Sunday – April 7, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 16:19-31 “Lazarus and the Rich Man”

Sunday – April 7, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 7, 2019

Luke 16:30-31
But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.”

How can people be so careless about their eternal destiny? The great deceiver, Satan, gets them focused on the here and now. Every once in a while—when a friend dies or when a major catastrophe claims many lives—they think briefly about death. But they figure, “I’m a basically a good person. God is loving; He wouldn’t condemn a decent person like me.” And, they put it out of their minds and get on with pursuing the good life.

Jesus directed the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to the Pharisees, who thought that they would get into heaven because they were good men. They were the religious leaders, at the synagogue every time the doors opened. They studied the Law and the Prophets and participated in all of the annual feasts and holy days of the Jewish faith. They even called Abraham their father. But their religion was outward, designed to impress others. But God was not impressed because their hearts were full of pride and hypocrisy (16:15). They would have protested that they kept the Law, but they were not concerned about inner, heart righteousness before God. Like the rich man in the parable, they were living the good life, assuming that they would go to heaven. Their love of money had blinded them to God’s perspective.

As far as we know, the rich man in the parable was not guilty of any gross sin. His fault was in living for himself and for this life only, with no view to eternity. His sin was not in having money; Abraham was a wealthy man. His sin was that he did not use the mammon of unrighteousness to make friends for himself so that when it failed, they would receive him into eternal dwellings (16:9). He failed to lay up treasures in heaven, even though the opportunity to do so literally lay at his doorstep every day. Even having Abraham as his father (16:24, 27, 30) wouldn’t help him on judgment day, because he had neglected the true message of Moses and the Prophets.

The story of the rich man and Lazarus concludes in such a way as to indicate what really justifies a man. The rich man was not condemned because he was rich, any more than the poor man was justified for being poor. These outward conditions (riches and poverty) were fundamentally irrelevant to the eternal destiny of these men. A godly rich man would have used his wealth differently, but it was not his works that would have saved him. The real basis for justification or condemnation is to be found in the context of the rich man’s concern for his lost brothers. The issue was whether or not these men were rich or poor, but whether or not these men believed the Scriptures. It is not riches nor poverty which determines one’s destiny, but belief or unbelief.

Sunday – March 10, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 15:1-31 “Lost and Found” Part 2

Sunday – March 10, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 10, 2019

Luke 15:31-32
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'”

The Bible is like a mirror. At first, we look into it and think that we are reading stories about others. It’s interesting to see how they are portrayed. We may chuckle at their antics or shake our heads in disbelief at their stupid ways. But the longer we look, the more we begin to notice that those characters in the Bible look more like us! Gradually, we begin to realize (with some embarrassment), “That is me!” The parable of the prodigal son is like that mirror. At first it just seems like an interesting and touching story. But the more you look, the more you begin to see your own heart either in the prodigal or in his older brother, or in both.

But the Bible not only reveals what we are like, it also reveals what God is like. This is important, because we cannot know what God is like apart from His revealing Himself to us. We can speculate on what we think God is like, but such speculations don’t mean anything, because they are just our opinions, not based in fact. Jesus Christ reveals to us what God the Father is truly like. While it is not a comprehensive picture, the father of the prodigal son gives us an important aspect of God’s character, namely, His abundant mercy toward all who will repent of their sins.

At the end, Jesus leaves the story hanging, with the older brother outside. We don’t know if he ever came in to join the party, in spite of the father’s gracious and gentle appeal. Jesus leaves the story there to make us consider our own response. If we are like the older brother, if we pride ourselves in being good, church-going people, if we see ourselves as better than prostitutes and drug dealers and thieves and other obvious sinners, then we need to judge our self-righteous pride. In the same way, we would be greatly wrong to go out and join in the sins of the prodigal, so that grace might abound. Neither son was right in their response to the abundance of their father.

We’re all sinners, desperately in need of mercy, not justice. Perhaps we started laboring in God’s field at sunrise and someone else comes in at 5 p.m. and gets the same pay as we do. Don’t begrudge him; just be glad that God is a God of great mercy, even toward the proud if they repent. If you, like the prodigal, have rebelled against God and have come to see your wretched condition, your response should be like his: Get up, leave your sin, go to the Father and appeal for His mercy. You will find it in abundance.

