Sunday – January 21, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “The Baptism of Jesus” Luke 3:21-22

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Luke 3:21-22
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized, too. And, as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

If you are a Christian, then one of your deepest longings is to see others come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. And yet who among us has not felt tongue-tied when an opportunity to tell someone about Christ was staring us in the face. John the Baptist’s life and ministry pointed people to Jesus Christ. As John 1:8 explains of John, “He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light.” Luke uses this section to take John, the forerunner, off the scene and to authenticate the person of Jesus Christ, whose official ministry is inaugurated in Luke 4:14.

As we have seen, John’s message is summed up as “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:3). Repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ are at the heart of the gospel. A person who does not see and feel himself to be a sinner has no reason to need a Savior. If I came up to you and said, “I have great news. The governor has just offered you a pardon from prison,” you would not be very thrilled with that news, and you might even be offended. Why? You are not guilty of any crime deserving of prison. But, if you have just been convicted of a serious crime and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, my announcement would be the most welcome news you could imagine.

If you walk up to a person who is not a Christian and say, “I have great news. God loves you and Jesus Christ died for your sins,” the person will not appreciate your message and he might even get offended. He will think, “Of course God loves me. God is love and I’m a basically loveable person. But as for this sin stuff, I’m only human and I have my faults, but I’m not that bad of a person. Why do I need Jesus to die for my sins?”

One of the best ways you can confront a sinner with his sin is to get him to read the New Testament. He won’t be five chapters into Matthew until he reads that if he has been angry with his brother, he has broken the commandment not to murder. If he has lusted after a woman in his heart, he has broken God’s commandment against adultery. You can also give him tapes of sermons by preachers who preach God’s Word. But remember, you are not really pointing a person to Jesus Christ unless you help him to see that he is a guilty sinner, under the just condemnation of God’s holy Law.

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 – 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?”

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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 – 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?”

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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 – August 27, 2017 Genesis 49:1-28 “The Purpose of Prophecy”

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Genesis 49:1-2
Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come. “Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; and listen to Israel your father.”

I have always found it interesting that both Christians and non-Christians are fascinated with prophecy. To be interested in prophecy is good, since much of the Bible is prophetic. But the point of Bible prophecy is not to speculate on various details, such as the identity of the antichrist or the date of Armageddon. The point of prophecy is to motivate us to purity and holy zeal for the things of the Lord in light of His soon coming. And there is a point to these prophetic words of Israel to his son’s. And not just them, but for the first generation who read these words recorded by Moses as well as you and I.

To understand these words, we need to see God has a plan for history. I know this is obvious to some but I lose sight of it so easily in my daily routine and pressures of life. Even as the Lord’s people, it’s easy to fall into the daily schedule of going to work, taking care of the kids, and dealing with all the hassles of life that we lose sight of God’s great purpose for history and how we fit into it. We become spiritually dull, so that we miss opportunities to further God’s plan.

In God’s time and way, these prophecies about Jacob’s sons would be fulfilled, but the individuals within the tribes had a choice about whether they would help to fulfill them through obedience to God or fight against their fulfillment through disobedience. It’s the same with us: God’s plan for the ages will be accomplished, but we have the choice either to be involved in fulfilling that plan or in resisting it. The personal history of Judah ought to encourage us. He was a man who had a dismal beginning, but who repented of his sin and inherited a great future. God offers that same blessing to each of us. If we will turn from our sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, sent from God in fulfillment of this prophecy uttered by Jacob, God will bless us beyond measure.

These prophecies of Jacob remind us that while we may not understand all the details of the plan, God does have a plan. He is moving history ahead right on schedule toward the grand climax when Jesus Christ shall reign supreme, when every knee shall bow to the Lion of the tribe of Judah. We need to live each day in light of God’s great plan for history.

Sunday – August 20, 2017 Genesis 48:1-22 “The View from the Graveyard”

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Genesis 48:21-22
Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. And I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow

God’s covenant of faithfulness is the theme that permeates Jacob’s testimony in this chapter. Seventeen years before he had complained to Pharaoh, “Few and unpleasant have been the years of my life” (47:9). But now, Jacob has mellowed. As he takes a final look backward at his life, he remembers how God appeared to him at Bethel as he fled from his brother. Jacob had deceived his father and wronged his brother. God would have been just in finding someone else to use in accom­plishing His purpose. But He appeared to Jacob and affirmed the covenant promised to him as he fled from his brother to his uncle’s home in Paddan Aram.

Twenty years later, Jacob wasn’t much farther along. He had out-swindled his uncle Laban and headed back to Canaan. He had settled outside of the land without seeking God’s direction. Then his sons deceived and murdered a whole town because one young man there had raped their sister. But God appeared a second time to Jacob at Bethel and assured him that the promises were still good.

