June 15 2014 Worship

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The book of Malachi has challenged us in many ways.  It has called us to view our own sin as disgusting filth rather than minor accidents.  It demands that we see God as greatly displeased and dishonored by sin.  It pleads with us to not look to the fallen world and give it the label of good.  Malachi 2 ends with the people asking for the God of justice to come, and Malachi ensures the people that He is indeed coming.  Malachi 3 turns our attention toward the promise of the Covenant.   They are told that God will send His messenger first and then will come and that no one can endure His coming.  The judgement is not only for those outside of Israel, but for everyone.  The covenant promise is that God’s royal holy nation will be spared because God does not change.  We learn through the witness of the New Testament that this sparing comes through the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Malachi reveals our need to fear the Lord, trust His promises, and wait on His coming with hope.

Come worship the sovereign Creator with us this Sunday morning as He strengthens us through Word and prayer in corporate worship.

The Song of Ascent     Draw My Soul To Thee

The Welcome and Greeting

The Call to Worship     Psalm 24:7-10

Leader:    Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

People: Who is this King of glory?

Leader:    The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

People: Who is this King of glory?

Leader: The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory!

The Prayer of Invocation

The Song of Praise  Help My Unbelief

The Call to Confession   Psalm 81:8-10

The Prayer of Confession   

All: Almighty God.  Forgive us.  We have bowed our hearts to a foreign god.  You have been faithful yet we are faithless.  Have mercy on us in Christ and draw near to us in peace.

(A time of silent confession)

The Promise of Forgiveness: Malachi 3:13-18

The Affirmation of Faith       The Heidelberg Catechism Q. 80-82

Leader:    What difference is there between the Lord’s Supper and the popish mass?

People:  The Lord’s supper testifies to us, that we have a full pardon of all sin by the only sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he himself has once accomplished on the cross; and, that we by the Holy Ghost are ingrafted into Christ, who, according to his human nature is not on earth now, but is in heaven, at the right hand of God his Father, and will there be worshipped by us.  But the mass teaches, that the living and dead have not the pardon of sins through the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is also daily offered for them by the priests; and further, that Christ is bodily under the form of bread and wine, and therefore is to be worshipped in them; so that the mass, at bottom, is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.

Leader: For whom is the Lord’s Supper instituted?

People:  For those who are truly sorrowful for their sins, and yet trust that these are forgiven them for the sake of Christ; and that their remaining infirmities are covered by his passion and death; and who also earnestly desire to have their faith more and more strengthened, and their lives more holy; but hypocrites, and such as turn not to God with sincere hearts, eat and drink judgment to themselves.

Leader:    Are those who declare themselves unbelieving and ungodly both by confession and life to be admitted to this supper?

People:  No; for by this, the covenant of God would be profaned, and his wrath kindled against the whole congregation; therefore it is the duty of the christian church, according to the appointment of Christ and his apostles, to exclude such persons, by the keys of the kingdom of heaven, till they show amendment of life.

The Song of Rejoicing    Nothing But the Blood

The Prayer of Intercession

The Scripture Reading   Malachi 3:1-5

The Preaching of God’s Word  

The Bringing of Tithes and Offerings

The Response of Praise

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above

The Benediction

Worship June 8 2014

christ_community_worship_smallWe return to Malachi tomorrow morning and pick up with chapter 2 verse 17.  Are we a people who call evil good?  This is the accusation Malachi brings to his audience.  The Gospel is the message of our good God who came to do good for us.  Evil has no place in the kingdom of God and we ought not to cling to it.  Come worship the sovereign Creator with us this Sunday morning as He strengthens us through Word and prayer in corporate worship.

The Song of Ascent     Jesus, I Long for Thee

The Welcome and Greeting

The Call to Worship     Psalm 100

The Prayer of Invocation

The Song of Praise  Jesus the God of Grace

The Prayer of Confession   

(A time of silent confession)

The Promise of Forgiveness: Titus 3:5-6

The Affirmation of Faith       The Heidelberg Catechism Q. 78-79

Leader:  Are then the bread and wine changed into the real body and blood of Christ?

People:  No. Just as the water of baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ and is not the washing away of sins itself but is simply God’s sign and pledge, so also the bread in the Lord’s supper does not become the body of Christ itself, although it is called Christ’s body in keeping with the nature and usage of sacraments.

