Sunday, December 29, 2013

A new year begins with a new life! - 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

A new year begins with a new life! - 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 29, 2013 AM

Have you ever been around folks who know what they are doing is wrong yet they try to justify themselves with lame spiritual answers? You know what I mean, with answers like, “I think it is God’s will.” “I think this is best.” “I think God is leading.” Notice the common denominator? Like I said, lame. King Saul was confronted by Samuel after he did what he, thought was best and yet he knew better. (1 Samuel 15:12-16) God had given him a tremendous victory, but Saul thought he knew better than God did, even after God had specifically told him what he was to do; and what he was not to do. God in giving His people His will for their lives is never ever blurry in the details. He does not make His people guess. Nor does He allow spiritually fuzzy logic. Saul’s pathetic answer is basically the same lame answer folks give today when they know what they are doing is ungodly but they want to justify themselves.

Paul would write, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad... What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11 NIV) In this New Year, why not realize that God desires sacrifice more in your life than your personal comfort. He desires you follow Him even when it is personally difficult for you to do so and that may mean staying right where you are. Change has never occurred by catering to your personal desires, it is brought about by lives lived sacrificially for the Lord. A new year begins with a new life! Let’s discover how…

READ: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

What compels you in life? What truly gets your buttons pushed to do what you are supposed to do in life? As we come to a New Year let’s discover what should compel us. As a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that…

I. Christ’s love compels us to make changes! (Vv. 14-16)


  1. Few of us would deliberately want to be seen as foolish in the eyes of others, yet Paul, in order to show his sincerity was willing to do just that! He would write, "I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool." (2 Corinthians 11:16-17 NIV) Here is what compelled Paul, "If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you." He was willing to appear crazy or foolish for those he loved in the Lord! But not the worldly ungodly foolishness, instead he would be crazy for Christ's sake and theirs! Why would Paul be so willing to do such a thing? He writes, "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died!" And here is the core of the truth of what Paul was trying to teach his fellow believers, namely, he was willing to do whatever it took in order that they would know Jesus more! If Jesus was willing to die on the cross for our sins, shouldn’t Paul be willing to appear just as foolish? How about you? Are you willing? Paul knew and fully understood what it meant to live for Christ! He knew that Jesus "died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again!" Christians do not live for themselves! If they do, they are selfish, self-centered, and worthless to the kingdom of God! Paul would write, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me!" (Galatians 2:20 NIV) This is what compelled Paul! "So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer." Paul had once breathed death threats to those who lived for Jesus, but now he no longer viewed life in that way, instead he was compelled to live for Jesus! As a new year begins with a new life, Christ’s love compels us to make changes! In this coming new year are you willing to live foolishly for Him?

  EXAMPLE: David Crowder sings a song written by Matt Redman called "Undignified." It goes something like this: " I will dance I will sing to be mad for my king; nothing lord is hindering the passion in my soul! I will dance I will sing to be mad for my king; nothing lord is hindering the passion in my soul! And I'll become even more undignified than this; some would say its foolishness but I'll become even more undignified than this; some would say its foolishness!" It is a reference to David who danced and sang before the Lord in what some viewed as an undignified way. Paul wrote, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption." (1 Corinthians 1:27-30 NIV) In this new year will you live foolishly for Him?

With every New Year, people make resolutions. Studies have shown that most of these resolutions last usually only for a few weeks at best. However, just as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that…

II. If we are in Christ, we are a new creation! (Vv. 17-19)

  1. "No one was more able to reflect on that transformation than Paul who switched from a persecutor of Christ to a proclaimer of Christ!" (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) It is useless for someone to say they believe in Jesus, yet be unchanged in life. A genuine Christian is a new creature; his old state has changed! He was once a child of Satan, he is now a child of God; he was once was dead in his sin, he now abides in Christ! "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" Yet many of us live our lives as if we never have been changed! Paul declared, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like." Sounds like much of the world and sadly like many believers. "I warn you," Paul wrote, "as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Paul knew that Christians should have nothing to do with anything that even hints at these kinds of ungodly actions. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Paul knew that "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:19-24 NIV) Yet too many believers flirt with ungodliness. They jump ship rather than stay the course, they fade instead of shine, and they enjoy making excuses for their ungodly actions! He would state, " All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ." And God did it for a reason, not just to make us feel better about ourselves; in fact, God “gave us the ministry of reconciliation!" Paul understood that "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them." But even more importantly, Paul reminds us that it is God Himself who "has committed to us the message of reconciliation!" That is what believers are to be about! We are to live like Christ and do the ministry God has given us as new creations in Him! Just as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that if we are in Christ, we are a new creation!

  EXAMPLE: A fresh start, a new beginning, or a do over is what many long for in life. Isn’t it therefore wonderful to know that God has done just that for us in Christ? Les Lamborn of RBC writes about Chris Simpson, "Chris Simpson’s life used to be consumed by hate. After he and his wife lost their first child, he was confused and angry. He directed that anger toward various ethnic groups and covered his body with hate-filled tattoos. After listening to his son mimic his hatred, though, Simpson knew he needed to change. He watched a Christian movie about courage and began attending church. One month later he was baptized as a follower of Jesus Christ. Simpson is now a new person and is leaving the hate behind him, which includes the painful and expensive process of having his tattoos removed." He continues by stating, " The apostle Paul knew something about this kind of deep transformation. He hated Jesus and persecuted His followers… Christ made Paul a new person. The old order of sin, death, and selfishness was gone and a new beginning, a new covenant, a new perspective and way of living had come. Following Jesus is not turning over a new leaf; it is beginning a new life under a new Master." Are you going to live your new life in the same old way or will you use it for the ministry the God has already given you? Just as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that if we are in Christ, we are a new creation!

Far too often we as believers forget we are representatives of Jesus. As His representative it is important for us to live lives that are like Him. Therefore, as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that…

III. We are now Christ's ambassadors! (Vv. 20-21)


  1. We execute the function of ambassadors in Christ’s stead. He came from the Father to mankind on this important embassy. Paul realized that Jesus has left the world, and appointed us in His place! "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us." Do you understand the importance of Paul's words? An ambassador is a person sent from one sovereign power to another to represent that power. In other words, an ambassador is Christ in His stead when He cannot be there Himself! (Not that we are gods, or little messiahs, but that we are His ambassadors; His representatives here on earth until He comes again!) Christ while on earth represented the person of God the Father; His apostles and their successors represent the person of Christ. Christ declared the will of the Father to mankind; the apostles, His disciples, and future believers to proclaim the good news to the world! We are ambassadors for Christ. Therefore, someone who does not know Jesus as their Savior and Lord cannot ever represent God or His gospel! They are false ambassadors, false representatives trying to pass themselves off as the real deal. This is why Paul admonishes, "We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." How can a representative of the Living God, in Christ, live a life that is ungodly? They cannot because they are not! How can someone say they love Jesus but dump on His body, His church? They are the dead limbs who have lopped themselves off the living branches. This was not a suggestion by Paul, nor was it simply something Jesus' followers could decide for themselves to do or not do. When you come to Christ, you are one of His ambassadors! The reason was obvious for Paul, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God!" Therefore, as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that we are now Christ's ambassadors!

  EXAMPLE: In the movie the Wizard of Oz, the Wizard tells the Tin Woodsman, “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” The Wizard of Oz may be a good movie, but it’s not a reliable source of how to live one's life for the Lord. God said something quite different. According to Him, the greatest commandment is to love—to love Him first and then others (Mark 12:29-31). Scripture says nothing about expecting to be loved in return. In fact, Jesus stated the opposite in His most famous sermon: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12 NIV) When it comes to love, the important thing we need to know is this: Christians are to be His love ambassadors. God’s intent is that the people who receive His love will become the conduit of His love to others. The apostle John wrote, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:7-8 NIV) Therefore, remember that as a new year begins with a new life, Paul writes that we are now Christ's ambassadors!

Conclusion:
A new year begins with a new life! Paul writes that Christ's love compels us to make changes, that if we are in Christ, we are a new creation, and that we are now Christ's ambassadors!

This article is copyrighted © 2013 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.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Advent – The love of God fulfilled! – Luke 2:1-20

Fourth Sunday of Advent – The love of God fulfilled! – Luke 2:1-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 22, 2013 AM

There are certain dates in life that stand out more than others do. I remember my parents and grandparents talking about when the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred and where they were and what they were doing. I remember the day the first American went into space and when we landed on the moon. I also remember when terrorists flew passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. However, on a brighter note, I also vividly remember the day I was married and the day we brought our daughter home. Is it any wonder then that as believers we should celebrate by remembering the day the love of God was fulfilled?

