Sunday – August 30, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 19:8-41 “Do You Believe in Magic”

Sunday – August 30, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – August 30, 2020

Acts 19:11-12
God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.

If there was a time for miraculous healing being needed, it must be now. We are continually bombarded with news about sickness from COVID 19, riots in the streets from social unrest and devastated communities from economic shutdown. And this is just relating to the events of 2020. We still see people stricken with terrible disease, famine from natural and manmade causes and broken families from any number of causes. Where is God’s miraculous power in the hurt and where are His people to bring healing to the afflicted?

The hope of miraculous healing attracts many people to churches that claim to see such miracles happening, because there are many who are afflicted with serious, incurable illnesses. Even here at Sunrise, we have many (including myself) suffering from such diseases. I often pray for healing, and I would rejoice if God miraculously intervenes heals. Sometimes God does heal miraculously, and we should pray for it, if it is His will. But the problem is, these verses do not seem to be true in my experience. So far in my life, God has never used me to perform a miracle. And I can’t say that whatever I ask Him to do, He does it every time.

Luke notes that these miracles in Ephesus were extraordinary, even for the apostle Paul (19:11). They seem to parallel the extraordinary miracles that Peter performed for a brief period in his ministry (5:15-16). It is significant that apart from Stephen and Philip, there are no miracles recorded as performed by anyone other than the apostles. The purpose of these apostolic miracles (according to Heb. 2:3-4), was to confirm the message of salvation that Jesus and the apostles proclaimed. In fact, throughout the entire Bible, miracles are not uniformly sprinkled as everyday occurrences. Rather, they are clustered at key moments, such as the exodus, where God was working on behalf of His people. Those who lived after are often reminded of these former miracles to call them back to God.

Can God heal miraculously today? Of course! Does He heal miraculously today? Sometimes, but not nearly as often as television evangelists claim or we want to see ourselves. If God chooses in His will to use us to heal someone through our prayers or to deliver someone from demonic power, we should be available for Him to do it. But to try to use such powers for our own purposes is to be lord of our lives. We must be people who live out our salvation in humility and repentance, which requires we be subject to God’s will.  God’s will often contains suffering to achieve His purpose in our lives. Rather than trying to use God, we should let God use us!

Sunday – August 23, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 18:18 to 19:18-7 “Filling in the Right Blank”

Sunday – August 23, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – August 23, 2020

Acts 18:24-25
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John.

Apollos is a most fascinating fellow, and thanks to Luke’s description, we know he was a gifted Jew from Alexandria. This Egyptian city was where the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) was written. Alexandrian Jews were among those with whom Stephen debated (Acts 6:9). If Apollos was “well-versed in the scriptures” (Acts 18:24) it was probably in Alexandria that he became a great student of the Old Testament. Apollos was not only very knowledgeable in the Old Testament Scriptures; he was also a very powerful speaker.

Luke tells us a great deal about Apollos, but he also informs us that there were some gaps in his understanding of the gospel. The question is, “What were these gaps?” Imagine, for a moment, that you were a God-fearing Jew, who eagerly awaited the coming of Messiah. You knew that Messiah would make His appearance at Jerusalem. You would go there for one of the feasts and when you made your trip, it was during the time when John the Baptist was proclaiming the coming of Messiah. But it was still at a time when John had not yet been informed that Jesus was the Promised One. You would have left Jerusalem with heightened expectation, but without the specific identification of Jesus as Messiah. What you would not (and could not) know is who He was.

I believe that is the situation with Apollos, as perhaps also it might have been with the Bereans, Priscilla and Aquila, and the 12 disciples of chapter 19, verses 1-7. For someone who had finally learned of Jesus, and had come to trust in Him as the Messiah, how strange it must have been to hear a man like Apollos preach, a man who was still living in a past era, still looking for Messiah, but not knowing He had come. As Priscilla and Aquila sat in the synagogue and heard Apollos teach, they must have looked at one another and said, “His teaching points to Jesus, and he doesn’t know it.” What Priscilla and Aquila did was to “fill in the blank” for Apollos, informing him that Jesus of Nazareth was not only Messiah, but that He was Yahweh—God in human flesh.

There was a necessity for these “Old Testament saints” to hear of Jesus and trust in Him personally. That need was met through Priscilla and Aquila, as well as by Paul. If these “believers” in the “Christ to come” had to be told of Jesus and His coming, and to trust in Him, then no one will be saved apart from a personal knowledge and trust in Jesus as the Savior today, either. Unlike these “Old Testament saints,” who had not heard of Jesus, you know all that you will ever need to know about Him. But have you ever really crossed the line, from a knowledge about Jesus to a personal faith and trust in Him? If not, the hour is late and the need is urgent. Cross that line today!