Leader:  Why then does Christ call the bread His body and the cup His blood, or the new covenant in His blood, and why does Paul speak of a participation in the body and blood of Christ?

People:  Christ speaks in this way for a good reason: He wants to teach us by His supper that as bread and wine sustain us in this temporal life, so His crucified body and shed blood are true food and drink for our souls to eternal life. But, even more important, He wants to assure us by this visible sign and pledge, first, that through the working of the Holy Spirit we share in His true body and blood as surely as we receive with our mouth these holy signs in remembrance of Him, and, second, that all His suffering and obedience are as certainly ours as if we personally had suffered and paid for our sins

The Song of Rejoicing    Be Thou My Vision

The Prayer of Intercession

The Scripture Reading   Malachi 2:17

The Preaching of God’s Word  

The Bringing of Tithes and Offerings

The Response of Praise

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Benediction

May 25 2014 Worship

christ_community_worship_smallWe continue our break from Malachi this week as we have Dr. Frank Barker, Jr. preaching from Romans 1:14-18.  As Christians we have been called and then sent out into the world.  It is a duty and a privilege to serve the Lord.  Let the word of God encourage you this week.  Come worship the sovereign Creator with us this Sunday morning as He strengthens us through Word and prayer in corporate worship.

The Song of Ascent     O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

The Welcome and Greeting

The Call to Worship     Psalm 136:1-3

The Prayer of Invocation

The Song of Praise  Before the Throne of God Above

The Call to Confession     Mark 1:15

The Prayer of Confession   Psalm 139:23-24

All: Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

(A time of silent confession)

The Promise of Forgiveness: 1 Timothy 2:5-6

The Affirmation of Faith       The Heidelberg Catechism Q. 72

Leader:    Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?

People:  Not at all.  For the blood of Jesus Christ only and the Holy Ghost cleanse us from all sin.

Leader:    Why then does the Holy Ghost call baptism “the washing of regeneration,” and “the washing away of sins”?

People:  God speaks in this way not without great cause.  Not only does He teach us that as the filth of the body is purged away by water so our sins are removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ, but especially that by this divine pledge and sign he may assure us that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really as we are externally washed with water.

Leader: Are infants also to be baptized?

People:  Yes: for since they, as well as the adult, are included in the covenant and church of God and since redemption from sin by the blood of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, the author of faith, is promised to them no less than to the adult they must therefore by baptism, as a sign of the covenant, be also admitted into the Christian church; and be distinguished from the children of unbelievers as was done in the old covenant or testament by circumcision, instead of which baptism is instituted in the new covenant.

The Song of Rejoicing    Soon and Very Soon

The Prayer of Intercession

The Scripture Reading   Romans 1:14-18

The Preaching of God’s Word  

Dr. Frank Barker, Jr.
Our Universal Obligation

The Bringing of Tithes and Offerings

The Response of Praise

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, Fill us with the light of day!

The Benediction

May 18 2014 Worship

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We take a break from Malachi this week as we have Matt Redmond preaching on Mark 5:36.  Matt titled the sermon, “Do not fear, only believe.”  I assure you all who come and worship with us this week will be strengthened by the word.  Come worship the sovereign Creator with us this Sunday morning as He strengthens us through Word and prayer in corporate worship.

The Song of Ascent     O Worship the King

The Welcome and Greeting

The Call to Worship     Psalm 66:5

The Prayer of Invocation

The Song of Praise Jesus Lover of My Soul

The Call to Confession     Mark 1:15

The Prayer of Confession   from John 6

All:       Jesus, You are the bread of life.  We come to you that we might not hunger.  We believe in you that we might not thirst.  We feed on You that we might receive eternal life.  Hear and forgive us, we pray, as we confess our sin now.

 (A time of silent confession before God)

The Promise of Forgiveness: Galatians 4:4-7

The Affirmation of Faith       The Heidelberg Catechism Q. 69-71

Leader:    How art you admonished and assured by holy baptism, that the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is of real advantage to you?

People: In this way: That Christ appointed this external washing with water, adding to it this promise, that I am as certainly washed by his blood and Spirit from all the pollution of my soul, that is, from all my sins, as I am washed externally with water, by which the filthiness of the body is commonly washed away.

