Sunday – August 27, 2017 Genesis 49:1-28 “The Purpose of Prophecy”

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Genesis 49:1-2
Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come. “Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; and listen to Israel your father.”

I have always found it interesting that both Christians and non-Christians are fascinated with prophecy. To be interested in prophecy is good, since much of the Bible is prophetic. But the point of Bible prophecy is not to speculate on various details, such as the identity of the antichrist or the date of Armageddon. The point of prophecy is to motivate us to purity and holy zeal for the things of the Lord in light of His soon coming. And there is a point to these prophetic words of Israel to his son’s. And not just them, but for the first generation who read these words recorded by Moses as well as you and I.

To understand these words, we need to see God has a plan for history. I know this is obvious to some but I lose sight of it so easily in my daily routine and pressures of life. Even as the Lord’s people, it’s easy to fall into the daily schedule of going to work, taking care of the kids, and dealing with all the hassles of life that we lose sight of God’s great purpose for history and how we fit into it. We become spiritually dull, so that we miss opportunities to further God’s plan.

In God’s time and way, these prophecies about Jacob’s sons would be fulfilled, but the individuals within the tribes had a choice about whether they would help to fulfill them through obedience to God or fight against their fulfillment through disobedience. It’s the same with us: God’s plan for the ages will be accomplished, but we have the choice either to be involved in fulfilling that plan or in resisting it. The personal history of Judah ought to encourage us. He was a man who had a dismal beginning, but who repented of his sin and inherited a great future. God offers that same blessing to each of us. If we will turn from our sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, sent from God in fulfillment of this prophecy uttered by Jacob, God will bless us beyond measure.

These prophecies of Jacob remind us that while we may not understand all the details of the plan, God does have a plan. He is moving history ahead right on schedule toward the grand climax when Jesus Christ shall reign supreme, when every knee shall bow to the Lion of the tribe of Judah. We need to live each day in light of God’s great plan for history.

Sunday – September 25, 2016 Genesis 14:1-24 “The Original Braveheart”

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Genesis 14:21-24
The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me…”

How do you handle praise from men? At the close of Chapter 13, Lot anticipates future prosperity in Sodom, while Abram was content to worship and live in Hebron (13:18). But Lot’s selfish decision gains him a prize soon lost; while Abram’s response places him in a position of honor among the kings of the plain. How the tables can turn! When we are faithful to God, He always finds a way to bless us. It may not seem that you are a recipient for blessing, but God is no man’s debtor.

Abram headed back from his great victory and was met by two kings, the king of Sodom and the king of Salem. Apparently the king of Sodom came up to him first, but before he could speak, the king of Salem arrived. Only after Abram had dealt with the king of Salem did he deal with the king of Sodom. There are two battles in this chapter: Abram’s battle with the foreign kings, and his battle with the tempting offer of the king of Sodom. The second battle was the greater, because it was the more subtle of the two. Abram’s fellowship with the king of Salem strengthened him to resist the temptations of the king of Sodom. In these two encounters we find Abram honoring God and holding to Him, not yielding to the temptations of success.

Melchizedek, the king of Salem, is one of the most intriguing men in the Bible. He seems to come out of nowhere and returns about as quickly as he came. He was the king of what later became Jerusalem. He brought out bread and wine to refresh the weary warriors. And “he was a priest of God Most High.” This is the first mention in the Bible of anyone being a priest. We don’t know for whom he was a priest or how he became one or how he learned of God. We don’t even know his name, since Melchizedek is probably a title. It means “king of righteousness.” Some have speculated that he was an angel or possibly a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ, but those views are not likely.

We do know, from Psalm 110 and from the Book of Hebrews (the only other places in the Bible Melchizedek is mentioned) that he was a type of Jesus Christ, who became a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. We also know that even though Abram was one of the greatest men of faith in the Bible, Melchizedek was even greater. This is proved by the fact that he blessed Abram and he received tithes from Abram (Heb. 7:1-10). This is a perfect picture of how Jesus comes to our aid and rescue when we need Him. After periods of conflict and testing, Jesus Himself has a habit of coming to visit us. He brings encouragement. Jesus is our sympathetic High Priest in a unique order; there is no one like Him.

Sunday – July 17, 2016 Genesis 6:1-8 “Sons and Daughters of Men”

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Genesis 6:5-8
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”

Have you noticed that we have become specialists at shirking responsibility and blaming others for our actions? If I overextend myself financially, it’s not my fault; it’s the fault of easy credit. If I get lung cancer, it isn’t my fault that I chose to begin smoking; it’s the fault of the tobacco company. If a man in a rage shoots and kills his neighbor, it isn’t his fault; it’s the gun manufacturers. If a drunk driver goes the wrong way on the highway, hits a school bus and a number of people are killed, the Ford Motor Company is sued for making an unsafe bus. We’ve even got “no fault” divorces now, so that if a marriage doesn’t work out, no one has to take the blame. And people aren’t guilty of perverted behavior anymore; it’s in their genes. We blame heredity, environment, chemical imbalance, temporary insanity, job pressures, poverty, prejudice, and abuse.

