Sunday – October 11, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 23:12-35 “HOPE His Operatiing Providence in Everything”

Sunday – October 11, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – October 11, 2020

Acts 23:16-18
But the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, and he came and entered the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, “Lead this young man to the commander, for he has something to report to him.”

You’ve probably heard people say “Some people have all the luck, but not me!” Or, “If I didn’t have bad luck, I would not have any luck at all.” Perhaps you’ve even said or thought something similar yourself at times. But all of those declarations are at odds with biblical truth, because each statement goes against the truth of God’s providence. There is no such thing as luck or pure chance. If we have a bad day, it is because the Lord ordained these circumstances for our benefit. Bad days don’t just happen! “Whatever will be will be” reflects a view of our circumstances as being caused by impersonal fate.

The word “providence” does not occur in the Bible, but the doctrine is stated and illustrated as a major theme throughout Scripture. As you probably know, it is the theme of the Book of Esther, which never mentions God directly. And yet His providential hand is behind the twists and turns of the story, preserving His chosen people from destruction.

Deists deny God’s providence by asserting that He created the world, but He is no longer actively involved in it. Others say that God is active in the events of the world, but that He is not sovereign over evil. Rather, evil is the result of free will. But the Bible teaches that God is actively controlling or directing even evil events and evil people in such a way as to accomplish His sovereign will, and yet He is not the author of evil and is not responsible for it (Eph. 1:11). But no evil person or act changes or thwarts God’s sovereign will

The doctrine of God’s providence is very practical and comforting on a daily basis. If we live in a world of random chance, then we have every right to be afraid.  You never know what bad things might happen to you or your loved ones, and so all you can do is hope for “good luck.” Sadly, many Christians believe God is not sovereign over evil, so when terrorists fly airplanes into the World Trade Center or a gunman kills your loved one, it can only be called a tragedy.  But if that evil event was under God’s providence, then we know that He can work it together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). Those who lost loved ones can know that those wicked men did not in any way thwart God’s sovereign plan. Rather, those evil men were inadvertently carrying out His sovereign plan for history and they will face God’s judgment.

 

Sunday – September 27, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 22:1-29 “Tempest in the Temple”

Sunday – September 27, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 27, 2020

Acts 22:4-5
I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify.

Have you ever wished that you had a more dramatic testimony? Perhaps you’ve heard of someone who came to Christ from a life of terrible sin and you’ve thought, “If I just had a testimony like that, I could lead all sorts of people to Christ!” If you grew up in the church, your testimony may not be a dramatic or compelling story that leads people to Christ. But the Lord has shown me over the years that my heart is just as corrupt as the hearts of the most wicked people on earth. I’ve also learned that it takes the same mighty power of God to save an outwardly good person as it does to save an outwardly evil person. An outwardly good person needs salvation every bit as much as the notorious sinner does.

Everything about Paul’s conversion came from God. Nothing about his conversion stemmed from Paul. God didn’t look down and see some merit in Paul that qualified him to come to salvation. Quite to the contrary, Paul confesses that he was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent aggressor” (1 Tim. 1:13). There are many who say that the reason that God chose Paul, or that He chooses anyone, is that He foresees that the person will one day choose to follow Him. But to say this is to base God’s sovereign election on the fallen will of man, ignoring the plain biblical truth that unless God first does a work of grace in our hearts, no one would ever choose Him. No one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him (John 6:44) and no one is able to come to Jesus unless it has been granted him from the Father (John 6:65).

In several places, Paul attributes the first cause of our salvation to God’s choice of us, not to our choice of Him. In Ephesians 1:4-6, he says, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world …. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” In 2 Timothy 1:9, he says that God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

If God’s grace and power are mighty to save a sinner such as Paul, then He is able to save any sinner, and to do it instantly and totally. His light can blind and knock down the most powerful persecutor of the church. You may have some terrible sins in your past. You may even be militantly opposed to Christianity, convinced by all of your arguments that it is just a myth. But the risen Lord Jesus is mighty to save even you. He can open your eyes to get a glimpse of His glory and grace, and you will never be the same.

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 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.