Leader:    What is it to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ?

People:  It is to receive of God the remission of sins, freely, for the sake of Christ’s blood, which he shed for us by his sacrifice upon the cross; and also to be renewed by the Holy Ghost, and sanctified to be members of Christ, that so we may more and more die unto sin, and lead holy and blameless lives.

Leader:    Where has Christ promised us that he will as certainly wash us by his blood and Spirit as we are washed with the water of baptism?

People: In the institution of baptism, which is expressed in this way: “Go, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” Matthew 28:19. And “he that believes, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that does not believe, shall be damned,” Mark 16:16. This promise is also repeated where the scripture calls baptism “the washing of regeneration” and the washing away of sins in Titus 3:5 and Acts 22:16.

The Song of Rejoicing    How Firm a Foundation

The Prayer of Intercession

The Scripture Reading   Mark 5:36

The Preaching of God’s Word  

Reverend Matt Redmond
Do Not Fear, Only Believe

The Bringing of Tithes and Offerings

The Response of Praise

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Benediction

Mother’s Day 2014

As with most holidays, Mother’s day is driven heavily by economics in today’s world.  This is not to say it isn’t important, but rather that this drive pushes us off the mark of what we ought to be commending and celebrating in women.  The Lord has given each of us a responsibility and on this day we honor those who have been given the role of mother in order to recognize their diligence in persevering in this often difficult work.  Our world is tempting mothers to shirk their responsibilities by calling them to walk away from living out motherhood in a godly manner.  Today we commend those who have sought to honor God in the role He has given them.  While the most godly mother may cry out, “Woe is me the chief of sinners,” when they consider their work as mothers, we ask each of you today to consider yourselves blessed and rejoice that God has given you this great privilege.  When God chooses to give a child to a woman, He also gives the responsibility to love and nurture that child in a manner consistent with the truth He has given us.  To all of those who have persevered in the midst of feeling inferior, incapable, and unworthy, we say thank you and we love you!

This mother’s day we thank each of you who are mothers as you have worked hard doing what often feels mundane yet continuing forward without complaint knowing your full reward will be seen when Christ returns for His own.  We acknowledge your sacrifice and the influence you have had on all of us sitting around you.  Thank you for your service in the kingdom.

We do not simply praise the moms today, though.  Our thanks is also directed to our God through whom all things were made.  We thank Him for making you and for giving you the role of mother.  We thank Him for deciding to propagate mankind through women.  We thank Him for revealing Himself to us through the role of mother.  We thank Him for His great wisdom in making the world a better place to live by providing a helper to Adam who then enabled Him to fulfill God’s command to be fruitful and multiply.

All praise and honor is due to His name, and appreciation, respect and most importantly love is due to all the mother’s who have offered themselves as sacrifices to God as they died to themselves and gave themselves to the Lord through their service to their children and families.  We acknowledge our need for you all to persevere in training your own children and all of the children in the Church in righteousness.  We acknowledge the need for the older mothers to teach and help the younger mothers.  And in all of this we ask the Lord to help you and to give us wisdom of how we might make your roles in the Church easier.

Thank you to all the mothers.  May your day be peaceful and joyful and may your lives be lived to the glory of His gracious name!

May 11 2014 Worship

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Malachi turns his focus on the priests beginning in verse 6 of chapter 1.  They are leading the people astray.  The priesthood and accompanying sacrifices are a shadow of the reality of Christ our intercessor.  The priests were derelict in their duties and their disobedience was displeasing to the Lord.  First and foremost these verses turn our eyes to the perfect spotless sacrificial lamb of Christ.  It then calls us to examines ourselves as we are all a holy and royal priesthood in Christ.  These words speak conviction into our hearts and draw our minds back to God’s statement in Malachi 1:2 when he says, “I have loved you.”

Come worship the sovereign Creator with us this Sunday morning as He strengthens us through Word and prayer in corporate worship.

