Sunday – January 14, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “Good News for Bad Days” Luke 3:1-20

Sunday – January 14, 2018 – Read the Word on Worship

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Luke 3:7-8
John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”

John was a prophet whose ministry was rooted in the Old Testament. John did not merely fulfill Old Testament prophecy, he spoke as an Old Testament prophet. John and the Old Testament prophets spoke of the future, of the Kingdom of God, of the Messiah, and of “things to come” in two different ways. The prophets spoke of the coming of the Lord both as a time of judgment and as a time of blessing. They spoke of Messiah both as the great King, who would reign from the throne of David, and as the Suffering Servant, who would die for the sins of the world. And, you will recall, this was the cause for considerable interest and even agony on the part of the prophets.

John’s one ministry as a prophet – calling Israel to repentance and to the keeping of the Law – was a failure, as all other prophets had failed. It was thus with John’s ministry that the preaching of the Law, of the old covenant, ceased: “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since then the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached…” (Luke 16:16). Many of those who came to John for baptism left without ever entering the water. Thus, the kingdom of God was rejected, along with her King. All of this in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.

John’s ministry was to close, once and for all, the chapter in Israel’s history of law-keeping. No one had ever been saved by law-keeping, and neither would the kingdom of God ever be initiated because of it. Grace must replace law. The suffering of Messiah would provide a means of forgiveness and escape from the judgment of God. John’s ministry was intended to point this out in a final and definitive way. John not only proclaimed, one final time, a call to repentance and law-keeping, but introduced the One through whom the law would be fulfilled, and through whom salvation and forgiveness would be accomplished.

While John’s ministry and message was to be replaced, there is much that we can learn from him. We can learn from the boldness of John in proclaiming his message. He did not hesitate to call sin what it was, sin; or to warn men of the coming judgment of God. For those of us who tend to be “wimpy” Christians, who are reluctant to tell people they are sinners, who shy away from telling people there is a literal hell for all who do not trust in Christ, John’s boldness should serve as a rebuke. And note that it was his boldness in proclaiming God’s Word that enhanced the power of his message. The gospel is, as Paul says, “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). Let us therefore proclaim it boldly.

Sunday – March 12, 2017 Genesis 31:17-55 “Between a Rock & Hard Place”

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Genesis 31:42
“If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He rendered judgment last night.”

Ethics is the difference between legality and morality. We live in a day when Christians and non-Christians alike think that whatever is legal is legitimate Christian activity. We, like Jacob, have our own pole-peeling and wheeling and dealing, which we think God is obliged to bless. No wonder the world is legalizing homosexual marriage and the right to government paid abortion. To them, legality is morality so if it isn’t illegal, it is moral.

Laban had lived in close association with Jacob for twenty years, and he was convinced of Jacob’s lack of integrity. Laban believed that Jacob stole his goods and that Jacob had underhandedly gotten possession of his flocks. Does this sound like a man who was convinced that Jacob was a godly man? And yet Jacob seems to be convinced of his own integrity. He is certain that God is on his side because of his uprightness. How could Jacob have been so mistaken? I have come to believe that the answer is that Jacob was a legalist. Jacob prided himself on being a man who kept the letter of the law. Never, to his knowledge at least, had he ever broken his word. He had made a deal with Laban, and he had always lived up to it. Oh, he had peeled those poles all right, but that was not a breach of their agreement.

But here is the heart of the error of legalism, for legalism equates morality with legality. It believes that righteousness and the keeping of the law are one and the same thing. A man may have no system of ethics whatever, but so long as he does not break the law, he feels morally pure. He feels confident of the approval and blessing of God. Legalism is sinful because men love to set human standards which, if they are kept, produce a man’s righteousness. Christian liberty views the standard for our thoughts and actions to be our Lord Himself, for it is to His image that we are being conformed (Romans 8:29).

The Bible does draw lines, clear lines at times. There are absolutes, and there are rules. But in addition to these, perhaps I should say above all these, is another standard of conduct which we shall call ethics or convictions. Many Christians seem to have too few of these, and yet this is what sets a true Christian apart in the eyes of the world. How many of us are viewed by the world as Jacob was by Laban? How many of us have convictions that cause us to avoid certain practices, even if they are legal? Christian ethics should be so high that legalistic rules are never necessary, at least for those who are righteous.

