Sunday – December 10, 2017 Gospel of Luke – “The Worship of the Women” Luke 1:39-56

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Luke 1:46-49
And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond slave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.”

There are those who have distorted the truth of God’s word about Mary, and rather than regarding her blessed above all women, have honored her as above mankind, worshipping her and praying to her as though she were on the level of deity, or even above Messiah. This is clearly seen to be in blatant disregard for the teaching of our text. Nevertheless, others have reacted to this error by failing to see this woman as a model disciple.

Mary is not a model for disciples in being the mother of Messiah. It is true that Elizabeth blessed Mary as the mother of her Lord (1:42), and that future generations will bless her as such also (1:48). While this is true, this must be kept in its proper perspective. Our Lord was careful to show that being obedient to God’s will and His word was more important than being humanly related to Him: “And it came about while He said these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed.” But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it” (Luke 11:27-28).

Mary’s hymn is brimming with information about the attributes of God. But it is not cold, academic information. Mary is extolling God as she considers what He has done in choosing her to be the mother of the Savior. She calls Him “God my Savior” (1:47), which implies that Mary knew she was a sinner; none but sinners need a Savior. Implicit in the term “Savior” is the fact that we are lost and alienated from God because of our sin. As those who are lost, we don’t just need a little boost from God to set things right. We don’t just need a few tips on how to get our lives in order, how to polish our self-esteem, how to succeed in our families or businesses. Savior is a radical term that implies that we are helplessly, hopelessly lost unless God in His mighty power intervenes to rescue us.

Mary’s “Magnificat” focuses on much more than just her own blessing in the bearing of the Messiah. Indeed, she does not focus on the child, per se, but on the results of the coming of the Messiah. We know now this includes both His first and His second comings. Mary has a great breadth of understanding. She looks back, to the covenants which God has made with Abraham and with His people in the Old Testament. She looks forward to the ultimate righteousness which will be established when the Messiah reigns on the throne of David. Mary has a good sense of history and a broad grasp of God’s purposes and promises.

Sunday – December 3, 2017 Gospel of Luke – “Ending the Silence” Luke 1:5-38

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Luke 1:13-15
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.”

Have you ever prayed for something over and over again, year in and year out, but God has not answered? I hope that you can answer yes, because if you say no, it only shows that you are not a praying person. If you pray, you have prayed for things that God has not yet answered. One unanswered prayer that every committed Christian should be praying is that God would send revival to our country. It is as of yet unanswered because nothing that is being described as revival today even comes close to the many examples of true revival that God has sent in times past. True revival is not a matter of hanging a banner in front of the church that announces, “Revival This Week, 7 p.m.” True revival is not a superficial, emotional response that results in a temporary experience, but without long-term fruit of righteousness.

True revival is when the living God sovereignly and powerfully breaks into human history with the good news of His salvation. It invariably begins with His people coming under deep conviction of sin and turning from that sin in genuine repentance. It always involves a recovery of biblical truth, especially the truth about how sinners are reconciled to a holy God. Therefore, it also involves a recovery of the centrality and authority of God’s Word over all of life. The renewed sense of God’s presence, power, holiness, and truth then inevitably spills out of the church and into the world, resulting in many genuine conversions.

When God sends revival, He also sends great joy. The angel announced to Zecharias that he would have joy and gladness at John’s birth, and that many would rejoice (1:14). They were not just rejoicing at the birth of the child, but at what this child would bring — good news of a great joy for all the people, the news of the Savior (1:19; 2:10). Sin always causes pain and destruction; God’s salvation and righteousness result in great joy and gladness as relationships are reconciled.

There were no extraordinary means employed, no special campaigns, but rather the normal means of prayer and the preaching of the Word. But suddenly God broke into the midst of churches so that people who before had been complacent were now gripped with the reality of eternity and everyone sensed that in deed, God was in this place. We need to pray that God would graciously send us such a visitation of His saving grace. And, we need to prepare ourselves to welcome the Lord Himself into our midst.

Sunday – November 19, 2017 Thanksgiving Message

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Psalm 71:14-16
But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your salvation all day long; for I do not know the sum of them. I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone.”

