Sunday – December 25, 2016 Christmas Day – Celebrate the Savior’s Birth Service

Sunday – December 25, 2016 – Read the Word on Worship

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Luke 2:13-14
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Christmas is so much more than a Bible story. It is more than a history lesson. It is more than songs, lights, parties, and pretty presents under a tree. Christmas is more than just a yearly holiday celebration. Christmas represents not only the birth of the King of Kings but the incarnation of the God man. Leaving the eternal and taking on the form of a man, Jesus stepped out of Eternity and into time. He took on a temporal life so that He could invite us to have an eternal one.

Who, but the King who defines Himself as love, would be willing to be born in a stable so that the Shepherds who received a heavenly invitation to come and celebrate His birth would feel right at home when they arrived? The message of the angels was that God had sent Peace on Earth, The Prince of Peace. God blessed mankind with good will. Through Christ God’s good will was done on earth as it is in Heaven.

We must remind each other and teach our children these basic truths in such a way that when we are opening those pretty packages under our tree, we will remember that on that first Christmas God wrapped His Son in human flesh as a gift of salvation to all mankind. The truth of God’s unbelievable love should be so much a part of our Advent lessons that as we buy presents for those we love, we understand that Christmas is about loving our enemies too. That first Christmas was God giving the most important gift to a world at war with Him and His ways. But even when we were at war with God, He sent His Son to pay the price of our peace (Romans 5:10). As we sing the Christmas Carols of peace on earth, our songs remind the world Christmas is when God announced Peace on Earth by sending us the Prince of Peace to bring peace between man and God. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

It is one thing to read the story of Christmas. It is another thing to understand how to live it. I pray that God will help each person here this morning share the Christ of Christmas in such a way that He will be well remembered throughout the season. He is worth remembering; truly Jesus is the reason for the season!

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 – July 31, 2016 Genesis 9:1-17 “A Fresh Start”

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Genesis 9:8-11
Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.”

Ours is not an age that desires to make long-term commitments. The covenant of marriage is often avoided, and vows that are made lack the permanence and commitment of former days. Guarantees are given for a very short period. Contracts are often vaguely worded or are undermined by loopholes and fine print. Strangely, Christians seem to think that clear, contractual agreements are somehow unspiritual, especially between two believers. ‘A man should be as good as his word,’ we are told. And so he should.

This Noahic Covenant is important to us for a number of reasons. If the Noahic Covenant were not still in effect, you and I would be greatly concerned every time it rained. The calm which we experience is a direct result of the covenant God initiated centuries ago with Noah. The Noahic Covenant, in addition to the fact that it is still in force today, also provides us with a pattern for all of the other biblical covenants. As we come to understand this covenant, we will more fully appreciate the significance of all of the covenants, and especially the New Covenant instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ.

A biblical covenant usually involved three things: parties, terms, and promises. Suppose that you were a painter and I wanted my house painted. We could make a covenant together. You and I would be the two parties involved and the terms would include what areas were to be painted, what color, and when the job should be completed. The promise I made to you would be in the amount of money I was going to pay you when the job was finished. Your promise to me would be that the job would be completed as originally agreed. The agreement that we make concerning these elements: parties, terms, and promises, would be the covenant that we made with each other.

When God makes a covenant with us, it normally involves these three elements. The difference is that God alone determines the terms of the agreement, and that God always comes through on His end of the deal. If God is willing to make a covenant with us, and He is willing to bind Himself to that covenant no matter what, what does that say about the relationship God wants to have with us? It says that we can be hopeful about the future, because we worship a God that not only desires our companionship, but who is willing to take the steps necessary to obligate Himself to that relationship.

Sunday – March 27, 2016 Rev. 21:1 to 22:5 “It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This”

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Revelation 21:1-3
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Heaven seems almost inconceivable. As a young child I can remember attempting to comprehend time without end … infinity. Now I realize that heaven is even beyond that which I failed to fathom as a child, for heaven is the end of time; in heaven there is no time at all. The human authors of the Bible who have attempted to describe the beauties of heaven give evidence of their frustration at striving to depict an existence in a dimension beyond the grasp of mere mortals:… but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

I have heard it said, giving a description of heaven in human words is more difficult than an Eskimo going to Hawaii, and then on his return trying to describe a pineapple to his people. Heaven is an important subject for Christians, not only because it is a pleasant topic to investigate, but because it is so vital to our faith. The fear of hell and eternal torment may be a strong incentive for salvation, but it is not the basis for our hope and faith. In the Bible heaven is the ground of our faith and hope.

In John 14, our Lord spoke of returning to His Father, where He would “prepare a place” for us. We naturally tend to think that “going to heaven” means our going far away to that place which our Lord is preparing; but it is more accurate to think of heaven as coming to us, for the New Jerusalem will come to the (new) earth, according to the scriptures. In this sense, heaven is more earthly than we sometimes think.

