. These are not necessarily sins but they are the results of living in a fallen world. The burdens could be financial but they are often relational. One of the painful consequences of legalism within American evangelicalism is the tendency to portray the faithful Christian life as one that is marked by nearly perfect relationships. Instead of seeing ourselves as radically fallen but radically forgiven sinners, there is a tendency to portray committed Christians as choice slice of humanity who just need a little bit of help from our God. This can make it difficult and even painful for Christians to acknowledge that they are living with strained and ruptured relationships.

There are many reasons why I don’t preach sermons about Father’s day or Mother’s day – most notably because I can’t find them anywhere in the Bible – but I have another reason as well: Mother’s day sermons almost universally come across a hymns of praise to how wonderful all of our mothers are. But what if your mother was mean or neglectful? Because of American culture, some of you may have just reacted negatively to me even raising that possibility. But obviously there are plenty of people in the world who aren’t very nice and some of them are mothers but in much of evangelicalism we are supposed to pretend that this simply isn’t true.

This can cause a significant hidden burden for our brothers and sisters in Christ. In a similar vein there is a notion popular in conservative Reformed circles that if you are good parents you will have model children who will never engage in anything but minor and largely socially acceptable sins. These notions, and others like them, often leave our sisters and brothers – for whom Christ died – in silent anguish over the pains in their lives. First there is the pain. Second, instead of receiving comfort from the rest of us they often feel ashamed to even admit that they are hurting in this way. But Paul says, we ought to help bear such burdens with our wounded family.

Instead of trying to define an acceptable list of burdens, we ought to recognize that anything which weighs down our brothers and sisters and hinders them from having joy in their walk with God is a burden that we are called to help bear.

Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you sensitive to the ways you can help bear the burdens of one brother or sister this week.

Wednesday (3/11) Read and discuss Psalm 107:1-43. Commenting on end of the Psalm, John Calvin writes:

In whatever manner the wicked may be constrained to recognize God as the ruler of the universe, nevertheless, in seeing they see not, and rendered the more inexcusable. But the righteous are not only able to form a good and sound judgment of these events, they also spontaneously open their eyes to contemplate the equity, goodness, and wisdom of God, the sight and knowledge of which are refreshing to them. For the joy which they experience in this exercise is a pledge that their thus observing these things was the spontaneous effusion of their hearts.

We are now informed that men begin to be wise when they turn their whole attention to the contemplation of the works of God, and that all others beside are fools. For however much they may pique themselves upon their superior acuteness and subtlety, all of this is of no avail so long as they shut their eyes against the light which is presented to them. …This caution is the more necessary, since we find that some of the greatest of philosophers were so mischievous as to devote their talents to obscure and conceal the providence of God, and, entirely overlooking his agency, ascribed all to secondary causes.

Read or sing Hymn 358 “For All the Saints” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send new visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Thursday (3/12) Read and discuss Jeremiah 1:11-19. Terence Fretheim writes:

That Jeremiah is commissioned to be a prophet before he is born says something important about the relationship between the person and the calling. While this claim may have been to counter any challenge to Jeremiah’s status as prophet, a finer point is that the distinction between prophetic office and prophetic person is virtually collapsed. Jeremiah does not cease to be a person in his own right, but being a prophet defines his person from the very beginning; it is the very essence of his being. He is decisively shaped by God, not simply to be a certain kind of speaker, but a certain kind of person. Hence, he no longer has a private life that can truly be called his own; he goes without wife and children and the normal run of social activities.

This understanding is extended in the commission given to Jeremiah. The word of God is placed directly into Jeremiah’s mouth. It is not necessary for Jeremiah to hear what he is to say; the word is transferred into his very being. This process is graphically portrayed in Ezekiel 2:8-3:3. The prophet thus ingests the word of God; the word of God is thereby enfleshed in the very person of the prophet. He embodies the word of God … As will become apparent, all of Jeremiah’s actions are to be understood not as (auto)biography, but as embodied word of God.

Read or sing Hymn 359 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has given us His word as a lamp unto our feet and light unto our paths.

Friday (3/13) Read and discuss Revelation 9:13-21. Dennis Johnson writes:

The Euphrates River had biblical and contemporary significance. In biblical history the Euphrates connoted a source of oppression and place of exile. Beyond the Euphrates River had stood ancient Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian Empire that conquered the northern kingdom, and Babylon, which had carried Judah into captivity. The LORD had humbled and dismantled Babylon through the rising power of the Medo-Persian Empire and had resettled his people in the land of promise. But prophets of the exile sill spoke of foreign powers such as “Gog,” who would sweep down from the northeast, from the Euphrates, to afflict God’s people.

For residents of the Roman Empire at the end of the first century, the Euphrates was the eastern edge of Rome’s domain, beyond which were the threatening powers of the East, especially Parthia with its cavalry of mounted archers, always harassing the Roman Empire’s eastern outposts. During the 60s, after the conflagration that destroyed large portions of Rome and Nero’s disappearance, rumors flew in the capital and provinces that the megalomaniacal emperor had escaped to the east and was making preparations to reconquer the world at the head of the Parthian cavalry.

In the vision of the sixth trumpet, the imagery of invasion from the East is derived from the Parthian threat, but the horsemen who sweep over the Euphrates in John’s vision are more terrifying than the Parthians at their worst. John reminds us that we are moving in the symbolic world of prophetic vision with the words, “thus I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them.” The reference to the Euphrates must not mislead us into a geographical literalism: what John saw was in a vision, so its symbolic character must be recognized. In this invasion it is not the riders but the horses that are to be feared. The horses’ heads are like lions, and from their mouths they spew fire, smoke, and sulfur (brimstone), which are the plagues by which they slay their victims. Their tails are like serpents with heads, showing that their power to wound resembles and is derived from the ancient serpent, the dragon, “who is called the devil and Satan.” This trumpet, like the fifth, portrays visually the release of pent-up demonic venom on earth to torment, and now even slay, vast multitudes of victims.

Prayer: Please pray for President Obama that the LORD would sustain him in the burdens of his office and cause him to govern with wisdom and justice.

Saturday (3/14) Read and discuss Galatians 6:6-10. Leon Morris writes:

Doing good to all sorts of people is then the duty of Christians. But Paul sees of particular importance one group of people who may be helped, as he goes on to say especially to the household of faith. This had a great significance in the Roman Empire. Christians were often poor and they could not expect help from the non-Christian state. Rather the opposite. The state did not want people to be Christians and it placed all sorts of obstacles in the way of believers. Helping the poor was a duty taken very seriously in the early church. Moreover, Christians understood the obligation of taking the gospel to people who did not know it, and this meant travelling. And for Christians who were not travelling evangelists, it could involve providing accommodation for travelers who came to preach the gospel.

There was plenty of room then for people in the church to do good to their fellow believers. It is of interest that these people are called the household of faith. We could understand this to mean people who had faith or people who belonged to a community which could be called ‘the faith’. Either way, the emphasis is on the fact that Christians are believers. What distinguished Christians from other people was their faith. They were people who had put their trust in Jesus as their Savior and this was the most important thing about them. Paul sees all Christians as united by a bond of their common faith and therefore it is important that they do good to one another as they have opportunity. Notice that the apostle sees believers as making up one great family, one household.

Read or sing Hymn: 688 “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 8 March 2015 Monday, Mar 2 2015 

MVOPC 8 March 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 1 “All People That on Earth Do Dwell”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Colossians 1:11-14

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

Old Covenant Reading: Deuteronomy 15:7-11

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 6:1-5

Sermon: Bear One Another’s Burdens

Hymn of Response:  460 “Amazing Grace!”