On this the fourth Sunday of Advent we should pause as Christians and remember together the day Jesus was born. Before we pass out the presents, drink the hot apple cider, or eat the first candy canes of Christmas perhaps we would do well to stop and remember why there is Christ in Christmas. It is the day the love of God was fulfilled! Let’s refresh our memories as we remind ourselves of the wonder of that day.

READ: Luke 2:1-20

We discover that the love of God was fulfilled when…

I. God’s timing was just right! (Vv. 1-7)

  1. We often mark important events by what occurs in the world around us and Luke does this as well. He remarks that, “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” The Savior of the world’s birth is marked by what occurred in the world at that time, a government census. We know that Caesar Augustus was made the ruler of the Roman Empire in 27 BC and ruled to 14 AD and because Herod the Great’s reign ended in 4 BC, Jesus was probably born before that time. In fact, “This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” However, the word translated “first” probably should be more correctly translated “before”, which it often is, Quirinius was governor which fits the timeline. During these kinds of tax censuses, “everyone went to his own town to register.” And, “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” Bethlehem was David’s ancestral home because he was a descendent of King David. “He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Both Joseph and Mary knew the importance of her pregnancy. She was carrying the Messiah, and so Mary accompanied Joseph for several reasons. The couple knew she would have her child during the time Joseph was gone, and they most likely did not want to be separated during the event. And, since they knew that the baby was the Messiah, they would have known the prophecy of Micah that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. While unsuspecting Caesars and government officials had no clue about how their edicts would affect the lives of the most important couple in the world, God used them for His perfect plan. “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!

  EXAMPLE: Timing is everything, or so they say. Paul writes, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 NIV) Joe Stowell, for the Radio Bible Class, writes, “A quick look at history reveals that the coming of Christ was at just the right time. Centuries earlier, Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world, bringing with him the Greek culture and language. On the heels of his demise, the Roman Empire picked up where Alexander left off and expanded the territory under the unifying influence of the culture and language of the Greeks. It was under Roman rule that the crucifixion took place, where the blood of Christ was shed for us. It was under the rule of Rome that conditions were made ready for the spread of the gospel across three continents: good roads, territorial boundaries free of “passport” restrictions, and a unifying language. The providence of God had put all the pieces in place for the perfect time to send His Son. God’s timing is perfect in everything.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right!

Luke shares that the love of God was fulfilled when…

II. God’s announcement was given! (Vv. 8-14)

  1. What kings, Caesars, and governors cared about most was of no concern for God. In fact, God often uses the small things and the insignificant people to declare His ways and purposes. And here we discover “there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” Those who were considered the outcasts from their own society, because they worked with animals by touching them, feeding them, and caring for them, the shepherds are the common folk God announces the birth of His son. God goes to these “least in the kingdom” first to proclaim the birth of His Son. Imagine being one of these lowly folks, tending your flock, and suddenly God’s messenger suddenly comes to where you are in the fields. Luke writes that, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Isn’t it interesting that God chose to go to these who raised the lambs to be sacrificed in the temple to disclose the birth of the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed? The first words of God’s messenger would be the words His Son would often use: “Do not be afraid.” God’s angel brings them “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The good news of great joy was not just for the Hebrew nation but also for all people everywhere! “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” The Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God! The shepherds would know what the angel declared to be true because they are given specific instructions on what they will find and how they will find him, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” A feeding trough would be the bed of the Savior and the simple dressings of a newborn would be his regal robe! Before the shepherds could completely digest what they have been told, “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!

  EXAMPLE: During Boy Scouts we used to sing the Announcements Song, it was to the tunes of Row Row Your Boat, What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor, Frères Jacques’, Have You Ever Seen a Lassie, and London Bridge. The ending was “Announcements, announcements, announcements! We’ve got a silly cheer, which you've just got to hear! It makes no sense we're sure you know; the announcements have to GO!” However, not all announcements are bad or boring. Wedding announcements, birth announcements, and announcements of achievement are ones that tell us of joyous occasions that we should celebrate! The announcement given to shepherds long ago certainly wasn’t boring or bad; it was good news of great joy! The love of God was fulfilled when God’s announcement was given!

We finally learn that the love of God was fulfilled when…

III. God’s good news was shared! (Vv. 15-20)

  1. Can you imagine what was going through the minds of those simple shepherds? Surprise, yes, shock, certainly, and perhaps some incredulity or astonished skepticism! What’s a shepherd supposed to do with this kind of news? Luke relates, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” Being the down-to-earth men they were known to be, they decide to go and see for themselves if what the angelic messengers spoke and sang about was true or not! “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” Isn’t it interesting that neither the people's chief priests, the teachers of the law, nor the great Herod himself had enough faith to go themselves, but these men do! I can just imagine that when they came to where the child and his parents were, they were even more humbled. They find everything exactly as the angel said it would be. And so, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” In the midst of this wonderful story is a simple truth of a mother’s heart, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” While potentates schemed, Wisemen wondered, and shepherds saw for themselves; a mother ponders what it all means for the future of her child. Of all the mothers of Israel, she was the one who gave birth to the Messiah! Meanwhile, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” The love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!

  EXAMPLE: Joe Stowell again for the Radio Bible Class writes, “I love the YouTube video of people in a food court of a mall, who in the midst of their ordinary lives were suddenly interrupted by someone who stood up and boldly began singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.” To the surprise of everyone, another person got up and joined the chorus, and then another, and another. Soon the food court was resounding with the celebrative harmonies of Handel’s masterpiece. A local opera company had planted their singers in strategic places so that they could joyfully interject the glory of God into the everyday lives of lunching shoppers.” He continues, “Every time I watch that video, it moves me to tears. It reminds me that bringing the glory of God into the ordinary situations of our world through the beautiful harmonies of Christlikeness is exactly what we are called to do. Think of intentionally interjecting God’s grace into a situation where some undeserving soul needs a second chance; of sharing the love of Christ with someone who is needy; of being the hands of Jesus that lift up a weary friend; or of bringing peace to a confusing and chaotic situation.” The same is true for those shepherds so long ago, for them the love of God was fulfilled when God’s good news was shared!

Conclusion:

The love of God was fulfilled when God’s timing was just right, when God’s announcement was given, and when God’s good news was shared!

This article is copyrighted © 2013 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.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Third Sunday of Advent – The Joy of our worship! - Matthew 2:1-12

Third Sunday of Advent – The Joy of our worship! - Matthew 2:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 15, 2013 AM

Though not everyone agrees on the timing of the arrival of the Magi from the East, they apparently came some time after the birth of Jesus. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, though still in Bethlehem, were now in a house (oikia, Matthew 2:11) but it can also mean place or residence, and could have been used generically by Matthew to describe where Mary and Joseph were simply staying for the moment. However, we also discover that Jesus was called a little child (paidion, Matthew 2:9, 11) rather than a newborn infant (brephos, Luke 2:12). Whether this is true or not is not the focus of the verses, but rather what was the focus of the Magi's worship. In fact, we discover what the joy of our worship is to be as we study the story of the Magi.

When my wife and I first began to date, I would drive hundreds of miles, often times during very bad weather just to see her. I wrote her letters where I had painstakingly taken hours to draw cartoon characters just to make her smile. At the time, just as it is now, I was and am willing to sacrifice anything for her happiness and contentment. Why would I do such things? Because I love her. She is the joy of my life. And isn’t that the way believers should respond to the Joy of their worship as well? Shouldn't Jesus be the Joy of our worship? Why do you worship? What or who is the focus of your worship? Let's discover just how and what the Joy of our worship should be…

READ: Matthew 2:1-12

In the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music, there is a famous song called, "Climb Every Mountain." The first two stanzas relate, "Climb every mountain, Search high and low; Follow every byway, Every path you know. Climb every mountain, Ford every stream; Follow every rainbow, Till you find your dream." Here in the first two verses of the second chapter of Matthew's gospel we discover that the Magi were willing to do just that. In fact, what they did in order to reach the joy of their worship was amazing. It teaches us that the Joy of our worship…

I. Inspires us to overcome any obstacle! (Vv. 1-2)

  1. The exact identity of the Magi is impossible to establish, though several ideas have been floated over the years. Everything from a secret society, magicians, wizards, or truth seekers. They have been given traditional names of Gaspar, Melchior and; Balthazar; and identified as representatives of the three groups of peoples that descended from Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. This notion is from about the 7th century. More likely they were Gentiles of high position from a country, perhaps Persia, northeast of Babylon. Maybe they were given a special revelation by God of the birth of the King of the Jews. This may simply have been revealed in the sky, as indicated by their title "Magi" (specialists in astronomy) and by the fact they referred to a star which they saw. Or this revelation could have come through some contact with Jewish scholars who had migrated to the East. Those who wanted to learn more about the world around them often read the manuscripts of religions, histories, or literature of other nations. Some think the Magi’s comments reflect a knowledge of Balaam’s prophecy concerning the "star" that would "come out of Jacob" (Numbers 24:17). Whatever the source, they came" After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod." And we discover the main reason is stated in their question, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." These men had to travel a long distance (between 550 to 600 miles), mostly walking or perhaps riding, and endure the hardships of thieves and robbers, weather and dirt, and weeks if not months of travel. They left the safety of hearth and home in search of a child and for the mere chance "to worship him"! The Joy of our worship inspires us to overcome any obstacle!

