Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Traveling Carpenter

The Traveling Carpenter
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 27, 2009 AM

A weary traveler comes into view, sets his one piece of odd-looking luggage and a carpenter's long metal tool box down, and sits heavily down on a long row of chairs of a nondescript airport waiting area. He sighs big, checks his pockets, finds something to eat in them, and opens up a granola bar and begins to eat it. Looking around he discovers that he isn’t alone and addresses the audience.

(He is busily checking all of his pockets for his airplane tickets.) I know I put those airline tickets somewhere in my pockets, but which one? Gosh, Mama is gonna be mad at me if I lost them and then there will be the hassle of going to the ticket counter and getting them reissued… (Finds the tickets folded up in his hat band.) Oh… silly me… there they are! I am getting more absent minded everyday! Now, where did I put that airport map… Oh well… I will look on the wall or ask someone for directions.

Airports! They are all the same. The same uncomfortable chairs to sit and wait for your flight, the same non-descript colors for the walls, the same irritating patterns in the carpet… (Looking down at the floor he realizes...) Oh, wait… that’s not a pattern that’s supposed to be there is it? It must be someone’s left over whatever it is… (He pulls out a granola bar from his coat pocket and begins chewing on it a bit and smiles.) Like I said, “Airports… the same everywhere you go!”

My name is Jake. It is short for Jacob. I bet you are wondering why I am traveling on a day like today? (Motions with his hands…) Oh, I am sorry you probably do not want to be bothered by the meanderings of an old man on his way back to the job site from his son’s house. (He sits back in his chair, looks around, and begins again…)

I bet you wonder what is with the long metal box I am carrying. (Points to a carpenter’s tool box on the floor.) You probably have not seen one of those before have you? Not too many folks use them anymore, but I still do. (He leans over and pats the box by his feet.) Well, let me tell you… it is full of carpenter tools. But these are not just any carpentry tools. These tools are ones that have been handed down from generation to generation in my family.

I am a simple carpenter. (Thumps his chest and expansively motions with his hands…) My father was a simple carpenter and his father before him was a simple carpenter. Even my son is a simple carpenter! Well, you get the idea. In fact, (Points to the toolbox.) that rusty old box was my father-in-laws before it was mine! We are all simple carpenters in my family on both sides! And, let me tell you that in this economy there isn’t a lot of work for carpenters, but we find a few jobs here and there and that is why I am traveling. (Brushes crumbs off of his coat.) I am headed back to my job site from my son’s house. We spent Christmas together. He lives in Bethlehem, PA with his wife and young boy.

(Muses to himself a little bit.) My son, Joe… What a nice young man, even if he is my son… So serious, so faithful to the Lord, and steady - like a rock (Holds up his fist.) that boy is, let me tell you! Do you have children? Yes? No? Well, they can be both a blessing and or a curse, depending upon what time of the year it is or when they need something or not… I am just kidding, because my children are all special! And, I believe all children are special. Or, at least they should be, right?

These times are kind of hectic for everyone, but you should have been with Mama and I when we heard Joe, that’s my son, tell us that his fiancée was pregnant. I know, I know… children today! What are you going to do? Getting pregnant out of wedlock, breeding like… well you know. And who suffers? Everybody does! The parents! (Pats his chest with his free hand, notices the granola bar and takes a bite.) The children that are born! And all of society! My own little town was agog when they heard the news about Joe and Mary, that’s my son’s fiancée, well… wife now. Their tongues could not wag fast enough, let me tell you! And then there are the children that are not raised by two loving parents that are… MARRIED! They suffer because they have no foundation that is secure in their lives. But I am getting excited and you do not want to hear me prattle on about the ills of society, my family, or their root causes.

But good old Joe, that’s my boy… did I tell you that already? He went ahead and married the girl and they now have a beautiful baby boy. His name is Josh. Strong, healthy, and… guess what? He is going to be a carpenter as well! We could not believe it when Joe related that he had not gotten Mary pregnant but that he had spent time speaking to God about it and was satisfied that he needed to go ahead and marry Mary anyway. (Looks a little confused at his choice of words.) He was ashamed but realized that he had to be a real man, become a husband, and a father. After all, Josh was his responsibility!

Mama and I were at first incredulous! We were hurt because we thought we had raised Joe right. Then we learned that little Josh wasn’t even his baby and yet he was willing to take on this entire family for his own! But Joe assured us that he knew what he was doing and that Mary was willing as well. And now they have the most beautiful baby boy… Oh, I did tell you that already didn’t I? (Reaches into his back pocket for his wallet and pulls it out.) Did I show you a photograph? Oh, I know most grandparents are proud of their grandchildren, but let me tell you Josh is something special! See there he is… (Pulls out and points to a photo to the audience, in his wallet, of a baby boy.) And, look at those big brown eyes… so full of wisdom… so full of curiosity… so full of mischief! (Smiles and puts the photo back into his wallet.) He is going to be someone special, let me tell you!

