Sunday – July 18, 2021 Romans Week 13 Romans 3:19-20 “Why Did God Give the Law”

Sunday – July 11, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – July 11, 2021

Roman 3:19-20
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

Romans chapter 3 began with a question concerning the superiority of the Jews over the Gentiles. Now Paul brushes this question aside with the reminder that we who are condemned should not trouble comparing ourselves with other condemned people. Everyone, Jew and Gentile, are unrighteous. Comparisons between the condemned is foolish and useless. The Law was not given to the Jews to cause them to feel superior to the Gentiles. The Law was given to men to show them how far short of God’s righteousness they fall. The Law was given to men to show them their need for grace.

Paul says the Law does three things to us: First, it stops our mouth: We have nothing to say. You can always tell someone is close to becoming a Christian when they shut up and stop arguing back. Self-righteous people are always saying, “But this — yes, but I do this — and I do that.” They are always arguing. But when they see the true meaning of the Law, their mouth is shut. Paul then tells us the Law was also given to demonstrate, “The whole world is held accountable to God.” The Law makes us realize there is no easy way, no way by which death suddenly is going to dissolve all things into everlasting darkness, to be forever forgotten. The whole world has to stand before God. Hebrews tells us directly, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27 KJV).

Finally, the Law reveals very clearly what sin is. What does the Law want of us? Jesus said that all the Law is summed up in one word: Love. All the Law asks us to do is to act in love- “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself”. Everything the Law states are simply loving ways of acting. When we face ourselves before the Law, we have to confess that many, many times we fail in love. We do not love as the Law commands.

While the Law was given to the Jews to shut their mouths, the Jews used the Law as an excuse to open their mouths. They opened their mouths in teaching the Law and then in judging others by it. They opened their mouths in objection to their equal treatment with other sinners. When the Law speaks as it has here, men’s mouths should be closed.  Not one word should be spoken in objection or in self-defense. The guilty sinner should listen to the sentence which God has pronounced in silence. Too much has already been said by the self-righteous. That is what the Law wants us to see, because, only then are we are ready to listen to what follows in the Book of Romans.

Sunday – July 4, 2021 Independence Day Philippians 1:27-30 “Christian Citizenship”

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Word On Worship – Sunday – July 4, 2021

Philippians 1:27-28
Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents — which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.

Paul was aware when he wrote to the Philippian church of just how important the desire to re-create a home in a foreign place was. Philippi was a colony of Rome—a part of the Roman commonwealth. This meant more than its being a subject city: Philippi was distinct from other cities in Macedonia in that it was made to be a model Roman city. In a colony one would find Roman customs, Roman architecture, Roman dress, and the prevailing language was Latin. It was, in a word, a fragment of Rome. If you were to walk into the city, you would have the feeling of entering an Italian suburb of Rome, even though it was nearly a thousand miles distant.

When Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians, he knew they would understand him when he said, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” (Phil. 3:20) There is an important difference between Paul’s calling Christians to be citizens of a heavenly kingdom and the human tendency to make a home on foreign soil by imitating the customs of the homeland. While there is a continual reminder of the alienation that accompanies having a home in a foreign land, we have the hope of going to our true homeland.

We as Christians must never forget that this world is not home. There must be a sense of alienation taken into the heart of all our experiences because the gospel has given us more than new lift-  it has granted us new citizenship. Unfortunately, adaptation is second nature to the human race. We adapt ourselves to the environment and culture in which we find ourselves until we act and think like those around us. In doing so we exchange the distinction of being a heavenly citizen for a lesser title of a citizen of an earthly nation. We lay aside the standard of the gospel in order to have room to carry the standard of the nation.

The gospel is the new and higher standard of conduct for who bear the name of Christ. The gospel is the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ; it is the declaration of how God has made it possible for people to obtain the forgiveness of their sins and the assurance of eternal life. The actions of the believer are attempts to prove to this world the real existence of another world; another citizenship. In all matters relating to the gospel, we must obey God and not men. This will cause friction with the nation in which we live. The friction caused by our spiritual loyalty to our true nation is the way we testify of another eternal world and to another glorious King.

Sunday – February 7, 2021 Job 38 to 42 “Christian Thinking During COVID 19” Pt 6

Sunday – February 7, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 7, 2021

Job 38:1-2
Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”

As an adult, I understand there are individuals whose identity is defined by their suffering. But I have also learned that suffering, whether physical or emotional, can nourish depression, affect our health, and cause us to withdraw from friends and abandon spiritual hope. Job’s staggering losses and his friends’ shallow spiritual advice only deepened his despair. Job wanted answers, because, like all of us, we believe answers can justify the whys of life and make us feel better.

