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 – March 29, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 9:1-31 “Better Call Saul”

Sunday – March 29, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 29, 2020

Acts 9:17-18
Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here — has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

There is a lot of confusion these days about what it means to be born again. Today many “born-again” Christians are united by emotions and experiences, not by shared doctrines or moral beliefs. One-third of America’s population identify themselves as born-again Christians, yet half of professing Christians say that religions other than Christianity are “equally good and true.” One-third believe in reincarnation and astrology and nearly half support abortion. We all need to be clear about what constitutes true conversion.

There are many more marks of conversion than I can begin to list here, but in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus we find a number of marks of someone who has truly been born again.  Before a man becomes a saint, he must first see himself as a sinner. This is why the Lord asks, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (9:4) While some may be deeply convicted of sin before conversion, to show them their great need, others may experience it more in depth in the years that follow. But there is no such thing as a truly born-again person who lacks a growing sense of his own sinfulness. The closer we walk in the light, the more that light reveals the dirtiness of our sinful hearts.

Second, someone who is born again recognizes the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Saul asks, “Who are You, Lord?” He got an immediate answer: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul instantly realized that Jesus was alive from the dead, as all of His followers had been asserting. He also recognized, to his horror at first, that Jesus was not only alive, but also exalted to the throne of God the Father. It followed that Jesus’ death on the cross, rather than discrediting him as a false prophet, fulfilled prophecy. His resurrection confirmed Him as being Israel’s Messiah and Lord of all the earth. Everyone who is truly converted recognizes the exalted authority of Jesus Christ and seeks to live in obedience to Him.

True conversion also leads to fellowship with other believers. It is interesting how believers are referred to in this story. They are members of “the Way” (a description of Christians found only in Acts), showing the fact that Christ is the only way to God. They are called disciples (9:1, 10), which means followers or learners of Jesus. They are saints (9:13), or holy ones, which refers to our being set apart from the world to God. They are “those who call upon Your name” (9:14), showing our dependence on God in prayer. And, they are brothers (9:17). But best of all, Jesus tells Saul, “You have been persecuting Me!” By persecuting the church, Saul was persecuting Jesus Himself, the Head of His body, the church. An organic and indissoluble union exists between Christ and His people. When someone harms us, he is harming our Lord. Truly converted people love the fellowship of the saints, because we are members of one another and of our exalted Head.

Sunday – August 11, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 21:1-4 “Mite or Mite Not”

Sunday – August 11, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – August 11, 2019

Luke 21:1-3
And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them

The cults are growing rapidly, not because the unchurched are convinced of the correctness of their doctrinal positions, but because they are drawn by the fact that the needs they feel most strongly are being met outside of orthodoxy. Have you met anyone who has converted to Mormonism because they were so impressed by the life and ministry of Joseph Smith? Evangelicalism has committed several errors in its practices, and most of them relate to the use of money. In the past, major denominations took the social and physical needs of their fellow man seriously. They rightly grasped the obligation of the church to respond to those needs. But as these denominations became theologically more and more liberal, the emphasis fell almost totally on needs other than spiritual.

Rightly, evangelicals retreated from what have been called “social gospel” organizations. But we have wrongly retreated from the work of ministering to the material needs of people in our efforts to disassociate from those who preach a false gospel. The poor and the oppressed have come to view evangelical Christians as uncaring. Have we become so spiritually minded; we are of no earthly good? The cults and social gospelers have gained followers due to the disinterest of Christians in meeting material needs.

All of this demands that in a study of the work of the ministry, we must rethink the area of material ministry. We must seriously consider what the Word of God has to say about the ministry of money. There is a major misconception held by most Christians about money, which is at the root of our material malpractice. The evil of materialism can easily be confused with ministry that money can perform. We are sensitive about the subject of the use of money because many of us are not very skillful here, often linking faith with financial irresponsibility. We purchase items on the basis that God will provide the money to pay for it. Financially, we have jumped from the pinnacle of the temple, putting God to the test.

Confusion about the importance of money is also a byproduct of disproportionate emphasis on the part of those who proclaim the Scriptures. Some preachers never get off the subject of money. All of us have been turned off by this kind of pulpit pleading for funds. But some of us who preach the Scriptures are in error for not mentioning money at all. Usually this is because we don’t want to be associated with those who are perpetual solicitors of contributions. Also, we hesitate to mention money because to teach the whole counsel of God on this subject is to point out the obligation of Christians to bountifully provide for those who preach the Word (1 Corinthians 9:1–14). Because of this “conflict of interest” we avoid thorough teaching on biblical giving.

Sunday – March 24, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 16:1-13 “To Commend a Crook” Part 2

Sunday – March 24, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 24, 2019

Luke 16:9-11
And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?

Did Jesus praise the steward for his shrewdness? We can easily see that the master praised his steward’s shrewdness and we can even understand why he would do so. But would Jesus join with the master in his praise of this man’s shrewdness? The answer is unequivocally NO! In my understanding of the Scripture, this answer is clear, though sadly many Christian leaders have accepted it, choosing rather to see this parable as teaching Christians to be more shrewd, especially in the way we handle money.

