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.”

Sunday – October 30, 2016 Matthew 5:13-16 “Salt & Light” Thom Rachford

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Matthew 5:13-16
You are the salt of the Earth. But if the salt loses its saltines, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your life shine before others that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Salt & Light

In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus says his followers are salt and light. What are we called to do as salt and light? Salt and light can exist without being effective. They only fulfill their purpose and become effective when they are applied. Jesus expects us to utilize our salt and light. First, we must be sure that our salt is salty and our light is shining. How do we do that?

Saltiness comes from allowing the Holy Spirit to apply scriptures we study to our life so our attitudes are obedient to God’s principles and commands. For example, in our food we can readily taste the difference between salted and unsalted butter. The salt of Jesus should be just as distinctive and readily apparent in our lives. And like salt in our food, the Jesus within us should make us more “tasty” to those we encounter.

Our light should reflect THE LIGHT of Jesus by submitting to the Holy Spirit’s direction to make our actions extend from our Jesus attitudes as we conform to God’s word and principles. Light is always very noticeable in dark areas. Our light should be like a Lighthouse in our contact with the darkened world.

Amen

Sunday – August 28, 2016 Genesis 11:27-12:9 “The Great Adventure”

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Genesis 12:1-3
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you, and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

We don’t know much about most of Shem’s descendants but we do know something about Terah, Abraham’s father. In Joshua 24:2 the Lord says, “From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods.” Abraham came from a pagan family, and was probably an idolater himself when God called him. In fact, even three generations later, when Rachel stole her father’s household gods, the family was still into idolatry.

God’s sovereign choice never depends on human merit. He didn’t look down from heaven and say, “There’s a good man; I’ll choose him.” Rather, God only chooses and calls sinners to Himself. Abraham was a sinner. God chose him simply because of grace, apart from anything God foresaw in Abraham. If God chose Abraham because He foresaw that Abraham would believe, then Abraham could boast in his faith as the reason God chose him. But salvation, from start to finish, is all from God, not at all from man.

  1. H. Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher of the past century, was once preaching to a Methodist congregation. During the first part of his sermon, the people were nodding in agreement and saying, “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!” Then Spurgeon came to the doctrine of election and noticed a distinct change in the mood of his audience. (Methodists do not accept that doctrine.) So he proceeded to put it to them this way. He asked, “Is there any difference between you and others who have not been converted?” They responded, “Yes, glory to God! There is a difference.” Then Spurgeon asked, “Who has made the difference, yourself or God?” “The Lord,” they said. Spurgeon shot back, “Yes, and that is the doctrine of election; that if there be a difference, the Lord made the difference.”

The point is, God didn’t choose Abraham because he was a good man. He chose Abraham to demonstrate His grace. He doesn’t choose anyone because they deserve it. He only chooses sinners who deserve His judgment. And while that’s a blow to our sinful pride, it is actually very good news. It means that you cannot do anything to qualify yourself for God’s salvation. You can only come to God confessing your sin and asking for His mercy, and He will grant it because He is a merciful God. God’s plan of salvation involves His choice according to His grace.

Sunday – June 26, 2016 Genesis 3:1-24 “What a Difference a Day Makes”

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Genesis 3:2-5
The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Satan’s promise had, in a backhanded way, come true. Adam and Eve had, in a sense, become like God in the knowing of good and evil (Verse 22). But there is a great difference as well as some similarity. Both man and God knew good and evil, but in a vastly different way. Perhaps the difference can best be illustrated in this way. A doctor can know of cancer by virtue of his education and experience as a doctor. That is, he has read of cancer, heard lectures on cancer, and seen it in his patients. A patient, also, can know of cancer, but as its victim. While both know of cancer, the patient would wish he had never heard of it. Such is the knowledge which Adam and Eve came to possess.

God had promised salvation to come in time through the birth of the Messiah, who would destroy Satan. Adam and Eve might be tempted to gain eternal life through the eating of the fruit of the tree of life. They chose knowledge over life. Now, as the Israelites too late tried to possess Canaan (Numbers 14:39-45), so fallen man might attempt to gain life through the tree of life in the garden.

It would seem that had Adam and Eve eaten of the tree of life they would have lived forever (Verse 22). This is the reason God sent them out of the garden (Verse 23). In Verse 24, the sending out of the two is more dramatically called driving out. Stationed at the entrance of the garden are the cherubim and the flaming sword. I cannot help but think of Paul’s words when I read this chapter, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22).

