Sunday – May 9, 2021 Mother’s Day Zechariah 8:1-8

Sunday – May 9, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 9, 2021

Zechariah 8:4-5
Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. ‘And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.’

If someone were to ask, “What does the kingdom of God look like?” we might think of heavenly choirs singing praises to the accompaniment of harps. There is no doubt that glorious worship will be an important part of God’s kingdom. But I would guess that few, if any, of us would ever think to describe His kingdom as our text does: “Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets” (Zech. 8:4-5).

This is not Zechariah’s personal idea of what the kingdom of God will look like, but the direct word of the Lord of hosts (8:4). This word was intended originally to encourage the remnant that was struggling to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem after the exile. It fit into the overall theme of Zechariah, that God remembers His chosen people, and that He will bless them in His time. But the words also apply to God’s people in every generation who seek to live under the lordship of Jesus Christ as we await His glorious return and His coming kingdom.

Sadly, those words do not describe a large segment of American society. In 2018, The Office of Children and Families reported 1788 children under the age of 15 died from abuse or neglect and that number continues to rise annually. Most such abuse occurs within the confines of the home. Our streets, especially in large cities, are not safe, especially for women, children, or the elderly. By way of contrast, when the Lord will rule and reign, the elderly will be at rest and the children at play, unafraid of attack or harm. Since these two groups represent the most vulnerable in any society, if they are securely at rest, everyone else will also enjoy peace. How a society treats its elderly and its young children may be a good measure of how close that society is to the Lord. When He dwells in our midst, He describes the result as this scene of peaceful joy for the aged and the young.

The Lord taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). While the Lord’s kingdom will not come in its entirety until He returns in power and glory, we should labor for that kingdom to come in the interim. We should demonstrate, as much as possible, kingdom living in the here and now. Those who do not know Christ should be able to look at our homes and our church and get a glimpse of what it will be like on earth when Jesus reigns as King and dwells with us.

Sunday – April 11, 2021 Romans Week 3 Rom 1:1-7 “The Gospel of God”

Sunday – April 11, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 11, 2021

Romans 1:2-4
“…the gospel He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding His Son, who as to His human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”

My fear, as we begin our study in the Book of Romans, is that we are often so familiar with certain words, such as “gospel,” or so academic in our approach, that we are not thrilled and moved to the depths of our being by the wonder of it all. The gospel of God is the theme of Romans and Paul describes it here in his introduction to the church at Rome.

God originated the gospel and the gospel is all about God. It tells us how we can be rightly related to Him through His eternal Son, whom He sent. This is not Paul’s or any other apostle’s idea. Rather, it comes to us right out of the Old Testament, which he refers to as the “holy Scriptures.” God promised the gospel in prototype in Genesis 3:15, right after the fall, when He said that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent. The gospel was implicit in the Old Testament sacrificial system, revealed most thoroughly to Moses but even revealed from the outset to Cain and Abel. The wages of our sin is death, but God graciously would accept the blood sacrifice of an acceptable substitute. As Isaiah 53 makes plain, Jesus is the lamb of God who was wounded for our transgressions.

God’s promise in the Old Testament to send the Savior is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Although from the human perspective it took many centuries, but God always keeps His promises in His time. No doubt there were scoffers then, as there are now, who mocked, “Where is the promise of the Savior?” But there were those, like the godly Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-38), who were waiting expectantly for God to keep His promise. Although you may be tempted to despair at times, wondering, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Pet. 3:4) persevere in faith. God always keeps His promises. Jesus is coming to judge this evil world and to bring full redemption to His people.

Jesus is the center of the gospel. When the gospel is shared, the discussion must center on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus asked the disciples (Matt. 16:15), “But who do you say that I am?” That is the crucial question! If Jesus is who He claimed to be and who the Scriptures present Him to be, then He is Lord of all and we must bow before Him. Is Jesus your Savior and Lord in that sense? The gospel of God is not primarily about you and how Jesus can help you find happiness and peace and fulfillment. Rather, it is from God and about God. Is He the eternal Son, risen from the dead, exalted as Lord? If so, then make sure that He is your Savior and Lord!

