Sunday – January 28, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “All in the Family” Luke 3:23-38

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Luke 3:23-24
Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melki, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph….”

Many people these days are turning to the internet for checking the credentials and reviews of any number of services.  Whether it is checking restaurants for pictures of the food they serve, to reading the reviews for a mechanic who will treat you fairly, to finding a financial planner to chart the course of your financial future, people want the assurance they have made the right choice. After all, it makes sense, if your money and future security are at stake, to have some good reasons to trust the person giving you advice.

If it makes sense to check out the credentials of a service provider, it makes even more sense to be sure about the credentials of one to whom you entrust your eternal destiny as your Savior from God’s judgment. While all of the Gospel accounts, and even all the Bible, serve to establish the credibility of Jesus as the promised Messiah and Savior, Luke focuses on three lines of evidence prior to introducing the beginning of Jesus’ ministry: (1) The testimony of John the Baptist and of God the Father and the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ baptism, as we saw last week (3:15-22); (2) the genealogy of Jesus (3:23-38), which we’re considering in this week; and, Jesus’ victory over Satan’s temptations, which we will look at in future weeks (4:1-13).

While Matthew focuses on Jesus being the Messiah and King of Israel by tracing His genealogy back through David to Abraham, Luke has a different purpose. He wants to show that Jesus is the unique Son of Man and Son of God, Savior of all people. So Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy back beyond Abraham to Adam who was directly created by God (“son of God,” 3:38). Not only does this argue for a literal Adam, it links Jesus with all humanity, showing that He is not only the Savior of the Jews, but also the Savior of any son or daughter of Adam who will turn to Him.

There is a reason why Luke waited until this point, between the baptism and temptation of Jesus, to insert this genealogy. By calling Adam the son of God, Luke does not mean for us to see Jesus as the Son of God in the same way. Rather, Luke wants us to see an important contrast. The first Adam, created by God, was supposed to reflect God’s image, but he failed through yielding to Satan’s temptation, plunging the human race into sin and death. But Jesus, the second Adam, the unique Son of God, triumphed over Satan’s temptation (4:1-13). Through His sacrificial death on the cross, He alone offers salvation from the curse of sin and death brought about by the first Adam. Luke’s point is that Jesus is the only qualified Savior of the human race.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday – January 7, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “The Day Jesus Went AWOL” Luke 2:32-53

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Luke 2:49-51
Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

In Luke 2:39-52, we have the only reference in Scripture to the years between Jesus’ birth and the beginning of His ministry when His age was about 30. Some of the apocryphal gospels that circulated in the early centuries of the church contain fanciful and miraculous legends from the childhood of Jesus. He touches some clay birds and they come to life and fly away. He touches a plow that Joseph had botched up and it is instantly made right. Some other legends are more disturbing: The young Jesus curses some bothersome children who immediately wither up or drop dead. After such fanciful tales, the account in Luke of Jesus getting left behind at the temple sounds pretty tame!

The Old Testament (Deut. 16:16) prescribed that every Jewish man should appear before the Lord for three feasts each year: Unleavened Bread (Passover), Weeks (Pentecost), and Booths (Tabernacles). By the time of Jesus, it was customary for those some distance from Jerusalem to attend only one feast. Joseph and Mary’s custom was to make the 80-mile journey from Nazareth each year for the Passover. This incident happened when Jesus was 12. It must have been the most exciting time of the year, to leave the small town and go to the capital for this celebration that drew thousands of worshipers.

If you have ever had a child get lost, you can identify with the panic that gripped these conscientious parents. You always think worst case scenario — such as Jesus was kidnapped and we’ll never see Him again. Joseph and Mary had a lot more time, three days in fact, to think the worst. Given the amount of time, one can appreciate Mary’s emotional words, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father and I have been anxiously looking for you.” Jesus responded, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?