Even in Jacob’s great time of sorrow, when Rachel died, God’s comfort had been real. The pain of that loss was still with the old man as he reminisced here (48:7). But God had been with him. Then the hammer blow of Joseph’s loss had hit the grieving man. He had thought that he would never see his son again. He went through years of confusion, wondering how the loss of his one son who seemed to follow the Lord could fit in with the promises of God. But now, at the end of his journey, God had proved Himself faithful, as Jacob held in his arms not only Joseph, but Joseph’s two sons. And so as he blesses his grandsons, Jacob tells them how God has been his shepherd all his life to that day and how God will be with them (48:15, 21).

When others look at your life, are they inclined to say, “Your God is sure faithful, isn’t He”? Or, would they say, “Your God must not be very good, because you are always complaining about the treatment you receive”? Complainers tell others something untrue about God, namely that He isn’t faithful. People are skilled in reading between the lines of our lives. If we profess to know the Lord, but our lives are a constant complaint, they put it together and make a mental note that they don’t want anything to do with our God. We’ve got to tell them, by our words and our attitudes, that God is faithful, even through the hard times.

Sunday – August 6, 2017 Genesis 46 & 47 “Life Begins at 130”

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Genesis 47:10-12
And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence. So Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered.”

Whenever I come to a portion of Scripture like this, I ask the question, “Why did the author include this section in this book?” Moses could have abbreviated it or left it out altogether, but he chose to devote a fair amount of space describing Joseph’s introduction of his family to Pharaoh and the administration of Egypt during the famine. As you think about the text, two strands emerged: the prosperity of God’s people, Israel and their counter culture, the Egyptians, who were saved through Joseph’s wise administration.

These themes of the prosperity of God’s people and the preservation of Egypt through Joseph tie in with God’s covenant with Abraham (12:1-3). God had promised to bless Abraham, to make him a great nation and to bless all nations through his descendants. Here we see God beginning to bless Abraham’s descendants and to use them as a blessing to others. Applying this to us the Lord is saying, commit yourself to make God and His purpose prosper and He will make you truly prosper. It’s another way of saying, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). When the final buzzer sounds, it’s God and His purpose that matters. If we commit ourselves to Him, He will take care of the other things we need.

The question is, how do I order my life to make God and His purpose prosper? The good life in Egypt can never compare to the blessings of the Promised Land. But we all face the danger of becoming enamored with the goodies of Egypt and forgetting that we are looking for that heavenly city to come. God has graciously prospered us in this world. We must remember that our purpose for being here is not to accumulate things the world has to offer. We’re here to further God’s purpose: to communicate the good news of Christ to every tribe and tongue and nation. The person who by faith lays up treasure in heaven is truly prosperous, as Jesus pointed out. He has something that the world cannot give or take away.

Sometimes stores offer contests where the winner has a certain amount of time to run through the store and select as many items as he or she can. If you won a contest like that, before your mad dash through the store you probably would think carefully about what you wanted to get. Life is a lot like that contest. The difference is, we don’t know how much time we have to do what we want to do. Still the clock is running and we all spend the time given to us. The question is, when the clock stops, will we have our baskets full of the things that really matter or will we have a cart full of trivial things that are worthless in light of eternity? If the clock has not stopped for you, you still have some time left. Use that time to make God and His purpose prosper. Use your time and treasure in light of eternity. If you do that, God will make sure that you truly prosper.

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 – February 26, 2017 Genesis 29:31 to 30:24 “Bridal Wars”

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Genesis 30:1-3
Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die.” Then Jacob’s anger burned against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?”

Family strife is no laughing matter. Sadly, even many Christian families are war zones. The Christian home should be the place, above all others, where God’s love and kindness are put into practice on a daily basis. Yet all too often, selfishness, bickering, anger, abusive speech, and even physical violence mark even Christian homes. We must obey the principles of God’s Word if we want families where there is peace, not war.

Family conflict is not a recent phenomenon. It has been with the human race since the fall. Our text in Genesis 30 shows us a portrait of a family at war. It’s startling when we realize that this was the family which God promised to bless and to use to bless all nations, the family from which the Savior would come. And yet a battle was raging. The story reads like a tennis match, with the advantage moving from court to court as the opponents desperately try to defeat one another.

We may be inclined to read this account of the struggles between Leah and Rachel and think of it as the “long ago” and the “far away” and thus of little application to us. Such could not be farther from the truth. There are differences between the culture of that day and our own, but, as one of my friends observed, the only difference between the practice of Jacob in his day and that in our own is that he lived with his four wives simultaneously, while we live with ours consecutively. We do with divorce what Jacob did with polygamy.

While it’s a bleak picture, the theme of God’s grace runs through it as a strong undercurrent. Jacob wasn’t living in submission to the Lord at this time. His wives were thoroughly self‑centered. Perhaps Moses included this story to humble the nation by showing them that God’s blessing on them was totally due to His grace, not to anything in them or their forefathers. God is faithful to accomplish His purposes, even through the deceitful actions of Laban and Jacob, and the jealous hatred of Jacob’s two wives. God is a God of grace. He used these sinful people to achieve His purposes. If God can work in and through these wicked and impatient individuals, He can work in and through you and me! But to receive God’s best results, He expects us to exercise patience and trust in Him.