Palm Sunday – April 9, 2017 Genesis 35:1-29 “The Way Back Home”

Sunday – April 9, 2017 – Read the Word on Worship

Palm Sunday – April 9, 2017 Genesis 35:1-29 “The Way Back Home” from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.

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Genesis 35:1
Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”

From outward appearances Jacob was not that far from God — only thirty miles from Bethel. He had also built an altar at Shechem, so there must have been some kind of religious observance there. Spiritually, however, Jacob was not near to God at all. Jacob told Esau he would meet him at Seir, but he went the opposite direction to Succoth, then to Shechem. Jacob somewhat passively accepted the rape of his daughter and even entered into an agreement whereby the purity of the covenant people of God would be lost. Jacob was preoccupied with prosperity and security at the expense of purity and piety. He is near Bethel but not near to the God of Bethel.

Jacob’s condition is not that different from many Christians in our own time. We may appear to be walking close to God while the opposite is true. We may still continue to preserve the forms and observe the rituals of piety, but, in fact, the reality is not there. Paul described this condition as “…holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power…” (II Timothy 3:5). We may be like those in the church at Ephesus, who have “lost their first love” (Revelation 2:4), or those at Laodicea who, due to their wealth and security, considered themselves to be doing well spiritually when they were destitute, cold, and indifferent (Revelation 3:15-17).

Christians seem to ever be seeking some new and exhilarating experience. They wish to go from one novel experience to another. In the Scriptures, however, very little of this happened either to Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. What Jacob did at Bethel was hardly novel, and what God said to him at His second appearance was nothing new. That should tell us something. What was really important for Jacob was that he gained a deeper appreciation of what he had already experienced but not fully grasped. He needed nothing new, but a greater grasp of that which was old. It may be that the most acceptable manner in which we can serve God will not be by engaging in something untried before, but by “doing our first works,” by reminding ourselves of our covenant vows, and seeking anew that spiritual communion which is the life of our souls.

But perhaps I am assuming too much. It may be that I should not be urging you to “go back to Bethel” at all, particularly if you have never been there. If you have never come to the point of recognizing your sinfulness and impending peril, the point of recognizing that the only way to God’s heaven is through some means which God Himself provides, then you must come to God by faith for the first time. You must, in biblical terminology, be born again. I pray that you will do this now by simply acknowledging your sin and your utter inability to gain God’s favor or admission into His kingdom. The way has been provided in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Who died in your place and Who offers His righteousness to all who will believe on Him alone for salvation.

Sunday – March 27, 2016 Rev. 21:1 to 22:5 “It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This”

Sunday – March 27, 2016 – Read the Word on Worship

Sunday – March 27, 2016 Rev. 21:1 to 22:5 “It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This” from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.

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Revelation 21:1-3
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Heaven seems almost inconceivable. As a young child I can remember attempting to comprehend time without end … infinity. Now I realize that heaven is even beyond that which I failed to fathom as a child, for heaven is the end of time; in heaven there is no time at all. The human authors of the Bible who have attempted to describe the beauties of heaven give evidence of their frustration at striving to depict an existence in a dimension beyond the grasp of mere mortals:… but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

I have heard it said, giving a description of heaven in human words is more difficult than an Eskimo going to Hawaii, and then on his return trying to describe a pineapple to his people. Heaven is an important subject for Christians, not only because it is a pleasant topic to investigate, but because it is so vital to our faith. The fear of hell and eternal torment may be a strong incentive for salvation, but it is not the basis for our hope and faith. In the Bible heaven is the ground of our faith and hope.

In John 14, our Lord spoke of returning to His Father, where He would “prepare a place” for us. We naturally tend to think that “going to heaven” means our going far away to that place which our Lord is preparing; but it is more accurate to think of heaven as coming to us, for the New Jerusalem will come to the (new) earth, according to the scriptures. In this sense, heaven is more earthly than we sometimes think.

But the greatest disservice I can do is to leave the impression that the joys of heaven are assured for everyone. In each of the last three chapters of Revelation, the fate of the true believer and the unbeliever is contrasted. Those who have chosen to reject Jesus Christ as God’s only provision of righteousness, of forgiveness for sins, and of entrance into heaven, will not spend eternity with God. I urge you to not put this message down without searching your own heart. Have you come to see yourself as a sinner, deserving of God’s wrath? Have you acknowledged Jesus Christ to be the sinless Son of God, Who died in your place, bore your sins, and offers you His righteousness? You may have the assurance of spending eternity with God if you but receive, by faith, the gift of salvation through His Son.

