Sunday, April 17, 2011

2 Chronicles 7:13-15 - Building a Strong Church -- How to Pray With Power!

2 Chronicles 7:13-15 - Building a Strong Church -- How to Pray With Power!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 17, 2011 AM

We live in a day and age where the church has become pretty much irrelevant, why is that? I believe it has become irrelevant because the church has immersed itself and adopted the ways of the world instead of changing society. When Jesus came, he did so to bring the kingdom of God back into creation. Jesus established his body in the world, the church, in order to change the world one individual at a time.

When an individual gives their life to Christ, they then can experience and know the power of God in their lives on a daily basis! How? It’s simple--through prayer. Sadly, most people do not experience a powerful prayer life and then they begin to look for outside experiences to satisfy the spiritual void they have. There are reasons why so many have never experienced powerful prayer, one is the simple fact that they never learned how to pray with power! When Solomon built the temple of God and the work was finished, God related that the people were not ready to use it. They needed to know how to be able to access the power and presence of God Almighty through their prayers. God told Solomon that there are three things needed for powerful prayer. Let's find out what they are…

READ: 2 Chronicles 7:13-15

We can watch ourselves decay and die because of the rotten things we do in our lives and do nothing about it. We can wallow in our own little pit of dirt and filth and know what we are saying, doing, and thinking is wrong but we run after it like a moth to an open flame. One attitude keeps us in the direction of our destruction: Our pride. Our loving gracious Father in heaven makes it plain, however, that if we want to experience Him on a powerful level, we must first learn to --

I. Humble Ourselves!

1. If we want to grow spiritually, we must first learn humility!
1) James writes that, “God despises the proud but gives grace to the humble! James argues, "Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. This is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’" He then gives his readers three things they need to do in order to begin true humility: 1) "Submit yourselves, then, to God." 2) "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." and finally 3) "Come near to God and he will come near to you." He continues by relating is is an attitude of the heart, mind, and will: "Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:5-10 NIV) If we want to a powerful prayer life we need to be willing to wash, purify, grieve, mourn, and wail over our sin! The problem is we do not often recognize our sin. You know, pride always separates us from our loving Lord. Why? It goes against God’s character. This is why God told Daniel he was “highly esteemed.”God tells Daniel, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” (Daniel 10:11-12) Daniel experienced in his life how God responds to those who humble themselves, those who are willing to confess the filth in their lives, and be loved by God. God draws near to those who are willing to humble themselves. I believe this is why God reminded Solomon, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves,” that it is a promise to listen to their prayers! Powerful prayer begins when we are willing to humble ourselves!

EXAMPLE: They had been walking a lot that day. As they walked towards Capernaum a few of them began to discuss who would be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom. After they came to the home they were staying at, Jesus takes off his outer cloak, turns to them, and asks them why they were in such a heated argument. He knew. Jesus always does. He knew that they were so prideful that they each wanted to share a special place with Jesus! Like little children caught in the act of doing something wrong, they were immediately ashamed. Arrogance and pride have no place with true humility. I believe Jesus smiled inside. It was just like them to be this way. So full of pride, yet they really did love Him. He quietly tells them: “If you want to be great in My kingdom, learn to be a servant.” Learn humility. “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3 NIV) Powerful prayer begins with personal humility. Humility is hard, but Christ gives us extra love to see it through. Humble yourself before the Lord today.

A. W. Tozer, a Godly Christian author, wrote: “Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they found Him the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking.” Our problem with weak prayer may be that we no longer seek after God! We want the experience without the work. In order to have a powerful prayer life we must --

II. Seek God’s Face!

1. God always speaks to those who have time to listen to Him!
1) When we seek (search, listen, look to God) for answers in our lives He draws near to us! When we do not draw near, listen to God, we are like little children who want things to go “our way.” In the Old Testament the prophet Zephaniah graphically describes the rebellious attitude of Jerusalem in these terms: “She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the LORD, she does not draw near to her God.” (Zephaniah 3:2 NIV) Can that be like us? Oh Lord, I hope not, but sadly it all too often is! Why is that? I believe it is our sinful nature getting in the way of our being the holy people of God we need to be. We fill our lives with things we do not need. They clutter up our lives and keep us from intimately knowing the Lord. Our lives and the world have become busy, noisy places of self-gratification. The Prophet Elijah learned that when we shut our mouths and open our ears to what God is telling us, then we can have a powerful prayer life in God. In fact, God is often found in the “whisper” of our lives and not in the dramatic. God told Elijah, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." He does and then, "a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper." (1 Kings 19:11-12) There it is! Seeking the face of God means listening to his voice! The problem is we need to take the time to seek God! The writer of Hebrews tells us, “...let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22 NIV) We not only need to humble ourselves, but we are asked to “pray and seek” God’s “face” as well. Powerful prayer occurs when we are willing to seek the face of God in our lives!