Sunday – March 14, 2021 Acts 19:19-30 “Christian Thinking During COVID 19” Pt 11

Sunday – March 14, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 14, 2021

Acts 11:20-21
Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

What is the main business of the church? Some would say that it is to care for its members, to visit the sick and pray with them, to take care of people at important transitions in life, such as marriage, childbirth, and death. That the Church is here to provide guidance and comfort for people at important times. No doubt, these are all functions of the church. But I would argue that these functions are not the main business of the church, and if we start acting as if they were, we will miss our main business.

With the COVID virus, many businesses have had to pivot not just to maintain customers, but to thrive in the radically changed environment we find ourselves today. But they must pivot in a way that maintains their main business. The Church of Jesus Christ is no different. We are always in danger of slipping into a maintenance mentality to keep the doors open, to preserve our faith and to maintain tradition. With the emphasis on maintaining “social distance” we must always remember our main business is the same business of Jesus who “came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Think of how the COVID virus is being spread today. People do not deliberately go out, seeking to spread the virus to many others. They simply go about their lives as usual, and when they come into contact with others, the virus is unknowingly spread abroad. The virus has a life of its own, and is spread by social contact as people go about their lives as normal. Ideally, and as we see it in Acts 19, the gospel was quickly spread abroad by people who went about, living their lives in contact with other people. These saints did not begrudgingly spread the gospel, nor was their evangelism the execution of a particular plan or script. Their joy simply overflowed, and because their new-found salvation was so life-transforming they just couldn’t help but tell others about it. For them, evangelism was the result of the overflow of joy and praise to God that others observed, and “caught.”

Antioch is as an example to us. It was a church founded by simple believers who knew that God has called every Christian to serve Him. They proclaimed the gospel as the power of God for salvation to every person who believes and the hand of the Lord was with them, and considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. Let’s keep our main business in focus: To obey the Holy Spirit in promoting God’s glory by sending out workers called by God to preach the gospel. As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matt. 9:37-38).

Sunday – January 10, 2021 Job 1 “Christian Thinking Durnig COVID 19” Pt 2

Sunday – January 10, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 10, 2021

Job 1:9-11
Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.”

Satan is no stranger to anyone who is familiar with the Bible. His origins are described in Isaiah chapter 14 and Ezekiel chapter 28. We are first introduced to him in Genesis chapter 3, where he deceives Eve, resulting in the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. It would seem that some of Satan’s fallen colleagues are involved in the corruption of the human race as described in Genesis chapter 6. In 1 Chronicles 21:1 Satan prompts David to number the Israelites. And in Zechariah chapter 3 he makes accusations against Joshua the high priest.

In the New Testament we find Satan at the temptation of our Lord (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). In John 13:25-27 Satan entered into Judas, prompting him to betray the Lord Jesus. In Acts 5:1-11 Satan corrupts the hearts of Ananias and his wife Sapphira, so that they lie about the amount of their contribution to the church. In 2 Corinthians we read of Satan’s schemes (2:11) and later in the book we are told how Satan works through others, and also disguises himself as an angel of light (11:3-15). In 1 Thessalonians 2:18 Paul writes that Satan hindered his attempts to visit the Thessalonian saints. Peter likens Satan to a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Finally, in the Book of Revelation Satan appears as God’s adversary at the end of this age. At last, Satan is defeated and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10).

From Satan’s perspective, Job’s commitment to trust and obey God was easily explained on a human level. Who would not serve God if this was rewarded by good health and wealth? (Prosperity preachers, beware!) And so Satan challenged: “Let Job’s prosperity and easy life be taken away, and then see how faithful he is.” Satan was convinced that Job would curse God when his enjoyment of the good life was taken away. Isn’t what Satan is saying to God in our text what he really believes?  In effect, Satan reveals his own limitations.

There is no greater advocate of “the prosperity gospel” than Satan, who seeks to convince us that God is not really good, especially when He withholds something we desire or delight in. When Satan (ultimately God) took away “the good life” from Job, with all of its material and physical blessings, he believed that Job would forsake his faith, and curse God. Satan could not comprehend why men and women would follow God, even when He brought them into great suffering and adversity. He could not grasp that God is worthy of our trust and obedience because of Who He is, rather than because of what He gives.

