Sunday, May 27, 2012

What do you think of the gospel? – Romans 1:1-17

What do you think of the gospel? – Romans 1:1-17
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 27, 2012 AM

Dan was the kind of man who always looked more for an argument than for an answer. He met every attempt I made to explain the gospel to him with a skeptical look and a question or two. Though Dan was willing to walk up to the line of faith, he was not willing to take that last step of trust. He focused on his doubts. Dan was unsure of the gospel and showed it by not trusting Christ, but he’s not by himself. Even Christians sometimes lack confidence in the gospel. Disappointments with prayer, a church, or life in general create a crisis of confidence. These believers may not realize it, but they have become the focus of their lives instead of Christ. The key to the Christian life is confidence in the gospel of Christ.

Paul was someone who had complete confidence in the gospel. On the road to Damascus Paul met Jesus and discovered salvation by faith. The gospel through which he was saved had never let him down. In fact, he would later write, “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12 NIV) Let me ask you, “What do you think of the gospel?” Let’s discover how we as believers in Jesus Christ can have confidence in the gospel as Paul did…

READ: Romans 1:1-17

The other day my wife and daughter attended a mutual friend’s baby shower. All through the party the expectant had a huge smile on her face. She is one of those people you love to be around, very sweet, and always has good things to say about others. Her pregnancy has made her even happier. Good news has a tendency to do that. The gospel message is like that as well. Paul was always excited about the message of Jesus Christ and because of it he displayed self-assurance. We can have the confidence of Paul…

I. Because of the gospel of Jesus in our lives! (Romans 1:1-5)
1. Believers are set apart because of the gospel!
1) Paul immediately refers to himself as “a servant of Christ Jesus”, a slave who is owned body and soul by another, and in this case he was “called to be an apostle.” That is, one sent out for a specific purpose because he knew he was “set apart for the gospel of God.” This was no little thing for Paul since he knew that this gospel, this “good news”, was “promised beforehand through [God’s] prophets in the Holy Scriptures!” This good news is about God’s “Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David.” Jesus was an inheritor of the royal line of Israel, but more than that, Jesus “through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul’s confidence came from the fact that he fully understood what this meant for his own life personally. He established this fact right away because there were those who wanted to tear down what Paul was trying to do with the good news. Paul writes that it was “Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” This is the good news, to “call” folks to obedient faith in Jesus! This was Paul’s life this is what he was called to do! We can have the confidence of Paul because of the gospel of Jesus in our lives!
EXAMPLE: Dennis Fisher writes about Hal Needham: “In his book Stuntman! My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life, Hal Needham reflects on taking risks. Needham has slugged it out in fist fights, raced cars at high speed, walked on wings of airborne planes, fallen off horses, and has even been set on fire! He risked his life to entertain film audiences and to distinguish himself as a top Hollywood stuntman.” Paul was willing to risk his life for the gospel. His goal was to exalt Christ through the preaching of the gospel. We know that as a missionary in the Roman Empire, Paul faced hazards that resulted in shipwrecks, beatings, persecution, and imprisonment—just to name a few (2 Corinthians 11:22-30). But Paul was more than willing to take these risks to make Christ known. We can have the same confidence as Paul because of the gospel of Jesus in our lives!

Sharing good news, as I mentioned earlier, is one thing we all like to do. Good news that affects the lives of others for eternity carries even greater significance. Paul shared the gospel of Jesus because he knew that anyone who placed their faith and trust in Jesus, would be saved for eternity. It was the duty God had called him to and it is the command Jesus left for all of his followers. What better news could there be to share than that? We can have the confidence of Paul…