The parents of our Lord struggled as to how to put together the facets of our Lord’s nature, His humanity and His deity. In our text, the humanity of Jesus had so dominated their thoughts that they forgot to reckon with His deity, which was the basis for his actions and response to them. You and I have the same struggle in recognizing both the divine and the human elements in our Christian lives. This is the tension between the element of divine work in our lives and human responsibility. You see, the struggle of Mary and Joseph is not so unique as it might first appear. There is a kind of incarnation which is going on in the life of every Christian – the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our personal response to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Let us not deny the divine nor the human in what God is doing in our lives.

Sunday – December 31, 2017 Gospel of Luke – “Psalms and Announcements” Luke 2:21-38

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Luke 2:27b-32
When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Whether we are young or we are old, everyone needs hope. Hope is not just for those who approach old age with questions about how their life has been spent and what to do with the days that remain, but also at all other points in life. We need hope to see there is more to life than the circumstances we find ourselves in, today or any day. A hope that is more than just whistling in the dark, a hope that is firm and secure in the heavens.

One of the blessings we receive along with the children God entrusts to us is hope. I can recall the day my daughter was born and the hope that I had for her future – all the things she would see and do in years ahead of her. And yet, the hope that comes with children is an uncertain hope at best. There is always the uncertainty of disease or death. What parent of a newborn has not gone in by the crib in the middle of the night and put his or her ear down close enough to make sure that the little one is breathing? If the child survives and grows into a young adult, there is the uncertainty of this evil world. Crime, child molesters, drunk drivers, the threat of terrorism or war, and economic instability make every parent worry about the kind of world our children and grandchildren will grow up in.

Given these uncertainties, when we meet an elderly person who is filled with hope, we need to sit up and take notice. Here is someone who could be pessimistic, cynical, filled with fears and anxieties. But he is brimming over with firm hope – hope in the salvation God will bring for all people. We had better listen, for there is much we can learn from someone who has the hope of the Lord in their life.

Simeon was such a man. When he held the infant Jesus in his arms in the temple courtyard, we see more than just an old man taking hope in any newborn. Rather, we see an old man who has put his hope in the promises of God. This was no ordinary newborn. He was the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people. If Christ is your salvation, you can have hope no matter how difficult your circumstances. Whether you’re suffering from a deadly disease or grieving over the loss of a loved one or facing overwhelming trials of some other nature, you can have hope if you will trust in Jesus Christ as God’s salvation for you. He has won the victory over sin and death and hell. Those who hope in Him will not be disappointed.

Sunday – December 24, 2017 Gospel of Luke – “The Savior Has Come!” Luke 2:1-20

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Luke 2:10-12
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.

Twenty years ago, Moody Magazine reported that 49% of professing Christians agree that “all good people, whether they consider Jesus Christ to be Savior or not, will live in heaven after they die.” If that opinion is true, then the story of the birth of Jesus may warm your heart but it won’t be the best news in the world, news that you cannot live without. However, if the Bible is correct in stating that all people have sinned and are separated from God, then the news that the Savior has been born is not just nice – It is the best news in the world.

So many legends, such as Santa Claus, have become intertwined with the Christmas story that people lump them all together and forget that the birth of Jesus Christ as reported in the Bible is true history. In the eyes of the unbelieving world, the story about the Christ child, the angels, the shepherds, and all that stuff is a heartwarming tale. It helps everyone focus on peace on earth for a few brief days every year. So what difference does it make if it’s really true or not? It makes all the difference in the world. If it’s just a heartwarming legend, you can choose to believe or disbelieve it.

I fear the Christmas story is beloved even by those who do not believe in Christ because the babe in the manger is far less threatening than the Christ who interprets and applies the Law later in the gospels and  who condemns sin and speaks of faith in His blood. The baby in the manger is sweet and cuddly, and “controllable.” The baby in the manger is a kind of “God in the box,” a God whom we are comfortable to approach, to think about, even to worship. But the Christ hanging on the cross is not a pretty picture, He is not one who evokes in us warm and fuzzy feelings. Many have made much of the babe in the manger because this is the kind of “god” they wish to serve, a “god” who is weak, who is helpless, who needs us, rather than a God who is sovereign, and who demands our obedience, our worship, our all.