Sunday – January 3, 2021 James 5:7-12 “Christian Thinking Durnig COVID 19” Pt 1

Sunday – January 3, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 3, 2021

James 5:10-11
Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”

Job was a blameless and upright man, who feared God and turned away from evil (Job 1:1). Satan appeared before God and God brought up Job as an example of an upright man. Satan responded that Job only trusted God because He had blessed and protected him. God gave Satan permission to do whatever he chose, as long as he didn’t lay a hand on Job himself to prove that Job was not upright just for the benefits. Satan went out and deprived Job of all his possessions. Worst of all, he sent a powerful wind that knocked down the house where Job’s children were gathered, killing all ten of them.

Job’s remarkable response was to fall before God in worship, saying, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” The author adds (Job 1:22), “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.” Satan returned to God and gained permission to go farther, as long as he spared Job’s life. So God granted permission to smote him with painful boils from head to toe. At this point, Job’s poor wife had had enough. She advised him to curse God and die. But Job responded (2:10), “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” The author again adds, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

James refers to “the Lord’s dealings” with Job. Although it was Satan who worked behind the scenes, Job affirmed that it was God: “the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21); “Shall we accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10). James says, “the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” If that is the lesson from Job’s sufferings, then it certainly applies to our sufferings as we deal with COVID and its consequences. Against our feelings and against the temptations of the devil, we must affirm by faith, as the psalmist did (Ps. 119:71), “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”

One of Satan’s earliest ploys was to get Adam and Eve to doubt God’s goodness toward them. He still uses that bait when we go through trials. One reason that we fall prey to doubting God’s goodness is that we think too highly of ourselves and too lowly of God. We mistakenly think that God owes us something good because we deserve it. But even Job, whom God described as the most godly man on earth, did not suffer unjustly in all that he went through. Or, as Paul asks rhetorically (Rom. 11:35), “Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?” God does not owe us anything. Any blessings that we enjoy are sheer grace!

Sunday – November 22, 2020 Thanksgiving Psalm 33 “Developing a Thankful Heart”

Sunday – November 22, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 22, 2020

Psalm 33:20-22
Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You.

If I were to ask, “Would you like to develop a thankful, worshiping heart?” I would guess that all of us would say yes. We recognize it’s right to be thankful to God for His blessings. After all, we even have a national holiday once a year to give thanks. As Christians, we realize that it is right thank God in everything (1 Thess. 5:18). But before we jump on the bandwagon, we need to realize that genuine thankfulness is inextricably bound up with trust. We will never truly thank God until we first truly trust Him. We will not be grateful to God for all that we have until we first recognize that we’re dependent on Him for all that we have.

By nature, we’re not trusting creatures. We’re creatures of necessity. We trust God when we’re forced to trust Him because our problems go beyond our abilities. The rest of the time, we get along just fine by ourselves. If we can solve the problem by ourselves, we don’t resort to prayer and trusting God, because we don’t need to trust Him. But it’s only when we come to the end of ourselves and cast ourselves in total dependence on the Lord that we begin to experience genuine praise and thanksgiving.

The fact is our human tendency, even as redeemed people, is to perfect our methods and then to trust in them. We live in a day that is awash in methods and techniques for how to live the Christian life or how to have a happy family or how to build a successful church. Of course, many of these methods are helpful because they are based on Scripture. But the ever-present danger is that we plug in the methods and trust in them to work, instead of using the methods while we trust in God to work. The psalmist is saying that God does not work through man’s strength or schemes, because then man gets the glory.

The psalms, which emphasize praise and thanksgiving, also emphasize trust. The Hebrew word for “trust” occurs more frequently in the Psalms than in any other place (50 out of 181 times). Again, it’s not that methods are wrong, but rather that trusting in methods is wrong. Thankfulness and worship are bound up with trusting in the Lord. When you have no human means of escape and you cry out to God as your only hope and He delivers you, your heart overflows in thankfulness and praise to Him.

