Sunday – May 9, 2021 Mother’s Day Zechariah 8:1-8

Sunday – May 9, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 9, 2021

Zechariah 8:4-5
Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. ‘And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.’

If someone were to ask, “What does the kingdom of God look like?” we might think of heavenly choirs singing praises to the accompaniment of harps. There is no doubt that glorious worship will be an important part of God’s kingdom. But I would guess that few, if any, of us would ever think to describe His kingdom as our text does: “Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets” (Zech. 8:4-5).

This is not Zechariah’s personal idea of what the kingdom of God will look like, but the direct word of the Lord of hosts (8:4). This word was intended originally to encourage the remnant that was struggling to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem after the exile. It fit into the overall theme of Zechariah, that God remembers His chosen people, and that He will bless them in His time. But the words also apply to God’s people in every generation who seek to live under the lordship of Jesus Christ as we await His glorious return and His coming kingdom.

Sadly, those words do not describe a large segment of American society. In 2018, The Office of Children and Families reported 1788 children under the age of 15 died from abuse or neglect and that number continues to rise annually. Most such abuse occurs within the confines of the home. Our streets, especially in large cities, are not safe, especially for women, children, or the elderly. By way of contrast, when the Lord will rule and reign, the elderly will be at rest and the children at play, unafraid of attack or harm. Since these two groups represent the most vulnerable in any society, if they are securely at rest, everyone else will also enjoy peace. How a society treats its elderly and its young children may be a good measure of how close that society is to the Lord. When He dwells in our midst, He describes the result as this scene of peaceful joy for the aged and the young.

The Lord taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). While the Lord’s kingdom will not come in its entirety until He returns in power and glory, we should labor for that kingdom to come in the interim. We should demonstrate, as much as possible, kingdom living in the here and now. Those who do not know Christ should be able to look at our homes and our church and get a glimpse of what it will be like on earth when Jesus reigns as King and dwells with us.

Sunday – September 13, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 21:1-16 “Giving Advice and the Will of God”

Sunday – September 13, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 13, 2020

Acts 21:12-14
When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

All Christians want to know God’s will for their lives. We want to know His will concerning major decisions, such as the career that we should pursue, the person that we should marry, and the place where we should live. We need His guidance on dozens of other daily decisions affecting our money, our time, and our relationships. If you know Christ as Savior and Lord, you want to please Him in every aspect of life by making wise decisions in line with His will.

There are many texts in the Bible which warn us about the company we keep. We are to avoid association with evil men, who seek to turn us from the path of righteousness (Proverbs 1:8-19). There are numerous examples of bad counsel coming from bad people. But our text reminds us that bad counsel can come from our most intimate and trusted friends, those who greatly love us and care about our well-being. We see examples of this in the Bible. For example, Nathan’s initial response was to encourage David to build the temple he aspired to construct (1 Chronicles 17:1-4). Job’s friends’ counsel was intended to end his suffering and to restore him to blessing, but they were all wrong (Job 42:7-9).

Why is it that those who love us deeply, who want our best are sometimes the very ones who give us bad counsel? It may be the same reason that we pray the surgery of a good friend will go “smoothly” and without complications. It may be the same reason that we ask God to completely heal a fellow believer of cancer, rather than use them powerfully in death. I feel this tension when I pray for missionaries who are serving God in very dangerous places. Should I pray that God would enable them to be evacuated from their place of service? Or should I pray that God would supernaturally deliver them from all harm? Or must I also leave room for God to glorify Himself and promote the gospel by their faithfulness even unto death?

I believe it all boils down to one’s attitude toward suffering in the Christian life. Paul understood that his best friends did not want him to suffer. It was prophesied that in Jerusalem he would suffer. If Paul’s goal is to avoid suffering, Paul will avoid going to Jerusalem. If your desire for one you love is to escape suffering, then you will counsel accordingly. Many times, I have seen this same counsel repeated today by well-meaning Christian friends. Some “Christian friend” will give counsel such as, “I wouldn’t put up with that; you’re entitled to be happy.” It assumes that the primary goal in life is to be happy and to be free from pain. God’s Word makes it plain that we live in a fallen world, one in which all creation suffers and groans (Romans 8:18-25). Such counsel assumes that God is not in control of our circumstances, or that He never sends suffering our way.

