Sunday – November 24, 2019 Book of Acts – Acts 1:3-26 “Getting Ahead of God”

Sunday – November 24, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 24, 2019

Acts 1:23-26
So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”

As I approach the study of the first chapter of Acts, one question overshadows all others, and it is this: Just whose name would be on the foundation in place of Judas? Who was the twelfth apostle? In the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation we read these words: The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14). Is the name “Matthias” the name which we will find on the twelfth foundation stone? Some would say, “Yes”; others, an emphatic “No!”

Only one chapter is devoted to pre-Pentecost matters, this tells us something. Of all that could have been said that fits into this category, Luke chose to take up the greatest part of the chapter with an account of the selection of the twelfth apostle. The mystery is that as important as this incident seems to be, Matthias is never specifically mentioned again. The rest of the Book of Acts, and the Epistles as well, virtually ignore Matthias. Why then is the selection of Matthias given such editorial priority? While we are preoccupied with this question, Luke does not seem to have been so troubled by the issue, never choosing to pronounce on the “rightness” or “wrongness” of this action.

The feeling that we must pronounce on the “rightness” or “wrongness” of this selection of Matthias reveals a serious fallacy in our thinking. What real difference does it make whether the apostles were “right” or “wrong”? We seem to think it makes a great deal of difference. But does it? Do we believe the plans and purposes of God collapse when men fail to do the “right” thing? Do we really believe God’s purposes are achieved only when we do the “right” thing? If the Book of Acts underscores any truth, it is that of the sovereignty of God, who works all things in accordance with His will, whether or not men believe or obey. Much of what the Spirit of God accomplished in the Book of Acts was in spite of men.

God can just as easily use the “wrath of man” to accomplish His will as He can the obedience of man. The Gentiles will hear the gospel, and many will come to faith on account of the Jews. Not because of their faith and obedience, mind you, but ultimately because of their stubborn unbelief. As Paul will clearly teach in Romans 9-11, and as Luke will clearly demonstrate in the Book of Acts, it was the rejection of Messiah by Israel that made the preaching of Christ to the Gentiles possible. God was not obliged to use Matthias just because the one-hundred and twenty “rightly” chose him, any more than He would have been prevented from using him if they had “wrongly” selected him. The selection of Matthias is a key to the message of the entire work, the message that God was sovereignly at work, through His Spirit, to accomplish His will in ways in which men would never have conceived and which they would not believe even if they were told.

Sunday – November 10, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 24:36-53 “Invisible, No Invincible”

Sunday – November 10, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 10, 2019

Luke 24:36-38
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?

One of the strongest proofs of the resurrection is the fact that the disciples were so prone not to believe it at first. If they had immediately jumped to the conclusion that Jesus was risen, we could think that their testimony to the resurrection was just wish fulfillment. They wanted it so badly that they convinced themselves that it was true, apart from solid evidence. But the gospel narratives show clearly how slow all of the disciples were to believe that Jesus really was risen. They were not gullible men, prone to superstitious ideas, who were easily persuaded to believe. Even though, just before Jesus appeared, they were saying, “The Lord has really risen” (24:34), when they see Him in their midst they immediately conclude, not that He is risen, but that they are seeing a ghost. And when the Lord confronts them regarding their doubts, “they still could not believe it for joy” (24:41).

I can understand why they were troubled. It would be startling to have someone instantly appear in a room without walking in through the door! Jesus, however, is trying to calm their hearts so that they can think more clearly. But they weren’t just troubled; they also were doubting. The Greek word for “doubts” refers to inward reasoning and disputing. Because of our fallen human nature, we all are prone to doubt the things of God, revealed to us in His Word.

God does not expect us blindly to believe without thinking matters through. He gave us the capacity to reason and He expects us to use our minds. But we need to be careful, because of our sinfulness, not to go to excess and to demand unreasonable proof for that which God has plainly revealed. To continue raising objections and disputing about matters that God has made reasonably clear is to yield to our fallen nature, not to rise above it by faith.

It really is true that Jesus Christ died for our sins, that He was raised bodily from the dead, and that He offers forgiveness and eternal life to every sinner as a free gift. And, it really is important for you to believe the testimony that He gave to His disciples. It will flood your soul with eternal peace, knowing that He has forgiven your sins and accepted you because of Christ’s righteousness. It will give you joy and hope, even in the most difficult trials, knowing that His resurrection guarantees your resurrection when He returns. It will make you “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). Even though at times you will be tempted to doubt it, thinking, “This is too good to be true, that Christ died for my sins,” the Lord wants you to know, “It is true!” It’s far better than the news that you have won the Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes! Believe God’s Word about Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, and rejoice!

