Sunday – January 6, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:49-59 “The Consequences of Christ’s Coming”

Sunday – January 6, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 6, 2019

Luke 12:49-51
I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division.

The word “fire” can arouse a wide variety of responses. If someone were to yell, “Fire!” at the top of their lungs, it would probably produce a great commotion. One the other hand, on a cold winter night, the suggestion to “build a fire in the fireplace” arouses all kinds of warm emotions. And who can forget singing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” at Christmas time? Now, that give us a warm, sentimental feeling. But when Jesus said/says that He had come to “kindle a fire,” He was/is saying that He has come to bring about the outpouring of God’s wrath on sinful Israel. That certainly is neither warm nor sentimental!

There are a number of seeming contradictions in our Lord’s words, here and elsewhere in the gospels. He is the Prince of Peace, but He will bring division. He promises men life, but He calls on them to give up life. He tells men to lay up treasure in heaven, but they are to give up the pursuit of riches in this life, and to give to the poor. The difference is between the “ends” and the “means” by which they are achieved. “Peace” is the end, but a sword and division are the means. “Life” is the end, but death—our Lord’s death, and the/each disciple’s “taking up his cross” is the means. “Blessing and riches” are the end, but giving up the pursuit of them is the means. Since the means appear to contradict the ends, we must go about these means by faith, and not by sight.

But how can Jesus be so zealous for this “fire” to be kindled? If He is going to bring about the judgment of God upon sinners, and if this is not a work in which He takes pleasure, why is He eager for the “fire” to be kindled? I think the answer is simple—this painful and unpleasant (for both God and men, I believe) outpouring of wrath is a prerequisite of and preliminary to the establishment of the kingdom of God. In order for the kingdom of God to be established, sinners must be punished and sin eliminated.

The means by which God has determined to bring about His kingdom is not just painful to sinful men, it is exceedingly painful to God. Not only because men will suffer for their sins, but because Jesus Christ, God’s Son, will suffer His wrath as a payment for man’s sins. Jesus said that before He casts fire on the earth, He had a baptism with which to be baptized. This baptism is the death which He would die on the cross of Calvary. His death on the cross would set in motion a series of events, which will conclude in the pouring out of God’s divine wrath on sinners. The sad reality is that it is not really necessary, because Jesus experienced the full extent of God’s wrath on the cross. For those who trust in Him, that is the full payment for their sins, but for those who reject Him, there is yet to come the outpouring of God’s wrath in the day of judgment.

Sunday – December 16, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:22-34 “Perspective on Possessions”

Sunday – December 16, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 16, 2018

Luke 12:29-32
Do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying.  For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith observed, “Money is a singular thing. It ranks with love as man’s greatest source of joy—and with death as his greatest source of anxiety”. Most of us are prone to worry about money. If we don’t have enough, we worry about how to get it; if we have plenty, we worry about whether we really have enough and about how to hang on to what we have. Worry has been described as “a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained”.

Worry, Jesus reminds us, simply doesn’t satisfy. Worry does not make one more comfortable, nor does it extend one’s life. And if worry will not do such a little thing, why should we think it would do any greater thing? Worry never produced a single meal. Worry has not produced a stitch of clothing. A little thought would even lead you to conclude that worry has probably hindered in these matters. Worry is really fear, and its ultimate cause is a lack of faith in God, in His goodness, in His power, and in His promises to provide for all our needs, beginning with the most important- LIFE.

Ultimately, worry disregards God’s care of His creation and disbelieves His love and care. The problem with material things is just that, they are material. They can be seen. Faith is not rooted in what is seen, but in what is not seen. When we seek after material things, like food and clothing, we seek after that which we can see, and so we live according to sight, rather than faith. As Paul reminds us “… we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Faith is rooted in the Word of God, which is both certain and eternal, not in those things which we see, which are soon to pass away. Heaven and earth will pass away, but not His word. The Word of God is the basis, both for faith and for life.  The antidote to fear is faith. The fuel of faith is that which is not material, but is eternal, the Word of God. His “flock” does not need to fear about food and clothing, or anything else, for His kingdom is assured. And not only is it certain that His “flock” will be given the kingdom, God has purposed to gladly give it. We can be assured that God will do that which gives Him pleasure, and giving us His kingdom will be pleasurable to Him, and so it is sure for us.

Sunday – December 9, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:12-23 “Affliction of the Affluent”

Sunday – December 9, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 9, 2018

Luke 12:15
Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

When I read the parable of the rich fool, I cannot help but think of Howard Hughes. From some of the reports at the time of his death, he had accumulated a great deal of wealth but did not enjoy any of it in his last years. In this sense, Howard Hughes is a present-day example of what Jesus is giving us warning. The danger of thinking of a man like Howard Hughes implies that the text applies primarily to the rich and enables us not to think of ourselves as a “rich fool.”

We may come to this parable with a sense of smug security. Perhaps Jesus will be speaking to us when he gets to the next section, where Jesus is addressing His disciples. But here, Jesus is telling a parable about a very wealthy, unlike ourselves. Jesus can hardly be addressing us. I’m not so sure about that. I think that most of us would be hard pressed not to admit that we are, as individuals, financially comfortable. Our nation is, in comparison with most others, exceedingly blessed.

