Sunday – October 2, 2016 Genesis 15:1-15 “Fear Factor”

Sunday – October 2, 2016 – Read the Word on Worship

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Genesis 15:18-21
On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land. From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:  the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite  and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim 21 and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”

Even though we know we’re loved, it’s nice to hear it over and over again, isn’t it? Life is uncertain and unsettling. We need to be assured time and again that we are loved so that we feel secure in our relationships. The same thing is true spiritually. We know that God loves us and that nothing can separate us from His love. But we need to hear it over and over. When things don’t seem to be going as we had hoped, when our prayers don’t seem to be answered, when trials hit, we need assurance that God is there, that He is for us, that His promises will be fulfilled.

We might think that a giant in faith would not need God’s assurance, because his faith would never waver. But that is just not so. Even Abram, our father in the faith, needed to be assured concerning God’s promises to him. By faith Abram had obeyed God’s call to leave his home in Ur and go forth to the land which God would show him. God promised to give Abram a son and to make of him a great nation through which all families of the earth would be blessed. God promised to give the land of Canaan to Abram and his descendants. But a few years had gone by and Abram still had no son and the Canaanites, not Abram, possessed the land.

Also, Abram had some fears. He had surprised the armies of four eastern kings and rescued his wayward nephew, Lot. And he had given up his right to the spoils of battle, lest he be indebted to the king of Sodom rather than to God. But now he feared retaliation from the eastern kings and he worried about poverty as he lived in the barren land of Canaan. So the Lord told him, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; [I am] your very great reward” (Gen. 15:1).  But Abram was still concerned because he had no son. He expressed that concern to the Lord and the Lord graciously confirmed the promise of a son by taking Abram out into the night, showing him the stars, and promising him that his descendants would be as numerous as those stars (15:4-5). Abram “believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (15:6)

God wants you to have that same assurance of His promises to you. Perhaps you’re in some difficult trial. Look to the sure promises of God’s Word, not to your own shaky performance. Submit to Him as the Sovereign Lord and repent of any unbelief, because God’s assurance is for believers, not skeptics. And know for certain that His prophetic word will be fulfilled exactly as He has revealed it in His Word. Jesus shall reign! Then, no matter what your circumstances, you can say, the future is as bright as the promises of God!

Sunday – April 3, 2015 Revelation 22 verses 6 to 21 “Famous Last Words”

Sunday – April 3, 2015 – Read the Word on Worship

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Revelation 22:20-21
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”

There are perhaps no more significant and awesome words in Scripture than those of this epilogue. The wonderful book of Revelation ends with the manifold testimony of the voices of the angel, Jesus, the Spirit, the bride, and John. These verses are full of encouragement, declaration, warning, and response to God. They are tremendously significant; may we read them with care and attentiveness. Listen to these words in terms of your entire life. Examine your lifestyle, purposes, goals, priorities, and commitment to God in the light of His faithful Word, and the soon coming Savior.

In contrast to the many human viewpoint foundations or cunningly devised fables upon which men try to build their lives stands the faithful and true Word from God. Man’s viewpoint without the Bible is left to be built on speculation, human reason, and experience, all of which are very unreliable due to man’s condition in sin, his short life span, his deductive thinking, his constant tendency to interpret facts with his presuppositions, his limited experience and the amount of knowledge he can retain and use. All of this makes man’s human viewpoint ideas about as reliable as a lily pad for a foundation, especially in spiritual matters. This is why the Book of Revelation is so important for Christians to study and understand.

Jonathan Edwards, called American’s greatest theologian, had a set of resolutions. One of them is this: “Resolved: Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.” We should always live every moment of every day as if Christ were coming now! That’s the only way to live. Are you ready for Jesus’s return? Do you need to share your faith with someone? Do it now! Do you need to be reconciled to someone? Do it now! Do you need to serve the Lord and His people? Do it now! Do you need to be faithful in your financial stewardship? Do it now!

The last words of the Bible are soaked with grace. John exclaims, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (22:21). God wants to make absolutely sure that “grace” (charis) will have the last word. Grace is God’s unconditional kindness offered to someone who doesn’t deserve it. God’s grace provides faith for the unbelieving reader and faithfulness for the believing reader (cf. 1:4). Grace…don’t live on earth without it. Grace…don’t leave earth without it.

Has God changed you as a result of our study through Revelation? Has He shown you His grace? Do you know Him more? Do you love Him more? I pray that this is so.

Sunday – December 20, 2015 Christmas Message

Sunday – December 20, 2015 – Read the Word on Worship

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Luke 1:46-48
“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 bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.”

Mary’s hymn of praise overflows with information about the attributes of God. But it’s not dry, academic information. Mary exults in God as she considers what He has done in choosing her to be the mother of the Savior. She calls Him “God my Savior,” because Mary knew she was a sinner; since no one but sinners need a Savior. Everyone who realizes they need a “Savior” understands they are lost and alienated from God because of the sin they personally have committed. We don’t just need a little boost from God to set things right or a few tips on how to succeed in life. Savior is a radical term that implies that we are helplessly, hopelessly lost unless God in His mighty power intervenes to rescue us.

