Sunday – December 10, 2017 Gospel of Luke – “The Worship of the Women” Luke 1:39-56

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Luke 1:46-49
And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond slave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.”

There are those who have distorted the truth of God’s word about Mary, and rather than regarding her blessed above all women, have honored her as above mankind, worshipping her and praying to her as though she were on the level of deity, or even above Messiah. This is clearly seen to be in blatant disregard for the teaching of our text. Nevertheless, others have reacted to this error by failing to see this woman as a model disciple.

Mary is not a model for disciples in being the mother of Messiah. It is true that Elizabeth blessed Mary as the mother of her Lord (1:42), and that future generations will bless her as such also (1:48). While this is true, this must be kept in its proper perspective. Our Lord was careful to show that being obedient to God’s will and His word was more important than being humanly related to Him: “And it came about while He said these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed.” But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it” (Luke 11:27-28).

Mary’s hymn is brimming with information about the attributes of God. But it is not cold, academic information. Mary is extolling God as she considers what He has done in choosing her to be the mother of the Savior. She calls Him “God my Savior” (1:47), which implies that Mary knew she was a sinner; none but sinners need a Savior. Implicit in the term “Savior” is the fact that we are lost and alienated from God because of our sin. As those who are lost, we don’t just need a little boost from God to set things right. We don’t just need a few tips on how to get our lives in order, how to polish our self-esteem, how to succeed in our families or businesses. Savior is a radical term that implies that we are helplessly, hopelessly lost unless God in His mighty power intervenes to rescue us.

Mary’s “Magnificat” focuses on much more than just her own blessing in the bearing of the Messiah. Indeed, she does not focus on the child, per se, but on the results of the coming of the Messiah. We know now this includes both His first and His second comings. Mary has a great breadth of understanding. She looks back, to the covenants which God has made with Abraham and with His people in the Old Testament. She looks forward to the ultimate righteousness which will be established when the Messiah reigns on the throne of David. Mary has a good sense of history and a broad grasp of God’s purposes and promises.

Sunday – November 19, 2017 Thanksgiving Message

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Psalm 71:14-16
But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your salvation all day long; for I do not know the sum of them. I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone.”

If you are like me (and I suspect that most of you are), you’ve got a lot of room to grow in the daily practice of praising the Lord. A great way to grow in the praise of God is to read and meditate on the Psalms every day. In Psalm71, the psalmist acknowledged, “my praise is continually of You.” You would think that continual praise of the Lord would be adequate. But he goes on to say in verse 14 “But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.” If the psalmist needed to resolve to praise the Lord yet more and more, how much more do we?

Maybe you’re thinking, “But I don’t have a bubbly personality. I’m not the type who goes around saying, ‘Praise the Lord’ all the time.” But praising the Lord doesn’t mean repeating, “Praise the Lord,” over and over. Rather, praising the Lord is to exult and rejoice in who God is and what He has done, especially, in what He has done to redeem you and draw you near to Him through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Genuine praise contains both a rational and an emotional element. With our minds, we must understand who God is, as revealed in His Word. Otherwise, we are not worshiping the true God, or at least, God as He is truly revealed. But, also, when you understand who God is and what He has done in sending His only begotten Son to die for your sins, it affects your heart. It fills you with joy and thankfulness. It humbles you to realize that your sin put Him there. It motivates you to follow Christ and please Him with all your heart. If you can think about what Jesus did on the cross and shrug it off, you’re not a Christian!

My prayer is that we understand this Thanksgiving more than we ever have that praising God is not optional. It’s not something nice to do whenever you feel like it, but it doesn’t really matter. Rather, praising God is our highest calling. If you are not continually filled with praise to God, then you are not yet fulfilling the purpose for which He created you and saved you. Today, let us join the psalmist in resolving, “But as for me, I will … praise You yet more and more.” (Psalm 71:14)

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 – September 17, 2017 NEW SERIES Week One “Does God Care How We Do Church?”

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Week One “Does God Care How We Do Church?”

