Sunday – December 3, 2017 Gospel of Luke – “Ending the Silence” Luke 1:5-38

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Luke 1:13-15
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.”

Have you ever prayed for something over and over again, year in and year out, but God has not answered? I hope that you can answer yes, because if you say no, it only shows that you are not a praying person. If you pray, you have prayed for things that God has not yet answered. One unanswered prayer that every committed Christian should be praying is that God would send revival to our country. It is as of yet unanswered because nothing that is being described as revival today even comes close to the many examples of true revival that God has sent in times past. True revival is not a matter of hanging a banner in front of the church that announces, “Revival This Week, 7 p.m.” True revival is not a superficial, emotional response that results in a temporary experience, but without long-term fruit of righteousness.

True revival is when the living God sovereignly and powerfully breaks into human history with the good news of His salvation. It invariably begins with His people coming under deep conviction of sin and turning from that sin in genuine repentance. It always involves a recovery of biblical truth, especially the truth about how sinners are reconciled to a holy God. Therefore, it also involves a recovery of the centrality and authority of God’s Word over all of life. The renewed sense of God’s presence, power, holiness, and truth then inevitably spills out of the church and into the world, resulting in many genuine conversions.

When God sends revival, He also sends great joy. The angel announced to Zecharias that he would have joy and gladness at John’s birth, and that many would rejoice (1:14). They were not just rejoicing at the birth of the child, but at what this child would bring — good news of a great joy for all the people, the news of the Savior (1:19; 2:10). Sin always causes pain and destruction; God’s salvation and righteousness result in great joy and gladness as relationships are reconciled.

There were no extraordinary means employed, no special campaigns, but rather the normal means of prayer and the preaching of the Word. But suddenly God broke into the midst of churches so that people who before had been complacent were now gripped with the reality of eternity and everyone sensed that in deed, God was in this place. We need to pray that God would graciously send us such a visitation of His saving grace. And, we need to prepare ourselves to welcome the Lord Himself into our midst.

Sunday – November 19, 2017 Thanksgiving Message

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Psalm 71:14-16
But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your salvation all day long; for I do not know the sum of them. I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone.”

If you are like me (and I suspect that most of you are), you’ve got a lot of room to grow in the daily practice of praising the Lord. A great way to grow in the praise of God is to read and meditate on the Psalms every day. In Psalm71, the psalmist acknowledged, “my praise is continually of You.” You would think that continual praise of the Lord would be adequate. But he goes on to say in verse 14 “But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.” If the psalmist needed to resolve to praise the Lord yet more and more, how much more do we?

Maybe you’re thinking, “But I don’t have a bubbly personality. I’m not the type who goes around saying, ‘Praise the Lord’ all the time.” But praising the Lord doesn’t mean repeating, “Praise the Lord,” over and over. Rather, praising the Lord is to exult and rejoice in who God is and what He has done, especially, in what He has done to redeem you and draw you near to Him through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Genuine praise contains both a rational and an emotional element. With our minds, we must understand who God is, as revealed in His Word. Otherwise, we are not worshiping the true God, or at least, God as He is truly revealed. But, also, when you understand who God is and what He has done in sending His only begotten Son to die for your sins, it affects your heart. It fills you with joy and thankfulness. It humbles you to realize that your sin put Him there. It motivates you to follow Christ and please Him with all your heart. If you can think about what Jesus did on the cross and shrug it off, you’re not a Christian!

My prayer is that we understand this Thanksgiving more than we ever have that praising God is not optional. It’s not something nice to do whenever you feel like it, but it doesn’t really matter. Rather, praising God is our highest calling. If you are not continually filled with praise to God, then you are not yet fulfilling the purpose for which He created you and saved you. Today, let us join the psalmist in resolving, “But as for me, I will … praise You yet more and more.” (Psalm 71:14)

Sunday – November 12, 2017 Series Week Nine: “The Heart of a New Testament Church”

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Nine: “The Heart of a New Testament Church”

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Ezekiel 36:26-28
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

It is true that we cannot “have it our way” when it comes to church, but rather we must function in ways that are consistent with sound doctrine, and which are obedient to the principles and commands of Scripture, illustrated by apostolic practice. We have been given certain terms like elders and deacons, and we have seen how the early church functioned. But let us not err by concluding that being a New Testament church is primarily a matter of terms and forms. The essence of a New Testament church is more a matter of the heart.

The New Testament church is made up of those whose sins have been covered and atoned for by the shed blood of Jesus, and who now have hearts of flesh, rather than hearts of stone. The New Testament church is one in which the Spirit of God dwells, empowering Christians to play their unique role in the body of Christ so that our Lord now ministers to the world through His body, the church. We can use all the right terms and have all the right forms and traditions, but fail to be a New Testament church because we lack hearts that are filled with faith, hope, and love – not to mention many other attitudes that should characterize the Christian (like humility, servanthood, joy, and thanksgiving). This is why a church may not have all the right terminology or just the right forms, but may nevertheless manifest the life of Jesus.