Mary refers to God’s power when she speaks of how, “He has done mighty deeds with His arm,” referring to His scattering the proud, who would scoff at the notion that they needed a Savior. Pride is a heart attitude of self-sufficiency, not humility. The proud person thinks that he doesn’t need God. God is mighty in mercy to the humble, but mighty in judgment toward the proud. Mary also teaches that God’s name is holy. His name refers to His person, the sum of His attributes. To be holy means to be set apart. In this context, it refers not only to God’s absolute moral righteousness, but also to His being set apart as the only sovereign authority over people. He is to be held in highest esteem and to be feared because He is holy.

Thankfully, Mary does not leave us with just these attributes of God, or we would not dare to approach Him. She goes on to emphasize God’s mercy, “His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him … He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy.” Mercy tells us of God’s compassion due to our misery as sinners. His mercy is on those who recognize His holiness and bow in reverence before Him. It was His mercy that caused Him to send the Savior. How wonderful would it be if everyone acknowledged their need of the mercy of the Lord like Mary did?

You can’t pick and choose which attributes of God you like, and ignore the rest. God isn’t operating a religious cafeteria. You come to Him His way, as a guilty sinner needing a Savior, or not at all. If you repent of your pride and selfishness and sin, and come to the cross, He will pour out His tender mercy on you. If you proudly cling to your own righteousness and self-sufficiency, God will send you away empty. And if God sends you away empty, you are absolutely empty. You don’t want to go into eternity empty, without God’s mercy. Come to the Savior this Christmas.

Sunday – December 13, 2015 Revelation 9:1-21 “All Hell Breaks Loose”

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Revelation 9:11-12
“They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon. The first woe is past: behold, two woes are still coming after these things.”

The career of Satan, which extends from the dateless past, before man’s creation (Job. 38:7), to eternity future, is inclusive in the Bible and forms a major and an important doctrine of the Word of God. Some people might question, “Why should we even study about the devil. After all, there is enough trouble in life.” But not to do so is to ignore a considerable portion of God’s revelation to us in Scripture. Satan is mentioned throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. While our need is to dwell on the riches of Christ rather than on Satan and the demons, we do need to know this doctrine of the Bible that we might be alert to whom and what he is. So the Apostle Peter exhorts us to be alert to the devil and his tactics by standing “firm in the faith,” the body of truth that we need know and believe.

Unfortunately, because many people are ignorant of his nature and schemes, they become sitting ducks for his attacks. Some, of course, go way beyond the teaching of Scripture and find a demon behind every problem they face. Rather than accepting responsibility for personal actions, such as by Eve who blamed the serpent for her choice, or others who claim the devil made them do it, many may talk about the devil, but often with tongue-in-cheek. They refuse to believe in a personal devil and ridicule the whole idea. For many others, Satan or the devil is just an evil influence at work in the world as he is described in the Bible.

The title “Satan” occurs 53 times in 47 verses in the Bible. The primary idea is: adversary, one who withstands. It points to Satan as the opponent of God, of believers, and all that is righteous and good. Another name is given to him in our passage. Abaddon is the Greek form and Apollyon is the Hebrew equivalent that means destroyer or  destruction. The name connects Satan as being the head over the demons of the abyss and their work of destruction that will occur when he is given the key to the abyss in the Tribulation and releases these demon hordes on the people of the earth. Primarily, however, this title stresses his work of destruction; he works to destroy the glory of God and God’s purpose with man. He further works to destroy societies and mankind.

Wise military leaders and coaches never go into battle without carefully studying their opponents. They want to know how they operate and understand their strengths and weaknesses. To be effective against the enemy, you must know your enemy so you can be prepared to effectively counter his attacks. Christians need to be informed as Paul wrote, “but I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray . . .” (2 Cor 11:3).

Sunday – August 23, 2015 Revelation 2:12-17 “Pergamum: Sin City” Part 1

Sunday – August 23, 2015 – Read the Word on Worship

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Revelation 2:12-14
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.”

The Bible displays a sense of proportion concerning Satan which we should seek to gain and then maintain. The Scriptures tell us all we need to know about Satan, and no more. Given Satan’s key role in the plan of God, his great power, and his cunning ways, we might expect to find more about Satan in the Bible than we do. God neither wishes to flatter Satan with too much publicity nor desires that we become preoccupied with him. Satan fell because of his insatiable desire for prominence, desiring the glory which belongs only to God. Satan should receive only the attention he deserves. God’s Word supplies the facts and perspective we need.