If you are like me (and I suspect that most of you are), you’ve got a lot of room to grow in the daily practice of praising the Lord. A great way to grow in the praise of God is to read and meditate on the Psalms every day. In Psalm71, the psalmist acknowledged, “my praise is continually of You.” You would think that continual praise of the Lord would be adequate. But he goes on to say in verse 14 “But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.” If the psalmist needed to resolve to praise the Lord yet more and more, how much more do we?

Maybe you’re thinking, “But I don’t have a bubbly personality. I’m not the type who goes around saying, ‘Praise the Lord’ all the time.” But praising the Lord doesn’t mean repeating, “Praise the Lord,” over and over. Rather, praising the Lord is to exult and rejoice in who God is and what He has done, especially, in what He has done to redeem you and draw you near to Him through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Genuine praise contains both a rational and an emotional element. With our minds, we must understand who God is, as revealed in His Word. Otherwise, we are not worshiping the true God, or at least, God as He is truly revealed. But, also, when you understand who God is and what He has done in sending His only begotten Son to die for your sins, it affects your heart. It fills you with joy and thankfulness. It humbles you to realize that your sin put Him there. It motivates you to follow Christ and please Him with all your heart. If you can think about what Jesus did on the cross and shrug it off, you’re not a Christian!

My prayer is that we understand this Thanksgiving more than we ever have that praising God is not optional. It’s not something nice to do whenever you feel like it, but it doesn’t really matter. Rather, praising God is our highest calling. If you are not continually filled with praise to God, then you are not yet fulfilling the purpose for which He created you and saved you. Today, let us join the psalmist in resolving, “But as for me, I will … praise You yet more and more.” (Psalm 71:14)

Sunday – November 5, 2017 Series Week Eight: “Are Women Second Class Citizens?” Part 2

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Seven: “Are Women Second Class Citizens?” Part 2

Word On Worship – Sunday – November 5, 2017 Download / Print

2 Corinthians 11:3-4
“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

There are other goals that are essential for Christians, but the one I would like to deal with is that of sincere and simple devotion to God, or as the nearness of God (as Asaph expressed it in Psalm 73:28). In our series on how we serve church, we are faced with what we perceive as a very important question: Is public “egalitarian” ministry necessary for intimate fellowship with God? Put differently, are women hindered from intimacy with God by being denied certain church leadership roles designated for men?

The Corinthian saints were all too eager to follow new leaders and their teaching – teaching which turned them away from Christ to pursue so-called “wisdom.” Paul likens the situation to the fall of humanity in the Book of Genesis. There Satan deceived Eve, offering her wisdom (the knowledge of good and evil) that was to be achieved by disobedience to God’s command. While Satan promised Eve they would be “like God,” he did not inform her that this act of disobedience would disrupt their relationship with God. The intimacy with God known initially in the Garden of Eden would be lost. We knew that as soon as Eve and her husband ate of the forbidden fruit they sought to hide themselves from God and soon they would be cast out of the garden, never to return in their lifetime.

Satan’s scheme is to keep people from what is best by tempting them with some lesser thing which appears to be good and desirable, but which is a forbidden fruit. When we think of the Garden of Eden we tend to think of the one tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – and less of all the other trees, from which Adam and Eve could freely eat. But we should remember that there were two trees in the center of the garden: (1) the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and (2) the tree of life. By focusing Adam and Eve’s attention on the forbidden tree and its fruit, Satan caused them to lose sight of the most important tree of all – the tree of life. Satan seeks to keep our eyes off what is best, what is most important – serving God and His purpose – and to distract us with something inferior, something forbidden.

Satan is still employing his same tactics, seeking to get us to desire what God forbids under the pretense that we are denied something God owes us. Satan goads us to be complainers and accusers focusing on ourselves. Then we neglect the truly good gift(s) God has provided. The “tree of life” is before us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Many fear that close fellowship with Jesus will mean the end of our worldly pleasures. We fear that if we follow Him, God will deny us our personal desires. But God never takes from us what is truly good. Whatever perceived power or pleasure you give up to follow Jesus (and there will be things we all give up as men and women), you will gain that which is truly good: salvation through Christ and intimacy with God. Nearness to God belongs to those who serve Him with a willing heart and spirit, as stated in God’s First Commandment.