  EXAMPLE: There are many in our day and age who say they search for truth, but few recognize it when they see or hear it. Some give their lives away in servitude serving others, like Mother Teresa who constantly agonized over whether she truly had done enough "good things' for Jesus to love her and be saved! There are those who enter into a lifelong journey of bellybutton introspection, like the Dali Llama, who think by focusing on themselves and emptying themselves of all worldly desires they will find a sense of wholeness. Then there are those who want you to think that any thought given to faith is a fool's folly, because happiness is only found in the moment. Yet, it the midst of all of this we find Wisemen journeying from the East, following a heavenly star, hoping to kneel before a young boy on the chance that he might be the King of the Jews, the Messiah. That's what the Joy of worship does, it inspires us to overcome any obstacle in order to worship Him!

There are those who say they have found the object of their worship, but when one takes a closer look all you see is them! We can mouth Christian platitudes, wave our hands in the air, sing all the choruses we know, and even quote Scripture verbatim, but not know why we are to worship because we truly do not know Him whom we are to worship! The Joy of our worship…

II. Is more than counterfeit comprehension! (Vv. 4-8)


  1. King Herod knew what he worshiped and this is why, "When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him." It was said that it was better to be a pig in Herod's household than to be one of his children! Herod in his paranoia had several of his sons, a daughter, and several wives murdered. Herod was not the rightful king from the line of David. In fact he was not even a descendant of Jacob, but was descended from Esau and was an Edomite. This is why the Jews hated their king! Herod however was crafty and in fact did a lot to build up his nation militarily, financially, and physically. "When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born." Herod in his paranoia wanted to know who this threat to his throne was. They give him the answer gleaned from Micah, "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel." Both Herod and his advisors had a counterfeit response and reason for their belief. The people's chief priests and teachers of the law wanted to show off their knowledge to their King and Herod wanted to thwart any opposition to his reign! What he learned was soon related to the Magi, "Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared." He was already planning his infanticidal response whereby "he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi." (Matthew 2:16 NIV) So, Herod sends them to Bethlehem and tells them, " Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." He only wanted to "worship" him at the end of a sword. The Joy of worship is more than counterfeit comprehension!

  EXAMPLE: There is an atheist group who have paid for giant billboards with the message, "Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody." Interestingly, American Atheists President David Silverman, whose heritage is Jewish, says they are trying to focus only on the "fun" parts of Christmas. And sadly, this is what many Christians do as well with their worship. They focus only on the "fun" parts trying vainly to forget that worship of Christ is more than head knowledge or a regular commitment to show up on Sundays. Some view worship as a country club where they pay their dues for the benefits or show, it is more about receiving than giving, rights instead of responsibilities, entitlements instead of sacrifice, and being served instead of serving. They might as well be atheists asking, "Who needs Christ during worship? Nobody!" The Joy of worship is more than counterfeit comprehension!

Author Greig Beck in his thriller novel "Dark Rising" writes, "Without sacrifice, there is no freedom. Without freedom, there is no life. God bless them who give their all for us." He could have been writing about missionaries, but he wasn't. Instead he was writing about those in the military who sacrifice themselves for the cause of freedom. Should this not be said of the believer? In the story of the Magi and this third Sunday of Advent, we discover that the Joy of our worship…

III. Makes us enthusiastically sacrifice! (Vv. 9-12)

  1. Simple trust is an amazing thing. We discover it in children and are often silenced by it. We discover it here with the Magi and it should cause us to pause, because, "After they had heard the king, they went on their way." At this time they did not know Herod's intent, they only wanted to continue their journey. They followed the star they have seen earlier and wonders of wonders, "the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was!" Stars, like planets, usually go from east to west because of the earth's rotation, not north to south! Could it be therefore that “the star” which the Magi saw and which led them to a specific house was the Shekinah glory of God or one of His angelic messengers? Possibly. But " When they saw the star, they were overjoyed." They knew what it meant! It was showing them the way to the One they sought! The same God who had lead the children of Israel through the wilderness for 40 years, now lead these Wiseman. "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him." They did not pause to worship or recognize Mary nor Joseph. The mother and father are of little importance to those who follow the Messiah. He alone is the focus of their worship! They immediately went to the object of their search, their worship! "Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh." Some believe the gifts signified the character of Jesus' life. Gold might represent His deity or purity, incense the fragrance of His life, and myrrh His sacrifice and death. Scripture does not say and therefore it is speculation. However, it speaks volumes on how these men were willing to enthusiastically sacrifice their time, talents, and treasures in order to worship Jesus! "And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route." The joy of our worship makes us enthusiastically sacrifice all that we have for Him!

  EXAMPLE: How about you? What do you sacrifice for the Joy of your worship? A couple of Sundays a month? Do you spend time reading His word? Do you share Him with those walking in darkness? Do you only show up to church for worship and never give any of your time, talent, or treasure to the Joy of your worship in His body the church? Maybe you are more like the four blind men in the Asian myth who come across an elephant for the first time and they try to describe it. One grasps the trunk and concludes it is a snake. Another touches the elephant's leg and describes it as a tree. A third finds the elephant's tail and concludes it is a rope. The fourth blind man, finds the elephant's side, assumes that it is, after all, a wall. It is not differing religions describing the same thing in radically differing ways. The truth is that spiritually blind folks cannot make sense from that which they are blinded to! The only commonality they had was they were all BLIND! Jesus correctly asked, " Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?" (Luke 6:39 NIV) Stop being blind, the Joy of your worship should make you enthusiastically sacrifice all that you have for Him!

Conclusion:

The Joy of our worship…

Inspires us to overcome any obstacle! Is more than counterfeit comprehension! Makes us enthusiastically sacrifice!

This article is copyrighted © 2013 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, December 08, 2013

Second Sunday of Advent - The peace of God! - Isaiah 52:6-10

Second Sunday of Advent - The peace of God! - Isaiah 52:6-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 8, 2013 AM

Last week we spoke of how the Messiah would be called by the names of, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, (and) Prince of Peace.” There were those who incorrectly thought that the Messiah would bring about a cessation of conflicts or that everyone would all of a sudden become happy in His presence. Interestingly, there are those in our day and age who still have misconceptions of who the Messiah is and the peace He is to bring to the world. On this second Sunday of Advent, we will learn that the coming of the Messiah would bring peace. And, what that would mean for the entire human race.

Isaiah introduces us to a Messiah who would bring about His peace to all mankind. He begins this portion by calling the nation of Israel to wake up, “Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised (ungodly) and defiled will not enter you again.” Jerusalem’s pagan conquerors — the uncircumcised and defiled — would never again invade and pollute the holy city after the Messiah came. This is part of the peace He would bring. Let’s discover this morning the peace of God!

READ: Isaiah 52:6-10

The world today thinks that peace comes from the absence of conflict that it can be obtained through gain or government, but Isaiah teaches us that…

I. The peace of God comes from Him alone! (v. 6)

  1. God’s people would be freed from their chains, never to be enslaved again! Isaiah prophesied, “For this is what the LORD says: ‘You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.’” No amount of money could pay the debt they owed! The Israelites did not fully understand that the enslavement God saw His people under was the rebellion of sin and that they could never buy themselves back without the blood of a sacrifice! No amount of ransom could buy them back from their enslavement to sin, only the blood of the Lamb would! This is why the writer of Hebrews would state, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and in offerings, you were not pleased… Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll-- I have come to do your will, O God.’” (Hebrews 10:3-7 NIV) Jesus began His ministry by relating, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners...” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV) God would ask them, “And now what do I have here?” He answers His question by relating, “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock, and all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.” (v. 5) while we may be shortsighted, God’s view is much longer. The Israelites willingly sold themselves into slavery for a pittance and those who enslaved them mocked God as a result! (Things haven’t changed much have they?) They refused to listen and repent, as they should. Yet, God’s plan all along was to redeem all people and His desire was that they would know how it occurred and who was responsible when happened! Israel would be restored and they would know peace but not in the manner, they thought. “Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.” When the peace of God came, all people everywhere would know who brought it about. This is why the angels rejoiced singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV) The peace of God comes from Him alone!

