Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ruth: Gracious caring! – Ruth 1:15-17; 2:2-7; 2:10-12; 4:13-17

Ruth: Gracious caring! – Ruth 1:15-17; 2:2-7; 2:10-12; 4:13-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 29, 2012 AM

She loved him until the day he died. She loved him in spite of his demanding and perfectionist ways in dealing with just about everything. In 35 years she had had very few nightmares—because she rarely had a full night’s sleep. His illness often made reality worse than a nightmare. His persistent calls demanded immediate attention. Today, nearly 10 years after his death, she remembers his life and times fondly, as if they were still occurring, even as if they were the good old days. They had been married in a private family ceremony. The couple had stood before a preacher who would, upon the ceremony’s completion, become the bride’s brother-in-law. She had held flowers and clutched hopes of finally enjoying the sort of home life she had never known as a child. Such a dream was not to be, however. Multiple sclerosis struck her husband soon after their first child—a daughter—was born. MS began strangling life from his legs, even in its early stages fighting a relentless battle as vicious as it was ruthless. Somehow, though, her love for her husband remained as determined as the disease. Her life was an example of gracious caring.

Many adults function as caregivers for others—people such as an elderly husband, a grandchild, a disabled spouse, and special needs individuals. From demanding life-moments represented by stories like this one, we can enter the Bible’s gallery and recall the elegant portrait of Ruth’s life story. A growing relationship with God will lead believers to graciously care for others, including people who haven’t been stricken with an illness or some other special challenge. One simple question remains. How? Today we will be near the fields around Bethlehem, the graveyards of Moab, and the nursery of Ruth’s new home to show how real love for God always is reflected in our love for other people. Let’s discover how we can live a life of gracious caring…

READ: Ruth 1:15-17; 2:1-7; 2:10-12; 4:13-17

In Judah’s agrarian culture, a famine meant the fields were barren. Judah was fed and satisfied from Bethlehem’s waving and tender wheat fields—Israel’s “house of bread.” Hebrew families plowed fertile dirt and planted enough grain so that one day their ovens would emit the soft, warm aroma of freshly baked bread. But then “there was a famine in the land” (Ruth 1:1). Ruth lived “in the days when the judges ruled” in Judah (Ruth 1:1) when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). But Ruth, like a rose among thorns, nurtured and grew a graciously caring heart for Naomi, who could do little for her in return. We can be like Ruth and…

I. Commit to care for others! (Ruth 1:15-17)
1. You care to commit when you commit to care!
1) Elimelech moved his family away from the ravaged fields of Judah. Elimelech’s search for bread came to mean that he, his wife Naomi, and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion, had to leave Bethlehem for a new land. While they were there, Mahlon married Ruth and Chilion married Orpah. Eventually tragedy struck and Elimelech and his sons died. Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth must have soaked the earth near their gravesites with tears. Still grieving, Naomi turned back toward Bethlehem where the famine had come to an end. After dismissing her daughter-in-law Orpah to go back home to her family, she tells Ruth, “Look, your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” Yet, we see that Ruth replies by telling her mother-in-law, “Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” Like Abraham Ruth decided to leave her ancestors’ idolatrous land to go to the land of promise. And Ruth did it without the support of a promise. In fact she made her decision despite Naomi’s strenuous encouragement to do otherwise. Ruth replied from a graciously caring heart and in doing so made a commitment to care for others!

Ruth pledged lifelong love and allegiance to Naomi. She promised to die where Naomi would die and to be buried near the place of Naomi’s burial. Only death would be able to separate them. God loves the whole world, but Christian love starts one person at a time. The Bible gauges love for God against love for others. God requires patience toward family members in need, whether the need is spiritual, physical, or emotional. Sometimes, because of following through on our commitment to love, we suffer long. Such is the way of love. From Ruth’s example we discover that we should…

II. Take the initiative to care for others! (Ruth 2:1-7)
1. Actions speak louder than words!
1) Naomi and Ruth journeyed from Moab to Bethlehem and we see that “all the city was moved” when they arrived (Ruth 1:19). Because of their immediate need for food, Ruth said Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Actions usually speak louder than words, but passionate words plus hard work give testimony to a caring heart. In Ruth’s eyes, Naomi was worthy; so Ruth graciously sought to care for her. Naomi responded, “Go ahead, my daughter.” Ruth began to glean in the field after the reapers and apparently showed no shame over her condition as a poor Moabitess. God directed Ruth, and she began “working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.” That which “happens” doesn’t really “just happen.” A sovereign God orchestrates it and uses it for His purposes. As Boaz surveyed the field and the workers, his eyes fell on Ruth. He asks his foreman, “Whose young woman is that?” He learns that Ruth is “is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi.” But more than that the foreman immediately speaks of her character, that she had asked politely to glean behind the harvesters, and that she had “worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.” Ruth saw the need at hand, and knowing grain wouldn’t just appear at the doorstep, she took steps to secure what was needed. Like Ruth, believers today should take the initiative in taking care of others!