The Song of Ascent     When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

The Welcome and Greeting

The Call to Worship     Psalm 99:9

The Prayer of Invocation

The Song of Praise  Pearly Gates

The Call to Confession     Hebrews 10:19-22

The Prayer of Confession

All: High and holy God, we are not worthy to approach Your throne, but we come boldly through faith in Christ to confess our sin and seek Your forgiveness.  We have openly sinned against You by not loving our neighbor and idolizing ourselves.  We have sinned in secret in ways too numerous to recount them all to You now. Wash us clean through the blood of Christ, draw near to us, and receive us as beloved children.  We ask this in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ.

 (A time of silent confession before God)

The Promise of Forgiveness: Hebrews 10:10-14

The Affirmation of Faith       The Heidelberg Catechism Q. 65-68

Leader:    Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all his benefits by faith only, from where does this faith proceed?

People:  From the Holy Ghost, who works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel, and confirms it by the use of the sacraments.

Leader:    What are the sacraments?

People: The sacraments are holy visible signs and seals, appointed of God for this end, that by the use thereof, he may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the gospel.  And this is God’s promise: to grant us freely the remission of sin, and life eternal, for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross.

Leader:    Are both word and sacraments, then, ordained and appointed for this end, that they may direct our faith to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, as the only ground of our salvation?

People: Yes, indeed: for the Holy Ghost teaches us in the gospel, and assures us by the sacraments, that the whole of our salvation depends upon that one sacrifice of Christ which he offered for us on the cross.

Leader:    How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the new covenant, or testament?

People:  Two: namely, holy baptism, and the holy supper.

The Song of Rejoicing    There is a Fountain Filled with Blood

An Update from Culchetch   Trace Donahoo

The Prayer of Intercession

The Scripture Reading   Malachi 1:6-2:9

The Preaching of God’s Word

The Bringing of Tithes and Offerings

The Response of Praise

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Benediction

April 27 2014 Worship

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Malachi brings a message from God to Israel.  As we start a series through the book of Malachi, we want to allow the words of the prophet to teach us of the struggles of Israel, refresh us with the promises of God, and move us toward repentance as we see our want of conformity to the law of God reflected in Israel.  The nation has been brought back from captivity and freed to rebuild the temple of God.  The hand of God was clearly moving among the surrounding nations and within their captor, yet the people fall captive to their sinful desires which move them to suppress the truth in unrighteousness leading to disobedience toward God, their Father.

We are no different from Israel in this regard.  We are being built up as living stones into a temple of the living God.  The hand of God has move powerfully to bring redemption to His people through His Son.  His Spirit has called us and renewed us.  We have hope in eternity and yet we continue to be tempted away from Him and His perfect law.  We need the savior that God promised and as we now know has come.  We rejoice in hope that the Lord is renewing us day by day and will finally renew us as we step into eternity.  Read Malachi and let his words convict you and encourage you all at the same time!

Come worship the sovereign Creator with us this Sunday morning as He strengthens us through Word and prayer in corporate worship.

The Song of Ascent     All Who Are Thirsty

The Welcome and Greeting

Leader: May the grace and peace of Christ be with you
People: And also with you

The Call to Worship     Psalm 100

Leader:    Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God!

People: It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Leader:    Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

People: For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

The Prayer of Invocation

The Song of Praise Revelation Song

The Call to Confession     Malachi 1:6-9

The Prayer of Confession

All: Sovereign King, You are righteous, pure and the very definition of perfection.  We, who are made in Your image, have fallen short of Your glory and have failed to offer our whole selves to You without reserve.  We are tempted to keep the best You have given us for ourselves while giving to You what is left over and unwanted.  Rather than honor You as a good Father, we have dishonored Your name by exalting ourselves.  Accept us as Your children on the merit of Christ and Forgive us, we ask, in His name.

 (A time of silent confession before God)

All: Our Father who art heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.

The Promise of Forgiveness: Romans 3:19-24

The Affirmation of Faith       The Heidelberg Catechism Q. 62-64

Leader: But why cannot our good works be the whole, or part of our righteousness before God?

People: Because, that the righteousness, which can be approved of before the tribunal of God, must be absolutely perfect, and in all respects conformable to the divine law; and also, that our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

Leader: What! do not our good works merit, which yet God will reward in this and in a future life?

People: This reward is not of merit, but of grace.

Leader: But does not this doctrine make men careless and profane?

People: By no means: for it is impossible that those, who are implanted into Christ by a true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.