Sunday – October 29, 2017 Series Week Seven: “Are Women Second Class Citizens?”

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Seven: “Are Women Second Class Citizens?”

Word On Worship – Sunday – October 29, 2017 Download / Print

1 Corinthians 7:17-18
Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches.”

In our study on the Church and how we should go about “serving church,” a question has been raised by several people in our fellowship, namely the role of women in ministry. Clearly, the role and ministry of women plays a vital part in the spiritual life and ministry of the church. Since there are many who have not experienced the way we “serve church,” now is an opportune time to explain how and why we practice our ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church).

The biblical teaching concerning the ministry of women in the church is strongly opposed by those outside the church (our culture), as well as by all too many who profess to be in the church through faith in Jesus. This is very disturbing and needs to be challenged from the Scriptures. It is my opinion, in order to reach a culturally and politically correct view of the role of women in the church, one must either ignore or deny clear biblical commands and instructions. Either that or these clear texts must be interpreted in a way that is frightening in its implications. If clear teaching on the ministry of women can be cast aside by mishandling Scripture, what other “unacceptable” doctrines will follow?

I must confess, I approach this subject with a greater than normal sense of uneasiness. It is not an uneasiness based upon doubt, for I am confident that what I am about to teach is the clear and consistent teaching of God’s Word. Neither am I uneasy because I fear that someone will come along who will cast this message aside as sloppy scholarship or as the ranting of a chauvinist (which is what some would say about Paul). I am uneasy that speaking so directly will cause someone to turn me off before they have actually considered whether or not what I am saying is true to God’s Word.

It is only fair for me to inform you that a number of my colleagues in ministry (outside our church) will likely disagree strongly with my conclusions. Thus, I am apprehensive because I do not wish to show disrespect or disregard for a number of my good friends and excellent bible teachers who hold different views on this issue. Nevertheless, I believe that what I am about to say needs saying. I only ask that you persevere with me through both lessons and consider whether or not this teaching is true to God’s Word. I trust that the Word of God through the ministry of the Spirit of God will speak to you. I don’t expect all to agree, nor do I believe that those who do agree will necessarily apply the Scriptures in the same way as I would. But I do hope and pray that these texts of Scripture will cause you to reflect on these important matters, and perhaps encourage you to make whatever adjustments are necessary and appropriate in both doctrine and practice to be true to God’s Word.

Sunday – October 22, 2017 Series Week Six: “Spiritual Gifts in the Meeting of the Church”

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week six: “Who Thought Pickles Belonged on That?”

Word On Worship – Sunday – October 22, 2017 Download / Print

1 Corinthians 14:39-40
Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”

There is great debate in the Church today over the use of spiritual gifts in the meeting of the Church. All too often we try to restrict and control the use of the gifts in such a way as to make them seem like we are college students trying to decide on a career choice. We must revise our thinking concerning spiritual gifts. Most often the subject of spiritual gifts is taught in this way: We all have a spiritual gift or gifts. We are to study the Scriptures to find out what the list of options are and how each gift is defined and recognized. Then we must determine what our gifts are and develop them. Finally, we are to find a ministry where our gifts can be put to use.

While there is some truth in this view of gifts, it does not seem to square entirely with what Paul teaches about spiritual gifts. If all of the spiritual gifts are not listed in the New Testament, there must be other gifts as well. All of the gifts are not neatly defined (e.g., the “word of wisdom” and the “word of knowledge” in our text). Further, the form these gifts take (ministry) and the fruit (results, effects) are not the same for those who have the same gift(s).

I suggest we reverse some of our thinking and reject much of the remainder. God has given us a number of clear commands such as those outlined by Paul in Romans 12:9-21. Let us begin by focusing on these commands, and obey them in whatever circumstances God brings our way. In the process of obeying His commands, we will discover that God has given us a ministry, a place of service. Rather than waiting to know our gifts and then seeking to serve God and His church, let us do the things God has commanded, trusting Him to empower us and produce supernatural results through His Spirit. We should give priority to those aspects of ministry which God has given us in which the power of His Spirit is evident. This does not always mean “success” as the world defines success. It is where spiritual fruit has been produced, where the gospel has been proclaimed, and where God has been glorified. Let us not agonize over the name or the label of the gift, but let us strive to develop the gifts God has given us (2 Timothy 1:6), and employ them as good stewards of the grace of God (1 Peter 4:10-11). Let us never take credit for what God has accomplished or take pride in God’s work in us or measure spirituality by one’s gifts.