“How cruel and severe,” some would be tempted to protest. In today’s legal jargon, it would probably be called cruel and unusual punishment. But think a moment, before you speak rashly. What would have happened had God not driven this couple from the garden and banned their return? I can answer it in one word – hell. Hell is giving men both what they want and what they deserve forever. Hell is spending eternity in sin, separate from God.

Sunday – May 1, 2016 “I Am the Good Shepherd”

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John 10:14-17
I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”

One of the most common images in the Bible is that of the shepherd and his sheep. Even if we have not grown up on a farm, we should have little trouble grasping this imagery, because it is so commonly spoken of in the Bible. We should remember that God’s chosen people were shepherds. Abraham was a keeper of sheep (Genesis 13:3). Jacob, too, was a shepherd, and this is how he became wealthy while working for Laban, caring for his flocks (Genesis 30:43). When Jacob and his family went to join Joseph in Egypt, they were shepherds which is part of the reason why the Egyptians avoided intermarrying with the Hebrews (Genesis 46:33-34). If Judah married a Canaanite and allowed his sons to do likewise (Genesis 38), it would not have been long until the tribe of Judah (from which the Messiah would come) would have ceased to exist as a distinct tribe. Since the Egyptians loathed shepherds, they would not have considered intermarrying with the Hebrews.

The imagery of a shepherd and his flock thus provided a picture of the way God cared for His people, and thus this imagery also serves as a model for human leaders. God cares for His people as a shepherd cares for his flock. Human leaders are likewise to rule over men as a shepherd tends his flock. I believe we can safely infer that God prepared Moses to lead the Israelites by first having him serve as a shepherd in the wilderness for 40 years. God likewise prepared David for leadership by his experience as a shepherd in the days of his youth.

The best thing about being a sheep is that we belong to the “Good Shepherd.” Sheep belong to the Shepherd, who owns them. Under His care, they are tenderly looked after, and all of their needs are met. As David put it, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1). He leads us; He protects us, and He goes after us when we wander too far from Him. And best of all, He gave His life for the sheep, so that we might have eternal life.

God is infinitely bigger than any leader the world has ever seen. Who could resist if He chose to rule over men as a cosmic tyrant? And yet He has chosen to lead His own people as a shepherd tends his flock. He loves His church as a groom loves his bride. He leads His church as a shepherd tends his flock. There is no other kind of leadership I would rather be under than that of the Good Shepherd.

Sunday – April 10, 2016 John 6 verses 36 to 58 “I Am the Bread of Life”

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John 6:53-56
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.”

Perhaps the Sunday after Friday Night Fellowship is not the time to ask, “What are you eating?” Being in a church with so many good cooks, it is hard to diet and attend so many pot luck dinners. But that’s the question that Jesus wants us to consider: “What are you eating?” – not physically, but spiritually. We hear a lot these days about the importance of a healthy diet. You are what you eat and a lot of Americans eat a lot of junk food, resulting in a lot of serious, but avoidable health problems. Most of us could benefit by being careful about what we eat.

It’s the same spiritually. If you gorge yourself on the latest movies or on the fare that is offered every night on TV, and you seldom feed on the Bible, don’t be surprised if you’re not spiritually healthy. If your spiritual intake consists of a sugary devotional that you grab on the run, like a donut, and an occasional sermon when you aren’t doing something else on Sunday, don’t be surprised if you’re feeling kind of spiritually sluggish. You are what you eat. In John 6, after He fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish, Jesus repeatedly offers Himself as the spiritual food that gives eternal life and eternal satisfaction to all who eat.

Some interpret these verses to refer to partaking of communion. The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church base their views of transubstantiation (the view that the communion elements actually become the body and blood of Christ) in part on John 6:53. But there are many reasons John 6 does not refer to communion. First, communion had not yet been instituted. Jesus instituted it on the night He was betrayed. Second, Jesus was speaking here to unbelievers and communion is for believers. Third, the Lord’s Supper does not produce the results that are attributed to eating and drinking Christ. If the words of Jesus here refer to communion, then you gain eternal life by partaking, which contradicts many other Scriptures that show that salvation is through faith in Christ, not through participating in a ritual.

