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Follow-up Devotionals for March 6 Passages

Have you been reviewing what we learned of God in worship on the Lord's Day? Revisiting those resolutions and commitments that you made before Him? Remember that even in our morning sermon text, we read that those things at which we have arrived are not to be unto us merely a theory but a rule for the conduct of our lives. Perhaps using these devotionals will assist you and your family in doing so:

Follow-up devotionals for use in Private and Family Worship
Psalm 39:7-13
Questions for understanding this Scripture passage
• In whom is the psalmist hoping (v7)? From what does he need to be delivered (8a)? Why (8b)? • Why was David keeping his mouth shut (v9, cf. 2Sam 16:10-12)? Why was God afflicting David (11a)? Did this make it easy to go through (10a-b, 11b-c)? • Why is the Lord David’s only hope (12)? How has this only hope been relating to him (13)? And what has David’s response been in this situation?
Questions for living out this Scripture passage
• When have you felt like this under the correction/discipline of the Lord? If you never have, then how does Hebrews 12 give you caution? • How does the truth about a believer’s troubles encourage you? How does it, in other ways, make it even more painful? What is the discipline supposed to be accomplishing? • Who is your only hope of both accomplishing this, and relieving you of the pain? If imitating David in acting upon this hope, what will this look like in the details of your own actions?
Suggested songs: Psalm 39:7-13, #30 Our God, Our Help in Ages Past
Suggested memory verse: “And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.” (Psalm 39:7)
Deuteronomy 26:12-15
Questions for understanding this Scripture passage
• What did they usually do with the second tithe (cf. 14:22-26)? What were they to do every third year (v12, cf. 14:27-29)? What does God call this tithe in v13? Unto Whom does this mean it was set apart? But for whom was it commanded to be set apart in this case (12-13)? • What were some of the excuses one might have had for using it for another purpose (v14)? What incentive did God to encourage them to be obedient (v15)?  
Questions for living out this Scripture passage
• Where do you bring your tithes? What is God’s method now for deciding what portion of it goes to caring for the clergy, foreigner, fatherless, and widow in His church? • Has God changed? How does He respond now to the tithes and offerings of His people (cf. Phil 4:10-19; 2Cor 8-9)?
Suggested songs: Psalm 50:7-15, #716 Sing to the Lord of Harvest
Suggested memory verse: Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, just as You swore to our fathers, “a land flowing with milk and honey. (Deut 26:15)
Philippians 3:15-16
Questions for understanding this Scripture passage
• Who, especially, are to have “this mind” (15a)? What mind (12-14)? • But what if you really feel like you have attained to much (15b)? How does God “reveal” things? What is the solution to spiritual pride? • Even if you don’t know the smallness of your progress (16a), how are you to live (16b)?
Questions for living out this Scripture passage
• If knowing the smallness of your growth is a part of Christian maturity, what does that say about you? • In what habits and practices are you giving yourself to the Lord’s revelation? How are you, at those times, making use of Scripture to learn the smallness of your growth so far? How do you respond when you see that? • Despite your inability to see your lack of growth, what habits of mind and action are you maintaining as if you do indeed have tremendously far yet to go?
Suggested songs: Psalm 131, #683 Not Haughty Is My Heart
Suggested verse: Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. (Phil 3:16)
Hebrews 5:12-14
Questions for understanding this Scripture passage
• What ought Christians seek to be (12a)? What do they need to be taught first (12b)? • What do his readers need to hear at last (12c)? But what do they also need, in their current condition (13a)? Where does this place them in their walk with the Lord (13b)? • What do those who are able to go beyond milk do (14)?
Questions for living out this Scripture passage
• Whom ought you be telling about Christ’s salvation, and His ongoing priestly work? Why aren’t you? • Where, in your life, are you exercising your abilities of detection to know what is good and what is evil? What are you doing about what you detect?  
Suggested Songs: Psalm 19, #151 Jehovah’s Perfect Law
Suggested memory verse: But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:14)
Luke 9:12-17
Questions for understanding this Scripture passage
• Who initiated this interaction (12)? What did they want to do with the multitude? How does this fail to follow the geography/interaction of v10 and the action/welcoming of v11? What were these people seeking (v11)? What was Jesus intending to add to them (14-15)? • How does the grouping reinforce the picture of who Jesus is, and what His kingdom is made of? How does His action in v16 show what kind of King He is? How does v17 show what His citizens can expect?
Questions for living out this Scripture passage
• What pragmatic concerns have you allowed to dislodge yourself or your family from time/space with Christ? • In what area of church/family/personal/national life have you been rather pessimistic? From where do you expect the solution for your concerns? What does it look like to expect that solution from Christ? How does your service to others fit into this expectation? What actions in your life are demonstrating the truthfulness of your answers?
Suggested songs: Psalm 23, #184 The King of Love My Shepherd Is
Suggested memory verse: So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them. (Luke 9:17)
Zechariah 5:1-4
Questions for understanding this Scripture passage
• How is the transition at the beginning of this vision (v1) different than at the beginning of chapter 4? What does Zechariah see (2)? Who is holding it? Who is reading it? Who is going to act upon it? • How are these things reinforced by its size? How does a man compare to it in size? What is it the same size as (cf. Ex 26:15-25)? • What is on the scroll (3a)? Against whom (3b)? Where else have we learned about this in connection with building the temple (cf. Hag 2:10-14)? • Where does God’s curse meet the sinner (4a)? What does it do there (4d-e)? What sins especially are highlighted (3b, 4b-c)? Who is in the greatest danger of this?
Questions for living out this Scripture passage
• What part do you have in God’s great building project of the church? What are you ‘supplying’ as one of the joints, or doing as one of the members, for the building up of the whole into Christ (cf. Eph 4:16)? • What parts of God’s law do you break? What does the scroll mean that you need?
Suggested songs: Psalm 94; #49 O Lord, Thou Judge of All the Earth