  EXAMPLE: Daily Bread’s Les Lamborn writes, “During the Christmas season, we wait. We wait in traffic. We wait in checkout lines to purchase gifts. We wait for family to arrive. We wait to gather around a table filled with our favorite foods. We wait to open presents lovingly chosen. All of this waiting can be a reminder to Christians that Christmas is a celebration of waiting for something much more important than holiday traditions. Like the ancient Israelites, many are waiting for Jesus.” the peace of God. Isaiah teaches us that the peace of God comes from Him alone!

God made the first move when He came as baby Jesus and the sacrificial Lamb. A star would appear marking the way, angels would proclaim Him, and shepherds would witness to what they saw. Isaiah teaches us that...

II. The peace of God would be proclaimed! (Vv. 7-8)

  1. Here is a wonderful picture of rescue. The enemy has surrounded the city, they are encamped around the walls and there is no escape. Thousands upon thousands of the enemy’s troops are assembled and just when they are ready to step forward to fight, there comes a cry from one of the watchmen on the wall of the besieged, “Look! Look to the mountains there is where our help comes from!” And all eyes strain to see a lone runner from the foothills headed to the besieged and the enemy parts for him like the waters of the Red Sea for Moses. Isaiah declares, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Notice that the deliverance is not brought about by a larger army, more advanced weaponry, or a master general but by the beautiful “feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation”! And what is this message of salvation they proclaim to the those waiting for rescue and to the camp of the enemy? “Your God reigns!” As wonderful as was the return of Israel from their Babylonian captivity, what utter joy will be when the Messiah finally comes to Zion and proclaims, “Your God reigns!” Now, dear child of the King, you are the messenger of the Messiah in our besieged city. You are the one with beautiful feet to proclaim the peace of God, you are the one running from the mountains bring good new that that He alone reigns! “Listen!” Isaiah commands. “Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.” Those entrapped can rejoice, because “When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.” Israel would see their Messiah coming to them, but some would not care or would refuse to hear Him when he came. But all the same, He came. And, they would see it with their own eyes. The peace of God would be proclaimed!

  EXAMPLE: Isaiah was a watchman, Nahum was a watchman, and various men in various ways prophesized announced the coming of the Messiah, the light of the world. John the Baptist was the last of these. “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:6-11 NIV) And, now the last command the Messiah has given His watchmen on the wall who look to the mountains is, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”! The peace of God is to be proclaimed!

What joyous news, what a wonderful truth to proclaim, those enslaved and those surrounded by the enemy can be freed forever! Isaiah teaches us that…

III. The peace of God brings salvation! (Vv. 9-10)

  1. Over and over we find Isaiah telling the people to “burst into song” to “rejoice” because God would hear their cries for help. Isaiah tells them, “Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” In the midst of standing in the ruin of their lives and the rubble of their city, they are to “Burst into songs of joy together”! How could they do such a thing? God has already “comforted His people.” In fact, the important message is that God has already “redeemed” bought back Jerusalem, meaning all of Israel. This is why John the Baptist’s papa, Zachariah, would break his silence by singing, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come and has redeemed His people!” (Luke 1:68 NIV) Isaiah wrote, “All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing.” (Isaiah 14:7 NIV) Matthew would understand and reiterate Isaiah’s words by reminding us, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” (Matthew 4:16-17 NIV) The promise Isaiah proclaimed is the fact that God Himself would “lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” God would show the entire world His power and ability to bring salvation through His Messiah. It is summed up in the majestic wonderful words of John, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus would say, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV) The peace of God brings salvation!

  EXAMPLE: There are folks who read the last chapter first when they start a new thriller. They may think that it takes the anxiety out of reading. So it is with Christians because we know the end of the story, we can be messengers of peace in the midst of utter chaos, calm in the face of disaster. We are to experience peace under pressure. Kingdoms may fall, friends may falter, churches may fold, oceans may rise, and mountains may crumble, but we can be at peace. How do we maintain such composure? By remembering that the “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NIV). In fact, just as Isaiah wanted the Israelites to be comforted that the Messiah would come, Jesus reminds us, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelations 22:20 NIV) Today could be the day! The peace of God brings salvation!

Conclusion:
The peace of God comes from Him alone!
The peace of God would be proclaimed!
The peace of God brings salvation!

This article is copyrighted © 2013 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, December 01, 2013

First Sunday of Advent – Our expectation and hope! - Isaiah 9:2-7

First Sunday of Advent – Our expectation and hope! - Isaiah 9:2-7
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 1, 2013 AM

One of the great things to do with children is to keep an advent calendar and countdown the days until Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of the first Advent, the coming of the Savior of the world! As believers, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But we also wait eagerly for the second advent when Christ will return! "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NIV)

Certainly, a large part of our lives center around anticipation. How much we would lose if we were to wake up one day to the unexpected announcement: "Christmas in 10 minutes!" The enjoyment in many of life's events is built on the fact that we have time to anticipate them. Whether it is Christmas, vacations, trips, or sporting events, all grow in value because of the hours we spend looking forward to them—eagerly running through our minds the fun, challenges, and excitement they'll bring. Now imagine if you will the anticipation of the salvation of mankind coming to earth. That is what the first Sunday of Advent is all about, our expectation and hope! Let's discover why…
READ: Isaiah 9:2-7

Salvation would not break forth till it had become utterly dark along the horizon of Israel, according to Isaiah, "In that day… if one looks at the land, he will see darkness and distress; even the light will be darkened by the clouds." (Isaiah 5:29-30 NIV) -- Literally when the land of Jehovah, had become a land of the shadow of death because of the apostasy of its inhabitants. Sound familiar? It is always darkest before the dawn and here we discover that…

I. The Messiah would bring light to a darkened world! (Vv. 2-3)

  1. We are often introduced to a myriad of end of the world scenarios, from fiery asteroids crashing into the earth to killer zombie viruses that threaten all of mankind. Yet few in our day even give a nod or notice to the spiritual darkness that has engulfed the world. It is the same spiritual darkness that was overwhelming Israel. Like the spread of darkness by the Dark Lord Sauron in the Lord of the Rings written by Tolkien. Everywhere his influence touched became vile, corrupted, and spiritually dark. Tolkien deliberately wrote his books about Middle Earth as kind of a tale of how sin affects mankind. We find in the pages of Scripture that whenever mankind neglected their God, spiritual darkness spread. But now, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." The veil is rendered! The darkness is pierced by the rising sun! Gandalf, in the Lord of the Rings tells the embattled at Helms Deep, "Look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East!" John wrote, "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world!" (John 1:9 NIV) Jesus related, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:19-21 NIV) Isaiah saw that the light of God would return to spiritually dark Israel, and in fact, "You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder." While those who loved God had been reduced to a remnant, they would be "enlarged" and their "joy" increased. They would rejoice again! The Messiah would bring light to a darkened world! 

  EXAMPLE: As a child, I began to fear the darkness. Part of the problem was my brother Ed who loved to whisper frightening scenarios to me after we had crawled into bed. But it was also because I could not see what laid in wait in the darkness. Now isn't it interesting that Scripture tells us that the ungodly love darkness "instead of light because their deeds" are evil. And, in fact, "Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." I loved to have a flashlight as a kid that I could turn on to make sure there was nothing out there that could harm me. Light does that. It exposes anything that tries to hide in either the darkness of sin or a darkened room! With great anticipation Isaiah longed for the first Advent when the Messiah would bring light into a darkened world!