Sunday – August 9, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 17:16-34 “Preaching to Philosophers”

Sunday – Sunday – August 9, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – Sunday – August 9, 2020

Acts 17:22-23
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

The story of the UNKNOWN GOD begins sometime in the sixth century before Christ, with the city of Athens was being devastated and decimated by a mysterious plague. When no explanation for the plague could be found, and no cure was in sight, the approach was to assume that one of the city’s many gods had been offended. The leaders of the city sought to determine which of the gods it was and then determine a way of appeasing that god. This was no easy task, since the city of Athens was the “god capital of the world,” a place so full of gods that the Athenians must have needed something equivalent to the Yellow Pages just to keep tabs on the many deities already represented in their city.

When all efforts failed to discern which god had been offended, and which had brought the plague upon the city, an outside “consultant” was brought in from the Island of Cyprus, whose name was Epimenides. Epimenides concluded that it was none of the known gods of Athens which had been offended, but some, as yet, unknown god. He proposed a course of action which, if it worked, would at least provide a possible remedy for the plague. He had a flock of choice sheep, of various colors, kept from food until they were hungry. On the given day, he had these sheep turned loose on Mars Hill, on what was a very succulent pasture. For any sheep not to have eaten his fill would have been unexplainable. He had the sheep turned loose and watched carefully, to see if any sheep would lie down and not eat, even though hungry and in prime grazing. Several sheep, to the amazement of those watching, did lie down. Altars were erected at each spot where a sheep lay down, dedicated to an “unknown god.” On those altars, the sheep which lay in that spot was sacrificed. Almost immediately, according to the legend, the plague began to subside.

Over a period of time, history became myth and the altars were forgotten and began to deteriorate. One altar, it seems, was restored and preserved, in commemoration of the removal of the plague by calling upon the “unknown god.” Who would have thought that centuries later, a foreigner named Paul would refer to this altar as the starting point for his sermon on Mars Hill? And who would have known that it may have been this very poet, Epimenides, whom Paul would later quote in his sermon?

Sunday – August 2, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 17:1-15 “What Is Our Goal”

Sunday – Sunday – August 2, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – Sunday – August 2, 2020

Acts 17:2-4a
And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded

The general malaise and moral confusion of the culture reminds me of Saint Francis’s claim that he would go to the city center in Assisi and stand on his head to see the world aright. The early Church was given credit for turning the world upside down. The Christian worldview required everyone outside of the Christian faith to stand on their heads to make sense of things. But now, the world is back where Christians found it. Now we find ourselves standing on our heads to see it aright. Light has been declared darkness and darkness declared light. Right is wrong, wrong is right, up is down and down is up. The old greeting, “What’s Up?” requires the answer, “Who knows?”

For 50 years, the Church has held a false idea that there are two optional tracks in the Christian life. One track is the committed discipleship track, for gung-ho types. They give up the comforts of life, giving large portions of their income to the cause of Christ and they devote themselves and their time totally to Jesus. But if that track is a bit much for you, then you can choose the comfortable Christian track. Comfortable Christians usually go to church on Sundays, unless one of their hobbies has a big event that day. They give a bit to help out the church and volunteer some time to the cause, when time permits. For them, Christ and the church are a nice slice of life that help to make life more pleasant. But I never find Jesus offering this second track to any of His followers.

In our Christian apathy, we have failed to see the war around us. It is a cultural war, but, more profoundly, it is a war of ideas. Behind those ideas are persons and, finally, only two persons, God and Satan. Why would we, the church, dirty our hands and join the fight? Because our disciples have failed and we have lost the culture. We’ve been making our kind of disciples for the past fifty years and look at what we have accomplished. The disciples we have produced have allowed the culture to be taken over by leftist ideology that is clearly anti-Christian, anti-gospel, and has cut off at least two generations from the biblical, literary, social, and cultural foundation of a working society. Those young people tearing down statues are our disciples. We must make different disciples in order to get a different result and the church must take some responsibility.

Perhaps you do not share this urgency concerning this war for the minds and souls of others because you have not come to grips with the urgency of your receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior. Apart from Him, you will die in your sins and spend eternity apart from God in eternal suffering. The gospel of Jesus Christ informs you that God has provided for the forgiveness of your sins through the death of Jesus Christ in your place, bearing your condemnation, and offering you His righteousness. Time is limited. He may return at any moment, or you may die before He comes. Accept Him today.