Suggested memory verse: Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth: ‘Every thief shall be expelled,’ according to this side of the scroll; and, ‘Every perjurer shall be expelled,’ according to that side of it.” (Zechariah 5:3)

13-March-2016 Orders of Service for Congregational Worship

The Lord’s Day, March 13, 2016
Morning Service (9:30a.m.)
(before worship) prayer for God’s help
Psalm 40:1-9, Prayer
Song: #622 I Waited for the Lord Most High
Deuteronomy 26:12-19, Prayer
Song: #4 All Praise to God Who Reigns Above
Philippians 3:15-16, Prayer
Song: #657 In Sweet Communion, Lord, with Thee
Dismissal by God’s Blessing
Evening Service (6 p.m.)
(before worship) Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 20 (p870) and prayer for God’s help
Hebrews 6:1-3, Prayer
Song: #94 How Firm a Foundation
Luke 9:18-27, Pastoral Prayer
Song: #656 Jesus, Priceless Treasure
Zechariah 5:5-11, Prayer
Song: #49 O Lord, Thou Judge of All the Earth
The Lord’s Supper
Dismissal by God’s Blessing

6-March-2016 Worship Plan

The Lord’s Day, March 6, 2016
Morning Service (9:30a.m.)
(before worship) prayer for God’s help
Psalm 39:7-13, Prayer
Song: (handout) And Now, O Lord
Philippians 3:15-16, Prayer
Song: #683 Not Haughty Is My Heart
The Lord’s Supper
Dismissal by God’s Blessing
Evening Service (6 p.m.)
(before worship) Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 17-19 (p870) and prayer for God’s help
Hebrews 5:12-14, Prayer
Song: #151 Jehovah’s Perfect Law
Luke 9:12-17, Pastoral Prayer
Song: #184 The King of Love My Shepherd Is
Zechariah 5:1-4, Prayer
Song: #49 O Lord, Thou Judge of All the Earth
Dismissal by God’s Blessing

NKJV Reformation Study Bible for a Donation of Any Amount

Some of us have been waiting for this study Bible for a very long time.

Not only does it contain an abundance of excellent, Reformed study notes and helps,but its crowning feature is the inclusion and cross-referencing of the best Christian creeds and confessions, including the Westminster Standards.

Originally intended to be available in September of last year, it is still available in pre-order only.

However, for today (and maybe today only), it is available for a donation of any amount to ligonier ministries [here].

Pray!

God commands prayer first of all (1Tim 2), and the apostles gave themselves to the ministry of prayer first of all (Acts 6:4). Widows who are unable to serve God and others in other ways yet give themselves night and day to prayer (1Tim 5:5). Our Lord withdrew often by Himself to pray, sometimes for an entire night.