Confession of Faith:  Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This”

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 10:1-20

NT: Revelation 9:1-12

Terror from Below

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 70-70: Justification

Shorter Catechism Q/A #88

Q. What is repentance unto life?

A. 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.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (3/2) Read and discuss Galatians 6:1-5. Tom Schreiner writes:

As Westerners we live individualistic lives, and such individualism is mediated to us through our culture. We learn from this paragraph that life in the Spirit is community life. Often we in the West identify a fruitful Christian life with private prayer and reading of Scripture, while scarcely giving any thought to serving other believers. A life that is pleasing to Christ is humble and not self-absorbed and conceited. One indication that we are puffed up with ourselves is if we provoke and annoy others when we are present with them. Similarly, if we are cast down by the success of others and long to surpass them in glory and honor, we betray the pride in our hearts.

Instead of being caught up with ourselves, we are called to care for others. What it means to live in the church of Jesus Christ is to help others as they face the difficulties of life. How can we help other believers financially? Who in the church is lonely and needs a visit? Who needs to be counseled and strengthened? Who is sick and in need of assistance?

Caring for others cannot be restricted to words of comfort. We see from 6:1 that we are to confront those who are in sin. Sometimes love demands that we speak a word that is hard and difficult. Tolerating evil in the church may appear to be loving since it flies under the banner of ‘unconditional acceptance.’ But such tolerance cannot be equated with love since it does not confront an evil that will surely spread, and such evil will surely destroy the perpetrator.

Read or sing Hymn 1 “All People That on Earth Do Dwell” Prayer: Please pray for the Syrian Christians who have been captured by ISIS.

Tuesday (3/3) Read and discuss Galatians 5:16-26. The Holy Spirit is at work sanctifying you and naturally is in conflict with your sinful nature. The last phrase, “to keep you from doing the things you want to do” is difficult to pin down. Is it the Holy Spirit that keeps you from doing what your flesh, that is your sinful nature, wants to do; or is it your remaining sinful nature that keeps you from doing what you want to do as a Christian who has been given a new heart by the Holy Spirit? Perhaps the answer is “both”. Imagine that you are person who loves cookies but who also wants to lose weight and get in better shape. Your love of cookies and your desire to lose weight may be at war with one another. Sometimes your desire to lose weight will keep you from eating a cookie – that you really want to eat. At other times, your desire to eat cookies may keep you from losing the weight that you also really want to lose. The Holy Spirit and your remaining sinful nature may be at war like that. Each, at different times, keeping you from doing either what your new heart or old nature wants to do. But please note that the sinful nature and the Holy Spirit are not equal but opposite powers. Your sinful nature is creaturely while the Holy Spirit is the Sovereign God who is the LORD and the giver of life. The conflict of the flesh and Spirit within the Christian is not a stalemate but one in which the Holy Spirit’s victory is absolutely certain. Tom Schreiner puts it like this:

We must not think … that Paul’s view of the Christian life is fundamentally pessimistic. The gift of the new age, the Holy Spirit, now belongs to believers. Believers who live by the Spirit will not carry out the flesh’s desires. Those who yield to the Spit will not live under the dominion of law and sin. A new quality of life is the result of the Spirit’s work. The old age no longer reigns over believers. The old Adam has been crucified with its passions and desires, so that the flesh no longer enslaves believers.

In other words, believers enjoy a substantial, significant, and observable victory in their new life in Christ. Since believers live in the interval between the already and not yet, perfection is not their portion. Yet believers now have the first fruits of the Spirit and are a new creation, and hence Paul is fundamentally optimistic about the new life that is possible for saints.

That is why Paul says in verse 16: “Walk in the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” And again in verse 24: And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” The battle is real but so is the victory! Prayer: Give thanks that one day you will be free not only from the power but from the presence of sin.

Wednesday (3/4) Read and discuss Deuteronomy 15:7-11. In Mark 14, which describes events toward the end of our Lord’s earthly life, we read about how a woman anointed Jesus with an extremely expensive perfume and how many were indignant at how this money was “wasted”. Like most hypocrites, they suggested that the money could have been better spent on helping the poor (which, of course, was important to Jesus and to Christianity). Our Lord sharply rebuked this criticism. In His reply Jesus included the statement that “you will always have the poor among you.” This has been widely misunderstood as suggesting that since we will always have the poor with us there really isn’t anything we can do about poverty. This is a total misunderstanding of what Jesus is saying in the context of Mark 14 which becomes even more apparent when we return to the portion of Deuteronomy that our LORD is quoting from:

If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. … For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, “You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.”

Seen in its original context it becomes abundantly obvious that God is telling His people that they should do something about the poverty of their fellow Israelites. This is not just a suggestion but a Divine command. The LORD cares about the poor and so should we. Read or sing Hymn 181 “We Come, O Christ to You” Prayer: Lift up those who are struggling financially.

Thursday (3/5) Read and discuss Exodus 10:1-20. Doug Stuart writes:

In the prior two plague accounts in this cycle (two and five) God said to Moses, “God to Pharaoh and say to him …” This time, instead, God followed his command to go to Pharaoh with an explanation that was for the benefit of Moses and the Israelites in general, throughout their generations. He reminded Moses (and at the same time all future audiences of Moses’ writing) that the reason for Pharaoh’s intransigence was his (Yahweh’s) own doing – he had been making it happen for a purpose. What was the purpose? It was an evangelistic purpose, stated in the final clause of v. 2, “that you may know that I am the LORD.” The prior purpose mentioned in v. 2, “that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I [humiliated] the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them,” is intermediate: Moses and successive Israelites had been provided with irresistibly interesting stories to tell their children and grandchildren, not for the sake of the entertainment value they held but so that their children and grandchildren would understand who God really is and how important it is to be rightly in covenant with him – the meaning of “know that I am the LORD.”

Read or sing Hymn 460 “Amazing Grace!” Prayer: Please pray for the Sunday school teachers in our congregation.

Friday (3/6) Read and discuss Revelation 9:1-12. Dennis Johnson writes:

The locust army of the fifth trumpet symbolizes demonic torment inflicted on the minds and souls of “those who dwell on the earth,” who lack the seal of God’s name on their thoughts and lives. The destructive power of these locusts is great, and yet it is restricted by God. These locusts may not harm the earth’s vegetation or trees. They harm only those who do not have the seal of God, so the pain of their sting will not touch the servants of God. Therefore the anguish they inflict is not a physical affliction shared by believer and non-believer alike. These locusts may not kill their victims but only torment them, and that for a limited period, five months. Their torture seems to their victims a fate worse than death, but the relief they seek in death eludes them as “death fees from them” (9:6). This vision discloses the tragic double irony of serving Satan. First, as the angle of the abyss, the fallen star releases these demonic hordes not to afflict his enemies, the servants of God (for he cannot touch those shielded by God’s seal), but rather to afflict his allies “who dwell on the earth,” who receive the beast’s mark and worship his blasphemous image.

Prayer: Lift up our brothers and sisters at the OPC church in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.

Saturday (3/7) Read and discuss Galatians 6:1-5. N.T. Wright observes:

… as Jesus the Messiah carried the cross for others, so Christians must carry one another’s burdens. If my neighbor sins today, and I notice it, I must remember that it may well be me tomorrow. If it is my responsibility to help to put things right, I must do it without arrogance. If you think you are ‘something’, someone special, someone above the common run and rule of Christian living, able to look down on the others from a great height – why, then that attitude itself is evidence that you are not. You are deceiving yourself – but probably nobody else.

