Sunday – January 20, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 13:22-35 “Strive to Enter the Narrow Way”

Sunday – January 20, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 20, 2019

Luke 13:23-24
And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

Somewhere in some village some unnamed person in the crowd asked Jesus an interesting theological question: “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” I don’t know the man’s motives for asking the question. Perhaps he saw the increasing opposition from the religious leaders and he could sense that the crowds tended to side with their leaders. But he asked this question, “Are there just a few who are being saved?” It would have made for an interesting theological discussion. But Jesus directed the question away from abstract theological speculation and toward specific application for each person in the crowd. The man had asked, “Will the saved be few?” Jesus turned it around to ask, “Will the saved be you?”

The man who put the question to Jesus seems to have assumed that he was among the “few” who were being saved. He may, like his fellow Israelites, have thought that the “few” being saved were Israelites, while the “many” who were not were Gentiles. Jesus has some very distressing words for those who would think such thoughts. Jesus first shocked His listeners by indicating that they were not already on the inside, so far as the kingdom is concerned. Then, He went on to say that many of His fellow-Israelites who were not on the inside would not ever be in the kingdom.

They believe that mere association with Jesus was sufficient to save them. They had eaten in His presence. He had taught in their streets. Wasn’t this enough? No. John the Baptist, followed by Jesus, required the followers of Jesus—those who would be truly be saved—to identify with Him. This is what baptism was all about. Did the Israelite(s) think that being a Jew saved him/them (choose sing. or pl. for both)? He was wrong. Baptism was a public testimony of the Jew’s break with his culture, and with the legalism and ritualism of Judaism. It was a profession of identifying with Jesus as the Messiah. Identification with Jesus was, to put it in the terms Jesus is using in our text, passing through the narrow door.

May I press this point a little more personally? How many people think that they are going to be in God’s kingdom because they are a part of some religious sect or denomination? How many suppose they are saved because they come from a Christian family? How many think that they are saved by mere association with spiritual things? Nothing could be further from the truth. You are only saved by identification with Christ. Association with Christ (by going to church, reading the Bible, or whatever) isn’t enough. It wasn’t the truth for the Jews of Jesus’ day. It isn’t enough for you either.

Sunday – January 13, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 13:1-21 “A Matter of Perspective”

Sunday – January 13, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 13, 2019

Luke 13:1-3
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

In the past year we have been shocked by the shooting of 17 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We hear of natural disasters that have killed thousands around the world. On a personal level, many of us struggle with private tragedies—loved ones who die untimely deaths, accidents that leave devastating consequences, children who suffer from birth defects or serious diseases. Naturally, we always ask, “Why?” Why did this have to happen to this person? I can understand why many people question God’s goodness and fairness, even doubting His existence. It’s the classic philosophic problem of evil: How can an all-good and all-powerful God allow good people to suffer and wicked people to prosper?

The Lord Jesus gives us some answers to these difficult questions in Luke 13. We don’t know any more about these events other than what is reported. Pilate had sent in his troops to break up a gathering of Galilean Jews that he deemed dangerous. The Roman soldiers did not care that the Jews were worshiping God by offering sacrifices. They slaughtered them so that their blood flowed together with the blood of their sacrifices. Then Jesus brings up another tragedy when a tower fell down and killed 18 people.

Jesus was speaking to people who did not apply spiritual truth to themselves (12:56-57). From His reply, we can see these men were smugly thinking that those who suffered such tragedies were deserving of God’s judgment, but the fact that they had been spared such tragedies meant that they were pleasing to God. Their theology was like that of Job’s comforters, who thought that Job was suffering because he had sinned. Jesus corrects this mistaken view by showing that we all are sinners worthy of God’s judgment. Twice (13:3 & 5), He drives home the application: Were those who suffered greater sinners? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Rather than asking the question “Why?” with regard to suffering, we should ask the question, “What?” What does this tragedy teach me? The fact that a tragedy has not hit you should show you God’s great patience. If you have not repented of your sins and if you’re not bearing fruit in God’s vineyard, there is still time. But, don’t mistake God’s patience to mean that His axe will never fall. His patience does have a limit. Life is fragile; none are exempt from tragedies. But, if you have fled to Christ for refuge and you are bringing forth the fruits of repentance in your life, you are ready if/when tragedy strikes.

Sunday –October 28, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 10:38-42 “Working Like the Devil Serving the Lord”

Sunday – October 28, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – October 28, 2018

Luke 10:41-42
But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

In their book, First Things First, Stephen Covey and Roger and Rebecca Merrill ask this penetrating question: “What is the one activity that you know if you did superbly well and consistently would have significant positive results in your personal life?” They repeat the question with regard to your professional or work life and then ask, “If you know these things would make such a significant difference, why are you not doing them now?” They go on to discuss how we often wrongly let the urgent take priority over that which is truly important.

