16 February – Ryan Gabel preaching
Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3
Opening Hymn: 288 “We Come, O Christ, to You”
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 2:1
Hymn of Preparation: 283 “Fairest Lord Jesus”
Old Covenant Reading: Exodus 16:1-8
New Covenant Reading: John 6:26-35
Sermon: Wonder Bread
Hymn of Response: Psalm 29A “Now unto the LORD, All You Sons of the Mighty”
Confession of Faith: Ten Commandments
Doxology (Hymn 568)
Closing Hymn: 157 “When Morning Gilds the Skies”
OT: Psalm 23
NT: John 10
Who’s Your Shepherd
Shorter Catechism Q/A # 23
Q. What offices doth Christ execute as our redeemer?
A. Christ, as our redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.
Monday (2/10) Read and discuss John 6:26-35. God had multiplied the bread and the fish as a sign. The crowd should have traced the supernatural provision of food back to the goodness and astonishing power of Jesus. That is, the crowd should have seen the miracle and believed in Jesus. But they didn’t do that. Instead they were getting the relationship between Jesus and the physical bread exactly backwards. Instead of seeing the arrow as pointing from the physical bread to Jesus, they saw the arrow as pointing from Jesus to what they really wanted – the physical bread. It isn’t as though they didn’t see Jesus as valuable. They thought Jesus was so valuable that they wanted to make Him their King. The problem was that they saw Jesus as valuable only because of the physical goods He could provide for them. Jesus healed the sick and gave them free food, but they didn’t desire Jesus Himself as their greatest good and they weren’t thinking in spiritual terms at all. This form of idolatry, where the people can appear to be seeking Jesus or otherwise “religious”, is rampant in our own day. This idolatry is at the very heart of the so called “health and wealth” gospel – which is no gospel at all. Indeed, even many evangelical churches that would explicitly condemn the heresy taught by someone like Joel Osteen are still trying to sell Christianity in our culture by telling people that they will have better marriages, more successful children, or a whole range of things other than Jesus. Let me state the problem plainly: If you want to use God rather than love God you are an idolater. Sadly, this sort of idolatry is actually being promoted by people who call themselves ministers and organizations which call themselves churches. Please don’t misunderstand me: When we cling to Jesus Christ, God is delighted to frequently give us many other blessings as expressions of His love for us. We ought to enjoy those blessings with grateful hearts. But here is the key point: We ought to enjoy the blessings that God gives us expressions of His love for us rather than viewing God as someone to be used for the sake of gaining those material benefits – when it is those material benefits rather than God that our hearts truly crave. Read or sing Hymn 288 “We Come, O Christ, to You” Prayer: Take time to name 3 things that the LORD has blessed you with, and then give thanks that these are signs of God’s love for you in Jesus Christ.
Tuesday (2/11) Read and discuss 1 John 2:15-17. Saint Augustine writes:
Dear friends, be aware of this. Don’t let Satan steal up on you, saying the things typical of him, such as, “Enjoy everything God has made! Why has He made them if not for you to enjoy? People get intoxicated by this and are ruined and forget their Creator. When they use the things He has made avidly and immoderately, they are snubbing Him. Paul says of people like this that “they worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” God doesn’t forbid you to love these things, but He doesn’t want you to value them as the source of your happiness. Rather, He wants you to approve and praise them in order for you to love Him who is their Creator.
It’s as if a bridegroom were to give a ring to his bride, and she came to value the ring more than the one who gave it. By all means let her love the bridegroom’s gift, but fi she were to say, “The ring’s enough for me, I don’t want to see his face,” what sort of woman would this be? Who wouldn’t consider her an adulteress in her heart? The reason a bridegroom gives a pledge is to be loved in his pledge. Well then, God gave you all these things, so love Him who made them! There’s something more that He wants to give you: He wants to give you Himself, who made these things. Even though they are made by God, if you love them and disregard Him and love the world, won’t your love be counted adulterous?
Sing or Read Hymn 283 “Fairest Lord Jesus” Prayer:
Wednesday (2/12) Read and discuss Exodus 16:1-15. Sometimes Christians feel the pinch that comes from following God’s ways in a world disordered by sin. When this pain gives way to grumbling, such complaining is almost always (1) Misdirected; (2) Irrational; and (3) Based upon a misunderstanding of the LORD’s character. The setting of today’s passage is straightforward: “It is now six weeks after the Exodus. With the oasis at Elim now behind them and the provisions brought from Egypt exhausted, the people face a severe shortage of food. The wilderness conditions offer little possibility of securing fresh supplies. Popular discontent flares, and harsh accusations are hurled against Moses and Aaron (Nahum Sarna).” This response is …
- MISDIRECTED. As Moses points out, there complaint is really against God. To make his point more emphatic, Moses actually asks “What are we” in verse 8 using a term that applies to things rather than people (Paul does the exact same thing in 1 Corinthians 3:5: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each”). Moses is making it clear that he and Aaron are merely instruments in the LORD’s hand that should neither be blessed nor cursed for leading Israel out of Egypt. People haven’t changed very much. Religious people rarely acknowledge that they are grumbling with God. Instead they complain about their boss, their church leadership, or their spouse. Yet, if we find ourselves becoming critical in these ways we need to recognize that we are not being content with God’s plan for our lives and then we need to turn and place our trust more fully in Him.
