Sunday – February 17, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 14:1-14 “Table Talks”

Sunday – February 17, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 17, 2019

Luke 14:1-2
It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely.

The meal table is one of the social centers of the home. Think of some of your warmest memories, and many of them will be associated with meal-time. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, usually include a festive meal, fellowship, and pleasant memories. The “external glue” of Luke 14, which gives it a unity, is the dinner table. Everything which is said here is said at or near the dinner table, and about the dinner table. But there is an “internal glue” which should be recognized as well, providing us with an even deeper unity. That “silver thread” is the concept of self-interest. Think about the ways in which self-interest can be found at the heart of every sin which our Lord condemns in these verses.

Self-interest caused the Pharisees to reject Jesus, angry that He spent great amounts of time and energy with “sinners” and the unsuitable people, rather than with them. Self-interest caused the Pharisees to want Jesus out of the way, lest He overthrow their system, and prevent them from all the “perks” which it afforded them. It was also self-interest which motivated each person to seek to sit in the places of honor at the dinner table. And self-interest that caused the Israelites of Jesus’ day to reject Him as Messiah. It is self-interest which keeps men from coming to Christ for salvation. Men wish to enter into the kingdom, but do not wish to create any pain, displeasure, or sacrifice for themselves.

Our culture is more permeated by self-interest than any other people at any other time in history. We may laugh at the antics of the Pharisees to get the best places at the dinner table, but we also sign up for classes which teach us how to assert ourselves, so that we can be more successful. Nearly every problem which man experiences today is now linked (in some mysterious way) to a poor self-esteem. We are truly a self-oriented society, just as Paul described the culture of those in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-5). While we may not fight for the chair of honor at the dinner table, many Christians will line up for leadership training classes, positions of prominence and public visibility. At the same time, those tasks which call for menial service, with little recognition, seem to go begging for faithful people to carry out. Ministries where people don’t seem to appreciate us and our contribution are quickly left behind, replaced by some ministry which is more “fulfilling.”

Let us recognize how much self-interest paralyzes and perverts our ministry, our worship, and our Christian walk. Let us learn from the Master our reward in heaven will be great, and that it comes to those who “give up their life” to gain it, while those who seek to save their lives lose them. May the Spirit of God work through the Word of God to replace self-seeking with self-sacrifice, to the glory of God and for our own good as well.

Sunday – December 30, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:35-48 “The Way to Wait”

Sunday – December 30, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 30, 2018

Luke 12:42-43
And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?  43 “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.

I doubt that there is anything I dislike more than waiting. It may be that you can identify with me in my annoyance with waiting. How many people, during the peak travel times of Thanksgiving and Christmas, were forced to spend a day or more in the airport waiting for the weather to clear or for the airline schedules to be untangled. Think of how many “fast food” restaurants there are compared with those which cook food the slow, old-fashioned way. Credit cards appeal to us because we can buy what we want without having to wait till we have the cash.

When you think of the Bible, waiting is one of the things which men and women of faith are called upon to do. All of those named in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 had to wait for the promised blessings of God. Their wait was even longer than we would like to contemplate—they were still waiting when they died. They are still waiting! If we are required to wait, then you and I had better learn how to do it right.

The problem of waiting usually comes the fact we rarely, if ever, think about the future. When we only think about today, if we get some money, we don’t think about the rent that will be due in two weeks or other bills coming due. We celebrate that we’ve got money in our pocket today, but the one thing we will not do is save any money, because we don’t think about the future. Our Lord taught that we should not be anxious about tomorrow, but He did not teach that we should ignore tomorrow! In fact, to the contrary, Jesus taught that our view of the future ought to be uppermost in our thinking about how we should live today. We should view ourselves as stewards who have been entrusted with time, money, and abilities, which we are to use for our Master’s kingdom and not hypocritically on ourselves.

As I have suggested before, Jesus is dealing with hypocrisy in Luke 12. The other side of the coin of hypocrisy is stewardship- living in a way that is consistent with our calling and the use of the resources God has provided, knowing we are accountable to Him. From the perspective of stewardship, verses 1-12 addressed the disciple’s stewardship of the gospel. The disciple must make good use of the gospel by boldly living and proclaiming it. Verses 13-34 addressed the stewardship of possessions. Our preoccupation must not be with material things, but with true “life.” We need not worry about our life, but we should use things to minister to men’s needs now, which is laying up treasure for ourselves in heaven. In verses 35 and following our Lord turns to the stewardship of time. He will instruct us as how we are to view and use the time which remains until he comes.

