Sunday – January 30, 2022 Romans Week 39 Romans 8:18-25 “Suffering in the Spirit”

Sunday – January 30, 2022

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 30, 2022

Romans 8:20-21
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Often people observe the terrible suffering in the world and doubt either God’s love or His power. The argument is especially emotional when we consider little children suffering physical or sexual abuse or the horrible effects of war or natural disasters. We think, “It’s one thing if wicked people suffer such things, but how could a God of love and power allow these precious little children to suffer such things?” But Paul shows that all life is suffering, in the natural world and in the human experience, and it stems directly from man’s fall into sin.

Creation’s present subjection to corruption and futility is the result of a divine decree by God. But Paul pointedly writes that God subjected creation to corruption and futility “in hope” (verse 20). Just as the Christian’s present condition of suffering and groaning is temporary so is the suffering and groaning of creation. Creation awaits the day of its own redemption from the chaotic consequences of sin when its present condition will be set aside. There is hope for creation. God’s purpose for subjecting creation to corruption and futility was not to destroy it but to deliver it.

Groaning is not a response of despair but a response to pain and suffering. Paul writes not of a groaning over what will be but over what now is. If creation’s groaning is present, its hope of glory is focused on the future. Like the creation, we who have been justified by faith suffer and groan. Our groaning is due to the present corruption and futility we see both within us and without. Sin, dwelling in our flesh and in this fallen world, causes us to groan. Hope is a prominent theme in our text and knowing the certainty of the future glory gives us hope to persevere. The pangs which creation presently suffers are like birth-pangs for they promise a glorious delivery. These pangs lead not to death but to deliverance, life, and liberty. There is hope for creation and the believer.

The fact of terrible suffering does not undermine the fact that God has a plan and that He will accomplish His plan. If we become anxious or depressed in trials and lose hope, it’s because we’ve forgotten the absolutely certain outcome: Future glory forever with Christ! Yes, there is present suffering because we live in a fallen world. But God has promised future glory. Keeping that in view will enable you to persevere any suffering with hope.

Sunday – October 17, 2021 Romans Week 25 Romans 6 Overview “The Necessity of Sanctification”

Sunday – October 17, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – October 17, 2021

Roman 6:1              
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?“

God created a world of wonder and beauty, a world at peace and harmony. As we read frequently in the first two chapters of Genesis, “… it was good.” But then Adam and Eve sinned. From that point on in time, ugliness, chaos, and devastation have been the rule of the day. No longer does the description “good” seem to fit in our fallen world.

Our passage reminds me of the great impact which Adam’s sin has had on our world and on mankind in particular. Everything which man touches, man corrupts, including the splendor of the salvation which God has provided in Jesus Christ. Our righteous God cannot tolerate sin, and so, in His holiness, He condemned sin and sinners. In His mercy and righteousness, He provided for man’s salvation, by pouring out His holy indignation on His Son, Jesus Christ. God provided unrighteous men with His own righteousness, and what does man immediately do? He seeks to turn God’s grace into a license for sin. God’s salvation is distorted, so that salvation now becomes an excuse, even a mandate, for sin. The questions Paul has raised in Romans 6 only remind us of how desperately evil our hearts are, that we would seek to excuse sin as though we were serving God.

Romans 6 teaches the gospel is not only the basis for our conduct, it is the standard. When the possibility of continuing to live in sin is raised, Paul refutes it by taking us back to the cross. Christ died to sin and was raised to newness of life. When we were saved, we were united with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. How then can those who died to sin live in sin? The cross is the standard for our conduct. God saved unrighteous men, not in order that they could continue to live in sin, but to enable them to live in righteousness. We must live in conformity to God’s purposes and provisions and not in conformity to our former lusts.

Sin blinds the unbeliever, but it also distorts the vision and the perspective of the believer. Paul’s words in our text serve as a strong caution, reminding us of the effects of sin which remain, in us. Paul informs us that even the truth can be distorted and perverted so that sound doctrine is twisted to excuse and to advocate sin. Let us beware of the danger here. How easily we can deceive ourselves and excuse sin in our lives. How easily doing what is wrong can be justified as serving the purposes of God. We must constantly be on the alert to this danger.