Let us be confident that if we are a Christian, God has an important place of service for us, and He will provide us with all the means necessary to fulfill our calling. Spiritual gifts assure us that the body of Christ needs us and will suffer without us. Spiritual gifts enable us to do what God requires of us.

Sunday – October 15, 2017 Series Week Five: “Who Thought Pickles Belonged on That?”

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Five: “Who Thought Pickles Belonged on That?”

Word On Worship – Sunday – October 15, 2017 Download / Print

Romans 15:5-6
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If you’ve been in the church for any length of time, you’ve no doubt been around someone whose personality grated on yours. Even though you’re supposed to love them, if you were honest, you’d admit that you don’t like them. Or, if you’ve served the Lord in some ministry, you’ve probably tried to work with someone who wanted to do things in a way that seemed wrong to you. You could see that his way wouldn’t work and you knew that your way was the right way. I wish that I were only describing hypothetical situations, but from my many years of pastoral experience, I know that I’m describing reality. I hope I’m not describing anyone’s marriage, but I probably am.

While unity is extremely important, it cannot trump the truth of the gospel, because if the gospel is compromised, the resulting “unity” is not the unity of the Spirit. It would be a superficial “unity” of some who believe in Jesus and some who did not. Jesus prayed for the love and unity of His disciples, but it was love and unity based on the truth (John 17:17). Jesus claimed to speak the truth (John 8:45) and to be the truth (John 14:6). He told Pilate (John 18:37), “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” He promised that He would send to His disciples “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17). So to argue that Jesus set love above truth is false. He knew that tolerating a false gospel is not love, because it would lead the person believing it to damnation, not to eternal life.

Unity does not mean that we all must work closely with one another. While we need to try to work through our differences, there are times when two workers need to recognize that God is calling them to serve the Lord in different spheres. Any parting of ways should be done with mutual respect and without bitterness or acrimony. Nor does unity mean that we all have to agree on every secondary doctrinal or practical matter. There are many issues where godly Christians, committed to the Scriptures, disagree. We must be charitable toward one another on these matters.

And, there are many differences over the methods we use to do the Lord’s work. We should seek to follow biblical methods, not worldly methods. Some methods are so unbiblical that they deserve criticism. But as with doctrine, godly men disagree over some methods. We must be charitable toward those whose methods we don’t agree with, even though we can’t work closely with them.

Sunday – September 24, 2017 NEW SERIES Week Two: “Why is the Church Important to God?”

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NEW SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Two: “Why is the Church Important to God?”

Word On Worship – Sunday – September 24, 2017 Download / Print

1 Timothy 3:14-15
Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

Why would I want to preach a series asking if we can do church “our way?” Maybe some will hear it and decide, “I’m out of here.” Maybe it will expose a lot of problem areas with our church, leading to grumbling and discontent. And maybe it will help us understand the glorious purpose God has for redeeming His creation “which angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12) and increase our desire to worship God with hearts that are focused on Him.

I’m preaching on this topic for several reasons. First, maybe someone here is in the process of looking for a good church, and you need to know what to look for. People pick churches for a lot of reasons, not all of them based on Scripture. Some like the “vibes” or feelings they get when they go to a church. Or, they feel welcomed and loved. Some pick a church based on what their kids like. For others, it’s the music or they like the building. And, some like a church because the pastor wears his shirt untucked. So we need to understand the biblical criteria for a good church.

Second, you may have friends who are looking for a good church, and you may find the opportunity to offer them some specific help. Although it should be the first place to look, it may not occur to them to find what the Bible says what constitutes a good church. You will be able to show them in the Scriptures what God has revealed as important in the work and service of the Church. You can also warn them about what to avoid in a church as well.

And, third, I think we should use these qualities of a good church to evaluate ourselves so that we can try to improve where we need to. We are not studying this topic to suggest we are perfect nor we are not studying this because of problems in the pews. Every church has room to improve and sharpen our focus. Also, before we look at these marks of a good church, we need to keep in mind that there are no perfect churches because churches are made up of imperfect people. As the old joke goes, “If you find a perfect church, don’t join it because you’d ruin it!” But, even though perfect churches don’t exist, there are good, solid, churches. We need strive to be a church focused on glorifying God through Jesus Christ.