David would cry out, "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me." (Psalms 51:3 NIV) Mankind has always struggled with the sins of life. And, Jesus gave us examples whereby we come away realizing that we could never live up to the standard He has given us, "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:20 NIV) But, now Isaiah tells us that…

II. The Messiah will ease the burden of sin! (Vv. 4-5)

  1. No one could have believed for even one second that the weak, ineffective, and subservient Israelites would pose any kind of threat to the more powerful Midianites. Yet, God did just that and in fact did it through someone totally unexpected! The future deliverance, which the prophet here celebrates, would be the counterpart of the Egyptian enslavement. Then, the whole of the great nation of Israel was redeemed, whereas now only a small remnant would participate in the final redemption! Isaiah compares it to the day when Gideon broke seven years domination of Midian over Israel. And, it would occur not with a great army, but with a handful of resolute warriors, strong in the Lord (Judges 7)! It was God "as in the day of Midian's defeat" Who "shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, (and) the rod of their oppressor." He did it through the One whom He will send. This will be a supernatural work of God! So complete will be the act of God sending His Messiah to ease our burden of sin that, "Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire." We see that all the trappings of the oppressor are heaped into a pile and set on fire; and, as they blaze up, the freed slaves exult in their liberty. Even the blood-drenched cloaks have been stripped from the corpses; they are tossed on the heap, and, saturated as they are, they burn! So complete is the victory that even the weapons of the conquered are destroyed. Our conquering King has been manifested, that He might annihilate the powers by which evil holds us bound. His victory is utterly complete; by His power and might the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!

  EXAMPLE: Today the Federal debt has become an enormous financial burden that many simply ignore. The estimated population of the United States is 317,129,319 so each citizen's share of this debt is $54,289.61. That is way more money than I make in a year! And it increases every day by $2.72 billion! It is an huge burden on us and future generations because it is an added tax to everything we buy and will affect how we live. Fewer college graduates will get jobs because there are fewer people retiring in order to survive, fewer companies hire because they have to pay off their share of taxes, and therefore goods and services increase for the same reasons. Incomes and retirement are reduced as taxes increase. It is a debt we can never pay that we had no say in what we owed! Jesus related to Peter, "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?" Peter replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said. (Luke 7:41-43 NIV) The sin debt of Israel and the entire world was enormous and could never be paid by all the sacrifices that could ever be made! Rejoice! By His power and might the Messiah will ease the burden of sin!

The promise of God would take an unexpected turn as His promises often do. This is why I often chuckle over those who think they have the return of Jesus all figured out, especially when He told us, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36 NIV) This is why it was so amazing when Isaiah prophesized thousands of years beforehand that…

III. The Messiah will be born both God and man! (Vv. 6-7)

  1. Here is a wonderful amazing truth that makes even the hardest heart pause, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders." The Savior of the world, the Messiah, would be born a babe and all of God's government would be placed squarely on His small shoulders! Do you understand the importance of these few words? Can you grasp their meaning for all mankind? God's messengers would share with scruffy shepherds, "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:10-12 NIV) There it is, amazing isn't it? But more than that, "he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, (and) Prince of Peace." Four beautiful names describe Him for us; He will be an exceptional teacher, the embodiment of our powerful God, reflecting His eternal nature, which brings the peace that surpasses all understanding! Now, Isaiah did not fully realize that Jesus would be the One who would fulfill all of this during His first advent, but it will come about that "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever." God's promise to David would come true! God would rule and reign through His Messiah! How and why would God do this wonderful thing? Isaiah says, "The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." It would be done because God joyously chose to do it! How totally marvelous that the fulfillment of God's promises is found in a tiny babe, wrapped in swaddling, lying in a manger! Isaiah's promise that the Messiah will be born both God and man is complete in Jesus Christ!

  EXAMPLE: Jesus related, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9 NIV) "I am the bread of life." (John 6:48 NIV) "I am the light of the world." (John 8:12 NIV) "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58 NIV) "I am the good shepherd." (John 10:11 NIV) "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies." (John 11:25 NIV) "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 NIV) "I and the Father are one." (John 10:30 NIV) "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9 NIV) The first Advent is the celebration of the fulfillment of Isaiah's promise that the Messiah will be born both God and man, Jesus Christ!

Conclusion:

The Messiah would bring light to a darkened world!
The Messiah will ease the burden of sin!
The Messiah will be born both God and man!

This article is copyrighted © 2013 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.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Worship is, “loving” God! – Psalm 18:1-3; Psalm 8:1, 3-4; Psalm 144:3-4

Worship is, “loving” God! – Psalm 18:1-3; Psalm 8:1, 3-4; Psalm 144:3-4
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 24, 2013 AM

How often do you tell the person you care about most in life that you love them? There’s an old joke where on their 50th wedding anniversary a farmer’s wife said she was leaving him. He asked her,
“Why?” She replied, “Because you don’t love me.” He responded, “Why in the world would you say that?” She said, “Because you never say that you love me!” He immediately replied, “I told you that I love you on our wedding day; if I ever change my mind, I’ll let you know!” Sadly, for some this is exactly how they treat their relationship with God! Our worship is, “loving” God!

Perhaps some of us have forgotten what our worship is to be. The Bible reminds us over and over that His people are to “love” Him. Jesus related that the greatest thing we can do as God’s children is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” In fact, worship is, “loving” God! Let’s take a closer look at Scripture and discover what this truly means.

READ: Psalm 18:1-3; Psalm 8:1, 3-4; Psalm 144:3-4


When is the last time you told God you loved Him for who He is instead of what He has done or is doing in your life? How would that fly with someone you cared for? You only say you love them for the things they do for you or have done for you. We are reminded that…

I. Worship is loving God, when we tell Him so! (Psalms 18:1-3 NIV)


I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. (Psalms 18:1-3 NIV)

  1. The intro to this Psalm states, “For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD. He sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” David is praising God for his deliverance and for the peace, he was finally experiencing as King of Israel. King David understood what some in power do not, namely that God is the one who is the rock, and He brings stability and security, in which we can take “refuge”! God tells us that He does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. David loved God for the constant refuge He provided, the shield and stronghold He was in life. In his vow to praise God, David piled military metaphor after military metaphor to describe all that the Lord was and had been to him. Why would a military King care one hoot how he felt about God let alone express his feeling to the Lord? I believe that David expressed his love for the Lord who had shown mercy to him throughout his many struggles. Even when he had been wrongly accused by Saul, had to wage a long drawn out campaign to bring his nation under control, family infighting, and his own sinful condition! David could call on the Lord who loved him, and love Him in return, because the Lord had defended and delivered David from all his enemies, He was worthy of David’s praise. David was not ashamed to let God know how much he loved Him! In our lives, especially as we approach Thanksgiving, we should also remind ourselves just what God has done for us and express our love for Him. Like David, we need to realize that worship is loving God, when we tell Him so!

  EXAMPLE: David shared during a time of great distress that God is, “enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.” (Psalms 22:3 NIV) Literally, God “inhabits” the praise of the Israelite people! God does indeed inhabit the praise or worship of His people. We often forget that our worship is never about us, it is always to be focused on God alone or it is not worship! I can love my wife, but if I never tell her so, my feelings mean nothing. This is why we are told to “confess” with our mouths and “believe” in our hearts. It is also, why Scripture reminds us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 NIV) And remember, according to the Word of God, our words are always to be in conjunction with actions! Like David, we need to realize that worship is loving God, when we tell Him so!

It truly baffles me is when folks go through life without ever noticing that everything they enjoy was created by God. Paul writes, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NIV) We are reminded that…

II. Worship is loving God, when we remember His creation! (Psalms 8:1-4 NIV)

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants, you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? (Psalms 8:1-4 NIV)

  1. Notice how David begins this psalm by relating, “O Lord, our Lord.” It is a personal reference for David that relates just how much David viewed his relationship with God. He believed God was his Lord always. And, isn’t that great to know during this time of thanksgiving? David was addressing God by His personal name Yahweh (“Lord”), David then identified Him as “our Lord” (’ăḏōnay), his Sovereign or Master. “Lord” stresses David’s recognition of God’s authority over His Creation. So majestic is God’s nature for David that he cries, “You have set your glory above the heavens!” God alone can do this. While pagan cultures worship the created things rather than the Creator, David acknowledges the magnificent nature of God! It is a direct slam to the manmade deities that others worshiped. In fact, David realized that even the innocent knew who God truly was, for, “From the lips of children and infants, you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” Isn’t it interesting, children never have a problem believing there is a God. Adults are the ones that instill distrust and doubt into young minds. Why is that? I believe it is because of the embarrassment and consciousness of sin. David knew that when one just looks up into the night sky, there was no doubt God existed! Instead of worshipping the planets or stars as pagans did, David worships the One who made them! “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” Compared to the majesty of God and the awesome panoply of the universe spread out in the night sky, how could a mere tiny man match up to that? David teaches us that worship is loving God, when we remember His creation!