Do you know that God can use any situation, even if it begins poorly, for His good? The Apostle Paul related that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV) God has certainly done so with Joe, Mary, and Josh. But of course you have to be willing to allow Him to be the Lord of your life like they have.

I just got through celebrating Christmas with them. (Sits up and realizes…) Say! (Snaps his fingers.) Hah! I never realized it before but they are kind of like the Holy family in the Bible… Sure! Sure! You know what I mean don’t you? There was Mary and Joseph and Jesus… shepherds and Wisemen or something… Well, maybe not exactly like them but similar. By golly! (Wonderingly.) I never realized that before and they were CARPENTERS too! Wow! Imagine that! Kind of gives a person pause doesn’t it? And here I am all frustrated about airports, family, and traveling when the Messiah’s family faced far worse obstacles back then.

Man, (Sits back down on the bench of chairs.) I had almost forgotten that story and here it is the Christmas season and all. Isn’t that just like us busy folks running around so full of activity with the holidays that we forget what they are all about! (Reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a small New Testament and begins to read from Luke’s Gospel.)

The Scriptures tell us that “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1-7 NIV)

Isn’t that amazing? Just like my little family, sort of… Well of course Joe and Mary moved to Bethlehem for work and no one followed a star to where Josh was born in the local hospital! And I do not think there are very many Wisemen in Bethlehem these days looking to give gifts away to a newborn baby! More like wise guy politicians wanting to steal your hard-earned gold, frankincense and myrrh from your pocket!

It is good for us to remember the original family that traveled so long ago to the first Bethlehem and the baby that was born there who was the Son of God, who would take away the sins of the entire world. And this world sure could use that right now!

Well, I think they just announced my flight leaving. (Puts the rest of his granola bar back into his coat pocket and picks up his bag.) Where am I going? Why… I am going to Jerusalem! No, not in the Middle East but in Jerusalem, Ohio! Hey! That’s kind of amusing too isn’t it!? The Lord sure works in funny ways doesn’t He? Well, you have a blessed New Year! I’ve got to catch my flight! (Grabs his bag and carpenter’s box and heads off.)
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yacob, the Simple Carpenter

Yacob, the Simple Carpenter
12-13-09 AM
By Pastor Lee Hemen

(We find an older man, dressed in carpentry clothes, busily working in his shop, and singing to himself.) Yehovah is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He guides me in His righteousness…

Good morning! Shalom! May the Lord bless you! Welcome to my carpentry shop! My name is Yacob. I do all kinds of carpentry work! What do you need today? Just looking for some good sturdy furniture? I can do that! I am but a simple carpenter. My father was a simple carpenter, his father was a simple carpenter, and… well… you get the idea. (Expansively.) We are all simple carpenters! We have a long history of being carpenters. But I can make almost anything you would need!

Do you need a table? A chair? Perhaps you need a cradle?

Do you have children? I do. A son. Yoseph. Do they follow in your footsteps? Do they want to do what you do for a living? Is there a heritage there, as is in my family? Children, they are our future, our hope, and a source of much stress and sleepless nights! But we love them, right? And they should honor their parents! I ask you, therefore, is it wrong for me to want my son to become a carpenter as well?

I have been building things all my life. Using my skills with wood, stone, reeds, and other materials to make furniture, utensils, roofs, and just about anything anyone needed. (Sands the piece of wood in his hands and blows the sawdust off of it.)

(Longingly.) My one hope was that my son Yoseph would be a carpenter too! But the young these days! (Throws up his hands.) How can you get them to do anything!? They want everything right now without putting in the time to build and develop their homes, families, and their "traditional" occupations.

When he was younger he would come into my carpenter shop and play with the sawdust and tools. He would watch me for hours learning the trade of his father. (Proudly pats his chest.) And in this he became a very good carpenter himself. Sensitive to the way differing wood works, the grain of it and the feel of it, how stone is to be used, and how to make the differing weaves for furniture and such. Just when (Holds up piece of wood he is working on and shakes it.) I thought he was able to take over the family business, this other business happens! (Sadly shakes his head.) Oh, Yoseph what have you done?

Have your children done anything that surprised you or disappointed you? Oh? Perhaps, you understand then.

Did I tell you that he met the most wonderful girl? No? A village girl, a local young woman named Miriam. A wonderful girl. A beautiful girl! A gem of a girl! So full of life, devout, and very supportive of Yoseph! But now, (Chokes back a sob.) she is with child. She claims her pregnancy is through the power of the Holy Spirit, is of God, and the baby will be a boy! But, not just any boy, mind you, but the promised Messiah! the Messiah! What was I to believe!