There is a satisfaction factor about eating, isn’t there? That’s why we overeat – because it tastes so good and it’s pleasurable. Good bread nourishes and sustains life, but also it’s enjoyable. To smell bread baking in the oven and then to butter and eat a warm slice is delightful. Even so, feeding on Jesus by faith is enjoyable in this life and it will continue in His eternal presence, where, as David exults (Ps. 16:11), “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Sunday – August 16, 2015 Revelation 2 verses 9 to 11

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Revelation 2:10
“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Secular society has a theology of suffering easily summed up in two words seen on bumper stickers all across the country. While I cannot quote the bumper sticker exactly, you will recognize it when I tell you it reads, “… happens.” Or as the  King James translation would read, “Dung Happens.” If we were to “exegete” this slogan, we would see the fruit of this theology provides the following affirmations (not truths). First, suffering equals dung. Suffering is not just worthless; it is repugnant and disgusting. It has no value. Second, suffering is random and senseless, similar to a drive-by shooting which comes upon innocent victims unexpectedly without reason or provocation. It just happens.

Sadly, many contemporary Christians’ theology of suffering believes suffering is unpredictable and unavoidable; we can do nothing to avoid it and certainly we cannot make something of it. We can only passively accept and endure, hoping it will end as soon as possible. One reason this has become so prevalent in the Church today is the wide-spread preaching of a distorted gospel in which Christ is presented as the key to earthly bliss and the solution to all our problems.  As a result, many think Christians do not suffer. Such pseudo-Christianity becomes evident when suffering does occur and the misinformed believers abandon their profession of faith.

Christians must categorically disagree with this theology of suffering. First, we know that while God does not “cause” all suffering, no suffering comes our way but that which God has purposed for our good and for His glory. God may not “cause all things” but He does “cause all things to work together for good, to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Therefore, the Christian dares not view suffering as a negative experience (“dung”) but as something positive. Suffering is neither random nor senseless; it is part of the divine plan. We also dare not look upon suffering as something we merely endure; for the Christian, suffering is an experience in which we may rejoice.

Only salvation through Christ can transform one’s values the way our Lord desired the saints in Smyrna to be transformed about suffering. Only when we see Christ as precious do we see the things of this world as valueless, indeed, even detrimental. That will include persecution and suffering just as much as comfort and riches. Have you found Him to be precious? Have you trusted in His shed blood as God’s provision for your sin? I earnestly urge you to do so, even now.

Sunday – June 21, 2015 Elder Ken McAuley “The Father’s Great Love Must Be Given Away”

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John 14: 2-3
2: In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3: If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

When we think of our Father God, it is usually in a rather distant, obscure way that is full of wonderment and awe. I think it can be more wonderful than that. In this passage, Jesus talks about His Father’s house in a way in which we can relate, as if He were going home. Isn’t that how we want to picture Heaven? He is going to prepare a place for us in our Father’s home where we can expect to stay eternally. The Father wants the Family to be together where we can fellowship with Him in a loving, peaceful relationship, full of trust and worship.

Worship may sound kind of strange to us, but our fathers are fallible and insecure and learning as they go along, hoping we will learn from them and remember the good and the wise things they try to pass along to us. We are not expected to worship them even though they would seem to desire it from time to time. So, worship should be natural to us when it is our Father God we are looking to.

He is our Creator, Healer, Comforter, Provider, Protector in Whom we can place our complete trust because He knows all, sees all, hears all; nothing can sneak up on Him or surprise Him. He knows the BEST answer, the BEST way and we don’t have to wonder if He made the right decision. I wonder sometimes if we maybe compare Him to our fathers rather than comparing our fathers to Him. Perhaps it’s because we don’t put enough effort into finding out a little more about Him. The Scriptures are full of references to and about Him from which we can gather a lot of information and insights.

He’s not a big comfortable teddy bear that only provides comfort and cuddle. He’s more like a lion. In C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, the question was asked of Mr. Beaver, is he (the lion, Aslan) safe? “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” He’s good and kind and loving, but also just, merciful, forgiving, righteous, holy; there’s nothing wrong with Him. But we tend not to trust him because we compare Him to our own fathers. Let’s make a conscious decision today to make Him our pattern of Fatherhood and encourage our own fathers to be more like Him as we love and obey Him.

Sunday May 31, 2015 “The Man Who Won a War Without Fighting” 2 Chronicles 20:1-30

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2 Chronicles 20:5-6
“Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord before the new court, and he said, “O Lord, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You.”