Sunday – September 17, 2017 NEW SERIES Week One “Does God Care How We Do Church?”

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NEW SERIES:  “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week One “Does God Care How We Do Church?”

Word On Worship – Sunday – September 17, 2017 Download / Print

2 Samuel 6:6-7
But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God. David became angry because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah, and that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day.”

God is omnipresent – present everywhere at the same time. But His presence is not realized everywhere. When I talk about the presence of God, I mean His realized presence. When God’s people come together for worship, they ought to focus on His holy presence among them. The ark was the symbol of God’s meeting with His people on the basis of atonement. The Lord told Moses, “And there I will meet with you …” (Exod. 25:22).  As David and the people worshiped before this ark, it’s clear that they were worshiping “before the Lord.” Even though they had this sense of God’s presence, they were too careless about it. It was worship their way, not God’s way. But God made it explicitly clear that to worship in His presence is an awesome thing, not to be taken lightly.

We live in a day of flippant Christianity that has brought God down to the “good buddy in the sky” level, where we’ve lost the proper sense of awe and fear in His holy presence. John MacArthur tells about a pastor friend of his who told John that Jesus often appears to him and talks with him in the mornings as he is shaving. John’s incredulous response was, “And you keep shaving?” Nowhere in the Scriptures do we see a casual encounter with God. Yet all too often coming into the presence of the Living God has become less sacred and more common, a fast food experience where we want to have it our way.

As we gather to worship, it would transform us and our worship if we would focus on the truth that we are gathering in God’s holy presence. We should not come primarily to meet with our friends, although fellowship is an important function of the church. We should come primarily to meet with God. True corporate worship involves focusing on the fact that the Holy God is here.

If you were granted an audience with the president, would you prepare yourself before you went, or would you just go into his office in your work clothes? If you’re going to meet with the holy God, should you not at least spend a few minutes beforehand preparing your heart? The Hebrews didn’t have a bad idea in beginning their Sabbath at sundown the night before. That way, they were ready for worship the following day. Let’s find ways to spend a portion of Saturday night getting our hearts ready for meeting with the Lord corporately on Sunday morning.

Sunday – September 10, 2017 Genesis 49:29 to 50:26 “The End of an Era”

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Genesis 50:19-20
But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

The familiar saying, “Don’t get mad, just get even” sums up the world’s philosophy of how to deal with someone who wrongs you. But in contrast to the world’s way, God prescribes a radical approach when we are wronged: We are to be kind and tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ has forgiven us. It’s easy to say that, but it’s tough to apply it. The difficulty increases in proportion to how badly you’ve been hurt. When you’ve been hurt badly, you don’t feel like forgiving the person, even if he repents, at least not until he’s suffered a while. You want him to know what it feels like. You want him to pay.

Many Christians, and probably some in our church, struggle with these feelings right now. Our pain may be from a recent situation, or it may go back for years. But if you’re bitter and unforgiving, you’re not obeying the two great commandments: to love God and to love others. Bitterness not only displeases God, it spreads to others. If we want to please God, we must ask: “How can we root out bitterness and truly forgive those who have wronged us?”

When someone wrongs us, we need to be on guard. Satan tempted Eve by getting her to doubt the goodness of God. He implied that God was withholding something good by keeping the forbidden fruit from her. The devil will tempt you by whispering, “If God really cared for you, He wouldn’t have let this happen.” No doubt Joseph often had to resist that temptation over the years. But in each case, Joseph affirmed by faith, “They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

There is a way you can tell whether you have taken your proper place before God or not: Do you grumble about your circumstances or about the people who have mistreated you? If you do, you aren’t in submission to the sovereign goodness of God. You may not think you’re grumbling against God. You’d say you’re angry with the person who did you in. But really, you’re angry at God, grumbling against Him for allowing it to happen. You’ve got to deal with your attitude before God or you’ll live and die a bitter, unforgiving person. You must come to the place where you can say, “That person meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, and I submit to and trust His purpose in it all.”