But the greatest disservice I can do is to leave the impression that the joys of heaven are assured for everyone. In each of the last three chapters of Revelation, the fate of the true believer and the unbeliever is contrasted. Those who have chosen to reject Jesus Christ as God’s only provision of righteousness, of forgiveness for sins, and of entrance into heaven, will not spend eternity with God. I urge you to not put this message down without searching your own heart. Have you come to see yourself as a sinner, deserving of God’s wrath? Have you acknowledged Jesus Christ to be the sinless Son of God, Who died in your place, bore your sins, and offers you His righteousness? You may have the assurance of spending eternity with God if you but receive, by faith, the gift of salvation through His Son.

Sunday – March 20, 2016 Rev. 20:1-15 “Pay Day is Some Day”

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Revelation 20:1-3
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.”

Revelation 20 is one of the greatest and most important chapters of the Bible. It presents in summary the tremendous series of events that encompass the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. Many Bible teachers believe that it is in this future period that many Old and New Testament prophecies will find their ultimate fulfillment. However, the view that Revelation 20 is speaking of a literal thousand-year reign of Christ is also one of the most controversial and a bewildering array of diverse interpretations that may be found in regard to this passage.

The term millennium, a Latin word meaning one thousand years, is the term that has come to be used of the thousand-year period spoken of in this passage. The term “millennium” is found six times in verses 2-7. The Premillennial View is the view that Christ will personally return and reign on earth for one thousand years. The prefix “pre” expresses the view that Christ returns first, then literally reigns on earth. It also views Christ as fulfilling all the Old Testament prophecies literally in a kingdom on earth. The premillennial view is the result of a literal interpretation of Revelation 20, a view held by even the very early church fathers of the first and second century.

The Amillennial View is the most popular modern view. The prefix “A” simply means a denial of the Millennium and the literal reign of Christ on earth and seeks to make the Book of Revelation a spiritual allegory. Satan was bound at the first coming of Christ and the present age between the first and second comings of Christ is seen as the fulfillment of the Millennium. Its adherents are divided. Some believe the Millennium is being fulfilled now on earth, and is equivalent to the kingdom of God in you. Others believe it is being fulfilled by the saints in heaven. It may be summed up in the idea that there will be no more Millennium than there is now, and Christ’s second coming is immediately followed by the eternal state.

Paul teaches us that the Old Testament Scripture and God’s dealing with Israel do have spiritual analogies for the Christian life. Scripture is full of such analogies and types, but the significance is based on the literal historicity of the event whether past or future. It is never a means to deny its literal meaning or fulfillment. Scripture abounds in allegories, whether in the form of types, symbols, or parables. These are accepted and legitimate ways to teach and communicate spiritual truth. However, there is a great deal of difference between such use of allegories and allegorical interpretation. In one you have the illustration and application of spiritual truth based on literal interpretation and historical fact. In the other, you have disregard for the literal meaning and historical fact based on the literal method of interpretation and in its place an allegory is set up based on the interpreter’s own fancy.

 

Sunday – March 13, 2016 Rev. 19:1-21 “Getting a Handle on Hallelujah”

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Revelation 19:11-15
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.”

The last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, is in many respects the capstone on the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. This truth is introduced in the first chapter with the pronouncement in Revelation 1:7 “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen”. Most of the book of Revelation consists in exhortations and predictions in view of the Lord’s return and unfolds in more detail than any other portion of Scripture about the great tribulation which will precede the second advent.

The great tribulation is climaxed by the vision which John records in our text of Revelation 19. In this, Christ is pictured as coming from heaven on a white horse accompanied by the armies of heaven to claim His right as King of kings and Lord of lords to judge the wicked earth. The resulting description provides the graphic detail of the destruction of the armies which had been previously gathered in a final gigantic world war. All of these armies oppose Christ at His second coming. Not only the armies, but the world ruler and the false prophet are destroyed, and ultimately resulting in the beast and the false prophet are cast alive into the lake of fire.

This glorious event is the prelude to the establishment of the millennial kingdom of Christ. The early verses of chapter 20 of Revelation indicate that Satan will be bound and cast into the bottomless pit to remain inactive for the entire thousand years of Christ’s reign on earth. The vision which John sees is given specific interpretation, namely, that Satan is so bound that he will not deceive the nations. He will remain bound for a thousand years and after this will be loosed. This interpretation makes impossible the spiritualization of this passage as many have done in an attempt to eliminate the millennial reign of Christ. In the verses which follow, the millennial kingdom is established.

Psalm 146:10 reminds us, “The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” Wicked people may think that God does not reign, but the Lord scoffs at them (Ps. 2:1-4). This God who reigns is our God and we are His people. Therefore, our praise should begin here on earth, as long as we have life and breath, and will continue forever and ever.

Sunday – March 6, 2016 Rev. 18:1-24 “Babylon the Great Has Fallen”

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Revelation 18:9-10
And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, “Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.”

In 1962, philosopher-scientist Thomas Kuhn coined the term “paradigm shift” to signal a massive change in the way a community thinks about a particular topic. Examples of paradigm shifts include Copernicus’s discovery that the earth revolves around the sun, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and Darwin’s theory of evolution. Each changed the world of thought (some for better, some for worse) in a fundamental way. From a political perspective, Constantine’s Edict of Milan, issued in AD 313, was the beginning of a major paradigm shift that signaled the end of the ancient world and the beginning of the medieval period. That edict legitimated Christianity and impressed upon it the Empire’s stamp of approval.