Then God shows up. At last! Now we’re getting somewhere. Get out your Bible, pen and notepad because God will give us the answers, justify the tragedies and make all the hurt go away. But, instead of certitudes, God confronts Job with questions that powerfully define the chasm between what we can know in this world and the mind of the God who is greater than creation and time. In Job 3:3, Job told his friends, “I want to speak to the Almighty.” Job wants God to explain his suffering, but he also wants to prove his friends’ disturbing religious ideas wrong.

God responds to Job with two speeches (38:2-40:2 and 40:7-41:6) with a barrage of questions, but never a direct answer. God’s voice out of a whirlwind is a force beyond human understanding and control. We learn some wonderful truths from this unique encounter. Job has felt abandoned by God, left to suffer alone. But the text reveals that God heard every word Job and his friends spoke. Tragedy and evil are not evidence of God’s indifference, but a call to seek God and hold on to him until the storm is past. God is sovereign.

We are not God. God planned and created the world, filled with marvels and tragedy. Sunlight is essential to life, yet it can scorch the ground and cause skin cancer. Crops cannot grow without rain, but rain can cause flooding and death. God’s words to Job speak of the limits placed on creation (vv. 8-10).  God is not angered by nor afraid of our questions. God loves us. But we must never forget there are things we will not understand, questions that will not be answered to our satisfaction in this world. Loving and serving God can be challenging and circumstances can be confusing. Our questions seldom find easy answers.

Sunday – December 27, 2020 Gal 4:-7 “In Search of Why Christ Came”

Sunday – December 27, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 27, 2020

Amos 3:6
When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?

By the 1850s, London was the most powerful and wealthiest city in the world, with a population of more than 2 million. A cholera outbreak in 1854 struck fear into the hearts of Londoners. Charles Spurgeon, only 20 years old at the time, came to the capital to pastor New Park Street Chapel. He would look back to this plague as a key time of learning both for himself and also for the city. Spurgeon wrote, “If there ever be a time when the mind is sensitive, it is when death is abroad. I recollect, when first I came to London, how anxiously people listened to the gospel, for the cholera was raging terribly. There was little scoffing then.”

In a message later in his life, Charles Spurgeon told the story of visiting a dying man who had previously opposed him: “That man, in his lifetime, had been wont to jeer at me. In strong language, he had often denounced me as a hypocrite. Yet he was no sooner smitten by the darts of death than he sought my presence and counsel, no doubt feeling in his heart that I was a servant of God, though he did not care to own it with his lips. The sinking sand of this world is a constant reality—but it often takes the storms of this life, such as COVID-19, to reveal it. Spurgeon saw the plagues of his day as a storm that led many to seek refuge in Christ the Rock.

But that was the 1850’s, what about today? There are many factors that set our age apart from others. In the past pandemics I have written about in the Word on Worship this month, before modern hospitals, there was no specialized, professional health care. What’s more, previous generations ministered to the sick with little knowledge of how their diseases were transmitted. Today we know caregivers can be carriers, even when asymptomatic. In sone ways, self-isolation can be the most loving thing to do, rather than infecting the ones we’re seeking to love. While the outworking of love may look different in different ages, love must still be the aim—a love directed by the Holy Spirit, not our self-centered flesh.

Regardless of how we may feel about the pandemic, the government’s response or the economic and health turmoil we now find ourselves inhabiting, the focus of those who follow Christ must remain the same as the Church of centuries past. Continue to point out to the sinking sand of the world and the mortality of us all. Proclaim and prize Christ the Rock, knowing that He alone can, and He alone will, weather the storms. Love our neighbors—moving, in Christ, toward those in need. And may God be pleased to continue to work through this trial to glorify Christ’s name and extend His kingdom.

Sunday – December 13, 2020 Matthew 2:1-12 “In Search of Wisemen”

Sunday – December 13, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 13, 2020

Matthew 25:34-36
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Pandemics were not just experienced by the Roman Empire. From the 14th century onward, the Black Death haunted Europe. In just five years it wiped out as much as 25 million people or one-third the population of Europe, with urban areas particularly affected. Outbreaks continued recurring in the following centuries, including the plague that struck Wittenberg in 1527. Many fled, yet Luther and his pregnant wife, Katharina, remained to care for the sick, citing Matthew 25:41–46 as their guide.