Sunday – November 4, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 11:1-13 “Teach Us How to Pray”

Sunday – November 4, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 4, 2018

Luke 11:9-10
So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.”

All of us who are Christians have struggled with the problem of unanswered prayer. In fact, that problem can discourage us so much that we start thinking, “What’s the use?” and we even quit praying. We hear stories of how God answered prayer for others, but for us it just doesn’t seem to work. Sometimes we may try again, but we’re like boys who ring the doorbell and run away. We don’t stick around long enough to find out if God is home and if He is going to open the door and answer our request.

The strong emphasis in this whole section is on receiving answers to our prayers. The friend at midnight did not go away empty-handed. He got the bread that he came for. The application emphasizes that one who keeps asking, seeking, and knocking will receive what he is after. The story of the father and his son makes the same point: the boy will get what he asks from his father. The final application drives it home again with force: How much more will the heavenly Father respond favorably to those who ask Him? Our Lord wants us to come to the Father and keep on coming until He gives us what we need to see His kingdom come.

If we do not pray daily to God as our Father for these needs, or if we pray only for some of them, it may be because God is not a Father to us, but our foe. Only the one who knows God as their Father can pray to Him as their heavenly Father and do so expecting Him to hear and to answer with good gifts. Some things the true disciple is instructed to pray to come to pass would be viewed as distasteful, even dreaded by a non-Christian. What unbeliever would pray for the coming of the Lord’s kingdom, knowing that it would not only spell the end of their sinful lives, but also their damnation? Who would pray for forgiveness of sins, if they denied that they were sinners?

If you lack the confidence to come to Him as your Father, then God has a way for you to become His child. That way is through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. He has come to the earth and has died in your place. God’s anger toward your sin has already fallen on Him. All that you must do is to receive God’s gift of forgiveness and of eternal life through His Son, and through His death on the cross of Calvary. Come to the Father as your Father, now.

Sunday February 18, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “The Last Temptation of Christ” Luke 4:9-12

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Luke 4:9-12
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.  For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”

Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Have you ever watched a small child learn to trust its father? When Gwen was younger we would sometimes visit a swimming pool. With a little persuasion, I would entice her to jump into my arms in the pool. After a few experiences, no coaxing was needed. In fact, sometimes she would leap when I was not looking, bobbing to the surface with the greatest of delight. It is not difficult to imagine that the Son of God could have felt the same way about jumping from the pinnacle of the temple.

Sonship really was the issue of the third temptation. Israel had failed to grasp what sonship entailed, and rebelled when they became aware of its price. Our Lord understood fully what sonship was all about, and thus each of His responses to Satan came from the one place in the Old Testament which most emphatically taught the meaning and implications of sonship.

We must remember that as Christians we are also “sons of God,” who are to reign with Christ. And as “sons of God,” we are subject to testing and discipline (Heb. 12), although maybe not in the exact ways as our Lord. We are also susceptible to the same temptations to which Adam and Eve and Israel (and all mankind) have failed. Thus, the test of our Lord’s sonship is very relevant to “sons of God.” The father-son relationship is one with a clearly defined chain of command. The father is in authority over the son. The child is to trust and obey the father.

For a “son of God” to put God the Father to the test is to reverse the authority structure which God has established. It is to forget that it God tests us; we are not here to test God. We need proving, not God. We are here to serve God; God is not our servant, standing by ever ready to do our bidding. Was this not the essence of God’s rebuke of Job? All too often, Christians are representing God as the servant of man, who is so eager to have followers that He is ready to do our bidding. Wrong! Sonship means that we are the ones to obey, to serve, and, if it pleases the Father, to suffer according the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is God who tests us; we do not test Him.

Sunday February 4, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “Can God Be Tempted?” Luke 4:1-4

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Luke 4:1-2
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.”

Have you ever wondered what the difference was between being tempted and being tested? The Bible speaks of both, but does that mean the two are interchangeable? Does it make a difference if Jesus was tempted by Satan or only tested in the Wilderness?

