Sunday – September 27, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 22:1-29 “Tempest in the Temple”

Sunday – September 27, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 27, 2020

Acts 22:4-5
I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify.

Have you ever wished that you had a more dramatic testimony? Perhaps you’ve heard of someone who came to Christ from a life of terrible sin and you’ve thought, “If I just had a testimony like that, I could lead all sorts of people to Christ!” If you grew up in the church, your testimony may not be a dramatic or compelling story that leads people to Christ. But the Lord has shown me over the years that my heart is just as corrupt as the hearts of the most wicked people on earth. I’ve also learned that it takes the same mighty power of God to save an outwardly good person as it does to save an outwardly evil person. An outwardly good person needs salvation every bit as much as the notorious sinner does.

Everything about Paul’s conversion came from God. Nothing about his conversion stemmed from Paul. God didn’t look down and see some merit in Paul that qualified him to come to salvation. Quite to the contrary, Paul confesses that he was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent aggressor” (1 Tim. 1:13). There are many who say that the reason that God chose Paul, or that He chooses anyone, is that He foresees that the person will one day choose to follow Him. But to say this is to base God’s sovereign election on the fallen will of man, ignoring the plain biblical truth that unless God first does a work of grace in our hearts, no one would ever choose Him. No one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him (John 6:44) and no one is able to come to Jesus unless it has been granted him from the Father (John 6:65).

In several places, Paul attributes the first cause of our salvation to God’s choice of us, not to our choice of Him. In Ephesians 1:4-6, he says, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world …. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” In 2 Timothy 1:9, he says that God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

If God’s grace and power are mighty to save a sinner such as Paul, then He is able to save any sinner, and to do it instantly and totally. His light can blind and knock down the most powerful persecutor of the church. You may have some terrible sins in your past. You may even be militantly opposed to Christianity, convinced by all of your arguments that it is just a myth. But the risen Lord Jesus is mighty to save even you. He can open your eyes to get a glimpse of His glory and grace, and you will never be the same.

Sunday – September 20, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 21:17-40 “I Will Never Do That Again”

Sunday – September 20, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 20, 2020

Acts 21:22-23
What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you…

Most of us are familiar with the term “armchair quarterback.” An armchair quarterback sits in his comfortable chair, favorite beverage in hand, munching potato chips and watching the quarterback on TV as a herd of 300-pound giants rushes furiously towards him. It’s easy to sit in your comfortable chair and give advice to the guy who is down on the field facing 300-pound gorillas. But it’s an altogether different matter to be the guy down on the field, making split-second decisions under incredible pressure. It’s easy in that situation to make mistakes. We need to be careful about judging someone who made a mistake in the midst of such pressure.

I don’t want to play armchair quarterback on the apostle Paul. It’s easy to second-guess what he did. We can all be instructed if we learn how prone we all are to make mistakes when we’re under pressure. We all err in our personal lives. Sometimes we err in discerning the will of God because it is at best an imperfect and tentative process. We err in our ministries, sometimes misjudging people or situations. We err in our marriages, in raising our children and make financial errors that we wish we could undo. We’ve made major decisions that turned out to be major mistakes. Yet we can be encouraged because if even the godliest of men, such as Paul, make mistakes. God is not thwarted by our mistakes.

Even though Paul erred, God graciously spared his life and will give him the opportunity to preach to the mob that had just attacked him (22:1-21). As a result of his imprisonment, he was able to present the gospel to governors and rulers with whom he otherwise would have had no contact. He eventually got an all-expenses paid trip to Rome and was able to witness to many in Caesar’s household. He had time to write his prison epistles, which are in our New Testament. All of these positive results illustrate the abundant grace of our God, who works all things together for good to those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).

D. L. Moody said, “If you don’t go to work for the Lord because you’re afraid of making mistakes, you will probably make the greatest mistake of your life—that of doing nothing.” He’s right! We should get out of the armchair and into the game! We all should constantly be examining our lives to identify our sins and mistakes. When the Lord graciously opens our eyes to errors that we have made, we should learn from them and, if possible, try to correct them and ask forgiveness of those whom we have wronged. But in that recognition, we should not despair that we have somehow thwarted God’s plan for our lives. We should realize that in His grace, God works around and through our mistakes for His own glory and marvel that He can use bumbling sinners such as we are!