The clock never stops ticking for people involved in caring for others. Ruth had worked so that she and Naomi would have enough bread. Ruth was without a husband and unaware that God was about to give her one. God’s good things often happen to us as we concern ourselves with meeting other people’s needs. After hearing the servant’s answer to his question, Boaz, perhaps later in the day, approached Ruth and spoke to her. When Boaz went to Ruth, he spoke kindly to her, saying she should harvest in his fields only, stay with the other young women, and feel welcome to drink water provided for all the harvesters. In Ruth’s example we learn about…

III. Sacrifice in the care of others! (Ruth 2:10-12)
1. Concern for others often takes advantage of our time, talent, and treasure!
1) When Ruth heard Boaz’s kind words, “she bowed down with her face to the ground.” Even after losing her husband and leaving her blood relatives in Moab, Ruth apparently had not grown bitter. Beautiful of spirit, Ruth asked Boaz, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?” Boaz and Ruth were still in the early dawn of their relationship, but Boaz had already known about Ruth and thought highly of her. Through the foreman’s report, Boaz had read Ruth like a book. In these moments at the threshing floor, Boaz spoke a biography about Ruth. He knew her past, “I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before.” Sacrifice reaps its own reward in life. Ruth went out to glean leftovers and harvested much more! Boaz’s comments reveal how Ruth had grown in her relationship with God. He blesses her by saying, “May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” Indeed, the foreigner from the pagan land of Moab had grown in her relationship with the Lord to the point that noble Boaz could seek the Lord’s full reward for her as if she were one of His people! Ruth’s sacrifice in the care of others, challenges us to do the same!

Taking action to fulfill lifelong commitments remains profound but all too rare in today’s society. Sacrifice opens a loving heart as a key opens a door. For example, exercising a sacrificial spirit at home means paying the price daily to have a better marriage. Sacrifice means serving each other rather than wishing and wondering why your dreams didn’t come true. Who needs your sacrificial care and support? Picture Ruth working in the fields on behalf of Naomi, now, picture your “field” of sacrificial care—and get busy showing gracious care for someone in your life! When we do, we learn from Ruth that…

IV. God blesses those who care for others! (Ruth 4:13-17)
1. Happiness comes when we have shared our lives with others around us!
1) The famine is gone and life had renewed itself for Naomi and Ruth as well. They were in Bethlehem among friends, and for the two women an unexpected blessing had happened, “Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.” Ruth did not know the road of providence would lead her to a wedding ceremony. God blesses His people, but not always in the same way every time. We surely can believe God blesses those who graciously care for others. And for Ruth, “the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son!” Boaz served Ruth intentionally and purposefully, just as Ruth graciously served Naomi. Together, they served each other. The Lord of the harvest grew a life of blessing for them all through their service for each other. Still, Ruth stands as a shining example of one who graciously cared. Even the women of Bethlehem acknowledged that Ruth’s love for Naomi was a love from God! They sing, “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth!” In another Old Testament book, we learn that “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first!” (Job 42:12 NIV) Likewise, God blessed Ruth’s later years more abundantly than ever. Boaz’s home was now complete with God, Ruth, Naomi, and baby Obed. God truly blesses those who care for others!

Conclusion:
We should keep in mind that Ruth, when she determined to stay with Naomi and remain faithful to her, could not have imagined all the ways God eventually would bless her. Moreover, we should remember that God’s blessings didn’t come overnight but over time. Are you willing to extend caring actions toward people who need your loving influence—regardless of how and when God blesses you for doing so? One of the key principles arising from Ruth’s example is this: Do what’s right and trust God with the results. We learn from Ruth to: Commit to care for others! Take the initiative to care for others! Sacrifice in the care of others! God blesses those who care for others!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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 © 2012 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 22, 2012

We have the power! - Acts 2:1-4; 22-24, 32-33, 36-41

We have the power! - Acts 2:1-4; 22-24, 32-33, 36-41
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 22, 2012 AM

Maria and Rick may be like people you know. They are Christians, but they find it difficult to share the gospel with lost people. Maria recently said, “I know it’s important to tell people about Jesus, but I just freeze up when I think about this.” Rick chimed in, “Even though I’m in sales, I lose my confidence when it comes to telling others about the Lord. I feel like a flashlight without a battery.”

This is for all the “Marias” and “Ricks” that recognize they need to be more effective as witnesses for Christ but wonder how they can. Perhaps you are like them too. An in-depth look at Acts 2 provides principles about the role of the Holy Spirit in witnessing. We will see that what the early believers’ experienced on the Day of Pentecost indicates that the Holy Spirit empowers all believers to fulfill their mission for Christ, and this is how today’s followers of Jesus can be effective witnesses as well. After all, we have the power!