II. Because of our witness of the gospel through our lives! (Romans 1:8-15)
1. What has affected us most in life we are willing to share with others!
1) Paul had never been to Rome and he did not start the Roman church, but nevertheless he thanked “God through Jesus Christ” because their faith in Christ was “being reported all over the [known] world!” Paul was glad it was true! And now he wanted them to know that his witness came from “God” who he served with his “whole heart in preaching the gospel of [God’s] Son!” Paul had wanted to go the Rome and preach. In fact he wrote that it had been his “witness” how constantly he remembered them in his “prayers at all times!” He did not want them to be “unaware” that he had “planned many times to come” to them. He related, “I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you!” Why was this so important to Paul? He writes that he longed to see them face-to-face, so-to-speak, “so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong!” Paul’s confidence came from his willingness to witness to others about Jesus! It was his longing, his heart’s desire to do so, so much so that he wanted to “be mutually encouraged” by one another's faith! Can you imagine? As now a slave to God Paul understood that he was “obligated” that is indebted “both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish” to the entire human race to tell them about the gospel of Jesus! He writes, “That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome!” We can have the confidence of Paul because of our witness of the gospel through our lives!
EXAMPLE: The other night as I watched the sports coverage on the news, I wondered about all the folks who go to cheer their favorite team. Many folks wear t-shirts, jackets, sweatshirts, costumes and makeup to display their teams’ colors and logos. But what if everyone decided to show up wearing their favorite team’s colors and logo under nondescript clothing? And what if they decided not to cheer for their favorite team? Would it have an impact? I believe it might. We gladly cheer or openly support a favorite sports team but why don’t we show the same enthusiasm when it comes to our support of the gospel? Now I am not saying we need to do a special cheer for Jesus, but we can have the confidence of Paul because of our witness of the gospel!

Faith in Christ changes people from the inside out through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul was never reluctant to share the gospel because he knew it was the truth and he never doubted its sufficiency to save. The gospel had never let Paul down, neither in its intellectual elegance nor in its practical application. The gospel had changed Paul’s life and the lives of people with whom he shared it. He justifiably had full confidence in the gospel. This lesson is one we need to hear. We can have the confidence of Paul…

III. Because we are not ashamed of the gospel! (Romans 1:16-17)
1. It is shameful to claim we are saved when in fact we are not!
1) Paul was “not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile!” Paul’s eagerness to evangelize sprang from the value he placed on his message, the gospel. Many believe that in fact this is the theme of Paul’s entire letter to the Roman church, the gospel, which he uses five times within the first 17 verses. Paul knew that this was the answer for all mankind’s ills. Anyone who believes is made new through the message of Jesus, the gospel of God! Paul could never be ashamed of the message that had so changed his life and the lives of so many others he had witnessed. He dedicated his entire existence to preaching this good news and he could not shrink back from doing so. We look in awe in our day and age and wonder at the tenacity of Paul and his willingness to devote his life for such a cause. We may say we believe, we may attend church regularly, and we may read the Scriptures and pray, but our confidence must come from the gospel. This is why Paul proudly proclaimed, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Through our faith in Jesus comes our righteousness before God. How could Paul ever be ashamed of that? He could not! It is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes!” We can have the confidence of Paul because we are not ashamed of the gospel!
EXAMPLE: While imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus in Philippi about his purpose in life. He wrote, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:20 NIV) According to a long-held Christian tradition, the apostle Paul was beheaded and buried in Rome around 67 AD. In 2009, scientists conducted carbon dating tests on what many believe to be his remains. While these tests on the bone fragments confirmed that they date from the first or second century, positive identification remains in question. But I honestly believe Paul would not care if his bones were ever identified. I think he would relate that no matter where his bones rest, his heart lives on through his letters in the New Testament. It is a testimony that shows the confidence Paul had in the gospel. We can have the confidence of Paul because we are not ashamed of the gospel!

Conclusion:

We can have the confidence of Paul because of the gospel of Jesus, because of our witness of the gospel, and because we not ashamed of the gospel!
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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, May 20, 2012

Mary: Unwavering focus! – Luke 10:38-42; John 12:1-8

Mary: Unwavering focus! – Luke 10:38-42; John 12:1-8
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 20, 2012 AM

In 1941, Father Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest, was arrested by the Nazis and taken to Auschwitz for publishing “inappropriate” literature. In the horrific environment of the concentration camp, Father Kolbe ministered to his fellow prisoners. Then one day, after a prisoner had escaped, soldiers lined the men up and began selecting ten to die in the starvation bunker. When one prisoner was selected, he cried, “My wife and children! What will they do?” Hearing the man’s cry, Father Kolbe volunteered to die in his fellow prisoner’s place. The prisoner for whom Kolbe sacrificed himself survived Auschwitz. In fact, he lived another 53 years. However, he never tired of telling people what Father Kolbe had done for him. He stated that as long as he lived, he would consider it his duty to tell people everywhere about the heroic sacrifice Maximilian Kolbe had made for him.