How important it is that we be a praying congregation and that each of us be steadfast and continual in prayer! May the following quote from an old master be used of God to stir you up to it:
Let us pray more, and let us pray more earnestly. Let those who never prayed begin to pray. Let those who have prayed pray better.
Pray for yourselves — that you may know the Lord Jesus, and cleave to Him — that you may be kept from falling — that you may serve your generation — that you may be sober in prosperity, patient in trial, and humble at all times. 
Pray for the congregation to which you belong — that the word of the Lord may have free course in it, and be glorified — that the household of faith may become stronger and stronger, and the household of unbelief weaker and weaker. 
Pray for your country — that her ministers may preach the Gospel, and be sound in the faith — that her rulers may value the Bible, and govern according to it — and that so her candlestick may not be taken away. 
And pray for your minister — that he may be strong to work, and willing to labor for your good, that all his sicknesses may be sanctified, and all his health given to the Lord — that he may be ever taught of the Spirit, and thus be able to teach others — that he may be kept faithful unto death, and so be ready to depart when he is called. 
Let us all pray, one for the other — I for you, and you for me — and we shall be blessed in our deed! 
~ J.C. Ryle, "Consider Your Ways"

Nehemiah 12:1-26 - Priest-led Praise unto God Who Communicates His Glory

At prayer meeting last night, we observed in Neh 12:1-26 the disproportion of space and emphasis upon thanksgiving and praise, among all of the duties of state and church. This dynamic continues into the rest of the chapter, next week.

Summary of the teaching: God loves to communicate to us His glory, and for communicating, He employs orderliness. Thus, lively faith responds to Him with joy but not chaos, orderly and coordinated exultation. Additionally, God keeps a record, and teaches us to keep remembrance, of all of His great works of goodness toward us. Among all the roles of all the offices that look forward to Christ, the most emphasized by far in this passage is the role of leader of thanksgiving, praise, and song. The Psalms teach us that He most looked forward to this, and the New Testament teaches us that He especially does this in our congregational gatherings each Lord’s Day.

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The following study questions will help you prepare for the Bible lesson from next week's prayer meeting:

What were they going to do in v27? Whom did they seek for this? How many? From where? Why—in what were they the appointees  and leaders (27b, cf. 11:17, 22; 12:8, 24)? How did someone get into this office/role (28-30)? In this great affair of state, what is the grandest office on display (31)? How much space is given to them again in v35-40a? And again in v41-42?
• What did the other priests and Levites do (30, 43)? And how much space is given to the civil leaders (32-34, 40b)?
• Beyond the dedication, for what were some of the priests appointed at that time (44a)? To take care of whom (44b, 47)? What else did the singers do (45)? How had David gotten to be a great builder of God’s temple after all (46)?  
• What do we learn from the comparative amount of words spent on the varying roles? Who is the grandest Officer on display? How is this even more so, with today’s Priest, Leader of thanksgiving, and Leader of Singing?

21-February-2016 Congregational Worship Plan

The Lord’s Day, February 21, 2016
Morning Service (9:30a.m.)
(before worship) prayer for God’s help
Psalm 38:11-22, Prayer
Song: #487 In Thy Wrath and Hot Displeasure
Deuteronomy 25:17-19, Prayer
Song: #49 O Lord, Thou Judge of All the Earth
Philippians 3:9-11, Prayer
Songs: #277 Christ the Lord is Ris’n Today; #657 In Sweet Communion
Baptism
Dismissal by God’s Blessing
Evening Service (6 p.m.)
(before worship) Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 14 (p870) and prayer for God’s help
Hebrews 5:4-7, Prayer
Song: #306 Jesus, My Great High Priest
Luke 8:41-56, Pastoral Prayer
Song: #271 Sing, Choirs of New Jerusalem
Zechariah 4, Prayer
Song: #329 Come, O Creator Spirit Blest
The Lord’s Supper
Dismissal by God’s Blessing

14-Feb-2016 Worship Plan

With God's help, we hope to worship Him according to the following plan on the next Lord's Day, the 14th of February
The Lord’s Day, February 14, 2016
Morning Service (9:30a.m.)
(before worship) prayer for God’s help
Psalm 38:1-10, Prayer
Song: #487 In Thy Wrath and Hot Displeasure
Deuteronomy 25:1-16, Prayer
Song: #59 Forever Settled in the Heavens
Philippians 3:7-9, Prayer
Songs: #656 Jesus, Priceless Treasure; #642 Be Thou My Vision
Dismissal by God’s Blessing
Evening Service (6 p.m.)
(before worship) Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 13 (p870) and prayer for God’s help
Hebrews 5:3, Prayer
Song: #254 Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed
Luke 8:26-40, Pastoral Prayer
Song: #40 God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength
Zechariah 3:6-10, Prayer
Song: #194 O Come, O Come Emmanuel
The Lord’s Supper