Sunday – July 5, 2015 Thom Rachford “America, Where Are You?”

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America, Where Are You?

America has a history of Christian heritage. From the beginning of the nation, true Christian men guided the country and wrote the constitution. They set up the best ever series of checks and balances to insure peace and the opportunity for prosperity. The government was structured to provide individual liberty and fairness under the law.

The laws were based on God’s laws from the Bible and society’s moral conduct followed Biblical principles. Sure, there have always been those who did not follow the principles, but the principles were publicly held up as an example of how one should behave in the eyes of God and before and with their fellow man.

However, as men do, they rebelled against these principles when they felt deprived of something they wanted. The rebellion continued throughout the years. But the principles held firm. Slowly however, other more modern men pressed for a new interpretation of what principles should govern legal and social activities. The new principles of law and morality claim to be the best for men, better than God intended, or even more insidiously, they gave God’s principles a “new and better” interpretation.

The new interpretation presented man’s view as the highest, most moral and most right view. Man’s decision must be the highest and best decision since there is no God involved with men, they reasoned. The theory of evolution was held up as scientific evidence that man and his ideas evolved not from a creator God, but from crystals (yes, crystals as the modern evolutionists claim – but cannot explain how it happened) and developed over the centuries into the highest thought and judgment. Included in this view is the idea that man’s ideas continue to evolve. Therefore, since ideas evolve, new ideas must be better than the previous ideas. And the plunge into rebellion deepens.

Sunday – June 8, 2014 PENTECOST SUNDAY, Ruth 4:1-22 “Gentile Redemption!”

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Ruth 4:5
“Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance.”

Unlike some other cultures, Americans love to link romance with marriage. As the lyrics of one 1950s popular song put it, “Love and marriage … go together like a horse and carriage.” You might be disappointed in the story of Ruth because it does not contain as much “romance” as you are used to finding. Naomi sought to orchestrate a marriage between Ruth and Boaz, based on “romance.” She convinced Ruth to bathe, put on perfume and her best dress, and then crawl under the covers with Boaz on the threshing floor once he had fallen asleep. A sexual union in these circumstances would have consummated a marriage, albeit not by the most honorable means. Such a “marriage” would have been a “shortcut.”

Naomi’s scheme did not produce a “romantic evening,” or a midnight marriage. However, it did give Ruth the opportunity to ask Boaz to become her husband so as to provide protection and security for her (and for Naomi), as well as to produce a child who would carry on the family line. Boaz regarded Ruth’s actions as honorable, and assured Ruth that he would do as she asked if the nearest kin declined to assume this responsibility. They did spend the remainder of the night in close proximity, but it was far from a romantic interlude. When Ruth reported these things to Naomi, her mother-in-law assured her that Boaz would quickly bring this matter to a conclusion.

In stark contrast to the events of the previous night, we come to the seemingly unromantic legal negotiations and commitments of Chapter 4. Quite frankly, such “unromantic” dealings are a beautiful thing to behold. Chapter 4 is also a stark contrast to what we read in Chapter 1. There, Naomi returned to Bethlehem accompanied by Ruth, refusing to be called “Naomi” (Pleasant), but insisting on being called “Mara” (Bitter) instead. She sought to justify this by claiming that God had dealt harshly with her. She claimed to have gone out to Moab “full,” while returning to Bethlehem “empty.” However, when Chapter 4 draws to an end, Naomi’s arms are “filled” with the child that God has given her through Ruth and Boaz.

 I believe that both Ruth and Boaz took great pleasure in doing God’s will, even in those times when this appeared to be contrary to their own best interests. Naomi, on the other hand, could only sit back and complain, and propose actions that were contrary to God’s will. Chapter 4 of the Book of Ruth puts all the previous events and responses into a proper perspective. Understanding this chapter as we should will enable us to understand the entire book, so we should listen well to what God has to say to us in this text.