EXAMPLE: All her life she wanted to be a mother. She knew she probably would never get the chance. Who would want her now? Her parents died when she was young and she began to live on the streets. She grew up tough. She survived. She did what it took. She hated her life. When He came to town she could not help herself. She had heard that He knew how to heal people physically, but also deeply, inside, spiritually. She just had to see Him. She took down the jar of expensive nard and put it under her shawl. A few moments later she was in the courtyard where He was eating with Simon, a very rich man. Her heart was immediately broken. She crept up to where He was sitting and began to anoint His head with the perfume she had. She wept. Fell to her knees and began to wash his dusty hardened feet with her tears! Mary had finally found the inner peace she so longingly sought all her life with physical relationships. She found it when she met her Savior and discovered a new abiding relationship. When we seek God’s face, we find peace. We experience a powerful prayer life!

Isaiah would understand. While he was seeking God’s face, he saw God high and lifted up. After that, who wouldn’t pray? Yet after receiving Christ as Savior and Lord, many soon stop praying. They stop experiencing for themselves the power of prayer in their lives! We need to realize that it is rude to ignore someone who is with us! Jesus assures us of His continuing presence. Can you imagine Peter or Paul ignoring Jesus? Yet, we often do. If we want to experience a powerful prayer life we must --

III. Take care of our sin!

1. We can either be beggars in the courts of God or participants in His presence!
1) An attitude of praying anywhere, anytime, and anyplace should be encouraged. We are to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NIV); and the only activity I know that we do without thinking is breathing, and our prayer life should be just like that! In fact, this is where the word "Prayer" comes from: breath! In prayer we “breath” spiritually and physically; this command shows us exactly how essential prayer is to be in our spiritual life! Rosalind Rinker, who has written extensively on prayer, writes: “Prayer is the expression of the human heart in conversation with God. The more natural the prayer, the more real He becomes. It has all been simplified for me to this extent: prayer is a dialogue between two persons who love each other!” There it is! Prayer is our conversations with God. Yet, as I have stated before, our prayer can be hindered. It begins when our spiritual pipeline becomes clogged, so-to-speak, because of our sin. This is why God tells Solomon that the key to powerful prayer for his people is for them to “turn from their wicked ways.” The Apostle John would remind us of our hypocrisy if we try and say our sin is not a problem, when in fact it is: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8 NIV) However, the beautiful truth is that forgiveness is simply a prayer away! John goes on to state, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV) It is the same truth God tells Solomon. He promises Solomon that, “then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Powerful prayer begins when we take care of our sin!

EXAMPLE: God hadn’t listened when he had asked Him to heal his father. His father had died in his arms. Would God hear him now? Would God care about him? Oh, how he had longed to talk to God and have Him listen. He had tried before by reciting long rosaries, sometimes cajoling, sometimes pleading, and sometimes promising anything. He wasn’t a bad person but he knew he needed God to listen this time more than ever! Quickly, he looked around to see if anyone was watching. He stepped behind a big machine, bowed his head, took a deep breath and for the first time in his life he talked to God. He had never done anything like this before. He was actually speaking personally to the Lord! He asked God to forgive Him and to come into his life. From that day on, he and his friend the Lord, would talk often. That man was and is me. Jesus has become my closest companion because I spend time with him, and he with me. It is the greatest thing any man can do in their lives. It takes a real man to be willing to take care of their sin by humbly going to their Savior. Powerful prayer comes from talking with God about our sin.