Sunday – May 17, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 11:20-33 “One Step Back to Move Forward” Pt 2

Sunday – May 17, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 17, 2020

Acts 11:22-24
News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Most people in the world would say, “The way to get into heaven is to be a good person.” Again, the definition of “good” in the minds of those who say this is so vague and broad that almost everyone qualifies. If you’ve ever done a good deed for someone, even if it was to earn your Boy Scout badge, you’re in! But the Bible teaches that no amount of human goodness can qualify a person for heaven, because God is absolutely good and He cannot and will not allow even a single sin into His perfect heaven. Thus the apostle Paul builds his argument that “there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Rom. 3:12), because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

In light of this, when the Bible calls a man “a good man,” we should sit up and take notice. Although it is speaking relatively, not perfectly, here is a man whose life we should study and learn from. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke says that Barnabas “was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). The description starts on the surface and works inward. He was a good man—how so? He was full of the Holy Spirit. How so? By being a man of faith. By studying Barnabas’ life, we will look at what a good person is, namely, a person who loves God and others (the two great commandments).

When we first meet Barnabas, he is selling his property to lay the proceeds at the apostles’ feet to meet the needs of the early church in Jerusalem (4:36-37). Years later, the apostle Paul referred to Barnabas as one, like him, who labored with his own hands to support himself in the ministry of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:6). Barnabas’ generosity toward those in need took precedence over his thinking about his own future. Later, when the famine threatened not only Judea, but also Antioch, the church in Antioch gave to help the needy saints in Judea. Although the text does not say, I’m sure that Barnabas contributed to that gift, and he gave his time to deliver it to Jerusalem. The church could trust him with the money, because he was a generous man, free from greed and obedient to God.

Having considered Barnabas, can it be said of you, as it is said of Barnabas, that you are a good man or woman, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith? Is your love for God vital and growing? Is your love for people becoming more tender and compassionate? Do you seek to help others grow in their faith? Do you ask God to use you to reach the lost for Christ? Are you aware daily of your need to depend on the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit of goodness in your life? When you do stumble, do you turn from it and go on with the Lord? That is how you can become a truly good person before God.

Sunday – April 5, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 9:32-43 “Is Cleanliness Next to Godliness”

Sunday – April 5, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 5, 2020

Acts 9:32-33
As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda.

As Christians, we do not come to our faith without some assembly required. The problem most of us have is that we expect to already be “there” when in reality God intends on completing a process within us. The apostles and Peter were no different. Peter’s change of mind was progressive, just as Paul’s conversion involved a process. Geographically, the progress is most evident. Peter started in Jerusalem, then went down to Samaria, and to some of the Samaritan towns (8:14, 25). Sometime later, Peter was found in Lydda (9:32) and then at Joppa (9:39, 43), and then at Caesarea (10:24). After this, he would return to Jerusalem (11:2).

The changes in Peter’s place of residence were used by God to play a very crucial role in preparing him for the invitation to come to the house of Cornelius. I doubt that Peter would have gone to Caesarea and to the house of Cornelius if he would have received the invitation to do so while he was staying in Jerusalem. It was here that his devoutly Jewish fellow-apostles and brethren lived. And it was precisely these folks who “called Peter on the carpet” for preaching the gospel in the home of this Gentile, Cornelius. But God took Peter and John to Samaria, where they welcomed many Samaritan saints into the faith and into the church. Then, at some point in time, God led Peter to Lydda, then to Joppa, and finally to Caesarea.