Here is the paradox of genuine community living. All for each and each for all; but one cannot slide through, hoping that other people’s devotion and godliness will suffice, and that one does not need to worry about oneself. When it comes to my neighbor, I must be sure to remain humble if I offer help; when it comes to myself, I must recognize my own responsibility for my actions. ‘Bear one another’s burdens’ (verse 2) is balanced by ‘each of you must carry your own load’ (verse 5).

Read or sing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 1 March 2015 Sunday, Feb 22 2015 

MVOPC 1 March 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 105:1-3

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

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Zechariah 3:1-5

Hymn of Preparation: 605 “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”

Old Covenant Reading: Psalm 1:1-6

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 5:16-26

Sermon: Keep in Step With the Spirit

Hymn of Response: 103 “Holy God, We Praise Your Name”

Confession of Faith: Heidelberg Catechism Q/A #1

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Diaconal Offering

Closing Hymn: 441 “Jesus Shall Reign”

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 7:14-25

NT: Revelation 8:6-13

Woe to the Earth Dwellers

Adult Sunday School: Theology and History

Shorter Catechism Q/A #86

Q. What is faith in Jesus Christ?

A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/23) Today’s passage is rightly famous for what Paul says about the fruit of the Spirit. Note the singular “fruit”. Unlike the gifts of the Spirit, every Christian is intended to manifest all of the different aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. It is a wise use of our time to prayerfully consider this list while seeking the LORD to cause this fruit to grow in our lives. On the other hand, the very fame of this passage may cause us to miss the forest for the trees. That is, we can become so focused on the individual manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit that we miss the argument that Paul is actually making. One practical way to get around this is to simply replace all the details with a marker so that the argument stands out more clearly. We will use XXX for the bad stuff and SSS for those things that relate to the Holy Spirit:

            But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: … XXX … I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is … SSS …; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

            If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Now, by marking the imperatives in bold, we can see that Paul’s basic argument is this:

Imperative: Walk/Keep in step with the Spirit.

Reason 1:  Because the flesh and the Spirit are at war with one another.

Reason 2: Because those who are given over to the works of the flesh will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Reason 3: Because this is an important aspect of being a child of God and a member of His family the Church: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Once we see the underlying argument that Paul is making, we can return to read the passage with greater understanding. Read or sing Hymn 30 “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would take the things that you are learning from His word and cause you to walk in them by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday (2/24) Read and discuss Galatians 5:6-15. There is a great deal for us in today’s passage, but perhaps the most important thing to learn is this: You were not only set free from something and for something. You were set free from something and for Someone. If you take the Holy Spirit out of the equation the only options left are legalism or licentiousness. Apart from being born again and having a personal relationship with the Father and the Son through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit – the natural way that we will try to maintain the illusion of order, beauty, and moral virtue is by building a new fence made out of either man made rules or a misapplication of the Law of God. Jesus provides a better way. Through His life, death, and resurrection Jesus has set us free from the bondage of trying to vindicate ourselves before God on the basis of our own performance. But that isn’t all that Jesus has done. You have been set free not only from something but for something. Jesus and the Father have also sent the Holy Spirit to dwell with and in us to empower us to a new life where we can genuinely love our neighbors, not to earn God’s approval, but as our response to the grace that we have already received in Jesus Christ. That is why Paul writes in 2 Corinthians chapter 3:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Good theology is not enough. The purpose of good theology is so that we would not merely know more about God but that we would know and love Him. So let us cultivate our relationship with the Triune God this week through prayer, praise, and listening to Him speak to us through His word. And let us remember, that it is “For freedom [that] Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would grant you the courage to stand for His truth and the humility to accept everything that He teaches.

Wednesday (2/25) Read and discuss Psalm 1:1-6. The first Psalm is so important to the Christian life that it is well worth memorizing so that you can meditate upon it throughout the day. Allen P. Ross explains the central message of the psalm:

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

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

Read or sing Hymn 605 “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” Prayer: Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt. There have been reports of large numbers of Egyptians converting to Christianity in an environment where converting from Islam could result in physical attacks and even death. Ask that the LORD would be a shield around these new converts and that they would be but the first-fruits of a much larger harvest.

Thursday (2/26) Read and discuss Exodus 7:14-25.. Doug Stuart writes:

Prominent in the structure of this first plague account is the emphasis on God’s involvement in Pharaoh’s stubbornness. Verses 14 and 22-23 … [remind] the reader that Moses knew directly from God that Pharaoh would be resistant and that he would not be moved easily, even by things supernatural. The last verse of [this section], something of a postscript, briefly answers the reader’s logical question, “How then could the Egyptians survive since their drinking water came from the Nile?” By reason of that final verse, the first plague is shown to be a severe annoyance more than a life-threatening disaster, reflecting the sort of severity level one might expect of the opening plague – a shot fired across Egypt’s bow, as it were.

The Nile is mentioned six times by name here and also referred to by terms like “water” and “river,” in addition to the description in v. 19 of “the waters of Egypt,” then delineated in that verse to be sure that the reader realizes that every surface source of water was affected by the plague in the same manner as was the Nile. Thus “blood was everywhere in Egypt”, and no Egyptian could escape the effect of this plague. No longer were the mighty acts of God confined to demonstrations for a private audience. Now all the citizens of the nation began to feel the effect of God’s wrath, and the pressure began to ratchet up on Pharaoh. It was one thing for him to ignore a display intended to convince him of God’s power but another to ignore the cries of his people for one of their most basic needs, water to drink.

In considering the story of the first plague, it is important to bear in mind that the Egyptians understood the Nile to be a god. Their pantheistic view of the universe considered all things to be partakers of the divine, and things that moved to be obviously divine in their essence. The ultimate victory of the only true God, Yahweh, over the many false gods of the Egyptians began with the humiliation of the Nile. The nation’s great waterway and source of life was turned odious and made into a source of death, demonstrating the sovereign power of the God of Israel and the subordinate impotence of the Nile.

Read or sing Hymn 103 “Holy God, We Praise Your Name” Prayer: Ask that the LORD’s name would be hallowed in your thoughts and in interactions with family, friends, and co-workers.

Friday (2/27) Read and discuss Revelation 8:6-13. It can be difficult to grapple with the LORD sending such terrible plagues upon the earth. N.T. Wright helps point us in the right direction to understanding what God is doing:

“Many people want to serve God,” said the sign outside the church, “but only in an advisory capacity.” And this is one of the moments in Revelation when some at least would give rather firm advice to the one who sits on the throne: “Don’t do it! What is the meaning of this wanton destruction?” …

[Why would we ask this?] As a wise old writer put it, “You haven’t yet considered the seriousness of sin.” Even after a century of war, terror and high-tech genocide, we are still included, in the Western world at least, to pretend to ourselves that the world has really become quite a pleasant place, with ‘evil’ merely a blip on the horizon with which we can deal easily enough. However great the contrary evidence, this modern myth of the eradication of evil through ‘enlightenment’, leaving only a few minor mopping-up operations (preferably in far-away places) before Utopia finally arrives, has taken such a hold on popular imagination that any idea of God having to do anything powerful and destructive to address the problem is regarded as far too drastic, far too dramatic. But none of the early Christians, and certainly not Jesus himself, would have colluded with this glossing over of the seriousness of evil.

Prayer: Please pray for the Church in China that our brothers and sisters would grow in theological stability and that they would continue to zealously share the good news of Jesus Christ with their neighbors.

