Sunday – May 19, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 18:1-14 “The Won’t Stop Widow”

Sunday – May 19, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 19, 2019

Luke 18:1
Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart…”

One of the most difficult aspects of prayer is persevering when it seems that God is not answering. Jesus instructed us to pray that the Father’s kingdom would come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And yet here we are, almost 2,000 years later, and that prayer, prayed millions of times by millions of Christians down through the centuries, is still not answered. On a personal level, all of us have requests that we have brought before God for years—requests that would be to His glory to answer—and yet it seems like God isn’t answering His phone! In light of these problems, it is easy to lose hope and even to give up praying.

The Lord Jesus knew the weakness of our flesh and that we all are prone to lose heart. In light of that, He graciously gave His disciples and us this parable “to show that at all times they [and we] ought to pray and not lose heart.” This instruction fits in with the preceding context where the Lord told the disciples that the days would come when they would long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but they would not see it (17:22).

There are two very fundamental elements which need to be found in our prayers. The first is persistence based upon the character of God. The second is penitence based upon the lack of our character. The two passages on prayer must go together because there must be a balance in the way we approach God. On the one hand, we can pray with persistence for the coming kingdom of God and for the establishment of justice on the earth, knowing that the character of God assures us that He will come, that He does hear and answer our prayers, and that He will quickly bring about justice.

On the other hand, we must not lose sight of the fact that when we come to God in prayer we must also come with an awareness of our own fallen character. While we pray for justice, we also pray for mercy, for we are totally unworthy of anything but divine wrath. I suspect that a self-righteous Pharisee could have said “Amen” with their persistent prayers for the coming of the kingdom. But the kingdom they sought was a totally different kind of kingdom, which in their minds, they deserved. It was a kingdom which God brought to the earth as an obligation based on their full obedience to the law. May God give us the humility, the penitence, the prayer life, and the grace that He gave this tax-collector. And may God deliver us from the pride and self-righteousness of the Pharisee and may God bring about justice and mercy, for His sake.

Sunday – May 5, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 17:20-37 “Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs”

Sunday – May 5, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 5, 2019

Luke 17:22
And He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.”

One thing that Jesus has pointed out about the Pharisees is that they tended to appraise things by appearances. The Sermon on the Mount makes much of this. The Lord Jesus told men that sins were not merely external (murder, adultery, etc.), but internal (anger, lust, greed). So, too, righteousness was not so much the doing of external acts (fasting, tithes and offerings, long prayers), but in the attitudes of the heart. In chapter 16, Jesus accused the Pharisees of being far too external in their orientation: “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things, and they were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:14-15).

Is it not easy to understand that when it came to the coming of the promised kingdom of God, men would expect its arrival to be signaled by various external “signs and wonders”? And who but the Pharisees would expect to observe them and recognize the kingdom first. In the gospels of Matthew and Mark, we are told it was the Pharisees who persistently challenged Jesus to prove Himself by performing signs (Matthew 12:38; 16:1; Mark 8:11).

There are three errors described in our text, all of which have to do with the second coming. The first is the error of the Pharisees (verses 20-21). The second error is that of the disciples (verses 22-25). The last error is that of the people as a whole (verses 26-32). From a study of the gospels as a whole, we can see that no one fully understood the prophecies of the Old Testament and how they would be fulfilled in Christ. At best, some had bits and pieces of the story, but no one could put them all together. If this is true, we should be instructed that none of us in the 21st century have a complete understanding of Bible prophecy. We may, like some in Jesus’ day, feel that we are experts in the area of the coming of the kingdom, but we, like they, are not. We have many misconceptions concerning the return of our Lord and the establishment of His kingdom on the earth. We need these words from the lips of our Lord as much as the people of His day needed them.

If you have not yet trusted in Christ as your Savior, you should do so today. Jesus tells us you will not have any warning signs of the coming day of judgment, any more than the preaching of the gospel. There will be no time to repent when that day comes. If you would believe and obey, if you would acknowledge your sin and trust in the work of Christ in your place, for the day of judgment does draw near. Let neither you nor I be unaware or apathetic about its coming. Let us find in Christ that our judgment has already been meted out, and that all that we await is our salvation.

