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The Absurd Improbability Of Life Before Death (via Stephen Freeman)

Stephen Freeman writes about a perspective on life that resonates with the current study of Ecclesiastes that we’re doing at MGPC.
It may be existential despair, but it points to the one in whom there is no despair:

Our life is fragile and exists only as a precious gift. We have no existence in-and-of-ourselves and are thus utterly and completely contingent beings. This rather obvious conclusion has been frequently reinforced over the course of my life and ministry. I have buried hundreds of people. Death is a fact of life. However, our culture maintains a pretense and delusion of self-existence, even imagining that we somehow invent ourselves. It is a good marketing strategy as we sell mounds of trash for people to use in their efforts of self-definition.
I do not despair of life and existence itself, except in the sense that it is anything other than pure gift. As such, to stand at the edge of the abyss of non-existence seems to me to be among the sanest efforts ever undertaken. We cannot possibly understand who and what we are until we also consider the fact of our death.
God is the “Lord and Giver of Life,” and not just the “Lord and Giver of Life after Death.” Those who struggle to believe that there might be such a thing as life after death have failed to ponder just how absurdly improbable life before death truly is. Our existence shouts the reality of a Giver of Life – all life. Our non-existence proclaims the emptiness of any claims to the contrary. I hope in God. In Him, there is no despair. But only in Him.

Read the post here.


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A Time For Everything, Eternity In Our Hearts, And The Lesson Of The Difference Between Humanity And God (via Barry Webb)

Barry Webb writes about two of the popularly known expressions found in the third chapter of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes – the ‘every season’ section and the ‘eternity in the hearts of men’ section that follows it.
In doing so he demonstrates that whenever you read something in Ecclesiastes and feel a sentimental response you’re probably reading it wrongly.
Ecclesiastes looks at life without a filter so that the reader can think about what it is that truly endures.
From Webb:

… the idea of God as the sovereign disposer of human fortunes. This issue is brought into sharp focus in chapter 3 in terms of the ‘times’ of human life (3:1-8)
Here the question of the profitability of human toil is taken up afresh in a much more explicitly theological context. The ‘time to die,’ which writes heḇel over everything, is a time determined by God. But so are all the other times of human life. This means that the worker is never in control, and can never, strictly speaking, achieve anything (3:39). It is God’s work, not his, that has enduring significance, and that is something he can neither contribute to nor understand (3:11, 14). The ‘ôlām (‘eternity’) in the human heart in 3:11 is best understood in terms of what immediately follows in the second half of that verse. It is a God-given awareness that there is something more than the particulars, an overarching scheme of things determined by God: ‘all that God has done from beginning to end’. The burden under which the human labourer toils is of knowing that this greater reality exists, without ever being able to see it clearly as God does. And this frustration is deliberately imposed by God so that human beings will always be able to recognize the difference between themselves and their Maker and defer to him: ‘God has done it so that men will revere him’ (3:14)

Barry G Webb, Five Festal Garments, Apollos, 2000, pg 94


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A Few Words (preparing for MGPC 4/11/18)

Song: Saviour Of The World
Welcome:
Call to Worship
Song: This I Believe
Prayer Of Confession
Song: For All The Saints
Affirming our Faith: New City Catechism 27
Song: Now To The King Of Heaven
Bible Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 – The Apostle Paul explains the certainty of Christian suffering and prays for the Thessalonians’ growth in love and holiness.
Bible Memorisation: Ecclesiastes 5:10
Song: Praise The Lord, Let All Within Me
Bible Reading: Ecclesiastes 5: 1-7
Sermon: A Few Words
Song: All Who Would Valiant Be
Announcements:
Pastoral Prayer:
Closing Blessing
Song: Your Love So High


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Ten Bible Passages For Severe Illness (via Kathryn Butler)

This article by Kathryn Butler at Desiring God features ten Bible verses/passages that speak of the presence of God’s love to those who are suffering.
It is helpful in encouraging Christians to remember these verses for their own encouragement, and also, of course, to share with others.
It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a helpful start.
Five are from Psalms and five are from the New Testament.

PSALM 46:1–3
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”
2 CORINTHIANS 4:16–18
“Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Read the whole article here.


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On The Public Reading Of Scripture (via Stephen Presley)

In addition to reading the section of the Bible on which that week’s sermon is based, at MGPC we also sequentially read about one chapter a week from another book of the Bible.
We do this as an application of the exhortation for the Scriptures to be read publicly, and as a recognition that the Bible is not dependent on someone to explain it in order to be understood.
I’ve observed before about the way in which churches that pride themselves on being Bible believing can have less Bible read during their services than churches that seeming have departed from orthodox expressions of the Christian faith.
Stephen Presley writes about the way in which has followed the injunction to read the Bible when the church gathers.

The New Testament, though, gives clear apostolic directives to read Scripture publicly. The Apostle Paul, for example, charges his disciple Timothy to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13, ESV). He also commands the church at Colossae to read his letter and then pass it on to the church at Laodicea (Colossians 4:16). The Apostle John urges the public reading of his revelation when he writes, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear…” (Revelation 1:3, ESV).
Following these examples and exhortations, the early church has always prized the public reading of Scripture. They could not image a worship service without some one reading healthy portions of Scripture drawn from across the canon. The thought that a pastor might read only a few verses (or no verses at all!) and then entertain the congregation for forty minutes with funny stories and pop culture references would strike them as bizarre at best.
On the contrary, the early church believed that the regular encounter with the word of God through corporate Scripture reading was one of the most spiritually formative acts for the people of God.
In the early church, public Scripture reading was also not a mundane exercise done out of obligation, but a vital part of the church’s corporate worship and they thought carefully about (among other things) the passages that were read, the character of reader, and the style of reading.

Read the whole post here.


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Better Together (preparing for MGPC 28/10/18)

Song: The Love Of The Father
Welcome:
Call to Worship
Song: In Christ Alone
Prayer Of Confession
Song: Jesus, Keep Me Near The Cross
Affirming our Faith: New City Catechism 26
Song: Now To The King Of Heaven
Bible Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5 – The Apostle Paul explains the certainty of Christian suffering in the context of his desire to minister to the Thessalonian’s needs.
Bible Memorisation: Ecclesiastes 3:11
Song: And Can It Be
Bible Reading: Ecclesiastes 4: 1-16
Sermon: Better Together
Song: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Announcements:
Pastoral Prayer:
Closing Blessing
Song: Man of Sorrows


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Time For Everything (preparing for MGPC 21/10/18)

Song: From The Day
Welcome:
Call to Worship
Song: Saviour Of the World
Prayer Of Confession
Song: How Firm A Foundation
Affirming our Faith: New City Catechism 25
Song: Now To Him Who Loved Us
Bible Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 – The Apostle Paul defends his ministry in Thessalonica employing four metaphors: steward, father, mother, herald.
Bible Memorisation: Ecclesiastes 3:11
Song: My Soul Bless The Lord
Bible Reading: Ecclesiastes 3: 1-22
Sermon: Time For Everything
Song: Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
Announcements:
Pastoral Prayer:
Closing Blessing
Song: No Other Name