This sequence of events removed Peter from Jerusalem, and from the legalistic separatism of his Jewish brethren. It put him in contact, no doubt, with a larger number of Gentiles. It resulted in his contact with a woman who had died, as was thus not only ceremonially unclean, but also defiling to Peter. It also put Peter in constant daily contact with a tanner, a man who daily dealt with dead animals. It would seem that some of Peter’s scruples with “unclean” things would have had to have been set aside. The change of setting was preparatory in the life of Peter, making him more open to the invitation to go to the house of a Gentile. I am sure Peter would much rather stay in the comfort of his own home in Jerusalem and enjoy the fellowship of the other apostles. Yet God moved him out of the city to prepare him for what God would do next.

We are living in unprecedented times, where schools are closed, people line up 6 feet apart to buy groceries and we live in self quarantine in our own homes. But God is still working, challenging us to minister in new ways and in new circumstances. Just like Peter could not remain in Jerusalem, so we find ourselves in a very new way of living. We may not enjoy the process God is using to bring about these changes, but take the time to speak with God and ask Him what process He is taking you to make you into follower of Jesus He has called you to be.

Sunday – March 22, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 8:25-40 “The Ethiopian Eunuch”

Sunday – March 22, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 22, 2020

Acts 8:29-31
Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” 30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?”

I have heard it said that Philip was called to leave a thriving and successful ministry in Samaria to go out to this desert road leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. I’m not so sure that this is the case. In verse 25, we read that the Apostles Peter and John have finished their ministry in Samaria and have headed back to Jerusalem, preaching Jesus as they went. It looks as though the task in Samaria was finished, so that Philip could leave to minister elsewhere. The disciples left, heading back to Jerusalem, while Philip was directed to go the opposite way on this road, toward Gaza.

Now we are led to the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch at the end of chapter 8. Here the spectacular is largely missing. Granted, God’s Spirit directs Philip to the desert road where he meets the eunuch, and He then instructs Philip to make contact with this man. But none of this supernatural guidance is known to the eunuch. From his vantage point, nothing spectacular has occurred prior to his faith in Jesus so spectacular events had no bearing on his conversion – unlike Simon the magician, whose conversion seems to have been heavily influenced by signs and wonders. Only after the eunuch was saved and baptized did he observe something spectacular – Philip’s amazing exit.

Since signs and wonders were not the explanation for the conversion of the eunuch, to what do we attribute his conversion? I think the answer is: the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the testimony of this man of God. The eunuch’s heart was already prepared when Philip encountered him. He must have had a fair knowledge of the Jewish faith, enough to prompt him to travel a long distance to worship in Jerusalem. He must have paid a high price for his copy of Scripture. The Spirit of God not only prompted Philip to make the journey to meet the eunuch, He also opened the heart of the eunuch to receive Stephen’s exposition of the Word.

Yes, God can use a Simon and an unbelieving Saul, but how much better to be used like Philip, who obediently followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, and willingly bore testimony to the Lord Jesus. He knew the Scriptures so well he could take up from the very text the eunuch was reading, and beginning there, proclaim the Lord Jesus. May we be that kind of instrument in God’s hands, to the salvation of the lost and to the glory of God.

Sunday – March 15, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 8:1-25 “Simon and Simon”

Sunday – March 15, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 15, 2020

Acts 8:4-6
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said.

In the Old Testament, God seldom used those who appeared to be the “most likely to succeed.” He used Moses, who was an escaped fugitive and who made all kinds of excuses as to why he was not the one God needed to deliver the nation Israel from its Egyptian bondage. He used David to kill Goliath, in spite of his youth and the disparaging comments of his brothers. He used Samson and Balaam, and even Balaam’s donkey. God used Pharaoh and his hardened heart to demonstrate His power over the gods of Egypt.

