Sunday – April 30, 2017 Genesis 37:1-36 “Jacob, Joseph and Jealousy”

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Genesis 37:2
Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives.”

It is impossible to live in this world and not be hurt by someone else’s sin. When you have been wounded by someone else’s sin, you’ve probably wondered, “Where is God in all this? If God is all-powerful and loving, why is He allowing this terrible sin against me? If He is in control, why do wicked men literally get away with murder? If God is sovereign, why am I in the pits?”

Joseph could have asked that question. Due to his brothers’ sin, he was literally in a pit. From there things didn’t get better. His brothers didn’t kill him, as they originally planned, but they did sell their 17-year-old brother into slavery in a foreign land. As that caravan made its way south toward Egypt, perhaps passing within a few miles of Joseph’s home in Hebron, he must have been overwhelmed with grief and loneliness as he wondered if he would ever see his father again. He must have wrestled with fear, anger, and feelings of rejection as he thought about his brothers’ cruelty toward him. A skeptic might say, “See, God isn’t there when you need Him. If He cared about you, He would stop sinful men from carrying out their terrible plans.” But God’s sovereign providence runs like a strong river through this chapter, carrying even the sinful plans of man downstream in His overall purpose.

Perhaps the most convincing evidence of God’s sovereign hand in these events is the remarkable parallel between Joseph’s history and that of our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as Joseph was loved by his father and sent to seek the welfare of his brethren, so Jesus was loved and sent by the Father. Just as Joseph’s brothers hated him because he spoke the truth about their sin and he convicted them of sin by his righteous life, so with Jesus. Just as Joseph’s brothers sold him for a few pieces of silver, so Jesus was betrayed for the same. Joseph’s brothers sought to get rid of him so that he would not reign over them, but their action resulted in that becoming true. Their rejection of him resulted in his later becoming their savior from the famine. Even so, the Jewish leaders did not want Jesus to reign over them. But their killing Him resulted in His becoming the Savior of all men, exalted in His resurrection as Lord of all at the right hand of the Father, just as Joseph was second under Pharaoh.

In various situations, we may feel that we’re in over our head. A terrible tragedy hits us out of nowhere. We lose our job, someone dies, someone wrongs us, and we feel as if we’re going to be swamped. But, the truth is, we’ve always been held up by the grace and love of our Heavenly Father. If He let us go, we’d drown even in the shallow end. If we’re in deeper waters, we’re still in His strong arms. God is never out of His depth, and so we can trust Him even when the waters seem deeper than we’ve ever been before. If you’re in the pits, remember, God is sovereign over all the details of your life. You can trust Him to work it all together for good! If you’ve never trusted Him before, why not begin now?

Resurrection Sunday – April 16, 2017 John 16:19-22 Celebrate the Risen Savior

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John 5:28-29
Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”

If anyone can speak with authority about life beyond the grave and God’s judgment, it is Jesus Christ. He claimed to be sent from God the Father and to be one in essence with the Father. Either He is God in human flesh, or else He is a first-class liar! Jesus reinforced this statement with many bold claims that would be blasphemous in the mouth of anyone other than God.

He claimed to do everything that He saw the Father doing (5:19)! He claimed that the Father showed the Son all that He is doing (5:20)! He claimed to have the power and authority to give life to whomever He wishes (5:21)! He claimed that the Father had given all authority to judge to the Son (5:22)! He claimed that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father (5:23). As if these claims were not stupendous enough, Jesus continued, “he who hears My word, and believes in Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (5:24). What mere man could make such claims? Even if Jesus were, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim, the first and greatest of all created beings, He would have been blaspheming to make such claims to deity, if He were not fully God!

Maybe you have heard the expression, “going first class on the Titanic.” It describes those who foolishly devote themselves to seeking after pleasure in this life only. This world and all who live for it are headed for judgment. Going first class on a ship that is certain to go down is not wise! And so each of us needs to ask, “Is my hope of heaven based solely on the fact that God sent Jesus to pay the penalty for my sins, and that He raised Him from the dead? Because He has cleansed my heart through His mercy, do I now desire to live in a manner that is pleasing to Him?”

Jesus said, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal” (John 6:27). Again, what an astounding claim! Jesus offers to give eternal life to those who seek it. The day is coming when you will be raised, either to life or to judgment. In light of who Jesus is, if I may speak plainly, you would be stupid to live for this life, but to neglect the free gift that will prepare you for the life to come.