Sunday – January 7, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “The Day Jesus Went AWOL” Luke 2:32-53

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Luke 2:49-51
Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

In Luke 2:39-52, we have the only reference in Scripture to the years between Jesus’ birth and the beginning of His ministry when His age was about 30. Some of the apocryphal gospels that circulated in the early centuries of the church contain fanciful and miraculous legends from the childhood of Jesus. He touches some clay birds and they come to life and fly away. He touches a plow that Joseph had botched up and it is instantly made right. Some other legends are more disturbing: The young Jesus curses some bothersome children who immediately wither up or drop dead. After such fanciful tales, the account in Luke of Jesus getting left behind at the temple sounds pretty tame!

The Old Testament (Deut. 16:16) prescribed that every Jewish man should appear before the Lord for three feasts each year: Unleavened Bread (Passover), Weeks (Pentecost), and Booths (Tabernacles). By the time of Jesus, it was customary for those some distance from Jerusalem to attend only one feast. Joseph and Mary’s custom was to make the 80-mile journey from Nazareth each year for the Passover. This incident happened when Jesus was 12. It must have been the most exciting time of the year, to leave the small town and go to the capital for this celebration that drew thousands of worshipers.

If you have ever had a child get lost, you can identify with the panic that gripped these conscientious parents. You always think worst case scenario — such as Jesus was kidnapped and we’ll never see Him again. Joseph and Mary had a lot more time, three days in fact, to think the worst. Given the amount of time, one can appreciate Mary’s emotional words, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father and I have been anxiously looking for you.” Jesus responded, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?

The parents of our Lord struggled as to how to put together the facets of our Lord’s nature, His humanity and His deity. In our text, the humanity of Jesus had so dominated their thoughts that they forgot to reckon with His deity, which was the basis for his actions and response to them. You and I have the same struggle in recognizing both the divine and the human elements in our Christian lives. This is the tension between the element of divine work in our lives and human responsibility. You see, the struggle of Mary and Joseph is not so unique as it might first appear. There is a kind of incarnation which is going on in the life of every Christian – the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our personal response to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Let us not deny the divine nor the human in what God is doing in our lives.

Sunday – December 24, 2017 Gospel of Luke – “The Savior Has Come!” Luke 2:1-20

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Luke 2:10-12
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.

Twenty years ago, Moody Magazine reported that 49% of professing Christians agree that “all good people, whether they consider Jesus Christ to be Savior or not, will live in heaven after they die.” If that opinion is true, then the story of the birth of Jesus may warm your heart but it won’t be the best news in the world, news that you cannot live without. However, if the Bible is correct in stating that all people have sinned and are separated from God, then the news that the Savior has been born is not just nice – It is the best news in the world.

So many legends, such as Santa Claus, have become intertwined with the Christmas story that people lump them all together and forget that the birth of Jesus Christ as reported in the Bible is true history. In the eyes of the unbelieving world, the story about the Christ child, the angels, the shepherds, and all that stuff is a heartwarming tale. It helps everyone focus on peace on earth for a few brief days every year. So what difference does it make if it’s really true or not? It makes all the difference in the world. If it’s just a heartwarming legend, you can choose to believe or disbelieve it.

I fear the Christmas story is beloved even by those who do not believe in Christ because the babe in the manger is far less threatening than the Christ who interprets and applies the Law later in the gospels and  who condemns sin and speaks of faith in His blood. The baby in the manger is sweet and cuddly, and “controllable.” The baby in the manger is a kind of “God in the box,” a God whom we are comfortable to approach, to think about, even to worship. But the Christ hanging on the cross is not a pretty picture, He is not one who evokes in us warm and fuzzy feelings. Many have made much of the babe in the manger because this is the kind of “god” they wish to serve, a “god” who is weak, who is helpless, who needs us, rather than a God who is sovereign, and who demands our obedience, our worship, our all.

According to Revelation and the prophecies of the Bible, the Jesus who came the first time as a little baby, is coming again as an avenger and a righteous judge, to punish the wicked and reward the righteous. This may not be the kind of Jesus you wish to think of or serve, but it is the same Jesus that came to Bethlehem. His second coming will be vastly different from His first appearance. Then, He came to humble himself, to die on the cross, and to save. Next time, He comes to judge. Are you ready to face this Jesus, to fall before Him in worship? This is the Jesus of the manger. This is the coming King. I urge you to accept Christ as He came the first time, as your Savior, and then to wait for Him eagerly, to come the second time, to establish His kingdom on earth and rule over all creation. Let us learn from Luke’s account that the babe in the manger is the Savior of the world.

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

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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 – July 30, 2017 Thom Rachford Preaching

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The Kingdom Come

Acts 1:6-7
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.