Sunday – March 6, 2016 Rev. 18:1-24 “Babylon the Great Has Fallen”

Sunday – March 6, 2016 – Read the Word on Worship

Sunday – March 6, 2016 Rev. 18:1-24 “Babylon the Great Has Fallen” from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.

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Revelation 18:9-10
And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, “Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.”

In 1962, philosopher-scientist Thomas Kuhn coined the term “paradigm shift” to signal a massive change in the way a community thinks about a particular topic. Examples of paradigm shifts include Copernicus’s discovery that the earth revolves around the sun, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and Darwin’s theory of evolution. Each changed the world of thought (some for better, some for worse) in a fundamental way. From a political perspective, Constantine’s Edict of Milan, issued in AD 313, was the beginning of a major paradigm shift that signaled the end of the ancient world and the beginning of the medieval period. That edict legitimated Christianity and impressed upon it the Empire’s stamp of approval.

From a theological perspective – specifically an eschatological one – the Edict of Milan also signaled a monumental paradigm shift from the well-grounded premillennialism of the ancient church fathers to the amillennialism or postmillennialism. In the two centuries that led up to the edict, two crucial interpretive errors found their way into the church that made conditions ripe for the paradigm shift incident to the Edict of Milan. The second century fathers failed to keep clear the biblical distinction between Israel and the church. Then, the third century fathers abandoned a literal method of interpreting the Bible in favor of spiritualized allegory. Once the distinction between Israel and the church became blurred and a literal hermeneutic was lost, the societal changes occasioned by the Edict of Milan caused fourth century fathers to reject premillennialism in favor of Augustinian amillennialism.

A simple concordance search of the word “Israel” in the New Testament will lead to the conclusion that the New Testament writers never equated the church with the nation of Israel. However, what the New Testament writers did not do, the post-apostolic fathers quickly did. As the church began to be dominated by people without Jewish roots, the hardening of the Jews’ hearts and the waning hope for Israel’s conversion made it easier for the increasingly Gentile church to rally against Judaism and to seek a replacement theology. The basic premise of the early fathers was that God had permanently cut the nation of Israel off as his people as a result of their disobedience and idolatry in the Old Testament and their rejection and crucifixion of Jesus in the New.

The bottom line, of course, is that we must continually go back to the Scriptures as our only source for “doing theology.” As much as we may respect and admire the early church fathers, or, for that matter, the reformers, the puritans, or a particular modern spiritual leader, we must always remember to be Bereans, checking their conclusions and reasoning against the plumb line of God’s Word.

Sunday – October 19, 2014 1st John 3:11-18 “Love or Hate – One or the Other”

Sunday – October 19, 2014 – Read the Word on Worship

1st John 3 verses 11 to 18 from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.

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1 John 3:11-12
“For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.”

If loving others were only as easy as giving a hug to someone you don’t like, we all could excel in love. Just hug them and move on. But, love is a bit more difficult than that. It requires continual effort, because at the heart of loving others is putting the other person ahead of yourself, and that is always a huge battle. For this reason, the New Testament as a whole and the apostle John in this letter never tire of exhorting us to love one another.

John had seen the love of Christ demonstrated that night in the Upper Room, when Jesus took the basin of water and washed the disciples’ feet. He then heard Jesus say in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Then John saw the supreme demonstration of Christ’s love when He willingly went to the cross and died for our sins. And so the “son of thunder” became known as the “apostle of love.” John has already reminded his little children of this old-new commandment of Jesus.  He will yet devote the major part of Chapter 4 (verses 7-21) to this same theme. In fact, six times in 1 John and 2 John, he refers directly to the command by Jesus  that we love one another.

If we get weary of hearing over and over about the need to love one another, we should remember that John wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who knows our hearts. We need to examine ourselves constantly because our default mode is to revert to selfishness, not to love. In our text, John again gets out his black and white paint and does not mix them into shades of gray. He wants to expose the errors of the heretics in the plainest of terms.

John says, “This is the message which you have heard from the beginning.” He means, from the beginning of your Christian life you were taught to love one another. It’s a basic truth that you should start to learn and practice from the first day of your Christian experience. God’s love flowing through us to one another should so mark the church that it draws a sharp contrast between us and the world.