Shouldn’t believers do the same concerning Jesus? Shouldn’t it be our duty to tell people everywhere about the heroic sacrifice He has made for us? Far too often, we lose our focus on what truly matters in life and allow other things to interfere. This is why I love Mary of Bethany. She was blessed for her unwavering focus on Jesus. Mary’s attention on the Lord helped her “keep the main thing the main thing” in her relationship with Him. Life offers us choices, and many times, we must choose, not between something that’s good and something else that’s bad, but between something that’s good and something else, that is best. Like Martha, we all tend at times to be distracted from seeking the best. How can we remain focused on Jesus, the Best of the best? Let’s find out.

READ: Luke 10:38-42; John 12:1-8

Listen carefully. This is one of the unwritten rules of maintaining and improving relationships. Good friends become great friends when they listen to each other. Time spent together offers opportunities to listen and connect. Good friends know that people have meaning and feelings beyond the words they speak. Even so, we communicate with words—so listening is vital if we want to know others well. Only after we have truly listened can we begin to go beyond a person’s words to know him or her on a deeper level. We find that Mary…

I. Listened to Jesus! (Luke 10:38-42)
1. Sometimes, we can be doing a lot of activity for Jesus, yet miss Him completely!
1) We find that “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.” Evidently, Martha believed friends don’t let friends travel on an empty stomach. Nevertheless, Martha’s focus was misplaced. Her sister...Mary chose a quieter role. She was sitting at Jesus’ feet, which was a disciple’s right place, in a learner’s pose. The two sisters had the same parents but had a different perspective on how they would spend their most valuable moments with Jesus. Mary, “sat at the Lord's feet listening to what [Jesus] said.” In contrast, Martha took on the roles of greeter and welcoming committee, chief cook and bottle washer, hostess and waitress, and made her home a display of the aromas of good food and good atmosphere! Devoted in her actions, yet in her heart, Luke informs us, “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” Like many who focus on the wrong thing, Martha got angry when someone else didn’t do as she did! Finally, when she couldn’t handle it any longer, she demanded, “Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Martha was busy serving Jesus, but her service got in the way of her listening to Him! The scraps from Martha’s delicious feast would turn up in tomorrow’s trash. Mary’s choice, however, would yield benefits for eternity. “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Serving a meal for Jesus was good—but listening to Jesus was better!
EXAMPLE: Our mother used to moan, after a hard day’s work around the house, “I work and I slave and what thanks do I get?” Dad would jokingly respond, “A happy husband and a heap of healthy heathens!” referring to us kids. We can focus so much on what we are doing that we miss what we are truly to focus on in life! In the Lord’s company, seated next to Jesus and learning from Him, we find the things we need most for our Christian worship and walk. We can definitely “do” more after we have listened to Jesus, but we can do nothing more important until we have come into His presence. In our age of mindless activities, we often have to swim upstream to engage in truly purposeful pursuits. And let’s not be naive. Simply attending church doesn’t necessarily mean sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him. When we walk out of church without having heard from God, we can’t blame the pastor, the music, or the congregation. Are we eager to hear from God? Are we truly listening to the Lord in our lives like Mary?

Why did Mary love Jesus so much? No doubt, one reason was Jesus’ powerful and gracious act of raising her brother Lazarus from the dead. Single women could become destitute or have extreme difficulty making ends meet. Of course, even apart from financial concerns, the sisters loved Lazarus and were deeply grieved. Mary had been waiting for a chance to show her devotion. The dinner was her opportunity, and she joyfully and gratefully made the most of it. Yet, even putting the resurrection of Lazarus aside, Mary knew Jesus was special and because of that, we find that Mary…