Jesus disciples knew the many Old Testament prophecies about a coming Kingdom. Jesus had preached that the Kingdom was at hand.  They were anxious to know if today was the day.  James and John wanted positions of authority in the Kingdom and to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand.  In Matt 6:9 Jesus even told His disciples to pray “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heavenThey were expecting a Kingdom on earth with Jesus as King and the Father’s will is done like it is in Heaven.  The time seemed right.

When the disciples asked, Jesus did not refute the idea of a restored Kingdom to Israel. He only said it was not for them to know the time.  After His death and resurrection they asked Him again.  Now, sin had been dealt with, and now death was overcome.  Everything would seem to be in place for the Kingdom to come immediately.  However, the Kingdom was postponed until the Time of The Gentiles was completed.  The Time of the Gentiles was brought on by Israel’s rebellion against God and His commandments.  Like other of God’s Judgments, the Time of the Gentiles must be fulfilled as God directs.  But the Kingdom Will Come.

Sunday – June 25, 2017 Genesis 42:1-36 “The Proper Use of Power”

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Genesis 42:21-22
Then they said to one another, “Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us.

Have you ever heard of a berkutchi? A berkutchi is an Asian man who trains eagles for hunting. The capture, taming, training, and keeping of eagles is highly ritualized. Once captured, the eagle is hooded and placed in a cage with a perch that sways constantly so it cannot rest or sleep. For two or three days it is also deprived of food. During this time the berkutchi talks, sings, and chants to the eagle for hours on end. Finally, he begins to feed and stroke it. Slowly the weakened creature comes to rely on its master. When the berkutchi decides that their relationship has become strong enough, the training begins. Not all eagles can be trained, but those who take to life with a master display intense loyalty. While the training and breaking of the eagle may seem harsh, it is a picture of how over time God breaks our independent spirit to draw us close to Him.

It is important to see what God is doing. God uses broken things: broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, and broken bread to give strength. God is going to break Joseph’s brothers by awakening their sleeping consciences. For years, Jacob and the boys lived life without having to think about God. Life went on as normal. They got up, did their work, came home, and the next day started all over again. Their needs were met; life went on as it always had. But with this famine God gets their attention. It is easy to avoid God when we feel self-sufficient. It is easy to feel that you have no need of God’s touch when everything is running smoothly. These men were comfortable in their denial and their deceptions. As long as the status quo remained they would never change. So God provokes a crisis. This crisis would either harden them further or wake them up.

God could have simply washed His hands of these brothers. But that’s not what He did with the Israelites and that’s not what He does with you and me. God loves us too much to let us go without a fight. So, at times He exercises “tough love.” He brings a crisis into our life that forces us to address ultimate issues. It may be an unexpected diagnosis, a financial emergency, an overwhelming situation, or a family crisis. In these situations God is often seeking to awaken us out of our spiritual lethargy. God lovingly put Jacob and his family in the midst of a famine in order to draw them to Him.

Are you going through a tough time? Is life a struggle right now? Could it be that God is trying to get your attention? Could it be that He is trying to awaken you out of your spiritual slumber? Is it possible that God loves you so much and that He wants you to be His with such intensity that He will stop at nothing to turn your heart to Him?

Sunday – January 1, 2017 “God’s Inefficient Use of Time & People” Ecclesiastes 9:10-18

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Haggai 1:7-9
Thus says the Lord of hosts, Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified, says the Lord. You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts, because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.”

Every day you exchange a day of your life for something. It’s as if at the start of life each of us were issued a certain number of coins. They’re hidden inside a large machine so that we don’t know how many we were issued or how many we have left. Each day, the machine issues us a new coin. It may be the last coin we get, or we may get many more. All we know is that the average person in America gets between 70 and 80 years’ worth, but some get far less; a few may get more.

You take each day’s coin and exchange it for something: a day at work or school, shopping, church, leisure, or whatever. Once spent, you can never get the coins back to spend them differently. The art of living wisely is largely a matter of spending your coins on the things that really matter in light of eternity and not frivolously wasting them. Living wisely is difficult because often the choice is not between the bad and the good, but between the good and the best.

Meanwhile, life continues to move forward. You started a career and a family. You had bills to pay and other demands on your time. Church and the Lord’s work drifted into the background. You still attend church as often as you can, but it has become a slice of life, not the center. You tell yourself that you just don’t have time to serve as you used to. Without deliberately rebelling against God, you have drifted into putting your house above God’s house. When your conscience nags, you have reasons to explain why things are this way.

Twice in Haggai 1 the Lord tells the people, “Consider your ways”. That means to stop long enough in your busy schedule to evaluate your life in the light of God’s Word and fearing Him. How are you spending your time? These people had plenty of time for themselves, but they didn’t have time for God. How are you spending your money, which is really God’s money? These folks claimed that they had to get their own houses built first, and then they could build God’s house. But that was backwards. What are your goals? What is it that you’re aiming at in life? If you live to an old age, what do you want to look back on as far as accomplishments? If God seems distant in your life, perhaps your priorities have gotten mixed up. When you put God truly in first place, you experience a new awareness of His presence. That is true blessing!