According to Revelation and the prophecies of the Bible, the Jesus who came the first time as a little baby, is coming again as an avenger and a righteous judge, to punish the wicked and reward the righteous. This may not be the kind of Jesus you wish to think of or serve, but it is the same Jesus that came to Bethlehem. His second coming will be vastly different from His first appearance. Then, He came to humble himself, to die on the cross, and to save. Next time, He comes to judge. Are you ready to face this Jesus, to fall before Him in worship? This is the Jesus of the manger. This is the coming King. I urge you to accept Christ as He came the first time, as your Savior, and then to wait for Him eagerly, to come the second time, to establish His kingdom on earth and rule over all creation. Let us learn from Luke’s account that the babe in the manger is the Savior of the world.

Sunday – November 12, 2017 Series Week Nine: “The Heart of a New Testament Church”

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Nine: “The Heart of a New Testament Church”

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Ezekiel 36:26-28
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

It is true that we cannot “have it our way” when it comes to church, but rather we must function in ways that are consistent with sound doctrine, and which are obedient to the principles and commands of Scripture, illustrated by apostolic practice. We have been given certain terms like elders and deacons, and we have seen how the early church functioned. But let us not err by concluding that being a New Testament church is primarily a matter of terms and forms. The essence of a New Testament church is more a matter of the heart.

The New Testament church is made up of those whose sins have been covered and atoned for by the shed blood of Jesus, and who now have hearts of flesh, rather than hearts of stone. The New Testament church is one in which the Spirit of God dwells, empowering Christians to play their unique role in the body of Christ so that our Lord now ministers to the world through His body, the church. We can use all the right terms and have all the right forms and traditions, but fail to be a New Testament church because we lack hearts that are filled with faith, hope, and love – not to mention many other attitudes that should characterize the Christian (like humility, servanthood, joy, and thanksgiving). This is why a church may not have all the right terminology or just the right forms, but may nevertheless manifest the life of Jesus.

A New Testament church manifests Christ to the world. Through the presence and power of Christ, the church ministers to itself and then to the world. Thus, the church is not just about principles and procedures, but about people, people who have come to faith in Jesus Christ, who have been joined to the church, and who are divinely indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit. A New Testament church has New Testament life and power. It not only carries on the work of Christ, it manifests His character. The heart of a New Testament Christian (and a New Testament church) is the work of God’s Spirit, the outworking of the New Covenant inaugurated by the shed blood of our Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary. It all begins with Jesus, just as it ends with Him. I pray that you have trusted in Him, and thus have become a part of His church.

Sunday – October 15, 2017 Series Week Five: “Who Thought Pickles Belonged on That?”

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SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Five: “Who Thought Pickles Belonged on That?”

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Romans 15:5-6
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If you’ve been in the church for any length of time, you’ve no doubt been around someone whose personality grated on yours. Even though you’re supposed to love them, if you were honest, you’d admit that you don’t like them. Or, if you’ve served the Lord in some ministry, you’ve probably tried to work with someone who wanted to do things in a way that seemed wrong to you. You could see that his way wouldn’t work and you knew that your way was the right way. I wish that I were only describing hypothetical situations, but from my many years of pastoral experience, I know that I’m describing reality. I hope I’m not describing anyone’s marriage, but I probably am.

While unity is extremely important, it cannot trump the truth of the gospel, because if the gospel is compromised, the resulting “unity” is not the unity of the Spirit. It would be a superficial “unity” of some who believe in Jesus and some who did not. Jesus prayed for the love and unity of His disciples, but it was love and unity based on the truth (John 17:17). Jesus claimed to speak the truth (John 8:45) and to be the truth (John 14:6). He told Pilate (John 18:37), “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” He promised that He would send to His disciples “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17). So to argue that Jesus set love above truth is false. He knew that tolerating a false gospel is not love, because it would lead the person believing it to damnation, not to eternal life.