Sunday – November 3, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 23:54 to 24:36 “From Heart Break to Heart Burn”

Sunday – November 3, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 3, 2019

Luke 24:25-27
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

Jesus’ words to these two men were not flattering. They were a rebuke for their spiritual dullness and for their failure to believe all that the prophets had spoken. The word “all” is an important one. It indicates that the belief of the disciples was selective. They believed part of the prophets’ revelation, but not all. Which part did they believe, and which part did they not believe? The message of the prophets concerning the coming Messiah was a blending of suffering and glory. The prophets spoke in what appeared to be a contradiction in terms. They spoke of Messiah’s rejection and suffering, as we see in Isaiah 52 and 53, yet they also spoke of His triumph and glory.

The prophets accepted God’s word as it was revealed, even though they did not understand how it could be true. But most of the Israelites chose to reject the suffering side and only to focus on the glory dimension. They did this not only with respect to the Messiah, but also with respect to themselves. The false prophets were those who gave warm, reassuring, promises of peace and prosperity, while the true prophets spoke of suffering and of tribulation.

The disciples did not wish to hear of Jesus’ sufferings, but only of His triumph. Even Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him for speaking of His coming rejection and death. All of the disciples, including these two men on the road to Emmaus had so rigorously held to a non-suffering Messiah, a triumphant King, but not a suffering Servant, that they concluded Jesus could not possibly be the Messiah because He had suffered and died. In spite of a mountain of evidence, all of which pointed to His resurrection, they were solidly convinced it was all over, and that He, alas, was only a prophet.

When you think about it, Jesus could have identified Himself as the Lord to these two men, and then proceeded to teach them on the basis of His authority. Instead Jesus taught them on the basis of the authority of the Scriptures. Think of it, instead of teaching this lesson as the Christ, He taught this lesson about the Christ, but as a mere man, as a total stranger, even as a man who seemed poorly in tune and not in touch with what was going on. The two disciples rebuked Him for asking what things were going on in Jerusalem. They saw Him as one who was ill-informed, out of touch. And yet, Jesus taught them the most marvelous survey of the Old Testament ever taught. The men later recognized the impact of Jesus’ teaching—it set their hearts afire, not just because Jesus taught them, but because the Scriptures were taught accurately. It was the Scriptures as explained by Jesus Himself and as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that opened the eyes of the disciples so that they were ready and able (in God’s timing) to discover who it was who was with them.

Sunday – August 18, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 21:5-24 “The Son of David”

Sunday – August 18, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – August 18, 2019

Luke 21:36
Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.

According to a survey published by U.S. News and World Report in late 2017, two-thirds of American adults believe that Jesus someday will return to Earth. However, most who believe in Christ’s return placed it well beyond their lifetime, with 33 percent saying it will happen more than a few hundred years from now. Among us, I would guess that belief in Christ’s return is near 100 percent. Yet I wonder how much the awareness of His return affected your life this past week? Did it figure in how you spent your time? Did it fill you with hope as you faced a trial or crisis? Did it enable you to resist temptation, as you thought about what it will be like to stand before Him on that great day? Did it determine how you spent your money as a steward who will give an account? Or did you even think at all about Christ’s soon coming as you went about your week?

If the second coming of Jesus Christ is not a major factor in your normal Christian life, you are missing one of the most powerful biblical motivations to be a disciple of Christ. Our text does not deal with the question of whether there is a separate rapture of the church, but rather focuses on the second coming of Christ. If you believe that the church will be raptured some time before the second coming, then this text does not directly apply to you. But if you believe that there is only one second coming of Christ for His people, then it is quite applicable.

Though our Lord has little interest in satisfying the curiosity of His disciples concerning the timing of these events, He has a great interest in teaching them about their conduct in the light of these events. How different is His focus from our own. There are many differences and much debate about the timing and the sequence of events in matters of prophecy, but there can be little doubt as to what our Lord’s emphasis is here—on the disciple’s conduct. The conduct of the disciple can be summed up by saying be prepared.

In July of 1959, Queen Elizabeth was scheduled to visit Chicago. Elaborate preparations were made for her visit. The waterfront was readied for docking her ship, the city was cleaned and a red carpet was ready to be rolled out for her to walk on. Many hotels were alerted to be ready. But when they contacted the Drake Hotel, the manager said, “We are making no plans for the Queen. Our rooms are always ready for royalty.” That’s how our lives should be in light of Christ’s return. We shouldn’t have to make any special or unusual preparations. We should live each day alert and ready, dependent on Him in prayer, and obedient to His Word. When the world is gripped with fear because of frightening events, we should look up, filled with hope because our redemption draws near.