Dismissal by God’s Blessing

Meditating on Scriptures from 7-Feb, Preparing for Scriptures on 14-Feb

Audio recordings of the preaching and teaching from yesterday's worship services are now available at http://harvestoc.net/sermons.html

Follow-up devotionals for those passages were posted [here] last week

The following devotionals are designed to help you work through the passages for 14-February, either in preparation beforehand or follow-up afterward:

Follow-up devotionals for use in Private and Family Worship
Psalm 38:1-10
Questions for understanding this Scripture passage
• From whom does David receive his current situation (1-3)? What seems to be the worst part of it? Why is it happening (4-5)? • How has David’s trouble affected him (6-8, 10)? Whom does He expect has noticed and cared (9)?
Questions for living out this Scripture passage
• What sins or guilt are tormenting you? What great trouble are you in? How have these things affected you? • Who can see and care about this? What purpose of His is accomplished now, as you bring this psalm to bear on your situation?
Suggested songs: Psalm 38, #487 In Thy Wrath and Hot Displeasure
Suggested memory verse: Lord, all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You. (Psalm 38:9)
Deuteronomy 25:11-16
Questions for understanding this Scripture passage
• What was not permissible even to save one’s husband (11)? What would the wife be sacrificing in this case (12)? • What is the bag in v13 for? Why would someone use different weights at different times? Where else was such a strategy a temptation (14)? • But what would such an approach actually lose for them (15b)? What kind of economic dealing was in their own best interest (15a)? • What does God say about anyone who willfully and unrepentantly sins (16)?
Questions for living out this Scripture passage
• What are situations in our culture where private parts tend not to be respected? How do you plan to avoid or act differently in them? • Where have you had the opportunity to seek your own interest by unfair economic dealing with someone outside the home? How does this passage give you the incentive to be upright instead? With whom in your own house must you discipline yourself to deal fairly?
Suggested songs: Psalm 119, #59 Forever Settled in the Heavens
Suggested memory verse: For all who do such things, all who behave unrighteously, are an abomination to the Lord your God. (Deut 25:16)
Philippians 3:7-9
Questions for understanding this Scripture passage
• What does “gain for me” mean when talking about pride or credit in v7? Who is doing the losing in this verse? • Now, in 8a, who is losing what? Between “all things” and what(Whom) is Paul forced to choose (8b)? And what has he chosen? Why (8c-d)? • What is the personal result of gaining Christ (9a)? What is the legal result (9b-c)? What is the relational result (9d)?
Questions for living out this Scripture passage
• What things would you have been tempted to consider as being to your own credit? How does this coming at the cost of being Christ’s loss keep you from viewing them that way? • What sins and temptations must you give up in order to have Christ? Which are the hardest to give up? • What good things make up that righteousness which you refuse to have? What righteousness do you have instead? How?
Suggested songs: Psalm 2, #642 Jesus, Priceless Treasure
Suggested verse: But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ (Phil 3:7)
Hebrews 5:3
Questions for understanding this Scripture passage
• What kind of priest (1a) is v3 talking about? What does he have (end of v3)? What do the people need him to do for them? What does he need himself to do for himself? • How is Jesus’ high priesthood similar? How is it different?
Questions for living out this Scripture passage
• What do you deserve? Why do you need atoning sacrifice? What would happen to you if you do not have it? • What sacrifice has made you right with God? Who is your priest? Where is your priest? What is He doing there right now?  
Suggested Songs: Psalm 130, #254 Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed
Suggested memory verse: Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. (Hebrews 5:3)
Luke 8:26-40
Questions for understanding this Scripture passage
• Where did this take place (26)? What kind of people were these (32a)? What are some of the strange things about the man in v27? In this light, how is v28 even more strange? • What does v29 give as the reasons for Jesus casting the demon out? What does this show that He cares about? • What does the interaction in v30-32 show about the relationship of Jesus to the demons? • What does the immediate action in v33 show about the nature/character of the demons? • What was the job of those giving the report in v34? To whom would they have been giving the report? How would such news have been received? • But what did they see when they came (35)? And how did they feel upon seeing this (end of 35)? • What are the “means” to which the report  in v36 refers? What further effect did this have upon them (37)? • What did the delivered man desire (38)? What does Jesus tell him to do instead (39a)? How is what he actually did a little different (39b)? How is it the same (39a)? What is the result of what the delivered man did (40)?
Questions for living out this Scripture passage
• In what ways are you affected by the things that made Jesus scary to the demons and to the Gadarenes? From what has Jesus delivered you? By what means? • Whom have you told? Whom are you going to tell? • Where do you want to be? What do you hope will be the result of your being here instead to tell others?
Suggested songs: Psalm 46, #40 God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength
Suggested memory verse:  “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:39)
Zechariah 3:6-10
Questions for understanding this Scripture passage
• Who is addressing Joshua in v6? And who is Joshua (8a)? Where was Joshua being envisioned to be at the time (7)? What privileges did he have on earth? What privileges did he look forward to in heaven? What would have to be true of his earthly life in order for him to retain these privileges? • Who are “men of a sign or wonder” in v8b-c? How is it a wonder that there are still Israelites at all, and that they have a high priest, and that they are in Jerusalem? What sure hope is demonstrated/validated by all of this (8d)? • What two titles is Messiah given in 8d? What does each of these titles teach/emphasize about Him (cf. Isa 41-53; Isa 4:2, Jer 23:5, Zec 6:12)? • What does God lay before the high priest in v9a-b? When God promised to do this in Isa 28:16, what(who!) was the stone? What is usually the significance of the number in 9c? What is the significance of divine eyes (cf. 2Ch 16:9; Psa 11:4; Prov 15:3) • On what day does God remove all of the guilt of His people’s sin? On what day does God remove every remaining stain, and what are they like upon that day (9-10)?
Questions for living out this Scripture passage
• How is Christ your confidence before God? What kind of life should you live, if this is your hope? In your specific life, how can you improve service, obedience, and generosity?
Suggested songs: Psalm 110; #194 O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Suggested memory verse: For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH. (Zechariah 3:8d)