A New Testament church manifests Christ to the world. Through the presence and power of Christ, the church ministers to itself and then to the world. Thus, the church is not just about principles and procedures, but about people, people who have come to faith in Jesus Christ, who have been joined to the church, and who are divinely indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit. A New Testament church has New Testament life and power. It not only carries on the work of Christ, it manifests His character. The heart of a New Testament Christian (and a New Testament church) is the work of God’s Spirit, the outworking of the New Covenant inaugurated by the shed blood of our Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary. It all begins with Jesus, just as it ends with Him. I pray that you have trusted in Him, and thus have become a part of His church.

Sunday – November 5, 2017 Series Week Eight: “Are Women Second Class Citizens?” Part 2

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Seven: “Are Women Second Class Citizens?” Part 2

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2 Corinthians 11:3-4
“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

There are other goals that are essential for Christians, but the one I would like to deal with is that of sincere and simple devotion to God, or as the nearness of God (as Asaph expressed it in Psalm 73:28). In our series on how we serve church, we are faced with what we perceive as a very important question: Is public “egalitarian” ministry necessary for intimate fellowship with God? Put differently, are women hindered from intimacy with God by being denied certain church leadership roles designated for men?

The Corinthian saints were all too eager to follow new leaders and their teaching – teaching which turned them away from Christ to pursue so-called “wisdom.” Paul likens the situation to the fall of humanity in the Book of Genesis. There Satan deceived Eve, offering her wisdom (the knowledge of good and evil) that was to be achieved by disobedience to God’s command. While Satan promised Eve they would be “like God,” he did not inform her that this act of disobedience would disrupt their relationship with God. The intimacy with God known initially in the Garden of Eden would be lost. We knew that as soon as Eve and her husband ate of the forbidden fruit they sought to hide themselves from God and soon they would be cast out of the garden, never to return in their lifetime.

Satan’s scheme is to keep people from what is best by tempting them with some lesser thing which appears to be good and desirable, but which is a forbidden fruit. When we think of the Garden of Eden we tend to think of the one tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – and less of all the other trees, from which Adam and Eve could freely eat. But we should remember that there were two trees in the center of the garden: (1) the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and (2) the tree of life. By focusing Adam and Eve’s attention on the forbidden tree and its fruit, Satan caused them to lose sight of the most important tree of all – the tree of life. Satan seeks to keep our eyes off what is best, what is most important – serving God and His purpose – and to distract us with something inferior, something forbidden.

Satan is still employing his same tactics, seeking to get us to desire what God forbids under the pretense that we are denied something God owes us. Satan goads us to be complainers and accusers focusing on ourselves. Then we neglect the truly good gift(s) God has provided. The “tree of life” is before us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Many fear that close fellowship with Jesus will mean the end of our worldly pleasures. We fear that if we follow Him, God will deny us our personal desires. But God never takes from us what is truly good. Whatever perceived power or pleasure you give up to follow Jesus (and there will be things we all give up as men and women), you will gain that which is truly good: salvation through Christ and intimacy with God. Nearness to God belongs to those who serve Him with a willing heart and spirit, as stated in God’s First Commandment.

Sunday – October 29, 2017 Series Week Seven: “Are Women Second Class Citizens?”

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Seven: “Are Women Second Class Citizens?”

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1 Corinthians 7:17-18
Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.”

In our study on the Church and how we should go about “serving church,” a question has been raised by several people in our fellowship, namely the role of women in ministry. Clearly, the role and ministry of women plays a vital part in the spiritual life and ministry of the church. Since there are many who have not experienced the way we “serve church,” now is an opportune time to explain how and why we practice our ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church).

The biblical teaching concerning the ministry of women in the church is strongly opposed by those outside the church (our culture), as well as by all too many who profess to be in the church through faith in Jesus. This is very disturbing and needs to be challenged from the Scriptures. It is my opinion, in order to reach a culturally and politically correct view of the role of women in the church, one must either ignore or deny clear biblical commands and instructions. Either that or these clear texts must be interpreted in a way that is frightening in its implications. If clear teaching on the ministry of women can be cast aside by mishandling Scripture, what other “unacceptable” doctrines will follow?

I must confess, I approach this subject with a greater than normal sense of uneasiness. It is not an uneasiness based upon doubt, for I am confident that what I am about to teach is the clear and consistent teaching of God’s Word. Neither am I uneasy because I fear that someone will come along who will cast this message aside as sloppy scholarship or as the ranting of a chauvinist (which is what some would say about Paul). I am uneasy that speaking so directly will cause someone to turn me off before they have actually considered whether or not what I am saying is true to God’s Word.

