Sunday – January 26, 2020 Book of Acts – 3:1-26 “A Lame Excuse For Preaching the Gospel”

Sunday – January 26, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 26, 2020

Acts 4:1-3
As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

Most of us don’t know much firsthand about persecution for the sake of Christ. The threat of someone rejecting us or thinking that we’re weird is enough to make cowards of us when it comes to witnessing. We don’t know what the council said by way of threats, but if Peter and John continued to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they would pay a severe price. But rather than saying, “Yes sir, we’ll be more restrained in the future,” they said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (4:19).

There are two common misconceptions that we need to keep in mind regarding opposition or persecution for our faith. The first is that if we’re faithful to the Lord, He will protect us from persecution. I’ve heard many Christians say something like, “I don’t understand what’s happening. I was faithful to the Lord, but I’m being attacked by my co-workers or friends. Why isn’t the Lord protecting me?” The Old Testament prophets were bold and faithful witnesses, but many of them were persecuted and killed. John the Baptist, the twelve, the apostle Paul, and the Lord Jesus Himself all were faithful witnesses who suffered much because of their faithfulness to God. Paul promised, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

The second misconception is that persecution comes mainly from those outside the church. We expect the world to oppose the name of Jesus, but for some reason, we are surprised when those who profess to be Christians that attack us. But it was the religious establishment that opposed the prophets. The religious leaders opposed and crucified our Lord. Here the religious rulers lead the opposition against the apostles. The Sadducees were mainly wealthy priests who wanted to protect the status quo in order to preserve their wealth and influence over Jewish affairs. The chief priest and the high priests were all Sadducees, along with the captain of the temple guard.

As then, so it has been down through church history. Opposition to those who preach the gospel and who uphold God’s Word often comes from the religious establishment, whose power and privileges are threatened. In countries where the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church are strong, they are the source of most opposition to the gospel. In our country, theological liberals, who deny the resurrection, are often our main opponents. But, Spirit-filled witnesses are bold to obey God rather than the religious establishment, even if it means persecution. If we want to be confident witnesses, we must daily be filled with God’s Spirit.

Sunday – October 6, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 23:1-25 Part 2 “Rejection of Israel’s Messiah”

Sunday – October 6, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – October 6, 2019

Luke 23:8-10
When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.

We all make offers we really don’t expect others to accept. I believe Pilate made the leaders of Israel—the chief priests and rulers of the people—an offer they would never accept—but they did. The religious leaders of Israel brought Jesus to Pilate, accusing Him of being a criminal worthy of death. But Pilate did not see it this way at all. Eventually, he made these leaders an offer I think he was sure they would not accept. His offer was to release to them Barabbas, a thief, a revolutionary, and a murderer. Which would they choose—to turn Barabbas loose on their city—or Jesus? Jesus was a man of peace, a seemingly harmless fellow. Barabbas was a dangerous criminal. Surely they would leave Barabbas in prison, where he belonged, and be content to have Jesus found guilty of a crime and then pardoned.

When we read the account of the trial of our Lord before the political rulers of that day, it is like watching a table tennis match. On the one hand, Jesus is passed back and forth between Pilate and Herod. On the other, the dialogue between Pilate and the religious leaders bounces back, from one to the other. Pilate repeatedly pronounces Jesus innocent of any crime, but the Jewish religious leaders respond by even more vigorously affirming His guilt, demanding nothing less than the death penalty. One would think that Pilate, with the power of Rome behind him, would have little difficulty enforcing his will on the people, but such is not the case. We see that indeed the people prevail, and the story ends with Pilate giving them their way, even though this means the death of an innocent man.

Why does Luke include this incident with Herod while no other gospel writer does? I believe it is important to see that everyone rejected Jesus as the Messiah, including Herod. But it was absolutely necessary for Rome and the Gentiles to share in the rejection and the crucifixion of Christ so that all men, not just the Jews, might be guilty of His innocent blood. Herod does play a part, but this is the time for the Gentiles to show their own disdain for the Savior.

If men are so utterly angry with God that they will always hate, oppose, and reject Him, how can they ever be convinced, converted, and changed? It will not be through human might or methods, but only through the Holy Spirit of God. As we read the Book of Acts we learn that men were convinced and converted—miraculously so, such as Saul—but they were convinced and converted through the work of God’s Spirit, as He empowered men and their testimony for Christ. May we go about His work, dependent upon His Word and dependent upon His Spirit.