Conclusion:
Christians and the church are desperately in need of revival. What is revival? It is a time for God’s people to draw closer to God. It is revival because it renews God’s people. Prayer is an important ingredient for revival. In 2 Chronicles we see that God was calling His people to pray, to experience spiritual healing (revival) in their land. Are you willing? We learned this morning that powerful prayer begins when we humble ourselves, seek God’s face, and take care of our sin!
----
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 yearsin Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causesand maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by LeeHemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless youquote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Victory! - Mark 16:1-13

The Victory! - Mark 16:1-20
by Pastor Lee Hemen
April 10, 2011 AM

Victory can come in many forms in our lives. Getting a good grade on a test, which we have studied endlessly for, making a promotion at work that we have worked hard for, or retiring in comfort and contentment. Parents see victories in their children all the time. Perhaps one of the greatest victories that were totally unexpected happened during the 1980 Winter Olympics when the USA hockey team beat Russia at Lake Placid, New York. It was called "The Miracle on Ice" for a reason because no one expected it to happen since Team USA had been badly beaten by the Russians earlier in the year.

Today's verses in Mark show us a different kind of victory. It is one that does not give out gold medals, good grades, or future monetary compensation. It is the victory that gives anyone who believes in it the power over death and the newness of a whole new relationship with Almighty God. It was a victory that few expected that morning after experiencing and seeing what they had. They expected something quite different. Let's discover this morning the victory!

READ: Mark 16:1-20

When a dove hit the living room window my mother did not expect it to suddenly come alive and start flying around the house. The bird had flown into our big living room picture window and evidently had knocked itself unconscious. It seemed dead to us and my mother, in a moment of compassion, brought the seemingly dead bird into the house. She laid it on some newspapers and went to get a garden trowel in order to bury it. It surprised us all by suddenly getting up and flying around the room! A mad and confused chase occurred, resulting in a lot of shouting, furniture being knocked over, and finally the bird flying out the open back patio doors. Curiously, the same was true for the women who went to the tomb of Jesus that Sunday morning so long ago…


I. They expected death and a closed tomb! (Vv. 1-3)

1. Jesus was not only merely dead, he was quire sincerely dead! When you die, you are dead -- right? At least this was what was on the minds of the women who went to the tomb that morning. The Sabbath, Saturday (Nisan 16), concluded at sunset and the new Jewish day, Sunday (Nisan 17), began. That evening after sunset the women who had witnessed Jesus’ death and burial bought spices, aromatic oils, to anoint Jesus’ body (lit., “Him”) the next morning. This indicates that they did not expect Jesus to rise from the dead. Spices were poured over a dead body not to embalm it but rather to counteract the odor of decay and as a symbolic expression of loving devotion. Embalming was not a Jewish custom. Very early on the first day of the week (Sunday, Nisan 17) just after sunrise the women went to the tomb. They left home, with their preparations, while it was still dark (John 20:1) and got to the tomb shortly after sunrise. They knew that Jesus was dead and buried. In fact they were pondering how they would remove the entrance stone. Only Mark recorded their concern over the practical problem of getting it rolled back. Evidently they were not aware of the official sealing of the tomb or the posting of a guard. (Matthew 27:62-66) As these women walk to the tomb, they expected death and a closed tomb.

I never expected my future brother-in-law to walk through the door of our home. He was in the Navy and far away at sea. yet, when I opened the door, there he stood in his dress whites dragging his duffel bag behind him. It was totally unexpected that he could get leave and surprise us by coming home. We know certain things in life are not expected. That is just the way life works. No one expects a tomb that had a dead body in it to be empty -- that is just impossible! Yet, after following Jesus for three and a half year they should have had the motto implanted in their psychics that reminded them to "expect the unexpected!" they were looking for a tomb with a body, but…

II. What they got was an empty tomb and a resurrection! (Vv. 4-7)

1. When the women arrived on the scene, they looked up toward the tomb and immediately noticed that the stone… had been removed, for it was very large and thus easily seen. As the women entered the tomb’s outer room that led to the inner burial chamber, they were startled to see a young man sitting to their right probably in front of the burial chamber. The unique circumstances, the accompanying description, and the revelatory message indicate that Mark viewed him as an angelic messenger sent from God even though Mark called him a young man, as he appeared to the women. The white robe pictured his heavenly origin and splendor. Luke (Luke 24:3-4) and John (John 20:12) both mention the presence of two angels, the number necessary for a valid witness (Deuteronomy 17:6); but Matthew (Matthew 28:5) and Mark referred to only one, presumably the spokesman. The women were alarmed, shocked, taken aback, when they encountered the divine messenger. This compound verb is one of strong emotion (used only by Mark in the NT), expresses overwhelming distress. God's messenger immediately tries to put the women at ease. He tells them, " Don't be alarmed," and then begins to tell them, "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here." and then has them look for themselves, "See the place where they laid him." They are given a task to "go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'" These women were the first to witness Jesus' resurrection, but would not be taken as credible witness under Jewish law. We know that they eventually go and tell the other disciples, and Peter and John rush to the tomb to see for themselves. They expected death and a closed tomb, but what they got was an empty tomb and a resurrection!