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2 Samuel 6:6-7
But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God. David became angry because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah, and that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day.”

God is omnipresent – present everywhere at the same time. But His presence is not realized everywhere. When I talk about the presence of God, I mean His realized presence. When God’s people come together for worship, they ought to focus on His holy presence among them. The ark was the symbol of God’s meeting with His people on the basis of atonement. The Lord told Moses, “And there I will meet with you …” (Exod. 25:22).  As David and the people worshiped before this ark, it’s clear that they were worshiping “before the Lord.” Even though they had this sense of God’s presence, they were too careless about it. It was worship their way, not God’s way. But God made it explicitly clear that to worship in His presence is an awesome thing, not to be taken lightly.

We live in a day of flippant Christianity that has brought God down to the “good buddy in the sky” level, where we’ve lost the proper sense of awe and fear in His holy presence. John MacArthur tells about a pastor friend of his who told John that Jesus often appears to him and talks with him in the mornings as he is shaving. John’s incredulous response was, “And you keep shaving?” Nowhere in the Scriptures do we see a casual encounter with God. Yet all too often coming into the presence of the Living God has become less sacred and more common, a fast food experience where we want to have it our way.

As we gather to worship, it would transform us and our worship if we would focus on the truth that we are gathering in God’s holy presence. We should not come primarily to meet with our friends, although fellowship is an important function of the church. We should come primarily to meet with God. True corporate worship involves focusing on the fact that the Holy God is here.

If you were granted an audience with the president, would you prepare yourself before you went, or would you just go into his office in your work clothes? If you’re going to meet with the holy God, should you not at least spend a few minutes beforehand preparing your heart? The Hebrews didn’t have a bad idea in beginning their Sabbath at sundown the night before. That way, they were ready for worship the following day. Let’s find ways to spend a portion of Saturday night getting our hearts ready for meeting with the Lord corporately on Sunday morning.

Sunday – August 27, 2017 Genesis 49:1-28 “The Purpose of Prophecy”

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Genesis 49:1-2
Then Jacob summoned his sons and said, “Assemble yourselves that I may tell you what will befall you in the days to come. “Gather together and hear, O sons of Jacob; and listen to Israel your father.”

I have always found it interesting that both Christians and non-Christians are fascinated with prophecy. To be interested in prophecy is good, since much of the Bible is prophetic. But the point of Bible prophecy is not to speculate on various details, such as the identity of the antichrist or the date of Armageddon. The point of prophecy is to motivate us to purity and holy zeal for the things of the Lord in light of His soon coming. And there is a point to these prophetic words of Israel to his son’s. And not just them, but for the first generation who read these words recorded by Moses as well as you and I.

To understand these words, we need to see God has a plan for history. I know this is obvious to some but I lose sight of it so easily in my daily routine and pressures of life. Even as the Lord’s people, it’s easy to fall into the daily schedule of going to work, taking care of the kids, and dealing with all the hassles of life that we lose sight of God’s great purpose for history and how we fit into it. We become spiritually dull, so that we miss opportunities to further God’s plan.

In God’s time and way, these prophecies about Jacob’s sons would be fulfilled, but the individuals within the tribes had a choice about whether they would help to fulfill them through obedience to God or fight against their fulfillment through disobedience. It’s the same with us: God’s plan for the ages will be accomplished, but we have the choice either to be involved in fulfilling that plan or in resisting it. The personal history of Judah ought to encourage us. He was a man who had a dismal beginning, but who repented of his sin and inherited a great future. God offers that same blessing to each of us. If we will turn from our sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, sent from God in fulfillment of this prophecy uttered by Jacob, God will bless us beyond measure.

These prophecies of Jacob remind us that while we may not understand all the details of the plan, God does have a plan. He is moving history ahead right on schedule toward the grand climax when Jesus Christ shall reign supreme, when every knee shall bow to the Lion of the tribe of Judah. We need to live each day in light of God’s great plan for history.