Sunday – July 28, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 20:27-40 “Seven Brothers for One Bride”

Sunday – July 28, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – July 28, 2019

Luke 20:37-39
“But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB.  38 “Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.”

Our knowledge of the Sadducees is a bit scanty and uncertain. We don’t know for sure the origin of the group or its name. They were mostly upper class, educated, rationalistic, religious conservatives who held to the supreme authority of the Torah (the first five books of Moses). They rejected the oral traditions of the Jewish rabbis. The high priest and many of his associates were Sadducees (Acts 5:17). In their denial of the resurrection and the existence of angels and spirits, they disagreed sharply with the Pharisees (Acts 23:6-9).

Consequently, they took little interest in religious matters and in many respects clashed with the Pharisees, especially as regards the Pharisees’ attachment to the ‘traditions of the elders’ which made Jewish religious life so intricate. Everything which, according to their views, was not taught by ‘the law of Moses’ (the first five books of the Old Testament) was rejected by the Sadducees as forbidden innovations. The letter of the Law in the first five books of the Torah was enough.

In the past, I would have called the Pharisees the “conservatives” and the Sadducees the “liberals,” which is somewhat true. But in terms of insisting that doctrine be grounded in biblical revelation, the Sadducees wanted “chapter and verse,” while the Pharisees were content to cite their traditions. If the Pharisees were the moving force behind the opposition to Jesus before His crucifixion, death, and resurrection, it is the Sadducees who take up this role afterwards, for now the issue of resurrection has become a crucial part of the gospel message. The main thing which Luke wants us to be aware of is that the Sadducees, who are pressing Jesus for an answer concerning the resurrection do not really believe in it themselves.

It is quite easy to look at the Sadducees with a very critical eye. How foolish, we might think, for them to reject the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, when it is so clearly taught in the Scriptures. But let me ask you, as I ask myself, how much do we believe in the resurrection of the dead? How does the certainty of our resurrection, and of the kingdom of God to come, impact our present lives? I still have many earthly desires for the future, and I do not yearn for heaven as I should. My lifestyle and my values betray my lack of faith in this area. Are we, like the Sadducees, so “blessed in this life” that we would set aside thoughts of the next?

Sunday – July 14, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 19:45 to Luke 20:18 “Tempest in the Temple”

Sunday – July 14, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – July 14, 2019

Luke 20:1-2
One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”

The problem that the Jewish leaders faced was Jesus and His authority confronted their authority. Through the years they had their share of run-ins with Jesus. At the start of His ministry, Jesus had also gone up to Jerusalem and cleansed the temple (John 2:13-22). But then He left town and had pretty much kept to the north, while they had continued to run the religious establishment in Jerusalem. Jesus had come to town a few times and stirred things up, but He always had left and things had gone back to normal. But now things were coming to a head.

The problem the Jewish religious leaders faced is the same problem that every person who comes into contact with Jesus faces: His authority confronts my authority. At first, maybe it’s just an irritating sermon that makes you a bit uncomfortable. You don’t like it, but you brush it aside and continue on with your agenda for your life. Then a passage in the Bible steps on your toes. Your level of discomfort goes up a notch. You realize that if He takes over your life, there are going to be some radical changes, and you’re not sure that you want to relinquish that much control. So, you try and dodge the implications of who Jesus is by raising all sorts of intellectual questions. But Jesus keeps coming to town and confronting your authority to run your own life. Sooner or later, you come to a crisis point where you have to deal with the question that these Jewish religious leaders asked: “By what authority does Jesus say and do these things?”

If Jesus Christ is God in human flesh, who gave His life for you on the cross, then He is the absolute sovereign who has the supreme right to govern your life. Jesus the Christ could go into the temple, turn over the tables of the money-changers, drive out those who were selling, and confront the religious leaders because He was acting under the authority of the sovereign God. That same authority gives Him the right to confront you and me with the way we are living for ourselves, even if we cover it over with religiosity.

J.C. Ryle perceptively commented, “The ruin of thousands is simply this, that they deal dishonestly with their own souls. They allege pretended difficulties as the cause of their not serving Christ, while in reality they ‘love darkness rather than light,’ and have no honest desire to change.” The question for us today is, how do we respond when He suddenly upends our comfortable way of life? Do we challenge His right to confront us? Or, do we honestly face our own sinful selfishness, our insistence on running our lives on our terms? Do we yield to His rightful lordship? Since Jesus Christ is acting by God’s authority, we had better submit to Him!