Temptation is, on the one hand, a solicitation to sin, to do that which is contrary to the will and the word of God. Temptation is an attempt to cause a person to sin. Satan’s efforts at temptation always fall into this category. But “temptation” when viewed from God’s point of view is a “test,” an opportunity for one to be proven righteous. In the case of Job, Satan sought to bring Job to the point of forsaking his faith, but God’s purpose was to deepen Job’s faith, as well as to demonstrate to Satan that Job’s love for God was not based upon the material blessings that God had bestowed upon him.

In the same way, Jesus was “tempted” in two senses in our text. From the vantage point of Satan’s intended purpose, our Lord was tempted. Satan wished to prompt the “Son of God” to act in disobedience to the Father, thus terminating His ability to fulfill His mission. From the viewpoint of God, this was a “test” of Jesus Christ, proving Him to be suited and qualified to fulfill His mission as the Son of God.

This temptation struck at the very heart of the gospel, for the Lord Jesus had come to the earth in obedience to the will of the Father, to die on the cross for sinners, so that they might be forgiven and have eternal life. Would Jesus save His own life, contrary to the will of His Father? Then He could not achieve eternal life for all men. Would Jesus act on His own behalf, distrusting and disobeying the Father? Then He would pursue the path of death, not life, for life requires obedience to God, even more than feeding the body. To have turned the stone into bread would have been to have turned from the path that led ultimately to the cross. The rejection by Jesus of Satan’s proposition meant that He was determined to accomplish the will of God, even unto death, which paradoxically, was the way to life, for Him and for all who are found in Him.

Death is not the end of life, rather death is the way to life. The death of Christ became the way in which men could have eternal life. His death meant that He suffered and paid the penalty for our sins. By believing in Christ we become identified with His death, burial, and resurrection, which is symbolized by baptism. But not only is death the way to life (dying in Christ to sin), it is for the Christian, the way of life. We are taught that we must daily “take up our cross,” we must die to self-will and self-interest. The way of life is death to self, that is the way of the cross.

Sunday – July 30, 2017 Thom Rachford Preaching

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The Kingdom Come

Acts 1:6-7
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.

Jesus disciples knew the many Old Testament prophecies about a coming Kingdom. Jesus had preached that the Kingdom was at hand.  They were anxious to know if today was the day.  James and John wanted positions of authority in the Kingdom and to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand.  In Matt 6:9 Jesus even told His disciples to pray “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heavenThey were expecting a Kingdom on earth with Jesus as King and the Father’s will is done like it is in Heaven.  The time seemed right.

When the disciples asked, Jesus did not refute the idea of a restored Kingdom to Israel. He only said it was not for them to know the time.  After His death and resurrection they asked Him again.  Now, sin had been dealt with, and now death was overcome.  Everything would seem to be in place for the Kingdom to come immediately.  However, the Kingdom was postponed until the Time of The Gentiles was completed.  The Time of the Gentiles was brought on by Israel’s rebellion against God and His commandments.  Like other of God’s Judgments, the Time of the Gentiles must be fulfilled as God directs.  But the Kingdom Will Come.

Sunday – April 30, 2017 Genesis 37:1-36 “Jacob, Joseph and Jealousy”

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Genesis 37:2
Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives.”

It is impossible to live in this world and not be hurt by someone else’s sin. When you have been wounded by someone else’s sin, you’ve probably wondered, “Where is God in all this? If God is all-powerful and loving, why is He allowing this terrible sin against me? If He is in control, why do wicked men literally get away with murder? If God is sovereign, why am I in the pits?”

Joseph could have asked that question. Due to his brothers’ sin, he was literally in a pit. From there things didn’t get better. His brothers didn’t kill him, as they originally planned, but they did sell their 17-year-old brother into slavery in a foreign land. As that caravan made its way south toward Egypt, perhaps passing within a few miles of Joseph’s home in Hebron, he must have been overwhelmed with grief and loneliness as he wondered if he would ever see his father again. He must have wrestled with fear, anger, and feelings of rejection as he thought about his brothers’ cruelty toward him. A skeptic might say, “See, God isn’t there when you need Him. If He cared about you, He would stop sinful men from carrying out their terrible plans.” But God’s sovereign providence runs like a strong river through this chapter, carrying even the sinful plans of man downstream in His overall purpose.