Saturday (2/28) Read and discuss Galatians 5:16-26. Paul is entirely realistic about the struggles of the Christian life but that doesn’t mean that Christians should be pessimistic about either our effectiveness or our real growth in holiness in the present age. Tom Schreiner explains:

We must not think … that Paul’s view of the Christian life is fundamentally pessimistic. The gift of the new age, the Holy Spirit, now belongs to believers. Believers who live by the Spirit will not carry out the flesh’s desires. Those who yield to the Spit will not live under the dominion of law and sin. A new quality of life (5:22-23) is the result of the Spirit’s work. The old age no longer reigns over believers. The old Adam has been crucified with its passions and desires, so that the flesh no longer enslaves believers.

In other words, believers enjoy a substantial, significant, and observable victory in their new life in Christ. Since believers live in the interval between the already and not yet, perfection is not their portion. Yet believers now have the first fruits of the Spirit and are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), and hence Paul is fundamentally optimistic about the new life that is possible for saints.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 22 February 2015 Sunday, Feb 15 2015 

MVOPC 22 February 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: 1 John 1:6-9

Hymn of Preparation: 310 “Rejoice, the Lord is King”

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 19:9-18

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 5:7-15

Sermon: Resist Spiritual Bondage

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 420 “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing”

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 7:14-25

NT: Revelation 8:6-13

Woe to the Earth Dwellers

Adult Sunday School: Theology and History

Shorter Catechism Q/A #85

Q. What doth God require of us that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin?

A. To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.

PLEASE NOTE: As we were snowed out the past two Sundays we already have looked at this week’s passages in some detail. If you haven’t been following along with the Worship Guide you may want to follow one of the previous two weeks of Guides to prepare for this Sunday’s worship services. Otherwise, let’s mix things up this week by looking at some selected Q/As from the Heidelberg Catechism on the Lord’s Prayer. Please use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide for how you pray for yourself, your family and friends, your church, and the broader world this week.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/16) Lord’s Day 45

Q & A 116

Q. Why do Christians need to pray?

A.Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.

And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit
only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly,

asking God for these gifts
and thanking God for them.

Q & A 117

Q. What is the kind of prayer that pleases God and that he listens to?

A. First, we must pray from the heart to no other than the one true God, revealed to us in his Word, asking for everything God has commanded us to ask for.

Second, we must fully recognize our need and misery, so that we humble ourselves in God’s majestic presence.

Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation: even though we do not deserve it, God will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord.

That is what God promised us in his Word.

Q & A 118

Q. What did God command us to pray for?

A. Everything we need, spiritually and physically, as embraced in the prayer Christ our Lord himself taught us.

What is this prayer?

A. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen.

 

Tuesday (2/17) Lord’s Day 46

Q & A 120

Q. Why did Christ command us to call God “our Father”?

A. To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer what should be basic to our prayer— a childlike reverence and trust that through Christ God has become our Father, and that just as our parents do not refuse us the things of this life, even less will God our Father refuse to give us what we ask in faith.

Q & A 121

Q. Why the words “in heaven”?

A. These words teach us not to think of God’s heavenly majesty as something earthly, and to expect everything needed for body and soul from God’s almighty power.

 

Wednesday (2/18) Lord’s Day 47

Q & A 122

Q. What does the first petition mean?

A. “Hallowed be your name” means: Help us to truly know you, to honor, glorify, and praise you for all your works and for all that shines forth from them: your almighty power, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and truth.

And it means,

Help us to direct all our living—

what we think, say, and do—

so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us
but always honored and praised.

Lord’s Day 48

Q & A 123

Q. What does the second petition mean?

A. “Your kingdom come” means : Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you. Preserve your church and make it grow. Destroy the devil’s work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your holy Word. Do this until your kingdom fully comes, when you will be all in all.

 

Thursday (2/19) Lord’s Day 49

Q & A 124

Q. What does the third petition mean?

A. “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” means:

Help us and all people

to reject our own wills
and to obey your will without any back talk.
Your will alone is good.

Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to,

as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.

Lord’s Day 50

Q & A 125

Q. What does the fourth petition mean?

A. “Give us this day our daily bread” means:

Do take care of all our physical needs so that we come to know that you are the only source of everything good, and that neither our work and worry nor your gifts can do us any good without your blessing.

And so help us to give up our trust in creatures
and trust in you alone.

 

Friday (2/20) Lord’s Day 51

Q & A 126

Q. What does the fifth petition mean?

A“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” means: Because of Christ’s blood, do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are, any of the sins we do or the evil that constantly clings to us.

Forgive us just as we are fully determined, as evidence of your grace in us, to forgive our neighbors.

Lord’s Day 52

Q & A 127

Q. What does the sixth petition mean?

A. “And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one” means: By ourselves we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment. And our sworn enemies — the devil, the world, and our own flesh — never stop attacking us.

And so, Lord, uphold us and make us strong with the strength of your Holy Spirit, so that we may not go down to defeat in this spiritual struggle, but may firmly resist our enemies until we finally win the complete victory.

 

Saturday (2/21) Q & A 128

Q. What does your conclusion to this prayer mean?

A. For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever” means: We have made all these petitions of you because, as our all-powerful king, you are both willing and able to give us all that is good; and because your holy name, and not we ourselves, should receive all the praise, forever.

Q & A 129

Q. What does that little word “Amen” express?

A. “Amen” means:

This shall truly and surely be!

It is even more sure

that God listens to my prayer

than that I really desire

what I pray for.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 15 February 2015 Sunday, Feb 8 2015 

MVOPC 15 February 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: 1 John 1:6-9

Hymn of Preparation: 310 “Rejoice, the Lord is King”

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 19:9-18

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 5:7-15

Sermon: Resist Spiritual Bondage

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 420 “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing”

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 7:14-25

NT: Revelation 8:6-13

Woe to the Earth Dwellers

Adult Sunday School: Fellowship Lunch – No Sunday School

Shorter Catechism Q/A #85

Q. What doth God require of us that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin?

A. To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/9) Read and discuss Galatians 5:7-15. Tom Schreiner writes:

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

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

Read or sing Hymn 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness” Prayer: Lift up the children of our congregation and pray that they would come to know the true freedom of trusting and following Jesus Christ.

Tuesday (2/10) Read and discuss Psalm 37:1-40. Today’s Psalm begins by talking about envy. John Piper gives this commonsense definition of what envy is:

So, in a sentence, envy is a mingling of a desire for something with the resentment that another is enjoying it and you are not. Things aren’t going so well for you, but things are going well for them; and it just gnaws away at you sometimes. Why does it go so well for that person when it doesn’t go so well for me?

For most Christians, envy is private sin. We know how ugly envy looks so we don’t bring it out into the open. Yet, we are all tempted from time to time to wish that we were doing better in some area in our lives the way so-and-so is doing.  It can be particularly grating when we see a person who is cutting the moral corners in life and yet seems to be reaping only the benefits of his wrongdoing? Allowing envy to fester can therefore corrupt our lives as well. The psalmist gives us two straightforward reasons why we shouldn’t do this:

  1. Consider the wrongdoer’s ends. “They will soon fade like grass and wither like the green herb.”
  2. If we commit our way to the LORD and trust in Him we can be certain that He will act on our behalf. Ultimately, those who befriend faithfulness will be publicly displayed as righteous and rewarded by God Himself.

It might be helpful when we are tempted to envy to remember our Lord’s promise: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Those who grasp for what is not theirs, end up losing everything. Those who trust in the Lord, end up receiving what they could never possibly earn. Prayer: Ask that the LORD would make you meek like Jesus.

Wednesday (2/11) Read and discuss Leviticus 19:1-18. John Currid writes:

Holiness is a way of life, and every area of life is subject to holiness. That is clear in this chapter, in which so many different aspects of the life of the Hebrew are to be conducted in a holy, distinct way. We see the following spheres treated in the chapte: the area of family (19:3), the sacrificial system (5-8), the economy (9-10), the social dimension (11-14, 17-18), the judicial setting (15-16) and worship (4). No area of life is unaffected by the concept of holiness: from vocation to vacation, all of life is to be brought under the lordship of God and to be lived according to His statutes.