READ: Acts 2:1-4; 22-24, 32-33, 36-41

The Old Testament “Festival of Weeks” came to be called Pentecost (from a Greek word meaning “50”). It was a yearly Jewish celebration on the 50th day after the Sabbath following Passover that celebrated the end of the grain harvest. Therefore it always fell on the first day of the week (Sunday). Jesus’ disciples “were all together in one place” and were experiencing remarkable unity when something truly extraordinary occurred. The Holy Spirit came upon them as Jesus had promised. From what happens we know that…

I. The Holy Spirit equips His witnesses! (Acts 2:1-4)
1. The best outfit for the believer is the presence of the Holy Spirit! -- Leeferism
1) The arrival of the Holy Spirit, after Jesus’ ascension, was announced by three unexpected phenomena: sound, sight, and speech. The sound and sight never occurred again in the New Testament. The speech, however, was repeated only several more times. The sound was similar to “the blowing of a violent wind.” The sound was sudden and “came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” This, however, was no ordinary wind. Jesus told Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 NIV) The sight “seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” This was supernatural too, for the fire appeared to them and rested on them. As early as the days of Moses, fire had been a symbol of God’s presence! Luke did not say how long either the sight or the sound lasted. In any case, none of those present had ever experienced anything like it. Evidently, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” Luke implies that all of Jesus’ followers present, rather than just the apostles were affected. The speech was as amazing as the sound and sight. They “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” They spoke in different languages, without having to study them or learn them! The terminology used here definitely means “known languages” and not guttural utterances or gibberish. And we know this to be true because “Jews from every nation under heaven” heard the disciple’s speech and “each one heard them speaking in his own language!” (Vv. 5-7) People in the crowd asked, “How is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?” (v. 8)Some thought they were drunk but Peter immediately, empowered by the same Spirit, stand and explains what occurred and why. God had poured out His Spirit on them so they could share the fact that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!” (v. 21) The Holy Spirit equips His witnesses!
EXAMPLE: The indwelling Spirit is Jesus’ gift to everyone who believes in Him. Paul later expressed it this way: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13). Think about what this means: if you are a believer, the very Person of God Himself lives within you. From the moment of your conversion, God gave you the power you needed not only to live the Christian life, but also to witness for Him. The challenge you face as a believer is to use the Spirit—or stated more accurately, to let the Spirit use you—as a witness for Jesus. If fishermen can become witnesses for the risen Lord, we can too because we have the power of the Holy Spirit!

The Holy Spirit created such a commotion that a large crowd—mainly Jewish travelers in Jerusalem for the festival—gathered around. Peter explains that this experience not only fulfilled the promise of Jesus, but also Old Testament prophecy. As was appropriate for a Jewish audience, Peter began with a text of Scripture, which was Joel 2:28-32. Then he launched into the heart of his message. The disciple who miserably denied that he even knew Jesus now boldly proclaimed Christ! The difference was that Peter was now Spirit-enabled. In what occurs we discover that…

II. The Holy Spirit uses the Message! (Acts 2:22-24, 32-33)
1. The message is the gospel, the method is us, and the means is the Holy Spirit! -- Leeferism
1) I love Peter’s sermon because he does not mince his words or his theology! He begins his teaching with, “Men of Israel, listen to this!” Peter gives them two facts concerning Jesus: 1) “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs”, and 2) “which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” They knew what Jesus did and how He did what He did! Jesus’ life had been open to them! Also, they knew about Jesus’ death! Many in the crowd that day had witnessed Jesus’ death. Jesus “was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross!” God had promised humankind a Savior, and the prophets of old had foreseen that the Messiah would suffer according to the plan of God (Isaiah 53:1-12). While wicked humans, both the religious ruling class and the Romans, were responsible for Jesus’ death, “God raised him from the dead!” Without the resurrection, people would have continued believing that Jesus was a criminal justly condemned for His misdeeds. The resurrection shows that this is not true. The resurrection is important for us as well because we have had our lives transformed through an encounter with the living Lord! We too are witnesses of how Jesus has changed our lives, just as they were! In fact, Peter boldly declared, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact!” The gospel means good news. Those who embrace Jesus receive priceless gifts: The gift of the Savior Himself; the gift of salvation; the gift of eternal life; and the gift of forgiveness. Peter emphasized the promised Holy Spirit, who was poured out that day. The resurrected Jesus, now “exalted to the right hand of God”, gives the Spirit to all who believe! The Holy Spirit uses the Message!
EXAMPLE: I will never forget the day my sweetheart said “Yes” to my stammered proposal of marriage, I will never forget the day we received word concerning our daughter’s birth, and I will never forget the day my grandson was born. As wonderful and joyous as those dates were, I will never ever forget the day I first heard and responded to the Message of the Gospel! Afterwards, my life would never be the same. Every person who has ever responded to the Message did so at the tug of the Holy Spirit in life. The Message that Jesus came, died on a cross, and raised from the dead transforms the life of those who heed the Spirit’s call! The Holy Spirit uses the Message!

Today, the message has gone far beyond its original audience of Israelite’s. It is for men and women of every race and nation. But the essence of the good news hasn’t changed since Pentecost: Jesus lived and ministered; He was crucified for sinners; God raised Him from the dead; He is Lord; and He gives His Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit used the message Peter proclaimed that day, so He will powerfully use the message we proclaim about Jesus as Messiah and Lord to bring people to salvation. And, the wonderful fact is that…