That is the main message of this little story that gives us a glimpse into an incident in the life of Jesus and two sisters who hosted Him for dinner. Luke seems to put it here both to contrast it with the preceding incident where a lawyer challenged Jesus by putting a test question to Him. In the first story, the lawyer cites the two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor, but the emphasis, through the parable of the Good Samaritan, is on love for our neighbor. In this story, we see an example of what it means to love God, as Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. If we only had the story of the Good Samaritan, we might allow service for God to take precedence over devotion to God.

Mary had chosen that which was “better” and “necessary” (v. 42); Martha was frazzled and frustrated by a whole host of things. What was that “better” thing, that which was “necessary,” that which Mary had chosen, and Martha had not? I think that the “better thing” was abiding in Christ, drawing strength and instruction from Him. It was being taught at the feet of the Master. Martha was preoccupied with ministering to Jesus; Mary with the ministry of Jesus. In the final analysis, He is not dependent upon our ministry to Him, but our life in Him is totally dependent upon His ministry to us. In seeking to serve Jesus, Martha was hindering the sustenance of Jesus in her life, and she even demanded that it be kept from her sister as well.

There is no better place to be, no place we are more welcome to be, than at the feet of our Lord. When we fall at His feet, we acknowledge His majesty, power, and goodness, and our need. When we fall at His feet, we rightly reflect the response of the creature to the Creator. No sinner in the New Testament ever hesitated to come to Jesus’ feet. The self-righteous would not be caught dead there, because of their pride and arrogance, but the sinner found the feet of Jesus a place of welcome. You are always welcome at His feet.

Sunday – August 6, 2017 Genesis 46 & 47 “Life Begins at 130”

Sunday – August 6, 2017 – Read the Word on Worship

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Genesis 47:10-12
And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence. So Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered.”

Whenever I come to a portion of Scripture like this, I ask the question, “Why did the author include this section in this book?” Moses could have abbreviated it or left it out altogether, but he chose to devote a fair amount of space describing Joseph’s introduction of his family to Pharaoh and the administration of Egypt during the famine. As you think about the text, two strands emerged: the prosperity of God’s people, Israel and their counter culture, the Egyptians, who were saved through Joseph’s wise administration.

These themes of the prosperity of God’s people and the preservation of Egypt through Joseph tie in with God’s covenant with Abraham (12:1-3). God had promised to bless Abraham, to make him a great nation and to bless all nations through his descendants. Here we see God beginning to bless Abraham’s descendants and to use them as a blessing to others. Applying this to us the Lord is saying, commit yourself to make God and His purpose prosper and He will make you truly prosper. It’s another way of saying, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). When the final buzzer sounds, it’s God and His purpose that matters. If we commit ourselves to Him, He will take care of the other things we need.

The question is, how do I order my life to make God and His purpose prosper? The good life in Egypt can never compare to the blessings of the Promised Land. But we all face the danger of becoming enamored with the goodies of Egypt and forgetting that we are looking for that heavenly city to come. God has graciously prospered us in this world. We must remember that our purpose for being here is not to accumulate things the world has to offer. We’re here to further God’s purpose: to communicate the good news of Christ to every tribe and tongue and nation. The person who by faith lays up treasure in heaven is truly prosperous, as Jesus pointed out. He has something that the world cannot give or take away.

Sometimes stores offer contests where the winner has a certain amount of time to run through the store and select as many items as he or she can. If you won a contest like that, before your mad dash through the store you probably would think carefully about what you wanted to get. Life is a lot like that contest. The difference is, we don’t know how much time we have to do what we want to do. Still the clock is running and we all spend the time given to us. The question is, when the clock stops, will we have our baskets full of the things that really matter or will we have a cart full of trivial things that are worthless in light of eternity? If the clock has not stopped for you, you still have some time left. Use that time to make God and His purpose prosper. Use your time and treasure in light of eternity. If you do that, God will make sure that you truly prosper.

Sunday – October 23, 2016 Genesis 18:1-33 “Marks of Maturity”

Sunday – October 23, 2016 – Read the Word on Worship

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Genesis 18:23-26
Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? “Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”

One of the facts that humans have yet to master is that we cannot outperform God. In the movie Patch Adams, the main character (portrayed by Robin Williams) is an unconventional medical student who believes that humor and compassion are the most important tools of the doctor’s trade. His idealism is shattered when his girlfriend, who has helped him start a free clinic based on these principles, is murdered by one of the psychotic patients. As Patch stands on a high cliff pondering suicide, he has the following monologue with God: So answer me please — tell me what You’re doing…You can create man, man suffers enormous amounts of pain; man dies. Maybe You should have had just a few more brainstorming sessions prior to creation. You rested on the seventh day — maybe You should have spent that day on compassion. As he looks down into the valley far below, again considering the possibility of jumping, he says, tragically, “You know what? You’re not worth it.”

These same sentiments resound like an incessant gong throughout our society. Talk to any person on the street and you will likely hear doubts about the fairness of God doing this or that. In today’s climate of tolerance, many reject the God of the Bible as an ogre. Sadly, many Christians unknowingly do the same. Whenever we raise questions about God’s justice we suggest, as Patch Adams did, that we would be more just if given the chance. When we question God’s love we imply that we can be more loving. When we question His grace, His mercy, His patience — name whatever attribute you will — if we think we can do them better than God, we have a defective view of God.