The Song of Rejoicing    The Love of God

The Prayer of Intercession

The Scripture Reading   Malachi 1:1-5

The Preaching of God’s Word

The Bringing of Tithes and Offerings

The Response of Praise

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Benediction

April 20 2014 Worship

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As Mary Magdalene and the others approached the tomb where they had laid Jesus, they had no idea what they were about to find.  They came upon proof that all Jesus had said to them was true.  They may not have understood, but as we look back with the Holy Spirit guiding us, we find that the resurrection of Jesus Christ proves He is the bread of life, the light of the world, the way, the truth, and the life, and everything else that He ever claimed.  He is the only way to the Father and He is the only one able to overcome the power of death.  The resurrection proves it all and those that came to the grave did not grasp that they were passing from shadow to light, but that is exactly what was happening.  The glory of the Father was seen in the resurrection and His almighty power manifest to those in great need.

Come worship the sovereign Creator with us this Sunday morning as He strengthens us through Word and prayer in corporate worship.

The Welcome and Greeting

Leader: Christ has risen!
People: He has risen indeed!
Leader: May the grace and peace of Christ be with you
People: And also with you

The Time of Preparation               from Lk 11&24, Mk 16, and Mt 28

Leader:    Why do you seek the living among the dead?
People:   He is not here, but has risen.
Leader:    You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.
People:   He has risen; he is not here.
Leader:    Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
People:    He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.
Leader:    I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?

The Song of Ascent     Christ the Lord is Risen Today

The Call to Worship     Psalm 30:4-5

The Song of Praise: Crown Him with Many Crowns

The Prayer of Adoration

The Call to Confession     1 John 1:5-10

The Prayer of Confession: 1 Timothy 2:5-6

All:Father, we have sinned and our sin is against You.  We have not loved one another and have failed to draw near to You.  Our sin is great, but we trust that Your love and mercy are greater.  Forgive us, we ask in Your Son’s name.

 (A time of silent confession before God)

All: Our Father who art heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.

The Promise of Forgiveness: John 11:25

The Song of Rejoicing      Amazing Love

The Affirmation of Faith       The Heidelberg Catechism Q. 59-61

Leader:    But what does it profit you now that you believe all this?

People:  That I am righteous in Christ, before God, and an heir of eternal life.

Leader:    How are you righteous before God?

People:  Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, of never having kept any of them, and of still being inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without any merit of my own out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, and as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is accept this gift with a believing heart.

Leader:    Why do you say that through faith alone you are righteous?

People: Not that I am acceptable to God, on account of the worthiness of my faith; but because only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, is my righteousness before God; and that I cannot receive and apply the same to myself any other way than by faith only.

The Song of Affirmation     In Christ Alone

The Scripture Reading: John 16:16-22; John 20:1-18

The Preaching of God’s Word

The Bringing of Tithes and Offerings

The Response of Praise

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Benediction

April 13 2014 Sermon

I do not typically type out the full text for a sermon, but I did that for yesterday’s sermon.  Since I have the full text rather that just an outline, it makes sense to post it here for others to read if they so desire.  The full text is below.

INTRODUCTION

Christian in “Pilgrim’s Progress” met all sorts of temptations.  Each temptation was an attack on his belief in what the evangelist told him.  The messenger told Christian where to go to relieve the burden he carried, but Mr. Worldly Wisdom and Mr. Legalism offered other ways in which he might release his burden.  Christian’s only real option, though, was to heed the direction of Mr. Evangelist.

CLAIM OF CHRIST EXAMINED

When Jesus says He is the way, the truth and the life, He is claiming to be the only path on which we might go where our burden of sin might be lifted.  Our guilt is removed only as we walk THE path, namely Christ.  And we walk this path by believing in Him.  Why must we believe IN HIM?  Simply because He is THE TRUTH.  He is not a messenger of truth.  He is not A truth, but He is the essence of all truth.  The world was made through Him.  “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.”  “All things were made through Him and without Him was not any thing made that was made” He upholds the world today as always.  The only way to navigate the path (the way) is to believe TRUTH.  He is not merely a means to a good life.  He is not a merely a supplier of needs.  He IS LIFE.  Without Christ, Life does not exist. If Christ pulls back His breath from us, we die.  If Christ so desires, we cease to exist.  These things are hard for our finite minds to fathom.  Paul uses the words of Isaiah to explain the mystery of God’s grace when he says (1 Cor 2:9) “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”  These words explain the mystery of the wisdom Paul was bringing.  It was not a wisdom understood by the world.  It was the secret and hidden wisdom of God.  And it was good.  And it IS good.  And it is for US to know and believe.  Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but by Him.  But for all that do come by faith through Christ to the Father, no imagination on earth that can capture rightly what God has waiting for them.  This majestic and beautiful existence that God has prepared is spoken of by Christ when He says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself that where I am you may be also.”