III. The Holy Spirit moves people to respond! (Acts 2:36-41)
1. Christians provide the message, the Spirit moves the person! -- Leeferism
1) Peter began his message with Jesus’ humanity: He was from Nazareth (v. 22). Peter concluded by telling his listeners that God had raised and exalted Jesus. Jesus whom humans had crucified was now vindicated by God. He has been fully revealed as “both Lord and Christ” (Messiah)! As such, Jesus not only fulfilled the scriptural prophecies, but someday He will be fully revealed to all as the messianic King, the Son of God! Many came under deep conviction by the Holy Spirit. Notice, they were “cut to the heart.” Jesus had taught that “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment!” (John 16:8) That’s what the Holy Spirit does, He empowers and convicts! With conviction came the question, “Brothers, what shall we do?” The people who heard Peter preach knew they were sinners. Peter immediately responds, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit!” Because of Peter’s statement, some erroneously conclude that baptism helps with salvation, however, the Greek word “eis”, translated here as “for” (NIV), doesn’t always mean “in order to.” It also can mean “because of.” This helps us understand a number of such passages that use “eis” with baptism. Add to the fact Jesus and later Paul never equated baptism with salvation, only faith in who Jesus was and His resurrection! “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” We present the good news, God does the calling! Peter then pleads with the people, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation!” The result of Peter’s message: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day!” The wonderful truth is that the Holy Spirit moves people to respond!
EXAMPLE: I am totally amazed at how the Holy Spirit works in people’s lives to bring them to God. I used to think that if I came up with the perfect argument, then anyone I spoke to about Jesus would accept Him as Savior and Lord. After being disillusioned numerous times I learned that God has already provided the perfect message in His Son and we are only to share what we know and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit. This was confirmed to me when after a week of training in how to witness we went out to homes of folks we knew to share our faith. I had witnessed to this particular individual for several years with no results. Every argument and discussion led nowhere. Then we entered the home and my friend who was with my group, remarked, “Don’t you think it is about time for you to accept Jesus?” The man, whom I had no success with, to my utter amazement, responded by saying, “Yes, I do.” I learned that night that the Holy Spirit moves people to respond!

Conclusion:

The Holy Spirit equips His witnesses! The Holy Spirit uses the Message! The Holy Spirit moves people to respond!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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 © 2012 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 15, 2012

Acts 1:1-14 – We have a mission!

Acts 1:1-14 – We have a mission!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 15, 2012 AM

Do you remember that old TV program “Mission Impossible” and later they made several movies with Tom Cruise? How serious do you think Christians are today in carrying out the Great Commission? Do you think it is “Mission Impossible”? For some it is second nature to reach the world, yet for others they never give it a second’s thought. Why is that? I believe perhaps that some of us have lost sight of the mission Jesus commanded His followers to take up. In every Gospel and the Book of Acts we find Jesus challenging His followers to take up His mission to reach the world.

Luke, the author of the Book of Acts and the Gospel took very seriously Jesus’ call to mission. Many Bible students believe the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts made up two parts of a single literary project. Both were written to his friend Theophilus (Luke 1:3). In the opening verses of Acts, Luke summarized his first narrative as a way of reviewing his first work and introducing the second. Luke’s Gospel is all about what Jesus began to do and teach and Acts is about what Jesus continued to carry out through His followers. Jesus commanded His followers to continue His work by being on mission as His witnesses throughout the world. Let’s discover how and perhaps regain our own desire to be about Jesus’ mission. After all, we have a mission…

READ: Acts 1:1-14

Bible students observe that Luke evidently used this teaching of Jesus to outline his book. Acts 1-7 describes the early church in Jerusalem; Acts 8-9 tells about Christians in Judea and Samaria; and Acts 10-28 relates the spread of the gospel as far as the capital city of Rome. After all we are reminded that this is all about…

I. Jesus’ Mission! (Acts 1:1-3)
1. Being on mission for the Lord is more than showing up on Sunday mornings! -- Leeferism
1) Luke’s brief review highlights the essential ingredients of Jesus’ earthly mission, that is, the period from His birth in Bethlehem until His ascent to heaven. Jesus’ deeds and teachings were carefully preserved. As part of His mission, He had chosen 12 men to be His apostles to represent Him and to continue His teachings. The main reason Jesus came to earth, however, was not to perform miracles or to teach truths. He came “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Luke knew that Jesus suffered and died on the cross as the satisfaction for sin. God then raised Him from the dead. The tomb was empty. Further, He also presented Himself alive to His apostles. Luke called Jesus’ resurrection appearances “convincing proofs.” Not one of the witnesses doubted that Jesus was raised from the dead to new life. Only a resurrected Lord could truly save from sin. Acts relates that Jesus’ resurrection appearances lasted for “over a period of forty days”. Jesus taught about how the Scriptures had spoken of Him (Luke 24:27). In addition, He taught further about “the kingdom of God.” This had been a central topic of His teaching ministry (4:43). The kingdom of God through Jesus, the Messiah-King, is the opposite of the kingdom of this world of sin and death. During those 40 days, the King taught His followers more about His kingdom. Jesus was about to commission them to take the message of the kingdom and invite others to become kingdom citizens. Later on, the Apostle Paul expressed the importance of the kingdom this way: “[God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13). This was Jesus’ mission! Praise God that Jesus perfectly accomplished His mission!
EXAMPLE: Today, believers need to know what Jesus did and taught about the kingdom of God so they can understand their own mission as being witnesses for Him. Suppose you have a neighbor who grew up somewhere where the Christian gospel is largely unknown, then one day your neighbor casually comments, “I have just learned that the Easter season began as a way for you Christians to remember the life and mission of Jesus. Would you mind writing out for me a simple paragraph summarizing what He accomplished and why He did so?” How would you respond? What would you add that Luke omitted or what would you omit that Luke included? Consider writing such a paragraph and sharing it with someone you know that does not know Jesus as Savior and Lord this week. Perhaps you could begin by telling them about Jesus’ mission!