Sunday – October 18, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 24:1-27 “The Preacher and the Politician”

Sunday – October 18, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – October 18, 2020

Acts 24:5-8
We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”

If this world were made up of basically good people, a man of integrity would be well loved and have no enemies. But since this world is made up of people who love darkness rather than light, and since a life of integrity exposes their evil deeds, the world will often slander the man of integrity. We are naïve if we think that if we live with integrity, we will be protected from false accusations and slanderous attempts to bring us down. Living with integrity will not shield us from slander.

In our passage, Tertullus presents his shaky case against Paul. Tertullus’ strategy was to hope that, based on the Jews’ testimony, Felix would act in his usual insensitive manner and have Paul executed. Tertullus flatly lies when he states that the Jews arrested Paul in the act of trying to desecrate the temple (24:6). The fact was, the Jews mobbed Paul with the intent to kill him, but the Roman commander intervened to save his life. But in spite of such blatant falsehood, all of the Jews joined his attack, asserting that the charges against Paul were true (24:9).

In Paul’s defense, he points out that his accusers should have been present (24:19), Paul was raising a point of Roman law, which imposed heavy penalties on accusers who abandoned their charges. Without the appearance of his accusers should have meant the withdrawal of a charge. Paul concludes by pointing out that the only supposed misdeed that any of his accusers had against him was his statement of being on trial before them because of his belief in the resurrection of the dead. Paul answered his accusers by speaking the truth.

We have no guarantee that everything will go well with us when we walk uprightly before God. Joseph acted with godly integrity when he resisted the seductive moves of Potiphar’s wife, and it landed him in prison for several years. But the Lord was with him there, and it’s better to have the Lord with you in prison than to have sinful pleasure without the Lord. It’s better to be in custody with a clear conscience, as Paul was, than to have power and money, but be alienated from God, as Felix was. However difficult your circumstances here, you will sleep well knowing that you will dwell in heaven with God throughout eternity.

Sunday – July 5, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 15:1-35 “The Gospel Defined and Defended”

Sunday – July 5, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – July 5, 2020

Acts 15:16-18
After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ that have been known for ages.

We find ourselves at a time in history where fighting for what is right is the cause of the moment.  We appreciate people of conviction who are passionate, but recently that has blown up to whoever is the loudest is right. People who are so strong on their convictions, even about minor issues, that no one can get along with them. If you don’t agree with them on every minor point, you are sacrificed to the cause as a heretic, racist or even worse things.

Spiritual maturity requires discernment, so that we stand firm when it comes to essential truth; but, on matters not essential to the faith, where godly men may differ, we elevate love over our rights. There are times when unity is wrong, namely when it compromises the essentials of the gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But, also, there are times when concession is right. Concession is right when it does not compromise essential truth and it is done out of love to avoid offending others.

We see both sides of this important principle in Acts 15, which reports the conclusions of the Jerusalem Council. The main issue at stake was, must a person be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses to be saved. Peter powerfully showed that we all, Jew and Gentile alike, are saved in one way only: by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, through faith in Him (15:9, 11).  Paul and Barnabas did not set aside this crucial truth in the name of love and unity. Rather, they had great dissension and debate (15:2) with those who taught the necessity of works being added to faith for salvation.

In 2018 we went to see the treasures from the tomb of King Tutankhamen of Egypt here in Los Angeles. It is interesting that Ali Hassan, the curator of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, discovered that some of the jewels in the tomb were not genuine, but were only colored glass. When he was asked how this could go undetected for so many years, Mr. Hassan answered, “We were blinded by the gold. One just assumes that real gold and real gems go hand-in-hand. This is a case where they don’t”. Satan mixes truth and error to deceive Christians. He gets us to compromise and unite over doctrines where we should not budge an inch. And, he gets us to fight and divide over issues where we need to concede our rights out of love. We need God’s wisdom and discernment to know essential truth where we must never concede, and to know areas where it is right to concede out of love so as not to offend others.