After I married Denise there began a process that I never expected in my life -- I changed. I became more mature in my thinking, more attentive in my listening, and developed a growing love I never expected. True love will do that. In fact, any relationship that is deep and abiding will. Christians are expected to grow in maturity, devotion, and their relationship with Jesus as well. After the women went to that tomb on Sunday morning, every one of their lives would change. In fact we discover…

III. The awe of victory resulted in changed lives! (Vv. 8-20)

1. Verse 8 is the actual ending for the Gospel of Mark. We know this to be true because of the testimony of early church fathers, two of the earliest and best reliable manuscripts end Mark here, many of those who add the extra verse place marking to show they were additions or have notations stating such. Verse 8 ends for us in our Western thinking in a stilted position. why would Mark end his Gospel with the women being afraid? Yet the word here is not necessarily one of fear, as it is one of awe. The Greek phobeo can mean fear, as in being afraid, but it is often used as meaning being in awe. Not understanding, yet knowing that something has occurred that one simply cannot explain. this is the context, I believe. But their fear, their awe, of what just occurred turns to joy afterwards. They are told to go and remind Peter and the others to meet Jesus back in Galilee. Verses 9-20 explain what occurs afterwards. These verses explain for the reader how a person's life is changed forever after coming to the knowledge of the empty tomb and Jesus' resurrection! The disciples and all of Jesus' followers would be changed after the resurrection! They had a new task themselves to "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." Certain signs would accompany them and prove that the Holy Spirit was with them. We know that the Greek is completely a different form from the rest of Mark's writing. In fact, even the word usage is totally different. So why then include it? One does not have to, however, while these verse do not contain nor teach us to do snake handling or to drink deadly poison, they do show the change that happens: "Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it." Some misguided copyist tried to reconcile the abrupt ending of Mark, and he did not need to, yet in so doing we discover the awe of victory resulted in changed lives!

Conclusion:

They expected death and a closed tomb, what they got was an empty tomb and a resurrection! The awe of victory resulted in changed lives!
----
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 © 2011 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.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Today's Thoughts - What are you living for? - Mark 15

Today's Thoughts - What are you living for? - Mark 15
by Pastor Lee Hemen
April 3, 2011

What are you living for? It is a good question to ask. I have often asked others this very question yet in a different way. I ask, "Suppose you were standing before God, in heaven, and he asked you, 'Why should I let you into my heaven?', what would you say?" Yet, this week I have been encouraged by another writer, to consider asking another series of questions: "If you live for many more years, what quality of character will you take into eternity? For what will your life have counted? What lasting spiritual legacy will you leave to those left behind you?"

The author of these questions goes on to state that everyone accepts--intellectually if not emotionally--that they eventually will die. What they do with their remaining years is crucial. A legitimate question to ask anyone--and most of all ourselves--is: What are you living for? In light of eternity, everything hinges on your answer.

In the final moments of Jesus' life we discover something that simply takes our breath away. Here is the Savior who is so focused on what the will of God is in his life, he is willingly going to his death. How he does it and how he faces his life's greatest trial is something that cannot but affect those who read it. After all these years as a pastor, it still makes me hold my breath, wonder, and stand in awe. The fact is, I often cry when rereading Jesus' final moments. No greater love has anyone than this.

It brings me back to my first question, "What are you living for?" If God gives you many more years, how will you live your life? Will you impact the world around you for the sake of the gospel? We cannot control how we were brought into this world, nor do we have much control over how we were raised or what happens to us while we go through life. However, we do control how we respond, grow, mature, and what we do with our faith in Christ.

Jesus knew he was going to die, and he gives us a good example on how to finish well. We will all die sometime, yet how we live the remaining moments in time we have says a lot about what we believe.

What are you living for?
----
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 © 2011 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.