My wife was devastated… as was I. Our dreams, our plans, our hopes were all dashed in a moment. (Shakes piece of wood.) I can tell you that we were both hurt and incredulous! Miriam's story was unbelievable! How could this possibly happen in our day and age of enlightenment? Miriam came sobbing and contrite to us wanting us to believe her. She related how an angel of God had come to her and that she herself had been doubtful, but that the angel had assured her that is was true! How could we believe such nonsense?

But then, Yoseph came that very week and told us that he too had been given a vision of God in a dream, telling him to go ahead and take Miriam as his beloved bride. At first we thought he was covering up for his own sinful transgressions with Miriam, but he was resolute. His conviction and that of Miriam's soon convinced us that what they told us was definitely…, incredulously…, and yet… wonderfully true! Yoseph had at first sought to comfort Miriam and to put her away quietly as to not cause her undo harm in the community, but now that God had shown him as well, he stoutly stood at her side and decided to continue with the marriage and betrothal. "It is the will of God," he reminds us.

Today, they are leaving us though… (Sadly.) Caesar, (Spits and curses Caesar.) may there be a pox on his household, in his infinite governmental wisdom wants more of our money and so we will all have to go to the city of our ancestors to register for the new census. It is all a ruse to just steal more from our pockets! My wife and I will not have to go because we have designated Yoseph as the head of our household now. So, he and Miriam… little pregnant Miriam… will take the long dangerous trek to Bethlehem to register there. I am worried because they are getting a late start and may not find anywhere to stay. It is so close to Jerusalem and there are bandits on the road, thugs, thieves, and robbers. (Clasps his hands together.) May He who loves us watch over them as they journey.

I have given him a little something extra, just in case, in order to pay for a good clean dry room. (Confidently.) I am sure they will be alright. They are both young and resourceful. Yoseph is level-headed, and Miriam will make sure he makes good choices. (Goes back to sanding the piece of wood.)

I have assured his mother that everything will be fine and they will be in no danger… (Looks up.) May He who cares for His own, watch over His little ones who journey so far away from home and family... But then, (Smiles meekly.) Miriam is carrying a boy, the promised Messiah! (Looks around and kind of whispers.) And… his name… will be Yeshua because he will save his people! Can you imagine that? I know that if Miriam is carrying the promised Messiah of the Almighty, then He, who watches over His flock like a shepherd, will not allow anything to happen to them out of the ordinary. Well, more than has already happened! Right?

(Looks up. Dusts himself off.) Where are my manners? (Calls off stage.) Mama! We have company! A customer! Come and help… (Looks down and then again far off.)I know God will take care of Yoseph and Miriam… and the little one she carries that comes to save His people Israel... (Smiles.) Come, come let us sit awhile and talk of carpentry and the furniture you need, shall we? After all, I am but a simple carpenter…
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Of Pigs, People, and Demons - Mark 5:1-20

Of Pigs, People, and Demons - Mark 5:1-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 6, 2009 AM

When we are presented with facts and figures we retain only about 5% of what we are taught. However, when we are given illustrations or parables, like Jesus used, we retain about half of them. If we become emotionally connected to the illustration used, we retain even more of the information given to us. This is why we remember stories like the one we are going to read today. The healing of a man that is totally out of control because of the demons in his life, frightens us, intrigues us, and helps us to indentify with him because we all fight some demonic influences in our lives. Seeing him completely healed gives us hope and a certainty in life.

Last week we learned about how Jesus calms the storms of life. In this section we will look at today we will discover that after Jesus calms the storm-blown waves that frightened his disciples, he is faced with the personal storm of an individual whose daily routine was directed by the demons of his life. We find that the folks around this pathetic individual are more concerned with their economy than with an individual’s personal hell, and we find the striking facts of demonic activity that is very real. It is a tale of pigs, people, and demons. Let’s find out more as we investigate this section of Scripture.

READ: Mark 5:1-20

The characters in a tale are important because they tell the story. Like the guilt-ridden Scrooge in Dickens' A Christmas Carol and his personal redemption. This retelling by Mark is no different because in it we discover several important players. Therefore:

I. Let’s look at the people involved…

1. There is no greater power than that of God himself in Jesus Christ! We find Jesus with his disciples getting out of their little storm-tossed boat after crossing the Sea of Galilee. Of course, Jesus is always in control of the situation wherever he is no matter what the circumstances. Immediately he is confronted when he gets “out of the boat." Mark relates that "a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him.” There is no time for rest or respite from the previous storm. Jesus is thrown right back into ministry. Mark relates, “This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain.” We learn that “he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.” (Mark 5:3-5) Something was drastically wrong with this storm-tossed person! Curiously, when he sees Jesus he falls at Jesus’ feet and shouts: “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!” We discover he is possessed. Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many." Evil, wrapped in a warped human being, is confronted by God in human flesh. Where a Legion once had partial control, they have already lost as soon as Jesus stepped on shore. However, not everyone ends up happy about the ultimate outcome of the demon-possessed person. The villagers whose livelihood is drowned are not glad about their pigs. We find that “When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well.” What is their response? Well, “the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” (Mark 5:15-17) Yet the man who had been held prisoner for so long “went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” There is no greater power than that of God himself in Jesus Christ!