God's Indescribable Gift Is God (some thoughts on Acts 8:12-18)

Today, someone wrote to ask about Acts 8:12-18. Looking at the passage to help the inquirer left me again amazed at how wonderful our God is. Hoping that your own consideration of the passage will do the same for you, I reprint my response here:

Up to this point in Acts (and also later in ch 10), the immediate tangible evidence of receiving the Spirit was speaking in tongues or doing miracles. It takes time for the fruit of the Spirit to develop, so in His providential mercy, God granted this sign as something that could be seen immediately.

It is apparent that although Philip himself had done signs and miracles, God had reserved the ability to confer gifts of signs for the apostles only, and so it was necessary for Peter and John to come and lay hands. I had never noticed this before, but it is another strong argument for tongues being a sign that is specific to the apostolic age. Which of the twelve (or the apostle Paul?) has come and laid his hands upon anyone today who claims this gift?

It's a wonderful contrast, between Philip and Simon Magus. Although Philip's miracle gifts amaze Magus in how they outclass his magic, Philip is content to defer to the apostles in humility, while Magus seeks to advance himself by means of money.

And it is wonderful that what is mentioned as great to receive was not whatever the sign was, but the Holy Spirit Himself as a Person.
Up to this point in Acts (and also later in ch 10), the immediate tangible evidence of receiving the Spirit was speaking in tongues or doing miracles. It takes time for the fruit of the Spirit to develop, so in His providential mercy, God granted this sign as something that could be seen immediately.
It is apparent that although Philip himself had done signs and miracles, God had reserved the ability to confer gifts of signs for the apostles only, and so it was necessary for Peter and John to come and lay hands. I had never noticed this before, but it is another strong argument for tongues being a sign that is specific to the apostolic age. Which of the twelve (or the apostle Paul?) has come and laid his hands upon anyone today who claims this gift?
It's a wonderful contrast, between Philip and Simon Magus. Although Philip's miracle gifts amaze Magus in how they outclass his magic, Philip is content to defer to the apostles in humility, while Magus seeks to advance himself by means of money.
And it is wonderful that what is mentioned as great to receive was not whatever the sign was, but the Holy Spirit Himself as a Person.
How much more, then, should we rejoice not only over having a completed Bible, but over the Holy Spirit, the Person, who gave it and continues to use it. And how much more, then, should we rejoice not only over growing in the fruit of the Spirit (the most excellent way, the greater gift), but over the Holy Spirit, the Person, who is producing in us this fruit!
This brings me to one last point about a verse later in the passage: in v20 "the gift of God" can grammatically mean "the gift that is from God" or "the gift that is God," and in the context of the passage, the latter is actually more likely!
Isn't it glorious? 
God the Father has given us two great gifts: the Son and the Spirit whom He sent to bring us to Himself.
God the Son has given us two great gifts: the Father to Whom He brings us, and the Spirit whom He sent, by Whom to bring us to the Father.
God the Spirit has given us two great gifts: the Father to Whom He brings us, and the Son in Whom He brings us to the Father. 
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!