Sunday – April 28, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 17:5-17 “A Lesson in Faith”

Sunday – April 28, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 28, 2019

Luke 17:3-5
“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

How many times have you thought the reason why you could not obey a command of our Lord was you had too little faith? If our problem is one of insufficient faith, we seem to have only two options. First, if faith is only given by God, then faith is God’s problem. How can we be responsible until He provides it first? That almost seems to be the mindset of the apostles. The second possibility would be to try and conjure up the faith on our own. Nowhere does Jesus teach us how to build faith in the way we try to build our bodies. There is not a problem with the quantity of our faith, but a failure to grasp the nature of faith.

Jesus did not minimize the need for faith, but neither did He say a lack of faith was the disciple’s problem, and so granting more faith was not the solution. Jesus’ response in the parable of the slave and the one grateful Samaritan focus on obedience and gratitude. The slave of verses 7-10 is to faithfully obey his master, and not to expect him to show gratitude. The master has the right to expect obedience of a slave, but has no obligation to be thankful for it. In the same way, when the disciple is obedient to Christ, he does not see it as meriting anything from God, nor does he equate his worthiness with it. For all men, even the most obedient of them, are unworthy of divine favor.

If this is true, then what we do not need is a system of rules to keep, for in keeping them there is no reward. If we are unworthy even at our best—even when we keep all of God’s commandments—then what we need is not Law, but grace. Grace is God’s favor bestowed upon us because we are unworthy, not because we are worthy. Grace and mercy are always prompted by our unworthiness, while God’s gratitude cannot even be prompted by our best efforts.

It is the grace of God, poured out freely upon sinners, which produces gratitude. It is grace produced gratitude which serves to motivate the recipient of grace to also bestow it on others, not more faith. Just as God has forgiven us of our sins against Him, solely on the basis of our confession of sin and repentance, so we are to forgive others on the same basis. It is not a greater faith that is required for us to do this, but a better understanding of what faith is and how it works.

Sunday – April 14, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 17:1-4 “Sin Is Not a Solo Act”

Sunday – April 14, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 14, 2019

Luke 17:3-4
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

One of the things that I only half-jokingly tell people is, “If I haven’t offended you yet, please be patient. I will!” It is impossible in this fallen world to relate closely to anyone without causing offense at some point. Often it is unintentional, but sometimes, frankly, we mean to be mean! Relational problems not only occur in the church; they also occur in the home and anywhere else that people have to work closely with one another. What went wrong?

Relationships can be the source either of our deepest joy in life or of our deepest pain, depending on whether we follow God’s directives on how to work through relational problems. We live as sinners in a sinful world, and so we are prone to sin against others and they are prone to sin against us. But just because we’re all prone to sin, it does not follow that we should just go with the flow. Rather, we should do all that we can to avoid sinning against others and leading them into sin. And, we should do all that we can to avoid taking offense when others sin against us and to avoid being led into sin by the bad example or teaching of others.

The major reason that we are so prone to sin against others and to take offense when others sin against us is that our sinfulness prompts us to justify ourselves and to blame others. As soon as Adam fell into sin, he blamed his wife for leading him into it and he even subtly blamed God for giving him his wife (Gen. 3:12)! Ever since, we all play the blame game. If you don’t think that this tendency is inherent in the human heart, you have not raised children! They do not have to be taught to pin the blame on their brother or sister. It comes naturally!

When Jesus warns, “Be on guard,” He means that each of us needs to look first and foremost to our own hearts. Take the log out of your own eye and then you may be able to help your brother with the speck in his eye, but not before then (Matt. 7:3-5). When relational conflicts erupt, the first thing you should do is to ask God to show you what part you are responsible for. If you think that, being generous, you’re responsible for ten percent of the problem, you can safely multiply that number by four or five! We all are prone to justify ourselves and blame others. But healing will not begin in damaged relationships until each person allows the Spirit of God through the Word of God to shine into his or her own heart and reveal the sin that is there. We must be on guard against relational sins because we are so prone towards them.