The Christian message is one of hope that we might one day live eternally in the good favor of the Creator of everything that we know (as “existence”). We hold fast to hope that, although we have gravely offended Him by sinning against Him and have come to deserve His punishment (justly and rightly), we will one day have this awesome, eternal and immovable burden lifted from us by the one who has the power to raise the dead.  The one who claims to be the only path to the Father and the very essence of truth and reality also claims to be THE life that we all long to have.  We long for peace, eternity, joy and satisfaction, and Christ claims to be the one through whom we can have all of this.

All too often we say with Peter, (Jn 13:37) “I will lay down my life for you,” as we seek to follow Christ.  It is Christ who laid down His life for us.  Yes, our faith moves us to lay down the passions of the flesh and live for eternity, but only after we first believe in Christ, who went to the cross for us.  The problem with Peter’s statement is found in Thomas’ question, (14:5) “Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?”  Jesus IS the way, the truth and the life.  He is not leading us anywhere, but we are being carried along IN Him.  Consider Noah.  His faith brought about the Ark.  Had he not believed God, the Ark would not have been.  Had God not helped Noah and provided for him, the ark would have ceased to exist.  Now when the storms came, Noah and his family were carried along by the Ark which was guided by God to the resting spot on the top of the mountain.  The Ark was not something Noah followed, but it WAS the way.  Noah got in and was carried along to safety.  Christ is THE WAY.  Those who are IN CHRIST, are assured that the storms of God’s wrath will not bear down to destruction upon us, but rather we will be carried through safely.  Just as the Ark took the brunt of the winds and water, Jesus has taken the wrath of God on our behalf.  He IS THE WAY.  He IS THE TRUTH.  As Noah found favor in the eyes of God, he was brought to safety through his faith in God.  His faith was not a good work that earned God’s favor.  Noah had found favor in God’s eyes even before he built the ark.  He found favor while the hearts of men were “only evil continually.”  After they exited the ark, the hearts of men were still only evil continually.  The condition of mankind had not changed, but Noah’s safety was brought about by God because God had chosen Noah for this purpose.

HOW DO WE EXPERIENCE LIFE

We, the Church, are God’s chosen people for salvation.  We who are here today are here because God wants us to hear about THE WAY and the TRUTH so that we might know LIFE.  So, then, how do we experience LIFE.  How do those of us who believe react to these words of Christ?  We see more information about who Christ is in John 15:5.  Christ says, “I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  What fruit?  Truth.  Life. Continuing IN the PATH (Christ) that leads to the day in which our burden (Sin) is finally and fully lifted.  Christian, in the Pilgrim’s progress, met many antagonists and they were all ultimately challenging his faith.  We, as Christians, will meet the same challenges, and we must abide in Christ.  This is how we experience life!