The early Christians had more resilience because they had a robust hope in the face of death. And they were stronger as communities, forging even closer bonds through the sufferings they’d faced during the Black Death. Martin Luther concluded he must respect the word of Christ, “I was sick and you did not visit me.” According to this passage we are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.

Luther spoke of circumstances where fleeing was permitted and, ever conscious of our propensity toward self-righteousness, he warned Christians not to judge one another for different decisions. But in writing of his own commitment, he remarked: “We are here alone with the deacons, but Christ is present too, that we may not be alone, and he will triumph in us over that old serpent, murderer, and author of sin, however much he may bruise Christ’s heel. Pray for us, and farewell.”

Notice how both Satan and also Christ loom large in Luther’s thinking. Satan is a murderer from the beginning (Luther had in mind Genesis 3:15), and he stands behind the plague. Yet Christ is far stronger, and far more involved. He is in those providing care, he is (per Matthew 25) in the sick, and he is in the victory the church will experience over Satan—a victory that includes even the smaller “deliverance” of recovery from the plague. Luther and Katharina survived, and the way of Jesus was vindicated in this intense trial. May we, as we continue through the COVID pandemic, to live out the wisdom and way of Jesus before a watching world in a way that glorifies Christ.

Sunday – November 29, 2020 Elder Thom Rachford Joshua 24:14-28 “Know Your Choices”

Sunday – November 29, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 29, 2020

Luke 6:35-36
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  36 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

How did the obscure, marginal, Jesus movement become the dominant religious force in the Western world in a few centuries? To understand how this took place we need to explore a number of key factors—one of which is plagues. Indeed, to understand the rise of Christianity from a few followers of the Way to a faith that has changed the world, we need to understand the biblical and remarkable response by the Church to plagues of the past.  Over the next few weeks as we come to the end of 2020, I want examine briefly four pandemics in history and how the church has responded in the way of Christ. As we note their examples, let’s be inspired by their faith—even if we might make some adjustments for our own time and circumstances.

The Plague of Cyprian (249–262 AD) was a lethal pandemic that, at its height, caused upwards of 5,000 deaths a day in Rome. While the plague severely weakened the Roman empire, the Christian response to it won admiration and a greater following. Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, reported: “Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead.

This evident Christlikeness—taking death in order to give life—stood in stark contrast to those outside the church. Dionysius continues: “But with the heathen everything was quite otherwise. They deserted those who began to be sick, and fled from their dearest friends. They shunned any participation or fellowship with death; which yet, with all their precautions, it was not easy for them to escape.” (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 7.22.7–10)

Plagues and pandemics intensify the natural course of life. They intensify our own sense of mortality and frailty. They also intensify opportunities to display counter-cultural, counter-conditional love. The church rose to the challenge in the second century, winning both admirers and also converts. While the outworking of love may look different in different ages, love must still be the aim—a love directed by the Holy Spirit, not our self-centered flesh. May we—with our own pandemic—live out the wisdom and way of Jesus before a watching world.

Sunday – November 1, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 26:1-32 “Coming to Agrippa with the Gospel”

Sunday – November 1, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – November 1, 2020

Acts 26:19-20
So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.

If you’ve ever watched the Oscar Awards night on TV, you have some idea of the glitter and glamour of the rich and famous, who are all trying to impress one another and the world. Luke describes how Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice entered the auditorium amid great pomp, accompanied by the commanders and the prominent men of the city. As I see this scene play out in my mind, the words of Jesus sum up the whole story. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).

Into this superficial scene the guards bring a little Jewish man in chains, the apostle Paul, to speak about eternal truths. In the middle of the proceedings, after Paul had proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus, Festus reached his limit. He blurted out loudly, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.” This exchange put Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice on one side, with all of their worldly pomp and show, and Paul the prisoner for Jesus Christ on the other side.

Is Paul crazy to give up all that this world offers to follow Jesus Christ? Or, are those who live for all that this world offers—riches, fame, and pleasure—crazy, who die without repenting of their sins? Martin Luther said, “I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all. But the things I have placed in God’s hands, I still possess.”  This observation makes perfect sense to the believer, and yet each of us would have to admit that this present world holds a strong attraction for most of us. Few of us who know Christ would abandon our faith in favor of the world, but many Christians try to live with one foot in each realm, hoping to get the best of both worlds.