Sunday – July 19, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 16:1-10 “The Sovereign Spirit”

Sunday – July 19, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – July 19, 2020

A Parable:

The week began and progressed as normal for the majority of Christendom. Oh, it was quite a different week, but only a few Christians would notice—far too few. One pastor reviewed the sermon that he had prepared. He would begin his message with a funny story, include a few Bible verses, the quote from Time magazine, and a story about a dramatic conversion. And, of course, he would conclude with an emotional appeal. “Yes,” he thought, “this one has been planned perfectly.” As he reread the sermon for the last time, it was obvious that he didn’t notice the difference.

The week continued on flawlessly. The church raised enough pledges for the down payment on the new sanctuary. The Wednesday evening prayer meeting also went on as usual, the few who came prayed that God would bless all of the missionaries. But no one noticed the difference. A few church members even got to witness at work that week. They pulled out their pocket Bibles and read to co-workers. Although no one seem very interested, they plowed through the entire presentation and encouraged them to pray the prayer at the end to invite Christ into their heart. But they didn’t notice. In fact, few Christians would have noticed, even in an entire year.

But there were a few Christians that had a most frustrating week. One pastor sat and stared at his Bible, but couldn’t get anything out of it. He knew the Bible and he knew how to prepare biblical sermons. But the Bible had become a dead book to him. He was frustrated and perplexed. But he noticed the difference! Some other believers also noticed. One man kept succumbing to lusting and couldn’t get the victory, no matter how hard he tried. A small group that normally was overflowing with joy in the Lord and love for one another found themselves depressed and bickering. Several other Christians found themselves doubting their salvation, and even wondering if God existed. These believers were defeated, frustrated, and confused. But, they definitely noticed the difference!

What was there to notice as different about this week? God decided to see which Christians were living in dependence on His Holy Spirit, and which ones were just depending on their own intellect and human plans to live the Christian life. So, He withdrew His Holy Spirit from the earth for the week! Think about it—would you notice the difference?

It is easy to fall into routine Christianity, where we function in the flesh instead of walk in vital dependence upon God’s Spirit. One of the main lessons of the Book of Acts is the expansion of the early church was due to the working of the Holy Spirit. He was directing, moving, and empowering the apostles as they responded to His leading. If we want to see God working today in a similar fashion, we need to fight routine Christianity and rather, seek daily to submit to and follow the sovereign Spirit.

Sunday – July 12, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 15:36-40 “Can Division Multiply”

Sunday – July 12, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – July 12, 2020

Acts 15:39-40
They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.

There is a story that he tells in it of two porcupines in the freezing north woods that huddled together to keep warm. But when they got close, their quills pricked each other and they had to move apart. They needed each other for the warmth, but they needled each other with their sharp quills. Church members often are like those porcupines: we need each other, but we needle each other! There are many “porcupine” Christians—they have their good points, but you can’t get near them! It doesn’t sound very spiritual to admit that there are Christians that we just don’t like. But you cannot get involved in the local church for very long before you run into someone whose personality clashes with yours.

Paul and Barnabas had a long history of serving together. It was Barnabas who had gone to Paul and listened to his testimony when every Christian in Jerusalem was holding him at arm’s length. It was Barnabas again who went to Tarsus to look for Paul and brought him back to labor with him in the ministry at Antioch. The two men had been set apart and commissioned together to go out on the first missionary journey. Both men had a heart for the wellbeing of the churches. And yet these two teammates, who had labored together and suffered together for many years in the cause of Christ, clashed. Spiritual maturity does not erase personality differences that can lead to strong clashes.

There is a lot of muddled thinking about Christian unity. Unity does not mean that we all have to work closely with one another. While we need to be careful not to go our separate ways too quickly, without working through differences, there are times when two strong leaders need to recognize that God is calling them to different spheres of service. Unity does not mean that we all have to agree on every 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.

The Bible recognizes two kinds of unity. In Ephesians 4:3, Paul mentions the unity of the Spirit, which he says we must be diligent to preserve. This implies that it is a spiritual fact, based on shared life in Jesus Christ. If a person has been born again into the body of Christ, then we are members of one another, and we must be careful not to damage that unity. Then, in verse 13, he mentions the unity of the faith, which he says we are to attain to as we mature in Christ. This is the oneness of shared light regarding biblical truth. It is the fellowship that deepens as we mutually grow to understand and love the great doctrines of the faith. Christian unity does not require that we all work closely, but it does require a shared life and shared light in the Lord.