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ABIDE IN CHRIST

What does it mean to abide in Christ?  Consider the vine.  Psalm 80:8 speaks to Israel as God’s vine that He planted when it says, “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.“  God planted them as a vineyard and expected excellent fruit.  Fruit like the juicy, sweet, and ripe grape that bursts in your mouth.  The grape that makes the sweetest wine.  The grape that comes from the perfect vine. God cared for His vineyard with excellence, (9) “You cleared the ground for it;” and His vineyard prospered, (9-11) “it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. It sent out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River.”  Interestingly, in the end, God allowed His cultivating work to be laid to waste (12), “Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?”  Why?  Isaiah 5:4-6 gives us the answer. God had indeed cared perfectly for His vineyard, Israel, (4) “What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it?”  Yet it did not yield the juicy sweet grapes that burst forth flavor into your mouth.  It failed to yield grapes appropriate to the perfect vine and the perfect vinedresser, (4) “When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?”  Therefore, God, the vinedresser removed His cultivating hands, (5-6) “And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.”  Do not be confused, though, Israel did not fail to live up to God’s expectations causing Him to reverse the original course He planned for them.  Israel did precisely what God planned.  Israel proved out what God told us in Noah.  The indictment of Genesis 6:5, “that every intention of the thoughts of (man’s) heart was only evil continually” is repeated after the flood so as to ensure we understand that Noah was not exempt from the state of misery (sin), but that He was simply chosen by God for a purpose.  Israel’s purpose was to reveal man’s need of redemption and to bring us the savior.  The nation of Israel accomplished both tasks.  Israel is NOT the WAY and they do not embody the full essence of TRUTH nor do they bring life.  But they did birth the ONE who gives all of these things to us, and that was God’s purpose for them.  Abiding in Christ, then, is to feed off of Him as our vine and produce the fruit that comes from Him.  Abiding in Christ is to live out the purpose God has for us joyfully. As we abide in Christ, we will burst forth with the fruit of the vine to which we are connected.  We will produce the, “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (eph 2:10)

THE BENEFITS OF ABIDING IN CHRIST

Now the vineyard of God was destroyed because it failed to produce the fruit of TRUTH.  It failed to produce the fruit of LIFE.  It failed to produce the fruit of a pathway to God.  And God knew this would be its end; thus, He promised a savior and this Savior came in the person of Jesus Christ.  We go to the Father through the WAY, Jesus Christ, by faith.  Faith is a gift from God and through it we find TRUTH and LIFE.  So, then, Christ is the vine to which we have been engrafted.  He is our source of LIFE.  The Fruit we bear flows out of faith, which, remember, is a gift from God.  As our faith deepens, the TRUTH of reality that Christ brings becomes more cherished and the LIFE we await becomes more real.  All of this begins to change who we are on this earth.  It begins to change how we view the family and the relationship between wife, husband, and children.  It begins to alter our view of work, of wealth, of social status, of friendships, and especially of our purpose.  This is why I was once told that a Christian will never look back over the last 10 years of his or her life and say nothing much has changed.  Faith in Christ as the way, the truth and the life, brings us into contact with the source of perfect fruit.  The juiciest grapes in existence come from Christ, the vine, and our fruit comes from our abiding IN Him.  Our baptism symbolizes exactly this.  It is a sign and seal of our engrafting into Christ.  We are united with Him in baptism, and when our faith is manifest, we have confidence that our baptism has produced fruit.  The Lord’s supper is a sign and seal of the promises of Christ intended to strengthen our faith and keep us walking along the path that we set out on in Christ.  Christian came upon struggles, but he had help along the way.  We also find struggles along the way, and God brings help through the sacraments, through prayer and through the word and through fellow Christians as we minister to each other with these gifts of God.  He also brings help through His Holy Spirit living within each of us.  Faith, then, is not a one-time act.  Justification is a one-time act of God brought to us through Faith, but faith that justifies is living and continues and is held firm by the One who began a good work in each of us.  As our faith deepens, we begin to believe and understand more of what Christ was telling the Apostles.  He wanted to lift their eyes to see the Kingdom of God and to show them that this life is temporary.  A deeper faith leads to life change and our life on this earth begins to yield to TRUTH, which points us to life in the kingdom.  The joys of this world fade as the glories of eternity reign supreme.  And as this happens, you know you have been abiding in Christ and that you have been experiencing the earthly benefit of abiding in Christ.  It is a privilege and a joy to grow in our belief of the not yet fully revealed Kingdom of God.