Perhaps the most convincing evidence of God’s sovereign hand in these events is the remarkable parallel between Joseph’s history and that of our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as Joseph was loved by his father and sent to seek the welfare of his brethren, so Jesus was loved and sent by the Father. Just as Joseph’s brothers hated him because he spoke the truth about their sin and he convicted them of sin by his righteous life, so with Jesus. Just as Joseph’s brothers sold him for a few pieces of silver, so Jesus was betrayed for the same. Joseph’s brothers sought to get rid of him so that he would not reign over them, but their action resulted in that becoming true. Their rejection of him resulted in his later becoming their savior from the famine. Even so, the Jewish leaders did not want Jesus to reign over them. But their killing Him resulted in His becoming the Savior of all men, exalted in His resurrection as Lord of all at the right hand of the Father, just as Joseph was second under Pharaoh.

In various situations, we may feel that we’re in over our head. A terrible tragedy hits us out of nowhere. We lose our job, someone dies, someone wrongs us, and we feel as if we’re going to be swamped. But, the truth is, we’ve always been held up by the grace and love of our Heavenly Father. If He let us go, we’d drown even in the shallow end. If we’re in deeper waters, we’re still in His strong arms. God is never out of His depth, and so we can trust Him even when the waters seem deeper than we’ve ever been before. If you’re in the pits, remember, God is sovereign over all the details of your life. You can trust Him to work it all together for good! If you’ve never trusted Him before, why not begin now?

Resurrection Sunday – April 16, 2017 John 16:19-22 Celebrate the Risen Savior

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John 5:28-29
Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”

If anyone can speak with authority about life beyond the grave and God’s judgment, it is Jesus Christ. He claimed to be sent from God the Father and to be one in essence with the Father. Either He is God in human flesh, or else He is a first-class liar! Jesus reinforced this statement with many bold claims that would be blasphemous in the mouth of anyone other than God.

He claimed to do everything that He saw the Father doing (5:19)! He claimed that the Father showed the Son all that He is doing (5:20)! He claimed to have the power and authority to give life to whomever He wishes (5:21)! He claimed that the Father had given all authority to judge to the Son (5:22)! He claimed that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father (5:23). As if these claims were not stupendous enough, Jesus continued, “he who hears My word, and believes in Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (5:24). What mere man could make such claims? Even if Jesus were, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim, the first and greatest of all created beings, He would have been blaspheming to make such claims to deity, if He were not fully God!

Maybe you have heard the expression, “going first class on the Titanic.” It describes those who foolishly devote themselves to seeking after pleasure in this life only. This world and all who live for it are headed for judgment. Going first class on a ship that is certain to go down is not wise! And so each of us needs to ask, “Is my hope of heaven based solely on the fact that God sent Jesus to pay the penalty for my sins, and that He raised Him from the dead? Because He has cleansed my heart through His mercy, do I now desire to live in a manner that is pleasing to Him?”

Jesus said, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal” (John 6:27). Again, what an astounding claim! Jesus offers to give eternal life to those who seek it. The day is coming when you will be raised, either to life or to judgment. In light of who Jesus is, if I may speak plainly, you would be stupid to live for this life, but to neglect the free gift that will prepare you for the life to come.

Sunday – March 19, 2017 Genesis 32:1-32 “Unfinished Business”

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Genesis 32:9-10

Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant…”

The prayer of Jacob in Genesis 32 is one of the greatest lessons in prayer in all of Scripture. Even before Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, Jacob gives us an outstanding template to approach our Heavenly Father in our time of need. Reflecting on Jacob’s prayer, I see four elements for us to implement in our prayer lives. First, Jacob addressed the Lord as the God of his “father Abraham” and his “father Isaac.” This is significant. Jacob was beginning to understand more fully his place in God’s divine plan. His prayer is the divine pattern of many biblical prayers — to acknowledge who God really is. When Nehemiah prayed about the sad condition of his people in Jerusalem, he lifted up his voice to God and said, “I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God” (Nehemiah 1:5a). He is a king to be honored and we must acknowledge Him as such.