It is only fair for me to inform you that a number of my colleagues in ministry (outside our church) will likely disagree strongly with my conclusions. Thus, I am apprehensive because I do not wish to show disrespect or disregard for a number of my good friends and excellent bible teachers who hold different views on this issue. Nevertheless, I believe that what I am about to say needs saying. I only ask that you persevere with me through both lessons and consider whether or not this teaching is true to God’s Word. I trust that the Word of God through the ministry of the Spirit of God will speak to you. I don’t expect all to agree, nor do I believe that those who do agree will necessarily apply the Scriptures in the same way as I would. But I do hope and pray that these texts of Scripture will cause you to reflect on these important matters, and perhaps encourage you to make whatever adjustments are necessary and appropriate in both doctrine and practice to be true to God’s Word.

Sunday – October 22, 2017 Series Week Six: “Spiritual Gifts in the Meeting of the Church”

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week six: “Who Thought Pickles Belonged on That?”

Word On Worship – Sunday – October 22, 2017 Download / Print

1 Corinthians 14:39-40
Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”

There is great debate in the Church today over the use of spiritual gifts in the meeting of the Church. All too often we try to restrict and control the use of the gifts in such a way as to make them seem like we are college students trying to decide on a career choice. We must revise our thinking concerning spiritual gifts. Most often the subject of spiritual gifts is taught in this way: We all have a spiritual gift or gifts. We are to study the Scriptures to find out what the list of options are and how each gift is defined and recognized. Then we must determine what our gifts are and develop them. Finally, we are to find a ministry where our gifts can be put to use.

While there is some truth in this view of gifts, it does not seem to square entirely with what Paul teaches about spiritual gifts. If all of the spiritual gifts are not listed in the New Testament, there must be other gifts as well. All of the gifts are not neatly defined (e.g., the “word of wisdom” and the “word of knowledge” in our text). Further, the form these gifts take (ministry) and the fruit (results, effects) are not the same for those who have the same gift(s).

I suggest we reverse some of our thinking and reject much of the remainder. God has given us a number of clear commands such as those outlined by Paul in Romans 12:9-21. Let us begin by focusing on these commands, and obey them in whatever circumstances God brings our way. In the process of obeying His commands, we will discover that God has given us a ministry, a place of service. Rather than waiting to know our gifts and then seeking to serve God and His church, let us do the things God has commanded, trusting Him to empower us and produce supernatural results through His Spirit. We should give priority to those aspects of ministry which God has given us in which the power of His Spirit is evident. This does not always mean “success” as the world defines success. It is where spiritual fruit has been produced, where the gospel has been proclaimed, and where God has been glorified. Let us not agonize over the name or the label of the gift, but let us strive to develop the gifts God has given us (2 Timothy 1:6), and employ them as good stewards of the grace of God (1 Peter 4:10-11). Let us never take credit for what God has accomplished or take pride in God’s work in us or measure spirituality by one’s gifts.

Let us be confident that if we are a Christian, God has an important place of service for us, and He will provide us with all the means necessary to fulfill our calling. Spiritual gifts assure us that the body of Christ needs us and will suffer without us. Spiritual gifts enable us to do what God requires of us.

Sunday – October 15, 2017 Series Week Five: “Who Thought Pickles Belonged on That?”

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Five: “Who Thought Pickles Belonged on That?”

Word On Worship – Sunday – October 15, 2017 Download / Print

Romans 15:5-6
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If you’ve been in the church for any length of time, you’ve no doubt been around someone whose personality grated on yours. Even though you’re supposed to love them, if you were honest, you’d admit that you don’t like them. Or, if you’ve served the Lord in some ministry, you’ve probably tried to work with someone who wanted to do things in a way that seemed wrong to you. You could see that his way wouldn’t work and you knew that your way was the right way. I wish that I were only describing hypothetical situations, but from my many years of pastoral experience, I know that I’m describing reality. I hope I’m not describing anyone’s marriage, but I probably am.

While unity is extremely important, it cannot trump the truth of the gospel, because if the gospel is compromised, the resulting “unity” is not the unity of the Spirit. It would be a superficial “unity” of some who believe in Jesus and some who did not. Jesus prayed for the love and unity of His disciples, but it was love and unity based on the truth (John 17:17). Jesus claimed to speak the truth (John 8:45) and to be the truth (John 14:6). He told Pilate (John 18:37), “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” He promised that He would send to His disciples “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17). So to argue that Jesus set love above truth is false. He knew that tolerating a false gospel is not love, because it would lead the person believing it to damnation, not to eternal life.