Sunday – May 21, 2017 Genesis 39:1-33 “From the Penthouse to Prison”

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Genesis 39:1-3
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian.”

Each of us wants to succeed in life. But if we want true success, it’s crucial to work out a biblical definition of the term. Otherwise, you’ll be like the guy who climbed the ladder of success only to find that it was leaning against the wrong wall. You’ll waste your life pursuing the wrong goals and making wrong decisions. If our target is wrong, we will fail even if we hit it.

Our American culture defines success primarily in financial terms, throwing in, perhaps, the ideas of power, fame, and the elusive quality: “happiness.” As Christians, we can easily see the fallacy in defining success in those terms, and yet often we are influenced by our culture more than we care to admit. Many pastors succumb to the prevailing definition, thinking that if you pastor a large church, or gain national recognition through writing a book or speaking at important gatherings, you are successful. Christians reveal their skewed definition of success when they rush out to buy the latest story of some celebrity who has made a profession of faith, or when they parade famous athletes before the church as if they were spiritual authorities. So we need to bring into sharp focus the biblical answer to the question, “What is true success?”

Was Joseph more blessed by God or more successful when he was at the top of Potiphar’s household than when he was in the dungeon? They were just different phases of God’s training program in which He was preparing Joseph for the job He had for him under Pharaoh. Joseph was truly successful, whether he was in Potiphar’s house or in the prison, because God’s hand was on him. I believe that is the biblical definition of true success. True success is to have God’s blessing on your life. If you have God’s blessing, you have everything, even if you’re poor and unknown; if you lack God’s blessing, you ultimately will have nothing, even if you’re rich and famous now.

I want each of us to covet God’s blessing for yourself. Like Jacob wrestling with the angel, we all should say, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gen. 32:26). You can live a comfortable Christian life, serve in the church and succeed in worldly terms. But if you lack God’s blessing on your life, you’ve missed true success. True success is when it can be said of us, whether we are in Potiphar’s house or in prison: The Lord is with that man or woman. Being blessed by God, we then will be used as His channels of blessing for the nations through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday – May 14, 2017 Mother’s Day

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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. 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.

When the Lord dwells in our midst, we will treat the elderly and children properly. Sadly, those words do not describe a large segment of American society.  According to Focus on the Family, child abuse was the leading cause of death in children under the age of 15. Congressional studies have noted that abuse of the elderly occurs with a frequency only slightly less than child abuse. 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. Yet we continually comment on how different it had been 25 years before, when children used to play in their front yards, and no one ever gave a thought to any possibility of danger.

By way of contrast, the picture of our text is a city where the elderly are 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. These verses imply that relationships are one of God’s most precious blessings.

While Mother’s Day may not be in the Bible, God’s love for the barren is. Defending those who cannot defend themselves is. Comforting the hurting is. Caring for orphans is. Loving one another is. I think Mother’s Day is a great thing and I certainly don’t want to rid the church of it, but it’s not the only ministry opportunity today. Churches can compete to be one more float in the happy mother’s day parade, or they could be the ones seeing the trampled, and lifting them up. God gives us this simple snapshot of a community where Jesus Christ dwells in their midst. The most vulnerable citizens, the elderly and the children, are treated with protection and respect. If God took a snapshot of your family or our church this past week, how would it compare?

Sunday – May 7, 2017 Genesis 38:1-30 “The Skeleton in Jacob’s Closet”

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Genesis 38:1-3
And it came about at that time, that Judah departed from his brothers and visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; and he took her and went in to her. So she conceived and bore a son and he named him Er.”

The well-known writer, Ernest Hemingway, was raised in a solidly evangelical home in Oak Park, Illinois. His godly grandparents had graduated from Wheaton College. His grandfather, Anson Hemingway, shared a close friendship with the evangelist, D. L. Moody. Ernest’s physician father had wanted to be a missionary doctor, but his mother was too much of a city girl, and refused to go. But Ernest was raised in the church where he tithed his allowance, sang in the choir, and read completely through his King James Bible and passed a comprehensive exam on it.