The word “shrewd” or “shrewdly” is found twice in the parable, but not in the Lord’s interpretation and application of it. Never does Jesus imply or state that Christians should be shrewd in any way that the “unrighteous” steward has been shrewd. The application found in our Lord’s interpretation of the parable is FAITHFULNESS- not shrewdness. Faithfulness and shrewdness, in this text, are diametrically opposed. The steward “had to” be shrewd because he had been unfaithful. Disciples who are faithful do not need to be shrewd.

Jesus carries over from the parable of the unjust steward, a parallel to what Christians should practice. The unjust steward saw that his days were numbered, and that he would not be able to take his master’s money with him. He then began to use his master’s money in such a way as to make friends, because they would outlast his master’s money. He used his master’s money to make friends. Christians should act similarly, but not the same.

We, like the unjust steward, are stewards of all that God has given us. We do not own anything, but we are given custody of certain resources by God for a time. We need to understand that our Lord’s return is at hand (or our own death will arrive first), and we will neither take money nor possessions with us. Money will not last, but we will last for all eternity. The way to use money so that it will last forever is to “make friends” of men, who will gratefully receive us in heaven. I know of no other application of this more important than evangelism. By using our money in ways that manifest Christ to men and which draw men to Christ in faith, we “make friends,” we invest in men’s souls, so that they will await us in heaven. Thus, though money will not last, investments in men’s souls will last. In this way, we can imitate, in a measure, the unjust steward. He at least can see that friends outlast money.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday – June 11, 2017 Genesis 41:1-57 “From the Pit to the Palace”

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Genesis 41:39-40
So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are.”

Many Christians today have made an arbitrary and unbiblical distinction between the “secular” and the “spiritual,” or between “full-time” Christians and the “laity.” Do you notice that God has brought about the deliverance of His people not through Judah, from whom Messiah would come, and not through Levi, through whom the priestly class would originate, but through Joseph, a paper shuffler, a desk jockey, an administrator? One’s job is a matter of both gift and calling, not of spirituality.

As spiritual as he was, I can well imagine that many in our own day would have approached Joseph with words similar to these: “Joseph, as spiritual as you are, you should consider attending seminary and going into full-time ministry.” How could a secular ministry ever be fulfilling to a man as spiritual as Joseph? God did not raise up a preacher nor a priest, but an administrator to deliver His people from extinction. Let us beware of categorizing occupations in such a way as to make some more spiritual than others. Everyone is a full-time minister in the Scriptures, but some are called to labor in one sphere while others are called to another. Spirituality is totally independent of one’s occupation.

Joseph was not promoted by Pharaoh (in human terms) because he was spiritual, but because he was skillful and knowledgeable. Pharaoh recognized Joseph to be a man who had divine enablement, but he could have cared less who his “god” was. He was only concerned with finding a man who could do the job which needed to be done. Many Christians think that God is obligated to bless or that His people are bound to patronize people simply because they are Christians. During our recent elections it was sometimes implied that we should vote for a person solely on the basis of a profession of faith. When I go to a surgeon, I will go to the one who is the best, regardless of whether he (or she) is a pagan, an atheist, or a devout Christian. God is not restricted to working only through saints.

Many of us who are Christians are not very good at what we do, either because we are lazy, or we think that God is obliged to bless us only because we give testimony to our faith. Joseph’s testimony would have had little impact if he had proven to be wrong or had failed miserably to administrate the collection of grain. Let us enhance our testimony by doing well what we do. As the writer of the Proverbs 22:29 puts it: “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.” While I believe that God elevated Joseph because he trusted in God and obeyed, I am just as confident that Pharaoh elevated him because he was diligent and skillful in what he did. Piety without proficiency is folly. We praise God in our work as well as in our words. One without the other is useless.

Sunday – March 12, 2017 Genesis 31:17-55 “Between a Rock & Hard Place”

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Genesis 31:42
“If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He rendered judgment last night.”

Ethics is the difference between legality and morality. We live in a day when Christians and non-Christians alike think that whatever is legal is legitimate Christian activity. We, like Jacob, have our own pole-peeling and wheeling and dealing, which we think God is obliged to bless. No wonder the world is legalizing homosexual marriage and the right to government paid abortion. To them, legality is morality so if it isn’t illegal, it is moral.

Laban had lived in close association with Jacob for twenty years, and he was convinced of Jacob’s lack of integrity. Laban believed that Jacob stole his goods and that Jacob had underhandedly gotten possession of his flocks. Does this sound like a man who was convinced that Jacob was a godly man? And yet Jacob seems to be convinced of his own integrity. He is certain that God is on his side because of his uprightness. How could Jacob have been so mistaken? I have come to believe that the answer is that Jacob was a legalist. Jacob prided himself on being a man who kept the letter of the law. Never, to his knowledge at least, had he ever broken his word. He had made a deal with Laban, and he had always lived up to it. Oh, he had peeled those poles all right, but that was not a breach of their agreement.