Jesus summarized the Christian mission to the world with one simple phrase: “Be my witnesses.” In a court of law, a witness is someone who has seen or experienced something and then tells others the truth about it. In Christianity, a witness is someone who has experienced Jesus Christ through the gospel and then tells others about Him. But the witness must be communicated. In court, witnesses must speak what they have experienced; they can’t just be observed. Although it’s important for Christ’s followers to model exemplary lives, He has asked that they speak on His behalf. Notice, too, that this responsibility wasn’t limited. All His followers were included. We are reminded that it is…

II. Our Mission! (Acts 1:4-8)
1. Our mission isn’t to be about us, our mission is to be about Jesus! -- Leeferism
1) Jesus gave His disciples a commission that showed His great concern—that the gospel witness would spread all over the world! Along the way, He provided important information concerning the work of the Spirit in energizing this task. Peter promised that God would give “the gift of the Holy Spirit” to all who repented and were baptized (Acts 2:38). Second, Paul wrote that Christians “however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9) In other words, being baptized with the Spirit is another way of looking at what happens at Christian conversion: the Spirit of God is given in such a way that the Spirit now lives in the believer as a permanent gift. This wonderful gift enables and empowers the witness of believers to the world. The birth of the church as a spiritual entity on Pentecost was marked by the gift of the Spirit (like breath given to a newborn infant) to enable God’s people to live and grow and fulfill their mission. As the church continues to grow, its continuing life depends on that same gift of the Spirit all believers enjoy that began that day at Pentecost. Notice Jesus was neither distracted nor concerned about the final fulfillment of His second coming, like so many are. Instead, the disciples were to “wait for the gift” God had promised! So when they foolishly asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He bluntly replied, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” There it is, our mission as His disciples is to be His witnesses beginning in our community and then going into the world! It is our mission to witness about Jesus!
EXAMPLE: It is not in the best interest of Jesus’ followers to know dates and time lines for Bible prophecy. Christian history is littered with examples of misguided persons who focused on dates and the end-time schedule. Such people have lost sight of the main thing, which Jesus declared in verse 8. As someone who used to be extremely interested in biblical prophecy, I’ve personally had to guard against being consumed with figuring out whether all the signs were pointing to Jesus’ immediate return. As a young adult, I heard a number of preachers claim that Jesus’ return couldn’t be later than 1988. In fact, one said there were 88 reasons why! Guess what? He was wrong! Then there was another round of such preaching when Y2K, the year 2000, rolled around. This was a mistake because the new millennia actually began in 2001, not 2000. Therefore we must guard against both date-setting and having an unhealthy interest in “the signs of the times” as important for Christ’s mission. One paraphrase I heard for verse 7 included the following: “It’s none of your business to know ahead of time when the end-time scenario will unfold – be my witnesses!” That’s our mission!

The pattern of beginning in Jerusalem, moving out to Judea and Samaria, and finally spreading to the ends of the earth has inspired churches, mission agencies, and individuals. The Lord expects us to be involved in local missions, regional missions, and international missions. Many congregations have structured their mission activities and budgets to include all three. Therefore, we are reminded that we need to be…

III. Preparing for the Mission! (Acts 1:9-14)
1. Our hearts will not care if our hearts aren’t prepared! -- Leeferism
1) Jesus’ ascension may be thought of as a visual aid to His followers to let them know they would not be seeing Him again. “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” The cloud symbolized the presence of God. A few days later, Peter preached that Jesus had been “exalted to the right hand of God” from whom He received “the promised Holy Spirit,” which He “poured out” (2:33). The disciples waited around, gazing into heaven. I can relate! Yet just as they were asked, “Why do you stand looking to the sky?” so today some believers need encouragement to stop standing around waiting and to get busy preparing for their mission as witnesses! Their questioners were angels, who appeared to be men in white clothes. The angels confirmed that “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” visibly, bodily, and with the clouds of glory! In the meantime, the disciples were to be busy with preparing themselves for His commission. Sure, the fact of the end-times, including Christ’s return, was affirmed, but the date was unimportant. Why? We find that after Jesus ascended, His followers “returned to Jerusalem”. The group included the Eleven, that is, the original twelve apostles designated by Jesus, minus Judas Iscariot. The group also included some women disciples, as well as His mother Mary, and Jesus’ own brothers. The most important observation for us, however, is that all these were continually united in prayer. While they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit, they prayed. They were preparing to fulfill their mission as witnesses for Christ. No less important today is the role of unity, prayer, and preparation for the mission Jesus has given us!
EXAMPLE: What does it take to prepare a field for planting? You have to determine what to plant, when to plant it, and how to plant it. Then you have to begin a process of tilling the field, getting water to the crop, getting rid of any trees, large rocks or obstructions. Then there is the weeding, continued watering, and keeping your crop free from insects and other pests. There is a lot of work involved, just as there is a lot of preparation for doing Jesus’ mission. What should we do as a church to prepare?
We need to think about identifying our “Jerusalem.” What witness activities have we done and could we do? Perhaps taking food to a local shelter, collecting useable clothes for a women’s or children’s shelter, or making special treats for the drug abuse program that meets in our church? Perhaps some of us could learn Spanish together in order to better reach Hispanics moving into our area? Would you be willing to sponsor a neighborhood Bible study in your home or apartment? Could your Bible study class plan such an opportunity for local witness? We need to prepare ourselves for mission!

