We are now into the season of Lent, which is the period of preparation before Easter. I will be talking more about this season and ways that we can observe it in the coming weeks, but for now, I will say that it is what Advent is to Christmas: a time for us to prepare our hearts to be able to fully celebrate Christ's glorious resurrection during the Easter season.
This Sunday, we will be talking about hope; specifically, the hope that we have in Christ. Pastor John will be preaching from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, which talks quite a bit about the Second Coming of the Lord, and our hope in Christ and his return fulfilled. As we will see on Sunday, this is a hope that is certain, and that, just as we know that Christ died and was raised from the dead, and just as he ascended into heaven, we can place our hope in him, knowing that he will one day return to take his Church to be with him forever. For our Song of Ascent this week, we will be singing "Rejoice, the Lord is King," in which we affirm the truth that Christ is reigning as King in heaven. The last verse of the hymn especially is very appropriate for our service this week when it says "Rejoice in glorious hope! Our Lord, the Judge, shall come, and take his servants up to their eternal home."
For our Hymn of Praise this week, we will be singing Psalm 97. It is a wonderful psalm in which we praise God for his creative acts, the fact that he is God above all gods, and that he keeps all of his righteous saints secure even in trials. In a week where we will be looking to our eternal hope in Christ, what better way to affirm this hope than by praising God for his unwavering glory, holiness, and deliverance of his people?
Our Hymn of Rejoicing will be a repeat of the hymn we sang last week. We are learning the hymn "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" as a congregation over the next couple of months. This is a hymn whose text dates back to the end of the 11th century. Not only that, but the arrangement of the hymn was composed by none other than J. S. Bach himself. So, even if the content of the hymn were not excellent, it would still be a worthwhile hymn to sing for its historical and musical significance. However, hymns do not last such a long time unless their content is combined with such a rich heritage, and such is the case here. The text describes in heartbreaking beauty the depths to which Christ went and suffered out of his love for his elect, and our resolve to live our lives for Christ in gratitude and love for the fact that we have been redeemed.
I could think of no better hymn to sing for our Hymn of Response than "My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less." Our hope in Christ is featured strongly throughout the hymn, and the last verse speaks of our being with him forever when he comes again. After hearing a sermon about our eternal hope in Christ, what better way to resolve to apply what we know to be true in our lives than by declaring "on Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand." In a world that is filled with so much uncertainty, change, and hopelessness, what joy is ours to know that we belong to and worship a God who is a Solid Rock, who never changes, and who offers us eternal hope and security in his Son!
Sermon: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Old Testament Reading: Job 19:23-29
New Testament Reading:  1 Corinthians 15:12-19
Hymns: Song of Ascent - "Rejoice the Lord Is King" (Trinity Hymnal, 310, verses 1, 2, & 5)
              Hymn of Praise - Psalm 97
              Hymn of Rejoicing - "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" (Trinity Hymnal, 247)
              Hymn of Response - "My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less" (Trinity Hymnal, 521)
In addition, we will also have a very special treat, in that one of our members, Lee Krehbiel, will be playing the bagpipes for our offertory this week!

Soli Deo Gloria!

As Pastor John mentioned in last week's sermon, one of the gifts that Christ has given His church as the ordinary means of grace are the sacraments, and this coming Sunday, we will be observing the sacrament of baptism. Because of this, John will be taking a break from 1 Thessalonians, and we will be spending the service looking at, thinking on, and worshipping God for the promises that are made to children of the covenant. 
For the Song of Ascent, we will be singing "You Holy Angels Bright." I chose this hymn because it speaks several times not only of our need to worship God because He has bought us with His blood, but also it speaks many times of our call to worship collectively as a body, which we are called to do as a covenant of believers. Then, for our Hymn of Praise, we will sing our psalm for this week, which will be the first eight verses of Psalm 78. The fifth, sixth, and seventh verses of this psalm speak of the law being given to Israel, and the instruction that it be passed down and taught to subsequent generations, as part of God's covenant with Israel, so that the nation would continue to obey His commands and worship Him. These three verses will be the Old Testament reading for this week, and as I usually like to do when a psalm is read, I wanted us to affirm what we will have just heard by singing God's Word back to Him in praise.
For the Hymn of Rejoicing, I chose the hymn "Jesus Paid It All." One of the things that we will look at in the sermon this week is that children of the covenant are sinners, and this hymn has beautiful language to describe our utter dependence upon Christ for our salvation. One verse says that it is God's power and God's alone that can save us, one verse says "For nothing good have I whereby thy grace to claim," and even the chorus reminds us that it is God who washes our sins white as snow. 
After the sermon, we will sing a hymn that we have sung the last couple of times that we have had baptisms as our Hymn of Preparation, and I think it may not ever have been more fitting than it is this time. It speaks of God gathering His children safely into his bosom, that he holds them in the palm of His hand always, that He shows them grace, knows their sorrows, will never forsake them, and will preserve them in holiness. It is a beautifully tender hymn that will will serve as a beautiful set up for observing the sacrament of baptism. After the baptism, we will sing our usual hymn of response, "Wonder of Wonders, Here Revealed." In addition, the choir will be singing a setting of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," in keeping with the baptismal theme.
Sermon: Genesis 17:9-10a
Old Testament Reading: Psalm 78:5-7
New Testament Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:14
Hymns: Song of Ascent - "You Holy Angels Bright" (Trinity Hymnal, 18; verses 1, 4, 5, & 7)
              Hymn of Praise - Psalm 78 (verses 1-8)
              Hymn of Rejoicing - "Jesus Paid It All" (Trinity Hymnal, 308; verses 1-3)
              Hymn of Preparation - "Children of the Heavenly Father" (Trinity Hymnal, 131; verses 1, 3, & 5)

