Sunday – December 17, 2017 Gospel of Luke – “Why Not Call Him Zach Jr?” Luke 1:57-80

Sunday – December 17, 2017 – Read the Word on Worship

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Luke 1:67-69
And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant…”

Suppose that you had just visited Niagara Falls, marveling at the massive power of all that water gushing over the falls. So you decided to see what the river looked like about a mile upstream. As you’re there, you see a guy in a rowboat, floating downstream toward the falls, oblivious to any danger. You yell at him, waving your arms to no avail – he is oblivious to the danger that waits ahead. If there was a speedboat moored nearby, you could jump in and race out to where he was and throw him a lifeline. But he may not even take it, because obviously, he is not aware that he is in any danger. He’s just cruising down the river, and to take your lifeline would interrupt his leisurely cruise.

The guy in the rowboat represents many in our culture today. Many of them are in church on a given Sunday. They’re cruising down the river of life, fairly contented with how things are going. But they’re oblivious to the fact that God’s terrible judgment lies just ahead. They think it only applies to people who aren’t in a good boat like they’re in. They’re in the rowboat of their own good deeds, and they figure that it will carry them through what they think may be a few ripples of the judgment. So any warnings you shout to them, or any efforts to throw them the lifeline of salvation, are ignored. They don’t see their desperate need of salvation, and so they don’t respond with gratitude and relief to the tender mercy of God in sending the Savior.

Zacharias could easily have been the man in the rowboat. He was a faithful Jewish man who performed his duty as a priest. He and his wife kept the Lord’s commandments and ordinances (Luke 1:6). He wasn’t a godless man, like the pagan Romans and he wasn’t a religious hypocrite, like the profane Herod who reigned over the land. Zacharias easily could have thought of himself as a man who was secure in the rowboat of his own good works, with nothing to fear from God’s judgment. But, thankfully, Zacharias did not see himself that way. He knew that the falls were rapidly approaching, and he saw himself helplessly drifting toward them with increasing speed. And so, when God revealed to him that he would have a son who would be the forerunner of the Savior, Zacharias broke forth in this beautiful psalm of praise to God for His great mercy in sending the Savior who had been promised centuries before.

Have you personally experienced the tender mercy of God by receiving the forgiveness of sins He offers through the Lord Jesus Christ? Has the Holy Spirit opened your eyes to your desperate situation outside of Christ? You sit in darkness and the shadow of death, awaiting God’s awful judgment. You can do nothing to save yourself. But God has done it all. In His tender mercy, He offers you a full pardon if you will receive Jesus Christ.

Sunday – April 2, 2017 Genesis 34:1-31 “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah”

Sunday – April 2, 2017 – Read the Word on Worship

Sunday – April 2, 2017 Genesis 34:1-31 “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah” from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.

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Genesis 34:8-11
But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. Intermarry with us; give your daughters to us and take our daughters for yourselves. Thus you shall live with us, and the land shall be open before you; live and trade in it and acquire property in it.”

The greatest dangers in life are always subtle, not frontal. With a frontal danger, you’re on guard; you’re not as vulnerable. But with a subtle danger, like the proverbial frog in the kettle, you’re not aware of it until it’s too late. When Jacob returned to Canaan, Satan didn’t use an army or a band of robbers to try to get him. Instead, he used Jacob’s fear of Esau to get him to settle in the north, near Shechem. It was inside the borders of Canaan, so Jacob could rationalize that he had obeyed God by returning to the land. But it wasn’t Bethel, where Jacob needed to fulfill his vow to the Lord. It wasn’t Hebron, where his father Isaac was still living. Jacob’s settling on the outskirts of Shechem reminds us of Lot pitching his tent near Sodom. Although Jacob built an altar there, he wasn’t where God wanted him to be.

The Shechemites were friendly toward Jacob. Although the young man for whom the town was named violated Jacob’s daughter, he wanted to make things right. He said he loved her and wanted to marry her. He was willing to pay a handsome dowry. He and his father offered to form a friendly alliance, intermarrying with Jacob’s people and letting them trade and own property. The appeal was for Jacob to “become one people” with them. It sounded beneficial.

Jacob thought he was in great danger in facing Esau; actually, he was quite safe then, surrounded by a regiment of angels. Here, Jacob thought he was quite safe with these friendly people, but he was in great danger. If he had accepted the Shechemites’ offer, God’s people would have been absorbed into the Canaanite culture and would have ceased to exist. We pray for the church in countries where there is persecution, and rightly so. But the greatest danger to God’s people is not persecution; it’s assimilation. Persecution has a way of weeding out the lukewarm. We who are prone to blend in with our hedonistic culture are in greater spiritual danger than those who are persecuted.

In my estimation, most Christians in America prefer to dwell in comfort and complacency rather than to live on the cutting edge of Christianity. Most of us, like Jacob, prefer peace to purity, prosperity to piety, and safety to spirituality. The commands and principles of the New Testament, like the laws of the Old, are designed to cause us to live on the cutting edge of life. That, I believe, is why our Lord told the rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. That man could not trust in God AND gold — it was one or the other. While money is not evil, trusting in it for security is (I Timothy 6:17). God desires to remove from our lives anything which stands in the way of our total trust in Him. May each of us be willing to look only to Him for security and safety, for that is the way God has ordered this universe.

Sunday – March 26, 2017 Genesis 33:1-20 “Time to Eat Crow”

Sunday – March 26, 2017 – Read the Word on Worship

Sunday – March 26, 2017 Genesis 33:1-20 “Time to Eat Crow” from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.

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Genesis 33:18-20
Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. He bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.”

Nothing is more devastating than to be making progress in a particular area and then to be swallowed up by a sense of pride and complacency. The temptation is to rest upon our laurels and fail to press on to greater growth and maturity. The moment we feel secure, we are in the greatest danger. The moment we become aloof to the intensity of the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged and the enemy who seeks to destroy us, we are beginning to fall into the enemy’s grasp.

This was true in the life of Jacob and is particularly relevant to 20th century Christians who live in America, for we have been lulled into a false sense of security by our comfortable and easy way of life. We have Social Security and Medicare, welfare and workman’s compensation. We have insurance protection against all kinds of losses. We never wake up in the morning wondering if we will eat or where we will sleep the next night. Christians can feel even more comfortable, for many believe that when things really begin to get severely bad (the great tribulation) they will not be around to face it anyway because of the rapture. In the midst of this kind of artificial security, we begin to live carelessly and find ourselves in danger of some serious spiritual defeats.

            Jacob was never in greater danger than at those times when he felt most secure. Jacob seemed to feel safest when his brother was out of sight, and yet it seems that Esau came with his armed men in order to provide an escort for him into Canaan. Jacob felt secure when his cattle could feed on the lush grass of Succoth rather than in the more sparse pastures of Bethel. He felt safer near a city of Canaanites than in the seclusion of some place more remote from civilization. But it was in Shechem that the rape of Dinah occurred, and it was there that Jacob could have been killed by the Canaanites.

The reason for this is really quite simple: we are most inclined to trust in God and obey Him when we sense that we are in grave danger and that our only hope is in God alone to save us. It is sad but true that all of us tend to slack up in our diligence and devotion when things are going along smoothly. We think that we can handle things ourselves when dangers seem distant and troubles are far removed, but when there is a crisis or a sudden overwhelming problem, then we rush to God for help. It is a foxhole kind of Christianity, but that is the way we are. Let us seek to learn from the life of Jacob how we can avoid complacency and over-confidence, which can be hazardous to our spiritual health. Let us seek to trust in God and obey Him at all times.