Sunday – December 25, 2016 Christmas Day – Celebrate the Savior’s Birth Service

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Luke 2:13-14
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Christmas is so much more than a Bible story. It is more than a history lesson. It is more than songs, lights, parties, and pretty presents under a tree. Christmas is more than just a yearly holiday celebration. Christmas represents not only the birth of the King of Kings but the incarnation of the God man. Leaving the eternal and taking on the form of a man, Jesus stepped out of Eternity and into time. He took on a temporal life so that He could invite us to have an eternal one.

Who, but the King who defines Himself as love, would be willing to be born in a stable so that the Shepherds who received a heavenly invitation to come and celebrate His birth would feel right at home when they arrived? The message of the angels was that God had sent Peace on Earth, The Prince of Peace. God blessed mankind with good will. Through Christ God’s good will was done on earth as it is in Heaven.

We must remind each other and teach our children these basic truths in such a way that when we are opening those pretty packages under our tree, we will remember that on that first Christmas God wrapped His Son in human flesh as a gift of salvation to all mankind. The truth of God’s unbelievable love should be so much a part of our Advent lessons that as we buy presents for those we love, we understand that Christmas is about loving our enemies too. That first Christmas was God giving the most important gift to a world at war with Him and His ways. But even when we were at war with God, He sent His Son to pay the price of our peace (Romans 5:10). As we sing the Christmas Carols of peace on earth, our songs remind the world Christmas is when God announced Peace on Earth by sending us the Prince of Peace to bring peace between man and God. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)

It is one thing to read the story of Christmas. It is another thing to understand how to live it. I pray that God will help each person here this morning share the Christ of Christmas in such a way that He will be well remembered throughout the season. He is worth remembering; truly Jesus is the reason for the season!

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 – September 25, 2016 Genesis 14:1-24 “The Original Braveheart”

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Genesis 14:21-24
The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me…”

How do you handle praise from men? At the close of Chapter 13, Lot anticipates future prosperity in Sodom, while Abram was content to worship and live in Hebron (13:18). But Lot’s selfish decision gains him a prize soon lost; while Abram’s response places him in a position of honor among the kings of the plain. How the tables can turn! When we are faithful to God, He always finds a way to bless us. It may not seem that you are a recipient for blessing, but God is no man’s debtor.

Abram headed back from his great victory and was met by two kings, the king of Sodom and the king of Salem. Apparently the king of Sodom came up to him first, but before he could speak, the king of Salem arrived. Only after Abram had dealt with the king of Salem did he deal with the king of Sodom. There are two battles in this chapter: Abram’s battle with the foreign kings, and his battle with the tempting offer of the king of Sodom. The second battle was the greater, because it was the more subtle of the two. Abram’s fellowship with the king of Salem strengthened him to resist the temptations of the king of Sodom. In these two encounters we find Abram honoring God and holding to Him, not yielding to the temptations of success.

Melchizedek, the king of Salem, is one of the most intriguing men in the Bible. He seems to come out of nowhere and returns about as quickly as he came. He was the king of what later became Jerusalem. He brought out bread and wine to refresh the weary warriors. And “he was a priest of God Most High.” This is the first mention in the Bible of anyone being a priest. We don’t know for whom he was a priest or how he became one or how he learned of God. We don’t even know his name, since Melchizedek is probably a title. It means “king of righteousness.” Some have speculated that he was an angel or possibly a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ, but those views are not likely.

We do know, from Psalm 110 and from the Book of Hebrews (the only other places in the Bible Melchizedek is mentioned) that he was a type of Jesus Christ, who became a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. We also know that even though Abram was one of the greatest men of faith in the Bible, Melchizedek was even greater. This is proved by the fact that he blessed Abram and he received tithes from Abram (Heb. 7:1-10). This is a perfect picture of how Jesus comes to our aid and rescue when we need Him. After periods of conflict and testing, Jesus Himself has a habit of coming to visit us. He brings encouragement. Jesus is our sympathetic High Priest in a unique order; there is no one like Him.

Sunday – September 18, 2016 Matthew 23:3 “As it Was in the Days of Noah”

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Matthew 23:3
As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

Part of Jesus reply was “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of Man.”  In the parallel passage of Luke 17 Jesus also says “It was the same as happened in the days of Lot.”