Conclusion:
Jesus’ mission was to seek and save the lost, our mission is to do the same, and we are to be preparing for the mission task He gave us! Are you willing?
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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 © 2012 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 08, 2012

Luke 24:1-8; 36-48 -- We have a risen Lord!

Luke 24:1-8; 36-48 -- We have a risen Lord!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 8, 2012 AM

This week’s message focuses on the resurrection of Jesus as an event that means much more than a historical fact. His victory over death brings peace and comfort to all who have trusted in Him as Lord and Savior. Further, Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for the believers’ resurrection and living with Him forever. In eternity, the best thing for me will be that we will be with Jesus. Therefore, this is the beautiful truth of Easter: We have a risen Lord!

After Jesus’ death, Joseph buried His body hastily in a nearby tomb. A large stone rolled in front of the entrance was meant to keep out marauders and wild animals as well as Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 27:62-66). All day Saturday Jesus’ followers grieved, but they could do nothing. The Fourth Commandment prohibited work, including preparations for burial, on the Sabbath. Finally, Sunday morning dawned, the first day of the week and some of the women who had followed Jesus went to visit His grave. They could not have imagined what they were about to experience. Their initial response was fright, but soon they realized that Jesus had risen! Let’s rediscover this truth again…

READ: Luke 24:1-8; 36-48

The inspired writers of the New Testament who declared the resurrection of Jesus never actually described the sequence of events inside the tomb. Nobody saw Jesus’ dead body when God miraculously transformed Him. No human eye observed Jesus coming out of the tomb. What the Gospels and the Epistles record, instead, are two amazing facts: Jesus’ tomb was empty and He appeared alive to His followers. The only possible conclusion was that He had been resurrected. Because of this we know for certain…

I. Jesus is alive! (Luke 24:1-8)
1. This life is the threshold of eternity because of Jesus! -- Leeferism
1) First, they found the stone rolled back from the mouth of the tomb. Second, Jesus’ body was gone. Third, the women were confronted with men wearing dazzling clothes. Next, however, they heard unexpected words. The news they received began the process of taking them from despair to hope and faith. And the words they heard were from a very unlikely source. They were asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” They did not find the body they were looking for. Instead they saw two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning, an obvious reference to angelic beings. These men reminded them of the words Jesus had spoken about His crucifixion and resurrection (Luke 9:31; Luke 18:31-34). If they could not find what they were looking for, why were they looking for it there? The fact was, “He is not here; he has risen!” They had forgotten what Jesus had told them while still in Galilee, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” It has occurred! We have a risen Lord! Jesus is alive!
EXAMPLE: When a teenager named Poh Fang learned about Jesus’ love for her and received Him as her Savior, her parents weren’t sure about the merits of Christianity. So they sent her older sister with her to church to keep an eye on her. But something happened that they didn’t expect. The powerful Word of God penetrated the heart of the older sister, and she accepted Jesus as her Savior as well. Think back to the time you first realized Jesus is truly alive. If you were a child, what difference did this make in your life? If you were a teenager, what impact did it make? If you were an adult then you can identify more clearly with the women at the tomb. What emotions do you think are suitable for individuals who have for the first time realized that Jesus Christ conquered death and is now the living Lord? How important is it for those feelings to continue to be expressed by Christ’s followers? Consider today, this Easter, that proclaiming the good news to lost people must include the truth that Jesus arose from the dead, for there is no good news without Jesus’ resurrection. How can you help others know that Jesus is alive?

Luke writes that the women told their experiences to the disciples, who thought they were spouting nonsense. Later that day, two of Jesus’ followers were walking home to Emmaus from Jerusalem. Jesus appears beside them with His identity concealed and engages them in conversation. When at last they realized He was Jesus, they rush back to Jerusalem. They discover that rumors about the resurrection were spreading like wildfire. In the turmoil that follows we find that…