I sometimes hear Christians referring to adversity or difficulty, assuming that it has come from Satan. Perhaps it has or perhaps not. But if it has come from Satan, it has ultimately come from God. In the midst of his trials, Job was not aware that Satan was involved. For him, it did not matter. Job knew that God was sovereign, and thus whatever came his way came ultimately from the hand of God. Job’s problem was that he questioned the wisdom of God. Job’s great comfort came when he grasped that God is not only sovereign, but also wise and good.

Satan is out there. Sometimes we will know it. Sometimes we will not. But behind him is the God of the universe who is in complete control, using Satan, angels, kings, and sinful men to accomplish His plan. Satan’s might and power are great but not when compared with the God who uses him to achieve His plan. The Bible has been written to increase our depth perception – our ability to look behind the immediate source of circumstances to see God, the ultimate source.

To this point in time, God has purposed Satan’s existence and opposition to fulfill God’s plan. But for Satan the perfect plan of God includes a future day of doom. God’s perfect rule over creation requires the elimination and removal of Satan, sin, and death from this earth. Only then will God’s cure for the curse be complete. The Bible predicts and describes the defeat of Satan. My friend, whom will you choose? If you do not choose Christ, you are already Satan’s slave, doomed to share in his eternal torment. Those who follow Satan share in his doom. Those who receive God’s grace in Christ share in His reign of righteousness.

Sunday June 7, 2015 “The Man Who Cried for God to Come Down” Isaiah 63

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Isaiah 63:17
“Why, O Lord, do You cause us to stray from Your ways and harden our heart from fearing You? Return for the sake of Your servants, the tribes of Your heritage.”

Through God’s Spirit, the prophet Isaiah saw a desperate future time in Israel’s history. Because Isaiah predicted conditions that would take place about 100 years after he wrote (after the Babylonians conquered Judah), liberal critics have said that Isaiah couldn’t have written this. But I believe that God revealed the future to the prophet and led him to pray this prayer as a gracious way of teaching us how to lay hold of Him and His power in times of great spiritual need.

Isaiah pictures God as shut up in heaven, removed from His people who are suffering because of their sin. In an emotional outburst, the prophet calls upon God to rend the heavens and come down in great power, even as He did at Sinai, to restore His people and to make His name known among the nations. His point is that complacency with the existing low spiritual condition among God’s people is the enemy of revival. Remember the lukewarm church at Laodicea? They were content: “We’re rich and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” But God’s evaluation was that they were “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

I know of two ways to keep from lapsing into lukewarmness and thinking that it is normal. First, steep yourself in the Bible so much that when you hear of the worldliness of the modern church, you are appalled. God’s Word must shape our worldview.Second, read church history and read some of the great men of God from the past. You will learn how God has worked in history, and you will read men who were not tainted by our modern worldview. But the fact that they wrote in a different time and culture will often jar you to see how far we have drifted. That is the start of revival praying – when some of God’s people begin to feel the lack of His working in our day.

Never before has the church had so many methods available to us, but at the same time, so little experience of the power of God. Christians need to know the living God in a deeper way. Also, we need to entreat God to pour out His Spirit through a revived church, so that His power in salvation would turn millions in repentance and faith to Him.

Sunday – February 22, 2015 Jude Verses 5 to 7

February 22, 2015 – Read the Word on Worship

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Jude 5-7
Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

Apostasy (or falling away) always begins in the mind. These spirits are “deceitful” and they teach doctrines that sound biblical but are just slightly off. They are out to fool you in your thinking. But God’s people believe and know the truth. We need to be careful here. On one extreme, there is a wide movement in the American church that minimizes truth. This side says, “They will know we are Christians by our love,” and so they adopt a “peace at any cost” position that dilutes and ultimately destroys essential Christian truth. They emphasize tolerance and doctrinal diversity. If you speak out against error, this side accuses you of being unloving and divisive. But if you go down that road, you end up with the unbiblical view that truth doesn’t matter and that there is no such thing as sound doctrine.

On the other extreme, we can be so zealous for the truth that we shred relationships and end up falling into spiritual pride because we hold to “The Truth.” I get a newsletter from a man who attacks and separates himself from many well-known evangelicals because he finds errors in statements they have made in print or in taped messages. If you go far enough down that road, you end up in a church of one member, because you’ll never find another person who agrees with you on every minor point of doctrine. So you have to determine how serious a matter is and what the consequences will be if people follow this teaching.

You must be especially careful to guard yourself from wrong thinking when you’re going through a difficult trial. Satan comes along and sows doubts about God’s goodness: “If He were really good, He wouldn’t let this happen to you. It’s okay to be angry at God; He wasn’t faithful to you by letting this happen.” It’s in the context of trials that Peter tells us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and then says, “Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Pet. 5:8-9). So, Satan is out to influence your thinking. Spiritual warfare involves the mind. But it never stops there.

To avoid falling away, we must persevere in God’s truth with thankful hearts. It’s not always easy, but even in times of trial, we need to affirm God’s goodness and thank Him for His many blessings.