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 31, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 16:14-18 “Heart Knowledge”

Sunday – March 31, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 31, 2019

Luke 16:14-15
Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

When we experience the rejection of the world for our faith, we gain a small glimpse of the rejection our Lord Jesus experienced. We tend to think that all who scoff at Jesus are outside the religious establishment, similar to our experience. But the gospel accounts show us there are many who put on a pretense of being religious, but who scoff at the Savior. Sadly, not much has changed as the world of religion is filled with those who wear the mantle of piety, but inside seek attention of world over the approval of God. The word “scoff” literally means, “to turn up one’s nose” at someone. It is a term of utter contempt and disregard.

But what, specifically, were the Pharisees scoffing about? They judged on appearances. Jesus was talking a great deal about money, and how to use it. They could well have said to themselves and others, “Who is this expert on money, anyway? Who does He think He is? How much money does He possess? He is so poor that He has to have women of means accompany Him, to provide for His needs!” They may very well have mocked Jesus’ teaching, based simply upon His poverty.

In response to these scoffers, Jesus did not bother pointing out that the Pharisees were really “lovers of money.” Jesus was interested in the source of their problem, not just in symptoms. Loving money was a serious problem, but it was not the root of the Pharisees problem. In verses 15 Jesus exposed the root problem—The Pharisees sought approval from the wrong people, on the wrong basis. I can see why the Pharisees valued money so highly. Money, to the Pharisee, was one of the external proofs of piety. After all, had God not promised to prosper His people Israel if they kept His laws (Deuteronomy 28:1-14), and to bring them great poverty and adversity if they disobeyed (Deuteronomy 28:15)? Money was the proof of piety that would cause an externalist to love.

The Pharisees’ love of money was an indication of their attachment to external standards and appearances, in order to obtain the praise of men. In the process of seeking men’s praise, they also obtained God’s condemnation. It is God, however, who justifies and not men. God does not judge on the basis of outward appearance, but He knows and bases His judgment on what is in man’s heart: “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Sunday – March 17, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 16:1-13 “To Commend a Crook” Part 1

Sunday – March 17, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 17, 2019

Luke 16:10-11
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?

Implicit in Jesus’ teaching, both here and elsewhere, is that God owns everything and we are stewards or managers of what He has entrusted to us. We are stewards of our time, our abilities, and our possessions and money. In the parable, the steward was squandering his master’s possessions. There is much debate over whether his action of reducing the bills of his master’s debtors was illegal or legal. Some argue that his master had cleverly violated the Jewish laws against charging interest, and that the steward was rectifying the situation and putting the master in the awkward position of going along with the adjusted bills or else openly being guilty of charging interest. Others say that the steward was stealing from his master. We can’t know for sure, but it seems to me that the steward was not doing anything illegal or the master would have prosecuted him.

And yet, while staying within the letter of the law and acting within the authority given to him, the steward was not acting in his master’s best interests, but in his own. Even though the master lost a lot of money through the steward’s actions, he grudgingly had to praise him for his shrewdness. But the fact is, although shrewd, the steward was still unrighteous or unfaithful because he was using his master’s money for his own selfish ends, not for the master’s profit.

One of the key concepts of being a steward is that the steward does not own what the master or owner has entrusted to him. He merely manages it for the owner’s purposes. If the steward begins to act as if he owns it, spending the owner’s resources for his personal betterment rather than for the owner’s benefit, he is an unrighteous, not a faithful, steward. The principle of stewardship is a fundamental concept of Christian living. When you keep it in focus, it radically affects how you live. Paul says, “It is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy,”  (1 Cor. 4:2). To be faithful as a steward, you must keep in mind at all times that you do not own your money; God does. You do not own your car; God does. You do not own your house; God does. You do not own your own life; God does. To forget or ignore God’s purposes and to live as if what we have is ours to use for our purposes is to abuse our stewardship by being unfaithful.

God has promised that what is hidden behind the curtain is so much better than what you can see now that there is no comparison. “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 Cor. 2:9). The question is, will you believe God and live by faith in His promises? Will you give up temporal riches that you will lose anyway by investing them in His kingdom, with His promise that you will inherit eternal riches that you will never lose? It’s a sure-fire way to get rich—truly rich!

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 – February 17, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 14:1-14 “Table Talks”

Sunday – February 17, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 17, 2019

Luke 14:1-2
It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely.