Sunday – September 13, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 21:1-16 “Giving Advice and the Will of God”

Sunday – September 13, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 13, 2020

Acts 21:12-14
When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

All Christians want to know God’s will for their lives. We want to know His will concerning major decisions, such as the career that we should pursue, the person that we should marry, and the place where we should live. We need His guidance on dozens of other daily decisions affecting our money, our time, and our relationships. If you know Christ as Savior and Lord, you want to please Him in every aspect of life by making wise decisions in line with His will.

There are many texts in the Bible which warn us about the company we keep. We are to avoid association with evil men, who seek to turn us from the path of righteousness (Proverbs 1:8-19). There are numerous examples of bad counsel coming from bad people. But our text reminds us that bad counsel can come from our most intimate and trusted friends, those who greatly love us and care about our well-being. We see examples of this in the Bible. For example, Nathan’s initial response was to encourage David to build the temple he aspired to construct (1 Chronicles 17:1-4). Job’s friends’ counsel was intended to end his suffering and to restore him to blessing, but they were all wrong (Job 42:7-9).

Why is it that those who love us deeply, who want our best are sometimes the very ones who give us bad counsel? It may be the same reason that we pray the surgery of a good friend will go “smoothly” and without complications. It may be the same reason that we ask God to completely heal a fellow believer of cancer, rather than use them powerfully in death. I feel this tension when I pray for missionaries who are serving God in very dangerous places. Should I pray that God would enable them to be evacuated from their place of service? Or should I pray that God would supernaturally deliver them from all harm? Or must I also leave room for God to glorify Himself and promote the gospel by their faithfulness even unto death?

I believe it all boils down to one’s attitude toward suffering in the Christian life. Paul understood that his best friends did not want him to suffer. It was prophesied that in Jerusalem he would suffer. If Paul’s goal is to avoid suffering, Paul will avoid going to Jerusalem. If your desire for one you love is to escape suffering, then you will counsel accordingly. Many times, I have seen this same counsel repeated today by well-meaning Christian friends. Some “Christian friend” will give counsel such as, “I wouldn’t put up with that; you’re entitled to be happy.” It assumes that the primary goal in life is to be happy and to be free from pain. God’s Word makes it plain that we live in a fallen world, one in which all creation suffers and groans (Romans 8:18-25). Such counsel assumes that God is not in control of our circumstances, or that He never sends suffering our way.

Sunday – September 6, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 20:1-38 “Passing the Torch”

Sunday – September 6, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 6, 2020

Acts 20:1-3
When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months.

The apostle Paul changed the world as few other men have ever done. He lived in a day before jet airplanes or cars and paved highways. He had to go everywhere by foot, on donkeys, or by sailing vessel, none of which were very speedy. He did not have a telephone to call and talk with the leaders of churches that he had founded around the Roman Empire. He didn’t have computers, email, copy machines, or other modern tools that make communication easier. He spent many years of his ministry in prison, unable to move about freely. He contended with fierce opposition both from outside and inside the church. And yet, after 25-30 years of ministry, he left a lasting impact on the world, not only in his time, but also for all times.

Jesus promised to build His church on Peter’s confession of Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. Paul traveled about preaching the gospel and helping the new converts begin to meet as local churches. Those churches in turn could evangelize their own areas, as well as train and send out new missionaries to evangelize and plant new churches in other areas, so that the process is multiplied many times over. He did this in Ephesus, so that after two years, all of Asia (western Turkey) heard the word of the Lord. Paul was unrelenting in his commitment to the church.. He called the Philippian church his joy and his crown. He told the Colossians of his great struggle on their behalf and for those in Laodicea, that they would be knit together in love and attain to all that wealth that comes from a full knowledge of Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he goes through a long list of all of the labors and trials that he had gone through on behalf of Christ. The last thing he mentions is, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”

At first glance, our text shows us a slice of Paul’s life describing his travels. Some things are skimmed over, and we can fill in many details from 1 & 2 Corinthians and Romans, which he wrote during this time period. Other things, such as his meeting with the church in Troas, are described in more detail. We might at first read these verses and think, “That’s interesting, but it doesn’t relate to my life.” But I think that just below the surface of Luke’s description of Paul’s travels lies Paul’s unswerving commitment to Christ’s church. It was that commitment that was at the heart of how God used Paul to change the world for Jesus Christ. No matter what our individual gifts or calling, we need to be committed to the church of Jesus Christ if we want to see God use us to change our world for Him.

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.