  EXAMPLE: Did you know that 80 percent of all life on Earth is found in the oceans of the world? That staggering number can be difficult to process, largely because most of that life is out of sight. Knowing this should remind you of how much greater God’s creation is than we typically appreciate. While we can easily have our breath taken away by a majestic mountain range or a panoramic sunset, we sometimes fail to see His extraordinary work in the details that require more careful study and examination. Not only is much of God’s creation hidden by the oceans but also other parts are too small for our eyes to see! From the microscopically small to the unsearched reaches of the universe, it is all the work of our Creator. In these magnificent structures, seen and unseen, God’s creative glory is revealed! However, compared to all the magnificence of the inner or outer universe, God’s majesty is greater because He is Creator! David teaches us that worship is loving God, when we remember His creation!

Paul warned that when the creature demands worship that is due the Creator, we are in serious trouble, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man… They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.” (Romans 1:22-23, 25 NIV) We are reminded that…

III. Worship is loving God, when we remember who we are! (Psalms 144:3-4 NIV)


O LORD, what is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow. (Psalms 144:3-4 NIV)

  1. We find David acknowledging God for His power and protection, but then he reminds himself, “O LORD, what is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him?” These are questions every human being has asked. Why would a great God care for a sinful person? As the theologist Gill would ponder, “Man, that is at most and best but a creature, made of the dust of the earth, is but dust and ashes; yes, a sinful creature, that drinks up iniquity like water!” David would cry, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight… Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalms 51:2-5 NIV) David held no illusions to what he really was and what he was guilty of doing. Most folks know and yet are afraid to admit it to the One who can cleanse us completely! Gill continues, “Yet the Lord not only knows him, as he is the omniscient God, but takes notice of him in a way of providence, and in a way of grace!” Perhaps, like David, during this season of thanksgiving we need to remind ourselves not only of what we are, sinful, but that “Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.” Life is short, a mere breath, as compared to an eternal God! What impact will your short-lived life have? Man lives either for himself or for the Lord. David wrote, “Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath!” (Psalms 39:4-6 NIV) Shouldn’t we be thankful for an everlasting God who imparts eternal life to sinful mortal man when we confess His Son as Savior and Lord? David teaches us that worship is loving God, when we remember who we are!

  EXAMPLE: James would admonish us to, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10 NIV) and then he would inquire, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (v. 14) this is why Jesus’ words speak to the eternal nature of our lives when we trust in Him, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV) Paul would confess, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16 NIV) David teaches us that worship is loving God, when we remember who we are!

Conclusion:
Like David, we need to realize that worship is loving God, when we tell Him so!
David teaches us that worship is loving God, when we remember His creation!
David teaches us that worship is loving God, when we remember who we are!

This article is copyrighted © 2013 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, November 17, 2013

Worship: Going through the motions! – Genesis 4:3-7; Leviticus 10:1-2; Matthew 15:7-9

Worship: Going through the motions! – Genesis 4:3-7; Leviticus 10:1-2; Matthew 15:7-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 17, 2013 AM

Last week, we talked about worship being God’s idea. I heard a story concerning a pastor and his first Sunday in a new church presenting the children’s message. It seems the sanctuary in the new church had some magnificent stained glass windows, so his message centered on how each of us is called to help make up the whole picture of life (the life of the community of the faithful). Like the pictures in the windows, it takes many little panels of glass to make the whole picture. And then he said, “You see each one of you is a little pane.” And then pointing to each child, “You’re a little pane. And you’re a little pane. And you’re a little pane. And...” It took a few moments before he realized why everyone was laughing so hard. Sometimes, we don’t realize that we are just going through the motions.

Our worship can be like that as well. We can simply show up and go through the motions. There are churches and believers who go through the motions of worship every Sunday and then head home wondering why their worship wasn’t what they thought it should have been. Far too many believers and churches are simply copying what they have erroneously learned about worship. They are simply going the through the motions of worship. This morning, let’s discover the way God desires us to worship by looking at how we can be simply going through the motions…

READ: Genesis 4:3-7; Leviticus 10:1-2; Matthew 15:7-9

We find two young men who seem to both worship God in the same way, but one was simply going through the motions of worship. We are simply going through the motions of worship…

I. When we don’t give God our best! (Genesis 4:3-7)

In the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering, he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:3-7 NIV)

  1. “In the course of time” both of these men brought to God the outcome of their lives. “Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.” However, “Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” Did you notice the difference? No, it wasn’t that one was focused on fruit! Contrary to what some folks believe, God does not mind what you eat; rather He is more concerned with what comes out of your mouth! Your actions will reveal the intent of your heart! Adam and Eve had sinned, been thrown out of the Garden of Eden and were now raising two boys. They both brought an offering to the Lord. “The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering, he did not look with favor.” Why, what occurred here? Notice that a period of time had passed and also notice that “Abel brought fat portions” of the “firstborn of his flock” while Cain just brought “some of the fruits of the soil.” Do you detect the difference? God looked with favor on the offering that was given with the best intent from the best the individual had, while the offering that was kind of just slapped together at the last moment, “he did not look with favor.” “So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” God knows when we don’t give Him our best. God confronts Cain and his second-rate worship: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Cain knew his offering was not given with the best intentions that it had been given halfheartedly. And isn’t this perhaps the very reason why so much worship in our day and age is seen by God as kind of second-rate? Like Cain, we are simply going through the motions of worship when we do not give God our best!

  EXAMPLE: The other day I cleaned out or refrigerator and I discovered that there were some hidden “secrets” in the back of the fridge. You know what I mean; those science experiments that you did not know you had begun but are now in full bloom. I soon discovered also that you cannot clean some of the containers, you have to throw them out or they stink! Our worship can become leftovers as well and it also begins to stink to high heaven! The solution is to get rid of anything that hinders our worship. Not to do so is sin. Sin crouches at our door when we give God the leftovers of our life. We are simply going through the motions of worship when we do not give God our best!

God has given us His instructions to love Him completely and others, as we love ourselves. However, we often neglect one or the other or both! We learn in the following passage that we are simply going through the motions of worship…

II. When we do our own thing! (Leviticus 10:1-2)

Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. (Leviticus 10:1-2 NIV)

  1. We can forget that when we worship we are entering the very presence of God. Certainly, when we come to Christ we are covered by the blood of the Lamb and His grace is completely sufficient. However, we should never forget that God told Moses, “Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.” (v. 3) on the very first day of his high priestly ministry, Aaron had to face the tragic deaths of his two eldest sons. What occurred is that “Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command.” They thought they could do what they pleased as they entered the presence of God. There are always consequences when we do our own thing, whether good or bad, we reap what we have sown. “So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.” Perhaps this is what today’s church suffers from. There are those who think they can take spiritual short cuts to worship God. They tacitly think God will not care if they offer “unauthorized fire before the Lord,” manufactured or otherwise! How often do we approach God without any honor at all, and then is it any wonder that the rest of the world does not see the church as a viable option? When God’s people do not honor, worship, according to His commands our worship is invalid. In fact, at best, it is manufactured! One of the teachers of the law came and asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus told him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The teacher of the Law responded, “You are right… To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength… is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Matthew 12:28-34 NIV) Aaron’s sons, like some believers do, forget whom they are to love, worship, completely. We are simply going through the motions of worship when we do our own thing!

  EXAMPLE: We live in a society that thinks every moment of our lives should be lived in doing whatever we want to do whenever we want to and however we want to do it! This is not only extremely narcissistic but it is also extremely spiritually myopic. Church has become about us instead of the body of Christ where we are supposed to serve even if means unto death! If we are unwilling to, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21 NIV) how can we worship God? We are simply going through the motions of worship when we do our own thing!