This teaching is no less true today than it was for the Hebrews so many thousands of years ago. Peter, when speaking to the church throughout the world, made the following statement: ‘As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:14-16).

Read or sing Hymn 310 “Rejoice, the Lord is King” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make your relationship with Him mark out every area of your life.

Thursday (2/12) Read and discuss Exodus 7:14-25. Doug Stuart writes:

In these verses is described the actual first plague, the changing of all surface water in Egypt (nearly all of it being in or from the Nile) to blood. Six considerations should be kept in mind in the analysis of this plague: (1) “Blood” is a color in Hebrew as well as a substance. … (2) No special theological overtone is present relative to the “blood” here; it is not foreshadowing of “the blood of Christ that flows” or any such thing. (3) The important punishment element in the plague is neither the substance nor the color but the pollution of the water, rendering it not merely undrinkable for humans but deadly for fish. (4) Yahweh’s implied control over the Nile (the Nile river “god”) could hardly have been missed by any thoughtful Egyptian considering the meaning of this plague. (5) Aaron’s staff was not merely a simple visual device by a symbolic reminder that God, not Aaron or Moses, was actually performing the miracle of the plague. (6) The plague may well have imitated a natural phenomenon by which some parts of the Nile sometimes turned reddish, but it does not appear to have been merely a natural phenomenon in light of the immediacy of the result and its extent. …

As [verse 25] indicates, the plague of blood lasted only seven days. Virtually all commentators have observed that the plagues appear to have increased in intensity from first to last. How, then, could the plague be regarded as the least threatening of the ten? The answer is that this plague involved not the changing of water into real blood (which would be so huge an environmental pollution of Egypt that its effects would be far more threatening to life than some of the later plagues) but the temporary reddening and contamination of the Nile and other surface water in a way that made the Nile undrinkable and killed the fish. This plague functioned more as a severe frustration to the Egyptians than as a threat to life. Fish died from this plague, but humans and other animals did not.

Read or sing Hymn 535 “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus!” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would send visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family and whose gifts would build up our congregation.

Friday (2/13) Read and discuss Revelation 8:6-13. Mitchell Reddish writes:

After the scene of heavenly worship in 8:1-5, John returns to the seven angels to whom the trumpets had been given. They are standing ready, waiting for the command to blow their trumpets. The structure of this section parallels that of the seven seals. As with the seals, the first four events in the series are grouped together, followed by the fifth and sixth events. Prior to the seventh event of the series, an interlude occurs, which in both series consists of two parts. The seventh and final event in each series reveals a scene set in the heavenly throne room.

Like the seven seals, the seven trumpets set into motion divine judgments upon the earth. As already noted, these events should be undersood not as completely new calamities, but as different ways to portray God’s eschatological judgments upon the world. The two series overlap rather than follow one another chronologically. The trumpet judgments depict an intensification of the divine judgments. Whereas the destruction brought about by the opening of the seals was primarily limited to humans, the destruction from the trumpet blasts affects the entire universe: the earth (8:7), the oceans (8:8-9), fresh water 8:10-11), the heavenly bodies (8:12), and people (9:1-20). A further intensification occurs in the number of people affected by the punishments. Whereas the opening of the fourth seal resulted in the death of one-fourth of the inhabitants of the earth, the blowing of the sixth trumpet causes the death of one third of humanity. In neither case should John’s language be taken literally. This is poetic, dramatic language, rather than the language of mathematical precision. As Eugene Boring has stated: “John works with the imagination, not calculators.” The increase from one-fourth to one-third adds to the dramatic tension of the story and indicates that the end is drawing nearer. The reader senses the forward movement in this eschatological drama.

The events heralded by the trumpets are modeled after the Egyptian plagues described in the book of Exodus. In this regard they are similar to the seven bowl plagues of chapters 15 and 16. An exodus motif figures prominently in the Apocalypse, for John recognizes in the Roman emperor a new Pharaoh who has enslaved and oppressed the people of God. As the journey from Egypt was preceded by divine plagues of judgment against the land of Egypt, a new series of plagues will bring God’s judgment upon a disobedient and recalcitrant world.

Prayer: Ask that the LORD would send revival and reformation rather than judgment to New England.

Saturday (2/14) Read and discuss Galatians 5:7-15. Tom Schreiner writes:

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

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

Read or sing Hymn: 420 “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 8 February 2015 Sunday, Feb 1 2015 

MVOPC 8 February 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 100:1-5

Opening Hymn: 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: 1 John 1:6-9

Hymn of Preparation: 310 “Rejoice, the Lord is King”

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 19:9-18

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 5:7-15

Sermon: Resist Spiritual Bondage

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

Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 846)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 420 “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing”

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 7:14-25

NT: Revelation 8:6-13

Woe to the Earth Dwellers

Adult Sunday School: Theology and the Forces of History

Shorter Catechism Q/A #85

Q. What doth God require of us that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin?

A. To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (2/2) Read and discuss Galatians 5:7-15. It is always tempting to compromise just a little bit with the legalists in the hopes that a controversy will go away. Isn’t that how it works in politics? Each side agrees to something they don’t like so that they can arrive at something that both sides can live with. Paul explains in today’s passage that compromising the Gospel isn’t like that. Giving in a little to the legalists now will naturally lead to further compromises in the future. N.T. Wright explains:

Leaven is small but powerful. If you’re making a loaf of bread you need leaven to make it rise, but only a few grains will do for the entire loaf. Put in those few grains, and the loaf won’t be partly leavened and partly not; the leaven will work its way swiftly through the whole thing. Behind this familiar cooking image is the tradition, equally familiar to Paul, of keeping the Passover with unleavened bread, recalling the Israelites’ swift departure from Egypt. Leaven was (and still is) banished altogether from Jewish kitchens at Passover time. ‘Leavening the lump’ became an obvious picture for compromise. Paul’s point is that if the Galatians give in on this one thing, i.e., circumcision, they won’t simply be all right in everything else, with one little blemish; this mistake will be like leaven, and will change everything.

Read or sing Hymn 32 “Great is Thy Faithfulness” Prayer: Please pray for the safety of our church family in the winter weather we are experiencing.

Tuesday (2/3) Read and discuss Galatians 5:1-6. Prayer: Commenting on verse 1, Andrew Das writes:

Paul admonishes the Galatians to “stand firm.” The “then” relates the admonition in the second half of 5:1 to the indicative statement in the first half of the verse: “For freedom Christ has set us free.” A genuine status of freedom always precedes and grounds the imperative. Christian behavior always results from a changed status and a relationship with God; Christian behavior does not earn that status. Maintaining both Paul’s indicative – who we are in Christ – and his imperative – how we are to behave in Christ – will prevent the twin dangers of self-righteousness and libertinism. Christ is the only agent capable of freeing people from the enslaving powers of this evil world. The indicative draws attention to Christ’s completed and sufficient work. At the same time, the imperative reminds the believer that he or she is still caught in the conflict between the two ages, the now and the not yet. A reality is dawning in Christ that is not yet fully realized. Every believer can attest for himself or herself the daily fight against sin, but the decisive victory in this larger cosmic struggle has already been won. The justified believer must “stand firm,” then, “for freedom.” This is a freedom from slavery under the Law, but such freedom is also for a new reality, a reality which Paul will elaborate in the remainder of the chapter.

Prayer: Please pray for the Session of our church as it meets this evening.