II. Gave her best to Jesus! (John 12:1-3)
1. Jesus’ life was one of love given freely and our lives are to be the same!
1) Jesus went back to Bethany six days before the Passover, meaning the events we are about to examine likely happened on a Saturday. At this Passover, Jesus, the Lamb of God, would die on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Lazarus was there at Bethany, still giving testimony about Jesus having raised him from the dead. We find that “Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him.” The supper probably was the evening meal. The hosts included Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Martha, as usual, served. During the meal, an extraordinary and beautiful event took place. “Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” John recorded Judas’s disgust as he noted the ointment was valued at a working man’s yearly wage! Imported from India the oil came from the roots of the nard plant. Mary acted with humility as she wiped his feet with her hair, a detail only the Gospel of John mentions. In the first century, Jewish women never unbound their hair in public because doing so was thought to be immoral. But Mary’s deep love for Jesus was more important than propriety. Mary recognized Jesus’ gracious love and responded with an extravagant gift that demonstrated her love for Him. She is an example of one who gave her best to Jesus.
EXAMPLE: Mary’s extravagant act of love was Christ-centered. Believers, whether in the 1st century or the 21st century, keep their focus on Jesus by giving Him the best rather than holding back resources for themselves or deliberately giving Him their second best. Just as Jesus was pleased with Mary’s gift, He also is pleased with our gifts to Him. Her example leaves us wondering about the last time we gave our best to Jesus. My father asked me to weed my mother’s roses, but I only made a lackadaisical attempt. Several weeks later, the same weeds came back with a vengeance! After seeing Mom’s rose beds, Dad asked, “Is this how you show your love and respect for your Mother by doing by doing a halfhearted job?” Believers who continually sharpen their focus on Jesus by giving Him their very best, as Mary did, never have to worry whether He is pleased with their gifts. He is.

The contrast between Martha and Mary is stark and revealing. It suggests two questions we need to ask about our devotion to Jesus. First, what distracts us from our relationship with Jesus? Second, how can we balance fulfilling our tasks and responsibilities without allowing them to distract us? Some believers find value in other people’s favorable opinions of their actions. However, one individual exists whose approval we should seek above all others: Jesus Christ. As believers, we seek His approval because we are grateful for all He has done for us. We find that Mary…

III. Sought the approval of Jesus! (John 12:4-8)
1. Jesus is the only person whose opinion truly matters!
1) Mary humbled herself and displayed great devotion to Jesus by anointing Him with expensive fragrant oil. After a display of love from Mary came a display of selfishness from someone else. Mary was misunderstood and criticized. Judas voiced objection to what he perceived as extravagant waste. Some of the disciples present at the dinner (Matthew 26:8) apparently agreed. Concern for the poor is understandable and appropriate. But concern for the poor was not the real motive behind Judas’s outburst. Judas, who later would betray Jesus, was a thief. He whines, “Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages.” The one who tries to show such piety “as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” When others criticized her, Jesus defends her, “Leave her alone.” “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” (John 12:7-8 NIV) Mary’s unwavering devotion was less about cost and more about the cross. Her gift personalized her love but also prophesied the near future. Jesus’ death was near, and she had performed a preordained act that was for the day of His burial. Mary did not realize, any more than the disciples did, that Jesus’ death was at hand. Jesus, however, viewed Mary’s act as a kind of pre-anointing. Jesus’ words concerning the poor did not arise from arrogance. His disciples should not think of poverty as inevitable and therefore do nothing to alleviate it. Rather, Jesus meant that while there always will be opportunities to help the poor this was Mary’s last opportunity to minister to Him before His death. Mary’s presence at the dinner that day gave this devoted follower of Jesus a unique opportunity to do a noble thing, and Jesus openly approved.
EXAMPLE: Andy Warhol, the pop-art painter of such American images as the Campbell’s soup can, once said, “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” But he was wrong. Millions of people will never grab their moment in the spotlight. Some of them are the men and women who spend their lives doing things like working hard, raising godly children, faithfully praying for others, sharing their faith with those who don’t yet know Jesus. They teach Sunday school, bring meals to the sick, drive senior citizens to doctors’ appointments, and do countless other kindnesses. These people may never be recognized outside their circle of family and friends. Certainly, their names aren’t well known. And although they willingly, and often sacrificially, give of themselves, they may not receive a whole lot of thanks or praise for their service. Yet God knows of their faithfulness, approves of it, and is pleased by their obedience. Mary never thought her act of love would be remembered, but it was by the one whom she performed it for and because of that, we now know how she sought the approval of Jesus.