Nothing is worse than discovering that those who say they care about us don’t. We call it being two-faced. In the next passage, we discover that we are simply going through the motions of worship…

III. When our hearts are far away from God! (Matthew 15:7-9)

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Matthew 15:7-9 NIV)

  1. “News of Jesus’ teaching and His mighty acts had spread throughout the land. The officials in Jerusalem were aware of all Jesus was doing, for a delegation arrived in Galilee from Jerusalem to interrogate Jesus over a matter of Jewish tradition. Their attack was directed against Jesus’ disciples, who were accused of failing to observe the elders’ tradition of the ceremonial washing of hands before eating.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) They thought of themselves as righteous because they followed the law; however, they had dishonored the fifth command to honor their parents by the use “Corban.” Jesus related, “But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother.”(Mark 7:11-12 NIV) In fact, Jesus accused them of nullifying the “word of God”! Jesus bluntly tells them, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’” Their hearts were so far away from God, they could not even see their own phoniness. How could those who thought of themselves as righteous worship God when they in fact were hypocritical about how they treated their parents! There are those in our day who treat their brothers and sisters in Christ with disdain, they treat their church with contempt, and their walk with God is just lip service. God told Isaiah, “They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” Their religion had become a matter of man-made rules! We may think as evangelical Baptists we do not have man-made rules, but we do. When we allow our ungodly attitudes, actions, or man-made traditions to interfere with our worship, we cannot worship! In fact, we are simply going through the motions of worship when our hearts are far away from God!

  EXAMPLE: Paul knew the importance of true worship. He understood that it is based on the purity of one’s life in Christ. This is why after teaching the Ephesians about the importance of the church in the life of a believer, he writes, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” (Ephesians 4:17-21 NIV) We are simply going through the motions of worship when our hearts are far away from God!

Conclusion:
We are simply going through the motions of worship when we do not give God our best!
We are simply going through the motions of worship when we do our own thing!
We are simply going through the motions of worship when our hearts are far away from God!

This article is copyrighted © 2013 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, November 10, 2013

Worship is God’s idea! – 2 Kings 17:35-36; Numbers 28:1-2; Matthew 4:8-10

Worship is God’s idea! – 2 Kings 17:35-36; Numbers 28:1-2; Matthew 4:8-10
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 10, 2013 AM

As a youngster, church for me was boring; it was full of weird sounding words, repetition, a lot of kneeling, standing, genuflecting, and symbolism that was beyond my comprehension. Later I learned that each part was symbolic and allegedly necessary if I desired to “know God” and come near Him. Of course, this simply was not true. Church was not meant to be a myriad of regulations and endless repetitions. Also, I used to think that church was worship, but I learned this was not completely true either. While we go to church to worship, worship is more than church. Worship is God’s idea!

The king of Assyria had given an order: “Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires.” He did not know the Lord, but he wanted his captured subjects to be placated. In doing so, the Samaritans maintained their ways and ended up corrupting the true worship of God. They began to practice syncretism, combining their worship of idols with the worship of God; “each group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled, and set them up in the shrines the people of Samaria had made at the high places.” They, like many in our day and age do, misunderstood God’s idea of worship! This morning we will discover anew what God’s idea of worship is meant to be.

READ: 2 Kings 17:35-36; Numbers 28:1-2; Matthew 4:8-10

Far too often human beings begin to think that worship is all about them and as such, we can bring anything into our worship that makes us feel better. We forget that this is not God’s idea of worship. We discover…

I. Worship of God is to be distinctive! (2 Kings 17:35-36 NIV)

When the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: “Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. But the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices.”

  1. Right up to the day of the writing of 2 Kings the Samaritans maintained their ways. They did not worship God. While they “worshiped the LORD,” they did not worship God from the heart and in the ways, He specified, “they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.” Nor did the people keep the laws He gave to Jacob’s descendants. God had changed Jacob’s name to Israel to show everyone that he and his descendants were to become a distinct people in the world. This distinctiveness was being broken down by the Samaritans; in fact, they persisted in their former practices! This should sound all too familiar. There are those who in our day who say they worship God, but have readily adopted other religious ideals, theologies, and beliefs. However, “When the made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: ‘Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them.’” God’s command was plain, His people called by His name were to be distinctive from the pagan nations around them and they were to worship God alone! “But the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices.” God was not to be treated casually as some territorial deity that was handmade by a human being. He alone was God and demanded that His people’s worship of Him was to be distinctive! He would tell them, “You must always be careful to keep the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods!” (v. 37) this command has not changed, we are not to bring ungodly practices or beliefs into our worship; our worship of God is to be distinctive!

  EXAMPLE: Have you ever seen those bumper stickers that have the word “Co-exist” spelled out with different religious symbols? It promotes and encourages the ignorance that all religions are the same. This is a totally false notion and ungodly. The sad truth is we live in a nation of syncretism. People love to cut and paste their own proclivity to their personal beliefs about God. When we do, we will suffer from what we have decided to obey in our lives. 2 Kings goes on to lament, “Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.” (v. 17) Wow! The Bible teaches us that our worship of God is to be distinctive!

Far too often as human beings, we begin to think that if our worship pleases us, then it must please God! So, we begin to allow all kinds of attitudes to influence our worship. If we feel good, it must be good worship. Is this true? The Bible teaches us that…

II. Worship of God is to be pleasing to Him! (Numbers 28:1-2 NIV)

The LORD said to Moses, “Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: ‘See that you present to me at the appointed time the food for my offerings made by fire, as an aroma pleasing to me.’”

  1. On the eve of the conquest and occupation of Canaan, it was necessary that the younger generation be instructed concerning the offerings and worship of God that was appropriate for the settled, agricultural way of life they would soon be living. If older generations are either unwilling or neglect the teaching of younger generations about the true worship of God, they will neglect what they are supposed to be doing and how they are to worship the Lord. This is why, “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: “See that you present to me at the appointed time the food for my offerings made by fire, as an aroma pleasing to me.’” Notice what occurs here in Numbers. The people had just entered into the Promised Land. In fact, the old generation, except for a few godly men, died in the wilderness because of their disobedience to follow God! “Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your forefathers, except Caleb… because he followed the LORD wholeheartedly.” And, “Joshua son of Nun, will enter it.” (Deuteronomy 1:35-37 NIV) Now this new generation may have felt that because most of them were unborn when the former laws were given; they might have a good reason not to worship as mom, dad, and the grandparents did! However, they not only had these laws written, to be read to them, but again repeated from God himself! Perhaps they were tempted to think that since these were old things done a long time ago, they did not relate to them personally, they did not need to adhere to them as strictly. Or perhaps since they were headed into a new area, they needed to worship in newer ways in order to fit into the societies they encountered. Sounds familiar doesn’t it. None of these was a good enough reason to neglect worship that is pleasing to God. Worship is not about us, it is not based on how we feel, nor does it concern adhering to society’s ungodly standards. Whatever the reason they forgot that worship is a command from God, supposed to be done at an appointed time, in a prescribed way! The Bible teaches that worship of God is to be pleasing to Him!

  EXAMPLE: What we get out of our worship is never as important as to what we bring to our worship. What do you do to make sure your worship is pleasing to God? Psalms teaches us, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.” (Psalms 29:2 NIV) Hebrews teaches us, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” (Hebrews 12:28-29 NIV) In fact, Paul may have it best when he wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NIV) Our worship of God is to be pleasing to Him!

Far too often human beings begin to think that worship is all about them -- how they feel and how God is to relate to them. We forget that this is not God’s idea of worship. We discover…

III. Worship of God is to be focused on Him alone! (Matthew 4:8-10 NIV)

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

  1. After being baptized, Jesus was led immediately by the Spirit of God into the desert for a period of testing. This period of time was a necessary under God’s direction. After fasting 40 days, when the Lord was hungry, the tests began. The first test pertained to the matter of sonship. The second test by Satan appealed to personal popularity. Satan’s final test related to God’s plan for Jesus. It was and is God’s design that Jesus would rule the world through the human heart. “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.” The god of this age and the prince of this world took the King of kings to a place where he tried to tempt Him from His journey to the cross. “‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’” However, this would have thwarted God’s plan for salvation and would have meant Jesus was worshiping an inferior. That is always the world’s and Satan’s desire for God’s children, that they would give allegiance to that which is spiritually substandard. This is how believers are always easily distracted from their worship of God and His Son. We willingly chase after that which is inferior thinking that we are gaining something superior. Notice dear child of the King His ready response, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only!’” That is to be the Son’s choice and ours as well! Scripture reiterates over and over the singular lesson that God is a jealous God; jealous of that which He lovingly formed, that which He lovingly sought after, and that which He lovingly gave His one and only Son to die for! Satan loves to lead the weak-willed and spiritually shallow to the heights of personal satisfaction and whisper to our insecure souls, “All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me.” He does it with intoxicating power, with the pornography of emotional lust, or the loneliness of heart. And, like addicts drawn to cocaine, we willingly sell ourselves on the altar of inferior worship. The answer for us is found in the words of Deuteronomy echoed by Jesus, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only!” Our worship of God is to be focused on Him alone!