Sunday March 4, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “Why Religious People Reject Christ” Luke 4:14-30

Sunday – March 4, 2018 – Read the Word on Worship

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Luke 4:28-30
And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way.”

As we study this portion of God’s Word, we need to take it to heart that most of us are religious people or we would not be in church this morning But being religious does not guarantee we will accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If anything, it increases the likelihood we will reject Him. It was the religious crowd in Nazareth that not only reacted against the sermon by Jesus, but they went right from their “church” service to try to shove the speaker off a cliff. I trust that no one here would do that (I will keep my eyes open), but still, we must be careful to examine our own hearts, so that we do not imitate the religious people of Nazareth in their hostile rejection of Jesus.

Any qualified male could read the Scripture and expound on it, so Jesus stood up to do this. There is debate about whether He deliberately chose the passage from Isaiah 61:1-2, or whether it was the assigned portion for that day, but Luke seems to hint that He picked the passage Himself. The initial response to Jesus’ sermon at Nazareth was favorable, although rather superficial. They were speaking well of Him and were amazed at the smooth manner in which He communicated. As sermon critics, they were giving the “hometown kid” good marks on His delivery and style. “Not bad! I can see why we’ve been hearing good reports about the young man. He’s a polished speaker.”

But it wasn’t long until the nodding heads began to stop, and the approving smiles turned to frowns. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. “Who does He think He is, making these claims about fulfilling this Scripture? He’s implying that His message applies to us! We’re not poor or slaves! We’re not blind and downtrodden! How dare He imply that He can be our Savior, as if we even needed one. If He really is so great, then why doesn’t He do here some of the miracles we heard that He supposedly did in Capernaum? Then we might believe in Him!” They were initially impressed by His style, but they took offense at the substance of His sermon. Their offense soon turned to rage and rejection.

Let’s apply this point to ourselves: It’s easy to accept Jesus on a superficial level. We hear that God loves us and that Jesus cares for all our needs, and that’s true. So, we welcome Him into our lives. But at some point, we begin to get a bit uncomfortable as we realize Jesus is confronting our pride and self-righteousness with His teaching. Rather than building up our self-esteem, Jesus begins shining the light of His holiness into the dark, hidden closets of our soul. We begin to see that “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18). At this point, you have a crucial decision to make. You can dodge the hard truths of the Bible, either by throwing out the whole thing or, as many people do, by finding a church where you hear more soothing, comfortable messages. Or respond to the leading of the Spirit. God’s way is that we face the hard truth about ourselves and submit to Jesus as Lord.

Sunday – July 23, 2017 Thom Rachford Preaching

Sunday – July 23, 2017 – Read the Word on Worship

Sunday – July 23, 2017 Thom Rachford Preaching from Sunrise Community Church on Vimeo.

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Pray for the Persecuted Church

Cuban Pastor Punished With 1-Year Heavy Labor for Homeschooling His Children in Evangelical Faith

From The Christian Post

An Evangelical pastor in Cuba has been sentenced to one year of heavy labor and house arrest for defying the Communist government and insisting that his children be homeschooled. International Christian Concern reported on Thursday that Pastor Ramon Rigal, leader of Iglesia de Dios en Cristo, has openly stated that his decision to take his children out of state-run schools was based on his Christian faith.

As Diario de Cuba noted last week, Rigal had originally been sentenced by Guantanamo courts to one year imprisonment, but a recent adjudication led to a modified reduction of the punishment. The pastor said that his legal team proved that he did not commit any serious criminal act, but religious freedom advocates warned that the heavy labor sentence is still a serious punishment.

“Correctional labor is a form of forced physical punishment, where the state typically chooses the locations and the working conditions,” Pastor Mario F. Barroso, a religious freedom activist from the Patmos Institute, told ICC. “People sentenced to this penalty are assigned to a ranch or a farm of some sort, and believe me it’s not light work.”

Rafael Cardona, ICC’s Latin America correspondent, said it’s “very concerning and disheartening” that a pastor has been punished in such a way simply for choosing to homeschool his children.

“It is even more egregious when a tough punishment is still issued despite having adequate legal defense and proving that no criminal laws were violated. In Pastor Rigal’s case, we have to be aware that he made multiple attempts to inform the state about the curricula and content of the education, including any religious elements,” Cardona said.

“Nevertheless, the Cuban authorities still proceeded with a sentence that does not seem to fit the offense. Unfortunately, these kinds of repressive measures taken against people of Christian faith happen commonly in Cuba. We will continue to pray for Pastor Rigal and his family.”