If we are near the “end of the age” we should examine the scriptures to understand society’s characteristics in the days of Noah and Lot. The scripture gives both man’s view of his society and God’s view. Are there similarities in what was going on in societies around Noah and Lot?

Do we see any similarities in our society today with events prominent in Noah and Lot’s day? If so, how does the level of similarities of their societies measure against ours today?

The attitudes and actions in both Noah’s and Lot’s societies resulted in the judgment of God. Is our society also rushing toward God’s judgment? If so, what can you and I do to personally avoid that judgment and help others avoid it. Will we take the necessary steps?

Sunday – May 29, 2016 New Series ”The Book of Genesis”

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Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

A surveyor must always begin from a point of reference. So, too, history must start at some definite place of beginnings. The Bible is, through and through, a historical revelation. It is the account of God’s activity in history. As such, it must have a beginning. The book of Genesis gives us our historical point of reference, from which all subsequent revelation proceeds. In this book we find the “roots” of the inhabited world and the universe, of man and nations, of sin and redemption. Also, we find the foundation of our theology. I would consider Genesis as the starting point of all theology.

Genesis is particularly crucial in the light of the doctrine of progressive revelation. This doctrine attempts to define the phenomena that occur in the process of divine revelation. Essentially initial revelation is general while subsequent revelation tends to be more particular and specific.

Let me try to illustrate progressive revelation by an examination of the doctrine of redemption. The first promise of redemption is definite but largely undefined in Genesis 3:15: “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Later in Genesis we learn that the world will be blessed through Abraham (12:3). The line through which Messiah would come was through Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau. Finally in Genesis we see that Israel’s coming ruler will be of the tribe of Judah: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10). Later on we learn that Messiah will be the offspring of David (II Samuel 7:14-16), to be born in the city of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Literally hundreds of prophecies tell in greater detail, the coming of the Messiah.

I would like to suggest that we approach the book of Genesis as the book presents itself to us. I believe the first verse makes clear the way we must approach the entire work .This account either explains it all or it does not explain it at all. Some books begin, “Once upon a time … ” and when we find such an introduction we immediately understand that we are reading a fairy tale. Genesis 1:1 is totally different. The mood is authoritative and declarative.

The claim implied by this verse is much like that of our Lord when He presented Himself to men. No one can logically tip their hat to Jesus Christ as a “good man,” “a wonderful example,” or a “great teacher,” He was either Who He claimed to be (the Messiah, the Son of God), or He was a fake and a fraud. There is no middle ground, no riding the fence with Jesus. Jesus does not deserve mere courtesy. He demands a crown or a cross.

Sunday – May 15, 2016 “I Am the Resurrection”

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John 11:25-27
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

The raising of Lazarus from the dead is the high point of our Lord’s self-disclosure to men. This is without a doubt the greatest miracle of His ministry. Humanly speaking, there was no hope of recovery, and yet at the point of absolute helplessness and hopelessness, Jesus gave life to the dead. The spiritual parallel is obvious, for all men are ‘dead in their trespasses and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1-3). When we reach the point of utter despair and self-distrust we find that what we can never do anything to merit the eternal life God has provided as a free gift, as Paul explains in the books of Romans and Ephesians. Jesus Christ has come, not to aid men in their struggle toward heaven, but to give life to those who are dead. As He gave life to Lazarus, so He offers spiritual life to all men, on the basis of faith.

As this miracle is the high point of self-revelation by Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, so it is also the high water mark of human resistance and rejection of the person of Christ. In the face of the most irrefutable evidence the Jewish leaders chose to set aside the evidence for the sake of expedience and sentence the Savior to death. The rejection of men was not based upon a lack of evidence, but upon moral decay and willful rejection of the truth. Our Lord was not taken by surprise, for He said in the gospel of Luke, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

The timing of this miracle also anticipates the coming death of the Lord Jesus Christ and guaranteed the fact that He would rise from the dead, just as He informed His disciples. If Jesus had power over death and the grave for Lazarus, then surely death could not hold Him in the grave.

In addition to John’s primary reasons for recording this miracle there are lessons for us by way of practical application. The resurrection of Lazarus confronts us with the same decision the people had to make when Jesus walked on earth as a man: What will you do with Jesus? You must either accept Him as the Savior and the Son of God, or you should reject Him as a phony and a fraud. He cannot be anything but one or the other. If we take these gospel accounts seriously at all we must face the same destiny-determining decision as those who witnessed His works while on the earth.