THE CHALLENGE OF ABIDING IN CHRIST

The pilgrim, Christian, met many adversaries to his faith much as we do.  Every single interaction we have with this world will challenge our faith.  This is why we are often warned to guard our ears and be wary of the images our eyes see.  We are cautioned to filter the music we listen to and to place limits on the movies we find acceptable to watch.  Every single input into our minds that is not expressly proclaiming the truth of Scripture is a challenge to believe something other than Christ.  Everything has a message.  Everything is calling us to heed its ways.  Some messages are explicit and easier to guard against, but others are subtle, hidden, and even devious. Some of these messages bring more forceful challenges to our feeble minds than others.  Many creep in unnoticed and affect us over lengthy periods of time.  This is where the American Church stands today.  We have slowly walked a “safe” distance behind society without noticing the length we have traveled away from the TRUTH.  The call from Christ is to look to Him as THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE.  The call from Christ is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds using our bodies as a living sacrifice to Him.  So, yes, He does call us to lay down our lives for Him, but only after we have seen and believed that His sacrifice is the WAY to the Father. Let the means of God’s grace transform you.  Do not neglect them, but rather allow God to strengthen your faith in Him through them (Word, Prayer, & Sacrament).  Abiding in Christ is something we do.  It is a hard work.  It is a life long work.  It is not a life producing work, but it is a faith deepening and sustaining work. Draw near to Christ and He will draw near to you.  Work at walking in THE PATH.  Work hard to immerse your mind in THE TRUTH.  And work hard at being ALIVE to Christ and dead to this world.  And in doing all of this, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Next week, we look at the resurrection.  Christ, walked the pathway of the Cross and became our WAY, and He opened the doorway to heaven for us through the resurrection.  Come next week and worship the Creator of the Universe with us as He strengthens our faith through prayer and His word as we look to the resurrected Christ.

April 13 2014 Worship

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Jesus in His claim to be the way, the truth and the life provides a powerful reply to Peter and Thomas who deeply want to follow Christ wherever it is that He goes.  Their vision is limited and earthly, but Christ is speaking in terms of the kingdom of God.  He is speaking in terms of true reality. Jesus is the Christ.  He is THE truth.  The idea behind this word is that of not being hidden.  The absence of hiddenness.  There is nothing hidden from Christ or in Christ because He is the very essence of life.  He is the pathway to the Father because He was in the beginning and is God.  All things are upheld by Him and without Him nothing exists.  He entered into the Holy of Holies and is our pathway into the presence of the Father.  Through Christ we know the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

Christ is also presented as the true vine.  It is not association with some earthly nation or religion, but association with the true Vine (Jesus Christ) that provides the fruit necessary to please the Creator of the universe.  Those who are in Christ join together and worship the true Creator as Christians in the Church, but we must always remember, it is Christ, our Head, that earned our salvation, shows us the Father, and leads us to Him in peace.  The majesty of our God is made known as we realize all of this is given to us through faith in Christ.  As He strengthens our faith through the Word, prayer, and sacraments, our joy in this life increases because we see the kingdom of God more clearly.  We no longer proclaim with Peter, “I will lay down my life for you,” but we shout, “Thank you, Lord Jesus, for laying down Your life for me!”

Come worship the sovereign Creator with us this Sunday morning as He strengthens us through Word and prayer in corporate worship.

The Song of Ascent: Come Boldly to the Throne of Grace

The Call to Worship: Psalm 95:1-7

Leader: Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;

People: Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

Leader: Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; Let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

People: In His hands are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.

Leader: Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is ourGod

People: And we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

The Song of Praise: Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

The Call to Confession: Malachi 3:6-7 & Numbers 23:19

Leader: “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.”

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

The Prayer of Confession: 1 Timothy 2:5-6

All: Holy Lord, we have sinned times without number, and have been guilty of pride and unbelief.  We have failed to find Your mind in Your Word, and neglected to seek You in our daily lives.  Please forgive us.  Thank You for laying our sin on Christ rather than counting it against us.

 (A time of silent confession before God)

The Promise of Forgiveness: Colossians 1:13-14

Leader: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

The Affirmation of Faith       The Heidelberg Catechism Q. 57-58

Leader: What comfort does the “resurrection of the body” give you?

People: That not only my soul after this life shall be immediately taken up to Christ its head; but also, that this my body, being raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul, and made like unto the glorious body of Christ.

Leader: What comfort do you take from the words “life everlasting”?

People: That since I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, after this life, I shall inherit perfect salvation, which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man” to conceive, and that to praise God therein for ever.

The Song of Rejoicing: The Christian’s Hope Can Never Fail

The Scripture Reading: John 14:1-6; 15:5

The Preaching of God’s Word

The Bringing of Tithes and Offerings

The Response of Praise

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Benediction