Conclusion:
In Mary of Bethany we find an unwavering focus by how she listened to Jesus, gave Him her best, and in how she sought His approval in what she did.
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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, May 13, 2012

Hannah, determined devotion! – 1 Samuel 1:1-20

Hannah, determined devotion! – 1 Samuel 1:1-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 13, 2012 AM

My Mother taught me several different important lessons as I was growing up. Like LOGIC: “What were you thinking? Answer me when I talk to you! Don’t talk back to me!” HUMOR: “When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don’t come running to me!” She taught me about my ROOTS: “Where do you think you were born -- in a barn?” About ANTICIPATION: “Young man, just you wait until I get you home!” And, my all time favorite thing – FAIRNESS: “One day you will have kids and I hope they turn out just like YOU.” Yep, that’s my Mom.

In the Bible we see examples of mothers as well. One in particular can teach us a lot of important things too. One who stands out among women of the Bible is a lady named Hannah. Her name literally meant “grace” or “mercy.” Its root meaning comes from the idea of someone humbly bending their knees in petition and asking for mercy. That is a good picture of Hannah. Hannah was one of those Moms who displayed determined devotion. Let’s discover how this morning…

READ: 1 Samuel 1:1-20


There is a story of a little four-year-old boy whose Mom was getting him ready for his first sleep-over at a friend’s house. She began to list off several things that he needed to do. “Be polite.” “Don’t chew with your mouth open.” “Say, ‘Please” and ‘Thank you.’” “And, be a good boy and make your mother proud of you.” The boy looked up at his mother and very seriously replied, “Aw Mom, don’t worry I don’t sin anywhere else but at home!” Hannah teaches us that determined devotion was found in…

I. Her focus on her children!
1. “No man is poor who has had a Godly mother.” - Abraham Lincoln
1) Hannah’s hope and desire was to have a child of her own: “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son!” Some would say that this was expected of women in Hannah’s day and that we now live in a more “enlightened age.” However, look at what our world has gained because of this “liberated” view: abortion for convenience and relationships built on lust rather than love! The Bible describes later how “each year” Hannah “made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice.” (2:19) Hannah’s focus was her child. Every mother’s focus should be her children. God created women to be the nurturers in the home. Proverbs 29:15 reminds us, “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.” It is our mothers that are to be the first line of discipline in the home. When a mother doesn’t discipline consistently, the home is disorganized and dysfunctional. This is why the writer goes on to say, “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her…” (Proverbs 31:27-28) Every mother’s determined devotion should be like Hannah’s and focus on her children!
EXAMPLE: Recent studies have shown that when there is not a consistent nurturer in the home, children grow up more violent, have lower grades in school, and are involved more in drugs. Nurturing, however, does not mean overindulgence. Too much pampering in the home causes selfishness and ingratitude. A mother’s focus should be her children, but not to the detriment of her household. This is why Proverbs reminds us: “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul. Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” (Proverbs 29:17-18) The idea for the writer was one of consistent discipline. Hannah’s focus was her children.

It’s ungodly how in some States they are actually trying to force mothers to give up their nurturing duties and place their young children in preschools! It has been proven that children between the ages of birth through about 10 years absolutely need their mothers at home. Seeing a mother who loves her children is a great thing. Hannah did not just want a baby she also displayed other qualities of determined devotion that made her a great mother! We discover that Hannah…