Wednesday (2/4) Read and discuss Leviticus 19:1-18. Derek Tidball writes:

Sociologists are increasingly speaking of the need for ‘social capital’ if a society is to function smoothly. Any society needs more than financial capital and physical infrastructure in order to be prosperous; it also needs quality social relationships and secure networks that share a common set of values. A society that has made a good investment in social capital will not be one in which people are distrustful and suspicious of one another or one that has to devote endless resources to dealing with crime. It will be comfortable to live in, and its members will enjoy sharing common resources. It will function much more efficiently than those in which society’s social capital is low. The fear of many today is that the social capital of all cultures of advanced individualism is disappearing fast. From one viewpoint, Leviticus 19 is about how every member of a community can invest in its social capital.

Yet, we must be careful not to advance down this particular road too fast. For though the laws of Leviticus 19 will lead to the creation of a wholesome community and the banking of wonderful reserves of social capital this is not the chapter’s raison d’etre. The rules are designed first and foremost not as a matter of social convenience but as a matter of divine holiness. They arise from God’s invitation to be holy because I the LORD your God, am holy.

It may be helpful to recognize that the issues of holiness and social capital naturally belong together. Since holiness means being set apart as belonging to (or dedicated to) God; and living a life of holiness means living in light of belonging to God and therefore reflecting God’s character into the world; we shouldn’t be surprised that when the members of a community reflect God’s character into the world this leads to society functioning better. In fact, if everyone reflected God’s character perfectly we would be in a Garden civilization like that of the New Heaven and Earth. We, of course, are incapable of doing that ourselves – but one day Christ Himself will bring that to pass. Read or sing Hymn 310 “Rejoice, the Lord is King” Prayer: Ask the LORD to give our congregation a clearer vision of His holiness and glory.

Thursday (2/5) Read and discuss Exodus 7:14-25. Doug Stuart writes:

Prominent in the structure of this first plague account is the emphasis on God’s involvement in Pharaoh’s stubbornness. Verses 14 and 22-23 … [remind] the reader that Moses knew directly from God that Pharaoh would be resistant and that he would not be moved easily, even by things supernatural. The last verse of [this section], something of a postscript, briefly answers the reader’s logical question, “How then could the Egyptians survive since their drinking water came from the Nile?” By reason of that final verse, the first plague is shown to be a severe annoyance more than a life-threatening disaster, reflecting the sort of severity level one might expect of the opening plague – a shot fired across Egypt’s bow, as it were.

The Nile is mentioned six times by name here and also referred to by terms like “water” and “river,” in addition to the description in v. 19 of “the waters of Egypt,” then delineated in that verse to be sure that the reader realizes that every surface source of water was affected by the plague in the same manner as was the Nile. Thus “blood was everywhere in Egypt”, and no Egyptian could escape the effect of this plague. No longer were the mighty acts of God confined to demonstrations for a private audience. Now all the citizens of the nation began to feel the effect of God’s wrath, and the pressure began to ratchet up on Pharaoh. It was one thing for him to ignore a display intended to convince him of God’s power but another to ignore the cries of his people for one of their most basic needs, water to drink.

In considering the story of the first plague, it is important to bear in mind that the Egyptians understood the Nile to be a god. Their pantheistic view of the universe considered all things to be partakers of the divine, and things that moved to be obviously divine in their essence. The ultimate victory of the only true God, Yahweh, over the many false gods of the Egyptians began with the humiliation of the Nile. The nation’s great waterway and source of life was turned odious and made into a source of death, demonstrating the sovereign power of the God of Israel and the subordinate impotence of the Nile.

Read or sing Hymn 535 “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus!” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD triumphs over all the so-called gods of this world.

Friday (2/6) Read and discuss Revelation 8:6-13. It can be difficult to grapple with the LORD sending such terrible plagues upon the earth. N.T. Wright helps point us in the right direction to understanding what God is doing:

“Many people want to serve God,” said the sign outside the church, “but only in an advisory capacity.” And this is one of the moments in Revelation when some at least would give rather firm advice to the one who sits on the throne: “Don’t do it! What is the meaning of this wanton destruction?” …

[Why would we ask this?] As a wise old writer put it, “You haven’t yet considered the seriousness of sin.” Even after a century of war, terror and high-tech genocide, we are still included, in the Western world at least, to pretend to ourselves that the world has really become quite a pleasant place, with ‘evil’ merely a blip on the horizon with which we can deal easily enough. However great the contrary evidence, this modern myth of the eradication of evil through ‘enlightenment’, leaving only a few minor mopping-up operations (preferably in far-away places) before Utopia finally arrives, has taken such a hold on popular imagination that any idea of God having to do anything powerful and destructive to address the problem is regarded as far too drastic, far too dramatic. But none of the early Christians, and certainly not Jesus himself, would have colluded with this glossing over of the seriousness of evil.

Prayer: Please pray for the Church in China that our brothers and sisters would grow in theological stability and that they would continue to zealously share the good news of Jesus Christ with their neighbors.

Saturday (2/7) Read and discuss Galatians 5:7-15. Tom Schreiner writes:

Paul’s word of assurance in 5:10 provides confidence that the LORD will finish the good work he has begun. The LORD saves and continues to preserve until the end those whom he has called. Therefore, the confidence of believers is not ultimately in themselves but in the LORD, who summoned them to himself. Believers look away from themselves to Christ and trust his promise that he will keep all those who have entrusted their lives to him. When believers turn inward and contemplate their own resources, they know that they do not have the wherewithal to continue in the faith. In many texts, of course, believers are exhorted to continue to the end and to remain immoveable in the things of the LORD. Ultimately, however, assurance of obtaining a heavenly reward comes from the LORD himself. He strengthens his own so that they do not turn from the LORD who rescued them from this present evil age.

Read or sing Hymn: 420 “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

Sunday, Jan 25 2015 

MVOPC 1 February 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3

Opening Hymn: 34 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Confession of Sin

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

Assurance of Pardon: Romans 10:10-13

Hymn of Preparation: 679 “ ’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”

Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 25:1-10

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 5:1-6

Sermon: Stand for Freedom

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

Confession of Faith:  Apostles Creed (p. 845)

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 426 “Till He Come”!

 

PM Worship:

OT: Exodus 8:1-15

NT: Revelation 8:1-5

Prayer Matters

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 67-68 – Effectual Calling

Shorter Catechism Q/A #84

QWhat doth every sin deserve?

A. Every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/26) Read and discuss Galatians 5:1-6. Commenting on verse 1, Martin Luther writes:

Paul urges the godly not to be drowsy or smug but to fight bravely against Satan, so that he may not take away the freedom won for them by Christ. Christ has set us free from the eternal wrath of God – free in our conscience. We are made safe and free from the law, for just as the wrath of God can no longer terrify us, so the law cannot condemn or accuse us either. Therefore our spirits must be trained so that when they become aware of the law’s accusations, the terrors of sin, the horrors of death and the wrath of God, they will reject these things and put the freedom of Christ in their place, which is the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, life and the eternal mercy of God.

Read or sing Hymn 34 “The God of Abraham Praise” Prayer: Ask the LORD to guard your heart and those of our church family against the poison of legalism.