As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” The world lives as if this life is all that really matters. The obedient Christian says, “No, if this life is all there is, I am crazy!” We put all of our eggs in the basket of eternity. We say, “If Christ is not risen, and if there is no hope beyond the grave, please pity me, because I’m nuts!” May the way we obey Jesus as Lord, spend our time, and the way we manage our finances cause a worldly person to say, “You’re a bit off top-dead center”? If not, perhaps we need to rearrange our priorities in the light of eternity. Who are the crazy ones? Those who live for this present world and all it offers. Who are the sane people? Those who obey Jesus Christ and live in light of eternity. Because Jesus is risen, it’s the only sane way to live.

Sunday – October 18, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 24:1-27 “The Preacher and the Politician”

Sunday – October 18, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – October 18, 2020

Acts 24:5-8
We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”

If this world were made up of basically good people, a man of integrity would be well loved and have no enemies. But since this world is made up of people who love darkness rather than light, and since a life of integrity exposes their evil deeds, the world will often slander the man of integrity. We are naïve if we think that if we live with integrity, we will be protected from false accusations and slanderous attempts to bring us down. Living with integrity will not shield us from slander.

In our passage, Tertullus presents his shaky case against Paul. Tertullus’ strategy was to hope that, based on the Jews’ testimony, Felix would act in his usual insensitive manner and have Paul executed. Tertullus flatly lies when he states that the Jews arrested Paul in the act of trying to desecrate the temple (24:6). The fact was, the Jews mobbed Paul with the intent to kill him, but the Roman commander intervened to save his life. But in spite of such blatant falsehood, all of the Jews joined his attack, asserting that the charges against Paul were true (24:9).

In Paul’s defense, he points out that his accusers should have been present (24:19), Paul was raising a point of Roman law, which imposed heavy penalties on accusers who abandoned their charges. Without the appearance of his accusers should have meant the withdrawal of a charge. Paul concludes by pointing out that the only supposed misdeed that any of his accusers had against him was his statement of being on trial before them because of his belief in the resurrection of the dead. Paul answered his accusers by speaking the truth.

We have no guarantee that everything will go well with us when we walk uprightly before God. Joseph acted with godly integrity when he resisted the seductive moves of Potiphar’s wife, and it landed him in prison for several years. But the Lord was with him there, and it’s better to have the Lord with you in prison than to have sinful pleasure without the Lord. It’s better to be in custody with a clear conscience, as Paul was, than to have power and money, but be alienated from God, as Felix was. However difficult your circumstances here, you will sleep well knowing that you will dwell in heaven with God throughout eternity.

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 6, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 20:1-38 “Passing the Torch”

Sunday – September 6, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 6, 2020

Acts 20:1-3
When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months.

The apostle Paul changed the world as few other men have ever done. He lived in a day before jet airplanes or cars and paved highways. He had to go everywhere by foot, on donkeys, or by sailing vessel, none of which were very speedy. He did not have a telephone to call and talk with the leaders of churches that he had founded around the Roman Empire. He didn’t have computers, email, copy machines, or other modern tools that make communication easier. He spent many years of his ministry in prison, unable to move about freely. He contended with fierce opposition both from outside and inside the church. And yet, after 25-30 years of ministry, he left a lasting impact on the world, not only in his time, but also for all times.

Jesus promised to build His church on Peter’s confession of Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. Paul traveled about preaching the gospel and helping the new converts begin to meet as local churches. Those churches in turn could evangelize their own areas, as well as train and send out new missionaries to evangelize and plant new churches in other areas, so that the process is multiplied many times over. He did this in Ephesus, so that after two years, all of Asia (western Turkey) heard the word of the Lord. Paul was unrelenting in his commitment to the church.. He called the Philippian church his joy and his crown. He told the Colossians of his great struggle on their behalf and for those in Laodicea, that they would be knit together in love and attain to all that wealth that comes from a full knowledge of Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he goes through a long list of all of the labors and trials that he had gone through on behalf of Christ. The last thing he mentions is, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”

At first glance, our text shows us a slice of Paul’s life describing his travels. Some things are skimmed over, and we can fill in many details from 1 & 2 Corinthians and Romans, which he wrote during this time period. Other things, such as his meeting with the church in Troas, are described in more detail. We might at first read these verses and think, “That’s interesting, but it doesn’t relate to my life.” But I think that just below the surface of Luke’s description of Paul’s travels lies Paul’s unswerving commitment to Christ’s church. It was that commitment that was at the heart of how God used Paul to change the world for Jesus Christ. No matter what our individual gifts or calling, we need to be committed to the church of Jesus Christ if we want to see God use us to change our world for Him.