II. Loved and respected her husband!
1. A man is not a man until he has a woman who will truly love and respect him!
1) Hannah’s respect for her husband was seen in the way she treated Elkanah. Even when she was wronged she kept it to herself. Some may think she was brow-beaten, but this was not the case. Hannah knew one of the main ingredients to a successful marriage is admiration of her spouse. Some will say, “Well, admiration has to be earned.” Yet, we are told, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22) The word “submit” literally means “to be subject to under respect or obedience.” Nowhere does it say it is earned. Hannah, in determined devotion, respected her husband because that is who Hannah was and that is what she believed. We discover that Hannah’s respect was a reflection of her inner character and her love for her man. In Genesis we see God telling Eve, after she had sinned, that from that point on her “desire will be for” her “husband.” From then on, she was only to have eyes for her man. In fact the female poet in The Song of Solomon confidently sings, “I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.” (Song 7:10) A mother is to be a one man woman. Her love and respect is to be given only to the one she marries and that is what Hannah was all about in her marriage. Hannah loved and respected her husband!
EXAMPLE: I really do not like TV shows that have the wife continually putting down her husband, especially in front of their children. Why? Our society has emasculated men. It reflects an ungodly cynicism directed at God’s true desire for us. “A man has two significant mirrors in his life.” So states Lewis and Hendricks, in their book “Rocking the Rolls,” “One is his work” and the “other is his wife.” This is where he finds self-worth, meaning, and identity. Over time work fades, but what he receives from his wife is that deep satisfaction that speaks to his real manhood. Where a woman needs to hear the words, “I love you,” a man needs to hear the words, “I am proud of you.” Hannah understood this. The best moms determine in devotion to love and respect their husbands just like Hannah!

A teacher gave her class of second graders a lesson on magnets. The next day, on a test, she asked, “My name has six letters. The first one is “m.” I pick up things. What am I?” Over 50% of the class had answered the question with the word “mother!” Yes, moms do pick up things but they are more than “magnets” gathering up dirty clothes and picking up toys. Mothers have a much higher calling than that! A good mother is like Hannah who in determined devotion understood that…

III. Her Spiritual relationship was with her God!
1. Godly mothers not only bring you up, they bring you to God!
1) Hannah was more concerned for her son’s devotion to the Lord, than her own motherly needs. She willingly made a vow to God for a child, because she knew God would take care of her child. In everything Hannah did she pointed her child towards God. There is no greater testimony than that of a godly mother. Remember what Paul told his young friend Timothy? “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5) We see that Hannah was willing to sacrifice her most cherished thing in the world, her son, in order to follow God. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) Whoa! You might ask, “Pastor Lee, didn’t you just tell us that a mother’s children are to be the most important thing in her life?” Her focus yes, her devotion however is to be directed first to God. We are not to “worship” our children. Remember, Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) Why do you think so many families have spiritual problems? And notice that Hannah was not afraid to talk to God about her greatest needs. She had a consistent prayer life. It is evident in her willingness to go directly to God with her most personal problem. Hannah was not afraid to let others see her worship and pray! Hannah’s life displayed determined devotion through her spiritual relationship to her God!
EXAMPLE: There were once four scholars who were arguing over Bible translations. One said he preferred the King James Version because of its beautiful, eloquent old English. Another said he preferred the American Standard Bible for its literal treatment of the text. A third man preferred a translation called the Moffatt translation because of its quaint, penetrating use of words. After giving the issue further thought, the fourth scholar said, “I have personally always preferred my mother’s translation.” When the other scholars chuckled, he responded, “Yes she translated it. She translated each page of the Bible into life. It is the most convincing translation I ever saw.” The best moms have a determined devotion to God like Hannah!

Conclusion:
The best moms know what Hannah did. They will focus on their children, love and respect their husbands, and have a personal relationship with God. The best mom has a determined devotion like Hannah!
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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, May 06, 2012

Lydia: Willing service! – Acts 16:11-15; Philippians 1:3-11

Lydia: Willing service! – Acts 16:11-15; Philippians 1:3-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 6, 2012 AM

Have you ever met someone for just a few moments and later wished you had more time to get to know them? The other day I met a young father who was delightfully playing with his daughter at the park. We struck up a conversation about the park, children, and the joy of watching them grow. My grandson and I had to leave, and afterwards I caught myself hoping to see him again. In the Bible there are several folks like that. We meet them briefly, they are only mentioned in a few verses, and then they are gone leaving us with the feeling we would like to get to know them better. Lydia is just such a person for me. In a world where membership or serving in Jesus body, His church, has fallen by the way, and getting a momentary spiritual high has become the norm for equating faith, Lydia and the church she helped start teach us a lot about willing service.