Unity does not mean that we all must work closely with one another. While we need to try to work through our differences, there are times when two workers need to recognize that God is calling them to serve the Lord in different spheres. Any parting of ways should be done with mutual respect and without bitterness or acrimony. Nor does unity mean that we all have to agree on every secondary doctrinal or practical matter. There are many issues where godly Christians, committed to the Scriptures, disagree. We must be charitable toward one another on these matters.

And, there are many differences over the methods we use to do the Lord’s work. We should seek to follow biblical methods, not worldly methods. Some methods are so unbiblical that they deserve criticism. But as with doctrine, godly men disagree over some methods. We must be charitable toward those whose methods we don’t agree with, even though we can’t work closely with them.

Sunday – July 30, 2017 Thom Rachford Preaching

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The Kingdom Come

Acts 1:6-7
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.

Jesus disciples knew the many Old Testament prophecies about a coming Kingdom. Jesus had preached that the Kingdom was at hand.  They were anxious to know if today was the day.  James and John wanted positions of authority in the Kingdom and to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand.  In Matt 6:9 Jesus even told His disciples to pray “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heavenThey were expecting a Kingdom on earth with Jesus as King and the Father’s will is done like it is in Heaven.  The time seemed right.

When the disciples asked, Jesus did not refute the idea of a restored Kingdom to Israel. He only said it was not for them to know the time.  After His death and resurrection they asked Him again.  Now, sin had been dealt with, and now death was overcome.  Everything would seem to be in place for the Kingdom to come immediately.  However, the Kingdom was postponed until the Time of The Gentiles was completed.  The Time of the Gentiles was brought on by Israel’s rebellion against God and His commandments.  Like other of God’s Judgments, the Time of the Gentiles must be fulfilled as God directs.  But the Kingdom Will Come.

Sunday – July 2, 2017 Genesis 43:1-34 “Tears and Fears”

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Genesis 43:16-19
When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house steward, “Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon.” So the man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house. Now the men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph’s house; and they said, “It is because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time that we are being brought in, that he may seek occasion against us and fall upon us, and take us for slaves with our donkeys.”

Joseph’s brothers provide us with an excellent illustration of salvation. In their current spiritual state they faced Joseph with the greatest fear. They perceived their only “salvation” to be in their “works” of returning the money they found in their sacks and in the pistachio nuts and other presents they brought from Canaan. The first was refused by the steward, and the second was ignored by Joseph. It was not their works that endeared these brothers to Joseph; it was their relationship to him. That is what they did not yet realize.

In the same way today sinful men dread the thought of standing before a righteous and holy God. The future must be faced with great fear. Frantically men and women seek to gain God’s favor and acceptance by their “pistachio nuts” of good works. Such things as trying to live by the Golden Rule or the Sermon on the Mount, joining the church, and being baptized, are unacceptable to God as a basis for salvation. What saves a man or a woman is a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

When we stand before the throne of God, the only thing God will be interested in is our relationship to His Son, Jesus Christ. As our Lord Himself put it, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). This is the consistent message of the Bible: “And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (I John 5:11-12).

Have you come into a relationship with Jesus Christ? I urge you to acknowledge that you are a sinner, deserving of God’s eternal wrath. Let your eternal destiny rest in Jesus Christ, Who died in your place and Who offers you His righteousness and eternity with Him. Realize that any work which you may do will do nothing to gain God’s favor; He is pleased only with the work which Christ has already done on the cross of Calvary.

Jacob was putting all his hopes for the future on his son Benjamin (42:38; 44:29-31). Without Jacob’s realizing it, God had purposed to save him and his sons through Joseph, who was rejected by his brothers, marked for death, and who was, so far as Jacob knew, dead. Later this son who “was no more” was elevated to the throne where he was able to save his brethren. Jacob’s hopes were placed on the wrong son. It was through Judah, who offered himself in place of Benjamin, and Joseph, who was rejected and then exalted, that Jacob and his sons were saved. Jacob would be saved God’s way or not at all. God had to systematically pull out all the props from under him before he was willing to accept things God’s way. How little has changed between the time of Jacob and today.