II. Jesus provides peace! (Luke 24:36-48)
1. Peace is not the absence of strife but rather the presence of Christ! -- Leeferism
1) We now find the disciples still discussing what occurred when without warning Jesus Himself stands among them! That they were “startled and frightened” was because they still hadn’t grasped the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. That night, Jesus helps them understand this new reality. Jesus immediately tells them, “Peace to you!” The first gift of the Lord Jesus was peace. The Jewish greeting now had a much fuller significance. Christ’s followers had been in terrible turmoil, seeing their Lord tortured and crucified. But now even in the midst of this they could have “peace”. He asks, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” And then reassures them, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” He provides proof by showing “them his hands and feet” and asking for something to eat and then eating with them. Jesus showed His followers all the facts written… in the Old Testament about the Messiah in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. In doing this, He “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Namely, that “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” They could find peace in this because they were “witnesses of these things!” They experienced every bit of the prophecies being fulfilled! In His presence, in His fulfillment, and in His resurrection Jesus provides peace!
EXAMPLE: Today around the world millions of Christians will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. They will meet in cathedrals, storefronts, and homes. Some will meet openly with thousands of other believers. Others will meet secretly with a handful of fellow Christians for fear of persecution. All will be there affirming the good news that Jesus offers His followers peace in troubling circumstances, just as on that first Easter. One challenge we face, especially at Easter, is to help others find peace and encouragement. We are to be alert that the same Jesus, who calmed the fears of His first followers, longs for the good news of His resurrection to bring peace and joy to new disciples. Consider again what the risen Lord provided that day: His peace, confirmation of His resurrection, confirmation of bodily life in the resurrection, and His presence. Which of these has been the most important for you personally? Which of these will be the most important for you to emphasize to others as you celebrate Easter? Remember, we have a risen Lord and because of this Jesus provides us peace!

Conclusion:
We have a risen Lord! Jesus’ resurrection is established by the empty tomb and by His appearances. The risen Christ provides peace in the midst of troubling circumstances. Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfilled the prophecies of the Scriptures.
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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 © 2012 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 01, 2012

Luke 22:14-20, 24-27, 31-34 – We need to remember!

Luke 22:14-20, 24-27, 31-34 – We need to remember!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 1, 2012 AM

We were moved when a little boy was last seen at his school and disappeared. Many vowed to never forget. We were saddened by the loss of innocent lives and destruction of September 11th, 2001 and vowed to never forget. Like Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Tsunami, or the sinking of the Titanic there are those who were so shaken, affected, and moved that they said they would never forget. But time moves on, memories fade, and people die. Hearts and wounds are healed, yet for some of us we try to remember and place these events in perspective. We realize that we need to remember.

In a much greater way, the Lord’s Supper serves as a call to remember. As believers participate in the Lord’s Supper, we recall the sacrifice Jesus made so we could be freed from the guilt of our sins. Every time we share this ritual meal together, we proclaim that His death has changed our lives and behavior forever. Our challenge, as this week’s study demonstrates, is to remember what Jesus did in such a way that it impacts our lives, particularly in promoting a servant spirit in expressing humility.

READ: Luke 22:14-20, 24-27, 31-34

From the time Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, His disciples had swirled through a whirlwind of activity. Jerusalem bustled with the thousands of visitors flooding the city to celebrate the Passover festival, the Jewish religious highlight of the year. The Master had single-handedly cleared the temple complex of animals and traders. He had converted it into a place of healing and teaching garnering hostility from the religious establishment. Jesus was intent on fulfilling His mission. He knew that crucifixion awaited Him, but His followers were clueless. They could only think about the coming holiday. However, we soon realize that…

I. The Lord’s Supper is more than a ritual! (Luke 22:14-20)
1. Ceremony becomes common place, when it becomes routine! -- Leeferism
1) Jesus infused the Passover with new meaning, a meaning His disciples would grasp only after His death and resurrection. The Passover traditionally included roasted lamb and bread made without yeast. Wine was also poured into cups and drunk at several points during the meal. As they reclined at the table Jesus tells them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” It would be the last Passover Jesus would share with His disciples. The next time Jesus would enjoy the Passover, its meaning would be fulfilled “in the kingdom of God.” Rather than giving new meaning to the meat of the lamb, Jesus used the cup and the bread. Jesus included amazing teachings in the few words He spoke about the contents of the cup. Jesus offered thanks to God as the Giver of all good things. The best of all good gifts is salvation, symbolized by the Supper. Because of Jesus’ pattern, Christians always pray and thank God before partaking of the Lord’s Supper. In some denominations the Supper is also known as the Eucharist, the word in the original Greek for giving thanks. Jesus invited all those present to share it among themselves, therefore Christians have called this Communion, a reminder that we share with each other as well as with the Lord Jesus when we partake of the Lord’s Supper. Then Jesus “took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” Jesus knew His blood was about to be shed or poured out. He also knew His body would be sacrificed for our sins. God’s gift of salvation was given by God’s provision of His Son. This passage helps us remember that the meaning of the Lord’s Supper is not limited to participating in a ritual. Among other things, it points us to Christ’s death in its past value; its present value; and its future value. The Lord’s Supper is more than a ritual!
EXAMPLE: We can do something so much that it becomes second nature to us. Like driving here this morning for some of you; you get behind the wheel, turn on your car, and check out until you are parking here in the parking lot! The same thing can happen with our spiritual lives as well. Prayer, reading the Word, or observing the Lord’s Supper can become routine instead of the spiritual observance it is supposed to be. In the denomination I was raised in, there was a lot of things we did that became so much ritual. You went through the motions so much that the actual meaning became lost in the ceremony. Observing the Lord’s Supper js to be more than a ritual!