Sunday – September 19, 2021 Romans Week 21 Romans 5:6-11 “Amazing Love How Can it Be”

Sunday – September 19, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 19, 2021

Romans 5:7-8
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Probably most of us have bought something, convinced of its great value, only to discover with time and observation that it was not all we expected it to be. It seems that no matter how hard we try to be objective, we see things we want and consider them better than they really are. Even when purchasing a new automobile, before signing the contract the salesman persuades us to buy an extended service warranty. Before the car is even driven off the showroom floor, we must begin to worry about the car breaking down!

There is only one exception—the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ promises men the forgiveness of their sins and the certainty of a relationship with God that will last through all eternity. Once we have entered into this relationship with God, through faith in Jesus Christ, we discover a whole new world of blessings we had not anticipated, all flowing out of our justification by faith. In Romans 5 Paul enumerates some of the benefits of justification.

As a result of our justification by faith, Paul writes, we have “peace with God” (verse 1). “Peace with God” is very different from the “peace of God”. The peace “of God” is that inner tranquility that God gives to the Christian, even when there is external turmoil. But “peace with God” is different. It is that peace which marks the end of our hostility toward God and of His hostility toward us.  Justification by faith gives men a place of standing, a place of security. There is no “iffyness” about our standing in grace. Because God deals with us by grace, our justification and our sanctification cannot fail, for it is contingent not upon our performance but upon His grace. And this standing in “grace,” which justification accomplishes, is merely the beginning.

There is a vast difference between the “hype” of our world and the “hope” of the gospel. This world’s “hype” always lets us down. But the hope of the gospel only grows. Paul’s words in these verses offer some of the most comforting words a Christian will ever hear. For those who love God and who desire to explore the riches of His grace, Romans is a gold mine of Biblical truth. Paul speaks here not only of the hope of future blessing, in heaven, but the hope which the Christian finds in the very midst of trials and tribulations. For the Christian living in this world so filled with despair, this message of hope is sweet indeed. I hope you are able to revel in the hope of the gospel as we study this passage.

Sunday – September 12, 2021 Romans Week 20 Romans 5:1-5 “Exulting in Tribulation”

Sunday – September 12, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 12, 2021

Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.”

If someone were to ask you, “What is the most sought-after possession in the world,” what would you answer? Some would say money, some would say wisdom, some would say beauty or popularity. But if you were to analyze these, I think you’d find that it isn’t money people want but rather what they think money will get them. It isn’t wisdom or beauty or popularity but it is the security and peace people believe these things bring. But do these things really bring what they advertise? King Fasel was the most wealthy man in the world, but today his body lies in an unmarked grave. Marilyn Monroe was the beauty queen of Hollywood, but she committed suicide. Leonardo Da Vinci was the most brilliant man of the Renaissance, but he died a discouraged man having admittedly failed in finding the purpose of life.

You see, it is not money, wisdom, beauty or popularity people want most. Just ask the people who have these and you’ll see they aren’t satisfied. Rather, the most sought-after thing in the world is inner peace and security. This is the real need of every person. Inner peace is not the cessation of problems on the outside. Rather, it is the ability to remain stable because you can see the end of the problems and know that you will come out on top.

Peace with God is the most wonderful gift that anyone can possess! This does not refer to the feeling of inner peace, but rather to the objective fact of peace. People may feel at peace with God when in fact they are in danger of His judgment (Jer. 6:14). Because of the universality of sin, the human race is by nature at war against God. Many may feel at peace because they do not comprehend God’s absolute holiness or their own sinfulness. But because of sin, the wrath of God abides on all who do not believe in and obey Jesus Christ (John 3:36). As Paul wrote (Rom. 1:18), “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

This means that unless people come to peace with God on His terms, when they die they will face His eternal judgment. They may be the world’s greatest philanthropists, who have given millions to help the poor. But philanthropy will not atone for their many sins. They may be the nicest, most loving people you could know. But all the niceness and love that anyone can show will not atone for the many sins that we all commit. They may be fastidious about their religious duties, but the most religious people in the world cannot gain an entrance to heaven by their religious observance. None of these things gain genuine peace with God. So, how do we get it?

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.