After high school, he moved to Kansas City to become a reporter. He stopped going to church and began drifting from his upbringing. He enlisted in World War I, was wounded, and took to drinking to ease the pain. He married a worldly woman and moved to Paris to further his writing career. Totally alienated from his parents, eventually he would go through four wives. He was notorious for his drunkenness. In his late years, “he grew distant from everyone. He would not stand up straight and, he stopped communicating verbally.” A friend said that his “every hour was filled with the pain of being truly lost and alone.” Hemingway’s own description was, “I live in a vacuum that is as lonely as a radio tube when the batteries are dead and there is no current to plug into.” Finally, on a sunny Sunday morning in Idaho, at age 61, Ernest Hemingway put a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger. (Culled from, “Ernest Hemingway: Tragedy of an Evangelical Family,” by Daniel Pawley)

Hemingway’s tragic life did not have to go that direction. He made some bad choices: to distance himself from God’s people; to marry outside of the faith; to be conformed to this corrupt world. He could have availed himself of God’s grace and been conformed to Jesus Christ. His godly children and grandchildren could have followed in his steps. Instead, his beautiful, famous granddaughter Margaux took her own life in 1996. His descendants are far from the Lord.

We all are prone to corruption. “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on [Christ]” (Isa. 53:6). We don’t have to be conformed to corruption. If we avail ourselves of God’s grace through the descendant of Judah and Tamar, the Lord Jesus Christ, He will keep us from the corruption of this evil world.

Sunday – March 19, 2017 Genesis 32:1-32 “Unfinished Business”

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Genesis 32:9-10

Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your relatives, and I will prosper you,’ I am unworthy of all the lovingkindness and of all the faithfulness which You have shown to Your servant…”

The prayer of Jacob in Genesis 32 is one of the greatest lessons in prayer in all of Scripture. Even before Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, Jacob gives us an outstanding template to approach our Heavenly Father in our time of need. Reflecting on Jacob’s prayer, I see four elements for us to implement in our prayer lives. First, Jacob addressed the Lord as the God of his “father Abraham” and his “father Isaac.” This is significant. Jacob was beginning to understand more fully his place in God’s divine plan. His prayer is the divine pattern of many biblical prayers — to acknowledge who God really is. When Nehemiah prayed about the sad condition of his people in Jerusalem, he lifted up his voice to God and said, “I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God” (Nehemiah 1:5a). He is a king to be honored and we must acknowledge Him as such.

Jacob prays on the basis of two things: God told him to return to his homeland, and God promised to bless him. He isn’t appealing to God on the basis of his own performance, but solely on the basis of God’s promises. Jacob stands on the promises of God because he knows that God keeps His Word. Many of our prayers fall short because there is none of God’s Word within them. This is because there is so little of God’s Word in us. Yet, both prayer and God’s Word are essential.

Now Jacob’s arrogant self-confidence is gone and he finally acknowledges that he is completely unworthy of God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness. This is a big step for Jacob. He has come to the point of recognizing that he stands by God’s mercy alone. Sometimes we have to hit bottom before we can see our true condition. Only as we recognize that we stand by mercy will we be prepared to act mercifully toward others. When you pray to the Lord, it is critical that you confess your sin, keep short accounts with Him, and acknowledge that you are undeserving and nothing without Him.

Finally, Jacob asks God to specifically save him from the hand of his brother. He doesn’t mince words; he’s clear and specific. Unlike his actions before going to live with Laban, when he took matters into his own hands to wrest away Isaac’s blessing from Esau, Jacob now realizes that he must depend totally on God in order to secure his own well-being. It is worth noting that Jacob requests God’s protection for himself and his family. He’s showing some semblance of concern for someone other than himself. We must follow Jacob’s example and learn to pray specific requests. When we do so, God tends to respond with specific answers. Today, will you make a commitment to pray for yourself and others in this way? Will you also pray first, instead of as a last resort? As you do, it will go well with you.