Sunday – January 15, 2017 Genesis 25:27-34 “Trading Your Soul For What?”

Sunday – January 15, 2017 – Read the Word on Worship

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Genesis 25:32
Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?”

It does not take much imagination to see we live in an “instant” society. We have instant coffee, instant breakfasts, instant soup, instant pudding, and microwave popcorn. We also have cable Internet and e-mail, universal cell phone coverage, and satellite TV (as if cable TV was not fast enough). As efficient as all this can be, we have become products of an “instant society.” We want everything quicker and faster. We cannot and will not wait for desires to be met. We demand instant gratification. If there is a complication in our lives, we believe there must be an instant solution.

What is especially disturbing is that we seem to believe we have an inalienable right to be happy. Thus, no one wants to wait for anything, and for the most part no one has to. If that means cutting corners, then so be it. We are willing to sacrifice our reputation tomorrow for what we want today. Waiting is interpreted as pain. Yet, as Richard Hendrix has said, “Second only to suffering, waiting may be the greatest teacher and trainer in godliness, maturity, and genuine spirituality most of us ever encounter.”

Are you surprised to observe that the biggest “crook” in our chapter is a believer? While Esau may have been crude, he was no crook. How many Christian businessmen and employees are crooked, just as Jacob was? We call ourselves shrewd, but that is only a euphemism for unethical practices. One reason why Christians can be as crooked as Jacob is that they are so convinced of the importance of the ends they seek that they feel that any means to achieve them are justified. Many of us convince ourselves that much of the money we make is going to missions, or the church, and so we “launder” our money in Christian ministry. The goal is never more important than godliness. In fact, the Christian’s goal is godliness.

Esau also bears accountability in this mess. The sad reality is that he did not believe the word of God. Many believers are like Esau, who have traded their blessings for what amounts to a bowl of lentils. When we exchange our purity, our integrity, our family, or our relationship with God or His church, the benefit we receive is nothing more than a pile of beans! Satan is constantly tempting us to forfeit the eternal riches of our spiritual inheritance in Christ for the pleasure of immediate gratification: An illicit affair, financial compromise to get ahead, lusting after money or material things, letting loose our anger in abandonment of reason, or succumbing to depression without check. We are in constant danger of being tempted to give up something very precious in order to indulge a sudden strong desire. The pile of beans that is truly dangerous is any temptation to gratify the “feelings” of the immediate moment in a way that shows we “despise” the promises of the living God for our future.

Sunday – October 16, 2016 Genesis 17:1-27 “Believe It – Or Not”

Sunday – October 16, 2016 – Read the Word on Worship

Sunday – October 16, 2016 Genesis 17:1-27 “Believe It – Or Not” from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.

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Word On Worship – Sunday – October 16, 2016 Download / Print

Genesis 17:1-2
Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.”

“Jump and I’ll catch you.” Have you ever heard a parent say that to a child perched on some high place? Can you remember one of your parents saying that to you when you were little? Did you do it? Did you jump? In a sense, that is like something that God says to us. God reaches out to us in love. He initiates a relationship with us by making some promises to us. When we believe His promise of eternal life through Christ, we begin a relationship with God. Yet, this is only the beginning. God calls us to trust His promises and dare to live our lives as if we believe He will keep all of His promises. There is some risk involved in doing that. But unless we take that risk, we can never truly live the life of faith that God intends for us. God says, “Jump and I’ll catch you.”

Yet, there is a tension in this. While we are commanded to obey, Jesus works in us, through the Holy Spirit, to accomplish obedience in our lives. Just as the paint brush in the hands of an artist creates something beautiful, we are a small brush in the hand of God following His lead across the canvas of our lives. He leads and empowers and we leave the mark on the people around us.

El Shaddai is a designation, which emphasizes God’s infinite power (Exodus 6:3). Interestingly, the word El means “the strong one,” while the word Shadd refers to the bosom of a nursing mother. This suggests that God is the One from whom Abram was to draw strength and nourishment. By a most tender image, God seems to be saying that we are empowered to live out our responsibilities in the covenant by feeding on Him, just as a child grows by feeding on the milk of its mother.

This is a timely word. Abram had spent the last thirteen years living with the strife and turmoil that his sinful decision had produced in Ishmael. Now Abram was about to learn that God’s promises are fulfilled not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord Almighty (Zech 4:6). It would be El Shaddai who would accomplish His will in Abram’s life! God is able, whatever the circumstance and whatever the difficulty (Eph 3:20). Do you believe this? Is there anything too difficult for God to accomplish in your life? Can He restore your marriage? Can He transform your wayward child? Can He redeem your job? If He truly is a supernatural God, then He can. Will you put your trust in Him to work in your life?