From a theological perspective – specifically an eschatological one – the Edict of Milan also signaled a monumental paradigm shift from the well-grounded premillennialism of the ancient church fathers to the amillennialism or postmillennialism. In the two centuries that led up to the edict, two crucial interpretive errors found their way into the church that made conditions ripe for the paradigm shift incident to the Edict of Milan. The second century fathers failed to keep clear the biblical distinction between Israel and the church. Then, the third century fathers abandoned a literal method of interpreting the Bible in favor of spiritualized allegory. Once the distinction between Israel and the church became blurred and a literal hermeneutic was lost, the societal changes occasioned by the Edict of Milan caused fourth century fathers to reject premillennialism in favor of Augustinian amillennialism.

A simple concordance search of the word “Israel” in the New Testament will lead to the conclusion that the New Testament writers never equated the church with the nation of Israel. However, what the New Testament writers did not do, the post-apostolic fathers quickly did. As the church began to be dominated by people without Jewish roots, the hardening of the Jews’ hearts and the waning hope for Israel’s conversion made it easier for the increasingly Gentile church to rally against Judaism and to seek a replacement theology. The basic premise of the early fathers was that God had permanently cut the nation of Israel off as his people as a result of their disobedience and idolatry in the Old Testament and their rejection and crucifixion of Jesus in the New.

The bottom line, of course, is that we must continually go back to the Scriptures as our only source for “doing theology.” As much as we may respect and admire the early church fathers, or, for that matter, the reformers, the puritans, or a particular modern spiritual leader, we must always remember to be Bereans, checking their conclusions and reasoning against the plumb line of God’s Word.

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

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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.

Sunday – January 31, 2015 Revelation 14:1-5 “The 144,000”

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Revelation 14:6-7
And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”

The best salesmen are always those who love their product. They are convinced that you cannot really enjoy life unless you have what they are selling. And while sales and evangelism are not completely analogous, the most effective witnesses are those who are obviously captivated by the greatness of God and His salvation.

John Piper wrote, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.” He adds, “The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God.” He is right that worship is the goal of missions. But it’s also true that worship is the basis for missions. If we are not fervent worshipers of God, we have nothing to tell the nations. If we do not exude joy in God and His wonderful salvation, why should lost people be interested in what we have to say? So worship is both the goal of missions and the foundation for missions. If we’re not worshipers, we will be lousy witnesses.

If the glorious God is our Savior, we will be a worshiping people. Our voices will often break forth in singing His praises. Our thoughts will often be on how great and mighty God is. Our hearts will often bow in reverence before His holiness. We will look forward with delight to each Lord’s Day when we can join with the saints in singing His praises. To give God the glory of His name you must be growing through His Word to know how great He really is.

If the glorious God is our Savior, we will be a witnessing people, both here and abroad. Witness is the overflow of worship. If you are captivated by a beautiful mountain scene, you can’t help but tell others about it. If you are captivated by the majesty and splendor of the glorious God, you’ll want to tell others about Him. And, as long as there are peoples around the world with no witness of the Savior, you will want to give generously to support missionaries to go and tell them. You may even sense the Lord calling you to go. Test yourself this morning as you read this passage: Are you worshiping the glorious God? Are you witnessing to the nations? Are you watching expectantly for the Lord to come in judgment?

Sunday – November 8, 2015 Revelation 5:8-14 “In Praise of the Lamb”

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Revelation 5:13-14
And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.”

Some time ago I heard Pat Boone share his early childhood definition of heaven. It suddenly occurred to him while he was sitting (or was it squirming?) in church, agonizing through one of the pastor’s typically long and boring sermons. Heaven, Pat reasoned, was going to be just like church – one thousand years – ten thousand years – forever. It was almost too much to handle. Such a state of affairs seemed more like purgatory than perfection in his childhood mind.

Most Christians are assured that this childhood conception of eternity with God falls considerably short of the biblical description of heaven. In the words of the contemporary song, “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace …” If it is such a wonderful place, do you wonder why we do not spend more time talking about it? Simply put, Jesus talked more of hell than heaven, probably because hell and divine judgment are easier to identify with. All about us we see the ugly consequences of sin. We see suffering and anguish because of the evil in the hearts of men. There is enough “hell” on earth at present, so that we need only think of eternal torment in terms of greater degrees.

Heaven, on the other hand, seems almost inconceivable. As a young child I can remember attempting to comprehend time without end … infinity. Now I realize that heaven is even beyond that which I failed to fathom as a child, for heaven is the end of time; in heaven there is no time at all. The human authors of the Bible who have attempted to describe the beauties of heaven give evidence of their frustration at striving to depict an existence in a dimension beyond the grasp of mere mortals: “but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Let us seek to be heavenly minded, to pursue the kingdom of God and to pray for its coming. Let us also seek to be faithful in the present, serving in society as salt and light, and striving to lead others to Him Who is Life and Peace and Blessing. And let us persevere in our trials, knowing that our faithfulness will be rewarded when we see Him face to face.