Now certainly those things can contribute to who we are and can cause problems for us, but we have taken it to an extreme that says that no one is accountable for their behavior anymore. The message of the Bible runs contrary to our societal views. The Bible states that mankind is sinful. As a result, God must judge man’s sin. Yet, although God must judge sin, the Bible also teaches that He loves mankind and invites man to enter into a relationship with Him. Genesis 6:1-8 shares this tension.

Ultimately, God’s sorrow means action must be taken, not that a great cosmic mistake has been made. God is a living person and, as such, He can and does change when the occasion demands it. He does not change in His character, person, or plan. But He can and does respond to our changes. Our heavenly Father’s heart breaks when we disobey Him. To cause Him such grief in light of all that He has done for us in Christ is the height of ingratitude.

If our world, like Noah’s, is provoking the judgment of God, how is He warning us today? In the Old Testament, when a nation slipped so far away from God that its people no longer read His Word or heeded the prophets, He warned them of impending judgment through national or natural disasters such as an invading army or a locust plague. Today, He warns us in the same ways. When we hear of a nation invading another nation or a country self-destructing into civil war or a volcano erupting or a tidal wave sweeping villages away or an earthquake leveling entire cities or a forest fire devouring hundreds of thousands of acres of woodlands or a drought shriveling millions of acres of farmland or an epidemic threatening to wipe out a nation’s entire population, are we hearing the warning of the Creator demand, “Repent! Judgment is coming! I am holding you accountable for your wicked, willful ways?”

Sunday – January 10, 2015 Revelation 12:1-17 “This Means War!”

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Revelation 12:10-11
“… Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

Would you recognize Satan if you saw him? Is Satan an extremely good looking man with cold dark eyes, dressed with a red cape and cane? Or does he have horns and carry a pitchfork? Hollywood has done much to sell the stereotype to the masses, but the masses are no longer buying that Satan even existed.  The research of Christian pollster George Barna indicates that nearly 60% of Americans say that Satan is not a living being but is a symbol of evil. His research also indicates that 45% of born-again Christians deny Satan’s existence. Isn’t this sad? We are falling victim to Satan’s greatest deception: to convince us that he does not exist.

Yet the Bible insists that Satan is a powerful, literal, supernatural being who must be taken seriously. From cover to cover, the Bible warns us that we’re in a war! But our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of darkness (Eph 6:12). In Revelation 12 we will learn the simple principle that we must “know our enemy.” If we fail to know and understand our enemy, we’ll fall prey to his surprise attacks and lose many earthly battles.

John describes for us in this chapter a panoramic view of the angelic conflict and of the supernatural forces of darkness that are ever at work in the world and have been since the fall of Satan when he drew with him a host of angels who chose to follow Satan rather than God. Here is a sure fact of human history. Though generally unseen with the physical eye, it is quite clear through the revelation of God and occasionally obvious in certain demonic activity seen in the world in the demon possessed. Even then, many reject the cause as demonic and attribute it to some other paranormal source. But the Apostle Paul makes clear reference to this conflict in Ephesians 2:2 and again in 6:11-12. In Ephesians 6:11-12 we are told: “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

But in Revelation 12 we also see the anticipation of Satan’s doom and that of his kingdom, though the rest of the story or the prophecy of his final doom is withheld until chapter 20. The great promise of the Bible is twofold: First, believers are victors through the victory of the Lord Jesus. Our need is to put on the full armor of God and to resist the devil in the victory of the Savior by always drawing near to the Lord. The second great promise is that Satan is a defeated foe whose days of freedom to create misery and pain and deception are numbered.

Sunday – December 13, 2015 Revelation 9:1-21 “All Hell Breaks Loose”

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Revelation 9:11-12
“They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon. The first woe is past: behold, two woes are still coming after these things.”

The career of Satan, which extends from the dateless past, before man’s creation (Job. 38:7), to eternity future, is inclusive in the Bible and forms a major and an important doctrine of the Word of God. Some people might question, “Why should we even study about the devil. After all, there is enough trouble in life.” But not to do so is to ignore a considerable portion of God’s revelation to us in Scripture. Satan is mentioned throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. While our need is to dwell on the riches of Christ rather than on Satan and the demons, we do need to know this doctrine of the Bible that we might be alert to whom and what he is. So the Apostle Peter exhorts us to be alert to the devil and his tactics by standing “firm in the faith,” the body of truth that we need know and believe.