Immediately after participating in the Lord’s Supper, the disciples began to argue and dispute with each other. Their concern was the all-so-human pride as to who would have the most prestige and power. In all likelihood they were thinking about Jesus in terms royalty. After all, He had been welcomed into the city a few days earlier as King (19:37-38). Unfortunately, such disputes are not as rare among believers in churches today as they should be. Like Jesus’ first disciples, we can find it easy to forget the significance of the Lord’s Supper. However we realize that…

II. Greatness comes through serving! (Luke 22:24-27)
1. The Christian motto should be: “Ask not what you can do for me, but what can I do for you?” -- Leeferism
1) “A dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.” We know that this was not the first time they had wanted recognition. James’ and John’s mother had come to ask special privileges for her two sons in Jesus’ coming kingdom. (Matthew 20:20-21) And they had argued about who would be the greatest (Mark 9:34) and for Him to do whatever they asked (Mark 10:35-37)! Jesus immediately challenged such thinking as contrary to the values of His kingdom. In a secular mind-set those with military or political power love to dominate, to swing their weight around. Jesus reminds them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.” Jesus warned, “But you are not to be like that.” One antidote for those who dispute over greatness is intentionally to serve with all humility. Instead of acting like the greatest, act like the youngest. Rulers in such places as Egypt and Rome assumed the title Benefactors, a display (often empty) that they were admired by their subjects. Even in church and religious life, a dangerous tendency exists to enjoy being flattered, to crave attention and fame. Instead of exerting the authority of one who leads, try serving instead. Jesus was urging what is best called “servant leadership.” It is as rare today as it was in Jesus’ time. Jesus demonstrated servant leadership, leaving the greatest example imaginable. He lived and ministered among the Twelve as the One who serves. He was about to die as the Suffering Servant. Earlier that very evening He had reversed the normal expectations of the guest of honor at a dinner. Although Jesus was at the table as an honored guest, He had taken up a towel and had served the disciples by humbly washing their feet (John 13:1-17). Consider how God might be calling you actively to bring Jesus’ teaching into the situation. How can you be a servant leader? Remember that greatness comes through serving!
EXAMPLE: We all love to be recognized. My child is an “honored student” or a slap on the back or pat on the head we all enjoy. It borders on the height of arrogance however for someone in power to demand recognition that is not deserved. How awful is it then when those who have been redeemed not by anything they have done but by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, seek recognition for service that is to be sacrificial as well. We are reminded by Jesus’ own words to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” and in fact Jesus reminds us that “pagans run after all these things.” (Matthew 6:32-33) And that “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” If we as Jesus’ disciples want to be great in His kingdom we must learn to be the servants of all. We are to remember that greatness comes through serving!

In that upstairs room with Jesus and His disciples, unseen spiritual forces of darkness hovered. The struggle between good and evil, between the holy and the profane, is never just a matter of flesh and blood. Satan lurks to entrap the unsuspecting heart and twist it to his profane ways. Jesus offered Peter a lesson that night that all believers need to take to heart and apply. We need to remember that…

III. Satan wants you to fail! (Luke 22:31-34)
1. Satan’s fishes with the lures of the world! -- Leeferism
1) Good old Simon Peter. He must have been feeling self-confident and mature at that moment. After all, Jesus had given him the honor of getting the Passover meal ready. Further, Peter had just participated in the first Lord’s Supper. At just this time Satan attacked. Jesus surely got Peter’s attention by the double address, “Simon, Simon.” Jesus had used the same device earlier to get Martha’s attention (Luke 10:41). Was Simon alarmed to learn that a supernatural tug of war centered on him? On one hand prowled the enemy, Satan. He would soon attack Peter and the other disciples (the Greek word translated you in verse 31 is plural). Satan wanted to ruin their faith and their testimony. He wanted them to stumble and fail. On the other hand was the Lord Jesus. He had already prayed for Peter. He knew that the enemy’s main strategy is to destroy faith. Jesus is more powerful than Satan. His prayers would prevail, and after a time of backsliding and sin, Peter would return to fellowship and usefulness. After he had turned back, he would know how to strengthen other believers. One of the ways Peter later did this was to write inspired epistles. In one of them he wrote, “Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Peter 5:8). But this lay years ahead. Jesus had to burst Peter’s bubble of boasting. He knew that before daylight, which the rooster signals with his crow, Peter would fail bitterly. He would deny his Lord three times. Have you faced failures because you underestimated Satan’s strategies against you? If so, you are not alone. Other believers by the multiplied thousands have been through similar experiences. Always remember that Satan wants you to fail in your faith, but Christ is more powerful than the enemy of our souls!
EXAMPLE: Satan is so slick. He desires to destroy your relationship with the Lord and sadly it is often easier than we realize. Satan never attacks where we are spiritually, emotionally, or psychologically strong. Like the roaring lion he is described as, he looks for our weakness, lays in wait, and grabs us by the throat when we least expect it. He always attacks from the bushes, from a hiding place. He often camouflages himself as something wonderful, delightful, or that which we desire the most. Always remember that Satan wants you to fail in your faith, but Christ is more powerful than the enemy of our souls!

Conclusion:
More than a ritual, the Lord’s Supper calls believers to remember Christ’s death for their sins. When believers argue among themselves or compete for greatness, they contradict the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. When believers are overconfident of their spiritual maturity, they open themselves up to satanic influences.
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 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.