  EXAMPLE: Of course most of us do not think we are actually worshipping Satan when we acquiesce ourselves to ungodly things instead of the Lord, but we are. In fact, we can so delude ourselves that we might actually think that what we do on our own spare time is of no consequence to God and nothing could be further from the truth. He is the one who knows when a sparrow falls and numbers the hairs on our heads. (Matthew 10:29-30) Jesus reminds us, “You are worth more than many sparrows!” (v. 31) and then He teaches us what true worship is all about: “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33 NIV) Worship is not just about our exaltation of God, it is our acknowledgement of Who He truly is! Our worship of God is to be focused on Him alone!

Conclusion:

Our worship of God is to be distinctive!
Our worship of God is to be pleasing to Him!
Our worship of God is to be focused on Him alone!

This article is copyrighted © 2013 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, November 03, 2013

How to live confidently! - James 5:1, 4-11, 13-20

How to live confidently! - James 5:1, 4-11, 13-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 3, 2013 AM

In my early 30’s, I questioned what my future held. I was newly married, working at a good job, but I could not see the finish line. I wanted desperately to be “out there in the real world,” working in pastoral ministry. I observed people my age who were established in ministry. Soon, a ministry opportunity arose that was the beginning of a future I could not have imagined—one better than I could have drawn up. I wish I could say I never again lost confidence about the future, but I can’t. Yet in my journey, I have learned valuable lessons. God works on His timetable and I can trust Him.

Disappointments make adults less confident about their lives. Some lose confidence and concentrate on the worst that could happen. They always wonder when the next shoe will drop! Other adults worry about the future. Limited incomes, aging, health-care, terrorism threats, the economy, and other concerns erode their confidence about the future. Some adults have lost confidence in prayer. God desires us to live confidently and James teaches us how.

READ: James 5:1, 4-11, 13-20

James declares that wicked people will lose their wealth; in fact, it will ultimately testify against them! God already knows about people’s evil and will judge them. As a result, they will suffer for their acts of ungodliness. However, we can live confidently because we know…

I. The wicked will be punished! (5:1, 4-6)

  1. James had referred to ways some rich people treat believers—oppressing them, dragging them into court, and speaking evil of their Lord’s name (2:6-7). James now addresses non-Christian rich people directly. Evidently, these rich folk were unbelievers who took advantage of the destitute believers. Weep and wail describes loud mourning—howling in terror—and bursting into tears. Misery means “calamity” or “distress.” James declared a time was coming when the unscrupulous rich would face the consequences of their actions. Their wealth would decay. Moths would eat holes in their hoarded clothes, and their silver and gold would rust (vv. 2-3)! Then, James outlined three charges against them! First, they had hired workers to reap their fields and had withheld their pay. The failure to pay was cruel and fraudulent. Poor Jewish day laborers expected to be paid at the end of each day as the law required. They depended on it for their families’ survival. James stated that the withheld pay cried out against them and now, “The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” God takes note of rich people’s ruthless treatment of the poor. He can—and will—address the wrong. The heartless landowners had deprived the day laborers of their subsistence, but the wealthy “lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.” They had “fattened (themselves) in the day of slaughter. James compared the self-indulgent rich with animals that went on feeding securely, unaware of the looming day of slaughter. They had lived a soft (delicate) life and engaged in extravagant wastefulness; solely for their own pleasure. James then leveled a third charge against wealthy unbelievers, “You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.” He may have referred to their having control of the courts so the poor had no recourse and thus were deprived of justice. Their exploiting the poor amounted to murder. In Jewish tradition, people could murder others by depriving them of their living. The poor had no power to gain a fair hearing in the courts. We can live confidently because we know the wicked will be punished!

  EXAMPLE: We can be confident about our future because God will punish the wicked. We are not to rejoice at the prospect of their judgment; we should be concerned that they repent and turn to Christ. Yet we can take comfort in the truth that God is fair and just, and we can leave reward and punishment to Him. We can live confidently because we know the wicked will be punished!

James turned again to Christians. He called for believers to be patient as they await Jesus’ return and to endure on the basis of God’s nature. We can live confidently because we know…

II. Our future is secure! (5:7-11)

  1. James encouraged his brothers to be patient “until the Lord’s coming.” Rather than to seek revenge for wrongs, we are to live in anticipation of Jesus’ return. An illustration from farming presses James’s point. The farmer plows his field and sows his seed. “See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.” Believers are to follow the farmer’s example of perseverance. In light of Christ’s imminent return, we are to strengthen our hearts. We are to persevere in faith and renew our courage and commitment. Believers are not to “grumble against each other… or you will be judged.” Christians must remember that, “The Judge is standing at the door!” James wanted believers to stop grumbling against one another so they would not be judged! With the Judge so near, how can believers continue to grumble against and find fault with one another? Christians will face the same judgment as the wicked. Instead, believers will be judged on the basis of their relationship with Christ, and the wicked will be judged on the basis of their lack of a relationship with Him. James pointed believers to the prophets as a group for an outstanding example of suffering and patience. “Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.” The prophets were worthy examples of steadfastness. James reminds us, “You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.” Job is a great example of perseverance. He was not patient in our usual meaning of the word; he “had it out” with God, but he remained steadfast in his faith. God restoring Job demonstrates His compassionate and merciful nature. James writes, “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” We can live confidently because we know our future is secure!

  EXAMPLE: We can patiently await and be confident about the future because God is in charge of it. We are to persevere in our faithfulness to Christ, no matter what difficulties we encounter. We have the opportunity to follow outstanding examples of endurance and in the process to become models for others. We can live confidently because we know our future is secure!

James echoed Jesus’ teaching about speaking truthfully without using oaths (Matthew 5:33-37). Instead of cursing God or others about our circumstances, we should pray. James points us to God’s past consistency in answering prayers. On that basis, we can be assured of our prayers’ clout! We can live confidently because we know…

III. Our prayers are powerful! (5:13-20)


  1. James then asked three questions that expected a "yes" answer. First, are any believers in trouble? He is referring to experiencing hardships. That person should keep on praying for God’s help. Second, is anyone happy (in good spirits)? That person should sing praises—literally, “sing psalms.” Singing to God is a fitting way to thank Him for blessings. James’s third question concerns believers who are sick. An ill person may lack the strength to pray, so the individual was to call for the elders of the church. Elders may have been older, respected Christians, or they could have been leaders with pastoral functions. The elders’ role probably mirrors a similar role found in the Jewish community, and James’s advice reflects a familiar practice in that community. The elders first were to anoint the sick person with olive oil in the name of the Lord. The word anoint means more than using olive oil in a ceremonial gesture; it means “to rub” in the medicinal sense. Thus, their prayer is to be combined with the best medical treatment available. The phrase in the name of the Lord emphasizes dependence on God. On the surface, this verse seems to offer an absolute guarantee that this would always result in healing. However, we must consider an underlying condition. The phrase the prayer of faith refers to petitioning God in total confidence. James meant that it is God alone who “will cure” or “will restore to health” the one who was sick. “The Lord will raise him up.” James’ comment, “If he has sinned, he will be forgiven”, does not indicate all sickness is a result of sins. Rather, it points out that where sin is present, God’s forgiveness is available. James writes, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful. A righteous person has a close relationship with God and demonstrates faith through obedience. The idea is that God hears and makes effective the prayers of His faithful people. Thus, His people are to pray. As an example of a righteous man’s powerful, effective prayers, James pointed to the prophet Elijah. James’s point was that Elijah was human as we all are; yet because of his right relationship with God, his prayers were effective in God’s causing and then ending drought. James urged believers to develop and maintain a vibrant relationship with God out of which they could pray effectively. In fact, Christians are to be engaged in the ministry of restoration as they endured trials and an ongoing struggle against sin. “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” We can live confidently because we know our prayers are powerful!

  EXAMPLE: Intercessory prayer is essential as an expression of Christian concern and of faith in God’s care and power. Intercessors’ presence with the sick person gives assurance of the church’s fellowship and provides a personal touch that can strengthen the individual’s faith. Yet seeking the best medical treatment is always valid and crucial. We can be confident about our prayers because God always answers them, often in exactly the way we ask. Even when He seems to be silent, we can be confident that He has not forgotten our petitions and is working on our behalf. We can live confidently because we know our prayers are powerful!

Conclusion:
 1. We can live confidently because we know the wicked will be punished!
 2. We can live confidently because we know our future is secure!
 3. We can live confidently because we know our prayers are powerful!

This article is copyrighted © 2013 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.