Sunday May 6, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 6:27-35 “Love, According to Jesus”

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Luke 6:35-36
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

“Tough Love,” is a popular topic in self-help circles, but I think you will soon recognize that I mean something very different from what this expression generally has been used to describe, even in Christian circles — especially in Christian circles. In our relationships with others, we often try to “under love” the other person, as opposed to outdoing the other in love. The reason is that love has obligations and so the one who loves most also owes most. Thus, to be free from the debts of love one must love less, making the other person more in debt to you than you are to them. A kind of “unbalance of payments” rationalization.

We often act out of unrealistic expectations. Many of our acts of love done toward others are very selfishly motivated. We love others in hopes of being loved in return. We give in hopes of receiving. We do good so that good will be done to us. We serve on the basis of expected reciprocity. Whether or not we continue to serve and love others is conditioned on how others respond and if they return equal value. Our Lord’s words are intended to show such thinking as utterly mistaken. We must serve others, expecting nothing in return but assured we will receive our reward from God. And the beauty of God’s grace is that He rewards us far beyond that which we deserve. He rewards in accordance with His grace and His riches.

Love, as defined here by Jesus, is vastly different from a meaning often propagated in the name of Christianity today. “Tough love,” as it is called, is love that is tough on others, love that looks out for one’s own interests. Biblical “tough love” is that that is tough on us, the lover, and merciful to others, even our enemies. You will not find our text in most books that deal with “tough love” because our Lord’s words condemn what is popularly taught.

God’s thoughts are not man’s thoughts, nor are His ways our ways. So, we should expect that much of what our Lord has to say will be challenging to accept. Our initial reaction to His Truth may well be difficult to embrace. Only after much thought and prayer can we see the hard things are exactly what our Lord meant, and what our fallen nature wants to reject. The corollary to this is the false teaching that makes things easy on us. What “sounds good” can be easily accepted without critical thought. Let us beware of teaching that “sounds good.” The renewing of our minds requires our thinking to conform with God’s Word. Hard to hear and accept or not, let us try to more fully grasp what our Lord has taught us in this passage.

Sunday March 4, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “Why Religious People Reject Christ” Luke 4:14-30

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Luke 4:28-30
And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way.”

As we study this portion of God’s Word, we need to take it to heart that most of us are religious people or we would not be in church this morning But being religious does not guarantee we will accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If anything, it increases the likelihood we will reject Him. It was the religious crowd in Nazareth that not only reacted against the sermon by Jesus, but they went right from their “church” service to try to shove the speaker off a cliff. I trust that no one here would do that (I will keep my eyes open), but still, we must be careful to examine our own hearts, so that we do not imitate the religious people of Nazareth in their hostile rejection of Jesus.

Any qualified male could read the Scripture and expound on it, so Jesus stood up to do this. There is debate about whether He deliberately chose the passage from Isaiah 61:1-2, or whether it was the assigned portion for that day, but Luke seems to hint that He picked the passage Himself. The initial response to Jesus’ sermon at Nazareth was favorable, although rather superficial. They were speaking well of Him and were amazed at the smooth manner in which He communicated. As sermon critics, they were giving the “hometown kid” good marks on His delivery and style. “Not bad! I can see why we’ve been hearing good reports about the young man. He’s a polished speaker.”

But it wasn’t long until the nodding heads began to stop, and the approving smiles turned to frowns. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. “Who does He think He is, making these claims about fulfilling this Scripture? He’s implying that His message applies to us! We’re not poor or slaves! We’re not blind and downtrodden! How dare He imply that He can be our Savior, as if we even needed one. If He really is so great, then why doesn’t He do here some of the miracles we heard that He supposedly did in Capernaum? Then we might believe in Him!” They were initially impressed by His style, but they took offense at the substance of His sermon. Their offense soon turned to rage and rejection.

Let’s apply this point to ourselves: It’s easy to accept Jesus on a superficial level. We hear that God loves us and that Jesus cares for all our needs, and that’s true. So, we welcome Him into our lives. But at some point, we begin to get a bit uncomfortable as we realize Jesus is confronting our pride and self-righteousness with His teaching. Rather than building up our self-esteem, Jesus begins shining the light of His holiness into the dark, hidden closets of our soul. We begin to see that “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18). At this point, you have a crucial decision to make. You can dodge the hard truths of the Bible, either by throwing out the whole thing or, as many people do, by finding a church where you hear more soothing, comfortable messages. Or respond to the leading of the Spirit. God’s way is that we face the hard truth about ourselves and submit to Jesus as Lord.

Sunday February 25, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “The Temptation of Jesus Pt 2” Luke 4:9-13

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Luke 4:13
“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”

You and I will undoubtedly never be tempted by Satan as our Lord was. We will probably never rate a personal appearance of Satan or his personal attention to us. Rarely does temptation come our way that is as apparent as a solicitation to do evil. Rather, temptation comes to us as a “golden opportunity,” or the “chance of a lifetime.” Temptation comes in many forms, some even appear religious. In order to know how to deal with temptation, we must be very careful to define it in order to be able to identify temptation.

Not knowing what you are looking for is dangerous when it comes to temptation. My first thought was to view temptation as a solicitation to do what we know to be evil. Adam and Eve were tempted to do something which God had clearly indicated was evil. The foolish young man in Proverbs (Chapter 7), who was seduced by “madam folly” was also enticed to do evil. But when you stop to think about it, Satan hardly needs to work at this kind of temptation because man is in rebellion against God through the lusts of the flesh and the fear of death. In Chapter 7 of Romans Paul tells us that when the law prohibits sin, our rebellious nature wants to do exactly what the law has forbidden. When the law commands certain things to be done, our flesh naturally desires to disobey.

That is why the most dangerous form of temptation is to entice us to do what is ultimately devastating and destructive, under the disguise of doing of what appears to be right. Satan sought to tempt our Lord to do what was represented as good – satisfy His physical need of food, fulfill His need for security and control, and to test God to prove His goodness towards Jesus. Satan’s messengers not only appear as the wretched instruments of evil that they are, but also as “angels of light” (2 Cor. 11:14-15), promoting evil in the name of good.

Hundreds of times a day we are bombarded with solicitations to buy something. The methods used are almost identical with Satan’s techniques of temptation. We have become numb to the existence of “tempting” mechanisms and approaches. In fact, we have become conditioned to expect to be tempted and sometimes feel let down if the temptation is not great enough. We are groomed to purchase the product whose manufacturers do the best job of tempting us to buy it. Just like the rat in the maze, we have been so anesthetized to temptation we do not even recognize it for what it is. We must always view the “offer” in terms of the offerer. Only good and perfect things come from God, the “Father of lights” (James 1:17). Only evil things come from Satan, the prince of darkness (Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:13).

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

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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 – 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?”

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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 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.