Interestingly, we discover that Scripture offers absolutely no encouragement for believers who attend worship erratically but never invest themselves in service to the Lord through His church. Scripture emphatically teaches that God saves people for both eternity and for service through His church. We find this in the life of Lydia. We know very little about her, but what we do know, reveals a life that was given to service of her Lord through His church. Let’s discover anew what the Scripture says concerning Lydia and her willing service!

READ: Acts 16:11-15; Philippians 1:3-11

Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke were setting sail from Troas and ran a straight course to Samothrace, a mountainous island in the Aegean Sea. Paul had dreamed that he and Silas should go to Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10), so they were well into the journey of obeying the Lord. The next day they sailed to Neapolis and walked the Via Egnatia, a main east-west highway through Macedonia, to Philippi, a distance of about 10 miles. Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, seized the city and to honor himself changed its name to Philippi. The city fell to Roman rule in 168 B.C. There, the missionaries meet Lydia a businesswoman who is an example of a godly woman who served God and His church. We can learn to do our part in God’s church by following her example of…

I. Getting started immediately! (Acts 16:11-15)
1. Service to Christ begins when you believe!
1) “On the Sabbath” day, Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke sought out places for sharing the gospel. His custom was to go to the local Jewish synagogue, but it appears there was none at Philippi. They had to go “outside the city gate to the river, where [they] expected to find a place of prayer.” The river lies about a mile from the city gates. They “sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.” Probably gentiles, non-Hebrews, and among the women gathered at the river’s edge was Lydia. She had brought her trade as a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira. Purple dyes were expensive as well as purple goods, and Lydia’s business in the purple dye trade marked her as a woman of means. We see that Lydia “was a worshiper of God.” And we find that the “Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.” The Lord who created Lydia’s heart was also able to open her heart to His truth. And as a result of the inner working of God’s Spirit Lydia paid attention to what was spoken by Paul. The wonderful outcome was that she and her household trusted Christ and were baptized! Notice Lydia does not wait to serve the Lord; she gets started immediately by inviting them to her home! She boldly states, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” God uses those who are willing! Lydia’s willing service did not end there. According to verse 40, her home became a house church, a gathering place for a new and growing Christian community in Philippi. Lydia freely shared her abundance with her new Christian family because she had freely received God’s abundant grace in Christ. She was not a mere hearer but a doer of the Word (James 1:22). Even new believers, as exemplified by Lydia, can serve God by supporting those involved in doing God’s work! You can as well by getting started immediately!
EXAMPLE: Listen as Paul shares the gospel by the river’s edge. The murmur of the river is the only hymn being sung, the sky is an open cathedral, and the whole earth is the worship center. We listen as the man of God begins to share about Jesus. How He came to “seek and save the lost” and how we are those He came to save. He relates how Jesus proved who He was by His death, burial, and resurrection! The river sings of Jesus’ salvation, the sky speaks of His creation, and the world is breathlessly waiting for our response. To these women Paul spoke of Christ’s salvation. The ripples of this simple worship service would someday reach around the world. This particular Sabbath was a day of small beginnings, but God brought great blessings to the rest of the world as the gospel was first implanted on the European continent and eventually spread all the way to China and beyond! And Lydia did respond, but she did what all believers, new or old, are expected to do: She immediately got started in her service to Jesus and His church!

Every servant of God needs support, whether the support is big or small. Even little acts of ministry involving practical help serve others and bring God glory. Serving God is not merely done by the “professional.” Ministry is done by any believer who brings a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus (Mark 9:41). And even new believers, as exemplified by Lydia, can serve God by supporting those involved in doing God’s work. How about you? We discover that service continues by…