A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” So what comes to your mind when you think about God? Do you question Him? Do you doubt His love for you? Or do you trust Him and find your confidence in Him? Wherever you fall on this scale, God wants to increase your view of Him because right Christian living comes out of right Christian thinking.

While it was comforting to have scriptures to comfort us, we will not find a text to answer our every question. God is far greater than all that is revealed about Him in Scripture. The Judge of all the earth will deal justly. That was our confidence. Have you lost a loved one about whose salvation you are doubtful? Are there problems and circumstances you cannot understand? Then rest in this: our God is all powerful; nothing is impossible with Him. And furthermore, this power is always employed in justice, truth, mercy, and love. What a comfort! What an encouragement to pray!

Sunday – November 1, 2015 Revelation 5:1-7 “Worthy to Open the Book”

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Revelation 5:4-5
Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”

John sees a strong angel — an angelic messenger of God — one of the unfallen angels all of whom are personally interested in man’s redemption and in this book. We also see that he speaks with a loud voice, undoubtedly to emphasize the importance of this question and to penetrate all of the universe with the question posed: “Who is worthy to open the book and break its seals?” It is the greatest question of all time — who is worthy? This scene dramatically calls our attention to the problem. There was no one qualified in any place in the universe to open it, or even look into it.

John is mesmerized by God the Father and the scroll in His right hand. And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it” (5:2-3). This unnamed, strong angel asks the question of the ages: “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” One with sufficient authority and worthiness was necessary to open the scroll and by breaking its seals to unleash the judgments on the world that it contained. Any prophet could have revealed this information but it took someone with adequate power to execute the events foretold, as well as to reveal and bring them to pass. This strong angel goes on a universal search and discovers that no angel, no created being, no human being, no creature, no spirit, and no one can open the scroll.

This futile search almost crushed John’s heart. He dissolved emotionally. The future of the world seemed too bleak to face. John’s continual weeping reflected his sorrow that God’s future kingdom and final judgment appear to be indefinitely postponed because no one had sufficient authority to open the scroll. Did this mean that the wrongs of earth would not be dealt with? Does this mean that the righteous will never be vindicated and that the wicked will go unpunished? John understood that if God’s purposes fail, then all of life is meaningless. If no one can open the scroll, none of God’s purposes will come to pass.

The sad truth is: without Christ there will be only weeping. The good news is that Jesus Christ will open the scroll. He has already achieved victory over all God’s enemies and therefore had the authority to open the scroll and to release its contents. The “Lion that is from the tribe of Judah” and the “Root of David” are Old Testament titles of the Messiah who would fulfill the promises of salvation and would rule. As God’s ultimate Anointed One, Jesus alone possessed the authority necessary for this task. He overcame Satan, sin, and death so He could implement God’s purposes for the future that this scroll revealed. Only Christ can carry out God’s final purposes on earth.

Sunday – August 2, 2015 “Ephesus Love Lost” Part 1 Revalation 2 verses 1 to 8

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Revelation 2:4-5
“’But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place — unless you repent.”

As a disclaimer, both here and in the message, any discussion about the churches in the Book of Revelation requires the reader (as all Scripture should do) to examine themselves. Self examination is never a pleasant process, which is why so few people approach the Scripture with an attitude of humility, asking the Lord to search their hearts and their will, to allow the Spirit to show them deficiencies in their heart so they may walk with the Lord. This is even more necessary in Revelation 2 and 3. There is a spiritual pride that gives us the ability to see splinter in the eyes of these churches, but blinds us to the log in our lives and in our church.

You may have houseplants to decorate your house that you simply forget to water– not because you decided you did not like the plants anymore but rather you get busy doing other things. We all take such simple things for granted. Time goes by and our day continues to fill up with all the activities that must be completed. By default, watering the plants ends up being ignored. The same is true of love. I don’t think anyone sets out to stop loving, but out of neglect love grows cold.

The issue with the church of Ephesus is that they have left their first love. The question for the scholars and those of us who are more pragmatic is, what is first love? Is it a matter of first in priority or first in a sequence? Is it our love for God or is it our love for others? Some have suggested it is our love for the lost who need to know the gospel. I think all of these are true, but it still does not answer the question: what is our first love?

As I study this passage, let me tell you my definition. Our first love is the love we experienced and then expressed when we came to faith. What it means is all dimensions of love – not just our love for God and not just our love of others and not just our love to see people saved – but every facet of love. This is what I see lived out in the Book of Acts when the Church was started. With this as a working definition of first love, I want to challenge you to go to the Lord and ask Him to show you where you have left your first love. Is it in how you worship? How well do you love others, not just in words but in attitude and action? How concerned are you for the lost? I believe the Lord has many things to tell us if we are willing to listen and learn the lessons to the seven churches of Revelation.