Sunday – May 8, 2016 James 2:14-26 “A Woman Restored”

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Mark 1:35-37
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 

The demands on mothers are awesome. We all should have read Proverbs 31 at some time in our lives and wondered who could ever live up to such an example? Just look at the demands of everyday life – planning family meals, going grocery shopping, working, making meals for finicky children and husbands. Throw on top of that the stamina to deal with medical problems such as ear aches, flu and runny noses and providing counseling services for a child who was just in a fight with the kid next door. And then as circumstances require, provide homework review after taxi service to little league, dance class and the dentist. And somewhere in the middle of this entire schedule moms are expected to remain strong, joyful and true.

As the TV commercial once asked, “what’s a mother to do?”

The family’s needs are a tremendous burden for all moms. But there is another need that mothers have that often gets lost in the business of being mom. Jesus spent time with two women who reveal an important lesson: Martha and Mary. Martha was distracted over her responsibilities in the home while at the same time Mary found time to sit at the feet of the Lord and listen to His words. This caused a conflict between the sisters.

Jesus did not dismiss the value of Martha’s important work but He did recognize that Mary had chosen wisely in coming into His presence. In fact Mary, when she poured out perfume on the feet of Jesus, understood more about who He was than even the disciples knew after they spent three years with Him. Unlike Martha at that time, Mary had developed priorities in her time spent with the Lord that allowed her to absorb the meaning of Christ’s life into hers. The danger of becoming engulfed with the details and duties of life can deny us a seat at the feet of the Savior. The work at hand was important to Martha, and obviously still HAD to get done. But in comparison for Mary, it was not the most important thing.

Listen to the advice of Jesus to His disciples after a time of busy ministry told in Mark 6:30-31: “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” This direction also applies to moms and all those who work in the Body of Christ. Everyone needs quality time alone with the Lord in His Word. Our natural tendency is we get so busy that we meet ourselves coming and going and then omit the much-needed rich nourishment that only the Lord can provide.

Since today is Mother’s Day, my question for you, Mom, is this: Are you so busy coming and going that you do not take time to sit at  the Lord’s feet and listen to His Word and take your burdens to Him? Make time this week to come into His rest.

Sunday – April 24, 2016 “I Am the Light of the World”

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John 8:12-13
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

There are two types of light in the world. We can perceive one, or both – or neither. When we are born into this world, we perceive physical light, and by it we learn of our Creator’s handiwork in the things we see. However, although that light is good, there is another Light, a Light so important that the Son of God had to come in order to both declare and impart it to men. In our passage, Jesus speaks of the light of His Truth, the light of His Word, the light of eternal Life. Those who perceive the true Light will never walk in spiritual darkness.

We take a candle into a room to dispel the darkness. Likewise, the Light of Jesus Christ has to be taken into the darkness of sin that engulfs the hearts and lives of those who are not following Him. That’s the condition behind having this Light – that we follow Him. If we do not follow Him, we will not have this light, this truth, this eternal life.

Light is necessary for physical life. The earth would certainly change very rapidly if there were no longer any sunlight. A rain forest with a very thick canopy of foliage high above has very little plant life on the ground except for moss, which needs little sunlight. Plants will never move away from the light—they are said to be positively phototropic, drawn to the light. In the same way, spiritual light is necessary for spiritual life, and this can be a good test of our standing in Christ. The believer will always tend toward the Light – toward fellowship, prayer, the Word of God, and so on. The unbeliever always does the opposite because light exposes his evil, and he hates the light. Indeed, no man can come into the true spiritual light of Jesus Christ, unless he is called by God.

Following Jesus is the condition of two promises in John 8:12. First, His followers will never walk in darkness, which is a reference to the assurance of salvation we enjoy. As true followers of the Light, we will never follow the ways of sin, never live in a state of continually sinning (1 John 1:5–7). Rather, we repent of our sin in order to stay close to the Light of the world. The second promise is that we will reflect the Light of Life. Just as He came as the Light of the world, He commands us to be “lights,” too.

The emphasis here is maintaining a credible and obvious witness in the world, a witness that shows us to be faithful, God-honoring, trustworthy, sincere, earnest, and honest in all that we do. Also, we should always be ready to give an account of the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15), for the gospel Light we have is not to be covered, but made obvious for all to see and benefit from, that they, too, may leave the darkness and come into the Light.