Jacob prays on the basis of two things: God told him to return to his homeland, and God promised to bless him. He isn’t appealing to God on the basis of his own performance, but solely on the basis of God’s promises. Jacob stands on the promises of God because he knows that God keeps His Word. Many of our prayers fall short because there is none of God’s Word within them. This is because there is so little of God’s Word in us. Yet, both prayer and God’s Word are essential.

Now Jacob’s arrogant self-confidence is gone and he finally acknowledges that he is completely unworthy of God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness. This is a big step for Jacob. He has come to the point of recognizing that he stands by God’s mercy alone. Sometimes we have to hit bottom before we can see our true condition. Only as we recognize that we stand by mercy will we be prepared to act mercifully toward others. When you pray to the Lord, it is critical that you confess your sin, keep short accounts with Him, and acknowledge that you are undeserving and nothing without Him.

Finally, Jacob asks God to specifically save him from the hand of his brother. He doesn’t mince words; he’s clear and specific. Unlike his actions before going to live with Laban, when he took matters into his own hands to wrest away Isaac’s blessing from Esau, Jacob now realizes that he must depend totally on God in order to secure his own well-being. It is worth noting that Jacob requests God’s protection for himself and his family. He’s showing some semblance of concern for someone other than himself. We must follow Jacob’s example and learn to pray specific requests. When we do so, God tends to respond with specific answers. Today, will you make a commitment to pray for yourself and others in this way? Will you also pray first, instead of as a last resort? As you do, it will go well with you.

Sunday – January 29, 2017 Genesis 26:1-35 “Walking in Dad’s Footsteps”

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Genesis 26:3-4
Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…”

Have you ever felt that God couldn’t use you to serve Him because you were just too ordinary? One reason the story of Isaac is in the Bible is to show us how God can use an ordinary person. Isaac was the ordinary son of a famous father, and the ordinary father of a famous son. Alexander Maclaren began a sermon on Isaac by noting, “The salient feature of Isaac’s life is that it has no salient features.” Although he lived longer than Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph, Isaac’s life is pretty much covered in one chapter whose most exciting feature is some squabbles over some wells.

Isaac was kind of blah. He wasn’t bold like his father Abraham, who made a daring raid against the kings of the east. He wasn’t shrewd like his son, Jacob, or a gifted leader like his grandson, Joseph. Yet God used him to work out His covenant promises. His life shows us that there’s hope in the Lord for all us ordinary people! Moses wrote Genesis 26 mainly to show the nation Israel how God was faithfully working out His covenant promises. Isaac lagged behind God, even as his son Jacob tended to run ahead of God. Yet in spite of Isaac’s slowness—and even sin—God blessed him because of His covenant with Abraham. Abraham’s descendants would be blessed because of their relationship to him; but, like Isaac, they had to grow in faith and obedience.

It was not an instant process. Frankly, I’m not sure how much Isaac understood concerning God’s plan for history. It would be 2,000 years before the Savior would be born as the descendant of Abraham. But through it all, God was steadily moving history forward according to His sovereign plan, using a bunch of ordinary people to bring it all about. Today, we need to see ourselves in the stream of what God is doing in history. He has blessed us, not just so that we’ll be blessed, but so that we can become a blessing to others.

He wants us, ordinary though we are, to be His channel for taking the message of the Savior to all nations. That sounds glorious, but all too often it involves hassles as mundane as digging wells and contending with aggressive people. God didn’t give the land to Abraham, Isaac or Jacob in one magic swoop of His divine wand. Those to whom Moses was writing had to go through the battles of taking Canaan bit by bit. And we have to struggle inch by inch, hassle by hassle, in taking God’s message of salvation. So remember to view the hassles of your life in light of God’s bigger plan for history. If you’ll obey Him, He will use those everyday problems that you, His ordinary child, go through, to accomplish His purpose of blessing all nations.