II. Partnering with other believers! (Acts 16:40; Philippians 1:3-8)
1. There are no “Lone Rangers” in Christ’s churches!
1) We discovered that Acts 16:40 reveals the church gathered at Lydia’s house, the first home church in Philippi. Paul and Silas leaving the “prison” refers back to their earlier experience recorded in Acts 16:16-34. Freed from shackles and bars, they made their way to Lydia’s house and to the believers who had gathered there. After being encouraged by the new church, they leave to continue their work! Later, while in a distant place, his heart connects with the believers in Philippi. It must have brought great joy to the Philippians’ hearts as they read how the apostle often thanked God for them. Here was a letter of approval and praise from one who was in Roman chains some 800 miles away! About 10 years had passed since Paul had first worked among them. Paul knew that it was Jesus who had begun a good work in them, who would carry it out to its completion! The passing of time had not diminished his love or his interest in them. Every time Paul thought of them he thanked God for them. The Greek word translated partnership is “koinonia”, and this fellowship or partnership was the reason Paul was always joyful as he prayed for the believers at Philippi. He tells them, “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me.” Paul knew he could never have done his ministry alone. He depended upon the prayers, encouragement, and support of fellow believers. It was because of their partnership with him that he could propagate God’s grace. Paul was glad in partnering with other believers and Lydia was part of that partnership!
EXAMPLE: It is kind of wonderful to think that Paul’s Letter to the Philippians may have been first read as believers gathered and filled Lydia’s home. Gathered near the hearth, church family and friends, Lydia and others listened as Paul’s letter to them expressed his heartfelt joy over their partnership with him in the Lord. Can you imagine how excited they felt as they heard his encouraging words to them? Paul wrote, “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Christ’s love had so overwhelmed Paul that His affection was Paul’s very own! The fact that Paul told this to the Philippians demonstrates the reality and intensity of his praise for them as they partnered with him for the gospel’s sake. There should not be ‘Lone Rangers” in Christ’s church. Partnering with other believers as a church is the greatest business a church can be about! Lydia was part and parcel of this early partnership just as each of us can be a partner in the gospel today!

No preacher or teacher anywhere in the world or in any place in Christian history ever succeeded alone. Partnering with other believers enhances and improves our service with God. Olympic athletes may compete and win gold medals as individuals, but it takes a team effort behind them to do it. Coaches, trainers, parents, and other athletes all contributed to their success. It is the same with the church. Christians can reach their higher calling only in the context of partnership with other believers. Lydia and the church she helped start teaches us it is a part of…

III. Doing what really matters! (Philippians 1:9-11)
1. It not only makes a difference how believers play the game, it matters how they finish the race!
1) “What is my purpose in life?” is one of life’s most important questions. Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life is a bestseller. Perhaps the reason for its widespread appeal is that the book seeks to answer the question “What on earth am I here for?” Warren states that purpose is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ and His church. Paul began the original purpose-driven church by praying that the believers in Philippi determine what really mattered in life. He prayed that their “love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God!” To Paul, Christian love should intelligently appraise reality and should rest on sensitivity to God’s truth. Such discerning Christian love will advance the gospel. A believer who has intelligent, discerning love can approve of things that have greatest value and importance and conversely disapprove of things lesser in value and importance. As we love this way, choosing the best over the good, we will be pure and blameless. In the long run, the things that really matter are the people we have loved, the Word we have obeyed, and, most importantly, the God we have served. I believe Lydia as the founding member of the Philippian church knew what mattered in life. Our age is often known for its selfishness and self-centered convenience. But a life that only serves self will eventually kill, steal, and destroy life’s true purpose. As Christ’s church we are to be about doing what really matters!
EXAMPLE: During the last Passover in the upper room, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-11) for the obvious reason—their feet were dirty. Jesus assumed a servant’s responsibility because His disciples had ignored one another’s need. From that moment, the towel of service has both symbolized and memorialized a simple act of Christian service. Believers should exercise discernment in doing what really matters in their lives so they will not allow superficial matters to interfere with their willing service to God and His church. Sadly, sometimes, people’s tendency today is to become so involved in their busy lives that they either fail to notice or simply do not do what really matters. Without meaning to, in pursuit of life’s goodness, they allow their service to God and His church to fall by the wayside and ignore life’s best. The kind of life Paul described for ancient Philippi is a worthy pursuit for us today. Lydia was about what truly mattered in life. The choices between living a busy life or a purposeful one are not always easy. Yet, as Jesus’ body in this world believers are to be about what really matters! Towel anyone?

Conclusion:

Godly devotion reveals itself in willing service to God and His church. Like Lydia we do that by: 1) Getting started immediately! 2) Partnering with other believers! And 3) Doing what really matters!
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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.