The world says our life consists of things, but God says life consists of being rightly related to Him and to others. The world would view this rich man as a success. He would be held up as a model to follow. He had not gained his wealth by dishonest or corrupt means. He had worked for it, poured his money back into the business, and had done well. He was financially secure. He could now enjoy the good life: good food, fine wine, servants, and whatever pleasures money could afford. Isn’t that what we all aim for in life? Isn’t that why we go to college, so that we can get a good career, make plenty of money, provide the finer things in life for our children, and retire some day with plenty in our investments? What’s wrong with that?

This man’s whole attitude was the very reverse of Christianity. Instead of denying himself he aggressively affirmed himself; instead of finding his happiness in giving he tried to conserve it by keeping. His goal was to enjoy life, but in seeking his life, he lost it. What was wrong was the man’s focus. He had the world’s perspective, not God’s perspective. God’s perspective is not that riches are inherently wrong. Money can be a great good if used with a perspective of the life to come. There are several wealthy men in the Bible, such as Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph who enjoyed God’s blessing and were godly men. But, to a man, they were generous men who lived in light of eternity. As Paul tells Timothy, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). If we want to be rich toward God, we need to be careful to distinguish between the world’s perspective and God’s perspective. God’s perspective always takes into account the life to come.

Sunday –October 28, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 10:38-42 “Working Like the Devil Serving the Lord”

Sunday – October 28, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – October 28, 2018

Luke 10:41-42
But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

In their book, First Things First, Stephen Covey and Roger and Rebecca Merrill ask this penetrating question: “What is the one activity that you know if you did superbly well and consistently would have significant positive results in your personal life?” They repeat the question with regard to your professional or work life and then ask, “If you know these things would make such a significant difference, why are you not doing them now?” They go on to discuss how we often wrongly let the urgent take priority over that which is truly important.

That is the main message of this little story that gives us a glimpse into an incident in the life of Jesus and two sisters who hosted Him for dinner. Luke seems to put it here both to contrast it with the preceding incident where a lawyer challenged Jesus by putting a test question to Him. In the first story, the lawyer cites the two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor, but the emphasis, through the parable of the Good Samaritan, is on love for our neighbor. In this story, we see an example of what it means to love God, as Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. If we only had the story of the Good Samaritan, we might allow service for God to take precedence over devotion to God.

Mary had chosen that which was “better” and “necessary” (v. 42); Martha was frazzled and frustrated by a whole host of things. What was that “better” thing, that which was “necessary,” that which Mary had chosen, and Martha had not? I think that the “better thing” was abiding in Christ, drawing strength and instruction from Him. It was being taught at the feet of the Master. Martha was preoccupied with ministering to Jesus; Mary with the ministry of Jesus. In the final analysis, He is not dependent upon our ministry to Him, but our life in Him is totally dependent upon His ministry to us. In seeking to serve Jesus, Martha was hindering the sustenance of Jesus in her life, and she even demanded that it be kept from her sister as well.

There is no better place to be, no place we are more welcome to be, than at the feet of our Lord. When we fall at His feet, we acknowledge His majesty, power, and goodness, and our need. When we fall at His feet, we rightly reflect the response of the creature to the Creator. No sinner in the New Testament ever hesitated to come to Jesus’ feet. The self-righteous would not be caught dead there, because of their pride and arrogance, but the sinner found the feet of Jesus a place of welcome. You are always welcome at His feet.

Sunday April 8, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 5:27-39 “Eat, Drink and Be Merry”

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Luke 5:33-34
They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” Jesus answered, “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”

Many people saw the Puritans (incorrectly) as “people who suffer from an overwhelming dread that somewhere, sometime, somehow, someone may be enjoying himself.” That definition is incorrect because the Puritans had as their purpose “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But we all have met someone who fits that incorrect definition —a religious person who only seems to be content when everyone else is miserable. These folks are like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon Lutherans, who are suspicious of a place like Hawaii that doesn’t have harsh winters.

Why is it that there are so many “dill pickle” Christians around, who are more like the Pharisees than those who attended Levi’s reception? It is because Satan has warped our conception of the Christian life. Jesus’ disciples, unlike the disciples of the Pharisees and even of John the Baptist, feast, while the others fast. The real issue is not stated, but it is there: “Why are your disciples able to enjoy life, while we merely endure it?” Note the contrast in the attitude of the Pharisees with that of the “sinners.” The sinners are celebrating; the Pharisees are grumbling. The sinners are happy; the Pharisees are sad. The sinners are enjoying life; the Pharisees only endure it. The sinners are “grabbing for gusto,” the Pharisees are griping to Jesus.