Unity does not mean that we all must work closely with one another. While we need to try to work through our differences, there are times when two workers need to recognize that God is calling them to serve the Lord in different spheres. Any parting of ways should be done with mutual respect and without bitterness or acrimony. Nor does unity mean that we all have to agree on every secondary doctrinal or practical matter. There are many issues where godly Christians, committed to the Scriptures, disagree. We must be charitable toward one another on these matters.

And, there are many differences over the methods we use to do the Lord’s work. We should seek to follow biblical methods, not worldly methods. Some methods are so unbiblical that they deserve criticism. But as with doctrine, godly men disagree over some methods. We must be charitable toward those whose methods we don’t agree with, even though we can’t work closely with them.

Sunday – October 8, 2017 Series Week Four: “Who Is In Charge Here?”

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Four: “Who Is In Charge Here?”

Word On Worship – Sunday – October 8, 2017 Download / Print

Colossians 1:18
He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”

I want to answer the question, “Who runs this church?” While this may be a review for some of you old timers, those who are relatively new in this church may not understand how we operate as a church government. Many people wrongly assume that as the pastor, I run the church. I may be the teaching Elder here at Sunrise, but to assume that the pastor runs everything in the church is not only wrong, it is dangerous.

Many people also wrongly assume that our church government is patterned after the U. S. government and operates as a democracy. The pastors and the elders are the elected officers, similar to the President and Congress. At church business meetings, members can voice their opposition to whatever they don’t like and vote according to their preferences. While that system is fine for America, at the risk of sounding un-American, I must say God is not an American. He didn’t set up His church as a democracy, where the most powerful factions control the purse strings. We’re not free to impose our American ideas about government onto the church, unless we find those ideas in the Bible.

Another model that has greatly influenced how American churches are governed is that of American business. Most businesses have the chairman at the top, with his board of directors beneath him and the stockholders as the voting members of the corporation. When that gets carried into the church, the pastor is viewed as the CEO, the elder or deacon board are the directors, and the congregation represents the stockholders, who have their annual meet­ing to vote on how the business should operate. With that model, the answer to the question of who runs the church is, “The pastor does, along with the board of directors.” But, the stockholders have a say in things, and if the company isn’t going the way that they wish, they can vote those guys out of office.

While there may be a few similarities between the business and government models and the church, the biblical picture of church government is different. One major difference is that the church is not just an organization, but also a living organism. Webster defines an organization as “an administrative and functional structure.” He defines an organism as “an individual constituted to carry on the activities of life by means of organs separate in function but mutually dependent.” That describes the church. We are a living unity, the one body of which Jesus Christ is the head. Each member is a vital part of that body, separate in function, but mutually dependent on one another and on Christ, the head. Biblical church government is to allow Jesus Christ to truly function as the living head of His body. None of us should be seeking or voicing our will about various matters in the church, unless we are very convinced that our will coincides with God’s will as revealed in His Word.

Sunday – October 1, 2017 Week Three: “Why Do Good People Disagree on How to Serve Church?”

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NEW SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Three: “Why Do Good People Disagree on How to Serve Church?”

Word On Worship – Sunday – October 1, 2017 Download / Print

1 Corinthians 11:16
“If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice — nor do the churches of God.”

First, our differences may be matters of conviction, rather than matters of doctrine. While some aspects of church life are (at least in my opinion) non-negotiables, not all fall into this category. Some practices are simply a matter of choice. Whether or not to have a Sunday school, or to meet on Wednesday nights for prayer meeting, are not matters written in stone. Thus, some of our differences are merely matters of conviction.

Second, some truths are more crucial than others. Minor differences should not divide churches, but should be an occasion to manifest grace and to display true Christian unity. Some doctrines are what we would call “fundamentals of the faith.” The rejection of one of these doctrines has both earthly and eternal consequences. To reject the deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of our Lord, or the doctrine of justification by faith would have grave implications. To differ over whether communion should be observed weekly or monthly would not have the same consequences.

Third, being biblical entails more than just using the right terms and having the right forms. Being biblical necessitates having the right heart attitudes. This is actually a summation of our series, so I will not dwell on it here. But suffice it to say that there may very well be churches that do not have all the right forms (or all the proper terms), but who have biblical attitudes, and thus they may function better than other churches that outwardly appear to get it right.

It is not my purpose to prove us right and all others wrong; it is my goal to explain how and why we “serve church” as we do, and to show how we deal with Scripture to come to our conclusions. To be honest, I don’t expect to convince everyone that we are doing it right. For some, learning how and why we “do church” may prompt them to look elsewhere for a church that functions more closely to their understanding of Scripture. But I would hope that some will find our ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) something you believe to be biblical, and thus something that you want to embrace and support.