Sunday – December 11, 2016 Genesis 23:1-20 “A Piece of the Promise”

Sunday – December 11, 2016 – Read the Word on Worship

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Genesis 23:1-3
Now Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.”

No subject is more difficult for us to face than that of death. Writer Somerset Maugham said, “Death is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it.” He was probably being facetious, but underneath he was probably voicing a fear that has haunted most of us: How are we to think about and deal with death, be it the death of loved ones, or our own death? But, of course, we can’t dodge it – we must die. But it’s still difficult to think about.

That question has caused some confusion among God’s people. Some have said that since Christ defeated death, we’re supposed to be joyful and victorious through it all. They deny the process of grieving. Others are quick to explain how God will work it all together for good, which is true. But we still grieve and feel the pain. Genesis 23 provides some answers to the question of how believers should deal with death. Abraham, the man of faith, loses his wife, Sarah. His response reflects both realism and faith.

It is interesting that only two verses deal with Sarah’s death and Abraham’s grief, whereas 18 verses deal with his negotiations to secure a burial plot –  but all of it is testifying that Abraham believed in more than a piece of real estate. They testify that God’s promises do not end with this life. God is going to do far more than He has done for us in this life. As the author of Hebrews says, they were desiring “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16). Abraham was “looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb. 11:10). His faith looked beyond the grave to the promises of God to send the Savior, and through Him to bless all nations.

Death, even for believers, brings hard realities. It always hurts, it always leaves us with a lonely spot in our hearts. It often brings hard financial realities. The Lord does not spare us these things just because we believe in Him. But with the pain, which reminds us of our sin as the reason death entered this world, He gives us the hope of His promises. Christ died for us, so that the sting of death is gone. Yes, we grieve at the death of loved ones, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope. He has gone to prepare a place for us. We will be reunited with our loved ones who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

Sunday – May 15, 2016 “I Am the Resurrection”

Sunday – May 15, 2016 – Read the Word on Worship

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John 11:25-27
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

The raising of Lazarus from the dead is the high point of our Lord’s self-disclosure to men. This is without a doubt the greatest miracle of His ministry. Humanly speaking, there was no hope of recovery, and yet at the point of absolute helplessness and hopelessness, Jesus gave life to the dead. The spiritual parallel is obvious, for all men are ‘dead in their trespasses and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1-3). When we reach the point of utter despair and self-distrust we find that what we can never do anything to merit the eternal life God has provided as a free gift, as Paul explains in the books of Romans and Ephesians. Jesus Christ has come, not to aid men in their struggle toward heaven, but to give life to those who are dead. As He gave life to Lazarus, so He offers spiritual life to all men, on the basis of faith.

As this miracle is the high point of self-revelation by Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, so it is also the high water mark of human resistance and rejection of the person of Christ. In the face of the most irrefutable evidence the Jewish leaders chose to set aside the evidence for the sake of expedience and sentence the Savior to death. The rejection of men was not based upon a lack of evidence, but upon moral decay and willful rejection of the truth. Our Lord was not taken by surprise, for He said in the gospel of Luke, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

The timing of this miracle also anticipates the coming death of the Lord Jesus Christ and guaranteed the fact that He would rise from the dead, just as He informed His disciples. If Jesus had power over death and the grave for Lazarus, then surely death could not hold Him in the grave.

In addition to John’s primary reasons for recording this miracle there are lessons for us by way of practical application. The resurrection of Lazarus confronts us with the same decision the people had to make when Jesus walked on earth as a man: What will you do with Jesus? You must either accept Him as the Savior and the Son of God, or you should reject Him as a phony and a fraud. He cannot be anything but one or the other. If we take these gospel accounts seriously at all we must face the same destiny-determining decision as those who witnessed His works while on the earth.

Sunday – February 7, 2015 Rev. 14:6-20 “The Grim Reaper & Grapes of Wrath”

Sunday – February 7, 2015 – Read the Word on Worship

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Revelation 14:18-19
Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God.”

I heard of a pastor who was talking with a colleague about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The colleague said, “Well, if that’s the way God really is, then I’m not going to believe in Him!” That is strange logic. Not believing in God doesn’t make Him go away. Yet I’ve often heard people dismiss God’s judgment by saying, “I believe in a God of love. He would never judge anyone, except maybe the worst of the worst of sinners.”

Or, some will say, “I don’t believe in the Old Testament God of judgment. I believe in Jesus, who never condemned anyone.” Really? Jesus spoke more often and more graphically about hell than anyone else in the Bible. He used the story of Sodom’s destruction to warn about the final judgment when He returns (Luke 17:29-32). The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, reveals a God who will bring judgment on sinners, but who shows mercy to those who repent of their sins and trust in Him.

What John is told to write is a beatitude in the preceding verses, a pronouncement of blessing or divine happiness upon those individuals who comply with certain truths or principles of Scripture, but always on the basis of grace. In Scripture a beatitude is always seen as a reversal of man’s viewpoint by setting forth God’s viewpoint, values, priorities and ideas. To the unbeliever, obeying the beast and worshipping him is more blessed than death; even slavery is better than death. For many death is feared, viewed as an unknown, or the end. But to believers, God’s viewpoint and the promises of His Word teach the direct opposite. To accept the beast is to forfeit trusting in Jesus Christ and so to forfeit eternal life. But death is never the end, it is only the beginning. This life is a place of preparation because our choices and works follow us into eternity.

Jesus didn’t come and die on the cross just to give us warm, fuzzy feelings about God’s love. He offered Himself to pay the penalty for sin that we deserved to rescue us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10). God’s past judgments – the angels who sinned, the world under the flood, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – are there to warn us that God will surely judge all that have sinned against Him. The preservation of Noah and the spiritual redemption of the thief on the cross at Jesus’ crucifixion give us the hope that if we trust in Christ and turn from our sins, God will mercifully spare us from the judgment to come. Believe in Jesus Christ and you will not perish, but have eternal life.