The meal table is one of the social centers of the home. Think of some of your warmest memories, and many of them will be associated with meal-time. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, usually include a festive meal, fellowship, and pleasant memories. The “external glue” of Luke 14, which gives it a unity, is the dinner table. Everything which is said here is said at or near the dinner table, and about the dinner table. But there is an “internal glue” which should be recognized as well, providing us with an even deeper unity. That “silver thread” is the concept of self-interest. Think about the ways in which self-interest can be found at the heart of every sin which our Lord condemns in these verses.

Self-interest caused the Pharisees to reject Jesus, angry that He spent great amounts of time and energy with “sinners” and the unsuitable people, rather than with them. Self-interest caused the Pharisees to want Jesus out of the way, lest He overthrow their system, and prevent them from all the “perks” which it afforded them. It was also self-interest which motivated each person to seek to sit in the places of honor at the dinner table. And self-interest that caused the Israelites of Jesus’ day to reject Him as Messiah. It is self-interest which keeps men from coming to Christ for salvation. Men wish to enter into the kingdom, but do not wish to create any pain, displeasure, or sacrifice for themselves.

Our culture is more permeated by self-interest than any other people at any other time in history. We may laugh at the antics of the Pharisees to get the best places at the dinner table, but we also sign up for classes which teach us how to assert ourselves, so that we can be more successful. Nearly every problem which man experiences today is now linked (in some mysterious way) to a poor self-esteem. We are truly a self-oriented society, just as Paul described the culture of those in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-5). While we may not fight for the chair of honor at the dinner table, many Christians will line up for leadership training classes, positions of prominence and public visibility. At the same time, those tasks which call for menial service, with little recognition, seem to go begging for faithful people to carry out. Ministries where people don’t seem to appreciate us and our contribution are quickly left behind, replaced by some ministry which is more “fulfilling.”

Let us recognize how much self-interest paralyzes and perverts our ministry, our worship, and our Christian walk. Let us learn from the Master our reward in heaven will be great, and that it comes to those who “give up their life” to gain it, while those who seek to save their lives lose them. May the Spirit of God work through the Word of God to replace self-seeking with self-sacrifice, to the glory of God and for our own good as well.

Sunday – January 13, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 13:1-21 “A Matter of Perspective”

Sunday – January 13, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 13, 2019

Luke 13:1-3
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

In the past year we have been shocked by the shooting of 17 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We hear of natural disasters that have killed thousands around the world. On a personal level, many of us struggle with private tragedies—loved ones who die untimely deaths, accidents that leave devastating consequences, children who suffer from birth defects or serious diseases. Naturally, we always ask, “Why?” Why did this have to happen to this person? I can understand why many people question God’s goodness and fairness, even doubting His existence. It’s the classic philosophic problem of evil: How can an all-good and all-powerful God allow good people to suffer and wicked people to prosper?

The Lord Jesus gives us some answers to these difficult questions in Luke 13. We don’t know any more about these events other than what is reported. Pilate had sent in his troops to break up a gathering of Galilean Jews that he deemed dangerous. The Roman soldiers did not care that the Jews were worshiping God by offering sacrifices. They slaughtered them so that their blood flowed together with the blood of their sacrifices. Then Jesus brings up another tragedy when a tower fell down and killed 18 people.

Jesus was speaking to people who did not apply spiritual truth to themselves (12:56-57). From His reply, we can see these men were smugly thinking that those who suffered such tragedies were deserving of God’s judgment, but the fact that they had been spared such tragedies meant that they were pleasing to God. Their theology was like that of Job’s comforters, who thought that Job was suffering because he had sinned. Jesus corrects this mistaken view by showing that we all are sinners worthy of God’s judgment. Twice (13:3 & 5), He drives home the application: Were those who suffered greater sinners? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Rather than asking the question “Why?” with regard to suffering, we should ask the question, “What?” What does this tragedy teach me? The fact that a tragedy has not hit you should show you God’s great patience. If you have not repented of your sins and if you’re not bearing fruit in God’s vineyard, there is still time. But, don’t mistake God’s patience to mean that His axe will never fall. His patience does have a limit. Life is fragile; none are exempt from tragedies. But, if you have fled to Christ for refuge and you are bringing forth the fruits of repentance in your life, you are ready if/when tragedy strikes.