EXAMPLE: Who knows why the man became demon possessed. Perhaps he needed attention and looked for personal relationships in the wrong places. Perhaps he had suffered as a child, longed for acceptance, and tried to get it in the wrong way. Maybe he was poor and sought to feed his family or himself through ill-gotten means. He could have wanted to have some fun and began to hang around the wrong people, whom he thought were his friends, but turned out to be abusive and users. Looking for inner peace, he could have been caught in occultic paganism. Whatever it was, we find people opening the doors to demonic influence in their lives today in the very same ways. Escape is found only through the authority of Jesus Christ in a person’s life. There is no greater power than that of God himself in Jesus Christ.

In our day of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and political correctness, we are amazed that this story is filled with some poor swine that get kind of the short shrift. However, they as well as those minions of darkness that are cast into them play an important role as well. Therefore:

II. Let’s look at the pigs and the demons involved…

1. The porcine of Satan meet a premature providence! We can feel for the pigs that really had no control over the circumstances of the possessed man nor of their ultimate fate. However, we have to remember that in Hebraic thinking, pigs were unclean and whatever happened to these hapless hogs was their own fault. I believe the demons requested the most vile and unclean thing they could readily think of to use as the means of their destruction. That's the way demonic influence works. It degrades those it tries to control. Sadly, too many in our day and age either do not believe there is demonic influence or they give too much credence and authority to Satan himself. Never forget, he is a created being. Interestingly, we discover something about demonic-control over an individual from this account. First, we find that it is limited. Notice the man still had enough personal resistance to go and beg at the feet of Jesus. He was not a complete automaton to the demons that influenced his life. In fact, Scripture makes it plain that Satan himself has to ask permission of God or have the tacit permission of the person involved. Satan had to ask permission from God to act in the lives of both Job and Peter (Job 6:1-11; Luke 22:3). The unsaved have to willingly yield to him and allow him to influence their lives as well like in Ananias and Sapphria or Peter's denial. (Mark 8:33 & Acts 5:3) Satan can gain permission to act in people's lives when they willing decide to disobey God and do evil. However, the believer has the Holy Spirit and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17) This is why Peter reminds us to “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Peter 5:8-9) Secondly, we realize that Satan is not in charge, Jesus is. Jesus would declare, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,” (Luke 10:18) in reference to his authority over him. Satan is not the king or ruler of hell, hell is reserved for his eternal punishment! (Revelations 12:9-10 & 20:10) Jesus was and is in complete control. We find that “The demons begged Jesus, ‘Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.’” Jesus, in his authority, gives “them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs.” Finally, Satan has no hold on a believer. We find the once enslaved man now begging "to go with” Jesus. The “man who had been possessed by the legion of demons” was now “dressed and in his right mind.” He is changed and becomes a tremendous testimony for the Lord and relates just “how much Jesus had done for him.” Satan, nor any of his demons, has any influence in the life of a believer.

EXAMPLE: Satan is totally deceptive and we now live in the age that relishes deception. Redefining marriage, relationships, sex, or even our Christian witness to the world. Satan camouflages himself in some of the freedoms we enjoy. The freedoms to say, live, and do almost anything we deem “legal.” While some things may be seen by society as legal that does not necessarily make them moral or ethical. Satan lives in the homosexual movement, the music and movie industry, and in a woman’s right to choose. He is also alive and well in the idea of political correctness, some environmentalism, and the emergent church movement. His heresy knows no boundary. He whispers to the believer that it is okay for this relationship, to mark or mutilate your flesh, or to say or do anything -- as long as it is in the name of Jesus -- it is "moral." Yet, all these things are not his kingdom, because he has none. His power only exists as mankind allows him to influence their lives. Jesus has totally dethroned him. He only has influence in the life of a believer, as we would allow him to oppress us with his ungodliness, or when we acquiesce to his worldview. We can be free when we “resist him, standing firm in the faith.”

Conclusion:

Today we looked at the people, the pigs, and the demons involved in this story of the demoniac.
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2009 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission. You now have my permission...