Unfortunately, because many people are ignorant of his nature and schemes, they become sitting ducks for his attacks. Some, of course, go way beyond the teaching of Scripture and find a demon behind every problem they face. Rather than accepting responsibility for personal actions, such as by Eve who blamed the serpent for her choice, or others who claim the devil made them do it, many may talk about the devil, but often with tongue-in-cheek. They refuse to believe in a personal devil and ridicule the whole idea. For many others, Satan or the devil is just an evil influence at work in the world as he is described in the Bible.

The title “Satan” occurs 53 times in 47 verses in the Bible. The primary idea is: adversary, one who withstands. It points to Satan as the opponent of God, of believers, and all that is righteous and good. Another name is given to him in our passage. Abaddon is the Greek form and Apollyon is the Hebrew equivalent that means destroyer or  destruction. The name connects Satan as being the head over the demons of the abyss and their work of destruction that will occur when he is given the key to the abyss in the Tribulation and releases these demon hordes on the people of the earth. Primarily, however, this title stresses his work of destruction; he works to destroy the glory of God and God’s purpose with man. He further works to destroy societies and mankind.

Wise military leaders and coaches never go into battle without carefully studying their opponents. They want to know how they operate and understand their strengths and weaknesses. To be effective against the enemy, you must know your enemy so you can be prepared to effectively counter his attacks. Christians need to be informed as Paul wrote, “but I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray . . .” (2 Cor 11:3).

Sunday – August 23, 2015 Revelation 2:12-17 “Pergamum: Sin City” Part 1

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Revelation 2:12-14
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.”

The Bible displays a sense of proportion concerning Satan which we should seek to gain and then maintain. The Scriptures tell us all we need to know about Satan, and no more. Given Satan’s key role in the plan of God, his great power, and his cunning ways, we might expect to find more about Satan in the Bible than we do. God neither wishes to flatter Satan with too much publicity nor desires that we become preoccupied with him. Satan fell because of his insatiable desire for prominence, desiring the glory which belongs only to God. Satan should receive only the attention he deserves. God’s Word supplies the facts and perspective we need.

I sometimes hear Christians referring to adversity or difficulty, assuming that it has come from Satan. Perhaps it has or perhaps not. But if it has come from Satan, it has ultimately come from God. In the midst of his trials, Job was not aware that Satan was involved. For him, it did not matter. Job knew that God was sovereign, and thus whatever came his way came ultimately from the hand of God. Job’s problem was that he questioned the wisdom of God. Job’s great comfort came when he grasped that God is not only sovereign, but also wise and good.

Satan is out there. Sometimes we will know it. Sometimes we will not. But behind him is the God of the universe who is in complete control, using Satan, angels, kings, and sinful men to accomplish His plan. Satan’s might and power are great but not when compared with the God who uses him to achieve His plan. The Bible has been written to increase our depth perception – our ability to look behind the immediate source of circumstances to see God, the ultimate source.

To this point in time, God has purposed Satan’s existence and opposition to fulfill God’s plan. But for Satan the perfect plan of God includes a future day of doom. God’s perfect rule over creation requires the elimination and removal of Satan, sin, and death from this earth. Only then will God’s cure for the curse be complete. The Bible predicts and describes the defeat of Satan. My friend, whom will you choose? If you do not choose Christ, you are already Satan’s slave, doomed to share in his eternal torment. Those who follow Satan share in his doom. Those who receive God’s grace in Christ share in His reign of righteousness.

Sunday – March 1, 2015 Jude verses 8 to 10

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Jude 8-9
Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

The study of angels or the doctrine of angelology is one of the ten major categories of theology developed in many systematic theological works. The tendency, however, has been to neglect it. Though the doctrine of angels holds an important place in the Word of God, it is often viewed as a difficult subject because, while there is abundant mention of angels in the Bible, the nature of this revelation is without the same kind of explicit description we often find with other subjects developed in the Bible.

Our culture takes angels seriously, but not accurately. Modern society, so seemingly secular and hopelessly materialistic, desperately searches for some spiritual and supernatural meaning. If angels can provide it, then angels it will be. Bookstores abound with books about angels or encounters with angels, not to mention television series and major motion pictures. They can be very entertaining, but it does illustrate our fascination and our very poor grasp of what the Bible really teaches about angels and about God.

While all the angels were originally created holy and without sin, there was a rebellion by Satan, who, being lifted up by his own beauty, rebelled and sought to exalt himself above God. In his rebellion, he took with him one-third of the angels (Rev. 12:4). This rebellion and fall is probably described for us in Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:15 embodied in the kings of Babylon and Tyre. The angels which sinned did so in full knowledge of all the issues involved. They chose self-corruption, knowing exactly what they were doing. They sinned without remedy, and there is no atonement for them (II Peter 2:4; Jude 6).

A study of the angels, both good and bad, furnishes us with a number of lessons as to how we should and should not live both negatively and positively. A consciousness of the reality of the vast hosts of angelic being – the benefit derived from the good, and the opposition of the bad – can be gained only through meditation upon the Scriptures that record these truths, and through prayer.