Sunday – August 4, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 20:41-47 “The Son of David”

Sunday – August 4, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – August 4, 2019

Luke 20:41-44
Then Jesus said to them, “How is it that they say the Christ is the Son of David? 42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”

In April of 1984, at 9:47 AM, hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of Britons suddenly leaped in the air. They had been convinced by astronomer Patrick Moore on BBC radio that the planet Pluto would pass directly behind Jupiter at that moment, producing a gravitational pull on Earth that would make people feel lighter. Minutes after 9:47, the switchboards at BBC lighted up. One woman said that she and 11 guests had floated around the room. A man called in to say he had hit his head on the ceiling. Had any of the bounding multitudes looked at a calendar before they leaped, they would have realized it was the first day of April… (Reader’s Digest [4/85]).

That was a harmless and humorous deception. But one area where deception is neither harmless nor humorous is religion. Satan is a master deceiver. One of the most common complaints that you hear from those who avoid church is that the church is full of hypocrites. Of course, so is the world; but it is true: the church is full of hypocrites. Satan makes sure of that. He deceives many into thinking that they are right with God when really, they are not. He uses these hypocrites to keep others away from true Christianity. We need to make sure that we understand what true religion is and that we steer clear of false religion.

The intent of Jesus was to show His audience in the temple courtyard that neither they nor their teachers of the Law understood their own Scriptures. They rightly thought that Messiah would be the physical descendant of David, but they wrongly thought that he would be just a great man, a political Savior, who would bring in an age of peace and prosperity. Jesus wanted them to see that the Messiah (or Christ) would not only be David’s son, but also David’s Lord- God in human flesh. They needed a right view of Messiah so that they would not be deceived by false religion.

To know who Christ is—that He is both David’s son, a man born of the flesh; and, David’s Lord, the eternal God—is one thing. But each person must respond to this truth by trusting Christ as Savior and yielding to Him as Lord, even as David did. On this occasion, Jesus did not answer the question He posed nor did He call for a response. He just left His audience to ponder the implications of the question for themselves. But the clear implication is: If Jesus is the Messiah and Messiah is Lord over such a great man as King David, then should not I submit to Him as my Lord? True Christianity is not just believing intellectually that Jesus is the Messiah or that He is your Savior. True Christianity means believing in Jesus in the sense that you follow Him as Lord, so that in thought, word, and deed you are growing to be more and more like Him.

Sunday – March 3, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 1:1-31 “Lost and Found” Part 1

Sunday – March 3, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 3, 2019

Luke 15:3-5
So He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing”.

From early in the book of Luke, the Pharisees chaffed over Jesus’ association with sinners, and the mood of joy and celebration which dominated the scene of His eating together with them. The Pharisees found no joy in repentance of sinners at all. What was it that caused them such pain to have Jesus associating with sinners and enjoying them?

Jesus began by directing His critics’ attention to their own attitudes and actions as it related to a lost sheep. Which one of them, if they owned 100 sheep, would not leave the 99 to search for but one lost sheep? After a diligent search, would they not rejoice greatly at finding the one lost sheep? Would they not tenderly put the sheep on their shoulders, lovingly carrying it back to the fold, rather than “kicking it back,” scolding it all the way? And would they not then let their friends know of their success and have them over to celebrate the finding of the one lost sheep?

The assumption is that every one of the Pharisees would have responded to the loss and finding of one sheep just as Jesus suggested. In a similar way, Jesus added, all of heaven rejoices over the repentance of one lost sinner. Heaven, too, rejoices more at the repentance of one lost sinner, more than over the 99 “righteous” who seemingly did not need to repent.  When you think about it, the parable of the lost sheep presents us with some haunting questions. Would it be wise, even profitable, for a man to put 99 sheep at risk, leaving them unprotected in an open field, to search for one lost lamb? That is not good economics. It is a very sentimental story, but once the reality of it sets in it just doesn’t seem to square with real life.

The Pharisees cared very much for that which was lost, and they rejoiced greatly concerning the recovery of what was lost. The critical difference between Jesus and the Pharisees is they cared about possessions, while Jesus cared about people. The Pharisees were hypocrites. They grumbled that Jesus could gladly receive back repentant sinners and rejoice in their salvation, yet they would diligently search for lost possessions and celebrate when they found them. You see, we tend to appraise sin (and “sinners”) by merely external standards and criteria. Jesus always looked at the heart. We quickly grant that stealing, murder, rape, and violence are wrong, especially when they are perpetrated on us. But Jesus goes on to show us in the gospels that prayer, giving, preaching, or showing charity can be sinful, when the motive of the heart is wrong.