- IRRATIONAL. Only six weeks earlier this Israelites had walked across the Red Sea on dry ground, yet now they seemed to think that they were all going to die in the wilderness. Once they found themselves longing for “the good old days” when they were slaves in Egypt, they should have realized that something had gone fundamentally wrong in their thinking. Nevertheless, don’t Christians sometimes lament the loss of their former lives when they were slaves to sin? One of the ways to work toward our own contentment is to regularly recall the great things that God has already done for us and then to look to the fulfillment of His promises with confidence.
- MISUNDERSTANDING GOD. On the one hand, the Israelites seemed to be doubting God’s ability to provide for them. On the other hand (and perhaps more fundamentally), they seemed to be doubting the LORD’s good intentions for them. We also need to remember the astonishing grace and mercy of our Lord and that He is for usin Christ.
Interestingly, God responds to Israel’s grumbling by literally raining food down from heaven for them to eat. Yet this is not merely a form of provision it is also a test. Will Israel learn to trust God to provide for their needs? How can we know? If they actually trust God they will keep the Sabbath day. Regretfully, as the rest of the chapter makes clear, even raining food down from heaven did not cause the people of Israel to put their trust in God.Sing or Read Hymn Psalm 29A “Now unto the LORD, All You Sons of the Mighty” Prayer: Ask that the LORD would increase your confidence in His provision.
Thursday (2/13) Read and discuss Psalm 23. The Bible teaches us that “godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).” We instinctively know that this is true. But where can we find this contentment? Sadly, our society seems intent on cultivating discontent in our lives in order to sell us new products or to sign us up for one movement or another. For certain, there are times in our lives when we all feel content. Perhaps it is after a particularly good day of work or after acing an exam. For some of us it is those times when we can sit on a deck in tranquility with someone we love. We should cherish such times, but we all know that such moments are fleeting. The problem is that the world virtually conspires to steal away our contentment and permanently securing the idyllic circumstances that make us feel content is simply beyond our power. What we need is someone who is both all-powerful and entirely good to secure our present and our future for us. What we need to do is to find our contentment in God. As John Phillips points out, Psalm 23 reveals our Good Shepherd as “One who can take care of our frailty; … One who can take care of our foes; and finally (as) One who can take care of our future.” That is why we sing:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And has shed His own blood for my soul.
Prayer: Please lift up our brothers and sisters a Covenant OPC in Barre, VT.
Friday (2/14) Read and discuss John 10:1-21. Chuck Swindoll writes:
Jesus’ statement is strong “I AM”, paired with the phrase “good shepherd,” which is particularly emphatic in Greek. What follows is a clear foreshadowing of the persecution he will suffer and a strong affirmation of His substitutionary death on behalf of His believers. Just as important is His acknowledgement that truth always has been a lightning rod for evil; nevertheless, He will not flinch as evil strikes Him with all the power of hell. As the Creator, he cannot be overpowered by anything. Yet He will voluntarily suffer and die to carry out the Father’s redemptive plan.
This sets Jesus apart from the religious leaders of the people, who supposedly shepherd the people of God. Whereas He is selfless, they are selfish. Whereas He will lay down His life for the sheep, they will abandon all to save themselves. Whereas Jesus lived in complete obedience to the Father, they obeyed their own lusts.
Read or sing Hymn 157 “When Morning Gilds the Skies” Prayer: Ask the LORD to make you more selfless by giving you greater confidence that the LORD will meet all of your needs.
Saturday (2/15) Read and discuss John 6:16-40. Edward Klink writes:
[This portion of God’s word] was carefully crafted so as to reflect inappropriate expressions of disbelief or dissatisfaction in God through allusions to the Israelites in the wilderness as they complained and argued with Moses and, therefore, with God. As Hoskyns describes it, by their grumbling against Jesus in this periscope, “They preserve the genuine succession of unbelief.” Like their forefathers, the Jews were opposing God himself. The rebuke by Christ serves to exhort the reader to avoid bringing against God any categories of unbelief, including elements of arrogance or human wisdom. So often we think we have words for God, or we would like him to hear how we think he should view a situation – often our own situation, so as to get a different result. … This is neither reality nor the mark of Christian discipleship. The disciple of Jesus willingly declares, “Be Thou my Vision,” and really means it; not because the Christian has no intellect or foresight, but because his reason and foresight have found their true source and substance.
Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.