Tuesday (1/27) Read and discuss Galatians 4:21-31. Paul brings the Galatians back to the foundational story of Abraham for a reason. The whole dispute has been over how the Galatians could be full first-class citizens in the Kingdom of God and heirs of the promises that God had made to Abraham. Paul will vigorously fight for the entire rest of his life for the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. That is, Paul will insist that God only has ONE family made up of Jew and Gentile together in Christ. The Judaizers are suggesting that there may be two people of God. A first-class Jewish people of God and a sort of second class Gentile people of God who don’t step up and keep the commandments of the Mosaic covenant. Paul in effect is saying: If you want to go there – let’s go there. Abraham after all had two sons: Ishmael and Isaac. You know that story. The LORD had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. Indeed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his seed. Yet, Abraham and Sarah were growing old and Sarah still hadn’t given Abraham the promised and needed son. So Sarah came up with a plan that seems to have been viable in the ancient Hittite culture in which they were living. She would give Abraham her slave-girl Hagar and if Hagar bore Abraham a son – that son would be counted as though he were Sarah’s own son and would become Abraham’s heir. This all seemed reasonable to them. It was in Abraham and Sarah’s power to enact this plan and it did result in Hagar giving birth to Ishmael. But God was not at all interested in having His plans fulfilled by what Abraham and Sarah were able to do in their own power. The LORD returned to Abraham and told him that the promised Seed would come through Sarah. This was so unbelievable that they named him Isaac which means “laughter.” That’s a wonderful name and it reflects the fact that Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born and Sarah was 90. This was an act entirely of God’s power and grace and not something that Abraham or Sarah could do in their own strength. Prayer: Lift up our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine.

Wednesday (1/28) Read and discuss Leviticus 25:1-10. Phillip Eveson writes:

Jesus uses the words of Isaiah 61:1-2 to announce the commencement of this new age of Messiah. He came to deal with the deep underlying causes of all the troubles and struggles of society. Jesus did not read the part of the paragraph from Isaiah that spoke of vengeance, for he had come not to judge the world but to save it. The jubilee age that began with Christ’s first coming will find its grand consummation at his second coming with the resurrection of the body and the ‘restoration of all things’ (Acts 3:21). Then the Lord’s rule will be seen in all its fullness and glory and the old cures will finally be removed. This hope is not a pipe dream, but is based solidly on what happened to Jesus himself, who died to bear the curse and rose to be the guarantee and living proof of all that the prophets and apostles have promised.

The church of Jesus Christ therefore has something very wonderful and exciting to announce to a sad world enslaved by the dark powers of the Evil One. Individual Christians can also be involved in relieving poverty and exercising their democratic rights in bringing pressure to bear on governments and commercial organizations to show more understanding and to act in a just and honorable way towards peoples and nations in dire distress. They should be in the forefront in their concern for social justice, as they have been, and still are, in bringing relief and showing compassion to those with physical and mental ailments and disabilities. But the Christian’s greatest service to a needy world, and certainly the primary task of the church of Jesus Christ, is to proclaim the good news of a Redeemer who delivers from sin and Satan and who sets us on the road to glorious future beyond this present world order.

Read or sing Hymn 679 “ ’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” Prayer: Ask the LORD to bring visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.

Thursday (1/29) Read and discuss Exodus 8:1-15. Doug Stuart writes:

[The] final section of the story of the second plague demonstrates God’s gracious willingness to respond to Moses’ intercessory prayer (vv. 12-13), reminds the hearer/reader of the enormity of the plague (vv. 13-14), and affirms that all happened consistent with God’s control of Pharaoh’s actions, as predicted by God in the first place. …

These verses describe the power of prayer, when a faithful servant of the one true God prays in accordance with his Master’s will. Moses might have had good reason to assume that the frogs would eventually go away on their own, but he had certainly not been notified by God that they would die off on the day Pharaoh specified. Accordingly, he prayed earnestly for a result that from his point of view, at least, was not guaranteed but in faith that the LORD would do what he asked if his prayer were proper. It was, and the frogs died off suddenly enough that they could be gathered in heaps to decompose and smell, as v. 14 indicates. According to God’s already announced plan, this plague was not what would cause Pharaoh to release the Israelites. It would in fact meet with no success in light of God’s making Pharaoh stubborn, so v. 15 reminds the reader, in effect that “there’s much more to come before God is finished with Egypt and its king.”

Read or sing Hymn 252 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would give the President of the United States and other world leaders great wisdom and resolve as they confront the evil of ISIS.

Friday (1/30) Read and discuss Revelation 8:1-5. This passage intimately connects the prayers of the saints with astonishing judgments that the Sovereign God is sending into the world. We shouldn’t imagine that we will be able to dissect and neatly chart how this works out. The images we are being shown are intended to motivate our prayers while inspiring us with a sense of awe. N.T. Wright explains:

If prayer from on earth is presented by means of the golden censer, the immediate answer is given in the same way. The angel, having offered the incense, now fills the censer with fire from the altar and throws it on the earth. Until evil has been judged, condemned and radically uprooted from the earth, the only word that earth as a whole can hear from heaven is that of judgment. The ‘thunder, rumblings, lightning and earthquake’ come at the close of each section of the book, picking up from their initial appearance in front of God’s throne. Here they appear at the close of the seven seals; at 11:19, after the seven trumpets have sounded; and at 16:18, once the seven bowls of wrath have been poured out. We are to understand that the commerce between heaven and earth, though vital for God’s purpose and central to his eventual plan (21:1-8), will always be a matter of awe and wide-eyed wonder, and in the present time a matter for proper fear and trembling. Only the foolish and arrogant think they can scale the heights of heaven on their own behalf (Genesis 11). God remains sovereign, and as long as earth remains the haunt of evil, his answer to it must be fire. Jesus himself declared that he had come ‘to throw fire upon the earth’ (Luke 12:49). Here the angel with the golden censer continues the lamb’s strange work.

Prayer: Pray for someone in our congregation that he or she would grow to understand the riches of Christ more fully.

Saturday (1/24) Read and discuss Galatians 5:1-6. How do we resist the siren call of legalism? Knowing the truth of God’s word is certainly an important weapon in winning the battle to stand fast in the freedom which Christ has purchased for us. The great early church preacher, John Chrysostom suggests another important weapon in our battle against legalism – that is stirring up our love for Christ. He writes:

He strikes them here with a great blow by showing that it is their failure to be rooted in love for Christ that has given entrance to this error. For what is looked for is not only faith but also faith abiding in love. It is as though he said, “Had you loved Christ as you ought, you would not have insulted your deliverer.” And here he also alludes obliquely to those who have plotted against them, showing that if they had love for them they would not have dared to do this. He also wishes to amend their lives through this saying.

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

Guide for the Preparation for Worship on 25 January 2015 Sunday, Jan 18 2015 

MVOPC 25 January 2015

Call to Worship: Psalm 98:1-3

Opening Hymn: 53 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”

Confession of Sin

Most holy and merciful Father;  We acknowledge and confess before You;  Our sinful nature prone to evil and slothful in good;  And all our shortcomings and offenses.  You alone know how often we have sinned;  In wandering from Your ways;  In wasting Your gifts;  In forgetting Your love.  But You, O Lord, have pity upon us;  Who are ashamed and sorry for all wherein we have displeased You.  Teach us to hate our errors;  Cleanse us from our secret faults;  And forgive our sins for the sake of Your dear Son.  And O most holy and loving Father;  Help us we beseech You;  To live in Your light and walk in Your ways;  According to the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 4:14-16

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

Old Covenant Reading: Genesis 21:8-21

New Covenant Reading: Galatians 4:21-31

Sermon: Born Free?

Hymn of Response:  691 “It is Well with My Soul”

Confession of Faith:  Ten Commandments

Doxology (Hymn 732)

Closing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This”

PM Worship:

OT: Psalm 121:1-8

NT: Revelation 7:9-17

The Great Rescue

Adult Sunday School: Larger Catechism 64-65: The Invisible Church

Shorter Catechism Q/A #83

 Q. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?

A. Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

Suggested Preparations

Monday (1/19) Read and discuss Galatians 4:21-31. Tom Schreiner writes:

We need to remind ourselves that if we are Christians, we are already free. We are called to live out the freedom that is already ours and not to turn back to slavery. We are to live under grace instead of under the law. What are some signs that we are living under grace? One sign is that we are not devastated when we are criticized or snubbed by others. If we are devastated, we are still subtly living by the law, for our god is receiving the approval of others. We are living by grace if we can rest in being passed over for a job that we thought we should have received. If we live by the law and focus on ourselves, we become resentful and angry because we have been passed over. But if we live by grace, we rest in God’s purposes, even if we think others made a mistake.

Read or sing Hymn 53 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would work godliness with contentment even more deeply into your life.

Tuesday (1/20) Read and discuss Galatians 4:8-21. When Paul first met the Galatians it was because some significant physical ailment kept him from going where he originally planned to travel. It is possible that this physical ailment is also what Paul elsewhere refers to as his “thorn in the flesh” given to keep him humble. We can’t identify this ailment with certainty, but the guess – and it is no more than that – which has the best support in Paul’s own writings, is that Paul suffered from some sort of eye problem. This fits, for example, with verse 15 where Paul says that, if it were possible, the Galatians would have been willing to tear out their eyes and give them to him. Nevertheless, in spite of Paul’s physical weakness, the Galatians welcomed him with deep love and respect. We shouldn’t minimize the negative impact that Paul’s physical affliction might have had on his effectiveness as a messenger – at least according to worldly standards. Imagine the next Presidential election. If one of the candidates always had pus running out of one of his eyes and needed regular accommodations for his vision problems do you think he or she would still have a chance of winning? Whatever you want the answer to be you know that the actual answer is that such a candidate would have virtually no shot of winning simply on the basis of his or her physical appearance. We want leaders who appear strong and healthy not those who appear weak or frail. We don’t want leaders with pus running out of their eyes. Yet, that was how Paul appeared when he first brought the gospel to the Galatians and he frankly admits in verse 14 that his condition was a trial to the Galatians – yet they passed this trial with flying colors. The word “trial” here could also be translated “temptation.” The Galatians could have been tempted to turn away from Paul because he appeared to be such a weak leader – when in fact they embraced the gospel Paul preached recognizing that the LORD had poured the riches of the gospel into clay pots.  We ought to remember that he still does. I suspect that Paul is doing something more than just recounting his personal history. He is doing more than reminding the Galatians of the close bond that they shared with him. His personal story shows the contrast between Biblical Christianity and what Mike Horton calls “Power Religion.” Power religion says: “We’re impressive. If you come and join us you can be impressive too.” Power religion is widespread in the evangelical world where Christianity can be marketed as a way of having better relationships, well behaved and respectable children, and of gaining social upward-mobility. How different this is from our Savior’s words when He said: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Prayer: Ask the LORD to send a revival and reformation to New England.

Wednesday (1/21) Read and discuss Genesis 21:8-21. The dramatic story of Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac is one of the most gripping stories in the Bible. What is sometimes forgotten is that Abraham had previously sent away his first-born son Ishmael. Why was that necessary? Iain Duguid explains:

For the sake of the promise, Abraham had to commit himself fully to Isaac. Neither natural concern for the welfare of those whom he loved nor tentativeness on his part could be allowed to hold him back. Sometimes people hold themselves back from fully obeying the call of God because of family concerns. They say to themselves, “If I go out as a missionary, how will  I find a spouse?” or “Who will take care of my parents?” or “What will happen to my children?” The answer is that God is able to take care of these things, as many can testify from their own experience. In the words of Jesus, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be give to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). God answered Abraham’s natural concern for Ishmael’s welfare by promising that Ishmael’s offspring would become a nation.

Sometimes people hold themselves back out of fear. They want a reserve plan in case God’s way doesn’t work out. But God demands an all-or-nothing commitment to the promise. You can’t keep a foot in both camps. So God repeated His promise to Abraham as the reason he should listen to his wife: “Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”

Read or sing Hymn 309 “Rejoice, the Lord is King” Prayer: Pray for the young people in our congregation that they would plant both feet firmly in the Kingdom of God.

Thursday (1/22) Read and discuss Psalm 121:1-8. We ought to rejoice every day that the LORD will not let our foot slip. John Calvin writes:

Here the prophet, in order to recall the faithful to the right path, and to defeat the influence of all the allurements which are wont to distract their minds, affirms that whatever advantages worldly men are accustomed to desire or hope for from the world, true believers will find abundantly and at hand in God alone. He not only attributes power to God, but also teaches that he is so affectionate towards us, that he will preserve us in all respects in perfect safety. As often as the power of God is extolled, there are many who immediately reply, “It is very true that he can do such and such things if he is inclined, but we do not certainly know what his intention is.” In this passage, therefore, God is exhibited to the faithful as their guardian, that they may rest assured with assured confidence on his providence. As the Epicureans, in imagining that God has no care whatever about the world, extinguished all piety, so those who think that the world is governed by God only in a general and confused manner, and believe not that he cherishes them with a special care of his believing people, leave men’s minds in suspense, and are themselves kept in a state of constant fluctuation and anxiety. In short, never will the hearts of men be led in good earnest to call upon God, until a persuasion of the truth of this guardianship is firmly fixed in their minds. … Now, although it often happens that the faithful stagger, yes, are even ready to fall altogether, yet as God sustains them by his power, they are said to stand upright. And as amidst the dangers which ever moment threaten us, it is difficult for us to get rid of all anxiety and fear, the prophet at the same time testifies, that God keeps watch unceasingly over our safety.

Read or sing Hymn 691 “It is Well with My Soul” Prayer: Please pray for Igreja Presbiteriana Brasileira em Lowell which, Lord willing, will become a particularly congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church this coming Sunday evening.

Friday (1/23) Read and discuss Revelation 7:9-17. Mitchell Reddish writes:

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

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

Prayer: Please pray for the annual meeting of our congregation which will take place tonight.

Saturday (1/24) Read and discuss Galatians 4:21-31. Paul’s use of allegory in today’s passage has frequently been abused by Bible teachers throughout history. John Calvin points us in a more sober direction when he writes:

As there were two mothers in the house of Abraham, so there are two also in the church of God. Doctrine is the mother by whom God begets us. It is twofold, legal and evangelical. The legal begets children to bondage, so it is symbolized by Hagar.

Paul admits that he is using the Old Testament passage, which on the surface has nothing to do with his argument, as an allegory. Origen and many others who followed him seized on this as an excuse to twist Scripture this way and that. They claimed that the literal sense is too mearger and poor and that underneath it there lay deeper mysteries that can only be extracted by allegory. … For many centuries no one was regarded as clever if he could not subtly distort the Word of God in this way. … I acknowledge that Scripture is a rich and inexhaustible fount of all wisdom, but I deny that its fertility consists in the various meanings that anyone may fasten onto it at his pleasure. The true meaning of Scripture is the natural and simple one.

So what can we say about Paul’s assertion? He certainly did not mean that Moses wrote the story with the intention that it should be used as an allegory. What he is saying is that there is a relevance in the story to the present case. His comparison does not deny the literal meaning of the original text but shows that it presents he image of the church in a figurative way. The house of Abraham was the true church in its time, and so the events that happened in it are types intended for us. Just as there was an allegory in circumcision, in sacrifices, and in the whole Levitical priesthood, as there is today in our sacraments, so there was also in the house of Abraham. The word allegory has different meanings, as John Chrysostom recognized, and in Paul’s usage it did not involve a departure from the literal sense of the text.

Read or sing Hymn: 261 “What Wondrous Love Is This” Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.

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