Sunday – July 5, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 15:1-35 “The Gospel Defined and Defended”

Sunday – July 5, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – July 5, 2020

Acts 15:16-18
After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ that have been known for ages.

We find ourselves at a time in history where fighting for what is right is the cause of the moment.  We appreciate people of conviction who are passionate, but recently that has blown up to whoever is the loudest is right. People who are so strong on their convictions, even about minor issues, that no one can get along with them. If you don’t agree with them on every minor point, you are sacrificed to the cause as a heretic, racist or even worse things.

Spiritual maturity requires discernment, so that we stand firm when it comes to essential truth; but, on matters not essential to the faith, where godly men may differ, we elevate love over our rights. There are times when unity is wrong, namely when it compromises the essentials of the gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But, also, there are times when concession is right. Concession is right when it does not compromise essential truth and it is done out of love to avoid offending others.

We see both sides of this important principle in Acts 15, which reports the conclusions of the Jerusalem Council. The main issue at stake was, must a person be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses to be saved. Peter powerfully showed that we all, Jew and Gentile alike, are saved in one way only: by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, through faith in Him (15:9, 11).  Paul and Barnabas did not set aside this crucial truth in the name of love and unity. Rather, they had great dissension and debate (15:2) with those who taught the necessity of works being added to faith for salvation.

In 2018 we went to see the treasures from the tomb of King Tutankhamen of Egypt here in Los Angeles. It is interesting that Ali Hassan, the curator of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, discovered that some of the jewels in the tomb were not genuine, but were only colored glass. When he was asked how this could go undetected for so many years, Mr. Hassan answered, “We were blinded by the gold. One just assumes that real gold and real gems go hand-in-hand. This is a case where they don’t”. Satan mixes truth and error to deceive Christians. He gets us to compromise and unite over doctrines where we should not budge an inch. And, he gets us to fight and divide over issues where we need to concede our rights out of love. We need God’s wisdom and discernment to know essential truth where we must never concede, and to know areas where it is right to concede out of love so as not to offend others.

Sunday – June 28, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 14:1-28 “Mission Accomplished”

Sunday – June 28, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – June 28, 2020

Acts 14:11-12
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker.

It seems like we Christians have been schooled in the Gospel Americana. One of its main features is an obsession with meeting the minimal entrance requirements for admission to Heaven. Every time I have watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, (as my wife is fond of telling you, if you only knew what your Pastor watches…) I recall the scene when Arthur and his band are trying to cross a giant abyss in order to enter the castle. There is a bridge keeper, and he asks each of them three questions to see if they can cross the bridge and enter the castle. If they get any of the questions wrong, they will be cast into the abyss.

Absurd, right? Most people think the big question is, “How do you know you will get into heaven?” but the real question is, “If you went to heaven, would you like it and would you stay?” Dallas Willard was an expert at forcing us to wrestle with a different viewpoint. People think they can simply decide to turn to God whenever they get the desire, but Willard challenges this idea. The “them” he refers to are those who have thus far rejected Christ, but think Christ is always at the ready. Christ may be always at the ready, but what makes us sure that we would be. Willard describes them as…” Who cannot want God to be God? Multitudes of such people pass by every day, and pass into eternity. The reason they do not find God is that they do not want him or, at least, do not want him to be God. Wanting God to be God is very different from wanting God to help me.”

During a crisis, many people turn toward the transcendent. They seek high and low for God, or a god, to help them cope with something unpleasant. When I hear that someone has turned to Christ, I automatically rejoice, but I do wonder “to which Christ did they turn?” Was it the one who claimed to be God, who challenged the religious institutions and the hubris that is inherent in the human race? The one who says, “Repent of your sins, and follow me?” [Mark 1:12-18] Or was it some selective Christ figure or principle that would accommodate one’s lifestyle and world view? Willard states it well in his last sentence: “Wanting God to be God is very different from wanting God to help me.”

Hell is real; a place where all those who insist on their will being done and have rejected God’s will being done reside. Hell is God’s best for those who don’t like him, oppose him, or have put him on trial and found God to have failed. It is for all those who don’t want the peace and tranquility that come with submission, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Is entrance to heaven answered by three random questions from God? Or is the truth closer to you don’t want God to be God, so you can be your own god?