Sunday – May 17, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 11:20-33 “One Step Back to Move Forward” Pt 2

Sunday – May 17, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 17, 2020

Acts 11:22-24
News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Most people in the world would say, “The way to get into heaven is to be a good person.” Again, the definition of “good” in the minds of those who say this is so vague and broad that almost everyone qualifies. If you’ve ever done a good deed for someone, even if it was to earn your Boy Scout badge, you’re in! But the Bible teaches that no amount of human goodness can qualify a person for heaven, because God is absolutely good and He cannot and will not allow even a single sin into His perfect heaven. Thus the apostle Paul builds his argument that “there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Rom. 3:12), because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

In light of this, when the Bible calls a man “a good man,” we should sit up and take notice. Although it is speaking relatively, not perfectly, here is a man whose life we should study and learn from. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke says that Barnabas “was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). The description starts on the surface and works inward. He was a good man—how so? He was full of the Holy Spirit. How so? By being a man of faith. By studying Barnabas’ life, we will look at what a good person is, namely, a person who loves God and others (the two great commandments).

When we first meet Barnabas, he is selling his property to lay the proceeds at the apostles’ feet to meet the needs of the early church in Jerusalem (4:36-37). Years later, the apostle Paul referred to Barnabas as one, like him, who labored with his own hands to support himself in the ministry of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:6). Barnabas’ generosity toward those in need took precedence over his thinking about his own future. Later, when the famine threatened not only Judea, but also Antioch, the church in Antioch gave to help the needy saints in Judea. Although the text does not say, I’m sure that Barnabas contributed to that gift, and he gave his time to deliver it to Jerusalem. The church could trust him with the money, because he was a generous man, free from greed and obedient to God.

Having considered Barnabas, can it be said of you, as it is said of Barnabas, that you are a good man or woman, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith? Is your love for God vital and growing? Is your love for people becoming more tender and compassionate? Do you seek to help others grow in their faith? Do you ask God to use you to reach the lost for Christ? Are you aware daily of your need to depend on the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit of goodness in your life? When you do stumble, do you turn from it and go on with the Lord? That is how you can become a truly good person before God.

Sunday – May 10, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 11:20-33 “One Step Back to Move Forward” Pt 1

Sunday – May 10, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 10, 2020

Acts 11:20-22

But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.

Pastors today flock to seminars that tell them how to market the church in today’s world. They learn how to make the church user-friendly for outsiders. They are taught how to shorten the sermon and make it non-threatening to the unchurched, while using drama and multi-media to get the message across. And, the methods “work”! Some of the largest evangelical churches in America use these methods and teach them to thousands of pastors who see dramatic results. Here in Acts we see an example of impressive church growth. From a small group of persecuted refugees, the church in Antioch saw large numbers of people come to Christ.

The founding and prospering of the church at Antioch was arguably one of the most significant events in the history of Western civilization. It led to the distinctiveness of the Christian church apart from the Jewish synagogue, in that it blended together in one body both Jews and Gentiles. It was here that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians. From Antioch, the church launched the first mission to Europe. This was because this church knew the principle of the body, that God has gifted every member and each one is expected to exercise his or her gift in ministry.

Even when Barnabas and Saul later rose to positions of leadership through their teaching ministry, this church did not depend on them in order to function and grow. They could send both of them off on a relief mission to Jerusalem and keep operating. Later, when the Holy Spirit set apart Barnabas and Saul for the first missionary journey, the church could send them out and keep right on rolling.  If the spreading of the gospel or the functioning of the church depends on the labors of full-time missionaries or pastors, ministry will be severely limited. But if every person who has trusted in Christ as Savior and Lord feels the obligation of serving Him and of telling others the good news about Him, the gospel will spread and the church will be built up. Every Christian should sense their responsibility to serve Christ and bear witness of Him.

Antioch is set before us as an example of how a church should minister. It was a church founded by simple believers who knew that God has called every Christian to serve Him. Employing the principles that this church followed will not necessarily result in numerical growth, since God does not always grant numerical growth along with His blessing. And, we would be mistaken to conclude that God is blessing every growing church. But we would certainly hinder God’s blessing if we knowingly violated the principles embodied in this church. If we want the hand of the Lord to be with us, then we would do well to study and follow the example of this church at Antioch.