The story of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, provides us with helpful instruction on the subject of prayer and trusting God when we face severe trials. Jehoshaphat was basically a good king who sought to follow the Lord and bring God’s people back to Him (19:4-11). He ruled in the southern kingdom at the same time that the wicked Ahab ruled in the north. But although he was a good king, Jehoshaphat had a character flaw: He made wrongful alliances with the godless Ahab. His motive in these alliances may have been good, to reunite the divided kingdom. But he was unwise and wrong.

One morning Jehoshaphat was shaken when his intelligence sources came running in with the horrifying news: the enemy army was about 15 miles south of Jerusalem, on the western shore of the Dead Sea. Jehoshaphat’s life and his entire kingdom were on the brink of extinction. What would you do if you heard some threatening news that affected your future and maybe your life? This godly king did the right thing: He called a national prayer meeting and encouraged the people to trust God in the face of this overwhelming crisis. They did it, and literally won the war by prayer alone, without swinging a single sword.

It’s easy to read this story and miss what a great thing it was for Jehoshaphat to call the nation to prayer over this crisis. It would have been very human to panic. When he heard the news of this army within his borders, we could understand if he yelled, “Call all my top generals. Get the army mobilized immediately. We don’t have a second to waste.” As soon as the troops were mustered, if there was time, he could have stopped for a quick word of prayer. But for Jehoshaphat to turn his attention to seek the Lord and to call the nation to prayer and fasting was not automatic.

God never fails those who trust Him and obey His Word. That is not to say that He delivers everyone who trusts Him from suffering or even death. There are many who have trusted God and lost their heads (Heb. 11:36-40)! But this earthly life isn’t the final chapter. All who suffer loss for Jesus will be richly rewarded in heaven or God is a liar. Just as Israel was enriched literally by the spoils of victory, so we will always be enriched spiritually through our trials if we recognize our great need, pray to our great God, and trust in Him alone, not in the arm of the flesh.

Sunday May 24, 2015 – Thom Rachford “Illusion or Reality”

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Illusion or Reality

The word illusion is from the Latin illusio, which means “the action of mocking”. Illusion is defined as the action of deceiving, the state or fact of being intellectually deceived or misled or the perception of something objectively existing in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of its actual nature. Deceit is the core present in all Illusion.

Reality on the other hand is defined as the quality or state of being real; a real event, entity or state of affairs; something that is neither derivative nor dependent but exists necessarily in actual fact. Truth is the core present in reality.

In today’s world Illusion is presented as the norm. At all levels of society from the government, the media, education, and from people in general conversation we hear illusions presented as fact or truth. And we like the illusions. Illusions usually make the world and our lives seem better, easier, less troublesome, more comforting and less requiring of action, some times difficult action, on our part. In general, we like to hear the illusion, we want to believe the illusion because the illusion seems to be more fun or more fulfilling, or more safe or satisfying than the reality.

The problem with illusion is that it is not only false but it is only temporary. For example, the illusion that there is no Hell or that everyone who is “good” goes to Heaven. For the person who does not know Jesus these illusions are comforting. Illusion frees the mind and spirit from restraints. If there is no Hell, that implies that there are no spiritual consequences to actions. If there is no Hell, there are no absolutes that govern whether or not I go to Hell. This allows me to do anything as long as I can stand or better yet, avoid societies’ consequences. And if there is a Heaven, I certainly am good enough to go there. After all, I am better than Hitler, or Stalin, or a mass murderer, etc.

No matter how “bad” we are, we cling to the illusion that “the good/bad line is drawn just below just us. It is people below the line who don’t qualify for Heaven. I am always above the line. This illusion is comforting until the day you die.

Then the temporary euphoria disappears as the reality becomes strikingly apparent in a nano second.   At death, the reality of Heaven (being with the Lord) with all its reward and blessings, or the reality of Hell (being without the Lord) and all Hell’s consequences, rushes upon us. The reality or truth of Heaven or Hell is immediately evident and unfortunately for those in Hell recognized as unchangeable. Every person who ever lives will experience the reality of Heaven or Hell, whether you physically die or you are among the raptured.

Believers in Jesus can rely on being in heaven. In John 14:6 Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me”. Where is the Father? Heaven.InJohn 14:3 Jesus said “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also”. Where is Jesus? Heaven. Mark 16:19 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God”.