The Book of Acts is no exception. God has already used Peter to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah to crowds of people in Jerusalem, as well as to the Jewish Sanhedrin, the highest religious and civil court in Judaism. God used Stephen to preach in Greek-speaking synagogues, which led to his arrest and trial before the Sanhedrin. Instead of defending himself, Stephen indicted his accusers, showing their charges to be inconsistent with Old Testament teaching, and their resistance to God’s Spirit to be entirely consistent with Israel’s rebellion against God and His appointed servants.

I find examples of the sovereignty of God. I see this in the way God employs all things to promote His glory. God used the opposition of the Sanhedrin, the stoning of Stephen, and the opposition of Saul to scatter the Jerusalem saints, and thus to set in motion the fulfillment of the Great Commission. God used Simon the magician to testify to the true and greater power of God through Philip and the apostles (Peter and John). Because of Simon’s fascination with the signs and wonders performed by these men, many Samaritans gave a listening ear to the preaching of the gospel, and many came to faith. God used those who obeyed Him, those who sought Him, and those who opposed Him to accomplish salvation, and glorify Himself.

God’s grace and God’s gifts are a matter of His sovereign pleasure, but what a comfort it is to know that God acts independently of men, without being manipulated. What a comfort to know that God’s independence assures us that He will not only act independently of men, but in the best interest of His own. He is not manipulated by His children; He manipulates us, but in a way that is for His glory and for our best interest. His sovereignty will be evident in our next lesson, in the salvation of Saul, the rebel. May we gratefully bow the knee in worship and obedience to the Sovereign God, who works all things together for our good, and in such a way as to achieve His purposes and plans.

Sunday – February 2, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 4:32 to 5:11

Sunday – February 2, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 2, 2020

Acts 4:32-34
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.

I once heard of a group of untaught Christians who took our text so literally that they were seriously thinking of taking the life of one of their members who had committed a serious sin. While I appreciate their zeal to do what the Bible teaches, I think they have misapplied Luke’s account of Ananias and Sapphira. On the other extreme, there are many more who would like to simply set this passage aside. Actually, there are many who would like to set aside our text and its implications because it exposes a good deal of shoddy thinking and outright sin in the church. Let’s face it; none of us are really inclined to add this passage in Acts to our list of “happy texts” in the Bible.

Luke tells us that “great grace was on them all” (Acts 4:33). While “great power” seems to be restricted to the apostles, who performed many signs and wonders, “great grace” appears to be evident among all the saints. God was showering His grace upon the Jerusalem church, at least in part due to the unity of the believers, as evidenced by their caring for one another in their financial needs. For various reasons these were not easy times for those living in Jerusalem, the result being that many of the saints in Jerusalem were in financial straits. It is not merely generosity which prompts those with financial resources to give, however; it is a deep unity among the saints.

Barnabas is an excellent example of what Luke has just described. Verses 32-35 provided us with a general statement regarding the health of the church in Jerusalem. Verses 36 and 37 provide us with an excellent example of the attitude of the saints in the church toward the needy and toward their own material possessions. Barnabas had a piece of property which he sold, and then brought the proceeds to the apostles to distribute as they saw fit. This is the way it was supposed to be, the way Luke had just described it in more general terms.

Giving is a by-product and outgrowth of Christian unity. Our text begins with Luke’s description of the church at Jerusalem as being of “one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). Sharing flows from unity, and it also enhances unity. The term “fellowship” is frequently used in reference to sharing financially with others. Our text helps us to understand why “fellowship” is often financial but always is partnership. Our union in Christ makes us all partners, so we should desire to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sharing should not be limited to material possessions. We should also be liberal in giving our time, our energies, and our spiritual gifts to those whose needs we can meet.

Sunday – February 10, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 13:31-36 “Christ Would But They Would Not”

Sunday – February 10, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 10, 2019

Luke 13:31-33
Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You.” And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.’  Nevertheless, I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem.”

We have been told by Luke (once again) that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, teaching and ministering as He went (Luke 13:22). Jesus’ exodus from Jerusalem (via His death and ascension) will eventually close the narrow door, which He has urged His listeners to pass through. Verses 23-30 therefore stress the implications of Jesus’ approaching Jerusalem for the nation Israel. Verses 31-35 stress the implications of arriving in Jerusalem for Jesus.