Soli Deo Gloria!

The beautiful, yet astonishing, thing about being called and redeemed by God is that in His love for us, He allows us to take part in sharing His gospel with the world. God calls and instructs us to share the good news of salvation not because He needs us, but because he wants to involve us in sharing the good news of salvation to every person that we can. It is this sacred calling that we will be examining and focusing our hearts and minds upon during this Sunday's service.

It's hard to believe that we're already through the first month of the year, yet this Sunday will be the first Sunday in February! Being the first Sunday of the month, we will be observing the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, so Pastor John will be taking a break from our series on 1 & 2 Thessalonians and will be preaching instead from the book of Exodus. We will be looking at God's provision for the Israelites in the desert, and our call to remember God's provision for us in Christ.
For our Song of Ascent, we will be singing the hymn "Holy, Holy, Holy." I thought it would be good to begin the service with one of the great Trinitarian hymns of the faith that declares God to be holy and sovereign over all things . And as the hymn says, "though the darkness hide thee," we can still know and trust God to be who He has revealed to us in His Word. The hymn says that "all thy works shall praise thy name," and so, those who believe and trust on God and His provision, sing as we gather, in Christ, to worship Him.
For our Hymn of Praise, we will be singing our psalm for the week, which will be the same selection as will be read for the Old Testament reading. It is the same story that will be in this week's sermon, but from a psalmist's perspective. We will sing of how the Israelites left Egypt and were provided for by God in the desert. 
For our Hymn of Rejoicing, I chose one of my personal favorites, "Before the Throne of God Above." This is one that comes to my mind whenever I think about remembering God's perfect provision in Christ for my sinful nature. It reminds us that even "when Satan tempts me to despair" we can look to God "who made an end of all my sin." As a Hymn of Rejoicing, it is perfect because the entire hymn is one of thanksgiving to God for redemption.
Sermon: Exodus 17:1-7
Old Testament Reading: Psalm 105:35-49
New Testament Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-4
Hymns: Song of Ascent - "Holy, Holy, Holy" (Trinity Hymnal, 100; verses 1, 3, & 4)
              Hymn of Praise - Psalm 105 (vs. 23-29, 38-45)
              Hymn of Rejoicing - "Before the Throne of God Above"
              Hymn of Preparation - "Amidst Us Our Beloved Stands (Trinity Hymnal, 427; verses 1-3)
Suffering. It's a topic that we don't really like to think about too much, let alone talk about. None of us, myself included, enjoy the inconvenience and heartache that suffering brings. And even if we are not ourselves suffering at the moment, we still don't like to think about it, because we either know too many people who are dealing with their own struggles, or else it serves as a reminder to us that although we might not be suffering now, it is usually not too far down the road. It can be hard for us to grapple and come to terms with a verse like James 1:2 which tells us to "count it all joy" when we face trials, even though verses 3 and 4 right after it remind us that suffering is a vital part of our sanctification. But no matter how uncomfortable, how hard, how heartbreaking and gut-wrenching suffering might be, it does conform us to the image of Christ, and it is used by God for our good and His glory. However, the truth of God's power and sovereignty over suffering is true whether I happen to feel it on a particular day or not. He always works His purposes out in and through our circumstances, making us more like Himself in the process. And so, as counter-intuitive as it may seem at times, we worship God and and learn how to faithfully use our suffering as a testimony to God's faithfulness, even as we are in the midst of hardship.