But here is the heart of the error of legalism, for legalism equates morality with legality. It believes that righteousness and the keeping of the law are one and the same thing. A man may have no system of ethics whatever, but so long as he does not break the law, he feels morally pure. He feels confident of the approval and blessing of God. Legalism is sinful because men love to set human standards which, if they are kept, produce a man’s righteousness. Christian liberty views the standard for our thoughts and actions to be our Lord Himself, for it is to His image that we are being conformed (Romans 8:29).

The Bible does draw lines, clear lines at times. There are absolutes, and there are rules. But in addition to these, perhaps I should say above all these, is another standard of conduct which we shall call ethics or convictions. Many Christians seem to have too few of these, and yet this is what sets a true Christian apart in the eyes of the world. How many of us are viewed by the world as Jacob was by Laban? How many of us have convictions that cause us to avoid certain practices, even if they are legal? Christian ethics should be so high that legalistic rules are never necessary, at least for those who are righteous.

Sunday – November 6, 2016 Genesis 19:1-38 “From Councilman to Caveman”

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Genesis 19:31-34
Then the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and let us lie with him that we may preserve our family through our father.” So they made their father drink wine that night, and the firstborn went in and lay with her father; and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.”

Whenever you hear of professing Christians who have fallen into gross sin, you ask yourself, “How did they ever get to this low-level?” If the people involved had made no claim of being Christians, it would be one thing. But when they claim to know God and then commit the worst kind of sins imaginable, you wonder what’s going on.

Lot’s story is like that. If Lot were not a believer, you would say, “That’s the way this evil world is.” But Peter emphasizes that Lot was a righteous man (2 Pet. 2:7-8). So when you read about his two daughters getting him drunk and committing incest with him, you wonder how a believer could get to that low point. Lot’s terrible sin should make us realize that just being a believer isn’t enough. Christians can fall into sins that are just as bad as those committed by unbelievers. Though Lot was a believer, he failed miserably with God and as a father. I want to examine why, so that none of us will fail the Lord and our families as Lot did.

The reason Lot failed is illustrated by an event that happened on June 5, 1976. On that day, under clear skies, without warning, the massive Teton Dam in southeastern Idaho collapsed, sending a torrent of water surging into the Snake River basin. There was extensive property damage and loss of life. It seemed to happen so quickly. Some workers on the dam barely had time to run for their lives. But it really didn’t happen suddenly. Beneath the water line, a hidden fault had been gradually weakening the entire structure. It started with just a tiny bit of erosion. But by the time it was detected, it was too late. No one had seen the little flaw; no one got hurt by it. But everyone saw the big collapse, and many were hurt.

That’s what happened to Lot. He allowed little sins in his life to go unchecked. They weren’t major, shocking kinds of sins – just “little” sins. I’m using the words “little” and “big” from the human perspective. By little sins I mean sins that people don’t consider serious, sins that we all tend to tolerate. By big sins, I mean sins like murder, adultery, incest, child abuse – sins that raise eyebrows and make us recoil in shock, sins that destroy families and reputations, leaving a trail of destruction. With Lot, the little sins were steadily eroding his moral character, until finally the sordid incident recorded here burst the dam. When little sins to go unchecked, they result in big sins.

Sunday – November 22, 2015 Revelation 6:9-17 “Martyrdom & Doomsday”

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Revelation 6:9-10
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

My heart has been heavy as I read and hear news reports of IS (Islamic State) and their attacks in Paris. IS released a video, in which they announced a threat, “Our message to the entire world is that we are the soldiers of the Caliphate state and we are coming.” So much of what we are seeing unfold in the Middle East characterizes what has happened to Christians throughout history in that region as well as other restricted nations. Throughout church history, there are numerous examples of radical religious groups and political tyrants that have persecuted God’s people to the point of death.

During the fifth century, Christians in a city in present-day Iraq called Kirkuk came under severe persecution. (Kirkuk was a part of the Persian Empire at that time.) Influenced by Zoroastrian priests, the emperor, Yazdegerd II, didn’t think Christians were capable of being loyal subjects of his empire, so he ordered they be eliminated – murdered – in A.D. 448. History estimates 153,000 leaders, clergy and laypeople were rounded up, taken to a mount outside of Kirkuk and slaughtered. The chief prosecutor, Tamasgerd, was so moved by the Christians’ resolve that he, too, placed his faith in Christ and followed them in death.

As we read and hear reports of the brutality happening in Paris, pray for members of IS. Pray they come face to face with Jesus Christ and give their lives to Him. Pray they will be overcome with the courage and endurance of the believers they persecute and choose to place their faith in Christ – like the chief prosecutor Tamasgerd during the massacre of Christians in Kirkuk in the 5th century. Pray for those workers on the front lines who risk their lives to witness in hostile circumstances. Finally, reach out to Muslims in our community and show them the love of Christ with the intent of winning them for Him. So many have come to the U.S. in pursuit of a better life and more will be coming. They, too, need to hear about Jesus Christ.

We are studying the Book of Revelation and we know who will ultimately win the battle – the Lord Jesus Christ. Until that day, when Jesus makes His final return to take His rightful place, you must stand with our persecuted family by choosing to fellowship with them through your prayers and actions. One day we will be in the cross hairs of persecution and will need the prayers and support of the Body of Christ as we stand for Jesus Christ.