Some Pharisees arrived, seemingly from Jerusalem. It appears that they have a kind of “news flash” for Jesus. Apparently, they have learned of Herod’s intention to put Jesus to death if He made an appearance in Jerusalem. They had come to warn Jesus of the danger of persisting on His present course. Herod earlier was desiring to see Jesus (Luke 9:9). The Pharisees, on the other hand, had rejected Him and had determined to put Him to death. Did they really wish to save Jesus from Herod’s treachery? It didn’t matter. Jesus would use this as a further occasion for teaching.

Jesus’ response to this warning was to tell these Pharisees to report back to Herod His commitment to carry on His ministry, as given by God, and as planned. It was business as usual for Jesus, even if that was dangerous, even if it meant death. Jesus was determined to finish what He had been sent to accomplish. No threat of danger would turn Him from His mission or from His ministry. The fainthearted might be tempted to pursue the same ministry, but in a safer location. Jesus was not going to let anything cause Him to take a detour, so that He could avoid the danger which lay ahead. How much this is like the warning which Paul received in Acts 21, telling Him that persisting on with his course would lead him into bondage. Paul’s response is in the footsteps of His Lord’s. Neither would let danger keep them from fulfilling their mission.

Jesus made it clear that He knew He would die in Jerusalem. He was not naive of the danger. He was not oblivious to the pain and the persecution which was ahead. He was conscious that this was His calling. Would He urge men to “strive” to enter the door? He was striving to open the door to salvation, by His sacrificial death. Today, when “playing it safe” seems to be the name of the game, even the smallest danger or threat may be enough to deter us. We conclude that “the Lord has closed the door,” when He may only have purposed for us to walk in His footsteps.

Sunday – March 27, 2016 Rev. 21:1 to 22:5 “It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This”

Sunday – March 27, 2016 – Read the Word on Worship

Sunday – March 27, 2016 Rev. 21:1 to 22:5 “It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This” from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 27, 2016 Download / Print

Revelation 21:1-3
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Heaven seems almost inconceivable. As a young child I can remember attempting to comprehend time without end … infinity. Now I realize that heaven is even beyond that which I failed to fathom as a child, for heaven is the end of time; in heaven there is no time at all. The human authors of the Bible who have attempted to describe the beauties of heaven give evidence of their frustration at striving to depict an existence in a dimension beyond the grasp of mere mortals:… but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

I have heard it said, giving a description of heaven in human words is more difficult than an Eskimo going to Hawaii, and then on his return trying to describe a pineapple to his people. Heaven is an important subject for Christians, not only because it is a pleasant topic to investigate, but because it is so vital to our faith. The fear of hell and eternal torment may be a strong incentive for salvation, but it is not the basis for our hope and faith. In the Bible heaven is the ground of our faith and hope.

In John 14, our Lord spoke of returning to His Father, where He would “prepare a place” for us. We naturally tend to think that “going to heaven” means our going far away to that place which our Lord is preparing; but it is more accurate to think of heaven as coming to us, for the New Jerusalem will come to the (new) earth, according to the scriptures. In this sense, heaven is more earthly than we sometimes think.

But the greatest disservice I can do is to leave the impression that the joys of heaven are assured for everyone. In each of the last three chapters of Revelation, the fate of the true believer and the unbeliever is contrasted. Those who have chosen to reject Jesus Christ as God’s only provision of righteousness, of forgiveness for sins, and of entrance into heaven, will not spend eternity with God. I urge you to not put this message down without searching your own heart. Have you come to see yourself as a sinner, deserving of God’s wrath? Have you acknowledged Jesus Christ to be the sinless Son of God, Who died in your place, bore your sins, and offers you His righteousness? You may have the assurance of spending eternity with God if you but receive, by faith, the gift of salvation through His Son.