Sunday May 27, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 6:46-49 “Obedience, Not an Option”

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Luke 6:46-49
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”

The words of our Lord in His Sermon on the Mount are indeed difficult and perplexing, but their essence is clear. We are to do what no one else will do—love our enemy. We are to do so because God has loved us while we were His enemies. We are to do so because God is the One who will bless us for obeying His commands. As Jesus comes to the end of this sermon, He asks pointedly, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

Obedience to the “tough” commands of our Lord proves a person to be a true follower of Christ, and handling the tough tasks now assures us of enduring tough times ahead. Jesus taught that it is not only to call Jesus Lord, they must prove He is Lord by obeying His commands (v. 46). It is in doing the tough things which shows our discipleship. It is not test of a child’s obedience to hand him money and instruct him to go and buy candy. It is a test of obedience to have the child submit to an inoculation at the doctor’s office.

In the parable of the two builders, Jesus sought to illustrate the fact that doing the hard thing now gives confidence in the hard times ahead. When building a house, the wise man “goes the extra mile” of laying a strong foundation. Digging deep to establish a solid foundation is not the easy way, but when the storms come, the building will stand. Obedience to our Lord’s commands regarding the loving of our enemies is not easy, but it does give us confidence that in the future we will have been well founded, well established in our faith and obedience, and able, by His grace, to withstand any coming storms.

In each and every one of these illustrations in the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:20-49), the need for “betterness” has been established, even though the cost is high to live according to Christ’s higher standard. The commands of Christ regarding loving our enemies is a very high standard, higher than that which others hold or practice, but this only shows that with God all things are possible for those who trust in Him, who obey His commands, and who are sustained by His power and grace.

Sunday – January 14, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “Good News for Bad Days” Luke 3:1-20

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Luke 3:7-8
John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”

John was a prophet whose ministry was rooted in the Old Testament. John did not merely fulfill Old Testament prophecy, he spoke as an Old Testament prophet. John and the Old Testament prophets spoke of the future, of the Kingdom of God, of the Messiah, and of “things to come” in two different ways. The prophets spoke of the coming of the Lord both as a time of judgment and as a time of blessing. They spoke of Messiah both as the great King, who would reign from the throne of David, and as the Suffering Servant, who would die for the sins of the world. And, you will recall, this was the cause for considerable interest and even agony on the part of the prophets.

John’s one ministry as a prophet – calling Israel to repentance and to the keeping of the Law – was a failure, as all other prophets had failed. It was thus with John’s ministry that the preaching of the Law, of the old covenant, ceased: “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since then the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached…” (Luke 16:16). Many of those who came to John for baptism left without ever entering the water. Thus, the kingdom of God was rejected, along with her King. All of this in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.

John’s ministry was to close, once and for all, the chapter in Israel’s history of law-keeping. No one had ever been saved by law-keeping, and neither would the kingdom of God ever be initiated because of it. Grace must replace law. The suffering of Messiah would provide a means of forgiveness and escape from the judgment of God. John’s ministry was intended to point this out in a final and definitive way. John not only proclaimed, one final time, a call to repentance and law-keeping, but introduced the One through whom the law would be fulfilled, and through whom salvation and forgiveness would be accomplished.

While John’s ministry and message was to be replaced, there is much that we can learn from him. We can learn from the boldness of John in proclaiming his message. He did not hesitate to call sin what it was, sin; or to warn men of the coming judgment of God. For those of us who tend to be “wimpy” Christians, who are reluctant to tell people they are sinners, who shy away from telling people there is a literal hell for all who do not trust in Christ, John’s boldness should serve as a rebuke. And note that it was his boldness in proclaiming God’s Word that enhanced the power of his message. The gospel is, as Paul says, “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). Let us therefore proclaim it boldly.

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 – 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?”

Word On Worship – Sunday – October 15, 2017 Download / Print

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.