Sunday – November 13, 2016 Genesis 20:1-18 “Been There, Done That”

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Genesis 20:2-3
Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.

As you eyeball Genesis 20, you may be having an experience of déjà vu. Previously, we looked at a very similar account in Genesis 12:10-20. In that passage, Abraham and Sarah devised a scheme to avoid problems with Pharaoh in Egypt. Abraham asked his wife to lie and tell the Pharaoh that she was his sister. Now, eight chapters later, the names and places are changed but the results are nearly identical. This has led some to say it really was the same account recorded twice. Yet, clearly these are two different accounts. The reason we take up this second account is because it speaks to an issue that is relevant to all of us: recurring sin. Here, we see Abraham making the same mistake again.

This is not a surprise, it parallels our own experience. Aren’t there things in your own life that dog you relentlessly? Are there sins that you have taken to the Lord and said, “Never again?” Only to find you return to the Lord to confess the same sin again and again. It may have to do with substances (drugs or food). It may have to do with interpersonal relationships (gossip or anger). It may be physical (some habit you can’t shake). It may be mental (lust or anger). It may have to do with money (lust for the material or reluctance to give to the Lord). It may have to do with time management (wasting time or neglecting time for God). Whatever the sin, I suspect you don’t have to look very far to find one or two that you struggle with constantly.

It is so common to think that God will love us more if we perform some great work, some external achievement. But the Bible focuses on making a great heart. Here God was working with Abraham to create an unusual dependence upon Him. He does the same with us today. Abraham needed to learn that God can be trusted to take care of him. He needed to learn that lesson well, because there would be an exam – a test of his faith, coming up. God would take him back to the same hurdle over and over again, so that he would be prepared to jump over it with flying colors.

This is also true for us. Today, you may feel like giving up. Repeated failures always tempt us to give up. But that is exactly what the devil wants us to do! Therefore, focus on the goal and not the obstacles. Remind yourself that growth takes time. If you have children, you remember when they first learned to walk. How often they would fall. Sometimes they banged their head. Other times they cut their lip. But one thing is certain … they kept getting up. We need that same kind of focus as we learn to walk by faith. There will be falls. There will be times of frustration but keep getting up! When you have drifted, come back to the Lord. When you have sinned, confess it. When you have fallen, get back up and begin again!

Sunday – August 7, 2016 Genesis 9:18-27 “The Rest of the Story”

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Genesis 9:20-23
Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.”

In Genesis 9:18-29, the history of Noah and his family moves from rainbows (9:12-17) to shadows. Paul Harvey would say, “Here, we learn ‘the rest of the story.’” Yet, one of many reasons I am convinced the Bible is God’s Word is because its authors never covers up the sins of the saints. They refuse to pull punches; instead, they flat-out tell it like it is! When Noah and his family were introduced for the first time, Moses wrote, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God” (Gen 6:9). In the New Testament, Noah was called a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet 2:5). He is also included in the hall of faith of Hebrews 11. Noah was a great man of God. If Noah can sin, anyone can sin. This includes you and me. But the point of this story and the whole of Genesis is not merely that anyone can fall but that everybody does.

The time when most Christians fall is on the heels of a great victory. Man’s tendency is to ease up when the conflict lessens.  If it happened to Noah, it could happen to you. Whenever you feel like things are going especially well, beware. Stay humble. The apostle Paul says, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Cor 10:12). We are very vulnerable people. Every Christian is capable of committing even the most heinous of sins. This is why we so desperately require the accountability of a local church and a small group of believers.

This account also serves as a reminder that it is possible for seasoned saints to stumble in the sunset years of their lives. Moses sinned late in his life by striking a rock and taking some of God’s glory to Himself; as a result, he was not permitted to enter to Promised Land. David sinned with Bathsheeba when he was in his fifties. Solomon departed from the will of God when he was old. Past successes do not provide power for future victory. The Bible teaches again and again that godly people can be tripped up before the finish line. This means we must recognize that the greatest of all believers have weaknesses.

The Christian is not a super saint. He is an ordinary person saved by grace. The people of God are upheld by God’s grace. If we are different it is because of the powerful support of God. If we are not upheld we can fall away at any moment. This reality should encourage you and me. If great men and women of God committed sin and God still used them, He can use you and me as well. We need to be honest and acknowledge that Christians are far from perfect but God always uses us in spite of ourselves. The only thing that makes us different is that we are sustained by God’s mercy. If God should let us go we could slip badly. Who can say what we would do if God lets us go?