Sunday April 15, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 6:1-11 “Taking the Fun Out of Sunday”

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Luke 6:3-5
Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”  Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

The Lord Jesus and His disciples were passing through some grain fields on the Sabbath, followed by a delegation of Pharisees. The Pharisees knew the popularity Jesus was growing steadily. They also were becoming alarmed at the realization that Jesus was not in their camp, indeed, was often attacking them. They were afraid to leave Jesus to Himself, unwatched, unchallenged. Furthermore, they were eager to catch Jesus in some transgression of their rules, so that they could point their fingers at Him and accuse Him of being wrong.

Much to their delight, some of the disciples began to strip heads of grain from the field, rub them in their hands to separate the grain from the sheaf, and pop it into their mouths. This, to the Pharisee, was harvesting and threshing grain, something which one could do on any other day, but not on the Sabbath. The challenge was made, both to Jesus (Matthew and Mark) and to the disciples (Luke), “How the Sabbath be so blatantly broken by doing this?” Our Lord’s response, as outlined by Luke, is based upon a very simple premise: WHO YOU ARE DETERMINES WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE FREE TO BREAK THE SABBATH.

Jesus’ argument was amazingly simple: “David broke the law, and if he could have done so, I all the more.” Technically speaking, David did break the letter of the law when he ate bread that only the priests were allowed to partake. David also gave this bread to his men, and was condemned for doing so. David’s actions could be justified by several lines of argument. David was hungry, as were his men. He might have died without this bread. The answer which Jesus is seeking is something different, however. Jesus wants His critics to admit that they don’t condemn David’s actions because David was so revered by the Pharisees, even though it was a violation of the law. Who you are determines what you can get away with. The central issue, then, was not whether or not Jesus broke the Sabbath, but who Jesus was.

If Jesus has fulfilled the Sabbath by coming with a greater rest, then the commandment to keep the Sabbath can be set aside. Why work to rest under the law when Christ gives rest from the law? Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath in the sense that He is greater than the Sabbath, and thus able to set it aside. To be Lord of the Sabbath is to be Lord over the Sabbath. When Jesus claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath, He claimed to be greater than the Sabbath, in authority over the Sabbath, and thus far more qualified than David to break the law pertaining to the Sabbath.

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 February 11, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “The Second Temptation of Jesus” Luke 4:5-8

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Luke 4:5-7
The devil led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, “I will give You all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if You worship me, it will all be Yours.”

Forty days have passed, during which Satan has tried nearly every kind of temptation. The final three temptations are Satan’s “best shot” at our Lord. The first temptation sought to induce our Lord to use His divine power to convert stone to bread. Satan is now about to employ the second temptation. What is it that he is trying to avoid, or to accomplish in this temptation? Satan undoubtedly knew that Jesus was the Messiah who had come to destroy him and to establish an everlasting righteous kingdom. Satan’s motivation is not very difficult to determine: Stop our Lord at all costs! And if Jesus could not be defeated by Satan, perhaps an agreement could be negotiated, whereby an alliance could be established, and the “kingdom of Satan” could be shared.

What “weakness” was Satan hoping to find in our Lord to which this particular offer might appeal? Satan was projecting his own fallenness, his own weaknesses, on our Lord. He expects that the same things that appeal to him will appeal to the Son of God. One of Satan’s primary ambitions is to “be in control.” We too have a desire to control which is so strong that we are willing to pay a high price to attain such control. While our Lord was willing to set aside His right to reign, so that He might pay the price for our sins, we are often willing to pay a high price to gain control or to keep control.

The issue of control, of having control and being in control, is very prominent in the Scriptures. The scribes and Pharisees were jealous of our Lord as they recognized they were losing control (Matt. 7:29). It was due to the fear of losing control that they constantly challenged Jesus about His authority. The disciples, too, were overly concerned with being in control. They argued one with the other as to who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-34). They were concerned with who would sit on the right and left hand of our Lord in heaven (Matt. 20:20-21). They wanted to use God’s power to destroy their enemies (Luke 9:51-56). They wanted to prohibit others from doing wonders in the name of Jesus (Mark 9:38). Jesus had to teach them that the greatest in the kingdom were those who were servants of all — as He was (Mark 10:42-45).

Throughout the New Testament we can see how the desire to exercise control can be used by Satan to promote sin. The Corinthians seemed to have a fixation on being in control, being in the group that had control, or having a leader in control. Husbands are tempted to abuse their role as leaders by dominating their wives in the name of biblical leadership. Elders can be tempted to lord over the flock. Individuals can seek to maintain control by demanding their rights. Women can resist the order established by God in the home and in the church by seeking to gain control, to lead where they should not.

Let us be aware of Satan’s presence in attacks regarding who is in control.

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

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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.