There are times when fasting is appropriate. There are times when the most spiritually mature Christians will be sad, when they will grieve, when they won’t be marked by joy. But Jesus is the bridegroom and when He is with His people, then we should experience the joy of the wedding feast. The joy of the Christian life is being personally related to our loving Bridegroom! If you know the joy of a personal relationship with Him, there will be times when you fast. You will discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. You will obey His Word. But your motive will not be to earn right standing with Him or to impress others with your spirituality. Your motive will be the joy of knowing and pleasing your Bridegroom.

Joy, not sorrow, not sadness, should be the dominant characteristic of the Christian. The Christian life includes sorrow and suffering and sacrifice, but these are not the melody line of our life, or they should not be. These are the harmony line. Suffering and sacrifice are means, but they should not be the end. Joy is the goal, it is the climax, it is the reward of forgiveness and fellowship with God.

Sunday February 4, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “Can God Be Tempted?” Luke 4:1-4

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Luke 4:1-2
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.”

Have you ever wondered what the difference was between being tempted and being tested? The Bible speaks of both, but does that mean the two are interchangeable? Does it make a difference if Jesus was tempted by Satan or only tested in the Wilderness?

Temptation is, on the one hand, a solicitation to sin, to do that which is contrary to the will and the word of God. Temptation is an attempt to cause a person to sin. Satan’s efforts at temptation always fall into this category. But “temptation” when viewed from God’s point of view is a “test,” an opportunity for one to be proven righteous. In the case of Job, Satan sought to bring Job to the point of forsaking his faith, but God’s purpose was to deepen Job’s faith, as well as to demonstrate to Satan that Job’s love for God was not based upon the material blessings that God had bestowed upon him.

In the same way, Jesus was “tempted” in two senses in our text. From the vantage point of Satan’s intended purpose, our Lord was tempted. Satan wished to prompt the “Son of God” to act in disobedience to the Father, thus terminating His ability to fulfill His mission. From the viewpoint of God, this was a “test” of Jesus Christ, proving Him to be suited and qualified to fulfill His mission as the Son of God.

This temptation struck at the very heart of the gospel, for the Lord Jesus had come to the earth in obedience to the will of the Father, to die on the cross for sinners, so that they might be forgiven and have eternal life. Would Jesus save His own life, contrary to the will of His Father? Then He could not achieve eternal life for all men. Would Jesus act on His own behalf, distrusting and disobeying the Father? Then He would pursue the path of death, not life, for life requires obedience to God, even more than feeding the body. To have turned the stone into bread would have been to have turned from the path that led ultimately to the cross. The rejection by Jesus of Satan’s proposition meant that He was determined to accomplish the will of God, even unto death, which paradoxically, was the way to life, for Him and for all who are found in Him.

Death is not the end of life, rather death is the way to life. The death of Christ became the way in which men could have eternal life. His death meant that He suffered and paid the penalty for our sins. By believing in Christ we become identified with His death, burial, and resurrection, which is symbolized by baptism. But not only is death the way to life (dying in Christ to sin), it is for the Christian, the way of life. We are taught that we must daily “take up our cross,” we must die to self-will and self-interest. The way of life is death to self, that is the way of the cross.

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 – August 20, 2017 Genesis 48:1-22 “The View from the Graveyard”

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Genesis 48:21-22
Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. And I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow

God’s covenant of faithfulness is the theme that permeates Jacob’s testimony in this chapter. Seventeen years before he had complained to Pharaoh, “Few and unpleasant have been the years of my life” (47:9). But now, Jacob has mellowed. As he takes a final look backward at his life, he remembers how God appeared to him at Bethel as he fled from his brother. Jacob had deceived his father and wronged his brother. God would have been just in finding someone else to use in accom­plishing His purpose. But He appeared to Jacob and affirmed the covenant promised to him as he fled from his brother to his uncle’s home in Paddan Aram.

Twenty years later, Jacob wasn’t much farther along. He had out-swindled his uncle Laban and headed back to Canaan. He had settled outside of the land without seeking God’s direction. Then his sons deceived and murdered a whole town because one young man there had raped their sister. But God appeared a second time to Jacob at Bethel and assured him that the promises were still good.

Even in Jacob’s great time of sorrow, when Rachel died, God’s comfort had been real. The pain of that loss was still with the old man as he reminisced here (48:7). But God had been with him. Then the hammer blow of Joseph’s loss had hit the grieving man. He had thought that he would never see his son again. He went through years of confusion, wondering how the loss of his one son who seemed to follow the Lord could fit in with the promises of God. But now, at the end of his journey, God had proved Himself faithful, as Jacob held in his arms not only Joseph, but Joseph’s two sons. And so as he blesses his grandsons, Jacob tells them how God has been his shepherd all his life to that day and how God will be with them (48:15, 21).

When others look at your life, are they inclined to say, “Your God is sure faithful, isn’t He”? Or, would they say, “Your God must not be very good, because you are always complaining about the treatment you receive”? Complainers tell others something untrue about God, namely that He isn’t faithful. People are skilled in reading between the lines of our lives. If we profess to know the Lord, but our lives are a constant complaint, they put it together and make a mental note that they don’t want anything to do with our God. We’ve got to tell them, by our words and our attitudes, that God is faithful, even through the hard times.

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.